All posts by Michael Huang

Jeremy lives in the Redondo Beach area. He was first introduced to anime with heavily edited versions of Mazinger Z (aka Tranzor Z in the US), GoLion (aka Voltron) and Macross (aka Robotech) while growing up in the 1980's. Since then his tastes have evolved into a fairly eclectic mix of anime with a soft-spot for underdog shonen stories, psychological/cyber-punk stories and select love comedies. Jeremy is also the head organizer of Anime Souffle anime club. It was at an Anime Souffle meeting where he met Michael Huang and eventually was invited to join as a guest co-host for Scattered Cells Podcast episode #6 in February of 2007. He since then has become a regular part of the Anime Diet crew.

Interview: Takahiro Omori (dir. Natsume Yuujinchou) and Yumi Sato

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We had the privilege of speaking to Natsume Yuujinchou, Hotarubi no Mori e, Durarara!!, Baccano!, and Kuragehime director Takahiro Omori along with Brains Base producer Yumi Sato at Fanime 2013. Below is a transcript of our interview with them. Questions were asked by Jeremy Booth; transcript translation by Rome. Video (shot by gendomike) is forthcoming —gendomike

Jeremy: do you have particular works you like that you’ve been involved in? Why?

Omori: I like all of them, [but] the one I worked really hard with challenge with the sense of achievement was Baccano.

Sato: I also like all of them, but the first anime that got approved as my project that I submitted was Natsume Yujincho. So, it is Natsume.

What is like working on a project together, day by day?

Omori: If we are making something together, we fight, and there are a lot of hard feelings. It is pretty common. (Laughs) But if we finish perfectly and get good reviews, then that is great.

What happens when you have differing opinions? Do you decide with rock-paper-scissors (jank-ken-pon)?

Omori: (Laughs) We don’t do jankenpon, but we do discuss a lot. If we have to decide in an either/or situation, then the final decision will be mine, but of course we talk a lot.

What are some points of conflict?

Omori: Well, regarding the story, the scenario writer will be the center of the discussion, A lot of people are involved, so it’s not about conflict between me and Sato. The discussion between us is more about staff to choose for production and work processes, arrangement.

You’ve often directed two works by the same original author.* What keeps you coming back? 

Omori: First, we get good reputation from works, and original manga writer and editor that arranges original manga writer function as a same team for production, so it’s already established the team work. For Hotarubi, it was Sato-san, she had a strong desire to do this work.

Natsume and Hotarubi are about people being friends with spirits/yokai. What’s appealing to you about stories with yokai?

Omori: Through spirit and yokai, we try to depict what happens in real human life. So for me, it is that point when i try to depict that.

Sato: For me, I think it just happens to be a interaction between human and yoke, like these interactions, they get sad and happy, these emotional interactions are just this time happen to be yokai, and i was very touched by that part, and in me, it just touched my koto (japanese string instrument) string.

Which character(s) did you feel a connection to or felt were most important? What did you gain from that experience?

Omori: Isaac and Miria from Baccano!. I made them, but I think they gave me more than I gave to them…of course, they are already defined in the original novel, so I didn’t create them initially. But as I was adapting them into anime, they grew as characters by themselves. I didn’t think they would end up holding the whole series together, until I finally realized that they held the key to almost every story. When I understood that, I was convinced: “this is it.”

Sato: For me, it’s Natsume-kun, but he was very difficult character: how do you choose his clothing, his word choices? Those can makes a huge difference in the viewer’s impression…and how does he interacts? I paid close attention to this character, and I think that was also the case for Kamiya-san, who played Natsume, who was giving the attention while reading the script at the same time. Actually, once, Takada-san, the character designer, got into a huge fight with Omori over that performance. “Natsume is not like this! This is not his personality!”

Omori: If a character is growing, it means that he can’t stay in the same place forever.

Which is more important, the artistic/visual style or story?

Omori: Both story and visuals are important. But fundamentally, it’s important that a character’s personality, visuals, and role in the story not be a mismatch from the original story. So, it’s a balancing act.

What’s the most challenging part of adapting manga to anime?

Omori: As much as possible, I want to recreate the original manga’s “taste.” It doesn’t have to be exactly the same, but I want to recreate its atmosphere. That job is more for the character designer though, and my role is just to give a judgement. Rather my struggle was—in manga, it depends on the readers where their mental impression of the work comes from. Especially like Natsume or other shoujo mangas use multiple visual expressions: in the same frame, a character can express two different emotions. But on the motion picture, because the time axis is continuous, I have to cut one of the expressions out. Or, we express those multiple emotions by changing the dialogue. We do that often, and that balancing act is where we always have struggled.

Sato-san, tell us about your first experience as an animation producer.

Sato: My first work as a producer was actually Kamichu!. I had gotten into a fight with the owner of the anime studio, and he assigned me to do this work: “Do this!” And that become actually my first produced work, but I didn’t know what to do. So my first experience was one filled with desperation.

What was the challenge?

Sato: I didn’t know too many things. Everything was the first time for me, so I didn’t know what I did was right or wrong, and that was the toughest. I wasn’t confident, so I couldn’t really lead and direct my staff, and that was the most painful part.

You’ve came a long way since then.

Sato: Ever since I started working with Omori-san, I’ve developed a really thick skin.


*Omori directed Natsume Yuujinchou and the short film Hotarubi no Mori e, both whose manga were written by Yuki Midorikawa. The light novels of Baccano! and Durarara!! were written by Ryohgo Narita.

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Phoenix Wright Live Action Movie – Objection??!!!

The movie will not be officially released till February 11, 2012 in Japan, so there may not be a clear verdict yet.  Nonetheless, recent trailers circulating the web for this adaptation of the popular video game and manga series have given us, the jury, something to ponder.  Notable aspects taken from the game, as shown in thetrailers, are the inclusion of several major and minor characters from the franchise as well as a few notable story aspects from the series.  Also, there appears to be demonstrated an incredible attention to detail in character costuming down to the zany hair styles that would generally defy real world physics.

However, costuming and character design alone do not an epic film adaptation make.  So it might be worth noting that this film does have one going for it in that it is directed by veteran director Takashi Miike.  Mind you, this is a double edged sword.  Actually it might even seem like an odd choice if you consider that his initial rise to fame was partly due to the controversial film Ichi the Killer.  In fact it was so controversial, due to the high levels of graphic violence, that it was heavily censored in many of its international releases.  Furthermore, it was so over the top gory that the attendees at the film festivals where it was first shown were offered movie branded vomit bags, just in case.  Also, of concern is the fact that in many of his works, Miike seems to even show a penchant for scenes of the extreme macabre, ultra-violent, overtly bizarre and deeply twisted.  It is not surprising that he has cited admiration for directors such as David Lynch and David Cronenburg.

In his defense, however, Miike has seemed to become somewhat of a reformed man in recent years.  Lately, he has been directing films which are live-action adaptations of anime and manga series such as Yatterman, Salaryman Kintaro and even the family friendly Ninja Kids.  All of these show a softer side of Miike with scenes of unabashed zaniness in place his normal dark scenes of the macabre.  While the trailer for the Phoenix Wright movie may seem a bit dark and brooding, as compared to the light-hearted tongue in cheek video games, it may or may not ultimately be indicative as to the overall nature of the movie.  This of course, is all conjecture on my part and by no means admissible in court, so to speak.  However, it will be interesting to see exactly which part of Miike’s personality directed this work; or if in fact it skates a fine line between the darkly disturbed and deeply wacky.  Either way, this juror is prepared to do his civic duty in sitting through the entire hearing when court is marked to be in session.

Funimation To Start a New Hentai Division?

Anime news outlets have been all a buzz with talk that anime distributor Funimation is said to be developing a new division devoted solely to the distribution of hentai anime and games. All titles are said to be released under the branding Funimation Exxxtreme (which pundits have already labeled F-ckimation Products). While most marketing analyst agree that hentai is a staple form of anime entertainment in Japan, many have speculated that the market share in the United State would not be as large as Funimation might desire. Some pundits have been quoted as saying that the market here is simply relegated to “…a few lonely tissue wielding otaku cradling their favorite dakimakura”. When asked about concerns of limp sales projections in a down thrusting ecomony, recently appointed hentai marketing analyst Hugh G. Rection stated, “It’s true that the competition is stiff in the hentai market, however, if Funimation goes forward with these plans they will make rock hard efforts to get their products into the bedrooms and the hand’s of every warm blooded otaku.” So far the company has released no official statement, however, we will report more details as they pop up.

What Con? Nan Desu Kan!

Recently I attended a gem of a convention tucked just beyond the Rocky Mountains in Denver, CO.  Nan Desu Kan has been in operation for about 14 years now and has progressively grown in attendance every year.  (So much so that I foresee them moving to a larger venue before too long.) Currently Nan Desu Kan is hosted at the Marriot Denver Technology Center, which suits their needs nicely at their current size.  However, a rather crowded Saturday showed signs that this convention will eventually need a bigger home if this growth keeps going.

Nan Desu Kan maintains much of the charm and intimacy of smaller con, but includes elements that are generally only gleaned from the clout of big conventions. Staple events here include all the basic necessities: anime viewings, AMV contests, panels, games, and industry guest appearances. Among other very respectable guests and events this year, the cream of the line-up in my opinion was an appearance by famed mecha anime director Yasuhiro Imagawa and the bands Kazha and Echostream.

All around I found Nan Desu Kan to be a very entertaining and enjoyable convention. Video showings were smaller but pleasantly intimate. Hordes of dedicated cosplayers from almost every genre and series imaginable were present, and scores participated in a fairly professional contest with a fantastic halftime show by Echostream. Panels were informative, fun and generally well executed.  This was all topped off with rooms for table top gaming, video games, a nicely set-up artist hall and a sizable merchant exhibit space to shop for the anime goodies you just can’t do without.

Unbeknownst to many of us here west of the Rockies, anime fans may well now have a reason to travel to just the other side of those mountains to participate some anime-related fun as well as take in some nice scenery while there.

Be sure to check out more video and pictures from this convention as they will be posted in the near future.

Anime Director Satoshi Kon Has Died

Apparently, it has been confirmed that famed anime director Satoshi Kon , director of such works as Perfect Blue and Paprika, has in fact died at the age of 46. Initial statements were made over twitter by founding member of Gainax Takeda Yasuhiro earlier today, followed by an apparent confirmation from Madhouse president Masou Maruyama. Details are still unclear but apparently he died this morning around 2 a.m. in Japan. More details to be posted as they are released.

*Updates:

According to Anime News Network, Kon’s widow wrote on his website on Wednesday about his death.

Satoshi Kon passed away due to pancreatic cancer on August 24 at 6:20 a.m. He was 46.

His funeral service will be held for family members only.
We are respectfully and deeply grateful for your kindness during his lifetime.

Furthermore, MADHOUSE had this to say,

Satoshi Kon,  the director of numerous works at MADHOUSE including Paprika, Paranoia Agent, Tokyo Godfathers and Millennium Actress, passed away due to pancreatic cancer early in the morning of Tuesday, August 24.

He was 46.

With regards to funeral services, a private service will be held for family members only.

We are respectfully and deeply grateful for your kindness during his lifetime.

Finally, pre-written statements were also posted to Kon’s website on his behalf

May 18 of this year, an unforgettable day.

My wife and I received the following prognosis from a cardiologist at the Musashino Red Cross Hospital:

“The pancreatic cancer is terminal and has metastasized to the bone. You have at most a half year left.”

As to the fate of his final film, Yume-Miru Kikai Kon relates this conversation with Masao Maruyama.

When I conveyed my concerns for Yume-Miru Kikai to  Mr. Maruyama, he said, “It’s fine. Don’t worry, we’ll do whatever it takes.”

I cried.

I cried aloud.


His statements were ended with these word’s


With feelings of gratitude for all that is good in this world, I put down my pen.

Well, I’ll be leaving now.

Satoshi Kon

Trigun – Badlands Rumble – English premiere at AX (First Impressions)

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This year at AX brought many things, including some exciting guests, shows, and the first ever English subtitled screening of the new Trigun movie! It was introduced by Japanese producer Shigeru Kitayama and brought to AX by Funimation.

The story brings all of the well known characters from the Trigun anime to the big screen. As I sit here in my luckily obtained front row seat, I am blown away by scenes of Vash’s trademark shinanagens with the accompanying crew of Milly, Meryl and Nick Wolfwood in what is appropriately called a badlands rumble.

The story takes place somewhere in the middle of the original anime’s story. It introduces a new villain to the screen by the name of Gasback and a new female bounty hunter named Amelia as Vash’s love interest (whose humorously unique allergy creates terrific comic material).

Fans throughout the showing erupted in laughter, cheers and then sat in contemplative silence as the story carried them through Trigun’s familiar comedic tropes, over the top action scenes and brief moody dramatic moments.

The screen was filled with guns blazing, explosions erupting during action filled shootouts, chases ensued and rioteously funny comedic moments played on the stage of the badlands with abundance.

When it was all said and done it was not a complex movie, but it was to be expected. It was, however, a delightfully fun romp though the desert wasteland with some very entertaining old friends.

My only complaint was that the sound in the auditorium was piercingly loud. So much so that I had a headache at the end. However, in all fairness it was a headache not unlike one you have following an overly enjoyable night of drinking.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW! A Night With The Pillows.

A short while back, the Japanese rock band The Pillows finished their Delicious Bump tour with all girl rock band the Noodles. While they were here in Los Angeles we stopped by to catch their show and have a brief chat with them.

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Battle Royale Manga Ultimate Edition – Ultimate Review

battle royale ultimate edition

I have been a fan of Battle Royale since the English translation of the novel hit stateside back in 2003. Much later than most, I saw the film after having read the novel. While I could certainly see what people liked about the film, it was still hard for me to reconcile the various shifts from the original story. When I first saw the manga in the store, I was slightly turned off by the character design and slight deviations from the original story so I put it on the back burner to-read list. However, with Tokyo Pop’s recent Ultimate Edition versions coming out here I was intrigued. The mention of more of the original material being added to make it closer to the Japanese release as well as bonus content was impetus enough for me to check it out.

First off, the the new cover on Volume 1 of the hard bound Ultimate Edition was much more stimulating then the first volume of the U.S. release. The first volume manga cover always reminded me of a weird comic version of Mt. Rushmore where the faces of key players in Battle Royale replaced past presidents. Once inside, I found that art style was still, as I remembered, much too odd in parts (the worst example being the sadistic “Program” instructor Sakamochi looking somewhat like a jolly yet deformed version of Sylvester Stallone). However, I was nonetheless buckled down and ready to read through this solidly bulky graphic novel of blood, guts and grit. Surprisingly, the story was much closer to the original novel than the movie. Although neither really addresses the “Program”, in which a class of junior high students are pitted to fight to the death against each other, adequately. In the movie the reasoning behind it is referred as the Battle Royale Act and in the manga it is presented as a twisted game show for the public’s entertainment. In the novel it is primarily a governmental tool of control used to cultivate fear in the masses as well as quell organized rebellion. However, some creative license is often to be expected despite the disappointment of many fans of the novel.

Taking into consideration minor story changes, the biggest difference from the novel is that the Ultimate Edition now includes previously removed graphic and sexually explicit content making this even less of a read for anyone under the age of 18. The gore is embellished beyond the original novel and even the movie, although this may be expected for such a graphic novel. The bonus back story for the character of the viciously cold seductress Mitsuko Souma, seemed an overt attempt to glean the hormone charged teen or porn obsessed adult audience. Gratuitous at best, the Ultimate Edition added character back story lends no real help to the narrative and actually in my opinion detracts from the imagination factor.

Overall the packaging is attractive, the a few parts of the bonus material are interesting enough and despite a English adaption that is somewhat steeped in controversy the story still holds up as rather solid and runs decently close to the original novel. Unfortunately, for myself and potentially other readers the gratuitous hentai additions to the story are graphic to the point that they can easily become a deal breaker to anyone not interested in over the top anime porn. Give me a good old blood and guts story any day but I just don’t get my jollies from hand-sketched girls having sex acts in black and white. But if this is not a problem for the average potential reader then I leave up to them to decide for themselves.

Lovely Complex (Final Episode) – She’s So High Above Me…

Though it would not be called an atypical shojo love comedy by any stretch, one thing that Love-Com does well is make good use of it’s comedic effects while adding just enough drama. It did this well enough to keep my wife and I following the story rather religiously to the end. After a while, it became kind of a guilty pleasure. We both painfully and gleefully watched our favorite All Hanshin Kyoshin duke it out with their own hang ups, meddling friends, previous other and wannabe love interests, as well both of their tendency to be outright clueless. From the very beginning, it’s not hard to have a strong sense that the stars will most likely align to bring this vertically mismatched couple together in a state of harmonious dysfunction.

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Although they differ greatly in the height department, they are in fact as much alike as two people can get. This fact bonds them together as an inseparable duo when it comes to there favorite rock star Umibouzu, the Uber-slide at the water park and exotic mystery drinks at the cafe (as well as countless other activities that anyone else would have found weird or childish). Unfortunately though, their similarity also becomes one of their greatest points of contention as it often drives them to bicker back and forth like an old married couple. Not to mention the drama caused by the fact they both so clueless and stupid as to realize each others obvious feelings for each other at any given worst moment.

The season ending plays out very fittingly for this love comedy as the two reach their final hurdle, which is both touching and laughable. It is with a fair amount of comedic skill and ability to pluck and the romantic’s heart strings that the creators only slightly rush to wrap everything up in the final 25 minutes. After finally getting past most of the love hate drama, everything comes to a head when Otani’s household is mysteriously infected with nothing short of the bubonic plague just before his big college entrance exam.

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The roller coaster ride that ensues is only befitting this hapless couple and serves to show exactly what kind of bonds they possess. The rest is up to your imagination, unless you watch it for yourself, of course.

Overall, I would give it two thumbs up, one for me and one for my significant other (who just so happens to be right around my same height).

Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji 1- A Fist Full of Dollars.

Imagine being at the end of your rope financially and being given one opportunity to pay nearly a lifetime of debt in a fight to the “debt” on the open seas. Yeah, I said “debt” not death. Unlike, the kids from Battle Royale, Kaiji and the other down-and-out passengers of the Espoir are not give knives, guns, explosive etc. Instead they are given a stacks of high interest Yakuza cash and a mysterious envelope that will set the stage of exactly what type of war of wager they will fight.

From the beginning of the series it’s easy to relate with the main character Kaiji, that is, if you are a complete loser! You see Kaiji has made some seriously bad choices in his life and he is struggling beneath the weight of them all. Unfortunately his would be savior is a yakuza recruiter for what he himself calls the “floating slaughterhouse”. I found the show thus far to have an interesting enough plot to watch for now. I’ll give it at least one more episode to see what happens. I don’t particularly care for the art style, although it does remind me slightly of character designs from The Venture Brothers (only much more angular). The music is not to shabby and appropriately moody for this show. If you do watch this show, however, be prepared to be intrigued by and/or amused by the real name of the game on the Espoir (aka the floating slaughterhouse) after Kaiji opens the mysterious envelope.

Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji 1- A Fist Full of Dollars

It’s just like my old neighborhood, except the pirate got arrested…

From ANN-

Japanese Man Arrested for Selling Pirated Ghibli DVDs
Kazue Orita, a tutoring school manager in Eniwa City in the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, was arrested this week on suspicion of selling pirated anime DVDs. The man allegedly sold unauthorized DVD copies of My Neighbor Totoro, Laputa – Castle in the Sky, and other Studio Ghibli movies through Internet auctions and other means. Officials said he sold a six-disc package of pirated DVDs, smuggled from China, for 7,500 yen (about US$65). He allegedly sold over 400 DVDs for 530,000 yen (US$4,600). Police are investigating the details of the smuggling methods used.

Selling pirated copies of studio Ghibli films in Japan is kinda like selling pirated Disney films here in the states, it’s sure to bite you in the ass…or is it? Oh yeah, there are all those guys on the street corners selling pirated videos and they never seem to get caught. Not only that they always seem to have all the newest cute Disney/Pixar films. You know? For the kids! Because kids will watch anything animated even it is clear it was filmed from the back of the theater and the sound sounds like it was recorded in barrel. Getting videos for your kids this way has to be entertaining too, since they will most likely grow up thinking you buy dvds off a blanket beside the local taco stand and not from BlockBuster.

Anyhow, I figure the quality of the pirated studio Ghibli dvds were slightly better than ones sold on the street corners but idea is the similar. Buy or print the dvds for dirt cheap then sell them to some poor sucker that either doesn’t have an internet connection or thought they were getting a deal on the real thing and make profit. Although, I can’t understand why a manager of a tutoring school risked jail times and/or heavy fines just to make a few bucks. Perhaps his daughter needed a new Prada bag or he needed to fix his expensive new luxury car that was recently wrecked on accident by an ex-biker turned young unorthodox teacher recently on staff at his school. The world may never know….

Naruto Shippuden 29 Getting Back To Where We Started

After being drawn in to the story of a prankster Hokage wanna-be turned bona-fide ninja with the help of his (ahem) inner strength, there came a time there-after that the show just made me stop caring. Actually, it was after attempting to watch Episode 161 to be precise.

Naruto Episode 131 Stink

After that, I just stopped watching it all together. I had my fill of the filler arc. When Naruto Shippuden came out in February of this year, I was hopeful but not completely certain that they could revived it from the dregs of lost causes. The first episode was promising with the opening sequence, however, the story soon dragged itself into a much slower pacing (which some might argue has been a problem with this series all along). It is only after they veered away from the rather boring Bell Test in episode 3, that things started to pick up with a fight between Gaara and Deidara.

Deidara and Gaara

Afterwards, the show moved to a more even balance of story and action. From Kankuro’s battle with the obviously superior puppet master Sasori to Team Kakashi’s pursuit of (and ultimately battle with) the two fleeing Akatsuki members it had become again fairly engaging. Except for perhaps, Team Gai’s overly repetitive battle with the clones that never end…
Shippuden Progression

As good as it had been getting, none of these previous episodes had moved me in the way I was moved when I first fell in love with the series. This all changed in the 1 hour special that starts in episodes 29. Finally, we get to not only see Kakashi’s new sharingan eye in action, but a also a resurgence of the Naruto’s fox cloak.

fox cloak sharingan2

Overall all however, I suppose it was that slow build up to the emotional climax of that finally won me back over to Naruto again. As a teary-eyed Naruto stands over the body of Gaara and gives an emotional speech about weight that a Jinchuuriki (one possessed by a powerful tailed beast) carries through life, I couldn’t help but feel once again emotionally attached to this show. In fact I couldn’t help but think I must have gotten some salt in my eyes from the popcorn I was eating as they were for some reason quite dewy…

Naruto Crying

It has been a long road home with a hellish path though a nearly two year filler arc, but Naruto may finally have arrived back where it started and back where it belongs. To bad we have to wait till the middle of October to see what happens next…