Animation and Anime

AICN Anime - Fighting Sharks, Fighting Dinosaurs, It's a New Year at AICN Anime

Published at: Jan. 3, 2011, 12:02 p.m. CST by scottgreen


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Column by Scott Green

 

Manga Spotlight: Gantz
volumes 13 and 14
by Hiroya Oku
Released By Dark Horse



Gantz, you're kindof racist (both playing with and indulging in a stereotypical view of African Americans) , you're definitely sexist (the strongest violence doesn't inhibit this manga from ogling young women), but you do have fireball spitting dinosaurs and Tarantino speaking nanotech vampires. Faults can be heaped up against Gantz, and yet, the troublesomeness is balanced by the most sledgehammer sensational manga hitting the North American market. You start swinging around a sword, the length of which would shame Sepheroth's, in a vampire gutting Burly Brawl and showcase a guy who is basically Street Fighter's Ryu shoryuken-ing a velociraptor, and a lot is forgiven.

In a sort of bleeding, bone breaking Tron, Gantz features increasingly less regular people thrust into a video game situation. Plucked from the moment before death, Gantz's cast is copied, given mission assignment to exterminate some group of aliens and set loose onto the streets of Japan. Most find the video game scenario entirely incredible, so don't bother to arm themselves with the skin tight black suits that grant them enhanced physical abilities or the arsenal of Gears Of War weapons. And as such, a large part of the spectacle of Gantz involves Hiroya Oku spilling out a toybox full of geek-captivating beasties, and having those monsters do monstrous violence to the unprepared human combatants. Given extra dimension by Oku's digital inking, Gantz blows up into one of manga's superlative, attention grabbing blockbusters.

I keep saying that I'm going to give up on expecting Gantz to do more than arrange toys, either of its making or appropriated from other genre material, into marvelous set pieces. And yet, I'm continually impressed by how strongly the latest volumes re-affirm that I should just appreciate Gantz for the fire ball spitting triceratops.

The starting point for Gantz was soon-to-die teen malcontent Kei Kurano standing on a subway platform, cussing the dull crowds around him. When his Gantz resurrection gave a chance to prove himself a special wunderkind, the bloody results were anything but wish fulfillment.

I generally think that I'm a bit more cavalier about spoilers than most anime/manga writers. Anime and manga will routinely spoil major developments in a next episode preview or cover of a graphic novel. If mentioning a development makes for useful discussion that is not apt to undercut enjoyment, I'll mention it in a review. As such, rarely is there a case where I end up talking around plot as often as I do in a Gantz review. The path that this manga travels is characterized by regularly jumping the curve, so, other than mentioning some highlights, I'm vague about the direction it takes.
Still, I'm not quite sure that's necessary. Going from one trangressive swerve to the next, Gantz conditioned its readers to expect the unexpected. Swerving from one shock to the next, lack of a steadying constant means that no plot twist is entirely disorienting.

I don't mind revealing that the latest bit of Gantz has flipped the script in a way that I find surprising. Gantz loves to screw with its readers, and one of the most radical ways in which its screwed with the audience is how it's shed its pessimism. Brutality is still piled on, but now there are examples of people being selflessly heroic. It's not all, base, ugly self preservation and savageness any more. In this brave new world of humans raising above the shitstorm, none have asserted themselves more than Kurano as he's begun rising to the challenge, proving equal to the momentous, unfair opposition.

This is character development, but that's not the complete explanation. A land shift has occurred. As much as Kurano was shown thrown into harm’s way by a sci-fi conceit, Kurano was the architect of his own unhappiness, exacerbating both his mortal danger and grief. He is now doing better for himself; realizing his potential. But, external factors have also begun to be used to define Kurano. What surprised me most about these two volumes was a several page long between battle sequence showcasing Kurano's absent parents and elder brother before the manga's opening, when they all lived together. It's fair enough to prescribe some of the character's alienation to his family issues, but opening the opportunity to put the blame on someone else is something new for Gantz. Clearly, the manga is not the criticism of the power fantasies of the disaffected that it once appeared to be. And, without that dimension, it's more black and white action.

Gantz keeps on blowing up hope for depth set up by its early chapters, but in terms of an explosive, transgressive take on genre material, this is it. Whether a casual manga reader or a hardcore fan, if you're looking for manga that runs with its capacity for the strange, enormous action, you can't do better than Gantz.




 

Manga Spotlight: 7 Billion Needles
Volume 2
Released by Vertical



In the manga's second volume, 7 Billion Needles comes into its own. Nobuaki Tadano took inspiration from Hal Clement's alien symbiosis/manhunt golden age sci-fi novel Needle. Drawing in sci-fi spectacle and familiar to manga teenager concerns, the manga inspired reverse engineering. This element seems reminiscent of a sci-fi movie. That one seems like an effort to work something more natural to prose into manga. Factor in illustration with some tendency to be only as careful and well rendered as the scene called for and the artist brush strokes frequently became evident.

However, in its short-for-manga three volume run, 7 Billion Needles takes big steps quickly. And, this is a step and not a middle. Aiming to be consistently significant, it recognizes the ground that its covered, and pays attention to where it's moving, not just setting up for a third volume climax, but making volume two important in its own right.

Quickly, recapping the first, volume two opens with a dinosaur being crumpled into a ball (more dinosaur fighting). But, that's the extent of the big effects showiness. Having establish alien law enforcer and its xenocidal quarry Maelstrom, there's less pressure to strike the readers with what the two forces bring to bear.

Similarly, the manga sheds or mutes its attention to how human host Hikaru relates to Horizon. The experience of sharing a body with an alien was core to Needle, but the interior nature is an easier fit for prose than it is manga. The first volume made a valiant effort to show how Hikaru's relationship with her body shifted with Horizon present, but, that facet of the narrative did read like an effort to project an idea onto manga.

Volume one credibly established the idea that Hikaru's personal problems were a liability in the effort to locate Maelstrom and neutralize its threat. She'd have to stop shutting herself off from the world in order to peel back the alien's assumed identity. Volume two frames that find the guy, fight the monster conflict as done, and instead moves onto the next phase of unwinding Hikaru's issues, as they become entangled with the alien crisis.

In a manner that is a bit more literal than metaphoric, Hikaru's interior is projected outwards, revealing the roots of the character's troubles.

Especially considering that conceit of living with a symbiotic alien, 7 Billion Needles might have been more impactful if the circumstances around Hikaru's family tragedy weren't exceptional. What happens also gets stacked with all the anime and manga that uses the short hand of having a specific, identifiable event being the specific, identifiable cause for shaping a character's personality.

7 Billion Needles possibly could have been more effecting, but, like how Gantz leverages what manga lends itself to build its sci-fi spectacles, Needles leverages what sci-fi as a genre and manga as a medium and tradition lend themselves to. Beyond that is its own particularity. While it is reminiscent of plenty of other manga, it develops its own way. It's plot and its character don't proceed how you might expect. In that, it fosters consideration of its lead, and in that, 7 Billion Needles has to be called a success. Though I wouldn't put 7 Billions Needles on a list of favorite manga, rarely have I spent more time thinking about or anticipating a volume release than I have Needles' third.


 

Manga Spotlight: Kurozakuro
Volume 1
by Yoshinori Natsume
Released by Viz Media



Before Kurozakuro, artist Yoshinori Natsume (maybe known for his Batman manga Death Mask) created Togari (2000), about the young Edo period orphan turn outlaw, executed, then 300 years later, released from torment in hell to collect 108 Toga sin fragments. The hero contends with his violent approach to the world and chance at redemption over the course of eight volumes, before wrapping up without a solid resolution.

Natsume returned to Shonen Sunday (home of Rumiko Takahashi shounen works and Detective Conan) with Kurozakuro, and it ran seven volumes before it closed shop (Natsume went back to do more Togari in Monthly Comic Flapper)

Again, Natsume proves able to construct circumstances by which violent young men become sympatric. There's the dark Death Note thrill of retribution, only more viscerally, because Natsume works with a more physical take on the temptation, with characters able to rip tormenters' throats out.

In place of Togari's historic orgin, Kurozakuro has a super heroic one.

The manga opens with talk of a food chain before presenting bespectacled Mikito Sakurai as its bottom rung. He's getting beaten up by school bullies, who kick him as they take the money from his wallet. A childhood friend steps in, and when the bullies react to her chiding, Mikito finally puts up some resistance, only to get stomped on again.

While feeding a stray cat, Mikito picks up a strange orb that provokes a dream/vision. A small, oddly dressed, sharked toothed figure offers Mikito the object of his desire in return for serving as a host. The next day, when someone tries to hassle Mikito, he beats the kid bloody.

Turns out that Mikito has become infected with an ogre seed, and that his new powers have dark consequences. If the threat of corruption wasn't bad enough, Mikito also finds himself in danger when the new girl who transfers to his school proves to be from a clan of ogre hunters.

Kurozakuro fits into manga's long history of horror super heroes. Go Nagai's 1972 Devilman had wimpy Akira Fudo turn the tables on his tormentors after becoming possessed by a devil, and because it was a Go Nagai manga and a bit warped, his girlfriend immediately thrills that her chum gone a step beyond growing a back bone to tear into toughs.... of course, things don't end up well for the pair.
The parameters here are pretty obvious and a bit squarer than Nagai's. Mikito had moral strength before being swayed by the temptation of physical strength. Though not the most outrageous manga you'll read, Natsume can certainly draw a panel of a person getting whacked, effectively conveying how both attractive and disturbing Mikito's ogre strength can be.

This fine first volume successfully sets up a shonen level hard look at power fantasy. However, there are two problems. First is that it’s a bit violent, earning the manga an "older teen rating." And, that position the manga into something of a non-person's land. Despite the monsters and super-strength, the fights aren't fantastic. They're mostly people who look like regular people beating each other bloody. So, content-selectors might have some issue giving the manga to younger readers. At the same time, older readers are likely to be more attracted to the harder stuff, more graphically violent manga like Gantz.

The other problem is that his track record casts doubt on Yoshinori Natsume's ability to develop the dynamic step up in Kurozakuro's solid introduction. If Kurozakuro is like his previous work and like what its publication history suggests, it's going to wind around the same loop until its audience and/or writer have been worn out. Not that a Dragon Ball or One Piece are always going in new directions, but they at least possess give the impression of momentum. Togari on the other hand, felt stuck.


Live Action Spotlight: Kamui Gaiden
Released by FUNimation



Kamui is problematic and unsuccessful in a number of respects. It's extremely evident that its filming used green screens. Characters can't take a boat across water without the composition looking artificial. It's extremely evident that the movie is an adaptation. It opens by unloading extensive background information, then jitters along through the source material.
On the other hand, Kamui Gaiden is successful in playing to the exotic, dangerous appeal of ninja in a way that is not tapped out. It works hard to portray ninja arts in its battles with the right layered feints and misdirection. The clandestine warriors are neither colorful nor, in most cases, clad in black. Staged on an Okinawan fishing village, and featuring some real blitzed ninja vs sea life violence, it manages to carve out a distinctive niche in the ninja cinema landscape.


Kamui is based on the work of ninja manga legend Sanpei Shirato. Though a key figure and key work in the history of manga, little of it is in English. The two volume Kamui Gaiden side story that provided the source material for this movie was actually the part of Shirato's body of work to be released in North America - Eclipse/Viz serialized it as Legend of Kamui in the late 80's then collected it in the 90's.

As popular as it once was, Shirato's work informs modern manga from some remove. Ninja certainly still have a presence in manga, but it's become less its own genre and more trappings for others. Naruto follows the patterns of a shonen manga, it's hero just happens to be a ninja. A character wouldn't develop the same way in a straight ninja manga. Instead of following a character striving to be the strongest and fighting progressions of foes, a ninja manga would concern a master like Sarutobi Sasuke (namesake of two Naruto characters), and their legendary abilities, like Sasuke's monkey leaps.

Written in 1990, Even A Monkey Can Draw Manga notes that ninja manga hit its zenith in the 60's with Shirato as its foremost author, then faded away as its own genre. That book postulates that a pair of popular phenomena fractured ninja's manga's popularity and hastened its expiration, casting the Shirato type of ninja story as a throwback rather than still relevant. In the 70's Uri Geller and Bruce Lee hit Japan, and, in their wake, the the barroque techiniques of the ninja were replaced by quick strikes and exploding heads. By the 80's, ninja manga was supplanted by more rapid, more anime-flashy psychic manga (Mai the Psychic Girl and Katsuhiro Otomo's pre-Akira Domu stand as a notably translated example) and kung fu manga (Fist of the North Star for example). These genres would inform later manga trends, but, like ninja, fade away.

Still, manga grew up with ninja. Sanpei Shirato's (born 1932) father was an illustrator for kamishibai - narrated "paper theatre," and as such, saw modern manga colase. Shirato followed his father into kamishibai and, in 1957, with TV pushing kamishibai off the media landscape, Shirato became one of the authors to take the ninja stories that had been popular in kamishibai to manga with the historical tale Ninja Bugeicho (Band of Ninja). In the 60's popularity of his ninja would crest into other media, with adaptation in live actions, like Watari the Ninja Boy, and anime, like Sasuke and Shonen Ninja Kaze no Fujimaru - which featured the work of an animator named Hayao Miyizaki.

Naruto or even Lone Wolf and Cub it was not... not just because of different narrative conventions. There was a point of view associated with Shirato's work, as he aimed for a corrective view of history, in which antestablishment anger lead to arms being taken up, whether by individuals, cabals or peoples.

Shirato's father was a prewar proletariat artist, and he inherited those politics. As noted in Manga! Manga! Shirato's kashihonya manga rental shops distributed Ninja Bugeicho would be adopted as an important treatise on "historical materialism."

Drawing from the buraku rural underclass (part of the subtext for otaku favorite Higurashi: When They Cry) and the dispossessed indigenous Ainu, Legend of Kamui (or Kamui Den), the 21 volume manga that Kamui Gaiden split off from (there's also a 22+ volume follow-up,Kamui-Den Dai 2 Bu) was a revenge story that concerned concern rogue ninja, but also social injustice and peasant uprisings.

Speaking about the view of Legend of Kamui and how it contrasted from his Nausicaa, Hayao Miyazaki said


Shirato Sanpei was a man who reached the wrong conclusions about the historical view of the class system. I think he ran right into those mistakes when writing 'Legend of Kamui'. There's no way anyone survived in his world, not if they all had to become such killers. If the world were truly filled with such hate and destruction, if that were how history was made, then everyone would surely have been dead by the Edo period. That's the point that would have been reached. I had been very mistrustful of him ever since I read his 'The Crossing', written before 'Kamui'. Why was there so much killing? I realized that he was writing about the special world of the ninja, but the organization would collapse before that level of killing was reached. Shirato Sanpei saw 'Legend of Kamui' through to the end, but I wonder if he didn't realize his mistake before he finished? He said that a historical view was not the same as reality. From that standpoint, I believe that Shirato Sanpei was an important man. He tried to write with a historical view of class and materialism, and if he did that while writing honestly, he couldn't topple the Edo period. After all, the result would be that he would never have existed. He wrote with realism, and so was aware of what couldn't be done. I think that he was a sincere writer. Then for a long time he wrote about fables, right? What it means to be human, and like that. I really understand. I understand, but it was boring. I think that he failed once, and continues to write as a failure. It's like he lost something important. I wonder what it could be? I don't know, but I feel that something is different.
There were many parallels between the historical period that Shirato was writing about, and the period of time in which he was writing(the end of the 50's and the early 60's). But in 'Ninja Bugeicho', when the war ended and Toyotomi Hideyoshi's troops laid waste to the land, turning it into a desert-that was a lie. If you try, it's not hard to understand the image that he was trying to project, but Japan is too green. Such things might happen in other countries, but they wouldn't happen in Japan. The place would be covered with weeds-it would become a real grasslands.
Last year, the bad crop year of 1993, I thought of this while strolling around the rice paddies near here-famine is a beautiful thing. If this were the Edo period, people in this area would be dying off one after another at about this time of year[October]. They wouldn't die of starvation in one year, though. They could dig up things in the mountains to eat. At the end of August, the rice paddies are so green. It is really beautiful. I think that Japan's famine is truly beautiful. Not a famine in which all the grasses and plants wither and die. The pine trees on that mountain wouldn't die no matter how long it didn't rain. So a famine in Japan would look nothing like the bleak desert filled with nothing but dust which was depicted in 'Ninja Bugeicho'. Shirato didn't take into account the effect of the climate. But that's normal. He omitted ecosystems-but if you don't think about those, you can't talk about the human race. But that was really widespread at the beginning of the 70's, I think.



Appealing to anger younger readers, but also welcomed by left leaning college students and intellectuals, Kamui was successful enough to be the killer-app for influential alternative manga anthology Garo (launched in 1964), which took its name from a Kamui character. Hitting a time when Japan's student protest movements were heating up, the manga would serve to influence a generation that included pivotal figures in manga and especially anime (see Mamoru Oshii and his political history).

Outsider projects like Garo inspired more mainstream variants.

The biggest institution to grow out of this trend was Shogakukan's Big Comic family of anthologies, launched in 1968. This has been the home of dark James Bond guy fantasy Golgo 13, (released by Viz) Osamu Tezuka's most adult, rage filled works - the look at suffering and faith Ode to Kirihito, his relentless revenge thriller Swallowing the Earth, his story of a Jewish boy and a half German, half Japanese boy growing up together in Japan before their lives becomes shaped by World War II, Adolf (technically from Big Comic Special) and his tragedy of a Japanese family's changes under the pressure of post war reconstruction, Ayako (all of these but Viz's out of print Adolf and DMP's Swallowing the Earth are released or to be released by Vertical), as well as Kaiji Kawaguchi's look at American politics come Shakespearian drama Eagle: The Making of an Asian-American President (released by Viz). To the laments of fans of josei (manga for older female audiences), when American manga followers think about manga for adults, it's often seinen and often from some Big Comic publication. In fact, the majority of this year's manga related Eisner nominations come from the franchise: 20th Century Boys ( Big Comic Spirits), Pluto (Big Comic Original), Jiro Taniguchi's A Distant Neighborhood (Big Comic) and Oishinbo a la Carte by Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki (Big Comic Spirits).

Kamui Gaiden ran in Shonen Sunday, then Big Comic. Though it was angry, rebellious and anti-authority, it was neither Sanpei Shirato nor Kamui at their most radical.

The “Isle of Sugaru” story, published by Viz and adapted into this movie, plays as a sort of unsuccessful escape for the eponymous hero; the spy who comes from the cold, on sandy beaches.
Illustrative of the movie's tendency to sputter, over 10 minutes of front loaded back story, it offers a jerky introduction to Kamui, "Isle," and, because this is still structured like a ninja manga, Kamui's special techniques: the familiar shadow clone illusion and a sort of pile drive from mid air called the Izuna Drop.

Starting with the philosophical underpinning of the character, the movie's narrator speaks vaguely about his principles as images from the manga are repurposed as animated prints. It doesn't go much deeper or more specific than informing that Kamui was born into the lowest rung of ninja society, and decided to become stronger in order to live a free life. It concludes by saying that Kamui's greatest enemy is not the ninja pursuing him, but his own, untrusting heart.

This is a bit smartly, or at least credibly put in the manga, which says "the only thing to fear more than the relentless hunter is the inability to trust anyone."

The movie then cuts to a live action segment in which a young, still operating with and for his ninja clan, Kamui crosses blades with a renegade ninja woman named Sugaru. The movie then cuts to an older Kamui demonstrating his techniques against a squad of ninja pursers.

In the manga, Kamui fends off a pack of wolves hunting a deer. As the deer leaps off a cliff, Kamui stumbles into a group of rough men attempting to assault a woman as she returns to her village from selling fish at market. As the attack turns potentially lethal, Sugaru reveals her ninja training, where upon the attackers reveal that they too are ninja. When the manga's mortal scramble resolves itself, out of mutual distrust, Sugaru and Kamui attack each other.

It's a nasty affair. Nastier than the movie's confrontation of young Kamui and Sugaru . In the movie, a ninja gets a needle through the eye. He does a "hah, that was a fake eye" and plucked out his needle skewered falsie... In the manga, it's both eyes, but he doesn't last much longer, because manga Sugaru puts two fingers through the guy's throat.

I'd be impressed if the movie was as tooth and claw nasty as the manga, but that's an unrealistic expectation. What could be asked for is a more graceful adaptation. It didn't need to be this clunky or obvious.

While the movie's extensive opening is anything but incomprehensible, it is inefficient. As light as it is on specifics, the reel of young Kamui isn't endearing, and, instead, prove to underscore the movie's ties to the original manga rather than establish it as its own entity. With a couple of sentences of disembodied narration, the manga jumped into action and allowed an of-age Kamui to demonstrate what the character was about more effectively.


What follows is a circuitous conflict in either the manga or the movie. Kamui spies a man bringing down a lords horse, chopping off one of its legs and absconding. Fascinated, Kamui follows, and, after a harrowing sea crossing, winds up at the man's small island village. There, he discovers that Sugaru has cast off her ninja identity, married the horse attacker, and raised a family in the fishing community.

Better suited to a serialized manga that two hour movie, what ensues draws in the lord's efforts to apprehend and punish the man who maimed his horse, the continuing, violent eruptions of mistrust between Kamui and Sugaru, a warship full of pirate-esque shark hunters and more ninja on ninja battling.

Though Kankurô Kudô has written effective manga adaptations (Ping Pong, based on Taiyo Matsumoto's sports title), his work here, with director Yoichi Sai, is built out in the wrong places.

The movie is faithful to the letter of the manga, and, at the same time, it does not suffer from reluctance to depart from the manga either by omission or addition. However, there is still a twofold problem with the gap between what is included and how effectively captures the spirit of the original.

On one hand, there's too much, but in a way that lends the impression that there's not enough. While some acts of violence don't make it into the movie, plot wise, it has what's in the manga. Yet, the way that scenes crowd onto each other or open gaps, the movie feels like an abridged story, pulled from a wider swath of material than the actual two volumes.

And, while the movie could have benefited from a less overpainted plot, it similarly could have used some more layers on its characters. An attempt is made to put some period grit on the likes of Kenichi Matsuyama (L in Death Note, Detroit Metal City, the upcoming Gantz) as Kamui, Koyuki (Last Samurai) as Sugaru and Hideaki Ito (Onmyoji, Sukiyaki Western Django ) as the chief shark hunter, mostly via extra hair. However, this attempt to get the actors into the roles doesn't approach the effective roughness which with Shirato illustrated the manga. Kamui is not as politically relevant as it evidently once was, especially with a hopping, bloodthirsty noble chewing scenes, registering as a broadly sketched villain. It's still, mostly, Shirato's remarkably ugly world of brutal ninja conflict, and yet, that loses some of its meaning when the the protagonist asserting his individuality doesn't have much. t he familiar types are now bland. Kamui the character can't just be a standoffish young man and be deep or interesting. Especially grafted to Matsuyama's face, it's too seen.

These flaws put some distance between Kamui Gaiden and what might be called a good movie. You can find better movies with more interesting characters or views of Tokugawa Japan. However, as familiar as the characters might be, Kamui manages to knock some of the rust of ninja, making them actually appear special. Exacerbated by the transparent illusion of the movie's special effects, techniques like the Izuna Drop require suspension of disbelief. The shark getting wrestled to death looks sillier on the screen than it does in manga, and the movie's heavy certainly doesn't go down quite as hard as he did in the original, but it's still nice to see this rawer view of ninja hit the screen. Referring to the scene in which a ninja plucks a needle skewered false eye out of his socket, the extent to which I've started using the expression "getting Kamui Gaiden'ed in the eye," can attest that the movie is memorable.





Upcoming in Japan



TV schedule for winter anime - season preview

Promos

Yoshitaka Amano's (designer for Final Fantasy, Gatchaman) directorial debut Deva Zan, set for Spring 2012



Macross F's second movie, Sayonara no Tsubasa


the 3D conversion of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society








Spelunker Sensei - based on gag manga based on video game


Saint Seiya - Lost Canvas


Break Blade


Showa Monogatari


The Subaru/Gainax collaberation


Rio RainbowGate, based on the pachinko character


Tailenders

Air Gear OAD 2

Yumekui Merry

Black Lagoon OVA episode 3

Supernatural, based on the American live action show

Production I.G's English language introduction to Drucker in the Dug-Out

Anime
The Fullmetal Alchemist: Milos no Sei-Naru Hoshi movie will hit Japanese theaters on July 2, 2011. Aniplex also announced that there will be a Fullmetal Alchemist Festival 2011 event on May 22 in Tokyo.

The staff of Toradora - writer Tatsuyuki Nagai, script writer Mari Okada and Masayoshi Tanaka will be collaberating on new Noitamina anime Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai

Bones will be completing the work Umanosuke Iida (Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team, Hellsing), who passed away in November. Towa no Kuon will feature Takeshi Mori (Otaku no Video, Gunsmith Cats, Vandread) as collaberative director, Saizo Nemoto (Tokyo Majin Gakuen Kenpucho: Tou 2nd Act, Shangri-La script writer) is supervising the scripts, effects director."

The second season of gender swap action comedy, titled “Kämpfer: für die liebe,” is slated for March

Hen Zemi (Abnormal Physiology) will be adapted into an anime series TV series

Devil summoning mystery/comedy Yondemasuyo, Azazel-san will be getting a TV series adaptation

Ei Aoki will direct the ufotable production of Fate/Stay Night prequel movie Fate/Zero

Design Deformation Fist of the North Star, the super deformed comedy version of the series, will be adapted into TV series

Details have been announced for the anime movie adaptation of the Sengoku Basara samurai history action games The Movie will hit Japanese theates on June 4th.

The story of the film is set after the conflict instigated by Toyotomi Hideyoshi ended, but not before the Battle of Sekigahara determines who shall be the Shogun of Japan.

Sunrise announced "new school battle action" project called Sacred Seven for next year

Manga
Asa Higuchi will be putting Ookiku Furikabutte (Big Windup!) on a year's hiatus

Koushun Takami will be writting new Battle Royale spin-off manga enshi-tachi no Kokkyo (Battle Royale: Angels' Border) to be illustrated by Mioko Onishi (Izo's Lover!) for serilization in Young Champion


Manga, and occational America comics, arts Kia Asamiya will be launching Himegami Gadget on the Flex Comix Next

Kodansha will be publishing a collection of Satoshi Kon's short manga, Yume no Kaseki Kon Satoshi Zen-Tanpen (Fossils of Dreams: Satoshi Kon's Complete Short Story Collection), along with his first series, Kaikisen

Live Action
C-46 Seiun, a Kenshi Hirokane manga based on a Chage and Aska, will be adapted into a TV drama next spring

Gag strip Rinshi!! Ekoda-chan” will be adapted with comedian Miyuki Torii playing the lead

Gokudo Meshi, a manga in which convicts talk about food, will be adapted into a live action movie

Misc
Suzumiya Haruhi no Kyogaku (The Surprise of Haruhi Suzumiya), the first Haruhi novel in four years, will be released on May 25. The book will present the first half of the last Haruhi story.

Shoji Gatoh is planning to write two new series and write a collection of Full Metal Panic! short stories.

Upcoming in North America (and Other English Speaking Territories)


Harald Zwart (Karate Kid) is on tap to direct an adaptation of the Bakugan game for Universal


Alma Books
The next translated Yasutaka Tsutsui novel to be published in the UK will be The Girl Who Leapt Through Time - inspiration for the anime movie.


One of Tsutsui’s best-known and most popular works in his native Japan, The Girl Who Leapt through Time is the story of fifteen-year-old schoolgirl Kazuko, who accidentally discovers that she can leap back and forth in time. In her quest to uncover the identity of the mysterious figure that she believes to be responsible for her paranormal abilities, she’ll constantly have to push the boundaries of space and time, and challenge the notions of dream and reality.


Alma has also published Tsutsui's Paprika novel


Aniplex
Aniplex has posted trailers for the Garden of Sinners movies - a Blu-ray set will be released February 8, 2011



Classic Media
Not anime, but of note, a five season complete Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends set will be released on January 4th for $99.98 It's 163 squirrely episodes of Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends on 18 discs, including Boris & Natasha, Peabody’s Improbable History, Fractured Fairy Tales, Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties and Aesop and Son.

Extras include:
• Frostbite Falls Field Guide to a Moose, a Squirrel and a Royal Canadian Mountie by Keith Scott
• Special “Loyal Viewer” Collectable
• “Goof Gas Attack” Outtake (a.k.a. “The Longest Laugh in History”)

FUNimation
Rosario + Vampire Complete Series and the Rosario + Vampire Capu2 Complete Series have been delayed from March 29 to May 17.

Chobits Complete Series, Dragon Ball Z Dragon Box 5, Goemon live action, and One Piece Season 3 Fifth Voyage have been moved from February to April

FUNimation Entertainment announced the cast of the 26 episode action anime series “Hero Tales”:

Character
Cast
Taito - Newton Pittman
Keiro - Brian Mathis
Ryuko - John Burgmeier
Koyo - Jonathan Brooks
Shokaku - J. Michael Tatum
Rinmei - Colleen Clinkenbeard
Hosei - Josh Grelle
Laila - Alexis Tipton

The ADR Director/Line Producer is Tyler Walker.


About Hero Tales
For citizens of the Ken Empire, justice is a myth. Lord Keiro, the deranged Shogun of the Imperial Army, blazes a trail of terror across the countryside in search of the sacred sword that will make him a god. Standing in his way is Taito, an omnipotent star reborn in human form – a young hero who vows to use his celestial strength to avenge those slaughtered by the villainous Shogun. Taito’s mystical powers steer him toward a violent showdown with Keiro, and if used recklessly, his newfound abilities could shred the very fabric of his being. To master the art of control and become a heroic martial artist, Taito must seek the guidance of others like him: the seven star-born warriors with the strength to shatter a corrupt empire.


FUNimation Entertainment will release the series on DVD in half season sets on March 15, 2011.

FUNimation confirmed that Tiffany Grant will be returning to the role of Asuka in the English language dub of Evangelion 2.0. Trina Nishimura will voice Mari Makinami and J. Michael Tatum will voice Ryoji Kaji

Manga UK
DVD/Blu-ray of Evangelion 2.22 is slated to be released by the end of June

Manga UK will be launching a social media hub in 2011

Media Blasters
February releases include
kki Tousen Dragon Destiny Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set (Eps #1-12) - Feb 1st
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit Collection #1 Boxed Set (Eps #1-13) (BLURAY) - Feb 22nd
Queen's Blade Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set (Eps #1-12) - Feb 15th


Right Stuf
Right Stuf, Inc. and its Nozomi Entertainment division announced the JUNJO ROMANTICA 2 DVD Collection (Season 2) will be available on March 1, 2011.

The Junjo Romantica 2 DVD Collection will include the series’ complete 12-episode second season – plus video extras and a 24-page booklet with character biographies, artwork and behind-the-scenes information – housed in a colorful, Thinpak-style art box. Like the first season, which is already available on DVD from Right Stuf’s Nozomi Entertainment, it will feature Japanese audio, English-language subtitles and English on-screen translations.

Based on Shungiku Nakamura’s best-selling boys’ love (yaoi) manga, the Junjo Romantica anime consists of two seasons (a total of 24 episodes) and features direction by Chiaki Kon (When They Cry - Higurashi, Nodame Cantabile: Paris) and animation by Studio DEEN (Gravitation, Kyo Kara Maoh!).

JUNJO ROMANTICA 2 © 2008 Shungiku NAKAMURA•KADOKAWASHOTEN/Romantica Club!!


Viz Media
VIZ Media will release the 32nd and final volume of Hiroyuki Takei’s SHAMAN KING on January 4th, 2011.

Yoh Asakura has spent years training for the Shaman Fight, an epic tournament to determine who will become the Shaman King and shape humanity's future. Unfortunately for Yoh, every shaman in the world is also vying for the same prize.

To most people, ghosts are the stuff of horror stories and nightmares. But to Yoh Asakura, a transfer student at Shinra Private Junior High, they're his friends! Yoh Asakura is a shaman, one of the gifted few who can speak to spirits by channeling ghosts into his body – like the long-dead samurai Amidamaru. He can also allow them to possess him and use their powers. But a modern-day shaman faces great responsibilities, because spirits – and the people who work with them – can be very dangerous indeed. In the series’ grand finale, A Song Someday, Yoh and his gang finally reach the end of the line after all these years and all the hard work. Who will be crowned the next Shaman King, and who will go home in defeat?


Cover Art Copyright: SHAMAN KING © 1998 by Hiroyuki Takei/SHUEISHA Inc.

Following the conclusion of streaming the first season of the NURA: RISE OF THE YOKAI CLAN anime, Viz will release the first volume of its manga from the Shonen Jump imprint on February 1st.

While the day belongs to humans, the night belongs to yokai, supernatural creatures that thrive on human fear. Caught between these worlds is Rikuo Nura. He's three-quarters human, but his grandfather is none other than Nurarihyon, the supreme commander of the Nura clan, a powerful yokai consortium. So, Rikuo is an ordinary teenager three quarters of the time, until his yokai blood awakens. Then he transforms into the future leader of the Nura clan, leading a hundred demons.

Event News


As part of its continuing “Salon Pop” series, Giant Robot and the Japanese American National Museum will present the concept exhibition, Zen Garage through February 13, 2011.

The organizers summarized their inspiration for the show as follow: “The concept of Zen has been thwarted by popular culture in the form of awkward connotations and new ‘urban’ meanings. Its basic meaning in our new world is essentially a ‘pure focus.’ Likewise, a garage is no longer just a place where one parks their vehicle. Today’s garage can also function as a place of inspiration, development, and creation. With these words together, we bring you Zen Garage.“

Zen Garage will feature three innovative creations illustrating various facets of contemporary aesthetics, lifestyles, and cultural backgrounds:

The Super Famicom Car, a retro video game inspired by a converted Scion xB that utilizes projectors from both the front and rear to play video games. Its conversion includes sound making doors, a cartridge starter key, and controllers for each passenger. Designed by Giant Robot's Eric Nakamura and fabricated by Onimotorworks Len Higa, the car includes a custom video game, “Return of the Quack” featuring art by Matt Furie, programming by Chevy Ray Johnston, and game consulting and co-producing by Adam Robezzoli.

David Choe's custom Monster Scion xB exemplifies his aerosol street style as well as his larger than life perspective. A muralist and graphic artist, his work can be found on walls from Los Angeles to Vietnam. He is known as much for his exaggerated vulgarity as for his aesthetic sensibilities. An avid drummer, Choe keeps a drum kit in the bed of this Monster Scion xB that he played to an audience at Miami's Art Basel in 2006.

Shinya Kimura's Spike is not only a motorcycle, it's a work of art. Inspired by his imagination, Kimura creates functional art by infusing his philosophy and aesthetic values into his sculpturally unique and rolling designs. Kimura believes that the motorcycle represents in its form barbarism, vulnerability, and ephemeral beauty. By exposing the inner qualities of these machines Kimura instinctively creates machines that are an extension of the soul.

The Japanese American National Museum is located at 369 East First Street in the historic Little Tokyo section of Los Angeles.

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The Korean Cultural Service's free screening series, Korean Movie Night, returns for its second year on Tuesday, January 11 with a free screening of Korea's submission to the Oscars, A BAREFOOT DREAM (2010, 119 minutes, US premiere) at the Tribeca Cinemas (54 Varick Street, on the Corner of Varick and Canal).


A BAREFOOT DREAM (2010, 119 minutes, US Premiere)
Screening starts at 7pm, doors open at 6:30pm
Korea's submission to the Academy Awards tells the true story of Kim Won-Kang, a former player for Korea's national soccer team who hit the skids after he got too old for the game. Lurching from one get-rich-quick scheme to another he finally landed in war-torn East Timor. His local sporting goods shop went bust and he wound up coaching soccer to a bunch of barefoot ghetto kids who went on to compete in the International Youth Soccer Championship in Japan. A hit in Korea, the movie stars the actual kids from the team playing themselves.

Director Kim Tae-Kyun will attend the screening.
About the director: Kim Tae-Kyun started his career with the hyperkinetic, high school martial arts film, VOLCANO HIGH, which was released in the US by MTV and featured dubbing work by Snoop Dogg, Method Man and Lil' Jon. Since then, he's established himself as one of the few Korean directors to consistently make movies overseas including CROSSING (shot in China and Mongolia and also Korea's submission to the 2009 Academy Awards) and A BAREFOOT DREAM (shot in East Timor).

Tuesday, January 25 @ 7pm
TAKE OFF (2009, 145 minutes, New York Premiere)
1997. Muju, Korea. In an effort to bring the 2010 Winter Olympics to Korea, the country has to demonstrate that Koreans enjoy the sports of the Winter Olympics. One problem: no one knows squat about ski jumping. They hastily assemble a team, train them on waterslides and send them into competition. It's a true story, and a lot like COOL RUNNING (the story of the Jamaican bobsled team) but it's given a distinctly Korean flavor in this popular, mainstream blockbuster that's the flat-out funniest in this series and that stars four major Korean stars: Choi Jae-Hwan, Ha Jeong-Woo (the killer from THE CHASER), rapper Kim Ji-Seok-I and Cha Heon-Tae from MY SASSY GIRL.

Tuesday, February 8 @ 7pm
LIFTING KING KONG
(aka THE BRONZE MEDALIST) (2009, 120 minutes, New York Premiere)
If second place is first place for losers, then let's not even get into what third place means. Popular actor Lee Bum-Soo plays real-life Olympic weightlifter, Ji-Bong, who quits the sport after a gruesome powerlifting injury. The only job he can find is coaching weightlifting at a small town school. Even worse, it's a girl's school and if there's one group of people on this earth who do not want to bulk up and gain muscle mass, it would be Korean high school girls. Complications ensue. Downbeat and gritty to the point of being almost nasty, LIFTING KING KONG displays people in all their awful greediness, but this commitment to not flinching from the bad side of life makes the inevitable comeback and triumph of the human spirit at the end feel that much more touching, and that much more earned.

Tuesday, February 22 @ 7pm
FOREVER THE MOMENT (2008, 124 minutes)
Probably the world's only movie about handball, if there's one film in this series that is going to break your heart, it's FOREVER THE MOMENT. Based on the true story of Korea's women's handball team competing in the 2004 Summer Olympics, it finds a one-time player from the national team recruiting some of her now-middle-aged former teammates when she's asked to step in to coach the new national team at the last minute. Directed by Lim Soon-Rye, one of the few female directors in Korea, it became a major word-of-mouth hit in 2008, and it remains one of the greatest sports movies ever made, from any country.

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InvaderCON 2011 has added voice actor Andy Berman (Dib) and series color director, Jean-Paul Bondy to the Invader Zim convention, scheduled for March 26-27, 2011 at the Atlanta Marriott Century Center in Atlanta, GA.
Voice actors Voice actors Richard Horvitz (Zim) and Rikki Simons (Gir) will also be appearing

Cool Figures News


The Assemble Borg, possible, re-arrangable action figures are coming to the US, available online through Amazon.

The Revoltech jointed figures are designed by Trigun manga author Yasuhiro Nightow, and feature interchangeable heads, arms, legs, torsos, equipment and weapons.

An iPhone app/catalog and Facebook page have been launched


On North American TV


New episodes of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood will be back on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block starting at 1:00am January 9, 2011.

The season premiere of Young Justice, based upon characters from DC Comics including Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, Superboy, Miss Martian and Artemis, will hit Cartoon Network Friday, January 7 at 7 p.m. (ET, PT)

Digital Distrobution News


Winter anime season titles that will be simul-streaming on Crunchyroll include
Canvas 2: Rainbow-Colored Sketch
Magician's Academy
Mitsudomoe's second season
Venus to Mamoru


Other newly launched Crunchroll titles include Student Council's Discretion and Demon Bane

Premium anime members and all-access members will be able to watch each series in its entirety without commercials immediately. Free users will get the first three episodes of both STUDENT COUNCIL'S DISCRETION and DEMON BANE, and the subsequent three (3) episodes once every week henceforth.


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The one shot, first new sci-fi X-Men-ish Cyborg 009 in 18 years has been posted online

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Itochu Corporation is offering manga in North America on iOS platform, including Shotaro Ishinomori's classic Cyborg 009 work and the Harlequin romance adaptations.

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An English edition is planned for ASCII Media Works' Dengeki Comic Japan digital anthology.


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VIZ Media announced the launch of VAMPIRE KNIGHT , OURAN HIGH SCHOOL HOST CLUB, OTOMEN, and RUROUNI KENSHIN, available now from the VIZ MANGA APP on the Apple iPad™ mobile device. The VIZ MANGA APP is available for free download through the iTunes Store, and all manga volumes are available for purchase and download in the U.S. and Canada directly within the application for $4.99 per volume.

Other series now available for download on the VIZ Manga App include volumes from BLEACH, BAKUMAN, DEATH NOTE, DRAGON BALL, NARUTO, and ONE PIECE.


The Business


Anime production studio Gonzo revealed that it earned 74 million yen (about US$900,000) in operating profit or 28 million yen (US$340,000) in ordinary profit during the first half of the fiscal year ending in March 2011. The first half ran from March to September of 2010.

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on Anime News Network, Dan Kanemitsu's history of how Tokyo's media regulation youth protection ordinance got passed

A group of media companies including Kadokawa and ANIMATE that opted to boycott Tokyo International Anime Fair (TAF) following the recent passage of Tokyo's Youth Healthy Development Ordinance will take part in Anime Contents Expo, an event the same weekend at the Makuhari Messe event center in Chiba, Japan from March 26 to 27


The new event's executive committee noted that it supports The Japan Cartoonist Association, Copyright Network for Comic Authors in the 21st Century, Manga Japan, Comic 10-Shakai, and Association of Japanese Animations in their opposition to the amendment.

Noboru Kawasaki (Kyojin no Hoshi baseball manga) is also refusing an award that would have been given at next year's Tokyo International Anime Fair (TAF).

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Despite occurring after the Tokyo ordinance takes effect, Comic Market (Comiket) 80 will still take place at the Tokyo Big Sight venue for the August 12-14 doujinshi event

Organizers have begun distributing a pamphlet "The Comic Market Committee publishes the Comiket Appeal, an information booklet regarding how the event is run, how circles are expected operate, what are the rules, what are the changes, maps, history of the Comic Market, etc. It has a section in it that informs circles what the laws they need to keep in mind."
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Border Group is delaying payments to vendors as it seeks to restructure its credit lines.
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Genre industry watchers ICV2 has named their top DVDs of 2010.
The top 10 anime list was.

1. Ponyo Blu-ray (Disney)

2. Evangelion 1.11 You Are Not Alone Blu-ray (Funimation)

3. Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood Part 1 Blu-ray

4. Naruto Shippuden Box Set 1 (Viz Media)
5. Gintama Collection 1 (Sentai Filmworks)

6. Oh! Edo Rocket (Funimation)

7. Rental Magica, Part 2 (Nozumi Entertainment) .

8. Hetalia Axis Powers: The Complete First Season (Funimation)

9. Eden of the East: The Complete Series Blu-Ray (Funimation)

10. Soul Eater Part 1 (Funimation)

Readers Talkback

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  • Jan. 3, 2011, 12:14 p.m. CST

    Cover of Gantz

    by prof_chaos

    Looks like the cycle Mr. Garrison used in South Park.

  • Jan. 3, 2011, 12:44 p.m. CST

    RIP Kobayashi

    by BacardiRocky

    Pete Postlethwaite dead at 64

  • Jan. 3, 2011, 12:54 p.m. CST

    Anne Francis

    by Quackfu

    C'mon, nothing about the sweetheart of Forbidden Planet????

  • Jan. 3, 2011, 1:39 p.m. CST

    Pete Postlethwaite

    by BenBraddock

    That's a damn shame, he wasn't that old. Fucking cancer, again.

  • Jan. 3, 2011, 1:41 p.m. CST

    Pete Postlethwaite, you shall be missed.

    by The_Genteel_Gentile

    Rest In Peace.

  • Jan. 3, 2011, 2:08 p.m. CST

    RIP Roland Tembo

    by SpartacusHughes

    "That's the last time I leave you in charge"

  • Jan. 5, 2011, 10:04 p.m. CST

    by kufirst

    Patiently waiting for Part Three...

Top Talkbacks