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Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2016!! Part 2

The internet is an ever-changing environment, especially when stuff like copyright & what can be enforced in which circumstances is taken into consideration. YouTube, for example, is becoming a bit of a hotbed of copyright claims by companies who feel that they are not being given their proper credit (& profit) from the use of their content in things like video reviews & the like. That being said, though, using copyrighted content for criticism & commentary (a.k.a. a review of even simple discussion) is & should be protected under Fair Use; still doesn't stop companies from trying to monetize others' usage of their content, though.

Why do I bring this up here? Because, as of this post, one of my reviews on this blog has recently been forced into draft mode (i.e. you guys can't read it right now) because of a DMCA claim that Blogger (i.e. Google) is trying to enforce. What's shocking (aside from the fact that my review may not even apply to the complaint itself) is that said review only features still images of the anime I reviewed, not video, which I have not seen any complaints about before; in fact, I didn't even start using stills (outside of title splashes & cover art) until a few years in. Obviously, I have put in my counter-claims regarding this, because what I do here is obviously within the definition of "criticism & commentary", but I feel that people should understand that, now, it looks like not even still images are safe in the eyes of some people or companies. Will I continue to use images in my reviews? Yes, because I think I have every right to do so for a review.

With that out of the way, let's get to the rest of my favorite posts of 2016. Thank you for your patience.

"Honorable Mention"
Demo Disc Vol. 7: Badd Banned Broadcasts (October 6)
Nothing against the Spring volume of Demo Disc, where I looked at some more mech anime (there's still enough for that to return again, too!), but the Fall volume definitely deserves a mention, at the very least. Whether it was from Gundam, BerserkMr. Osomatsu, or even Pokémon, looking at the episodes/chapters that are "banned" to various extents was a lot of fun... Except for the Porygon episode, as doing that one did give me a slight headache.

Ai no Jidai/Indigo Period -Ichigo Ichie- (February 29)
As always, I try to include one or two reviews of a manga that was done by Masami Kurumada, and this year brought about two titles that had a shared relation. To celebrate his 40th Anniversary in the manga industry, Masami Kurumada did some cool things, most of which did not involve Saint Seiya. First, he brought Otoko Zaka back from its ~30 year hiatus, & so far has made another three volumes worth of content (maybe next year I'll review them to stay up-to-date [depends on how Volume 6 ends]). Second, he teased a return for Raimei no Zaji by making a short "special chapter" that followed off of where that manga stopped back in 1988, so I reviewed that manga in March. Finally, Kurumada ended the celebration with a brand new, one volume short manga, & as soon as I could I read & reviewed the compiled tankouban of Ai no Jidai -Ichigo Ichie-, or Indigo Period -Once in a Lifetime-.

Without a doubt, Masami Kurumada's legacy is all about "fighting manga", even laying out the basic blueprint back in the 70s that the genre still follows to this very day; he also dabbled in comedy manga at times, too. Therefore, Indigo Period instantly became a stark change of pace from Kurumada's usual style by being a straight character drama, with next to no action shown at all. Not just that, but it was biographical fiction, telling the story of how a young man named Masami Higashida became inspired to make manga by being based on Kurumada's actual own experiences. Sure, the story was likely embellished at points, and some parts were probably completely made up, but you could still feel like this was very similar to how Kurumada became inspired & wound up becoming a mangaka, with the end result being an extremely interesting look into the mind of the man himself. Add in some jabbing at himself for good measure, like how Higashida wanted to use some pseudonyms originally or how the lead comes up with the idea for his potential big hit, & Indigo Period easily shot up as not just an excellent Kurumada manga, but also something that I could easily see appeal to people who have never read any of his works before. Sadly, I doubt we'll ever see this manga licensed, even though it works completely fine as a piece of standalone biographical fiction.

(Not Quite) Twelve Anime That Adapt More than Just the Manga (August 4 & 11)
I'll admit that my standard "twelve anime" list, the license rescue list, is done yearly just for the sake of having a standard of some sort, so I'm not sure if another one of those may ever appear on a favorite posts list. In comparison, though, this list was definitely a fun one, & I had planned on doing this one for over a year, easily. Whenever there's an anime that adapts from a pre-existing manga, a viewer always runs the risk of experiencing original content that is not taken from the original source material, i.e. "filler" (though it's usually only named as such if it's deemed of poor quality). That being said, there are rare instances where the seemingly original content is actually an adaptation; it's just taken from a tertiary source. This can be spin-off manga, novel side-stories, or even pre-serialization pilots, & I wanted to compile a list of twelve examples where such instances did indeed occur.

Sadly, finding that many instances was seemingly impossible (though I'm sure I missed other instances, but are simply so unknown [in English fandom] that I couldn't find word of them), so I wound up having to cheat a little. I found nine indisputable examples via Ring ni Kakero 1: Shadow, Gensomaden Saiyuki, Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma, Hareluya II BØY, Fullmetal Alchemist [2003], New Fist of the North Star, D.Gray-man, Naruto Shippuden, & Kindaichi Case Files, plus a tangential example via Rurouni Kenshin, but that didn't quite add up to twelve. Therefore, in Part 1 I included Saint Seiya: Gigantomachia & the first JoJo's Bizarre Adventure light novel as examples of "not really filler" that could theoretically be done. Sure, it's cheating, but this is a list that I really did want to make, and there's no guarantee that I may ever find two more examples (three, if you dispute Kenshin), so I felt that having a "(not quite) twelve anime" list was good enough, and the fact this this list (especially Part 2) has appeared in the Most Read sidebar every now & then shows that it must have appealed to readers, too.

"Honorable Mention"
All of G-Saviour (July 15, 21, & 25)
With Right Stuf & Sunrise seemingly having a great amount of success with giving Gundam another go at home video here in North America for the past year or two, I thought maybe it was finally time for me to cover one of the most infamous part of the mecha franchise, G-Saviour. As much as the Canadian live-action movie gets hated, though, I wound up enjoying it, & I found the PS2 video game sequel even better. Finally, I gave an overview of every other major G-Saviour product that was left, including its cameo in Gundam Build Fighters so many years later. Don't knock it till you try it, I'd say.

Dororo (Anime & Movie) (June 28 & 30)
While I understand why & how the likes of Astro Boy, Black Jack, Phoenix, & others will be generally considered the greatest works of the "God of Manga" Osamu Tezuka, if you ask me I will still tell you that my favorite work of his is Dororo. Yes, the manga was never properly finished, the only TV adaptation was from the late-60s & was the final anime to be fully produced in black & white, & the (arguably) most well known bit of it is from Sega's cult-classic PS2 game Blood Will Tell, but there's just something to the story of Hyakkimaru & the young thief Dororo & how they aim to kill the 48 demons that took away Hyakkimaru's humanity that clicks with me. The anime in particular was something that I have wanted to see for over a decade but knew would never get the chance, minus a small bit I managed to see at a random screening at Otakon back in 2007 or so. When Anime Sols gave the anime a try via crowdfunding I pitched in, but even that only managed to get the first half streamed with subtitles. Luckily, that wound up being enough to get Discotek Media's attention...

This year the company put out the entire 26-episode B&W TV anime on DVD, alongside the original full-color pilot, and I finally got to do what I only had dreamed of doing. Thankfully. the anime more than exceeded my expectations, with great acting, chilling music, taking advantage of the monochromatic restriction, & telling excellent stories; the anime having a list of then-future legends in its staff only adds to its quality. Even if you're hesitant to watch B&W movies or anime, this is a must watch, and I hope Discotek gets this show on CrunchyRoll eventually. After finally seeing the anime, I decided to finally watch another Dororo product, which was the 2007 live-action movie that Universal had brought over here via DVD back in 2008. Though more of a reimagining than an outright adaptation, I found it very good as a standalone product & well worth watching for those who may not be already familiar with Dororo. Since I have already read the manga via Vertical's release & played the PS2 game many years ago, I am glad to say that I have experienced Dororo in every way that I think there is, & it's only maintained its status as my favorite Tezuka work.

20 Years of The House of the Dead (September 15)
Did you hear? This year was the 20th Anniversary of Resident Evil! That's cool & all, I did celebrate it in my own way in October, but I am sad to see that I was seemingly the only person to celebrate another horror game franchise's 20th Anniversary this year. Yeah, 1996 was also the year Sega debuted The House of the Dead, which is easily one of the company's coolest franchises, at least in my opinion. Sure, a lot of the dates I do see say 1997, & I wouldn't be surprised if there were some celebratory articles made next year, but when you look for an exact date the only one that comes up is September 13, 1996. While I was two days off from getting this Obscusion B-Side post up on the (seemingly) exact date, I still wanted to celebrate the existence of just such a fun light gun game series.

To make sure the article was as spot-on as possible I replayed all four main games in the series, and I had a ton of fun with all of them. Whether it was HotD on PC, HotD2 on Wii, HotDIII on both Wii & PS3, or HotD4 on PS3, they all delivered ace light-gun shooting experiences, with enough gore, violence, wit, & even some silly-bad voice work here & there. Even today, these games are some of the absolute best in the genre, with 2 & 4 being my personal favorites, so definitely go & play them if you get the chance. As for the spin-offs that I only brought up in short, HotD: Overkill is tons of fun, even if the stages overstay their welcome slightly, & The Typing of the Dead is still just as absurd & enjoyable as it ever was; Sega should seriously put all of those out again. Anyway, a "Happy 20th Anniversary" to both Resident Evil & The House of the Dead, and while the former is still going strong with a seventh main entry coming out next month, one can always hope that Sega may bring its horror franchise back from the dead eventually.

"Honorable Mention"
Twinkle Nora Rock Me! (December 17)
Normally a milestone review would instantly make a favorites list, but Review #200 wound up only being released two weeks ago, so it gets the last "Honorable Mention" for this list. I had known beforehand that Twinkle Nora Rock Me! was bad, but I seriously did not expect that it was so bad that it could rival the likes of Gundoh Musashi, even at only being a half-hour in length. Having a just-as-bad making-of featurette coming with it just made it all the more perfect as a milestone review.

B・B Burning Blood (September 9)
Every now & then I think it's imperative that I really fulfill the concept of this blog & aim for the jugular when it comes to "obscure" media, and in September I decided to do a double feature, of sorts. The two anime I covered were both directed by legendary men in the anime industry, but are easily some of the most unknown & forgotten works they ever did. The end results were B.B Burning Blood by the late Osamu Dezaki & Star Dust by Ichiro Itano, and in their own individual ways both of them would be worthy of inclusion in this list. If I really have to choose just one, though, then there's no question: The Dezaki OVA series is the one to go with.

Based on the Shogakukan Manga Award-winning manga by Osamu Ishiwata, the 1990-1991 OVA adaptation of B.B Burning Blood was the true spiritual successor to Dezaki's prior boxing anime productions, Ashita no Joe & One-Pound Gospel. It was character drama with a boxing edge in a way that only Osamu Dezaki & character designer/animation director Akio Sugino were able to do, and it was similarly excellent in every way possible. Really, the only possible major flaw I could even see was the fact that this OVA series doesn't have a proper ending in any way, and I know that would rub some people the wrong way, but it's just a testament to how amazing of a director Dezaki was. Even if there's no proper ending, the journey there was just so outstanding that I almost didn't care. It astounds me that B.B Burning Blood remains without a re-release of any sort, because it's easily one of Dezaki's best forgotten gems.

The Ages of Jump (January 3 to February 27)
As always, I try to end each of these favorites lists with something that means something to me on a personal level. In that regard, there's no other choice to end this year's favorites list than that goliath of insanity that was The Ages of Jump. From 2013-2015 I did some panels at Anime Boston, AnimeNEXT, & Otakon where I went over the history of Weekly Shonen Jump by way of showcasing the anime openings of some of its biggest & most iconic works, plus other important entries for balance. Panels only give you so much time, however, and in the back of my mind I had the idea of doing a true, comprehensive look at how Shonen Jump evolved from its early days in 1968 to the present era. Yes, a (more or less) thirty year-old man wound up spending two months writing about the history of a manga magazine aimed primarily at pre-teen to teenage children... But, hey, I thought "Hell, if I don't do this, I don't think anyone else ever will."

Split up across seven posts (eight if you include the introduction), The Ages of Jump gave a general overview of 123 manga (not including the others that I only mentioned in passing in the posts themselves) that ran in Shonen Jump from 1968 to now, dividing them across four "Ages": The Bronze Age (1968-1983), The Golden Age (1983-1996), The Dark Age (1996-1999), & the Silver Age (1999-2014). Read that number again... One-hundred & twenty-three Jump manga. I covered the obvious choices (Dragon Ball, Fist of the North Star, One Piece, Naruto, etc.), the [over here] cult classics (City Hunter, Saint Seiya, Shaman King, Eyeshield 21, etc.), & especially the ones that almost no one knows about but were important in their own rights. The last was especially true of the Bronze Age, since those early days are rarely brought up, even in Japan. The amount of research I needed to do for this venture was downright insane, even more so for the lesser-known titles, which required me to look up info using Japanese, use Google Translate to bring into English, & then actually make sense of the internet translated gobbledygook so that I could properly inform people of what exactly a manga like Arashi! Sanpiki was about.

Was all of this self-inflicted insanity worth it? Well, after finishing it I received a number of comments thanking me for doing all of this, & I even got a shout-out or two on small-name podcasts that found what I did worth mentioning. Considering that I did this mainly to knock it off the list of "Crazy Things I Probably Should Never Do But Really Should", I think it was worth it. Hell, someone even asked if I had any plans to convert this into a book, but that's way beyond my skills & abilities to even consider. Still, at least I completed this foolish journey, and that means that I'll never have to do it ever again, so there.
And that brings an end to 2016 for here at The Land of Obscusion! I wish everyone a Happy New Year, and I'll see you in 2017 with another Jump January.

The subject? I bring a personal all-time favorite of mine out of retirement once again for its 40th Anniversary, & I'm going to take the entire month to celebrate it.

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