Jumat, 07 September 2007

British Cultural Organizations Hold Anime Events

Three separate cultural organizations in London will be running anime-related events in the next two months. On Sunday, September 16, as part of its Premiere Japan 07 festival, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts will hold a screening of Nitaboh. Directed by Akio Nishizawa, this film is an animated biography of Nitaro Akimoto, the blind musician who founded the Tsugaru style of playing the shamisen three-string guitar. Details about the screening can be found here.

On September 7, the British Museum will launch its "Late Night Manga to Anime" film series, held as part of a wider program entitled "Crafting Beauty in Modern Japan." The goal of this series is to introduce viewers to some of the most groundbreaking manga-inspired films of the medium. It will consist of screenings of Phoenix 2772 - Space Firebird, Barefoot Gen, Akira, They Were Eleven, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society and Ghost in the Shell: Innocence. Comics scholar Paul Gravett, the author of Manga: 60 Years of Japanese Comics, will introduce each film. Earlier in the summer, the British Museum held a similar series entitled "Manga to Anime for Families", which included the Naruto movie, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Porco Rosso.

Finally, on October 24, the Japan Foundation is hosting a free lecture on the history of anime and on Japanese fantasy and science-fiction cinema in general. It will be presented by anime critic and writer Helen McCarthy and Leeds International Film Festival director Chris Fell. Additional information about this talk is available on the Japan Foundation website.

Sabtu, 25 Agustus 2007

Review: Time Guardian, vols. 1-2

Time Guardian, vols. 1 and 2
Written by Daimuro Kishi
Art by Tamao Ichinose
Rated E, for Everyone
CMX, $9.99

Time Guardian is easy to slip into and easy to read. The characters are likeable, the stories have just enough imagination to keep me turning the pages, and at two volumes, it doesn’t even demand much of a commitment. I just wish that the creators and the publisher had tried a little harder on a few things.

The setting is a pawnshop that lends time, which is something that people never seem to have enough of. Our heroine is standard-issue shoujo girl Miu Asahina, who, true to stereotype, is always late for everything. By chance, she stumbles into just the right combination of actions to open the secret gate to Time Alley, home of the Kusaka Time Shop. The shop is presided over by cute guy Tokiya Kusaka, who would look about 14 if it weren’t for his bow tie and monocle, and a smart-alecky frog. Kusaka lends time to his customers in a variety of ways, taking their memories as collateral.

In the usual way these things happen, it turns out that Miu is a Very Special Person: She’s Time’s Go-Between, and her job is to follow the customers around and make sure that all goes well with their borrowed time. So now we have our framing tale, and the various customers that come in provide a series of little stories about the uses of borrowed time. Each one has pretty standard characters but enough of a twist to keep it from being totally predictable. Still, this is not “The Monkey’s Paw,” where changing the rules has dire consequences, or “Pet Shop of Horrors,” in which a person’s desires reveals their fatal flaw. This is a light, shoujo manga where every story has a happy ending. It’s a fine read, but I can’t help thinking that the creators had a great idea that they could have pushed a lot farther.

Then, in the second half of the second volume, the story shifts into a fantasy tale. Kusaka closes up the store and heads off to his native land, where people get off on watching other people’s memories and use time as a means of wielding power over others. It’s entertaining enough, but the shift is a bit disconcerting, and there are a couple of violent deaths that don’t fit at all into the otherwise light tone of the story. It’s as if the manga-kas were told their story was cancelled and given two chapters to wrap the whole thing up.

The art is quite attractive, and the action is always easy to follow. The character designs are standard-issue shoujo style, but the detail in the watches and backgrounds puts this book a notch above most shoujo manga. Maybe I noticed it more because this is a book about time, but the creators seemed to play with the pacing a lot. Sometimes the action moves very quickly, and there’s a lot of slapstick inside the store. Other times, a large, wordless panel seems to make time stop for a moment. Often this signals a flashback or the beginning of distorted time in the story.

While Time Guardian is an easy summer read, I am a bit disappointed that the creators didn’t try a little bit harder to come up with clever stories. The premise certainly lends itself to mind-bending plot developments, but the stories stay in the realm of soap opera. There was also a problem with the print quality in these books—a number of panels in volume 1 were blurred, as if they had been double-printed. Aside from that, the production is pretty good, with attractive covers and extras in the front and back.

Time Guardian won’t blow your mind, but it is a nice, quick, easy read for these last dog days of summer. With its E rating and straightforward storytelling, it would be a particularly good choice for younger children (although some youngsters might be upset by elements in the ending story).

This review is based on complimentary copies supplied by the publisher.

What drama!

Story and art: You Higuri
Publisher: Go! Comi; 200 pages
(ISBN: 1-933-61708-X)
For ages 16+

CESARE Borgia (pronounced Che-zar-ay Bor-ja) is tall, dark, handsome and oh yes, possessed by demons. Need I say more? You Higuri’s supernatural-slash-historical shojo manga is flawless. There is mystery, intrigue, extreme love triangles and intensity so electric it crackles. Throw in a serving of dark hatred and a scoop of tasty angst and voila, you get Cantarella!

Born as the illegitimate child of the Cardinal Rodrigo, Cesare was cursed from the day he came into life. His soul was given to the devil in exchange for his father getting the papal throne. Denied by his father, and plagued by the darkness that threatens to consume him, Cesare fights to keep his humanity and protect his beloved younger sister Lucrezia.

His life takes a turn when the assassin Michelotto is hired to kill him. What starts as an attempted assassination turns out to be the start of a relationship bound by fate and sealed by the continuing battle between the good and evil. Cesare will bring about the cataclysmic revolution that will end in bloodshed; his powerful destiny demands it.

Also, add to the drama a moth-cum-sorcerer (yes, I said moth) and the simmering hatred between him and his brother, Juan. In this fifth volume, the hatred finally boils over. Will it end in death? Will Cesare fight the demons who fight for his soul?

Twists and turns are great, but the crowning glory of this manga is the superb artwork. It is simply stunning: the striking trademark ink lines by Higuri-sensei, the clean, flowing details, the intricate attention paid to the background, and the beautiful, beautiful, beautiful Cesare Borgia.

Complex and layered plots. Gorgeous artwork. It gets better, dear readers, for there are characters more complicated than a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle and detailed references to the history of the actual Borgia family (dramatised in this manga, of course). The manga’s title is actually a reference to the sweet-smelling yet deadly poison Cantarella, which the Borgia family was famous for using to “remove” their enemies.

I found it difficult to follow the various places and histories mentioned in the manga. Until now I have no idea what the exact timeline this story takes place in. I suspect it starts sometime in the early 15th century and goes on from there. But this is not to say that it is confusing, I simply spent too much time drooling over the art. The research poured into this manga is definitely praiseworthy.

Beware, however, dear readers. This is rated OT, which means it’s for older teens from the ages 16 and up. There is nothing explicit or offensive, but the darkness and intensity of this manga must be kept away from younger readers.

Also, keep in mind that this is a shojo manga. Fans of high-tension action and gunfights will be sorely disappointed.

All in all, this is a breathtaking manga thanks to its magnificent artwork and complex plot. And oh yes, the hot bishie.

New Generation Pictures Opens Shanghai Studio

Interview with Jonathan Klein, founder of New Generation Pictures

ANN: Please describe your new venture to us.

Jonathan Klein: New Generation Pictures has opened up its first production branch office in Shanghai, China. We will be producing English and Chinese language dubs there for the film, television, and anime industry at rates lower than we can in Los Angeles. The combination of our 15 years of experience in production and localization with the enormous resources that Shanghai has to offer will help to insure that we maintain the highest quality work for our clients.

Does this mean New Generation Pictures is relocating to Shanghai?

No, this is simply an expansion of our business into Shanghai, China. We have no intention of leaving our office in Beverly Hills or stop working on production in Los Angeles. We will continue to produce anime and videogame dubs in Los Angeles for our clients. But now we also can provide similar services through our Shanghai office which allows us to reach a larger range of clientele that are based worldwide. And for our Japan- and Asia-based clients, it offers convenience for clients who want to be able to deal with vendors in the same time zone (or close to it) while production is going on.

What brought this on? Was there a particular catalyst that spurred you to open a studio in Shanghai?

It wasn't that we were “spurred” to open our studio. We had already been doing business in China for several years and had been considering expanding our offices there for a long time. But the final decision to open a studio there was a combination of several factors. The decline in anime DVD sales over the last few years, combined with the ever-increasing costs in acquisition and licensing of new anime titles, has created a difficult situation where many of our anime distribution clients in America have had to find cost-effective solutions to keep their operations profitable. One of the simplest ways to do that is to cut production costs. As a result, some companies have elected to simply not to dub anime and make subtitle-only releases. Some other anime distributors have asked their production company vendors, like New Generation Pictures, to reduce their prices on their English dubs to help keep costs down. The problem for any production company in Los Angeles with lowering the prices on dubs is that you can only go so low before it starts to affect the quality of the dub itself, or you start to lose money. You can't ask experienced voice actors to take a pay-cut. So you either have work much faster with the actors, leaving less time to develop great performances out of them and just bang out a so-so dub. Or you can start hiring non-professional voice acting — directing and writing talent who would work for less money, but would also impact the quality of the dub. New Generation Pictures has a reputation for producing award winning, high-quality anime dubs, and we didn't want to damage that reputation by going down either path. So we looked at how we can lower production costs and still maintain quality. One of the biggest expenditures for any production company is the recording studio itself. Since our company had already been doing business in Shanghai, we knew the cost of operating a recording studio was significantly lower. So we came up with a plan where we can combine our company's experience, skills, and talent that we have in America, with the reduced costs of using a recording studio in Shanghai. Essentially, this is a “hybrid production,” utilizing the best of both worlds.

Another major reason for this expansion is that this was an incredible opportunity to open our business into China. China has become one of the most rapidly developing economic powerhouses in the world. The world is changing, and China is becoming a dominant factor in that change. Our company has been watching the trends in Shanghai over the last few years and know that the city is quickly becoming the largest media production center in all of Asia. The entertainment businesses from Hollywood, Japan, and Europe are all looking towards China and its 1.3-billion population as a new market for their products. They all have started to set up operations in Shanghai. Agents, actors, and other production talent from around the world have moved to Shanghai to take part in ever-increasing amount of film, television, and interactive media work being produced there. We are strongly confident that this city will become one of the leading cities in the field of entertainment production over the next few years and consider ourselves fortunate to be able to be a part of it.

You mentioned that you'll be using American talent at the Shanghai studio; will you be flying them there yourself? Please describe the logistics of using American talent at a Chinese studio.

To clarify, we are going to be using both experienced anime talent from America including writers, directors, and voice actors, as well as utilizing the existing large talent pool of American, Canadian, and European voice-actors who are now living in Shanghai. As I mentioned, Shanghai is rapidly becoming one of the largest media production centers in Asia. Many professional actors from around the world are already living in Shanghai working in the constant flow of international film, television, and other media productions going on there. However, we highly value all of the incredibly talented people who we've worked with in Los Angeles on our anime productions, and we do plan on flying out many fan-favorite English voice actors and directors to work on the titles we record in Shanghai. The cost for us to bring them out to Shanghai is not prohibitive. As China has opened itself to international trade and tourism, it has become a lot easier to work and travel there. We would fly them out at our own expense to work on whatever projects we would be doing at that time. It would very much be like a paid working vacation. The studio that we use in Shanghai has the same recording equipment technology as in America, so it shouldn't feel any different than working in an American recording studio. This will be a great opportunity for so many incredibly talented voice actors and directors to visit such a unique and exciting international city as Shanghai.

What sort of work will be done at the Shanghai studio? Will you only be working on anime dubs, or are there other projects you have in mind?

Aside from producing anime dubs we will be working on localizing any and all media including film, television and interactive titles between the Japanese, Chinese, and English languages. It's our first step to what we call a “Multilingual Global Solution.” As technology is changing and media development and distribution is becoming both far more rapid and globally expansive, there needs to be ways to offer products in multiple languages in much quicker and easier fashion. By establishing our Shanghai international office, we hope to give clients more options for localization without having to deal with several companies to get what they need.

But in addition to dubbing, we also will be establishing our own production division to shoot film and video projects within Shanghai as well as offer consulting and technical services for American production companies who want to film in Shanghai.

Some might argue that this only adds to the problem of voice acting work being outsourced to foreign nations. What's your response to that?

We aren't outsourcing, we're growing. It's still New Generation Pictures, just in Shanghai. We are still producing anime and videogame dubs in Los Angeles and will continue to do so. We're just expanding our company internationally to develop new opportunities in the global market. Clients who want that level of quality that our Los Angeles productions have to offer will still keep using our services here. But now we have a lower-cost alternative when perhaps the anime distributor's budget on a niche title can't justify doing a dub in America. We can help distributors avoid simply turning anime into a “subtitle-only” releases. We now offer a solution to clients who might simply take their dub to the lowest bidding studio (domestic or overseas) that might not have any regards for quality. That's why we're inviting voice actors here in America to work with us in Shanghai. We will use what the best of American dubbing has to offer in combination with the affordability that working in Shanghai provides us to produce the best quality dub that we can.

9th One Piece Movie to Open in March, Videos Posted

Toei Animation has announced that the ninth One Piece movie will open in March of 2008, and the official One Piece movie website has posted a teaser trailer video and a promotional movie video. The movie will tell another version of the Drum Island Kingdom story arc and will take place at Winter Island, the birthplace of the reindeer character Chopper. The website says that the creator Eiichiro Oda is participating in this project during the scriptwriting process, in order to contribute the original concepts for the story.

Senin, 20 Agustus 2007

Hana Yori Dango: Final Movie to End Live-Action Drama

Manga creator Kamio developing the story with drama writer Satake

After two television series, the live-action adaptation of Yoko Kamio's Hana Yori Dango (Boys Over Flowers) manga will end with the Hana Yori Dango: Final theatrical movie, which will screen in summer of 2008 in Japan. The romantic comedy centers on a girl named Tsukushi who struggles with life in a clique-filled private academy and her feelings for the boys in the most elite clique, F4. The movie will take place one year after Tsukushi's graduation ceremony (which was the last scene of the second television series) as a major incident brings the five main characters together.

The series stars Mao Inoue, Jun Matsumoto, Shota Matsuda, Shun Oguri, and Tsuyoshi Abe will all reprise their roles as Tsukushi, Tsukasa, Sojiro, Rui, and Akira, respectively. The movie will also feature special guest stars. The series' chief director Yasuhara Ishii will start the two-month shoot in January and include overseas locations. Kamio is currently developing the story with the series scriptwriter, Mikio Satake (the penname of actor Takayuki Takuma).

Hana Yori Dango: Final will actually be the second live-action film for Hana Yori Dango. A stand-alone movie featuring Yuki Uchida and the music group TRF screened in 1995, before the 2005 television drama series and even before the 1996 animated series. There was also a 1997 animated movie whose story is separate from all the other versions.

550,000 Attend Japan's Comic Market Summer 2007

Mainichi Newspaper's Mantan website reports that Comic Market, the largest manga-related convention, hosted 550,000 attendees during its 72nd run this past August 19–21. This is the largest attendance figure yet reported for this convention or any convention of its kind. About 200,000 attendees came on Sunday to the dōjinshi marketplace at Tokyo's Big Sight convention center, adding to the daily totals of 180,000 on Saturday and 170,000 on Friday. (naz)

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