Animation and Anime

AICN Anime - Ghost Hound - From the Makers of Ghost in the Shell and Serial Experiments Lain, Gantz, RoboGeisha, FLCL and More..

Published at: Jan. 9, 2010, 8:55 a.m. CST

Logo handmade by Bannister Column by Scott Green

Anime Spotlight: Ghost Hound Set 1 (of 2) Released by Section 23

While I've read all of the novels, I've never had a tremendous amount of admiration for Harry Potter. Maybe my expectations were far too high, but reading the books knowing how much excitement they've generated, I felt that what they offer should constitute a baseline more than an exception. Divorced from their singular public reception, the novels' accomplishments should be anything but extraordinary. Should finding novels as successful in constructing their characters and context really be a rarity? My sentiments towards Ghost Hound are similar. It's out there. While possessing plenty of elements that are comparable to plenty of other anime, it does manage to leverage anime's gifts crafting stories about perception and curious subjects in a memorably unconventional work. Ghost Hound dials down the typical anime noise and dials up the informed mental landscaping in a way that does push the title into "unique" territory. Yet, this really should not constitute the zenith of accomplishment for drawing ideas into anime and testing what can be done with those concepts. I'd like to think that anime could have enough diversity in topics and inspiration that Ghost Hound would be distinctive, rather than an outlier. As a corollary to that wish, I'd like to think that an anime like Ghost Hound that does push into these niches, can find an audience, and can sell a few copies. It's a sort of neurological ghost story; 1998 cyber thriller Serial Experiments Lain, meets rural horror franchise Higurashi: When They Cry, with a bit of folklore/yokai spirit world a la classic Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro thrown in. As that bit of formulating suggests, the high concept can still be articulated in terms of preceding anime, and yet, as anime currently stands, it took a tremendous amount of creative talent and cache to result in a provocative series off the norm to Ghost Hound's extent. The marquee name here is Masamune Shirow, creator of techno-action series Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell. This is one, maybe two, members of the select few anime/manga franchises that still command the notice of older, non-dedicated anime watchers. Masamune Shirow is credited with creating Ghost Hound's original concept. However, that concept is one that is very unlike what is expected from him. Rather than one of his crowded futures, it's modern, and at times almost minimalistic.
After a first person, disembodied stagger through a wooded area, captured in a Vaseline blur, Ghost Hound tracks a dried up river bed, and opens with a view through the senses of four year old Taro Komori, the son of prominent sake brewers from the remote town of Suiten. He hears buzzing. His eyes wander through a decrepit room and then rest on his sister's still form lying on a bed. A fly lands on her parched lips, and the view narrows in on that insect to listen to the exact sound of its wings moving. This remembrance is one of the lucid dreams of now 14 year old Taro. The kidnapping that resulted in the death of his sister has scarred him, his family, and his community. He's become disconnected, fiddling with a transistor radio, falling asleep in inappropriate places, and cataloging his dream observations with an outmoded cassette dictation recorder. His father seems fatalistically saddened by the deviation from the natural progression of his family. Taro's older sister was to inherit the brewery, which is now existentially threatened by a corporate plant siphoning the well water that sustained the sake enterprise. His mother is even more brittle, inhibited by medications and barely able to handle the slightest reminder of the family's loss. The PTSD afflicted Taro yields to the guidance or observation of various adults: Atsushi Hirata, a therapist with some ideas of what might be happening in Taro's brain, and neurologist Reika Otori, Takahito Komagusu - a priest from one of the local Shinto sects whose daughter acts as a medium, to name a few. Taro is also approached by peer Masayuki Nakajima, a cocky urban exile who asks Taro probing questions concerning the kidnapping, who is himself traumatized as the result of being party to the tragic consequences of bullying. The other subject of Masayuki's interrogations is Makoto Ogami, the heir of another of the community’s religious sects, whose father reputedly committed suicide in the wake of the disastrous outcome of Taro's kidnapping. Whereas Taro can only muster mild annoyance, Ogami outright threatens Masayuki, explaining that he was dropped on his head as an infant, and as a consequence feels no moral compunction against committing acts of violence. The three outsider boys are joined in their emotional troubles, but also find themselves travelling the same road in out of body experiences. In these trips into the spirit world, their other selves encounter shadowy titans acting out what appear to be echoes of past events, lumbering among hordes of what appear to be ghostly representations of extinct species.
There are notes of speculative neurology that are vaguely like Ghost in the Shell, and notes of comparative religion that are vaguely like Orion... a surprisingly advanced, almost tachikoma, like robot does look up the skirt and down the blouse of an attractive woman... but considering how distinctive a creator Masamune Shirow is, Ghost Hound can't be said to feel like one of his works. This inevitably gives rise to speculation. How much did Masamune Shirow really provide to warrants his name being stamped on the title? Alternatively, more outlandishly... "Masamune Shirow" is a pen name. I'm not going to present some far out conspiracy theory. I just get the impression that Masanori Ota consciously plays his "Masamune Shirow" persona to the hilt, whether it’s the cramped annotations filling the margins of Ghost in the Shell: Man-Machine Interface, his pin-up postcards of women getting intimate with horse-men, or his design work calendars in which he heaps criticism on his collaborators. Rather than accept that he was that far ahead on the otaku curve that early, I choose to believe Masanori Ota could rein in the "Masamune Shirow" excess and contribute something substantial to Ghost Hound.
Ghost Hound was developed by Production I.G, a studio whose cutting edge works, such as FLCL, Hiroyuki Imaishi's (Gurren Lagann) Dead Leaves, Kai Doh Maru and Otogi Zoshi have been balanced by works well suited to international export, including the Oshii and the Stand Alone Complex Ghost in the Shell anime, Blood: the Last Vampire and Blood+, and the anime adaptation of CLAMP's xxxHolic. That's in addition to their work for intrinsically international projects, such as the animated segment of Kill Bill and segments of Batman: Gotham Knight and Halo Legends. While Ghost Hound does not feel like a Masamune Shirow work, it does feel like a work of its writer and director, best known for their collaboration on Serial Experiments Lain. Chiaki J. Konaka wrote the scripts for a number of series with noteworthy North American histories or appeal. (also note the unusual middle initial he uses in his romanized name). Armitage III was a hard boiled, Blade Runner style "what is human life?" android story set on colonized Mars with Lovecraftian references, that was marketed for North America by editing the four episode OVA into a movie, dubbed by Elizabeth Berkley (replaced by Juliette Lewis in the sequel) and Kiefer Sutherland (replaced by Skip Stellrecht/Henry Douglas Grey, voice of Cowboy Bebop's Vicious). He also did the Lovecraft episode of Digimon (was well as Insmus wo Oou Kage , a Japanese TV adaptation of The Shadow Over Innsmouth). Sunrise Studios, best known for their Gundam titles, did animation work for Batman: the Animated Series, then turned around and produced Konaka written Big O, a highly regarded hybrid of Batman and old school giant robot anime of the type developed by Mitsuteru Yokoyama and Go Nagai. Big O gained enough attention in the US that Cartoon Network coproduced a second season (the broadcast and reception of which didn't go as smoothly as the first). Speaking of anime that had some reception issues, he also wrote Gonzo's tv series version of vampires with guns Hellsing; widely regarded as unsatisfactory due to its deviations from the source manga. Ryutaro Nakamura's career, particularly as a director, does not have as many recognizable features as Konaka's, particularly for watchers who's perspective is dominated by work from the 00's. He was attached to the Legend of Crystania spin-off of Dungeons and Dragons style fantasy Record of Lodoss War, unexpectedly amusing risqué shorts series Colorful, and Swiftian light novel adaptation Kino's Journey.
Ryutaro Nakamura, Chiaki J. Konaka and Yoshitoshi ABe's Serial Experiments Lain captivated viewers when it hit North American video store shelves in 1999. As I'm fond of pointing out, Harry Knowles has to be the only person I know who wasn't interested in finishing the anime series. The anime's story swam through the sea of information like a shark, spreading provocative unease about the power of the new wired age and its ability to consume social structures, personality and even reality. It was anime's gift at working with perception turned on our fascination with computers. Serial Experiments Lain was anime that I could get non-dedicated fans to watch. More significantly, consumers would browse through the anime section of a retailer, note it and purchase it. I once had a Serial Experiments Lain lunch box decorating my cubicle, and, over the years, that was the rare anime artifact that coworkers who watched very little, if any, other anime noted. Timing was essential for Serial Experiments Lain. Post Matrix, pre Matrix Reloaded, high speed internet roll out, dot com boom audiences were receptive of works with Lain's theme. But, beyond that and more essentially, the late 90's, early 00's were a distinctive moment for anime in North America. With the anime boom picking up steam, people were looking or willing to buy. Anime still retained some residual impressions from the "not for kids!" Akira/Md Geist/Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend days in which America thought the medium was comprised of works that were sci-fi and disturbing. At the same time, people had seen or knew of Sailor Moon. Shoujo manga was taking hold. The peak days of high per episode budgeted, concept snapshot OVAs had passed, but there were still plenty that were fresh to American watchers. And, while OVA as were losing traction as a mode of anime production, Japan was seeing the advent of late night anime scheduling, bringing it interesting works like Lain and Berserk. And, with anime picking up steam in North America, strange anime for an up to late audince, such as Legend of the Black Heaven, where making it onto American shelves. Heaping together "not for kids!" and Sailor Moon and Pokemon, OVA and late night anime, Lain hit North America at a point in which the perception was that anime could be anything. It was a canvas without boundaries, not just because of the flexibility afforded by animation, but because of the presumed creative license. It could be world shattering sci-fi or it could be a guy trying to win the affection of his widowed land lord.
But, that perception of anime has changed since 1999 and the castle in the sky of anime's limitless possibility has turned into something more subterranean. Far more has been released. Anime production is a difficult business in which to make money. So, in the years since Lain, anime followers got to see plenty of repetition of tried patterns targeted at predictable audiences. And, over those years, the predictable audience in question has frequently been self-identified anime fans, resulting in the production of plenty of cute girl series presented for the consumption of old-ish males. Beyond this familiarity with the medium, the general impression of anime has also been influenced by its fans themselves. When Lain was first released, there were relatively few dedicated anime fans. As such, perception of anime had not been bolted onto observations of anime fans and their tastes. Now, there's a track record and a notion of what appeals to devotes of Japanese pop culture that in and of itself dissuades the uninterested from taking a look. Consequently, the perception is no longer that anime could be anything. For many genre media consumers, it's been replaced by the belief that anime is the stuff that anime fans with questionable taste like. As such, non-dedicated fans are no longer going to browse an anime section, spot something that looks interesting and try it. This is not to say that there is any reason why someone who picked up Serial Experiments Lain shouldn't be interested in Ergo Proxy, Requiem from the Darkness or Texhnolyze, or, more recently, Monster or Shigurui: Death Frenzy. It's just that, to the dismay of older anime fans and especially the ones who'd like to see more support of non otaku-bait content, many of the once-Lain watchers have dropped anime in its entirely. Now, it takes considerable brand power to bridge that prejudice; the name of a person like Mamoru Oshii or Samuel L. Jackson or a franchise like Ghost in the Shell, Halo or Batman.
Whether you're dipping back into anime to see the new work from the makers of Ghost in the Shell and Serial Experiments Lain or checking to see how those talents differentiate their work from the rest of the anime herd, initial impressions of Ghost Hound are going to be informed by character designer/animator director Mariko Oka (Tactics, Hell Girl, Jing: King of Bandits). Androgyous Taro leads a group of three male characters on the series' cover. Gender of principals aside, the wide, flat look of Oka's style, along with Taro's innocent gaze, the impression of a visual novel (multimedia narrative generally played on the PC, a large subset of which is the dating or "gal" games) is established. Present an out of context snap shot, and Ghost Hound could evoke the moe obsession with youthfulness. She doesn't have much of a presence on the North American packaging for the series, but the inclusion of miko (shrine maiden) Miyako Komagusu reinforces that impression. The purple, fetal forms of the characters in their astral projection manifestations likewise brings super deformed or chibi design into the equation. If Ghost Hound relied on the irony of cute trappings on dark subject matters, it would suffer from the bleached out novelty of that approach. Here, that muted, unchallenging look provides a reasonable foundation for the story. The previously mentioned Ghost Hound comparable Higurashi: When They Cry worked with some deep points about relationships between communities in Japanese society, specifically within the framework of the 80's economic boom. Personally, I was initially put off by its fan appeal proposition and never entirely won over by its cultural insight. Higurashi offered apparently innocent, darling looking girls, then played them to the antithesis of that impression by having them be party to the spectacle of torture and showcase execution. Ghost Hound's opening statement is a child dying, presumably of dehydrations. Compared to Higurashi, this is disturbing for being comprehendible and mundane rather than a gruesomely inventive demonstration of painful murder. While I seriously doubt that Masamune Shirow and company conceived Ghost Hound as their answer to Higurashi, they succeeded in positioning it as such. I would call it a more serious, less sensational variation on the platform.
There is another similarity. Like Higurashi, like the mature sorrow of eternally youthful Astro Boy, like Revolutionary Girl Utena's girl who wants to be prince, Ghost Hound is from the tradition of anime embracing contradictions. However, rather than Higurashi's dark shadow cast by cute girls and pastoral towns, and sympathetic motivations hidden beneath that darkness, the fulcrum for Ghost Hound is credulity. The anime stands with one foot on either side of a line of believability and leverages the uncertainty inherent in the stance. Whether it is the priests, the therapists or the neurologists, Ghost Hound is full of duplicitous experts, many of whom are cracked in their own ways. And it's full of pseudo-science, such as lucid dreaming, astral projection and spirit channeling. In the anime, we're told that the human brain can cause belief in extraordinary events from religious epiphanies to alien abduction. So, the extraordinary could be a function of neurology and we're on guard that we might not be seeing or hearing the objective truth. And yet, Taro shares his trips into the spirit world with others. The response probably needs to be weighed differently, but as in a Satoshi Kon movie, it could be asked, "what's real and what's imagined?" Nor can a viewer be certain of the extent to which they can trust the story tellers. Takahito Komagusu, a not infallible, but relatively good natured and seemingly trust worthy character informs Taro and company that the idea that humans have cause global warning due to carbon dioxide emissions is a fallacy perpetuated by nuclear energy interests. He also challenges notions of conservation and what biodiversity would be like without human intervention. Is this some thread that will be developed during the course of Ghost Hound's plot? Are Ghost Hounds creators making a point about the priest himself? Using the priest to make a point about how people think? Using the priest to articulate their own beliefs about environmentalism? If there is a definitive answer, half way through Ghost Hound, it's unknowable. What can be gleamed from the dialog is that it's probably advisable to not entirely believe what is presented through Ghost Hound. Malcolm Gladwell's essays offers an explanation of the difference between puzzles and mysteries. You add the right data to solve a puzzle. You apply the right interpretation to the data to solve a mystery. Serial Experiments Lain started as a puzzle and became a mystery. At first, the viewer is denied the information that they need. Then, they're given far too much data. Ghost Hound seems like it could be a mystery that becomes a puzzle. Early episodes shot gun the info. Psychological disorders are catalogued at an impossible to track speed. Cotards, the belief that one is dead, stuck, but mostly because I remember reading about it in Chuck Klosterman's Killing Yourself to Live. The rest went in one ear and out the other. While it's too much to digest, it appears that Ghost Hound has apparently not provided the needed information yet. For example, a number of crucial details regarding the kidnapping are missing.
Ghost Hound is certainly obtuse, but it is not bewildering. This could be Lain on easy mode. There's far too much information, but what's being presented is not falling into disorder. It's about fixing and discovering, and as such, Ghost Hound lends itself to faith in its order and its promise of revelation. When it wants to make a point, it definitively makes that point. An abundance of opportunities to look long into the eyes and into the faces of its subjects are included in the anime. Takahito Komagusu grabs a beer and congratulates himself on sneaking off to drink it. His daughter Miyako goes to the refrigerator and counts the remaining beer cans, all three of them, then counts those three beers again. Clearly no chances are being taken that the viewer might miss what is being illustrated about that dynamic. Ghost Hound possesses involving qualities. It is thought provoking. Even if you're disinclined to give the pseudo-science a second thought, the speculative neurology is worthy of some pondering. And, it's presentation, with the minimalism, distortion and spirit world ghosts of the past, it is captivating. Yet, aside from some mild curiosity, I did not feel compelled to follow the viewing of one episode with another. It took me months to watch 11 episodes, not because I felt any aversion or active disinterest in the series, but because I didn't feel any urgency. Ghost Hound attempts to plumb the human brain, and here's my cognitive theory of why it took me several months to watch eleven episodes of the series. The anime develops its characters and does do that at a respectable clip. They are dynamic people, engaged in dynamic relationships. Yet, their problems are deeply entrenched. While their conditions can and are improved, their entire traumas aren't going to be righted with an eureka breakthrough. The series is evidently not going to cheat by pretending otherwise. Anime can feature long term relationship struggles. It took Maison Ikkoku more than 90 episodes to resolve that one. Or, they can feature the ups and downs of day to day struggles. These accomplishable feats excite out interest. We have faith that people can get things done, even if it takes a considerable amount of time or its minutia. Much to our detriment, long term, nearly or seemly intractable problems are another story. Especially if it's in someone else's court, we rather not think about it. People would rather deny global warming or ignore AIDS in Africa than really take stock of the problems. This is not to say that the woes of Ghost Hounds characters are comparable or even symbolic of global threats. Yet, I do think that at some level my head turned away from the deep seated issues at work in the Ghost Hound cast.
Makoto Ogami is an outlier in this explanation. The fierce look in the character's eyes and the origin of his amorality paint him as dangerous. He's thoroughly lupine. I'd argue that the human mind is tuned to pay attention to predictors. That's why so many of us can't get enough of stories about murderers. We're programmed to take in as much information as possible about that sort of perceived threat to our lives, even if we're astronomically unlikely to encounter it. Ghost Hound starts with and to a large extent is defined by a kidnapping that directly resulted in one death and indirectly probably caused others. It has beatings and existential warnings. And yet, it does not have the thundercloud of danger that loomed over Serial Experiments Lain. It's an interesting work, but not one that is going to funnel you in for the storm. It's reason to respect Ghost Hound, but also why its unlikely to be a favorite. Ghost Hound does not warrant a reevaluation of expectations for anime, and it's unlikely to register as a classic. It's not brilliantly radical or radically brilliant. Yet, it does distinguish itself. Plenty of current anime seem to be developed to feed the appetites of anime fans. Ghost Hound might have superficial similarities to those anime, but revealed itself to be an intelligent exploration of a subject, presented in such a way as to leverage the medium's strength.

Upcoming in North America (and other English Speaking Territories)

Summer Wars, the highly praised new movie from The Girl Who Leapt Through Time director Mamoru Hosoda, has been licensed by Manga Entertainment UK. The UK director will also be releasing the live action adaptation of ninja manga Kamui Gaiden. Helen McCarthy on the upcoming Slate of anime/manga related books Anime Midstream Anime Midstream Inc. announced that Zettai Muteki Raijin-Oh DVD Volume 1 is available for release. The first volume includes the first five episodes of the 51 episode series in both English Language and Japanese Language with English Subtitles. The DVD is available at Anime Midstream's website Zettai Muteki Raijin-Oh is a 51 episode Japanese anime television series, and the first series produced for the Eldoran franchise funded by Tomy and produced by Sunrise. It aired in Japan from April 3, 1991 to March 25, 1992. The story revolves around a group of elementary school children who are given command of a mecha named Raijin-Oh and their efforts to defend the Earth from the evil Jaku Empire. Buena Vista Home Entertainment Ponyo will be released on DVD and Blu-ray March 2nd Dark Horse
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AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER—THE ART OF THE ANIMATED SERIES Bryan Konietzko (W/A), Michael Dante DiMartino (W/A), and Various (A) On sale June 2 FC, 184 pages $34.99 HC, 9" x 12" An unprecedented look at the concept, design, and production art behind this smash-hit series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Art of the Animated Series chronicles the show's development—from the very first sketch through to the series finale and beyond!—along with behind-the-scenes commentary from series creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino.
DEVIL #3 (of 4) Torajiro Kishi (W/A) and Madhouse Studios (W/A) On sale Apr 21 FC, 24 pages $3.50 Miniseries
NEON GENESIS EVANGELION: THE SHINJI IKARI RAISING PROJECT VOLUME 5 Osamu Takahashi (W/A) On sale June 9 b&w, 192 pages $9.99 TPB, 5 1/8" x 7 1/4"
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USAGI YOJIMBO #128 Stan Sakai (W/A) On Apr 28 b&w, 24 pages $3.50 Ongoing Discotek Lupin The 3rd Episode 0: The First Contact will be release on March 30th FUNimation FUNimation has announced a number of new licenses. Live action includes 15 Shaw Brothers kung fu movies from Celestial Filmed Entertainment, formerly licensed by the shuttered BCI Eclipse division of FUNimation's parent company Navarre. The film were digitally restored by Celestial Pictures from their original negatives in 2002 Titles include “Sword of Swords”, “The Duel”, “The Lady Hermit” , “The 14 Amazons”, “Shaolin Hand Lock”, “Invincible Shaolin”, “Soul of the Sword”, “Life Gamble”, “Shaolin Rescuers”, “Shaolin Prince”, “Bastard Swordsman”, “Opium and The Kung Fu Master”, “The Supreme Swordsman”, “Return of Bastard Swordsman” and “Hong Kong Godfather”. Releases are planned for 2010 and 2011. “Kamui” from Shochiku Co., Ltd. Produced by Shochiku Co. Ltd., Japan’s leading studio, “Kamui“ was released as “Kamui Gaiden” in September 2009 in Japan. An adaptation of Sanpei Shirato’s 1965 manga series of the same name, the movie is directed by Japanese Academy Award winner Yoichi Sai (“Chi to Hone”), written by Kankuro Kudo (“Ping Pong”) and stars Kenichi Matsuyama (“Detroit Metal City”, “Death Note”). About Kamui Gaiden It is 17th century Japan and Kamui is a Fugitive Ninja on the run. He despises the lethal laws of the Ninja where he must use his skills to kill others, and is in search for true freedom. However, he is now hunted by his fellow ninjas as they must eliminate him for his betrayal. In order to live, he must constantly fight for his life and distrust others. An incident brings him to a fisherman's family, where he finally starts to open up to other people. Meanwhile, those hunting him are setting their trap. “RoboGeisha” from T.O. Entertainment. Produced by RoboGeisha Film Partners (T.O Entertainment, Inc., Pony Canyon, Inc., Movie Gate Co., Ltd., Kadokawa Pictures, Inc.), “RoboGeisha” was released in Japanese theatres in October 2009. Written and directed by Noboru Iguchi (“Machine Girl”), “RoboGeisha” stars Aya Kiguchi, Hitomi Hasegawa, Takumi Saito, Naoto Takenaka, Matsuo Suzuki, Etsuko Ikuta and Asami Kumakiri. About RoboGeisha Yoshie is the younger sister and attendant of a geisha . One day, the sisters are invited to a dinner party by a customer, the son of the president of Kageno Iron Corporation. They are kidnapped and then trained to be assassins by the company president. Yoshie, who shows promise as an assassin, then begins to doubt the motives of the group. Anime includes FLCL Six OVA sci-fi comedy anime series “FLCL” from Production I.G, from Production I.G. (“The Ghosts in the Shell,” “Tsubasa”), Gainax (“Evangelion” series), and Starchild (“The Slayers” movies), directed by Kazuya Tsurumaki. ABOUT FLCL Bored with his mundane middle school life, Naota longed for a change from his daily grind. However his life completely changes after a pink haired stranger on a Vespa runs him over. Weird things happen when he is around the mysterious girl known as Haruko. Now not only must Naota deal with regular teenage troubles, but also with this new enigmatic woman. FUNimation Entertainment will release all six OVA’S on one DVD set and on Blu-ray disc in late 2010. FUNimation has also indicated plans to release FLCL with the Synch-Point dub FUNimation Entertainment announced that it has acquired home entertainment, merchandise, and digital rights to the five episode action anime series “Master of Martial Hearts” from Shochiku Co., Ltd. Known as “Zettai Shougeki ~Platonic Heart~” in its native Japan, “Master of Martial Hearts” is based on the video game of the same name. The anime is directed by Yoshitaka Fujimoto (“Girl’s High”). About Master of Martial Hearts Schoolgirl Aya Iseshima is in over her head. Because of unfortunate circumstances, she finds herself as a registered fighter in a royal tournament. It is not all bad news though. The tournament’s grand prize is the sacred Platonic Heart, a jewel that grants one wish for the girl who possesses it. Now Aya must fight her way to the top to win her special wish. FUNimation Entertainment will release the entire series in one DVD set in Spring 2011. FUNimation Entertainment announced that it has acquired home entertainment, broadcast, merchandise, and digital rights to the 12 episode action anime series “The Sacred Blacksmith” from Media Factory. Based on the popular Japanese light novel series by Isao Miura, the anime is directed by super star director Masamitsu Hidaka (“Pokemon” series and movies, “Linebarrels of Iron”). About The Sacred Blacksmith Cecily Campbell is making her family proud. She is taking up the family business by becoming the newest Knight Guard of the Independent Trade City of Housman. The only problem is that she is not very good at her new job. Fortunately for her, Luke, the sacred blacksmith, is on her side. Luke has the power to forge powerful swords capable of defeating the demons that plague the land. FUNimation Entertainment will release the entire series on DVD in one set in Fall 2010. Finally FUNimation Entertainment that it has acquired home entertainment, broadcast, merchandise, and digital rights to the 52 episode comedy anime series “Axis Powers Hetalia” from Media Factory, Inc. Based on the popular web comic and manga series created by Hidekaz Himayura, the anime is directed by Bob Shirohata (“Gravitation” among others). FUNimation Entertainment will release the series on DVD in two parts starting in late 2010. Jakks Toy makers Jakks is working with Dentsu to develop anime title "Monsuno" for boys 6-11. The show and toys are expected to launch simultaneously next year, though a television broadcast partner hasn't yet signed. Kotobukiya Kotobukiya x Dannychoo.com x Cure's OTACOOL 2: WORLDWIDE COSPLAYERS is scheduled for April 2010. It will be A5 size•128pages•full color
The book is a follow-up on OTACOOL: WORLDWIDE OTAKU ROOMS. Kotobukiya is accepting submissions for cosplay photos and official OTACOOL mascot illustrations. For more, see here Right Stuf Anime producer and distributor Right Stuf, Inc. and Nozomi Entertainment announced that the RENTAL MAGICA Part 2 DVD Collection will be released on April 6, 2010 for $49.99. The Part 2 DVD Collection will offer the series’ remaining 12 episodes in both “broadcast order,” as seen on Japanese television (and on the Japanese DVD release), and “chronological order,” according to the timeline presented in the novels that served as the anime series’ inspiration. Additionally, the release will include a book that features well over 100 pages of background information about the series and its mythology. (These supplemental materials were originally included with the Japanese limited-edition DVD releases.) Right Stuf and Nozomi’s Rental Magica Part 1 DVD Collection is now available. In addition to the two viewing orders, it includes a 128-page book featuring cast interviews, a director’s commentary, and background information about the mythology as it is presented in the series.
RENTAL MAGICA © 2007 MAKOTO SANDA/pako/KADOKAWA SHOTEN/Rental Magica Partners. Section23 New releases include You’re Under Arrest: Fast & Furious Collection2, containing the last 13 episodes of the second season in the hit anime TV series You’re Under Arrest. SYNOPSIS: The girls in blue are back, and if you’re a bad guy the safest place to be is in a nice warm cell! Autophile Miyuki and her overly endowed (muscularly, that is) partner in anti-crime Natsumi lead the charge as the Bokuto Police Station’s roster of lady (and lady-ish) officers take to the streets in an all out assault on Tokyo’s underworld AND the senses! Buckle your safety belts, hold onto the roll bars and keep an eye out for street toughs, handcuffs, panties and vigilantes as the wildest high-speed hi-jinks yet unfold in YOU’RE UNDER ARREST – FAST & FURIOUS Collection 2! Running Time: 325 min. Age Rating: TV PG (V) Language: Japanese with English Subtitles Format: DVD SRP: $39.98 Petite Princess Yucie Complete Collection SYNOPSIS: Seventeen-year-old Yucie can never be taken seriously. How can she, when she's been cursed to be trapped in a ten-year-old's body? Bright, cheerful and optimistic, Yucie has never let her curse get in the way of living a happy life with her doting adopted father (a retired knight). However, Yucie's life is about to change forever when she becomes a candidate to become the Platina Princess, an honor which will allow her ultimate wish to be granted - and she can wish her curse away! Everything's turning up roses until she finds out that she is one of many candidates, and the competition is intense! Running Time: 650 min. Age Rating: TV PG Language: English, Japanese with English Subtitles Published by: AEsir Media Format: DVD SRP: $49.98 Also, on the live action front, Akiballion: Battlemaids of Akigabara, about a trio of super heroines set in Tokyo’s nerd center. Maid café hostesses by day, super powered protectors by night, these battlemaids are dealing out all the action and fan service any otaku could ask for. SYNOPSIS: We all know who protects Metropolis and Gotham, but when Akihabara, the geek nexus of Tokyo, is threatened by alien Cyber Fairies, it will take more than just an average superhero to defend the world’s single largest concentration of anime fans, model kits and maid cafes… Wait, there’s the answer! Enter Akiballion: maid café hostesses by day who don super-powered electro-brain battlesuits to combat the ultra-grotesque monsters sent forth by the villainous Fairie Queen! Can these three lovely young ladies handle the stress, the fighting and the responsibility of being Japan’s last line of defense against alien invasion? Hey, if they can handle the lecherous customers who frequent their own restaurant, giant troll monsters should be easy (shouldn’t it?) Get ready for the strangest team of superheroes to ever serve both light refreshments and just desserts, as the Electro-Battlemaids clean up the streets and tabletops of Tokyo in AKIBALLION! Running Time: 187 min. Age Rating: Unrated - V Language: Japanese with English Subtitles SRP: $19.98 Shout Factory The four disc Transformers Season Two, Volume Two set will be released on January 12th. Episodes include “The Secret of Omega Supreme,” “The Search For Alpha Trion,” “Hoist Goes Hollywood” and the thrilling two-part “The Key to Vector Sigma”, and features include The Combiner: Forming The Transformers Animated Series Featurette, PSAs, Archival Hasbro Toy Commercials and oncept Art.
Summit Entertainment Astro Boy: The Movie will be released on DVD and Blu-ray March 16th. Viz Media Fumi Yoshinaga's (Antique Bakery) All My Darling Daughters will be released on January 19th.
ALL MY DARLING DAUGHTERS explores the often-tempestuous relationship between a single career woman and her mother. Yukiko, a businesswoman in her thirties, still lives with her mother, Mari. But their relationship suffers a wrenching change when Mari announces that she's getting married--to an aspiring actor who's even younger than Yukiko. Convinced that he's out to fleece her mom, Yukiko can't stand to stay in the house any longer and decides to move in with her boyfriend. “ALL MY DARLING DAUGHTERS is a collection of five short stories that weave a complex tapestry exploring the important emotional relationships in women’s lives,” says Leyla Aker, Editorial Manager, VIZ Media. “Fumi Yoshinaga is known for creating richly developed characters and multi-layered stories that transcend genre. We look forward to bringing this new Signature title to Yoshinaga fans.”
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NATSUME’S BOOK OF FRIENDS, a standalone manga story by Yuki Midorikawa. NATSUME’S BOOK OF FRIENDS debuts under the Shojo Beat imprint, is rated ‘T’ for Teens, and will carry an MSRP of $9.99 U.S. / $12.99 CAN. Takashi Natsume can see spirits and demons that hide from the rest of humanity. He has always been set apart from other people because of his gift, drifting from relative to relative, never fitting in. Now he’s a troubled high school student who has come to live in a small town where his grandmother, Reiko, grew up. And there he discovers that he has inherited more than just the power of Sight from the mysterious Reiko. When Reiko was Takashi's age, she bound the names of demons and spirits in her Book of Friends, enslaving them to her every capricious whim. Now Takashi is the owner of the book, and the creatures will do anything to get their names back. Yuki Midorikawa’s other published titles in Japan include Into the Forest of Fireflies, The Scarlet Chair and The Voice That Blooms Red. NATSUME’S BOOK OF FRIENDS (Natsume Yujincho) was originally published in the manga magazine LaLa DX and was a finalist for the first Manga Taisho awards in 2008.
Natsume Yujincho © Yuki Midorikawa 2005/HAKUSENSHA, Inc. Upcoming releases from Viz's sci-fi prose Haikasoru label include THE BOOK OF HEROES • by Miyuki Miyabe • Available January 19th When her brother Hiroki disappears after a violent altercation with bullies, Yuriko discovers a magical book in his room. She learns that Hiroki has been possessed by the Book of Heroes, and that only she can save him. With the help of a monk named Sky, the dictionary-mouse Aju, and the mysterious Man of Ash, Yuriko sets out to solve the mystery of her vanished brother and save the world from the evil King in Yellow. A hardcover original! YUKIKAZE • by Chohei Kambayashi • Available January 19th In the midst of a war with an enigmatic alien host—a war with no end in sight—Second Lieutenant Rei Fukai carries out his missions in the skies over the strange planet nicknamed "Faery." Attached to Tactical Combat and Surveillance Unit 3 of the Special Air Force, his mission is to gather information on the enemy and bring it back—reconnaissance no matter the cost. His constant companion in this lonely task is his fighter plane, the sentient FFR-31 Super Sylph, call sign: YUKIKAZE. THE STORIES OF IBIS • by Hiroshi Yamamoto • Available March 16th In a world where humans are a minority and androids have created their own civilization, a wandering storyteller meets the beautiful android Ibis. She tells him seven stories of human/android interaction in order to reveal the secret behind humanity’s fall. The stories are the “seven novels” about the events surrounding the development of artificial intelligence (AI) in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. At a glance, these stories do not appear to have any sort of connection, but what is the true meaning behind them? What are Ibis’s real intentions? SLUM ONLINE • by Hiroshi Sakurazaka • Available March 16th Etsuro Sakagami is a college freshman who feels uncomfortable in reality, but when he logs onto the combat MMO game Versus Town, he assumes the personality of "Tetsuo," a karate champ on his way towards becoming the most powerful martial artist around. While his relationship with new classmate Fumiko goes nowhere, he spends his days and nights online in search of the invincible fighter Ganker Jack. Floating in between real and virtual, Etsuro soon will find himself face to face with his most powerful opponent. Also included in this edition—the never before published novelette "Bonus Round." LOUPS-GAROUS • by Natsuhiko Kyogoku • Available May 18th In the near future, humans will communicate almost exclusively through online networks— face-to-face meetings are rare and the surveillance state nearly all-powerful. Even school children are only allowed to meet in the flesh on school grounds. So when a serial killer starts slaughtering junior high students, the crackdown is harsh. And despite all the safeguards, the killer’s latest victim turns out to have been in contact with three young girls: Mio Tsuzuki, a certified prodigy; Hazuki Makino, a quiet but opinionated classmate; and Ayumi Kono, her best friend. And as the girls get caught up in trying to find the killer – who might just be a werewolf—Hazuki learns that there is much more to their (monitored) communications than meets the eye. THE NEXT CONTINENT • by Issui Oqawa • Available May 18th The year is 2025 and Otaba General Construction, a firm that has built structures to survive the Antarctic and the Sahara, has received its most daunting challenge yet. Sennosuke Touenji, the chairman of one of the world’s largest leisure conglomerates, wants a moon base fit for civilian use, and he wants his granddaughter Taé to be his eyes and ears on the harsh lunar surface. Taé and Otaba engineer Aomine head to the moon where adventure, trouble, and perhaps romance wait. Warner Home Video The Ralph Bakshi animated Lord of the Rings will be released on special edition DVD and Blu-ray on April 6th The Complete First Season of Tom and Jerry Tales will be released on DVD April 13th

Upcoming in Japan

Promos Shiki, based on Fuyumi Ono’s horror novel Katanagatari, based on NisiOisin's novel, to be 12, monthly hour specials Senko no Night Raid Fate/stay night Unlimited Blade Works Live action Battleship Yamato Teaser for the live action adaption of Gantz Beck - the live action adaptation of the Harold Sakuishi manga Anime The Gundam 00 movie appears to the scheduled for Fall 2010
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Anime News Network points out that Amazon in Japan lists Blu-ray and DVD editions of Kizumonogatari and Nisemonogatari — the prequel and sequel, respectively, to NisiOisin's Bakemonogatari light novel series.
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ANN notes that a new website has been launched for a theatrical Mardock Scramble, based on light novels by Chevalier d'Eon writer Ubukata . A previous Mardock Scramble anime project was cancelled by Gonzo.
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Isshoni Training: Training with Hinako, in which you get to watch a cute girl doing push-ups and sit-ups, will be joined by the February Blu-ray DVD release Isshoni Sleeping: Sleeping with Hinako, in which you, under the guise of sleep habits self help, get to watch a cute girl dream Manga Yuriko Nishiyama (Harlem Beat) has launched new manga Keishicho Tokushu SP Han Queen's Butler Karin is Kiss magazine. ANN describes the series, saying the title character is a female police inspector, and she is part of a special police unit with six ikemen (handsome) men who protect female VIPs.
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Nobuto Hagio and Shigemitsu Harada's soon to be live action adapted sex robot comedy Yuria Hyaku-shiki will be ending in the issue of Young Animal due out in January 22
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Morning will be launching new manga "Omo ni, Naitemasu" by Akiko Higashimura, Nagomisan by Fukusuke Miyamoto and Dandarin 101 by Masakazu Suzuki
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Youka Nitta's (Embracing Love) new boys-love manga is horror title Otodama. Yukie Nasu (Here is Greenwood) is launching a sequel to fantasy comedy Maho Tsukai no Musume.
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Takehiko Inoue confirmed that Vagabond, the fictionalized biography of samurai legend Miyamoto Musashi, will end in within the next two years. Live Action A live action film Shinichi Ishizuka's Gaku - Minna no Yama mountain-climbing manga is planned for a 2011 release
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Karuho Shiina's shoujo manga about a girl who looks like the Ring's Sadako, Kimi ni Todoke is getting a live action film adaptation. As is Hidenori Hara's (Densha Otoko) highschool drama Hoshi no Furumachi - When You Wish Upon a Star
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Atsushi Kaneko's (Bambi and Her Pink Gun) new manga Soil will be adapted into a live action drama, to air on Wowow starting March 6th. Takashi Shimizu directs the series starring Hoshino Maria and Tayama Ryosei. Misc CLAMP has provided a protrait of Rintaro (X, Metropolis), for the MADHOUSE PLUS tribute to the anime director. Previous editions of the magazine looked at studio directors Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Satoshi Kon and Mamoru Hosoda.
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The next Code Geass project might be a stage music

The Business

Top 10 Anime Business News of 2009 by animeanime.jp
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In the wake of their Marvel acquisition, Disney has extended ties with Pow! Entertainment. Under the new agreement, Walt Disney Studios gains enhanced rights to the creative output of Pow! Entertainment as well as exclusive consulting services. In addition Disney has taken a 10% equity stake in Pow! with an investment of $2.5 million. Pow! Entertainment is involved in the BONES co-production Heroman and Viz published anime Ultimo.
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Tokyopop will be raising the price of releases from by BLU boys-love imprint to $14.99. Releases will also feature bonus color pages.
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4Kids' (Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh) CEO Al Kahn is taking a 15% pay cut. The company has been reporting operating losses, with declining licensing revenues and difficulty getting traction for its Chaotic TCG. The company may also be looking to sell itself.
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Pop idol group AKB48's producer and songwriter has said that the concept has been licensed to spinoff groups from seven television stations and production companies in six countries including Thailand, Singapore, China, and Italy. Akimoto believes that "the era of imitating the West is over. Now we export Japanese culture." The seven companies want to license the rights to localize AKB48's concept and format in their respective countries. In particular, the proposed spinoffs would each have a theater of its own (like AKB48 has in Tokyo's Akihabara otaku shopping district), 48 members and a name that ends with "48," costumes modeled after high school uniforms, and songs written by Akimoto.
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Astro Boy animators Imagi recently saw a bump in their stock, on news of new investment in the company.
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Sega Sammy Holdings founded CG animation production subsidiary Sega Sammy Visual Entertainment was founded with 10 million yen (about US$110,000) According to its parent company, "Sega Sammy Visual Entertainment will strive to become the number one family-oriented animation studio in the Asia-Pacific region within five years." The subsidiary currently has 90 employees.
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Square Enix has announced plans to ramp up its digital Entertainment unit As 2010 begins, Square Enix's “lead Chocobo,” Yoichi Wada, announced the company's goal for the rest of the year is to “take root.” While this may not clear things up much, the statement in which the goal is explained may do the opposite. “In the near future, the rate of convergence between video games and other digital entertainment content will only continue to accelerate,” Wada stated.
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Gonzo has brought back laid off animators for a new opening movie t to The Tower of Druaga –The Recovery of BABYLIM– fantasy massively multi-player online role-playing game (MMORPG).
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Cnet founder Shelby Bonnie is part of a group investing $2.5 million into Whiskey Media, which operates niche media sites such as ComicVine (comics), GiantBomb (gaming), and AnimeVice (anime). The company, which has been around since 2007, previously raised about $1.5 million.
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Reed Business Information has closed down its Video Business industry magazine
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Neflix announced agreements with five global consumer electronics companies that will introduce Netflix ready devices later this year. The partners include Funai, which distributes the Philips, Magnavox, Sylvania and Emerson brands in the United States, Panasonic, Sanyo, Sharp and Toshiba. Each company will introduce Blu-ray disc players or digital televisions that will instantly Netflix content.
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Comics212 on Icarus' print on demand test run

Anime x Games

FUNimation is working to Appliya Inc., (known for their Evangelion apps) to produce iPhone apps. The first is Fullmetal Alchemist: State Alchemy Exam, which is now available exclusively on the iTunes App Store for $1.99. The trivia game rewards players with wallpapers designed for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
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Korean game studio WindySoft (Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine Online and Katamari Damashi Online) announced development of a massively multi-player online role-playing game based on the precociously vulgar kindergarten anime/manga comedy Crayon Shinchan.
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A review of the Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces game for the Wii Screen shots from the Dynasty Warriors/Fist of the North Star mash-up "Hokuto Musou", slated for 2010 release for the PS3 and the X360.
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The line-up for Daikaiju Battle Ultra Coliseum DX: Ultra Senshi Daishuketsu will include Ultraman Ultraman Mebius Ultraman Dyna Ultraseven Ultraman Leo Astra
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Comic publish UDON's contribution to Tatsunoko VS Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars
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State Of The Japanese Eroge Market

Digital Distribution News

Dan Hipp's once Tokyopop published action series Gyakushu will be making its return online at Hipp's blog on January 11.
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Ahead of its January 30th Japanese DVD release, the first episode of the anime adaptation of political satire/mahjong manga "The Legend of Koizumi" is now available online
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Asian media streaming site has added a number of new titles including Chu-Bra from StarChild, animated by ZEXCS, featuring Minako Kotobuki, Minori Chihara, and Sayuri Yahagi in the lead roles of Yako, Nayu, and Haruka in the lead roles synopsis Nayu is a twelve-year old girl who enters a private school at the top of her class. Her classmates are quickly shocked to discover that on the first day of school, she announces to the whole school everything there is to know about adult lingerie. Omamori Himari, adapted from the work of Miran Matora , animated by ZEXCS, featuring features Ami Koshimizu and Daisuke Hirakawa in the lead roles/ Synopsis: OMAMORI HIMARI Yuuto Amakawa comes from a long line of demon-slayers. Orphaned seven years ago without a single living relative, he has been protected and been able to live life as an ordinary high school boy ­ until his sixteenth birthday when his protection charm wears off. Just as he is about to be in real big, demon-packed trouble, a mysterious catgirl named Himari appears and pledges her allegiance to him, promising to protect him forever. Durarara!! from Aniplex, based on the work of Ryohgo Narita (Baccano!) and featuring original character designs by Suzuhito Yasuda (Kamisama Kazoku, Yozakura Quartet) Title Synopsis: Ikebukuro, Tokyo. Mikado Ryugamine is a young man who yearns for the city like no other. At the invitation of his childhood friend, Masaomi Kida, he moves to Ikebukuro and enters school there. Masaomi tells Mikdado about some dangerous people in Ikebukuro to watch out for. There are two in particu

Readers Talkback

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  • Jan. 8, 2010, 10:44 p.m. CST

    Do you realize how much I love anime?

    by TheBlackKnight

    None more black.

  • Jan. 8, 2010, 10:49 p.m. CST

    just heard

    by rartus

    Blake Lively cast as Green Latern love interest, and Star Trek sequel slated June 29, 12'

  • Jan. 8, 2010, 10:54 p.m. CST

    So... much... news

    by Wookie_Weed

    My brain, imploding. O_o

  • Jan. 8, 2010, 11:13 p.m. CST

    Durarara is really pretty...PRETTY COLORZ

    by HaterofCrap

    it has to have the best looking animated version of a modern city i have ever seen...so vibrant and full of life.. and with a unique style of its own.

  • Jan. 8, 2010, 11:25 p.m. CST

    WHERE THE FUCK IS CAT SHIT ONE?!

    by KeepFuckingThatChicken

    That show was supposed to be out in Winter 2010 and not a word about it ever since the trailer last February.

  • Jan. 9, 2010, 12:08 a.m. CST

    RoboGeisha is spectacular.

    by Some Dude

    It pays homage to so many sci-fi and action films in a uniquely Japanese way. Highly recommended to fans of the bizarre.

  • Jan. 9, 2010, 4:45 a.m. CST

    JCVD on EXPENDABLES and SLY IMPRESSION

    by damiz707

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szLoJhywUdQ&feature=player_embedded

  • Jan. 9, 2010, 8:37 a.m. CST

    RoboGeisha Ass Stabbing = GARBAGE

    by Zardozap2005

    This, TGP and Machine Girl are just prime examples of how shitty the Japanese cinema has gotten. Cheap crap with even cheaper crap CGI. That said, that Yamato teaser, and man does it tease, turned me into a kid again. Thank You! Funimation for bringing us the rest of those Shaw Brothers movies! Can we get 'em on Blu-Ray please! I know at lease Life Gamble will see a Blu release, as it almost came out right as Navarre folded.

  • Jan. 9, 2010, 9:28 a.m. CST

    Definitely buying the Astro Boy and Ponyo DVDs

    by FeralAngel

    The two BEST animated films of 2009, hands down, no question, the ones I enjoyed the most, the ones with such stunning imagery you can't forget. Astro has the stronger, more emotionally involving story, but Ponyo defines the word "imagination" and "whimsical" (in the good sense of that word). And Astro Boy...good god that was an awesome film. Animation as good as Pixar's and with far more heartfelt moments than Up. Better than Up all the way around in my opinion. Glad to read, BTW, that Imagi, which animated Astro Boy so well, is getting a bit of cash to make more excellent animated films. It deserved much more success than its Astro Boy got, and I'm glad to see it get some love. Oh, and Jon Stewart: STFU.

  • Jan. 9, 2010, 4:11 p.m. CST

    Tatsunuko vs Capcom really should've been a multi-platform title

    by Monkey_King

    especially for the Gen X'rs like myself who grew up with most of these characters and own a PS3 or XBOX 360.

  • Jan. 10, 2010, 11:10 a.m. CST

    Was psyched for Tatsunuko vs Capcom till...

    by Zardozap2005

    ...I saw it was Wii only. WTF?! This game screams for a PS3 or Xbox release.

  • Jan. 10, 2010, 12:42 p.m. CST

    What is the "Sync Point dub" for FLCL?

    by MurderMostFowl

    Is that dubbed version that was on Cartoon Network? The voice acting was great on that

  • Jan. 10, 2010, 10:07 p.m. CST

    FLCL on blu ray?

    by The_Crimson_King

    OH. MY. FUCKING. GOD. that is the best news I've heard in a while!!!!

  • Jan. 10, 2010, 10:11 p.m. CST

    and I've heard good things about Ghost Hound

    by The_Crimson_King

    glad to hear it's finally available