"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

Sunday, December 29, 2013

35 Episode Box Set from Sentai Filmworks!

出た!『新造人間キャシャーン』米国DVD&BD発売 2014年3月!

Final package art for the long-awaited release of Tatsunoko's classic!

Hallelujah! It's a great time to be an American fan of classic Anime — after years of hoping for various titles would be picked up as they only went from a few years old to decades old, and the only resort seemed to be sticking with the Japanese releases, that weakening hope suddenly became a beacon over the last couple of years. Some labels, such as Discotek Media, and Japanese companies such as Toei Animation, have been looking back to find a different demographic. The younger American fan seems to exclusively want the latest productions out of Japan, but don't want to pay for it. But, there are older fans who aren't satisfied with the current output, but some younger fans are also curious about the roots of the genre. And they should be.

Dynamic 1973 promotional art designed by the great Tatsuo Yoshida.

Recently, we've had long-awaited premiere releases of PRINCESS KNIGHT (1967), the original LUPIN III (1971), GATCHAMAN (1972), CUTIE HONEY(1973), CAPTAIN HARLOCK: SPACE PIRATE (1978), THE ROSE OF VERSAILLES (1979), as well as English Dubbed, compilation films of GAIKING (1976), STARZINGER (1979), and DANGUARD ACE (1978), with complete series editions of MAZINGER Z (1972) and DEVILMAN (1972) waiting in the wings. And now, the original CASSHAN (1973)! As a diehard fan of '70s Anime, it's about time, and I'm loving every release that has been announced — all of them being must-buys in my book (although I'd prefer the complete series with Japanese language tracks).

1973 45rpm Single (music Shunsuke Kikuchi/vocals Isao Sasaki).

One of the biggest points I like to impart is that the during the '70s, the creators and producers were opening up new frontiers, so the originality was thriving, before the toy companies began to dictate content and style. The plotting and writing, while less complex than some today, was also less convoluted and contrived, and the writers were all veteran, professional scribes of feature films and television shows of numerous genres (while today's writers became such largely because they were Anime fans). And least we forget the music — such memorable, beloved music from the batons of such legends as Hiroshi Miyagawa, Takeo Watanabe, Shunsuke Kikuchi, Michiaki "Chumei" Watanabe, and featuring goosebump-inducing vocals by Isao Sasaki, Ichiro Mizuki, Mitsuko Horie, and Hide Yuki!

Preliminary package art from Tatsunoko's promotional portfolio.

Tatsunoko Productions' CASSHAN is one of those standout series of the '70s — spawning remakes and sequels, which made it to our shores, while the original 1973 series was left to flounder. Until now! Produced during the second year of GATCHAMAN (which was just going into overdrive), CASSHAN features a dark story story — set in their retro-future European-esque world typical of the time — with several concurrent subplots and a generally downbeat atmosphere, but with plenty of exciting superhero action! Like GATCHAMAN, the character designs bare some inspiration from the American comic books that creator Tatsuo Yoshida grew up on, with stylized art direction by Mitsuki Nakamura (SPEED RACER) and impressive character designs by Yoshida and Yoshitaka Amano (VAMPIRE HUNTER D).

Facing the legions of Buraiking: If Casshan won't do it, who will?

From the Sentai Filmworks press release: When lightning strikes the prototype android BK-1, a new horror is unleashed on the world as the resulting monster Buraiking begins taking over all other robots on Earth, setting them against their creators in a massive orgy of planet-wide destruction! With humanity helpless in the face of the new Neoroiders and their mechanical armies, mankind's only hope may lie in the hands of Tetsuya Azuma, son of the creator of BK1, who transfers his consciousness into an android body to become a Neoroider himself. the ultimate robot fighter: Casshan!

Back cover for the DVD of the upcoming Sentai Filmworks release.

At this past year's Anime Expo in Los Angeles, Sentai Filmworks announced that it had signed a deal with Tatsunoko Productions for the original GATCHAMAN, CASSHAN, and nine other titles — could we hope for GATCHAMAN II (1978), GATCHAMAN FIGHTER (1979), TEKKAMAN: THE SPACE KNIGHT (1975), HURRICANE POLIMAR (1974), TIME BOKAN (1975), and GORDIAN (1979) to be among them? In any case, their Blu-ray release of CASSHAN will feature all 35 episodes (approximately 875 mins.), 1080p HD (4x6), Japanese lossless audio (DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0) with English Subtitles on three discs for $59.98. The NTSC DVD release will come with six discs with 2.0 Dolby Digital audio with an MSRP of $49.98. Special features and bonus materials have not been listed. Street date was originally January, but has been pushed back to March 4, 2014.

"Abandoning his mortal life, he gained an immortal body. Allowing him to combat the iron fiends and crush them into the earth. If Casshan won't do it, who will?"

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Legendary Anime Series Goes Live!

2014.4.5 この現実<リアル>に参加せよ

The just-unveiled advance poster for THE NEXT GENERATION!

Originating in the late 1980s, MOBILE POLICE: PATLABOR, is a long-running animated series created by a collective calling themselves Headgear, consisting of director Mamoru Oshii (GHOST IN THE SHELL), writer Kazunori Ito (GAMERA 2), mecha designer Yutaka Izubuchi (YAMATO: 2199), character designer Akemi Takada (GATCHAMAN), and manga artist Masami Yuki (BIRDY THE MIGHTY). The extremely popular story has spawned several OVAs, television series, feature films, and manga, centering on the exploits of Tokyo Metropolitan Police Special Vehicle Section 2, Division 2 — which use the titular Patrol/Labor robots against crime and terrorism. Now, these beloved characters will come to life in an all-new series of live action films, which take place in 2013, several years after the original PATLABOR adventures took place.

Initial teaser poster unveiled earlier this year at the Anime Fair.

During the Tokyo International Anime Fair on March 21, 2013 at the, Tohokushinsha Co. Ltd., made the announcement of a live action PATLABOR: THE NEXT GENERATION for 2014, which was followed by a press conference streamed over the Nico Nico Live website on September 25, 2013. In a similar distribution style to SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO: 2199, there will be seven theatrical films released through Shochiku, made up of twelve 48-minute episodes, plus a ten-minute prologue (Episode Zero), commencing on April 5, 2013 in six-week intervals (May 31, July 12, August 30, October 18, November 29, and January 1). While the cast and crew have been announced, there has yet been no listing for a visual effects director.

Crew prepping to shoot one of the full-scale Ingram AV-98 props.

Produced on a budget of ¥2 billion (approximately $19,222,000 USD), PATLABOR: THE NEXT GENERATION began shooting in June 2013 under the watchful eye of Supervising Director Oshii, who also wrote all of the episodes with Kei Yamamura (THE IRRESPONSIBLE CAPTAIN TYLOR), while individual episodes are being helmed by Oshii (directing 0, 6, & 12), Takanori Tsujimoto (BUSHIDO MAN) directs 2, 4, & 8, Kiyotaka Taguchi (NEO ULTRA Q) directs 9 & 10, and Hiroaki Yuasa (MOON) directs 3, 5, & 11. And fans can rejoice that the original PATLABOR composer, Kenji Kawai (GUNHED), is also returning for this new production. To insure realism, two impressive, full scale AV-98 Type Ingram Labors, standing a full 8 meters tall (approximately 27 feet), along with their heavy towing equipment, built for in-camera interaction with the cast.

Director Oshii (far right) with the main cast of the new PATLABOR.

Actress and singer Erina Mano (KAMEN RIDER × KAMEN RIDER WIZARD & FOURZE: MOVIE WAR ULTIMATUM) headlines as Akira Izumino (taken from Oishii’s “parallel world” Patlabor novel published in 2011), Seiji Fukushi (ASK THIS OF RIKYU) as Yuma Shinobara, Rina Ota (BRAIN MAN) as Kasha, Toshio Kakei (BAYSIDE SHADOWN: THE FINAL) as Captain Keiji Gotoda, Shigeru Chiba (DRAGON BALL Z: BATTLE OF GODS) reprises his role as Maintenance Chief Shigeo Shiba, and Yoshikatsu Fujiki (KAMEN RIDER BLACK-RX) as Yoshikatsu Buchiyama. Principal Photography on PATLABOR: THE NEXT GENERATION is set to wrap this month. Additionally, an all-original live action feature film, written and directed by Oshii (with a running time of 100 minutes), will follow during the Golden Week holiday in 2015.

Watch the first teaser trailer, here!

Please visit the official Japanese website, here!

Stateside fans can also catch up on the phenomenon as US-based anime label, Maiden Japan recently scored the license for the animated MOBILE POLICE: PATLABOR television and OVA series — check out their website, here!