Junker Woland

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rosario+Vampire Manga – No Tits for You

I want to avoid overly editorializing the issue, as I haven’t yet confirmed this myself. But with the source being the (former) Anime on DVD forums, according to this post, VIZ has decided to censor two instances of exposed breasts in Rosario+Vampire Season II volume #2.

What I can confirm (and as the above banner image partially reveals) is that the Japanese volume contains two panels where Kurumu, the succubus character, does indeed expose her bare breasts. According to the forum post, VIZ’s edition, which hit stores today, clothes the supple succubi’s naked flesh in a made-to-order bra.

Considering how VIZ maintains no standards on when it decides to censor a title, and that Rosario+Vampire has consistently ranked as one of their best selling series, it’s easy to guess why a manga that often places on The New York Times best seller list and can still be readily found on bookstore shelves has had all traces of purity-destroying naughty bits expunged from its pages.

As a fan of the series, and one who has bought all the volumes VIZ has released thus far, I can’t help but be angered by a company that continually edits and censors their products, without ever having the decency to notify their fans ahead of time. It’s this type of treatment that makes me want to forego buying anything from the company, even the manga and anime they treat with the utmost of care.

Regardless, if the censorship is true (and I’m sure it is), this is yet another title I will no longer purchase from them. And to think I was just beginning to get over their stealth-canceling of the Bastard!! manga (and yes, if you haven’t yet realized, they cancelled Bastard!!)…


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

San Diego Comic-Con 2010 – The Licensing

Another year, another Comic-con in the beautiful sun-drenched city of San Diego (I was there last November and, man, does Fred’s Mexican Café make a mighty fine Margarita). Of course, Comic-Con is all about those paperbound, spandex-wearing champions of justice, and the money-generating movies they inspire, but that doesn’t mean us anime and manga fiends don’t get thrown a few bones. Since coverage of such tends to be spotty, here’s a rundown of the newly announced licenses at last week’s show. (Note: unless explicitly stated, all titles are manga.)

- Tales of the Abyss (anime)
- Turn A Gundam (anime)
- Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maiden

Considering their often delayed titles and stench of death emanating from the company as of late, it was surprising to see Bandai hit San Diego, not only with new licenses, but new anime. Of their offerings, Turn A Gundam is probably the most significant. This 50-episode TV series originally airing in 1999, and the last Gundam show directed by series creator Yoshiyuki Tomino, will finally make its long-overdue debut in the US. And the Kannagi manga, inspiration for the similarly titled anime (which is already available in the US), is another decent acquisition that should please many fans—I just hope Bandai does a better job with this one than they did on the Lucky Star manga, with its poor English localization and cheap paper.

Vertical Inc.
- Lychee Light Club, by Usamaru Furuya

Vertical, one of my favorite publishers, came a bit light to San Diego, only announcing Lychee Light Club, a somewhat gory and extreme single-volume manga from Usamaru Furuya (Sadly, another anticipated series by Furuya, 51 Ways to Save Her, was announced at last year’s Comic-con by DC Comics' CMX Manga division, which has since been shuttered.)

Top Shelf
- Cigarette Girl, by Masahiko Matsumoto

I’m not familiar with the work or the author, but Top Shelf is a classy publisher, so the book should be worth a look, at the very least.

Yen Press
- High School of the Dead, by Daisuke Sato and Shoji Sato
- UraBoku (Betrayal Knows My Name), by Hotaru Odagiri
- Otoyomegatari, by Kaoru Mori
- Higurashi: When They Cry Demon Exposing Arc, by Ryukishi07 and En Kitou

I do so love Yen Press. UraBoku and the next Higurashi installment are solid, fan-friendly additions, but what has me really excited are Otoyomegatari, the new series by Kaoru Mori (of A Victorian Romance Emma fame) and High School of the Dead, a zombie-survival manga with an ample supply of tits-n-ass, from writer Daisuke Sato and artist Shoji Sato (best known for his erotic doujinshi created under the pen-name Inazuma).

(For those more animatedly inclined, Sentai Films has already licensed the High School of the Dead anime for US distribution…now lets just hope we get the show on Blu-ray.)

Drawn and Quarterly
- NonNonBa, by Shigeru Mizuki
- Onwards Towards Our Noble Deaths, by Shigeru Mizuki

D&Q has on offer two works from Shigeru Mizuki, best known as the creator of GeGeGe no Kitaro. While I can’t profess any knowledge of the two aforementioned series, given that they’re from the renowned Mr. Mizuki and the care D&Q pays to all their meticulously chosen titles, you can bet both will be great books.

- Sakura no Ichiban!, by Yuna Kagesaki
- Pavane for a Dead Girl, by Koge-Donbo
- Keppeki Shounen Kanzen Soubi, by Touya Tobina

And, rounding things out is Tokyopop. The only thing I can really say about their titles is I like Koge-Donbo, she created Di Gi Charat, so, yeah…

And finally, while it wasn’t announced at the San Diego Comic-Con, Sentai Films licensed CANNAN, a 13-episode series conceptualized by Type-Moon, the company that created the massively popular Tsukihime and Fate/Stay Night franchises.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Gunpla Builders – Xtreme Product Placement

I’ve been waiting for the trailer to hit Le Tube before posting, since the streaming version on Bandai’s site was woefully wonky.

So feast your eyes upon product whoring taken to godly levels: Mokei Senshi Gunpla Builders: Beginning G!

To explain: Gunpla is a Japanese portmanteau for those Gundam plastic model kits Bandai cranks out each year by the thousands, and Gunpla Builders is a three-part anime project (handled by Sunrise, of course) made to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the aforementioned time sinks.

The series follows Haru Irei as he ventures into the exciting world of fragile plastic joints, expensive detailing pens, and the intoxicating smell of modeling glue. Of course, it just wouldn’t be a Gundam show, even one only quasi-related to the actual series, without the signature robots shooting guns and hacking parts off each other with laser swords.

Thankfully, Bandai has an answer to what otherwise would have been a dire lack of robot battling: have these masters of injection-molded Polystyrene settle their heated rivalries the way only nerds can, through digital avatars courtesy of the Kidō Senshi Gundam: Senjō no Kizuna arcade game.

Gotta give it to Bandai for knowing how to exploit their products to the fullest. First episode of Gunpla Builders hits August 15. While the trailer doesn’t have me too excited, even forgetting the exaggerated rivalries, cheesy video game fights, and the fat-hamburger-eating kid, I’m hoping the show will channel just a bit of that Genshiken/Comic Party vibe that I dig so much.


Akai Katana – New Shooter by CAVE

Via the GAF, by way of the CAVE-STG forum...

After taking a short respite with the more casual DeathSmiles titles, looks like the diehards over at CAVE are returning to the danmaku genre of shooters for which they’re best known.

While only featuring a background image and short trailer (with no gameplay), check-out the website for their new game: Akai Katana.

(You can also view the trailer on YouTube: Linku.)

News is currently scarce (not surprising for a CAVE title pre-location testing), but the game is set to test (in Japan) at HEY arcade this coming July 23 – 26, with a targeted release in August 2010.

Known info so far:
- Danmaku type horizontal scrolling shooting game
- Hardcore military shooter
- Each ship has a pair of characters (pilot and gunner?) with specific attacks
- Each ship changes its attacks when you change "mode"
- The characters (enemies, allies, and others - all human) are quite diverse
- Ships are designed as hardcore, 1950s style retro mechas
- Game is designed around destructible objects and dodging bullets
- It has been carefully developed for over 1 year.
- Release in summer/fall 2010

A new CAVE shooter, regardless of format, is always welcome news. We’ll almost certainly never see an actual U.S. arcade release, but a console port can be reasonably expected (whether even that would be officially available in the U.S. is another concern).

And on the topic of home ports: Sony, please get over whatever issue you’re having with old-skool (usually sub-HD) games and let companies like CAVE publish their titles for your overpriced Blu-ray player.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Insert Coin – The King of Fighters XIII

Only SNK would release the thirteenth installment of their premier fighting-game series, The King of Fighters, on the fourteenth day of the month…

Regardless, the time has come, at last.

After spending several years valiantly crafting gorgeous all-new sprites, SNK finally seemed to cave to fan and financial pressures by rushing into arcades the overwhelmingly lackluster The King of Fighters XII. Although the roster was limited, with glaring omissions of certain fan-favorite characters, most praised the glorious hand-drawn graphics, but took serious grievances with its slow, muddy play mechanics that barely felt reminiscent of the series, and its lack of storyline or final bosses—recurring criticism of the game was it came-off more like an expensive beta test than a complete piece of software. Sadly, the home release didn’t win the already haggard title any further fans, as the online play was poorly implemented, crippling matches with horrendous lag.

But that time has past. The future, or really the present, is The King of Fighters XIII. Months of previews and testing have buffered the game, revealing lavish backgrounds and more beautiful 2D sprite work, a buxom roster (Mai Shiranui allusion totally intended), and game systems and mechanics favorably compared to KoF2002, the last series entry to receive unanimous acclaim amongst fans (and also one of the few KoF installments still being seriously played in arcades and tournaments).

This all, unfortunately, means a whole lotta nothing for us poor Joes living in the “land of the free, and the home of the brave,” as all we know about a possible U.S. arcade release is one might be coming this summer (assuming SNK’s placeholder of an English website can be believed). Given this is a Taito Type X2 game, one can expect the arcade software alone will probably run in the $2,000 range (the price is currently TBA at one of the better U.S. arcade retailers).

Of course, there’s always the inevitable home release, with fans across the globe praying to whatever electronic deity they hold dear that SNK gifts this title with functioning online play (if BlazBlue can move blessedly smooth online, so should KoFXIII, damnit). While no information on a home version has yet been announced, even considering SNK’s general loyalty to arcade owners, one would think we’ll see a console release by early 2011, at latest.

So for now, U.S. citizens, lets enjoy some random linkage & videos…

- Japanese KoF XIII website, Blog, and Arcade Countdown site
(Countdown site has some awesome technical gameplay videos)

And what would a blog post be without an embedded video? Well, how ‘bout some hotness from the game’s opening cinematic? Hit the jump to view the opening movie in all its 2D-hard-rocking goodness...


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Haruhi on Blu-ray – My Wallet Bleeds

This isn’t the freshest of news, but well, welcome to the Internets!

As has been reported on other sites, the hyperactive (and possibly divine) schoolgirl that’s taken the Japanese-otaku populace by storm over the last few years is finally getting her anime-self a shiny Blu-ray release, set to hit retail on 10/22/2010...in Japan, that is.

Besides all 28 episodes covering both seasons of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (including the unfortunately awful "Endless Eight" portions), this Blu-ray box set also features two concerts and various other promotional materials filmed for the series.

Now, maybe your saying, “Why should I care: Moonspeak, I can’t understand you!” But you see, the generous (or greedy, depending on how you view things) fellows over at Kadokawa have decided to grace this release with English Subtitles (at least for the TV episodes, the extra material will probably remain Japanese-only).

Anyone willing to take an admittedly-steep plunge can reap a sweet harvest over at Amazon.co.jp, where all this can be yours for the unfathomably cheap price (compared to most Japanese anime releases) of ¥29,526…or roughly USD $340.

I mean, that’s not too bad? Right? Right?

Regardless, my order has been placed. The question, is whether it will remain open...


Friday, July 09, 2010

Last Caress – Hellsing Volume #10 Review

A year-and-a-half can build mighty powerful expectations, the types of impossible hopes and desires even the most talented individual could never completely fulfill. Kohta Hirano is a very fine manga-ka. He has an artistic style that slams you in the face like a freight train and a willingness (or maybe lack of restraint) to lose himself in absurdity for the sake of telling an entertaining tale. But even with his considerable talent, Mr. Hirano is still more the court jester than master storyteller, one possibly hamstrung by a medium demanding lighting-fast output and oftentimes immediate positive feedback.

After six-and-a-half long years, rivers of blood, and mountains of corpses, did Hirano’s take on the now-worn vampire genre go peacefully to its grave, or did the beast sink into the damp earth clawing and screaming at the frosty night? Hit the jump to read more.

In the intervening period between Hellsing Volume #9 and this climatic Volume #10, I chose to avoid any mention of the ending, wanting instead to go into this book a blank slate, looking for a pure reading experience. With this in mind, Hellsing Volume #10, taken alone, presents a decidedly rushed summation of the decisive battle between the Hellsing organization’s remnants and Millennium’s freakish super monsters and hoard of nazi-vampiric ghouls. It’s not a particularly satisfying read, nor does it deliver any especially memorable moments.

To be fair, one should remember manga is made for Japanese audiences who can follow a series, before ever compiled into tankoubon, through fairly regular magazine installments—they receive a more natural exposure to a story’s ebb and flow than U.S. consumers with our irregularly released graphic novels.

As a whole, Hellsing has always moved at an electric pace, speeding through material and storylines, while abandoning much attempt at denouement. Still, it should be considered, regardless of how events developed, the series is essentially relating a single encapsulated narrative over ten distinct volumes. The first two books are largely autonomous, introducing characters and establishing concepts, but by the third and fourth we’re already delving into issues involving the Millennium group; and volume five sparks the remaining events that carry us through the rest of the series.

Possibly due to manga’s unique publishing nature, and stresses placed on creators to meet insane deadlines, there often seems to be a tendency of titles evolving into their stories, instead of having well-planned dramatic arcs. In the case of Hellsing, the resulting product has been somewhat lopsided. Before ever reaching these closing chapters, four books have been entirely devoted to Millennium’s invasion of London and the ensuing battle. That’s a ton of pages detailing scant else besides carnage and death, all leading into this last tome tasked with an unenviable job of resolving the remaining mess. Wrangling the existing plot together and creating a smooth resolution isn’t helped, either, when the three main protagonists are all presented in their own self-contained vignettes.

Volume #10 essentially stitches together the final throws of each character’s ordeal: Alucard faces-off against the traitorous Walter, Seras struggles to overcome the superior fighting prowess of a Nazi werewolf, and Integra pushes towards her fated confrontation with the Major. Even though this trio may share a similar goal, the lack of cohesion about their movements leaves one with the impression of jumping between three separate stories.

Further complicating matters is the climax of their individual trials came in the preceding book—Volume #10 is merely on clean-up duty. Alucard (as has been his routine throughout the manga) was going easy on the physically youthful butler—and besides, his true rival was the now-defeated Alexander Anderson, taking a good deal of wind out of this battle from the start; Seras had already found the inner resolve to vanquish her beastly opponent; and there was never any doubt who would win in a physical confrontation between Integra and the Major, it was only a matter of the steely heroine remaining alive long enough mount her attack on the bloated warmonger’s zeppelin. Much as compiling these portions is an obvious necessity, when they comprise the entire contents of a terminal text, what ultimately exists is far from a compelling read.

There is a slight unexpected twist, involving the crimson-clad bloodsucker and a certain Nazi catboy, but the turn is employed in such a forced manner and so late in the proceedings it provides little impact on the occult war that has decimated the misty British city. Sadly, this minor episode seems to exist purely as an excuse to add a bit more meat to the volume’s flagging epilogue, which shoots us about two decades into a future where Millennium’s chaos has been cleansed and Hellsing’s ranks have mostly been restocked.

I do appreciate Hirano not ending things on a dour note, an affliction I find unduly plagues too many a manga and anime. Hellsing isn’t meant to be highbrow stuff, and while one can legitimately question whether the battle in London should have raged across such a vast quantity of pages, the series overall has been just as good a piece of horror business as anything else you’ll find throughout the comic book medium. It’s just a shame the chapters in these last few volumes couldn’t have found themselves with a more judicious ordering, one that maintained a sense of dramatic tension and delivered a more dynamic finale.


Thursday, July 01, 2010

Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin On – Toradora! DVD #1 Failure

This certainly wasn’t what I intended for my first update in over a year, but right now my sinuses are getting besieged by a brigade of goopy-yellow mucus, which isn’t helping my brain focus on finishing a review of the final volume of the Hellsing manga (hopefully I’ll have this done in a day or two).

So instead of my patented overly wordy critiques of the dreadful world of Japanese comic book entertainment, I’m dishing out a quick alert on the video issues plaguing the first two anime DVD releases from NIS America, namely the relatively wonderful animated adaptation of light-novel series, Toradora!, and the fairly awful quasi-related-to-the-video-game series, Persona ~ Trinity Soul ~.

Before getting into the more meaty portions of this post, let me prefix by saying: you might want to hold-off on buying either Toradora! or Persona, as the inceptive DVD releases of both shows will be getting remastered to cure some serious visual ailments.

Wanna know more, keep reading…

For the blissfully unaware (and those who no longer care about legally procuring products), NIS America—you may know them as the USA-based arm of the outfit that keeps finding horrific new ways to port their Disgaea games onto any device that connects in some fashion to a video screen—announced back in February they’d be entering into the capsizing domestic anime market, riding on a wish and a handful of new products.

Toradora! and Persona were the initial shows on-deck, each series designed to be released over two beefy DVD collectors’ sets, loaded with artbooks, posters, and other stuff that sits on your shelf and becomes a home for dust mites. Technically, the premier DVD volumes of both anime aren’t slated to hit stores until July 6, 2010, but thanks to the magic of the Internets, people started receiving their bounties this week.

What many of these intrepid pioneers soon discovered was the encoding on the sets was far less than adequate. While various theories have been proffered concerning the cause, the end result is discs that can show an abundance of ghosting (or after images) and aliasing (or jagged edges). The issue is further complicated, though, because the severity of these issues largely depend on one’s A/V setup or computer software (for those who never like to leave their captain’s chair).

Seeing is believing, of course, so here are two links offering proof of the problems in action: Linku 1, Linku 2.

Keep in mind these are still frames. The ghosting may look extreme, but in motion and depending on the hardware/software used to watch the discs, it won’t be as noticeable (and for some, the phantom bodies apparently go by completely undetected).

Thankfully, NIS America has in the span of three days put most other US anime distributors to shame. Instead of barricading themselves in their Santa Ana-based tower with covers over head, waiting for the hoard of angry anime trolls to stop pounding on the digital doors, the usually upstanding company has already announced the sets are being remastered and that a replacement program is in the works.

Those (like myself) who haven’t yet partaken of their animated offerings can follow the quest for remastering on the following webpage: Linku.

And those with faulty discs and giant collectors’ box in-hand can get an early jump on the replacement process: Linku.

It’s always unfortunate when a young horse breaks its stride right out of the gate, but I’m glad to see NIS America isn’t calling it a day. I’m sure their quick response—to what really is a major problem in a largely hobbyist-supported market like anime DVDs—will win them much good tidings and greater financial support in the long-run.