March 30, 2007

And Justice for All.

Or rather, all of Justice, for me. Justice League, that is. I now own every episode of Justice League on DVD. I’ve been watching random episodes, mostly from the final season. It rocks.

This show is damn good. They really shouldn’t have ended it. It could have continued until eternity. But no, instead quality is pushed aside in favor of shows with thinly veiled attempts to appeal to target demographics and toy companies. Shows like, for example, “The Batman“. That show is lame in comparison to JL.

Oh well, at least the DVDs will last forever.


March 22, 2007

T U R T L E Power.

Everybody, listen to me. I need you all to go and do something very important this weekend!

I need you to go and watch the new CGI Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.

Not only is there no doubt in my mind that this movie is going to be excellent, and I don’t particularly feel like I need to explain why, but there are other important reasons why this movie needs to be a hit.

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of the Ninja Turtles. Without them, I wouldn’t be an artist. I would love nothing more that for this movie to be a huge success and bring these characters even further into the consciousness of the general public. But this isn’t really about Ninja Turtles. I think it goes much further than that. In short, I believe that if this movie is successful, then it will help to usher in a brand new generation of animated feature films.

TMNT is an action movie that just so happens to be animated. Why shouldn’t we have more movies like that? Why are people so insistent on all animated movies being about cute animals who are voiced by “real” actors that know nothing about cartoons? Why do we have to endure wave after wave of derivative CGI movies that are filled with lame pseudo-risque jokes, written in a vain attempt at being clever? Why can’t we have quality animation about a wider range of topics with darker themes and more action? The way I see it, TMNT is the first step in widening the margins of what an animated film can be. But that will only become a trend if it’s successful and makes money, so that’s where we come in!

The other reason why I believe TMNT is going to be an important film is because I’m an anime fan. Imagi Studios, the animators of this film, are also working on 2 more CG animated movies that are going to be very important to anime fans all over the world. The first one is based on the classic 70’s series Gatchaman, which is looking like it’s going to be a totally kick-ass action movie. The other is AstroBoy. Need I say more? AstroBoy is the single most important character in the history of Japanese animation, so for there to finally be a movie about that amazing story is just awesome. It needs to happen! These movies can help to proliferate awareness of these legendary characters and show everyone the true power and range of animated story telling. A movie like TMNT, which is not going to be a cute Disney-esque movie, can lay down the foundation for this to happen, and prove to people that animation can be so much more than it is right now. And, best of all, if movies like these are successful, who knows what else might be in development? I’m looking forward to finding out.

So, go and watch TMNT this weekend. Take your whole family. Not only will you be sitting down to what looks to be a great film, you’ll also be doing something for the greater good of the animated medium. You’ll be standing up for what you believe in and making a difference. You’ll be proving to all of those people who wear suits and make decisions that cartoons are not just stupid kids stuff and that this is the sort of flick that you’ll pay to watch.

And that’s Turtle Power.


Yet another year of Ad Astra is in the books! This was my 3rd year in attendance, and once again I was invited to participate as a stage ninja. The convention took place a bit earlier this year than it usually does, and the burst of snowy weather from earlier in the week took a big dent out of the attendance, but it was still a very enjoyable experience.

I went to a few panels about things like comics, web comics, and Japanese clothing, all of which were pretty informative. At the dealers’ room I bought the Batman manga by Kia Asamiya and 2 amazingly beautiful artbooks from Dark Horse, one about Star Wars and the other about Alien and Predator. All worthy additions to the library, and all had for a decent price.

During the masquerade I was again in the role of a catcher, meaning I was to be a person who sacrifices one’s body to protect a performer should someone accidently fall off the stage. Luckily, there were no accidents. However, I didn’t get a free pass for the night. For one particular skit, all the stage ninjas had to go up on stage and, well, get killed. So I took a dive for a certain fictional character that, due to certain values and viewpoints I have, I would rather not disclose. The audience seemed to enjoy it though, and it all worked out in the end because he gave me a ride in his car to the subway later on.

I usually only go to this show for one day, and I figured that would be the case again this time, but I smartened up and figured that staying at home and doing nothing was boring and that didn’t make any sense when there was fun to be had elsewhere. So I went on both Saturday and Sunday, and I’m really glad I did. When I showed up on Sunday, I met up with the head ninja and went up to the head ninja hotel room accompanied by a luggage cart. When it was announced that both the luggage cart and I had been found, I was told that I am better than a luggage cart. That was a very nice thing to hear. However, the cart was better at doing what it was meant to do than I would have been.

Most of the time was spent hanging around and just shooting the breeze, and quite frankly I wouldn’t have wanted anything else. It’s been far too long since I’ve really been able to do that. After the show ended on Sunday, a big group of us convention people went to a resturant called “Memories of Japan” for some teppanyaki, which is when the chef cooks your food right in front of you on these large grilling surfaces connected to your table. It was totally awesome. The chef was really intense, looked very busy, and did an incredible job. It was the best food I have had in a long time. I could go for some more right now.

All in all, this weekend was the most fun I’ve had in several months. As usual though, that had more to do with the people there than the actual convention itself. And I am really thankful to those people because I sure as hell needed to go and have a good time for a change, since things have still kinda been in that “not so good” sort of mode for a long time now. Towards the end of the show a lot of people were feeling really tired and run down from all the fun they were having, but I felt surprisingly healthy and charged up! I’m hoping that feeling lasts. I could really use it!


March 1, 2007

Aim for the Top!

February is over. Good riddance.

However, February did bring at least one good thing. And that is the long awaited DVD release of the classic anime series, Gunbuster!

Gunbuster is a totally cool 6-episode show from the 80’s about girls and giant robots. What’s not to like about that? I had never seen it, but knew it from reputation, so I felt comfortable buying it right away. It was the directorial debut of Hideaki Anno, who of course would later go on to great fame as the creator of Neon Genesis Evangelion. As he and the rest of the Gainax studio were formed as a bunch of hardcore anime fans, it has a lot of parody and homage to many classic shows. It’s a very pure series, created not to sell toys or adapt comics. It’s anime for the sake of the art form. So from a historical perspective, it’s very important and a total must see for anyone that considers themselves a serious anime fan. It’s also the first anime that contains, well, “bounce“, if you catch my drift… so take that for what you will.

The DVD set is released by Bandai Visual’s Honneamise label. The 6 episodes are on 3 disks, and the visual quality is superb considering that the first episode is almost 20 years old. There is no English dub. In fact, as far as I can tell, there has never been an English dub, even when it released on VHS back in the day. I don’t miss it because I’m perfectly comfortable reading subtitles, but I suppose it’d have been nice to have. The major negative side, however, is the price. At about $60 for the set, it’s pretty expensive. That comes to around $10 per episode. With anything else, I’d say that’s just too much. But this is Gunbuster, so it’s worth it.

The show itself is really enjoyable, and spans many years despite only being 6 episodes long. The message of the show, that hard work and guts will bear fruit, is very simple and universal. One can imagine that was the motto of the artists working on it while in production, since they were really just a bunch of fanboys. It uses a lot of hard science that probably make sense if you care to figure it all out. It doesn’t really take itself all that seriously at times, but it can often be very deep. One of the most interesting topics that the show covers is time dilation, how characters in outer space age differently than characters on Earth. The final episode looks completely different than the rest of the series, and is a very satisfying and beautiful conclusion.

It’s not ending there, though. Just a few years ago, Gainax went back to the old well and pulled out Diebuster, the sequel to GunBuster. That’ll be getting a licensed DVD release here in North America at some point this spring, and I’ll definitely be picking that up too.

So go watch Gunbuster, and aim for the top!