Cogitationes me: Thought of the day (for myself) [002.021.324]


I just watched an interesting documentary on NHK World-Japan about a young boy, Asuka Umeda, who spent seven years writing in notebooks about events and subjects he was reading about in newspapers, commenting them and researching them further in what was for him a self-learning adventures. I first thought that he was an Hikikomori (ひきこもり) or suffering from a slight form of autism, but no, he was a normal boy, going to school and was just particularly shy and socially awkward — like many otakus (just a look at his bedroom and you instantly know that he’s a great anime & manga fan, doing lots of gunpla [ガンプラ]). He was certainly not shy about talking about his notebooks to teachers and museum directors, and won many awards for his writings and essays. One of those essays is about his self-learning experience and this documentary is illustrating it with cute animations and interviews.

Apparently, this type of self-learning (独学 / dokugaku / autodidacticism) is common in Japan. Elementary students are writing essays and compiling scrapbooks as homework assignments and some push it further as they make it an extracurricular activity. Asuka just pushed it even further, becoming obsessed with it to the point where he didn’t participated to any after-school club activities and stopped seeing friends to dedicate his time to writing in is notebooks. He is pursuing this interest even in high-school. He will probably become a good writer and journalist.

It made me realized that I was exactly like that as a child: curious but shy and socially awkward, spending lots of time reading, making scrapbooks and writing in my notebooks (thirty-seven so far) about ideas, places, books and movies that I have seen. Life has always been about the pursuit of knowledge for me. And I continue to do so, I just call it blogging now!

I recommend you see this documentary, My Notebooks: Seven Years of Tiny Great Adventures, which will remain available for streaming on NHK World website until the end of May. At he same time, you could have a look on another documentary about the animation studio Production I.G., which has created many of my favourite anime (like Ghost in the shell or Blood: The Last Vampire) — available for streaming until November 13, 2022.

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J’emmerde Facebook

Sommet-des-dieux-animeLe 20 juin j’ai republié un message d’Animeland qui annonçait la bande-annonce d’un film d’animation adaptant un excellent manga d’un de mes auteurs préférés, Jiro Taniguchi. Le 26 juin j’ai reçu un message de Facebook qui disait “Your post goes against our Community Standards [on SPAM] so only you can see it.” J’ai donc contesté la décision et FB a fermé le dossier mais j’ignore toujours si mon billet original est toujours visible… alors je l’ai re-publié (mais il ne semble toujours pas visible!)…

 La bande-annonce en question (sur Vimeo)

Je suis outragé! Facebook trouve correct que Trump mente sur leur page, que Trump fasse de la désinformation et de la propagande haineuse, que Trump incite à la violence [WaPoNYT] mais je republie simplement un post qui parle d’une animation basé sur un beau manga de mon auteur préféré et c’est du SPAM ???? F**k you FB, je commence sérieusement à penser à te laisser tomber !

Ne vous gênez pas pour commenter et laisser FB savoir quelle petite merde ils sont!

* * *

F**k Facebook !

On June 20 I republished a message from Animeland announcing the trailer for an animated film adapting an excellent manga from one of my favorite authors, Jiro Taniguchi [same news on Anime News Network]. On June 26 I received a message from Facebook saying “Your post goes against our Community Standards [on SPAM] so only you can see it.” So I contested the decision and FB closed the file but I still don’t know if my original post is still visible … So I re-posted it (but I’m still not sure it is visible…) !

I am outraged ! Facebook finds it okay that Trump lies on their page, that Trump does disinformation and propaganda, that Trump uses hate-speech and incites to violence [WaPoNYT] but when I simply republish a post that talks about an animation based on a beautiful manga by my favorite author it is SPAM ???? F ** k you FB, I’m seriously starting to think about dumping you !

Please feel free to comment and tell FB how shitty they are !


Ghost in the Shell: Arise

>> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<

GITS Arise 1: Ghost Pain

GITS-Arise-1“World War IV is over, but a bomb has gone off in Newport City, killing a major arms dealer who may have ties with the mysterious 501 Organization.” [Text from Netflix, see also the Japanese trailer]

In the first episode (June 2013, 58 min.), we discover the Major when she is still in the military. As she comes back to Japan, she must do an investigation on the possible corruption of her deceased superior officer as well as on his murder. She discover that she is much more involved that she would have thought. In the course of her investi­­gation, she encounters Aramaki, who offers her a job as consultant. This episode, as well as the whole series, offer us the origin story of the Major and the Section 9. It is quite an interesting story and the animation is pretty good (not as much as the movies, of course).

GITS Arise 2: Ghost Whisperers

GITS-Arise-2“Freed of her responsibilities for the 501 Organization, Motoko must now learn how to take orders from Aramaki.” [Text from Netflix, see also the Japanese trailer]

In the second episode (November 2013, 56 min.), we find again a story where the military are being scapegoated and seek revenge for it — but they are actually being manipulated. The Major is told to assemble a team but it might be hard to chose the members… As always, it is a nice cyberpunk story with great animation.

GITS Arise 3: Ghost Tears

GITS-Arise-3“As Motoko and Batou attempt to thwart a mysterious terrorist group, Togusa tracks the killer of a man with a prosthetic leg made by Mermaid’s Leg.” [Text from Netflix, see also the Japanese trailer]

In the third episode (June 2014, 58 min.), the Major has assembled a team composed of her recent “adversaries”, but they are still just a bunch of mercenaries working for Section 9. And she is still missing a member to fit with Aramaki’s requirement. This a story of foreign terrorists using technology to move their ideology forward. The Logicoma (a bigger and less advanced version of the Tachicoma) are interacting more with the team. The theme of artificial intelligence is, as always, omnipresent.

This series (and this episode in particular) shows us a more personal side of the Major as she has a boyfriend. She is shown as being more vulnerable as she is getting often infected by viruses. Both in episodes one and three, she gets personally involved with the subject of her investigation. Also, having a personal relationship is a weakness that enemies can exploit. I guess, with time, she will learn from her mistake and become the more hardened, distant and cold Motoko that we know in the rest of the franchise. Your real enemy is often closer than you might think… This is a really interesting story with good animation. It is certainly a must-see for all Ghost in the Shell fans.

Strangely, this OVA series has five episodes but Netflix has been  streaming only three of them — go figure why. The two other episodes are “Ghost Stands Alone” (September 2014, see Japanese trailer) and “Pyrophoric Cult” (August 2015, see Japanese trailer). The series was also adapted into a TV series (titled GITS: Arise – Alternative Architecture) and completed by a movie (GITS: Arise – The New Movie, which concludes the plot of episode 5) and a manga (GITS: Arise ~Sleepless Eye~ which was published in Monthly Young Magazine between April 2013 and June 2016, was compiled in seven volumes and tells how Batou and the Major met during the civil war).

I suspect the series was titled “Arise” because it is about the origin story of both the Major and Section 9. All in all, it is a good cyberpunk story, compelling storytelling, full of socio-political background typical of the rest of the franchise. It is well worth watching if you are either an anime fan or a cyberpunk aficionado.

Data File

Ghost in the Shell: Arise (攻殻機動隊 ARISE / Kōkaku Kidōtai Araizu / Mobile Armored Riot Police: Arise): Japan, 2013-2015, OVA anime, 5 x 50 min.; Dir. / Char. Des.: Kazuchika Kise; Scr.: Tow Ubukata; Music: Cornelius; Studio: Production I.G. Cast: Maaya Sakamoto / Elizabeth Maxwell (Major Motoko Kusanagi), Ikyuu Jyuku / John Swasey (Aramaki), Kenichiro Matsuda / Christopher Sabat (Batou), Yoji Ueda / Jason Douglas (Paz), Tarusuke Shingaki / Alex Organ (Togusa), Takuro Nakakuni / Marcus Stimac (Saito), Mayumi Asano / Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Kurutsu), Atsushi Miyauchi / Brian Mathis (Mamuro), Masahiro Mamiya / Chris Rager (Ibachi), Kenji Nojima / Eric Vale (Tsumugi), Takanori Hoshino / David Wald (Raizo), Miyuki Sawashiro / Jad Saxton (Logicoma).stars-3-0

For more information you can consult the following web sites:

[ AmazonANNGoogleIMDbNetflixOfficialWikipedia ]

Also, you can check the official trailer on Youtube:

© 士郎正宗・Production I.G / 講談社・「攻殻機動隊ARISE」製作委員会

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Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045

Ghost-in-the-Shell_SAC-2045_Main-PosterWhen sustainable war spawns a “post-human” threat, Major Kusanagi and her Section 9 team are called back into action.

In the year 2045, after an economic disaster known as the Synchronized Global Default, rapid developments in AI propelled the world to enter a state of “Sustainable War”. However, the public is not aware of the threat that AI has towards the human race.

Full-body cyborg Major Motoko Kusanagi and her second-in-command Batou are former members of Public Security Section 9, who are now hired mercenaries traveling hot devastated American west coast. This land is full of opportunity for the major and her team, they utilize their enhanced cyberbrains and combat skills from their time working in Section 9. However, things get complicated with the emergence of “post humans,” who have extreme intelligence and physical powers. The members of Section 9 comeback together again in order to face this new threat.

[Text from the official website]

>> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<

Anime Story

At the end of the Stand Alone Complex TV series, Section 9 is disbanded. In this series, the team has become a mercenary unit named GHOST that operated outside Japan (mostly in the United States) for the last six years. The only former member that didn’t joined GHOST was Togusa. He hesitated because of his family and later regretted the decision. He eventually divorced and found a job at a private security company. The Prime Minister asks Aramaki to reform Section 9 and Togusa is put in charge of locating his former colleagues.

After a failed mission where they were defending a one-percenter against the attack of a group of outlaws, the GHOST team is kidnapped by the NSA who want to use them in a mission to capture Patrick Huge, the rich owner of a tech company. The target reveals itself as a formidable opponent that can anticipate their move and even hack their cyberbrains. As the Major is about to be taken over, Saito terminate Huge. Smith is furious because he wanted him taken alive in order to study him. He explains that Huge was what the NSA calls a “Post-Human.” So far, humans have improved themselves with cyberbrains and cyber-implants. However, the post-humans are the opposite: A.I. which somehow have succeeded in taking over the brain of humans and therefore represent an unprecedented threat to humanity. Unfortunately, Smith consider the GHOST team as a liability and want to eliminate them. He is stopped by Aramaki who arrives in extremis with new orders from the American President. The new Section 9 mission will be to hunt post-humans.

It’s episode 8 and the real story finally begins. The team is back in Japan after six years (Batou came back a few days earlier but got entangled in a bank robbery). There are three post-humans that have been identified in Japan. One is an ex-boxer who seems to have a grudge against corrupt politicians. He kills the Prime Minister’s father-in-law and then goes after Teito himself but stops short of killing him (maybe he felt that he was a good man?). The next post-humans to be identified is a teenager that wrote a program creating mob justice. As they are investigating his story, Togusa get infected by some of his code and disappears! Will he becomes a post-human too? To be continued… in the second season (another twelve episodes, directed this time by Shinji Aramaki, but no release date has been announced yet).

>> End of Warning <<

I’ve mentioned this series recently and was eager to have a look — although I was sure that I would totally dislike its 3D animation. Yes, a few aspects of the CGI are quite awkward — the movements of the characters seem sometimes odd despite that fact that it’s motion capture animation and some character’s hair, mostly Aramaki’s and Tokusa’s — but the 3D quickly grow on you and you eventually even forget that it’s there as you focus on the action and the story. The character designs (by a Russian artist) are faithful and pleasant (the Major sure looks like a doll!) and the storytelling is excellent: well paced and captivating. My favourite part is that, as usual with Ghost in the Shell, the cyberpunk background world (socio-political setting, technology, etc.) is quite superb. 

Interestingly, the story seems inspired by the work of transhumanist Ray Kurzweils, who predicted that the A.I. singularity would occur in 2045. One element of the story that differ from the previous series, which are generally nippo-centric, is that the first half is set in the United States (which has experience some sort of civil war again). Also, when I watched the series on Netflix, no dubbed version was available yet because the coronavirus lock-down has delayed production (I am more of a subtitles guy anyway). 

So far, this new Stand Alone Complex series seems not much appreciated by the critics, considering the very average ratings that it is receiving (6.0 on IMDb, 47% on Rotten Tomatoes, and C+ on ANN). Anime fans are probably irked by the 3D animation. Too bad for them. It is an excellent anime, well worth watching. It is entertaining, an appropriate continuation of the franchise and, despite my initial misgivings, quite beautiful. A must see for any anime, cyberpunk or Ghost in the Shell fans. stars-4-0

[ Traduire ]

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The empire of corpses (anime)

EmpireOfCOrpses-dvd-covFrom the studio that produced Attack on Titan comes a captivating historical action thriller based on an award-winning novel by Project Itoh. In an alternate version of 19th century London, the world has been revolutionized by “corpse reanimation technology” creating armies of undead who serve the living as laborers across the globe.

In an attempt to revive his dearly departed friend, young medical student John Watson becomes obsessed with replicating the work of Dr. Victor Frankenstein—the legendary corpse engineer whose research produced the only re-animated corpse to possess a soul. But when his illegal experiments put him at odds with the British government, Watson is drafted into a worldwide race to find the lost research notes of Victor Frankenstein before the secrets of the human soul fall into the wrong hands.”  [Text from Funimation website]

This anime movie is based on a novel by Itō Satoshi (left unfinished after his death it was completed by his friend Enjō Tō) published in August 2012 by Kawade Shobo Shinsha. It was also adapted into a manga by Tomoyuki Hino (I have recently commented on it).

>> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<

EmpireOfCOrpses-illo1In 1878, young Doctor Watson illegally resurrects his dear friend Friday. When caught he is sent by M, the head of the British secret service, on a mission to Afghanistan via India. With the help of Frederick Burnaby and Nikolai Krasotkin, he must recover the Notes of Victor Frankenstein which have been found by Alexei  Karamazov. Until now, corpse technology can reanimate people only as soulless zombie apt to perform only basic menial tasks. However Frankenstein was able to produce a corpse with a soul, free-will and speech — known as “The One”. His Notes would allow to tremendously improve corpse technology and are coveted by all the great powers of the world.

EmpireOfCOrpses-illo3He finds Karamazov and discovers with horror that his new technique to improve corpses rely on live subjects ! He also learns that Karamazov is no longer in possession of Victor’s Notes as he left them in Japan. One year later, Watson, Friday and Burnaby are in Tokyo and, with the help of Seigo Yamazawa, break into Osato Chemicals (Friday hacks into the security system!). Unfortunately, they are too late, “The One” is already there and, after a fierce battle, escapes with his creator’s Notes. The team is again saved by Ulysses Grant and Hadaly who bring them to the United States on the steamship USS Richmond.

However, “The One” arrives in San Francisco first and takes over the Paul Bunyan, a super-computer working on steam and electricity. Using ultra-sound, he sends a wireless command to all corpses, turning them into berserks who attack people (typical zombies like in The Walking Dead). This also affects Friday, who needs to be sedated. “The One” is finally captured by M who transports him to the Tower of London. So far, the storytelling has been quite excellent. Unfortunately, from that point, the story gets muddled and confusing…

EmpireOfCOrpses-illo4Hadaly has her own agenda. Like Watson, who wants to give a soul to Friday, she is seeking a soul for herself — as she is revealed to be a mechanical automaton created by Thomas Edison. With her help, the team leave for London aboard the submarine Nautilus. They crashes the Tower Traitor’s Gate to discover that M has nefarious intents. After analyzing the Notes, he uses the Babbage analytical engine and Victor’s brain to send another wireless code that transform Britain’s corpses into berserks but also takes control of the humans! His motivation for doing that are not very clear: he wants to bring peace to the world (?!)…

However, “The One” escapes and kills M. As he plays music on a giant organ, he takes control of the Babbage engine. He is motivated by hatred and revenge against humanity, but also wants to give a soul to Hadaly, who he calls Lilith, to make her into the bride that Frankenstein refused him. He also wants to take over Friday’s body to form the perfect couple. Of course, after a long battle, Watson succeeds to stop him, causing the destruction of the Babbage engine and of the Tower, and restoring to the people their souls and wills. In the end, with the help of Friday, Watson experiments on himself. Then, after very long ending credits, we finds Watson four years later with a new adventure partner named Holmes and Hadaly now goes by the name of Irene Adler!

>> End of warning <<

This anime movie is a superb example of steampunk story — a type of alternate history (or uchronia) set in a more technologically advanced Victorian era. I like the idea to create “necroware” to program the dead (in a way slightly reminiscent of Westworld) using a neural plug, a modified typewriter and punch-cards or Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine! The retrofuture world that the story depicts looks quite fascinating.

The premisses of the story are also quite innovative. While historical fiction often uses real historical people as characters, this story interestingly uses illustrious fictional characters. If some of the characters have really existed (Ulysses S. Grant, Frederick Burnaby, Thomas Edison), most of them come from the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Watson, Holmes, Irene Adler, “M” could also possibly be for Moriarty or Mycroft), Ian Fleming (M, MoneyPenny, Osato Chemicals), Fiodor Dostoïevski (Alexei  Karamazov, Nikolai Krasotkin), Mary Shelley (Victor Frankenstein and his creature), Daniel Defoe (Friday from Robinson Crusoe), Jules Verne (the Nautilus submarine), or even Auguste de Villiers de L’Isle-Adam (Hadaly, the android from The Future Eve). This shows a great literary culture from the writer.

EmpireOfCOrpses-illo2For the most part of the movie the storytelling is excellent. Unfortunately, in the end (the last third of the movie), the story gets overly mystical (crystals?) and too many parts of the plot are left without any explanations. The whole part with Alexei Karamazov is not very clear: what are his motivations and end-game? Same thing with “M”: what does he want to accomplish? The conclusion of the story is rather confusing and disappointing. However, the greatest assets of the movie is its really beautiful animation (particularly the background art which is quite superb). The battle scenes are also very well executed.

The animated movie is much better than the manga. It’s more beautiful, the story is better organized and more fluid, the action scenes are easier to understand. I like the Russian exploding corpses — explosions are much more fun when animated! Also (and I rarely say this) the English dubbed version is very good. The movie was less appreciated by the general audience (6.0 on IMDb, 42% on Rotten Tomatoes) than by anime fans (A- on ANN, 7 on MyANimeList). All in all, it is a very good movie, worth watching, particularly if you are a steampunk fan.

The empire of corpses (屍者の帝国 / Shisha no Teikoku): Japan, anime, 2015, 120 mins; Dir.: Ryoutarou Makihara; Scr.: Hiroshi Seko, Kōji Yamamoto, Midori Gotou (based on the novel by Project Itoh & Toh Enjoe); Char. Des.: redjuice, Takaaki Chiba; Art Dir.: Yūsuke Takeda; Chief Anim. Dir.: Hirotaka Katō, Takaaki Chiba; Mecha Des.: Gorou Murata, Hitoshi Fukuchi, Junya Ishigaki, Shinobu Tsuneki; CGI Dir.: Emiko Nishida; Music: Yoshihiro Ike; Studio: Wit; Prod.: George Wada, Noriko Ozaki, Takashi Yoshizawa; Cast: Yoshimasa Hosoya / Jason Liebrecht (Watson), Ayumu Murase / Todd Haberkorn (Friday), Kana Hanazawa / Morgan Garrett (Hadaly), Taiten Kusunoki / J. Michael Tatum (Burnaby), Akio Ohtsuka / Sean Hennigan (M), Daiki Yamashita / Micah Solusod (Krasotkin), Jiro Saito / Kenny Green (Yamazawa), Kōji Ishii / Greg Dulcie (Grant), Shinichiro Miki / Mike McFarland (Alexei Karamazov), Takayuki Sugo / R Bruce Elliott (The One). Available on bilingual Blu-ray/DVD from FUNimation ($34.98 US). stars-3-5

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ AmazonANNGoogleIMDbOfficialWikipedia ]

Also, you can check the official trailer on Youtube:

©Project Itoh & Toh EnJoe / THE EMPIRE OF CORPSES Licensed by Fuji TV through FCC to Funimation® Productions, Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

[ Traduire ]

The Garden of Words

GardenOfWords-dvd-cov“When Takao, a young high school student who dreams of becoming a shoe designer, decides to skip school one day in favour of sketching in a rainy garden, he has no idea how much his life will change when he encounters Yukino. Older, but perhaps not as much wiser, she seems adrift in the world. Despite the difference in their ages, they strike up an unusual relationship that unexpectedly continues and evolves, without planning, with random meetings that always occur in the same garden on each rainy day. But the rainy season is coming to a close, and there are so many things still left unsaid and undone between them. Will there be time left for Takao to put his feelings into actions and words? Between the raindrops, between the calms in the storm, what will blossom in the garden of words?”

[Text from the dvd cover]

>> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<

In an ode to the rain, Makoto Shinkai is offering us an exquisitely beautiful anime telling the story of the infatuation of a teenager for a woman nearly twice his age. Together, somehow, they will find a way — in their innocent and platonic relationship — to heal each other of their sentiments of alienation and doubt that is plaguing them. At the beginning of his life, he is uncertain of the path to follow. She is a young teacher bullied by her students to the point of having health problems. 

They are brought together in a park by the rain and by poetry. In the beginning, Yukari recite a Waka / Tanka from Man’yōshū (Book 11, verse 2,513): “A faint clap of thunder / Clouded skies /  Perhaps rain comes / If so, will you stay here with me?” Later, finally understanding was she said, Takao respond with the following verse (Book 11, verse 2,514): “A faint clap of thunder / Even if rain comes not / I will stay here / Together with you”…

It is impossible not to like a Makoto Shinkai movie. Beside a storytelling that is cute, nostalgic, thoughtful and poetic, we finds nice music and, above all, superb CG animation. The background art is so realistic that, in contrast, the standard animation of the character seems a little odd. It is a short movie but all the more excellent. Highly recommended.

The anime was adapted into a manga (illustrated by Midori Motohashi) serialized in Monthly Afternoon (June-December 2013) and published in Japan as a single volume by Kodansha, in English by Vertical (Oct. 2014, 220 pages, $12.95, ISBN 978-1-939130-83-9) and in French by Kazé (Déc. 2014, 208 pages, ISBN 978-2-82031-879-4). It was also adapted into a light novel serialized in Da Vinci (September 2013 – April 2014) and published in Japan by Media Factory (Kadokawa Shoten) and in France by Kazé (2014, 380 pages, ISBN 978-2-82031-880-0).

The Garden of Words (言の葉の庭 / Kotonoha no Niwa), Japan, 2013, 46 mins; Dir./Scr./Ed.: Makoto Shinkai; Char. Des.: Kenichi Tsuchiya; Art dir.: Hiroshi Takiguchi; Studio: CoMix Wave Films; Prod.: Noritaka Kawaguchi; Cast: Kana Hanazawa / Maggie Flecknoe (Yukari Yukino), Miyu Irino / Blake Shepard (Takao Akizuki), Fumi Hirano / Shelley Calene-Black (Takao’s mother), Takeshi Maeda / Crash Buist (Shōta, Takao’s brother), Yuka Terasaki / Brittney Karbowski (Rika, Shōta’s girlfriend), Suguru Inoue / Mike Yager (Matsumoto), Megumi Han / Allison Sumrall (Satō), Mikako Komatsu / Hilary Haag (Aizawa). Available on bilingual Dvd/Blu-Ray from Sentai Filmworks and currently streaming on Netflix. stars-4-0

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ AmazonANNGoogleIMDbNetflixWikipedia ]

Also, you can check the official trailer on Youtube:

[ Traduire ]


43th Japan Academy Film Prize (2020)

The Japan Academy Film Prize (日本アカデミー賞 / Nippon Akademī-shō) is the Japanese Academy Awards (Oscars). It is awarded each year by the Nippon Academy-shō Association. The nominees were announced on January 15th and the winners were revealed at the ceremony held at the Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa on March 6th. (Sources: Japan Academy Prize, Google, IMDb, Wikipedia).

See our entries for the previous years: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2010, 2007.

[ Traduire ]

Full Awards list (winners in red) after the jump:

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Anime & manga news

Self-isolating has given me more time to pay attention to what’s happening in the anime and manga world. Therefore, here are a few news that I have noticed recently and that might interest you (if you are a fan):

Kodansha and Production I.G. have announced a new Stand Alone Complex anime series titled Ghost in the shell: Stand Alone Complex_2045. Directed by Kenji Kamiyama and Shinji Aramaki, the series will have two 12-episode seasons (each director overseeing one season) starting on Netflix worldwide on April 23. The anime will be a 3D CG animation and the character designs are by Russian illustrator Ilya Kushinov. (Source: ANN’s “Ghost in the Shell- SAC_2045 Anime Reveals Trailer, New Cast, April 23 Debut“).

There will be another Gundam movie titled Mobile Suit Gundam Hathaway (Kidō Senshi Gundam: Senkō no Hathaway). Due to open in Japanese theatres on July 23rd, the movie is based on a novel series by Yoshiyuki Tomino. It deals with the aftermath of Char’s Counterattack‘s climatic finale and is centred around Hathaway Noa, the son of captain Bright Noa. The project is directed by Shukou Murase, with a script by Yasuyuki Mutou, character designs by Pablo Uchida, Naoyuki Onda, and Shigeki Kuhara, and mechanical designs by Hajime Katoki, Kimitoshi Yamane, Seiichi Nakatani, and Nobuhiko Genba. (Source: ANN’s “Gundam- Hathaway Anime Film Teased With New Visual”).

Surprisingly, I discovered that 70 year-old mangaka Moto Hagio is still quite active. The fourth arc of her series Poe no Ichizoku (The Poe Clan), Himitsu no Hanazono (The Secret Garden), was put on hiatus last May but will resume in the August issue of Shogakukan‘s Monthly Flowers magazine on June 27. The original story, Poe no Ichizoku was first published in Japan in 1972–1976, with a sequel, Poe no Ichizoku: Haru no Yume, published in 2016–2017 and a third arc, Poe no Ichizoku: Unicorn, was published in 2018–2019. Fantagraphics Books (which has already released several of her titles: The Heart of Thomas (1973–1975), Otherworld Barbara (2002–2005), A Drunken Dream and Other Stories (2010)) is releasing the manga in English as a two-volume omnibus. (Source: ANN’s “Moto Hagio’s Latest The Poe Clan Manga Resumes in June”).

NHK announced that it is producing a live-action series adaptation of Jiro Taniguchi‘s The Walking Man (Aruku Hito) manga to premiere on NHK BS4K channel on April 5, with new episodes coming on the first Sunday of every month. The unnamed protagonist will be played by actor Arata Iura. (Source: ANN’s “Jiro Taniguchi’s The Walking Man Manga Gets Live-Action Series”).

My friend Frederik L. Schodt has been interviewed by the Cartoonist Kayfabe (Ed Piskor & Jim Rugg). It is available on their Youtube channel: “Frederik L. Schodt, The Man Who Introduced Manga To America, Shoot Interview!”. Have a look:

If you are bored because of self-isolation you can now watch lots of classic anime on this new streaming service called RetroCrush ! A parent to AsianCrush, this video-on-demand service is free (but ad-supported) and is available only through apps (on iOS, Android, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, and smart TVs).(Source: ANN’s “Digital Media Rights’ RetroCrush Anime Streaming Service Launches With Classic Anime Titles”). 

Here is the list of titles available so far (either Sub and/or Dub): 8 Man After, A Wind Named Amnesia, A.D. Police, Adieu Galaxy Express, Angel Cop, Area 88, Black Jack, Blue Seed, Blue Submarine No 6, Bubblegum Crash!, Bubblegum Crisis, Card Captor Sakura, Ceres Celestial Legend, Chargeman Ken!, Cosmos Warrior Zero, Creamy Mami, Cromartie High School, CyBuster, DNA2, Dagger of Kamui, Dallos, DearS, Demon City Shinjuku, Demon Lord Dante, Devil Lady, DieBuster, Eat-Man, Eat-Man ’98, Fighting Foodons, Flame of Recca, Fuse: Memoirs of the Hunter Girl, Fushigi Yuugi, Gakuen Heaven, Galaxy Express, Giant Gorg, GoShogun, GodMars, Goku Midnight Eye, Gokudo, Golko 13: The Professional, GTO, Hells, Iria: Zeiram The Bounty Hunter, Jin-Roh, Jungle Emperor Leo, Kaiba, Key: The Metal Idol, Kyousougiga, Library War, Like the Clouds Like the Wind, Lily CAT, Mononoke, Nagasarete Airanto, Night on the Galactic Railroad, Otaku no Video, Pilot Candidate, Pop Team Epic, The Princess and the Pilot, Project A-ko, Riding Bean, Robot Carnival, Samurai Pizza Cats, Samurai Troopers, Sea Prince and Fire Child, Shining Tears x Wind, Space Adventure Cobra, Space Warrior Baldios, Street Fighter II, Tenjho Tenge, Thermae Romae, Toriko: Special Recipe of Gourmet God, Twelve Kingdoms, Twilight of the Cockroaches, Ultra Maniac, Urusei Yatsura Beautiful Dreamer, Vampire Princess Miyu, Virtua Fighter, Wicked City, Zombie Loan.

And here are a few more news:

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GITS SAC: Solid State Society

Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C.—Solid State Society is the third movie since 1995’s Ghost in the Shell anime adaptation. This feature-length TV movie was broadcast on Skyperfect! in September 2006 and released on DVD by Bandai Visual in November of the same year. Fantasia 2007 treated the fans by screening this excellent cyberpunk anime on the big screen! Directed by Production I.G.’s Kenji Kamiyama, fans can enjoy yet another high-tech sci-fi story, which is set in 2034, Tokyo. The timeline is two years after the last TV series (2nd GIG), as Japan is still dealing with the Asian refugee problems. 

SolidStateSociety-image2Major Motoko Kusanagi left Section 9 — Japan’s elite anti-terrorist unit — and was missing for over two years. She left because she felt that by acting alone she could investigate more discreetly (using multiple cyber bodies), more freely (without the irritating political oversight) and therefore more efficiently. For Batou, the absence of Motoko leaves his work meaningless and he picks & chooses the case he’s working on, taking assignments only when he thinks it might bring him closer to her. With the Major’s departure and Batou refusing assignments, Togusa was forced to become the leader of the team as her successor. Togusa is, as usual, a man of justice. Married and having two children, he’s different from the other team members who are all single — including the aging Chief Aramaki who has been struggling to deal with the fact that Section 9 has to move on without the Major. Other members such as Saito and Ishikawa keep their positions as network expert or sniper. All Section 9’s characters are extremely honest and act with a sense of justice and responsibility. They’re all faithful to their convictions as they were in the TV series. 

SolidStateSociety-image1Section 9 hired 20 rookies, and their latest mission is to solve a case involving politically charged hostages. Somehow, one of the terrorist suspects committed suicide on the spot, leaving a strange message: “The Puppeteer is coming”. At the same time, many other mysterious cases keep taking place, including one where a huge amount of abused children seem to have been kidnapped by an organization of ultranationalist retirees. What links all those cases together? It seems to be the work of a super-intelligent hacker who has been manipulating all this, but to do what exactly, no one knows… 

SolidStateSociety-image4This movie is first class entertainment. Like the previous movies, it offers great music and superb animation. It has all the complex socio-political background of the previous TV series and maintains the series’ trademark cyberpunk feeling, but Director Kamiyama injected the storyline with so many themes — such as mass suicide, terrorism, biochemical weapons, kidnapping, old folks’ problems and child abuse — and subplots that the story gets confusing. It’s not easy to follow what’s happening in this extremely intricate movie. After the screening I was not quite sure of what I had just watched and who the Puppeteer really was! It’s one of those cases where you really need to purchase the DVD and watch the key scenes several time in order to be able to really enjoy the complexity of the movie. 

SolidStateSociety-image3In my humble opinion, I think that Director Kamiyama should have simplified and streamlined the storyline, maybe sticking with Togusa’s plot-line. I bet the viewers could have felt more empathy towards the movie if it was a little less complex. The animation itself has an overwhelming beauty, but, using all the great animation technology and talent of Production I.G., I think Director Kamiyama could have created a masterpiece, if he had just come up with a more coherent story. In the end, the true identity of the Puppeteer is still not very clear — but maybe Director Kamiyama kept it mysterious on purpose? 


Kôkaku Kidôtai: Stand Alone Complex — Solid State Society. Japan, 2006, 109 min.; Dir.: Kenji Kamiyama; Scr.: Kenji Kamiyama, Shôtaro Suga, Yoshiki Sakurai; Phot.: Kôji Tanaka; Ed.: Junichi Uematsu; Art Dir.: Yusuke Takeda; Char. Des.: Hajime Shimomura, Takayuki Goto, Tetsuya Nishio; Mechan. Des.: Kenji Teraoka, Shinobu Tsuneki; Mus.: Yoko Kanno; Prod.: Production I.G.; Distr.: Bandai, Manga Entertainment; Cast: Atsuko Tanaka (Motoko Kusanagi), Akio Ohtsuka (Batou), Kouichi Yamadera (Togusa), Kazuya Tatekabe (Col. Tonoda), Masuo Amada (Col. Ka Gae-Ru), Osamu Saka (Daisuke Aramaki), Takashi Onozuka (Pazu), Tarô Yamaguchi (Boma), Toru Ohkawa (Saito), Yutaka Nakano (Ishikawa), Yuya Uchida (Takaaki Koshiki), Dai Sugiyama (Proto), Nana Yamauchi (Togusa’s daughter), Yoshiko Sakakibara (Prime Minister Kayabuki). Available on R2 Dvd in Japan (BCBA-2606, 109 min., ¥9800) and on R1 Dvd in North America (Bandai/Manga Entertainment, #25176, Bilingual Dvd, 109 min., $19.98 US [Limited edition: $39.98 US], rated 13+). stars-4-0

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SolidStateSociety-covIn 2034, two years after the departure of Major Motoko Kusanagi (after the events of the TV series, Stand Alone Complex, which starts in 2030 and before the second movie, Innocence, set in 2032), Togusa is now in charge of Section 9, which has been expanded with the addition of several new recruits. Batou, frustrated to have been left behind by the Major, is still looking for her and therefore picks & chooses only the cases that seem related to his quest. A string of strange incidents — starting with a series of suicides, followed by the kidnapping of many children, and an economical conspiracy plotted by a group of old ultra-nationalists — seem to lead to a mysterious super-hacker nicknamed the “puppeteer.” The Major is carrying her own parallel investigation — which leads Batou to suspect her of being the puppeteer. In the end, the real identity of the perpetrator is the most surprising revelation of all. 

This movie is directed by Kenji Kamiyama, the same person who directed the Stand Alone Complex TV series. It is therefore not surprising to find here the same excellent quality of production, as much in the design as in the animation. However, if the director succeeded to masterfully tie up all the elements of the story in the TV series, he seems to have difficulty to do the same in a movie format. Solid State Society feels like a long TV episode where he tries to compress the storyline of an entire series. There are too many sub-plots and the different elements of the story are mixed together in such a complex way that it sometimes lacks coherence and the viewers get confused (it took me at least two viewings to understand the complexity of the plot and even then I am not sure I understood everything correctly). 

The timeline of the various series and movies seems confusing as well. The first movie is supposed to be set in 2029, while Solid State Society is set in 2034. It is not clear exactly when Major Kusanagi left Section 9. Also, they should have encountered the Puppet Master / Puppeteer before (in the first movie), but no mention is made of a prior encounter as if the first movie never happened. In fact, it feels like Solid State Society is a retelling of the encounter between the Major and the Puppeteer. 

Despite the complex socio-political themes and the beautiful animation, Solid State Society does not have the same depth than the previous movies (directed by Mamoru Oshii) and it certainly doesn’t have the same contemplative beauty. It is a very nice movie, but it is much more demanding to the viewers than the TV series and even the previous movies — which you all need to have seen to really appreciate and understand this movie — so I would recommend it mainly to the die-hard Ghost In The Shell fans. Nevertheless, Solid State Society (and GITS in general) is the epitome of intelligent SolidStateSociety-Dvd-ratingscyberpunk anime (a genre that, unfortunately, we don’t see often). Finally, I must add that the Limited Steelbook case edition (which contains three discs: one disc with the main feature, one disc full of extras, and the Solid State Society soundtrack CD) is totally awesome. 


Bandai / Manga Entertainment, #25176 (ISBN 978-1-59409-831-4), Bilingual Dvd, 109 min., $19.98 US (Limited Edition: $39.98 US), rated 13+ (Violence). See back cover.

You can also check the trailer from Youtube:

For more information you can consult the following web sites:

[ AmazonANNBiblio • GoogleIMDbProduction I.G.Wikipedia ]

Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex—Solid State Society ©2006-2007 Shirow Masamune • Production I.G. / Kodansha. 

Those articles were first published respectively in PA #94: 76 (November-December 2007) and PA #93: 83 (September-October 2007).

Please also check the following Ghost in the shell articles:

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GITS: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG

Anime Story

2004 was a great year for theatrical anime releases in Japan. It brought us Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle, Katsuhiro Otomo’s Steamboy and, of course, Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence. However, most of the Japanese anime industry’s production, and what really sustains it, remains the television series, like Gundam Seed, Fullmetal Alchemist, and yes, Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex. 

SAC-2gig-logoGhost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex was a big hit in 2003 and Japanese DVD sales did great, so the creative team at Production I.G. decided to bring out a second season (titled “2nd Gig”). Now fans can look forward to another 26 episodes of cyber-political intrigue and action. 

Sac-2gig-illo11I can easily imagine that director Kenji Kamiyama was under a great deal of stress, with his work being compared with Mamoru Oshii’s Innocence, and to meet the fans’ expectations after the first season! Despite the high stakes, the young director was up to the task and I think he did a marvellous job. The “2nd Gig” is even better and more intriguing than the first season. He succeeded totally in creating his own world, telling the story in his own personal style, and we don’t even feel the need to compare his series with Oshii’s movie. Each has its own merit. 

Kamiyama not only respected Masamune Shirow’s original manga, but he gave it life by detailing, even more so than Oshii’s movies did, its near-futuristic setting defined by the interaction of humanity and technology in a complex Asian geo-political environment. His strong, captivating storytelling is very well supported by the superb animation, the beautiful and elaborate artwork and an enchanting soundtrack. It is so great to see that there is such a great new talent in Japan, able to create a serious and intelligent story that can both entertain our senses and stimulate our mind. It is not surprising that both seasons of the TV series have received a great deal of acclaim, not only from anime fans, but also from those who seek serious science fiction shows. 

SAC16-illoASAs the “2nd Gig” starts, Section 9, which had been dissolved at the end of the 1st season, is resuming its job as an anti-cyberterrorist mobile unit. Although the team has returned, their work isn’t easy, and many difficulties lie ahead of them. The Japanese political landscape is changing and the government is keeping a close eye on their special police. The “Laughing Man” case might be solved, but it doesn’t take long for another terrorist organization, “The Individual Eleven,” to show up. Who are they? Are they the result of another “Stand Alone Complex”? They seem to be stirring up an uprising against the Asian immigrants and refugees. Could it be that simple? But some other politically-motivated forces seem to be at work. Can Major Motoko Kusanagi and her team unravel the complex overlapping political plots before they affect the nature of the government? 

Technology might be omnipresent in Stand Alone Complex, but it is not overwhelming. In the “2nd Gig,” Director Kamiyama and Production I.G. keep an even greater focus on the human side of the story by exploring the characters’ hearts and emotions — even in the case of some of the terrorists. Each key member of Section 9 has a dedicated episode where we learn more about their past and personality. It is not done simply to paint a richer background; every single bit of information has its meaning. They also give a more humane face to the government (more likeable than the usual fat, corrupt, old minister) with the new Japanese prime minister, a young, good-looking lady who embodies the beauties (and sometime ineptitudes) of democracy. In contrast, there is the ugly face of Gohda, a shady character who embodies the threat of militarism. Also, the intelligent Tachikoma robots (their name means “standing, spinning top”) are back with a new, expanded sidekick role (definitely inspired by Motoko’s cute “helper” programs in the Man-Machine Interface manga). With their cute voices and comical comments, they give a human feel to the technology. 

SAC14-illoASThe terrorism and the Asian refugees’ problems seem to be an allusion to the Palestinian question and to some conspiracy theories that surfaced after 9/11 in Europe and in Japan (such as, American right wing groups being behind 9/11 in order to justify military action abroad and domestically limit civil liberties). But it is only used to emphasize the fact that, even in the future, terrorism — the favorite style of warfare of the 21st Century — is still omnipresent and we still haven’t found a way to deal with it. Despite all the advanced technology, humanity is still facing tremendous problems (war, pollution, corruption, poverty, overpopulation, crime). Nothing changes, and even the future’s future is still uncertain. Is there a solution to the crisis? Is there a possibility for us humans to be saved? The answer in “2nd Gig” might be in the origami cranes that appear in some episodes and that symbolize the prayers for peace and salvation. All we can do is, like Section 9, act with courage and determination (even if it means going against the rules sometimes), pray and hope for the best! 

In conclusion, “2nd GIG” is even better than the first season. While still very political, dealing with terrorism and immigration problems, it also elaborates on more of the personal history of each of the main characters, including Major Kusanagi. The cyberpunk political intrigue is at moments a little complex, but it is the most intelligent anime series I have ever seen and it is superbly animated. It’s not all action, there’s also drama — and I did cry a few times. A real masterpiece! Of course, such an exceptionally excellent anime series cannot be seen only on TV. SAC-2gig-ratingsYou have to purchase the DVD to watch it over and over again, to enjoy all the minute details of this superb animation and share the experience with your friends! And if after that you want more, the series was followed by a movie: Solid State Society. 

> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<

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