Saturday, May 28, 2016

Twelve Older Anime That Deserve License Rescues: The Homecoming Part 1

Once again, after over a year in absence, the license rescue list returns from the dead! I'll be honest right away, though, & admit that I'm starting to have some trouble finding titles that I feel are worthy of being on this list. This is the seventh entry on the whole, and in the previous six I listed close to 90 different anime. A big reason for that is because I had often bundled titles that had a similarity of some sort together (part of one franchise, licensed by the same initial company, etc.), which greatly inflated how many anime I actually included in each list... In other words, I had a bad habit of not following the whole "twelve anime" concept, though I generally did so as a bit of self-deprecation (because I do enjoy poking fun at the stupid stuff I do at times). The bundling bit is something that I kind of wish I didn't do, however, because now I can't milk the rest of Bandai's d-rights licensing deal from the late 90s/early 00s or Right Stuf's VHS-only catalog, for example. Also, I don't want to simply list anime that had been simply licensed before just for the sake of it, even though such license rescues have happened. I would have never listed Pilot Candidate, for example, but Discotek wound up rescuing that, anyway. Finally, I try not to list too many anime that one can point at & say "Yeah, that's going to get rescued one day," which is why I've never listed something like the Berserk TV anime; once in a while is fine, though.

Still, I did manage to find another twelve anime (or at least franchises) that I think deserve license rescues, so let's get this homecoming started... Hey, if Spider-Man can get one, then why not this list?

The last rescue list featured a first in that I listed Salamander, an anime that was licensed & released for English-speaking audiences, but only for the UK. Therefore, let's start this list with another title that was brought over by the infamous Western Connection... And this is probably the one with the most infamy. Generally, Western Connection was known for (poorly) releasing its anime sub-only, but there was one title that was released dub-only. Originally released across 1990 in Japan, the six-episode OVA Teki wa Kaizoku ~Neko-tachi no Kyouen~/The Enemy's the Pirates! ~The Cat's Banquet~ was a Kitty Films-produced series that was animated by three different studios (Madhouse, (Production) I.G. Tatsunoko, & Watanabe Promotion), though there was a chief director (Katsuhisa Yamada; Genesis Climber Mospeada, Overlanders) overseeing everything. It told the story of Apullo (a cat-like space alien) & his partner Latell, two members of the Division of Space Piracy/DSP who are tasked with trying to stop a space pirate named Youmei from using an advanced AI system to create destruction. The OVA definitely had similarities to the better known Dirty Pair franchise, such as Apullo & Latell's habit of causing more destruction than their bounties, and managed to become a bit of a fansub favorite during the 90s & early 00s.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Chaos Legion: a.k.a. "I Can't Believe My Best Friend Wants to Destroy All of Existence Because I Killed His Girl", or "FureHaka"

Making anime & manga adaptations of light novels is nothing special nowadays, & it's been like that for about the past decade, at most. That being said, it's not exactly a new thing by any means, as light novels were being adapted as far back as the 80s. Series like Dirty Pair, Boogiepop Phantom, Kino's Journey, The Slayers, Orphen, The Twelve Kingdoms, The Irresponsible Captain Tylor, & Full Metal Panic! were all initially light novels before being turned into TV anime, movies, OVAs, manga, etc. & becoming even more successful; it's just that adapting light novels has become more traditional since the dawn of the new millennium. Adapting light novels into video games has also been a thing, too, but isn't normally done until the novel has first become an anime. Going from light novel to video game directly is fairly rare, and when it's imported outside of Japan it can mean that almost everyone who plays it will think that it's an original property. For a perfect example, there's Chaos Legion.

Chaos Legion debuted in Fujimi Shobo's Dragon Magazine (home of Slayers, Orphen, & Chaika - The Coffin Princess) back in September 2002 & was written by Tow Ubukata (Fafner, Heroic Age, Le Chevalier D'Eon), with illustrations by Satoru Yuiga (E's [Otherwise], 10 Tokyo Warriors). It would run until the very end of 2004, totaling 7 novels; the original novel was numberless (likely in case it wound up being the only book), while the others were numbered 0-05.It never received any sort of anime or manga adaptation, this was before Ubukata starting becoming a big deal (though his Mardock Scramble novels debuted in 2003, so you never know...), but it did receive a video game adaptation by Capcom (Production Studio 6, to be exact) in early 2003 for the PlayStation 2, with a PC port at the end of the year. Specifically adapting the first novel, Chaos Legion: Seisen Magun-hen/The Holy War Demon Army Chapter, the game actually saw release in Japan around the time the second novel, Chaos Legion 0: Shoma Rokujin-hen/The Six Camps of the Summoned Demons Chapter, was originally released; pretty impressive, I'd say. When it saw international release in the second half of 2003, though, most people thought that the game was an original property, which is still a common misconception to this day. Anyway, how was the game itself & does it still hold up well enough after 13 years?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

How Was the Very First Anime Fan Fest & What Did I Do There?

Ever since 2009, I had a local anime con in the form of AnimeNEXT, and ever since it emanated from Somerset, NJ I went to it; in 2012 I started doing panels at it, even. Last year, however, it was announced that AnimeNEXT was moving to a new home in Atlantic City for 2016, and while I hope to be there for at least one day this year, I can no longer call it a "local" con (i.e. I can reasonably drive there every day). This past December, though, came news of a brand new anime event making its debut in the same Garden State Expo Center that AnimeNEXT used for part of its event, Anime Fan Fest. Created by MAD Event Management, the company behind Long Beach Comic Con & New Jersey Comic Expo, the event would quickly get the support of Otaku USA Magazine & then sponsorship by Bandai Namco Entertainment, giving it the (official) full name of "Otaku USA Presents Anime Fan Fest Sponsored By Bandai Namco Entertainment"... Yes, that's definitely more than a mouthful to say.

First things first, let's get some of the odd bits of AFF out of the way. First. while it did run from Friday to Sunday, May 6-8, it was "technically" a two-day con, as it started Friday at noon & ended Sunday at 5 pm, which is closer to 48 hours than 72. Also, the programming schedule was more or less truncated compared to other anime cons & events, as the earliest anything started was 10:30 am (on Sunday, no less) & the latest anything ran was until midnight on Saturday (which was only video, as panels ended at 10 pm). Finally, there were no buffers between panels whatsoever, which meant that panels were actually 10 minutes shorter than scheduled, to allow for the next panelist to set up, & if there was any unforeseen problem then you risk having your panel be even shorter. This was the case for ANN's Mike Toole, whose laptop seemingly went on strike right before his Bootleg Anime from South Korea panel started, and after many attempts at using other laptops (including my own), Mike wound up only having ~40 minutes to do his panel, which resulted in a lot of material not being shown. If there are three things I want to see from Anime Fan Fest for next year, which they hope to hold in May 2017, it is these:
1. Make it a three day con. Friday was really, really barren until about after 6 pm (though even that was only slightly more busy), & I think that's partially because it felt like there was nothing to offer fans on that day. Saturday was much more busy, & I think that if Friday was a full day then it would have been notably more busy. As it was, it felt like con goers from afar were reserving hotels starting on Saturday than Friday.

2. Have your programming go as long as it can. I understand that this might have been more or less impossible to do for the first time, but hopefully MAD can not only make the second AFF happen across "three days", but also have them all run from early morning to late, late night. Most of a con's visitors are not going to be local, and they'll be at the nearby hotels. That's part of the reason why most anime cons, to my experience, have panels & programming until anywhere from midnight to 2:00 am; they want to hang out & have fun. It also would give AFF the opportunity to hold 18+ panels, which have an appeal all their own. I'd say the best timeframes would be 9 am to 2 am (Friday & Saturday) & 9 am to 5 pm (Sunday). Hopefully there will be enough for AFF to fill all of those slots, but they have offer them, first.

3. Put in a 10-minute buffer between panels. Cons started doing this a couple of years ago, and none have looked back since. It gives panelists the entire time they are allotted, give enough time for the existing panel to leave & allow the next ones to set up & have their full allotted times, and if a major problem happens, like with Mike Toole, then it eats less into the panel time itself. It sounds like a minor request, but it helps out big time.

Still, there was plenty to like about Anime Fan Fest, and I had some fun with my panels, too, so let's get into that.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Far East of Eden: Ziria Oboro Hen: No Orange-Suited Ninjas to be Found Here, No Siree

There are so many RPG video game franchises that have never made it outside of Japan, and there are so many within that category that have yet managed to retain a respectable cult following outside of Japan. Possibly one of the most notable examples of that is Hudson Soft & Red Entertainment's Tengai Makyou. While it is more accurately translated as The Devil's Cave Outside Heaven, the franchise has the official English name of Far East of Eden, a portmanteau of the terms "Far East" & "East of Eden". The creation of Ouji Hiroi, best known as the creator of the Sakura Wars franchise, the concept behind Far East of Eden is an admittedly amusing one. Essentially, each main game is meant to be treated as an adaptation of a book that is a part of a series written by 19th century sociologist/historian Paul Hieronymus "P.H." Chada, which all took place in a land called Jipang, which is essentially a fictional version of Japan that is based on all of the misconceptions & tall stories that Western society has about Japan throughout history. When the first game, Tengai Makyou Ziria (pronounced "Jiraiya"), came out in 1989 it became an instant hit, partially due to it being the first JRPG ever released on CD for a console (the PC-Engine CD-ROM²). It was so successful that in mid-1990 Takara, Kadokawa, & TMS teamed up to make a two-episode OVA adaptation of said game. Itwas given the subtitle of Oboro Hen (which translates directly as "Strange Haze", & likely uses alternate kanji to be purposefully odd), but like every other entry in this franchise (minus a single fighting game for the Neo Geo), it remains a Japan-exclusive; it was re-released on DVD in 2005, first alongside the third game on PS2, followed by a general release. Therefore, let's see if this OVA could possibly work as an introduction for newcomers, such as myself.

After being told not to go after it by his friend Kumokiri, young thief Ziria decides to go after the treasure belonging to Hiruko, a beast that was sealed away long ago by the legendary Izanami & Izanagi. It's supposedly housed within Shirotaka Castle & guarded by Princess Yuki, but Ziria isn't the only one who's interested in Hiruko. A demonic wizard named Jashinsai wants to use Hiruko's power to bring back to life a giant clockwork soldier that's housed within the neighboring Kurotaka Castle, hoping to use it to rule over all of Jipang. It's up to Ziria, Kumokiri, a kabuki/mystic named Orochimaru, & a young, axe-wielding girl named Tsunade (who's a mega fan of Orochimaru's kabuki act) to stop Jashinsai & save the day.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Demo Disc Vol. 5: Rowdy Robos

The Spring 2016 season has started, and there are shows that I am looking forward to, eventually, watching; maybe I'll even watch them as they come out. But before I go full bore into the likes of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, Ushio & Tora Season 2, & My Hero Academia, I have something else to do first. Yes, it's time for another Volume of Demo Disc, and this time we'll be returning to the subject of Volume 1 & checking out another selection of anime featuring robots of the giant kind from the 70s to the 90s, plus a robot of the smaller kind from the 00s.

King of the Vast Sky, Groizer X
Knack (now known as Ichi Productions) will forever go down in anime history for being two things: Cheap & Derivative. Now, to be fair, the studio's later OVA productions of the 90s, like Crows or Grappler Baki, were respectable & overall enjoyable anime, but there's no way that short productions like those will ever remove the mark (or maybe it's just a pit stain) of Knack's TV output of the 70s & 80s. Titles like Gekko Kamen, Astroganger, Chargeman Ken!, & Attacker You! were either very cheaply produced or were very blatant copies of more popular anime (or even both). Oddly enough, however, one prolific creator was more than happy to work with Knack on two occasions, and that was Go Nagai. The first time it happened was in mid-1976, shortly after Toei tried to cheap out on having to pay Nagai for helping create the concept for Daiku Maryu Gaiking; while fighting Toei in court, Nagai worked with Knack to produce another mech anime. Said anime would be Groizer X, which ran until early 1977 for 36 episodes, though nowadays the mech is more known for a different reason, but we'll get to that. Anyway, did Knack manage to make Groizer X different from Nagai's other giants with the first episode?

Joe Kaisaka is a stunt pilot who returns home with his friends after winning another gold trophy in a flying competition. Shortly after arriving to his hanger home, though, a mysterious object crash lands in the woods nearby. What Joe & his friends find is a giant robot piloted by an injured woman. After she comes to at the local hospital, the woman, named Rita, asks for Joe's help in combating the incoming invasion by the alien Gaira Empire, who have decided to start with Japan. Rita comes from Gaira, but decided to defect in order to save Japan, taking the giant robo Groizer X with her. With some teaching from Rita, Joe manages to pilot Groizer, both in its flying form & robot form, & stop an initial skirmish by Gaira on a nearby airbase.