Thursday 28 February 2013

Nico Nico Douga: Hetalia is back

It was obvious as soon as the new season of the Hetalia anime had started showing, because Nico Nico Douga was suddenly full of brand new videos based on the series almost overnight.

This first one cracked me up when I saw it. It's an western-style movie trailer for 'Nekomimi Ninja', which seems to be some kind of imaginary crime thriller starring Japan. It's notable for starring a huge number of Hetalia characters, and more importantly, for featuring instantly-iconic synthesised dialogue straight out of a machine translator. Thank you to user yusura for making me laugh out loud.

The second is a beautiful dance by male and female versions of Japan set to Sasa No Ha Sarara by user Kairi. The ornate costumes give a glimpse of the charm of Japanese history.

Sengoku Basara video community is still going strong. Here ku-ya puts six of the boys in their Gakuen Basara attire to dance to Kagamine Len's inappropriately lewd song, Gigantic O.T.N.

Wednesday 27 February 2013

My hopes for the new anime streaming service, Daisuki

With the news earlier today that the Japanese anime industry is finally looking to take control of the neglected overseas market, I thought I'd do something I've been thinking about for a while and post a comparison of the existing solutions along with some hopes for the new one. It will be interesting to look back on when we finally hear more details about Daisuki!

Since we only have two active digital anime providers available to the UK, my post is going to focus on them. Viki haven't picked anything up for the UK for a while (as far as I know) while the other modern services such as FUNimation, Hulu, The Anime Network and the upcoming Anime Sols deliberately block foreigners to focus exclusively on a US audience. The current situation here is bleak; without Crunchyroll's efforts to expand to the UK we'd be left with only French company Kaze's Anime On Demand side project for a handful of delayed streams each season. Long dead UK company ADV Films did try some cross-promotion with a local version of The Anime Network before streaming had caught on fully. The other UK DVD companies have yet to show much interest in simulcasting at all, letting an opportunity to market their existing UK discs remain unexplored.

News roundup: A new Capcom shop will open in Kooriyama, Fukushima for a very limited time

I thought that the new anime streaming service would be the only news today. I was wrong.

Capcom have taken me by surprise by suddenly announcing the opening of a new shop in Fukushima prefecture. It will be sited on the first floor of the MOLTI building next to Kooriyama station - but there's a catch. It's only going to be open from Friday 1st March to Sunday 10th March 2013. So unless you happen to live nearby or fancy a trip out to an otherwise-unremarkable city without much notice, visiting it will be a challenge.

If anyone does happen to be available to pop to Fukushima during this very specific ten day period, they'll be able to purchase goods from Monster Hunter, Resident Evil (Biohazard), Sengoku Basara and more. On the first weekend there'll be visits from the Airou/Felyne from Monster Hunter to liven things up where the first 50 customers to spend more than ¥1,000 will receive a present.

At all other times, customers who spend more than ¥1,000 will be rewarded with a coaster-sticker. They can pick from a large selection while stocks last. Fortunately the selection seems to be drawn from a similar campaign running at the more permanent Capcom Shop in Odaiba, so obsessive collectors of Date Masamune coasters aren't missing out on too much. The absence of Kojuurou and Sasuke in the list of coasters implies that they may already have sold out in Odaiba.

For some reason this next piece of news isn't mentioned anywhere official yet, however, artist Sumeragi tweeted this morning that the third compiled volume of the Mame Sengoku Basara manga will be coming out next month. Mame Sengoku Basara 3 is already up for order on; other bookstores will list it very soon. The price is the usual ¥819 and the release date will be 27th March 2013, the same week as Gakuen Basara 5 comes out.

Finally, T.M.Revolution has delivered for his worldwide fans and his newest album Under:Cover 2 is available today on iTunes in the UK. That's the same date as it was released in Japan, and our version is a steal at £7.99 for 15 tracks. The Under:Cover series collects up T.M.Revolution's greatest hits as a series of 'self covers', which means they're remade with input from a number of famous guest artists. While the second collection doesn't have any Sengoku Basara music, it does contain a few songs from Gundam SEED. Users specifically looking for a cheap way to own a few of Nishikawa's Sengoku Basara songs can check iTunes UK for Naked arms and SWORD SUMMIT, as well as the abingdon boys school tracks BLADE CHORD, JAP and WE aRE. Hopefully the missing songs will make their way over to this side of the world one day.

Today's acquisitions (27th Feb 2013)

Just one thing today. I've been looking forward to it.

The first press Blu-ray for volume one of the new JoJo's Bizarre Adventure television series! Finally I get to see what all of the fuss is about.

News: Anime streaming service "Daisuki" on the way?

Some huge news broke overnight which could easily end up being the biggest development of 2013 from the perspective of a UK-based anime fan. Six major Japanese companies are launching a new anime service called Daisuki specialising in overseas streaming and merchandise. With heavy hitters like Aniplex, Sunrise and Toei on board, all of whom are known for blocking streams to the UK on third party sites, this could be very interesting indeed. Since the new Daisuki service is scheduled to start in April, we don't have long to wait to see what's going to happen.

Previous criticisms of Japanese-led overseas anime initiatives have been dubtitles (not applicable where there are no dubs, of course) and cost (Japanese streaming sites have always been reasonably priced, and this mentions both ads and subscriptions). It sounds as though they have a good understanding of their market so far, and I've long believed that the only way to fix the current broken streaming situation is for Japan to take control of it themselves. It's all very well for users in the US, but when you live in a smaller country nobody wants to sublicense a risky show that won't make its money back - and if the US takes the UK rights and then blocks users with UK IPs, they've pretty much created a situation where fans have no choice but to miss out or resort to learning how to circumvent blocks. It's playing to the culture of piracy rather than monetising anime properly.

I'm not worried about the service failing to meet my needs. So long as the UK is actually included in the new service's definition of "overseas" - it often isn't - then I am comfortable reacting with cautious excitement. The streaming situation has always been grossly mishandled by the current set of companies controlling it; Crunchyroll is doing an excellent job with the titles they pick up, but every other company either sits on UK rights and locks us out or gives us a sloppy service with no communication. The press release specifically mentions One Piece, Lupin III, Mobile Suit Gundam and Prince Of Tennis: all series I'd love to be able to watch as simulcasts, yet only one of them has streamed at all here when the US was in command. Japan cannot possibly do a worse job with overseas fans than the US has done so far.

I'm looking forward to catching up on some much-missed classic anime!

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Today's acquisitions (26th Feb 2013)

These acquisitions posts are slowing down recently since my anime purchasing has gone on hold for a couple of months (aside from an odd preorder slipping through here and there).

I got some good stuff today. First of all, my preorder for the US version of Hakuoki: Warriors Of The Shinsengumi (Hakuouki Musouroku) arrived. Because I'd purchased it from Amazon, it came with a bandana as a bonus. Aksys are probably my favourite US game company these days with their recent forays into otome titles.

I put the game box on top of Sannan's face for the picture because I don't like him much.

While checking the link for Hakuouki, I noticed that Sweet Fuse: At Your Side (Bakudan Handan) - the next of Aksys' otome games - is already up for preorder on Amazon, so I've added it to my list as well. It looks as though it's going to include some kind of bonus item too. Keep them coming, Aksys!

Hakuouki wasn't the only game-related item to come recently. Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires (Shin Sangoku Musou 6: Empires) also made an appearance along with its GAME-exlusive preorder DLC. Accompanying it are two Sengoku Basara doujinshi, one stunning Someya Rui art book loaded with full colour illustrations and the Haru Comic City 18 event catalogue.

It was unintentional, but I just noticed that I covered up Hisahide's face with the game in this picture. Perhaps I can make a habit of this if I buy enough games.

Monday 25 February 2013

Manga review: Starry Sky volume 1

Starry Sky (Suta Suka for short) is a series of otome games and associated dramas from Honeybee. The original games stand out even in the crowded Japanese marketplace due to Kazuaki's unusual art style, and I must confess that I've always wanted to give them a closer look. However, since it's a school series and Japanese-only, Starry Sky has always dropped down my priority list. Fortunately Digital Manga Publishing have come to the rescue, releasing one of the spin-off manga adaptations in English back in May 2012 to give fans a taste of what they're missing. The English release seems to have paused for the time being as a result of DMP's shift to online-only distribution for much of 2013, after which I imagine it's going to resume.

The plot of Starry Sky doesn't attempt to be realistic. Yahisa Tsukiko is a kind young girl attending a specialist educational facility for astronomy students - where she's the only female in the entire school. Naturally she attracts the attention of quite a few of the young men she's studying with, though they're all very gentlemanly about it and nobody seems to bother her (admittedly, anyone who did would be lynched by the rest of the students within seconds). The story is told as a series of flashbacks from a slightly older Tsukiko looking back fondly at how she spent her school years with these strange, space-obsessed boys. The first volume of the manga contains three chapters, each of which focuses on one of the potential suitors with two short bonus chapters at the end which cram in a few more characters for a few pages. Although mangaka Minagawa Hal notes that she'd love to feature the entire cast eventually, for now fans of the guys who don't star in their own chapters have to make do with a few cameos.

I'm not usually keen on high school settings for romantic stories since nothing ever really happens, and indeed that's no different here. Still, the guys are very cute when their feelings for Tsukiko are in danger of being exposed, and seeing them ruffled or being teased with confessions which end up going nowhere is the series' bread and butter.

After some early reservations (the first chapter did nothing for me), I gradually found myself enjoying watching Tsukiko's heart-warming interactions with the guys around her. I still have some quibbles; it's cheesy that almost everyone seems to have a celestially-themed name, and the core premise of the series is thoroughly silly. However, Starry Sky grew on me as I met more of the characters. The third story about the stoic vice captain of the archery club was my favourite and I could quite happily have read a much longer manga series solely devoted to him romancing the main character.

One of the problems with the adaptation is that the Starry Sky universe contains a lot of characters differentiated mostly by their hair, and since most of them wear matching school uniforms it's quite difficult to tell people apart in this black and white manga. I expect that fans already familiar with the cast from the games have no such trouble, but when you're being introduced to more than a dozen characters (some more fleetingly than others) over the course of a single manga volume, it can get difficult to follow. An introduction or list of characters at the start would have made things less confusing for a complete newcomer.

In terms of the English version, the translation is good, if a little disjointed at times - this could well be the case in the original text too. I didn't notice any distracting mistakes and they also included a few bonus pages of notes from the creators, so Digital Manga Publishing's version of this book is a solid offering. The cover also proudly boasts about the original games, so hopefully Honeybee will consider making them available overseas one day if this release is a success.

All in all, I enjoyed this book and will be purchasing the next volume, if it ever appears. In the meantime I'll keep my fingers crossed that someone will pick up the PSP games for a western release. I want to see more of the Starry Sky world!

Saturday 23 February 2013

DVD review: Sengoku Basara Fan Kanshasai ~BSR48 Kaihyou No Utage~

The Sengoku Basara Fan Kanshasai ~BSR48 Kaihyou No Utage~ DVD was finally released for fan club members on 20th December 2012 at ¥3,900. It's still on sale at the Basara-ya now so the next wave of members should be able to pick it up when they join.

Sengoku Basara Fan Kanshasai ~BSR48 Kaihyou No Utage~ was a special 'fan appreciation' event held at Tokyo Mielparque Hall on Saturday 26th January 2012. There were two separate ceremonies held on the same day to accommodate the crowds; one in the afternoon and the other in the evening.

The purpose of the event was to reveal the results of the BSR48 election, a comedic campaign that Capcom ran alongside the release of Sengoku Basara 3 Utage. Buyers of the game were allowed to vote for their favourite warlord, with the winning character receiving three rewards: a starring role in a new drama CD, an internet commercial, and a special 'image video'. The drama CD would also include the characters ranked in second through to seventh place, and there'd be one wildcard participant drawn at random from the characters who ranked either 10th, 20th, 30th or 40th. 45,541 votes were tallied in total and in the end few were surprised to find that Date Masamune won by a comfortable margin. He was joined on the drama CD by Mitsunari, Yukimura, Kojuurou, Sasuke, Motonari, Motochika and Nobunaga. I've listed the full results right at the end of this post for posterity.

Thursday 21 February 2013

News roundup: Sengoku Basara Triple Pack release information

Well, yesterday's Playstation Meeting 2013 has been and gone. I was rather disappointed by Sony's constant references to 'world' gaming, as there were barely any appearances from overseas creators at all. And no women. The monoculture evident in the presentation will likely appeal to the Xbox crowd, but I reservations about the variety of the initial offerings from what has been shown so far. It's likely that I'll buy a PS4 at some point and the list of third party companies was solid; it just sorely needs a must-have game to get me excited. This may not happen in the first wave of titles.

Anyway, Capcom have formally announced the details of the Sengoku Basara Triple Pack for PS3 today and shown off the cover art for the first time. As previously reported on this blog, it will be released on 28th March 2013 and its price will be ¥6,990. The pack will contain Sengoku Basara HD Collection, Sengoku Basara 3 and Sengoku Basara 3 Utage - that's every full Sengoku Basara game in the series - all in one pack. The spin-offs, which aren't available for PS3 at this time, aren't included.

Evidence of preparation for next month's Basara Matsuri 2013 ~Haru No Jin~ is finally starting to appear. Capcom's special Sengoku Basara mobile newsletter Tokusei Kawaraban is running a questionnaire for members at the moment to pick warlords based on the theme 'Spring'. The website says that the survey results might affect Basara Matsuri. They'll probably just read the results out or (if they get good responses) use them in the cast discussions. I'm a sucker for feedback so I eagerly completed the form.

The questions are sort of funny and all themed around traditional springtime hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties, so I'll list a translation of them.

Q2. Which warlord would you like to have for a teacher or boss?
Q4. Which warlord would you like to have for a junior or subordinate?
Q6. Which warlord would you like to have for a headmaster or company president?
Q8. Which warlord is 'hana yori dango'? (It means preferring style over substance - food, rather than flowers. In this case they'd literally be eating the picnic rather than watching the blossoms.)
Q10. Which warlord would be a bad drunk?
Q12. Which warlord is likely to go early in the morning to save a spot?

There are gaps in my numbering because you have to support each answer with a good reason and give yourself an alias. Some of the roles were easy to pick characters for; I wonder what my fellow fans will choose?

Wednesday 20 February 2013

News roundup: Sengoku Basara Ichiban Kuji rumours, Sony press event

This post is entirely made up of rumours because actual news has been rather rare lately.

There was a burst of excitement on Twitter the other day when it was discovered that there's a survey on the Ichiban Kuji website which hints at a future Sengoku Basara tie-in. Ichiban Kuji is a national prize lottery which runs in Japan; it's not unlike a raffle. Participants must visit a shop (usually, but not always, one of a particular chain of convenience stores) and purchase a ticket. They're then allowed to draw a prize token from a box. In most cases, you get to take it home with you immediately. Obviously, the more expensive prizes are quite rare and most people will just win something small and cheap. Some of the rare prizes can go for outrageous prices later on, especially if it's a popular series and the tickets sell out quickly.

There are some exceptions, as you can receive serial numbers to enter draws for extra, extremely rare prizes as well once you've participated. It's surprisingly complicated. The instant gratification and ability to see the prizes on the shelves before you buy helps make it a fun way to spend a spare ¥500.

Anyway, one of the gimmicks of Ichiban Kuji is that they regularly cycle through different themes for their draws; one month it might be Fate/Zero, and another it might be Ika Musume. I can't see the survey myself as a Japanese mobile phone email address is required to sign up to the Ichiban Kuji Club so I just have to trust the Japanese rumours. If they're asking fans for feedback on Sengoku Basara items it seems a safe bet that the series will make an appearance in a lottery soon!

It's a shame that participation overseas isn't possible. I'll be relying on the used goods market to grab any of the prizes which catch my eye...

The other piece of major news at the moment is, of course, tonight's Sony press event. It's rumoured to be announcing the Playstation 4 (at last), and one of the many conspiracy theories about the lack of a new Sengoku Basara game announcement has been that Capcom is waiting for Sony to break their silence first. I noticed that series producer KobaP flew to the US yesterday, though given the setting it's probably much more likely he's either there to watch or support a different Capcom title with more western appeal than spring a new Sengoku Basara on a pack of bemused American journalists. Still, I'll be following the live news from the event tonight closely just in case.

I'm quite curious about the PS4 as well, of course. It's just that all of my console purchases are driven by wanting to buy a new game rather than the hardware on its own, so knowing the price and specification isn't anywhere near as exciting as stalking Capcom staff for clues about new titles!

Tuesday 19 February 2013

DVD review: Butai Sengoku Basara ~Souku Kyoutou~

Today's review is the last of my Butai Sengoku Basara DVDs until the new one is released later this month.

The second Butai Sengoku Basara wasn't based on one of the later games but rather, once again, on the original Sengoku Basara. To separate it from the earlier stage play, it was given the subtitle 'Souku Kyoutou'. The only change to the casting was that Kataoka Shinwa was replaced by Hosogai Kei in the role of Sanada Yukimura.

Butai Sengoku Basara ~Souku Kyoutou~ ran in Ikebukuro's Sunshine Gekijou between the 9th and 18th of April 2010. The DVD was released on 16th July 2010 as a ¥7,140 special edition with a run time of 178 minutes (40 minutes of which is devoted to bonus footage). It included a stylish foil-embossed black slipcase and 36 page photo book. The photo book is thicker than usual and very glossy. Customers who placed preorders at Animate or Lawson received postcards or trading cards with their set. I'm not sure whether there was ever a standard edition for this particular performance; I've never seen one anywhere.

The full cast list was as follows:

Sunday 17 February 2013

Nico Nico Douga: Best of the 10th MMD Cup

Disclaimer: My idea of what constitutes the best of the 10th MMD Cup may not necessarily have much in common with the final rankings.

The first video today is unusual; a science fiction themed Sengoku Basara dance video. The video was made by the renowned Otthi who cites Tron, The Terminator and Call of Duty as reference material. Otthi is the person who originally made these Sengoku Basara models (as well as several others) and every video he/she makes using them tends to be worth watching. The music is HachioujiP's Hatsune Miku song 'Baby Maniacs'.

The next is a parody of the Btooom! anime opening 'No Pain, No Game', put together by Uta. It's well made even though I didn't like Btooom! much.

Saturday 16 February 2013

Today's acquisitions (16th Feb 2013)

Some satisfying deliveries arrived today as well as a few belated gifts from a family member.

Most of the new arrivals took the form of manga, with the first volumes of the English versions of Starry Sky and Blood Lad joining Bakuman. volume 17. Mori Kaoru's Anything And Something short story collection and the second volume of Haibara Yak's Sengoku Basara 2 manga complete the top row.

The magazine in the bottom right is the fifth volume of Capbon, the 'All Capcom Synthesis Information Magazine'. It contains a variety of Capcom-related manga, including a chapter of Sumeragi's Mame Sengoku Basara and another from Itou Ryuu's series Sengoku Basara 3 Naked Blood - starring a young Ieyasu. There's also a generous helping of news reports and previews for all kinds of Capcom games. The backstage photo report from Butai Sengoku Basara 3 ~Setouchi Kyouran~ made me want the DVD version more than ever.

Finally, I also received two CD singles: angela's 'KINGS' (the opening theme from K) and the Shin Sekai Yori ending theme CD. I'd ordered this back when it was originally listed for Taneda Risa's gorgeous outro 'Wareta Ringo', so it was a pleasant surprise to find it also included the second ending song by Hanazawa Kana, 'Yuki Ni Saku Hana'.

It's time to start reading!

Streaming: Winter 2013 anime first impressions

The New Year holiday period has passed and it's now the time where I take a look at the odd selection of anime series which have been licensed for streaming to the UK. Sadly, Anime On Demand's streams are already lagging far behind the equivalent simulcasts in the US, hence the extreme lateness of this post and bias towards the Crunchyroll shows (all of which have had several episodes more than the AoD ones to prove their quality).

At first I was tempted to post this before Anime On Demand had released their episodes out of exasperation, as I had carefully prepared everything else at the start of January. It then occurred to me that destroying my own first impressions post would serve as a good reminder about how frustrating the UK streaming situation is at the moment, so I kept waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

OreShura would be far more enjoyable if he wasn't so careful

Friday 15 February 2013

News: More details about the Tsuchiura City Museum tie-in

previously posted some information about the "Basara-tachi No Busou -The armor and swords of the warlords who ran through the Warring States-" exhibition which is going to be held in the Tsuchiura City Museum in Ibaraki between 16th March and 6th May 2013. Today, Capcom revealed more details about the event along with the official guidebook cover (below). As announced in the first post, the guidebook is only available for the exhibition's first 10,000 visitors.

My earlier post already described the event's main attractions but the official website has some additional hints. The characters which will be featured include Tokugawa Ieyasu, Date Masamune, Sanada Yukimura, Ishida Mitsunari, Katakura Kojuurou, Uesugi Kenshin, Honda Tadakatsu, Tachibana Muneshige, Kuroda Kanbee, Satake Yoshishige, Ootomo Sourin, Oda Nobunaga, Shimazu Yoshihiro, Maeda Toshiie, Kobayakawa Hideaki and Takeda Shingen.

Some other famous figures are mentioned in the promotional material: Uesugi Kagekatsu, Sanada Masayuki, Arima Tadayori and Matsudaira Nobukazu. Even though they haven't ever appeared in Sengoku Basara as warlords in their own right, their armour will be represented in the exhibition. I'd like to ignore the museum's disclaimers and imagine this is some kind of elaborate hint at future developments for the series, however it's much more likely that the museum just included as many appropriately flashy sets of armour as they could. The exhibition is inspired by Sengoku Basara, not dominated by it.

The website also mentions two special lectures as part of the festivities. The first will be given by Ogasawara Nobuo of the Tokyo National Museum on Saturday 6th April, on the topic of the meitou (named swords) used by Sengoku-era warlords. The other will be about the enduring appeal of the daimyou of the Sengoku period and will take place on Sunday 28th April courtesy of lecturer Sudou Shigeki from Shikoku University. These talks should be interesting for fans with a general interest in feudal history, and while no reservation will be required only the first seventy attendees will be admitted.

Demonstrations which allow people to dress up in replica armour will take place at the museum on weekends and holidays from 10:00 until 16:00. On the afternoons of Saturday 23rd March and Saturday 27th April there will be a special introduction to the exhibition. In addition, visitors can see experts appraising Japanese swords and then try them out for themselves on the afternoon of Saturday 27th April.

There are some pamphlets which can be downloaded straight from the museum's website with a choice of a Sengoku Basara design or a more traditional historical version.

The museum is open between 9:00 and 17:00 (final admission 16:30) every day of the week except Monday. During the holiday period at the end of April these dates will change slightly; it will be open on Monday 22nd April, 29th April and 6th May and close on the 9th April, 23rd April and 30th April instead. Admission costs ¥600 (¥200 for schoolchildren).

Thursday 14 February 2013

Today's acquisitions (14th Feb 2013)

I should just have waited until Saturday as another parcel is sitting at the post office waiting to be collected. However, I didn't, so here's what I received today.

The most interesting item is Code Geass: Boukoku No Akito (Code Geass: Akito The Exiled). It's the first episode of a short OAV series which also has a theatrical showing before its home video release. I picked up the special edition Blu-ray of the first episode and it's very sexy, with a drama CD, dual-sided textured slipcase, design booklet and postcard set. I hope the content is just as satisfying. The Japanese version comes with English subtitles as well!

In the top right of the picture is an older Sengoku Basara CD I needed to complete my Sengoku Travel Navi collection. These are tourism CDs involving the seiyuu visiting famous historical sites which relate to their character. In this case, Okiayu Ryoutarou (Toyotomi Hideyoshi) and Ishida Akira (Takenaka Hanbee) tour Gifu and Osaka, stopping off at various landmarks and castles to reflect. The Sengoku Travel Navi CDs I've listened to before were really good; with these two seiyuu involved this one should be perfect too.

A cute Katakura Kojuurou tin badge arrived as well, as did a slightly unsettling Ika Musume charm which flashes its panties whenever I accidentally lie it down. Ika Musume was a freebie from Yesasia to go with the rest of my order.

Nico Nico Douga: A new Sarutobi Sasuke

Back in 2011, Nico Nico user ikapra revealed a brand new Sarutobi Sasuke (Sengoku Basara) model for users of the Miku Miku Dance software. Apparently made by the user's sister 'AZ', the model's quality was superb and it swiftly became very popular. They've now released a refined version of Sasuke with even more options, including his old black 2P costume and a detailed Gakuen Basara customisation. The song is Wowaka's chaotic 'Odoru. Tsumu. Zureru. Tomete. Uragaette Mawaru' mash-up performed by utaite NO=L.

The original video from 2011 (set to the ubiquitous Nico Nico anthem 'Bad Apple!!' feat. nomico) can be seen after the jump.

Wednesday 13 February 2013

News roundup: Atlus still suck, however, Magi is coming to the west

It's a rare day when there's nothing Sengoku Basara related for me to post! The current buzz in the fandom is split between the Valentine's Day event in the mobile phone game and feverish speculation that the Sony event in a week's time will reveal both the Playstation 4 and a new Sengoku Basara title. These two stories aren't really worth posting about in detail, but fortunately some other things have happened recently which are. I'll post the interesting news items first and rant about the negative ones at the end so it's easy to stop reading when it gets too angry.

First of all, some good news: Magi is coming to the west. It's hasn't been formally announced, but the UK arm of manga publisher Viz has revealed that it's scheduled to begin publication in August this year. Viz UK get their books straight from the US so we can expect an announcement from that side of the pond soon as well. I'm very excited about this since most people seem to agree that the anime adaptation of Magi (which I love!) is inferior to the original manga. Now I can have twice as much Sinbad!

Secondly, Tecmo-Koei Europe have announced a UK pre-order bonus for the upcoming PS3 game Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires (Shin Sangoku Musou 6: Empires). Fans who order from Game will receive a bonus costume pack containing classic costumes for Zhao Yun, Diao Chan and one for Nobunyaga, which can be used to customise your characters when the game is released. 

Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires will be released in the UK next Friday on 22nd February. There's not much time left to get your hands on the pre-order bonus!

The last piece of news is less positive: Persona 4 Arena (Persona 4 The Ultimate In Mayonaka Arena) recently went on sale digitally on the Playstation Network in the US and Canada. Unfortunately, it's been discovered (by the sympathetically-named Was_An_Atlus_Fan) that the digital version is region locked just as the physical release was. The European edition never did come out, with its original already-delayed August 2012 release date slipping gradually. It's currently scheduled for May 2013; any Persona fans who are still left outside the prime regions can finally see what everyone else was playing a year ago a few months from now.

I still don't understand why the Japanese version was region locked. The official line from Atlus was that the American version was so cheap that it had to be locked, but the fact that the Japanese one was as well makes it feel as though the real reason was to make the European version (which still doesn't exist) sell better by forcing everyone here to buy it instead of importing. Personally, I hope it sells terribly here and sinks like a stone. I shall continue to boycott all Atlus-related series until they reassess their treatment of foreigners.

For some reason, a while ago the official PersonaEurope Twitter started following me on Twitter out of the blue before swiftly unfollowing me a couple of days later. Given my vocal condemnation of the way that international Persona releases are handled, it's hard to know what they were thinking.

While I'm in a critical mood, I've been checking the Anime On Demand website on a daily basis since the very start of the year and I've been extremely disappointed to find that three of their six simulcasts for the season have still yet to surface. Crunchyroll is about to air the seventh episode of Maoyu for American fans, yet our service hasn't even managed to get the first one online, and what makes things worse is that they are completely uncommunicative. Their sluggishness is responsible for having delayed my Winter 2013 first impressions (which were originally written to help promote their services!) all this time since I was hoping to put everything in one single post. I'm beginning to think I should just treat the two missing shows as unlicensed rather than continuing to wait for simulcasts which will probably never happen; the Anime On Demand website still doesn't even have the original announcements that they were acquired yet. 

I don't understand why companies spend so much time and money promoting their site at expensive trade shows when they're so unwilling to give fans a reasonable amount of information about what their service is doing. It makes people who recommend them to others as a legal alternative to digital subs look like chumps.

Monday 11 February 2013

Today's acquisitions (11th Feb 2013)

Today I received something I had been long been hunting for; the Animedia tie-in Sengoku Basara Yomifuda CD Tsuki Karuta set; in other words, a pack of Sengoku Basara karuta cards with a matching CD.

This set was originally obtained by sending in proofs of purchase from issues of Animedia from September, October and November 2009 along with one from the October 2009 issue of Seiyuu Animedia. It comes with a CD featuring Nakai Kazuya (Date Masamune) and Morikawa Toshiyuki (Katakura Kojuurou) reading their famous lines; you're supposed to put the CD on random play and race your fellow players to match up the spoken lines with the corresponding cards.

I wasn't able to apply for the giveaway (and I rarely buy Animedia anyway, let alone Seiyuu Animedia) so for the last couple of years I've been haunting secondhand stores waiting for my chance to buy an unwanted set. Every time I was too late, and the price of the cards on Yahoo! Auctions has been increasing fast. I felt very lucky when a pristine set became available from a Japanese used goods store online for a very fair price.

Accompanying the karuta set are some cards of a different variety: my long overdue birthday message and New Year's 'nengajou' card from the Sengoku Basara fan club! I picked the Masamune designs during signup, and that's what was sent. They're very late but it's the thought that counts (even though I technically paid to send them to myself).

Sunday 10 February 2013

DVD review: Basara Matsuri 2010 ~Haru No Jin~

Basara Matsuri 2010 ~Haru No Jin~ was held on Sunday 2nd May 2010 at the Shinjuku Bunka Center Great Hall. There was both an afternoon and an evening performance, each of which was attended by approximately 2,000 eager fans.

The event was recorded and released on DVD on 22nd October the same year priced at ¥5,040. It's still available for purchase and contains 131 minutes of footage with 62 minutes of extras. A colour booklet with event photographs, seiyuu profiles and a message from KobaP is included in the package.

Back in May 2010, the relaunched stage play had just finished its run and an internet radio show was being broadcast weekly to promote the upcoming game. The second season of the anime had been announced for summer too, riding on the enormous success of the first series.

The main feature of Basara Matsuri 2010 ~Haru No Jin~ was of course the long-awaited Sengoku Basara 3, which was finally coming close to its release date of 29th July 2010. It had been close to a year since the game had been announced. The characters who were about to debut in the upcoming game took pride of place on stage while many series regulars were absent, so the list of guests contained a lot of new faces:

Saturday 9 February 2013

Anime review: Ground Control To Psychoelectric Girl (Denpa Onna To Seishun Otoko)

It doesn't feel as though it was all that long ago that NIS America announced that they'd acquired the rights to the 2011 Shaft anime Denpa Onna To Seishun Otoko back in October, and now I already have it in my hands. The official English title is Ground Control To Psychoelectric Girl; I'm not entirely fond of the 'ground control' reference but I like the way the aesthetics of the title match the original. And 'psychoelectric' both sounds cool and makes the box set easy to search for online. Good job, NISA.

NIS America have given the series a splendid US release in the form of a limited edition set, containing all twelve televised episodes as well as the single bonus episode from the Japanese release. Both Blu-ray and DVD discs are included. I watched the BD version for this review; the sharp artwork looks fantastic in high resolution. There's no English dub and NIS America have a notice on their website that the English subtitles are locked so they can't be turned off (a license stipulation to discourage reverse importation from Japanese fans). However, I'm lucky enough to have a playback device which can still disable them as normal, so I'd like to make the point that locked BD subtitles are nowhere near as severe a flaw as hard subtitles placed directly on the video streams were in the old days. On-disc extras are limited to creditless opening/ending sequences and trailers, and the set also contains a hardcover art book and bundles everything together in an oversized chipboard box. The design of the packaging is beautiful. If I saw this in a shop there's no way I'd be able to resist picking it up.

I'm usually not all that fond of fluffy romances involving helpless schoolgirls and weak male leads obviously designed to allow the viewer to project onto them. There's been a terrible glut of this kind of series thanks to its popularity in the light novel industry at the moment, and while there are some gems to be found there is also a large amount of generic tripe.

So there was a danger that I might have passed this series over entirely, had it received a quiet release from a larger company or come with less attractive packaging. Fortunately, I stumbled upon the opening video back when it was originally airing. The series' theme song is a collaboration between Erio's voice actress and the eccentric musicians Shinsei Kamattechan and it's easily one of the best anime openings I have heard in years. After just one viewing of the memorable title sequence, I knew I had to buy the show one day. The bouncy ending theme is adorable as well - musically, Denpa Onna To Seishun Otoko is a cut above its peers.

The other aspect of the show which immediately stands out is that the characters are all beautiful thanks to artist Buriki's work on the original character designs. I'd like to believe that I'm reasonably desensitised to adorable doe-eyed schoolgirls, yet this series has some exceptionally lovely artwork. It helps that the colours used in the anime are vivid; Erio's attention-grabbing blue hair highlights her unworldliness while also being easy on the eyes. Even the male lead is a genuinely cute-looking, likeable guy rather than one of the weak-willed doormats who usually star in series of this kind. It may be a show about aliens and psychic powers, but the beautiful artwork helped ground it in reality by making the interest that all of the characters had in one another feel plausible.

With such strong visuals and audio from the talented creators, it would have been awful if the plot let Denpa Onna To Seishun Otoko down. Thankfully, that isn't the case. The story is an offbeat take on the standard 'magical girlfriend' genre, with light harem elements as young Makoto strives to enjoy his youth to the full. Unlike most young boys in his position (if anime is anything to go by), he seizes every opportunity he's given with enviable purity of thought. When he discovers that he has an oddball cousin called Erio - a shut-in who refers to herself as an extraterrestrial and avoids opening up to others - he courageously approaches her and tries to earn her trust. Along the way, the two adolescents stumble through the challenges of making friends, fitting in and finding a place for themselves in the world. My impression throughout was that Denpa Onna isn't a harem show no matter how many cute female characters it happens to contain; it's simply an unusually lovely story about growing up and finding yourself.

I watched the whole of the first disc (nine episodes) in a single day because I was enjoying the anime far too much to take a break. My interest dipped a little at the start of the second disc, mostly because the less interesting supporting characters are given a chance to take centre stage for a while. In spite of this, it wasn't long before the plot regained its momentum and sped towards a completely satisfying climax, leaving me wishing that I didn't have to say goodbye to Makoto and his friends so soon as the final end credits scrolled.

One thing I've noticed in discussions online is that some viewers interpreted the series as making light of mental health issues, which I strongly disagree with. Even though the plot is crazy, the portrayal of the debilitating problems some of the characters struggled with actually felt more human and sympathetic than I'm used to. Makoto is the perfect rock for someone in trouble to rely on, never exploiting or making fun of those around him. Erio's helplessness is visually attractive, yet nobody in the series itself takes advantage of her and the way that the characters' quirks were dealt with always seemed reasonable, too; nobody was forced to change against their will.

Erio's mother has also been criticised for having been unable to 'solve' her daughter's quirky issues for her, which feels especially unfair. The pair of them have a loving mother-daughter relationship and she clearly respects Erio deeply. However much commentators on the Internet may dislike it, the message that even a young, fragile person needs to have the right attitude in order to keep moving forwards seems a lot stronger to me than the alternative of having a super-parent solving all of their child's problems for them.

Purchasing NIS America releases is mildly inconvenient for fans in the UK, since they're generally limited to specialist retailers. is a reliable source so long as you remember to factor in the customs charges that you may be hit with once the order arrives in the country (I recommend buying several items at once to limit the burden!). NISA also offer a limited edition lunch bag if you purchase the show through their online store. Alternatively, if you don't mind waiting until after the release date often has a few people selling copies to the UK that way. If you use the 'Fulfilled by Amazon' option and pick courier shipping, you can prepay the customs fees in advance which is always cheaper than paying Royal Mail upon arrival - not to mention faster. I purchased my copy from a UK-based importer, so I didn't have to worry about customs directly and instead paid a little extra to begin with. Anything to avoid Royal Mail's dreadful combination of high processing fees and delays!

According to American seller Robert's Anime Corner Store, one month after its release the first print run of Ground Control To Psychoelectric Girl had already sold out in distribution channels. NISA will be making some extra copies for circulation in the spring; after that future buyers will have to make do with a standard edition instead of the gorgeous artbox. I urge anyone who has an interest in the series to pick it up as quickly as possible to avoid disappointment!

Thursday 7 February 2013

Book review: Zaregoto

Zaregoto was a series of light novels released between 2002 and 2005, which told six stories over the course of nine books. It was written by NisiOisiN, the quirky mind behind the Bakemonogatari series and many other hits. Stylish illustrations contributed by artist take added to Zaregoto's appeal.

Back in 2008, there was a surge of interest in NisiOisiN's work in the west so along with some tie-in novels and compilations, US manga publisher Del Rey translated and released the first book in the Zaregoto series. The second book followed two years later... and that seems to have been the end of it. Whether the reason was poor sales or a side effect of Kodansha's complicated acquisition of Del Rey's properties, the second book seems to be the last we'll ever see of English-translated Zaregoto.

The story follows the adventures of an unnamed protagonist (he's addressed by various nicknames depending on which character he's speaking to, but his full name is never clearly stated in these two books). Ii-chan - as he's referred to by his close friend Kunagisa Tomo - is a very unusual guy; he's unusually detached from the world while having a truly terrible memory. He provides lackadaisical descriptions of everyday Japanese life from the perspective of someone with no particular hobbies or interests of his own. In contrast, Kunagisa is an unapologetically eccentric computer genius who lives as a shut-in. She's by far the most interesting of the two, but so enthusiastic and scatterbrained that Ii-chan's commentary is the only thing holding the plot together whenever she's around.

The first book, The Kubikiri Cycle, drops the reader right in at the deep end with a traditional murder mystery on a secluded island. I found the story rather chaotic; it's a blend of genres from crime, shounen action, philosophy and self-aware otaku comedy. Although dropping the two leads into an island setting made it easier to get to know them away from their everyday lives, it also made keeping track of the surprisingly-large supporting cast difficult - not least because they were all very strange individuals with a litany of personal quirks to remember. My lasting impression was that it was a flawed yet thoroughly enjoyable work. I wasn't able to put the book down until I reached the last page, once it had finally settled into a rhythm.

With the second volume, The Kubishime Romanticist, the author sets the story out completely differently. I felt that this worked much better, following Ii-chan back home in Kyoto and gradually introducing a very simple cast of characters. On the surface it's another murder mystery, except it's also the introduction to what I presume eventually becomes an overarching plot on a grander scale. Ii-chan's personality is also explored in more detail. I enjoyed The Kubishime Romanticist even more than the first book in the series.

A sense of NisiOisiN's writing style came across well in the English edition, though it's quite exhausting to read because obscure geeky references and Japanese sayings aren't always as clear as they would have been in the original. A number of themes seem to crop up in his stories time and again; fans of his animated works will notice similarities between certain characters and imagery which crops up here. There's obviously a lot of the author's trademark wordplay in Zaregoto too, from the character names to the verbal sparring that runs through most of Ii-chan's conversations with other people. Some of this is retained in the English adaptation, but I'm sure a lot of it is lost in translation. In the end the script is a little awkward for sacrificing some of the original charm in order to be readable as an English language mystery story, while at the same time being too rich with Japanese pop culture material to ever really catch on with a mainstream audience. The translator must have had a very challenging time.

Zaregoto Book 1: The Kubikiri Cycle was originally available from all good booksellers, though it's recently become scarce and the asking price on the used market is increasing by the day. I bought my copy brand new back when it was still easy to find for the princely sum of 49p. From this I gather that it wasn't a hot seller in UK comic shops, at least.

Zaregoto Book 2: The Kubishime Romanticist is still priced more reasonably at the time of this review. It's out of print too, though, and I wouldn't be surprised if it joins the first book in time as NisiOisiN's work gradually gathers steam in the US thanks to Blu-ray releases of the anime adaptations of Bakemonogatari, Nisemonogatari and Katanagatari, not to mention Medaka Box in due course. As Del Rey haven't published any more Zaregoto books since 2010, and Kodansha have stated that they're probably not interested in releasing any more titles from Del Rey's old library, it doesn't look good for the series' future.

Still, if you don't mind knowing that the adventures of Ii-chan and Kunagisa will be brought to an end prematurely, the two books that are available do at least have decisive endings to the stories they contain. With NisiOisiN's popularity showing no sign of abating it's probably only a matter of time before Zaregoto is adapted into a quirky late night anime series or movie. That's what I'm hoping!

Wednesday 6 February 2013

News: Sengoku Basara door knob plates?!

It seems that announcing things directly is no longer in fashion, as online store AmiAmi has revealed the details of yet another wave of strange Sengoku Basara merchandise due to become available in late April 2013.

I think that 'Sengoku Basara Door Knob Plates' are the most ridiculously titled tie-in items yet this year. There will be four packs available, each costing ¥525, with the options being Masamune/KojuurouMotonari/MotochikaIeyasu/Mitsunari or Yukimura/Sasuke.

 Sadly the pictures of the Setouchi and Sekigahara pairs aren't available yet, but I think it's reasonably easy to guess how they'll look after seeing the Takeda and Date designs.

The other new items are Sengoku Basara Acrylic Pass Cases costing ¥1,260 each. Again, there are four available. You can choose between Masamune and KojuurouMotonari and MotochikaIeyasu and Mitsunari or Yukimura and Sasuke. Each has a chain attached so that it can be attached to your handbag or wallet.

The design of the pass cases is significantly more tasteful than the ostentatious door knob plates above. For some reason that makes them less attractive to me, which is a blessing as they aren't cheap!

The final piece of BSR news today is the only one actually from Capcom themselves: the third Eiyuu No Kai fan club newsletter will be shipping around the end of February. The newsletters don't tend to contain announcements, and I don't reproduce their exclusive articles on my blog anyway. Still, fingers crossed that there'll be some juicy information soon!

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Nico Nico Douga: Mini Sanada Yukimura

A new Miku Miku Dance model has debuted! It's not yet complete but user Haseko (KengekiP) has produced a very expressive version of Sanada Yukimura as he appears in the Mini Sengoku Basara series. The song is a cover version of Sweets Magic sung by Lon and Junky.

Sunday 3 February 2013

DVD review: Basara Matsuri 2009 ~Haru No Jin~

After being spoiled by two Basara Matsuri events in 2007, the next major Sengoku Basara gathering didn't take place until the spring of 2009. Basara Matsuri 2009 ~Haru No Jin~ was held on Saturday 2nd May 2009 at Hibiya Koukaidou (Tokyo Metropolitan Hibiya Public Hall). There was a gathering in the afternoon and another in the evening; each attracted an audience of around 2,000 fans.

There hadn't been a new game for a while until PSP spin-off Sengoku Basara Battle Heroes had been released a month before the event. April 2009 was also when the first season of the Sengoku Basara television anime had made its debut. There were two radio shows running too, so although it was a dry period for fans of the main games it was a good time for the series as a whole. As Basara Matsuri 2009 came before the teasing for Sengoku Basara 3 began, the event was a relatively relaxed affair to promote the recent release of Battle Heroes and allow fans a chance to get together and enjoy watching the seiyuu fooling around.

The list of guests at Basara Matsuri 2009 was as follows:

Friday 1 February 2013

News: Sengoku Basara -Moonlight Party- and Butai Sengoku Basara 3 ~Setouchi Kyouran~ DVD information

It's another slow news day with Capcom announcing the final details for the DVD/BD versions of Sengoku Basara -Moonlight Party- and Butai Sengoku Basara 3 ~Setouchi Kyouran~. If I'm not mistaken these are currently the last Sengoku Basara DVDs which are scheduled to come out at all. There should be a few more later in the year after the various upcoming stage events have been recorded.

Last summer's television drama Sengoku Basara -Moonlight Party- will finally be released tomorrow (2nd February 2013) on DVD (¥13,650) and Blu-ray (¥15,750). It's going to be an enhanced version of the show with extra footage.

The sets will include all nine original episodes spread over three discs as well as a bonus disc, which will include the unaired tenth episode 'Outlaws' starring Katakura Kojuurou and Sarutobi Sasuke. There will also be trailers and three special 'making of' features following the three lead actors, titled 'Oshitemaitta! Date Masamune' (Hayashi Kento), 'Zenryoku de o Aite Tsukamatsutta! Sanada Yukimura' (Takeda Kouhei) and 'Dairokuten Maou Oda Nobunaga Kourin!' (GACKT).

In addition, the first episode has been given a makeover with a director's cut and improved CG effects. The show's total length clocks in at 216 minutes with an extra 120 minutes special features. The first pressing will include a 16-page Sengoku Basara -Moonlight Party- booklet. No English subtitles have been announced, so expect Japanese-only audio with no other language options.

I never had the chance to watch the show when it was airing; can't wait to see it when I get my hands on a copy of the Blu-ray box set!

The only other piece of news today is that the cover for the Butai Sengoku Basara 3 ~Setouchi Kyouran~ DVD has been revealed at last. The blue and white colour scheme they've been using for promotional shots from this stage play has always looked great as a background for the brightly coloured costumes.

The show originally ran back in November 2012 and the DVD recording is due for release on 28th February 2013. The single-disc standard edition costs ¥6,000 and has a run time of 150 minutes. The limited edition comes with a separate bonus disc containing 40 minutes of extra footage and costs ¥6,500. The limited edition has been sold out at most shops online for a while now. The official stage play shop linked above recently started taking orders for the limited edition again for fans who missed out on the first opportunity.

The popularity of the Butai Sengoku Basara series doesn't seem to be showing any sign of waning!