Heavenly Sword

Woowie! Call me a pessimist, I was seriously skeptic about this title given PS3's 2007 track record. "Heavenly Sword" is heavenly indeed.

If you've seen the number of "anime" videos, then you know the underlying story already. The story is centered around the ancient sword known as Heavenly Sword. Once belonging to a powerful diety, the sword can never be wielded by any mortal lest they succumb to its condition -- to be slowly drained of your life force till there is nothing left. In a time of war, Nariko must embark on a quest for vengeance against the invading army and its king. To do this, she must take up the Heavenly Sword and pay the ultimate price to complete one last mission.

Gameplay is phenonmenal and reminds me a lot of the fluid movements we've seen in "God of War." The cinematic scenes are beautiful and carry great voice dubbing to match. Movement is very diverse and you even get a chance at first-person shooting. "Heavenly Sword" is very well done indeed. It's the only other PS3 game, after "Resistance" of course, that I am swimmingly ecstatic that I picked up. No regrets here.


Brave Story Novel

We've all heard the expression: "Don't judge a book by its cover." I can't think of any other title that truly culminates this statement. The "Brave Story" novel has been adapted into manga and anime, and whether or not you jumped into any of these media, the novel will definitely come as quite a shocker.

What first looks like a children's fantasy story, especially with the vague book description and cover, turns out to be so much more. First of all, I didn't expect to receive a 800-page book that can sit right along side with the "Harry Potter" books. The underlying tones are incredibly developed leading the reader into an emotional journey of morals and human behavior. It is an instant classic. Its message can be different depending to the reader and their age, but "Brave Story" is definitely a book that the older crowd should consider reading. Its philosophical demeanor gives you another outlook in life and transcends it.

Wataru's life has just been turned upside down with recent events. As he desperately seeks a way to change his destiny, the door to "Vision" opens to invite him to do just that. Elements of morality, destiny, and fate are explored, as Wataru ventures into an RPG-like fantasy. Brandishing only a sword, Wataru treks through unknown territories to fight for his life.


Ghost in the Shell Crystal Art Works

Bandai has released three stunningly beautiful pieces of "Ghost in the Shell" art, each 21,000 yen. These pieces are just too gorgeous to form any words to remotely describe to capture their full effect.

I have yet to find any import retail providers that carry these GiTS Crystal Art Works. If anyone knows any retailers that are shipping to the US, please let me know. But, of course, if you don't have that obstacle, just head down to Hobby Japan.


The Chains that Bind

It seems that all good things come in March 2008. That glorious month will also bring gamers the vicious "God of War: Chains of Olympus" for the PSP. Chains of Olympus serves as a prequel to the GOW2 following Kratos in his service to the Gods during the 10 year period before the events of GOW1.

From the looks of things, development is going superbly. This is one title that will truly showcase the awesome power and capability of the PSP in all realms, including sound quality, graphics, and movement. If you ever doubted the integrity of the PSP, Chains of Olympus will no doubt shed that thought instantly.

For salivating purposes, check out these series of links that will bring you vis-a-vis with GOW.

Game Spot has a great, in-depth revealing article on the PSP game and an advance peek at the all new never-before-revealed level known as Tartarus. A link to an interview video is also available.

The official Chains of Olympus website displays the "Bringing an Epic to the PSP System" video. Be sure to visit often, as updates continue to be made.

The Playstation site boasts the english transcript of a live dev-team chat with fellow gamers just recently held. Some burning questions are answered and you won't want to miss out.

Prepare Yourself, Mortal!


VIOLET UK Album Debut

YOSHIKI's solo project VIOLET UK makes its long-awaited album debut on the motion picture soundtrack of "Catacombs." The soundtrack features a unique mixture of Japanese and American artists and also features a song from hide's band zilch.

The exclusive overseas retailers Jrock Revolution is taking pre-orders as we speak -- the first 500 orders of the "Catacombs" soundtrack will receive a special bonus gift. So place your order at www.jrockrevolution.com.


BONES Co-founder Passes Away

Hiroshi Osaka, co-founder of BONES animation studio, passed away yesterday morning from cancer at the age of 44. Some of his genius work have included "Cowboy Bebop," "Vision of Escaflowne," "RahXhephon," and "Full Metal Alchemist: The Movie."

ANN has a nice tribute commemorating the life of Hiroshi Osaka and how anime influenced him.


Growlanser: Heritage of War

Atlus pulled out all the stops when they brought us the next installment of Growlanser, "Heritage of War," for the PS2. Released in the U.S. just 2 days ago, this limited edition is definitely packed with goodies galore (no standard edition has been released). Along with the game itself, the limited edition comes with 2 lenticular pocket-sized cards, 3 pins, 1 keychain, a media DVD, and a stunning 100-page full-color illustration archive.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, on to why we're here in the first place: the game. The world's resources have nearly vanished and creatures threaten what's left of the human world. War has erupted to claim what little viable land there is. But legend speaks of a certain paradise, the goal of one of our main characters in "Growlanser: Heritage of War." Real-time gameplay and the easibility of the battle menu has improved and from what I've played thus far, the storyline seems to have a strong hold. The graphics are done well in Growlanser standards, but may not be able to hold its own against next-gen roleplaying games. Even for a PS2 game, the graphics may be seen a little under par. Nevertheless, this isn't to say that "Growlanser: HOW" is not worth your time. In fact, this game shouldn't be one to be passed below your radar.


MGS Raiden RAH Figure

Let's face it. All this mayhem surrounding the long-standing Metal Gear franchise is anything but unjustified. And it seems that it will only escalate from here as we inch ever so slowly to the simultaneous worldwide release of "Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots for the PS3." All my friends know that I've been eyeing the MGS RAH figures due for release near game-time and since I've practically framed the still shots of the figures on my desk, I may as well publish them here for easy access.

The Raiden and Snake real action heroes figures will stand at 12 inches bearing some awesomely beautiful details. Each at a retail price of $180, these fierce figures are definitely something to gawk at.


Guild Wars Ultimate Guide

Straight from the official Guild Wars site: In collaboration with the developers at ArenaNet, the editors of PC Gamer magazine are proud to bring Guild Wars fans a special issue, the Ultimate Guild Wars Guide. Dedicated entirely to the wondrous world of Guild Wars, this magazine is packed with over 50 pages of stunning concept art, walkthroughs, strategy tips and hints, and information about the highly anticipated Guild Wars 2.

Readers will gain insight to the development process of the Guild Wars series, with commentary provided by the talented artists, writers, and designers who work on the Guild Wars franchise. Each copy will also include a unique code for readers to redeem an exclusive Destroyer in-game miniature not available anywhere else! The Ultimate Guild Wars Guide will be on sale September 25 at newsstands in North America for $9.99 (US).


MGS4 TGS 2007 Trailer

As promised, check out the newest MGS4 trailer from Tokyo Game Show 2007.

The TGS MGS4 trailer takes a different route than past trailers, giving us more glimpses on the story line and characters and a little less on gameplay and action, which is a nice transition. However, that doesn't mean that all is explained. We all know by now, that Kojima takes pleasure in our "suffering," a trait of an extremely talent storyteller. We first meet Dr. Naomi Hunter with an urgent message to deliver. The camera then shifts to Meryl and her squad showing off the abilities and advantages of nanomachines. Then in comes the monkey...yes, a monkey. Snake meets a gun dealer and quick flash of scenes cut to Eva (aka Big Mama), a flash of Vamp, a little girl known as Sunny, and of course Liquid. A short scene between Naomi and Sunny brings up talk about the little girl's mother...hmmm? And we end the trailer with Johnny (aka Akiba) with his pants down. Phew...talk about a onset of a slew of quick cuts. Ahh, all this talk is definitely not helping all the fans that are ready to pee in their pants (no pun intended ^_^) waiting for that penultimate day in March next year.

Don't miss IGN's full video content for additional trailers including 4 more in-game cinematics. And of course, we can't forget about the Metal Gear Online Starter Pack updates either.


MGS 4 Trailer Transcript

Before the newest MGS 4 trailer arrives tomorrow, IGN provides us with the english transcript of said trailer. So let your imaginations run wild. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Kojima definitely has a knack for toying with our minds and hearts.

Naomi: ... That's why Liquid has me helping him hijack the System. Because I know how FOXDIE works. Please, you must rescue me. Preparations for his insurrection are nearly complete. There's no time to waste. Snake, hurry!
Ed: There's twenty of them. And they're not from that PMC, Praying Mantis, either.
(Metal Gear 20th Anniversary)
Ed: It's the FROGS.
Meryl: Their guys are with Liquid's private army. Shoot first, think later. We'll change the route as necessary. I'm on point. Got it? Eye contact.
("Final Chapter of the MG Saga")
Meryl: The nanomachine network inside each unit member's body lets us share each other's senses. With SOP, my team can literally operate as one. So, what do you think? Is your age of heroes finally over?
("Final Mission of Snake")
Snake: I'm no hero. Never was. Never will be.
("Finally, Everything Will Be Revealed!")
Snake: You haven't changed at all, Snake.
Drebin: Pretty sweet, huh? Whoa, hold it. Watch where you're pointing that thing.
Snake: Who are you?
Drebin: Neither enemy, nor friend. I'm a weapons wholesaler -- all shapes, all sizes. All you see here has been laundered.: I take ID guns like the PMCs use and make some mods. Then you can use 'em without having to match IDs. In other words, I'm a gun launderer. You can call me, Drebin.
("Metal Gear Solid 4")
Drebin: Privatizing the military's made the PMCs big and bloated. And the fatter the PMCs get, the line between civilian and soldier is gonna get real blurry. The whole damn human race is gonna be green collars.
Otacon: Vamp... He's got to be immortal.
Snake: What the hell are these Patriots? Are they human?
Drebin: Not anymore they ain't. They're the law of this world, created over the course of history. The're what holds this world together. Keeps this whole mess in check.
Naomi: Let's go!
Otacon: Sunny was taken by the Patriots right after she was born. She never even met her parents.
Sunny: Snake! This is a non-smoking flight!
Meryl: This is Rat Patrol Team 01. We're with the CID -- one of the bodies investigating PMC activity.
EVA: Very impressive CQC, Snake. Call me Mama. Big Mama.
Snake: Liquid!
Liquid: Brother! It's not over -- not yet! This is the liberty we've won for ourselves! ... Outer Haven.
Naomi: See, Sunny? Us girls have look our best.
Sunny: Her name was Olga.
Naomi: Hm?
Sunny: ... My mother.
Akiba: Drop your weapon!
Snake: You haven't even taken the safety off, rookie.
Akiba: Careful, I'm no rookie. I'm a ten year vet.
Snake: How the hell did you even survive ten years?
Soldier: Who's there?
Akiba: Go away! I'm not done yet!
Soldier: Stop! Stop right there!
Akiba: Get back here!
Drebin: Here they come!


Paprika and Jin-Roh in High-Def

Dates for the U.S. Blu-ray release of Satoshi Kon's "Paprika" and Mamoru Oshii's "Jin-Roh" have finally been announced. I still do not have a valid explanation to back up this major release delay. Nevertheless, Sony Pictures Entertainment will release "Paprika" on Blu-ray and DVD November 27th. On the same day, Bandai will release "Jin-Roh," already available on DVD, on Blu-ray. While the BD price tag of $38.96 for "Paprika" seems quite reasonable, Bandai presents a shocking $79.99 BD price tag for "Jin-Roh." I have yet to find any concrete evidence to justify this outrageous price -- it doesn't even look like this BD release is full of extras. One can only hope this is the case, but given Bandai's track record, perhaps this is truly the standard BD release price.

UPDATE 9/21/2007: Bandai's press release indicates that the "Jin-Roh" Blu-ray disc, retailed at $79.99 will include the movie in high-def with english and japanese language and subtitles. The movie will be packaged in a special artbox slipcase packed with a 20-page booklet exploring the world of Jin-Roh, with a new interview of director Hiroyuki Okiura, and the complete japanese 522-page storyboards book. Now that's more like it!


Welcome to the N.H.K.

The first volume of the anime adaptation of "Welcome to the N.H.K.," brough to us via Gonzo, will be released October 2nd on DVD. For the past couple of days now, ADV has graciously provided the first episode for your viewing pleasure - you can still catch the streaming video until Sept. 19.

Satou Tatsuhiro, a 22 year old male, lives alone in his apartment and has rarely gone out. He is what they call a NEET - Not in Employment, Education, or Training - and a hikikomori. Suffering for acute social withdrawal, Satou develops a paranoia and believes everything around him is ridden with conspiracy. He then develops a conspiracy theory which includes the Nihon Kikikomori Kyokai (NHK), a secret organization aimed at increasing the number of otaku (hikikomori). Odd circumstances leads him to Misaki Nakahara, who selects Satou for her "project" to cure him of his kikikomori ways.

Rated M for mature, this series provides a load of laughter and unique comedic style for the older crowd. Under its comedic undertones, a common theme arises in which the story examines the hardships of life and how people deal with them. While I slightly prefer the manga over the anime, both outlets are definitely worth your time.


Vampire Hunter D Vol. 8

The exciting conclusion of the two-part "Vampire Hunter D" novel "Mysterious Journey to the North Sea" is finally here. Hideyuki Kikuchi seems to out do himself every time and lucky for us, it doesn't look like his streak is ever going to end. "Journey to the North Sea" indeed encapsulates in whole the phenomenon behind the Vampire Hunter D series.

Summoned to contemporary Florence by Su-in, sister of a murdered village girl, the enigmatic Vampire Hunter D discovers a vampire curse ravaging the town's human inhabitants. The plague apparently originating, impossibly, from the unforgiving sea-could it be Baron Meinster's Revenge?

Beautifully written and enticing all the same time, you'll be itching to turn each page even after you've hit the end. "Mysterious Journey to the North Sea" has become one of my favorite books and it comes to no surprise that this story may be due for an anime adaptation.

Believe it or not, volume 9, "The Rose Princess" is due out this November.


Trinity Blood: The Star of Sorrow Vol. 1

"The Star of Sorrow", is the first volume of 1 of 2 different novel lines, "Reborn on the Mars," of the "Trinity Blood" series. In this story, a mysterious terrorist organization and the bloodthirsty Marquis of Hungary, Gyula, has one agenda -- to shatter the loose string and orchestrate a war between the New Human Empire and the Vatican. Special Ops AX Agent Abel Nightroad is back and with the help of a young girl named Esther, they hope to thwart Gyula and Co. from unleashing their ace weapon, the legendary Star of Sorrow.

Comparing "The Star of Sorrow" with the anime series, the manga, and the novel "From the Empire," this may be one of my least favorite stories. While the overall plot behind the novel could potentially deliver an awesome experience, the execution was less than mediocre, especially for those who aren't new to "Trinity Blood." The story moved a bit slow and the characters felt stereotypical and held no depth. That aspect alone was suprising, as Abel has always held a place in my favorite character list. If you're first encounter with "Trinity Blood" is through "The Star of Sorrow," you are bound to closely compare it to "Trigun," for example, and are more likely prone to choose "Trigun" over the former title. Nevertheless, the action really starts to pick up 3/4 of the way through the book, in a such way that it almost redeems itself in the end.

Overall, "Trinity Blood: The Star of Sorrow" is a good read, but if you're looking for perfection and awe-inspiring entertainment, I can think of plenty of other titles that are worth your while.


Save Totoro's Forest

"Tonari no Totoro's" Director, Hayao Miyazaki thwarts and helps stop plans to destroy "Totoro's forest." As you may know, the growth of trees near the Fuchi no Mori forest lands is best known as the real-life scenery inspiration for Miyazaki's "My Neighbor Totoro."

As chairperson of the Council for the Preservation of Fuchi no Mori, Miyazaki met with the landowners and developers yesterday on behalf of the council: "Stop the Development. Let it remain green." [Source: ANN]


VGL CD Announced

Since its inception back in 2005, fans have been inquiring and itching for a CD/DVD release of the hot video game concert, Video Games Live. Finally and without further delay, VGL teams up with EMI classics for the worldwide release of "Video Games Live: Greatest Hits - Volume One." As the album title indicates, it seems we can hope for additional future releases, but for now, we'll stick to what we have on hand.

Volume One includes medleys from some of the biggest games ever released, including Zelda, Mario, Halo, Warcraft, Sonic, Tron, Myst, Civilization IV and Final Fantasy. Absent from the list include Kingdom Hearts, Metal Gear, and God of War - perhaps in Volume 2?

The anthology CD was compiled by renowned video game composers and Video Games Live co-creators Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall. The album features the Slovak National Orchestra as well as the Crouch End Chorus and the “Video Game Pianist” - Martin Leung. The CD will be realeased worldwide this October 15, 2007.


Manga-Inspired Car

Want more proof of the true power of anime and manga? Well look no further than here. Nissan's newest concept car, the Mixim, was heavily inspired by anime and manga works, including "Ghost in the Shell" and "Second Life," according to Mixim's creator, Yoo Eunsun.


Jigoku Shoujo Futakomori

"Jigoku Shoujo Futakomori" (or "Hell's Girl") is back for another go. The story follows Ai Enma, Hell's Girl, who utilizes the Hell Hotline to allow any persons with a grudge to take revenge on their enemy. Of course as we all know, a certain balance must be kept. When one person is sent to his or her grave, 2 graves will be dug. Once the user of Hell Hotline dies, his or her soul will be consequently be sent to Hell.

"Jigoku" eminates a dark atmosphere full of vengeance and fear. What better way to accentuate this atmosphere then with a soundtrack to match it. Lucky for us, "Jigoku" never disappoints in that realm. Regardless of whether or not you watch "Jigoku," do not pass up on the OST."

Jigoku" is unique in it of itself, but to paint a better picture: Think of "Full Metal Alchemist," "Witch Hunter Robin," "Boogiepop Phantom," "Serial Experiments Lain," "Alive," and "Darker the Black," then put them all together to get a glimpse of what's waiting for you at Hell's Gate. Just how far would you be willing to go to reap out your revenge? The choice is yours.


Japan! Culture + Hyperculture

We first heard hints about the upcoming event known as "Japan! Culture + Hyperculture" months ago. For a refresher, check out my original post back in March. The 2-week long festival will take place on February 2008 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. A detailed schedule has been posted up and from the looks of the line-up, this event has a little bit of everything, giving viewers a glance at Japanese culture, both traditional and modern. Japanese robotics, kabuki, musicals, contemporary dance, plays, a laptop orchestra, ballet, and other musical performances are just some of the events that will grace DC in February. Most noteworthy of course is the world premiere of "Genius Party," the anthology of short animated films made by the gurus of the anime industry. A marathon of three anime premieres will be shown back to back. Japan! Culture + Hyperculture is shaping up to be the event of the new year.

Tickets for this amazing event will be available for purchase September 28, 2007. For more information and of course, to land some tickets, be sure to check out the Kennedy Center website


EVA Lance of Longinus Sold!

The Yahoo! auction for the 62-pound steel Lance of Longinus closed at a whopping $120,000. EVA truly represents the culmination and the reach of anime, proving that anime is without a doubt, a work of art, beyond the outer surface of animation and beyond what anyone can possibly fathom.


Square Enix Store Opens in America

If you've been a video gamer and a fan of anything made by Square Enix, then you are no novice to the plethora of FF, KH, Dragon Quest, Valkyrie merchandise available to Japanese residents and importers. The rate of announcements have been steadily growing to commemorate the opening of the North America Square Enix store. Well, the wait is over. Gather up your gil and get your goodies straight from the source at square-enix-shop.com.

A minimum order of $23.00 has been placed, but let's face it, it won't take much to spend get over that little itty bitty hump.


EVA: New vs. Old

Some "Evangelion" fans have gathered screen shots from the acclaimed series and movie to see just how different the new and old versions really are. Whether you're a fan of originals or not, you can't deny to crispness and clarity of the new four-part movie. Check out the following links for all the image comparisons: Image 1, Image 2, Image 3, Image 4, and Image 5.


Top 100 OP/ED Songs

The top 100 anime theme songs have been tallied and here are the results, according to Japan. You may be extremely suprised to see who made it (or didn't) on the list, and see who reigns on top. Rank lists have almost always never coincided between Japan and the rest of the world, and this list of course, was no exception. While I won't divulge the top ranked theme song, I will say that the list was relatively top-heavy with robot anime, classic titles make a few appearances, and there were several nail-biting and heart rendering moments scattered throughout. Test your otaku self and see how many you recognize...





Happy 10th B-day FF VII!

Japan spent Labor Day weekend commemorating, in gallery format, the 10th anniversary of the revolutionary RPG that needs absolutely no introduction -- Final Fantasy VII. Among the expected pieces lay a few rarities -- a life-sized buster blade, a huge model of Midgar, and another set of hard-to-find special FF potion drinks. I fully concur with IGN's simple yet true statement -- I doubt another event like this will ever reach past the waters of Japan. While many enjoyed the exhibit, most are left only to drool over these pics. For more pics, be sure to check out IGN and Dengeki.