First episode of Inuyasha available for free

Here’s the latest promo by VIZ Media which is now making episodes of “Inuyasha” available via the iTunes Store.

(www.iTunes.com) in the US and the iTunes Store (www.itunes.ca) in Canada. iTunes is launching with episodes 1-13 for $1.99 per episode or $22.99 for one full season.

From today until Aug. 31, the first episode will be available as a free download.

The long-running anime and manga known as “Inuyasha” has already ended. But the episodes are available on DVDs. I’m not sure if Adult Swim on Cartoon Network still puts on the re-runs. Doubt it though.

Here is a synopsis of the show courtesy of VIZ: “Pulled back in time to Japan’s ancient past, Japanese high school girl Kagome finds her destiny linked to a dog-like half-demon named Inuyasha, who remembers Kagome’s previous incarnation as the woman who killed him – and to the Shikon Jewel, or “Jewel of Four Souls,” which can fulfill the greatest dreams of any man or monster. Now Kagome and Inuyasha must work together to search for the scattered shards of the jewel before everyone’s nightmares are given the power they need to come true.”

VIZ and new partner launch line of anime and manga-related goods

Here’s the latest news from VIZ Media which could mean less money in the pockets of the anime and manga addicts out there.

“VIZ Media announced a partnership with Zazzle to launch a new line of J-Pop, manga and anime-inspired apparel, stationery, and other items. VIZ Media’s J-Pop Style Stop at Zazzle is located at www.zazzle.com/vizmedia and offers a variety of visually compelling and original designs inspired by a love of Japanese pop culture available on an on-demand basis with most products produced within 24 hours of ordering.

The Zazzle partnership represents VIZ Media’s first foray into the ‘on-demand’ arena and is focused initially on several original (non-licensed) designs. The result will allow fans and the general public to show their enthusiasm for Japanese pop culture in a unique way with fun designs. The partnership is the initial phase of a larger projected product rollout with Zazzle that will tentatively include shojo (female)-focused fashion designs and other special designs to come in 2009.

The first VIZ Media design phase offers graphics that are available through Zazzle.com on T-shirts, note cards, real US postage, bags, and other fun items. The program allows fans and the general public alike to show their adoration for manga and anime by being able to choose from some great designs and customize them to their liking. This first phase of designs will include graphics with wording such as a manga panel that says ‘I Love Manga’ and a similar one that says ‘I love Anime’, available on T-shirts, note cards, stamps, bags and more.

Digital printing is considered the leading technology for on-demand apparel customization. It provides literally millions of colors and makes it affordable to manufacture even a single item, as opposed to other more cumbersome processes, which offer a limited color palette and often require the customer to order in bulk quantities because of high setup costs.

This partnership is just the first step for VIZ Media into the original design and the ‘on demand’ world – both of which will better serve fans old and new. This launch is the beginning of a projected ‘bigger picture’ rolls out with Zazzle, which ultimately may include more shojo-focused fashion designs, bigger statement ‘otaku’ (fan of anime and manga) designs and additional popular designs

Some of the new J-Pop designs were also included in the official gift bags that were distributed to the talent that presented and performed at the 2008 SPIKE TV Video Game Awards in December, where the VIZ Media-licensed video game, Ubisoft’s Naruto: The Broken Bond, was one of the nominees for Best Game Based on a Movie or TV Show.”

Naruto Shippuden news

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I enjoys fansubs like a lot of anime fans because I get to watch a series airing currently or just finished airing in Japan. However, I always make a point to buy the licensed versions of shows I like.

With the advent of the Internet, it has made it easier and faster for anime fans to see current shows. Not surprisingly, some anime companies are opting to license a series even before it finishes its run in Japan or they’re choosing to show episodes online.

VIZ media announced that beginning January 15, it will begin streaming “Naruto Shippuden” just days after being shown in Japan. It will be free and available at www.Naruto.com There will also be an accelerated publishing plan for the “Naruto” manga beginning in February 2009.

“Naruto Shippuden” picks up the tale after a now 15-year-old Naruto returns to Konoha from his training with Jiraiya. Everyone in his group has advanced in rank except him. Gaara is now Kazekage and Sakura is now a medical ninja.

Here’s the release from VIZ:

“This campaign is the latest expansion of VIZ Media’s ongoing strategy to utilize the web to its maximum potential to stream a variety of hit animated properties.

Beginning on January 15, the latest episode of “Naruto Shippuden” (English-subtitled) will be available for free viewing on the official “Naruto” website, www.Naruto.com, within days of its original air date in Japan. A new English-subtitled episode will be added every Thursday thereafter.

On January 2nd, VIZ Media will also debut for free, eight uncut, English-subtitled episodes from the beginning of the “Naruto Shippuden” series on www.Naruto.com. Each Friday thereafter there will be an additional eight uncut, English-subtitled episodes added on Naruto.com until the series eventually catches up to the current third season of the hit program. Also, coming this week, an exclusive sneak peek of “Naruto Shippuden” debuting on Naruto.com.

On the manga side, VIZ Media has unveiled an accelerated publishing schedule for upcoming editions of the “Naruto” series, making them available to North American audiences sooner than ever before offered by VIZ Media. Beginning in February 2009, 11 new volumes of “Naruto” will be released over three months, moving the series from Volume 34 (February 2009) to Volume 44 (April 2009) before returning to a quarterly release schedule beginning with Volume 45 (July 2009).

Earlier “Naruto” episodes are also currently available for free through a variety of web-based, video streaming outlets that have partnered with VIZ Media, including HULU and JOOST.”

The woman in red

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I don’t think I’ll be getting much sleep from now on since there’s a bunch of interesting shows that came out this fall in Japan. This includes “Kurozuka” which is based on a 10-volume manga by Takashi Noguchi that is not for kids at all. The manga is an adaptation of a novel.

I saw the first episode and was wowed by the animation, the CGI and intriguing storyline. The anime version also toned down the graphic content of the manga and I think the story still stands.

“Kurozuka” opens with Minamoto no Yoshitsune or Kurou being chased by armed warriors he thinks are minions of his older brother, Yoritomo, who wants him dead. His brother is the first shogun of Japan.

Kurou and his underling, Benkei, end up in the mountains where they stumble upon a cottage and a beautiful woman in red. Kuromitsu, as the woman is called, doesn’t question their cover story that they are a monk and his assistant seeking shelter for the night. She allows them to stay as long as they want with the caveat they stay away from her room in the back.

She seems to be taken with Kurou and he certainly likes what he sees.

But there comes a time when he looks into the room and discovers Kuromitsu’s secret. She is a vampire and an immortal. She offers him a chance to be with her for eternity. End of episode one.

The story spans a 1,000 years so we will see the characters in modern times in other episodes. I’m looking forward to the next installment.