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AICN Anime-Horror Manga Presents and Drifting Classroom, Live Action Tidbits, Non Anime-Flashman Author Passes Away

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Flashman Author Dead At 82

It's not anime related, but I did first find about the passing on an anime related podcast, and I think that the news bears mentioning on AICN. George MacDonald Fraser, author of the Flashman series of historical fiction died last month at age 82. The eponymous Harry Flashman was a racist, misogynist, misanthrope who managed to win fame and fortune by cowardly sluffing through the major conflicts and disasters of the 19th century, including Britain's route from Kabul, the Charge of the Light Brigade, Battle of the Little Bighorn, the Taiping Rebellion, the Sepoy Rebellion and so on. For a view of history from a villainous, imperialist perspective, The Flashman Chronicles were a captivatingly informative read.

Manga Spotlight: Presents Volume 2 By Kanako Inuki Released by CMX Manga

Horror anthology Presents concerns the joy and peril of exchanging gifts. In keeping with that theme, volume two is bookended by Santa stories. The latter of these is bittersweet. While familiar, it is one of the occasional nice stories that injects some uncertainty into the generally more harrowing thrust of the manga. The former of these is actually a set of three cases where St. Nick sees the destiny of a son of overly demanding parents, who only wants a baseball bat, the daughter of hard working but debt ridden parents, who only wants a doll, and the smart kid who only wants a computer. Holy bleeping preemptive assault Batman. Everything started off so nice before spiraling into serial dead baby disposal. As tired as the whole "torture porn" debate might be, there's something to be said for horror that is unabashed about showcasing outrageous spectacles. Like the captured police officer scene in Reservoir Dogs, or the hanging scene in Ichi the Killer, the third act of Audition, or various encounters in Old Boy, these spectacles provoke conflicting desires to recount the carnage to the uninitiated and hold back, so as not to spoil the impact. Even when Presents is in one of its nice stories, even when fate of the sinning subject is predictable, the manga is good for a black hearted grin. Part of the pleasure of reading Presents is an ironic appreciation of its absurdity. Inuki demonstrates an awareness of the boundary between the twisted that is laughable and the twisted that is frightening, and she plays it both ways. The manga doesn't call to be taken entirely seriously. At the same time, that glee with which sinners, of both the mortal and venial variety, are tormented is nicely off-putting. A fan of the genre or a fan of the medium is given call to admire the craft used to construct tales that are this dark. Few genres in manga inspire a desire to share the experience to the degree that horror does. You have to find someone of the right mindset to pass along a shonen action sequence or a shojo romance, and even then it often takes some time to get the audience sufficiently acclimated to the context to appreciate what is being shown. For horror manga from any one of the tradition's greats, Kazuo Umezu, Hideshi Hino, Junji Ito, Kanako Inuki and so on, show someone a few pages and they'll probably be able to appreciate the proper qualities of the spectacle. To tweak a coupon clipping, online sample ordering friend, I gave the person a copy of Presents volume 1, bookmarked on the story in which a freebie collector was turned into a laboratory sample. Because the whole story was a short, sharp, memorable exercise: A) the recipient actually read it rather than just throw the book on a shelf B) I was able to see the recipient giving me the evil eye within minutes. This realizable ability to provoke a reaction is part of the reason why horror manga fans are disappointed when it seems like ONLY horror manga fans and adventurous manga/comics readers are consuming works of the genre. At least Presents is a good find for that select audience. Given the unique character of Kanako Inuki's work, Presents is a thrill for fans of horror manga, or manga in general, looking to collect distinctive works in the tradition. It's a strange little horror anthology that is generally a pitch black work of weapons grade cynicism, but occasionally also genuine sentimentality. The hallmark of Inuki's work is a consuming level of commitment. Her characters have globes for faces with beacon-like fist sized eyes. A fair number of readers and critics find these off-putting, but what these faces provide is a huge canvas on which Inuki can paint fear and pain. When her characters are shocked or suffer, it is broadcast with a volume that few design styles can match. The same can be said of her stories, which are concise exercises in making a stark point. CMX's "Parental Advisory | Explicit Content" warning sticker on Presents is entirely understandable. Inuki has no compulsion against dipping into the blood and entrails end of the horror manga tradition, but for volume two, the heft of her assault is directed in conceptual attacks. But even if amputated toes and plucked eyes are kept to a minimum, CMX is pretty justified in making sure that a Shojo Beat reader doesn't unknowingly wind up with a copy of Presents. As Cabbage Patch dollish as Inuki design's might be, those broad, soft looking faces are inevitablely going to contort in aguish given that, in the majority of stories, matters end in murder and mutilation. As understandable as the cover warning might be, it is also lamentable that the manga is unlikely to find its way into the hands of younger readers. Hopefully this isn't strictly the warped sentiments of an adult without children, who has no problem winding up a niece/nephew/godchild then setting them loose on their parents, but it is amusing to think of the effect Presents would have on its intended audience. It's not quite the same as showing Gremlins to a very young child, and the manga isn't meant to act like an unadulterated fairytale or a Victorian morality primer. While it's written for someone younger than the Explicit Content label might suggest, it speaks to a rational age. The reader is supposed to be able to pick up on the irony and appreciate the fierce satire in stories that reenact Cinderella or follow a girl who parents teach her the secrets of control through bribery. Calling Presents a Last House on the Left for a mid-teen might be a bit overboard, but the intension seems to be to unleash a visceral assault and leave the implication fairly clear.

Manga Spotlight: Drifting Classroom Volumes 8-10 By Kazuo Umezu Released by Dark Horse Manga

Kazuo Umezu's Drifting Classroom, the story of an elementary school full of children transported into a desolate future has consistently proven to be less about a Lord of the Flies-style demonstration of human nature in the absence of a concrete society than it is about testing social dynamics in extreme circumstances. Celebrity manga artist Kazyo Umezu is old... John McCain level old (both were born in '36). Though his public persona is akin to a Peewee Herman of horror, one has to wonder how his personal experience with periods of deprivation, such as the post war years, and social unrest, such as the 1960s and 1970s, shaped the vision of his stories. A lot of us North American manga commentators are guilty of essentialism in reducing the inspirations behind Japanese popular media to the broad strokes of history, then again, arguably, so is Takashi Murakami. In the case of Drifting Classroom, Umezu seems intent on projecting past crisis forward. In doing so, he lays a foundation for popular Japanese media to use fictional scenarios to violently engage social concerns. Drifting Classroom, which ran 1972-1974 in Shonen Sunday (home of former Umezu assistant Rumiko Takahashi's shonen works, Ishinomori's Cyborg 009, Tezuka's Dororo), might not have introduced the notion, but when looking at later works like Koushun Takami's (born 1969) Battle Royale that deal with pronounced violence in closed systems, it's hard not to see an antecedent in Drifting Classroom. Drifting Classroom was created with younger readers in mind, but like Presents it broadcasts a "Parent Advisory: Explicit Content" warning. So much for spawning a generation of satirical death match novelists. Like Presents, the warning is not entirely inappropriate. There's a lot in here that would make an adult queasy. Looking at the appendectomy performed in volume 9, and comparing it to the make-shift surgery in the 2007 3:10 to Yuma or No Country For Old Men, by an intestine length, those two movies are easier to swallow. Osamu Tezuka set the mark for many aspects of manga, and as a medical doctor himself, he set a framework for surgery in manga like Black Jack and Ode to Kirihito. Umezu darkens it and makes more never-wracking threatening; both scientifically real and mysterious . These images of cutting and setting aren't ones that anyone who has or will have surgery will want floating around in their mind Though Drifting Classroom is a provocation in its entirety, Dangerous adventure is the sine qua non of the manga. Sometimes the action serves as a metaphor. Other times, if it does, the purpose is obscure. While intelligent and aware of it's implications, it's also a thriller that dedicates itself to maintaining a pitched threat. Through the entire span of the manga, Umezu has kept fear boiling by stoking on new, strange dangers. Volume 10 in particular has a traditional leap over a gap, exacerbate by the youth of the protagonists and by incapacitated members of the group. And, the volume also has attacking robot dinosaurs, and a zombie-like, melted, homicidal robot Marilyn Monroe. Especially in these late volumes, Umezu seems to be chugging through ideas. The pacing is more akin to a marathoner who picks up speed with the end in sight than a desperate hack simply throwing everything at the wall. But, the serialized nature of the work is evident and the governing impulse looks more like general purpose than a detailed plan. There's a cornucopia of woes for a genre fan to get worked up about: mutant inhabitants with Lovecraftian worshipers of a demon god; religion comes up again with their crucified forbearer; eugenics; proximity to doomsday. It's all sorts of compound nasty, but other than consistently dwelling at the peak of panic, there's no in-context guidelines. The teetering point is whether the chain of events maintains a coherent sense of progression, guided by an authorial hand or whether it slides off into "and then..." yarn spinning. There is a component of "and then, the star fish mold creatures attack," "and then, girl A gets a club to the cranium," "and, then boy B gets a spear in the eye," "and then, lava erupts from the ground." It is a bit hyperactive, but it is also going somewhere. Odysseus is a well formed character, but for most of the Odyssey, he isn't the person driving events. To a large extend, circumstances spring up to challenge him, and drama stems from his reaction. What happens when you meet/hear about unimaginable X on island Y? What happens when you're time stranded and the other kids start repeating rumors that you caused the jump into the desolate future landscape by setting dynamite in the school's foundation? Umezu is a cruel god, testing his children. In Grant Morrison's post modernist run on the super hero comic Animal Man, there was an issue long story called “The Coyote Gospel.” Not Wile E. Coyote drags himself out of a world where cartoon characters suffer in perpetual, pointless violence. Driven by the hope of bringing peace to that world, he suffers unimaginable pains to bring a message to Animal Man's "real world." In keeping with that fiction within fiction messianic mission, the last panels of the comic have a hand reaching into the frame to embellish the scene of crucifixion. While Drifting Classroom is not directly post modern in the same way, the reader is watching over Umezu's shoulder as he rattles these children with a hand of god/author. From a more current perspective, it's like watching someone jam the disaster button while playing a Sim game, Black and White or maybe the upcoming Spore. There isn't always rationality to the progression of trials, but a lynch pin keeps the focus on observing what the children do in midst of panic. Umezu initially made his name in comedy gag manga, and he's remained a gleeful provocateur. In Drifting Classroom, he’s neither a proponent of a political agenda or uninterested in the implications of what he's writing about. The manga's school is an ant colony, shaken up, allowed to battle into a new configuration, and then shaken up again. Given the efforts need to hold on, the characters aren't given the opportunity to drive their own story arc. It's almost like th desperate straits of expeditions, such as Shackleton's or the Darién exploration, where putting one foot in front of the other towards in proper direction is in and of itself an act of heroism. From a sociological interest stand point, it's fascinating watching Umezu project human dynamics through plague, shortage, conquest, internal strife, external competition. While many of the experiments' subjects are swayed by the urge to panic, bullies or bullied, others demonstrate self sacrifice and ingenuity. Both the worst of human nature and what we'd want to believe to be best are exhibited in locked struggle in Umezu's compelling balance of optimism and pessimism.

More Live Action Talk

"gothboy" graciously sent out some new insight into the live action Akira. The film takes place in Neo Manhattan after World War III, unlike the anime/manga's Neo Tokyo, but city will have been rebuilt with Japanese money and consequently feature a Japanese aesthetic. Kung Fu Rodeo pulled a casting list for something that might be live action Ninja Scroll, or at least it's a live action Jubei movie (a name that evokes Jubei Yagyu, the Tokugawa Era James Bond who inspired the hero of Ninja Scroll). HOLLYWOOD FEATURE FILM ACTORS / ACTRESSES WANTED OPEN CASTING CALL “NINJA ASSASSINS” Javelin Pictures is pleased to announce an open casting call for an upcoming martial arts film From the Producers of The Matrix – The Wachowski Brothers & Joel Silver Directed by “V for Vendetta’s”: James McTiegue Starring Korean Superstar: Rain All potential candidates should be Asian, fit, vibrant and possess some knowledge of Martial arts, acting and be able to communicate effectively in English. We are looking to fill the following roles: Ozunu, Male, Older man 40s / 50s This Ninja master and head of the clan trains generations of ninja assassins until one of his own rebels. Sadaharu, Male 20s Ninja disciple loyal to the Ozunu clan, hopes to follow in the footsteps of his master. Strong fighting skills. Teenage Sadaharu, Male 15-17yrs Teenage ninja apprentice, grew up in the orphanage and train together at the Ninja academy. Teenage Jubei, Male, 15-17yrs A rebellious teenager trains to become a future of ninja assassin. Growing up in an orphanage, he journeys through various stages of his life as a ninja apprentice. Teenage Kiriko, Female, 15-17yrs Fellow ninja apprentice attempts to flee the orphanage and deals with the consequences. Tattoo Parlour Ninja, Male 20s Trained assassin and Ozunu clan member, he kills on contract and has strong fighting skills. Tattoo Master, Male 50s / 60s Older, wise tattoo master warns a rowdy client of impending doom. Pretty Ninja Woman, Female 20s Dangerous assassin disguised as an attractive woman. Strong fighting skills. Female, Beautiful Asian Woman– Woman 20s / 30s Possible assassin (Extra). In the Chun Li focuses Street Fighter live action new casting is emerging: Clarke Duncan as Balrog (boxer), Chris Klein as Nash (charlie), and Rick Yune as Gen. Dragon Ball Movie Blog notes Movie Land reports that Dragon Ball filming is 70% done. "We just shoot exterior scenes, we are now within a jeans factory that adapt to the typical scenes of Dragon Ball ..." All the scenes that we have been spectacular in the right climate here. The truth is that everything has been perfect, especially for the support of the people" Set photos can be seen here

Japanamerica's Kelts at Kinokuniya Bookstores

Anime News Network reports Kinokuniya Bookstores and the manga publisher Tokyopop will be holding a "How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded America!" event at Kinokuniya's New York City branch on February 27 at 6:00 p.m. The event will mark the expanded and updated paperback edition of Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture has Invaded the U.S. The event will also feature Tokyopop artists Hiroki Otsuka (Boys of Summer), James Barry (Warriors), and Melissa DeJesus (Sokora Refugees). Kelts will be making several more appearances in California and Washington state, including one at Sakura-Con.

Figures News

Art of War is taking pre-orders for A Muzguz repaintings of their ZODD”SENMA figures. Twenty of the 29 cm (H) x 35 cm (W) x 23 cm (D) (base included) Polystone figures will be produced, which retail for 60,000 JAPANESE YEN. Delivery is scheduled between 20 March and 20 April. has plenty of news and images from the recent New York Toy Fair. Bandai's Ben 10, Digimon, Dragonball Z, ower Rangers Jungle Fury for Spring 2008 and Ben 10 Alien Force , Blue Dragon, Digimon for Fall '08 can be seen here DC Direct’s Ame-Comi anime inspired figures line-up include *Supergirl – April 2008 *Power Girl – April 2008 *Wonder Woman – July 2008 *Cheetah – July 2008 *Donna Troy – October 2008 *Zatanna – October 2008 *Hawkgirl Deluxe – January 2009 *Poison Ivy – April 2009 *Harley – TBD 2009 DiD's samurai figures First 4 Figures/PBM (Assassin Creed , Dragon Ball Z, Judge Dredd , Legend of Zelda, Metroid) can be seen here Kotobukiya (Art of Shunya Yamashita, Dead or Alive 2, Devil May Cry ARTFX, Evangelion 1.0, Patlabor, Super Robot Wars) can be seen here Upcoming Jun Planning Death Note figures include trading series and sets of PVC figures with Light, L, Misa, Ryuk, and Rem. The CraftLabel statues of Light,L, and Ryuk will be joined by a larger 50cm Big Size Ryuk figure and 1/8 PVC figures of Ryuk and Rem. 7” action figures of Misa, Light, L, Ryuk, and Rem are due out this summer. Also from Jun Planning, creepy Evangelion Pullips Mattel has Kung Fu Panda and Speed Racer Organic Hobby (Afro Samurai, Hellsing, Revoltech, Tezuka Moderno Labo) can be seen here. Collection DX's coverage Scruncalli Dunchie Toys' Samurai Statues Line SOTA Toys' Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Street Fighter Toynami's PVC Bleach figures will be expanded including Series 4 with Kisuke & Toshiro and Series 5 with Byakuya & Renji. Other Toynamic releases include Naruto, One Piece, Robotech/ Macross, Transformers and Voltron. Shaw Brothers Action figures Toy Vault has announced that it signed a licensing agreement with FUNimation Entertainment to create plushes based on Crayon Shin Chan. Detroit Metal City's Souichi Negishi aka Johannes Krauser the II Gunbuster's Noriko

No Anime Nominated For Saturn Awards

Anime has garnered few nominations for the sci-fi's Saturn Awards, and nothing made the list for the 34th. Of Note: Best International Film included Black Book (Sony Pictures Classics) Day Watch (Fox Searchlight) Eastern Promises (Focus Features) Goya’s Ghosts (Samuel Goldwyn Films) The Orphanage (Picturehouse) Sleuth (Sony Pictures Classics) Best Animated Film Beowulf (Paramount) Meet the Robinsons (Buena Vista) Ratatouille (Buena Vista) Shrek the Third (DreamWorks SKG / Paramount) The Simpsons Movie (20th Century Fox) Surf’s Up (Sony) Best International Series Doctor Who (Sci Fi Channel) Torchwood (BBC America) Meadowlands (aka Cape Wrath) (Showtime) Jekyll (BBC America) Life On Mars (BBC America) Robin Hood (BBC America) Best Collection on DVD The Godzilla Collection (Classic Media) The Mario Bava Collection (Vol. 1 & 2) (Anchor Bay) The Sergio Leone Anthology (MGM) The Sonny Chiba Collection (BCI / Eclipse) Stanley Kubrick (Warner Home Video Directors Series) (Warner) Vincent Price (MGM Scream Legends Collection) (MGM)

Angelic Pretty Guest at Loligoth Tour

Pop Japan Travel and Dream Shoppe announced that the Tokyo Darkside Gothic-Lolita Tour will feature an opportunity to meet Maki and Asuka, the driving forces behind lolita fashion brand Angelic Pretty. This tour of Takeshita-dori and at La Foret in Harajuku, at Onejuku in Shinjuku takes place 11-18.

The Third Updates

Anime producer and distributor Right Stuf, Inc./Nozomi Entertainment and Kadokawa Pictures USA announced that THE THIRD: THE GIRL WITH THE BLUE EYE, VOL. 6: FINAL DECISIONS will be released on May 27, 2008. The 24-episode anime, also known as “The Third – Aoi Hitomi no Shoujo,” is based upon a popular series of novels and short stories written by Ryou Hoshino and illustrated by Nao Goto Episode 60 of Right Stuf's ANIME TODAY podcast features Anna Morrow, the voice of the protagonist Honoka in the localized dub of The Third.

September Picked for New York Anime Festival 2008

The New York Anime Festival (NYAF) announced its 2008 show will be held from September 12th to the 14th at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City. The New York Anime Festival, a Japanese pop culture convention from the creators of the New York Comic Con, held its first event on December 7-9, 2007. Following the close of the New York Anime Festival's 2007 show, the convention conducted surveys, interviews, and focus groups with exhibitors, professionals, and attendees to determine the dates of its next event. The New York Anime Festival's new September setting is the result of this research.

Anime Boston Talks Guests

Anime Boston announced that international stars the pillows will perform this year in the Hynes Convention Center on March 22.The pillows are best known for "Ride on Shooting Star", which was highlight in the popular animated series "FLCL." The group is expected to play songs from "FLCL" and its latest album “Wake Up!, Wake Up!, Wake Up!”, their first record on the Avex Trax label. Luv and Response, a vocal dance troupe, featuring fashion icon "D" and professional dancers (boys "Life" & "Rofe", and girls "eLu" & "Any") will also be appearing at the concert. Their new collaboration is themed "Next Society", and will incorporate original fashion, music and choreography within a single, thematic canvas. The convention’s second round of guests include: Colleen Clinkenbeard is a voice actor/ADR director/ADR scriptwriter/ Line Producer for Funimation Productions. Her credits include Yuko in xxxHOLiC, Éclair in Kiddy Grade, Rachel in Case Closed, Hawkeye in Fullmetal Alchemist, Oleander in Lupin III: Dead or Alive, Himawari in Shin Chan, Sister Esther in Trinity Blood and Hotorubi in Basilisk. Aaron Dismuke performed the leading role in Fullmetal Alchemist as Alphonse Elric. Todd Haberkorn is actor, director, producer, and writer who performed in Suzuka, Hell Girl, Shuffle, and xxxHOLiC as Watanuki. Michael Sinterniklaas is a voice actor and director and owner of New York based studio NYAV Post. His directing credits include Magic Users Club, Berserk, Giant Robo, Osamu Tezuka's Jungle Emperor Leo and The Phoenix, The Weathering Continent, and Ah My Goddess. Brad Swaile peformed the role Mousse in Ranma 1/2, later Amuro, Quartre, Dearka and Auel in various Gundam series and recently Light Yagami in Death Note and Rock in Black Lagoon. Tom Wayland produced more than 200 different anime programs at Central Park Media, including Alien Nine, The World of Narue, Shootfighter Tekken and Ichi the Killer. In 2004, Wayland founded TripWire Productions. Anime Boston is an annual three-day Japanese animation convention held in Boston, Massachusetts. Anime Boston 2008 will be held Friday, March 21 through Sunday, March 23 at the Hynes Convention Center and Boston Marriott Copley Place.

Bandai Launches Code Geass and Lucky Star on Web

Bandai Entertainment, INC. announced that it has launched my space pages for two of its new series Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion and Lucky Star. Similarly, the series websites, as well as are currently live with information and news with new many new updates planned. Lucky Star is a 24 episode television series from Kyoto Animation, the same anime production company that created the anime series for Haruhi. Lucky Star's main character is Konata Izumi, a lazy high school girl who isn't interested in anything besides anime and video games. The series is described as the ultimate “otaku anime,” -- it pays tribute to anime culture and other series with in-jokes and hilarious references. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion features animation studio Sunrise and a story by Goro Taniguchi (s-CRY-ed, Planetes) and Ichiro Okouchi (Eureka Seven, Planetes) and character designs by the legendary manga creators CLAMP. The story is a military drama with intricate plot lines and robotic action about the character Lelouch and his journey to overthrow a totalitarian regime that has invaded Japan. Toon Zone notes that Rightstuf lists Lucky Star will be released on 5/6/08 for $29.98 (regular edition) or $64.98 (limited edition w/artbox).

Worth Checking Out

Via Ghibli World, the cover of the image alblum for Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo on a Cliff Patrick Macias interviews Ryuhei Kitamura (Versus) about his new Midnight Meat Train Matt Alt on the Jumbo Machinder display at the Kennedy Center's Japan: Culture + Hyperculture exhibition. Screenshots for the new Battle of Sunrise mecha confluence game here and via Gunota here Via ComiPress The Busiest Mangaka Ever: Shinji Mizushima Blog@Newsarama talks to Pop Culture Shock Manga Editor Katherine Dacey Imagi's Astro Boy recruitment posters Another Spring anime preview A fun look at the Mach 5 Salon on Oscar animated short nominations Coraline's teaser trailer Yay tentacles More of Shintaro Kago in Vice from Same Hat! Same Hat! Cubicles at Viz ADV Films is still on run silent mode, but NewType US posted a goodbye.

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