Mid-Week Mid-Boss News Report 02.04.04

Ok, this edition has assuredly arrived late. Why? Well, I could pull many excuses out of my hat. Take for example the fact that I was sick. It’s the truth. I was sick all of Monday and had to miss work because of it, a fact that bothers me since I’m relatively new at my job and I know it doesn’t look good on my reputation there, but I WAS sick and I doubt the people there would have wanted to contract the stomach flu I had. It was nasty.

But that’s not the real reason this will be late. Sadly, I was lazy yet again this week. I keep telling myself that I’ll work on the report on the weekend and knock most of it out before crunch time. But I have yet to do so recently.

So it’s 10:30pm Central Time on Tuesday Night as I write this, and I went over it in my head. I could always go light on the content this week. I mean, I need sleep after all. Then maybe it’d get posted on time. But not likely. So I’ll go ahead and give not only the high standard you’ve grown to expect out of me. So take a load off, and enjoy. And as always, give me some feedback! I love to hear from you folks.


Gaming News

NGage Retooling
Well, it appears that Nokia hasn’t given up just yet. They haven’t cut their losses (of which, there are assuredly a lot of), and are sticking to their guns. In fact, there is even talk of retooling the device so that there aren’t so many features, which will therefore cut the price as well. The likelihood of them taking out the most unnecessary feature (the cell phone part) is highly unlikely, so the price of the system will always be too damn high to be worth it. Besides, does anybody really think the graphics are special? Seriously. Discounting the fact that it’s too expensive, that it’s ugly, that there are no good games on it that you can’t find anywhere else, does anybody think the graphics are worth ANYTHING?

Yea, I know I said a while ago that we should all be more positive, but you see how that went. I’ll let everybody else bash stuff I like, as long as I can bash the NGage.
Credit: Games are Fun

World of Warcraft Beta
The public beta test for the upcoming MMORPG World of Warcraft has begun! I probably should have mentioned it last week, but I forgot. Whoops. Anyway, you have one day left to sign up. I know I did. It looks pretty sweet, for an MMORPG. So hopefully I make it in the beta, and don’t get addicted to it or anything.
Credit: Blizzard

Since there is very little else to note as far as news goes, I thought I’d comment some on the rumors about the next Xbox console.

First off, it was stated that it would be using Mac G5 technology, which isn’t really surprising since Bill Gates owns a fair amount of Apple stocks. It using 3 such processors is unlikely, since that would be prohibitively expensive.

There was also nothing mentioned about backwards compatibility, but as I’ve said before, this is something Microsoft NEEDS to stay in the game. I’m rooting for them now, since they’ve got a great thing going with Xbox Live and have more publishers backing them. I truly think it would be suicidal to be incompatible, especially considering that their competitors have stated that they WILL be backwards compatible.

The rest of it all sounds good. I don’t like the idea of not including a hard drive, since that is one of the best factors of having an Xbox, but shipping one separately (or even better, letting you buy your own and put it in, like Sony was supposedly going to do with the PS2 a while back) wouldn’t be so bad.

Oh, and Microsoft, quit shafting us Americans. Since the Xbox is popular here, you should reward us by releasing limited edition versions here, rather than trying to entice more European and Japanese gamers. If you had done an LE version in America, I probably would have snapped it up, rather than waiting around until the price drops some more.


Christian’s Crazy Game Releases

Keep in mind, these are ship dates and are not set in stone. Game companies LOVE to push stuff back at the last minute, so don’t blame us if it’s not right. Also, since it is a ship date, it may take several days to arrive at your favorite store, depending on what it is, so please call before rushing over to pick up a game that may or may not have arrived.

Feb 3
Drift Racer: Kaido Battle (P2)

Feb 6
Intellivision Lives! (XB)
Sega GT Online (XB)
Star Trek – Shattered Universe (P2)

Release dates courtesy of Christian at Game Crazy. Pre-Order a game from Game Crazy and get a free 2 for 1 Rental Coupon at Hollywood Video. Put $5 down on a game you’re going to buy anyway and get a $6 coupon good on either movies or games. Plus, you are guaranteed to have a copy of the game you want in stock on its release date. Find the Game Crazy nearest you with the Store Locator at GameCrazy.com.

Christian’s Comments: Really not much this week. Haven’t heard anything on Drift Racer, so the only real good game this week is Sega GT Online. That may get some buyers since alot of people are buying the Sega GT 2002/Jet Set Radio Future two-pack used. Otherwise it’s waiting until next week when there’s things like Final Fantasy for the Cube coming out.

Lee’s Comments: I’m in the same boat here. I haven’t heard much about any of these games. But hey, there’s a Star Trek game coming out, right? Star Trek ain’t so bad.


Anime/Manga News

Azumanga Daioh Release Date

The release date for the first disc of the fan favorite Azumanga Daioh series has been set. Coming from ADV, the first disc will be released on April 27, and will come in the standard two flavors. There’s the disc only release, as well as the disc and artbox release. As an added bonus, they’re including two lapel pins with the box release.

I love ADV and all, but what’s up with this weird stuff they’ve been releasing with boxes? First it was PANTIES in the Najica box, and now we get lapel pins. It won’t be long before they release a series with shoe laces or something. Why can’t they do soundtracks or something that we might be able to truly appreciate? Oh well, at least lapel pins are SOMETHING.
Credit: Anime on DVD

Tokyo Mew Mew Licensed

I have some good news and some bad news. The silly magical girls type anime, Tokyo Mew Mew has been licensed! I got the first volume of the manga a while ago, and it was pretty good. And now for the bad news. It’s been licensed by 4Kids Entertainment, who is ONLY concerned with getting people to watch TV. In this case, they want more females watching their programming. What’s really sad is they have no plans to release the series in subtitled format, and any DVD releases will likely be dub only with like 2 or 3 episodes TOPS per disc. Oh, and they CHANGED THE NAME too. It’s now HOLLYWOOD Mew Mew. What the hell??

I mean, really, what’s the point of importing a Japanese property if you’re going to ruin it by Americanizing the whole thing. It’s almost as bad as that show on Spike TV that was a Japanese game show, and they dubbed everything completely incorrectly to make it funny. Whoops. It’s not funny, it just sucks. I guess they’re only going for the kid demographic, when they could have just as easily catered to multiple demographics and made more money.
Credit: Anime News Network

Heat Guy J Airing on MTV

As reported here (courtesy of the usual folks), Heat Guy J will soon be airing on MTV. But who knew it’d be this soon? In fact, it’ll start airing on Friday (the 6th), starting at 6pm Eastern. The bad part is, it’ll be on MTV2, so saps like ME won’t get to see it. Dammit, and I was looking forward to it, too. Oh well, I know ONE of these days I’ll get rich and buy all the anime in the world! It won’t be anytime soon, though.
Credit: Anime News Network


Anime/Manga Press Releases

Viz Names New Vice Chairman/CFO

Copy/paste time!

VIZ, LLC, one of the leading publishers and distributors of manga comics and anime content for North American audiences, today announced that it has appointed Hidemi Fukuhara as the new vice chairman and chief financial officer (CFO). Mr. Fukahara replaces Mr. Satoru Fujii, who is retiring from day-to-day operations, but will remain on the VIZ Board of Directors.
In his new capacity, Mr. Fukahara will direct and oversee all financial and operational concerns of the company. He will be responsible for the company’s domestic and foreign financial and fiscal management policies, provide guidance to senior-level management and help to direct the daily operation of the company. In addition, Mr. Fukahara will develop and supervise the implementation of VIZ’s strategic business roadmap, programs and systems as well as represent the company externally to the media, investment community and the general public.

I like Viz’s releases and all, but I tend to hope that with some change, they will improve in marketing, and especially in their DVD releases in the states.


Anime Releases

Release Dates provided by Anime on DVD. See past releases at my website.

February 3, 2004

TITLE
STUDIO
MSRP
BUY TSRI
BUY ACS
Captain Herlock, Space Pirate Vol. #1
Geneon
$29.98
$26.98
$23.98
Cyborg 009 #1
Columbia
$39.95
$35.96
N/A
Cyborg 009: Good vs. Evil
Columbia
$24.98
$22.46
N/A
Cyborg 009: The Battle Begins
Columbia
$24.98
$22.46
N/A
Dragonball GT Vol. #11
FUNimation
$24.98
$22.46
$18.98
Dragonball GT Vol. #12
FUNimation
$24.98
$22.46
$18.98
Happy Lesson Vol. #1
ADV
$29.98
$26.98
$21.98
Heat Guy J Vol. #4
Geneon
$29.98
$26.98
$23.98
Infinite Ryvius Vol. #3
Bandai
$29.98
$26.98
$23.98
Inu Yasha Vol. #14
Viz
$24.98
$22.48
$19.98
Kikaider Vol. #4
Bandai
$29.98
$26.98
$23.98
Last Exile Vol. #2
Geneon
$29.98
$26.98
$23.98
Superior Defender Gundam Force Vol. #1
Bandai
$19.98
$17.98
N/A
Superior Defender Gundam Force Vol. #2
Bandai
$19.98
$17.98
N/A

Note: In the above table, TSRI stands for The Right Stuf International and ACS stands for Robert’s Anime Corner Store. (H) means Hentai, so Adults Only on those!

Comments: There’s a few good releases this week. Heat Guy J and Infinite Ryvius both look interesting, and both are going strong. One less expensive title is starting (Superior Defender Gundam Force) while two others have way too many releases already (DB GT and Inu Yasha), while unknowns to me, Kikaider and Last Exile also have releases. What’s up with these Cyborg 009 releases? Apparently, the two separates are dub only and edited, while the more expensive one is unedited, is dub and sub, and is cheaper than buying separately. What’s up with this? Is Columbia trying to screw the anime fan as well as the casual fan? In fact, if you buy the edited and dub only versions together in a two pack (they make those too), it’s more expensive. Huh? I guess they are trying to screw everyone. Fortunately, the series doesn’t look the least bit interesting to me. The two big releases are both first releases, one of which is Captain Herlock, and the other being Happy Lesson. The latter looks particularly interesting to me, and could be one of those really messed up shows that I dig.


Matt Weinberg’s Anime You Should Know

In the last thirty years, we’ve seen a lot of animation from Japan reach American shores. From Speed Racer to Robotech to Sailor Moon, there are hundreds of series’ out there to watch. If you’re an anime fan there are some essentials you should have seen, thus we’re here at “Anime you Should Know.” This week, another reason why Sunrise can be considered a master of their craft: The Vision of Escaflowne.


The Vision of Escaflowne, Japanese name Tenkuu no Escaflowne, as usual began as a manga in 1994. The anime series debuted in 1996 and complete is 26 episodes. A theatrical movie has also been released which encapsulates the series. FOX Kids released a highly edited version of The Vision of Escaflowne with the shortened title of just “Escaflowne” in 2000, but it didn’t last very long. Shame on FOX for changing the main character of the series and thinking that we wouldn’t notice!

Why should you know Escaflowne? The plot is a classic anime concept: main character (usually a girl) gets pulled into another world and seeks to find her way home while having adventures.


As an aside here, back when I studied in Japan, one of my friends wrote a report on a new anime series at the time, Inu Yasha. After his oral presentation, I went up to him and said “Danny, in under a minute name for me FIVE anime series’ in which the main character is sucked to another world and has adventures!” Here’s five of them: Fuushigi Yugi, Escaflowne, El-Hazard, Inu Yasha, Dual!. There are more than five, mind you.

So we’ve got a girl in another world, what makes that so special? The world and setting, Gaea, is very original. For starters we’ve got “steam-age” mecha. Think giant robot suits that use swords. Floating castles, dragons, knights, airships… all that good stuff. All of this is great, but in anime the plot really is the thing that draws us into the series. The main character, Hitomi, is trapped in a love triangle with the other two main characters, Van and Allen. The manner in which the events in the series unfold is so beautiful and captivating… you really must see it for yourself. The Vision of Escaflowne considered one of the best series’, so just trust me here.


As for the other factors of the series, is you’ve been reading every week then you already know one of the reasons. Yep, the music. Before Cowboy Bebop, Yoko Kanno delighted your ears with Escaflowne. The score to the Vision of Escaflowne has a classical sound to it, which really goes well in the series. The animation style is very realistic, and you can see the time and effort that Sunrise puts into their product here once again. There is a small bit of computerized graphic effects as well, but not so many that you feel as though you’re watching a video game. Overall the anime style is very clean and enjoyable.

Lastly I must add to avoid the FOX Kids version of this show at all costs. FOX Kids attempted to make the series more about action and through editing made Van the main character. This involved cutting the first episode all together. Avoid it like the plague.


To conclude, although you may think you’ve seen this plot before, this is something new and different. With an incredible story, an epic soundtrack, and beautiful animation, The Vision of Escaflowne is an anime that true fans won’t soon forget. Do yourself a favor and see it, because this is without a doubt an Anime you Should Know.


Anime Review

Every week, I try to review at least one series or multiple discs using a 10 point scale that is loosely based on the one we use for game reviews. Check out the grading scale and format at my website. If you missed any reviews I did using this format, you can also view them on my site.

OMISHI MAGICAL THEATER: RISKY SAFETY

Studio: AN Entertainment
Discs: 3
Running Time: 240
MSRP: $94.85

Story (Premise)
One day, a young girl named Moe sees her boyfriend with another girl, and then later, with an older woman, and of course, the thinks the worst. Lying in bed crying, she decides she doesn’t want to live anymore. In pops Risky, an apprentice shinigami, who is there to take Moe’s soul to the underworld. After talking to Risky for a while, Moe laughs and gains some hope, and suddenly Risky turns into Safety, an apprentice angel, who gives her the the truth behind what Moe’s boyfriend was doing. Apparently, Risky and Safety share the same body, and whenever there is misfortune going on, Risky appears, but when there is happiness, Safety turns up. And both are simply trying to be promoted in their respective jobs. And thus begins their misadventures together.
Score: 8.0

Story (Execution)

Normally, a story like this would be somewhat awkward, and you’d think it would get old very quickly, but the pacing is superb in the show. The episodes are 10 minutes long, and it never gets dull because things move along pretty quickly. In addition, they don’t always focus on the present times. There are several flashback stories that take place before Risky and Safety show up in Moe’s life, so it never really gets repetitive like you’d think. Plus the shows are so funny that you can’t help but enjoy them.
Score: 8.0

Ending
After seeing so many shows that don’t have a true ending, it’s hard to get excited by yet another one with no real ending. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a full story progression with a climax and everything, but it’s hard to tell if they want to leave it open ended so they could possibly make a sequel, or if they’re just afraid of making people angry with a BAD ending. So for what it’s worth, the ending ISN’T bad, but it’s not great either.
Score: 6.0

Animation
Man, this is some great artwork here. The colors are bright yet muted at the same time. It’s almost like a dull pastel, and it makes it look like artwork more than animation. It’s hard to describe, but whatever they did with the colors is excellent. It’s probably some digital technique, because I’ve never seen something quite like this, with the exception of RahXephon, which is certainly digitally painted.

In addition, they did very well in all the other aspects I look for. As far as character design, every primary character has their own unique style and outfit. My favorite has gotta be Risky’s pseudo-goth style with silly skulls everywhere. And the two other big things for me, eyes and hair, were pulled off splendidly. All the eyes were excellently done and portrayed a lot of emotion, and the hair on everyone was unique and well drawn.
Score: 9.0

Voice Acting

What can I say? It’s Bang Zoom, so you know it’s good. And they’ve got several of their top stars working on this one as well. Moe is played by Julie Anne Taylor, who isn’t that prolific as of yet, but you can catch her in Please Teacher playing Ichigo, or Vandread playing Meia. She does excellently as Moe, and portrays the mood swings that accompany the part very well. One half of the title role, Safety, is played by Michelle Ruff, who is known most recently for Chii in Chobits and Koishi in Please Teacher. The quiet and gentle angel couldn’t have possibly been voiced any better, because Michelle is just about perfect for the part. The other half, is played by Sandy Fox, who pulls off the slightly annoying yet humorously evil Risky splendidly. She was also a little thing in Chobits and Please Teacher, playing Sumomo and Marie respectively. And how could I forget Wendee Lee, who is quite possibly the most prolific American voice actor? She plays just about every non-major role in the series, it seems, but each one is good as always. America’s version of Megumi Hayashibara is best known for Faye Valentine in Cowboy Bebop, a role that Megumi played in Japan. Great stuff all around.
Score: 9.0

Music
Very rarely does music stand out in an anime, but this show is different in that regard. Oddly, there is no standard musical opening, but there is an ending theme, and it’s beautiful. It’s very solemn, and starts off sad, but it’s the type of theme that carries a lot of hope, which is really what the series is about. In addition, the music during the show is excellent as well. In particular is one episode where not a word was spoken. It was basically like a silent film, and the music was composed as such. And they pulled that off perfectly.
Score: 8.5

DVD Menus
All the menus were not only very well designed, but they were easy to navigate as well. I didn’t have any problem finding exactly what I wanted. The only qualm I could think of is that under the language menu, it didn’t highlight what was already selected. In addition, for some reason, the second disc started up with the English subtitles turned on, in addition to the dub. That was rather odd to me.
Score: 8.0

Case Extras

The cases themselves are clear plastic keepcases, and each disc has a reversible cover, one side featuring Risky and the other featuring Safety. All the covers are sideways , which is odd but not in a bad way, and all are very nice images. The box is a thick and sturdy box that holds all 3 discs very snugly, and has more images of the two little ones. Inside each case is a really nice insert that has some artwork, but is primarily translation notes. In addition, they have lyrics and cast lists, which is something that is very rare. The translation notes were a nice touch, since they also break it down by episode.
Score: 8.5

Disc Extras
It would be nice if more companies included such extras as these. Each disc has extras like image galleries, clean closings, and translation notes (the same that are in the insert). But sadly, the best extra is also the most underutilized, and that’s gotta be the dub outtakes. This could be comedic gold, but on disc 1, there are very few of them, and on the other discs, they’re just boring. I mean, they had to have said other stuff than “oops” when flubbing their lines. I guess since the show is marketed towards a younger crowd, they don’t want to include the really funny ones of them cursing, but still, there must have been better outtakes than that. Still, it’s better than nothing.
Score: 8.0

Miscellaneous
Choosing something for this section is always difficult, but this time even more so. So I went out on a limb, and I’m going for “how well did they do for their first try.” And as you can see, I gave them a perfect score. Why? Well, if it isn’t obvious by the previous scores, they did very little wrong. For a company that is just starting in the licensing biz, it just goes to show you that Anime Nation knows what they’re doing from their years at selling anime. They picked a good show to license, they picked the best dub studio, they included good extras, and they made some great looking DVDs. Really, I can’t think of how they could have done much better, as a new company. It gets me really excited for their next release, Miami Guns, and it makes me glad that there is another company like TSRI and AnimEigo that really goes for what the true fans want. Bravo AN.
Score: 10.0

Final Comments

Really, not much else can be said here. I really and truly enjoyed this show, not only from a kawaiiiiiii standpoint, but also because it is well written and produced. In addition, it’s a great show for all ages. The only objectionable matter at all is when a few girls are discussing bra size, but beyond that, there’s nothing any 5 year old shouldn’t see or hear. It also teaches good morals, and it’s funny as hell to boot. So I’d highly recommend the series, because it’s not a long series, it doesn’t get boring, and if you buy it from the folks that made it, it’s not that expensive either. So you really can’t go wrong.
Final Score: 8.5


Links to the Past

Thank God It’s Thursday News Report – Bryan Berg
Bryan was having problems deciding whether or not he wanted to get an iMac, and I was the first one that answered his pleas! And surprisingly, I actually suggested he get one! SHOCK! Yes, I am a Desktop Support tech who deals solely on Windows based machines. But for what he wants, a Mac isn’t a bad bet. Too bad he doesn’t want to get one of those hella sweet G5 machines.

The Angry Gamer – Liquidcross
The Angry One gives us some games that REALLY should be online. I want the Animal Crossing one since it’s just ASKING to be an online game.

411MAX: News News Revolution – Alex Williams
Me thinks I’m getting shafted on the points. Oh well. Alex rocks the house, and there’s no better place to find news on DDR than this man here.

Gamer’s Hangover News Report – Cory Laflin
For the record, I have no issues with the news vs. commentary ratio. In fact, the commentary is my favorite part, and this week, he throws out a whole ton of it. And best wishes to your son, Cory. I had to put up with 24 hours of sheer hell before the stomach flu got out of my system, and though he’s probably over his now, I still hope he weathered it alright. I know I did a whole lot of praying, and they were finally answered today.

The Gamer’s Conscience – Frederick Badlissi
Fred has a mailbag edition! And one of the letters is mine! Woot!

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Video Games – Misha
Misha debuts his new name (not the one I wanted, but that’s ok), as well as his new buddy Marvin. In addition to his Eurocentric news, he also doles out a great commentary that is true in every way.

A Thumb to the Eye – Chuck Platt
Man, Chuck, you have some messed up dreams!

REVIEW TIME!
Mario Party 5 (GC) – Matthew Yeager
Yet another damn Mario Party game, reviewed by the new guy. Welcome Matthew!

NFL Street (PS2) – Bryan Berg
The sports king reviews an interesting sounding game.

Sonic Heroes (GC) – Bebito Jackson
Damn, that was a long ass 411. Since it’s a Sonic game and it’s reviewed by Bebito, you can safely knock at least a point or two off the score (I’m kidding!!).

And I’d be totally remiss if I didn’t mention the awesome Eric S. He’s linked me for the past several weeks, and I haven’t returned in kind. He’s easily my favorite non-games writer, and top 3 on the whole site, so he deserves a lot of props. I doubt he needs any linkage from me, but here’s his Wrestling column, and check out his Black column today.


As always, I hope you enjoyed the column this week. Check out everybody else, and have a fun time doing it. I can at least get a few hours of sleep before work, thank God. Enjoy the rest of your week!