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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2015!! Part 2

Part 1 of this list of my favorite posts from this past year was all about reviews, whether they were part of the main line (i.e. the ones I keep track of numerically so that I know when I'm coming up on a milestone) or Obscusion B-Side (which I haven't kept track of really yet, but maybe I'll try to do something when I come up on something like the 25th one or so, since they aren't done as often). For Part 2, the focus is definitely more split between reviews & my special features. So enough babbling on to use up some space, let's get started with something that I was so sure would never see release here in North America that I reviewed it as soon as possible, only to be shocked about a couple of months ago.

I can't predict the future, okay?!

Doamayger-D (April 28)
I don't say this to sound like I know it all, because I don't, but the one thing I love to have happen when it comes to anime & manga is to be proven wrong. Mainly, I love being proven wrong when it comes to obscure & niche titles actually being brought over to North America. When this short anime first aired this past Winter, I absolutely thought that it would never see any sort of release over here. I mean, come on, a series of two-minute episodes about a giant robot that defeats its foes through the power of making sweets, all done in the veneer of 70s-era limited animation? Who the hell would bring this over if CrunchyRoll wasn't even going to simulcast it? Well, turns out that FUNimation, of all companies, thought it would be worth bringing over. Not only that, but the company decided to "simulcast" it throughout this past Fall, though they oddly replaced the "i" in the name with a "y", which makes it look like it sounds different than it really does; it's similar to how "Bryger" is the apparent proper spelling for what I usually spell out as Ginga Senpuu Braiger.

But, hey, I'm not going to complain, because Doamayger-D (or Doamaiger-D, as I spelled it in the review) may be super-short, but it's a ton of sweet fun. Made by the same studio & staff as the cult-classic horror series Yamishibai, which (shockingly enough) is getting a DVD & BD release by Sentai Filmworks soon, this short anime both plays itself out seriously enough for the overall joke to work, but also be so absolutely accurate to the style that it emulates that you could easily mistake it as having been originally made in the 70s. While I think the chances of FUNi giving Doamayger-D a physical release are small, I certainly wouldn't mind seeing one happen; at only a half-hour in total it would even be an easy anime to make a dub for.

Until then, though, definitely check out this show legally. It's available for free over at FUNi's YouTube page, and the last episodes should be up within the next couple of weeks or so.

The Winter Sols-tice & A Farewell to Anime Sols (All of January & April 2)
While I didn't get to making an actual anime/manga review this year until late February, I still started the year off with a ton of anime... Almost too much, maybe, & in the end it was nearly all for naught. Fansubber-turned-legit-translator Sam "Quarkboy" Pinansky had a neat idea of mixing together the concept of crowdfunding (his original concept predated Kickstarter) with older anime that would normally never see release in North America. Working in Japan, Pinansky was eventually able to get four companies (Tezuka Pro, Yomiuri, Studio Pierrot, & Tatsunoko Pro) to come to an agreement, uniting to form Anime Sols in 2013. The site would host completely free streams of old anime, with Yomiuri/Tezuka offering a more recent show in the form of Black Jack TV, but would also run funding drives for potential DVD boxsets. While the actual execution had its flaws (restricted only to the USA & Canada due to licensing & credit card issues, self-run crowdfunding instead of relying on Kickstarter, most of the shows offered being next to unknown outside of Japan, etc.), the site did still see some success in the form of two shows (Creamy Mami & Dear Brother) seeing complete DVD releases, & Black Jack did receive two DVD sets, as well.

Eventually, Anime Sols featured so many shows on tap via streaming, even if only partially complete for most of them, that I had the "bright idea" to cover nearly all of them in a single month across four parts. I did ignore the titles that did already receive DVD releases at that point, as well as the 24 Hour TV Specials that Tezuka Pro made in the early-80s, but the end result was way too much anime for a single month, though I was generally pleased with most of the line-up; the end goal was to simply give them more talk that they would normally receive. Sadly, a few months later Pinansky announced the end of Anime Sols this past May, after two solid years of operation. As much as people wanted to push how much of a failure the site was, the reality that Pinansky stated was that the site worked about as well as he had expected and that some of the lessons learned here may help out streaming & licensing older anime in the future in ways we'll likely never notice as fans. Plus, the successful streaming drive for the first half of the 1969 TV anime adaptation of Dororo did earn the attention of Discotek Media, which will be releasing the entire show (plus the original color pilot) on DVD sometime next year. Anime Sols may not have been a glorious success, but it wasn't an abject failure in any way, either.

Obscusion B-Side: The Earth Defense Force (November 18)
Like how I can appreciate a TV series, movie, or comic that aims to be in-depth & thought provoking, I can also appreciate video games that aim to be social commentary or even "art"... But other times I just want to be able to load up a game & just have fun shooting giant insects, UFOs, kaiju, & alien motherships. Without a doubt, one of my all-time favorite video game franchises is Sandlot's Earth Defense Force series, which are simplistic on general gameplay (though there is more depth than most would initially assume) but insanely high on sheer fun & replayability. In order to get ready for the then-upcoming releases of EDF 2 for the PS Vita & EDF 4.1 for the PS4, both of which I can now say are outstanding & the best games in the entire franchise, I wanted to see the ever-so-humble roots of everything that makes me want to randomly scream out, "EDF! EDF!!" at times.

The end result of this curiosity was playing a game that was very barebones compared to even its direct sequel, with only a paltry 25 stages, 100 weapons to use, & a single class of soldier. Still, The EDF was just as fun as any other entry in the series, showcasing how Sandlot hit it perfectly the first time around & has only fine-tuned & added to the formula with each new game. Right now I'm playing Xenoblade Chronicles X on my Wii U, a game that continually amazes me in how gigantic & awe-inspiring a world it has created & features an intriguing story. Still, I'm balancing that out with EDF 2 on the Vita, because I know that I'll always be having a fun time playing it. The original game, though extremely lean compared to its successors, is also a game that I know I'll be coming back to, because I definitely want to 100% it eventually; luckily, it's smaller scale makes that much easier to do than with, say, EDF 4.1.

You like me, you really like me! Oh, others got this, too? Never mind then.

Theory Musing: The Six Mysteries of Anime & Manga That Need Answers (Sept 10)
To be honest, I do wonder at times how much, if any, appreciation I could even get for doing a blog like this; I do this blog for my own enjoyment, but if others like what I'm doing then that makes me happy. Therefore, moments like this do help raise my spirits when I may need it. Created by a pair of anime bloggers this year, the Free Spirit Award is really just a way of showing appreciation to writers that you like by nominating them for the award after you were previously nominated. The trick is that, alongside nominating them, you also give them a topic to talk about. So my nominators, the Reverse Thieves, gave me this question:

“What are five mysteries of anime and manga you need the answers to?”

That question got me thinking, and the end result was me bringing up a series of questions related more towards the industry & people who work in it. I also decided to give myself more of a challenge by having them be related to the "Five Ws" (Who, What, Where, When, Why, & even How for good measure). The end result was me pondering (& hypothesizing) who the mysterious "et" (of Next Senki Ehrgeiz & AWOL fame) was, what exactly happened to manga artist Koji Inada (yes, I know he & Riku Sanjo are finally coming back with more Beet the Vandel Buster next year, but that still doesn't answer my question), where the Groove Corporation movies like Xevious & the Geisters compilation movies went, when that hyper-obscure Hareluya II BØY Super (Hi) Video came out, why Shaman King received the "Princess Hao Ending" originally, & just how truly bad Studio A.P.P.P's JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood movie was (the most I was able to see was the first 16 minutes of music & effects only footage, which didn't show enough to judge). It was a fun little post to make, & I thank Kate/Narutaki & Alain/Hisui for including me in this whole "Free Spirit" project. I hope I gave them more than enough to be pleased with.

Yakitate!! Japan (April 10, September 30, & December 23)
I normally exclude December posts from the eligibility for theses favorite posts lists, but I have made exceptions before, and in this case it's because it was part of a series of reviews. The original concept for me covering the Yakitate!! Japan anime was to try to be somewhat timely alongside Right Stuf/Nozomi's releases of the boxsets (I even said that the second set review would come "in a month" after the first... Oops.), but that obviously didn't happen because I'm a lazy procrastinator. Still, I did (eventually) get through all 69 episodes of this series, one which introduced me to the original manga & that I haven't seen an episode of in about a decade. In fact, I believe the last time I saw any of this show before it finally received an official release was by converting the fansub of the end of the Pantasia Rookie Competition so that I could watch it on my old PSP during the down time I had between classes at Rutgers. Yeah, that was a while ago.

Thankfully, not only did that first arc of the anime hold up very well all these years later, but I also had a lot of fun with the rest of the show, to boot. I certainly can understand where & how the show may lose viewers (& readers) as it goes on, because it certainly does eventually get so absurd & ridiculous with the taste reactions that it seemingly tries to burst down suspension of disbelief, and while there was one moment that did nearly push me too far, I enjoyed seeing just how the show would continually try to top itself in terms of zaniness. Even taking that aside, however, Yakitate!! Japan has more than enough to still be a great show, whether it's the memorable characters, the fun story arcs, the great music, &, most importantly, a cavalcade of delicious looking & sounding bread, some of which you could even make on your own without much trouble. I was so pleasantly surprised when Right Stuf announced this license at Anime Expo last year, and I'm so happy to finally own all of it on DVD while also being able to (silently) tell people like Shawne Kleckner that I'd love to see more stuff like this be brought over. I've always felt that Right Stuf seemed to purposefully avoid shonen series, specifically action-oriented ones from the past decade or so, and while this isn't exactly an action series, it's still a great first step forward.

Obscusion B-Side: The Full Motion Vita of American Laser Games (September 12)
Aside from last year, every one of these favorite posts lists have ended with the post that meant the most to me on a personal level, and I could still make a small argument for having been able to review all of Champion Joe meaning a lot to me if I really wanted to. For this year's pick, however, it's a pretty bittersweet one in relation to just how much work I put towards it. The best word to describe how it wound up in the form it finally took is "snowball". This started off as nothing more than a simple concept that I thought would go nowhere, to be honest. As a curiosity & on a whim, I found a sort of sideways contact information for Robert Grebe, the former head of now-defunct FMV game developer American Laser Games, via his present project Traderz TV, a forex trading education site. Astonishingly enough, Grebe got back to me & was willing to answer some questions, but requested that we do it via Skype. From there it snowballed into a half-hour conversation between him & myself, and from that I transcribed a written post for the blog. Not just that, but I also edited down to audio recording to a form that I could make into a video to post onto YouTube, with images & footage of various ALG games being shown alongside the audio, matching the subject of the moment.

As this whole project moved on to completion, I started getting more & more excited about it. When I finally finished it, however, the end result really just showcased where I stand when it comes to any sort of relevance. I'll admit that I likely don't do enough to share the posts I make & be more socially personable, hence why I have so few Twitter followers after five years, but I tried as much as I possibly could to get this interview out to people. I made it into a YouTube video, I sent e-mails to some video game sites (Siliconera, Destructoid, Gamasutra, etc.) as a way of informing them of a type of gaming news, shared the end results on various message boards & forums (Sega-16, GameFAQs, Fandom Post, etc.),& sent messages to all of my old YouTube channel subscribers about the new video. In the end, the most I got were some retweets, including one from YouTube video producer Erika Szabo, and nothing else. Even now, my video has only 45 views after only three months, while the transcribed post did about as well as anything else does on this blog on average. Without a doubt, the entire thing just ended up making me disheartened, and is a perfect example of why I'm slowing down after this post. If (figuratively) no one cares about what I'm producing, especially when I put forth so much extra effort like I did with this project, then why should I even bother trying to do anything close to this again, right?

I understand that FMV games are a giant niche, and American Laser Games is generally looked at with disdain & is treated like a joke nowadays, but this is still history. ALG was a big part of why the FMV genre gained a lot of traction in the 90s, and while it was more of a flash in the pan phenomenon than anything super-substantial (though it can be argued that many big-name/AAA video games now are very similar to FMV games of the 90s), it was still a notable part of gaming history. But, like I said in Part 1 with Hydlide, respecting history is something that is only rarely done to a large extent when it comes to video games. Had this whole ordeal actually resulted in something, even if only just one other site shared it with its reader base, then maybe I would have considered looking into doing more of these, but I'd say that the chances of me doing another interview are so low that I can't even give an arbitrary percentage to it. Still, I'm happy with the end result, and so was Robert Grebe when I shared it with him, so it still belongs on the list.
That brings us to the end of my last "full-time" year with the blog. What will next year bring, and how will things operate with me going "part-time"? I have no idea, but don't think that me posting less often means that I'll be phoning it in, because I can assure you that I won't. In fact, I have something big planned to start next year with.

How big? Let's say something that may take up a couple of months to properly get through. See you next year.

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