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Hikaru Utada is Returning to Sing 'Kingdom Hearts III' Theme

February 10, 2018 12:00am
by Mike Tamburelli

What would a Kingdom Hearts game be without the silky-smooth voice of Japanese-American mega-star Hikaru Utada singing the theme song? An element almost inseparable from the games themselves -- Square Enix has decided to ask her to lend her voice to craft an iconic ballad once again for the Disney crossover, Tetsuya Nomura-led RPG series' third entry, scheduled to release at last this year.

Hikaru Utada will be singing both the English and Japanese versions of the game's theme. In English, it will be known as "Don't Think Twice." Check out a short preview below!
 


In Japanese, the name of the tune is "Chikai," which can be translated to mean "Oath."
 

In addition,  Square Enix revealed that there will be a brand-new Monsters Inc.-themed world in Kingdom Hearts III. It’s featured in the trailer below, and Sora’s form in that world is a sight to behold indeed.
 

So there you have it — an absolute bombshell’s worth of announcements from D23 Expo Japan. What do you think of Hikaru Utada’s latest? When Kingdom Hearts III launches later this year for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, will it have that same cultural impact as the first two mainline games? Accompanied with a theme as strong as the previews tease, I imagine we’ll have a clear winner on our hands.

Images: Disney, Square Enix

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Special Fate/Grand Order Water-Mapping Show Coming to Tokyo

February 20, 2018 8:00pm
by Mike Tamburelli

Without a doubt, my absolute favorite thing to spring out of the advent of worlds like Fate and Kantai Collection is that you can Google any given historical figure or vessel, and there's a very high chance that your search results will be littered with dozens of cute anime girl versions of your query. 

In the case of Fate/Grand Order's take on legendary Japanese printmaker Hokusai, we're not quite at that level yet. However, the game's cute girl take on the painter does include some nifty shoutouts, such as the weapon she wields being a giant paintbrush, and her alternate outfit being very fishy -- in reference to Hokusai's "The Fisherman's Wife," perhaps the first piece of eroticism of a human being involved with an octopus ever conceived.



Of course, perhaps the best-known Hokusai ukuiyo-e style woodblock painting is "The Great Wave off Kanagawa," which is given a tasteful shoutout with the Fate character's Noble Phantasm, as seen in this article's header image.

All this newness surrounding the painter is finally coming to a head next month in Odaiba in Tokyo, where NAKED, an artistic technology company, plan to put on a unique water projection mapping display show for one night only atop the waters of Tokyo Bay. 

Fate/Grand Order's own Hokusai will gracefully paint the waves of Tokyo Bay with the actual master's own works.


Hokusai will be joined by characters Shuten Douji, Kiyohime, Musashi Miyamoto, and even Mash. A brand-new piece of collaboration artwork was released with the announcement.



Visitors are especially urged to board one of the event's special yakatabune, a traditional Japanese rowboat. Tickets are available through Lawson Ticket, for cruises leaving at 4:15, 5:00 and 5:45 pm on March 17. The tickets will set you back 16,000 yen (around $150 USD) a seat. 

As a one-day and likely one-time opportunity, I can't really think of any better way for both history buffs and Fate/Grand Order superfans to spend an evening in Odaiba. Be sure to check out their official website here.

Images: Aniplex, NAKED inc.

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Taku Takahashi and DÉ DÉ MOUSE Talk Eureka Seven

February 20, 2018 6:00pm
by Mike Tamburelli

For a franchise as legendary and beloved by many as Eureka Seven, nothing less than all-out would be acceptable to commemorate the release of both the Blu-ray and DVD versions of Eureka Seven: Hi-Evolution 1. It's the first part of a new trilogy of films, the three of which aim to retell the classic story of the original anime series, with both updated cuts and a number of extra scenes. On top of all that is a promised brand-new ending, something we'll just have to wait until 2019 to witness. 

In commemoration of the upcoming release, Bandai Visual has called in two special guests to create a promotional discussion video, where both parties discuss the Eureka Seven series and the influence it's had.

The first round of interviews has already been made public, featuring both Taku Takahashi of m-flo and DÉ DÉ MOUSE. Taku is a self-described "Eureka Seven freak" who has been following the series from the very early days of the original anime. On the other hand,  DÉ DÉ MOUSE is a relative newcomer to the franchise, having only been immersed in Renton's world wholeheartedly with this latest movie release. This creates an interesting catalyst for discussion as the two share both of their experiences with the series.
 

While the videos are yet to be subtitled in English, the back and forth between the two musical contemporaries makes for quite the discussion. For many clued in on the series, Eureka Seven is a story filled to the brim with both musical and pop culture references. This is especially prevalent in areas such as Adroc Thurston's name being a play on "Ad-rock" from The Beastie Boys, or Renton's name being a homage to Mark Renton of the Trainspotting film. It was definitely clear that the two got a kick out of being able to discuss these neat little easter eggs throughout the series.

Within their discussions, there's also talk about the qualities they feel they share with main character Renton. They especially compare the overlap in musicians pursuing dreams of success, while Renton slowly but surely realizes his abilities, matures, and earns the respect of his peers. While the  Hi-Evolution films aren't remakes per se, the duo do agree that they fall more under the category of a "remix," something quite true to their musical roots. This method was compared to how J.J. Abrams chose to revive the  Star Wars universe in a new trilogy of films. By combining familiar story elements and tropes from the past, then fusing them with modern filmmaking and animation elements, the creators have achieved what can be considered a "remix" of Eureka Seven for both new audiences and diehard fans alike.


It's a fascinating discussion for sure, so here's hoping that the videos receive some official English translation.

The train doesn't stop there, however, as the next set of video interviews is slated for February 22, 2018. Just a day before the home video release, director Tomoki Kyouda, scriptwriter Dai Sato, sociologist and Wako University professor Toshiya Ueno, and anime critic Ryouta Fujitsu will all gather at Tokyo's Dommune nightclub to discuss all manner of topics surrounding Eureka Seven, its cultural impact around the world, and the new films. The individuals present for the talk, which will run from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm JST, make for a panel of guests from backgrounds you don't often see at these kinds of release events. Again, I'm hoping that this series gets some kind of official release in English too!

After the talk, there will be a special DJ set by Hiroshi Watanabe titled "Hi-Evolution 1 Special DJ Set!" As for the contents of his performance, the title certainly leaves little to the imagination. After all of this bombast for the release, I'm happy to give you all the juicy details on the various editions and formats you'll be able to get your hands on beginning February 23:

Eureka Seven: Hi-Evolution 1 - Blu-ray Limited Edition
Price: 10,000yen + Tax
Duration: Main Disc - 98 Minutes // Bonus Disc - 178 Minutes
Main Disc Specifications: DTS-HD Master Audio(5.1ch)・Linear PCM(Stereo)/AVC/BD50G/16:9<1080p High Definition>/Japanese Subtitles(ON/OFF)
Bonus Disc Specifications: DTS-HD Master Audio(5.1ch)・Linear PCM(Stereo)/AVC/BD50G/16:9<1080p High Definition> ・Partial 16:9<1080i High Definition>/Japanese Subtitles(ON/OFF)
Main Disc Contents: Eureka Seven: Hi-Evolution 1 Film, Film Commercial Collection
Bonus Disc Contents: Non-credit Contents (DTS-HD Master Audio5.1ch/Linear PCM2ch), Stage Greetings, Film Staff Cross Talk Movie, "Glory Days" Music Video (Anime Version), "Acperience 7" Music Video, "Get it by your hands HI-EVO MIX" Music Video, RaveSeane DJ MIX 1, RaveSean DJ MIX 2, 2 Soundtrack CDs, Booklet, Storyboard Booklet (Summer of Love part)

Eureka Seven: Hi-Evolution 1 - Blu-ray Standard Edition
Price:
 7,000yen + Tax
Duration: 98 Minutes
Disc Specifications: DTS-HD Master Audio(5.1ch)・Linear PCM(Stereo)/AVC/BD50G/16:9<1080p High Definition>/Japanese Subtitles(ON/OFF)
Disc Contents: Eureka Seven: Hi-Evolution 1 Film, Film Commercial Collection

Eureka Seven: Hi-Evolution 1 - DVD Standard Edition
Price: 6,000yen + Tax
Duration: 98 Minutes
Disc Specifications: DTS(5.1ch)・Dolby Digital(Stereo)/Dual-layer Disc/16:9/ Japanese Subtitles(ON/OFF)
Disc Contents: Eureka Seven: Hi-Evolution 1 Film, Film Commercial Collection

Those of you who are yet to check out the first entry into the trilogy, this is your best chance. Visually the film is an adventure from start to finish, especially with the incredible animation quality of the newer scenes. Alongside this announcement, we're happy to share that we'll be conducting an AMA session with Eureka Seven director Tomoki Kyoda in collaboration with Reddit's own /r/anime. The announcement for this can be found here.

Images: Bandai Visual

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2x Gold Medalist Yuzuru Hanyu Gets 'Tokyo Ghoul' Treatment

February 20, 2018 4:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

For two-times Olympic gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu, it'd be a complete and total understatement that this has been a big week. Not only did the legendary figure skater manage to secure his second gold medal during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics on Saturday, but he also received notable recognition from a creator he's expressed great appreciation for in the past. Uploaded to the Twitter account of Tokyo Ghoul manga creator Sui Ishida, Yuzuru Hanyu's likeness was captured in gorgeous style as he fearlessly dominated the ice.
 


It's undeniably been an incredible week for the 23-year-old figure skating icon, with just about every newspaper and magazine in Japan covered with his likeness. That being said, if I was in his position, I'd have to say this is a little cooler. It originally became apparent to the world that Yuzuru Hanyu was a fan of the series when he was spotted holding a Tokyo Ghoul tumbler in a joint photo with the Sailor Moon of the ice, Evgenia Medvedeva. It was also noted that in the photograph he was doing a pose similar to series protagonist Kaneki, making it all the more incredible. 

Perhaps more than ever this year, both in Japan and internationally, it felt as though more individuals had a keen eye for the ice skating performances. I'm not going to state it as a fact, but I'd dare suggest that the late-2016 animated series Yuri!!! on ICE might have just had a little to do with that. But hey, if that's the case, I'm sure it would make series creator Sayo Yamamoto happy, which is something she explicitly stated in our interview with her last year.

We wish the best of luck to the rest of the Olympians taking place in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, and congratulate Yuzuru Hanyu on his much-deserved success. 

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Sanrio Puroland Theme Park Introduces 'Kawaii Kabuki' Live

February 20, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Sanrio Puroland, the official home of Hello Kitty and all her fellow Sanrio friends, is getting a traditional Japanese makeover next month with the theme park starting their new 'Kawaii Kabuki' live musical show. Set to begin March 10, 2018, the live show will bring a piece of Japan's stage history to the Tama Center location in Tokyo with a special side of cute. The show will feature special costumes for all the characters and will utilize projection mapping technology to really impress attendees at the park's Meruhen Theatre. 


The stage show is set to incorporate traditional kabuki and acrobatic dance to create a memorable experience that will last about 40 minutes a session. It'll also feature characters such as Hello Kitty, Cinnamoroll, Dear Daniel, and Bad Batz Maru, with some of them pictured above. As someone who just so happens to live walking distance from Sanrio Puroland, this is definitely welcome news to me. The whole area surrounding the theme park is certainly unlike anything else in Tokyo, and I'd absolutely have to recommend checking it out.
 


Famed kabuki director Kensuke Yokouchi, best known for his work on Super Kabuki, is handling the script work and staging for the live show. Much like the stage works of creatives such as Shakespeare, many in Japan fall short in understanding the complexities of many kabuki performances. It's for this reason that Sanrio Puroland has opted to use the popular folk legend of Momotaro, a brave peach boy who defeats a band of marauding demons on a distant island so that audiences of all ages can follow along. 

If you're interested in checking out the show, you'll definitely want to head over to the official website for the theme park. While the show does begin March 10, it's undecided as of right now how long it will last, meaning you'll definitely want to get in while you still can. 

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Cup Noodle Releases New 'Fries & Chicken Nugget' Flavor

February 20, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Since the very conception of Cup Noodles almost 60 years ago in 1958, manufacturer Nissin has constantly been looking for new ways to innovate. For some, innovation comes in the form of redesign and creation; for others, it comes in the form of 'Fried Potato & Chicken Nugget' flavored instant ramen. Today I was given the opportunity to partake in innovation, and honestly, it tastes pretty incredible. If given the chance, I'd probably go as far as to recommend you try this weird and wonderful flavor -- if you dare. 


For a Cup Noodle brand as easily identifiable as Nissin, you eventually reach the point where you have to do some pretty weird things to stay on top. Between their ridiculous 'Milk Seafood' flavor they released in 2017, the announcement that they would henceforward refer to their topping as 'Mystery Meat,' and the gorgeous animated ads the company produces, there's definitely a growing library of strange. Frequent OTAQUEST collaborator The Canipa Effect was even so wowed by some of the things the company had done in the anime department that he made a whole video about it:
 


Back to the topic at hand, however, Nissin Cup Noodle's latest 'Fried Potato & Chicken Nugget' flavor combination is an absolute fever dream. I'm a lazy boy, meaning there are basically three major food groups for me: instant noodles, fries, and chicken nuggets. This combines the three of those in an oddly coherent method, and I'm all for it.

The noodles use a black pepper soy sauce seasoning packet, with both small potato pieces and chicken nugget 'mystery meat' rests atop. Cook it up and you're given what's essentially boiled potato and chicken nuggets -- if you'd really call it that. Apart from that, however, it's basically your standard Cup Noodle affair, something else I'm totally cool with. If you're in the Japan area anytime soon and are dying to try these, I managed to find mine at a local Family Mart, making the restock process easy once I realized how much they ruled.

If Cup Noodle is your thing, you'll probably want to check out the official website. Following that, the Cup Noodle Twitter account absolutely slaps and is definitely worth checking out too.
 

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Legendary Ghibli Composer Joe Hisaishi Talks 'Ni No Kuni II'

February 19, 2018 9:00pm
by Mike Tamburelli

It seems we've been waiting an eternity for the release of Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom. The sequel to one of my favorite RPGs of all time, the game has already been delayed multiple times having finally settled on the current simultaneous release date of March 23. No worry -- the extra time for polish will certainly only make it a much more worthy follow-up. With the first title, in addition to the action-RPG, monster-collection-focused gameplay, the audio and visual experience that the game offered was enough to practically move me to tears. The artistic direction for the title came from the creative minds at Studio Ghibli, who have said that they approached this game just like they would have approached one of their films. 

One of my absolute favorite aspects of the first title was the musical score by Joe Hisaishi, famed composer known for his personal and artistic bond with legendary anime director Hayao Miyazaki. And while Studio Ghibli in its previous form is not associated with this sequel, many of the creative minds from the original have returned.

Similar to the previous behind-the-scenes video featuring character designer Yoshiyuki Momose, composer Joe Hisaishi gives us a rather personal inside look at the creation process for the game's score. Check it out below.
 

Joe Hisaishi creates music that goes beyond what is expected in gaming. The music used in the battle scenes is unlike anything you've seen in other RPGs. - Akihiro Hino, General Director

The Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra has done an incredible job of bringing this world to life it seems, and I am super happy that Joe Hisaishi has been able to transcend any and all medium to deliver a superb and emotionally charged score every time. 

Images: ​Level-5 Games, Bandai Namco Entertainment

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Signal.MD Remarks on Recovery of an MMO Junkie's Director

February 19, 2018 8:00pm
by Mike Tamburelli

At the beginning of the month, it came to light that a freelance anime director who handled directorial duties for studio Signal.MD's adaptation of Rin Kokuyo's Recovery of an MMO Junkie manga has been both posting and "liking" anti-Semitic content on his public Twitter account. Kazuyoshi Yaginuma, who posts under the handle @yaginuma_san on the platform, has consistently harbored the content on his account since joining in 2011.

 
 

A few things are clear after this event. Namely, that there is clearly no language barrier preventing Yaginuma's full understanding of the things he's sharing. He's gone on to discuss his views with other users who have taken to tweeting directly at him and often does so in both English and Japanese. In addition, he's shown no signs of backing down or apologizing for his remarks since this all came to light, and it almost appears as if he's doubling down on it.

This is all very troubling, and I can't imagine that the freelance director will be scoring any big jobs anytime soon, especially if the language in a recent news release from the studio that produced and animated  Recovery of an MMO Junkie is to be taken to heart:

Statement by SIGNAL MD concerning Tweets under the name of whom the director of “Recovery of an MMO Junkie”

It has come to our attention that a series of Tweets under the handle, @yaginuma_san, apparently made by Mr. Kazuyoshi Yaginuma have included anti-Semitic comments. SIGNAL MD wishes to make it clear that it is strongly opposed to and deprecates anti-Semitism and all forms of racism or discrimination.

Mr. Yaginuma was director of the anime “Recovery of an MMO Junkie” produced by SIGNAL MD, has never been our company member and is no longer employed by us.

Assuming the comments which appear under the Twitter handle @yaginuma_san, were indeed made by Mr. Yaginuma, they are not linked to his role as director of “Recovery of an MMO Junkie” and are not supported by SIGNAL MD.

We will continue to create works that are moving and enjoyable, with the philosophy of giving excitement to many viewers and working to create works that satisfy our clients.

Thank you for your support and understanding.

SIGNAL.MD, Inc.

Additionally, it's also worth mentioning that Crunchyroll parent company Elation has also shared a statement regarding the actions of Kazuyoshi Yaginuma. This is particularly noteworthy as not only were Crunchyroll responsible for streaming the anime internationally, but they were also a member of the anime's production committee. Their statement can be found below:
Again, I think that it's worth mentioning that Kazuyoshi Yaginuma is a freelance director, and Recovery of an MMO Junkie originated as a manga by Rin Kokuyo. This news has certainly been the catalyst for much debate in the department of "separating the art from the artist," as the anime was generally seen as a good-hearted and wholesome attempt to characterize video game addiction, without even a hint of the ugliness we've since learned about. For those who are able to love the show and the original property without letting this taint it -- great, I think it stands on many, many of its other merits. For those who cannot bear to do so any longer, I think that is perfectly understandable.

Images: Signal.MD, Rin Kokuyo, Media Factory

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