Beloved Japanese Manga ‘One Piece’ Heads Into Final Chapter

The manga, which follows the adventures of the swashbuckling pirate Monkey D. Luffy, has captivated millions of fans worldwide as its characters hunt for One Piece, the treasure coveted by all pirates.

 

 

After 25 years and 490 million copies sold worldwide, the beloved Japanese manga “One Piece” is entering its final chapter, according to its creator Eiichiro Oda.

The manga, which follows the adventures of the swashbuckling pirate Monkey D. Luffy, has captivated millions of fans worldwide as its characters hunt for One Piece, the treasure coveted by all pirates.

In a tweet on Tuesday, Oda announced he would be taking a month off from his usual publishing pace of one installment per week, citing various demands, including his work on the last part of the long-running series.

“A break for me!” he wrote in a handwritten announcement posted on the series’ official Twitter account.

“I want to rearrange the structure (of the manga) so that I can wrap up the final chapter as soon as possible. Soooo… Forgive me, but I will take a short breather to prepare for it all!”

“One Piece” first appeared in manga form in Japan in 1997, with an animated TV series version following two years later.

Since then, the franchise has become a global cultural phenomenon, and Oda holds the Guinness World Record for “most copies published for the same comic book series by a single author”.

Last year, the 1,000th episode of the TV series was released, with special screenings in the United States and France — the world’s biggest manga and anime market after Japan.

A live-action adaptation by Netflix is also in the works, with fans speculating it could catapult the franchise to global household name status, on par with “Star Wars” or “Harry Potter”.

Meanwhile, the publishers of another cult manga series, “Berserk”, announced Tuesday that the cartoon would be relaunched following the death of its creator, Kentaro Miura, just over a year ago.

Miura’s friend Kouji Mori will continue the author’s work based on discussions they had about the direction of the series, the publishing house Hakusensha announced.

“I will only write the episodes that Miura talked to me about,” Mori said in the statement released by Hakusensha.

“I will not flesh it out. I will not write episodes that I don’t remember clearly. I will only write the lines and stories that Miura described to me.”

Anime ‘Demon Slayer’ Set To Dethrone Ghibli Classic For Japan Box Office Crown

Hayao Miyazaki’s Oscar winner “Spirited Away” has crossed the $300 million mark at Japan’s box office, over 19 years after the anime classic’s original theatrical release.

 

An anime epic in which a teenager hunts down and beheads demons has become the surprise sensation of Japanese cinema during the pandemic, and could soon be the country’s top-grossing film of all time.

“Demon Slayer”, a full-length flick based on the hit manga series is threatening to dethrone Studio Ghibli’s “Spirited Away”, the fantastical 2001 tale that won an Oscar for the best-animated feature.

The story of Tanjiro, whose life transforms when his family are killed in a demon attack, has taken 30.3 billion yen ($290 million) at cinemas since its October release.

At one recent screening in Tokyo, a group of female friends told AFP they had come to see the film because “it’s a hot topic” in Japan.

Drawing long lines around the country, “Demon Slayer” has dispatched “Titanic” from the number two spot and looked on track to beat Hayao Miyazaki’s classic by Christmas.

But this week, there was a plot twist: the Ghibli film’s total sales were revised upwards to take into account a re-release over the summer — raising its takings to 31.7 billion yen and staving off “Demon Slayer” a little longer.

The new film’s stunning success comes despite — and perhaps because of — the pandemic, with people in Japan urged to avoid crowds, putting most other forms of mass entertainment off-limits.

Kei, a 25-year-old who saw the film with his sister, said he thought people with more free time was just one reason for its success, with its high production values a bigger draw.

“This movie is a big hit because the animation is very unique and beautiful. It’s very creative,” he said.

Japan has seen a relatively limited outbreak of the virus, with fewer than 2,600 deaths so far, although record numbers of new cases have been recorded in recent weeks.

The country has not implemented the strict lockdown measures seen elsewhere and movie theatres have largely stayed open, though with restrictions including mask-wearing.

 

– ‘Invisible, frightening threats’ –
A sophisticated marketing campaign, including tie-ups with shops and restaurants, and well-known actors voicing the characters have also helped boost the film — whose full title is “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train”.

And some say the relative dearth of other recent high-profile releases means it may have faced less competition than in a normal year.

But Yuka Ijima, an assistant professor at Tokyo’s Daito Bunka university who focuses on manga and psychology, said “Demon Slayer” also taps into some particularly relevant themes, with its focus on family ties and the battle between good and evil.

“In the past, the concept of a ‘demon’ was used to embody invisible, frightening threats, like diseases and epidemics including smallpox,” which could resonate with people’s fears during the virus crisis, she told reporters recently.

The film, set in Japan’s 1912-26 Taisho era, began life in 2016 as a manga series published in the popular comic magazine “Shonen Jump”.

Its popularity grew when it was adapted into a televised anime series, and sales of the manga boomed this spring when the Japanese government urged residents to stay home to stem the spread of Covid-19.

The movie’s spring release was pushed back to October, “at a time when there was a certain sense of security” as infections in Japan declined and people felt more comfortable going to the cinema, Ijima said.

Its success has been a rare bright spot in the economic malaise that has accompanied the pandemic in Japan.

One research institute estimated the entire series has generated an economic impact of 270 billion yen ($2.6 billion) in Japan alone.

And “Demon Slayer” fever shows no sign of abating.

Long queues formed outside manga shops earlier this month for the release of its 23rd tome, the final instalment of a series that has sold more than 120 million copies overall and been translated into 14 languages.

The film has already been distributed elsewhere in Asia with releases in Europe and the United States planned for next year.

FilmOne To Distribute Disney Films In West Africa

People buy tickets for Disney’s Mulan film at a cinema inside a shopping mall in Bangkok on September 8, 2020. – Disney’s “Mulan” remake is facing fresh boycott calls after it emerged some of the blockbuster was filmed in China’s Xinjiang, where widespread rights abuses against the region’s Muslim population have been widely documented. (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP)

 

Nigerian film distributor, FilmOne Entertainment, has signed an exclusive theatrical distribution agreement with The Walt Disney Company Africa to distribute the Disney film slate in Nigeria, Ghana, and Liberia.

The deal, which came into effect on September 1, covers titles from all of the Walt Disney Studios divisions, which include Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Studios, Searchlight Pictures and Blue Sky Pictures.

“We are proud to be Disney’s film distribution partner for West Africa and see this as the beginning of an exciting new chapter for both companies in the region,” Kene Okwuosa, Moses Babatope and Craig Shurn, directors of FilmOne Entertainment, said in a joint statement announcing the deal.

“Our expertise and knowledge of the market, coupled with the unrivalled quality of Disney’s titles, will drive box-office growth for many years to come.”

The partnership with Disney adds to a list of high-profile relationships FilmOne has with industry leaders, including ones with Warner Bros, Netflix, Empire Entertainment (South Africa) and Huahua (China).

Reacting to the deal, Christine Service, Senior Vice President and General Manager of The Walt Disney Company Africa, said “With their in-depth knowledge of the region and expertise in bringing theatrical releases to fans, we are thrilled to welcome FilmOne as our distribution partner for this territory.”

According to FilmOne, with the gradual easing of the COVID-19 restrictions, the partnership with Disney Africa will present a packed slate of films that audiences are patiently waiting to see. Among the most anticipated releases are: Mulan, The New Mutants, The King’s Man, Death on the Nile, Black Widow, Soul, Free Guy, The Last Duel and Eternals.

‘The Simpsons’ Ends White Actors Voicing Characters Of Color

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 14, 2012 Cartoonist Matt Groening, creator of "The Simpsons," poses with his characters Bart (L) and Homer Simpson as he is honored with the 2,459th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood. - The producers of The Simpsons, the world-famous animated series, announced June 26 that they will no longer use white actors to dub ethnic minority characters. (Photo by Robyn BECK / AFP)
(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 14, 2012 Cartoonist Matt Groening, creator of “The Simpsons,” poses with his characters Bart (L) and Homer Simpson as he is honored with the 2,459th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood. – The producers of The Simpsons, the world-famous animated series, announced June 26 that they will no longer use white actors to dub ethnic minority characters. (Photo by Robyn BECK / AFP)

 

 

The Simpsons will no longer use white actors to dub ethnic minority characters, the producers of the long-running animated series announced Friday.

The decision includes a recurring character from the series, launched in 1989 — Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, a grocer of Indian origin voiced in the American version of the show by white actor Hank Azaria.

The character has long been seen as problematic and conveying racist stereotypes. Last January Azaria announced that, in agreement with producers, he was abandoning the role.

“Moving forward, THE SIMPSONS will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters,” Fox Studios said in a statement to AFP.

The change will also affect the character of Dr Hibbert, a black man dubbed by the white actor Harry Shearer who also lends his voice to many other characters on the series — from Homer Simpson’s boss Mr Burns to the chirpy neighbor Ned Flanders.

The announcement came as Mike Henry, the white actor who voices the black character of Cleveland Brown in Family Guy, another animated series produced by Fox, announced on Twitter that he was giving up the role.

“It’s been an honor to play Cleveland on Family Guy for 20 years. I love this character, but persons of color should play characters of color. Therefore, I will be stepping down from the role,” he wrote.

Americans are in the midst of a reckoning on systemic racism and discrimination ignited by the killing of George Floyd, an African American man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25.

 

 

-AFP

Disney’s Animation Chief Takes Six-Month Leave Over ‘Unwanted Hugs’

Executive producer John Lasseter attends the Disney Pixar’s “COCO” premiere on November 8, 2017, in Hollywood, California. VALERIE MACON / AFP

 

Disney animation chief John Lasseter said Tuesday he is taking a six-month leave of absence after acknowledging in an internal memo making staff feel “disrespected or uncomfortable” with unwanted hugs.

He apologized to “anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of an unwanted hug or any other gesture they felt crossed the line in any way, shape, or form,” in the memo, forwarded by the entertainment giant to AFP.

Lasseter, best known for transforming Pixar from a small graphics department at Lucasfilm into the most successful animation studio in the world, was the pioneering director of “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2.”

The Oscar-winning filmmaker and senior executive admitted he had been “falling short” in ensuring a culture of “trust and respect” at his animation studios.

“I’ve recently had a number of difficult conversations that have been very painful for me. It’s never easy to face your missteps, but it’s the only way to learn from them,” he said.

“As a result, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the leader I am today compared to the mentor, advocate and champion I want to be. It’s been brought to my attention that I have made some of you feel disrespected or uncomfortable.”

He acknowledged that his staff had the right to set their own boundaries and have them respected, “no matter how benign my intent.”

He said he had agreed with Disney executives to a six-month sabbatical away to “reflect on how to move forward” and “start taking better care of myself.”

AFP

Kung Fu Panda, Shrek Debut In World’s Biggest Gambling Destination

DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc, the movie studio famous for family films like “Madagascar” and “Shark Tale”, has entered into a licensing agreement in Macau, the world’s biggest gambling destination, in a push to diversify revenues.

The deal with billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s Sands China Ltd allows the casino operator to use characters like Shrek and Po from “Kung Fu Panda” in the casinos as Sands moves to attract leisure and family visitors.

California-based DreamWorks announced the deal on Tuesday with popular franchise characters on display. Guests at Sands’ Venetian and Cotai Central resorts will be able to see and interact with the characters during their stays, the film company said. The deal takes effect on July 1.

DreamWorks’ venture in Macau may help boost the $2 billion company’s efforts in China after it posted its first quarterly loss in almost six years in February.

In an advertising splash, DreamWorks took out three full-page color advertisements on Tuesday in Hong Kong’s main English-language newspaper, the South China Morning Post, displaying Po, Shrek, and the animal cast of “Madagascar”, asking readers to guess where they were taking their next holiday.

Macau, a former Portuguese colony, is the only place in China where people are legally allowed to gamble in casinos. More than two-thirds of Macau’s visitors come from mainland China.

Chinese and Macau government officials have been pushing for casino operators like Sands to diversify their operations to appeal to a more mass-market international tourist destination.

Macau is heavily reliant on the gambling industry, with more than 70 percent of tax revenues coming from the casinos. Tourists come primarily to gamble as opposed to Las Vegas, where shows, fine dining and other forms of entertainment are in higher demand.

Rival casino operators located adjacent to Sands’ resorts on Macau’s Cotai strip have also been trying to diversify their gambling offerings. Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd, owned by Hong Kong billionaire Lawrence Ho and Australian tycoon James Packer, produces the House of Dancing Water show, while Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd has a cinema and a skytop wave pool.