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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.


TORIENA Releases Latest 'Doping Life' Music Video

September 24, 2018 3:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

There's no room for error when I say that TORIENA has been absolutely killing it since the release of her latest album "SIXTHSENSE RIOT" nationwide in Japan, and she's only just getting started. Today marked the release of her latest music video for "Doping Life", the third track off the album, and it entirely rules. Whether you're starting or ending your day, perhaps TORIENA's perfect blend of Game Boy's, music, food, and muscle men will keep you going. 

Originally teased all the way back in June, TORIENA called on Macho29 member Tatsuma Sugawara to flex it out to the tune of her latest work. The result of the collaboration is a HI-NRG celebration of food, music, and games that's too delicious to pass up on, with TORIENA fearlessly commanding "Eat, cool. Play, cool. Listen music cool". The whole song has us moving, which doesn't come as too much surprise giving TORIENA's long-running track record of incredible music. 

Released October 17 in Japan, TORIENA's latest album "SIXTHSENSE RIOT" is absolutely not something to sleep on. Available now both digitally and physically, further information on the release can be found via TORIENA's official website.


[TGS 2018] Judge Eyes Gameplay Impressions

September 24, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

It hasn't even been a full month since SEGA announced their upcoming Judge Eyes (Project Judge in the West) for PlayStation 4, yet already the Japanese gaming giant is going completely in on the marketing push. This means a lot of things, but most important for someone like me who absolutely can't wait to get their hands on the title, this meant that the game got some serious representation at SEGA's booth during Tokyo Game Show. Seizing this opportunity, I got some-twenty-minutes of gameplay time as protagonist Takayuki Yagami crawling through the streets of Kamurocho. 

With a scheduled release date of December 13, 2018, in Japan, and already three years worth of development put into Judge Eyes, it comes to little surprise that the demo made available at Tokyo Game Show felt extremely fleshed out. This comes to no surprise, of course, with visionary director Toshihiro Nagoshi handling the project alongside his Ryu ga Gotoku Studio staff, who you may know as the team responsible for the massively-popular Yakuza series. 

Though it didn't come as too much of a surprise, the Tokyo Game Show demo was the same made available on the PlayStation Store just a few weeks prior. This time, however, there were a couple of new additions including a VR playground and drone racing minigame that kept us pre-occupied for a little while. The real action came in with the story mode, kicking things right off with a trailing mission that took us through the back streets of Kamurocho and right into a number of goons who you'd throw down with.

Gameplay was smooth, maybe even more so than that of the recently released Yakuza Kiwami 2, with sneaking around the streets feeling both fluid and responsive. You'll also see a return of that same great fight system utilized in the Yakuza series, with a few tweaks here and there to make sure it feels fresh. The characters who had been introduced were all enjoyable in their native language, and I'm sure the localization team will again work their magic to make sure they're as loveable in English too. 

If I had to share a complaint about the demo experience, however, the most glaring fault would be that I absolutely waited in line for over an hour to play a trailing mission. While I understand that this will likely be a large part of the game, I can't shake the feeling that they really could have left a more impactful impression on players who were warned they'd be unlikely to finish the demo due to its slow paced nature. At any rate, you'd be hard-pressed finding many actual faults with the demo, and I can't wait to see its story fully fleshed out when the title eventually releases in English next year.

Currently slated to release December 13, 2018, in Japan, further details on the upcoming Judge Eyes can be found via the game's official website.


[TGS 2018] Dragon Quest Builders 2 Gameplay Impressions

September 24, 2018 1:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

With Tokyo Game Show 2018 well underway, we spent most of our weekend making our way over to the unfortunately distant landmark location of Makuhari Messe to try our hand at a handful of games, one of which included Square Enix's upcoming title Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Nintendo Switch. 

There are few games on Nintendo Switch that I've spent more time enjoying than the original Dragon Quest Builders which released in English earlier this year. For hours on end, I'd find myself mindlessly building upon my town, adventuring and killing monsters, then finally completing the game's big ol' story. With Dragon Quest Builders 2, it seems like Square Enix intends to expand upon all of that and so much more, something I learned while playing the timed demo on Nintendo Switch in portable mode.

Picking right up from the beginning of the game, we're introduced to a much more narrative driven tutorial than what was found in the original game. We see our protagonist locked upon a pirate ship, constantly teased under the threat of death, the young creator must appease his or her captors in a number of various mini-missions. Exploring the ship feels enjoyable, with the addition of first-person mode making for some genuinely entertaining moments. 

While the whole demo played in Japanese-language, the dialogue and interactions were all enjoyable and offered a unique charm that I can't wait to see translated. Unfortunately, with the game's time restrictions, I wasn't able to get much further than the initial tutorial zone; that being said, however, that in and of itself was enjoyable, regardless of already knowing the game's controls from the previous entry. I'm still tossing up as to whether or not I want to pick the title up on PlayStation 4 or Nintendo Switch, with the portability definitely being a relevant factor.

Overall my experience with Dragon Quest Builders 2 was about everything I could have hoped for -- a fun, charming title that simply builds upon the already polished formula from the first game. Whether you're a fan of Dragon Quest as a franchise, or simply a fan of sandbox building games with a side of adventure, chances are you'll love Dragon Quest Builders 2. 

Set to release on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch in Japan on December 20, 2018. There's currently no word as to whether or not it will be coming to the West, though we can only hope it will, especially given the recent Dragon Quest push internationally. Further information on the upcoming title can be found via its official website.


[TGS 2018] Jump Force Gameplay Impressions

September 24, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

With Tokyo Game Show 2018 well underway, we spent most of our weekend making our way over to the unfortunately distant landmark location of Makuhari Messe to try our hand at a handful of games, one of which included Bandai Namco's upcoming Jump Force title on PlayStation 4. 

One of fifteen total playable titles from Bandai Namco at Tokyo Game Show, Jump Force was easily one of the most important for me to check. With all the hype surrounding the arena fighter, as well as its constantly expanding roster of fighters straight out of the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump Magazine's biggest series', there was more than a few reasons for people to be excited. While the game's story mode wasn't available for play, I was given some hands-on time with the games versus mode.

With a small-yet-stacked lineup of characters made available in the demo, of which I could play through two rounds, I was quick to choose my three-person team consisting of Goku, Naruto, and Gon against an enemy team of Frieza, Blackbeard, and Sasuke. I had chosen a rather oddball roster of fighters to pit against each other, but there was an odd beauty to that factor. I ended up singling out New York as the stage to fight on, which proved an excellent choice as the entire environment was gorgeous. 

One of my biggest skepticisms towards Jump Force before getting my hands on the game was its outlandishly polished visual style, but that took no time at all to be completely dismissed. While actually playing the game, you're thrust into a gorgeous and vibrant environment that looks absolutely incredible. Racing around the maps feels fluid, and there's nothing more satisfying than smashing someone through a cavalcade of buildings before landing that one last K.O. on your enemy.

With that being said though, the game did have its fair share of plights; firstly, the game's fighting system feels entirely one-dimensional. The combo system requires no more than a simple two-button input, with some moves being as simple as spamming the same button over and over to achieve a high-level move. While this might be inviting to new players, it leaves little incentive for seasoned veterans of the fighting game genre to jump onboard -- arguably those who would have been the games core audience.

For what its worth, however, Jump Force is honestly a pretty enjoyable game and also manages to leave a lasting visual impression -- but I can't say just how long that enjoyment will last. I'd definitely need some more hands-on time with the game to really judge how I truly feel about it. If you've got any investment in the playable characters, you'll probably have a lot of fun. But it's also hard to tell just how much the game will stand out without getting to play the story mode too.

Set to release in February 2019, there's still a lot left to learn about Jump Force before it releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC early next year. Until then, however, further information on the title can be found via the game's official website.


Hunter x Hunter Editor Teases ‘God-like Chapter’ for Series’ Return

September 21, 2018 2:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

Another year, another hiatus for Hunter x Hunter. At this point, there’s not much that creator Yoshihiro Togashi can do to alleviate the ennui of long-time fans who have been disappointed with the slow pacing and intermittent publishing schedule ever since the series moved onto it’s latest ‘Dark Continent’ arc all the way back in 2012. Or at least, that's how it seemed, with recent comments from the editor of the series would have us believe that things are really going to start heating up.

Hunter x Hunter series editor Moji’s comments come from the NHK series 100 Cameras, which sees one hundred cameras placed in the Weekly Shonen Jump office to chart the activities of the editorial staff as they struggle with the various problems that come from the hectic environment of weekly publication. Moji was featured in a short scene from last Monday’s show, where the following exchange happened between him and a cameraman.

Moji: “I’ve just gotten my hands on something seriously crazy.”
Cameraman: “What?
Moji: “A God-like chapter?”
Cameraman: “...what god-like chapter?”
Moji: “It’s been a long time since I received a manuscript that brought me to tears.”

The manuscript that Moji clutches in the scene is of course none other than the latest chapter for Hunter x Hunter, which has come out of hiatus for the second time this year to resume in next week’s issue (September 24).

It’s easy to get excited at comments such as these, especially since fans have been waiting so long for the newest arc of the series to pick up and show us it’s full potential, but it is important to take these comments with a fairly large pinch of salt. It’s in Moji’s best interests to get fans excited about the new chapter so that the magazine’s sales can be boosted, so it’s possible that he may be overexaggerating for publicity purposes.

That being said, Hunter x Hunter is penned by the mad genius Yoshihiro Togashi, and he’s done some pretty crazy stuff in the past. But with the current arc still in the midst of heavy exposition in order to set up the new breed of Nen powers, the only shocking thing I can really think of is a major character death - and there’s certainly a fair few candidates. Obviously, Kurapika himself would be the most devastating death, but since he has effectively become the main character at this point, it’s unlikely that Togashi would shoot himself in the foot in such a way. If anyone’s going to die, then I’d argue it to be Leorio - he’s never served much of a purpose anyway and would be a good way to add some stakes to the current arc for Kurapika.

Either way, we don’t have long to wait to see what the true nature of Moji’s comments was, with the latest chapter of the series releasing next Monday. I certainly can’t wait to get my hands on it.


‘Karakuri Circus’ to Get Hardcover Reprint in Preparation for Upcoming Anime

September 21, 2018 1:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

The announcement of an anime adaptation of Kazuhiro Fujita’s Karakuri Circus earlier this year came as a surprise to everyone and brought a lot of attention to a series which had previously enjoyed a fairly small cult following. So to prepare for the anime’s premiere next month, publisher Shogakukan will be releasing a new edition of the series, featuring never-seen-before material in an all-new format -- perfect for long-time fans and newcomers alike.

Titled “Complete Edition,” this new reprint of Karakuri Circus will be A5 sized, making it slightly bigger than original takonbon releases but slightly smaller than the original magazine print. Still, the bigger size will let you appreciate Fujita’s excellent artwork all the better, and will come in handy when it comes to some of the Complete Edition extra features, which include never-seen-before production notes, illustrations, and character sheets, along with all of the original color pages from its initial run in Weekly Shonen Sunday.

For longtime fans of the series, this is a fantastic opportunity to dive back into Fujita’s masterpiece in an all-new fashion, and for newcomers to the series, it’s a fantastic opportunity to read the manga before the anime begins airing. Even though the anime begins in merely a month from now, since two volumes will be released each month from now on, it’ll keep a good pace with the anime adaptation, and will perhaps tide over those viewers who’d prefer to wait for the Blu-rays to release.

Furthermore, with VIZ recently announcing their English release of Naoki Urasawa’s similar cult hit 20th Century Boy’s Japanese hardcover, deluxe edition under the name The Perfect Edition, it definitely wouldn’t surprise me if another publisher follows suit by licensing this deluxe edition of Karakuri Circus, especially when considering the hype for the upcoming anime. Nevertheless,  both volumes one and two of the Complete Edition are now available in Japanese stores. They are priced at 1400 yen each, and you can check them out via Shogakukan’s official website.


Taito Brings The True Space Invaders Experience Home In Japan With Arcade1Up

September 20, 2018 4:00pm
by Eddie Lehecka

Arcade pioneer Taito has announced this week at Tokyo Game Show that they're teaming up with US home arcade startup Arcade1Up to bring their 3/4th sized cabinets to Japan starting in December. 

Priced at 58,000¥, the newly designed and manufactured cabinets are made to provide as close to an authentic gameplay experience as possible to the original machines released back in the late 1970s. Arcade1Up announced their products for the US market earlier this year, featuring an array of influential and popular classic arcade titles to be released in an affordable and size-efficient manner for anyone who has dreamed of owning an arcade machine with their favorite game. What makes the Tokyo Game Show announcement so exciting (aside from the release in Japan) is that two new offerings, Space Invaders & Pac-Man, are being shown off on the show floor.

These arcade replicas are actually a brilliant solution for the Japanese market as space is often very limited in the average building. These smaller form factor cabinets are perfect for any office or homeowner looking to add some fun to their surroundings. They even use the original artwork and design of the classic cabinets, making them an eye-catching decorative piece as well!

The first 3 cabinets are going to be released in December of this year, with pre-orders for Japanese buyers currently available on Amazon. If you're in Japan and want more details on how to buy, check out the official Taito website for the product. If you're in America and want to see Arcade1Up's other offerings, check out their official website for more information.