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Animation and Anime

Anime AICN - The Samurai Burdened Finale

Logo handmade by Bannister Column by Scott Green

With far too many reviews produced, the content that would have comprised the latest column has been divided into three segments that were posted throughout the course of this week. With this post, my store of news and reviews is exhausted. Stay tuned for some contests and interviews in the works. The next formal column is scheduled for the 10.3.06 time frame, but the exact point may be pushed off due to these ancillary pieces. If you missed the previous posts, check out the geek black comedy Welcome to the NHK and more here and Miyazaki's Castle of Cagliostro and more here

Manga Preview: Eden: It's An Endless World! Volume 5

By Hiroki Endo

To be Released by Dark Horse Manga October 25, 2006

Hiroki Endo starts off this volume pulling a neat storytelling feat that defies stagnant character development traditions. Often, or too often, in anime and manga what defines a character is how they react to a single event in a single way. Go through Evangelion's cast and see ho many characters are the product of an almost mathematical formula. Seeing a parent doing X turns character Y into person Z. The early part of Eden volume five gives almost a case study layout to the early life of its cyborg super hacker Sophia. It illustrates and explicitly explains the forces that shaped her. She had an ineffectual father who attempted to offer her his aesthetic appreciation but with whom she could not connect; a promiscuous mother who would not show her affection; and, a physically frail grandmother who shared her strong feelings of failure and mistrust. The demonstration comes in a supremely ugly sociological war story. Leading up to the family's implosion Sophia attempts suicide multiple times. Afterwards, its a string of lurid sexual encounters, abortions, attempted infanticide and finally institutionalization. The remarkable things here are the complex construction of the character, the daring presentation, and that the character remains complex and intriguing after being dissected. Endo's narrative is sufficiently convincing in its detail and earnest in its presentation that he can proceed without restraint and arrive at something, in this case a personality profile, in which the reader can put their faith. The construct looks organic enough that you can believe that it was arrived at honestly and except that it will develop in a thoughtful fashion. The latter two thirds covers advancements in the conflict between the would-be inheritors of the post pandemic world: UN carry over Propater and hold-out NOMAD, with the protagonist's father playing some key but nebulous role. Set in an airport, "carnage" is perhaps the best description of the meeting of the two forces. Seeing two organizations, both utilizing tactics that appear to be informed by what could be called "terrorism" is chilling. The character of the engagement is a mark of the forward thinking nature of Eden in that is depicting small quickly moving units in non-tradiction battle field with non-tradictional goals, and how disconcerting forward thought can be. Though Endo does have moments of theatrical flourish (more showy knife work), even the use of robot mecha feeds into the sense that the confrontation is a work of opposing strategies ready to grind up the people scrambling within. There is enough bloody, violent manga for it to have its own tradition, but rarely is it as ugly as it is in Eden. It's to Endo's great credit that Eden doesn't become an exploitive work. It's not just divorced from Go Nagai style intentionally sensibility offending works. It's outside the bubble of what seinen works tend to use "adult material" for. The sex and violence doesn't seem to be present to offer the reader a kick, working in parallel to any drama or intelligent discourse the way even a smart work like Berserk might. Eden might not be strictly edifying, but the fascination it offers is with the characters and their destinies, not the meat grinder in which they are involved.

Quick Cut Manga...Naoki Urasawa's Monster Volume 4

By Naoki Urasawa

Released by VIZ Media

By the end of volume four, it is apparent Urasawa has mastered projecting cinema suspense onto manga, and it is worryomg how intractably complex the central moral dilemma of Monster is becoming. There was plenty of ethical weight to work with the dilemma evaluating Dr Tenma's actions in saving the life of a boy who would grow up to be a supremely dangerous serial killer. With subsequent phases of the story giving the child a more singularly fictional back-story and adding mitigating mental circumstances, the reader seems to have lost control of how to evaluated circumstances and has instead become a spectator to the twists of Urasawa's narrative. Which isn't to say that Monster isn't compelling or thought provoking. Urasawa churns out tense situations with a tangible sense of human or physical danger. The way setting, characters and situation are strung together is like raising an object off the ground. Like mounting quantity of potential energy, the potential for profound harm increases in each scene of Monster. The volume opens with Tenma's ex-fiancé Eva Heinemann engaged in lashing out at the men in the world by playing them romantically. Whim takes her from teasing the rich to the target of her gardener, a man separated from his wife trying to put on a brave face for his daughter. While this matter of broken hearts is divorced from the central conundrum of saving lives versus ending them, the sense of danger in the progression of events, and finally how they play out over the unhidden expressions on Eva Heinemann's face is staggering. Here's a person convinced she has been wronged, unable to control herself or deviate from the pattern she's arranged, and in a work full of amoral men with guns, her gaze of hatred is one of the most frightening things in the volume. Beyond the Eva Heinemann interlude and a final bookend featuring one of the manga's scenes of people connecting with each other (another scene where the characters' faces are bound to invoke strong emotions from the reader), the thrust of the volume is a thriller tying the sought after killer's history to a Neo-Nazi movement. The characters become caught up in factional agendas to find the would-be second Hitler, and am attack an Turkish community. Through this sub-story within the larger narrative, Urasawa invokes razor sharp tension is a sequence of set pieces, invented or plucked from suspense genres: dinner conversations with dangerous men, the hero strapped to a chair being beaten, a conversation with an unseen trapped woman conveyed through a sink's drain. This tension is amplified not only in how he captures a universal, recognizable humanity in his characters, especially in their faces and body language, but also in how he utilizes the specifics of the Monster's context. There is nothing generic about locales in which he situates they action, the history and and the look are specifically German. Great amounts of concrete detail is working into look of builds across a range of social strata. This sense of place makes the events real and specific. Monster is a pot boiler. It's heavily utilizing formula, and constructing a pulse racing narrative seems sometimes take precedence over the purity of its ethical discourse. However, Urasawa applies the depth, thoughtfulness, character strength and detail you'd hope were present in all fiction.

Quick Cut Manga...Vagabond

Volume 22

By Takehiko Inoue

Released by VIZ Media

Unlike many samurai manga, Vagabond's duels are frequently decided as they are in chambara movies, with single sword strokes. As opposed to sword manga action ranging from Ruruoni Kenshin to Blade of the Immortal, there is a limited amount of story that can be told within the exchange of blows. Instead, Takehiko Inoue focuses on the mind of the swordsman. Utilizing the characteristics of the medium, he hyper-distends the moments leading into and during the exchange, making the work more about capturing mental landscapes than about capturing sword techniques. With this he recreates a world where these combatants aren't so much competing for ideals as they are expressing themselves, and testing their being against other like minded combatants. Inoue finds a surprising degree of freedom within the samurai genre format, both to explore characters and visual representations. Volume 22 starts with a life-flashing-before-your-eyes sequence that will set you're ears ringing. Inoue's work features so much contextualizing detail, that when he shifts it, then breaks it with void space, the results are perfectly off balancing. Inoue still doesn't seem entirely engaged by the Yoshioka sword school, Musashi's opponents in this phase of the work, but in this scene and its powerfully human follow-up, he has find compelling uses for the material. Novelist Eiji Yoshikawa's structure for the life of Musashi features a labyrinth of advancement and backtracking. Musashi's feuds and his relationships (with love Otsu and apprentice Jotaro) keep getting derailed, usually as Musashi feels unable to commit. Inoue adds a new dimension to this. The defining characteristic of Yoshikawa's version of Musashi's life was that he was a wild young man named Takezo who was tamed and become Musashi, whose genius and focus lead him to greatness. In Vagabond, the diametric transformation is challenged. Given how he sees himself, how other characters see him, and how he sees the world, Musashi is not Takezo, but he also is not NOT Takezo. The saint/sinner distinction isn't presented as a necessarily false one. It's whether the disction applies cleanly to this person in question. Musashi isn't just become a man who can be fascinated by aesthetic art and who is reigned in by Zen calm. His art is this bloody sword work, and when he moves into other media such as wood carving, flowing cutting or calligraphy, the statement are still demonically wild. Inoue uses the visual tools of manga storytelling to approach this discourse with subtlety. Rather than insist with dialog, Inoue suggests with Musashi's expression and the visualization of other characters' memories. As a result, there isn't the need to make everything pertaining to the conversation explicit. The room is given for the reader to interpret the meaning.

Manga Spotlight: Omukae Desu.

by Meca Tanaka

Release by CMX Manga

This heart warming slice of life is a mildly unusual shoujo with a male protagonist (it was printed in the anthology LaLa). It isn't the kind of pulsing drama or forceful comedy that is going to win over some one disincline towards the material since it covers vaguely human interest, mostly mundane situations whose solutions often just entail being there rather than offering extravagant help. Instead the series positions itself to be a manga of niceness and achieves that without becoming ineffectually bland. The series follows Madoka, a highschool student in the process of preparing for college entrance exams. Walking home one night, he sees an old man giving a person in a fuzzy bunny suit a judo hip toss. Madoka realizes that the old man is the recently deceased father of his neighbor. The man dressed like a bunny proceeds to revealed that he is Nabeshima with the Gokuraku So Gei (GSG), an organization that works to ensure that reluctant souls move on to the other side. Nabeshima then manages a passable explanation of why he is dressed like a rabbit. It's part of the company's "cute" theme month. Because Madoka can see and interact with deceased persons, Madoka is offered a post-death "deferred compensation" part time job, which generally entails lending his body to the deceased so that they can experience one last thing in the mortal world. This soul-satisfaction format is applied to a number of short stories, with Madoka, Nabeshima and several other reoccuring GSG employees. The volume features two addition, unrelated short stories, but the themes are almost the same. It concerns happiness and satisfaction found in the mundane, and as such, the stories are contagiously well meaning. Meca Tanaka takes the tone-and-faces approach to manga illustration. Full body and action shots are done well enough, but they are rare within the manga. Instead the openness and omnipresent eyes work well with the stories and complement the uniform softness in the tone.

Anime Spotlight Ninja Nonsense

Volumes 1 and 2

Released by The Right Stuf International

Ninja Nonsense is also known as 2x2=Shinobuden - The Nonsense Kunoichi Fiction, or Nin x Nin = Shinobuden, which is a bad pun about the phonetic similarity between numbers and a cutesy ninja expression. The English absurdity inherent in "2x2=Shinobuden" arguablely works just as well. While the the series' sense of humor might not be universally well received, for those who are on the same wavelength the series is consistently amusing and occasionally hurt yourself funny. Leaving aside several significant factors, not the least of which its the work's context within its medium, Ninja Nonsense is an anime Napoleon Dynamite. While its frantic tone couldn't be more different than Napoleon Dynamite's, its purposely flat characters and humor of a guy who clearly grew up with male siblings share a set of hallmark traits. It doesn't just seem to be written by someone whose never talked to a girl, it seems to be written by someone who has never spoken to a person who wouldn't hit you with a wiffle ball bat as soon as you had your back turned. Regardless of how complex or simple the jokes get, whether its dealing with the boredom of sweltering day or dealing with mortality and cosmic judgment the humor is essentially still that of too much male company. In other words, pissing, farting and imagining girls. The anime is smart being at juvenile, knowing when to mix banality with outrageousness and how to make offensive characters likeable. While working on a level of male oriented comedy, the series construction is directly built to parody the trends in anime. Mostly cute teenage girls, cute younger girls and ninjas. The dense kunoichi (female ninja) in training Shinobu sneaks into the room of average schoolgirl Kaede hoping to steal some panties to fulfill a ninja test. Their encounter is a strange one, beginning with a failed invisibility technique, followed by a clone technique that rains the room with unconnected arms, but it initiates a comedically inelegant "more than friends" relationship. And of course Shinobu has a cute, spunky younger sister who is occasionally present to make things difficult. The X Factor and star is Onsokumaru, a vulgar, shape shifting yellow ball. Onsokumaru is voiced by Norio Wakamoto who had a career voicing dangerous figures, such as Vicious in Cowboy Bebop, Cell in Dragon Ball Z and the bosses from SNK's games, but the latest incarnation of his work to use his deep voice ironically, including "Chiyo's father" in Azumanga Daioh and Mechazawa. Onsokumaru leads a fraternity of Sasuke and a horde of similarly faceless masked ninja in training, and eventually the alligator Devil (trivia, there are so many ninja named Sasuke in tribute to legendary ninja Sasuke Sarutobi). The Onsokumaru and ninja males with too much time on their hands jokes are outrageous enough on their own. Coupled with the conceits of anime, the obliviousness and inappropriateness becomes apparent. Not that the series is getting political about the larger trends in anime, but you don't have to read between the lines to see that the this work at least jokingly this that the trends are terribly hellbound. Conversely, the series is almost designed to send messages back into the cultural feedback loop in that the jokes and imagery almost seem tailored to birth a host of internet memes. As a general comment on translation, given that Right Stuf offers notably faithful subtitle scripts, the decision to use "ogre" rather than "oni" is slightly odd. Given the amount of anime and manga being consumed, it would seem that fans have or would become savvy to the prevalent aspects of Japanese mythology. Given that oni are one of aspects of the mythology that are most commonly found in anime/manga, giving fans the credit that this particular concept wouldn't need to be localized would seem to make sense. Conversely, use of "cowbunga" rather than the "nin-nin", a pop-ninja catchphrase with similar connotations seems a smart localization.

Anime Spotlight: Samurai 7

Volumes 6 and 7

Released by FUNimation

Samurai 7 seemed to be built around design. It featured elaborate depth in the visual construction of its seven swords-for-hire, in the villagers that sought them out for protection, in the mechanized bandits that threatened the villagers and the imperial bureaucracy that attempted to manage the conflict. The freedom of sci-fi matted with the form of historical Japanese made for the some stark, if maybe too complex constructs. Using this design to implement a 26 episode TV series, the results were engaging in fits. Beyond this notion, the influence of Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, and an over arching plot, there did not appear to be a unifying vision to tie the pieces together. The rational for the placement of Hiroyuki Okuno's controversially animated seventh episode, or in general why one fight might have been radically stylized while another was straight traditional anime-action was far from obvious. Consequently was the series as good as the idea that struck its creators at a given moment and the budget afforded. When these moments of inspiration would come was wildly inconsistent. For each motion that was lifted from Kurosawa that worked, another did not. One gravity defying attack of a swordsman leaping from mech to mech might work, while another might look silly. Samurai 7's plot and characterization started turning out compelling episodes when it stopped aping Kurosawa. Some of the most inspired material came from developments outside Kurosawa's framework, either in the inclusion of the merchant and ruling classes or in the novice samurai Katsushiro's deviation from his original role. Once a viewer accepted that Samurai 7 wasn't going to feature the humanity or outlook of Kurosawa's work, it was possible to appreciate that these characters, their motivations and goals do stand up favorably to the bulk of sci-fi anime arcs. There are moments when the characters' perceptiveness , actions, or development do stand out as strong pieces of story telling. Given that Samurai 7 was most convincing when creating its own story rather than replaying Kurosawa's, that it followed Kurosawa's plotting and that the results of Kurosawa's story were known presented problems for the work. It never shook the notion that it was playing out a pattern, especially as events started to seemed more to be occurring due to the dictation of the pattern than springing from what was building within the series. The final run of episodes offered a bevy of fights in a diverse array of shapes. The 3D cgi bandit mecha armors and levitating castles where put into action to a degree approaching the impressive demo-sequence/war flashback. Some of this was small scale with a single samurai leap frogging from one flying samurai armor made alien/steel amalgamation mech to another, slashing in his ascent, and depending on the instance, these were either unconvincingly mawk-superheroic, or cases where the abilities of the samurai seemed to transcend logic. Beyond the small melees, the episodes offered some grand spectacles, that while not as grandly chaotic as the demo-flashback were suitably large. In non-mechanized fights, the episodes offered at least one out of the blue and viciously fought, well choreographed samurai-on-samurai fight. (Something that should please fans of Ruruoni Kenshin and the like) One fight in the sixth volume was demonstrative of the series' habit of including events presented in an unexpected fashion. The fight was animated using an unconventional style of speedlines, aspects cuts and freeze captures. While effective and gratifying experimental, it was unlike other fight animation sequences and within the context of the larger storytelling flow, there was not strong justification for making this skirmish so visually distinctive. The threads of Kurosawa meets sci-fi were largely a more visual than storytelling influence. Points of the plot relied on nebulous sci-fi justifications, but there was not a strong rational to the non-agrarian aspects. The series featured extensive world creating that didn't make a deep logical sense. Even as the series ends, there's an implication about how things changed when everything is said and done, but never a real speculation about how the world worked or was effected. It's final homage to the original movie was beautiful, but lacking in cognitive resonance given the sci-fi elements. The final message wasn't Kurosawa's, but in Samurai 7, the discussion never was that of the idea's originator.

Manga Spotlightlight: Path of the Assassin Vol. 1: Serving In The Dark Vol. 2: Sand and Flower Writer: Kazuo Koike Artist: Goseki Kojima

Release by Dark Horse Manga

Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima reemploy the same tools used in Lone Wolf and Cub and Samurai Executioner for Path of the Assassin. Koike offsets incredible feats by grounding the story with detailed examinations of process: what a ninja eats, how he climbs, how he rides a horse. Kojima's illustration provides precise context with exacting renderings of both human-made and natural surroundings, as well as giving the characters distinctively unstylized human faces. (Path of the Assassin features some aesthetics that are very much of their time and very offsetting to the modern eye, since it deals with the aristocracy, it's not just shaved scalps, by removed eyebrows and blackened teeth) While the structure, direction and focus of Samurai Executioner was very different from Lone Wolf and Cub, this third period collaboration between the two is even more idiosyncratic. Path of the Assassin is the story of the legendary ninja Hattori Hanzo (not to be confused with Koike's Hanzo the Razor), but it is also the story of Matsudaira Takechiyo, later named Ieyasu Tokugawa and founder of the Tokugawa shogunate. The series begins in the Warring States era, with eventually unifier Oda Nobunaga among the many feudal lords fielding armies in contention for dominion. Hanzo is introduced with a display of lateral thinking, used to solve a challenge his elder brothers failed. The pudgy Matsudaira is introduced in a scene in which he is trying to coax his mustache hair to grow in evenly. Eventually he cuts off a tuft of pubic hair to hold above his lips. The first impressions are that a physically and mentally gifted, trained to the point of inhuman torture, ninja has been placed under the complete command of a spoiled dope. Despite some instances of hard scrabble action that would be at home in Love Wolf and Cub, Path of the Assassin is largely a manga of political gamesmanship and human interaction. While Matsudaira's survival and success are dependant on Hanzo's extraordinary attitude, Matsudaira is a canny mind in his own right. He's a keen observer who is only able to apply what he's learned in, terms of information and human nature, in action. At times, and given Matsudaira's initial role, the political chronicle aspect of the series resembles historical fiction like I, Claudius ( more the novel than the mini-series). The plots and machinations offer a complexity fitting potential unifiers of Japan. Due to names of the parties involved and the intended feints and deceptions, many require multiple read-throughs to understand the gambits. The manga promises to offer a fascinating dynamic between the two characters. There are fights of exotic weapon and there is some Koike-extremis in the tortured relationship between Hanzo and his forciblely taken wife, but these two exceptional figures are deeply humanized. Koike is intently focused on making this revolutionary, history shaping leader and this legendary ninja's ninja characters that can be related to, without weakening their significance. While Hanzo is shown to possess almost an unfathomable degree of determination, unlike the portrayals of Ogami Itto or Yamada Asaemon, this is shown to be won in a personal battle fought over the immense forces of fatigue, frustration and uncertainty. While the character is omnipresent, lurking in the shadows and able to go anywhere, the manga unmasks the process behind these techniques. Hattori Hanzo is nearly super-human, but Path of the Assassin makes real the effort behind the results.

Big Dreams, Little Tokyo AFI Premiere

Live action cultural comedy "Big Dreams, Little Tokyo," previously reviewed here will be one of the premiere films screened as part of American Film Institute's annual festival AFI Fest, set to start November 1st. For more information on the festival see Hollywood Reporter's article

Upcoming Dark Horse

BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL #120 Written and art by Hiroaki Samura. "The Sparrow Net," part 3 of 4. This issue also features Stan Shaw's final back cover "Seasons" illustration, which links up to issues 117 through 119 to complete a gorgeous color quadtych image! 32 pages, black and white, $2.99, in stores on Dec. 13.
DOMINION: CONFLICT 1 -- NO MORE NOISE Written and art by Shirow Masamune. Welcome to the future of vast bio-constructed cities with crime so severe that the cops drive tanks! For top tank-cop Leona Ozaki (and her trusty tank, Bonaparte), the day-to-day is a tall order already, but when the villainous and sexy (and super-powered androids!) Puma sisters become duly deputized officers of the law and are assigned to "help" Leona catch Urushi-Maru, "The Skyscraper Pirate," things are bound to get out of hand, especially in the midst of a full-on, tank-on-tank streetfight between Leona and a corrupt arms manufacturer bent on getting the city's police tank contract! 160 pages, $14.95, in stores on March 14.
EDEN: IT'S AN ENDLESS WORLD! VOLUME 6 Written and art by Hiroki Endo. In Hiroki Endo's post-pandemic world, humanity is quickly rebuilding its cities and returning to the comforts and conveniences of large urban environments -- but reviving destructive, age-old habits as well. While exploring the crippling vices that have plagued humanity throughout history, Endo also serves up a volume of bittersweet reunions, shifting alliances, and surprising new settings. Eden volume 6 also includes a bonus section featuring character studies and pinups by Hiroki Endo and Hiroaki Samura. 240 pages, black and white, $12.95, in stores in February. GHOST IN THE SHELL 1.5: HUMAN-ERROR PROCESSOR #3 Written and art by Shirow Masamune. Cybercrime special-ops unit Section 9 has been mobilized to protect a key witness in a trial involving defective micro machines. And the witness definitely needs protection -- from remote-controlled corpses packing serious hardware! And if the identity of these dead assassins' pilots isn't enough of a mystery for Section 9, how about the unexpected appearance of long-missing special agent Motoko Kusanagi! Ghost in the Shell 1.5: Human-Error Processor presents for the first time in America the "lost" Ghost in the Shell stories, created by Shirow Masamune after completing work on the original Ghost in the Shell manga and prior to his tour-de-force, Ghost in the Shell 2: Man-Machine Interface. This deluxe-format issue concludes "Fat Cat," the first of four Ghost in the Shell tales. 32 pages, $2.99, in stores on Dec. 20.
GUNSMITH CATS OMNIBUS VOLUME 1 Written and art by Kenichi Sonoda. Rally Vincent and Minnie-May Hopkins are experts in their respective fields of marksmanship and explosives, but they're so cute you'd never know. Neither would the perps unlucky enough to be their hunted. Presented for the first time in the authentic Japanese format, these giant-sized volumes are action-packed, unretouched and sure to please the gun-nuts, auto buffs and manga maniacs! 464 pages, black and white, $16.95, in stores on Feb. 14. MAIL VOLUME 3 Written and art by Housui Yamazaki. Private detective Reiji Akiba has a theory about those awkward moments and weird coincidences we all encounter in life. They are actually encounters with the dead -- their way of sending us a message. But you may not want to open such strange mail from beyond‹not unless you can see the ghostly attachment, like Akiba can. And not unless you carry a tool that can kill what isn't alive, like Akiba's sanctified gun Kagutsuchi . . . digging a divine grave to lay to rest the evil dead! 208 pages, black and white, $10.95, in stores on Feb. 21. OH MY GODDESS! VOLUME 5 Written and art by Kosuke Fujishima. Ever since a cosmic phone call brought the literal young goddess Belldandy into college student Keiichi's residence, his personal life has been turned upside-down, sideways, and sometimes even into strange dimensions! When Belldandy learns that traditional Japanese custom dictates a woman make homemade chocolate for her love on Valentine's Day, she vows to make this a V-Day to remember. When troublemakers extraordinaire, Urd and Mara toss themselves into the mix, it's instant hot chocolate; but not as hot as the situation Keiichi is in when the Third Goddess splashes into his life -- Urd and Belldandy's "genius" of a younger sister, Skuld! Plus notes and commentary, a message from creator Kosuke Fujishima, and your letters! 192 pages, black and white, $10.95, in stores on Feb. 14. ONE MISSED CALL 1 + 2 Written by Yashushi Akimoto,art by Mayumi Shihou. Based on the movie directed by Takashi Miike It's an epidemic of accidental death! Multiple college students receive odd voicemails from themselves, messages from the future, and all they contain are the screams of their own deaths. A few days later, at the date and time of the message's posting, they die in mysterious accidents, and oddly enough, each have a candy in their mouths. 264 pages, black and white, $14.95, in stores on Dec. 27. OLD BOY VOLUME 4 Written by Garon Tsuchiya, art by Nobuaki Minegishi. Goto's search to unearth the identity of his mysterious tormentor has led to one dead end after another, until he receives a tip that an old high school classmate may have orchestrated the kidnapping that began Goto's ten years of isolation and imprisonment. But many years have passed since Goto's seen his schoolmate, and he looks much different than Goto remembers. Has Goto found the true path to his final vengeance, or has he swallowed another piece of poisoned bait? 212 pages, black and white, $12.95, in stores on Feb. 7. PATH OF THE ASSASSIN VOLUME 5 Written by Kazuo Koike, art by Goseki Kojima. It's a battle of ninja vs. ninja, with all the stops pulled out and every trick in the book. Well, almost every trick. Our protagonist/ninja, Hanzo's young ninja wife, Tsukumo, must avenge her father's death at the hands of another shadow warrior, but he's as crafty as they come. This mystical, imaginative faceoff consumes all 300-plus pages of this action-stuffed volume. 312 pages, black and white, $9.95, in stores on March 5.
SHAMAN WARRIOR VOLUME 2 Written and art by Park Joong-Ki. Marked for death by a jealous king, master warrior-wizard Yarong entrusts the care of his child to Batu, a loyal servant. With Yarong's child in tow, Batu seeks refuge in a nondescript hovel, ready to defend the youngster against the king's sinister henchmen. Help comes from a surprising source -- a violent, headstrong young warrior who's also felt the harsh sting of betrayal. Forming an alliance, they pit their wits, sword skills, and brute strength against the king's approaching troops and colorful, ruthless bounty hunters. Translated by the mother/son team of Taesoon Kang and Derek Kirk Kim. 208 pages, black and white, $12.95, in stores on Feb. 28.
TANPENSHU VOLUME 1 Written and art by Hiroki Endo. Heart wrenching and complex, Tanpenshu, Volume one, is the first of two collections of powerful, shorter works by manga master Hiroki Endo (creator of the critically acclaimed, long-running Eden manga series). The three stories in this first volume are mature explorations of humanity's constant, fumbling attempts to find hope and meaning in a confusing, violent world. A disfigured misfit befriends a doomed yakuza outcast, a group of school kids fail to see the anger that's about to boil over from one of their own, and members of an experimental theatre troupe embark on a project that will test both their friendships and the group's grasp on reality. 232 pages, black and white, $12.95, in stores on Jan. 17. HELLBOY ANIMATED PRODUCTS New products from IDT Entertainment's Hellboy Animated series -- a PVC Set, featuring Abe, Hellboy, and Liz, and two magnets. In the big, bold spirit of Hellboy, this figure is larger than our usual PVC figures, measuring 4.5" x 5." Liz and Abe are in proportion to the gigantic Hellboy, at 3.5" and 3" respectively. Dark Horse is offering two sculptural magnets, one of Hellboy and one of the Right Hand of Doom. Hellboy measures 3" x 2.5" and the Right Hand of Doom is 2.5" x 1.25". Each sculpted icon is adhered to a sturdy magnet and placed on a backing card. Each comes packaged in a polybag with header card. Hellboy Animated PVC Set, three piece PVC set featuring Hellboy, Liz and Abe, $17.99, in stores on Feb. 14. Hellboy Animated sculpted magnet: Hellboy, 3" x 2.5", $7.99, in stores on Jan. 24. Hellboy Animated sculpted magnet: Right Hand of Doom, 2.5" x 1.25", $7.99, in stores on Jan. 24

Distributors Move Into Online Content

Bandai Channel Inc. And Bandai Entertainment Inc. have announced an imitative to provide online content through Amazon.com's Unbox service. With "Amazon Unbox," Bandai Namco and others will have a new platform through which their content will be sold. At the launch of this service, Bandai Namco Group will be the only Japanese corporation which has its own branded site "Bandai Channel," through which will be offered the popular anime series -Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Outlaw Star, Infinite Ryvius and Escaflowne. This will be followed by other anime series including: Eureka Seven and Gundam Seed Destiny. More titles will be offered. The following titles will be part of "Amazon Unbox’s" Bandai Channel: Eureka SeveN (TV series) Mobile Suit Gundam Seed (TV series) Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny (TV series) Escaflowne (TV series/theatrical feature) Mobile Fighter G Gundam(TV series) Witch Hunter Robin (TV series) My HiME (TV series) Outlaw Star (TV series) SD Gundam Force (TV series) Unbox prices start at $1.99 per episode, but Bandai's have been $3.99. The available episode do not currently cover the complete run of series. For example, 22 episodes of the 26 episode Outlaw Star are offered, and 24 of the 26 episode Escaflowne. Unlike some Unbox offerings, there is no rental pricing. "Season Prices" offer bulk discounts, and vary show to show. The episodes being sold are the English audio version of the material. A look at Unbox can be seen on BoingBoing here Central Park Media will be selling anime content through Google Video. Initial titles that will lead off Google Video’s anime offering include Black Jack series and video game based Battle Arena Toshinden. Prices are $1.99 a day and start at $9.95 for purchases.

Ojarumaru Creator Commits Suicide

Journalista points of that Mainichi Daily News has reported the sad news that Rin Inumaru commited suicide. Inumaru is best known as the creator of "Ojarumaru."

Boogiepop Dual

Seven Seas has a previw of their upcoming release of horror manga Boogiepop Dual here

November ADV Premieres and Sets

11/14 Guyver Volume 1 (new series): violent bio-armor super hero action. ADV has launced a site here The first episode of the Guyver anime can be seen online through IGN here UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie 2 Volume 1 11/21 Samurai X Complete Collection $99.98: presumably the Ruruoni Kenshin prequel and sequel OAVs, and possibly the movie, featuring a Meiji era political assassin turned non-lethal protector, except these OAVs feature the character in his brutal younger days and in his post adventure later years 11/28/06 Elfen Lied Collection $49.98: a brutally violence spin on an anime love triangle.

Upcoming in Japan Previews

From AnimeNation The site for the upcoming Death Note anime, scheduled to start on Japanese TV October 3rd, is online here A trailer of Gonzo's murder mystery Red Garden can be seen here The official Sumomomomomomo features a 15 second TV commercial. TV Tokyo has opened its homepage for the upcoming anime TV series adaptation of Matsuena Shun's manga series Shijou Saikyou no Deshi Kenichi ("History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi"). The show will premier October 7th at 12:55 AM. Comic Bunch Magazine has published the first character image from the upcoming Souten no Ken anime television series, and announced that protagonist Kasumi Kenshiro will be played by veteran voice actor Koichi Yamadera. The Souten no Ken TV series will premier on October 4th. Souten no Ken ("Fist of the Blue Sky") is a prequel to Hokuto no Ken ("Fist of the North Star.") The "Special" section of the official Soukou no Strain homepage now hosts a streaming Windows Media trailer for the upcoming mecha space action anime television series. The official site for the anime version of Shone Jump series Reborn is online at www.j-reborn.com The official site for the Super Robot Taisen/Wars Original Generation TV series is online here The first episode of vampire action Black Blood Brothers is streaming online (in raw Japanese) through September 26th here A trailer of the second Sgt Frog movie can be seen here. Animate TV has a review of Kaori Hikida's opening to Shonen Onmyouji here Other new sites include Sunrise's Idol M@ster XENOGLOSSIA Toei's Happy Lucky Bikkuriman In non-anime, non-Japanese preview news, Rivkah has posted a preview of Steady Beat volume 2 here

Classic Manga Arts May Tribute to Kochi Kame

Weekly Jump reports Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Koen Mae Hashutsujo (Kochi Kame), a perennially popular police action comedy, with be celebrating its 30th in a new issue of Shonen Jump featuring a gag chapter with: -Lupin III (Monkey Punch) -Golgo 13 (Saito Takao) -Kinnikuman (Yudetamago) -Dragonball (Akira Toriyama) Over 80 manga creators will pay tribute in "KochiKame in Another World". Comipress points out The Star Online looks at KochiKame and the other two works celebrating their third decade Garasu no Kamen (The Mask of Glass) by Suzue Miuchi and Oke no Monsho (Royal Arms) by Chieko Hosokawa here

Noteworth Spring '07 Viz Media Releases

Anime on DVD reports Right Stuf lists that Viz will be releasing the long awaited 10th volume of the Neon Genesis Evangelion manga on April 10th, 2007 The first of two novelizations of Brave Story, an anime movie being produced by Gonzo, will be released on May 15th, 2007. The first volumes of Millennium Snow and the manga version of Dragon Dive will be released April 3rd. The first volume of manga version of Shakugan no Shana will be released April 17th. Dragon Drive Vol. #01 - $7.99 - 04/03/2007 Millenium Snow Vol. #01 - $8.99 - 04/03/2007

R2 Brave Story to Feature English Subs

Accoring to Twitch, the R2 Japanese DVD release of the Special Edition version of Brave Story (Product Code : DLW-8658) will feature English subtitles. The disc will retail for 4,000 yen.

Anime on IFC

IFC will be airing Gonzo's ninja death match anime Basilisk Friday's at 11:00pm starting October 6th. Child assassin anime Gunsling Girl with be join a Grind Hour Block on January 12th 2007.

TOKYOPOP Pulling Back Exclusives

MangaBlog points out that after recent controversies, TOKYOPOP is no longer listing several series, including Dragon Head in their list of manga that are also available to be purchased through the company's site. King City is be exclusive to comic distributor Diamond for comic specialty stores. See here for more information. ICV2 discusses some mechanics here.

New York Festival Previews

From Anime News Network The New York Film Festival will be screening Satoshi Kon's (Millennium Actress, Perfect Blue) Paprika on October 7th. The Japanese release of the movie is scheduled for January, followed by a North American theatrical release in March. Afro Samurai from Gonzo, Samuel Jackson and RZA will be previewed at New York - Tokyo Music Festival 2006, a free event held on Saturday, September 30, 2006 at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park.

BESM Picked Up

ICV2 reports that following the closure of Guardian of Order, White Wolf sister company ArtHaus has picked up the rights to the third edition of anime RPG Big Eyes, Small Mouth (BESM). The the game book will be released in January 2007 for $39.99.

Seven Seas Entertainment Launches New "Light Novel" Imprint

Seven Seas Entertainment announced today the launch of its all-new "Light Novel" imprint. Light novels, as they are known in Japan, are a new form of prose fiction geared towards young adults and the manga-reading audience. The imprint will feature a distinctive and innovative trim size of 10.5cm x 15cm (approx. 4.1" x 5.9") that will be instantly identifiable along with an iconic feather logo that will represent the Light Novel line. What’s more, all of Seven Seas’ Light Novel titles will carry an affordable cover price of $7.95 each. "We’re confident that our new Light Novel imprint will finally get manga fans excited about novels," says Seven Seas’ president Jason DeAngelis. "We’ve got some incredible content, so the rest is about price and format. Our bite-sized light novels will be the same dimensions as they are in Japan, and will be priced low in order to help expand the market." Light novels have been growing in popularity among North American manga fans for some time now, but publishers have always reformatted them to appear as either standard mass market paperbacks or similar to manga. Seven Seas will be the first publisher to truly distinguish light novels as something unique, presenting them in a more authentic format comparable to Japanese light novel dimensions. These pocket-sized books will contain approximately 200-300 pages of prose, interspersed with manga-style illustrations and color inserts. Seven Seas’ new Light Novel imprint will launch in April 2007 with six titles that are all ongoing series: Ballad of a Shinigami, about a young female grim reaper Pita-Ten, featuring the continuing adventures of Koge-Donbo’s loveable characters Strawberry Panic, a popular "yuri" series set in a girl’s dormitory Kanokon, a love triangle comedy in the vein of Fruits Basket about a boy, a fox girl and a wolf girl Gun Princess, an epic fantasy about a trio on a quest for the ultimate weapon in a magical world Vamp!, a comedic dark fantasy about vampire clans, a vampire princess, and the man who hunts them.

Viz Schedules Art Books For Holidays

VIZ Media has announced the release this fall of six new edition of illustrated, hardcover art books for titles including NEON GENESIS EVANGELION, FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST, FUSHIGI YÛGI and HANA KIMI as well as the company’s first instructional art book, SHOJO BEAT MANGA ARTIST ACADEMY. These newest editions will be timed for the 2006 holiday season. DER MOND: THE ART OF NEON GENESIS EVANGELION - MSRP: $24.99 - Available October 2006 Featuring the work of Evnagelion characters character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto. The book includes 74 pages of paintings and designs devoted to , NEON GENESIS EVANGELION, plus another 50 pages from other works including THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE, NADIA: THE SECRET OF BLUE WATER, BLUE URU, and non-manga works like his cover for Eric Clapton’s 1998 album, PILGRIM. THE ART OF FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST: THE ANIME - MSRP: $19.99 - Available October 2006 Original art inspired by the anime, along with initial character concept designs, cel art and production notes are featured, along with a rare interview with Yoshiyuki Itoh, the character designer for the anime. THE ART OF FUSHIGI YÛGI - MSRP: $19.99 - Available October 2006 The book presents over 100 pieces of art, with several new drawings and paintings produced especially for this release. An 18-volume hit manga series published domestically by VIZ Media, FUSHIGI YÛGI combines elements of fantasy, science fiction, humor and romance. Watase is also the popular artist and creator behind many best-selling manga series, such as ABSOLUTE BOYFRIEND, IMADOKI!, ALICE 19TH, CERES: CELESTIAL LEGEND, and FUSHIGI YÛGI: GENBU KAIDEN, all of which are also published by VIZ Media. THE ART OF HANA-KIMI - MSRP: $19.99 - Available November 2006 THE ART OF HANA-KIMI offers 80 pages of stunning, full-color artwork by series creator, Hisaya Nakajo. The HANA-KIMI manga series centers around a Japanese girl who idolizes a young athlete she sees on TV and eventually transfers to Japan to attend the same school that the object of her infatuation also attends. There is a catch, however, because the athlete attends an all-boy high school and Mizuki must disguise herself as a boy to enter. THE ART OF HANA-KIMI also contains a sheet of collectible character stickers. SHOJO BEAT MANGA ARTIST ACADEMY - MSRP: $14.99 - This comprehensive volume which features instructional techniques and tutorials from shôjo manga masters like Yuu Watase (ALICE 19th, ABSOLUTE BOYFRIEND) and Mayu Shinjo (SENSUAL PHRASE, LOVE CELEB). These artists and others will lead the reader through a step-by-step guide to developing and illustrating original shôjo manga, including tips for using screen tone and digital coloring.

Geneon Talks Hello Kitty: Stump Village

The first volume of the claymation animated adventure Hello Kitty: Stump Village will be released on October 31st for $14.98. Badtz-Maru and My Melody make special appearences in the series. Hello Kitty: Stump Village Synopsis Let's visit Stump Village to see Hello Kitty and all of her cute friends! Each day is a new surprise, like inventing a seesaw nutcracker, making sunglasses out of vegetables, and building a yummy-looking cookie town. Sometimes they play and sometimes they misbehave, but at the end of the day they always learn something new. Stump Village contains five complete episodes: Seesaw Nutcracker Veggie Sunglasses Goody Town Heart-Shaped Fruit Friends Again

Get Backers Season One Thin-Pack

ADV will be releasing Get Backers Season One Thin-Pack, containing 25 action-packed episodes on October 10. Get Backers, animated by the famous Studio Deen (Jing – King of Bandits), is the story of Ginji Amano and Ban Midou, two chronically broke but supernaturally empowered youths who run a "recovery service." Their motto? "If it was taken, get it back." Synopsis: Everyone knows the feeling. You come home and find your home broken into. Your possessions thrown around. Dresser drawers are ransacked. Everything you own has the unmistakable feel of a stranger’s fingers on them. The only thing worse than that is what isn’t there: the things that once belonged to you that have been taken by creeps. But now is not the time to despair. There’s no time for anger. There’s only time to call Ban and Ginji, the Get Backers! No one will be refused. (At least not until that huge bar tab they’ve run up gets paid off!) Prepare to meet your new heroes. The guys who will restore order where there is only chaos and justice where crime has run free. The dudes who will bring that cute stuffed animal back to its rightful owner. They’re the Get Backers. They’re one phone call away and they’re ready to take your case! Get Backers Season One Thin-Pack (SRP $59.98 DVD) is a Thin-Pack DVD-only release including all 25 episodes from the first season, presented in both English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0 with English subtitles.

FUNimation Doubles Anime Programming

FUNimation Entertainment announced that it has doubled the content on its syndicated anime block to four hours. CoLours TV Network, available nationwide as part of DISH Network's basic satellite TV package, is the first broadcaster to pick up the extended block. The new block covers key prime time programming slots and launched on September 11, 2006. "We are excited about expanding our line-up schedule with programming content that is in great demand by our urban, savvy viewers", said Tracy Winchester, President and CEO of CoLours TV. The new extended block will feature uncut episodes from such fan favorites as the action-packed Yu Yu Hakusho, the anime classic The Slayers, and the hit comedy series Negima, which was voted as one of the top four best anime series by fans in Japan. FUNimation's four-hour syndicated anime block is distributed by OlympuSAT and, along with the 24-hour anime programming on the FUNimation Channel, is available to broadcasters nationwide. CoLours TV Network will run FUNimation's syndicated anime block seven days a week starting at 8:00 p.m. ET. In other FUNimation Channel news, Anime News Network has learned that AN Entertainment's bizarre comedy Haré+Guu will be shown on the network. FUNimation Channel's syndicated block has recently become available on Hawaii's KIKU-TV.

Shin chan Favorite Saying Survey

FUNimation has announced that with the English localization of Crayon Shin-can, featuring Japan's infamously vuglar kindergartener, airing on Cartoon Network, www.shinchanshow.com has opened a survey for fans to vote on their favorite "Shin-ism" and their favorite characters. There's even the possibility that the most favorite lines and characters could make their way onto merchandise.

Geneon Schedules Kyo Kara Maoh! Season 2 Premiere

Geneon will be releasing the first volume of Kyo Kara Maoh! Season 2, a fantasy/political dramatic comedy with yaoi overtones, will be release November 28th.

Imagi Announces Asto Boy Project

Imagi Animation Studios announced that it has optioned rights from Tezuka Productions Company Limited of Japan to produce a new CG-animated feature-length motion picture based on Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy for theatrical release in 2009. The new Astro Boy feature will be based on an original story developed by Imagi’s US studio. Physical production will take place at Imagi’s state of the art Hong Kong animation studio. Along with its current CG-animation productions Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Gatchaman, Imagi will continue its technical and creative leadership in bringing comic book heroes to the big screen.

CMX Plans New Gon Editions

CMX, the manga imprint of DC Comics, announces plans to publish GON, from renowned writer/artist Masashi Tanaka, for release in 2007. The first six volumes of GON were originally published in the U.S. by DC's Paradox Press imprint from 1992-2002. The reformatted version published by CMX will be introduced at $5.99 (subject to change). The wordless, beautifully illustrate manga follows the adventures of a miniature, bad tempered dinosaur as it travels through various modern, natural ecosystems.

Karas on Encore Action In October

Anime News Network reports Tatsunoko's supernatural action Karas will air on Encore Action starting October 14th.

Fighting Dinosaur Game to Become Anime

ikimashou.net reports that the Kodai Ooja Kyoryu King (Ancient Ruler Dinosaur King) trading card game is scheduled to be adapted into an anime series to air on Japanese TV in Spring 2007.

New Anne Of Green Gables Anime

Anime News Service reports Anne Of Green Gables is being adapted into a new anime series for the NHK network. The novel was previously adapated as part of the World Masterpiece Theatre omnibus. The World Masterpiece Theatre version was directed by Studio Ghibli's Isao Takahata, with contributions from Hayao Miyazaki.

009 In Hollywood

The Beat points out Variety's article that a Comic Book Movies/Itochu has initiated a plan to bring the works of Cyborg 009 creator Shotaro Ishinomori to live action projects. Itochu owns a 49% stake in Ishinomori Entertainment, Ishinomori's production company. CBM plans to release the films beginning as early as 2008 in both the U.S. and Japan.

Visit Japan, Be Greeted by Maetel

Anime News Service reports Maetel, the guide for Leiji Matsumoto's Galaxy Express 999 will be greeting visitors to the lobby of Northern Kyushu airport. The 170 cm robot answers travelers’ questions using FAIS recognition technology co-developed by the Kyushu Institute of Technology with the voice of Masako Ikeda. Pictures can be seen here

Gekiga Nominated for Ignatz

Drawn & Quarterly's release of seminal gekiga creator Yoshihiro Tatsumi's collection The Push Man and Other Stories has been nominated for the independant comics Ignatz Award in the Outstanding Anthology or Collection. Other nominees included Black Hole by Charles Burns (Pantheon) Castle Waiting by Linda Medley (Fantagraphics Books) Drawn and Quarterly Showcase #3 by Matt Broersma, Genevieve Elverum, and Sammy Harkham (Drawn & Quarterly) Squirrel Mother by Megan Kelso (Fantagraphics Books) Gekiga is a genre of mature manga.

Geneon Discontinues Sherlock Hound

Anime on DVD reports Geneon will be discontining Shelock Hound, six episodes of which were directed by Hayao Miyazaki as of 10/31/06. The first volume was recently reviewed here

Studio 4°C Produces Music Video

Anime News Service reports record label Avex Trax and anime Studio 4°C (AniMatrix, MindGame) are coming together on a new OVA music video project called Amazing Nuts!. J-Pop Singer Koda Kumi will participate. Volume 1 will be released in Japan on December 20th. Each volume consists of 4 short animation of about ten minutes in length each, different Avex recording artists will provide the music for each.

Magazine Serializes Light Novels

Anime News Network reports Hobby Japan launched Novel Japan, a new monthly magazine that carries 'light novels' and manga. Writers and artists who contribute to the new magazine include Yu Godai, Hajime Kanzaka, Shôtarô Mizuki, Toru Nozaki, Madoka Takadono, Masaki Watanabe, Mako Aboshi, Yukio Hirai, Mutsumi Inomata, Norio Shioyama, Kunihiko Tanaka and Akemi Takada.

Mt. Head Creator in UK

Twitch points out that Koji Yamamura, animator of the Oscar nominated Mt. Head will hold a public exhibition of his works, including the latest Old Crocodile hosted by London's Japan Foundation on October 16th. He will also be appearing at Norwich International Animation Festival from Oct 18-21st. Koji Yamamura Official Website An excellent overview of Japanese experimental animation (including Yamamura) here.

Canadian GTV Now Able to Air Anime

Zannen, Canada and Anime News Network report Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission passed a resolution allowing G4TechTV Canada to include 15% dramatic programming, specifically including anime, in their lineup. See here for more information.

Gonzo Animates PM

Comipress reports Gonzo will be animating a special documentary episode starring Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, featuring the leader's likeness and quotes.

Starz Buys Manga Entertainment

Anime News Network reports IDT Entertainment from IDT Corporation. Liberty Media has merged IDT Entertainment with the Starz Entertainment Group to form Starz, LLC, which will encompass former IDT companies such as Manga Entertainment, Film Roman and Anchor Bay, as well as the Starz Entertainment group of Satellite TV stations. For more information, see here.

Non-Anime

The Beat points out a list of animation shorts from comics cartoonist Kyle Baker here Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dryer talk about animated projects on Toon Zone. Twitch call attention to the existence of "Icelandic animated film entitled "Anna and the Mood", a 26 minute short work featuring the voices of Terry Jones (Monty Python), Damon Albarn (Blur), Sjon, and Bjork; Julian Nott (Wallace & Gromit) composed the score, which was performed by the Brodsky Quartet. Official Site (Embedded Flash trailer) Caoz (Embedded Flash work samples)

Super Happee Mania Tour This Fall

The schedule for "Japanese Action Comic Punk" band Peelander-Z can be found online here
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