Broken mailboxes? Winding roads? Traffic? Being chased by the neighbor stray? Is that all? Try crossing deserts in endless night, having doors slammed in your face, and risking having your memories eaten by supernatural mecha-insects. Such are the trials of the Letter Bees, postal workers with guts.
Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, based on the manga series by Hiroyuki Asada, spotlights a twelve-year-old, newly-hired "crybaby boy" Bee named Lag Seeing. Once himself a "letter," he aspires after the dedication of a Bee named Gauche Suede, who risked death to deliver him to the town of Cambel Litus. Little does Lag know he will be literally following Gauche's path. Always supporting him are his fellow Bees Zazie, Connor Culh, and Aria Link, and his doting "dingo" (partner) Niche and her pet/emergency rations Steak.
The Letter Bees must traverse the dark Amberground, a land lit only by a man-made sun. It is split into three areas, which further divide the people into three classes. In Akatsuki, the capital, the upper class enjoy the direct rays of the artificial sun. Yuusari is where the middle class live between light and darkness. Finally, the poor survive meagerly in the dimest area, Yodoka. Travel between the areas is limited and even, in some cases, prohibited, so mail is the only link between friends and family. But sending it is also dangerous, as mechanical monsters called Gaichuu live along the main routes. Only the Letters Bees are equipped to deal with them and thus are the only ones the people can trust to deliver their letters. The Bees are willing to do so, even though their status of workers for a failing government makes them the target of hatred from the lower class.
But Tegami Bachi is not only about delivering mail, but about the strength of our connections and of written words. In this era of email, texting, and chatspeak, words can travel so quickly that we no longer take the time to think before we speak, and we do not appreciate their power or meaning. Tegami Bachi reminds us of a time when letters took months by boat to reach their destinations, by which time the information enclosed was hopelessly outdated. Then, writing letters was not about keeping up-to-date but about reaching out, staying connected, and building connections. Letters formed the first social network. They were the original "friend requests." They carried both tears and smiles across oceans. They started wars and ended them, broke hearts and mended them. This is what Tegami Bachi calls "Heart": emotions, memories, and letters are "Heart" reproduced in writing. For Lag, it is worth everything to deliver those precious feelings. When was the last time you were willing to face anything to say what needed to be said?
Joey Jones is a normal kid who lives with his kindly old grandmother in the West Coast city of Center City and lives a rather normal everyday life: school, friends, work, etc. One day he finds a discarded toy robot and fixes it, only for said robot to be struck by cosmic lightning, causing it to transform into a towering robot guardian. Now, Joey must protect Center City and the world from the evil bug-like alien invaders known only as the Skrugg with the power of the almighty Heroman!
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
If you’ve read comic books as a kid or watched superheroes on TV, then the above premise should sound very familiar to your ears. Created by Stan Lee and produced by studio Bones, Heroman can be seen as an ultimate mash-up between Japanese anime and American comics. Though many argue that this practice has been around since the inception of anime, the distinct styles of both are especially apparent in this series. The look of the characters has the unmistakable Bones anime style (i.e. Eureka 7) and much of the stock footage of Heroman’s transformations and special attacks will remind you of your favorite shounen series. If one is willing to look back far enough, one can see that this show feels a lot like many of the old-school children’s tokusatsu shows in which an alien force threatens the Earth and the hero of the year must transform and fight back the invasion (i.e. Power Rangers, but doesn’t necessarily have to be a team). And yet despite all the Japanese touches that mark this as an anime series, there’s something very distinctly American about how the series feels thus far, even if they didn’t shove the stars and stripes in our face every five seconds.
Given that Stan “The Man” Lee is the creator of this series (and makes liberal cameos throughout), the fact that it feels like watching an American superhero show should be expected. Sure Joey himself doesn’t transform into a superhero nor does he ever wear spandex, but everything from the city in danger to the bug like aliens trying to conquer the world is classic Marvel material. Center City and its denizens themselves also feel like how a comic book would feel: the characters are distinct and easy to read and the city being invaded by evil aliens just seems natural. Heroman himself appears to evoke S.T.R.I.P.E, a DC hero who wears a massive powered armor suit decorated with good old American colors. To top it all off the ending sequence is presented as your classic single issue comic book, which constantly reminds you that though this series may not be a part of the Marvel universe, its influence will be dripping from every single episode.
Make no mistake about it, this series is meant for kids. The plotline is straightforward, the characters are simple, and every time you see a Heroman upgrade you’d probably be thinking about all the merchandise that Square Enix, the produers of the anime, must be aiming to make. But the beauty of the series that I have seen thus far is its universal appeal, especially to the young at heart. When you were a kid, who DIDN’T want a crazy awesome robot buddy at his or her command? And who didn’t want to become a superhero and fight off alien invaders from outer space. This is the stuff that young kids who are geeky enough dream about, and it’s nice to see an anime series that can capture that childhood Saturday morning feel all over again.
In a cartoon era that seems to want to turn young kids into obsessive collectors of cards, monsters, tops, gimmick marbles, etc, it’s surprisingly refreshing to see an anime series that is not only action packed, but sends a nice homage to the superheroes we remember back in the day. No surprises as to how the plot’s turning out so far, but tune in to see how Heroman will thwart the Skrugg Invasion (I see what you did there Stan).
The anime distributor company 4Kids Entertainment's situation has gone from bad to worse this past week as the group faces declassification from the top tier of the American stock market. According to Anime News Network, 4Kids is on the brink of being delisted from the New York Stock Exchange after failing to generate $15 million of revenue over a 30-day period, the bare minimum required to remain listed on the exchange. This news comes as a further blow for the company after posting a $3.5 million loss for the first quarter of 2010 a few days previously. There is speculation that there may be a buyer for the struggling firm, but concrete sources have yet to be announced.
* * * * * Bandai backlash to Bang Zoom
Bandai Entertainment has responded to the recent comments concerning the future of anime dubs. It comes as the CEO of Bang Zoom Entertainment, Eric Sherman, stated that the future of his company depended on the sales of its summer 2010 releases, which include season 2 of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. According to AnimeNews.biz, Bandai dismisses Shermans' concerns, stating that “...Bandai Entertainment has no plans to close down. We actually had a very good year in 2009 and good results in the first quarter of 2010...Mr. Sherman’s speculations about the state of the anime industry are interesting, but not accurate as it pertains to Bandai Entertainment,...”
However, the statement does imply that Sherman's lack of optimism for dubs is somewhat reciprocated, “...if the market trend continues where there is little support for dubbed anime products, we may unfortunately, discontinue creating dubs and focus on sub-only releases.”
* * * * *
Epic saga set for the States
Sentai Filmworks, one of the newest licensors in America, has confirmed that the long-running fictional series Guin Saga has been licensed. A statement on their website simply states that the group had secured the rights to distribute the series created by the late Kaoru Kurimoto and spans over 150 novels and selling 30 million copies since its inception. Guin Saga tells the story of two young heirs who are rescued by an unusual warrior with the head of a leopard and the body of a man. Despite the unorthodox anatomy, the series has generated a cult following in Japan and now hopes to do the same in America. A release date has not been confirmed as of now.
* * * * * The stream becomes a flood
The licensing group, Media Blasters, is the newest company to roll out streaming versions of its current catalog on its website. From May 12th, patrons to their site have been able to choose from a selection of the company's latest releases including Kanokon (The Girl Who Cried Fox) and Ikkitousen. Media Blasters has been known to pick up more mature franchises, but that hasn't stopped the group from following FUNimation's example of streaming its content directly as well as DVD releases. In fact, according to UKAnimeNews, the group wishes to expand its ad campaign to multiple platforms such as “Microsoft Xbox 360, Apple iTunes, Sony PlayStation 3, Hulu, YouTube, Crunchyroll and ANN with free episodes.”
* * * * * Historical event proves too political for TV networks
The anime series Senkou no Night Raid is to be broadcast via the internet only. The show's 7th episode, according to AnimeKon, believes to move its focus onto an extremely sensitive political issue in Japan's history. The event concerned is known as the 1931 Mukden Incident in which a section of Japan's South Manchurian Railway was blown up deliberately by Japan. However, at the time, the blame was placed on Chinese rebels and Japan used the aforementioned incident as a reason to invade the region of Manchuria the following day. The controversy stems from the fact that the episode is to focus on Japan's own point of view instead of an objective stance. As a result the episode will be streamed instead of screened on TV. The episode will be available for free for 2 weeks starting May 18th.
* * * * * EVA-01 to follow Gundam...the mech era begins.
Sankaku Complex has revealed that there are plans to construct a life size rendition of the famous mech from the series Neon Genesis Evangelion. It follows the construction of a full scale Gundam statue in Japan in 2009. The key difference between the two is that unlike the aforementioned Gundam, the EVA-01 mech will be mostly obscured from view and be displayed in a “caged” state. An accompanying cockpit in which people can sit in will feature as well when the exhibit is unveiled to the public in Yamanashi prefecture in late July.
The volunteer army leaves on its journey to save Kashin. To save her, they need to get three ingredients for the medicine. Kan'u goes to Koutou, Chou'un and Bachou go to Mt. Taishan, and Ryuubi, Chouhi, and Koumei go to visit Suikyou. The latter group arrives, but the ingredient they need isn't there...
Yuki is troubled after his meeting with Murasame Toko and Tsukumo and Giou Takashiro, head of a family with special powers known as the Giou Clan. Does Yuki belong with Takashiro or with the children of the orphanage? Zess kindly watches over the confused Yuki while agents of evil approach.
Word of the Day
kwsk: (pronounced: koo-wah-shi-koo): this online phrase is an abbreviation for "in details, please."