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Last update: 2012-07-05

Podcast Episode 246: Gakuen Prince Volume 1

2012-07-05
Length: 19s

Podcast manga review of Gakuen Prince volume 1 by Jun Yuzuki. Translated by Harumi Ueno. Adapted by Abby Denson. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.99, Rated OT 16+ (Should be rated Mature for sexual situations, language).

From the back cover:

"Joshi High is an elite school that most girls in Japan only dream of attending. Then one day everything changes-- the all-girl school goes coed. There's just one catch: The girls out-number the boys. So begins a wild, no-holds-barred competition for the boys of the school. Which smart and independent-minded girl will rise above the fray?"

My Grade: A-

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Podcast Episode 245: The Flowers of Evil Volume 1

2012-06-26
Length: 14s

Manga podcast review of The Flowers of Evil volume 1 by Shuzo Oshimi. Translated by Paul Staar. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Vertical, $10.95

From the back cover:

"Nowhere to go. Nothing to do. The routine of class and endless stupidity in a provincial town is taking a toll on middle schooler Takao Kasuga. Though he gets along well enough with his peers, they'll never begin to dig any of that reading business that's his only true escape. What can he expect when he's in love with foreign stuff like the poems of Charles Baudelaire?

Yet, his life threatens to take a turn for the worse when he finds and takes home, in a moment of weakness, the gym clothes of pretty, sweet, and smart Nanako Saeki on whom he has a major crush. Witness to the theft is the oddest girl in class, who seems to consider the whole world a pile of excrement and to nurse a terribly sadistic streak...."

My Grade: A-

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Podcast Episode 244: Sailor Moon Volume 2

2012-06-24
Length: 17s

After I lament the fact that Kodansha Comics has isolated itself socially, and the ongoing shortcomings of digital manga offerings, I review the second awesome volume of Sailor Moon!

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Podcast Episode 243: Bloody Monday Volume 1

2012-05-22
Length: 13s

Podcast review of Bloody Monday volume 1. Story by Ryou Ryumon. Art by Kouji Megumi. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Published by Kodansha. Rated 13+, $10.99.

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Podcast Episode 242: Sailor Moon Volume 1

2012-01-25
Length: 20s

Manga podcast review of Sailor Moon Volume 1 by Naoko Takeuchi. Translated and adapted by William Flanagan. Published by Kodansha Comics, $10.99, Rated 13+

 

My Grade: A

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Podcast Episode 241: Catherine

2011-08-12
Length: 26s

Podcast Episode 241 is a review of the videogame Catherine for Xbox 360. Game directed by Katsura Hashino. Music composed by Shoji Meguro. Developed and published by Atlus. Available on Xbox 360 and PS3. List price: $59.99, Rated Mature 17+

From the back cover:

"Vincent is trapped in a nightmare, facing a choice of marrying his longtime girlfriend Katherine or moving on to the incredible blonde he just woke up next to---named Catherine! The worst part is, if he makes the wrong choice, he could end up dead.

Hang out, drink, send texts, and watch the story unfold through full HD cinematics. Addictive puzzle action has climbing fast and skirting pitfalls! Compete or cooperate with a friend!"

My Grade: A-

Listen to my podcast review below:

 

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Podcast Episode 240: High School of the Dead Volume 1

2011-07-25
Length: 15s

Podcast manga review of High School of the Dead volume 1. Story by Daisuke Sato. Art by Shouji Sato. Translated by Christina Dashiell. Originally published in Japan by Fujishobo. Published in US by Yen Press, $13.99, Rated Mature.

From the back cover:

"A mysterious illness is spreading rapidly through the halls of Fujimi High School. In a matter of hours, the campus is transformed from a place of learning into a hive of nightmares, as the infected students collapse and are reborn as flesh-hungry zombies! Only a handful of students escape the initial outbreak — among them Takashi Komuro and his childhood friend, Rei. He manages to protect Rei from the initial onslaught, but how long can Takashi and the other students hope to survive when the whole school – maybe the whole town — is out for their blood?!"

My Grade: A

Listen to my podcast review below:

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Podcast Episode 239: A Certain Scientific Railgun Volume 1

2011-07-25
Length: 10s

Podcast manga review of A Certain Scientific Railgun volume 1. Story by Kazuma Kamachi. Art by Motoi Fuyukawa. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Seven Seas, Rated Teen, $10.99.

From the back cover:

"Welcome to a world where mysticism and science collide, and supernatural powers are derived from either science of religion. At the heart of this world is Academy City, an advanced metropolis whose population is comprised mostly of students. The majority of students are enrolled in the city's Power Curriculum Program, where they must learn to master their powers. Out of several million students, only seven are deemed powerful enough to have Level 5 status."

"Meet Mikoto Misaka, the third most powerful Level 5 esper in Academy City. Together with her best friend Kuroko Shirai and the other members of Judgement, a student-run law enforcement agency, Mikoto delves deep into the dark heart of the scientific sprawl she calls home, and uncovers secrets she wishes she hadn't!"

My Grade: A

You can listen to my podcast review below:

You can read a free preview of the manga at: http://www.gomanga.com/mv/index.php?series=railgun

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Podcast Episode 238: Borders Closing & Jmanga.com Opening

2011-07-23
Length: 9s

Was originally going to do a manga review but got offtrack talking about Borders liquidation sale disillusionment and the exciting new Jmanga.com website coming next month

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Podcast Episode 237: Cross Game Volume 1

2011-04-24
Length: 16s

Podcast manga review of Cross Game Volume 1 by Mitsuru Adachi. Translated by Ralph Yamada and Lillian Olsen. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan. Published in US by Viz Shonen Sunday, $19.99, Rated T for Teen.

From the back cover:

"Cross Game is a moving drama that is hearfelt and true, yet in the brilliant hands of manga artist Mitsuru Adachi, delightfully flows with a light and amusing touch. The series centers around a boy named Ko, the family of four sisters who live down the street and the game of baseball. This poignant coming-of-age story will change your perception of what shonen manga can be.

Three in one! Contains volumes 1,2,and 3 as released in Japan"

My Grade: A+

Listen to the podcast below and also read Chapter 1 of Cross Game at http://media.viz.com/flash/omv/index.php?x=crossgame/omv01

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Podcast Episode 236: Arisa Volume 1

2011-04-23
Length: 14s

Manga podcast review of Arisa volume 1 by Natsumi Ando. Translated and adapted by Andria Cheng. Originally published by Kodansha in Japan. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.99, rated T Ages 13+.

From the back cover:

"Tsubasa thinks that her pretty and popular twin sister, Arisa, has the perfect life. Everyone at school loves Arisa-- unlike the hot-tempered Tsubasa, whose nickname is the demon princess. But when Arisa attempts suicide, Tsubasa learns that her seemingly perfect sister has been keeping some dark secrets. Now Tsubasa is going undercover at school-- disguised as Arisa-- in search of the truth. But will Arisa's secrets shatter Tsubasa's life too?"

My Grade: A+

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Podcast Episode 234: Day of Rage, Day of Death

2011-04-17
Length: 20s

My thoughts on the death of Tokypop

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Podcast Episode 235: Toriko Episode 1

2011-04-17
Length: 11s

Podcast review of Toriko Episode 1, now being simulcast on Thursdays at 10pm EST on www.beta.funimation.com and www.hulu.com.  Directed by Akifumi Zuko. Series composition by Isao Murayama.

Gourmet Hunter Toriko searches the world for exotic flavors and ingredients for his ultimate full course meal. The problem is that those ingredients are giant monsters who want to make a meal of HIM! He is aided in this quest by Komatsu, head chef of the ritzy Hotel Gourmet. Their first mission together is to defeat the gigantic Gararagator. Will Toriko's "Knife and Fork" martial arts be enough to take it down?

My Grade: B

 

Listen to my podcast review below:

Then watch episode 1 of the anime:

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Manga Review: Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 18

2011-03-17

Manga review of Fullmetal Alchemist volume 18 by Hiromu Arakawa. Translation by Akira Watanabe. Adapted by Jake Forbes. Originally published in Japan by Square Enix. Published in US by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen.

At Fort Briggs in the far North, ruled over by the ice queen Major General Armstrong, things are heating up. The Homunculi have been using Winry's life as blackmail to keep Ed and Al from telling everyone about their evil plan to use the entire country of Amestris to make a transmutation circle. The Elric brothers have done everything they could to keep her out of danger. So imagine their shock when Winry shows up at the fort last volume! Kimblee, the Homunculi ally, tells the brothers that they must aid in his search for Scar....or else. Ed and Al decide to along with his order, hoping to find some way out of the situation along the way. Of course finding Scar, who is travelling with the dimunitive May Chang, is exactly what Ed and Al want to do anyway. Meanwhile, back at Central, Hawkeye, now serving as a the President's aide, finds out the horrible truth about his son, Selim, even as Mustang tries to marshal support against the Homunculi controlled government.

I've said it before and will continue to say it until the day I die (which hopefully won't be in 2012), but Fullmetal Alchemist is simply the best manga series out there. I love it. The art is great, the characters are incredible, and the story, except for a few strains on believability, is masterful. It just seems a bit shortsighted for the Homunculi to let Ed and Al and others that know about the truth of situation to go running around doing their own thing. I know they want the major players alive for their "sacrifice", but it would make better sense to imprison them all the right time. Even a child knows that Fullmetal is going to be trying to constantly find a way to defeat their plans. I guess what I'm saying is that the "bad guys" in this series are kinda dumb. Or maybe they're just that confident. Maybe they are so sure their plan is going to work that they think there is no way Ed, Al, Mustang, and the others can stop them. If I was a Homunculus I would have made darn sure to get rid of at least those three. They're too dangerous. One of the best scenes in this volume is Winry finally getting to confront Scar about killing her parents. I'm not going to spoil what happens but she has to come to a decision. Is she going to take her revenge or find some other way of dealing with his crime? Brilliant work. An all-time great series.

My Grade: A

 

 

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$10 Off Nausicaa Blu-Ray/DVD Coupon

2011-02-27

I was looking on the Disney Rewards site to print out a coupon for the new Bambi blu-ray release coming out this week and was very surprised to also see an offer for Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind as well. So the deal is this: If you own ANY Studio Ghibli film (I assume only those put out by Disney), you can enter the UPC code on the Disney site and get a coupon good for $10 off the March 8 release of the Nausicaa blu-ray/dvd combo.

You have to register with Disney Rewards, which is free. I bet Disney ends up doing this with all upcoming Miyazaki blu-ray releases since it's called an "upgrade" offer. You can only print out one coupon. The added bonus is that Disney usually gives you a $10 off coupon for almost every new release of their films if you are a member.  

Here's the link to the offer:

http://www.disneymovierewards.go.com/promotions/special-offers/nausicaa-upgrade

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Podcast Episode 233: Lives Volume 1

2011-02-07
Length: 15s

Podcast manga review of Lives Volume 1 by Masayuki Taguchi (Battle Royale) Translated by Monica Seya Chin. Adapted by Bryce P. Coleman. Originally published in Japan by Akita Publishing. Published in US by Tokyopop, $13.99, Rated Mature 18+.

From the back cover:

"A freak meteor shower devestates the Kanto region of Japan. Those caught in the blast find themselves mysteriously transported to a strange world where humans transform into cannibalistic beasts who must fight to survive! In this new, violent world, martial arts student Shinman Shingo must resist the urge to kill, and instead forge a path of peace to protect his friends--- and his own humanity."

My Grade: A

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Podcast Episode 232: Tokyopop and Yen, the Artful Dodgers of Manga

2011-02-06
Length: 13s

Podcast Episode 232: In this episode I comment on the price increases of Tokyopop and Yen Press and the apathy among the manga community about the price hikes.

Among the topics covered: The schizophrenia of Yen Press prices, Tokyopop's rip-off $12.99 books, incest among publishers and bloggers, the lotus eaters of the Anime News Network forum, the current American way of charging more for less, the incompetence of Manga publisher CEOS, overpricing licenses, limited edition anime shoved down our throats.

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Podcast Episode 231: Baccano! Volume 1

2011-01-01
Length: 16s

I've been neglecting my anime viewing for far too long so I just decided this weekend to start working through my backlog of dvds alphabetically. Sadly, I've had some of my dvds for YEARS and have never watched them. I know I'm probably not the only one guilty of this sin. And I really need to watch more online stuff as well.

Well, anyway, this episode I'm going to be looking at Baccano!, an anime based on a light novel series by Ryohgo Narita who also wrote the series that the anime Durarara is based on. Baccano is directed by Takahiro Omori, who also worked on Hell Girl, Gakuen Alice, and and the Durarara anime. The writer and music composer of Baccano seem to work with Omori on most of his shows. Baccano is published by Funimation here in the States and is rated 17+ for violence as far as I can tell.

From the back cover:

"Don't let nobody tell you there's no future in a life of crime, because some rackets can last forever. But we'll get around to all that immortality jazz later. A mafia turf war is raging on the mean streets of the Big Apple, a place where regular joes bounce between backdoor booze joints and the breadline. But this caper ain't about a simple gangland brawl. It's about hoods who can't seem to die proper after catching a bullet or five between the eyes. Sadistic hit-men and the dames they love, mad bombers going boom, monsters going bump and soul sucking alchemists bootlegging an elixir of eternal life."

My Grade: A

Just hit the > symbol below to listen to my review

You can watch the first episode of Baccano! below:

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Podcast Episode 230: Ratman Volume 1

2010-11-30
Length: 12s

Podcast review of Ratman Volume 1 by Inui Sekihiko. Translated by Adrienne Beck. Adapted by Bryce P. Coleman. Originally published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten. Published in US by Tokyopop, $10.99, Rated Older Teen 16+ .

From the back cover:

"Shuto Katsuragi is a superhero otaku. Only problem is, he's too short and always getting teased for his height...especially when he tries to emulate his favorite superhero! To make matters worse, Shuto suddenly get abducted and tricked into participating in some rather sketchy and super-villainous experiments! What's a shrimp to when his dreams come true in ways he never expected?"

My Grade: A+

You can look at a free preview for volume 1 at: http://www.tokyopop.com/product/2848

 

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Podcast Episode 229: Omamori Himari Volume 1

2010-10-24
Length: 16s

Podcast manga reveiw of Omamori Himari Volume 1 by Milan Matra. Translated by Amy Forsyth. Originally published in Japan by Fujimishobo. Published in US by Yen Press, $10.99, Rated M for Mature.

From the back cover:

"Severely allergic to felines, Yuuto Amakawa spends his mornings nursing a drippy nose courtesy of his friend Rinko's cat. But on his sixteenth birthday, it's not just Rinko's pet that's riling up his allergies - to say nothing of his hormones! Appearing before him is Himari, a buxom, sword-wielding cat spirit in human guise who has sworn to protect Yuuto, now the target of vengeful spirits! It's clear that Yuuto's allergies are the least of his problems - he's gonna need Himari's help if he wants to live to see his seventeenth birthday!"

My Grade: B+

Omamori Himari was adapted into an anime at the beginning of this year in Japan. Here is a promotional trailer for the series:

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Podcast Episode 228: Andromeda Stories Volume 2

2010-10-19
Length: 19s

Podcast manga review of Andromeda Stories Volume 2 by Keiko Takemiya. Story by Ryu Mitsuse. Translated by Magnolia Steele. Published by Vertical, $11.95, Rated 13+.

From the back cover:

"The machine race known only as the "Enemy" has swiftly taken over the Cosmoralian Empire, but Queen Lilia and her son, Prince Jimsa, manage to flee. The only place to escape to, however, is the desert wasteland where the elements, predatory beasts, and bandits pose almost as great a threat to survival as the machine invaders. Prince Jimsa, growing ever stronger in the face of adversity, prepares to inherit his mantle as the Sun King, the descendant of combined Murat, Ayodoyan, and Cosmoralian legacies. It will fall upon his shoulders to turn the machines away before it's too late."

My Grade: A

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Podcast Episode 227: Andromeda Stories Volume 1

2010-09-11
Length: 16s

Podcast manga review of Andromeda Stories Volume 1 by Keiko Takemiya. Story by Ryu Mitsuse. Translated by Magnolia Steele. Published by Vertical, $11.95, Rated 13+.

From the back cover:

Cosmoralia's Prince Ithaca is about to wed Princess Lilia of Ayodoya and be crowned Astralta III. The apparently favorable celestial bearings mean he will be no mere monarch but holy king of a new "papacy". Alas, the peaceful inhabitants of Planet Astria have no clue that they're next in line for invasion by a ruthless machine force--a threat that seems to metaphorize the inherent perils of politics and desire in this multilayered saga. The tension slowly mounts to an unbearable pitch in this ominous first volume of three.

Following the conclusion of her award-winning and epochal To Terra..., Keiko Takemiya paired up with science fiction legend Ryu Mitsuse to create yet another milestone that was shortly made into an animated TV feature. Andromeda Stories is comics pioneer Takemiya's second work to appear in English.

My Rating: A+

You can read a free preview of Volume 1 at: http://www.vertical-inc.com/previews/andromeda/index.html

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Manga Review: The Prince of Tennis Volume 12

2010-09-04

Manga review of The Prince of Tennis Volume 12: Invincible Man by Takeshi Konomi. Translated by Joe Yamazaki. Adapted by Michelle Pengilinan. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated A for All Ages.

Seishun is tied 1-1 with Yamabuki after losing one of their doubles matches. Now it's on to the singles as Momo takes on Kiyosumi "Lucky" Sengoku.  Kiyosumi's signature move is the "Tiger Cannon", a high serve that allows him to put the full force of his body weight behind it. Even as Momo begins to counter, he starts to suffer from movement inhibiting leg cramps. And it hasn't gone unnoticed by Sengoku, whose only interest is in winning. The second singles match features Ryoma going up against the psychotic Jin, the dude that's been bullying some of Ryoma's younger teammates and physically assaulting other tennis team members since last volume. It's pretty cool when Ryoma hits Jin in the face with the ball on their first volley to avenge his team. But the words "back down" aren't in Jin's vocabulary and he steals himself to give Ryoma all he can handle.

I am currently in awe of the master Takeshi Konomi. Emerson and Thoreau might have been Transcendentalist writers but Konomi is a Transcendentalist manga-ka. I am constantly impressed by his work, mostly because of his constant inventiveness and control of his panel layouts. The Prince of Tennis never gets boring because Konomi surprises you with every page. He does full page layouts, 2 page splash pages, breaks up panels into interesting angles, sprawls characters across entire pages with the action as the backdrop, creating a 3D effect...wow, I'm out of breath. When I read these books, I feel alive, I feel like I'm a part of the action, almost like I'm on Ecstasy or something. When I mentioned Transcendentalism before, what I meant in reference to this book is that it almost seems alive, like you're really there in the stands watching the Seishun team play their matches. It's such an incredible accomplishment. To take static art and imbue it with such energy and kinetic movement. Konomi is a great.

My Grade: A+

 

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Podcast Episode 226: One Piece Volume 3

2010-08-29
Length: 8s

Podcast manga review of One Piece Volume 3: Don't Get Fooled Again by Eiichiro Oda. Translated by Andy Nakatani. Adapted by Lance Caselman. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen. Show correction: I said "Jolly Roger" when I meant to say "Gold Roger". Please forgive me!

From the back cover:

"Sure, lots of people say they want to be the King of the Pirates, but how many have the guts to do what it takes? When Monkey D. Luffy first set out to sea in a leaky rowboat, he had no idea what might lie over the horizon. Now he's got a crew--sort of--in the form of swordsman Roronoa Zolo and treasure-hunting thief Nami. If he wants to prove himself on the high seas, Luffy will have to defeat the weird pirate lord Buggy the Clown. He'll have to find a map to the Grand Line, the sea route where the toughest pirates sail. And he'll have to face the Dread Captain Usopp, who claims to be a notorious pirate captain...but, frankly, Usopp says a lot of things..."

My Grade: B

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Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 Demo Ready To Download

2010-08-24

Just checking out the Playstation Store and was happily surprised to see the demo for the new Naruto Shippuden videogame. Definitely gotta check it out. I never got around to playing the first one. I was quite happy playing Ubisoft's Naruto Rise of a Ninja at the time and didn't see any sense in repeating myself with the same storyline. But I'm definitely excited about playing through the more mature storyline as Naruto and the Leaf Village take on the Akatsuki. The game is due out October 19, 2010. Watch the trailer below:

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Podcast Episode 225: Afterschool Charisma Volume 1

2010-08-21
Length: 14s

Podcast manga review of Afterschool Charisma Volume 1  by Kumiko Suekane. Translated by Camellia Nieh. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan. Published in US by Viz SigIkki, $12.99, Rated T+ (Older Teen) for boobs.

From the back cover:

"St. Kleio Academy is a very exclusive school. To enroll, a student must be a clone of a famous historical figure. Wolfgang Mozart, Queen Elizabeth, Sigmund Freud, Marie Curie, Adolf Hitler-- With such a combustible student body, it's only a matter of time before the campus explode! Shiro Kamiya is the only non-clone at St. Kleio, a school where his father is a teacher. Why is a regular kid taking classes at the school? Nobody seems to know for sure."

My Grade: D-

You can read Chapters 1 and 7-12 for free at: http://www.sigikki.com/series/afterschoolcharisma/index.shtml

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Warning! A Huge Podcast About Japanese Videogames

2010-08-15

Ok, I hardly ever talk about videogames on this site, not because I don't play them, but just because I've never gotten around to it. I wish I had done a review for the Naruto Xbox 360 game, which was excellent or for the Wii's Sky Crawlers, but I just never did. I hope to rectify that in the future. Because to me at least, Japanese anime, manga, novels, movies, and games all flow together as one in a symbiotic relationship.

But I just wanted to let everybody that reads my blog know about my fantasy Japanese videogame podcast. It really is my dream come true. It would be the podcast I would do if I knew Japanese and was a hardcore gamer. The name of it is "Warning! A Huge Podcast"  and it's hosted by ex-writers from my favorite dead magazine, Play. Namely, Nick Des Barres, Casey Loe, and Shidoshi. They talk about Japanese games and while they're at it they also discuss other aspects of Japanese pop culture. To me, you don't have to like games to find the conversation fascinating. They have 7 episodes out so far. Since I just discovered they had a show, I've only listened to the latest one.

The funny thing is I'd been hunting ex-Play writers for the longest time. No, not in a serial killer way. I just thought the crew on Play was doing the best writing about games in the publishing business and so I am always on the look-out for their work. They were always more intelligent, more eloquent, and more entertaining that the other "Official" Whore magazines. I also really admired Heather Anne Campbell's articles. She wasn't afraid to punch even the great Mario himself in the face. Really, the mag felt more like a literary journal. A thinking man's/woman's take on the industry. Play was also unique for the fact that it had a section entitled "Play Japan" that covered current and upcoming releases in my favorite island country. The thing that stuck out about Play was the fact that all the writers seemed versed in the history and mythology of games themselves. They were all-stars. So check out the podcasts at:

http://radio.morningproject.com/

And while I'm at it, even though Play Magazine died, its publisher, Dave Halverson, has started a new magazine called Gamefan which is currently on its 3rd issue. A lot of the staff from Play can be found in its pages. Really, its just Play by a different name. Besides games, it covers a bit of manga, anime, movies, and more offbeat US comics. The website doesn't have much up on yet, since it's so new, but you can look at a 20 page preview of the third issue.

http://gamefanmag.com/

 

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Podcast Episode 224: One Piece Volume 2

2010-08-12
Length: 9s

Podcast manga review of One Piece Volume 2: Buggy the Clown by Eiichiro Oda. Translated by Andy Nakatani. Adapted by Lance Caselman. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in the US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen.

From the back cover:

"As a kid, Monkey D. Luffy vowed to become King of the Pirates and find the legendary treasure called the "One Piece". The enchanted Gum-Gum Fruit has given Luffy the power to stretch like rubber-- and his new crewmate, the infamous Roronoa Zolo, strikes fear into the hearts of other buccaneers! But what chance does one rubber guy stand against Nami, a thief so tough she specializes in robbing pirates...or Captain Buggy, a fiendish pirate lord whose weird, clownish appearance conceals even weirder powers? It's pirate vs. pirate in the second swashbuckling volume of One Piece!"

My Grade: B+

Just hit the play button below:

You can also listen to my podcast review of One Piece Volume 1 at this link:

http://www.sesho.libsyn.com/podcast_episode_207_one_piece_volume_1

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Manga Review: Blade of the Immortal Volume 2

2010-08-12

Manga review of Blade of the Immortal Volume 2: Cry of the Worm by Hiroaki Samura. Translated by Dana Lewis and Toren Smith. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Dark Horse, $14.95.

Rin has decided that it's a wasted cause to track down every member of the Itto-Ryu sword school to take her revenge since they will just recruit more swordsmen to replace the ones she and Manji kill. Instead she wants to track down the leader, Anotsu Kagehisa. Even so, Rin and Manji go up against two of Anotsu's disciples in this second volume of Blade of the Immortal. The first, Magatsu Taito, bears the Chinese sword that belonged to Rin's father, a sword that means all the world to her and her family. Secondly, there's Eiku Shizuma, a 200 year old fighter that, just like Manji, also has the holy bloodworms inside his body.

I enjoyed this second book a lot more than the first. The translation of Lewis and Smith is much more tolerable, or at least more subtle in its jarringness. There are some moments where Manji talks like a ghetto dweller with his constant use of "Shit, man!" but I guess I'm getting more used to it. Or maybe I'm understanding what the translators were TRYING to do, but horribly failing at. To make Manji a streetwise smartass bad mofo. But I think they could have done it in a different way. An awkward moment that really stood out at the end of the book was when Rin tells Manji his blood pressure is too high. Ok, can someone please tell me how the medieval Japanese knew anything about blood pressure?

The art by Samura rises to an even higher level than in the first installment. He seems to be more adept at blending his contrasting styles of intense line work and using different edges of his pencil. Whereas before his different techniques were a bit haphazard, and at times, disconcerting, the flow is a lot better here. I'm really beginning to like the relationship between Manji and Rin. Except for grabbing her butt one time last volume, there is a lovely big brother/little sister bond forming between them. It feels very genuine. Perhaps that bond will prove more of a redemption for Manji that his task of killing 1000 evil men. That brings me back to an argument I put forth in my podcast for the first volume. Namely, who is truly EVIL in this series? Out of the three Itto-Ryu Manji has faced so far, probably given enough time, 2 of them could have been saved from the murderous lives they led. Most of them have some sort of emotional scar that has led them to their fate. But Manji isn't a psychotherapist. He lets his swords perform the twelve step program of chopping his enemies into pieces.

My Grade: A

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Manga Review: The Prince of Tennis Volume 10

2010-08-11

Manga review of The Prince of Tennis volume 10: "Seize the Moment" by Takeshi Konomi. Translated by Joe Yamazaki. Adapted by Gerard Jones. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated A for All Ages.

Volume 10 opens with Ryoma being conned into taking over his dad's tennis lessons (he's probably too busy looking at porn). Suprisingly, his tutorees end up being Sakuno and her friend. In a strange twist of fate, an errant ball by Sakuno leads to her getting bullied by the Ginka Jr. High tennis team. Ginka happens to be Seishun's next opponent in the upcoming City Tournament Semifinals. And Ryoma decides to take them on by himself. All 30 members! We also meet a new character named Jin, a Yamabuki Junior High tennis player who has a slight psychopathic streak. He starts kicking and punching anybody that tells him what to do. Instead of a chip on his shoulder, he appears to have a mountain! His new target of hostilty seems to be Ryoma Echizen. As the semifinals approach, Captain Tezuka decides to prep everyone by having intrasquad matches. First up is Ryoma vs. Shusuke.

I have to say that even though he's not a common pompadour sporting street thug, Ryoma is quite the badass when he wants to be. He's not afraid to stand up against 30 guys if it means protecting Sakuno. He also doesn't back down from confrontation with Jin, who appears to strike the fear of god into all those that cross him. It's just really cool seeing Ryoma being brave even if he is a little dude.

I also wanted to comment on the genius of Takeshi Konomi's character designs. As you can tell from the cover of this volume, Konomi is not afraid to show off his team in a shojoesque, maybe even faintly yaoish way. It says on the splash page that while the Prince of Tennis was originally intended to be a comic for boys, it attracted legions of female fans. And it's easy to see why. The main cast would not look out of place, with some minor modifications, in the pages of Fruits Basket. And that's what makes Konomi so smart. I think you have all the Shonen Jump action and level progression along with the good looks of the guys and their relationships with each other which leans more towards the shojo side of things.

My Grade: A

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Podcast Episode 223: Blade of the Immortal Volume 1

2010-08-10
Length: 19s

Podcast manga review of Blade of the Immortal Volume 1: Blood of a Thousand by Hiroaki Samura. Translated by Dana Lewis and Toren Smith. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Dark Horse, $14.95.

From the back cover:

"Manji, a ronin warrior of feudal Japan, has been cursed with immortality. To rid himself of this curse, regain his mortality, and end his life of misery, Manji must slay one thousand evil men! His quest begins when a young girl seeks his help in taking revenge on her parent's killers. His quest ends ends only after he has spilled the blood of a thousand!"

My Grade: B

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Manga Review: The Prince of Tennis Volume 9

2010-08-03

Manga review of The Prince of Tennis volume 9: "Take Aim!" by Takeshi Konomi. Translated by Joe Yamazaki. Adapted by Gerard Jones. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated A for All Ages.

The City Tournament is in full swing as Seishun finds itself all tied up 1-1 after its doubles matches with St. Rudolph. Seishun's "Golden Pair" of Eiji and Shuichiro were supposed to have a cakewalk through the tournament but ended up losing. Kaoru and Momo had to take the team's fate on their shoulders and squeak out a win. Now it's on to the singles matches. First up is Ryoma vs. Yuta, who just happens to be gunning for his older brother and Ryoma's teammate, Shusuke. Yuta originally was a student at Seishun but always felt overshadowed by his "genius" older brother. So when Hajime, the scheming and sly captain of St. Rudolph came to recruit him for the tennis team, Yuta was all ears. The unseeded Fudmoine has its hands full as they have to face last years City Tournament defending champs, Hyotei.

Reading a volume of The Prince of Tennis when it gets into tournament mode is like watching a heavyweight boxing title match. In a word, exciting. You have all these disparate characters with their contrasting styles and attitudes and you just wonder how its gonna play out, literally. I guess you could say there are some "kinda" badguys in the series, like Hajime, for instance. He tells Yuta to aim for Ryoma's injured eye. But that's just because, to these characters, winning is everything and losing is nothing. I've yet to see any legitimate player try to cheat, but I'm sure that's in the offing somewhere down the line.

My Grade: A

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Podcast Episode 222: Polyphonica Cardinal Crimson Volume 1

2010-08-03
Length: 12s

Podcast  manga review of Polyphonica: Cardinal Crimson volume 1. Original story by Ichiro Sakaki and ocelot. Illustrated by Tomo Hirokawa. Translated and adapted by Sheldon Drzka. Originally published in Japan by Flex Comix. Published in US by CMX, $9.99, Rated Teen+.

From the back cover:

"There's a magical place known as Polyphonica, where humans and spirits live side by side. In face, spirits are sustained by a very special music known as "Commandia", which humans play. As a young boy, Phoron's singing accidentally summoned a female spirit named Corticarte. She made a pact to always protect him in exchange for the beautiful sounds he created. But Phoron thought her to be a figment of his imagination and forgot about her. Now a bumbling student at Tolubath Commandia Academy, the teenage Phoron accidentally summons Corticarte while practicing his music. Though she's not pleased to have been forgotten, she remembers her oath to Phoron. The struggling musician could use all the help he can get, but this feisty spirit may be more than he can handle. "

My Grade: C

Here is the opening for the original PC visual novel Polyphonica:

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Podcast Episode 221: 11Eyes

2010-07-29
Length: 13s

Podcast anime review of 11Eyes, Episodes 1-12. Directed by Masami Shimoda (Ai Yori Aoshi, Boys Be, Saber Marionette J). Series composition by Kenichi Kanemaki (Hell Girl, El Cazador de la Bruja, Negima). Animation by Dogakobo. Series currently streaming at: http://www.crunchyroll.com/11eyes

Satsuki Kakeru and Minase Yuka have been best friends ever since they were in an orphanage together. They've endured some hard times but nothing can prepare them for the "Red Night". As they are walking home from high school one day, they experience a rending pain, and then find themselves in what looks like their city. But it is overcast with a red sky and a black moon. And there's no living inhabitants except some weird looking monsters. Just when they're surrounded and about to be killed, the Red Night ends and they find themselves back in our world again. But they find themselves getting dragged back to that hell over and over again. But they are not alone. They begin to discover that some other students from their school are also being drawn into the Red Night. The difference is each one of them has a power or skill that allows them to fight against the monsters and their masters, the Black Knights. Do Kakeru and Yuka also have powers they don't know about? They better hope they do because the Black Knights are obsessed with killing them all.

The anime was based on an adult visual novel released in Japan that was subsequently released in a more sanitized form on the Xbox 360 and PSP.

My Grade: C

Here is the opening from the original PC game. Pretty cool song:

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Manga Review: The Prince of Tennis Volume 6

2010-07-28

Manga review of The Prince of Tennis volume 6: Sign of Strength by Takeshi Konomi. Translated by Joe Yamazaki. Adapted by Gerard Jones. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated A for All Ages.

Volume 5 ended with Tezuka asking Coach Ryuzaki to let him play Ryoma. We don't really get to see the match in Volume 6. We just see the end and the effect it has on Ryoma. His match against Tezuka fires his competitive spirit and makes him want to learn how to improve his game. He even asks his dad for help, which would have been out of the question before this volume. In fact, everyone on the Seishun team is doing their best to train for the City Tournament. Of course, Sadaharu, the master trainer and statistican, has a sinister plan to help them reach their true potential, even if they get killed in the process. As the City Tournament gets under way, Seishun is the #2 seed behind Hyotei Academy. Seishun is hoping to get some payback since they lost to Hyotei in the Tournament last year. And of course, the pesky but talented Fudomine is looking for their own payback after losing to Seishun last volume.

I was a bit let down by volume 6 because it only showed the LAST shot of the match between Ryoma and Tezuka. And it was also a bit confusing. It seemed like Tezuka won it, but when another players comments on the match, it made me think that Ryoma had won. I'm still not 100% sure of the outcome. This is due solely to Konomi's failure to easily convey what happened. I feel as though the REAL match between these two players is yet to happen. I'm sure when Tezuka fully recovers from his arm injury, and Ryoma faces some more challenges, we'll arrive at this same spot and a whole volume of this series will be spent on the match. But it just seemed cheap to me. If you're not going to show the match, don't even have them play each other yet. Because Konomi was being too much of a tease, it led to my confusion. Otherwise, as always, this series is a cool read, and I'm getting excited about seeing all the players and schools in the City Tournament.

My Grade: A

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Manga Review: Blame! volume 4

2010-07-28

Manga review of Blame! Volume 4 by Tsutomu Nihei. Translated by Stephen Paul. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated OT, 16+.

The Safeguard, the rogue security system put in place by the Authority to combat unauthorized access to the Netsphere, continues its assault on Toha Heavy Industries.  With Cibo dead, Killy basically has to take on a Safeguard army and a Godzilla size Gigeresque monster that can shoot graviton beams out of its mouth by himself. But even though Cibo's body is dead, her consciousness still lives inside the Netsphere. Within it, she and the Authority hatch a plan to emplant her mind into Sana's body.

I have to say that volume 4 of Blame! was a lot more enjoyable and coherent than the last volume, which lost itself in arcane plot developments and dark indecipherable art. Even though some of the art in volume 4 was just as murky, there seemed to be less of those "what's going on?" moments during the action sequences. What made it even better was the fact that Nihei actually wrote some dialogue that answered some questions, especially about Killy,  that I've had about the series since the first book. Only time will tell if this title is showing a resurgance or this is just a blip of reason in an otherwise messy work.

My Grade: B

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Podcast Episode 220: I'll Give It My All...Tomorrow Volume 1

2010-07-28
Length: 12s

Podcast manga review of I'll Give It My All...Tommorow volume 1 by Shunju Aono. Adapted by Akemi Wegmuller. Originally published by Shogakukan in Japan. Published in US by Viz Signature Ikki Comix, $12.99, Rated T+ for Older Teen.

From the back cover:

"Shizuo Oguro is living his dreams...sort of. A complete waste of a human life until now, 40-year-old Shizuo breaks free from the corporate rat race and charts himself a fairly random and new career course: to become  a published manga artist. Sure he lacks the talent, discipline, or any other skill necessary to become a success in the manga industry, but that's not enough to stop Shizuo!"

My Grade: A

You can read Chapters 1, and the unpublished Chapters 5-9 for free at http://www.sigikki.com/series/illgiveit/index.shtml

 

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Manga Review: The Prince of Tennis Volume 5

2010-07-26

Manga review of The Prince of Tennis volume 5: New Challenge by Takeshi Konomi. Translated by Joe Yamazaki. Adapted by Gerard Jones. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated A for All Ages.

Seishun only has to win one more match against the unseeded but talented Fudomine tennis team to win a berth in the City Tournament. Ryoma faces off against a Fudomine player named Shinji in a singles match. Shinji isn't going to be a pushover and he's not one to be awed into submission by Ryoma's talent. One of his weapons is to alternate topspin and backspin returns which causes something called "spot paralysis" which makes an opposing player's arm freeze up. Will Ryoma be able to figure out a counterattack against this strategy? Meanwhile, Inoue and Shiba, editors of the magazine Pro Tennis Monthly try to get an interview with Ryoma's dad, the legendary Nanjiro Echizen. It seems Inoue was one of his biggest fans before Nanjiro retired due to injury. Nanjiro agrees to answer any questions the two might have....IF Inoue can hit a ball past him on the tennis court!

I wish I had known some of these moves that Ryoma and the others use during my time on my own high school tennis team. I would have been paralyzing everyone, snake serving, and twist popping the whole time. Of course 99% of these "shots" are a bunch of hokey. But it's fun hokey. I enjoy every page of The Prince of Tennis simply because it takes itself way too seriously, detailing each shot with the preciseness of a giant robot attack. Nanjiro, Ryoma's dad, seems to be a real piece of work. He's a porn mag monk? Why is it that most monks in manga and anime are the biggest perverts? Something to do with irony, I suppose? The setup for the next volume is a match between Ryoma and Tezuka. No, not Osamu, but the captain of the Seishun team.

My Grade: A

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Manga Review: Blame! Volume 3

2010-07-21

Manga review of Blame! volume 3 by Tsutomu Nihei. Translated by Stephen Paul. Adapted by Brandon Montclare. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated OT 16+.

Killy and Cibo have finally come upon a structure left over from a time when humans could still communicate with the Netsphere. It is not part of the city so the Authority holds no sway there, which means their runaway Safeguard mechanisms don't either. Surprisingly, the name of the structure is Toha Heavy Industries. Hmmm...any connection to the Toa Heavy Industries in Biomega? Is this book taking place in the same world as that series, but in the future? It's unknown at this point. Maybe it will become clearer as I continue reading Blame. The humans that live outside of it say they are descended from "The Planters", the people that used to work inside of Toha, but none of them know how to read and they have no idea how to get inside it. Of course there's lot of battles with the Safeguard in this volume as well.

My patience is starting to wear a little thin with this series. After 3 volumes, Nihei's messy artwork hasn't gotten any better. With so much emphasis on action, the artist finds himself woefully lacking in being able to illustrate it. Over and over again, I have to reexamine panels to figure out what is going on. Sometimes I am successful. Sometimes I just give up and move on. It doesn't help that during the fights, so much of the art is very black and dark which just adds to the visual confusion of already poorly constructed panels. And then there's the "gun thing". Killy's graviton emitter pistol is so powerful that it sends him sprawling through the air every time he fires. Nihei always draws him in the same nondescript poorly posed manner every time it happens, so much so that the whole firing of the weapon has become a unintentional example of comic relief. While there is a bit more scattered peices of plot in this volume, on the whole it's a bit scatter shot, just like the art. The worst thing about this book is that there is a giant monster fight straight out of a Godzilla movie. At that point, my eyes began to roll back into my head, especially since one of the monsters is a straight up rip-off of H.R. Giger's Alien designs. In fact, a lot of the designs seem ripped off from Giger and Akira. I am losing faith in this book. We'll see if find it in volume 4 or the series continues it's slow crawl to complete dumbness. I like the "vibe" of the book but it just seems so derivative and lamebrained at certain points.

My Grade: C-

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Manga Review: Blame! Volume 2

2010-07-20

Manga review of Blame! volume 2 by Tsutomu Nihei. Translated by Stephen Paul. Adapted by Brandon Montclare. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated OT 16+. (This book should definitely be rated Mature for its ultra-violence and gore).

We do get some answers as to what is going on in this series at the beginning of volume 2 of Blame! Apparently, people with "Net Terminal Genes" are able to access the "Netsphere", which seems to be the computer program running the megastructure that all the humans and non-humans of the setting are entrapped within. Net genes allow their hosts to communicate with the Authority, kinda like a middleman between the humans and the machines. Somewhere along the line the ties seem to have been severed, leading to the chaos and nightmarish world of Blame. Killy continues his lonely quest in search of the genes. He gets a lead at a human colony when he hears about genetic engineers living in Cluster Town and hitches a ride on a transport heading that way. A transport that just happens to get attacked by hostile humanoids. Even when he makes it to Cluster Town, he discovers he's jumped from the frying pan into the mutated tyrannical police state fire.

Early on in Blame volume 2 I came to a stark realization about the utter isolation and loneliness of the setting and its characters. I hadn't really thought about it until I looked at one panel where Killy is sleeping cowered against some pipes trying to keep warm. Killy is surrounded by things and people that want to kill him. His only comfort is miles and miles of dark, cold corridors and metal. Nobody in the world of Blame seems to have established any ties between different levels or cultures. Every group looks upon each other with suspicion and thoughts of murder. It's a mutant eat human world. Killy does gain a companion towards the end of this book, but in Blame, you're never really sure how long any character is going to survive. There's always danger lurking. I did appreciate getting some answers to the questions raised by the first volume. Nihei's writing is a lot better in this second volume, while his character designs still smack of the generic, so much so that I mistook a woman character for Killy in one part of the book. Blame so far is a work of flawed beauty, messy but imaginative.

My Grade: B+

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Manga Review: The Prince of Tennis Volume 3

2010-07-20

Manga review of The Prince of Tennis Volume 3: Street Tennis by Takeshi Konomi. Translated by Joe Yamazaki. Adapted by Gerard Jones. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated A for All Ages.

After putting some bullies in their place on the tennis court, Ryoma prepares for the District Prelims, from which the top two schools will advance to the city tournament, and then to the Nationals. Problem is that not everyone from Seishun can play singles. Some of them will have to play doubles. The prideful and independent Ryoma wants no part of working with a partner, and Tomo doesn't either. So they decide to have a match, with the winner getting to play singles in the tournament. They find a public tennis court but in order to use it for the duel, they have to challenge the doubles team that is already on it. Ryoma and Tomo play together but are unable to mesh their styles or egos and are promptly schooled and beaten. You would think they would swear off playing together after that, but both Ryoma and Tomo are sufficiently intrigued with the challenge of playing doubles. So much so that they volunteer to be partners in the District Prelims!

What I liked about volume 3 of The Prince of Tennis was finding out that Ryoma doesn't know EVERYTHING about tennis...yet. He was getting a little too high on his little hobby horse for me, and he needed to get knocked down a notch in the doubles match.  Ryoma is a bit too rude so maybe this is the beginning of him becoming a bit more social, but I doubt it. He does stand up for the downtrodden in his own way, such as beating the crap out of some dudes that were bullying his friend's dad. And remember how he stuck up for Sakuno in the opening panels of this series. Ryoma can't stand the strong picking on the weak, but he sticks up for them in such a nonchalant way that he comes off as supercool. There's also an underlying tension in that there is already an anticipation that Ryoma is going to have to beat his teammates to rise to the top.

My Grade: A

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Manga Review: The Prince of Tennis Volume 4

2010-07-20

Manga review of The Prince of Tennis volume 4: The Black Unit by Takeshi Konomi. Translated by Joe Yamazaki. Adapted by Gerard Jones. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated A for All Ages.

If seeds in a tournament were guaranteed wins everybody would win the NCAA basketball March Madness brackets every year. There's always a team that comes out of nowhere to shake up the brackets. The District Prelims in Prince of Tennis are no different. It was supposed to be a sure thing that Seishun would be facing Kakinoki Jr. High next. One of its players had even gotten in the face of Seishun's captain, Tezuka, last volume. But Kakinoki is eliminated by the unseeded team from Fudomine Junior High. Fudomine has a bit of a bad reputation because they had to forfeit the city tournament the year before because their captain, named Kippei, had assaulted his own coach! We find out he did it for a good reason. This year they're back with all-new starters and Kippei serving as their defacto coach. Volume 4 mainly covers the first two matches between Seishun and Fudomine. Shusuke and Takashi team up for doubles, while Kaido and his "Snake Shot" is entered in singles.

As with a lot of sports manga that I read, or even a title like Hikaru No Go, I get excited about each match like it's really going to happen. That's the magic of manga that American comic books will never be able to capture. The excitement and thrill of a sport, a game, or just an ordinary event in an ordinary life, is something only manga seems capable of doing. Of course, there is always an element of hyper reality to a Shonen Jump title. I played tennis on my high school team, and let me tell you, I've never heard of any of these giant robot-like shots that I see in The Prince of Tennis. But it's there to make it fun. The thrill to me comes in seeing the characters face off against each other. I'm always in suspense wondering what secret shot each player is going to have and how Ryoma or the other Seishun team members will counterattack. It's not for everybody, but I love that kind of thing. The other thing I like about the series is watching Ryoma kick ass against other players that THINK they are kick ass. There's nothing better than seeing an megalomaniac egotist or bully be knocked down. If anything, Ryoma reminds me very much of Michael Jordan, who knew he was good and didn't hide it but let his game do most of the talking.

My grade: A

You can listen to my podcast review of Volume 1 of The Prince of Tennis here:

http://sesho.libsyn.com/podcast_episode_176_the_prince_of_tennis_volume_1

You can also read the first chapter of volume 1 for free at Viz:

http://shonenjump.viz.com/onlinemanga/sjom.php?chap=pot-hi-preview

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Podcast Episode 219: Usurper of the Sun

2010-07-19
Length: 18s

Podcast novel review of Usurper of the Sun by Housuke Nojiri. Translated by John Wunderley. Originally published in Japan by Hayakawa. Published in US by Viz Haikasoru, $15.99.

From the back cover:

"Aki Shiraishi is a high school student working in the astronomy club and one of the few witnesses to an amazing event-- someone is building a tower on the planet Mercury. Soon, the enigmatic Builders have constructed a ring around the sun, and the ecology of Earth is threatened by its immense shadow. Aki is inspired to pursue a career in science, and the truth. She must determine the purpose of the ring and the plans of its creators, as the survival of both species--humanity and the alien Builders---hangs in the balance."

My Grade: B+

You can read an excerpt of the book at www.haikasoru.com 

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Podcast Episode 218: Afro Samurai Season 1 Director's Cut Blu-ray

2010-07-18
Length: 11s

Podcast anime blu-ray review of Afro Samurai Season 1 Director's Cut. Directed by Fuminori Kizaki. Written by Derek Draper and Chris Yoo. Published by Funimation, Rated Mature, 5 episodes, 125 minutes.

From the back cover:

"Afro Samurai (voiced by Academy Award nominated Samuel L. Jackson) is a epic tale of a black samurai's hunt for Justice (voiced by Ron Perlman: Hellboy) who murdered his father. With music score by The RZA (Kill Bill, Wu Tang Clan) Afro Samurai blends traditional Japanese culture, funky technology and hip hop to create a brutally fresh entertainment experience."

My Grade: A-

Just hit the > on the player below to hear the podcast:

You can watch all 5 episodes of the series for free via Funimation:

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Podcast Episode 217: Blame! Volume 1

2010-07-16
Length: 11s

Podcast manga review of Blame! volume 1 by Tsutomu Nihei (Biomega). Translated by Stephen Paul. Adapted by Brandon Montclare. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated OT 16+.

From the back cover:

"In a future world rife with decay and destruction, Killy is a man of few words who packs one very powerful gun. He wanders an endless labyrinth of cyberdungeons filled with concrete and steel, fighting off cyborgs and other bizarre silicate creatures. Everyone is searching for the Net Terminal Genes, but no one is quite certain what kind of power they contain. The answer may lie hidden among the scattered human settlements of this vast and desolate future world."

My Grade: B-

And here's the first episode of the anime version of Blame, which was a series of 5 minute vignettes based on the manga. No talking here, but it gives you the feel and look of the manga:

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Podcast Episode 216: Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 9

2010-07-15
Length: 11s

Podcast manga review of Fullmetal Alchemist volume 9 by Hiromu Arakawa. Translated by Akira Watanabe. Adapted by Jake Forbes. Originally published in Japan by Square Enix. Published in US by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen.

From the back cover:

"Ed, Al and Winry return to Central Command, but only bad news greets the Fullmetal Alchemist and his friends. Lieutenant Colonel Maes Hughes has been murdered - and Second Lieutenant Maria Ross is the prime suspect! While Maria awaits an uncertain fate in jail, the living suit of armor bearing the soul of serial killer "Barry the Chopper" breaks free of the military and goes on a rampage. Now, the mysterious Homunculi must come out of the shadows to deal with the mess before their monstrous conspiracy is exposed. But for Colonel Mustang, Maes Hughes's former best friend, it's not about the truth - it's about revenge..."

My Grade: A+

 

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Manga Review: Culdcept Volume 2

2010-07-12

Manga review of Culdcept Volume 2 by Shinya Kaneko. Editorial supervision by Omiya Soft. Translated by Takae Brewer. Adapted by Jay Antani. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in the US by Tokypop, $9.99, Rated 13+.

We heard a few enigmatic phrases about "The War of the Gods" which caused the Culdcept to be scattered and lost across the world but in volume 2 we actually get to see it. This is thanks to a Dragon Eye that belongs to Master Horowitz. If you look into it you can see the past through the memories of a fire dragon that fought in the War of the Gods. It seems that Culdra had to fight against a rebel god, Baltheus, much like God had to face off against Lucifer in the Christian religion. Baltheus was not alone in his rebellion. His allies were fearsome monsters, one among them being Beelzebub, Lord of Flies, that Najaran encountered in the first volume. To gain more information on the whereabouts of the Black Cepters, Horowitz sends Najaran to the dark and mysterious Bisteam Forest to consult with an oracle named Grubel. She's not the only one headed there. Zeneth the Dragon Eyed is also making his way to Bisteam, lured by tales of treasure and Culdcept cards.

As in volume 1, the art by Shinya Kaneko is gorgeous. Seeing as how a lot of the work on Culdcept creature designs were already done, Kaneko could spend his time mostly on the world and his main characters, which really pays off. The introduction of two new party members, Alta, a searcher, and Joaquin, an alchemist, are also welcome additions to the story. I'm a little bit worried about the direction of the series because of what happens towards the end of this volume. Najaran and company are forced by Kigi, a nymph guardian of Bisteam, to face 4 challenges. They must pass through 4 gates to get to Bisteam City, each one with a challenge. So all of the sudden, is Culdcept going to become an RPG/ tournament/battle manga? Are these challenges going to take up all of volume 3, with our heroes facing stronger and stronger opponents? Hopefully not, but we'll have to see.

My Grade: B+

 

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Podcast Episode 215: Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 8

2010-07-11
Length: 14s

Podcast manga review of Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 8 by Hiromu Arakawa. Translated by Akira Watanabe. Adapted by Jake Forbes. Published by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen.

From the back cover:

"The raid on the Devil's Nest becomes a slaughter, as government troops - led by the Fuhrer President himself, King Bradley - exterminate the half-human forces of the Homunculus Greed. But will Ed and Al survive the battle unchanged?

As Greed is sent to meet his maker, foreign alchemists arrive in Amestris, having crossed the great desert from the eastern country of Xing. They are Mei and Ling, and they've come for the Philosopher's Stone... and a secret even the Elric brothers never imagined..."

My Grade: A+

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Manga Review: Sorcerer Hunters Volume 10

2010-06-28

​Manga review of Sorcerer Hunters Volume 10. Story by Satoru Akahori. Art by Ray Omishi. Translated by Anita Sengupta. Adapted by Mike Wellman. Orignal Publisher: Media Works. US Publisher: Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated OT 16+.

The opening of Volume 10 is an exercise in meta-fiction as the cast of the series tries to decide what genre of manga fans this installment will cater to. Will it be shojo, shonen, magical girl, etc? After these few brief arguments the rest of the book tells a story about Carrot and Marron's parents, Onion and Apricot. From what I can tell, its set about 20 years before the current storyline. In fact, Onion and Apricot aren't even married. They're just fellow Sorcerer Hunters. Even Lord Sacher, the Hunter's main nemesis for much of this series, is still a good guy, though he's already showing some Anakin-like moments.
Apricot is having second thoughts about being a Hunter, even if the sorcerers she's hunting deserve to die. For instance, the one she kills at the beginning of this tale was hunting parsoners for sport and murdering them in cold blood. Apricot feels there has to a better way to handle the problem and voices her concerns to Mother. In response, Onion and Apricot, along with Haz Knight Mille Feuille are sent to the valley of Galna-Galm, with no idea of what their mission is, but it might have to do with the mysterious origin of the Sorcerer Hunters.

The best description of Ray Omishi's art is economical. He doesn't waste a lot of time drawing things that are unneccesary to the story he's illustrating. Don't get me wrong, Omishi is a good artist, but for instance, while his characters have a lot of detail, his mostly absent backgrounds seem to fit more in the shojo style. He can flip from chibi-style comedy to drama to action at the drop of a hat. This makes him well suited to illustrate Akahori's manic and sometimes bi-polar writing. Again, don't get me wrong. Akahori has no problem transtitioning among all the different moods of the work. When the characters interact in a comedic way you laugh, but your heart also goes out to Apricot as she struggles to reconcile killing sorcerers with her notions of what is right and wrong.

Tokyopop orignally published this series in those old huge $17 manga editions flipped. It wasn't until later that they started re-releasing Hunters in the smaller unflipped editions. Unfortunately, out of 13 volumes, they stopped printing the new editions with this volume, which was printed 2 years ago. So I doubt Tokyopop will ever finish putting the other 4 books out. So you're left to your own devices finding the original versions.

My Grade: A…

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Pocast Episode 214: Biomega Volume 2

2010-06-26
Length: 11s

Podcast manga review of Biomega Volume 2 by Tsutomu Nihei. Translated by John Werry. Adapted by Stan! Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in the US by Viz Signature, $12.99, Rated M for Mature.

From the back cover:

"In Tsutomu Nihei's nightmare vision of the future, the N5S virus has swept across the Earth, turning most of the population into zombie-like drones. Zoichi Kanoe, an agent of Toa Heavy Industry, is humanity's last hope, and he's not even human! With the help of Fuyu, a digitized intelligence built into the computer system of his heavy dual coil motorcycle, Zoichi's search for the key to salvation will take him on a journey across surreal landscapes and hurl him into battle against mind-bending evil. Prepare yourself for the ultimate trip-- Prepare yourself for the world of Biomega.

After capturing Eon Green, DRF forces are amassing around Toa Heavy Industry headquarters and have taken Dr. Kurokawa and his daughter into custody. Zoichi must attempt a rescue--Dr. Kurokawa's laboratory may yield critical information on Eon Green. Elsewhere, Toa Heavy Industry agent Nishu Mizunoe searches for Kozlov Grebnev and the secrets he knows about  the DRF's research, origins and their apocalyptic plan for the entire human race!"


My Grade: A


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Podcast Episode 213: Zoo

2010-06-24
Length: 12s

Podcast review of Zoo by Otsuichi. Translated by Otsuichi. Translated by Terry Gallagher. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Haikasoru, $13.99.

From the back cover:

"A man receives a photo of his girlfriend every day in the mail...so that he can keep track of her body's decomposition. A deathtrap that takes a week to kill its victims. Haunted parks and airplanes held in the sky by the power of belief. These are just a few of the stories  by Otsuichi, Japan's master of dark fantasy."

My Grade: B+

If you look below you can see that I have added a new audio player where you can listen to the episode automatically. Just hit that > button and it will start playing. In addition you can make it full screen. If you look over to the left on the player where it says "menu", you can click on that and you can share the episode with other people via email, embedding, or twitter. Through the subscribe option you can get the RSS or subscribe via Itunes. The really cool thing is if you click on "Episodes", you can scroll up and down by dragging on the gray bar on the right edge of the player. This will allow you to see all my reviews. Just click on one and it will start playing. The player is a bit of a work in progress. I'm still trying to get it exactly how I want it. But try it out. My episodes will also post to Itunes as usual.


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Manga Review: Happy Mania Volume 4

2010-06-19

​Manga review of  Happy Mania Volume 4 by Moyoco Anno. Translated by Shirley Kubo. Adapted by Leah Ginsberg. Originally published in Japan by Shodensha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Mature 18+.

Kayoko Shigeta has been dumped by her latest screw buddy, but is anybody really surprised? Goro, the ceramic artist she liked, has taken off for China, leaving Shigeta in a depression. Well, she always has Takahashi to fall back on...but wait, she catches him in her apartment about to have sex with a former university classmate. And then he has the nerve to ask Shigeta to marry him? It's a pretty crazy situation, but that's usually how it is around this girl. Adding to the chaos is the fact that Kayoko is 4 months behind on her rent, her phone and electricity has been cut off, and she's also lost her job! There's only one thing that can solve all of these problems. That's right, it's time for her to fall in love again. Or at least find a hot-looking guy to have sex with!

I would call Happy Mania a tragic-comedy on the level of a Shakespearean play. In order for a hero to truly have a tragic flaw, that hero/heroine must NOT be aware of their flaw. Because if they were, they could change, they could evolve. It seemed for a time that Kayoko was going to have some sort of epiphany and figure out what she's doing wrong. And I think given time in a nunnery, she probably could come to terms with herself. But as long as she is anywhere in the vicinity of handsome unattainable men, she is doomed to repeat herself over and over. She still thinks that having sex is a method of making a guy fall in love with her, instead of seeing that a truly decent dude would like and love her before she pulled out that card. And poor Takahashi, he is probably a good match for her. He's a nice guy. Too bad, subliminally, Shigeta believes that happiness and marriage are not meant to coexist. Is this girl ever gonna straighten up?

My Grade: B+…

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Podcast Episode 212: Biomega Volume 1

2010-06-16
Length: 12s

Podcast manga review of Biomega Volume 1 by Tsutomu Nihei. Translated by John Werry. Adapted by Stan! Originally published by Shueisha in Japan. Published in US by Viz Signature, $12.99, Rated Mature.

From the back cover:

The N5S virus has swept across the earth, turning most of the population into zombie-like drones. Zoichi Kanoe, an agent of Toa Heavy Industry, is humanity's last hope, and he's not even human! With the help of Fuyu, an artificial intelligence built into the computer system of his Heavy Duty Coil motorcycle, Zoichi's search for the key to salvation will take him on a journey across surreal landscapes and hurl him into battle against mind-bending evil.

Zoichi Kanoe plunges into the depths of 9JO - an island city in the middle of the Pacific Ocean - in search of Eon Green, a girl with the power to transmute the N5S virus. He's not the only one looking for her, though... Agents of the Public Health Service's Compulsory Execution Unit are also in hot pursuit. Zoichi and his transhuman allies have no time to waste; the countdown to the zombie apocalypse has begun!

My Grade: A

Check out www.Vampybit.me 

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Goodbye Rentanime

2010-06-16

About 3 years ago, I got a membership with Rentanime.com because my local anime/manga store, Anime Avalon, closed its doors. It's weird to think at that time there was hardly any anime online (ok, legal anime). If you were lucky, you might get to watch the first one or two episodes of a series. IF you were lucky. So I had no other way to watch anime besides buying or renting. I'm sure I wasted hundreds, if not thousands of dollars because you had to buy anime dvds without ever seeing the show. How the times have changed, huh? Was Crunchyroll around then? If it was, it was a bootleg site, and now its one of the major players.

I still get sad when I think about Anime Avalon. But you know, even if somehow it had survived, it would surely have closed by now. Just because it could never compete with the big stores like Best Buy. It could only sell anime at list price. They did have a vast rental collection, but even mainstream rental places like Hollywood Video and Blockbuster are closing more and more stores. I think all the Hollywoods in my city are now closed. And there's ONE Blockbuster left.

I wonder if a store specializing just in manga could make a profit?

I still have quite a few dvds I bought at Anime Avalon during its last few weeks of being open. They were selling all their dvds for $5 apiece. I probably spent around $500 that last month it was open. So I always think about it when I play or see those dvds, almost like remembering a dead relative.

But let's say it had stayed open somehow. It would have closed for the same reason I'm cancelling my Rentanime membership. Why are you going to rent when you can watch everything and MORE online for free. The only reason I've hesitated is because Rentanime has older dvds but now even those are looking less and less tempting. Especially due to the fact that they have a lot of holes in their inventory because a lot of people buy those out of print titles instead of returning them.

Another positive outcome of cancelling is the fact that with that $20 I save each month I can BUY some anime dvds.

So anyways, it's goodbye to you Rentanime.

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Podcast Episode 211: Culdcept Volume 1

2010-06-14
Length: 12s

Podcast manga review of Culdcept Volume 1 by Shinya Kaneko. Editorial Supervision by Omiya Soft. Translated by Takae Brewer. Adapted by Jay Antani. Originally published by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Teen 13+.

From the back cover:

In the magical land of Bablashca, card-shaped relics have been scattered far and wide. They are part of the ancient Culdcept, a book that created the universe. Whoever collects all the cards will have the power of gods, but only special people, called Cepters, can control the cards, and thus, control the universe....

The mysterious Black Cepters begin destroying city after city in search of the precious cards. The fate of Bablashca rests in Najaran, an apprentice Cepter who sets out on an improbable journey to conquer the Black Cepters before they discover the hidden relics!

My Grade: A-

This manga is based on a videogame series from Japan. Two games have been released in the US to date: Culdcept for PS2 and Culdcept Saga for Xbox 360. The best site for info about the games is www.culdceptcentral.com Here's the trailer for Culdcept Saga:

 

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Manga Review: Negima! Volume 6

2010-06-13

Manga review of Negima! volume 6 by Ken Akamatsu. Translated by Toshifumi Yoshida. Adapted by Trish Ledoux. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated OT Ages 16+.

Volume 6 of Negima is full of surprises as Negi, accompanied by Setsuna, Asuna, and Konoka, finally gets to deliver the letter from the headmaster of Mahora Academy. His mission was to hand deliver it to the leader of the Kansai Magic Association, called "The Elder of the East". The Elder also happens to be the son-in-law of the headmaster, which in turn makes him Konoka's dad. Of course, Negi had an ulterior motive in coming to Kyoto, which was to see if he could find any info about his missing father. But there are some that do not want to see the Kanto and Kansai Magic Associations getting along. Just when Negi thinks he's reached a safe haven Chigusa Amagasaki and her minions attack the Kansai temple and kidnap Konoka.

Well, somehow, Akamatsu found a way for Negi's students to fight on equal footing with Negi against high-level magicians and even brutish demons. In the context of Negima, this actually doesn't strain the limits of believability. I didn't even blink when some of his students started breaking out sniper rifles or using Naruto-like martial arts attacks. It just made sense in this world Akamatsu has created. The art is great as usual and the fan service is plentiful. Some might say TOO plentiful. For instance, in battle, Asuna blocks a petrification spell that does not harm her but turns her clothes to stone and then they shatter, leaving her naked. She is then tickled by multiple tentacled arms made of water which seem to be groping in all the wrong places. Later, when she gets another set of clothes, she forgets to put on her panties, and so every battle she fights her butt is blowing in the wind. Literally. And what would a volume of Negima be without some sort of bath scene? Still, I find the characters interesting and the humor works most of the time, even though the series tries to be an softcore ero-manga at times.

My Grade: B+

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Podcast Episode 210: All You Need Is Kill

2010-06-07
Length: 13s

Podcast novel review of All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. Translated by Alexander O. Smith. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Haikasoru, $13.99.

From the back cover:

When the alien mimics invade, Keiji Kiriya is just one of many recruits shoved into a suit of battle armor called a Jacket and sent out to kill. Keiji dies on the battlefield, only to be reborn each morning to fight and die again and again. On his 158th iteration, he gets a message from a mysterious ally-- the female soldier known as the Full Metal Bitch. Is she the key to Keiji's escape or his final death?

 

My Grade: B

 

Read an excerpt from the book and get more info at:

http://www.haikasoru.com/all-you-need-is-kill/

 

 

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Podcast Episode 209: Scans of the Devil

2010-06-06
Length: 9s

In this episode I talk about the news that OneManga is one of the top 1000 sites being visited on the internet and what this means to the manga publishing world. Also, comments about manga bloggers that blame scan sites for everything and see them as evil minions of Satan. Ok, I don't quite go that far.

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Living In Neverland

2010-05-24

Goodbye CMX. It was nice knowing you. But I come here not to mourn the passing of this slightly oddball shojo publisher. I come here to honor it. Yeah, just when I was getting into their Flex titles (which i vastly preferred to their shojo), the company ups and croaks. But we all know that CMX should and would have survived had it not been for the devilish plots of their parent company, DC.

Oh, DC, I spit at thee from the mouth of Hell! So what if the CMX imprint wasn't making any money and losing your company hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars a year. It was your god-given duty to crank out volumes of manga, whether they were any good or not! I don't want to hear the lame excuse that nobody was buying them! The fans that wanted them printed that didn't buy them are your customers, and its a well-known and truthful cliche that the customer is NEVER right.

In my often ignored except when people bitch at me twitter account I stated that I didn't know if I really felt sorry for the CMX employees that lost or are losing their jobs. I stand by the statement. I was raised in a blue collar family and when people lost their jobs they didn't want family and friends, much less complete strangers, to pity them. They just looked for another job. Who wants to be PITIED?

What I really meant was that anyone working at a manga publisher in this day and age should NEVER feel that their job is safe. They and their employers have been riding on the crest of a fad that has slowly, in some cases, quickly, evolved into a job threatening blood-letting. Who in their right mind would think they could be a manga translator for the rest of their life? Or work in the manga business as a career? I doubt if Viz or Tokyopop or Yen or Del Rey's manga imprint will be around 10 years from now. Or if they are,  it will be more like Viz was in the 90s with very few and more expensive titles and not many positions.

Why are so many of the "manga media" and fans so SURPRISED by the death of CMX? That's what really ticked and continues to tick me off. Where are these manga bloggers, "critics", "experts" and "fans" living? Neverland? Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory? I just cannot explain why they didn't see this coming. I've seen it for some time.

I don't mean CMX in particular but more the End of Days for manga publishers. Manga space getting smaller in the bookstores like Borders and Barnes and Noble was one sign. (oh, can I insert here that Borders sucks?). The big sign of things to come for me was seeing all the local comicbook stores getting rid of their manga in the past year. (oh yeah, when they ripped the covers off their returns, where did all the unsaleable manga go? Into the garbage most likely)They only carry the most popular titles like Shonen Jump titles and some Dark Horse. Manga in comic stores is relegated to the pariah space of just maybe two shelves with Archie and kid titles now. Not to mention the closing of my ONLY local anime/manga store back in 2007.

Was the fading into oblivion of multiple manga publishers in the past 2 years not a sign? Wasn't the number of discontinued titles by companies like Dark Horse a sign (Dark Horse, where is Reiko, Octopus Girl, Eden? Get off your asses please. Reiko, don't go into the light! I have rightly surmised that I will be in a senior citizen home, or dead, by the time Eden is completed).

When Viz slashed 40% of its staff, I knew it was pretty much over. They have the strongest selling titles of any publisher with their Oprah Book Club-like Shonen Jump imprint (stick that label on anything and its gonna do ok for a time). When they cut back, you knew the industry was in deep doo-doo. And by the way, where the hell is Kodansha? What the F was with their cheap-ass parlor tricking reprints of Ghost in the Shell and Akira? Get out of the market. Stay out of the way. You're just making things worse. I am the Amityville Horror House---GET OUT!

What is the cause of all this calamity, all these people losing their jobs, of fans bitching, of bloggers running from a falling sky?

PEOPLE ARE NOT BUYING MANGA. ACCEPT IT. ITS NOT POPULAR. IT NEVER WILL BE EXCEPT IN A FAKE FAD KIND OF WAY. ACCEPT IT.

The true fans buy it and love it. But there's not enough of us. It doesn't make me angry. It's just a fact. Do I wish everybody could get into it like I do? Yeah. Is that going to happen? No. I don't understand why some "fans" almost wet themselves when a volume of manga gets into the USA Today top 200 books. They seem to think that "This is just the beginning. Manga is popular now. We will take over the world. We're making progress. Next time, we'll make it to #198 for a week! Viva Le Manga Revolucion!" Get real. We're not making progress. We're in decline. No, we're not gonna die, but we have to live in reality.

Is the decline due to fans or publishers? Or the booksellers even? On the publishing side, I think all of them are complete failures. Have I ever opened a mainstream magazine and saw a manga ad. Never. The marketing strategies of these companies suck. There is so much potential for manga to become popular, but I think the problem is that publishers are run by nitwits or controlled by the Japanese who don't know how to appeal to American markets. There are manga franchises that could make just as much money in movie form as Iron Man, Spider-Man, or Batman, if handled right. But instead we get 60 year old Keanu Reeves in Cowboy Bebop. Come on, Cameron and Speilberg, please succeed with Battle Angel Alita and Ghost in the Shell. DiCaprio, make Akira.

Can you imagine the change in the manga market if Battle Angel Alita made as much money and got as much press as Avatar? A sea change.

And what is up with the publisher's slow on the take reaction to the potential of online manga?Ok, Viz is in the forefront of it right now, and Tokyopop is doing it in their typically mediocre manner, but where were they when manga was at its highest popularity? They should have struck while the manga was hot. Netcomics had the right idea but had no hit titles. It took the majors almost a decade before they started getting serious about putting books online. Didn't they see what happened when the record industry failed to capitalize on the download debacle earlier in the decade. It's being repeated all over again.

Are the publishers picking the right titles to print? No. Or they would be making more money and they wouldn't be in the state they are in.

I have to love Viz though. I just do. They are putting out not just popular titles but more mature and experimental ones that don't always fit into what Americans consider "manga". I also love the balls they have to publish Japanese sci-fi. I've bought every Haika Soru title that has come out. I see the way they are handling their brand and titles as the key to the future. They seem to be merging the facets of their anime/manga/novel business pretty well, and with some forward looking vision.

I think Tokyopop will be the next to fall if their Priest film is as crappy as I imagine its going to be. Im thinking B-movie all the way.

Yen seems to be pretty healthy as long as it can suck on the neck of Twilight and somehow make money off lame series like Maximum Ride and Night School, which are pretty horrible. And just when OEL had finally been flushed down Tokyopop's toilet.

Another one of the many causes of the manga decline? Generation Cake. A generation that wants its cake, wants to eat it too, and then regurgitate it for their friends to eat for free. Manga companies target most of their titles at kids. And guess what? They're not buying.  They're spending their money on other things. Phones. Videogames. Ipods. Music. Clothes. Girls. Guys. Movies. A lot of kids hate to read now. They think its boring. Or maybe their families don't have enough money to buy them manga. Again, this doesn't anger me or anything. They just don't like manga. They'd rather spend their money on things they get more enjoyment out of.

I think the problem that manga faces is the opposite of the US comic market. American comic readers skew older, but they fail to bring in new readers because of so much backstory. They also fail most horribly with girls and women. Manga has no problem getting new readers, including of the female variety, but fails to keep them. If you start reading Marvel and DC when you're a kid, you keep reading them even when you get older. Manga readers tend to start young but the majority cast the hobby off as they age as more of a fad than a lifelong love.

Another problem is that booksellers now encourage you NOT to buy books. You can go into Borders or Barnes and Noble and just read every book for free if you want. You can't go five feet without stubbing your toe on a couch or comfy chair and table. Bookstores have become so faux European. Like throwbacks to bookstores back in the 18th and 19th centuries where the intelligentsia met to discuss philosophy, literary works etc. Now, you just get lonely bums that don't want to buy anything. It's pretty disgusting. Throw all the furniture out of the bookstores!

In the end I think the decline of the manga industry is from a combination of factors, but I think the economy is the most insignificant. It was in its death throes (or at least death wiggles) before any of this mortgage crisis was even a blip on the radar. In the end, it's simply supply and demand.

The market for CMX titles was too small. There is no way DC would have shut them down if they were profitable. They were obviously losing money. The market for manga is too small. Not enough people like it. Face it. Me and you, we are the chosen few. Yeah, it could get better, but it will be a sham better. The core remains. Me and you.

PS. And were people really CRYING over CMX closing up shop? Actually PHYSICALLY CRYING? Man up! Or in some cases, Woman up!

PSS. If you notice I never brought up scanlations as a problem. I believe that people that read scans would never buy a volume of manga anyway, so they are a non-factor. But it DOES bring up another point. I hear all the time about hype and buzz for scan titles. "Hotly anticipated" is a cliche I see the most often. But who is doing the hype? Who is getting hyped? Manga media types who get their manga for free? Who cares. Scan readers who don't buy manga? Who cares. You need to get people that actually spend money on manga to get excited to buy a title or see it printed.  I remember seeing on a manga blogger's site that they were upset that a "hotly anticipated" CMX title, well at least hot on the scan sites, wouldn't be published. I was thinking, yeah, you wanted them to print another title that nobody would buy.

PSSS. Whoa, CMX doesn't even have a website anymore? All that comes up is DC Comics. No mention of CMX. At least let them have a send-off DC! You know there were about 5 (or was it 5000?) people that wanted to post "You suck DC!".  You killed my Misery!

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Podcast Episode 208: The Lords of the Sands of Time

2010-04-25
Length: 15s

Podcast Novel review of The Lord of the Sands of Time by Issui Ogawa. Translated by Jim Hubbert. Originally published in Japan by Hayakawa. Published in US by Viz Haika Soru, $13.99.

From the back cover:

Sixty-two years after human life on Earth was annihilated by rampaging alien invaders, the enigmatic Messenger O is sent back in time with a mission to unite humanity of past eras--during the Second World War, in ancient Japan, and at the dawn of humanity--to defeat the invasion before it begins. However, in a future shredded by love and genocide, love waits for O. Will O save humanity only to doom himself?

My Grade: B-

You can read an excerpt from the novel at: www.haikasoru.com

 

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Podcast Episode 207: One Piece Volume 1

2010-04-18
Length: 16s

Podcast manga review of One Piece Volume 1: Romance Dawn by Eiichiro Oda. Translated by Andy Nakatani. Adapted by Lance Caselman. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in the US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated Teen.

From the back cover:

As a child, Monkey D. Luffy was inspired to become a pirate by listening to the tales of the buccaneer "Red-Haired" Shanks. But Luffy's life changed when he accidentally ate the fruit of the Gum-Gum Tree, and gained the power to stretch like rubber...at the cost of never being able to swim again! Years later, still vowing to become the king of the pirates, Luffy sets out on his adventure...one guy alone in a rowboat, in search of the legendary "One Piece," said to be the greatest treasure in the world...

My Grade: A-

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Podcast Episode 206: Naruto Volume 47

2010-04-18
Length: 13s

Podcast manga review of Naruto volume 47: The Seal Destroyed by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $9.99, Rated Teen.

From the back cover:

Naruto inches ever closer to discovering the true identity of his nemesis, Pain. But is it worth it as the frustrated ninja begins to morph at last into the dreaded Nine Tails? Plus, an unexpected confession reveals incredible secrets about his past as Naruto prepares for the ultimate battle with Pain. Can the chakra-challenged Naruto win when one misstep could spell disaster?

My Grade: A+

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Podcast Episode 205: Ghost Hound, episodes 1-5

2010-04-17
Length: 14s

Anime podcast review of Ghost Hound Collection 1, Episodes 1-5. Series created by Masamune Shirow (Ghost in the Shell, Appleseed). Directed by Ryutaro Nakamura (Kino's Journey). Series Composition by Chiaki J. Konaka (Lain, Texhnolyze). Released by Sentai Filmworks, Rated 14+.

From the back cover:

In an isolated region of Kyushu lies the town of Suiten.  Though seeming small and modest, Suiten is not a picturesque place for a vacation, unless it is from the “Unseen World”.  Taro, Makoto and Masayuki, three boys with traumatic pasts, learn to let their souls cross between the two parallel worlds.  However, the Unseen World is no mere copy of the real Apparent World.  The Unseen World is the home of ghosts, but changes are now allowing the souls of the dead to pass over into the Apparent World, with unpredictable effects.  Follow the journey of Taro, Makoto and Masayuki, as they cross between the two worlds, trying to unravel a great mystery.

My Grade: B+

You can watch the first episode for free via the Anime Network:

http://www.theanimenetwork.com/Anime/Ghost-Hound/Lucid-Dream/Watch

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Podcast Episode 204: Cactus's Secret Volume 1

2010-04-03
Length: 9s

Podcast manga review of Cactus's Secret by Nana Haruta. Translated and adapted by Su Mon Han. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $9.99, Rated T for Teen.

From the back cover:

Falling in love with a clueless boy would turn any girl into a cactus!

Miku Yamada has a longtime crush on classmate Kyohei Fujioka. But no matter how many times she tries to show him how she feels, clueless Kyohei just doesn't get it. Frustrated, Miku gives up on him, only to have him start calling her "Cactus" for being prickly when he's around. Will Kyohei ever figure out Cactus's secret?

Miku decides to try telling Kyohei her feelings by giving him chocolates for Valentine's Day. But Kyohei, unaware that he's the object of her affection, offers himself up as a practice partner for her love confession. Can Miku get through to him that he's the one she loves?

My Grade: B+

Here's a video of Princess Tenko, the Japanese magician that Kyohei compares Miku to in the opening scene of Cactus's Secret:

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Midori Days Closing Theme

2010-03-30

I always liked this song. Oh, those were the days when I first started watching anime:

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Podcast Episode 203: Astro Boy

2010-03-29
Length: 15s

Anime dvd podcast review of Astro Boy. Directed by David Bowers. Published by Summit Entertainment. Animation by Imagi Studios. Rated PG, List price: $26.99.

From the back cover:

Set in futuristic Metro City, Astro Boy is about a young robot with incredible powers created by a brilliant scientist in the image of the son he has lost. Unable to fulfill the grieving man's expectations, our hero embarks on a journey in search of acceptance, experiencing betrayal and a netherworld of robot gladiators, before he returns to save Metro City and reconcile with the father who had rejected him.

My Grade: A-

Check out the trailer:

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Manga Review: Happy Mania Volume 3

2010-02-28

Manga review of Happy Mania Volume 3 by Moyoco Anno. Translated by Shirley Kubo. Adapted by Leah Ginsberg. Originally published in Japan by Shodensha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Mature 18+.

Shigeta finally found a nice guy in the form of her ex co-worker, Takahashi, and even discovered that he was attending the prestigious Tokyo University. They even had sex last volume, but almost immediately afterward Takahashi announced that he was going to the US to study. Just when Shigeta had thought the man of her dreams had arrived on a slightly nerdy white horse! Without Takahashi in her immediate vicinity, Shigeta's too numerous to count psychoses begin to surface. She begins to doubt his faithfulness and worries that he will forget her because Takahashi is going to be away for 6 months. She soon begins to fall for a young ceramic artist named Goro who has some work on display in an exhibition at the department store where Shigeta works. As we have seen so often, Shigeta lets herself get absorbed by her obsession for a guy, at the expense of her survival and a previously existing relationship. She even convinces herself to quit her job and become a ceramic apprentice just to get closer to Goro.

Just when I had begun to believe that Shigeta had matured a bit and gotten a clue last volume, she destroys any progress she had made in her love life. She has a very fragile psyche. As soon as she doesn't have a guy fawning over her or constantly calling her, she gets insecure. It's almost like she uses sex to remind herself that she is desirable. Without the continuous stream of bedded guys, she has to look at the hollow void within herself. I don't know if Moyoco Anno is simply chronicling the comical misadventures of a young single Japanese woman or critiquing the never ending quest to seek self-fulfillment in a manner that will never attain it. Shigeta keeps on looking for the antidote to her loneliness in guys. She never seems to understand that she needs to improve herself and her own life situation before she goes barging into other people's. She's on the ultimate ego trip, which in turn makes this series funny and sad at the same time.

My Grade: B-

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Podcast Episode 202: Hero Tales Volume 1

2010-02-21
Length: 11s

Podcast manga review of Hero Tales Volume 1 by Hiromu Arakawa. Story by Huang Jin Zhou. Scenario by Ryou Yashiro. Art Configuration by Kusanagi. Translated by Amy Forsyth. Originally published in Japan by Square Enix. Published in US by Yen Press, $10.99, Rated Older Teen.

From the back cover:

 

Legend speaks of seven heroes, each one bearing the power of one of the stars of the Big Dipper. Two of these stars are constantly in conflict, destined to battle and throw the world into chaos...

Taitou has never paid much attention to old stories. Headstrong and defiant, he is the last in his village to complete his coming-of-age ceremony - a fact his sister Laila incessantly teases him about. When he is finally deemed worthy, he is presented with the Kenkaranbu, an ancient sword that can only be drawn by a true hero. As the frustrated Taitou struggles to unsheathe the sword, a mysterious thief appears, making off with the blade and citing the legend of the Big Dipper. The stars have been set in motion, as Taitou sets off after the Kenkaranbu and the truth of his own destiny... Hiromu Arakawa, creator of Fullmetal Alchemist, brings the legend to life!

My Grade: B+

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Podcast Episode 201: Alice in the Country of Hearts Volume 1

2010-02-05
Length: 13s

Podcast manga review of Alice in the Country of Hearts Volume 1. Art by Soumei Hoshino. Story by Quinrose. Translated by Beni Conrad. Adapted by Lianne Sentar. Originally published in Japan by Mag Garden. Published in US by Tokyopop, $10.99, Rated 16+.

From the back cover:

A sudden kidnapping and a dark, mysterious hole...Handsome men with guns and bunny ears...A suspicious game of survival...Wonderland is officially at war! And Alice is trapped in the middle of it all. Will she ever make it out alive? A little arrogant, stubborn and determined to get back home, Alice isn't fazed by these challenges...until she wanders the strange country only to find that every man is weirdly in love with her and all the inhabitants are gun crazy and ready to kill without remorse. What is going on in Wonderland?!...A hilarious, dangerous tale of Alice the likes of which you've never seen before!

My Grade: C-

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Podcast Episode 200: Spice and Wolf (Novel) Volume 1

2010-01-25
Length: 18s

Podcast novel review of Spice and Wolf Volume 1 by Isuna Hasekura. Translated by Paul Starr. Originally printed in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Yen Press, $10.99, Rated 15+.

From the back cover:

The life of a traveling merchant is a lonely one, a fact with which Kraft Lawrence is well acquainted. Wandering from town to town with just his horse, cart, and whatever wares have come his way, the peddler has pretty well settled into his routine—that is, until the night Lawrence finds a wolf goddess asleep in his cart. Taking the form of a fetching girl with wolf ears and a tail, Holo has wearied of tending to harvests in the countryside and strikes up a bargain with the merchant to lend him the cunning of “Holo the Wisewolf” to increase his profits in exchange for taking her along on his travels. What kind of businessman could turn down such an offer? Lawrence soon learns, though, that having an ancient goddess as a traveling companion can be a bit of a mixed blessing. Will this wolf girl turn out to be too wild to tame

My Grade: B-

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Manga Review: Sorcerer Hunters Volume 9

2010-01-18

Manga review of Sorcerer Hunters volume 9. Art by Ray Omishi. Story by Satoru Akahori. Translated by Anita Sengupta. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+.

Surely, you remember Potato Chips, the rich little kid (or is he a midget?) that was always looking to hook up in love with one of the female Sorcerer Hunters. Let's face it, Potato would hook up with ANY girl! His slightly disturbing butler Jeeves has decided to cheer his young master up by holding a beauty contest. His thinking is that Potato will be able to meet chicks. Of course, the female cast of the series gets dragged into entering as well.

The main drama of volume 9 occurs when Big Mama sends the Hunters to look into a rash of disappearing young girls in the Old West town of Tamales (Akahori really goes overboard on the names in this manga). They even know who is behind it: Marchioness Carlsburg. She's not really a threat to the Hunters though. The real danger is her ally and nephew, Lendoll, a gunfighter/sorcerer who can fire magic bullets against which there is no defense. a

Sorcerer Hunters is written very well for the type of manga that it is. Yeah, you have some fan service moments during the beauty contest along with a lot of speech impediment humor. But you also have a lot of action in the Lendoll story arc with violence and gore as we find out the gruesome secret of why the Marchioness is kidnapping girls. Even the last story in the book has a very different tone to it as Marron tries to help a lingering spirit disappointed in love. That last chapter has the nostalgia and wistfulness of Aria. The art is serviceable but tends to break down in the action sequences and generally lacks backgrounds. But really, Hunters straddles the border between cheap thrills and more serious themes pretty adriotly.

My Grade: B+

 

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Podcast Episode 199: Blassreiter The Complete Series Part I, Episodes 1-6

2010-01-09
Length: 14s

Podcast anime dvd review of Blassreiter The Complete Series Part I, Episodes 1-6. Directed by Ichiro Itano (Macross, Gantz, Megazone 23). Animation by Gonzo. Published by Funimation, List Price: $59.98, Rated 17+.

From the back cover:

A blood-born plague races across Germany, giving life to mechanized monsters who are hell-bent on making a bloody mess out of anyone in their path. Known as Demoniacs, these creatures have the perverse ability to meld with technology and wield it as an extension of their uncontrollable cyber rage. Standing in their way is civilization's last hope for a savior.

Joseph Jobson - the mysterious blue rider - fuses with the unreal technology of his battle-tested motorcycle to defend man against machine. But the same tainted blood that carries his strength threatens to devour his soul, leaving him nothing more than a murderous demon. The future of death is now, and it refuses to be stopped.

My Grade: B

Here is the opening of the anime:

You can also view the entire series for free dubbed and subbed at: http://www4.funimation.com/video/?page=show&b=269

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Manga Review: Happy Mania Volume 2

2010-01-03

Manga review of Happy Mania Volume 2 by Moyoco Anno. Translated by Shirley Kubo. Adapted by Leah Ginsberg. Originally published in Japan by Shodensha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Mature 18+.

Shigeta has made a New Year's resolution. She's decided to give up on guys and love and focus all of her attention on her work. Uh, the thing is, she doesn't have a JOB! She got fired from her job at the bookstore last volume for missing too many days. Just when she's filled with the utmost optimism she discovers that her wallet, which had all her money, has been stolen. And then her roommate, Fuku, tells Shigeta that she's getting married and that she's moving out at the end of the month. So Shigeta's life is pretty screwed up at the moment. The only thing for it is to ask her mom if she can borrow some money. We find out that Shigeta is seen as a loser by her family since she hasn't got an education, doesn't have a decent job, and has yet to get married. But her mom does have a guy in mind for Shigeta. Meanwhile, Takahashi, the one guy that actually cares about Shigeta, decides he's just getting in her way, and that he has to leave the picture if she's ever to find her true love.

Ok, I still believe Shigeta is a complete idiot. By the age of 24 I think someone would figure out that love is not just sex and vice versa. But I guess that's still pretty young, but come on, get your head together, Shigeta! She does seem to be making some progress as she at least TRIES to convince herself that life is not just about getting a boyfriend. It's also about being able to be independent and taking care of yourself. Too bad she doesn't really have a reason to be disciplined. She's always falling back on people, like her mother or Fuku. I think Fuku really does  care for her, but what can she do? You can't coddle someone forever. Shigeta is gonna have to learn to be a responsible adult. She does begin to at least entertain the idea of having Takahashi as a boyfriend in this volume as she finds out there is more to him than just the total nerd image.

My grade: B

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Halo Origins Anime Part 1 Online 1/2/10

2009-12-31

For 24 hours on Saturday, January 2, the first part of the Halo anime project, "Origins I" will be available for free viewing on Xbox Live's Halo Waypoint. This first short is being animated by Japan's revered Studio 4C (Tekkonkinkreet, Batman: Gotham Knight, Steamboy). This is a world premiere so it will be the first time anyone will be getting a look at a full short instead of just trailers. Origins focuses on the background history of Halo the game universe, showing the Forerunners and their battle against The Flood. Origins will be available in either Japanese (subtitled?) or English. Or course this is all part of a larger anthology entitled "Halo Legends" which is being produced along with other top Japanese anime studios like Production IG, Bones, and Toei.

I don't pride myself on being much of a Halo fan. I've only played about half of the first game.  I never had the original Xbox console so I kinda missed the whole phenomenon. But I AM an anime fan so I'm quite excited about this project, even though the earlier Batman: Gotham Knight was a bit lackluster. It was still cool to see another perspective looking at very familiar characters which American viewers have become very jaded about. Halo doesn't quite bring as much baggage to the table as Batman so I expect it to be even more fresh. And who knows, it might get me to finish playing Halo and progress to the other two games in the series.

Here's the trailer for Origins I:

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Anime DVD Review: Heroic Age, Episodes 8-13

2009-12-30

Anime dvd review of Heroic Age: The Complete Series Part 1, Episodes 8-13. Directed by Takashi Noto. Series Composition by Tow Ubukata. Music by Naoki Sato. Published by Funimation. List Price: $59.98, Rated 13+.

The Argonaut continues to flee to the new human homeworld as the Azz-Azoth fleet under Nilval tries to hold off the Silver and Gold Tribe armadas. Things could get messy as Nodos Mehitak shows up to take down the Azz-Azoth. Meanwhile, Bellcross and Karkinos are still locked in battle. Their fight is not measured in minutes or days, but weeks! Like a rumble between two gods. Dhianeila's two scheming and arrogant brothers try to commandeer leadership of the human forces through bribery and extortion. They begin to move along their plan for all-out war against the Gold and Silver Tribes, with the ultimate end goal of recapturing Earth. Problem is that Meleagros, the scion of the family,  is a tad bit power hungry and isn't shy about sacrificing his own forces or even entire planets if it furthers the glory and power of him and his family.

I really love the epic space opera feel of Heroic Age. When we have fleets battling each other here, it isn't just a couple of ships on each side. It's thousands, if not TENS of thousands involved. And when you're talking about the insect-like swarms of the Gold Tribes, it could be MILLIONS! It's war the likes of which we reality-bound humans can hardly imagine. And then you have the jockeying forces of the politics within each tribe (except the Gold) as the humans try to decide the best course of action. There are even factions in the Vulcan-like Silver that believe the universe is big enough for Silver and Iron while others think the humans should be destroyed.

The problems I have with this show are two: one major and one minor. The first is that the battles between the Nodos lack any impact or drama. All the Nodos are completely rendered in CG and are not animated very well, moving very stiffly and awkwardly. They are supposed to be living creatures but they move like robots. The director should have looked at some of the old Evangelion fight scenes or Eureka 7 to learn how to handle this properly. Sadly, I almost wish to jettison the whole giant monster facet of the show.  

One minor complaint is in the character designs and costumes. The characters look too much like they fell out of a Gundam series, or even Fafner. The costumes of the humans are dull and boring with too much whiteness splashed with some second-thought colors.  It doesn't look like too much effort was spent on their uniforms.

My Grade: B+

Listen to my podcast review of the first seven episodes:

http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=515827

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Podcast Episode 198: Butterflies, Flowers Volume 1

2009-12-27
Length: 13s

Podcast manga review of Butterflies, Flowers volume 1 by Yuki Yoshihara. Translated by Tetsuichiro Miyaki. Adapted by Nancy Thistlewaite. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan. Published in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $9.99, Rated M for Mature.

From the back cover:

Choko Kuze is the sensible daughter of a venerable family who went bankrupt. She joins a real estate company as an entry-level office worker, but her eccentric boss is harder on her than anyone else in the company! After hearing him inadvertently call her "milady," she realizes he was the young servant boy she knew as a child. At work he's a tyrant, but after hours he insists on treating her like a lady of the nobility. Is romance even possible for a couple locked in such a crazy role reversal?

My Grade: A+

 

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Podcast Episode 197: Dragonaut The Resonance, Episodes 1-7

2009-12-24
Length: 17s

Podcast anime dvd review of Episodes 1-7 of Dragonaut: The Resonance Complete Series Part I. Directed by Manabu Ono. Character Designs by Makoto Uno (Gravion, Witchblade, Love Hina). Released by Funimation.

From the back cover:

With a deadly asteroid hurtling towards Earth, sexy human Dragonauts in tight uniforms and their curvaceous dragon companions come together to create a formidable fighting force with all the right moves. Caught in the middle of this race against time are Jin - a heartbroken young flyboy, and Toa - a voluptuous mystery woman with an amazing set of intergalactic battle skills. Jin's down about the fate of his doomed planet, but Toa is quick to grab him by the seat of his pants and lift his sagging spirits. If these star-crossed space cadets can unlock the secrets of their mysterious connection and convince the Dragonauts to join the action, there may yet be hope for planet Earth!

My Grade: B

Watch the entire series for free at:

http://www4.funimation.com/video/?page=video&v=2850

View the trailer for the first box set here:

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Manga Review: Inukami! Volume 2

2009-12-20

Manga review of Inukami! volume 2. Story by Mamizu Arisawa and art by Mari Matsuzawa. Translated by Anastasia Moreno. Adapted by Lorelei Laird. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Tor/Seven Seas, $9.99, rated Older Teen 16+.

Volume 2 ended with the arrival of Nadeshiko, a pacifist Inukami who serves Keita's cousin, Kawahira. She has been sent to stay for a week to teach Yoko how to be an obedient and polite young lady (actually, dog spirit). For reasons we don't know, Yoko was neverly properly instructed on how to be a proper Inukami. We also find out in this volume that Kawahira family members can have more than one Inukami, according to their spiritual powers. Kaoru is one such multiple master and his other Inukami want Nadeshiko to stay with Yoko and Keita because she refuses to fight the Jarei. Of course, you know Yoko isn't going to settle for sharing Keita so she becomes their enemy. Kaoru's team decides to fight back with their cutest member, the cute and diminutive Tomohane, who brings Yoko super-strength laxative laced cupcakes, which Keita proceeds to eat! Things get even more complicated as a "Mujina", a badger spirit, shows up carrying a lethal infectious disease called "Mujina Hiccups". The Hiccups can kill an Inukami.

The thing that sticks out the most in my mind when I think if Inukami is the fact that the series is so hilarious. Some of the funniest scenes in this volume have to do with the cupcakes and the mujina. In order to get a vaccine for the Hiccups, a blood sample must be obtained from the mujina. But the little badger has the power to fuse things together to aid in its escape. Some of the characters get fused to Keita just as he feels he has to let a nuclear #2 rip. One of the most horrifying and funny scenes in the book is seeing a screaming Tomohane holding on to the doorframe of the bathroom as she desperately tries to keep Keita from dragging her in to the toilet (her leg is fused to his). The art is cute, comedic, airy, and always elegant, but never stuffy. Mari Matsuzawa has a real knack for interesting panel layout that never gets cluttered or confusing. The characters are great as well. It's so easy to settle into cardboard with a series like this but all of the characters have a warmth and authenticity about them that makes the reader feel like they are real people.

My Grade: A+

You can listen to my podcast of the first volume at this link:

http://www.sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=406613

Here's the link to read the first chapter of Volume 1 for free:

 http://www.gomanga.com/mv/index.php?series=inukami&page=1

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Manga Review: Honey Hunt Volume 3

2009-12-19

Manga review of Honey Hunt Volume 3 by Miki Aihara. Translated by Ari Yasuda. Adapted by Liz Forbes. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan. Published in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $9.99, Rated T+ for Older Teen.

Yura is still a bundle of nerves as she gets ready for the second script reading of the next "Noodle Girl" episode. Things get worse as she loses a contact lens, or so she thinks, but the loss might be the key to her regaining her confidence. Her lovelife gets more complicated as Q-Ta leaves for England for a month long recording session. Even if he had remained in Japan, Keiichi, Yura's manager, has forbidden him to have contact with Yura. This does allow an opening for the increasingly smitten Haruka to try to squirm into Yura's heart. He believes that if Yura sees him performing with his band, Knights, she will fall in love with him. But this is Haruka we're talking about, a dude that doesn't want to show that he's falling for her. Knowing that Yura wants to know more about Q-Ta, he dangles the carrot of telling her everything there is to know about his twin brother...IF she can get tickets to the Knights 3-evening engagement at the Tokyodome. Problem is, all three shows are sold out.

A couple of reviews back I asked myself whether I would be able to continue reading this series. The reason I asked myself this was because I had a lot of hostility to Aihara's art. It just isn't that good. Yura is especially unappealing, looking like a giant lost fishhead  most of the time. But in a little afterword at the end of this volume, Aihara insinuates that she purposefully designed Yura as "plain". Now things are making a bit more sense. Aihara is going to goad Yura to succeed even if she isn't a "classic" model level beauty. She's gonna have to get by with her spirit, determination, and inner spark. She not only has to win over the characters in the book, but also the reader! I for one really admire her as she has developed more and more of a backbone, starting with telling her parents to go to Hell on TV back in the first volume. She not only refuses to stand in the shadow of her famous parents (especially her mom), she wants to exceed them! That would be like Julian Lennon saying he's going to write better songs and sell more records than John Lennon. It takes a lot of courage to say something like that, much less do it. I really like this story. I'm still trying to figure out if Q-Ta likes Yura or is more in love with her dad. And is Haruka really falling for her or is he just trying to take something away from his bro? Excellent shojo.

My Grade: A

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Japanese Man Carves Anime Girls Out of Trees

2009-12-06

Yep, here we have it. The very definition of weirdness. What you have is a dude dressed up in a Michael Myers jumpsuit and a Jason hockey mask cutting up huge logs with a giant chainsaw (I guess that means he's taking inspiration from Leatherface as well?). Anyway, the video shows the process of how he carves these logs into an anime character. It runs about 9 minutes. I would watch the beginning and the end (where he makes her wings). In the middle we briefly see that this guy is really skilled at woodcarving with more traditonal tools and religious motifs. I have no idea who the winged girl is that he makes. She looks a bit like KOS-MOS from Xenosaga. Does anybody know who the figure is of? Also reminds me that I need to do a podcast review for Kannagi! Are you not entertained?

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Podcast Episode 196: Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 5

2009-11-28
Length: 10s

Podcast manga review of Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 5 by Hiromu Arakawa. Translated by Akira Watanabe. Adapted by Jake Forbes. Originally published in Japan by Square Enix. Published in US by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen.

From the back cover:

In an alchemical ritual gone wrong, Edward Elric lost his arm and his leg, and his brother Alphonse became nothing but a soul in a suit of armor. Equipped with mechanical "auto-mail" limbs, Edward becomes a state alchemist, seeking the one thing that can restore his brother and himself...the legendary Philosopher's Stone.

Ed, Alphonse, and the mechanic Winry go south in search of Izumi Curtis, the master alchemist who taught the brothers how to use alchemy. But in the boomtown of Rush Valley, an encounter with a pickpocket turns them down a different path in search of an auto-mail blacksmith whose handiwork is the best that Winry has ever seen. Then the action flashes back to show how Ed and Alphonse first learned alchemy...

My Grade: A+

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Manga Review: Negima! Volume 5

2009-11-28

Manga review of Negima! Volume 5 by Ken Akamatsu. Translated and adapted by Douglas Varenas. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated OT 16+.

Now that Kazumi, the leader of the Journalism Club, has decided to keep Negi's secret, she's in kahoots with resident weasel pervert Chamo in an effort to increase Negi's probationary contracts. She instigates "Operation Kiss Negi-kun Passionately on This School Field Trip". She splits the girls into pairs and tells them that whoever kisses Negi without getting caught by the other faculy members gets them on the limited edition trading cards that are a prize among his class. Of course, MOST of them don't know that they will also be entering into a magic contract at the same time to help Negi in battle. Unfortunately for them, there is now more than one Negi. Negi made some paper doll copies of himself so he could go out on patrol without being missed. But some of the copies are defective and want to get it on with his students! Meanwhile, elements of the Kansai Magic Association that do not want peace begin to make their moves to stop Negi from fulfilling his mission to deliver a letter of conciliation from his magic school.

Negima is nothing if not entertaining. Again, the art is great, with Akamatsu making sure that things never get too serious. Even when Negi battles with a powerful fox spirit and gets the snot beat out of him, it never gets to the Naruto stabbing and cutting off heads realm. Akamatsu is about showing pretty girls and panties and he never misses an opportunity to showcase them. He really is a master of character design even if his plots steal from other better known Japanese and Western franchises. I enjoy each volume of Negima, but see little reason to ever pick up the new Negima Neo series. One time around with this story and characters is quite enough for me.

My Grade: B+

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Japanese Man Marries Videogame Character

2009-11-28

Somehow, when I saw a headline on MSN.com titled "Man Marries Virtual Wife", the first thing that crossed my mind was "he's gotta be Japanese". I don't know, there's just this weird sense of unreality that pervades Japanese weirdos that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. I mean, where has all the machismo gone? These dudes used to test out their katanas on live convicts! Now they're practicing perverted acts with moe throw pillows. Apparently, a Japanese man decided to marry Nene Anegasaki, a character from a Nintendo DS game called Love Plus. Here's a video report from Boing Boing editor Lisa Katayama:

And here's the promo for the Love Plus game:

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My Apology to Tezuka and His Fans

2009-11-27

Just because someone is important doesn't mean they can't suck. I recognize Tezuka's importance and influence, but yeah, what I've read by him sucks. Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn is seen as the Great American Novel and he is seen as the Great American Writer, but you know what? I think that book was boring and I find his humor unfunny and that it is a tragedy that he represents the US. Do you have to like Elvis to enjoy current pop and rock? Or can you just laugh and point at him because he is so ridiculous? In other words, he sucks. My point in writing my blog entry was that it's ok to think Tezuka's work is worthless. In fact, hate it because it IS deemed important by so-called authorities.

I'm trying to read Dororo right now and am encountering the same stumbling blocks I encountered with his other works:

1) Boring character designs. Everyone pretty much looks the same. Cartoony and lazy. Tezuka's art never seemed to evolve beyond a daily cartoon feel as though he didn't have much time to spare. Or that he was more interested in telling a story with words and action than with making his characters have any visual appeal. And anytime an animal comes in, bring in the Walt Disney copyright for anthropomorphic animals!

2) Spacing and pace reign triumphant. I will say this. Tezuka is an expert at pacing his panels and also how he spaces the action and characters within each one. But again, the actual ART inside them is really unimaginative. He never evolved. You could say the same thing about Rumiko Takahashi but she tells much better stories.

3) Vertical continues the questionable translation of Dark Horse. What do I mean by this? The inclusion of current slang and catchphrases (and outdated ones as well). Do Japanese people actually use words like "Yowza" and "Yoiks"? "Doofus"? "Bro"? This is exactly why I couldn't get into Buddha. The Buddha walked around talking like he was at a New York Mets game. Ok, the vocabulary is already out of context because the book is set in Japan hundreds of years ago. But then putting in odd Americanisms, some from the 1920s, is even more jarring.

4) Tezuka is a clumsy storyteller. To me, Tezuka never seemed to solve the problem of juggling comedic and dramatic elements. I think part of this lies in the translation, but most of it has to do with Tezuka himself. He can't get out of the way of the story. His ego was too important. Early on in Dororo, he even includes himself in all his goofy beret glory getting hit by a hail of rocks as he tells about Hyakkimaru's childhood. It totally ruins the flow. It's like having Oprah putting her ugly mug on everything she does or M. Night Shymalan inserting himself forcefully in every movie he makes. It smacks of ego trip. Or Osihii's bassett hounds. Look at a master like Hiromu Arakawa. She is able to balance humor, great character designs, drama, and real to the bone human interactions. Or Hiroki Endo, who takes it to even a higher level. Tezuka is a baby compared to them.

5) His pulp sci-fi explanations. Back in the old days sci-fi writers didn't have to explain things. But people are smarter now. Even if it's magic fantasy, audiences demand at least a cursory explanation of how an imaginary world works.  Because Tezuka is so old school, he hardly ever throws the reader a bone. Hyakkimaru has no eyes, but he can "see" intuitively? How does that work exactly?

So hopefully, this entry clears up things as to why I think what I do about Tezuka's work...up to this point (I'm still attempting to appreciate him). Just because Japanese manga artists are AWARE of Tezuka doesn't mean they are influenced by him. The anime/manga establishment makes it seem that EVERY SINGLE person in Japan loves Tezuka and that any American fan has to recognize his deification. I say you don't. It's all a myth. In my opinion there are much more important and talented manga artists at work today in the here and now. Even a title like Death Note, with all its improbabilites and flaws, is far better than anything I've read by Tezuka so far. Whatever issues he took on back in the day, there is someone doing it better.

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Why I Don't Give a Crap About Tezuka

2009-11-25

Today when I was in the Barnes and Noble manga section I noticed a book about Osamu Tezuka that kinda pissed me off when I saw the title. The book was titled The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga . It was written by Helen McCarthy. The part that stuck in my craw was the whole “God” thing. I admit I am not much of a Tezuka fan. I TRIED to read the first volume of the Dark Horse Astro Boy, but found it so incredibly dumb I couldn’t finish reading it. I also tried reading Metropolis with similar results after I enjoyed the anime. Unfortunately, the manga had almost nothing to do with the anime. Tried reading Buddha, but was put off by the odd New York Bronx accents being spoken by Asians thousands of years ago.  The only work by Tezuka that I have actually liked is his Phoenix saga. I think the guy is overrated. From what little I have read, he seems to have produced a lot of crap titles and and a few really good ones.

 

Maybe I’m just overreacting to McCarthy’s implication that there can never be anyone as good as Tezuka. Thinking like that disgusts me because if you buy into it, there can never be any progress in the manga field. It rankles me as much as Tom “The Sanctifier” Brokaw saying that the soldiers that fought in WWII were “The Greatest Generation” as though no other soldier ever fought for higher stakes or ever will again. I guess I hate it anytime someone says an artist is “definitive”. Because it is an attempt to put up a wall to block the course of the future. McCarthy’s book is a polar opposite apologia for Chip Kidd’s Bat-Manga, in which the manga artist wasn’t even given credit for his work on the front cover as though he were a leper. Now we have a second rate manga dude being compared to a divine being. Come on. He isn’t Christ.

 

You can judge Tezuka’s impact on American culture by the whopping box office take of the Astro Boy movie. Nobody was interested. Tezuka no longer matters. If he ever did. He’s just been pumped up by the older generation of manga and anime elitists over the past 20 years. I say screw Tezuka and his pseudo French intellectual beret. Give me Kishimoto, Endo, Arakawa, Tanaka, Tatsumi. Give me the future. And when the hell is someone going to start printing Leiji Matsumoto’s manga works? He is much more important to anime and manga than Tezuka.

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Play Magazine Big Anime Giveaway

2009-11-17

Play Magazine, my favorite literary game mag, is having an anime giveaway contest in which 5 entrants will win the following 4 anime dvds and sets:

Claymore: The Complete Series

Evangelion 1.0 (You Are Not Alone)

Blassreiter

Dragonaut

Plus a copy of Girls of Gaming 7


Entries must be received by December 10, 2009. You can submit an entry at:

http://playmagazine.com/index.php?fuseaction=SiteMain.Contest&conid=39

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Podcast Episode 195: Happy Mania Volume 1

2009-11-16
Length: 14s

Podcast manga review of Happy Mania Volume 1 by Moyoco Anno. Translated by Shirley Kubo. Adapted by Leah Ginsberg. Originally published in Japan by Shodensha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Mature 18+.

From the back cover:

Watch out, Bridget Jones-- here comes Shigeta, a 24 year old woman-about-town who is obsessed with the right man. The only problem is that the guys she meets are all duds, not studs. Case in point: Takahashi, a geeky co-worker who is head over heels for our heroine. But she'd rather eat nails than be with that loser!

After Shigeta reads her love horoscope in a magazine, she's convinced that the right guy is just around the corner. But the next guy she meets just wants to bonk instead of bond. When Shigeta's doomed romance comes to its inevitable conclusion, she runs to her best friend for solace and a much-needed reality check. But it's not long before another Mr. Wrong enters the picture, and Shigeta is hooked all over again!

They say love happens when you least expect it-- but if you expect it 24/7, then what? Join Shigeta and her gal pals in their hilarious hunt for love, romance, and together-forever commitment.

My Grade: B-

(I am giving away a free copy of Happy Mania Volume 1, still sealed in the original shrinkwrap. Write me at seshos@hotmail.com by 11/24/09 if you want it.)

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Anime DVD Review: Magical Lyrical Nanoha Box Set, Episodes 10-13

2009-11-04

Anime review of Episodes 10-13 of the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Box Set. Published by Geneon. List Price: $59.98, Rated 13+. Box Set contains Episodes 1-13. Directed by Akiyuki Shinbo (Moonphase, Negima, Maria Holic). Written by Masaki Tsuzuki.

Fate has once again failed to capture Nanoha's Jewel Seeds, so yes, it's time for  a sadistic whipping from her mom, Precia Testarossa (why are the Japanese obsessed with naming their female characters Testarossa?). But this time, Aruf gets pissed and attacks Precia. For her trouble, she is almost destroyed and has to flee to Earth, where she again encounters Nanoha and her pals and decides to switch sides in order to rescue Fate from her mother. Meanwhile, the TSAB are closing in on Precia's space travelling rock for a final confrontation. Nanoha, Yuno, and Chrono have to go in after Precia wipes out an assault team.

Magical Nanoha comes to a satisfying if uneventful end. Ok, a big battle happens at the end, but what I mean is that while Nanoha has been entertaining and fun, it never really succeeds at seperating itself from the mob. All of the characters were just a tad bit too shallow and one dimensional. The animation, especially on this last dvd, is first rate and rarely reverts to shortcuts, even during the battle sequences. But Nanoha could never cast off its indebtedness to Cardcaptor Sakura, even though it succeeded in its own kinda clone way. Definitely worth watching if you're a magical girl fan but isn't going to ever break into the greatness realm.

My Grade for the Series: B

Watch the first part of episode 10 below:

 

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Podcast Episode 194: Ghost in the Shell 2.0

2009-11-03
Length: 20s

Podcast Blu-ray review of Ghost in the Shell 2.0, directed by Mamoru Oshii. Screenplay by Kazunori Ito. Based on the manga by Shirow Masamune. Published by Manga, List Price: 29.97, Not Rated (Features nudity and graphic violence).

From the back cover:

A film that has spawned a thousand imitations but never bettered-- Mamoru Oshii's legendary anime film GHOST IN THE SHELL returns in a stunning new edition remastered by Oshii himself. For this definitive edition, all the original animations are re-produced with latest digital film and animation technologies, including 3D-CGI.

Set in a reimagined Hong Kong at a time when cyberspace is expanding into human reality, the story follows top cyberwarrior Major Motoko Kusanagi as she hovers on the border of total immersion in the digital world.

The definitive 2.0 also features new voice recordings from the original cast, a brand new score from Kenji Kawai, and 6.1 channedl sound created with the help of Skywalker Sound.

My Grade: A+

Watch the trailer for the movie below:

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Asobi Seksu: Walk on the Moon

2009-11-01

Check out this music video by Asobi Seksu, a New York based band, entitled "Walk on the Moon". By the way, "asobi seksu" is a Japanese term meaning "casual sex".

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Podcast Episode 193: Yotsuba Volume 6

2009-11-01
Length: 14s

Podcast manga review of Yotsuba volume 6 by Kiyohiko Azuma. Translated by Amy Forsyth. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in the US by Yen Press, $10.99, Rated All Ages.

From the back cover:

Yotsuba's getting a biiike!! Didja know the wheels of a bike go round and round and round and round...oh, Yotsuba's getting dizzy...whoooa...

My Grade: A+

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Making Bento Into Art

2009-11-01

A couple of years ago, Japanese mother Makiko Ogawa's son found kindergarten a traumatic experience. He hated school and every time she took him there he would cry himself silly. In order to comfort him, Makiko started making special "charaben" lunches for him.

"Bento" is a Japanese term for a boxed lunch, which can be homemade or bought in a store. "Charaben" means character bento. In other words, Ogawa shapes and decorates the food to look like anime characters or cute little animals, etc.

Ogawa is so good at making charaben that she has fans all over the world. She has even been approached by corporations that want to commission her work. While she is flattered by the attention she still sees her charaben primarily as a show of love for her children. She has a blog in Japanese:

http://cuteobento.blog43.fc2.com/

If you just want to see pictures of her bento she also has a Flickr site that has English captions:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/cuteobento/

I will be adding her Flickr page to my website under "Japanese Sights & Sounds". She says she updates it about every two weeks. She encourages you to leave comments in English.

 

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Shibuya Faces Video

2009-11-01

Here's a cool video shot on the streets of Shibuya that Danny Choo turned me on to. Backed by simple instrumental accompaniment, it shows some of the interesting people you might see just walking around the area:

Shibuya Faces from eleven23 on Vimeo.

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Reunion of WWII Texas Soldiers and Japanese American Combat Team

2009-10-31

Tomorrow at a Houston hotel, members of the 1st Battalion, 141st Regiment, 36th Infantry Division (based out of Texas) will reunite with the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The 442nd was composed almost entirely of 1st generation Japanese American soldiers. The 141st was surrounded by German forces in France in October 1944 and would have either been killed or taken prisoner but the Japanese American 442nd managed to break the lines and rescue them, suffering an almost 50% casualty rate. The 442nd became one of the highest honored units in the war, earning 21 Medals of Honor and 9,486 Purple Hearts. They were even called "The Purple Heart Batallion". Around 50 vets are expected to attend the banquet at the Hyatt Regency Houston. The public can buy tickets to attend at:

www.njamf.com

Ok, I consider myself educated and well versed in history and World War II, but I have to admit I didn't even know the 442nd existed. I don't think I've ever seen an American of Asian descent fighting in a World War II movie. I'm so used to seeing the big white guy shaking his tommy gun like John Wayne. Mainly because the movies back then were made by white guys. This story really intrigued me. I also found out that no Japanese Americans were rounded up in Hawaii like they were in the mainland US, mainly because there were just too many of them. Almost half of the Hawaiians were of Japanese descent. I still can't believe we rounded up people like that. It was a big blot of blatant racism.

The poignant thing of it all is that this might be one of the last times these guys get together, as WWII vets get older and older. I really honor what the 442nd did, fighting for a country that was violating the very rights they were sacrificing their lives for.

 

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Best Buy Massive Anime Blu-Ray Sale

2009-10-31

I was at Best Buy to buy Scribblenauts for $19.99 and had it in my hand when I started browsing through the Blu-ray section. I saw Ghost in the Shell 2.0 and was surprised to find that it too was only $19.99. After I thought about it for a little bit, I decided to put Scribblenauts back. At checkout, I was pleasantly delighted to find out that GITS was on sale for $13.99. Upon further investigation online, I discovered that Best Buy is having a "Massive Blu-ray Sale". As far as anime, there are 44 Blu-ray titles in the sale (I say 44 but I think that is every anime title currently ou on Blu-ray).  Here is a small sample of the sale:

For $13.99 each: Afro Samurai Season 1, Blood The Last Vampire (movie), Kitaro (live action)

Final Fantasy VII Advent Children: $20.99

One Piece Movie #8: $12.59

Akira: $24.49

Dragonball Z (6 different titles): $17.49 each

Samurai 7 (Complete Series), Tsubasa Season 1: $34.99

Tekkonkinkreet: $19.59

Click on the link below to go to the anime title sale page:

Best Buy Massive Blu-ray Sale

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Podcast Episode 192: Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 4

2009-10-30
Length: 11s

Podcast manga review of Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 4 by Hiromu Arakawa. Translated by Akira Watanabe. Adapted by Jake Forbes. Originally published in Japan by Square Enix. Published in US by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen.

From the back cover:

In an alchemical ritual gone wrong, Edward Elric lost his arm and his leg, and his brother Alphonse became nothing but a soul in a suit of armor. Equipped with mechanical "auto-mail" limbs, Edward becomes a state alchemist, seeking the one thing that can restore his brother and himself...the legendary Philosopher's Stone.

Trapped and injured in a secret alchemical laboratory, Edward Elric is at the mercy of his enemies, Lust and Envy. But they don't want him dead...they have other plans for him. As the laboratory goes up in flames, the brothers find themselves back at square one, with only an inkling of the massive scale of the Philsopher's Stone conspiracy. But then, Lieutenant Maes Hughes uncovers a shocking secret...

My Grade: A+

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Magazine Review: Yen Plus, December 2008 Part 2

2009-10-22

Magazine review of the second part (The Korean and OEL titles) of the Yen Plus December 2008 issue. First up in this issue is an interview with Ryukishi07, the creator and author of Higurashi, and Karin Suzuragi, the artist of the Higurashi manga.  

Now on to the reviews:

Sarasah by Ruy Ryang, Chapter 5:

Ari, (or should I say Ji-Hae) has finally found the ancestor of Seung-Hyu, and boy is he naked! No, don't worry, it's just because he's bathing in a pond. She looks away in embarrassment, and when she turns around, he's disappeared. She and Mita frantically begin to search for him in the nearby town without knowing his name or anything. Does she find him? Well, let's just say by the end of the chapter, Ari ends up in bed with him.

I'm still really liking this series and all the mysteries that come with it, even though Ari dressed as a boy brings up all the cross dressing cliches you can think of.

My Grade: B

Pig Bride by Kookhwa Huh & Sujin Kim, Chapter 5: 

Si-Joon's life becomes more complicated when his parents not only approve of his "marriage" to Mu-Yeon, but actively work to have them consummate it! The thing is that a priest has told them that if the couple doesn't get married Si-Joon could die within a year. His parents, not wishing him to come to any harm, have decided to move things along by allowing Mu-Yeon to move in... and even sleep in Si-Joon's room. We also get to see another side of Doe-Doe, Si-Joon's love interest, and you just be shocked to learn what she is really like.

The art is beautiful and wispy and the laughs are good in this 5th chapter. Si-Joon reminds me a lot of Koushi from Sumomomo, Momomo because he appears to be fighting a losing fight against his destiny. Both characters are trying to escape the environment they are in, but you sense that their fates are inevitable. But the fight is what makes them funny. The clever twist of making Doe-Doe have an evil side also makes the title more interesting.

My Grade: B+

Legend by Kara and Woo SooJung, Chapter 1: "The Thousand Year Old Legend":

The Bulkirin is a creature that was summoned by a selfish king to fulfill a wish. Pretty soon, more and more people asked for wishes. In fact, so many asked that the Bulkirin went crazy and turned evil, destroying 50% of humanity. It took a hero brandishing the "seven blade sword" to bring the monster under control. The tale opens long ago with a young boy named No-Ah Joo confronting the man that kidnapped his sister, only to be asked about the seven blade sword which has been broken into pieces. Flash forward to modern times where a young 15-year-old girl named Eon-Gyo Sung has visions of the sword while she is daydreaming in class...

Well, this preview chapter did its job. Color me intrigued. Reading this intro to the series got me interested and is definitely going to motivate me to buy the first volume. I do get the sneaking suspicion that it's gonna turn out to be in the Inuyasha mode though. I bet Eon is going to meet the reincarnation of the No-ah character and they're gonna travel around the country looking for the pieces of the sword, all the while being hounded by the guy that kidnapped No-ah's sister. The excellent art will probably make up for that though.

My Grade: B

One Fine Day by Sirial, Chapter 7: "Typhoon in a Tiny Teacup"

No-Ah gets a letter in the mail stating that an old friend (enemy?) is coming by for a visit. Apparently it's a childhood friend whose magic has unpredictable and sometimes dangerous results. We find out that Mr. and Mrs Raspberry, the walking talking birds, were actually human at one time before the friend cursed them! No-Ah decides to take off before he gets there, leaving his "pets" behind to fend for themselves.

Why is this title even being printed? It is so horrible and meaningless. Did Yen have to make some sort of backroom deal where they had to agree to print it. It is truly the worst Korean or Japanese title I have ever read. It did get a nano-bit better with the arrival of someone who might actually be bad to contrast with all the creampuff characters in the title.

My Grade: D

Night School by Svetlana Chmakova, Chapter 5:

Sarah is acclimating herself a little better to her position as she negotiates a deal with Ronee, the unofficial school boss to get a Night School yearbook printed. Things aren't all good though, as Sarah is led down a magical staircase that might just wipe her from existence.

This is the first chapter of Night School that has actually looked finished. There aren't too many open panels with character dissolves like earlier installments. Too many times Chmakova's work suffers from poor panel layout and laziness. She seems to be trying to experiment but the pages come out jumbled and messy. It seems like she is getting better though. As for the story, it's almost as cluttered and confusing as Jack Frost. You have all these characters and factions running around, but none of the mythology of the world has been set out. The effect of this that the "who", "what", "why" questions are currently unanswered. And then you have dumb froo froo, like vampire parents getting upset about the yearbook because their kids don't show up in photographs. Hopefully, the disappearance of Sarah makes this title better.

My Grade: C+

Maximum Ride by James Patterson & Narae Lee, Chapter 5:

Max is taken in by Ella and her mom. Ella is the kid she saved from gang members a couple of issues back, which got her shot. Fang and Nudge are still waiting for Max to catch up, not knowing that she is wounded and staying with Ella. They decide to go find her but are detoured when Nudge finds out her own mother may be nearby.

Ok, this seems to be the most lackadaisical and incompetent rescue ever. Poor Angel. Who knows what horrible tortures she is going through back at the School? Well, actually, we do know, but her "family" doesn't seem to be in any hurry to get her back. Max gets shot helping a stranger. Fang and Nudge take a detour to look for Nudge's mom. It just doesn't seem like anyone is in any hurry. Angel will probably be dead or mutated even further by the time they reach her. It's pretty bad when you have to admit that a blind guy and a fart challenged kid have taken the most action in the series.

My Grade: C+

Jack Frost by Jinho Ko, Chapter 5: "Genie and Hansen"

While Jack Frost battles Blood Pirate Avid in a duel to the death, Noh-A (decapitated as usual) and Hansen have to take on Avid's "meals". His meals are the zombies that are produced by his bite. They only have two driving urges: to obey Avid's will and to eat human flesh! Hansen is going to have to take on a whole army of the undead, all the while juggling Noh-A's head.

First up, the story sucks on this title. No idea what is going on STILL. But I can understand one thing. A dude battling for his life against hungry zombies! I get it-- dude with gun shooting undead. So since the story was brought down to dog level I could deal with it. Hopefully, some day Ko will throw us a bone.

My Grade: B+

 

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Manga Review: Sorcerer Hunters Volume 8

2009-10-22

Manga review of Sorcerer Hunters Volume 8. Story by Satoru Akahori. Art by Ray Omishi. Translated by Anita Sengupta. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+.

You would think that after defeating their archnemesis, Lord Sacher, last volume, the Sorcerer Hunters would take a well deserved break. But they're going through all kinds of different emotions, from great sadness to happiness and elation. Tira and Chocolat are mourning the death of their adopted father (even if he was an evil psycho), while Gateau and Eclair celebrate their reunion with a brother/sister muscle-flexing exhibition, much to Carrot's disgust. It seems like every Hunter is finding someone to share their feelings with except Carrot. He's trying to deal with the fact that, Naruto-like, he has the God of Destruction sealed within him and that it might be his destiny to destroy the world. Can't anybody spare a little pity for Carrot? Their first post-Sacher mission is to take down a sorcerer named Count Poisson, who has enslaved hundreds of Parsoners to build a magic labyrinth that will make him more powerful.

This funny series keeps on chugging along even though Tokyopop placed the 2nd edition printings on hiatus. Even though Volume 8 contains the Hunter trademark slapstick humor it takes a turn for the more sentimental and bittersweet as Carrot encounters the young daughter of Jingo Row, the designer of Poisson's labyrinth. It's not clear at first whether she's real or just a spirit, but she develops a crush on Carrot. The art is so inconsistent that it almost reminded me of an OEL manga like Night School at times. What I mean is that some panels were drawn very beautifully with lots of detail and backgrounds while others looked almost like amateurish rushed sketches that needed to be touched up. Overall though, I have enjoyed Sorcerer Hunters and will continue reading it.

My Grade: B

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Podcast Episode 191: Naruto Volume 46

2009-10-21
Length: 14s

Podcast manga review of Naruto Volume 46: Naruto Returns by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $9.99, Rated T for Teen.

From the back cover:

Naruto is a young shinobi with an incorrigible knack for mischief. He's got a wild sense of humor, but Naruto is completely serious about his mission to be the world's greatest ninja!

NARUTO RETURNS

Naruto's friends are tested as an attempt to overthrow Tsunade begins and they must all fight - or fall. New secrets about Pain are revealed, but they only add to the mystery of his identity. As Pain commences with the final destruction of Konoha, Naruto and the Toads prepare to take him on in battle. Can Naruto save his beloved village?

My Grade: A+

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Hikaru Utada: "Keep Tryin" Music Video

2009-10-18

Here's a beautiful Hikaru Utada song from her cd "Ultra Blue", which is available on Itunes for $7.99:

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Podcast 190: Eden Volume 12

2009-10-17
Length: 20s

Podcast manga review of Eden Volume 12 by Hiroki Endo. Translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian. Lettering by Steve Dutro. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Dark Horse, $12.95, Rated Mature 18+.

From the back cover:

Eden returns with a thrilling, 224-page volume packed with brutal and realistic battles, character revelations, strange sci-fi surprises, political intrigue, and an "intelligent virus" that's taking over the world! Still investigating the Australian Wilhelm Corporation and its connection to the murders of several police officers, Miriam and Wendy track down some key figures in the conspiracy-- who begin to die mysterious deaths of their own. Elijah and his new bodyguard, Letheia Aletheia, are tracked down by the Propater Federation's seemingly unstoppable cyborg assassin, and this beast proves to be quite a match for both of them! Elijah's kidnapped sister unveils some startling family secrets, as her relationship with the elusive and powerful being known as "Maya" continues to grow. Also-- the secrets behind the mysterious data discs that Elijah found in Eden Volume 1 are finally revealed! Hiroki Endo's titanic Eden series pays tribute to multiple genres, while exploring man's role in the planet's natural order and humanity's possible demise.

My Grade: A+

Listen to podcast of Volume 1:

http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=362912

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Anime DVD Review: Love Hina, The Complete Series, Episodes 8-13

2009-10-12

Podcast anime review of Love Hina: The Complete Series, Episodes 8-13. Directed by Yoshiaki Iwasaki (Hayate, Familiar of Zero). Series Composition by Kurou Hazuki. Published by Funimation, Rated 16+, List Price: $49.99.

In this second batch of episodes, Keitaro's efforts to get into Tokyo U take a backseat to stories focusing on the female leads. Motoko, the samurai girl, finally has to confront her turtlephobia when Su lets a giant mecha-turtle loose. Then she has to enter Keitaro's dream, which is based on an old Japanese RPG, which pisses her off, even though she's in an unconscious state. Kitsune plays the role of Sherlock Holmes (she actually cosplays as him) to find out what has become of the missing monthly Hinata rent payments. Naru might just be leaving her friends and Tokyo U behind as she attempts to break into the cutthroat world of Japanese pop idols, managed by none other than the male diva, Kentaro. We also get a little more background info on the always mysterious Su, as the residents try to find out more about her older brother and sister. Whoops, I almost forgot Shinobu and her desire to experience her first kiss!

I actually enjoyed this second disk more than the first because, let's face it, Keitaro is a bit of a wanker. The girls are much more interesting, seeing as how they don't have a single goal in life that obsesses them to extremes. Actually, maybe they all do. Motoko with her sword training, Su with her absent family members and gadgets, Kitsune with her drinking, and Naru, whose quest mirrors Keitaro's. I guess I meant that the girls seem to have more texture, and the writers of the show are making them even more individual in these episodes. Even though Love Hina was one of the first harem anime, it still works better than most because there are only five girls, unlike Negima where you have over 30. So it's much easier to get to know them and add layers to their personalities. The animation is top of the line, supplied by Production IG, which wisely modified their super realistic style to suit the design of the original manga. The voice acting is done very well also.

My Grade: A

Listen to podcast of Episodes 1-7:

http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=522459

 

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Magazine Review: Yen Plus December 2008, Part 1

2009-10-11

Yep, I'm still catching up on Yen Plus. Basically, I will be breaking the review for each issue down into two parts: The Japanese first, and then the OEL and Korean section.

Higurashi When They Cry,  Chapter 5: "Isolation"

Keiichi is becoming more and more paranoid. You would too if your sweet friends seem possessed at times by a demon and strange murders had occurred and someone put needles in your food! Keiichi's conflict lies in the fact that most of the time his best friends seem like the cute girls he has known for the past few months, but every once in a while, when he asks about the town secrets, their eyes change and they start talking with weird voices. He even starts carrying around a baseball bat for protection.

I would say that Higurashi stands heads above all the titles in this magazine with its mix of moe and its never-ending sense of dread and suspense. I watched the first dvd of the anime version a while back so I know how this ends, but the weirdness and horror of the story still packs a powerful punch. I look forward to the undiscovered country beyond this first arc.

My Grade: A

Nabari No Ou, Chapter 5: "Attack"

Raimei has led Miharu and company to her home village of Fuuma to consult with the ninja master Kotaru Fuuma, only to find it under attack. The Iga Grey Wolves are conducting a raid to steal Fuuma's "Forbidden Art Scroll", which they believe will aid them in capturing the Shinra Banshou. It seems to be their lucky day as that very person falls into their hands! On their side is a particularly dangerous individual named Yoite who appears to be able to cut his enemies in two just by pointing at them!

I must admit that the earlier chapters of Nabari No Ou were a little too girlish for my taste, especially with Miharu being such an emo brooder with no apparent interest in his special status. But for chapter 5, my hat is off to Yuhki Kamatani, who lets loose a can of whoop ass in the action sequences of this chapter. The art was just incredible and her choice of angles right out of film just blew me away. It's not just that the artist didn't shy away from blood. It's her mastery of pace that captures your eye, pushing you through pages with insistence. Great work.

My Grade: A+

Soul Eater, Chapter 2: "Remedial Lesson (part 2)"

The two teams of Maka/Soul Eater and Black Star/Tsubaki have a dubious distinction in common. They were supposed to have claimed the souls of 99 humans and one witch. Their current soul count combined: ZERO! So they've been given a remedial mission which they must complete or face expulsion from the DWMA. They must take the soul of Dr. Franken Stein. Yes, that's right, get it? "DR. FRANKENSTEIN". Problem is he's very powerful, being the former partner of Shinigami-Sama's Death Scythe. Both sets of partners will have to attain a higher level of cooperation and skill if they hope to defeat the evil scientist.

The early installments of this series left me at a complete loss. Atsushi Ohkubo kept on jumping from character to character each chapter and never really got a story going. I had no idea or context in which to place them so it was starting over with the plot over and over again. Starting last issue, he started bringing the cast together and laying down at least a semblance of a story arc. But the lack of a sensible plot is what makes this the weakest title in the Japanese half of Yen Plus. It does seem like the title is getting better. Good enough to buy the tankoban version, the first volume of which should be out as I write this? Not sure on that point. I'm probably gonna skip it for now. I will say this. Ohkubo's art is very unique and cool, with its absurd expressionistic surrealism, but not enough to sell me on Soul Eater as a whole.

My Grade: B

Sumomomo Momomo Chapter 4: "Dinner, A Bath, Or Me"

This chapter serves mainly as exposition, as Koushi's dad explains what the "Heavenly General's War" is all about and why Koushi and Momoko's marriage is so important to the future of Japan. Apparently, there are two large martial arts bloodlines, East and West factions, in Japan that have been fighting for centuries, like the Capulets and Montagues. Koushi and Momoko represent the two sides. It is believed that their union could finally bring about peace. But to do this means that Koushi will have to get involved in a world that he wants no part of.

Don't really have a lot to say about this chapter since it was mainly informational, but there is an extremely funny exchange between Momoko and Tenka at its beginning that made me laugh. I enjoy this title.

My Grade: B

Bamboo Blade Chapter 9: "Kojiro and the Day He Gave Up the Shinai of His Heart" & Chapter 10: "Kojiro and Bento"

With the acquisition of Tamaki Kawazoe, Kojiro still needs one more girl for his Kendo team (even though one of them, Saya, has rarely shown up for practice). When Tamaki kicks Kojiro's ass in less than a second during a practice match, it sends him into a funk, wondering how he has come to be so out of form. He also finally gets around to buying his new team some decent equipment for the big match against his rival, now a month away.

What can I say, I am a sucker for a manga or anime that features characters dwelling in poverty or at least struggling to make ends meet. That's what really got me hooked on Cowboy Bebop back in the day. They always seemed to have enough money for rice or noodles but never enough for meat. And featuring a poor teacher as the main protagonist in Bamboo Blade is even more laser sighted up my alley. Kojiro is not putting this Seven Samurai-like team together to fight for the honor of Kendo. He's doing it so he'll be able to eat! It's just so inherently funny. I really like all the characters and the humor as well. The weakness comes in the art, mainly in the kendo fights. They tend to be hard to understand and I had difficulty differing between the fighters and exactly what blows they were landing. It's rather unfortunate but the matches, at least in terms of presentation, seem to be getting better.

My Grade: B+   

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Podcast 189: It Takes A Wizard

2009-10-10
Length: 13s

Podcast manga review of It Takes A Wizard: The Complete Saga. Written by Thomas R. Hart from an original concept by Jason DeAngelis. Art by Sean Lam. Published by Seven Seas. Rated Teen, $12.99.

From the back cover:

To Catch a Wizard!

No outsider has set foot on the island of Manhattan for the past three years, and with good reason. It's become a place of wild, dark magic, where technology and the laws of science do not work. The Manhattan Kingdom is ruled by a sorceror known as Everett Winterthorn, the Midnight King, who commands a army of trolls, goblins, ghouls, and harpies. On the other side of the river, the US military holds the dark forces at bay. But just barely.

Isaac Silverberg is Winterthorn's former apprentice, plucked from Death Row and given a final chance to redeem himself. He must enter the Manhattan Kingdom and rescue a damsel in distress in exchange for his life. But is he truly the mage for the job?

My grade: C-

Read a preview at the following link:

http://www.gomanga.com/webmanga/index.php?series=ittakesawizard&page=1

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New York Times Manga Bestsellers: October 9, 2009

2009-10-10

Here are the bestselling manga volumes for last week:

1) Chibi Vampire 14

2) Vampire Kisses 3

3) Naruto 46

4) Fullmetal Alchemist 20

5) Naruto 45

6) Bleach 28

7) Shugo Chara 7

8) Yotsuba 6

9) Negima Neo Magister 3

10) Vampire Knight 7

It's nice to see Tokyopop grabbing the two top spots instead of the ever-present Viz. Sadly, for Tokyopop, it's the last volume of Chibi Vampire. I remember buying the first volume of that title a couple of years back, before all the current vampire fad had started. I bet Tokyopop never had a clue that it would become one of their top sellers. I read the first couple of volumes but drifted away from it for whatever reason. I guess now that it's ended, it would be a good time to pick it back up. I also need to check out the Vampire Kisses series. While I'm on the topic of blood suckers, Vampire Knight is another series I need to begin again. There's just so many books out there and so little time.

I would surmise that because only the sixth volume of Yotsuba has charted, I would then think Yen might have gambled and lost by relying on Yotsuba fans to pick up their re-released editions of volumes 1-5. I know I didn't get any of them, only buying the new volume 6. I have all the old ADV versions and do not have an extra $60 laying around to buy something I already have.

I'm still waiting for a callback or email from the New York Times. I thought that joining in during the "disrespect for manga" controversy that I could insinuate that I could do a better job writing the little manga blurbs for the books than their current writer. I even told them that I was willing to work for Nike shoe factory wages, but still no response. I know other bloggers have written secret emails lobbying for the job, but I'm straight up about it, so stay out of the way!

(The subliminal point of the above parody was to state my opinion that some in the manga world wanted to work for the New York Times and that they overreacted simply through a repressed desire to work for the very monster they were getting angry at.)

"LEAVE YOTSUBA ALOOOONNEEE!"

(Oh yeah, by the way, I DO want to work for ADV manga too. PLEASE ring me back!)

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Dark Horse, Give The Eden License Back To Kodansha!

2009-10-08

So I finally got the newest volume of Eden, Volume 12, in the mail today from Amazon. It appears that Dark Horse has the title on a seven month schedule, which to me is totally unacceptable. What the hell, Dark Horse? You've only released FOUR volumes of this series in TWO years! I find it hard to accept that it's not doing well. Volume 11 was on the NYT bestseller list. People lose interest in a series when there's so much time between releases, or they forget what was going on. At least include a recap.

Better yet, with the fickle Kodansha going into business for themselves, give the license back to them. I'm sure they'll treat it with respect. Just witness how they treated fans of their Tokyopop titles, throwing them into limbo. They're awesome too, just like you. YEAH KODANSHA! Release the titles we really want! Restored copies and overpriced editions of Akira and Ghost in the Shell! YES, bring back the 80s, the 90s! THEY'RE OLD, KODANSHA! Let go! Ghost in the Shell has become the Stargate of manga. How many ultimate uncensored editions do we need? I haven't bought any of 'em.

I guess what I'm saying, Dark Horse, is that you are rapidly becoming the new ADV manga in my mind. Not only because of Eden, but Reiko the Zombie Shop and Octopus Girl. Yes, I guess it made marketing sense back in the day to try to shortsightedly cash in on The Ring and The Grudge Japanese horror fad (oh, and Dark Water) and all that, but when it was over you cancelled the titles. Don't start what you can't finish. That's all I'm saying.

What got in my craw to get me to write this? Two simple words on the back of Eden 12. "Eden returns...". ADV tried this inane tactic back in the day too. "Gunslinger Girl. Back in Action!" or "Yotsuba's Back!". What pisses me off about blurbs like this is that the companies publishing them make it seem like the series had been lost in a monastery fire back in the Middle Ages and that the books have just now been recovered. "Eden Returns...". Uh, it's been out of circulation because you weren't printing it. You should be printing an apology to its fans instead of playing coy. "We're sorry for taking such a long time to print the 12th volume, but..." and give a reason why it's taking so long between each installment. Or at least a letter from the editor inside about it.

I happen to think that Eden is the greatest manga work I have ever read. You should treat the title and its fans with a little more respect. Look at Vertical or Viz Signature and learn. Or for that matter, Udon's Silent Mobius Complete Edition. This should be a prestige title, not an afterthought.

 

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Manga Review: Future Diary Volume 3

2009-10-05

Manga review of Future Diary volume 3 by Sakae Esuno. Translated by Yuya Otake. Adapted by Clint Bickham. Originally published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten. Published in US by Tokyopop, $10.99, Rated 16+ (for mild sexuality, aggression, moderate language).

As Kurusu and Minene look on from a rooftop, Yuki and Yuno are cornered by the traitorous Tsubaki and her cult. Yuno's solution to this problem? She cuts off Tsuabaki's hand with an axe! (sigh) Kids today. This does buy time for Yuki to get away but also gets Yuno caught. Now it's up to Yuki to decide if he's gonna risk his life saving his psycho fiancee/girlfriend/stalker. We also get to see Yuki's mom as she comes home after a month being away for work as a game programmer. She also brings along the kid of a recently deceased friend. Reisuke Houjou is a cute little tyke with rosy cheeks, fond of hand puppets and drawing. He also happens to be a diary holder, and his plan is to kill Yuko and Yunio.

This series grows on me more and more. It's so over the top and schizophrenic that you can't help but love it. It reminds me a lot of Higurashi: When They Cry, with that title's mixture of horror and moe. Future Diary, too has an intriguing mix, but more along the lines of sex and violence. And a bit of horror too. It's hard to believe that Yuki could fall for Yunio (seeing as how she's crazy and maybe killed her parents), but I think he is. It's hard to reconcile her as a cold-blooded murderer, even when she chops people into little pieces, since she is so cute and so devoted to Yuki. In a cool move, Esuno makes her realize in this volume that if the game is to end, either Yuki or Yuno will have to die. It will be interesting to see how far her love will carry her before her own survival takes precedence. Esuno's art can switch between cute and grotesque at the drop of a hat and even exceeds When They Cry in this aspect. I'm beginning to suspect that the cop, Kurusu, has his own agenda. For most if not all of this volume, he lets Yuki and Yuno fight alone without lending any help. Cool series.

My Grade: A-

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Podcast 188: Silent Mobius Complete Edition Volume 1

2009-10-03
Length: 12s

Podcast manga review of Silent Mobius Complete Edition Volume 1 by Kia Asamiya (Junk, Nadesico, Dark Angel). Translated by M. Kirie Hayashi. Originally published in Japan by Tokuma Shoten. Published in US by Udon, $14.99, rated 16+.

From the back cover:

The ultimate sci-fi manga returns! In the future, powerful beings known as "Lucifer Hawks" have begun invading Earth from another dimension. Only one thing stands in their way- the Attacked Mystification Police force; an all-female security team with some amazing paranormal powers!

Silent Mobius: Complete Edition features an all-new translation, and new high-quality scans taken directly from the original artwork. Each volume also features a full-color gallery of rare artwork, plus bonus material like data files, character designs, and interviews.

My Grade: B+

 

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Magazine Review: Yen Plus, November 2008

2009-10-03

I was fully behind Yen's efforts at starting a new manga anthology a little over a year ago and I still do respect them immensely for continuing the magazine. But I have to admit I did not make it past the first issue initially, even though I have continued to buy every edition every month. So I finally decided I needed to get caught up. I started over again with the August issue and will continue reading until I get current. This review will only be for the American and Korean titles. I will be sure to include the Japanese side of things next time.

Jack Frost Chapter 4 by Jinho Ko:

Four chapters in and I still don't know what the hell is going on in this title. This chapter, Jack and Blood Pirate Avid continue their duel to the...uh, death? Or are they already dead? And of course, Noh-A gets her head cut off again. I have no idea what the plot is or what Jack is or what the Amityville school represents. The only saving grace in the earlier chapters was the constant frames of Noh-A's butt in the air.

My Grade: D-

Nightschool Chapter 4 by Svetlana Chmakova:

Alex snuck out of the house and took down some Hunters but has no memory of how she did it. Maybe it has something to do with the Darth Maul cowled figure she envisions. Meanwhile, back at school, Sarah has to deal with a vampire Casanova and a teacher who threatens to destroy the campus during his classes.

I don't like this series very much. The whole day/night school human/non-human thing has been done to death. The art is really good in some panels, but lazy or rushed in others. Chmakova has the bad habit of dissolving the the bottom of her panels instead of drawing them. Or using giant splash pages with very little detailed art on them. Most of her characters look the same, as if she copied them from the members of Coldplay. It is better than Jack Frost, and is fairly entertaining, but I would never buy it as an individual manga volume.

My Grade: C-

Maximum Ride Chapter 4 by James Patterson and Narae Lee:

Ok, to start off, I think James Patterson is a talentless hack. Is that too strong? Should I edit myself? Angel is being subjected to experiments that are really torture sessions as her "family" is on the way to rescue her. That's Fang and Nudge. Max got taken down by a bullet last issue. The spotlight, unfortunately, falls on two of the dumbest characters in the series: Iggy and Gasman.

Iggy is blind but likes to work with explosives. Let me repeat that, Iggy is blind but fancies himself an expert with explosives. And then you have Gasman, or Gazzy, who farts all the time, or maybe he's really pooping in his pants. Regardless, he's one of the most scatalogically disgusting little toads I've ever encountered in a manga. I was hoping Iggy would cut the wrong wire and blow them both up!

Lee's art is pretty good. It's unfortunate that the source material is so bad. Like Night School, this series has gotten better, but I doubt it will ever rise above mediocrity. Lee's art is having to carry the title.

My Grade: C-

One Fine Day by Sirial, Day 6:

Mr and Mrs Raspberry, a married couple that happen to be walking talking dwarf birds, come to visit No-ah. His pets take the opportunity to get into trouble.

This series is a big waste of space and trees. We could save so much oxygen if One Fine Day could be extracted from Yen Plus. Awful. Just awful. Boring nothingness.

My Grade: F-

Pig Bride by Kookhwa Huh & Sujin Kim Chapter 4

Si-Joon is having a hard time trying to figure out why every girl at school wants him. Uh, would it happen to be that your family is rich and politically well-connected? Lady Park comes for a formal visit and Si-Joon's parents seem to be in on the plan to consummate their "marriage".

I really like Pig Bride. The art is suitably wispy and shojo-like with a Korean spin. The characters are attractively designed and unique. I am very curious to see if Lady Park is actually ugly underneath her mask. I suspect that she isn't. But it's cool while it remains a mystery. While Pig Bride seems to be romantic comedy, it also gives you a sense of suspense with wanting to know how things are going to work out. This is one of only two titles that I like enough to buy the tankoban volumes.

My Grade: B+

Sarasah Chapter 4 by Ruy Ryang:

Ji-Hae, or should I say "Ari" is on her own in a time she doesn't belong to. Her mom is so worried about her sanity that she has confined her to the house, forbidding her to leave. Ji-Hae escapes, but doesn't have a clue as to how to find the ancestor of Seung-Hyu. And the little jerk dog creature, Mita, is kicking back, refusing to help her in her quest.

When this title started, I really hated it. Ji-Hae seemed more like a psychotic stalker than a love struck teenager and I found her a bit creepy. Then we had to get past the whole trip to the afterlife scene. But now that she's been thrown back in time, I think I am finally getting behind the story and beginning to like it. I'm very curious to see this supposed horrible event that has driven a wedge of hate between Ji-Hae and the object of her affection in our present time. The art is standard shojo style, if a little better than the average Japanese titles that fall under that category. This is the other title I will buy the tankoban version of.

My Grade: B+

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L'Arc En Ciel -- Jojoushi (Poem) Live in Concert

2009-10-01

What can I say? I love this song from En Ciel's Truth cd. Lovely and powerful ballad. Excellent picture and sound quality.

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Wicked City Novel Published

2009-10-01

I was at Border's tonight and picked up Zoo by Otsuichi. Now the only Haikasoru title I haven't bought is Usurper of the Sun. I haven't read any of the titles yet, but when I do, I'll be doing podcast reviews for sure.

I knew about the Haikasoru books, but the real surprise tonight was finding a copy of Wicked City: Black Guard, a novel by Hideyuki Kikuchi, in the manga section. Kikuchi, of course is the author of the best-selling Vampire Hunter D series. It's being published by Seven Seas and goes for the nice price of $9.99. I didn't even know it was coming out. I'm walking into the franchise naked, having never seen the anime or the live action movie. But I like that. I'd rather read the novel first instead of seeing the usual crappy Japanese special effects in the live action version, or old school anime style.  I'd much rather use my imagination to see Kikuchi's world.

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Podcast 187: Aoi Hana, Episodes 1-4

2009-09-27
Length: 14s

Podcast anime review of Aoi Hana: Sweet Blue Flowers, Episodes 1-4. Now showing on www.crunchyroll.com. Directed by Kenichi Kasai (Kimi Kiss, Honey and Clover). Series Composition by Fumihiko Takayama. Music by Takefumi Haketa (Vampire Knight).

Childhood friends Fumi and Akira haven't seen each other in ten years, but by coencidence, they meet each other on the train commute to their new high schools on opening day. It's only later that they recognize each other. Both girls find new friends on their first day. Fumi meets Sugimoto, a basketball player, while Akira meets Kyoko, a beautiful and elegant young lady. As Fumi and Akira renew their bond, Sugimoto wants a different kind of bond with Fumi, yeah, that's right, this IS yuri after all. And then we find out that Kyoko is in love with Sugimoto, even though it's unrequited. Let the drama begin!

My Grade: A

You can watch all 11 episodes for free at:

http://www.crunchyroll.com/library/Aoihana

View the trailer below:

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Manga Review: GTO Volume 13

2009-09-27

Manga review of GTO Volume 13 by Tohru Fujisawa. Translated and adapted by Dan Papia. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated OT-- Age 16+.

So the Holy Forest class trip to Okinawa is happening. Onizuka is having fun with the trip, bunking his class co-ed in the hotel, even sometimes shacking up arch enemies together. But something else got his attention last volume. One of his students, Kikuchi, told him about a legend concerning a Christian missionary that had buried 2 billion yen worth of treasure on Iriomote Jima, a sparsely populated island which is one of the wildest and most unexplored areas of Japan, consisting mostly of subtropical jungle. Deceiving most of his students, Onizuka tells them that they will be conducting research on how sea turtle eggs taste. Yep, that's the excuse he gives to make them start digging for the treasure!

As they trek through the jungle, Noboru gets kidnapped by Anko and her cronies and they drag him deep into the wild. They tie him up, thinking that Onizuka will get blamed for his disapperance. Instead, the girls realize they have become lost. When Anko falls into a sea cave, it's Noboru to the rescue, which sets off a chain reaction leading to one of the most unlikely romances I've come across in the series so far.  

The cool thing about GTO is that Fujisawa always uses the characters as the focus. Yeah, he puts Onizuka in there with all his rudeness and crudeness, but in the end all the kids and teachers are human beings. Yes, even Uchiyamada, who sets out to bring Onizuka down once again, only to find himself being lapped danced and boob slapped at a strip club and then ending up dredged in a fish net! The spotlight of volume 13 is on the evolving relationship between Noboru and Anko, which goes back to the earliest volumes of GTO. If you remember, Noboru was being bullied by Anko and her crew so much, he attempted to kill himself. My, how far we've come, thanks to Onizuka. Now, thanks to their test of survival, it might be that Anko and Noboru might end up loving each other!

In some other manga series, characters are introduced and seem major before they move back into a supporting role forever. You have the sense in GTO that any character can step up into a starring role at any time if it serves the story. It can get repetitive at times because in the end GTO's main purpose is to find a way to reach every kid in his class, no matter how much they may hate him. But finding out how he reaches them is what is fun.

My Grade: A

You can listen to my podcast review of Volume 1:

http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=319225

(I will say this. GTO is one of the titles Tokyopop has lost the license to publish, so I wouldn't dally if you want to try this series out. The entire series is now out of print)

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New Inuyasha Anime to be Simulcast in US

2009-09-27

Inuyasha: The Final Act, the new anime series which will be adapting the final volumes of Rumiko Takahashi's Inuyasha manga will be simulcast on Hulu.com and ShonenSunday.com/anime beginning October 3, 2009.

I watched the entire Inuyasha anime on DVD except for the last volume and am still currently reading the manga (I think I'm on like volume 27). I guess now would be a good time to watch the final volume. I hope this really brings back Inuyasha as a franchise in a big way. At times he seems a forgotten entity even though it was Inuyasha, along with Cowboy Bebop that really busted the US market open in the late 90s and early 2000s.

If you've never watched the show please give it a try. It has great characters, adventure, action, comedy, and romance. You can watch the entire run of the original series at www.hulu.com. Watch the first episode below:

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Anime DVD Review: Area 88 Volume 4

2009-09-27

Area 88 Volume 3: Wings of the Wind,  Episodes 10-12. Published by ADV Films. Running Time: 75 minutes. Directed by Isamu Imakake (Captain Tsubasa). Screenplay by Hiroshi Ohnogi (Kekkaishi, FMA: Brotherhood). List Price: $29.98. Also available in a box set.

There are only 3 ways out of Area 88. The first is in a bodybag. The second is to serve out your 3 year tour of duty. The last is to raise $1.5 million to buy your way out. You get a bounty for every enemy plane you down, but the pilot's ammunition and maintenence of their jet takes up a lot of money so the odds are stacked against that option. In this last volume, Shin Kazuma has scaled that mountain and only needs to shoot down one more fighter craft. Then he can go home to his beloved Ryoko and live happily ever after, remembering Area 88 only in bad dreams. Shin is usually on the ball when he's up in the air, but knowing he only has to take down one more plane puts a lot of added pressure on him. He also has visions of Ryoko dancing through his mind (not literally). This distraction almost costs Kitri her life during a dogfight and Shin's jet takes some damage. Shin is resigned at first to the delay in his liberation, that is, until he finds out Ryoko is getting married to his former best friend who also happens to be the dude that got him shipped out to Area 88!

Back in the day Viz partially published the original manga upon which this anime is based. It was before the Tokyopop innovation of cheap and original size manga so the Area 88 volumes were those huge trade paperbacks Viz put out for $16 or so. The reason I bring this up is because as I watched the anime I couldn't help but feel that it was only scratching the surface of a much larger story. I didn't think we got much time to get to know the characters or to find out more about the war they were fighting. That's right, even after the series ended, I still didn't know much about the political situation or what brought the conflict about. I don't think I ever even saw the face of an enemy soldier. I guess maybe that was the show's intention, but I doubt that it was the case in the manga. From what the cast and director said about the manga, the original creator was very much influenced by shojo character designs. I would really like to read them, but Viz isn't exactly famous for putting out old series. Maybe under their "Signature" line? I guess I'll see if I can track some of them down on Ebay.

I wish the show had been longer. Even with its brevity, I still really enjoyed it. The mysterious nature brought about by the shortness made the characters even more appealing, if that makes any sense. There is also an OVA collection from ADV that is readily available. I guess I'll be hunting that down next.

Volume 4 Grade: A-

Overall Series Grade: A-

View the trailer below:

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Manga Review: Otomen Volume 2

2009-09-26

Manga Review of Otomen Volume 2 by Aya Kanno (Soul Rescue, Blank Slate). Translated and adapted by Lindsey Akashi. Originally published in Japan by Hakusensha. Published in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $8.99, Rated T for Teen.

The irony continues to pile on as Asuka Masamune continues his reign as macho man on campus even as he secretly longs for all things cute and girly. He's even picked up a disciple, Yamato Ariake, a young boy who is constantly misaken for a girl, and has been teased about it ever since he was a kid. Ariake sees Asuka as the masculine ideal and sets out to be just like him. Of course, the reader knows that Asuka is anything but the embodiment of manly men. Ariake also wants to man up so he can confess to a girl that has stolen his heart. The relationship between Asuka and Ryo appears to be taking a romantic turn as Christmas approaches, but Asuka's mom, ever watchful for even the slightest bent towards transsexualism, arrives on the scene and tells Asuka that he has a meeting with his FIANCEE! And just wait till you see the wacko his mom has set him up with in an effort to save him from his father's fate and also to cement a business alliance.

I will say this about Otomen. The series is hilarious. Most of the humor in this volume, and a lot of weirdness, concerns Asuka's fiancee, Iruka Sakiyama. She is like the Messiah of Cuteness and Asuka finds himself hard pressed to reject her interest. She actually lives in a life sized magic castle dollhouse in her vast room inside her family's mansion. And she sees Asuka as her Prince Charming.

Kanno uses Otomen to parody shojo manga, actually gently poke fun at its conventions would be a more accurate description. Until you got to the Iruka section, Otomen has been pretty realistic without using many over the top elements. Kanno's main device of comedy has been the irony of Asuka's character and she has done very well with it. She is still using it, but she's coming up with more interesting situations to exploit it. I really like Otomen. It has been the biggest Shojo Beat surprise I've gotten this year.

My Grade: A

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Podcast Episode 186: Astro Boy The Movie #1

2009-09-22
Length: 10s

Podcast comic book review of Astro Boy The Movie #1. Adapted by Scott and David Tipton. Art by E.J. Su. Published by IDW, $3.99.

Metro City floats above the Earth's surface, its daily operations taken care of by thousands of robots. They do any job that humans find to be beneath them. Dr. Tenma, head of the Ministry of Science, is in charge of their functions and their designs. Unfortunately, most of his funding comes from the military and the politically motivated President Stone. When Tenma's son, Toby, is killed during a demonstration of a new soldier/police force robot, Tenma creates a new robot in Toby's image. It comes equipped with Toby's memories as well.

My Grade: B

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Podcast Episode 185: Shigurui: Death Frenzy, Episodes 1-6

2009-09-21
Length: 15s

Podcast anime review of Shigurui: Death Frenzy The Complete Series, Episodes 1-6. Directed by Hirotsugu Hamazaki (Texhnolyze). Series Composition by Seishi Minakami (Paprika, Boogiepop Phantom). Based on the manga by Takayuki Yamaguchi. Published by Funimation, List Price: $59.98, Rated 17+.

From the back cover:

Two damaged warriors wear the scars of a twisted and violent past. Bitter rivals for the secrets of their master's sword and the right to his daughter, these samurai inflict wounds on each other that would destroy lesser men. The final chapter of their saga unfolds within a brutal samurai tournament, a gruesome contest arranged to satisfy the bloodlust of a cruel tyrant overlord.

The disfigured legends of the blade must summon the strength for one last battle - a final lesson in the artistry of violence where nothing is more beautiful than the kill.

My Grade: A-

You can watch all 12 episodes for free at Funimation.com. Here is the link to the first episode:

http://www4.funimation.com/video/?page=video&v=330

And here's the trailer for the box set:

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Manga Review: Hikaru No Go Volume 15

2009-09-20

Manga review of Hikaru No Go volume 15: Sayonara. Story by Yumi Hotta. Art by Takeshi Obata (Death Note, Ral Grad). Supervised by Yukari Umezawa (5 Dan). Translated and adapted by Naoko Amemiya. English script consulting by Janice Kim (3 Dan). Originaly published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, rated A for All Ages.

Sai's time as a ghost Go instructor to Hikaru seems to be up in this fifteenth volume of Hikaru No Go, but he's having a hard time convincing Hikaru of this fact. Apparently the "Gods of Go" were keeping Sai hanging around all these centuries to let Hikaru see his match with Toya Meijin. He realized this last volume when Hikaru gave him a skilled analysis of the game between Sai and Toya. At this point Sai knows that Hikaru is on the path to playing the "Divine Move". Hikaru doesn't take Sai's warnings about his limited time seriously until he really does disappear. He spends most of the rest of the book trying to find him, all while taking time to play the top ranked Japanese amateur player.

I have to admit that once Sai disappeared from volume 15 it made me a little nervous because he is such an essential part of the story. But I was also a little glad as well because it seemed like he was beginning to suffer. For the first time in the series, Sai is reminded of the fact that he is dead. Ok, this might seem obvious to us, but I think Sai thinks of himself as a real red blooded human with needs and wants. He's saddened a bit when he remembers that Hikaru is capable of "The Divine Move" but no matter what he does, Sai will never actually get to make it or receive any recognition or fame even if he does. We've seen a bit of it in earlier volumes, but I was beginning to wonder when these two symbiotes, Hikaru and Sai, would begin to fracture and fray. To me, it would be a nightmare to be in someone else's mind for 2 years 24/7. It's admirable that Hikaru has been able to tolerate it this long. But he has no patience when Sai gets all wishy washy, so that's why he blows off Sai when he warns that he might disappear. When he's gone, Hikaru has to decide if he wants to go on playing Go for himself or whether his desire was driven by Sai's.

My Grade: B+

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Anime Review: xxxHolic Volume 4

2009-09-13

Anime DVD review of xxxHolic Volume 4. Directed by Tsutomu Mizushima (Genshiken, Hare+Guu). Series Composition by Ageha Ohkawa of CLAMP and Michiko Yokote (Bleach, Naruto, Genshiken). 100 minutes, Episodes 13-16. Published by Funimation, $29.98 (Rightstuf.com has it for $7.00 and Funimation has recently released a box set of the entire series), Rated 13+.

Watanuki and Domeki's partnership is growing stronger as the 4th volume of xxxHolic opens, even if Watanuki wants Domeki out of the way when it comes to his would-be romance with Himawari. He always seems to pop up as the third wheel just when he's about to get Himawari by herself. But first things first. Watanuki notices a girl at school with a strange feature on her back. She has a pair of small wings! At first he thinks they might be cosplay or something but they are real. Does it have something to do with the girl hanging out on the school roof, gazing at flying birds?

Then it's on to a two parter involving two very weird twins. Well, maybe it's all in Watanuki's imagination. When he's around the the two girls, he feels a strange sort of wave effect that does not portend anything good usually. In some way the twins are impacting each other through a psychic link or by the things they say to each other.

A comedy element of xxxHolic these days is the nine tailed fox spirit that mostly appears in a cute sort of small furry eel form that is always clinging to or wrapped around Watanuki's body. Don't get this spirit confused with Naruto's evil entity. This fox spirit is more like an affection starved dog. He starts causing trouble for Watanuki when he is changed into his full size on this volume.

xxxHolic is an anime that always falls just a tiny bit short of being a really good show. It succeeds admirably at creating a comedic but always otherworldly atmosphere that at times can creep you out. But its Twilight Zone-like endings never seem to shock or surprise. Because the writing is a bit subpar, you can always figure out what is going to happen long before it does. So the "punchlines" at the end very rarely have the impact the writers intended. This seems to be a problem that CLAMP has a lot. They are very good at designing characters and of concocting interesting plot setups, but do not do a good job with the execution of their stories. Tsubasa is a good example of this. They had awesome characters jumping across time and space but all the worlds they visited seemed so cliched and boring! I think they would be a greater force if they just set up scenarios and supplied the art and let someone else do the actual writing. I really like the characters in xxxHolic and the comedy bits are quite good. The supernatural elements are where inconsistencies popped up. It probably didn't help that I had already read some of the stories in manga form before watching the dvd. Even though it doesn't live up to its potential and the beautiful art from the manga is simplified a bit, xxxHolic is well worth watching.

My Grade: B+

All 24 episodes of the series can be watched at www.hulu.com

You can view Episode 13 below:

 

 

 

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Podcast Episode 184: Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 3

2009-09-08
Length: 10s

Podcast manga review of Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 3 by Hiromu Arakawa. Translated by Akira Watanabe. Adapted by Jake Forbes. Originally published in Japan by Square Enix. Published in US by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen.

From the back cover:

In an alchemical ritual gone wrong, Edward Elric lost his arm and his leg, and his brother Alphonse became nothing but a soul in a suit of armor. Equipped with mechanical "auto-mail" limbs, Edward becomes a state alchemist, seeking the one thing that can restore his brother and himself...the legendary Philosopher's Stone.

Accompanied by their bodyguard, Alex Louis Armstrong, our heroes seek out their closest childhood friend, Winry Rockbell, to fix their battered "auto-mail" bodyparts. Soon their quest for the Philosopher's Stone takes them to the great central library, where the Stone's formula may be hidden...if the mysterious figure named Lust doesn't get there first! But the secret of the Philsopher's Stone may be even more frightening than the beings who guard it...

My Grade: A+

 

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Anime Review: Otoboku Volume 3

2009-09-07

Anime dvd review of Otoboku (Maidens Are Falling For Me) Volume 3: Androgynous Antics. Published by Media Blasters. List Price: $19.99, Rated 16+. Episodes 10-13. Running Time: 100 minutes. Directed by Munenori Nawa (Galaxy Angel A&Z). Series Composition by Katsumi Hasegawa. (Japanese with English subtitles)

It's time to say goodbye to Seio Academy as the last dvd wraps up the series and some of its cast gets prepared to graduate. Luckily for Mizuho, for the most part, he has been able to keep the secret that he's actually a dude from most of the all female student body. This last volume focuses almost exclusively on the love triangle between Mizuho, his childhood friend, Mariya, and the Student Council President, Takako. It's unclear at this point if that love is reciprocated for either girl on Mizuho's side. I think he sees Mariya as his best friend and doesn't really see her in a romantic way. The event that brings things to a head is the staging of Romeo and Juliet at the school festival, with Mizuho and Takako playing the starcrossed lovers. It's left to them whether they will actually kiss during the love scenes. Locking lips has an odd effect on Takako as she goes from overconfident snobbish prude to love struck puppy dog after one kiss from Mizuho. Mariya is going to have to share Mizuho even more as he takes the traditional role of dancing with all the single girls at the annual Christmas dance party. The last episode on the dvd is an OVA sendup of the fairy tale of Cinderella, featuring super deformed versions of the Otoboku cast.

This series really brought something new to the crossdressing genre, (or maybe this is a harem anime?) whether it be a boy or a girl in the uncomfortable role of masquerading as something they are not. The aspect that made Otoboku unique was that after the first couple of episodes, Mizuho became a girl. What I mean is that he wasn't really a horndog like other anime characters put in the same situation. Mizuho is so nice that you forget he's a guy. There is more fan service in Maria Watches Over Us than this show. He just sorta goes with the flow and you almost feel like you're watching an all girl cast. It was really refreshing that he never tried to take advantage of the situation to seduce or cop feels or spy. But let's face it, he was already so effeminate before he came to Seio, he made Clay Aiken look tough in comparison. I almost wish the show was longer so I could see what happened with the different character's plot lines.

Extras: Clean Ending, Live Event in Kawasaki featuring the voice actresses singing songs, and a promotional music video.

Media Blasters will be releasing a box set of the entire series on Oct. 6.

My Grade: B+

Listen to my podcast review of Volume 1 here:

http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=398985  

View the opening sequence of the anime below:

 

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The Secret World Trailers

2009-09-06

You have to take a look at the Secret World trailers. For more info visit www.darkdaysarecoming.com

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Anime Review: Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Box Set, Episodes 6-9

2009-09-06

Anime review of Episodes 6-9 of the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Box Set. Published by Geneon. List Price: $59.98, Rated 13+. Box Set contains Episodes 1-13. Directed by Akiyuki Shinbo (Moonphase, Negima, Maria Holic). Written by Masaki Tsuzuki.

Nanoha's friends, Suzuka and Arisa, are getting very worried about her behavior. Just like her family, they can sense that something is up but Nanoha hasn't told them about her new magical girl role yet. Arisa is getting pissed and hurt because she feels Nanoha doesn't trust her. Without her in the triad of friendship, the bond between the three girls just doesn't seem the same. Nanoha, on the other hand, is intent on making a new friend, the mysterious and merciless Fate, the black-clad mage that she tangled with on the previous dvd. Fate, and her shape shifting wolf familiar, Aruf, are intent on seizing Jewel Seeds for Fate's mother. Unfortunately for Earth, and the universe at large, the clash between Nanoha and Fate over the Seeds could destroy the entire space time continuum! A Time-Space Adminstration Bureau Enforcer, a sort of interdimensional cop, arrives on the scene to make sure this doesn't happen.

While on the surface, Lyrical Nanoha might seem like a Cardcaptor Sakura rip-off, its imagery and plot skews a lot higher to older otaku. Why do I say this? Perhaps because there is some insinuated fan service, total nudity when Nanoha changes to her magical girl costume, and the fact that Fate's mom tortures her with a magical whip...over and over. So maybe I should say Cardcaptor Sakura with a dose of De Sade to poison the otherwise Hello Kitty sweetness? Also, Lyrical Nanoha at its heart is a sci-fi anime. What its users call magic is mathematical equations which mages activate with mental energy. The show gets even more sci-fi with the arrival of the Time-Space Bureau, a police force that patrols multiple dimensions in a starship, looking for people jacking with the universe. The character designs in the show are pretty cool but for the fact that every character in this series has serious "bedhead". No matter if it's a girl or a boy, everyone has these big clumps of uncombed hair poofing off the side of their head. What a tragedy that a show can actually be dragged down by bad grooming! This is not a great show but it can be entertaining if magical girls are your bag.

My Grade: B

You can watch the first part of Episode 1 below:

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New Dance in the Vampire Bund Anime Trailer

2009-09-06

Media Factory has released a promotional trailer for the upcoming Dance in the Vampire Bund anime, based on the manga by Nozomu Tamaki. 4 volumes of the manga have been released in the US by Seven Seas. Animation is being done by SHAFT (can you dig it?), which has had a hand in almost every major anime series to be released here to one degree or another. Akiyuki Shinbo (Devil Hunter Yohko, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Negima) will be directing. While Shinbo can do comedy very well, he should be able to handle the creepy mood and explicitness of this title. The manga is almost a joining together of two of Shinbo's earlier shows, Moonphase and Le Portrait de Petit Cossette in flavor and theme so I think he'll be allright with the subject matter.

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Podcast Episode 183: Momogumi Plus Senki Volume 1

2009-09-05
Length: 10s

Podcast manga review of Momogumi Plus Senki Volume 1 by Eri Sakondo. Translated by Aimi Tokutake. Adapted by Rachel Brown. Originally published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten. Published in US by Tokyopop, $10.99, Rated 13+.

From the back cover:

The deadline is his eighteenth birthday...

After transferring to a new school, Yuuki, a disaster-attracting young student, is told that he is actually the reincarnation of Momotaro from Japanese folklore. What's worse, he was cursed by demons to die on the day he turns eighteen. Luckily for Yuuki he won't have to battle these demons alone- his three mystical minions, Yukishiro, Masahiko, and Sawa will be there to instruct and protect him every step of the way!

My Grade: D

Read the first chapter below for free:

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Podcast Episode 182: Love Hina The Complete Series, Episodes 1-7

2009-09-03
Length: 13s

Podcast anime review of Love Hina: The Complete Series, Episodes 1-7. Directed by Yoshiaki Iwasaki (Hayate, Familiar of Zero). Series Composition by Kurou Hazuki. Published by Funimation, Rated 16+, List Price: $49.99.

From the back cover:

Attempting to fulfill a promise to his childhood sweetheart, Keitaro Urashima is determined to enter Tokyo University. After being rejected twice, he decides to leave home and stay at his grandmother's apartment complex to study. But when he arrives, his grandmother is gone and he finds himself under attack by the all-female residents. Will the girls accept him as their new apartment manager? Will his bones ever mend? More importantly, can he concentrate on his studies when he discovers that one of his tenants might be his long-lost sweetheart?

My Grade: A-

View the trailer below:

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New Naruto Shippuden Game for the PSP

2009-09-03

A new Naruto game, entitled Naruto Shippuden Legends: Akatsuki Rising, is coming out for the PSP on 10/6/09. The game appears to follow the retrieval of Gaara storyline in which Naruto and pals set out to rescue Gaara from the clutches of the Akatsuki. I'm sure the storyline will deviate, offering battles we never saw in the anime or manga as you get to choose from over 15 characters. If you don't want to follow the storyline, you can sign up for mission mode. The final game is supposed to include a co-op AI that will assist you in battle, most crucially in attack combos. Akatsuki Rising will also feature 2 player wireless co-op. If you're feeling a little evil, you can even play as one of the Akatsuki and battle against the good guys/girls.

What can I say? I'm buying this game! View the trailer below:

More Naruto Shippuden: Legends: Akatsuki Rising Info

 

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Podcast Episode 181: Tokyopop Kodansha Divorce Final & ADV Cremated

2009-09-01
Length: 14s

Podcast episode 181: After an intro from the famous psychic Criswell, it's on to the news of the day. Kodansha and Tokyopop end all ties and ADV proclaims its own death. I throw my opinions and views at the wall to see which will stick. Hint: I am disgusted by all the cloak and dagger deception that has been going on for years in both the anime and manga industries.

Question: Is Otaku USA even gonna give these two stories a footnote, or are they gonna pretend neither ever happened?

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Fate Stay Night Game for PSP Releases 9/2

2009-08-29

A new Japanese fighter game based on the Fate Stay Night franchise is coming to the Playstation Network on 9/2 from Capcom under the moniker Fate/Unlimited Codes (What a boring title). Originally starting out as a Type Moon PC game, the franchise soon moved on to forays in anime, manga, arcade, and the PS2. As Sony is moving to a non-UMD format for its PSP game system, this is a downloadable-only port of the Japanese PS2 and arcade titles, with some modifications. From what I've seen it's more of Soul Calibur/BlazBlue type game rather than Street Fighter, using the Fate Stay Night characters. It seems to be flying under the radar. I wouldn't even have known about it except for seeing a review of it in the October issue of Game Pro that I got in the mail today (They didn't even mention the anime or manga facets of it).  No word on how much it's gonna cost.

I guess I really should get back to the anime. I watched through volume 4 but never finished the series. Now I have the box set so there's no excuse anymore.

You can view the trailer of the Japanese PS2 version below:

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Strokes Lead Singer to Premiere Solo Album in Shibuya on 8/31

2009-08-29

Julian Casablancas, lead singer of The Strokes, is putting out a solo album, entitled "Phrazes for the Young" on 9/29/09. If you're in Tokyo on Monday you're in for a special treat as Julian will be performing his new songs at the Shibuya Duo Music Exchange on 8/31/09. He will be backed by a 6 piece band (it would be funny if it ended up being The Strokes). Not to worry, The Strokes have not broken up. They are currently working on songs for a new album. Oh yeah, the concert in Shibuya is sold out. You can get more info at:

www.juliancasablancas.com

Here's a preview video of the Phrazes album. Unfortunately, it doesn't feature any vocals, just instrumental music, but it sounds pretty cool and the visuals match the retro futuristic vibe:

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Manga Reviews: Arata the Legend/ Honey & Closer Chapter 2

2009-08-29

Manga reveiw of chapter 2 of Arata The Legend by Yuu Watase.

Last we saw of Arata, he was being swallowed up by a forest and Kannagi was stating that he would have to come back as an entirely different person. Chapter 2 opens in modern Japan with another Arata getting ready for his first day at high school. On the way to school he helps catch a butt grabbing pervert on the train and instantly becomes a celeb to his classmates. He ends up making friends pretty easily until a month later a guy named Masato Kadowaki shows up. Apparently, he bullied Arata during middle school and made his life a living hell until he was treated like a leper. Surely, Arata thinks, this school is different. He has true friends here that won’t betray him.

I am still amazed by Yuu Watase’s complete shift in art styles to meld better with the shonen genre. If I knew nothing about her and had scenes from Arata and Ceres next to each other, there is probably no way I would guess they were by the same artist. I was also impressed with the writing of chapter 2. Watase really won you over to the protagonist’s side very fast. Towards the end of the chapter, we see how this new Arata is going to interact with the plot of the earlier storyline. Shows a lot of promise.

My Grade: A

Manga Review of Hyde & Closer Chapter 2 by Haro Aso:

Shunpei Closer is able to convince himself that the events of chapter 1 were all a bad dream until he walks in on his mom cooking breakfast for Hyde, an enchanted stuffed teddy bear. His mom doesn't seem to have any problem accepting all the unusual happenings. In fact, she thinks it's kinda cool and wants to tell all the neighbors! Meanwhile, another "Death Curse" is sent out to steal Shun's heart and this time he's gonna have to learn how to fight some of his own battles...or Shun is going to find himself a lifeless corpse.

I'm still having a hard time seeing this title as anything but mindless entertainment, but the bizarre surreal humor is starting to grow on me. It reminds me of another goofy title, The Law of Ueki. The battles between ridiculous toys lends the whole thing an over the top quality that makes you giggle. It's still too early for the Death Curse of the week to wear on your nerves. Relax and have a bit of fun with this series.

My Grade: B+

View chapters 1&2 of both series for free at:

www.shonensunday.com

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Notable Anime DVD Releases for 8/25/09

2009-08-22

Notable Anime DVD releases this Tuesday:

Genshiken 2 Volume 1

Naruto Uncut Box 15

Mushi-Shi: The Movie (Live Action)

One Piece Season 2, Second Voyage

Pumpkin Scissors Box

Welcome to the NHK Box

When They Cry Box

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Upcoming Anime Blu-Ray Releases & Devil May Cry Deal

2009-08-22

Amazon currently has the Devil May Cry: Complete Series anime Blu-Ray edition on sale for $33.99. Weirdly enough, this is $6 cheaper than the regular dvd release, which is going for $39.99!

I also saw some other upcoming Blu-Ray anime releases as I was browsing the site so I thought I'd share:

Oct. 20 -- Escaflowne: The Movie

Nov. 3-- Witchblade: The Complete Series

Dec. 1-- Gunslinger Girl: The Complete Series

Dec. 15-- Basilisk: The Complete Series

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Viz Commits Ultimate Goof With Naruto Shippuden DVD Releases

2009-08-22

Usually Viz has its head screwed on bright and tight but they are on the verge of doing something dumb that flies in the face of recent anime dvd history. I was looking on Amazon and saw that the Naruto Shippuden anime series is going to be released in individual volumes instead of box sets. It looks like they will be releasing a dvd containing 4 episodes each month costing $25. So it will take them about a year to put out the first season on approximately 12 volumes. That's a bilking of about $300 for the first season!

Are they insane? No, just greedy.  But it's nothing new in the context of Viz's recent behavior. Witness their encroaching higher manga prices that were never justified except by stating that everybody else was charging more, so Viz was just joining the club.   

It appears that Viz is blatantly trying to take money from its customers by milking these dvd releases with 4 episodes apiece. I know, this is Naruto, and Viz's behavior will be reinforced with strong sales. But you know what, Viz? I'm not playing this game. I refuse to buy these volumes. If you were going to release box sets, I would have pre-ordered it today. Please don't try to rip me off. You'll be lucky if I even buy the inevitable box sets now. I can do fine with just the manga.

My ideal would be for Shippuden to be released like the uncut Naruto sets with 13 episodes on each. Down the individual volume path lies madness.

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Podcast Episode 180: Heroic Age Episodes 1-7

2009-08-16
Length: 15s

Podcast anime dvd review of Heroic Age: The Complete Series Part 1, Episodes 1-7. Directed by Takashi Noto. Series Composition by Tow Ubukata. Music by Naoki Sato. Published by Funimation. List Price: $59.98, Rated 13+.

From the back cover:

Long ago, the advanced Tribe of Gold vanished from the vast universe. In the void left by their departure, the tyrannical Tribe of Silver ascended to rule, forcing mankind - the Iron Tribe - to the brink of extinction. Now humanity wanders the cosmos in search of a savior.

Prophesy has foretold of one who will labor for their freedoms, and on a planet of ruin, a champion is found. A feral boy named Age holds the destiny of their species in his hands and the untold power of the Tribe of Hero within.

My Grade: A

You can watch the first twelve episodes online for free at the Funimation website:

http://www4.funimation.com/video/?page=show&b=179

You can watch the trailer for the series below:

 

 

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The Stairway To Borders Manga & Comic Store Becomes A Manga Dump

2009-08-12

Well, today was my first time back to Borders bookstore near downtown Houston since they moved their manga section upstairs to be sandwiched between the young adult and kid section. First up, they blundered big time. Lazy bastards like myself might not even go up to the second floor. I really had to think about it before I walked up there. The only reason I usually go to the second floor at all is to use the restroom.

The first thing I noticed about the manga section was that it was kinda isolated in a corner, which would make it prime bait for stinky manga bums and other remora life forms that suck off revenue. Especially surrounding it with four armchairs. The second thing that I noticed was that the books were in such disarray it reminded me of a Walmart toy section. Like little punks had gotten the books off the shelf and stuck them back wherever. The selection sucked as well. But the many points of suckiness of Borders have been well documented on this site so I won't dwell on it here.  Nonetheless, I still go by on a weekly basis. Kinda like buying Otaku USA, I guess it's just a habit that no longer has any meaning.

I was greeted by an even more depressing sight at Nan's Comics and Games right down the road from Borders. They have their manga at the back of the store, but I would say 1/3 of their stock had been moved to make way for comic books. There was even manga stacked haphazardly on top of the comic boxes. To add insult to injury they didn't have any lighting in the manga section. They really never have. They rigged up a flourescent light tube that hangs from the ceiling by chains but it wasn't on. The only other light is a desk lamp sitting on one of the shelves. A DESK LAMP? Come on!

I could have told the managers of the comic store and Borders that their manga sections sucked, but what would it have mattered? Borders is a dying dog anyway. And Nan's, well, it's just the typical attitude of American comic store owners towards manga.

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Podcast Episode 179: Real World by Natsuo Kirino

2009-08-10
Length: 17s

Podcast novel review of Real World by Natsuo Kirino. Translated by Philip Gabriel. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha in 2003. Published in US by Vintage, July 2009, $14.00.

From the back cover:

In a crowded Tokyo suburb, four teenage girls indifferently wade their way through a hot, smoggy summer. When one of them, Toshi, discovers that her nextdoor neighbor has been brutally murdered, the girls suspect the killer is the neighbor's son. But when he flees, taking Toshi's bike and cell phone with him, the four girls get caught up in a tempest of dangers that rise from within them as well as from the world around them. Psychologically intricate and astute, Real World is a searing, eye-opening portrait of teenage life in Japan unlike any we have seen before.

My Grade: A

On Amazon.com, you can read the first 8 pages of the novel:

Click here to read pages 1-8

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Manga Review: The Prince of Tennis Volume 2

2009-08-07

Manga review of The Prince of Tennis Volume 2: Adder's Fangs by Takeshi Konomi. Translated by Joe Yamazaki. Adapted by Gerard Jones. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated A for All Ages.

Ryoma is facing his first real challenge in the Seishun tennis team ranking tournament in which the top 8 players will rise to the top and become starters. These 8 players will represent the school at all tournaments for the season. Ryoma's challenge comes in the form of Kaido, one of the current starters whose nickname is "Viper". Why Viper? Because not only are his physical mannerisms and menacing personality like that of a dangerous serpent, he has a special shot called "the snake".  He is able to hit the ball with such intense spin that when it touches the opposite court it bounces away from his opponent. His plan is to make Ryoma run back and forth trying to hit balls until he is exhausted. You don't think Ryoma is just going to let Kaido's strategy unfold without a challenge, do you? And waiting in the wings for the winner is Inui, also a starter, whose keen analytical mind makes him a tennis playing version of Shikamaru from Naruto.

Two reporters from the magazine Pro Tennis Monthly, Mamoru and Saori, show up to see the Ranking tournament. Their hope is to discover a new talent that will ignite the tennis world. We also get first wind of a school that has almost as high a standing in the tennis world as Seishun: Rikai Junior High. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before these two titans collide.

Ryoma Echizen is quite a unique protagonist than the usual Shonen Jump hero. Usually, the main character starts off relatively weak or clueless or has to go through constant battles, get defeated, train intensely, kick butt for a while, get defeated, retrain etc. Repeat ad infinitum. But Ryoma appears in this series to be a total finished product. He is already highly skilled, has already trained for years, has already experienced all kinds of adversity. Ryoma perfects new moves just by briefly reading about them. He appears to be at the top of his game and is able to beat all comers. So who is gonna stop this kid? Somebody is, I'm sure. If Ryoma just kicks everyone's butt, how can there be any progression in the story? So far, I haven't seen him get too worried about anyone he's played. He's always calm and cool. But I think his hubris is going to catch up to him somewhere in the next couple of volumes. So maybe we're just delaying the training cycle? Another one of Ryoma's weaknesses is his lack of people skills. He only cares about tennis. He tends to blow off people, especially absent minded Sakuno. It will be interesting to see if this aspect of his personality changes and he softens up a bit.

My Grade: A

Hear my podcast review of Volume and view Chapter 1 of the manga for free at:

http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=511162

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Manga Review: Naruto Volume 39

2009-08-07

Manga review of Naruto Volume 39: On the Move by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Deric Hughes and Benjamin Raab. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen.

Orochimaru is dead! Long live Sasuke! After deciding that he was stronger than Orochimaru, and thereby had a greater chance to kill Itachi, Sasuke used Orochimaru's own transference technique to absorb the evil shinobi's power. He now sets about putting his own team together to help him take down Itachi. Last volume he was joined by Suigetsu, a descendant of Zabuza, who was the first real test for Cell 7 way back in the first 4 volumes of Naruto. Then Karin, a warden of one of Orochimaru's prisons, who has extremely useful tracking skills (she also has a crush on Sasuke!) was enlisted. As volume 39 opens, Sasuke's band has arrived at another prison to pick up their last member, Jugo, a ninja whose bloodlust transforms him into a crazed monster a little bit like the Hulk. Jugo also happens to be the source of Orochimaru's curse mark. The ironic thing is that Jugo wants to stay in prison. He's actually a nice guy but gets possessed by sudden urges to kill. He sought out Orochimaru to see if he could be cured!

Meanwhile, two teams of Leaf ninja are sent out to find Itachi. The reasoning being that if they find him, they will either find Sasuke, or if they can capture Itachi, be able use him as bait to draw out his younger brother. One team is comprised of Yamato, Sai, Sakura, and Naruto. The other, Kakashi, Hinata, Kiba, and Shino.

One of the strongest aspects of this series is Kishimoto's ability to make every character, no matter how supporting or minor a role, into living breathing people. Every character has something they want, a motivation for what they are doing. There's nobody in this manga that is just there for window dressing. Now, that's not to say that all of their motivations are for GOOD.

Kabuto comes off as a very tragic figure. We find out in this volume that he has grafted part of Orochimaru's body onto his own. The problem is that, like a living thing, Orochimaru's essence is trying to take over Kabuto's body. Kishimoto's genius is to show us that contrary to all our perceptions of the evil that Orochimaru has done to this world, Kabuto saw him as his father! That's right, Kabuto saw Orochimaru as his only family! Kabuto had no memory and was used as a spy for most of his young life before being taken in by Orochimaru. Weirdly enough, he grafted the body part on in a twisted imitation of Naruto. Now, he too, seeks out Sasuke, but for revenge. It's just so cool that Kishimoto has now made Kabuto into a abominated Naruto. Naruto is still working on taming his inner demon. Will Kabuto be able to conquer his?

As usual, great writing, great art. This volume also has 2 Sasuke tear out bookmarks.

My Grade: A+

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Tokidoki Avatar Store Opens On Xbox Live Marketplace

2009-08-04

Somebody told me there was some new cool stuff for your Xbox Avatars today and when I looked on the Marketplace I discovered that Tokidoki had opened a storefront on the Xbox Marketplace. Tokidoki is a Japanese inspired brand created by Italian artist Simone Legno that produces a variety of products such as clothes, watches, handbags, toys, and even stylized memory sticks. The art depicted on them ranges from ultra cute to stylish and sexy. Tokidoki even has original characters that get depicted on their merchandise.

I am part of the new Xbox Live preview so users not participating in it will not be able to access the Marketplace for Avatars until August 11. The Tokidoki store features shirts, caps, watches, and even two cool looking skateboards that your avatar interacts with. The clothes run around 80 microsoft points while the skateboards are 240. There is also a "Steampunk" store whose prices run about the same.

I've been meaning to put up some links on my blog for Japanese and Japanese influenced merchandise retailers. Maybe I'll do that tomorrow.

Check out the Tokidoki website (The human one). It's pretty cool:

http://www.tokidoki.it/

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Podcast Episode 178: Kimi Kiss Volume 1

2009-08-04
Length: 11s

Podcast manga review of Kimi Kiss Volume 1. Story by Enterbrain Inc. Art by Taro Shinonome. Translated by Alexis Kirsch. Adapted by Kathering Schilling. Originally published in Japan by Hakusensha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $10.99, Rated Older Teen 16+.

From the back cover:

Kouichi may have started high school not having kissed a girl, but he sure as hell won't graduate that way!

Kouichi and Mao, best friends since childhood, head off to high school only to discover that they aren't the kids they used to be, Mao is a total babe with no problems attracting the opposite sex, while Kouichi...well...he could use a little help.

Based on the popular dating sim game fro the PS2, Kimi Kiss will make you sweat as Kouichi tries to earn his first kiss!

My Grade: C

Here is the opening of the anime version:

Japanese commercials for the PS2 dating sim:

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Podcast Episode 177: Naruto Volume 38

2009-08-04
Length: 13s

Podcast manga review of Naruto Volume 38: Practice Makes Perfect by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Naomi Kokubo and Eric-Jon Waugh. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen.

From the back cover:

Naruto is a ninja-in-training with an incorrigible knack for mischief. He's got a wild sense of humor, but Naruto is completely serious about his mission to be the world's greatest ninja!

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

Naruto finds that his new jutsu is harder to handle than he thought. Meanwhile, Sasuke seems to be falling even more under Orochimaru's spell. Despite all Naruto's efforts, he may have finally lost his best friend forever. But he'll use all his skills as a ninja to keep that from happening!

My Grade: A+

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Yotsuba Volumes 1-6 To Be Released Next Month!

2009-08-03

What's up ADV Manga? I used to buy your books back in the day. Oh, the good old days when you were gonna release 1000 manga volumes. You released Volume 1 of Yotsuba by Kiyohiko Azuma, creator of Azumanga Daioh, in June 2005, Volume 2 in August and Volume 3 in October of that same year. Then things started to hit a snag. Yotsuba, along with other titles like Gunslinger Girl, Aria, and Cromartie High School, disappeared from shelves. Yes, the great disaster of ADV manga had begun.

Volume 4 of Yotsuba didn't come out till July 2007! By that time I was very leery of buying ADV titles because you never knew when the next volume would come out. At first I boycotted Gunslinger Girl because it had been so long since the last volume that I had to go back to the first volume and reread the series. But I couldn't resist picking up the then new Yotsuba volumes. It ends up that I was hesitant for good reason. After printing Volume 5 in October 2007, ADV manga apparently died and Yotsuba was locked up in their basement, along with the other titles I mentioned up above. So far, only Yotsuba and a few others like Aria and Peacemaker have been able to find a way to escape from their dungeon of manga death. 

You would think Gunslinger and Cromartie would have been picked up by now. I think Cromartie would be a good fit for Dark Horse. Gunslinger? I think Seven Seas.

But anyways, back to my main point. Yen is putting out a new edition of Yotsuba with new translations.  And get this, they are releasing the first 6 volumes next month! Volume 7 is set for December 2009 with Volume 8 set for April 2010.

Yen currently has the covers for volumes 1-6 up at:

http://yenpress.us/?page_id=636

I don't really like the fact that they are clumping 6 volumes in one month. They should have spaced it out. If they had, like one volume per month, I would have bought each book as it came out. Since so many are coming out together, what I plan to do is just buy the first and sixth volumes. I already own 1-5 of the ADV editions, so I just want to compare the translations and printing quality of the first books to see how they differ and if it's worth buying the other four that I already have.

If you are a One Piece AND Yotsuba fan, prepare to die of starvation, or hopefully, your parents are rich. Or you have a really good job. Or if you aren't living with your parents, maybe move in until this plague of riches passes over!

Oh yeah, if you can answer this, you win a Sesho No-Prize!:

"Who is Javier Lopez?"

Think and discuss amongst yourselves.

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Podcast Episode 176: The Prince of Tennis Volume 1

2009-08-03
Length: 11s

Podcast manga review of The Prince of Tennis Volume 1 by Takeshi Konomi. Translated by Joe Yamazaki. Adapted by Gerard Jones. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated A for All Ages.

From the back cover:

There is a rumor going around that a twelve-year-old boy is going to enter the sixteen-year-old and under tennis group. How can someone so young ever hope to compete with kids much older and more experienced than him? This is no ordinary kid: he is none other than Ryoma Echizen, the Prince of Tennis! Ryoma's father was destined for greatness until he injured himself during a match, ending his career forever. His talent was passed on to his son, who is determined to be the best tennis player in the world. Can the Prince gain the respect of his fellow teammates despite his small size and young age? Find out in this intense sports manga!

My Grade: A-

You can read Chapter 1 for free here:

http://shonenjump.viz.com/onlinemanga/sjom.php?chap=pot-hi-preview

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Podcast Episode 175: Naruto Volume 37

2009-08-01
Length: 10s

Podcast manga review of Naruto Volume 37: Shikamaru's Battle by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Deric Hughes and Benjamin Raab. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen.

From the back cover:

Naruto is a ninja-in-training with an incorrigible knack for mischief. He's got a wild sense of humor, but Naruto is completely serious about his mission to be the world's greatest ninja!

Shikamaru's team is out for revenge against their mentor's murderers. Tsunade tries to stop them, but Kakashi wants to help! As the divide among the ninja grows, the mysterious Akatsuki organization continues their brutal attack on the tailed spirits, the Biju, and the young ninja who host them, including Naruto! He's older and stronger, but has Naruto trained enough?!

My Grade: A+

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Why I'm Thinking About Dumping Otaku USA

2009-08-01

You know, I was sitting here reading the August issue of Otaku USA, and as I was reading it, I found myself skipping lots of pages, including the anime and manga reviews. Ironically, this was the section I used to read with the greatest interest. And I began to wonder if Otaku USA is even worth buying anymore. For a while now, I have become less and less enthused with the magazine, even though I have bought every issue since it began. Maybe I'm just bored with it? But why?

One of the problems with the magazine is that there seems to be very little reporting going on. It's just reviews and opinions with very little data about the anime or manga they're doing an article on. I like the Protoculture Addicts style more, where they give a summary of the show and then all kinds of breakdowns and graphics on the main chracters and episode guides. For example, say you're doing a feature on Fullmetal Alchemist, show pictures of all the main players with captions about them. Even Anime Insider did stuff like this. It's sad but I'm even beginning to miss the visual overload of Newtype. So, I mean, keep the opinions, but also have just as much emphasis on actual information about the show as well.

Another thing that bothers me about Otaku USA is the fact that it seems like a "dubbed" magazine, in that most of the writers are writing their features from a second-hand point of view. There are very few interviews with the original manga creators or anime staff so again you're writing in circles and just having the viewer or reader's side represented in the magazine. It's kinda like when I used to watch an ADV anime dvd and they would have a commentary track with the dub actors. What could the English voice actors possibly know about the original intentions of the Japanese actors, directors, and staff? So it ends up being an interpretation within an interpretation and I'm not interested in that.

If you look at the cover of the August issue of Otaku USA you will find that none of the shows it lists are unreleased. Newtype would have had this cover on their magazine probably in January of this year instead of August. It's completely out of date. I used to read the anime magazines to look AHEAD, instead of reading articles about what is already out. I remember looking at pictures and reading about shows in Newtype that were sometimes years away from being released here. Now, as more and more anime and manga companies are going straight to the internet, sometimes days after their release in Japan, Otaku USA is going to have to figure out a way to get ahead of the curve with looks at shows that haven't already been released for months by the time the next issue comes out.

And where is the reporting? I have yet to see the definitive breakdown of what the hell happened at ADV and Geneon. It probably has to do with the fact that there are no "professional" anime or manga reporters. We're all just amateurs really. But you know if I had connections in the anime world, I'd want to find out the truth of what happened to the anime market, like a Bob Woodward. How did the anime company that truly originated the US market completely collapse? And you know what, I'd make it the cover story of an issue of Otaku USA.

And can you believe there is no mention at all of the media blitz put on by Viz last month with Shonen Sunday, Ikki, and their Haikasoru sci-fi line? Not one line. Silence on what could be one of the most important developments of the past couple of years. I would also like to hear the story of how Funimation singlehandedly saved the US market for anime fans. They truly did. And no opinions or mention of the coming One Piece locust manga infestation.

Anime News Network seems to be the true source of what is going on in the anime and manga world. I find out more about what's going on there in one day than in all of the issues of Otaku USA put together.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the mag is falling behind the curve and I'm thinking about not picking up the next issue. Trust me, I'm probably not the only one. I'm all for opinion, but I don't expect people to pay for mine.  If this magazine doesn't change, I don't see it surviving.

And PLEASE take the word CHEAP off your cover. It's got all sorts of unseemly connotations.

 

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Japanese Develop Baseball Playing Robots

2009-07-31

Japanese researchers are working on baseball playing robots. Don't let your imagination run wild. The robots are basically just arms. One throws a ball and another swings at pitches with a crude looking rod. But who knows, will we someday have fully articulated running humanoid robots running bases? My question is, who would want to watch something like that? My other question is, why develop baseball playing robots in the first place? It's a typical Japanese otaku quest. To pursue technologies and products that will have no real world interest or market. Beyond that of marketing, actually. I can already see a Japanese bat or glove making company (do they exist?) buying a baseball robot, "Ball-chan", or something, and using it as a mascot. Maybe different baseball clubs could each have a robot and they could battle to the death at the end of the season, gladiator style! Here's the link to the video of the robots:

http://gmy.news.yahoo.com/vid/14828813/

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Is Shojo Beat Cleaning Up Its Covers?

2009-07-31

I bought a couple of manga today at Barnes and Noble, including two Shojo Beat titles, the first volumes of Kimi Ni Todoke and Black Bird. It just struck me that they looked different than the usual Shojo Beat books. Neither of them had those giant ugly volume numbers in the bottom right hand corner nor the boring author font with "Story and Art by" stamp on the left bottom corner and border on the bottom edge. I've never been a fan of the generic design of any of Viz's "line" manga, like Beat and the Shonen Jump titles. To me, they make the books look boring and take away from the beauty of the covers. But I guess they do make them instantly recognizable as belonging to a certain genre. But the Shojo Beat titles in particular suffer. A machine just stamps every cover with no regard as for how it's going to affect the art. If you're lucky Viz tries to change the color of the volume number or the author info to blend in better with the colors in the cover art...if you're lucky.

But with these two titles, Beat seems to be de-emphasizing the Shojo Beat brand, especially with Kimi Ni Todoke. "Shojo Beat" is nowhere to be found on its front cover. Instead of the humungoid volume number on the right there is a stylized 1 at center bottom. Even the author's name is given a more personalized font that fits the feel and style of the manga. You do have the Shojo Beat website and UPC code on the back bottom just like usual but no huge banner at the top.

Blackbird has a more traditional Viz design but again does not crowd its cover with Shojo Beat insignia, borders, and unsightly font. Instead it has ethereal, airy blacks and reds with a smaller author credit and warmer volume number that fits in with the cover. On the back you do have the Shojo Beat banner at the top but the web address has been left off, hopefully to not cut across and cover up the art.

I hope Viz starts treating all their Shojo Beat title cover designs like these two titles. You need to bring attention to the ART, not to the volume numbers and product line. The original artists designed the art on the covers for a reason, to catch the eyes of browsing readers, not to be distorted or even erased. It makes the Beat titles look much more attractive. It's fine to keep generic looking spines, but show the covers more love.  

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Manga Review: Hayate Cross Blade Volume 3

2009-07-31

Manga reveiw of Hayate Cross Blade Volume 3 by Shizuru Hayashiya. Translated by Adrienne Beck. Adapted by Ed Chavez. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Tor/Seven Seas, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+.

Well, we finally find out why Mizuchi wants to beat Ayana so bad. Mizuchi asked Ayana to be her sister-in-arms two times, but was rejected on both occasions. It doesn't help that Ayana doesn't even remember Mizuchi when she sees her, adding insult to injury. They finally get to rumble at the beginning of this volume as Ayana and Hayate take on Mizuchi and Sou in a Hoshitori match to move up to Rank B. The real meat of Volume 3 concerns a fighting pair of swordbearers named Jun and Yuho. Jun happens to be Ayana's roommate and might even be a better swordsgirl than her. But she's not at the top of her game right now because she picks battles with weak opponents. Yuho, her sister-in-arms, is very sickly, and Jun doesn't want to push her too far physically by fighting against strong pairs. Yuho's condition has been deteriorating and her mom is coming to check on her, which might even lead to Yuho being withdrawn from the school. Before she gets even sicker, Yuho wants to set up a final duel with her and Jun taking on Ayana and Hayate.

I did write a review for volume 2 of this series, but right before I saved it, there was a big lightning strike near my house and my electricity went off for a minute. So the review was lost. What I did write about it was pretty negative and I actually considered not even reading volume 3. It mostly had to do with two things, one of which seems to have been solved in this volume. The biggest fault of the series is that the character of Hayate is a complete wash. All of the other characters work as real people, but Hayate comes off as a one joke comedy skit, almost becoming a cancerous growth on Ayana. You can always count on Hayate to never take anything seriously, and Hayashiya never fails to draw her in a deformed, almost "Scream-like" style, overemphasizing her already over the top behavior. Since you can't take her seriously as a person, she tends to ruin every scene she's in. But thankfully, the other characters are more interesting and have actual motivations and emotions beyond wanting to straddle and marry their sister-in-arms.

The other fault of volume 2 was that Hayashiya took up a serious issue, physical abuse of women, and turned it into a ridiculous insult of abused women. There was a girl that was beating and hitting her sister-in-arms (not in a comedy way like Hayate and Ayana) and the abused sister refused to leave her because she thought they would make a good comedy act! It was just horrible writing on the part of Hayashiya that showed she wasn't clever or sensitive enough to insert a dramatic element into the series at that point. She seems to have turned this around in volume 3.

I know the "bed-ridden sickly friend" character has been done to death. In fact, all we needed was for Yuho to be blind and amnesiac to meet all the manga cliches. But Hayashiya handles some of the more serious dramatic implications of Yuho's condition quite well. She's not trying to invoke pity, but is a character that is forcing her friend to OVERCOME her pity and take on a foe that will push her to her limits and even higher. While I don't think this title will ever overcome its major fault, Hayate, it does find ways to redeem itself in other ways.

My Grade: B+

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First Look At Iron Man and Wolverine Anime Trailers

2009-07-29

Last year, it was reported that Marvel and Madhouse would be teaming up to make 4 different anime series based on Marvel characters. The first two that will air are Wolverine and Iron Man. Two trailers have been created to start up buzz about the shows that will air in Japan spring 2010. Both Wolverine and Iron Man will have twelve 30-minute episodes each. Warren Ellis, a writer at Marvel says that the Wolverine anime will be loosely based on the very first Wolverine mini-series published back in the early 1980s. It was written by Chris Claremont (X-men) and drawn by Frank Miller (Sin City, 300, Daredevil, Batman). The Wolverine teaser was directed by Rintaro (X movie, Metropolis). It is to be stressed that these trailers are test footage just to show viewers the "style" of the two anime series. So what you see might be not necessarily reflect the actual plot or characters that will be involved. But I would think at least the character designs would be pretty close to the end product. Or else, why even show them? Is that an anime version of War Machine?

I'm pretty excited about these trailers. Why? Because all the Marvel and DC characters are so old and tired at this point. How old is Iron Man? Almost 50? And Wolverine is only a litte bit younger. In his mid 30s? I've pretty much given up on the Marvel and DC comic books, even though I try to get back into them from time to time. They've just been sucked up into these yearly "EVENTS" and it seems like they only consider an idea "original" if it involves killing a character. And then they end up bringing them back (see Captain America) anyway, so who cares? I grew up on Marvel and DC as a kid, but that wide eyed enjoyment I used to get from them has completely migrated to Japanese manga and anime. I'm willing to give any fresh take on Marvel and DC characters a chance. Even if they fail miserably.

Here are the two trailers:

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Halo Legends Taps Legendary Japanese Anime Studios

2009-07-26

Halo Legends is an anthology anime series of short films focusing on the world of the videogame Halo much like The Animatrix or last year's Batman: Gotham Knight. Microsoft is tapping some of the best anime companies in business today. The studios involved are:

Bones (Fullmetal Alchemist, Eureka Seven, Cowbody Bebop: The Movie)Casio (Dai Nipponjin)Production I.G. (Ghost in the Shell, Blood)Studio 4c (Tekkokinkreet, Batman: Gotham Knight)Toei (Dragon Ball, One Piece)

Some of the directors that will be handling episodes include Mamoru Oshii (Sky Crawlers, Ghost in the Shell 1&2) and Shinji Aramaki (Appleseed 1&2).

The short films will first appear on Xbox Live this fall. Microsoft is developing a Halo hub on Xbox Live called "Halo Waypoint" that will be the Mecca of Halo fans. It will be a one-stop destination of Halo news, trailers, podcasts, player rankings and other halo info.

I'm not a big Halo fan. In fact, I only started playing the first Halo game about a year ago and still have not finished it. I never had an Xbox so I missed out on the whole Halo phenomenon when it came out. I was a PS2 man. Of course, I've always been aware of the franchise. How could you not? Both the Animatrix and the Batman anime shorts were uneven and entertaining only in spurts and I suspect it will be the same with Halo Legends. But I think the whole guys running around in mech-like Guyver-esque armor will play more to Japanese strengths than the other two series. Just like the case with the Twilight graphic novel and manga, I think the Halo Legends project is a win-win scenario for anime and the Halo gameworld. The Batman dvd was a huge success when it came out in the US, taking the #1 ranking in sales the week it came out. I'm sure when this comes out on DVD it will have the same sort of sales, if not greater.  

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Manga Review: Naruto Volume 36

2009-07-26

Manga review of Naruto Volume 36: Cell Number 10 by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Deric Hughes and Benjamin Raab. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen.

While searching for a jinchuriki host in the Land of Fire, Hidan and Kakuzu happened to stumble upon Chiriku, a priest who used to be one of the Guardian Shinobi 12. The two Akatsuki defeated and killed Chiriku and are now looking to collect his 30 million ryo bounty to finance their operations. Asuma, who also used to be in the Shinobi 12, sets out with Shikamaru and two other elite ninja to track down and kill or capture Hidan and Kakuzu. Meanwhile, Naruto continues to train with Kakashi and Yamato, struggling to master the art of making a "super rasengan". Even the ever-optimistic and driven Naruto is at the end of his rope and is thinking about giving up the attempt. He must figure out a way to change the form and nature of his chakra at the same time, something even the 4th Hokage could never master.

Volume 36 marks the first time we get to see the Akatsuki in action, well, I mean in a fight to the death capacity. I know Itachi showed up at the Leaf Village many volumes ago and had a minor battle with Kakashi, but I saw that as merely a brief skirmish.  Yeah, I know, Naruto and his team also fought and defeated Deidara and Sasori. But all these battles have been cakewalks compared to fighting Hidan and Kakuzu. They're in a completely different league. Hidan has the ability to curse his enemies and cannot be killed. He takes most of the lead in the battle against Cell 10, so confident is he in his abilities. Kakuzu helps Hidan a little bit, but otherwise takes no part in the actual battle. You knew back in earlier volumes that Naruto, Sakura, and Kakashi were not going to die fighting Sasori or Deidara, but when Cell 10 fights, being composed of supporting characters, there is more of a sense of danger. Somebody could get killed.

It's also cool to see Kakashi's faith in Naruto. He's giving the boy a full plate by asking him to master the super rasengan. He really believes that Naruto is special and could become not only Hokage, but maybe the most powerful ninja ever. Naruto has come a long way from the early volumes of the manga when he was seen as a village pariah. Now, he seems to be a vital part of Konoha's very survival. What a series!

My Grade: A+

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Podcast Episode 174: Shonen Sunday Part 2

2009-07-23
Length: 24s

Podcast manga review of the first chapters of the remaining www.shonensunday.com titles: Kekkaishi by Yellow Tanabe, Maoh: Juvenile Remix by Kotaro Isaka & Megumi Oruga, Rin-ne by Rumiko Takahashi.

Kekkaishi:

By night, junior high student Yoshimori Sumimura is a "kekkaishi"--a demon-hunter who specializes in creating magical barriers around his prey. By day, Yoshimori's got other demons to battle: an addiction to sweets and a seriously crotchety grandfather! Yoshimori's pretty neighbor and childhood friend, Tokine Yukimura, is also a kekkaishi, but their families are feuding over who is the "true practitioner" of the art.

My Grade: B+

Maoh Juvenile Remix:

“As crazy as your ideas might be, as long as you believe in yourself and tackle the issue head-on, you can even change the world.”

Ando is a high school student who has the power to make others say out loud what he’s thinking. Inukai is the mysterious leader of a vigilante group called Grasshopper, which is at odds with the city’s redevelopment plan. In this chaotic city, these two will come together to weave a story of courage, determination and confrontation.

My Grade: B+

Rin-ne:

Ever since a childhood incident Sakura Mamiya has had the power to see ghosts. Now her life has gotten a lot more complicated with the arrival of her mysterious classmate Rinne, who seems to know a thing or two about detecting ghosts himself!

My Grade: A-

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Podcast Episode 173: Viz Manga Blitz and Shonen Sunday Part 1

2009-07-23
Length: 18s

Podcast manga review of the first chapters of Arata: The Legend by Yuu Watase and Hyde & Closer by Haro Aso. Both titles are available for free at www.shonensunday.com

Arata: The Legend by Yuu Watase:

In a mythical world where humans and gods co-exist, a ceremony marking the new governing princess is about to occur for the first time in 60 years. Only a girl from the Hime Clan may take this position, but the lack of females born to this family means that a boy called Arata must pose for the role. Meanwhile in modern-day Japan, a boy named Arata Hinohara is starting his new life in high school. He wants to put memories of his difficult past behind him, but things aren’t going to be simple when he discovers a mysterious connection to the first Arata...

My Grade: A

Hyde and Closer by Haro Aso:

Shunpei Closer is your average…well, slightly below average kid in junior high who finds himself in the middle of a great battle of dark sorcery. With cursed dolls coming after him one after another, Shunpei Closer’s life is in danger! If that weren’t enough, Hyde, the teddy bear given to him by his grandfather, suddenly comes alive to rescue him. With Hyde’s help, can Shunpei save himself and live to see another day?

My Grade: B+

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ShonenSunday.com Up & Running!

2009-07-22

Well, www.shonensunday.com has launched and is up for business. By business, I mean supplying rabid manga fans with titles that have not been published in America yet. Well, that is, except for Kekkaishi, which is already being published by Viz. I always hear good things about it. I even bought the first volume when it first came out....about 5 years ago:) I just never have gotten around to reading it. Now that it's stuck up in my grill with this website, I'm gonna make up for lost time. And I know Rin-ne is online as well, but do we have to get technical? Along with news, a blog, and the manga themselves, there is also a link for downloads (wallpapers of the series). I might need an oxygen mask, I'm so giddy about the whole thing. (But would that make it worse?:) Either click on the web address above or the banner beneath the manga title listings below. RUN, do not walk to ShonenSunday.com!:)

Right now, there are five titles up. Each title only has Chapter one so far, except for Rin-ne, which has chapters 1-13. So here are the titles:

Rin-ne by Rumiko Takahashi (Inuyasha, Ranma 1/2, Maison Ikkoku)

Kekkaishi by Yellow Tanabe

Arata the Legend by Yuu Watase (Ceres, Absolute Boyfriend, Fushigi Yugi)

Hyde & Closer by Haro Aso

Maoh: Juvenile Remix by Kotaro Isaka & Megumi Osuga

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New Pictures From Twilight: The Graphic Novel by Young Kim

2009-07-22

Here are three more illustrations and sketches from Entertainment Weekly by Young Kim for the upcoming Twilight: The Graphic Novel, based on Stephanie Meyer's novel, due to be published by Yen Press.…

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Podcast Episode 172: Naruto Volume 35

2009-07-20
Length: 13s

Podcast manga review of Naruto Volume 35: The New Two by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Deric Hughes and Benjamin Raab. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen.

From the back cover:

Naruto is a ninja-in-training with an incorrigible knack for mischief. He's got a wild sense of humor, but Naruto is completely serious about his mission to be the world's greatest ninja!

The New Two

Naruto accelerates his training while the Akatsuki systematically continue their assault on those with the Tailed Beasts inside them. First on the list is Yugito, a ninja from the Land of the Clouds believed to harbor the Two-Tailed Beast. Will yet another ninja fall to the evils of the Akatsuki?

My Grade: A+

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Death of Borders Postponed...Again

2009-07-19

Well, Borders lives to be in debt for another year it seems. They borrowed $42.5 million from their biggest shareholder, Pershing Square, which was due on April 15 of this year. They asked for another year to pay it off. So now the loan is due on April 1, 2010. This is the THIRD time Borders has asked for a repayment extension. They're gonna try to get their stores in order but the CEO of Borders says he won't be surprised if sales continue to go down.

I will be very surprised if Borders is able to pay off this loan in the next 9 months. Maybe they should ask for a government bailout. The bookstore chain has been going down the tubes for a while now.

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Twilight Is Good For Yen, Good For Manga

2009-07-19

The manga community has been abuzz the past couple of days over the confirmation that Yen Press is going to be publishing a manhwa adaptation of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight novels. Ok, what should we really classify this book as first? Is it manhwa simply because it is being drawn by Young Kim, a Korean artist? Is it manga? Is it OEL manga? Is it simply a graphic novel series? I'd be curious as to what label Yen is going to stamp it with. I keep on hearing about a Japanese manga adaptation already in existence. Will Yen also get the rights to it? Will they publish it some time in the future as well? As for the Kim version, supposedly Meyer is deeply involved with the project, "reviewing every panel". No word yet on whether Twilight will be directly published in tankoban form or start its run in the Yen Plus anthology magazine. You can find 3 more pictures in the newest issue of Entertainment Weekly.

There are a lot of manga fans out there that are bitching about the whole IDEA of Twilight being published by Yen. Simply because they hate the series, (they think it's overrated, poorly written, etc.). I think these people are really dumb. Just think about the exposure and publicity Yen is going to get and thereby manhwa and manga! You're going to have people going into the manga section of the bookstores that might never have visited it. And I'm not talking just about teenage girls. I know plenty of ADULTS that are rabid fans of Twilight. Take in this figure: 

IN THE FIRST QUARTER OF 2009, BOOKS BY STEPHANIE MEYER ACCOUNTED FOR 16% OF ALL BOOK SALES!

What this means is that for every seven books that were bought during that quarter, on average, ONE was by Meyer. She sold 29.7 million books in 2008!

I am not a fan of the series at all. I have read none of the books and have not seen the Twilight movie. If anything, I am predisposed to have a negative reaction to the franchise. But I'm always hostile to really popular stuff. I just like to wait for all the hype and popularity to decrease around a series like Twilight before I try them. I didn't start reading or watching the Harry Potter books and movies till last year! But I can see the positive ramifications that the Twilight adaptation will have for Yen Press and all the books they will be able to publish care of Twilight profits. They're really doing well right now with the Maximum Ride series and the coup of landing the Haruhi Suzumiya franchise. I'm practically in love with the company these days. I really respect them for starting up Yen Plus as well. I think Twilight should be published in Yen Plus first, so they can get a solid following for the magazine that will draw in readers that might not know the first thing about their Korean and Japanese titles. As I'm looking at the future, I can only see the Twilight publication as a win-win for everyone involved, both publisher and reader.

My next question is when is Harry Potter gonna follow suit?

For more info on Stephanie Meyer and her work check out:

www.StephenieMeyer.com

 

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Podcast Episode 171: Solanin

2009-07-18
Length: 12s

Podcast manga review of Solanin by Inio Asano. Translated by JN Productions. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan. Published in US by Viz Signature, $17.99, Rated T+ for Older Teen.

From the back cover:

Meiko Inoue is a recent college grad working as an office lady in a job she hates. Her boyfriend Naruo is permanently crashing at her apartment because his job as a freelance illustrator doesn't pay enough for rent. And her parents in the country keep sending her boxes of veggies that just rot in her fridge. Straddling the line between her years as a student and the rest of her life, Meiko struggles with the feeling that she's just not cut out to be a part of the real world.

My Grade: A+

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Podcast Episode 170: Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 2

2009-07-18
Length: 12s

Podcast manga review of Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 2 by Hiromu Arakawa. Translated by Akira Watanabe. Originally published in Japan by Square Enix. Published in US by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen.

From the back cover:

In an alchemical ritual gone wrong, Edward Elric lost his arm and his leg, and his brother Alphonse became nothing but a soul in a suit of armor. Equipped with mechanical "auto-mail" limbs, Edward becomes a state alchemist, seeking the one thing that can restore his brother and himself...the legendary Philosopher's Stone.

There are many types of alchemy in the world. Edward's commanding officer, "Flame Alchemist" Roy Mustang, can control fire. Shou Tucker, the "Sewing-Life Alchemist", specializes in the most difficult alchemy of all...biological transmutation, the ability to alter the tissue of living things. But no matter what their power, alchemists are still human. And when a mysterious killer begins stalking state alchemists, no one can escape his vengeance...

My Grade: A+

Podcast review of Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 1

Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 1 Free Preview

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Manga Review: Honey Hunt Volume 2

2009-07-15

Manga review of Honey Hunt Volume 2 by Miki Aihara. Translated by Ari Yasuda. Adapted by Liz Forbes. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan. Published in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $8.99, Rated T+ for Older Teen.

Yura has landed the star role as Natsuki in an ad campaign for noodles that also has a TV show tie-in. Her romantic interest, Q-ta, is doing the theme song, and his brother, Haruka, who seems to be developing an interest in Yura, is acting opposite her. Unfortunately, just as the cast gets together for a photo campaign shoot, Yura's costume is found to have a huge stain on it. How did the stain get there, you might ask? Just ask Minami, another noodle girl, who is extremely jealous of Haruka's attentions towards Yura. Although Yura is able to find a way to save the situation and go on with the shoot, her mettle is constantly tested in this volume. First, she must work with an older actress that has an undying hatred for Yura's mom, and thereby gives Yura a hard time. Even worse, Keiichi begins to market Yura as the daughter of celebrity, playing on her lineage as a selling point to get her noticed. It works, but Keiichi had promised that he would never use her mom and dad to get her breaks or recognition. It only adds to Yura's low self-esteem and refusal to trust anybody. She begins to think about giving up her dream of excelling her mom as an actress.

The things I liked about the first volume of Honey Hunt were the plot twists and twisted amorality of almost all the main characters except Yura. It seemed like everyone had some vice, whether hidden or out in the open. Everybody also had their own hidden agenda. The emotional lives of the characters were hateful and unloving. I still remember the scene where Yura's mom and Shin were caught having sex and her mom acted like it was no big deal. She even threw it in her face and said that Shin liked her better than Yura! Even in this volume, Q-ta admits that part of the reason why he likes Yura is because he's a big fan of her dad. All of the characters in Volume 1 probably could have lived quite comfortably in one of Dante's circles of Hell. Volume 2 ratchets down the debauchery a bit and settles more into a typical shojo love triangle motif. Yura likes Q-ta a lot even though she still suspects that he only likes her because of her dad while Haruka finds himself falling for Yura. Minami has become the Sai character that wants to ruin Yura's chances at being a star. Yura's shockingly bad relationship with her parents has receded into the background a bit as she struggles to find the strength to become a real actress.

The weakness in the series is definitely the art. It's so bad and thoroughly dull-looking that I found myself staring at some panels, entranced by their amateur quality. All of the character designs are appallingly ugly and unappealing.  Aihara also has some problems drawing heads in certain positions. There's really nothing cute or pretty in Yura's appearance either, so it's kinda hard to imagine that she's going to become a big star. I like the story but if the art doesn't improve, I don't know how much longer I can take it. I doubt it's gonna get any better though. So sad.

My Grade: B

You can listen to my podcast review of Volume 1:

http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=463972

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Podcast Episode 169: Naruto Volume 34

2009-07-14
Length: 13s

Podcast manga review of Naruto Volume 34: The Reunion by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Deric Hughes and Benjamin Raab. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen.

From the back cover:

Naruto is a ninja-in-training with an incorrigible knack for mischief. He's got a wild sense of humor, but Naruto is completely serious about his mission to be the world's greatest ninja!

THE REUNION

Naruto finally finds Sasuke! But Sasuke won't return to Konoha without a fight. This time it might take all of Team Kakashi to bring him down - and bring him back.

The smash-hit manga that's sold more than 4.1 millions books in the U.S.A.!!

My Grade: A+

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Podcast Episode 168: Naruto Volume 33

2009-07-13
Length: 14s

Podcast manga review of Naruto Volume 33: The Secret Mission by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Deric Hughes and Benjamin Raab. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen.

From the back cover:

Naruto is a ninja-in-training with an incorrigible knack for mischief. He's got a wild sense of humor, but Naruto is completely serious about his mission to be the world's greatest ninja!

THE SECRET MISSION

Morphing out of control, a stronger-than-ever Naruto turns on his own teammates! Orochimaru triggers a frightening change in Naruto as he reveals a sinister plot that's been the death of far more people than anyone knew.

My Grade: A+

Free Preview of Naruto Volume 1:

http://shonenjump.viz.com/onlinemanga/sjom.php?chap=n-hi-chapter-1

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Do Free Review Copies Bias Bloggers? The FTC Thinks So!

2009-07-13

I read an interesting article on Kotaku.com this morning, a videogame news and review site. While the article was about videogame bloggers, the story is about a troubling issue that could threaten any blogger that reviews any type of media, whether it is a game, a dvd, or a book.

It seems the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is making a new "Truth-In-Advertising Guide". The FTC is looking into whether bloggers mostly give positive reviews to products they review simply because they get the bribe of a free review copy. The example given in the article is about a hypothetical videogame reviewer, but in reality, the FTC is talking about ALL bloggers.

There is also a mention of a New York Times article that states that most bloggers are simply made up identities concocted by a company's marketing department, or even if independent, are beholden to companies for the "gifts" they get and therefore do not give honest reviews.

So what the FTC is saying is that so-called "professional journalists" have no bias. Do you really think the book reviewers at the New York Times Book Review actually BUY any of the books they review? Come on! Do you think Roger Ebert or Gene Siskel ever paid their own money to see a movie? Or any of the various electronics magazines...Do their reviewers actually buy the equipment they review? I guess if you write for a newspaper or magazine, that makes you above reproach?

It sounds like a witch hunt to me. I think the newspapers and magazines would love to take down bloggers, because they can't control them. In fact, bloggers and online news sites are destroying physical print news and reviews outlets. Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft are quite happy to only have "Official" mags out there so they can strangle any real power that says some of their games suck. One of the problems that gaming magazines find in getting advertising is that sometimes game developers get pissed at them for negative reviews and refuse to work with them.

I don't really have this bias problem. I very rarely get free review copies. Seven Seas has sent me a couple of books (4?), in most cases after I had already bought them on my own. I have never gotten a free review copy of an anime dvd. But I've never really tried very hard to get review copies either. I know that when I did receive those books, it made me very uncomfortable because I didn't know whether it would influence me, even in a subconscious way.  Luckily, I don't have to worry when I review something, I really mean what I say. When I really hate something, whether it's an anime or manga, I rip it to shreds (figuratively:). Or when I really love something, it's completely honest. Because it's my hard earned money that has gone up in smoke when I read or watch a piece of trash.

I know some reviewers get BOXES of free material to watch and read. Does it bias them in their reviews? I'm sure that it does influence some of them, but not others. I doubt that will ever happen to me, because I speak out when I see myself getting ripped off or see dumb moves by manga publishers. So I doubt any of them are lining up to send me free stuff. For example, when Tokyopop raises prices but lowers their paper quality, or Viz vomits on shelves with One Piece, or raises their prices for no good reason. It pisses me off. But probably if I had UPS trucks dropping off hundreds of dollars of manga or anime, I would probably mute my criticism or at least make it more "civilized" because I wouldn't be losing anything. I didn't pay for it, right? So who cares. I probably wouldn't say their paper sucks or that they are greedy or that they are choking off shelf space for smaller titles and publishers. And that maybe doing that choking is what they want.

So, in the end it's left up to the conscience of each reviewer to decide whether they can be truly independent if they receive free review items. I just think it's completely hypocritical of the FTC to say there's no problem if "professional journalists" get them, but with bloggers, there is. That it's ok for one type of reviewer to receive review copies but not the other. I also think it's wrong to say that MOST, if not ALL are dishonest and merely patsies for corporations. To me, this smacks of lobbyists in Washington pressuring the government to curb in and discredit bloggers that give negative reviews to their products. I'll put up the links to the Kotaku article and the New York Times article as well.

Kotaku: http://kotaku.com/5313176/

New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/13/technology/internet/13blog.html?_r=1&hpw

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Podcast Episode 167: Hunter x Hunter Box Set 1, Episodes 1-5

2009-07-11
Length: 11s

Podcast anime review of the first 5 episodes of the Hunter x Hunter Box Set 1. Published by Viz Shonen Jump. List Price: $49.95. Rated 16+. Directed by Kazuhiro Furuhashi (Zipang, Getbackers, You're Under Arrest).

From the back cover:

Hunters are a special breed, dedicated to tracking down treasure, magical beasts, and even humans. But such pursuits require a license, and less than one in a hundred thousand can pass the grueling qualification exam.

Gon might be a country boy, but he has high aspirations. Despite his aunt's protest, Gon decides to follow in his father's footsteps and become a legendary Hunter. The journey begins on the long, arduous road to the Exam Hall, where he meets Leorio and Kurapika, two applicants with the same determination. Gon and his two companions must now prove their worth and earn the right to call themselves Hunters!

My Grade: B 

Here's the opening of the anime:

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Borders Moves Manga to the Kiddy Section

2009-07-09

I went to Borders tonight with a coupon for 25% off my purchase, not expecting to find much. After all, I hadn't found anything the week before when I had a similar coupon. Borders is definitely in decline. Whatever section you go into, they have tons of books facing outward to cover up the fact that they do not have a lot of selection. I've seen them try to conceal this in different ways at different stores. One got shorter bookcases and arranged them in U shapes instead of straight rows to give the illusion of taking up more space. It's just so sad. Until the past year or so, Borders had a better selection of books that Barnes&Noble. I would hardly ever go to Barnes. But lately, the situation has reversed. It's really apparent in the manga section. You might see a couple of rows on each shelf with almost all the books facing outward instead of just showing the spine. To me, if they went out of business, it wouldn't make much difference.

So when I go to the manga section tonight, there's a cart there filled with manga, and I'm thinking "Cool, they must be new titles", but then I see that almost all of the manga on the shelves are gone, and that there are more carts of manga sitting there as well. I ask this older dude "What's up with the manga?" He tells me they're moving it upstairs. "To the kids section?" I ask. He almost seems ashamed of it, because he's a manga fan and he thinks it's kinda degrading the genre. A younger employee that's helping him move the manga feels the same way (He's cool. He actually gave me a discount before on some manga I was buying just because I had on a Ghost in the Shell shirt!). He too seems to feel bad about putting them in the kids section.

I thought it was at least cool that the manager of the store got manga fans to be the pallbearers of the banishment. The manga are now gonna be right next to the "Independent Readers". So how is Gantz or MPD Psycho gonna mix with Old Yeller and Harry Potter? I think it could be a problem if some soccer mom picks up one of them. "Yes, dear, you can get this little comic...oh my! He got his head cut off! Oh, and that dog is licking her ****....Manager! Manager!" (soccer mom passes out and collapses in a senseless heap as young boy salivates over alien murder in Gantz).  Or are they even gonna carry mature titles anymore? I don't really know how I feel about it. I think in a way it knocks down the medium in respectibility. The older guy acted like it was just a reality that kids are the ones buying it. It was kinda funny because even after I had walked away I could hear him speaking to other customers...."Don't worry, we're not getting rid of the manga, we're just moving it upstairs....Ha ha, surrounded by manga!"

In the end, what cosmic shift does this move represent? It means I'll have to walk up the stairs to look at manga. Since they never have anything anyway, I might not even go up there.

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Anime DVD Review: Area 88 Volume 3

2009-07-06

Area 88 Volume 3: Tightrope at the Speed of Sound. Episodes 7-9. Published by ADV Films. Running Time: 75 minutes. Directed by Isamu Imakake. Screenplay by Hiroshi Ohnogi, $29.98.

The supplies are getting pretty low at Area 88 as the enemy has shot down multiple transports that were bringing fuel and ammo for the pilot's aircraft. Of course, the enemy know Area 88's dire straits and send out a raiding party to take out the base. They are not only sending fighters but long range bombers that could destroy the whole area! The base only has enough fuel and ammo to send up three jets. Shin is in charge of the mission and picks the new female flyer, Kitri, and young but talented Kim to go with him. Kitri has a real problem with Kim. She thinks he'st too young and a mediocre pilot that has no right to be flying fighters. Another thorny problem crops up when an enemy sniper takes up position around Area 88 and starts picking off its inhabitants. He's so skilled that if anyone tries to take off in a jet, he either shoots the pilot or takes down the plane before it gets off the ground. Wouldn't you know that Shin is gonna be the one to dare the impossible? The title of this volume refers to the last episode where the Area 88 crew must negotiate a canyon in Death Star-like fashion to avoid radar as they attempt to destroy an enemy base.

The presentation of this series has always left me a little cold. It just seems like there's so much more to the story and characters that we're not getting to see. I was really glad that we got a little more backstory last volume and found out how Shin got stuck in Area 88, but it really just skimmed the surface. We only get very tiny glimpses of who the other characters, like Kitri, really are. In fact, I know next to zilch about where she learned to fly and why she got into Area 88. But I can say that about almost all of the characters. For example, what is Matoko's real motivation to capture all these pictures he's taking? Does he get a high off of it, like Speedgrapher, or does he want to show the plight of the pilots? You really needed a 24-26 episode show to get all these things into the light, rather than 12-13. Even if I feel Area 88 keeps the viewer in a box, I still like the show, especially for its dogfight sequences.

It would be nice if Viz would republish the manga (I'm not gonna hold my breath). I think they published a couple of volumes back in the good old days of flipped, unnumbered, $17 volumes before Tokyopop enlightened them on how to publish magna.

My Grade: B

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Amazon Anime Sale & Japanese Peanuts TV Spots

2009-07-05

Just wanted to tell you about another sale. This time Amazon.com is having a markdown sale on anime dvds. Select titles are being discounted up to 50%. It seems to be almost their entire stock except for maybe the very newest releases like Genshiken 2. Just click on the link below:

Amazon Anime DVD Sale

Also wanted to include an interesting video. It's a Japanese TV commercial for Hot Pepper, a free coupon magazine in Japan. The interesting part of it is when the Peanuts characters enter the picture to scratch turntables. Snoopy is even using a spoon and his dog bowl to keep time! The singer in the video is Kaela Kimura a popular Japanese pop singer. I'll also include a video for one of her songs, called "You":

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Podcast Episode 166: Ouran High School Host Club Volume 1

2009-07-04
Length: 13s

Manga Podcast review of Ouran High School Host Club Volume 1 by Bisco Hatori. Translated by Kenichiro Yagi. Adapted by Gary Leach. Originally published in Japan by Hakusensha. Published in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $8.99, Rated T for Teen.

From the back cover:

In this screwball romantic comedy, a poor girl at a rich kids' school ends up working for the school's swankiest club-- and gets mistaken for a boy!

One day, Haruhi, a scholarship student at exclusive Ouran High School, breaks an $80,000 vase that belongs to the "Host Club", a mysterious campus group consisting of six super-rich (and gorgeous) guys. To pay back the damages,  she is forced to work for the club, and it's there that she discovers just how wealthy the members are and how different the rich are from everybody else...

My Grade: A

Click on the link below for a free preview of the manga at Viz.com:

http://www.shojobeat.com/onlinemanga/sbom.php?chap=ohshc-hi-preview&o=dn

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Viz Store 75% Blowout Sale

2009-07-04

Viz is having a clearance sale of anime/manga related items, mainly from these franchises: Death Note, Naruto, Bleach, Mar, Inuyasha, Pokemon, and Blue Dragon. They say they are going to add new products so some of the tabs come up empty. There are some great bargains to be had, some even below $1. You can get a Naruto backpack for $6.25, even Naruto and Kakashi cosplay costumes for around $6! Death Note keychains for $1.05. Bleach thermal tees and action figures. You'll just have to look for yourself. Please buy something in memorial of my current poverty! It's not exactly thousands of items and even though it says "storewide sale" I didn't see any manga on sale. I would check back though over the next week. Even though the sale banner says "up to 75% off" I did see some even deeper discounts, more like 85%. The sale lasts through 7/14/09.

Here's the link to the sale:

http://store.viz.com/

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Podcast Episode 165: Future Diary Volume 2

2009-07-02
Length: 14s

Podcast manga review of Future Diary Volume 1 by Sakae Esuno. Translated by Yuya Otake. Adapted by Clint Bickham. Originally published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten. Published in US by Tokyopop, $10.99, Rated 16+.

From the back cover:

Yukiteru, Yuno and Kurusu band together to prevent the battle of Future Diaries from getting out of hand. But when Yukiteru discovers a dark secret about Yuno that changes everything, will he still be able to trust her? Now wary of his new "friends," Yukiteru joins them on an investigation of a priestess from the temple who seems to have mysterious powers. As new Diary owners show up, each with their own ambitions, who, in this dark and desolate world, is friend and who is foe?

My Grade: A

Listen to my podcast review of Volume 1: http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=489030

Here is the first chapter of Volume 2:

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Anime Review: Trigun Volume 2-- Lost Past

2009-07-01

Podcast anime dvd review of Trigun Volume 2: Lost Past. Directed by Satoshi Nishimura. Published by Geneon/Pioneer. List Price: 19.99 (Amazon has used copies for around $7). Episodes 5-7, Rated 13+.

Vash just can't seem to catch a break. Here he is again, just minding his own business in an Inperil City bar when another group of thugs with the $60 billion reward on their minds comes barging in to kill him. Vash takes them out no problem, but then finds that the ENTIRE city wants to take him down. Even kids are pulling out guns! At one time Inperil was a prosperous city centered around a Lost Technology power plant, but it broke and the city began to wither and die. They want to claim Vash's head so they can pay for the expensive specialists that can reignite the power plant's energy source. Realizing that even an entire city is no match for Vash, the local sherrif lets the Nebraska Brothers out of prison. In a send up of giant robots, one brother is a mad scientist type who rides on his godzilla sized cyborg brother who can shoot his fist like a chained rocket launcher. Unfortunately for Inperil, the Nebraska Brothers do not care how much property is destroyed or how many Inperilities are killed in the pursuit of Vash.

I did not like the first volume of this series at all. In fact, if I hadn't checked the first three volumes of this show out from my local library, I would not have watched this second installment. But since it was free, I was like, "what the hell". I was really surprised with Lost Past. I really liked these 3 episodes. I guess sticking with a show past the first volume really does pay off sometimes. What changed my mind about Trigun? Maybe I got used to Vash's personality and humor, and I started finding some of his mannerisms and dialogue funny. Like when he shoots a whole gang of bounty hunters with toy gun darts before they can even draw their guns. I think what really made the show turn around was that the writers made these episodes form a continuity which flowed together whereas Volume 1 seemed disjointed and unconnected. I also was intrigued by Vash's mysterious past, driven home by the fact that he cannot remember the city he supposedly destroyed to earn the price on his head. I know Vash is more than he seems, but his origin is a mystery I really want to solve.

The fact that this volume contains only 3 episodes is a bit of a rip-off that could not be pulled today. Just ask Bandai (They tried selling dvds with ONE episode!). But this was par for the anime course back in the day. Since the Trigun show is not really a current show, you should be able to find the dvds pretty easily and at low cost.

My Grade: B+

Here's the first part of Episode 5:

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Podcast Episode 164: The Prince of Tennis Box Set Volume 1

2009-06-29
Length: 12s

Podcast anime review of The Prince of Tennis Box Set Volume 1. Episodes 1-13. Directed by Takayuki Hamana. Published by Viz. List Price: $39.98.

From the back cover:

He may be the son of a celebrated tennis player, but when tennis prodigy Ryoma Echizen joins the elite Seishun Academy's tennis team, he'll have to back up his famous genes with raw skills on the court. Based on the popular manga, PRINCE OF TENNIS follows Echizen as he strives to earn his teammates' respect and defeat his far older opponents on the court, including Viper and the nefarious Inui Sadahara.

My Grade: B

Here's a cool video with scenes from the entire series:

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Manga Review: The Law of Ueki Volume 14

2009-06-27

Manga review of The Law of Ueki Volume 14 by Tsubasa Fukuchi. Translated and adapted by Kenichiro Yagi. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan. Published in US by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen.

Ai Mori has finally figured out what her power is and its only taken her till the third match of the third round of the King tournament. A LITTLE late if you ask me! I'm not going to spoil it for you, but trust me, her power is just as goofy and apparently useless as every character's in this series is. Even if Ai is able to defeat her opponent, Team Ueki still has to deal with Infernal Hanon, the strange being that has possessed Robert and is intent on making Ueki's path to the final round as difficult as possible. He sabotages their rematch with Team Capucho and is also in league with Ueki's next opponents, the extremely powerful and mysterious Team Barrow.

As usual, this series is quite the guilty pleasure for me, seeing as it hits upon almost every tournament manga cliche you've ever encountered. The trick is that Fukuchi makes the journey to the end battle over 16 volumes very funny. His writing is firmly tongue-in-cheek and you sense that he's not taking any of this very seriously. The themes that have come to the surface in my reading are that you have to fight for justice even when you get punched, socked, knocked into the air, kicked across a room, and maybe even burned to a crisp by various superpowered enemies. Ueki is like a priest of right and his sermon to his team and to readers is that you can never give up...on yourself or the people around you. Of course, we have the whole "train until you get more powerful" motif running through the work as well. But the comedy is good and the moral values worth fighting for. Two more volumes to go. I'll be a bit sad when it's all over.

My Grade: A-

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Podcast Episode 163: Maid Sama! Volume 1

2009-06-27
Length: 14s

Manga Podcast review of Maid Sama! Volume 1 by Hiro Fujiwara. Translated by Su Mon Hanr. Adapted by Karen Ahlstrom. Originally published in US by Hakusensha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $10.99, Rated T 13+.

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST FOR A CHANCE ON HOW TO WIN A COPY OF MAID SAMA! VOLUME 1!

EMAIL ME AT: seshos@hotmail.com

Last day to send an entry= July 5, 2009.

From the back cover:

The class president has a little secret she's keeping from the sexy bad boy in school...


As President of the Student Council, the overachieving feminist Misaki really socks it to the guys in a n attempt to make the former all-boys' school attract a more female student body. But what will she do when the sexiest boy in class finds out Misaki's after-school gig is in a maid cafe?!

It's love at first fight in this shojo romantic comedy-- with a whole new look at the battle between the sexes!

My grade: A

See below for a free chapter of the manga:

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Podcast Episode 162: Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 1

2009-06-23
Length: 17s

Podcast manga review of Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 1 by Hiromu Arakawa. Translated by Akira Watanabe. Adapted by Egan Loo. Originally published in Japan by Square Enix. Published in US by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen.

From the back cover:

Alchemy: the mystical power to alter the natural world; something between magic, art, and science. When two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, dabbled in this power to grant their dearest wish, one of them lost an arm and a leg...and the other became nothing but a soul locked into a body of living steel. Now Edward is an agent of the government, a slave of the military-alchemical complex, using his unique powers to obey orders...even to kill. Except his powers aren't unique. The world has been ravaged by the abuse of alchemy. And in pursuit of the ultimate alchemical treasure, the Philosopher's Stone, their enemies are even more ruthless than they are...

The original manga behind the hit anime and video game series!

My grade: A+ 

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Podcast Episode 161: Welcome to Wakaba-soh Volume 1

2009-06-18
Length: 10s

Podcast manga review of Welcome to Wakaba-soh Volume 1 by Chaco Abeno. Translated by Hiroya Yamazaki. Originally published in Japan by Houbunsha. Published in US by Yen Press, $10.99, Rated Older Teen.

From the back cover:

In the throes of his first love, Kentarou Sawai can't even count on beginner's luck to get him closer to Karen Toguin, the girl of his dreams. When he spontaneously enrolls in Karen's high school just to be closer to her, his hopes are crushed when it turns out she's on a leave of absence! Now poor, luckless Kentarou is stuck in a dorm full of girls who aren't Karen and insist on pushing Kentarou to the brink of insanity! Can Kentarou hold on to his love for Karen, or will his new living experience make him swear off all women for good?!

My Grade: C

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Podcast Episode 160: Trigun Volume 1

2009-06-16
Length: 10s

Podcast anime dvd review of Trigun Volume 1: The $60,000,000,000 Man. Directed by Satoshi Nishimura. Published by Geneon/Pioneer. List Price: 19.99 (Amazon has used copies for around $2). Episodes 1-4, Rated 13+.

From the back cover:

In the distant future...on a desert planet...there is a legendary gunman. His name is Vash the Stampede.

A gunslinger so dangerous, a $60 billion reward has been placed on his head! Vash, also known as "The Humanoid Typhoon", has been credited with the destruction of several towns, but miraculously, there is no record of him ever taking a life. However, only two things ever happen to those who catch up to Vash- they either crawl away wounded (mostly from self-inflicted damage), or they stagger away in disbelief that such a dork could possibly be the man they are looking for!

My Grade: D+

Here is the clean opening of the anime:

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Podcast Episode 159: Hoop Days Complete Collection

2009-06-15
Length: 14s

Podcast anime DVD review for Hoop Days: The Complete Collection. Directed by Susumu Kudo. Published by Bandai, Episodes 1-26, Running time: 650 minutes, Rated 13+. Spoken Languages: English, Japanese, English subtitles. List Price: $49.95

From the back cover:

Do you have what it takes to win the high school national championships? Kazuhiko Aikawa does, and at 5' 8" he can slam dunk that ball like there is no tomorrow. But winning the national championships isn't enough for Kazuhiko. He soon transfers from his old school at Tendouji HS to his new school at Mizuho HS so he can better his game... except there's no boys' basketball team!

A one year suspension was given to the team when Fujiwara, a star player, knocked out the former coach. The team has dwindled to just 4 players, and with Kazuhiko the team can be whole again, but for some reason no one wants to play. Kazuhiko needs to take this team to the next level as he shows off his mad basketball skills as well as be his talkative, charming self!

My Grade: B+

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Podcast Episode 158: Animal Academy Volume 1

2009-06-13
Length: 8s

Podcast manga review of Animal Academy: Hakobune Hakusho by Moyamu Fujino. Transated by Alexis Kirsch. Adapted by Ysabet MacFarlane. Originally published in Japan by MAG Garden. Published in US by Tokyopop, $10.99, Rated 10+.

From the back cover:

Can you pledge secrecy when you are... a human being?

When Neko Fukuta finds herself enrolled in the mysterious Morimori Academy-- a secret school for animal-human shape shifters-- she soon realizes she must pretend to be a magical cat and not allow any of the other students to find out her real identity... But as she struggles with the trials and tribulations of a new school and new friends, Neko's just-discovered feline side might bring out the true human spirit in all of her animal classmates!

My Grade: C-

Click below for a free preview of the first chapter:

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Podcast Episode 157: Kurogane Communication Box Set

2009-06-11
Length: 12s

Podcast Anime DVD Review of Kurogane Communication: Memories of Earth Box Set. Episodes 1-24, 360 minutes, Rated 13+. Published by Anime Works. List Price: $39.95

From the back cover:

In the ruins of Japan, Haruka lives with no recollection of what happened to her or her parents. Found by five robots, she finds a new life with them as the last human on Earth. This unique family faces the hardships of a war torn world and must protect each other from the legions of war machines that are still being produced in automated factories. Haruka sets out in search of her past and the desperate dream of human companionship.

My Grade: A-

 

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Time Lapse of Tokyo

2009-06-09

A cool time lapse video of the sights and sounds of Tokyo:

Tokyo Timelapse from nubero on Vimeo.

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Tokyopop, The New Paper Sucks!

2009-06-08

Ok, it appears that maybe this has been an issue for months, and other people have already made some comments about it, but the new paper that Tokyopop is using for their manga books sucks!  I just noticed it for the first time when I read Future Diary Volume 1. Are they getting it from a toilet paper company? And the nerve they have to raise the price of their books by a dollar??!! Decrease quality and increase price? At least keep the paper the same. This mess about how they have to buy it from a certain mill is just mess. Felt like I was reading the newspaper.

Viz. What can I say. I love the company. But they want to raise prices too. Want? They ARE raising prices. Why? 

“VIZ Media made the decision to stay consistent with the pricing in the marketplace for this industry, which in some cases might be a slight increase from previous years."

So what they are saying is that they are raising prices simply because they CAN. Not because they NEED to. Greed. That's what this is about.

I guess we should thank Del Rey for starting all this about 5 years ago when they were the first to start selling their books for $10.95. They started us down this road. But I have to admit that they operate on a higher level than the other publishers in terms of presentation so I really can't complain. I cannot picture them using this sorry paper. They are too high class for that.

Hopefully, the rest of the industry will stay away from the Tokyopop model of costcutting even though it has been reported that other graphic novel publishers are thinking about using this paper as well. I bet it's CMX. The other companies are probably waiting to see the fan reaction before they convert over. Please let Tokyopop know if you're upset about this issue.

There's a good article over at Sporadic Sequential about the issue:

http://sporadicsequential.blogspot.com/2009/06/gee-thanks-for-more-expensive-lower.html

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Podcast Episode 156: Future Diary Volume 1

2009-06-07
Length: 15s

Podcast manga review of Future Diary Volume 1 by Sakae Esuno. Translated by Yuya Otake. Adapted by Clint Bickham. Originally published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten. Published in US by Tokyopop, $10.99, Rated 16+.

From the back cover:

Yukiteru is a lonely student whose only hobby is the daily diary he keeps on his cell phone. But Yukiteru has a secret that nobody knows about...his cellphone can tell the future! Now a vicious game of survival is about to begin among twelve future diary holders-- with the winner crowned god of a new world!

Sakae Esuno's chilling shonen masterpiece is a relentless adventure that will have you questioning the boundaries of time and space-- and hoping for the slightest glimmer of hope in a dark, desolate world that may look suprisingly familiar to all of us...

My Grade: B-

Look below for a free preview:

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Podcast Episode 155: Otomen Volume 1

2009-06-06
Length: 12s

Manga Podcast review of Otomen Volume 1 by Aya Kanno (Soul Rescue, Blank Slate). Translated and adapted by Lindsey Akashi. Originally published in Japan by Hakusensha. Published in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $8.99, Rated T for Teen.

From the back cover:

Asuka Masamune is a guy who loves girly things - sewing, knitting, making cute stuffed animals and reading shojo comics. But in a world where boys are expected to act manly, Asuka must hide his beloved hobbies and play the part of a masculine jock instead. Ryo Miyakozuka, on the other hand, is a girl who can't sew or bake a cake to save her life. Asuka finds himself drawn to Ryo, but she likes only the manliest of men! Can Asuka ever show his true self to anyone, much less to the girl he's falling for?

My Grade: B+

Click this link for a free preview of the manga:

http://www.shojobeat.com/manga/oto/om.php

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Podcast Episode 154: The Sky Crawlers

2009-06-06
Length: 13s

Anime Podcast review of the Blu Ray version of The Sky Crawlers. Directed by Mamoru Oshii. Animation by Production I.G. Published by Sony Pictures. List Price: $34.95 (Amazon has it for $22.99). Based on the novels of Hiroshi Mori.

From the back cover:

From Mamoru Oshii, the world-acclaimed director of Ghost in the Shell, comes an award-winning story of an exciting but endless war with heroes too young to understand the meaning of their battles.

A group of eternally young fighter pilots known as Kildren experience the sudden loss of innocence as they battle the enemy in astonishing dogfights above the clouds. With his only childhood memory consisting of intense flight training, the fearless teenage pilot Yuichi's dogfights coexist with his struggle to find his missing past.

When his beautiful, young female commander Suito is reluctant to discuss the fate of the pilot that Yuichi is replacing - or the strangely perfect condition of that pilot's former aircraft - Yuichi's curiosity becomes heightened.

Special Features: The Sound Design and Animation of The Sky Crawlers, Animation Research for The Sky Crawlers, Sky's the Limit: An Interview with Director Mamoru Oshii.

Spoken Languages: English, Japanese, English subtitles.

My Grade: A-

Here's the opening dogfight (There's a bit of blood):

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Dr. Who Anime?

2009-06-06

Paul "OtaKing" Johnson of Sheffield, UK is currently working on a Dr. Who short as filtered through his love of Japanese anime of the 1980s. He envisions it as a parody of what Dr. Who would have looked like as an anime if it had aired in mid-80s Japan. Right now he just has screen shots up at:

http://mightyotaking.deviantart.com/

Or you can simply click on the picture below to take you to his gallery. He currently has about 40 or so images up. Here's a sample:


Doc Who anime scene 20 by ~MightyOtaking on deviantART…

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X-men Go Shojo in X-men: Misfits

2009-06-06

Del Rey is releasing Volume 1 of X-Men: Misfits on July 28. A cross between X-men and Fruits Basket is what they're calling it. Wolverine is not going to be in it. I guess Del Rey doesn't want to crowd its other Wolverine title. The scary thing is the writers they have tapped for the project. First, there's Dave Roman, editor of Nickelodeon Magazine. Helping him is Raina Telgemeier, the artist behind The Babysitter's Club series. My question is, what do these people know about the characters in the X-men? It just seems like Marvel would have wanted some highly qualified writers to take over the reins of one their most important franchises. Also, with the recruitment of these writers, it seems like maybe they are focusing on a demographic that is too young to be reading shojo manga. When I think Babysitter's club, I'm definitely thinking elementary school. Hopefully, the series will be good. I really liked the reboot of Wolverine: Prodigal Son. But I don't have very good expectations.

Click this link for an interview with Roman and Telgemeier:

http://www.shojobeat.com/features/48/010.php

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Podcast Episode 153: Geneshaft Complete Collection

2009-06-03
Length: 16s

Podcast anime dvd review of Geneshaft Complete Collection. Published by Bandai. Directed by Kazuki Akane (Heat Guy J, Escaflowne). 13 episodes on 4 dvds. It is currently out of print but you can find it at Amazon and Ebay for about $20.

From the back cover:

Witness A New Era of Science Fiction Animation...

From Kazuki Akane - Director of Escaflowne!
In a final attempt to save the human race, a genetic engineering program was initiated in hopes of creating a new breed of human beings with special skills and abilities to benefit all of society. Successful, the Earth begins to enjoy a new era of peace…until the appearance of a mysterious artifact of unknown origin enters between the Earth and the moon. A group of enhanced humans have been selected to investigate the orbiting visitor. Armed with a prototype ship known only as 'Shaft', this strike team may be the only thing between continued peace and the total destruction of the Earth!

My Grade: B-

Watch the trailer here:

 

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Podcast 152: Chance Pop Session Collection, Episodes 1-5

2009-06-02
Length: 12s

Podcast Anime DVD review of the first 5 episodes of the Chance Pop Session collection. Directed by Susumu Kudo. Series Composition by Kazuhiko Soma. Rated 13+. Right Stuf. com has it for $18. You can also watch the show for free on Joost.

From the back cover:

Three young girls, strangers to each other, share an instinctual passion and talent for music. Brought together from distinctly different worlds, they meet by chance at the concert of their idol. The concert strikes a chord in each of their hearts and unites them with a common dream of stardom.

The girls each enroll in the same music school and are brought together again in a special class for exceptional talent. As their voices come together in harmony, the girls realize that they share more than just a passion for song. A mysterious blue stone, a hauntingly beautiful melody... What do these traces of the past have to do with the uncertain future of this gifted trio?

My Grade: D

http://www.joost.com/search?q=chance+pop+session#

Here's the opening of the show:

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Queen Gets Gold Plated Wii

2009-06-01

Gaming company THQ, after hearing that Queen Elizabeth of England was a big fan of the Nintendo Wii, has made her a gift of gold plated Wii. Some sources are reporting that it's a promotional stunt for THQ's new game, Big Family Games. I would be curious as to how she responds to the present. Maybe the Queen should become a videogame reviewer? Here's the link to the article:

http://videogames.yahoo.com/events/plugged-in/the-royal-wii/1316670

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Summer Is Here!!

2009-05-31

School is out and summer is in session. I'm looking forward to taking it easy and not dreading Mondays for about 2 months. I also hope to catch up on a lot of reading and dvds. And I'm not just talking about manga and anime. Of course, I will be podcasting and reviewing much more now that I have a lot of free time. In the Houston area, the weather is perfect to hit the beaches down in Galveston!

 


 

Electronic Gaming Monthly is making a comeback. In exactly what form is anyone's guess. The founder, Steve Harris, has bought the rights to the magazine and plans to relaunch it. Here's the link to the article on 1up.com:

http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3174453

It was the most honest game review and news magazine out there until it got cancelled. I was under the impression that part of the reason it got cancelled was because they dared to say negative things about sorry games. I remember they would have an award each month called something like "stinker of the month" and it would should show a little pile of poo with flys buzzing around it. It was pretty funny. Now a lot of the mags are afraid to even put a rating like a number or a grade for fear of reprisals from the game companies. But they mask it behind an elitism that says they are above giving a simple qualitative and easy to understand rating.  A lot of the time, you read a review and then are left wondering, "are they saying this is a good game or not?" There was no doubt with EGM, whether it was negative or positive.

 


 

Also, I've added a Twitter link over there on the right side column under my XBOX tag, so feel free to follow me. I'm trying to beat Oprah. I like to start small, so right now I only have 3 followers. I just created a Twitter account about a week ago, and tonight was the first time I really started exploring it, mainly finding people I would like to follow, mainly in the fields of manga and anime. Lori over at Manga Xanadu had an article with links to many manga bloggers and publishers in an article at this link:

 http://manga.jadedragononline.com/?p=917

 

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Anime Review: The Familiar of Zero Box Set, Episodes 5-8

2009-05-25

Anime review of episodes 5-8 of The Familiar of Zero Box Set, published by Geneon, List Price: $59.98, Rated 13+. Directed by Yoshiaki Iwasaki (Best Student Council, Hayate the Combat Butler). Series Composition by Takao Yoshioka (Elfen Lied, Dears).

Louise is getting nervous. Why? The annual Familiar Exhibition is about to take place at the Institute. It's like a show-off contest where aspiring Magi put their familiars on display for the school elders in an effort to show whose is best. All Louise has to show is Saito, who has never been able to reactivate his excellent sword fighting skills that he showed in defeating a noble a couple of episodes back. In fact, he has trouble just LIFTING his sword, much less putting on a display. To add to Louise's anxiety, Lady Henrietta, Princess of Tristein, is personally going to attend the Exhibition! Things should go a little smoother since Henrietta grew up with Louise...or actually it might make her even more embarrassed and stressed. Henrietta's visit to the Institute also coencides with the arrival of Fouquet the Sculptor, a mysterious thief that has been stealing magical artifacts. Fouquet intends to break into the school while everybody is busy attending to the princess and steal "The Staff of Destruction".

I was a little worried after the first disk of this set that The Familiar of Zero could very easily devolve into a heavy fan service harem comedy, what with all the girls around and a semi-horny dude in the midst of them. But, thankfully, that isn't what has happened. We get some nice surprises and characterization in this second group of episodes. Besides Kirche throwing her boobs everywhere, the romance here has an almost decidedly shojo tone of wistful love. Saito and Siesta, a maid, share some charming moments in a bath that Saito rigs up from a large kitchen basin. Even though both of them are naked in the water and in the dark, the writers stay away from the cheap eroticism of bleeding noses. Instead we get the first really tentative conversations of two people that like each other. But at this point, we don't know who Saito really likes. He seems to be closest to Siesta in a romantic way, while he sees Louise as a little sister, and Kirche as an always open avenue to sex. I feel he would be better off with Siesta, but the opening credits of the anime show Saito and Louise kissing with the theme song cranking out lyrics about love which leave me hardpressed to see any other outcome. The animation and character designs are above average and the writers are able to get in all kinds of messages about equal rights and discrimination.

My Grade: B+ 

Hear my podcast review of Episodes 1-4 at this link:

http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=442420

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Japan's Scariest Toilet Paper!

2009-05-25

I came across this article in The Houston Chronicle today and thought it was hilarious:

TOKYO — In a country where ghosts are traditionally believed to hide in the loo, a Japanese company is advertising a new literary experience — a horror story printed on toilet paper.

Each roll carries several copies of a new nine-chapter novella written by Koji Suzuki, the Japanese author of the horror story "Ring," which has been made into movies in both Japan and Hollywood.

"Drop," set in a public restroom, takes up about three feet (90 centimeters) of a roll and can be read in just a few minutes, according to the manufacturer, Hayashi Paper.

The company promotes the toilet paper, which will sell for 210 yen ($2.20) a roll, as "a horror experience in the toilet."

Toilets in Japan were traditionally tucked away in a dark corner of the house due to religious beliefs. Parents would tease children that a hairy hand might pull them down into the dark pool below.

(Article written by Associated Press)

I'm sure this will be a big seller in Japan. I could go with all kinds of scatalogical comments about this story, but you know what?, I'm above that sort of thing! I'll leave that to you. But what if you really like the story? Do you call up your friends and say "Hey, I was wiping my butt the other day and I came across this really cool story....", or "Hey, I read a really cool story on the toilet the other day, and I saved it for you. Don't worry about the smell." Like I said, I'm above making tasteless comments like that. It seems like I've heard a news story like this before. There's probably already been manga printed on toilet paper. It's just not something I scour the internet for.

Here's the link to the original article:

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/world/6439259.html

 

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Manga Review: xxxHolic Volume 5

2009-05-20

Manga review of xxxHolic Volume 5 by CLAMP. Translated and adapted by William Flanagan. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated 13+.

It's White Day, which in Japan means a guy has to give some sort of "white" gift to the girl that gave him chocolate on Valentine's Day. That is, if he likes her back.  Watanuki not only has to satisfy Yuko (she made him a gift of the chocolate that HE made!) but also has to think of a gift to give to a pretty spirit that gave him chocolate. But a job comes up to interrupt all this contemplation. An "Ame-Warashi", a rain making spirit, comes to Yuko's shop to borrow Watanuki for a rescue mission she says only he can take on. Domeki, his rival and pain in the rear, decides to tag along as well. Naruto fans will get a kick out of the fact that the Ame-Warashi gives Yuko a nine-tailed fox spirit as payment for the services of Watanuki. The fox spirit in xxxHolic is not a force for evil, though. In fact, it seems to have an affection for Watanuki, and ends up saving his life.

I wasn't impressed with the last volume of xxxHolic. The stories were ordinary, if not mediocre, and failed to capture the feeling of strangeness that plays to the strengths of the series. Volume 5 was a return to top form by CLAMP. First, the art is gorgeous, beautiful, and even sublime at times. CLAMP are one of a few artists today that never shrink from turning their panels into epic canvases with very wide shots which at times take up two pages. The bigger the panels, the more detail CLAMP adds to the art. There isn't any blank white space or cluttered screen tones thrown onto these super panels either. In fact, CLAMP seem to reserve their best work for them. I'm still trying to figure out how they make Yuko look so sexy, even with her bony figure and totally anti-photorealistic design. As for the story, some parts of this book made my skin crawl, because the creators succeeded in a sorta Lovecraftian way of letting us glimpse a spirit world where human life doesn't amount to a hill of beans. There are immortal spirits all around us that see humans as nuisances at best, and as not worthy of survival at worst and have no desire to interact with mankind unless it serves their own purposes. You get tiny hints of Heaven and Hell in Volume 5 which speaks volumes to the range of CLAMP.

My Grade: A+

 

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R.I.P Shojo Beat Magazine

2009-05-20

Well, it's official, Shojo Beat is dead as far as the anthology magazine side of it goes. The manga imprint is going to carry on though. It has been reported that the July 2009 issue will be its last.

I was kinda taken aback. I thought the magazine was doing well. I always saw it right next to Shonen Jump and saw them as the perfect couple. I was first introduced to the mag when Animerica was cancelled halfway through my subscription and they offered to replace it with Shojo Beat. I said "what the hell" and received the first six issues. I couldn't really get into any of the titles. I wasn't very openminded about shojo series back then, and also, I don't take to anthologies very well. They make me think of literature textbooks that I had to read in college. But I really like Yen+.

Speaking of, I wonder how that magazine is doing for Yen? It must be doing allright or they wouldn't have released the first volumes of some of the manga series that are serialized in it. I'm way behind on it. I've bought every issue as it came out all the way to the present (but I've only read the first two issues!)

Magazines seem to be a dying breed. First, Animerica, Newtype, PIQ, Electronic Gaming Monthly, and now Shojo Beat. It's been about half a year or so since I saw an issue of Protoculture Addicts at my local book or comic store. What about Otaku USA? I remember a couple of months ago, they were going to go monthly, but scrapped those plans without a word. Anime Insider? Even though it sucked, a sucky anime/manga magazine is better than NO magazine at all.

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Podcast Episode 151: Naruto Volume 31

2009-05-10
Length: 11s

Podcast manga review of Naruto Volume 31: Final Battle by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Kyoko Shapiro. Adapted by Ian Reid. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen.

From the back cover:

Naruto and his fellow ninja engage in deadly conflict with the enemy. If any of them makes the wrong decision, it could be one of Naruto's closest friends who pays the ultimate price.

My Grade: A+

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Podcast Episode 150: Honey Hunt Volume 1

2009-04-26
Length: 14s

Podcast manga review of Honey Hunt Volume 1 by Miki Aihara (Hot Gimmick, Tokyo Boys and Girls). Translated by Ari Yusuda. Adapted by Liz Forbes. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan. Published in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $8.99, Rated T+ for Older Teen.

From the back cover:

Life's not easy when you're living in the shadow of your famous parents. Can shy Yura, the daughter of an award-winning composer and a world-renowned actress, find the courage to step out on her own now that her super-celebrity parents are getting divorced?

The media is abuzz when word gets out that Yura's mega-famous parents are splitting up. Already accustomed to the daily pressure of being the child of celebrities, Yura's frustration explodes in a rant against her parents--and her heated words end up being broadcasted live on national TV! When a powerful talent scout hears her impassioned declaration, he offers to represent her. The door to showbiz is now flung open for this timid wallflower--will she try to become an actress in her own right?

My Grade: B+

Here's the link for a free 10 page preview of the manga:

http://www.shojobeat.com/manga/hh/om.php

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Spike Spiegel is Wolverine

2009-04-26

Ok, probably a lot of you are looking at the title of this post and asking "What the hell!?" I don't know if everybody is aware of this but Steve Blum, the voice of Spike Spiegel in the English dub of Cowboy Bebop, has taken on a new starring role, this time in the realm of American animation. Blum now has the lead role as Wolverine in the Nicktoons show "Wolverine and the X-men", and the first three episodes have just been released on dvd. He actually played him in the direct-video release of "Hulk VS." as well. I know anime voice actors do American cartoon work as well, but at least to me, it was unusual for one to land such a coveted role, what with the popularity of the franchise among comic fans and the oncoming blitz of the Wolverine movie (if you haven't already seen it on the Internet). This dvd release has the first three episodes of the TV series, and is worthy of a rent (I would wait for the first season set to buy) even if you're not a comic book fan. You can also watch the first eight episodes for free at the Nicktoons link I'll put at the end of the post. It had a very anime-like feel in that all the episodes feed into an overarching storyline instead of being stand alone episodes. It also deals with the characters on a very personal level instead of them just donning their costumes and beating people up. If you at least saw the live action movies you should have no trouble enjoying the show. I haven't really kept up with the X-men comic in over 20 years and I still liked this animated version.  Here's the official site where you can check out the first eight episodes:

http://nicktoonsnetwork.nick.com/shows/wolverine-and-the-x-men/commonRoom/index.jhtml

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L'Arc En Ciel: Killing Me Music Video

2009-04-26

What can I say, I just like this song. The video doesn't make any sense, but then again, not many do! This is off the Truth cd, which you can buy from Itunes. Amazon and Ebay probably have it for sale as well.

 

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Manga Review: Hikaru No Go Volume 14

2009-04-22

Manga review of Hikaru No Go Volume 14: "Sai vs. Toya Koyo".  Story by Yumi Hotta. Art by Takeshi Obata. Supervised by Yukari Umezawa (5 Dan). Translated and adapted by Naoko Amemiya. English script consulting by Janice Kim (3 Dan). Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated All Ages.

Yep, that's right, the main storyline of this volume is the battle between Sai and Toya Meijin. You might ask how Toya is able to play with a ghost, and the question is a good one. Shindo persuaded Toya to play online against his friend, Sai, and Toya finally agreed after some misgivings. He just thought that there was something shady about Sai not wanting to reveal his identity. But what is Shindo going to do, tell him the truth? There's no way he would be taken seriously. Actually, Toya and his son, Akira, are both beginning to wonder about Sai's identity, with both of them initially believing Sai is the online identity of Shindo. While they both come to realize that this is not the case, they are beginning to connect the dots ever so slowly. I'm kinda curious to see if Shindo is ever going to tell anyone about Sai. There is a catch to the match. If Toya wins, Sai will have to reveal his true identity. If Toya loses, he has sworn to retire from the world of professional Go. Shindo doesn't know whether to take him seriously or not. But we know Sai is not going to hold back after waiting to play with a Go opponent of Toya's caliber for 14 volumes (He did play him before through Shindo, but he had handicap himself in order to keep from arousing Toya's suspicions).

I love this series, even though I've never played a game of Go in my life. I look forward to the matches between the characters as if they were actual matches. It was really exciting to see Toya and Sai going toe to toe with no reservations like their previous match. I thought for a while last volume there was a chance of the game never actually being played. Another plot element that comes up in this installment is that Shindo is becoming so good he doesn't need Sai's advice as much when he plays his own games. In fact, he is even starting to give Sai some pointers on how to improve HIS playing! This is a far remove from when Shindo first started playing so clumsily in volume 1. What is going to happen to Sai after he makes the "divine move"? And who will be left standing after Shindo and Akira's inevitable showdown that is bound to happen sooner or later? It was postponed because of Toya's heart attack, which seemed like a cheap trick designed to tantalize fans. I mean, to come to the day of the match and then Akira doesn't show up? The art by Takeshi Obata of Death Note fame is up to the same impressive quality that he exhibits in all his work. Check this series out!

My Grade: A

Check here for a free preview of Volume 1:

http://www.shonenjump.com/manga/hikarunogo/om/

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Dragonball Evolution Tanking at Box Office

2009-04-19

Wow, have you seen the numbers for Dragonball Evolution? It has only made about 8 million dollars in two weeks! Ok, anything beyond a million isn't chicken scratch, especially to an impoverished soul like me, but in movie money, that is akin to nothing. On top of that, attendence at screenings of the movie dropped by almost 70% in one week. I haven't seen it. In fact, I'm so out of touch I didn't even realize it had been released. I have never read any of the manga or watched any of the various anime incarnations. What these numbers tell me is that either the franchise doesn't have that many fans (which I know is not true)....or the movie just flat out sucks. I still think I might go see it, just to burn the anime/manga flame. I hope the Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Old Boy remake, or the Cowboy Bebop (Is Keanu Reeves an android?) movies are better. It looks like Dragonball is going in the same trash heap as Speed Racer (Hey, I actually liked that movie, even if I had to put on a welding mask because of the gaudy colors).…

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Podcast Episode 149-- Wolverine: Prodigal Son Volume 1

2009-04-18
Length: 13s

Podcast manga review of Wolverine: Prodigal Son Volume 1. Written by Antony Johnston. Art by Wilson Tortosa. Published by Del Rey, $12.99, Rated 13+.

From the back cover:

This is not the Wolverine you know.

Logan is a teenage rebel with a real good reason for having a real bad attitude. Ever since being left in a nearby forest - with no memory of who he was or how he got there - Logan (or Wolverine, as his classmates sometimes call him) has been stuck in a martial arts school in the icy wilds of Canada. No wonder he's bored, restless, and yearning. There's a whole world out there, and Logan can almost taste it. But he's chained to a past he can't remember and can't escape. Now it just may destroy his future.

My Grade: B+

See a free preview:

http://www.randomhouse.com/delrey/manga/preview/wolverine/

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Manga Review: Eden Volume 11

2009-04-18

Manga review of Eden Volume 11 by Hiroki Endo. Translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Dark Horse, $12.95, Rated Mature 18+.

The storyline that started 4 years after the first story arc continues in Eden volume 11. A shaky alliance has been formed between Elijah, Miriam Arona, and a Propater investigator named Wendy McCall. Elijah is in it to avenge Manuela's execution. Arona, a cop, is in it because the same guys killed her partner, who was Helena's boyfriend. Wendy McCall has been sent to find out about some shady connections between factions of Propater and the Wilhelm Corporation, a bio-electronic arms manufacturer. None of them want to stop with the actual killers. They are small fry. Instead, the trio wants to find the big wigs who ordered the hit. The trail takes them all the way from Peru to Australia. Unknowingly, Elijah is coming closer and closer to his missing sister, who was kidnapped a couple of volumes back, and is being held by Propater, along with Maya, a complex artificial life form that has the ability to communicate instantaneously with the emerging intelligence of the Disclosure Virus. And speaking of Maya, do you remember when Elijah made a copy of the AI in the first volume or so of Eden? It has been implanted into a cyborg body of a school-age girl and named itself Letheia Aletheia and joins Elijah on his journey to Australia. The Disclosure Virus is becoming more and more powerful and is taking over more and more cities. Now, a giant colloid has appeared in Australia as well, and Kate Mishima takes a scientific team into its bowels to investigate, and perhaps even communicate with the mind of the virus.

I guess I'm getting used to the whole 4 year flash forward deal, because I enjoyed this eleventh volume much more than than the last. Maybe it also has to do with the fact that Endo has finally gotten back to the sci-fi roots of this series after digressing into a long period of gang violence and sex. It's not that the last volumes haven't been awesome in their own right, but a lot of it could've happened in the present day and didn't need such a remote future tag. But in some ways, that's what I like about Hiroki Endo's writing. He doesn't take his sci-fi elements to unbelievable extremes. He simply extends ideas and technology we already have instead, much like Ghost in the Shell. You don't have anything like hyper-spatial travel, galactic empires, or hostile aliens coming to invade like a space opera. Instead, Endo focuses on characterization. That's why I was so upset with the killing of Helena. She played such a big part in Elijah's life and was so important to the plot, and Endo gunned her down just like that with no rhyme or reason as to why she and Elijah broke up. It just seemed like a cheap theatrical trick designed to shake up the reader. Still, I have confidence that Endo will win me back over in coming volumes.

I also don't know why Dark Horse took so long to put out this eleventh volume. Volume 10 came out way back in May 2008!  And there has always been a darkness about this title coming from their company, as if its cancellation is always an eminent possibility. I hoped Dark Horse saw that this title reached the New York Times bestseller list for manga the week it was released. That's what I hate about these companies. They don't give you status reports or say a title is cancelled. They just let titles drift into oblivion and show no respect for the fans. Can anybody tell me what happened to Octopus Girl or Reiko the Zombie Shop? As far as I know, those titles are on "hiatus". Why can't they just say CANCELLED!?  If it takes almost a year to publish each volume of Eden, give the license to Del Rey, who would treat the title with the respect it deserves. I'm talking about the big wigs at Dark Horse. It seems as though the staffers that actually deal with Eden really love the title. Kudos to Kumar and Steve for doing such a brilliant job with the translation and the lettering.

My Grade: A

 

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Jessica Chobot, Gamer and Manga/Anime Enthusiast

2009-04-15

I just added Jessica Chobot's blog to my side panel. She's a cool and beautiful young lady who, in addition to loving games and writing and doing videos for IGN (which you can view on XBOX Live), is an avid manga and anime fan. Some of her most recent blog entries are about her visit to the recent Sakura Festival in Japan. She has plenty of pictures and entertaining blog entries, so be sure to visit her site. Here is her Modlife blog which is very visual and flashy (just click on the picture):

You can also check out her more traditional style blog at IGN:

http://blogs.ign.com/Jess-IGN/

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Manga Review: Eden Volume 10

2009-04-15

Manga review of Eden Volume 10 by Hiroki Endo. Translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian.  Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Dark Horse, $12.95, Rated Mature 18+.

After delivering Marihan Ishaq, a Uyghur freedom fighter, into the hands of NOMAD, Kenji believes that he can take a well-deserved rest. But, alas, it's not to be, for Marihan escapes from her captors and goes on the run, not wanting to be caught by Propater, the Chinese government, or Kenji's organization. She again enlists Kenji's aid in an effort to disarm bombs planted by her own people in crowded Chinese public places. One of them has been planted at a shopping mall, so if nothing is done, hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent people are going to die. Kenji usually doesn't do anything unless it serves his own purposes or that of his employer, but something in Marihan's sincere fight for her the rights of her people has touched a chord in him.

If the entire volume had followed this storyline I would have gushed over volume 10 of this classic series just like I've done over every volume that has come before. Make no mistake. I think Eden is the best manga being printed in English at the moment, and nothing really stands beside it. The characters are just so damn human! Most of the time, Kenji acts like a cold blooded killing machine akin to the Terminator, but here and there, Endo gives glimpses of a very sensitive and vulnerable man who was shaped by the sinister forces of this world to be something he was probably never meant to be. Marihan comes off as his shadow, but while employing violence in her own way, she fights for freedom and civil rights, not for pay. But even she has realized that killing is probably not the best way to achieve political ends.

Like I said, if Endo had ended the volume with the conclusion of the Kenji/Marihan storyline, I would've loved this book. But, Endo completely shakes up the cast and story by advancing time by 4 years, just like that, with no warning! In the flash forward world of Eden, a lot has changed. South America is now on the verge of joining Propater. Elijah and Helena are no longer an item. In fact, Helena is living with a just resigned cop named Leo Pessoa (who happens to be a triple agent for the cops, Enoah, and Propater), and Helena is planning to leave the country with him. Leo's former partner, Miriam Arona, steps into the story in what seems to be a major role, and possibly become a new love interest for Elijah. The Closure Virus has evolved beyond what we saw in the earlier volumes of Eden.  It has gained sentience and has started to form "colloids", crystalline structures which assimilate organic and inorganic matter. This new form of the virus has claimed over 2 million lives so far.

I haven't decided whether I like the new direction Eden has moved in. Endo seems to kill off a very major character without blinking an eye. While this underlines the fact that anyone can go anytime in the real world, it still didn't seem to serve any purpose. I also would have liked to have seen the how and why of Elijah and Helena's breakup. It probably had something to do with the difference in their ages, but I had too much invested in those characters simply for Endo to gloss over whatever had broken them apart. It also seemed a bit jarring for Elijah to transform into a slick, cool, under control hitman helping in his father's business without knowing what happened to him in the blank of the four year forejump. Arona is too slight and trivial of a character to comfortably exist in Eden. Endo uses her a lot for comedy relief which undercuts her impact on the story. In fact, she is a hotblooded heroine that would be more at home in Gunsmith Cats than such a serious title as Eden. I'm not giving up on this new direction, since it might be just the newness of it that made me enjoy volume 10 less than other entries in this series.

My Grade: B+

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Kairi-Moon, A Great Talent

2009-04-05

I've started a new category on the side panel, "Artists", where I will post links to artists that I like. I've put a link to Saelee Oh over there, but there's also another artist I'd like to bring your attention to. Kairi-Moon was featured in the February issue of Neo Magazine. Her real name is Karen Yumi Lusted. She's half Japanese and is in her final year of Animation study. She's currently learning Japanese so she can talk to her family back in Japan and has plans to teach there (she currently lives in England). She would like a job in animation but would enjoy any job where she could be involved with art.

You can find her webspace with more art and info at:

http://kairi-moon.deviantart.com/

Here's a link to some previews for a comic (manga) she did for Itch Publication, entitled "Final Blossom":

http://www.itchpublishing.com/news/final-blossom/

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Check Out Saelee Oh's Art

2009-04-05

I've been meaning to link to to some Asian and Asian-influenced artists for some time now, but have just never got around to it. Giant Robot features one every issue. So I'm taking the plunge with Saelee Oh, who was featured on the magazine a couple of months ago. Of Korean descent and hailing from California, Saelee isn't one of those moody types that likes to stew in solitude. She even likes to invite friends over while she's working, even though she might not be very attentive. She also likes to collaborate with other artists. Her art is very beautiful, with a childlike whimsy mixed with the danger of the adult world, surreal without being unnatural or inorganic. Her art is inviting and makes you smile. Saelee doesn't stay in one place long, preferring a free life, moving among cities. You can check out her blog and more art at:

http://saeleeoh.blogspot.com/

 

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Manga Review: Eden Volume 9

2009-04-05

Manga review of Eden Volume 9 by Hiroki Endo. Translated by Kumar Sivabramanian. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Dark Horse, $12.95, Rated Mature, Ages 18+.

Volume 9 of Eden switches abruptly from the crime drama of Elijah, Helena, and Pedro to the oil rich desert of western China. An oil facility has been seized by Muslim terrorists (or, freedom fighters), and hostages have been taken. They are led by a charismatic young woman named Marihan Ishaq. Her forces did not seize the oil field as a random act of terror to take innocent lives. Instead, Marihan wants to bring attention to the plight of her people, an ethnic minority called the Uyghurs, who have little in common with their Chinese rulers. As oil has been found on their ancestral lands, the Chinese government and Propater have embarked on a course of intimidation and genocide to get rid of the Uyghur. Marihan has given them 24 hours to remove all Chinese and Propater troops from Uyghur lands or she will order the destruction of the facility and its important oil pipelines. Normally, Propater would be able to keep this incident off the news, but they haven't reckoned on the fact that NOMAD and Enoah's organized crime syndicate are backing the play of Marihan in an effort to show the true nature of Propater's operations. Meanwhile, the Closure Virus is mutating and seems to be acting almost sentient. Bad news for the human race.

This volume does a good job of proving the popular axiom that "one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter". You're always hearing in the news about guys seizing oil platforms around Africa or taking foreign hostages who work for Big Oil. In some cases, they are common criminals just out to make a quick buck, but here and there you'll hear about them doing it to protest the fact that the native people are not getting any of the revenue from the oil, or in some cases, the sale of diamonds. All of the billions of dollars are going to the fat cat government officials to pay for their car armadas or palatial retreats while the common people are living in huts. And they have a legitimate beef. Do you know what happens when an aggressor meets a defender? One side has to lose. What has happened throughout history is that a nation wants something bad enough, it will do whatever is necessary to acquire it. Including genocide, war, and expulsion. The Americas were just the same, when the Indians were practically exterminated and subjugated for their land. Even Japan has its own indigenous natives, the Ainu, and they were treated in much the same way (even though they try to shush it). Even today, some Ainu hide their ancestry to avoid discrimination by the Japanese. Endo also seems to be calling on references to what China has done and continues to do with Tibet. What has happened in all these cases is the goal of the government, be it American or Chinese, or Japanese, to swallow a whole people, Borg-like, and either "assimilate" them, or destroy them, as the case may be. And don't forget Palestine. Hiroki Endo is right up there with the greatest of sci-fi writers merely by the fact he is able to touch on so many global conficts and phobias and is able to pack them into an action comic book that touches the soul of our age.

My Grade: A+

You can listen to a podcast of Volume 1 at this link:

http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=362912

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Manga Review: xxxHolic Volume 4

2009-03-28

Manga review of xxxHolic Volume 4 by CLAMP. Translated and adapted by William Flanagan. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated T for ages 13+.

It's Valentine's Day, which in Japan,  is the day when girls give homemade chocolate to their beloved, or crush, as it may be.  In a lot of cases, the giving of the candy might be the first time that a young girl has revealed their feelings to the object of their affection. Of course, Watanuki is hoping to get some from Himawari, the girl that he likes. None is forthcoming, though, and he finds himself, instead, slaving in the kitchen making chocolate for Yuko! While this reverses the gender roles of the day he still tries to salvage things by intending to let Himawari taste it. Domeki tries some instead in his laidback manner of butting in. But all is not lost for Watanuki. There IS a girl that likes him and wants to give him chocolate, but she also wants to steal Domeki's soul. In the second story arc of this volume, Watanuki and friends get mixed up with twin sisters that have a supernatural bond centered around the power of words and negative thinking.

I was a little let down by the writing in this fourth volume. It didn't really have any hooks. I found the Valentine's Day chapters really funny, but the storyline with the twins never paid off. They weren't creepy or scary and the climax was a bit of a letdown. I guess a large portion of the book just didn't have enough of that Twilight Zone feeling that I usually get when I read xxxHolic. Where CLAMP more than makes up for the subpar script in Volume 4 is in the beautiful, and at times, stunning artwork. There are some really nice panels in the Valentine chapters where the characters are backlit against the moon which really highlight CLAMP's mastery of solid blacks and flowing lines in this series. What a contrast to Tsubasa's rough unfinished edges.

My Grade: B

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Manga Review: Eden Volume 7

2009-03-28

Manga review of Eden Volume 7 by Hiroki Endo. Translated by Kumar Sivabramanian. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Dark Horse, $12.95, Rated Mature, Ages 18+.

Elijah wants revenge on Pedro for torturing Helena, which included plucking her eye out with a knife and cutting off one of her ears. But he's not going to be able to do it by himself. So he goes looking for advice from the Automater, a retired crime syndicate boss who actually got Pedro started in the business. From her he hears about the bloody rise of Pedro in her organization and how he first hooked up with Manuela, his supposed first love, and of the abusive relationship that ensued, with Pedro regularly beating her and her escalating addiction to heroin. It's up to Elijah to decide after the story whether he still wants to kill him or not.

As I've said many times, Eden is the greatest manga I've ever read and I would even dare call Hiroki Endo manga's Shakespeare, so deep is his knowledge and insight into the human heart. Again and again, I am reminded of this when I read scenes in Eden where I say to myself "yeah, that's exactly how human beings act and react". You find yourself nodding your head as you read, thinking "this is life". No other manga I have ever read gives me the feeling of being so entwined with the human condition. This is usually a feeling relegated only to what some call "literature" such as Dostoyevsky or Proust. Eden is a horribly beautiful work that always has another layer to peel back. While it has graphic violence on full display, it also has flashes of humor, love, and a genuine passion to understand what makes a soul tick through its dense characterization. Classic.

My Grade: A+

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Manga Review: Eden Volume 6

2009-03-28

Manga review of Eden Volume 6 by Hiroki Endo. Translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Dark Horse, $12.95, Rated Mature Ages 18+.

Elijah's botched rescue attempt has left his mother in critical condition and his sister still in the hands of Propater. On top of that, the AI Maya seems to have joined sides with the enemy as well and Cherubim has been blown to bits. Plus, Elijah has the blood of a cop on his hands and his friends are going to be none too happy when he arrives in his jail cell. Even if he gets out alive, there is a gang war brewing on the streets between his father's men and an up and coming gangster named Pedro. Helena complicates things even further by buying the prostitute that Pedro loves to work in her brothel in an effort to save her from her destructive heroin addiction.

As you can tell from the plot points outlined above, the world of Eden is about as far from the Biblical garden as it is possible to be. In fact, probably the closest approximation is Hell. But there is a certain elegance in the ultimate degradation, and a certain beauty in the worst violence as portrayed by Endo's highly realistic and fluid art. The writer has done a good job of moving Eden from a militaristic ultra gore action piece to a more meditative (albeit still with lots of blood) poem about the lower classes and the gangsters that control the streets. Even Pedro, who does some pretty evil things in this volume, is shown through flashbacks to have a heart and a true love for Manuela, even though his physical abuse would belie otherwise. Eden is the best manga series being printed right now. Nowhere else can you find the masterful combination of art, writing, and honesty about the human condition.

My Grade: A+

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Manga Review: Sorcerer Hunters Volume 7

2009-03-22

Manga Review of Sorcerer Hunters Volume 7. Story by Satoru Akahori. Art by Ray Omishi. Translated by Anita Sengupta. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+.

Beginnings can be deceiving in the case of volume 7 of Sorcerer Hunters as it opens with a fan servicey romp at the beach. The mini-sized speech impeded Master Potato has concocted a potion that will make him the "hero of the story" and be a hit with the babes. Since love potions can be an iffy proposition, his butler convinces Potato to test it on someone else first. Of course, this means the Sorcerer Hunters become the lab rats. Things become more serious as the Hunters finally track down the last Platina Stone, which is the source of Lord Sachen's power. Unfortunately for them, the last guardian they have to defeat is Gateau's sister, Eclair, who goes by the new moniker of Deneb, and has no memory of her beloved brother. Since they trained together when they were young, Gateau hopes he will be able to jog her memory by fighting her, even if he has to sacrifice his own life in the process. Tira and Chocolat have their own score to settle with their adopted father, Lord Sacher, who killed almost all of their foster brothers and sisters back in the day.

One of the strengths of this series has always been the ability of Ray Omishi to write a tale that at one point can be a totally fan servicey parody of manga conventions, and at others can be a Shakespearean family tragedy. This volume is a perfect example. Along with Akahori's art, the creative duo make fun of manga conventions from sports to shonen ai romances as each Hunter has their own fantasy of being a hero. But then, after that, we have the final showdown between father and daughters, and brother and sister. When things turn serious, Omishi's writing and Akahori's art become serious as well. When things hit the fan, you're not going to see deformed characters or stupid jokes interrupting the drama which sometimes happens with lesser creators. Definitely a series to check out.

My Grade: B+

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Podcast Episode 148: Dojin Work Volume 1

2009-03-14
Length: 10s

Anime DVD Podcast review of Dojin Work Volume 1: Pencil and Paper, Episodes 1-4. Directed by Kenichi Yatani. Approximate Running Time: 100 minutes. Published by Media Blasters, Rated 13+. Japanese with English subtitles.

From the back cover:

Doujin Work follows the life of a young girl named Najimi Osana and her exposure into the doujin world. She was first tempted into becoming a doujin artist after seeing how much one of her friends can make at a convention. Najimi loves to draw, but soon learns, contrary to what she expected, that this new world is anything but easy.

As she attends more conventions and meets more people, Najimi eventually manages to find a group of very interesting friends. These friends already have some experience in the field and help her out along the way so that she can someday make a name for herself creating doujinshi.

My Grade: B+

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Podcast Episode 147: The Familiar of Zero Box Set, Episodes 1-4

2009-03-11
Length: 10s

Podcast review of the first four episodes of The Familiar of Zero Box Set, published by Geneon, List Price: $59.98, Rated 13+. Directed by Yoshiaki Iwasaki (Best Student Council, Hayate the Combat Butler). Series Composition by Takao Yoshioka (Elfen Lied, Dears).

From the back cover:

In a magical land where two moons shine in the night sky, one young student in the magic school, Louise, has acquired the nickname of "Zero." Why? Her "zero" talent! With a near-perfect failure rate for her spells, the shock that Louise's summoning spell works equals the surprise of her new familiar, a human boy from Japan! When the boy begins exhibiting some unexpected abilities, why do the teachers get so nervous?

My Grade: B+

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Podcast Episode 146: Naruto Volume 30

2009-03-09
Length: 12s

Podcast manga review of Naruto Volume 30: Puppet Masters by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated and adapted by Naomi Kokubo and Eric-Jon Rossel Waugh. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen.

From the back cover:

Naruto is a ninja-in-training with an incorrigible knack for mischief. He's got a wild sense of humor, but Naruto is completely serious about his mission to be the world's greatest ninja!

Sakura takes her place at the front of the fight to save Naruto. With Granny Chiyo at her side, she must battle Sasori, who can create golems from the undead. But Granny Chiyo is a puppet master too -- only it could be Sakura's strings she's pulling!

My Grade: A+

While the podcast is a review of the manga, here is the anime episode it corresponds with:

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Anime Review: Maria Watches Over Us Season 1: Episodes 10-13

2009-02-22

Anime DVD review of the fourth disc of the Season 1 box set of Maria Watches Over Us, Episodes 10-13. Published by Right Stuf. Directed by Yukihiro Matsushita, List Price : $49.99, Rated 13+.  

As Christmas approaches, Rosa Gigantea takes center stage in Episodes 10 & 11 of Maria Watches Over Us. But it's probably not in a way she wanted. In Episode 10, there is a big buzz at Lilian about a new book named "The Forest of Briars", which purports to be a tell all confessional about life at the all girls academy, disguised as a novel. The author is someone named Sei Suga, which, according to rumor, is none other than Rosa Gigantea (Her real name also happens to be Sei). While most of the Yamayuri Council leaders dismiss the book as beneath their dignity, even if Gigantea is the author, Yumi and some of the younger girls set out to find the truth about its author. In Episode 11, "The White Petals", the yuriness gets turned on full blast as we witness a tragic love affair of the past between Gigantea and a younger girl that she never claimed as her sister. The last two episodes of the disc deal with the results of a contest a couple of episodes back that was sponsored by the school newspaper in which the winners won a date with one of the members of the Yamayuri Council. Yumi is going out with Sachiko, which you think wouldn't be a big deal, given their already established relationship, but Yumi is ready to have a nervous breakdown trying to figure out what Sachiko would enjoy doing on their date. She can't really ask her friends because the extremely jealous Yoshino doesn't even want to hear the word "date" because her beloved sister is being taken from her by a lowly underclassmen, even if it's just a one-time thing. Shimako is also dealing with a bit of tension in this area as her date is the beautiful Shizuka, who happens to be in love with Shimako's sister, Rosa Gigantea (wow, it's all about Gigantea, isn't it?). It doesn't help that the snooping reporter, Tsutako, is stalking all of the couples in hopes of getting  photos for the school paper.

I really enjoyed the first season of Maria Watches Over Us, even if the girls, with their beanpole designs,  made CLAMP characters look obese. There was always a sense of disquiet in me, as I wondered what diet these girls were on, which made them look like human straws. But, be that as it may, I really enjoyed the characters. They really stand out in your mind. A lot of times when I write a review or record a podcast, I have to jot down a few notes to keep the cast straight. But I didn't have that trouble with this show, because the characters are so memorable and unique. It's cool that we get to see them in regular street clothes in some of these episodes because their school uniforms are a bit boring and stiff. At times, when you are watching this show, the elegance can be a bit overwhelming, like you've arrived at an aristocrat's dinner gala and are extremely underdressed. Of course, I'd never be admitted except as a servant. But it's still good to be able to look through the window and see how the other half lives. Cool show, but probably will not float everyone's boat.

Disc 4 Grade: B

Season 1 Grade: B+

Official site: http://maria-sama.rightstuf.com/

My Podcast review of  Episodes 1-3: http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=368094

 

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Manga Review: Sorcerer Hunters Volume 6

2009-02-08

Manga Review of Sorcerer Hunters Volume 6. Story by Satoru Akahori. Art by Ray Omishi. Translated by Anita Sengupta. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+.

The Sorcerer Hunters continue their hunt for the 5 Platina Stones that are the source of Lord Sacher's power. With every stone they destroy, Sacher's strength decreases. Unfortunately, each stone is protected by a Guardian Spirit, who is willing to fight to the death against the Hunters. Big Mama sends "Daughter", one of the last living winged beings, along with the Hunters set out to eliminated the 3rd Platina Stone. She's being sent along because the stone's Guardian, named Sirius of the Wind, is also a winged being. While Mama might be doing this to have a strategic advantage over Sirius, she also wants Daughter to meet one of her own kind. After a brief interlude in which our heroes help a struggling restaurant owner compete in a cooking contest, the Hunters move on to the search for the fourth Platina Stone, which lands them smack in the middle of two warring ninja clans.

Ok, some of the humor of this series can be a bit grating at times, and this is especially apparent when Satoru Akahori relies almost completely on the laughs to move the story forward. Fortunately, the longing of Daughter for another of her kind, and the reciprocal desire of Sirius do more than enough to humanize these otherwise wacky characters. It doesn't hurt that Marron, the usually delicate and refined magic-user of the group, throws down his spells and takes up a sword to get his hands dirty in a battle with the fourth Guardian at the end of the volume. No matter how crazy Omishi's physical comedy gets, Akahori throws in some very human elements.

My Grade: B

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Podcast Episode 145: Akihabara@Deep Volume 1

2009-01-21
Length: 14s

Podcast manga review of Akihabara@Deep Volume 1. Written by Ira Ishida. Art by Makoto Akane. Translated and adapted by Mayumi Kobayashi. Originally published in Japan by Shinchosa and Coamix. Published in US by Anime Works, $11.99, Rated 16+.

From the back cover:

Akihabara@DEEP. It is an enterprise that is small but elite and organized by the legendary otaku of Akihabara. Soon, they'll be dragged into the struggle for supremacy in a world of information technology. A battle is about to begin in the Akihabara district for the future of the industry.

My Grade: A

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Sword of the Stranger In Theaters for One Night Stand

2009-01-12

Tickets are on sale for Sword of the Stranger, a new anime movie from Bandai and the animation studio BONES.

What is the movie about you might ask? Here's the synopsis from the website:

SWORD OF THE STRANGER STORY SYNOPSIS: Hunted by the Mings from China, a young boy named Kotaro and his loyal dog Tobimaru meet a nameless samurai (“Nanashi” or “No Name”) who is haunted by his past – a memory so terrible he has vowed to never draw his sword again. Among the Mings is Luo-Lang, a ruthless Western swordsman with the Chinese name who has walked the earth in search of a worthy rival. When both groups clash with a feudal lord and monks torn between faith and survival, the truth behind the Mings’ pursuit of Kotaro tests the bond between the boy and the samurai with no name…

The catch is that it is only showing on one night, February 5, at 7:30 PM across the nation. It is also set to feature a behind the scenes short along with some voice actor interviews. Unfortunately for me, it sounds like it is going to be an English dub. I hate dubs. Except for Bebop. But I'm willing to try to deal with it and keep an open mind. It's not often we in America get to see an anime on the big screen. I've only seen two, Howl's Moving Castle, and the second Ghost in the Shell movie. I bought two tickets tonight for $12.50 each. Here's the link to the official site:

http://stranger.bandai-ent.com/index.php

And here is the trailer for the movie:

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Anime DVD Review: Project Blue Earth SOS Volume 2

2009-01-04

Anime DVD review of Project Blue Earth SOS Volume 2: Infiltration. Directed by Tensai Okamura (Wolf's Rain, Darker than Black). Series Composition by Ryota Yamaguchi (Cowboy Bebop, One Piece, Escaflowne). Published by ADV Films (license has been picked up by Funimation),  Running Time: 90 minutes, Episodes 3-4, Rated 15+.

The Labyrinth Alliance, backed by the corporation run by Billy Kimura's father, has come up with the ultimate checkmate to use against the aliens. The time is right to take The Invincible, a state of the art flying battleship, out on its maiden voyage. Decked out with the latest new fangled weaponry, it will join the Sky Knight as one of only two ships that can take on the enemy's helmet worms. Meanwhile, the aliens, calling themselves Baguans, continue to wreak destruction around the globe, destroying military targets and some targets meant to hurt us psychologically, like the destruction of the Eiffel Tower. In a most insidious move, the Baguans have begun reanimating and controlling dead human captives as the means to carry out their evil plans. Penny gets quite a shock when some of the alien saboteurs end up being his long missing parents! Suffice it to say, it causes quite a conflict of interest. If that's not enough, the Baguans have devised a way to shut down anything that runs off a G-Reactor, which means almost everything on Earth. It's up to our heroes to find a way to distinguish friend from foe and find a way to turn the lights back on.  

I really want to get behind this show and love it because of the great characters and animation, but the writing is beginning to stink. First of all, letting an overconfident brat like Billy make world changing decisions for the military is a little bit much. Billy's plans mostly consist of sending up the latest ships and planes built by his company simply to get shot down by the Baguan flying saucers. He also doesn't seem to have any compunctions about getting innocent people killed as a result of his lamebrained schemes. The fact that Penny has to confront the dead bodies of his parents at least brings him off his high horse and instills his character with a bit of much needed humility and makes him realize that this isn't just some science project he can ace at school. That people are dying in this war.

I really like the characters on this show, at least in terms of personality, they give SOS a lot of variety. In the hands of a good writer, Project Blue Earth could have been a really good anime. While it can be fun at times, it crosses the line of goofiness way too many times to ever be taken seriously. And what's up with Lotta Brest? When the opening credits roll, it shows all the characters along with their names. When I watched them for the first time, I assumed the hot and sexy Emely was named Lotta Brest (they appear together on the credits), but ironically, Lotta Brest was the 12 year old? Who the hell came up with these names? I also thought it was kinda sad that all we've seen of the aliens so far is a Doctor Evil "Bwuh, Ha, Ha, Ha!" laughing masked villain who gives the Earth 24 hours to surrender. I mean, if the Baguans are so powerful, why don't they just invade and take over instead of all these penny ante hijinks that our own native terrorists could pull off?

The only extra is the clean opening animation.

My Grade: C+

 

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Podcast Episode 144--Edu Manga: Ludwig Van Beethoven

2009-01-04
Length: 15s

Podcast manga review of Edu-Manga: Ludwig Van Beethoven. Written by Takayuki Kanda. Art by Naoko Takase. Translated by Sachiko Sato. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by DMP under their Educational Series imprint, $9.95, Rated All Ages.

From the back cover:

A true genius, Beethoven stands as one of the greatest musical minds the world has ever seen with such famous works as his Symphony No. 9 ("Ode to Joy") and the classic "Fur Elise." The onset of deafness was only one of many hardships he had to face, but his strength and desire to do battle with his turbulent life led him to create the many musical masterpieces we cherish today. Celebrate Beethoven's amazing life with Astro Boy at your side! Astro Boy is ready to show you how Beethoven created some of the most beautiful music in history while struggling with his own personal highs and lows. Watch the story behind this genius and his amazing musical work come to life right before your eyes.

My Grade: A

(There was a slight issue getting this episode uploaded, which should be corrected now. For some reason it was not fully uploading into Itunes and my blogpage.)

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Naruto Shippuden Anime Begins Its Free Run Online

2009-01-02

Well, let the awesome news begin. The first eight episodes of Naruto Shippuden are up at three different sites, www.vizmedia.com, www.hulu.com, and www.crunchyroll.com. It's completely free and legal to watch them. I have to admit, I'm not fully caught up on the anime (I'm only just now finishing the fourth uncut box set), but I am guilty of reading up to volume 41 or 42 of the manga, the only time I've ever sought out scans on the internet. So, suffice it to say, I am fully aware of what is going on in the story without having watched all the anime episodes and I am really excited. I just watched the first episode at Viz, and just to where you know, I think you can only watch subtitled episodes at this point. And the Viz feed is coming from Hulu.com. You can watch the episodes in better resolution at Hulu (480p), but I experienced a bit of lag with my DSL, so I had to go to standard resolution and the problem was solved. I have never watched anything on Crunchyroll so I can't comment on their quality at the moment. 8 new episodes will be posted each Friday until they catch up with the Japanese run.

Here is the trailer (which is dubbed):

And here is the first episode. Just hit the play button. You can also make it fullscreen with the button in the top right corner. Don't worry if it's a little disconcerting at first. You didn't miss any episodes. It starts out with Naruto and Sakura encountering Sasuke but then flashbacks to how they got to this point:

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Manga Review: Sand Chronicles Volume 2

2009-01-01

Manga Review of Sand Chronicles Volume 2 by Hinako Ashihara. Translated by Kinami Watabe. Adapted by John Werry. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan as "Sunadokei". Pubished in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $8.99, Rated T+ Older Teen

It's been three years since Ann's mom dragged her away from Tokyo to her small country hometown of Shimane after a messy divorce with a bankrupt husband. Ann managed to rebuild her life with some new friends, Daigo, Fuji, and his sister Shika. Over time, Daigo even became her boyfriend. She's been living in a dreamworld these past years, never contemplating or wanting to accept that situations and relationships change over time.  Now she is going to have to face reality. First of all, she learns that Fuji is moving to Tokyo to go to a prestigious high school, ruining the blissful comraderie of her circle of friends. Secondly, after being absent from her life for years, Ann's father shows up out of the blue, saying that he has reformed his ways, paid his debts, and that he wants her to move back to Tokyo with him! When her dad reveals that he had stayed out of her life because of a promise to Ann's mother, she faces a hard choice. Should she move to Tokyo to be with her dad or stay in Shimane because she doesn't want to lose Daigo? 

Yep, Sand Chronicles is about drama. But it's good drama. Hinako Ashihara wades into themes and situations that most shojo creators would shy away from in fear. Cleverly, she set the whole series up as a flashback. When volume 1 opened, a grown up Ann was getting married and packing to move abroad. This kinda set up a mystery type question. Namely, who is she getting married to and what happened in the intervening years between the events of the manga and the present? Who does she end up with? Has the man she's going to marry even appeared in the manga? Will he ever?  Also, the fact that Ann is so aware of the inherent changeability of  human emotions over time gives her a depth way beyond other shojo heroines. And let's just set the record straight, Ann IS a heroine. Because she is dealing with emotional issues that might permanently break some people in her situation. Even though she doesn't want things to change, she does eventually make decisions, whether for good or bad, instead of waffling for 20 volumes over what she should do. Hopefully, I won't be eating dirt over this statement in the future because she seems to be showing feelings for Fuji these days. I didn't really mention it in the summary but Fuji also has a big role in this volume. Even though he is the scion of his rich family, there has always been a rumor that he was the illegitimate offspring of his mom's many affairs. In this volume, he gets to meet his suspected father, and he might just wish he hadn't. Sand Chronicles is the best shojo manga I have ever read and ranks up there with some of my favorite works, regardless of genre.

My Grade: A

Check out my podcast review of Volume 1 at this link:

http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=361894

You can also view a free preview of the first volume of the manga at the Viz website:

http://www.shojobeat.com/onlinemanga/sbom.php?chap=san-hi-preview&o=dn

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Japanese Man Living 3 Months at Mexican Airport Moves Out!

2009-01-01

Just a funny story I picked up in the Houston Chronicle the past couple of days: Apparently, a Japanese man named Hiroshi Nohara had been living in a Mexico City airport terminal since September 2! That's 3 months! Why, you might ask? Nobody knows! It seems he was invited to stay at a local woman's house named Oyuki whose husband works in Japan on December 28th. Nohara says he doesn't intend to return to the airport. Should be interesting to see what the story is behind this.  

Hey, whatever happened to the woman who lived for a year in somebody's closet in Japan without the resident ever knowing?

Here's the link to the Nohara story:

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/world/6188794.html

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Free To View Anime

2008-12-30

Just wanted to mention the fact that if you look on the right column beneath my reviews index, I've added a category called "Free to View Anime" where I've included links to sites where you can watch anime episodes for free and it's all legal. So check em out! Funimation has stared its BETA version of its own video channel, similar to Hulu. Since they publish practically everything now, this is good news for anime fans, especially since it's hard to make a $40 investment in these box sets they're putting out now without ever seeing an episode.…

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Podcast Episode 143: Darker Than Black Volume 1

2008-12-30
Length: 14s

Podcast anime dvd review of Darker Than Black Volume 1. Episodes 1-5. Directed and written by Tensai Okamura (Naruto Movie, Project Blue Earth SOS, Wolf's Rain). Animation by BONES. Music by Yoko Kanno (Cowboy Bebop). Published by Funimation, Rated 17+, $29.98.

From the back cover:

A new and deadly breed of covert agent walks the streets. Known as Contractors, these assassins and spies wield bizarre supernatural powers to carry out the dirty work of others. They thrive in the underworld, between rumor and reality, their loyalties always in question. One among these operatives is more mysterious than the rest; the masked killer BK201, the Black Reaper. His true identity and intentions remain unknown, but as his path weaves through the shadows and alleys of Tokyo, blood is spilled on both sides of the law. It's a new age of confusion, and the rules of engagement have changed.

My Grade: A

Visit the official website to watch the first 3 episodes for free:

http://www.funimation.com/darkerthanblack/

Here is the trailer:

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Anime DVD Review: Maria Watches Over Us Season 1, Episodes 7-9

2008-12-28

Anime DVD review of Maria Watches Over Us, Episodes 7-9. The first season is available as a boxset from Right Stuf for the list price of $49.99, rated 13+.

The big deal going on in these three episodes is the arrival of Valentine's Day at Lillian Girls' Academy and the dilemma of what kind of chocolate Yumi should make for her bouton, Sachiko. Yumi goes around asking all the other girl's advice but noone seems to be able to help her. In fact, they worsen it when one of them tells her that Sachiko is beseiged every year with tons of chocolate from adoring students, but that she usually refuses to receive any of them. Based on this and other disparaging comments that Sachiko makes about chocolate giving, Yumi begins to wonder whether she just hates chocolate or is just disgusted with the whole idea of Valentine's Day. There is also a accelerating breakdown in communication between Yumi and Sachiko as Yumi's consternation about the chocolate combines with the fear that she will be put aside as Sachiko takes on more responsibilities with the Yamayuri Council as its senior members leave for college. The problem is that Yumi keeps all of her anxieties to herself even though Sachiko can sense that something is troubling her and wants to help. Further complications enter the picture when Sachiko is forced into participating in a school contest whose top prize is a date with a bouton. We also meet Mifuyu Uzawa, who wants to replace Yumi as the object of Sachiko's affections.

I really like this show so far, even if Sachiko is borderline anal retentive. Actually she IS anal retentive. The original contest as first conceived was about students finding hidden handmade chocolates scattered about campus. Sachiko was instantly against it because she thought it was unseemly and just too unclean to leave food (chocolates) lying around. You get the impression that her room is completely white and germfree and that she is constantly washing her hands. Sachiko needs to get out and deal with the real world instead of stagnating at Lillian with all of her flunkies. She probably wouldn't even be able to change a lightbulb without putting on white gloves, goggles, and a surgical mask! Ok, I could go on hating Sachiko, but I'm gonna call off the dogs. When you get past the mannequin creepiness of the character designs, there's actually quite a heartwarming story of friendship and love here, even if the souer relationships sometimes border on that of slave/master dynamics or platonic lovemaking. If nothing else, the girls of Lillian always seem elegant, even when they're bawling their eyes out. In fact, the series sometimes seems like one long tea ceremony...a tea ceremony you're sharing with a close and engaging friend.

My Grade: A

You can listen to Podcast 124 for an audio review of Episodes 1-3:

http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=368094

The official website for the show is:

http://maria-sama.rightstuf.com/

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Podcast Episode 142: Aria the Animation Disc 1

2008-12-27
Length: 14s

Podcast anime DVD review of the first 4 episodes of Aria the Animation. the first season is available as a box set from Right Stuf, list price: $49.99. Directed and written by Junichi Sato (Kaleido Star, Sailor Moon, Princess Tutu), Rated 13+.

From the back cover:

Akari Mizunashi, at the age of 15, has left everything behind to travel to a sparkling planet covered in water, Aqua. More than anything, Akari wants to be an "undine" - a female gondolier who navigates the canals of the Aquan city of Neo-Venezia. As she begins her training with the prestigious Aria Company, will she be up to the challenges that await her on the path to achieve her dream?

My Grade: A

(I didn't notice until I completed the podcast that every character's name on this first disc starts with an A!)

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Otaku USA Lowers Price, Gets Rid of DVD...Sorta

2008-12-21

I was at Barnes and Noble this morning and was looking through the magazines when I spied the newest issue of Otaku USA. I instanty noticed that it wasn't in plastic so I knew something was up. I hesitated on buying it because money isn't exactly falling off trees these days, but when I picked it up I was pleasantly surprised to see that the price had been lowered to $5.99 instead of the usual $9.99. It even has a little blurb by the price heralding "New CHEAP Price!". I thought it was kinda funny that "CHEAP" is in all Caps. I really enjoy the magazine even though the writers sometimes engage in excessive tips of the hat to each other, as though they are writing the articles to give a wink to their clique instead of to anime and manga fans. And the fact that it can't go an issue without comparing at least one anime to a role playing board game gets quite old. Aside from these minor complaints, it blows away the insipid Anime Insider, with its imaginary battles of Naruto versus Ichigo and "Dream" live action movie castings of anime shows with actors about 20 years too old to play the roles.

So anyway, to get the price down, Otaku USA got rid of the DVD that came with each issue. Apparently, you can still watch the cyber DVD at the Otaku USA website with a code inside the magazine. Of course, that means you can access the content without buying the magazine, but I imagine a lot of people find the content for free on the internet on their own anyway. I have never watched any of the Otaku USA dvds. They're just sitting in a stack collecting dust. When I accumulate enough, I give them to a kid I know that likes anime. So losing the DVD is no loss to me. It's a smart move to cut costs what with the crappy economy we have right now. I wouldn't even have bought this issue if the price had been the usual $9.99. But I wonder if the price point has anything to do with the fact that they're not selling enough magazines? 

Sorry for not updating my site lately. I've been exhausted with work. But now I'm off for two weeks for Christmas and I look forward to posting some reviews, both text and podcast.  

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Anime DVD Review-- Ah! My Goddess: Flights of Fancy Volume 5

2008-11-30

Anime dvd review of Ah! My Goddess: Flights of Fancy Volume 5: "That Old Black Magic". Directed and written by Hiroaki Gohda. Published by ADV Films. Episodes 17-20, Running Time: 100 minutes, Rated 13+, List Price: 29.98.

Last volume, Marller suceeded in seprating Urd into her two composite halves, demon and goddess. The two bodies were rejoined into one but there are still some imbalance problems between the two personalities. Because her soul is out of sync, one of the personalities will be lost...unless Belldandy and company can find a higher power than themselves to help Urd. They rule out asking the "Almighty", or God, because Belldandy is afraid that he will get rid of her demon side entirely. That leaves only one other entity with the required power...Hilda, the queen of Hell, and the ruler of all demonkind!  She also happens to be Urd's mother.  She and Urd don't really talk much because Urd fears her corrupting influence. Of course, Hilda would like nothing more than for Urd to give up her Goddess life and come live with her. Hilda tells Urd that she will help her in exchange for a unknown favor. Urd agrees as long as the future favor will not conflict with her role as a goddess. Hilda becomes a new character that goads on the ever ineffectual Marller to continue to get out of her depth in an effort to strike a blow for demons everywhere. Marller even sends a magical ninja to take out the goody-two-shoe band of friends. Ironically, as befits Marller's small mind, the ninja is the size of a mouse.

It was cool to see Urd's mom, who seems to have been married to the Almighty at some point. Now, that's weird... the queen of Hell sleeping around with God? Does that mean that the Almighty is Urd's dad? Ah My Goddess is a series that is at its least when it tries to get too serious, for instance, when Urd or Belldandy lose control of their powers or are possessed. It is at its best when it moves the story along with lightheartedness, humor, and a mood that almost strikes one as langorous. If you've gotten this far into the second season you should know the characters pretty well so they almost seem like old friends. The show is good at adding new twists and new characters like Hilda, which keep the story fresh and funny. Highly recommended.

My Grade: A

The six individual volumes of this series were published by ADV Films and you can pick them up at www.Rightstuf.com for $5 each.

Funimation has the license now and just came out with the box set this week. Here's the official website:

 http://www.funimation.com/ahmygoddess/

 

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Funimation Needs Comments on Sgt. Frog Episode 1

2008-11-30

Funimation needs your comments about its working print of Sgt. Frog Episode 1. They have the first episode up on Youtube.com. Here's the link (the click here picture to the right doesn't work):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQ5mQPVQmZ8

I don't like dubs so I didn't even watch it. I simply posted the comment that they should also put up the subtitled version as well. It seems like this show has been languishing in the dark and disgusting depths of ADV for years now.

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Podcast Episode 141: Hayate Cross Blade Volume 1

2008-11-28
Length: 11s

Podcast manga review of Hayate Cross Blade Volume 1 by Shizuru Hayashiya. Translated by Adrienne Beck. Adapted by Ed Chavez. Originally published by Media Works in Japan. Published in US by Tor/Seven Seas, $9.99, Rated OT 16+.

The all-girls boarding school Tenchi Academy isn't just known for its quality academics--it's also known for training the top sword fighters in the country. Students in the special "Sword Bearer" program compete in a school-wide battle known as the Star Stealing, striving to win both money and fame.

Enter Kurogane Hayate. With her sister Nagi recovering from a lingering injury, the spunky and cheerful Hayate must take her place at the Academy until Nagi is well enough to return. When Hayate learns of the mountain of debt her old orphanage, the Dandelion Garden, owes to Yakuza loan sharks, she decides to become a sword-bearer and win the Star Stealing.

There's just one problem...she needs a partner to compete and the one girl Hayate has her eye on wants nothing to do with her!

My Grade: B+

You can view a free manga preview of Hayate Cross Blade at:

http://www.gomanga.com/manga/hayatexblade.php

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Manga Review: Negima! Volume 4

2008-11-26

Manga review of Negima Volume 4 by Ken Akamatsu. Translated by Douglas Varenas. Adapted by Peter and Kathleen O'Shea David. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated OT Ages 16+ for Mature Audiences.

Most of the third volume of Negima was taken up with Negi's battle with Evangeline McDowell, a vampire who had been cursed by Negi's dad, the Southern Master, and trapped in the body of a young girl. Evangeline believed that his father was dead but Negi tells her the story of how the Southern Master was the one who gave Negi his staff. Negi wants to find him but has no idea of where to look. Evangeline suggests he look in Kyoto, where his dad used to live. In a bit of a selfish act, mixing business with pleasure, Negi proposes that his class go on a field trip there. That way, he won't have to miss work. The headmaster of the school agrees to let them go to Kyoto but he also has a task for Negi to perform. Apparently, Kyoto falls under the territory of the Kansai Magic Association, which has a running dispute with Negi's Kanto branch. In an effort to smooth out the relationship between the two organizations, the headmaster appoints Negi as an ambassador of sorts and gives him a letter to be delivered only into the hands of the leader of the Kansai wizards. Unfortunately, there are elements of the Kansai group that do not want peace with Kanto and want to keep Negi from fulfilling his mission.

As always, the first thing that jumps out at you with Negima is the excellent art in which Ken Akamatsu cleverly combines cuteness, comedy, realism, sexiness, and and great layout to create a very unique style. The story is where this book could get a bit muddled. I mean how many times can we stomach someone's clothes getting blown off at least once a volume, if not more, without it becoming a cheap parlor trick? Well, the answer for now is...a lot more! This series hasn't worn out its welcome yet, seeing as how we know so little about the 31 girls in Negi's class. In this volume the spotlight focuses on Miyazaki, who is pining to declare her love to Negi, and Setsuna, a sword bearing student  who is a bit of an enigma. She seems to be obsessed with Konoka, but Negi has to figure out whether she's trying to protect Konoka, or working for the Kansai faction.

My Grade: B+

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My Feed is Back Online

2008-11-24

Well, hopefully, my feed is running smoothly again. I was having a bit of trouble getting Itunes to upload my newest podcast, #140.  As I mentioned in the blog a little bit ago, Feedburner was migrating its accounts over to Google without the permission of its users and somehow mine was getting lost in the shuffle. It pissed me off that they were mucking about with my feed. So I just took Feedburner out of the equation. And now it seems that my latest show has finally appeared on Itunes. It shouldn't affect your feed if you subscribe to my show, but if it does, again, my feed is:

http://sesho.libsyn.com/rss

I would say steer clear of Feedburner if you're looking for a site to get stats about your downloads, because those faceless phantoms could care less about the people that use its services.

Oh yeah, I guess it's about time that I came up with an illustration to put up for my show on Itunes. Right now its that oddly disturbing upside down ice cream cone with a ball on top of it. I've gone for over a year now without putting up a picture for my show. So maybe it's something I can work on during the holidays.

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Podcast Episode 140: Inukami! Volume 1

2008-11-24
Length: 12s

Podcast manga review of Inukami! Volume 1. Story by Mamizu Arisawa. Art by Mari Matsuzawa. Character design by Kanna Wakatsuki. Translated by Rhys Moses. Adapted by Lorelei Laird. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Seven Seas/Tor, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+.

A wacky love comedy about a boy and his dog-goddess.

Inukami: a sacred being with a dog-like appearance that forges a contract with a powerful human tamer to help them eliminate evil monsters and demons.

Though Kawahira Keita is the descendent of a long line of Inukami-tamers, he seems to lack the necessary ability and has been forsaken by his family. One day, he meets a cute Inukami named Yoko, who, at first glance, looks graceful, obedient, and beautiful...but upon forging a contract with her, Keita discovers that Yoko is a wild and mischievous Inukami that no one has ever been able to control.

My Grade: A

Here's the opening of the anime version:

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Anime DVD Review: Project Blue Earth SOS Volume 1

2008-11-23

Anime DVD review of Project Blue Earth SOS Volume 1: Invasion. Directed by Tensai Okamura (Wolf's Rain, Darker than Black). Series Composition by Ryota Yamaguchi (Cowboy Bebop, One Piece, Escaflowne). Published by ADV Films (license has been picked up by Funimation),  Running Time: 90 minutes, Episodes 1-2, Rated 15+.

Something strange happened on the boundaries of space far above the USA in 1995. A pilot named James was testing out the new G-Reaction jet engine, which would allow a plane to circle the Earth in one hour, when a strange sight confronted him. James' last report was that he saw rainbow colored lights, then a flying saucer, and then ground control lost touch with him. Especially hardhit was his friend and commander, Captain Clayton. Now, five years later, strange occurences around G-Reaction powered vehicles have been more and more frequent. Planes, vehicles, and even aircraft carriers have been disappearing. One such incident introuduces us to most of the cast of the show. It is the maiden route of a new G-Reaction train that brings out most of the movers and shakers of Metropolitan, the capital of Earth. That's right, the capital of Earth. Apparently, in this world, all world governments have given up their sovereignty to the United Nations, one consequence being that the world's military is also controlled by the UN. Any weapons which could be seen as other than defensive have been discontinued. Among the important people at the train ceremony is Billy Kimura, the child prodigy and billionaire heir of Kimura Industries, the company responsible for the design of the G-Reactor. Meeting him there is Lotta Brest (what an unfortunate name!), daughter of a famous scientist, and her tutor, the stunning Emely. Just as they are about to board the train, another boy genius named Penny Carter rushes through the crowd with his faithful dog, named Washington, to warn them that something bad is going to happen to the train. At about this moment, cue the rainbow lights, the train is lifted into the air, and disappears in a blink! Billy and Penny reluctantly decide to join forces to figure out exactly what is going on. Little do they know that they are putting themselves into the middle of an alien invasion. On their side is a secret organization named the Labyrinth Alliance which is devoted to protecting humanity from this threat, and a mysterious pilot named Sky Knight, who appears to have the only weapon that can fight the invaders.

 What little I had read about this series before viewing it was that it was a retro style anime with roots in 1950s pulp sci-fi magazines. I would say yes to that in theory. Back in the old days of sci-fi you could just name things like "black hole transponder" or "anti-matter gun" without having to explain how it worked and the readers let you get away with it. It almost seemed as if everything worked off of magic because there wasn't any scientific elaboration. Now, readers and viewers are a bit more demanding. While some of the plot devices seemed rooted in the 50's, I felt more reminded of 60's and 70's anime or even some of the old kid-friendly Godzilla movies where the little smug kid knew more of how to solve world threatening problems than the adults could ever dream of. Also, SOS kinda reminded me of Gatchaman and, surprisingly, Scooby Doo. So, I guess that whatever era you think SOS is a homage to, you have to accept it as a nostalgic trip. Almost as if it were written in another era. I enjoyed this show, especially its sometimes flagrant use of goofiness and whimsy. For example, cats and dogs help out our heroes at different times during the show.  The animation is definitely not retro though, and uses the latest cutting edge CG, and doesn't skimp during the action sequences. I thought it was cool that we don't even see a proper alien in these first two episodes (running 40 minutes each), except for a lone female preaching apocalyptic prophecies. Besides her, we see ships and robots for now. In fact, we don't even know if these aliens are FROM another world. So I liked the mystery of it. I also like shows with ensemble casts....as long as the characters are interesting and memorable. And the characters of Project Blue ARE interesting. I especially enjoyed the tug of war between Penny and Billy as they alternated between feelings of rivalry and respect. This is a really good start to a 3 volume series, but don't go in expecting hard sci-fi a la Ghost in the Shell. Just have fun.

My Grade: A-

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Manga Review: Gon Volume 4

2008-11-22

Manga Review of Gon Volume 4 by Masashi Tanaka. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by CMX, $5.99, Rated T for Teen due to violence.

Well, Gon doesn't stay in any one place for long. He's already stomped across most of the world's continents, meeting and beating up animals all along the way. But besides taking bites, giving them super headbutts and kicking them in the face, he's also there to take up for the little guy, or more accurately, Gon is a little guy who takes up for animals that usually serve only as meals for vicious predators. In this fourth volume he inserts himself in a turtle shell, and sees the "survival of the fittest" concept in full bloom as he makes his perilous way to the seashore along with thousands of newly hatched sea turtles. He finds that just making it into the water is only the beginning of these fledgling's fight for life. Then he has to make it across a brutal desert after being thrown there by a powerful tornado along with an ostrich, a monkey, and an impala who show all the selfishness and selflessness of humanity. Lastly, we get to see Gon's posse of various big cat kittens as they strut about the plains of Africa, taking on any bully that gets in their way!

Wow, I'm a little behind in this series (it's currently on Volume 6) but it's one of my favorites. First, the drawings of Masashi Tanaka are almost divine. The dude uses no screen tone whatsoever. Even when he colors in shadows, most of it is just crosshatched linework. There is an incredible amount of work that is going into every page of this manga. Sometimes, you just turn a page and you just sit there, awestruck, thinking "Man, just look at this! It's insane!". The artwork is just that damn good. Even though the animals sometimes have anthropomorphic expressions, Tanaka is still able to retain their otherness even as he uses them as metaphors for the human condition. The animals that are dangerous SEEM dangerous, not because they are super villains, but simply because it is in their nature to kill. A scene in which Gon confronts a giant squid is a bit creepy, that is, until Gon kicks the crap out of him. This is masterful storytelling and panel layout that is lightyears beyond most other manga artists. Eden or Akira are two titles I would say are on the same level. And imagine this, Tanaka does this level of work without any dialogue or sound effects at all, only art. A great title. Not to be missed.

My Grade: A+

 

 

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Google Sucks

2008-11-22

If you haven't seen the most recent episode of my podcast on Itunes, episode 140, in which I reviewed the first volume of Inukami, there is a good reason. The feed for my show goes through Feedburner.com because it tells you how many people subscribe to your show. Starting this week, I stopped getting those stats, and also how many downloads I get from Libsyn. Upon further investigation, I found out that Google bought Feedburner and that they are forcing Feedburner users to sign up with Google accounts and change URL's and stuff. They seem to think this is a minor footnote as evidenced by hardly a mention on the Feedburner website. So I've decided to take them out of the loop. So there might be a delay in Itunes updates while it redirects, but there might not. My feed is:

http://sesho.libsyn.com/rss

I'm basically computer illiterate so that is what really pisses me off. Everything that I do on here is through hard work and lots of scratching my head, so when a greedy company devouring entity like Google, or Gobble, throws a wrench into my fragile thread, it gets my goat.

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Anime DVD Review: Black Blood Brothers Volume 2

2008-11-18

Anime DVD Review of Black Blood Brothers Volume 2: Emergence. Directed by Hiroaki Yoshikawa. Series composition by Yuu Sugitani. Episodes 5-8, Running Time: 100 minutes. Published by Funimation, $29.98, Rated 15+.

Jiro and Kotaro have made it inside the Special Zone, with the help of Mimiko, professional compromiser. We still don't know exactly why Jiro has travelled to the Special Zone, but he seems to have come at the worst possible time. A Kowloon Child has infiltrated the Special Zone somehow and it appears it is the work of Jiro's old enemy, Cassandra Warlock, whose very presence nearly sends Jiro into a murderous rage. She seems to have something to do with Jiro's lost love, a girl named Alice who he was assigned to protect long ago. Not all is peace and harmony in the Special Zone, where a very delicate balance exists between human and vampire and even between vampire and vampire. Along with Company, three vampire families control everything in the city. All of them are concerned about whose faction Jiro will join, because they know how powerful this legendary hero is. Whoever he casts his lot with will be the main power broker of the Special Zone. Surprisingly, the majority opinion seems to be that the Zone would be better without Jiro in town. Only Zelman Clock, leader of one of the vampire clans, is willing to take Jiro and his brother in. His main goal is not to acquire power, but simply to stave off boredom. But one of his underlings has a different agenda that could start a vampire civil war.

Black Blood Brothers is a show that succeeds in spite of the fact that you can tell the creators didn't have a lot of money to spend on character design or animation. The costumes are mostly dreadful and there are quite a bit of static battles with action lines in place of animation. But the director makes up for this by staging the fight scenes with some interesting shots, dramatic effects, and close ups which convey the action quite well, and give you the illusion of more motion than is actually happening. One of the things I like about the show is the humor. Even though Kotaro is an idiotic pain in the butt, he still makes me laugh as he clumsily makes his way through the life and death stakes of the Black Blood world. Mimiko is also quite funny, but her goofiness is tempered by her extreme dedication to helping Jiro and Kotaro. She might even have a "thing" for Jiro, even though she won't admit it to herself. One criticism I have of the show is that it is two thirds over and there are still a lot of unanswered questions about the characters and the plot. I doubt that there are enough episodes left to get through the backstory in anything less than a quick flashback or exposition. Still, this is a series definitely worth watching.

My Grade: B+

Funimation just released the box set of this series for $49.98. Best Buy has it for $35.99, but be careful because I picked it up in store and saw it was missing a disc. So check to make sure it's all there before you purchase it.

You can also watch the first three episodes for free at Hulu.com. Here is episode 1. Just push the play button.

You can also download the series at Funimation.com

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Death Note Anime Box Set 50% Off!

2008-11-16

Retail Sesho to the rescue! If you're a fan of the Death Note anime, you should get over to Amazon.com quickly! They are selling the Death Note Box Set, which contains 5 dvds with the first 20 episodes of the series for $34.99. That's 50% off the list price. That's the best price I'm seeing. Plus, you don't have to pay shipping or tax. So put in your pre-order now. Here's the link:

http://www.amazon.com/Death-Note-Box-Set-1/dp/B001CZJP0S/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1226889503&sr=1-1

I have actually only watched the first volume of the anime but have read the entire manga series. I just never got around to watching the rest of the anime, but now I can. I didn't really have a lot of mony left this week to blow but this was too good a deal to pass up.

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Manga Review: xxxHolic Volume 2 by CLAMP

2008-11-10

Manga review of xxxHolic Volume 2 by CLAMP. Translated and adapted by Bill Flanagan. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated T for Ages 13+.

Volume 2 of xxxHolic opens with the arrival of  Syaoran, Sakura, Kurogane, and Fai, events already recounted in Tsubasa Volume 1, the sister manga of this series. After the time/space travellers leave, it's back to business for Yuko and Watanuki. Of course, that return to normalcy means that Watanuki goes back to being the gopher slave of Yuko. But Watanuki has something occupying his mind, or rather his heart. His crush on his classmate, Himawari Kunogi, is becoming more and more intense. But Watanuki is not known to be one of the braver souls in Japan, so he's finding it hard to broach the subject of going out on a date with Himawari. Yuko tries to help him by giving him a quick crash course in divination, seeing as how Himawari is pretty interested in horoscopes and the like. She even agrees to go on a double date with the two lovebirds. Much to Watanuki's annoyance, the fourth member of the party turns out to be a guy named Domeki, Watanuki's hated rival. The question is, rival at what? Currently, it seems that Watanuki fears that Domeki could capture Himawari's heart. It's not going to be a normal date anyway as Yuko plans to have a "100 Ghost Story Night" at the temple where Domeki lives.

After finishing the first two volumes of Tsubasa and xxxHolic, I have to say that Holic is by far the superior series. Tsubasa sank into a pit of shonen spirit animal Pokemon fighting which bored me and reminded me why I gave up on the Tsubasa anime after one volume. Tsubasa seems more intent on fitting in every character of the CLAMP universe, no matter how insignificant. Holic doesn't have that burden and is the better for it. Instead of serving as the vehicle for cameos of all stripes, Holic actually concentrates on telling a story. The first thing I have to say about Holic is to make a comment on the beautiful covers that adorn all the volumes, so intricate that they would fit in well on an Oriental rug. Somehow, CLAMP is able to pull out the feat of making you laugh, creeping you out, and expanding your mind with mind-blowing concepts all in the same book. You can tell that CLAMP really went the extra mile in challenging their readers by grappling with the concepts of destiny, love, and the interdependence of all human beings. A really good book.

My Grade: B+

You can watch the first 12 episodes of the xxxHolic anime for free at www.hulu.com . Here is the link to the first episode. Just hit the play button on the video panel:

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Podcast Episode 139: Ghost Slayers Ayashi Volume 1

2008-11-03
Length: 11s

Podcast manga review of Ghost Slayers Ayashi Volume 1. Story by Sho Aikawa and Bones. Art by Yaeko Ninagawa. Translated by Shoko Oono. Price: $9.99. Rated 16+.

In Edo-era Japan, the land is under attack from demons called Youi and a secret group of ghost slayers known as the Ayashi roam the land, seeking to destroy the creatures wherever they appear. Ryuuda Yukiatsu, a vagrant samurai, might be the next ayashi, but will a secret from his past keep him from facing his destiny?

My Grade: B

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Podcast Episode 138: Otoboku Volume 1

2008-11-02
Length: 12s