Thursday, April 30

Manga as tool of political propoganda

The rise of Japanese manga as political commentary medium advancing sets of political beliefs that bears some reminiscent to Yukio Mishima's attempt to indoctrinate post war Japan into old Imperial mold of rightist thinking again using his literature power (which he failed and commits a very public suicide in Japanese Self Defense Force HQ). This time though, mangas like Spirit of the Sun (the author here appealing to Japanese youth to have pride to be Japanese again in national crisis), Rideback (this manga talks about fears of globalization destroying local political culture specifically Japan) and even seemingly every seinen manga published by Kodansha which I can recall, don't have much socialist or left wing slanted titles.

Most famous political manga in Japan is Silent Service which even got debated in Japanese Diet (parliament). This remarkable manga which still in top 10 of best seinen manga in Japan readership (2006) talks about a rogue Japanese submarine XO who hijack the submarine and declared his ship as independent neutral entity "Yamato" despite it is built as joint US-Japanese SSBN (nuclear submarine). 2.2 million copies were sold by 1992 and still enjoys massive popularity even today in Japan. In the end, he sailed to UN HQ in New York to appeal to the world that everyone should dismantle their nuclear arsenal or to be destroyed. Predictably, the US Navy is the baddies here, they tried to stop the Yamato from accomplishing the objective. To many readers it seems very naive politically but as ideologue on pacifism, it is remarkable poster boy in backhand manner.

However a discussion of politcal manga cannot be complete without talking about controversial Yoshinori Kobayashi. Famous for his Gomanism Shingen / ゴーマニズム宣言 and his more infamous statements were like for example, total veneration of Kamikaze Corps, denial of Nanking Massacre and comfort women issue is a fabrication of anti Japanese propaganda. He is the darling of Japanese media and often appear in morning shows to give opinions on current events. His rise to international fame is when 2 major liberal newspapers known in Western world; NY Times and Le Monde wrote a scathing article on him for his neo fascist stand. To the end, he still defiant and his latest manga "On Taiwan" is published outside of Japan despite angry retorts from Chinese.

Stay tuned for more later, as I will discuss what I think of Eagle, a manga of Japanese-American become US President advocating pacifism.

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Shogakukan Inc fighting manga piracy

Manga piracy is just as big as anime digital piracy, just less known. Shogakukan, one of the big player in Japanese manga industry declared war on piracy. They releasing manga chapters concurrently in Japan and USA at the same time to take away greatest weapon of pirates, waiting time for translation. One of the work got this benefit is Kyokai no Rinne, latest work of Rumiko Takahashi.

It remains to be seen if their plan will be successful or not. With the manga export market value of 12 billion yen (2005) which equals to 1.2 billion USD, it is no joke.


Sunday, April 26

Evangelion 2.0 : You Can(not) Advance first glimpse on new girl.

All I can say is, EVA 05-1 looks like mecha on Segway with steroids and her plugsuit looks rather awkward. I have commented earlier that she is combination of 2 side characters from old EVA games in looks department.

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Wannabe terrorist want to blow up Lucky Star "birthplace"

I couldn't help but feel amused to read this. As to why he want to blow up the place, I guess his unemployment made him a very bored dude. His comment when he was arrested is "I don't really mean it". Considering the post 9-11 era, he should have known better than write threatening message of blowing up things even in relatively peaceful Japan. One more thing amused is the fact the former place of Lucky Star mangaka is turned into shrine by city council. My opinion about this series is hardly complimentary but I would not waste time thinking ways to blow this place up.


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Astro Fighter Sunred / 天体戦士サンレッド Season 2 is announced?

Hearing from this, apparently season 2 to surprise comedy gem Astro Fighter Sunred / 天体戦士サンレッド is announced today. If this is true, that it will be awesome, since it is well received and does deserve a 2nd season.

Refer to this for cast of the series which included few girls from AK48.


Funniest part of series for me. Freaking random as hell.


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Saturday, April 25

How to get ready to work in less than 5 minutes

LOLworthy clip on how to get ready to work in less than 5 minutes as shown in this clip. I confessed that I watch this clip like 12 times already. It is that good.


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Friday, April 24

OP for Phantom ~Requiem for Phantom~ by KOKIA

I hated this anime but the OP is wonderful. KOKIA has sang another great song for horrible anime of Gunslinger Girl: Il Treatino last year. She sounds like her songs, tragic but beautiful since she sing awesome songs for 2 terrible animes. Sounds strangely fitting for some reason, like celebrating the death of series.

Few more of her works solidify perhaps undeserved reputation since her voice is beautiful are Brain Powerd (the one where Gundam creator erred big time) and Agito: Spirit of the Past (the movie is not that good).


Her website.

SEGA in trouble.

Usually the word restructuring means you in bad shape and need to lose bloat in order to make money again instead of losing it. SEGA, despite successes like Valkyria game which now adapted as anime currently has announced restructuring few days ago. The boss of SEGA (Takayuki Kawagoe) apparently lamenting despite high ratings for SEGA gamesby critics, it did not translate immediately into sales. He also speak of diversifying, SEGA now eagerly parceling out its work to be adapted as anime which something they rarely do in the past.

Apparently they combining assets from east and west to work in synergy for SEGA's vision (cut cost and less layers of decision making). In February they reported 119 m USD losses and already axed 110 arcade centers it its wake. This is not the end though, SEGA expecting 235 m USD loss by March, a very grim number.

It is no wonder that Tales of Abyss enjoyed such qualitative animation due to generous funding but Valkyria anime feel shortchanged in animation department. It is such a stark difference. In 2008, SEGA was reporting 170 m USD profit.

The grim reaper of economy recession has yet to finish.


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Wednesday, April 22

Anime industry need to adapt a recession mode

This lady speak very wise words, I agreed with her that simulcast streaming, faster publishing and low cost DVD boxset is what industry needs in order to weather this recession that looming all over the world despite some positive spurts.

She nails exactly why it is a waste of effort and money to issue Cease and Desist letters to amorphous fansubbers, these resources can be channeled into getting the shows as fast as possible and cheaper offers to entice customers to buy original or marketing as the situation did not look good for the economy now.

Either industry adapt or they will die horrible, slow death like we see ADV USA (fans favourite one off comment on ADV is "Where is my Gunslinger Girl?!) now or GONZO (which recently received a very big blow as they were dropped from making of Strike Witches Season 2).


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K-On! / けいおん! guitar craze

I have to confess that I totally miss this in my prediction but apparently anime fans in Japan are running amuck with guitar buying as reported here. This is fine example on how passion can help revive economy, but question is once the series is over: what is going to happen to those guitars? I doubt all can play it with any degree of skill. Be prepared to see a lot of second hand guitars on sale post K-On!.

One day though, more and more enterprising business will seize on this and promote their products using anime. We seen it in Ghost in the Shell State Solid Society with Nissan cars, Pizza Hut in Code Geass and Nissin cup noodle in Freedom OVA. The guitar company should seize this and use these girls as their spearhead in marketing.

Anime fans surely have scary motivation to reverse laws of demand and supply.

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Monday, April 20

More details on EVA 2.0 new girl

Okay, this is what I know:

1. Maaya Sakamoto (Kara no Kyokai insane knife user Ryogi Shiki) will be voicing her.
2. She designed as "fan service" female character. Means naked scenes of her?
3. She will be center of "new shocking stories" that never seen before. More moe?
4. She is a glasses wearing trope of anime stereotype for appeal to meganekko crowd (spectacles fetish).
5. She did not have a name that based on any Imperial Japan's warship convention.
6. Her name will be Mari Makinami.
7. She is a brunette.

As for Asuka's new name, I don't know what is the significance. Perhaps an EVA fan can tell me more about this. To be honest, I am not too comfortable of where is the direction of remake of EVA is going. Ah well, it remains to be seen. My suspicion of Mari is somewhat a pastiche of Mana Kirishima and Mayumi Yamagishi, side characters from non canonical Girlfriend of Steel and 2nd Impression games. However what role will she play is entirely unknown, GAINAX have kept a tight lip on that.

Trailer here.

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Sunday, April 19

Kyoukai no Rinne / 境界のRINNE, new manga by Rumiko Takahashi

Most prolific female mangaka and famous for her long epic (ahem) stories, Rumiko Takahashi will be penning new manga called Kyoukai no Rinne and what is different this time is her new manga will be published at simultaneously in USA and Japan. Slated for debut on 22nd April 2009, the US edition will be available at Viz exclusive site of hers, The Rumic World.

This is her latest work after finished the long winded and draggy 56 volumes (holy shit) of Inuyasha. I remembered that after I finished volume 38 of Ranma, I swear that I will never touch her works anymore, LOL. Most of her detractors denounced her as commercialized, shameless drag-on mangaka specialist, her defenders asserted that she often did not have choice of say in her work, her publishers tend to squeeze as much marketability as possible from her work until it is dry. I kinda in between of these 2 main opinions on Rumiko Takahashi. However amongst veteran anime fans especially females (25 years old and above), her work is well liked and have huge following from this particular demography group.

The story of new manga is about a girl who got lost in woods mysteriously then acquire ability to see ghosts and spirits. It is not known if this will be horror story like Mermaid Saga or comedy hi-jinks like Ranma.

This represents new effort by legitimate business entity in manga industry to combat illegal scanlators, mirroring Animax simulcast of Full Metal Alchemist : Brotherhood and Tears of Tiara. I am quite skeptical if this initiative will be successful but it is definitely a backhand compliment on how pervasive scanlators are in bringing latest manga chapters from Japan to international audience.

It will remains to be seen if this effort worth the trouble or not. Or how long this manga series will be (grimaces and wince in pain at the thought).


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3rd Series of Zetsubo Sensei / さよなら絶望先生 is on

Just announced not long ago, Zetsubo Sensei /さよなら絶望先生 famous for titular character constant despair about everything, quirky girls, snarky comments on society and lampooning Japanese politics will be given 3rd installment, starting in July. Titled Zan Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei, it will be helmed by same fellas in SHAFT. Hiroshi Kariya will reprise his role as Itoshiki Sensei for 4th time (if you count the OAD/OVAs).

Who can ever forget his constant screaming of despair against everything around him? And the legions of quirky and eccentric schoolgirls (my favourite is the SMS girl).

More obscure jokes too. Bring it on!


Question is, will it overstay the welcome? Some people felt season 2 is kinda pushing the obscure jokes and clever puns too far. To some people like me, it is a multi layered clever humor but to some, it is just battery of obscure Japanese jokes that made no sense whatsoever to outsiders.

Saturday, April 18

Why Oda Nobunaga (戦国BASARA / Sengoku BASARA) often depicted as villian in most chambara / samurai medias?

He is portrayed so because many Japanese samurai commentators regarded him as upstart usurper that destroyed harmony of Japanese idealized samurai hierarchy. In their view, he is the motorcycle gang leader complete with punk hair and bad attitude. He is ruthless, brilliant, unorthodox and uncharacteristically non conformist hence his constant portrayal as dark lord from another dimension.

Confucian influenced samurai commentators did not like upstarts hence they often written Nobunaga in rather bad light, only concede grudging respect when it warrants so such as his conduct in Battle of Nagashino 1575 CE (the battle that signified the end of famous Takeda clan) and his putting down of Ikko-Ikki monk rebellion. Not to mention his ruthless campaign against Iga ninja clan (as shown in GONZO anime series Basilisk) which some historian compare it to Mongolian genocide against feared Assassin clan during the Crusades. This is the man who hired an African as his personal bodyguard, he purchased him from visiting Portuguese missionary which brought him as slave. He is also the one promoted sandal bearer to general which later inherit his legacy and finish uniting Japan in his wake. The sandal bearer's name is Toyotomi Hideyoshi whom Nobunaga nicknamed him "Saru" which means monkey. This is why Hideyoshi was carrying a pet monkey in Sengoku Basara series.

However the one that upset so many samurai commentators is his liberal usage of gun on Japanese battlefield, they considered gun has changed the nobility of samurai warfare. The katana blade and bow is no longer elegant weapon of decision which celebrated in timeless samurai poetry, it is a simple peasant with arquebus can gun down even the mightiest warlord from safe distance riled samurai purists to no end. Hence it is no surprise that they look on Nobunaga with sullen disdain for this tradition breaking aspect.

In latest game inspired anime series Sengoku Basara / 戦国BASARA, it is an easy template for story writers to copy this popular casting of Nobunaga as badass baddie instead of more understanding examination of him. Just like how most Romance of 3 Kingdom media usage of Cao Cao as villain most of the time.

The series is fun to watch but don't take it too seriously. However the cast VA is like who's who in Japanese VA industry which is like Yang opposite of concurrent infamous Queen Blade which boasted very impressive female VA lineup Ying (the anime with lactating acid breast ahem). Nobunaga is voiced by famous Norio Wakamoto which considered by many fans as most macho male voice comparable to James Earl Jones Darth Vader.

It is basically a Gurren Lagaan with samurai setting with little homoerotic spiced relationships (Yukimura and Lord Takeda is perfect example).

Somewhat sufficient Wiki entry

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Thursday, April 16

Hetalia Axis Powers/ ヘタリア Axis Powers sequel is on

An update that bound to upset some Korean zealots, season 2 of Hetalia is on and will be 26 episodes like 1st season. However it will limited to web streaming, no major TV broadcast thanks to effective protest by Republic of South Korea who protested demeaning portrayal of Korea in Hetalia. Despite Season 1 has zero appearance of Korea, the national anger even went up the highest office in South Korea's politics for discussion.

What's more, some Korea anime fans even attacking websites that were critical of them like Sankaku Complex.



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John Woo as guest VA in Souten Koro / 蒼天航路

A different interpretation on Romance of 3 Kingdoms anime series, Souten Koro / 蒼天航路 will feature the famous director as one of the voice soon. The particular episode is scheduled around 28th April.

It coincides with screening of Red Cliff 2 in Japan, so it is a form of viral marketing for his movie.

Red Cliff 2 is rather conventional story on Cao Cao as baddie who tried to conquer whole China whereas Souten Koro depicted Cao Cao as benevolent leader who tried to put down disruptive rebellion by Liu Bei and the gang.

Rather interesting juxtaposition.

Personally, I think both views have their merits but Romance of 3 Kingdoms were so shrouded in many mythos that is difficult to divide which one is true and which one is not.

As for Red Cliff 2, the movie tries to too hard to be epic but it kinda overwhelms itself by focusing too much on few individuals in such vast canvas. John Woo can't make up his mind which movie should be, epic or human drama. It is a shame.


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Wednesday, April 15

Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn / 機動戦士ガンダムUC(ユニコーン Movie confirmed?

According to this Italian Gundam fan website, the Sunrise people sort of confirming that there is works on Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn in progress at Italian anime convention news conference. The president of Sunrise stated the release of Unicorn movie in 2010 to mark 30th anniversary of famous mecha franchise which also saw the completion of full mock up statue of Gundam.

Storywise, it took place 3 years after Operation Axis (seen in Char's /Sha's Counterattack) firefight between remnants of Zeon called "The Sleeved" and moping up Federation fleet led by Londo Bell taskforce that successfully blocked Char's /Sha's masterstroke. Based on ongoing novel series by Fukui Harutoshi.

Bad news though, creator famous for "Mr-Kill-Em-All" Tomino himself is not involved and so is Katoki Hajime in the production. Katoki has his detractors but I love his touch on Gundam since 0083 Stardust Memory. So it remains to be seen who will be the mecha designer and director for Unicorn movie.


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Tuesday, April 14

Future of Manga reading?

I always believe in one day, paperless society is possible and we can stop chopping down trees to make it. This article talks about current products in the market and what is general trend of consumers of manga in USA. I was wondering if same thing is occurring in Japan right now as this article was published. Manga in Japan is very big business and I am not too surprised if the industry is most reluctant to switch to e-manga reading culture that is on the rise on rest of the world.

It will repeat the same problem that Naptster started years ago, giant and clumsy Japanese corporations find themselves outfoxed by small nimble software that enables fans in Japan to read manga electronically and swipe memory cards at drop of the hat to exchange manga datas scanned by people who believed in traditional manga format will endanger world ecology. No doubt the Japanese were moving torwards e-manga which I approved a lot but it is rather at slow pace, signifying more resistance to the change of medium.

Sounds too fantastic? Maybe. But never underestimate prosumers (refer to Revolutionary Wealth by Alvin Toeffler) power to influence market.


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Monday, April 13

Valkyria Chornicles / 戦場のヴァルキュリア game sequel is announced

The critically acclaimed game which is a now basis for ongoing anime series is going to have sequel announced by SEGA soon (they use word considering but Japanese are masters of understatement). While they failed in console business,they still rocks in software development and they see big money when there is one. It is just matter of time, to be honest.

I wonder if they will make anime of Virtual On. LOL.


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Friday, April 10

K-On! / けいおん! Mio pantyshot? LOL

Mio, easily the fastest growing popular character female since Nagi from Kannagi, have the accidental panty shot in this chapter.

Question is, will Kyoto Animation do this part faithfully? Or they modify it? How the fans will react? Or haters will use this to justify why they hate the anime? The list is mind boggling.

The fan's reaction will be interesting to see, IMHO.


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Soft Power Discussion no 6, Taro Aso plan to revive Japanese economy

Highly unpopular and wrangling with massive economic crisis in Japan (worst in 30 years memory), Premier of Japan Taro Aso pledged to make 120 trillion Yen (that's 1.2 trillion plus USD, folks) by 2020 CE by promoting Japanese remaining asset, softpower. Where Honda or Toyota falters in their quest to make money for Japan Inc, now Taro Aso is turning to moe schoolgirls and hot blooded sentai heroes to take the lead.

Another eyebrow raising statement he made is he will create 500,000 jobs using anime and Japanese fashion to fight off unemployment. I don't know how is he going to do it since Japanese animators were possibly one of the lowest in food chain in job market of Japan. He stated that in 3 years time, 1.4 jobs will be created with this new economic plan that for first time in history; stressing softpower to be leading factor of national economy. He is in fact, still promoting Japan Cool campaign that he initiated years ago under Junchiro Koizumi adminstration.

I don't know if I should take him seriously or not but time will tell. Miyazaki is not amused by him. The overseas anime market, notably USA is struggling too so I kinda doubt his pledge here. A tad too optimistic, perhaps?

Source News

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Thursday, April 9

Code Geass and Malaysian Politics? Marcos and Voltes 5?

It was indeed surprising and relieving to hear Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak announcing the release of 13 Hindraf detainees and lifting the temporary ban on opposition newspapers.
This move is somewhat parallel to ex-prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s promising speech for reforms when he entered office in 2003, only that PM Najib’s move was one of ‘action speaks louder than words’.

Najib’s action reminds me of Code Geass, a Japanese anime about the struggle of Japan against Britannia, a powerful nation that had colonised Japan and renamed that nation to ‘Area 11’.

In one scene the opposition, Order of the Black Knights, had gained substantial popularity in Area 11, especially amongst the Japanese because of their ability to win many battles against Britannia in their revolt. They are seen to be the messiahs for the Japanese and many threw their support behind the Order of the Black Knights.

This situation is synonymous to the opposition in Malaysia. The Order of the Black Knights has a reason to revolt – Britannia’s unjust treatment against the Japanese, which includes discrimination, deletion of their national identity, et cetera.

Pakatan Rakyat has a reason to strive – the ruling government’s unjust implementation of policies, corruption, discrimination, draconian laws, etc.

At the peak of the story, a new Britannia governor for Area 11 was sworn in and made her first speech – in which she reestablished Japan’s name and identity, Britannians and Japanese were now equal. This speech’s impact was far reaching.

The Britannians, who were comfortable with being of a higher status were not happy. The Order of the Black Knights, meanwhile, lost their cause to fight, because what they were fighting for had been fulfilled.

Therefore, it is no surprise that after PM Najib’s speech of releasing the Hindraf detainees and lifting the ban on opposition newspapers has somewhat diminished temporarily the purpose of PR.

If PM Najib were to go all the way and erase every single reason for Pakatan’s establishment, BN will definitely regain the confidence of the people. However, just like in the anime, it might come with a price in that perhaps the comfortable cronies would lose out.

In any case, PM Najib must not use this affirmative action for reforms as a veil over allegations of his alleged involvement in the murder of Altantuya.

He must indeed be cleared of any involvement through court proceedings. PM Najib, your good deeds will not even out or cover the serious allegations against you. The truth will.

Article in question

Amusing article from Malaysia Kini using anime as analogy to explain political situation. Last time it is the story of Philippine's Marcos and Voltes 5. In this historical case study, President Marcos known for his kleptocracy and corrupted regime, abetted by his greedy wife Imelda banned Voltes 5 anime series after rebels rally around this superobot series to chastise his administration indirectly.

When Voltes was rebroadcast again after the revolution (1986) that brought down Marcos regime, it was greeted with cheers by hard suffering Filipinos as symbolic victory just like how Voltes bring down the evil oppressive regime of Horned Humans in the anime series.

The History of Marcos and Voltes 5


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Wednesday, April 8

Tuesday, April 7

History of Hatsune Miku development.

With English subtitles (turn on the caption by clicking off annotations at bottom right of the video). Earlier entry. What an amazing technology.


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Mandalay Pictures acquire rights to Full Metal Panic

Zac Efron expressed interest in latest adaptation of anime into live action, Full Metal Panic!. Mandalay Pictures announced the acquisition to the famous Japanese mecha//school life series few hours ago. Mandalay Pictures produced few of my favourite movies; Sleepy Hollow and Enemy at the Gates.

No director or anyone else announced for it yet. It is sensible commercial choice, considering it is one of the success story of mainstream anime series in 2000s.

Source news

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Positive view on current anime industry?

In the weeks leading up to the Tokyo International Anime Fair (TAF) 2009, the Japanese film Tsumiki no Ie (La Maison en Petits Cubes) won the Academy Award for best animated short film amid dismal economic news pouring in from around the world.

Despite the dark clouds, the fair's organizers predicted attendance would rise to 130,000 visitors, up from last year's 126,622. They were almost exactly on the nose, as the final figure came in at 129,819.

But the number of exhibitors at the March 18-21 event at the Tokyo Big Sight convention center in Ariake, Tokyo, dropped for the first time in its eight-year history, to 255 from last year's figure of 289.

Full Article

What's significant here is despite the sustainable otaku/fandom crowd (I do wonder how many are local versus foreign) , the industry itself is in dire need to reform. Anime industry practices did not change much from Osamu Tezuka days of "cheap and cheerful" labour (some commentators blamed him specifically for this current malady) to churn out animation products as much as possible using economies of scale.

The middle person got too much cut from the profits and proceeds which leaves very little to the animators. Now what's worst, Japanese animation companies subcontracting to even cheaper nations like Vietnam, China, Korea or Philippines for cost cutting measure. This has led to substandard quality like a shocking episode 9 of Macross Frontier (2008).

It remains to be seen if the positive view is hollow or something that we all can chew on.

An opposite view on the matter.

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Monday, April 6

First Impressions : Natsu no Arashii / 夏のあらし!

Frankly, this series managed to hook me. Very interesting use of time travel and paradoxes though the male lead (Hajime) is annoying me with his pettiness: blusterous, possessive and tantrum prone to the max.

It is known that Kobayashi (the mangaka) tends to self insert in the stories so I wonder if Shades is him. This series is also quite liberal with fan service with so many female characters in the story.

Character wise it is pretty normal but it is use of special powers like matter manipulation and time travel that intrigues me to the potential of the story here. With Shinbo style of imagery is absent most of the 1st episode (the ED vid is his trademark though), the angles were interesting enough to accentuate the situation.

Overall, it is an above average start so far. Will follow it to see where the story goes to.

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Sunday, April 5

Asylum Session

CoMix Wave, people who behind great anime movies like 5cm and Beyond the Clouds is working on this anime feature now. So far only few screenshots available and no PVs is out yet. Aya Hirano is featured as main VA for the movie, AFAIK.

From the screenshots I can feel it is a psychedelic show with vibrant usage of colours. Not traditional "moe" design can be seen and definitely it feels raw and edgy too.

The synopsis is:

"The Asylum Session's story follows the trials and coming-of-age of teenaged boys and girls in the distant future. In this era, the development of civilization has stopped and even declined. Hiyoko is a runaway girl who goes to live in tents with other people at a stadium nicknamed "Asylum". There, she meets Akira, a leader of a band of street children. Profiteering police want to tear down the stadium, so its denizens create a street culture event called "The Asylum Session" to counter those plans."

Sounds like a story of Rio slums on grander scale and corruption. Interestingly Shinchiro Watanabe just recently concluded Michiko and Hatchin also set in Rio slums too. The movie will be coming at July 2009.

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Eureka Seven Pocket Full of Rainbows PV

Here it is, needless to say, I am looking forward to it.

More details here

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