The Month in Review - May 2002

Jun 9th 2002

Scott Green's Month in Review

May 2002

As a month with few conventions, but many family events (graduations, weddings, Mother's Day), May was a month with few releases, or large announcements.

Releases

Bandai

The most significant anime releases are probably Bandai's release of the Mobile Suit Gundam movies, and Media Blaster's release of the first volume of Berserk

The Mobile Suit Gundam movies include firth first movie, "Soldiers if Sorrow", and "Encounters In Space", which retell the first chapter of the Gundam mecha war epic, the One Year War, from the original Gundam series, with some changes to the story.

The movies are available separately or as a set.

Bandai also released the first nine-episode collection of Brain Powered, a mecha series that was meant to be Gundam creator, Tomino Yoshiyuki's answer to Evangelion. Its best feature is probably the Yoko Kanno background music.

Media Blasters

Berserk is a medieval epic as rich, and harrowing as any you'll find. This is the anime title to see, especially if you want something beyond comedy, action, or style for its own sake.

It follows the tragic development of a swordsman named Guts who only wishes to hone his skills, but falls in with a charismatic mercenary captain with larger ambitions. The conflict takes the mercenary band from the battle field to palace intrigue and back. The schemes and motivations of the characters match the depth of a work like Lone Wolf and Cub.

The first volume "War Cry" contains the first five episodes of the series, and is available with and without a box that will hold the series future volumes.

ADV Films

ADV releases include the first volume of Devil Hunter Yohko, which marks their 10-year anniversary with a commentary track on the history of the company, and Steel Angel Kurumi volume 1, Angel On My Shoulder. Steel Angel Kurumi an alternate history series about a boy in the 1920s who wakes up a pink haired military robot constructed by a fleeing military scientist. The first volume features six 15-minute episodes.

Central Park Media

Central Park Media released the first volume of Now and Then, Here and There, and the box set of the series' three volumes.

Now and Then, Here and There is an anime series about an energetic and optimistic boy who gets transported to a desolate future where he, and other children are press-ganged to an army. It is a surprising somber and brutal series from directory Akitorh Daichi, best known for manic comedies such as Kodocha, Jubei-chan the Ninja Girl, and Elf Princess Rain.

TOKYOPOP

TOKYOPOP release the first volume of Real Bout High School, entitled "Enter the Samurai Girl". Real Bout High School is an action comedy series about a samurai obsessed school girl who ends up protecting the world from invading dragons and demons.

TOKYOPOP released the first monthly collected editions of Paradise Kiss, and Ragnarok.

Viz

Viz released "The Future" chapter of "God of Manga" Osamu Tezuka's self described life's work Phoenix, which looks at the human condition. They also resumed releasing CLAMP's apocalyptic X/1999 with the seventh volume, "Rhapsody".

The first collected edition of the El Hazard manga series was release.

Manga Entertainment

Manga Entertainment released Macross Plus - Movie Edition, a theatrical edit of the classic four episode OAV series with new footage that slightly modifies the story, but removes some of the details and sub-plots from the OAV. Macross Plus is the story of childhood friends who have excelled in their careers, but suffered in their personal lives from the unresolved problems of their parting. Excellence in animation, story and action makes Macross Plus an anime classic.

Trends

The trend towards American involvement in the production of Japanese anime series is continuing, particularly in popular action titles with continuations of two popular "ninja series".

ADV's Matt Greenfield stated at Fanimecon that D Vision will be co-producing an upcoming anime television series continuation of the popular Makai Tenshou OAVs, released in America under the name "Ninja Resurrection."

Urban Vision confirmed that they are working in association with Mad House to produce a Ninja Scroll TV series. The series will be supervised by Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust) and directed by Tatsuo Sato (Nadesico), with character designs by Takahiro Yoshimatsu (Trigun).

The box set/available box trend is also continuing. Pioneer will be releasing the first volumes of CLAMP's X, and Vandread: Second Stage with and without a box. ADV will be re-releasing Nadesico, and Gasaraki in box set collections.

The eight volume Gasaraki collection will be released on August 20th for $169.98. Gasaraki is an intelligent giant robot series, with a deliberate pace, and a thoughtful look at the science, and politics surround use of humanoid armors.

Nadesico will be released on September 24th for $89.98. Nadesico is the genre-shifting story of the eccentric crew of a private war ship, with elements of space opera, big idea sci-fi, drama and comedy.

News

Media Blasters Website

Media Blasters updated their web site with a list of newly licensed tittles including several of the titles, including 10 Warriors of Tokyo, Demon Lord Dante, Dog World, Leiji Matsumoto's Gun Frontier, Mars, and Varom One are seemingly series that have not yet premiered in Japan.

Anime Nation described the existing titles:

  • Babel II - the recent TV series adaptation of the classic psychic warfare action manga.
  • Genma Wars - the currently on Air TV series adaptation of the classic psychic/sci-fi anime movie Harmageddon.
  • Idol Project - A wonderful and bizarre 4 episode OAV series featuring literally hundreds of cute anime girls and a cast including a half-dozen of the most famous voice actresses to ever work in the industry.
  • Jungle Emperor Leo - also known as Kimba the White Lion.
  • Madara - a violent 2 episode OAV series from the early 1990s involving fantasy settings and cyborgs.
  • Pistol Opera - Revered yakuza (gangster) movie director Seijun Suzuki returned to directing last year with this wild and bizarre live action story about a guild of professional assassins.
  • Space Pirate Mito - the 13 episode 1999 space adventure/action comedy from Xebec. It was quickly followed by a second 13 episode season/series.
  • Wild 7 - the currently on Air TV series adaptation of the classic manga about wild and violent motorcycle police.
  • Y's - The classic Falcom fantasy RPG series was turned into 2 OAV series in the late 1980s.

Raijin Comics

Japan Today reported that a Weekly Comic Bunch manga anthology will be available to the US under the title "Raijin Comics"

The U.S. publication will feature author Tetsuo Hara's "Hokuto no Ken" (The Fist of the North Star), Tsukasa Hojo's "City Hunter", Grappler Baki and Niwano Makoto's Bomber Girl.

Comic Bunch was launched in May last year. With weekly circulation standing at about 720,000 copies.

In addition to being released in North America for Manga fans, the anthology will be distributed in Japan as an English learning tool.

Comic anthology have tradition had problems generating sales in the US, notably with Viz's recent cancilation of the critically acclaimed mature manga anthology Pulp.

Licencing

.hack//sign

Coinsiding with the video game release announcement at E3, Bandai has announced the acquisition of the anime half of the anime/video game .hack.

From the press release:

Is it a game? Or is it a world? .hack//SIGN the anime series…

"The World" is immersive virtual gaming environment of the future. Millions of players log on each day to test their skills in virtual adventures and battles. But when reality and virtual reality collide, a whole new adventure unfolds.

.hack//SIGN boasts character designs by famed illustrator Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (Neon Genesis Evangelion and Wings of Honneamise), an engaging and immersive storyline scripted by Kazunori Ito (Ghost in the Shell and Patlabor), and directed by Kouichi Mashimo (Noir and Irresponsible Captain Tylor).

Bandai America's video game division has also announced at E3 the release of .hack for Playstation 2. .hack features the perfect fusion of action/RPG game play presented in an anime format. In addition to the .hack PS2 game a separate OVA DVD disc will also be included (Please note that the OVA series is a completely different and separate series from .hack//SIGN). Touted as a "Virtual MMORPG or Massively Multiplayer Online RPG, .hack utilizes the latest in rendering technology enabling environments to transform in real time. Alongside game play, .hack gamers will also have the option to choose between Japanese and English dialogue. Scheduled for release October 2002, .hack carries a suggested retail price of $49.98. For more information, please visit www.dothack.com.

Lupin

The Japanese media reports Pioneer has obtained the theatrical, video and tv broadcasting rights to all 228 TV-episodes of the three Lupin III TV-series, as well as the four television specials, and one movie not licensed by FUNimation.

Pioneer Entertainment Rep Chad Kime has confirmed that Pioneer has "a Lupin License," but wasn't able to specify exactly what was licensed at this moment.

An official announcement is expected at the American, L!censing 2002 expo, which starts on June 11th. Lupin III is a fun caper series about a gentlemen thief and his associates.

Millennium Actress

The newest major movie studio to enter the anime market is SKG Dreamwork with Satoshi Kon's (Perfect Blue) Millennium Actress. Dreamworks has not yet finalized its distribution plans for the picture, but Klock Worx says that it is hoping for international theatrical release through UIP. Klock Worx will itself handle the Japanese distribution in early autumn through a "mini-chain" release.

The official website for Satoshi Kon / Klockworks anime film Millenium Actress has opened at www.1000nen.net.

Millennium Actress is a love story about an aging actress who was once a huge star who became a recluse, and the president of a small film company who fell in love with her on the screen, and wants to make a documentary about her life.

Tokyopop Titles

TOKYOPOP confirmed several of their rumored manga licenses, including CLAMP's Wish (to be released in July), and the comedic boy vs demons Rave (to be released starting in August). A new Gundam Wing side story entitled "G Unit" will begin in July. G-Unit takes place around the same time that Lady Une is promoting peace to the colonies. On a resource satellite called MO-V, a revolutionary Gundam project is underway. Unlike previous Mobile Suits, this experimental Gundam, called the G-Unit, is modular, able to be easily reconfigured for use in any environment. G-Unit, and Card Captor Sakura are the only titles currently schedule for individual issues rather than collected editions.

At Book Expo America, TOKYOPOP confirmed their plans to release Card Captor Sakura: Master of the Clow and Angelic Layer in their Authentic Manga format.

Angelic Layer is CLAMP's take on the collectable game genre of anime/manga.

Ghost in the Shell, Man-Machine interface

The award winning translators Studio Proteus on their web site that Masamune Shirow has completed flopping and modify the pages of Ghost in the Shell, Man-Machine interface for western audiences. They hope to release the first issue in October. The art collection ID3 (Intron Depot) is still in the planning stages and they are still discussing options as to format and a special limited edition.

Japanese comics are originally present with pages and panels presented in a right to left flow. Many times the pages are mirrored for their American releases, but in cases such as the new Ghost in the Shell series, and Blade of the Immortal they artist works to reformat the panels in the page. A recent trend to to leave the the panel and pages in their original order. This can be seen in TOKYOPOP "Authentic Manga" line, and a number of Viz titles.

Anime Success Stories

Anime, and anime products has recently had a number of noticeable successes.

ICV2 reports Upper Deck's American edition of the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game is selling out in a hurry all over the country. The product is so hot that in many areas, Starter Sets selling for around $40 And reports from Canada indicate that someone is attempting to counterfeit Upper Deck's English version of the game, although it is unlikely that they will be able to duplicate the security foil found on all Upper Deck products.

The second series of Yu-Gi-Oh! Boosters, Metal Raiders is due out in late May. The buzz on this product is strong enough that even stores that don't normally carry CCGs should consider bringing in some Yu-Gi-Oh! product.

Infogrames, Inc began shipping Dragon Ball Z: Legacy of Goku for Game Boy Advance to more than 20,000 retail outlets nationwide. Critically acclaimed with the dedicated video game media, Dragon Ball Z: Legacy of Goku is one of the year's hottest consumer properties with initial shipments of the game exceeding 300,000 units, thus making it the largest Game Boy Advance property in Infogrames' history.

Metropolis dvd reached Number 10 on the Videoscan sales chart, the and Transformers Season 1 set is number 14.

The theatrical anime blockbuster of the year, Escaflowne: The Movie is currently ranked #4 for Suncoast.com DVD Best Seller's section. Its schedule release is on July 23, 2002 - Escaflowne is now available for preorder.

Anime has also been successful on the TV front, in what looks like comfortable niches: children's anime on network, and action anime on cable. The anime laden Kids WB dominated the 2001-2002 season as the #1 network on Saturday mornings in Boys 6-11, as well as Broadcasting for Kids 2-11, Kids 6-11, Boy s 2-11 and Tweens 9-14, AND the #1 network in Boys 6-11 for the month of May, with their 9th consecutive Sweeps victory.

Anime titles Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Pokémon - Johto League Champions scored in the top ten for boys 6-11.

Pokémon - Johto League Champions led the broadcast competition as the #1 program for the season in Kids 2-11 (4.0/15), Kids 6-11 (4.8/18) and Boys 2-11 (5.3/20).

Cartoon Network's weekday anime Toonami block also fared well in the May sweeps rating. According to Toonzone's news message board block improved the network's overall total day tweens 9-14 delivery (253,000, up 32%) and ratings (1.4, up 27%) to new May records. Within the action franchise itself, all key demographics posted double-digit delivery and ratings increases, including best-ever May performances for tweens 9-14 delivery (438,000, up 36%) and rating (2.3, up 21%), and boys 9-14 delivery (375,000, up 48%) and rating (3.9, up 39%). Toonami delivered an average 845,000 kids 2-11 (+31%) and 538,000 kids 6-11 (+38%). Ratings for kids 2-11 (2.8) grew 22%, while ratings for kids 6-11 (2.9) increased 26%. The block expands Monday, June 3, additional an additional hour beginning at 4:00 PM.

More Anime on TV

In other TV news, Showtime Beyond will be broadcasting the entire post apocalyptic martial arts epic Fist of the North Star TV series again starting on Friday, May 31st. See here;.

The Starz Action channel will be launching a new look in July, and showing a number of Pioneer anime releasing, including the remastered Akira, and the supernatural action 3x3 Eyes.

Cartoon Network's Adult Swim in July and August will feature new episodes of the fighting series Yū Yū Hakusho, and repeats of Cowboy Bebop, Gundam 0083, Mobile Suit Gundam, Pilot Candidate, Batman, and Superman.

Cartoon Network ramped up to the June 3rd start of the cute, kid's hamster show Hamtaro. If Viz's August solicitations (The Official Hamtaro Handbook, Hamtaro Punch-Out Activity Book, Hamtaro Hamster Care Guide, The Official Hamtaro Trading Card Guide, and Hamtaro Origami Book) are any indication, prepare for a barrage of Hamtaro mechandise.

G-Gundam will premiere on Cartoon Network's Toonami lineup on July 1st at 5pm, replacing Batman Beyond. G-Gundam is a love or hate alternate universe Gundam series where war has been replaced by a tournament where nations fights with giant robots modeled after the nature of their state (such as the Swedish windmill Gundam).

Shinzo and Beyblade will be coming to ABC Family.

Shinzo is Saban Entertainment's adaptation of a series about a future where all humans have mutated except a young girl. Beyblade is based on the fighting top collectable game.

News From Japan

More Sailor Moon?

Anime Daisuki reported that a new Sailor Moon series, label Sailor Moon X may be released later this year. Speculation is that "X" is 10, in regards to the 2002 10th anniversary of the series.

The Official Sailor Moon Website features a new journal entry by creator Sailor Moon Naoko Takeuchi mentioning Toei is working on a script of some as of yet untitled production.

Some of the more significant news from Japan has been negative. The AT-X broadcast of the Space Pirate Captain Harlock: The Endless Odyssey TV series has been pulled from the schedule, though the September DVD release is still planned.

Busted

The Japanese Daily Yomiruri reported editors the manga periodical Kodansha's Shukan Shonen Magazine and one of their wives have been arrested on drug related charges and are suspected of being involved with marijuana trafficking. Marijuana use is not prohibited by Japanese law, but there are strict prohibitions against possessing it. The series was directed by Giant Robo's Yasuhiro Imagawa.

Akira Pinball delay

According to Anime News Service the June 2002 issue of Game Now says that although the Akira pinball game should be in Japan-courtesy of Bandai-it's been "postponed indefinitely" in the U.S.

Macross Zero

On a more positive note, according to Anime News Service, the first episode of the new Macross Zero OAV series will be released in Japan on October 25th. No additional information is available.

On a random note, armies of Lego mecha.


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