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‘The Simpsons’ pays tribute to Hayao Miyazaki

simpsons-anime

In addition to guest appearances by Stan Lee and Harlan Ellison, Sunday’s episode of The Simpsons will also feature a tribute to anime legend Hayao Miyazaki, who announced his retirement from filmmaking in September, only to return his attention to manga.

The hallucinatory sequence, which you can watch below, features Homer and a salaryman stumbling through the streets after a night of drinking, and encounter a veritable parade of nods to Miyazaki’s classics, from Otto as Catbus to Patty and Selma flying on broomsticks to a moving Kwik-E-Mart.

In case you don’t recognize all of the references, Salon.com has put together a video that annotates most of them (also below).

The Simpsons airs Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.

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Comics A.M. | Google granted patent for social media comics

Google

Google

Digital comics | Google was granted a patent this week for “Self-creation of comic strips in social networks and other communications,” which means the Internet giant apparently has patented a mechanism for creating comics about your status updates and chats and sharing them via social media. This sounds a lot like the wildly popular, but widely reviled, Bistrips. [Geekwire]

Best of the year | Brian Truitt takes a look back at the year in comics, picking out some significant events and offering his nominations for best creator, best comic book movie, and best comic in a variety of genres and formats. [USA Today]

Best of the year | Writing for The Advocate, cartoonist Brian Andersen reflects on the year’s 10 greatest LGBT moments in mainstream comics. [Advocate.com]

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Kaneda’s bike from ‘Akira,’ recreated with LEGO

kanedas bike

LEGO modelers the Arvo Brothers have recreated Kaneda’s bike from Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark manga and anime Akira, using only those little Danish bricks, of course. What’s more, they’re going to share just how they did it in a 200-page book that will be available beginning next week — complete with die-cut decals.

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Police may have questioned ‘Kuroko’s Basketball’ threat culprit

Kurobas SnacksWe reported earlier this month on a truly weird case unfolding in Japan: Someone is sending threatening letters to venues connected to the manga and anime Kuroko’s Basketball, including convention centers that host doujinshi (fan comic) events, bookstores that sell the manga, and Sophia University, where creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki attended school. Some bookstores have removed the manga, and convenience stores, including 7-Eleven, also pulled Kuroko’s Basketball-themed snacks after receiving letters saying they had been poisoned.

There were two developments in the case last week. The first was that a small amount of nicotine was found in one of the recalled snacks; the package appeared to be “suspiciously” sealed. However, investigators said the amount found was 1/100th of a lethal dose.

The other other was that Tokyo police announced they may have security camera footage of the suspect — and, in fact, they may have questioned him more than a year ago.

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Comics A.M. | Hayao Miyazaki is drawing a samurai manga

Hayao Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki

Creators | Anime legend Hayao Miyazaki, who announced his retirement just two months ago, is reportedly drawing a samurai manga set during the Warring States Period. Asked on the Japanese television show Sekai-ichi Uketai Jugyō over the weekend how the 72-year-old filmmaker will spend his retirement, Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki replied, “I think he will serialize a manga. From the beginning, he likes drawing about his favorite things. That’s his stress relief.” He also confirmed the manga’s setting before cutting off the line of questioning with, “He’ll get angry if I talk too much. Let’s stop talking about this.” Miyazaki has illustrated several manga over the past four decades, most notably the seven-volume Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. [Anime News Network]

Libraries | Mitch Stacy takes a look at the new Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at Ohio State University, which is scheduled to open this weekend with a gala celebration. [ABC News]

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Japanese retail chains remove basketball manga after threats

Kuroko's BasketIn a true-crime story unfolding across Japan, stores are pulling products and venues are canceling events related to the manga and anime Kuroko’s Basketball because of a series of threatening letters targeting locations linked to the manga’s creator, Tadatoshi Fujimaki, the manga, and doujinshi (fan comic) events related to it.

The first threat letters, at least one of which may have contained deadly poison, were sent more than a year ago, but the pace seems to be accelerating: The sender has hinted he or she may commit a crime on Nov. 4, and a new set of letters has emerged claiming the perpetrator is negotiating with the editors of Japanese Shonen Jump, which serializes the manga.

On Monday, the Japanese manga, video and game rental chain Tsutuya confirmed it has removed all copies Kuroko’s Basketball manga and anime. The Yurindo and Reliable bookstore chains are also removing the books. However, a number of bookstores, including Kinokuniya, Sanseido, Junkudo and Miyawaki, say they will continue to carry the manga despite receiving threatening letters demanding its removal.

In addition, the 7-Eleven convenience store chain is removing Kuroko’s Basketball-themed snacks from 1,500 locations after receiving a letter that said, “I left food products laced with poison in 7-Eleven.” The letter included a photograph of the snacks. Another convenience chain has stopped carrying a line of Kuroko’s Basketball tie-ins, including character dolls and plush toys.

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Smells like teen soldiers: ‘Attack on Titan’ gets a fragrance line

titansmell_02American comics fans may have their Stan Lee, Avengers and Hellboy colognes, but now manga and anime devotees are getting their own incongruous perfume: a set of three fragrances based on Attack on Titan, which has been tearing up the charts in Japan while becoming a sleeper hit in North America.

Created by Hajime Isayama, Attack on Titan (here’s a primer) is about teenagers fighting people-eating giants, and the three scents are named after three of the teenagers, not the Titans themselves (who probably just smell like guts). Each scent is tailored to the personality of a particular character: Eren, a determined fighter with the power to turn into a Titan himself (mint and citrus with notes of spice and musk, embodying his “strong desire to eradicate giant”); Mikasa, Eren’s friend who’s just as fierce and a better fighter as well (sweet floral top notes moving to sweet and sour berry and musk — its calm femininity conceals the intense feelings she harbors for Eren, if I’m reading the Google translation right); and Levi, their squad leader, who is brave, smart and a total clean freak (soap and the calming scents of cedarwood and musk, celebrating both Levi’s fastidiousness and his strength as a warrior). The perfume costs 5,775 yen (about $58) per bottle.

This all seems tame compared to the other Attack on Titan items floating around: Fans can wear Attack on Titan tights (in two patterns, boots and belts for the soldiers, raw muscles if you want to look like a Titan), sip tea from a mug topped by the Colossus Titan, and even fix their own Titan-themed pasta and potato salad while they wait for the next episode.

Animethon 20 | Cosplay photos from the con

Edmonton, Canada’s premiere anime convention, Animethon, is celebrating their 20th Anniversary this weekend. Over 7000 fans came out to the event, enjoying the blistering summer day, with costumes, concerts, shopping and more!

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More images after the jump. Warning: Image heavy!

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Big news: New Sailor Moon anime in the works

The Japanese publisher Kodansha and anime company Toei had big news for Sailor Moon fans today: They will be producing a new Sailor Moon anime, to debut next summer.

The original Sailor Moon manga (published by Tokyopop) and anime helped kick off the anime and manga revolution, bringing a whole new cadre of fans, especially women and girls, into the world of comics. Fans have been speculating about the return of the anime ever since Kodansha USA started re-releasing the manga, with a new translation and new format, last year. The manga has been hugely popular in the U.S., with the most recent volume spending four weeks on The New York Times graphic books bestseller list.

The new anime was announced today by Sailor Moon creator Naoko Takeuchi and the idol group Momoiro Clover Z, which will perform the theme song, during a 20th anniversary event that was streamed live on the Japanese site Nico Nico. Voice actors Kotono Mitsuishi and Tohru Furuya, who played Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask in the original, participated in the event, but it’s not clear that they will be in the new series (although the Sailor Moon fan site Moon Chase says they will). While details are sketchy right now, it appears that the anime will be released simultaneously worldwide.

The official press release (in Japanese) is up at Kodansha’s Japanese website.

Comics A.M. | Industry’s digital inroads; exploiting new comics formats

"Insufferable," by Mark Waid and Peter Krause

Digital comics | George Gene Gustines takes a quick trip through the landscape of digital comics, dropping in on Mark Waid, comiXology’s David Steinberger and Marvel’s Avengers vs. X-Men Infinite Comic. Much of this is familiar territory to regular readers of this blog, but hey, it’s The New York Times noticing digital comics! [The New York Times]

Digital comics | FreakAngels writer Warren Ellis looks at three recent digital comics, noting how they all limit themselves to “two-tier storytelling”: “Accepting and exploiting new limitations is always part of a new format. These three projects, though, can’t produce even a full-page spread without some serious scheming and dancing.” [Warren Ellis]

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Comics A.M. | Marvel’s big push for AvX; New 52 hurting GN sales?

AvX #1

Publishing | David Gabriel, Marvel’s senior vice president of publishing, says that Marvel is putting “the biggest marketing investment that we’ve ever put into a series or an event” behind its upcoming Avengers vs. X-Men event. The campaign will include online, social media, radio and television promotion. “They’re actually treating every issue as an event, because there’s a different fight going on in every issue, and I’m told that they are pushing every single issue through all 12 issues,” Gabriel said. “The story itself has three acts, and each of those acts has a natural marketing hook to it, so they’re pushing those as well.” [ICv2]

Publishing | While DC’s New 52 has been good for comics sales overall, there is a dark side: Sales of pre-reboot collected editions are down. ICv2 also lists the Top 10 comics and graphic novel franchises in a number of different genres. [ICv2]

Legal | The Justice Department brought more charges of fraud and copyright infringement against Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom and his colleagues on Friday, but also revealed that Megaupload isn’t all that mega: The file-sharing site had only 66.6 million users, not the 180 million previously claimed, and fewer than 6 million had ever actually uploaded a file. The indictment mentions one user who uploaded almost 17,000 items, including copyrighted movies, which were viewed 34 million times. [The Washington Post]

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Media Blasters cuts staff, goes freelance

Just a week after Bandai Entertainment announced it would stop releasing new material — and laid off three of its five employees — another anime and manga publisher looks like it is hitting the shoals. Media Blasters announced yesterday it’s laying off 60 percent of its staff, although there is no plan to cut the catalog.

Media Blasters is chiefly an anime publisher, although it does have a small line of manga, under both its own name and in its adult line Kitty Media. This 2007 Publishers Weekly article mentions the company had a catalog of about 20 yaoi titles and was planning a shift from shonen to yaoi. Three years later, it canceled most of those titles. Blogger Lissa Pattillo commented back then that quality had slipped quite a bit:

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Greed and giant robots brought down Bandai

The big news in anime and manga circles last week was the announcement that Bandai Entertainment will stop releasing new anime and manga. The current catalog will stay in print, and the company will focus on licensing its products to other companies, but three of its five employees have been laid off.

Like manga, the anime industry in the U.S. has been troubled for a long time, and it’s tempting to blame this on piracy. Indeed, that’s exactly what Charles Maib of Kotaku did. Maib admits he doesn’t follow the anime and manga scene much any more, but that doesn’t stop him from delivering some strong opinions. What Maib does know is what it was like to be an old-time otaku, when you made your own fansubs with love and VHS tapes and chewing gum and chicken wire (which may have been technically illegal but wasn’t harming the industry at all), and also how much work it is to make your own content. Maib himself is a content creator, and he has a long paragraph where he explains all the steps you have to go through to make an animated cartoon.

And nobody seems to care. “Consumers have become selfish monsters who are strangling an industry that is already on its knees,” he says, and he points the finger squarely at fansubbers and other pirates, and those who avail themselves of their services:

We created the beast, and we continue to feed it. We’ve reached the point that it’s not uncommon for major websites to publish links to pirated content. Pirating has gone mainstream, and unless we as consumers have the fortitude to reverse our actions, allow the market to work as it should, and develop the patience to wait for new products to become available in our region, or even not become available, the face of the internet and digital media will change. It’s inevitable.

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Akira the Don channels anime on new mixtape

Manga Music

Artist, musician and our buddy Akira the Don has released a new mixtape, titled Manga Music, featuring “a tribute to the monumental works of Manga Entertainment, who this year celebrate 20 years of serving us Westerners with the very finest anime.” Each song samples and is named after one of their releases, such as Evangelion, Full Metal Alchemist, Crying Freeman and, naturally, Akira.

“Twenty years ago I was a little boy living by the sea in North Wales gaping in awe at their advert for Akira in the back of my Dad’s copy of Vox magazine,” Akira the Don wrote on his site. “A little while later I was pushing a big VHS cassette into its slot, an a few hours after that my life was changed forever.”

You can find it on his site, along with a new T-shirt and hoodie, as well as on YouTube and, thanks to the magic of Soundcloud and embed codes, right after the jump.

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Is Sailor Moon poised for a comeback?

Sailor Moon was the first shoujo manga to catch on in the United States, and the anime succeeded in part because of organized fan campaigns to keep it on the air. The rights for both the manga and the anime had both lapsed by 1995, 2005, however, so both have been officially unavailable here since then.

Kodansha Comics galvanized fans last spring with the announcement that they would publish a new edition of Sailor Moon as well as the previously unpublished (in the U.S.) prequel Codename: Sailor V. There’s no word on the anime yet, but here’s an interesting sign: Anime News Network reports that Great Eastern Entertainment has listed four Sailor Moon items for future sale (no prices or details were listed), all bearing a Toei Animation logo. (The page has mysteriously disappeared since ANN posted it, and it doesn’t look like Great Eastern responded to their request for comment.) As an alert commenter at ANN points out, Toei, the owner of the Sailor Moon anime, was shopping around “refurbished” episodes at the MIPTV market in Cannes last year. Perhaps someone bit, either there or elsewhere. The fansite Moon Chase reports (from an anonymous source) that there is another deal that has to be finalized at a higher level before the anime can be licensed in the U.S., and they are skeptical about this latest development, but some enthusiastic folks are speculating that an announcement could come as early as Funimation’s panel at SDCC.

Judging from the reaction I got when I wrote about Sailor Moon at MTV Geek, there’s a huge fandom out there that is anxious to get their manga and anime back. While Kodansha’s deluxe-edition manga seem to be aimed at older readers reliving their youth, the anime has a lot of teen appeal, and if it is re-released in the U.S., we could see history repeat itself.


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