Anime Boston 2006, This Ugly Yet Beautiful World, and Vermilion Pleasure Night
a bi-weekly column by Don Houston, John Sinnott, and Todd Douglass
This year Todd Douglass had the opportunity to attend one of the country's best anime get-togethers, Anime Boston, and he jumped at the chance. He covers the event from the dealer's room to the guest appearances and beyond, and also has sneak peeks at a couple of upcoming series: the outstanding This Ugly Yet Beautiful World and the weird and perverted Vermilion Pleasure Night. In addition to that this week we have our usual capsule reviews of the latest anime discs including the decidedly wicked Desert Punk and the penultimate volume of Cowboy Bebop Remix. More anime bargains courtesy of Holly and our table of upcoming anime discs wrap up this week's column.
Once again Fullmetal Alchemist proves itself as an emotionally charged and energetic series with its ninth installment. The homunculi get a lot more screen time in this volume and we learn a lot about what one of those creatures actually is. Ed and Al are reunited and Izumi meets up with them again as well. If you have been following the show to this point you have to pick it up because the series supposedly only gets better from here. With the upcoming movie The Conqueror of Shamballa being released now is the perfect time to backtrack your way through this fantastic show.
Not too long ago I was able to check out the first volume of My HiME. It was a cool looking show with an interesting premise that seemed to want to break the mold of the stereotypical magical school girl genre. Unfortunately with the second volume that doesn't really happen. Things get off to a quiet start and some more HiME are introduced but things ultimately felt like they were at a standstill. The promise of the concept and the great sense of humor are keeping me interested right now. We'll see what happens with the third volume when it comes out to see if it sways my opinion one way or the other.
Fans of Americanized anime will be happy to know that Teknoman: Collection One left well enough alone as the edited version of the original Japanese series /Uchu No Kishi Tekkaman Bureido/ is brought back in the form of the first part of a three volume double disc set. The first 14 episodes are presented where: "The year is 2087, and humanity is about to lose its position as the dominant life form on planet Earth. An endless swarm of biomechanical beings known as the Venomoids descends from space. Earth's Space Knights are no match for the Venemoid champions, the Teknomen. When the young pilots, Ringo Richards and Star Summers, find a wounded stranger named Blade, humanity gains one last hope. Blade is able to transform into a Teknoman, but he has no memories and fights to protect Earth. His opponents are not only the endless alien menace, but also the other Teknomen - who were once human, and his family and friends."
Big on style, big on action and big on oddities are the best way to describe Gun Sword. This interesting series features a strange world known as Endless Illusion where things seem like an apocalyptic Earth of some sorts. A drifter known as Van saunters into a town overrun by villains and winds up leaving with a sidekick known as Wendy. I was looking for a fun show where I could shut my brain off and be overwhelmed by the action when I came to Gun Sword and it delivered on every aspect. My only gripes are that it doesn't feel completely original. From the character and mecha designs to the overall atmosphere in the world, it has pretty much all been done before.
Kanta Mizuno is not the nicest guy as evidenced by his actions in Desert Punk V3: Vixen of the Desert. He'll do anything for sex or money, working his survivalist skills to the bone in a futuristic society where scarcity is a way of life. This time, he signs up for Junko's latest scheme with the possibility for receiving ten million in hard cash but nearly ends up dead for his troubles. That's okay though; money isn't everything as he traps the busty babe in his secret hideaway in preparation to get his pound of flesh in this decidedly wicked volume from FUNimation.
Volume three of Dandoh
brings this golf based anime show to a close, and not a moment too soon.
The only sports anime show that John's seen that is really poor, Dandoh
just fails on several levels with irritating characters, unreal situations,
and sports play that breaks the laws of physics. Not only that but
when all is said and done, there are some important plot lines that are
never wrapped up. It's too bad that more couldn't have been done
with this series, it certainly had potential.
AnimEigo has decided to re-release the popular OVA series Oh My Goddess! in a 3-disc Collector's Edition. Hardly a marketing scheme, this edition features phenomenally remastered video that will bring in old and new fans alike. Morisato Keiichi is your typical college student with one exception: he's dating a goddess. But having a goddess for a girlfriend has its fair share of problems, too. Will their love persevere in the end, or does fate have something else in store for them? Find out by watching one of anime's most charming shows, complete with something to offer to just about anyone.
Aang and company come across more controversy as they encounter resistance movements, pirates, warring factions, and a glimpse into the parallels between Aang and Prince Zuko in Avatar: The Last Airbender V3. The pace has picked up now that a time limit has been established for the young Avatar to master the other three bending skills and Zuko's forces are still hot on their heels in pursuit so the race to save the day may well prove fruitless for the team if they can't make sense of the riddles learned in the last volume. While still something of a children's morality play, the show teaches the kind of values needed in order to better ourselves and those around us, showing how bad choices can be corrected if given the chance.
Bocca may be the latest in a long line of the Warriors of Melos but even his skills can't save the show from oblivion in Melody of Oblivion: Final Score as the last gasps of the show find their way to DVD. Like the previous episodes, the show meanders about with strange visual effects and a lack of central concept, relying on the occasional battle to grab the attention of whatever audience it found so patient enough to stick it out thus far. The Monster King makes Bocca an offer he can't refuse, though being who he is, the consequences of the inevitable choice become all too clear; leading to the end of most of his fellow warriors. The ending was weak and the action leading up to it unsatisfying but if you've come this far, go ahead and check it out anyway.
While not technically an anime show, Yoko Ishida: Live in Concert detailed last year's concert by anime songstress Yoko Ishida as she sang her little heart out to an appreciative audience at the Hollywood City Walk. Full of songs anime fans will immediately recognize and some cute dancing action by the Para Para Max dancers touring with her, the gal and her entourage managed to get lots of the audience participating with some easy to learn dance steps that'll have you wowing them at the next Otaku meeting of you go to. There were some sweet extras to enjoy as well so if you're new to enjoying the J-Pop phenomenon, this is a good place to learn more about it in a friendly environment.
Out Your Local Best Buy for:
Hot Deals from Deep Discount DVD:
Orbiting Deals from DVD Planet:
Sweet Steals from Overstock:
As a rabid otaku I have something embarrassing to admit: I have never been to a convention before. Sure I have seen the pictures online with cosplay galore and read all about how fun they were, but for some reason I just never got around to actually making my way to one. I couldn't stand missing out on it anymore though so I made a promise to myself that this year was going to be different!
Living just north of the city I had heard all about Anime Boston (AB) from the past few years and made up my mind that no matter what I'd get there this year. I put in for my time off at work and made all the necessary plans to go to the convention for Friday 5/26 and Saturday 5/27. Yes, I know the convention lasts for three days but I was only able to get two off. With the dates marked on my calendar I began planning what I wanted to do and who I wanted to see.
The guest stars at AB were easily the biggest attraction for me though part of me couldn't wait to check out the dealer's room. I grabbed the necessary DVDs that I wanted to get signed and hit the ATM for a wad of cash to spend on random junk. As I waited for the subway train to take me to the Hynes Convention Center I noticed several other people who had to be going to the convention. I mean, who else would be wearing Cowboy Bebop t-shirts, Fullmetal Alchemist pendants and cat ears?
I followed the rabble of wizards, pink haired girls, Edward Elrics, and ninjas to the Hynes and made my way to the Sheraton for registration. Once I had my press badge the world (ie: convention) was my oyster. The first thing I did was check the events itinerary and press schedules so that I could make a nice little to do list for my day. It turned out that I had some time to kill before my first event so I decided to stroll through the dealer's room and check out their wears.
Believe me when I tell you that just about every random anime toy from Japan was up for grabs. From wall scrolls and action figures to apparel and plush toys, just about everything you could have ever wanted was here. A massive selection of DVDs and manga was there as well so if you found yourself with a gap in your library it was most likely here for a (mostly) reasonable price. Many dealers even seemed willing to haggle over the cost of their items to an extent and I was even able to shave a few bucks off on a couple bulk purchases.
Media Blasters and FUNimation were toting their catalogs there, though from shear presentation of their product I'd have to say FUNimation won that battle. Plasma TVs showcased their anime and some advance releases were on the table to pick up. One of the more unique vendors was offering animation cels from just about every show you could think of. I couldn't afford the $100+ price tag but it was certainly interesting to take a look at what they had to sell. I do have to say one thing though. As an otaku I can't express how disappointed I was that I couldn't find one bit of Pocky or Pretz anywhere in the convention halls. I asked a few people if they had seen any but they too were disappointed by the lack of snacks. What's up with that?
Anyways I took my grumbling tummy up stairs and was able to sit down with Vic Mignogna for a little press interview session. Chances are very good that if you have watched ANY anime then you have seen a show that Vic has done voice work for. He's starred in several English dubs (over 60 I believe) and most recently has been the voice of Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist. It was a little awkward at first sitting in the near vacant press room with him while he was eating his lunch, but he had a great personality so he took each question with an amount of exuberance.
Most of his answers were pretty standard PR stuff from saying how much he loves doing voiceovers to how great the fans are, etc. He did open up and let us know that he's a “person of faith” and takes everything into consideration when he's choosing a project to get on board with. He didn't (couldn't) give any specifics but he mentioned that he's turned down some roles in shows because the content didn't match his beliefs. You have to respect that because it shows that he's in it for the love of the work and not to make a quick buck.
After sitting down with Vic I went upstairs to wait in line for an autograph from him and Steve Blum (Spike from Cowboy Bebop). So there I was waiting and waiting only to have the line cut about 50 people ahead of me. We were told that they reached capacity for autographs and if we wanted one to come back tomorrow (meaning Saturday) we could have another shot. Thus we were sent on our merry way and I vowed to get my DVDs signed the following day. Instead of bemoaning the lack of a signature I went to sit down with ADV to see what they had to say.
David Williams (Director/Producer) and Greg Ayres (Voice Actor) were the leaders of the ADV panel and masters of the ceremonies. David kept teasing us with some “exciting” information that he was waiting for the ok to release, but alas it never came. We all got the “come back for tomorrow's panel” in order to get the information we were left waiting for. Instead they talked a little bit about (and showed the first episodes for) their new shows Nanaka 6/17 and This Ugly Yet Beautiful World.
After the previews there was a nice little Q & A session where the two took questions from the audience. Apparently ADV is readjusting the way that they release thinpacks and it's based entirely on how well a series sells. I guess the statement is that if you want complete collections of a show faster, just don't buy it until they release the thinpack. In case you HT buffs are wondering they are apparently on the fence about what new format they are going to support. They'll be watching the format war to see whether it's HD or Blu-Ray left standing when the dust clears. David also mused about anime downloads via their site or something like iTunes. Also for those of you that are wondering it would appear that the Evangelion live action film is in the pre-production stage.
After the ADV panel I sadly had to run but had full intentions of returning the following day to catch some more events and get some autographs. Unfortunately it would seem that the structure of events was completely revised between Friday night and Saturday morning. I had no idea that this even happened until I was looking for Steve and Vic's room for an autograph. I found where they were but sadly the event had already been taken care of. Not only that but they were only signing for people who missed out on the day before (of which I was one of them). Apparently the volunteers were supposed to pass out tickets for the re-signing to the people that got cut. Funny thing though, nobody ever offered me a ticket to come back.
I fumed about that for a little bit then hopped down to the press room to sit in with Sumi Shimamoto. It was an honor to greet her face to face let alone be in the same room with her. In case you don't know who she is all you have to do is break out your copy of Nausicaa, My Neighbor Totoro, or Princess Mononoke and listen to the Japanese track to hear her voice. She was present at the interview session with her translator, though it seemed that I was one of the only ones in the room not fluent in Japanese.
As we talked we learned that Shimamoto got started as a stage actress earlier in her career and gradually shifted over to doing voice acting throughout the years. Lupin the third was her first project and she started working with Miyazaki before Studio Ghibli was even formed. It was amusing how she recanted her memories of Miyazaki watching his hair go from black to white over the years. She even said that he was like a child with a toy when Nausicaa was being produced because he had a caterpillar on a string that he kept toting around. She was definitely one of the highlights to the convention and it was great to talk with a legend; even if it was through her translator.
Once again the overnight schedule change shafted me on a couple of things. I was hoping to get an autograph from Mary McGlynn (the Major from Ghost in the Shell: SAC) but missed out on that. I also wasn't able to hit the ADV panel to find out what their super ninja secret information was. I was, however, able to attend a voice acting panel with Blum and Mignogna.
Believe me when I tell you that those two guys lit the stage up. They played the crowd masterfully and even entertained silly requests from rabid fans. Embarrassingly I have to admit that I geeked out when Blum pointed towards us and in his Spike Spiegel voice said “Bang!” It was also just as sweet when Mignogna burst out in hysterics as Ed Elric about being called short. I was in stitches from laughing so hard after twenty minutes with these guys and to top it all off we got to see a trailer for The Conqueror of Shamballa.
In the downtime I found myself wandering the halls, checking out the dealer's room some more and even crashing for a bit in the videogame room. All over the place there were more cosplayers than you could shake a prop sword at and since the Hynes and Sheraton are connected to a shopping mall you can imagine the kind of looks they were getting from casual passers by. Just about every character from every anime was represented here though it would seem that Fullmetal Alchemist and Naruto were the two most popular. Final Fantasy also had a big showing as did Inuyasha and Dragon Ball.
The gaming room was kind of disappointing. It was advertised as being able to check out “all the newest games that Japan has to offer” but I only saw a couple of mediocre titles kicking around. Yeah it was fun to get off my feet and play some Halo and Guilty Gear, but I was just hoping for more I guess. If games aren't your thing there was also a manga library, video room, art show, music video contest, and a slew of other things to take part in.
The agenda was definitely full for the massive amount of attendees but I can't help feel that it was a little unorganized. I found that most of the volunteers were entirely unhelpful, the events were spaced too far apart, and there wasn't enough direction as far as what was being held where. Still if you live in New England this is the convention that you want to take part in. I had a great time this year despite having some wrenches thrown into my plan and you can bet I'll be there next year.
to look forward to…
As part of my trip to the wonderful world of Anime Boston I sat in on the ADV panel and caught a preview for the first episode of This Ugly Yet Beautiful World. Produced by Gainax this twelve episode anime aired in Japan during 2004 and is schedule to be released on the fourth of July. The show features a hefty amount of sci-fi, action, and some high school romance on the side.
Takeru is your typical lazy teenage boy. He slacks on his chores and dreams about finding the right girl. You know, one with a nice body that doesn't nag too much. One night he and his buddy Ryo are hanging out and talking about the “perfect” girl. They find themselves getting roped into delivering a package for his uncle and it's a courier ride that changes their lives forever.
Out of nowhere a burst of light falls from the sky and flies along side of their motorbike. The light crashes into the woods ahead of them and leaves them speechless. Naturally once they get their wits about them again they go off to investigate what it was. Takeru finds a naked girl in a tree named Hikari and the two friends are shocked to realize that she looks just like Ryo's drawing. In no time a huge monster shows up and attacks the trio. It seems to be mainly targeting Hikari who is being carried around by Takeru, so naturally he gets involved as well. He collapses due to some pain in his chest and transforms into a butt-kicking demon-like thing. Somehow coming in contact with Hikari gave him powers and he uses them to pound the creature that's attacking them into submission.
This first episode leaves the window open for the possibilities of this series and I can't stress enough how into it I was. The action was great, the animation was fluid, and the dialogue was pretty hilarious to boot. This could prove to be a powerful series by ADV if the rest of the show goes the way this first episode did. We'll know for sure in July whether or not it lives up to the potential.
Vermilion Pleasure Night
Weird? Yes. Demented? Yup! Perverted? Heck yeah!! Each of these words describes Vermilion Pleasure Night (VPN) right down to the letter. As if the titillating title itself doesn't bring some form of a sorted fantasy to the surface of your imagination the content will. Japan's airwaves are full of strange little TV shows like this one that defy conventional thinking and seek to satisfy the hentai in all of us. If you think of it as a Japanese Mad TV with a touch of naughty tossed into the mix you'd be on the right track.
If you have ever seen the Fuccons release then you should know what you're in for because these two shows are tied together. Instead of focusing on the strange world of mannequins (though there is a sketch with them) VPN tosses together an eclectic group of characters that will have you rolling over with laughter. Ok, maybe not every skit is worthy of a chuckle, but there are quite a few reasons here to get a sadistic giggle every now and then.
Whether it's the school girl that lives in a mannequin world trying to vent her frustrations by beating the piss out of everyone or the naughty geisha who teaches people English phrases like “My grandmother gives good head” there's something here that will get to you. For those of you out there with a nurse fetish you'll probably enjoy the Dr. Phero sketches. They feature two very attractive nurses doing all sorts of twisted things like sticking people in the ass with a needled or playing sadistically with a patient.
If you're a fan of Japanese humor and are looking for something else to sink your teeth into you may want to keep VPN in mind. It's twisted enough with a pop culture atmosphere and is one of the most unique shows that I have seen in a long time. American skit shows like SNL and Mad TV feel a little long in tooth, but something like VPN has a fresh take on life. You just have to have an appetite for the bizarre and perverse in order to appreciate most of what's going on here.
What do you think about the column? Like what you see?
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and let us know!
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