Category Archives: Events

Review | Ryoma! The Prince of Tennis – Decide

Ryoma! The Prince of Tennis <Decide> will premiere in the U.S. tomorrow, May 12th, in theatres as part of the first-ever AX Cinema Nights, a collaboration between Anime Expo, Eleven Arts, and Iconic events.

It’s important to note that there are two versions of the film, Decide and Glory; this review will cover Decide; there is no release date set for “Glory” as of the release of this review.

Debuting as the first CG film in the series, it serves as a bridge between the original manga series’ timeline and its sequel, which saw Ryoma leaving Japan for America for the US Open and then appearing at the All-Japan Junior Training Camp in Japan.

The film follows Ryoma Echizen, inspired by his tennis champion father Nanjirō Echizen, is determined to take his game to the next level and train in the US. But in the middle of an intense tennis battle to save his classmate Sakuno from “dangerous” villains, they somehow find themselves transported to the past, just as Ryoma’s father is about to face his final championship match at the US Open – when he was mysteriously forced to retire. Takeshi Konomi, The Prince of Tennis creator, oversaw the film’s production and wrote some of the music and lyrics for the featured songs.

Yes, this film has a few sporadic musical numbers (perhaps inspired from Musical: The Prince of Tennis) combined with its CG animation style making it feel like a Disney film or an episode of Miraculous Ladybug. Still, as sporadic musical numbers go, they are entertaining to watch. This film also makes for a great kid-friendly film and is perfect for introducing your kids to anime and The Prince of Tennis series. Although the film pays homage to the series’ comedic genre, it exaggerates, making the featured slap-stick comedy dull to older audiences. Like the original series, there is still tennis action on the court, mainly focusing on using tennis as a form of distraction; the real tennis action comes towards the end of the film with Nanjirō Echizen facing off an American character.

Throughout the film, there are major plot holes; for example, there is no explanation for the time travel nor an explanation as to why a particular character is seen in a wheelchair at the beginning but is completely fine throughout the film. These are only a few questions that seem to be unanswered; however, as mentioned above, this is only one version of the film; therefore, it’s safe to assume that any plot holes or questions may be answered in “Glory.” 

Overall, the film lives up to The Prince of Tennis legacy; it’s a unique take on The Prince of Tennis series and its characters and a concrete bridge between the US Open and U-17 Training camp gap. It’s a fun-packed, family-friendly film that will capture both old and new fans.

Experience the newest addition to The Prince of Tennis series and purchase your tickets HERE.

BELLE | Should You Watch It?

Mamoru Hosoda at Animation Is Film Festival 2021

Known for his emotionally touching and visually captivating films, such as Wolf Children, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and Summer Wars, award-winning film director Mamoru Hosoda is back with his ninth film, BELLE.

Now playing in theaters, Belle is a modern adaptation of Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s Beauty and the Beast and could be considered a spiritual sequel to Hosoda’s 2009 film, Summer Wars, as it also deals with a virtual world.

Synopsis

The film starts with Suzu Naito (Voiced by Kylie McNeill), a shy 17-year old high school student living with her father (Voiced by Ben Lepley). She lives haunted by the memory of her mother’s death at a young age. Since then, Suzu has been living in her shadow, having almost no close connections and no self confidence. At least, until one day, with the help of her one close friend Hiroka Betsuyaku (Voiced by Jessica DiCicco), she discovers the online virtual world of ‘U‘ where over 5 billion users log on daily. When Suzu logs in for the first time, U automatically creates a beautiful, freckled, pink-haired avatar based on her biometrics, and she nicknames herself “Bell” (鈴 = Suzu is Japanese for Bell).

Suzu logging into U for the first time. Bimetic readers in her ear.

Enjoying her newfound life in anonymity; Suzu, using her voice and overcoming her trauma, develops Bell into a world-famous singer among U. Rapidly gaining popularity, Suzu holds events and concerts as Bell in U, and fans come to dub her as ‘Belle‘ (French for “Beautiful”) However, during one of Belle’s online concerts, she is interrupted by an avatar named only as “The Dragon” (Voiced by Paul Castro Jr).

“The Dragon” avater appears for the first time, during BELLE’s concert.

Intrigued, Suzu & Hiro embark on a journey to discover the person behind The Dragon. Along the way, Suzu realizes the real power of being anonymous online and the many reasons why people like her escape to U from their own lives. 

What type of story is BELLE?

The film seems to be confused about what type of story it wants to tell; whether it is an action-adventure story, as Suzu begins to discover the virtual world of U as Bell, or a romantic story, as the plot depicts the ‘forbidden’ nature in the relationship between Bell and The Dragon and Suzu’s determination to help The Dragon. One thing is for sure, the film is a musical feature. Unlike a Disney film, where characters spontaneously spring into a musical number often without warning, the film does a great job in coordinating the music with the imagery that’s on screen.

“Lend Me Your Voice”

The film touches on several sensitive topics and themes, such as overcoming personal trauma. The film successfully portrays one’s desire to escape real situations for a glamorous, anonymous lifestyle; a secret, secondary life where real-life issues are nonexistent. Additionally, many viewers find themselves connected to the main character as the film dives into the psychological impact of dealing with a personal loss and its effects on a person’s daily life. 

The Music

The music in this film is captivating and leaves the viewers in astonishment, undoubtedly worthy of a 14-minute standing ovation. Kaho Nakumora (Suzu/Belle in Japanese) and Kylie McNeill’s vocal performances are phenomenal and are presented with a profusion of emotional appeal. Kylie’s vocals perfectly embody Kaho’s performance as BELLE and, with Ludvig Forssell’s creative songwriting skills alongside Mamoru Hosoda and actress Kaho Nakumora, make exquisite lyrics. 

BELLE sings “Gale of Songs” as she enters U for the first time.

“Should I Watch it?”

Though the film may contain some unnecessary subplots, it makes up for its visual presentation and musical and vocal performances. The film portrays Suzu with relatable qualities that speak to the viewer, whether you have experienced personal loss or not. If the above mentioned is not convincing enough to watch BELLE in theaters, consider that this film was worthy of a 14-minute standing ovation during the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.

Perhaps cast members, Kylie Mcneill and Paul Castro Jr can convince you through our exclusive interviews. Watch as Kylie & Paul share behind the scene stories and their experiences working on BELLE.

Interview With Kylie McNeill

Interview With Paul Castro Jr

We also included a brief Interview with Mamoru Hosoda we conducted during the 2021 Animation Is Film Festival in Hollywood, CA.

Patrick Imbert’s ‘The Summit of The Gods’ premieres at Animation is Film Festival 2021

The newest adaptation of Jiro Taniguchi’s manga, The summit of Gods had a special screening at the Animation is Film Festival 2021 in Hollywood on October 22nd. initially announced in 2015, the film went through different creative hands before it made its way to award-winning, French animator, Patrick Imbert in 2020.

The Summit of the Gods revolves around two hikers, Makoto Fukamachi, a young Japanese reporter, and a mysterious mountain climber named Habu Joji. Fukamachi believes, Habu is in possession of George Mallory’s camera.

George Mallory is a mountain climber who, along with Andrew Irvine, attempted to climb Mount Everest in 1924 and were never seen again. The camera might reveal if Mallory and his companion really were the first to climb Everest. 27 years later, Fukamachi and Habu find themselves, cooperating to climb to the peak of Mount Everest.

Imbert is known for his work in Ernest et Célestine, April and the Extraordinary World, and his award-winning film, The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales.

Patrick Imbert at Animation is Film Festival 2021

Using 2D animation and produced by Folivari and Mélusine Productions, Patrick Imbert’s The Summit of The Gods has been praised for his realistic animation of the iconic Mount Everest.

The film is based on the manga of the same, written and illustrated by Jiro Taniguchi, itself is an adaptation of Baku Yumemakura’s 1998 novel of the same name. Yumemakura’s work has had various adaptations, including a live-action version, starring Junichi Okada, which was released on March 12, 2016. The live-action version was directed by Hideyuki Hirayama (known for, School Ghost Stories).

During the Animation is Film Festival 2021, we had the opportunity to speak with film director Patrick Imbert:

Netflix will air the film in theaters in the United States starting on November 24, 2021, and will start streaming the film on November 30, 2021.

Mamoru Hosoda’s BELLE At Animation Is Film Fest 2021

For the first time, outside Japan, Mamoru Hosoda’s newest film BELLE had a chance to capture western audiences’ hearts during the Animation is Film Festival 2021 in Hollywood!

In 1999, Mamoru Hosoda began his journey with Dejimon Adobenchā (Digimon Adventure) as his first anime directorial debut; since then, Hosoda has developed this craft and quickly became one of Japan’s most predominant figures in Japanese animation. In 2011, Hosoda founded his own animation studio, Studio Chizu.

Photo by AIF | John Salangsang

Hosoda developed his own unique and highly influential animation style, which can be seen and felt throughout his work. His works are heartfelt, beautifully animated films and convey a sympathetic aesthetic element, often relatable. In 2019, his adventure fantasy comedy film, MIRAI, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film. His most recent film, BELLE, premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, receiving a 14-minute standing ovation.

Mamoru Hosoda at Animation is Film Festival 2021 in Hollywood, CA

In BELLE, Hosoda visually transforms the internet, as the popular virtual world known as ‘U’. In a plot where characters face personal turmoil, isolation, a sense of belongingness, and the need to pretend to be someone else, Hosoda effectively exploits the ability to remain anonymous online and how anonymity can have its benefits and disadvantages on its users.

We had the opportunity to briefly speak with Hosoda during the Animation is Film Festival 2021 regarding his newest work and his thoughts on MIRAI’s Oscar nomination:

*The video below may contain SPOILERS* After the screening, Hosoda addressed the audience members and answered fan questions:

The film pays homage to Beauty and The Beast (specifically Disney’s version) and is composed of tantalizing visual animation with extraordinary, captivating music tracks. In addition, Hosoda mentioned working with veteran Disney animator Jin Kim as Belle’s lead character designer earlier this year. (Below are some of Kim’s BELLE concept Sketches).

One of many scenes in which the ‘ Beauty and The Beast‘ elements can be seen
Jin Kim (김상진)

Kim has worked for Disney since 1995 and is credited in over 30 Disney titles including, Zootpia, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, and his most recent work Raya and the Last Dragon. Adding to Kim’s involvement, Studio Chizu also teamed up with Irish animation studio Cartoon Salon to produce the background art for the popular virtual world, ‘U’.

Get ready to dive into the beautiful world of U and watch BELLE this spring! Gkids is set to release BELLE in theaters on January 14th, 2022. For more information, visit GKids.com.

Anime Expo Lite announces “Discover Little Tokyo” Event

Anime Expo Lite 2021 ticketholders will have the opportunity to partake in a special promotion event being offered by a dozens retailers and restaurants in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles!

Little Tokyo’s famous Yagura or Tower

Beginning Friday, June 25 thru Sunday, July 11, 2021, Anime Expo Lite Ticketholders are invited to discover the historic Little Tokyo district and visit each of the participating establishments listed below to receive a custom designed Anime Expo coaster.

There are 6 different full color coasters available to collect, each may be assembled to create the above artwork designed by, Collateral Damage Studios commemorating Anime Expo’s partnership this year with Hate Is A Virus.

The list of participating establishments are as follows:

Although held virtually the past two years, Anime Expo Lite 2021 marks the 30th Anniversary of the long-running annual convention. Anime Expo Lite begins on July 3-4, 2021 from 12pm – 8pm (PST).

Tickets for Anime Expo Lite 2021 are just $5 (+ processing fees) with all proceeds to benefit the Hate Is a Virus commUNITY Action Fund. Purchase your tickets here and take a trip to Los Angeles to ‘Discover Little Tokyo’ and get exclusive access to Anime Expo Lite (Live stream).

Nihon Falcom Celebrates its 40th Anniversary with A free virtual concert from Falcom jdk BAND

Nihon Falcom announced their celebration plans earlier this week. For the last 40 years, Nihon Falcom has become a prominent video game developing company within the industry alongside Square Enix.

Falcom is most notably known for the Ys, The Legend of Heroes, and Trails series. Its current company president, Toshihiro Kondo, will be making a special message during its special 40th Anniversary celebration event on June 24th.

The special event will also feature a special virtual concert from the Falcom jdk band, for all Falcom fans for free, featuring tracks spanning four decades of Nihon Falcom’s game history.

NISA (NIS America) Online Store and NGPX have team up to announce brand new merchandise going live on June 24th after the event, warping up the celebration. According to NISA Online Store, one of these ‘brand new’ merchandise will be made in limited supply.

Tune in and catch it all:
Thursday, June 24, 2021 at 10:00 PM PT (June 25 at 7:00 AM CET)
Streamed live at the New Game+ Expo Twitch and YouTube channels

Bushiroad x Little Tokyo: Eat At Little Tokyo D4DJ Event!

Bushiroad and popular Japanese anime shop, Anime Jungle have teamed in order to help support small business in the Little Tokyo district in Los Angeles, California.

Bushiroad known for its popular card game, Cardfight!! Vanguard and the music media franchise BanG Dream! They have teamed up with local businesses in the Little Tokyo area to, not only promote their latest project D4DJ -(Dig Delight Direct Drive DJ) but to also help out businesses that are suffering during the COVID19 pandemic.

D4DJ -(Dig Delight Direct Drive DJ) is a new music media franchise created by Bushiroad. It features the creative talents of Japanese novelist and scriptwriter,, Kō Nakamura (Crying 100 Times, Tori Girl) and Takaaki Kidani as the executive producer. The franchise will focus on DJing and remixing different music genre with electronic dance music.

Much like BanG! Dream, It consists of a rhythm game D4DJ Groovy Mix, music CDs, an anime series and an upcoming manga series. An English version of the rhythm game is currently in development and set to be release in 2021. Bushiroad announced worldwide streaming of the anime series via Funimation, Crunchyroll, and Sentai Filmworks, with plans for a Blu-ray release by Funimation in the future. You can watch episode 1 via D4DJ’s official YouTube channel here.

The event will offer customers the chance to get D4DJ novelty items for every $10 spent at participating stores and restaurants white supplies last. Participating stores are listed on Anime Jungle’s official event page.

D4DJ Novelties Include, D4DJ promo poster and D4DJ band sticker (Each participating store/restaurant will carry different stickers of different D4DJ and BanG! Dream bands).

In addition, customers also will receive a chance to win a CD album prizes by uploading the receipt from your store visit(s) in Little Tokyo during this event! Receipt must be within 10/23 – 11/8/2020 and can be uploaded here.

Album Prizes:

D4DJ 1st Album – 「Direct Drive!」& Poppin’Party 2nd Album: Breakthrough!」

*There will be 1 Winner per Album.*

Please note only one receipt per entry. Duplicate receipts will not be accepted. Participants may enter as many times as they wish as long as they submit a different receipt. For more information on the terms and conditions, visit the official event website here. Please follow all COVID19 prevention guidelines, each store will have a customer limit.

MIKU EXPO 2020 USA IS NO LONGER POSTPONED, ITS OFFICIALLY CANCELLED

Crypton Future Media has just announced the official CANCELLATION of Hatsune Miku’s North American Tour, MIKU EXPO 2020 USA & Canada. Earlier this year, CFM announced its postponement due to the COVID19 pandemic, however they reconsidered and have decided to cancel the tour all together.

They posted the following message on their official Facebook page

According to their Facebook post, CFM is currently redirecting their efforts towards new ways of engaging with Hatsune Miku fans across the world, and hope to be able to announce their upcoming plans with fans soon.

As stated above, contact your ticket vendor for refund details. CFM are still working on refunds, therefore, refund option may not be readily available, we suggest you continue to check your ticket vendor account, as this status may change.

Japan LA and Little Tokyo Shops DESTROYED by Los Angeles Rioters

People took to the streets of Los Angeles on Saturday, May 31st for what began as a peaceful protest for the death of George Floyd, who died Monday after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by Minneapolis Police Department officer, Derek Chauvin.

The protest later became violent as rioters took over the peaceful protest and, began attacking Los Angeles Police Department squad cars and setting them on fire. The protest turned riot, later made its way to affluent areas of Los Angeles including Rodeo Drive, Little Tokyo, Melrose Ave, and The Grove outdoor shopping mall.

Local businesses and shops around those areas were looted and/or set on fire during the riot prompting a mandatory curfew on the city Los Angeles and heavy police activity.

Caught by ABC 7 Action News, shows rioters breaking into well-known anime gift shop JapanLA on Melrose ave.

 

Dozens of looters entered the premises taking whatever they could find. According to a post by JapanLA:

“They [police] finally cleared them out and arrested some of the looters. We are all crushed and deeply saddened. Thank you for all the texts. We all left at 4:30pm and our staff is home safe. I’ll send more updates soon!” They released a security camera photo that shows two suspects looting the store.

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In the past, we’ve covered a few events in this and their new Little Tokyo location.

A few shops and a pharmacy were broken into and looted in the early morning hours of May 30th, in the Little Tokyo district.


According to the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center,

“Businesses in Little Tokyo were looted last night. This was not done by protesters but by people who decided to take advantage of the grief and angst of others for their personal gain.

Brian Kito of the Little Tokyo Public Safety Association expressed concern over the close proximity of Little Tokyo to City Hall and LAPD headquarters stating,

“[It] would leave [Little Tokyo] vulnerable during civil unrest. During the L.A. riots in 1992, windows were smashed at Japanese Village Plaza, Weller Court, and what was then the New Otani Hotel on Los Angeles Street.”

Man Hunt On For Former LAPD Officer Suspected Of Shooting Police Officer
LAPD headquarters a block away from the Little Tokyo district

Gov. Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency for Los Angeles after approving Mayor Eric Garcetti’s request to deploy the National Guard. National Guard arrived at 12am on May 31st, 2020.

Los Angeles’ curfew will stay in place from 8 p.m. Saturday through 5 a.m. Sunday.

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Source: Rafu Shimpo, ABC7 Action News, Japanese American Cultural & Community Center

Interview with: MIKE POLLOCK

Voice actor Mike Pollock has been in Radio, eBooks, and commercials, but you might recognize him in animation. He’s the Narrator of Pokemon and the notorious Doctor Eggman in the Sonic The Hedgehog franchise. He’s also done numerous other characters in anime such, Meat from Ultimate Muscle, Deus Prometh in GKid’s Promare, and most recently, Yasui in Weathering with You. 

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Subscribe to our channel to updated on upcoming interviews, such as:

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This interview will be recorded live during Ronin Expo’s Otaku Market Gathering at the source OC. For event information Click here.

Interview with voice actress, Dorothy Fhan voice of  Naru Narusegawa in Love Hina, Meryl Stryfe in Trigun, Chihiro Fujisaki in Danganronpa and much more!

Furthermore, we’ll be interview a VERY special guest at the end of this month, her voice was featured in only two games, Jak II and Jak 3 as Tess!

Tess

We’re pleased to announce, former voice actress, Britton Arey will be on our upcoming interview list, if you have any questions for her, please submit them by commenting below or by contacting us using any of these platforms!