Kazuo Koike, who died on 17th April, was a man of many names. Born Yuzuru Tawaraya in what is now Daisen, Akita Prefecture, he died as Seishu Tawaraya, a Buddhist name, and wrote song lyrics as Fumihiko Azuma. But as a writer, it is the Koike pen-name that found him the greatest fame, in a career spanning four decades. Koike’s career as a lyricist was less widely publicised, but in that mode, he wrote the words to the theme songs to several iconic shows, including Mazinger Z, Great Mazinger, and Science Sentai Dynaman. Continue Reading
By Andrew Osmond.
It’s been a long wait, but at last it’s time to return to the adventures of the time-looped teen hero Subaru with the second volume of Re: Zero. If you’ve not heard of it before, its high concept is Sword Art Online meets Groundhog Day, and you can read more in our previous article here. The comments below include spoilers for the first volume, so be warned.
When we last left Subaru, he had just returned to the Royal Capital – the setting of his first adventures – along with the half-elf Emelia and everyone’s favourite demon maid Rem. While Subaru is theoretically healing after the last few battles, he can’t leave Emelia alone and ends up blundering into the ceremony where the candidates for the royal election – Emelia included – are being nominated.
One tip: it’s well worth re-watching part 12, which was the last episode on Volume 1, which sets up this story arc. The same episode introduces several characters who’ll be very important in what’s to come, including Wilhelm, a gentlemanly old knight, and Julius, a younger knight serving a rival royal candidate.
A very short way into the second volume, while we’re still at the ceremony, Subaru ends up in a confrontation with Julius. Some would see it as a duel of honour, others might call it dick-measuring. It may seem trivial compared to what Subaru has been through previously, but it escalates catastrophically. The situation brings out a nastier side of Subaru’s character than anything we’ve seen before (in earlier episodes, he seemed far wittier and more personable than the average anime hero).
Soon there’s a furious, ugly confrontation between Subaru and Emelia, who literally turns her back on him. From there, things just get worse, and worse, and worse. Increasingly angry and boorish, Subaru is woefully hopeless when new dangers threaten his friends. His downward spiral becomes a plunge to madness, as he time-loops repeatedly, seeing worse horrors with every cycle and growing still more pathetic. Rarely has a hero fallen from grace so fast.
This volume is a very different watch from the first, and much riskier conceptually. Seeing Subaru fail and fail and fail again – there are whole episodes where everything he does is plainly wrong – can be deeply frustrating, even with all the viewer goodwill built up by earlier episodes. Some fans will see it as plain trolling, and be inclined to drop the show. We won’t spoil much, but things do change eventually, and the show will make another huge shift in tone and tempo. There are rewards waiting for the audience, but Re: Zero insists that they’re earned.
Very obviously, the show challenges the whole idea of the hero fantasy and the hero’s journey. One pivotal episode – in fact, the key episode of the whole volume – is mostly just a verbal fight for Subaru’s soul, which is conducted entirely in dialogue between two of the key characters. As a concept it has echoes of the infamous TV ending of Evangelion, with Subaru as a Shinji substitute, but it’s also far more romantic.
Subaru is mostly kept apart from Emelia in this volume, in ways that become horribly extreme. The device recalls less Shinkai’s anime about separated lovers, and more a classic British science-fiction novel, The Separation by Christopher Priest (author of The Prestige), where two brothers are forever parted by maddening shifting realities.
In Emelia’s absence, Rem often takes the centre stage instead, replacing Emelia in the hearts of many Japanese fans. No doubt her blue hair and cute maid outfit helped, but so did her rather extraordinary character arc. As the blog’s previous article on Re: Zero pointed out, there aren’t many anime characters who can kill the hero slowly and brutally in one timeline, then makes heartbreaking sacrifices for him in others.
In Japan, Rem topped one of 2016’s polls of best female characters in Newtype, beating Mitsuha from Your Name. (Rem was also the subject of a bestselling hug pillow, but we’ll skip over that.) Her success probably benefited Japanese voice-actress Inori Minase, who’s enjoyed several plum roles since in anime, including the Asperger hacker Ami in Lupin the Third Part 5, and the bubbly girl lead of A Place Further than the Universe.
This volume of Re: Zero also boast especially good heavies. There’s a monster that we’ll leave you to discover (it’s big and it flies). But there’s also Betelgeuse (aka Petelgeuse), a finger-crunching death cultist who can be described as a satanic evangelist tripping on an acid ocean. His name may be a nod to Michael Keaton’s old zany Beetlejuice, but his floridly-written ranting evokes the grotesque opulence of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast books.
By the way, the madman’s ear-aching histrionics are provided by Japanese actor Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, who’s rather calmer in his best-known role, Kirito in Sword Art Online. Time loops can make people change in the most extraordianary ways…
Andrew Osmond is the author of 100 Animated Feature Films. Re: Zero 2 is released in the UK by Anime Limited.
Kazuhiko Kato, who died on 11th April, always had the air about him of a man who had won the lottery. Born in Hokkaido in 1937, his knack for cartooning soon caused him to drop out of electrical engineering college and move to Tokyo, where he moonlighted as an artist, at first in the below-the-line world of manga for rental lending libraries. Artistically inspired by the baroque, bawdy style of MAD magazine, he found early work in crime capers and detective stories, including Gun Hustler, The Murderer List, and The Man Without a Shadow. In 1966, a grumpy editor insisted that he take a pseudonym that made him sound more exotically foreign, and Kato reluctantly accepted. He recounted the story in an interview in Dallas in 2003, noting: “The editor said to me – ‘It’s hard to tell whether your art was done by a Japanese or a foreigner, so let’s create a pen-name that is indistinguishable by nationality.’ And after a lot of discussion in the editor’s room, they came up with MONKEY PUNCH.” Which was nicely inconspicuous. It was only a three-month job, and he figured he could drop the name right afterwards. Continue Reading
When it comes to titles that we know you're excited about, our plans for the second half of Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World- must surely top the list amongst the series we most often receive requests for information about. We know it's been a long wait, but we're sure it'll be a worthwhile one as we can now give you the lowdown on exactly what to expect from our release of Re:Zero - Part 2... and what's more, you can pre-order it right now!
As you might expect, the series will be arriving in Collector's Edition Blu-ray and Standard Edition DVD forms, with a release currently scheduled for 20th May 2019, but today we're putting the focus on on the Blu-ray Ltd Collector's Edition set specifically - in fact, today's pre-order offer includes an exclusive bonus item that you simply won't want to miss!
Now, before we proceed with the details and links on where to order, in case you haven't checked out the series yet here's a quick refresher/introduction on what's about.
From the studio that brought you Goblin Slayer, Akame Ga Kill, Steins;Gate, Jormungand and The Devil is a Part-Timer!
Synopsis: “Natsuki Subaru, an ordinary high school student, is on his way home from the convenience store when he finds himself transported to another world. As he’s lost and confused in a new world where he doesn’t even know left from right, the only person to reach out to him was a beautiful girl with silver hair.
Determined to repay her somehow for saving him from his own despair, Subaru agrees to help the girl find something she’s looking for…”
Check out a dubbed preview trailer for Part 1 of the series below –
Well first of you all you'll be happy to hear that our Blu-ray Collector's Edition for the second half of the series will very much be in keeping with the design style established with part one. It'll come packed in a rigid case, with a Digipak to house the two Blu-ray discs (which for consistency alongside part 1 will be labeled respectively as discs 3 and 4). There will also be 52-page hardback art book that, as was the case with the book included with part 1, acts as a great companion to the series. The book covers numerous details about the show, its characters and more that occur or appear in episodes 12-25 specifically, matching the part one book which covered events from the first eleven episodes.
Now, all of these words are great, but we know what you're waiting for - you want to see how this set looks for yourself. So, without further ado, here's your first look at what the Blu-ray Collector's Edition For Re:Zero Part 2 will look like!
Now, the eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed another box in the top-left corner of the image above. "What's that?" I hear you ponder. Well, we're glad you asked - that's a little bonus we're delighted to be able to include; it's an additional box to store both parts 1 and 2 of the series! This storage box will come with all copies of the Part 2 Blu-ray Ltd. Collector's Edition set. However, this storage box is exclusive to Zavvi.com and AllTheAnime.com - it's a limited edition extra limited to 1000 units, so once it's out-of-print and out-of-stock across both sites there won't be any more.
Here's a closer look both the front and rear of the storage box for you -
Now, the only question remaining is: What's on the discs? Naturally, we can answer that for you too:
As we mentioned above, Re:Zero Part 2 arrives in the UK on Monday, 20th May, and you can pre-order this exclusive edition with bonus storage box right now from Zavvi.com and AllTheAnime.com. We're sure you won't want to miss out on the second half of this amazing series, so you can place your order right now using the links below.
AND FINALLY: A NOTE ABOUT PART 1
Away from all of these exciting Part 2 details for the moment, we also want to take a second to acknowledge that some of you who purchased the Blu-ray Collector's Edition of Part 1 were unhappy with the video quality of the discs provided in this release. While we don't have any precise details to share at this time on how or when this will happen, as we're still in the process of finalising this, we do want to make it publicly known to anyone who purchased the Blu-ray Collector's Edition set of Re:Zero Part 1 and was unhappy with their discs that we will replace them once a new set of disc masters with improved video quality are made available to us.
We are currently waiting to receive these revised disc masters, so as I'm sure you'll understand while we're waiting for these new materials we don't have any precise details to share at this time on how or when a replacement process can happen. Hopefully it won't be too long for you to wait, but rest assured that it will happen as soon as possible.
Until we have those materials and our plans finalised, we won't have any more to say. We appreciate your patience and understanding on this.
So there you have it folks! Re:Zero Part 2 finally arrives in the UK in May! We have no doubt that you're looking forward to adding this to your collection, and we can't wait to bring it to you, so pre-order today!
Until next time, take care. Signing out~!
Jeremy & Andy
By Andrew Osmond.
Now streaming on Netflix, Illang: The Wolf Brigade is the new cinema live-action remake of the 1999 anime Jin-roh: The Wolf Brigade. The original will be released shortly by Anime Limited, and there’s a certain neatness to a remake appearing now. The anime Jin-roh was a successor to Ghost in the Shell, made a few years previously by the same studio and many of the same artists. The live-action Illang came out in 2018, barely a year after Hollywood’s Ghost with Scarlett Johansson. Like the Ghost remake, Illang plays up the action spectacle at the expense of the original’s brooding poetry, and it’s another strange mix of slavishly recreated moments and outrageous story liberties. Continue Reading