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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.


Tanuki Drops New Single 'Radiant Memories', Remakes and Mashes 'Plastic Love' & 'Sparkle'

June 19, 2018 3:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Whilst Scottish trackmaker TANUKI may be best known for his eclectic range of J-Core production values, it'd arguably be the field of future funk that he found the most success. Creating two of the most iconic tracks of the genre, including "BABY BABYの夢", there's been a demand for more ever since, and we've finally almost got it. But a traditional future funk edit simply wouldn't be enough for TANUKI, instead opting to completely remake the tracks he's working with, and the end result is nothing short of gorgeous. 

In TANUKI's latest release, "Radiant Memories," stemming from his upcoming Kanji Title EP, the artist sees himself recreating both Mariya Takeuchi's "Plastic Love" and Tatsuro Yamashita's "Sparkle" before mixing them all together into something beautiful. The end result is nothing short of incredible, bringing new life to two of the most iconic songs of the decade. Set to be released in the coming weeks, we most definitely can't wait to see what TANUKI puts together this time with the rest of the EP. 

Further works from TANUKI can be found via his official SoundCloud and Twitter.


Shigeru Miyamoto Shares a Few Choice Words for Australian Fans

June 19, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Shigeru Miyamoto is known for a lot of different things, from being a representative director at Nintendo, all the way to being the creator of legendary series such as Mario and The Legend of Zelda,  but now you can add him being a true blue legend to the list. In a recent video shared with Nintendo of Australia and New Zealand, Miyamoto was seen on the show floor at E3 2018 giving a special message to the fans down under in regards to the latest Super Mario Odyssey, and it absolutely rules.

Being an Australian living in Japan, it's pretty cool to see a shoutout including such "choice, bro" words to my home country, even if it is this ridiculously goofy. The grin on his face during the entire video says it all, even he knows how ridiculously funny this all is. This one definitely deserves to go in the history books as one of Nintendo's greatest moments and is probably one of the best things to come out of this year's E3 event. It's also worth noting that as a true blue gamer myself, I've already managed to collect all the moons, and can't wait to see what additional content finds its way into the game, as Miyamoto stated.

Keep at it Miyamoto, ya ripper legend. 


'Pop Team Epic' is Coming to Adult Swim on June 30th

June 19, 2018 1:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Adult Swim's Toonami took to their social media over the weekend to announce their all-new programming schedule, as well as the addition of the surreal comedy series Pop Team Epic. Taking over the highly-contested midnight slot just after FLCL: Progressive, the series finds itself replacing Dragon Ball Z: Kai in the Toonami lineup of anime series. Let's take a look at the updated programming schedule below, as well as the announcement from Toonami themselves:

10:30p – Dragon Ball Super
11:00p – My Hero Academia
11:30p – FLCL: Progressive
12:00a – Pop Team Epic
12:30a – JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders
1:00a – Hunter x Hunter
1:30a – Black Clover
2:00a – Naruto: Shippuden
2:30a – Space Dandy
3:00a – Cowboy Bebop
3:30a – Lupin the 3rd

Kicking off from June 30 on Adult Swim's Toonami, Pop Team Epic originally aired in Japan at the begin of 2018 and ran for a total of 12 episodes. The series was praised globally for its heavily satirical nature, offering unique and humorous takes on a number of different topics ranging from anime to idol culture. Unafraid of throwing punches, series creator Bkub Okawa has long been lauded for their hot takes. Never been on the internet before and somehow missed the series entirely? Pop Team Epic is described below:

Pop Team Epic turns absurdist comedy up to eleven with its pop culture references and surreal hilarity. With two bonafide high school girl protagonists—the short and exceptionally quick to anger Popuko, and the tall and unshakably calm Pipimi—they throw genres against the wall and don't wait to see what sticks. Parody is interlaced with drama, action, crudeness, and the show's overarching goal—to become a real anime.

Those interested in checking out further information on the series should head on over to Toonami's official website. Additionally, further information can be found via our archives, including exclusive interviews with series staff, here.


VIZ Media to Release Demon Slayer Manga & One Piece Art Book

June 19, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

VIZ Media today announced the North American releases of both Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba and One Piece Color Walk Compendium: East Blue to Skypiea as slated for early-July. Following the announcement just a few short weeks ago of an anime adaptation of the Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba from ufotable, it couldn't be a better time for VIZ Media to pick up the Weekly Shonen Jump series for English release. Both releases are expected to hit stores across North America from July 3rd.

Published via Weekly Shonen Jump since 2016, the VIZ Media release will see publication both digitally and physically via the Shonen Jump imprint. Written and illustrated by author Koyoharu Gotouge, the manga has constantly been a high-performer in Japan. The series was previously given a test-run in VIZ Media's "Jump Start" imprint, but it was not renewed for serialization at the time. Given the recent announcement of an anime adaptation, however, it makes sense that they'd bring this one back. 

VIZ Media describes the series below:

In Taisho-era Japan, Tanjiro Kamado is a kindhearted boy who makes a living selling charcoal. But his peaceful life is shattered when a demon slaughters his entire family. His little sister Nezuko is the only survivor, but she has been transformed into a demon herself! Tanjiro sets out on a dangerous journey to find a way to return his sister to normal and destroy the demon who ruined his life.

Following on, the upcoming July 3 release of One Piece Color Walk Compendium: East Blue to Skypiea is a deluxe hardcover book containing a collection of artwork from the One Piece manga series. Long renowned as the worlds most popular manga series, it comes as little surprise that we're seeing even more of Eiichiro Oda's ongoing pirate adventure. 

VIZ Media describes the release below:

Enjoy this gorgeous collection of color artwork from Eiichiro Oda’s ONE PIECE! Filled with color images and special illustrations from the world’s most popular manga series, the compendium features over 300 pages of beautiful color art, several large pull-out posters, and interviews between Eiichiro Oda and other famous manga artists, including Akira Toriyama, the creator of DRAGON BALL. This collection contains both volumes of previously released and now out-of-print COLOR WALK art books as well as COLOR WALK 3, which was never released in English, and covers the early parts of ONE PIECE—from the East Blue arc, where the main characters of the Straw Hat pirates first meet, to the Skypiea arc where Luffy and friends face high-flying adventures!

Those interested in checking out further information on the upcoming releases can head over to VIZ Media's official website.


Moodoïd Teams Up With Wednesday Campanella on 'Langage'

June 18, 2018 3:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Definitely not something I saw coming anytime soon, yet something that makes sense nonetheless, Wednesday Campanella's latest collaborative track with French psychedelic rock band Moodoïd is absolutely incredible. Straight off of Moodoïd's latest album, "Cité Champagne," the track and its accompanying music video prominently feature Wednesday Campanella member KOM_I as both her and band frontman Pablo Padovani dance around Nakano with their new reptile friend.

Released just a week apart from another collaborative track between Moodoïd and Wednesday Campanella, "Matryoshka," you'll find that "Langage" is very much more of a Moodoïd song, whilst the former is very much your traditional Wednesday Campanella song. Both songs feature the same powerful intertwining of both Japanese and French lyrical stylings, however, making for something unlike anything else I've ever heard. 

It's no secret that Japanese musical group Wednesday Campanella has had their eyes set on a global audience from a while now, something particularly showcased by their numerous international gigs and appearances. What this marks, however, these releases mark the group's first collaborative effort with anybody from outside of their home turf. If this is just the beginning, we can't wait to see where Wednesday Campanella can go from here.


Friends, Gifting, Trading Are Finally Coming to Pokémon GO

June 18, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Almost two years since the launch of Pokémon GO on both iOS and Android devices, some of the most highly requested features are being added to the game -- friends, gifting, and trading. Announced via Pokémon GO's official website earlier today, the news comes just weeks after the announcement of both Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon Let's Go, Eevee! on Nintendo Switch, the upcoming companion RPG titles for the smartphone game.

Expected to begin rolling out as early as next week, the full package of in-game improvements is expected to come as part of Pokémon GO's Summer update. There's a lot to know about the features and how they work, but perhaps most importantly is the implementation of the friends feature. Once the update goes live, players will find themselves assigned with a new Trainer Code, which can be distributed to up to 200 people as you continue growing as a trainer. From there, players will find themselves able to trade and gift Pokémon to those on their list.

There's a catch to all this, however, and that comes in the form of an original trick to trading Pokémon; trainers will need to be within a certain proximity of each other for the trade to go through. In other words, you probably won't be sending Pokémon to your friends overseas anytime soon. 

Slated to go live during the Summer, trainers have a lot to look forward to in the way of new improvements and long-needed features for the smartphone game. Until the update goes live, however, you can find further information via the game's official website.


Rhythm Game 'Groove Coaster' Invades PC via Steam in July

June 18, 2018 1:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

These recent years have been some of the most promising for the global rhythm game community; a trend that can easily be tracked back to Round 1's continued expansion across North America. While that expansion has certainly been ongoing, however, it'd be a stretch to say that it's anywhere near accessible to the general public. That's where Taito's latest bit of news comes in with so much excitement -- the announcement that the PC release of Groove Coaster is just around the corner, with a July 17, 2018, release date on Steam.

Originally released as an iOS exclusive rhythm game, Groove Coaster burst onto the scene in 2011 as a spin-off title to Taito's massively-popular Space Invaders series. It would only take two years after the release of the iOS version of the game, however, for its full potential to be realized with the release of the arcade variant of the game. Five years later and we're finally seeing things go full circle with another home release of the game, this time for PC via Steam. Taito describes the game below:

Riding the rhythmic rails of success from smart phone, into the arcades, now GROOVE COASTER arrives at full Steam! Staying true to its core concept of simplicity of play + exhilarating experience, the Steam version is better than ever, with 36 original tracks included from various game music composers and more on the way. Get ready to ride a roller coaster of sound and light through a universe of music!

The game is currently set to be compatible with both keyboards and controllers, as well as allowing players to utilize three different aspect ratios and layouts that will include a more arcade-traditional vertical monitor layout. Additionally, while the game has been noted to include a total of 36 original tracks, its unknown if any tie-in tracks will become available, such as those with idol group 

Set to release July 17 on Steam, further information on the upcoming home release can be found via the game's official website.