Anime Boston 2009
June 2009 Edition by Todd
Douglass, John Sinnott, and Wen-Tsai
by Todd Douglass, John Sinnott, and Wen-Tsai
Welcome back boys and girls! It's time for the June 2009 edition of Anime Talk!
This month we're once again supplying you with a bunch of reviews for shows you should (or should not) consider. The summer months are here and before you know it you'll be inside with the AC blasting looking for something to watch. How lucky for you that John and I have your back! Over the course of the past month we got the opportunity to check out some cool stuff such as Last Exile, Heroic Age, Murder Princess, Sword of the Stranger, and Black Lagoon.
If you scroll towards the bottom of the column you'll also see my impressions from Anime Boston 2009. Last time around I promised to bring you all kinds of feedback about the convention, though I am sad to report that I was unable to get to the interviews I was expecting to due to other obligations. There's always next year and other conventions though! Until then go ahead and read some of my notes from the convention floor and if you happen to have attended Anime Boston drop us a line. We'd love to hear about your experiences and thoughts as well!
And finally, we once again bring you the latest updates from RightStuf. There's some pretty sweet stuff up for grabs this week so be sure to check that out. Wen-Tsai also supplies even more anime bargains as well! Summer is heating up and there are some good deals out there!
All a movie needs to do to succeed is tell a simple story well. That's what Sword of the Stranger does. While it is set in ancient Japan during a time of war and strife, the movie's focus on a boy, his dog, and the wandering ronin that decides to protect them is straight forward and heartfelt. Everything else is just dressing and this film has a lot of that too. Released by Bandai, the Blu-ray presentation looks and sounds great and has a good number of bonus featurettes, something that anime often lacks.
The second season of Black Lagoon picks up where the first one left off, continuing the story of Rokuro, a Jaanese salaryman who ends up joining a small group of free-lance pirates. This second set of adventures is a little darker than the first, but there's still a lot of kick-ass action, excellent animation, and multi-layered stories that made the first season such a fun ride. If you enjoyed the earlier releases, The Second Barrage, as it is billed on the cover, is a no-brainer.
FUNimation continues to dominate the US anime market releasing a good number of shows, often in nice season sets. One of the latest such releases is Murder Princess, a short but sweet OVA series that deserved a longer run. The story focuses on a freelance mercenary and an exiled princess who happen to switch bodies. With a fair amount of humor and a lot of action, this six-episode program makes for a nice evening's entertainment.
The final set of dubbed Gurren Lagann episodes closes out the show with the last nine episodes. Though sometimes anime programs have a hard time wrapping things up, that wasn't the case with this show. It concludes just as strong as it started, making this one of the better releases of the year. Still filled with a lot of humor and some kick-ass mecha action this is one of the most enjoyable anime series to come around in a while.
Funimation continues their release of the Dragon Ball Z theatrical movies on Blu-ray with a triple feature featuring all three of the Broly movies: Broly: The Legendary Super Saiyan, Broly: Second Coming, and Bio Broly. I've never been a big fan of the Dragon Ball movies, and while these are fun, sort of, they lack the charm and excitement of the TV series. This disc starts off with an okay feature, but it goes downhill from there.
Over the past month we've gone through yet more Dragon Ball Z titles and have finally reached an end. The ninth, and final, season of Dragon Ball Z has arrived and it brings a fitting close to the epic series. Likewise FUNimation has also issued another two-pack of movies, which brings that line to an end as well. What's in store for FUNimation's license now? Well, they really want to get their hands on Kai, there's no doubt about that, but until they do you'll just have to watch DBZ all over again!
Wallflower Complete Collection Part 1 was released earlier this year, and while John got the opportunity to check it out earlier, I was a little late to the game. I guess that's not necessarily a bad thing, since the show's not exactly the best. In case you're unfamiliar with the series it all comes from the mind of Shinichi Watanabe and features a trio of metrosexual boys trying to turn an ugly duckling of a girl into a proper young woman. That along is an entertaining premise and some of the humor really works, but there are just far too many instances where it doesn't. The show feels so stretched out it's not even funny and there are just far too many moments that leave you scratching your head. Some may appreciate this show and you might want to give it a rental to see if it's up your alley.
Boobs and anime go together like, well, boobs and anime. You're not going to get any argument out of me that fan service is something to appreciate now and then, but when a show is based entirely around it I can't help but tune out somewhat. Ikki Tousen has certainly been around for a while and chances are good you've seen the characters in one compromising pose or another. The show attempts to wrap a story about ancient Chinese warriors fighting a historical war around the bodies of lush, ripe teenage girls. Cleavage and panties fly in this oft ridiculous fighting series, though the fact that it never really takes itself too seriously works strongly in its favor. A rental is about as good as it gets though.
More FUNimation licenses saving heroics came about last month as the publisher rescued Last Exile from obscurity. This was an awesome move on their part because Last Exile is one of the most unique and groundbreaking series in recent memory. Produced by Gonzo the series takes place in another time and place and features two worlds tethered together by a tunnel of sorts. These worlds are in constant conflict and humans have developed technology that allows them to create nifty flying machines similar to planes. The whole show focuses on a quest for a ship called the Exile and a pair of kids is its lead stars. From start to finish I can't say enough good things about the show. Check out the review for more details, but if you want to cut out the middle man just go buy the set. You'll be glad you did!
One of the show's previewed at Anime Boston 2009 this year was Heroic Age. Imagine how nice it was to get home from the convention and have it waiting for me! This new property released by FUNimation takes place far into the future and features humanity on the brink of extinction and locked in a war with other alien Tribes. One day they happen across a boy named Hero who changes their fate. He possesses great power and provides humanity with hope again. This release contains the first half of the series and though it was clichéd, by the end I found myself looking forward to the second part.
What? You haven't heard about Wolf's Rain? Have you been living under a rock? Surely you jest! This series by Bandai has been around for quite some time in numerous forms. The show was broadcast on Cartoon Network and Bandai has released individual volumes plus at least two complete collections since they go the license. Well, here's your fifth chance to watch the show! Bandai just released a third complete collection a while ago and if you missed the series before, shame on you! This is a stunning and original anime that begs to be in just about everyone's collection.
And finally we close today with a look at Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete for Blu-ray. This marks the third time the film has been available in the States, but the first time on Blu-ray. This director's cut of the movie is undeniably made better by the additional 26 minutes of content, and what's not to love about near perfect picture and sound quality. To say the release presents a stunning display would be an understatement, but don't toss out that old version of the film just yet. The bonus features are rather scant here and the stuff on the Limited Edition isn't carried over unfortunately.
by Todd Douglass
Every year they gather. Otaku from around New England and beyond converge on Boston in the spring to celebrate that which they love. This year, like those in the past, filled the halls of the Hynes Convention Center with all manner of anime lovers, young and old alike. From cosplayers to manga readers, video game lovers, and casual viewers, Anime Boston provides a great level of service no matter what your preferences. This year I was fortunate enough to attend the events and let me just say, Anime Boston is the best convention you'll find on the East Coast.
Taking place over the course of a three day weekend, Anime Boston 2009 managed to make for a fun and exciting Memorial Day weekend! With a wide selection of guest speakers, representatives from various publishers, a slew of interesting events, and a massive dealer's room, there was more than enough to keep a body occupied for three full days. Unfortunately I was only able to attend for two out of the three, due to other commitments, but I took away a lot of memories, plenty of laughs, and some cool toys from Japan. But where to begin?
I suppose the first topic we should discuss is the wide array of people that attended Anime Boston this year. We're talking the numbers were in the thousands! Elbow room was a precious commodity but thankfully everyone was friendly, in good spirits, and were swept up in the overall atmosphere. To say that the con-goers were outgoing would be an understatement. People who didn't know each other exchanged smiles, jokes, photographs, and even helped each other out. The convention was so large that it was quite easy to have a difficult time deciphering where a particular panel was, but chances are very good the Cloud, Mario, or Pedo Bear next to you would be able to help you find your way. Not that you probably want help from a Pedo Bear, but I digress, and that brings me to my next topic: Cosplay!
Man, oh man, were there some fascinating outfits this time around. It's safe to say that anime lovers are a unique bunch and there's plenty of room for interpretation with costumes, but there's just something about being in the midst of it all that's intoxicating. When you're walking by the Dealer's Room and a cosplayer dressed as Rorschach suddenly start breakdancing or watch as "L" from Deathnote dishing out lollipops to passers by, you just can't help but smile. From a harp playing Luigi to an armada of Kingdom Hearts characters walking around, the atmosphere was priceless. Granted about 50% of the costumes had more to do with video games and sci-fi characters, rather than anime, but it was fun just the same.
As far as what was a popular cosplay? Well, there were plenty of L's, that's for sure, but Bleach, Naruto, Dragon Ball Z, One Piece, Code Geass, Pokemon, Ranma, Trigun, Sailor Moon, and Fullmetal Alchemist were in abundance. There were many other obscure costumes that ranged in complexity, from homemade (Wolf Link anyone?) to store bought (a sick looking Master Chief). One of the real joys of the cosplay over the weekend was breaking free of the Hynes and making your way into the adjacent Prudential building. I really enjoyed sitting, going through my notes over lunch, and watching as people who had absolutely no idea what anime was gazed in horror as people dressed up took over the place.
What's next? How about the Dealer's Room! Maybe I'm mistaken but the supply of vendors seemed much larger this year than it did in the past. In a massive auditorium all manner of wares from Japan and beyond were put on display. Vendors such as WizzyWig, Sasuga Japanese Bookstore, Anime Sekai, and Yes Anime were some of my personal favorites that I bought from. FUNimation had a very well-designed and supplied booth and promoted their upcoming Romeo X Juliet. ADV's booth was a joke, Media Blaster's was full of porn, and Nintendo even made a showing to push Fire Emblem for the DS. One of the more interesting tables in the Dealer's Room was probably the Boston Japanese Consulate's area. They had all kinds of fliers and travel information from all over Japan and really played up the anime lover's appeal well. (Keeping my fingers crossed to win that trip!)
When not perusing the halls of the Hynes and spending all of your money in the Dealer's Room other events definitely kept you busy. Several rooms showed anime episodes and movies, but these were more like places to relax than anything else. More interesting panels such as making plushies, studying Japanese, tea ceremonies, anime you should see, and ones about creating manga barely scratched the tip of the iceberg. As was the case in years past there was a (disappointing) game room to chill in and other places to crash and relax. At night there were some naughty panels as well as masquerade and cosplay events, dances, and such. Honorable mention has to go to the AMV events, which are hilariously entertaining as always.
Now, it's also important to note that the anime industry was there was well. FUNimation and ADV all had panels where they talked about what's going on in their worlds (no Viz, Bandai, or Media Blasters sadly). The winner was easily FUNimation. The industry leader had plenty of recent stuff to show, previewed upcoming stuff (such as Romeo X Juliet - looks cool by the way), and talked about what their plans are for the future. According to the panel you can expect to see two to three times as many Blu-ray titles in the coming year, single volumes will be phased out, and they also mentioned looking into old Geneon licenses such as Samurai Champloo and Tenchi.
On the other side of the coin the ADV panel was a joke. David and Janice Williams, who have been at conventions in the past, attempted to run the panel with a positive spin, but they didn't do a very good job of it. With at least half of the attendants the FUNimation panel had, the ADV panel was dry, boring, and lacked any kind of spark to get you interested in their brand. There were no real new license announcements (the "possibility" of old CPM titles do not count), no new releases to talk about, nothing to show, and no information about the company what-so-ever. They aren't doing Blu-ray because they feel it's going to die like laser disc, they won't release a title if Best Buy won't sell it, and David said that "ADV is plugging along and doing their thing". Whatever that means. He also congratulated FUNimation on winning the American market and said they deserved it. Making matters worse, at least from my perspective, were the hecklers behind me bashing ADV. I presume they are the average anime fan and quite honestly their views of the company's policies and situation mirror my own (and John's I presume). If this panel was any indication of their status, ADV is circling the bowl and barely clinging to life. Unless they do something soon they are in danger of going out of business or being bought out, but then again I suppose the three or so people who I saw sleeping during the panel or the 1/3 of attendants that left after 15 minutes wouldn't necessarily notice either way. A couple of years ago people cheered at the ADV panel. Now? Not so much.
After that depressing affair I'm pleased to say that the upbeat spirit of Anime Boston overcame me once again. Saturday saw the V.G.O. (Video Game Orchestra) performing some rousing renditions of theme songs from games such as Chrono Trigger, Halo, and Final Fantasy VII. The real treat came soon enough since V.G.O. was the opening act for Kalafina, who were making their US debut. They brought the house down and really put on a fantastic show. Anime Boston really outdid themselves by getting these ladies and by the time the concert was over I was left wondering how could they top themselves next year.
Anime Boston 2009 was an awesome experience, and it's one that was unfortunately over too soon. I only wish I had more time to go to panels, talk to fellow anime lovers, shop the Dealer's Room, and interview guests, but I simply ran out of time (darn full time job!). Then again, there's always next year. Rain or shine you can expect to find me at Anime Boston 2010, April 2nd through the 4th. If you plan on attending Anime Boston next year and want some helpful tips for getting around the city, where to eat, what else to do, just drop me an email! We'll probably be able to put together a column with these tips prior to the convention. Then again that's a ways off. Until then, enjoy your anime and your summer!
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