Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
Wolf's Rain Vol. #1 -Leader of the Pack
Bandai Entertainment 125 min. 1/? $29.98 06/22/2004
If anime series were fish, Wolf's Rain would be rainbow trout... quiet, beautiful, graceful, and damned tasty broiled with salt and ginger. One of the best series to come out this year, Bandai's release of Wolf's Rain is a necessary staple for any fan's shelves. Wolves used to roam the land freely, but eventually, they became extinct. Hundreds of years have passed since the last wolf was seen, but they're still amongst humans. Literally so, for they prowl the streets along with humanity, disguised as regular people but still able to see each other for the creatures they really are. After all of this is revealed in the first few episodes, inklings of the story begin to unfold and the wolves start to come together. They are searching for one thing... Paradise. A utopia that only wolves know the location of, this place can only be reached after they first contact the Flower Maiden. Even though she's nearby, the strong lead characters must go through a few ordeals first, with plenty of luscious fight scenes and harrowing escapes. Entwined with vivid art, a strong character base, and great pacing, Wolf's Rain is a must-see on this year's anime list.
Kaleido Star Vol. #2 - All Things Great and Small
ADV Films 100 min. 2/? $29.98 06/22/2004
A month ago, few had heard of Kaleido Star. Now that we're up to the second volume, it's become somewhat of an underground darling amongst the people who have chanced to pick it up. Crafted with the same brightly colored artistry as the first few episodes, this new disc settles onto a more experimental path, testing the waters to see what it can get away with. From the introduction of a cute seal mascot to a sudden influx of new characters, this volume seems more labored than the first, but still manages to please. Sora is still trying valiantly to find her own niche in the Kaleido group, but with ice queens like Layla around, it's hard to feel comfortable. Refreshingly, one of the episodes takes a breather to shed some light on Layla's character, offering a small explanation for why she's as catty as she is. Throw in a prissy prima donna who is in need of a “Success isn't everything; step back, breathe in the bargain potpourri, and have more fun in life!!” moment taught by Sora, it's impressive that the story is able to juggle the main focus evenly between so many ladies at once. Designed to be a string of standalone stories, the randomness of these episodes is slightly awkward, but they encompass the same magic and creativity that their predecessors did. Check it out for yourself.
Miami Guns Vol. #1
AN Entertainment 100 min. 1/4 $29.95 06/22/2004
When I first heard the title Miami Guns, I was expecting rattails and mullets and cops taken straight out of Reno 911. Boy was I pleasantly surprised. Presenting itself as a high-energy comedy with an exclectic mix of Dirty Pair and You're Under Arrest influences, this babes-with-guns show revitalizes the cop genre like no show has done before. Taking place in Miami (with an obviously skewed Japanese perspective), the police department is lazy and sedate—with the exception of two ball-busting gals named Yao and Lu who do their best to fight a shady entity called “The Organization” by pumping everything with bullets. And not to be outdone by all the parody shows out there, Miami Guns jumps into the pool as well.. True, parody shows get lame after awhile, but this one knows when to stop after a joke has gotten too old. Cool points go out especially to the Initial D homage, complete with matching camera angles and Takumi-patented moves. Admittedly, there's nothing in this show to engage the mind, but it does make you laugh and in this day and age, that's one of the best things a series can do.
Angelic Layer Vol. #7 - Seventh Heaven
ADV Films 75 min. 7/7 $29.98 06/22/2004
CLAMP's first foray into the world of shounen tournament fighting has finally come to an end, and it's a commendable one at that. With only three episodes on the final disc, things move quickly as the final battles go underway. After the tension that has been building up all series long between the last few girls, it's nice to see them duke it out in the end and settle the score once and for all. Unlike other tournament shows though, CLAMP doesn't make any attempts to cop out with boring fight scenes for 75 minutes. Instead, it fills up the leftover time by taking a break and forcing the girls to talk to each other. Dropping their barriers and spilling out their inner thoughts and emotions, this new level of familiarity with the characters makes the final fights much more dramatic and interesting. What started off as a lukewarm show with a boring concept has really stepped up in the last installment. Fans who have been following the series up until now will be very pleased. Everyone else—well, if you haven't had any interest in Angelic Layer as of yet, even a good ending won't be able to drag you in.
Gad Guard Vol. #1 - Lightning + Limited Edition Box
Geneon 100 min. 1/? $44.98 06/22/2004
Gad Guard Vol. #1 - Lightning
Geneon 100 min. 1/? $29.98 06/22/2004
The rules of anime state that the more “unlucky” you are, the poorer you are, or the more of a tool you are, the more likely you are to either be surrounded by horny women or find a robot. With Gad Guard, the latter is true. Welcome to a dingy heap of a town. The place is Night Town, the energy-starved armpit of the country where people pray that they will someday move to a different city. In the middle of it all is a young delivery boy with a dream to someday move to Day Town. During one of his ventures, he stumbles upon an object called a Gad. Under normal circumstances, it's just a stone, but if the right person touches it, a massive robot will rise from the person and manifest itself as an extension of their spirit. With this new doodad in his possession, the boy decides that his mission in life is to right all wrongs and use his new robot to fight the hundreds of enemy robots that have all conveniently started appearing. For mech enthusiasts, the robots are worth gazing at, but that's really all that the show has to offer. The story is good enough to entertain a few bored minds, but so far, it's much too contrived and generic to truly impress. Better save it for a rainy day rental.
Saiyuki Vol. #11 - Following the Scriptures
ADV Films 100 min. 11/12 $29.99 06/22/2004
Add some blood, male genitalia, a few brain cells, and Simple Life 2 would be a shoo-in for Saiyuki. In its most basic sense, Saiyuki is a series about a glorified road trip. Curiously, now that the series is reaching its end, it's really not that bad of a show. As our blood-stained Gap models continue to prowl across the lands, the stage is slowly being set for a final showdown with Homura. Before that can happen though, our characters split up and go on a few side quests of their own. Whether it's solving little town mysteries or figuring out new attacks, the boys are able to enjoy the last bit of time they have left (with plenty of angst and more blood) before the Ultimate Battle. Gearing up towards the finale, the show has given itself a swift kick in the seat and before viewers know it, the volume is over. It's your standard season two Saiyuki fare, but it's worth a quick rental if you've completely run out of things to do this week.