Art book Review: Ping Pong

Ping Pong CoverA while ago I finished up watching Ping Pong the animated series. It was a fantastic series and the first sports series (outside of Initial D) I watched. The story was very compelling and the characters had very unique stories of their own. So of course I needed to check out the art book for Ping Pong.

First off, I have to admit that I am a sucker for art books that go in the landscape format instead of the traditional portrait style. Just something about them that I find much more enjoyable and more immersive.

The Complete Artworks book has a lot of the types of things you would see an your typical anime art book. The first segment breaks down each episode, complete with art and (assuming) a summary below, the book isn’t translated into English which isn’t a big deal since I buy them for the artwork.

The book goes into rough colored storyboard frames, the background environments and settings. One of my favorite “spreads” in the book is one with all of that characters laid out with all of their different clothing outfits on. You can see Smile and Peco (among other characters) in their ping pong attire, school attire, and even casual attire. It’s nice to see this since in most series characters wear the same clothing.

Beyond the character “spread”, is a wide range of character model sheets, expression sheets and notes on each character. These types of images are things I have always enjoyed looking at. You can see the characters in some of their earliest stages and also see how they look all the way around and their various expressions.

However, my absolute favorite part of this book is the following section. It is a very technical section on ping pong. It shows the different holds of the paddle the characters would have depending on their grip. There are sequential images for different types of hits with each grip as well. So if the animator needed to see how a pencil grip back hand looked, they have it as reference. Not only that, but they have it done in a couple styles so you can see exactly how the character moves from different perspectives. I really wish this portion was translated so I could read the notes on these pages. I can only assume they are gold.

The next section of the book contains key animation art for select shots, allowing you to see how the characters move for expressions and in some cases, the extreme perspective  of some shots. There are even a few pages of characters playing ping pong against one another so you can see how they react to the other player when the ball is hit.

One of the final sections breaks down some of the use of computers. Using 3D animation and even Flash for the series. Again, I wish this section was translated because this would be gold to read and learn how they used these programs in this series since it has such a unique visual style.

If you’re into art books, you can pick up Ping Pong at Tokyo Otaku Mode online.

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Recent Reading: Jaco the Galactic Patrolman

Closing in on wrapping up my homework for my online class, but wanted to take a bit to write about some manga I recently read, Jaco the Galactic Patrolman from Viz Media. As you may know, I am a big Dragonball Z fan. I credit the show for inspiring me to get into animation and it has influenced my career path and when I found out that Viz was releasing Jaco, created by Akira Toriyama, earlier this month, I had to check it out. Here are my thoughts.

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 8.05.07 PMThe cover is a little bit of a precursor into the story and some of the themes and comedy you will see in the story. That fellow on the cover, is our main character Jaco, he’s a galactic patrolman. He looks an awful lot like a former Dragonball Z villain too, down to the exact color scheme. Check out the trailer for the new Dragonball Z film, the Return of F, coincidentally that comes out in Japan later this year.

In the story we see some of the same elements we see in Dragonball Z, the story starts on a tiny island that is inhabited by an old man, Omori, sound familiar? Omori is a super smart scientist that is working on figuring out time travel. Jaco’s spaceship crash lands on Earth and decides he is going to live with Omori until it can be repaired. However, the ship requires an expensive material to fix so Jaco is stuck on Earth for a while.

Over the course of several chapters, we see some comedy that is straight out of Dragonball Z. Jaco saving the day when a stranger is in a bad situation against a group of bad guys. The story continues to follow some of the same Dragonball Z humor.

The book ended with a slight twist, but in hindsight I should have seen it a little sooner given the closeness to Dragonball Z. The book even ends with a small, unseen chapter of Dragonball Z, which makes sense considering the book was to get Toriyama’s work out there more before the new Dragonball Z movie in 2015.

The artwork of Jaco is Toriyama’s distinct style and it was nice to see it in a new story. However, I felt the overall story was a little lacking and in my opinion, was solely used as a piece of promotional material for 2015’s Dragonball Z film (not that there is anything wrong with that). With that said, I felt it was a little too promotional and felt a little too much as a spin-off. It is only a one volume story, so if you are looking for a light read it might be worth checking out.

Recent Reading: Flowers of Evil Volume 11

The day has finally come, the release date for the final volume of Flowers of Evil by Shuzo Oshimi. For the duration of the series, I have been long praising it as a model for character development and emotional artwork. Volume 11 added a new reason to read the series, Oshimi’s amazing ability to tell a story without relying on dialogue. There is a phrase in the comic and manga world “Show, don’t tell” and the final installment of Flowers of Evil does just that.

There are chunks of pages where the character expressions and environments tell the story so well that words are not needed. Truly amazing and strongly suggested as a series from me.

I got into the manga series after I watched the anime series and since the series wasn’t getting an ending, I needed to dig into the manga to get a resolution. I will admit, there were a couple volumes that had me a little concerned with how the story was going to play out, but the resolution was solid and didn’t leave me with any regrets or empty hands.

Volume 11 of Flowers of Evil has a chapter with some fantastic artwork that is very stylized. The stylization of the artwork works well since it is the way of a character telling a story.

After wrapping up the Flowers of Evil, I can whole-heartedly recommend this title to anyone, volume 11 did nothing to change my feelings on the piece. You can pick up all the volumes from Vertical.

Recent Viewing: Terror in Resonance

The summer season of anime is wrapping up, so I thought I would recap the series that survived my cuts along the way, Terror in Resonance. One of the main reasons I wanted to watch this show was the duo of Shinichiro Watanabe and Yoko Kanno, this duo has worked together on some noteworthy projects; Cowboy Bebop and Wolf’s Rain.

The series spans 11 episodes and follows our two main characters Nine and Twelve who are terrorists that are planting bombs. The two of them operate under the identity Sphinx and generally play some games with the police throughout the early part of the series, almost Riddler vs Batman-esque. Many of the riddles are based in mythology and mythological creatures.

The main police character is a detective named Shibazaki and a student by the name of Lisa Mishima gets mixed up with the group after an attack. Rounding out the characters is Five, a mysterious figure with a past link to Twelve and Nine.

The story becomes a cat and mouse game as three different motives are brought to light by the characters and their affiliates. From a pacing standpoint, I felt the series moved pretty well. The introductory episodes do a great job of keeping your attention and developing some of the characters. The middle lays out a bit more backstory to the characters as well as a story twist that leads to a solid payoff in the end.

I typically watch series several times over a period of time, that way I can get to know the series more and pick up on things I missed in the initial viewing. I bring that up, because I believe that there is a social or political commentary in Terror in Resonance. While I can’t go farther into detail on it since I don’t want to spoil such a new series, if you are into shows along those lines, it is a must see. Personally, I will be picking up this series when it comes out to add to my collection. Very good stuff from from the team of Watanabe and Kanno. You can watch Terror in Resonance on FUNimation’s site.

Did you watch Terror in Resonance? What were your thoughts?

Recent Viewing: A-Li-Ce

I can’t recall if I mentioned that I recently bought some older anime or not, but I did. For the last several years I have been interested in the 3D animation scene in Japan, or lack thereof. A couple years ago, I presented some of the things I found and thought were interesting about it at the SGMS conference in Minneapolis (which is being held again at the end of September).

I thought it would be fun to expand on my presentation and dive a little deeper for AnimeFargo September 26-28th. The first thing I wanted to do was start digging into some of the early 3D titles to come out of Japan, which led me to the film A.Li.Ce.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find a trailer to show you clips of the title, but here are a few links if you are curious. (IMDB) and (Anime News Network)

A.Li.Ce may be the first full 3D animated film to come out of Japan, which would have been around the time of Toy Story 2 and Monsters Inc in the US.

Visually, the film looks like cutscenes from RPG games of the same period with some shots having aliasing issues (pixellation). I am not surprised about some of the visual quirks, it was a standard at the time for places not named Pixar.

The story of A.Li.Ce revolves around a girl named Alice and her travels in space and time. While traveling in space, she actually travels into the future and runs into Yuan, a young boy who fixes robots. The two embark on a journey that involves a ruler named Nero and a super computer.

The plot has some pretty big and sometimes awkward gaps. Which I felt was a little surprising considering the novelty of the 3D animation and the potential marketing tool of that alone, I would have expected a cleaner story. There is also a weird appearance change by one of the characters in the film, something you don’t see too often. I’m not talking about a hair cut or something small like that.

The film was dubbed by ArtsMagicDVD. I don’t mean to beat them up, but the dub for the film is really bad. I would like to think that if the dub was better, it would have made the film  a little more tolerable. As it stands, the film doesn’t have much for replay value. On a positive side note though, ArtsMagicDVD is the facility that released the other 2 full 3D features I intend on watching this month yet. The A.Li.Ce DVD also has some nice extras that I haven’t fully made my way completely through yet either. If your a fan of full 3D features, it’s worth checking out just for the fact it may be the first 3D feature to come out of Japan.

Recent Viewings: Tokyo Magnitude 8.0

Recently I have been checking out the local anime group and working on becoming a little more of an active member in the anime community and seeing if there is a way I can get involved in helping the con scene as well. It has been a couple weeks and I have met some fun people too. 🙂

Over the course of the last couple weeks, the club was finishing up a series called Tokyo Magnitude 8.0. I missed the first 3 episodes, but got a quick run down from the group on the story so far. It is a short series, spanning only 11 episodes.

One of the interesting facts about the show is the production life of it. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 was being produced as a show about what would happen in case of a large scale earthquake in Japan. How would major government entities react? The show was made because based on scientific data, a large earthquake was due.

When I got into the show, a brother and sister duo had recently met an adult. The older sister Mirai, her little brother Yuuki and Mari the adult, wee journeying through the city looking for each of their families together. Checking through schools, hospitals and area checkpoints, the three work their way back to their houses to try and locate family members.

The middle of the series (about episodes 4-8) seemed to be a little repetitive and follow the same formula of Yuuki and Mirai roaming around after Mari gets distracted. Personally, I don’t think the children would be out roaming around as much after such an event, but I understand that is needed for story progression.

The ending of the series is where I found value in the show. Having said that, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is not a series I would own, but it is worth a watch if you have the opportunity to.

Recent Viewing: Dragonball Z Battle of Gods

For a night I felt like a kid again 🙂 It has been the first time in close to a decade where I was going to see new Dragonball Z, from FUNimation. I was super excited, the film was going to be a full length feature, meaning it would be almost twice as long as the previous 14 movies. So is the film worth your time?

I am going to do my best to avoid any major SPOILERS since it was only in select theaters. I also persuaded my girlfriend to go to the movie as well and she hasn’t seen more than the first 4 or 5 episodes of Dragonball Z. The film handled non-Dragonball Z fans pretty well, by laying out enough history so you had a basic groundwork of some of the characters and storyline.

There was several things that stuck out to me in the film. One of the things that really stuck out to me was the amount of comedy and throwback jokes that long-standing fans. Several times I was finding myself sitting in my seat with a smirk from the jokes and a few one-liners. If your a fan of Vegeta, he is in the film more so than I would have thought. From the trailers and previous Dragonball Z films, my assumption was that the film would primarily feature Goku as the main character/hero and the other characters would only have small portions. The dub version had a few curse words, which was a little surprising. The film probably had more curse words in it, than the rest of the series and films combined. Finally, the amount of CGI in the film was also surprising. It’s the way of the industry in Japan, going more into CGI or the 3D realm if you want to be specific. Several shots had some pretty heavy 3D camera work and environment work. I enjoyed it and think it could evolve pretty well with the DBZ universe. A few of the scenes were a little rough, but you can see that they skills or technical prowess is starting to develop.

On a final note, it has been announced that there will be another new film next year. I have a hunch there was a set up in this film for the future film, it is a personal belief, no spoiler or  insider info. I am curious with the reboot of Sailor Moon, if this film and next years film are testing the waters of doing more on the series or if they will stick to films. I guess only the future will tell 😉