Manga Spotlight: Darkstalkers / Red Earth: Maleficarum by Mami Itou Released by UDON Entertainment
Darkstalkers / Red Earth: Maleficarum pairs stories from two Capcom fighting games, so you're excused for your dubious sentiments towards it. Video games aren't exactly known as the source material for quality adaptation. Fighting games are particular fraught since, basically, they’re just pairing exciting characters in some attenuated fight tournament. They get you to think about which proxy you want to fight as, and which adversaries that it'll be exciting to fight against. Narrative is low on the list of priorities. Featuring casts plucked from all over the world, knocking bits of life bar off each other, coherences is even lower. Back when I took time to do some gaming, I was a fan of the genre, and among the many examples I sampled, I can't think of it featuring many half decent narratives... maybe bits of Street Fighter Alpha and bits King of Fighters. What works for Darkstalkers / Red Earth: Maleficarum is that it is manga equivalent of TV that you only half watch, but are entertained by. Mami Itou doesn't have solid narrative material to work with, but he does have characters that were created by a specialist to draw the eye. As such, reading the collection isn't a great experience. And yet with Itou's particurarly energetic, not typical "manga style," glancing at the work is outstandingly fun. Darkstalkers is a cult series. It still has fans hoping for a revival. Think Street Fighter with monsters; initially a vampire, a werewolf, a Frankenstein's monster, a zombie, a succubus, a mummy, a bakeneko (? or some sort of fuzzy cat girl), a cursed suit of samurai armor, a gillman, a sasquatch, and , for the boss, an alien fire entity looking to bring upon global extinction.
From what I remember of the games, I think the story captured in this manga is a prologue to Vampire Savior - The Lord of Vampire, the third game, which introduced rivals to Darkstalkers Ryu-positioned green haired succubus Morrigan (one of those loli little girls who's actually ancient - Lilith) and series' vampire lord Demitri (vampire-ish demon Jedah). Darkstalkers' characters were created by Akira Yasuda and look interesting, but I've yet to read anything that suggested that there's any there, there. It's sometimes a minor geek pleasure to survey the Wikipedia entries for the cast of a fighting game. The convoluted motivations and histories can be a bit interesting. That's not the case here. There is not much material out there to convince that the Darkstalkers roster has any dimension beyond its visual impact. Red Earth (Warzard) is more obscure territory. Its sorceress character Tessa appeared in now-obscure-itself super deformed fighting game Pocket Fighter aka Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix. Guin Saga-esque (Kaoru Kurimoto's 130 volume light novel fantasy series) lion headed king Leo, shogun's Oniwabanshu ninja Kenji and Tyrannosaurus-esque Hauzer appeared in Capcom Fighting Jam along with characters from Street Fighter and Darkstalkers. However, Red Earth itself has the distinction of being the only game that ran on the CPS III arcade architecture that was never officially ported to home platforms. Set in an alternate world stuck in a medieval state, Red Earth sees Tessa, Leo, Kenji and young martial artist Mai-Ling questing out to defend the world from Scion's evil kingdom. Maybe because the characters aren't as widely exposed as many Capcom's franchises, it does benefit from some geek-intrigue - especially regarding its quirks, such as the fact that Leo is benevolently haunted by a group of sages who died in their attempt to change him back to his non-lion-headed human form. This Red Earth manga gets more into the meat of the action than Darkstalkers, but, really, it's as ropey as any fight game adaptation you've seen. Apart from the possibility of zealous affection for Darkstalkers (I don't think that Red Earth fanatics exist), the reason to check out this manga collection is artist Mami Itoh. Itoh worked on Pilgrim Jäger, one of Tow Ubukata's (Chevalier d'Eon) historical adventures. That strange, fun series had an unlikely setting for a manga... the Protestant Reformation. It followed an acrobat and a juggler working obtain the money needed to buy indulgences from the Catholic Church and featured unique interpretations of the Medici, Este, Girolamo Savonarola, Michelangelo and the like. Its Media Blasters release is well worth tracking down. And, Itou worked on another manga with another writer with a particular interest in history - that being Eiji Otsuka's (MPD Psycho, Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Madara) on genealogy concerned Japan - which didn't get a North American release, but did get a French one. Presumably, Itoh had some Capcom guidance here, but he was clearly writing without a net. Seemingly not the strongest scripter to begin with, Itoh writing a fighting game adaptation is putting someone with bad equivalent on a tight rope. The result is a manga of bits; choppy scenes that don't add up to much. Still, Itou's illustration works big in the manga's favor. There's energy to spare with a style on a tear, that has a scratchy look which projects the artist's own geeky enthusiasm (reminiscent of Sin-ichi Shiromoto, who drew the Return of the Jedi manga). These aren't terribly deep, interesting characters to read about, but Itou's dynamic illustration makes them magnetic to look at. Rigid Demitri standing like a pillar and the shorter Morrigan levitating up so that she can glare down at him, then descending so she can dismissively pat him on the shoulder, him brushing her hand off and baring his fangs; From panel to panel, the poses and expressions in and of themselves reward the invested attention. While the main Darkstalkers story does offer some effects shots and reproductions of the game's signature special attack in its stand-off confrontations, this prologue story is mostly posturing. And, even if it's not overly serious, it is portentous. Fortunately, Itou is the rare manga artist who can get away having a story rest on the strength of their illustrations of Morrigin slinking onto chairs and other perches. It would have been nice if there had been a writer to put the Red Earth story into order, but the dinosaur bashing and chimera slicing is still exciting. You're supposed to be able to tell what these characters are all about from a glance at the screen of an arcade cabinet, so Itou probably doesn't deserve too much credit for establishing them at a blistering pace. And yet, the way that he sprints with them out of the gate is impressive. The sequences with these characters, calling it a "story" would be giving it a bit too much credit, prove to be winning. I'd be somewhat inclined to like Leo given his Guin resemblance, and I wound up quite impressed by Itou's awesome take on the character. Vitality is injected into simple scenes and familiar fantasy tropes. With the evident power in Leo's body, his stride and glare, a simple page of the character walking up to a gate and staring down its guards has impact. In this column, I've attempted to forward the notion of "bookshelf manga," titles are aren't disposable or forgettable, works that you'll want to have a on your bookshelf a decade down the line. On the other end of the spectrum, Darkstalkers / Red Earth: Maleficarum could be called "magazine stack manga." It's not something to have and read like most other releases. It's something to throw in the pile where you stack your magazines. It is something nice to have around, but the pleasure of Darkstalkers / Red Earth: Maleficarum isn't sitting down to read the work. It's picking it up to thumb through. And it certainly is pleasure, even if that comes from glances and not concerted attention.
Anime Spotlight Dirty Pair TV Series DVD Collection 1 Released by Right Stuf
The experience of watching the first half of the Dirty Pair TV series was like the one that I recently had watching the first section of Fist of the North Star. During my early days of anime watching, I was exposed to these "classic" 80's works. I remember the space bikini clad heroines of Dirty Pair being what passed for sexually suggestive anime girls in the very early days of commercial internet access. I would have been familiar with who they were for a while and seen Adam Warren's The Dirty Pair: Sim Hell and Fatal But Not Serious around when I actually saw some of the anime at a college club meeting. I found that to be fine, but preferred to watch something else. As such, my current fondness for Dirty Pair is not based on a nostalgia allegiance to the series. After working through the half series set, I was crestfallen that I didn't have more Dirty Pair to watch. Over the years, my taste in anime has been spun towards the extremes. I appreciate involving, boundary pushing work. And, I appreciate work that is simply diverting. Dirty Pair's brand of comedy mixed into classic ray guns sci-fi falls firmly into the latter. Mildly amused episode after episode, I wasn't wowed, and wouldn't call it a classic, but I was thoroughly entertained by Dirty Pair. Haruka Takachiho began his light novels set in a warp drive enabled human colonized space of the 22nd century with the Crusher Joe series, which has run 10 novels since 1977. These followed the rough and ready, code of conduct bound problem solvers for hire of the Crusher Conference, specifically Joe, a rebellious young man carrying on the legacy of legendary father, Crusher Dan. Joe is joined by a proto-Cowboy Bebop crew that includes a run away princess as the ship's navigator, a hulking cyborg pilot, a quick witted young engineer and a quirky robot on adventures that inspired a 1983 anime movie and 1989 OVA series Crusher Joe: The Ice Prison and Crusher Joe: The Ultimate Weapon: Ash - all from Studio Nue (Macross), which was co-founded by Takachiho. In 1979, Takachiho launched his more internationally popular Dirty Pair spin-off, set during the career of Crusher Dan (Dan maps out space lanes around 2120 and opperates until round the 2150's CE, Dirty Pair takes place between 2138 and 43). Named for a favorite women's wrestling tag team, the Queen Angels, Takachiho's "Lovely Angels," or, behind their backs "Dirty Pair," were Trouble Consultant team 234 working for the World Welfare Works Association (3WA) - a getting things done enterprise alternative to the Crushers. The seventh Dirty Pair novel, published in 2007, was a bit of a conclusion, but with a new manga by Hisao Tamaki begun in Comic Ryu this year, Dirty Pair is still a live franchise. Said Dirty Pair are aggressive red head Kei and comparatively more restrain, dark haired Yuri. They have their pink spaceship, the Lovely Angel, and sort-of backup from their should-be-killer bear-like coeurl cat thing Military Unit of Genetic Higher Intelligence (Mughi) and beeping droid Nammo. The novels, the first two of which were released in North America by Dark Horse, saw Kei (they're written first person from her perspective) and Yuri travelling space to remote trouble spots, investigating dangerous threats at mines or industrial complexes. The DP certainly do that in the 1985 anime. Work finds the duo sent out to resolve hostage situations and kidnappings, transport dangerous substances and exterminate monsters, but also thwart super intelligent lab mice and capture problem causing cats in episodic adventures with titles like "How to Kill a Computer" (the solution proves nicely convoluted), "Do Lovely Angels Like Chest Hair?," "Pursuit Smells of Death and Cheesecake" and "Ho Ho Ho. Dresses and Men are Better Now." A shade under twenty years old, Kei and Yuri have adult-ish professional concerns like money, vacation and raises, but as competent as they can be, these aren't the most mature, serious minded or professional individuals. They're vain and they really like the idea of catching a nice mate. And, those qualities lead to distractions, which in turn leads to accidents, chain reactions and overkill causing mass destruction. The "Dirty Pair" designation comes from those not-uncommon occasions in which Kei and Yuri's work concludes with a city or planet being razed. Minutes into the first episode of Dirty Pair, the anime presents a computer screen listing cast credits for the original Star trek. Dirty Pair isn't just a comedy adventure with the trappings of science fiction. It's heroines are whistling through the halls of classic. Star Trek and Wars are a big part of the equation. There are references to A. E. van Vogt. The pair go into the sewers to battle "mollusks from the Lovecraft system." Still, Dirty Pair doesn't get encumbered by reference-humor. Unlike much of the anime currently being created by geeks for geeks, here, the characters mug for the audience, not the creators. Never inappropriately overdone, there's no self importance or self consciousness. When anime has made inroads into North America, whether that was via Yamato, Robotech, to lesser extent Sailor Moon, Inu Yasha or Fullmetal Alchemist, part of the attraction was its running, developing stories. Works comprised of distinct, episodic stories, such as Detective Conan or Lupin III have had smaller fanbases. However, being episodic can complement the spirit of series like those, or Dirty Pair. Part of what makes the anime fun is its free, off-handedness. With their reputation already taint, there are no consequences to the Dirty Pair's mishaps. Conversely, on their less rocky resolutions, the anime doesn't bother to reveal if Kei and Yuri ever got the raise or bonus that drove their enthusiasm for the mission. This light sense of humor proves resilient. It bends. Kei and Yuri are simply unencumbered, not so much dancing on the graves as not looking back at their path of destruction. However, there are exceptions to that. There are notably dark moments that are somber or pathetic, which the Pair have no choice but to witness. Though these dark moments are mixed with absurdity, when it does have to look at death, the anime is not so mean spirited as to find mirth in it. But, Kei and Yuri make and through, and those incidents get chalked up to the strange, dangerous future in which they operate. Director Toshifumi Takizawa shows a good head for how far to push Dirty Pair; how ugly the criminals Kei and Yuri are mistaken for should be, how to make violent the characters fits, how fast to spin the manic moments - and it is see wonderful the sort of comic jaunt that only cell based animation could provide. As it knocks around with bumper car plotting, Dirty Pair is rarely laugh out loud funny, but it is constantly grin inducing.
Upcoming in North America
live action Coastguard manga adaptation THE LAST MESSAGE: Umizaru will be released in North America. Distribution deals have also been signed for France, Russia, Brazil, Hong Kong, India, China, Taiwan, Singapore, United States, Mexico, Peru, and Argentina 4Kids Yu-Gi-Oh! 3D: Bonds Beyond Time will hit American theatres as a special events February 26 and 27, March 5 and 6. then be released on video later in the year Discotek Discotek will be releasing a Cry ing Freeman anime complete collection on February 22nd Disney Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Goro Miyazaki's Tales of Earth Sea will be released on Blu-ray on March 8th. On Nausicaa BLU-RAY BONUS FEATURES: Blu-rayThe World of Ghibli Visit Nausicaa's world in this enchanted interactive experience - Behind the Studio: Discover the film's fantastic origins in this fascinating documentary, including an interview with Hayao Miyazaki. - Enter the Lands: Explore the many worlds of Studio Ghibli Blu-ray: Original Japanese Storyboards DVD:Behind the Microphone: With A-list voice talent DVD:The Birth Story of Studio Ghibli DVD:Original TV Trailers Media Blasters Moribito - Guardian of the Spirit will be released on Blu-rau in February Media Blasters will be reviving their yaoi manga line
Upcoming in Japan
Promos Takashi Miike's Nintama Rantaro adaptation IS (Infinite Stratos) Angel Beats Anime Kenji Kamiyama is overseeing a 3D conversion of Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society, scheduled to hit Japanese theatres on March 26, 2011. Hayao Miyazaki has a new short "Pan-dane to Tamago Hime" ("Mr. Dough and the Egg Princess") playing at the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo. -based on the Corn Harvest Keiichi Satou (Karas director, The Big O character/mechanical designer) is helming the project, and Masafumi Nishida overseeing Sunrise produced Tiger & Bunny featuring original design by Masakazu Katsura (Video Girl Ai, DNA², I''s, Zetman) Loudness will be performing the for the upcoming Mazinkaiser OVA Studio DEEN's Hiroshi Hasegawa is sponsoring an anime adaption of a local folktale associated with the "Inu Matsuri" ("Dog Festival") in the memory of his late wife. A second Black Rock Shooter OVA is the works Angel Beats!'s Seiji Kishi will be directing an adaptation of Eri Takenashi's Type-Moon (Fate/Stay Night, Melty Blood) short manga anthology Kazuki Sakuraba's (Gosick) fantasy romance boys-love manga re-imagining of the classic epic Nanso Satomi Hakkenden, will have an anime adaptation will be adapted into an anime movie Emotional Content is working on "North", an animated project about North Korea's prison camps. "In the repatriation program in the 60's, more than 93,000 Japanese Koreans left Japan to head to North Korea, which was promised by North Korea leaders to be "Heaven on Earth." The main character's family was one of the families who took the voyage to this "Heaven on Earth", to dedicate their lives and wealth for the construction of what was meant to be the greatest nation, and that would promote communist idealism. Relatively peaceful days in Pyongyang enjoyed by the family abruptly ended with the disappearance of the grandfather, and the main character's forced transfer to Yudok concentration camp. Suffering through years of forced labor, violence, and the loss of loved ones, the main character grows to become a man from inside the concentration camp...." Funding is being raised via Kickstart Live Action Arashi performer Masaki Aiba will be the titular character in an adaptation of the Bartender manga. Shuntaro Osawa's Gota Keshi: Jidan Koshonin Shirai Torajiro will be be adapted into a live action drama
Anime x Games
Dragon Ball Kai: Ultimate Butoden will hit the Nintendo DS in Japan on February 3, 2011 Ken Akamatsu's Negima! Magister Negi Magi will be showing up in Monster Hunter Portable 3rd for PSP A Dectective Conan inspired "Conan Felyne" (Conan Airu) will also be appearing in Monster Hunter Portable 3rd Fairytale: Portable Guild 2 has been announced for the PSP Sakura Wars and Kaito Tenshi Twin Angel 2 content, along with Envagelion, Gurren Lagann and Valkyria Chronicles 3 will be appearing in Phantasy Star Portable 2 Infinity Umineko (sortof, thematically connection to Higurashi - When They Cry) is getting a fighting game Three Decades Later Yars’ Revenge Gets An Anime Facelift Moyashimon is getting a social network game A Black Rock Shooter PSP is scheduled to be released for the PSP in Japan next summer Ufotable will provide animation barcode kanojo for the iPhone
In the Law
Text of Tokyo Metropolitan Government's bill to restrict sexual depictions of children reported contains language target depictions of "sexual or pseudo sexual acts that would be illegal in real life, or sexual or pseudo sexual acts between close relatives whose marriage would be illegal" and therefore be "detrimental toward the healthy development of youth" in "manga, anime, and other images"
*Anime director Hiroshi Nagahama (Mushishi, Detroit Metal City) and the video and game production company Marvelous Entertainment are suing Sony Music Japan International over Beyoncé's I Am… Sasha Fierce unauthorized use of anime storyboards
CINEMA ASIA RELEASING, ELEVEN ARTS and FUNimation Entertainment will be bringing Evangelion 2.0 to North Americam theatres in January 2011. CINEMA ASIA RELEASING is a newly created distribution company specializing in releasing 6 to 8 Asian themed theatrical features for the North American market per year.
Cool Figures News
Taku Sato inspired Ex Gokin Getter Robot Real Getter 1 -Art Storm- set to be released in May 201 NY Times - Asia a Fertile Hunting Ground for Toy Collectors
Anime News Network is offering episodes 1-4 of NIS distributed Toradora! and Persona: Trinity Souls for free, with the rest of the series available for a fee. Three Steps Over Japan reportd from "Electronics Book & Manga Summit"
Worth Checking Out...
The must see of the week is Otaku USA editor-in-chief/Japanese pop culture guru Patrick Macias and veteran voice actress Yuu Asakawa in the premiere Otaku-Verse In recognition of the simulcast of the Aniplex anime titles Oreimo and togainu no chi ~Bloody Curs~ on Anime News Network (ANN), Aniplex of America, ANN, and Pop Japan Travel have teamed up to offer Oreimo and togainu no chi fans a to win a trip to Japan. Viewers will be able to participate in a contest to win one of two trips to Japan courtesy of Pop Japan Travel, the leader in Pop Culture tours to Japan. The contest details can only be accessed by watching the two series on ANN. The prize for the winner of the Oreimo contest will be a trip to Japan on PJT's Tokyo Anime Fair Tour in March 2011, while the winner of the togainu no chi contest will get to join the Fangirl Paradise Tour in May 2011. For more information, see www.popjapantravel.com Insight Episode 119 of Right Stuf's Anime Today podcasts features Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt – the co-authors of NINJA ATTACK! True Tales of Assassins, Samurai, and Outlaws In this new, two-segment interview, Yoda and Alt discuss what led them to write a guidebook about ninja and their known associates, some of the surprises they uncovered during their extensive research, and their favorite historical and fictional figures… some of whom will be familiar to anime fans. Additionally, they talk about their previous field guide to Japan’s supernatural legends, Yokai Attack! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide. Yoda and Alt are the founders of Alt Japan Co., Ltd., which is based in Tokyo and specializes in the translation, adaptation and production of English-language editions of books, manga and video games (Ninja Gaiden). In addition to the Ninja and Yokai Attack! books, they also co-authored the book Hello, Please! Very Helpful Super Kawaii Characters from Japan. Mike Toole on anime clubs - including my college club UMJAMS on whose site I really launched my web presence Brian Ruh on the Legacies of Hiroshima Manga Report on the AX: Alternative Manga Anthology - Reverse Thieves on the book - Read About Comics Groovy Age of Horror on Gantz Jason Thompson on Saint Seiya and Cobra a look at Akiyuki Nosaka (Barebook Gen's) The Pornographers World Building: Hayao Miyazaki 30 years of Japanese fashion Ng Suat Tong on Genkaku Picasso - Manga Critic on the manga - Case Suitable for Treatment on the manga editor Carl Horn talks Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Panty and Stocking With Garterbelt: OH YEAH, YOU FATHERFUCKER at Otaku USA, Danica Davidson on Chi's Sweet Home and X - Mike Toole on Black Butler Twitch on Arrietty's Rome screening Shoujo history Felipe Smith – Advices for Becoming a Mangaka in Japan Matt Alt on: The era of Japanese video games dominance drawing to a close Haruki Murakami's world finally hits the silver Junko Mizuno interview The Enemy’s the Fashions! Kuragehime’s Look at Anti-Beauty VCinema on Golgo 13: The Professional - on TekkonKinkreet AniPages Daily on Gon, the Little Fox The Fox of Chironup Sukeban Deka and Anime R Isamu Kumada and Studio Arrow Koichi Motohashi and Nippon Animation Andrez Bergen on Super Hero Women and Ooku Wildside Cinema on Oshii's Assault Girls Deb Aoki on The Story of Saiunkoku - Ayako - Best New Manga of 2010 Grady Hendrix on the "Lost Classic" Drifting Classroom adaptation Slowing Japan's Galapagos Syndrome Sci-Fi Japan's Summar Wars review Through Otaku Eye's Nishizaki obit Media Nausicaa Ohmu Robot Version - Mecha Ohmu Yuki Komada draws Hit Girl
Hiroyuki Yamashita Hiroshi Tomioka MAD 2 Yoshimichi Kameda MAD Norimitsu Suzuki MAD Shingo Abe MAD Tomoyuki Niho MAD compilation of the You Yoshinari Tezuka homages OVAs not released on DVD in Japan The French trailer for Arrietty the Borrower images Niko Niko gifs Chambara JLA Tezuka's Phoenix via Dan Hipp Russian Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles neat Japanese cinema tumblr New Tezuka: Symphony of Blood imaginary fighting game fanart Art from Satoshi Kon's Dream Machine Battle of the Planet 1 covered Tatsuya Morino Monster Art Miyazaki mash-up art OBEY Hello-Kitty Misc Evangelion's Human-Sized Head Mounted on the Wall Jeeves manga Kingyo Used Books on Sailor Moon kaiju mural Bleach (the anime/manga, not the caustic base) desserts ita-fishing-lure a look at the anime pop opera Godzilla: the 1967 'Son of Godzilla' Christening Ceremony new Paul Robert sprites Manga from Comitia Yurei: Ghost Izakaya in Kichijoji Sanrio Meets Fight Club in Peekaboo Monster's Installation for Small Gift artistically done NSFW Ghibli fanart a look at the rare Sweet Cream and Red Strawberries Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro hair gell Tekkon Kinkreet White/Shiro Side “Sym-Bionic Titan” Pushes TV-PG with “Sexy” Scene 15-Meter Space Battleship Yamato Model Rises in Tokyo The theatrical version of Samurai 7 One Piece limited editition Tezuka beret New initiative fosters young anime talent Star Wars figures with Godzilla homage (not the Clone Wars kaiju) looking into the impact of Lone Wolf and Cub