September 9, 2008

Anime After Dark is a new event being kicked off this year by the Boston Science Fiction Film Festival. On October 18, a collection of anime features will be screened at the Somerville Theatre from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. (Among the lineup: Grave of the Fireflies, Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society, Cat Soup, Project A-ko, Tekkon Kinkreet and Millennium Actress.)

The cost? A mere twenty bucks if you buy tickets now, $25 if you wait until September 20, and $30 at the door.

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August 5, 2008
If you're in Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, Sapporo or Nagoya right now, you can catch the original Ghost in the Shell on the big screen—sort of. Bandai Visual has gone all George Lucas over the 1995 Mamoru Oshii classic, updating the digital effects and reuniting the original voice cast for a 6.1 surround-sound recording. (I'm curious to see if the extra effort is as superfluous as in the Star Wars makeovers; so far as I'm concerned, the CG in Ghost in the Shell is still quite watchable.) Check the trailer below for a glimpse of the new look.

Gotta-get-it-first otaku can score the Ghost in the Shell 2.0 Blu-ray box set from Japanese distributors on December 19. The set includes 1080p and MPEG-4 AVC versions of the film (English dubs included), an extras disc, a new music CD, and of course a nifty new booklet.

[Thanks, Crunchgear.]

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July 11, 2008

Home Media Magazine makes it sound like the bell has tolled for Anime on home video in North America. Their visit to the Anime Expo, July 3-6 at the Los Angeles Convention Center found them confronted by a veritable ghost-town of Anime vendors on the convention floor.

"While ADV’s set-up was bare bones, anime powerhouse VIZ Media wasn’t on the show floor at all. Neither was The Right Stuff International. All three companies held panels to discuss their plans for the rest of the year and beyond, but their absence from the show floor was reflective of the slow-down of domestic anime DVD."


Bandai, home of popular titles like Dragonball-Z and Naruto is prepared to fight the decline in sales tooth-and-nail by appealing to average otaku with video downloads and anime cinephiles with high-def Blu-ray releases. The company's first Blu-ray effort will be Mamoru Oshii's, Ghost in the Shell: Innocence. Bandai has committed to a brand-new English dub and support materials for the domestic release. If you can't wait for domestic, the Japanese disc will happily play in your PS3.

via Home Media Magazine

Further Reading: reviews the Japanese Innocence Blu-ray

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July 3, 2008

I've never been a wild fan of the work of anime director, Mamoru Oshii. Everything he does, no matter the visual spectacle, seems to leave me cold. On the other hand, most films produced by Studio Ghibli, even the much-maligned Gedo Senki (Tales from Earthsea) by Miyazaki-the-younger, warm my heart to some degree.

Both camps have always maintained a healthy rivalry, from the days of their first failed collaboration, Anchor to the Ghibli assist on Oshii's Innocence: Ghost in the Shell 2, with Miyazaki feeling Oshii's work too philosophical and unsatisfying and Oshii maintaining that everything that leaves the doors of Ghibli is wantonly idealistic and fantastical.

Just this week, the website for Oshii's upcoming feature, Sky Crawlers posted some comments from Goro Miyazaki and Anno Hideaki. While Evangelion director, Hideaki gathered favourable quotes from friends, Miyazaki's remarks seem less than complimentary.

"Those guys on screen never eat a meal. They only live on liquor and tobacco. No, they didn’t ingest them, but just pretended to be ingesting them. And about sex, they just pretended to be having sex. There wasn't any smell of sweat or sperm. They rode on airplanes and motorbikes. However, all of them seemed like unsubstantial machines on the monitor display. Even those machines seemed to pretend being machines."


Previously on fps:
Miyazaki, Oshii and Anno parody
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

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April 15, 2008

Just 15 months after Kodansha and Production I.G. kissed and made up over optioning Ghost in the Shell, they've found a taker: DreamWorks, who released Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence in North American cinemas under their GoFish banner in 2005, has acquired the rights to make a live-action, 3D version of the property.

While I think Ghost in the Shell is a great selection for a 3D film, I can't say I'm particularly enthusiastic about the news. I'm generally not a fan of live-action remakes of animated shows or comics; overall, there have been more misses than hits. More to the point, the recent spate of rights acquisitions for anime (or anime-like)-to-Hollywood live-action adaptations (Robotech, Akira, Avatar: The Last Airbender—have I missed anything?) reminds me of the old maxim that in Hollywood no one wants to be first, but everyone wants to be second. Speed Racer is due to hit cinemas in just a few weeks, and I've long had the sense that these acquisitions are a means of lining things up to ride an anticipated wave of anime-inspired movies, in the same way Spider-Man and X-Men helped launch a wave of comic-inspired movies.

One thing I won't do, however, is claim that Spielberg (or any of the other directors/producers working on adapted anime works) will somehow "ruin" the original. Gimme a break—that's like saying a bad date will ruin your memory of your first kiss.

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July 2, 2007
It's normal for a popular animated TV series to go feature-length at some point, no matter which side of the Pacific you're on. Teen Titans, Kim Possible, Super Dimension Fortress Macross and Cowboy Bebop—to pick four random examples—have all had a go, to varying degrees of success. But none of them went from movies to TV series to movies again, and I'm hard pressed to think of any others that have. The Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society TV movie may well be the first such undertaking.

I'm not completely sure it works here, but that's because Ghost in the Shell has gone through different hands for different media. The first two features were directed by Mamoru Oshii and carried his trademark intellectual style and visual fervour. The two Stand Alone Complex television series, both directed by Kenji Kamiyama, are just as smart but in a different way—it's like comparing David Mamet's dialogue to Tom Stoppard's—and, due to the nature of the medium, simultaneously more action-oriented and more intricate. It's the usual tension between the episodic half-hour format and the overall ten-hour running time.

Kamiyama helms Solid State Society, which finds our heroes in a state of flux. The Major is no longer part of the Section 9 team, having resigned to work toward her own mysterious objectives. Togusa, the least upgraded and least hardcore member of the team, has been promoted to take her place, and some new members have been added to the team. As usual, it's part police procedural, part high-concept science fiction, and part action movie.

As is typical of the Stand Alone Complex series, Solid State Society explores the more prosaic aspects of mass cyberization, as compared to the movies. That means things like healthcare for the elderly versus philosophical ruminations on the nature of consciousness; more politicking and fewer dream states. Solid State Society finds itself between two worlds, as its smaller-scale focus finds itself expanded to a longer running time and consequently more extended narrative beats. Although Kamiyama juggles Ghost in the Shell's various aspects with his usual skill, I found myself wishing that Solid State Society had been a miniseries rather than a feature.

Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society
Directed by
Kenji Kamiyama
Manga Entertainment, 2007
109 minutes
Buy the Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society DVD at
Buy the Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society Limited Edition DVD at
Buy the Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society CD soundtrack at

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June 29, 2007
Our pals at the Fantasia film festival have unleashed this year's lineup, and as always, animation fans are well served—but they have to do a little more work to get their fix.

Features seem a little diminished, but not so much as last year. The fest starts and ends strong—Tekkon Kinkreet is the opening film, and the Korean Yobi the Five-Tailed Fox is the last animated screening, on the second-to-last day of the festival—but those are the only two features on 35mm film. The odd-looking stopmo film We Are the Strange is in high-definition video, but the other features (the Flash-animated Minushi, Naruto the Movie: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow and Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society) are all projected, standard-definition video. Previous Fantasia fests prove that watching projected video can still be enjoyable, but spending four days at the Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema watching nothing but 35mm reminds you of the kind of difference the medium makes.

There are also two short feature documentaries that are about animation, and they're screening together. Animania is about Canadian anime fandom, which appears to focus on how the current generation of teen fans relate to anime. I've seen and heard so many reports on teen fandom I'd be inclined to give it a pass, but last year—back when the movie's focus was less on the teens—I was interviewed extensively for Animania, and I was asked some very interesting questions. I'm hoping they applied the same kind of thoughtfulness to their adolescent subjects. (And no, I'm not in the actual Animania movie, but apparently I'll appear in the DVD extras.) The other documentary is the French Ghibli et le mystère Miyazaki (Ghibli and the Mystery of Miyazaki), which needs little explaining but which is definitely a must-see, especially with interviewees like Isao Takahata, Moebius and Takashi Murakami.

Fantasia's real source of pleasure for animation fans comes from the animated shorts, but that's also its real source of pain. For years I've been preaching that animation shouldn't be ghettoized, that it should be treated like "regular" film. The problem is that Fantasia gives me just what I ask for, scattering its animated shorts among omnibus films (Ten Nights of Dreams) and over a dozen collections of shorts, only two of which are animation-specific (a best-of compilation from last year's Ottawa fest, plus the latest edition of The Outer Limits of Animation, which inexplicably includes the two-year-old, almost overexposed, not-terribly-out-there In the Rough). Miraculously, it's possible to see all of the animated shorts with only one schedule conflict: The one screening of The Outer Limits of Animation is at the same time as Watch Out! Beyond the Genres of Korean Short Films, which includes the 34-minute The Hell (Two Kinds of Life).

And really, that's the most amazing thing about Fantasia this year. They've added a third cinema to their venues, but in three weeks of screenings there appear to be fewer repeats than ever before. It's a testament to the passion of their crew that they're still going so strong.

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January 21, 2007
According to the Anime News Network, Ghost in the Shell may be coming live and in three dimensions to a theater near you in the next few years. Kodansha and Production I.G. have come to a new understanding, and their fresh contractual agreement allows Production I.G. to stand up for Kodansha's interests when optioning the licence for a Hollywood film.

With the success of Death Note: The Last Name in Japan, more licence holders may be wanting to adapt their anime and manga titles for live-action media. There has certainly been buzz to that effect in the past: Evangelion was once the subject of live-action musing by WETA, James Cameron once wanted to do Battle Angel Alita, and the American Sci-Fi Channel once had plans to adapt Witch Hunter Robin for the small screen. None of these projects ever made it to fruition, and fans may be smart to take a moment and breathe before wondering if a live-action GITS will be tomorrow's Aeon Flux.

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