Animation and Anime

AICN Anime - Checking Out the Latest From Manga, Blade of the Immortal, Gantz, Horror, Absurdity, Feminism and More

Published at: Feb. 13, 2011, 3:43 p.m. CST by scottgreen


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Column by Scott Green

 

Manga Spotlight: Ghost Talker's Daydream
Volume 5
Story by Okuse Saki
Art by Meguro Sankichi
Released by Dark Horse



Ghost Talker's Daydream lands squarely on of my target manga interests. Where many "horror" manga just leverage genre tropes, Okuse Saki is a career horror writer, with works like Twilight of the Dark Master and Yato no Kamitsukai - released by Tokyopop as Blood Sucker. Rather than action with vampires or the like, Ghost Talker actually aims to disturb its reader. More than that, its particularly transgressive take on dead wet girl "J-Horror" is written for, if not adult, at least older audiences.
The number of North Americans with those interests who buy manga is slight, not supporting many releases. So, I'm happy to some extent whenever I see a manga like this released in North America. I'm less than thrilled that the often lacking Ghost Talkers is one of the few survivors left representing the genre. It lacks humanity; being brutal in a way that more often feels cruel than meaningful. And, it lacks cohesion; offering a composite of elements that neither effectively mixes its elements nor capitalizes on the contrast. That one of its distinguishing characteristics is a flaunted, leery sexuality doesn't inflate my opinion either.

That said, it's gotten better. It's calmed down its juvenile sense of humor and it's started using its AHDH as a strength.

Our Ghost Talker was largely absent from the last volume. As the dominatrix/medium Misaki vacationed, the slack she left behind got rather tangled. Investigating a string suicides that were either suspect or supernaturally problematic, Detective Gada responded with violence and a drugged medium, while the results that Misaki's partner, bureaucrat/incongruously martial arts bad-ass Kadotake Souichirou manages with the EPSer he ropes equally rather ugly. This time around, the still dizzied investigations cross paths with the still off-the-clock Misaki. The joint effort hardly yield better results. Little good comes of the encounters with the bloated, water logged restless dead. But, disaster and highly mitigated success turn out to suitable.

The manga has maintained its strengths. In particular Meguro Sankichi can do disquieting, with naked, morbid forms finding troubling spots to lurk. And, it still has its questionable qualities. It skids around. Here's an Initial D street racing reference. There's a fist fight. And, I don't trust Ghost Talker's handle on touchy issues, whether the subject concern is bullying or its frequently approached gender/sexual identity matters. It is quicker to evoke than intelligently delve into, better at sparking flames than cooking with the fire. But, the story has caught up with the quality. Cluster *expletive* isn't a bad mode for horror to operate in, and despite Misaki getting into a geared up rally, still the results here are bowling shoe ugly. The complement of disturbingly unordered situation and chaotic storytelling has begun to shape a suitably fright-inebriated horror.


Manga Spotlight: Chi's Sweet Home
Volumes 3 and 4
By Konami Kanata
Released by Vertical



Is "winningest" reserved for sports, or can it be applied to manga too? If so, Chi's Sweet Home might be a contender for that title.

One of manga's claims to fame is that it can convince its audiences to be interested in a subject they would normally avoid. Hence, the hit manga about wine (Drops of Gods; wine is a beverage that has not been historically popular in Japan), or the Shonen Jump series about American sports like basket ball (Slam Dunk) or football (Eyeshield 21) .

Chi's is about cats. Or, specifically the lost kitten Chi, taken in by a couple and their young son. This really isn't an unusual subject for manga. Plenty of manga artists and manga readers are cat fans, so, cat manga is hardly a rarity. Even horror master Junji Ito (Tomie, Uzumaki) wrote a jokingly disturbing semi-autobiographical one. Personally, I'm indifferent to animals and disinclined to be interested in manga about them. The two times that I've sat down to read chunks of Chi's, I approached it with a cold regard. It didn't immediately warm me up either. But, as good manga is able to do, both times, I was eventually won over.

In the scope of manga's aims, Chi's falls into a particular niche. It's an all ages comfort series.
Chi's ran in the anthology Morning, which is ostensibly for older male audience, but, in practice as eclectic as any. Morning has run Makoto Kobayashi's cat based What's Michael?, published in North America by Dark Horse and the first manga to be nominated for Eisner Award. That series mixed Chi style pet stories, with more anthropomorphic ones, with more bizarre or pop-culture parody comedy sequences. And, Morning is the anthology that housed perennial kids' recommendation Gon; Masashi Tanaka's wordless, painstakingly rendered nature studies, humorously intruded upon by a micro t-rex. However, it's also home to soccer title Giant Killer, the anime of which is streaming in North America, Monster/20th Century Boys creator Naoki Urasawa's look at the significance of symbols, Billy Bat, Youji Fukuyama's manga version of Don Giovanni, Kaiji Kawaguchi's provocative look at World War II Zipang, Go Nagai's older audience revisitation of a classic Devilman Lady, Takehiko Inoue's much praised look at the life of "Sword Saint" Miyamoto Musashi, Vagabond, Moebius and Jiro Taniguchi's Icaro, Mkoyoko Anno's look at the life of a career woman, Hataraki Man , and many other notables.

There have been situations where publishers have been burned trying to market manga to younger readers than the publication's original demographics, particularly involving works from Morning's sister publication, Afternoon. But, the idea of Chi's turning sexual or violent is laughable. Frederik Schodt noted in Manga! Manga! that Morning's slogan is Yomu to genki ni naru - "You'll feel great if you read it."That’s basically the simple operating principle of Chi's.

Chi's rhythm charms. Each story is about eight pages, and might feature the cat and boy trying to be held still for a photograph, or Chi's nails being clipped, an encounter with a dog or the like. There are consistent mannerisms. There's definitely a discernable personality to the kitten. While Chi acts like Chi, the manga does not fall into a bad comic strip routine grind. Even as it capitalizes on its simplicity, Chi's has its own narrative continuity.

The manga establishes the threat that Chi's family can be evicted for breaking their apartment complex's prohibition against pets. While that's a familiar parameter for situation comedy, Chi's antics, especially the explorations with the block's older black cat really do seem to be escalating over the course of the volume. At the same time, while this potential for consequence is a catalyst, Kanata manages to avoid shifting the manga's light simplicity such that reading Chi's never feels terribly pressing.

I don't love cats, or the bundle of ideas and traits that they've come to represent. And yet, after a couple of stories, I find Chi's to be cheering and comforting. The well observed credibility and creativity that Kanata brings to episodes of a little kitty doing little kitty things, whether it's pawing at a piece of fried chicken or interpreting a thumbing noise as being caused by a sort of drooling dog centipede, is winningly darling. Effectively, the manga distills why people have affection for critters.



 

Manga Spotlight: Blade of the Immortal
Volume 23: Scarlet Swords
By Hiroaki Samura
Release by Dark Horse



For better or worse, Blade of the Immortal is no longer in the dungeons of Hiraoki Samura's interests. On one hand, I don't feel entirely great about the excitement to welcome back Blade of the Immortal's battle royale of exotic swordsmen after Samura's highly exceptional exploration of the human potential for horror in the more bolted down, remarkably subversive even by Blade of the Immortal standards, the Prison Arc. Then again, this is Samura, and what Blade of the Immortal does is still brilliantly abnormal. It's still quite a particular, political take on period action, and still incomparable in a way that makes this scrapping, long running (been released in North America since 1996) manga vigorously competitive in the crowded action media landscape.


Blade of the Immortal is reliable for its "wow, THIS happened" scenes. Even in its less action driven phases, you can regularly describe some moments of Blade of the Immortal and reflect a bit of their amazing spectacle. While it does boast an impressive set piece turned duel, Scarlet Swords doesn't have much in the way of those on paper, out of context marvels. And yet, there's still enough emblems, ninja gadgets and uniquely designed swords to establish the manga's appeal.

The new story line it still showing signs of mustering and drawing battle lines. What the volume does feature is a bit of vanguard action, with slow walks and old weapons unearthed. Old favorites inch onto the scene while newer operative begin showing what they're capable of.

True to the dynamic nature of the manga, in what's supposedly its final stages, Blade of the Immortal is driven by a fight between once object of the series' vengeance hunt Kagehisa Anotsu backed by his once-series antagonist renegade swords school itto-ryu and government heavy puppet master Habaki Kagimura with his own cadre of ninja and freaks, the now-renegade Rokki-dan. The title's immortal swordsman is largely sidelined, and, ever the target of lectures intended for the audience, it's pointed out that the girl he was to protect, along with another sub 90lb, knife armed young woman were the ones who recently saved the day by storming Edo Castle.

Samura has shown every sign of being restless in his approach to Blade of the Immortal, with little interest in perpetually doing what made Blade of the Immortal popular on day one. The manga is back to featuring oddly armed, oddly behaved individuals hunting each other to resolve matters on swords' edges, and yet, even beyond the fact that many of the current set of hunters and queries haven't populated Blade for too long, the manga is still mutating. Exemplifying how the manga is back to square one, in a completely reworked way, the long absent death murals, extravagantly depicting the fatal results of a settled conflict make a return... after a fashion... with a kimono blanketed sexual mural.

Beyond the headier elements of Blade of the Immortal, that sometimes seem profound and, sometimes seem maybe there just to keep Samura himself interested, if you just want a violent story, there's nothing better. Samura changes focus, changes subtext and experiments, but his manga continues to distinguish itself with precise, artistic rendering, anarchic battles and rebellious sentiments. Beyond the visual strength of Samura's work, beyond his proclivities to overload the conflict with some interesting political implications, Blade of the Immortal is simply a top action serial. Except maybe in that intentionally frustrating Prison chapter, Blade is consistently satisfying. In each phase, Samura makes the point he wants to make. Sure, plot threads tether current events to future ones, but he doesn't rely on the readers faith that what he is developing will pay off down the road. Rather than teasers and dangling, incomplete ideas, the momentum that carries Blade of the Immortal forward is the enticement to read more.

This commencement of Blade of the Immortal's new, possibly final chapter, gives every indication that Blade will continue to be the primary manga to read if you have any interest in its domain of wandering warriors, ninja and the like.




Manga Spotlight: Gantz
Volume 15
by Hiroya Oku
Released by Dark Horse



Gantz was recently the subject of plenty of internet chatter thanks to the one-night cross-country screening of its live action adaptation. I question the point of producing live action adaptations of manga like Gantz, or, it has never been put on the table, but if it were, I would, Black Lagoon. Manga like that make it their mission to out-do Hollywood blockbusters. Attempting to hold a mirror to the magnifying lens is bound to either blur the picture or prove redundant.

Informed by movies like Die Hard, Oku has been quick to establish a counterpoint to Gantz's spectacles. Much of that has been a function of making its teenage protagonist Kei Kurono and the rest of the cast of unlikely action heroes/anti-heroes appear vulnerable. After 14 volumes of people being given sci-fi accoutrements and sent into the street of Japan to bleed or worse, Kurono and company have figured out how to start winning the game. So, Gantz has shifted its track towards different stakes, threatening wider consequences and not just mortal dangers.

With the need to establish what Kurono cares about, or, given his history, that he is actually capable of caring, Gantz takes a step back to invest in the character and his relationships. This involves the elimination of any doubt that Gantz would be trading in unadulterated wish fulfillment. More is being done with Kurono's geeky (a manga artist), but very cute girlfriend. And, beyond that, a popular idol/comrade in arms, has fallen for him, such that the two are even appearing in tabloids... a sort of status achievement that would be unthinkable in early Gantz.

This direction yields a novel volume of Gantz. For probably the first time in the manga's run, the volume lacks begging to be recounted wow moments. The rumble between spandex super-suited gantz resurrectees and the Tarantino talking nano-tech vampires is wrapped up surprisingly quickly, and I'm guessing that the abruptness was to deny the audience for a change. The titanic Death Dealer looking aliens had the makings of one of Gantz's "hell yeah!" confrontations, but they're quickly shown the exit. There's a point being made by the rapid egress, but it might have been nice if it wasn't something as cool looking as the Death Dealers being sacrificed to make it.

With Kurono holding his own against Gantz's old rule, the manga has turned to new ways to screw with the hero and, through that proxy, the reader. As such, Gantz 15 is the rare, maybe first, volume of the series that appears to lead to something more exciting than it is in and of itself.



Manga Spotlight: Genkaku Picasso
by Usamaru Furuya
Volume 1
Released by VIZ Media



After reading manga for a while, some of my reactions have gotten a bit muted. My jaw with drop at bad decisions, but I don't think I'm sledgehammered as I once was by simply WTF manga. While Genkaku Picasso is Usamaru Furuya work with some training wheels on it, when I stop to think about it art/psychoanalysis manga Genkaku Picasso is strikingly odd.

With underground verve, Furuya takes a outsider stance as he lobs pot shots at popular culture. At its best, as jokes loop back on themselves, the humor is darkly clever and not just malcontent. Cute things are really dark, and yet, rather than a bleak nihilistism, there's often ultimately something to smirk about.


Until recently, regrettably little of Usamaru Furuya's bitingly weird work made it to North America. A sample of his Palepoli coming strips, featuring subjects like a pair of boys setting Jesus to fight against a stag beetle, made it from the avant-garde anthology Garo into Secret Comics Japan. His Short Cuts strips, featuring an excoriation of the ko-gal sub-culture among other trends, was released by Viz's defunct mature audience Pulp label. Post earth quake survival manga 51 Ways to Save Her a is lamented loss from the CMX shutdown. But, the lack of Furuya is being rectified. Beyond Genkaku Picasso, Vertical is slated to release his Lychee Light Club and manga adaptation of Osamu Dazai's novel No Longer Human.


Genkaku Picasso ran in Jump SQ, a slightly odder, slightly more fantastically inclined monthly in the Jump family (of shonen mega-hits like Dragon Ball and Naruto fame) . Jump SQ, has also featured one-off work by popular, established manga authors like CLAMP's Gate7, Yasuhiro Nightow's Kekkai Sensou and Akira Toriyama and Masakazu Katsura's Sachie-chan Guu!!

17 year old Hikari "Picasso" Haruma is introduced sitting in the back of his class drawing. Though he is teased for it, his classmates' jabs are mostly good natured, and thanks to his bad reactions, his alienation is largely self inflicted. The one connection he has is to attractive classmate Chiaki Yamamoto. The two spend their afternoons on the river bank with Chiaki reading books on psychology or the like while "Picasso" sketches. It's during one of those outing when the two are struck down by... what's the inverse of a miracle? Against all probability, a helicopter drops out of the sky, onto the pair. Chiaki dies... Picasso winds up, not quite dead.

After life returns to semi-normal, as Picasso morns Chiaki, a mini-angelic version of the girl appears and informs him that unless he can do good in the world, his body will rot away. Stopping to considered a troubled peer, he begins sketching out a surreal scene, featuring a tiny figure on a crumbling ledge, a titanic man carrying a bound sack looming above him, a giant wall with a similarly immense scale bird peering over boxing the scene in, and a carnival down bellow. With Chiaki's help, Picasso begins trying to figure out how this art can clue him into solving his classmate's troubles.

There are the makings of a remarkably smart, thinking manga here. Early on, Picasso presents the idea that art is an expression of insight. That would seem to set up the manga along the lines of interpreting images and, at the same time, the psyche of the person who inspired it. This is perfect for manga: a sequential, narrative visual medium that allows its reader to stop is consider a single image as long as they desire. Elevated by Usamaru Furuya's skill at rendering the surreal and trangressive, Genkaku Picasso could have encourage the reader to stop, think and interpret the images themselves . That would have been a unique approach to conventions of manga about teen personal problems.

Unfortunately, Genkaku Picasso prompts more head shakes than head use. The problems are both conventional and particular. The manga uses the frequently used anime/manga reductive approach that there's an identifiable pivot point to personalities/problem's development. That simplification is fair enough if the manga is driven by discovering the source of its subjects woe. In practice, it's less about Picasso and Chiaki deducing than it is them lobbing guesses at what, in many cases, they have no reasonable expectation of knowing. Often, their sensible, relevant to reader guess prove far off the mark.

In his comedy manga Usamaru Furuya joined the familiar with the outlandish to great effect. Here, he throws in the uninteresting, but bizarre at inappropriate times. He doesn't succeed in making the problems ones with which the reader can indentify. And, he doesn't succeed in making the problems so exotic that the pronounced strangeness becomes part of the appeal. Instead, the subjects have issues that are laughably weird in such a way that one has to question the author. Or, they're sketchy in a way that, again, one has to question the author.

If Genkaku Picasso is as subversive as a Usamaru Furuya fan might want from one of his manga, then it's approaching that aim in a difficult to detect, terribly meta way. Maybe the oddity would be enough, and it would work better if you're a younger, fresher manga reader. It really is strange, and maybe the less jaded one is, the more effecting Genkaku Picasso would be. However, compared to what Usamaru Furuya is capable of, and compared to what the manga itself sets up to be, Genkaku Picasso is disappointingly uninvolving.




Manga Spotlight: Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan
by Hiroshi Shiibashi
Released by Viz Media



To be a bit reductive for a moment, Naru Rise of the Yokai is the Shonen Jump version of Casper the Friendly Ghost... or, maybe, an updated version of Gegege no Kitaro. As it opens, its subject is a child of the supernatural world who basically just wants to make nice to the normals, despite the expectations that he'll carry fear into the world. In practice, it's both a lot better and as problematic as that sounds.

The Japanese title for this series is Nurarihyon's Grandchild; Nurarihyon being an elongated headed old-man like being from the Japanese yokai supernatural folklore, known for inviting himself into human company to partake in tea, food or other niceties, and, because he acts like he's the boss, he's the head of the yokai congregation known as the Hyakki Yako or Night Parade of One Hundred Demons.

Rikuo Nura is the 3/4th human grandson of Nurarihyon, and heir to the Nura Group, a yokai syndicate that controls Japan's Kanto region. The twelve year old lives in a mansion full of snake women, ice spirits, crow men, sandals come to life, various goblins, floating heads and the like. He'd mostly like this host of strange beings to keep a low profile so that he can live a normal human life, by normal human rules and have normal, human friends. Yet, when rebellious yokai get out of line or yokai factional turf wars spill over, Rikuo is able to transform into his temporary, fear inspiring night alter ego.

Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan has appealing elements to work with.

It effectively evokes the fascinating qualities of the nightmare weirdness of the yokai. In theory, familiarity should undercut the draw of this sort of class of exotic spirits. And, they are familiar. Yokai forms have largely become standardized, and if you catch much Japanese pop media from Pokemon to Inu-Yasha, you've seen what you see here. The manga looks back to the classic scroll illustrations of yokai, and all the manga the had already looked back to those illustrations. Hiroshi Shiibashi doesn't put a personal spirit into the spirits the way that greats like Shigeru Mizuki do either. But, fundamentally, yokai are marked by their disconcerting physical elements, such as animal features, missing, extra or split off body parts and the like; and Shiibashi knows how to work violation of natural order. And, more importantly, he introduces a sufficient degree of personality to the yokai design. The creatures each have a spark of individuality.

An evident formula is laid out in Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan. Like the yokai design it's familiar. It's a customized version of text book action serial stuff. And, like the design, it looks successful if not inventive. Beyond the host of allies, the hero is accompanied by an odd pair of assistant/underlings, specifically an ice spirit and a hulking, violent fire. I can't help thinking of a Shonen Jump yokai Shadow or Doc Savage. There's two sides of a conflict working together with a yokai banishing onmyouji mystic in Rikuo's class, seemingly set up to be an uneasy partner his efforts. In that case, I can't help thinking of Batman and Catwoman. With all the evident internal politics and conflicts between the yokai clans, there seems plenty of material to run through this formula. Hopefully, even if it’s not entirely covering new ground, the mileage it gets out of the yokai clan conflict will mean that it will not entirely need to resort to the Jump-overdone tournaments.

Unfortunately, there are elements that don’t' fall into this fun, if unexceptional, set up. One of the chief issues seems likely to be mitigated. The other, the series might be stuck with.

Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan launches along the lines of shonen manga that involve school, plus something else. Rikuo is in school, and he has to deal with an adolescent’s school problems... bullies, girls and the like; plus, he's 1/4 yokai and has to deal with the supernatural world. Unlike picking up the adventure standards or the yokai standards, picking up the school conflict standards doesn't made for an exciting addition to the series. Jhonen Vasquez mentioned on an Invader Zim commentary track that he wanted to take the series off Earth and into space, while Nickelodeon wanted it more grounded in school. He mused, what would kids rather watch, adventures in space, or characters stuck in classrooms? What's good about Rikuo in school is mostly just smirk inducing at best and doesn't outweigh the problems that the school bits are largely dull in and of themselves, and, less interesting than the yokai conflicts.

Given how deemphasized the school aspect was in a sampling of the first three episode of the anime adaptation suggests that this flaw was recognized, and maybe correctly in manga itself.

Probably more intractable, while Rikuo's circumstances are interesting, he isn't. The unexceptional yokai Rikuo fails to offset the dull human one. In his bespectacled every-kid schoolboy form, he's not much to look at. In his long, silver haired, traditionally garbed yokai form, he's still one of the least attention commanding supernatural beings on stage. Unlike other unassuming/super heroic characters, Kenshin and the like, the effect of him in the midst of a confrontation is not memorable... Literally, I couldn't remember. On a refresher, it proved to be mostly posturing with a host of yokai in the background. So, the hero is the comparatively normal looking one in the middle of the colorful ghoulies. Nor is Rikuo particularly endearing. He lives in a mansion, the master of a clan of yokai. A kid, or even an adult, is apt to feel at bit jealous of him. Since Rikuo is put off my the place and its residents and the yokai Rikuo appears lordly, the characters seems slightly spoiled rather than sympathetic.

With the yokai mythology laid over the right gears to keep an action serial running, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan has the making of a strong second tier Shonen Jump. Even if the lead doesn't have the pull to make it another Dragon Ball, Naruto or One Piece, it appears ready to provide plenty of formula entertainment.



Manga Spotlight: Bunny Drop
Volume 2
By Yumi Unita
Released by Yen Press



There's a scene in Durarara!! in which a couple of pathological otaku muse about adopting a cute daughter like the eponymous manga star Yotusba. This isn't necessarily creepy in a pedo way. It's a male and female set of geeks who, at least in the anime, are pretty much asexual. Instead, what's off putting about the mention is how the it points to the idealized notion, not unique to DRRR and Yotsuba, that children are simply embodiments of energetic innocence.

Bunny Drop is an antidote to this 2D notion of kids, and it also contrasts ideas presented in manga like Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys, which is rightly praised, but again, subject to an idealized version of parenthood, especially unconventional parenthood, in which the hero's adult actions taking adult responsibility for his sister's abandoned infant daughter registers as a sign of messianic potential.

At the funeral for the old man, Daikichi discovers that his grandfather had a secret, illigitimate six year old daughter. With the family in a fuss over this apparent black mark, and not endeared to the sullen little girl, Daikichi objects to their dehumanization of the child and then, after telling them off, shocks the family by taking her in.

Bunny Drop begins contending with the complexities and responsibilities that are necessary and rewarding, but also difficult and unheroic. Daikichi has to figure out how to arrange for her needs: get her into school, and more crucially, figure out how a 30 year old man can arrange his career in such a way to be there where/when the child requires his presence. At the same time, though the child, Rin is precocious, she is still a child. From night terrors to shyness to peer pressure, things get to her.

As life goes on in Bunny Drop's second volume, matters are put in order. Rin is listed as the grandfather's adopted child. It was Daikichi's maternal grandfather, so, she has the same name as his living uncle, but not Daikichi himself; an issue that leads to some concerns. Daikichi also finds a cable modem while cleaning out his grandfather's apartment. And, while taking care of Rin, being mindful not to upset her, Daikichi begins following the clues to track down Rin's mother.

Bunny Drop is not some mystery drama. The mother search is in the background. And, with a harried Daikichi, neither the character nor the manga itself have the time or interest in hooking Daikichi up with obvious matches, such as his single mom neighbor.

Despite the gender of its lead, Bunny Drop is josei; written by a woman, and serialized in an anthology for women (Feel Young, home of Moyoko Anno's Happy Mania - one of the first josei to be released in North America). Despite some attempts to correct it, representation of that manga segment in North America is slight. As such, Bunny Drop is offering a sharp take on perspective and concerns that don't recieve much attention in the English language manga landscape.
Even among josei, Bunny Drop is distinctive. Balancing personal and professional life is some of the most common grist for the genre. That the subject is male, and that balancing is actually sacrificing in the name of responsibility is something different

Though intriguing, wading into the gender politics of Bunny Drop without the proper cultural familiarity looked treacherous in the first volume. Volume two elaborates on the concerns, making them more evident, and, in doing so, making the series more provocative. More so, because while the issues are more resoundingly dropped on the table, the characters are complicated people and not simply standard bearers.

Down to the TV that they watch Daikichi's parents are decidedly old fashion, and yet, they aren't the villains who initially reacted badly to Rin. His mother in particular has a remarkably multi-faceted relationship to feminism. Daikichi's sister voices the perspective of a younger person who, more than being unwilling to sacrifice a career to raise a child, simply doesn't want a kid to crimp their lifestyles. Though at the same time, the observation is made that Daikichi and hia sisters are themselves no longer as young as they like to think they are. Feminism, responsibility and age start feeding into each other in a relevant, interesting dynamic.

The ultimate introduction of Rin's mother turns out to be quite the thought provoker. Knowing that she abandoned her child sets her up to be judged. Daikichi certainly works up some righteous anger. Yet, meeting her, and in particular, learning her occupation sets up a more nuanced consideration.

It's gratifying that a Production I.G (Ghost in the Shell) animated Bunny Drop adaptation is planned for Noitamina, a programming block that seeks to air anime that appeal to audiences traditionally not served by the medium. Manga and anime are joined that the hip. That doesn't mean that they're twins. While there is plenty of manga for a spectrum of ages and interests, anime is largely for kids and anime fans. And, so much of the latter is couched in the arrested development of geeks getting to be geeks. Like anime, manga in North America is largely for self-identifying fans. As such, it's remarkable to get a work about people unglamorously struggling with their responsibilities. Drama and joy do exist in Bunny Drop, but it's the questions that the manga provokes about raising children and being a productive member of society that make it a particularly compelling point on the English manga landscape.



Upcoming in North America (and Other English Speaking Territories)




British Museum Press is selling an English edition of Professor Munakata's British Museum Adventure, the archeology manga by sci-fi creator Yukinobu Hoshino

Bandai Entertainment


Bandai Entertainment announced the specs today for April 7, 2011 release of Mobile Suit Gundam UC (Unicorn) Vol. 3 “The Ghost of Laplace” Blu-ray.

Mobile Suit Gundam UC (Unicorn) Vol. 3 Blu-ray will be released April 7, 2011.


It will be available at the Bandai Entertainment Store, http://store.bandai-ent.com/and Amazon
Marketplace and other select online retailers. The SRP is $59.98. The pre-order price on the store prior to street date is $39.98. From street date, the Bandai store price will be $44.99.

The episode will also be available as a download rental through PlayStationNetwork and Zune (an entertainment platform by Microsoft for Xbox 360) in the USA and Canada.
The story continues from the last volume.


The detailed specs of the Blu-ray are as follows:
AUDIO:
1. Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1ch
2. Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0ch
3. English Dolby TrueHD 5.1ch
4. English Dolby Digital 2.0ch
SUBTITLES:
1. Japanes
2. English
3. French
4. Spanish
5. Traditional Mandarin
6. Traditional Cantonese

Dark Horse
Dark Horse will be collaberating Nickelodeon on an Avatar: The Last Airbender series

The first installment of this new series will be released on Free Comic Book Day, May 7, with two introductory short stories—the unpublished tale “Relics” and the iconic Dirty Is Only Skin Deep... This free comic will be packaged with Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars in a special flip-book comic, available only at your local comic book shop.

Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Lost Adventures will be released on July 13. This all-new 240-page comic book contains over 70 pages of never-before-seen material in addition to long-out-of-print comics previously published in Nickelodeon Magazine. With 26 stories set in Airbender continuity and created by a host of top-notch talent, many of whom worked on the original animated series, this is an essential addition to any fan’s bookshelf.

Additionally, Dark Horse will create all-new Airbender stories that will be published as digest-style original graphic novels—conveniently sized paperback collections—in early 2012. Picking up where the season three finale left off, this new series will follow the further adventures of Aang and his friends, as they help to rebuild a world torn apart by 100 years of war.

FUNimation





Sentai Filmworks
Sentai Filmworks has picked up by the license to
Yumekui Merry, to be released as Dream Eater Merry


Based on the hit manga by Ushiki Yoshitaka, directed by Shigeyasu Yamauchi (Street Fighter Alpha, Boys Over Flowers,) using scripts and story compositions by Hideki Shirane and character designs by Masahiro Fuji (both Hayate the Combat Butler,) the 12 episode DREAM EATER MERRY series rolls out the unique premise of a boy with the ability to predict dreams who becomes the focus of the ambitions of a unique race of demons who use dreams to access our world!

Sometimes daydreaming can get you into trouble, but what do you do when it's OTHER people's dreams that you have to watch out for? For the last 10 years Yumeji Fujiwara's life has been getting progressively stranger, beginning with suddenly gaining the ability to predict what kind of dreams other people will have! Then his own dreams took a bizarre turn in which he was being pursued by armies of cats! Now, however, the weird-o-meter has just maxed out: Not only has Yumeji learned that the leader of the dream cats needs Yumeji's body to access the real world, but a beautiful girl suddenly drops on top of him and announces that she's a Dream Demon who needs to return to HER world! There are a lot of sleepless nights ahead, as Yumeji has to deal with the dream stalking, a dream walking and the little bitty problem of the fabric separating reality and fantasy being torn to shreds in DREAM EATER MERRY!



New and Upcoming in Japan


Promos
Satelight's Ikoku Meiro no Croisée

Install


Mai no Mahou


Japan Animation Creators Association's Project A - to air on Japanese TV March 5th


IDA's (Cat Shit One)


Preview for Hiroyasu Ishida's (Fumiko's Confession) new short, Rain Town


Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society 3D





Last Exile ~Ginyoku no Fam~

Gaku - Minna no Yama - live action adaptation of the climbing manga

Latest live action adaptation of Junji Ito's Tomie


Anime
Historical figures as anime-esque girls pachinko games Sengoku Otome are getting an actual anime series, Sengoku Otome ~Momoiro Paradox~, scheduled for April

Sunrise will be adapting sci-fi light novels Kyokaisen-jo no Horizon

Girl's basket ball comedy Ro-Kyu-Bu! will also be getting an adaptation

NEET light novel mysteries Kami-sama no Memo-cho will be turned into anime

Sgt Frog is ending its seven year run on March 27th.

"Reverse harem" PSP game series Uta no Prince-sama will be getting an anime series

Shaft’s adaptation of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei author Koji Kumeta’s earlier Katteni Kaizo will be released as an OVA April 27.

Studio 4°C will be animating a music video based on Hands from Rhymester's Pop Life, to be included with a limited edition of the album

Shinya Tsukamoto's (Tetsuo movies) animated short


Manga
Political/military manga writer Kaiji Kawaguchi (Zipang, Eagle, The Silent Service) launched his new manga Hyoma no Hata ~Revolutionary Wars~ (Hyoma's Flag ~Revolutionary Wars~ in Big Comic. The series is about a French educated officer in the Bakumatsu conflict that ending shogun rule

Yukinobu Hoshino (2001 Nights) will be adapting James P. Hogan's Inherit the Stars in Big Comic

After its hiatus and departure from Ultra Jump, Yukito Kishiro's Battle Angel Alita: Last Order will be hitting its new home in Evening in its March issue.

K-on! will be back in Manga Times Kirara this spring.

Makoto Raiku's Zatch Bell is returned for a one shot in Bessatsu Shonen Magazine this March

Live Action
Leiji Matsumoto revealed in an interview that a live action adaptation of his space opera Galaxy Express 999 is in development. The Captain Harlock character is planned to appear in the movie.

His next anime project is Zero Desigze, which be released this year.

The interview appears on Starblazers.com and Otaku USA

Emi Takei will be the lead in the adaptation of an adaptation of josei tech/vocational high school manga Asuko March

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Classic masked wrestler manga/anime Tiger Mask will be getting a live action adaptation, slated for a November release. The character, who wrestled to support an orphanage, recently inspired a charity giving trend

Digital Distribution News


Funimation.com has begun streaming Hero Tales, Murder Princess and Strike Witches 2

Anime News Network has begun streaming the dub of Moribito

Gainax's Hokago no Pleiades is now streaming with English subtitles


Viz Media is launching shoujo titles for their iPad manga reader Matsuri Hino’s shojo fantasy fairytale, MERUPURI, and NATSUME’S BOOK OF FRIENDS, by Yuki Midorikawa on February 21st.

MERUPURI, Vol. 1 • Rated ‘T’ for Teens • Available Now!
All high school freshmen Airi Hoshina ever wanted was to someday live in a cozy home with a loving husband and find joy in the little things in life. As a result, she makes it her daily mission to get to school on time because school legend has it that the longer one's non-tardy streak is the better boyfriend one will find. But just when her daily routine is working like clockwork, an occurrence of fairytale proportions threatens to disrupt her grand plan.

NATSUME’S BOOK OF FRIENDS, Vol. 1 • Rated ‘T’ for Teens •
Available February 21st
Takashi Natsume can see the 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 the small town where his grandmother grew up. And there he discovers that he has inherited more than just the Sight from the mysterious Reiko.

Additional new manga volumes available by the end of February include:

BLEACH Vol. 8
CAPTIVE HEARTS Vol. 2
CLAYMORE Vol. 3
D. GRAY MAN Vol. 4
DEATH NOTE Vol. 7
DRAGON BALL Vol. 13
MERUPURI Vol. 2
NARUTO Vol. 14
ONE PIECE Vol. 14
OTOMEN Vol. 3
OURON HIGH SCHOOL HOST CLUB Vol. 3
RUROUNI KENSHIN Vol. 7
TORIKO Vol. 2
VAMPIRE KNIGHT Vol. 3

Event News


Takeshi Miike's 13 Assasins will be getting a screening in select cities April 29th


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April's Anime Boston will be hosting music acts Visual Kei band girugamesh and STEREOPONY, whose music was using the anime Bleach, Gundam OO and Letter Bee.

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Toronto Comic Arts Festival will be hosting manga creator Usamaru Furuya


Usamaru Furuya launched his comics career within the legendary pages of GARO magazine with his debut work Palepoli. He would follow that experimental work by vigorously releasing a number of titles that displayed his elaborate artwork, and exceptional creativity. A unique ability to render a wide range of designs earned him the undying support of readers across the globe. Furuya has penned more than a dozen series since his debut, including – The Lychee Light Club (Vertical, Inc.), Genkaku Picasso (Viz Media), The Children's Crusade, The Music of Marie, Teiichi's Empire, and Osamu Dazai's No Longer Human. Furuya's Lychee Light Club will be receiving a theatrical adaptation in the winter of 2011.

Furuya's work in English includes selections from the manga Palepoli in the anthologies Secret Comics Japan (2000, Viz Media) and Japan Edge (1999, Cadence Books), and his hilarious look inside Japanese youth culture Short Cuts (2 volumes, 2002-2003, Viz Media). 2010 saw the beginning of the publication of his young-adult horror series Genkaku Picasso, part of the Shonen Jump Advanced line from Viz Media. A three-volume series (completing in May 2011), the series' dual settings of a mundane junior-high classroom and the rich inner dream worlds of its young inhabitants perfectly suit Furuya-san's abilities to expertly render reality and fantasy.



The Toronto Comic Arts Festival
At the Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge St.
Saturday May 7th 2011, 9am-5pm
Sunday May 8th 2011, 11am-5pm
FREE ADMISSION

Upcoming New People screenings at the Viz Cinema in San Francisco include

BREATH
Saturday, 2/19 at 5:00pm – ONE NIGHT ONLY!
Tickets: $12.00
(Directed by Kim Ki-duk, Korea, 83min, 2007, Digital, Korean with English subtitles)
On a cold winter day, after learning her husband has found a new woman, Yeon absent-mindedly heads for a prison where an inmate name Jin is confined. Although she doesn’t know him personally, repeated news of his suicide attempts on TV have subconsciously grown in her mind which now is leading her to seek him. Jin has no visitors and normally would not agree to meet a complete stranger, but hearing that it’s a woman, he accepts her request out of curiosity. Their first encounter is awkward. Yeon treats Jin like an old friend whereas Jin doesn’t open up so easily. To Jin’s surprise, Yeon comes back for a second visit…One day her husband follows her to the prison and witnesses an intimate exchange between Yeon and Jin. The jealous husband drags her home and tries to separate the new couple. While forced to be apart, time winds down for Jin’s execution. But the two are already attached to one another more than her husband assumed – more than life and death. And desperate Yeon finds a way to elude her husband and help Jin out of his misery.

GANTZ (English Subtitled Version)
Saturday, 2/19 at 7:15pm – ONE NIGHT ONLY!
Tickets: $12.00 (attendees will also receive a special GANTZ poster)
(Directed by Shinsuke Sato, Japan, 129min, 2011, Digital, Japanese with English subtitles)
GANTZ is based on a hit manga series created by Hiroya Oku and stars leading Japanese actors Kazunari Ninomiya (Letters from Iwo Jima) and Kenichi Matsuyama (Death Note, Detroit Metal City). The film tells the story of two childhood friends that are accidentally killed while trying to save another man’s life. Rather than find themselves in the hereafter, however, they awaken in a strange apartment in which they find a mysterious black orb they come to know as “GANTZ.” Along with similar abductees, they are provided with equipment and weaponry and manipulated into playing a kind of game in which they are sent back out to the greater world to do battle with alien beings, all while never quite knowing whether this game is an illusion or their new reality.

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CINEMA ASIA RELEASING, ELEVEN ARTS and FUNimation Entertainment announced that the new release schedule of the second of the EVANGELION film series in the U.S. EVANGELION: 2.0 YOU CAN (NOT) ADVANCE has been expanded

The schedule can be seen here

2011/3/1 MN Woodbury Woodbury 10 Theatre
2011/3/4 MA Boston Brattle Theatre 3/3-
2011/3/4 MI Detroit Burton Theatre Detroit
2011/3/11 MN Minneapolis St. Anthony Main Theatre 3/
2011/3/11 PA Pittsburgh Oaks Cinema -
2011/3/18 OK Oklahoma City Oklahoma City Museum of Art
TBA TX San Antonio Santikos - Rialto
TBA IL Chicago Music Box
TBA DC Washington DC Alexandria Old Town Theater

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Pre-Registration for Anime Festival Orlando 12 is now live and offering a special price of $40.00 for a 3 day membership lasting only until March 31, 2011. Anime Festival Orlando (AFO), Florida’s Favorite Japanese Animation Convention, is being held August 5-7, 2011 at the Wyndham Orlando Resort on International Drive.

Pre-Registered Attendees checking into the Wyndham Orlando Resort on Thursday August 4, 2011 or earlier will receive exclusive access to Special Events on Thursday night. Details are available on the AFO 12 website.

Anime Festival Orlando 12 is pleased to announce Wendee Lee, Reuben Langdon, Dan Southworth, Dr. Jason Narvy and Jason David Frank as honored guests.


The Business


VIZ Pictures, Inc., the film distributor and producer behind the Japanese pop culture venue in San Francisco known as NEW PEOPLE, has announced that it will now operate as a newly established company, NEW PEOPLE, Inc.
The company's film distribution and licensing division will now operate as NEW PEOPLE Entertainment.

NEW PEOPLE Entertainment is complemented by the launch of another dedicated film and event production division – NEW PEOPLE Productions – that will organize and manage the annual J-Pop Summit Festival as well as future film premieres, live events, and the development of original programming. The J-Pop Summit Festival takes place in San Francisco every summer and has become one of the largest events in the U.S. devoted to Japanese pop culture, film, fashion, food, art, and music. The 2010 festival attracted over 40,000 people. The 2011 J-Pop Summit Festival is currently being planned for August. More information on NEW PEOPLE Entertainment is available at: www.NewPeopleEnt.com.

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NTV will make anime studio Madhouse its subsidiary with 85% ownership of its stocks.

 

 

 




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Readers Talkback

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  • Feb. 13, 2011, 3:47 p.m. CST

    First!

    by Goodplacetoshoveit

    But no one even reads these so who gives a crap?

  • Feb. 13, 2011, 7:45 p.m. CST

    AWESOME!

    by kufirst

  • Feb. 13, 2011, 8:50 p.m. CST

    I will travel across the fucking country for 13 Assassins

    by Losers_Game

    If I have to. Jesus. Hopefully it won't come to that, but I need to see that goddamn movie.

  • Feb. 13, 2011, 8:56 p.m. CST

    Still no news of Black Lagoon's return

    by gopher

    Damn it. What is going on over there? On hiatus for nearly a year now...

  • Feb. 13, 2011, 10:53 p.m. CST

    re: Still no news of Black Lagoon's return

    by ScottGreen

    Episode 3 of the Roberta OVA came out in early January.

  • Feb. 14, 2011, 2:07 a.m. CST

    I love Gantz so much

    by The_Crimson_King

    I love how Gantz sets up all these rules only to break them in surprising and unexpected ways, you literally have no idea what to expect next

  • Feb. 17, 2011, 10:25 a.m. CST

    It's about time.

    by veritasses

    I've been waiting for a live action 999 since forever. I guess Yamato did fairly well then.<BR><BR> And frankly, despite how awful anime to LA movies tend to be, I'm itching to see the Gantz too.

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