Monday, March 28, 2011

Forgive me!

At last weeks end, I felt completely satisfied after a busy week. And yet, something was missing. Hmmm, I thought to myself, why could that be? And then I realized: I forgot to update this blog! Gomen! A lapse of this magnitude should hopefully never occur again, but until May, for my own reasons, I will only be able to post once a week rather than my preferred twice. Oh, well...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Watch Evangelion, The Cat Demon Spirits Way!

Hello. This is a surprise. I had assumed that today, dear reader, I would put up another linkblog of GAINAX related stuff. But then, dear, precious nonexistent reader, I decided I would help you! With what? Well, with watching hours of anime, of course! And obviously, since this is my blog, the anime in question would be none other than...NEON GENESIS EVANGELION! You see, Eva is a very long show, now with multiple versions. This can be daunting to a new fan, but never fear! Because N, the blogger is here, here to help you, to guide your way through the world of Evangelion!!!

N-APPROVED OPTION 1: The Ideal Way To Watch Evangelion Is:
To, at least initially, have no idea what the show is, to happen upon it randomly, like I did. Unfortunately, this is now impossible for you, unless you happened upon this article by chance, in which case STOP READING NOW. However, for you who now knows, there is still...

1. Watch With a friend
Preferably, this is someone who is less/more of a geek than you. This may seem random, but trust me, you want someone to talk to about this show.

2. Subs, not Dubs
Normally, I'm a pro-dub type guy, but they messed up with this one and they messed up bad. Matt Greenfield's direction, while clearly passionate for the series, is just too over the top to convey the show's message, and Amanda Winn's dub of End of Evangelion is just insulting.

3. Episodes 21-23 are to be Watched in the Director's Cut Edition
There's over 10 minutes- half an episode- of new scenes in the DC, many of which explain previously unanswered elements of the storyline. Plus, the animation looks waaaaay better; you can tell GAINAX took the cheap route for the TV airing

4. Watch Both Endings
One must decide for himself/herself which is the better. I am personally partial to End of Evangelion.

5. You Don't Have to Watch all of Rebuild 1.11, but if you do...
Be aware that nothing will be new, and no new scenes appear until the sublime second half. Also, be sure to watch it in dub, because it is the highlight of the film!

6. Rebuild 2.22 is out Next Week; Rejoice!
Assuming you haven't hung yourself yet, you should be really happy about this. I saw this in theaters, possibly the best way to watch this; rent out a screening room if you can. Watch in sub, dub, or both, because the sub is excellent, and I have faith in Funimation. However, you probably have hung yourself. Did I mention I'm a ghost?

Don't be like V. Form your own opinions about the show.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sailor Moon!!!

 Are you wondering why a picture of a perky magical girl adorns the top of the website today? Why, haven't you heard the news? Sailor Moon is BACK! Yay...
Now, why are we supposed to care? I'm going to write this as if you don't know, even though there's a 50/50 chance you do. Back when manga was new to the US/Canada market, Sailor Moon was THE SH*T. The anime was aired (hideously censored, but still) on TV by 4kids, and a lot of people watched it! Its publication by Tokyopop, alongside the slightly less popular CLAMP title Magical Knight Rayearth, brought large groups of female readers, to perhaps all North American comics fandom for the first time since the pre-code days of romance comics.

However, the show had slightly less staying power (and merchandise) than Pokemon, and since this is Tokyopop we're talking about, the manga has been out of print for years... UNTIL NOW! In fact, not only is the previously minor company Kodansha USA giving us Sailor Moon in a new, better (hopefully) edition, we are also getting Codename: Sailor V, a dry run of sorts, a "prequel" published a year before Sailor Moon. This will make a lovely addition to my bookshelf, perhaps to accompany my copy of the first Cardcaptor Sakura omnibus, which looms over bedroom wall, menacingly...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Genkidama Saves The World

I'm sure you all have heard about the devastating 8.9 earthquake that recently hit Japan. I have refrained from commenting on it on this blog, due to he fact that anything I say will probably be meaningless. However, I would like to encourage everyone reading this to donate money to a relief program, and here is a way that you can help, for free, without getting off the computer. Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama and Weekly Shounen Jump publisher Shueisha have posted a video on You Tube entitled "JAPAN EARTHQUAKE-"Genkidama" Saves the World!" The plan is that the little bit of advertising revenue generated through page views will all be donated towards relief programs. The Genkidama, as some readers may know, is the power-up Son Goku uses in the final volume of Dragon Ball, harnessing the ki of everyone on earth, to make a big fireball. The video has been posted in both English and  Japanese, and the English version can be viewed here. Lets all give a little ki to help Japan, people!

Monday, March 14, 2011

More Linkblog: Daicon

Believe it or not, these two short films mark GAINAX's anime debut. They were created for the japanese sci-fi convention Daicon; the radish in III is a Daikon radish, get it? Daicon IV is the obvious masterpiece of the two, with eye-popping animation and mountains of inspired in-jokes. As Justin Sevakis says in his Buried Treasure column, "In this short five minutes, the entire essence of anime and its appeal can be found. For an otaku, it feels like you're seeing God." The two shorts have never had an official home video release due to numerous copyright infringements, namely the use of the Electric Light Orchestra song Twilight, but is easily tracked down on the interwebs. Note that I do not in any way support fansubs, but since this is the only way to watch this anime, I'll make an exception.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Mary Pope Osborne's The Magic Tree House to be Adapted into Anime; Childhoods of Many Hang in Balance

When I was a kid, I used to read The Magic Treehouse. I'm sure a few of you readers out there (hello?) did as well. Perhaps it was fate that I grew up to be an otaku, because The Magic Treehouse is huge is Japan. Of the 92 million copies sold worldwide, a whopping 3.3 million are sold in Japan alone! In fact, it's so popular they're making an anime version! See what I mean? Fate.

Anyway, I'm getting mixed feelings about this. On one hand, the inner child in me is screaming "HECK YEAH!" though maybe not screaming, because back then "heck" was a bad word. On the other hand, the choices for the behind the scenes crew are downright bizarre. The directorial choice, Hiroshi Nishikiori worked on the anime of Azumanga Daioh, which-despite the fact that Azumanga is no kid's show-could mean there could be a touch of Kiyohiko Azuma's Yotsuba&! innocence to the production, which would certainly not be a bad thing, but I also noticed he directed A Certain Magical Index, a gooey harem show. The choice for screenwriter even more off putting, as Ichiro Okouchi, while also having worked on Azumanga, worked on the dumb harem/dumb fighting anime Negima! as well as Brave Story, based on the children's book by Miyuki Miyabe, which according to ANN Australia, is flawed in the script. Uh oh!

And yet, I'm not ready to condemn this announcement just yet. The fact is, I want this to be good, and maybe in the end it will be. So for now, ignore that last paragraph and let the inner child do the talking.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Obligatory American Comic Review: Axe Cop

Have any of you ever met a six year old? They are awesome. They view the world completely objectively, and are prone to saying brilliant things that us non-six year olds have been formally trained not to say, or perhaps even think of.  At least, that's the impression I get of Maichai Nicholle, the young author of the brilliant web comic, Axe Cop.

At this point, I would normally give you an idea of the plot, but I don't really need a whole paragraph for that. Cop finds axe on ground. Calls himself Axe Cop. Chaos ensues. This ingeniously simple story comes courtesy of 6-year old (former 5-year old, now 7) Malicahai Nicholle, and his cool cartoonist (and 30-year old) brother Ethan "Eef" Nicholle, two geniuses who I have great respect for. But what is it that makes Axe Cop such a rewarding story?

One of the things that makes Axe Cop a rewarding read (outside of the latent internet-meme worthy awesomeness) is the perfect realization of the childhood psyche. Thanks to the purity of Malichai's writing and the care put into the artwork by Eef, Axe Cop is a treasure trove of childhood. Costumed heroes, silly bad guys, shocking (when taken seriously) violence, and poop jokes litter a four-color world of storybook unreality. This is a universe where anything can happen, but nothing is ever really a surprise, because we used to all know this story.

But here's the funny thing. Axe Cop is actually well written. While the early stories are definitely a bit crude, Malichai actually seems to be a good writer, turning all kinds of cool into a cohesive story. Many people have expressed concern over the fact that, well, kids grow up. However, I wouldn't mind seeing Grown Up Malichai's Axe Cop, as I long ago stopped simply viewing Axe Cop as a comic that's cool because a kid wrote it. I view it as watching the evolution of a new writer basically from the ground up, an experience that few may ever have again.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Linkblog: Hideaki Anno Teaches Grade School

 As every single reader of this blog better darn well know by know, I love Evangelion, and appreciate the work of Hideaki Anno. One day, while surfing the net, I came across this old NHK special, in which Anno, shortly after leaving the anime industry and at the height of his depression, teaches a Grade 6 class the basics of animation. One may chuckle at the thought, yet the special gives a surprising level of new insight into this important creative figure. A worthwhile watch for whomever enjoys Eva.

(note: this is the beginning of a series of GAINAX-themed link blogs building up to the official english release of Evangelion 2.22. My review of this movie will probably be about a month late do to some preoccupation at the time of release, so take this as an apology)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Zyword of the Week episode 7: Oasis of the East

Normally on this column, I would write about something that I hate, to the point where I wish it didn't exist. This week I am going to tell you about something good, something that would have been good, had it panned out.

As you may know, my favorite anime of 2010 was Eden of the East, a fascinating thriller/rom-com combo. I am currently re-watching the show, so I may post a formal review in the near future. Anyway, one of the many things that made Eden of the East so special were its closing credits, a paper-craft animation that showed incredible levels of both imagination and skill from the studio, and the song "Futuristic Imagination" is real good. It can be viewed here. However, I was struck by a rather sterile mood to the opening, a certain unimportant mood that seemed odd to me for a series so emotional. The song, "Michael or Belial", is by no means a bad song, just... it doesn't quite fit. There's a good reason for that.

You see, that isn't the real opener, this is. The song is "Falling Down" by the insanely popular American band Oasis. Isn't that impressive? And one would think this would be great cross-promotion for an english anime distributor like Funimation. Herein lies the problem.

The thing is, theme songs have to be licensed separately by the localizer. This usually is isn't a big problem, but with a big band like Oasis, who are attached to a major US music label, Funimation would have to pay through the nose for the song, and were only able to get it for 2 episodes on DVD, and 0 online. I find this stupid. The band already agreed to put their song in the show, so why does Funimation, who are only localizing an already produced and distributed show, have to pay for the song? It just seems kinda silly to me. It could have been a big thing for anime in America, but poof, gone. I wish that hadn't happened.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Review: Shoulder-a-Coffin Kuro Vols. 1 & 2

 Recently, I posted an article on this blog defending moe. Allow me to explain my position better. I do not defend series like Dragon Crisis. I do not defend pictures of pint-sized cat girls lifting their skirts. I defend stuff like this.

 Shoulder-a-Coffin Kuro tells the surprisingly bittersweet story of Kuro, a somewhat tomboyish traveller under some kind of a curse carrying a coffin though storybook countries and villages toward an unknown destination. She is accompanied by Sen, a talking bat who may also be a victim of the curse, and Nijuku (29) and Sanju (30), two innocent young girls with odd abilities invented (they are apparently genetic mutations) by a professor who was brutally killed. Many stories center around Kuro and friends going to a village and maybe helping someone out, but many stories are just... traveling.

 First of all, this is probably one of the best, most unique 4-koma (4-panel comics) that I've encountered in a long time. Most mangaka use the 4-koma system for gag manga with a punch line every fourth panel, not to mention the fact that these days, nearly every 4-koma involves the life of charming high school girls in a school club, a la Azumanga Daioh. Not Kiyuduki, however, who uses the format to create an ongoing story that reveals its fairy-tale plotline at a refreshingly patient pace. And it's not as if the format is superfluous- the 4-koma strips give the comic a rhythm like a renaissance folk song. Also, the kinetic artwork manages to look fantastic even when crammed into those tiny boxes that are 4-koma panels.

 Now let's look at Nijuku and Sanju. At first glance they appear to be a somewhat disturbing example of moe perversion (Those cat ears! The tails!), the type of thing that DOES count as child pornography and should be eliminated. And yet, this is not the case. While Nikuju and Sanju start as fairly blank-slate characters, they grow to have, yes, ACTUAL personalities! The protective feelings they are intended to create is of the parental sort, if that makes any sense, a type of desire I believe to be perfectly fine and, most importantly, platonic. And they fit into the story just fine, which may have been my largest concern.

 Sadly, like so many good titles written for a specific demographic, Shoulder-a-Coffin Kuro does not sell very well, and has been put on hiatus by Yen Press. I'm not sure weather or not this means it is actually cancelled (american manga publishers have been known to be fairly dubious on this topic), but since they probably still have the license, I urge every reader to go seek out this title, because, as it says in this recent article by retailer and blogger Christopher Butcher, the only way we can logically expect any publisher to publish any manga title is if people buy it. Anyway, even if publication never resumes for Kuro, it's a worthwhile look for anyone who enjoys good stories and good storytellers.