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From 'DEVILMAN Crybaby' to 'Lu Over the Wall', 2018 is the Year of Masaaki Yuasa in the West

May 11, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

While it goes without saying that Masaaki Yuasa has always been accredited as a highly-artistic visionary director within the field of animation, it wouldn't be until this year that his genius was truly recognized by the masses in the Western world. When looking at the year-starting monolith that was DEVILMAN crybaby, and even jumping back to the 2017 Lu Over the Wall (Releasing in North America on May 11, 2018), now, perhaps more than ever before, people aren't just talking about his works -- they're talking about Masaaki Yuasa.
 


With the Gkids release of Lu Over the Wall hitting cinemas across North America today, I wanted to take the time to highlight the incredible career of Masaaki Yuasa. Born in 1965 within the Fukuoka Prefecture, three hours north-west of Tokyo, Masaaki Yuasa began his anime career much like any other renowned creator -- working on children's anime such as Chibi Maruko-chan and Crayon Shin-chan at the age of 25. From there, he'd continue working various animation roles, including animation director, until the year 2004 when he truly put himself on the global map.

During the year 2004, the world was introduced to Masaaki Yuasa's creative genius through the animated film Mind Game, which would later be recognized as the entry point for Yuasa's signature all-over-the-place animation style. Recognized through a number of awards from around the globe, as well as receiving recognition from the late Satoshi Kon, it seemed like all eyes really should have been on Yuasa. In the following years, we'd proceed to see a number of works made alongside Studio MAPPA, but it wouldn't be until 6 years later that Masaaki Yuasa would truly shine again with the airing of The Tatami Galaxy. 

Since the 2010 release of The Tatami Galaxy in the proceeding years, it'd be fair to suggest Masaaki Yuasa has been on a constant rise in recognition not just in Japan, but around the entire globe. With the 2014 release of an all-time favorite anime series of mine, Ping Pong, I again was lucky enough to see Yuasa's creative genius truly resonate. Just a year prior in 2013, we saw Yuasa announce the launch of his most ambitious project yet; his own animation studio under the name of Science Saru. Jump forward again and we see the newly formed Science Saru working alongside American cartoon series Adventure Time, blessing the world with the much-loved "Food Chain" episode from Season 6. 
 

Things went a little quiet for a minute after this, and it became apparent why pretty quickly. In 2017, Masaaki Yuasa released not just one, but two feature-length animated films. Both "Night is Short, Walk on Girl" and "Lu Over the Wall" were immediately met with domestic praise for their gorgeous animation styles and powerful storytelling techniques. Shortly thereafter, Lu Over the Wall would even be recognized as an official selection of the prestigious Sundance festival, and would also go on to win Grand Prize at the Annecy Animation Festival in France.

During the beginning of 2018, just three days before the release of one of Yuasa's most recognized project to date, it was announced that North American film distributor Gkids had acquired both of these films for distribution, as well as 2004's "Mind Game," the very film that put Yuasa on the map in the first place.  It would be three days later, on January 5, 2018, that this move would begin to truly mean something to a much wider audience. DEVILMAN crybaby came in seemingly out of nowhere, leaving a new audience scrambling to find out just who Masaaki Yuasa was, as well as launching his name further into animation royalty. 

Perhaps more than ever before, 2018 truly feels like the year of Masaaki Yuasa internationally; whether it be the recognition earned from DEVILMAN crybaby or the screenings of his animated films such as Lu Over the Wall in North America, I couldn't be more excited. If the past ten years have been anything to go by, there's a whole lot of reasons to look forward to what comes next from the visionary director. While I couldn't necessarily suggest something like DEVILMAN crybaby to the entire audience of Lu Over the Wall, I certainly could suggest the opposite. 

In theaters across North America beginning today, fans of Masaaki Yuasa are not going to want to miss Lu Over the Wall during its theatrical run. With a solid streak of high-performing Japanese animated films taking over the West, we're sure you'll love the stylings of Science Saru in their latest theatrical work. For those interested in checking their nearest cinema screenings, you can head over to the film's official website.

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Animator Kojo Tanno is Crafting Mysterious and Dreamy Shorts

May 22, 2018 3:00pm
by Lizzy Zhang

Do you enjoy the kind of abstract, dialogue-less, post-or-near-apocalyptic, heavy impending-doom-vibe type of story that hits all of the right spots? Did you enjoy ‎Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, Minetarō Mochizuki’s Dragon Head, or all the mysterious hallways and special abilities in Kazuma Kondou’s Deadman Wonderland? Independent animator Kojo Tanno is creating brief clips that capture such aesthetic with a thick air of mystery, all from his home in Nagasaki.

I really don’t feel as if I can properly put his works into words that will do them justice, so check out this short video:
 


A Google search for Tanno will yields mostly ambiguous results, including long-since archived articles by sites such as Crunchyroll and Anime News Network covering his video “VIEW” from 2012. There are quite large gaps between his uploads, with his first Youtube upload, “SAYONARA, WATASHI...” being from well over 9 years ago to date. Since then, however, Kojo Tanno has uploaded a total of 14 videos to his YouTube channel, his most popular being “JOSHI ni tsuite (Regarding Girls) that holds its ground at nearly a million views:
 

With all that being said, however, it's his recent video “QUARANTINE” that has been making its rounds on Twitter as of late. Since its initial posting this past February, I've been digging deeper and deeper into his works, leading me to his recently launched Patreon. Contributors are granted the ability to see his filmmaking progress, ask questions, and buy exclusive merch that he makes available only to patrons. With his Patreon, Tanno aims to gain funds to produce his own film, something that longtime fans have probably been waiting for almost 10 years now. 

Kojo Tanno’s works often have non-conclusive endings that leave your mind to fill in the rest of the story. The symbolism in each video is left to the viewer to contemplate. He’s definitely a mysterious guy, and I’m personally really excited to see where he takes the rest of “QUARANTINE”. If you’d like to follow along as well, be sure to check out Kojo Tanno’s Twitter for updates and occasional livestreams. If you’d like to contribute a little bit every month to his filmmaking, you can find his official Patreon, here

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New ‘Hunter x Hunter’ Collaboration Earring Unveiled

May 22, 2018 2:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

Togashi Yoshihiro’s Hunter x Hunter isn’t the sort of series that gets a lot of merchandise, but that just means that it’s always a special time when some does come out - even when it hits a little too close to home.

Contains spoilers for Hunter x Hunter.

A new collaboration piercing was unveiled today, and it’s not what you’d expect, like a replica of Chrollo Lucifer’s earrings, or even Kurapika’s for that matter. Instead, the iconic and heartbreaking adult form of Gon Freecss - playfully called ‘Gon-san - which he transforms into after giving into his rage and trauma following the revelation that Kite cannot be brought back following despite Neferpitou’s healing powers, is now available to hang on your earlobes.

Coming in at around 3000 yen for the normal version and 10,000 yen for the ‘high-end model,’ the earring highlights Gon’s extremely long hair in this form - making the piercing very long, around 90mm in fact. Depending on how your ears are pierced and your personal preference, you can also choose between an earring and piercing design for the part that attaches to the earlobe. Wearing just one of the unique ear pieces looks great, as shown below, but you can also buy a pair of them. Pre-orders will be open until August 5 on Premium Bandai’s website.



Seeing such a heartbreaking and iconic part of the series turned into an accessory was surprising to hear at first, but after seeing images of the design, I must admit that it definitely makes for a rather unique accessory. That being said, this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen Gon’s adult form turned into apparel, as he also made an appearance on one of the Jump 50th Anniversary Uniqlo collaboration shirts. These shirts have quickly made themselves at home in my closet, so I suppose wearing an earring of Gon-san isn’t a step that much further removed - even if it is a little bit close to home.

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MONDO GROSSO Shares New Music Video for 'One Temperature'

May 22, 2018 1:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Following up from the March 21, 2018, release of MONDO GROSSO's seventh studio album, "Attune / Detune," the legendary producer is back with their latest collaborative music video alongside Big-O, "One Temperature". Shared via the official avex YouTube channel earlier today, the music video utilizes a number of 90s filmography techniques to create the perfect throwback sound to accompany the song's hip-hop lyrical basis. Let's take a look at the music video below:
 


Released within the nine-track album "Attune / Detune" that released earlier this year, "One Temperature" takes MONDO GROSSO's signature sound to fresh places, something that rung especially true across the whole album. I couldn't picture the track with vocals from anyone else, either, as Big-O lets the lyrics flow in a manner only he can execute so well. There's little room for error on this track, as well as the rest of the album, and this one is definitely going to be bopping for days on end. 

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Puma x Sega Sonic & Dr. Eggman Sneakers to Release June 5

May 22, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

It was just a short period of time ago during the month of March that the world was first teased with initial images of SEGA and Puma's collaborative Sonic the Hedgehog sneakers. The initial pixelated imagery left a lot to the imagination, but it wasn't until earlier today that we finally got our first real look at the RS-0 Sonic and RS-0 Dr. Eggman sneakers, as well as their release date and price point. Set to hit the streets on June 5, 2018, at a total cost of $130 USD, the sneakers are a mostly subtle throwback to a couple of gamings most iconic characters. 
 


Initial impressions of the sneakers are scattered and mixed, with some in love with the inspired designs and colorways, while others are finding faults in the "high price point" and material choices. While I sit on the positive side of the fence when it comes to this one, I will admit I'm not exactly jumping at the initial images of the materials, though that could change when I actually get to see a pair of these sneakers in person. I can't picture everyone picking these up as everyday pieces, but I'm sure any fan of the series could incorporate them quite well.

Set to be made available worldwide from June 5 at a price point of $130 USD, you'll likely want to jump on these early before they sell out. Those interested in picking up a pair can make their way to the official website for further information.

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‘Steins;Gate 0’ Takes Over Akihabara With Collaboration Events

May 21, 2018 4:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

Akihabara is featured in many anime, but I think it’s safe to say that none of them have been as effective at advertising the otaku hub as the science-fiction adventure series Steins;Gate.

The way that Okabe, Mayuri, Daru et al. are situated so well in the locale has gone a long way in making the area an integral part of the series. This, along with the excellent storytelling and character writing, has been an excellent advertisement for the otaku hub since the original game’s release to critical praise in 2009. For me as well, experiencing the same locale as the characters of Steins;Gate and being able to feel the spirit of the series in the area is a key part of why I love it so much.

That being said, with the new Steins;Gate 0 anime beginning it’s broadcast this season, it seems only fitting that the whole city mobilizes to advertise it. And so it has - not just with billboards on the Sofmap and Sega buildings, but with a multitude of collaboration events and goods also.

Running until May 31, the first major collaboration is with the AR app “Butai Meguri,” which will be using Akihabara as it’s playing field for a new Steins;Gate themed adventure titled “OPERATION;HEPHAISTOS.” This is actually the second time the app has crossed over with the series, previously running an event in Saitama. By using the app and visiting iconic Akihabara locations such as Chuo-Dori and Animate, players will receive a free badge set featuring Kurisu and Maho. There are only eight locations to visit, and anyone familiar with the area will probably be able to do it in no time, so it definitely seems worth giving a go.

During the time of this event, there are also plenty of food-related events scheduled. Firstly, Cafe Mailish is holding a special event to in honor of the “Supa Hacka” himself, Daru. It will feature a special themed menu as well as a gallery for the loveable otaku himself. An odd choice perhaps, but not when you realize that Daru’s birthday was actually on May 19 - so I’d like to think that we’re throwing the often unappreciated Daru a birthday party.

Kanazawa-style curry chain GOGO Curry will also be serving up a special collaboration curry and clear file in their Chuo-Dori store. The curry utilizes fried chicken - an ode to Mayuri’s own love for “Juicy Karaage Number One” - which is in turn drizzled with a yellow sauce, named “Gelsauce” after the “gelbananas” of the first series. I was able to sample the dish, and as usual, the curry was excellent, but what made it even better was the clear file that came with it. The humorous design features Okabe holding some GOGO curry and Kurisu with one of their signature forks. This collaboration curry will set you back 1200 yen, a little expensive but definitely worth it.

Even if you’re just walking around Akihabara, not aiming to participate in any of the above events, it seems almost impossible to escape the series at the minute - many of the vending machines have been adorned with Steins;Gate characters, Dr. Pepper is doing a crossover with the series, and even without any explicit reference to the series, it seems as though Steins;Gate has once more entered into the soul of Akihabara. As it should be.

For more details on collaboration events, check out the official website

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Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is Coming to Nintendo Switch... Via Streaming

May 21, 2018 3:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

In a weird turn of events, Capcom announced earlier today that they're bringing Resident Evil 7: Biohazard to Nintendo Switch in Japan on May 24, 2018, but only a version of the game that has to be streamed via their cloud servers. If that wasn't odd enough, beyond the fact that you're streaming the game, at no point will you actually "own" the title, with Capcom requiring players buy 180 day passes at the price of 2,000 yen every half-a-year. 
 


Those interested in playing the game will be able to simply go to the JP Nintendo eShop and download the 45mb Resident Evil cloud application, beginning the initial 15-minute trial before deciding if they want to purchase the full game pass. Included in the cloud version of the game, players will have access to all available DLC including Banned Footage Vol. 1 & 2, End of Zoe, and Not A Hero. Players are recommended to either have a 5ghz router or be using ethernet to enjoy a stable experience, though internet speeds will definitely be a major factor.

While it isn't particularly a standard in the West, nor in most of the world just yet, cloud streamed games have unfortunately been gaining more and more traction over here in Japan. Just recently we saw the launch of Phantasy Star Online 2 for the Nintendo Switch running on a similar cloud streaming platform. In my personal experience with that title, in particular, the game was riddled with lag and delays which effectively rendered it unplayable for the better part. We'll definitely have to see how Resident Evil 7 performs, especially if it is following that same path. 

While there's currently no official word of a Western release of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard on Nintendo Switch in the West, and we quite strongly doubt there ever will be in this format, we'll be sure to keep you up to date if any information does arise. Until then, we'll be giving the Japanese eShop version a try. Those interested in checking out further information can find it via the official website.

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FLCL Progressive Receives New Trailer Ahead of June Premiere

May 21, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

The countdown has begun and we're officially less than two weeks away from the June 2 premiere of Toonami's FLCL Progressive. In preparation for the story that's about to unfold before our very eyes, Adult Swim has begun streaming the first English dubbed trailer for the series. The first entry into two brand new FLCL stories, FLCL Progressive follows 14-year-old schoolgirl Hidomi as her life takes a turn for the weird as we're taken through the wild ride that is adolescence. Let's take a look at the new trailer below:
 


Set to premiere on Adult Swim's Toonami block on June 2nd, 12:00 am (Eastern Time), FLCL Progressive will consist of a total of six episodes. Viewers in Japan will have it a little differently, however, with the show set to release as a single film that will actually come out after the other story, FLCL Alternative. Reasoning and structure behind this are currently unknown, but that could make for an interesting twist amongst international discussion. Toonami describes the series below:

FLCL Progressive tells the story of 14-year-old Hidomi, her classmate Ide, and two otherworldly beings, "Jinyu" and "Haruha Raharu," who are determined to unlock their hidden potential. Mixed up in this is an all-powerful force known as "ATOMSK," a gorgeous vintage car... and a certain Vespa Scooter.

For many international anime fans, the original FLCL acted as a cornerstone in their developmental years alongside the anime medium. Now over 18-years since the original series aired on television, we're given the opportunity to expose an entirely new audience to such an important series in fresh and exciting ways. With less than two weeks to wait until the series finally premieres, we'll be sure to keep you updated as further information is revealed. Until then, be sure to check out the official website.

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