Range Murata at the Taipei Int'l Book Exhibition 2010

It's no secret which artists make my top list, so you can imagine how envious I am that I was unable to attend this rare and monumental event. The unique and totally awesome artist that is Range Murata attended the Taipei International Book Exhibition 2010 in Taiwan. Along with meeting fans and signing autographs, Murata-sensei graced fans with a incredibly rare opportunity - an illustration demonstration. *Insert Fangirl Squeal*

The folks at ANN covered the event and boasts a nice gallery of the demonstration. Be sure to check out all the photos. Using Adobe Photoshop and Wacom Cintiq, Murata-sensei creates a piece of art from start to finish (that's including coloring, folks) in 55 minutes.


Assassin's Creed II: Discovery

Assassin's Creed makes its way into your palms with the iPhone/iPod Touch rendition of Assassin's Creed II: Discovery. Developed by Ubisoft and Griptonite Games, this expanded version the DS game is leaves no shortcomings. And as it is an Assassin's Creed II game, you play as not Desmond, but Ezio de Auditore.

"Discovery" is essentially a side-scroller adventure game set during the "missing" 12th and 13th chapters of Assassin's Creed II. Discover an untold chapter from the Assassin’s Creed® II storyline. Follow Ezio as he travels to 15th-century Spain to rescue fellow assassins being held under the guise of the Inquisition, only to uncover a Templar plot to sail west and discover the New World. Ezio moves swiftly through his memory segments. Run, climb walls, leap off buildings, and hide into bushels of hay. Enter stealth mode and surprise your enemies or battle them head on. Suprises like hidden art to use as wallpapers can also be uncovered.

Audio and visuals are spectacular and gameplay is smooth providing an stellar experience. This is how a handheld game ought to be. Assassin's Creed II: Discovery is now available through the iTunes store for $9.99.


The Yoshida Brothers to Perform at Otakon

The first official guest announcement for Otakon 2010 is here. The Yoshida Brothers will perform on Friday night, as well as signing autographs and participating on a panel. "We've been trying to enhance our cultural content over the last few years," said Jim Vowles, Otakon Guest, Industry, and Press Relations Chief. "Since we're kind of well known for musical acts, we've wanted to bring in a traditional music act for some time. We actually approached the Yoshida Brothers two years ago, but this is the first time their schedule and ours have meshed well enough to bring them. We're very excited."

The Yoshida Brothers were born in Noboribetsu, Hokkaido. Each picked up the shamisen at the tender age of 5, and began studying Tsugaru shamisen under Takashi Sasaki I in 1990. After sweeping prizes at national Tsugaru shamisen conventions, the brothers made their major debut in 1999. The debut album sold over 100,000 copies, an extraordinary figure for a traditional folk music release. Ever since, they continue to make leaping strides. In 2009, the brothers collaborated with notable talents, including an inspired cover of "The National Anthem" from Radiohead's Kid A.

Vowles said, "While most of our membership will know the shamisen music from those Nintendo Wii commercials, the Yoshida Brothers are one of Japan's best exports — internationally acclaimed and respected for their skills, and crossing genres to work with some of the hottest acts around. They bring a traditional Japanese sound, but infuse it with a very modern energy."

Check them out at www.domo.com/yoshidabrothers. Otakon 2010 will be held July 30 – August 1 at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Maryland.


X JAPAN to Perform at Lollapalooza

During the Grammy's on Sunday, Yoshiki announced that X Japan intends to play at this year's Lollapalooza festival, scheduled for August 6-8 in Chicago. Tentative reports of X Japan performing there first surfaced last month, but now it appears that the possibility will become a reality. It is said that X Japan received an offer from the festival's organizers to play on the main stage, and the band has decided to take it. A formal announcement with details is expected to be made later this month.

X Japan would be the first Japanese artist to perform on Lollapalooza's main stage. It would also be the band's first U.S. concert, though they already have plenty of fans around the world. They had planned a world tour in 2009, but due to various circumstances, they canceled most of their shows. However, if all goes well, X Japan is aiming to revive the world tour this year, starting with the Lollapalooza performance. [Source: Tokyograph]


NY Int'l Children's Festival Hosts Anime U.S. Premieres

The New York International Children's Film Festival (NYICFF) will host U.S. premieres of three anime features as well as several shorts during its 2010 Festival from February 26 thru March 21.

Kicking off the festival will be the U.S. premiere of Mamoru Hosada's Summer Wars. This cyberpunk/sci-fi story revolves around Kenji, a teenage math prodigy recruited by his secret crush Natsuki for the ultimate summer job – passing himself off as Natsuki’s boyfriend for four days during her grandmother’s 90th birthday celebration. But when Kenji solves a 2,056 digit math riddle sent to his cell phone, he unwittingly breaches the security barricade protecting Oz, a globe-spanning virtual world where millions of people and governments interact through their avatars, handling everything from online shopping and traffic control to national defense and nuclear launch codes. Now a malicious AI program called the Love Machine is hijacking Oz accounts, growing exponentially more powerful and sowing chaos and destruction in its wake.

NYICFF will also host the U.S. premiere of MADHOUSE's "Mai Mai Miracle" anime film. The story is set in 1955 in a town in southwestern Japan, where a nine-year-old girl named Shinko has an ancient family connection to a thousand-year-old province known as Suo. Shinko joins Kiiko, a new transfer student from her school, on a magical adventure. Mai Mai Miracle will premiere on February 27 with a repeat showing on March 6.

Next up is Production I.G's "Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror" (Hottarake no Shima - Haruka to Maho no Kagami) fantasy film. The computer-animated feature follows a girl named Haruka as she discovers where all of our childhood keepsakes and memorabilia go. Creatures from a different dimension gather these trinkets and forgotten treasures as their owners grow up. With their booty, the creatures have built their own city called Oblivion Island. Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror will also premiere on February 27 with a repeat showing on March 6.

On February 27 and March 13, NYICFF will show the U.S. theatrical premiere of Yasuhiro Yoshiura's Time of Eve (Eve no Jikan) net anime series. The festival will show one 15-minute episode of the series. As a huge fan of "Mizu no Kotoba," I'm especially glad to see this addition by Yoshiura and Studio Rikka.

For more details and the full schedule and line-up, be sure to visit the NYICFF site. [Source: ANN]

UPDATE (2/22/2010): Director Mamoru Hosada will make a special guest appearance at the "Summer Wars" premiere.