FINALLY Viz does something right…

I’m so incredibly happy!

I found out yesterday that Viz has finally released my my all-time favorite anime, Hikaru no Go on the iTunes store! You can purchase each of the five, 15-episode seasons for $19.99 and–most importantly–get all 75 episodes with the well-done English dub. To my knowledge, some of these were never released or broadcast. I can finally enjoy the show in its entirety rather than being hung up at episode 45 right before Hikaru passes the Pro exam. You can also purchase each episode individually for $1.99 or rent for 99¢. This is some of the best anime news I’ve had in a long time! If you’re not an iTunes person, it’s also coming to The Playstation Network and Amazon VOD.

After Viz Media stopped releasing the show on DVD in 2008–even though it had already been dubbed and was more than halfway through (45 of 75 episodes)–I basically stopped supporting them: I canceled my subscriptions to their magazines, stopped buying their products, and sold many of the ones I owned (especially my Naruto and Inuyasha boxed sets). I’ve continued to purchase the Hikaru no Go manga volumes as they’ve come out but that was pretty much it (except I recently started purchasing the Cross Game manga too–it is so excellent that even a grudge couldn’t stop my buying it).

So now, I can begin to forgive. I will even begin singing their praises once they bring back and complete The Prince of Tennis, Full Moon, and Mär. While they’re at it, they can become my heroes if they start selling Inuyasha – The Final Act and Cross Game.

Maybe now they’ve learned their lesson and will support fans of their other properties–there’s more to anime than Bleach, Death Note and Naruto.

Last Moments in Vegas, then home again…

Well, the final day has arrived. The problem with the Monday of this convention is that I always miss out on something cool because I want to get home early and avoid as much traffic as I can. Holiday traffic back to L.A. can be a nightmare.

So basically all I did in the morning was eat my last $3.99 breakfast special, play my last $5.00 in quarters in the video poker machines (but this time, I actually WON $8.50—which I cashed out and brought home) then drop by to wander around the con for a couple of hours to bid my farewells. I did actually attend the first half of Monica Rial’s panel this morning and asked her a bunch of questions. She’d said that one of her favorite roles to play was Haruka in RahXephon and I enjoyed hearing that. She also commented that sometimes it’s lots of fun to play the smaller roles because she can really get wild with them. She talked quite a bit about Ayu-chan from Best Student Council which is one of my favorites.

I left about 11:15 or so, but that was after having a nice farewell discussion with Rich, the convention chairman. He’s a great guy and I vowed that I would come out and be a volunteer next year if I’m still around—he said he’d put me in Guest Relations, which would be loads of fun. Luckily, I also ran into Todd Haberkorn just before I walked out of the building, and thanked him for mentioning me by name in his panel last night.

All in all, a great load of fun and I got to deepen friendships, make new connections and basically relax and enjoy myself.

Even though I left fairly early, there were still the usual pockets of traffic on the way home: Nevada state line to halfway to Baker and then again several miles before the Yermo inspection station. NOTHING frustrates me more than being stuck in dead-stopped, bumper-to-bumper traffic on a two lane highway out in the middle of the desert. There’s NOTHING THERE—why the heck is everyone stopping? Geez…

I still made it home by 5:30 or so after treating myself to another burger AND a chocolate shake at Mega Tom’s in Barstow. Max was still alive and just fine and missed me. Tomorrow morning, I’ll pick up Victoria from the vet—hope she’s put on some weight.

Anime Vegas, Continued

Today was a little more relaxed and less hectic. Seems like there weren’t as many people crammed into the con either.

First thing I attended was the Bandai panel presented by none other than the President of Bandai USA. They have some interesting things coming out, but nothing that struck me particularly as a “gotta have it” at this point. Lucky Star really does look pretty funny though and The Girl Who Leapt Through TIme looks pretty cool. The biggest thing I wanted to find out was their schedule and plans for Hayate The Combat Butler, which sadly they don’t have much on yet. They basically showed the un-subbed episode opening, but that was at least exciting; their release plans are “Coming Soon” and “Sometime next year” at the moment. My pointed question to them was “Are they committed to bringing it out quickly AND completing the whole series of 52 episodes” and they affirmed they were. (I also made sure to get a public dig in against Viz since they seem to think it’s not important to complete what they’ve started.)

The highlights for me were having time to have some pretty nice conversations with Jerry Jewell, Justin Cook and Todd Haberkorn (not all at the same time). They’re all such great people and I really appreciate them remembering me and taking time to chat—yet another indication of the great work that Funimation does. High quality product, innovative distribution and very, very nice people who actually care about the fans. I hope everyone reading this who is an anime fan goes out and buys everything they can from them!

I also made the decision to sign up for another Bang Zoom Voice Acting seminar, this time with Tony Oliver on September 20. It was a bit more of a chunk of money than I have at the moment and will need to find someplace, but I have this feeling it’s important right now. It’ll be fun and a good experience.

So the con is winding down. I did end up buying another show—the complete set of .hack//SIGN for a pretty decent price. I really wanted .hack//Roots which I saw yesterday, but that’ll have to wait for a Right Stuf sale and preferably a complete series box set.

Tomorrow will be just a quick swing by in the morning, one last spin around the sales hall and another chance to thank and say goodbye to the great VAs one more time. As usual, I’m torn between wanting to stay to the bitter end of the con (they actually do have some cool stuff planned) or getting on the road before I’m stuck in bumper-to-bumper, post-Labor Day Weekend traffic all the way back to L.A. Usually my abhorrence of driving in traffic wins out…

Anime Vegas, Day 1

Today was opening day for Anime Vegas and it was a lot of fun—I had a great time. But first, some other topics:

My Gambling Story: I don’t really gamble much at all—it’s too lame. But I brought $18.00 of quarters from my change drawer to use (my usual M.O.). I put them in a video poker machine last night and won—$14.25. Typical. I spent a buck or two of that today on stuff, but put the rest in another video poker machine tonight and won—$8.00. Good thing I don’t take this seriously or have the addiction…

Anyway, last night I went to pickup my badge at the new venue (Renaissance Hotel next to the Convention Center) and it’s really nice. I was prepared for a long wait, but it was only 15 minutes. I then made a slight mistake in choosing to eat dinner at The Outback Steakhouse on the strip—the food was great, but i’d forgotten just what a hellacious, crowded, annoying ZOO the Vegas strip can be, especially on a holiday weekend. And don’t even get me started on Las Vegas DRIVERS—the worst I’ve seen anywhere, and I lived in Italy for 2 years…

So then that brings us to today. I attended the Funimation panel first thing and made absolutely certain to publicly thank Funimation and told them they were the only anime company I trust anymore. I also asked about BIG WINDUP, and they said with the volume of shows they’re working on right now, they’re not sure yet when it’ll actually get dubbed and released—probably next year. Just after it started, VA Todd Haberkorn came in and sat next to me too—nice guy.

The rest of the day was mostly spent perusing the (slightly overcrowded) dealers’ room, waiting in line to talk with the various VA guests and get their autographs, and watching a few new anime episodes (I think I liked .hack/Roots, and Maburaho looked cute but I’m not sure. Lucky Star also looked fun, but I’m even less sure about it…).

But the BIGGEST thing I attended was an absolutely PACKED panel room where they World-Premiered the first three dubbed episodes of Ouran High School Host Club, one of my favorites and hotly anticipated show. I thought the cast and performances they gave—at least in the first 3—was outstanding. I KNOW it’s going to turn out to be a surprisingly big hit for Funimation, and deservedly so. It always makes me feel really happy when I can DELETE fansubs and BUY the real thing. In fact, as penance I’ll be buying 2 copies: one for me and one to give to a friend!

Stayed until after 7:00 to talk to Colleen Clinkenbeard and Caitlin Glass (and get their autographs, of course), then back to my hotel and my first real food since breakfast: the $2.99 soup & half sandwich special. At least I can afford to eat on my meager gambling winnings…

HOORAY! Funimation has Licensed Oofuri!!!

This is a day I’ve been totally waiting for: Ookiku Furikabutte has been licensed, and thankfully by Funimation. This is my absolute favorite anime of the past year or so and is an incredible story. I’ve watched it several times on fansubs and talked about it to everyone I know.

It’s about High School baseball. I for one really couldn’t care less about baseball in general, but this anime really made me want to understand and get into the strategies of the game. The best thing, however, is the development of the characters—I feel like every one of them is real and three-dimensional. It’s essentially the story of how a talented pitcher with no self-confidence (Mihashi Ren) and an equally talented but somewhat arrogant catcher (Abe Takaya) form a partnership that brings their school’s fledgling baseball team success.

No, it’s not one of those sports anime where all the players have super-human abilities or over-the-top personalities; the thing that makes this series so special is that the characters are realistic complete with challenges and insecurities. I just can’t say how amazing I think it is!

And I say “thankfully” when it comes to Funimation, because as I’ve said before they are the only anime company I have faith in anymore—they’re the only ones I think care about the fans any longer. I know they’ll do a first-class job and I can only hope they’ll get it out quickly, ‘cause I can’t wait! They’ve titled it Big Windup! in English.

For more info, check out the announcement on Anime News Network:
Funimation Acquires Big Windup! Baseball TV Anime

There was also a nice article about the series in Issue #96 (May/June 2008) of Protoculture Addicts magazine, available at your local bookstore like Borders or Barnes & Noble.

THANK YOU Funimation!!!

Three AWESOME Fansubs!

Everyone knows by know that I’m an otaku and complete nut for anime. I always want to buy them when I can because, after all, that’s how the genre has grown so big here in the US—it’s a great money maker.

But over the past six months or so, I’ve also begun downloading fansubbed titles through BitTorrents. For those of you who don’t understand, “fansubs” are anime that have been translated and subtitled into English by fans as a hobby. They are shows that aren’t yet available here in the US, and indeed may never be.

The first big one that I absolutely LOVE is Yakitate!! Japan, which is an absolutely hysterical comedy about a boy who wants to bake the perfect bread.

Baking bread? How can that be funny? Trust me, it is. And it is for all 69 episodes. Go download it from Anime-Empire. You can also buy the manga which is being published here by Viz (who I hope and pray will license and market the anime in the not-too-distant future).

I’ve also started downloading and watching Hayate no Gotoku (or Hayate the Combat Butler) after a tip from a friend—it’s great too. I’ve only managed the first 15 of the available 29 episodes (of a total of 52) and it’s loads of fun. The characters and artwork are all great and the comedy is awesome. The downloads on this one are really fast from Eclipse Productions in Germany, and they’re all in widescreen h.264 video—really lovely.

But I’ve saved my current favorite for last, Ookiku Furikabutte (loosely translatted as “Big Thrower”). It’s of all things a baseball anime—I couldn’t care less about baseball normally. But after the first three eps of this series I’m totally hooked and I think it’s one of the greatest I’ve seen in a while. A series from this year in Japan, it’s only 25 episodes and so far only 10 are out—and I’ve already watched each one at least twice. I can’t believe how great the story is, how real the characters are and how much you can sympathize with and relate to them. I’ve even learned something about baseball (go figure). I’m checking the fansub website every day to see when the next ep is out, and I’d encourage you to zoom over and download it right now from Saizen Fansubs. It’s about as impactful on me as Whistle! was (another sports anime about soccer—another sport I couldn’t care less about).

I guess I just have a thing for shows that are funny yet touching and with a huge dose of ganbare! Maybe it’s ’cause I was such a wimp when I was in school and not athletic at all and I’m getting it vicariously now. Maybe it’s because I sympathize with the underdog or those with pure heart and motives, no matter the setting—from bread pans to giant robots, sports fields to space ships. Who cares—they’re great stories.

Sometimes I feel bad for downloading these shows because I feel like a pirate. But I will GLADLY buy these series on DVD when they come to America, because they all deserve to.

Anime Website Revamp

Because I’ve been having so much fun with the vastly improved iWeb ’08 software, I thought it was high time I got really going on my Anime & Manga website. I’ve spent some time reconstructing it with new templates into what I feel is a more attractive and practical look. I also have begun putting up reviews and resources of my favorites in a blog format. I have most of my Favorite anime up there at least with holding pages and a couple manga titles.

One thing that I always wanted to do was have a sort of “Quick Ref” box for each title that had links to the website, info on the series, links to purchase, access trailers and/or opening/closing videos, etc. I’m happy to say that I’ve done that, though I’m only just getting started. BTW, the purchase links I created go to my favorite online retailer RightStuf Inc. If you use them to navigate there and then purchase something, I’ll get credit and earn stuff—I’d really appreciate it, and they have good deals!

So check out the vastly improved site here: Doug’s Otaku Site