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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2012!! Part 1

Happy Boxing Day, everyone! I hope everyone had a fun holiday, because I had an enjoyable one. Anyway, we're coming up on the end of the month, so just like what I did at the beginning of this December I am now going to talk about my favorite posts of this year. 2012 was an interesting year for the blog, as I didn't post as much as I did each month last year, yet I still was close to matching the total number of posts in general. Review-wise, I looked at anime with fun titles (Bastard!!, Goddamn), I was able to sneak in titles that are as "mainstream" as you can get in terms of anime in North America (Fullmetal Alchemist, One Piece), and overall it was fun squeezing the term "obscure" as much as I did at times this year. When it came to non-review posts I had some interesting picks, like comparing the two versions of Zaizen Jotaro (TV vs. DVD), investigating the early days of late-night anime, admiring Kokusai Eigasha's legacy of giant robots, and, most importantly, lots & lots of "12 Anime" lists & variants, and that's not including the two lists from this month! But enough talk, let's get to this list!

B't X Neo (February 2)
I had really thought about putting my review for the B't X TV series into the 2010/2011 list, but when I thought about it more, Neo was simply the better part of the B't X anime series. It took everything that was good about the TV series and still improved upon them, and those final episodes are simply amazing in the story they told. Sure, in terms of adapting the original manga, Neo only goes so far, but it more than makes up for it by delivering an ending that I can only hope got the approval of Masami Kurumada himself. I still assert that Ring ni Kakero 1 & Saint Seiya are better titles than B't X in the grand scheme of things, but when you have a production like Neo it certainly puts up an amazing fight for recognition. I don't want to sound like a broken record, but knowing how badly Illumitoon screwed up their releases really pisses me off, because B't X definitely deserved better. I can only hope that Discotek does in fact read this blog, because this here is an anime that deserves an actual fair chance over here. If nothing else, I can only hope that TMS will one day get involved in Anime Sols, that streaming/crowdfunding site Sam Pinansky will be opening up next Spring. TMS has an amazing line-up of titles, and I'd easily put my money towards B't X if it became available on that site.

The JManga 13: The Publishers & Potential Mangas (March 30 & April 2)
I kind of have a love/hate "relationship" when it comes to JManga. On the one hand, I love the basic idea of JManga (bringing manga over that likely would have never come over in the first place, & it's [mostly] worldwide, at that!)... On the other hand, I haven't really been a fan of what JManga has, essentially, made into it's focus. In an ideal situation, JManga would be releasing titles from a wide variety of genres & age ranges, creating a site that can bring in a very large amount of manga fans, and hopefully getting my interest with a title every week or two, and also keep releasing consecutive volumes of the titles they do have at a good pace. Unfortunately, JManga is now more well known for being a place where fans of Harlequin titles, Josei, & cute girls can gather, with a rare title for other people... Oh, and unless a title looks to be a great seller don't expect it to get consecutive volumes released at a good pace. Volume 2 of Gokudou Meshi took a year to come out, while titles like Odds GP!, Dingo, & even Lucifer & the Biscuit Hammer have not had new volumes come out for at least half a year (or even since the site launched in the case of Dingo & Odds GP!). Look, I can't hate the fact that JManga found a niche that sells for them, and I commend them for that. Hell, I congratulate Yuricon's Erica Friedman on finding a place where yuri can become a fair portion of a place's best-seller list. But, to be selfish for a moment, it is annoying to get the feeling that a place that, in theory, should be welcoming of your tastes is essentially keeping you away with a yardstick, while on rare occasion tossing you a bone, thinking it will keep you happy. Is it really that bad for business to offer a varied line-up that can cover as many bases as possible, especially if you're not printing any actual books?

What I called "The JManga 13" were thirteen publishers that are apparently working with JManga and I listed one manga from each of these publishers that I would love to see on the site. Unfortunately, JManga still doesn't have the likes of Eat-Man, Giant Robo, Zaizen Jotaro, Akagi, or even Ashita no Joe on it yet. Hell, the only title I listed that did make it on the site is the Manga de Dokuha version of Sun Tzu's The Art of War, which I did immediately buy with my points. I still hold out a slight hope that JManga might eventually become that ideal that I had hoped it would be, but right now I am a little disappointed with JManga. Sure, I'll buy a manga that catches my interest, but it just reminds me of what the site could be compared to what it's become.

Fuma no Kojirou: Seiken Sensou-hen (March 12)
After liking, but still being underwhelmed, by the original Yasha-hen OVA based on Masami Kurumada's "fourth-most-well-known title", I wasn't sure if this title would improve, especially since I couldn't get the second OVA series. Well, early this year I was able to get that series... And, boy, what an improvement a new story arc will do for a series! Just about every major problem I had with Yasha-hen (especially the somewhat rushed character introductions & overall pacing) was fixed with Seiken Sensou-hen, and it even was the first real indicator of the completely fantastical style that Kurumada would implement into Saint Seiya. Sure, the major part of the story is about ten men, in two groups of five, competing in one-on-one battles with mythical swords on the surface of the moon... But that's what makes this story arc of Fuma no Kojirou so enjoyable. Kurumada simply went all out here, and you could tell that Animate-Film & J.C. Staff was having fun with this production. Fans of the Seiya anime get some recognizable voices for Ryouma & the Chaos Emperor, and fans of other well-known seiyuu get their fill with the likes of Kazuki Yao, Masami Kikuchi, & Takehito Koyasu. What followed, the Fuma Hanran-hen movie, was also enjoyable, but to me the best part of Fuma no Kojirou is the Sacred Sword War. Following the evolution of the company that released these OVAs, from Sony Pictures Entertainment (the original VHS & LD release) to SME Visual Works (the 2001 DVD release), shows that the company is now known to anime fans as Aniplex! Sure, there is absolutely no chance that Aniplex of America will release the Fuma no Kojirou anime, but at least it is known where this title is (possibly) presently at. Hopefully Discotek's release of the Seiya movies this summer will do well enough for the company to try their hand on other Kurumada works, because I'd love to watch this series again, but with English subtitles.

Twelve Anime Licenses That Never Were But Should Have (February 6 & 9)
I only wanted to have one "12 Anime" entry on this list, just like the other one, and choosing just one was tough. In the end, it came down to this & the revival of the license rescue list, and in the end I chose this one because it was so different from any other "12 Anime" list. Let's face it, these lists are created from my personal feelings & wishes. I try to be fair & impartial with the license rescue lists, but they are still mostly stuff that I would buy and every other list was 100% about what I felt was worth listing. This list of unreleased licenses was different in that it was, from what I could find, 100% fact and 100% objective. All of these anime, like Tales of Eternia the Animation, Sci-fi HARRY, & Barom One, were licensed at one point or another for North American release but never happened. This was also the hardest list to make, by far. I even had to admit in Part 2 that I started posting the first half without even having completed the entire list, because this is such a rare occurrence in this industry that it was hard to list twelve moments where it did in fact happen. Some titles had subs made for them (SPT Layzner & Giant Gorg, Minna Agechau), others even had dubs ready for them (Lupin the 3rd: Golden Babylon, Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch, Get Ride! AMDriver [partial dub]), and others were simply thought to have been licensed by the company when things changed later on (Riki-Oh, Daltanious, B't X). Regardless, this list was a true original among the lists I have done on this blog, not to mention made for a really cool history lesson, and that's what made it one of the best posts of this year, bar none.

News Flash! Discotek Media's Licensing Storm of Awesomeness Continues! (March 13)
Now while I have mixed feelings when it comes to JManga, there is only one feeling I have towards Discotek Media & it's Eastern Star label: Sheer Unconditional Love! In just a couple of years, this company has gone from being a no-name distributor, who released some old kids anime & a couple of Lupin titles in the past, to a company who is, essentially, the sole savior of old-school anime. Discotek has proven the industry wrong and shown that old-school anime can, in fact, sell enough to make a living off of. True, a lot of it is license rescues, but when I did this post back in March Discotek was starting to show how they are spreading into non-rescues. This specific post involved licenses like Panda, Go Panda!, Unico, Space Adventure Cobra, Samurai Pizza Cats, Retro Game Master, & Shin Getter Robo vs. Neo Getter Robo, but the best part about this post was that I had continually waited on making this post because Discotek kept announcing awesome things, and I knew that even after this post they would continue to do so... And they did.  Since this post, here's what Discotek announced for future release:
Captain Harlock TV
Lovely Complex
Galaxy Express 999: Eternal Fantasy
Saint Seiya Movies 1-4
Mad Bull 34
Lupin the 3rd: The Secret of Mamo (with all four English dubs!!)
Lupin the 3rd: Green vs. Red
New Hurricane Polymar
Tekkaman Blade II
Yatterman (live-action movie)
Cutey Honey TV
Mazinger Z TV
Thermae Romae

Since Thermae Romae, Discotek hasn't announced anything new (yet), though they have hinted that Green vs. Red's May 2013 release might be joined by another title that hasn't been announced yet, so Discotek is far from ready to simply rest of their present licenses and make us wait. Here's hoping that 2013 will be an even better year for this company!

Hareluya II BØY (October 11)
Just like Fuma no Kojirou, this was a title that I didn't mind seeing more of, but I thought it would be impossible to get the rest of, since it never had a DVD release in Japan, and the VHS & LD releases are pretty rare now. Well, this review ended up being the most complicated one to get to, because it involved raws that were laden with problems, and being able to buy two of the LDs via Rakuten only made it easier to watch the first half. In fact, at the end of the (glowingly positive) review I had to tell readers that, in the form it is presently available in, I can't in good conscience recommend watching it because the sheer amount of problems, which I went through the trouble of fixing for my own enjoyment, makes this way too annoying for most people to watch. That was probably the hardest thing for me to say, too, because Hareluya II BØY was one of the best titles I watched this year, with truly memorable characters, interesting topics it handled, excellent music, and a great sense of fun & enjoyment that only Yasuhiro Imagawa can bring about, even when he only did series composition & half of the episode scripts here. I can only hope that it's very first DVD release this past October, though it's only the first episode, will lead to an actual DVD release proper for this show. Hell, Anime Sols should get into contact with Starchild Records & get this show on their site when it launches, because Triangle Staff certainly isn't around to talk to.
And that's the end of Part 1 of my favorite posts of this past year. If you've noticed, all but one of these posts were from the first half of the year, and that honestly wasn't intentional. Regardless, check back in a few days for Part 2, where we take a look at the second half of the year, which housed some really interesting posts for this blog.

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