A new take on GODZILLA hits theaters in a new days, and director Gareth Edwards and star Elizabeth Olson fill us in on the road they took to get the popular franchise rebooted. Plus Elizabeth talks about her prep for the role of Scarlet Witch in AVENGERS:AGE OF ULTRON. Meanwhile, out looks like comics will dominate the TV nets next season with no less than five news series!
Each year Unshaven Comics has been around, we’ve declared a goal to meet. At first, the goal was simple: make a comic, and sell it at “the con”. Done. The following year? “Sell more books than we did last year.” Checkity-Check. To be fair, this has remained a sub-goal every year thereafter. In 2013, our goal was to attend literally as many conventions as we could possibly get into, and sell as much merchandise so-as to afford a trip to the glorious Valhalla of conventions, San Diego Comic-Con. Suffice to say, had we emptied out all our coffers? We would have succeeded. But, spoiler alert: We didn’t get accepted as artists for the alley at SDCC. So, we’ve wiped the tears away, and looked towards 2014. As suggested to me by Joe Olmsted, who I’ll actually talk about here in a just a bit, I’d like to share with you the conventions Unshaven Comics will be attending this year… and why we chose them.
Without realizing it, I grew up exposed to the earliest anime, shows like Astro Boy and TheAmazing Three and Kimba the White Lion. It was a quiet invasion overshadowed by louder, more colorful and kinetic American animation on Saturday mornings and classic Warner cartoons on weekday afternoons. As a result, I missed the next great era of American anime such as Space Battleship Yamato and Robotech. It certainly developed a large following in the 1970s and 1980s with the airwaves packed with these shows. In fact there were so many that several shorter-run series were packed together as Force Five. The Wednesday show was known as Spaceketeers and ran for 26 episodes, edited down from 73 episodes and never quite concluded the story.
Now, Shout! Factory has taken the series, which was edited into three different films by Toei in 2009 and is releasing them on disc. The new version was written and directed by William Winckler, no stranger to adapting anime for American audiences given his earlier work on Tekkaman. Starzinger the Movie Collection is 326 minutes of an earlier era of anime and definitely has its fans. Sadly, I’m not among them.
Princess Aurora is a young human surrounded by a trio of cyborgs en route to the Great King planet to restore the Galaxy Energy. Apparently, the Great King’s aging Queen is causing this disruption throughout the universe and balance needs to be restored or life as we know it comes to an end.
The series is based on a serial that first ran in Terebi Magazine with art by Gosaku Ohta, but gained far greater notoriety in animated form (which ran in 1978-1979) thanks to the work done by Leiji Matsumoto, best known for his Captain Harlock work. In both cases, the story is a science fiction updating of a Ming Dynasty story, Journey to the West with Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, now a naïve, teenaged girl.
The original 16th century antecedents were further twisted out of shape when the Japanese was translated into English and the brutal editing shifted the story to that of a mission to the Dekos Star System to stop peaceful beings from being turned into evil mutated lifeforms. A good portion of the story shows Jan Kugo, Sir Djorgo, and Don Hakka, think the Three Musketeers (Spaceketeers, get it?), protecting the Princess during the 30,000 lightyear journey to the source of corruption.
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because the classic Chinese tale also served as inspiration for Dragon Ball and Saiyuki among others. By taking the core story and using elements in each of the three parts, this structurally works as a trilogy and the voice cast — Paul Oberle (Zombrex: Dead Rising Sun), Kyle Rea (The Mythical Detective Loki), and Chase Masterson (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) as Queen Lacet – do a serviceable job.
While the actual animation and design work is fine, it’s also not terribly imaginative nor do the episodes really do anything with the characters so there is little growth over the journey or depth to the characters. If you’re not a diehard anime fan, this grows tedious very quickly. Still, for those who worship Matsumoto’s work, this becomes a must see production.
This past weekend, Unshaven Comics took a leap of faith. We attended our very first Anime Convention. To be honest, we had little expectation. The Samurnauts, while well-rooted in Sentairoots, isn’t Manga in any sense of the word. It’s pastiche. It’s homage. For those not initiated, it appears only to be tongue-in-cheek. But I digress.
We purchased a table at the third annual Anime Midwest show, now in the lovely Hyatt Hotel in Rosemont, Illinois. Considered perhaps to be the little brother to the now monumental A-Cen show from a few months back, we were unsure if the show would be heavily attended and how we would strike the fancy of a fan-base we as a creative unit are only marginally related to.
Oh, how surprised we were. But first, a bit of backstory.
Speaking only for myself, my relationship to the Japanese comic/movie/TV Show empire was one of tepid acceptance. Shortly after meeting Matt and Kyle in 6th grade, it was clear that I would need to get on the Manga train. By 8th grade, Kyle and his brother had a basement full of VHS tapes (both booted from Japanese TV, and purchased at Suncoast Video), and a near encyclopedic knowledge of dozens of series, both in print and on screen. Matt was a longtime fan of Guyver and Neon Genesis Evangelion as well as dozens of other giant robot animes. Just as when your girlfriend decides to be a vegetarian begets your becoming a vegetarian, so too did I find myself sampling several series from across the pond.
I found several that I genuinely loved. The gritty Angel Cop with its leather, boobs, and super psychics. Record of Lodos War, homage to Tolkien with a Japanese twist. Akira, of course. And a smattering of others. I found most Anime to be kindred spirits to the comic books and super heroes I held dear, but with a foreign (natch) and mature manner about itself. Sitting down to a marathon of Evangelion left me both emotionally drained and completely inspired.
Unlike American action, the Japanese love (even in animated form) to let action unfold without a shaking camera. They like to pepper stories with emotional breaks and pauses. Every so often they even let complete sequences go without dialogue, letting the artistry on screen do all the communicating necessary. Their stories tended to be more complex, and with more expansive universes (albeit rarely shared like the DCU or 616). In simplest terms? Manga and Anime represented to me a world and culture that could easily be obsessed over and beloved by a sect of nerd-culture. Me, perhaps, if only from afar.
We were told by many friends that Anime Shows tend to be “friendlier.” Upon entering the hotel, I immediately recognized why. Comic book fans share a love of a wide-berth medium. Anime fans tend to be closer knit. While there are just as many genres, styles, and sub-sub-cultures within the Otaku world, here I noted that the relative age of the fan was younger than I’d been used to seeing at comic-cons. The show itself was also more akin to what comic-cons used to be like. Here was a convention that was built in celebration of the medium, not just vapid promotion. The brunt of the show attendees were there to view episodes, attend panels, contests, discussions, and enjoy the company of their brethren. The dealer room we sat in was merely one small hall amongst several others. Not the star of the show, just another part of it.
It was perhaps this that made things so lucrative for us. With fans able to attend so many different things while at the convention, our little dealer room was there for them to explore and to discover. When we made our pitch, much like at comic-cons, we were met with laughter, and quizzical looks. But unlike comic shows, we rarely heard the all-too-common “I just got here, and I’m making some rounds. I may be back.” Instead, we were given a “yes!” or a very polite “no thank you.” Matt sold 10+ commissions. I sold a few Domos. It was, for all intents and purposes, one of the most profitable shows we’d ever attended.
Beyond simple dollars and cents though, I come out of the experience once again inspired. Here this group of fans still celebrate their medium more than they snark at it from a far. Here cosplayers dress less to impress and more to get hugs and high-fives. Here is a convention more attuned to the type of event I long for (and will see again first hand in Baltimore – which still stands as the most comic-booky con I’ve had the pleasure to attend). I tip my hat to the Otaku. Anime and Manga is a once forgotten love-like of mine that I think I’ll have to revisit. Sometimes all it takes are a few pairs of enormous eyes to open our own, no?
Having drawn capacity crowds for its debut last summer, AniMiniCon SoHo 2011 returns this weekend featuring a great lineup of guests and events, plus the return of the SoHo Host Club, a group of young gentlemen fans of anime and manga, who interact with the crowd and ensure that every guest has a great time!
Guests include voiceover artist and host of Anime News Network TV Mario Bueno, Lizbeth R. Jimenez (creator of Sacred: The Manga) who is scheduled to do a live demonstration of manga illustration techniques; Brian Mah, animator, designer, and visual artist, who will do a live workshop on animation cel inking, plus portfolio reviews for a limited number of pre-registered students; and costume photographer Stephen Tang.
This year’s events include:
Friday Night Cosplay Party with snacks, prizes, and more
Anime Screenings furnished courtesy of Eleven Arts, Inc., including the films [[[Chocolate Underground]]] and [[[Ice]]]. (Note: Both these films have English subtitles.)
Sunday’s Gothic, Lolita, Steampunk, Victorian, and Cosplay Tea featuring high-quality snacks, high-end teas, and other activities
An expanded dealers room
The SoHo Gallery for Digital Art has high-resolution computer-controlled screens, creating the first gallery devoted to the of display digital art, both photographic and computer-created, as well as any traditional work of art that can be scanned in at a high resolution. For AniMiniCon SoHo 2011, the screens will show anime and manga art, as well as photorealistic scenes that transform the gallery into a virtual “time and space” machine.
TICKETS: Purchase 3-day pass online = $30.00 at www.animiniconsoho.com
At the door: 3-day pass = $35.00; one-day pass = $15.00 per day
Welcome to the second article in our series, where American animation and comics and fans of Japanese anime and manga can connect with each other through pairs of titles that share tone, themes or character types in common.
Today’s pairing is about series that have been influenced by classic works of fine arts and literature, but with orginal twists.
BEAUTY AND LITERATURE
Anime directed by Mahiro Maeda, produced by Gonzo studios
Manga written by Mahiro Maeda, illustrated by Yura Arikawa
This is a fantastical re-telling of the classic novel, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, set in a space-faring future with some supernatural elements. Unlike the original novel, which was told from the point of view of the eponymous count, this story is told from the perspective of Albert, a young man who meets the Count at the beginning of the story and eventually discovers they have a disturbing connection. The anime also has a very different ending from the book – so don’t use this as a substitute for reading the book if it’s assigned to you for a class.
The 2004 anime’s most striking features are its lush and unique visuals. Instead of flat planes of color, the figures are depicted with textures and patterns that can delight – or boggle – the eyes. The Comic Con panelists said you can turn off the sound and just gaze in amazement at the characters’ costumes, some of which were created by real-life fashion designer Anna Sui. The series received critical acclaim as well — in 2006, Theron Martin of Anime News Network named Gankutsuou the best series of the year.
There is a manga adaptation of the anime currently being released, but for the full effect of the visuals you should go for the DVDs.
26 episodes, concluded
3 volumes of manga adaptation of anime
2 of 3 volumes released so far
6 DVDs originally released from Geneon, which recently went out of business (but you may still be able to find it. Boxed set available.)
FUNimation has picked up the license and is re-releasing them this year.
Have you ever overheard (or gotten caught in the middle of) an argument between a certain type of fan of mainstream English-language comics and a similar type of fan of Japanese anime and manga? Many of us know a Comic Book Guy who dismisses all anime and manga as nothing more than giant robot fights and salacious encounters of big-eyed schoolgirls with tentacle monsters. Then there’s Mr. Otaku, who dismisses the majority of comics and cartoons (especially American ones) as empty slugfests between over-muscled thugs in spandex.
In reality, both art forms actually have a lot of threads in common. The word “anime” is simply the Japanese word for “animation” (or “cartoons”). The word “manga” is simply the Japanese word used to describe what we usually call “comic books” or “graphic novels.” There’s really no fundamental value judgment inherent in any of these words, which simply describe a type of medium, not a genre, and they’re certainly not in and of themselves a measure of quality.
In fact, the art forms have influenced each other back and forth over the years. For all that some otaku rag on Western culture, the art style that we commonly associate with anime and manga was largely inspired by the cartoons of Walt Disney, brought to Japan by American soldiers after World War II. Osamu Tezuka, often referred to as the "god of manga,” spoke reverentially of Disney (the"Kimba the White Lion" controversy is a whole other matter we won’t go into here). In more recent times, Western artists have been increasingly inspired by anime and manga, to the point where we have things like the Teen Titans cartoon series, which is based on a long-running American comics series, but uses the character design and visual symbols of Japanese anime. Cross-cultural collaborations are becoming increasingly common. A few years ago, Korean-American animation artist Peter Chung, who brought us the Aeon Flux animated series for MTV, was called upon to do the character design for the anime series Reign the Conqueror from Madhouse studios. More recently, Marvel’s Stan Lee has been working with Hiroyuki Takei on the manga Ultimo in Japan, and manga artists have been drawing comics (e.g. Kia Asamiya worked on Batman) for the English-speaking market.
This article is the first of many, based on a panel given at the recent New York Comic Con by Summer Mullins, editor, and Angela Hanson, managing editor, at Anime Insider magazine. Mullins said she is a fan of "old-school" stuff like Ranma 1/2, and also likes Bleach as a "guilty pleasure.” Hanson said her "all-time favorite” is Trigun. Both said they were fans of English-language comics before they were into anime and manga. "The world is shrinking, especially in the digital era," said Hanson. The theme of their panel was how to introduce fans of English-language (especially American) comics to Japanese manga and and anime, and vice versa. To do this, the panelists discussed several match-ups of Japanese series with a Western title that resembles it artistically, thematically, or would otherwise appeal to a common fandom.
In this article, we’ll begin the discussion with some works by very prominent creators in their fields that have been getting a lot of attention in the mainstream media lately. If you are a fan of either Japanese or English-language titles, and are looking to try something new, or if there’s someone you know whose horizons you’d like to expand, why not check some of these out?
REBELS WITH A CAUSE — BUT LITTLE CONSCIENCE
Anime/Manga series: Code Geass Anime series directed by Goro Taniguchi/ written by Ichiro Okouchi.
Manga adaptations illustrated by various artists.
In an alternate high-tech future, the British Empire has never fallen. In fact, it’s added Japan to its conquests, subjugating it and stripping it of its cultural identity by calling it “Area 11” and treating the Japanese as second-class citizens. A teenaged prince of the Empire, Lelouche, is attending boarding school in anonymous exile in Japan when he receives a mysterious psychic power known as the “geass.” Using the code name “Zero,” he uses the power to start a rebellion for Japan’s independence, motivated not so much by sympathy for its people, but more by his own desire for personal revenge against the Empire that wronged him. He is not averse to using ruthless tactics to achieve his goals.
Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion originated as an anime TV series in 2006. The character design, significantly, was done by the superstar shojo manga and anime studio CLAMP. (They’re known for such series as X, Cardcaptor Sakura, Magic Knight Rayearth and Tsubasa.) There is some giant robot mayhem in Code Geass but there are also strong threads of character development, high school drama, family dynamics, and even romance.
Four short manga series have been created so far from the anime series. Each one presents aspects of the plot from the point of view of one of the major characters, though also with differences in certain elements from the anime (this is not uncommon with manga adaptations of anime series). Three of the manga series have been licensed for release in the US so far (issues from two series are currently available).
2 seasons with 25 episodes apiece (total of 50) have aired so far
A third season is planned in the near future
4 manga miniseries adaptations so far
Code Geass: Lelouche of the Rebellion
3 volumes of 5 total currently available
Code Geass: Suzaku of the Counterattack
2 volumes of 2 total currently available
Code Geass: Nightmare of Nunally
No volumes of 5 total available yet
Code Geass: Tales of an Alternate Shogunate
Not released in English yet
Currently airing on cable television, dubbed into English
Check out also www.codegeass.bandai-ent.com for official video streams
Official streaming video sites
5 of 6 volumes of Season 1 have been released in US so far (also in boxed sets)
English-Language Comic Series: V for Vendetta Written by Alan Moore Art by David Lloyd
In an alternate near-future where Britain is a fascist dictatorship, a mysterious masked figure, known only as V, performs acts of terror in rebellion against the government and recruits another to his ideology.
Alan Moore has been one of the major players in the English-language comic book scene for about 20 years. This is one of his major early works, which debuted in a British magazine starting in 1982, though the magazine folded in the U.K. before reaching the end of the narrative. DC Comics picked it up and re-released the complete story in the U.S. as 10-issue miniseries ending in 1988. It has since been collected into a trade paperback by DC’s Vertigo imprint that is still available.
The story was very much a product of its time. It was a future history, based on the idea of a nuclear war taking place in the late 1980’s, and its subtext critiqued British politics in the Cold War era. In 2006, the Wachowski brothers, (producers of The Matrix movies) released a movie version of V for Vendetta, updating some of the political themes to resonate more with the post-9/11/Bush/Blair era. Moore publicly voiced his opposition to the film adaptation, saying it distorted his intended themes and politics. However, you may want to decide for yourself and see and compare both versions.
If Moore’s name sounds familiar to you lately, it’s because he is also the writer of the original comic miniseries upon which the Watchmen film is based. Yes, Moore has come out publicly against this film as well. However, if you like V for Vendetta, especially the comic version, you should definitely check out the Watchmen graphic novel collection now also available from DC Comics – even if you have already seen the movie.
Full story released originally in 10 issues in late 1980’s
Now available in Trade Paperback
(DC) Vertigo Comics
2006 movie adaptation available on DVD
Warner Bros Home Video
Common elements of both series:
Dystopian futures with oppressive governments
Disturbed geniuses are rebels who are "sticking it to the man”
Ambiguous protagonists – are they heroes, terrorists, psychopaths? Are their tactics justified?
Stories with political intrigue, spies, double-crossing
Parallels can be drawn with real-world political issues
New York City has a lot of things, but not everything. Whereas this will come as a shock to some Big Appleites, perhaps their outrage will be softened with the news that their hamlet will be honored with its first major anime festival.
The New York Anime Festival will happen December 7 – 9 at various locations in Manhattan, including the always overcrowded, hard-to-get-to Javits Convention Center and, in a brilliant stroke, the ImaginAsian Theater on East 59th Street. That bodes well for a whole lotta screenings, and the location couldn’t be more significant. Kudos.
The show is being run by Reed Communications, the same folks who bring us the horribly managed New York ComicCon. It calls itself a celebration of classic and cutting-edge anime, manga, and Japanese culture, and it’s about time New York got in on the action.
Here’s hoping the show will come off better than their comics show did the past two years.