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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.


‘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.


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.


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.


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.  


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.


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.


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!