Friday, April 10, 2009

More NANA Anime Coming?

I admit it's not much evidence, but Hirano Aya reports in her blog that the cast and staff of NANA got together for a cherry-blossom-viewing party a day or two ago.

Can this mean that they have more work to do together? She hasn't mentioned any get-togethers since the anime ended over two years ago.

There's no mention of the party in other sources: other seiyuus' sites, 2channel, etc. The fact that other seiyuus' blogs don't even mention the party could be an indication that Aya is speaking out of turn, and there really is something happening. I hope.

NANA is one of my favorite anime -- a masterpiece, in my opinion. As is the manga. The depth, intensity, and complexity of the emotional relationships is at a higher level. And the anime ended about halfway to where the manga is now.

Cherry-trees have been blooming in Japan for the past few weeks. Japanese get together for parties under the trees to celebrate spring.

Aya said she hadn't seen mangaka Yazawa Ai for a long time, and was both extremely happy to see her and quite nervous. Aya played Layla in the anime.

-- end of post --

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Higashi no Eden -- Umino Chika and Kamiyama Kenji Watch Episode One

Umino Chika 羽海野チカ, the mangaka of Honey & Clover, did original character design and drawings for the new anime Higashi no Eden. She describes in her blog today how she and director Kamiyama Kenji watched episode one together as it aired, late Thursday night.

Umino-sensei avoids allowing herself to be photographed. She substitutes her alter ego, Kuma-chan (kuma means "bear"):

When they sat down together, Kamiyama told Kuma-chan to come closer...then he said that at times like this...he never says anything interesting....

Umino-sensei writes that she undertook the work a year ago, so it has been a long wait to see the finished product. She continues hard at work on her current manga, March Lion (Sangatsu no Raion 3月のライオン). The magazine it is published in comes out twice a month, but March Lion only comes out three times in two months. She has used that spare two weeks to work on Higashi no Eden.

She says hat a beautiful world the anime creates. The quality of the staff's work in episode one was so high that she wonders if it can be sustained for eleven episodes.

The story is one of riddle within riddle. We will see the depth and force of Kamiyama Kenji's thinking as we go on, she says.

Higashi no Eden -- Godly Voices and Animation

I've been eagerly awaiting the first episode of Higashi no Eden, which aired in Japan a few hours ago.

It did not disappoint.

First, for me, is the godly voice work of Hayami Saori. As in her best singing, she can run a stream of subtle nuances through any line of text. She is a young seiyuu with mature skills. Her voice is still young, though. You can hear the tiny voice of Kou from Wagaya no Oinarisama here. But there is much more meaning and nuance in her performance in this show.

Second is godly Production I.G. animation. The backgrounds are really beautifully done, and the animation itself is at a high Production I.G. level. Perhaps they can afford to put more money into this show since it will be coming out in feature-length form in the fall.

Hayamin is not the only excellent voice here. Her co-star, Kimura Ryouhei, hits all the right notes of seriousness and insouciance. He and she are already real people for me. And Tamagawa Sakiko (Onashia in Simoun, Fujitsubo in Genji) is perfect as the voice on the phone.

Hayamin has been put with these real actors and is so far completely holding her own. She is supposed to be going to college this spring. Doing this show is like higher education in voice-acting for her. The other seiyuu are mainly experienced pros and people with stage experience.

The story is quite weird. Morimi Saki (Hayamin) lost her parents in a car accident some years before and has been living with her sister and her husband, who have taken over the family's bakery. She has graduated from college and is taking an overseas trip before she starts working. She came to America to see New York, and to see the White House, which she somehow feels is the center of the world. And to experience a place she has no connection at all with.

She wants to toss a coin into the White House fountain, but finds that the fence keeps her too far away. When she tries, two police see her and come over to investigate. At that moment, a naked Japanese young man appears on the other side of the road, brandishing a cellphone and a revolver. The police turn their attention to him, but he disappears as a truck goes by and the police rush off after the truck.

It turns out he was just hiding behind a concrete abutment, and he comes over to Saki. She is embarrassed at his nakedness (although she does look directly at his genitals), but in gratitude to him for getting rid of the police, she "loans" him her hat, coat and scarf, and he runs off.

She starts trundling her suitcase down the road, on her way to the airport for her flight back to Japan. Then she realizes that her passport and wallet were in the coat pocket. She starts running off ofter Naked Guy, and after tripping over her suitcase (in a brilliant piece of animation), she abandons it to go after her wallet and passport.

As the naked guy runs off, he first has to hide from some police, then he realizes he needs pants and asks a random businessman for his, which he is given. He also realizes that he doesn't remember who he is.

A call on the cellphone from Juiz (Tamagawa Sakiko) alerts him that he can find his flat on a map in the phone, which he does. Inside the flat, he finds maps and photos of D.C., a stockpile of weapons and ammunition, and several passports in different names with his photo in them.

Meanwhile, Saki has seen him enter the building and she finds the flat and rings the bell. He agrees to give her back her coat, but as she is sitting outside the door, a policewoman comes up and asks her if a photo the policewoman has from a White House security camera is her.

Before she can answer, Naked Guy (whom we can now call Takizawa Akira, since that is the passport he chose) comes out of the room (fully clothed). The policewoman has a photo of him, too. To be sure it is him, she asks to see his "johnny." He pulls down his pants, and she lets him go, on the basis that his "johnny" is not the same as the one in the photo. He later tells Saki it was because it was cold when the photo was taken.

On the run, he tells Saki it is better if they don't go back to get her suitcase, and he accompanies her to the airport with the intention of flying to Japan with her. At the airport, she asks him what he was doing when they met. He says, "I'm a terrorist." But then he says: "Just kidding."

She tells him her name, but he has to get out his passport to show her his. And she discovers that they were apparently born one day apart, 22 years before. They enjoy each other's company, and share some laughs.

Saki watches him in the airport and wonders if he is her prince, the one who will spirit her away from the problems of her life. Naaah, she says to herself. Then they see a TV news report of a missile falling on Tokyo. The end.

The rather fantastic events may put some viewers off. I mean, how often does a naked man suddenly appear, brandishing a gun and a cellphone? And how many 22-year-old girls would give him their coat, or agree to abandon their luggage and fly off with him? What random stranger would give a guy his pants? What police officer would ask to see a guy's genitals for identification? (Reminds me of the Bob Dylan line: "He asked me for collateral, and I pulled down my pants.")

But this is all part of the bold spirit of this story. There is a fantastic element that makes anything possible. Who scrubbed Naked Guy's memory? Why are missiles falling on Tokyo? A great first episode, but we'll see where they take the story from here.

One of the many interesting aspects of the production is that they used English-speakers to voice all the Americans speaking English. Except for one line spoken in English by Hayamin -- which she pronunced fairly well.

Reaction on 2channel is quite positive. There is, of course, a lot of fascination with the nakedness. One poster called the show "Code Penis - Johnny of the Revolution." Others talked about its appeal to fujoshi (female fans of male-gay manga). The show is in the Noitamina time-slot, which has shown other anime with appeal to women, such as Honey & Clover, Hataraki Man, Nodame Cantabile, Antique Bakery, and Genji Sennenki.

Excellent OP by Oasis (!), and ED by School Food Punishment. The animation of the ED is particularly enjoyable.

I don't know whether to say this is the best first episode of the season. K-On was great, too, in a totally different way. And I liked a number of other first episodes: Ristorante Paradiso, Phantom, Cross Game, Pandora Hearts, Before Green Gables, Souten Kouro, Hanasakeru Shounen, Saki. I guess I'd say that this and K-On top my list.

EDIT: Here is a link to the radio show, which will start Friday and features the two stars. The link to the show itself will be at the bottom of the page, when it appears.

Monday, April 06, 2009

All Hirano Aya All the Time

Aaya will be the only regular on a new TV program starting 16 April: Hirano Aya dake TV 平野綾だけTV ("Hirano Aya-only TV").

The show will be like a journal, following her through all her activities: seiyuu work, singing, being photographed for gravure pages and DVDs, etc.

"I get to decide what I want to do," says Aaya, who has a sheaf of ideas to work with, submitted by fans, staff, writers, and herself.

The show will be on Fuji TV 2. The first hour-long episode will be on Thursday 16 April from 10-11pm, repeated Saturday night 3-4am.

But that's not all. She will also appear as a guest on a new anime radio show produced by her agency, Spacecraft, in collaboration with Nippon Broadcasting.

The new show is called AniKobo アニコボ ("Anime Workshop," more or less), and will be on Monday through Thursday nights at 24:30. Mondays will be devoted to manga, Tuesdays to anime music, Wednesdays to seiyuu, and Thursdays to a radio drama. Announcers will be called "researchers," and the show will aim to bring viewers in-depth information.

Already slated to appear as guests are seiyuus Aaya and Chiba Saeko, and music producer Kajiura Yuki. All three are represented by Spacecraft.

But even that is not all. The stars of White Album, Aaya and Mizuki Nana, will appear together in a White Album concert on September 9. The first part of the show will be talk and games, and the second part the concert.

All I can say is that Aaya is both ambitious and brave, to appear on the same stage with the mistress of live performance, Nana-chan.

And finally, get ready for a new Aaya single. The new disk, "Set me Free/Sing a Song" comes out on 29 April.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Three Kingdoms Character Design: Souten Kouro and Others

Somewhere (I don't remember where) I found a table showing the character design of several Japanese versions of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Including the manga of this season's anime Souten Kouro, as well as the Ikkitousen and Koihime Musou animes, the Yokoyama manga, and three different games.

Here's the table, translated into English. Click image to enlarge.

I like the Souten Kouro manga images, even though there is a bit of sameness to them, but it looks from the preview as if they have been homogenized a bit for the anime.

Anyway, since I've long thought it would have been better for China in real life if Cao Cao had won outright, I am looking forward to Souten Kouro, which tells the story from his point of view.

I'm not familiar with all the image sources in the table. "Koei" refers to the Koei Sangokushi game series. "Sangoku Musou" is another Koei series. Then there are the Yokoyama Sangokushi manga and the Souten Kouro manga, the Ikkitousen anime, and the Koihime Musou anime. And finally the Sangoku Taisen card game. I think.

Here's a link to the original image, in Japanese.