Tuesday, July 27, 2010

God Bless You Telltale Games...

There are some works of art that define a person. Things that go beyond just being entertainment, or something to do when you are bored, and become a part of who you are. For me, Monkey Island is one of those things.

When I was about eleven years old, my Dad had just bought a brand new computer and with it he bought some games for me to play. He found all the games in the bargain bin at the store for $5 each. Most of them were worth their $5 price tag, but there was one single (non cursed) diamond among the rough, that would grab a hold of my soul, like a wire to a chicken with a pulley in the middle. That game was The Secret of Monkey Island.

After that initial fix, I was addicted for life, and whenever any mention of monkey or island were in the same sentence I immediately perked up. Then the dark days came.

Jim Ward.

Much more of a villain to Monkey Island fans than LeChuck himself. At E3 one year, when asked about the future of Monkey Island he infamously said (I'll paraphrase) that LucasArts wasn't interested in old properties, and wanted to move forward with new ideas... like Star Wars and Indiana Jones.

Around the world it sounded as if as if thousands of Monkey Island fans suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. Even though we were promised at least one more Monkey Island game, with a single sentence, all hopes were dashed.

For years we all wandered around aimlessly like zombie pirates drunk on Grog, until that glorious day happened, Jim Ward left for "personal reasons". Though I like to believe it had something to do with being constantly sprayed with Root Beer every day after work (only way to kill the undead, you know).

After about three changes in power at LucasArts, they finally got their collective head out of their arse and brought back Monkey Island in a big way. First, they remade the original game, but more importantly, they gave all new iterations in the series to Telltale Games, a breakaway game company comprised of LucasArts Adventure Game veterans. And if that wasn't enough, the original creator of Monkey Island, Ron Gilbert signed on to point and click the team down the right path.

The first part of their venture was Tales of Monkey Island. A five part tale of Guybrush Threepwood and company on another high seas adventure to once again finally put a stop to LeChuck for a fifth... and sixth time.

Last week I finally got around to finishing the games. Now you are probably saying, "Wait I thought Monkey Island defined your soul! The games are over a year old, and you are just now playing them?"

I tried playing them when they came out... on the Wii. This was a huge mistake. I made it through the first two episodes and then realized I couldn't do it anymore. In order to fit in Nintendo's download standards the games had to be horribly horribly compressed. The dialogue is almost impossible to understand. The SFX sound like they are coming through a Gameboy speaker, and the graphics look like something the N64 pooped out. I understood this was more Nintendo's fault than Telltale, but it put a bad enough taste in my mouth to not get the third part in the series.

But finally it was released on PS3, and all was right worth the world. Better yet, the entire five part series was only $20, meaning I saved $10 if I had gotten the rest of the series on Wii. The PS3 version isn't without it's issues sadly, as it is kind of wobbly with the controls, and using the Wii remote to point at object was 100% better than cycling through them with the PS3 controller. Regardless, all the brilliant writing and puzzles come through magnificently. And with Monkey Island that is what matters.

The weak link in the MI series is Escape from Monkey Island. It was the series leap into 3D. It wasn't a bad game, but not nearly as memorable as the other three. So with Tales being in 3D I was slightly apprehensive. However, this series stands tall among the original trilogy in my mind. The jokes don't fall flat, and the wit and puzzles are in top form here.

Also what matter in a Monkey Island game are great side characters. In Secret you had Elaine, LeChuck, the Voodoo Lady and Stan, all four now mainstays in the franchise. In Monkey Island II, Wally was introduced, a reoccurring character. In Curse, my all time favorite character Murray the Demonic Talking Skull was introduced. I can't really recall a single memorable character from Escape, and I think that is part of its problem.

In Tales, I can't really say how many of these characters will stay with me in the long run. Sure there are some forgettable ones, but they all have quirky traits and personalities. But I can say there are at least two stand out successes: Morgan LeFlay and DeSinge. DeSinge is fantastic, in that he is the first real main villain the series has ever seen outside of LeChuck. And on top of that he is very much the Anti-LeChuck, but he works. He is an effeminate powder wig wearing Frenchman. Every time he is on the screen, he is like the embodiment of a train wreck. Everything about him is just so wrong, but you can't look away.

The real star of the show, however, is Morgan LeFlay, a pirate hunter sent to capture Guybrush Threepwood, but also happens to be Guybrush's biggest (only?) fan. This leads her to live a very conflicted lifestyle. I absolutely love this character. I wish Telltale would make a spinoff action adventure game with just her going around the world of Monkey Island capturing famous pirates. Her existence also adds something rather unexpected to the Monkey Island universe: drama.

There are a couple of love triangles in this story. LeChuck-Elaine-Guybrush and LeFlay-Guybrush-Elaine. Luckily, none of it gets melodramatic. There are just a few scenes that are slightly more emotionally touching than the series is used to getting, which I am all for. Another problem with Curse of Monkey Island was that it was a little too self-aware. You just felt none of the characters were going anywhere. They had just become parodies of themselves. Which brings me to what I like the best about Tales of Monkey Island.

Ultimately, Tales is the natural progression of the Monkey Island franchise in that now, finally, the series feels like it has its own, living breathing world. With all the anachronisms, and references to modern society, it was always hard to tell where and when the Monkey Island adventures took place in history. Telltale has made it seem as though this is some kind of alternate universe where the world is forever ruled by pirating. It's it's own place in time with its own history. And I like that. It makes it feel more real and less of a joke, or a statement about society (which is where Curse of Monkey Island was going).

Great job Telltale Games, you have made the 11 year old inside of me very happy, as well as the 29 year old... outside of me.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Koji's Top Ten Anime Women - Mio Akiyama

As I've been trudging through this list each week, I start remembering so many females that I've liked over the years. I feel like I am betraying them to an extent by not even giving them any sort of recognition, or I start to believe I am just that fickle. Like I've stated before, I really do believe my choices will stand for a long time, baring a few changes at the bottom. I was thinking about Melfina from Outlaw Star, Ryoko from Tenchi, and Urd from Ah My Goddess just to name a few. All interesting characters, but have otherwise lost their impact over the years. Of course I watched those shows early on, and I was as impressionable as the next fan due to the infancy of the obsession.

I do not see too many characters like the aforementioned anymore; I probably do, they have just gone through a renaissance like everything else. Anime goes through a renaissance from time to time, and the female leads are some of the changes we notice the most. That brings me to our current trend in anime, moe. I do admit that moe caters to the lowest common denominator when used most of the time. The same can be said about any type of gratuitous violence or unnecessary fan service. Wait, I'm sorry, fan service is always necessary. My point is that every one probably likes some type of moe, or is in denial. There is at least ONE girl that fascinates you in a show, and it's because she is adorable and innocent. I'm obviously no different. Like we have suggested a few times in the comment sections, we hardly can even define the lines. That being said let me introduce the current Queen of "Moe". (At least to me)

Number 07: Mio Akiyama

Show - K-on!

Background: Mio is the bassist and sometimes lead singer of the high school band Afternoon Tea Time. She is very proficient musician, a terrific student, and ridiculously shy. She is the rock and seemingly most mature out of the group, always suggesting to the other members the need to practice, or taking care of her academic responsibilities before everyone else. Early on she becomes a mentor to Yui because she sees how hard it is for her to have an intelligent thought, and she has to make sure to keep an eye on her wild best friend Ritsu. She might have them end up in jail or something. Because of Mio's shyness, she gets embarrassed very easily much to the delight of the other band, especially Ritsu.

Why she is on my list: Out of all the "moe" type of characters out there, she stands out among the rest. She's the cutest character in the entire show. Does she have amazing depth? No, but that's not what type of show K-on is. I don't want to see an emotional train wreck roaming around the halls with a guitar. I like K-on! the way it is. Does she exude qualities in a woman I'd want as a significant other? Sign me up. She's shy, smart, quick-witted, and when she gets humiliated she is pretty sexy. She is a very enjoyable character. Out of all the girls, I agree with Lonecow; Ritsu is probably the one who has the most depth, but that's only because she is volatile. The rest of the girls have to stand alone on their on archetypal personalities, and Mio does a terrific job. To me, she doesn't rely on her cuteness or shyness all the time though. There are some great scenes when Mio stands out because of her ever-changing personality, instead of a panty shot on stage. My point is that while she may not be the most developed, there is huge room for growth. Luckily, K-on is seemingly approaching on a 24-26 episode run (currently on episode 16), so there is more Mio to come.

K-on is not my favorite show of all time, but because my girl is on the list, I hate the detractors. They have blurred the lines between moe and slice of life. Only Ann Coulter's existence pisses me off more. K-on is a slice of life show with cute (moe) girls. It is simple as that, and I would gladly enjoy more for years to come. If K-on had multiple seasons, almost everyone would follow it. "Bro…K-on is up to it's fifth season bro, let's slam back this NO Xplode and start watching…it has to be good now bro." Meatheads don't watch anime. Anyways, with more seasons we get more depth. Lonecow and I have talked about this before, and a Ritsu/Mio spinoff would be an interesting idea.

I do not understand why slice of life animes don't at least entertain the idea of spinoffs. Cheers and Frasier worked well. I actually liked Frasier more than Cheers. Yes, I just said that. Wouldn't you watch a spin-off of Lucky Star with just Konata and Kagami? How about the idiocy of the Azumanga Daioh girls in college? I'm still waiting for more School Rumble! In America at times we are smothered by series that we wished bowed out gracefully. I'll admit, I really enjoyed the show Friends, but really…ten years? So in '94 we were made privy to the fact that Ross is a huge pussy and Joey is mentally challenged. Did anything change? And they gave Joey a spin-off!

Seiyuu: Yoko Hikasa

Yoko Hikasa began professionally voice-acting in 2007, and her first leading role was Mio from K-on. She listed her desire to become a voice actor after watching Sailor Moon. 2010 has been a busy year for Yoko. She has lead roles in, Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin (Occult Academy), Working!!, and Seitokai Yakuindomo. All three shows I actually plan on following. Looks like playing Mio has paid dividends, and well deserved. I have really enjoyed her thus far and I'm looking forward to hearing her voice throughout the rest of year. She is savory.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Clips of the Tron Daft Punk Score Have Gone Live!!

I love Tron.  I love Daft Punk.  I though from the moment I heard the announcement that they were the perfect choice to score this film.  "Intern Bryce" at 107.7 in Seattle has somehow gotten a hold of six one minute clips from their new score.  As a fan I can say it's not what I expected.  It does sound very much more generic-movie-score-ish than I thought it would be.  That said, I like where it's going.  It very much reminds me of Vangelis' score for Bladerunner mixed with Hans Zimmer's Dark Knight score.  Very tense.  Lots of rolling strings.  Don't get me wrong, but I'm still really excited, and will probably pre-order the album once it's available.  I now know what to expect though.  This will not be a live action Intastella 5555.  This is obviously the first entry into their resumes in hopes of getting more movie work.  Frankly who else would you want to score a Sci Fi movie?

Click here to listen to the clips... 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Trailer for "The Town"



You'll her me be an apologist for many actors in Hollywood.  There is a list of actors that for some reason get no respect anymore.  More than a few of my upcoming reviews will actually revolve around this theme.  Regardless, the first trailer for "The City" was shown in front of Inception this weekend (Expect a review in a couple of days).  This is Ben Affleck second turn at Directing, and his first turn at directing himself.  Acting/Directing is always an iffy prospect.  Some are master at it like Clint Eastwood, other like Warren Beatty fuck it up royally.  After his hype-implosion in the mid '00 Ben cam back strong in '07 with his self penned and directed adaptation of the novel Gone Baby Gone.  The reality is, he's Won an Oscar for writing, so we know he can write; and he's been nominated for a Golden Globe for playing George Reeves in Hollywoodland.  Personally I think he deserved an Oscar for Hollywoodland.  Gone Baby Gone proved he could direct, and I think, unlike many actors who don't try to attempt directing until the end of their careers I think Ben probably plans to stick to this until he can pull the trifecta.

Koji's Top Ten Anime Women - Nino

I apologize for missing last week’s entry, so I am going to make up for it this week. There has been sickness and overall business complicating things. I’ve been trying to finish Arakawa Under the Bridge so my pick doesn’t seem premature, but I can’t help it. I just hope she stands the test of time.

Number 8 – Nino

Show: Arakawa Under the Bridge




Background: Again, I can’t honestly give an adequate background to Nino since I haven’t finished the series (a few episodes left), but I’ll give it a shot. Nino is a homeless young girl claiming to be from Venus. Great so far huh? She lives under the Arakawa Bridge along with an odd assortment of like-minded weirdos. As she is fishing off the side of the bridge, she runs into the male protagonist Kou. Through a series of unfortunate events, Kou becomes indebted to her. Nino comes to the conclusion that the only way she feels that Kou can pay her back is to love her. Kou strangely commits because of his overwhelming need not to owe anybody anything, and is thrust into Nino’s world as a dweller under the bridge.



Why she is on my list:

Nino is good-natured, simplistic, and most importantly, quirky. Her quirkiness sells it for me. It leaves me laughing every single time. With every episode we get a little morsel of her personality, and I have deeply enjoyed everything about her thus far. I had my doubts about her initially. First off, some of the anime community labeled Arakawa under the Bridge a romance. (Along with a variety of other titles) While it’s obvious at times by the nature of my posts that I like shoujo, I needed variety, and I wanted something different. Without a doubt, the romantic element with Nino and Kou is the source, the pivotal moment to which the viewer is guided into “life under the bridge”, but because of the style, and importantly Nino as an intriguing and always developing female character, we are not subjected to the classic and redundant shoujo roles. Luckily, the romance label is but a facade bringing to the forefront a slapstick anime with some of the most hilarious characters I’ve watched in a long time, including Nino. Stuffing my britches with blood and sand, lets get back to her.


I love the way she looks. That’s not even in a “saliva dripping from the corner of my mouth” type of way. Her physical normalcy oddly enough leaves a lasting impression. That was probably the point. She is is not busty, moe, tsundere etc. She is not wearing a schoolgirl outfit. Better yet, she is dressed in perhaps the most aesthetically unappealing outfit. It truly does fit her personality. While I can guarantee within the hundreds of animes out there, there are probably some “Ninos” circulating about, but I’ve seen a lot of anime, and I haven’t seen anyone like her yet. One of the best things about Arakawa under the Bridge is the fact that there is such a large surplus of interesting characters. What helps is that if you are paying attention to Nino throughout the series, even when she isn’t the focal point of a particular scene, she steals it. I always want to look for her and figure out what she is doing or reacting to, and often times, I’ll be laughing at the result. Her idiosyncrasies carry her over plenty of other characters that I’ve enjoyed over the years, and I proudly give her the number eight spot. I'm confident now, she will definitely stand the test of time.

Seiyuu - Maaya Sakamoto

Maaya has been a mainstay in the voice acting community for awhile. She made her debut in 1992, and is well known for her role as Hitomi Kanzaki in the overrated anime Vision of Escaflowne. She also voiced one of my favorite characters of the past few years, Haruhi Fujioka in the hilarious series Ouran High School Host Club. Most importantly, and because I'm an Evangelion lunatic as well, she lent her talent to Evangelion 2.0 as the voice of Mari. Much Gratitude! Like many other seiyuus, she is a successful triple threat, participating in anime, stage, and music. Her body of work speaks for itself.

Savory.

Guy Draws Gundam Freedom with Excel...



This has been around the Internet a while, for some reason I never posted it.  This guy, who seems to be insane, a masochist, or both.  Drew an entire Freedom Gundam from Gundam Seed in Excel.  I hate even drawing a flowchart in Excel, I can't imagine free drawing in it: especially to the level of detail he achieves...

Review: Knight and Day

I’ll start off by saying that I don’t hate Tom Cruise. He’s a nutball, but let’s be honest, most actor’s are a little nuts. Especially when they’ve had the kind of success he’s had over the years; even more so when they’re on the waning side of their careers. I’ll even go so far as to say I somewhat understand his devotion to Scientology. Right or wrong, he believes it cured his dyslexia; not really any different from someone who comes to Jesus because their cancer disappeared. That said, this is suppose to be review of Knight and Day.

I’ll admit I was quite skeptical upon seeing the trailers for this movie. It just seem so contrived. It felt like a runner up. It turns out this is true. If you don’t know the story essentially Tom Cruise was initially asked to play “Edwin Salt” in the movie Salt. He balked at their first offer, and instead of playing ball, (He wanted to play ball) they just rewrote the entire script, changed every “Edwin” to “Evelin” and it became an Angelina Jolie movie. Salt looks like a much better movie even though it looks like a Tom Cruise movie. Knight and Day was obviously a runner up. A job he took because 1) he wanted to show the studio that his Spy Film would do better and they fucked up, and 2) flex his comedic muscle because everyone loved him in Tropic Thunder.

The first big glaring issue with this movie is the Ethan Hunt problem. It’s a problem with a lot of actors who have played an iconic character (we can debate whether Ethan Hunt is iconic some other time). Most actors avoid movies within the same genre as their established characters. You’d never see Sean Connery in another spy movies. You’d never see Harrison Ford in another Action Adventure. Top Cruise is Ethan Hunt super-spy. Tom, as good as an actor as he is, wasn’t blessed with much depth. He only really knows how to play one Spy, and that’s Ethan Hunt. Put him in another spy movie, and you have a hard time imagining him as anyone else. It even helps a bit to believe that this is some kind of light hearted Hunt story between MI III and MI IV.

Regardless, the story is actually OK. The overall acting is OK. Tom is good even funny. It’s a fun summertime story. It does have an odd structure in that we the audience are actually following Cameron Diaz’s character. The action and the weirdness of it all is seen through her eyes. So many times in the film Tom’s character drugs her to keep her quiet, when this happens we lose our window into the events. It was funny initially, it did become a little annoying towards the end when some of the best action sequences are cut short by these blackouts. It almost seemed like a way of saving money so they didn’t actually have to film these sequences.

In the end, the biggest weak link in the whole deal is Cameron Diaz. She’s horrible. It’s hard for me to believe after watching the Mask a few weeks ago that she’d age so badly. She just isn’t believable as the “Young Ditsy Blond” anymore. She’s suppose to be the comic relief and all she does is stomp on every joke; instead she broadcasts every joke like Jerry Lewis. I’m expecting her to queue a rimshot at any moment.

I’d say it’s a definite rent. Unless you have nothing else to do no sense wasting $10 on this, but it’s enjoyable none-the-less.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Lonecow's Top 10 Anime Women - Rei Ayanami (Rebuild)

This week's entry might be a shock to some people who know me, but nevertheless here it is.

Number 07: Rei Ayanami
Show: Rebuild of Evangelion

Background: It is hard to really say what the fictional history of Rei Ayanami is at this point, because we don't really know. Now, I can tell you her complete history from the original Neon Genesis Evangelion story. Her body is a clone from a scientist who invented the Evangelions, Yui Ikari, the mother of the protagonist, Shinji Ikari. From her remains, many many souless clones were made and stuck in a giant tub of LCL (the primordial soup humans came from). In one of these cloned shells of Yui, the soul of the mother of humanity, Lilith, was placed, thus filling Rei with two motherly roles: the mother of the hero, and the mother of the human race.

Now in Rebuild, we can't take anything for granted. We can assume a lot of what I stated above is true, but it also could be completely false. There is some evidence that some things are the same. Shinji directly says, "The smell of Ayanami... The smell of my mother." That, and when Gendou looks at Rei he sees his dead wife. Also when she realizes Shinji is about to destroy the world just to save her, she pleads, "There are more of me. I can be replaced." So we can probably assume Gendou has a stockpile of Rei Real Dolls stashed somewhere under NERV.

So the main question is, is Lilith's soul still inside Rei? I sure hope so, but I'll get into that in a bit.

Why she is on this list: I get labeled as a Rei hater, because I am so madly in love with Asuka. I've defended myself on this position in the past. The reason I am putting Rebuild Rei on this list and not the original, is because I feel all the things I didn't like about NGE Rei has been fixed with Rebuild.

This is the opposite for Asuka. Unlike a lot of people, I do like Asuka Shikinami, but not as much as Asuka Soryu. That's a topic for another day. Asuka only has a little bit of time to develop as a character, but Rei has two whole movies with her as a focus, and the results are evident in her improved personality.

In the original series, up until Asuka arrived, I loved Rei. She was so mysterious, and had such an aura around her, but after Asuka did show up, she fell to the background completely. The problem partly had to do with her being so painfully introverted against Asuka's outgoing personality that she just couldn't compete. Also, a lot of Rei had to remain a mystery because so much of her past dealt with the mysteries of the entire show.

Which brings us to Lilith. In End of Evangelion, Rei finally comes into her own, once she figures out, "I'll be damned, I have the soul of a God." Then she becomes the embodiment of awesomeness, when she goes to each and every character, basically saying, "Still hung up on your own personal shit? I'll turn you into Tang." But sadly, this doesn't last long. She helps Shinji and then the movie ends.

This brings us to Rebuild. As I stated before, Rei has one entire movie all to herself to develop. This made us identify with her much quicker and gain sympathy for her as we see how she is treated as a science experiment and a doll. By the time 2.0 came out, it doesn't matter that bombastic Asuka comes onto the scene because Rei is already established, and she can safely do her own thing, hang out with Gendou and eat pills.

But then something magical happens for Rei Ayanami. She eats Shinji's Miso soup.

Seriously, eating Shinji's Miso soup must be like a spiritual awakening. The man can pilot an Eva, sure, but he can really make a damn fine cup of soup.

After Rei eats that Miso soup, her life changes completely. She takes her first proactive roll ever (not counting destroying the world in End of Eva), in that she wants to do the unthinkable, get Shinji and Gendou to patch up their relationship.

No longer is Rei the autistic doll she is in the original series. She is an actual real girl with aspirations and curiosities, and an actual drive and a goal, even if it is futile.

By the end of 2.0, something has happened to Rei, and I am partially hoping that her awakening as Lilith happens a lot sooner. Rei walking around, realizing that she is the mother of humanity, could be a very interesting prospect. On top of that, in the preview for part 3, she is seen with a bunch of little cute chibi Rei's looking out from behind her. So something is stirring with Eva's blue haired cutie.

Other versions of Rei that are worth mentioning, are her Human Instrumentality version, where is is a clutzy and outgoing Japanese school girl. 100% different then the version everyone likes. Also in the novel series being written right now called Evangelion Anima, a world that survived Third Impact, Rei III is alive and well as well as an evil Rei made by SEELE called Quatra who wears black leather, and then another cute preteen Rei who follows Ritsuko around.



Also worth mentioning is the game Ayanami Raising Project. Fans have translated this game, where you play as a NERV officer who gets to take Rei around, dress her, and show her a good time.

Seiyuu: Megumi Hayashibara

Megumi has been Rei's voice since the beginning of the television series in 1995, but that was by no means the start of her career. She started voice acting in 1986, doing bit parts for the show, Maison Ikkoku. After Maison Ikkoku, and before Evangelion, she starred in shows such as, Ranma 1/2, Patlabor, Samurai Pizza Cats, and YuYu Hakusho to name a few.

In the same year Eva premiered, she also voiced two of my other favorite anime women, who should probably be on this list as well, but aren't: Lina Inverse from Slayers, and Tira Misu from Sorcerer Hunters.

Most anime fans will also recognize her as the voice of the sultry and sexy Feye Valentine in Cowboy Bebop. In other words, Megumi is a big name in the voice acting business with so many top tier anime's under her belt, I'm hardly even scratching the surface here.

She is also a well established singer, with dozen of album releases and hit singles. This woman has had an amazing career. It is no wonder she is known by many fans to be the hardest working woman in anime.

Honorable mention: Mari Illustrious Makinami

I like to announce my fondness for Mari, any chance I get, if only to anger and annoy Rebuild haters. Just like any good Eva fan, I was very apprehensive about her inclusion in my beloved Evangelion. The main point of contention was that Asuka was to be introduced in 2.0, and if this new girl is going to be introduced as well, then she was going to steal some of Asuka's thunder.

In the final product however, Mari was hardly in the film, and she was in there just enough to make her a very interesting addition.

Hideki Anno, the director of Evangelion, told Mari's Seiyuu, Maaya Sakamoto, that her job was to destroy the world of Evangelion. And really, that is all we know about Mari. Her inclusion in Rebuild of Eva 2.0 seems odd, and she does indeed feel like an intruder. By the end of the film all we want to know about Mari is more. What is her plan? Where does she come from? And we only want to know the answers to these questions because she is so compelling and strange.

The criticisms for Mari, are pretty obvious. Her entire character design is curtailing and pandering to the moe stereotype. But personally I feel that is part of the joke of her entire creation.

It also helps that I see her as the other half of Asuka. It is like they took Asuka Soryu from the original series and performed osmosis on her, with one part becoming Asuka Shikinami, the toned down sweeter version of Asuka, and the other part becoming Mari Makinami, the hard core Eva pilot who exists only to destroy and pilot her Eva.

In the end I don't know enough about her to give her an actual number on this list, but one day after the two other films are finished, she might have earned a spot.

EVANGELION WORLD


On July 23, Evangelion World at Fuji-Q, in Japan, will be open for business. They will be streaming the opening live at USTREAM.

But why wait to see what it will look like? Pictures of the 1:1 scale Eva 01 head are already up, along with pics of the Eva Race Queens.





I can't wait to visit this place. We went to Fuji-Q in 2008 and it was already a great Japanese style theme park, with the Gundam ride and all.








Currently, only the media has access to Evangelion World. So there are a ton of pictures going around. Try here, here and here, for example.





Also I'm glad to see Mari has her own Racing girl now. For a while it was just Asuka and Rei. Why Rei doesn't have blue hair is beyond me.






I'm actually more excited about the Evangelion store attached to the giant Eva head. The Gundam store was awesome, and I'm not that big of a Gundam fan, so I can only imagine what goodies lay inside the Eva theme store.














I wish the Asuka Race Queen will still be there when I eventually make my way back there, but I have a feeling she will have moved on by then. If anything, I wish a higher quality picture existed of here. I'm in love.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Lonecow's Top 10 Anime Women - Motoko Kusanagi

In the future we will all be able to choose our bodies, just as one would choose a car. Or at least that is the future Shirow Masamune predicts in Ghost in the Shell. However, if anyone could go down to the local 'body' shop and pick up a new and improved shell, who in their right mind would pick the Borma model:









Luckily, the women in the future don't have nearly the bad taste the men do, and so we have beauties such as Motoko Kusanagi running around, kicking ass and showing quite a bit of her own in the process.

Number 08: Major Motoko Kusanagi
Show: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

Background:
Not a whole lot is ever said about The Major's past and that helps to add to her mystique and intrigue. She was involved in some wars, and had her body replaced at a very young age.

Due to her having a prosthetic body most of her life, she tends to be more in touch with her robotic side then her human side at times. But it has led her to be the best detective in Section 9. And she isn't all robotic, as she can be playful and even a little flirtatious with her BFF, and partner Batou.

Why she is on my list: In many ways, Motoko is the pin up girl for anime in America, as a lot of people, myself included were introduced to anime and manga through Ghost in the Shell. For me personally it was the manga that popped my Japanese cherry blossom. I remember seeing the movie first, when I was a teenager because it had been heavily advertised in Wizard magazine. Images of it were shown in that magazine pretty regularly and my adolescent mind was absolutly bewildered that Japan had animation with beautiful naked women running around.

But when I finally saw the film, I thought it was cool, but didn't leave a lasting impression. There was something about it that I kind of liked, but it just didn't grab me. The same can be said for Akira. I know I'm supposed to love it, but I don't.

However, the idea behind Ghost in the Shell, I always found interesting. People giving up there bodies and replacing them superior robotic prosthetic bodies. So, still being into comics at the time, I got a hold of the Ghost in the Shell manga. That is where I fell in love. The manga was much more my style. The characters had more life, The Major especially as she was a prankster instead of an emotionless doll. Also I was impressed by the level of detail in Shirow's side notes. Every single sci-fi instance in the book was footnoted with an obsessive level of detail as to how this seemingly impossible technology could one day be possible. Even details as to how Batou can have a robotic arm and not have the weight rip off his human tissue were intricately explained with diagrams and annotations. It made the entire world seem like such a valid possible future.

And while I liked the Major in the manga a lot, she was almost a little too quirky. Most of the time she is going around giving people a hard time, or taking time off to participate in a lesbian orgy (which Shirow also explains in painstaking detail as to why same-sex robot sex is better then straight sex because when they link their minds together, having a brain pattern of a different sex can cause problems or something like that, I wasn't really paying attention (read: boobs) ), that all of a sudden when the ending comes, and everything gets really serious her personality seems out of place.

That brings us to GitS: Stand Alone Complex, the real evolution of Motoko Kusanagi. The creators of SAC really took a long hard look at the GitS movie and the Manga and said, "Okay, what works and what doesn't", and the result was an excellent sci-fi detective television show, that would put American shows like CSI and Law and Order to shame.

One of these aspects was taking parts of Motoko from the movie and mixing her in a perfect blend with parts of her from the manga. She is mostly all business, like we see in the film, but she smiles, dates, plays pranks on her team members, in other words is human.

Last week Koji picked Revy as his number 9, and the reason I liked Revy personally is that she reminded me a lot of the Major. Revy is like an "evil" version of Motoko. They are both strong women in a male dominated world, but there isn't a single male in that world who even comes close to their strength and determination. Also, despite how they are both dressed, sex is very rarely an issue with them and is never once used to help them advance in their respective worlds.

I actually prefer when Motoko is dressed more conservatively because it makes her character less of a sex object and more of an "Ellen Ripley" of anime, which is what she is (though that won't stop me from posting sexy pictures of her on the sidebar). When she first came onto the scene women were either supporting characters, or magical girls. Motoko was one of the first to break the gender divide in modern anime, which was quite an accomplishment in Japan at the time.

The Major is probably the longest standing woman on my Top 10 list. Other anime girls come and go, but Motoko will always get your back. For that she will always have a place on this list.

Seiyuu: Atsuko Tanaka Voice Actress: Mary Elizabeth McGlynn

Notice this week I included the American voice actress. McGlynn is a rarity among English dub VAs in that she is just as good as her Japanese counterpart. Switching between both languages on the DVD is almost like Motoko is just flipping a switch in her voice box to change language on the fly because they sound so similar. That goes for the entire cast as well. GitS: SAC has probably one of the best voice casts in English dubbed anime. These kind of accomplishments need to be rewarded and acknowledged, because it is such a rare thing. There is no overacting, and no weird voices being used that you wouldn't hear from normal people you meet on the street. Real people used to make real characters. Why more dubs can't follow suit will always boggle my mind.

McGlynn started playing Motoko for SAC, and is also an ADR director which partially explains the quality in her voice work. But where she only played Motoko in SAC, Atsuko Tanaka has played the Major in all her incarnations.

Because of her deep mature sounding voice, Tanaka is often given the roll of villains or mysterious women. She also voices Castor from Fate/Stay Night and Helba from .hack, two of my other favorite Japanese entertainment properties. She has played Chun-Li in a couple of Street fighter games, though she is not Chun-Li's main voice box. Most recently she might be recognized as the voice of Claudette from Queen's Blade....

Seriously, how did a show like Queen's Blade manage to get so many A-list Seiyuu voice talent?


Honorable mention: Fujiko Mine

Fujiko was on my Top ten list for a very long time, and I figured with Motoko being the reigning veteran on the list it would be a good time to give Fujiko a little love. Fujiko in a lot of ways is the anti-Motoko. They are both strong sexy women in male dominated anime's. But where Motoko uses experience and analysis to get ahead, Fujiko almost exclusively uses her sex appeal. Though she is also a brilliant thief, so her don't discount her intellect.

The thing about Fujiko that I have always liked is that throughout the years in all the incarnations of Lupin III she is the only character that changes looks every single time. It's like they changed the actress playing her, and we are always supposed to just know it is her. And we do, because she changes depending on the taste of the audience. I suspect if a new Lupin III was to be made today she would be very much moefied.

But she has always been a character that compels any male watching the show because she is just so damn sexy and intriguing. Personally my favorite Fujiko was from the second Lupin III TV series. There is something very 70s sexy about her appearance that makes her seem more of a normal beauty as opposed to the knockout bombshell that she has been displayed as more recently.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Koji's Top Ten Anime Women - Revy

There are some women out there that are just wrong for you. You know that they are either after your money, sanity, soul, or all of the above. A woman’s sex appeal, borrowing a line from Rick James, is a helluva drug. Your friends declare, “You're bonkers!” Your parents vow to set an ominous atmosphere if she’s around, and your heart tells you, "well she is sexy, and good in bed." Until you settle down, you’ll probably never learn. Some types of sexy is just plain dangerous.

Number 9: Revy
Show: Black Lagoon

Background: Revy is the verbally abusive and mentally damaged gun-wielding "protagonist" of the Black Lagoon crew. She is their tank. Nicknamed "Two-Hands" for her proficiency with her custom made Berettas, she is just begging you to mess with her.

If it's a bunch of inner city goons, a ship full of Aryans, or a maid that would make even the T-1000 question its mission, she will take them on in a heartbeat. Revy is so thoughtful; she’ll transport your drugs and firearms too. She is ridiculously arrogant, outspoken, and a sadistic killer, but as the show progresses you start to love her for it! (Sad I know)

How she murdered her way onto the list:

I remember one of my first favorite girls of anime, Faye Valentine. I thought that she was "it" in regards to female characters, and for the longest time she always held a soft spot in my heart. She still kind of does. Eventually, I was introduced to Revy, the HGH version of Faye. One thing about Revy is that her daisy dukes fit really well! No really, one thing I love about Revy is that she steals whatever scene she is in. Almost all of my favorite scenes from the show involved her. The only one that I can think of that didn't include her directly involved a torpedo being wedged into a helicopter’s cockpit. She brings life to any scene whether it’s her foul mouth wisecracks or a shooting rampage that leaves you laughing and repulsed.

Not to anyone's surprised, she is emotionally damaged, and you actually want to know where her insanity comes from. We are only privy to bits and pieces of her back story, and like the episode “My Funny Valentine” in Cowboy Bebop for Faye, Black Lagoon could have easily revisited Revy's early days, and the audience would be sitting there salivating over every morsel. As the show progresses into the second season, Revy has not really calmed down any, but we see a “softer” side. Also one of her more respectable qualities is that she trusts the members of her crew. It however takes time, but once Revy trusts you, she will be there for you, as long as she gets paid. If you ever meet a girl like Revy and she buys you a Hawaiian shirt, you better make sure you wear it.


Sometimes you need a touch of danger and insanity. Now this list has it, welcome Revy.



Seiyuu: Megumi Toyoguchi

Megumi has been in the voice acting business since 1998. While Black Lagoon is the only anime that I’ve had the chance to hear her voice in, she has lent her skills to some notable titles such as Full Metal Alchemist, Gundam Seed (and Unicorn), and Ichigo 100%. She has a pretty interesting resume involving games as well, which I am not really surprised by. Megumi is a wonderful talent that I hope keeps getting work in the future. I know that a third project of Black Lagoon is in the works, so guess I just have to be patient.

Keep it Savory!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Cast Off! K-on!

Thinking about the Dragon Age Origins series getting the animation treatment, I started thinking about what anime I would like to have a live action Western flare. In all honesty I think there are only a few animes out there that could do well in a Western market, but it’s fun to think about. I’ll conjure a series that Hollywood could destroy, and my own casting wish list too. Afterwards I’ll then speculate who Hollywood would cast as well.

First victim (I’m not that pessimistic)

K-on!



Why it would never happen: Its K-on!!

Why it could happen: We are suffocated by the surplus of female teen pop singers.

Slice of life animes would be tough to pull off, especially with a show that is built on delicious moe goodness. Of course the names would be changed, along with a slew of other annoying things. Hollywood knows how to shake up source material, and the public could easily watch a 100-minute movie about four cute high school girls playing in a band. The fact that it would be campy and nonsensical would only add to this potential cash cow.

My cast list:

Ritsu: Amanda Bynes



This was a delicate choice since Lonecow’s number ten female is Ritsu. I hope he doesn’t defecate in my cereal on this one. Ritsu’s western touch needs to be actually funny. She can’t get by just on looks. She needs to be zany funny. While Bynes is effortlessly cute, she looks zany a lot of times. It’s in her eyes. Like Lonecow pointed out in his analysis of Ritsu, her antics are the glue that holds the group together. Most of those antics are completely off the wall ridiculous, and Bynes MAY be able to pull it off.

Mio: Ellen Page



For some reason Ellen Page came to mind as Mio. I think she is damn funny, and she has the shy, witty introvert down pat. I think she would work well off of Bynes because we really want Ritsu and Mio to have an obvious closer bond than the rest of the girls due to them being childhood best friends. I like it.

Mugi: Emma Watson



If we try to mold her based on Mugi’s background of good manners, wealth and her socially acquisitive nature, I see no reason why Emma wouldn’t be a fine choice. Having her be an exchange student from England too allows her to have that instant aristocracy that for some reason we Americans give to anyone with an English accent.

Yui: Kirsten Dunst



Casting Yui was a tough call for me because so much of her is built on moe. So you are the director, and you are telling the girl playing Yui, “Just roll around, and try to think you are a cutie who unfortunately is autistic.” Back in the American Pie heyday, I think Tara Reid would have been a decent choice. She’s cute, can play a ditz really well, and she was tolerable in Josie and the Pussycats. Nowadays, if you cast Tara Reid in anything, you have to make sure her implants won’t fly out of her skin on camera. I’m thinking…Kirsten Dunst?

This is not an insult to her intellect or her creditability as an actress. Just because Yui is a bit spacey in K-on, doesn’t mean Kirsten would play that role in a similar light, and she probably wouldn’t anyways. Plus after watching that video of her lip-syncing in Akibahara a while ago, I…well…want her.

That’s my list oh so help me. I disregarded Azusa, just because if the first movie made enough money to garner a sequel, then we could justify her appearance. Also since this is a Western adaptation wish list, I am going to omit the usual three prominent Asian actresses that everyone knows, and go for strictly a North American cast (except for Ms. Watson). I gave it the M. Night Shyamalan treatment.

Hollywood’s choices:

Yui: Miley Cyrus



When it comes to an adaptation that has more than a few strong characters, Hollywood studios tend to omit that completely and focus on one character entirely. With a western version of K-on, this is Miley Cyrus’s vehicle. I could picture Disney buying up the rights to K-on, and begging Miley to commit to it. Wouldn’t be surprised if Sawako’s character was turned into a male teacher being played by Billy Ray.

Mio – Demi Lovato, or Selena Gomez



Demi and Selena are another couple of Disney aces that would more than likely mesh perfectly with Hollywood’s version of K-on. Both are actresses and singers and as long as they didn’t step on Miley’s toes, or Billy Ray’s pubes, playing Mio would be in their grasps.

Ritsu and Mugi: Unknown actresses, or leftover Disney channel wastes. With having a few big named teen stars in the mix, it’s unnecessary for Hollywood to try and round out the quartet with some decent actresses. They need to save that money for the male love interest that is non-existent in Japan’s K-on. Hollywood only needs two of the K-on girls.

For the record, K-on is not an anime I would ever want to see replicated, but like I said, this is all for fun. Besides, when you have a chance at making fun of Billy Ray Cyrus, you take it…every time.

Keep it Savory.