Sunday, July 30, 2006

Samurai 7

I came across this trailer, and I just had to add it to my list of must-see anime. It's a sci-fi retelling of the classic "7 Samurai"!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Demon City Shinjuku

Demon City Shinjuku

3/5 Stars

Director: Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Studio: Cpm/Us Manga Corps
Released: January 1, 1993
Length: 82 minutes

Demon City Shinjuku is the story of a boy, Kyoya Izayoi, who must finish thetask his father began 15 years earlier, and destroy the evil sorcerer Rebi Rah before he unleashes the forces of hell on earth. With the help of his sensei, Master Rai, keeper of the mystical art of nempo, the President's daughter Sayaka and a street kid named Chibi, he must enter Shinjuku, which has been controlled by demons since his father's failure.

Directed by the renowned Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Demon City is a tamer version of his more violent, bloody, and edgy works, such as Wicked City and Ninja Scroll. Don't let that fool you however. Demon City is a great anime, and fun to watch, despite it's fairly typical demonic horror action plot and characters.

The characters are pretty typical, Kyoya is a boy who's been thrust into a situation he wasn't prepared but finds his inner strength. Sayaka is a naive young woman, mainly there are a love interest for Kyoya, and to be rescued by him. Her actions range from the naive to the incredibly stupid, such as going into the demon city alone. Chibi is a typical kid raised on the mean streets character, who' still a good kid at heart. Rebi Rah is a stereotypical, though well done villain, and is perfect for the film. Probably the most interesting character is Mephisto. Mephisto remains enigmatic throughout the film, and you're left wondering if he's a man, demon, or something else. He seems to be amazingly powerful, but his devil-may-care attitude places him in the odd situation of watching with idle curiosity as the fate of the world is decided. The anime is worth watching for him alone, in my opinion.

The art and animation are excellent for a film from the early nineties. The cityhas a horrific and haunted look to it, especially during one scene in a park haunted by those killed when the demon took over the city. Character designs are sharp and clean, and fit in well with the tone of the film. The demons and monsters are also very nice, and characteristic of Kawajiri's work. While by no means the best film in the genre, it's not the worst either. It's relative tameness compared to other demonic action pieces makes it perfect for anyone who's curious about the genre, but afraid they might not have the stomach for it. It's also great to show to friends who think anime is cutesy Pokemon and Sailor Moon type stuff.

Demon City Shinjuku (DVD)

Shonen Jump

Shonen Jump

4/5 Stars

Monthly Magazine
Publisher: Viz Communications Inc

With Shonen Jump, the most popular manga titles suddenly become much more affordable. Based on the hugely popular Japanese manga magazine Weekly Shonen Jump, the US edition serializes the most popular titles from the Japanese edition in a huge, 250+ page monthly format. Rather than shelling out $15 or more per volume, Shonen Jump allows you to follow several series at once at the much more affordable price of $4.95 per issue or $33.95 for a subscription.

The format is similar to other manga periodicals in Japan, with episodes of several series in each episode. The first issue, January 2003, includes, Dragon Ball Z, YuYu Hakusho, Yu-Gi-Oh, One Piece, and Sand Land. If the US version follows the example of Weekly Shonen Jump, it's likely to include one or two issue "short stories" as well. In addition to the manga, there are interviews, reviews, and articles that help round out each issue.

Shonen Jump can only run titles that have appeared in Weekly Shonen Jump, so most of the titles are "boy" manga. Most titles are action/comedy, but there are enough differences between the series to appeal to many people. Shonen Jump makes every attempt to stay true to the original format of the manga, including running the panels right to left instead of the usual left to right, as well as reversing the front and back of each issue. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a trend, and other manga publications will soon begin release US versions, expanding into all genres of manga. As it is, Shonen Jump is a wonderful way to enjoy manga without emptying your wallet, as well as allowing anime fans to see how their favorite series started.

Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind

Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind
(Kaze no Tani no Naushika)

5/5 Stars

Author: Hayao Miyazaki
Serialized in Animage (Tokuma Shoten), 1982+

I don't read much manga, but being a fan of Hayao Miyazaki, Nausicaä jumped out at me. Valley of the Winds is set in the far future, in an Earth massively altered by war and ecological devastation. It has been thousands of years since the Seven Days of Fire and the immortal "God Warriors" (giant living combat robots) brought an end to the great technological civilization that once covered the earth. Humanity survived the devastation, but their future has been put in jeopardy by the creation of the "Sea of Corruption" a vast planet spanning forest of mutant fungus and insects. Spores and chemicals released by the fungal blooms make life near these impossible for non-insect life, only in places protected from the spread of the spores can life go on as before.

One such place is the Valley of the Winds, a small kingdom that is tributary to the larger Kingdom of Torumelka. Torumelka is at war with the Dorok Empire, a sinister nation which is ruled by an insane psychic and a sinister priesthood. As a subject nation, the Valley of the Winds is forced to send its few warriors and aircraft to aid in the war against the Dorok. Nausicaä, the princess of the Valley, goes along with the troops.

Far from being a simple war story, Nausicaä is show things on the way that make her question which side, if any, is right. The Dorok are using a secret weapon that gives them control over the Sea of Corruption, but their use of it threatens to spread the Sea across the few remaining clean lands and wipe out humanity. Along the way, Nausicaä discovers more about herself and her special link to the Sea and its creatures, and the possible role they play in the planet's future.

Like Hayao Miyazaki's other great work, Princess Mononoke, Valley of the Winds has a strong ecological and moral message. It question's humanity's responsibility to eachother and to the planet, and what the ultimate consequence of failing to live up to those responsibilities is. The artwork is well done, and has the characters have the same look as in many other Hayao Miyazaki works, especially Princess Mononoke. If you like that movie or any other works by him, you'll enjoy Valley of the Winds very much.

There are anime versions of the movie available, but I recommend staying away from them until you've read the anime, as there are many differences between the two. A horrible butchered English-language version was released in the US in the mid-80's under the title "Warriors of the Wind". About 20 minutes was cut from the Japanese version, and the dialog and plot was edited to take out any moral or ecological theme. So, be warned.


5/5 Star

Monthly Magazine
Publisher: Viz Communications Inc

Animerica is a great monthly magazine dedicated to anime & manga. As the longest running anime magazine in the US, it's had time to mature as a publication, and offers the best and most balanced content of all the anime and manga magazines in the US.

Each month it offers in depth articles on anime movies and series, as well as reviews of individual volumes. It also has articles on games, collectable toys, what's new in Japan, and more. It covers a nice variety of anime and manga sub genres from action hits like Dragonball Z to titles like Please Save my Earth. Fans of pretty much any type of anime (except hentai) will be able to find at least one article of interest in every issue. The side features, such as release dates, are invaluable, and items such as convention photos, fan art, and letters are great fun too. This magazine is a definite must for anyone who wants to find out more about anime, beyond what they might find on Cartoon Network or in their local video store. I first learned of some of my favorite works in the pages of Animerica, and continue to read it to see what's new.

The cover price is $4.95, fairly common for magazines without a great deal of high-priced advertising. Finding it can be difficult in some places, as Barnes & Noble is the only mainstream bookstore to carry it -- though any comic or gaming store with manga should also have it in stock. Luckily, subscriptions can be bought online, as well as back issues.


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