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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Obscusion B-Side: Spectral vs. Generation: Blades of Chaos Strike with Force to Claim the Kingdom

I know that Idea Factory doesn't exactly have the most positive reception in the gaming world as a whole, though it's not seemingly anywhere near as harsh as it was a decade ago, but I will always have a soft spot for the company. Sadly, the Idea Factory that exists now doesn't quite endear itself to me like it used to, and that's because it essentially killed off the thing that got me interested in the company in the first place: IF Neverland. This brand existed from 1996-2009 across 35 games, during which it was pretty much the main breadwinner for Idea Factory, and one of the major appeals it had was a heavily interlinked timeline filled with characters that would debut in one game & then return for other games, either going from main to secondary, secondary to main, or simply getting their own spin-off titles. While IF Neverland games tended to be tactical or strategy RPGs, the franchise did venture into other genres, like traditional RPG (Spectral Blade), dungeon crawler (Spectral Tower), monster raising (Monster Complete World), real-time strategy (Field of Chaos), MMO (Kingdom of Chaos), card battler (Cardinal Arc: Konton no Fuusatsu/Neverland Card Battles), & hack-&-slash (Bakuen Kakusei Neverland Senki Zero/Realm of the Dead)... So why not also a 2D fighting game?

Traditionally, Idea Factory developed its own games for IF Neverland, though it did team with Taiwan's XPEC Entertainment for three games (Black Stone: Magic & Steel/Ex-Chaser, Spectral Force Chronicle, & Spectral Force 3: Innocent Rage), but I guess making a fighting game was just beyond its staff's skills, so for this genre the company teamed with Taiwan's International Games System. By this time, IGS had found some slight notoriety with the PolyGame Master, a Neo Geo-esque arcade system that earned some fans via the beat-em-up series Knights of Valour & the (now) hyper-cult-classic fighting game Martial Masters. The result of this Idea Factory/IGS team-up is 2005's Spectral vs. Generation for the PGM, making it the only arcade game to come from Idea Factory; it saw distribution by AMI, which also distributed Cave's shooters during the 00s. Unlike most other PGM games, though, SvG did see home ports onto the PlayStation 2 & PSP in 2006, both of which actually saw English release in Europe by Midas Interactive Entertainment in 2007, even though Europe had yet to receive any IF Neverland games at all at that point; first God Bless Dancouga, now this. Considering how iconic the works of Capcom & SNK were by this point, let alone newer companies like Arc System Works making their marks, let's see what IGS was able to do with Idea Factory's cast of fantasy war generals.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Saint Beast: Ikusen no Hiru to Yoru Hen: Can Anybody Find Me Someangel to Love?

Following the (not really a) finale of the Seijuu Kourin Hen anime in June of 2003, the Saint Beast series went into overdrive with the debut of the drama CDs... And there were a ton of them. Up first was (the simply titled) Saint Beast that July, which I would guess told the story that the anime was setting up, and told four overall stories across nine volumes. After that would come 2005's Saint Beast: Yukyuu no Sho -Rakuen Soshitsu-/Eternal Chapter -Lost Paradise-, which told another four stories across three more volumes, & 2006's Saint Beast: Onshu no Sho -Seijuu Fuuin-/Chaplain Chapter -The Holy Beast Sealing-, which was yet another four stories across three volumes. This isn't even counting the Comedy Drama & Another Drama "extra story" drama CD series that debuted in 2004, which added another 12 stories across four more volumes; that's already 19 individual drama CDs! I'm only going to hope that the various seiyuu involved got paid very well for their hard work.

Anyway, in between the 2005 & 2006 drama CD series, Wonderfarm also managed to squeeze in a second anime production. This time around would be Saint Beast: Ikusen no Hiru to Yoru Hen/Thousands of Days & Nights Chapter, a two-episode OVA that saw release in December of 2005 & March of 2006. Unlike the prior TV series, though, this short OVA wouldn't be animated by Tokyo Kids, which was likely busy making the Magikano TV anime at the time. Instead, Wonderfarm would bring in the venerable Madhouse for animation production, which is much more renowned for delivering great visuals than Tokyo Kids. So let's see if Viewster made a mistake by not getting the streaming rights to this short prequel.

One stormy night at the mansion, Gou has a nightmare where he recalls the attempted coup Judas & Luka tried pulling on Zeus, God of Heaven. He wakes up & decides to look out the window, recalling the old days in Heaven, back when Zeus transformed him & his fellow generation of angels into adulthood, when he & Gai met Shin & Rei, & when Heaven was in a seeming age of happiness. Still, even then there were angels who still sinned, & unbeknownst to him & his friends, there were various dirty deeds either about to be done or have already been done, like Judas asking Zeus to punish sinful angels or even the potential that Zeus & his confidant Lucifer may have conspired to kill Cronus, Zeus' father & the prior God, so that Zeus could claim the throne for himself.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Saint Beast: Seijuu Kourin Hen: You Hooked? Now Buy Our Drama CDs, You Fanatics!

Even though he's been with JAM Project longer than Masami Okui & Yoshiki Fukuyama, Hiroshi Kitadani has often felt like a "secondary" member of the supergroup. This is not me ragging on "Dani", though, because his skills as a singer are right up there with his fellow JAM members. His trio of One Piece theme songs are all excellent & have more than given him a legacy on their own. Not just that, but his legacy of anime & game work as lead singer of the rock band Lapis Lauzli may be small, but their themes for Babel II: Beyond Infinity & the Tough OVA are both great songs, & their vocal covers of Guilty Gear X's soundtrack are absolutely amazing. That being said, Kitdani's only had a single "featuring" song with JAM Project (i.e. JAM backs him up while he sings lead) during his entire tenure so far, & his solo theme song catalog post-One Piece is mostly children's anime (Gaist Crusher, Daigunder, Transformers: SuperLink/Energon) or the occasional tokusatsu series (Kamen Rider Ryuki, Madan Senki Ryukendo), a.k.a. not much most anime fans would readily identify. In fact, one could argue that Kitdani's only other "iconic" solo anisong is for a series that's so obscure that more people would know of its source material than the anime itself!

In the Fall of 2001, a 13-episode series aired in Japan titled Fairy Tale Angel's Tail, better known internationally as simply Angel Tales. In that series, there was a quartet of characters named the Saint Beasts, men who were the reincarnations of the Four Symbols. These four men apparently became rather popular with fans, so when sequel series Angel Tales Chu! (which never saw international release) ran for six weeks throughout March & April of 2003, the Saint Beasts were nowhere to be seen, though they were at least referenced. Instead, following the end of that second season, production company Wonderfarm & anime studio Tokyo Kids (which made the prior two shows) debuted a six-episode spin-off anime series, Saint Beast: Seijuu Kourin Hen/The Descending Holy Beasts Chapter, that ran for the remaining six weeks in the time slot that Chu! was running in. While a spin-off, though, the Saint Beast anime took place in an alternate continuity from that of Angel Tales, so it's (theoretically) friendly for newcomers.

In what was truly an unpredictable move, however, streaming website Viewster announced at New York Comic Con 2015 that it would be offering both Saint Beast & its 2007 follow-up anime with English subtitles for streaming; Viewster also announced both seasons of Meine Liebe at the con. Therefore, to close out the Summer of JAM (later than I had planned, naturally), let's see if the first season of Saint Beast, which from here on I'll refer to under its subtitle, has anything to it... At least, it should have enough to it to warrant making me use my old Xbox 360 in order to watch this show legally, because the only console app Viewster ever put out was for that system.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Kamen no Maid Guy: Kukuku... Seems the World is Not Yet Ready for Male Maids

Yoshiki Fukuyama has an interesting spot as a member of JAM Project, because he's the only member to have had prior (notable) anime success as part of a larger group. Specifically, his old band Humming Bird was chosen to be the sound behind Macross 7's rock band Fire Bomber, with Fukuyama himself being the singing voice of main character Basara Nekki. Not just that, but following the end of that anime, Humming Bird would continue being used for anime & game themes, from its debuts with 1997's City Hunter: Good Bye My Sweetheart & Next Senki Ehrgeiz to the band's final singles with 1999's Macross VF-X2 & Karakuri Zoushi Ayatsuri Sakon. Since teaming with JAM, Fukuyama hasn't done too much solo work when it comes to anime themes, with his themes to Overman King Gainer & Buso Renkin being possibly his most iconic. In fact, Yoshiki Fukuyama hasn't had a solo anime theme song since 2008!

2004's Kamen no/Masked Maid Guy was the debut manga for Maruboro Akai in the pages of Monthly Dragon Age, home of titles like Triage X, Highschool of the Dead, & many manga adaptations of light novels. It would run until 2012 for 15 volumes, & during serialization saw two adaptations. First was a radio drama series in 2006, & following that was a 12-episode TV anime adaptation by Madhouse during the Spring of 2008; the later home video release added an extra OVA episode. Unfortunately, 2008 was one of the worst times for anime to see initial airing & release from an international perspective (at least for North America), because that was during the time the bubble burst, which meant that it was sandwiched between the old days of stuff being grabbed left & right for home video & the current days of almost everything being simulcasted for streaming. Because of that, it got passed over without much ado.

Combine that with the fact that Geneon Entertainment Japan was handling the home video release, which itself was about to enter a merger with Universal Japan (now NBC Universal Japan), & Kamen no Maid Guy still remains with any sort of official release in English; there are fansubs, but it was definitely a victim of unfortunate timing. I say this because I felt back then, & still do today, that Maid Guy could have been, at the very least, a strong sleeper hit for its time, because it, quite literally, has just about everything that sells housed inside it. Yes, it's as insane as that sounds.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Otakon 2017 in DC: Out with the Old, In with the New

[Quick Note: If you're reading this because you attended my panels & are looking for the content lists, just skip to the end.]

When I did my Otakon report last year, I nicknamed it "Final Otakon" because it was the last time it would emanate from Baltimore, Maryland's Inner Harbor. Therefore, this year's Otakon, which has now moved to Washington D.C.'s Walter E. Washington Convention Center, was "New Otakon". Luckily, New Otakon managed to fight against the stigma of being a "New" version of an iconic creation, because this year was outstanding & managed to not only feel like Otakon of old, but also give me hopes for the future.

That being said, my initial & immediate feelings were a little rough. For example, "Day 0" (a.k.a. Thursday) was always known for long lines of people waiting to grab their pre-registration badges, but there was next to none of that this year. In fact, when pick-up opened at 3:00 pm, I was literally able to just walk up to a booth & get my badge; even by 5:30 pm, the line was only a short wait, at best. Luckily, those feelings were crushed come the start of Day 1, & by 6:30 pm on Day 2 (what I call "Peak Otakon"), the con was filled with people & the sheer energy of it all made me feel absolutely comfortable. I think the best praise for a con is that, following the move to a new location, you still get that comfortable & familiar feeling, & New Otakon felt like a true-blue Otakon by the end.

What really blew everyone's mind, though, was the sheer size of the Washington Center, because this place is absolutely gigantic; the con didn't use close to the entire center's space, yet already felt comfortable. The Dealers Room & Artist Alley were just unbelievably massive, though. Not just that, but the layout was so attendee-friendly that, by the end of Day 2, I already knew where everything was, which is amazing to think about. Combined with the locale-filled section of our nation's capital that the center is in, New Otakon feels just right in Washington D.C.

Now I can simply go over the various stories I have about what happened with me at the con, but I'll just direct you to my Twitter page, as I covered more or less all of the awesome moments from this past weekend over there. Instead, let me go over what panels I held, both in the giant AMV Theater, & what I covered in each of them: