Casshern Sins, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Dragon*Con
August 2010 Edition by Todd
Douglass, John Sinnott, Bobby Cooper, and Wen-Tsai
by Todd Douglass, John Sinnott, Bobby Cooper, and Wen-Tsai
Welcome back to Anime Talk! This is the "Back to School" edition of our column. Okay, so we're not going back to school, but all you kids out there are! Ha ha!
Sorry about that! Just playing around a bit. Seriously though, who has time for school or work or life when there's so much anime out there to review? This time around we have some reviews for such high profiles releases as Casshern Sins, Fullmetal Alchemist, and One Piece. There are some obscure shows like Shigofumi, Eyeshield 21, and Black Blood Brothers in the mix, as well as a few others.
This column also features two figure reviews from the good folks at Kotobukiya. We have figures from To Heart 2 and Bakemonogatari available for dissection and our poorly skilled photographer, Todd, has taken it upon himself to provide some snapshots. Bobby also reports on his visit to Dragon*Con and Wen-Tsai has a slew of bargains that will make your wallet cry uncle. Put away that homework, forget about studying for the test; take a few minutes to read through our column and I'm sure you'll find something that will help separate you from your hard-earned cash.
Monkey D. Luffy returns with his band of eccentric and off beat pirates in FUNimation's One Piece Season Three Voyage Two. In the past Luffy has had to battle super powered pirate, evolved sharks, and even a government's army, among other things. This time he's setting out to face his most powerful foe yet, a living god. If you've enjoyed the earlier releases, these 13 episodes will sure to please. The show is still as funny and off beat as ever.
An anime series about American football? What is this madness? Eyeshield 21 Part 2 continues the saga of the mysterious masked runningback and the Deimon High Devil Bats. In this set, the Devil Bats face off against two teams: Taiyo Sphinx, a campy Egyptian-gimmick team, and the best high school in the United States, the X High Aliens. Can the upstart Devil Bats possibly hang with one of the best Japanese football teams and the best American team? With a fun, but very simple, underdog storyline and amusingly bizarre opponents, Eyeshield 21 continues to be a pleasant surprise in the sports anime genre.
If you have not started watching Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, then you are missing out on one of the best anime series to come out in years. Brotherhood is a complete retelling of Fullmetal Alchemist that closely follows the original manga storyline. This second set of episodes delves further into the elaborate tale of political intrigue as state alchemists, Edward and Alphonse Elric, search for a way to bring back Alphonse's body. Their primary foes, the homunculi, human-like creatures created through alchemy, are further explored. Some new supporting Xingese characters, Ling Yao, Lan Fan, and May Chang, are also introduced in these episodes. Brotherhood already featured a large cast of characters and ran the risk of becoming unwieldy, but it handles these new additions with ease. The only disappointing thing about this DVD set is that it had to end. (For a review of the Blu-ray edition, please go here to see what Todd thought about it)
While Casshern Sins might be one of the coolest looking anime titles available, the uneven pacing of the storyline nearly derails what could have been an amazing series. Casshern wanders the planet in search of tidbits about his past. All he knows is that everyone blames him for the destruction of the world and that he is uber powerful thanks to his Wolverine-like regenerative ability. The episodes tend to meander off into symbolic tangents. The side stories, taken as single self-contained episodes are melodramatic, but not awful. However, these distractions kill the momentum of the series just as the main story starts gets good. It doesn't help that Casshern spends much of his free time wallowing in self-pity. Hopefully, the second part of Casshern Sins is more focused than this disappointing set. With a few tweaks, this series could easily be something special. (Todd also reviewed this one on Blu-ray. Reviews for Part 1 and Part 2 are both available)
Some time ago I checked out Black Blood Brothers when it first hit DVD, but now the series has been made available for Blu-ray thanks to FUNimation. If you love vampires, slick action, and loads of style then this show will be right up your alley. The whole thing takes place in a twisted version of the future where vampires have risen and humanity has naturally become their enemy. There's a place where the two live in harmony, however, and an Old Blood vampire and his brother are on there way to this mysterious place. Things aren't what they seem, however, and there are plenty of things, people, and vampires standing in their way. Check out what Bobby Cooper thinks of the series too.
If you were to kick the bucket tomorrow and were given the ability to write a letter to someone on your way out, who would you write to? What would you write? It's an interesting though, isn't it? Shigofumi from Sentai Filmworks/Section 23 explores that premise somewhat with a show that revolves around the existence of a letter carrier of the dead. It's a fascinating show with some real character development and a unique atmosphere. Think Hell Girl, but redone with a postal service instead of revenge killings.
Similarly, Full Metal Panic! is a show that's been out for a while. Originally the license was held by ADP, but since it fell into FUNimation's hands they've released the show on DVD and now again on Blu-ray. This is the mecha anime fan's wet dream come true. All components of this show from science, mysticism, humor, and action blend together in a way that few other series have been able to replicate. It's no surprise that two sequel seasons have been released and to this day the franchise continues to be as popular as it has ever been.
For more anime bargains, please check out the monthly Official- ANIME Bargains! - Thread, updated by yours truly!
Please Note: Product Availability & Prices are Subjected to Change! Updated on 09/09/2010!
by Todd Douglass
A few months ago I wrote a preview for the Senjyogahara Hitagi figure from Kotobukiya when it was announced. I was rather excited for the figure since Hitagi is a fun tsundere-type character. Her unique designs and outlandish behavior make her the star of the Bakemonogatari, in my opinion. Now that some time has passed Hitagi has been released in Japan. How does she stack up?
In case you're unfamiliar with Bakemonogatari, it's basically a supernatural show that focuses on a high school student named Koyomi Araragi. At the beginning of the series Koyomi is getting over his affliction after being turned into a vampire. He's starting to get back into the swing of things when he has a fateful encounter with the abusive Hitagi. After catching her he realizes that she weighs next to nothing. As the story goes Hitagi had a fateful encounter with a crab who stole her weight. The show follows their exploits in supernatural events and really builds a nice relationship between the two.
If you've seen the show then you already know that Hitagi always has office supplies at hand and ready for use. Whatever that use may be. Considering she's wears a skirt and dress shirt, one has to wonder where she manages to store all her Staples products.
Kotobukiya's take on Hitagi's character is very authentic to the character. They tried to capture the elements that made her special by giving her a crab claw on her base and a stapler that fits comfortably in her hand. She's dressed in her school attire, like she is in the show, and she's positioned in a manner that makes her appear very light on her feet. Her arms are outstretched from her body, her hair looks like it's floating, and even her outfit gives the sensation that she's about to touch down after a short stint in the air.
Starting from top to bottom on Hitagi, her hair is one of her most prominent features. The way it wisps around her reminded me quite a bit of another Kotobukiya figure (Houkago Play Kanojo). It's almost alive and very detailed. Probably the most striking feature of her hair, however, is the color. It's a multi-toned purple with highlights and shadows worked right in. As you can tell from the pictures supplied in this review it's quite striking.
The hair does have a slight flaw though. The seam from front to back is rather pronounced and quite noticeable if you're looking at her from the top. It's not the biggest deal in the world, and chances are good you're not going to display the figure so you're looking at the top of her head anyway.
Hitagi's face is another powerful element of this figure. Her features as a whole are majestic with an expression of maturity. The eyes in particular received some great attention here and are truly captivating.
Moving down Hitagi, her outfit is appropriately light in tone with highlights and contrasting colors. The pinks match well with the purples, blues, and reds. Her shirt is accented with a pocket with some office supplies protruding from the top. The skirt, which is folding upwards a bit, is equally impressive and again gives the impression that the wind is lifting it somehow. And what's under the skirt? Panties! Not just any panties though, Kotobukiya brought another level of detail to the figure and ensured that scissors, staplers, and other office supplies were painted onto her skivvies.
Towards the base, Hitagi is wearing some dark leggings and her right foot is screwed into a translucent base. I assure you she's quite firmly attached to the base and isn't going anywhere. This does limit options for display, but assures the integrity of the weightless look is kept intact.
On the base there is a slot in the back for the crab claw to be attached to. It's translucent as well with characters written all over it in red ink. Personally I think the figure displays better without the crab claw, but that's a matter of preference really. It's a unique feature that many will like, though it's kind of an eyesore in my opinion. Other display options include a stapler that fits into her right hand.
Whether you watched Bakemonogatari or not Kotobukiya's Hitagi figure is a tempting sale. The character is attractive designed here and the figure is assembled with great detail. The colors are perfect, certain design elements really stand out, and ultimately it looks great on display. It's one of the most whimsical figures I've seen in a while and despite the flaws (the hair thing and the fugly crab claw) I'm going with a high recommendation for this one.
Hitagi stands 8 1/2 inches tall (1/8th scale) and is made out of PVC plastic. You can pick her up at:
To Heart is a popular franchise in Japan, though its success in American isn't quite as triumphant. The first season has been released by RightStuf, but is relatively obscure and definitely not in the mind of mainstream Region 1 anime fans. In Japan a second season, To Heart 2 has come out and frankly I'd argue that it's almost as popular as the first; if not more so.
The franchise got started as an eroge PC title, as do many romance comedies. Between the first and second seasons the settings were more or less the same, but the cast of characters changed dramatically. It was almost like the creators rebooted the series with a new set of personalities to take the helm. The gamble worked and the sequel proved to be more of a success as a result of their efforts.
From the "Another Days" brand, Kotobukiya has put together a figure for Konomi Yuzuhara. If you're a figure collector or you've been to a site such as Hobby Search or Play Asia, then you don't need me to tell you that bikini figures are a popular staple in Japan. Chalk up another one to add to that swimsuit-clad collection. It's not only the bikini quota that Konomi fills, but the loli fetish as well. She's a young character to begin with and is even younger than the show's male protagonist Takaaki.
Starting at the top and working our way down. Konomi's "Innocence" figure features a full head of hair tied off to the side at both ends. It really makes her head look large compared to the rest of her body, but that sticks with design of the character I suppose. Her face is locked in an expression of...well, I don't know what the expression is supposed to be. Her big eyes are the most prominent part of her face. They are almost wide with surprise, yet not. It's almost as though she's happy to see you. The mouth, on the other hand, is in a nervous position. It's almost like she's in a mid "heh" with a slight smirk. If the smile were a little wider it would have made for a better display. It's not bad as is, but something about it is awkward.
Her body is slender and features a pale color. Konomi's innocent side is the fact that she's wearing a frilly pink two-piece bikini. It's cute and matches the overall personality of the figure well, but being a figure from an eroge game wouldn't be the same if there weren't some naughty element to it. Her left hand is lifting part of her top up as though she were adjusting the bikini or finishing just putting it on.
Her right hand is extended to allow for insertion of a pair of sandals into them. Like other figures for display, you don't have to give them to her, but they add a nice element to the character. With the way she's stepping and positioned it's like she just pulled off the sandals, slipped on the bikini, and is getting ready to run down to the beach for some fun.
The figure has a sea green base to which her left foot attaches, leaving the right slightly elevated. The character is balanced well enough that she can stand on her own two feet without the base, but it definitely add an element of stability to it.
As you can tell from these pictures I was trying different things for the shoot. The Konomi figure just begs to be photographed on a sandy beach somewhere. Alas I couldn't make that happen, and frankly being a 30 year old guy taking pictures of a loli figure at a public beach wasn't exactly something I wanted to deal with. As is there are some backyard shots and in-house ones. I attempted to capture as many of the details and quality as I could while trying to keep the tone of the character as authentic as possible.
Konomi stands at 9 inches tall (1/6 scale) and is a PVC sculpt from Yuzo. You can find Konomi at these fine retailers:
For any To Heart 2 fans out there, Konomi Yuzuhara "Innocence" is a worthwhile investment. Her expression isn't quite as clear as one would hope, but the details on, and quality of, the figure are plentiful. Kotobukiya really goes out of their way to make some great stuff and this is no exception.
To Heart 2 or bikini figure fans can consider Konomi Yuzuhara recommended.
by Bobby Cooper
Each Labor Day weekend, tens of thousands of fans from all corners of sci-fi/fantasy fandom flock to downtown Atlanta to congregate in a celebration of geekdom. What began as a humble little sci-fi/gaming convention in the 80's has ballooned into the self-proclaimed "largest multi-media, popular culture convention focusing on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film in the universe!" While I'm sure Comic-Con and other citizens of the galaxy would dispute that claim, nothing changes the fact that Dragon*Con is a ridiculously huge convention that consumes five separate hotels in the heart of Atlanta.
Despite the overwhelming size of Dragon*Con, it was still wicked cool. There were 35 different panel tracks to follow with subjects such as anime, Star Wars, writing, alternate history, Whedonverse, ghost hunting, and MMORPG's. There was literally something for everyone. There were countless panels to attend, parades to watch, autographs to obtain, celebrities to meet, costumes to photograph, and dealers to haggle. With all that, the highlight of the weekend was simply kicking back at the Hyatt bar, drinking some adult beverages, and people-watching. Costumed con-goers represented superheroes, Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, anime, cartoons, steampunk, medieval, and countless other facets of all things sci-fi/fantasy.
The best costumers acted out their roles throughout the day. At any one time you could spot Gollum hunched over beer at the bar, Darth Vader storming through the masses with the swagger of a galactic overlord, and Star Trek characters performing scans on confused onlookers. My wife, who was dressed as Arlene from True Blood, met a sloshed Sookie who instantly wanted to be her friend for life--or at least for the remainder of the convention. Thankfully, she didn't meet a Terry who wanted to roleplay her boyfriend. I rocked a Darth Vader lightsaber and a dark Anakin Skywalker costume for the Saturday night parties. Not surprisingly, I had to fend off random assaults from Jedi knights who thought they could stand toe-to-toe with the Dark Lord. Fools. And, yes, I'm aware that Anakin did not get a red Sith lightsaber until after he donned the black helmet. It just looks cooler and coolness wins out over accuracy.
Sadly, there was but a meager representation of anime and otaku at Dragon*Con. The dealer rooms had maybe five anime booths, if even that, and the selection of loot was underwhelming. The anime panel track was relegated to a single, small, dungeon-like room in the basement level of a hotel. The only anime company that even bothered to show up was FUNimation.
Full props to FUNimation for attending, but where were Bandai, Viz, AnimEigo, Sentai Filmworks, or Media Blasters? Making an appearance at anime-centered conventions is wonderful, but those convention attendees are already sold on the hobby we love. It is no secret that the popularity of anime is waning. How often do anime companies have an opportunity to reach out to tens of thousands of people who are their target audience? These con-goers spend hours just roaming the floor looking for something to do. Set up a booth outside the dealer rooms. Load it up with some cosplayers, booth babes, videos, cool swag and reading material and reach out to the people. Anime and manga are awesome--many of these fans just don't know it yet.
This year's Dragon*Con marked FUNimation's first official appearance this convention. They hosted three anime panels: a Q&A, Greatest Hits clips show, and a sneak peeks panel. The only one I got to attend was the Industry Q&A hosted by Marketing Director, Lance Heiskell, who has one of the most awesome jobs in the world as an anime evangelist. Heiskell spent a good deal of time hawking FUNimation's efforts to grow a community around their website. Their goal is to create "the most badass anime community ever." He also nearly let the cat out of the bag about some changes to the FUNimation Channel, which I assume was the news that they are making a move to high definition. This was followed by trailers of upcoming releases such as Birdy the Mighty Decode, Sengoku Basara, Evangelion 2.22, and Eden of the East. While Evangelion and Sengoku Basara reeked of anime goodness and drew aaah's from the crowd, the loudest reaction of the day was the collective SQUEE from the teenage girls when Hetalia made its appearance.
The only other anime panel I was able to catch was "Self-Defense for the Otaku." No, they didn't teach us fanboys some nifty jiu-jitsu chokes to try out on bullies. This was a panel was all about rationalizing anime fandom against other, more mainstream forms of entertainment with fanatical followings. Namely, football. The host, Jake Tarbox, held an animated, preacher-like, motivational speech for all geekdom in this panel. His best argument was that anime is a format, not a genre. Too many people are quick to pigeonhole anime as being "for the kids" because of shows like Dragonball Z and Naruto (both of which are still awesome to this 30-something). His parallels of anime fans to football fans drew a lively and, at times, heated discussion from the audience. This panel was thought-provoking and easily had enough material and interest to continue for another half hour.
Should you ever decide to make the trek to Atlanta, there are a few things that I wish I knew before my first Dragon*Con. First and foremost, study that map. Know the layout and locations of the hotels where the convention will take place. I have been to large conventions before, but nothing like Dragon*Con, which is spread out amongst multiple hotels. There are few things more infuriating than fighting through a crowd of thousands in a fruitless search for a panel room and then begging a Hilton concierge for help, only to have him sneer at you and say, "Sir, the Concorde Room is in the Hyatt, not the Hilton." Also, no matter how hungry you think you are, don't eat the hotel food. It's either expensive, awful, or a combination of both. There are much cheaper and tastier options within five minutes of any hotel. Finally, attending any event that's remotely popular requires lining up absurdly early. Pick out one, maybe two, must-see events per day, line up early, and count anything else you get to attend that day as gravy.
If you have any nerd-like tendencies--and if you are reading this column, then you do--I highly recommend attending at least one Dragon*Con if you can manage it. No matter what your vice is, there's a little of something for everyone at Dragon*Con. It's overcrowded, it's scorching hot outside, and the multi-hotel layout is confusing. However, for one weekend, we the geeks get to rule over a city that once hosted the Olympics. It's worth the trip.
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January 2015 Edition
2013 Q4 Top Anime Titles from RightStuf.com, Part 1
Crunchy Roll, Lupin, and Bunny Drop