Monthly Archives: March 2008

Gurren Lagann Trailer

The trailer for the movie is up on youtube in a grainy totally cam stolen edition, so if you want to watch it check it out HERE. The quality is not that good in that there are background noises from the stealer, but you still get a chance to see some of the new animation as well as all the characters making their appearances. REJOICE!

The Day The Earth Stood Still

Sure Irma and I are not excited about this remake being made at all, but it was nevertheless being filmed right across and all around us at our studio where the show is recorded on Simon Fraser University’s campus. We managed to get a bunch of cool photos of some of the things that were going on including lights, props, and the chaos that is movie making here in “Hollywood North.”

Sakura Con Cosplay Pics

I took a few cosplay photos while stumbling around the convention as well as a few snap shots of the beautiful archway that lead over to where the registration area was in the Washington State Convention Center. I also shows you what the place looked like before the chaos of Saturday. So enjoy the tranquility and the costumes.

Sakura Con Day 3

Today I had the fun and honour of sitting down with the wonderful Hiroshi Nagahama, here at Sakura Con 2008. Nagahama-san is the director of the gorgeous Mushishi, plus he has done work on the popular Fruits Basket and Utena series, as well as personal favourite of mine, Sexy Commando. I sat and talked with him through the help of a translator, the wonderful Rai Kamishiro, about the above series, biological science fiction (a HUGE theme in Mushishi), his new Detroit Metal City project, and a host of other things. I hope you guys enjoy this as much as I did doing it.

Day 3 in all though was quite relaxing as I managed to snag a Haruhi Suzumiya 45 RPM single of Hare Hare Yukai, which is a pretty sweet little collectors item. Anime tunes on vinyl is not something you see everyday. I also got a chance to pick up Ultraklystron’s new disc “Open Source Lyricist,” which I am totally playing on the show next week. It is devastating nerdcore awesomeness to say the least. Other than that it was a nice slow relaxing day as me and the crew did a bit of poking around, last minute shopping, and grabbed a quick bit of food and snacks before we hit the road back to Canada, and back home from another Sakura Con. Despite some of the problems I have reported though I had a great time and I hope to come back again next year and check it out. Also look forward to more pictures as I hook up my camera and hopefully soon get some news, views, and stuff some of the friends I went down with to pass along to you. Speaking of which Jesse Betteridge has posted some stuff over at his site, so check that out. In the mean time though, enjoy the Nagahama!

Posted are also pics of the convention center, some cosplayers, as well as some shots of me interviewing Nagahama and the most excellent translator who helped us out. Kudos also to my friend and homey, Craig Young for snapping the photos of the interview session.
Sakura Con Day 3

Wrong Ep of JPod Aired

Sure they are canceling a series that was only supposed to run for 13 eps anyway, but the strangeness of that announcement a while back does not match the strangeness of airing episode 12 instead of episode 11 by mistake! Our tax dollars at work. On the CBC Jpod Website you can view the proper episode 11, but there is no word if it will get a proper air date. In the words of Ethan, “Nice one, Coupland.”

Sakuracon Day 2 – A Day of Martial Law

OK who called the cops? seriously. For a considerable period of time the top floor of the convention center was under a sort of lock down as due to an enormous long line-up for the Ali Project concert and a Gaia Online Panel, police were suddenly called in order to prevent anyone from going up and down stairs effectively sealing off the upstairs portion. Some people I spoke with heavily blamed the Gaia Online panel that overfilled its room. Once con staff tried to reduce the crowding in the room, the people in the panel joined the huge throng of people outside and started blocking escalators and causing a general ruckus leading to the police to intervene. Due to the larger numbers as well, the line ups for the Ali Project concert stretching in huge spirals around the hallways. This same problem resulted in the cosplay show being delayed by one hour as they had difficulties dealing with the numbers of people.

The numbers in general yesterday were indeed huge. In certain places where I had no difficulty moving around on Friday as well as in the last two years at the convention center were made difficult to move around in. It made me wonder at one point if Sakuracon had even outgrown the convention center they just moved to 3 short years ago. It truly is remarkable seeing this convention triple in size in terms of attendance over the past few years. Although I am beginning to wonder if it has grown too big too fast.

The actual convention though yesterday did deliver the highlight of the weekend as Ali Project performed a knockout show complete with dancing drag queens and a twin violin attack, launched on stage along with the wonderful Arika Takarano, who resembles a flowing Asian vampire. All the while Mikiya Katakura stodd at the back like a sleak and cool maestro keeping the backbeat moving on a mac and keyboards, gracefully tapping his white sneakers behind the dimmed sinister lights. The music itself though lives up to the pagentry. Ali Proiect is probably best known for their brilliant Anime theme tunes, but also their dark gothic lyrics that would not be out of place sung by a black metal outfit. Instead they have channeled a unique blend of techno, orchestra touches, soaring violins, and operatic vocals that is all together simply epic. They performed most of the theme songs I was hoping for along with a few I forgot like all the Rozen Maiden themes, the slamming Noir theme, and Avenger’s opening and closing themes, and also the brand new Shigofumi theme, which was accompanied by a looped animation sequence of the opening animation on the large screen behind them. I will provide pictures of this hopefully soon, because seriously missing this was not an option.

I later attended another great panel with Roland Kelts and Marty LeGrow, the authors of Japanamerica and Bizenghast respectfully, who expanded on the what Roland discussed yesterday in terms of Japanese cool, but also he talked in length with Marty about her experiences as a female comic artist. She discussed how Sailor Moon and its fashions, but also its all girl cast that appealed to her as a teenage girl not used to anything but Jem and She-ra as offerings from North American comics and cartoons that was directed and also about females. She admitted that as she got into anime and manga, she did discover the same overt discrimination as in North American cartoons and comics, but there was still a large amount of shows and series that captured a lot of the fashion, the kawaii (cute), and complexities that she found lacking in things outside of manga and anime in other graphic mediums. I am guessing this meant science fiction and printed reading was not an option, but then again, she did graduate with a degree in sequential art. They also further discussed how the manga style gave her a voice in terms of creating Bizenghast, which she tried to get into American Independent comics, but ended up with Tokyopop that was beginning to publish original works along with its translations of Japanese and Korean comics.

Later I attended the Japanese Mangaka panel which featured the authors of Chibi Vampire, Yuna Kagesaki, and Battle Vixens, Yuji Shiozaki, which are both published by Tokyopop. Both of these comics have also been made into anime, which is a huge accomplishment for relatively new mangakas. They both discussed their influence and film was hardly a surprise as inspiring them both, but especially Shiozaki. I asked him how he adapted the moving image of the film to the still image of the comic, but still able to convey the frenetic movement that occurs especially in his battle sequences. He revealed that it was body positions that he studied in terms of the movement, but also he used himself as a sort of living model. He revealed that he posed often in front of the mirror while he was working, often taking off his clothes, and then took photos of himself in order to get that still image from the movements he would do, but also from what he was thinking about in movies. He also said this had unfortunately lead to him being caught in the act by his wife, who has voiced her displeasure of his weirdness. It was also interesting to hear both of them discuss female characters in terms of their ideals. Battle Vixens although being drawn for a young male audience and containing much of the male gaze nevertheless has strong female characters who kick ass, but nevertheless remain aware of the male gaze in their disrobing. Shiozaki responded that he likes quieter women, and finds it far more attractive, but finds himself drawing much more ribald female characters in his manga. Kagesaki on the other hand liked drawing much more troubled more faulted females in her work, and if you have read Chibi Vampire, or seen the anime adaption, this is the case as her female lead, Karin, struggles with in a family of vampires. She herself is an “unvampire” she injects blood into her victims instead of sucking it out. It was also interesting to hear that neither read much manga, but were still inspired to create in the form and are enjoying it as a creative as well as financial opportunity.

Next I was off to the Bandai Entertainment panel, which again was very drab. So far the Tokyopop panel has been the only panel of note for its interesting subject matter as opposed to the dry delivery of trailers and release dates. The only exciting thing about the Bandai Entertainment panel was perhaps the news and excitement around “The Girl Who Leaped Through Time,” which looks like quite an exciting movie. Bandai Entertainment is going to be releasing it theaters, but they could not announce which ones at the moment except that it will be debuting at the New York Anime Fest in a month or two. I seriously hope it is going to be coming to a place where I can see it in all its big screen glory. The character designs are done by the one and only Sadamoto, who did the designs and the brilliant manga adaption of Evangelion.

One thing that I have noticed though is that there is more press in the industry panels than in any of the creator panels. It seems people who do reporting are far more interested in covering the movements and actions of North American companies than talking with and discussing techniques and artistry. It kind of saddens me a bit because the creator panels are far more interesting in terms of discussing the artform that we enjoy rather than the crunching of economics and consumerism.

Speaking of the business side of things though there has been some shocking no-shows to planned panels by industry heads, one of which is clearly ducking away from fans. Friday saw Viz pull a no show to what was going to be a rare appearance for them at a convention. Saturday saw Ocean Studios, a well known dubbing studio were MIA as well. Sunday however, we were informed that the Bandai Visual Panel was canceled. This is hardly a surprise as last year Bandai Visual and their ridiculously overpriced DVDs were he subject of many an attack from the audience at their panel. They do have considerable money invested in the convention, and they do have a presence in terms of a booth, but in ducking the questions of fans and media alike is hardly something I was hoping to see. They are also continuing to be blind to the fact that the Japanese market and the American market are greatly different in terms of pricing and expectations. It is unfortunate too because they have some really exceptional titles like Gunbuster and Gunbuster 2, Wings of Honneamise, and others, but their pricing and distribution is just not what is going to bring them success in the North American market that is requiring forward thinking and new approaches as it is. At least they are trying to convey their products as collectors items and luxuries, but with brilliant packaging and extras that are being done by other North American companies it really seems hardly worth the money they are charging.

After the panels, it was back to hotel room to a defeat at Star Munchkins, which a group of friends had managed to lug along and it good times. Also caught the latest episode of South Park before it was bed time, and enjoyed every minute of it. Tomorrow it is the final day, and I am actually writing this waiting for the arrical of Hiroshi Nagahama, who is unfortunately half and hour late! So hopefully he does not pull a Viz/Bandai Visual/Ocean Studios and arrives shortly so I can do an interview and present it in all its glories for those of you who have been following me in my journeys. So until later, See you all!

HiSciFi – Mar.28.08 – Live with Michael Geist, Sakura-Con, and Centre for Digital Media

Michael Geist joins us live to discuss the bandwidth throttling by Canadian Internet Services Providers, Net Neutrality, rise of new and death of old media. Jevon reports live from Sakura-con, giving us the taste of anime and cos-play-a-plenty, and Stephen Danic from Centre for Digital Media, on rise of new digital media disciplines.
HiSciFi – Mar.28.08 – Live with Michael Geist, Sakura-Con, and Centre for Digital Media

Sakura Con Day 1

Well Day 1 is in the books and now it is Day 2. We get to finally see the Ali Project performance, and if it is anything as good as what we saw at the Opening Ceremony, then it should be good. The Ceremony kicked off with last year’s convention chair trying in vain to do a job as an MC and did quite a good job despite a few order changes that came up on the fly. They wheeled out the Congressman for the area and also a member of the Japanese Consulate who came equipped with a Doraemon mask.

Doraemon has recently been named a Japanese Cultural Ambassador, as Japan seeks to capitalize on not only its cool factor of late tied to its animation and manga, but also project a cute and cuddly face to the world. It is also interesting to see animation made by private companies being used by the government to convey foreign policy messages abroad. Imagine if Mickey Mouse was named by George Bush as an Ambassador, or Casey and Finnegan were sent off on a world tour of good will by Harper. Bill C-10 hardly comes to mind when you think of this sort of thing taking place in North America.

Nevertheless, dignitaries aside, each of the major guests were given a quick intro and received rapturous applause by the crowd. Some like Ali Project, were brought on stage to be introduced. Ali Project came out flanked by six foot tall drag queens in flowing robes and platform shoes. Definitely the sort of thing I was hoping for from the orchestral pop duo with delightfully macabre lyrics. They have also done some of my favourite anime opening theme tunes, so I hoping to hear them soon in a couple of hours actually. EXCITEMENT!

Although the real excitement came later as I had a chance to sit down with Roland Kelts and discuss his new revised and expanded paperback edition of the book he published in 2006 called “Japanamerica.” In the book he seeks to answer the question why Japan and why now in terms of its animation suddenly becoming “cool” over here in North America. He and I talked about how cyberpunk and the few shows that did trickle over during the 1970s and early 1980s built up to the explosion of interest in North America for what has been produced in Japan on the cheap for the past 50 years in its current modern form. However, despite this explosion of interest that has seen convention attendance sky rocket, internet buzz explode, and Hollywood clamouring for titles to adapt, anime DVD sales have plummeted creating what Roland Kelts described in his panel as a “crisis.” It was an interesting theme given that the first slide of the first media panel I intended that was put up on a screen was “Don’t Panic.” This of course was from the wonderful Hitchiker’s through the anime universe known as Funimation. Funimation of course is doing just swimmingly thanks to shrewd title acquisitions and a willingness to embrace digital distribution and form and this does not just mean Itunes. Kelts however underlined that there is a real problem with this in Japan as most of the companies still operate under old dinosaur like figures, who don’t even use email let alone read contracts for the distribution of their shows. Added to this is the problem that most animation studios are run down little hovels paying their workers nothing for long ridiculous hours on shows that will only be sold to tv stations for the equivalent of $3 000 US, a price that has not changed since Osamu Tezuka was selling Astro Boy to Japanese television. He even then was accused of dumping his shows for cheap in order to gain wide exposure, but also push out the competition. In other words DVD sales remian crucial to any of the small time slave driven workers to receive any sort of royalties, if at all. Kelts described though at how the generation gap in terms of digital distribution and change in general has been so crippling that it endangers the industry at as a whole. Added to this of course is the North American Industry that is also seeing DVD sales plummet and demands undergoing a huge change. Fans now want box sets and little delay over when and where they get their shows instead of the 8-12 month wait that usually accompanies a show’s release in Japan to when it comes out in North America. However, with the fear of cheaper North American DVDs being sold and Japan, coupled with the resistance and unwillingness to change has resulted in the crisis that Kelts discussed.

I also sat and chatted with Roland Kelts about the interesting cultural exchanges that are going in terms of the creation of what has been described as “New Manga.” He pointed out that this is not just unique to English speaking fans, as the entire world seems interested in producing its own manga. We discussed also how anime itself was rooted in Tezuka’s love of Bambi, but also how things like cosplay was an American invention in Star Trek conventions and how it is now been adopted by anime fans on both sides of the Pacific and through out the world. So there is a lot of cross pollination going on. Nevertheless, when I questioned him about genre and the reverse racism that seems to be going on with foreign audiences insistence on real anime by real Japanese people, there is still the creation of wonderful new hybrids and explorations of using the artform, and manga in particular, that have come out. “Bizenghast,” by Marty Le Grow, being one of them that is released by Tokyopop. He pointed out that in the end it really does not matter what kind of genre you want to call it, and whatever the so-called purists say, what really matters is stuff that is worth reading, worth watching, and worth enjoying.

After that wonderful discussion and the purchase of Roland Kelts book to take home and peruse, I sat down and talked with Lillian Dee of Tokyopop. I mentioned to her how it was interesting to see that of the five people that comprised her panel, four of them were women. She explained that the manga industry, and especially Tokyopop, is largely driven in terms of its sales by teenage girls, and how this is a huge departure from the traditional 30 to 40 year old male super hero comic buyer. She explained how things like yaoi and boys love, but also shoujo comics and other manga that go beyond portraying women as marrying material have engaged female audiences in North America. I asked her in particular why yaoi and boys love was in particular had been seeing such wide popularity compared to shoujo ai titles featuring lesbian relationships. She answered that there really was no competition from other media. Lesbian styled pornography for men is already in abundance, where smut for women is not as prevelant. Yaoi really gives women the chance to enjoy their porn, but it also creatively explores and questions gender itself, which also a recurring theme in shoujo manga as well. I then asked her favourites and she mentioned a lot of titles I like, for instance Monster, which is fantastic, but for yaoi she mentioned “Loveless” a title she has been working on and has thoroughly enjoyed.

All in all it was a great day except for some issues with a bad microphone that has robbed me of some great interviews, but nevertheless, it was great to sit and chat with some people and really discuss some of the interesting parts of what I really enjoy about anime and manga. Now onto Day 2!

Off to Sakura Con

The bags are packed, recording equipment is tested, and I am good to go. Just sitting back and enjoying some Eureka 7 before I jet off down to Seattle for the weekend. A buddy of mine and I have even made a touching tribute to Alexsey Vayner, the internet phenom and high sultan of douchebaggery, in the form of a mix of tunes and quotes from the man himself. Apart from that though, pay attention for pics, news, and interviews to be here on the site soon live from a Seattle hotel room.

Skrulls: Secret Invasion Coming Out!

by Irma Arkus

Marvel is ready for its release of Secret Invasion comic series.

The appearance of Skrulls, the shapeshifting deviants plotting against so many of your heroes, and Earthlings, was first intimated in New Avengers #1 (read: long time ago). Since then, we have experienced Skrulls in many forms. From small grey ones with laser guns, to more sophisticated copies of your favorites, exhibiting their visage as well as their powers, such as in case of Elektra.

The fabulous thing about Skrulls is that they are a dark, mysterious alien force, a threat so grave that seemingly entire Marvel universe must coalesce in order to resist. Skrulls are bent on elimination of Earthlings, because as we found out, their very religion posits that Earth really belongs to them, rather than us…and those overdeveloped, spandex-wearing, muscle-bound demi-gods.

So many excellent plot-lines, so many unsolved mysteries are owed to appearance of Skrulls, and their shadowy, Machiavellian plans. Most recently, the Hulk-gone-red phenomenon has been discussed at length, and all fingers point to possibility of Skrulls having something to do with these drastic changes.

The most interesting thing about Skrulls is that their carefully planned interference has caused fragmentation across the superhero lines. Friends cannot trust friends any more, and there are no longer any enemies, because the humanity itself is in peril.

As a result, Nick Fury and Iron Man are both trying to independently assemble a trustworthy team that will help spur off the incoming Skrull attack, bringing to light new faces and old enemies.

The Secret Invasion series is a stroke of genious. Why? Because it reinvents fear. Constant and continuous paranoia of our heroes is coupled with desire to form communities, cooperate and survive. And yet, the mistrust, combined with fear of other: a possibly more superior, more crazy, religious other, the kind that appears normal one minute, and then changes shape into a dangerous, fanatical other; is blinding and dividing.

Strangely enough, just as Bond performed for us the exaggerated fears of Cold War conflict, the Secret Invasion too taps into our contemporary confusion and fear fueled by ideas behind terrorists, Iraq War, as well as economic and political corruption.

Marvel has already released a sneak preview of Secret Invasion: Prologue. And this week, has an exclusive look at the first 10 pages of Marvel’s first issue.