By Hugh David.
With Star Wars: The Force Awakens on the immediate horizon, it is worth remembering how important the original Star Wars was in widening the Western audience for Japanese storytelling and action. American filmmaker George Lucas drew on a wide range of influences in bringing his third feature to the screen, including 1930s American SF “cliff-hanger” episodic film serials such as Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, WW1 And WW2 “dogfight” movies and Japanese period samurai films. The most notable of these in relation to Star Wars: A New Hope was maverick Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s 1958 film The Hidden Fortress, a debt openly acknowledged by Lucas himself time and again (including in a lengthy interview on the U.S. Criterion Collection edition of Fortress) and repaid when Lucas produced Kurosawa’s epic Kagemusha. Obvious elements such as the bickering comedy characters used to tell the story and the main arc of a samurai general (the great Toshiro Mifune, whom Lucas approached about playing Obi-wan Kenobi before Guinness) and young princess behind enemy lines have been much remarked upon (for those wanting the short version there’s a YouTube video that juxtaposes relevant shots), but perhaps at this date the most important thing is not what Lucas borrowed, but what effect his borrowings had on the huge and often very young audience that became entranced with his magpie cinematic vision. Continue Reading
It’s the end of the week and we have some exciting news to share with you are happy to announce that we (Anime Limited) will be releasing Genius Party and Genius Party Beyond in the UK.
Genius Party is a series of 7 short films released by Studio 4°C in Japan in 2007 that featured different creative minds from all sides of the anime spectrum coming together for each film. A popular tag line at the time was “7 Impacts by 7 Directors.” The followup Genius Party Beyond featured new 5 short films bringing more creative minds together.
"At Anime Limited we’ve always been big fans of unique film projects and Genius Party is no different” says Andrew Partridge, President of Anime Limited. “When you look at the directorial personnel involved Shinichiro Watanabe, Mahiro Maeda and Masaaki Yuasa, combined with the varying experiences working in anime from all involved this really is a wonderful project and I’m delighted we’re getting to bring this to the UK.”
At this time we can confirm that we will be releasing these on Blu-ray and DVD. We will have more details for you soon about our plans but in the interim you can watch the trailers for both and find a the complete list of films below.
By Hugh David.
One of the all-time great modern Japanese multi-media franchises is finally getting a re-release of its animated incarnation in the UK, which also includes the previously-unreleased and much-anticipated The Second Raid. Full Metal Panic!’s manga adaptation of the best-selling light novel series is a textbook example of how to balance action, romance and comedy in an expert blend of high-school and mecha shows, and the first anime incarnation managed to carry that over brilliantly. In fact, the only thing the production studio, former powerhouse GONZO, really did that noticeably separates the two versions was to extract some of the most comic vignettes and moments, which then later found their way into the spin-off series Full Metal Panic? FUMOFFU! from Kyoto Animation. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here…
You wouldn’t look for an elite anti-terrorist commando undercover in a Japanese high school, would you? Yet Sergeant Sosuke Sagara of the PMC MITHRIL is young enough to take on the role, given he was raised a rebel fighter in an unspecified part of Asia. Eagle-eyed viewers will understand quickly the English-language downplays this part of his background for maximum sales impact in Western Anglo-speaking territories; it’s pretty clear nonetheless that Sagara is a mujhadeen child soldier plucked from his home to work for MITHRIL. Having never been to high school, however, and being far more conversant with piloting mechs and handling firearms than with human interactions of most kinds, hilarity inevitably ensues as he seeks to protect beautiful orphan and Student Council President Kaname Chidori against a very real threat. For Kaname has special powers that make her a prime target for a very special bunch of criminals…
FMP! is arguably Studio Gonzo’s perfect storm: a show that blended modern-day mecha combat, American-style action sequences, high-school comedy and romance with a first-class mix of traditional and CG animation. Every episode ends with some sort of beat that acts as a cliff-hanger of sorts, be it emotional, action-based or a plot twist, engendering the ideal propulsion for binge-watching. Coupled with a first-class English dub and a musical score that nods slyly to The A-Team and you have a show that was as much a gateway for a new generation of Western fans as it was beloved by older ones.
However, some fans of the source material did feel some of the more outrageous humour and fan-service was missing from that first series; cue FMP?FUMOFFU! and its mostly-high-school-focused high-jinks. Then-new studio Kyoto Animation gave the visuals a more traditional, more fun makeover, and turned school mascot giant bear Bonta-kun into an action-comedy hero complete with catch-phrase “Fumoffu!” For those interested this series even included the traditional excuse for fan-service, the beach trip episode.
And then times changed, the industry changed, and FMP! The Second Raid never made it to the UK. Now that it’s finally here fans can see for themselves Kyoto Animation’s take on the darker, action-based tone of the first series, carrying on the main storyline to tell us what happens to all of our beloved characters when faced with the actions of a rival PMC Amalgam and their mechs. It’s been a long wait, but fans will find it’s been worth it, especially to experience all three series in high definition with new extras.
Full Metal Panic! is being released as an Ultimate Edition Blu-ray set including all three season from Anime Ltd. next week.
By Andrew Osmond.
An upcoming Anime Limited release, Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad, has a brash title rock song, proclaiming in English: “I was made to hit in America!” In many ways, J-pop faces the same challenge as anime in the world market. Do you customise yourself for the foreign audience? Or do you sell yourself on your “exotic,” Far Eastern qualities – like, for example, Korea’s PSY, who got the world trotting to “Gangam Style”?
The female J-pop band Perfume has gone all-out for the second course. Interviewed by Reuters, the Japanese Managing Director of Universal International summed up Perfume: “Mysterious, futuristic, robotic doll-type girls, well-choreographed with laser beams… I think with Perfume it’s all about that futuristic Japanese image.” Continue Reading
By Jonathan Clements.
Shigeru Mizuki, who died today, was one of the most enduring and influential creators in the manga tradition. His career arguably pre-dated manga itself, in the chaos of the post-war period, when the young Mizuki arrived back in Japan with the world’s most unimpressive CV. Maimed in an American attack on a South Sea hospital, and cursed with an elder brother undergoing trial for war crimes, the one-armed Mizuki struggled to find work, and slummed it as a cinema projectionist. Despite his injuries, he somehow managed to get jobs drawing kamishibai, show-and-tell picture shows that were rented to travelling story-tellers, and which formed a vibrant part of Tokyo media in the days before television. Continue Reading