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Monday, December 26, 2016

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2016!! Part 1

Happy Boxing Day & Happy Kwanzaa!!

Once again, it's the day after Christmas, and that means only one thing here at The Land of Obscusion: Waxing nostalgic on what I wrote during this past year! Granted, it seems like nostalgia-mining has truly become an industry all its own, with so many things having been or will soon receive a reboot/sequel/prequel/midquel/etc., but considering how crazy 2016 was I honestly can't fault people for wanting to look back & "member the good old days". What will 2017 bring all of us around the world? None of us have any idea, & that scares most people (I can't blame them, either), but until the time comes for us to sing "Auld Lang Syne" & reluctantly welcome in the new year, join me in trying to select just "twelve" of my favorite posts from 2016... Because it's honestly damn hard to do that.

Seriously, this whole "part-time" status I put myself into wound up with me writing so many pieces & posts that I enjoyed that, for the first time ever, I have to include some "honorable mentions", which I'll split up across both parts. So, without further ado, here we go...

"Honorable Mention"
Matchless Raijin-Oh OVAs (November 9)
Since the two reviews covering the TV series both made their respective years' lists, I can't ignore the OVAs. They may not be quite as good as what came before, minus the second OVA, but it felt great to close the book on Matchless Raijin-Oh, & I'm so glad to have finally seen it all.

A Newcomer's Guide to Saint Seiya (November 30)
Being a fan of Masami Kurumada, it's no surprise that I am also a fan of his worldwide sensation, Saint Seiya. That's why I wanted to do something special for the 30th Anniversary this year, but I couldn't quite decide on what to do. I had considered reviewing the manga, but I'm still hesitant to do so because I regard Jason Thompson's House of 1000 Manga article from 2010 as the best write-up for that manga; sure, I could just make a review, but I still feel that I need something more to it. I had also considered watching DiC's Knights of the Zodiac adaptation of the TV anime, but getting all seven of the DVDs that ADV released back in the day is no easy task, as some have become quite expensive, & there has yet to be any sort of complete rip of those DVDs online to rely on instead (not that I'd expect anyone to ever want to do that, either). Therefore, when I was coming up at the end of November I knew that it was now or never to celebrate the 30th Anniversary on the actual year it's meant to happen on (take that, Toei's planned triple-feature of productions for 2017!). Therefore, I took the path that was easy in concept but I felt was important in execution: A guide for newcomers to rely on.

Since there are so many Saint Seiya productions to cover, though, I decided to focus precisely on what's available legally in North America. Therefore, the Lost Canvas manga, Episode.G, Next Dimension, Gigantomachia, the Heaven Chapter & Legend of Sanctuary movies, & Santia Shou were not included. Naturally, though, Toei announced a Santia Shou anime for 2017 just a couple of weeks later, almost instantly outdating this guide. Anyway, I think I did a rather fine job explaining the basic pros & cons for the original manga, the TV anime (or at least the first 73 episodes), the movies from the 80s, the Hades OVAs, the Lost Canvas OVAs, Omega, & Soul of Gold, with the hope that those who are interested in Saint Seiya but don't know exactly where & how to start can utilize this guide & get a good idea of what works for each of them. Granted, being on a blog like this means that next to no one will ever really come across this newcomer's guide, but if Anime News Network will never do one of these (mainly because I don't think many of the staff there are familiar enough with the franchise) then I feel I might as well give it a go.

I'm someone who feels that for Saint Seiya (or Kurumada in general, for that matter) to ever gain any sort of notable fanbase here, even if only a small one, it can't simply rely on the existing hardcore fans. Instead, there needs to be a new generation of fans who don't foster pre-existing nostalgia for the "good old days" (hey, poignancy!), and to make that happen these people need to know where to start. Hopefully the Saintia Shou anime next year will be another good starting point, in that regard.

Chaos Legion (May 24)
Before this year, the last time I had ever reviewed a video game that was based on an anime or manga of some sort was back in the very start of 2013, when I reviewed the Team Astro game for the PS2. This was something that I had wanted to be a slightly larger focus when I conceived of this blog, as these do count in the numbered review count that I keep track of (non-anime/manga-based games go to Obscusion B-Side), so this year alone I wound up doubling the amount of such video games. My favorite of them all, though, would easily be the Capcom-developed hack-&-slasher for the PS2 based on Tow Ubukata's Chaos Legion light novel series from the early 00s. I had played some of the game back when it first came out in 2003 but never finished it, so I was more than happy to finally give this game the full playthrough I never did for this review. I remember having a lot of fun back then, and I was more than happy to see that I my memories didn't betray me.

Back when the Chaos Legion game came out it was quickly deemed as inferior to Devil May Cry because it failed to be an action game as stylish as that one, but such a comparison was always off. This game was never meant to be like DMC, but rather was more along the lines of Koei's Warriors franchise; one could even see it as a spiritual predecessor to the Sengoku Basara series, as there are some similarities. Still, though the controls could sometimes feel a little stiff, it didn't detract from the intense combat, the real feeling that Sieg Warheit got stronger as you went on, & the cool assortment of Legions that you could equip for each stage. Combine that with one of the best video game soundtracks of all time (in my own humble opinion), and Chaos Legion, though not likely the best adaptation of the light novel, is definitely a bit of a misunderstood gem in the PS2 library.

"Honorable Mention"
Demo Disc Vol. 6: Illumitoon's Illusive Investment (July 11)
Since I just put up Geisters' Demo Disc piece a day ago, the mention goes to my look at the first quarter of Get Ride! AMDriver, the anime that Illumitoon Entertainment couldn't even get a single DVD out for. Though not hiding its toy commercial roots in any way, it still wound up being better than you'd think. I'd certainly watch the rest if I ever have the opportunity.

Yep, still wishing that this was real...

Video Game Crossovers with Completely Unexpected Rosters (March 16)
This inclusion mainly comes down to you, my readers, though I must admit that I might have included it, anyway. Obscusion B-List was a tongue-in-cheek offshoot of Obscusion B-Side that I introduced last year with the intent of being able to detail non-anime/manga categories in shorter, one-post lists. I did one last year & wound up doing two this year (so maybe I'll do three next year?), and after I made this specific one it wound up staying on the "Most Read of the Week" sidebar for a good few months, so I feel that alone makes it worthy of inclusion on this list. After all, how can I ignore the views of the (relative) "masses"? Well, it also helps that I had fun making this list, too.

Crossover video games are almost always a fun experience because of the nigh-endless possibilities of what characters & series may see inclusion. Taking that into consideration, some of the most interesting crossovers are the ones that are seemingly nothing but unexpected rosters. Therefore, I felt that SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos, Super Robot Wars Compact 3, Fighters Megamix, Chaos Wars & Cross Edge, DreamMix TV World Fighters, & Monolith Soft's X Series (Namco x Capcom & Project X Zone 1 & 2, plus spiritual precursor Namco Super Wars) were the best possible games to choose for this list. After all, no where else can you see KOF's Goenitz fight a SFII Animated Movie-inspired "Violent" Ken Masters, have mecha from the likes of Betterman, Acrobunch, or even Escalfowne fight alongside Gundam, beat people up as a Daytona car that stands on its rear wheels, see Gungrave's Beyond the Grave interact with Shadow Hearts' Yuri/Uru, experience Optimus Prime taking on Beyblade's Tyson Granger, Bomberman, & Solid Snake, or see so many Namco, Capcom, & Sega franchises (both iconic & forgotten) converse in such fun ways?

In fact, I have a "sequel" list in mind for next year, but with a slight twist on the concept so as to not feel like a simple retread. Look forward to it.

Don't Call It a Comeback: Anime Midstream License Rescues B't X! (August 19)
While I had initially planned on doing news-related pieces on a more regular basis when I first created this blog, I wound up not finding a need to make them as I felt that there wasn't much I could add that hadn't already been stated. Therefore, whenever I do end up writing about some sort of news here, it's usually something that means something to me personally. Naturally, an easy way to do this is for an American anime company to license something related to Masami Kurumada, and that's what Anime Midstream did this past summer. The same week I was at Otakon for the last time in Baltimore (I'll get to that in a bit...), Dallas was holding the 24th annual AnimeFest, and I knew that the small little publisher-that-could which had released all of Matchless Raijin-Oh on DVD had something planned there. Unfortunately, I wouldn't know what exactly that "something" would be until the Friday after, but had I heard something over that weekend you know that I would posted something ASAP... Because this is B't X we're talking about here!

Whereas most fans of Kurumada started off with Saint Seiya (& have generally not branched out much from that series), I got my start with the anime adaptation of B't X (pronounced "Beat X"), Masami Kurumada's manga of the 90s; sorry, but DiC's KotZ turned me off of Seiya at first. I wound up loving the anime's take of the story of Teppei Takamiya & his mission to rescue his brother from the mysterious Machine Empire with help from the living machine (easiest way to describe what a B't is) X, and I've wanted an official release of this anime ever since then. Sadly, Illumitoon Entertainment's ineptly handled release in the mid-00s more or less killed all hope for me, made all the more impossible when Discotek told me in person at Otakon that they'd likely never bring over anything Kurumada ever again due to poor sales. Therefore, Anime Midstream deciding to give B't X a try has me all sorts of giddy, & the fact that it's going to be given a proper English dub is just all the more cool. I'd love to see the unfinished Illumitoon dub included for comparison & completion's sake, too, but my main focus is to just finally be able to have this anime legally on DVD for my collection. I know that since it's Anime Midstream there is no guarantee of this happening in a relatively timely manner, though one could always hope, but at least I know that this company can deliver a good product, so I'm willing to wait.

"Honorable Mention"
Haunted Junction (October 15)
While not exactly worthy enough to replace any of the main picks, I still wanted to give credit to Haunted Junction for being a very enjoyable & entertaining horror comedy, with a cool focus on Japanese urban legends & the like. With Discotek still re-releasing the occasional d-rights title, there may be hope for a license rescue for this show, & it would deserve it.

Ozanari Dungeon: Kaze no Tou (March 31)
I'm no fantasy buff by any means (hell, I'm not a "buff" of anything, really), but I do have a certain fondness for the genre. Because of that, I've had the OVA adaptation of Motoo Koyama's Ozanari Dungeon on my "to watch" list for a good few years, and after finally giving it a watch this past March I now want to kick myself for not watching it earlier. That's right, this is not just a very fun & enjoyable fantasy anime, but it might even go down as one of my personal favorites, or at least within the OVA category. Mixing together silliness & seriousness in just the right way definitely helps, but Ozanari doesn't just stop there. Instead, it takes itself very casually, & in the process operates in a way that helps make it different from the more iconic likes of Record of Lodoss War, Slayers, & even Ruin Explorers. Finally, add in the fact that each episode (supposedly) featured twice the amount of frames of animation as that of any TV anime episode of the time & this also becomes a very nice looking OVA series; even the video quality from the LDs themselves look outstanding, as there is no DVD release.

If this OVA is any indication of just how fun & enjoyable Koyama's original manga is, then I might have to check it out one day, as I do know that there are some (incomplete) fan translations out there. Really, considering that TMS Entertainment made this anime & even features it on its website as a potential title to license (under the name Virago in Dungeon), I'm honestly shocked that Ozanari Dungeon: Kaze no Tou never saw a North American release during the 90s or early 00s. Considering how beloved stuff like Lodoss, Slayers, & Ruin Explorers (or even Dragon Half) were back then, I'd imagine that Ozanari would have easily fit in perfectly alongside them & earned itself a solid fanbase, possibly even with a fun little English dub. Sadly, as it is right now, I don't see this OVA series ever being given a try over here now (as always, though, I want to be proven wrong on this), but if you're a fan of fantasy anime in any way then, by all means, go & check out the Ozanari Dungeon OVA.

Otakon 2016: Abayo, Baltimore (August 16)
*Closing time
Open all the doors and let you out into the world
Closing time
Turn all of the lights on over every boy and every girl.
Closing time
One last call for alcohol so finish your whiskey or beer.
Closing time
You don't have to go home but you can't stay here.*

Yes, Semisonic's "Closing Time" is actually about giving birth & becoming a parent, but I'd be damned if it also didn't fit the feeling that I'm sure every long-term attendee of Otakon felt on August 14, 2016, the last day of Otakon's 18th & final year in the Inner Harbor section of Baltimore, Maryland. Ever since 1999 the con emanated from that city, slowly making it into an honest-to-god home, & even someone like me (who first went in 2006) had that feeling this year. Me & my friends went to the Inner Harbor so many times at this point that we didn't need a GPS or directions to get there, we knew where (nearly) all of the local stores & restaurants were off the tops of our heads, and the Baltimore Convention Center's layout had become second nature after going up & down its halls & rooms for years. Coming to the con this year, knowing that it'd be last time in that city, just felt like the end of an era, one where I felt like I just had to leave a part of myself there. That's why I left my decade-old Terry Bogard hat on that registration booth on the last day of Otakon this year... I had planned on doing this ever since Otakon last year, because I'm a sentimental idiot who hates having to say goodbye to stuff sometimes.

As for "Final Otakon" itself, it was a fun con. Sure, the autographs were still sometimes as annoying as ever, & the panels rooms all had a chronic case of A/V problems, but there wasn't a single panel I went to that outright bombed (hell, I even managed to help one happen after having said A/V issues!), the people I saw again were still just as generally nice as I remembered, & all of my panels managed to go by without issue (though I probably just shouldn't ever be given one of the biggest rooms; I'm not that kind of a draw). If I wanted to "retire" from doing panels at this moment, then I'd say that the last Baltimore Otakon was a good way to sign off, but I'm just too much of a procrastinating jerk to either start something new or stop doing something I've been doing for a while (partially hence why I still do this blog). Anyway, will I be at Otakon next year to help welcome it's new era in Washington D.C.? Can't say for sure right now, but I hope to do so. After all, it's like Dan Wilson once said...

*Closing time
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end*
This marks the end of Part 1 of this look at my favorite posts of 2016. Check back at the very end of this year for Part 2, where I list off six more of my favorite posts of the year (plus three more "Honorable Mentions").

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