Anime Today #8

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Episode run down:

First is Chad with What’s Hot in the world of anime and manga followed by Marie’s review of the first graphic novel of From Far Away. Then I talk about Contests and how you can save by joining the Got Anime? Purchasing Club. Next, the Production Team discusses how they organize the material from Japanese licensors and how they’re arranged for the extras included on our DVDs. This week RightStuf.com is featuring a Central Park Media sale and Shawne’s here to give us the highlights along with his Weekly Specials. Our Q & A brings the Production Team back to talk about licensing followed by one of Right Stuf’s employees reading a review of the first DVD of Starship Operators. Finally Kris and Judy return in the Anime and Gamer’s Guide to Japan to discuss travel tips and where to find good deals on airfare to Japan.

What's Hot?

PREORDERS!  That’s right, when you preorder titles more then 10 days before their street date, you can get 25% off their retail price. And if you’re a member of the Got Anime? Purchasing Club, you’ll get an extra 10% off that. So don’t forget to order early and save big on these hot titles available at RightStuf.com!

First up, on February 28th, the ninth installment of the Negima! Graphic Novel series will be released.  From Ken Akamatsu, author of the popular Love Hina series, follow the continuing adventures of Negi Springfield, a young 10-year old wizard who has been assigned to teach at an all-girls school in Japan.  It's almost time for the legendary MahoraFest - the Mahora Academy Festival - and the whole school is buzzing with anticipation. Class 3-A is preparing a haunted house, even though the class really is haunted.  Eva's robotic servant appears to be malfunctioning, but the mechanical girl might just be feeling human emotions. And she's not the only one! Asuna sees the upcoming festival as the perfect opportunity to finally confess true love to Takahata-sensei. Unfortunately, Asuna can't work up the nerve. What's a girl to do? Why, go out on a practice date with a magically aged Negi, of course!

Next up, March 7th will see the release of the ninth hilarious graphic novel in the hit series, Naruto.  Still in the thick of the Journeyman Ninja Selection Exams, the student ninja unleash their signature techniques as they spar in a series of one-on-one elimination matches. The heated battles bring out a new side in many of the opponents as they fight to advance to the third stage of the test and, in some cases, struggle to survive!  Naruto looses an explosive new move on his foe... but will it be enough to win? And when Hyuga clan members Neji and Hinata are pitted against one another, will old family grudges make their duel even more vicious than the others?

Energetic teenager Shuichi Shindo is the lead singer and songwriter for the smash-hit pop band, Bad Luck. He's recently moved in with his older boyfriend, Eiri Yuki, the handsome, sophisticated, and uber-famous romance novelist. Nothing goes smoothly for Shuichi, however. Yuki is inexplicably cold and cruel toward him, more so than usual; due to a rash of publicity appearances on comedy sketch shows, he can't get anyone to take his band seriously; and he's suddenly entered, totally unprepared, into a nationally televised concert with Bad Luck's rival band, Ask.  In this often touching, frequently hilarious story based on the popular manga and anime, Gravitation: The Novel details a young man's quest for success in love and music.

On Mar 14th, we get the sixth DVD of the engaging and visually stunning series, Planetes.  As the final preparations are made for the Von Braun's maiden voyage to Jupiter, the Space Defense Front makes a bold attempt at interrupting the INTO summit by taking control of the Jovian explorer. Again, the Debris Section is caught in the crossfire as they try to prevent the Von Braun from falling on the Moon's most populated city. In the middle of the chaos, two lost souls search for their own purpose and each other.

And finally, the first DVD of Gundam SEED Destiny will be released on March 14th.  With both PLANT and Earth Forces entering a state of uneasy truce, the world has once again found itself at peace.  Yet for some, the war has never ended.  Shin Asuka, a coordinator who lost his entire family during the Battle of Orb, now fights with ZAFT in their newest prototype: the Impulse Gundam.  When one of these machines is stolen by Federation forces, the world once again spirals towards chaos.

Check out the PREORDERS and the Got Anime? Purchasing Club!

Marie's Manga Review: From Far Away Graphic Novel 1

Many years ago, in a world much like ours (except prettier and without modern technology like alarm clocks), it was prophesized that one day something called the “Awakening” would appear and rouse the Sky Demon, and that whoever could control the Sky Demon could control the world. Naturally, controlling the world sounded quite appealing to a lot of people, and seers far and wide kept careful watch for signs this mysterious “Awakening” thing would appear. The only problem? No one knows who or what exactly this “Awakening” is supposed to be; they only know the signs that would tell where and when it would arrive.

Now, back story in place, From Far Away begins in the present day on Earth with your typical shoujo plot device: a girl gets sucked into another world. A terrorist has been planting bombs around the city, and Noriko, your average high school student who’s too busy talking to her friends on the way home to listen to the news, accidentally sets off one of the bombs and – of course – finds herself transported to another world. There, Noriko meets up with some ugly monsters intent on having her for dinner. Fortunately, she’s rescued by Izark, a handsome young man with supernatural fighting abilities. Unfortunately, the only reason he was nearby was because he wanted to kill her himself. Instead, he decides that perhaps murdering an innocent girl isn’t really his cup of tea, particularly if she’s destined to be his love interest for another 13 volumes.

Knowing Noriko is the Awakening, Izark quickly spirits Noriko away to a nearby town. Since the people of this new world don’t speak either Japanese or English, Noriko is left completely clueless to the political intrigue swirling around her, but as violence and dead bodies are pretty much universal, it’s not long at all before she figures out she’s in real danger.

One of the really nice things about From Far Away is the way author / artist Kyoko Hikawa manipulates the tried-and-true shoujo theme of “girl-finds-herself-in-another-land.” For example, the author puts a new twist on this by forcing Noriko to struggle to understand the language of her new world. Further, Noriko doesn’t mope and bemoan her fate, but instead struggles to learn as much as she can about this new world so she can help her friends. Since she’s not much of a fighter, she even tries her best to stay out of harm’s way.

In another breath of fresh air, Hikawa gives her characters the ability to think ahead. Noriko and Izark realize early on that her school uniform and book bag might be a tad suspicious in a land of tunics and lace-up shoes, so they abandon them in a deep ravine. And of course, it gives the author ample opportunities to dress Noriko up in different outfits.

My favorite aspect of From Far Away was the way the author handles the relationship between Noriko and Izark. Instead of having them fall madly in love by the end of volume one, she nurtures their relationship carefully, giving it time to grow while putting down a solid foundation for later development. Love triangles are almost non-existent in the series, and, as an added bonus, the lack of soap-opera-like indecision in the relationships gives Hikawa more time to dedicate towards plot, character development and plenty of action.

The characters vary from the typical shoujo fare. While Izark is very much your standard tall, dark, and handsome bishounen, some of other regular characters include a mercenary and his young blind daughter, a frumpy middle-aged woman who wields a sword, and a Mongol-like warrior whose character design is more reminiscent of a Shounen Jump villain then a shoujo hero. And, the closest Noriko ever comes to a harem of pretty boys is the addition of Banadam, a hot-headed young soldier bent on bringing down the current corrupt government.

The character designs, while not fragile and wispy, are cute and expressive. Expressions are clear and easy to read, and Noriko’s rounded features contrast well with Izark’s angled planes. The characters also change over time: hair grows longer, clothes become dirtier, and so forth.

While there are no sweeping monologues covering centuries of history, the fantasy world the characters travel through is well constructed, down to the clothing designs, politics, and critters. Naturally there are dragons (riders optional) scattered about, but even the designs of everyday creatures like horses and rats reflect the world’s slightly exotic aesthetic. The detailed backgrounds give each location a uniqueness, making sure the audience is always clear as to where the scene is occurring.

Give From Far Away a try if you’re a fan of fantasy and romance. It’s not the deepest manga on the shelf, but it’s a good read when you’re looking for something fun and relaxing, and it offers a surprisingly serious look at what would happen if you were spirited away to another world and met the love of your life. After all, that’s something you’d want to be prepared for.

See all From Far Away Graphic Novels

Right Stuf Contests and Updates

Enter the Right Stuf Jump for Joy Contest

Like what you hear, give us a shout out! If you use iTunes or browse Yahoo! Podcasts, take a few moments to write a quick review and tell others what you think the show!

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Got Anime? Purchasing Club

Case Closed (Detective Conan): Case 1 DVD 1 (Hyb): The Investigation is Afoot

Case Closed Case 1 DVD 1 (Hyb) + Artbox + Wallscroll + Keychain

Case Closed Case 1 DVD 1 (Hyb) + Artbox + Wallscroll + Keychain

Shawne's Specials

We've got outlandishly good savings for you this week! It’s a new studio sale! Central Park Media's got a great mix of new releases like Outlanders, classic favorites like Project A-ko, and plenty of adults-only titles under the Anime 18 label as well!

From now until February 26th you can get 40% off the retail price on ALL Central Park Media, Software Sculptors, and Anime 18 DVD titles and 33% off on their CDs and Graphic Novels!

To receive your discount, simply put the CPM items you wish to purchase in your cart, and during checkout put the code WORLD 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 "CPM Sale 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 46% OFF on sale priced DVDs! Learn more if you’re not a member by clicking the gotanime graphic within any item description.

And now... it’s time for a whole new week of great product specials!

There are a big batch of DVDs on sale this week for less than $9.99 - so you’ll certainly want to check those out! Plus, I’ve added another set of products to our bargain bin, don’t forget to browse through this section for some amazing deals.

Great value box sets include Avenger, Azumanga Daioh, Bubblegum Crisis, Chrono Crusade, Comic Party, DNAngel, Excel Saga, Gatchaman, Hakkenden, Magical Project S, Maison Ikkoku Set 5, Noir, Paranoia Agent, Read or Die TV, Rune Soldier, Saikano, Trigun Collector’s Set 2, Twelve Kingdoms, and more!

Another few DVD singles you might want to check out - discs from Burst Angel, Elfen Lied, Fafner, Girls Bravo, Godannar, Princess Tutu, Saiyuki Reload, and others are on the list this week.

And don’t forget - economy shipping is free at $49 for domestic customers!

Grab some great deals today! And remember, our specials change every Thursday, so check back for new ones each week!

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

Anime Today Q & A

If you have a question for us, call 1-800-338-6827, extension 7424. Also, you may send us e-mail at animetoday@rightstuf.com. If your question is selected, you will receive a $10 gift certificate to Right Stuf’s online store!

DVD Review: Starship Operators DVD 1: Revolution

For the 73rd class of cadets of the Defense University of the small planet Kibi, a maiden voyage on the new warship Amaterasu is a fitting event just before graduation.  As they are returning home, however, they are shocked to hear news of a declaration of war by the aggressive Kingdom of Henrietta against Kibi. 

When the Kibi government surrenders without a struggle, the cadets decide to fight back, using the Amaterasu, with funding from the Galaxy News Network.  The only stipulation? Exclusive airing rights to the action and good ratings.  So, the cadets find themselves the "stars" of their own reality show.

Starship Operators DVD 1: Revolution was released by Geneon Entertainment in December.   The following as an adaptation of a review by Chris Beverage of Anime on DVD dot com.

In the 24th century, humanity has spread out into space, and naturally, new alliances and political battles between kingdoms and independent planets have developed.  One of these planets is Kibi, previously ruled by a prime minister intent on planetary defense.  With this goal in mind, he founded a Defense University and bought two expensive state-of-the-art warships to go with it. 

But his rule didn’t last long, and this prime minister was recently ousted in favor of a more neutralist government.  Though the new government has kept the university running, their focus has shifted and emphasis is no longer placed on the military.

Meanwhile, the 73rd class of cadets is returning home just before graduation aboard one of the two warships, the Amaterasu.  But as they near Kibi, the neighboring Kingdom of Henrietta, simply known throughout the galaxy as “The Kingdom,” invades the planet and destroys Amaterasu's sister ship.  The destruction sets the government on a quick crash course towards surrender and the senior staff on board the Amaterasu is quickly removed from the ship via the escape pods, leaving the cadets on board, alone. 

Not wanting to surrender so quickly, the cadets put their heads together creating an impressive list of connections and before you know it, they're finagling interstellar law.   Figuring that the Kingdom was after the Amaterasu in the first place and would quickly acquire it once Kibi’s Defense Force was dismantled, the cadets negotiated a contract with the Galaxy Network to sponsor them in purchasing the Amaterasu from the ship’s manufacturer.  In exchange, the Galaxy Network would have the rights to broadcast their forthcoming mission to fight the Kingdom across the entire galaxy. 

The Galaxy Network isn’t exactly acting charitably, though.  The contract does give the Amaterasu easy access to supplies, and hopefully the galaxy’s sympathies as the underdogs.  However, the networks main concern is ratings and they begin promoting the impending war with a series of live, and rather enthusiastic, reports by embedded reporter Dita Mirkov.  Cameras are everywhere, ensuring themselves plenty of footage and even in the midst of a battle with another heavily armed ship, Dita freely gives make-up tips to the girls working on the main deck.  There’s even a clever scene transition involving a floating tube of lipstick.

As much as the senior cadets try to take on the heavy burden of command, the one really pulling the strings is Peter, or Mr. Producer, from the Galaxy Network.  He’s the guy who set up the original contract and quickly begins to plan and execute picture-perfect battles while manipulating the press.  With his help, the cadets are even able to bring the former prime minister on board – whose niece is already an officer on the ship – taking the Amaterasu from a band of rebels to a government in exile and further rallying the viewing public. 

In a way, it's very easy to draw light parallels to the recent Crest and Banner of the Stars series as they do follow some similar tangents and many of the space combat missions play in a similar fashion.  But unlike that franchise, Starship Operators definitely feels more firmly rooted in the space opera and science fiction categories.  There's also more drama and interaction going on among these characters and, even though there is a good amount of action, it is more of a character and dialog driven show. 

The character designs themselves touch upon a few basic archetypes but there's a nice overall tone as they feel a bit more angular than the more common round faces of recent designs elsewhere.  Even better is that, while there isn’t a huge male cast present, the guys that are around aren't exactly standout pretty boys.  There are some attractive male characters and romance does enter the show early on, but the typical harem-romance character of the one stand-out guy everyone is drawn to is missing, which is a very pleasant change of pace.

On a technical level, it’s nice to see that Starship Operators observes the reality of no sound in space, so there are some areas that normally would have sound in other shows that have been left nice and quiet.  Another aspect of any space theme is the importance of the black color levels, and they look fantastic in the many backgrounds.  There’s also quite a bit of sleek CG material in-between the ships and numerous computer screens.

Starship Operators takes several pages from current events over the last few years and provides a mixture of war, journalism, and reality TV with an anime flair in a sci-fi setting.  In the end, the show surprised me more than I thought it would, and was not only very enjoyable to watch but even more interesting on the second viewing as I tried to piece together some of the more subtle elements being woven together.  Starship Operators comes definitely recommended for those looking for some space faring adventure.

See all Starship Operators DVDs and CDs

Kris and Judy Part 8: Anime and Gamer's Guide to Japan

All Nippon Airways (ANA)
Japanese site: www.ana.co.jp   
English site: www.anaskyweb.com

Japan Airlines (JAL)
Japanese site: www.jal.co.jp
English site: www.japanair.com

Japan Rail Passes
www.japanrail.com

Anime and Gamer's Guide to Japan

Anime and Gamer's Guide to Japan

Anime and Gamer's Guide to Japan

This episode features music from: