Monday 31 December 2012

Blu-ray review: Tiger & Bunny The Live

Tiger & Bunny The Live was a stage play which had a limited run between 24th August and 1st September this year. The venue was Zepp DiverCity in Odaiba, Tokyo; a small live house with a maximum capacity of 2,500 people. As this was a seated event, the audience was smaller than it would have been for a packed standing music gig.

Although the show only ran for nine days there were seventeen performances in total. In spite of this, the demand for tickets was at fever pitch and there were many yelps of disappointment on Twitter when the ticket lottery results were announced. Tiger & Bunny was at the height of its popularity. A 'live viewing' was arranged which allowed fans without tickets to instead watch the performance in real time, either via the online Bandai Channel or in theatres. 99 cinemas across Japan offered live viewings of the very last evening performance, with 15 of the venues also showing the afternoon performance the same day in order to serve as many customers as possible.

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the second of the live performances in Odaiba on opening day, though my seat in the fifth row on the second floor wasn't the best. One thing which surprised me was that the audience wasn't entirely female-dominated; women definitely made up the overwhelming majority of attendees yet I was seated close to some very enthusiastic male fans who provided a sense of balance. They were every bit as excited as the screaming girls and cheered loudly whenever Blue Rose came on stage.

There were quite a few things which made Tiger & Bunny The Live special, from the detailed costumes to the blend of music and high energy combat. For me, one of the most exciting elements was that they'd arranged for the two lead seiyuu from the original anime series to reprise their roles for the stage play. Whenever Wild Tiger and Barnaby Brooks Jr. appeared in their civilian attire they'd be played by the seiyuu. For combat scenes, the duo would be played by performers in their hero suits. Since the hero suits cover their faces there was no problem with continuity as the seiyuu could still provide their voices from off-stage. I've seen a few complaints from western fans that Hirata is too old and stout to play the lanky Kotetsu. I disagree with them; his voice makes the character perfect and even if he can't match Wild Tiger's unrealistic physique, his acting skills are pretty good. Morita received loud cheering whenever he did anything cool - which was often - and it was obvious that he loved being on stage. He sang along adorably to his character song when it was playing and showed off some feisty fighting moves in a scene where the heroes battle in their everyday clothes.

The full cast list was as follows:

Today's acquisitions (31st Dec 2012)

A tremendously exciting set of deliveries came in today, made up of brand new DVDs and back issues of various Japanese magazines.

In the top left is the November 2006 issue of B's Log magazine. This volume was significant for its coverage of Basara Matsuri 2006 ~Natsu No Jin~ and it even included some video footage on DVD. I decided that it was a DVD I ought to own. B's Log is a good magazine to begin with so I'll have fun reading it from cover to cover later on.

The February 2010 issue of Dengeki Maoh comes next with beautiful cover art from Sasakura Kou, who coincidentally has exactly the same style of drawing as well-known BL manga artist Yamada Sakurako. Her anime-based Sengoku Basara manga was running in the magazine at the time. There's a huge sheet of SenBasa stickers inside and more importantly, an exclusive 'Chouranbu' CD featuring Masamune, Kojuurou and Hideyoshi reading fan postcards and speaking famous lines from the games.

Completing the top row is the May 2011 issue of Dengeki Maoh. Dengeki Maoh is the publication which serialises most of the SenBasa manga, and at the time it was running Mini Sengoku Basara Two. This particular issue included a special Sengoku Basara 'Shunrai Meidou' CD with audio content from Masamune, Mitsunari and Ieyasu. I only bought the magazine for the CD so the fact that 'mini stamps' of Masamune, Yukimura, Motonari and Motochika were also included was a bonus. As for the magazine itself, among other things there are several colour pages devoted to news about Sengoku Basara -The Last Party-, with a rare picture of Kanbee's anime design which was created before he was axed from the movie entirely.

In the bottom left of the photograph is the fanclub-exclusive Sengoku Basara Fan Kanshasai ~BSR48 Kaihyou No Utage~ event DVD, and beside it is the Basara Matsuri 2012 ~Natsu No Jin~ DVD set. I'll talk about those in detail in separate posts soon. Finally, there are two packs of 'puni puni' seals; hard plastic stickers ideal for attaching to mobile phones. They're decorated with Mame Sengoku Basara characters and exclusive to fan club members. Since I was ordering from the fan club shop anyway it seemed a shame not to buy some of the stickers too.

Sunday 30 December 2012

DVD review: Butai Sengoku Basara 3

Limited edition packaging
This was actually the first of the Butai Sengoku Basara DVDs I watched; since I reviewed all of the others, I'm adding a quick post about it now to fill in the gap. Butai Sengoku Basara 3 was originally performed between 14th and 16th October 2011 in Osaka's Ion Cosmetics Theatre Brava, followed by a run in Tokyo Dome City's Theatre G-Rosso between 23rd and 30th October 2011.

The DVD recording was released on 23rd February 2012 in the usual standard and special editions. The special edition sold out quickly and fetches absolutely ridiculous prices on the used market, far in excess of the ¥6,500 it cost. The only benefits to the special edition are better packaging and a photo book, so I grudgingly settled for the ¥6,000 standard edition after missing the chance to preorder the better version in time. The standard edition is extremely barebones; its more like a US anime DVD release with a plain box and no inserts or artwork.

Despite missing out on the far-cooler packaging shown at the top of this blog post, Butai Sengoku Basara 3 was the one which finally sparked my interest in the SenBasa stage plays in the first place. Full of vibrant colour and an expanded cast, it blended comedy with action to provide 162 minutes of pure entertainment.

The cast for this stage play was as follows:

Saturday 29 December 2012

Streaming: Autumn 2012 anime final impressions

I thought I'd collect my thoughts on this seasons very strong lineup of anime streams so that I can refer back to it later when important spending decisions are needed. Continuations of long-running shows I didn't watch are not listed.

Friday 28 December 2012

Anime review: Comic Party

Comic Party was a 13 episode 2001 TV series based on a reasonably popular Leaf game. The series was released in the US by TRSI's own anime label back in 2004, first in single volumes with a complete box set following in 2006. It's possible to pick it up cheaply at the moment and I'd recommend doing so sooner rather than later, as it's out of print and with the sequel still readily available, demand is likely to force prices up with every passing day.

I own the single DVD volumes so I can verify that they're good value. Each comes with a reversible cover with the Japanese title and a thin colour booklet packed full of liner notes and artwork. The artwork often parodies other famous anime series with amusing results so I'm glad that The Right Stuf included as much of this work as they could. There are on-disc extras too with more translation notes and a bonus ongoing miniseries which sends the characters on a silly quest in swimsuits. The video quality for the actual anime episodes themselves is quite poor; while it was probably the best that TRSI had to work with at the time of its release, it's full of dot crawl and evidently comes from a composite master. Thankfully the simple designs stop the fuzzy picture being too distracting once the action begins.

My original reason for picking the series up was that it has an unusual gimmick: to set itself aside from other dating sims, Comic Party is set in the world of doujinshi creation.

Nico Nico Douga: The joys of Vocaloid (and Basaraloid)

Nico Nico user moonlight presents a Basaraloid cover version of Rerulili's collaborative song 'Mr. Music'. Various UTAU users participated to make the Basara characters 'sing' the song accompanied by a Miku Miku Dance video made by another talented group of fans.

This week's pickup ranking also brought two new actual Vocaloid videos to my attention for a change!

Today's acquisitions (28th Dec 2012)

I was lucky enough to get some more books for Christmas over the last few days, and an order I had placed with Yesasia finally arrived today.

I've almost finished reading Sakuran already. The cover is beautiful with a coloured foil finish which doesn't show up at all in the photograph. Thermae Romae volume 1 is ridiculously large and comes with a clear plastic slipcase dust jacket to 'censor' the statue's nudity and keep the book clean. It's definitely a high quality release.

The Blu-ray recording of the summer Tiger & Bunny The Live stage play event arrived too. The packaging is very low key as far as Japanese BD releases go; a review will follow once I've had a chance to watch it. It was accompanied by the CD single for Nothing's Carved In Stone's 'Spirit Inspiration' - the Zetsuen No Tempest opening song - which I've been itching to own ever since the series began. it's in a beautiful digipak with artwork from the series on both sides and a sticker (pictured separately) as a bonus item. Yesasia also sent me a freebie Saitou Hajime Gakuen Hakuouki keychain to make the delivery even more exciting.

Thursday 27 December 2012

Sengoku Basara merchandise news: Omamori Mascots

Owing to the New Years holiday period, most simulcasts are temporarily off the air and interesting Sengoku Basara news has slowed to a trickle - unless you follow doujinshi, as the hype for Winter Comiket this weekend is in full swing. I still have plenty of older news to catch up on, but two very tiny fragments of news drifted out of Japan in the last day that I should report on first.

The first is an announcement that the Butai Sengoku Basara 3 Utage website will finally launch on 1st January 2013. The hype will soon begin for the show's April debut!

The second announcement is that another round of merchandise will be available on 21st March 2013: Sengoku Basara Omamori Mascots. They're traditional amulets with a SenBasa twist, and they'll be selling for ¥600 each. Nine different characters will be available.

Click the picture to see them all up close!

Wednesday 26 December 2012

News roundup: More Kuroko No Basuke and a DVD release date for Butai Sengoku Basara 3 ~Setouchi Kyouran~

Two pieces of news today.

First of all is an example of something which never usually happens: rather than slipping, the release date of the Butai Sengoku Basara 3 ~Setouchi Kyouran~ DVD has been brought forward from late March 2013 to late February. The end of March is already jam-packed full of Sengoku Basara excitement so I'm delighted that this will let me get a head start on the festivities.

Secondly, it's been confirmed that Shounen Jump will be announcing a second season for Kuroko No Basuke! No details are known yet so I imagine we'll be seeing it in the Spring season next year. While a second season for an ongoing series with such a devoted fan following would ordinarily barely qualify as news at all, Kuroko No Basuke is a special case; its spectacular popularity has been impeded at every step since the first season finished. An unknown criminal was reported to be sending death threats, citing the series as the link between them. It's unclear whether their wrath comes from some personal grudge against mangaka Fujimaki Tadatoshi or a hatred of the series itself - though as a fairly innocuous character-driven basketball action story, it's difficult to see how anyone would single it out normally as an object of hatred.

This person has been causing widespread panic and disruption for several months now, most infamously leading to the unprecedented ban on KuroBas circles and products at this winter's Comiket. It's been reported that the Comiket organisers have lost a considerable amount of money from this decision which they took to safeguard the visitors and the future of the event,  but the real losers are the circles who had worked hard on their doujinshi and merchandise for the event who have had their plans ruined through no fault of their own. It's been said that 900 individual circles were excluded as part of the ban; many of those 900 circles will be made up of several individual creators. A significant number of them would have already arranged for time off work and booked their hotel accommodation, travel tickets and printing runs before the ban was announced; furthermore, their fans may have also made arrangements to travel all the way to Comiket too to visit their spaces and purchase their books. Thousands of fans were looking forward to celebrating Kuroko No Basuke at Comiket this winter, and all it took was one horrible person to completely ruin their plans and waste their money.

Comiket is by far the highest profile disappointment that KuroBas fans have faced, but it wasn't the first. After one successful Shadow Trickster event following a threat, Studio You buckled under the responsibility (and perhaps, the additional costs) and cancelled a large number of their doujinshi meets. The fan community had high hopes that the organisers of Comic City would resist the pressure but sadly they too announced that KuroBas circles would be restricted at the large Comic City Osaka event at the start of January. There are a number of other doujinshi events scheduled throughout 2013 as well which will probably be affected if things continue. Kuroko No Basuke circles looking to sell their work outside of shops are out of luck - this is especially harsh for creators who aren't yet well known or mainstream enough to distribute through the dedicated high street doujinshi stockists.

Even in the face of terrorism, the fans have remained loyal throughout and continued to purchase the goods which slip through the various bans and cancellations, yet the criminal has caused problems for the series commercially which go far beyond the doujinshi scene. Merchandise and a number of events have been cancelled and there was uneasy doubt when the last manga tankoubon was released in shops and found to be missing any mention of the expected second anime season. When these events are reported on western news sites, I often see people cynically remarking that it's a way for the creators to increase demand and make more profit. This is a series which is so popular that when a seven week special event took place at Ikebukuro's Namco Namja Town back in July, they sold out of all seven weeks' worth of merchandise on the very first day. There is no question that the death threats are harming KuroBas rather than helping it.

The manga artist's defiance of the criminal continues, however, and the fans' patience is being rewarded at last with this new anime announcement. The ongoing criminal investigation has proved fruitless so far and the freak behind the threats will probably never reveal what on earth possessed them to act this way; at least we'll get to enjoy more of Kuroko's teamwork and misdirection while we wait for justice to be served. I can't wait to hear more about the start date for the anime, and to finally meet the new characters who were teased towards the end of the first season.

Tuesday 25 December 2012

Santa brings news of a Sengoku Basara manga delay

Udon Entertainment kindly replied to me on Twitter and confirmed that the second and final volume of Sengoku Basara: Samurai Legends has been delayed again due to holiday printing schedules, but it's due to come out towards the end of January in comic shops with larger bookstores getting their stock in February. It's a shame it keeps getting pushed back - kudos to the Udon team for being so responsive as always, though. I can't wait to be able to buy it soon.

In completely unrelated news, the Sengoku Basara team at Capcom have provided a wonderful festive image for mobile users. You can view it here and it's only slightly creepy.

DVD review: Butai Sengoku Basara

Limited edition packaging
The Sengoku Basara stage plays have become a highly successful spin-off series over the course of a few years. For this review I travelled back in time to see how it all started, by watching the very first Butai Sengoku Basara on DVD.

This original Sengoku Basara stage play was performed for a short period between the 3rd and 12th of July 2009, at Tokyo Dome City's Theatre G-Rosso. A DVD recording of the show followed on 2nd October 2009 in both standard and special editions. Although both editions are now out of print they're not difficult to find on the used market with a little patience. I have the special edition; the only difference is that you get a colour 'Limited Edition Photo Book' and a special slipcase to hold everything together. The photo book is nice, but thin - unless you're a big fan of the actors there isn't much reason to pay a lot more for a used copy of the special edition.

I should also point out that this is the only Sengoku Basara stage play which spawned its own CD soundtrack. It's spread over two discs and is mostly made up of a jumble of tracks pulled from various different games in the series, making it a good CD to start with if you don't have any other the others. It's easy to find even now.

The cast for this first stage play was as follows:

Saturday 22 December 2012

Today's acquisitions (22nd Dec 2012)

Today was the beginning of the Christmas period for my family, to accommodate various trips and occasions. I got to open some presents early!

On the manga side of things, I received Wandering Son (Hourou Musuko) books two and three. The huge Fantagraphics hardback editions look awesome and take up a lot of space. The second part of Siren Visual's release of Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni Kai accompanies a pile of Sentai Filmworks titles from the US: volumes of Cluster Edge, Himawari Too!!, The Book of Bantorra, Ghost Sweeper Mikami and Idolm@ster Xenoglossia.

Though it has nothing to do with Christmas, One Piece season four volume three arrived in the post as well. It will have to keep us going for a while as the next set of episodes hasn't been scheduled for release until mid-March.

Friday 21 December 2012

Part 13: Yanagita Rikao's Sengoku Basara Science Laboratory

As with my posts covering the earlier parts, this is an extremely rough English translation of part of the blog series Yanagita Rikao's Sengoku Basara Science Laboratory (Yanagita Rikao Sengoku Basara Kagaku Kenkyuujo). Please click the link below to see the original article, which is accompanied by illustrations and promotional videos.

Part 13: The secret of the infinite bullets!? Saika Magoichi

Saika Magoichi is a leader with a will of steel. She judges which warlords to whom they should be lending their power, sticking fast to the Saika Shuu's way of life: to live for your own sake, and to die for your own sake. Should they decide to side with a warlord, they'll fight and tear through the vanguard at the right moment. For the Saika, a defeat means a decrease in their value, paving the way to the Saika's demise. That's why her gun will probably fire today, too, to lead these coarse men. I'll take a look at the way Magoichi Saika lives; the strong and beautiful 'Smoky Bird Soaring Magnificently'.

Today's acquisitions (21st Dec 2012)

This week has been far too action-packed for my liking, thanks to the pre-Christmas rush in my line of work! I've been fighting the stress with some retail therapy of my own, so I should have some nice things arriving in the next few weeks. This week I received some of my outstanding December anime preorders in the post, so here's an overexposed photo.

The big boxes are the Blu-ray sets for both parts of Umineko: When They Cry (Umineko No Naku Koro Ni) from NIS America. They're the usual premium releases with hardback guidebooks inside the large boxes. Strangely, although there are two sets there are only three Blu-ray discs in total, so one set only contains a single disc and a piece of foam to fill the space in the oversized box. It's better than them not matching, I guess.

Also in the picture is the US Blu-ray of Mardock Scramble: The Second Combustion which is coming to the UK very soon as well. I liked the first film so the second was an automatic purchase.

The final two packages are the two parts of A Certain Magical Index (Toaru Majutsu No Index) from FUNimation. I'm a little disappointed by this release; the LE box is nice and the second part has a cardboard slipcase, but it's DVD-only and there's not much variety in the artwork used on the packaging at all (the reverse of the LE box uses one of the images on the cover of the second part). I can tell that there will be a Blu-ray set later on and I'll feel cheated, so I'm going to wait and buy the later parts on Blu-ray to begin with instead of going along with this staggered release strategy. I do want to see Index, though, so it's not all bad.

Given the time of year, there may be some more posts of this nature very soon. If I'm lucky, I'll be able to take the next few pictures when there's daylight for a change!

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Nico Nico Douga: Come and join us in the church of Zabii!

Today we have a MAD video in the form of a PV for recruiting new followers to the church of Zabii (or Xavi, if you prefer). Zabii Rotation is a lighthearted take on AKB48's famous song Heavy Rotation with some help from Sourin's limitless zeal.

Nico Nico user Mugimugi has put together a beautiful Sengoku Basara MMD video set to the song Akahitoha. It shows scenes from Masamune's life - including his childhood - interspersed with magnificent dancing. Kojuurou is present too, of course, and just as graceful.

Monday 17 December 2012

News: Sengoku Basara Magazine update and request for submissions

Dengeki Maoh has finally announced the first real news about Sengoku Basara Magazine in the form of an open request for fan contributions for the seiyuu to respond to on a bundled audio CD. There's also a little information about the magazine itself; it will be a deluxe publication which will be released quarterly starting in spring 2013. The news post states that it will include the latest news relating to the Sengoku Basara series as well as artwork, comics, a CD and gifts such as rubber straps. In other words, there should be something for everyone.

The first volume will have Date Masamune on the cover and its main highlight will be the bonus CD featuring the seiyuu Nakai Kazuya (Date Masamune) and Morikawa Toshiyuki (Katakura Kojuurou). The guests will discuss various topics relating to Sengoku Basara in the style of a radio talk show. The information about the first issue's bonus CD is quite detailed since they want fans to be able to write in for each segment (I've translated it very loosely below with some of my own comments).

1. Tell Nakai-san and Morikawa-san!
For this segments contributors are encouraged to enthusiastically say whatever they want to the two seiyuu. There should be some interesting submissions given how popular the two guests are.

2. Share your worries with Nakai-san and Morikawa-san.
Perhaps Masamune and Kojuurou can help fans solve various problems they're struggling with? I think that Kojuurou's advice might be better for most problems than Masamune's confrontational approach...

3. I want Masamune and Kojuurou to say it: 'a new Sengoku Basara voice'.
Tell Masamune or Kojuurou what you'd like them to say. Perhaps it could be a funny line or a 'chaku voice' (spoken ringtone), or send in some words of encouragement for them to say to you. Submit as many as you like!

4. My Basara love!
Please express how much you love Sengoku Basara! It doesn't have to be in words alone; it's ok to use pictures.

5. Using it at a time like this! Masamune and Kojuurou's 'Basara Words of Wisdom'.
This segment is going to be about how you can fit famous lines from Sengoku Basara into situations from day-to-day life. It sounds hilarious.

If you can write in Japanese and want to send a message of your own, the contact information is at the link and the deadline is 24th December (postcards) or 25th December (email). The required information is a pen name, age, address and contact number, and of course your message itself. The subject line 'Sengoku Basara Toukou No Ran' must be used.

Althought it's unrelated to Sengoku Basara Magazine, the Sengoku Basara official fan club's first ever 'fan meeting' took place yesterday in Osaka for 40 lucky guests. As well getting the chance to meet KobaP and Yoshida Tomokazu in person, fans who attended were given the opportunity to obtain a special Kojuurou blanket which is also going to be available at the official fan club shop. I think I want one.

Saturday 15 December 2012

Part 12: Yanagita Rikao's Sengoku Basara Science Laboratory

As with my posts covering the earlier parts, this is an extremely rough English translation of part of the blog series Yanagita Rikao's Sengoku Basara Science Laboratory (Yanagita Rikao Sengoku Basara Kagaku Kenkyuujo). Please click the link below to see the original article, which is accompanied by illustrations and promotional videos.

Part 12: The unexpected power of the gigantic iron hot pot!? Kobayakawa Hideaki

Kobayakawa Hideaki is a pretty pathetic warlord in the world of Sengoku Basara. He runs away while saying things like "It's not worth risking my neck!" instead of trying to fight on the battlefield. He doesn't even hold a sword in the first place; his only weapon is the nabe (hot pot pan) he carries on his back. Still, it's hard to dislike the flukey way that he uses the pot to attack without thinking. I'll take a closer look at the charm of Kobayakawa Hideaki, who wins without trying to win.

Friday 14 December 2012

All The Anime: A brand new UK anime distributor

Earlier this week, rumours began to spread about a new anime-related project in the UK going by the name 'All The Anime', associated with a new company called Anime Ltd. A Twitter feed and Facebook page soon surfaced, as did a placeholder website promising more details soon.

Hearing that the insightful Andrew Partridge was behind All The Anime was music to my ears. Andrew is very active in the fan community, having been attached to Beez when they released DVDs over here in the past and more recently to Kaze UK, Anime On Demand and the Loves Anime movie screening initiatives. He knows the market here, he personally listens to fan complaints and feeds them back to the industry, and more importantly, he's got a track record of being able to deliver on his promises. It's directly thanks to his persistence that we've been lucky enough to get some noitaminA shows on DVD over here - including The Tatami Galaxy, which is still unavailable in the US. And it's thanks to Andrew that I've been lucky enough to see some great anime movies in the cinema over here before their DVD release. That kind of thing would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

While the launch date for the project is currently January 2013, All The Anime finally broke their silence today with a lengthy interview with Anime News Network elaborating on their plans. The key points are that they'll be distributing a mix of classic anime and newer content on both physical and digital platforms while also expanding into cinema screenings. Most excitingly, as well as actually distributing anime they're going to be doing so with an eye on the dedicated collectors. Hopefully we can expect some NIS America or Aniplex USA quality releases.

I'm looking forward to what January will bring!

Thursday 13 December 2012

Sengoku Basara merchandise news: Gotouchi Netsuke

It's a slow news day, but Capcom did have one thing to announce. Sadly it wasn't Sengoku Basara 4. Instead, we're getting a tiny bit more Sengoku Basara merchandise in the form of gotouchi netsuke ('regional speciality charms'). The gimmick is that each is only available in a particular region of Japan, so collecting them all might be a little trickier than usual - although people with no sense of adventure can purchase them online from e-Capcom.

This batch will be released in December. It includes Ishida Mitsunari with ayu sweetfish (Kansai region), Katakura Kojuurou with kamaboko (Touhoku), Chousokabe Motochika with katsuo tuna (Shikoku), Mouri Motonari with manjuu (Chuugoku) and Sarutobi Sasuke with oyaki (Shinshuu). Mouri almost looks as though he's wearing his manjuu.

This is the second batch of these charms. The first set came out back in October. It featured Date Masamune with zundamochi (Touhoku), Sanada Yukimura with sliced apple (Shinshuu), Tokugawa Ieyasu with Edomaezushi (Kantou), Maeda Keiji with cherries (Touhoku) and Toyotomi Hideyoshi with takoyaki (Kansai).

They're not the cutest designs, but I quite like the interesting release format. There are still some regional specialities I'd like to try one day.

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Today's acquisitions (11th Dec 2012)

I cheated as the Blu-ray of Children Who Chase Lost Voices (Hoshi Wo Ou Kodomo) arrived a few days ago and it wasn't until now that I remembered to take a picture. The other Blu-ray in the picture is the first Berserk movie, The Golden Age Arc I - The Egg of the King. Both of these are US imports. Accompanying the anime acquisitions is the most recent volume of the Drops Of God manga, 'New World', which is a little annoying as it's skipped ahead in the story and left a gigantic gap. It's especially annoying as they did it to appeal to American readers (the later part of the story features American wines, about which I know absolutely nothing). Let's hope they go back later and release the missing books; ominously, there's no volume number even though this standalone story is part of the ongoing narrative.

Monday 10 December 2012

Nico Nico Douga: Hetalia Renaissance

It's that time of the week when I notice that I've been spending far too much time on Nico Nico. Here are my latest picks. Hetalia has always been popular; with a new series on the horizon at the moment it seems to be enjoying an ever-stronger surge in high quality fan creations.

First up is Carnival Phantasm's Super Affection, performed by the Sengoku Basara cast in the medium of Miku Miku Dance.

Basara Matsuri 2013 ~Haru No Jin~ update: T.M.Revolution

A very quick Basara Matsuri update this morning: Capcom have announced that T.M.Revolution will be appearing on both days! While it's not an enormous surprise given Nishikawa's ever-increasing influence over the series, it's still good to hear. Interesting too that it is T.M.Revolution rather than abingdon boys school this time; the most recent song for the series was performed by a.b.s. so this mini-concert will either be older tracks or - dare I hope - an opportunity to show the audience something new..?

If it's old tracks, I'm hoping for Sword Summit and Utage!

Sunday 9 December 2012

Anime review: Sengoku Basara -The Last Party-

This post covers the release of Sengoku Basara -The Last Party-, the full length movie finale to the Sengoku Basara animated series which loosely adapts the events of the Sengoku Basara 3 game. Having originally debuted in Japanese cinemas back on 4th June 2011, it's recently made it to the west thanks to FUNimation. Their release seemed like a good excuse to watch it again!

The US version takes the form of a combo pack so I settled down with the Blu-ray disc. This was my third time watching the film on Blu-ray within a year.

Sengoku Basara -The Last Party- opens with a short recap of the two television series which came before it. New viewers might assume that this will allow them to follow the plot without having seen the previous anime episodes. It won't. The recap flies by far too quickly and throws too many characters at the audience to do anything more than confuse someone who isn't already familiar with the scenario. Instead it serves as a quick refresher to existing fans, reminding them of what happened to whom in the preceding episodes so that the huge contradictions between the plot of the anime and the game series don't cause confusion.

While I think that a newcomer could enjoy the spectacle of The Last Party for what it is, it's not presented as a standalone movie. Watching the first two television seasons before starting is advisable if you want to come away with an understanding of what happened.

Saturday 8 December 2012

Part 11: Yanagita Rikao's Sengoku Basara Science Laboratory

As with my posts covering the earlier parts, this is an extremely rough English translation of part of the blog series Yanagita Rikao's Sengoku Basara Science Laboratory (Yanagita Rikao Sengoku Basara Kagaku Kenkyuujo). Please click the link below to see the original article, which is accompanied by illustrations and promotional videos.

Part 11: -218°C shockwaves!? Uesugi Kenshin

Uesugi Kenshin is a warlord blessed with a mysterious allure. He combines coolness and beauty with strength as well. His faith, too, is intense; from snowy Echigo he has his sights set on the whole country, probably due to the guidance of Bishamonten* rather than personal ambition. I will take a look at the bewitching power of 'Godlike Speed, Blessed Commander' Uesugi Kenshin using science.

Thursday 6 December 2012

Basara Matsuri 2013 ~Haru No Jin~ additional event details

Capcom updated their website for next year's Basara Matsuri 2013 ~Haru No Jin~ event this morning, with the big news being more guest announcements! In addition to the list of guests I mentioned previously, we're also going to have the following seiyuu appearing on the 30th March:

Wakamoto Norio (Oda Nobunaga)
Nakahara Shigeru (Mouri Motonari)
Sugiyama Noriaki (Ootomo Sourin)

While on the 31st March, these three will appear instead:

Fujiwara Keiji (Matsunaga Hisahide)
Ookawa Tooru (Tokugawa Ieyasu)
Seki Tomokazu (Ishida Mitsunari)

Hosogai Kei (Sanada Yukimura) will also be joining the stage play cast at the event on both days.

The guest selection this time is incredible! I'm glad that Mitsunari and Hideyoshi will get some time together again, and it's always great to have Nakahara and Ishino on stage playing off one another. I'm ready with my "Banzai!", Motonari-sama.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Manga review: Black Butler 11 (Kuroshitsuji)

Whispers turn into screaming headlines in Earl Ciel Phantomhive’s morning paper as word of the dead being resurrected takes society by storm. But when the unsavoury details of the business reach Ciel’s ear, he and his superlative butler, Sebastian, book themselves on a luxury liner to look into these alleged miracles and the “Aurora Society” conducting them. As the waters lap and crash all around the vessel, mysterious individuals gather under the banner of the “Phoenix.” Ciel and Sebastian may be one step closer to the truth, but have they sealed their fates by conducting an investigation on what could easily become a floating coffin…?

This review is for the English version of Black Butler 11 (or Black Butler XI, if you prefer), published in October 2012. The Black Butler (Kuroshitsuji) manga is created by Toboso Yana and published in English by Yen Press.

This time the action is split between what is effectively a post mortem of the previous story's events from Sebastian's perspective and the start of a brand new case. Although the synopsis makes it sound as though the new investigation is the focus of the volume, that's not true; tidying up all of the loose ends from the last book's murder mystery tale takes a while so there isn't all that much time left over at the end to begin the new adventure.

As the murder mystery to which I refer was already neatly solved at the end of volume 10, it may seem strange to spend chapters going back to scrutinise what happened in detail - but that's exactly where Black Butler comes into its own. Sebastian's version of events is considerably more dramatic than the version the other characters (and the reader) originally experienced, and it's absolutely loaded with the dark humour which gives this manga its unique atmosphere. The exposition also grant plenty of opportunity for charming, antagonistic dialogue between Ciel and his twisted butler. I had come away from volume 10 feeling a little disappointed that some straggling plot threads had been ignored in the resolution, assuming that it was one of the weaker arcs and hoping that the next one would be better. Reading this epilogue changed my mind.

So far, I've little to say about the new story, which involves a secret society on a cruise ship. The stakes are higher than usual with Ciel's investigation being hampered by the presence of his fiancée and it looks as though the arc will be another long one. Most importantly, the plot also requires Sebastian to briefly wear a doctor's lab coat. I have no complaints about that.

There's nothing terribly original about the settings or stories in Black Butler, but when they're done with such flair the series makes a thoroughly enjoyable read. I've read complaints that Sebastian is too competent and it detracts from the suspense, and indeed there's little sense that either of the leads is ever in any real danger. When Sebastian is such an interesting character to watch, however, it's easy to forgive that minor flaw; I'm too busy poring over the fanciful depictions of the lives of Victorian aristocrats to care.

As always, Yen Press have done a magnificent job with the English adaptation, including the alternate cover (and accompanying jokes) as well as generous liner notes. The one complaint I had with this volume in particular was with the way a line was translated. Ciel objects to a distasteful statement by blurting out the expression "Not hardly!". I believe that what he should have said is actually "Hardly!"; the negative version implies that he's agreeing with the original speaker (which I strongly doubt was the intent). Perhaps the phrase was accidentally altered during proofreading to try to make the dialogue sound more 'English' - which I suppose it does, superficially, except that it also completely changes its meaning. Yen's translated scripts are usually spot on, so I hope it was an isolated mistake which won't crop up again in future.

Sunday 2 December 2012

DVD review: Basara Matsuri 2007 ~Haru No Jin~

Unlike the later Basara Matsuri events, the footage from 2007's Haru No Jin festival didn't receive a standalone DVD release. Instead, it was included on a bonus disc with the Playstation 2 Sengoku Basara Double Pack which came out on July 19th the same year. This set contained both Sengoku Basara and Sengoku Basara 2 on Playstation 2 together with the DVD. All three discs were packed inside a chipboard box illustrated by Tsuchibayashi Makoto.

As could have been predicted this release format didn't go down too well; fans of the series had already purchased the games separately when they came out. It was a frustrating strategy given that these existing fans were also the ones who would most want to buy a DVD recording of a special event.

Even today, with the games themselves having lost all value following the release of the PS3 Sengoku Basara HD Collection, sealed copies of the Double Pack are changing hands for large amounts of money. I picked up a used set from Book Off for a much more reasonable price. I'll be covering the games themselves as part of my thoughts on the HD Collection, so here I'm going to focus only on the special DVD.

Part 10: Yanagita Rikao's Sengoku Basara Science Laboratory

As with my posts covering the earlier parts, this is an extremely rough English translation of part of the blog series Yanagita Rikao's Sengoku Basara Science Laboratory (Yanagita Rikao Sengoku Basara Kagaku Kenkyuujo). Please click the link below to see the original article, which is accompanied by illustrations and promotional videos.

Part 10: The threat of the rumbling iron ball!? Kuroda Kanbee

Kuroda Kanbee is an unlucky warrior. Despite being one of the pair of strategists referred to as "Nihyoue*" in Toyotomi Hideyoshi's prime alongside Takenaka Hanbee, following Hideyoshi's passing Ishida Mitsunari and Ootani Yoshitsugu regarded his ambitions to take control of the nation as dangerous. They restrained Kanbee by shackling him to an iron ball and forced him to live underground. Even after a hard-earned victory he's suddenly attacked by a new wave of enemies, from whom he flees dragging the iron ball and crying "Whyyyy?!". However, Kanbee uses this iron ball as a weapon. Turning his adverse situation into a form of attack is a very positive approach. Dubbed 'Heavy, Blunt Manoeuvres' in the series, Kuroda Kanbee's life is all about never giving in to misfortune.

Friday 30 November 2012

Nico Nico Douga: Kyouyuu Misui and some Love Plus

I've been trawling Nico Nico Douga again instead of translating the latest SenBasa Science Laboratory on time.

It seems that I will never tire of well-done Shoujo Misui MMD dance videos. Here's Sengoku Basara's Matsunaga Hisahide giving it a try.

Thursday 29 November 2012

Manga review: Lychee Light Club (Litchi Hikari Club)

For the sooty industrial town’s lads there's only one point of light: the Light Club, a secret brotherhood they’ve organized in an abandoned factory. They’re on the verge of booting up their crowning achievement, a  "thinking machine" fueled by lychee fruits. At the same time, the middle schoolers' cooties-fearing solidarity is devolving into a downright National Socialist muck of murderous paranoia, perverse aestheticism, and (not always) suppressed homosexuality. Cult favorite Usamaru Furuya’s most flawlessly realized work to date, here is Lord of the Flies for our new century—a text, however, that will never be assigned in schools.

Lychee Light Club is a 2005 manga by Furuya Usamaru, based on a Tokyo Grand Guignol stage play the manga creator saw in his youth. Following the success of this adaptation, the series has recently received a number of spin-offs including an anime, a new stage play and a music project.

Lychee Light Club is best described as dark and theatrical in tone, with particular emphasis on the 'dark'. Its atmosphere is unique; even though nothing particularly bad actually happens in the anime I felt pleasantly uncomfortable watching it. In contrast, quite a few bad things happen in the manga.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Today's acquisitions (28th Nov 2012)

It came! And best of all, miraculously it slipped through customs with no charge. Today's item is Aniplex of America's gorgeous Bakemonogatari Blu-ray set. It's housed in a chipboard box containing three double-disc Blu-ray cases. There's also a colour pamphlet with illustrations from the Japanese release and basic information about the show. I'm pretty satisfied so far; a re-watch will be happening soon.

Sunday 25 November 2012

DVD review: Basara Matsuri 2007 ~Fuyu No Jin~ Official DVD Book

Today's blog entry covers the 2008 release of the Sengoku Basara event report: Basara Matsuri 2007 ~Fuyu No Jin~ Official DVD Book. As the title implies, rather than being a simple video with highlights from the live event it was packaged in a special cardboard case and bundled with a full colour 24-page booklet of extra material. Objectively, the booklet presentation is not as impressive as it sounds; it includes summaries of the event and the DVD contents padded out with some short seiyuu interviews. It's a nice package however and it does make the single DVD feel a little meatier. The set is out of print now but it's easy enough to find used, often at prices significantly lower than the original ¥3,800.

2007 was a big year for Sengoku Basara with the spin-off to the second game, Sengoku Basara 2 Eiyuu Gaiden (Heroes) having been announced in March. Its release was scheduled for November 29th, and consequently this event, which was held on October 28th at Tokyo Big Sight, was putting the finishing touches on months of hype. The Sengoku Basara X (Cross) fighting game had also been announced in July. Although this particular Basara Matsuri was only a one-day event there had been another earlier the same year; the popularity of the Sengoku Basara series had been going from strength to strength.

Saturday 24 November 2012

Event report: Hyper Japan 2012

Unexpected Musubimaru sighting!
Today, we went to the Hyper Japan Christmas exhibition in London. Billing itself as "the UK's biggest J-culture event", the show has moved to the Brompton Hall at Earls Court this time around and runs from Friday 23rd until Sunday 25th November 2012. I must confess that I avoided the event in previous years as I felt it was marketed heavily towards a younger demographic; it came off as being even more focused on cosplay, fashion and exhibitionism than London Expo.

This time though, the organisers outdid themselves and put together a schedule which included plenty of content for the less trendy fans as well as the cosplay demographic. They also did the impossible and arranged some legitimately famous Japanese guests, including the famous musician Hotei Tomoyasu on one of the dates! My curiosity eventually got the better of me and I decided to pop in and see for myself whether Hyper Japan was worth visiting.

There was still plenty of fashion and glitz in evidence, padded out with things which were more interesting to me. I think anyone with even the slightest interest in Japanese culture would have found something they could enjoy at this year's Hyper Japan. It was like a geeky version of Japan Matsuri.

Part 9: Yanagita Rikao's Sengoku Basara Science Laboratory

As with my posts covering the earlier parts, this is an extremely rough English translation of part of the blog series Yanagita Rikao's Sengoku Basara Science Laboratory (Yanagita Rikao Sengoku Basara Kagaku Kenkyuujo). The series is intended to promote August's Sengoku Basara HD Collection. Please click the link below to see the original article, which is accompanied by illustrations and promotional videos.

Part 9: The 'god of warfare' has an extremely unusual physique!! Honda Tadakatsu

Who's the one known as 'Sengoku Saikyou', the strongest in the Warring States? It's the name of an unparalleled warrior. With a giant, superhuman frame dressed in armour reminiscent of a tank, he wields a mechanical spear styled like a rotating drill. On top of this, he can even fly through the sky using a jet engine on his back - the existence of which alone is practically cheating. And best of all is that he's silent. Without uttering a single word, he responds to this words of his lord with his achievements in battle. Honda Tadakatsu's strength is off the scale.

Thursday 22 November 2012

I love targeted advertising!

Nothing makes looking up an unfamiliar word more satisfying than a dictionary website with Masamune's face staring back at me from the top of the page. 

Of course, it's only a simple advertisement for the ongoing Onimusha Soul tie-in campaign. Onimusha Soul is a browser game which I've never been tempted to play but nevertheless I fully approve of their marketing techniques. It's distressing when I visit British websites with their mundane banners promoting nappies and perfumes.

Edit: Another one, this time on a Japanese blog website. I'll avoid making separate posts for every single advert I discover.

Nico Nico Douga: Sanada Yukimura in Miku Miku Dance

A quick post to share this visually stunning version of the Sode Fureau Mo Tashou No En motion trace, with Sengoku Basara's Sanada Yukimura taking the spotlight on a brand new stage. I've been trying to avoid posting too many videos with this song as there are a lot, but I'll make an exception for this masterpiece.

Basara Matsuri 2013 ~Haru No Jin~ event details

Today, Capcom finally announced more details of the Sengoku Basara event next spring, a scant 24 hours before the ticket lottery for fan club members begins.

Basara Matsuri 2013 ~Haru No Jin~ is still scheduled for March next year at the Ryougoku Kokugikan sumo hall and they've added in some more details. There will be one event per day, commencing at 6pm on Saturday 30th March and 5pm on Sunday 31st March . Doors will open an hour before each event begins. Presales will take place from 7th December to 16th December, and general sales begin on 12th January 2013. Tickets cost ¥6,800 each.

Frustratingly, they're using e-plus (e+), a Japanese ticketing site which doesn't accept overseas payments.

With those details out of the way, the actual event news is really exciting. As well as the previously-announced guests, they've confirmed that Morikawa Toshiyuki (Katakura Kojuurou) will also be attending! Here's the full list of seiyuu guests so far:

Morikawa Toshiyuki (Katakura Kojuurou)
Morita Masakazu (Maeda Keiji)
Hoshi Souichirou (Sanada Yukimura)
Okiayu Ryoutarou (Toyotomi Hideyoshi)
Ishino Ryuuzou (Chousokabe Motochika)

And as though that wasn't exciting enough on its own, most of the cast of Butai Sengoku Basara 3 ~Setouchi Kyouran~ will be in attendance:

Kotani Yoshikazu (Mouri Motonari)
Hirose Yuusuke (Tokugawa Ieyasu)
Kubota Yuuki (Date Masamune)
Yoshida Tomokazu (Katakura Kojuurou)
Murata Youjirou (Sarutobi Sasuke)
Yashiro Minase (Saika Magoichi)
Kawamura Yukie (Tsuruhime)
Taniguchi Masashi (Tenkai)
Miyashita Yuuya (Kobayakawa Hideaki)
Nitta Kenta (Ootani Yoshitsugu)
Katou Yasuhisa (Tachibana Muneshige)
Asakura Yuuta (Ootomo Sourin)

There are some omissions, and all guest appearances are subject to change, but so far it's looking good. I'm hoping for a live performance on stage. This is going to be a great Basara Matsuri!

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Today's acquisitions (21st Nov 2012)

Today's prized delivery was the MegaHouse G.E.M. series Athrun Zala figure. Athrun is of course from Gundam Seed and he'll make a fine addition to my figure collection, which otherwise mostly consists of trading figures, bishoujo and Gintama G.E.M.s.

It's impossible to take good photographs indoors with my phone, in the evening, so please be assured he doesn't look as fuzzy in real life.

Athrun comes with two faces, one with a serious gaze and one with a serious half-smile. I went with the less friendly one of the two. His hand can be rotated to hold one of the two Haro which accompanied him, but I'd rather display him with his hand outstretched to match his pose in the first Gundam Seed opening. Because it's awesome.

The Haro are pictured below. The round one is certain to have rolled off the shelf and become lost behind some furniture by the end of the week.

Separately, I also received some reading material from a variety of sources over the last few days. Furuya Usamaru's Lychee Light Club manga from Vertical, and a humble trinity of doujinshi from Sengoku Basara and Kuroko No Basuke. I impatiently read one of the doujinshi in between taking the photograph and typing up this post. It was very funny.

Manga review: Mini Sengoku Basara Two (Japanese)

In this post, I'm commenting on both volumes of the Mini Sengoku Basara Two manga series. With a script from Katou Youichi and artwork by Sumeragi, the charming Mini Sengoku Basara series ran in Dengeki Maou between 2010 and 2011 to promote the second season of the anime adaptation (hence the titular "Two").

Fans of the anime will already know the storyline, covering Toyotomi Hideyoshi's rise to power following the defeat of Oda Nobunaga. These two books cover all of the major events from the second series but with a twist; rather than accurately relying on the anime's script, they instead show silly 'What If?' scenarios. What if Motochika and Motonari had visited Azuchi castle before Yukimura popped in halfway through the series? How did Keiji try to stop Toshiie from going on the attack before things escalated to the fight shown in the series? What exactly was Kojuurou doing all of the time he was in Osaka Castle?

There are a total of thirty-six chapters spread between these two volumes, however, each story is only a few pages long. As a result of this, even though the script is different, familiarity with the original scenes helps to get the most out of the handful of panels allocated to each joke.

One disadvantage of the overall story following the second anime series is that fans might be disappointed to see how infrequently some popular characters show up. Yukimura appears in just a handful of scenes in the entire first volume, though he does make up for it in the second when Takeda Shingen sends him on an important errand with far more violence and misadventure than the anime series showed. Hanbee and Kojuurou steal the show for many of the early chapters, exactly as they did in the Mini Sengoku Basara animated shorts included as extras on the anime discs. With his naturally mischievous face, Hanbee suits the material perfectly, readily acting as either an antagonist or a victim as the situation requires. Hideyoshi too works surprisingly well as a cute, miniature version of himself, his expressionless face somehow perfectly making the transition to the new medium.

Since the Sengoku Basara series has so many characters, all of whom have loyal fans and larger-than-life personalities, spin-off works will always face a delicate balancing act to avoid becoming nothing more than a succession of cameo appearances. I feel that Mini Sengoku Basara Two did a pretty good job in that respect; a few characters were cut from the anime but the majority made the cut - even Oyamada and the anime-original Date soldiers. I finished the final chapter wishing only that the manga had lasted longer.

Although Mini Sengoku Basara Two is not available in English at the moment, the Japanese is not complex and learners will find it easy to follow, with furigana accompanying all kanji compounds and the archaic speech patterns simplified even further than usual. Both volume one and volume two are available from all good Japanese booksellers. Like the anime series it was based upon, Mini Sengoku Basara has now finished, replaced by the even-cuter Mame Sengoku Basara. Mame Sengoku Basara is based on the game designs and adds the Sengoku Basara 3 characters to the roster, so I'll definitely be covering that once I'm all caught up.

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Part 8: Yanagita Rikao's Sengoku Basara Science Laboratory

As with my posts covering the earlier parts, this is an extremely rough English translation of part of the blog series Yanagita Rikao's Sengoku Basara Science Laboratory (Yanagita Rikao Sengoku Basara Kagaku Kenkyuujo). The series is intended to promote August's Sengoku Basara HD Collection. Please click the link below to see the original article, which is accompanied by illustrations and promotional videos.

Part 8: The secret of the jointed sword, which gouges flesh with a slicing sound!? Takenaka Hanbee

Amazing techniques

A jointed sword. From these words alone, it's not possible to visualise the katana's appearance. Although many blog visitors will already know, I'll describe it.

News roundup: November's Sengoku Basara merchandise

I'm not planning on buying any of this (at the moment) but I may as well record its existence! I've been a regular visitor to the Capcom news page since the Basara Matsuri 2013 ~Haru No Jin~ event was announced, and since then it feels as though they've been busily posting news and updates for every topic other than that.

The first news update for the day is that Capcom have updated their website for the release of the latest trading figures, Sengoku Basara Sanzun Bushou Collection #1 ('Elegant Warlord Collection 1'). As previous announced the set comes with seven normal trading figures: Date Masamune, Sanada Yukimura, Tokugawa Ieyasu, Ishida Mitsunari, Maeda Keiji, Chousokabe Motochika and Mouri Motonari. In addition, there are three special versions of Date Masamune. A repaint with white clothing is included if you purchase from a regular shop, while customers buying from Animate (either in-store or online) will receive a special Masamune dressed in hakama, posing like he does in the BSR48 image video. Alternatively, buying the figures from Dengekiya will get you a 'mame' version, as seen in the adorable Dengeki Maou manga series Mame Sengoku Basara.

It will be quite easy to get the regular version from overseas, with retailers such as Ami Ami and Yesasia carrying it. The others may require use of a proxy or forwarding service.

If you want a full set and don't have any friends who strongly dislike Masamune, you'll have to buy three boxes, each from a different shop. At ¥5,880 per box (or ¥735 for individual figures) before fees and shipping, this could be quite expensive. I anticipate an influx of unwanted duplicate figures from the extra sets finding their way onto the shelves at K-Books and Lashinbang in due course. The release date is still approaching but Capcom has now added an extra incentive in the form of a clear bookmark for customers who purchase the boxed versions from the two special dealers.

Personally, I think the original illustrations were much cuter than the figures themselves.

The other news post today was about more merchandise coming out towards the end of November. Matching the style of the mugs and towels which came out a few months ago emblazoned with famous lines from the characters, clear files are on the way for Masamune, Yukimura, Motochika, Motonari, Mitsunari and Ieyasu. They're certainly attractive, but one thing a Sengoku Basara fan will never want for is clear files. I'd never normally import something with such a high shipping cost proportional to its original price, but it's at times like this when I wonder just how much SenBasa stuff my house would be filled with if I lived within a reasonable distance of an Animate store. A chilling thought.

Speaking of the mugs, Motochika and Motonari finally join the other four leads and get their own mugs covered in their famous lines from the games his month. After the trauma of getting my Masamune versions safely back to the UK without damage, I'll pass on these, but it's good to see the Setouchi pair included. Perhaps if Mouri's was covered in more verbal abuse towards the drinker it would be more tempting.

Motochika and Motonari also feature as silhouettes on 'makie' stickers in the next few weeks. These soft stickers are usually used to decorate mobile phones and gadgets, allowing fans to display their love of the show in a tasteful, understated way. There will also be versions for Sasuke, Keiji, and my favourite, Kojuurou...

Well, hopefully tomorrow there will be some actual news about the Basara Matsuri event next year. If not, I might have to post something which doesn't revolve around Sengoku Basara for a change!

There's also only one week left until Dengeki Maou comes out with the promised update about next spring's releases.

Monday 19 November 2012

News roundup: A new Butai Sengoku Basara is announced

Following yesterday's 'live viewing' of the current stage play, Butai Sengoku Basara 3 ~Setouchi Kyouran~, the staff announced that there would be another stage play late next April, running through to late May 2013. The title of the new show will be Butai Sengoku Basara 3 Utage and tickets will be available in January. The venues for the live performances will be the Canal City Theatre in Fukuoka, the Chuunichi Theatre in Nagoya, Nippon Seinenkan Great Hall in Tokyo and Morinomiya Piloti Hall in Osaka.

As usual, I'm going to miss it! I hope that this means the butai actors will be able to give a little preview at Basara Matsuri in March. Since it's based on Utage, Kojuurou and Sasuke should be getting more time in the spotlight than usual (yay, Yoshida Tomokazu!) and perhaps we will get to see Matsunaga Hisahide for the first time?

Speaking of Yoshida, I was amused to see him with Murata in the promotional photographs for the Ikkitousen stage play the other day. They both look quite different dressed as the boys from Ikkitousen!

Switching back to Sengoku Basara, the staff have also finally made goods from Setouchi Kyouran available in the Dais online store, including the DVD which comes out in March as a standard edition and a first press. Since the first pressings tend to sell out quickly I'm going to place my order online now rather than wait. The standard edition has one disc with the actual performance on it and sells for ¥6,000 while the first pressing is ¥6,500 and contains another disc with forty minutes of video extras.

In non-Sengoku Basara news, Evangelion 3.0 has finally made its cinema debut and Eva fever is as crazy as ever. On a personal note, I'm most pleased that Utada Hikaru has briefly popped up again to contribute a beautiful new ending song to the movie titled Sakura Nagashi. She's still officially on a break from the entertainment industry but a Rebuild of Evangelion movie without a Hikki song would have been sad. There's an official website for the song here with both Japanese lyrics and an official English translation, as well as a Twitter contest and (for a limited time) a music video for the song. The DVD single will be out on December 26th, a month after the movie's soundtrack hits stores. The song itself has already been firmly planted at the top of the Japanese iTunes chart since it went up for purchase on the day of the movie's debut, and the video has been racking up a large number of views on YouTube. According to Hikki, Sakura Nagashi will be available to buy through overseas iTunes stores soon.

Sunday 18 November 2012

Anime review: UN-GO

Two noitaminA anime reviews in a row! I just finished my UN-GO Blu-ray set and had to write a few words about it. I originally watched a few of the early episodes on Anime On Demand since they streamed the series last year, but subsequently ended up waiting for the home video release before finishing.

Highlighting the variety that the noitaminA block is capable of, UN-GO is a very different beast to Princess Jellyfish. Set in the near future, Japan has gone through some hard times thanks to war and terrorism. We're introduced to the 'Defeated Detective' Yuuki Shinjuurou and his odd partner, Inga. The duo are scorned by the world at large as they travel around trying to solve crimes, always being beaten to the solution by the celebrated genius Kaishou Rinroku who is reputed to be able to solve any crime without needing to visit the scene. There's something strange about his deductions, though, and the resultant suspicions provide an ongoing storyline to stitch the individual cases together.

With only eleven episodes to tell its story, UN-GO wastes no time and drops the viewer straight into a series of episodic mystery tales, gradually introducing the various quirks of the futuristic setting over the course of Shinjuurou's adventures. These episodes are standalone, but the world building is necessary as the scenarios become increasingly complex. The mysteries themselves are openly inspired by works by the postwar novelist Sakaguchi Ango, hence the title of the series (UN-GO is pronounced 'Ango' in Japanese). Inga reveals which story is going to be used as the base for the upcoming mystery during the next episode previews, so fans of the author might have some additional hints as to where the story will go. I'm not personally familiar with Sakaguchi's work, but using classic mysteries in a futuristic setting (with some details obviously updated to take technology into account) is a rather clever idea. On one hand, the themes of some episodes are a little different to what I've become used to from modern series, but on the other the way that those themes can be adapted to the new setting so well shows that the more things change in our society, the more they stay the same.

The mystery genre is interesting in its own right, but Bones evidently wasn't satisfied with the strength of the plot and characters alone and brought some major talent into this production to make it extra special. The visuals are perfect with popular artists Kouga Yun and pako contributing distinctly attractive character designs, and the real world settings are vividly colourful. The music is also very well suited to the material it accompanies. UN-GO's opening theme, School Food Punishment's How To Go, is standard pop running on top of a slightly eerie melody, while LAMA's chilled out Fantasy makes for an exhilarating ending song. Toyosaki Aki provides the most attention-grabbing voice performance, switching between Inga's varying styles of speech at the drop of a hat. The role is one of the most challenging I've noticed lately but she nails it effortlessly. Kaji Yuuki also stood out amongst the seiyuu. He seems to be in almost everything I'm watching at the moment, and as his voice sounds not dissimilar to that of my favourite seiyuu, Ishida Akira, I'm not complaining. On a slight tangent I was amused to see that I'm not the only one thinking along those lines: Kaji Yuuki even voices Ishida's character Judeau in the new Berserk movies.

I purchased the Blu-ray edition of UN-GO from Sentai Filmworks in the US, and I'm pleased with it. It included the bonus 'Episode 0' special as well as a plethora of extra content from the Japanese release. The bonus episode fills in the big gaps in the lead characters' backstory; without it, the series feels incomplete. A minor point, but the subtitles for this release also retain Japanese name order and respect (most of the) long vowels, which is rare enough to have taken me by surprise in a good way. Kaze have announced that they'll be bringing the series to the UK in 2013 through Manga Entertainment, but the risk that it will be DVD-only coupled with the delay in release dates convinced me to import. As soon as I saw the series' exceptionally beautiful ending sequence on its streaming run, I knew that it had to be added to my library as a Blu-ray, not a DVD.