"There is so much writing in English on Japanese cinema that can't be accepted at face value — not because the writers are careless, but because the differences in culture and language are just too intricate. When I see August Ragone's name on a piece of writing, it gives me permission to place my faith in it completely. Among Japanese fantasy film historians, he's the best working in English." —Tim Lucas, Video Watchdog

Friday, May 24, 2013

LOST "YAMATO" MUSIC VIDEO SERIES RETURNS! Blu-ray Reissue & New "YAMATO: 2199" Edition


Blu-ray cover for the reissue of the original 1984 Music Video release.

Music has always been an integral element of the Space Battleship Yamato saga, and while as important as the iconic visual elements, the legendary scores by the renown composer Hiroshi Miyagawa also seem to exist with a complete life of its own. The entire industry of anime soundtracks can be traced back to the phenomenal success of "Symphonic Suite: Yamato," a milestone 1977 album recorded to capitalize on the rising wave of Yamatomania in Japan.

In 1984, with the advent of Home Video, Yamato was not only represented by releases of the popular feature films, but also a handful of specials and music videos. One of these was Nippon Columbia's MV (or Music Video) Series, which set scenes from the feature films to several of their respective "Symphonic Suites," which were issued on the Laserdisc format. These have never since been reissued in any Home Video platform, until now... and on DVD and Blu-ray!

Leiji Matsumoto LP jacket for "Symphonic Suite Yamato" (1977).

MV Series SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO is a reproduction of the original release, with the score processed 24bit/96khz from the analog master, similar to the process Columbia employed to remaster the entire Yamato music catalogue for the "Yamato Sound Almanac" series launched in July 2012. According to Columbia's press materials, "While the video steams from the original 1974 broadcast series, this is a BGV (background music video) which will make you feel the rich musical world of Yamato!"

Publisher: Nippon Columbia. CAT: COXC-1063. ASIN: B00CRKLFY6. EAN: 4988001749516. Region Code: A. Single Disc. Running Time: 49 mins. Street Date: 07/24/2013. MSRP: ¥3990.

Blu-ray cover for the all-new Music Video release for YAMATO: 2199.

Dropping on the same day is minute MV Series SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO: 2199 featuring Akira Miyagawa's score coupled with scenes from the currently-running remake, as a companion edition to the original. Composer Akira Miyagawa is the son of the late Hiroshi Miyagawa, and for the new series has brought his father's original score back to life in addition to compositions of his own — and is an amazing addition to the Yamato Saga in its own right.

Publisher: Nippon Columbia. CAT: COXC-1062. ASIN: B00CRKLG72. EAN: 4988001749509. Region Code: A. Single Disc. Running Time: 45 mins. Street Date: 07/24/2013. MSRP: ¥3990.

CD for SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO: 2199 Original Soundtrack Vol. 1.

The epic music tapestry of Yamato is the very epitome of the romanticized space opera — emotional, awe-inspiring, heroic, beautiful, and tocuhing — as vast as the cosmos itself and just as stirring to the soul of any adventurer. Needless to say, I have a deep emotional connection to Yamato and the powerful music of the Miyagawas — dating back to my childhood — so, these are must-buys and highly recommended!

Click the links above to order your copies (DVD versions will also be available, but are not compatible with US players) through Amazon Japan — stay tuned to this blog and the Cosmo DNA website for more news and information on the Yamato Saga as they develop!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

BEFORE "PACIFIC RIM" THERE WAS "GAIKING"! Movie Collection from Shout! Factory Out Now

英語版『大空魔竜ガイキング』米国 DVD新発売! 

Original 1976 promotional poster for SPACE DRAGON: GAIKING!

Before EVANGELION. Even longer before the announced Gale Anne Hurd production, which I reported on December 18th, there was SPACE DRAGON: GAIKING (Daimakuryu Gaikingu, 1976)! While not widely seen, some readers may remember GAIKING as one of the titles under the banner, FORCE FIVE, a package of five different Toei Animation series syndicated in North America during the '80s, later broadcast as feature film compilations on Showtime (followed by subsequent VHS releases via Family Home Entertainment).

GAIKING was part of an explosion of Super Robot animated series during the '70s (including live-action counterparts such as SUPER ROBOT: RED BARON), which rocket-punched their way into Japanese pop culture with Go Nagai's MAZINGER Z in 1972. While Nagai was the master of the genre, creating such memorable series as UFO ROBO: GRENDIZER (1975), GAIKING became a point of contention between Nagai and Toei Animation, in which Nagai walked. Toei brought in animator Akio Sugino (Cat's Eye) to complete the development of the series.

One of the early, and unique transforming robots — including Tohokushinsha's BRAVE RAIDEEN (1975) — GAIKING begat toys that were able to transform as well, leading to the later advent of THE TRANSFORMERS. The series was also notable for featuring a mobile transport for the robot (also housing three support mecha), its maintenance and relief crews, known as the titular "Space Dragon." This conceit allowed the main cast to travel to different countries across the globe to widen the scope of the action, as well as into interplanetary space.

Threatened with imminent destruction from a black hole, the ruler of the distant planet Zela, plots to invade our world. Emperor Darius assembles the "Black Horror Corps" to defeat any resistance and allow the people of Zela to immigrate to Earth. With his first-string "Combat Force" members assassinated, Professor Daimonji puts together a rag-tag team, led by former Red Suns baseball pitcher, Sanshiro Tsuwabuki to repel the invaders. Tsuwabuki's latent psychic abilities allows him to make a neural connection with the super robot, Gaiking, to protect mankind from the hordes of Black Horror Monsters!

On the eve of PACIFIC RIM, Shout! Factory has released GAIKING: THE MOVIE COLLECTION, a three-film compilation of the 44-episode series, with English Dubbing commissioned by Toei Animation, written and directed by William Winckler (Tekkaman, The Space Knight). Because of the failure of similar compilations of the past, Toei assembled a team of in-house writers, directors, and editors to tackle the problem by allowing all of the story's major story arcs and dilemmas to be spread over three films, instead of one — resulting in a more satisfying, coherent viewing experience.

Shout's DVD-only release contains all three compilation films on two discs, running for a total of 326 minutes (approximately 5½ hours) in 2.0 Stereo (with English Subtitles). MSRP: $19.93. Street Date: May 21, 2013. Order from Amazon.com or directly from Shout! Factory!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

University Professor Becomes Scientific Advisor


"Taking Off 2.0" by Nobuteru Yuuki. ©SBY2199 Production Committee

With SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO: 2199 now airing on television in Japan (Sundays at 5:00 pm on TBS), a remake of the 1974 original, some viewers may not be aware that a professor from the Faculty of Science at Kagoshima University is also serving as the Scientific Advisor on the new series.

Professor Toshihiro Handa of Kagoshima University.

Specializing in Radio Astronomy, 54-year old Professor Toshihiro Handa grew up watching YAMATO while he was a Middle School student. “I’m very honored to be involved, since this anime series sparked my interest in astronomy,” he stated.

The Faculty of Science at Kagoshima University, Kyushu.

Since it first aired in 1974, SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO has garnered many deeply rooted fans. Like the original, the setting in this remake is the mysterious intergalactic nation of “Gamilas” polluting the Earth in attacks, leading to a fateful crisis in the year 2199.

The planet Gamilas, the center of the Great Gamilas Empire.

With total annihilation looming, Susumu Kodai, an officer in the UN Cosmo Force, boards the Yamato to find the planet “Iscandar” to retrieve a purification system to regenerate the Earth. The new series bowed in theaters and home video in 2012, and on television this past April, 33 years after the original.

The planet Iscandar, located 168,000 Light Years from Earth.

So, how did Professor Handa become involved in this new series? In 2008, the production committee approached National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, looking for “an individual who will enjoy helping us with sorting out facts,” and singled out Professor Handa, who was well known among his peers as an “anime lover.”

The colossal storm on the southern pole of Saturn from Episode 4.

Since then, he has engaged in numerous discussions concerning everything ranging from the visual design and animation with the animation staff, including supervising director Yutaka Izubuchi, in a myriad of topics such as “What would be the position of certain planetary bodies on January 1, 2199?” to “how would the Great Magellanic Galaxy appear when exiting the Milky Way?” Professor Handa would also reflect upon the celestial bodies rendered in CG, and lecture the staff on their relationships, as well as outline other scientific principals.

Looking back at the Milky Way Galaxy from Episode 14.

As an enthusiastic SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO fan, Professor Handa also knows that there has to be some artistic license, “If we adhere strictly to scientific principals, it will disrupt the narrative and world within it, so we need to be flexible in adapting this anime to some extent. However, the point of view from an astronomical standpoint is far more accurate and realistic than in the previous (1974) production.”

The Small Magellanic Cloud as seen in Episode 11.

Based on Professor Handa’s involvement, outdated astronomical terminology and designations used in the original series have been updated to reflect currently accepted standards, such as “Large Magellanic Galaxy” opposed to “Great Magellanic Cloud”, as well as terms concerning our own Galaxy, the Milky Way. Also, the original distance from the Earth to Iscandar was adjusted from 148,000 Light Years to 168,000 Light Years on the basis of new theories concerning the distance of the Magellanic Galaxy.

Detail of the Wave Motion Engine Systems Manual from Episode 3.

Another example of Professor Handa’s cooperation include even minor details, for example, the technical language and nomenclature seen in the operations manual for the Wave Motion Engine, even if on screen for mere seconds. Since there’s quite a distance between them, the Production Committee and the Professor, they stay in close communication via e-mail, including sending materials such as storyboards, and the staff’s concerns concerning scientific problems and principals. And every time he sees the finished work, “I can’t help but be impressed at their continued ingenuity.”

A beautiful, but dangerous Neutron Star featured in Episode 15.

As Professor Handa left Middle School for High School, YAMATO was the vehicle that opened up the cosmos to him, and prompted him in his longing to explore this unknown world. In closing, he said with hope, “Like myself, I would be pleased if this new series would inspire young people’s interest in astronomy and space.”

Written by Kei Mine
Originally published by Yomiuri Online
May 11, 2013
Translated by August Ragone

Stay tuned to this blog and the Cosmo DNA website for more news and information on SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO: 2199 as they develop!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Specs for Shout! Factory's Upcoming Release

Iconic opening title animation will remain in beautiful B&W!

With the release of the news of Shout! Factory's impending release of ULTRA Q (see previous blog entry), there has been wild speculation on internet concerning the contents of this forthcoming set — since the series was remastered for HD 1080p and colorized for the domestic Japanese Blu-ray release by US-based Legend Films (who handled the colorization work on Ray Harryhausen's B&W classics) — since Shout! Factory's page for listed this title as being "color."

Ziggy Namegon and the Mollusks from Mars are slimier in B&W!

Now, the the truth can be told; according to Shout! Factory's VP of Acquisitions and Production, who spearheaded licensing the rights to ULTRA Q and ULTRA SEVEN, "I've seen it on (the check) discs; (our release will be) in B&W." So, there you have it; this release of ULTRA Q will be in it's original chiaroscuro color format, which made it so atmospheric — therefore, we can assume that the aforementioned colorized version will not be included in this release.

Yuriko and Jun, can't believe their ears — it's in Japanese!

Also, since there were no other details on neither the Shout! or Amazon listings, rumors began swirling that perhaps the "lost" English language tracks produced back by Film House Inc. in Toronto, back in 1966, might also be included — since they were unearthed as a result of the research on my book a few years ago. Cliff's reply was short and to the point: "(This release) is in Japanese with English subs."

Garamon is a-gog that he's finally going to be discovered in the US!

Containing all 28 B&W episodes on six discs (with a total running time of 690 minutes), the street date for ULTRA Q: THE COMPLETE SERIES is August 13, 2013 with an MSRP of $59.97. Format: NTSC. Region Encoding: Region 1. Includes extensive on-screen liner notes by Yours Truly on the development and production of the series. You can pre-order from Shout! Factory or Amazon, today!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Seminal Sci-Fi Series on US DVD August 13th


Shout! Factory's package design for the forthcoming DVD release.

THE TRUTH CAN FINALLY BE TOLD... ULTRA Q is coming to DVD in the US from on August 13th! Eiji Tsuburaya's seminal 1966 science fantasy series, which spurred the creation of ULTRAMAN, is finally receiving its long-overdue release in North America, thanks to Cliff MacMillan of Shout! Factory, who has pushed through releases of the original GAMERA film series, neglected movies such as MESSAGE FROM SPACE, and tokusatsu teleseries, including ULTRA SEVEN and JOHNNY SOKKO. Details as to the contents of this release have yet to be officially announced, but I was contracted to provide content for their momentous home video releases of ULTRA Q and ULTRA SEVEN back in 2011.

So, for those unfamiliar with ULTRA Q, here's what I wrote for the DVD package copy:

“For the next 30 minutes, your eyes will leave your body and arrive in this strange moment in time…” In the world of ULTRA Q, the very fabric of nature is warped into a state of unbalance, and all manner of strange phenomenon and unearthly creatures threaten the very future of mankind! On the scene are a world-renowned scientist and his young friends — a female photojournalist, an aviator, and his co-pilot — who investigate these supernatural menaces. When sheer military might is futile, the intrepid team comes to the rescue, armed solely with their ingenuity and scientific prowess, to quell these malevolent forces and restore the balance of nature.

The precursor to ULTRAMAN, ULTRA Q is a seminal science-fantasy television series in the monstrous mold of THE OUTER LIMITS and THE X FILES. As deeply ingrained in Japan’s pop culture as THE TWILIGHT ZONE is in America’s, ULTRA Q is available for the first time ever in its entirety on DVD! Eiji Tsuburaya, the visual effects wizard behind GODZILLA, RODAN, and MOTHRA, creates a spectacular cavalcade of bizarre beasts and mass mayhem in each and every episode of this wildly popular series. Never before broadcast in North America, ULTRA Q stars Kenji Sahara (RODAN), Hiroko Sakurai (ULTRAMAN) and Yasuhiko Saijo (SON OF GODZILLA).

As with previous Japanese releases from Shout!, I wrote extensive liner notes on the making of the series, which will *not* be in a booklet this time, but rather on one of the actual discs, itself (which you scroll through to read). This essay contains numerous facts about the development, production, and even the lost English Dubbing, never before published in English! But, it's the fans who make these things happen — so please support these releases from Shout! — because, if you don't support them with your dollars, those "Bean Counters" in the front office will be led to believe there's no market in the US for these films and television series! So, order "ULTRA Q: The Complete Series" today!

Stay tuned for more information as it is cleared for release!

• Pre-order ULTRA Q from Shout! Factory 
• Pre-order ULTRA Q from Amazon

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Ishiro Honda's Classic Screening on May 12th


Original Japanese release poster for MOTHRA ('natch)! ©Toho, 1961

IMAGINE A MONSTER SO HUGE IT BLACKENED THE SKY! Join me as I host "Thrillville Theater" on Sunday, May 12th at The New Parkway in Oakland for a special screening of the uncut Japanese version of Ishiro Honda's 1961 spectacle, MOTHRA (w/English Subtitles)! I will blab about the film, share rare, behind-the-scenes images, and more! SEE! Eiji Tsuburaya's momentous miniature work as the featured creature smashes all in it's wake for the sake of the tiniest women in all creation! PLUS: Everyone attending will receive special Mothra door prizes (while supplies last) and Kimono My House will be on hand with a megaton of Mothra and Kaiju merchandize for sale! There will be only one screening, starting at 6:00 pm, so don't miss this night of food, beer, wine, couches, and MOTHRA at The New Parkway, 474 24th Street (near Telegraph), Oakland, California! Admission is only $6.00 (cheap) — order advance tix online from Brown Paper Tickets!

(Mothballs not included.)

Check in over at our Facebook Event Invite page!