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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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….
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.
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.
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…
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.
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…
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…
This is my first audio column so be gentle. The recent announcement about Death Note’s upcoming premiere on Adult Swim, led me to muse a bit about my struggle (and perhaps the struggle of other otaku) to share their love of anime with Non-Anime Fans. It’s kinda short, but I promise more in the future. Enjoy.