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Gundam Wing photo
The fine folks from Nozomi Entertainment just announced that they will be releasing the Blu-ray and DVD of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing in the US later this year. Soon, you shall be able to relive the glorious moments of...

We brain-dove Ghost in the Shell: First Assault Online, and came back with answers

Apr 28 // Josh Tolentino
[embed]34881:5504:0[/embed] 1.) With the Stand Alone Complex subtitle, First Assault Online seems to be related to the Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex TV series. Does the game take place during a specific moment in the show's timeline, or its premise related to events in the show?   The game is inspired by the Stand Alone Complex TV series, but when we were watching the series, we were particularly excited by Episode 24 of Season One, in which Section 9 is forced to take on an opposing Special Ops team to clear their names. The episode really made us imagine what it would be like to fight together as a perfectly synchronized team like Section 9, which is what helped us decide to bring it to life in a team-based shooter. 2.) Players can choose which member of Section 9 to play as during a match, each of whom has a special ability or trait (like Thermoptic Camo for the Major). How did the team decide which special abilities to assign to which character? Were there disagreements?     We worked very closely with the anime creators and discussed what skills would match each character from the original anime. In result, the currently designed skills are in line with the original characters. We also designed these to add more excitement within the FPS game. We plan to consider these also when we design more skills in the future. Another part that we'll also consider is player feedback. We are all open to the players thoughts and would love to hear any great ideas.   3.) On menu screens and in-the game, players can view clips from the Stand Alone Complex anime series. Are there plans to add ways for player to view whole episodes or acquire the series to view on their own?   As we chose to make the game an FPS, we found that it was not easy to to deliver the feel of the original anime. Making the game an FPS might have been slightly easier, but we were most confident in making a FPS game and put our efforts into melting the original anime within our game.  We used these short cuts to give the fans something close to the anime and also make other players interested in the Ghost in the Shell story making the game more enjoyable.   4.) More recent works in the Ghost in the Shell universe have concentrated on Arise, a series set earlier in Motoko's career. Are there plans to add content related to the Arise series to the game?   We believe that both SAC and ARISE are great series. We think that more recent fans would be more familiar with ARISE and previous fans would be more familiar with SAC. If we have the chance, we would definitely like to add contents related to the ARISE series. We'll have to see what we can discuss with the anime creators. [Check out more of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - First Assault Online for free this weekend on Steam!] [embed]34881:5504:0[/embed]
Ghost in the Shell photo
A 'major' incursion
A team-based multiplayer shooter isn't the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about a Ghost in the Shell video game - the first thing is a Basset Hound simulator. But after that, Nexon and Neoples have done a p...

Japanator Interviews: Cristina Vee

Jun 17 // Anthony Redgrave
Japanator - How many times do your friends pester you for impersonations of their favourite character? Cristina - My immediate friends don't really ask me for impersonations, but I usually force them on them anyway! The worst is actually at conventions; I've been asked multiple times at panels to give a sample of Riven or Homura Akemi and their response after the fact is sometimes "....pretty close", or "....that was okay". It's hard to maintain a voice after air travel and speaking all weekend, haha! Japanator - Out of all the characters you have played from anime and video games; which one had been the most interesting to get into the mind set of? Cristina - If you take a look at my resume, you might notice a trend. Many of my characters are emotionally damaged or just completely broken. It's awesome. I really loved voicing Homura Akemi in Madoka because of everything she goes through. I don't think I've seen a character as well developed as her in the last ten years of anime. That being said, I really enjoy completely throwing myself off the deep end. I voiced Four in Drakengard 3 and I had such a blast because she is completely nuts. She is past the point of redemption. Japanator - Veecaloid Pop is a game that was made for you Cristina, is this a rarity, or do you get a lot of fan made games? Cristina - I don't know of any other voice actors who have their own video game-- correct me if I'm wrong! I feel so lucky to have the amazing, talented friends who put me in this unique position. Adam Tierney, James Montangna, Lindsay Collins, and Andrew Lim are as passionate about games, art, and music as they come. Japanator - Will we see a duet between Cristina Veecaloid and Milky in the near future? Cristina - I think a duet might be crossing the streams a little too much! Milky's next single is coming along beautifully though. I'll give you one hint: it's about corgis. Japanator - Which one would you rather be in real life: a cosmic idol or a magical girl (sans contract of course!)?  Cristina - I think it's very telling about my personality that I became a voice actor. I don't really enjoy being in the limelight, but I love being part of a team and making an impact. I'm going to go with magical girl! I'm thinking more along the lines of Sailor Moon and not Madoka Magica. I'd love to save the world without the mental anguish, thank you very much!   How many times do your friends pester you for impersonations of their favourite character?
Cristina Vee Interview photo
Voice Idol, Game Star
Cristina Vee is becoming one of the most prolific voice actresses in the English dub anime industry. Her sweet vocals can be heard in K-On giving life to the scaredy cat bassist, or as the hot-tempered shrine maiden Sail...

Japanator Interviews: SCANDAL

May 14 // Hiroko Yamamura
SCANDAL interview photo
OMG it's Rina!
As you probably already know, we are huge fans of SCANDAL at the Japanator office. The Osaka based all female band have been tearing up Japan since coming together back in 2006. They've come a far way from their days performi...

We Chat With Gun Caliber's Bueno: Toys, Choreography, and Toku's current state

Feb 16 // Salvador G Rodiles
Japanator: If you were given the chance to work on any existing tokusatsu franchise, which one would you do, and how would you make it different? Bueno: I'd make Mirai Ninja, because Keita Amemiya has been talking about making that, ever since he made the first one-- and he hasn't done it. Because all that Pachinko money is funding the Garo shows, so he's stuck in this endless loop where he has to make Garo shows, because the Pachinko games are making the money to fund them. Japanator: Oh! So that's why there's been so many Garo projects lately. Bueno: Yeah. Nobody really understands that. Have you heard my podcast with Mecha Gorilla? Japanator: Yes! Bueno: We talked about the same thing-- I think it was with Mecha Gorilla or Christafurion and Friends. The Pachinko games pretty much fund the series. That's why they have so much series of Garo. Then, it's an endless loop of, "Okay, Garo had a Pachinko game that did well, so it funds the new Garo series." Then the new Garo series gets a Pachinko game based on it, and that one funds the next one. So he's kind of stuck in that rut, and I want to be able to work with Keita Amemiya on Mirai Ninja 2. But I don't know, that brings me to another discussion of if I would want to work on a Japanese production. From my experiences here in Japan, working on somebody else's projects --especially the Japanese ones-- could be really really really tough work, because there's a certain way of doing things. Also, because of the fact that you are a foreigner, working in this industry over here, you're gonna deal with a lot of racism. Bueno with Mark Musashi (Sh15uya's Piece, Garo's Kodama) at Machigaine Hot Dogs in Akihabara Japanator: Based on your experience with tokusatsu and film making, what are your current thoughts on the tokusatsu industry? Bueno: More than the industry, the "fandom" is kind of in a rut right now. The four major franchises in tokusatsu right now are Kamen Rider, Super Sentai, Ultraman, and Garo-- as far as like henshin hero stuff goes. People would say Godzilla and kaiju stuff, but when people say "tokusatsu," they're going to talk about Kamen Rider more-- you just gotta face the facts. That's partially the reason why SciFi Japan TV closed down, they had some great content, but nobody gave a shit. They wanted to cover Ultraman and kaiju stuff, and not the Kamen Rider and Super Sentai stuff, because that's what Tokusatsu Network and HJU cover. They wanted to break from the mold. The problem with that is that the fans like to talk about Kamen Rider and Super Sentai more than Ultraman and kaiju, so they don't know who their audience is. The fandom of Ultraman and Godzilla is very small, compared to Kamen Rider and Super Sentai. That leads me to the gripe that I have with tokusatsu right now: The "fandom" consists of consumers, and not enough creators. When I say this, I'm talking about the "fandom," and the fact that they like to talk tokusatsu, rather than try to create it. There's a number of reasons of why this is: "Fans" see it as intimidating, they think it cost too much, they don't have the know-how, or they don't have the time. There's tons of excuses, and sometimes they are good excuses, like it really does cost money. There are "some toku fans" out there who basically say, "Yeah, I could do that, I could do this." I don't know if you remember Carey Martell, but he's a guy who was so full of himself, and he wanted to make an American tokusatsu called Deathfist Ninja GKaiser. He made the effort, but nobody wanted to help him fund the movie. Bueno with Japanese comedian Kaori Takamura at YouTube Space Tokyo Me on the other hand, I just decided to go out there, and stop waiting. I got off my ass, and worked at my job to raise the money to make a tokusatsu. That's pretty much what it is, you gotta to raise the funds til you have the suit. The first step is getting the suit, but "certain toku fans" don't realize that, because they're thinking, "Oh, it cost too much money." That's why a lot of people don't have the resources to make tokusatsu, and that's probably why they only relegate themselves to reviewing or gossiping about tokusatsu, rather than making it. It's sad, because the fandom consists of that, and only that right now. To me, the people out there who're struggling to make their own tokusatsu are the super die-hard fans, because they're inspired by tokusatsu to make tokusatsu that they feel is the kind of tokusatsu that they want to watch. Then there are "certain toku fans" out there who just bicker about that and talk about like, "Oh, well I could make a better tokusatsu." I ask them "Then why don't you?" They go like, "Oh, well I don't have the money, or I don't have the time." It's excuses after excuses after excuses, and that's what really pisses me off about the "fandom." They'll talk about Kamen Rider and all that stuff, but when somebody makes more effort to make something different, it doesn't get recognized. That's why whenever I see somebody making an independent production, I'm like, "Okay, I'm gonna bookmark this video." It's gonna be the same thing every year: There's gonna be a new Rider, a new Sentai, a new Ultraman, and a new Garo. That's it, it's only those four. In the '80s and '90s, there was an explosion of tokusatsu where there were lots of different ones. With the way the economy is right now, there's not enough money being put into entertainment, so there's only a few brands. Japanator: A few years ago, you and most of Garage Hero's members reviewed the Super Hero Wars movies. That said, how bad do you think Super Hero Wars GP is going to be? Bueno: Yonemura's writing it, so I don't think it's going to be all that good. Again, this is one of the things that I was talking about right here. Rather than talking about original tokusatsu, here we are talking about Kamen Rider and Toei. This is what the "fandom" has gone down to-- they have to talk about how good or bad something is, rather than doing something about it. That's what's kind of bothering me about the whole thing with tokusatsu and "tokusatsu fandom." That's why I want to do something about it-- that's why I'm making original content and that's why I'm making the kind of toku that I want to make. Because Super Hero Taisen was shitty, that made me even more motivated to make my own tokusatsu, and that's the kind of mindset that people got to get into. Rather than bitching about something at home in front of a computer, they got to get out of the house; buy some tools, buy all the resources they need, and start making their own tokusatsu. They don't have to, but if there's a lot of people saying, "I could do a better job," they should really step up to the plate and prove it. This is for all the "fanboys:" Shirakura, who is originally the Producer of Agito and Ryuki, is the owner of Toei now. He runs the company, and officially does not give a shit about anything the fans think about Kamen Rider-- that's how jaded he is. That's why Super Hero Taisen was made. He had this brainchild of, "Oh, if I slap Kamen Rider and Super Sentai on it, then people are going to like it-- even if it's a shitty movie." So he hired Yonemura to write this really shitty script, and what happened? It was a shitty movie, but the fans ate it up. All of the interviews that they have went like, "Aw, it was great to see all of the heroes on screen," but they're not going to talk about how shitty the movie is, because that's how Japanese culture is. They do not talk straight like that; they want to be polite. I remember watching Super Hero Taisen Z with Fernando, Daryl, and all them in the movie theater. Then there was this kid right beside me, and I was like, "Hey, you like Kamen Rider and Super Sentai?" He was like, "Yeah." The mom's all like, "We actually got tickets from the Producer, Shirakura." I thought to myself, "Well, it's too bad they're not refundable." They watched the movie, and then the kid was bored out of his mind. He was twisting and turning in his seat, and the mom was like, "For God's sake, sit straight." Then he yawned like five times during some scenes, and I watched carefully. When the movie was over, guess what the kid said. Japanator: He hated the movie? Bueno: No, he said, "That was awesome!" Japanator: WHAT?! Bueno: See, this is what I'm talking about. It's fucking brainwashing, man. All these kids are being brainwashed into thinking, "because there's all these superheroes on screen, it's gonna be good," and it's not. Even though they subconsciously know, and their body tells them, "This movie is shit," they're brainwashed into saying, "That was awesome." This is why tokusatsu sucks right now. Shirakura only cares about two things: Selling toys, so he can get his Bandai check, and selling tickets, so he can get his Toei check. That's his way of thinking in a business. Japanator: So when did Shirakura become Toei's owner? Bueno: I don't know; I don't care. Bueno with Koichi Sakamoto at an Aka x Pink promotional event Okay, here's the two ways of thinking in tokusatsu business: You have Shirakura who's like, "If I put Kamen Rider on it, I could sell toys. If I put Sentai on it, I could sell toys and make money." Then you have the Sakamoto way of thinking where it's like, "I can shoot some cool action utilizing the toys in a way that'll get people to want to buy it, and that'll sell toys." Guess what? That works! With W, OOO, Fourze, and Wizard even, he uses the toys, and it sells. Plus, it has a cool action scene, so it sells the DVDs and tickets. I watched the Fourze movie three times, and it works. At the end of it all, Sakamoto is like a big kid, so he understands what the kids like. The Twelve Horoscopes fight scene from the Fourze movie is probably the best tokusatsu fight scene to date, because a.) it sells the toy, b.) it's a cool fight scene, and c.) each time he uses the toy, it has meaning. I highly recommended movie for anybody who wants to know how to shoot a good tokusatsu fight scene or movie. There's that certain group of tokusatsu fans who're like, "It's all about the toys; I don't like it! It should be about the suits and the story." Little do they know, if you don't have the toys, how are you supposed to make tokusatsu? They'll be like, "Well, there's Godzilla." Godzilla's fandom is fairly big because of the fact it was the first one. But if you want something like Kamen Rider, how are you going to make a decent fight scene without any toys? Basically, if people want Kamen Rider to not be based on the toys, that means that you gotta take away the henshin belt and the suit. If you take away the belt, you have no suit and no Rider, so all of these fans are contradicting themselves. When you take a look at the action in Gun Caliber, what do you see? Japanator: I see that he has a henshin device that's a phone, a pair of guns, and a suit. Bueno: What's the main thing about the guns? Japanator: They can switch through different types of bullets. Bueno: Exactly! Why do you think that they have all of these accessories with Kamen Rider belts? Japanator: Merchandising. Bueno: It's not only merchandising, but it also helps with the action. When you have Gaia Memories that are able to have different attributes to both sides of Double, that switches the action. In the fight scene in the Fourze movie when he uses all 40 Switches, he uses them to counterattack each of the Horoscopes. Now you take a look at the Wizard movie, he failed to do all this. Sakamoto wasn't part of it, it was Ishigaki, he's an Action Director at Toei-- he's been doing stuff ever since Exceedraft. Visually, he's a good Action Director, but as far as concepts go, he's not a good Action Choreographer. He tried to do the Sakamoto thing with the Wizard movie, but it didn't work out. Most likely because you need time to choreograph something like that, and it was something he probably didn't have. To be able to choreograph a good fight scene, it's not just filming the suits and action anymore, it's being able to utilize the props and the character itself. That's the key to making a good tokusatsu fight scene. Japanator: Do you think that your work could inspire others to create their own toku projects? Bueno: Yeah, I hope so. I'm not saying that Gun Caliber is some sort of game changer, but Gun Caliber is the first independently funded tokusatsu film to be shot entirely in Tokyo, Japan; starring, directed, and produced by a foreigner. If there's any other movies that could say "they've done that," go ahead. Show me who's done that, and I'll shut up. As far as I know, nobody's done that here. Nobody's had the balls to do it, and I have the balls! Japanator: Aside from tokusatsu and over-the-top productions like Gun Caliber, Hayate, and Yakuzambie, what other types of mediums does Garage Hero plan to tackle in the future? Bueno: We wanna do more stuff like tutorials, because the tokusatsu community right now consists of a lot of people talking about tokusatsu, and not making tokusatsu, You have a lot of people who write fanfics, short stories, or they'll create their own manga. The fact of the matter is that they really really want to make a tokusatsu, like a henshin hero and stuff like that. When they're faced with the dilemma of "Oh, I don't know how," "It cost too much money," or "There's no tutorial," that's where we hope to come in. We're going to make a tutorial series that's going to give people the basic know-how to make to make tokusatsu-- just like how we did. We didn't know what the hell we were doing, but we went on and did it. Then it worked, people like it. It took a long time, and a lot of resources and self study to be able shoot that thing. It took two years to shoot it, but the fact of the matter is that it all boils down to having the guts to do it. For a lot of people, they seem to lack the courage to shoot something like this-- even if it's just a short, because they have to worry about scheduling, paying for people's transportation, and food. That's the kind of things that people don't see behind the scenes-- you gotta do all that stuff. I think when people learn, "Okay, you need to do this and this, but you can add a little bit of you own flavor to it," that's when it becomes a little more interactive, and people want to give it a try. They won't be so intimidated. Right now, if you take a look at YouTube videos of learning how to sculpt a clay head or helmet, it's really intimidating, because the guy's really good. With our video series, we hope to be able to explain techniques, and how to make tokusatsu in the span of a five-minute video that gets straight to the point of what tools you need, what you should do, what to do afterwards, and some shorts to go with that. For example, I have a two/one-minute Gun Caliber action short, and then we focus on his mask or helmet, and then we'll have a tutorial video explaining"Okay, this is how the helmet is made."  I'm planning to produce another series with a person named Max Ellis, so we're hoping to produce more stuff this year for Garage Hero, and more web series. Since everybody automatically thinks that if you say "Bueno," it equals action, I'm planning this series that's in the style of a fighting game. It's gonna be a one-minute, or two-minute fight scene maybe at the most-- even just 30 seconds of two people duking it out fighting game style. It'll just be a bunch of zany stereotypical fighting game characters, and they'll have finishers. It'll be a fun series that'll help us get those creative juices flowing-- aside from just shooting tokusatsu. It'll be a little different, but still in familiar grounds.  Japanator: Speaking of tokusatsu tutorials, do you plan to cover any other aspects outside of making costumes and props? Bueno: Of course. With tokusatsu, there's a lot of areas to cover. For example, cinematography (like how to shoot a tokusatsu fight scene), there's certain techniques that they used from all the way back in the '60s, '70s, and '80s. During those times, they had a bunch of shooting techniques to make people look like they are jumping higher than they are, to make people look like they're kicking high in the air when they're really just a few feet off the ground, and to make monsters look bigger. They didn't have CG, but they made them look huge, and the people look small. It's a matter of being able to how to use your camera, your lens, and how to edit-- also cinematography. We're gonna cover a lot of those aspects as well.  A lot of people are just all like, "Oh. Are you going to teach fight choreography?" Everybody's going to choreograph differently, but we could teach the basics. I'm not making their heroes, so only they're going to know how to choreograph the action for their hero. More than choreography, we're going to focus on the cinematography, and how to Action Direct, and not how to Action Choreograph. We plan to teach CG as well, and the different types of tokusatsu shoots. You have the kaiju shoot, the hero action, and all that stuff, so we'll definitely cover all that.  Bueno with Freddy Wong at YouTube Space Tokyo Japanator: Could you tell us about your process in how you improved in creating tokusatsu hero and monster suits? Bueno: Well, you got to remember Gun Caliber was my first attempt, and I'm still in the learning process. I'm still learning stuff from people, and trying stuff out while buying new materials-- and see what works for decent prices. It's all a lot trial and error. In terms of getting better, you just gotta do it. With tokusatsu, you just have to jump into it-- that's the best way. Do a little bit of research, but jump into things. If you mess up, don't worry about it, because that's what helps you improve. If you mess up something, or find a different way of doing things afterwards, learn from that. Don't just be a downer on yourself, you gotta be able to learn from your mistakes. You got to fail, in order to be able to get better. You got to jump into things expecting to fail, but then figure out, "If I fail, how can I get out of that?" That's one of the key things that making tokusatsu is all about, and that's one of the things that I did. Japanator: So what can you tell us about Garage Hero's future? Bueno: Garage Hero's still an infant, and we only have 1,470 something subscribers. We need to shoot that up to at least 5,000 to get the views in, and more support from YouTube. In order to do that, we need to make more content that's gonna get people to come back, and want to subscribe.  We got a lot of content planned for this year, and we hope to update our channel a bit more frequently with this next G-Rated series coming up, Hayate, and that's gonna be a local hero for Asakusa. It's probably going to be like six episodes, and I think each episode'll be to be two to ten minutes long, or somewhere around that range-- it depends on how much action we have in each episode. I'm currently producing a tokusatsu tutorial series, and it's going to give people the basic fundamentals that they need to learn how to create, shoot, and produce tokusatsu-- all within the span of five minutes each. The least I'll have is five minutes to certain each step, we'll probably have longer episodes, depending on certain topics. It'll cover everything from creating the suit, certain camera angles that you should use for shooting tokusatsu, the kind of camera lenses you should use, how to pitch your idea, choreographing a fight scene, and all that stuff. Then we plan to shoot a Web series of action shorts that are done in the style of a fighting game, so I definitely need more suggestions on what to shoot for those. From left to right: Akiba Idol Mao Makabe, Bueno, and AV Idol Fuzuki If somebody likes certain videos, subscribes to our channel, and shares our content, that means that the more Garage Hero goes viral, the more content we're able to make, because YouTube pushes our stuff out there as recommended features. Sharing our videos, liking our videos, and pushing our channel out there is key to helping us make more original tokusatsu. Support from the fandom is very important to us, and we're also open to stuff that the fans want to see. When I say, "be sure to comment, share, and like our videos," I'm not saying it each time for the sake of saying it, because that's what helps us make more content. When people say, "We want to see more Gun Caliber, I will respond to that. If people want to say, "We want to see more of what Hayate can do," of course, I'm going to read that. I read the comments, and take the time. About the YouTube thing, anybody that can interact with our channel more, and can share our channel and content will help make it viral. That helps us, because it'll let us make more original tokusatsu for you guys to enjoy. Bueno with Kenneth Duria (Kamen Rider 555's Mr. J/Crocodile Orphnoch) Japanator: Once you hit 5,000 subscribers, do you plan to utilize any funding sites like Indiegogo? Bueno: Yeah, we hope to get enough people to fund us through Indiegogo to help fund the release of Gun Caliber on DVD, plus help future projects as well. I have a couple projects that I want to pitch out there, and hopefully, people'll catch wind of them and support our work. Japanator: When you release Gun Caliber on DVD, will it be available worldwide? Bueno: Definitely, I want to show this to the whole world. Garage Hero wants to be able to pride itself as the premier independent tokusatsu resource in Tokyo run by foreigners. Anybody who comes here can come to us for any questions they might have about making tokusatsu or anything like that, and we could fill them in. We want to be able to make that claim. Japanator: Do you have any plans to release Gun Caliber-related merchandise (such as a figure or his guns)? Bueno: Probably nothing on that level, but at least something like t-shirts, travel mugs, and basically stuff that you find on Redbubble. I'm designing some stuff for Redbubble right now, so hopefully some people'll buy that merchandise. Do you remember Vector, the company in Gun Caliber? Japanator: Yes. Bueno: Basically, it's going to be like Vector merchandise, because they're kinda like Smart Brain, Yggdrasill, and Zect. I'm gonna have a lot of merchandise that'll be like character merch, roleplay kind of merch that you could buy, and kind of roleplay in the world of Gun Caliber without having the toys; although I know a lot of people who want the toys. Japanator: What about Hayate: Asakusa's Ninja Hero? Bueno: We'll need to establish a bit of a fandom first on that. Since that's for kids, we'll most likely have to make more merchandise that's for kids. If I could get funded by Bandai, then by all means, I'll have them make some SofuBi. You know SofuBi? Japanator: What's SofuBi? Bueno: SofuBi is like those plastic figurines. Look up SofuBi on YouTube, and you'll see the figurines that people make. Bandai makes SofuBi figures, short term for soft vinyl figures, and those are famous among the kaiju figures, the collectibles Ultraman figures, and stuff like that. For example, the Ultraman Ginga Spark Dolls are all SofuBi. If somebody was willing to make a Gun Caliber SofuBi figure, I would totally be all for that. It's mostly going to be stuff like stickers for now, like a Hayate stickers, iPhone cases, and pillows. Again, this stuff you could buy off of Redbubble, so that's probably going to be the stuff that Hayate'll come of it. Japanator: Can you give us an estimate date on when Hayate's first episode'll be released? Bueno: It'll probably be released somewhere around either the end of March, the beginning of April, or maybe mid April. Again, that's just an estimate, but hopefully we can get it to you at that time, so be sure to like, subscribe, share our channel, and stay tune for Hayate. People can see a teaser on our channel right now. Bueno at The ABCs of Tetsudon screening party Japanator: Do you have any final words that you'd like to say to the readers? Bueno: Making tokusatsu can be very intimidating, because it requires time, money, effort, and resources, but you don't know that until you try it. The best way to do it is to do your research, and get into it. I feel that a lot of people are always intimidated by it. They'll be like, "Wow, tokusatsu looks expensive; I don't know if I could do that." Don't get me wrong, I've seen a lot of indie tokusatsu productions that have that problem where it's shot well, but it looks like crap. The suit will look good, but the show will suck, or the show will look good, but the suit will suck. It's either one of those two. You gotta be able to balance it out by having a good suit with good action, a good story to keep it interesting, and you got to know who your audience is-- that's very important. We have a lot of content coming out this year, and we're gonna have a tokusatsu tutorial series later on in the year. We're shooting Hayate, a local hero for Asakusa. We're going to be having a fighting game style kind of Web series, so be sure to rate, link, subscribe, and share all of our videos and channel with all of your friends. Our goal is to get our subs up to 5,000 this year, so we hope to achieve that, and hopefully, everyone can help us with that.
Bueno Part 3 photo
Bueno reveals the tokusatsu industry's dark secrets
After a long and perilous journey, we've reached the end of our long interview with Bueno. To close things off, the man shares with us his plans for the future, along with his own thoughts on the tokusatsu industry and a cert...

We Chat With Gun Caliber's Bueno: Ninjas, Zombies, and Hardships

Feb 05 // Salvador G Rodiles
Japanator: When Gun Caliber made his debut on YouTube, he appeared in a documentary called Stray Bullet: A True Superhero Story. That said, was Gun Caliber originally going to be documentary-like film, or was Stray Bullet meant to promote the true film that you would eventually make? Bueno: Gun Caliber was originally the movie that I wanted to make. The only reason why Stray Bullet came out first was because at that time, there weren't any stuntmen that would be able to help out with any of the action. I never done a movie before, so tackling Gun Caliber head-on would probably result in a crappy film. I was glad that I did Stray Bullet first, because of the fact that it got me a little bit more familiar with the equipment, and how to edit. Since it was a documentary, there's leeway for being able to shoot the way I did. Stray Bullet was very experimental-- not that Gun Caliber wasn't, since it was experimental as well. Stray Bullet was supposed to be Gun Caliber, but we didn't have enough resources at the time, I decided to make it a documentary. Japanator: Seeing that Gun Caliber had a few tokusatsu references (such as Dr. Death being a reference to Professor Shinigami from Kamen Rider), what other mediums inspired you to create the movie? Bueno: There's a lot of bases that inspired me to make this movie. Two of the major bases are obviously Kamen Rider and this one comedian called Ken Shimura. I don't know if you're familiar with him. Japanator: First time I've heard of him. Bueno: Ken Shimura is probably Japan's King of Comedy. He's basically like Japan's Benny Hill. Back in the 80s, he was Japan's most popular comedian. A lot of foreigners won't know really much about him-- especially those who don't live in Japan. Hell, sometimes the people who live in Japan'll know his face but won't know his name. He's one of the really really big inspirations for Gun Caliber, because his comedy is a lot of stupid sex jokes, kiddie humor, all of that stuff. If you look him up on YouTube, you'll find a lot of his clips. if you take a look at some of his work, you'll see the inspiration that went into Gun Caliber there. Mystery Men inspired Gun Caliber's world, and also this comic called The Boys-- everybody should read it, it's a great comic. The Boys is about a group of people who regulate superhero activity. Also, Watchmen is another thing that inspired Gun Caliber as well. There's so many things. Also, there's this show that I watched a while back called No Heroics, it's a British comedy about superheroes who hang out in a superhero bar. That was another show that inspired Gun Caliber. Japanator: I find it very impressive that you're both Gun Caliber's Director and main character, Bueno. So what were some of the challenges that you encountered during the making of the film? Bueno: The challenges was the scheduling-- everyone underestimates that fact when they say they want to shoot a movie or anything like that. Even if you weren't on a budget but still had money, you probably shoot earlier so that you can get a lot done quicker in a day. And that's what I did, I would say, "Okay, we're starting at seven." Everybody would say, "Oh my god, why are you going to start at seven?" Because we're shooting action-- action takes a lot longer than shooting drama. Scheduling was one of the really tough parts about it. For every person who couldn't make it to set, I would have to try and call five other people to replace that one person. If person number two can't come, then I got to call person number three. If person number three can't come, then I got to call person number four, and so on and so on. Sometimes I would have to make 80 calls in one day just to replace three people. It works, because it's part of that drive. People who usually hear, "I can't make it," they'll automatically give up. They'll be like: "Oh this person shoot today, because this person can't come." You got to be persistent, you got to stick with your guns on stuff-- you can't give in so easily. That's what I did, I would just keep calling and calling. If somebody couldn't make it to a shoot, I would call and then replace them. Scheduling is really really important, and you got to have a backup plan each time too. If you can't go to a certain location, if you don't have somebody who can't make it to set, you got to have a contingency plan each time. One time there was a point where someone couldn't make it to set, and I had to call ten people the day before-- just to find one actress to replace her. You got to be able to go with the flow sometimes, and be able to know what to do-- always have a back up. That's one of the big hurdles you have to get over when you're shooting something like this. Japanator: Back in October 2011, Gun Caliber made a cameo appearance in an indie tokusatsu series called Battle Hero Absolute. So how did you meet the show's team? Bueno: I met up with Fernando, and then he said that "Jay's coming to Japan."  I was like, "Yeah, I'll meet him." Then I met him, and he didn't understand the whole deal with waking up at 5:00 a.m. to take the first train to location, and shoot until sundown. It was basically having to put up with a lot of whining, but we shot it, and finished it. I guess I can't complain. Japanator: When you were shooting Yakuzambie, what was it like to work with the YouTube Space's Guillermo del Toro-like set? Bueno: It's very small and was a pain in the ass. The level of Japanese YouTubers is very very low. If you take a look at Japanese YouTubers' channels, all you'll notice is that it's people eating food or playing cellphone games. A lot of the people who run the Space work used to work in the film industry, so they're relegated to shoot that kind of stuff. When I walked in, and they saw Gun Caliber, they were like, "Oh my god! This is one of the best things ever!" They asked me, "Can you shoot something like that at the Space?" I said, "I can't shoot nude girls or anything like that, but I could shoot action." They were like, "Yeah! Yeah! Shoot Action!"  They had this set, and they told me, "Please use the set, Bueno, because all people are gonna do with the set is eat stuff and play games." That's exactly what they did with the set and so we're all like, "Okay. We gotta put this thing to use!" I came up with this idea about a cursed house, and people who died there get brought back to life-- Yakuzambie! It's a Yakuza boss' house inherited to his only daughter. She's a sex maniac who wants to make Sakuma, Kimura's character, into her sex slave. Then zombies appear! Okay there. That's the story! The set was really really small, because it was a small space. I wish it was more customizable, but it had a good aesthetic. It was a cool-looking set. Japanator: Do you ever plan to go back to Yakuzambie's story? Bueno: Perhaps. There's actually somebody who's shown interest in making a feature film of Yakuzambie, but I don't know if I could make a 70 minute film of that. I could try, but only time will tell. Japanator: During The Making of Yakuzambie, you mentioned that Gun Caliber was improvised. So what techniques did you use to prevent the production from falling apart? Bueno: You just got to keep it fun, you know. With these movies, because of the fact that they aren't epic movies at all, you just got to have fun with it. In the end, you're just making a fun movie. If you don't have fun, then the people watching it don't have fun either. That's probably why Gaion Sigma flopped. Japanator: Can you tell us about your experience with Gaion Sigma? Bueno: Basically, somebody who saw Gun Caliber and some of my other shorts on YouTube got in contact with me. That's when the boss of  Zen Pictures Yatsurugi Company invited me to be the Director for Gaion Sigma, and I was like, "holy shit." I think that Gaion is an awesome-looking suit, but I thought that it was a waste that it was shot really really crappy with the spin-off that it had before. I want do something about it is, so I jumped at the chance. How many chances will a foreigner get to be a Director of a tokusatsu movie? Honestly, can you name any? Japanator: Nope. Bueno: Yup. That's why I jumped at the chance. When the film started, there's a lot of Directors in the company that gave me the aura of "I've been working in this company for ten years, and all of a sudden, some gaijin kid who could barely talk Japanese or can't even read the script took my job?! Fuck that!" These guys were in the production solely for the sake of messing up my shoot. They basically sabotaged the movie and got me fired three times. They got me fired, and then afterwards, I showed them the edited footage, and they were like, "We need Bueno back. The action is going to be terrible if he isn't here." Then they brought me back on, and I shot the best scene in the movie. The scene that I really really wanted to do was the Kaijin Matsuri. If anyone watches the movie, they'll all be like, "Oh my god. That is the only good scene in the movie." The reason why is because nobody stood in my way that day. On that day, I told everybody to shut up and let me shoot the way that I wanted to shoot. It worked. Afterwards, we ran out of time because there's a lot of people who would waste time on the shoot. We had to extend it to one day, but the boss had a stipulation: "We're not going to shoot it in Asakusa, we're going to shoot in Chiba." And that's why the ending makes no sense, because the boss shot it that way. He's the Producer, so what ever he says is absolute. If he says,"We got to shoot in Chiba," all of the sudden, even though we shot the movie all in Asakusa (which is two hours away from Chiba), we got to shoot it in Chiba, because he said so. I must say that he's not really the brightest of people, but he's the guy who calls the shots. There's nothing you can do about that. Japanator: Speaking of Yatsurugi Company, what's the true story behind Raidenmaru's creation? Bueno: A long long time ago, I wanted to make an Asakusa superhero, because a lot of the people who watched Gun Caliber really really liked it (there's even some kids who like it), but the parents would be like, "It's a very funny movie, but could you make something for the kids?" And I'm like, "I'll give it a shot, but I don't know if I could do it." I decided to make a superhero for the kids, and I met up with a guy in Asakusa-- let's call him Mr. Y, because his name starts with a "Y."  Anyway, Mr. Y wanted to make a superhero as well, so we were going to make a superhero called Raijin, which is based on the God of Thunder who stands in the gate of Kaminarimon in Asakusa. He basically took my idea and made it his, but I didn't care, because my idea was different. I heard a lot of rumors about this guy, and I felt that I couldn't trust him. I decided to let him be, and do my own thing instead. He really wasn't happy about this at all. He was so pissed that he went to the Yatsurugi Company behind my back, and pitched the idea of Raijin to the company. This was a bad idea, because the boss of Yatsurugi Company is all about ripping off ideas. Basically, Mr. Y pitched to the company, "So I got this idea, since it's my idea, could I have all the rights to this?" Then the boss of Yatsurugi Company is all like, "Wait, so you want us to make, shoot, and produce this, but you get to keep the rights?" Mr. Y is like, "Yeah, cuz it's my idea!" Then the Yatsurugi Company's like, "Are you a fucking ass? We're just going to make this ourselves." Mr. Y was like, "Okay. Okay, I understand." Then Mr. Y goes home, and then I get called up to the boss' office. Then they said, "Yeah, we don't need that Mr. Y. Fuck Mr. Y! Bueno, would you like to work on this Asakusa hero?" Then I said, "but I wanted to work on an Asakusa hero a long time ago." The boss said, "In that case, you're fired. We can't have two people making the same Asakusa hero in the same company." I said, "It's a little abrupt though. You didn't even give me some time to think about it." The boss said, "Then take some time to think about it." Then he sent me on my way, and I get a call from my Director and says, "Yeah, Bueno, sorry but you're fired." I said, "But they told me to think about it though! The Director said, Yeah, but you're fired." And that's what happen. Next thing you know, two months later, Raidenmaru comes out.  Japanator: Did your concepts from Raijin carry over to Hayate: Asakusa's Ninja Hero?  Bueno: Not really, because I released my first teaser of Hayate before Raidenmaru had its first stage show. Japanator: If Hayate does well with the kids, would you do another season down the road? Bueno: Most definitely. I wanna kind of be like James Gunn. He did Tromeo and Juliet, which is an adult b-flick. Then he did something for the kids like Guardians of the Galaxy. I want to be able to do both, so I could have a good range of stuff. Robert Rodriguez is the same; he made Desperado, one of the coolest action films of all time. He did Machete, Planet Terror, and Sin City; but he also did Spy Kids and Sharkboy and Lavagirl. Again, to be a good Director, you got to have range, and I want to be able to have that. So if people want more Hayate, I'm going to give it to them. Bueno with Saki Otsuka Japanator: Did you work as an Action Director in the AV industry before you formed Garage Hero? Bueno: No. This was actually while I was editing Gun Caliber. A lot of my work in the AV industry actually helped me push things along with Gun Caliber as well. Being an adult erotic tokusatsu action comedy, you kind of need those connections. It's kind of cool that you can push it out to a big adult crowd-- even to a few junior high school students that caught wind of the movie. I guess Gun Caliber's crowd is mostly aimed at junior high school students than adults-- but adults get a kick out of it too. Being able to shoot action and make an AV idol look like an action star is definitely a plus. It gives the actresses a lot more confidence, and the managers are happy too, because it adds an extra skill onto their girl's resume. Working in the AV industry as an Action Director is definitely a good thing. I get to be surrounded by lots of beautiful women too, so that's also a plus. I met some really really nice girls like Amami Tsubasa, Saki Otsuka, and Mai Miori-- oh my god, she's super awesome. Japanator: Earlier in the interview, you mentioned that Japan's economy is still in the pits. That being said, did Japan's current economical state influence Gun Caliber's premise?  Bueno: Yes. Gun Caliber is like my views on Japanese society in the guise of tokusatsu. All the stuff from the drugs, prostitution, and the scandals were all things that I've seen over here-- and in Canada as well. It's stuff that I know, and I mixed it with tokusatsu. And that's how Gun Caliber turned out. Japanator: So does that mean that you're actually like Soma Kusanagi in real life? Bueno: No. I'm not like Soma Kusanagi in real life. A lot of people think that Bueno equals Soma Kusanagi, and that's not the case. Contrary to popular belief, even though people have seen me with lots of women, even though people have seen me do lots of comedy, and have seen way I speak, I'm not Soma Kusanagi. I think it's going to be the same thing as Bruce Campbell being told that he's Ash all the time. He hates it when people call him Ash! I think that people are going to walk up to me and say, "Hey Gun Caliber," from now on, and it's going to stick. I'm not Soma Kusanagi, I'm not Gun Caliber, I'm Bueno, If anything, Soma Kusanagi is based off of my brother. My brother Anthony is one of the people who the movie is dedicated to in the beginning-- the other is my aunt. My brother was the kind of guy who worked at a porno video rental store, and after work, he would do rock concerts, or work at a bar where they had rock concerts-- it was a very dingy dirty bar. He would have to deal with customers, he would get into fights, and all that stuff. He would come home with cuts and bruises on his hand or face. And I would be like "What the fuck happened to you?" He was like, "Ugh, a day at work." So that's who Soma Kusanagi is. He's basically the working man. He's the guy who would come home all beaten up, but it would just be another day on the job-- much like Hellboy. That's who Kusanagi is based off of. More like he's based off of my brother, Kenny Powers from Eastbound & Down, and Ricky from Trailer Park Boys. But yeah, me and Soma are two different people.  Tetsudon and Garage Hero's members at a private screeing of Gun Caliber in Asakusa-Bashi Well, folks; we've reached the end of this post, which means that it's time for a quick heads-up on what's to come. For the third and final part of this segment, Bueno'll talk about Garage Hero's future plans, along with his views on the tokusatsu industry. Things are going to get even more real, as Bueno's story hits us with the cold hard truth about the medium's current state. Who knows, you might come across some motivating words as well.
Bueno Part 2 photo
Bueno's story is about to get real
Welcome to the second part of our interview with the one and only Bueno. In this installment, the man talks about his experience with creating tokusatsu and shooting porn. On top of that, we get to learn the dark secrets behi...

We Chat With Gun Caliber's Bueno: Wushu, Porn Stars, and making it in Japan

Jan 27 // Salvador G Rodiles
Japanator: Greetings, Bueno. Thank you for taking the time to let us interview you. So to start things off: When you first decided to get into making films, what made you move to Japan? Bueno: I wanted to go to Japan because I've liked Japan ever since I was a little kid. And I think that a lot of people talk about Japan being being harsh, and I remember when I first came here, all I had was $700.00. It was harsh, and the economy in Japan is still in the pits, but I knew that I still wanted to be here. In Canada at that time, I wasn't really having a good relationship with my family, so I decided to go all the way to Japan. I wanted a change of scenery. I just wanted a little bit of a change in my life, and I decided that moving to Japan was a big step. I needed to try to do things on my own for a change. It was a really really big step. It was a big decision to do that-- to move from one country to another. I'm thankful for all of the friends like the Wushu team I used to be on-- they were so supportive of me. Japanator: Since you studied Wushu, did your experience with it help you with your stunt work? Bueno: At first I thought it would, but they're worlds apart. There's a visceral difference between Wushu and action. It helps a little. It gives you the basic idea, but doing action and Wushu are two totally different things. Japanator: What's the difference between learning a fighting style and learning to do action scenes? Bueno: In a sense, they are both the same. But at the same time, they're different. When you learn a fighting style, you learn your basic punches, kicks, and stuff like that, and transcends into action. The thing is though, there is no camera when you're actually fighting, and there is a certain way to sell the action when you're shooting a fighting scene. It also depends on what kind of lenses you use, and what angles you shoot it from. That will determine if the punch looks like it's connecting or not, and sometimes you have to do it again. Japanator: How did you end up forming Garage Hero? Bueno: To be honest, it's basically me gathering a bunch of people I know and say, "Hey, let's shoot this!" At first, they were really skeptical, because I never shot a feature before. And when I told them it was a feature, they would always ask the same thing: "When are you going to finish this?" And I said: "Honestly, I don't know." Each time I edited something, I show them the results afterwards and they're all like, "Oh my god. This is really really good!" And they've been followed me ever since. Japanator: When you were first working on Yakuzambie, how did you meet Keisaku Kimura and Aimi Sekiguchi? Bueno: I met Aimi through the YouTube Space, because I use the YouTube Space from time to time. They have these get-together at the end of each month called YouTube Happy Hour. And I met her at YouTube Happy Hour one time and asked her, "Would you like to do some action some time?" She was like, "Yeah, I'll give it a try." She turned out to be really good at it. I trained her for three hours before shooting Yakuzambie and she did an awesome job. I was really impressed. She needs more training obviously, but she has her character down, and she could do the action. All she does before was gravure and idol stuff on her YouTube channel. Everyone who would just shoot her as cute, but she ends up being in my movie and turns into an action star. And that's why I would like to work with her again. For Kimura, he basically messaged me on Facebook one time, because I'm part of this group called Tetsudon, and he's also a member of Tetsudon. He saw Gun Caliber and thought, "Oh my god! This movie is amazing!" Then we had lunch and we talked over about things we could do, and I mentioned Yakuzambie to him, and he was super interested in it. He's a seasoned actor. Aimi did a bit stage acting but he's seasoned , so he was able to teach her certain stuff and techniques. They kind of learned from each other. That's why there's a good chemistry between those two on set and off set. They're a good team, and I'm really happy to be working with the both of them. Bueno with Uta Kohaku Japanator: Seeing that Gun Caliber featured a few AV idols, what lead to you making connections with them? Bueno: I met the girls in Gun Caliber through Takao Nakano, who's the owner of Daikaiju Salon. He's also the Writer of Ultraman Ginga S, and he's the pachinko guy (the fat guy with glasses) at the beginning of my movie. He introduced me to Miho and Naomi. I met Uta Kohaku, who sings the theme song "Shining" for Gun Caliber, though an AV company that I worked for one time-- I was an Action Director for that AV company. There's this one group called Milky Pop Generation, a music label that hire AV idols to sing. They have singles, music videos, and all that stuff. That's when I heard "Shining" off of Uta Kohaku's single. I was like, "Okay, I got to use this song!" I contacted her manager, and her manager told me to contact Milky Pop. I talked to Milky Pop and I bought the song. We did a hero show at one of the Milky Pop events with Gun Caliber and she sang "Shining" while Gun Caliber dances. It was a fun show, and I made a lot of connections through that. I made connections with the managers from other agencies like At Hunnies, Hustler, Aloha Pro, and Dino. Those are the agencies that I talk with the manages to see if I could use their girls in future productions. And that's how I got my connection with the AV industry. It's basically meeting a lot of managers, productions and showing them what I shoot. It works out nicely, and a lot of people love my work, and that's how I got a job in shooting the AV industry. Japanator: Back in October 2012, you announced that Koichi Terasawa/Rider Chips' Bassist was composing Gun Caliber's soundtrack. That being said, what's the story behind you meeting him? Bueno: A long time ago when I first came to Japan, I saw him at Double Hero Festival in Tokyo Dome with a Goranger shirt on. I went, "Excuse me, are you a part of Rider Chips?" He's all like, "Yeah man. How'd you know that?" I was like, "I saw your DVDs!" Terasawa said, "Aw man, that's crazy. What are you doing here?" I then said, "I'm checking out the event." Tersawa asked, "Are you Japanese?" I replied, "Naw, I'm Canadian!" We talked and talked from that time on. A few years later, I found him on Facebook, and I'm like, "Okay. I made this movie, do you think you could take a look at what I made so far?" Terasawa said, "Okay. Let's meet up!" So I showed him the movie, and he's all like, "Bueno! I can't believe you did this. This is nuts! This is crazy! How'd you do this?!" I told him, "It's a long long story." I was all like, "Do you think you could make some music for this movie?" Terasawa answered, "It's not gonna to be cheap. I could do it for free, but the other members are not going to do it for free." I then asked, "How much is it going to cost?" Terasawa said, "One song would cost $1,000.00." I was like, Maybe I could raise some money." Terasawa followed up with, "Dude, I'll help you any way I can." He's going to do the music for the movie, but it'll probably only be one song. I'll probably find somebody else to compose along side him. But still, having Rider Chips make music for your movie is just amazing. Whether it's one song or five, it's Rider Chips! Since Rider Chips is a property of Avex, they won't be able to say, "Yeah, we're Rider Chips, and we're working on Gun Caliber!" Terasawa is actually one of the head teachers of this music school, so they'll be doing the song for Gun Caliber as part of the music school-- but it's essentially Rider Chips. Satoshi Imai (Sazer-X and Hayate's Writer) and Hayate's main hero Japanator: Back in December, you mentioned that  Satoshi Imai was writing Hayate: Asakusa's Ninja Hero, so how did you recruit him? Bueno: I met him through Tetsudon. We talked for a bit, and I told him that I wanted to do something for the kids. Since he wrote Sazer-X, I figured that he'd be the perfect person for the job. Japanator: What were some of your favorite moments that you experienced in Japan? Bueno: Some of my favorites moments from when I was living in Japan was definitely my arrival here. It's an entirely new world, and everybody goes through that. Meeting so many influential people in so many industries-- like I met Shimomura Yuji, he's the Action Director for Versus. Meeting all of the action people was fun, and I learned a lot from there. Becoming a Worm and a Kamen Rider on stage was pretty cool-- I got to be Kick Hopper for a hero show for Kabuto. My first hero show was actually Lion-Maru G. I did a night show, and that was pretty fun-- I was one of the Shadow Ninjas. That was a fun time. Also, meeting Koichi Sakamoto was pretty cool as well, I learned a lot from him. He taught me that it's not just about shooting action or anything like that either, it's about the industry itself and how to do it as a business. Gun Caliber gets the Koichi Sakamoto Seal of Approval! Japanator: Is Sakamoto one of the key influences that got you to make tokusatsu and form Garage Hero? Bueno: Well, I formed Garage Hero before I met Sakamoto. I'll say that I will treasure his advice that he's given me about the industry forever. He taught me things about the-behind the-scenes and on-set, since I talked with him both on set and off set-- he's this plethora of knowledge that has experience in Japan and abroad. He's taught me a lot, and I'm definitely looking forward to learning more from him. Hideki Oka is also another person that's influenced me over here-- he's the Director of Ultraman Saga, Ultra Zero Fight, Bima Satria Garuda. He also did Rescue Force, Rescue Fire, and Ryukendo. There was one time when I was working on Gaion Sigma, and he called me up and said, "how's directing Gaion Sigma," and I was crying. Then he was like, "Why don't you be a man?! Come over here! What are you doing after work? Come out here! Come to Shinjuku and bring your script!" I couldn't read kanji so he helped me translate the kanji in the script to furigana, and told me, "Bueno, you got to realize what's going to happen, you got to be a director and grow a pair, or else no one will follow you." Then I was crying man tears and he was hugging me and I went, "Thank you so much!" And Oka was like, "No worries. Don't worry about it, we're all in this together." God, this guy is so awesome! Hideki Oka is definitely one of the people who's been such a good mentor to me. When he saw Gun Caliber-- he came to a screening and everyone asked him: "What did you think of the movie?" He looked at me and said, "You know, I worked on Ryukendo, Ultraman, and Rescue Force, but what you've done, I don't think I could ever do in my life." The Director of Ultraman told me this crazy compliment, and those words gave me so much strength. I'm thankful to Hideki Oka. Him and Sakamoto also hang out sometimes too. From left to right: AV idol Fuzuki, Bueno, and Hideki Oka Japanator: Speaking of which, how did you establish your connections with the people in the tokusatsu industry? Bueno: Introductions through introductions, and because of Gun Caliber. That's one of the reasons why I'm glad that I did Gun Caliber, since I met so many people because of it. Through Gun Caliber, this one actress introduced me to her boyfriend, who introduced me to Tetsudon, which is this group of film makers. Not only is Oka in there, but Takuchi Kyotaka, the Director of Patlabor: The Next Generation-- I think he did a few episodes of Neo Ultra Q, is in Tetsudon. My camera man got invited into the set of Kyoryuger as an extra, and he introduced me to Sakamoto. Again, it all comes back to Gun Caliber. All of the introductions that I've had until now is because I made the first indie tokusatsu shot by a foreigner. Whenever somebody hears that, they go: "Oh my god, that's you!" Japanator: So what is it like to be the first foreigner to make an indie tokusatsu film in Japan? Bueno: Better than sex. I mean, it's just as good as sex with a hot girl.  And that's it for the first part of our interview with Bueno. The next feature'll focus on his projects, and the mediums that inspired him. Let's just say that Bueno will talk about his tough times (such his involvement with Gaion Sigma). Last but not least, I promise that you'll get more bullets, babes, and beer-- subtitle credit goes to Bueno. Until then, stay tune for the next episode of the Story of Bueno!
Bueno Part 1 photo
Bullets, Babes, Beer: The story of Bueno
Gun Caliber: Bootleg Edition's stream may have left the scene, but Japanator was able to ask Bueno, the film's Director and main hero, some questions. I guess you could say that he's the Stephen Chow of tokusatsu. Also, his n...

Lantis Fest Vegas: An Interview with Faylan

Jan 08 // Jeff Chuang
Japanator: Can you tell us a little about yourself? How did you become an anime music singer? Faylan: I made my major debut in 2009 with the opening theme song of anime CANAAN. Japanator: Are there other musicians you listen to? Faylan: I am trying to listen to more Western music. Please recommend some to me! Japanator: Is there anything exciting that happened to you lately that you can share with us? Faylan: All of my kidney stones have come out! (laughs) Japanator: What do you look forward to the most in Las Vegas? Faylan: I’m looking forward to see which songs the audiences will enjoy the most. Maybe I’m going to surprise you, too! Japanator: What are your favorite anime and games? Faylan: Sailor Moon and Creamy Mami, the Magic Angel. I like sports video games better because I can play them better. Japanator: What is your favorite fruit? Faylan: Pear. And that's a wrap. Faylan will perform live at Lantis Festival in Las Vegas on January 16 & 17. You can buy tickets here and follow up on news on Facebook. If you're curious about Faylan's recent medical adventures and can stomach the Japanese, check out her blog.  
Faylan photo
Anison singer ready to rock
As a part of promotion for Lantis Festival Las Vegas, we were able to ask anison singer Faylan a few questions! Since her tie-in with CANAAN, Faylan has done a slew of rocking songs for various shows and games, like BlazBlue Alter Memory, Griasia no Meikyuu and Tokyo ESP. Big thanks to Lantis Fest for the opportunity!

Lantis Fest Vegas: Interview with Choucho

Jan 02 // Jeff Chuang
Japanator: How did you start listening to anisong and paying attention to them? Choucho: I’ve been close to anime since I was little so I listened to anisong a lot. But I started researching about them actively and listening to them seriously when I was in an anime song cover band in my hometown, Osaka. Japanator: Do you have a favorite episode of the anime Hyouka? If so which one? Choucho: It would be the episode 22 “Toomawari Suru Hina.” I love when the main characters Houtarou and heroine Eru dress in traditional Japanese clothes. It’s so cute and the story is pure, too. Japanator: Whose music have you been listening to lately? Choucho: I’ve been learning to play acoustic guitar, so I’m practicing it little by little these days. Therefore I listen to many songs that were played with acoustic guitar. I like Michelle Branch and I’ve been listening to Alanis Morissette and The Beatles for a long time now. Japanator: What are your feelings on vocaloids and their live performances? Choucho: When I was active on Nico Nico Douga about 5 or 6 years ago, vocaloid was such a new idea and I found it interesting. But I realize that it’s become much more advanced and developed now. I’m fascinated that vocaloids perform at live concerts and that there’s even more variety now. Japanator: Have you ever wanted to get involved with making anime and games beyond just with music? Choucho: I’d love to take on any challenge as long as I get the opportunity! What do you want to do in Las Vegas? Choucho: As you might expect, I really want to visit a casino! I’ve never seen one in my life, so I’m curious. I want to play something while I’m there! Japanator: What is your favorite fruit? Choucho: Green grapes! And that's a wrap. ChouCho will perform live at Lantis Festival in Las Vegas on January 16 & 17. You can buy tickets here and follow up on news on Facebook.
Choucho photo
Delicious grapes and Hyouka
Japanator got to ask Choucho a few questions over email! The self-starting anisong artist is now attached to a bunch of great shows and her melodic tones make them all the more memorable, like Girls und Panzer and Gargantia on the Verderous Planet. Big thanks to Lantis Festival for making this interview possible!

Morning Musume  photo
We have a final quick chat with the lovely Sayumi Michishige
After eleven amazing years, current Morning Musume '14 leader, Sayumi Michishige is graduating after their current tour. The super group known to fans as Momusu have been lighting up Japan's pop charts since 1997, and have ab...

Anime Next '14: Studio Trigger

Jun 16 // Jeff Chuang
1. During the [Kill la Kill] panel, you showed many different designs for Ryuuko from different designers. What was the process that took you to the final designs? Hiromi Wakabayshi (Wakabayashi): Before Ryuuko's design was 100% finalized, we had to begin the animation production for the first episode because we didn't have enough time. It was a scheduling issue. As the animators were drawing the first episode they were also refining the design as they went. The reason why it took forever it was because the character designer Sushio was a hardcore animator, we wanted the design to look comfortable in the style that he animates. 2. Why was Little Witch Academia crowdfunded through Kickstarter? What was the reaction from people in the studio? [Trigger PR and interpreter] Tatsuru Tatemoto: Kickstarter was my side of things. We uploaded Little Witch Academia episode 1 on Youtube and had about 800,000 views. About 60-70% of the viewers were Japanese but most comments on the video were in English. Many of the comments were about being unable to give us money or asking us to try Kickstarter or crowdfunding. I looked it up and asked my boss if we can try Kickstarter. He is an easy-going guy and agreed to try it out. That was why we started doing it. Wakabayashi: We were surprised at the amount of support and funds we received on Kickstarter. We were expecting to reach the goal in 30 days but we reached it in 4-5 hours. We were shocked. 3. Can you tell us about Ninja Slayer's staff? Wakabayashi: We can't announce the creative staff yet, but it will be from our studio. 4. Trigger's animation is a blend of 3D animation and 2D animation. Which do you prefer? Wakabayashi: We don't have a preference. If you watch our previous works like Panty & Stocking, we don't use 3D like a CG cut. We use 3D like an individual animator. There are scenes where 3D works better, such as scenes when camera angles switch vigorously. It's hard to do those scenes in analog animation. Since we treat the 3D portion like an animator I guess we prefer 2D animation. 5. What's different between Gainax and Trigger? Wakabayashi: We were all part of Gainax previously. It's just the Gurren Lagann and Panty & Stocking team went independent. As a result we still have the Gainax ideals within our studio as well. 6. The way Kill la Kill ended, was that something the team decided on towards the end after working on the show? Wakabayashi: We have our ending from the beginning. We didn't have an alternate ending in mind. We were pretty solid with the happy kind of a feeling, a high school girl graduating out of her uniform was the idea we had from since the beginning. 7. Why did you guys go independent from Gainax? Shigeto Koyama (Koyama): I'm technically not part of Trigger. I believe Trigger wanted to do everything by themselves. When we were doing Gurren Lagann at Gainax we were still considered as young animators. The Imaishi team felt like they should take responsibility for their own works so they went independent. 8. Who are some of the other animators that influenced you or mentored you? Koyama: I started out in Gainax so those animators. Particularly there's strong influence from Kazuya Tusurmaki, who is now working on the new Eva movies. And also Yoshiyuki Sadamoto in terms of design. Wakabayashi: I'm not a designer by default but for being able to tell good design, I was influenced by Koyama, Atsushi Nishigori and Hiroyuki Imaishi. 9. What was your thought process about creating powerful female characters? Studio Trigger has a lot of these. Wakabayashi: All the creative staff are masochists. We like to be dominated. (Everyone laughs.) Koyama: Director Imaishi loves strong women. Yeah, we are attracted to strong females and we think they are cool. 10. What are some new productions you are looking forward to? Wakabayashi: I can't say what it is, but I'm looking forward to Imaishi's next big project we're working on. And another big project from another director I can't name. Sorry I can't say what they are. Our next TV series is from a light novel and it's the first time for us doing an adaptation. It's called Inou-Battle. I personally also look forward to that. 11. You mentioned previously that many of the characters in Kill la Kill are designed inspired by toys. Are Ryuuko and Satsuki designed based on toys? And which ones? Wakabayashi: I don't think either of them are based on a toy, but the Elite Four and DTR are influenced by toys... Koyama: Mikisugi? Not really. But Gamagori and Tsumugu are definitely inspired by muscle-bound-type toys. We took ideas from Marvel toys, with bulky back and arms, like the Marvel Legends series of toys. 12. For Ninja Slayers, do you plan to keep the mythology of the authors in the adaptation? Wakabayashi: I personally think we should put them in the front lines. Maybe they are shy, I don't know! 13. How did you come up with the assembly sequence in Captain Earth starting with the rocket launch? Koyama: It was screenwriter Yoji Enokido's idea. In Japan, there are many different genres of robot anime. Recently there hasn't been a lot of "gattai" robots shows, so we decided to make something like that. Enokido explained that realistically with today's technology, it's hard to shuttle out a heavy object to outer space, so why not have the big parts already in space and combine them in space? That was the idea. We have a split between Earth's surface and things in space. We try to make things realistic on earth, but once we go into space we make it more fantastic. 14. How do you come up with the ideas for your anime? Wakabayashi: I believe everyone comes up with the ideas, we gather them and put it together. It's also case by case and it's up to the project. The director usually is in charge, and people like us would add to the ideas director came up with. We can try to make it more marketable and professional, refined. Also we need to see if the idea can be completed through the end of the production. Koyama: I work with a lot of different studios. Trigger is distinct from other studios and people like us would stir up ideas and dick around in the meeting to get people to come up with different ideas. 15. Can you talk about the symbolism in works like Gurren Lagann and Kill la Kill? Is there an Amateresu reference in Kill la Kill? How about the fascism? Wakabayashi: In Kill la Kill, we didn't intend an Amateresu reference. But yes there is some fascism themes, reference to Germany, etc. For Gurren Lagann, it's more about Imaishi and Nakashima who grew up with the stuff, the old robot and shounen stories. For Nakashima, he is not just a script writer, but he worked as a shounen manga editor in the 70s, 80s and 90s. He's been working on shounen manga all his life and there are a lot of shounen manga references in his works. [And that's a wrap! Special thanks to interpreter Tatsuru Tatemoto and Anime Next. Also thanks to Ani-Gamers, Anime Next and Kingdom Heart World Podcast for the questions!]
Studio Trigger photo
With Hiromi Wakabayashi & Koyama Shigeto
At Anime Next 2014, the "Creative Officer" and "Creative Director" of Kill la Kill, Shigeto Koyama and Hiromi Wakabayashi, respectively, did some show-and-tell for the crowd. Their Saturday panel on Kill la Kill was not ...

ACEN '14: Wake Up, Girls!

May 21 // Jeff Chuang
[The press panel was well attended, but it started late. Arriving first were Takeuchi and Yamamoto, who fielded some questions while we waited on the WUG.] Q. [To Hiroaki Takeuchi and Yutaka Yamamoto] What kind of things you watched as kids inspired you as creators now? Yamamoto: Hayao Miyazaki's works. And even before that, I read Fujiko Fujio's manga and wanted to become a manga artist at first. And there are a lot of other things that influenced me, obviously, but there's too many to name. Takeuchi: I used to work for Shueisha to produce Shounen Jump. I watched Tezuka's Astro Boy, and it was shocking, this was when I was young. I also watched Miyazaki's works, and it was shocking, again. In the '80s I watched Otomo's Akira, that that was my second shocking work that I watched. I was also very shocked by watching Oshii's Ghost in the Shell. Q: Can you tell us about the history of Studio Ordet and your future plans for the studio? Yamamoto: I established the company so I can keep a consistent staff. That's the main reason, but I don't have any specific future plans for the company. Takeuchi: Studio Ordet was created four years ago. I've produced anime for 20 years and have my own CG and animation studios. I helped create 5-6 studios in Japan. About five or six years ago I met director Yamamoto and I think he is talented. He can control many aspects of a production, from writing anime to directing live action, he can do choreography and produce music and much more. I wanted to work with him and produce his new anime. We want to produce anime and change the style of anime all over the world. This is why we created WUG. Takeuchi: WUG is special because we produced the animation and idols at the same time. The actual voice actresses appear as idols on stage. At the time there wasn't anything like this in Japan, so together we wanted to produce and develop these kinds of new style of anime, where we can work on not just the anime but also the music and live aspects. Our studio will work on these new styles of animation. Q: When creating the Wake Up Girls, did you get inspiration from AKB48 or [email protected]? Yamamoto: Of course I did study and watch these idol anime and real idols. I use them as a reference point so I can establish my own vision of the idols that I want to create. Q: [To Takeuchi] When you begin your careers, were you surprised to find the American market the way it was? Do Japanese creators target the American market in general? Takeuchi: About 20 years ago, I came to Hollywood and met with a lot of Americans directors and writers, and they would think that Japanese comics and animations are very cool. For example when I worked on Animatrix I talked to the Wachowski directors and they would say that their work was inspired by anime. There is a lot of positive feedback from US directors and creators. At the time it feels like there's an opportunity to produce something with American creators. These kind of things are big now, but back 20 years ago it was hard to see how things would turn out. Fans of anime/manga are all over the world, so I hope more fans will gather and make good anime and comic. Q. [To the Wake Up Girls] How do you feel about your receptions from American fans? Miyu Takagi [Miyu]: At the live yesterday, everyone is so excited! I feel the energy and everyone's excitement. I liked how no matter what I said or whta happened on stage, everyone had a happy face and laughed at what I said. Nanami Yamashita [Nanami]: When we walk pass people by the hotel or on the street, everyone is so friendly! I also hear Chicago pizza is delicious. (Takeuchi: We'll go have pizza tonight!) Minami Tanaka [Minami]: It's my first time in Chicago. I'm worried about my English, but everyone was very friendly and that made me very happy. Mayu Tanaka [Mayu]: My English is not great but my fans who were listening to me can still understand me and we still can communicate and have a good time. Airi Eino [Airi]: It's my first time oversea and I'm shy so I'm worried about being able to talk to everyone. Still  everyone accepted us warmly and even though I don't speak English much, people tried to listen to me and I am grateful. Kaya Okuno [Kaya]: It's my first time overseas, At the autograph session yesterday people called me Kayatan even tho they aren't from Japan! Even though they're not from Japan they still know my nickname, and I'm happy about that. Yoshino Aoyama [Yoppi]: What surprised me is that everyone here likes anime and a lot of people can speak some Japanese. People saying "arigato" or "konnichiwa" to me made me happy. I wanted to use my English so I would speak in English, and some would speak back in Japanese. Q. Are you similar to the characters in the anime? Yoppi: The characters are made with the same birthday, blood type and given name of each of us. So yeah there are a lot of similarities. Kaya: I play the character Kaya Kikuma, she is tall but I am short. The Kaya character is mature and I think I am like her in that aspect, so there's some similarity. Airi: The hair is different but we both have a mole right there, so they made that similar. Mayu: We have almost the same height and three sizes, and even the same looks. We are both stubborn and argue with the members in real life. In fact the arguing part got put into the anime. So for me there are a lot of similarities. Minami: People say we look the same and have similar personality, and I think so now as well. Nanami: We're both left-handed. There's a scene where she sits down and eat chips. I do the same thing. Miyu: I think we both cry easily, so that's similar. Miyu works at a maid cafe but I have never, although I would like to try some day. Q. Which do you have more fun? Live action or anime? Miyu: I think both are fun. Although for the movie, it used the same dance we did and that was put into the anime. Nanami: I like doing the live. When I record for the anime I don't see the audience as I record. I enjoy having fans in front of me cheering and the atmosphere. I like both but I like the live better. Minami: When I first started out I wanted to be a voice actor, so having to do live shows and dance worried me because I'm not sure if I could. Now I enjoy doing it and it seems I am discovering this side of me as well. Mayu: It's a hard choice. I think I like doing the lives more. It's my dream to become a voice actress so I definitely enjoy that, but having the audience in front for feedback is great. And the live show aspect is unique for WUG. Airi: It's agood question. I do like the anime a lot. The live is in front of the audience and in some way each time we do a live it's a new creation. I also like to dance and it's more me to dance in front of the audience. Kaya: I like the anime. I want to be a seiyuu and doing the recording. I work hard to do the recordings, and if the director or sound director give me feedback, I work on it. When I get to see the result of my work as I  get better. When we do the live we showcase how we can become the characters in the anime, as actresses. In that sense overall I like the anime more. Yoppi: I like the anime. In the anime it's not just us working hard, but also the other voice actors and the animation staff. People I don't even know worked hard on the anime. There are so many people who work hard to make it. There's only this one piece of work created from the effort of everyone. So I like it slightly more. Q. Pick between natto or okomonoyaki Takeuchi: I eat natto everyday when I can, so natto. Yamamoto: I'm from Osaka so I like okonomiyaki, but I ate it too often so I eat natto every day now, too. Miyu: I like these types of food like okonomiyaki, takoyaki, etc. Nanami: Okonomiyaki, because natto is sticky so it's hard to share (Yamakan: sure can share natto...) Minami: Okonomiyaki: Because you can put lots of different vegetables in it and it is nutritious.  Mayu: I'm also from Osaka so I like okonomiyaki and taokoyaki. In fact I have a hot plate so I was thinking of inviting the members for a party where we eat these things. Airi: I like natto, it's a very Japanese (wa) and I can't live without natto for breakfast. I eat it with umeboshi, and it's really good. Kaya: I like okonomiyaki because I like bonito flakes! Yoppi: I like natto. "Rice on the natto is great." It's delicious. [And that is a wrap! Special thanks to ACEN and Crunchyroll for making it possible, and Nana Lee for interpreting.]
WUG! photo
Let's hear it for Hiro, Yamakan and the Wake Up Girls!
Anime Central and Crunchyroll teamed up over the weekend and brought to the USA the anime-idol group Wake Up, Girls! I am more than excited to be able to cover them over the weekend and attend some of their events. Below...

AB 2014: JAM Project press panel

Mar 29 // Jeff Chuang
Q1. You've been to many countries and played in a lot of countries. Which country has the most passionate fans? Hironobu Kageyama (Kageyama): It's hard to pick and choose a single country because people express their passion differently.  For example in Taiwan people sang along in Japanese from start and finish. In South America, even during ballads, they would cheer as if it's a soccer game. In Mexico, during a performance, women's underwear came flying through the crowd.Hironobu Kitadani (Kitadani): In Brazil, headbands and t-shirt came on the stage, among other things. In different countries all kinds of stuff come through the crowd.Yoshiki Fukuyama (Fukuyama): Of course last night we had a pineapple show up. Q2. Are there any countries you still want to play in? Kageyama: Lots, tons. Last year I went to Egypt for a small event, solo. It was the first time I went to Africa. Even though the event was small, the crowd was passionate and they wanted me to bring the whole group. I was excited about it but there was some political unrest in Egypt at the time and the opportunity came and went. I hope the situation will stabilize and we can make it happen in the future. Q3. Does the number of times coming to America affect where you go next? Kageyama: America is a big place. There are probably a lot of events all the time all over the country. I would still like to come to different conventions in America! Q4. How different is your song creation process for JAM Project versus working on your solo works? Kageyama: For anison, when we create a piece for an anime, we meet with the producer and director to set the color or tone for the song. It doesn't matter if it is for a solo or a group song because the focus is to for the best outcome for that title. Q5. When someone listens to JAM Project for the first time, which song would best express your sound? (JAM Project deliberate...)Fukuyama: Probably Super Robot Wars songs like "SKILL."Kageyama: It's hard to narrow it down from 14 years worth of songs. On the other hand it's about combining the voices, and having something that's unique to JAM Project in that we have a lot of call-and-response type of songs. That interaction between us and the audience is what makes us unique and enjoyable compared to other rock music. In that sense songs like "SKILL" and other Super Robot Wars songs are representative. Q6. You've all done so much individually and for so many years, so why are you teaming up for JAM Project? Kageyama: We formed in 2000. Back then there were a lot of Jpop/rock tie-ins for anime and it was becoming a popular thing. For those of us who were already doing anime songs for a career, we want to do just anisons and we don't want that opportunity shrink. We joined forces to form a group to continue to promote anison and make anison so the genre will continue to flourish. Q7. In 2010 there was a full-member reunion tour including the past JAM Project members. Will you plan to do it again? Kageyama: We're in the 14th year. Nothing is set yet but it would be nice to do that for a major anniversary with Eizo Sakamoto, Rica Matsumoto or Ichirou Mizuki. That would be great and we'd like to try. Q8. Can you explain how the Animelo Summer Live came about? Kageyama: Ok, Okui-chan please take this one.Masami Okui (Okui): Eh? Ok! In 2005, there weren't any events or phenomena where anison artists gather together and share their work with fans. So we wanted to do it because the opportunity didn't exist. We also wanted to make it into an industry-kind of event where record labels can get together and make something fans can enjoy. As said earlier anison are enjoyed by fans worldwide. We felt this could also be an event that connect fans from Japan to fans to other parts of the world, like a bridge that links everyone in the world. That was the theme we went with. Granted it was very difficult to put it together especially in the beginning. Fortunately we were able to gather a number of individuals who all had the same vision and pull in the resources to make it happen. Q9. Are there anything you guys found interesting in Boston? Okui: We haven't been able to go anywhere! Just the supermarket.Kageyama: We haven't had the time to see the city, but we're surprised to see the turnout at Anime Boston. This convention center is huge and the sheer number of cosplays when we're on our way in and out of the venue is impressive and amazing. Everyone just cosplay what they love regardless how new or old the character is. My friend in Spain said Shingeki no Kyoujin is super popular over there, for example, but at Boston we also see such a diversity of shows represented.[Earlier in the fan panel Fukuyama mentioned he went to 3 guitar shops but didn't buy anything.]  Q10. There are now some anime that are made to promote idol groups and such. How would you feel about a JAM Project anime? And hypothetically if so, who would do your voices and can we assume you will sing the OP/ED? Kageyama: Just to be clear, there are no such plans for a JAM Project anime, that I know!Fukuyama: If I'm not doing it then maybe... Hirokawa Taichiro? Just kidding.Kageyama: No way! He passed away.Kitadani: I would try to do it myself. But if I can't then I would like to have Tomokazu Sugita or Mamoru Miyano to do my voice.Makkun: There's no way this could be, but Mizuki Nana can do my voice.(Everyone laughs.)Kageyama: Me?Fukuyama/Kitadani: Hey you're a seiyuu!Kageyama: I guess I should do it myself.Masaaki Endo (Endo): Well, I would like a famous voice actor to do my voice. So Kageyama Hironobu.(Everyone laughs.)Fukuyama/Kitadani: So he can do two voices!Endo: But for the opening theme, it still should be Mizuki Nana.(Everyone laughs very hard.)Fukuyama/Kitadani: Well that's also two roles. Q11. For Fukuyama: How do you capture the spirit of Kamen no Maid Guy in the ending song "Work Guy"? How was it working with lyricist Mieno Hitomi? Fukuyama: Knowing the type of anime it was, and the spirit of the thing, we wanted to jam in as many cuss word as we could. For the music itself, I came up with a few rendition but I wasn't happy about them. I asked my band members during a concert rehearsal and collaborated with them for song in a jam session. I did the A line, the bassist did the chorus and the keyboardist did the bridge, and so forth. So the end result was not like a typical anime song. Q12. For Endo: You worked with visual-kei rock band Nightmare's Sakito for V-ANIME collaboration -homme-. Why did you pick Gao Gai Gar OP as the song and how did you end up working with him? Endo: It was not a conscious choice or something I went out of my way to do. VK gets a lot of attention worldwide and in turn also attention in Japan. I actually have never met Sakito before this collaboration but we are both from Miyagi prefecture, so maybe that is why we can rock together. Of course my style may be on the opposite end of the spectrum from visual kei, but it's a great experience because a lot of VK rockers also love anison and it's rare for me to work with people in that genre. It's also a good way to let fans know that just because you like a particular genre doesn't mean you can't like anison. Q13. What was the most interesting thing that happened to you during the years when you toured? Kageyama: During an encore in a show in Japan, Fukuyama ran on stage and with so much energy, he ran across and off the stage, and ran into a table and broke a bone.Fukuyama: We were about to do the final song, "SKILL." But because it was the last show of a tour, Kageyama's final speech was super long. I told the staff off stage to get an ambulance but they were laughing it off as if I was joking. Over time the adrenaline wore off it hurts more and more. I did go to the hospital after the concert in an ambulance. That footage of "SKILL" ended up in the karaoke systems so you can check it out, as my expression during that performance was super serious. "I can't fly." Q14. You have so many fans in South America, would you do a tour there? Kageyama: This year we were almost able to perform in South America. We got an invite from a Brazil event, but because our record label Lantis is having its 15th anniversary events on the same dates we can't work it out. I'm pretty sure we'll be back in Latin America in the future though. Q15. How do you balance your solo work and JAM Project work? Kageyama: I don't get a lot of solo offers and JAM work at the same time so I can space it out.Okui: I do! Well because I'm the only girls in JAM Project now, the sound I create is somewhat different than the other guys. Even the songs I write for JAM Project tend to be slower or ballads. A lot of the time when I create music for my solo work, I would switch to JAM Project work if I hit a mental block, and vice versa if I get stuck on JAM Project work. So it works well. Q16. JAM Project music is typically upbeat and positive. So when you created "Garo," how is it so dark and serious? Kageyama: "Garo" is dark and unique, because the original creator and director is quite a character and a dark person. When we composed we started with instrumentals and purposely kept it in mind and strove to make a dark song. Q17. What are your thoughts about Japanese idol groups and trends? Kitadani: I like that stuff!Endo: We do anison events with idols. There are a lot of similarities between us that our music are loved across the world. I came to realize we share things in common deep inside, despite acoustic or visual appearance. Q18. If you ever wind up getting stuck on a deserted island, which 3 albums would you like to have with you? (Everyone has a hard time thinking.)Kageyama: Fuku-chan, you go first.Fukuyama: Just three? I guess Beatles - Rubber Soul, Queen - Queen II, and the third...Simon and Garfunkel - Bridge over Troubled Waters. Wait, Beach Boys - Pet Sounds.Okui: How about you Hiroshi?Kitadani: Skip me for now.Okui: I listen to my own music a lot, JAM Project or solo. I am pessimistic and and I am hard on myself so I write for my own sake to cheer myself up. I would listen to my own music to get myself back in right frame of mind and get over things. I would like my own album, a classical music album, probably one of these other guy's solo albums.Endo: Who?Okui: Real? [Real is Hiroshi Kitadani's second solo album.]Kitadani: Real!Kageyama: Skip!Endo: I would bring my bandmates's music but you said three albums and there are four of them so one will get left out. So I'll go with something else. Like "the best of" Aerosmith.Fukuyama: What? Best of!Endo: Also Nickelback and the Eagles. Both best of.Kageyama: I was thinking about what inspired me from way back. So Bad Company's first album. Also Rod Stweart - Atlantic Crossing, as I almost wore the LP out back then because I play it so much... I have been also listening to Adele's music at home to relax, so I'll pick her album.Kitadani: First, the best of KISS, and because it's a deserted island and it would be neat to go to one, so an AKB48 best of album. Third,  because everyone else don't want it, my solo album Real. Finally, a message to all of you! Endo: I'm happy to learn how many of you enjoy anison. As an artist and with my band members, we will keep making more songs to inspire you, so please keep supporting us! Thank you!Kageyama: Having come to Anime Boston, we had a blast and I had a blast. I'm impressed that the fans and staff are upbeat and kind to us. It made me reflect the fact that through anime culture, Japan and America can come together as two people and countries and that's wonderful. We as JAM Project will continue to bridge people and culture to create one happy world.Okui: This is the first time we are here at Anime Boston. I also had a great time. We would love to visit other towns and cities, in America and outside America. As fans please let us know and invite us! But also not just JAM Project, but please learn about the other anison artists and creators, and these talented folks would also love to come to perform in America and other places. Please come and learn more about us and our colleagues and bring us to the States!Kitadani: My band members and I love anime. I watch lots of anime. We watch lots of anime. I'm proud to see how anime and anison has evolved in terms of quantity and talent. When it comes to performing and composing music, I'm glad to see the direction of things are going in the industry. And I'm hoping to see you all again in the future and how the industry takes that shift and grow.Fukuyama: When we first started doing oversea lives 10 years ago, at the time I had no idea that there are people on the other side of the globe that knows our songs and sing our songs. Now I know, 10-plus years later, that border is just a word and it doesn't physically exist. I hope we can continue to perform worldwide and break down borders, to continue that cultural exchange. I hope to continue to be a part of it. [This Q&A is brought to you by Anime Boston, Lantis & JAM Project. Interpreted by Mari Morimoto. Anime Herald, My Jhouse Rocks Promotion, Boston Bastard Brigade, Anime Diet, and Crunchyroll also contributed to the questions.]
JAM Project photo
Old school anison rockers kick back for some laughs
At Anime Boston 2014, epic anime theme song (anison) rock team JAM Project performed and threw a couple great shows. Japanator was able to join in on their press panel and take some Q&A time. Here are the juicy details ab...

Anohana Movie photo
Anaru is a medical term, but what about Tsuruko?
Did you watch Anohana the Movie last week? I did, and it was definitely at least an one-hankie experience. Now you can relive it, especially the lighter moments, with the above Q&A taken with the producer of the series H...

Talking with the guys from Boomslank

Nov 11 // Karen Mead
Japanator's very own mascot and protector. I like to think she runs on Strawberry Pocky. What's A Boomslank? Boomslank is Justin (29), Kevin (28), and David "P-Shinobi" Anyanwu (25). All three brothers commented that most of the people they talk to have at least some idea what anime is, so they usually don't have too much trouble explaining the family business. However, the question they do field all the time is "What the heck is a Boomslank?", so let's settle that first. Justin, a software engineer, originally registered the domain several years ago with the intent of starting a small company that would create wallpapers for active desktops. After trying for a while to come up with something catchy that wouldn't make for a long URL, eventually someone came up with Boomslang-- it sounded catchy, wasn't too long, and perhaps most importantly, the domain wasn't taken yet. However, before registering the name, Justin did some research and found out something disturbing: apparently Boomslang is the name of a poisonous snake in South Africa. A super-deadly poisonous snake, in fact. "I figured, that's probably not a good way to start," Justin noted dryly. Fortunately, changing just one letter distanced the brand from any and all poisonous snakes, and the URL was still available. Justin eventually scrapped the original desktop concept, but the name stuck. Getting Started "Blue Serengetti" While all art on Boomslank's products is created by David, the impetus to start the business came from Justin. Originally from Nigeria, the brothers came to the United States in 1998; while young David became entranced by anime and started learning how to draw Dragonball Z characters soon after the family arrived in the US, Justin's interests were different. He enjoyed anime as well, but for as long as he could remember, what he really wanted to do was start his own business. Throughout school and into adulthood, he spent lots of time hashing out potential business ideas with his friends. "Over time, I realized I was doing a lot of talking and I never took action with anything. And somewhere along the line, I noticed that my brother was really, really good at drawing anime," Justin said. Having also noticed that many of the most successful businesses come from passion, Justin decided to try printing anime T-shirts. He would handle the financial end, David would create the art, and middle brother Kevin, a mechanical engineer, would help out with any other odds and ends. For David, the chance to do something with his artwork was tremendously exciting; he wasn't yet doing art professionally. "After I came home from work, I'd just get back to drawing," said David of his time working at a pharmacy. At around the same time (2009), he entered some of his work at an Artist's Alley for the first time at Animazement, where it received such a great reception that the brothers felt more confident embarking upon their new business venture. In addition to harnessing David's talents, it seemed like the business could prove successful by virtue of filling a gap in the market Justin had noticed. "It seemed like there was a need for it, because a lot of what's out there is based on licensed work-- you've got Naruto printed on a shirt, Bleach printed on a shirt...there's nothing really original," said Justin. So Boomslank had the idea, the talent, and maybe even a niche that needed filling. However, there was one small problem: they didn't know anything about printing T-shirts yet. The first shirt the group produced was made using a method called heat-press, where plastic resin is heated and pressed onto fabric with a lot of pressure. It's a cheap method, and unsurprisingly, it doesn't make for a terribly comfortable shirt. "When you touch it, it feels like somebody rubbed cement on the shirt and over time, it starts to crack," said Justin. Discouraged, but not ready to give up, Justin investigated other printing options. After a brief flirtation with direct-to-garment printing, he realized that screen printing would allow for the kind of quality designs Boomslank wanted, but there was still a problem: colors. The brothers couldn't find a screen printing company near their home base of Raleigh, NC that could handle the amount of colors they wanted to put on their shirts. "We went around talking to people, and they were like, 'We can't do ten colors,' said Justin. "And the funny thing is, we were trying to get people to do 50 colors for us." Eventually Boomslank found Jakprints Inc., whom they still work with today. Jakprints could print a shirt with ten colors, but ironically, as they grew more experienced, the guys at Boomslank realized that a good design would stand out even with fewer colors. "It's all about how smart your design is," said Justin. With fewer colors, shirts could be made more cheaply, and Boomslank was on its way to profitability. The Art of P-Shinobi  "Long Distance" As much as finding a way to make the business a reality was a group effort, one area where the brothers don't confer is conceiving of new designs. Instead, Kevin and Justin say they're happy to let David come up with the art entirely on his own. "We just tell him, 'we need a new shirt'...he's pretty much guaranteed to come up with something that will surprise the heck out of us," says Justin. Where visuals are concerned, the youngest brother is definitely the boss.Some may be surprised to learn that David is almost entirely self-taught (although he does credit a drawing class taken at community college with teaching him critical lessons on perspective and anatomy.) What's interesting about his artistic process is that unlike a lot of his peers, he still likes to use good, ol'-fashioned pencils. While every Boomslank design is finished digitally (primarily in Photoshop), all concepts start on paper."Most artists, when they get a tablet, they transition and just draw straight to software. But somehow, I can't make that mental switch. I have to start with a drawing on paper, in pencil," says David. He then scans his rough sketch, creates the digital line art by going over his initial drawing, then places color.For the artist known as P-Shinobi, the thing that grabbed his attention about anime art was the attention to detail. While he cut his teeth drawing Dragonball Z and Naruto characters, nowadays he's most inspired by anime with complex design work like Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. "I'm going to geek out here for a second, but when they zoom in on Motoko, the Major's eyes, because her eyes are artificial, you can see that they have writing on them, like the lens of a camera...that kind of attention to detail is just so inspirational," he says. Other major influences he cites include Durarara!!, Baccano, and more recently, Attack on Titan. While he always creates backstories for all the characters he draws, attempts to create a manga by himself haven't taken off. "I don't think I have that writer's talent to make a complete, cohesive storyline that makes sense from A to B," he confesses, going on to say that if he were to attempt a manga, he'd probably rely on someone else for writing chores. Of course, it would be awfully convenient if one of his brothers got bit by the writing bug and provided a script, but Japanator can neither confirm nor deny such allegations...oh okay, Kevin is totally writing a script. You dragged it out of me.A humble fellow, David isn't one to toot his own horn, but Kevin notes that he hopes his brother's talent will garner more recognition in the future."I want Boomslank, and P-Shinobi, to be spoken of in the same breath as anything related to anime," he said. "Hopefully in the very near future, that's where we will be."The Future of Boomslank (not Boomslang!)  "Live" in T-Shirt form Right now, the top priority for Boomslank is to increase the selection of T-shirt designs. However, quality is a concern; the last thing the company wants to do is crank out a bunch of sub-par shirts just for the sake of upping the product count. "We're not going to be like some large company that churns out shirts every month, or something like that. If we have a good product, we'll just bring it out," said David.However, it can be difficult to take the slow and steady route when people are banging down the door for new stuff. "There are a couple of guys who own pretty much every single shirt we put out, and every once in a while they contact us and ask, 'When are you guys releasing a new shirt?'" Justin comments. Still, rather than try to expand too fast (or overtax David, who also does private and corporate commissions in between T-shirt designs), the plan is to gradually add more designs that all three brothers really like, rather than expand for the sake of expansion.Because it's important to focus on the T-shirt business, the brothers haven't thought too much about new products just yet, but Justin says they are considering printing some anime-style greeting cards at some point-- high-quality cards with whimsical art. That doesn't mean the company doesn't have much bigger dreams; they hope at some point to hire more talent and maybe even branch out into animation someday-- but first thing's first."I would never want the business to be diluted...I always want to maintain our uniqueness," says Justin.For more information about the company, of course you're going to want to go to If you'd like to meet the guys at a convention, in 2014 Boomslank plans to attend Ichiban Con in Charlotte, NC, Animazement in Raleigh, NC and Anime Expo in California. There are also tentative plans for Anime Boston and other events, so keep up with their website to find out if they'll be visiting a con near you. Thanks once again to Justin, Kevin and David for telling us their stories-- it was a lot of fun.    
Interview photo
Creating original anime art in a licensed-chara world
By now, you've probably noticed Ai Fi, Japanator's lovely resident android, created by illustrator P-Shinobi of Boomslank. I like Ai Fi quite a bit; while aspects of her design remind me of some other anime and game character...

An interview with Dr Akiko Mikamo

Nov 07 // Kristina Pino
Kristina: The book reads like it was narrated to me by Shinji himself. What was the general writing process like? Dr. Mikamo: I grew up listening to his stories and always wanted to tell his stories to the world in a book since I was a child. When I co-started our non-profit charity organization for peace education and promotion, San Diego-WISH:Worldwide Initiative to Safeguard Humanity, in 2010, I felt it was important to have the book out to reach out to more people all over the world with his messages. My father was 84 years old at the time (now 87), and I felt I needed to take actions while his memory is intact. I wrote my initial draft in 3 days and 3 nights straight with few breaks as I knew exactly what I wanted to write. Then, it took me 3 years to research historical facts for accuracy, interview my father on the phone and via fax back and forth for further details, edit, explore publishers, and finally published it on July 15 this year. Kristina: If Ashes is successful enough, do you think you'll write more of what he has to say? Dr. Mikamo: Yes, he and I have a lot to convey to the world. He is a wise man and has many sayings based on his experiences and beliefs, such as "Ten years to build trust, One moment to lose it."  I will also write about [humanity] in terms of empathy and tolerance of people that are different from yourself, on a similar topic to forgiveness. I mean a various type of diversity including physical and mental disabilities or the absence of, race and ethnicity, religious preference, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, gender, educational level, and so on. I will probably portray the examples of my elder sister, other real people and their family relationships as well as what we could do to make a better world with different people holding hands. My next focus includes how to understand and support persons with mental or developmental disabilities as I'm a clinical and medical psychologist in practice. Kristina: Are there any plans to translate this book to Japanese and release it overseas? Dr. Mikamo: Yes, I'm in the planning stage for the Japanese version now, and I hope to publish it in the first half of 2014. I would like to have it translated into many other languages in the near future, too. Kristina: Was the book Shinji's idea? How did it all begin? Dr. Mikamo: Shinji has been asked to give talks and share his experiences many times, and he has had bits and pieces of stories written down. But putting all in a book in English was my idea, encouraged by my fellow students at INSEAD, a leading international business school I attended in Europe for my executive masters degree in consulting from 2009-2010. The classmates there are mostly executives and consultants who come from many countries, and they told me my father's story was one of the most moving stories they had ever heard.  Kristina: What led you to the decision to write this book from your father's perspective? Dr. Mikamo: I was partly influenced by Clint Eastwood's movie, Letters from Iwojima, and how it was from the young main character's (Saigo's) perspective. It just felt right to "speak" to the audience as if my father (especially, as a young man) were talking to each of them. Kristina: Do you believe in coincidence? I believe everything has a meaning, but it is sometimes not so obvious at the time. One may later realize 2 things happened at the same time for a reason. Kristina: If your mother had had a voice in this book, what lessons would she have imparted on readers? Dr. Mikamo: She passed away 6 years ago, and it was very unfortunate she didn't get to see this book come to life. She was a very traditional Japanese woman, who had learned to swallow all the pain and keep it to herself.  She had taught me the virtue of tolerance and accepting. So her voice was not in the book directly, but her silent voice was reflected in the book through my personality and perspectives. Kristina: Are there any films or other books you'd recommend to people who loved Ashes and want to see more material like it? This includes both the historical aspects of the story as well as its ultimate message of empathy and forgiveness. Dr. Mikamo: It's not directly about forgiveness, but I think Letters from Iwojima is a brilliant and very touching movie about the WWII in the Pacific involving Japan. It really expands one's perspective when you watch it with Flags of Our Fathers also on Iwojima by Clint Eastwood.   For children, I recommend Sadako and One Thousand Cranes by Eleanor Coerr. Tariq Kahmisa Foundation in San Diego is a not-for-profit organization to educate teens to eliminate teen violence, and it is based on the importance of forgiveness. It was co-founded by the father of a teenager who was killed by a 13-year-old gang member and the murderer's grandfather. "The Amish Project" is a fictional play by Jessica Dickey (playwright and actress) based on a true story of a schoolhouse shooting, and it is a powerful story of forgiveness. Kristina: Do you have any advice for people who are living in or planning to move abroad somewhere, even if just to study abroad? Dr. Mikamo: To put aside judgment on people, behavior, or customs using your own scales, and to listen, observe, and try to understand where they are coming from first. You don't have to agree with them, but just try to understand and empathize. You will gain so much more. Not only will you learn about other cultures, but you will also gain a new and expanded perspective on your own. Kristina: Besides visiting the Memorial Park and Museum, what is one unmissable experience travelers should have when visiting Hiroshima? Dr. Mikamo: To visit Miyajima (Itsukushima Island) with the big shinto shrine and Torii gate. Very historical and beautiful. There is a photo in my book toward the back with a couple of deer with the Torii gate in the background. It is one of the Three Best Scenes of Japan. You can take a ferry there from the coast, or you can take a boat there from the river next to the Atomic Bomb Dome. And you MUST try the Hiroshima favorite, "Okonomiyaki." It's a casual meal with layers of crepe, veggies, thin meat or seafood, eggs, and with or without noodles. Hiroshima has its own famous special style, and the sauce is to die for. Okonomiyaki teppan (iron grill) restaurant is almost on every corner, and it's like what pizza is to Americans: just more nutritious and much healthier. Thank you so much, again! Akiko Mikamo Japanator would like to thank Dr. Mikamo once again for taking the time to grant us this interview. We look forward to covering more of her work in the future.
Interview photo
Empathy, forgiveness, and the best food in Hiroshima
In conjunction with my review of Rising from the Ashes, I was given a special opportunity to interview its author, Dr. Akiko Mikamo. In case you haven't read the review yet (and why haven't you?!), here's the basic synopsis t...

Catching up with Neon Alley

Oct 09 // Karen Mead
Q: The television-based format actually stands out a bit in today's streaming environment. I'm used to being able to start from episode 1 on a streaming site, but when I checked out Nana at Neon Alley I would have had to start from Ep. 3. Why did you choose to go this route? Is it something that may change in the future? A: Neon Alley was designed to be a traditional linear channel much like any cable network. We wanted to have a fully programmed channel 24-hours a day that would allow members to tune in at the same time every week to catch their favorite shows, as well as to expose them to other shows they may not be as familiar with. And now, with "Catch Up" available in the apps and on the website, members don’t have to watch on our schedule. Neon Alley is a special culture that we have worked hard to build on the channel, but we understand that not everyone can sit glued to their screen 24/7. So “Catch Up” was created to enable our members to do just that – catch up on anything they may have missed during the week.   In terms of jumping in mid-season, we have new shows that debut multiple times throughout the year, with six new series starting the week of October 18th, and other series are rebooted from the start regularly. So, as with your Nana example, it will start up again in a matter of months.   Q: What is the reasoning behind only having English-dubbed anime available? Obviously, dubbed anime has a huge audience so the demand is there, I'm just wondering if subtitled shows perhaps present logistical challenges that dubbed anime does not. A: Neon Alley was created to serve the fans who like English-dubbed anime. There are a number of services, like the free or paid sites like Crunchyroll, that fill the need for fans who prefer subtitled anime. But there was no service that existed to really serve the dubbed fan base. Even today, your two options for dubbed are a few hours of Toonami one day a week, or Neon Alley. We saw the void in meeting the needs of fans of dubbed anime, and the service was born out of that.   Yes, there are VOD options that exist for dubs, but we wanted to create a linear viewing experience. Neon Alley is more of an exposure platform-- a chance to discover your new favorite shows or just kick back and watch. Neon Alley isn't the ONLY way to watch dubs, but it's a different and exciting way.  Q:  Are there any plans to offer subtitled anime in the future? A: Not at this time. There are others who are providing that service just fine. Most shows on Neon Alley in English can be found for free in subbed form on or Hulu.  Q: How did knowing that the primary home of Neon Alley was going to be game consoles effect the design of the service?  A: The consoles being the initial means of distribution didn’t really affect the design of the service. When we looked at the launch and roll out of Neon Alley, we knew that there was a large crossover between anime fans and console users. Rolling the network out on the PS3 and XBOX 360 enabled us to get in front of the largest audience in the quickest manner. For those two reasons, we chose to go that route after the plans for Neon Alley started to come together.   Q: Speaking of game consoles, are their plans to offer the service on other consoles besides PS3/XBOX/PC? Furthermore, what is the plan regarding next-gen consoles? A: Right now there is nothing official on the next-gen consoles. We are committed to continuing to be where the largest fan bases are, and when there is news about future platform expansions it will be available first through our newsletter (which you can sign up for at and social media sites (@NeonAlley on Twitter and   Q: The site FAQ mentions that all anime featured is uncut, if I understand correctly. Is there a possibility that shows that have never been dubbed/localized without substantial cuts (ex. Sailor Moon, Card Captor Sakura) may be shown on Neon Alley in a dubbed-but-uncut format? A: Absolutely. Even episodes of shows that have aired on cable TV in the U.S. like Naruto Shippuden and Bleach are seen totally uncut and uncensored on Neon Alley. Our dubs come straight from the Japanese masters and not from any edited versions, so you always get exactly what we get from the studios and they get it direct from Japan. If shows like Sailor Moon and Card Captor Sakura were available in a great, uncut English-dubbed format, they could be a fit on the service. Showing anime uncut is important because we want to preserve the experience as the creators intended, just localized into English. If it is uncut, awesome and available, we want it. Q: When you pick shows to premiere in English on Neon Alley, do you consider how well the show in question will adapt to English dialogue? To clarify, if a show utilizes a lot of uniquely Japanese words that are arguably untranslatable, is that a reason you might pass over a show for a more suitable offering? Or do you try to pick the best quality shows you can and go from there? A: All of our selections are made on quality. If a show is not a quality show overall, we will pass on it. We only want to air shows we ourselves would want to watch…and probably have watched the subs of already. Great English dubs rely on great localization, and a good story is universal. Neon Alley wants to showcase all those good stories that resonate with anime fans. We try to cultivate a well-rounded anime experience for fans to enjoy. I like to think of Neon Alley as having “all killer, no filler.” If a show is not quality overall, it doesn't fit here.    Another great aspect is that the channel is studio-agnostic. Our current fall lineup features programming from VIZ, FUNimation, Aniplex, Sentai, Nozomi and Taiseng. This allows us to find the best dubs from the best studios and work to acquire those titles.   Q: Streaming sites usually use some kind of "game-like" features to help keep the audience feeling engaged-- achievements, etc., as well as social media features. What can you tell us about Neon Alley's plans, if any, in this area? A: Up to this point the focus has been getting our “full product” rolled out. Now that we have Catch Up available across all our platforms, we can start to consider possible upgrades and features beyond that. While we do not have any specific plans in these areas which we can reveal today, we are always looking for ways to make the Neon Alley experience as engaging and interactive as possible.    Recently and started adding Neon Alley integration into their platforms, so fans can now take advantage of their social tools. We also run commercials for anime conventions who partner with us and try to meet as many of our fans and anime fans in general at events. We want to spread the word about our service as far as we can.    Q: Is there anything you're currently working on to distinguish Neon Alley from other anime streaming sites that we haven't already discussed? What else can anime fans look forward to from Neon Alley? A: What separates Neon Alley from all other services, aside from the fact that we are all English dubbed and all uncut & uncensored, is that we are truly an anime lifestyle channel. Our “commercial breaks” feature all content relevant to the anime and entertainment industries including DVD trailers, Top 10 sales lists, new release lists, and more. We have convention coverage pieces. So far this year we have taken our members inside Anime Expo in Los Angeles, San Diego Comic Con, Fanime in San Jose, and Japan Expo in Santa Clara. Next up we head to New York Comic Con. We feature music videos from Japan and interviews with music artists like Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Porno Graffiti and Kylee. We are much more than just an on-demand service. And as we roll into year two of the service, we will be doing even more to bring anime news and lifestyle pieces to our members. The team is passionate about and knows anime. We're on the forums, we go out to conventions to interact as well as observe, we are active on social media and love talking to fans. Talk to us, and we will talk back! That’s just one more way in which we are building and fostering this anime lifestyle community.  In terms of what else anime fans can look forward to from Neon Alley, more world premiere dub series – Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic starts Friday, October 18th  and we are the only place in the world to find new English dub premiere episodes of Naruto Shippuden  every Saturday.  Plus, more network premieres.  October 18th also brings the Neon Alley premiere of anime classic Ranma 1/2-- broadcasting for the first time ever as an HD English dub. That night will also see the network debuts of Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Revolutionary Girl Utena. On Saturday, October 19th, our fall season’s weekly Shonen block debuts with two episodes of Bleach, a world premiere episode of Naruto Shippuden, and two episodes of One Piece. Sunday, October 20th, we add a new series to live-action programming with Chikara, a really fun comic book and sci-fi influenced pro-wrestling show.  And, on Thursday, October 24th, we have our network premiere of Gurren Lagann. Plus, this season we will have the world premiere of the third installment in the Berserk: The Golden Age ARC film series. All in all, anime fans can continue to expect Neon Alley to bring them the best in English-dubbed anime across all studios and genres. That concludes our interview: thanks go out to Viz Media and of course Mr. Kleinrock for giving us a glimpse inside the channel. Naturally, if you want more information about Neon Alley, how you can subscribe, or just desperately want to know what time the next episode of Naruto Shippuden is on, you can visit the website.   
Interview photo
Talking all about the anime streaming channel
Neon Alley, the 24/7 streaming service for anime fans that delivers shows to your PS3, Xbox 360 and PC, just celebrated its first anniversary. In lieu of a birthday party, the service is launching a bunch of new shows on Octo...

Japanator Interviews: Makoto Shinkai

Sep 20 // Hiroko Yamamura
Japanator - I just finished watching your masterpiece Garden of Words. Looking back at the film, do you feel like you set out what you wanted to achieve? Shinkai - I feel as though we got what we wanted. Looking back, there's always going to be something you may have done differently, even something as small as color choices for scenes, however I'm very happy with the end result. I hope the viewers are happy. Japanator - Why do you feel the need to Direct, edit, and do cinematography for your works? Do you feel like total control is a key to your success? Shinkai - We are actually a very small company, so it is actually necessary for everyone to wear many hats. However, it does give me the ability to do exactly what I want. In Garden of Words, I am able to get the exact shot, color, and feeling necessary to convey the message. There are less people to appease and have opinions, so this set up works well for me. Japanator - You decided to keep Garden of Words to around 40 minutes. Do you feel like less is often more? Shinkai - I don't like having to think about those kinds of restrictions. Thinking about wether a movie should be 2 hours for the theatre, 30 minutes for TV is not something I want to think about. What it took to do the last movie was 2 hours, while this one was 40 minutes. Japanator - Did you have an idea prior to production on the length of the film? I think as soon as we started writing the story boards we had an idea of the length. Even from concept we had an idea on the compression of ideas. I don't like to think too much about the length of time. However, when the idea for this movie was conceived, I knew it would be best to do it in this length. Japanator - Your films capture environments and moments so beautifully. How important is it that every nuance and detail is captured in a scene. Is hyper realism important to you, or do you feel that that is just a necessary part of anime? Shinkai - I think that's the nature of anime. Part of art is what sets you apart from other anime directors Unlike many other directors, I don't come from an animation and drawing background. I previously worked for a video game company where I focused primarily on background and scenery. I feel that my focus on those aspects is different. I guess you can see my past work in my current work! Japanator - You are often compared to Hayao Miyazaki. Personally, I don’t see much similarity. If there is any Director/Producer you feel like you have similarities with? Shinkai - I appreciate any comparisons to other Directors, however I don't as though there are any that I would necessarily compare myself to. Japanator - What is the significance of Yukari’s inability to taste in the film? Shinkai - In the film, Yukari is going through a tough time where she is unable to return to work. As she goes into the garden within Shinjuku she begins the journey of finding herself. The stresses of her life cause an affliction of her to lose taste. As she she slowly regains her taste. It's is also her finding herself. Japanator - Why choose shoe making for Takao? Shinkai - In the film Yukari mentions how she can not walk many more. Meeting Takao and him being someone who can help her walk again helps illustrate the relationship they have, and the unmentioned need they have for each other. Japanator - Have you considering directing a non-animated film? Shinkai - I actually get this question a lot. This is what I do, and I'm currently not interested currently in other mediums. There is a beauty and focus on things that you can only create with animation. Japanator - Are details part of a film? Or is the film the details? Shinkai - That's the rule of art. When you choose to make art, you are in control of the details or beauty that you are able to express and highlight. The fact that my medium is animation should not change the fact that I want to share the emotion and details. Japanator - Favorite anime or video games? Shinkai - This is probably true for a lot of creators, but I often find that I need to stay away from other people's material to do original work. If I immerse myself in other people's work I find myself influenced by it. It's important that my work comes from within. Japanator - Have you listened to the English dub of Garden of Words? Do you feel it is appropriate for foreign audiences to watch a film with different voice actors? Shinkai - Obviously English is not my native language, so it is hard for me to tell. From what people have told me the voice acting is done well, and just listening I can feel the emotion of the actors come through, so in that respect I feel it's a success. That being said, it will always be different. Where or not it is successful or good is up to the American audience. Japanator - Any messages for your American fans? Shinkai - I don't like to think about where fans as from very much., but I do appreciate all of the support I've gotten from my fan base. In my work, especially Garden of Words, I want to share the beauty of my favorite places in Japan . The park in the film is a real place in Shinjuku that I like to visit. I would like to share the peace and harmony of unique places like this, and the love I have for my country. Maybe it will inspire people to visit.
Shinkai interview photo
A true artist
Wow, talk about an awesome day! Back at Anime Expo this year I had the amazing opportunity to sit down with one of my favorite masters of anime, the illustrious Makoto Shinkai. If you've been living under a rock for the last ...

Japanator Interviews: Space Station Osaka

Aug 31 // Eric Koziol
Japanator: So let’s kick this off with who are you and what is Space Station? Matt Bloch: I am Matt Bloch! I am from Maryland, USA. I started playing video games from 5 years old starting with the Atari 2600. Space Station was the name of the arcade in my town, and it is where I spent a lot of time when I was growing up. The current Space Station is a bar that takes its name from that arcade and is made to resemble the dark neon lit interior that I remember from the original. Space Station was designed to represent both old games and new games, and Japanese games along with the U.S. versions of those games. It is a place for people to drink while they play the games they enjoy. J: That’s actually quite the touching history. So why open a game bar in Japan? Why Osaka? M: I was on the JET program from August of 2006 to July of 2008. The program chose to put me in a small town of 5,500 people in southern Kyoto prefecture called Wazuka. I would often go to Kyoto City or Osaka City on the weekend. Both were 1 hour and 15 minutes away from where I lived. I stopped renewing my JET contract after two years for the sole purpose of moving into a city, and I only knew Nara, Kyoto, and Osaka really. I chose Osaka because… Well, I don’t really remember why I chose it over Kyoto at the time but it was the right choice. People in Kyoto often come to Osaka for the nightlife. It is more rare for people from Osaka to go to Kyoto for that.    When I moved to Osaka I continued teaching English through a dispatcher for several years. In 2009 I discovered a video game bar called Continue close to where I lived. I would go there once or twice a month. It wasn’t until January of 2010 when I realized opening my own video game bar is something I should do. It felt like the ideal match to my skill set, expertise, and interests. For example, I always enjoyed designing my own personal gaming and computing space whenever I moved into a new place. I felt I could design a gaming space that could accommodate multiple people. Also, I had always dabbled in graphic design with Photoshop mainly, and I was excited about having a reason to use it for designing materials for the bar such as posters and flyers. Gaming is what I know best and I felt I could use that knowledge to present a decent breadth of the gaming world, both past and present, to customers.   The bar opened April 26th, 2011, 18 months after I had the idea to open it. In that interim another video game bar opened (November, 2010) called Dendo. That makes Space Station the third video game bar in Osaka, and the first and currently only (soon to change) foreign owned and operated video game bar in the country. J: Asides from being run by a foreigner, what makes Space Station different from other video game bars? M: For one, there is no cover charge, which is unique to Space Station with perhaps one or two exceptions.    Western video games and machines are represented alongside their Japanese counterparts. Space Station is the only game bar in Japan to represent the U.S. version of these retro games. The U.S. version of game boxes also line the walls.  J: So besides the old US arcade decor and the video games themselves, what else separates Space Station from your normal everyday bar? Any special food or drinks? M: Those are the main things that differentiate it from a normal bar. Other than those things, it can function like a normal bar. There are signature drinks like the Hadoken, as made popular by, and the King Graham, which is named after a character from King’s Quest and was also invented by Graham, one of Space Station’s staff. J: So how do Japanese patrons react to your bar? Do you know of any bars like this outside of Japan? M: Japanese patrons are often surprised to see what the U.S. equivalent of the Famicom and its cassettes look like. Even those Japanese who are familiar with how it looks may have never had a chance to try it directly. Also seeing the boxes the games came in might be novel and interesting for them. They enjoy the bar much in the same way foreigners do by enjoying classics from their childhood like the Mario games, Puyo Puyo, and Momotaru Densetsu.   There are bars like this outside of Japan, like the famous Mana Bar in Australia, and the crop of barcades that have sprung up around the U.S, though of course the barcades are different in that they primarily feature arcade game cabinets and not necessarily the home consoles. J: Having been there myself, I gotta say it is well worth checking out if one is in Osaka. Thanks for your time! For fun, Matt provided us a list of of themed drinks available at Space Station. Be sure to ask for one if you stop by! Cocktails Dr. Mario Floating Peach Gin Sonic Space Station 5 Star Tropics Zangief   Shots 1Up Hadouken Pikachu Triforce You can find out more about Space Station at its Facebook group or get in touch on Twitter.
Japanese and NA gaming together in one place
Gaming is more social than many like to give it credit for. Arcades used to play a huge part of this socialization but now the majority seems to happen with screens between the players. Of course there are still some arcades ... photo
Lots of giggling girls
The fun loving group of was kind enough to sit down with me and chat about some of the things that they like. I will warn you right now, the audio does peak when these girls get going. So if you have your speak...

JX: An interview with 1000say

Aug 29 // Josh Totman
1000say photo
The electro-pop band 1000say was kind enough to sit down with me and chat a bit about how they started and what 1000say means. We also talk about their tastes in music which was actually surprising. The range was quite large...

Japanator Interviews: Hiroaki Yura

Aug 29 // Salvador G Rodiles
Japanator: Greetings, Hiro. Thank you for taking the time to partake in this interview. To begin our segment, which JRPG games inspired you to create Project Phoenix? Hiroaki Yura: I think the biggest inspiration from a JRPG that we have is Tactics Ogre, that’s my biggest inspiration for the game. J: One of the interesting things about your game is how you’re going to use an RTS system for the battles. Is there a specific reason why you chose RTS? H: The thing about JRPG and why the battle system was turn based to begin with is because of the limitations of the system they had back in the days with the Famicon and the Super Nintendo. Nowadays, we don’t have a limitation to this system, so I thought that the RTS system would be a very natural successor the JRPG combat system. The RTS system that we are developing is not exactly like let’s say Starcaft. There is less micromanagement, and it’s more about how you position your people and how you use your skills, so it’s not going to be like Starcraft. J: When you mentioned that you can interact with any object in the environment, what are some examples of the stuff that you can do with your characters? H: We’re going to be allowing things like when the bad guys cross the rope bridge, you can actually cut the bridge, so they can’t cross, or the people who are on the rope bridge will fall to their untimely demise. Players have to consider this as an option, because if they cut it, they can’t cross it, and you might be given a limited approach to your objective. You have to weigh the pros and cons on how you want to approach your tactics. J: An important aspect about JRPGs is the story itself. With that being said, how do you plan to convey the story when Project Phoenix comes out? H: Well, I think it’s a simple matter of putting event sequences, a bit of game cinematic, gameplay and more event sequences. We were thinking of having a narrator, similar to what Bastion did, which was pretty cool. But obviously, we don’t want to copy them. If we were to copy someone, we’d like to make it better than their idea. Anyways, that’s something that we’re still trying to look into. J: I love the idea that Project Phoenix unites people from the East and West to work together to create a phenomenal title. During the game’s project, what are some of benefits and drawbacks that you have encountered so far? H: There’s not much of a drawback just yet, so I’m pretty happy about that. In terms of the good things that we experienced, we didn’t expect so much support through Kickstarter. It’s fantastic that we burned through the minimum pledge in the first nine hours, and I think we’re at about $599,000 right now, which is fantastic, and we just want to see how far we can get to right now. Basically, I think it’s important to focus on our ideals, values, and beliefs to actually deliver what we set out to deliver in the first place. J: Once Project Phoenix is fully complete, where do you see Computer Intelligence Art in the next few years? H: Our company right now is a music company, and we’re planning to make a new company for the indie game. We haven’t thought of a name yet, but we might actually name it Project Phoenix – we’ll just have to wait and see. In terms of this indie dev team, we actually have several other plans set in motion. We have two games, which are unannounced, and the first one will probably be announced after Project Phoenix is released. J: I can’t wait! H: If you like anime, you will be shocked to hear about the people who will be involved with the next title. J: Looking at your impressive background as a musician, what inspired you to branch out into doing music for video games, film, and anime when you were first starting out?  H: It was when the Final Fantasy Tactics composer Hitoshi Sakimoto – he’s also the composer for the recently released Dragon’s Crown – dragged my orchestra kicking and screaming into a recording studio in Sydney and asked us to record several stuff – including Valkyria Chronicles, Romeo x Juliet, Tower of Druaga, and stuff like that. He asked us to do all of these themes and we just complied. As soon as we did that, lots of people asked us to do recordings for their games and anime, and I think it just grew from there. J: Your goal to change the way how we see JRPGs with the power of Kickstarter is a very impressive feat, Hiro. With that being said, do you think that other Japanese developers will takes note from your objectives and use Kickstarter to take chances with their creative ideas? H: I hope so. I hope they do it in a positive way like the anime industry has – like with Production I.G. and Studio TRIGGER having successful Kickstarters for their anime. I just hope that the video games industry will do the same approach and bring back the trust with the Japanese video game industry, rather than do something weird with it. J: I think this might be an important question that’s lingering in most people’s mind, but when you were coming up with the name for the game’s main heroine, were you eating some Ruffles potato chips by any chance? H: No. Truth be told, that’s not her real name. She thinks it’s Ruffles, and that’s why she gets called Ruffles for a time. J: For our final question, do you have a few words that you would like to tell to your fans? H: I really want people to look forward to the game. If it just means pledging S1.00 to take part in discussion, then so be it. We don’t really mind if it’s a dollar or $10,000.00; we really want to have feedback from everybody, and work on something that our common interest shares. I lived in Sydney since I was six till I turned 28, and I’m more of a Westerner than a Japanese person. At core, I am Japanese, I have Japanese values and I’m living in Japan right now. I think I have a good balance of the two, but this game isn’t for just Japanese people, it’s for the whole world. I think it needs to live up to that promise, and that’s why we want your feedback. Trust me, we do read every single feedback that we get. J: Thank you again, Hiro, for joining us in this interview. H: Not a problem. J: And best of luck with the rest of the development on Project Phoenix! H: Great, thank you so much; it’s been a pleasure.  In case you haven't backed Project Phoenix yet, you can lend your strength to Hiro and his team at the game's Kickstarter page! 
Hiroaki Yura Interview photo
The man behind Project Phoenix shares his words!
The flames of Project Phoenix's Kickstarter are growing with each passing day, and its heat will ignite the ultimate rebirth when the time comes. Last Saturday, I was given the honor to speak with Hiroaki Yura, the man behind...

Ian Sinclair photo
Voice over nerd
Funimation voice actors are like Pokemon to me. I've got to catch them all. Well, there is one less that I have to catch because I now have Ian Sinclair taken off my list. Ian has done a lot work for Funi such as Dallas...

Sinternilklaas photo
Fun, educational, and awkward
The always wacky and fun Michael Sinterniklaas was kind enough to sit down with me and talk about his work on both sides of the mic. He has worked on shows like GaoGaiGar as Gai Shishiô, Summer Wars as Kenji ...

JX: An interview with Evangelion's Yoshiyuki Sadamoto

Aug 27 // Josh Totman
Japanator: Are there any aspects of the Evangelion anime that you would have liked to see changed? Sadamoto: About the main framework of the films, I don't have a lot of things to say about it because when they were omitting I was at every meeting where I would give my opinion. Sometimes they would take it and sometimes not, but I know why they didn't take my opinion. I do get the feeling that I get to change somethings, but Mr. Anno the director has a good way of thinking, which I can agree on. So, I don't have any feeling towards the animation of the films except maybe shooting at a little bit of a different angle, but the main direction of the animation was good.  J: How different was it to do the character designs for a live-action movie like Cutey Honey from character designs for animation? S: There is a lot more stress working on a live-action show because of the formatting of the show like the costumes and the bike that the creator made. I had to more of less arrange them not so much create them in a way that it would work on actual human bodies. So I can't be totally relaxed on the design of it because I had to make them compatible with Japanese actors legs which I can't change from short to long. It was a quite a bit more stress in dealing with that then doing it for animation. J: Is there any work that you have done, besides Evangelion, that you are especially proud of? S: If Evangelion is out, then I would have to say it would be: Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise, Furi Curi, and Gunbuster 2 would be the works I am most proud of. J: I know you have been doing more then just character designs for animation, is this something that you are pursuing to do more of in the future?  S:  Yes, this is something that I want to do more of in the future because I want to be apart of the entire aspect of animation creations. I don't want to stop at just character designs. J: Who have been some of your influences throughout your career? S: There a lots of people of course. If we are speaking about manga there is Go Nagai, Leiji Matsumoto, Katsuhiro Otomo. In animation there is Hayao Miyazaki, I'm very fond of him, Hisashi Sakagushi who was animator at Mushi Productions or Mushi Pro. He worked on the first Astro Boy series and was also making manga. So I am like him now making animation and manga works. J: What do you like to do to relax on your time off? Interests and hobbies? S: Listen to music and go see some live-action movies. I also like to drive, whether it be one of my cars or my motorcycle. With my motorcycle I like to try and tinker with it and fix it whenever I can.  J: Last question, what is your perfect meal? S: Nigiri sushi and Dasai Sake. The same drink that Misato drinks. Also Japanese ramen is also right up there as well. Translated by Emmanuel Bochew
Japan Expo USA photo
Creator of Evangelion
There are moments that define your otaku life. Some of them are minor, like getting that special edition of whatever you like, and then there are some that are huge, like meeting the man that created the series that solidifie...

Otakon '13: An Interview with Oreimo's creators

Aug 17 // Jeff Chuang
The interview took place roughly two hours before the Oreimo OVA screening at Otakon. Present at the interview was the light novel author Tsukasa Fushimi, novel editor Kazuma Miki, and anime director Hiroyuki Kanbe. We were joined with also Aniplex's Mr. Goto and Ms. Tsukamoto. The Q&A began after exchanging pleasantries-- Japanator: How do you feel about screening the finale to Oreimo at Otakon even before the Japanese audience? Fushimi: I'm happy that lots of people are watching it. I'm looking forward to it as well, because now I can see the final episodes on the big screen. I have not seen the anime's ending yet, so this will be my first time. J: How do you hope people will react to the ending of the anime? F: I would be really happy if people can just enjoy the episodes. I would like to have fun watching everyone else having fun watching it. J: From Oreimo anime's website, there is a lot of English-translated text, to go with the "From Chiba to the World" campaign. Whose idea was it to have such an international campaign? Miki: It's the idea from Mr. Takashi Yuma of Aniplex's. He is in charge of the PR and marketing for the show. He is a dangerous man. J: How is he dangerous? M: He spends a lot of money. *laugh* J: Have you listened to the Oreimo web radio? If you did, how do you feel about the oversea fan letters? F: I didn't listen to the radio, but I am delighted to read and hear about the oversea fan messages. M: I see the fan mail for the radio come in from dozens of countries all over the world. The letters say how they love Oreimo and we're very happy about that. We're surprised even with the help of the internet, that people are able to catch the show and follow what is happening. Kanbe: I occasionally listen to the radio! J: Which countries do you think has the loudest fans and the most fans? F: Regarding the novels, Taiwan has the loudest. Then China is second. K: Maybe someone from Aniplex can tell us how the anime is doing. Tsukamoto: For the anime, American fans are probably the loudest. J: When the ending of the novel was published, there were some fan murmuring about the ending. How do you feel about it? F: First I'm surprised that you know about this! We did get a lot of feedback and I'm happy about the feedback regardless what they are. Because it is the last volume, I want to slowly savor the fan responses one by one. J: Kirino's relationship with her brother--is this something that is inspired by something you know or something you came up completely? F: That is something I came up completely from scratch. J: How about the characters themselves? F: It's not really based on any real people. J: Kuroneko or Kirino? F: If I answer this question I will probably get some threatening letters! *Everyone laughs* M: Kirino for me. K: Kuroneko for me. F: Maybe I really like everyone? They are characters that I made and gave birth to, so I love them all. J: Between Kyousuke and the girls around him, is there a particular girl that you enjoyed writing the most? F: It has to be Ayase and Kirino. J: Why are these two the most interesting? F: I don't really know the reason myself. It's just that when I started to write, the readers react strongly to them and I end up enjoy writing about them more. J: I have a question about the title of the work. First, who came up with the title? And second, there are a lot of light novels with similar structure for the name as OreImo [Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai], so why are these novel names so long? F: I came up with the title of the show with editor Miki.  M: And yeah, you are right, light novel names are really long! How do you know about them? J: There's all these anime adopted from light novels with these long names! M: Ah that is true. It's kind of like a fad. It's just how this age of light novels are. In the previous age, the names were simple. The long names are just for the current round of books. Sooner or later it will change to something else. J: How is the process of working on the anime for the script of the show? K: Every week there is a script meeting. Mr. Kurata [series writer] will present the concept of how the novel will be translated into the anime. We will work with Fushimi-san to determine the result. J: How was this changed in season 2 compared to season 1? How was editing the novel story to fit into the length of the second series? F: The biggest difference between season 1 and 2 was that the novel wasn't completed by season 2's planning.  M: We waited until Fushimi-san was done before we can go ahead with the anime. J: Why was the anime for seasons 1 and 2 both extended into the OVA episodes? K: Well, TV anime is usually one or two cours, so if it fits then it works, if not we will have to come up with another way. We originally wanted to fit in to one season irrespective to the original story but it didn't work that well. Aniplex then suggested to make more episodes so we can do a better job matching the story. The same happened with season 2. J: Of all the various marketing and promo events for Oreimo, which ones do you like the most? F: Otakon would be the one I'm hoping to like the most! K: I would hope for Otakon as well, since it hasn't been done before that the US gets something before the Japanese. Also I like Oreimo Festival, which is an event where the voice actors talk about the show. M: For me, it's the monorail promotion. The entire monorail train has a full wrapping for Oreimo characters. I was surprised that the Oreimo themes continued inside the rail cars. J: Is there anything you can tell us about new works? F: We are working on a new project. Mr. Miki and I were on this 13-hour flight from hell to here and we were working on it on the way. K: I have a few projects planned right now. I'm also going to work on other anime as an animation director. J: And to wrap it up, any final words for your oversea fans? F: Thank you for watching or reading Oreimo to the end. I would be happy if everyone has at least one favorite heroine, may it be Kirino or Kuroneko or anyone else. I hope you will remember them. K: I hope for those who has not watched the show yet, they will check it out! M: Originally, the project in Japan was just between me, Fushimi-san and Kanzaki-san [Light Novel Illustrator]. It was originally made for young Japanese people so we never expected it to be this big in America. We are glad to be able to share the same feelings about Oreimo with you! J: Thank you very much! [Special thanks to Otakon's George Endo for interpreting and Aniplex's Tsukamoto-san for facilitating!]  
Oreimo Premiere photo
Team OreImo under the spotlight
To get you ready for the world simulcast of the Oreimo OVAs on Saturday, Japanator chatted up the Oreimo guests at Otakon 2013--light novel author Tsukasa Fushimi, his editor Kazuma Miki, and the director of the anime se...

Toshio Maeda interview photo
The godfather of tentacle porn speaks
Back in the late 90's, if the subject of anime was ever brought up, it usually devolved into one topic. Whether or not you had watched The Legend of the Overfiend (Urotsukidoji). You couldn't avoid it, and after some time, p...

Danny Choo Interview photo
What's happening with the Tokyo Storm Trooper?
I had a chance to sit down with my old pal Danny Choo at Anime Expo this week, and catch up on what's been going on in his world. Danny is the prototype for entrepreneurial otaku. He is currently promoting his Mira...

Aku no Hana's Hiroshi Nagahama talks Flowers, Evil

Jun 03 // Jeff Chuang
Hiroshi Nagahama arrived his panel fashionably late, even if it's just for a few minutes. Walking into the room, his chest was positively glowing, because there was a ring of blue LEDs behind his t-shirt. After settling in on the panel and showing off his Iron Man gear, we quieted down and director Nagahama introduced to us about how he was still currently busy working on Flowers of Evil, and that there were some backlash on the show in Japan due to the rotoscoping visuals. Nonetheless he had episode 7 (which was the one aired earlier in the same week) to show us, and the panel began with a screening of that episode of Flowers of Evil. Despite that it wasn't translated, Nagahama wanted us to just pay attention to the second half, which is made up mostly of music and visuals, to take in the mood. After the screening, Nagahama asked the audience how we felt about the episode (which was generally positive), and it lead into the Q&A session, as the audience asked their questions. Q: Why rotoscoping? Nagahama (N): You know about the manga right? I read it and I thought what is being depicted is something realistic and close to our daily lives, so I thought rotoscoping is the way to go. Q: Could you talk about the amount of time it takes to do rotoscoping versus traditional animation? N: It took about 3 months, on and off, to do the filming of the live action part. Then there is editing. Overall it took maybe twice the time as a normal animation project. Compared to my previous works like DMC or Mushishi, I did the same thing as Flowers of Evil, as I read the manga and decided how to animate it. I didn't treat Flowers of Evil any differently. Q: You mentioned Mushishi and DMC. They're related in a way that they're depicting the hidden sides of something. Is this something you're drawn towards? Or a coincidence? N: I guess both. I happened to work on these two shows. I also like American comics--for example, I like Magneto from X-men and Venom from Spiderman. Also Tony Stark in Iron Man is an alcoholic. So I like the dark side of people. I think you guys know the dark side of people in American comics. It's like the Force in Star Wars. It's also a side of being human, so I'm interested. Q: If Flowers of Evil is about realism, why not make it a traditional live action series rather than rotoscoping? N: In live action, you are looking at actors. I like Iron Man, but when I first heard about the live action Iron Man movies I knew there was a risk. The person standing in the movie isn't Iron Man, but his actor, Robert Downey Jr. You're watching Robert Downey Jr. act as Tony Stark. It's cool, but he is still depicting a character that only exists in the comic and not in real life. And the same applies to anime and manga. To depict fiction and connect it to our world, I decided rotoscoping was the way to go. Is it ideal? I don't know but I want to find out. I hope this answer is okay for you. Q: Since episode 1 came out there has been some backlash. What is your reaction? Is it justified? Is it just people who don't understand? N: I knew there was going to be criticism before it aired, because I picked a way to do this anime that people will be critical about. People were saying it looks creepy, but I think it's better to feel something than nothing at all. It's on late night TV, so people can see it when they turn on their TVs. I imagine when someone channel surfs and see it they may say it's creepy, but it's not like any anime. Say in 5 years it'll be on rental or on Blu-ray (if Blu-ray still exists). People then can check it out and say, "Hey this was that creepy anime on TV." There's so much anime in Japan and few titles leave an impact on the viewer. I didn't want to create something that doesn't leave an impact. Q: I approve the rotoscoping and I think it's awesome. In Mushishi, the coloring and animation is unique. It's also unique in Flowers of Evil and how their movements depict their personalities. I think the style you've chosen is interesting. What are some styles you're interested in for future works? And how do you decide what style you use? N: I don't have a style in mind before I start out on a project. Mushishi looks unique because the manga looks that way. Same with DMC. So I think it's just depends on the manga and that'll decide the style. Although if I do another work with rotoscoping I want to work on Mushishi. Q: I was wondering how you pick your projects? Do you have a list of items you want to try? Or do you search for what you want to work on? N: First, Mushishi is something I really wanted to work on, so I begged to work on it. I said I would die happy if I got to work on it. Of course I'm still alive afterwards, thankfully. (Laugh.) For DMC, I initially turned it down. Then I figured out a way to do it and I ended up doing it. Same happened with Flowers of Evil, where they offered to me and I passed, but it came back to me again. So far these are the two ways I ended up working on these things. I guess that'll be how it goes from now on. (Laugh.) Q: Thank you for creating Flower of Evil anime. In the episode we just watched, inside Nanako's room, there's a stuffed animal on her bed. It resembles a character in a show called Wooser? Is this intentional or unintentional? Also, in the end of every episode you include an end card with the creator. Why do you animate only his hair? N: Really? The actress for Nanako, Mishina Yuriko, used her own stuffed animal for the shoot. The actual stuffed animal has really long arms and legs, kind of like Jake from Adventure Time. So they folded its limbs and tied it in place. If that made it looks like Wooser then I guess so.  N: For the end card, this is the first time I've been asked this question either here or in Japan, because everyone kept on asking about the rotoscoping. The end card has a self-portrait of the manga creator Oshimi. I actually animated the whole thing, genga, douga, tracing, etc. Because the actual episodes of the anime looked so different than regular anime, I wanted to make the end card more like traditional anime. Originally I wanted to do the end card in Flash, but no one in the office can do Flash. In the end I just tried to emulate that style and animated his hair, and maybe that made it look weird. Q: The pacing and the soundtrack and way Flowers of Evil looks creates a very unique atmosphere. Is there a way you want the viewer to feel or an atmosphere you wanted to create? N: Here's an analogy. It's like when you first meet someone, you take a look at how he dresses or what's his hair like. Then you notice his voice. Then you talk to the person and maybe you have similar interests as you get to know this person. When I watch or work on anime, as I start to let down my guard then the show begins to remind me of something. You begin to have some preconceptions. It might be easy to understand a show if you compare the show to something else. N: If it's someone you meet for the first time, you get curious. For example if I like Gundam and I go to a con, I may see a crowd of Naruto cosplayers. Everyone seems to like Naruto. But then you see that one Naruto cosplayer who is wearing the headband but his body is a robot. You might go "What the heck is that?" Maybe it's the first time he is cosplaying and he doesn't know what he is doing, but you know he may be interested in both Gundam and Naruto. So someone who likes Gundam can talk to that guy about Gundam, and ask him about his cosplay. If you like Gundam and you see a sea of Naruto cosplayers, it becomes hard to approach them. But on the other hand if the cosplaying is too weird you would go "What the heck?"  N: I kind of want to make an anime that feels fresh. I want to keep making anime in this way. So there are a bunch of projects that I find interesting. I hope people don't assume Flowers of Evil is the direction of work I'm doing in the future. I still want to make anime with cute girls or Jump anime! I get offers, but it's hard to find the right timing. N: And I guess it's time! I'm sorry about most of the time being taken by watching the episode. Thank you for the questions! And that is a wrap! There's more Q&As to come from Animazement 2013. Stay tuned!
Flowers of Evil photo
Nagahama answers to criticisms, and draws a complicated analogy
At Animazement 2013, North American fans were treated to a very busy Hiroshi Nagahama, the director of Detroit Metal City, Mushishi, and most recently the controversial Flowers of Evil. Still wrapping up on the production of ...

Japanator Interviews:'s Eri Maruyama

May 21 // Josh Totman
Japanator: How did the name come about? DAISUKI: We looked for something that sounds catchy and can be memorized &  pronounced by fans from different countries easily. It is a Japanese vocabulary that many foreign Anime fans are familiar with. We hope that fans from all over the world will “daisuki” our service! J: What services will it offer? D: DAISUKI will stream anime content world-wide. Most of the video content will be viewable for free. There is also a free membership. For now, the benefits for registered users include participation in campaigns with many prizes. More services are to come. Also, our DAISUKI web-store with anime merchandise is planned to launch in late June 2013. J: Will there be any region restrictions on who can view the content? D: Basically the website itself will be available world-wide outside of Japan. There are region restrictions though, which depend on the titles. We try to provide our service to all overseas fans, but in case of some series exclusive rights may be already given to another company in specific regions, for example. J: What kind of pricing structure will the site have? D: Most of the video content will be for free. Later, some premium video content will be added that will be fee-based. J: Which shows will be available from the start of the service? D: At you can now watch Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Sword Art Online, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, Lupin the 3rd, and The Prince of Tennis OAV series (which has been translated into English for the first time). J: Any upcoming shows/events to tease us with? D: DAISUKI will participate in upcoming anime conventions in the US. We started off with Anime Central in mid May. On some conventions, we are planning guests from Japan, small events etc., so please be sure to check our DAISUKI booth, when you are at one of these conventions! In terms of the website, you will see a menu tab called DAISUKI TV that is “coming soon”. Here, we are planning to stream some original anime-related content only viewable on DAISUKI. J: Will full seasons be available of older shows? D: We are definitely planning to stream older shows, too. But we will rather have only a few episodes up at the same time from each series, and update them continuously. J: What will be the turnaround time for new shows now airing? D: For now, there is no definite plan yet. For the first period, we want to add new shows continuously. J: Anything else you would like to tell our readers? D: Please enjoy our service! We are looking forward to meeting many local fans on upcoming anime conventions. Needless to say, but I am rather looking forward to this new service and what it will have to offer in the future. Besides, they are giving away TONS of prizes for the grand opening! Hope on over to, sign up, and apply to one of many great prizes! I've got my eye on that Ultimate Madoko for sure. What about you?
Interview: photo
Streaming world-wide
You might of heard that there is a new streaming site that has just launched out of Japan. It is being backed by some big names in the anime world like Aniplex, Sunrise, and Toei. What could that exactly mean for you, you ask? Well, let me let Eri Maruyama (International Business Development) at DAISUKI answer that as well as many more burning questions that I had about the new service.

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