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Previewing New Shonen Jump Acting Series 'ACT-AGE'

March 10, 2018 12:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

Considering the success of Bakuman in it’s run in Weekly Shonen Jump from 2008 to 2012, it was probably only a matter of time before it’s imitators began to show up.

Today we'll be taking a look at ACT-AGE, the latest addition to Weekly Shonen Jump stemming from newcomers Tatsuya Matsuki and Shiro Usazaki, who follow in the footsteps of the Death Note and Bakuman powerhouse duo Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata in creating another manga based around the world of a certain profession. This time, however, instead of creating manga, Matsuki and Usazaki center their story around acting. Our protagonist is high-schooler Kei Yonagi, who has always dreamed of becoming an actress and has an amazing latent potential for method acting. Guiding her is genius but mysterious director Kuroyama Sumiji, along with his assistant and Yonagi’s younger siblings. The series is currently in serialization in Weekly Shonen Jump.

At the time of writing only seven chapters have been released, but already the series has several key conundrums it needs to address. Firstly, just how well will the two rookie authors cope with the hectic serialization environment? Even the best, most creative authors are whittled down over time – Yoshihiro Togashi, the Hunter x Hunter mangaka, comes to mind – and so it wouldn’t be far-sighted to assume that the duo will face some serious hardships in crafting their story, something that can prove a challenge in pushing consistent quality content. Even if they are a duo and their workload is effectively halved, serialization can be a tough workflow that needs to quickly be adapted to.

Secondly, unlike Bakuman, ACT-AGE lacks an inherent central structure to the story, which makes life hard for the authors. Whereas Ohba and Obata could rely on the mechanics of Weekly Shounen Jump, such as weekly rankings and one-shots to springboard their ideas of off; ACT-AGE is not afforded such a luxury. After all, the concept of ‘acting’ is a huge topic and encompasses many mediums, from film and television to radio and theatre. It will take some creativity in finding a central structure for the series, as without one the possibilities of where the series could go are far too broad. In the short term at least, it does seem that the authors are aware of this, and have already moved into a tournament arc in the form of auditions for a movie. However, in the long term, it remains to be seen whether or not the authors can tie the story to a central structure as Bakuman did, which will help sustain the series in the long run.

In turn, Bakuman casts a huge shadow over the series. The series’ popularity and commercial success were no doubt one of the reasons that ACT-AGE was approved for serialization in the first place, which is why I keep comparing the two, but to even come close to Bakuman in terms of quality is a hefty goal. For four years and twenty volumes, Bakuman was an expertly paced and told an incredibly insightful story with a vibrant and memorable cast of characters, crafted by two experienced authors at the height of their skill. The latent differences between it and ACT-AGE could not be more apparent.

In response to this challenge, the series has two options – either establish itself as a series distinct in identity from Bakuman or match it in terms of quality. Both are equally difficult, but it is imperative that the series addresses the shadow looming over it.

Despite these challenges, the series does have a certain charm to it that has kept me excited for each new chapter. Usazaki’s art style is unique but expressive, something essential for a manga about acting. Yonagi’s character design, gangly and seemingly unhealthy, along with her abrasive and quirky personality makes for one of the more interesting Jump protagonists, even if Kuroyama’s self-confident and arrogant personality does seem a little tried and tested in contrast.

In addition, much like Bakuman, the series clearly has a passion for the art of acting and has already succeeded in showing many differing, interesting sides to the craft. The first chapter saw Yonagi’s strengths as a method actor in action, with her subconsciously defending her siblings from an imaginary wolf, but was later explored further as a weakness, as she could not stand idle during a scene where a child was murdered despite being told to do so by the director, because it would betray her own thoughts and feelings. This short exploration of how method acting can hinder an actor since they cannot do something that would betray their own experiences has already proven to be an interesting plot point that I’m sure will be explored further.

Even though I did point out the potential pitfalls ahead for the rookie authors, I must admit that the series has been, so far, very well paced and developed. Each chapter has served as both a satisfying slice of dramatic action, as well as a tantalizing taste of what is to come. Furthermore, instead of launching straight into the story, the authors took their time in the first seven chapters to firmly establish the characters of Yonagi and Kuroyama, which will serve as an important groundwork for the reader in the future as the series will undoubtedly introduce more characters. Thus, the first seven chapters haven’t been groundbreaking in terms of story events, but since they have served this introductory purpose, they haven’t felt unnecessary or uninteresting. 

What’s more is that the authors do seem to have somewhat of a plan for the future of the story, as in the last chapter we were finally introduced to the ‘angel’ of the acting world Momoshiro Chiyoko, who was already hinted in the first chapter when she was seen on a billboard that Yonagi was looking up at. This clearly shows that the authors have the future of the series already somewhat sketched out, which will hopefully allow them to continue to pace the story well like they have been doing in the initial chapters.

As it stands, these are only initial impressions, but ACT-AGE does seem to have a lot of potentials to become a worthy addition to the Jump line-up, but only if it can effectively navigate the pitfalls ahead of it. I really hope that the authors can overcome their rookie status and go on to create something truly great, something that can rival Bakuman. Even so, until the first volume of the series comes out, I wouldn’t recommend jumping into the series just yet, for fear of it being canceled if a drop in quality occurs. 

You can find out more information about ACT-AGE here (Japanese) and here (English). Viz is also translating the series in their English version of Weekly Shonen Jump.


Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time International Release Date Announced

March 16, 2018 4:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Studio TRIGGER's incredible Little Witch Academia was a series that stole our hearts all the way back when the first movie released in 2013. After a second film would go on to be crowdfunded entirely by fans across the globe, and a massively-successful anime series would be produced in 2017, it was finally teased that Little Witch Academia would be receiving its own video game on both PlayStation 4 and Steam.

Well, you're not going to need to wait much longer to get your hands on the game, with Bandai Namco Entertainment announcing audiences in the United States and Europe would be able to begin playing the game from May 15. In celebration of this announcement, Bandai Namco Entertainment began streaming the game's opening movie:

Having launched in the latter half of 2017 in Japan, it's exciting to see that English-speaking audiences will finally be able to have their hand at the game. Described as a "3D Action Beat Em' Up" by the team at Bandai Namco Entertainment, you can check out the game's original story below:

Having been inspired by a famous witch named Shiny Chariot, an ordinary girl named Atsuko (Akko) Kagari enrolls at Luna Nova Magical Academy, a prestigious school for young girls training to become witches. Before starting summer vacation, Akko and her new classmates find out about an inexplicable phenomenon at Luna Nova caused by the Seven Wonders, which has been passed down for several centuries. Now it's up to Akko as she takes on the adventure to unravel the mystery surrounding the Seven Wonders.

With just a couple of short months until fans can get their hands on the game, we want to know what you're hoping to see. You can find further information about Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time on the official website.


FLCL 2 & 3 Get a New Visual From Character Designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto

March 16, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

There's a lot of hype building for the upcoming FLCL 2 & 3 anime all around me, and it's not without good reason. Produced by Production I.G. and set to release at an undisclosed time in 2018, the series builds off the original Gainax & Production I.G. anime from early 2000. We've got a feeling we'll be seeing a bit about the series announced during the upcoming Anime Japan, but before that, we've been given a new visual from character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto. 

There's a bit to take in from this image, most notably of which probably includes Haruko Haruhara in the background, as well as the classic Vespa SS 180 that kicked the whole series off almost 18 years ago. Additionally, we see new character Hidomi front and center who you may recognize from the trailer that released some time ago. Also yes, they feature those same Axent Wear look-alike headphones that caused all the controversy when the trailer first released.

Set to air as to six-episode series in the United States, FLCL 2 & 3 acts as both a tribute and continuation of the adventures of Haruko Haruhara and Naoto Nandaba. We're excited to see the directions the new season of the series takes us, and hope it leaves the same impact it did all those years ago. You can find the official website for FLCL here.


SKY-HI Shares Latest Single 'Nani Sama' w/ Music Video ft. Moga Mogami

March 16, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

It's been about five years now since I first heard the lyrical-stylings of Tokyo-based rapper SKY-HI when he collaborated with Japanese trackmaker Tofubeats on the mind-melting "Fresh Salad" from his Lost Decade album. Ove those five years, we've seen the growth and progression of SKY-HI in his solo career outside of his usual work with Japanese pop unit AAA. Today we see the next step in that progression with the release of "Nani Sama feat. Boku no Ririkku no Bouyomi," a hard-hitting track featuring incredible production value and lyrics. 

Released ahead of his upcoming "Best Catalyst" album which is set to release digitally on March 21, the track was shared alongside an extraordinary Atsunori Toushi-directed music video. Those watching the music video might be surprised to spot Moga Mogami in there, playing the focus character in this unbelievably gorgeous music video. I'm not quite sure whether it's a crime to write about, or in this case affiliated artists three days in a row, but I'm doing it anyway.

If you're interested in checking out SKY-HI's upcoming album, you can pick it up for digital pre-order here.


Galaxxxy Is About to Present Their Latest Time Sale to the World Live

March 15, 2018 6:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Testing, testing... is this thing on? HAI DOMO, Tokyo-based fashion brand Galaxxxy desu!

If you're not in the know about Tokyo-based fashion brand Galaxxxy, that needs to change. They're a model example of Tokyo's vibrant and colorful street fashion scene, and you've absolutely seen us talk about them plenty. Well, they're about to go digital in the most literal use of the word, broadcasting themselves live as they share their latest time sale. Taking place on March 19 from their Shibuya flagship store, viewers from around the globe will be able to tune in and get their hands on some seriously good sales.

Hosting the stream will be Galaxxxy store staff member @yaaaaaneee and guest @mio.the_newperformer. Those of you interested in tuning in listen close; the live stream will be taking place at 9:00 pm (PST) and at 1:00 pm (JST) and will run for a total of an hour. If you're looking for where to go, look no further. Galaxxxy will be hosting the stream on their official website, which is accessible here. I'll definitely be in the stream checking out everything that's shared and maybe even picking up a few new pieces myself.

Image: Galaxxxy


MyAnimeList Has Opened Their Own Online Manga Store

March 15, 2018 4:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

MyAnimeList has announced their latest venture, kicking off their digital manga store as part of a partnership with both Viz Media and Kodansha Comics earlier this month. It's an interesting move for the indexing website, with the store currently available in a handful of countries across the globe. 

As of the time of writing this piece, there are currently roughly 200 titles from both publishers, with more being added in the near future. Taking a look through the website, and you'll find prices ranging from $6.00 to $12.00 and above.The store integrates the now 12-year-old database's extensive index into the store and vice-versa, allowing for individuals to discover and learn more about any given manga series before diving into it. 

Those of you interested in checking out the new digital manga store can head over to MyAnimeList and get reading!


Kyoto Animation's 'Violet Evergarden' is Coming to Netflix in the US in April

March 15, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

It's been a long wait for fans of Kyoto Animation in the United States when it came to watching the Netflix-exclusive Violet Evergarden, but it seems that wait is finally coming to a close. While much of the rest of the world was logging into the online streaming service weekly to view episodes simulcasted alongside their airing in Japan, the United States had been exempt until the full series finished airing for "binge-viewing" purposes, as Netflix likes to put it. Listed for an April 5 premiere date in the United States, it's time to catch up on the series' first season.

Originally airing in Japan on January 10, and becoming available in select regions internationally on January 11, it's taken almost four months for the US to get their hands on the visually spectacular series. Originally catching the eyes of the anime fandom at large following the release of the first CM which utilized some of the most complex animations in a very long time, it immediately hit the must-watch list for many including myself. For those of you unfamiliar, you can find the series' full synopsis below:

The Great War finally came to an end after four long years of conflict; fractured in two, the continent of Telesis slowly began to flourish once again. Caught up in the bloodshed was Violet Evergarden, a young girl raised for the sole purpose of decimating enemy lines. Hospitalized and maimed in a bloody skirmish during the War's final leg, she was left with only words from the person she held dearest, but with no understanding of their meaning.

Recovering from her wounds, Violet starts a new life working at CH Postal Services after a falling out with her new intended guardian family. There, she witnesses by pure chance the work of an "Auto Memory Doll," amanuenses that transcribe people's thoughts and feelings into words on paper. Moved by the notion, Violet begins work as an Auto Memory Doll, a trade that will take her on an adventure, one that will reshape the lives of her clients and hopefully lead to self-discovery.

If you're curious to check it out, or have been waiting an entire four months to get your Violet Evergarden itch scratched, you can find the series on Netflix, here


Moe Shop Releases Latest EP 'Moe Moe'

March 15, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

After much waiting, France-based producer Moe Shop's latest EP "Moe Moe" is finally available in digital format. The EP, which calls on the talents of some of Japan's greatest female artists, went live at 12:00 pm (JST) and has seemingly been making waves both in Japan and around the globe since. We originally broke the news that the EP was in the works just a few months ago, and after all that waiting, we couldn't be happier with the end result.

Looking at the first half of the EP, we open with the shimmering sounds of "Magic (w/ MYLK)," instantly tearing listeners away from the moment and throwing them into a funk-driven groove, straying away from anything the artist has ever put out before. Following that up is the sensual collaboration with Puniden, "Virtual," a tongue-in-cheek story of love that blows me away every time. One of the most requested collaborations in recent memory, both Moe Shop, and YUC'e go above and beyond in "Baby Pink," and I can only hope to see the duo team up again in the future.

Jumping to the second half of the EP, we're thrust into the hard-hitting flow of newcomer maisou in "Lovesick," a first-time collaboration for the duo. Breaking through after this is "Notice (w/ TORIENA)," one of the earliest pieces from the EP. Putting down the Gameboy for just a moment to demand "Senpai" to notice her, TORIENA absolutely kills it here. Wrapping the whole EP up is one of my absolute favorites, "Fantasy (w/ MONICO)," a whispy slow-paced track that makes for the perfect end to the EP. Its down tempo leads combined with MONICO's de-tuned vocals send shivers down my spine every time.

If you're interested in checking out more of Moe Shop's works, you can find them on both Spotify and Bandcamp. Moe Shop's latest EP "Moe Moe" is available for purchase here.