Monday, June 25, 2012

Kinniku Banzuke: Kongou-kun no Daibouken!: Makoto Nagano Ain't Got Nuthin' on These Guys

It's anime like this one that really defines what this blog is about.  In fact, this anime is so obscure that there isn't even a listing for it on the ANN Encyclopedia, nor is there is a request for it to be added to the encyclopedia.  Anyway, Kinniku Banzuke was a Japanese sports entertainment show that aired from 1995 to 2002 where people could enter seemingly unbeatable challenges, simply with the goal of attaining completion & victory over the challenge.  The show eventually became a big hit and has since created spin-offs, the most well-known of which is the obstacle course show SASUKE, which was aired in North America on G4 under the name Ninja WarriorNorth American audiences later received Banzuke under the title Unbeatable Banzuke.  Unfortunately, on May 5, 2002 two participants suffered cervical vertebrae injuries during two different events, and the show went on immediate hiatus, which then turned into outright cancellation.  But shortly before this unfortunate couple of accidents a 3-episode OVA was made that starred Kongou-kun, the show's mascot (there was also a Game Boy Advance game to go with it), and, man, is this OVA just a sheer amount of pure sugar.

Kongou is a simple-minded boy who lives for two things: Athletic competition & playing fair; along with his friends Yuka, Sasuke, & Habato he dedicates every day to training with the hopes to eventually compete at Muscle Stadium, where the greatest athletes are crowned.  One day, though, a group of kids appear outside of the the dojo that Kongou and the others train at; made up of Randall, Jyogi, Pencil, & Tajiki, the four follow Dark Muscle, the mysterious man behind the games at Muscle Stadium, and offer an invitation to Kongou's group to compete at the legendary athletic competition.  Though the games have gained an uncomfortable air to them since Dark Muscle took control, Taisou, Yuka's father & the head of the dojo, allows Kongou & the others to compete.  What awaits them, though, are potentially dangerous "death matches" that might have some unfair elements to them...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Captain Power Skill Level Training VHS Series: More Entertaining than an Action Max!

Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future was an American/Canadian live-action TV series that aired from 1987-1988 that was innovative in a number of ways: It helped introduce the idea of "straight-to-syndication" to television broadcasters, it was one of the first TV series to use computer-generated images, was arguably the first "American-made" tokusatsu show, was seemingly made for kids yet featured writing that was definitely more adult-oriented, and was actually interactive to an extent.  Unfortunately, its "aimed at kids, but written for adults" execution resulted in some confusion over who the targeted viewership was (not to mention parents didn't like how dark it was for their children), putting it straight to syndication gave it some horrible time slots like 5-6 AM every Sunday, and even the interactive elements didn't quite work as planned...  This ended up in the show being canceled after it's initial 22-episode Season 1, though Season 2 was mostly written already.  Still, the show had gained a cult fanbase and this past December it finally received a DVD boxset release, complete with a new "Making-of" documentary, commentary by the cast & crew, & even a detailed look at what Season 2 would have been like.  But what does this all have to do with anime?  Well, there is one bit of Captain Power that is not included with this DVD boxset: A trio of animated "Skill Level" training VHS tapes, done by Japanese anime studio ARTMIC (of Megazone 23, Gall Force, & Bubblegum Crisis fame), complete with three fairly well-known names hidden in the credits.  Power On!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fukkatsu! The Renaissance of Twelve Older Animes That Deserve License Rescues Part 2

First off, a great big thanks to everyone who read Part 1 of this license rescue list.  Within 24 hours of it being posted it became the fourth-most-read post on this entire blog, easily beating the record previously held by the Violence Jack: Evil Town review.  Coming off of a fun AnimeNEXT it was definitely a cool thing to see happen.  Anyway, let's get right into Part 2 of this renaissance!

The things Carl Macek & Harmony Gold did with anime back in the late-80s & early-90s can never be understated, but at the same time Macross isn't the only title that they have made tricky to get uncut.  Windaria is generally considered one of the true classics of the 80s, though it is a little under-appreciated for one main reason: Harmony Gold's release of the movie was so altered that we never got the actual movie the way it was meant to be seen.  You see, Windaria is apparently a depressing movie...  Not in a bad way, but rather the movie is meant to bring you down due to the story it tells, which involves two kingdoms battling each other in a highly-destructive war with a love story also being added in.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Fukkatsu! The Renaissance of Twelve Older Animes That Deserve License Rescues Part 1

AnimeNEXT 2012 was great fun, & though my Masami Kurumada panel started off with barely anyone attending, around the time I was at Fuma no Kojirou & B't X I had a fair crowd in the room.  So thank you to everyone who attended my panel (competing against Cosplay Chess & a Miyazaki panel isn't easy), since I had a fun time running it and I'll definitely be doing this panel again next time...  Hopefully with a time slot that allows for a larger crowd, too.

Anyway, throughout the past twelve months I've expanded upon the "Twelve Animes" list format, first with titles I want to review but can't (of which one has been reviewed, with another one being possible for the future), followed by two lists of anime I would license if I had my own licensing company, and even a list of anime that were once licensed but never released (if you want, you can also count the JManga 13).  But, to be honest, the list that is the most fun to make and write about is the original...  The license rescue list!  So, with the last license rescue list having been done a year ago I think it's about time we head back into this territory, especially since during this past year two titles from my previous two lists have been license rescued, the 90s Casshern OVA & the Space Adventure Cobra movie, both by Discotek, and there's a fair chance that another one might have been rescued by Discotek!  It's time for a renaissance, so let's get started!

(P.S. The "Fukkatsu!" in the title is meant to be spoken in the way Dark Schneider says it in episode 1 of the Bastard!! OVA)

If there's one innovator of the entire anime & manga industry that gets a bit of a cold shoulder in North America, it's Shotaro Ishinomori.  Starting his career as an assistant to the "God of Manga" himself, Osamu Tezuka, Ishinomori wound up becoming a legend all his own, even becoming a posthumous inductee into the Guinness World Records as having drawn the most pages of manga ever.  But no matter what titles get brought over to North America, Ishinomori doesn't get the same type of respect that Tezuka does.  Whether it's Cyborg 009, The Skull Man, or Gilgamesh Ishinomori anime tends to do less then stellar over here.  A big case in point would be Android Kikaider, Ishinomori's dark take on Astro Boy's idea of whether a robot can be "human", complete with replacing Astro Boy's Pinocchio influence with a Frankenstein influence.  After a semi-successful manga & tokusatsu run in the 70s the title would go into hibernation until 2000, when a 13-episode anime adaptation was made by Radix.  Amazingly enough, in 2003 Bandai Entertainment licensed the anime, as well as its 2001-2002 4-episode OVA sequel, Kikaider 01, and even got it TV airtime on [adult swim], where it understandably bombed and was promptly forgotten by fans of that programming block; I'm not even sure if 01 aired on TV.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Anime Midstream Surprises with Big News! Raijin-Oh to go Sub-Only!

When's the last time you saw an anime licensor that had a mascot?

Ever since their debut in late-2008 Anime Midstream has been an anomaly in the North American anime licensing industry.  While most companies handle recent anime, Midstream handles older anime; while most companies do 12/13-episode box sets, Midstream does singles; finally, while most companies handle multiple titles at once, Midstream is only handling one: 1991-1992's Matchless Raijin-Oh (Zettai Muteki/Absolutely Invincible Raijin-Oh in Japan).  That's right, a company is releasing an obscure mech anime from the early-90s via singles, and they even are making a dub for it!  For all intents & purposes the company should not have made it past their first year, but here we are in 2012 with "big news" from the company.  But, first, a question: What the hell is Matchless Raijin-Oh?