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The Anime Beat

Blogs Blade of the Phantom Master: Shin Angyo Onshi

2009 Movie. Director: Joji Shimura. 90 minutes. DVD, bilingual, $19.98. Distributor: Funimation

The land of Jushin is all but a memory, fractured into numerous kingdoms run by corrupt tyrants. Once the Amen Osa, magic wielding warriors charged with upholding justice, kept the peace. But when the king was assassinated, they too disappeared. Or did they?

Enter Munsu, a pistolero who wields the power of an Amen Osa. But is he one? His roguish charm and apathetic demeanor say otherwise. Accompanied by the delicate flower Sando, his oddly petite bodyguard, Munsu wanders Jushin’s landscape. Hero or scoundrel, he’s definitely a thorn in the side of authority.

Finally, something different! What I love about Blade of the Phantom Master is its stark departure from the contemporary, and much abused, anime setting. No, there are no high school students fighting ghosts or monsters on the streets of Tokyo. Instead, we’re transported to a world that mirrors feudal Korea. This is a charred, mythical landscape marked by guns, swords, and Asian castles. In fact, the entire story is inspired by Korean folktales and myth.

Blogs Halo: Anime Style

The transformation from game to animated movie is growing increasingly common. It’s usually driven by a title’s notoriety. Some translate well. Others do not. Enter Halo, one of the most popular franchises in the gaming world.

At this year’s Comic-Con, being largely a writer at play in the fields of anime, I was curiously invited to an Xbox event at the Omni Hotel. Much to my surprise, I found myself sitting across a table from not only Frank O’Connor, Development Director of the Halo Team, but also Shinji Aramaki. Shinji Aramaki, renowned anime mech designer (Bubblegum Crisis, Mospeada, Megazone 23) and director (Megazone 23, Appleseed, Appleseed EX Machina)! I knew this had to be good.

Blogs Zélie Bérubé: Artist Profile

Whether you’re at Anime Expo LA, Comic-Con, or any of the various cons around the country young artists are intrinsic to the landscape; they are the future of the biz. The artist alley is always lined with individuals “hocking their wares” and producing impromptu sketches. These streets are teeming with creative, hungry talent.

Blogs Emily Hu: Artist Profile

Alright Emi, give me the bio.

“Hi hi! My full name is Emily Hu. I'm nineteen, I was raised in Taiwan but grew up in California. I'm currently majoring in comics at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. I started seriously drawing in the seventh grade and realized I wanted to be an artist after failing miserably at academics, namely math... haha...”

Have you always been an anime fan?

“I've always been into anime because I was raised in Taiwan, so I still remember watching Slam Dunk and Yu Yu Hakusho with my family as a kid. It's only recently that I started getting more into the spectrum of American comics, mostly thanks to Watchmen.”

What anime and/or manga do you love? What are you currently watching/reading?

Blogs Zélie Bérubé: Artist Profile

Whether you’re at Anime Expo LA, Comic-Con, or any of the various cons around the country young artists are intrinsic to the landscape; they are the future of the biz. The artist alley is always lined with individuals “hocking their wares” and producing impromptu sketches. These streets are teeming with creative, hungry talent.

For fans and aspiring artists it’s not only a networking moment, but also a chance to buy original art at a phenomenal price.

Art, anime, and manga go hand in hand. So, at least once a month I’ll try to profile a young artist that catches my eye. At Anime Expo LA, I found two: Emily Hu and Zélie Bérubé.

Okay Zélie, who are you? When did you start drawing?

Blogs Ikki Tousen: The Complete Series

2009 TV Series (episodes 1-13). Director: Takashi Watanabe. 325 minutes. DVD, bilingual, $49.98. Distributor: Funimation

Hakufu isn’t just any street fighter. She’s one badass cutie in a short skirt that would make Paris Hilton blush. Her goal: to become king of the hill as she unites seven rival schools. Her inspiration: a jewel infused with the spirit of an ancient warrior. Oh yes, Hakufu has a destiny. And she’s ready to fight for it, even if her skirt and top gets torn away in the process!

Okay kids, ecchi is the word of the day. This is not the normal fighting scenario. Yes, excellent technique, pure jutsu, is performed with every footstep. But the punch or kick is not the only thing that strikes hard. Panties and bras are just as deadly in this anime! Hakufu and her friends are not afraid to flash a little ass as they kick their way to the top.

Blogs A Few Minutes With Takashi Okazaki

Who doesn’t know Afro Samurai? That is the question. The sheer coolness of our afro-enhanced protagonist and his number one headband perhaps even rivals that of Steve McQueen. At least that’s what the ratings of the man channel, i.e.

Spike TV, suggest.

Anime has always had a broad fan base, but suddenly even that stereotypical, testosterone-charged, crooked cap wearin’ bro in the Affliction tank top could speak a little otaku.

Seriously, could that much coolness come out of Japan?

Well, at AnimeExpo LA I stole a few minutes with Takashi Okazaki, creator of Afro Samurai.

Mr. Okazaki you’re obviously most known for Afro Samurai. But do you have any other creations that are especially dear, anything you want fans to know about?

Blogs Romeo X Juliet: Part 1

Romeo X Juliet
2009 TV Series (episodes 1-12). Director: Fumitoshi Oizaki. 290 minutes. DVD, bilingual, $59.98. Distributor: Funimation.

Nestled in the clouds above northern Italy, or perhaps even the Thames itself, hangs Neo-Verona. Yes, lovesick Verona. Our star-crossed lovers are back! This time, however, Shakespeare’s parchment is stained not with the quill, but anime ink.

On the cobblestone of this Verona the Montague family reigns oppressively. The Capulets have been driven underground and thought to be extinct. Juliet, forced to conceal her identity, now dons the mask of the Red Whirlwind, a sword-wielding champion of the people. Different? Indeed. But fret not, for this Juliet will still meet her Romeo. And family, love, and duty will unhinge their newly found, heroic lives.

Blogs Last Exile

Last Exile: The Complete Series
2009 TV Series (episodes 1-26). Director: Koichi Chigira. 625 minutes. DVD, bilingual, $49.98. Distributor: Funimation.

In a futuristic sky that paradoxically looks back to the scientific imagination of the 19th and early 20th centuries, vanships are on the cutting edge, pushing the envelope in both war and peace. On the planet Prester Claus Valca and his navigator Lavie are intent on crossing the legendary and seemingly impassable air space known as the Grand Stream. Dreams, however, are delayed as the young vanship pilot is pulled into the ongoing war between Anatoray and Disith. His skills will not only be tested, but his life will forever change.

Blogs Samurai Champloo Box Set

Samurai Champloo: The Complete Collection
2009 TV Series (episodes 1-26). Director: Kazuto Nakazawa. 650 minutes. DVD, bilingual, $69.98. Distributor: Funimation.

Arguably one of the best anime in the last five years, Samurai Champloo is a road trip for which Hollywood should be chomping at the bit! After all, you’ve got the uncouth warrior Mugen, the laconic ronin Jin, the cute and comically naïve Fu, and a hip-hop nature that makes this anime simply too damn cool. Add their common search for the sunflower scented samurai, which is laden with assassins – let alone the fact the Mugen and Jin would very much like to kill each other –, and you’ve got a recipe for a sumptuous visual feast.

Blogs Black Lagoon Season 2

Black Lagoon, Season 2 Box Set
2009 TV Series (episodes 13-24). Director: Sunao Katabuchi. 300 minutes. DVD, bilingual, $49.98. Distributor: Funimation.

So, did you take my advice and get liberated with Rock, that is, the one-time Japanese salary man formally known as Rokuro Okajima? I hope so, because Dutch, Benny, Revy, and our reluctant mercenary are back for a second season.

Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage basically picks up where the first season ended. The gun toting Lagoon Company is still causing havoc around the South China Sea. And between the sexual tension with the murderess Revy, a deadly pair of pre-pubescent assassins, and a voluptuous nun, Rock’s life is only getting better. Yes, the titillating bullet of Black Lagoon scores another bull’s eye.

Blogs Darker Than Black, volumes 4 & 5

Darker Than Black, volumes 4 and 5
2009 TV Series (episodes 15-22). Director: Tensai Okamura. 100 minutes (each). DVD, bilingual, $29.98 (each). Distributor: Funimation.

Okay, so I no longer associate Burger King with the designation BK-201. What can I say? My love for Darker Than Black blinds me. These supernatural “contractors,” callous men and women employed as international spies and assassins, captivate the imagination. Here we find Hei, also known as BK-201 or The Black Reaper. Operating in Tokyo for the Syndicate, Hei searches for his sister Pai as he navigates a city crawling with clandestine killers.

Why BK-201? Each contractor is linked to a new star, which oscillates when they use their unique powers; thus the astrological designation. These stars materialized alongside the spatial anomalies known as Heaven and Hell’s Gate. The mystery and power behind these cosmic events has flooded Tokyo with foreign operatives and corporations. Everyone has an agenda. Everyone wants something.

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