I, A Kickstarter Sceptic, Pledged To Mai Mai Miracle And You Should Too

Mai Mai Miracle

In the last few years, the Kickstarter crowd funding website has really exploded in popularity – as someone who is heavily involved in the gaming industry, I have seen this help increase the rapid expansion of the indie game genre and heck, even launch a console. However, I had yet to pledge a single penny to a Kickstarter campaign for a multitude of reasons, with the majority of them falling into the sceptical, stubborn old man box. To put it bluntly, I didn’t have faith in pledging money to people I don’t know for a product that may never actually come into existence or I may not even like in the end. Yesterday however, I pledged $55 towards Anime Limited’s Kickstarter campaign for a US/UK release of Studio Madhouse’s Mai Mai Miracle anime movie, I have admittedly never seen this movie, that even Anime Limited acknowledge as niche, so what exactly was it that made me relax my usual Kickstarter-sceptic ways?

The Company

The first reasoning may sound a little bias, but it was because the Kickstarter was by Anime Limited – a company who despite only entering the market fairly recently (although its members have been around for longer), they have become renowned for their excellent taste in licensing (including classics such as Cowboy Bebop and Perfect Blue, as well as more modern gems like the works of Makoto Shinkai and Tiger & Bunny: The Beginning). As well as the quality of licenses, they have also shown to be deeply interested in giving fans the best quality product they can afford, so even without having seen the film yet, I knew I would be backing a quality product.

Last year was also the first time I had attended a single convention, making my debut at May’s London MCM Comic Con. Despite being pestered by friends for years, my intense social anxiety meant that it was too much of a daunting task, but after a positive series of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) sessions a few months prior, I felt that I was finally ready. I had listened to the representatives from the various companies on podcasts and the like before, but I made it a challenge to try and speak to all of them directly. I was casually walking in the venue when I noticed Andrew Partridge walking a few metres ahead of me. I called out to him and surprisingly, not only did he turn around, but he was actually willing to have quite a lengthy conversation with me! As with the many conversations he’s had online while visiting forums, he was incredibly honest and open about well, pretty much everything he could be – so it was only natural to trust him and everyone else at Anime Limited, who have expressed nothing but the utmost passion for this project – heck, when they noticed that the US rights were still available, they picked them up so that Americans can have a chance of seeing this movie too!

In fact, the main reason I actually decided to start up this blog in the first place was because everyone I spoke to at MCM, be they from Manga UK, MVM or Anime Limited, they were all incredibly nice, approachable and friendly – which left me at a peak of happiness that I don’t think has been met since.

The Campaign

Obviously, the proof is in the pudding but dayum does the recipe look good. I had no reason to doubt Anime Limited, but really drew me to support this campaign was how much Anime Limited have already invested – them already paying the licensing fees and only asking us to help support the physical release shows me just how dedicated they are to releasing this movie. In the past we’ve seen Kickstarters come up to fund entire projects from the ground-up, or in the case of anime, actually pay for the license (and the results of those ones are rather infamous). The knowledge that the rights to the movie have already been licensed shows just how serious Anime Limited are about this campaign.  They have also provided a detailed breakdown of exactly how the original $30,000 goal (which was met this morning) will go – 50% towards the production of the release, 40% for the KickStarter Backer extras and any other extras, while the remaining 10% goes to Kickstarter.

What is really cool though is that backers will have a say in what goes into the final product, through a process called “Crowd Producing” – basically, if the goal is reached (like it was in less than twenty four hours), backers will have a say in where additional money should go. One obvious choice is the production of an English dub (which has been estimated to cost a further $30,000). This concept is very interesting and one I whole-heartedly support.

The Movie

Regardless of the people behind the Kickstarter or the presentation of the campaign, it’s obvious that I wouldn’t have pledged a thing if I wasn’t actually interested in the product. As I have explained earlier I have yet to actually see the movie, but from what I have seen and heard so far, I am very interested. This movie is the second feature film from director Sunao Katabuchi, who is most notably the assistant director of Hayao Miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service, which is a favourite of mine. The film is notable in that it had a very rare seven-month run in Japanese cinemas. Anime Limited describes the film’s story as:

Shinko, is a third grade elementary school student with a magically active imagination. She spends a lot of her time listening to her grandfather’s history lessons, imagining what her town was like 1,000 years earlier. One day, a sad and sombre girl called Kiiko transfers to Shinko’s school from Tokyo. A strong friendship soon grows between the two girls as Shinko helps Kiiko come out of her shell and deal with her loss – all thanks to their adventures, both imagined and real.

You can also view Anime Limited’s official Kickstarter trailer here:

I think the film looks absolutely gorgeous – as expected of Madhouse to be honest. The story also sounds really sweet and charming, so it’s definitely one that has grabbed my interest.

Backing as little as $25 will earn you a digital copy of the movie, with $55 ensuring a physical copy as a backer reward. If you would like to back this project, please head over to the Kickstarter now!

It’s time to have freels again with “Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club” season 2

Free!

Last summer, Kyoto Animation (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, K-ON!) gained a rather impressive fan following with Free!, a sports anime that revolved around the Iwatobi Swim Club and its members. At the end of the final episode, an end-card stating “see you next summer” was already laid out as a huge hunt that the series would receive a continuation (and to be honest, which recent KyoAni series hasn’t?) but a poster at special Free! talk event in Japan earlier today outright confirmed it – a season 2 has received the green light.

No details about the second season have been announced yet, but there will no doubt be many fans will be looking forward to returning to the Iwatobi Swim Club!

The original series was simulcast on Crunchyroll as it aired.

Source

DreamWorks’ Ghost in the Shell adaptation to be directed by Rupert Sanders

Ghost in the shell poster

A few years ago, DreamWorks Pictures acquired the rights to adapt Masamune Shirow’s cyberpunk Ghost in the Shell cyberpunk manga into a live-action movie but for a while, things fell quiet (As if often the case in the movie business). Today however, Deadline have reported that DreamWorks have signed up Rupert Sanders (Snow White & The Huntsman) to take on directorial duties for the feature, which has received a new script from William Wheeler (Hoax, The Reluctant Fundamentalist).

The original manga has received numerous adaptations and re-imaginings in the past, with the most notable being the two films directed by Mamoru Oshii (which even inspired the “digital rain” in The Matrix) and the Stand Alone Complex TV franchises, although Production I.G. have recently been releasing Ghost in the Shell: Arise, a brand new 4-part OVA series that once again re-adapts the world of Motoko Kusanagi and Public Security Section 9.

Manga Entertainment UK have released every animated iteration of Ghost in the Shell other than the more recent Arise in the United Kingdom.

Miyazaki to take on Disney, Universal and DreamWorks at Oscars

The Wind Rises

The day has finally arrived – the Academy has announced the slate of films that have received nominations for this year’s 86th Academy Awards. A total of three anime works were submitted for consideration for the Animated Feature Film category: A Letter to Momo, Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: Rebellion and The Wind Rises. Out of the nineteen films submitted for consideration, only five of them would be receiving a nomination and we finally know which five they are:

  • Despicable Me 2 (Universal Pictures)
  • Ernest & Celestine (Cinéart)
  • Frozen (Disney)
  • The Croods (DreamWorks Studios)
  • The Wind Rises (Toho)

Hayao Miyazaki’s final feature film is a fictionalised biography about Jiro Horikoshi, the inventor of the Mitsubishi A5M fighter plane and his romance with Naoko, a woman suffering from tuberculosis. The movie has courted critical acclaim, having picked up Best Animated Feature awards from a number of awarding bodies including the New York Critics Circle, Toronto Film Critics Association as well as nominations for the Golden Globes and New York Film Festival among others. However, it has also attracted controversy due to the film’s focus on the creator of what would become one of Japan’s most effective killing machines in World War 2.

The film will no doubt face some fierce competition, particularly from Disney’s Frozen (which is most likely a favourite to win) and Despicable Me 2.

Previously, Miyazaki’s Spirited Away became the first foreign feature to win the Animated Feature Film category in the 76th Academy Awards in 2003 and Howl’s Moving Castle received a nomination in 2005.

Sunrise’s short film Possessions, which was directed by Shuhei Morita has also earned a nomination for the Animated Short Film Category.

Animax announce Winter 2014 simulcast slate

animax simulcasts 2

The New Year is finally upon us! ‘Tis the season of taking the old stuff and hurling it out of the window because we’re ashamed of it, while bringing in the new pretty things! Animax UK have joined Wakanim and Crunchyroll by announcing titles that they will be streaming directly to us in this new anime season!

Arguably the biggest name on their slate is Nisekoi, a romantic comedy from SHAFT and Akiyuki Shinbo (Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Monogatari). Based on the original Shonen Jump manga by Naoshi Komi is about love hate at first sight – Raku Ichijo and Chitoge Kirisaki despise each other from the moment they meet, but when they discover that they’re the heirs of two organised crime families on the verge of war, the most mismatched couple of the century have to pretend to be an item! To complicate things even further, Raku is still clinging on to a promise he made to a girl ten years ago, which is symbolised by the pendant he wears around his neck. You can read my review of Nisekoi’s first episode here.

The next announcement was the second season of Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions. Kyoto Animation takes us back to the world of teenage delusions with this sequel series that sees Rikka and Yuta now secretly living together and Yuta having to come to terms with not only having a girlfriend, but one who’s a chunibyo!

Hamatora is the third of the new announcements. Animated by Naz, this supernatural series focuses on Nice and Murasaki, two “Minimum Holders” – people who possess supernatural abilities. Nice and Murasaki form a detective agency called “Hamatora” that is based in their local coffee shop and find themselves involved in a serial murder case – where all of the victims are Minimum Holders!

The fourth and final simulcast anime of this season is Sekai Seifuku: World Conquest Zvezda Plot from A-1 Pictures. The series follows Kate Hoshima, who was born with magnificent skills in her attempt to conquer the world. Does she have what it takes to uphold the legendary Zvezda Plot?

First Impressions: Nisekoi Episode 1

I am a huge fan of Naoshi Komi’s Nisekoi romantic comedy manga and have been reading it since the international release of the Weekly Shonen Jump digital magazine. Of course, I was absolutely ecstatic when an anime adaptation was announced – especially as it was directed by Akiyuki Shinbo of Puella Magi Madoka Magica (which I absolutely love!) and it was premièring a mere eight days before my birthday. With each new tidbit of news, my excitement would increase ten-fold until the day when the anime would finally begin and now that it has, I may as well give some of my thoughts regarding its first episode:

For those of you who don’t know, the story of Nisekoi revolves around Raku Ichijo who is the son of a yakuza boss – except he doesn’t want to take over the “family business”, he wants to study hard and become a salaryman (which is apparently the Japanese dream). Raku treasures a locket he wears around his neck, which was given to him by a girl he made a promise with ten years ago – that he would take the lock and she the key, then when they reunite they will open the locket and get married. While on his way to school one day, Raku has a run-in with Chitoge Kirisaki, who is in a hurry – in fact, a more apt description of the “run-in” would be that she jumped over a wall and kneed him in the face. The two already got off to a rough start, but even Chitoge transferring into Raku’s class was nothing compared to the revelation that she is the daughter of a rival mafia syndicate and to avoid a war between the two families, the two will have to pretend to be lovers for three years!

This first episode basically sets that scenario up, slowly introducing the viewer to both Raku and Chitoge and emphasising their interactions together before the big bomb-shell is revealed at the end. From their first meeting it is clear that these two simply do not get along (in fact, Chitoge hit Raku in the face after he called he compared her to a primate) and the negative reactions when one is made to help the other is mutual. The fact that we get to know the pair before the bombshell is dropped on them really adds to the absolute hilarity of the situation, as we can already see how mismatched they are!

I love the way the anime opens with the original “Zawsze in Love” scene, showing it with a flickering border and dialogue written across the screen as if it were a silent movie, with the only colour coming the nearby scenery, such as the glowing orange sky and green grass.

Nisekoi 1

The presentation of this scene was simply marvellous, although perhaps it might have been better if it was all in black and white, with only the lock in colour?

After that brief introduction, the episode opens up with Raku Ichijo in a dark room preparing a meal in a wonderfully choreographed scene that is given an unusual atmosphere from the prominent green lighting. Honestly, I do have to question the choice of lighting as really…who would want to cook in the dark?

The animation for this series is absolutely stunning – which should come as no surprise from SHAFT, whose recent shows are done no real justice unless viewed on blu-ray. As with Puella Magi Madoka Magica‘s Mitakihara Middle School, the school in Nisekoi is given a unique and impressive design. In fact, the episode as a whole features such a high quality of animation that it’s already set the bar pretty high for the year and it’s only January!

The school interior has a striking and unique design, but how many schools have the budget to look that fancy?

The school interior has a striking and unique design, but how many schools have the budget to look that fancy?

The first episode stays extremely close to the opening chapter of the original manga with only a few deviations (the scene where the pair are asked to take over of the school’s animals is cut drastically short compared to the manga, but the scene was hardly important in the grand schemes of things. There was one line that was cut short that really shouldn’t have been though: when Raku flips out at Chitoge, in the manga he says “I did it, I yelled at a girl. I really, didn’t act like a man” while in the anime, it’s cut short to simply say “I did it, I yelled at a girl” which really mixes up the signals and could give the wrong intention to those unfamiliar with the series and Raku as a character.

Nisekoi 6

Character designer Nobuhiro Sugiyama does an excellent job with adapting Naoshi Komi’s original character designs for animation, including the large array of facial expressions seen in the manga!

As a fan of the manga, I was worried about whether the voices I imagine in my head would match those chosen in the animation, but I am extremely happy to say that the voice cast for the Nisekoi anime is easily one of its greatest strengths. Kōki Uchiyama is the perfect Raku, being able to show his emotive range with such precision that it sounds incredibly natural. Nao Toyama may sound a bit too perky at first to be Chitoge, but the way she can quickly change into the more hot-headed “barbarian” (as Raku calls her) shows a similar familiarity with the character that suits Chitoge perfectly. The most stand-out though, has to be Kana Hanazawa as Onodera. Onodera’s character may not be as multi-layered as Raku and Chitoge, but Kana’s resume of past characters make her a perfect fit for Onodera’s more timid demeanour. Even Yūki Kaji’s brief appearance as Shū Maiko in this episode shows the playful wit of the character in a tone deep enough to make his more wiser words later in the series not feel out of place. Whoever was in charge of selecting the cast needs to be paid more money for such a fantastic job!

My only complaint would be that at times, I think Shinbo has forgotten that isn’t directing Puella Magi Madoka Magica as often, scenes are very oddly coloured, with some of them as if they were meant to be a witch’s labyrinth and whoever designed the animation for the opening theme really pressed the “invert colour” option too many times.

There is one thing that does make me think though – in the series’ opening theme, the characters Tsumugi and Tachibana are obscured, shown only as silhouettes. I can understand Tachibana to an extent because of the role she plays, but Tsugumi doesn’t really play any significance in the story and there’s also the fact that both characters have already been revealed, with footage of them shown at JUMP Festa (seriously, way to spoil the surprise!). At least this implies that the series is possibly going to last for more than a single season though, with the first half of the series establishing the Raku-Chitoge-Onodera love triangle and the other characters being introduced just before the second half of the series, or if it is to only be 12/13 episodes long (which would be a huge shame), they’ll simply be uncovered upon being introduced.

To be honest, the first time I was left with a bad taste in my mouth after watching the episode for the first time due to the classic SHAFT weird designs (a part of me still wonders if maybe AIC Build who animated Oreimo might have been a better choice for animating the series), but on a rewatch I absolutely loved it. The year has only just begun and Nisekoi certainly has raised some high standards for the rest of 2014!

9/10

If you want to read the original manga, Viz Media is serialising it at the same time as the Japanese release with the Weekly Shonen Jump digital magazine, if you wish to explore the romantic comedy from the very start, the full volumes have been available digitally for a while now and the first volume will be available in print from next week (so expect a review of that!).

Anime Limited release schedule includes Space Dandy

Space Dandy

The Space Dandy science fiction comedy about a dandy guy in space might have only just had its worldwide premiere this weekend just gone, but the huge international effort that saw the latest series from Studio BONES (Fullmetal Alchemist, Soul Eater) and Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop, Kids on the Slope) premiere in North America’s Toonami block before its Tokyo MX debut has really ramped the speed of the international release the series to warp speed. UK Anime retailer anime-on-line has updated its website with the latest confirmed release dates from distributor Anime Limited, which includes complete DVD and Blu-Ray collections for Space Dandy, which are slated for release on 24th November – that’s right, an anime that has only just started airing already has a UK release date announced. The standalone DVD release will include 4 artcards, the movie and the Parallel Works, while a separate release of them on blu-ray is being considered.

Another addition to the schedule is the much talked about Gurren Lagann: Gurren-den Edition, which launches on 2nd June as a blu-ray exclusive collector’s edition that retails for a whopping £149.99 (although the included extras will make it worth it!). For those of you not willing to spend that much though, regular, barebones DVD and Blu-Ray collections of the critically acclaimed series will be released on 20th October for about half of the price. The Gurren-den Edition will be limited to 2,000 units and will include a 50-page hardback artbook and every extra Anime Limited could get their hands on, including the Nintendo DS OVA (although some extras are still Japan exclusive)

Those are the juiciest of the new updates, but the full confirmed schedule is as follows:

  • 10th February 2014: Garden of Words (DVD and Blu-Ray)
  • 24th February: Outlaw Star Complete Collection (DVD), Tiger & Bunny: The Beginning (DVD/BD Combi-Pack)
  • 24th March: Durarara!!! Complete Set (DVD), Durarara!!! Limited Edition (Blu-Ray)
  • 28th April: Nerima Daikon Brothers Complete Collection (DVD)
  • 2nd June: Gurren Lagann: Gurren-dan Edition (Blu-ray)
  • 20th October 2014: Gurren Lagann Collector’s Edition Complete Collection (DVD), Gurren Lagann Complete Collection (Blu-Ray)
  • 24th November: Space Dandy Collector’s Edition Complete Collection

Anime Limited have also announced that they will be launching a Kickstarter next week for both the United Kingdom and United States for a title that fell through the cracks. Very interesting! Also, Escaflowne will be receiving an Ultimate Edition in 2014 as well.

Will you be buying any of these?