2009 Spring Anime Page

…is up. Put another copy here for good measure? I’m afraid not – but here is a link.

Well, then, what are batsu’s choice for this season? To be honest, there seem to be a lot of lemons. On the other hand, an interesting trend towards “gothic boy fantasy for girls’” anime seems to be on the rise. The first step out of the closet for this new genre manifested in gothic-lolita clothing; to conform to the local jargon, more specifically “(elegant) gothic aristocrat” and “dandy” sub-genres of the “gothic” and “elegant gothic” styles. This idea was then carried over to “dan-sou cafes.” Similar to maid cafes, these are butler-style fantasy cafes and bars, staffed exclusively with cross-dressing women; though cafe is not the end all, as these types of businesses include everything up to escort services. Naturally, the artistic paradigms in terms of both style and narrative of what I’ve termed “gothic boy fantasy for girls’” bled into manga and currently has a huge following in the BJD scene. Stopping short of cultural analysis, I’m going to say simply that I find it interesting – perhaps not my taste, but interesting.

The shining star that could potentially be hit-or-miss is Eden of the East. A lot of big names are involved, and the set-up is intriguing. Valkyria Chronicles, Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, and maybe even Dragon Ball: Kai deserve a shot. Phantom – Requiem for the Phantom has a very dark, sleek art style, and sexy character design, but the narrative may be a bit trite; time will tell. Ristorante Paradiso would be great save for the drama; the restaurant / bakery setting finds a lot appeal with fujoshi, which is fine, just not for me. But enough complaining… how about a top 3?

eden valkyria fma

Only 3… a little sad.

Winter Anime 2009

Better late then never… the Winter 2009 Anime page is up.

Count and Fairy Online and Free

As of October 31, anime Count and Fairy can be watched for free by fans on either PC or cell phone, according to the official website. The decision was apparently made as the program can only be viewed in three of Japan’s eight broadcast regions.

As of today, the program will be made available at Yahoo! Douga for the PC, and Qlick!TV for cell phone users. Though only one episode will be available initially, both sites are to be updated weekly, and in time all 12 episodes will be available for free online viewing.

Though it seems unlikely that all other titles will follow suit, in the past year Gonzo, Media Blasters, ADV, and recently Toei have all made titles available for free online viewing via Crunchyroll. Indeed, things seem to be going in a positive direction, and it may just be a matter of time until most anime – if not all TV shows – can be viewed as streaming videos online.

Yet Another ‘Revolution’ for Slayers

Though Slayers Revolution, the most recent addition to the Slayers universe, is currently airing in Japan, plans for the creation of a new Slayers series was announced on the anime’s official website yesterday.

Slayers started as a series of fantasy themed light novels written by Hajime Kanzaka and illustrated by Rui Araizumi, receiving anime incarnations in 1995, 1996, and 1997 as Slayers, Slayers Next, and Slayers Try, respectively. Including Slayers Revolution, the first new series in over a decade and currently airing on Japanese TV, this most recent announcement would make for the fifth TV anime installment. Details regarding the new series still haven’t been released, but will in time be announced through the official website.

Fist of the North Star Celestial Wedding – Are you seeing stars?

What a better way to celebrate the 25th anniversary and new release of what promises to be an eternal series than a “spiritual wedding” of two main characters? This is probably what monthly publication Comics Punch thought when they approached wedding planning corporation Wedding GyaO, or even more disturbingly the other way around, with the idea to hold an event spiritually connecting Ken Shiro and Julia from the Fist of the North Star series.

Though it doesn’t have much in the way of English releases, much like Doraemon, Pokemon, Galaxy Express 999, Cutey Honey, and even more recently Evangelion, Fist of the North Star one of the staple anime whose marketing has so saturated these small islands that you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who isn’t at least casually familiar with the series. Which makes it even more interesting when you consider that only 777 guests will be allowed to attend the ceremony, to be held at Nippon Seinenkan on September 13.

There are three ways to get your hands on one of the invitations. First, you can enter a lottery via purchase of the upcoming Comic Punch. Second, you can enter a lottery via Wedding GyaO. This includes planning your wedding through the company. Third… well, let’s not worry about it. Suffice to say that unless you’re direct kin or a close friend of the happy couple and Ken Shiro hasn’t beaten the crap out of you, resulting in a visceral explosion of all internal organs, chances are you probably won’t be able to make it.

However, all angst aside, why not send Ken and Julia an electronic congratulatory message using this reception site. According to the input form, there is a chance that your words will appear somewhere at the wedding, on the DVD, or on other nebulous related materials. And, hey, if you think about it – that’s about as much as they’ll actually be there, too.

Fall Anime 2008

The skeleton for the Fall Anime 2008 info page is up.  To say there are a lot of new titles would be an understatement.  Currently, 30 have been announced – with two months left to go.  Wow.

Personally, I’m looking forward to the new Nodame Series…  and will probably check out Count and Fairy at least once for that cat – my word!  Would you look at that cat!?  Jigoku Shoujo and Vampire Knight look pretty cool.  And, not to be out done – yet another Hokutou no Ken.

I’ll be filling in the gaps over the next 2 months.  Check the link to the left for periodic updates.

Journey to the Stars – 999 Collection at Suginami

Though some say Akira or even Ghost in the Shell were the first anime to cross over or hit it big in America, truth be told it was actually Battle Cruiser Yamato, back in 1978. Legend has it that it premiered at a sci-fi con in San Fransisco around 4am, originally scheduled to play at 2m, but bumped due to a reshowing of Star Wars at the behest of rabid fan boys. OK… the rabid fan boys part might not be science fact. But nonetheless, despite the insane hour of the time slot and two showings of monumental space epic Start Wars, Battle Cruiser Yamato still had the theater packed – people standing in the aisles, crowding in the back, and waiting in line hovering around doorways in case someone left the theater.

This is of course only legend.

It would seem that most English speaking anime fans of today (at least in America, which is all I can speak for) aren’t too familiar with Leiji Matsumoto, creator of Yamato, Queen Emeraldas, Captian Harlock, Interstalla 5555, and Galaxy Express 999. But in addition to this first “one small step” for the anime industry in America, it’s impossible not to notice the impact of Leiji Matsumoto and his characters in modern day Japan. A special futuristic boat designed by Matsumoto, complete with 999 character tour guides, rides along the Sumida River from Asakusa to Odaiba. An auto repair shop in my old neighborhood was called “Yamato” and their sign board featured both the battle cruiser and characters from the series. In early 2006, clips of 999 were used in commercials for the beverage Dakara. And a 999 themed pachinko / slot machine series was released a few months ago. The 999 series which originally aired in 1977 has been remade at least 5 times, and now even has a limited edition DVD box set release.

Though it’s redundant to say at this point, people love this bildugsroman of a young boy traveling across the galaxy in an antique-styled locomotive in search of hope and humanity, vested in an elusive mechanical body, together with his beautiful and mysterious traveling companion. A celebration of the 30th anniversary of this series is currently being held at the Suginami Anime Museum. It opened May 27th, and will continue until August 24.

The Suginami Museum is a free museum. It resides on the 3rd and 4th floor of a huge building on a back alley street across from a shrine, and doesn’t really seem like the right place at first. Despite this confusing facade, the museum itself is actually very cool – and even better when considering the price. Comparing it to the Ghibli Museum, which is huge and fantastical but designed in theory to be an incredibly interactive experience, Suginami really takes the cake. There are quite a few activities for visitors to engage in that replicate the animation process and that cater to all age groups. These include an “after recording” session – in which you can dub over a Black Jack animated sequence as if you were a voice actor and then hear it played back – and a sketch room, this time filled with tracing cards of 999 characters and scenes for those not so artistically inclined. Desks of various famous illustrators are remade for your amusement, complete with figure collections and various degrees of mess. However, the best part is easily the user friendly manga and anime library annex, which includes a nice cross section, and on this particular day was filled with kids on their way “home” from school.

The special exhibit portions of the museum were the only places you couldn’t photograph, and included many original cells from memorable scenes. Just in case you couldn’t remember, they were all labeled with their respective episode number and title. Character design sheets were also presented, along with the various notes for quintessential character composite points. It was interesting to note that Maetel’s sheet had a very big section dedicated to an eye, along with explanations of all the locations and sizes of white dots to give Maetel her signature twinkle. Other characters also had eye legends, though not nearly as intricate.

The on-site theater mixed episodes of the original 999 series in with other animated works, and on that particular day Batsu and Maru watched the two-part Illusion of the Big Four and a Half Mat Room Planet, episodes 60 and 61. However, on the 9th and 10th of August a special 3D CG animated Galaxy Express 999 movie will be playing, and a few other special theater events, along with guest speakers and workshops, have been going on throughout the exhibit.

A commemorative photo opportunity with Maetel and Tetusuro inside the 999 was also very cool. However, Tetsuro was at least three times the size of Maetel – technically, this should have been reversed… or the same amount of mass with different proportions. The Queen Emeraldas floating across the star scape through the window sort of compensated. A special stamp rally was also in effect, and collecting all of the character stamps placed at various locations around the museum resulted in a sticker prize.

Overall, though rather small, the exhibit was very well done, especially if you consider that the visit doesn’t cost a thing. The museum, too, had a rare charm; it wasn’t too showy but still contained a wealth of information. I think I’ll be stepping into the anime annex on my “way home from school” pretty soon, too.

It’s a Rumic World – Rumiko Takahashi Exhibit

In a random and informal poll of junior high and high school aged kids I used to teach, only about 10% knew Rumiko Takahashi by name. But on the other hand, nearly all of them could recognize her work. Though most of her life has been devoted to only four series, it’s the length of those series that really stands out; all have animated adaptions, and all of them garner huge international appeal.

The ongoing exhibit at Matsuya Ginza is a celebration of the manga artist who just finished the Inuyasha series, which had been running in the Shonen Sunday weekly publication for nearly twelve years. This, in addition to Shonen Jump‘s 50 year anniversary, prompted this tribute to the artist, which in addition to her own legacy of work included 50 other mangaka’s rendering of Lum, easily her most famous and influential character.

The exhibit space itself was very nice, well decorated and well arranged with just a few notes at the beginning of each section. It was divided into five major areas, not including the intro room, final artist’s tribute room, or theater. Illuminated doorways, more like four illuminated walls covered with huge comic strips, served as the portals between the areas, transporting the visitor between comic worlds. The gallery itself was predominantly watercolor paintings by Takahashi for comic covers, posters, and calendars, with a few done in colored pencil, oil pastel, and mixed media. In addition to the art, some of Takahashi’s personal collection was also displayed – like a Tendo Dojo signboard, for example – that really tied into each series, and at least for this visitor made the comics and characters really come to life. Most areas were capped off with a few pages worth of pre-published panels, showing just raw ink and paper with pasted dialog to get a feel for manga production.

The cute and funny video intro to the exhibit featured Ataru, Lum, Ranma, Inuyasha, and Kagome inviting you to celebrate 50 years of Shonen Jump in a roughly three minute short. The wall was flanked with two brief messages, one from Takahashi giving a heartwarming thanks to you and everyone involved, and one from the curators describing the exhibit. Displayed in a case to the side were some of her treasured items: a very very worn protractor, a couple aged aprons, and funny “beware of fire danger” emblazoned and rather worn red, black, and white cushion, likely used while she worked. This pretty much set the precedent for the subsequent areas, more or less divided chronologically and by series, and each of which had an artist’s message, original art piece done for the exhibit, and story summary prior to the jump.

The first area, Urusei Yatsura, contained perhaps the most work, but the paintings had by and large not been well preserved. This isn’t surprising, considering their age and composite material, but still left sort of a bad first impression. It made one wonder if Takahashi wasn’t a poor housekeeper, or if the whole exhibit was going to be works warped with time. Nonetheless, even these early pieces show Tahashi’s seemingly simple character design splashed in a wealth of immaculately detailed scenery and signature comedic edge.

Next up was Maison Ikkoku, a series I’m not too familiar with, but it was still impressive. After a winding room of art, the gallery is suddenly a doorstop and house facade – complete with lawn and dog house. Walking through the door, the next area contained a remake of a room interior; probably Kyoko’s, the manager of the boarding house which serves as the setting for the series. Adjacent to this was a 1/50th scale replica of the boarding house, complete with furnishings and moving windows, though only Kyoko’s room was illuminated, providing a nice juxtaposition.

The Ranma 1/2 area was particularly nostalgic for me, as I could recognize quite a few of the paintings from comic covers, published in bi-weekly installments by Viz in America. It was the first manga I ever bought, and without really knowing what I was getting into – the cover art looked so cool to my slightly-ignorant-barely-teenage mind. In reflection, it was without doubt no mistake. The Ranma 1/2 area had on display the aforementioned Tendo “Anything Goes” Dojo signboard along with a big kettle.

The fourth section, Inuyasha, her final and most recent series to date, had a huge reproduction of Kirara in demon form flying at the ceiling near a large torii gate that stood over one of Takahashi’s katana. The gate itself was speckled with one sticker reading “Kagome” on either side and an “Inuyasha” on top, perhaps symbolizing how Inuyasha is the arc linking Kagome to the two worlds she inhabits.

The last section was dedicated to Takahashi’s shorter miscellaneous works, such as the Mermaid Forest series, and Half Pound Gospel among others. Again, as much detail was paid to chronology as personal flair, and various well-worked boxing implements were on display.

The theater area featured a lot of seating, but compared to the other areas of the exhibit which were relatively uncrowded and easy to navigate despite the crowd, it was simply packed. After one episode of Ranma 1/2 – which had immaculate video and sound quality – I was nearly trampled by the stampede of people both leaving and rushing to get a seat. It was still well worth it though, and I even experienced a little jolt of joy when the “Mommy, can we see it again?!” kids received smiling approval.

In finale to her lifelong legacy – though who knows, she hasn’t retired yet – 50 different manga artists whom she lovingly refers to as sempai, or upperclassman, regardless of age, drew their rendition of character Lum for an area entitled simply, “My LUM.” This was the second most crowded area, even during movie screenings, and there’s no question why. It’s hard to describe what original twists were added, but needless to say it was very easy to identify who did what. Seeing various alternate versions side by side was quite intriguing, as some choose to draw out more of her sexy side, while others focused on other aspects of her character, and each one came with a commentary by the artist about their exposure to Urusei Yatsura and/or creating the drawing. Some of the contributors included: Mine Yoshizaki (Sgt. Frog), Taiyo Matsumoto (Tekkonkinkreet), Gosho Aoyama (Case Closed), Kagami Yoshimitsu (Lucky Star), and Kiyoko Azuma (Yotsuba&!) among many others.

Like any good Japanese exhibit, the souvenir area past this was huge, but also included a vast selection of all Takahashi’s manga. Various stores in Matsya Ginza, which is a huge designer shopping mall, also offered limited edition theme goods. Though all of them seemed to be chocolate, it still had a real artistic and inspired quality about it that made dropping 5,000 yen seem reasonable. I visited one of said retailers to see how popular these chocolates were, and witnessed a whole group of giddy ladies marveling but not thinking twice as they reached for their wallets, giggling amongst themselves.

Overall, the exhibit was fantastic, and I’ll definitely visit again before it ends on the 11th. There was a lot of care that went into presentation which makes the experience incredibly interactive if you’re familiar with her work. Apparently, this is the first exhibit of it’s kind, but here’s one hoping that it won’t be the last.

The Future (of) is Gundam

On the 28th, the Hiroshima Economic Friendship Association’s Biannual Animation Fund announced the formation of academic research group “International Gundam Scientific Association,” based on the popular Gundam anime enterprise. The foundation of the group is in conjunction with the organization’s Robot Anime Expo, being held in Hiroshima from August 7-26. The fruits of the group’s research will be presented the end of this August, and will include their projections regarding the design of future cities.

Composed of university professors recognized as experts in their respective fields, including specialists in architecture and sociology, renowned Japanese architectural historian and Osaka University professor Shinya Hashidume has been appointed chairman of the panel. Among the group’s purposes are the economic and sociological analyses of the “Universal Century” – the age when increasing human population will force immigration into space, and taking its name from the original time line of the Gundam metaseries. During the exhibition of their finished project, a symposium will also be organized to debate both the thematics and feasibility of their future vision.

The Gundam series, which started broadcasting in Japan in 1979, has inspired countless endeavors of both experimental arts and technologies. This most recent delve into the reality of a Gundam universe only further explicates the link between science fact and science fiction in popular imagination, and most certainly trumps the United States’ “Star Wars” Strategic Defense Initiative hype of the 1980s.

Summer Anime 2008

The Summer Anime 2008 page is in its first draft stage.  Of course, networks are still announcing time slots, and many details are still unsettled.  There’s a slim chance that some new titles will even be added. The page will be constantly updated until the first week of July.

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