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AICN Anime - Going Offbeat With Shamo Mazinkaizer and More

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Manga Spotlight: Shamo ("Gamecock") Based on volumes 1-16 By Akio Tanaka and Izo Hashimoto Translated by Manga Sketchbook

A reason that Shamo is worth tracking down is that Dog Bite Dog director Soi Chaeng is heading a live action adaptation, but beyond see it before a media transition really commands attention appeal, the work intriguingly could be thought of as what might happen if Nietzsche labored under the guidance of a manga anthology editor. In other words, it is a breathtaking and disappointing seinen fight series that has the hallmarks of a successful manga whose popularity ran away from its creators. Both shockingly daring and given to settling into a comfortable formula, it represents what's best and worst about manga. When at its best, Shamo is a martial arts thriller that utilizes its repulsive protagonist to function on both heady and visceral levels. Its unconstrained exploration of the extremes of humanity dives in with a successful student from an ideal nuclear family convicted of brutally carving up his parents with a switchblade. Sent to prison, he is sexually preyed upon, but ultimately survives due the teachings of a nationalistic karate master serving a life sentence for attempting to assassinate the prime minister. This protagonist returns to society with an unquenchable drive to express his lust for survival by destroying the best of fighters. Like fight club, Shamo's boiling testosterone makes you want to pick a fight. Like Fight Club, that's probably not exactly the right impression to take away. As soon as the protagonist begins opening his fights with a flash kick to the groin and a darting claw to the eyes, the fury of the action is sold. It looks physical, it looks fast, it looks brutally effective and it looks possible. After the prison chapters, the fights are an almost contradictory mix of tooth and nail desperation and the formal rules of a karate competition. (For MMA fans, it is slightly more restrictive than K-1, especially regarding holds). While the approach does invoke some frustration when a street fighter can't shoot in or throw his opponent, it might be those constraints that allow Shamo to be as realistic as fight manga to conceivably be. The rules leave no room for attacks whose results can't be supported by manga. The tense musculature and living, moving forms capture a distinct ferocity. Though the in-ring matches are given more attention than the street fights, even when the opponents are squared off, with their attacks restricted, the intension to maim or kill is evident with every blow. The hook that viciously grabs at the masculine drive and establishes the thrilling intrigue of the fights is that in some ways the protagonist is a regular person who crossed over to become a fighter. While he has rigorously trained, and tuned his technique to become a juggernaut, able to easily hospitalize any street tough, his in-ring opponents are better trained, more physically and mentally gifted, more dedicated, and what gives the manga its biggest distinction, possessing the moral high ground. While Shamo makes solid fighting manga, like Tetsuya Saruwatari's Tough or Baki the Grappler look weak, there isn't a terrible amount of blood or viscera. Plenty of seinen titles like Battle Angel Alita or maybe even parts of Tenhjo Tenge have more. It is the norm for older audience horror manga to exceed what Shamo presents. Yet the thrust of the brutality is such that it captures imagination and stays who you. The effects of a kick to directed into an eye, knife wounds mixed with heroin shots, or the desperate measures of a fight cut man are all disgustingly plausible and at the same time near mythic. When working on its optimal level, Shamo seems like a sociological experiment performed on the reader. There is a time early in the manga when it is possible to pity the protagonist. When he is thrown to the wolves and gang raped in prison, the inhumanity of the punishment doesn't seem to fit even his heinous crime. But, as he learns to fight, the morality of his actions doesn't add up in a traditional sense. He is transformed by prison, but he doesn't emerge a Monte Cristo, seeking divine vengeance. The man who the manga would have the reader empathize with is by all accounts a monster, whose lust for life and will to survive is a poison that destroys lives around him. His need to assert himself and further crystallize his will to survive is demonstrated by picking fights. This is an endeavor exercised by methods that include maiming men and raping women. Because he is the focus, because he's the underdog in a fight format tale, story processing conditioning makes not rooting for this appalling figure near impossible. This brand of outrageous motivation for the manga's protagonist demands some sort of interpretation. Even a Kazuo Koike gonzo hero (Wounded Man, Starving Man, Crying Freeman), would have some sort of framework of revenge or loyalty to offer an acceptable handle. On one level Shamo is a sort of "if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him" razor through the bullshit of built up conventional thinking. A writer working for the "Lethal Fight" fight promotion engages the protagonist in a bar and begins digging into what makes him tick. The protagonist asks the writer what he's hoping to gain from the conversation. When the writer replies, "make money", the protagonist says "good, if you had lied, I would have broken your nose." At the same time, Shamo is a sort of infernal inspirational fable. Self help, self actualization gone evilly wrong. The driving motivation is not as simple "be the strongest" or "beat HIM". As such, it can't be processed by conventional means. It's not some an unevolved biological impulse to assert dominance. If anything, it is a very human, philosphical drive. The actions seem rooted a sort in of anti-nihilism, forceful overreacting in an effort to break free of the suffocation of conformity. To live as a distinct individual, the protagonist has to perpetually re-kill his parents. Unfortunately, these ideas are underdeveloped. The trickle of evidence to support any conclusion is blocked by a torrent of bullshit. Entertaining bullshit in many cases, but for a work featuring a guy who tabbed his parents to free himself from conventions, Shamo seems awfully bound by them. There is still plot tension, with the work not so much bloated as 'roided up beyond the point competitive advantage. Rather than developing its thesis, there is the equivalent always ANOTHER Nanto Seiken master to fight or ANOTHER phase to the Saiyan battle As volumes enter into the teens, the series falls into a dire rabbit hole of training sequences, multiple old men coughing up blood, and to really seal its doom, the introduction of chi. While one of the appeals of manga versus open ended comics has been the sense of a solid defined plot arc, the hallmarks of an effort not to end a successful manga are present in Shamo. There is a block set in China that is beautifully illustrated, with some amazingly acrobatic sequences, that seems just tacked into the flow of the work to keep it running. None of the ideas that define Shamo were developed. And, after 16 volumes many are of the thought are still frustratingly underdeveloped.

Anime Spotlight: Mazinkaizer vs Great Darkness General

Mazinkaizer vs Great Darkness General is Masahiko Murata's second spectacular crack at Go Nagai's classic toys. Unfortunately, unlike the earlier 7 part direct to video OVA, this movie has not been released in North America by ADV Films. Sketchy versions can be found online, but lack an official, proper release is a terrible loss to fans of the spectacle, ad hoc logic and vitality of super robot anime. This particular mecha ragnarok lacks the cleverness of the Mazinkaizer OVA, but makes up for that by offering a solid hour of undiluted robot mayhem. Plot... please save your laughter or applause to the end... the Mycenae Empire under the command of Ankoku Daishogun/Great Darkness General, a tri-horned titan in plate mail with a second face positioned in the middle of his chest, attacks all of Earth at once. Tetsuya Tsurugi in the Great Mazinger, Jun Hono in the Venus A, Lori and Loru in the Million Alpha and the rest of the Mazinger Army fight off the likes of General Julius Caesar (another titan with a face on its chest, this time with a flaming head), General Ardias (a giant grim reaper with an upside down skull and a goblin's face in place of one of its hands) and best of all Archduke Gorgon ( unlike his giant brethren, only slightly larger than man-sized, a blue centurion from the waste up, from the waste down, a complete saber toothed tiger).
Unfortunately for the safety of the world, Kouji Kabuto, pilot of the unstoppable Mazinkaizer was busy making an ass of himself in France when the attack was launched. With death all around him, Kouji, accompanied by his girlfriend Sayaka Yumi and Doctor Mori Mori must rush across the globe to retrieve the Mazinkaizer before it and humanity are destroyed. Murata and company really didn't give much thought to plot when putting together Mazinkaizer vs Great Darkness General, beyond run and fight, what's present is lifted from Great Mazinger and an earlier Mazinger Z movie. Mazinkaizer vs Great Darkness General acts as the Guns'n Roses covering of Sympathy For The Devil of giant robots. It acknowledges that what is being done isn't original, but it proceeds with as much juice as possible anyway. Given Go Nagai's dazzlingly bizarre toys to work with, the anime drops them all onto the floor and arranges them in the most brilliantly obtrusive manner. In other words, there's no way to walk through the anime without stepping on a sharp edge. There is 40 minutes of everyone laying down their lives to get Kouji to Japan. Various inferior or overwhelmed giant robots are launched and dispatched by a horde of enemies that roll over humanity with Lovecraftian malicious disinterest. As commando squads and advanced fighter jets attempt to engage the attacking beasts, rocket launchers produce some pretty spectacular explosions, but in this situation, they might as well be pop-guns. The remaining third of the movie finally takes Kouji to the Mazinkaizer, but not before a spectacular Boss Borot bum's rush for glory. Mazinkaizer vs Great Darkness General is designed as a treat for Mazinger fans, but being stand alone, it is staged to be equally accessible (or equally inaccessible, it doesn't make a great deal of sense) to all viewers. The possible exception is Boss with his Boss Borot, which is intended to reduce adult fans of Mazinger to fits of giggling. Boss is the ultimate self-declared rival character. In the class of Mazinger, Boss is the paste-eater. A physically and mentally thick bully (in some ways an ugly caricature of blue collar workers), Boss, along with his skinny lackies Mucha and Nuke found access to the Mazinger home base at the Photon Power Laboratory. There, they held up the B level mad-scientists in residence to force them to build Boss his own giant robot. Thrown together with spare parts, with a its cockpit serving as a one-room apartment, the Boss Borot's combat readiness was basically limited to throwing objects at its inevitably more powerful foes, or launching itself at enemy, generally shattering in the process. No wonder Boss and his Boss Borot were favorites, brought back for every Mazinger spin-off.
And so, in the movie's final act, Kouji Kobuto triumphs with ease. Because Mazinkaizer is kind of a special occasion super-robot, he doesn't have the sort of ritual expected from the genre. The use is more spectacle than feeding something expected. He shows up explosively, establishing a sort of danger not just to the foes, but as a barely harnessable force. The trust of what Mazinkaizer does is less about clever ways of presenting giant robot combat, and more about unpredictability. Mazinkaizer will appear, there will be a storm of swords, flying cutting objects, blasts of wind and red beams, and finally, his foes will be destroyed. Ultimately, he is the master "DAMN?!" robot. Maybe its because Mazinkaizer isn't as sick as Go Nagai/Go Nagai based works can be, but some of the sexual politics seems a bit off, with a few "who let this misogyny in" moments. Go Nagai is famous for female shaped robots with breast missiles. He one-ups himself with the Million Alpha, a female shaped robot with dual cockpits for the machine's breasts. Especially given that Mazinkaizer doesn't go for a kinky tone, to see a monster attack the machine by getting behind the robot's body and grab its breasts with crushing force is a bit off putting. It's not as off putting as Jun Hono/Venus A's ignominious defeat, involving the machine being sliced through, into the cockpit, catching the female pilot in the chest and opening up her flight suit. Finally the movie just gets odd, with the out of no-where inclusion of a butch truck driver to attends to a wounded Sayaka. A fun aspect of Mazinkaizer is the return of arrogance. In the post Evangelion age, mecha pilot who have been confident in their abilities have routinely been set up for a fall: from Evangelion Asuka to Gundam Seed Destiny's Shinn. The previous Mazinkaizer OVA was put it rather plainly saying "Kouji Kabuto will never die". Both the hero and the work itself are comfortable that Kouji will not just ace the challenge and get the girl, but that he'll shake the heavens when the situations calls for it. Told that "Mazinger Z gives you the power to be God or the Devil, but Mazinkaizer allows you to surpass both!" Kouji doesn't think twice. The closest thing to feet of clay is a high degree of uncouthness. Apparently, one doesn't bother learning table manners when they are as bad ass as Kouji Kabuto. Given that over-complexity has been over-exhausted in giant robots, it is a joy to sit back and what a hero who will just do his job. Rather than being conflicted about his role, he reacts to the sight of people laying down their lives for his with what a contingent of fans enjoy calling manly tears. Because, in the end, any death that allows Kouji Kabuto to stomp on Mycenaen devil machine-beasts was a noble sacrifice for the good of humanity.

Manga Spotlight: Edu-Manga Released by Digital Manga Publishing

Edu-Manga is a series of manga-format biographies aimed to introduce younger readers to a diverse selection of historically significant figures. Each volume is introduced by the cast of Astro Boy, who in many cases return in text Q & A chapter breaks to expand on the presented information. Each entry is suitably comprehensive given the intended audience and the complex histories being depicted. The scope follows the subjects' whole lives rather than one specific event, capturing how their time, place and society shaped them and how they shaped the world. The manga is successful both at keeping the subjects relatable to the reader, establishing a framework from which the person can be understood, and calling attention to what makes the subjects distinct and important. Each volume features its own writer and illustrator to relate the specific biography. Guidance seems to have come more from topic expert supervisors (split between scholars and related organizations) than a line-wide editor. Consequently, the quality and tone differ from volume to volume. While some bring little beyond the power of the story that is being retold, others find engaging ways to frame the subject . The target audience is difficult to pin down. For a reader who is already familiarity with a subject, most of the Edu-Manga tellings do not offer a new perspective that would feed existing interest. The language and vocabulary of most of the text might be slightly advanced for younger readers. Similarly, while it does take care to explain the context to the lives of the subjects, the manga is seldom an optimal first introduction. However, older readers might be conscious that the Astro Boy bridge pieces have a tendency to feature notes of condescension, explaining the personalities involved in child-minded terms.

Ludwig Van Beethoven Written by Takayuki Kanda Illustrated by Naoko Takase

Edu-Manga's account of Beethoven's life touches on the nature of his music, particularly its evocative emotions, and it touches on the relationship between the man and his time, but it gives its most intensive focused to the drama. Though factual, the presentation of the most stylized of the set. The creators of this volume embraced Beethoven's turbulent life. Takase's employment of an illustration style that invokes the look of period shojo drama classic Rose of Versailles sets the stage for high melodrama. From his stormy childhood home life through his education, romances, rise to prominence, and deafness, the condensed biography creates a capital 'R' Romance of Beethoven's spirit of perseverance . The radiance of musical notes, speed lines or screen tones around the people, giving them an aura of story book k myth. Both the pastoral country side and the elegant cities are captured with a touch of majestic unreality. The cumulative effect is a spirited adaptation that does seem a bit detached from history, but it is compelling, and enhances the allure of the facts. While the volume is sure to point out the other musical luminaries who crossed paths with Beethoven, it is light on musical theory. Rather than explaining musical concepts, the manga calls attentions to the themes and emotions of the music. Beyond that, it only touches on the reception of the works. For example, the manga informs the reader that while Symphony Number 3, Eroica, initially received a chilly response, it was regarded as a masterpiece, without explaining what aspects of the work could be credited as the cause. Similarly, while the manga mentions important points and gives brief explanations, it is light on the changing class political climate of enlightenment Europe. Politics do intersect with the drama of Beethoven's life, and the book does call attention to his feeling on Napoleon, but it doesn't aim for much instruction in those regards. Even when a Q&A section addresses the French Revolution takes an oblique approach rather digging into the complexities. The volume is high emotion, charged account of Beethoven's love and career. It's informative as to the concerns of his artistic endeavors and the social and musical landscape of his times. In a romantic sense, it is one of the most spirited entries in the series.

Anne Frank Written by Etsuo Suzuki Illustrated by Yoko Miyawaki

The story of Anne Frank provides a window into the Nazi holocaust through the diary of a Jewish German girl who was able to hide with her family in the annex of a Dutch business for two years before being caught and sent of a concentration camp. The Edu-Manga account of Frank's story is the one case in the series where the creators' ability as manga authors detract from the history. Suzuki does condense Frank's story well. Her childhood, the nature of her personality and pre-war persecution are all captured quickly, with attention to crucial details. Yoko Miyawaki's illustration is an uneasy fit with the topic. Its reading primer look fails to humanize. The rigid simplification of Miyawaki's forms do not don't convincingly convey the emotions of Anne and her family. If an illustration features a person weeping, registers as an illustration of a person weeping rather than translating into the impression of the depicted event. Even in the most devastating moments, the illustration looks like sketches with neither unsentimental verite or any brand of stylized human soul. Compared to creators who use similarly simple forms more effectively, the faces are neither cartooned in the manner of Tezuka's works, or more subtly governed the way Naoki Urasawa's are. There is a mannequin look to Miyawaki's features that always seems to suggest bright eyes and ear to ear smiling as a natural state. Even when the subjects are gravely concerned, their faces seem to be waiting to snap back into a grin. Beyond the human illustrations, there is an unimaginativeness in the art. Except for a few panels inspired by photographs, details and visual context are sparse. This presentation robs the manga of the power that the comic media cam carry from a story like Frank's. Manga can work largely using void backgrounds, but here, a contextual reality is missing. The imprecise expressions of human emotion compound the deficit, failing to visually relay the people or the moment that the people are inhabiting. Ultimately, it falls to the text epilogue to capture the tragedy of the holocaust. It's hard not to tear up by the story of how Anne Frank's diary came to be published, but the resonance of that story owes little to its presentation in this manga. Because even a sketch of this history can be powerful, while the volume is not a strong example of what can be accomplished in manga, who Anne Frank was, and why she is important are not lost in this adaptation.

Helen Adams Keller Written by Sozo Yanagawa Illustrated by Rie Ragi

Yanagawa and Yagi render a simple, but effective map of Keller's life that manages to balance touching sentimentality with its informative approach. While the images don't stand out as more than basic forms with screen tones, they do capture the evolution of the Keller and her teacher, Anne Sullivan. Though the look is plane, there is ample expression in the faces and body language. Thought and emotions are clearly and effectively captured throughout the manga. Stress, discovery and joy all solidly register . The biography follows Helen Keller from her pre-illness childhood through to her death in 1968, but as with most accounts, the manga is dominated by Anne Sullivan's work teaching Keller to overcome her lack of sight and hearing. Given Keller's youth, the manga expresses her challenges through Sullivan's efforts. This approach maps out the process and intellect at work by calling attention to the cognitive stepping stones. The manga addresses progress from the concept of distinct words, such milk versus cup, to words for abstracts concepts, as well as social hurtles, such as Helen parents' recuctance to discipline her. The book doesn't afford an abundance of remaining space, but it does go on to explain Keller's later school, college degree and the speaking appearances that marked her adult life. Doubtlessly there are more comprehensive biographies, but this one is satisfying more thorough than one that a perfunctory epilogue. The manga does not completely steer away from controversy, but it does keep topics to basic, manageable levels. While the allegations that Keller plagiarized The Frost Fairies are addressed, the chapter Q&A goes to great lengths to soften the impact. Over looking the economic dimension is Keller's story is difficult, especially with the implicit comparison of Sullivan's charity up bringing versus Keller's plantation wealth. While the volumes does touch on her charity work and on her involvement with veterans wounded in World War I, her politics are largely absent from what is related in the volume.

Alber Einstein Written by Isao Himuro Illustrated by Kotaro Iwasaki

For manga readers, Einstein is probably the most challenging of Edu-Manga's subjects. Rather than simple biography, the book offers heady doses of physics. It's also the most attractively illustrated. And, in the hands of the right reader, it is also the volume most likely to inspire. It put search from answers in theoretical physics on an understandable and exciting level. It illustrates how questions lead to thought, which leads to theories, which are addressed through measured experimentation. In addition to following the events of Einstein’s life, the manga looks at the inspiration, debate, and exploration of ideas, stemming from the original question "what does light look like when traveling at light speed." Einstein’s history and process is mixed with the concepts of physics: starting with Newton's Laws and advancing through Einstein's discoveries, the manga constructs cartoonish, but informative illustrations of physics. The debate on whether space was filled with ether may have be given disproportional prominence in the volume, but it is well used as for an example of scientific methods as applied to theoretical phenomena. While the manga format lends eye catching entertainment, in this implementation, to some degree, these introduced concepts are more difficult to grasp precisely. A quick paragraph, without an equation, isn't the easiest vehicle for conveying an exact definition of a concept like Universal Law of Gravitation. This manga works with tightly worded definitions, and when ever possible, it avoids mathematics and equations, which forces a close parsing of the words. Iwasaki proves to be the strongest visual artist in the Edu-Manga line. The approach to caricature in capturing Einstein and those around him lends personality, not just to the illustrated figures, but to the work itself. While the earlier chapters feature a subject that looks a bit more like a young-old Einstein than of pictures of the scientist in his youth, the factor of instantly being able to recognize the is a strong asset to the book. Iwasaki's thick ink and crisp shapes allow a great deal of age and expression change to be applied to the faces while keeping the subject's identity. While the book aims to examine a complete picture of Einstein, some aspects are handle better than others. Einstein’s parents' worries about his mental development, his almost neurotic fear of strict institution and his later appearance of social withdraw in periods of deep thought add some uncertainty to his genius and underscores his personal struggles. The manga evenhandedly (or apolitically) handles controversial topics including Zionism, and the development of atomic weapons. One problem is that his first wife Mileva Maric's intellect receives short shrift. She never recovers from the "gee, I don't know" when presented with a theory in her introduction. While she serves to illustrate the ethnic divides of Europe, her scientific contribution is underplayed.

Betterman - Anime Legends Complete Collection Released by Bandai Entertainment

While a single word evaluation for Betterman's formula of Challengers of the Unknown/horror/biotech/spiritual would have to stray closer to "mess" than traditionally "good", in retrospect, it is a least a highly endearing work. Made in 1999 as a wide-screen, late generation cell anime, the series had a tendency for clumsiness, relying on copious amounts of techno babble. Especially mid-series, it fell into a pattern where it could not start the events of a given episode without allocating at least five minutes to an explanation of the causes for the phenomena of the previous one. Factor in what would now be considered a retro look, a frequent use of drab low light sequences, and a repetition of situations where the heroes' perceptions are distorted, what is distinctive about the anime might not necessarily be effective on screen. Yet,instead of making Betterman unwatchable, these flaws makes the anime unconventional. Not "so bad its good", but fascinatingly offbeat. The reward of sitting through 26 episodes of a serial giant robot misfire is that the series does offer plenty of geek appeal. From its smart pastiches of horror cinema to the thoughtfulness and practicality of the depicted goals and technologies, there is enough of an intelligent edge to the familiar formula that working through the series is worth while. Betterman is set in the same context as the super-robot monument GaoGaiGar. This is mostly a geek parlor game on the part of the creative staff. Betterman and GaoGaiGar feature little thematic overlap, superficial shared characters, and nothing much in the way of plot links. One connection between the works is the idea of daring corporate organizations who mix the drive for profit with pulp adventuring. Under the umbrella of mega-corporation Mode Warp, the protagonists are an investigation team composed of the rugged inventor/president of a minor corporation Akamatsu, bioengineer Miyako Asami (in 1999 the series hadn't escaped the shadow of Neon Genesis Evangelion, and this character could be compared to Ritsuko Akagi with a moral compass), young, infirm telepath Sakura and team of douser/precog Kaede and Shou. There are a number of character aspects that aren't quite as creepy as they might become in later anime. But, you can practically witness moe and loli clawing a hold onto anime during Betterman. In Welcome to the NHK there is a sequence in which two degenerate geeks (including the series protagonist), put together an illustration of their ideal object of romance. Attraction to cutest imperfection and desire to be a protective dominant force is so twisted that they illustrate a drooling, frail girl, unable to lift her head, limbs in casts, strapped to a wheel chair. Betterman's Sakura isn't nearly that bad, but she is humorously close. As she explains in one of her few cogent bits of dialog, she's strapped to various chairs and beds so that she can be given injections of Ritalin to treat his crippling case of ADHD. Then, the less said about the pre-moe lizard girl in this respect, the better. This aspect is largely ignorable in Betterman, but with seven years of perspective, it looks like a dire portent of the Kamichu's and This Ugly Yet Beautiful World's yet to come. The young point of view leads in the series are a pair of teen pilots. Hinoki, a girl with improbably multi-colored bangs struggles to recover from the loss of her parents and elder brother, presumed dead after mysteriously disappearing during a Mode Warp scientific investigation. Her partner Keita, embodies the spirit of the series. In most anime, the character model he represents wouldn't even be a sidekick, more frequently relegated to the hero's left behind classmate. His glasses, disastrous fashion sense and habit of crashing into stationary objects while multitasking: attempting to play a portable game while scooter-ing to school, immediately mark him as a die-hard nerd. Stationed in the middle of the action, his enthusiasm for the technology around him leaves the guy gaping and sputtering his appreciation. While this is usually just an annoyance to his fellow characters, such as the times when he might be going on about something like an advanced military transport plane, it also becomes a forest for the trees distraction, such as when he spies a SWAT unit, and before he recognizes that the unit isn't where it should be, he starts gushing about attacking team's armaments. Part of the fun of Betterman is watching this character present a different path for a mecha lead: not Kouji Kabuto heroic, Shinji Ikari conflicted, or harem show bland. Seeing Keita reading and memorizing the manual for the mecha he pilots or making horribly inelegant passes at Hinoki puts these differences into functional action. Part of the staff carry over from GaoGaiGar to Betterman is mechanical designer Kunio Okawara. Okawara's involvement does not put Betterman on a very exclusive list, his designs for various Brave Saga and Gundam works alone would have made him perhaps the most significant anime robot designer since the 70's. The noteworthy factor in Betterman's mechanical design is that the mecha aesthetic goes the route of the functional "real robot" rather than the colorful "super robot" aesthetic. Evan boxier than VOTOMS's Scopedog or Gasaraki's Tactical Armor (VOTOMS being a Okawara work, Gasaraki, not), Betterman's Kakusajin doesn't look like it is prepare dto defend cities from attacking aliens or even deploy onto a battlefield. Instead, it clearly looks like what it is, a machine purposed for exploration and other practical uses. Like many aspects of the series, these mecha are innovative, complex and perhaps a bit over thought. They are piloted by an involved system of two pilots, hooked into relay of neural-connective fluid and governed by vocal command (namely, in English "you have control..." "I have control".) There is a great deal of information, presented quickly that often is more thoroughly explained in external sources, such as DVD bonus text pieces. As it built off the mecha conventions for a utilitarian, but conceptually tricked out machine, the set of the individual episodes and larger arc similarly integrate science, speculative science and pseudo-science into a serial framework that can both toss out and connect the idea. Specifically, Betterman is driven by a far reaching, far horizon biongeering endeavor aimed both at extending/enhancing human life and solving population problems through the creation of new food sources. This is further expanded by setting the process against tantric Buddhism. The episode by episode heroes stumble onto a problem/heroes stumble onto a conspiracy pattern works up of a big Fountain/2001 ending. Along the way, Betterman inflates an approach that might be a by the book formula with plenty of satisfyingly smart conjecture.

Bugmaster at Sundance

"Bugmaster", Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo's live action adaptation of Mushishi, will be screened at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.

One Shot Dragon Ball/One Piece Cross-Over

ComiPress reports that a "One Piece x Dragonball" one-shot from Eiichiro Oda and Akira Toriyama, creators of the respective adventure series, will appear in Weekly Shonen Jump No.2, on sale December 21st.

Afro Samurai Site Update

Anime News Network points out that the official Afro Samurai website has been updated with a 7-minute streaming copy of the fight between Afro's father and Justice.

Latest Makoto Shinkai Anime Available Online

AnimeNation reports anime auter Makoto Shinkai's (Voices of a Distant Star, Place Promised in Our Early Days) latest work is the opening animation for the "bishoujo" (cute girl) PC game ef - a fairy tale of the two". A video clip of this work is available from the official Minori homepage in a 114mb 640x480 WMV file or 640x360 widescreen WMV file, and is also available for viewing on an officially sanctioned YouTube page.

The "ef - a fairy tale of the two" game is scheduled to go on sale in Japan on December 22nd.

Upcoming in Japan

From Anime News Network Bokurano from Narutaru's Mohiro Kitoh will be animated by Gonzo in 2007, with The Cat Returns's Hiroyuki Morita directing the project. Koge Donbo's official site points out that Kamichama Karin is being adapted into an anime for 2007. The cute-designer is best known for her work on Di Gi Charat and Little Snow Fairy Sugar. Ikimashou reports that the second season of documentary like Flag, from VOTOMS director Ryosuke Takahashi, is scheduled for January 12th. The latest magic girl PreCure, PreCure fine has been confirmed on the official site here. AnimeNation reports Japanese fan site Moon Phase reports that Studio Pierrot will produce an anime television series adaptation of the Xbox 360 RPG Blue Dragon.

New Del Rey Manga Licenses

Del Rey announced three new manga titles scheduled to premiere in summer 2007. MY HEAVENLY HOCKEY CLUB by Ai Morinaga, a new comedy manga set against the backdrop of a high school hockey team from the fan favorite creator of DUCK PRINCE and YOUR AND MY SECRET DRAGON EYE by Kairi Fujiyama, an action-packed martial arts adventure starring a young heroine on a quest to become a master warrior. ALIVE by Tadashi Kawashima, a cautionary science-fiction tale of a global pandemic that affects only teenagers and the handful of survivors who wonder why they were spared.

Ultraman Creators Passes Away

Anime News Network reports that Ultraman director Akio Jissoj has i died of stomach cancer at age 68. Ultraman composer Kunio Miyauchi has also passed away.

Spring Dark Horse Releases, Space Pinchy and More

APPLESEED VOLUME 2: PROMETHEUS UNBOUND Written and art by Shirow Masamune. You can't have a perfect society without perfect people, and the only perfect people are the ones you can manufacture. The governing body of Olympus, an urban utopia created from the ashes of World War III, is about to bring paradise crashing down around their ears as they seek to regulate the minds and bodies of the human race . . . or fully replace them with cyborg substitutes. Deunan and Briareos, still new to the city, find themselves in the unlikely position of having to hold together this house of cards. Their strategy? Destroy the old foundation and pray everything stands while new underpinnings are forged! 192 pages, black and white, $14.95, in stores on May 30. BERSERK VOLUME 17 Written and art by Kentar Miura. Renegade devil-slayer Guts, the Black Swordsman, may be the bane of the demonic realm, but the citizenry of Midland, the kingdom he formerly served, aren't exactly members of his fan club, either. When the holier-than-thou Knights of the Holy Iron Chain capture Guts and decide to whip (literally) some repentance into him, Guts develops a few ideas of his own . . . like taking the Iron Chain's leader hostage and showing her that when Hell comes calling, the only thing worth praying for is a sword! Created by Kentaro Miura, Berserk is an out-of-control manga flashfire, a searing epic of blazing action, blasphemous horror, and black humor that has left scorched earth and toasted readers in its fiery wake. Burn, baby, burn! 240 pages, black and white, $13.95, in stores on May 30.
BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL #123 Written and art by Hiroaki Samura. In part two of the intense "Barefoot" story arc, Rin's hard work as an amateur spy pays off, and she becomes closer friends with Döa as her quest to find Manji continues. Kagimura's dark experiments are revitalized, Manji falls into dreamland, and twisted Doc Burando's dreams come true. Karukozawa and Toraemon, the "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern" of Samura's savage samurai epic, provide a little comic relief. Our color back cover feature this month is a unique Hiroaki Samura geisha pinup, colored by frequent Blade of the Immortal contributor Dan Jackson! 32 pages, black and white, $2.99, in stores on March 14.
EDEN: IT'S AN ENDLESS WORLD! VOLUME 7 Written and art by Hiroki Endo. Delving into the drug cartel politics of South America's post-pandemic future, Hiroki Endo (Tanpenshu) offers up the most complex volume of Eden yet. Elijah initiates a shaky alliance with the Automater, a half-cyborg female crime boss, in order to glean more information about Pedro, the sadistic gangster who mutilated one of Elijah's friends. In a compelling twist, we find out about Pedro's past, his admirable commitment to his brother, and the intricate plan that he hatches in an attempt to save the life of another loved one. As rival gangs fight for power in post-apocalyptic cities, Endo delivers moments of brutal torture, shifting alliances, and poignant reflection, along with his trademark flashes of unexpected violence. 216 pages, black and white, $12.95, in stores on May 2. GHOST IN THE SHELL 1.5: HUMAN-ERROR PROCESSOR #6 Written and art by Shirow Masamune. Another grisly murder has been committed, and again the unidentified victim has a military tattoo that's been found on all the bodies in a series of brutal slayings. Section 9 special agents Togusa and Azuma find a destroyed cyborg at the scene, the same killer 'borg who nearly did them in in a previous encounter. Also found are the prints of the last surviving member of the now-slaughtered military team. Is he the final name on the hit list, or is he the mastermind crossing off the names? 24 pages, $2.99, in stores on March 21.
GUNSMITH CATS OMNIBUS VOLUME 2 Written and art by Kenichi Sonoda. How would you like a fat, fun book full of sexy girls shooting guns and blowing things up, all while driving hot cars and fighting the mob? And while you're at it, make it a manga! Rally Vincent and Minnie-May Hopkins run a gunsmith shop in Chicago by the day . . . but they have a side business as bounty hunters, and there are none better than they are. That's rare for two girls in their late teens! But you can bet Kenichi Sonoda will make you want to believe it. 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! 472 pages, black and white, $16.95, in stores on May 30.
HANAMI: INTERNATIONAL LOVE STORY VOLUME 1 Written by Plus, art by Sung Jae Park. Seventeen-year-old Joonho Suk just had the best day of his life. He finally got the guts to ask out his big crush, Sae-un, and she said yes!! But after floating home on cloud nine, he found . . . his family packing up to move to Seoul? Now tossed into a big new city and lovesick for the girl still in Suwon, Joonho runs into weird characters at every turn. First there's the young girl who speaks a strange language and has enormous strength, then a wayward cat causes another -- Hanami -- to wipe out on her bike! She's okay, but Joonho might not be once her massive grandfather shows up and thinks he's to blame . . . ! Hanami's sweet nature quickly charms Joonho, and he discovers that his new school, including a self-styled blonde Casanova, is already abuzz over his cute Japanese neighbor. But what about Sae-un? And what on earth is the Babe Patrol Research Center? Discover a completely entertaining read and one of the most popular comics Korea has to offer. 208 pages, black and white, $9.95, in stores on May 16. SHAMAN WARRIOR VOLUME 3 Written and art by Park Joong-Ki. Outlawed and marked for death by a kingdom they once served, the Shaman Warriors of Kugai are a dying breed of disturbingly powerful, mystical killing machines. Political misinformation has led the citizens and soldiers of Kugai to fear the once-respected Shamen. As the King's soldiers begin to comb the desert fringes of civilization for survivors, twisted Death Lords also hunt the Shamen and their followers. Batu hopes to protect the child in his care from the chaos and fear that has engulfed the land, but the daughter of one of the strongest Shamen ever cannot be shielded from her destiny. When a gang of colorful, bloodthirsty assassins closes in on Batu and his ward, surprising new allies reveal themselves‹ready to defend this special child with their lives! 208 pages, black and white, $12.95, in stores on May 30.
SPACE PINCHY Written and art by Tony Takezaki. Previously solicited as single issues, the crazy, sexy, and relentless Space Pinchy is back! This time as a trade paperback! The last of the Pinch tribe, Pinchy travels through the stars in search of treasures left behind by her ancestors, and it's never an easy hunt. But one thing is for certain, it's always hilarious. From the crazy manga mind of Tony Takezaki, Space Pinchy is a frenetic series of sexy high jinks, rendered in beautiful, 3D-curvy color. Join Pinchy and her naughty alien companion, Audrey Q as they somehow escape the most dire and ridiculous consequences Takezaki can think up! 224 pages, black and white, $15.95, in stores on May 23.
TANPENSHU VOLUME 2 Written and art by Hiroki Endo. In Tanpenshu volume two, Hiroki Endo passionately explores the many problems and social difficulties that people face, while growing up and while seeking to find their roles in a violent, precarious world. In "Hang," a short and steamy science fiction romp, two lovers try to look beyond a twisted, dysfunctional family life to strengthen the ties that bind them together. In other stories, a struggling art student tries to survive an early midlife crisis and his feelings towards high school girls and androids, a young painter with yakuza connections and sick fantasies struggles to balance his personal passions with his family's honor, and the two teenagers in Endo's delightfully perverted "Boys Don't Cry" vignette lament their shortcomings. Deep, compelling, and brilliantly illustrated, these shocking tales are unflinching glimpses at desperate attempts to find companionship and meaning, and they are delivered with the same detailed illustrations and surprising plot twists found in all of Hiroki Endo's works. 224 pages, black and white, $12.95, in stores on May 30.

CLAMP Features in NY Times

The New York Time has profiled popular manga creation team CLAMP here. The piece talks about their art systle, and the titles released by Del Rey and FUNimation.

Right Stuf Plans To Heart Premiere

Anime producer The Right Stuf International has announced that the first volume of To Heart, entitled New Feelings is now scheduled for February 27, 2007. Based on one of Japan’s most popular games, To Heart follows childhood friends Akari and Hiroyuki, and their classmates, as they deal with life’s everyday – and not-so-everyday – dramas. This tale of love, relationships and friendship has been a fan favorite since its 1999 Japanese television debut, and perceptive American fans may recognize the series from its numerous “cameos" in the best-selling Comic Party anime. Available to U.S. audiences for the first time ever, Right Stuf’s release of To Heart features a complete video restoration of the entire 13-episode series. Runtime: Approximately 100 minutes, Dolby Digital Stereo, Color SRP: $19.99 Bonus DVD content includes: Reversible cover, translation notes, line art gallery, character bios, scene access, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio for English and Japanese Dialog, English subtitles, plus English on-screen translations.

ADV Premieres

Anime on DVD reports that columing ADVs previews include Air Gear volume 1 on February 6th and Le Chevalier D'Eon volume 1 on February 20th. ADV will release the first volume of Moeya Ken TV on January 30th. The company previously released the one volume OVA.
Produced by Marvelous Entertainment (Air Gear, School Rumble) with original character sketches by Rumiko Takahashi (the original creator of the Inu Yasha series), Moeyo Ken TV is the story of three daughters of the Shinsengumi who decide to follow in their fathers footsteps to protect Japan. Unfortunately for the girls, most of the threats they face are of the paranormal variety (not to mention hilarious!) Synopsis: Yuuko Kondou, Toshie Hijikata, and Kaoru Okita are the daughters of the legendary and honorable Mobile Shinsengumi team. They have been passed the torch to carry on in the noble tradition of their samurai fathers. Their task is to defend Kyoto from a hoard of outlawed and unlicensed beasts! But along with crazy monster cat Nekomaru, wacky inventor Gennai, and silly-boy Ryuunosuke, these danger-prone damsels stir up more trouble than they can shake their swords at when madcap match-matching and money-woes trump any danger the monsters can conjure! Prepare for a zany ride as the Mobile Shinsengumi usher in a new era of magical mayhem! With heroes like these, who needs enemies?
Best Student Council will premiere of Anime Network December 28th. Synopsis: At first glance, Miyagami Private Academy seems like a typical all-girls’ school. But beneath its placid surface is a highly-disciplined student council engaged in an unceasing struggle to keep Miyagami Private Academy safe from the outside (adult) world! Complete with covert and assault divisions, all student council members have their own special abilities. So how did cute little transfer student Rando Rino make the cut? Join the girls of the academy and the infamous Pucchan the puppet on one ride that is sure to leave you laughing!

FUNimation Sites

Anime on DVD points out that FUNimation has posted place holder site for their upcoming releases of Peach Girl, xxxHoLic and Tsubasa Chronicles

FUNimation Channel now in Sacramento

FUNimation Entertainment has announced that the FUNimation Channel is now available in Sacramento and surrounding areas as part of the programming on KBTV Global Television. The FUNimation Channel will be carried on KBTV channel 8 Mondays through Fridays from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. PT. KBTV channel 8 is an over-the-air signal that covers the cities of Sacramento, Roseville, El Dorado Hills, Rancho Cordova and surrounding areas. KBTV has extensive cable coverage via Comcast cable, channel 238, which include cities such as Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto, Lodi, Yuba City, Chico, Fresno, Merced and other locales in the greater Central Valley of California. The FUNimation Channel is currently available to viewers nationwide as part of the CoLours TV Network, which is part of DISH Network's basic package, to residents in the Los Angeles area via over-the-air broadcast on digital channel LA 18.3, on Verizon FiOS TV as part of the extended basic package, to Hawaii residents on KIKU TV, in the Houston-area as part of Optical Entertainment Network's FISION service, and now to Sacramento and surrounding areas on KBTV.


Twitch points out that the trailer for Cream Lemon 6 (Kurîmu remon: Kuroneko-kan - Arisa no shôzô), a live action adaptation of an early hentai/adult work, is on its official site. A trailer for the Genshikden OVA, to be packaged with the DVD release of Kujibiki Unbalance, is online here

Seven Seas News

Seven Seas Entertainment announced that two of its top original manga titles, Amazing Agent Luna and Destiny’s Hand, for teens will be sold through Scholastic Book Fairs beginning in January 2007. Amazing Agent Luna is a five-volume series that follows the story of Luna, a fifteen-year-old girl who is the ultimate secret agent, but is given a mission that will test her abilities to the max—high school! Destiny’s Hand is a three-volume series about a young pirate girl named Olivia Soldana who is tasked by her dying captain to lead his ship and find the legendary lost treasure the Devil’s Eye.
Both series are written by the writing team of Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir, who have worked on such comic series as New X-Men: Academy X, New Mutants, and Adventures of Superman, and have written for such television shows as Arli$$.
The popular harem comedy manga Aoi House has been animated into a flash music by Jonathan Talas (No Man’s Land: The Flash Anime, Diva v. Poe: The Flash Storybook), set to the Aoi House Theme Song – “Itsumo Futaride," here/ Aoi House is an ongoing series that follows the story of two down-on-their-luck college students named Alex and Sandy who get kicked out of their dorm rooms due to their troublemaking pet hamster. With nowhere else to turn, the boys move into an anime clubhouse full of five crazed yaoi fangirls calling the shots. The upcoming release of Kaoru Watashiya's Kodomo no Jikan has been renamed "Nymphet". An explaination can be read on Anime on DVD's forum here. Publisher's Weekly looks at Seven Sea Entertainment's launch of a children's prose line here

Upcoming Live Action

Akadot reports Ken'ichi Matsuyama will reprise the role of the detective "L" in an upcoming Death Note spin-off movie. Naoki Furusawa's (Monster) 20th Century Boys will be adapted into live action movies, the first of which is scheduled for 2008. Speaking of Naoki Urasaw, ComiPress has translated a piece on his thoughts on manga editors.

Robotech News

Anime News Network reports FBI searched the home and offices of Frank Agrama, the founder of Harmony Gold USA and the producer of Robotech in connection with the Italian authorities' investigation into fraud charges against Agrama and 11 other individuals, including former Italian prime minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi. From THE (unofficial) ROBOTECH REPORTER: Palladium announced a new Robotech RPG game will be released in March 2007 with sourcebooks to follow quickly. Palladium is still formulating its strategies for the Robotech RPG line, but the company will has said it probably start with upcoming The Shadow Chronicles sequel. Del Ray will be publshing omnibus editions of Robotech: The Masters and The New Generation saga novelizations, along with their current reprints of The Macross Saga. Robotech Reporter talks about the status of the Robotech CCG here.

My-Hime Release Plans

Anime on DVD re[prts Bandai will be offering the 7th volume of My-HiME with a box for $34.98. The DVD will feature the director's cut edition of episode 26.

NewType USA to Look At Upcoming Eva Movies

The December release of Newtype USA will be offering an exclusive looking at the new Evangelionn movies currentlt in production. The four new movies are promising to take the franchise in an entirely new direction. The issue will also feature gift ideas and a DVD will previews of Ergo Proxy, Rumbling Hears and Guyver.

Anime on Cartoon Network

ToonZone reports that Idaten Jump has been licensed by Hasbro. The show will be airing on Cartoon Network starting in December. Anime News Network and ioLink report The Prince of Tennis and MÄR will air on Toonami starting December 23 at 10 p.m. Eastern.

Award News

Anime News Network points out that the nomination for the 2006 Annie Awards have been announced, with no anime making the cut. ANN looks at the reasons for this here. Anime Nation reports Toki Wo Kakeru Shoujo (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) was the only anime nominated for the 2006 Japan SF Grand Prize award. For more nominess see here. Comipress reports the Zoooka Manga Prize, hosted by Takarazuka University of Arts and Design and supported by Mainichi Shimbun and established in an effort to search for new manga artists has announced its 2006 winners. See here for the list. Barubara Ikai by Moto Hagio has won the 27th Japan SF Grand Prize.

DoCoMo links with Kadokawa

The Wall Stree Journal reports mobile phone corporation DoCoMo has purchased 3.78% of manga publisher's Kadokawa stocks in an effort to provide Kadokawa content to DoCoMo subscribers.

Game News

The Magic Box has screen shots of Naruto: Shinobi Retsuden for the Nintendo DS here Anime Nation reports Japan's Yamato Toys has announced that the upcoming Japanese Megazone 23 Complete Box DVD set will include a trailer for an upcoming Megazone 23 Playstation 3 game.

DrMaster Releases

DrMaster has begun shipping Stray Little Devil #4: and High School Girls #7: Stray Little Devil #4: Something dreadful is unfolding in the precariously balanced Spirit World. The Acting Angel Conference Chair - Aregna is imprisoned for stealing the heirloom from the Church. Not only that, his prison has mysteriously exploded and Aregna has been missing ever since. Thinking he has sided with the devils, the Angelic council has decided to engage in an all-out-war against Deamonea. Meanwhile, with her power sealed under her master’s absence, Linfa realizes something amazing about Pam. High School Girls #7: In Volume 7 of High School Girls, the moron group find themselves facing the danger of breaking up as they embark on their school trip to Okinawa. Also, the moron groups' own Celeb Club takes their moronic level a notch higher as they try to figure out how to get guys.

The Last Unicorn 25th Anniversary Edition Release

ICV2 points out that Lionsgate will be releasing the Last Unicorn: 25th Anniversary DVD on February 6th for $19.98. Unlike the 2004 pan-and-scan release, this DVD will be modeled after the German release, featuring anamorphic widescreen with a Dolby 5.1 soundtrack. ICV2 also reports Peter S. Beagle, author of the Last Unicorn novel, is still involved in a bitter dispute with Granada, the company that produced the film, has been opening to working with Lionsgate and provided a video interview as an extra for the DVD. The anime connection to the movie is that while it was produced by Rankin/Bass, it was animated by Studio Ghibli precursor Topcraft Studios.

Non-Anime/Manga Projects

Comics rumor column Lying in the Gutters mentions in passing that Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier's barbarian satire comic Groo The Wanderer is being adapated into an animated feature. A 25th Anniversary Special and Groo The Wanderer/Conan The Barbarian crossover comic mini-series are scheduled for 2007. Scott Kurtz will be launching a subscription based PvP: The Animated Series on February 1st. Publisher's Weekly has an article on works that will be published as part of Hachette's Yen Press comic imprint, including urban love story The Lost Angel, a series of graphic novels by the Wu-Tang Clan and Shooting War, a satire of the Iraq war.

Worth Checking Out..

Cartoon Brew points out that James Eatock of Busta Toons Productions and He Man/She Ra blog is launching cereal:geek, a quartly magazine that will be looking at animation form the 80's with the aim to "challenges the perceptions of the reader". Dark Horse has a Flash flip book preview of the Gungrave art book here. Also, Masamune Shirow fans should check out their preview of the 2007 Shirow Calendar here
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