Satoshi Kon: The Illusionist

It's no question that Satoshi Kon is truly one of the greatest visionary animation artists of our time. Each work he touches turns into a best-seller bringing the audience a splash of innovation and glimpse into the artist's mind. Every fan's library is sure to include at least one of Kon's materpieces, from Perfect Blue, Paprika, Paranoia Agent, Millennium Actress, Patlabor 2, and Tokyo Godfather.

Stone Bridge Press will be releasing a profile of the director called "Satoshi Kon: The Illusionist. A very fitting title if you know what Kon strives to achieve in each piece of work. The 96-page book, due out on August 1, will be an analysis of the films and television series that Kon has worked on.


Samurai Champloo Jin & Mugen Figures

Triad Toys has announced a pair of 12-inch action figures that has definitely caught my attention. The Jin and Mugen figures from Shinichiro Watanabe's Samurai Champloo is equipped with 35 points of articulation and is highly detailed from head to toe. The accessories such as their sword blades, daggers, and jewelry are crafted from real metal. And what puts the icing on the cake is its 360 moveable eyes system, which allows full independent rotation of the eyes. The number of different poses capable is tremendous.

The figures will set you back $119.99 for each and will be released December 15, 2008. Be sure to check out Triad Toys' website for pictures of Jin and Mugen. They are worth scoping out.


First Yamato Figure Gallery Statue

Yamato USA has revealed its first Fantasy Figure Gallery PVC sculpture, a modern "Mona Lisa" known as Akira (no relation to Otomo’s manga or anime) sculpted by Plant-jzero Moekichi after the fantasy painting by Dorian Cleavenger. The figure of Akira, which stands over 10 and one-half inches high (15 inches tall with her ornamental staff), is the result of over ten years of work by Yamato to overcome the limitations of PVC statues. The Akira figure should be available in the direct market in December.

With advanced mold engineering, PAD printing, and stringent quality control Yamato claims to have solved the problems that have long plagued PVC figures: shrinkage, deformation, and unsightly parting lines. The Akira figure is constructed out of over 100 separate pieces and features more than 400 paint applications. The result is a resin quality statue with a subtle enigmatic expression that has an MSRP of $98.

Yamato’s Fantasy Figure Gallery features a number of interesting East/West collaborations including Luis Royo’s Medusa sculpted by Shungo Yazawa, Dorian Clevenger’s Akira fashioned by Plant-jzero Moekichi, and Boris Vallejo’s Monica’s Axe sculpted by Heavy Gauge’s Tobe. [Source: ICV2]


Yoshitaka Amano NYAF 08 Guest of Honor

I have a fairly short list of top favorite artists of all time and it includes Range Murata, Yoshitoshi Abe, Yoji Shinkawa, and of course, the mesmerizing work of Yoshitaka Amano. So I've been stuck in a whirlwind of jubilation ever since I first heard that Yoshitaka himself would be coming to the New York Anime Festival this September. If you remember, Vampire Hunter D novelist Hideyuki Kikuchi and the novel's translator Kevin Leahy have already been confirmed as guests at NYAF. With Amano to complete to great duet/trio, NYAF is shaping up to be an anime convention to be remembered. Check out the press release below:
NYAF today announced Yoshitaka Amano — an acclaimed artist whose credits include Final Fantasy, Sandman, and Vampire Hunter D — will appear at the 2008 New York Anime Festival as a Guest of Honor. The New York Anime Festival, an anime, manga, and Japanese pop culture convention from the creators of New York Comic Con, takes place September 26th through the 28th at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. Yoshitaka Amano joins fellow Vampire Hunter D talents Hideyuki Kikuchi (the author behind the Vampire Hunter D novel series) and Kevin Leahy (the translator of the Vampire Hunter D novel series) at NYAF. All are Co-Sponsored by Dark Horse Comics.

"The New York Anime Festival is tremendously honored to have Yoshitaka Amano join us," NYAF Show Manager Lance Fensterman said. "Mr. Amano is known around the world for his otherworldly fantasy illustrations, and we are excited to bring the man behind such beauty to New York City to meet all of his American fans."

Yoshitaka Amano began his career at Tatsunoko Productions where he served as a character designer for animated series including Gatchaman and Casshern. After 15 years with the studio, he chose to leave the comfort of a steady job to pursue his career as an artist. As a freelance illustrator, Amano contributed covers and illustrations to novels including Hideyuki Kikuchi's Vampire Hunter D, Kaoru Kurimoto's Guin Saga, and Yoshiki Tanaka's The Heroic Legend of Arslan, teamed with Mamoru Oshii to create the film Angel's Egg, collaborated with Neil Gaiman to make the award-winning graphic novel Sandman: The Dream Hunters, and partnered with video game studio Squaresoft to create the look and feel for the company's flagship Final Fantasy series.

Mr. Amano has worked with media including pencils, ink, paint, ceramic, stained glass, and fabric, and exhibitions of his work have taken place in cities including Tokyo, London, Paris, Berlin, and New York City.

Tickets to the 2008 New York Anime Festival are now on sale at nyanimefestival.com. You can bet I've got my tickets safely stored away. There was some delay on my part in posting this information, only because I was frantically searching for suitable amenities -- transportation and housing. After a scare of perhaps having to cut short my trip and go only to part of NYAF or even not at all, one of my cousins comes to the rescue saving me at least 1,000 bucks. So with that fright out of the way, I can relax.


Vampire Knight Season 2 Announced

Exciting, yet unsurprising news, the second season of the anime adaptation of Matsuri Hino's original manga "Vampire Knight" has just been confirmed for broadcast this October on the TV Tokyo station. The 13th and final episode of the first season will run next week in Japan.

The fifth manga volume will be released in the U.S. this September by Viz Media.


Anime Category in Jeopardy

I don't watch "Jeopardy" anymore, but it looks like this week's episode was worth watching, at least to commemorate a first in American trivia game shows. The Double Jeopardy round included an entire category devoted to anime entitled "We Have Met the Anime." The last 2 questions stumped the contestants, but these should be a cinch for all anime fans.

[$400] This anime show didn't start on TV, its characters were first part of Nintendo's "Pocket Monsters": POKEMON

[$800] This classic 5-letter anime film isn't named for director Kurosawa but rather a boy who destroys Tokyo: AKIRA

[$1200] In this anime TV series, Bumblebee turned into a VW Bug; in the 2007 live-action movie, he got upgraded to a Camaro: TRANSFORMERS

[$1600] This "lunar" Naoko Takeuchi creation is an example of a "magical girl" given powers to save the world: SAILOR MOON

[$2000] One of the highest-grossing films in Japanese history is the anime film about this title 14th c. princess: PRINCESS MONONOKE


MGS4: Guns of the Patriots Database

Today's Playstation Store update proves to be quite a biggie with the release of the "Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots" Database.

Straight from Playstation.Blog:

The MGS4 Database is a free, downloadable interactive application that contains the official knowledge base of everything that is Metal Gear, reaching all the way back to the very beginning of the franchise. Including complete storylines, character profiles, relationship diagrams, and much more! The MGS4 database is a great way to catch up for someone new to Metal Gear, as well as a useful resource for any veteran of the series, with complete official details on every aspect of the intricate Metal gear lore.

The MGS4 Database also contains a special feature – if you want to make use of the database, but have not yet fully played through MGS4 yet and are worried about spoilers – all MGS4 spoilers are “blacked out” until you’ve beaten MGS4. Give it a try!

But that’s not all, within MGS4, check out the EXTRAS option of the main menu (if you haven’t already). There’s already new, free downloadable content available for the game - with new camouflage and a new music track for the in game iPod. There will be more forthcoming, so be sure to check this often!

UPDATE (6/23/2008): Looks like Europe will be getting this MGS Database after all, joining Japan and U.S., in June 26th, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled at this week's Playstation Store update.


Gears of War Series 2 Figure

The second wave of "Gears of War" figures is due for release by the end of October. This second series action figure assortment features Marcus, Dom, Baird, Theron Guard, and Helmeted Theron Guard. All 5 figures are incredibly detailed and poseable. Game accurate accessories include the Lancer, Torquebow, and Gnasher.

Regardless of whether you're a fan of the game or know a good figure when you see it, simply said, that Theron Guard looks absolutely fierce!


Alive: The Final Evolution Gets Anime

"Alive: The Final Evolution," the supernatural adventure manga will now be getting its own anime series. As I wrote back in December, the storyline for "Alive" would make a potentially great transition into an anime. The manga began serialization in 2003, the 15th volume just recently released in Japan, and the 5th volume coming in the U.S. soon.

From my 8/5/2007 post:

The story centers around Taisuke, and 3 other subsequent characters -- his sister (a nurse at Taisuke's high school), his best friend, and his "girfriend." A string of inexplicable mass suicides has occurred around the globe, including Japan, the U.S., and China over seven days, now deemed, "Nightmare Week." The cause of the mysterious suicides have been linked to a strange virus, but police are no closer to finding the cause.

The story's dark themes of life and death, and its wistful blend of comedy, make "Alive" an addicting manga. The author, Tadashi Kawashima, does an exceptional job in setting up the story and building a structure behind the four main characters and their individual connection to death.


Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

Whether you've owned the PS3 since its release or have just recently been a proud owner of the console, it's a safe bet to say you were playing the penultimate "Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots" game this past weekend. Writing a review to a game like Metal Gear Solid 4 is no small feat. I've started a couple of times, but my attempts fell short as the review became much bigger than me. It is especially difficult when you have the utmost respect, appreciation, and revere for each and every single frame. So I've decided to do things a little different this time. Some of my draft reviews have striking similarities to reviews already out there, so rather than spew the same critiques, I've decided to list some sources here, and provide my own perceptions on the game as a whole.

If only to say that MGS4 is true perfection and that Hideo Kojima is true genius would be a gross understatement. I can't imagine any other saga that has stirred this much emotion in such a way as Kojima has willed it to be. This has truly been a journey. Talk about wrapping things up...it's hard to put in words the amount of satisfaction and overachievement of MGS4. It was worth the wait. MGS4 culminates masterful artistry. To the beautiful moving camera not void of blood splatter, dust, snow and rain, to the changing interactive gameplay, to the awe-inspiring cutscenes, to the incredibly moving soundtrack, to all the characters themselves, Snake, Otacon, Liquid, Raiden, Vamp, Naomi, Big Mama, the BB Corps, Meryl, the Patriots, Big Boss...and to the actual story, perfection...definitely deserving a merit of supreme excellence. The balanced blend of humor, remorse, regret, action, morality, and sensibility make MGS4 a legendary game for the ages. With gratitude, thank you Kojima-sama!

Gamespot (Rating: 10/10)
IGN US (Rating: 10/10)
Eurogamer (Rating: 8/10)
PSX Extreme (Rating: 10/10)
Game Informer (Rating: 10/10)
Gametrailers (Rating: 9.3/10)


MPD-Psycho Vol. 5

After last volume's surprising betrayal and bloodbath, Amamiya-the multiple personality detective of the Isono Criminal Research Lab-faces new threats from the young "Lucy 7" deviants! In the midst of new murderous messes, bumbling Detective Sasayama finds himself in a criminal profiler contest fueled by the Japanese media. An American profiler arrives to work on a decade-old serial killer case at an elementary school, but the real group that he represents and his ultimate goals are as mysterious as MPD-Psycho's huge "barcode puzzle." The Gakuso Society pulls some strings, the American begins to hunt down children, and this volume of MPD-Psycho promises to be the most titillating and confusing yet--but you'll love the ride! Jump on, as more players enter the fray and more inventive atrocities abound.

Volume 5 cranks up the already maxed out volume setting. If you thought more twists wouldn't be possible, then you'd be wrong. Very wrong. And as Amamiya inches closer to unraveling the mystery behind the Gakuso Society and the "barcode" puzzle, he seems to be past the point of no return. The events of Volume 5 pave the way for ongoing mayhem and atrocities. It proves that it's not over yet, not by a long shot.


Kotobukiya and Alter PVC Figures: Rei Ayanami

Kotobukiya and Alter bring us 2 new high quality PVC figures of Evangelion's Rei Ayanami.

First, we have Kotobukiya's release of Gothic Lolita Rei with 3 color versions: black, white, and red. This figure was designed to match Kotobukiya's earlier release of Gothic Lolita Asuka Sohryu Langley. At 7,140 yen, this 1/7 scale figure is set to be released this October.

Next up is Alter's Rei Ayanami, New Movie Version figure. At 6,090 yen, this 1/8 scale figure can be yours by the end of the year, December 31, 2008.

Both these manufacturers do a wonderful job with Rei and Asuka. Kotobukiya has also done exceptional work on their new figures of Misato Katsuragi and Kaworu Nagisa. However, it's been over 2 decades and I still don't have a Gendo Ikari figure. Guess it's more waiting and hoping for me...


MGS4 World Tour 2008: Paris, France

"Why do you enjoy the MGS saga?"

That was one of the questions raised by staff to Metal Gear fans in line, waiting to meet Hideo Kojima. Yes, I made it, I finally get to meet Kojima-san. And this time, FNAC did a great job, unlike 3 years ago. They made every effort to ensure that the event ran under the best conditions and that every single person would walk away with an autograph safely in hand: closed meeting, “only” 300 invitations, perfect timing to D-day…nothing else to add except, bravo! After 1 hour of waiting, during which fans continued with the staff’s Q&A session, we finally entered a small room heated by the hoard of fans anxiously waiting for one thing: Master Kojima himself. The latest MGS4 trailer is displayed later to be followed by euphoria and cheers as Hideo Kojima, Yoji Shinkawa, and Yumi Kikuchi enter the room.

Kojima greets the crowd, “Bonjour Paris,” and after a small speech and presentation of his crew, it was down to the serious business – the autograph session itself. The intensity and excitement grew as the MGS4 soundtrack played in the background. It’s been a good 3 years of waiting and in a mere couple of minutes, I’d have my prize. Then came my turn, my eyes fixed and focused moreso on Kojima than the others, hihi. After a few words are exchanged, my MGS artbook was 3 autographs heavy…Joy.

Words can’t describe how it felt to have met 3 major talented artists, to be just 5cm before the grand Kojima, and to have shaken hands with him no less!! It’s an experience I will remember my whole life.

Contrary to what I have heard here and there on other similar events, the autograph session in Paris was rather friendly and open. They were not reluctant to sign any one piece of media and allowed photographs the entire time. As I left the scene, even if I didn’t have the conversation of a century with Kojima, this short meeting confirmed my initial thoughts of him – someone smiling, simple, nice and available (as was the entire staff).

So, why do I love the MGS saga? Maybe because this series is extremely rare in that it arouses emotions that no other game is able to. Because his universe, its content, its history represents an incredible wealth: more than just a game, a magisterial work. The work of a genius visionary. Et là, tout est dit.


Silent Hill V Cosplay

Now I've seen some pretty cool "Silent Hill" cosplay over the years. After so many classic bloody nurses and Pyramid Heads, I thought I'd seen it all. However, this pair of cosplayers really rekindles my passion for Silent Hill. For those who don't recognize the character, Siam is from the fifth upcoming Silent Hill game "Homecoming." The creature is made up of two mutilated bodies of a man and woman and has similar club-like arms as the Closers from "Silent Hill 3." I can only imagine how tough it was to stand around hunched all day with a woman on your back, or for that matter, to have all your blood rushing to your head as you lay upside down. But to that effect, this definitely ranks up in the cool factor. [Source: DannyChoo]


X JAPAN Suspends Global Tour

The X JAPAN international tour commemorating the recent reunion has been postponed indefinitely, as of June 8. This indefinite postponement affects the previously announced tour stops in Paris, France on July 5; Taipei, Taiwan on August 2; and New York City, United States on September 13. X JAPAN leader Yoshiki Hayashi's chronic herniated disc and tendinitis had worsened, so his doctors ordered him to stop his activities until further notice. As result, ticket sales for the world tour have been stopped.

Yoshiki's doctors advised him to wear a corset during his band's Tokyo Dome concerts on three consecutive nights in March, but he decided not to wear it. His chronic condition worsened during the May concerts that marked former X Japan member Hideto "Hide" Matsumoto's death. According to a party close to Yoshiki, the musician is recuperating at his Los Angeles home while noted doctors of Western and Eastern medicine attend to him. Another source says that Yoshiki received a deluge of requests to perform in other cities besides the three already announced, before news came of Yoshiki's worsening condition. [Source: ANN]


Bleach: Memories of Nobody U.S. Screening

In the same mode as the live action screening of "Death Note," Fathom brings us "Bleach the Movie: Memories of Nobody" for 2 nights nationwide. It will feature exclusive footage and a behind the scenes look at how the characters came to life. A special bonus event only at the June 11th screening at Union Square Stadium in New York City will feature opening remarks from two guests that really need no introduction in the BLEACH world: Producer Ken Hagino and Character Designer Masahi Kudo. Tickets are on sale now. The first 100 fans in line will receive an official BLEACH armband.



Being stuck in bed with a bad case of bronchitis and playing "Guild Wars" all day made me almost forget about an add-on I've been anticipating since I first heard word of it. God of War II "The End Begins" is now available as a free add-on exclusively for the PS3 version of "Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock." The audio track is also available to download on the Playstation Store for free. Though I would have loved to see it featured in "Rock Band instead," this has always been one of my favorite GOW songs and I'm just glad it made to GHIII.


Totoro Cream Puff Shop

As reported on GhibliWorld.com, a small cream puff shop opened in a quiet residential neighborhood of Tokyo. The shop, named "Shirohige no shou cream kobo" (which means White-bearded' cream puff workshop), is the only shop officially recognized by Studio Ghibli and sells one type of product only: Totoro cream puffs. The cakes were sold out in a mere 10 minutes after its grand opening. Thankfully enough, it's not overpriced, but with only 100 made a day and with unrelenting demand, you may want to order ahead to get your hands on this cute Totoro cream puff.


DBZ x One Piece = Cross Epoch

Whether this is common knowledge or not, "One Piece" Eiichiro Oda and "Dragon Ball Z" Akira Toriyama joined forces to create a short manga called "Cross Epoch." Despite the cool cast, this manga just wasn't my cup of tea. But nevertheless, Banpresto brings us hybrid figurines and needless to say, Goku in Luffy's outfit is quite impressive. Given all the DBZ figures that have surfaced over almost 2 decades, this is by far the best looking Goku figure I've seen.

Other cosplay figures include Luffy and Nami wearing Goku's Gi and Bulma also sporting Luffy's red vest and blue jeans. Luffy and Goku will be released in November, and Nami and Bulma in December.