“The Wind Rises” on The Late Late Show.

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Last night star Joseph Gordon-Levitt was interviewed on CBS’s The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson regarding his role in the English dub of Hayao Miyazaki’s final theatrical feature film “The Wind Rises” which opens in limited format Today, and in wide release next Friday, February 28th.

The interview which starts at 20:00 features a clip of the film, Gordon-Levitt providing a quick plot summary, a few jokes about it being anime, and a good 10 minutes of nothing about the film.

This is Gordon-Levitt’s first role as a voice actor in an anime. He plays the real life famous Japanese plane engineer Jiro Horikoshi, a role performed by Evangelion’s Hideaki Anno in the Japanese dub.

The film is nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature & was nominated but lost for Best Foreign Film at this year’s Golden Globes.

Watch the episode here: http://www.cbs.com/shows/late_late_show/video/E_RqfJS2xEJ7uf1awhoePuyH7CZIoPwV/the-late-late-show-2-20-2014/

I just can’t go on with this show… but I must finish it!

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It has been two month since I’ve posted anything on here and since I have this website I might as well use it.

I really needed to pull myself away from watching Sailor Moon for a little while and write something because I’ve been in a sort of a rut when it comes to watching anime as of late. I wouldn’t call in burn out since I really am still interested in watching more anime on a daily basis. What is really happening to me is more about my compulsion to finish everything, no matter what it is, combined with my viewing habits of marathoning shows. When I first got it to anime I was watching the best shows I could find with gripping plots that made me want to see the next episode that very moment. This led to me finishing 26 episode shows in as little as two days, because they were just that good. I guess I just need to face the fact that not all shows are meant to be watched like that.

This tends to be the case with many of the nostalgia driven titles I pick up. Currently I’m watching Sailor Moon, why? Well because that was a very popular show during its Toonami run when I was growing up and I have fond vague memories of watching it after school in the first grade. That combined with the 4 Dic VHS’s I picked up at a convention pseudo flea market for 5 dollars. I’ve watched all 4 of the tapes, 2 episode a piece, and have seen an episode via a horrible several generation down vhs fan sub from the 90’s that my friend was streaming. So I’ve seen 9 episodes skewed throughout this 46 episode show (not counting sequels right now) and I just have zero motivation to go on. This is a similar experience I’ve had with two other classic shows, Gundam Wing & Astro Boy. Gundam Wing was my favorite show growing up; I had toys, the card game and several other pieces of merchandise that I just wish I had kept of hold of now, so of course now that I am an anime fan I want to track these titles down and watch them for nostalgia sake.

There are a few problems here: First these shows are definitely not meant to be marathoned, which is the how I watch anime. I could definitely see myself coming home every weekday after school to catch the new episode, but when every episode is at my fingertips I have this need to watch it as fast as possible to get to the next show. Also shows now of days are just shorter, most shows have a 12 episode run or 26 with a few edge cases going beyond. So if I’m not feeling a show I can easily get through a few hours and be done with it & since the second season is another entry I can feel good about not going on or putting it on hold since I gave the first part its chance. Sure I sort of liked Hiiro no Kakera, but that’s because it was only 12 episodes and I never have to worry about watching that second season. With older shows that’s not the case, or at least the ones I’m talking about, since they have a much higher episode count.

Another thing to point out is that these shows are not bad at all, they are actually quite good. Newer anime have just evolved like with any medium and have conditioned a more consistent art style and story structure that is better suited to a modern anime fan for the sole reason that they are newer. All of this may not be a problem for most fans since it is easy just to drop a show, but for me and my completionist ways it can be a struggle at times. Enough of a struggle that I just needed to write my thoughts about it really quick, and by really quick I mean 30 minutes with editing. Because I now need to get back to some Sailor Moon so I don’t leave yet another half-finished show on my to watch list.

The RealChatta Podcast – Episode 1

I was recently joined my good friend and colleague Zackary Johnson to sit down for the first episode of our new podcast “RealChatta”. In this one off test episode we discuss our experience at our local anime con Anime Blast Chattanooga, as well as get into The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and a little Breaking Bad.

Since it was a test episode the audio can be a little hit or miss but we will be recording more episodes in the near future.

Funimation accidentally announces Eureka Seven

Eureka Seven is currently unlicensed after its former license holder Bandai Entertainment went under leaving prices for the now out of print dvds to sky rocket. It has been under speculation by fans for a while now that Funimation would be rescuing the series after picking up the show’s sequel Eureka Seven AO.

Early copies of the new One Piece dvd (Season 5 Volume 4) that will be coming out on December 3rd have shown up with a Eureka Seven trailer announcing a blu-ray/dvd combo pack. While the trailer itself has yet to surface online, fans were quick to grab a few screen shots from the disk. Funimation has yet to make a formal announcement about acquiring the show, and though they still have time before the dvd in question hits retailers, it is a little strange to see such a major license rescue slip through the cracks like this.

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Toonami acquires Blue Exorcist

Aniplex of America is looking to keep their Toonami slot filled with the announcement that their show Blue Exorcist will be premiering on Adult Swim’s Saturday night anime block this coming March. Their other show Sword Art Online is projected to be finishing up its run on the block on February 15th while Soul Eater is ending on March 15th, leaving one to assume that Blue Exorcist will be taking the Soul Eater spot with yet another to be named show coming in February. With the announcement Toonami published a trailer for it on their official YouTube channel which can be seen below. Not much to say about the show outside of it being a good match to compliment an already solid line up of shonen action series. Aniplex has released the dub in two limited edition box sets earlier this year.

Source: http://toonami.tumblr.com/post/67805823907/this-weeks-toonami-announcement-hey-guys-over

December is Movie Month on Toonami!

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Adult Swim’s weekly Saturday night anime block Toonami previously announced that they would be taking a break from the normal schedule come the holidays and be airing three movies through December. The full line up of movies for the month was announced today and features a wide array of great films. Previously said to be three weeks of movies has now gone up to four, probably due to a packaging deal considering all of the films are from Funimation. Here is the line up!

 12/7 - Akira

One of the most influential anime films of all time, especially in American fandom, Akira is a perfect fit for the action block with gorgeous and fluent animation that still holds up well considering it is form 1988. It should be interesting to see how they censor a certain scene, if at all, and whether they will take the newer Pioneer or classic Streamline dub. Only time will tell I suppose. The film was recently re-released by Funimation on Blu-ray.

 12/14 - Summer Wars

From director Mamoru Hosoda, of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and the recently released Wolf Children fame, the family friendly film Summer Wars is a wonderful tale of family and adventure with a hint of Miyazaki flare. Not a full on action movie but a great choice to diversify the line up.

 

 12/21 - Fullmetal Alchemist:Conqueror of Shamballa

Sequel to original Fullmetal Alchemist series. A weird choice considering they have yet to air the 2003 run and the currently running remake Brotherhood has its own movie.

 12/28 - Trigun: Badlands Rumble 

The adult swim classic Trigun is back, which I could of sworn aired on Toonami back in the day, with the full length movie that came out 12 years after the original series with some great animation and action.

Also promised are some amazing promos, shirt giveaways, and absolution scenes so it should be an interesting month for Toonami fans.

Exploring the Origins of Anime: Astro Boy

As an enthusiast of several artistic mediums, I have been a part of many varying fandoms and written about them over the years. One common element in these fandoms is an appreciation for the older works in certain genres. This is something I have found very different when it comes to anime fans. Shows become less sought after the older they are and fans tend to stay in their comfort zone gravitating to the newer and more talked about shows whose art styles are clean and modern. Many shows from the early 2000’s that were staples when I first became an enthusiast seem to be lost on newer fans and aside from a few nostalgic titles from the Toonami era the 90’s are hardly touched. So what about the 80’s, 70’s or even the first wave of black & white televised anime in the 60’s? While I complain about this ignorance in the fan base, I have yet to dig too far into this area of anime myself. So I decided to take a journey and explore the origins of this medium I hold so dear.

What gets the honor of being considered the first anime? If you look hard enough there are plenty of shorts dating as far back as the 1910’s all the way through World War Two propaganda pieces that use primitive animation techniques that are by definition “anime”. There are several movies, even some in color, that were being produced by studio giants such as Toei through the late 50’s and early 60’s such as “The Tale of the White Serpent” & one of my personal favorites “Alakazam the Great”. In 1961 there was the first Japanese animated television program “Otogi Manga Calendar”, which aired short 3 minute episodes daily for almost a year. Yet when it comes to anime as we see it now, we have a lot of respect to pay to the original 1963 run of Astro Boy.

Astro Boy (Tetsuwan Atomu), which was written and directed by the “god of manga” Osamu Tezuka, founded the base of anime as we see it today. One of the more noticeable of these is the adaptation of an original manga into an animated series, manga adaptations are still to this day where a good portion of our anime comes from. The structure of animation studios and how shows are produced from the idea of weekly episodic stories to opening and closing can see their seeds here as well. While there were a few oddities that had television airings before, after Astro Boy is when you start to see shows get aired on television on a regular basis with several greats airing shortly after such as Gigantor and Prince Planet and anime has continued on television for over 50 years later. For these reasons it can be safe to call Astro Boy in many respects the first modern anime. So now that we got why I’m starting with Astro Boy for this discussion let us get to what the show is.

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Astro Boy first hit Japanese airways on new year’s 1963 and lasted almost 4 years with 193 episodes. Astro Boy also made short work in making its way over to the west by airing a very interesting and faithful English dubbed version created by Fred Ladd for national television on NBC starting in 1964 lasting 104 episodes. The show is more akin to what we see in traditional cartoons in many ways, but has a very dark undertone in many of its jokes that can be both psychological and social commentaries. The first episode deals with the death of the kid that Astro Boy was modeled after (cleverly named Astor Boynton) and the obsessive working of the boy’s father to create a new son in his image. When this new son named “Astro Boy” doesn’t grow or act as the other kids his father sales him into an implied slavery by a circus owner who mistreats his robot workers till the episode ends with civil rights given to robots. The mature themes do not stop there as with episode two Astro Boy has a scene that can be described as a psychological breakdown with him questioning both his humanity and abandonment issues to later on be discriminated against for committing crimes just because he is a robot. While these issues stuck out to me they are still presented in a very cartoony and comedic fashion leaving any dark undertones to be found under the surface. The creators of the English version opted out of several episodes due to being too “cruel or grotesque”, considering what was aired I really want to see what had to be cut. As of yet in my viewing there is no overreaching story arch and each episode keeps with the theme of a standalone adventure where Astro Boy saves the day, sometimes with a cheesy fourth wall breaking line to end the show such as “Time to move on to my next adventure!” or something along the same lines.

Even though the show is very much a cartoon it is one of the best ones I have seen, featuring very artistically creative designs in both the robots and humans he encounters, a trait that is common through most of Tezuka’s works. The settings per episode also feature amazing art direction and range from a journey through space and Mars to a Middle Eastern desert. Characters act wacky and your suspension of disbelief pretty much has to go out the window when people hilariously survive gun shots to the head Looney Toons style. The animation chugs in quality throughout leading to very funny and humorous fight scenes with the bad guy of the week or simply lazy looking still frames. Being a very early analogue show the quality of the digital transfer varies per episode with some looking clean and crisp while others, particular when it comes to audio, are a lot muddier. Yet while mainly being a kid’s show, I can see how the next generation of animators, writers and directors who grew up with shows such as this took the underlying themes presented before to make the more mature style of anime we see today.

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The original 104 episode English run of Astro Boy is currently streaming legally on Manga Entertainment’s YouTube channel and has been released on two limited edition dvd sets by Right Stuf which include several episodes in Japanese including one, the last, non-English run episode. What shocks me the most though is while the complete run in Japanese has had a dvd release, there is no notable complete fansub to my knowledge. For a show that holds so much history one would assume this would be a project worth completing for anime historians especially in a day and age where anything current no matter the quality has at least one group subbing it. The massive 193 episode count can be the reason for this as well as what hinders most fans from checking it out. While the first two episodes took a little while for me to get interested I have since been enjoying a fun adventure here and there. It is by no means a show to be marathoned, but I plan on seeing it in full at a pace of an episode a day or so. It might not be why you got into anime but it is definitely worth at least checking out an episode if for nothing more than historical context.

Astro Boy as a franchise is still coming back occasionally with remakes of the series in 1980 and 2003 as well as an American made cgi film in 2009 that while good unfortunately bombed in the box office. The same English version of the show from 1964 aired in part on Adult Swim through 2007-2008 and had one episode played to end Toonami’s april fool’s revival.

Depending on how things go I am contemplating continuing this as a series of articles, no promises!

Naruto Shippuden coming to Toonami in January

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Toonami has been on a roll lately with some major announcements including the world premiere/dubbed simulcast of Space Dandy coming this January. On the same day as this (which is projected to be January 4th) Naruto Shippuden will be taking over the original Naruto’s 12:30 spot starting from the beginning of the series. The original Naruto has aired on the block since last December and will be ending after only 52 episodes on November 30th with a 3 week schedule of movies clearing that spot through most of December. Shippuden dub premiers will continue to air on Viz’s Neon Alley streaming service. Naruto will have 168 episodes unaired from the series so completionist might want to get moving on that.

Anime To Make A Run At This Year’s Oscars

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It is that time of the year again where I get overly excited at the prospect of anime making a run in the Oscar season, chasing the dream of anime being recognized as the best in animation for that year over all the silly American kids’ movies. Yes it is hyperbolic way of thinking, but for me this is my sportsball group going up as the underdog.

The dream did become a reality though in 2002 with Studio Ghibli & Hayao Miyazaki’s film “Spirited Away” taking home the award, but aside from a Ghibli nomination in 2005 for another Miyazaki film “Howl’s Moving Castle” & the 2009 win in the Best Animated Short Film category by the brilliant art piece “La Maison en Petits Cubes” in 2008, anime has been scrubbed in the nominations.

In the past few years alone we have seen quite a few attempts make it to the short list for nominations, “From Up on a Poppy Hill” and “The Mystical Laws” failed to qualify last year. Funimation’s attempt with “Summer Wars” failed in 2010 while “Rebuild of Evangelion 2.0” missed its qualifying theater run by a month. Similarly passed over films that qualified were the late Mamoru Oshii’s final animated film “The Sky Crawlers” and Bones‘ “Sword of the Stranger”.

This year 3 anime films have qualified for nominations out of a total pool of 19 in the award ceremony. Probably the best shot at a possible nomination and win is “The Wind Rises” submitted by GKids being former winner Miyazaki’s final film after announcing that he was retiring earlier this year. Another Gkids submitted film is Production I.G.’s 2011 movie “A Letter to Momo”. The most surprising one to make the list is the Aniplex submitted and long awaited otaku favorite “Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie – Rebellion“. The film which just opened in Japan a few weeks ago and will be making its premiere through the US and Canada on the weekend of December 6th in over 60 cities after an experimental limited run of the first two recap movies last year is by the far the most unconventional entry on the list and could be hindered by the fact that it is the third in a trilogy. It is strange not to see Funimation make a qualifying run with either its currently screening “Wolf Children” or upcoming release of “Rebuild of Evangelion 3.33” seeing their past interest in the awards.

Rules in the category may also lead to an advantage for nominations. This will be the fifth year that enough films have qualified to extend the nomination’s list to five which in the past has led to surprise runs. Another rule placed by the academy requires voters for nominations in the animated film category to have seen all participating films. While not an advantage, it elevates limited run films to an equal chance of earning a vote. All of this along with a weak field of the normally nominated American releases including a poor critical response to 7 time winners Pixar’s newest film has this looking like it may be the year for anime to shine.

Funimation Dragon Ball Z Blu-ray Re-release Problems

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Dragon Ball Z has been a best seller for Funimation ever since it started releasing the singles in 2003 and since then has re-released at least the first 34 episodes of the series 5 times through box sets of various qualities. Fan outrage over an Amazon listing and subsequent trailer sparked on twitter over yet another re-release of the first set of DBZ episodes, their second this year alone. The set seeks a second attempt at putting the series out on Blu-ray after the first set of releases were canceled in 2011 with only 2 sets released after reportedly low sales; while 2 more sets were planned and have product pages. The failure of the first set of releases can be attributed to being released around the same time as the Dragon Ball Z Kai Blu-rays and the still high selling DBZ dvd season box sets, commonly referred to as the “orange bricks”.

The trailer has since been taken down but has been captured and uploaded to YouTube. The problems with these new Blu-rays start with the aspect ratio. The show which originally was produced in 4:3 has been “remastered” to 16:9 widescreen for the orange bricks. This led to a major loss of picture with a very noticeable portion of the top and bottom of the screen being cropped out, after the failure of the first Blu-rays Funimation is going back to this style for the new releases.

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The picture quality of this release is also a concern as the picture has been smoothed out so not to look as grainy. This problem may go over many casual fans as the technique puts the show close to par with the clean look of newer released anime at the loss of major detail. The reason the orange bricks sold so well comes from the misconception that widescreen is better quality no matter the circumstances, which can be seen from taking a look at the various one-star reviews on the Amazon page for the first Blu-rays. A long with this comes the lowest price point I have seen for an anime release, with 30+ episodes for around $20 a piece. You can still see today the misunderstanding of the anime home video market with recent Aniplex of America complete shows that go for hundreds of dollars, which is still less than the Japanese market price. So with prices so low casual fans are happy to buy no matter the quality as long as it is cheap, leading to this being the base quality of release for the show.

In the end though, all of this would not be as big of a problem if the hardcore fan base had a release that fits their needs, but this is not the case as of now. Arguably the best release of the show by Funimation comes from the Dragon Boxes, a premium limited edition release of the show in its original 4:3 aspect ratio taken from the Japanese release. This release was limited in Japan and so had to be similarly limited in its region one release with no repressing in site. This leaves the boxes out of print with most now sold out including box two which goes for $600+ new on Amazon.