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Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt vol. 3 – Story and Art by Yasuo Ohtagaki (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

April 23, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The story has been action-driven, detail of the artwork has been excellent and for mecha fans, “Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt” vol. 3 gives readers a gritty, emotional and darker side of the war.

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© 2012 by Yasuo Ohtagaki. All Rights Reserved.


MANGA TITLE: Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt Vol. 3

STORY AND ART BY: Yasuo Ohtagaki

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: Shogakukan

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: VIZ Signature

RATED: T for Older Teen

RELEASE DATE: May 16, 2017


In the Universal Century year 0079, humanity is divided between Earth and huge space colonies known as Sides. The colony known as Side 3 proclaims independence as the Principality of Zeon, and declares war on the Earth Federation. As the conflict nears the one-year mark, the Earth Federation and the forces of Zeon are locked in a fierce battle for the Thunderbolt Sector, an area of space scarred by the wreckage of destroyed space colonies.

The Federation attack on the Zeon fleet in the Thunderbolt sector is a bloody fiasco as Io Fleming leads a squadron of inexperienced young pilots into the teeth of the Zeon defenses. Desperate, the Federation throws even the maintenance crews into the fray. Casualties mount as the two fleets clash, and Fleming and his Zeon rival, Daryl Lorenz, engage deep in the ruins of one of the space colonies. Shattered and driven by memories of the past and all they’ve lost, their duel resonates with the fierce emotions of both sides in this deadly conflict.


The Principality of Zeon thanks to their Zeon Sniper Daryl Lorenz and his new Psycho Zaku has taken the Federation by surprise and nearly wiped out the entire fleet.  And with the surviving members of the Federation, they are not aware that Zeon Fleet Commander Kleiber is on their way for support.

Meanwhile, Io Fleming with his Gundam and Zeon Sniper Daryl Lorenz clash once again, but this time, who wins this battle?

What is “Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt” about?

Back in 2012, mangaka Yasuo Ohtagaki wrote and illustrated the manga “Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt”.

With eight volumes published, the series would receive a 4-episode ONA anime adaptation and a second season is slated for adaptation.

The manga is set during the One Year War (U.C. 0079) and the Earth Federation’s Brotherhood and the Principality of Zeon’s Living Dead Division are in battle in the Thunderbolt Section, a zone that is littered with debris from the destruction of space colonies and because the area has numerous electrical discharging.

Fighting for the Earth Federation is Ace pilot, Io Fleming and for the Principality of Zeon, Zeon’s best sniper, Daryl Lorenz is focused on killing Fleming.

As Io won the first meeting between the two, this time around, both the Federation and Zeon plan to escalate the battle as the Federation plans to send the Gundam in one more time to finish the job, but leading the Gundam are young recruits. Meanwhile, Zeon follows Daryl Lorenz piloting the new Psycho Zaku.

And with a sneak attack, they are able to decimate the Federation.  With only a few survivors of the Federation, what happens when appen’s when Earth Federation’s Moore Brotherhood enters a Zeon ship?

Also, the Federation’s Io Fleming and his Gundam takes on Zeon’s Daryl Lorenz and his new Psycho Zaku.

What will be the outcome of this major battle in the Thunderbolt Sector?


When it comes to the Universal Century Gundam stories, they are my favorite. And while many of us have been entertained by stories involving Amuro Ray, there have been a variety of stories that have taken place in the Universal Century, some more deeper than the others and others just focusing on the action.

“Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt” may seem like the latter because of the action focusing on Earth Federation vs. the Principality of Zeon but once the manga goes into character development, the storyline focuses on how people are growing tired of the war. People sick of seeing deaths of friends and loved ones.

Io Fleming is a man born from a wealthy family and he and his friends are thrusted into war. Fleming is secretly dating Captain Claudia Peer, a captain who is sick and tired of war and that the Earth Federation keeps sending teenage pilots as reinforcements and always depressed and tense when Fleming, the Beehive’s best pilot goes to fight against the Principality of Zeon. Along with Fleming and another childhood friend, engineer Cornelius Kaka, all three were born in privilege and are now assigned to the Beehive.

Fleming is an excellent pilot and surprises the Principality of Zeon when he shows up and takes many of them out with his Gundam and always playing his jazz music through a pilot radio station.

Meanwhile, on the opposite end are the Living Dead Division of the Principality of Zeon. A group that is put together of people who have been significantly injured or maimed and are still fighting with prosthetics.

Their best fighter, Zeon Chief Petty Officer Daryl Lorenz, is an excellent sniper and wants revenge against Fleming for killing his teammates. He has lost his legs in battle and carries a retro-style radio that he listens to in battle.

We see the other side as those who feel they are wronged and want revenge against the Earth Federation for the death of their loved ones.

Zeon scientist Karla Mitchum is responsible for giving the soldiers prosthetics but when her loved one is killed, she wants Daryl to rid of the Earth Federation, especially the man responsible, Io Fleming.

But we see how the grass is definitely not greener on the other side and how difficult life was for children growing up in the Principality of Zeon and in order to make sure their families were taken care of, they had to join the military at a young age.

So, the third volume of “Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt” gives us a look as both sides and both were decimated by each other.    People injured and not sure if they will live, but with this latest battle, Zeon has the edge as they managed to do a sneak attack to decimate the Federation.

As only a few of Earth Federation’s Moore Brotherhood around to infiltrate the Zeon ship, what will they find?

Meanwhile, another clash between the elite Io Fleming and his Gundam and Daryl Lorenz and his Psycho Zaku.  But who will have the edge in this latest battle?

The character designs, artwork and storyline by Yasuo Ohtagaki are wonderful and I really like how the emotion of the characters are depicted. The story has been action-driven, detail of the artwork has been excellent and for mecha fans, “Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt” vol. 3 gives readers a gritty, emotional and darker side of the war.

After this volume, nothing will ever be the same between the Federation and the Zeon in the Thunderbolt sector.

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Dragon Ball Super Vol. 1 – Story by Akira Toriyama, Art by Toyotarou (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

April 23, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you loved “Dragon Ball” and “Dragon Ball Z”, I can’t highly recommend enough of how awesome “Dragon Ball Super” truly is.  I was just as skeptical, being a hardcore DBZ fan but I was quite pleased with the overall manga and can’t wait until vol. 2!

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Image courtesy of © 2016 Bird Studios, Toyotarou. All Rights Reserved.


MANGA TITLE: Dragon Ball Super vol. 1

Story by Akira Toriyama, Art by Toyotarou

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: SHUEISHA, Inc.

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: VIZ Media, LLC

RATED: T for Teen

RELEASE DATE: May 2, 2017


Having defeated Boo, Goku is starting to get bored with his life on Earth. His wife, Chi-chi, wants him to get a job, but all he wants to do is train and fight stronger enemies. However, he might soon regret his wish for greater challenges, as one is on its way right for him!

Elsewhere in the universe, the God of Destruction, Beerus, and his attendant Whis are traveling from planet to planet in search of food and entertainment. After blowing up some hapless victims, Beerus is reminded of a man from his dreams with the moniker “Super Saiyan God,” or something like that. The God of Destruction sets his sights on Earth to track the source of his visions, leading to a battle like no other.


A new “Dragon Ball” series?

It was something that fans knew was a possibility but whether or not it would be accepted, that is a different story.

As “Dragon Ball GT” was created but not considered canon, because series creator Akira Toriyama was not involved, “Dragon Ball Super” is considered canon as the anime series credits Akira Toriyama for the original story and character design concepts.

As the “Battle of the Gods” and “Resurrection ‘F'” films are considered canon and take place before “Dragon Ball Super”, one may want to watch those two films before jumping onto this manga series, but fortunately, it is not needed as the first volume of the manga series gets readers caught up of what has transpired with the characters after Son Goku had defeated Majin Boo.

Written by Akira Toriyama and featuring artwork by Toyotarou (who did the manga adaptation of “Resurrection ‘F'”, an artists that Toriyama highly approves of, we begin a new chapter in the “Dragon Ball” manga series with the first volume of “Dragon Ball Super”.

As peace has taken place after Son Goku had defeated Majin Boo, for the next four years, Son Goku has become a radish farmer to support his family.

As Beerus, the God of Destruction and his assistant Whis destroy a planet in Universe 7, he had a dream of taking on a Super Saiyan God.  And is in search of him.

Meanwhile, Beerus’ twin brother Champa, God of Destruction of Universe 6 has secretly visited Universe 7 along with his assistant Vados to find the final Super Dragon Ball.

As Beerus pays a visit to the planet of the Lord of the Northern Worlds where Kaio-ken resides, Goku is training.  And when Beerus allows Goku to try and defeat him, Goku is beaten quickly.

This leads Beerus to interrupt Bulma’s birthday part on Earth (as featured in the “Battle of the Gods” film).

Needless to say, with the Dragon Balls and a ritual performed, Son Goku is transformed into a Super Saiyan God and challenges Beerus and it ends in a stalemate.  As Vegeta also acquires significant power, the two are trained by Whis.  And all was going well until Champa and Vados shows up to visit Beerus and Whis.

The two have a disagreement of which universe has better food and when Beerus introduces Champa to Cup Ramen, Champa proposes a challenge.  A fighting tournament featuring Universe 6’s best fighters vs.  Beerus’ choice of five of Universe 7’s best fighters.  Whoever wins gets access to the Super Dragon Balls and Champa’s goal is to switch Earth’s and have Beerus’ Earth switch places with the barren/devastated by war Earth of Universe 6.

All agree to have this tournament take place and now Goku, Vegeta, Piccolo, Boo and a fighter of Beerus’ choosing will need to take on Champa’s top five fighters.

Let the tournament begin!


I was very skeptical when “Dragon Ball Super” was announced.  Having enjoyed “Dragon Ball” and “Dragon Ball Z”, “Dragon Ball GT” was no doubt a series cashing in on the “Dragon Ball” characters and a storyline that was more or less geared to attract younger viewers (as it focused on Son Goku turned into a child, his granddaughter Pan and Vegeta and Bulma’s son Trunks).

I was not excited about the two newer films because I felt that Akira Toriyama ended “Dragon Ball” and that should ahve been it.  Afterall, the first two “Dragon Ball” series are a big part of younger years and I didn’t want to see a new terrible series marring the original Toriyama work.

And with over 80-episodes of “Dragon Ball Super” having aired in Japan and not having seen one episodes, I figured I would read this manga and see if if I would enjoy it.

And to my surprise, this series manages to capture all the fun, laughter and action that the original had and more.  Suffice to say, I loved reading this first volume!

Not only do we get new characters but you get to see characters who have been featured in other Akira Toriyama series such as “JACO:  The Galactic Patrolman” make an appearance and also, we see all characters reunited for the next biggest test for the Son Goku and friends.

And while the first half of the manga series focuses on character introductions and the power of Beerus and Whis, we also learn that there are other powerful Gods of Destruction of other universes and for Son Goku, getting stronger and beating his opponents has always been a big part of the storyline.

And now, Son Goku and friends will need to take on the top warriors of Universe 6.  In some ways, it’s kind of an Akira Toriyama nod to DC Comics with Superman and the heroes of Earth-1 and Earth-2 and the differences of similar universes but different outcomes for various planets in the universe.

Needless to say, this first volume made me crave for more.  The humor and action are fantastic and is consistent with previous “Dragon Ball” series but most importantly, it’s entertaining and so much fun!

And I can see why Akira Toriyama has so much faith in Toyotarou, with an interview featured at the end of the chapters, you can tell that Akira working with Toyotarou is somewhat of a passing of the torch.  Toyotarou’s similarity to Akira Toriyama’s work is fantastic and this collaboration between the two shows their admiration as their work is fantastic.

Overall, if you loved “Dragon Ball” and “Dragon Ball Z”, I can’t highly recommend enough of how awesome “Dragon Ball Super” truly is.  I was just as skeptical, being a hardcore DBZ fan but I was quite pleased with the overall manga and can’t wait until vol. 2!

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Fate/Grand Order English Version to be Launched in Summer 2017

April 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 


© TYPE-MOON / FGO PROJECT
Popular Mobile Game is Coming to North America
LOS ANGELES, CA (April 15, 2017) – Notes Co., Ltd (Tokyo, Japan), Aniplex Inc. (Tokyo, Japan) and DELiGHTWORKS Inc. (Tokyo, Japan) announced their plans to launch an English version of Fate/Grand Order in North American territories in Summer 2017 at the Aniplex industry panel at Sakura-Con in Seattle, Washington. The game will be available on both iOS and Android platforms.
Fate/Grand Order is one of the most successful mobile role-playing game in Japan. Players willbecome Masters, and together with characters called Heroic Spirits (also known as Servants) they will embark on a journey to the past called Grand Order.
“Fate/Grand Order has done incredibly well in Japan. It brings me a great joy to know that the fans in North America will soon be able to enjoy the game as well.” said Atsuhiro Iwakami, president of Aniplex Inc. “The epic story and exciting battle system come together as the ‘greatest Holy Grail War in history.’ I hope we can bring this excitement to as many people as possible.”
Many famous creators and artists have been invited to participate in the creation of the game. Such contributors include Takashi Takeuchi (illustrator) and Kinoko Nasu (writer) of TYPE-MOON as well as a lot of internationally famous voice actors. The epic story contains both a main scenario as well as many character scenarios, which come together in a tale that is more than one million words.
Further details will be released regularly on the official website (http://fate-go.us), Facebook (@FateGO.USA) and Twitter (@FateGO_USA). In addition, new information will also be announced throughout conventions across the United States starting at Anime Central in Chicago in May to Anime Expo in Los Angeles in July. We look forward to sharing all our updates with you so please make sure to check in regularly.
FATE/GRAND ORDER (ENGLISH VERSION):
Title: Fate/Grand Order (English)
Genre: Role-Playing Game
Platform: iOS/Android
Release Date: Summer 2017
Copyright: ©TYPE-MOON / FGO PROJECT
About Aniplex of America Inc.
Aniplex of America Inc. (Santa Monica, California) is a subsidiary of Aniplex Inc. (headquartered in Tokyo, Japan) – a Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) group. Aniplex Inc. is a leading provider of anime content, along with music production and distribution in Japan. Aniplex of America has launched fan-favorite Blu-ray and DVD titles including Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works], Fate/Zero, the Sword Art Online series, Your lie in April, KILL la KILL, Bakemonogatari, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Blue Exorcist, NISEKOI, the OREIMO series, DURARARA!!×2, Magi series, Expelled From Paradise, The irregular at magic high school, and ALDNOAH.ZERO. The company’s ever-growing line-up of shows includes our mostrecent titles: March comes in like a lion, Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga, ERASED, The Asterisk War, OWARIMONOGATARI, KIZUMONOGATARI, Charlotte, WAGNARIA!!3, GOD EATER, HAIFURI (High School Fleet), GRANBLUE FANTASY, and Eromanga Sensei.
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FresCon 2017 by Derek Orchard (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

April 8, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

FresCon, Fresno State’s geek culture convention took place on April 1-2, 2017.

FresCon is a non-profit and educational event that showcases Fresno State and the surrounding community through the collective enjoyment of geek culture including movies, television series, books, comics, video games, board games, card games and cosplay.

Some of the main events include “Street Fighter V” and “Super Smash Brothers 4”. Also, featured was “Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” for the Nintendo Switch.

The event featured panels on game designed by Geek Wise Academy and voice actress Erika Harlacher who did a Q&A plus a signing session on Saturday and on Sunday she did another panel about playing “Kingdom Hearts 2: Talking Games”.

FresCon also showcased modern anime such as “Fairy Tail”, “Mob Psycho 100” and some nostalgic anime such as “GTO”, “Gurren Lagann” and “Cowboy Bebop”.

Also, the event premiered the first episode of “Attack on Titan” season 2.

They also had panels dealing with cultural importance of genre fiction and storytelling which included Dr. Frederick Raswald for “Alien Lifeforms: Beyond the evidence”, “Philip Cable: How to Make and Market a Feature Film”, Lady Lindsay: “Character design what your concept?”, “Chris Zimmerman: The story of Labyrinth” and “Kyle Villarama: Batman and Psychology”.

 

On Sunday, after the cosplay contest, they had videogame cover band Super Soul Bros., a San Jose base Jazz band that covers music from videogames and cartoons.

FresCon for 2017 was a very enjoyable event! It is the type of event that if you’re not that into all aspects of a particular genre. And I personally feel that they have done a really good job of creating an environment for the true geeks and younger fans to come out to the event and enjoy.

Photos By Derek Orchard

Visit the FresCon 2017 Photos Gallery


 

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Boruto – Naruto Next Generations – vol. 1 – Story by Ukyo Kodachi and Art by Mikio Ikemoto (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

April 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you enjoyed “Naruto”, you’ll find “Boruto – Naruto Next Generations -” to be entertaining and a lot of fun to read! I look forward to the second volume of “Boruto – Naruto Next Generations -“.

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Image courtesy of © 2016 Masashi Kishimoto. All Rights Reserved.


MANGA TITLE: Boruto – Naruto Next Generations – vol. 1

Creator/Supervisor: Masashi Kishimoto

Story by Ukyo Kodachi and Art by Mikio Ikemoto

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: SHUEISHA, Inc.

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: VIZ Media, LLC/Shueisha Inc., Tokyo

RATED: T for Teen

RELEASE DATE: April 4, 2017


The ninja adventures continue with Naruto’s son, Boruto!

Naruto was a young shinobi with an incorrigible knack for mischief. He achieved his dream to become the greatest ninja in his village, and now his face sits atop the Hokage monument. But this is not his story… A new generation of ninja are ready to take the stage, led by Naruto’s own son, Boruto!

Years have passed since Naruto and Sasuke teamed up to defeat Kaguya, the progenitor of chakra and the greatest threat the ninja world has ever faced. Times are now peaceful and the new generation of shinobi has not experienced the same hardships as its parents. Perhaps that is why Boruto would rather play video games than train. However, one passion does burn deep in this ninja boy’s heart, and that is the desire to defeat his father!


The popular manga series “Naruto” has been going strong since its debut in Shueisha back in 1999 via “Weekly Shonen Jump” magazine.

The manga by Masashi Kishimoto is about a young ninja named Naruto Uzamaki, a ninja of the Konoha leaf village who grew up facing prejudiced within his fellow ninjas because the evil nine-tailed fox was sealed inside him. But throughout the series, we have seen how Naruto is a kind-hearted boy who has worked hard in protecting his friends and staying true to his word with the goal of someday becoming the next Hokage of the village.

In 2014, Kishimoto wrapped up the “Naruto” manga and in the final chapter (featured in volume 72), Naruto would eventually become the Hokage of the Leaf Village and he and his wife Hinata would have two children, Boruto and Himawari.

Meanwhile, Sasuke and Sakura would have a daughter named Sarada, Shikamaru Nara and Temari would have a son named Shikadai, Sai and Ino would have a son named Inojin and Choji Akimichi and Karui would have a daughter named Chocho.

Everyone has grown up and Naruto is busy as the new Hokage at the village, this causes resentment from Naruto’s son Boruto who feels that his father was never there for him or the family.

This leads us to the new manga series “Boruto – Naruto Next Generations” which is created and supervised by Masashi Kishimoto but is now written by Ukyo Kodachi and artwork is by Mikio Ikemoto.

The manga begins with Boruto telling his story and him and his team partners, Sarada and Mitsuki being trained by Master Konohamaru.  A lot has changed in terms of ninja skills and technology.

Now, a jutsu can be contained in a mini-seal and put into a bracelet which gives anyone, ninja or not, the power to use a jutsu.  No chakra is even needed to use the new technology.

With the next Chunin exams coming up, Sarada and Mitsuki want to take the exam but Boruto, he has no desire.  He doesn’t want to be like his father and that means not wanting to be Hokage.  But for Sarada, she wants to be Hokage and tries to get Boruto to take part in the Chunin exam to let his father know he could do it.

Meanwhile, Sasuke Uchiha returns to the village and Boruto, not wanting to be anything like his father, goes to Sasuke to take him in as a pupil.  But Sasuke will only agree if Boruto can learn the Sharingan jutsu.

We also get to learn about Mitsuki and find out who his parent(s) may be.


Reading “Boruto – Naruto Next Generations – vol. 1”, I can’t help but be entertained by the fact that the series focuses on the children of the characters that many of us grew up reading/watching for 15 years.

“Naruto” having lasted so long was a big part of the lives of manga/anime fans of the series that we watched “Naruto” grow from a child, to a teenager and a young adult.  Seeing how his heart and his passion would inspire so many but also seeing him determined to defeat those who threatened the village or his friends.

With Naruto, he is a student that felt he had to prove himself through hardwork and determination.

So, it’s fascinating to see how Boruto is much different than his father.  Naruto, who had always said he would become Hokage is now the new Hokage of the Leaf Village but this new role means being busy with work and unfortunately, that means no time spent with the family.

Hinata is literally taking care of both children and you can see how Boruto is upset at his father for neglecting them, but he harbors a bit of anger for his father not being there for him.

What’s even more interesting is that Boruto is not too aware of his father’s past and how he grew up, so he is not aware of the challenges or difficulties his father grew up with.

And because of his feelings towards his father, he asks his dad’s rival, Sasuke Uchiha to become his master.

The first volume features the first test in the Chunin exams but also goes into who the parent of Mitsuki is and really interesting background about him as well.

And I’ll leave it that.

This is a new beginning, a new chapter and not sure if this will last for another 15 years but this is a tremendous task and also honor that “Naruto” creator Masashi Kishimoto had bestowed upon writer Ukyo Kodachi and artist Mikio Ikemoto.

The story and artwork is well-done and for the most part, I just enjoy reading this latest volume because this storyline is literally a passing of the torch to a new generation of characters in the Leaf Village.

And having read and enjoyed the “Naruto” manga (I enjoyed the anime series but the plethora of filler episodes made things drag out way too long for me), it’s great to read a story focused on the 7th Hokage’s son.

If you enjoyed “Naruto”, you’ll find “Boruto – Naruto Next Generations -” to be entertaining and a lot of fun to read!

I look forward to the second volume of “Boruto – Naruto Next Generations -“.

 

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Cosplay Talent Agency – KOSPRE – Launches In Los Angeles

March 28, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Innovative Cosplay Talent Company – KOSPRE – Launches To Channel The Vibrant Pop Culture Phenomenon For A Wide Range Of Clients And Live Events

Los Angeles, CA, March 27, 2017 – KOSPRE, a new cosplay talent agency, has announced its launch and has retained an exciting array of talented and creative cosplay artists that are available to support a wide range of exhibitors at film premieres, conventions, trade shows, corporate and cultural events, concerts and pop culture gatherings worldwide.

 

Cosplay (or “costume play”) is a global phenomenon that inspires legions of avid fans all ages to create and dress in costumes modelled after characters from favorite comic book, film and TV, anime, and sci-fi properties. A colorful blend of fashion and pop culture-inspired couture, costumes are often elaborate and ingeniously crafted from all manner of materials. Beginning in the 80s, cosplay also captivated a passionate following in Japan as fans of anime and manga would create their own costumes to show their love of a particular series or character. In recent years, cosplay has become one of the most vibrant and visible forms of pop culture and its popularity has spread worldwide to fans and practitioners of all ages.

 

KOSPRE’s unique services provide attractive, efficient and effective promotional cosplay artists for events both in the U.S. and internationally. Based in Los Angeles, CA KOSPRE has a far-reaching network of artists worldwide, including in Asia, and is especially well-suited to service the film, TV, music, comics, anime/manga, and gaming industries.

 

“Cosplay offers a vital means to bring a brand to life and its application reinforces enthusiasm and passion for a particular property and also offers a fun way for fans and visitors to ‘interact’ with a live character,” says KOSPRE founder and CEO, Reiko Kondo. “Creativity is at the core of cosplay and KOSPRE was founded as a means to bring talented artists together and offer a means for them to pursue their passion professionally and for many different types of clients to explore how a custom-tailored cosplay presentation can add a unique aspect to support their brand or project.”

 

For more information, please visit: http://www.kospre.us

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Ani-Me Con 2017 by Derek Orchard (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

March 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Ani-Me Con 2017, March 18-19th @ the Big Fresno Fairgrounds in Fresno California.

For my latest convention report for 2017, I traveled to Fresno, California for this year’s Ani-Me Con.

Attendance was just over 7,000 for the weekend, making this year their biggest convention yet.

Some of the things you would have found at Ani-Me Con this year included the live action role playing of “Terras Wars”. As well as Ani-Me standards such as the collector card game tournaments, comedy acts, band performances, panels, dance crews and a rave on Saturday night. And also a cosplay contest that took place on both days plus a fashion show.

Special guests include voice talent Erik Kimerer, Sarah Annie Williams and Erika Harlacher and on Saturday there were panels on voice acting, experiences in the industry and autograph signings.

Band performances by “Coast in the clouds” and “Light of mine” and on Sunday a performance by the band “For the record”. Artist panel was by Hyperbooster studio who displayed his talents including drawing manga and also there was a comedy act by Vanna Vandal.

There were three different dance crews on Saturday which include “Empire Dance Crew”, “Royal T”, “Corps Dance Crew” with their hip-hop sailors scouts routine, which was a lot of fun to watch.

On Sunday we had singing and dancing performances by “Lovely Rushers”, who I think did a fantastic job, even though they were not the last act onstage on Sunday, they were a hard act to follow.

On Saturday and Sunday, Ani-Me hosted a cosplay contest. I am really impressed with the level cosplay that’s happening in the Central Valley. From beginner to advance, people are putting a lot of effort and a lot of thought into the costumes of their making. This year they had a fashion show on Sunday, featuring the designs of Miss Alphabet. Very colorful, very fun and the presentation was done very well, quite impressive.

Overall, Ani-Me has definitely grown compared to last year. I have lightly touched, on a lot of the different things that was available at Ani-Me Con.

I haven’t talked about what was on the main floor all the different items that were for sale at reasonably market prices. Like items from Japan, PVC figures, hoodies, games, card games and etc.

The convention had an artists alley with very talented artists. Cosplayers had tables where they had on display items from their different costumes. On display were props, where they could talk about how they made it and the process of what they went through and also giving tips to other people that are interested in making props and costumes.

It was a pleasure to return to Ani-ME Con this year. It will be interesting to see what they do with next year’s event.

Photos By Derek Orchard

Visit the Ani-Me Con 2017 Photos Gallery


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J!-ENT INTERVIEWS PUFFY AMIYUMI (2017) by Dennis A. Amith and Michelle Tymon (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

March 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

When I first discovered Puffy AmiYumi (known as “Puffy” in Japan), they took Japan by their storm with their simple style of t-shirts, blue jeans and sneakers.  Bucking the fashion trend and dance choreography of other Japanese female music artists during the 1990’s, Puffy AmiYumi impressed audiences with their style of music and presentation.

The duo consisting of Yumi Yoshimura and Ami Onuki burst into the Japanese music scene back in 1996 dominating the charts.  And while Puffy AmiYumi would release their debut album in America and perform in the U.S., it wasn’t until their music was featured in the Cartoon Network animated series “Teen Titans” that the duo would receive recognition internationally.

In 2004, the duo would have their own animated TV series titled “Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi”, would be featured on a GAP fashion ad and performing at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.

And as I have interviewed Puffy AmiYumi for the next few years, our last interview with the ladies, was back in 2010 to celebrate the duo’s 15th Anniversary (view our 15th Anniversary Puffy AmiYumi special).

And here we are in 2017, celebrating the duo’s 21-year anniversary and knowing that there are not many female Japanese music artists that have had the same level of success of Puffy AmiYumi and continue to perform for audiences worldwide.

Starting on March 31st, the group will be performing at Anime Boston 2017 and on April 4th, the group will be performing at the Belasco Theater in Los Angeles, followed by a performance on April 6th at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco and on April 9th at Trees in Dallas, Texas as part of their Puffy AmiYumi US Tour 2017 “#NotLazyTour”.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Puffy AmiYumi about their upcoming U.S. performance:


I interviewed both of you when you made your debut in the United States and I have listened to your music when you first made your single debut “Asia no Junshin” in Japan. What is the biggest difference in your approach to music today versus when you first started out.

Ami: When we debuted, we really didn’t know anything. We were always surprised by how our producer, Tamio Okuda, and other musicians made music and the various things they concentrated on. But now, we really understand how that feels.

Very few Japanese acts were able to penetrate the American music scene, yet Puffy AmiYumi was able to create an audience thanks to the theme song for “Teen Titans” and you eventually had your own animated show in the United States. You had a GAP ad and performed on the Macy’s Parade on national TV. Looking back at your success and knowing that you accomplished something that many Japanese have not done, was there a lot of pressure on for the both of you to continue that success?

Yumi: There wasn’t really any pressure. We always make sure to have fun with anything we do as a part of Puffy’s style, so when we did all of those things, I believe we did while having fun. And those were all experiences that most Japanese people aren’t able to experience much, so we are very honored.

Last year, Puffy AmiYumi celebrated their 20th Anniversary and the music scene has changed a lot in the past two decades. One difference is the popularity of social media such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Do you feel that social media has changed the way for the both of you to communicate with your fans?

Ami: I believe that the spread of social media over the last 20 year is definitely huge. I personally have my own Instagram, and because of that, I’m able to directly receive messages of support from fans. And since we can see how our fans our reacting with so little time lag, it’s very helpful to us.

You are about to embark on another tour which includes performances in the United States (for Puffy AmiYumi US Tour 2017 “NOT LAZY”). It’s been awhile since you performed in the U.S., how does it feel to be coming back?

Yumi: Even though we hadn’t traveled to America for a while, we had been constantly doing concerts in Japan, so I think we’ve powered up even more since our last visit. So right now, we’re very excited!

As you celebrate your 21st year, after all these years…Ami, what are your top three songs that you love performing in front of a live audience?

Ami: “Asia no Junshin,” “Akai Buranko,” and “Circuit no Musume.”

I’m curious to see how your musical tastes have changed.   In our very first interview, Yumi you said you were listening to Nirvana, Eels, Hole and U2 and Ami said Red Hot Chili Peppers. But what about now?

 

Yumi: Of course, I still love all of those groups. When I listen to the albums that I love, I remember things from when I first heard the albums, or feel very nostalgic.

Back in 2002, for our second interview, I asked each of you to describe each other in one word. Yumi, you said of Ami, “Serious” and Ami, you said of Yumi “Young”. In 2010, Yumi said of Ami “Relax” and Ami said of Yumi, “Older Sister”. Ami, if you had to describe Yumi, what would you say today?

Ami: For Yumi…“Hanashi ga Tomoranai” (She doesn’t stop talking)

Yumi, you told me you were playing the video game “Ryu ga Gotoku” (known as “Yakuza” in the U.S.) a lot back then.  Ami you were playing “Dragon Quest Monsters Joker II”. Any certain games that you are playing now?

Yumi: I still love “Dragon Quest” even now and continue to play. Right now, I’m trying to figure out if I want to buy a Nintendo Switch or not.

Both of you told me you love tea! But I didn’t get to ask what kind of tea that both of you enjoy? So, I have to ask…what is your favorite tea? And if there is an area in Tokyo that serves the best tea, which area would you recommend?

Ami: We like tea… Did we actually say that? Either way, I do like tea. I like chai. I think I’d recommend the café next to Saigoyama Park.

It’s funny because in our 2010 interview, both of you said that you wished Taco Bell would open a store in Japan and now you can find a Taco Bell in Japan. And now there are more Mexican restaurants in Tokyo. But with you returning back to America, is there a certain food that you have wanted to try but never yet had the chance?

Yumi: While we weren’t in America, I can now eat some foods that I couldn’t before. For example, cilantro and lamb. Because of that, I’d like to try out some places that I never got to try before.

What final words do you have for your fans worldwide?

Ami: This year, Puffy is now in our 21st year. The reason that we’ve been able to continue for so long is the countless support we’ve received from people from various countries!! We’ll continue to work even harder so we can someday hold concerts in countries we haven’t been to yet!

Yumi: Last year, we celebrated our 20th anniversary, and we are grateful to all of our fans! The upcoming concerts should be a lot of fun. Please come out and see us!

For more information, please visit their official website or their Facebook Page.

Photos courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment Japan


Read our complete J!-ENT Puffy AmiYumi interviews and articles from 1996-2010 (Click on image)


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X Japan Shuts Down London For HMV Signing Event, Takes Top Spot On UK Rock Chart

March 18, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

On Saturday, March 4, X Japan performed their first major show of 2017 on #XDAY at SSE Arena, Wembley, following the release of their feature film documentary We Are X in theaters across the UK. The We Are X Soundtrack (featuring the theme song “La Venus”) was released worldwide on March 3 on Sony Music’s Legacy Recordings, taking the Number 1 spot in 9 countries on iTunes as well as the #1 position on the UK Rock And Metal Chart, Top 30 on the UK Albums Chart, and Number 3 on the UK Soundtrack Chart.

UK Official Charts (link): http://www.officialcharts.com/charts/rock-and-metal-albums-chart/20170310/112/

The award-winning We Are X made its UK premiere to a sold-out audience at Piccadilly’s Picture House in London on February 28 before launching in UK theaters across the country on March 2, adding to the excitement of the band’s upcoming show 2 days later at Wembley Arena. Fulfilling the band’s promise to return to the UK after last year’s concert had been abruptly cancelled by guitarist Pata’s serious illness, the band held a special CD-signing event at HMV in London on March 3, forcing the shut-down of Oxford Street as over 1000 fans gathered to meet the members of X Japan in person.
[Check out HMV’s photo album of the record-breaking event]

X Japan has created a buzz among UK fans and critics alike with last week’s back-to-back concert, film, and soundtrack events, promising more announcements later this year.
“Their show proves eye-poppingly captivating” — METAL HAMMER MAGAZINE
“Perfection” — POWERPLAY MAGAZINE
“Intoxicatingly triumphant” — METAL TALK
“Fervently mesmeric” — RECORD COLLECTOR MAGAZINE
“X JAPAN deliver a unique, moving experience.” — MY GLOBAL MIND
“Mesmerising, they hover around a magical musical sweet spot” — MUSIC-NEWS

The We Are X Soundtrack is available now worldwide on Sony Music’s Legacy Recordings
iTunes: http://smarturl.it/WeAreX_iTunes
Amazon: http://smarturl.it/WeareX_amz
1. La Venus (Acoustic Version)*
2. Kurenai (from The Last Live)
3. Forever Love
4. A Piano String in Es Dur
5. Dahlia
6. Crucify My Love
7. Xclamation
8. Standing Sex (from X Japan Returns)
9. Tears
10. Longing ~Setsubou no Yoru~
11. Art of Life (3rd Movement)
12. Endless Rain (from The Last Live)
13. X (from The Last Live)
14. Without You (Unplugged)*
* New Recording.
Disc 2 – Japan Edition bonus tracks:
1. Rusty Nail (from DAHLIA TOUR FINAL ~Mubou na Yoru~)
2. Forever Love (from The Last Live)

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Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale (a J!-ENT Anime Film Review)

March 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

I found the storyline of “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” to be extremely satisfying and as a person who has watched the series and loved nearly every episode, I really enjoyed seeing the progression of Kirito and Asuna’s relationship and how that relationship plays a big part in the film’s storyline. I really do feel that fans will enjoy this SAO film! A wonderful and engrossing storyline filled with action and drama, “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of  2017 © REKI KAWAHARA/PUBLISHED BY KADOKAWA CORPORATION ASCII MEDIA WORKS/SAO MOVIE Project. © RK/KC AMW/SM


Originally created by Reki Kawahara

Original Character Design by abec

Directed by Tomohiko Ito

Scenario by Reki Kawahara, Tomohiko Ito

Music by Yuki Kajiura

Character Design: Shingo Adachi

Art Director: Takayuki Nagashima

Chief Animation Director: Shingo Adachi

Sound Director: Yoshikazu Iwanami

CGI Director: Ryuta Undo

Director of Photography: Kentaro Waki

Anime Production by A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Haruka Tomatsu as Asuna Yūki

Yoshitsugu Matsuoka as Kazuto Kirigaya/Kirito

Ayahi Takagaki as Rika Shinozaki/Lizbeth

Ayana Taketatsu as Suguha Kirigaya/Leafa

Hiroaki Hirata as Klein

Hiroki Yasumoto as Andrew Gilbert Mills/Agil

Kanae Itō as Yui

Miyuki Sawashiro as Shino Asada/Sinon

Rina Hidaka as Keiko Ayano/Silica

Sayaka Kanda as Yuna

Takeshi Kaga as Professor Shigemura

Yoshio Inoue as Eiji

Kouichi Yamadera as Akihiko Kayaba


2022 – The NerveGear, the world’s first dedicated full-dive device developed by the genius programmer, Akihiko Kayaba. It was a revolutionary machine that opened up infinite possibilities for the world of VR (Virtual Reality.) 4 years later…. A next-generation, wearable multi-device called the Augma has been released to compete with the NerveGear’s successor – the Amusphere. A cutting-edge machine boasting the ability to enhance AR (Augmented Reality) to the maximum, the Augma offers a safe, user-friendly experience, as it can be used while the player is awake, making it an instant hit. Its killer title is an ARMMORPG developed exclusively for the Augma, “Ordinal Scale (a.k.a. OS).” Kirito is about to join Asuna and the others as an Ordinal Scale player, but…


The year 2026.

Two years after the “Sword Art Online” fiasco perpetrated by SAO creator Akihiko Kayaba which left many gamers injured or dead, a new technology is to be released.  A technology that is thought to be safe and nothing like the Nerve Gear that was used in “Sword Art Online”.

Now people can use the Augma, the successor to the Amusphere full-dive system which allows a player to play a game that simulates reality while the player is conscious (via augmented reality).

And one of the popular games created for the Augma is “Ordinal Scale”.  A game which has quickly gain popularity that Asuna, Lisbeth and Silica are playing it, but surprisingly Kirito hasn’t jumped aboard to play the game just yet until now.

As people get into the game, part of the main appeal to “Ordinal Scale” is the game’s mascot, an AI idol singer named Yuna who appears during the game to increase the stats of players.

While everyone is playing, the #2 ranked player Eiji helps the Kirito, Asuna and team defeat the level boss but Eiji uses the words “switch”, a term that was used in SAO to Asuna.

Meanwhile, Asuna tells Kirito that Eiji is most likely a member of the Knights of the Blood Oath named Nautilus, Yui tells them that the appearance of Aincrad bosses in “Ordinal Scale” are similar to the line up with the SAO dungeon maps.

As Asuna goes to play the game with her friends again, immediately Yuna and Eiji appear and Eiji pushes Asuna towards the level boss.

When Asuna is hit, she passes out and suddenly, Asuna starts to realize that her memories from SAO are starting to disappear. Concerned, Kirito takes Asuna to the hospital to get checked out and it is learned that the Augma device has scanned her brain for SAO memories, and it may have happened to other SAO players that are playing “Ordinal Scale”.

With Asuna’s memory loss of SAO, that means her memories of her friends, but most importantly her memories of Kirito will disappear.

A desperate Kirito tries to search for answers and promises that he will do whatever he can to get Asuna’s memories back.  But what will his search unveil?

What is “Sword Art Online” about:

In 2002, writer Reki Kawahara wrote a novel series titled “Sword Art Online” under the name Fumio Kunori.

While Kawahara would receive critical acclaim for his novel “Accel World” in 2009, which earned Kawahara an ASCII Media Works’ 15th Dengeki Novel Prize and also winning the Grand Prize in 2008, the popularity of his “Accel World” storyline would lead to “Sword Art Online” being republished and also featuring the art work of illustrator, abec.

This time using his real name on ASCII Media Works’ Dengeku Bunko label from April 10, 2009 and a spin-off series in 2012.  The series has since spawned a total of ten manga adaptations, two anime series, one TV film, five video games and now an animated film.

The original “Sword Art Online” series is set in 2022 and many are playing the Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (VRMMORPG), “Sword Art Online” (SAO for short).

The game comes with a virtual reality helmet known as a Nerve Gear which uses the five senses of the brain and so players can control their characters with their mind.

The anime series focuses on protagonist, Kirito, one of the 1,000 beta testers of the Closed Beta version of SAO.  On November 6th, the game is released to the public and Kirito is enjoying the game and meets Klein, who has experience playing RPG’s but learns from Kirito about the basics of the game.

While the two are talking, suddenly they are transported to the main courtyard and are unable to log out.  They are told by the creator of SAO, Akihiko Kayaba, that all of the people playing are stuck in the game.  If anyone takes of the virtual reality helmet of a player, they will die.

As for those playing the game, if they want to be free of the game, they must reach the 100th floor of the game’s tower and defeat the final boss.  But if their avatars (their game character) dies in the game, their bodies will also die in the real world.  Also,  people in the real world who were stuck in the game have died by someone removing their Nerve Gear.

In the first series, Kirito and Asuna have become an online couple and while Kirito was able to succeed and free everyone by defeating the final boss of “Sword Art Online”, he has been utilized by law enforcement to assist in troubles that have affected users (as seen in “Sword Art Online II”).

In reality, Kazuto Kirigaya (Kirito) and Asuna Yuuki (Asuna) have continued their relationship outside of the game.  Asuna dreams of marrying Kazuto and having a family with him in the future.

And with the 2017 animated film “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale”, with Asuna’s memories of SAO fading, the dreams of her and Kirito being together may now be in jeopardy.


If there is one thing that “Sword Art Online” has proved over the years, that Reki Kawahara’s light novels and the anime adaptation inspired from it, are popular among many fans worldwide.

I had no doubt in my mind that “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” would do well as a theatrical release, not just in Japan but other countries worldwide, especially the United States.

Considering the film is not a Studio Ghibli film or an animated film with no Disney or Hollywood movie studio connect, “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” grossed $1.35 million in the first four days of its North American run.

In fact, the film set an opening weekend record for an Aniplex of America theatrical release and has played in 560 theaters nationwide.

And that is for a film that debuted in American theaters with Japanese voice acting and English subtitles.  And for those who dislike reading during their films, Aniplex of America will be releasing the film with an English dub soundtrack in April 2017 for a limited theatrical engagement.

Watching “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale”, it has everything that fans have loved in the series.  A lot of action, a lot of humor but also emotional drama as viewers have watched and seen the relationship between Kazuto (Kirito) and Asuna evolve and in this film, you really see how far their love for each other has blossomed.  And so, this film has become a fight for love and Kazuto doing all that is necessary to make sure that the young woman he loves is saved from losing her memories due to a new threat.

Fans will also love seeing characters from the past making their appearance in the video game but one will no doubt be anticipating the next SOA storyline as the ending teaser (after all the credits are done) shows us another menacing threat that will surely surprise fans of the series.

Animation is fantastic as A-1 Pictures did a wonderful job with capturing emotion in the faces of the characters but also within action sequences.  Voice acting is wonderful in its original Japanese soundtrack and English subtitles were easy to read.  And having watched the original series in both Japanese and English, I’m expecting the English dub to be equally fantastic when the English version of the film is released in US theaters this April.

If there was anything that I didn’t get into all that much in regards to “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” is the overuse of AI idol singer Yuna.  Music plays a big part in the film and where idol singers through battle is something we are accustomed to seeing in “Macross” anime series or film, it was not something I expected all that much in “Sword Art Online” and felt it was done a little bit too much for my tastes but at the same time, I’m sure it benefits Aniplex for music soundtrack sales and I’m sure fans who loved the music in the film will no doubt be seeking to purchase the soundtrack.

But I also hope that Aniplex, a company known for giving fans a lot of swag with their limited edition releases, will include the film’s soundtrack with the Blu-ray release of “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale”.

I absolutely enjoyed “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” but I do recommend people who know nothing about the series to at least watch the SAO series before jumping into the film.

Overall, I found the storyline of “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” to be extremely satisfying and as a person who has watched the series and loved nearly every episode, I really enjoyed seeing the progression of Kirito and Asuna’s relationship and how that relationship plays a big part in the film’s storyline.  I really do feel that fans will enjoy this SAO film!

A wonderful and engrossing storyline filled with action and drama, “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” is highly recommended!

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