Oct. 24, 2012 | 5:00 a.m.
Katsuhiro Otomo, the director of the watershed Japanese animated feature “Akira,” will make a rare personal appearance at REDCAT in downtown L.A. on Saturday to receive the first lifetime achievement award from the Platform International Animation Festival and to screen his new short film, “Combustible.” Otomo, who began his career as a manga artist, has written and directed numerous features, but he’s best known for “Akira” (1988), which was one of a handful of key films that created an audience for anime in America. Based on his own manga, the film offers a dystopic vision of a future divided between the opulent towers of Neo-Tokyo and the slums beneath, where cultists and biker thugs fight brutal police officers. Like Wagner’s Valhalla, Neo-Tokyo is built on greed and corruption and is doomed to destruction, even at the height of its splendor. […]
June 29, 2012 | 2:23 p.m.
Anime Expo, the largest convocation of fans of Japanese animation and manga in the country, is now underway at the Los Angeles Convention Center — more than 125,000 are expected to attend. One of the guests of honor is Tatsuo Sato, the creator of an outrageous TV spoof of anime fan culture called “Martian Successor Nadesico,” which is a bit like inviting the Comic Book Guy from “The Simpsons” to speak at Comic-Con International. The Nadesico is a state-of-the-art space battleship (complete with crew jackets, Ping-Pong tables and vending machines) run by a crew of teenage misfits. When he’s not fighting the invading Jovian Lizards, the series’ unlikely hero, fry cook-turned-combat-pilot Akito Tenkawa, watches reruns of “Gekigangar 3,” a hilarious sendup of early giant robot shows in the “Gigantor” mold. Clips from the show-within-the-show feature a disco theme song, stilted animation, hammy […]
March 20, 2012 | 4:01 a.m.
It’s doubtful that they have Saturday morning cartoons in the police-state future of “The Hunger Games” (in fact, they probably don’t even have Saturdays in the no-fun nation of Panem), but if they did, Katniss Everdeen would see a kindred spirit in “The Legend of Korra,” the ambitious new Nickelodeon series that premieres April 14. Flinty, brave, loyal, impatient, impertinent, fierce and dangerous — Katniss and Korra have plenty in common and both live in a world that is close to our own but tilted by desperation and dark miracles of magic or science. If the pair attended the same high school, they could go out for the archery team and commiserate about how their names sound like two new lines of Ikea cabinets. For “Korra” co-creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, it’s heartening to see teen heroines get […]
March 08, 2012 | 2:36 p.m.
This post has been corrected, as detailed below. Twenty years ago this week, a new face debuted on Japanese television: ditzy, often klutzy, the 14-year-old Serena had a disdain for homework, often overslept and seemed forever hungry, especially for desserts – hardly a prepossessing heroine. But Serena’s arrival on “Sailor Moon,” based on the manga by Naoko Takeuchi, would alter the course of animation and fandom on both sides of the Pacific. The manga and the original 43-episode program “Bishojo Senshi Sera Mun” (variously translated as “Pretty Soldier, Guardian” or “Scout, Sailormoon”) spawned sequels, movies, video games, stage musicals, a live-action TV show and countless licensed products, from dolls to Cosplay costumes. “Sailor Moon” also sparked an interest in shojo (girls’) manga and anime in America. Serena thinks of herself as the ordinary girl she appears to be until the talking cat […]
Feb. 15, 2012 | 12:59 p.m.
The animated adventures of the prodigal mages Edward and Alphonse Elric came to a dramatic and seemingly definitive conclusion at the end of the television series “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” in 2009. But the characters are so popular — Hiromu Arakawa’s original manga has sold more than 50 million books worldwide — that more stories were inevitable. “Fans get emotionally attached to their favorite series and characters,” said Lance Heiskell of FUNimation, which releases the animated “Fullmetal Alchemist” in America. “ ‘Fullmetal Alchemist’ has been on the air since 2004 and its popularity is the highest it’s ever been.” Kazuya Murata, who directed the Fullmetal Alchemist feature “The Sacred Star of Milos” (link in Japanese), released last year and currently in limited release throughout the U.S., talked about the challenges of working with such a well-known and beloved property in an email interview. “We had […]
Jan. 25, 2012 | 7:22 p.m.
Disney and Pixar Chief John Lasseter has called Hayao Miyazaki, the co-founder of Japan’s revered Studio Ghibli, one of the greatest animators of all time. Starting Thursday, the American Cinematheque is showing 14 examples of his studio’s genre-defying works, including the Oscar-winning “Spirited Away,” the children’s fantasy “My Neighbor Totoro” and the more adult fantasy “Princess Mononoke” (featuring an English-language adaptation by fantasy heavyweight Neil Gaiman) at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood and at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. “There’s a humanity in these films,” said Eric Beckman, whose company GKids put together the current touring retrospective. “Even the fantasy films are based on a real sense of magic and wonder in everyday things. Every tree or blade of grass or rock or animal has this spiritual essence of life.” Founded in 1985 by Miyazaki, his mentor Isao Takahata […]
Dec. 19, 2011 | 6:34 a.m.
Just as 2011 was the year of the sequel in American animation, many of the year’s best anime releases were sequels, continuations or reworkings of familiar properties. But the reimagined versions often improved on the original. The characters and story lines in many of the year’s top anime may be familiar, but the filmmakers have taken it up a notch—and in some cases, several notches. 1. “Summer Wars”: In this imaginative science fiction tale, director Mamoru Hosoda juxtaposes the brightly colored CG cyber-realm of Oz with the drawn world of everyday reality. High school math ace Kenji must defeat a renegade AI program in the former and deal with his classmate Natsuki’s quarrelsome clan family in the latter. Hosoda’s deft blending of romance, comedy, action and distinctive visual imagery confirms his place as one of the most interesting directors working in […]
Nov. 05, 2011 | 4:18 a.m.
When Yoshiyuki Tomino’s first “Gundam” series premiered on Japanese television in 1979, its run ended early due to low ratings. But when the same material was recut and released as three theatrical features in 1981 and 1982, the response was so enthusiastic, fans fought over Gundam toys and model kits in toy stores. Three decades later, there have been 25 “Gundam” television series, 11 feature films, plus direct-to-video releases and an IMAX featurette. In 2009-2010, a 59-foot “life-size” statue of a Gundam Mobile Suit was exhibited in Tokyo and Shizuoka to mark the 30th anniversary of the release of the first Gundam plastic model kit. According to some estimates, there have been 10 Gundam models sold for every man, woman and child in Japan. The breadth and effect of that history are timely topics with the home-video release of the feature “Mobile […]
Sept. 06, 2011 | 2:43 p.m.
Last week, a National Research Council report urged NASA to start thinking seriously about cleaning up the more than 22,000 fragments of satellites, rockets and other junk orbiting the Earth. They’re way behind Ai Tanabe, Hachirota Hoshino and the other grunts of the Debris Section of Space Station ISPV-7 in the anime series “Planetes”; they’ve been disposing of that stuff since the show debuted in 2004. So now’s a good time to revisit the DVD set “Planetes: Complete Collection.” The story line goes like this: In 2075, eager but maladroit Ai arrives at the Space Station and is dismayed to discover she’s been assigned to the Debris Section. This group of mismatched misfits is at the bottom of the station, physically and socially. Supervisor Meyers frets; his assistant Arvind does sleight-of-hand magic; pilot Fee hides in a decompression chamber to […]
Aug. 08, 2011 | 12:26 p.m.
The release of the fifth set of “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” brings one of the most original and best-loved anime series of the decade to a slam-bang conclusion unlike anything that’s ever been done in American animation. The original “Fullmetal Alchemist” TV series (2003), was adapted from Hiromu Arakawa’s manga before the artist had envisioned her story’s outcome: The filmmakers had to make up their own finale. “Brotherhood,” which closely follows the now-completed manga, is darker and more exciting, with some spectacular CG effects. The adventures of adolescent prodigies Edward and Alphonse Elric began on the terrible night when they defied the greatest taboo and tried to use alchemy to bring their mother back from the dead. They paid a devastating price for attempting human transmutation: Ed lost his left leg; Al nearly died. Edward sacrificed his right arm to preserve […]