It appears that the team behind Strike Witches, a franchise which features ladies flying about in their panties, have a soft spot for much more than just knickers. They also like Yoko Ishida, the singer from the first series’ opening song. They like her so much that despite the hoo-ha of switching animation studios, moving from Gonzo to AIC for the second series, they decided bring her back to record the new opening; ‘STRIKE WITCHES 2 ~Egao no Mahou~’ (‘Magic Smile’).
Yoko Ishida spirited her way into anime at the age of 19. She entered 1992’s Anime Song Singer Contest and won, landing herself a record deal with Columbia records. Her debut song ‘Otome no Policy’ was released a year later and used as the theme to Sailor Moon R. It soon became a karaoke classic for magical-girl fans across Japan, with the single selling over 300,000 copies.
The song, her only tie-in with anime at up until this point, left an impression with entertainment giant Geneon. Seven years after the track’s release, Yoko’s contract with Columbia had expired and Geneon was there waiting to snap her up. They had a plan, a plan to establish her as one of the hottest names in anime – and they succeeded.
Straight off the bat Geneon had Yoko Ishida singing the opening them to the cutesy Little Snow Fairy Sugar, followed by Ai Yori Aoshi, Petite Princess Yucie, Gunparade March and This Ugly Yet Beautiful World – the latter two anime receiving a UK release.
She didn’t stop there! Having built a steady amount of followers with a penchant for animation, Geneon’s next move was to release an anime cover album featuring the vocalist – and not just any cover album, a para para style one! Featuring distinctive takes on classic Gundam, Chobits and many other anime theme tunes, the album proved so popular that it spawned a further two volumes, bumping up Yoko’s cover catalogue to includes the likes of Cowboy Bebop, Gurren Lagann and Evangelion.
Yoko’s popularity began to spill overseas too, and once a chunk of her prior releases were made available in America, it wasn’t long until she was jetting off from Japan and touring the States, as well as Europe, South America and east Asia.
What awaited upon her return to Japan? Why, a whole new season of anime to record the themes for! Ah! My Goddess, Shakugan no Shana and of course, Strike Witches series one and two (If you really want to impress your friends with Strike Witch knowledge, series’ director Kazuhiro Takamura also wrote all the lyrics to the show’s opening themes). More recently (as in, the last few months!), Yoko finished recorded the new opening for the Strike Witches movie, which she’s currently promoting in Japan through a number of themed live performances in its honour. UK based anime fans can only sit and ponder how long it will be until she ventures to these parts with such promotions.
After discovering that the Neuroi are capable of communication with humans and making peace with the nest above Gallia, the Witches squads are on a mission to reestablish communication, when a sudden attack causes the Neuroi to vanish. The Witches discover a new and massive nest that just appeared, covering almost all Europe. Ruthlessly and without mercy it annihilates allied forces along with Witches. Word of the attack reaches Fuso and a support battalion is deployed to rescue the survivors. Among the rescue team is the former Striker captain Mio Sakamoto and the now civilian Yoshika Miyafuji, who want to save their dear friends.
Turning Point offers invaluable peeps at Miyazaki’s mind at work, including the way he grows his imagery out of lyrical ideas. “I am experiencing old age for the first time in my life,” he comments at one point, managing to be both wise and dotty at the same time.
Andrew Osmond investigates the long love affair between samurai and cowboys
28th February sees the classic Hollywood Western go East. Yuresarazaru Mono has the English title Unforgiven; it remakes the celebrated 1992 Western of that name, which was directed by its star Clint Eastwood and won the Best Picture Oscar.
A Versus feature with a difference: Last Exile against Last Exile!
With the first part of Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing now available in the U.K., we can finally compare it with its predecessor, Gonzo’s 10th and 20th anniversary specials pitted against each other. What do they tell us about the industry then and now?
Andrew Osmond on the history of man-machine interfaces
RoboCop is thrown into interesting perspective by looking at his anime cousins. In Japan, RoboCop is one of a crowd. Two of anime’s greatest poster icons – Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell and Tetsuo in Akira – are or become cyborgs. Moreover, a man-turned-robot was an anime hero back in 1963. We’re talking about 8th Man, shown in America as Tobor the Eighth Man. It’s a policeman who, yes, gets murdered by a crime gang, then resurrected in a robot body.
Pacific Rim opened a new gateway to ’bot sagas for youngsters, and for oldsters too. They’ll see del Toro’s film, learn how much he was inspired by Japanese cartoons, and then check out the originals. If they choose Eureka Seven Ao, they’ll find elements also seen in Pacific Rim, embedded in a very different show.
Andrew Osmond tries to make sense of Sunrise's mad new anime
As regular subscribers to Manga Entertainment’s podcast and twitter feed will know, there was some confusion about whether Sunrise’s new comedy-fantasy-action-fanservice series was called (deep breath) Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere or Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere. We’re calling it the former in the UK, although releases elsewhere have plumped for the “in” option. Either way, it sounds less weird and Escheresque once you know that Horizon is the name of a pivotal female character in the series. But it reflects the inescapable fact that Horizon is, well, confusing.
Andrew Osmond on Japan's chances at this year's Academy Awards
There are two anime among this year’s Oscar nominees: Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, competing for Best Animated Feature, and Shuhei Morita’s Possessions, vying for Best Animated Short. To date, there has been only one Japanese winner in each category. Miyazaki’s Spirited Away was the winning feature in 2002; Kunio Kato’s La Maison en Petits Cubes won Best Animated Short Film in 2008. What are the new films’ chances?
BFI announce a festival of Miyazaki, Takahata, et al...
The BFI South Bank cinema in London will be screening a Studio Ghibli season throughout April and May. Curator Justin Johnson will be giving an introduction to Ghibli on the 2nd April, followed by screenings of all the major Ghibli works and a number of relative obscurities
More than one way to skin a catbus, in our 24th podcast
Jeremy Graves is joined by Jerome Mazandarani, Andrew Hewson and Jonathan Clements, for a series of rants and ill-informed commentary about anime, manga, the storm over the Hugo Awards, and your most awkward convention moment.