Anime Today #6

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Episode run down:

First is Chad with What’s Hot in the world of anime followed by Marie’s review of the first Death Note graphic novel. Kris and Judy return to explore Himeji Castle in Anime and Gamer’s guide to Japan. Next, Shawne brings us highlights of his Weekly Specials. One of Right Stuf’s employees brings us a review of the first DVD of Gankutsuou. Right Stuf’s Production Team joins us next to discuss on how the Japanese studios sometimes split up the licenses for the same titles between different publishers in the US. And finally Nick comes back to discuss how to keep eye out for the daily additions made to RightStuf.com.

What's Hot?

On February 28th, enter a decimated world deep within the desert, where a less-than-noble hero fights for less-than-noble causes and chases a voluptuous love interest for less-than-decent reasons.  The first DVD of Funimation’s latest release, Desert Punk, shows a world where war is a way of life, sarcasm a mode of communication and the unexpected is always on the menu. 

Also on February 28th, One Piece DVD 1: King of the Pirates will be released.  A young man named Monkey D. Luffy dreams of becoming King of the Pirates. When he's captured by a band of pirates, Luffy escapes to a naval base ruled by an evil captain. Luffy saves the famous swordsman, Zolo from execution in exchange for joining his crew, and then the real adventure begins!

And don’t forget that you can get 25% off the retail price everyday at RightStuf.com when preordering titles more then 10 days before their street date.

February 14th will see the US release of the novel Boogiepop and Others!  If you're a fan of the mind-twisting thriller Boogiepop Phantom, then you probably know that the show began as a series of novels written by Kouhei Kadono. But these novels have never been brought to the States until now!  Told in a non-linear fashion, Boogiepop and Others asks the reader to piece together the sequence of events to solve the mysteries behind a series of unexplained disappearances.  Rumors fly about the urban legend of a shinigami that can release people from their pain and suffering.  This "Angel of Death" has been named Boogiepop and the legends are true. Boogiepop is real.  And yet Nagi Kirima knows better. Something mysterious and foul is afoot.  Is Boogiepop behind the sudden disappearances or is it something more sinister?

Now for some hot titles released earlier this month. 

Momoko yearns to live in 18th century Versailles, rather than in her back-country hometown of Shimotsuma in Viz Media’s live action title, Kamikaze Girls.  To escape, Momoko loses herself in the dreamy, doll-like fashions of the "Lolita" scene.  Her idol is Akinori Isobe, chief designer of Baby, the Stars Shine Bright – her favorite design house – and she frequently travels all the way to Tokyo to shop at the store.  One languid summer, to help fund her expensive hobby, Momoko runs a classified ad offering brand-name knock-off clothes for sale. She encounters a buyer named Ichigo, who happens to live in her neighborhood.  Super-rebel Ichigo is a "Yanki"-style member of the Ponytails motorbike gang, one of Ibaraki's Wild Speed Tribes, whose teeth-rattling customized bikes are decked out with fiberglass shields and bannered backrests.  Somewhat against Momoko's will, she and Ichigo slowly develop a strong friendship as they share their feelings on the odd goings-on around them.

Also, earlier this month saw the release of the fourth DVD of the title Newtype refers to as a “SLAP STICK COMEDY WITH A LOT OF EYE-CANDY AND A LITTLE NAUGHTINESS,” Girls Bravo.  All his life Yukinari has been bullied and abused by girls so he naturally develops gynophobia - a fear of women.  In fact, just being around girls makes him break out in hives!  Then, he mysteriously gets transported to a world without men and meets a beautiful girl named Miharu who inexplicably doesn't affect him!  In the fourth DVD of Girls Bravo, Miharu and her friends Yukinari and Kirie receive an invitation from Fukuyama to a baseball game at the Dome Stadium.  But instead of a baseball game, it turns out to be a Girls' Fight, in which they compete in terms of beauty and strength. Flipping around an embarrassing photograph of Kirie that he secretly took, Fukuyama blackmails her into entering the competition.  In the semi-finals, Kirie actually has to mud-wrestle against Kosame, who is completely obsessed with her!  Now’s the time to get caught up in the Girls Bravo!

And that’s what’s hot in the world of anime!

Marie's Manga Review: Death Note Graphic Novel 1

What would you do with the power to kill anyone you wanted? That’s the question posed by Tsugumi Ohba’s graphic novel series Death Note, and if your answer was “develop a god complex and engage in the world’s biggest game of cat and mouse,” you’d be in good company.

The plot goes basically like this: Ryuk is a bored, bored Shinigami (or death god), looking to stir up some trouble to entertain himself. Consequently, he drops one of the tools of his trade, a “Death Note,” into the human world, just to see what will happen. A Death Note is a formidable weapon: write the name of any person in the notebook while visualizing their face in your mind and they will die of a heart attack in exactly 40 seconds. Not painful enough? Write down specific instructions for how the person should die within the 40 second delay to cause people to leap in front of cars or jump off of tall buildings. Cause death at any time, and under any circumstances, you want.

When Light Yagami, genuinely the smartest boy in Japan, happens to find the notebook and discovers its power, he vows to purge the world of evil, and begins secretly killing dangerous criminals he sees on the news. The media soon makes the connection and reports of this mysterious new killer, dubbing the anonymous assassin “Kira.”

Considered a hero by the press, Kira soon becomes a celebrity, but not everyone is happy about this new vigilante. The police, completely baffled, bring in L, a high-tech Sherlock Holmes who can solve any case - if he finds it sufficiently interesting. And L is very interested in Kira…

Death Note isn’t your typical Shonen Jump title. First, in Japan the series originally ran in Shonen Jump Advanced, a manga magazine which is marketed towards an older audience. And there’s a reason why Death Note is rated 15 and up. Corruption and murder aren’t pretty, and author Tsugumi Ohba shows it.

Second, the characters in this series don’t fit into the normal archetypes. Light is smart. He’s moralistic, but his ethics are twisted: he kills in goal of a utopia free from crime. Light is never represented as being completely aligned with traditional good or evil; only his own sense of justice.

Likewise, L is far from the average antagonist.  He doesn’t kill hapless villagers or try to take over the world.  Instead, his only “crime” is that he wants to stop Light’s vigilantism. L will take do anything in order to close in on Kira, and not everyone on the police force agrees with his methods.

L and Light move the other characters of the manga around like so many pieces on a chessboard, each looking for an opening to victory.  While the ultimate confrontation is always looming, it’s from each battle of wits that the tension really builds. The reader is never sure quite who’s about to win, and the mystery only adds to the intense atmosphere of the book. 

Takeshi Obata artwork is a perfect complement to Death Note’s story. Known for his work on Hikaru no Go, Obata puts a lot of focus on each character’s emotion and every thought and word is matched by their expressions. For a title where the real drama comes from internal reaction to external pressures, this is key. We see the characters sweat over difficult choices, see their calm assurance in their triumphs, and see their panic when their triumph turns to defeat. 

Obata also has a way with character design. Light, initially shocked by his new power, soon begins to move with the cool self-confidence that comes from being unchallenged at everything he’s ever put his mind to. He feels he can’t lose, and it’s clear in his every gesture and look.

His design for L is equally well done.  We see him hide himself from the world and move about his quarters, alert for clues that might appear on his network. We see him crouched over computer, rocking back and forth on his heels in a chair or on the floor, thinking, thinking, thinking. It takes an amazing amount of talent to transition that internalization into a riveting sequence, but Obata pulls it off effortlessly.

Ryuk, who is given the scariest and most exotic appearance, is the most open and cheerful character in the book. The audience’s avatar, he puzzles over Light’s actions, delights at each dramatic revelation, and laughs at the events unraveling around him as if everything were a TV drama created for his personal amusement. Which is, of course, exactly why Ryuk started everything in the first place.

Viz has done a very good job with the translation. Since the series relies so heavily on understanding the nuances of the character’s actions, it’s important that the text stays as close to the original as possible, and they’ve clearly succeeded. The original Japanese sound effects have been translated and there are even a couple of editor’s notes are included on the appropriate pages to explain Japanese words or phrases. In fact, the only noticeable localization is that shinigami are interchangeably referred to as Death Gods.

As is the case with most manga both in the US and Japan, the color pages from the initial magazine publication have been replaced with black and white versions to keep costs down, but Viz has kept the original striking Japanese covers.
           
Death Note is highly recommended for fans of mystery and complex characters. By the end of the fourth chapter, you begin to get the feeling that Light, for all his high ideals, might just be pursuing this contest of minds because it’s far more exciting than his average everyday life. If you’ve ever felt the same way, then this is the book for you.

See all Death Note Graphic Novels

Kris and Judy Part 6: Anime and Gamer's Guide to Japan

Kris and Judy's photos from Himeji Castle:

Anime and Gamer's Guide to Japan

Anime and Gamer's Guide to Japan

Anime and Gamer's Guide to Japan

Anime and Gamer's Guide to Japan

Anime and Gamer's Guide to Japan

Anime and Gamer's Guide to Japan

Anime and Gamer's Guide to Japan

Shawne's Specials

Hey! Leggo my AnimEigo!

No, it’s not Urusei as a toaster pastry, but a great new AnimEigo Studio sale through January 25!

When it comes to the classics, AnimEigo can't be beat! Arcadia of My Youth, Bubblegum Crisis, Kimagure Orange Road, Oh My Goddess, Urusei Yatsura... lots of great titles to choose from! Plus, with the discount we're giving you this week, you'll definitely want to grab them up!

Every item published by AnimEigo is on sale - with 33% off the retail price on all their DVD titles!

To receive your discount, simply put the AnimEigo items you wish to purchase in your cart, and during checkout put the code LEGGO (spell out) in the coupon field. This coupon is reusable, so order as often as you like. For a quick list of the items included in this sale, check out the "AnimEigo Items" link in the upper right corner of our webpage.

Remember, if you’re a member of our Got Anime purchasing club, you can stack your discount and achieve a whopping 40% OFF on AnimEigo DVDs! Not a member? Check out the link within each item detail for more information.

Now, let’s take a look at this week’s product specials!

Continuing from last time, here’s a great deal you shouldn’t pass up - we have 4 DVD/CD combo packs for only $9.99! Get Akira, Ai Yori Aoshi, Last Exile, and Texhnolyze - this is the first DVD of the series plus the CD soundtrack - for only $9.99 - we have good stock on all of these, but they are selling fast!

We’re also continuing our 50% off sale on calendars for Aquarian Age - Juvenile Orion, Di Gi Charat, Hellsing, or Samurai Champloo!

A couple of new high profile series - Ah My Goddess TV Series DVD 1 and Area 88 TV Series DVD 3 are on sale this week.

Collections and box sets of Aquarian Age, Babel II, Blue Gender, Crest of the Stars, G-Gundam, His & Her Circumstances, Kikaider, Nadia, Najica Blitz Tactics, and Paranoia Agent can be yours at deep discounts this week - plus I’ve added new items and restocked the bargain bin - where you can get titles at unbelieveable discounts.

There’s plenty of great anime for everyone at Rightstuf.com - and all week long I’m looking for ways to bring you some deals you can’t pass up. If you have an idea on what I can do to tempt your wallet, email me at darklord@rightstuf.com!

See all of Shawne's Weekly Specials!
Check out the Bargain Bin!

DVD Review: Gankutsuou DVD 1

Born into an aristocratic family in Paris, Albert sets out on a journey with his best friend, Franz, to escape his privileged yet dull life.  They travel to Luna, which is on the surface of the moon, and meet a very wealthy man named The Count of Monte Cristo.  Becoming completely fascinated with The Count's mysterious charm, Albert welcomes him into Paris high society.  But soon Albert will discover the Count's true motive - revenge...

Gankutsuou – The Count of Monte Cristo: Volume one was released by Geneon Entertainment October 25, 2005.  The following as an adaptation of a review by Chris Beverage of Anime on DVD dot com.

Gankutsuou was the translated title for the original Japanese release of the novel “The Count of Monte Cristo.”   After many years and many adaptations, the latest telling of this story unites the talents of Director Mahiro Maeda with Studio Gonzo to show us just what kind of creativity they're both truly capable of. 

To the disappointment of some, this adaptation doesn’t take place in the ‘proper time’ of the original story.  We still see Paris and other areas of French interest over the course of the story but this version is set in the future and parts of it actually take place in space.

The series opens through the eyes of Albert, a young aristocrat and the son of a very powerful general.  When we first meet him, Albert is in the process of expanding his world views by traveling to city of Luna on the moon’s surface, which is bustling with Carnival.  He is accompanied by his friend Franz, and together they venture through the sites and sounds of the festival.  The opening scenes of Carnival include some of the most amazingly garish and fascinating footage you’ll see.  While exploring, they end up attending an opera where they get their first glimpse of a mysterious and nouveau riche man known as the Count of Monte Cristo.

Albert finds himself completely fascinated by the man and begins to work his way into the stranger’s presence.  After accepting an invitation to a gorgeous dinner on the final eve of Carnival, the boys begins to learn exactly what kind of man the Count really is. 

A public execution is set up for three men accused of varying crimes.  Albert and Franz learn that the Count is allotted one pardon from the Cardinal during the celebration.  To make the evening more enjoyable, the Count offers Albert the chance to save one life by drawing a name from a set of cards engraved with the criminal’s initials.  Franz and Albert are horrified at the idea of playing a game with the lives of these men and despite Albert’s better judgment, he is still fascinated by the Count and begins to see him as a mentor. 

The relationship between the two men takes another turn later that same night.  Albert is kidnapped by bandits and threatened with death if a ransom isn’t paid by morning.  Franz tries to raise the money, but when everything goes wrong, his only hope is to go to the Count for help. 

Although the Count’s true nature is fairly obvious by what we’ve seen so far, an even darker side is revealed when he sends his men to free Albert while he alone goes on a merciless rampage for the leader of the group.  Commonly referred to as the King of Caves, the Count secures himself as someone with not only the wealth and power to do whatever he wants, but the courage to do so as well.  Due to how easy the situation is dealt with, it’s not that hard to suspect the Count arranged the whole scenario simply to forge a stronger bond with Albert and to use him to introduce himself to the elite aristocrats of Paris when he arrives on earth a few months later.

From an epic viewpoint, the idea of taking the nation-states from the time period of the original novel and applying it on a planetary scale across an entire galaxy is fascinating.  The show also does a good job addressing this theme on a smaller scale by showing that even though Paris society has changed over the years, people are still largely separated by status. 

Gankutsuou is a fascinating work on a number of levels.  The literary aspect alone assures an interesting story and the script writers and voice actors do a very good job of capturing the essence of the original story.  I’ve been in love with Nakata’s voice for ages now and the role of the Count is the kind of role you can imagine Nakata being born to play.

Another interesting aspect of this show is the design of the clothing done by famous designer Anna Sui.  While having the help of a well known fashion designer is great all by itself, the application of the clothing is what makes it so fascinating.  Unlike other shows which use static colors shaded within the lines of the characters’ outfits, the clothing in this series is much more vibrant and alive.  Patterns and colors radiate from the characters creating a sea of textures and just watching the way Eugenie’s dress shimmers or how Albert’s collar blows in the wind is very addictive to watch. 

While not the same type of show, Gankutsuou has the same special verbal feel that I got with Crest of the Stars, Twelve Kingdoms, and “Legend of the Galactic Heroes.”  The way the character’s speak to and interact with one another is incredibly important in this series.  The dialogue is not something you can shrug off as in some other ‘eye candy’ shows where it really doesn’t matter what anyone says.  It almost makes you want to rewatch the previous episodes when new ones come out just to be sure you’re following the flow of the story and catching every nuance of each character’s intentions.

This volume contains some exciting extras along with the usual standards like clean opening and closing sequences.  There’s a section of storyboards by Mahiro Maeda that show how the final shots were decided on as well as a six minute interview with him just after the first episode was shown to an audience for the first time.  There’s also an amusing section of comments from the Japanese voice actors, which serve as after episode commentary.  This is worth checking out if only just to hear Nakata talk as the Count for a little while longer.

Gankutsuou is a series that’s going to have an interesting and very talkative group of fans if only for amount of detail in every scene.  Dumas’ original tale has received an amazing new adaptation by Maeda and the mixture of science fiction elements together with the nation-state aspect works beautifully.  From the opening charcoal style frame to the final image of each preview, this volume has me captivated.  When people foolishly say there's nothing worth watching out there, this is the show you throw it in their face and tell them to open their eyes.

See all Gankutsuou DVDs

Samurai 7 DVD 4 (Hyb): Battle for Kanna

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In loving memory of Jeff Thompson

I wanted to take a brief moment in this week's podcast to mention the passing of Jeff Thompson.

Many of you may have met Jeff at a convention, read articles he wrote, or may have listened to his insight on the producer's commentary track on our Boogiepop Phantom DVDs.

Jeff also was deeply involved as director and man of many hats on our production of His & Her Circumstances - a show he was passionate about and one the finest dubs out there, in my opinion.

I've spoken recently to many of the production people, voice actors, and fans that Jeff touched over the years, and I know that he will truly be missed.