Tom Smith on one of Naruto’s most recognised bands
If you haven’t missed an episode of Naruto, then you’ll most definitely ‘GO!!!’ and ‘Re:member’ FLOW, the band behind the catchy and high-energy fourth and eighth opening themes. Well, now everyone’s got a little older, wiser and stronger as the story progresses through the Shippuden saga, the quintet have decided to return! Their 18th single ‘Sign’ is the sixth opening of the series, featuring in the episodes of box set 11 from Manga Entertainment, and it’s every bit as fun and bouncy as their prior Naruto-based efforts – hoorah!
FLOW’s success through Naruto, as well as from other anime such a Code Geass and Eureka Seven, lead to the eclectic rock band getting noticed across the world. In 2006 they were invited to perform at Anime Fest in Dallas, though, chiefly for Code Geass promotion than that of Naruto, which had only recently began airing in English on Toonami there. By the time the episodes with ‘GO!!!’ and ‘Re:member’ had hit America and the UK, FLOW already had a new album out with entirely new songs, and another ready to drop imminently. Keen to tap in on the group’s ever-expanding following overseas, their label in Japan, Ki/oon Records, decided to release their upcoming album, entitled MICROCASM simultaneously in 44 countries via iTunes (click here for the UK store’s listing).
MICROCASM not only includes ‘Sign’, from Naruto Shippuden, but also ‘CALLING’, the ending theme from HEROMAN, a series created by Marvel’s Stan Lee and produced by studio Bones, as well as 13 other tracks. It was also awarded Best J-Music Album at Japan Expo in Paris in 2011, and lead to the group being invited to the event the following year for their first European performance. Before that they had also returned to the States another three times to promote their music, the album and the anime they had been featured in.
As of the time of writing, Ki/oon decided against releasing FLOW’s follow up album BLACK&WHITE the same way. Released on February 2012, the album managed to peak at number 29 in the Oricon chart – 20 places lower than MICROCASM. Coincidentally, the record didn’t feature a single track from Naruto. Could that be the reason it wasn’t as successful? Were FLOW spending too much time concentrating on the global music market that it made their domestic sales suffer? Or has music consumption methods simply shifted in those two years, leading fans to purchase their music digitally now, as opposed to physically, which is where the data for the Oricon chart is gathered? Who knows for sure, but if you want to show the labels that the world outside of Japan has a place for Japanese music, the best way to do it is by supporting what little is released internationally, and in this case that would be MICROCASM, which is no bad thing, it’s a great album!
In two featured episodes, Tales of a Gutsy Ninja: Jiraiya Ninja Scrolls, go back in time to witness how the young Jiraiya meets his destiny at Mount Myoboku and trains to become the Toad Sage! Back in the present, Jiraiya successfully infiltrates the Hidden Rain Village and finds the hideout of the Akatsuki's Pain. But will he be as successful in discovering the secret behind the multiple Pains? Meanwhile, Sasuke heads for the Uchiha hideout, where his brother, Itachi, awaits. The amazing visual prowess of the Uchiha come into full play as the fateful battle begins!
Of the anime titles turned into T-shirts by Uniqlo, One Piece is the biggest – the reigning king of all the anime and manga franchises, pretty much unchallenged in the 16 years since Eiichiro Oda began the manga, and 14 since Toei Animation started animating it. But perhaps Uniqlo would have turned One Piece into a line of shirts even if the saga hadn’t been a world hit. Just look at those pirate designs – brash, cartoony, uncompromising. There’s no whiff of a committee, no hint of a five-year product plan reliant on changing a heroine’s hair colour (or deepening her cleavage). It just helps that the pictures are as commercial when they move as they are when they’re a cool static graphic in a manga, or on the front of a T-shirt.
“Ninja or pirates?” While Naruto – representing the ninja corner, of course – has proven hugely popular, UK fans have long been unable to weigh in on the other side. With the long-awaited arrival of One Piece on DVD this May, that finally changes.
Matt Kamen finds out who’s who in the One Piece anime
Monkey D. Luffy: The founder and captain of the Straw Hats, Luffy is a carefree soul who wants to become king of the pirates. After eating the Gum-Gum Devil Fruit, he gained an elastic body, making him near-invulnerable and able to stretch but paradoxically making him unable to swim.
One-hit wonders. Every country has them. And, as PSY can most likely attest, very few musicians really want to be labelled as one. Sure, it’s all fun, games and fancy dinners when that royalty cheque floats through the letter box. The one with all the zeroes from that single from yesteryear that went massive. But what about the rest of your work? It must be somewhat unsatisfying as an artist to be known for one track, while everything else remains relatively overlooked, and expectations are high for that difficult follow up single. If you’re TOMATO CUBE, you do nothing. Ever again.
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.
This year's Tokyo Film Festival also included a festival within a festival, an awesomely thorough programme of screenings and live appearances by the maker of Evangelion. It covered Anno’s career from his early amateur films to his live-action, to his work as an animator and anime director.
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.
At their production peak, Shaw Studios sanded down some of the historical elements in their epics, concentrating on acrobatics and heavier violence. This, in turn, made them more palatable or at least accessible to non-Chinese audiences, and inadvertently stoked the fires of the Kung Fu Boom.