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Anime Spotlight: Master of Martial Hearts Released by FUNimation

I'm inclined to be disinterested rather than hostile to media I dislike, but, occasionally, something will come along wrongheaded enough to really raised my ire. I was prepared to give Masters of Martial Hearts a very qualified recommendation, but after hitting the short series nihilistic, misanthropic, misogynistic ending, I was pissed off for days. What's the most extreme word for mentally deficient that isn't offensive? I was going to apply something along those lines in saying that it was part of the fun in this sketchy fight anime. Then, in its final episode, this embarrassing drunk of anime threw up on itself. As someone willing to forgive iffy fight anime, I felt that that less than selectiveness was violated when this particular fanservice driven work chose to full out degrade every female character it introduced for its money shot. Having torn up the recommendation I'd been developing while watching Master of Martial Hearts first four episodes, here's what the full five episodes provokes. Choosy anime fans, who choose to watch brain damaged, half stripped women eat pet food should choose Masters of Martial Hearts. Everyone else, watch Air Master, streaming where fine anime are streamed. Masters of Martial Hearts, aka Zettai Shougeki ~Platonic Heart~, is a direct to DVD adaptation of bishojo/cute girl designs by eroge/adult game character illustrator Jin Happobi. The pitch was, Kaori Nazuka (Eureka 7's Eureka) would voice a girl who entered into a fighting tournament to collect the pieces of the wish granting jewel known as the Platonic Heart. The director, Yoshitaka Fujimoto, had credits that included the likes of Erotic Torture Chamber, Virgin Touch, M.E.M. - Lost Virginity and Insult Guerrilla Hunt 3. Before FUNimation released the five episode series, I'd seen clips online and the point of the anime seemed to be that it featured young women hitting each other so hard that their clothes exploded off. Master of Martial Hearts isn't the first series to do that. IkkiTousen/Battle Vixens comes to mind immediately in this regard, but compared to IkkiTousen, the designs for the women were a bit more pastel, while, maybe counter intuitively, for a show with more than a bit of moe, the forced with which they hit each other looked even harsher. I like smart anime. I like when it thoughtfully develops concepts and characters. I like when it has depth, or it tries to provoke some consideration from the viewer. At the same time, I'm also a sucker for well animated sequences of people punching each other. As such, I was prepared to roll by eyes at Masters of Martial Hearts premise and concussive disrobing if it offered dynamic, well choreographed fights. The early goings of Master of Martial Hearts conformed to my expectations. Heroine Aya encounters a shrine maiden (a miko) named Miko fighting a fully uniformed stewardess. Post fight, Aya and her new miko Miko friend retire to the "Moe Burger" fast food eatery, where Miko cutely orders up way too much food and explains the Platonic Heart as she shoves hamburgers into her mouth. Always self conscious about her violent fighting abilities, Aya is delighted to find a kindred soul willing to accept her. But then, Miko loses a fight and disappears into the "Dark Realm". Searching for her new friend, Aya joins the competition in earnest. Most of Masters of Martial Hearts shifts between two gears. Characters have long, slow conversations, generally about very obvious matters. There's not much new to the premise of the anime, but that doesn't prevent it from slowly dragging out explanations. Aya, Miko, Aya's every-girl friend, and Aya's mother get plenty of opportunity to cutely speak to each other. Then, in an arena that might be an empty park, a wharf, and even a crowded water park, the women fight. Clothes are always some element in the confrontation. That water park fight involved bikinis, and there is one especially weird case in which a chemistry teacher had an extremely odd get-up in which elements symbols were displayed on her gloves/knee/elbow pads, suited for calling out formulas proclaiming the combo she'd be about to throw. More often, it's about uniform fetishes... maid, police woman, even mechanic's overalls. The choreography for the fights is workable. It has some fun with the gimmick involved in the profession based outfits... rocket baggage for the stewardess, wrenches on chains for the mechanic and the like. Beyond the outfits and gimmicks, what really defines Master of Martial Hearts' fighting is its brutality. There is the clothes shredding effect that a landed blow has on the recipient, but this often feels nastier than similar spectacles in other anime of its ilk (IkkiTousen, Queens Blade). In a sort of strip MMA, characters lose their outer garments, then their undergarments. Beyond that, the fights are punctuated with quickly thrown blows that land solidly. There's pained yelling and character doubled over. These women aren't feeling the exhilaration of fighting, nor are they detached with their heads in the competition. They're getting smacked around in an ugly way. The juxtaposition of moe sweetness and painful, degrading fighting was not smart or broadly appealing, but allowing for some irreverence, it was ridiculously laughable in a way that could be enjoyed. Yes, it regularly crossed a skeevy line into sketchy sadism, as when a teacher threatened/fanaticized about Aya doing laps around her school without undergarments as punishment for arriving late. But, it's fun to catch some bad taste anime excess every once in a while. Moe might not me my favorite factor for that equation, but OVAs in generally and gleefully indefensible OVAs in particular are rare enough in the current anime landscape that I was willing to be mildly in favor of the series. Up until the final episode, Masters of Martial Hearts had tested the leeway I'd given for creepiness and inappropriate brutality. Then, in its climax, it bottomed out the exploitativeness. shy out outright porn, I can't think of anime that made such a point to be so extravagantly degrading to women. "Fanservice" is supposed to reward the viewer by giving them what they're looking for. Here's an extra bit of skin, an extra bit of action. Masters of Martial Hearts was a show comprised of fanservice. There was nothing else. Nor was it offering any overtures towards subverting that give-em-what-they-want proposition. Then, the last episode opened up an artery and bled out the stupid fun along with what might have passed for humanity. Brain damaged, half naked women were chained and humiliated in preparation for being sold into slavery. People were handed guns and told that it would be for the best if they ended their own suffering. Necks are snapped. It all ends in flames. I want this to be on the record, and I don't want you to have to watch Masters of Martial Hearts to know what happens. On the other hand, if you have a morbid curiosity about the ending I've been building up and don't want it spoiled, don't read the next paragraph. The following convolutions and double fakes are related in the final episode minutes of this five episode series. On a dark and stormy night, Aya and Miko walk to a warehouse. Aya is blood spattered, but Miko still has the goofy expression on her face. A spotlight turns on, and there's the chemistry teacher in tattered clothes, drooling and dazed, with her arms bound above her. Instead of responding to Aya, she foams at the mouth. Aya/the audience are told that it’s strange that the teacher is smiling because she's never been more miserable. Other once "powerful women," as the anime goes as far to refer to them, are similarly bound and exposed. We're then told some of the sob stories that drove them to enter the fight tournament. There's no mystic "Dark Realm" that Platonic Hearts losers are sent to. There was never anything supernatural or wish granting. The losers were actually put into a warehouse in preparation to be sold into slavery. To foreigner buyers of course. Who'd want this to reflect badly on the locals. At first, it looks like Aya's friends brother, who she crushed on, was behind the scheme. Actually, the human trafficker was a guy surgically altered to look like the object of Aya's infatuation. Except, that's not really it either. In fact, Aya's friend, her brother, and Miko were the secret puppeteers behind the puppeteers. Their mothers had been victims of a previous Platonic Hearts tournament, which Aya's mother won, and the trio had been planning on taking their revenge on Aya. (The friend's mother had her voice removed in an aborted plan to sell her into slavery and subsequently spent her days stabbing a photograph of Aya). With the clock running out, the warehouse staging drooling, half naked women being sold into slavery is set on fire. Aya's mother shows up to deal some retribution for the retribution. And, as everyone is dead, dying, shot, or about to be engulfed in flames, she mentions to Aya that there was an even earlier generation that was to blame for all the suffering, but that Aya would be the one to have to live with it... apparently we can hold out hope for a Masters of Martial Hearts 2. I'm not convinced that Masters of Martial Hearts inhabits a less moral universe than various other revenge stories. But, this one has the defect of turning ugly in a late, incoherent manner and mixing that with titillation. Maybe it thought it would blow the viewer's mind, because up until that point, the painfully explicit dialog sounded like was written for a viewer who wasn't too bright. There were clues, but even if the forecast suggested a downpour, this hurricane was beyond the pale. As nihilistic, creepy, anti-social, *explicative* as it would have been, Masters of Martial Arts might have master the maelstrom if it had sealed that ending with a cathartic blow-off. But, it couldn't even manage that. Given that Masters of Martial Hearts is a fan service driven work, I'm pissed off that this is what it thought its fans wanted. It's bad enough that anime's critics think of it as garbage for deviants. Serving up this to its fans isn't helping.

Manga Spotlight: Black Lagoon Volumes 8 and 9 By Rei Hiroe Released by VIZ Media

I roll my eyes every time I catch someone do a tiresome "this should be an HBO mini-series" geek-out. That out of the way... got to say... the exotic, broadly exciting Black Lagoon would make for a great HBO series adaptation. What works especially well in this set of volumes' specific Black Lagoon story is not dissimilar to what's working in the latest season of True Blood. Set in a distinctive location, it's offering a shark tank full of very attractive, very dangerous people, most of whom don't or shouldn't trust each other. Here, it's a criminal Galapagos on a Thai pirate port. The Triad, lead by a cop turned gangster Chow Yun Fat clone and the Russian Afghan vets/exiles turned organized criminals are in an uneasy détente. The loli-goth with the stitched up throat and a chainsaw, the Taiwanese knife specialist and the two gun wielding Chinese American in the black sleeveless and short shorts are managing to not kill each other and sort of work together. Yet, rarely have these inhabitants of a sun drenched sea side community been more ill at ease. And now, whispers and implied threats are brought into the arsenals of this collection of ichy trigger finger sufferers. They're all a little extra on edge because an American special forces unit and a FARC rebel turned guardian of a South American oligarch's family chose their turf to settle some differences. While these folks are generally quick to settle matters with sudden eruptions of violence, facing the prospects of American agencies leaning on their bloody escapades, there's substantially more tension than usual. Black Lagoon's El Baile de la Muerte story commenced in the latter third of volume 6 and finally wraps up in volume 9. It'll be the basis for the third Black Lagoon anime series, and since there's more manga in this story than either of the previous 13 episode TV series, the transition to a direct to video series should be interesting. Sunao Katabuchi's anime adaptations were quicker to take Black Lagoon's characters and their violent lives seriously than the original manga. There's little room for doubt that Rei Hiroe cooked up Black Lagoon because he's a geek for guns and hard women. It wasn't that he ignored the implications of what he depicted, but he seemed more inclined to let his heroine "Two Gun" Revy charge into action without peering too closely at the psychology. It was the anime that added the line in which safetyman turned expatriate smuggling facilitator Rokuro Okajima aka Rock watched Revy jump on a speeding boat guns blazing and wondered to himself, what was broken in her being to allow her to act that heedlessly violent, what allowed him to appreciate the action, and by implication, what allowed the anime view to thrill at the spectacle. Eventually, Fujiyama Gangsta Paradise, the longest pre-Baile story - concerning a field trip/home coming to the streets of Japan, did take a hard look at the thinking of Black Lagoon's principle pair. In the couple years before the upcoming third series was announced, the story seemed like it was going to be the final send-off for Black Lagoon's anime adaptation, and it was kissing its characters off with an appropriately dark emotional gut shot. It was the first case in which the anime and manga matched thoughtfulness in their approach to the material. Hiroe took a breath with Greenback Jane, (moved to before Fujiyama in the anime) a frantic run and gun battle royale that was too blitzed to allow for much introspection. Then, he dove in again for more. El Baile de la Muerte is by far Black Lagoon's most ambitious story. It's ambitious in terms of length, but also in plotting... it hosts a lot of factions with cross agendas and priorities; and it’s ambitious with its handling of characters; rather than simply mechanisms for moving and firing guns, their values and morality effect events. And, with the huge accumulation of by now well established warriors, the action itself is ambitious. Hiroe has put together an array of striking characters. He's configured them all in an intriguingly combustible stack. He has encouraged the reader to do the "yeah, let's you and you start fighting, " imagining what might happen if various combinations of characters threw down. In prior ventures, the fireworks from smaller payloads have been solid in the manga and exceptional in the anime. How can this one be anything other than overwhelmingly spectacular? Hiroe deserves heaps of credit for what he's created with these characters and what he's set up with the situation. In the scheme of manga, Black Lagoon still stands out, but criticism crops up fo in comparison to what it could have been. From that perspective, Hiroe's ambition outstrips his ability. Black Lagoon mixes a stew of action influences. Hollywood, Hong Hong movies, video games, crime stories, horror flicks... it goes on and on. El Baile de la Muerte uses the ingredients of geo-politics and intrigue, but it comes out like heroic bloodshed. There's a lot of standing, exchanges of hard looks, and expressing philosophies. It's a hunt, but there's also a good about of people with dangerous intent looking each other in the eyes. It's the curse of getting what you wish for... Hiroe delivers on establishing motivations for his characters. It's interesting. It's provocative in that it encourages consideration of the perspectives of these people and curiosity about how they'll react to the onrushing danger. Unfortunately, it's pacing is a problem. The Baile story went on for about three years in the monthly anthology Sunday GX, and there were complains that it was tiresome. Reading it in collected form isn't so patience trying. Instead, it appears crowded. There are too many people with too much personality. Even series star Revy is shoved into the wall. There's no elbow room, and time in this densely packed space is spent listing to people expound on those world views. Maybe Hiroe's approach to talky action would play better in another medium. Here, it's leaden. El Baile de la Muerte jostles and shoves and mean mugs rather than dances. Even when there's a change of scenery from Thailand to Vietnam, the story feels stuck. It does occasionally explode into action, but that highlights another issue. Hiroe creates awesome characters. They have tremendously dangerous auras to them. Because it's not something that lends itself to the medium, there aren't many manga creators able to handle gun play well. Hiroe does explosive panels, marked by dramatic poses and storms of speed lines. It's coherent, you can always tell what happens, but, dropping heavy spectacles, it's the outline and not the full blue print. There isn't considered panel to panel logic. Attention to how the positions and moments really connect isn't there. As such, a sense of choreography suffers. Though still exciting, it makes for a better framework than it does dynamic fight scenes. While anime that adapts this should be vigorously fantastic, this only looks a bit impressive. Black Lagoon still has the muscle and bite to maintain its position as a top dog among action manga. Though not an audience alienating misstep, El Baile de la Muerte didn't play to its author's strength. It deserves credit for its ambition; trying to do more with this considerable cast of characters. Unfortunately, the muscle bound effort is a bit duller than its composition suggests it should be. Rei Hiroe is evidently still building here. Hopefully next time when he gets around to stacking something with the intention to tops this effigy, the conflagration will be more heated.

Anime Spotlight: Toradora Box Set 1 Released by NIS America

Anime and manga have few romantic comedies, but they sure do have plenty of relationship comedies . The hijinx of teenage or young adult guys and girls trying to get past obstacles, baggage reluctance or denial too hook up has been fertile ground for these media. Toradora is a dragon/tiger pairing. (The title is a tortured pun) The dragon in this equation is Ryuji Takasu ("Son of the Dragon"), the dangerous looking son of a yakuza tough. Thing is... Ryuji's father died, and he's been raised by a mother who spends her nights working at a hostess bar, being paid to pour drinks for and drinking with customers. As such, she's asleep or hung over during the day, leaving Ryuji to mind the house/cook/clean. Taiga Aisaka aka "Palmtop Tiger" is a girl living in the luxury building next-door. Like Ryuji, she has a fearsome reputation. Unlike him, this reputation isn't based on appearance. She's a diminutive, girlish teen. Instead, it's based on reputation. She talks back. She snarls. She occasionally attacks people with a wooden sword. Further marking the contrast between the two, unlike fastidious Ryuji, though Taiga lives alone, she is unable to take care of herself; living in a dirty, trash strewn room, eating convenience store food. Taiga has a crush on Yusaku Kitamura, a guy who looks a bit geeky given that his distinguishing visual feature is his glasses, but who is popular, student council vice president, and generally has his business together. Ryuji has a crush on Minori Kushieda aka Minorin, an excessively energetic girl always bustling between part time jobs and softball, whose unconstrained spirit gives rise to a host of extravagant mannerisms. There's some hijinx involving Taiga accidentally putting a love letter into Ryuji's bag then attacking him; him agreeing to be her "dog" in return for her helping him win Minori's affections; Taiga practically moving in with Ryuji; the pair inventing excuses as to why they spend so much time together, with Ryuji caring for/feed Taiga without it seeming like they're a couple. Toradora doesn't labor this or develop it into a formula. It's mostly what happens when Ryuji and Taigi spend time together, with healthy doses of Kitamura and especially Minori. The group is soon joined by Ami Kawashima, a childhood friend of Kitamura taking time off from working as a model, who has clinched her popularity by adopting the person of a sweet airhead, when in fact she's vain and more than a bit mean. Early into Toradora's introduction, Taigi is throwing desks and charging with her wooden sword. Between Taiga's fits, Ryuji's cleaning OCD, and Minori's chirping and flailing, there's no confusing Toradora with anime possessing a light touch. There's a particular gag here that, without exaggeration, I hate more than anything I've seen in anime in years. Ryuji has a sick parrot that wolves down food, plucks out its own feathers and stutters puns while trying to speak its name. A little of this goes a long way, and there's way too much. At the same time Toradora stands out thanks to characters who are more well defined and more credible than most of their genre compatriots. The anime takes time to develop their sentiments and takes their emotional states seriously. By in large, it situates itself in the sort of in between moments that school comedies like Azumanga Daioh utilize... between classes, after school, on vacation or during school festivals. It leverages these spaces to allow the characters to be themselves, or at least appear in the manner in which they project themselves to their peers. We see that they have multiple interests and multiple facets. They're not just servicing the plot or comedy. This might not be some great character study, but there is enough to this sympathetic cast to foster investment. This pays dividends in that Toradora doesn't have to brow beat its audience to laugh with its cast and, when called upon to, feel their pain. There was a Toradora manga that predates the anime. It ran in Dengeki Daioh, the home for this sort of story with cute high school girls for a male audience. But, it started as light novels from Daioh's publication cousin Dengeki Bunko. Light novels are physically small books, written for brisk reading, generally for teen/young adult audiences. Plenty of fantasy works, such as Slayers, Guin Saga and Vampire Hunter D began in the format. But, Toradora is far from the only relationship story in the field. The 36 volume Maria-sama ga Miteru (The Virgin Mary is Watching or Maria Watches Over Us), aka Marimite, about a girl in a prestigious Catholic school, is a relationship/character driven light novel series and a mainstay of the field. Though light novels are quick reads, they often concern themselves with depth. Not a great work of literature sort of depth. Depth as in thoroughly describing and developing their subject. If they're fantasy, then there's a fantastic amount of world building. If it's a relationship story, the web of characters and motivations for those characters is fully built out. Whether it’s the demon lord cosmology of Slayers or the speculative sci-fi sociology of Banner of the Stars, this depth really rounds out light novels' anime adaptations. But, it's not to argue for their superiority as source material. Depth sometimes manifests to the exclusion of other qualities. For example, in Black Blood Brothers, the entire anime is spend spelling out the relationships between factions in the source novels. Light novel depth is complemented here when Studio J.C.Staff and director Tatsuyuki Nagai embrace the opportunity to animate these characters. The term "sakuga" applies to animation, or key animation specifically, and a cannon of sakuga anime "whose animation stands out due to quality, uniqueness, or historic importance” is being developed. This includes works like Noein, Samurai Champloo, and Paranoia Agent. J.C.Staff has produced interesting works like Alien Nine and several entries in that proposed listing including Revolutionary Girl Utena and R.O.D -The TV-. Toradora isn't quite in that conversation yet, but it has its share of real stand out moments. It likes working with Minori's silly, spasming motions. And, it loves when the doll-like Taiga goes ferral. When she's in a headless fury, that petite character is hurled into some amazingly wild, complex sequences. The cocktail of media that attracts dedicated anime fans (manga, light novels, games) is largely built on churning iteration after iteration of a formula that works. There's nothing in Toradora that transcends that refined, established parameters of a relationship comedy of its sort. It's not just that I'm tired of this type of story, it's that I'd like anime to take advantage of the flexibility of the medium and expand elsewhere. Yet, despite my disinclination, I enjoyed Toradora. Its characters are solid enough, and this situations are engrossing enough to win over an audience who isn't seeking out the next anime of its sort. Though its cramming more into a crowded space, it's a welcome addition.

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Anime Midstream Anime Midstream, an unconventional anime distributor, has slated their second Zettai Muteki Raijin-Oh mecha anime collection for August 30th AniPlex A R.O.D -The Complete- Blu-ray box set will be released this winter. Three OVA episodes and 26 TV episodes will be on 5 Blu-ray Discs. Both Japanese and English dubs will be included.
Part of the English language dub cast for urban mystery/action Durarara!! has been announced Celty: Kari Wahlgren Mikado: Darrel Guilbeau Shizuo: Crispin Freeman Dark Horse Dark Horse is planning a January 2011 release for Blade of the Immortal 23 We had to get a new translator, but everything's rolling along nicely, with Kumar Sivasubramanian (EDEN, MPD-PSYCHO, OLDBOY) translating now and Tomoko Saito continuing to do lettering and retouch work. Thanks for reading!! Every volume's pretty exciting from here on out... Discotek Media The second Fist of the North Star set is due out 11-23-2010 Discotek Media has announced a number of new licenses Anime Galaxy Express 999 movie - classic Leiji Matsumoto (Battleship Yamato) space opera
Adieu Galaxy Express 999 movie Project AKO (Original movie) - classic 80's anime parody
Live action: Princess Blade Aquarian Age - adaptation of the game franchise Bandai Entertainment At Otakon tonight, Bandai Entertainment announced two new acquisitions: The Girl Who Leapt Through Space My Otome 0~S.ifr~. The Girl Who Leapt Through Space is a 26 episode series from Sunrise and tells the story of a Akiha Shishido, who battles an artificial intelligence known as Leopard on a space colony. It was directed by Masakazu Obara (My Hime, My Otome.) My Otome o~S.ifr~ is a three episode OVA prequel to the popular My Otome television series. The series was directed by Otome character designer Hirokazu Hisayuki. In a panel surprise, Bandai Entertainment updated its previous announcement of K- ON! by revealing that the series would be dubbed into English by Bang Zoom with a planned simultaneous DVD and BD release. The first two cast members were also announced – Stephanie Sheh will play Yui and Cristina Zee will be the voice of Mio. At Comic Con International, Bandai Entertainment announced two new acquisitions Tales of the Abyss and Turn A Gundam. Tales of the Abyss is based on the video game of the same name from Namco Bandai Games. The 26 episode anime from Sunrise has fantasy elements and tells the story of Luke Fon Fabre, who after seven years of captivity, is suddenly dragged into the center Turn A Gundam, a 50 episode series, was written and directed by Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino and features mecha designs by conceptual designer Syd Mead (Blade Runner.) The series was made to mark Gundam’s 20th anniversary in Japan Bandai Entertainment also announced the acquisition of a new manga, Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens, from manga-ka Eri Takenashi. It is the manga that inspired the anime series already being released by Bandai Entertainment and Aniplex. The manga tells the story of Nagi, a goddess who is accidentally awakened with a mission to cleanse the A Blu-ray release of Gundam Unicorn volume 2 is planned for 10-31-2010. The 50 minute feature retails for $49.98 Drawn and Quarterly Drawn & Quarterly has acquired North American English rights to two graphic novel memoirs, Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths and NonNonBa, by legendary manga creator, Shigeru Mizuki, best known for his horror series GeGeGe no Kitaro
Mizuki is known in Japan as the preeminent figure of gekiga/manga. The first book to be published, Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, is a semi-autobiographical account of the desperate final weeks of a Japanese infantry unit at the end of WW2. The soldiers are instructed that they must go into battle and die for the honor of their country, with certain execution facing them if they return alive. Mizuki was a soldier himself (he was severely injured and lost an arm) and uses his experiences to convey the devastating consequences and moral depravity of the war. In NonNonBa, Mizuki looks back to his childhood at the beginning of the 1930s when all the kids in his neighborhood played at war. Although Mizuki joins in the battles, he spends the rest of his time dreaming of and drawing the world of superstition and monsters, a world an old neighbor woman, NonNonBa, helps him create. FUNimation FUNimation Entertainment announced that it has acquired the home entertainment, theatrical, broadcast and merchandise rights to the animated sci-fi action film SUMMER WARS from NTV. Released in August 2009 in Japan by Warner Brothers, SUMMER WARS is produced by Madhouse and directed by Mamoru Hosoda. SUMMER WARS is the second full-length film that Hosoda has made as a freelance director. The first, THE GIRL WHO LEAPT THROUGH TIME, an animated movie in which the teenage heroine discovers that she can travel to the past, received rave reviews from critics and audiences worldwide. SUMMER WARS reunites many who worked on that film, including scriptwriter Satoko Okudera and character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto. The SUMMER WARS story begins with Kenji, a timid math prodigy who seems better suited for virtual worlds than his more intimidating high school. When class cutie Natsuki asks Kenji to accompany her on a family trip to celebrate her great-grandmother’s 90th birthday, he instantly agrees, not realizing she intends to present him to her family as her fiance - a ruse that forces Kenji, who hides behind an avatar online, to role-play in the real world as well. The plot thickens after Kenji solves a math riddle that inadvertently brings a worldwide social networking site to its knees and throws the real world into confusion. Suddenly, this large family in rural Japan must work together to stave off a world crisis. FUNimation Entertainment will release the film theatrically in 2010 and on DVD and Blu-ray in 2011. FUNimation also announced that it has acquired the home entertainment, broadcast, digital and merchandise rights to the animated sci-fi action film EVANGELION: 2.0 YOU CAN (NOT) ADVANCE from NTV. EVANGELION: 2.0 YOU CAN (NOT) ADVANCE is the second of four films by Hideaki Anno and Studio Khara based on the 1990’s Gainax “Neon Genesis Evangelion” anime series, a long-running anime about teenagers defending the world from machines and mass destruction. The film is produced by Toshimichi Otsuki and directed by Hideaki Anno, Masayuki, and Kazuya Tsurumaki from the screenplay written by Anno. The mechanical designer is Ikuto Yamashita. The setting is Tokyo 3, an outpost in a future world devastated by the "Second Impact." Attacked by shape-shifting mecha-behemoths known as “Angels”, what's left of Earth is defended by giant "Eva" robots piloted by high school students. Selected for duty by NERV, a top-secret military organization, the children are linked to their Evas by a design feature that channels the spirits of deceased family members into the machine's circuitry. The lead pilot is Shinji (voiced by Ogata), the troubled son of emotionally distant NERV scientist Gendou Ikari. Rebelling against his predestined path, Shinji is brought back into the fold by teacher-mother figure Misato Katsuragi (Mitsuishi) and fellow pilot Rei (Hayashibara). FUNimation Entertainment will release the film on DVD and Blu-ray in 2011. FUNimation Entertainment announced it has reached an agreement with Japanese production studio Media Factory, Inc. for the online simulcast and home entertainment release of the comedy series “Hetalia World Series” in the United States. Starting in August, FUNimation Entertainment will premiere the newest episode of “Hetalia World Series” shortly after its initial digital download premiere in Japan. The anime will be available with its original Japanese dialogue with English subtitles through and FUNimation streaming partners. A date and time for its U.S. debut will be coming soon. Created by Hidekaz Himaruya, Hetalia World Series reunites the voice cast “Axis Powers Hetalia”. The anime stars Daisuke Namikawa, as Italy, Hiroki Yasumoto voicing Germany, and new addition Atsushi Kousaka as Prussia. The series is produced by Studio Deen (“Fruits Basket”, “Vampire Knight”). FUNimation has also acquired to first animated feature-length adaptation of the series “Axis Powers Hetalia.” The film is called HETALIA AXIS POWERS: PAINT IT, WHITE and is the first appearance of the character Iceland. The nations must ward off aliens and save mankind as we know it from extinction and the draining of color throughout the world. Nimation Entertainment, the leading distributor of Japanese animation in North America, announced today it will partner with Marvelous Entertainment for the online simulcast of the “Blessing of the Campanella” exclusively in the United States.
FUNimation has also acquired home entertainment, digital, broadcast and merchandise rights for the 12 episode fantasy anime series. Known as “Shukufuku no Campanella” in its native Japan, “Blessing of the Campanella” is based on the popular Japanese visual novel of the same name. The series takes place in the magical city of Ert’Aria. As the residents prepare for a harvest festival, a young technician named Leicester Maycraft witnesses the crash of a mysterious shooting star. Upon further investigation, Leicester is surprised to find a young woman at the site of the crash. Now the young man must figure out who this mysterious girl is, and why she keeps calling him Father. Animation for the series is done by studio AIC (“Strike Witches 2”, “Heaven’s Lost Property”). The series features as Nobuhiko Okamoto (“Air Gear”, “Sacred Blacksmith”) as Leicester Maycraft and is directed by Shinji Uchiro. FUNimation Entertainment has announced the English cast of the 26-episode animated series “Oh! Edo Rocket.” The cast: AKAI = Chuck Huber ANKLES = Mike McFarland ARMS = Jeremy Inman BLUE GIRL = Colleen Clinkenbeard EARS = Anthony Bowling EYES = J. Paul Slavens GENZO = Chris Cason GENZO’S MOTHER = Melinda Wood Allen GINJIRO = Jonathan Brooks HEELS = Newton Pittman KNEES = Justin Cook OISE = Stephanie Young OLD MAN = Steve Powell ONUI = Tia Ballard ORIKU = Trina Nishimura ROKUBE = Sonny Strait ROKUBE’S WIFE = Laurie Steele SANTA = Charlie Campbell SEIKICHI = Greg Ayres SHINZA = Sean Michael Teague SHUNPEI = Cherami Leigh SORA = Brina Palencia TENHO = Leah Clark TENTEN = J. Michael Tatum TETSUJU = Vic Mignogna TORII = R Bruce Elliott TOYAMA = Ian Sinclair The ADR director is Tyler Walker. In this comedy set in1842, government reforms have banned all luxuries, including plays, inventions, and fireworks. Despite the political climate, Seikichi, a young fireworks maker, dreams of making a huge firework the likes of which have never been seen. Unfortunately, every time he fires a test rocket the government officials try to track him down. One day, a beautiful, mysterious girl appears before Seikichi and asks him to build a rocket that can reach the moon. FUNimation Entertainment will release the complete series on DVD this fall. The English cast of the anime series “Phantom ~ Requiem for the Phantom” will be The cast: ABEL Mike McFarland ANTON Eric Vale CAL Brittney Karbowski CARLO Ian Sinclair CLAUDIA Colleen Clinkenbeard DUKE Maxey Whitehead EIN Lindsay Seidel GODO Phil Parsons HIRONO Megan Miller JUDY Ginneh Thomas LIZZIE Shay Moore MCGWIRE J. Michael Tatum MIO Leah Clark MOTEGI Todd Haberkorn RANDY Christopher R. Sabat REIJI Newton Pittman RICHARD Robert McCollum SANAE Jamie Marchi SCYTHE Kent Williams SHIGA Christopher Bevins TONY Mark Stoddard WALLACE Bryan Massey WISEMEL Rick Keeling XU Jerry Jewell The suspense-filled thriller centers around a mysterious organization called Inferno and its "Phantom," the organization's most elite assassin. This assassin’s true identity is compromised by an unwitting witness. Witnesses are usually killed but this witness is brainwashed into become Inferno’s newest assassin and enters a world of intrigue and violence. FUNimation will release the series on DVD in early 2011. The English cast of the supernatural anime “Black Butler” will be CIEL = Brina Palencia SEBASTIAN = J. Michael Tatum ABBERLINE = Jonathan Brooks AGNI = Patrick Seitz ANGELA = Colleen Clinkenbeard ASHE = Chuck Huber BARDROY = Ian Sinclair CORRARO = Bruce DuBose DROSSEL = Sonny Strait DRUIT = Todd Haberkorn ELIZABETH = Cherami Leigh FINNIAN = Jason Liebrecht GRELL = Daniel Fredrick HAROLD = Newton Pittman LAU = Jerry Jewell MATILDA = Leah Clark MEI LIN = Monica Rial MR. TANAKA = R. Bruce Elliot PAULA = Jessica Cavanagh PLUTO = Z. Charles Bolton RACHEL = Brina Palencia RANDALL = John Gremillion SOMA = Chris Ayres UNDERTAKER = John Swayze VINCENT = Robert McCollum The ADR director is Ian Sinclair. Produced by A-1 Pictures, “Black Butler” was released in 2008 in Japan. Based on the manga written and illustrated by Yana Toboso, the anime of the same name is directed by Toshiya Shinohara. The series follows the story of the 12 year old head of a noble family, Ciel Phantomhive, and his demon butler Sebastian. For more information about the series, please visit FUNimation Entertainment will begin releasing the 24-episode series in early 2011. G4 The G4 Network will be airing the Madhouse produced anime adaption of Marvel superheroes Iron Man, X-Men, Wolverine, and Blade, started in Iron Man in October. NIS The second box sets for Toradora and Persona have been slated for September release Section23 Home video distributor Section23 Films today announced its October slate of releases, including CANAAN which will be released on DVD and Blu Ray, from Section23 client Sentai Filmworks. KIMIKISS: PURE ROUGE COLLECTION 1 Published by: Sentai Filmworks Distributed by: Section23 Films Run Time: 325 min. Street Date: 10/5/2010 Format: DVD Language: Japanese with English Subtitles SRP: $49.98 SYNOPSIS: Kouichi always thought of Mao as his little sister, but when he wakes up from a dream and she walks into his house, he doesn't even recognize her. Probably because, after living in France for several years, Mao is definitely not anyone's little sister anymore! To further complicate things, Koichi's mom has invited Mao to stay at their house while she attends the same high school as Kouichi and their mutual friend Kazuki. But given that Kouichi's been trying to build a relationship with Yuumi, the revelation that he's now sharing accommodations with a non-related girl is definitely going to cause some emotional waves. Or maybe a tsunami by the time Kazuki's sister Nana, her best friend Narumi and all the other kids at school get overly involved. Young love and teenage angst are the rule as histrionics and history classes collide in the first spellbinding collection of KIMIKISS ~ PURE ROUGE! TYTANIA COLLECTION 2 Published by: Sentai Filmworks Distributed by: Section23 Films Run Time: 325 min. Street Date: 10/12/2010 Format: DVD Language: Japanese with English Subtitles SRP: $49.98 SYNOPSIS: The rulers of the Empire of Valdana have repeatedly failed to capture Fan Hyurlick, but now they've succeeded in doing something far worse by striking down the ones closest to him. Unfortunately for the surviving members of the Tytania dynasty, by changing their greatest enemy from an interstellar fugitive into a man driven by anger and vengeance, all they've really accomplished is to sign their own death warrants! And if that wasn't enough trouble, the internal divisions among the Empire are coming apart at the seams and suddenly none of the Landless Lords are safe from a knife in the back! The body count will climb as brother turns on brother and one man's fight for justice becomes a vendetta! The creative team behind the legendary MACROSS unleashes an epic struggle for the future of mankind in the climatic second collection of TYTANIA! TEARS TO TIARA COMPLETE COLLECTION Published by: Sentai Filmworks Distributed by: Section23 Films Run Time: 650 min. Street Date: 10/19/2010 Format: DVD Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles SRP: $69.98 SYNOPSIS: In a strange dark age, across the land that will someday become Europe, the Divine Empire has been on the march, ruthlessly devouring its weaker neighbors for generations. But when a savage priest attempts to resurrect the long-buried Demon King Arawn by sacrificing Riannon, the young high priestess of the Gael Clan, the Empire sows the seeds of its own destruction! Deciding to side with the beautiful girl instead, the revived Demon Lord joins forces with her potentially legendary brother Arthur, and begins to assemble a mighty force that may just bring the Divine Empire its knees! Humans, elves and even dragon take arms in a spectacular animated interpretation of the Celtic, Gaelic, British and Roman myths of Albion, as an all star English vocal cast adds the crowning glory to TEARS TO TIARA the complete epic collection! TEARS TO TIARA COMPLETE COLLECTION BLU-RAY EDITION Published by: Sentai Filmworks Distributed by: Section23 Films Run Time: 650 min. Street Date: 10/19/2010 Format: BD Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles SRP: $89.98 SYNOPSIS: In a strange dark age, across the land that will someday become Europe, the Divine Empire has been on the march, ruthlessly devouring its weaker neighbors for generations. But when a savage priest attempts to resurrect the long-buried Demon King Arawn by sacrificing Riannon, the young high priestess of the Gael Clan, the Empire sows the seeds of its own destruction! Deciding to side with the beautiful girl instead, the revived Demon Lord joins forces with her potentially legendary brother Arthur, and begins to assemble a mighty force that may just bring the Divine Empire its knees! Humans, elves and even dragon take arms in a spectacular animated interpretation of the Celtic, Gaelic, British and Roman myths of Albion, as an all star English vocal cast adds the crowning glory to TEARS TO TIARA the complete epic collection! CANAAN COMPLETE COLLECTION Published by: Sentai Filmworks Distributed by: Section23 Films Run Time: 325 min. Street Date: 10/26/2010 Format: DVD Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles SRP: $59.98 SYNOPSIS: Colors have scent. Sounds possess images. In this future world, where biochemical weapons have changed the game, an unlucky few have their senses blended. They are gifted with abilities beyond what normal humans feel. They possess synesthesia. CANAAN COMPLETE COLLECTION BLU-RAY EDITION Published by: Sentai Filmworks Distributed by: Section23 Films Run Time: 325 min. Street Date: 10/26/2010 Format: BD Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles SRP: $69.98 SYNOPSIS: Colors have scent. Sounds possess images. In this future world, where biochemical weapons have changed the game, an unlucky few have their senses blended. They are gifted with abilities beyond what normal humans feel. They possess synesthesia. Shout! Factory A DVD release of the motion comic version of Astonshing X-Men: Gifted will be released on September 28th for $14.97. Synopsis: Professor Charles Xavier’s X-Men — the aggressive Wolverine, conflicted Beast and newly returned Kitty Pryde, led by Cyclops and Emma Frost — find themselves confronted with Dr. Kavita Rao, who has developed a controversial “mutant cure.” Now they’re up against science, prejudice and a mysterious new foe named Ord! Can the X-Men protect the world’s mutants against this powerful new alien menace and the “cure” that threatens to rid them of their unique abilities forever? TOKYOPOP New titles announced at Comic Con include Sakura no Ichiban by Yuna Kagesaki (Karin/Chibi Vampire) Pavane for a Dead Girl (Naki Shojo no Tame no Pavane/Pavane Pour Une Fille Défunte) by Koge Donbo (Di Gi Charat) Mr. Clean: Fully Equipped (Keppeki Shonen Kanzen Sobi) by Toya Tobina (Jiujiu). Priest creator Min-woo Hyung's five volume, large format full color Ghostface will launch next spring. Top Shelf Top Shelf Production will be releasing Masahiko Matsumoto’s classic gekiga manga Cigarette Girl (Tobacco-ya no Musume)
Viz Media A new six volume edition of Death Note, titled Death Note Black, will be released starting February 2011.
VIZ Pictures, an affiliate of VIZ Media, LLC that focuses on Japanese live-action film distribution, has announced that it has licensed from Toho Company, Ltd the North American theatrical and DVD distribution rights to the heavy metal live-action comedy, Detroit Metal City. The DVD is scheduled for release later in the fall of this year. In the film, Soichi Negishi (played by Kenichi Matsuyama) is a sweet and shy young man who dreams of becoming a trendy singer songwriter. But for some reason, he is forced into joining the devil worshiping death metal band “Detroit Metal City” (DMC). In full stage make-up and costume, he transforms into Johannes Krauser II the vulgar-mouthed lead vocalist of the band. But he must keep this a secret from his crush, Yuri Aikawa, who despises death metal. What would she think if she found out? But against Negishi’s will, DMC rises to stardom. Things get even more complicated when the legendary king of death metal, Jack ill Dark (played by Gene Simmons), challenges DMC to a duel in the film’s climatic finale. What will be the fate of innocent Negishi as he climbs to the top of the death metal world? Upcoming Anime:
VAMPIRE KNIGHT Volume 1 • Rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens • MSRP: $19.97 US / $28.99 CAN • Available Now At the prestigious Cross Academy, there are two sessions of classes, the Day Class and the Night Class. As the school's Disciplinary Committee, Yuki Cross and Zero Kiryu keep watch over the Day Class students, who are all infatuated with the beautiful and elite Night Class students. As Guardians, Yuki and Zero must also protect the secret of the Night Class – they are all vampires! POKÉMON ELEMENTS: COLLECTION, Part 1 • Rated 'A' for All Ages • MSRP: $29.92 U.S. / $42.99 CAN • Available August 31st NARUTO SHIPPUDEN BOX SET 3 Standard Edition • Rated 'T+' for Older Teens • MSRP: $49.95 U.S. / $71.99 CAN • Available August 3rd NARUTO SHIPPUDEN BOX SET 3 Special Edition • Rated 'T+' for Older Teens • MSRP: $69.97 U.S. / $99.99 CAN • Available August 3rd Features same DVDs as the Standard Edition but includes a special limited edition Sasori figurine. NARUTO SHIPPUDEN Volume 11 • Rated 'T+' for Older Teens • MSRP: $24.92 US / $35.99 CAN • Available Now NARUTO SHIPPUDEN Volume 12 • Rated 'T+' for Older Teens • MSRP: $24.92 US / $35.99 CAN • Available August 10th NARUTO UNCUT BOX SET SEASON 3, Volume 2 • Rated 'T+' for Older Teens • MSRP: $49.95 U.S. / $71.99 CAN • Available August 31st BLEACH Volume 30 • Rated ‘T’ for Teens • MSRP: $24.92 US / $35.99 CAN • Available Now BLEACH Volume 31 • Rated ‘T’ for Teens • MSRP: $24.92 U.S. / $35.99 CAN • Available August 24th Upcoming Manga:
Bakuman?• Rated ‘T’ for Teens • MSRP: $9.99 US / $12.99 CAN • Available August 3rd By the creative team that brought you DEATH NOTE Average student Moritaka Mashiro enjoys drawing for fun. When his classmate and aspiring writer Akito Takagi discovers his talent, he begs Moritaka to team up with him as a manga-creating duo. But what exactly does it take to make it in the manga-publishing world?
DENGEKI DAISY • Rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens • MSRP: $9.99 US / $12.99 CAN • Available Now After orphan Teru Kurebayashi loses her beloved older brother, she finds solace in the text messages she exchanges with DAISY, an enigmatic figure who can only be reached through the cell phone her brother left behind. Meanwhile, mysterious Tasuku Kurosaki always seems to be around whenever Teru needs help. Could DAISY be a lot closer than Teru thinks? GENTE • Rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens • MSRP: $12.99 US / $16.99 CAN • Available August 17th Buona sera! Welcome to Casetta dell'Orso, a quaint little restaurant in the heart of Rome. The food's delicious, but the handsome staff of bespectacled gentlemen is the real draw. Follow these dashing men home and witness their romances, heartaches, hopes and dreams in this delightfully whimsical continuation of Natsume Ono's beloved Ristorante Paradiso. HYDE & CLOSER • Rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens • MSRP: $9.99 US / $12.99 CAN • Available Now Shunpei Closer is your average... well, slightly below average kid in junior high who finds himself in the middle of a great battle of dark sorcery. With cursed dolls coming after him one after another, Shunpei's life is in constant danger! If that weren't enough, Hyde, the teddy bear given to him by his grandfather, suddenly comes alive to rescue him. Hyde was a gift from Shunpei's grandfather, Alsyd Closer, who was the King of Sorcerers. After a mysterious attack, Shunpei also learns that he is the target of sorcerers all over the world. With Hyde as his main protector and teacher, Shunpei must learn how to gain confidence in himself and use the magic that he has inherited to battle the dark forces that now threaten him. Seiho boys’ high school! • Rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens • MSRP: $9.99 US / $12.99 CAN • Available August 3rd Remote, lonely and surrounded by the ocean… This isn't Alcatraz we're talking about--it's Seiho Boys' High School, where the student body is rife with sexually frustrated hunks! How can these young men get girlfriends when they're stuck in the middle of nowhere? These are the stories of the students of Seiho High and the trouble they get into as they awkwardly pursue all girls who cross their paths. Warner Home Video Batman Beyond Limited Edition Collection, will the complete series and a new art booklet will be released on November 23rd for $99.98
Yen Press New licenses announced at Comic Con include Highschool of the Dead by Daisuke Sato and Shoji Sato Betrayal Knows My Name (Uragiri wa Boku no Namae o Shitteiru/Uraboku) by Hotaru Odagiri Otoyome-Gatari (The Bride's Stories) by Kaoru Mori (Emma) Higurashi: When They Cry Demon Exposing Arc (Higurashi no Naku Koro ni: Onisarashi-Hen) by En Kitou Aron's Absurd Armada by Misun Kim

Upcoming in Japan

Promos Maho Sensei Negima! ~Mou Hitotsu no Sekai~ - OAD to be packaged with volume 31 of the manga Samurai Girls Hana no Utame Gothicmade Anime “hypothetical science adventure” visual novel game Steins;Gate is getting an anime adaptation
A look at Studio4C's adaptation of Masamune Shirow's Orion
A notice packaged with Nekomonogatari, indicated that NisiOisin's light novel Kizumonogatari, the prequel to Bakemonogatari is getting an anime adaptation
A second Shinshaku Sengoku Eiyuu Densetsu Sanada Jyuu Yuushi (New Legend of the Heroes of the Warring Nations: The Ten Sanada Brave Soldiers is slated for October
Max Weintraub is directing a flash animated adaptation of PansonWorks's Robin with His 100 Friends
A second OAD episode of Abnormal Physiology Seminar will be packaged with a limited edition of the manga, scheduled to be released in March 2011
Hiroshi Ikehata will be directing animated shorts for Minori Kagura's Nogyo Musume! (Agricultural Girls) web manga.
A "Welcome to the Phantomhive Family" OVA episode will be included with the third volume of Black Butler/Kuroshitsuji II
Madhouse's Masao Maruyama revealed at Otakon that the studio is developing web based a Ninja Ten Battles series about "a guy in drag with a sword who fights ninjas." The web anime is being developed as a teaser trailer for a possible movie. Ninja Scroll creator Yoshiaki Kawajiri is attached to the project Masao Maruyama also pointed out that Redline is all hand drawn. Maruyama expects it will be last hand drawn animation of this complexity Madhouse is collaberating with the Chinese government of the animated Tibetan Dog, in production planned for release later this year. It features haracter design from Naoki Urasawa, directed by Monster's Masayuki Kojima design images Madhouse's Supernatural anime is fully developed in Japan. 1/3 content based on original eps, 1/3 backstory & 1/3 new Japanese content including yokai Masaaki Yuasa (Mind Game) is confirmed to be working on a new movie
Fuji TV producer Koji Yamamoto (Paradise Kiss, Honey and Clover II) hinted on twitter that Kuroshitsuji/Toradora! screenwriter Mari Okada and director Yutaka Yamamoto are attached to a Noitamina series.
A fourth Hetalia anime series will launch in September with the introduction of anthromorphized versions of Norway (Masami Iwasaki) and Denmark (Hiroshi Shimozaki). Manga A look at Gunsmith Cats creator Kenichi Sonoda's new series Bullet Wizard
Katsuyuki Sumisawa will be writing a Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz: The Glory of the Defeated manga illustrated by Tomofumi Ogasawara for Gundam Ace
Hisashi Eguch's boxing manga Eiji is getting collected
Eyeshield 21's Yusuke Murata and Moonlight Mile's Yasuo Otakagi are collaborating on Jump Square published hard sci-fi Donten Prism Solar Car
Saint Seiya - Next Dimension is returning in the October 19 edition of the magazine Weekly Shonen Champion for boys
Kentaro Yabuki will be launching a spin-off to sci-fi rom con in the November issue of Jump Square
Weekly Young Jump will feature four manga from four members of the AKB48 idol group
An one-shot of Otter #11, the manga-within-a-manga from manga creation manga Bakuman will included in the next issue of the Japanese Shonen Jump.
Angel Heart, a spin-off of Tsukasa Hojo's action crime series City Hunter, will find a new home a
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