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Anime Update: July 2019

Hello again! Its time for another edition of Anime Update, this time detailing the cool anime-related stuff coming to North American shores for the month of July. I hope you’ll check out some of the sites discussed herein and consider buying in the otakudom through the unique merchandise and/or experiences on offer this month.

My usual go-to manga distributors for the North American market are Viz Media and Seven Seas Entertainment as they release large numbers of manga each week. Unfortunately, there is little of note coming through their stores this month. Regardless, I recommend you put their names on a list somewhere and keep them in mind for the future.

On June 1st, Kodansha Comics is releasing a new 4-volume omnibus edition of the original Sailor Moon manga entitled Sailor Moon Eternal Edition. These four volumes are each around 300 pages and of a larger size than your typical manga. So pick ’em up if you ever felt the desire to read the source manga in its entirety. On the 16th of July, Kodansha is releasing a new Ghost in the Shell graphic novel entitled Global Neural Network. Although not a new work by GITS originator Masamune Shirow, it contains four new stories by younger manga-ka inspired by Shirow’s cerebral subtexts and kitschy iconography.

Dark Horse Comics’ manga division is releasing many interesting omnibus editions of some of the most gritty manga on the market. But their coolest new release, set to hit shelves on the 31st, is Start Blazers 2199 Omnibus Vol. 1. Again, this new story is not the work of Star Blazers’ (Space Battleship Yamato) creator Leiji Matsumoto, but instead it is comprised of new stories by younger manga writers and artists inspired by Matsumoto’s monumental influence.

The boutique anime home video release company, Discotek Media, has been experiencing some major technical difficulties as of late regarding their releases. They moved warehouses earlier this year and have been having trouble getting back into the swing of things. This is very apparent during this month when a new Cutey Honey release and a new Lupin III acquisition have both been scheduled for release and subsequently shelved until late August. Bummer…

Luckily, there’s always Sentai Filmworks as an alternative for the best in home video anime releases of classic and cult anime. On the 23rd, they are releasing the Cutie Honey Universe: Complete Collection on Blu-Ray. And exactly one week later, they are releasing a definitive steelbook edition of Elfen Lied: The Complete Series on Blu-Ray complete with tons of extra features and an artbook.

Where theatrical anime is concerned, Funimation Films is really slacking off. They typically show a film in the U.S. once every two months. However, they currently have a number of films slated for release with no tentative date attached. Since February, Funimation has been touting the release of Eureka Seven: Anemone , and is no closer to releasing it now than all those months ago. In April, they announced the acquisition of a Cyberpunk anime adaptation of an Osamu Dazai story called Human Lost that seems currently lost in the fray of planned releases. And now, they’ve released information regarding the premiere of a pop idol film called Love Live! Sunshine!! The School Idol Movie: Over the Rainbow. The former two of these prospects are at least vaguely interesting to the common otaku, but the latter seems so asinine as to turn away any but the youngest, greenest audiences from the theater. If they ever get around to releasing any of the films theatrically that is…

But thank Ohirume-no-muchi-no-kami that we have GKIDS! Together with Fathom Events, GKIDS is screening Studio Ghibli classics’ Whisper of the Heart on July 2nd and Kiki’s Delivery Service on July 28th and 29th nationwide. Also on July 2nd, GKIDS is releasing Ghibli alum Kitaro Kosaka’s new film Okko’s Inn on a DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack. On the 16th, they will be releasing a new French animation (from the studio that brought us Ernest and Celestine) called The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales. Finally, as of July 1st, GKIDS has announced its acquisition of Masaki Yuasa and Studio Science Saru’s new film Ride Your Wave set for theatrical and home video release in 2020.

Although I’ve already mentioned Fathom Event’s work with GKIDS on the Studio Ghibli Fest showings above, there are two other notable anime films being release through their cinema circuit this month. The first, playing on the 11th and 15th, is Sound! Euphonium: The Movie. The film is a sequel to a popular series by Kyoto Animation and is helmed by some of the same artists in the studio who produced great films like A Silent Voice and Liz and the Blue Bird. The second film, set for release on the 23rd only, is Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?: Arrow of the Orion. Unlike Sound!, this second film is more kid-fare than anything else and probably not up the alley of anyone who has made it thus far into this review.

Finally, in the last section of my monthly anime update, I like to take a few sentences to introduce the anime conventions coming up this month in my region: the South-Eastern United States.

Cosplay America, July 5-7th, Cary, NC

Anime Blues Con, July 12-14th, Memphis, TN

Blerdcon (a classic), 12-14th, Arlington, VA

Banzaicon, 19th-21st, Columbia, SC. I’m a regular at this one.

GalaxyCon, 25-28th, Raleigh, NC

& Otakon, 26-28th, Washington D.C. One of the largest anime conventions in the country.

 

Ciao for now

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Anime Update: June 2019

As always, this is my update for all the notable and important goings on with manga releases, anime home video releases, and theatrical anime coming to North America this month, as well as a short rejoinder about the anime conventions happening in my own region of the USA. So without further ado…

Manga Releases:

Seven Seas Entertainment, usually a goldmine for classic collection releases by manga-ka auteurs like Go Nagai and Leiji Matsumoto, is not releasing any new manga of note this month, but are always an interesting indie to keep an eye on in the ever-increasingly-burgeoning field that is North American manga distribution. So keep them on your radar.

Kodansha Comics is releasing a very interesting compendium on June 25th: the Princess Jellyfish Complete Manga Box Set. For anyone (like myself) who watched the short-running cult classic anime series of the same name, loved it, and wanted to learn more about the story, this box set is your answer. And if I had more money, know for certain that I’d be getting this box set myself.

Viz Media is releasing, amongst a large sleight of titles, three extremely interesting items in the month of June. The first two of these are to be released on June 4th (the day of this posting): the Dragon Ball Complete Box Set and the Dragon Ball Z Complete Box Set. These are obviously classic series and the list prices ($140 and $220, respectively) are very reasonable for the sheer number of volumes in each work. The third notable release from Viz comes to us on June 11th: Evangelion Illustrations 2007-2017. Unlike many art books, which seem to be little more than cash grabs from dated franchises looking to cash in on nostalgia instead of producing new content, this book attempts to cash in by selling readers a book of pictures of past merchandise and merchandising campaigns. And because I’m a mark for anything Evangelion, I might bite this time around (don’t be like me if you can help it).

Finally, Dark Horse Comics- a name more typically associated with Western comics than manga- is releasing the first of a two-part omnibus by Gou Tanabe entitled H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. Gou Tanabe is a masterful artist whose work bridges the gap between the Japanese manga style and the Western graphic novel and his adaptations of Western literary classics are known for their sumptuous artistry and attention to detail. This first half of the story will come in a 320-page book for only $20 and is set for release on June 12th. If you were to pick up only one of the manga recommendations listed here thus far, this would be the one.

Anime Home Video Releases:

Discotek Media is, as they do each month, releasing a small number of highly curated material. And in June, two of their releases deserve mention here. The first is the 1986 anime series The Wonderful Wizard of Oz set for release for the first time in North America on Standard Definition Blu-Ray Disc. The second is Cyborg 009: The Cyborg Soldier also set for an Sd Blu-Ray Disc release. Both of these home video releases will be available through the Discotek Media website or from one of their booths at an anime convention near you on June 25th.

Sentai Filmworks is releasing a number of interesting titles in June 2019, the most important and critically-acclaimed of which is their Blu-Ray release of Studio Gainax’s classic Space Opera Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise. Hitherto, I’ve only been able to find this film on a decade-old DVD release from Sentai, so this new release (June 4th) comes as a breath of fresh air, especially since Gainax (or more correctly, their subsidiary Gaina) is currently working on the film’s sequel Uru in Blue set for a 2022 release (if we’re lucky.

The third and final company to mention here is GKID’s who are known for releasing most of Studio Ghibli’s film library to the West (minus many early Isao Takahata classics). On June 18th, they will be releasing a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack of the Studio Ponoc anthology film Modest Heroes. But that’s not all. GKID’s has also recently acquired the North American distribution rights to four anime films: 2 Studio 4°C anthology films entitled Genius Party and Genius Party Beyond; the coming of age story The Case of Hana and Alice; and the 2007 minor classic Summer Days with Coo by acclaimed anime director Keiichi Hara (Miss Hokusai). That said, keep an eye out in the coming weeks and months for more news about how GKID’s plans to handle these films and whether and which ones will receive home video release and theatrical releases through Fathom Events.

Theatrical Anime:

Funimation Films is one of the few distributors of theatrical anime in North America that shows its films in more than a few select cinemas. As such, it is always an interesting and promising prospect for those like myself who like to see their animated features on the largest screen possible. Unfortunately, they have no features set for theatrical release in June of 2019. Fortunately, they will have a number of interesting features set for release later this year including the Osamu Dazai adaptation Human Lost and the new Eureka Seven film Anemone. 

Fathom Events is typically the theatrical anime distributor you can trust to have at least one release in theaters in any given month. And unfortunately, they too have no films sleighted for release this month! Luckily, next month there a number of great Ghibli films and otherwise set to reach their theater distribution chain including Yoshifumi Kondo’s mesmerizingly  beautiful coming of age story Whisper of the Heart in theaters July 1st and 2nd.

Conventions:

Last but not least, there are three notable conventions in my region (the South-Eastern USA):

Gamga Con in Greensboro, NC on June 8th.

Anime Ink in Richmond, VA from the 14th-16th.

& Rangerstop and Pop Con in Atlanta, GA from the 21st-23rd.

 

Ciao for now,

Cody Ward

Anime Update: May 2019

Normally, in this monthly anime update I discuss all notable or classic manga and home video anime releases coming to the North American market for the month. However, after an extensive search of about a dozen manga distributors and half a dozen home video anime distributors, I have come up short with suggestions for this month.

At this point I’ve seemingly become jaded and bored with much of the light novel adaptations, slice of life, kitsch, and low-brow productions offered up. My critical apparatus is somewhat dull by virtue of spending so much time away from the cinema as of late, and yet my taste remains true and my standards remarkably high. If you don’t believe me, go check out my go-tos for suggestions in this regard: Seven Seas Entertainment, Viz Media, Kodansha Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Discotek Media, Sentai Filmworks, and GKID’s. None of these companies is coming out with a new manga series of note in this particular month or releasing any classic anime either.

But I digress… for the time being. Theatrical anime is still a good prospect for the month of May. To begin, Funimation Films is releasing Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;urrection (not a typo btw) to select theaters on May 5th, 7th, and 8th. So if you’re a fan of that somewhat kiddy fair ten years after it was popular with a whole host of, shall we say, less than effete minds, then by all means go check it out.

GKID’s and Fathom Events are still partnering to present North American audiences with Studio Ghibli Fest 2019. And for the month of May, they are delivering the goods with what is quite possibly the greatest animated feature ever made: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. This film (released in 1984) was famously the impetus for the creation of Studio Ghibli (founded 1985) as Miyazaki and Takahata worked together to fund and create it along with Studio Topcraft (who they would later acquire after the bankruptcy of Topcraft’s No.1 commisioner Rankin/Bass), which established the core of Ghibli. The film will show nationwide on May 20th and 21st, and as this is the film’s 35th anniversary, expect some extra features.

GKID’s is also releasing an interesting new Ghibli home video product on May 14th: a Princess Mononoke Collector’s Edition Set with a ton of extra features that more than make up for the $50 price tag. This release will be the definitive home video release of the film, potentially for decades, so I advise you to check that out here.

Fathom Events, like the champs they are, are also delivering more theatrical anime to your veritable doorstop this month. In 2017, a light novel about a Japanese Salaryman who dies and is reincarnated into an alternate reality world where World War I meets II with magic was adapted into a 12-episode anime. In 2019, the direct sequel of this beloved series was adapted into an animated feature. And now, it comes to American theatrical audiences through Fathom Events for one day only: May 16th. The series is called The Saga of Tanya the Evil, and is looks pretty phenomenal.

Finally, the convention schedule, like everything else this month, is pretty slim for the South-Eastern United States. As far as I can tell, there are only four cons going down within 12 hours of Charlotte, NC (my city). They are as follows: Carolina Anime Day in Charlotte on the 4th; Animazement (NC’s biggest anime convention) in Raleigh from the 23rd till the 26th. MomoCon (one of GA’s largest cons) in Atlanta from the 24th-26th. And GalaxyCon in Richmond, VA from the 31st until the 2nd of June.

With that, I’ll be signing off for the time being. So…

 

Ciao for now,

Cody Ward

Anime Update: April 2019

Though I’ve been largely absent from the reader for the past month, I wouldn’t miss this day if I can help it: the first day of the month. That means it’s about time I send out an update here regarding all of the cool new things going on with theatrical anime, home video releases and manga coming to a North American audience, plus a review of my region’s best upcoming Anime and Otaku Conventions. So, without further ado, here I go.

For starters, Seven Seas Entertainment is releasing a very important Classic Collection title that all true manga nerds will want to get their hands on immediately: the Space Battleship Yamato complete collection in one volume, set for release on April 9th. This tome contains Leiji Matsumoto’s legendary space opera series in its entirety for what I believe is the first time in the West. Author of series like Galaxy Express 999 and Space Captain Harlock, Matsumoto is one amongst a godhead of classic manga-ka including names like Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy), Go Nagai (Devilman), Shirow Masamune (Ghost in the Shell), and Rumiko Takahashi (Ranma 1/2) who have helped to influence and shape the current form and content of manga like none other. So I hope you check out this manga when it becomes available.

Viz Media is also releasing some pretty exciting books this month such as The Art of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind on the 16th and a hardcover Nausicaa Picture Book on the 30th. Most interesting, however, is the publication of a new series of everyone’s favorite horror comics artist Junji Ito. Smashed: Junji Ito Story Collection is set for release on April 16th and will assuredly be filled with spine-tingling macabre art and head-trippy surreal concepts in spades.

As for home video releases, Discotek Media is back in the game this month after a short hiatus brought on by their distributor moving house. On April 30th, they have quite a few releases slated. The ones that most piqued my interest include a DVD of the 1988 Cyberpunk OVA Appleseed (based on Shirow Masamune’s classic manga) and an HD Blu-Ray of Episodes 1-26 of Lupin III Part IV The Italian Adventure. 

Sentai Filmworks has a ton of releases set for this month, but the most important of these, historically-speaking, is their Gatchaman Collector’s Edition slated for release on the 30th. This includes the entirety of the over-100 episode series, the OVAs, the film, and a large artbook. This is THE definitive version of this classic series, and thereby deserving of its $99.99 price tag.

Then we have theatrical anime to consider for April. Funimation recently released some interesting material in February and March, but is currently not announcing any films for April. However, keep them in mind for the summer as they have two interesting films already set for release during that time period: Anemone: Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution (The newest Eureka Seven project) and POLYGON Pictures Human Lost based on an original story by famed Japanese author Osamu Dazai and directed by Fuminori Kizaki (Afro Samurai, Psycho-Pass). The latter of these two films looks to be an intense and arresting cyberpunk-tinged tale of future dystopian society, and thereby a film this anime reviewer will not be missing out on (if he can help it).

GKIDs is releasing two films they hold the North American distribution rights to through Fathom Events. The first is the long-anticipated 1st feature-length film by Studio Ghibli-veteran Kitaro Kosaka entitled Okko’s Inn. The film is produced by Studio Madhouse and thereby retains a high level of executive quality control in the process of choosing scripts and in releasing a film with their name on it. As Kosaka’s previous short film efforts Nasu and Nasu II were fantastic and even milestones in the history of anime (the former was the first anime filmed premiered at Cannes Film Festival), Okko’s Inn ought to be a great film. Catch it in theaters on the 22nd or 23rd of this month.

The second film being released by GKIDs through Fathom Events is the first film in this year’s Studio Ghibli Fest: Howl’s Moving CastleAs this is the 15th Anniversary of the film, expect to see some interesting bonus content about the film before or after its airing. Plan to catch this film on the 7th, 8th, or 10th at a theater near you.

And finally, GKIDs is releasing Mamoru Hosoda’s new film Mirai of the Future on Blu-Ray, DVD, and digital on April 9th. So pick that up when you get a chance to continue rounding out your collection with great films by anime’s auteurs.

I’ll conclude this update with a quick run through of my region’s upcoming anime cons of consequence. The first is Nashicon in Columbia, SC from the 5th-7th. Nashicon was the first convention at which I ever presented a panel and it means a great deal to me. I would be there myself this upcoming weekend if not for the fact that my band is releasing our debut EP in Charlotte, NC on Saturday night. If you live in the area and are interested in attending that, here’s a link to The Boron Heist EP Release Show.

From the 13-14th, TigerCon is going down in Valdosta, GA. From the 19th-21st, Middle Tennessee Anime Con is happening in Nashville. And on the 20th, a one day convention entitled KiraKira Con is being held in my home city of Charlotte, NC at UNC Charlotte!

This concludes this month’s anime update. If I left out any pertinent media companies, events, or types of information you wished I had covered here, please let me know and I will do my best to incorporate said information in future Anime Updates!

 

Ciao for now,

Cody Ward

Anime Update: March 2019

It’s about that time, in fact a few days past that time, when I review all the cool things going on in the world of anime, manga, theatrical anime, and the monthly convention schedule for the Southeast U.S.

For starters, I searched through the monthly manga releases by Viz and Seven Seas Entertainment and found no new series being released that really piqued my interest in any way this month. However, I am open to suggestions for other North American manga re-publishing houses to cover in the future (this also holds true for home video anime release companies I may not mention and groups who release theatrical anime on a nationwide scale).

That said, there are a few anime home video releases to keep an eye out for this month. The first is the classic sci-fi stop motion series Star Fleet, which is being released in full along with the complete X-Bomber series by Discotek Media on March 26th on SDBD, or Standard Definition Blu-Ray disc.

Sentai Filmworks is also releasing an important series in complete collection form this month. That series is the Armored Trooper VOTOMS TV Collection on SD DVD. So check that out and the rest of Sentai’s upcoming release schedule HERE.

This past month, the GKID’s licensed Studio Chizu film Mirai of the Future  was honored at the Academy Awards by becoming the first non-Ghibli anime film to ever compete for the Best Animated Feature Film category. To celebrate, GKID’s decided to re-run the film a second time in theaters. So if you haven’t seen Mamoru Hosoda’s fifth film on the big screen yet and thought you had missed your chance, use the opportunity asap while its still a possibility. And also keep updated on fellow Ghibli alum Kitaro Kosaka’s new film Okko’s Inn, set for release in April, at the GKID’s site.

As always, Funimation is an important name to keep in mind regarding monthly theatrical anime. And this month, they came through in a minor way. Funimation will be releasing the first two episodes of the new Fruits Basket anime theatrically on March 26th and 27th in select theaters nationwide. So keep that feather in your cap and stay updated on their projected release of the new Eureka Seven film later this year HERE.

Finally, I would be extremely remiss if I didn’t mention the best distributor of theatrical anime in the nation, Fathom Events. These cats were the ones who got me into watching anime in theaters in the first place and on every given month, they will have multiple titles coming to major theater chains near you like the AMC in my hometown, for example. This month you can catch Fate/Stay Night [Heaven’s Feel] II. Lost Butterfly in theaters on the 14th; as well as an edited theatrical version of the Made in Abyss series on the 20th and 25th in support of the projected second season set for release later this year.

Moreover, Fathom finally announced its 2019 Studio Ghibli Fest on Valentine’s Day last month and we’ll start off in a big way with Howl’s Moving Castle in early April. And as always, don’t fret if (like myself) you have already seen every Miyazaki film on the big screen. There will a variety of great Ghibli classics playing throughout the year like Yoshifumi Kondo’s classic Whisper of the HeartHiromasa Yonebayashi’s The Secret of Arriettyand Isao Takahata’s final film The Tale of Princess KaguyaCheck all of that out and more (like boxing events, classic film series, and operas) HERE.

Finally the con schedule for my region this month is as follows:

Agama Con from 2nd-3rd in Aiken, South Carolina.

Murfreesboro Anime and Comic Kon from 2nd-3rd in Murfreesboro, Georgia; Savannah Animazing Con from the 30th-31st in Savannah, Georgia.

Madicon from the 8th-10th in Harrisburg, Virginia; KigaCon from the 15-17th in Newport News, Virginia.

MidSouthCon from the 15th-17th in Memphis, Tennessee.

And finally, Triad Anime Con from the 15th-17th in Winston-Salem, of my home state North Carolina. At this convention I will hosting a panel on the ‘Other Studio Directors’ beyond the Studio’s founders Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. So, if you know anyone in the area, alert them to that and if you yourself are planning to attend, hit me up!

 

Ciao for now,

Cody Ward

Anime Update: February 2019

It’s that time again. The beginning of the month when I collate all the cool stuff happening with Anime, Manga, and Conventions this month.

As always, Fathom Events is the group bringing the most theatrical anime to North American Theaters this month. On February 7th & 10th you can catch the American Premiere of I want to eat your pancreaswhich is a pretty highly acclaimed coming-of-age romantic drama that has little to do with the guro its name implies. The second film you can check out in local theaters through Fathom is Mobile Suit Gundam Narrative on February 19th. This is an adaptation of the 11th Gundam Unicorn novel and is directed by Toshikazu Yoshizawa, who also directed the acclaimed Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt anime series. Third piece of news here is that neither GKIDS nor Fathom have announced a Studio Ghibli 2019 film series though this event began in March during the past two years it ran. So keep an ear to the ground for that one.

Next up, anime home video releases. Starting with Discotek Media, there are three announcements that are particularly interesting, all set for release February 26th. The first two are Blu-Ray releases of famed Madhouse director and anime auteur Rintaro’s films Galaxy Express 999 and Adieu Galaxy Express 999. The second is a little-known cult classic anime film, again from Studio Madhouse, called Twilight of the Cockroaches that is set for DVD release in what I believe is the first such Western release of the film.

Second, is another three films set for release through Sentai Filmworks this month, all on Blu-Ray. The first, Space Runaway Ideon: The Complete Collection, is the brainchild of director Yoshiyuki Tomino (the creator of Gundam) slated for release February 5th. Second, Parasyte- The Maxim: Complete Collection out on the 19th. Third, one of Ryutaro Nakamura’s masterpieces Kino’s Journey: The Complete Collection out on the 26th. If none of these titles interest you, however, these are just a few amongst dozens of films slated for release in February by these two boutique anime home video companies. More titles and their back catalogs can be found at the links above.

Manga! There aren’t as many February releases that sounded vital to me in this comics medium as in the anime medium, but nonetheless there are a few titles that I thought worth mentioning here. The first is from Viz Media. It’s a classic Rumiko Takahashi manga that was later adapted into one of Mamoru Oshii’s first directorial jobs as an animator, and became the gift that kept on giving as that great director of films like Ghost in the Shell  and Angel’s Egg was given the chance to direct two of his first features from it. That’s right! Urusei Yatsura is getting a new American manga release on February 19th.

Seven Seas Entertainment is also releasing a few interesting manga and light novel titles throughout February. The Boogiepop Omnibus Vol. 4-6 light novel series is being released on the 5th to support the new Boogiepop anime Boogiepop and Others. Two more classic collections of material are soon set for release through Seven Seas as well. These include Captain Harlock: The Classic Collection Vol. 3 and Space Battleship Yamato: The Classic Collection on February 26th. To round out your collection of early Leiji Matsumoto and Go Nagai, I suggest checking out their prior Classic Collection editions of Devilman, Cutie Honey, and Captain Harlock as well.

Finally, there are quite a few notable anime conventions running throughout February. In fact there are more than I could hope to list here without driving you, and myself, to utter and complete boredom, as there are something like 3-5 anime conventions going on in North America every weekend of February at this point. So instead, I’ll just list a few that are in my general area and look promising:

Virginia: Star City Anime Con in Roanoke from the 1st-3rd. ODUCon in Norfolk from the 8th-10th.

Georgia: Seishun Con in Atlanta from the 8th-10th.

Florida: NotCon at Sea. An anime convention on a Cruise Ship! Departing Miami on the 15th and returning the 18th. I can sense debauchery and excess all over this one!

Tennessee: Con Nooga in Chattanooga from the 22nd-24th.

 

Ciao,

Cody

[Postscript: I’ve been devouring anime this year and have seen 22 in the past 19 days. I’m getting a decent sense of what anime might just be contenders for the best anime of the year already. So keep an eye out for Boogiepop & Others; The Promised Neverland; Carole and Tuesday (directed by Shinichiro Watanabe); and Blade Runner (produced by Watanabe and directed by Kenji Kamiyama and Shinji Aramaki). Cheers!]

Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki

(Check out my previous Hayao Miyazaki film review here: The Wind Rises)

Late last year, GKIDS brought the 2016 Japanese made-for-TV documentary Never-Ending Man to U.S. theaters through Fathom Events distribution. As a Ghibli fanatic who enjoys any window into the production and personal sides of the the studio’s operations, and one who thoroughly enjoyed their previous documentary The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, I made it a point to mark my calendar and ready myself for 70 minutes of interviews with Miyazaki and in-depth behind-the-scenes coverage of the studio.

But first, a bit of backstory is necessary to put you readers who didn’t see the film into my headspace at the time (and likely the headspace of many American otaku). In 2013, Miyazaki released The Wind Rises, which was slated to be his last feature length production after his umpteenth retirement announcement in early 2014. What’s more, Isao Takahata, the Studio’s founder and Miyazaki’s mentor, had just released his first film in 14 years The Tale of Princess KaguyaDue to Takahata’s advanced age, it was speculated rightly by many that this would be his final film. Moreover, Miyazaki was no spring chicken and it seemed he might really go into retirement this time around. 

To add complications, Ghibli director Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki’s protege Yoshiaki Nishimura left the Studio during this production halt in 2014 to found their own studio: Studio Ponoc. And every prospect for the continuation of Studio Ghibli animation was now working elsewhere on productions outside of the Studio including Kitaro Kosaka at Studio Madhouse, Sunao Katabuchi at Studio Chizu, Mamoru Hosada at MAPPA and Studio M2, directors Tomomi Mochizuki and Hiroyuki Morita so turned off by directing due to the pressures of past Ghibli work that they rarely helmed a production themselves anymore, and Ghibli’s greatest prospect Yoshifumi Kondo long dead from a karoshi-related heart attack due to his long hours and hard work at Ghibli. Although Goro Miyazaki had begun to blossom as a director at the Studio, he was only able to do so when surrounded by great animators and directors who had now left the Studio and when his project’s screenplays were shaped by his father Hayao. Even so, after Goro’s direction of the first Studio Ghibli CGI and first TV series Ronja, The Robber’s Daughter, no new projects had been discussed for some time for the young director (whose primary interests always lay in architecture and installation art anyway).

So, in late 2014, when Ghibli announced that Miyazaki was partially coming out of retirement to develop a short CGI film entitled Boro the Caterpillar, I was elated with hope that this production might gestate into another feature-length animation, or scratch that, that it might help the Studio finally find another successor to mantle of head director and creative visionary. Never-Ending Man follows Miyazaki from his initial decision to jump back into the fray through the film’s completion and into his future plans for his work and for the Studio.

But none of this would have occurred at all without the happenstance appearance of a group of young CGI animators who just graduated college and wished to elevate themselves into a full-fledged production company. To do so, they went out on a limb and took many chances including offering up their skills and showing highlight reels of their work to Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki. Miyazaki found the possibilities of the format of CGI to be refreshing and new, and as such, he took up the helm and decided to begin production on a short film for release at the Studio Ghibli Museum Theatre. However, he also came head to head with the limitations of the by now three-decades old technology that had still yet to reach a degree of realism and beauty on par with the kinds of works he could produce on pen and paper blindfolded, with just his pinky, and one hand tied behind his back.

Because of these limitations, Miyazaki became the old taskmaster once again and pushed the young animators to work harder than they may have ever imagined they could. At many stages along the way, Miyazaki considered scrapping the project in its entirety and either returning to retirement or firing the CGI staff for a hand-drawn approach. Ultimately, he rescinded his reservations with Suzuki on numerous occassions and only succumbed to changing his plans once when he invited another promising young CGI animation crew to show hi their work in the hopes of supplementing the work of his own crew. Unfortunately, this new crew of animators were interested in the surreal and horrific possibilities of the medium of CGI and AI-assisted animation. What they presented Miyazaki and his team with as a highlight reel was the animation of human bodies by AI without knowledge of human locomotion. The traumatizing figures shown within the reel used their heads as limbs and distorted and contorted their bodies in unnatural and heart-rending manners that was about the farthest thing from realism. But more importantly to Miyazaki, these images reminded one immediately of the locomotion of the physically handicapped and deformed, and thereby elicited an ethical response in Miyazaki (and in myself) of horror. He felt that the young animators were immoral youth who never even considered how such images, though only a highlight reel of their program’s possibilities, could negatively affect the mental health of handicapped individuals. While holding back tears, Miyazaki abruptly asked the young animators to leave his sight hence and forevermore.

By the film’s end, Miyazaki managed to push his initial crew extremely hard while animating elements himself and producing thousands of renderings and cels for the guidance of his crew in adjusting their models to be more realistic and more Ghibli-esque in their aesthetic qualities. And while the film was a critical success for those who have seen it, the entire process left a bad taste in Miyazaki’s mouth. He has now realized once again that traditional, hand-drawn animation has yet to be matched by any other form in its aesthetic quality and ability to draw out emotion in its characterizations. And what else could you expect? A mere decades-old technology like CGI animation does not have the history of millenia to draw upon like hand-drawn animation, and I would argue, could not thereby ever even approximate its visual quality or power.

In the film’s final moments, Miyazaki discusses how CGI was a mistake and how he will never attempt to return to it ever again in his work. Furthermore, he explains that his new plan is to develop another feature film, a film he has already dedicated to his grandson and plans to leave behind as his final picture for posterity. It is tentatively titled How Do You Live? based on the title of a novel by Yoshino Genzaburo, which was the first work in years to influence Miyazaki’s worldview in such a way as to make life seem new and beautiful to him once again. The protagonist of the film is, like Miyazaki, hopelessly enamored with this book and finds it invigorating and en-spiriting in his own life.

Though details of the film’s release are hazy, we know a few things. 1. It was initially planned for release before or around the time of the 2020 Olympics in Japan. 2. It will not be finished in time for this great cultural event. 3. It is now slated for a release between 2021 to 2022. 4. Reports from as early as late 2017 seem to show that Goro Miyazaki is also working on a feature film simultaneously on which he will incorporate CGI animation. 5. There was a year-long period in which no new news was forthcoming on either project. 6. Now, it seems that Goro may be helping his father to create his the former film and the latter film’s production may be halted as reports are contradictory at this time and Ghibli has made no formal announcements (at least none that the Western press has interpreted and commented upon).

Nevertheless, even if this is the final Ghibli film and the studio decides to call it quits after this one, revel in this time while you can. A new Miyazaki film is forthcoming, various Studios and Directors have emerged in his wake to create beautiful animation inspired by his and Takahata-san’s examples, and no end is currently in sight to these developments as digital assistance technologies make traditional animation models more cost-efficient and lucrative. At least for the foreseeable future, Miyazaki’s work and spirit live on a time horizon that is never-ending in its scope and influence.

 

Ciao,

Cody

Anime Update: January 2019

Anime still may not be mainstream in America, but with its presence on practically every streaming platform, tons of TV channels, in large theatre chains, most large retail stores, and with multiple anime-themed conventions for just about any weekend in the year, we’ve got a good thing going, eh?

Personally, I’ve been attending anime conventions since 2011, and have been watching anime as long as I can remember. I have also been running this blog with a mostly anime theme for about two full years thus far with over 400 unique articles on my favorite anime series and films. So, while I may be no real expert in the field, I am a pretty hardcore fan well in the know.

Over the years, I’ve drawn up a long list of groups releasing the best anime and manga in the states and would like to present that information here on a month-to-month basis in order to keep my followers on WordPress, and my friends at home, updated and inundated with reminders about anime so they won’t miss out on all the cool stuff I brag incessantly about seeing on the reg.

First off, the anime film every one was talking about at Ichibancon 10 this month: Dragon Ball Super: Broly. This new Dragon Ball film has been out since last Thursday (compliments of Funimation), but as far as I can currently tell, will continue screening in theaters nationwide until this Thursday. So if you can’t get enough of the classic Shonen Series, but don’t want to watch the interminably long Super TV series, check this out ASAP!

Second theatrical film to mention is the theatrical re-release of the critically-acclaimed and widely popular commercial success that was 2016’s A Silent VoiceThe film will be in theaters for two days only on Monday 28th and Thursday 31st, compliments of Fathom Events. If you’re not familiar Fathom, definitely check these guys out. For the past few years, they have released high-quality anime to theaters nationwide including the North American release of Mirai of the Future last December and Studio Ponoc’s Modest Heroes just a few weeks ago. Fathom Events has also hosted a 9-month, 9-film Ghibli Fest for the past two years, which focuses on presenting Western audiences with both beloved and obscure works (and has allowed me to see all ten of Miyazaki’s feature films on the big screen). No details for Ghibli Fest 2019 have been released yet (the event has started in March in years past), but Kotaku reports that a new lineup of films is in the works.

As for anime home video releases, my favorite indie company in the field, Discotek Media, has a few releases up its sleeve, all slated for a January 29th release. The three that most piqued my interest were Tetsujin 28: Morning Moon of Midday on a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack, Shin Tetsujin 28 Complete Series Blu-Ray, and a Lupin the 3rd: Series 2 Boxset 3 (Episodes 80-117) on DVD. If you’re a fan of classic anime series and films, you will find old Madhouse, Lupin III, and pre-Ghibli Takahata and Miyazaki works in spades amongst their modest catalog.

Second up for anime home video release is GKIDS release of Masaaki Yuasa’s 2017 masterpiece The Night Is Short, Walk On GirlIf you think you recognize that name, it’s because Yuasa is the director of top-tier contender for 2018’s G.O.A.T. (G.O.A.Y.?) anime Devilman Crybaby. Also available at GKIDS is Yuasa’s 2004 film Mind Game, and in early February I discuss GKIDS’ third slated Yuasa release.

This time around I couldn’t find any manga set for release in January that has not already been released by this time in the month, but suffice it to say that I’ll be checking into Viz and Seven Seas Entertainment to bring classic manga, or anything by Junji Ito, to your awareness. And for those who live in Southeast like myself, I’ll be keeping everyone updated on good regional anime conventions to keep an eye out for as well as passing along any information about panels I may or may not be delivering at said conventions.

Well, that’s all for now. As always thanks for checking out this blogspace. Likes, comments, and especially shares would be most appreciated from anyone who found this guide to the remainder of January and Anime in America useful.

Ciao for now,

Cody

[Postscript: I am not endorsed by any of the brands or media companies listed above. However, I wouldn’t complain if any of them offered their support :1. Or if Kotaku needs another staff writer? Hey, I did live in Japan for three months not too long ago after all…]

WordPress Anniversary

Hey everyone,

Just got the internal message today and found out that this is my 6 year anniversary on the platform.

Not every year has been particularly productive on my end, but this last year has been. With over 400 blog posts in the past year, and nearly 40,000 views, this blogspace has grown tremendously and I want to thank each and every one of you for continued support and motivation to continue on.

I also want to use this post to update you on a important Film and Anime related pieces of news for the upcoming months. If you haven’t yet, check out NetFlix for the new Orson Welles picture The Other Side of the Wind and accompanying documentary They’ll Love Me when I’m Dead. On November 20th, the Criterion Collection is also releasing a number of Upcoming Titles including Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons, a 100-year Birthday Retrospective Boxset of Ingmar Bergman’s films, and David Byrne (or The Talking Heads) sole feature film True Stories. 

As for Anime, Fathom Events is bringing a number of films to the big screen throughout the U.S. in the coming months. Studio Ghibli’s first official feature Castle in the Sky (Nov. 18th-20th), the new Pokemon feature (Nov. 24th, 26th, and 28th), Mamoru Hosoda’s most recent feature Mirai of the Future (Nov. 29th, Dec. 5 and 8th), and the Studio Ghibli documentary Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki (Dec. 13th and 18th).

I don’t typically follow Manga releases, but Seven Seas Entertainment has been on point with retrospective classic collection releases this year. Already, they have released a one-volume Cutie Honey compendium and the 1st and 2nd of a projected 3-volume compendium of the Devilman the original manga. And in the upcoming months they plan on rounding out these Go Nagai releases with the final volume of Devilman. Seven Seas has also released the first two volumes of Space Captain Harlock and has plans to release the final compendium of this as well as a one-volume complete collection of Space Battleship Yamato to round out their new Leiji Matsumoto line. If these volumes are successful enough, they could even release manga like Galaxy Express 999, Gun Frontier, and Arcadia of My Youth (Matsumoto) or Mazinger Z and Getter Robo (Nagai) in the coming years.

As always, thanks for the support. And catch you next time when I finish up my long-running review series of Chiaki J. Konaka’s classic Mecha anime The Big O. As for now, I’m off to Oven’s Auditorium in my home-city of Charlotte, NC to see Bob Dylan in concert for the first time!

 

Smell ya later,

Cody

byNWR Beta Launch!

Last year, and into the beginning of this year, I reviewed every single feature film ever directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (Find the beginning of that series here) as well as a number of documentaries on the man’s life and work. I developed an intense interest in this artist whose personal creative inspirations come primarily from kitsch filmmaking and Criterion classics, like my own. Who is color blind like myself, but manages to use color in novel, interesting, and thematic ways in his films. A man prone to oscillation between self-deprecation and grandiose statements about his own creative genius.

Towards the end of this period, I found out that he was in the beginning stages of launching a new streaming platform for films of a rare nature. Films that are hard to find, but legendary, films that express something poignant about the psychical chaos hidden deep within the American psyche. Southern Gothics, American Neo-realism, Independent films, Exploitation cinema, Hellfire and Brimstone pieces and Godsploitation, and works of undefinable genre. The unearthing of these works, which he has collected the rights to and fought to restore and preserve were a revelation to me. As such, I spent a month reviewing a number of these prospective titles.

Shanty Tramp and Hot Thrills and Warm Chills. Night Tide and The Exiles. If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? and The Burning Hell. And now, I’m excited to announce, that as of today, byNWR, Refn’s new free streaming film archive, interview and essay compendium has made its Beta debut. I suggest you go check it out and spend a few weeks digging deep into the core of what it means to be American through these tales of crime, of passion, of the exuberance of life lived authentically as an engagement into the existential quest of finding what it is that makes you who you are.

In a time when political life is a shit show and the news serves only to provoke anxiety, fear, and disillusionment, a retreat into the past might be just what is called for. Because without that perspective, our art is barren. In the words of Devo: ‘We need art to again be an affirmation of life and values in the face of the corporate boot coming down and kicking you in the head.” byNWR is just one new step that could lead you and I toward that direction, and thereby toward a much-needed revivification of a culture that has been forced to repeat itself over and over, producing nothing new of note or import, since the late 1970s.

Now is the time. Go forward bravely and fight to carve life into art before the alabaster dwindles to nothing!

 

A Manifesto, and an update,

Cody Ward

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