Loose news round-up (plus random thoughts)

The recent Godzilla SP announcement proved to be the kick in the pants that I needed to get a new post together…however, WordPress had some other plans, changing up the interface something fierce, hence this being a bit delayed. At any rate, I’ll see if I can figure out the new layout enough to get a news recap post out, just to cover some of the most major highlights of the past few months, with a few opinions and a bit of conjecture sprinkled in.

For those who missed it, Godzilla: Singular Point will be an anime TV series debuting on Netflix next year. The first rumblings of it were October 6 when a newly-formed English-language Twitter account announced it as its third post , which was certainly met with healthy skepticism (especially since it self-described as “fake news” as a joke), but it actually panned out to be true, with an official announcement the following day.

At any rate, as the rare “anime person” in tokusatsu fandom, I’m obliged to provide two cents on the announcement. The obvious knee-jerk is to compare expectations to the anime movie trilogy, since that was also a Netflix joint, but there’s no overlap in staff between the productions, and this is television as opposed to feature films, so I can’t imagine they’ll be very comparable. I’m simultaneously more and less excited for this than I was for the trilogy (which I don’t hate, btw).

On the good front, Bones and Orange are two superb animation studios, as opposed to the bottom-of-the-barrel that one gets with Polygon Pictures. I’d advise those anxious about the use of CGI after getting burned by the movie trilogy to look into Orange’s work on Land of the Lustrous or Beastars; they do some of the best work out there with the medium. While I’m not a particular fan of Blue Exorcist, my gripes with that stem more from cliché plot points rather than the character designs, so having Kazue Kato on character designs seems like it may turn out well… there are an assortment of characters seen already, but I’m curious to know how they’ll look in animation. The folks we’ve seen in the preview image sure look pale!

Toh Enjoe isn’t as hot a commodity as Gen Urobuchi, but he’s been around the block a bit as a science fiction writer. I confess that all I’ve really encountered firsthand is Empire of Corpses (which I adore) and his couple of episodes of Space Dandy, but I’ve heard good things about Self-Reference Engine and his Ghost in the Shell short story. I get the impression that he’s a fairly literary type, so I’ve got to wonder if the people expecting this to be more smash-em-up than the previous anime will get what they want.

Atsushi Takahashi is a relatively unknown quantity as a director; he did the Blue Exorcist movie and one of the Doraemon flicks (which I never checked out), the TV series Rideback (on which I have no particular strong feelings), and individual episodes of several generally good titles like Monster, Space Dandy, and Abenobashi. Maybe he’ll really shine with this, though. A lot is being made from Takahashi being an assistant director on Spirited Away, as well as kaiju designer Eiji Yamamori’s background at Studio Ghibli, but I don’t expect much based on that, since Ghibli has a reputation of demanding that everyone do exactly as Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata say without a lot of room for staff to put in their own creative touches. I also never got into Yowamushi Pedal, so it’s hard to know what to expect from composer Kan Sawada. Hopefully they all have a big break with this and do something unique, but we shall see.

As for the decision to go forward with a TV series, it makes sense, given the apocalyptic atmosphere for cinema in general during the pandemic, and Toho and Legendary’s contract forbidding work on new movies at the same time. The countless delays on Godzilla vs Kong will make it harder for Toho to keep their momentum going if they restrict themselves to features. There were also rumors that Legendary was interested in a Godzilla TV series for HBO Max, but much like Godzilla SP, I’ll wait until there’s an official announcement to give it much credence.

In other Godzilla stuff:

  • While the movie itself was delayed until May 21 (for now), the Making of Godzilla vs Kong is still on track for a November 17th release. Of course, there was a lot in Godzilla King of the Monsters that never made it into that Making of book, so perhaps the movie will still have a surprise or two in store. The tie-in comics, Godzilla Dominion and Kingdom Kong are hitting in March.
  • Along with the much-lauded Godzilla ziplining attraction at Nijigen no Mori on Awaji Island, there’s also a museum, shooting gallery, and theatrical short directed by Kazuhiro Nakagawa (Day of the Kaiju). I don’t know about the ziplining, but a new short and display seems like it’d make it worth the trip! (Not to mention the weird food items…)

Ultraman items:

  • Ultraman Z has been going generally well, considering the pandemic and the most unfortunate passing of head writer Kota Fukihara. I get the feeling that the true scope of the chaos behind the scenes won’t be known for a while, but certainly things like the teased Olympic themes, the early advertisements of lots of Ultraman Geed involvement, and the total lack of set-up surrounding Jugglus Jugglar give us a taste of it. A few aspects do still feel like regressions after how well Ultraman Taiga was executed last year, but the action and creative miniature work has proven top-notch.
  • Marvel’s Rise of Ultraman is turning into be quite a ride. While the first issue had segments for Kaiju Step and Ultra Q, the second issues did not, so I have to wonder how much side-story content of that type they have planned. The story is certainly decompressed, since we’re 40% of the way through the miniseries as Hayata and Ultrman are still in the process of merging, I’m thinking we’re probably going to round things out with a single giant monster fight across five issues. Still, it seems like a solid gateway for people new to the franchise, and the writers appear to have done their homework on parts of the lore like the Ultra language.
  • Ultra Galaxy Fight: The Absolute Conspiracy starts November 22 on YouTube, and if nothing else, the presence of a pre-corruption Belial sparks some interest. Needless to say, speculation of where this fits into the already-fraught Ultraman timeline is running wild, along with people wondering if this could be a reincarnation, clone, Zarab-seijin, etc.
  • In the ultimate reversal on the Chaiyo rights debacle, Tsuburaya productions has now not only been granted excusive rights to their own properties, but also to their co-productions Jumborg Ace & Giant and The 6 Ultra Brothers vs. The Monster Army. These two would certainly make for an interesting double-feature in some sort of box set, especially if it came with a full break-down of the legal battles and weird Chaiyo attempts like Ultraman Millennium as extra features.
  • The first teaser for SSSS.Dynazenon isn’t all that exciting by itself, but the prior series was so excellent that we can all have solid confidence that this spinoff should at least turn out decent.
  • Redman: The Kaiju Hunter might be over, but Phase 6 has teased another TsuPro project upcoming, namely Izenborg. Matt Frank and Hiroshi Kanatani appear to be involved, going off of their Facebook posts.

Other kaiju stuff:

  • While Kaiju Ward Gyarasu (or “Gallas” as it’s better known in fansub circles) fizzled out on Toei’s streaming service after a single episode last year, the Kaiju Ward concept was recently announced as continuing in manga format. It’s being redone as an anthology, with the first two chapters available now on the Toei Tokusatsu Fan Club. The first (the same as the tokusatsu) is Gyarasu, which was drawn by an artist known as Uzuki, while the second, Discargot (rhymes with “escargot” since it’s a snail monster) was done by Kaiju Retto Shojotai‘s Kotaro Yuki. It’s planned for five chapters, so hopefully the manga has a better fate than the live-action series did!
  • Nezura 1964 seems to be coming along. While The Great Buddha Arrival was certainly interesting, there are times when it felt a little “kitchen sink” in its approach; I’m hoping that the follow-up will be more focused. They have said that there will be a fair bit of CG involved here (no surprised given Hiroto Yokokawa’s background), but how it’ll all come together is still a bit mysterious.
  • Hot on the heels of our 15th anniversary of The Great Yokai War panel at Kaiju Con-line, Kadokawa announced a sequel, making our closing remarks immediately outdated. Nevertheless, it’s quite excellent that The Great Yokai War Guardians is happening. Takashi Miike is back in the director’s seat, with Yusuke Watanabe writing (his filmography is all over the place, from Robo Rock to Gantz to Gatchaman) and Hiroshi Aramata continuing in a producer role. Kokoro Terada (Damian from Tokusatsu Gagaga) is set to star, and it sounds like the yokai roster will be a bit international (perhaps playing on the original manga?)
  • Daisuke Sato and Keizo Murase are teaming up again, this time for Brush of the God. They’re collecting funding by Kickstarter now, and while they’re not offering a completed copy of the film as a reward, there is a digest version as an option. Howl from Beyond the Fog was really good, so I’m eager to see what they can achieve with a bigger budget.
  • Naoki Urasawa’s Asadora is getting a US release in January, part of what seems like a nice return for the artist who was ignored stateside during his Billy Bat years. Asadora is, as typical for Urasawa, a longform ongoing mystery drama, but in this case there’s some kaiju at the center of events.

Other heroes:

  • I completely missed everything leading up to Kamen Rider Saber, and now it’s an ongoing series. Haven’t really checked it out…uh…no comment, I guess.
  • Rafael Segnini’s Jaspion 3D fan trailer is complete, and getting some well-deserved attention. Also, look for a cameo from On the Rocks!
  • Seven Seas picked up the license for Superwomen in Love, coming out (no pun intended) next April. I’ve heard a lot of great things about this henshin-hero-yuri-romance, and it’s great to see them bringing more superhero content to English-speaking markets.

Video news:

  • Just in time for the franchise’s 25th anniversary, Gkids picked up North American home video rights to Evangelion. There was immediate speculation about what extras would be included, which is hard to guess since Gkids hasn’t really done much with TV series releases in the past. I would expect the dub to be the same as the version on Netflix, or at very least not the ADV dub, since only a handful of companies (i.e. Discotek) seem to go that far to preserve all the alternate versions, and Khara seems to dislike the original dub (hence Netflix getting the newer, and arguably worse, redub).
  • SRS got the rights to Howl from Beyond the Fog, which will definitely be the crowning achievement of their growing kaiju lineup for a while.
  • Media Blasters has been on a tear lately, with a ton of their classic titles getting reissued on Blu-ray. In addition to Zeiram 2 and Gappa, Zebraman and Devilman are up for preorder, and they’ve promised Hakaider. On the new movie front, they also teased Rise of the Machine Girls, which, considering that the original was one of their productions, seemed like an obvious get.
  • One of the staples of Media Blasters that they’re not issuing now is Versus, and that’s because Arrow is putting out a pretty deluxe edition of it. They also have Burst City on a recent Blu-ray release, so they’re hitting a lot of Japanese punk classics!
  • Discotek picked the rights to Symphogear G, so hopefully they can get through the whole five seasons. The first season has already started shipping!
  • Speaking of Discotek, they also have more Urusei Yatsura movies coming next summer, and Ninja Senshi Tobikage on the way.

A few western works as well:

  • A nice look at some of the creatures in the upcoming Monster Hunter movie:
  • Love and Monsters comes out next weekend, and appears to have some behemoth beastie action.

Miscellaneous:

  • Netflix is making a new Spriggan anime. I love their commitment to bringing back nostalgic titles like Devilman and Baki; at this point I wouldn’t be surprised by a new 3×3 Eyes or Ogre Slayer materialized.
  • Cinema Lab seems like a hot new label, having recruited the likes of Mamoru Oshii, Kazuya Konaka, One Cut of the Dead‘s Shinichiro Ueda, and Katsuyuki Motohiro (Ajin, Psycho-Pass). The label’s debut project, directed by Motohiro, is Beautiful Dreamer, which (at least seems to be) about a group of students making their own movie based on Oshii’s classic second Urusei Yatsura flick.

To leave things on a high note, here’s a bizarre little AIDroid music video that Koichi Sakamoto put together. It’s entirely likely that I missed something major, but as always, feel free to leave a comment if you notice a glaring omission. Take care!

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