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Sunday, September 9, 2018

Theory Musing: Ehrgeiz is Cyberbots!?

Licensed properties can sometimes be a tricky thing to work with, especially since it's owned by a different party than the one working with it. In fact, sometimes said licensed property can be taken away from the production, which just throws a giant wrench into the works. A perfect example would be cult-classic 1990 NES game Journey to Silius, or Rough World in Japan, which was initially meant to be based on The Terminator, but had to be altered after Sunsoft lost the rights. Now while this resulted in the plot of the game having to change, there are still some bits & pieces in the game that hint at what it was originally meant to be, simply because it'd be impossible to remove or alter every little aspect before release. It does make one wonder, though, if something like this ever happened with anime. Well, at least according to various Japanese blogs & even Wikipedia Japan, there might just be an instance of an anime getting the Journey to Silius treatment...

I've written numerous times about the late 1997 TV anime Next Senki/Record of Next War Ehrgeiz before, & how I will forever have a soft spot for it, even though it's been completely forgotten with time; it just "clicks" with me. Now when it comes to the first ever mech anime to air in late-night, most people will quickly assume that it has an association with the 3D fighting game of the (almost same exact) name, 1998's Ehrgeiz: God Bless the Ring, especially since the game came out in arcades around the same time the anime was receiving its (only) home video release in Japan. Those people would be wrong, though, since the two Ehrgeiz-es have absolutely nothing in common, aside from both using the German word for "ambition" in their titles; they also share a couple of voice actors, coincidentally. But what would you say if the anime may actually have a link to another video game, one that is mech-based? Specifically, was Next Senki Ehrgeiz really an aborted adaptation of Capcom's Cyberbots?

For those unfamiliar, Cyberbots: Fullmetal Madness originally came out in April 1995 for Capcom's CPS2 arcade hardware, & was a 1-on-1 fighting game where you took control of giant robots piloted by a variety of different characters; it was the spiritual successor to 1994 beat-em-up Armored Warriors, as they used the same mechs. While it did become a bit of a cult favorite over time, today it's best known as the game that Marvel vs. Capcom 1 & 2 pulled Jin Saotome (& his mech Blodia) from. Unlike most Capcom fighters of the time, though, Cyberbots wasn't ported to home consoles for a whole two years, with the first being the Sega Saturn version on March 28, 1997. Now, in terms of any relation to Next Senki Ehrgeiz, the Saturn port still predated the anime's debut later that year on October 2, but the second console port is where things get interesting. You see, the Sony PlayStation wouldn't see a port of Cyberbots until December 25, 1997... The same day (sort of, since the show aired at "25:15" on December 24) that Ehrgeiz's final episode aired on TV Tokyo! While one can chalk up the port's delayed release down to the PS1 not being as friendly for 2D fighting games, though the Saturn version didn't require the RAM expansion cart to play (it did improve performance, however), maybe the port was also delayed so that an anime adaptation could be made to help promote it... At least, that's if these Japanese blogs are correct. So, to change things up for Theory Musing, allow me to ruminate on a theory made by others & see if there's something to this idea that Next Senki Ehrgeiz was originally meant to be a Cyberbots anime.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

DiC's Knights of the Zodiac: I Just Ran, I Ran So Far Away, But I Couldn't Get Away...

Today, in the year 2018, it's not hard for someone in English-speaking anime/manga fandom to give Masami Kurumada's Saint Seiya a try, especially when it comes to the anime side of things. In fact, almost every single Seiya anime production currently made is fully available in English, either via streaming or home video, with the only exceptions being the last two movies & the entire second half (Episodes 74-114) of the original 1986-1989 TV anime adaptation by Toei; some of these options even have English dubs. Come next year, I don't think this will change in any way once the Saintia Sho & all-CG Netflix reboot anime series both debut, either, since the former will obviously be simulcasted over at CrunchyRoll, at the very least, while the latter is meant for international distribution, especially in English. However, things were completely different in the year 2003, as before then Saint Seiya had never seen any sort of official English release, either via anime or manga. Fifteen years ago, this series finally came to the United States of America & Canada, i.e. "North of Mexico"... But I'm sure even Toei Animation & Masami Kurumada himself would prefer that you forget all about it.

In June of 2003, ICv2 reported that DiC Entertainment had licensed the Saint Seiya anime & was producing an edited version that would air on Cartoon Network later that year titled Knights of the Zodiac, which was the English version of the name that the anime had become known as when it was exported around the world during the 90s & became a smash hit, especially in European & South American territories. As DiC CEO Andy Heyward pointed out, "There has never been a Japanese series that has been a mega-hit in Asia, Europe and South America that has failed to become a mega-hit in the U.S.", and considering the success DiC had with Sailor Moon previously, it made sense to give Seiya a go. So KotZ debuted in the U.S. on August 30, 2003 at 7:00 PM, being the new lead show for Cartoon Network's Saturday Video Entertainment System block, or SVES, which acted as a sort of weekend counterpart to Toonami, which aired on prime time on weekdays. The show kept that lead time slot up through October, which covered the first nine episodes, before getting moved to a 12:30 AM "death slot" that November, where it would stay until SVES was outright killed off after April 10, 2004; the block would be replaced by Toonami's move to Saturday evenings, but KotZ was left behind. Of the 40 episodes of Saint Seiya that DiC had adapted into Knights of the Zodiac, only 32 actually aired on Cartoon Network, 23 of which were barely seen by anyone, due to the "death slot". Canada's broadcast on YTV, which started a day after the US, did air all 40 episodes, however.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Saint Seiya: Legend of Sanctuary: Well... It's Definitely a Different Take on the Series, I'll Give it That

Back in May of 2011, plus the end of that prior April, I reviewed the four non-canon movies made for Masami Kurumada's Saint Seiya during the run of the original TV anime, plus the fifth movie from early 2004 that was meant to lead into a proper continuation of the manga story, but wound up being made non-canon by Kurumada's eventual Saint Seiya Next Dimension manga. At that time, that's all there was when it came to movies based on that series, but in February of 2012 a "New Masami Kurumada Project" was announced, as the first "Masami Kurumada Project" from late 2010 was Ring ni Kakero 1: Sekai Taikai-hen. The only things known were that it was tentatively titled "Saint Seiya the Movie", would be directed by Keiichi Satou (Asura, Tiger & Bunny), & looked to an all-CG affair, similar to Shinji Aramaki's Harlock: Space Pirate that would come out a year later; both films were co-produced by Toei & Marza Animation Planet (Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, next year's Sonic the Hedgehog movie). Following this, there was no new info whatsoever until October 2013, when it was revealed to be titled Saint Seiya: Legend of Sanctuary & later given a June 2014 premiere at the Annecy Animated Film Festival. It'd debut in Japanese theaters ten days later, followed by numerous showings around the world... Except for the United States & Canada, of course. Since then, the movie has yet to be given any sort of "North of Mexico" release, even though the Japanese Blu-Ray & DVD both have a perfectly fine English subtitle translation, likely the one used for Annecy.

So how is this sixth Saint Seiya movie, the one meant to celebrate Masami Kurumada's 40th Anniversary as a mangaka, & even featured Kurumada himself as an often-consulted "Chief Executive Producer"? Well... It's... "Interesting", to say the least.

Saori Kido is the adoptive granddaughter of the late Mitsumasa Kido, a rich mogul, & has special healing powers, but doesn't know why. On her 16th birthday, her butler Tatsumi says that her powers are that of "Cosmo", the inner strength inside all beings, and that she is actually the Greek goddess Athena. Mitsumasa & Tatsumi came across her as a baby 16 years ago in the Himalayas, when she was taken away from Sanctuary by a wounded "Saint", the guardians of Athena, named Sagittarius Aiolos, as he discovered that the Pope of Sanctuary wanted to kill her & install a fake in her place; in his last breath, he gave Saori & his Sagittarius Cloth to Mitsumasa. In turn, Mitsumasa searched for young boys who he then sent out around the world to train to become Saints who will protect the real Athena. Saori & Tatsumi are then attacked by assassins from Sanctuary, only to be rescued by Pegasus Seiya, Dragon Shiryu, Andromeda Shun, & Cygnus Hyoga, who were the boys that Tatsumi was taking Saori to meet at the airport. Saori has no time to come to terms with all of these revelations, though, as later that night she & the Bronzes all attacked by Leo Aiolia, Aiolos' younger brother, only for him to realize that Saori may actually be the real Athena, after all. Saori & the Bronzes decide to head to Sanctuary & put an end to all this confusion, especially when Saori is hit with an energy arrow by Sagitta Ptolemy, which allows the Pope to absorb Saori's Cosmo over time.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Otakon 25 in 2018: Remaining Steadfast Against Great Odds

Back in 2013, Otakon went all out for the 20th iteration of the "Convention of Otaku Generation", but I wonder how many people actually realized that this year was the 25th (read: not the 25th anniversary, which will be next year). To match that, some have argued that the roster of guests this year was a bit lacking, even though icons like voice actor Nobutoshi Canna & Macross creator Shoji Kawamori came over for the weekend; sure, Mr. CreepyPasta was an odd choice, but I won't complain. Still, the panels themselves were mostly outstanding, or at least the ones I went to, the Washington DC area is starting to feel more & more familiar, & the convention center still felt really open & uncrowded, even with this year being the fifth-most attended Otakon ever; don't be surprised if they go past 30,000 once again next year.

Sure, there are still some problems, like the autographs always feeling like a work-in-progress after 25 years of experience to figure out what to do(!), but Otakon has proven that the move to DC is truly for the best, and the fans came to the city in such a large number that a white supremacist rally planned for Sunday wound up being absolutely innocuous, partially because there wasn't enough space in the hotels for them! Anyway, as always, allow me to go over what I personally held at Otakon, because I was more than pleased with the results.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Ages of Jump Redux Part 2: The Iron-Forged Future is in "Our" (read: Japan's) Hands

So in the two(-ish ) years since the original Ages of Jump, a lot of things have happened related to the mangaka & titles I brought up back then. Play Ball received a currently-running sequel, 2017's Play Ball 2 by Yuji Moritaka, & I've heard it's very faithful to the style of the late Akio Chiba. Kochikame surprised everyone by ending in late 2016, after 40 years & 200 volumes, and a new anime TV special was made to celebrate. Captain Tsubasa finally saw a new anime adaptation by David Production, which is still airing right now & about to make its English debut on Primo TV. Speaking of David Pro, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 5: Golden Wind's anime adaptation will be debuting this October, after having its first episode premiere at Anime Expo. Dragon Ball Super ended not long ago, for the time being, & a new movie is in production. City Hunter is getting a new anime film by Sunrise that's set to debut on February 8, 2019, featuring the original cast & director. Goku!! Otokojuku ended, & has since been followed up with Shin/True!! Otokojuku. Saint Seiya is getting a full-CG remake series that will air on Netflix in 2019, under the Knights of the Zodiac name, and spin-off manga Saintia Sho is getting a Toei-produced TV anime that same year.

Yes, this is nothing but re-purposing already existing artwork... But it still looks awesome.

The Hana no Keiji spin-off manga franchise will be coming to an end later this year. Yu Yu Hakusho is getting its first new anime production, an OVA, in over 20 years. Hoshin Engi finally received a new TV anime adaptation, almost 10 years after Shomei TV's alleged attempt at gauging interest. Hiroyuki Takei left Shueisha & moved to Kodansha, taking all of the Shaman King rights with him... Oops. Bleach finally came to an end in 2017, totaling 74 volumes. Muhyo & Roji's Bureau of Supernatural Investigation finally received an anime adaptation that just debuted last week! Toriko ended in 2016, totaling 43 volumes. To-Love-Ru Darkness ended in early 2017 after 18 volumes, giving that whole franchise a total of 36 volumes. Saiki Kusuo no Ψ-nan received not one, but two seasons of TV anime; you might know it better now as The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.. World Trigger has been on an unfortunate indefinite hiatus, due to Daisuke Ashihara's health, ever since the end of 2016. Hinomaru Zumo is set to debut a TV anime adaptation this October. Finally, My Hero Academia has truly become Jump's new smash hit, all around the world, both in manga & anime form.

Oh... And Nobuhiro Watsuki was revealed to be in possession of a ton of child pornography, yet was given nothing more than a slap on the wrist & allowed to return to his Rurouni Kenshin: Hokkaido Arc manga after only a few weeks. Compare that to Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro, who had his manga Takeshi! outright cancelled, was pretty much exiled from Shonen Jump for six years following his "incident", & needed the good word of Eiichiro Oda just to be given a second chance to prove that he had changed. Hey, they can't all be good news, unfortunately. Anyway, let's see what noteworthy manga I let fall between the cracks from the Silver Age of Jump, shall we?