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ANIME AICN - What to Watch, What to Anticipate, and What to Listen

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Column by Scott Green

Anime Spotlight: This Ugly, Yet Beautiful World
Volume 1: Falling Star

To be released by ADV July 4th

You don't have to be an artistic purist to morn the evolution of Gainax. Among what they lost seems to the faith in the intelligence of the viewer. These guys made the beautifully animated, beautifully expansive and even more beautifully ambiguous Wings of Honneamise and now they seem to ignore what a viewer might read into their work.

Granted there was the "Gainax bounce" long before the bad joke that is He Is My Master was made into a 13 episode anime, but This Ugly, Yet Beautiful World seems oblivious to what it is depicting. Gainax would seem the last studio to be faulted for work that lacked self awareness, but This Ugly, Yet Beautiful World's unreserved reliance on easy crutches kills the foundation both from its seriousness and from its lunacy.

This Ugly, Yet Beautiful World opens with a narration introducing Earth's mass extintions events, drawing attention to their mysterious catalysts before the hero begins introducing his outlook. He drones his existential malaise. As he sees it, the world moves along without his contribution so he can't muster the energy to do much other than cause minor trouble and complain that others don't meet his expectations. Then something awakens his nobler impulses. Riding his motorcycle to make a delivery for his uncle/caretaker's courier service, he witnesses something fall from the sky in a streak of light and finds that is a naked young woman. True to the series' moe instinct, he sees her broad face, wide, innocent eyes and swears to protect her, where upon a huge arthropod beast, both cambrian and Freudian attacks. Being swept up in the destruction, the hero transforms into something very Devilman like and engages the beast.

Moe meets Devilman could be viscerally entertaining, and that's an idea anime has been skirting around for a while (eg., Soul Taker, but the series looks more intently to mixing familiar relationship anime/manga tableaus with emotional heaviness thoughtfulness and zaniness. It shoots for something higher and undercuts it.

It may be too early for a verdict on whether This Ugly, Yet Beautiful World can develop on ideas that it has introduced, but is already in trouble, especially in a work that is as often as not serious minded that it will blatantly ignore implications.

There's Jennifer Portman, an American character in the series. She's the morally unbounded scientist, and the sexually charged adult with interest in the younger characters, not to mention hugely endowed and a hard drinker. She appears in the series' opening credits sitting seductively with an open shirt. She shows up at the hero's residence, where he lives with his aunt, uncle, nagging over concerned wet blanket cousin (explicit love triangle), and usually a heard of classmates/friends.

By this point, the girl from the sky has made her presence known and it is accepted that she's from space and is completely alien to Earth. Her terrestrial contacts leave her alone while they attend school/go about their daily routine. Ms Portman shows up, looking like a prostitute (she's to board at the hero's residence), and upon being introduced to the light girl, she makes the acquaintance very intimate, taking the girl into a shower. And, this isn't exactly pornographic, but both are show to be naked and who knows how space light girls age, but the touching seems more than a bit inappropriate. Both serious and set up to be titillating, this is staged to be a little off putting, but meant more sexy than disturbing. Isn't this molestation? Didn't the girl's self appointed protector leave the girl alone, and didn't she just get stripped by what by just about every definition is a sexual predator?

Ultimately, there's a reluctance to step back, or accept that the viewer will step back. There appears to be an operating assumption that viewer with find depth in the mass extinction based concept and along the way be gladly led through the course of the series. When it comes time for the series to present what it deems a noteworthy clue, the series paint it with neon light. For example the light girl looks like a sketch drawn of the protagonists ideal female characters. That the girl looks like the sketch is hammered visually and verbally throughout, as it the viewer cannot be trusted to pick out the clue without incessant reminders.

If there is a connected message concerning the introduced idea of mass extinction, the series is not just taking its time to develop it, it is actively working to distract the viewer with kissing cousin and sexually predacious curvy blondes. Evangelion certainly played with genre entertainment, but Eva was smart enough to know what fed development and intrigue of its larger goals.

Gainax retains there laudable abilities as animators and storytellers. The production team behind Mahoromatic integrates comedic and contemplative tones well, comparably or maybe even better than the tone shifts of Elfen Lied. Jokes have been made about the pauses in Gainax works like Evangelion, but one thing that can be said of the studio is that they can use space well. Eva's pauses aren't so much literally present in this series as their story telling equivalents are. The series utilizes the empty roads and quiet moments of a semi-rural locale. As the sun sets and the insects chime, the series constructs some genuine melancholy moments. These don't bridge the scripts problem, but they do make for compelling islands in the larger context.

Then there's the moe. The style has been taking a bit of a pounding from many quarters, including this column. And this column will continue to view it as troublesome, but there's a contradictory devil on the shoulder asking if ripping moe is a function of being an anime geezer. Are those of us ripping moe just jarred by flipping of ideals and confused by new contradiction? Back in the day it was barbie dolls with huge chests and we thought they were problematic, but we laughed at them. We weren't disgusted the way we are about moe.

Superficially the mute color, broad faces, and wide eyes of the moe aesthetic is fully evident in this series. The moe attitude is captured in the serious opening animation, with the burdened male looking down on a drowsy innocent girl. Over the course of the first episode, he literally defines the girl. She is formed from sketches of his ideal, and he names her.

The sexual politics are certainly problematic, but beyond that, it's dull. This pandering, non-dynamic way of managing characters can be less interesting or more off-putting than even simple ciphers.

Live Action Spotlight Vermilion Pleasure Night
Volume 1: Optic Erotica

Released by ADV

Vermilion Pleasure Night has the distinction of being the anthology in which nuclear family mannequin comedy The Fuccons originally aired. The series opens with a black and white scene in which an ominious music as the camera zooms in on an attractive young woman. The camera pans, and a bald transvestite rasps "Vermillion Pleasure Night!" After which the camera settles on scene long enough to bend the joke from perplexing, into aggravating, into funny.

The anthology mixes segments of Boy George-esque glam spun humor with segments of almost school video project juvenile absurdity, with assaults on traditional sketches that bend the premise, then break the joke. Nearly every sketch is infectiously memorable in an exercise that amount holding a funhouse mirror to comedy and entertainment in general.

Segment concepts are repeatedly remixed as running gags in sketches like "One Point English

Lessons" in which a kimono clad woman demonstrates the use of English phrases such as "I give good head" or a literally dolled up group of woman stiffly act out a routine that looks like how a bored child would amuse themselves.

The problem with this irony laden aesthetic is that we've seen it before, and in the context that we've seen it, we're conditioned to respond with caution. Vermilion Pleasure Night resembles nothing so much as it does commercial advertisements. During the sketches, there is an instinct of anticipation, waiting for the curtain to pull up and the product pitch to be spelled out. Is this one for a car? Jeans? Perfume? Pharmaceuticals?
Even without this, VPN would have been a perplexing experience, trying to puzzle out whether there is supposed to be social relevance to a live teenage girl violently taking out her aggression of a world populated by mannequins who lecture and torment her, the stunningly bizarre s&m take on a Henson-style gag involving boxed women getting stabbed in the posterior by syringe wielding nurses.
But, the marketing weariness that the work invokes adds an extra layer of doubt that at times tempers the occasionally hilarious show.

Anime Spotlight: Gun X Sword
Volume 1

Released by Geneon

Gun X Sword doesn't deserve to be knocked for its similarities to Trigun or other entries in that round of sci-fi westerns (Cowboy Bebop, Outlaw Star). The problem with the series isn’t familiarity. The problem seems more along the line of Hideyuki Kurata writing a script that Read or Die/Kamichu anime collaborator Koji Masunari could have delt with, but which director Goro Taniguchi has trouble with.

On paper, it seems like Gun X Sword should have been brilliant. A Leone style spirit chasing a "man with a claw" against a bat-guano crazy anime world. A hero who is a savage in a tuxedo and wide brimmed hat, equipped with no money and, seemingly, no familiarity with social customs, but armed with a flexible sword with gun grip and able to call a robot that drops from orbital storage seems like a down the middle fast ball that an anime series should be able to hit out of the park. Set the work on an outlaw planet, throw in cute girl, pig tail braid, short skirt, large chest and large revolver, wearing a strange living turtle pendant, and an razor-yoyo wielding information broker, and how can the series be dull?

Masunari was able to take the patently ridiculously idea of deflecting bullets and cutting steel with paper and put the gravity behind it to make the effect thrilling. When Gun X Sword's Van furls out his sword or calls down his robot, the results are often more rote than special. Taniguchi asks you to think through why it should be exciting and the cause seems to be that Taniguchi doesn't have the imagination to work in unfamiliar territory.

Read or Die had a mousy heroine that Masunari was able to deal with through her quirky expressiveness, where as Taniguchi has his cold burning hero looking like an instrument of stretching plots to last through 25 minute episodes rather than a force waiting to be triggered. Given that the rare comparable example of this sort of character, Spike Spiegel, was done so well, watching an uninspired version is a disappointment. This is especially evident comparing Spike's elaborate hanger-over remedies or bored distractions to the Gun X Sword lead's running gag in which he puts copious amounts of every available condiment on his meal, the latter case missing timing the joke or giving the character charisma .

The evidence that creativity is the problem comes in the third of the volume's four episode, which is a perfect tribute to classic mecha anime and their hot blooded heroes. The episode features the survivors of a Voltron like team who, unlike their now decease female team member, never built lives for themselves beyond their hero days. Passed on by the world, they remain hot tempered and mentally read to fight of giant invaders, but the world in their small community has no need and no place for them. This homage episode does what the other three episodes of the volume don't do, it connects with payoffs in the moments it sets up. It's funny when it should be funny, exciting when it should be exciting, emotional when it should be emotional. What makes the success look like an aberration is that what makes the episode achieve the success are mechanisms that aren't typical parts of the series: drawn out launch pilot sequences, vocal music, traditional giant robot smash-ups. Maybe Taniguchi will find his footing, but as it yet, Gun X Sword isn't capitalizing on the material it has to work with.

Anime Spotlight: Ah My Goddess
Volume 5

Released by Media Blasters' Anime Work

Though by this point, the penultimate volume of the first season, Ah! My Goddess has build out a respectably large cast and a complex mythology, it's the series' simplicity and even its predictability that works best for it. It's an anime sitcom with continuity, and at that it has a welcome overtness. It's exactly what it explicitly says it is during it's first episode, wish fulfillment. A regular guy (Keiichi), who does a bit to establish himself as a loser over the course of this volume, gets to date a literal goddess (Belldandy).

What the formula of the series does, beside exercise Kousuke Fujishima's gorgeous design work, is balance conservative, platonic love with youth energy and plenty of exotic flare.

Not that t Ah! My Goddess exhibits chest thumbing male dominance, and certainly the female characters including the minor ones, are well rounded and interesting, but the series' mentality isn't too far removed from Bewitched/I Dream of Jeanie. It exhibits an an ideal where the guy puts the girl on the pedestal and goes out into the world as a member of the interactive society, while the girl stays home to cook and clean and cherish him. In this case, this should be turned up side down considering he's a techie undergrad and she's a goddess, first-class, unlimited. Yet during this volume, not only is he the one caring from her when she's sick, it's his body on the line to protect her when demon robot giant fists come crashing down.

The other part of this conservative bend to the series is that, it is chaste! Not bent moe chaste, in this way, there is no hidden agenda and the child character is a child, but it's dealing with a college age male whose mind completely rebels at the chance of physical intimacy. There's an episode in this volume in which under magical influences, Belldandy becomes sexually forward, handled with an effective erotic tone, and Keiichi looks like he wants to crawl out of his skin. This aspect works and it doesn't work. There's a fear of attachment, that his love will be snatched away and sent back to heaven, but there's also a 12 old year's apprehension about kissing.

To some extent this might be a result of the age of the source material. The Ah! My Goddess manga is well beloved, and 17 years old. Not to say they weren't making racy manga pre-1990, but maybe if started now the series could be as perfectly sweet AND Keiichi could avoid acting like he was raised in a convent. Then again, it could be Fujishima's outlook.

Yet, for being a male oriented romance, or maybe because it is a male oriented romance, it's an awfully sweet series. The roles and characters fit perfectly, and for this audience, it is an exceptionally rare monogamous relationship. Even made for each-other romances like Maison Ikkuku tried throwing in doubt, but in Ah My Goddess, there is no false drama about whether he's going to date the one he's destined to be with, or the wild one or the super cute one. While there is a there is a wild one and a super-cute one, they are the goddess' sisters, and in some, exceptionally warped and difficult way, they respect their sister's relationship. There are also declared rivals, but to the couple these individuals are intruders or annoyances, if that because in many cases they dealt with in a good natured way.

The volume keys in our Keiichi's interactions with the sorority of goddesses. Human to human interaction is minimal in this set of episodes. Most of these are sitcom situations, playing off family dynamic fueled by god-magic, but they culminate in an advent that is more mythology advancing than most of what is seen in the Ah! My Goddess anime incarnations.

The anime has been inconsistent about how much credit to give its characters. Early on, Belldandy had a saintly patience. There was a spark of quick intelligence along with her tranquil attitude that allow her to move people around with a calm relationship Tai Chi. More recently, she's far from the typical anime hot-head, but she seems to have gone a bit native in adapting the human trait of jumping to conclusions. While the series does still offer some surprises about how on the ball its character are, it isn't above blinding them to logic in order to move the plot along.

There's an episode in which Keiichi eats a dessert left for him by Skuld. Now while Skuld's anti-Keiichi heat had cooled, if you say "hey, the girl who doesn't like you left town for a couple days, but here's a dessert she baked for you", the intelligent reaction isn't to eat the dessert, but that's what Keiichi does, and the episode premise is advanced. The results go somewhere in the direction you'd expect. Though to the series' credit, the nature of what befalls Keiichi isn't very Skuld like, but an episode later the series acknowledges this and explains how Skuld produced the effect.

Susperia Anime?

Anime Nation reports that Japanese message boards are saying that animation studio Gonzo will be producing an anime remark of Dario Argento's Susperia, directed by Solty Rei's Hiraike Yoshimasa.

New Licenses

Anime on DVD reports Geneon announced at the A-Kon convention that they have licensed Zipaing, a military/history anime about a modern Japanese battleship transported back in time to the eve of the Battle of Midway. The series is based on a manga from Kaiji Kawaguchi (Eagle, Silent Service).

FUNimation announced that they have licensed shonen bounty hunter action Black Cat, the manga of which is released domestically by Viz.

Preview, Trailers and Sites

AnimeNation points out that Bandai Channel now hosts a 2 minute long streaming Windows Media trailer for the upcoming Mobile Suit Gundam Seed C.E. 73 Star Gazer web animation anime series.

Gonzo has a teaser trailer for Red Garden at here. According to Akadot, the series from Rozen Maiden's Mamoru Matsuo follows the strange events around four young women attending college in New York.

Strike Witches, a Gonzo series directed by Speed Grapher's Sugishima Kunihisa

Innocent Venus

AniPages Daily points out that Mind Game director Masaaki Yuasa's opening can be for Chibi Maruko-chan can be seen on YouTube here

Speaking of Mind Game, Studio 4°C producer Eiko Tanaka's new blog mentions not only that, Mind Game is going to get a screening with English subs soon, but that Nobutaka Ito's (Mind Game's escape scene, Samurai Champloo episodes 21 and 25) directing debut Garakuta no Machi (Junk Town) is going to be shown along with four other shorts

From Twitch A teaser for the live action Subekan Deba is online here

Not anime relation, a trailer for Michel Ocelot's, creator of beutiful Kirikou movies, Azur et Asmar Teaser

Upcoming in Japan

From Anime Nation

Manga team CLAMP will be responsible for the characters designs in Sunrise's upcoming mecha anime "Code Gears Hangyaku no Lelouch."

Gunota points out that Sunrise 'sthe official site gives the staff as:
Director - Goro Taniguchi
Series composition - Ichiro Okouchi
Draft character design - CLAMP
Character design - Takahiro Kimura
Draft robo design - Akira Yasuda
Robo design - Eiji Nakata, Beecraft
Mecha design - Kenji Teraoka
Animation production - Sunrise

Director of the generally hard sci-fi Gasaraki, Takahashi Ryousuke has been attached to Sunrise's "Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Iroha ni Hoheto"

Sunrise is also developing an action anime series titled to be directed by Gasaraki and SPT Layzner director .

Moyoko Anno's (Happy Mania, Sugar Sugar Rune, wife of the Evangelion director) manga Hatarakiman will be appearing as in anime in Japan this fall.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex director Kenji Kamiyama has been attached to a 26 episode Production I.G adaptation of the Moribito: Guardian of the Sacred Spirit movel by Uehashi Naoko, scheduled for next spring. The official site for Moribito is online here and Production I.G has a small page here.

Majoria's News reports that Gainax will be producing 90 minute theatrical compilation movies of their sci-fi class Gunbuster: Aim For The Top and its recent follow-up. Gunbuster was released domestically on VHS, but the license has since lapsed. The long awaited sixth and final ova for Aim for the Top(Gunbuster) 2 has a Japanese release date, August 25.

Akadot reports the popular children's book Deltora Quest by Australian author Emily Rodda is being made into an anime series. The series will air sometime in 2007.

Orange Road on Moratorium

Anime on DVD reports AnimEigo has made it known that their license of lightly fantastic love triangle drama Kimagure Orange Road expires in July. They have not been able to re-license the series and will not be able to distribute it after that point. Currently, the classic series can still be ordered from their site.

Captain Tsubasa In Advertising reports the protagonist from soccer anime/manga Captain Tsubasa will be features on KIRIN NUDA bottles and advertisements.

Oshii's Latest on DVD

Twitch reports that Mamuro Oshii's Tachiguishi Retsuden, a tale of food thieves though the post World War II fast food history told with animated photographs, will be released on DVD in Japan on September 22nd. The special edition paging will include a deluxe 64-page booklet, replica script (condensed to 120 pages), bonus disc with making-of footage (90 minutes), and more!" A flash trailer can be seen here

Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles Charity Screening at Mechacon 2006

HARMONY GOLD has selected MechaCon to host a special charity screening of ROBOTECH: The Shadow Chronicles on the September 12th. According to the press release, MechaCon will be the only North American convention in 2006 to screen Shadow Chronicles. Tickets will be on sale at the MechaCon registration desk on a first-come-first-serve basis beginning on Friday, August 11th. Anyone attending this charity screening must be a registered MechaCon 2006 attendee. Non-MechaCon registrants will not be allowed to purchase tickets for the event. Admission will be $8 for adults and $4 for children 12 and under.

Convention News

Anime Expo has announced Round Robin discussion "Animation Explosion!", in which the convention has invited industry giants to speak aboutthe art, culture and commerce of animation while focusing on how Asian animation has affected consumer tastes, artistic styles and production here in the U.S. Additional topics to be covered will be industry status, industry obstacles and the future of the anime/manga industry. The event will closed audience of only invited press, but attendees will be able to view the discussion on the AXBackstage website.

Charles Solomon
An internationally respected critic and historian of animation, Charles Solomon has written on the subject for the New York Times, TV Guide, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, the Los Angeles Times, Modern Maturity, Film Comment, the Hollywood Reporter, the Manchester Guardian, and National Public Radio's Day To Day. He also contributed the animation article to "The International Encyclopedia of Communications" (Oxford University Press, 1989) and essays to the exhibit catalogues of "Japanese Animated Films: A Complete View from their Birth to 'Spirited Away' and Beyond" (Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art, 2004) "Walt Disney, l'exposition" (Grand Palais Museum, Paris, September 2006).

Eric Calderon-GDH International-Vice President of Creative Affairs

Lillian Diaz-Przybyl-TOKYOPOP-Editor

James Dodd-SPJA-Board of Director

Gen Fukunaga-FUNimation Entertainment-President & CEO

Matt Greenfield-ADV-Vice President of Creative Development/Co-Founder

Anthony Jiwa-Viz, LLC-Director of Marketing

Trulee Karahashi-SPJA-CFO

Shawne P. Kleckner-The Right Stuff International-President and CEO

Tatsunori Konno-Bandai Visual-CEO

Robyn Mukai-Urban Vision Entertainment-Marketing Manager

Hikaru Sasahara-E-Manga-President

Eric Sherman-Bang Zoom! Entertainment-President and CEO

Jim Yardley-Geneon Entertainment-Vice President of Sales

AX events, including this panel, the Masquerade, AX Idol will be podcast live

Anime Expo 2006 announcesd Hiroshi Nagahama as an additional Guest of Honor.

Mr. Nagahama is best known for his work as the director of the anime MUSHISHI. This 26 episode series received the "Outstanding work of TV animation" award at the Tokyo Animation Fair in 2006. Part of the great success of this show is due to Mr. Nagahama's philosophy of trying to remain faithful to the original work. Whereas many anime today differ greatly from the original work, his dedication to the original work has created a masterpiece.

Mr. Nagahama also worked as an animator and story board creator for several famous animes like JUBEI, SCHOOL RUMBLE and SISTER PRINCESS. And has worked with famous directors like Akitarou Daichi.

Mr. Nagahama joins, previously announced, CLAMP, Seiji Mizushima, Vic Mignogna, Laura Bailey, Mick Takeuchi , Yutaka Izubuchi, Tomoki Kyoda, Koge-Donbo and Romi Paku as Anime Expo 2006 official Guests of Honor.

Anim Expo's site has been updated with the convention's event schedule.

Though not officially announced by the convention, Gunota reports Toru Furuya's web site says that the voice actor famous for Gundam Amuro Ray, Dragon Ball's Yamcha, Sailor Moon's Tuxedo mask and more will be attending Anime Expo.

Anime News Network reports that Anime Expo's site is now taking submitted question which will be used as candidate for the Q&A session for super-star manga team CLAMP's appearence at the convention.

Anime News Network reports that Nana Kitade, known to anime fans for the first ending of Full Metal Alchemist, will perfom at the Otakon convention August 4-6 in Baltimore., as well as launching her album "18 -eighteen-" album on July 11.

Official English Language Gundam Site Updated

Gunota points out now features characters and mechanics to the Zeta Gundam section.

Next Astray Lanuch

Gunota notes TOKYOPOP will be releasing the first volume of manga Gundam SEED spin-off Volume 1 of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED X Astray on November 7th.

Hawiian Paper on ADV Manga

The Honalulu Star Bulletin looks at ADV's stall manga line here

Imagi Announces CG Gatchaman

Imagi Animation Studios, in association with Tatsunoko Production of Japan, will produce a new CG-animated feature-length motion picture for theatrical release based on the long-running anime franchise Gatchaman. The new film will be written and directed by Kevin Munroe, who is currently writing and directing Imagi's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles CG-animation that is being distributed by Warner Bros. in the U.S. and The Weinstein Company internationally.

Spider Riders on Kids WB

Coliseum, the action-adventure brand of Cookie Jar Entertainment Inc., will make its U.S. debut of the action-filled, battle series, Spider Riders, on Kids' WB!, on Saturday, June 17 at 10:30am (ET/PT). Spider Riders is a co-production between Cookie Jar Entertainment and leading Japanese advertising agency, Yomiko, together with celebrated Japanese animation studio, Bee Train, known for its popular cult series, hack//SIGN.

Coliseum's Spider Riders series comes from award winning Japanese Director, Koichi Mashimo and is based on the Cookie Jar Entertainment book Spider Riders – Shards of the Oracle, written by Emmy award winners, Tedd Anasti and Patsy Cameron-Anasti, and published by Newmarket Press. The series producer is Emmy award winning producer Steve Hodgins. This combination of animation excellence has succeeded in providing audiences of young boys, ages 6-12, with a series that is visually stunning, filled with non-stop thrill rides and epic journeys.

On June 24, Kids' WB! will present another one-hour block of SPIDER RIDERS from 10:30-11:30AM, ET/PT. On Saturday, July 1, during the holiday weekend, Kids' WB! will feature a SPIDER RIDERS two-hour, four-episode mini-marathon from 10:00AM-Noon, ET/PT. On July 8 SPIDER RIDERS will move into its regularly scheduled time period (10:30-11:00AM, ET/PT).

Funimation, Verizon FiOS Sign Distribution Agreement

FUNimation Entertainment, announced that the company has signed an agreement with Verizon for distribution of the FUNimation ChannelSM as part of the Verizon FiOS TV service.

The FUNimation Channel is a 24-hour digital network featuring programming from top anime brands in the United States. It will be added to the FiOS TV Premier package in summer 2006. Verizon FiOS TV offers a broad collection of all-digital programming including more than 20 high-definition channels. It is now available in parts of north Texas, Florida, California, Virginia, Massachusetts, Maryland and New York, - and will expand to other markets in 2006. FUNimation is working with OlympuSAT, a leading distributor of independent digital programming networks, for the distribution of the FUNimation Channel. OlympuSAT is the exclusive distributor of the FUNimation Channel, which is now available to video service providers across the nation.

Right Stuf Announces Second Astro Boy Collection

Right Stuf has announced that Astro Boy (1963) Ultra Collector's Edition Dvd Set 2, featuring yhe final 52 episodes of the original black and white series as seen in the US, restored to pristine detail will be released on August 29th for $129.99

Ultra Collector's Edition DVD Extras Include: Deleted Scenes; "Behind the Scenes at Mushi Studios" Featurette; Part 2 of an interview with series producer Fred Ladd; Original Japanese Episodes #34, #56, and #193 (with English subtitles); a Fred Ladd Tour Gallery; an Original Character Art Gallery; a Merchandise Gallery; PLUS a Collector's Booklet featuring "The Cinema of Osamu Tezuka", Original Astro Boy Advertisements, Line Art, an Episode Guide, and much more!

Dark Horse Talks October Manga/Manwha

Dark Horse manhwa explodes on the scene with Banya!

With a worldwide war raging between humans and monsters, the young deliverymen of the Gaya Desert Post Office do not pledge allegiance to any country or king. They are banded together by a pledge to deliver. ?Fast. Precise. Secure.? Banya, the craziest and craftiest of the bunch, will stop at nothing to get a job done. Known as the "Explosive Delivery Man" for his risk taking, bold resolve, and impeccable record, Banya agrees to complete a wounded soldier's mission to transport a parcel of great importance, not knowing what dangers lie in store for him and his friends! As their arduous journey begins, Banya promises, There isn't a delivery I can't make. I always deliver.

Kim Young-Oh's fantastical world is filled with unique monsters, vicious swordplay, and a dash of hotfooted humor.? This series, a top ten selling title in Korea, is presented in its original Korean format and translated by the mother/son team of Anna Kirk and Derek Kirk Kim!

Banya: The Explosive Delivery Man features story and art by Kim Young-Oh.? It arrives on sale September 20 with a retail price of $12.95.

Yoshitaka Amano fans rejoice, Coffin: The Art of Vampire Hunter D has arrived!

For over twenty years, the character Vampire Hunter D has haunted the imaginations of people around the world, his image forever etched in the mind's eye through the dazzling artwork of Yoshitaka Amano. As the original novels appear in English for the first time, American readers are clamoring for a more extensive look at this singular creation. Coffin obliges. This gorgeous retrospective embraces the full scope of Amano's work with the character: in the novels, as inspiration for the animators of the two theatrical films, rare paintings, and illustrations created for release as limited-edition prints.

Amano's illustrations for Neil Gaiman's Sandman series and Greg Rucka's Elektra and Wolverine: The Redeemer won him legions of new fans.

The definitive Vampire Hunter D art book boasts 113 black-and-white illustrations and 72 amazing color images, as well as an original Vampire Hunter D short story by creator Hideyuki Kikuchi, available nowhere else!

Coffin: The Art of Vampire Hunter D features story and art by Yoshitaka Amano.? It arrives on sale September 13 with a retail price of $39.95.

Hiroshi Hirata releases his first work in English in twenty-five years with Satsuma Gishiden Volume 1!

Controversial, tough, angry, highly skilled, and lost in a time of peace, the characters of Satsuma Gishiden tell a quasi-historical tale of social caste and brutal reprisal.

Readers with a taste for Kazuo Koike's gritty Lone Wolf and Cub will go nuts for master gekiga artist Hiroshi Hirata's tome of samurai struggle. Hirata's art and calligraphy leap off the page during scenes of action, only to unfold upon a full bleed that looks like a fine plate print. It?s art at its most expressive, accentuating the classic stoic samurai characters you?ve come to know, only with a little more true society thrown in to help the reader understand what it was really like to be a warrior without a war.

Satsuma Gishiden Volume 1 features story and art by Hiroshi Hirata. It arrives on sale September 20 with a retail price of $14.95.

School is finally cool again with Style School Volume 1

Japan' leading manga illustration instructional guide (titled SS Magazine in Japan) comes to America! Learn the techniques of Japan's top manga and anime artists in Style School, showing step-by-step methods to help today's up-and-coming illustrators master the use of pen, brush, paint, marker, screen tones, computer modeling, and other tricks of the trade. Gain insight into the weapons of choice of today's top creators, especially those brands and tools that are so hard to find outside Japan. See for the first time the eye-popping art of tomorrow's manga and anime stars, with page after gorgeous page of spectacular visual imagination. And find out how to submit your work to be considered for publication in upcoming issues of SS Magazine in Japan!

Style School features art from Japan's future stars of anime and manga. It arrives on sale October 25 and will retail for $14.95

Dark Horse presents Seiho Takizawa's work for the first time in English with Who Fighter with Heart of Darkness!

The first story in this anthology, "Who Fighter," is a play on the legendary "Foo Fighters," the nickname given to the mysterious, UFO-like fireballs that were sighted by World War II pilots. An ace Japanese pilot manages to shoot one of the fireballs down . . . or does he? As ominous signs and visions begin to follow in his steps, the bewildered pilot wonders if he's lost not only his memory of the incident,but also his very mind! The second story, Heart of Darkness," is Takizawa's unique take on the Joseph Conrad novel that inspired the film Apocalypse Now. A Japanese war hero, Colonel Kurutsu, has gone rogue, setting up his own private kingdom deep upriver in the jungles of Burma. A young captain, sent to execute Kurutsu, finds that the true reasons for the Colonel's "desertion" are very different from what he was told. Finally, a short piece, "Tanks," closes out the collection with a surreal voyage through one hundred years of armored vehicle battles!

Who Fighter with Heart of Darkness features story and art by Seiho Takizawa. It arrives on sale October 11 with a retail price of $11.95.

Seven Seas to Create Original Death Jr. Manga

Seven Seas Entertainment has announced its collaboration with Backbone Entertainment in releasing an all-new original manga based on the hit Death, Jr. entertainment franchise. Death, Jr. began its life as a successful video game for the PSP™ (PlayStationPortable) system and critically-acclaimed comic series, and has since built up a vibrant franchise, including a forthcoming sequel for the PSP system game called Death Jr. 2: Root of Evil, a new game for the Nintendo DS™ called Death Jr. and the Science Fair of Doom, a second comic book series, and an assortment of other collectible merchandise.

Written and drawn by Hai (Blade for Barter), Seven Seas' Death, Jr.: Pandora manga will feature the franchise's first break from convention as the spotlight is shone on a force as powerful as the son of Death himself—his girlfriend! The story will follow Pandora as she discovers a secret portal that sends her to the future and into the body of her teenage self. Besides having to grapple with teenage angst, she must save the future DJ from his greatest enemy yet—a snake-haired foreign exchange student with a deadly gaze and even deadlier intentions!

The Death, Jr: Pandora manga will be presented in the standard manga format: black and white, digest-sized, 192 pages. Look for it in 2007

Dentsu, Mitsubishi Establish Anime Business Alliance

Dentsu Inc. (President: Tateo Mataki; Head Office: Tokyo) and Mitsubishi Corporation (President: Yorihiko Kojima; Head Office: Tokyo) announced today that they will form a business alliance encompassing the production, sale and rights management of Japanese animated works in Japan and globally.

Dentsu, its consolidated subsidiary Geneon Entertainment Inc. (President: Sumio Kiga; Head Office: Tokyo) and Mitsubishi Corporation subsidiary d-rights Inc. (CEO: Toru Itabashi; Head Office: Tokyo) will establish a joint investment fund specializing in projects relating to the production of Japanese animated works. The fund will aim to develop works capable of expanding the businesses in Japan and in global markets, particularly North America. The fund will be capitalized at 2.0 billion yen, with Dentsu contributing 30%, Geneon Entertainment Inc. 20% and d-rights 50% of this amount.

Concurrent with the establishment of this investment fund, the three companies will set up a joint investment committee, and based on its recommendations the fund will invest in 15 to 20 works per year. The partners will then collaborate in developing sales and rights management businesses for the works in Japan, North America and other international markets.

Merchandise News

Southen Island has announced a partnership with Medicom to release 12" figures of Full Metal Alchemist's heroes Ed and Al Elric. has images here. Both Medicom 1/6 Scale Full Metal Alchemist figures are currently available for preorder and will ship this November. Edward Elric will retail for approx. $115 and Alphonse Elric will retail for approx. $125.

Jazwares's Trigun figures can be seen here.

Anime News Network points out that limited edition red and blue figures of the Canti robot from FLCL will be available on for 69.95 each.

Game News

The Magic Box has screenshots of Bleach: Heat the Soul 3, to be released for the PSP in Japan this July here

Apparently, there will be a Bleach game or the Wii.

FUNimation Entertainment, announced a licensing arrangement that will bring a new line of video games to North America based on the popular anime title Fullmetal Alchemist™.This new series of Fullmetal Alchemist video games, which will be made available for a variety of videogame platforms to be announced later this year, will be created and released through an exclusive publishing agreement with Destineer.

The first installments of Fullmetal Alchemist games are anticipated for release this year. Visit for more information.

In Case You Don't Hate The Perception of Anime and Manga How to Host An Anime Party

Archie tackles the task of explaining manga.

And according to Akadot, the new Moe Burger restaurant promises a maid clad staff, "Beautiful burgers, sandwiches, cakes, and coffee", and "Moe Bar Time" in the evenings. The Butler Cafe Swallowtail spin-off of the maid-cafe phenomenon will be adapting a Garasu no Kantai theme to tie in with the popular anime for the month of June.

If you're not crying yet, Anime News Service points out Gowa Book's Maid Cafe Kaigyou Manual ("Housemaid Tea Shop Opening Manual". Chapters and subchapters include: "Basis of housemaid business", "Current state of Moe boom", "Large progress of housemaid tea shops", "Kinds of housemaid businesses", "Housemaid business-chapter of tavern" (explores the idea of employing maids as bar tenders), "Housemaid business-chapter of costume play cabaret club", "Procedure and preparation until a business is opened", "Opening a large store", "Picking talent", "Research of rival houses", "Effective ways to advertise", "Menu making", "Picking a stocking agent", "Inspections, public health center and fire station concerns", "Managing", "Calculation of profits and losses", " Trouble that can occur inside the store and countermeasures", "Trouble that can occur outside the shop and countermeasures", "Various troubles in store management". Fortunately this is not yet available in English.

Akadot also reports, a Japan's planetarium's education anime short has become a hit, not just with families, but with men in their 20's and 30's. The show itself features questions about space and the stars posed by local people in Aichi, which are then answered by the show's original characters Chris and her robot dog Beebo. In addition to the educational aspect, Yui Harue, a prominent voice actress responsible for famous characters such as Tohru Honda (Fruits Basket) and Naru Narusegawa (Love Hina), provides the voice for Chris. A picture of the character can be seen here

Anime Pulse Interview

If you are a student of North American anime commentary, watching the development of online providers has been an interesting trip, but for the most part it has stabalized. Print moves in what could comporably be called geological ages, with long period of stasis, interupted by cataclismic shifts as efforts enter or exit the market. Podcasts are perhaps the newest vehicle for commentary, and one that has some of the most potential for being entertaining in its own right. Anime Pulse's host "Ichigo" has agreed to shed some light on his show. To borrow their review rankings, Anime Pulse is a "download now" podcast, which offers a fast pased and often amusing news and reviews take on anime.

Audio (and sometime video) feeds called "podcasts" are one of the internet's great venues for find entertainment and information. With the distribution mechanicism popularized for over a year, almost any interest has garnered at least a few shows, which allows subscribers to fill out some interesting customized libraries of content. Once you start selecting a few, you can easily find yourself listening to podcasts in place of the radio or music.

Though most of the major media outlets have least dabbled in podcasting, and there isn't a strong reason why it doesn't lend itself to commercial work, a majority and many of the best podcasts are indipendantly produced content.

SG: Could you give a brief description of podcasting in general and your show in specific?

Ichigo: Podcasting is essentially an audio blog. It started becoming popular in early 2005 after the "enclosure" tag was added into the RSS2 specification. It allows you to add a file into your RSS feed for download by feed catchers. When iTunes included podcasts into their music store it took off.

Our show (Anime Pulse) started in October of 2005 after Batou and I had seen a Anime show recording at Nan Desu Kan 2005 (Colorado Anime Convention). We were discussing back and forth, and decided that we could probably do one that was better. Thus began the gensis of Anime Pulse.

We recap the news weekly, and then follow a couple shows (currently Naruto and Bleach) every week. Then each host picks an Anime to give a review of. Our combination of experience and banter seems to have struck a cord with the Anime fan community.

SG: How well do you find that anime lends itself to podcasting? I've followed podcasting for a while. The popularity [of podcasting] exploded when iTunes included (as you mentioned) a feed reader, but it matured a while before then. From what I saw, anime podcasts took longer to propagate and develop quality than other special interests. Do you have any theories as to why this was the case?

Ichigo: Well, I don't know that Anime as a genre lends itself particularly to podcasting. But I think that what we provide is an opportunity for fans to belong to a group that they have something in common with outside of conventions. I think Anime podcasts took a while to gain momentum because 1) it's a small market in the US, and 2) because those that were around didn't advertise or promote themselves much. With Anime Pulse we've really tried to build a community, with forums, a wiki, an IRC channel, and consistent releases of the show in order to bring people in and generate more investment in the show. We really try and incorporate our fans into the show.

We've also invested a lot of effort in trying to get our name out there, especially on the East coast because of our correspondent, Rangiku, who has been covering events and getting us noticed.

SG: Recently you've pushed your listeners to improve the show's ranking on Podcast directories like Podcast Pickle. Is that part of an iniative to find new listeners? If so, are you looking to target podcast listeners who haven't found your show or anime fans who might not follow podcasting?
Do you have plans for growing the show's content or is the current format the stable shape you plan on going forward with?

Ichigo: Well, we've always tried to gain listeners by raising our visibility on directories such as and, but recently the Weekly Anime Review Podcast hosted by Aaron did a podcastpickle contest, and we thought it would be a great idea to raise the visibility of Anime podcasts in general, and ours in particular. So we did a similar contest. Essentially we want you to see our name on the homepage as one of the top 10, preferably #1. We are hoping to draw in people who aren't into Anime as much as well as bring our name to Anime fans who just haven't heard of us.

As far as the content and format of the show. We seem to have found a good combination at this point. We throw around ideas on how to change/improve the show constantly, and if we get a really good idea we'll implement it. Lately we've been discussing whether or not to keep going with our weekly series, Naruto and Bleach, mainly because they are both in fillers and not near as interesting.

SG: Now that there are a number of high quality anime podcasts running, how you differentiate your own?

Ichigo: Well, we try to make ourselves stand out with providing good sound quality, good reviews, and fun interaction between the hosts. We like to think that we've helped to popularize other Anime podcasts as well, as we play promo's for other shows all the time. I think the main thing we try to provide that is different is actual coverage from Anime-related events. Events like the MIT "Cool Japan" symposium, where we had recordings and transcriptions from the panels, and recordings of panels from Anime Boston, etc. We hope to do the same at AnimeExpo next month, and Nan Desu Kan in October.

We also try and do interviews occasionally with other members of the industry/community. Like our interview with Michael "Piano Squall" Gluck, and John O'Donnell, the Co-founder of CPM.

SG: Besides notable guest speeches, have you looked into recording other convention panels? Have you met with any reluctance when receiving permission? Historically, there have been instances where speakers at industry panels have found it helpful to deny what they said at conventiom. For Anime Expo, what's your plan for that? I've never seen a convention so saturated with huge guests.

Ichigo: You aren't kidding. To date we haven't had many problems doing recordings. We are very flexible with guest requests. For instance, at the MIT symposium, John O'Donnell asked that we not record his lecture, so we turned it off during that portion. I know that for the CLAMP panel at AnimExpo we have been instructed that, should Batou get one of the seats, we can record the audio, but we can't release it. All we can do is use it for accurately report the event. We will comply with any requests such as this because we greatly respect those in the industry. We will just do our best to report on events to the extent we are able.

SG: The issues I've seen in the past have been more with industry panels than guests. Mostly with licenses that shouldn't have been mentioned.

Ichigo: Yes. We haven't experienced that yet, but if we're allowed to record, then we'll record. And if we release it and someone complains, we'll deal with it at that point. But you can bet that we will do our best to make sure that we keep materials that we were able to record out there for our fans. Hopefully industry folks will know that anything that they say in a panel, even if it's not recorded, can be repeated in an official capacity. It would probably take a legal Cease and Desist before we would remove something legitimately reported.

SG: Have you received any noteworthy feedback from listeners or other commentators on this coverage?

Ichigo: We've gotten some really good feedback on our coverage of events to date. Rangiku is extremely popular with our fan base, and they are always clamoring for her to be a larger part of the show. We don't get much notice yet from other Anime-related resources. We've gotten some of our Press Releases reprinted, but you guys at AICN are the first to ask us for an interview. I know that when we interviewed John O'Donnell he was very happy to do the interview with us because it enabled him to speak directly to the fans about his philosophy and love of Anime. With our listeners, the ones who are more serious fans really get a lot from the panel coverage we provide because we're filling a need. But I think even for those fans who are new to Anime, the content is very valuable because they get to see a little deeper into the community. Anime as a whole in the US is often overlooked, and even looked upon with derision. I know we had an unpleasant experience when someone created a wikipedia article about Anime Pulse it was deleted because we hadn't been reported on by print media, and therefore was removed due to being "non-notable". It's funny how even though we can have the highest listener base of almost any Anime podcast out there, the rest of the world doesn't care because we're not in their "monkeysphere".

SG: Wikipedia has some interesting purist zealots. I told Rangiku at Anime Boston that there was someone removing all the various Gundam entries on the ground that they were based on fiction

Ichigo: yeah, it's frustrating at times to try and get your name out.

SG: Where you surprised by CPM's layoffs so shortly after you spoke with them?

Ichigo: we were. In fact, the moment I saw it, on the Friday before Memorial day I think, I sent an email to John asking if it was accurate, and if there was anything we could do. Rangiku also noticed something was going on when they didn't show up at Anime Boston. He responded with their official response, so hopefully they will be able to successfully reorganize and come back. We really like how they try and stick to the true intention of their properties.

SG: In a typical show beyond an outline of topics, how much of your show is planned beforehand and how much is improvised? How much editing is done?

Ichigo: Well, we typically think during the week about the particular show we're going to review. And if we're all planning on doing something new we try and make sure we don't overlap. Other than that, we do about an hour or two of planning immediately prior to each episode, mainly for news to discuss. Other than that the show is completely improvised, we have no actual scripting. We're lucky in that all our hosts are very outgoing and personable, so we can go back and forth pretty smoothly. I do all the post-production work, and I have it pretty streamlined at this point. When we first started I was spending about 8 hours editing. Now because we have better sound equipment and I have a better laptop, it's down to about 1-2 hours, plus uploading time, and then another 20 minutes or so to prepare the post. So probably about 3 hours usually.
I don't actually do any editing of content, the way we record it is the way it's released. All I do is go in afterwards, process the audio to get the levels correct and consistent, and then add in the sound effects, music, etc.

SG: When you review anime, what do you hope to accomplish? What should a listener take from one of your reviews?
A standard feature of your reviews is that one person in the cast reviews a work while the rest of the cast tries to derail it with their questions. These interactions sound almost like someone is going to get punched and they're rather amusing. Do you have any mechanisms in place for ensuring they don't completely distract the listener?
The review of Ayakashi: Japanese Classic Horror is a good example of this. I had only seen the name of the anime. I didn't know anything about it, and it's a rather complex work to describe. Your review of the title was exceptionally chaotic, but ultimate I got a perfectly good, informed, description of the anime.

Ichigo: Well the chaos that ensues during a review is one of our trademarks I'm afraid. Mainly because we all love messing around with each other. What we hope to accomplish out of a review is for the listener to get a feeling for the content and tone of the Anime, and to hopefully know whether it's something they want to watch or not. We try not to give away any major plot points most of the time, but we want to give them enough that they won't feel like they were mislead should they choose to watch it. Ultimately we want to expand the horizons of our listeners, and introduce them to Anime that they might otherwise miss, new and old.
And we also want to warn them of Anime to steer clear of at all costs (although we haven't had too many of those as we all seem to have good luck picking shows).

SG: Do you read/listen to other reviewers?
In general, how do you feel about the North American commentary on anime? Does it focus on the right areas? Is it serving the fans well? Is it thorough enough?

Ichigo: By commentary do you mean other podcasts? Or other Anime resources in general?

SG: all of the above, podcasts, websites, print

Ichigo: I personally listen to pretty much every other Anime podcast. I like to keep up to date with what our friends and compatriots are doing. I also keep my eye on the main Anime news sites, ANN, AnimeNation, AICN, to try and keep myself up to date. I think in general the North American resources do a good job in keeping the fans informed. What I think we add to that in our show, is that we editorialize the news to try and make it relate more to the fans. A lot of news is just a simple blurb, or the reprint of a press release. We try and add our own view to put it in context for our listeners. I would like to see more of that in the other resources. Like the news blurb, and then a section above or below with the posters interpretation of what it means.

I also listen to 10's of other podcasts, because that's my entertainment source during my day job as I'm not allowed to stream music. So I try and keep up on what's going on in podcasting in general.

SG: Do you have anime opinion on how podcasting fits into the evolution of anime fan content online? Early on there were a number of anime directories and magazine formatted sites. Now news sites with features are dominant. Are podcasts the next step or will they sit along side other formats?

Ichigo: I don't see podcasts replacing the existing content online. What I envision is that podcasts will become more incorporated into the existing resources, such as radio news does for print media. We've recently started producing a podcast for as a way for them to add value to their news for their community. It's a short ~10 minute show that goes over some of the relevant (in our opinion) news from the week and add our opinions and the opinions of some of the community members. That's what I expect to start seeing more of.

SG: Your site says you're a software engineer, I'm a software engineer and we're about the same age and sizable percent of fans our age are in that field. Now that people in coming into anime fandom aren't necessarily from tech backgrounds do you find that is changing the fan created material and the commentary? Is there something about the newer fans that favors podcasts?

Ichigo: Well I think that Apple is doing with podcasts what they did with the iPod and downloadable music. When they incorporated it into iTunes they brought podcasts to the attention of potentially millions of people who aren't as tech-savvy as the run of the mill techie. I think podcasts help that demographic of internet users in that we make more available the content that they need and want, and help introduce new content to them as well. Before iTunes podcasts were almost exclusively the home of the tech-savvy people.

As you mentioned, I'm a programmer, so that helped us greatly with getting started, as I had all the tools necessary to figure out the technology, and add a lot more to our community that other podcasts, with the forums, IRC, etc..

SG: What is your opinion on the attempts anime distributors have made to start their own official podcasts?

Ichigo: Well, I respect them for making the attempt to open up their content in that way. I am skeptical though about how well they will do in the long term. A distributor-specific podcast is always going to be limited in the materials that they cover, and how they are able to cover it. Because we are independent fans we have the ability to cover the entire spectrum of Anime, both licensed and unlicensed, and have no pressure to review something favorable in order to promote sales. I think that is very important. Freedom of the presses is one of the things that makes our country great, and anything paid for by special interests is always going to be biased.

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