FUNIMATION ENTERTAINMENT ACQUIRES “KAMUI GAIDEN” FROM SHOCHIKU

Flower Mound, Texas (January 5, 2010) – FUNimation® Entertainment today announced that it has acquired home video, broadcast and theatrical rights to the live-action dramatic epic “Kamui ” from Shochiku Co., Ltd.

Produced by Shochiku Co. Ltd., Japan’s leading studio, “Kamui“ was released as “Kamui Gaiden” in September 2009 in Japan. An adaptation of Sanpei Shirato’s 1965 manga series of the same name, the movie is directed by Japanese Academy Award winner Yoichi Sai (“Chi to Hone”), written by Kankuro Kudo (“Ping Pong”) and stars Kenichi Matsuyama (“Detroit Metal City”, “Death Note”).

About Kamui Gaiden

It is 17th century Japan and Kamui is a Fugitive Ninja on the run. He despises the lethal laws of the Ninja where he must use his skills to kill others, and is in search for true freedom. However, he is now hunted by his fellow ninjas as they must eliminate him for his betrayal. In order to live, he must constantly fight for his life and distrust others. An incident brings him to a fisherman’s family, where he finally starts to open up to other people. Meanwhile, those hunting him are setting their trap.

For more information about the series, please visit http://www.funimation.com/kamui

About Shochiku

Founded in 1895, Shochiku has established itself as a leading entertainment firm. Shochiku produces, distributes, and exhibits motion pictures as well as TV programs and has also become a symbol of enduring tradition as the exclusive promoter of kabuki theater in Japan. Recent movie productions include “Departures”, which was awarded for 81st Academy Award as Best Foreign Language Film. Shochiku’s animation lineup includes “VEXILLE“, “Summer Days with Coo“, “Sketchbook“, “Le Chevalier D’Eon“, “Sengoku Basara” and more.

About FUNimation Entertainment

FUNimation® Entertainment, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Navarre Corporation, is the leading company for Japanese animation in the United States. FUNimation is known for acquiring top-rated anime series from Japan and for being the market share leader for home video sales of anime in the United States. The company has a proven formula for launching and advancing brands, and manages a full spectrum of rights for most of its brands including broadcasting, licensing, production, internet, and home video sales and distribution.

Mushi-Shi The Movie – DVD Review

Mushi-Shi The Movie

Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $24.98 US
Running Time: 131 minutes
Genre: Live Action
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

Mushi Master, heal thyself.

Like everyone in this office, I’m both apprehensive and excited by the prospect of a live-action movie based on a favorite manga or anime series. I was absolutely thrilled by the Death Note movies and I thought Honey and Clover made an excellent romantic-comedy so I had high expectations about Mushi-Shi The Movie. The good news is that the live-action feature is directed by acclaimed director Katsuhiro Otomo (of Steamboy and Akira fame) and yes the movie is absolutely stunning.

Taking place in turn-of-the-century Japan, the movie opens with a little boy and his mother traveling to a nearby town to sell their wares. Unfortunately, due to the excessive rainstorm that hit the area, a landslide brings the road they walk crashing down as the boy’s mother is buried by the mud. As the boy attempts to find his mother’s remains, he is discovered by a female Mushi-Shi or Mushi Master … a sort of healer/exorcist of glistening worm-like creatures called Mushi that inflict illness on those it touches.

Fast forward several years later where a different white-haired Mushi-Shi named Ginko (played superbly by Joe Odajiri) seeks refuge from a snow storm that blocks his path to his destination. He finds a local inn where several other travels have decided to stay the night only to find that some of the people of the village have been afflicted by an unusual ailment that caused them to be deaf in one ear. When Ginko cures them, the lady of the inn asks him to look into one other unusual case. It seems his granddaughter, Maho, was also afflicted but, in her case, she doesn’t hear anything but thousands of voice and she has grown horns out of her forehead.

Looking into the little girl’s rare case, Ginko discovers an interesting fact about the child’s mother as well as the voices the little girl hears. When he pieces together the puzzle pieces that is the mysterious case, he confronts Maho who helps Ginko solve the problem. He also comes to an alarming discovery that a great number of Mushi have been flocking in great number and the ones that attacked the little girl are different than the ones he is use to eliminating. Somehow, the strange new Mushi seems familiar to him.

We also find out what happens to the boy (whose name is Yoki) who finds himself living with the female Mushi-Shi named Nui. While Yoki clearly wants to stay with Nui, the Mushi Master does not want to be near her or the place where she lives. You see, Nui is worried that the pond near her home is filled with the strange Mushi Ginko discovered. The Mushi-Shi calls it Tokoyami and it lives within the pond with the eyeless white fish the woman calls Ginko. She even tries to leave Yoki in another village but the boy races by Nui’s side only to suffer a regrettable fate.

Finally able to go to a Mushi-Shi gathering place, Ginko finds out that he has been summoned by an old friend in need. Said friend is a young woman named Tanyo (the wonderful Yu Aoi) who has a special gift of writing stories down on parchment … with her mind. Ginko meets a man named Karo, who is attempting to catch a strange rainbow and seal it in his massive jug, who travels with him. When they arrive, Ginko finds that Tanyo’s Mushi infection is way too unusual and it can only mean Tokoyami might be involved. With what looks like ink threatening to consume her.

Locked in her library, Ginko comes across one scroll with very familiar content. Revealing more would spoil the story’s shocking ending but I will say that Ginko’s battle against the Tokoyami leaves the young Mushi Master nearly catatonic as Ginko must face his past and the repressed memory of his childhood.

Director Katsuhiro Otomo tells the story beautifully and he definitely knows how to tug at the heart strings in the most moving parts of the movie that leads to the ending. More importantly, he manages to get great performances out of Joe Odajiri and Yu Aoi. The visuals are grainy but it works beautifully to pull off the visual effects when the Mushi appear. Watching the movie with a crowd that never picked up a manga or know what anime is really enjoyed the movie as it stands. Those in the office who love the original source material loved it even more.

Mushi-Shi The Movie is a wonderfully moving and artistically brilliant version of a story that feels as epic as an old folkloric tale from Japan. Reinvented as a live-action feature, the movie tries to remain as close to the source material as well as the anime but does it in its own style that makes this movie a visceral and extraordinary experience. This is the movie Mushi-Shi fans will certainly love and one that non-anime viewers will fondly appreciate.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A
Ginko is a Mushi Master with a mysterious past who comes to the aid of a good friend who is in dire need of his services when she is struck by a horrifying affliction caused by a Mushi of great power. We also learn the story of an orphaned boy who comes to live with a female Mushi-Shi who might just be connected to Ginko.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
The grainy visual style of the film is intentional and, surprisingly enough, it works. Meanwhile, the visual effects look amazing in some parts and simply Ok in others. You just have to love the backdrops and cinematography in the film.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The original score by Kuniaki Haishima is absolutely breathtaking to say the least and the sound effects are just as effective as the visual effects in this film.

EXTRAS: C+
The Mushi-Shi Premieres footage is short but it’s good to see the warm reception the Director and the movie’s cast received in Italy during the Venice International Film Festival. There are a few deleted and extended scenes, including an ending I felt was a tad better than the ending selected for the movie. The disc also includes the movie’s original trailer as well as other FUNimation trailers.

OVERALL: A
True to the anime version, Mushi-Shi The Movie is a beautifully directed and wonderfully acted live-action movie that might not be as brilliant as the anime but still manages to convey the emotional power. Katsuhiro Otomo does recreate some of the best moments and does them well thanks to a stellar cast and a brilliant visual style. If you loved the manga or the anime, Mushi-Shi The Movie is a Must See.

Death Note: L, Change The World – DVD Review

DN L Change World

Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: VIZ Pictures
MSRP: $24.98 US
Running Time: 129 minutes
Genre: Mystery
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Release Date: Available Now

Those who change the world are often those who could end up destroying it.

Having been an admirer of Sherlock Holmes and even having had a fascination with Phillip Marlow, the one detective that truly stands out as a brilliantly original creation is none other than the master detective known as L. Those who know him well have most likely read the Death Note manga, seen the anime or even the two live-action movies based on the Kira case. L made a return on the big screen and now VIZ Pictures has released Death Note: L, Change the World on DVD.

The live-action movie once again has the always fantastic Kenichi Matsuyama reprising his role as the brilliant detective L as Change the World picks up after the events of the second Death Note movie, The Last Name. Having written his own name on Light Yamagami’s Death Note, L has sealed his own fate in a final sacrifice to finally beat Light at his own game. The result is that L has 23 days left before he dies “a peaceful death from heart failure.”

Change the World chronicles the famous sleuth’s final days as L spends his remaining days of life cracking as many high profile cases as possible before he dies. Having lost Watari, his father-figure and assistant thanks to Misa Amane’s Shinigami, L has cut all ties with the Kira case by ridding the world of the Death Note. If you were wondering what happened to the notebooks after the finale of Death Note then Change the World gives you the answer.

In Taiwan, however, a plague has been unleashed on a small village and its inhabitants. As a group of men in Hazmat suits comb the village, a man known only as F makes a run for it with a strange little boy who seems unaffected by the virus. It’s clear that F is infected and before he makes the ultimate sacrifice, the man tells him to memorize a sequence of numbers as well as the telephone number to the only people that can help the boy. The telephone number, it turns out, belongs to Wammy House and the numeric sequence is really a message meant for its founder … Watari.

Of course, with Watari gone, the message is passed on to L and in an instant he finds himself in charge of a little boy that hardly shows much emotion. Seeing L babysitting a kid is by far one of the highlights of the movie, especially since his technique to win the child over is by offering him a kabob made entirely of cakes and sweets. “This is my first babysitting experience,” L says dryly.

In the Infectious Disease Center of Asia, a little girl named Maki (wonderfully acted by “Kamikzi Girls” own Mayuko Fukuda) is living with her scientist father and his loyal assistant, Doctor Kimiko Kujo (played by the talented Youki Kudoh of “Memoirs of a Geisha” fame). As the two scientists work on finding out the origins of the virus that resulted in the destruction of the village in Taiwan, a radical environmental group storms the facility demanding the virus. Maki not only witnesses the death of her own father who made a move to destroy the only viable antidote for the mutating virus but the young girl also witnesses the true ringleader of the group step forward.

Her only hope is find Watari and, instead, finds L who accepts the job to aid the girl when the environmental group comes looking for the girl. It seems that Maki might just hold the key to the antidote for the virus that is a cross between the Ebola and flu virus and L decides to make a run for it with both kids who are linked to the virus. With the aid of an FBI agent named Hideaki Suruga (played by comedic legend Kiyotaka Nanbara), L and the children attempt to locate the only scientist who can makes sense of the biologically created virus and come up with an antidote.

Meanwhile, the leader of the environmentalist group reveals its plan to unleash the virus on the United States to start a pandemic so huge that it will bring their plan to save the planet from pesky humans to fruition in such a manner that nothing will be left. As L manages to locate the scientist, Maki goes caught by the group and this leads to a final showdown aboard an airliner as L finally shows us that he doesn’t just solve cases in front of a computer. In fact, he uncharacteristically takes drastic measure to stop the plane from taking off in one of the most exciting climaxes.

Change the World, if anything, shows us another side of L we didn’t get to see during the Kira case. It also offers us a small peek of the Los Angeles BB murder case from the novel, “Death Note: Another Note, The Los Angeles BB Murder Case.” We also get to see L run, which is a rarity and I don’t know about you but seeing L make an escape in a cute pink “Angelcrepe” van is just so laugh-out-loud hilarious. He even goes on a picnic with the two kids as he explains to Maki why he eats only sweets.

Surprisingly, the lack of a supernatural twist doesn’t distract us from the fact that L is a very interesting characters that makes even a case like this one actually fun to watch. In fact, I’d even go so far as saying that he alone makes all the cast of characters from shows like NCIS or even Monk seem so transparent. If there’s one character that’s screaming to become the star of their own series it’s L so seeing him again in Change the World is a treat. As far as the movie is concerned, there’s some solid acting and Hideo Nakata is able to make the movie flow steadily until its reasonable finale.

Death Note: L, Change the World is a thoroughly entertaining movie that fans of Death Note will certainly enjoy but not as much as the two Kira case movies. That said, the highlight here is clearly the character L who continues to not only be brilliantly fascinating but also amusing enough that watching him crack cases that aren’t even supernatural in nature is still something of a blast. Death Note fans should not miss out of another opportunity to see L at work.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B
With only 23 days left thanks to the Death Note, L spends his final days taking on the very case that lead to the death of a fellow detective from the Wammy House that Watari built. With a strange boy by his side and a little girl who might have the key to stopping a mutating virus that a bio-terrorist group wants to unleash on the world, it is L who sets out to save the world.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
VIZ Pictures once again tops itself with a perfect Anamorphic Widescreen presentation. Still, you can’t help be think how good these live-action Death Note movies would look on Blu-ray.

AUDIO QUALITY: A-
The English voice dub is handled well and even more so with Alessandro Juliani reprising his vocal role as L and Brian Drummond doing double duty as Ryuk and FBI Agent Suruga. It’s a good option to have but this is definitely a movie to watch in Japanese.

EXTRAS: B+
There’s a Behind the Scenes featurette with interviews with Kenichi Matsutama and Director Hideo Nakata plus there’s the Event Bonus Footage. The loads of trailers are fine additions but the best special features also happens to be the audio commentary track and bilingual options with Alessandro Juliani. There’s an insert included that comes with a Death Note crossword puzzle.

OVERALL: B
While it strays from the supernatural cat-and-mouse game that was the first two Death Note movies, L’s final case makes Change the World all the more enticing and actually fun to watch if you’re a fan of Ohba and Obata’s most interesting detective. It’s not a bad story but not as amazing as the Kira case.

Honey and Clover DVD Review

Live-Action Honey and Clover DVD

As a live-action film, this one is just as sweet as honey.

Review by: Sophie Stevens
Publisher: Viz Pictures
MSRP: $24.98
Running Time: 116 minutes
Genre: Romance
Rating: Not Rated
Release Date: Available Now

“Oi,” I tell fellow staff member and fellow reviewer Clive Owen. “You going to bogart the movie version of ‘Honey and Clover’ all to yourself?”

Since he read the first volume of the Honey and Clover manga, our co-worker has embraced his inner shojo-fan and is the one who is anticipating the second volume of the manga as well as the anime Viz Media announced will be arriving on shores soon. When he heard about the live-action movie version of said manga, though, his face lit up like a Christmas tree. Much like fellow reviewer Faith McAdams, I didn’t blame him one bit.

You see, Honey and Clover is one of those movies that is faithful to the source material in question so the main characters feel much like the characters created by Chica Umino. Yet, like the “live-action” version of Death Note, the story is condensed to fit the movie’s running time. Still, much of what we experience in the film is not only great for fans of the manga but also those who aren’t manga readers at all as well.

The movie centers it’s attention on architecture student Takemoto who lives in a student housing apartment with other art students. It is through Takemoto that we meet Takumi Mayama who is literally stalking an older woman he is in love with despite the fact that a younger and cuter girl named Ayumi Yamada (Megumi Seki) is stalking him. Then there’s the mad genius that is Morita (played perfectly by Yusuke Iseya) who is on the verge of being discovered. Then there’s Hagu (wonderfully brought to life by Hula Girls actress Yu Aoi), a strange young gifted artist living with her uncle, Professor Hanamoto.

While Morita’s wood carving art catches the eyes of two art dealers, he becomes the talk of the school and the art community. The problem is that it also catches the attention of Hagu and this doesn’t sit well with Takemoto who instantly falls in love with Hagu the moment he is introduced to her by Hanamoto. “I witnessed somebody fall in love today,” Mayama thinks aloud and it’s a sight that both intrigues him and makes him reflect on his affection for the older woman he works for as an intern assistant.

One of the best moments in the movie come from Mayama who often comically imagines the interrogation he would receive if the authorities ever found out he was stalking the object of his affection. Yamada, who is in love with Mayama, follows Mayama so the stalker is being stalked himself. In one of the most endearing moments in the movie, Yamada encourages Mayama to tell the older woman how he feels even though it hurts Yamada so deeply. Do these two end up together at the end? I won’t tell but don’t expect things to come out the way other romantic comedies end up.

Fans of the manga will recognize a few moments taken from the pages of Chica Umino’s work including a road trip that ends with the group of students crashing in a hotel where Mayama makes a drawing using nothing but soy sauce. Hagu’s fascination with Morita is also a part of the manga and it plays a big role in the movie. Does she love this wacky genius or is she merely just an artist recognizing another artist’s work? Unlike the manga, Hagu is just an abstract painter and in one scene both her and Morita paint together in one scene that has Takemoto wondering if these two were meant to be together instead.

Just like the manga, you will find it very hard not to like all the characters and even more so thanks to the stellar acting from the impressive cast as well as the wonderful directing by Masahiro Takata. For me, J-pop star Sho Sakurai as Takemoto almost steals the movie. His interpretation of the character is not only likeable but also downright endearing that you won’t help but find yourself rooting for Takemoto all the way. I also loved Ryo Kase whose performance is akin to seeing Mayama spring from the pages of the manga and come to life right before your eyes.

The film version of Honey and Clover is one of those beautiful rarities that do justice to the comic, and aside from that, is a cleverly original love story that makes our Hollywood romantic comedy claptrap seem worthless in comparison. That’s right, I said it. This is what a romantic comedy should be like and believe me (and Clive) when I say that you will love every minute of this wonderfully directed and acted film.

 

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A
A beautiful interpretation of a wonderful shojo manga, the Honey and Clover movie is funny, sweet and wonderfully filmed. The acting is top notch, especially Yu Aoi as Hagu.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
The video quality is absolutely the best in Anamorphic Widescreen and the movie comes out crisp and clear.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The sound quality is awesome with a good sound system or without one. This is good news seeing as the score is brought to you by none other than the amazing Yoko Kanno (Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex).

EXTRAS: D
There are a few trailers from other Viz Picture movies and Director and Cast info. The only movie related extra is a feature called Hanamoto Study Group where the film’s cast turns the interview camera on themselves. Trust me, it offers no real insight.

OVERALL: A
Honey and Clover is one of those wonderfully original treats from Japan that lightly touches the good things about the source material. Fans of the manga will recognize a few scenes from the manga itself and it’s a blast to see the characters come to life. In short, if you’re a fan of the manga you will be a fan of the movie.