All Hallow's Eve 2007


As I stand here in my room, rocking out to the new "Guitar Hero III" on the PS3, I thought I'd take a break and spew out some recommendations for anyone looking for something to do in between each wave of trick-or-treaters. Of course, what better thing to do than watch some good old anime? My favorites, especially during this time of year, include "Hellsing," "Vampire Hunter D," "Boogiepop Phantom," and "The Soultaker." However, I'm sure the movie of the night will be "SAW IV." And if you are into "Guild Wars," don't forget to visit Lion's Arch. This will be the last night of festivities. If you feel so inclined, be sure to check out Kotaku.com. For the past couple of days, they have been featuring pumpkin art of our favorite video game heroes and villains alike. Most importantly, don't forget to check out your usual anime sources. Vendors such as advfilms.com, animenation.com, discountanimedvd.com and many others are slashing prices for the main event. So anyways, enjoy. I leave you with my pumpkin creation for 2007. The front door beckons once more.



One of my best friends and I are avid listeners of local radio station HOT 99.5. And just recently, she was named the 99.5 HotSpot Member of the Day (check out her page here), which landed her a feature on the radio's main webpage and a prize pack stuffed with goodies. And almost lost among all the prizes were 2 tickets to an advanced screening of the animated "BEE MOVIE" opening in theaters this Friday, November 2. Taking yours truly, we were excited for the work day to be over and done with. To be seeing the movie for free was one thing, but to be seeing it 4 days in advance was a whole other story with, dare I say, bragging rights.

We arrived "early" only to find a long winding line, a huge "small" popcorn, a funky tasting mystery soda, and a packed theater with 3 entire rows ridiculously reserved for the press. After finding some of the only seats left, down in the front section, and some delay, the Dreamworks logo finally appears and finally the movie. I usually try to avoid sitting up front, but left with no other choice, I actually think it made the movie even more enjoyable. We were flying and zooming along side with the bees.

Meet Barry B. Benson (Jerry Seinfeld), a bee who has recently graduated from college and is getting ready to choose a career he'll keep for the rest of his life. Unable to conform to this "yellow and black" lifestyle, Barry seeks to adventure outside the hive where he meets a human florist named Vanessa (Renee Zellweger). Jam packed with big celebrity names, "BEE MOVIE" delivers a whopping help of laugh out loud moments, animation sequences to match, and has a little bit of everything - action, romance, drama, comedy, and a slice-of-life. You'll want to see it again and again.


WIRED History of Manga

WIRED magazine's newest issue features the history of manga's rise in America. It provides a nice time capsule to long-time running fans. Starting from the penultimate work called "Astro Boy" leading up to "Sailor Moon" to "Dragon Ball Z" and to "Pokemon," this history lesson gives a nice glimpse into the ever-expanding phenomenon.

You can trace back to your roots and see what the status of the industry was at that point -- back to memory lane. I remember when Viz first joined the scene and was, for a good period of time, my only source of manga. How excited I was each time the newest issue of the DBZ manga arrived in my mailbox, and via an "unflopped" manner for that matter. Then there's the intertwining of manga and anime, collectibles, music, and video games. The availability of such goods were a hard commodity to locate in the early days. There's been a great jump over the last two decades, and interest has most certainly not hit a plateau and won't be anytime soon. We went from select comic book stores to entire rows and sections dedicated to the graphic novel.

It is nostalgic to sit back and look at how far we've come. I find myself saying, "damn, these younger kids have it easy, they can go to any bookstore and virtually any entertainment store to fulfill their manga and anime cravings. We early fans, with VHS and Laser discs didn't have that back in the day." But I guess, as is true with anything, it's just a matter of perspective.

If you are unable to pick up a copy, read the 11-page manga history
here. WIRED has also produced a short video showing the step-by-step creation of the magazine's cover art.



Today was the day I'd see the genius pairing of SAW IV and X JAPAN. After an awesome psychological roller coaster ride and an ending that left you exasperating for more, the closing credits began to roll. And as viewers gradually made their way out of the theater, I sat in complete jubilation in unshed tears of joy as a surge of memories came pouring out the moment I hear the voice of TOSHI. X JAPAN's "I.V." theme song remains true to themselves and their unique style. I felt as though I was floating in a vast chasm and everything around me went obsolete.

As SAW IV producer Oren Koules put it perfectly, "the band's dark sensibility makes X JAPAN a perfect creative complement to the 'SAW' series." As stated in the press release: I.V. is introduced by a few tense piano notes that quickly spawn a double-kick-drum-fueled rampage. Appropriately sinister verses give way to a gorgeous, dramatic chorus bearing the lyrics, “I’m calling you, dear/ Can’t you see me standing right here/ Life is bleeding from fear/ I’ll give it straight from my vein.” Simply perfection.

"I.V." will not be included in the SAW IV soundtrack, but in the meantime, you can enjoy a clip of X JAPAN's song, which can be found in the Official SAW IV Soundtrack website, or you can simply watch the movie again. One hopes an OST re-release or single release will be made.


Kenji Ohtsuka and the N.H.K.

It's not very often that an anime opening or ending theme song gets me so hooked or inspired as to compel me to seek out the artist and find their other works. Most of the time, the opposite is true. And in other cases, the song and anime really go hand in hand. Well, here are one of those rare moments. I say rare because the artist of discussion is not new to the industry, and having been a fan of J-rock/pop for almost as long as anime/manga have been in my life, these circumstances are amazing. While I cannot claim to know every J-rock/pop artist in existence, it is quite baffling that this artist has been below my radar until recently.

Kenji Ohtsuki (and Fumihiko Kitsutaka) provide the ending theme songs for NHK ni Youkoso (Welcome to the N.H.K.), an anime that is growing to become of my favorite series. The "hook" was the first ED theme song, "Odoru Akachan Ningen" (Dancing Baby Humans). While the corresponding graphics were rather perfect, it did not completely steal the show from the song itself. With great metal riffs transposed with piano melodies and awesome lyrics to match, it is hard to compare it to other works. The full version of the song is definitely worth listening to. Though I feel as though I should give some warning. This may not be everyone's cup of tea, but Its unusual traits and overall feel make it all the more appealing.


GOW: Battle of Attica Demo

I was having a pretty crummy day, or week for that matter. And all it took to change it was one small, tiny and unexpected package in the mail to turn it all around, even for the briefest moments. It was my special copy of the "God of War: Chains of Olympus" Battle of Attica demo for the PSP. The packaging was beautifully done and quite compact, which was surprising given the fact that this was "just a demo." Along with the game, the package also included a nice quality collector's item -- a cell phone strap with the easily recognizable GOW omega symbol. Very nice, indeed.

This demo was phenomenally sweet and definitely delivers, giving players a taste of the awesomeness that will arrive early next year. "Chains of Olympus" undoubtedly lives up to the franchise and gives us a whole lot of what we like best. The transition from the standalone console and the portable console is almost flawless. The PSP graphics are just a tad lower in degree of quality and the sound quality is just about he same. Nevertheless GOW: Chains of Olympus is sure to serve quite a punch.

The Battle of Attica demo includes two battle bosses reminiscent of what we are used to already. Movement and action, and the transition from cinematic sequences and gameplay is still fluid, but after pulling the same combos, it may start to feel a little repetitious. This will most likely be remedied for the full version.

While nothing new is put on the table, as I've said before, "Chains of Olympus" makes a nice addition and the storyline meshes beautifully with the entire franchise. It makes you damn right proud to be a Spartan. Kratos, hang in there, Zeus will get his due soon! But in the mean time, it doesn't hurt to visit your roots.


Guild Wars 2007 Halloween Event

It's that time again, the Mad King is coming. The Tyrian port of Lion's Arch and the Elonian port of Kamadan will be adorned with all things ghastly, commemorating the 2007 Guild Wars Halloween Event beginning this Friday, October 26th and ending on All Hallow's Eve. The festivities will entertain visitors with a slew of mini-games, new jokes, gifts, the Costume Brawl, special shops, mementos, and perfect once-a-year photo ops.

Friday, October 26
Lion's Arch and Kamadan are decorated in the Halloween spirit. The new Costume Brawl opens.

Friday-Sunday, 26 - 28

Various NPCs and holiday characters begin appearing in Lion's Arch and Kamadan.

Wednesday, October 31

Mad King Thorn makes appearances every three hours throughout the day in Lion's Arch and Kamadan. His first appearance will take place at 12:01 a.m. Pacific time and his final appearance will begin on Thursday, November 1 at 12:01 a.m. Pacific time.


Gundam Zaku Cell Phone

Sharp will release this 3G mobile Gundam Zaku Char cell phone with iPhone-like features. The cell phone comes equipped with a slide open mechanism, your standard camera and internet browser, 1 GB of internal memory, pre-recorded Char phrases and digital one-seg TV built in. What's even more amazing is the charger that comes along with it. Much bigger than the phone, Zaku's head opens up to reveal a slot to charge up this awesome phone.

As the official site indicates, there are 20 more days until this sleek black and red phone goes up for pre-order. I'm not sure what the price tag is one this or what scope of availability this Zaku phone will have, but one thing is for sure, there is no other phone to compare!


Winners of "I, Otaku" Contest Announced

The winners of the "I, Otaku: Are you an Otaku?" contest have just been posted. A husband and wife win the grand prize by each entering one half of their collection. They will share an original full color "I, Otaku" illustration, drawn and signed by series creator Jiro Suzuki, as well as 10 of the latest Seven Seas manga. A special first place prize was created which landed the winner with 5 manga titles.

As you may know, I entered in this contest myself, having quite a struggle at choosing only two views. Having now seen the winners' collection, I wouldn't be surprised if I would have grabbed the win had my whole collection been out. But hey, on the up side of things, I did win the runner-up prize, along with 8 other otaku!!! For your viewing pleasure, the pics I entered can be found below.

Check out the entire list of winners and pictures of the 3 "first prize" winners at gomanga.com.

GRAND PRIZE: Frank and Kim Bullock
SPECIAL 1st PRIZE: Lori Lancaster
RUNNER-UP: Matthew V. Arra; Alissa N. Babineau; Krystal Ditty; Shannon Gilstrap; Brian Hall Jr. ; Eric Mertz; Sabira Mohamed; Judi Weiershauser; Joshua Welker.


Brave Story Movie

Due to the regional and physical restraints of living in the U.S., I had been unable to catch the anime adaptation of Miyuki Miyabe's "Brave Story." With the manga, novel, and video games finally making its way over vast oceans, I project that the U.S. DVD release is not too far off. But having finished the 800-page novel just last month, I couldn't wait any longer for the anime. So I gave up waiting for the U.S. release and opted instead and sought pursuit for the Japanese DVD release. Although I was unable to find the collector's box edition released back in 2006, as luck would have it, the limited edition version included English subtitles!

Referencing my previous review of the "Brave Story" novel (see 9/29/2007 post), we follow a story of a young boy who sets off on a journey in the hopes of changing his destiny and thereby eradicating his "false fate." While the novel doesn't hold back a thing, the movie does. But fortunate for us, it doesn't bring doom. The novel features mature undertones and delivers an incredibly in-depth story that any adult would appreciate. The movie, on the other hand, is definitely a one-size-fits-all movie. Very light-hearted and dream-like, your viewing experience depends greatly on whether or not you've read the original work. If you're going into this with no background whatsoever, you are, nevertheless, in for a delightful treat. If you are armed with "plot power," the movie is an excellent supplement to the novel.

And while we're on the subject, Kotobukiya has released a nice set of "Brave Story" PVC figures. Released figures include Wataru, Mitsuru, Kee Keema, Meena, and other fellow Highlanders.


X JAPAN's Decade Debut

Just announced! Their first release since 1997, X JAPAN's debut comeback song will serve as the end title song for the fourth movie installment of the SAW franchise. X JAPAN's new song, cleverly named "I.V." (pronounced "Aye-Vee" as in "Ivy"), will feature TOSHI on vocals, PATA on guitar and HEATH on bass, and will also include unreleased material by HIDE! "I.V." was written and composed by YOSHIKI with English lyrics. The debut song, however, will not be on the official "SAW IV" soundtrack. A PV will be shot next Tuesday, October 22nd, and as of yet, there is no mention of a release date for "I.V."

"SAW IV" premieres nationwide October 26, 2007.


8 PS3's vs. 200 Supercomputers

That beautiful shiny black piece of machinery sitting in your room can do much more than give us the best gaming experience to date. What better time to show off those other skills than at this pivotal lag time where a plethora of games are still awaiting its existence? Welcome to the realm of science and research, an area of which I am no stranger to.

A researcher is working to solve a celestial mystery involving gravitational waves and what happens when a super-massive black hole, about a million times the mass of our own sun, swallows up a star. He has replaced his 200 node supercomputers with a gravity grid made up of 8 interlinked PS3s to help measure these theoretical gravity waves.

The PS3's open platform attribute opens up infinite possibilities, on of which gives this researcher enough computational power of hundreds of supercomputers. PS3 owners already know the awesome heat behind the console's cell processor, so it was only a matter of time before the PS3 found a nice place in research. It seems that "Folding@home" was just the beginning of an untouched realm.


Ping Pong

Move over "Balls of Fury" and make way for the awesome manga adaptation of "Ping Pong" brought to you by the Japan Information and Culture Center (JICC) in DC. Playing next week, October 17th at JICC, "Ping Pong" brings you to a world competitive high school table tennis, where speed and endurance are important, but talent and heart are everything.

The live action movie will be in Japanese with English Subtitles, 114 minutes. As always, this event is free and open to the public, but reservations are required.


Guild Wars 2 Early Development

Take the awesomeness that is "Guild Wars," improve every aspect of it even more, and be willing to rebuild it from the ground up. Swirl in a lot of passion and you get the core principle of developing "Guild Wars 2."

Play NC's dev corner features an in-depth look at the early development stages of the next GW installment care of ArenaNet's James Phinney. Among the many points of accomplishments, include:

- Creating an immense freedom of movement allowing players to explore their environment freely, while maintaining its status as a hack-proof game. Yes, that includes jumping and swimming!
- Giving more common opportunities to meet with other players.
- Giving players the option to choose from multiple playable races.
- Giving players deeper options for character advancement.
- Making everything about Guild Wars better - PvP, PvE, storage...you name it.

Improving graphics and gameplay to further maintain the beauty of GW is a must. With the hindrance of backward-compatibility with the original GW engine gone, we can definitely expect wonderful things. GW2 will maintain its gameplay easibility with streaming updates, instant map travel, character templates, account-wide storage, etc. allowing players to essentially continue to play the way they want. GW will continue it's no monthly fee decree. I'm sure we all enjoy actually owning a game after we've bought it, so that won't change.

The GW world has been built to accommodate the use of third-party applications for voice chat. No word yet if this will be maintained, or if GW2 will have a built-in chat with voice capability. In the end, either way works for me.

Good things are brewing beyond Tyria. I can't wait to play it.


Xbox Gamer Paradise

Okay, I am not an Xbox 360 fan, but nevertheless, am a true gamer at heart. So I can fully appreciate the gravity of this marvelous prize. Xbox Japan's summer campaign "Xbox 360 100 Titles Present" has closed and its end result has yielded 3 lucky winners. One of those winners has taken pictures of his awesome win to show off his new, jam packed, collection. I rarely devote my posts to Xbox-related news, but this is a dream prize for any gamer (and cue "Homer Simpson''s drool").


GW Mini-Mania

NCsoft Europe recently announced a partnership with various European publications that will give players the chance to acquire on of several Guild Wars in-game miniatures. As mentioned in a previous post, North American players have had the opportunity to acquire an all-new miniature in the PC Gamer Special Guild Wars Issue. But the fun doesn't stop there. The Official Guild Wars site is offering North American and Canadian players a chance to win a new mini every month including "uncommon, rare, and ultra-rare miniatures such as the Oni and the Shiroken Assassin."

Click here to fill out the Mini Mania entry form. 125 entrants will be chosen each month, at random. Enter for a chance to own such miniatures like The Naga Raincaller, The Long-Haired Yeti, Vizu, and Zhed Shadowhoof.


Project Origin Demo Video

Check out the 18-minute demo video for the sequel to F.E.A.R, "Project Origin," coming to the XBox 360 and PS3. From the looks of things, I really like what I see. Setting aside the crisp graphics, the interactivity of your surrounding environment is definitely impressive to say the least.


Exclusive Bleach Shoes

Created by T.U.K. exclusively for the VIZ Media Bleach online store, these kicks feature black and white smooth leather upper with distressed-look Shinigami print. Outside features white raised print Shinigami logo (print and heat sealed), sewn on blue and red nylon stripes, and plastic sole with textured tread and Bleach logo insert. Inner lining is a black fabric mesh. Includes two sets of laces and Bleach sticker.

Viz Media's online store has been taking pre-orders since October 6th. These exclusive shoes, limited to only 360 pairs, will be released February 2008 with a retail price of 65 bucks.


Freedom Vol. 2

Continuing the 6-part series of "Freedom," Volume 2 does little more than tease us even further. While I may not to be able to strongly state that this should have been released as a 1 or 2-part movie until the series is complete, I doubt I will recant this thought.

Be that as it may, the 24 minutes of animation was spectacular for what it was. True to its high-def self, visual and sound quality is just as crisp as ever. The story of Takeru and the people of the Lunar Republic of Eden is unfolding and a potentially great story is being developed. There is still not enough there to review without spoiling the episode. A mysterious photograph, leads Takeru and crew on a mission that reveals the shocking truth. Before they know it, they are soon pursued by spherically transforming robots.

Whether or not they head back to safety, you'll have to wait for Volume 3. I felt the same emotions at the end of Volume 1 as I did this time around. They literally "cease transmission" at the apex of the series. If you are not already hooked with "Freedom" after Volume 1, Volume 2 probably won't be much incentive to continue the series. However, the same can be said for the opposite. If Volume 2 is sitting on your shelves right now, it is highly likely you'll see "Freedom" to the end. I know I will.


I, OTAKU "Are you an Otaku?" Contest

In honor of the release of the new manga "I, Otaku" Seven Seas Entertainment, together with Square Enix, are holding a contest to find out..."Are You An Otaku?"

All you have to do is take 2 incredible photos of your collection and send them off to iotakucontest@gomanga.com. The deadline is October 14th, so get going. Winners will be announced October 22nd and the prizes are pretty sweet.

1 winner will receive the grand prize which include a one-of-a-kind original full color "I, Otaku" illustration, drawn and signed by series creator Jiro Suzuki; and 10 of the latest Seven Seas manga, including "I, Otaku: Struggle in Akihabara, Volume 1." 10 runners up will receive their very own copy of the manga.

So let your collection do the talking. For other contest details, check out gomanga.com. An example pic from the site is included.

I think I will enter myself but doubt that I'm a shoe-in for the winning spot -- I'm sure there are others with incredible collections as well. It'll be tough to choose only 2 pictures that truly represent my collection, especially since more than half of my collection is stored away safe and sound. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.


Yotsubato Attack!

Revoltech brings us this totally cute and awesome looking figure of Yotsubato's (aka Yotsuba&!) very own Miura dressed in a robot suit. Miura comes out this December and is retailed at 2,205 yen. According to Japanator, the robot figure comes with a Miura head that you can place on when the robot helmet is off. As an added bonus, the eyes light-up!!! This figure is way totemo totemo kawaii AND too unique to pass up.


Rei Ayanami 1:1 Scale Figure

Ever wanted to have your own Evangelion plug suit? Well if you're ready to whip out that wallet, Cospatio.com is now taking orders for the Rei Ayanami and Asuka Sohryu Langley plugsuits. The suits are extremely detailed and retail at 527,000 yen (about $4,550). Check out more pics and find the order form here.

And while we're on the topic, remember the huge 3 meter EVA-01 figure? The Official Eva Store is now selling a 1:1 scale, that's right, a 1:1 scale of Rei Ayanami dressed in her school uniform. I believe the figure has been displayed at several Tokyo events and at the Evangelion Store in Japan. Rei is set at approximately 380,000 yen.