Despite any opinions one may have over how dragged out its events may have gone, it looks like the end of Naruto is at hand. According to Weekly Shounen Jump's web site, the Naruto manga series will be ending its 15-year run in the magazine next month on November 10. The popular manga from Masashi Kishimoto has been running since September 19, 1999 in Weekly Shounen Jump, with over 70 volumes and almost 700 chapters having been published in its focus on the exploits of Naruto Uzumaki, a mischievous young ninja who is an outcast in his village due to having the demon spirit of a Kyuubi sealed within his body.
The manga's popularity has resulted in a number of anime adaptations of the series to be created by Studio Pierrot. The first series, Naruto, having aired for 220 episodes from October 2002 to February 2007; its second series, Naruto Shippuden, been airing since that time with nearly 380 episodes having aired as of this article; and 10 films being released, with the anime's tenth film The Last -Naruto the Movie- being released to Japanese theaters in December. Most anime and manga adaptations of the series are licensed for American digital, print and home video release by Viz Media.
Note: Seeing as I'm personally not really finding this anime to be horribly bad in any way, I will be tweaking my format of this review slightly to offer up more of my personal thoughts on the series instead of highlighting its flaws. With that said, on with the review.
Blade was a 12-episode TV anime animated by Madhouse Studios that aired from July 1 to September 16 of 2011. It is the last of four TV anime titles adapting one of Marvel Comics' superheroes in a deal between Marvel and Madhouse. The series was later licensed for American video release by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and the series would air on American TV via G4.
Blade is a dhampir (half-vampire, half-human) born under unique circumstances when his mother was attacked by a vampire and the strain became inherited by him while still in his mother's body. Due to his unique origins, Blade is blessed with the strengths of a vampire without many of their weaknesses. Growing up to become a vampire hunter, Blade's latest hunt brings him to Japan where he seeks out the vampire Deacon Frost and his organization of vampires known as Existence.
Like prior Marvel anime adaptations, Blade mostly revolves around the hero of the series being regularly entangled in fights as they try learning more of the enemy threat they are up against and their motives. In this case, Blade has to go up against the vampire mooks created through the experiments of Deacon Frost and Existence. Blade's journey to slay Frost leads him to travel through a number of Asian countries where Existence have their lairs located, while encountering allies and locals affected by Deacon's plans to some extent. Some anime-only characters like Makoto are made for the series, with the mentioned character being another case where a Japanese character is created to aid the hero of the series in stopping the enemy threat he is up against.
In terms of its source material, Blade adopts elements of its live-action movie trilogy adaptation and the comic version of the character to create Blade's character and several major allies and villains within his title that retain some sense of faithfulness to its source material's story and character elements. Blade's character is a composite take on his movie and comic adaptations where he has the attire, personality and weapons of his movie counterpart, while having the back story of his comic book version. Deacon's character is also a composite take of his movie and comic takes on his character with some aspects to his origins being altered for the anime, having the scientific background and appearance of his comic persona combined with the desire to overthrow pure-blood vampires as his movie persona. The series does devote parts of episodes to explore Blade and Deacon's origins and past history together, as well as providing fleshing out on Kikyo's character when he makes his presence felt in the second half of the series.
In terms of presentation, Blade is similar to Wolverine in terms of its visual quality. Scenery shots and character designs sport plenty of detail with characters shown to be Western-influenced in terms of their design that make them look more realistic. However, the series still resorts to animation shortcuts like those Wolverine pulls during its action scenes. The soundtrack to the series is no different from prior Marvel anime titles in that it consists of mostly high-energy tracks that regularly play throughout many scenes in the series, with no regard for mood or tension played out during key scenes.
Overall, I'd put Blade on a level of quality on par with Iron Man. The series is faithful to elements of Blade's comic book and movie origins, while creating some original elements to expand on aspects to their characters during the show's focus on Blade and Deacon's origins. However like many prior Marvel anime titles, the series is more heavily focused on its battle scenes and its plot layout is not much different from prior Marvel anime titles. Marvel Comic and action anime fans would get enjoyment out of the series. But beyond that, the series is rather forgettable thanks to its straight-forward storytelling formula.
Wanna be the Strongest in the World was a 12-episode ecchi sports series that aired from October 6 to December 22 of last year and was animated by Studio Arms. It is based on the ongoing shounen manga series written by ESE and illustrated by Kiyohito Natsuki for Comic Earth Star magazine since December 2010.
Sakura Hagiwara is a 17-year old pop idol who is the lead vocalist of the idol group Sweet Diva. She impulsively decides to enter the world of women's professional wrestling to avenge the beating that one of her members took at the hands of a wrestler.
Like you would expect out of many Studio Arms titles, Wanna be the Strongest in the World's sole purpose of existence is to pander to otaku and ecchi fans with its desperate attempts to get gratuitous shots of T&A out of much of its female cast. A good amount of these shots come from submission holds that get applied to female wrestlers during their matches and the camera offering up-close shots of boobs, crotch and butt, as well as the occasional shower scenes and random service shots.
Outside of its desperate attempts to milk T&A, there's little else to get hooked into with this series. The pro wrestling element of its premise is lazily implemented as the first half to the series is quite painful to press through with Sakura's ridiculous losing streak she racks up and losing to the same submission hold in each match. The second half gets slightly better with Sakura being more competent in her in-ring ability, though the in-ring action still borders on ridiculous with a good chunk of action reserved to submission holds for the mentioned T&A shots and some wrestling maneuvers shown at camera-angles that are supposedly painful to look at (with moves like piledrivers and powerbombs that cause harm to the head, neck and back). However with the latter, the wrestlers are conveniently able to get back up to their feet like a shounen action hero refusing to stay down when just about crippled or near-death.
Don't go expecting to connect with the characters in this series either as they are mostly paper-thin archetypes and have little in the way of depth or dimension to make them relatable to more than just otaku and ecchi fans.
A bit surprised I didn't cover this yet, but here we go. As of this writing, all the industry panels have taken place thus I'll cover any new announcements that distributors had to report:
Viz announced that they have acquired home video licensing rights to the anime series Coppelion and will release the series early next year.
Aniplex announced that they will be releasing Nisekoi in a Blu-Ray box set on November 25. The set will come only with Japanese audio and English subtitles and will include the following physical extras: collectible ending card pin-ups and a deluxe poster and box designed by chief animation director and character designer Nobuhiro Sugiyama. Aniplex is accepting pre-orders of the series now.
Cardcaptor Sakura will be streamed in its entirety on the site in both subbed and dubbed formats starting on Tuesday.
Vertical announced the acquisition of another artbook with artwork from Makoto Shinkai called A Sky Longing for Memories. The artbook will have 160 pages and will be released in May 2015, being priced at $34.95.
This may seem like a cruel joke, but appears to sadly be true. A number of news sources internationally have reported that Ghibli's General Manager Toshio Suzuki announced on a Japanese news talk show today that the studio will be shutting down its animation studio. The studio will be transitioning to licensing and merchandising characters and trademarks from its various classic films, as well as keeping a small staff on hand to take part in "Miyazaki projects" that are yet to be revealed. The reasons for the shut down of the animation studio are heavily rumored to be due to Hayao Miyazaki's retirement from animation direction last year and financial issues that plagued the studio over the past year as one of their recent films, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, underperformed in box office earnings in Japanese theaters as it only earned back half the money spent for its animation budget. The studio's final film, When Marnie Was There, was recently released in Japanese theaters on July 19.
UPDATE: Have some additional details on this news. It looks like many of the news sources may have misunderstood Suzuki's announcement regarding Studio Ghibli's future due to a mistranslation. Anime News Network is reporting that the studio is currently taking a hiatus from future animated works to plan out and restructure the company, with the possibility of releasing some among its production department or even completely shutting down any future animation production. It would seem things are still uncertain with the future of the studio for now, but all is not doom and gloom right now.