2012 was an extraordinarily great year for Japanese film fans in the UK what with the film festivals getting awesome titles like Ai to Makoto and Key of Life as well as Third Window Films releasing a plethora of classic and new titles like the Tetsuo boxed set and Kotoko (which turned out to be a group of very popular posts for this blog) and supporting Sion Sono’s latest releases. That was just on the live-action front because Kaze have shown some gumption in acquiring the rights to the Berserk movie trilogy and even going as far as giving them a theatrical release!
What are the films we should be looking forward to in the next year? Well this is hardly an exhaustive list but I hope to give a heads up as to when some great titles are about to drop!
Manga Entertainment UK
Manga Entertainment UK announced a plethora of awesome titles back in October at the London MCM Expo with The Wolf Children being my highlight. Am I hyped for that? Damn straight because that is an awesome title and was even my film/anime of the year! A definite purchase. I cannot praise this film enough but I will hold back for now and maybe indulge the need when I get the DVD.
The Wolf Children
In a story that takes place over thirteen years the theme of love between parents and children is explored. It starts when a college student named Hana falls in love with a “wolf man” named Ō kami. The two marry and have children – Yuki (snow) the older sister and Ame (rain) the younger brother. The four live quietly in a city concealing the true existence of their relationship until an incident happens and Hana decides to move to the country.
Next up in order of coolness is Blood-C.
I loved the original Blood: The Last Vampire and its sequel Blood+. Heck, I went to see the live-action movie and wore my Blood+ t-shirt to the screening, something I rarely do with anime merchandise but I was disappointed with Blood-C and wrote a dismissive review.
It turns out I was a bit too premature with my criticism but the first few episodes of the TV anime irritated me (and many others, it must be said) with its use of moé tropes/cuteness. Then something happened… The final episode saw enough blood and carnage raining down to make the red sea literal as it tore its face off and revealed a horrific visage of gore-streaked and flesh rending extreme violence.
Can you say “Wolf in sheep’s clothing”?
And yet I still have not watched the series but now I get a chance with the release of Blood-C and its movie sequel Blood-C: The Last Dark.
Fumito Nanahara is an influential politician who rules Tokyo with an iron fist. He has introduced the Youth Ordinance Bill which enforces curfews for the young and regulates the internet. Despite this a group of young people have formed a group named SIRRUT and pan on attacking Fumito. In the course of their research they discover “Tower”, a secret organisation that is backing Fumito and conducts human experimentation. When Sirrut attempt to expose “Tower” in the Tokyo subway mysterious creatures appear. So too does Saya, a young girl who survived the horrific incident in Ukishima Province with a sword that can defeat the Old Ones.
Old Ones? Sounds like a case of Lovecraftian horror! If so, I’m there! Blood-C: The Last Dark saw CLAMP (Cardcaptor Sakura) and Production I.G. (Patlabor) join forces with CLAMP handling the story and character designs and Production I.G. staff animating and directing. The cast includes Nana Mizuki (Fate Testarossa in Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha) reprising the role of Saya Kisaragi.
Staff from the TV series mostly made a return with Jun’ichi Fujisaku and CLAMP’s Nanase Ohkawa fulfilling writing duties however, the most defining change is that series director Tsutomu Mizushima (Another) is replaced by animator Naoyoshi Shiotani (Tokyo Marble Chocolate) as director.
They are not the only titles getting released by Manga UK. Also seeing a release is Jormungand and Guilty Crown in April, Cat Planet Cuties, Aria and Hellsing Ultimate parts 1 to 8 which Manga Entertainment will release in sets sometime ‘hopefully’ in May. Manga Entertainment are “still negotiating with Kadakowa over the series Steins;Gate, my runner-up anime of the year for 2011, and that it ‘might’ be ready by May or June 2013”.
Kaze ended the year in the UK on a high publishing Persona 4: The Animation (a great 2011 anime series) and Berserk Golden Age Arc: Egg of the King (a brilliant movie adaptation!) and next year we know that they are going to release great TV anime like Un-Go (another 2011 series which I liked a lot), Bakuman, Mirai Nikki and Journey to Agartha (aka Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below) which will be released on the 28th of January on DVD, Blu-ray and on a collector’s edition with art-book. I missed out on the chance to see this at a recent anime film festival (I should have pre-booked tickets!!!) so this release is the next best thing and a purchase I will make to support the UK anime industry. Anybody familiar with Shinkai will know how good his films can be and while I am not fussed on this trailer makes I still think the film look brilliant.
Asuna is a girl who spends her days listening to mysterious music coming from the crystal radio, a memento she received from her father. She embarks on a journey in the underground realm of Agartha which some believe has the properties of bringing people back from the dead. With a brave young man named Shun, Asuna will see the cruelty and beauty of the world as she evades dangerous beasts and a ruthless group of soldiers from her world.
Now I know I say things are brilliant a lot. I know I say I like a lot of things but this anime is, quite frankly, one of the best shows I have ever seen in any medium. Ever. Got that?
If you want a post-modern deconstruction of Japan on nearly every level from anime to economics, popular music from the 80’s (see the footnotes for my review of Suicide Club), family, society, justice, guilt, gender and every other existential angle that shapes an individual that is worth examining then this is the anime for you.
You might not get it at first. It might just be a sugary sweet confection but give it a few episodes and you will start to notice the shadow it casts, lurking behind the glitz and the glamour of the sights and sounds and holding a batch of horrors for characters whose lives are seen to be increasingly off-kilter and they struggle to hold on to all they care about.
My guesses about what would happen from the first episode proved to be hopelessly off the mark and yet I did not care because I was enthralled by the series.
When I say this had depth I really mean it. From the way that characters were set up and written, their actions and behaviour, to the way the music was deployed to the visuals which were layered with all sorts of details that you could miss if you did not pay attention to them. It referenced a lot of modern Japanese history but you would need to be clued up (or at least cued up from a guide) to catch a lot of it. I am not Japanese and yet I still managed to spot a lot. You can spend hours reading blogs where people give their interpretations. A year after viewing it I am still discovering random things in J-films that I can link to the anime and getting a surge of joy.
It was like discovering a whole new world. It touched me emotionally and I can remember the surge of emotions at specific scenes – especially the ending which had me taking screen-caps while trying to blink back tears.
God… I remember the excitement that every viewing held. The fact that every episode seemed like it was packed full of tense and unexpected moments created by genuinely complex and inventive characters in an endlessly surprising and detailed world and every episode always ended on a perfectly poised cliff-hanger. I remember discovering I could identify informal Japanese and I remember the morning I wrote up my first impressions of the show.
This is the type of series to inspire the ani-blogger sphere to the highest form of criticism. You can read some of the most erudite articles linking theatre, literature and other forms of high-art to the action in each of the episodes. It was ambitious, enthralling, visceral and intellectual.
The last time live-action television did that for me was the first season of Heroes but even then that still lacked the magic that this had. I love this anime. I will buy this anime. Kaze, release this anime sharpish so it can go alongside my copies of Tatami Galaxy, House of Five Leaves, Kino’s Journey, Haibane Renmei and Paranoia Agent and I can display it with pride!
Other major releases for the UK include MVM’s plans.
Their first major release is Needless which will hit stores in two parts in January and in February. This will be followed by Shana Season 2 part 1 will be released in March. Strong pre-orders will convince MVM to release Series 3. Also in March comes a complete box-set of CANAAN and Dream Eater Merry and that is followed in April by Ga-Rei: Zero.
And that’s it for the first half of the year. We’ll encounter some great anime!