Until Death Do Us Part - Jonas

Isnin, Mac 23, 2009

#312. Skoop : An ambitious anime airs

Upon his arrival on Cerra, Dr Jack Griswold is guided through the city by Keiko Suzuki. He doesn’t know how much trouble she’ll be causing him soon. – Photos courtesy of Animax

Proud papa Animax announces the successful birth of LaMB, its very first original animation.

LIKE many anime/manga fans, I’ve always wanted to see one of my own story ideas brought to life as its own anime. It’s a nice dream, but I know what you’re thinking: it’s not as if we otaku (fans) can just submit our stories to a big anime company and then expect them to make an OVA (original animated video) out of it, right? Well, as it turns out, that sort of thing isn’t so far-fetched after all. One particularly lucky person actually managed to get his idea turned into an anime – and this is how Animax’s anime project, LaMB, came to be.

Laminated Woman: To the Sand Planet Cerra was submitted by Filipino writer Carmelo Juinio as his entry for the 6th Animax Awards in 2007. It was the first time that Animax had opened the scriptwriting contest to participants from beyond Japan’s borders; the grand prize was ¥2mil (RM76mil) and the honour of having the story brought to life as an anime.

More than 3,000 entries were received; Juinio’s entry was a regional winner, and he became one of a handful of people representing the Asian nations at the final held in Japan in September 2007.

Although Juinio’s Laminated Woman didn’t win the grand prize (that honour went to Takane’s Bike by Hayato Takamaga) it impressed the judges so much that they decided to transform it, too, into a feature length animation.

In a press release, vice president and general manager of Animax Asia, Gregory Ho, said, “Carmelo’s story was so compelling that we could not bear to let it go to waste. Animax is very pleased to have turned his dream into reality with LaMB. And with it we are very proud to have made Animax’s first ever original animation production.”

The talent

You can tell that Animax is very proud of their maiden anime production from the resources they’ve poured into the project. The company has snagged a number of notable creative talents from the Asian region and further, including singer/actor Vanness Wu.

Fans of the Asian entertainment scene would be going “ooh” and “aah” at this point, as Wu is a member of hugely famous boyband, F4 (now known as JVKV). The self-confessed dork and manga/comic book/animation fan was more than happy to take on the LaMB project when the opportunity to do so “fell into his lap”.

“I’m very excited about this project. I’ve been a very big animation buff since I was a kid, so to be part of (an) animation, any type of (animation) ... I can be in any part of it and I’ll be excited.

“I love the way you’re able to create such worlds in different time eras and explore the imagination, and to be part of such a great story is a real blessing,” Wu said in a telephone interview made available to us.

Wu voices one of the protagonists, Dr Jack Griswold, in both the English and Mandarin dubs. This is the first time that the star has tried his hand (well, his mouth, really) at English voice acting; his only previous voice acting experience was in the Mandarin version of Disney/Pixar’s animated feature, Cars.

The show’s antagonist, Keiko Suzuki, is voiced by two notable actresses.

Josie Ho, an actress/singer from Hong Kong and daughter of businessman and multibillionaire Stanley Ho, provides Keiko’s voice in both the English and Cantonese dubs. She has mostly appeared in Asian films – like 2007’s The Drummer directed by Kenneth Bi – and recently appeared in an English movie, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.

Tanaka Chie is the Japanese-born, Taiwan-based actress who’ll provide Keiko with her voice in the Mandarin dub. If you’re familiar with Chie, it’s probably because you’ve watched the Initial D film (which was based on the eponymous manga/anime series).

Animax also managed to get two popular international bands on board their LaMB project: French Canadian pop punk band Simple Plan, and American pop/alt-rock band the Click Five. If I have to explain who these people are to you, then ... welcome back to planet Earth from whichever part of the galaxy you’ve been living in.

Simple Plan’s I Can Wait Forever from their self-titled album and the Click Five’s Summertime from Modern Minds and Pastimes have been made into exclusive music videos for Animax.

In a press release, the Click Five had this to say about their participation in the LaMB film: “It’s pretty cool that our song is featured in a movie. Animax is doing something really, really cool, something very futuristic and New Age. So it’s good for us to be a part of that. And Summertime fits perfectly in the movie.”

Simple Plan is more involved than the Click Five in LaMB. In addition to the aforementioned Animax-exclusive music video, the band also gets to be animated within the film itself.

“We’re very excited about being animated. We’ve been animated once before in a Scooby Doo cartoon, but that was more like (a) comical, funny cartoon but this time around it’s going to be, like, real, realistic, and badass,” said the band in a recorded interview.

The animation

They have the Singapore-based animation studio, Peach Blossom Media, to thank for their transformation into animated characters. Peach Blossom Media worked with Animax Asia on the animation and production of LaMB.

Thomas Chou, co-founder and director of the Hong Kong production house Da Joint, directed the animation. Ryosuke Tei, former founder and creative director of the Japanese creative agency Furi Furi, served as a project consultant.

One other creative talent of note is the storyboard artist, Yasufumi Soejima. He used to work at Studio Gonzo – a name that most anime fans would be familiar with – and has been involved with anime like Last Exile, Final Fantasy: Unlimited, and Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo, mostly in a 3D capacity.

With these kinds of people working on the project, I will expect a lot from the film’s quality of animation....

For those who are into the tech-y side of things, Thomas Chou had this to say in the press release about LaMB’s interesting blend of (2D) Flash animation and 3D animation: “We realise it’s very, very difficult to repeat that kind of very sophisticated production in traditional anime, so we opted for a fairly unconventional way of doing it. So eventually we came up with Flash animation to create this unique visual style.”

Expect beauty

You’ll have to forgive me if I sound particularly excited when I mention that the Singapore-based Imaginary Friends Studio provided the concept art and designs for LaMB, as well as the web manga and graphic novel.

The studio’s works would be immediately recognisable to a certain set of otaku and gamers, as the IFS has done illustrations for DC Comics, Electronic Arts, and the World of Warcraft TCG (trading card game) to name a few.

My fellow Warcraft 3 gamers might also recognise that the famous Demon Hunter-Archmage-Eredar-Shadow Hunter DotA loading screen was done by IFS’ studio head and creative director, Artgerm.

One of this studio’s trademarks is the illustration of really, really beautiful characters, and that trait’s pretty evident in the artwork of LaMB’s promotional posters.

Stanley Lau, better known as Artgerm to the online artist community, had this to say in a recorded interview regarding the style IFS used to illustrate LaMB: “LaMB animation isn’t actually Japanese anime. It’s influenced by Japanese (anime) – but how our style can help to bring LaMB into something different, I think that’s the challenge.”

The good looks aren’t just limited to the characters, though. Animax has enlisted the services of New York-based fashion designer Vivienne Tam, who created two designs that are “worn” by the female protagonist, Eve (voiced by Singapore’s Mediacorp talent Petrina Kow).

It’s everywhere!

LaMB took the project’s 50-strong production team 10 months to create, with US$6mil (RM21.6mil) in funding pumped in from the Singapore Economic Development Board and SPE Networks – Asia (wholly owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment, SPE offers AXN and Animax channels across Asia).

The final product is being touted by Animax as an original multimedia, multiplatform animation project. That’s a bit of a mouthful, but, essentially, it means that Animax’s LaMB can be enjoyed through different media, such as a series of web manga, graphic novels for mobile phones, online games, and, of course, the HD animation itself.

You can check out the web manga, graphic novels and games – as well as other downloadable goodies – through the official website, animax-lamb.com. That’s quite a large serving of LaMB, but if you’re eager for the main dish then you’ll have to catch the anime on – where else? – Animax (Astro 715). See below for broadcast details.

You’ll find me tuned in to Animax during those times, as I have some pretty high expectations of LaMB. The show’s got several things that an otaku like me enjoys: a futuristic sci-fi setting, cybernetically enhanced humans, and a conflict that centres around a practice of a dubious moral nature. And girls in skin-tight outfits – let’s not forget that!

‘LaMB’ airs on Animax (Astro channel 715). The first part premieres at 8pm on Tuesday, the second on March 31 at the same time, and the hour-long finale will air on April 7, also at 8pm. For more information and to enjoy the online content, surf on over to animax-lamb.com.

Source : The Star

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