News : Halo Legends sneak peak.

This is a sneak peak broadcast on television of Studio 4˚C's part of the Halo Legends project entitled "The Babysitter". Studio 4˚C are the animation studio behind Spriggan and the recently released First Squad, they also did the music video for Linkin Park's Breaking the Habit.

News : Wolverine and Ironman make the jump to anime also.

Remember the Wolverine manga from a while ago? Looks like making an anime of popular IPs is the new cool thing to do, with the earlier announcements of the Halo short animated films and now anime versions of Wolverine and Ironman.

I have to say, whilst the animation is certainly awesome, the character design of Wolverine is questionable and why is he fighting Japanese transformer bats?

As for the Ironman one, I like how it has a very retro sci-fi anime look about it. I don't know a whole lot about Ironman, but it seems hes fighting Captain Harlock from the famous old anime, maybe the character design was based on him, who knows.

Anyway, will be interesting to see how the more western marvel/DC comic fans feel about these anime adaptions.

News : Halo anime on the way!

It was bound to happen someday and it looks like Microsoft have chosen the Animatrix/Dark Knight way of doing things, going with short episodic content from a number of different studios. Amongst them you will see Toei, production I.G and even Bones. Could be very interesting to see how things turn out, anyway here's a few pictures. (How cool does Bones' gundam spartan suit look?!)

News : Noodle cup now with Gundam toy

Yep, now when you're buying two minute noodles on your next stay in Japan, keep an eye out for the ones with a mini Gundam toy under the lid. Can't say the package seems very appetizing, but hey, neither were Happy Meals from McDonald's and we all used to buy them for the toy too.Source

News : Manga coming to the PSP.

Sony have stated that they will make manga available through their online store for PSP users later this year. There are already third party programs out there that make downloaded manga a lot easier to read on the PSP than it's standard image viewer, but obviously this way would help the industry more. There's also some rumours about a soon to be released iPhone app offering the same sort of service, but obviously Sony would have better connections to the more popular manga titles, being a large sponsor of many anime series. Currently the PSP manga service has only been confirmed for the Japanese market, so who really knows if we'll end up getting it here, but we can hope, right?

Feature : Unboxing the Bleach box set.

If you recall this article from a few months ago, talking about the new box sets that companies seem to be releasing, you'll already know what this is. For those of you that have not, this is basically a box set, exactly like a dvd one, but instead of dvds, there's a bunch of manga.

The Bleach box set contains the first 21 volumes of the manga, basically encompassing the first major story arc and starting off on the next one. Anyway, I managed to get this one for cheap on Ebay a while ago ($190 AUS, whereas the RRP is $260) and thought some of you out there might be interested on what's inside and how it looks, so here are some pics.

The front.

The back.


All the books.

Double sided poster.

So called 'collectors booklet/travel guide'.

It's a pretty impressive little set, not so sure about the nessecity in having a box, but it may be a hit with some people. The small poster and tiny collectors booklet (which is really just an 8 page flyer for Bleach) were a bit of a let down, but at least you get all the books at a marginally cheaper price than if you bought them normally for $15 each.

Review : Elemental Gelade.

Robbing and pillaging are all in a days work for young air pirate Coud Van Giruet, but things start to get a little strange when one of his stolen valuables turns out to be a coffin with a live girl inside.

It's not long after the sleepy girl named Ren wakes up and demands to be taken to a place called Edel Garden, that Coud's pirate airship comes under attack by three mysterious characters. When negotiations fail, one of the attackers literally transforms into a weapon known as an Edel Raid and proceeds to directly attack Coud and Ren. With things seeming pretty bleak, Ren reveals she is also an Edel Raid and reluctantly makes a contract with Coud, turning into a huge sword that causes tornadoes when it's swung, unfortunately one of these tornadoes damages the airship and everyone is forced to evacuate.

Once on the ground, Ren and Coud decide to travel together to Edel Garden, with the three former assailants revealing that they are actually part of a Edel Raid protection agency and pretty much demanding that they also tag along. Togther the group get caught up in slave trafficking, attacked by bounty hunters and a come across a mysteriously sinister group of Edel Raids who call themselves the Chaos Choir.

The art of Elemental Gelade is pretty much follows the generic anime style, the character designs are interesting, obviously heavily influenced by the authors former works on a manga adaption of a role playing video game. Coud's main weapon is interestingly a hook, which is pretty unique in a genre where every main character usually has the biggest sword or gun. The manga also focuses on some very realistic issues like the trafficking of human beings. Violence is toned down to the shonen level, not a lot of gore or blood, but plenty of fighting, shooting and general action.

Elemental Gelade is a book that a fan of fantasy Japanese role playing games would love and even if you're not a fan, it's still a good read regardless.

Review : Bakuman.

Ever wanted to draw a manga? It's a lot more complicated than you may think. Follow the story of Mashiro (Artist) and Takagi (Writer), aspiring high school aged mangaka, on their journey to make a manga.

Mashiro likes to draw and he draws quite well, but he isn't overly keen about becoming a mangaka, a hard to get into and not overly well paid profession. Takagi a student in the same class, finds out about Mashiro's artistic abilities and attempts to push him into the idea of becoming a mangaka with him.

Mashiro also has a love interest named Miho, after finding out that she wants to be a voice actress, he accidentally proposes to her and she agrees to marry him if they can achieve their own goals but until then they can't see each other. So Mashiro and Takagi start the onerous task of creating a manga so popular that an anime adaption will be made so that Miho can star as voice actor in it.

Bakuman focuses on the production of the duo's varying manga titles. Including how it's planned, drawn and published as well as the loopholes, problems and competition that they have to deal with along the way. It's interesting to see how the manga creation is done, it's may also serve as huge wake up call as to just how hard and competitive the industry is, being able to draw well and write a good story aren't always enough.

Bakuman is written by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, the team behind the hugely popular Death Note title and as expected, is well written and drawn in Obata's usual top-notch style. Obviously the mangaka plot within their book is written with a degree of experience. There is no action, gore or smut, making the title widely accessible for any audience interested in the creation of manga.

Bakuman is a rather original title, with a perfect mix of seriousness, comedy and romance that will appeal to anyone who likes manga.

News : Shojo Beat discontinued.

Looks like the girl targeted english manga magazine Shojo Beat has just closed shop. With it's last issue hitting newsstands in July. Shojo Beat featured hit titles such as Vampire Knight, Honey and Clover and Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time.

Obviously this isn't a huge blow for the Australian audience as like with most manga magazines, we don't usually end up getting them here. They won't let us subscribe and the few places that stock them, sell them for a hefty price, but anyway, that's enough complaining from me.

One of the public relations people at Viz had this to say...
"Unfortunately in today’s difficult economic climate we felt the need to place our resources elsewhere at this time. Of course all of our great shojo manga titles previously serialized in Shojo Beat magazine will still be published and available as graphic novels..."

It's always sad see english anime/manga publications fail, as most seem to have done sooner or later, the only exception so far seems to be Shonen Jump.

News : Madman to release manga box sets.

Over the next few coming months Madman Australia will be releasing more manga box sets. You may, or may not have seen box sets for Death Note (containing all 12 novels) and Bleach (containing the first 21 copies, comprising the first story arc) already in stores. There's also a Fruits Basket box set floating around. Generally these are all quite a bit cheaper than if you bought each book individually. As it stands here's the current box sets and those that are soon to be released.

Already Available
Dragon Ball
Dragon Ball Z
Death Note
Fruits Basket

Coming Soon
.Hack//Legend Of The Twilight Bracelet
Absolute Boyfriend
Chrno Crusade
Venus in Love
Midori Days
Slam Dunk
Fushigi Yugi
Love Hina

These will no doubt be stocked in stores soon after release. I've already seen the Bleach, Death Note, Dragon Ball Z and Fruits Basket one in Borders as well as other assorted comic book retailers.

Review : Monster Hunter Orage.

Shiki is a newly trained monster hunter, out to prove himself. But he's a bit over energetic and people tend to avoid him, making it rather hard to join a group.

Lucky for Shiki he bumps into a snotty girl named Irie at the local monster hunters guild. Overhearing that she's not in a group, he just doesn't want to take no for an answer and follows her out on a mission, which she isn't too happy about.

Unfortunately though, the monster they're hunting turns out to be something a little bigger than they had planned, but when they're in danger, Shiki really comes through for Ire, not only carrying her out of harms way when she hurts her ankle, but also proving that he has some serious strength and skills. Skills which seem vaguely familiar to Ire for some reason.

Based on the popular video game series of Monster Hunter and made by Hiro Mashima, a well known mangaka. Monster Hunter Orage has some serious weight behind it. It's done in Mashima's usual style, which is much akin to Oda's One Piece. Shiki seems a little bit on the generic shonen hero side, nearly a clone of Luffy (One Piece's main character). Gore isn't really apparent and there doesn't seem to be any moments where their weapons visibly slice through any of the monster's they're killing, which is a disappointment as in the Monster Hunter games the blood just comes fountaining out. But obviously that wouldn't work with the shonen reader demographic though.

For a title based on a game, it's actually pretty good. It's a pity the author is busy working on other manga and only brings out chapters when he can. If your a fan of monster hunter you'll love this, if your not, then you'll still enjoy it none the less.

Review : The World God Only Knows.

A Japanese high-school student named Keima is known as the 'Capturing God' for his skills at being able to capture the hearts of any girl... well in dating sim video games that is. He isn't interested in real girls at all and not so surprisingly, they're not very interested in him either.

This title however, brings up some rather unfortunate events. Elsee, a young girl like demon from hell, forms a contract with him, mis-interpreting his skills. Elsee is charged with capturing the evil spirits that have gotten lose from hell, spirits that hide within the hearts of girls and the only way to get them out is to make them fall in love, which is where Keima comes in.

Threatened with attempting this task, or alternatively, losing his head. Keima reluctantly agrees and to his surprise, a lot of real life girls and events are just like this dating sim games, making them quiet easy for him to solve with his amazing otaku knowledge.

Obviously this manga title will lose some appeal on a western audience, as dating sim games really only have a mainstream following in Japan. If you don't even know what a dating sim is, it's probably best to give this one a miss, but for anyone else, it is funny and interesting, even if your not a fan of dating sims. The art is great, with the usual anime style. Violence is minimal, as is smut, which is rather surprising for this kind of title.

The World God Only Knows is an interesting and very 'different' kind of story, it's not usual to see shonen manga without any sort of real fighting going on. Well worth the read.

Review : My Japanese Coach.

Title: My Japanese Coach
Genre: Learning Software (English to Japanese)
Platform: Nintendo DS
Developer: Ubisoft
Price: Ranging from $15-35 US, retails for $25-45 AUS.

I know technically, it's not a manga but obviously being able to read Japanese would open the door to a lot more manga titles that never end up being translated to English.

Without a doubt, learning Japanese is a long and hard road, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Normally the best way to tackle this task is to enroll in Japanese language classes, which is not always an option due to availability, cost, or just being too busy. The second best route is to use a text book or internet site, but text books don't provide any interactive or verbal training and internet sites are only available whilst sitting in front of a computer and are often just supplements to their text book counter parts.

Luckily Ubisoft have bridged the gap between language classes and text books with My Japanese Coach for the Nintendo DS. Giving your the ability to learn Japanese words, sentence structure, draw kana and use a variety of soloable mini-games to help you remember. All this without having to pay a high price or hassle someone to help you with your flash cards, as well as providing portable access so you can get some practice in on the bus or during a break at work.

Starting it up you're tasked with setting up a personal profile. The game allows a total of 3 separate profiles, so family members or friends can share the same individual software. You are then given a quick multiple choice quiz to see how much you know. Don't worry if you know nothing, the game was designed for someone with no knowledge of the language, this quiz is merely so the people who have already studied Japanese can skip the earlier, easier lessons.

Lessons are organized into segments consisting of 10-15 words or characters that are related. For example, a, i, u, e, o, ka, ki, ku, ke, ko in hiragana (the Japanese alphabet), or Konnichiwa, Ohayoo, Konbanwa, Sayoonara (Greetings). The lessons contain all kana, romaji readings and Japanese verbal pronunciation for the words and characters. Lessons are small and bite size, containing brief, but well written explanations. The Estimated total of lessons would be around 200, which can be revisited and revised at any time. Once a lesson has been read through, you are required to gain 25 points for each word or character before the next lesson can be unlocked. Points are acquired through the mini games. Obviously sometimes you will need to go over a lesson multiple times, just looking at the lesson once will not be enough, remember learning Japanese is still a hard and long process, you need to stick with it and repeat the exercises until you remember.

There are 12 entirely different games all up, including whack a mole, word search, multiple choice and flash cards. The word(s) you are asked to identify in these mini games are sometimes written in romaji, sometimes spoken and sometimes in kana, obviously to begin with most is in romaji (that's Japanese with english letters) as to make it easier for new comers to the language. There are games like fading characters and write cards which are used to assist with drawing characters by writing on the DS screen with the stylus. There is also a few games that help the user by getting them to arrange words to make specific sentences, helping greatly with sentence structure. These mini-games really give My Japanese Coach a big edge on all it's competition.

If the above features haven't already sold you this piece of software, it's also an electronic dictionary and phrasebook. You can type any word in english or romaji and the translator will show you it in romaji, kana and english with a description. It will also provide a verbal pronunciation of the word. If you own a DS, don't know Japanese and are going there for a holiday or work, this feature would be your best friend.

My Japanese Coach is probably the best Japanese solo-learning tool available, obviously, a class room environment is still preferable, but then this would also be the best supplementary study tool available, so purchasing this title is win-win for anyone who is keen to learn the Japanese language.