"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

Saturday, September 12, 2009

New Bargain-Priced Magazine & DVD series!


GODZILLA (1954) is the subject of the first issue. ©Toho/DeAgostini

A couple of years back, Tokyo-based imprint, DeAgostini, launched a successful series of magazines on Tatsunoko Productions' seminal anime series SCIENCE NINJA TEAM: GATCHAMAN (1972). All three GATCHMAN series are being released in 68 issues, and is currently in the 40s. What really made this a hit, was that each biweekly issue contained a DVD of the corresponding episodes, which were merely the same (and expensive) pressings released a few years earlier, at a substantially lower price. While this must've been harsh for those who bought the original DVD releases, those who held out can pick them up for much less, and get a cool magazine, too.

The premiere issue of GATCHAMAN. ©Tatsunoko/DeAgostini

Each issue of the DeAgostini's magazines are slickly produced, with great, eye-catching layouts, are stuffed with excellent images, and are simply must-haves for fans. Publishing scores of pop and culture series, they have also published similar DVD series with "The STAR TREK Best Episode Selection" (featuring NEXT GENERATION, DEEP SPACE NINE and VOYAGER), "The X FILES DVD Collection", "The STARGATE DVD Collection" and "The Toei Jidaigeki DVD Collection", among many others in their line-up. Now, DeAgostini is about to do the same for Toho's Visual Effects Catalogue.

Issue Two: MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA (1964). ©Toho/DeAgostini

Launching on September 29th, the premiere issue of the "Toho Special Visual Effects Movie DVD Collection" will feature the original GODZILLA (1954). Each glossy, biweekly issue will focus on a particular film, jam-packed with photographs, with minimal text, and featuring sections on Production Backgrounds, Actor Biographies, Staff Profiles, Monster Guides, Weapons Encyclopedias, Advertising Museums, and a special column on each film by Visual Effects Director Koichi Kawakita. The DVDs also come in their own protective amaray cases, featuring the original Japanese movie posters emblazoned on their jackets.

Issue Three: GHIDRAH (1964). ©Toho/DeAgostini

Sounds good? It gets even better — the premiere issue will sell for the special introductory price of ¥990 ($10.65), with the succeeding issues retailing for only ¥1,990 ($21.40). This is an absolute steal compared to Toho Video's DVDs for the films, which retail for around ¥5,000 ($55.00) — and these are the same DVDs — plus, you get the fully-illustrated magazine to boot! DeAgostini has officially announced that there will be an astounding 55 issues of the "Toho Special Visual Effects Movie DVD Collection" in all, and that the subject of each issue will not be released in any particular chronological, or categorical, order.

Issue Four: ATRAGON (1963). ©Toho/DeAgostini

While the premiere issue will tally in at 22 pages, the following installments will feature 14 pages. The second issue, released on October 13th, is devoted to MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA (1964). On October 27th, issue three will feature GHIDRAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (1964), with issue four spotlighting ATRAGON (1963) on November 10th. MOTHRA (1961) takes center stage in issue five on November 24th. Additionally, DeAgostini is offering special binders, which will hold 14 issues each, and will go on sale in October at the special introductory price of ¥690 ($7.60). Additional binders will retail for ¥1,290 ($14.22) each. The publisher is also offering special coupon-redeemable wooden DVD racks (in black lacquer) in each volume, starting with issue three.

Issue Five: MOTHRA (1961). ©Toho/DeAgostini

This is going to be a great series, and I've already reserved the premiere issue. Those who have held out on picking up the Toho Video DVDs because of their relatively high MSRPs (between $50-$60), and are also holding off on Toho's Blu-rays, will do well by getting their hands on DeAgostini's latest series — the magazines are worth the ¥1,290 without the DVDs. While you can't order them directly from DeAgostini outside of Japan, you can get them through Japanese booksellers in the U.S. And if you've got a region-free DVD player, what the hell are you waiting for?

UPDATE (09.16.09): Here's the official "Toho Visual Effects Collection DVD" Commercial now airing on Japanese television.