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.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Put It All in a Piece of the Sun: A Double Kurumada Anniversary

On October 6, 2014, I celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the first season of Ring ni Kakero 1's TV anime via Twitter; simple, but just fine. I had planned on doing the same on this day, too, but then I found out something kind of cool: April 6, 2016 marks not just one notable Kurumada-related anniversary, but two.

In what is obviously a case of sheer coincidence, two TV anime based on Masami Kurumada manga debuted on this day. First up was April 6, 1996, which saw the debut of the B't X anime, which ran for 25 episodes until September 21 that same year. It was produced by TMS Entertainment & aired on TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System) at 17:30 (5:30 p.m.), taking the place of the Japanese dub of The Oz Kids before being replaced with the first season of You're Under Arrest. Second was April 6, 2006, which saw the debut of the Ring ni Kakero 1: Nichibei Kessen-hen/Put It All in the Ring 1: Japan vs. USA Chapter anime, which ran for 12 episodes until June 22 that same year. It was produced by Toei Animation & aired on TV Asashi during the late-night 26:40-27:10 (2:40-3:10 a.m.) time slot, taking the place of SoltyRei & being replaced later by Binbou Shimai Monogatari/Flat Broke Sisters. Both of these Kurumada anime actually mean a lot to me in terms of establishing just what kind of fan I am when it comes to watching anime & how I view myself as a fan of Kurumada's works in general. Therefore, to celebrate both B't X's 20th Anniversary & Ring ni Kakero 1: Nichibei Kessen-hen's 10th Anniversary, allow me to do something I rarely do here & talk about myself, in particular what these two shows mean to me specifically.

But, first, here's some random trivia about both shows! Why? Because I'm a glutton for pointless trivia, so let me share it & make my thirst for useless info feel like it has a point.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Ozanari Dungeon: Kaze no Tou: An Unfound OVA Treasure

Fantasy is such a blanket category in general, but I when I see or hear that word the first thing that comes to mind is a world filled with magic, swordplay, epic journeys, & maybe even some treasure to be found. When it comes to the fantasy genre (as I associate it) for anime & manga, it's easy to name an outright litany of iconic titles, especially if you count TV series; I'll refrain from making said list for all of our sanities. When you remove TV & focus on just OVAs, however, the list suddenly shortens pretty sharply, at least for ones that most anime fans in North America can make. As for me, one of the first OVAs I think of when I think "fantasy" is Ruin Explorers - Fam & Ihrie, a four-episode series from 1995-1996 based on the 1992 manga by Kunihiko Tanaka, best known as the character designer for most entries the famed Xeno Series. At the same time, though, there is a fantasy series in Japan that has never left its home country, but at the same time may be one of its most iconic & (overall) long-running, and it received its own OVA adaptation before Tanaka even debuted his original fantasy manga.

One of the earliest works of Motoo Koyama, Ozanari Dungeon was a fantasy series that ran in Gakken's Monthly Comic Nora magazine from 1989-1996, lasting 17 volumes. True to its title, which is probably best translated literally as "Careless Dungeon", Koyama told a lighthearted sword & sorcery-style fantasy story featuring characters who were all named after types of coffee, though apparently its second half did become much more serious & focused on telling a story of epic scale. Koyama would follow up with a sequel, Nariyuki Dungeon ("Resulting Dungeon"), which only ran from 1997-1998 for three volumes. After that Koyama would go on to other manga, but eventually returned with Naozari Dungeon ("Neglected Dungeon"), which ran in Jive's Comic Rush magazine from 2006-2010 for another eight volumes. During that run came a one volume spin-off titled Ozanari Dungeon Special in 2008, and after Naozari's end came yet another sequel, Ozanari Dungeon Tactics. From what I can tell, Tactics ran from 2010-2013 for six volumes, resulting in a total 35 volumes of fantasy manga, though who knows if Motoo Koyama may eventually return to this franchise once again. By the way, I am refraining from using a pronoun for this mangaka because I can't find a definitive answer as to whether Koyama is male or female.

Anyway, during the heyday of the original manga, Gakken & Toshiba EMI teamed with TMS Entertainment to produce a three-episode OVA series based on Koyama's manga. Released throughout the last quarter of 1991 on VHS & LD, Ozanari Dungeon: Kaze no Tou/Tower of Wind looks to be an original story that takes place relatively early in the overall story, giving a stronger focus towards comedy than the later run of the manga. There is some word that Studio Ghibli was more heavily involved in the production of this OVA than it usually has been for other anime (which is usually just in-betweening & backgrounds), but I can't find any definitive proof of that. What I can say, though, is that it did have a couple of (future) notable names in its key animation staff, but we'll get to that when appropriate. Until then, what exactly is the Ozanari Dungeon OVA like, and is it a forgotten fantasy anime that deserves to be up there with the likes of Ruin Explorers? Let's find out.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Obscusion B-List: Video Game Crossovers with Completely Unexpected Rosters

The idea of a crossover product between multiple companies has been around for literally decades, and, more often than not, works well for both the fans that experience it & for the companies involved. On a good day, it could result in a franchise being given new life & products, like how Strider Hiryu's appearance in the original Marvel vs. Capcom lead to the development of the excellent Strider 2. On a bad day, it could result in absolute destruction, like how 1993-1994 comic crossover Deathmate essentially killed Valiant Comics to the point where it had to be bought by Acclaim. Crossovers can be very unpredictable & result in completely unexpected results, but at the same time part of the appeal of a crossover is seeing more than just the expected regulars & big names... Sometimes it's best to go to the deep part of the well & dig up some forgotten graves.

Oh, if only this was real & not just a really cool fanmade video...

Video game crossovers are probably the trickiest of all to execute in terms of compiling a roster across multiple companies. Most people will naturally expect to see the icons of each companies as well as their own personal favorites. For example, Capcom will always bring in the likes of Ryu, Chun-Li, Morrigan, and maybe even a form of Mega Man (if they feel like it), Bandai Namco has characters from Tekken & the Tales Series, SNK has its King of Fighters characters, and so on. Then you have series with fervent fanbases, like Dead Rising, Devil May Cry, Virtua Fighter, etc., which may not be at the top of gamers lists at large but are still notable & important enough to be considered obvious choices for inclusion in one way or another. What comes after that, though? Well, then you start getting into the more wild & unpredictable selections, and sometimes video game crossovers are notable precisely because they are just so inexplicably filled with completely unexpected lineups. Therefore, let's take a look as (not really) six video game crossovers that had rosters so unpredictable that you truly had to play them to believe them. In particular, I've gathered three fighting games & (not quite) three RPGs, simply because they are the most notable ways to handle video game crossovers.

Please note, though, that these are far from the only crossovers to have outrageous rosters. If you have any in mind that I missed, then by all means bring them up in the comments section at the end.