Friday, August 4

Manga could mean difference between life and death for notorious curry poisoner

One of Japan's most heinous crimes is making headlines again, years later, as doubt is cast on the woman convicted of committing it, according to Shukan Asahi (8/4).

Eight years ago, insurance saleswoman Masumi Hayashi shocked Japan when she poured arsenic into a large pot of curry being served to those attending a neighborhood festival in Wakayama.

Of those who ate the deadly dish, eight died and another 63 fell violently ill, earning Hayashi a trip to Death Row, where she fights an appeal with the Supreme Court to overturn her conviction as she awaits her turn for the gallows.

But "Go Kinjo Zankoku Jikenbo (Cruel Neighborhood Crime Files)," a manga that went on sale earlier this year, has given the convicted murderess unexpected hope of cheating the hangman.

Its account of the killings is told from the eyes of a woman who was a schoolgirl at the time of the incident. The schoolgirl says she saw Hayashi pour a cup of poison into the curry. But, at a memorial for victims held last year, the now-grown woman admits that she made up her statement, deciding to speak out to gain attention.

Being a manga, people would normally treat its claims with a grain of salt. But Hayashi's death sentence -- handed down by the Wakayama District Court and upheld by the Osaka High Court -- came after crucial testimony was given by, you guessed it, a schoolgirl who claimed to have seen Hayashi acting suspiciously around the curry that turned out to be poisoned.

"The manga also has really detailed pictures of people from the area who were never shown on TV," a resident of the Wakayama neighborhood where the killings occurred tells Shukan Asahi. "And there was plenty of new information (in the manga) that hasn't been reported before."

These doubts have raised thoughts about something most would regard as unthinkable.

"If what's being said in the manga is true," one resident says, "then Masumi might be innocent."

Takeshobo, publishers of "Cruel Neighborhood Crime Files," vehemently reject any suggestions that the manga may influence Hayashi's case.

"It's basically fiction," a Takeshobo spokesman tells Shukan Asahi. "There are all sorts of explanations about what really happened back then and the author has done nothing more than pick up on one of them."

But Hayashi's lawyers are frantically trying to save their client and look like they're clutching at any straw that comes their way.

"We're looking closely at (the manga)," one of the lawyers tells Shukan Asahi. "It may help with our appeal against the sentence." (By Ryann Connell)

August 1, 2006


Zeon Attack!

By Brad Stone
Updated: 1:09 p.m. ET July 26, 2006

Japan's game arcades are far more extravagant and addictive than those in America. Is that a good thing for a country with a youth employment problem?

July 25, 2006 - On a rainy night last week in a Tokyo arcade, a twentysomething teacher who wishes to be known as Momo saved the world from the evil forces of the Principality of Zeon. He was playing a videogame called Mobile Space 0079. It's based on the enduringly popular Japanese anime television series, in which young soldiers wage space combat in giant robot suits. You may have seen "Gundam Wing" during a failed run a few years ago on the Cartoon Network. In Japan, it practically passes for religion, with conventions, extensive toy lines and libraries of manga comic books. Now it's spawned a popular, networked, multiplayer arcade game.

As the Zeon forces gather, Momo arranges a handful of trading cards (specially purchased for the game) on the flat, magnetic surface of his machine. He physically manipulates the cards to control his robot and weapons on the screen. Firing a few missiles, he deftly defeats the Zeon threat, and adds yet another win to a remarkable history of 585 victories. At about $2 a game, Momo estimates he's spent $2,000 in the last six months. But it's worth it. "The more you win, the more experience and credibility you gain among other Gundam fans for being an old hand," he says.

Welcome to the arcades of Tokyo. In Asia and particularly Japan, video game rooms not only live, but thrive. There are 9,500 arcades in the country with more than 445,000 game machines made by Japanese companies like Namco and Capcom, says Masumi Akagi, publisher of Japan's Game Publisher magazine. In the U.S. of course, the story is much different—arcades are a rapidly dying breed with only about 3,000 in operation down from 10,000 a decade ago. Though the popularity of home video systems like the PlayStation contributed to the decline, Akagi says that execs at U.S. companies like Midway and Atari simply couldn't see the future in arcades and "abandoned the coin-operated business."

Hopping from arcade to arcade in the neon-lit Shibuya district was something of a homecoming for me. I grew up on Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Centipede. Though I can't grasp the Japanese way of counting, I still remember the precise way to defeat Bald Bull in the old boxing game Punch Out. Those old-school games are nowhere to be seen in Japan today. The modern arcade is an exotic, sensory-overload, nearly impenetrable to foreigners. It is not just a palace of entertainment, but a collection of obsessive subcultures.

The rest of article is here

GONZO/Animax Deal

GONZO/Animax Deal
July 13th, 2006 1:37 PM by Aaron H. Bynum

Anime Expansion

In recent anime news, digital animation production group GONZO Studios has partnered with cable and satellite television channel Animax Asia as a source of distributing their titles to a broader, fresher demographic. GONZO, known for their fancy rendering and at times surprisingly dynamic characters; and Animax, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment, known as the first twenty-four seven Japanese animation only channel, will be granting select anime fans throughout Asia even more of a privilege. Animax reaches some 25 million households throughout Asia.

Recent domestic releases of GONZO Studios productions include the outstanding character drama The Count of Monte Cristo, the picturesque sci-fi epic Blue Submarine No. 6, as well as the highly recommended adventure Last Exile. The long-term deal to roll out animated productions by the company shortly after their initial release in Japan will offer the production group exposure on what may be a much more satisfying venue than ever before. Rolling out the output deal is the vampire anime Trinity Blood (scheduled for release later this year in the US from FUNimation Ent.), which premiered first and exclusively in Hong Kong on June 1st 2006. Trinity Blood, is broadcast on Animax every Thursday at 10:00 pm.

Arthur Smith, president of GDH K.K. International, which owns GONZO, commented, "Viewers in Asia will see a lot more of GONZO. GONZO hopes to become a really well-known brand among anime fans and the mainstream audience. We believe that working with a great partner like Animax will help us achieve this."

About Animax Asia: Launched on January 1st, 2004, Animax Asia is the first 24-hour cable and satellite TV channel exclusively dedicated to Japanese animation (anime) programming, featuring the most engaging and cutting edge programs from top animation studios and producers in Japan. Animax Asia is broadcast region-wide from Singapore via five dedicated, highly customized services for Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Asia, Southeast Asia and Philippines. Animax Asia is a Sony Pictures Ent. company. More information about Animax Asia and its program lineup can be found at,,, and


FUNimation Picks Up Robotech Movie

Navarre Corp.’s FUNimation Ent. has acquired home video, broadcast and theatrical rights to the feature film Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles from Harmony Gold. The new flick is a continuation of the popular 1980s series, which left fans with a cliffhanger nore than 20 years ago.

“Robotech is the series that introduced an entire generation to anime," says Gen Fukunaga, president and CEO of FUNimation. "FUNimation is very excited to be part of the team that will bring expectant fans the ending they have been waiting for in Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles."

Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles is directed by Tommy Yune, who worked on visual effects for the original TV series and produced the video games Robotech: Battlecry, Robotech: The Macross Saga and Robotech: Invasion. In the film, Scott Bernard, Vince Grant and a host of other characters from the series fight to end a decades-long struggle against an enigmatic alien race known as the Invid. However, the mysterious disappearance of the legendary Admiral Hunter will unfold in a treacherous mystery that could tear apart our young heroes and threaten their very survival. Mark Hamill (Star Wars, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm) and Chase Masterson (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Manticore) lend their voices to the production.

According to FUNimation, Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles will give the franchise an updated the look by incorporating CG graphics with the classic anime style. FUNimation plans to release the movie on DVD on Nov. 21.