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Monday, June 11, 2018

AnimeNEXT 2018: Hitting the Vertical Limit

I first started going to AnimeNEXT back in 2009, when it moved to Somerset, NJ & became a "local con" for me. When it moved to Atlantic City in 2016, I stuck with it, even though it now became much more expensive, due to hotel reservations. Still, the move to the Atlantic City Convention Center was instantly a major improvement. The venue is much larger than what Somerset offered, with more than enough room to grow, and the fact that the ACCC is a four-floor building gives the entire convention a verticality that you just can't find in most other cons, which only tend to feature two floors, at most, which feel more self-contained & seperate than anything. Simply put, it's awesome to be at AnimeNEXT, look above & below you, & always see people moving about. It also helps for special features that utilize the atrium, like Cosplay Pro Wrestling, as the multiple floors create an arena-like experience. Still, if I've been continually going to ANext, why haven't I reported on it?


Well, to be frank, it was because I tend to only report on cons that I do panels at; they double as an info guide for what I showed. In 2016, I only went for a single day, just to get a feel for the new venue. I did apply for panels in 2017, but communication problems meant that I didn't know all of them were denied until the schedule itself came out. This year, though, I finally returned to doing panels at my "local(-ish) con", and I got two approved. Overall, AnimeNEXT has become a rather challenging convention to do panels at, mainly from a content perspective. As AniGamers' Evan Minto said a day ago, it's effectively a mini-Otakon, especially when it comes to panels. ANext has given a lot of priority towards really informational & researched presentations, which in turn make them all the more interesting to check out, so much so that plenty of people I know had put in panel applications that sounded awesome, only for them to get nothing approved.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Obscusion B-Side: Sweet Home: It's About Family... It's Always Been About Family!

Video games based on licensed properties, like movies, are generally known to vary wildly in quality, primarily due to their heavy need to be released alongside the product it's based on. More often than not, the game winds up being either downright terrible or simply underwhelming, but sometimes they wind up being extremely good, if not even considered a classic over time. All that being said, the game still remains noteworthy to some extent due to its connection to the licensed property. It's absurdly rare for a video game based on a licensed property to be so good that it winds up being more synonymous than the product it's technically based on. One of those rare instances is with Sweet Home.


Come 1989, Kiyoshi Kurosawa (no relation to Akira Kurosawa) was a graduate of Rikkyo University, & student of film critic Shigekiho Hasumi, who had only two pink films to his name as a professional film director. Working with notorious film director & producer Juzo Itami (director of 1985's Tampopo), Kurosawa made his horror debut with Sweet Home, which he both wrote & directed. Debuting in Japanese theaters on January 21, 1989, the movie would then see a home video release on VHS & laserdisc that September, and on December 15 a video game adaptation would see release on the Nintendo Famicom by Capcom. Directed by Tokuro Fujiwara, the game was technically an RPG, but would go on to become a major influence on the creation of what would become the first Resident Evil in 1996; in fact, the earliest plan was to simply remake Sweet Home into 3D.

As the decades have gone on, the Famicom game has become a cult-classic, especially after a fan translation saw release, while the original movie has mostly become forgotten, even as Kiyoshi Kurosawa went on to become a notable name in Japanese cinema, following films like Cure, Seventh Code, & Journey to the Shore. Unfortunately, a major part of this is due to the film's lack of any sort of re-release, which has its own story that I'll get to later in this piece, but in the meantime let's see what the movie itself had to offer.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Twelve Anime That Deserve Being Rescued from Streaming Purgatory Part 2

Normally, whenever I make a "twelve anime" list, I compile the entries based on my own research & whimsy, which means that there's a strong tendency for them to be picked more on personal attachment or interest than neutral logic. On rare occasion I put out a call for outside input, but the end result tends to only give me one or two picks, if even any at all. When I asked for this streaming purgatory list, however, I got the complete opposite. This is obviously something that other people may have thought about in the back of their minds, because I received a bunch of responses, almost all of which giving multiple answers. Because of that, I can easily make a second list another time (likely next year), so let me see which six either seem to be the most wanted or at least catchy my interest to some extent.


Polar Bear Café
I am admittedly more on the side that prefers action-oriented stories, or at least something with a feeling of conflict to it, but I can definitely see the appeal of watching an anime just to relax & feel good. These tend to get categorized under the genre of iyashikei, or "healing", anime due to their soothing & mentally non-straining execution. Admittedly, I'm not 100% sure if Polar Bear Café technically counts as an iyashikei anime, but I do remember watching an episode or two of it years ago, and it was very chill. Anyway, this 50-episode TV anime from 2012-2013 was based on the Aloha Higa manga that ran in josei magazine Flowers from 2006 to 2014, where it then moved to Cocohana magazine, under the name Polar Bear Café: Today's Special, & still runs to this day. It told the everyday lives of the walking & talking animals (& humans) who both work at & frequent the Polar Bear's Café, which is run by a Polar Bear who loves making bad puns.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Twelve Anime That Deserve Being Rescued from Streaming Purgatory Part 1

Back in 2011, I made a pair of lists where I compiled anime that had once seen release in North America via home video & I felt deserved being "rescued", i.e. licensed once again & given a re-release, ideally with improved video, audio, translation, etc. Around the same time, streaming really started making its mark with anime fans, especially with the advent of simulcasts, where brand-new anime productions were being made available legally around the world within hours of them airing in Japan. As anyone can easily tell you, though, there is just a metric ton of anime being produced every season, let alone every year; some will even tell you that there's "too much anime" being made.

Because of that, the dream of having "(almost) everything" is only half way there, because while streaming gives us access to those new shows, not all of them get the opportunity to become a part of a fan's collection. Instead, they become victims of licensing agreements, and once those licenses expire, and a site like CrunchyRoll decides to not renew, that anime becomes lost, officially, and this time around there isn't a home video release for people to rely on to keep things on the up-&-up later on. Now this list isn't about those anime that were once streamed but are now gone, as those are worthy of being "license rescued" & that's not what this list is about. Instead, I'm going to list off twelve anime that are still legally streaming, as of May 2018, but have yet to be given home video releases. Luckily, I asked for some help, and I got a ton of responses, so for the first time I have split this list evenly between my own personal picks, and what others have told me deserve being rescued from "streaming purgatory". Still, this is my blog, so we're starting with my picks first.


Saint Seiya Hades
It's absolutely astounding how seemingly hard it is for the works of Masami Kurumada to receive any sort of complete release here in "North of Mexico", especially when it comes to Saint Seiya; I even once called it a "Kurumada Curse". Luckily, the past few years have been slightly better in that regard, and that's due to the advent of streaming. Still, even there we have some notable blank spots when it comes to the "OG" productions, like the entire second half of Saint Seiya TV, i.e. Episodes 74-114. Instead, we have the first 73 episodes, which cover through the Sanctuary Chapter, and the final 31 OVA episodes from 2003-2008, which cover the Hades Chapter. Still, even those officially-available original series episodes are only partially saved from purgatory, and it all comes down to one company, Cinedigm.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Monkey Turn V: I Wonder if the Kyotei Champion Goes to Tokyo Disneyland...

The year 2004 was an interesting time for anime, especially when it came to late-night. Before this year, the late-night "anime infomercial" was still a niche, though it was expanding ever since the end of 1996. This specific year, though, saw around 60 different anime series air in late-night TV slots, establishing this format as the future. At the same time, though, 2004 was the end of airing a single series over the course of an entire year (if not more) in late-night; longer series have more recently come back slightly, but it's been mostly shorter shows since then. I bring this up because Monkey Turn was one of those "last" year-long, late-night runs. However, unlike Monster or Hajime no Ippo, which both ran as gigantically long single shows, the kyotei racing anime was split up across two 25-episode seasons, though there was no hiatus between episodes. That being said, though, I can fully understand why there was a split between seasons here, because Monkey Turn V offers a concept that's different from Monkey Turn. Where the first season was your standard "rising to the top" story in concept, the second season goes in a direction that's not seen too often in sports anime & manga: What happens after you achieve your dream?


Upon graduating from Yamato Kyotei Academy, Kenji Hatano made a promise to everyone, including his girlfriend Sumi Ubukata, that he would become Japan's #1 kyotei racer within three years. While he got close to doing so when he made it to an SG tournament in his third year, it wouldn't be until after 3.5 years that he finally beat the likes of "Boat King" Yusuke Enoki, "Wolf of Hokuriku" Gunji Inukai, & rival Takehiro Doguchi, becoming SG Champion. Now Kenji has to not only maintain his new spot among the best, but he also has to watch out for new challengers, like female expert Chiaki Kushida or local favorite-turned-SG-competitor Hidetaka Gamou. Before he can do any of that, though, Kenji suffers an injury, as a horrible capsize during a race results in his left wrist & hand getting sliced open by another racer's propeller, potentially ending his racing career right as it finally hit its stride.