Appleseed, 2nd Gig, and Anime Overdose Part 2
a bi-weekly column by Don Houston, John Sinnott and Chris Tribbey
This time around AmineTalk has the second installment of Chris Tribbey's look at Anime Overdose 2005, some news about Gantz and the second season of Ghost in the Shell, as well as a look at Geneon's release of Appleseed. Of course, we also have reviews of the latest anime DVDs, a list of upcoming titles that are going to be released in the next couple of weeks, and Holly Beeman returns with some great deals on anime.
There are a lot of new anime discs being released, and Anime Talk is here to help you decide which ones are worth spending your hard earned shekels on.
One series not to be missed was Mobile Suit Gundam Seed. With a whopping four reviews, this series definitely hit a chord as it combined all the elements of a great anime; excellent writing, a compelling story, realistic characters, and epic battles between highly advanced mechanized robots. Led by a genetically enhanced pilot, Kira, the forces of "good" were not always clearly defined as personal motivations frequently got in the way of the greater good. With some of the best looking anime in a modern release, Mobile Suit Gundam Seed succeeded on many levels and fans of the original series will have a lot to appreciate here, even as the series prepares to wrap up the domestic release in coming months.
Another series of merit, Kaze No Yojimbo, finished up with detective George Kodama's hard work paying off as he solves a 15 year old murder mystery with personal ties. The series was a stylish and contemporary update of the famous Kurosawa classic, Yojimbo, where skill and brains beat overwhelming odds. Unlike the more colorful anime series most of us are familiar with, Kaze No Yojimbo paces itself for the more intelligent audience, much like a Hitchcock film, and patient viewers will find the quality applied to it far surpassed the limited advertising the series received over the course of the last year.
Originally released as six single discs, ADV has re-released Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040 under the “Essential Anime” banner. In doing so they've lowered the price significantly, and added some great extras (including a 5.1 version of the English dub) that weren't on the first release of the show. A retelling and expansion of the original OVA series Bubblegum Crisis, this fast action series of four women in futuristic armor fighting berserk robots is well scripted and boasts some great animation. We reviewed both Volume 2 and Volume 3, which finishes off the series. With a retail price of only $19.98 for a two disc set, this is a great bargain.
Speaking of reworking classic anime shows, that's exactly what has happened to Go Nagai’s Getter Robo. Updated and starting the story anew, New Getter Robo Volume One introduces the three very different individuals who will be piloting Dr. Saotome’s ‘Getter Machines’ in a war against demonic invaders. Originally one of the first giant transforming robot animes, this update told in a retro style is an excellent successor to the original.
One of the more entertaining shows released this month was ADV Film's Five Star Stories, an older movie painstakingly restored from the original sources. The movie served as an introduction to a vast universe of four warring factions that is almost a modern version of King Arthur where technology meets a feudalistic society set in the Joker Galaxy. If you like the movie as much as I did, you might find yourself buying the richly textured Manga series to continue the story lines.
Our break from reality continues in Paranoia Agent Vol. 2 as the mystery of a young assailant and his confused victims takes some outright freaky turns. Director Satoshi Kon gives viewers hope that the Tokyo assaults have now been solved, but we quickly learn that the motives and identity of Lil' Slugger are more murky than first believed. This is an excellent series, and the only problem with it is that it's too short, with only 13 episodes.
Fans of humorous anime have a lot to chose from this month. The best new comedy release is almost indescribable Cromartie High School. This decidedly odd comedy is the story of poor Takashi Kamiyama a clean cut kid who finds himself being forced to attend Cromartie high, the school with the worst reputation in Tokyo. Aside from the usual hoodlums, this school has an odd assortment of characters. There's a mute student who looks to be in his mid thirties and is a dead ringer for the lead singer of Queen. (Everyone calls him Freddie.) Then there's Mechazawa the robot, only no one seems to notice that Hess made out of metal and not a real person. Oh yeah, and one of the students is a gorilla. With a lot of rapid fire, off the wall humor this show works very well, with laugh out loud moments in every episode. A funny show that is worth checking out.
The Daichi family jumps into action again in the second volume of The Daichis: Earth Defense Family. With more odd aliens, a good number of family fights, and a truly odd episode thrown in for good luck, this is a fun series that should be getting more attention.
One humorous show that didn't work quite as well is Wandaba Style. This is the story of Mix Juice, a quartet to ambitious young girls who are determined to make it as pop singers. They'll do anything to make it to the top, which is good because their manager, Michael Hanagata, will do anything for money. Hanagata comes up with a brilliant gimmick to make Mix Juice famous: They'll be the first group to give a concert on the moon! The only problem is getting there. To help them, they've teamed up with a young, rich, boy-genius, Dr. Tsukumo, who is working on a way to get to the moon. The only catch is that he wants an environmentally friendly method, and that means no rockets. Tsukumo’s inventions are unconventional, to say the least, but it they donut kill the girls, they just might get famous. Unfortunately, they fill this fast paced show with a lot hectic action and hope that it passes for humor. With few real jokes, but a lot of super-deformed figures, this was a mediocre offering at best.
With the better series now covered, it's time to turn to a few shows with significant elements of entertainment value that didn't quite have the same level of general appeal yet will likely find a happy audience nonetheless. The second volume of Popotan seemed to be one such title, following the further adventures of four girls as they magically travel from place to place, looking for something as yet unexplained. There was a bit of fan service here but nothing really worth warning off younger audiences about (or enticing some of you perverts with). My biggest complaint with the show was the lack of focus on the bigger picture but it was still fun to watch.
A series that was all over the place in terms of quality was Cyberteam in Akihabara. Starting off with a tremendous amount of potential, this story of good versus evil utilized elements from a great many other anime releases, sometimes working but often not. Girls in supersuits fighting their like-equiped enemies should've been a sure fire hit but all too often it seemed derivative.
Another show that has a lot of potential, but hasn't quite lived up to it is D. N. Angel. Diasuke Niwa is a young boy who leads a fairly ordinary life. Until he turns 14 that is. On that day, a gene that all the males in his family possess becomes active and turns his life inside out. This gene causes him to transform into a notorious thief, Phantom Dark, whenever he thinks about the girl he loves. These transformations will continue until Diasuke’s love is returned. The only problem is that the object of his affections, Risa, doesn't like him, she love his alter ego, Phantom Dark. Its Risa’s twin sister, Riku who is infatuated with Diasuke, but he doesn't seem to notice her at all. Volume two and volume three were reviewed recently, but neither of them are as funny or action paced as the premise would suggest. Most of these volumes are taken up with stand alone episodes that donut advance the plot much, or tell interesting stories. Things did start to pick up at the end of volume three though, hopefully the series will start improving with the next release.
All was not roses in the month of March though as shows that seemed to have a lot of promise fall far short of the mark. The most notable of these was MAPS, a show with two dimensional characters, a weakly structured plot, and a host of flaws that even the talented crew at ADV Films couldn't compensate for.
Another title that lacked the kind of entertainment value most anime fans enjoy was Galaxy Fraulein Yuna. Picking up where an old video game left off, this show detailed the life and times of a cast of misguided heroines who frequently found themselves in more trouble than they could get out of. I like superpower gals as much as anyone but the hit or miss quality of the show meant sitting through some of the most insipid dialogue found on a current release.
is a recent show from Gonzo, the fan favorite studio responsible for such
creative and ground breaking shows as Blue Submarine #6 and Last
Exile. While this show has a very interesting story, the execution
leaves something to be desired. The main character is a jerk, and
most of the show is devoted to blood and gore. The way the show is
being marketed is another negative. With only two episodes per volume,
it is going to take over a year to see the whole series, and it is going
to cost more than if they had done a regular six volume release.
(ADV might be changing their mind on this though. Check out the news
A marginal release, though it does have the potential to become very good
Scheduled for release on March 29, 2005
Scheduled for release on April 5, 2005
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We've still got two DVD volumes of the first season of Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex on the way, but it's never too early to think about season two, 2nd Gig. Courtesy an announcement from Manga, we'll see the start of the second season on DVD beginning Sept. 27. That's a tentative release date, though Manga reports we'll also see volume two shortly before Thanksgiving. Bandai and Manga have joined up together for the release of both seasons of the TV show, and chances are the second season DVD releases will be similar to the first: special edition volumes will be available with an assortment of treats, and the second season will begin airing on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim during the same month of the DVD release. The 26-episode second season of the hot TV show continues to follow the Major, Batou, Togusa, and, hopefully, the Tachikoma battle tanks, as they police a cybernetic future where the lines between man and machine are gone. This is one of the better shows around in anime right now, and some DTS disc issues aside, the first season DVD releases are must-haves for people who love the franchise.
She hedged the bet a bit, but ADV Films DVD Coordinator Janice Williams said at a recent convention that Gantz, the bloody, violent, dark, straight up evil story about unwilling assassins, wont stay two episodes per DVD as originally planned. “It looks at this point like it wont be 13 discs,” she said, which was the original plan for the release of the 26 episodes. No doubt, ADV is still excited about the release: “Gantz sells on all the violence, nudity and sex, but its really about how people deal with the situation they've been put in,” Williams said. But maybe fan outcry over two episodes per DVD was higher than expected. Unknown when the volumes (two are out now) will have more episodes.
A couple things to look forward to …
Appleseed has gotten a serious upgrade. The remake of the 1988 futuristic feature has a May 10 DVD street date. Seen in theaters in January, Appleseed sees humanity living in bliss after World War II, but one hard-core holdover from the war, Deunan Knute, knows this tranquility is only skin deep. The bad-ass female, the strange-looking Bularous, and the super-computer are still here, but the ugly visuals have been replaced.
John Woo called it “a stunning visual achievement” and “a new milestone for CG animation.” Using a blend of motion-capture technology and 3D computer animation, Appleseed is all about intense visuals and breathtaking settings. Paul Oakenfold and Academy Award winner Ryuichi Sakamoto contribute their awesome techno beats to the soundtrack
Geneon will street a single-DVD version, a 2-disc collector’s edition and a deluxe, limited edition. The single version features include commentary with Director Shinji Aramaki, staff profiles and previews; the collector’s edition will feature a steel case, a making-of featurette “Birth of 3D Live Anime,” design archives, an art gallery, an Appleseed term list, character profiles and mechanical notes; the deluxe limited collector’s edition has everything in the collector’s except the steel case is a limited edition and an action figure is included.
It’s pronounced “lead” and it’s one freaky anime series. May 17 will be the street date for the first volume of this 13-episode adaptation of a manga,
If you were to just walk in the room during certain parts of this first volume, you’d probably think this was one of those cute, magical girls show. A pair of teens has taken in a strange girl with horns, who was found naked on the beach. She can’t speak English, doesn’t know how to change her clothes, and has trouble doing even menial tasks.
You wouldn’t guess this girl is a wanted murderer, who just tore apart two dozen armed men.
This girl is a diclonius, a mutated human, who’s just broken out of a secret lab. She needs no guns, knives or sharp sticks to kill you: she has invisible appendages with a two meter range. Perfect for slicing, dicing, and repainting the walls brilliant red. Can the young boy who’s taking care of her bring out the innocent human part of this monster? Or is he another victim in waiting?
Produced by Arms, the makers of Mezzo, the first volume of Elfen Lied will also have an art box edition release.
Anime Overdose 2005 in San Francisco had a ton of Cosplay and a lot of karaoke. But it also had some news. DVD Release Report anime editor Chris Tribbey had a chance to sit down with representatives from FUNimation and ADV Films at the small convention.
“These are exciting times for the (anime) industry,” said Jon Baumgardner, marketing and media specialist for FUNimation. From upgraded box sets to better DVD audio quality to FUNimation’s stance in the upcoming Blu-ray vs. HD format war, Baumgardner had a ton to talk about at Anime Overdose in San Francisco. “We’re not competing against the other companies. We’re trying to do co-productions. We want to play a part in growing the industry itself,” Baumgardner said, echoing a theme seen in companies like ADV, VIZ and Tokyopop, which are pairing manga with DVD releases, or like Bandai, Manga and Dreamworks supporting each other’s Ghost in the Shell releases, or like Buena Vista promoting VIZ’s manga in the latest round of Miyazaki DVD releases. “It’s showing that the entire industry is moving in the right direction,” Baumgardner said. The growth of the domestic anime DVD industry is most apparent in the year-to-year releases of new titles, which was over 700 in both 2003 and 2004, with little slow-down apparent from the major companies for 2005. FUNimation released 84 new titles in 2004, an increase of nearly 30 percent over 2003. The SRP for an average new anime DVD was $25.67 in 2004. Only new theatrical releases, mini series and opera and stage performance DVDs had a higher price point. And FUNimation’s profit margin in 2004 showed anime isn’t merely profitable, but lucrative.
Baumgardner said 2005 is looking just as good for FUNimation, better maybe, with Fullmetal Alchemist proving to be one of the hottest titles of 2005, Dragon Ball Z titles owning many of the top slots in terms of overall sales, and several FUNimation titles scoring high ratings on cable.
That’s the present. The future shows FUNimation continuing its high-quality treatment for anime releases, especially those the company knows will sell. The company has partnered with a new manufacturer for its box sets, and fans will see the harder, more durable spot-gloss art box with FUNimation’s May 10 release of Burst Angel, a sci-fi, action, Western mix of girls with guns in Tokyo, where EVERYONE is armed. The 24-episode series is directed by Koichi Ohata, the director of Genocyber and Blue Gender: The Warrior movie, and comes from studio GONZO (Kiddy Grade, Samurai 7). “It’s going to be above and beyond what you’d find in many (box sets),” Baumgardner said of the Burst Angel offering, The box set will feature all sorts of treats, including a CD and a cell phone strap with charms, and the features on the first DVD volume will feature a Japanese radio drama with the four main female voice actors of the show goofing off in and out of character. The audio won’t be too shabby either. “It’s blowing my mind,” said Baumgardner about the ever-improving audio quality of new anime DVDs. More and more titles from Japan are coming to production studios with separate tracks for dialogue, music and ambient noises, in many cases with separate tracks for each voice actor and musical instruments. Baumgardner said Burst Angel’s 5.1 audio will have back channels hosting violin and piano on their own. “And our sound engineers have made the guns come out really hard,” he added, smiling. The addition of bigger, better special features leads us to the question of HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray. While FUNimation has made no formal announcement on choosing a side in the DVD format war, “it’s only a matter of time before we release things in HD,” he said. Traditionally the company has been using DVD-5s, but will be going back up to DVD-9s soon, he said.
Another title FUNimation can’t wait to get on store shelves is Kodacha. “This is very exciting for us, ‘cause it’s old. It’s a long series,” Baumgardner said. The show follows a young girl actress, who’s a bit hyperactive. A teenage drama, Kodacha is a 102-episode giant with a large fan base. It aired in 1996-1997. “A lot of people, at first glance, would think this is from Disney,” Baumgardner said. As to why FUNimation one was one of only two companies to host a forum at Anime Overdose? “Leave no con behind,” Baumgardner said. From smaller conventions like Anime Overdose to the big-time in Anaheim, FUNimation wants to have a presence at all sci-fi and anime conventions.
For months now, it’s been known at ADV Films headquarters in Houston as “the show you can’t talk about,” according to Janice Williams, DVD coordinator for ADV. Now we can, after Williams announced the licensing of Yugo the Negotiator, a 13-episode TV series that ADV will start with DVD volume one on May 24. This action adventure follows a crack hostage negotiator in Pakistan and Russia. “We’re very excited. It’s very realistic,” Williams said. Adapted from a manga, Yugo comes from first-time director Seiji Kishi and production companies G&G Direction and Artland. No big names are associated with this project, yet by the Williams talks about Yugo and the production work ADV has put into the DVD releases, you know it’s something worth looking forward to. Yugo will have a 5.1 English track, perfectly translated, accurate subtitles for the Middle Eastern portion of the movie, and just a hoard of special features about the show and the studio production of the DVD. The features will include a load of stuff the Japanese did for the show, including a feature called “What is a Negotiator?” and ADV’s Pakistani cultural assistant put together comments for a feature showing how accurate the dialogue and cultural references are in the show. Williams said that ADV has been working on this one for about a year. “The background is very different than in other anime. It’s hard to say anything without giving it away,” she said, smiling. “It’s just such a good show.”
Williams joked about how bright Yugo is, with a big chunk being set in the desert. “We started getting materials for that and Gilgamesh at the same time,” she said. Gilgamesh, also expected some time this summer, is a very dark, gothic sci-fi fantasy title. The 26 episodes were directed by Masahiko Murata, who did the storyboards for another evil goodie, Boogiepop Phantom, and follows a group of kids with psychic powers whose dad has destroyed the world as we know it. “If you like series where no one knows what’s going on, this series is for you,” Williams said. Other 2005 titles we can look forward to from ADV: Area 88 and Gatchaman. “It’s so, so pretty,” Williams said of Area 88. “Great dog fights. We have a couple of aviation buffs (at ADV) who are like ‘wow.’” In another sign ADV is treating its titles with care, the studio actually brought in a military advisor to work on the DVD of Area 88. “The progression of anime overall requires in-depth research to make sure we get it right,” Williams said. This 12-episode, 2004 anime combines drama, romance and military mayhem at a Middle Eastern base, where one pilot is faced with some tough choices. And then there’s Gatchaman, the old-school, monster classic that ADV is extremely excited to have. The company plans on releasing all 105 episodes of the 1970s series, 20 of which were never seen on American TV as the adapted Battle of the Planets, and these episodes won’t be edited. “It’s going to be quite a different experience. A lot of the stuff that was edited out will be included,” Williams said. The new voice cast for the English dub is at work, and the company is working on some “exciting” special features, Williams said.
Before spending some time with the DVD Release Report, Williams hosted
an ADV forum with anime fans at Anime Overdose, showing clips of new and
future releases, and passing out a few goodies to fans.
and Hello Kitty (this time with a Japanese language track) all received
applause, though it was Cromartie High, the chaotic, loveable bad-boys
high school comedy that got the biggest reaction from the crowd. Other
crowd favorites were the previews for Full Metal Panic? FUMOFFU,
a comedy sequel to the first series (which will include an episode they
wouldn’t air in Japan); Tree of Palme, aka “Pinocchio on
crack”; and yet another anime that just isn’t for kids, Elfen Lied, which
is very dark, very violent, and very sad. This 2004, 13-episode horror
series begins on DVD in May. Other Anime Overdose news from ADV: the long-awaited,
live-action Neon Genesis: Evangelion movie is still in pre-production,
with a now narrowed list of possible directors. Also, six Korean live-action
movies are on tap from ADV for this summer, as well as the 2002 Korean
animation, My Beautiful Girl Mari.
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