Friday, July 28, 2006

:anime: The Genre, The Nation, & The Problem (Third, and Final, Part:: Bonus! A Few Additional Petals in the Pond...)

If one thing has puzzled me over the years, it's why Anime has not become all that popular in the U.S. While diehard fans can be a deterrent in anything, it has not had that much of an effect on other genres, like sci-fi and fantasy. Alright, so it's a cultural thing, then? Not exactly, as martial arts films, diverse in their own cultural aspects, attract the masses, even when accompanied with subtitles (see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). Some might even go as far as to say that Anime is "deeper" than American animation, and therefore, no one can really grasp it. That may be true for a select number of titles, but it is not so as a whole, since it's really dependant on the title itself. The main issue stems more from the American vantage point on animation--that is essentially for children. However, this stance has changed over the last few years, as adult fare like Family Guy and South Park rank among the more highly-rated programs on television. In addition, Anime itself has seen an increase in popularity, as Video-on-Demand services from anime content providers continue to receive big hits and the number of online content portals has risen dramatically in a less than a year's time. In this opportune period, anime companies and distributors must begin to expand their boundaries to reach this growing audience, who represent a large amount of the mainstream. Titles like Black Lagoon and Paradise Kiss, shows with high production values and of high quality in the story department that have appeal close to what Americans are attracted to, are the centerpieces for successfulness in tapping into the demographic. This sort of campaign will require a departure from the norm, as increased, diversified advertisement and a shopping of shows to non-traditional networks, such as SpikeTV and Style (respective to the noted anime), will be of necessity to making this work.

:anime: Aiming for the Top Again!: Gunbuster's Second Voyage in the US Begins

The beginning of the re-release of Gunbuster kicked off today, as Bandai Visual USA opened their teaser site for it to the public. Telling all to await with "hard work and guts," it appears that the legendary OVA will be coming before Wings of Rean. I definitely will work as hard possible for more news on what I have often called "the single greatest piece of pure science-fiction ever made." (Courtesy: ANN, AnimeOnDVD.Com)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

:anime: The Genre, The Nation, & The Problem (Second Part:: Just Over the Pacific: Titles to Help Bridge the Gap)

In past years, animated features, or "cartoons" to most, have been an integral part of the lives of young children and teenagers. In this generation, however, Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny have begun to share their spots with Peter Griffin and Cartman atop the apex of animation popularity. A peculiar shift in the age paradigm has taken place recently, as more "adult-oriented" features have risen in favorability among older teens and adults. In addition to Family Guy, South Park, and a few of the shows on Adult Swim, even a kid's show like SpongeBob SquarePants is viewed by a good amount of adults. In all of this growth, however, Anime has yet to fully reap the fruits of this harvest. Outside of a scant few titles, not many in America's mainstream culture know much of anything in the genre. While there are certainly many subgenres and styles that could prove appealing to the public, the bulk of these are marketed at the already-established fanbase. In a burgeoning demographic that is becoming more acceptable of animated shows, it is now a grand opportunity to extend anime marketing towards the mass audience.

Monday, July 24, 2006

:anime: The Genre, The Nation, & The Problem (First Part:: Anime + the U.S.: Still Not Perfect Together...)

While contemplating what to write on in the midst of other planned projects, there was a recent discussion held that, more or less, revolved around the effect anime fandom has on its popularity in the U.S. After reading on it, I decided to comment on the broader aspect of this and combined it with a similar posting I had planned on making later concerning Anime's popularity issues stateside. Part one in this series attempts to pinpoint this quandary. --HD

The foreign-born genre that is "Anime" has had a long, yet obscure history in the United States. Asking people who grew up in the 80s about shows they watched as children may yield replies consisting of "Robotech," "Voltron," or "Transformers." If their childhoods resided in the 90s, "Sailor Moon" and "Dragonball Z" would ring among the more popular shows. Even going back further, parents and grandparents might recall "Astro Boy," "Kimba the White Lion," and "Gigantor" from their youth. However, this cross-generational exposure to Anime has not produced a widespread acceptance or cultural attachment to the field.

:anime: Jinkies! ADV Puts Out Their First Press Release for Jinki:Extend!

(*shivers* As much as I don't like Scooby Doo, I couldn't resist... XP )

ADV Films announced a September 5th release date for one of their most recent acquisition in Jinki:Extend last week. The press statement makes it sound like some sort of Gravion-ish title with its "beautiful babes/girls" moniker plastered across it, though there is a slight sliver of truth in it (not to mention Shiva's propensity for kissing other women for little or no reason). Otherwise, they are pretty much on the mark with its synopsis and the trailer (right-click, "Save Target As...") [Hi-Band] [Lo-Band] they posted on their site doesn't try to make it out into something it is not (Aoba's English dub voice sounded pretty good for the role). This aside, the show itself is a very good one, backed by an unconventional and very (if not ridiculously excessive) complex plot, which can be thanked in part to its pacing. I don't know if I'd go as far as to call it a "masterpiece" like ADV has, but I would call it one of the more understated giant robot anime in recent memory. I suppose they have to hype it up somehow (most of those who already saw it have given it good marks anyway), though their acquiring of the OVA was not too surprising, given that they already distribute the manga it was based on. I will definitely keep an eye out for the premiere volume once it debuts in the next month or so.

P.S.: I hope that the OVA special was also licensed by ADV, since I haven't seen it yet.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

:anime: Company The Company: FUNimation is North America's Best?

ICv2 recently formulated a listing of the ten most powerful forces in the North American anime industry, with FUNimation's CEO/President Gen Fukunaga coming out on top. This outcome is a very deserving adulation, one that seemed very far from a possibility years ago. The company had the dubious label of being "Dragonball Z-only," the only title they had for a long time (and one whose handling irked many fans). Blue Gender became their first non-DBZ title and other properties soon followed. Fan-favorite anime of the likes of Fruits Basket and Kiddy Grade helped build FUNimation's reputation among the community, although they continued to rely on a few of their more unfavorable tactics (dubbing and translation issues, DVD structuring). However, it has been in the last two years that a renaissance can be seen in the company. A major partnership with popular studio GONZO and the acquisition of Fullmetal Alchemist, one of the most highly-praised works in the last decade, as well as improving business and release tactics, has made FUNimation a darling in the eyes of many fans and a significantly larger force in the industry than when it first started.

I was never a fan of the company during its DBZ years, nor was I one afterwards for their first couple of series. Though I saw improvement all around, they held onto far too many irritating quirks to make them likable. Now in this present-day, if a particular title is licensed by them, I actually feel relieved about it in the almost the same manner as if it were Geneon or Bandai Ent. making the announcement. It is amazing to see the progress made in FUNimation over the years, from a despised, little-known entity, to one of the most acknowledged and liked companies in North America. Fukunaga has done a great job at changing the course of the distributor and is a very deserving choice at the top spot.

Monday, July 10, 2006

:boxing: From "Winky" to "Wimpy" Wright?

(Originally, I wanted the first boxing post to be about the Pacquiao-Larios bout, but then I found out it was on PPV, aka "out-of-my-reach." So instead, I went to "Plan B" and looked to a different topic... :D )

After the June 17 bout with middleweight champion Jermain Taylor, Ronald "Winky" Wright seemed to be experiencing another round of deja vu. He came out of his controversial loss to Fernando Vargas a few years ago in a surly mood, very certain that he was the victim of a "hometown decision" in a fight that he, as well as those at ringside and on television, thought won. Now, yet again in the hometown of an opponent, has he been handed down a decision that is in no way beneficial to him, a draw, and again he is livid at the results of his labor. Refusing to attend the post-fight conference, Wright stayed in his dressing room afterwards and vehemently turned down a rematch with Taylor. The staunch veteran may think that a second bout is more of the same; however, it seems that there are more to the circumstances than this that go against his thinking.

Monday, July 03, 2006

:anime: Bandai Ent. Professes Their Love for Hot Android Women!

Continuing the big carousel of anime licensing announcements at Anime Expo 2006, Bandai Entertainment made known of acquisition of the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex compilation movies and the upcoming feature film in the franchise, Solid State Society [Link 1] [Link 2]. Also announced was the live-action Cutie Honey film, directed by Hideki Anno. Re: Cutie Honey, the Anno-directed anime tie-in, however, was not mentioned. This is pretty surprising, considering that it could have made a nice set together (the OVA is only three parts in length, at about 45 minutes apiece). What isn't, though, is the continual support of the hot Ghost in the Shell franchise, backed by a wide, loyal fanbase and substantial critical praise.

In separate news (yet still connected to robots, in a way), Bandai is in negotiations to bring the three Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam compilation movies to the US.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

:anime: Bandai Visual USA Licenses Gunbuster (sounds familiar...) & Wings of Rean...

In the first "real" official post of HardDoor, I suggested that Bandai Visual USA might one day bring Gunbuster over to the US for re-releasal. Now, it looks as if that is finally coming true, as the company announced their license for the OVA and the new Yoshiyuki Tomino project Wings of Rean, a spinoff of Aura Battler Dunbine, at Anime Expo 2006. This is great news, as Gunbuster is making its first DVD appearance in North America, in which I deduce that the remastered set will be utilized and translated for here. Wings of Rean is a surprise, as it was not a show that was expected to be announced anytime soon, not to mention that ADV, who has Dunbine, did not get to it. But hey, if they can show both anime the kind of care they took with Patlabor, I'll be more than happy.

:anime: FUNimation Takes Up "Salty Ray"

Acting out on their continuing love for all things GONZO, FUNimation officially announced at Anime Expo 2006 their licensing of Solty Rei [Link 1] [Link 2]. The pleasant show, featuring designs by Range Murata, was once in the center of a rare instance where an anime distributor takes on a fansubbing group head on. The company caused the website of a group to be temporarily pulled after they caught them subbing such GONZO-animated fare like Solty Rei and Tsubasa Chronicle. Although they have never said anything about being their licensor, FUNimation acted in a way that suggested they were and that GONZO shows were of their territory (in addition, they were seen to have shows on their site that were already licensed by them). The controversial event reignited discussions involving the sticky issue of licensing and fansubbing.

:anime: Geneon Licensing Announcement Concerning Vampires, Makeup, and Mercenaries

At Anime Expo 2006, Geneon Entertainment announced their acquisition of Hellsing Ultimate OVA, Paradise Kiss, and Black Lagoon [Link 1] [Link 2]. Both Hellsing and Black Lagoon were produced by Geneon, as have a number of recent shows, so this news was to be expected. Also of note, the former will apparently retain the celebrated original English dub cast from the first series. Hopefully, the other two OVAs will receive equally nice dub casts, as both are very deserving of one. Since Paradise Kiss is from the same mangaka (Ai Yazawa) who created the wildly successful and acclaimed NANA, as well as the same animation studio, perhaps that anime will also come stateside one day.

In addition to these, Geneon also picked up Hello Kitty: Stump Village, Cool Dimension, and Disgaea (haven't ever heard of the first two; seem like new titles in development). At least Black Lagoon has been listed for a 2007 release, while Cool Dimension will see a joint October Japan/US sale and Helling Ultimate OVA in December.

UPDATE: It appears that Cool Dimension is a live-action film, whereas the Hello Kitty feature is a claymation work. On a side note, I really do hope that Geneon can retain the Franz Ferdinand-sung ending to Paradise Kiss.