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.

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Recent Viewing: Kenshin (Live Action)

When I was first getting into the anime scene in high school, Kenshin was one of the more well known titles to fans at the time. We didn’t have the abundance of streaming options and a few select titles were making their way to late night TV. I enjoyed Kenshin for the most part, but was never a really big fan of the series, admittedly.

Regardless, it was good news to hear that Japan was making a live action film. Some of my friends posted images of the film shoot and slowly but surely I was getting more and more excited for the film, even though I haven’t rewatched the anime in close to ten years at this point. I recall the second season being really good, but found myself forgetting some of the events in the first season.

When I was at A-kon earlier this summer, they had a screening but I missed out due to the lines for registration and pre-registration 😦 So at this point I figured I wasn’t going to really get a chance to check it out. Then to my pleasant surprise, it was screened at this years SGMS. So how was it?

The story of Kenshin revolves around him being a top assassin during the war, but when the war is over, the age of the samurai is as well marking the start of the Meiji Era (I believe this is right, my Japanese history is a bit lacking). So Kenshin takes up a life of not killing, however, other wandering swordsman continue their search for the legendary assassin so they can have their crack at killing him.

The actors and actresses fit the characters well from what I recall, although some of the characters I didn’t remember (mostly some of the villains). Since I also haven’t seen the anime for a while, I wasn’t able to track how closely they followed the storyline (which is a completely different situation than my viewing of Gantz, which will be up next week). So The I wasn’t relegated to knit-picking the story progression to the manga or anime.

I was really thankful for that, because I enjoyed the film since I some of the characters and story seemed new to me. There were a few kinda awkward moments in the film that took it down a notch for me. Mostly there was a pretty harsh cut in the film in the latter portion that  took me out of the film. I didn’t feel like they had to do such a harsh cut, they could have added in another scene or something to help smooth out the transition, or at least some dialogue. That was mostly the only issue I felt in terms of editing. The other moments were a couple lines of dialogue and weird moments of silence, even though I could see those being winks to the anime or manga.

I would be interested to hear what Kenshin fans thought of the film. I talked to one of my friends and she thought the film was really good, so it seems for fans it is a worthwhile film. The film has done well enough that a sequel is in the works as well. I must admit I am pretty excited for this because the second season of the anime was awesome and featured one of my favorite villains in my early anime years.

Conference Recap: 2013 SGMS

As promised, I thought I would recap this year’s experience at the Schoolgirls and Mobilesuits (SGMS) conference that I attended, located in Minneapolis MN. This was my 4th year going and my 3rd year presenting. This year I presented on Studio Madhouse, how they got started and how they evolved over the years. Recently I have been intrigued by the collaboration aspect of animation and studios, so I wanted to trace the roots of my favorite studio, Madhouse. Some of their works include, Deathnote, RedLine, and Summer Wars.

SGMS is an very interesting conference, in the regards that it isn’t like a convention like you may think. Instead, presenters discuss a topic that they have researched and share them in panel discussions that are in similar areas. The presenters range from college professors, to fans that want to share their research with the audience. Personally I tend to share animation based content since I am an animator and enjoy researching it. It is nice to hear presentations about cultural and academic aspects of anime, because quite frankly, anime gets a pretty bad stereotype based of a select few titles of what people may have seen or heard.

Anyways, this year there were presentations ranging from the rise of Kpop music in Japan to the retirement of Miyazaki and even the changes of the word “otaku” through the films of Satoshi Kon (Perfect Blue and Paprika). There were some panels on the evolution of fandom, the anime industry and government regulations. The keynote speaker talked about Fukushima and his work to help the area recover since it isn’t an easy solution. He gave a presentation and later he returned in the weekend for a Q/A panel that he graciously went over time with because we all had so many questions for him regarding Fukushima and other cultural aspects.

At night, we also had some film screenings. This year we saw the live action Kenshin film (review next week) and I also watched the screening of Wolf Children, again. The film gets better every time I see it, can’t wait for it to be released.

I am already thinking of topics for next year’s conference and look forward to seeing everyone again soon.

Minor Update

I have been pretty busy the last few days, but wanted to give a quick update on things. I have been working on my SGMS presentation in Keynote and getting it prepped for the SGMS conference this weekend. I am really excited for the panel and to present on Studio Madhouse 🙂 So next week I will be recapping the SGMS conference and sharing my experiences with you all.

Most importantly, the prologue will be launched in a few days. 🙂 Be sure to come and check it out on the 30th!

Random Post- What I have been up to

One thing I have always enjoyed about blogs when I get a chance to catch up on some of the ones I follow, is the random post that just says whats currently going on. So that’s what I thought I would do today.

Outside of all the work on Cosmic Rage, I have been in the process of a move which I promised I would go more in depth about as soon as I can. Currently I am caught up on some of the anime I have been watching, but I have a few series I still have laying around that I haven’t watched and reviewed yet. The next title I have planned to watch is Tsuritama. Not 100% what it’s about, other than fishing, and I fished a lot when I was younger so I thought I’d check it out. That review should be up some time later in September.

I have also been working on my presentation for this year’s SGMS conference. This will be the third year I will be presenting at the conference and look forward to seeing some of my Minneapolis friends again. I am also really looking forward to this presentation this year 🙂

With the move and finishing up some freelance work, I have had to put my Japanese language studies on hold for now. I am hoping to pick back up on them in the next week or so. I am afraid I am going to be rusty 😦

I am currently reading the Flowers of Evil manga since I enjoyed the show so much. I am afraid it won’t get an animated ending so I decided to read the series now as well.

Finally, I have been looking into planning a trip to Colorado sometime next year. I am researching hiking Pike’s Peak. I love hiking and I have been looking for a new peak to climb to since I climbed Mount Fuji last year.

I am also planning on attending Sogen Con this weekend and really looking forward to making it to a home grown con.

So those are some of the things I have been up to outside of Cosmic Rage. Have some really fun stuff to show for Monday’s production update as well as an updated image.

Production Update 50

Here it is, update number 50, the big 5-0, halfways to 100. That’s all I got for installment update 50. I have worked on several freelance projects this week but I did get to Cosmic Rage this week. I didn’t get to the compositing on episode 1 yet, the shot that recently finished up rendering and wrote about last week.

I did get the audio added in yesterday, there is one small minor change in the audio that I am hoping to get revised, but outside of that it is done. This last week I spent some time revisiting backgrounds to the prologue. I decided to revisit the backgrounds since I wanted to revise the water in some of the shots as well. 

I wanted to go into the backgrounds and make them a little less CG in appearance and a little more graphical. However, after experimenting with a few other styles, I think I am going to retain the original designs for the backgrounds. But the time I spent doing so was not a wast of time.  

I came across this video and there was also a recent tutorial from Greyscale Gorilla (a pretty prominent artist that makes tutorial videos). 

One of the things I have been looking at additional ways to add more depth into scenes, which is something I was experimenting with on some of the spots this week. I am very excited with some of the things I learned in the last week to be able to grow these skills into more of the backgrounds. Currently, I am rendering out a test animation on the water in the first water scene. I am hoping that today I can get it ready for a full render. As I start rendering out the shots for the prologue I can continue to draw for episode 2 and also start modeling the next environment for episode 1 and even composite shots. I look forward to posting up new production art as it comes available and will be posting render updates to Facebook throughout the week.

On a small side note, I have also started some preliminary work on my SGMS presentation pitch for this years SGMS conference. If you are kinda new to the blog, the SGMS conference (Schoolgirls and Mobilesuits) is a conference in which the topics are academic presentations on all aspects of Japanese animation, culture and more. You can check out their Facebook page here. A couple of my previous presentations include; Gantz: the social commentary and CGI and it’s use in Japanese animation. By researching these topics, I have learned so much and get inspired by digging deeper into techniques, stories and artists. I will share more on this as it develops. 

Production Update 11 SGMS and Inspiration

Its that time of the week that production updates are to be discussed. The week has been a little bit of a whirlwind. I started the week being able to complete a couple drawings for the final scene. I also spent some time rehearsing and tweaking my presentation at the 2012 Schoolgirls and Mobilesuits (SGMS) conference. Outside of the conference I had some travel time in and also some freelance work to complete. So to be blunt and honest, I didn’t get a whole lot done in terms of production. Having said that, I did have a great time at SGMS, met a lot of very cool people, saw some new anime and finally I met Dai Sato and was able to ask him some questions that I had had and had developed over the conference ( I even got my picture taken with him 🙂 ).

So today’s production post is going to be hijacked with a short recap of the SGMS conference. For those of you that don’t know what SGMS is, it is a conference where presenters are allowed to present topics from animation, culture and manga from Japan.

I tend to try to present ideas and findings from an artistic standpoint. This year I shared my findings of not only the history of CGI in Japanese animation but also the use and techniques. The presentation went well and it meshed well with the other presenters in the panel. The presentation was inspired by my desire to combine 3D with 2D for the Cosmic Rage motion comic. Did you know CGI was shown in Japanese animation back in 1983? Now you know 😉

This year, just to name a few, I went to a panel that talked about pre and post 9-11 terrorism as reflected in the Gundam Franchise,  Rock Music as a Cultural motif in Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys (Which made me want to read the series), Vocaloid music and Hatsune Miku, and also a presentation on the politics of dismemberment in manga or more specifically Blade of the Immortal (another want to read now). Those are just a few of the ones I attended.

We also had anime screenings where we viewed some of the episodes that Dai Sato had written for such as Cowboy Bebop, Lupin the 3rd, Samurai Champloo, Ergo Proxy and Ghost in the Shell S.A.C. Just think, that’s not including titles such as Wolf’s Rain or Eureka Seven. The second night we also viewed a J-drama and an animated feature called Brave Story.

There was also a fashion show on Saturday night as well. I attended my first one last year and it was amazing and made me wonder why my sister never took me to one before that. It really is a great way to see alternative fashion, but more importantly it inspires clothing design for characters and worlds that you may be creating. I have went to several fashion websites and clothing encyclopedias for several of the character’s clothing designs in Cosmic Rage.

The weekend closed with an amazing group panel which people asked questions regarding various aspects of culture, animation and manga. Topics included pitching ideas, cross studio collaboration, of course Japanese animation, kick starter projects, small collaborative projects and so much more.

This was my 3rd consecutive year attending SGMS and every year I continue to meet amazing new people, learn new things, gain more things to add to the “must watch/read list” but most importantly it inspires me to keep working on this project. The thought of quitting it has never crossed my mind. I enjoy working every second on this project and I can’t wait till I am able to complete a couple more things so I have things to take around and further reach audiences and grow the fan base. And who knows, maybe more artists will join in on the project as it grows and develops. Stay Tuned for another Japan Adventure Update later this week!