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Column by Scott Green
Manga Preview:Drifting Classroom volume 1 by Kazuo Umezu
to be released by Viz
Viewing Drifting Classroom fans of the comic medium are like to fall prey to a giddy high thinking of the possibility of a generation of young Americans being traumatized by the godfather of horror manga as Japanese readers have since the early 70's. Yeah, and it would be nice if Tezuka's Adolf made it onto school reading lists, but not likely. This is doubtful, especially since, as a tribute to its potency, the series has been labeled with a mature rating. It's the brand of work made to be given to a nephew/niece/godchild with amusing results. The unfortunate likelihood would seem to be that the book's exposure will be restricted to older fans of the medium looking to be exposed to a canonical classic manga.
The story is set up as Stephen King's The Mist inflicted on a large elementary school. Argento supposedly wanted to do Susperia with children. Drifting Classroom does it, and child endangerment is only the beginning of the mind jackhammer at work. There's boom, a rumbling, and the next moment the school looks about over a contorted landscape rather than a suburban street. It takes about no time for the cast to be maddened by fear and the panic shortly causes its own horrific consequences. Desperate efforts to control the kids get equally ugly. By the volume's end, it is more than implied the gravest threat to the children and their teachers may not be each other, and we've yet to see the worst that this new environment has to offer.
Umezu treats the children as people, people who aren't very emotionally or intellectually matured, but people. They aren't precocious wunderkinds or mannequins. Depending the circumstance or the view, they're a mod, or they're frightened individuals. The point of view character Sho seems typical, though maybe more assertive than most. In sixth grade, he's one of the school's oldest students, which puts him at the frustrated age where expectations are starting to take shape. He's still drawn to childish objects and pursuits, but he's also started to internalize an adult perspective of deferring what one wants to please others.
The volume opens with what you'd expect from this type of story. Sho fights with his mother. The twist is that Sho's impulses to act like an adult are met with resistance, especially from arbitrary chance. He's stuck between a child's world that offers comfort and slight residual thrills, and acting like an adult is unpredictable, and even when approached from the right mindset, set always produced the desired result. Even on its own, this introduction is an artful, ambiguous short story worthy of standing alone about growing up, and a particular age most don't remember fondly. Again, it's a shame that the comic warns off younger years. In the context of a thriller, this opening also serves the purpose of casting doubt on the proceeding, and removing any sort of certainty of a mildly pleasant resolution.
Most manga readers probably quickly stop thinking about manga as a, generally, black and white medium. Umezu constructs a world of patterns and tone out of the darkness and light. In the moments of violence, there's an Andalusian Dog quality to the manga. Umezu utilizes the binary nature to amplify effects. There's a strict contrast between dark and light; solids and shapes. Something insubstantial like a shadow will be a pattern while something present, like look with be a dark solid. We know the landscape outside is something terrifying because it features the most extreme of both. Tortured dark outline shapes are seen, but so are maddening masking patterns.
Similarly, Umezu constructs a sort of impressionistic emotionally atmosphere. Speed lines are the beginning of a repertoire that includes hypnotic bull’s-eye nested circles and crackling super nova of dots. It's as if the air boils with the characters' panic.
Anyone serious about manga as a medium should be exposed to Drifting Classroom. Umezu's work offers the strong mix of pop and art that marks the best of what is produced from of Japanese anthology system.
From FUNimation Films
Trinity Blood is one of a number of shows from Studio Gonzo that FUNimation will bringing over. Gonzo has been playing with genres a bit, and especially with trailers like the much criticized one for Desert Punk, it is more difficult to predict what you'll get than is generally the case for most anime. Based on the movie, the essential qualities of Trinity Blood target a female audience with appreciation of the utlra-modern goth aesthetic. Despite some scenes that look to intentionally evoking Equilibrium and its gun-kata, an action enthusiast is going to be more disappointed than someone who'd be happy to see an elegant, but sometime goofy silver haired man.
Gonzo sells, and some times oversells its anime in their early episodes. Minimally editing the first four episodes of Trinity Blood into a 90+ minute movie, FUNimation would appear to use this same mind set to promote the longer series. A stew of elements went into the construction of the series, set in a world torn apart by war and reconfigured into a cold war between Catholic church dominated western European and vampire aristocracy dominated eastern Europe. The episodes offer a wide-angle view of a spectrum of factions and debates within factions, but so far, it seems a simple split of an argument for co-existence and a force looking to profit by igniting war, with more minor personal conflicts in the middle.
Society has been effected by further use of space, as well as by wider reliance of air travel with huge airships and fleets of floating dirigibles like vessels. New uses have been found for satellites, including a brief but significant role played the old favorite, the orbital laser. Yet, these episodes spell a more simple appeal than the integration of sci-fi, horror and Western-Civ. It really doesn't seem to be trying to pull in action fans or fans of sci-fi. Instead, it appears to be to going after fans of a brand of likable male lead in the tradition of Kenshin and Trigun.
Trinity Blood is anime like anime, less in genre than in points of appeal. It's hero Abel Nightroad is one of those characters that hides the burden of his past and abilities behind a venire of hapless goofiness. Traveling as a priest for the Vatican's special agent AX division in long black and white overcoat uniform of the office, his appearance is marked by flowing silver hair, elegant blue eyes, thin rimmed glasses. It's a look that follows Weiz Kruez/Knight Hunters or CLAMP's X school of attiring a feminine male in lines and contrasts
Generally, establishing a character as the next bad-ass doesn't include a scene of him in pajamas with a floppy sleeping hat or making gooey eyes trying to coax an attendant to make it a milk tea with 13 spoon fulls of sugar. Despite several scenes of him going into killer mode with his hair standing up and a spine-stalked scythe in hand, he's more convincing of the sensitive guardian than the efficient killer. The movie affords him plenty of opportunities to be kind to children and listening to people go on about their problems and aspirations.
Though there's a violent component to the missions on which he is assigned, Abel is more than a physical protector. At this juncture, he seems mentally and spiritually stable enough to listen and advise people. He can make the unpopular choices to help them to tell them what they need to be told. From an interpersonal standpoint, these traits may potentially make him more interesting than some of the anime characters who fill the same niche.
As a field agent or problem solver, the movie breaks the formula of the unassuming, but effecting hero, both in not really showing him to be underestimated, and in not demonstrating that he's more than competent. In most cases, it's understood that he's representing the Vatican, so no-one underestimates him, at most they think he's a bit strange. There's a twist about who Abel is, but it doesn't translate to him being terribly impressive. No evidence is presented as tp why he's an especially effective field agent. He actions lack sense of wow, or an indication that he's doing something others can't.
The series doesn't demonstrate an intention to present action as a showpiece. It's there to fill its role for the plot and characters. The gun-fu is there, and the action attempts a few interesting things with lighting and complex motion around actions like disarming. Yet, the heart and intensity to lend weight behind the ideas at work in the action doesn't seem to be there. Nor does it offer a handle to grasp the action. We see the vampires act with super speed and such, but there's narrative in the fights to lay out what they are capable of, or what those opposing them are capable of. People have a concept of what a sword or gun can do, so when some one does something secular with it, the viewer can recognize it. Here, there are super-people vampires, and we don't really know what they do, and people who fight these vampires, and we don't really know how they do it. The viewer doesn’t know who can do what and what will effect who. The lack of knowledge could work it the series build the fight narrative around discovering the capabilities of both sides, as in something like Night Watch, but here, there's a repetition of elements without a foundation to why they should make sense.
Aside from Abel and the some antagonists, all of the sympathetic and interesting characters are women. These range from minor episode based characters to reoccurring ones. Based on the series' promo information, it would seem that it's sort of side kick in the manner of Karou in Kenshin or Meryl and Milly of Trigun is introduced in the latter half of the movie. In these episodes what's more interesting is the re-written world it depicts seems to have gender equality, highlighted by Cardinal Caterina Sforza, who is the more reasonable advisor to the series' child-pope.
A female audience friendly horror sci-fi epic is a fine thing, and those looking for those elements will be pleased by Trinity Blood. But, in the recent Gonzo tradition, this is hard to spot in the trailer and in at a glance.
More Ghibli Trailers
Ghibli World has posted trailers for Kazuo Oga's Taneyamagahara no Yoru ("Night of Taneyamagahara") here and Isao Takahata's Gauche the Cellist here. Both are adapted from the works of poet Kenji Miyazawa.
Gedo Senki Site Opens
Ghibli has opened their web site for Gendo Senki/Legend of Earthsea here.
New Historic Anime
Anime News Network reports Nippon Animation is producing an animated feature about Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat serving in Lithuania during World War II. The film is scheduled for release in 2008 to mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Israel
Hellsing OVA 2 Trailer Available
Death Note Trailer
Twitch points out that the full trailer for the live action adaptation of popular manga Death Note is online in Windows media and swf. As previously noted, Red Hot Chili Pepper's Dani California is featured as the theme song.
Super Robot Taisen: Original Generations for the Playstation 2, exclusively featuring original characters from the franchise itself, can be see here.
ICV2 reports Score Entertainment has announced that it will release a new expansion for its Dragon Ball Z Trading Card Game, Revelation Edition, on July 13th. This 260-card set will include 96 commons, 84 uncommons, 62 rares, and 11 promo cards for events, product promotions, and tournament kits.
From Gunota, Gundam Xbox 360 game will be coming to the US under the title "Mobile Ops: The One Year War". The game is reportedly intended to turn the tide for the Gundam brand name stateside. Release date will be sometime during the holiday season.
The Gundam: Senjou No Kizuna official site
New Alita Side Stories
Anime News Network reports the Ultrajump MegaMix Vol. 1 anthology has announced that Gunnm (Battle Angel) Alita will take a three month hiatus from Last Order, in order for creator Yukito Kishiro to develop a new Gumn Gaiden side stories series. The original Gumn ending prematurely in 1995 due to Kishiro's health problem before recommencing in 2000 with Last Order, an extended, alternate ending.
The Mechanics of Manga
Nekome Kozo Site Working
Twitch reports the site for Nekome Kozo , based on the manga by Kazuo Umezu (Orochi: Blood, Scary Book) at www.nekomekozo.jp/ is now working. Art Port K.K. (K.K. Ã‚to PÃ´to) plans to release Nekome kozÃ´ theatrically in Japan in June.
New Viz Manga Licenses
Anime on DVD reports that Viz will be commencing the release of the following manga titles by the end of year.
# Be With You (Novel) - Author: Takuji Ichikawa
# Cain Saga - Author: Kaori Yuki
# Hayate the Combat Butler - Author: Kenjiro Hata
# La Corda d’Oro - Author: Yuki Kure
# O-Parts Hunter - Author: Seishi Kishimoto
# Punch! - Author: Rie Takada
# Reborn! - Author: Akira Amano
# Read Or Dream - Author: Shutaro Yamada
# Tail of the Moon - Author: Rinko Ueda
Bandai Collection News
Anime on DVD reports Bandai will be releasing Anime Legends collected compilations of .hack//SIGN, Angel Tales and Argentosoma on August 22nd for $49.98. The collections of Betterman and Geneshaft have been postponed indefinitely.
Tachiguishi Retsuden Review
Alt Japan has posted a review of Mamuro Oshii's Tachiguishi Retsuden here. It sounds like one's enjoyment of the movie is directly proportional to how much Oshii they can stand.
Palladium Problems Update
Palladium Books, former publisher of the Robotech RPG recently announced to fans that they are facing financial problems due to left, the failure of the Nokia NGage, which was to feature a video game adaptation of their game Rifts, and the stagnation of a Rifts movie. The Kingsport, Tennessee Time-News ran an article about Steve Sheiring's, the former sales manager at Palladium Books sentenced to one year non-reporting probation on April 20 in the 3rd Circuit Court in Detroit. According to prosecutors, Sheiring paid $47,080 in restitution to Palladium Books. Sheiring was charged with stealing thousands of dollars worth of artwork, transparencies and books from the company was sentenced to probation last week.
Organic Hobby's next round of "Revoltech" figures will feature Nigouki (EVA 02) from "Neon Genesis Evangelion" and King Gainer from the anime "Overman King Gainer". King Gainer and EVA 02 will retail for $22.00 and hit specialty stores this July. Figres.com has images here
The Revoltech Neon Genesis Evangelion EVA-01, schedule to ship in May can be seen here
Galaxy Anime has interviewed Harmony Gold Creative Lead Tommy Yune and Operations Coordinator Kevin McKeever about the upcoming, and still in need of a distributor Robotech: Shadow Chronicles here
Indie Live Action Devil May Cry
Cebulski Talks X-Men Tales
CB Cebulksi has spoken to Newsarama about upcoming marvel project that uses characters from X-Men and a host of comics talent from around to the world to retell fables here
Tokko Anime Licensed?
According to Anime News Network Manga Entertainment has co-produced the new supernatural police anime anime Tokko and will distribute it in North America.
News Astralian Anime Licenses
Anime News Network reports Australian anime distributor Madman has picked up Gundam SEED Destiny and Eureka 7 for release starting in August. Naruto will also be released in Australia this August, and will be available uncut, with Japanese and English audio tracks.
Underdog Gets Voice
In non-anime relation news the Frederik Du Chau (Racing Stripes) live action/CG adaptation of Under Dog will feature Jason Lee voicing the titular role and Peter Dinklage as the villain Simon Barsinister.
Scanner Darkly Animator Interview
Winona Ryder News Channel has posted an interview with Blue Bliss, animator of the upcoming Through a Scanner Darkly adaptation here
Original Ultraman on DVD
Fangora reports the first of two sets of the original 1966 Ultraman will be released by BCI on July 18th for $39.98. Fangora indicates
Newly remastered with stereo sound, the ULTRAMAN episodes will be presented in the original Japanese with newly created subtitles, plus the English-dubbed tracks created for the series’ original U.S. airings in the 1970s. Interviews with the dub team of Peter Fernandez, Corinne Orr and the late Earl Hammond will be included, and each disc will be packaged in an individual slipcase bearing photos of monsters in the series. The box will also contain a kaiju encyclopedia, a 12-page booklet on the show and a pair of collectible baseball-style cards with pics of Ultraman and his foes. The second volume, containing the remaining 19 episodes, is slated for release in October.