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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Twelve Anime I Want to Review... But Can't (Anytime Soon, at Least) Part 2

Part 1 was certainly an interesting look, and Part 2 should be no different, so let's go straight into it:

The Japanese music group EXILE is pretty popular in their home country. Their leader, Hiroyuki "Hiro" Igarashi, is especially a big fan of anime & manga, and 2009's 24-episode TV anime Examurai Sengoku is but one of his productions. The original Examurai, a combination of EXILE and the word "samurai" (and I thought "Obscusion" was a silly play-on-words), was actually an anime short made to go with the group's "Love" album from 2007, and it turned each group member into a weapon-wielding warrior and put them into a post-apocalyptic Japan in the near future. Examurai Sengoku, on the other hand, was animated by TMS and took place during the "Warring States/Sengoku Era" of Japanese history in a fictional city called Yasaka. The story involved a mysterious man of great strength and how each EXILE-inspired warrior became involved in this story, with the focus being on the Igarashi-inspired character Hiro. Combine that with 12-minute episodes and kick-ass character designs by Hiroshi Takahashi (creator of Worst & Crows, and overall legendary yankii mangaka), and Examurai Sengoku was actually pretty cool, with the first few episodes easily getting your attention.

Unfortunately, this show is simply another case of a fansub group translating it, but never finishing it. A second group picked it up early this year, but after two more episodes nothing else came about. It's a shame too, since Examurai Sengoku was looking to be an honestly good show and not simply a vanity project. Since Sengoku's finish, Hiro actually is helping create an Examurai manga based on the original near-future concept that is still running in Jump Square magazine, & there is one for the Samurai offshoot as well. Since EXILE is such a big name in Japan that probably makes an actual license of either Examurai Sengoku or even the Examurai manga very unlikely, as the price is probably very high simply due to the star power they're based on. It sucks, but sometimes that's how things look to end up.

Get Ride! AMDriver is a title I talked about somewhat back when I looked at how Illumitoon Entertainment entered the anime industry and made nothing but a mess out of their own business. Out of Ilumitoon's four licenses, AMDriver got the shortest end of the stick by getting no physical release of any sort. The most it ever got was a short-lived, 14-episode run on The Anime Network's Video-On-Demand service back in 2008 alongside B't XAMDriver is the story of an organization that created the AMDrivers, people who don armor that utilize AM Technology, to take on the mysterious creatures known only as the Bug-chine. But not only are the AMDrivers warriors for humankind, their every move during battle is also televised for the public to see, which makes them an idol group-of-sorts. But when people who utilize AM Technology for evil purposes, and who might actually be controlling the Bug-chine, sabotage the AMDrivers and make the public hate them, the remaining AMDrivers have to not only stop this evil group, but also regain the trust of the people.

Admittedly, the show has a slow start that makes it come off as nothing more than an anime meant to support a toy line, which is was. But around episode 7 or 8 the real story starts making its presence known and the whole idea of the AMDrivers becoming hated by the people they protect actually worked off well during the 13 episodes I saw via bootlegs. It really was a series that I was hesitant to watch episodes of at first but soon became a surprisingly-good show in the making. Unfortunately, the bootlegs never went beyond episode 13 and I really envy those people who got to see episode 14 dubbed on Anime Network; yeah, it probably wasn't a gigantic episode in terms of story, but it's annoying to know that there was an episode shown in North America and I wasn't able to see it. No one seems to have ripped that VOD airing of AM Driver, so I also can't speak for the dub itself outside of a preview clip from AN's old website, though that short clip sounded good. Illumitoon seemed to really learn from their mistakes, too, as that clip actually kept the original music from the anime rather than create a new soundtrack like what happened to Beet the Vandel Buster and B't X. Much like B't X, I would still love to see some portion of that Section23 umbrella get this anime, as I'd love to know what happens next. While it may not overthrow Tekkaman Blade, Get Ride! AMDriver still looked to be a very solid armored-warriors show.

[2/2017 ADDENDUM: While I may never get the chance to ever see all of this show, I did give Get Ride! AMDriver a single-series Demo Disc that covered the first 13 episodes back in 2016.]

Weekly Shonen Jump has had many manga that many non-Japanese fans aren't really familiar with, or even became the next mega-hit for Shueisha, yet were able to last for over 10, 20, and even 30+ volumes. Hareluya II BØY ran throughout the 90s and was the creation of Haruto Umezawa, who has mostly been an under-the-radar kind of manga-ka throughout his career. BØY was the story of Hareluya Hibino, a delinquent high-school student who has a rather simple life goal: World Domination. He becomes friends with Kiyoshiro Okamoto, a smaller-statured but highly determined classmate, Makoto Ichijou, a biker-dressed student who wants to be a rock star, and Michiru Yamana, a female classmate who sells charm bracelet additions when not in school, and together the four experience school and life in general mixed in with some rough moments as well as plenty of comedy. Hareluya in particular has the interesting ability to put his hand behind his back and somehow pull out any sort of object, usually a frying pan.

I've read two volumes of the manga, and I definitely liked the mixture of comedy, school life, and the carefree attitude Hareluya has; no one really takes his goal of world domination seriously yet he continually gives off the feeling that he's 100% serious about it. When I saw three episodes of the 1997 anime adaptation fansubbed, I got them and checked them out. It's an interesting adaptation that really goes at a fast pace, as those first three episodes adapted the first volumes by skipping a few stories from Volume 1 and altering Volume 2's story arc a good bit so that it could be told in one episode. Still, it was an intriguing adaptation and Shinichiro Miki played a very good Hareluya, not to mention that the anime literally had Hareluya's theme be both "Hallelujah Chorus" by Georg Friedrich Händel and a cool instrumental remix of it. The anime also apparently mixes in a plot point from Umezawa's original 1-volume Hareluya manga, which had Hareluya be the son of God who was punished by his father and sent to Earth as a human so that he could learn humility. While the Hareluya II BØY manga isn't an actual sequel to Hareluya but rather a new series featuring new versions of the same characters, the anime looks to be an interesting mix of the two, and I'm sad that I can't watch more of it.

[10/2012 ADDENDUM: Another one down! Granted, the raws were one of the most problematic I have ever relied on, but I have now seen all of Hareluya II BØY & reviewed it.]

If there's a truer example of an anime having great characters but a horrible story behind them than Machine Robo then I haven't heard of it. Machine Robo: Revenge of Chronos was a 47-episode anime by Ashi Pro (the company behind Dancougar and now known as Production REED) that aired from 1986 to 1987 and was a promotional tie-in to the toy line of the same name. In North America the toy line was adapted into a show called GoBots, and people who grew up in the 80s probably remember GoBots fondly. Machine Robo, on the other hand, is hard to admire. The anime takes place on the planet Chronos, which is inhabited by nothing but robots, and tells the story of Rom Stol and his battles against the evil Gandlar and his forces. On Rom's side are his sister Reina (who was one of the big anime idols of the 80s) and their friends Blue Jet (a transformable jet), Rod Drill (a transformable auger), and Triple Jim (the Machine Robo-equivalent of a Triple Changer from Transformers). Gandlar, on the other hand, has his loyal servants Diandora and the Devil Satans, who can combine into the giant robot Devil Satan 6. To combat the giant robots, Rom has his giant robot Kenryu, and when Kenryu isn't enough (and it usually isn't) that robot can go inside the even-larger robot Vikungfu. Machine Robo really has a fun, if very cliched, premise behind it and the characters are simply great fun to watch in action, with Rom's use of a Sergio Leone-esque soliloquy to insult the villains, followed by him saying that he has no name for the likes of them, never getting old. Unfortunately, the show itself is simply generic-as-hell and not interesting at all, and it's a shame that such enjoyable characters are stuck in such a generic and bland show. Right now I say simply play the Super Robot Wars titles Machine Robo is featured in, Impact and MX, and leave it at that.

In North America Machine Robo is infamous for being a 100% accidental license by Central Park Media. While the absolute complete story has never been told in full, the basic idea is that in the mid-90s CPM was looking at the titles Ashi Pro had available for licensing, and when CPM licensed Dancougar the first 15 episodes of Machine Robo somehow weren't taken out of the licensing agreement. Instead of sending the show back, CPM instead decided to give the show a chance... Not once but twice. The first time was on VHS in the 90s, and Media Blasters head-honcho John Sirabella, who was working for CPM at the time, has told me personally that he absolutely loathed working on that show, and in his opinion the only redeeming quality the show had was an awesome opening theme, which I certainly can't deny. In 2003 CPM re-purposed the show for a three-volume DVD release, and at this point ANN's Justin Sevakis was working for the company at the time and had to suffer the pain of working on Machine Robo. Overall, Machine Robo getting licensed was a complete accident and there won't be any company license rescuing it on purpose. There are bootleg DVDs for Machine Robo: Revenge of Chronos that cover all the way to the end, but I haven't bought bootlegs in years and I don't plan on buying them for the rest of my life, so unless those bootlegs get ripped I won't be covering this show. Apparently the show does get better near the end and there's an interesting twist with the direct ending, but it might be a case of "too much too late" for this show.

[3/2016 ADDENDUM: Though I have not reviewed the series in full, mainly due to my refusal to rely on bootleg subtitles now, I did give the 15 episodes CPM released on DVD a Demo Disc post, and my feelings toward the show have warmed up somewhat.]

Sometimes you check out a show simply because it has a cool title, and Touma Kijin Den/Legend of the Fierce Fighting God ONI is no exception. It's the story of Shuramaru, a boy who was raised in the wild but was picked up by a loving family. One day, a group of strangers come to Shuramaru's village and reveal that they have demonic powers, and through the chaos Shuramaru finds out he has similar powers. Teaming up with his friends as well as a duo who also have demonic powers but fight for good, Shuramaru begins his adventure. Yeah, the basic plot isn't anything amazing, but the story does play out at a nice pace with no real time wasted, either for story or fighting. Part of the reason is due to the fact that even though ONI has 25 episodes, they're only about 12 minutes long, which allows for a pace that never really slows down. The 90s had many anime that featured half-length episodes, but only a few really were able to properly use that shorter time, and ONI is one of them.

There are fansubs out there, but it's handled a little confusingly. While the TV airing was done weekly, these fansubs tout itself as having 3 episodes, but each "episode" is in reality 5 episodes, but with the opening and ending themes used only once for each "episode". Therefore, 15 episodes were actually subbed, but nothing more is available after that. Touma Kijin Den ONI is another case of an anime that caught my interest but apparently didn't catch enough of the interest of the fansubbers to warrant finishing it, if they were even able to.

[7/2017 ADDENDUM: Similar to Machine Robo, I could only cover 17 episodes-worth due to a lack of availability, but I have now covered Touma Kijin Den Oni via a single-series Demo Disc entry.]

Any fan of mech anime should at least know the name GaoGaiGar. The final entry in Sunrise & Takara's Brave Series, which was created to follow in the tradition of the original Transformers series, GaoGaiGar was a celebration of everything that made old-school mech anime such fun to watch before stuff started getting more and more serious and super-dark. The odd result, though, was that kids weren't tuning into GaoGaiGar so much as older anime fans who wanted to remember their pasts were, and the result was the second half of the TV series went in a more serious and darker tone while still keeping it's overall style of hope. From 2000-2004, GaoGaiGar received an 8-episode OVA sequel called GaoGaiGar FINAL, which took the series in a 100% darker and more fanservice-y style and many mecha fans consider FINAL to be one of the greatest anime of all time. But I'm not focusing on either the original TV series or FINAL. Instead, I'm focusing on GaoGaiGar FINAL Grand Glorious Gathering, the 2005 TV airing of FINAL. It stretched out the OVA from eight to twelve episodes by adding in some recap footage as well as animating some new footage to tie the series continuity more into that of Betterman's, which was a fellow mech anime that actually took place in the same world as GaoGaiGar, but went with a super-dark and science-heavy storyline.

In the end, FINAL GGG isn't quite as well-liked as the original FINAL, mainly due to the extra episodes slowing down the story a little as well as the removal of some of the more racier fanservice due to TV standards, but it still interests me. While I have already seen the end of FINAL I haven't actually watched the entire thing from start to finish mainly because I watched GaoGaiGar via Media Blasters' DVD release, and I want to do the same with FINAL, though the chances of that happening have been very slim since the start. What I have seen, though, are the three episodes of FINAL GGG that have been fansubbed. Yeah, episode 2 has a long portion of simply talking with still images, which are meant to make the connections between GaoGaiGar and Betterman more pronounced, but it was interesting to see a version of a highly-loved anime that most people don't talk about. Unfortunately, the fansubs stopped for FINAL GGG, mainly because the subbers felt it was pointless to sub it due to FINAL being fully subbed, but I still want to see the entirety of this version. If FINAL ever gets licensed, I'd love to see it released as a four-disc package, where the original FINAL OVA is on the first two discs and FINAL GGG is on the other two discs. That way people get the original version that is loved while the more recent extended version gets its chance to shine.

[11/2018 ADDENDUM: I've finally watched GaoGaiGar Gathering, as it's called for short in Japanese, and while it's not the ideal way to experience the Final story, it's still a ton of fun to watch. Maybe one day this story & I can meet again in an official fashion, in the sea of stars...]
And there's my list of twelve anime I want to review, but since I can't see the entirety of any of them at this time I can't feel like I can properly review them. To be honest, ONI has a shorter entry mainly because it wasn't originally in my list. I had a complete list ready the day I did Part 1, but after doing a quick search for the hell of it I discovered that I would be able to actually watch the entirety of an anime that I have wanted to review on this blog since I started it. Because of that I had to remove that anime from the list and luckily ONI was a good replacement. So my next review, my 43rd, will be that of an anime that I have wanted to review since I started this blog. It's an anime that generally gets a horrible reputation, but I feel that it is horrifically underrated mainly due to an atrocious first episode. I am happy that I'll be able to watch all of it, and it will be my next review, which is proof that even though this list is that of anime I can't review right now, there's always hope in the future that I might be able to one day.

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