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You Can Help Make an Animator's Life Easier

July 7, 2017 11:00am
by Mike Tamburelli

In recent times, it has become ever more apparent that animators in Japan’s anime industry have it rough. You may recall a story from just a few weeks ago wherein Studio Khara, the talent behind the Rebuild of Evangelion movies, were able to pay potentially newly-hired animators just slightly more than the industry average at around $920 USD -- which really is not great, especially when you consider the need to pay the always costly Tokyo rent. Standards for animator pay in Japan are quite low, but there's a few things available to industry outsiders that they can do to help, and even change the lives of the next generation of creatives. This is where the Non-Profit Organization known as Animator Supporters comes in:

Animator Supporters have identified 3 key risks for Japan’s animation industry workers:

  • Animators in their twenties often make no more than 90,000 yen a month
  • 90% of new animators quit within 3 years due to low pay and harsh working conditions
  • Without proper support and mentoring for animators, Japanese animation as a cultural pillar risks collapse

Jun Sugawara from Animator Supporters has come forth to present the organization’s fundraising goals in English. As of now, they have run 3 successful crowdfunding campaigns both within Japan and overseas to tackle perhaps one of the biggest issues facing young animators today: housing.

The yearly "Animator Dormitory Projects" aim to raise money for affordable dorm-style housing for animators. Paying no more than 30,000 yen a month including utilities costs, animators can skirt Tokyo's rent prices and live in an environment where they can not only survive, but thrive. Remember the point about young animators not receiving proper support and mentoring? The goal with the dormitory project is to allow an environment where new animators can learn from the more experienced hands.  

This year, the English campaign lives on Indiegogo'Generosity platform, and Jun has outlined the project's mission and history:

Our goals

・To make an environment where start-up animators can devote themselves to their work without worrying about whether they can pay their house rents or make a stable living

・To bridge the skill gap caused by income inequalities

・To create a space where start-up animators can learn techniques from skilled animators so that they will be able to make a stable living in the animation industry.

Since March 2014, we have established the Animator Dormitory in order to achieve these goals. In Animator Dormitory, animators can stay live there for 30,000 JPY per month (including utility expenses). They will also get chances for social exchanges beyond the boundaries of companies and receive technical support for illustrations and drawing.

Our History

• March 2014 First Animator Dormitory opened in Asagaya

• March 2015 Animator Dormitory in Ogikubo opened

• March 2016 Animator Dormitory that is bigger opened in Asagaya

• March 2017 Girls Animator Dormitory opened in Naritahigashi. As of May 2017, eight animators are living in the Animator Dormitory.

Of course, what I'm hoping to inspire through outlining all of this is at least your visit to the project's page, here. With a campaign that is running until the year's end having already eclipsed 50% of its goal, it is exceedingly clear that many people value the prospect of improved conditions for the people working so hard to create the content we love. And hey, there ae some pretty sweet perks for donating as well. Do you want to actually just hang out and chill with these folks? Well, that's a perk you can unlock at just a $150 USD donation if you've helped in the past, and at $300 if you are donating for the first time.

One of my favorite aspects of the project as a whole is the human aspect brought about through social media, especially Facebook. The animators who you are supporting often take the time to write their feelings out, conveying them to all of the project's followers. Check out some recent examples:
 
 
 

These creatives have already gained so much through the project's support -- how cool is this?
 

As a hyper-avid consumer of Japanese animation, the chance to affect meaningful change in an industry that has done so much to enrich my life these past 12 years or so is an incredibly meaningful one. My goal is not necessarly to coerce everyone to donate to this project directly - after all, we all have our own lives and circumstance to deal with - but merely to raise awareness. If we can help foster the creativity of the next big name in anime, someone that perhaps the next generation will be able to consume and enjoy, then I know we will have done our little bit to keep the industry alive.

Thank you Animator Supporters for your continued dedication, and know that you will have my continued support.

2017 Animator Dormitory Project: Generosity.com
Animator Supporters: 
Official site (Japanese)

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‘Zombieland Saga’ Zombie Idol Unit Holds First Live Concert

December 17, 2018 5:17pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

This weekend saw the massive family of Cygames properties descend on Makuhari Messe in Chiba for the annual ‘CygamesFes.’ And among the many properties there, from Granblue Fantasy to Uma Musume, there was definitely one which many had their eyes on - that of Zombieland Saga, who saw their zombie idol unit Franchouchou perform for the first time in concert.

Six out of its seven members performed many of the key songs shown of the series thus far, which at the time of writing is about to air its final episode. These include the insert songs "Mezame Returner" as well as the opening and ending songs "Adabana Necromancy" and "Hikara e." Only Yamada Tae’s voice actor Mitsuishi Kotono was not present, although she did send a letter of support along with the anime’s director Munehisa Sakai.

For a first live, the reception from fans seems to be overwhelmingly positive, as many of those who had waited all day to see the debut concert of this rising star of the virtual idol world were not disappointed. They even nailed the strange yet enthralling robot walk from "Mezame Returner", which is just one example of how the six girls absolutely nailed it. Safe to say, the atmosphere in the venue was electric.

One particularly interesting moment in the concert came during one of the first MCs. As you’ll know if you watch the show, the ‘saga’ in the title also refers to the setting of the show, that of Saga prefecture in Kyushu. It’s a pretty long way from Chiba, so when one of the members of Franchouchou asked if anyone had come from Saga, she was pretty taken aback when a fair few people waved their penlights and shouted in affirmation. I’m sure that Mamoru Miyano’s producer character Tatsumi Kotaro would be very proud that some people from his precious Saga made the long, long journey.

Furthermore, the final MC of the live saw each member give their farewells, and protagonist Sakura Kirishima’s voice actor Hondo Kaede very clearly expressed her desire for the series to continue further, into a “second, third season or even a movie.” Of course, it’s ultimately up to the producers at Cygames to decide what becomes of the series, but with the amount of attention and love the series has been getting this season, I very much doubt this’ll be the last we see of the zombie girls - especially as they gear up for their second live event this March, in Shinagawa.

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Kaito Kid to Take Over Upcoming ‘Detective Conan’ Universal Studios Japan Attractions

December 17, 2018 4:01pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

It’s not long to go now before the start of 2019, and what is shaping up to be a fantastic year at Universal Studios Japan for anime and manga fans. Perhaps more than anything else, there’s even better news for fans of Detective Conan, which is making another appearance this year as part of the ‘Cool Japan’ initiative, as each of the attractions will tie heavily into the franchise’s upcoming 23rd theatrical outing, Fist of the Blue Sapphire.

The ‘real escape’ attraction is a particularly notable example of this. Titled ‘Prologue of the Blue Sapphire,’ the attraction will see parkgoers thrust into a mystery in a Western mansion with the upcoming film’s Kaito Kid as the antagonist. Not only will the attraction see you working alongside Conan and various other characters to solve a mystery, but as the title suggests, that mystery will actually serve as a ‘prologue’ for the upcoming film - possibly giving some backstory or key plot elements to those who manage to get through it.

Of course, this presents quite a big problem for USJ - how far do they go? By fully committing to the ‘prologue’ premise and offering key information to fans who come to the park, they could attract more hardcore fans, who would come in droves. Yet, this would put those who wouldn’t be able to come to the park at a disadvantage, with also the possibility of being spoiled before the film’s April premiere. This is particularly pertinent for overseas fans, and considering that the upcoming film will take place overseas, in Singapore, Universal Studios Japan should think very carefully about this.

Thankfully, however, the way that the other attractions tie into the film shouldn’t be too problematic. The ‘mystery rally’ attraction which is returning once more this year will see parkgoers solving clues left behind by Heiji Hattori to foil another plot by Kaito Kid. From the information available, it seems like the story behind this will be fairly inconsequential, but it should still work in building hype for the film by emphasizing the role of Kid.

Furthermore, one of Kid’s self-proclaimed rivals is also set to make an appearance through this year’s ‘mystery restaurant’ attraction. Jirokichi Suzuki, who has been (unsuccessfully) setting traps for Kid for much of his life, is giving it another go by opening a new restaurant with a state-of-the-art security system and a precious jewel for bait in USJ. Restaurant goers will work alongside Shinichi Kudo and Makoto Kyogoku to foil Kid’s heist, all while enjoying the delicious themed food on offer.

Makoto is also a key character in the upcoming film alongside Kid, so it’s pretty clear that the attractions this year are focused on promoting the movie. That being said, last year was the same, with a heavy focus on antagonist Amuro Toru, so it’s safe to say that this more direct promotional element to the USJ Conan attractions will be a continuing element going forward.

And while Conan may be a big enough franchise to warrant exception, I can’t but think if this promotional element will also be incorporated into the other ‘Cool Japan’ attractions - particularly series like Evangelion and Lupin the Third, both of which have highly anticipated next installments.

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Two ‘Puyo Puyo’ Title’s Joining the SEGA AGES Lineup

December 17, 2018 3:32pm
by Alicia Haddick

The SEGA AGES lineup on Nintendo Switch has seen a variety of classic SEGA titles given new life on the hybrid console. Many have received enhancements which step them a cut above their original releases, such as with the recent SEGA AGES Outrun which brought in enhancements that included new music in addition to the classic soundtrack and widescreen support.

The latest titles to join this series were announced at SEGA’s own Puyo Puyo Championship December 2018, as it was revealed that the first two titles in the Puyo Puyo series, Puyo Puyo and Puyo Puyo Tsu, would be set for release in 2019.

These games did see a home console release at the time, however, it has been confirmed that these versions will be based on their arcade counterparts. These were originally developed by Compile and released in 1992 and 1994 respectively. Excitingly for fans of the series and the classic Puyo Puyo experience, both of these titles will receive online play for the first time, allowing players to compete with others for bragging rights.

While perhaps a surprising choice when considering that Puyo Puyo Tetris is already available on the system, with a version aimed at competitive players titled Puyo Puyo eSports released just 2 months ago, series veterans are likely to remain excited to revisit these original releases all the same.

Official websites for Puyo Puyo and Puyo Puyo Tsu are now live, and it’s currently unknown whether either of these SEGA AGES titles will receive an international release. English versions of the first arcade game do exist without an English translation for the latter title, while the majority of the Puyo Puyo franchise has remained Japan-exclusive. As these games get closer to release, though, we should find out one way or another what the international plans are for these new titles in the SEGA AGES series.

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Tetsuya Nomura Responds to Kingdom Hearts III Leaks

December 17, 2018 2:54pm
by Petrit Elshani

In response to the shocking Kingdom Hearts III leak that occurred on Friday, game director Tetsuya Nomura from Square Enix has come out with an official statement on the situation. In the address, Nomura thanks all of the loyal fans who have been warning each other about the circulating spoilers as well as doing their absolute best to avoid them. Almost having anticipated a leak, he gives a reassuring notice that neither the game’s epilogue or the secret ending (the biggest spoilers) are part of the games disc files, instead, being an update scheduled for the game’s launch.

This safety measure now serves as a reassurance to all the fans who were worried that major spoilers could appear on their social media feed at any moment. Nomura ends his statement with a very pleasant invitation to enjoy the game on its official release on January 29, 2019. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

An important message for #KingdomHearts III from Director Tetsuya Nomura.

A post shared by KINGDOM HEARTS (@kingdomhearts) on


Before moving on, I would just like to make it clear that we will not be discussing the spoilers here. That being said, the context surrounding the leak itself is a bit of an interesting story that fans might want to know. For those unaware, the leak started circulating some time on December 15th, after somebody on the Facebook marketplace listed that they had gotten their hands on a number of copies of the game and were selling them for $100. The Facebook user also posted some unseen footage of the game that they had recorded to prove that they had access to the real deal.

What struck fans as being extra upsetting was that the seller wasn’t even a fan of the games to begin with, and is said to have acquired thirty copies of the game through an acquaintance working at the manufacturing/printing company and just wants to sell them to make a quick buck. While the seller is now rumored to have been apprehended, fans should still be cautious about future leaks with the possibility that at least some of the stolen copies have now changed hands. Ten copies are said to have been sold, but it is unknown whether the seller was able to dispatch them. Though it is difficult to verify the postings, a spoiler-free, detailed twitter thread has surfaced from user @MysticDistance regarding the events that lead to this taking place.

The biggest take from all this has to be how dedicated the Kingdom Hearts community really is. With the firm anti-spoiler stance everyone has taken in response to the leak, as well as fans giving each other in-depth instructions as to how they can best avoid spoilers, it’s no wonder why Nomura thanked the community in his address. We wish everyone here the best of luck avoiding spoilers in the lead up to the game's launch.  

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Splatoon 2’s Pearl and Marina to Hold Concert at Game Party Japan 2019

December 17, 2018 1:16pm
by Alicia Haddick

Tokaigi Game Party Japan is a yearly gaming event held at the Makuhari Messe in Chiba, Japan, which allows people of all ages to get some hands-on time with a variety of games past and present. The event is highly popular, with 68,000 visitors in 2017 and over 4,000,000 people viewing the event’s livestream over the course of the weekend, where people were able to watch the various on-stage events or take part in the various exhibits on display.

Following on from their concert at last year’s event, and for the latest in a series of concerts that date back to the first game’s initial launch in 2015, it has been announced that there will be a Splatoon concert held at Tokaigi Game Party 2019, which is set for January 26 and 27 next year. For this concert, Pearl and Marina from the series’ latest title, Splatoon 2, will be returning in hologram form to sing and perform for attendees. 
 


Unlike at the event in 2018, it has been confirmed that a guest appearance from Callie and Marie from the original Splatoon will not occur, with the concert only featuring Pearl and Marina. A set list for the concert is also unannounced at this time. However, as with all events over the course of the weekend, this concert will be live-streamed for free on Nico Nico Douga on January 26 at 3 am EST, while the archived version will be uploaded to Nintendo’s YouTube channel shortly afterward.

While I’m unfortunately still waiting for an opportunity to attend one of these concerts for myself, they’re always a lot of fun to watch live or after the fact and I for one am very excited for this latest performance. With the game remaining astonishingly popular in Japan it’s no surprise to see more of these concerts being held and, even with new content no longer being added to Splatoon 2 as of this month, it would be a surprise if this was to be the last concert we see from these squid-tastic virtual performers.

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Granblue Fantasy Fighting Game Announced, Developed by Arc System Works

December 17, 2018 12:45pm
by Alicia Haddick

The popularity of Granblue Fantasy ever since it released for mobile devices in March 2014 can’t be understated. Alongside the massive success of the title on mobile devices the series has branched out and received an anime series in 2017 with a new console game titled Granblue Fantasy Project Re:Link previously announced to be on the way from series developer Cygames and Platinum Games.

Joining these projects following its announcement during this weekend’s Granblue Fantasy Fes 2018 at the Makuhari Messe is Granblue Fantasy Versus, a brand new 2D fighting game utilizing the IP and its characters which is being developed by Arc System Works.
 


Coming to PlayStation 4 in 2019, this brawler follows the formula of many of Arc System Works other fighting titles such as Dragon Ball FighterZ while utilizing the signature art style of the series itself. Music for the title will be handled by Stella Magna, a group who have previously handled much of the music for the series alongside famed composer Nobuo Uematsu.

Promised during this announcement was a ‘substantial’ story mode with eSports support for a competitive scene also being teased.

Despite the massive success of the game in its home nation of Japan, the series is still relatively unknown outside of the country due to the lack of an official release for any media related to the franchise aside from the anime on Crunchyroll. With an ambitious game in the works from Platinum Games alongside this 2D fighting game from Arc System Works, however, the series could be poised to make a big splash internationally if Cygames so desires.

Irrespective of this, Granblue Fantasy Versus looks like another visually impressive and fun brawler from the developer which many fighting game fans will be keeping a close eye on during the build-up to the title’s launch in Japan next year. Those interested in checking out further details, be sure to check out the game's official website.

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Yunomi Announces Signing to Asobi System

December 17, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

While the entirety of 2018 has been completely wild for Tokyo-based trackmaker Yunomi, this past week alone has seen plenty of reason to celebrate. I wrote recently about the Yunomi x Kiato x Chloma "Fashion" drop that took place on Saturday, a collaboration that would see Kiato's illustrations brought to life with an original Chloma piece, while Yunomi scored a new original featuring Rinahamu, titled "Fashion", to tie it all in. Taking it just one step further, Yunomi this weekend announced his signing with entertainment group Asobi System.
 


For years now Yunomi has been praised both inside Japan and out as one of the major players in the "Post-Yasutaka Nakata" era of electronic musicians, a group largely influenced by the sounds of Nakata, while then adding their own spin and taking it to new heights. So seeing it all brought back to Asobi System, the very team behind Yasutaka Nakata, is somewhat ironic -- but it definitely isn't something to ignore.

Yunomi's wave of success isn't just due to his incredible production value and natural talents, but also due in no small part to a number of incredibly wise choices. From Yunomi's early days working alongside vocalist Nicamoq, where he would make his track stems readily available to eager remixers, all the way to his careful selection of idol groups to produce for, each move has proven to bolster his following massively. 

So while the signing to Asobi System isn't likely to change the sounds that we know and love from Yunomi, we can definitely expect to hear him in more and more places than ever before -- and that can only be a good thing. If you're yet to check out his works, I couldn't apologize more, and I definitely recommend you change that by visiting Yunomi's official website.

Congratulations to Yunomi, and we can't wait to see you continue on your journey towards astronomical success!

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