Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody

Welcome, all, again.  I apologize for the lateness of this post, but my next two might also be a bit off-schedule as I’ll be attending first a training class next week and a convention the week following.  I’ll nonetheless try to be a little more punctual than this time, which was affected by my being sick–I’m better now, thanks.  Of course, that I’m better now just might be Ichiro Suzuki’s line as he finds himself transported from his programming job straight into a fantasy realm of dragons, magic, and many, many distressed damsels (demi-humans included).  Because that’s what Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody actually is, another in a recent spate of harem shows cloaked in the guise of fantasy/adventure and driven by reincarnation/relocation.   But practice makes perfect, I suppose, as several of these shows have proven not just watchable, but genuinely entertaining: KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful WorldIn Another World With My Smartphone; and, according to some, even Re:Zero − Starting Life in Another World.  (Sorry, but I just was not a fan of that last one.)

Now who’s in distress?

Our buddy Ichiro is working hard on the programming that drives the gaming industry, and has recently been focused upon two upcoming games in particular.  He puts in long hours, helps his coworkers and colleagues with their assignments, and generally displays a devotion that would probably see him fit in pretty well at Eagle Jump if he weren’t a guy.  (Hi, Hifumi, Aoba!)  He eventually collapses from exhaustion–unless you’re in management, in which case he’s merely taking an unauthorized nap for which he’ll probably be disciplined–and comes to in a landscape completely foreign to him.  Especially the angry lizardmen trying to kill him–those are very foreign to him!  Luckily, he (and only he) can see what look like game stats and commands, so he wipes out his attackers with a meteorite shower, an act that suddenly boosts him by about 300 or so levels.  That boost, in turn, allows him to easily gain skills/abilities and gives him an immense fortune, about all he seems to need to get a good start in his new world.  Oh, and he rescues his first damsel, a military mage who was being slapped around by a wyvern.  Ichiro, who decides to rename himself Satou Pendragon, does a little quick wyvern-slapping and midair girl-grabbing and decides to spend a bit of time exploring this new world.

Now, if I sound a little light-hearted about this, that’s actually a good thing.  I think that’s what has helped these recent shows be so enjoyable, that they have generally taken a tongue-in-cheek approach to their subject.  Ichiro knows that all this is patently ridiculous and is pretty much convinced that he’s dreaming (at least through the first few episodes).  After all, as Satou he’s only half Ichiro’s age, but still considered an adult with all the perks thereof.  And although he can’t seem to go a day without some new female joining his harem, he has enough money to proceed without concern.  He just seems nonplussed with the whole situation, even when his new world suddenly changes from a relaxed day-to-day to a dungeon crawl.  Satou is having plenty of fun because Ichiro, whom we still glimpse through his inner monologue about Satou’s actions, remains convinced that he is experiencing some type of temporary shift of consciousness.  So why not roll with the punches and play things a little loose?  And we do, too, as we tag along.  Because despite how stale this recently overworked premise should be by now, a light touch with the storytelling saves and even strengthens this show, allowing it to instead be a breath of fresh air.  It’s just plain fun and, right now, that’s enough for me.

Interview with Comic Creator Nicole D’Andria

 

Welcome, all, again.  I realize that of late I’ve been bouncing around the site like some deranged pinball trapped within a possessed machine, but get ready to go in yet another direction with me: my first industry-related interview, to comic creator Nicole D’Andria!  I was fortunate enough to make her acquaintance a couple of years ago, so when she announced that she’d be releasing her own original comic, Road Trip to Hell, I asked if she’d allow me a few questions.  They and her answers appear below.  Who is she?  Well, Nicole has been involved in the comic industry for several years, first writing comic-related articles for the website Entertainment Fuse back in 2009.  In 2012, she began editing articles for Comic Frontline, and now has her own weekly feature on their site–Kickstart the Week–in which she showcases interesting Kickstarter projects and their creative teams.  She also wears several different hats at Action Lab Entertainment [http://www.actionlabcomics.com/], where she serves as an adaptor (Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir), script editor, the Submissions Editor, and Marketing Director–not bad for someone who began with the company as a college intern!  In fact, for more about her and her work, please visit her site Comic Maven’s Archives: [http://www.comicmaven.com/].  But now, let’s begin the interview:

David: Many thanks for this.  To start, how did you begin in the industry?  Were you a comics fan who worked your way in, or did you approach from a more business-oriented slant?

Nicole: I was 100% a comic book fan. After only being a comic collector for a few months, I started writing comic book related articles for the website Entertainment Fuse. I met a lot of really great comic book creators and was introduced to Action Lab Entertainment’s works. My initial introduction was to the amazing all-ages fantasy series Princeless, which I’m always praising for its empowering message.

I ended up interviewing the Princeless creative team, and that would play a huge role later on when I was trying to find an internship during college. I contacted Princeless writer Jeremy Whitley to ask if he was aware of any available positions at Action Lab. He got me Bryan Seaton’s contact info and after a phone call, I ended up becoming an intern at Action Lab! Then I officially came on as a member of their team after I graduated college.

David: You helped make your own break–very inspiring!  And now you edit, adapt, market, and even review comics.  How much of a leap was it to decide to write your own?  How long has the idea for this comic been rattling around in your head, and how has it morphed over time in response to your other work?

Nicole: I’ve always wanted to be a writer, ever since I fell in love with reading in the second grade. But I used to only want to write novels and started collecting comics as more of a hobby with no initial intention of making it into a career. However, when I fall in love with something, I tend to want to incorporate it into my career. So as I grew to love comics more and more and write about them, I very quickly wanted to start writing my own.

The idea for Road Trip to Hell started forming when I was still in college. Originally, it was simply an idea that I kept in a word file with a bunch of other ideas I told myself I’d get to someday. It wasn’t until I got into a friendly argument with my friend over Rosemary’s Baby that I realized I had a really special idea and I wanted to explore it further. I’d work on it occasionally, but it wasn’t until I started my Senior Project: Writing that I really started to focus on the project. My professor was extremely supportive and allowed me to write the scripts for the class and I finished the first two issues during this time. The way I formatted the scripts was informed by my work at Action Lab.

I didn’t end up writing the final issue until I met a comic book writer, Jennie Wood (Flutter), who[m] I had a one hour comic consulting class with, thanks to my boss. She read the scripts and was extremely supportive, insisting I finish it. She really re-motivated me to get the first volume done and I couldn’t be more grateful to her!

David: So are we!  But over the years, you must have developed many contacts within the industry.  To whom did you reach out to help you with this project?

Nicole: I’ve met a lot of fantastic and creative people at Action Lab. One such person was Marco Maccagni. He’s such a great artist and I first saw his work in Vampblade. I love how his style allowed for so much expression and action that I knew I had to ask him about drawing my comic. He’s done such a fantastic job so far and I’m always excited when I see a new inked page from him. The other member of my creative team is colorist Joaquin Pereyra. I first noticed his work in the Action Lab title MediSin. I contacted him (with some help from MediSin writer Jeff Dyer) and he’s been giving me awesome colors ever since! I also have a special variant cover in the works by another artist I met through Action Lab, but I’ll keep that a secret… for now.

And while you haven’t seen his work yet, Justin Birch will be lettering the book. I’ve worked with him firsthand on a lot of Action Lab titles, including Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir, so I know his lettering work is top-notch. Then there’s my friend on Comic Frontline, Brant Fowler, who will be creating the title design and dressing the covers. His work on Last Ember Press speaks for itself in how talented he is.

David: Can you give us an idea about story or plot, possibly some character descriptions?  Please tell us why we want to buy YOUR comic!

Nicole: If you’re interested in a dark comedy packed with emotion and action, this is the story you should be reading. The story is about Francis, a troubled man whose problems get even worse when he finds out that not only is his father… but the devil has been destroyed and Francis has been named the new king of Hell. Even worse? He doesn’t get the throne unless he travels to Hell, and everyone in Hell has been freed with one goal in mind—kill Francis and usurp the devil’s throne!

You’ll get to see Francis struggle with his humanity. Plus his struggle to keep his sister, Star, safe. Oh, who am I kidding—she’s much more likely to be the one saving him. Along with Francis’s very own guardian angel, Joan of Arc! This comic book series is filled with historical figures, from Joan of Arc to Adolf Hitler. And where else can you read a comic book that has both Joan of Arc and Adolf Hitler?

David: I grew up Catholic, and chose Joan of Arc as a personal patron saint.  So, great choice!  Now, is this comic the prelude to even more new, original work from you?  What do you plan for the future?

Nicole: This is definitely the beginning to what I plan to be a long career in original writing. I’ve been anxious to do my own creator-owned work for a while now and I finally decided to take the plunge with Road Trip to Hell. While I have the first three issues of the series scripts, which will comprise the first volume of the series, I have a rough outline for at least six volumes. Beyond that, I have a lot of other ideas I’ve been kicking around, both for comic books. As well as other original projects, one of which is also currently in the works and I’ll be talking more about soon!

David: Given your years in the industry, what most surprised you about the making of your own original comic?

Nicole: Ironically, I think the part that surprised me the most was how easy the creative team made the process feel. I had been holding onto the scripts for so long and the perfectionist in me was so nervous to finally put them out there. I didn’t know if the idea I had been building up in my head could ever satisfy me on paper. But as soon as I saw Marco’s initial character designs, I knew I’d found the perfect person to do the art. He’s already done so much work on the series and it amazes me that not only does everything look awesome, but the process went by so much more quickly than when I was writing the scripts. And Joaquin’s test colors showed me he was perfect for the job. So really, it was a lucky surprise that I managed to find the perfect creative team pretty much right off the bat. I’m sure there’s still plenty more surprises to come, and I can only hope they’re as positive as this!

And that concludes our brief interview.  Many thanks to Nicole for playing along(!), and now we just have to wait for her Kickstarter announcement, which she anticipates for later this spring.  Look for it, folks: Road Trip to Hell by Nicole D’Andria.  This might just become your next favorite comic!

New D’ART SHTAJIO Project: XOGenaSYS

Welcome, all, again.  Our friends at D’ART SHTAJIO have been busy over the last year, and only two months ago in December brought us the pilot episode of their new animated mini-series The Doll .  But I did well in that review to compare them to the staff of Studio Ponoc, because they too are determined to keep the anime coming!  Earlier today (09 February), D’ART SHTAJIO announced that they would be producing the animated pilot episode adapting the original comic XOGenaSYS, created by NBA star Johnny O’Bryant.  Written by Tre McIntosh and illustrated by Nikolas A. Draper-Ivey, whose overwhelming talent led him from drawing fan art to his art commanding fans, the comic is available through Noir Caesar Entertainment, a company founded by O’Bryant to “to intertwine Japanese anime culture with African-American streetwear and hip-hop culture.”  It seems that, like so many of us, O’Bryant was an avid fan of manga and anime in his youth who refused to relinquish those passions as he matured.  He even founded his company to help nurture and share those passions: [https://www.noircaesar.com/].

 

Now the story contained in that original comic has been passed into the masterful hands of the staff at D’ART SHTAJIO.  And what a story!  In a grim but sadly recognizable near-future, young Darius Smith has been doing his best to avoid the gang life surrounding him.  But his inherent talent as a fighter has attracted the unwanted attention of Timothy Mustafa, a powerful figure and owner of a highly successful XOGenaSYS team, XOGenaSYS being a gladiatorial sport in which fighters battle while wearing powered exoskeletons.  Mustafa figures that combining Darius’ native skill with the added strength of the exoskeleton will result in an unbeatable contender and unlimited money-maker.  And he isn’t interested in Darius’ disinterest, either.  (Check out the actual comic, here: [https://www.noircaesar.com/xogenasys/].)

Folks, we’ve already seen great things from D’ART SHTAJIO–be sure that they’ll astound us again!  And I’m very impressed with Noir Caesar, too.  They’ve gathered immense talent and consequently offer some great products; I strongly urge you to follow the above links and visit.  In my opinion, collaborations such as this between young companies indicate a healthy and growing strength in the anime market, particularly here in the U.S.  Anime has finally become such a cultural staple here that we are now doing much more than influencing its production–we have created the means to legitimately make it ourselves.  And lastly, I’d like to congratulate and thank Mr. Johnny O’Bryant: you stayed true to your passions, and then elevated them by sharing them with others.  That’s incredibly inspiring, sir, and generous; I hope to see your behavior emulated.  Kudos all around!

New Memphis Music Drops! “Eat You Alive”

Welcome, all, again.  As regular readers will by now know, I have the habit of using this site to share things other than anime, such as announcements about music, manga/comics, and crowdfunding opportunities.  This is a quick music announcement.  As-yet unsigned Memphis band A Shattered Soul has partnered with Urban Stone Music Group’s The Brasco to release “Eat You Alive,” and the video dropped today (06 February)!  This pairing of musical styles blends hard rock with what’s called Southern hip-hop to create a thrillingly unique sound.  (Meanwhile, the cinematography showcases environs local to Memphis, particularly the Natchez Trace Parkway.)  Be warned about obscenities and chilling imagery, so keep the kiddies away.  But enough reading!  Watch and listen here: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_adbbKeo_M]

Parental Note: Obscene language; chilling imagery–not for the very young, thanks.

Addendum: As poor of a comparison as this might be, watching “Eat You Alive” puts me in mind of the Saga of Tanya the Evil amv for Dope’s song “Die Motherf_cker Die”: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T07vSOuMUD8].  (Who knows?  Maybe it’s the eyes.)  And even if that’s a poor comparison, it’s still a high compliment!

Mazinger Z Returns [Briefly] in Theaters!

Welcome, all, again.  This post represents another brief note, this time directed towards our mecha fans: the movie Mazinger Z: Infinity, initially released in October, 2017, will have a two-day U.S. release with English subtitles courtesy of Fathom Events.  The dates are for next week, 11 & 12 February.  Please follow this link for more information and to pre-order tickets: [https://www.fathomevents.com/events/mazinger-z-infinity?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=mazinger+z&utm_term=client+%28viz+media%29&gclid=Cj0KCQiAnuDTBRDUARIsAL41eDoP-xwGqEOBfvZCSJLPHS7fncxwuJi41V7lsKvm1hwm5kWukJ6Hc6saAl9-EALw_wcB]

Mazinger Z had its original run as both a manga and anime series from 1972-1974, and followed the adventures of young Kouji Kabuto as he piloted the titular super robot.  His grandfather had been part of a Japanese archeological expedition to Greece studying a lost pre-Grecian civilization that they called the Mycene Empire.  These ancients had left behind giant fighting robots which, once discovered by the expedition, were commandeered by its one German member, Dr. Hell.  (Sorry, no points for subtlety.)  Hell then slaughtered the rest of the team in order to protect his mechanical army, but the elder Kabuto managed to escape and construct his own super robot made from Super-Alloy Z, itself a product of the newly discovered element Japanium (found only in the sediment of Mount Fuji).  Kouji was then tasked with using his grandfather’s weapon to oppose Dr. Hell’s attempts at world domination.

 Following this first incarnation, numerous adaptations and sequels were produced, my own favorite being the 2014 parody Robot Girls Z.  And now we have Mazinger Z: Infinity, wherein young Kouji has matured and become a scientist, himself.  But when a new threat emerges that is beyond the abilities of others to counter, Kouji must resume his role as pilot and protector. . .