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AICN Anime-Yotsuba Questions Answered, An Early Look at Gantz, Koike's Color of Rage and More!

Logo handmade by Bannister Column by Scott Green
In mid April, a talkback user posted a familiar query regarding the status of volume six of Yotsuba&!, a beloved manga series that captures the carefree wonder of childhood. In theory, at the time, the volume had been released by ADV Manga. Amazon listed it as published, but not in stock. Supposedly, it had been on sale at ADV's booth at anime/manga conventions. The title had previously broke for an 18 month hiatus, recommencing in summer 2008, so it absence was cause for some worry. My response as to why the volume could not be found at any retailer was "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown." It was worth asking ADV, but as other enthusiast press outlets can attest, communications with the distributor, especially lately, have been rather sparse. With fan attitudes cautiously pessimistic about a North American future for Yotsuba&!, May 19th, gia's a geek by any other name ran neogaff comments from Chris Johnston, formerly of NewType USA, stating "I don’t think there’s been any announcement of the sort, but ADV Manga’s been shut down for months now even though they never removed the solicitations for 2008. Your best bet is to rally around someone else picking up the license." You can parse the comments "shut down for months" as "not actively working on manga" and not "ceased to exist", but a later clarification from Johnston saying "Yes it was me who made that post on that other message board. Until new dates are announced/met for the unpublished volumes of Yotsuba, Gunslinger Girl and Cromartie I am very confident that my comments are accurate" enforces the suggestion that there was no more ADV Manga. gia clearly noted that the comments were being re-published as "gossip" and a "rumor," but given the available evidence, it looked like a probable explanation for why the release was unlocatable. Yet, it turns out that the rumor mill was entirely wrong. As ADV's Chris Oarr will explain in the conversation below: A) Yotsuba&! volume 6 was never published B) ADV Manga still exists So, is the take-away that the fan/consumer should not speculate on the fate of manga series when the next volume disappars into the ether? Is it that the North American manga publishing industry does not have a graceful way of putting manga releases on hiatus and end-of-life-ing releases? Is it both? No one is asking Geffen Records when Chinese Democracy is coming, but given the nature of the manga industry, it's the companies like ADV that hear the clammering when a release like Yotsuba&! does not materialize. As it becomes more difficult to get manga onto the bookstore shelve and find a fiscally sustainable audience for that manga, more series are being abandoned when the ledger sheets don't add up. There may only be six non-dark horse employees who still wake up angry about the fact that Octopus Girl was halted three volumes into its four volume run, but the running account of who abandoned what is still being noticed. As Sporadic Sequential phrased it in a post headline "How Can I Not Buy This Series If It's Not Being Published?" There is a rational argument for discounting the relevance of the missing manga conversation. The internet mob can work up anger about anything. It is hard to begrudge a business laboring to stay in business. On the other hand, to the extent that consumers are beginning to question committing to purchasing manga series due to this uncertainty, this is a problem for the manga distributors. What the consumer knows and what they don't know only exacerbates the issue. The consumer knows how much source material exists in Japan. Wikipedia says that seven collections of Yotsuba&! have been released in Japan, while five have been released in North America. QED, expect volumes six and seven. What the consumer does not know is whether that localized release is still being produced. There are editors, translators, adaptors, touch up artists and so on working on the North American publication, but there is no access to a creator who will say, "yeah, I'm moving on, Company X shelved project Y." Especially with the voracious nature of internet piracy, no company wants to shut the door on a release, so definitive disclosures are hard to come by. That doesn't change the desire to nail down exactly what to expect from a release. Adding to the fan's sense that they are entitled to know when releases are planned and when a title is dropped is the degree to which launches have leveraged this appetite for information, and even controversy. When ADV was profiled by Fortune in 2005, a key point in the article was a discussion of how the company intentionally stirred up fan ire with a partially improvised English language audio localization of the anime Ghost Stories. This is far from a unique pattern in PR. Ain't It Cool News is as guilty as anyone of heralded launches and silent retreats, and more guilty than some. However, the last thing that English language manga companies need is a wary consumer.

ADV Manga is Alive, Yotsuba&! is Delayed...

Scott Green: Foremost, does ADV Manga still exist? On one end of the spectrum, ADV Films has releases lined up for the next couple of months. On the other, it would be surprising to see a new release from ADV Music or ADV Toys. How does the status of ADV Manga compared to those divisions? Chris Oarr: Yes, ADV Manga still exists. We’re shipping books on a regular basis, and you can find them everywhere from comic shops to big box bookstores. ADV Manga is an ongoing business, even though we did have to reschedule a couple Q1 releases. Every label you mention is an imprint through which ADV engages business lines besides anime. They exist through the products we make. So next time there’s a plushie we just have to bring to market or a soundtrack we totally believe in, they’ll be labeled ADV Toys or ADV Music. The same is true with our books. SG: For an outsider, who's followed ADV Manga since the beginning, who reads ICV2, Anime News Network convention reports, blogs and so on, the narrative of the ADV Manga division probably looks something like this: during the manga boom (2003), ADV blitzed the field. There were some gems in the catalog, but it was too many titles for a manga buyer to get a sense of what might be appealing to that buyer’s particular tastes. The market underwent a correction; Musicland declared bankruptcy and in the wake of this downturn, the division regrouped around select, core titles. In the meantime, some of the dropped titles, ones that were non-prestige or charity releases, which could be seen as commercially viable, were ultimately picked up by other publishers. Since then, Gunslinger Girl and Yotsuba&! were put on hiatus for an 18 month period leading up to the release of volume four of each title in summer 2007. Before and after that hiatus, concrete information was hard to come by, exemplified by an out of date web presence. This outline isn't wholly accurate, even by the measure of the track record and other publically available information. For example, Anne Freaks and Neon Genesis Evangelion: Angelic Days were released in their entirety on reliable schedules. However, given that this is how a fan with the publically available information might regard ADV Manga, it should not be surprising that few were skeptical about reports that the division folded. What would you correct about the reputation and perceived history of ADV Manga? CO: I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all for fans to want news on their favorite titles or to be curious about ADV Manga. At heart every comics fan is a publisher, just like every baseball fan is a manager. That just goes with the territory. So no I don’t have much interest in correcting the record or whatever, except to say that none of the titles picked up by other publishers sold better than when we had them. In fact last I checked they all sold worse. The truth is that the imprint through which a book comes out rarely has any impact on its sales or popularity. The chief exception is when you’re leveraging a major franchise, where manga is just one aspect of something bigger. Even then, it’s not the imprint that matters but the resources devoted to it and the way it’s brought to market. People read books, not imprints---especially when it comes to manga. Content is king. Nothing else really matters. SG: Many fans are asking about the release of Yotsuba&! volume 6. Was that release printed and was it shipped to any retailers or available for purchase at the ADV booth at any anime or comic conventions? CO: No, YOTSUBA&! v. 6 has not been printed, although it was scheduled and title information was presented to major retailers months in advance. SG: The December 2007 Diamond Previews solicited Yotsuba&! volume 6 and Cromartie High School volume 13 for release in February/March 2008. Will a cancellation be issued in an upcoming Diamond catalog update? CO: Yes. SG: Are previously released volumes of these titles still in print? Spot checking Amazon, I see Yotsuba&! volumes 1 through 5 in stock, though they're low on volume two. CO: Yes they are. We’re still shipping them on a regular basis. Yotsuba&! is nominated for the 2008 Eisner Award in the Best Publication for Kids category. The Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino- anime is scheduled to be released by FUNimation in 2009. Do either of these have a bearing on potential plans for resuming Yotsuba&! or Gunslinger Girl? CO: YOTSUBA&! is the work of a world-class cartoonist at the height of its powers, and of course we’re pleased that YOTSUBA&! is being recognized in this way. CROMARTIE HIGH was the only manga nominated for “Best U.S. Edition of Foreign Material” in 06. I hope that we can schedule new volumes of these series and GUNSLINGER GIRL soon. SG: Are Diamond's Previews solicitations or any other source a reliable gage for when to expect the release of these titles? Similarly, many direct market comic shops take pre-orders from consumers based on Diamond catalogs, and many in the comic field regard tese pre-orders as a key to the success of a release in the direct market. How do you pitch pre-ordering Yotsuba&! to a follower of the series next time they see it in Previews? CO: PREVIEWS is not a bad way to keep up with what’s coming out. The direct market sales cycle is a lot shorter than that for the book market, and that tends to make PREVIEWS pretty reliable. Comic shops tend to do well with quality manga, and they’ve done great with YOTSUBA&! and AZUMANGA DAIOH. We couldn’t ask for more support from the direct market. SG: Does momentum factor into your ability to release these titles and their potential success? These particular manga titles are largely composed of stand alone stories, so does that minimize the effect of extended periods in which new volumes are not released? CO: There’s no doubt that momentum matters when you’re talking about serialized books. But you’re right that each series features standalone stories, and that does tend to minimize the effect of publishing gaps. You can read volume 4 of YOTSUBA&! without having read 1-3, and with today’s crowded shelves that matters. SG: Is there anything you can say about cut off points in terms of licenses or releases, either when the license expires or when the delay is such that the release is no longer viable? CO: No, not really. SG: With releases like Yotsuba&! or Gunslinger Girl, is there a reason why a release tomorrow is better than a release today, or, is it a necessity to push out the release date? CO: A lot of things go into scheduling. Retailer preferences are probably the most important factor. Not too long ago, booksellers didn’t want to see more than a few releases a year for any series. Now we see some series succeeding with multiple releases per month, and there’s a general trend to move more quickly through series than just five years. This is one of the things you tend to talk over when you launch a new series, though of course things can and do change as sales history develops and you obtain a better idea of your audience. Other factors come into play, of course, but placing books at retail is paramount. I should say that we didn’t reschedule YOTSUBA&! vol. 6 and the other titles for strategic reasons or for anything to do with the books themselves. ADV is simply facing a time where we have to concentrate on our core business, which is anime. SG: With newly produced media, consumers can credit delays to a host of creative difficulties. Then, with other popular media, there are apparent timing decisions to target a specific season or a point that offers less competition. Assuming that you have a good pipeline of unreleased material, you, the distributor, have the challenge that the manga consumer knows that the source material exists and the consumer has some rough notion of the effort required to localize that material. Yotsuba's pipeline is shorter than some, but it's common knowledge that the Japanese release is a few volumes ahead of the North American one. If you have to impose a significant delay in such a release, how do you manage the consumer's expectations around what they know or think they know about what's available and what is needed to ready that material for release? CO: If I know something’s out in another territory, I want it yesterday too! The truth is that there’s not a heck of a lot you can do, at least in the circumstances we find ourselves in today. SG: Another challenge of expectations is that, if a consumer is following a release over a number of volumes, the consumer is conscious of their right to stop purchasing that title at any point. Except for completist or obsessive urges, no one things twice about whether they are justified to not purchase the next iteration of a release. Conversely, if a distributor makes the business decision to cancel a title, they are going to incur condemnation from consumers. This is more pronounced in manga than other media because, again, the consumer knows that the source exists. Putting aside whether the consumer should feel justified in their reaction, this has to be a problem for the distributor. You might have to cancel a given title, but you probably want the consumers of the cancelled title to have faith in your release of the next product. Is there a way for a manga distributor to gracefully handle this consumer attitude? CO: Like I said, every fan is a publisher at heart. Fan forums are there for fans to talk about what they like and condemn what they don’t, and that’s the way it is. It’s never made sense to me for publishers to mess with that equation in the hope of “setting the record straight” or whatever. Especially since there’s seldom a clear connection between what fans say online and what gets bought in stores. When we have release dates to share, believe me I won’t waste any time announcing it. I don’t have a lot to say beyond that, except that most of our catalog is in print and available for fans that want to check it out. SG: I knew comics and manga were pirated online, but my sense was that it was to a lesser degree than anime or other media. I also thought Cromartie High School, Yotsuba and Gunslinger Girl were not as extensively pirated as other manga. My gage for testing the extent of the issue for a particular title is to run a few obvious Google searches. In this case, I didn't even have to execute the search because the autocomplete suggesting search queries included: "yotsuba online" "yotsuba download" "yotsuba read online" By your estimation, what is the effect of this piracy on your ability to release these titles? Similarly, if this piracy went away, how much of that would convert into sales versus people who would simply do something else and not read Yotsuba&! if they had to make the effort and investment to obtain a physical copy? CO: Anime piracy is higher profile, because the material is easily digitized and essentially you just have to hit some buttons to put it online. But you’re right: Comics and manga piracy is growing along with screen sizes. I wish that weren’t the case, but I don’t have the solution. I’d hate to speculate how exactly piracy impact book sales. SG: Do you think that the majority of consumers of a title like Yotsuba&! follow the online chatter about when the title will hit store shelves? If we were talking about a mainstream movie or an XBox game, I'd say not a chance, but, given the sales figures versus the online traffic, with manga, I wonder. CO: When you’re at a concert, it’s easy to forget that most fans don’t go to concerts. Same with an anime convention. Sure there are a lot of cons and a lot of people have a lot of fun at them, but that’s only one segment of our customer base. It’s an important segment to be sure, but it’s not the only one or even the biggest one. I think the same dynamic is at work online. SG: If and when these titles come back, are there any format changes that you would try or that you could conceive as helping them? Would you rebrand them? For example, with a series like Yotsuba&! that is largely stand-alone stories, would you try to be more subtle about the volume numbers? CO: No. SG: At the same time, I don't know if you agree with this, but to me it seems like for manga in North America, it's this or nothing. With other media, there's always anticipation for a technological solution. There are plenty of video fans who hold out hope that legal digital distribution will be more convenient, and in theory cheaper than DVDs. There isn't that same notion that an innovation like effective eBooks would be a boon to manga. In terms of a more attractive price or a more convenient vehicle, it's tough to think of something more effective than the current graphic novel model. CO: At heart I’m a book guy. I’m in front of a screen all day, so in my leisure time I like to read an actual book. The technology still works! SG: For a fan who has bought every volume of a title like Yotsuba&!; who’s already advocated the title, how do they support the manga at this point and encourage ADV to continue releasing it? CO: There’s really nothing much to do except stay tuned for more news.

Thanks to Chris Oarr and for taking the time to elaborate on the status of Yotsuba&! and ADV Manga.

Manga Spotlight: Color of Rage written Kazuo Koike illustrated by Seisaku Kano Released by Dark Horse Manga

The case for Color of Rage is that it is 415 pages of manga from the creator of Lone Wolf and Cub, Lady Snowblood, Mad Bull 34 and so on, priced at $15. Against it, it's neither as salacious as a Crying Freeman or Wounded Man, nor does it hold up to modern, American sensibilities as well as a Lone Wolf and Cub. As suggested by the title, Koike couples the political rage that was a feature of the best exploitation movies of the 70's with the existential rage of gekiga manga. Set in 1783, it follows sworn brothers George, a native Japanese manga and King, an African American, who literally rip their way out of a sinking slave ship off the coast of Okinawa. In the wake of natural disaster and famine, they find a society that brutally treats its peasants no better than slaves. Spurred on by the revolutionary zeal to create a better society, the two decide to seek a place among the yakuza who "take the path opposite the law." This acutely unlikely pair, on the run in Edo era Japan is a masterful high concept. Unfortunately, the end result does not live up to a fan's faith in what Koike could do what that foundation. Personally, as an adult male I'd rather see this than 95 percent of the other manga released in North America. I'm glad it's been released and I'm glad to have a copy. Critically, especially in light of how easy it is to imagine Koike doing more with this foundation, there's more to condemn than praise in Color of Rage. As social commentary, the manga is never in the vague vicinity of subtle. On one hand, King represents the place of the Nazi argument. If you want to end arguments, compare someone to a Nazi. If you want to issue a broad condemnation, have King and George equate an institution to American slavery. Koike manga, and especially historical Koike manga are fascinating for their attention to process. Even if he is embellishing the tales, works like his Goseki Kojima collaborations (Lone Wolf and Cub, Samurai Executioner, Path of the Assassin), enthrallingly spell out how crafts and aspects of society function. Color of Rage touches on yakuza etiquette and society, but more often it takes something that is unarguably evil, slavery, then explicitly compares practices like prostitution or brutal control of the agricultural class to that evil. On the other hand, there is the objectionable portrayal of King. In theory, this was conceived with social responsibility, but like Neil Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow issues oriented tales of race and drug addiction, if you're not actively trying to read it as a work of its original context, it's hard to approach unironically. From an American perspective in 2008, Koike looks like an outsider who is insensitive in his handling of loaded imagery. By the standards of Koike, and beyond that, the gekiga genre, King takes a role that is uncomfortably close tp that of a noble savage. Which is to say that he's principled, even when he rapes a woman as an act of defiance. While unPC is Koike stock and trade, scenes of King driven to cracking himself against a tree to rein in his lust after seeing a dancing woman don't feel like they are intended as transgressive. This is a stranger in a strange land, whose appearance is enough to cause people to fall off cliffs. While the manga does imply that George would be equally lost in America, that King's actions in Japan are driven by principles and instincts, without much in the way of intellect or self control is a bitter pill. Earnest, but unconvincing social commentary could have been offset by some of Koike's dazzling bizarre output. Unfortunately, the best of Color of Rage doesn't approach Crying Freeman in a knife fight on top of a submarine or Ogami Ito versus an army of ladder wielding fire-spotters. After Color of Rage's initial tooth and nail escape, neither the particulars nor the presentation of the manga's violent confrontations stand out. The "let's you and him fight" aspect of the manga never really results in impressive an spectacle. While flipping through the volume again calls attention to something like a startling blow to the neck, too much is obscured in speed lines, fire or muddy images. As someone who wants to see more Koike manga released in North America, the last thing I want to say is that Color of Rage is less than brilliant. The concept and the creators are such that fans of older, male oriented manga will welcome the volume to their book shelf, for novelty and what it showcases of an underrepresented thread in manga. Yet, it's neither shocking nor smart enough to recommend to the casual Lone Wolf and Cub reader.

Manga Preview: Gantz Volume 1 to be released by Dark Horse Manga July 29, 2008online preview

There's Gantz; then there's everything else. Hiroya Oku uses the freedom afforded by manga to erect the perfect adolescent playground, then distorts it for teensploitation done right. The manga opens with Kei Kurono standing on a subway platform thinking back and forth between the airbrushed reality of the skin mag that he's leafing through and the unappealing real world in front of him. In his internal monolog, he has an unkind, cutting assessment of everyone around him. If the grind of school and unpleasant social interaction wasn't enough to fill Kei with frustration about the mundane grayness of his existence, his long absent childhood friend Masura Kato turns up and reminds him that as a boy, Kei was the kind of fearless, quick thinking kid who seemed never to be bound by the social or even physical rules of the world. This "why the hell aren't I special?!" revelry is brought to an abrupt end. A violent death plucks Kei from a life indistinguishable from that of the despised shmos that surround him. Reincarnated into a sci-fi, alien hunting "game", the kind which only a sociopathic middle-school boy could love, Kei is given sex, danger and significance, and still find it all to be dumbfounding. Upon their premature deaths, Kei and Kato find themselves in an apartment room that is bare except for a large black sphere. Company includes a dog, a stereotypical male school teacher, an older politician, a mean eyed, eighth grader, a pair of yakuza toughs, and a pretty boy actor/model/whatever. This decidedly male audience takes note when the body of a naked teenage girl begins to materialize, anatomical cross section by anatomical cross section. After some problems with the yakuza fellows and the dog paying the young woman some unwanted attention, the black sphere begins broadcasting text messages. The assembled are given sci-fi-ish guns, "cosplay" style skin-tight black suits, instructions to find a truly ugly kid called an "onion alien", and an hour to do it. The quest precedes in a fashion that is disorganized, gruesome, and ultimately lethal. In the Ichi the Killer movie, the eponymous crybaby sadist rushes into a room and begins eviscerating gangsters with a blade mounted on the back of his foot. CGI blood sprays everywhere. As do chunks of internal organs. In this, Takashi Miike realized a facet of the potential of CGI effects... to bathe in crazy gore. In Gantz, Hiroya Oku realizes a facet of the potential of comics/ create the ideal extension of adolescent/arrested development fantasy.. hot, naked or scantily clad young women and violence that is graphic enough to provoke a reaction. Oku's style of illustration is enhanced by a bold, digitally inked presentation. As with Masaki Segawa's (Basilisk) work, the strong lines and gradient shading lends an impression of volume to the manga. There's depth of field to the action and volume to the fleshy characters. At the same time, Oku has an effecting skill at capturing body types and facial features. It's not that his anatomy is great. If you study a panel of characters standing around, you'll notice that some of his intensions for perspective or posture outstrip his ability to maintain precision. Yet, there is always details like a shoulder blade or a badly fitting jacket that lend an impression of reality too each character. In a scene of a severed head flying through the air, the tears welling at its eyes, blood tricking down the nose, the details in ear and the shape of the chin all gruesomely scratch in the suggestion that something terrible has just happen to a person. This similarly pays dividends for less splattery images. When Kei and Kato look around and see a group of strangers willing themselves to be comfortable on the bare hardwood floors of the after-death waiting room, there is a real disquieting impression being walled in people you don't know and don't want to deal with, that you don't find in every instance of the thriller trope concerning being locked somewhere with unfamiliar faces in the midst of a bad situation. There's no question as to the audience for this manga. Kei Kishimoto, the naked girl, not to be confused with protagonist Kei Kurono, is naked for 25 pages before Kato gallantly gives a jacket to cover herself. This is graphic, fully anatomical nudity, including pubic hear, and plenty of attention to how her breasts react to different postures. As a counter-point, Kurono is briefly naked, at which time his genitals are obscured by a mosaic effect. Hiroya Oku does not have quite the same, porn credentials as "Oh!great" (Tenjho Tenge, Air Gear) or Black Lagoon's Rei Hiroe (aka TEX-MEX), but his primary pre-Gantz work was sex comedy Hen. Drawing well endowed, sexy, if maybe a bit too baby faced, women is evidently a strength and a passion for Oku. Because the situations of Gantz are frequently incompatible with glamour and desire, chapter title illustrations are generally pin-up style character shots that don't fit into the story; the cast doing things out of character, such as posing for a group picture. And, more often than not, these focus on the body of a woman, such as an image of Kishimoto posing naked except for the shoulder piece of one of the black suits draped over the top part of her breasts. Genshiken: The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture features a scene in which the character Madarame, the character that most geeks don't want to identify with, but who most will identify with at some point, explains why some one could be turned on by anime/manga. Basically that the media are invoking the abstract idea, but point being, there is a pop culture tradition being invoked here and pornography is cooked into the make-up of Gantz. To borrow a term from entry on the work of Benkyo Tamaoki in "Secret Comics Japan", a male geek should answer for himself whether they are hard-up enough for Gantz to be "useful," but Oku seems to be working his hardest to provide the quantity and quality of content for that purpose. This column has generally been critical of anime and manga with intellectual pretentions that simultaneously leverage base interests in sex and violence. Why does Gantz get to have its cake and eat it to; indulge in prurient interests and comment on them? Part of the reason that Gantz can evade this is a function its position as a senein title. Because it is for older audiences, it is the pure form of the idea. It does not need to reflect the concept from around the corner of content limitations. You can discount something that is neither sufficiently salacious nor smart in its social consciousness. The whole idea that you are enjoying something that the subjects are clearly pained to be participating in, and that that discomfort is part of the work's message is liable to break the contract of a guilty pleasure. When the sex and violence are titillating and shocking respectively and the implications have resonance, then the crossed wires are working in favor of the author's intentions. One volume in, saying that the implications of Gantz amount to any sort of well developed thesis is premature. Personally, I'd take the under on the probability that it leverages ideas as intriguing as those of a smarter Afternoon manga like Blade of the Immortal or Eden, to say nothing of something that isn't driven by the need to offer serialized excitement. Yet, Oku does not willfully ignore the mindset of his readers or the implications of what he is depicting. Almost as and offshoot to the school of serving up wish fulfillment where the results are terrible, there's an engaging dimension to how is fantasies are subject to human nature. Fans of the Gantz anime should note that the second half of the animated series was invented for that work. There are cases where anime adaptations of manga leverage the source to build something well formed in the anime's own right. I'd argue that the laudable qualities of the anime version of Berserk are largely distinct from those of the manga. One can debate the very different directions of the Fullmetal Alchemist anime and manga. Yet, it seems as often as not, an anime adaptation that goes in a different direction from the manga turns out inferior. After 23 volumes, the manga version of Gantz is still running in its Japanese serialization. I don't have a basis to assess the comparative qualities of the two, complete works, but, based on images floating around (Gantz cast in uni-wheel mecha versus dinosaurs, Gantz cast versus men in black, Gantz cast versus yokai and divinities), I can say that the Gantz manga becomes stranger than the anime ever was.

Industry Moves and Metamorphosis

Bandai Namco has revealed that the assets of Bandai Visual USA will be liquidated, with Bandai Visual USA being rolled into the Bandai Entertainment division. See here for translated summaries of the official announcements. Geneon Entertainment, parent company of Geneon USA will be participating in California's Anime Expo this summer. See "Event News" below for more. Publishers Weekly reports that Fanfare, the publisher of highly praised, but hard to find manga such as 2008 Eisner Award nominee, The Ice Wanderer, announced that it has a new deal with Atlas Book Distribution in Ashland, Ohio to distribute its titles to the book market. Fanfare publisher Stephen Robson said Atlas already has Fanfare’s backlist and forthcoming titles will be published in November. ICV2 reports that, sighting the competitive market, Upper Deck has laid off approximately 50 employees. The cuts reportedly included R. Hyrum Savage, who was the Brand Manager for the New Hobby Games division and Brand Manager for the Vs. system, and Sean K. Reynolds, who was working as an IP developer at Upper Deck. ADV Films recently announced that they will be distributing the action series Kiba for Upper Deck. Asian film distributor Tartan USA has posted notice of a foreclosure sale. Variety looks at Cartoon Network's plan to expand their young-male audience with series like "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" and "Batman: The Brave and the Bold."

FUNimation Confirms/Announcements More Titles

In the wake of their announcements regarding licensing Strain, Gunslinger Girl Il Teatrino and KenIchi: The Mightiest Disciple, FUNimation has announced that have licensed Shonen Jump adaptation D.Gray-man, Romeo x Juliet from GDH K.K. and Shigurui: Death Frenzy FUNimation Entertainment will release all 24 episodes of Romeo X Juliet in two 12 episode season sets in Spring and Summer 2009. The anime distributor describes Romeo x Juliet as an epic re-imagining of the Shakespearean classic tragedy. Now set in a dreamlike Verona of the future, the medieval beauty of the original drama is captured by director Fumitoshi Oisaki and produced by Studio Gonzo (Afro Samurai and Witchblade). In a world where the earth is barren, humans populate a floating city in the sky known as Neo Verona. For decades the city of Neo Verona enjoyed harmony and prosperity under the rule of King Capulet and the Capulet family. One evening the King's nemesis Duke Montague storms the King's palace and murders the entire Capulet family with the exception of one escapee, Juliet Capulet. A mere child at the time of her family's murder, she is hidden within the city and is raised with no knowledge of her noble lineage. As Juliet matures and realizes the hardships and cruelty imposed upon the people under King Montague's reign, she dons a red cape and mask to become the Scarlet Whirlwind, a superhero of sorts to the people of Neo Verona who rights wrongs and saves lives. While under this guise she encounters Romeo Montague, the only son of King Montague, and successor to the throne. As the mystery around Juliet's past and future becomes clear, they begin a timeless romance that is tested by loyalty, society and ultimately mortality. FUNimation Entertainment will release all 12 episodes of Shigurui: Death Frenzy in 2009. The storyline for Hirotsugu Hamazaki directed the Madhouse anime Shigurui was adapted from the manga "Shigurui" created by Takayuki Yamaguchi based on the novel “Suruga-jou Gozen Jiai” by Norio Nanjo. The anime was directed by Hirotsugu Hamazaki and produced by Mad House Studios (Gunslinger Girl, Claymore). The bloody tale Shigurui: Death Frenzy is based upon actual events of 17th century feudal Japan. The story begins at the moment just before the end: Two disfigured opponents face off in a hidden tournament under the eyes of a deranged Shogun. Destined to fight to the death; the end result of the dark history which they have shared. Only seven years before, these two students met within the walls of a renowned dojo. Learning the secret sword techniques of their master, they became warriors of the blade and competitors for the hand of their teacher's daughter… the very future of the dojo a prize to be claimed. Within a nation at peace, violence erupts around two rivals fated for one final duel.
The D. Gray-Man storyline was adapted from the gothic “D Gray-man” manga series by Katsura Hoshino, first serialized in 2004 in Weekly Shonen Jump. The anime was directed by Nabeshima Osamu and produced by TMS Entertainment. "D. Gray-Man is not only wildly popular in Japan, it is one of the most anticipated series by U.S. anime fans," said Gen Fukunaga, president and CEO at FUNimation Entertainment. "Fans have been speculating about this title for years and we are pleased to be the ones to bring it to them." Allen Walker is a young boy who is a member of The Black Order; a secretive organization whose members are known as Exorcists. The Order's primary mission is to stop The Millennium Earl, an ancient being who intends to 'cleanse' the world by destroying all life on it. Exorcists are specially chosen humans who are gifted with the ability to control and use Innocence, a divine substance created in ages past to combat the Earl and his minions. The Millennium Earl is aided in his plans by The Noah Clan, humans who are direct descendants of Noah himself, and commands an army of demonic creatures called Akuma to do his bidding. Since Akuma can impersonate humans and blend in with society, Exorcists are routinely assigned to track down and eliminate them. Allen is the only exorcist able to see through the Akuma's disguise. Japan takes center stage in this end of 19th Century set battle between the Millennium Earl and the Exorcists – who have God on their side. FUNimation Entertainment will release the first volume of the D. Gray-Man anime series in early 2009.

Bandai Ent. To Release Sword of the Stranger

Bandai Entertainment Inc. at Fanime that it would be releasing studio BONES (Cowboy Bebop-the Movie, Wolf's Rain, Eureka Seven, Ghost Slayers Ayashi) theatrical anime feature, Sword of the Stranger directed by Masahiro Ando (Eureka Seven, Fullmetal Alchemist). A Japanese language version with English subtitles will play theatrically at the ImaginAsian Center in Los Angeles and the ImaginAsian Theater in New York starting on July 18th. The acclaimed film centers a young boy and his dog whose fate becomes intertwined with a nameless samurai and a fierce assassin. The film features character designs by Tsunenori Saito (Blood: The Last Vampire). An English language version is in the works which will be distributed as part of a wider theatrical release followed by a planned DVD in both regular and Blu-ray formats.

Sci Fi Channel to Broadcast Gurren Lagann

Aniplex and Bandai Entertainment Inc. announced that they have licensed the television and digital distribution rights to the series Gurren Lagann to Starz Media, which has set the series for its US premier on Sci Fi Channel July 28th at 11 p.m. Two episodes will air each week on SCI FI during a 14-week run in the “Ani-Monday” block, which features leading programming from Manga Entertainment, a division of Starz Media. The series will run through late October. Sci Fi Channel will air a newly prepared English-language version. The production studio for the English version will be Bang Zoom! Entertainment. Following the broadcast a DVD version with the English dub will be released in the fourth quarter of 2008. A subtitled only DVD release will begin in July as previously announced. Additionally, Starz Media will release the English dub episodes for digital distribution on a day- after-air basis via numerous electronic sell-through retailers under its Manga brand.

Junji Ito Based Movie US Bound

Anime News Network and Fangoria reportTidepoint Pictures will release Long Dream, a 58-minute live-action adaptation of Junji Ito's (Uzamaki, Gyo) psychological horror manga short story Nagai Yume, on June 24. The manga was originally published in Ito's 1998 collection The Story of the Mysterious Tunnel.

Welcome to the NHK Streamed on Crunchyroll

ADV Films announced that the anime version of the dark geek comedy Welcome to the NHK will be offered through streaming media site Crunchyroll.ADV has made the first two installments of the 24 episode series now. Two additional episodes will be added each Thursday over the next five weeks.

Tadanari Okamoto licensed?

As previously examing the animated films of Tadanari Okamoto, AniPages Daily has noted that Crunchyroll has removed uploadings, sighting that the anime in question has been licensed. . If that is indeed the case, and we're going to be seeing an Okamoto R1 DVD in the very near future, then I couldn't be happier. I'm a little skeptical, so I hope it doesn't take too long to hear some kind of announcement related to this.

Event News

Baltimore's Otakon will host voice actor Kappei Yamaguchi as a special guest. Kappei Yamaguchi is a seiyuu (voice actor) best known for his work as the title character in hit anime series Inuyasha and Ranma ½. Most recently, he voiced the brilliant investigator “L” in the hit show, Death Note. Anime Expo 2008, July 3-6, 2008 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, will host voice actor Toshihiko Seki, Duo Maxwell of Gundam Wing, Rau Le Creuset of Gundam SEED. Toshihiko Seki joins up and coming director Masahiro Ando, legendary American voice actor David Hayter, famed Pokémon director Masamitsu Hidaka, the dynamic duo known as Jyukai and the new Japanese “It-Girl” Shokotan in Anime Expo 2008's amazing line up of Guests of Honor.
Anime Expo 2008, in conjunction with Geneon Entertainment, will be bringing Anime Pop Star Yoko Ishida to this year's convention. Ms. Ishida will be performing with Anime Expo 2008 Guest of Honor Jyukai at their official concert held at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live.
Anime Expo 2008 will be accepting online applications for their cosplay Masquerade. See their site for more. Viz Media has followed up their "Kubo is Coming" teasers with the announcement that Bleach creator Kubo Tite will be appearing at San Diego Comic Con. See for details.
Rob Bricken/Topless Robot has an interesting counterpoint here Publishers Weekly reports Del Rey will be hosting Fairy Tale/Rave Master creator Hiro Mashima at San Diego Comic Con. Dark Horse Comics will be hosting novelist Hideyuki Kikuchi (Vampire Hunter D) at September's New York Anime Festival. Anime Festival Orlando 9, Wyndham Orlando Resort August 15, 16 and 17, 2008, has announced that Aaron Dismuke (Alphonse Elric in "Fullmetal Alchemist") has been added to their list of guests. Already confirmed guests for AFO9 are Travis Willingham (Roy Mustang, "Fullmetal Alchemist, " Ginko, "Mushishi") Christopher Patton (Sousuke Sagara, "Full Metal Panic"), Doug Smith (Kintaro, "GoldenBoy", Graphic Artist), Colleen Clinkenbeard (Riza Hawkeye in "Fullmetal Alchemist," Éclair in "Kiddy Grade"), Monica Rial (Sakura, "Tsubasa Chronicle," Lumiere in "Kiddy Grade"), Richard Epcar (Batou, "Ghost in the Shell"), Ellyn Stern (Masaki Kurosaki, "Bleach"), Jason David Frank (Tommy Oliver the "Green Ranger," "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers") and Stephanie Yanez (Pop Singer). The film line-up for this year's New York Asian Film Festival (June 20-July 6) is online Japanese Information and Culture Center and the DC Anime Club will be screening Vexille Thursday May 29,2008 6:30 pm. Cartoon Brew notes that the Bandai Entertainment distributed Girl Who Leapt Through Time will be screening June 13 through June 19 at the ImaginAsian Center in Los Angeles (251 South Main Street, Los Angeles, California 90012), at the ImaginAsian Theater in New York (239 East 59th Street, New York, NY, 10022), as well as from August 29 through September 4 at the Landmark Varsity Theatre in Seattle (4329 University Way N.E. Seattle, WA 98105). In Los Angeles and Seattle, the English-subtitled version will be screened, and in New York, the English-dubbed version. Also from Cartoon Brew, Iron Giant will be shown at the Cerrito Speakeasy Theater June 7 and 8 There are reports that the Anime Central convention suffered up to nine hour registrations lines. The 21+ Providence Anime Conference has undergone a leadership change, with Jon Niehof stepping down as Chair, and Mara Karapetian assuming the role of Active Chair until the role is officially filled. The conference's blog features a explanation of their fee structure.

Game News

Capcom, home of Street Fighter, has announced a versus game featuring characters Tatsunoko, home of Gatchaman, Time Boken, Technoman, Sped Reacer and so on. Tatsunoko vs Capcom: Cross Generation of Heroes, will feature 2 on 2 tag team battle, characters from Tatsunoko Production and Capcom with character including Ryu and Chun Li from Street Fighter II series, and Ken Washio from Gatchaman, Shinzo Ningen Casshan, and Yatterman. The Magic Box collects screenshots here and here Oh! Great (Tenhjo Tenge) has joined the line-up of manga-creators who are designing characters for Soul Calibur IV. An illustration can be seen here and screenshots here

Oshii Bookends NHK Documentaries

Anime direct Mamoru Oshii oversaw Production I.G opening and ending animation for the Futto Toshi (Cities in Tumultuous Change) documentary mini-series that will premiere on Japan's NHK public broadcasting network. The eight-part documentary series profiles cities that are undergoing rapid change; Dubai and London are the first two cities featured. A short clip from the title sequence is included in a promotional video for the first two episodes here

Tokyo Marble Chocolate awarded Grand Prize at SICAF 2008

Romantic comedy TOKYO MARBLE CHOCOLATE , directed by Naoyoshi Shiotani (Windy Tales" and "Blood+" ), produced by Production I.G and BMG Japan, was awarded the Grand Prize in the Feature Film Category of the 12th Seoul International Cartoon & Animation Festival (SICAF 2008), held in Seoul, Republic of Korea, from May 21 to 25, 2008.

Upcoming Releases

Via Anime on DVD July ADV releases include 7/1 Blue Seed DVD Complete Collection (Thinpak) - 750 minutes - $49.98 Cosplay Complex/My Dear Marie DVD Double Pack - 180 minutes - $19.98 Kanon Vol. #6 7/8 Cromartie High School DVD Complete Collection (Thinpak) - 325 minutes - $44.98 Tokyo Majin Vol. #4 Welcome to the NHK Vol. #5 7/15 Devil May Cry Vol. #3 Full Metal Panic? FUMOFFU DVD Complete Collection (Thinpak) - 300 minutes - $49.98 Shattered Angles Vol. #3 7/22 Pumpkin Scissors Vol. #5 Divergence Eve: The Seraphim Collection (Thinpak) - 650 minutes - $59.98 7/29 Samurai Gun DVD Complete Collection (Thinpak) - 325 minutes - $49.98 AnimeWho will be releasing the second volume of boxing anime Joe vs. Joe (Ashita no Joe) on September 30th. August FUNimation releases include 8/5 Kodocha Box Set 2 - N/A minutes - $49.98 8/12 Sasami Season 1 - 325 minutes - $39.98 School Rumble Season 1 Box Set - $69.98 8/19 Rumbling Hearts Box Set (Viridian Collection) -$29.98 Tsubasa Vol. #07 8/26 Afro Samurai - Blu-ray $29.98 Afro Samurai (Edited or Uncut) -$12.98/24.98 August Media Blaster releases include Anime Works: 8/5 Gokusen TV Collection ($19.99) Simoun - Song of Prayer, Vol. 5 8/12 Beast King GoLion (Volume 2, Eps. 19-35) ($34.99) 8/19 Otoboku Maidens Are Falling For Me - Drag Dilemmas, Vol. 2 Gaogaigar Box 2 ($34.99) 8/26 Kujibiki Unbalance - The Melancholy of Ritsuko Kettenkrad , Volume 3 The followinf Viz manga box sets are listed on Right Stuf August 12 Naruto Graphic Novel Box Set (1-27) - $174.99 September 2 Bleach Graphic Novel Box Set (1-21) - $149.99 October 7 Death Note Graphic Novel Box Set (1-13) - $99.99 November 4 Dragon Ball Graphic Novel Box Set (1-16) - $114.99 Dragon Ball Z Graphic Novel Box Set (1-26) - $189.95 Right Stuf, Inc. and Nozomi Entertainment will be releasing the TO HEART DVD Collection on August 26, 2008. The 325 minute set will retail for $39.99
Bandai Entertainment announced at Fanime Rocket Girls will get a subtitle only,full box release of the entire series and will be due on October 7th Episodes 1-9 of Code Geass will be released on August 5th. Box set of the first season will released by January 2009. Upcoming CMX releases include: THE GIRL WHO RUNS THROUGH TIME VOL. 1 Illustrated by Gaku Tsugano Original story by Yasutaka Tsutsui Based on a popular Japanese story that has been adapted into both manga and film, THE GIRL WHO RUNS THROUGH TIME shows that even though we might think the ability to change the past would be a great gift, it can also have some unexpected consequences. Kazuko is a high school senior who has no idea what she wants to do in the future. Alone one day after school, she discovers a broken beaker in the science lab. She smells something sweet in the air, passes out, and finds herself transported back to her own past! Will Kazuko use her ability to travel through time wisely or selfishly? on sale September 24 • 5” x 7.375” • 196 pg, B&W $9.99 US • TEEN
THE FLAT EARTH/EXCHANGE VOL. 2 Written and Illustrated by Toshimi Nigoshi on sale August 27 • 5" x 7.375" • 208 pg, B&W, $9.99 US • TEEN +
GO GO HEAVEN!! VOL. 7 Written and Illustrated by Keiko Yamada on sale September 3 • 5” x 7.375” • 192 pg, B&W $9.99 US • TEEN
MOON CHILD VOL. 12 Written and Illustrated by Reiko Shimizu 208 pg, B&W $9.99 US • TEEN
MUSASHI #9 VOL. 16 Written and Illustrated by Miyuki Takahashi on sale September 17 • 5” x 7.375” • 192 pg, B&W $9.99 US • TEEN
STEEL FIST RIKU VOL. 2 Written and Illustrated by Jyutaroh Nishino on sale September 24 • 5” x 7.375” 162 pg, B&W $9.99 US • TEEN +
TERU TERU x SHONEN VOL. 3 Written and Illustrated by Shigeru Takao on sale September 3 • 5” x 7.375” • 192 pg, B&W $9.99 US • TEEN +
YOUNG MAGICIAN VOL. 13 Written and Illustrated by Yuri Narushima on sale September 17 • 5” x 7.375” • 200 pg, B&W $9.99 US • MATURE READERS
From geek by any other name's report on Dark Horse's Fanime Panel The publisher's omnibus release of CLAMP's clover will feature digital remaster art work. Details on their mangettes project with CLAMP are likely to be announced at San Diego Comic Con. The project will be at least three volumes long. October 22nd is the official release date for Hellsing 9. Though the release dates are not are Dark Horse's schedule volumes 4 and 5 of Translucent are still planned.

Dinosaur King on Video Distribution Deal

Shout! Factory and 4Kids Entertainment, Inc. have announced that Shout! Factory will be distributing the 4Kids adapted Dinosaur King on home video. The multi-year deal provides Shout! Factory with licensing rights as the exclusive home entertainment distributor for Dinosaur King in the U.S. Multiple DVD titles, to include 49 half-hour episodes, with the first to be released later this year. Dinosaur King is the animated adaptation of the Sega collectable card game known as Kodai Oja Kyoryu Kingu in Japan.

Scandal and Strangeness Sheet

Canned Dogs has posted a brief summary on various rights contentions a regarding the owner of Akibablog Bandai paid out 26,260,000 yen (US$260,000) in after a bady swallowed a gashapon console toy container. The top parties responsible for having anime pulled from YouTube. Kanokon was removed from Japanese streaming site alafista due to sexual content deemed inappropriate. a geek by any other name notes that the show apparently was the #1 most-watched by elementary school students. Gunota notes that Hisashi Tenmyouya's "RX-78-2 Kabuki-mono 2005 Version" painting sold for approximately $600,000 in a Christie's Hong Kong auction of contemporary Asian art held on Saturday. A 4-meter tall Gundam statue was used to broadcast a good luck message to gold medalist women's marathoner Mizuki Noguchi. The figure can be seen here The reason that Super Techno Arts/A.P.P.P. pulled their North American site detailing their release of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has apparently been revealed. Shueisha and A.P.P.P, the parties behind the JoJo's anime and manga have pulled the title after Islamic websites began protesting the work based on a scene of its villain mocking the Qur'an. During the third phase of the manga, villain Dio held up the Qur'an before ordering the execution his rivals, the Joestar family and their allies. The manga scene was adapted into as part of the JoJo's anime series. Sheikh Abdul Hamid Al-Atrash, chairman of the Fatwa Committee at Cairo's Al-Azhar University told the Kyodo News "the scene depicts Muslims as terrorists." Anime News Network has more here

Robotech RPG Update

ICV2 reports Palladium Books will be premiering three Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles RPG book at Gen Con. The format for Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles RPG Deluxe Hardcover Edition will be an estimated 192-224 8-1/2” x 11” pages for $30.95. It will include some new material, larger illustrations, and new artwork. Robotech: The Macross Saga Sourcebook will be a manga sized trade paperback at $15.95, with the mecha, vehicles, weapons, and characters from the original series. Robotech: The Masters Saga Sourcebook, also manga sized, will cover an oftern overlooked chapter of Robotech history. All of the Robotech RPG products are written by Kevin Siembieda and Jason Marker, with covers by Apollo Okamura.

Figures News

Dark Horse will be working with Big Tent Entertainment to introduced limited editions of Domo-kun vinyls in variants colors at San Diego Comic Con. Only 400 of the yellow figures are being produced, and will be sold on a first-come, first-serve basis at the Dark Horse Comics exhibit booth. In addition to the 8" vinyl figures, Dark Horse has produced a line of Domo products, including a self-mailer stationery set, two journals (one in the shape of Domo), an embroidered patch, and a sculpted magnet. Future licensed products in development include a line of 5.5" vinyl figures, again featuring color variants, and a very large 18" limited-edition version. The canary yellow Domo will be sold exclusively during Comic-Con International for a retail price of $50. Shocker Toys will be releasing an exclusive pack of their 5.5" Metalocalypse figures at San Diego Comic Con.
Organic Hobby, Inc in conjunction with CM’s Corporation will release “Wingman Guarder” in August with an SRP of $64.00 "Wingman Guarder" is originated from a science fiction manga series known as "Wingman (also known as Dream Soldier Wingman)," created by Masakazu Katsura. It was serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump from 1983 to 1985 and it was made into an anime in 1984. The figure is a 6" tall fully painted and comes equipped with a display base. Organic Hobby, Inc in conjunction with GDH/TOPCOW will release Witchblade “Rihoko Amaha” in August with an SRP of $45.00
"Rihoko Amaha" is Masane Amaha's daughter in "Witchblade," an anime series based on the famous American comic book by the same name. Instead of an adaptation of the original story, the producers decided to create an entire new setup, with all new characters. The anime is being directed by Yoshimitsu Ohashi (director of Galaxy Angel & Galaxy Angel Z) and the character designs are done by Uno Makoto (character designer of the Gravion TV Series & Stellvia). She is nicknamed Riko. Although she is Masane's daughter, she acts like the mother, responsibility-wise. The figure is 7½" tall comes equipped with accessories (such as her purse and a custom base for display) and its part of "Organic USA" original product.
KOTOBUKIYA has revealed the ArtFX Theatres statue of Indiana Jones the Temple of Doom. The Japanese import will be released with an srp $119.99 in October.
Pending final licensor approval Prototypes shown; final products may vary (c)2008 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All rights reserved. Cool Japanese Toys reviews 1/144 Chara-Works Macross Valkyrie Collection Volumes 1 + 2 CollectionDX on the gokin figure of Gurren Lagann Summer + Revoltech + Yotsuba

Japan Rates Most Moving Manga

Topless Robot points out this DIMSDRIVE Research poll on "What manga that you have read has made you cry? " Q1: What manga that you have read has made you cry? (Sample size=6,399, free answer) Rank 1 ONE PIECE 2 SLAM DUNK 3 Touch 4 Tomorrow’s Joe 5 Rose of Versailles 6 Candy Candy 7 Barefoot Gen 8 Ace o Nerae! 9 Seito Shokun! 10 Doraemon 11 Tenshi Nanka Ja Nai 11 NANA 13 Fist of the North Star 14 Akachan to boku 15 Star of the Giants

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