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Monday, August 27, 2007

Naruto The Movie: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow Impression

Naruto The Movie; Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow is the first movie for Shonen Jump and Viz’s favorite orange clad hero. Unless you’ve been living under a rock you know dang well who Naruto is. The most obnoxious ninja form the Village Hidden in the Leaves and self-proclaimed next Hokage sees his first silver-screen adventure released in the states. Naruto fans and anime fans in general, know that by the time a series makes its way to the states it’s already 2-3 seasons ahead in Japen. So is the case with Naruto where they are up to three movies and an anime that sees a more mature Nine-Tail Demon Fox container in action.

 

Naruto The Movie: Ninja Clash in the Snow

 

The movie, like many based on long running anime series, is a side-story with grand animation and over the top action. Team seven consisting of Naruto, Sakura, Sasuke and Kakashi takes on an A- Rank mission to protect a popular movie star, Yukie Fujikaze, as her film crew travels to the land of snow to finish the filming on her latest movie where she stars as a fictional Princess Gale. Yukie has a hidden past, one revealed as the crew is attacked by three snow ninja donning chakra armor. Cartoon Network in their promo give away a lot of the story, revealing she’s the lands long lost princess and that Kakashi has some background as he was present 10 years ago during the coup that excelled the princess. Old enemies are confronted, wrongs are righted, but this is expected from the beginning of the movie.

 

Where Naruto The Movie truly shines is its animation. I watched this on my PS3 on an HD1080p TV and my god it was beautiful. The animation is so crisp and vibrant I found my love of Naruto as if for the first time. The humor and action found in the series is more than present in the movie, and Naruto is front and center as the star. The rest of team seven are in the background, this one is all about the will and drive of Naruto and how he changes others with his drive. Unlike the Dragon Ball Z movies that take place outside the anime’s storyline, this Naruto flick incorporates nicely with the ongoing series as we see flashbacks and powers that match-up with the original storyline, and since they’re on a mission, well, it’s all good. The characters and lands introduced could very well live on in the real series, if they do, well I can’t say that as I’m still experiencing it myself.

 

Naruto The Movie is a must have for all Naruto fans, both of the anime and manga. The ninja action America has come to love is here in a grand format to be enjoyed best, in my opinion, on an HD TV with your headband on and a cold beverage in one hand, popcorn in the other.

 

This is one A-Rank of a movie!

Halo Wars Gameplay Trailers

Yup, it's for real, Halo Wars gameplay, over 10 minutes split into two videos. This is hot, I cannot wait for the game.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Xenosaga: The Animation vol. 1 Impression

Xenosaga: The Animation is … well it’s the animated story played out in the PlayStation 2 Xenosaga games. Originally planned as a set of six games Xenosaga was trimmed back to three, and saw a major character overhaul from Episode I to Episode II. ADV Films release of the animated Xenosaga will please game fans as the story and characters seen in the game are there along with all the question marks about story and plot, questions that do get answered later in the games and will be in the series.

For those of you without the gaming background fear not, this is a sci-fi anime any newbie can pick up, pop in and enjoy. Xenosaga tells the story of Shion Uzuki, an engineer on the KOS-MOS project. It’s this project that lies at the heart the game and anime both. KOS-MOS is an android created to fight the Gnosis (more on them in a minute). She’s cold, unfeeling and pretty much a mechanical bitch except when it comes to Shion. Weird mother-daughter, creator-created relationship going on here, just part of the story. You’ve got a nice cast of support characters in Allen Ridgeley, also on KOS-MOS project, MOMO, a 100-Series Realian (think more advanced human/cyborgs) Margulies, the gruff military man and a salvage crew.

The story sees humanity 5,000 years in the future having abandoned Earth for the stars, utilizing the powers of a monolith called the Zohar. Harvesting this power was what leadto Earth being lost, but also granted the technology enjoyed by the remaining populace. The Zohar was sealed away on a planed called Militia, fought over by factions of humans, each with their own agenda. The mystery of the Zohar and fighting of humans is great fodder for anime, but an even more diabolical enemy awaits, the Gnosis. Hailing from an unknown dimension, seeking the Zohar, the Gnosis slaughter humans without feeling, fading in and out of reality, difficult to destroy. This brings us full circle to the creation of KOS-MOS to fight the Gnosis.

The story is complicated; hell it took three long games to tell. The animation is suitable, not going to movie quality, to be expected, but also not sinking to the levels of other game related anime tie-ins. The design is more reminiscent of the first Xenosaga game with the wider-eyed characters and more vibrant colors. The action hit’s hard and fast as the Gnosis attack, humans die and KOS-MOS tears some … she wreaks some Gnosis butt. Xenosaga is a must-have for fans of the game, and any anime sci-fi fan looking for a new hook, look no further. I’ll keep mum on the story I know about, and sit back to enjoy what I know will be a wild ride full of conspiracy, deception, and flat out action. Nice!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Interview with Richard A. Knaak

One of my all-time favorite authors thanks to his work with DragonLance and his own series DragonRealm, Richard A. Knaak is one of the men who ignited my love for fantasy and dragons. I’ve continued to follow his work in manga format with Warcraft: The Sunwell Trilogy and his adaptation of Ragnarok both form Tokyopop and am beginning to get into his novel work on both Warcraft and Diablo.

A few years ago at Comic-Con in New York I was lucky enough to be setup to speak with Richard. At the time I posted the interview on my old jobs website and did so again a year later after a redesign and both time sites went away, interview lost. So dang it I’m posting this on Anime Sentinel where it won’t get lost and where anyone can read it. The back and forth below may be a few years old, but feels like it was yesterday as so much still holds up very well. Check out what Mr. Knaak has to say and if you have a min pick up a copy of DragonRealm, it’s my personal fav series (hey Tokyopop, how about turning that into a manga ;)

As a fan of DragonRealm I was very excited about the Warcraft manga.

Knaak: There’s been a lot of crossover with the manga and my novels. People recognize my name from the DragonLance work and that’s why they pick up the manga, it’s very impressive that people are willing to go from one type of writing to another.

DragonLance and DragonRealm have been very good for me. I was living where the original company that published DragonLance, TSR, was located Lake Geneva Wisconsin. I was in the Chicago area so I drove up there with a writing sample, what became DragonRealm, literally walking in off the street and asked to speak to the book editor and he came out and he took the sample and said we would talk in a couple of week and we talked. He liked what I had written but they were only doing the DragonLance series, but would I be interested in some short stories and I said yes. I submitted four ideas based on what I had read and they bought three of them and after that asked if I would do the Legend of Huma because they liked the way I handled honorable characters like knights and such and that basically started is off. It was because of the Legend of Huma that I got involved with not only Blizzard, makers of Warcraft the game Chris Metzen grew up on Legend of Huma and DragonLance but also Jake Forbes senior editor at Tokyopop was one of the people who instigated the Warcraft manga also grew up on Legend of Huma. So basically as I told people at the panel I’m raising my own employers at this point. This worked out really well because between Tokyopop, whom I work with on Ragnarok, another series, and Blizzard whom I’m writing novels with for Simon and Schuster we all knew how each other worked and it made for a really easy blend together when it came to doing the manga.

You’ve done the Warcraft Manga and I’ve seen the Legend of Huma comic. Which format do you prefer, which visual.

Knaak: If I’m going to pick one for visual I’m going with the manga format because it’s longer for instance. You have more room in one volume where you can tell some story whereas a comic, I love comics, don’t get me wrong, but you’re going to need a lot more volumes to get the whole story done and they have to be chopped into pieces so you have an ending for the comic book. With a manga you can spread things a little bit longer when you have about 160-180 pages to work with so you can really give people a really story they can sink their teeth into or at least be able to introduce them to the situation in the first volume in a way they feel like they’ve gotten something out of it.

If you could have your pick of any anime/video game property and do original stories for, outside of your current work, what would you choose?

Knaak: In terms of manga, I wouldn’t mind something with the Gundam series. There are some other fantasy whose names escape me mainly because I cannot pronounce them properly, but I think Gundam would be my first choice as I’m somewhat familiar with it and I always like those sort of adventure. This way I can sink my teeth into it with a certain character (as a side story) and give the readers something they could really appreciate. There is so much to like about Gundam and it’s been around. With Warcraft, it has so much depth to it and in my own way I’ve been able to add to that depth now by working hand in hand with the Warcraft folks.

Have you ever sat down and played WoW or the Starcraft series?

Knaak: I have played some of the previous warcraft games. I’ve looked into WoW and the dangers of being drawn into it to a point where I don’t write. Unfortunately it’s either write the books or play the game. The way my deadlines are setup cannot spend the time with the game.

Have you ever played computer games or console games or online? Do you prefer PC over console?

Knaak: I’ve used computer games online, and it’s easy to switch from writing (on computer) to playing. I have some of the old Warcraft games on my computer and I can go fiddle around, play some Diablo too as I only have low level characters, no high level since I always have to get back to the work so I don’t remember things and I don’t get my skill level up so I getwiped out pretty easily. I’m a computer person in terms of game playing. I’m so amazed at what they’ve been able to put into a computer game now that they’re online; it’s just astonishing what’s there. It would be too much to go from a PC to a console and back again. When I’m on the computer it’s there for me and I like the games anyway.

How was it working with TSR, Questar (DragonRealm) and now Tokyopop. They are all publishers, but what are the difference between working with a manga publisher and novel publisher?

Knaak: There is something different about each one of those. With the manga is like writing a movie script. You have to describe what is going on, scenes and it’s mostly dialogue. You have to say this person looks like this and they are doing this and doing this whereas in novel this all cohesive. In manga it’s here’s page one, panel one, page one, and panel two and so on and so on. There’s a distinctive theme and the scenes are tied together. With chapters you go slower, more thought process from A to B to C and D. The images are in my head and the writing flows as the book flows. In manga I have to consider page space, how many panels can fit onto a page. What may sound great on one page in a novel may take 5-6 pages in a manga.

How is the experience working with the artist Jae-Hwan Kim?

Knaak: Jae is a Korean artist. I basicallyhave to work through Tokyopop, because Jae’s in Korea and he does not speak much English and I know I don’t speak much Korean. The one thing we both have in common is we are both Warcraft fans. I would discuss character design with both Blizzard and Tokyopop when I got something I thought was good, they would send it to Jae with translations of what I’ve said. He’s given some room because the artist will work better with some creative freedom. It’s a give and take. Once he comes up with something and sends it back Blizzard will review as do Tokyopop and myself. We make notes of corrections needed. Once the characters are pretty much set in then he starts working on the page work, and it might not be in sequence either. Depending on what he’s working on he may decide to send us chapter 3 before chapter 1 then we need to look and see if it needs corrections based on what I wrote and what Tokyopop and Blizzard think. Blizzard is really hands on sometimes even more so than myself and Tokyopop. They want to make sure it has that Blizzard look, even if it is a manga. Jae has done a great job of blending East and West, manga and Blizzard together. So it’s a process going through four points. Volume one turned out great, and I think Volume too is even greater and I say that mostly because I like the artwork.

What do you think about when somebody mentions video games to you? Do you feel they are just for kids?

Knaak: Video games are not just for kids, there are so many games designed for the adult level. You can take it to different extremes. You have the shoot-em-ups obviously depending on how graphic they are you shouldn’t have a kid playing then there are also video games where you learn to fly a plane you do some other skill work. There’s everything from learning video games to simple mindless fun. Like fantasy games get a bad rap from people who don’t understand them.We are a very visual creature, man. Video games are an extension of that. We constantly have to have our eyes and our minds caught up in something. Yes games are fun, and you need to pull away from them (don’t stay on game13:30). I think that it’s no worse than other forms of entertainment you just need to pull away from it. People didn’t’ like movies for that reason or TV or Radio even. It’s good to have a way to relax, even if it’s an energetic relaxing. The point is your getting rid of some of that stress, doing something that makes you feel good and (hopefully) not bothering anybody. I think video games get a bum wrap, they’re entertainment no worse than TV or movies.

Taking a look back at your novels, which one character did/do you enjoy writing the most?

Knaak: That’s like asking which of my children I love more. Actually these are my children, just they’re supporting me. (laughs) I’ll have to give you more than one. Obviously Huma from Legend of Huma. He’s a character that resonates with a lot of my readers and was a best seller for me. A lot of people tell me he started them out in reading with is very important to me. I don’t mind if they read something else I’m just happy to have gotten them started. Kaz the Minatour also from LOH because he was a character that really sprung off from the book.

Going into something of my own I would have to say Shade and Dark Horse from DragonRealm, they both, specifically Dark Horse as a character who looks like a stallion but is really a living black hole, he’s got the strong streak but at the same time is very loyal to his friends, willing to sacrifice himself if necessary. Shade has a formal ying/yang problem he can be either very good of very bad and the type of struggles he has with it along with the struggles with other characters. I always enjoy characters with troubles and having to overcome them.

There are many characters I enjoy. For a really off the wall character the gargoyle Frost Wing from the book called Frost Wing. He is malevolent and yet he has reasons he does things. He may be bad but he’s also not as bad as other things you may run into. He’s an interesting character.

If you could be any video game character, which would it be?

Knaak: Besides the one watching super hero girls play volleyball? (laughing). That’s a tough one. I really could not tell you since there are so many in the world that I myself enjoy. I would not mind being one of the characters in Warcraft because I really love the epic feel of that world. There’s a character name Kraxis that I’ve created for the Warcraft novels, he’s a dragon in human form. He’s shown up in day of the dragon and the whole Warcraft trilogy and now agents of Kraxis are now showing up in WoW. So technically if the agents are there the character must be coming along so if he’s in there somewhere, he’s a character I would not mind being.

At about this point in our conversation it just got way too loud to keep talking. Guess that’s what you get for sitting in the middle of a food court. Meeting Richard was a great joy for me, and I’m pleased to be able to share this interview with you as it’s been lost to the nether regions of the internet wherever I’ve posted it otherwise. Check out more directly from Richard A. Knaak at http://www.sff.net/people/knaak/Welcome.html.

King of Hell vol. 16 Impression

Ah, the transition manga. After every epic battle the stories heroes need a few pages to catch their breath before the next journey begins. King of Hell vol. 16 picks up where 15 left off as Majeh does battle with the escaped fiend Moon Ju. Killed to unleash his hidden power Majeh mops up with Moon Ju. We’ve seen this a few times in the series but what we’ve not seen is Cerebrus transformation to a more human demon form to take out Moon Ju’s annoying little lady friend. So bad guys defeated, heroes win and a few new story points get introduced. First up is what exactly is Cerebrus, how can he unleash his full power in the human world when there is supposed to be restrictions on demon powers in the real world? The King of Hell mentions Cerberus is an exception … why? Next up, the rest period. Majeh, Chung, Dohwa and Young return to the Moorim Headquarters to recoup where their next journey is requested of them. They are asked to find the Insane Hounds who are lost in the Gobi Desert. They were supposed to be looking for bad guys, no dice, they get lost. Around this time we get the second round of foreshadowing as we’re introduced, kind of, to a mysterious group of silhouetted baddies plotting against Majeh. Add in a little Crazy Dog, not quite killed a few issues back, a Crazy Dog with the mind of a child, strength of a devil who looks to Majeh as an older brother and the story just drools with the action and comedy potential fans have come to expect.

I hate waiting for a manga for months just to have the action be short and sweet, you know the transition manga. I love me some King of Hell. I am mistaken for calling it a manga when it’s really a manwha, Korean for manga. The story Ra In-Soo is weaving is great, andas stated before really reminds me of Dragon Ball Z minus the battles that last a wee bit too long. Jea-Hwan Kim’s art is always superb, a delight to the eyes mixing dramatic battles and hero stances with some of the funniest looking situations I’ve seen drawn, it’s just funny my friends.

Bleach, Hunter x Hunter and King of Hell. Just a few manga series that are top notch. Great action, great story and superb art are the standard. Check them out, and yeah don’t mind the transition volume from time to time. It’s not as bad as the recap episode anime love to run.

Kingdom Hearts II vol. 1 Impression

Kingdom Hearts II vol. 1 manga from Tokyopop is, guess what, an adaptation of the video game. Shiro Amano both pens and pencils this adaptation as we are introduced to Roxas living in a small town with his friends doing what friends do, hanging out. Roxas is haunted by dreams of Sora and is eventually confronted by Axel and Namine first met in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. The story in volume 1 gets you to the point of Sora awakening, but not quite there. All the little things from the game, from doing odd jobs to earn money to losing that money to the encounter with the Nobody’s outside the mansion.

Amano’s art is neat. He does great justice to the Disney characters, not really seen in this volume but check out the others, and makes the reader feel like they’ve reentered the game, and here lies the issue. If, like me, you love these games you will love this manga. I’ve played all three Kingdom Hearts games and know the story. If you pick up the first manga you can get into the story of Sora, but it’s not going to hold the same meaning as the gamers this series was created for.

Hey, Kingdom Hearts rocked as a video game, and as a manga it holds the same magic gamers experienced. If you’re a KH fan, a true fan, you must get this manga and the ones before it. If you’re not a die-hard fan, or have a passing interest in Disney or the art of Shiro Amano then I’d pick up vol. 1 of the first manga, give it a spin and see if you want to continue. I enjoy it and hope you will also.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Beck vol. 1 DVD Impression

A strange thing happened on my way to watch the latest big robot anime, I got hooked on Beck. Who would have thunk it, not I. When I first got my hands on beck, plain black DVD case with lead Koyuki on the cover holding guitar I thought what is this, an anime about a band, that can’t be good. Well color me stupid, Beck from FUNimation plains rocks, pun intended.
Koyuki is your typical lost high school student. Not great at sports, worse with the ladies. His ho-hum life consist of a lot of … well walking around gloomy. During this moping Koyuki happens upon the worlds strangest looking dog, think of Frankenstein’s dog, getting picked on by kids. The dog as thanks for Koyuki chasing off the kids, bites him on the hand. The dog is Beck as his owner Ryusuke tells Koyuki while thanking him and tossing him some tissues for his busted up hand. Nice chance encounter followed up the next day by a visit and bowling invitation from his childhood friend Izumi. See Izumi just happens to be a star swimmer and one of the best looking most popular girls in school. After bowling Izumi, Koyuki and a few friends head to a local bar, where sitting in a corner, getting slapped by a just dumped girl is Ryusuke. Tissues are returned and the chance encounters keep on going. Fight happens outside club, Koyuki gets involved, Ryusuke steps in and boom … like that new friendships are made.
This is the cliff notes versions of the first episode of Beck. Turns out Ryusuke is part of a band, leaves that band, and starts to form his own band while competing with his former band mates for members and the series rolls on. Koyuki discovers a love for music introduced to him by Ryusuke and Izumi, shares his first performance with Maho, Ryusuke’s younger sister and his mentor/teacher Saito. We get to see Chiba recruited (vocals) to the band, a few more targets for the band and some great music.
As I stated before I never thought an anime about a band would hook me, but the characters in Beck didthe deed. Koyuki is nothing special and very easy to identify with. He works hard and has trouble learning guitar, his not great looking or popular and faces issues many kids could identify with. Ryusuke is the rebel with tons of talent, cool guy and all the surrounding characters, down to Beck are great complements for each other with no one overshadowing the other. The story and experiences feel fresh and reminds me of my days hopping form YMCA to YMCA for battle of the bands. The music is nice, but not thrown into the viewers face too much, just enough to leave you wanting more.
All in all I would have to say Beck is a series any anime fan, man or woman of a mature age (lots of cussing) needs to pick up. This is not your typical anime, and now I’ve got to check out the manga. I like giving my opinion of anime and manga, let you know my thoughts to formulate your own, but this one time I’m pushing this on viewers, check it out. Fresh story, fresh formula, a fresh anime any Otaku would be proud to have in their collection. Beck rocks.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Claymore vol. 8 & 9 Impression

First a little overview of Claymore …

Hated by humans, despised by the Yoma they hunt, the life of a Claymore is ruthless, brutal and lonely usually ending in death in battle or by the blade of a Claymore sword if they become ‘awakened.’ The manga Claymore from Viz follows the sword-wielding Clare, the lowest ranked warrior, number 47, as she hunt Yoma and discovers her own unique abilities. Claymore’s, named for the large swords they wield, are always women, usually those who have suffered the loss of family and/or friends at the hands of the Yoma who consume the flesh of the beast to gain the power to battle the beast they consume. With power comes price as using too much of this power will cause a Claymore to ‘awaken’ and become a full fledged grade-A gut eating monster. Clare is unique as she ate the flesh of a Claymore to gain her power and while she gets her butt kicked and does some kicking, begins to show unique abilities.

Story and art for Claymore is by Norihiro Yagi, an artist I don’t know much about, but would like to learn. The character designs in Claymore are unique, unlike anything I’ve read before as the characters are much more realistic looking than most manga. There is no comedy here, just straight up action and serious drama as the world Yagi creates is not a happy one, it’s as dark as the monsters that inhabit it. The story reflects this gloom as Yoma feed on humans who live in fear of not only their hunters but the Claymore’s who protect them. The silver eyed witches do their business with no emotion or thanks. Sounds dark … it is but also very enjoyable and refreshing. Characters tie, get maimed and lose, but somehow live to fight again. Yagi has weaved a story which leaves the reader expecting doom just to be delivered with enough light.

I’ve recently read both volume 8 and 9 of Claymore. The story is really picking up as now I’ve learned much more about Clare and the organization she serves just to be thrown into an impending war with the Yoma.

Claymore vol. 8 picks up with Clare battling the recently awakened Ophelia. Using her borrowed arm the victory is won. As promised Clare now moves to find Raki in the surrounding villages where they were separated. She suppresses her power to stay hidden from Claymore’s set with brining her back to the organization … oh yeah, she’s now considered rogue and to be put to death, happened a few issues back. During here search she happens upon a group of Claymore’s dispatched to destroy an awakened one, a hunt that goes wrong as the Claymore’s are being captured by one of the three legendary No. 1 awakened ones who’s making Claymore’s awaken to build an army of her own to compete with the other two legendary three who are amassing armies of awakened ones. Battle ensue, more Claymore’s show up and we go right into …

Claymore vol. 9. The battle rages with the Creature of the Abyss, Clare is pulls back a fellow Claymore who’s awakened in body but not mind and having lost interest the Creature of the Abyss spares it’s victims so that they might become more powerful, more ripe. Clare gains a new traveling companion, No. 9 Jean. She’s sworn to pay her dept to Clare for saving her. Long story short, the organization gives them a chance to redeem themselves, be cleared of all charges if they will dispatch to the north to fight gathering Yoma and awakened ones along with 20+ other Claymore’s.

The battle with Ophelia kinda got boring to me, like watching a cat play with a mouse. She could have ended Clare’s life so many times I found myself getting ticked in the same manner any James Bond fan would get when instead of shooting Bonds they put him in a contraption that he just escapes from. The story really picks up, and wrangled me back in with the confrontation with the Creature of the Abyss and the impending war with organized Awakened Ones. I said before top notch, unique, art, a different story and an upcoming war with monsters and super-powered humans called Claymore’s … it’s enough to get any manga fan excited. I highly recommend Claymore, and would have no problem saying to begin your story with volume 6 or 7 as you can catch up on the story fairly quickly. The action starts to get hot in volume 9, can’t wait till 8.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Naruto Video Games, New & Upcoming

Anime and manga licensed games are a staple of the Japanese video gaming diet. When a manga becomes a hit it usually spawns an anime which triggers the inevitable game launch. I know, I’ve imported titles from Gundam to Evangelion and of course Dragon Ball Z. When an anime title actually reached the US shores I was first in line to buy it, no matter how crappy (Final Bout anyone?). Over the past few years with the success of franchises such as Dragon Ball Z US gamers are now getting a fair share of anime based gaming titles. The king for the past 4-5 years has been Dragon Ball with its Budokai titles, but now there’s a new king in town. An obnoxious ninja in orange named Naruto.

Unlike the days of gamings past there is no lack of anime on any console, Naruto being the rule with titles out on coming to every console type from DS to Xbox 360. The console war is more expensive leaving many gamers with only one console. This makes the buying process easier, but what about those with more than one system, what ever shall you do with all the Naruto games coming? Read, that’s what. I love Naruto and gaming. I’ve played every current title for the next Hokage and been privy to play or see upcoming titles. Here’s what we’ve got on tap as Naruto and anime fans, good times.

First up are the Nintendo games published by D3 Publisher …

Out Now, Naruto: Ninja Council, Naruto: Ninja Council 2 on the GameBoy Advance, Naruto: Ninja Council 3 on DS and Naruto: Clash of Ninja, and Naruto: Clash of Ninja 2 on GameCube. The GBA titles are basic side-scrolling fare with Ninja Council 3 expanding the roster and adding in touch-screen features. Ninja Council 3 is by far the best of the portable titles from D3 and well worth the purchase. The two GameCube titles are standard licensed fighting game fare, and worth the purchase if you don’t have a Wii.

Upcoming, Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution on Wii and Naruto: Path of the Ninja on DS. As I stated above, if you have a Wii wait for Revolution, don’t pick up the previous two Clash of Ninja (unless you already have them like me). You’ll still be treated to the same gaming goodness of the GameCube games but with an expanded roster and Wii-riffic features. Path of the Ninja is a compilation piecing together various Japanese handheld games into one package. Not sure what it will offer, but its role-playing fare with turn-based battles, jury still out.

Next, the reigning champ, Namco Bandai …

Out Now, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2 and Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles on PS2. Both Ultimate Ninja titles are great mixing in animation worth of the anime but giving proper homage to the manga with tons of special moves, great character roster and just loads of fun in a fighting game format. Both titles are grade A in my book. Uzumaki Chronicles … well that’s another story. While not a horrible game all the fun of Ultimate Ninja is lost as you’re tasked with a more advernture-ish game, reliving the Naruto intro story. Still great fun for fans of the series, just not for anyone else.

Upcoming, Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2 on PS2 and Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes on PSP. Since I just touched on its predecessor, Uzumaki Chronicles 2 takes all the good found in the original and begins to clean it up with the prerequisite expanded story and character roster. If you want a Naruto game on console that’s not just fighting this is the PS2 game for you. Ultimate Ninja Heroes I’ve not seen or played, but it’s an original PSP title (yeah, sure) that really resembles Ultimate Ninja. Gameplay changes about but you’re getting Ultimate Ninja on the go, which is a great thing. In much the way the Shin Budokai was a great port of Budokai Tenkaichi, Ultimate Ninja Heroes should mirror this for Ultimate Ninja.

Finally the new kid, Ubisoft …

Upcoming, Naruto: Rise of a Ninja on Xbox 360. By now you’ve been able to tell that various publishers have the Naruto license based on system, and it’s lucky Ubisoft who’s developed the Xbox 360 title Rise of a Ninja. Take the fighting concepts of Ultimate Ninja, mix in Uzumaki Chronicles and a dash of Path of a Ninja and you’ll start to get an idea of what Ubisoft is going to unleash. I’ve seen Rise of a Ninja in action and it looks spectacular with graphics to match the anime. The speed and stealth of a ninja is relayed through speed lines and effects ripped straight from the manga. The characters and would gamers interact with is also more robust than any title before it with next-gen everything … graphics, voice acting, gameplay … everything. Gamers will live the story of Naruto (again), interact in the most realistic Leaf Village and see Naruto’s story from yet another angle.

And the winner is … Namco Bandai for the existing titles. The PS2 still has a great user base, and Namco Bandai’s entries in the series still feel fresh as the US has not yet hit the Shippuuden (older Naruto) storyline. D3 brings some strong titles to the GameCube, but it’s GameCube, a dying breed. For the next round of games I’d have to give the early nod to Ubisoft. The game I’ve seen and played so far is hot. D3’s Wii entry is a solid game, but it’s an upgraded, expanded GameCube title while Namco Bandai is hitting with a sequel to a so-so gameand a portable port (where’s the PS3 love, lets do it!)

The future of Naruto fans on any console is very bright as there is a little something for each gamer from fighting to RPG to adventure. The system you own will determine your course here, but if you’ve got all the systems in the world check out Ultimate Ninja 2 first then wait for Rise of a Ninja. It’s a good time to be an anime fan playing games … now if we can get Dynasty Warriors Naruto or DBZ or Evangelion … yeah that would be sweet.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Hunter x Hunter, volume 16 Impressions

I’ve got to say, where volume 15 was very much a transition, training volume, 16 is all about driving the story, so here’s the one SPOILER warning you’ll get. Gon and Killua continue collecting cards in the Greed Island video game and as they become more successful (50+ cards collected) they’re contacted by other teams of collectors to ban together, share info and figure out how to win the game as two other team are already at the 90+ card mark of the 100 needed to win. Team names and details aside, this new partnership leads to Gon and his companions finding out how to obtain a very rare, never collected card. This is where the volume gets really good because it leads to a sweet game of dodgeball that continues into volume 17.

Dodgeball? Ok James, you’ve lost us, what’s up? What’s up is to gain a very rare card Gon and his team must defeat Razor (bad guy leader in game) and his 14 devils out of town by beating them in various athletic events such as boxing, sumo, soccer juggling and yes dodgeball. It’s during these confrontations that Gon and Killua realize they are not just in a game, but a game that is real life, on a real, isolated island where virtual death is real death. This makes the games much more interesting as a hit in this dodgeball game can and will kill.

I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on volume 17, and not just to see how the game turns out, but rather how the story progresses as Razor knows Ging, Gon’s father, was expecting Gon to show up and gives a brief glimpse at why Greed Island was created, to train Gon (neat!). There’s also the teaming up of Gon and Killua with Hisoka (sans makeup when they find him, butt naked). As always the art delivered by Yoshihiro Togashi is superb, story is both fun and engaging worth every penny of purchase.

If you’re a fan of Hunter x Hunter, volume 16 continues the fun that made you such a fan. If you’re new to the series don’t check in with volume 16, try out volume 1, get up to speed, you won’t be disappointed.

Monday, August 13, 2007

D.Gray-Man, volume 6 Impressions

First, some background -- Katsura Hoshino, love the art, love the style, design and flow of the work found in D.Gray-Man. The story, not so sure what to say. I find this series from Viz perplexing. The story follows Allen Walker, a 15-year old exorcist in a fictional 19th century England. Allen’s job is to utilize his Innocence to battle and destroy akuma, evil demon weapons also seeking Innocence for the Millenium Earl.

Thats about the most basic, back of the book description I can give for D.Gray-Man, a series that captivates and confuses me all at the same time. This is a good thing. The history in the D.Gray-Man series is explained as needed in each volume, with towns, the Earl, Innocence, The Great Flood all explained as they tie to Allen’s current job. Not much different here from most manga, but what can and has caused me confusion is the action, the pace, the little story details not quite explained that could make the action all the more enjoyable. Why does Allen’s arm, where his Innocence is found react in certain ways, what’s the deal with his eye, his partners? I’d love to have an addendum, an appendix that explains each in more detail.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not down on this series at all, in fact it’s one of my faves going back to the detailed arty of Hoshino. I’ve reread volumes to get a better grasp on the story, which helps, but it’s the art, oh the details, the gorgeous character design, the montsterous akuma, the sadistic looking Earl … this keeps bringing me back for more. Ok, enough about my confusion and my love, onto volume 6.

Second, talking about vol. 6 – Anytime I talk about a series for the first time or first tiem in a long time I’ll give what you see above, a little background and impression on the series, but here’s the meat, no matter how short, of what I think about a particular volume.

Volume 6 of D.Gray-Man picks up where 5 left off, with Allen and his team boarding a ship. The reason for this journey is not touched on as volume 6 is all action as hundreds of akuma attack a fellow exorcist, Suman Dark, one who’s apparently betrayed the order and is to be put to death, his Innocence collected. While I don’t mind pointing out spoilers, I’m avoiding that this time as mixed with all the action there is some pretty heady revelations found in this volume of D.Gray-Man. The story is becoming clearer, characters and settings more defined. With a series like Hunter x Hunter which I’ve talked about, the path seems very clear, but no so with D.Gray-Man and I find this discovery of story very satifying, and would love to have others readers experience the same. Learn about Suman, why he’s attacked, why he’s to be killed and how the Earl’s lackeys tie into the story, and how Allen dies … did I say that?

If youre looking for a heady manga with great art that requies a wee-bit of deciphering story-wise, pick up a volume, any volume of D.Gray Man and read. Maybe it’s just me, but being challenged by a story, to think, to really decipher what’s going on is great.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Hunter x Hunter, volume 15 Impressions

Hunter x Hunter (don’t pronounce the X), created by YuYu Hakusho creator, Yoshihiro Togashi, follows the young Hunter Gon as he searches for his father. While the premise sounds simple, and been-there-done that it’s anything but. In fact this has to be one of my favorite ongoing manga series. Gon reminds this reader of Goku in his younger days as seen in Dragon Ball, a boy filled with power and potential lacking in the knowledge of his great lineage. Unlike Yuske in Hakusho, Gon is a sweet kid with a good heart, one that befriends him with Killua (tortured assassin kid, think Vegeta, just not as jaded) and he as a disposition only a country bumpkin from the grand plains of the ‘ol U S of A could appreciate (or come close to duplicating). I’ve been reading Hunter Hunter since volume 1 and it just keeps getting better with volume 15 being no exception (16 is on tap for this weekend.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

In vol. 15, Gon and Killua are still playing the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Greed Island game, looking for clues to Gon’s father’s whereabouts (he helped create the game btw). Biscuit, a Hunter of 53, but looking like 10, has seen the potential in these two young Hunters (yes two, SPOILER, Killua gets his license by passing the test in a few pages as opposed to the volumes it took for Gon to get his). This little spoiler in fact is why I really did this series. They’re getting stronger, thanks to Biscuit’s training as well as their own determination. I’ve not enjoy training this much since King Kai’s place in DBZ. Back to the manga at hand, volume 15 of Hunter Hunter continues the boys training, shows just how much stronger they are getting, the development of their special moves, advancement in the game Greed Island and the continuation of storylines involving the in-game Bomber and Phantom Troupe.

To me volume 15 is a bridge. It’s not creating any new storylines, or throwing out great revelations, but what it does OH SO WELL is set the stage for coming volumes where they boys training will be put to the test, old and new enemies confronted and fun will be had by readers everywhere. I absolutely love Togashi’s arty style as its simple when needed, playful yet relays a serious situation with mood an attitude some manga styles can’t pull off. Gon’s potential is frightening, but the fact he and Killua aren’t even near other hunters levels really opens up the future and gets readers excited for what’s to come. There is also a nice little treat where we see Togashi’s version of Naruto, you’ll see.

It’s up to volume 16 now, which I’ll chat about later, but you need to get on board now. Hunter Hunter is a rare Shonen manga that takes a bunch of cliché’s but spins them with characters you’ll truly come to like and love. I highly recommend Hunter Hunter to any anime/manga fan who fancies themselves into action and fun.