Aha! 200th vote for a poll! And a bonus ringtone!

Wow! Thanks to all who visited and voted! This poll we have is the first poll that got 200 votes! Thank you, Mr. or Ms. 200th voter!

To commemorate this event (I just feel like putting something up), here’s a bonus ringtone from the action sequence in El Cazador:

Now just imagine Nadie becomes scarily good at whacking men…That would be cool…heh heh heh hmm heh heh heh hmm heh! Yeah! Yeah! Whack ‘em! Whack ‘em!

My “Girls with Guns” ringtone trilogy

For this special service post, I’m putting up the ringtones made from the ED of El Cazador, from the action sequences of Madlax, and from the action sequences of Noir (sorry if you have any or all of these already).

I hear these, especially the second two, and I imagine the girls go out and whack 150 guys among them all…awesome…

New interviews: Anime set to invade UK TV with Anime Central

From http://www.animeuknews.net/.

With Anime Central – the UK’s first ever 100% dedicated anime TV channel – set to hit British airwaves in September, Anime UK News has turned its attention to the state of anime on UK TV.

As anime invades the small screen, AUKN talks to Anime Central brand manager Mark Buchanan to find out what viewers can expect to see on the new anime channel heading on UK TV screens in September ’07.

Anime UK News: How was the idea of “Anime Central” conceived and what convinced Chart Show Channels it was a concept worth supporting?

Mark Buchanan: Originally, I was brought in to research a bunch of concepts for entertainment channels that had been floating around the company for a while. Having enjoyed anime down the years, I was desperate to include an anime block regardless of what channel it would eventually become. Luckily my bosses had a decent awareness of the material and they knew it was strong. It wasn’t difficult to convince them that anime warranted more than just a slot.

Anime UK News: There have been a few short-lived UK TV channels that aired anime, so why do you feel the time is right to launch Anime Central now? How will you attract an audience?

Mark Buchanan: I think you only have to look at the phenomenal work that companies like Manga, MVM, Beez, Revelation, and ADV have done in promoting the discs in the UK to know that interest in anime has grown in the last decade. My hope is Anime Central will be both passionate and all-inclusive, appealing to the hardcore fans while catering to folk who are completely new to it.

Developing the channel’s look has been key along with continued cross-promotion that will occur on channels such as Scuzz, The Vault and Flaunt.

We’re going to have an exciting web presence at www.animecentral.com where we hope to build a strong community of viewers and fans.

Anime UK News: The vast majority of anime lined up for Anime Central is aimed at the young adult demographic, could you explain to us why you decided to go down this route instead of attempting to tap in to children’s anime instead?

Mark Buchanan: The diversity of anime out there is staggering and I truly believe that the ‘grown-up’ shows in our line up like GITS: SAC or Planetes rank up there with the best of American television. With such strong content available, I really wasn’t interested in doing a kids channel. The little folk are already well served with a decent amount of anime on other stations and I feel that it’s time for the big ‘uns to get a look in.

Anime UK News: Anime Central has plans to air a lot of highly acclaimed anime TV series. With this in mind, how do you go about selecting what to air on Anime Central?

Mark Buchanan: I watch absolutely everything that’s sent my way. By far the most difficult part is selection and I’m cursed with taking programming too personally at times. I often have to take a step back and ask myself if this will play well to large audiences. That’s not to say we won’t be broadcasting more challenging titles, but if the channel’s ever going to stand a chance we need to introduce a launch with a line-up that is going to appeal to as many people as possible. As it stands, I‘m immensely proud of the collection and I believe it balances my selfishness with the requirements of the casual viewer!

Anime UK News: Given the recent popularity of fan subs and video streaming sites like You Tube amongst anime fans, how does Anime Central plan to tempt fans away from their computer screens and back in front of their TV sets?

Mark Buchanan: The picture’s a lot better!

For the rest of this excellent article please go here.

The Vault 05: Akira

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Explanation of the Vault series

Originally published on September 16, 2003. A shorter version of this review was also published on Metaphilm.com. To date, it is my only “professional” review and was an attempt to review in detail all my anime DVDs.

Come, Sweet Destruction

Akira and the Japanese Apocalyptic Imagination

Akira (1987)
directed by Katsuhiro Otomo
Rated R. 124 minutes.

Akira, perhaps the most impressive anime movie to come out in the 1980s, was many Americans’ first exposure to anime. Its bad original English dubbing, starring Ninja Turtle voice actors, has become a kitsch item for many old timer anime fans–there were many complaints when Pioneer redubbed the movie for its 2001 DVD restoration. What captivated those select audiences in the late 1980s to join the then tiny, unhip, and perhaps freakish anime fan community and launch a phenonemon that has now gone mainstream? In this age where even wildly left-field shows like FLCL can get shown on the Cartoon Network, it’s good to go back to one of the touchstones of modern anime and see what made it tick for so many people.

It’s become a cliche for Tokyo to get destroyed in various animes, though few have done so as artfully as this film. The shadow and influence of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey hangs over the ending sequences, however, and in that film perhaps we can begin to see where some of the appeal of Akira comes from. Both are, for one, partly cautionary tales about the dangers of science run amok: artificial intelligence in one, the irresponsible channeling of psionic powers in the other. Both offer violent catharsis leading to cosmic rebirth, though the bloody messes in Akira are far more graphic than apes beating each other with bones or an astronaut shutting down a computer. And both films express the anxiety in modern soceity that something great and terrible is going to happen soon, something beautiful, perhaps, but also awful: in short, an apocalypse.

For the Japanese, having seen nuclear holocaust firsthand, any apocalypse is most likely going to involve mushroom clouds or similar shaped explosions. Anime from Evangelion to Escaflowne have used thinly veiled references to nuclear disasters. True to form, Akira also begins with an apparent nuclear explosion (though we discover later that it is not), and explains that the film takes place after “World War III.” (With the sheen of high-tech skyscrapers and synthesized tribal music beating in the background, one wonders though if anyone remembered Einstein’s quip about World War IV being fought with sticks and stones. Perhaps this is a backhanded optimism at work in the filmmakers?) The nuclear age put the dangers of science, which literature had been excoriating since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, into sharp relief: here, at last, was a way that humankind’s folly could actually destroy the whole world. It’s no surprise then that, like many other technology-run-amok science fiction stories, Akira is largely about what happens when great power corrupts and is misused–mainly in the character of Tetsuo and his psychic abilities, but also in the civilian Tokyo government, the colonel’s military, and of course the conniving scientist, who marvels at the data printouts spewing from the plotters (“we’ll finally have a Grand Unified Theory!” he exults) while the city crumbles.

Naturally, there have been all too many low-class sci-fi books and movies about the dangers of science: Godzilla, for instance. Akira however is not quite as simple: the filmmakers clearly delight in the immense urban techno-glow of Neo-Tokyo, giving us hyperkinetic shots of racing motorcycles, cascading streetlights, little desks inside thousands of tiny office windows. The viewer’s impression of Tetsuo falling from the hospital into the field of man-made lights, into the valley of skyscrapers, is awe–the kind of awe that one has at thousands of Towers of Babel, perhaps, but awe all the same. I gleefully confess to wishing that this neon purgatory, whose streets are as dirty as New York City’s on a sanitation strike and where students and brutal riot police battle between the lanes, were real. It’s just so cool. The gamelan music accompanying the chase scenes and the gothic elegance of all the twisted pipes, wires, and towering heights makes it even cooler. This is The Future . . .

. . . and it is going to explode. New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael controversially described 2001 as a film longing for the destruction of the human race, for nothingness and existence beyond the body. The impulse seems to be embedded in human nature. Watch a little kid build a towering Lego construction, only to knock it down gleefully with one swipe. We see the beautiful city of Neo-Tokyo crumble before our eyes in Akira, swallowed up by Tetsuo’s literal self-absorption. There is an awe-filled beauty in that kind of destruction, too, which culminates in that Kubrickian “star-gate” sequence in which Tetsuo literally becomes another universe, a universe where he is the great I AM–“I AM TETSUO,” the new god announces at the film’s end.

But Testsuo is a lonely god, a god without followers–only fond memorializers at the end with his biker friends. If one wants to psychoanlayze the character, one could say that at this point Tetsuo has reached the logical end of his depressed, downtrodden, and vengeful existence: complete self-absorption. That was where he was headed when he became a giant, gelatinous baby in the Olympic stadium, swallowing everyone and literally hugging his girlfriend to death. In the end, for him to exist, he has to be the only thing that exists in his universe. This seems like a terribly lonely fate to me–it’s more or less what CS Lewis conceived Hell to be like–but it is fitting for the increasingly dangerous Tetsuo, whose powers grew out of control because his desires for respect, for vengeance, and for domination grew out of control. Unable to live with others, he must separate himself from everyone else.

(Interestingly enough, a very similar thing happens at the end of Neon Genesis Evangelion, but the moral and the conclusion of the story is very different. More will be said on that issue when I get to Eva.)

Moreover, what happens to Tetsuo is a microcosm at what happens when human beings let their desire for power or knowledge grow out of control as well. The end result it the death of anything beautiful or worthwhile that man creates. This fear that we will knock ourselves down is at the heart of the apocalyptic anxiety, one that constantly pulses through popular Japanese imagination. We Americans are less prone to the fear of total annihilation, since the Cold War has ended. But after September 11th, which was a terrible day in which we saw high-tech towers falling apocalyptically through the blue skies, some of that fear resonates again. We can’t look at the gratuitous destruction of buildings the same way anymore. They have passed from action spectacles to the fearful, awe-full things that they really are. The perpetrators may be religious ideologues, but the means were technological: the fruits of our science and wisdom turned against us, out of its intentions and out of our control.

Out of our fears and anxieties come dreams, and then visions: the visions, in this case, of many artists come together to create an exciting, sometimes troubling work. The violence is often gratuitous and the characters merely screaming cutouts (and they all look the same in this movie, honestly), but all the wonder and the horror of modernity is on display in the city. Modern Tower-of-Babel stories never looked this good.


Michael is on hiatus for the remainder of August. The Vault series resurrects entries from his personal blog about anime, written from 2002-2006. Entries will appear in the series every other day.

Anime Diet Monthly Column: The Souls to our anime ladies – Female Seiyuu. This Month: Mitsuishi Kotono

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Well, I decided to start a new monthly column to show my true otaku/geekiness! So without further ado, here’s the first female seiyuu that I will talk about – Ms. Mitsuishi Kotono 三石琴乃 さん。

Here’s the bio taken from Wikipedia, and with some other data mixed in:

Name: Mitsuishi Kotono

DOB: 1967-12-08

POB: Toda, Saitama, Japan.

Blood Type: A

Company: Arts Vision

Debut year: 1989

Bio: Mitsuishi was a DJ at the Arts and Entertainment station at her high school. She graduated from high school in 1986, and entered the Katsuta Seiyū Academy for voice acting. She often practiced her craft by going to on location shows in Hokkaido and do some interning there. While attending the academy, she began working part time as an elevator girl in the Sunshine 60 building. Afterward, she found a position as an office lady, but because of taking too much time off, she was forced to quit.

In 1989, Mitsuishi made her seiyū debut as Tomoyo in the OVA Ace o Nerae! Final Stage. She became an instant celebrity with her role as Usagi Tsukino when Sailor Moon debuted in 1992*, and her popularity increased again with her role as Misato Katsuragi in the anime TV series Neon Genesis Evangelion. She is considered one of the most influential seiyū in the business; the animated adaptation of Ebichu was largely produced because of her interest in the project.

Mitsuishi is married and has one daughter. In a digression to her OL days, she rides a Yamaha FZ250 Phaser motorcycle. Mitsuishi works at the talent management firm Arts Vision.

In addition to being a voice over, she has written proses and has drawn manga.

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My thoughts of her as a seiyuu:

My first true anime love was the Sailor Moon series. I’m not ashamed to say that my love for Sailor Moon, specifically the main character Tsukino Usagi 月野うさぎ, was what really planted my feet firmly and deeply inside the kingdom of Anime. Sure, these days I’m pretty sick of these classic transformation sequences and other conventions such as yoma/daemon/lemure/whatever of the week, girls who transforms but looks exactly the same facial/body featur-wise, silly episodic plots and way-too-simple morals, but back then, watching this show, alongside with CBS’s “Touched By an Angel”, was what helped me not to completely self-destruct. These shows had always managed to get my faith back.

In any case, I didn’t know anything about seiyuu back then. When I watched anime as a kid I used to think all Japanese people sounded the same – because people I heard on Doraemon would often appear on another show (well, I watched Doraemon and…something else subtitled, the rest were dubbed). However, no seiyuu made a huge impression on me until I heard Usagi, no, Kotono-さん, acting it out.

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Certainly, back in my young and impressionable, not to mention self-righteous and pretentious university days, the Sailor Moon series were just the right diet for my appetite. What impressed me about that show was that, unlike all the anime that I saw before, it taught me courage, bravery, dealing with pressure, especially when you know you’re right but your friends, and the people that you admire the most think that you’re wrong, and in Sailor Moon’s case, they think by your decision, the world is doomed. However, because Sailor Moon rather sacrifice herself then others for the sake of the world, the world is ultimately saved. She grows from a whiny, flaky, bratty girl to a mature (mostly), gentler, and more thoughtful young woman by the end of Sailor Stars. The US dubbed version completely destroyed what Sailor Moon meant to be and made it into a bratty and whiny show but without the growth, the issues, the conflicts, and for whatever was left they watered it/dumbed it down to make it acceptable to the US audience. However, before VKLL subs*, I did watch the US version, so I’m not going to pick on that version any further. But here’s why I like the Japanese seiyuu and not American voice overs – the seiyuu simply make these characters really come alive without sounding odd, pretentious, or unatural.

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Kotono-さん really captures the essence of a character so well that I often feel like the character comes out of the screen and draws me inside the world that she is in. Also, she always manages to play good or great roles that’s suitable to her style of voice acting. She’s capable of playing a completely wacky or aloof hamster or crazy agent in a couple of shows, and yet in other shows she acts completely serious and being a deep, authoritative and grim commander under the pressure of the fate of the world, or she can play both of these in one show. She plays blonds well as one can see in Noir – Mireille, that stylish, a little laid-back but still elegant flair with a hint of deadliness French babe that captured the hearts of many male Otaku (and probably became their endless wet dreams at least until the end of the series). But she’s not just great by herself, she can play off, against, and with others well. She often teams up with another of my favorite seiyuu – Kuwashima Houko, who I’ll be talking about in next month’s female seiyuu column. It’s hard to describe the dynamics of these two but they simply gel. With Kotono-さん’s character being mostly cooler and calmer, and often more thoughtful, and Houko-さん’s character more rash, fierce, defiant and often aggressive and confrontational in many ways.

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In Eva, Kotono plays Misato, who tries so hard to show her good side, even to the point of pretending to be happy and carefree all the time all the while being highly vulnerable and sensitive inside. She hurts but she can never show that, except to the rather untrust worthy Kaji, who just knows how to get the real Misato out of her happy armor casing.

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As Captain Ramius, Kotono becomes a different kind of captain than the ever-classic Captain Bright from the classic gundam. Captain Bright is extremely authoritative. One either obeys him or get his ass kicked and send to the brig. But Captain Ramius is rather diplomatic and willing to listen, and also she takes on the role of caring for the mental well being of her crew members. She’s more like a caring parent who’s willing to put down some discipline when needed, but often try not to force her authority on anyone.

Kotono can act as a super competent and serious leader, and yet she can act as a ditsy and highly incompetent but comedic jester. She’s great playing as opposite extreme characters as what her roles call for.

I find it hard to talk about Kotono apart from her characters, because she acts them out so well. I find that I really love the deeper, harsher and sometimes deadly voice with a tamed fiery passion that she uses for characters such as the chairwomen for the Witches’ Council in El Cazador. Her performance in Cazador with one of her former cast mate in the Sailor Moon series – Hisakawa Aya, who played Salior Mercury/Mizuno Ami – often lifts the show up quite a few notches above the uncalled-for silliness that it has.

Mitsuishi Kotono is a classic seiyuu. She doesn’t have great looks and isn’t super cutesy or able to sing like one of the latest Japanese idols, but she does what a voice-actress is supposed to do well – voice acting.

Her most recent role that I know of is Jean in Claymore, where she teams up with Kuwashima Houko again. I hope Kotono’s character stays around a few more episodes longer. Also, really looking forward to hearing her voice acting for many years to come!

Notes:

*The beginning of the ’90s was when the idol seiyuu boom began.

*VKLL – thank you so much for your hard work back then. Also, take note, fansubbers, his way of showing his credits concerning his work is correct. You guys are very cool and we can’t appreciate y’all enough but y’all can get very intrusive at times. Still, thank y’all very much for your hard work.)

Gundam 00 – I haptise you in the name of the Bather, the Ron, and the Oily Spirit, Hamon!

First, just take a look at the Gundam 00 character page, and just look at these names.

http://www.gundam00.net/character/index.html

What is it with these “super awesome” names that these poor Japanese animators come up with? This is not the ’80’s and they do know enough about English to do OK – I should know because I taught in Japan and I found out that the average Japanese folks have come a long way on learning English since the ’80s, even though most of them in the smaller cities, towns, and country side still don’t know enough (it’s not like they really are that better much better off in Tokyo, but come on), but guess what? These type of butchered names still come up from time to time in anime. So Lockon! Stratos! And Allellujah and Hamon to that, Haptism!

I don’t know, I mean for another example, just look at the names for Baccano! (exclamation marks added by the show). I mean, do I really have to list these silly and mostly downright embarrassing names? Why is it that these folks can’t hire a real westerner (just one would do – it won’t cost that much) and make up some good names (good names don’t have to be hard to remember, even to the average Japanese, btw).

In anycase, here’s the plot of Gundam 00 translated into excellent Engrish:

2307 in Christian era.

The human race was obtaining new energy that took the place of it though the fossil fuel dried up. Large-scale photovoltaic generation system according to huge orbit elevator and it three. However, it was only a part of large country and the ally that obtained the favor of this system.

Three super power groups that own three orbit elevators. ‘Union’ that centers on the United States’Human race reformation league’ that centers on China, Russia, and India It centered on Europe ‘AEU’. Each super power group continues a considerable zero-sum game with prestige by yourself for prosperity. The human race had it was not possible to finish uniting into one yet though it became a century the 24th so …….

A private, armed organization to which “Extermination of the war by military power” hangs appears in the world of such an endless fight. Names of men who own movable suit “Gundam” are Sorestalbeing.

The military power intervention to all hostilities by Gundam starts.

(Well, of course I can make it sound right, but what’s the fun in that?) In any case, you get the idea. I’ll be blogging this once it comes out, of course.

Let’s hope it’s a good show like the modern Gundam series Gundam Seed.

But in any case, another new Gundam is coming out! Allellujah! Praise Cod!

Live action Ghibli; Yoko Kanno new project

From Anime UK news (Hail to Britannia!!! Sure, why not! we Americans haven’t given back Clive Anderson his colonies! We had better appease his countrymen!!!)

# A live action movie version of Grave of the Fireflies is on the way and due for a Japanese theatrical release during 2008. The classic 1988 anime film (of same name) from Studio Ghibli is acclaimed by many to be one of the finest animated movies of all time; based on Akiyuki Nosaka’s tragic novel, Grave of the Fireflies follows two young war orphans who find themselves homeless and starving during the US’s prolonged bombardment of WWII Japan.

# Legendary anime soundtrack composer Yoko Kanno will be contributing her talents to the new Macross TV series “Macross F (Macross Frontier)” .

And for some fine British sarcasm, please read the forum responses.

(Edit: Eh. all right.)

Sony Brings Anime Channel to Africa – good news to some of our African readers?

Again, from ANN:

Starting later this year, the DStv satellite service in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe will begin carrying Sony Pictures Television International’s Animax channel. Currently, over 40 million homes in 42 different Asian, European, and South American countires have access to it. Some of the shows that are now being broadcast on Animax in various countries include Blood+, Fullmetal Alchemist, and The Prince of Tennis. Source: WorldScreen.com

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