Posts in: February, 2007

Anime News Service – February 20-28 Anime News

2-28-07 (7:56AM EST)—- Tokikake Director Mamoru Hosoda To Speak At MIT

On Wed., Feb. 28, at 7pm at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, anime director Mamoru Hosoda will screen his award-winning film “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” (Toki o Kakeru Shojo) and take questions from the audience. The screening and discussion will take place at MIT in Room 32-123 (map at http://whereis.mit.edu ). The dialogue with the director will be led by Prof. Ian Condry (MIT) as part of the conference “Cool Japan 2007: Love and War in Japanese Popular Culture” at MIT and Harvard, 2/28-3/3. More info at: http://iancondry.com/cooljapan/ Free and open to the public, but seating will be limited to first 300 guests. The conference also includes a Japanese rap music concert featuring Miss Monday (from Tokyo) on Thursday, 3/1, 9pm, as well as, on Friday, 3/2, 7pm, a screening of an episode of the SpikeTV series Afro Samurai and discussion with the creator of the original cult manga of the same name by Takashi Okazaki. The conference will also feature scholarly panels including Prof. Susan Napier (author, Anime: From Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle) and Roland Kelts (author, Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Invaded the US) as well as a dialogue with Prof. Condry about his new book “Hip-Hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization” (2006, Duke U Press).

2-28-07 (7:31AM EST)—- Witch Cafe Opens In Akihabara

First, maid cafes and now, witch cafes can be found on the streets of Akihabara. Unattico Strega opened its doors to the otaku’s sacred ground on February 9. The amusement bar’s title means “Witch’s Retreat” in Latin. Those entering are welcomed by the greeting: “Welcome To Witch’s Retreat”. The leaving greeting is transalted as roughly “Start your journey from the retreat” and “good travels”. The establisment holds 21 seats total and the target customer demographic are men in the latter half their twenties-thirties. Besides the usual assortment of pizza, fried rice, liquor, bear and alcoholic and non-alcoholic mixed drinks, the shop serves up a specialty cocktail called “Magic”. The shop’s owner picked the theme becuase maid cafes have over saturated Akihabara. It’s open weekdays 18:00-23:00.

2-28-07 (7:15AM EST)—- Isamu Tanonaka Writes One For The History Books With New Gegege No Kitaro

When the latest Gegege No Kitaro animation arrives on Japanese TV in April, 74 year old Isamu Tanonaka will make history. The veteran voice actor will have voiced the same character, Daddy Eyeball, Kitaro’s father in all 5 animation incarnations of the series stretching back to 1968. No other Japanese voice actor can make a claim to voicing the same character over such a length of time.

2-28-07 (6:58AM EST)—- Darth Vader Samurai Armor

Yoshitoku Co., Ltd. will market a full suit of “Yoroikabuto Darth Vader” samurai armor at the beginning of March. The helmet alone is 180,000 yen, and the armor is 330,000 Yen.

2-28-07 (6:36AM EST)—- SuperVision Issues Dragon Quest Single DVD Volumes

Sales of the Dragon Quest animation DVD BOX were so good when it was released in Japan in October, 2006 that distributor SuperVision plans to market single DVD volumes. The DVD’s collect the 1989-91 Fuji Television Network TV series. The full set sold last last year moved in excess of 10000 boxes. The figure 10,000 units sold is often cited as the benchmarket of hit DVD release in Japan. Akira Toriyama of Dragonball fame did the chara designs for the show. Volumes 1 hits the market on April 27th retailing at 5985 yen.

2-28-07 (5:58AM EST)—- Initial D Arcade Stage 4 Released In Japan

Sega’s Initial D Arcade Stage 4 hit Japanese arcades on February 21st. Play charge is 200 yen per play, and an Initial D licence integrated circuit card is 300 yen. New in this version is real time network battling via the service service “ALL.Net”. Classes are divided depending on your win/loss record, and a “nationwide fighting mode” allows players to compete within anyone in Japan. The game uses the same “LINDBERGH” arcade board as Virtua Fighter 5 and the graphics quality is said to be a big improvement over past versions. A corresponding pay service “Initial D.NET” for cellular phones is scheduled to begin in March. Users will be able to check battle records, form racingteams, and customize cars with their mobiles.

2-28-07 (5:09AM EST)—- Haruhi Suzumiya Single Sales Break 100,000 Mark

The Suzumiya haruhi no Tsumeawase – TV Anime Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu Gekichu Kashu Single has sold over 100,000 units as of this week in Japan according to Oricon. The CD features 3 tracks: 1. God knows . . ., 2. Lost my music and 3. Koi no Mikuru Densetsu. In all time single rankings it’s remained on Oricon’s chart for 34 days and places 3rd overall behind the #1 Pokemon theme single (56 Weeks) and #2, the FictionJunction Yuuka Gundam Seed Insertion song “Car At daybreak” (45 Weeks).

2-28-07 (4:55AM EST)—- Grimm Fairy Tales Go Moe

Enterbrain released the light novel “Tsunguri! Hontouha Tsundere Na Grimm Douwa” on February 28th for 1575 Yen. Written by Izumi Makoto with illustrations from Kazu, Izumi and others, the book takes classic Grimm fairy tale heroines such as Snow White, Red Riding Hood (8 in total) and parodies them with an extra special moe twist.

2-28-07 (4:14AM EST)—- Voice Actress Yuriko Yamaguchi Takes A Break From One Piece

Yuriko Yamaguchi, the Japanese voice of Nico Robin will take a rest from her duties on the One Piece Television series. Yuko Kobayashi will fill in for her on the Fuji Television Network animation from March 4th. Yuriko Yamaguchi will perform her role as normal in the latest One Piece Moive due out March 3rd.

2-28-07 (3:39AM EST)—- ToyWorks And Bandai To Market Hayate x Blade USB Figure

Something of a new concept, Bandai and Toyworks have come together on producing a line of “USB Figurines”. The idea is, you have an average looking, finished 3D real world statuette style figure you can set on your shelf and showoff. In the figure’s pedastal however is a USB port, plug it into a


TAF2007 Exclusive Report: Takeshi Koike’s Red Line

By Jonah Morgan

In no way related to the Hollywood film of the same title (Madhouse writes this one as 2 words, perhaps to avoid any Avataresque eventualities), Director Takeshi Koike’s upcoming animated feature Red Line was one of the key exhibits being shown off by studio Madhouse at the Tokyo International Anime Fair 2007. A large poster with some new cut frame stills and staff information was nestled snuggly in the center of their booth. Information on the project is pretty scarce at present in both the English and Japanese spheres. MH has screened a few video clips at anime events around the USA in the last 12 months. The story deals with a sort of intergalactic ZERO / Gumball Rally premise. Every 5 years a large race is held on a different world and men and women (all humanoid so far) from across the cosmos flock to compete with their stylized varied craft. Some of images

I saw give me the deep impression of 1950’s / 60’s American hotrodder drag racing culture. New staff details include Original Story by Katsuhito Ishii (A Taste Of Tea, Kill Bill Chapter 3: The Origin of O-Ren animation), Gastonia, Madhouse. Red Line is currently still in production, a poster blurb mentions the director’s daring sense of layout and tricky and dazzling image work on the World Record segment of the Animatrix and Party 7. “With his visually entertaining images, Koike has attracted attention from anime fans, film personalities, and television advertisement insiders at home and abroad. He is to make his directorial debut for feature length animation in Red Line.”Koike was born in 1968, he hails from Yamagata Prefecture and joined Madhouse after graduating from highschool. His first work included original illustrations on MIDNIGHT EYE Goku II in 1989. In 1990 he was a mecha design supervisor on Cyber City City OEDO808.


Anime News Service – February 8-19 Anime News

2-19-07 (10:41AM EST)—- Love Com Animation Sites Go Live

Both TBS and Toei Animation have launched their respective websites for the forthcoming TV animation Love Com (Lovely Complex).

2-19-07 (9:57AM EST)—- Gigantic Formula Broadcast Start And Manga

The official broadcast start for Kishin Taisen Gigantic Formula has been given as late night, April 4th on TV Tokyo. One of the big draws of the series involves its use of 14 different high profile mecha designers to create the giant robot characters. A coinciding manga serial will be published from May in Dengeki Maoh Magazine. Oka Shouhei will illustrate.

2-18-07 (11:04AM EST)—- Stage Greetings This Weekend

Many new anime projects had their official stage greetings this weekend in Tokyo. The events often give the public and press their first access to the creative staff and cast talent behind the works.
GA has images from the unvieling of the latest Sakura Wars New York New York OVA series.
Mantan has a look at the stage greeting for Doraemon Nobita’s Great Adventure into the Underworld 2007 (Doraemon The Magic 2007) due in Japanese theaters on March 10th.
Cinema Topics has some images from the One Piece Episode of Alabasta: The Desert Princess and the Pirates film which will hit theaters in Japan on March 3rd.

2-18-07 (10:35AM EST)—- Turn A Gundam Official Website

Bandai Visual and Sunrise have established an official Japanese website for the Turn A Gundam TV series. This comes in advance of the start of the R2 DVD BOX release on April 25th. The 1st set reails at 31,500 Yen.

2-18-07 (10:31AM EST)—- Frogman Show Movie Site Opens

An official wesbite has launched for the coming anime film “THE FROGMAN SHOW Gekijou Ban Himitsu Kessha Taka No Tsume THE MOVIE Soutoku Ha Ni Do Shinu” The opening is scheduled for March 17th.

2-18-07 (10:23AM EST)—- Manga Propaganda

CNN reports on an atempt to soften Japan’s military image using manga.

2-18-07 (9:18AM EST)—- New Images: 2 Meter Tall EVA Goes On Display

GA News nabbed images of the 1,000,000+ Yen (after taxes) 2 Meter 9 Centimeter tall Akiyamakobo “Evangelion Shogou Ki Human Scale Figure” after it was put on display at the Hobby Shop Kotobukiya at the Akihabara radio hall this weekend. The detail is simply staggering.

2-18-07 (9:08AM EST)—- Chibi Maruko Drama Season 1 Ends In Spring

After a successful run begining in the fall of 2006, the initial season of Fuji TV’s live action Chibi Maruko-chan drama starring the ever cutesy Ei Morsato will end in March. The child actress will serve as a special judge in the cast audition of talent for the next season now tentatively titled “Marumaru Zenbu Chibi Maruko Chan Marumaru Chibi Maruko” The current season has enjoyed a ratings highpoint of 22%.

2-18-07 (8:20AM EST)—- Galaxy Railways Movie Announced

The Galaxy Railways (Ginga Tetsudo Monogatari) Movie will premiere in Japanese theaters through limited engagement on March 24th.

2-18-07 (8:12AM EST)—- “Gundam Boxer” Koji Umetsu Enters The Ring

The Hochi Shimbun backup prizefighting Japanese Featherweight title match will be held in Tokyo’s Kourakuen Hall on the third of March. A highly favored contender of the fight is 30 year old self admitted otaku Koji Umetsu who has nicknamed himself “Gundam Boxer”, he even has a special technique from the anime called the “Jetstream Attack”. Umetsu will be fighting 22 year old Takashi Kutsuro. Gundam won his first title at age of 30 last October. His record shows 12 victories and six defeats. He says he’ll be able to win the match just as Gundam defeated the Domu MS although he decided to keep details of the secret “killer shot” Jetstream Atack secret to the press. Gundam worked for an undisclosed toy company before leaving to enter boxing in 2000. Hochi has a picture of the fighter holding up a Domu figure here.

2-18-07 (7:47AM EST)—- West Coast USA Tokikake Premiere / Paprika NA Premiere Delayed

Amican Cinematheque has a 1:30 p.m, March 31st premiere date listed for the Hosoda film The Girl Who Lept Through Time (Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo).
– On a different note, Laemmle’s Sunset 5, which was supposed to screen Satoshi Kon’s latest film Paprika on May 25, has pushed back its screening date to June 1st. No word on whether the general limited release for Paprika is similarly affected. Sony Classics continues to list a May 25th date for the North American premiere.
Thanks to Daniel Zelter for both of these items.

2-17-07 (10:46AM EST)—- Video Parody Of JASRAC Soars In Popularity

A video lampooning the efforts of Japanese copyright watchdog JASRAC has logged more than 220,000 views since being posted to YouTube in early February. “wtf!! The legend of JASRAC” empasizes purported shortcomings of the group introducing many real life cases via animation. One such real life inncident involved the arrest of an elderly snack shop manager who was playing a Beatles song on the store’s loudspeakers. The criticism implied is that “JASRAC is not a legitimate copyright protection group.

2-17-07 (9:24AM EST)—- Microsoft Challenges YouTube

On the 16th Microsoft made its Soapbox video site public. The service aims at rivaling similar efforts from Google Video and YouTube and looks to be off to a good start, offering a mighty helping of apparently illegal anime content.

2-17-07 (9:09AM EST)—- Daddy Eyeball Train Hits Rails In Japan

Nikkan Sports has an image of a specially decorated “Daddy Eyeball” train, based on the character of Gegege No Kitaro. The locomotive went in service on a JR line in Tottori prefecture on the 11th of this month.

2-17-07 (8:51AM EST)—- New Anime / Manga Gaming Trailers

– Video of a promo trailer from AOU2007 has been posted online showing Konami’s newly announced Gradius spinoff Otomedius. The game’s content and characters is heavily anime moe influenced.
– The opening FMV introduction to Princess Maker 5 has been made availablethrough the official website.
Alchemist released several video trailers from their latest


TIFF Or TAF? Political Intrigue: Governments Vie For Rights To Host Japan’s International Contents Showcase To World

TIFF Or TAF? Political Intrigue: Governments Vie For Rights To Host Japan’s International Contents Showcase To World

By Jonah Morgan


A topic I’ve kind of skirted around the periphery for the last 12 months in my newswork┬áis a conceptualized “contents carnival” being backed heavily by Japan’s national government. The plan called for establishing nothing less than the premiere tradeshow / showcase venue for Japan’s Contents Industry with a primary goal of attracting the most international business dealings. If you’ve got your finger on the pulse of the Japanese Entertainment industry day-to-day you would have encountered this datapoint a good bit on the runup and following to the Tokyo International Film Festival in October, ’06 and then again just recently for the Tokyo International Anime Fair. This was also one of the major items of discussion we encountered in person, hobnobbing with Japan’s contents industry super elite at events surrounding TAF2007 this year.
After first getting officially pitched back in August, The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry convened several closed-door meetings to do some talkshopping and bang their heads together in order work out a budget and bring the project to reality. That’s now all said and done, the first ever “JAPAN International Contents Festival” or “Con-Fes” is now scheduled to occur September 19th – October 28th in Tokyo. Interestingly, the event’s Executive Committee made their announcement on March 22nd at TAF (the first business day of the Tokyo Anime Fair). Confirmed prime partners include The Recording Industry Association of Japan, The Japanese Foundation For International Image Promotion, Japan Broadcasting Corporation and The National Association of Commercial Broadcasters in Japan. Japanese entertainment contents including movies, music, manga, characters, anime, games, and the TV programming will be included under Con-Fes’s umbrella of internationally promoted media.

So checking your business planner for this fall you may ask yourself: “Oh great, another Japanese entertainment expo! Don’t several separately, well established trade events already exist for each of these contents areas?” They do, but by some stroke of magic, the new Con-Fes will consolidate a whopping 10 or more of these internationally recognized individual events into their 1 month festival. The opening ceremony will be held at the Tokyo International Forum on September 19, 2007. Guest of honor invitation’s to many top international creators have supposedly already gone out. The event schedule is as follows: Tokyo Game Show 2007 (September 20th – September 23rd – Makuhari Messe), DiGRA 2007/CEDEC (dates undecided – venue undecided, “Animation Event” (newly established – end of October, 2007 – venue undecided), TAM – Tokyo Asian Music Marquette Conference (The middle of October – Tokyo), The 20th Tokyo International Festival (October 20th – October 28th – Roppongi Hills and Shibuya Bunkamura), TIFFCOM (October 22nd – October 24th – Roppongi Hills), NHK Japanese Prize (October 23rd – October 29th – Shibuya NHK Broadcasting Center), ATP Prize Television Grand Prix (The end of October – Roppongi Hills), Akihabara Enta-Matsuri 2007 (October 20th – October 22nd – Akihabara UDX), ASIAGRAPH (October 11th – October 14th – Akihabara), TCM Tokyo Contents Marquette (October 25th – October 26th – Roppongi Hills).

At least you won’t have to get a visa extension but this year you’ll probably need to start saving your hotel money if you want to get in on all 4 weeks of the action. In coming years, organizers want to condense this into a 2 week back to back, rapid fire affair. While this new effort is being spearheaded by Japan’s national government, The Tokyo Anime Fair (which incidently occurs on the other end of the calender year), helmed by Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government will not be consolidated. Understanding the independent nature and co-relationship of these 2 political power structures is crucial before carrying the discussion any further. Next to the national govt. led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Tokyo, presided over by Governor Shintaro Ishihara is easily the 2nd most powerful political force in Japan. They work together like any other government on Earth, but have their own competing self-serving needs and interests. As anime grew into the formidable cultural / economic / soft-power asset of Japan that is today, groups like the AJA (Association For Japanese Animations) and visionary movers and shakers like Nobuyuki Takahashi pitched the TAF idea to The Tokyo Metropolitan Government (who being a smaller, more tightly knit organization, could formulate strategies and act on them quickly) around the turn of the millenium. A lone voice in the wilderness at the time, they really pulled off a streak of genius early on in the game by starting their event in 2001. The international success they enjoyed was not at all lost upon observers such as their big brother national government who naturally wanted a piece of the action.
Overtures made to try and get a foothold into TAF were met with limited response however, and apparently Tokyo Metro’s stature is great enough so that it can comfortably resist any overt hostile takeover or encroachment action. So Tokyo has been able to hold on to its baby and has opted to keep it for its own. The response from the national government was to ramp up anime offerings in events it has a large control stake in like the Tokyo International Film Festival, culminating in Con Fest 2007 which will see the establishment of an entirely new widescale anime industry showcase entirely independent of TAF’s effort. Indeed, at TIFF 2006 the Japanese animation showing was impressive, the imagery saturation alone was over the top. It easily ranked as Japan’s #2 anime calender event in 2006 and in many ways, interestingly offered advantages, features and access to business people and promoters that you simply can’t get at TAF in the way that its currently setup. Just one example: You could catch a world premiere screening of a cutting edge new anime like Tekkon Kinkreet in a proper movie theater (Toho Roppongi Hills), the public could interact with Director Michael Arias who spoke and


TAF2007 Exclusive Report: CLAMP IN WONDERLAND 2 1995-2006

By Jonah Morgan

We continue our in-depth retrospective look at the Tokyo Anime Fair 2007 with the focus remaining on Madhouse. The top shelf Japanese studio set the stage for what will be coming from its animators throughout the remaining 9 months of the year at its booth with the help of a bilingual (English / Japanese) oversized poster gallery bearing the theme “Topics 2007”. One of the exhibited projects that got a good airing was the music video / OVA sequel CLAMP IN WONDERLAND 2 1995-2006. (seen right – click here for high-res enlargement) I was particularly excited myself to learn more about this work, as details were extremely scarce prior to the new media and text Madhouse revealed at the fair. We’re happy to bring much of this information to a wider English audience for the first time.

The original 4:04 minute short debuted at the CLAMP IN WONDERLAND event in 1994. Animation was supposedly commissioned by Sony and funded in-house by producer Madhouse. A parody of Alice in Wonderland, this celebration of CLAMP’s body of work featured the 1989-1994 creations of the Osaka-based all female manga circle turned pro. CLAMP is composed of Ageha Ohkawa, Tsubaki Nekoi, Mokona, Satsuki Igarashi. On July 25th, 1996 a 3 minute closing sequence featuring the tune Anata ga Shiawase de aru you ni by Hirotani Junko was tacked on and the 7-minute OVA was packaged with 10 LD square sized posters of the various works included and released to Laserdisc in Japan by Bandai Visual. Retail was 3,500 Yen (talk about bang for the buck!). Characters featured include Kamui (X), the Rayearth knights, the three CLAMP detectives, Subaru (Tokyo Babylon), Ashura (Rg Veda), Miyuki-chan and a cameo from Kujo Jotaro (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure). The main piece of animation featured no dialogue and was instead set to the track Anata dake no WONDERLAND, sung by Hirotani Junko. Although CIWL1 was never officially licensed or sold outside of Japan, it’s short running time and music video format (no real need to add fansubs) allowed it to proliferate widely in fan circles from the mid-late 1990’s. CIWL was also a full featured artbook and just a few years ago Tokyopop released their CLAMP Northside compendium to the North American market, collecting that content.

Flash forward to the present. Around 1 year ago word first got out that CLAMP and Madhouse were readying CIWL2. The magazine CLAMP Newtype PASTEL, released in Japan in late 2006 included the first official pictures from the anime (oddly enough that spread lists the planned format as a TV series). According to the studio, confirmed cameos include characters (created between 1995 and 2006) from the following series: XXXHOLiC, Gouhou Drug, Kobato, Magic Knight Rayearth, Card Captor Sakura, Tsubasa – RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Angelic Layer, CLOVER, X. Series not confirmed but created during this period that could appear include: Wish, Suki. Dakara Suki, Chobits and Watashi no Suki na Hito. The music video format returns. Confirmed staff include: Opening Animation: Directors CLAMP, Mitsuyuki Masuhara (Tokyo Tribe 2), Storyboards: Mokona, Animation Director: Hiromi Kato (Tenshi Ni Narumon), Color Setting: Naoko Kodama, Art Director: Akemi Konno, Animation Production: Madhouse, General Producer: Pyrotechnist. Ending Animation: Storyboards: Tsubaki Nekoi, Art Production: Yoshinori Kanemori. Opening Theme Song: “action!” Lyrics by Maaya Sakamoto, Music by: h-wonder, Song Performed by Maaya Sakamoto. Ending Theme Song: “Oh! Yeah!!”, Lyrics by Rieko Ito, Music by Katsutoshi Kitagawa, Song performed by Round Table featuring Nino. The Madhouse poster includes some cutframe stills from the animation that have yet to be released to the public. Release is scheduled in Japan for the summer. Length and final format remain unknown. Foreshadowing the events of the anime, a cross-media / cross-promtoional effort is being made in print via the release of an all-color CLAMP IN WONDERLAND EX manga put out in Japan in recent months.

It’s my hope though that the second clip is long enough to warrant the economic viability of a license of it and the original for a possible North American offering. If this goes direct to DVD even in Japan however, I’m wondering if in 2007, can you really put a sub-10 minute anime on a disc and hope to sell it for 3,000 Yen? Because of the anticipated short length and scarcity challenge offered by DVD exclusivity I can see something like this going up on You Tube minutes after it goes on sale and logging millions of views within 24 hours EASILY. A TV broadcast option followed by a DVD release would present a much better opportunity for profit turnaround.

There’s another way that the parties involved in production could stand to reap profits we shouldn’t forget about either. That could possibly stem from “showcase derivatives”. The idea being that when CIWL1 hit in 1994, a good many of the series shown had yet to be animated. Indeed it’s rumored that at the time CLAMP and their partners had all these character franchises and had just broken into animation so they were looking for direction on where to go next. A showcase like this offers a chance for fans and possible consumers to sample anime where one doesn’t yet exist, but where one could exist based on response. This is what makes the series so important in the grander scheme of things in my eyes: It’s a good foreteller of where CLAMP could go with its animation adaptations at least 5 years down the line. I also like the fun factor of various universes of chara interacting with one another, there’s not enough of that in professionally produced anime.

So… CLAMP IN WONDERLAND 2 1995-2006: A small, fun, excursionary feature which could lead to other very big things, look for it in a few months time.


TAF2007 Exclusive Report: Velvet Underworld

  • 11th Feb 2007
  • News

By Jonah Morgan

During my perusal of the Wedge Holdings exhibition area at The Tokyo International Anime Fair 2007 I happened across an edgy looking anime poster (high-res enlargement) that stuck out to me. With big English text it read “Velvet Underworld” and reminded me of music for some reason…. Besides the obvious mainstream classic American rock allusion overtones, this was the title to the opening theme of 1998’s Weiss Kruez (Knight Hunters) TV series. As it turns out, both are the creative effort of Takehito Koyasu, best known as a highly prolific anime seiyuu (ie: Mosquiton, Zechs Marquise in Gundam Wing, Ilpalazzo in Excel Saga). He’s always competed with Akio Ohtsuka and Hikaru Midorikawa for my favorite male Japanese voice talent ranking. Having gone through my “must watch every anime produced” phase in the 1990’s, I saw Koyasu’s work quite a bit. His official title is “editor” and credited with conceiving the original story on the VU project, which at this point remains unformatted (ie: TV, Movie etc..), being referred to simply as “animation” and “multimedia”. Character designs come courtesy Kuya Sakaki, production via RADIX mobanimation, Wedge Holdings. The producer is listed as Koichi Kikuchi, Planning and production are being carried out by Velvet Kingdom. An image song titled “ALTERNATIVE” has already been created, Shiu Kagaya, composed by Kazuya Nishioka and performed by The Man himself. The target audience at this point for the anime are women in their late 20’s.

The story occurs in Tokyo, Uruyu Tomoe is a new fresh detective who was seriously injured after becoming involved in a messy affair. The mysterious girl named Velvet rescued him and he survived, miraculously recovering. In an operation his left hand was replaced with an artificial one. His past memory before the time of his incident remains hazy. He was robbed of everything and the names of thirteen murderers who attacked him were engraved in his skin at that time. Tomoe is recruited as an underworld executioner by Velvet and inherited the legendary assassin’s code name, Aya. He swears vengeance, seeking out the thirteen murderers one by one in an effort to bring out the ringleader. Velvet, alias V, who is the granddaughter of the superintendant general of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police recruits criminals (who have excellent abilities) to the underworld in order to have them execute outrageous villains cut loose by the court system and who are beyond the realm of arrest. Now there are 13 troops who have been retrained as underworld executioners including Aya. He organizes his the team depending on the situation, sometimes taking one person and sometimes all 13. The sides lock in battle, each utilizing their own secret martial arts fighting techniques.

It’s still the early production days for Velvet Underworld but Koyasu mentioned the response to the project at TAF was pretty strong, cast auditions are going forward now.


TAF2007 Exclusive Report: Atsuko Ishizuka – Madhouse’s Next Top Director?

By Jonah Morgan

 

One of the Madhouse Topics 2007 posters being shown at their Tokyo International Anime Fair 2007 exhibition space was prominently headlined in English: “Welcome To The World Of Atsuko Ishizuka”. It featured several illustrations that didn’t look so much like surefire anime to me as they did graphic art and not something that would be out of place in the galleries of any modern art museum in Europe or America. The sighting took me aback as out of the 20 or so 2foot x 2foot posters inside the booth, this was the only one focused on a single animator. Amid all the buzz of blockbusters to come, the busty anime babes, the blair of explosions and flashing of light emitting from monitors looping trailers here was something seemingly antithetical to everything else around it. I had to learn more of this person.

For starters, Ishizuka-san is only 25 years old, hailing from Aichi Prefecture, she majored in Arts Design at the Aichi Prefectural University of Art from which she graduated. According to Wikipedia her journey to becoming an animator was rather unusual by industry standards in Japan. Unlike many of her contemporaries, she did not grow up watching anime on television, but rather developed an interest in music and graphic arts. Upon graduating high school, she decided to focus on graphic design and entered the Aichi Prefecture University of the Arts. While there, she was prompted to do an arts project and chose to do an animated video because it would allow her to combine her two areas of interest. In this way, she entered the animation world not attempting to secure a career, but to make art for art’s sake.

During her education at the art school, Ishizuka made a number of short animated films for her own enjoyment, often set to music. One of these films, Gravitation, which was later featured at the 2005 Tehran International Short Film Festival, caught the attention of both the Japanese broadcasting giant NHK and Madhouse. NHK quickly contacted Atsuko with an offer to have her animate a music video segment for the popular and long running short film program Minna no Uta (Everyone’s Songs), which was designed to highlight upcoming independent animators and musicians. However, by this time (April, 2004) Ishizuka had already been hired by Madhouse as a production assistant, and feeling that it would not be right to accept freelance work outside of the studio, she turned them down. However, the Minna no Uta staff was unwilling to give up, and they requested that Madhouse to take on the music video project with Ishizuka as director. The studio agreed, and in 2005, Atsuko rose through the ranks for her first professional film, Tsuki no Warutsu (The Moon Waltz). She lists Masayuki Kojima and Morio Asaka as the two people at Madhouse she respects most.

‘Gravitation’ (2003) won best selection at NHK “Digital Stadium” and became a 2003 finalist of the 16th DoGA CG animation contest. cartoon contest selecting. ‘CREMONA’ (2003) won the Katsunori Prize at the 2nd Independent Music Animation Festival and the Fine Work Prize of the 16th DoGA CG animation contest. She took charge of the jacket illustration for Isamaya Mio’s 4th album: “Love Suite -One and Only Story- which went on sale on January 26, 2005. Later that year she did chara designs and illustration work on Isayama Mishou’s 9th single promo Sahara No Yuuwaku which hit the Japanese market on July 6, 2005. October 2005 saw her first assignment on the creative staff of a TV production, in NTV’s anime adapted MONSTER. She led setting design and did half the storyboard work on the final episode. In the same month she led animation production on the animation short Sen no Hana Sen no Sora Minna no Uta short which accompanies Manami Kiyota’s music. Last year she became involved with the TV anime adaptation of NANA as assistant series director.

Directly from Madhouse’s TAF2007 poster, her story is brought up to the present: “As an assistant director Atsuko Ishizuka is currently working on the TV production of NANA, an animated TV series now drawing to a close. An indispensible element of the production, Ishizuka is also in charge of direction on at least 10 episodes of the show. Girlishness and sexual images presented in her interpretations of the world are so unique, and the taste outstanding. That is what makes Ishizuka one of the emerging animators who grabbed industry attention. What kind of animated works will she create as she gets more experienced? Ishizuka stands at the center of expectations from industry insiders.

My analysis of this exhibit tells me Madhouse is quite proud of their existing relationship with this special artist and animator. Further, I think they are hinting that her work represents a future direction of Madhouse. She’s accumulated enough experience at this point in so many diverse areas of production that I’m quite sure the next step will be to give her a first shot at being a full time director, and maybe eventually over a project entirely of her own creation. I think Madhouse has systematically given her experience in areas to complement her own natural and learned talents in order to groom her to become nothing less than the next Kawajiri, Mamoru Hosoda or Satoshi Kon. The transition to this top tier of anime production presents its own special challenges however of adapting a “pure art” background into the more manga-based fare that sells tickets, DVD’s and features a compelling storyline and characters. Madhouse has faith in their selection and I’m sure Ms. Ishizuka has a bright career ahead of her in Japan’s animation industry.


TAF2007 Exclusive Report: Buzzer Beater

By Jonah Morgan

Another new anime that was first announced and extensively promoted at The Tokyo International Anime Fair 2007 1 month ago but virtually ignored until just a week or so ago when it sprung up all of a sudden as “brand new news” is the pending remake of Takehiko Inoue’s sci-fi basketball themed Buzzer Beater. Starting out in 1997 as a freely available all color 80 installment internet comic (one of the first webcomics) serialized on the Sports-i ESPN website, it was later serialized in Shonen Jump, collected to tonkoubon form and adapted to a 13 episode anime TV series, broadcast on WOWOW in February, 2005. The story has a Space Jam kind of concept going on for it, 2 highly talented human basketball players from are enlisted by their Phil Jackson like coach to compete in the intergalactic space league against aliens and win a title victory for Earth.The new series will be animated by TMS and debut in Japan in July, 2007 on Nippon Television Network. Much of the staff of the original will return including Director / Character Designer: Shigeyuki Miya. Akatsuki Yamatoya will handle series composition, Supervision by Takehiko Inoue, Production by Buzzer Beater Partners.

I stood and watched a full clip for the new BB looping at NTV’s booth on Sunday, a public day of the fair. It was basically standing room only if you wanted a peek. The animation quality was much better than the previous series (which I have viewed in its entirety) and the basketball action was fluid 3D panning through the fullcourt of play.


Anime News Service – January 31 – February 7 Anime News

2-7-07 (11:22PM EST)—- Bandai Ent. Acquires My Otome / Tide Line Blue

Sunrise’s My-Otome, which follows its popular series My-Hime, also released by Bandai Entertainment Inc, is a re-imagining of the story, with the characters from My-Hime now in a new world. Arika Yumemiya must accept her destiny in a feudalistic world and follow in her mother’s footsteps of becoming an Otome. The 26 episode series will be released over 7 volumes with a story by Hiroyuki Yoshino (Gundam Seed Destiny) and music by Yuki Kajiura (.Hack//SIGN, Gundam Seed). The first volume will be released from Bandai Entertainment in June.

Tide Line Blue, a 13 episodes series, is from Satoru Ozawa, the creator of the smash hit Blue Submarine No. 6 (also released in the US by Bandai Entertainment.) Tide-Line Blue features character designs by anime veteran Aikihiko Yamashiata (Giant Robo, Gin Rei, Princess Nine). When an apocalyptic disaster results in 90% of the earth’s surface being flooded, mankind is forced to rebuild the world. When the commander of one of the few remaining nuclear submarines tries to take matters into his own hands, a group young mariners rises to the challenge. Tide Line Blue Vol. 1 is scheduled for a summer release.
For more information: www.bandai-ent.com

2-7-07 (8:12PM EST)—- Pirate Death Note DVD Contains Mysterious Code

Pirated DVD’s of the live action film Death Note: The Last Name began hitting the Chinese black market in early January. Copies are being sold for as little as 120 Yen in Beijing. Unique to some pirated copies of the work being sold there is a strange watermark-like code in Japanese which appears over the entire video image. It reads: “Do not sell this to me! Do not buy it! (` O ‘) Kono Bakachingaa!!” The characters change their shade depending on the light of the background video. The inserter, creator, purpose and intended audience of this message is unknown.

2-7-07 (8:09PM EST)—- Takashi Murakami Reccomends New FPM Album

The 2 CD best hits collection album ‘FPMB:Fantastic Plastic Machine Best’ went on sale in Japan on February 7th. 30 tracks are included including unpublished tunes that FPM wrote for collaborations with a Louis Vuitton and anime inspired pop artist Takashi Murakami. Yahoo reports Murakami has heard the album and greatly reccomends it. Retail is 3,300 Yen.

2-7-07 (6:26PM EST)—- Hideaki Anno To Direct STRINGS

SMAP’s Tsuyoshi Kusanagi and Miki Nakatani will be the starring voice actresses for the Japanese release of the 2004 Danish movie “STRINGS”. Evangelion supervisor Hideaki Anno will direct the puppet themed film’s cast, Masufumi Nagatsuka will take charge of the dramatization. Release is scheduled for April 28th. Vocal recordings were done over about 1 month last December. The official Japanese title will be: Strings Ai To Kizuna No Tabiji.

2-7-07 (4:44PM EST)—- Doraemon Final Story Video Report

Fuji News Network has a 4 minute video news report on the ongoing Doraemon Final Story Doujinshi affair. You can view it in 300KB and 56K Windows Media streaming formats.

2-7-07 (3:52PM EST)—- Joss Whedon To Direct Hollywood Sailor Moon?

Slashfilm has some info on a spreading rumor that has director Joss Whedon supervising a live action film adaptation of Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon manga.

2-7-07 (3:34PM EST)—- Japan TV News Roundup

– The official website for the new Towards The Terra TV series has been announced as: http://terra-e.com/. It’s currently inactive.
– “Gegege no Kitaro” will start broadcast on Fuji Television Network at 9 AM, weekly on Sundays , from April 1, 2007. Staff include Director: Yukio Kaizawa, Scenario: Keiichi Hasegawa and Art Supervision: Ueno Ken.
– El Cazador, to begin broadcast in April will feature the opening theme “Hikari No Yukue” by savage genius and the ending theme, “romanesque” by FictionJunction YUUKA.
– Telecast start in April is planned for “Over Drive”. Staff include: Director: Kato Takao, Series Composition: Katsuhiko Koide, Character Design: Okayuu Ichi, Animation Production: XEBEC
– The official Sola animation website is: www.sola-project.com.
– The Heroic Era TV anime series has been announced, telecast start has been scheduled in April, 2007, via TV Tokyo Channel 12. Staff include Director: Risho Suzuki, Series Composition: Mihue Hinoto, Character Designs: Hisaji Hirai, Animation Production: XEBEC.
– Wednesday was the preopening date for the Kotesushin Jeeg website.
– A special website has gone up for the Rascal Racoon 30th anniversary. Look for some special news announcments there in the future.

2-7-07 (3:12PM EST)—- Code E To Be Animated

The new TV anime series Code E will begin broadcast at 11:30 on Tokyo MX, weekly on Sundays from July, 2007. The story will deal with a new female highschool transfer student who has the strange ability to disrupt electronic equipment. Staff includes: Original Concept and Script: Sakaki Ichirou Director: Katou Toshiyuki Series Composition and Script: Satou Takuya Script: Nishimura Junji, Kawase Toshifumi, Hanada Jukki Character Design and General Animation Director: Saitou Tetsuhito Art Director: Itou Kazuhiro Color Design: Mochida Takeshi Photography Director: Morishita Seiichi Audio Director: Gouda Hodumi Music: Kano Kaori Animation Production: STUDIO DEEN

2-7-07 (3:07PM EST)—- 3 Part Kiddy Grade Film Announced

2002’s 24 episode Kiddy Grade TV animation will be recut, re-edited, an added to with all new animation sequences to form the just announced Kiddy Grade Gekijou Ban 3 Bu Saku Movie, which will screen in 3 parts beginning in April. Director Keiji Gotoh is handling all the recomposition work first hand and this will be considered to be the true “Director’s Cut” of the story. Part one “Chapter Of Kiddy Grade – Ignition – Wakefulness” will open on April 7th and run through April 20th, The Second part “Kiddy Grade – Malestron – Flood Chapter” debuts June 23rd, running through July 6th and the third part “Chapter Of Kiddy Grade – Truth Dorn- Dawn” opens September 1st, screening through September 14th. at 21:20- schedule. All will screen at 21:20 daily at the Late Show theater in Shinjuku (the same theater where Tokikake had its start). A talk event with the staff and director will be held prior


Aachi And Ssipak – Toki Wo Kakeru Shoujo / Hollywood Screening Report

By Daniel Zelter

I got to the Egyptian Theatre just in time to see a young lanky guy in a t-shirt and jeans being interviewed by paparazzi. I wasn’t sure who he was, until he went up on stage to present the award-winning Korean cartoon Aachi and Ssipak. It was then I realized he was the director of the work, Jo Beom-jin. What made it interesting was how he suggested that the audience view the “R-rated”[At least according to the accompanying flier… IMDB says it was rated 18 in S. Korea…] feature through the lens of childhood, since it’s clearly not for children, or at least children who never saw movies before the invention of the PG-13 rating. Due to the quick pace of the film, I’m still a little confused about its premise, but it basically revolves around a semi-post-apocalyptic future where the only “renewable” resource is human excrement. As a result, dung has become a commodity. And those who have access to the most digestion bars are the most successful. A black market for the bars emerges, and is run by mutants who were former humans exploited by the government. For some reason, their skin is blue from too many trips to the bathroom…

Anyway, Aachi and Ssipak are regular bounty hunters out to stop the gang, but they become targets when they run off with an aspiring “actress” whom the gang was trying to manipulate into producing the “brown gold” for their own empire. Turf wars result, and the cops and a cyborg are brought in to stop the thugs. Obviously, this film wasn’t meant to be taken seriously, which is why it baffles me how it won awards, and was even chosen by the local Korean Culture Center to represent it. It’s lowbrow, it clearly swipes scenes from Hollywood blockbusters, and in terms of character design, it’s rough around the edges.

Still, compared to the likes of Dead Leaves, A+S’s crude humour doesn’t feel forced into the plot. Jo “seamlessly” incoroporates the scatalogical and sexual situations into the story. In addition, despite the sets essentially being an homage to films as varied as Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom and even Akira(as the director acknowledged to me after the show), it’s impressive, that, with a budget which is a fraction of those films, Jo was able to re-create the same angles, same speeds, and even the same lighting and textures of said films in animated form. Also, despite looking slightly freakish, there’s obviously a lot of detail put into the clothes and hair of the characters(for example, piercings and afro puffs) when the director could have easily just tried to make them as generic as possible. As Jo’s translator confided to me, Aachi was meant to mainly appeal to animation buffs, and in those instances, it succeeds. At the end of the show, it seemed to garner a fair amount of applause, too, so I guess it wasn’t as niche a production as I presumed from watching it. Though it didn’t draw out the same number of people as The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. (Of course, the planners intentionally limited the seating for the former film for obvious reasons.)

Moving on to The Girl Who Leapt Thrugh Time, I was actually surprised that the Cinematheque would host an exclusive screening, since, lately, they’ve been lacking in fresh content after they bought the Aero. In fact, the east coast seems to be where all the anime guests are headed nowadays. But there were still a number of eager fans who wanted to see Tokikake-enough for a packed house. And that’s actually impressive, since, even though American otaku would be familiar with One Piece and Digimon-some who even recognize his specific contributions to those shows-I wasn’t aware that Hosoda might be a household name here like Miyazaki or CLAMP. Even Satoshi Kon and Takahata never got this sort of reception, and their work’s been on dvd for years. The group which showed up for Aachi consisted mostly of middle-aged individuals, while young adults, teens and even children showed up for Tokikake. Hosoda himself also drew a larger crowd of photographers than Jo, possibly due to his sharp business suit and tinted glasses. Unfortunately, that also made him less accessible, which made it nigh impossible to get an interview out of him. I had to settle for an autograph and the screening, which, considering I didn’t pay anything, was still a good deal on both counts. In fact, I enjoyed the casual atmosphere so much that I’d pay to be there. Nonetheless, I really wanted to know things like his intended vision for Howl’s Moving Castle, which given the possible animosity between him and Miyazaki, might not have been discussed anyway.

Getting to the point, the anime film is about a semi-clumsy, yet enthusiastic, girl named Makoto Konno who avoids a fatal accident by “time-leaping” a few seconds earlier, thus snatching herself from the jaws of death. She finds out through her aunt that it’s actually a “normal” ability; and soon she exploits that new power to grant her more success at school and at home. For example, she’s able to study in advance for a test she was previously unprepared for; and she gets to eat her pudding before her sister gets to it first. While it might seem like a blissful fantasy on the surface, as her aunt warns Konno, when she benefits, other people lose. So, for example, when her classmate takes the fall for an overheated tempura bowl which nearly causes a fire, he gets bullied to the point that he becomes aggressive and violent. And Konno’s academic success has a downside, too. Her close male friends are either turned off or attracted to her, and that changes the dynamics of their relationship. Tensions flare, rifts are created, and people get emotionally and physically hurt in the process. Makoto eventually realizes the error of her selfishness, and tries


TAF2007 Exclusive Report: EX MACHINA (APPLESEED II)

By Jonah Morgan

Micott & Basara were hyping the John Woo produced anime / CGI sequel to 1994’s Appleseed as part of their presence at The Tokyo International Anime Fair 2007 this year. Similar to how Ghost In The Shell II: Innocence was simply titled “Innocence” in the Japanese market, the film follow up based on Masmune Shirow’s worldwide bestselling manga has dropped the “Appleseed” moniker this time around, in favor of being titled just: “EX MACHINA“. Besides spying the usual decorative fare at their booth, I was among only several foreigners to catch a glimpse of the first publicly screened video footage from the movie, more on that later. M&B were gracious enough to give me a promotional flyer containing more or less the company’s entire international business strategy for the rollout of EX MACHINA. There’s a never before released image and a veritable gold mine of new information on the production to be found in there and I’ll be committing alot of it to English text, to be read for the for the first time anywhere, in this article.Still in production (said to be in an extremely advanced stage), this is expected to wrap in July and sometime closely following that, the world premiere screening will be held. The Japanese public theatrical opening (in 130-150 theaters) is currently scheduled to occur in October. The producer, is of course, internationally acclaimed action maestro, John Woo (Hard Boiled, Mission Impossible 2). The director is Shinji Aramaki, Scenario by Kyoto Takeuchi (Sengoku1549), Project and Production courtesy Micott & Basara, Production by Digital Frontier, Executive Producer Yasuhiko Kinoshita & Sumiji Miyake, Producers Hidenori Ueki & Naoko Watanabe, Based on APPLESEED SEISHINSHA, Distribution by Toei. Other partners include: Sega, Tomy Takara, TYO and Toei Video. Newcomer Axis Entertainment will handle the distribution of the works in North America while mediating various ideas, concepts, staff, and the contents donors in the worldwide market.

Although it uses all new models and updated cell shading and motion capture techniques, the universe setting, character facets and trappings are true to the original. The storyline centers on ESWAT members Deunan and Briareos in 2135, Bri lost most of his body in the great war and was converted into a cyborg. He and Deunan remain in love through the transition. Besides the above summary, newly released promo art shows Bri in his human form prior to becoming a Bioroid, lending credence to the idea that at least some portion of the story will cover these events, before and after.

The big picture Appleseed II 2007 rollout looks like this: In January Sega’s official website went live. The Playstation 2 videogame Appleseed EX released in Japan on February 15th. The storyline therein is expected to connect both films. Sometime in April the EX MACHINA production blog will be added as a feature to the official movie website. Radio and Magazine ad spots start running in Japan in May. In June we enter the 4 heaviest months for activity related to the film. The official website will see a significant content fleshing out then. A global promotional campaign begins at Annecy in France on June 13th, followed by the USA’s Anime Expo on June 29th, San Diego’s Comic-con International in July and wrapping in October at MIPCOM. A campaign on the soundtrack side will kickoff in June with the release of theme song clip, the full CD will follow July or August and special music events will be held in September-October. TV and movie theater promo clips begin in June, and teaser posters appear in cinemas. July-September will see heavy web promotion via portal sites such as Yahoo, OCN and so-net. Merchandising, additional media coverage, features and mass interviews begin being granted in Japan in August.

It goes without saying that the producers of EX MACHINA are aiming at overseas success. According to new figures in the flyer, over 150,000 copies of the original on DVD were sold in Japan and over 420,000 copies have been sold in the USA since the release there in May, 2005. They also mention Geneon Entertainment’s “20 day blitz” statement that “home video sales of Appleseed have exceeded expectations with over 85,000 units sold to-date since the title’s DVD debut May 10, setting a new standard for anime titles released in North America “.

The short trailer footage I saw looked nothing less than Anime Woo, M&B snuck it in right behind their presentation for BLAME rather unexpectedly; the animation quality improvements are very noticeable over Appleseed, the action was over the top, the detail in the guns make me think the artists shoot, disassemble and clean the real things daily, Deunan is as sexy as ever and definitely has that Woo bad girl thing going on now. There even looks to be a hint of a greater love story. This animation has the chance to appeal over so many demographics, the formula is nothing short of brilliance, the original is exceeded many times over.

There still remains a large amount of data to come out on this project, a planned accompanying 26 episode TV series is scheduled to follow the new movie as well.