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Sunday, December 1, 2019

To Live & Die in Obscusion: A Memoir of the 9th Anniversary

Why does one do the things that they do? I guess that question is rather vague & broad, but when I first started The Land of Obscusion back in 2010, I had a simple justification in mind: "I want to write about the stuff that no one else wants to." Now, nine years later, after nearly an entire decade, I wonder if that justification still holds any worth to it. Now, sure, there's merit in it to those who actually read this blog, and I am always thankful that people find it a worthy distraction from a real world that's honestly only getting more & more hectic, & an online one that seems to focus more on spite & hateful discourse, but like anything one does, there has to be that feeling that you yourself are getting something noteworthy out of it... Right?

This April I took the entire month off, after consistently writing for the blog for 100 months straight ever since I started it up. To be perfectly honest, I really enjoyed the break, & it was something I honestly should have done a while ago. At the same time, though, during that entire month I wasn't exactly anticipating returning to the blog; I wasn't dreading it by any means, but it wasn't like I was missing it, either. Since then, every single remaining month of this year only saw two or three articles from me, except for October, which simply was a case of things all coming together at the same time & me wanting to cover two anime to celebrate Halloween. Really, though, taking the month off, combined with the slower pace, made me think back to an idea I had years ago that I never put much stock into: Calling it quits after 10 years.

As I've mentioned in some previous anniversary pieces, hitting just one year felt like an accomplishment, so I just continued doing it, not really thinking about how it'd feel to hit another year. Then the second year came & went, followed by the third, then the fourth, which was then succeeded by the fifth, which predated the sixth, and before I knew it I had reached the seventh & eighth anniversaries of the blog. During all those years, a little thought would sometimes pop into my head, "Wouldn't it be fitting to end after 10 years?", in a sort of romanticized or poetic feel. After all, a decade is a long time, and in a niche world like that of anime, manga, or even gaming only the most dedicated actually wind up even hitting that number, let alone continue well beyond it. Not just that, but who in their right mind would be willing to put in that much time, effort, & even money into something, only to never receive a single, solitary thing in return? After all, think about any notable anime & manga writer or site, some of which I'm personally friends with, and they've all made that jump at some point, for a variety of reasons. In that case, shouldn't I do so, as well? After all, getting that translation for the Gundoh Musashi tell-all interview last year wasn't exactly "cheap".

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Obscusion B-Side: "Getta Bloomin' Move On" for 50 Years: The Italian Job's Golden (Bullion) Anniversary

This month I finally achieved a dream I've had for a long while: Owning a Mini. While I know I'll be literally paying for that decision for the next few years (it was a great deal, at the very least), until I decide to get a different car, this decision just also happened to occur on a special year. You see, 2019 marks the 50th Anniversary of The Italian Job, an iconic British heist film from 1969 directed by the late Peter Collinson & starring the incomparable Sir Michael Caine. My appreciation & fandom for the British Motor Corporation's iconic economy car, now owned & produced by BMW, came from this very film, which I was introduced to via its video game adaptation on the PlayStation from 2001, and was only reinforced when a Hollywood-produced remake came out in 2003. So, to celebrate both my own vehicular purchase as well as the original film's Golden Anniversary, join me as I go over the original 1969 film, the 2001 video game adaptation, the 2003 Hollywood remake, the video game adaptation of said remake, & finally the 2012 Bollywood remake of the remake!

So hurry up, mate; we don't wanna be late. And, by the way... How's your father?

The Italian Job from 1969 is one of those cases of a film under-performing (or outright bombing, in the case of the US), only to slowly gain a following & become an icon of British film making after the fact. In particular, director Peter Collinson sadly died in 1980 of lung cancer, at age 44, never getting to see the impact his fourth (& most iconic) film would have on the rest of the world. Michael Caine blames the film's tepid reception in the States on how it was advertised, particularly towards the infamously misleading poster that Paramount used, which made the film seem to be more focused on sex & the mafia, rather than it being the comedy that it really was; at the very least, it did get nominated for a Golden Globe Award for "Best English-Language Foreign Film". Over the past 30 years, however, the film has been referenced, paid homage to, & respected through various other works.

The third episode of the original 1985 MacGuyver series, "Thief of Budapest", features a car chase utilizing three Minis, meant to reference the film's iconic chase through Turin, Italy. In late 1990, a charity event named after the film started up, where people would run their cars from the UK to northern Italy & back, and became a yearly event that is still run to this day, having made over £2.5 million since it started, with all of it going to children's charities. In 1999, Welsh rock band Stereophonics released the song "Pick a Part That's New", with the music video parodying the film. In 2003, playwright Malachi Bogdanov wrote Bill Shakespeare's "The Italian Job", a play that told the film's plot using lines from Shakespeare. In 2005, Season 17 of The Simpsons had the episode "The Italian Bob", which made references to the film. For the closing ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics held in London, a famous scene from the film was paid homage to. Finally, the celebrate the 50th Anniversary this summer, Mini recreated some scenes from the film at its Oxford factory.

Still, this is about the movies & accompanying games, so how should we start? Hang on a minute lads, I've got a great idea...!

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Theory Musing: The Heart, Mind, Body, & Soul of Shonen Manga

Last month I celebrated the 25th Anniversary of Kadokawa Shoten's Monthly Shonen Ace magazine, but 2019 also marks notable anniversaries for three other shonen manga magazines, all of which are much more relevant to the history & evolution of shonen manga to how we define it today. First, back on March 17, eternal friendly rival publishers Kodansha & Shogakukan celebrated the 60th Anniversary of their respective shonen manga magazines, Weekly Shonen Magazine & Weekly Shonen Sunday, which both launched in 1959; yes, they launched on the same exact day & year, because that's what rivals do. Then, on July 15, Akita Shoten celebrated the 50th Anniversary of its shonen manga magazine, Weekly Shonen Champion, which launched in 1969. Meanwhile, on July 11, Shueisha's Weekly Shonen Jump magazine, which launched in 1968, turned 51 years old. I bring these four magazines up primarily because I feel that they have since gone on to embody the four major aspects of shonen manga, in general. What are those aspects, you ask? Well, you should have read the title of this theory musing, but fine:

The Heart, Mind, Body, & Soul.

Trust me, putting Shonen Champion in the crotch
will make sense later on. I promise.

On a cursory glance, one might assume that all shonen manga, especially those of the more action-y ilk, are pretty much "all the same", but if you start digging deeper & really look at things, you'll notice that there are notable differences, especially between magazines. For a hypothetical example, if Jyoji Morikawa was to have tried debuting Hajime no Ippo in Shonen Sunday back in the 80s, it would have wound up completely different than what it actually is to this day in Shonen Magazine. For an real example, Masami Kurumada originally debuted Ring ni Kakero in Shonen Jump in the late 70s as a direct homage to Ashita no Joe, which ran in Shonen Magazine, but eventually realized that he'd have to change things up, not just to prove himself as more than simply an imitator but also because Jump started to prioritize other types of stories. The end result was him changing things from a more realistic portrayal of boxing into an over-the-top & super-powered style, inspired by prior Jump manga Astro Kyudan (a hyper-over-the-top baseball manga), which in turn resulted in Kurumada establishing a standard that most action manga in Jump still follow to this very day, i.e. the "Jump Style". So, to celebrate this year's (major) triple-anniversary, one Golden & two Diamond, allow me to ruminate why I feel that Shonen Sunday, Magazine, Champion, & Jump embody the Heart, Mind, Body, & Soul of shonen manga, respectively.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Guilstein: The Monstrous Abel to Gundoh Musashi's Incompetent Cain?!

Naoyuki Sakai is a Japanese writer best known for working on J-Drama, but has also thrown his hat into the rings of tokusatsu (Tokusou Robo JanpersonHyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger), anime (Nessa no Haoh GandallaStreet Fighter II V), & even video games (Onimusha: WarlordsThe Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons/Ages). This also applies to manga, one of which being Juuseiki/Record of Beast Star Guilstein, which was drawn by Hisao Tamaki (Star Wars: A New Hope's manga adaptation, Dirty Pair's 2010 manga reboot) & ran in Shogakukan's Monthly Sunday GX (short for "Gene-X") magazine from mid-2000 to late 2002 for four volumes; the word "Guilstein" is a portmanteau of "Guilty" & "Frankenstein". It tells the story of how various children start turning into monsters once they hit the age of 15, with the populace calling them "Guilstein", & how young Iori Takigawa tries to use his recent transformation into a Guilstein to help save humanity, rather than destroy it. If you are curious, it actually saw English release digitally by Wowmax Media back in 2010 under the title Teen Apocalypse: Guilstein& is still available for purchase over at Amazon for $5, though only the first volume ever saw release.

Along with making that manga, though, Sakai also helped bring the concept to animation, with the end result being the movie Guilstein, a 2D/CG hybrid film that debuted in Japanese theaters on June 15, 2002... Maybe. You see, the film was actually finished back in 2001, and according to Amazon Japan the OST came out in March 2001, while the DVD release was in 2003, so I can't truly tell when the film debuted in Japanese theaters. Regardless, aside from having a similar basic concept behind it, the film has pretty much nothing to do with the manga. The film was produced by ACC Production, which had recently opened a new studio founded by Nobuyuki Sugaya, a director of photography-turned-producer who'd been around since the 60s, & the legendary mangaka Kazuhiko "Money Punch" Kato, both of whom have since passed away.

Wait a minute... ACC Pro? Monkey Punch? Nobuyuki Sugaya?!
This is from the people that gave the world
Gundoh Musashi?!

Yes, it is indeed the same exact studio & producer, though this movie came first. In fact, Sugaya & Monkey Punch even held a panel at San Diego Comic Con in 2001 (even though neither seemed to be there as guests, oddly enough), alongside John O'Donnell & Christopher Couch of Central Park Media, where they actually hyped up the Guilstein movie & talked as if a North American release was in the works (the third link is about that, in particular). From what I could tell, which included asking former employee (& former Answerman for ANN) Justin Sevakis, CPM never actually licensed the movie, so why O'Donnell & Couch were a part of that panel is beyond me. About a year ago or so I made a visit to the Book-Off store in New York City, and I actually came across the Japanese DVD release for Guilstein over there for a couple of bucks, so I think taking a look at a horror-ish anime movie produced by the studio that would give us "The Disaster Anime" itself a few years later is a perfect way to celebrate Halloween!

Saturday, October 26, 2019

The Heart-B't of Monthly Shonen Ace, 25 Years Later

Kadokawa Corporation is one of the largest media conglomerates in Japan, and all book publishing is done through its Kadokawa Future Publishing arm. One of the divisions of that arm is Kadokawa Shoten, and on October 26, 1994 that division debuted a new manga anthology magazine, Monthly Shonen Ace. This year marks the 25th Anniversary of that magazine &, in turn, the 25th Anniversary of every single manga that made their debuts in that original issue. Rather than try to cover the 25-year history of this magazine, as its heavily cross-promotional nature makes it tricky to really detail what would be considered "major hits" of its own, I instead want to look at what notable (mostly) original works came out during the run of the manga that graced the cover of Shonen Ace's very first issue, B't X by Masami Kurumada. Admittedly, I did originally just want to celebrate that manga's 25th, but there is worth in celebrating the entire magazine's debut, especially with what's actually a rather strong & interesting debuting roster of manga.

Before that, though, let me explain how exactly Monthly Shonen Ace came about... Because it's a bit of a doozy.

Though published in October, Shonen Ace
lists its issues as two months later,
hence why it's the December issue.

Prior to the original magazine to carry the "Ace" moniker, Kadokawa Shoten already had other magazines, like shojo manga-focused Asuka &, relevant to this article, Comptiq. Debuting in 1983 to help promote computer software (though it'd eventually start serializing some manga), Comptiq would see its own spin-off manga magazine in 1988, Monthly Comic Comp, but in 1992 things got bad, & all because of familial blood. You see, Kadokawa Shoten was founded by Genyoshi Kadokawa, and after he passed away in 1975, his son Haruki became president. Haruki, though, had a younger brother, Tsuguhiko, and in the early 90s ousted his own sibling from the company in favor of his son, Taro. The younger Kadokawa, however, got revenge for his brother's actions by leading an exodus consisting of various editors & mangaka that worked with Comic Comp, with everyone moving over to Tsuguhiko's newly founded Media Works, which lead to the creation of Monthly Comic Dengeki GAO! in 1993; that magazine would last until 2008. The same year as GAO!'s debut, Haruki Kadokawa was arrested for smuggling cocaine into Japan from the United States via a close aide, as well as embezzling money from Kadokawa Shoten to help fund his cocaine purchases; he would be convicted in September 1994 & serve 2.5 of a 4-year prison sentence. In turn, Kadokawa Shoten would need a new head, with the end result being the return of Tsuguhiko Kadokawa, and after the conviction it was decided that Comic Comp would first be suspended, before being merged with a smaller magazine called Comic GENKi to create Monthly Shonen Ace. As for the fates of the Brothers Kadokawa, Tsuguhiko is currently the chairman of Kadokawa Future Publishing, while Haruki would found his own studio, Kadokawa Haruki Corporation (totally not to confuse potential partners, am I right?), after serving his time in jail & getting paroled. Isn't it nice when a magazine is seemingly created partially to spite a sibling, especially when it's essentially an act of vengeance?