Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Obscusion B-Side: Segata Sanshiro vs. Pepsiman: I'm Holding Out for a Hero 'til the End of the Night!

Advertising is likely much more complicated than I think most people expect it to be. Still, the fruits of all that labor to showcase how awesome someone's product is has given us some truly memorable commercials. Some people might want to forget them, while others love to indulge in the nostalgia. In Japan it's very much the same, but due to cultural differences Japanese commercials can seem different from what we get in North America. Okay, they can be downright bizarre & confusing, but sometimes it's because of that oddness that we end up loving them as well. During the mid-90s two companies had mascots to help advertise their products, and both were not only highly successful but simply downright weird. They were so weird, in fact, that both have loving fanbases to this very day. Therefore, in the vein of what I did last December with Ehrgeiz vs. Ehrgeiz & Colorful vs. Colorful, I will be doing what has never been done before & pitting two of the most iconic Japanese commercial series mascots against each other.

This is Segata Sanshiro vs. Pepsiman!

During the mid-90s Sega of Japan needed something to help promote their 32-bit video game console, the Sega Saturn. Taking inspiration from the 1943 movie Sugata Sanshiro, the debut film of legendary director Akira Kurosawa, SOJ created Segata Sanshiro, a Judo master who actively hunted down anyone who wasn't playing Sega Saturn. In true Japanese commercial fashion, however, instead of simply explaining how awesome games on the Saturn were Segata Sanshiro preferred to simply beat down anybody in view, before commanding them "Sega Saturn, Shiro!/Play Sega Saturn!"; the line was a pun, as it sounded similar to his name (just swap the "ta" & "Sa" around). Seemingly defying all logic, these commercials were an instant hit & helped make the Saturn a massive success in Japan. It also helped that Segata Sanshiro was played by Hiroshi Fujioka, the original Kamen Rider himself & Japanese cultural icon. These commercials ran throughout 1997 & 1998, finishing up when the Dreamcast launched in Japan in November of '98.

Not too long before Sega created their Saturn-loving Judo master, though, PepsiCo did something similar in Japan. To help promote Pepsi in that country, PepsiCo Japan created a mascot of their own: Pepsiman. Designed by Canadian comic artist Travis Charest (Darkstars, Ultimates SagaWildC.A.T.s/X-Men), Pepsiman debuted around 1995/1996 on Japanese television. Much like Segata Sanshiro, Pepsiman's commercials were simple in concept, featuring people who were thirsty & in need of a drink; Pepsiman would arrive just in time to quench their thirst. Unlike Segata Sanshiro, though, Pepsiman was a giant klutz, consistently getting himself in trouble or badly injured shortly after helping those in need. Pepsiman would end up lasting a little longer, however, with his last real appearances in Japanese media happening around 2000 or so; he's supposedly still the official mascot for PepsiCo Japan, but I can't verify that.

Now that the introductions are out of the way, let's finally get this Vs. battle started! The categories we'll be looking at are as follows: Concept & Commercials, Design, Theme Music, Video Games, & Memorability. A nice odd number to make sure that there aren't any ties, right? Well, let's get straight into things, shall we?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Demo Disc Vol. 1: Mecha Magnanimity

Welcome to the pilot post of Demo Disc! For those too young to remember them (at least, I hope I have younger readers...), demo discs were the ways people played demos of video games before the days of digital distribution. Generally, each disc contained a wide selection of demos that covered a multitude a genres, but sometimes a demo disc would be more focused. Similarly, the titles that I'll be covering in each Demo Disc post are ones that I am unable to see in full & properly review, yet still wanted to write about in some way. Taking inspiration from last month's theme, for this pilot I'll be looking at the first episode of four different mech anime, one for each decade from the 70s-00s, plus an extra title that is technically complete but is essentially impossible for me to give an actual review for. With all of this out of the way, let's start this off by going psychedelic & into the 70s!

Don't be shy... Mechander only wants a hug.

The Congistar Corps Invade Japan!
Gasshin Sentai/Combining Machine Squadron Mechander Robo is a fairly obscure mech anime from 1977, but it's not like it was made by a bunch of nobodies. Sure, Wako Pro never really made a name for themselves, Mechander is the closest thing to an "iconic work" for them, but some of the staff was either an established name or would go on to greatness. It had opening & ending themes by Ichiro Mizuki (who was already an iconic singer), mech designs by Kunio Okawara (months before Zambot 3 debuted), music by Michiaki Watanabe (Mazinger franchise, Dangaioh, Godannar), animation direction by Takeshi Honda (Millennium Actress, Dennou Coil), & the lead character was voiced by hot-blood legend Akira Kamiya! So what happened? Well, Bullmark, who were making the toys, went out of business while the show was airing, resulting in the production having barely any money behind it. In the end, Mechander Robo infamously relied on reusing stock footage to such an insane extent that the final episode was literally a recap of the entire show! Still, how was the first episode, before Bullmark's demise screwed it over?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Anniversary# 4: World of Obscusion! Meet Demo Disc & Obscusion B-Side!

In many Asian cultures, the number 4 is equivalent to death. Luckily, The Land of Obscusion has survived its fourth year & today is celebrating it's 4th Anniversary! Woohoo!! This day isn't just special for me, but this entire year had a sense of nostalgic happiness for me. Early this year, February 23 to be exact, was the 10th Anniversary of the very first piece of writing I ever did that was released to the public: A short article I wrote about the Sega Genesis 32X for GameSpot as part of their shortly-lived GameSpotting blog feature; they encouraged fans to send in their own articles as a GuestSpotting entry alongside the editors' pieces. Looking back on it, the piece I wrote, 32X: Short Name, Short Life, Big Fun, is pretty rough & not my best work by any means. But as a 17-year-old senior in high school, seeing my name, & something I made on a literal whim, on a high-profile gaming site like GameSpot, during what I would call the site's "Golden Age", was just surreal & amazing. It truly was the catalyst for where I am now, ten years later.

As always, a gigantic "Thank You!" to every who reads & everyone new who comes across this blog, as the number of visits & page views are still trending upwards. At the end of last year I was surprised to see this blog hit just below 4,000 views in one month, but that ceiling was burst through with the coming of the new year; in fact, I'm now starting to scratch the 7,000 views ceiling! As for the blog itself, this year was the first to feature screenshots for every single review along with the use of italics & quotation marks to look more "professional". I also introduced the "30 Days of Popularity" sidebar, which showcases the most-viewed posts from the past 30 days. Unfortunately, that sidebar has resulted in a very skewed alteration to my most-viewed posts; B't X Neo has never left it since it's introduction, for example. I am thinking of maybe reducing it to "7 Days of Popularity", though I worry it will simply skew things in favor of the newest posts mainly. What do you all think? Should I change it to 7 days, or is 30 days doing just fine?

Anyway, one thing I've thought on occasion was how easy it was to see everything that I've written. Sure, you can look at every post by way of year & month it was "published" on the blog, but what if you want to look for something specific? What if you want to simply see a comprehensive catalog of what's been reviewed here? Well, it's not quite 100% finished as of this post, but I am introducing a new tab that will appear next to the "About" tab that I also introduced earlier this year: The Master List. An alphabetically-organized collection of every review, "12 Anime" list, Theory Musing, & "other" posts that I have ever put on this blog will now be easy to locate & link to in a single page. Like I said, it's technically not finished yet, I still need to link about half of the list, but I'm making it open to the public right now & will finish adding in the links within the next couple of days.

With the blog entering its fifth year, though, I am going to introduce some changes. Nothing that will change the focus or execution of the blog, mind you, but rather changes that I hope will benefit the blog from both a writing perspective & from a personal perspective. Just last week Justin Sevakis wrote his final Pile of Shame article, admitting that he needed "to stop writing about specific anime for a while, because it's a really good way to get burned out." Now I don't feel "burned out" by any means, but I will admit that sometimes I do feel like I need a break from watching anime partially for the sake of reviewing them; I don't want this to feel like a job (especially since I don't get paid to do this). At the same time, though, I do want to keep writing. Therefore, I am introducing two new series of posts to The Land of Obscusion: Demo Disc & Obscusion B-Side!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Twelve Mecha Songs That Deserve More Love Part 2

Part 1 of this list of underappreciated songs from mech anime was pretty strong, but I think Part 2 can match up to it pretty well. I even found a trio of choices that weren't OPs, just to be fair to the other sides of the equation. So let's not dilly-dally... Here we go!

"DIVER #2100" by R.A.M. (Dennou Boukenki Webdiver OP1)
Boy, I am starting this half with an obscure-as-hell song from an even more obscure mech anime, aren't I? From what I can find out, Dennou Boukenki/Electric Brain Adventure Record Webdiver was a 2001-2002 series produced by Takara with animation by Radix & Nippon Animation. Supposedly it was created in a similar fashion to that of the Brave Series, i.e. it had a toy line to go with it, and just by looking at the OP you do get a slightly similar feel. Oddly enough, even though the show seems to have a water theme to it, it's actually about entering a futuristic computer network to battle a dangerous computer virus that has infected all of the "Web Knights" that protect the network; the water theme just seems to be how the robots are cockpit-ed. The only one to escape infection is Gladion, who teams with fourth grader "Web Diver" Kento Yuuki. So why do I include this song in the list?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Twelve Mecha Songs That Deserve More Love Part 1

On this Thanksgiving weekend, let us give thanks for everything that we have in life... And pray that no one gets (horrifically) trampled on Black Friday. As a fan of mech anime, and on a relatively silly matter, I am thankful that I was finally able to finally see all the way through Matchless Raijin-Oh. At the same time, I am thankful that I can wash away the stink of Gin-Iro no Olynssis with a multitude of better mech anime. Still, the thing that latter show did best was the music (Raijin-Oh's music was awesome, too). With that in mind, let us end this third (& fairly low-key) Mecha Month with a look at some awesome music from mech anime that you may not have known of, but (if nothing else) featured an OP, ED, IN, or BGM that shouldn't be forgotten with time. Plus, in true fashion for the blog, I'll toss in a couple of of bonus selections at the end of each part. Let's jam!

"Starlight Serenade" by Mami Yamase (Metal Armor Dragonar OP2)
Some anime have such an excellent first opening that what comes afterwards is generally forgotten & ignored. This is certainly the case for Dragonar, Sunrise's attempt at replacing Gundam that has never really gotten proper respect for simply being a great 80s mech anime; it didn't get that respect in Japan until barely a decade ago. Still, regardless of what anyone think of the show itself, one part of Dragonar that everyone essentially agrees is awesome is the first OP, "Yume Iro Chaser" by Mami Ayukawa. With an intensely addictive beat, instantly memorable melody, and animation handled by a young Masami Obari (all on his own!), Ayukawa's song is the de facto anthem of this series & deserves that spot, but it's not like its follow up was a poor effort by any means. In fact, it's just about as good in some ways.