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!
Launched in 1984 in the pages of Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump, Akira Toriyama’s original Dragon Ball was a very different beast to the one western viewers would eventually meet. introduced the boisterous Son Goku, an adventurous and unusally strong boy with no social graces whatsoever. Raised in seclusion by his adoptive grandfather, he doesn’t even that know what girls are – making for some prime gag moments when he meets treasure hunter Bulma. Soon teaming up, the pair track down seven rare ‘Dragon Balls’ – powerful items that can summon the wish-granting dragon Shenron. These early stories were very loosely based on Chinese fables but Toriyama gave them a fresh twist, his distinctive art style and perfect balance of comedy and action making the series a hit.
Son Goku. Goku was originally cast as a naive but powerful young boy who was spurred onto the path of adventure following the death of his grandfather. By the time Dragon Ball Z rolls around, Goku’s a full-grown adult, the victor of several martial arts tournaments and a married man. He’s only slightly less naive though, and his strict wife Chichi frequently has to rein in his less socially acceptable habits and wilder impulses. The first arc of the series marks Goku learning of his alien origins for the first time – before meeting other Saiyans, he thought he was just another average monkey-tailed boy!
The next instalment in our character guide for Dragon Ball Z
Yamcha. One of Goku’s oldest friends – even if they did first meet as enemies! A reformed desert bandit and an ex-boyfriend of Bulma, Yamcha is one of the strongest human fighters in the world. Having regularly entered World Martial Arts Tournaments and fought against a multitude of foes, he’s earned his place as one of the core Z-Fighters. However, he was overpowered and killed by one of Nappa’s drones in the Saiyan invasion of Earth. Luckily, death is rarely the end in the world of Dragon Ball, and Yamcha’s path continues as he trains under King Kai in the afterlife, preparing for a return to the living world to help his friends against the threats they’ll face on the distant planet Namek.
The fifth instalment in our character guide for Dragon Ball Z
Cell. The deadliest enemy the Z Warriors have ever had to face – themselves! Cell is a hyper-advanced android from the future, created using the DNA of the present day heroes and possessing all their skills and abilities thanks to genetic memory. Goku’s Kamehameha? Cell can use it and counter it. Tien’s Solar Flare? Just one of Cell’s basic attacks. Piccolo’s regeneration? That serves to make Cell even more difficult to defeat. Already an incredibly powerful figure, Cell has travelled back in time to physically absorb more fighters and add their powers to his own repertoire. His goal? To achieve his Perfect Form and become the mightiest figure in the Universe – and he won’t let anything or anyone stand in his way.
Jasper Sharp reviews a book-length collection on the “God of Manga”
Tezuka’s Manga Life is a scholarly and much-needed attempt to sort out the wheat from the chaff of the Tezuka myth, with its 22 contributors spread over 300+ pages attempting to put the vast output of the prodigious manga artist into context.
Tom Smith on the band behind Bleach’s 14th Opening Theme
"The song is based on the singer’s own experiences of forming a band and the hardships endured while keeping the faith for a brighter future, with lyrics just vague enough that they could easily represent the struggles of Ichigo and pals, too."
Is the One Piece movie a subtle dig at Studio Ghibli...?
"In the period just after Hosoda left Howl, it must have been devastatingly disappointing, to a man in an industry where artistic achievement counts for more than pay cheques. And so the story has risen: that Omatsuri is Hosoda’s venting of his demons, that Luffy’s howls of despair are Hosoda’s own."
With the animated versions of Saya’s vampire-slaying adventures now into its third incarnation in both TV and feature versions, most recently featured in the release of Blood C: The Last Dark, one feels compelled to ponder in some depth the abject failure of the 2009 live-action version one of Sony’s few key 21st century animated franchises.
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.
Stephen Turnbull asks what (if anything) went wrong with the 47 Ronin?
When T. H. White’s great Arthurian fantasy The Once and Future King was first published the New York Times described it as “a glorious dream of the Middle Ages as they never were but as they should have been.” A very similar comment would not be inappropriate to describe the strange world of old Japan conjured up in the movie 47 Ronin.