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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Xevious: It's Dangerous... It's Devious.... It's Nowhere to be Found!

When it comes to old-school 2D shooters, Namco's Xevious is definitely one of the most well-known. Debuting in arcades back in 1982, Xevious became a bit of a cult-classic around the world, but in Japan the game is loved by many. Game creators and even musicians in Japan have been inspired by the game, and it has had multiple sequels and spin-offs created since then. Personally, I do enjoy Xevious and have even bought the recent 3D Classics version of the game for the Nintendo 3DS. It's mix of shooting enemies in the air while bombing enemies and facilities on the ground is still not a widely-used game mechanic and the game does indeed get difficult very quickly, requiring lots of replays and memorization in order to not only reach the point of the game where you start repeating stages but to also reach an uber-high score. So, naturally, when you have something that the Japanese love an anime sounds like a reasonable thing to make. Xevious is no exception here, but this specific anime is special as it is not only supremely obscure but also 100% unattainable. Since it cannot be bought or even downloaded I naturally haven't seen this movie, but I do feel that the story behind this movie should be told.


In 2002, the 20th Anniversary of the game, Namco teamed with a company called Groove Corporation with the intent of creating an animated movie based on Xevious. The result was an all-CG, 75-minute movie. Sshooters aren't really known for their story, but Xevious' creator, Masanobu Endo, truly loved this game (he just about did everything himself when making it) and even created stories based on the world of the game, one of which was even featured on the insert of an album of Namco remixes. Oddly enough, though, Endo's name looks to be nowhere on the credits for this movie. Endo was involved with the overall production of the Tower of Druaga anime, which was based on another of his game creations, but his name looks to be nowhere found when it comes to Xevious. As for what the story of the movie is about, here is what I can gather from the multitude of Japanese synopses you can find on the internet:


In the year 2150 A.D. space pilot Takeru and his human-type computer Martha come across a giant battleship in space. In it they find a mysterious girl named Ru Mi, who warns the two about a race of aliens called the Gamp, who are planning to attack Earth and make it their own. Takeru decides to take the fight to the Gamp himself so he enters his fighter ship, the Solvalou, and heads for the Gamp's home base on the planet Andor.


As you can see the plot doesn't sound like much, but with it only being a movie that's barely over an hour long I'm not going to complain. Apparently, though, the game itself had a neat backstory to it, explaining that the Gamp were the original inhabitants of Earth and that the humans were the actual invaders. If the movie kept that neat twist in then I would have loved to see how the likes of Takeru would take the reveal. The people behind the production seem to be those who were new to anime and haven't really done anything since, with the exception of people like Masafumi Mima (a sound supervisor/director who has worked on anime like Hajime no Ippo, both Fullmetal Alchemist TV series, Inazuma Eleven, and Pokémon) and Shinya Ogura (a conceptual designer who has worked on the Gundam Evolve shorts, the Twin Spica anime, and the PLANETES anime, among others). In terms of voice work, Takeru was voiced by Katsuaki Arima (a.k.a. Yusei Oda), who mainly voices secondary characters in anime, like Himmler in Ring ni Kakero 1: Sekai Taikai-hen, but has done leading roles before like Ken Andou from the Cybuster anime. Martha was voiced by Kae Araki, who people will probably identify as the voice of Felicia from the Darkstalkers video game series as well as the voice of Chibi Sailor Moon. Finally, Ru Mi was voiced by Ryoka Yuzuki, a.k.a Ino from Nartuo, Tokiko from Buso Renkin, and Minagi Tohno from Air TV. The only other real name of notice is that of Kazuya Nakai, who voices one of four nameless "Operators" in the movie. That's really all I can say about the movie from an overall production standpoint, so let's get into the story of why this movie is now anime non grata.


If you've never heard of Groove Corporation before, then you're probably not alone. There's not much info about them, but the company seemed to only really exist in the early 2000s and have only a handful of anime productions to its name: Six Angels, a supposedly horrific six-episode web-anime that was later cut into a feature-length movie; Nakoruru, a single OVA based on the Samurai Shodown character of the same name (which I did see a few years ago and will probably review on this blog one day); Xevious; and Geisters: Fractions of the Earth (which was released partially by Anime Crash and is probably the company's most well-known title). So, what exactly happened to Groove Corporation? From what I've read, and I can't find where I read it anymore, the head of the company supposedly took all of the money and production masters and ran off somewhere, leaving the company with no choice but to go out of business. Apparently that's what resulted in the Nakoruru OVA being only one episode whereas two were planned, and judging from that flier right above there were plans to condense Geisters into two compilation movies, subtitled Hikari no Shou/Light Chapter and Inochi no Shou/Life Chapter. Unfortunately, this situation also affected Xevious.


The Six Angels movie cut, Xevious, and the Geisters compilation movies were all shown during a summer road show run by a group called Garinpeiro, and the Six Angels movie is the version of the anime that got a DVD release in Japan. Giesters' TV series received a full DVD run as well, and the Nakoruru OVA was made for home video. This poster above, as well as listings online at places like Amazon.co.jp, prove that Xevious was scheduled for a DVD and VHS release on September 25, 2002 and was going to be released by Ken Media, the same company that released all of Groove's other productions. The previously mentioned incident Groove suffered through, though, apparently resulted in Xevious' masters apparently becoming unavailable, with the movie missing its release date and to this day there is still no release. The same can also be said of the Geisters compilation movies, of course. But, did we really miss anything in the end?

Yes, the Six Angels piece at the top features bare breasts hidden behind the info box...  Guess what the appeal is!

Even though a home video release never happened, Xevious was shown at the previously-mentioned road show. This means that there are a few reviews of the movie, all in Japanese, from those who saw it while it was being shown around. Unfortunately, they aren't exactly positive reviews, citing poor CG (and you can't argue that looking at the fliers above), a lackluster story, and a badly-written script, among other smaller issues. I'll be honest here and say that I wasn't really expecting anything amazing from this movie anyway when I first heard of it. With it being only 75 minutes long there obviously wouldn't be much time for character development, and the early 2000s was a time when all-CG productions were just starting to become more widely-done. I'd estimate that the CG would probably be about as good as that of the Run=Dim TV anime (yet another show I've seen and could possibly review at one point or another). As long as the movie isn't complete crap and can at least entertain me, and remind me of the game in some way, then I'd be pleased with it even if it wasn't anything special. There is one small ray of hope, though, among all of this darkness. There is a way to watch the Xevious movie, even if it's most likely only a small portion of it.


See that disc above? That is a promotional disc that was made to promote Groove Corporation's upcoming title. Yeah, that's Genma Wars at the bottom, so that means Enoki Films USA kept that show safe from the whole take-and-run fiasco (and what a save that was...). More than likely, this disc features actual video for each of these titles, which therefore means that it possibly has some bit of actual footage from the Xevious movie. And, amazingly enough, there are Japanese sites like Rakuten that are selling actual copies of this disc, which more than likely are what remained from the road show and somehow got into the hands of these site owners. This is honestly a really cool thing to own and is probably pretty rare in general, which leads to one big problem. The cheapest these sites are selling this disc for is roughly $60-$80, and more than likely you'll have to pay for shipping, which could make the total close to $100. While I did pay roughly $80 for each volume of Ring ni Kakero 1: Shadow so that I could watch it, that was a special case. Unless I was to get some money to pay for this disc, and who knows if any of these sites even ship to the United States, there is no way that I'll be paying that kind of money for a promotional disc solely so that I could watch only a portion of an all-CG movie based on a classic video game. Sorry, but even I have my limits.
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And that ends this look at the 2002 all-CG Xevious movie. Even if it wasn't that good of a movie, I say that those people who got to see it during the road show should consider themselves lucky, as that was the only way anyone could ever see this movie. As notorious as a show like Chou Kousoku Galvion was for never having received a home release of any sort (VHS, LD, or DVD), at least there were people who actually recorded the show during its airing on TV, resulting in it being viewable and available in theory (though only four episodes are actually out there digitally as of this writing). Xevious, on the other hand, didn't get that luxury; for example, someone could have recorded the movie with a video camera during the road show, but there's no proof that anyone ever did so. In fact, the road show could have possibly banned video cameras from being brought into showings, since there was the planned DVD and VHS release. As it stands, the Xevious movie is like the anime equivalent of those extravagant awards Atari made for that Swordquest competition (for those who aren't familiar with these items, the Angry Video Game Nerd covered it in great detail in episode 88 of his show). There's proof that the movie exists, and people have actually seen it, but now there is no way to see or even obtain it. The Xevious movie could almost be considered a holy grail-of-sorts, though a less-known one, in the anime world. Maybe one day someone can get a hold of the masters for the movie and give it a home video release. Even if it isn't a good title I wouldn't mind actually being able to say that I own the Xevious movie.

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