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Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2017!! Part 2

"Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?"

Ask most people, & I'm sure that they'll say that 2017 was a pretty crappy year filled with insanity of the worst kind. I won't deny that by any means, though there's always plenty of good to look back on, but isn't that what New Year's is for? Before I close my book on the year 2017 & open a brand new one for the year 2018, though, let me look back on the other "six" of my favorite posts of the year. That being said, however, I am making 2018 the "Year of Unfinished Business", so maybe I just can't help but always look back on what happened in the past... Even if it's not always the best, as indicated by the first entry of this Part.

The Death Crimson Retrospective That Destroys Your Soul! (October 31)
A "kusoge", or "crappy game", is a video game that is so terrible in just about every regard, yet still manages to find an audience because of that lack of quality; it's the "so bad it's good" of gaming. In Japan, the game considered the "Emperor" & "Master" of kusoge is Ecole Software's Death Crimson for the Sega Saturn, a 1996 light gun shooter made by a bunch of CAD developers who had only one other game credit to their names. That game's instant notoriety resulted in it getting not one but two successive games, one that tried to be a much larger, multi-genre experience & another that kept things simple by being an actual rail shooter that saw initial release in arcades. Last year was the 20th Anniversary of Death Crimson, but since I didn't have all three games at that time yet, I was unable to do a proper retrospective for this infamous series... But, considering the reputation Death Crimson has, it did feel much more appropriate to do it on the year the original game would be legally able to get drunk.

Before this retrospective, the only game in the series I ever played was Death Crimson OX, the third entry, on the Dreamcast back when Sammy Entertainment released it in North America, which I remember being decently enjoyable. This time, though, I had to play all three games, and it was only then that I truly realized the defecating legacy you read about online. The original Death Crimson truly is as visually repugnant, utterly unplayable, & mindbogglingly terrible, yet you still want to play, if only to see how much further into Hell it advances. Death Crimson 2 is a true brain twister, as it technically is better than the original in many ways, yet still manages to utterly fail in every genre (visual novel, adventure, & rail shooter) it utilizes, so one can argue that it's actually worse than the original; apparently, some argue that Ecole purposefully made the sequel bad, but I can't verify that. OX, on the other hand, is perfectly fine as an arcade rail shooter, if simply not quite as good as the likes of House of the Dead or Time Crisis; still, there's fun, narmy charm to be found there. There has been an intention to make a third proper entry in the Death Crimson series ever since 2009, though whether it will ever come to be remains a giant mystery. Still, I decided to enter into this world of my own accord, and I'm glad that I managed to come out of it with my soul mostly intact.

Samurai Spirits 2: Asura Zanmaden (May 31)
While next year is when I'll be focusing on getting back to stuff I left "unfinished", I did have a number of small hints of that concept this year, too. I had always meant to one day review stuff like Street Fighter II: Yomigaeru Fujiwara-kyo, Kamen no Maid Guy, or Tales of Eternia the Animation, and I finally got those out of the way so that I didn't have to worry about them during the year-long focus that's coming up. Another thing I wanted to do was finally cover all of the anime based on SNK's Samurai Shodown series, as I did review the Nakoruru OVA back in 2011. Since then, though, the Samurai Shodown TV special, which ADV released dub-only as "The Motion Picture", received a fansub, so I finally decided to get that & the only other OVA out of the way this year. While the TV special was pretty lackluster, at best, I did remember hearing that the other OVA, a 1999 prologue to 1998's Samurai Shodown 64: Warrior's Rage, was actually pretty good. Luckily, those words were not wrong, because it's easily the best SamSho anime of them all.

Unlike most video game-based anime of its time, the Asura Zanmaden OVA put being accurate to its source material at the forefront, even going so far as to utilize the actual voice actors from the game itself, even though a lot of that cast almost never did anime voice work. Not just that, but it was a literal prologue to the game, helping establish why certain characters are fighting in that game's plot. Admittedly, that does make it less newbie-friendly as I felt in the review itself, but I still think it's still better for people in general to watch a well-animated prologue OVA that's accurate to the game series itself than it would be to watch a poorly-done TV special that's next to nothing like its source material or an unfinished OVA. I'd say that more game-based anime, especially those based on fighting games, should follow Asura Zanmaden's example, but there have been many improvements since 1999, even if it has resulted in some of these more recent examples being more for existing fans, to the detriment of everyone else. Regardless, I am sad that ADV went with that terrible TV special, yet this well done OVA got ignored & forgotten.

Demo Disc Vol. 9: Precocious Pilot Programs (April 15)
I introduced Demo Disc back at the end of 2014 as a way for me to write about anime that I have no ability (at least, to my knowledge & accessibility at that time) to watch all of, and three years later I have now done twelve "volumes". Sadly, though, the method that I have done this series of posts, especially in the multi-series entries, is resulting in me eventually "running out" of anime to mine for this format. Therefore, I started to experiment with some alternate ideas, like when I wrote about banned episodes last year. That specific entry also saw me use a manga for the first time ever, & I plan on expanding Demo Disc into special manga volumes at some point. Also, I have another new concept in mind for next year, which I'll alternate with Demo Disc, which should help stave off exhausting the roster of anime to test out. All that being said, though, another concept I tried out this year was covering in groups the most basic of test drives, pilots.

As I mentioned at the start of this volume, I had covered pilots in the past, but my ability to really dedicate an entire, proper review to them on a one-by-one basis can vary wildly. Stuff like One Piece: Defeat the Pirate Ganzack! or the Ring ni Kakero 1 pilot do manage to include just enough for me to write about in detail, while something like the Hunter X Hunter 1998 JSAT Pilot gave me next to nothing, in retrospect. Still, I find pilots to be interesting & I enjoy checking them out every now & then, so I still wanted to cover them in some way, so I tried out four of them in the Demo Disc format, and I feel that it did work out very well. The Space Adventure Cobra dub pilot was a definite surprise by being a completely original product that the Japanese never saw back in the day, Transformers Zone was fun & surprisingly rough with the villains, I was especially happy to see Genjiku Senki Shiden after hearing about it back in the day (especially since it was never meant for public viewing), & while Justeen was the most middling of them all, there was still some small potential in it, I think. I definitely have other pilots to use for future volumes of Demo Disc, especially since Shonen Jump gets a tons of them, so I can guarantee that we'll be seeing more of them at some point or another.

The Saint Beast Anime Franchise (September 4, 12, & 30)
Back with another part of the Summer of JAM, this time the final piece of the celebration. Hiroshi Kitadani is, without a doubt, the least utilized member of JAM Project in terms of being able to shine on his own (though, admittedly, there seem to be fewer "featuring" songs by the group, so it's not as notable now). Similarly, Kitadani's reputation in terms of anime themes is much more muted than his mates in the supergroup, mainly because Kitadani is known more for tokusatsu themes than for anime. Because of that, while everyone knows that Hiroshi Kitadani's iconic songs are his themes for One Piece, most don't know that he does have at least one more notable anime series to his name, and that's Saint Beast. Primarily a massive series of shonen-ai drama CDs acting as an alternate universe spin-off of Angel Tales, Saint Beast did manage to receive a trio of anime productions, so I decided to check them all out to finish off the Summer of JAM, even though shonen-ai is most definitely out of my wheelhouse & not in my general interests. In fact, I'm pretty sure Descendants of Darkness was on my Anime Secret Santa list because I reviewed Saint Beast...

To be honest, I had actually seen the original six-episode season of Saint Beast way back in the day, plus the first episode of the second TV series, but this time around I was actually able to watch all but the two-episode OVA legally, because Viewster has been streaming both TV series since 2015; these reviews even prompted me to use my Xbox 360 for the first time in a few years! As for the three anime themselves, I was honestly a fair bit surprised in how much actually got told across them, especially since they're really just meant to be nothing more than expanded universe promotions for the drama CDs, which were always the primary product. Without a doubt, the best of the three was 2007's Kouin Jojishi Tenshitan, which had the time (12 episodes) to set up both a fair amount of character development & world building, which in turn helped give reasons as to why the events of 2003's Seijuu Kourin Hen come about. Really, the biggest flaw with all of the Saint Beast anime productions is that they purposefully don't explain every major plot point, since that would make buying the drama CDs effectively pointless, but for someone who this isn't aimed in any major way at, I still wound up having a good time with these "gay angels", as Viewster describes them.

Street Fighter vs. The King of Fighters (April 1)
April Fools' Day can be a fun time to see happen, because some of the jokes & fakes done can be absolutely a laugh riot, but I'm not one to really indulge in such actions myself; after all, I have no idea if I'm even all that funny in the first place. Still, I had always wanted to make at least one piece on the blog to celebrate this not-really-a-holiday, so I finally decided to go ahead with it this year. This was meant to tie in with the Street Fighter & Samurai Shodown reviews I was doing at this time, but at the same time I thought that this was a "Versus Battle" that just had to be done. The 1994 Street Fighter movie, one of the earliest Hollywood adaptations of video games, is infamous both for what it actually is & what it isn't actually supposed to be, which in turn has resulted in people being torn between loving it because of its various quirks & outright hating it because of its numerous flaws. The 2010 movie based on The King of Fighters, on the other hand, is much, much less known, but is generally derided for its lack of accuracy towards SNK's iconic franchise. Therefore, if these two films were pitted against each other, which would win? Regardless, some might argue, we'd all lose in the end, anyway.

In the end, the battle was pretty one-sided, with Street Fighter more than holding its own & winning with twice the score. In fact, the only reason why The King of Fighters even got as many points was because I give both sides points in case of a tie, and that was mainly because Ray Park's Rugal was just as over-the-top & memorable as Raúl Juliá's M. Bison, & Tetsuya Takahashi's's score managed to fit its movie about as well as Graeme Revell's did for Street Fighter; I also gave KOF its sole decisive win by being a more focused story by concept. That being said, however, Street Fighter was simply the "better" film, with its truly memorable cast (regardless of accuracy), excellent orchestral score, & dedication to being a fun, enjoyable, & purposefully silly action/adventure flick. Hopefully people recognize that a major part of the overall joke is that I took this Vs. Battle 100% seriously, even though it was between two movies that pretty much no one else would ever bother to actually compare & contrast.

But, again, I'm not sure how funny I really am, so my joke may have likely been a total bomb, but at least I gave it the old college try.

Spectral Force [OVA] (October 9)
Since I started this entire list with my personal favorite back in Part 1, I might as well end this year's entire list with something terrible. I must admit that I occasionally have an unfortunate fascination with truly terrible products, so much so that it may tarnish or color my ability to truly judge stuff on their own merits. Still, as I've said before on the blog, I feel that negativity is much easier to write about than positivity, hence why it becomes such a notable aspect of internet culture, so every now & then I should indulge such actions myself. The variety of OVAs that video game company Idea Factory made back during the 90s & 00s are infamous for their "quality", & while I've never felt that any of them were really worthy of milestone reviews (remember, I felt that Mars of Destruction might be slightly "overrated" in just how bad it is), I don't deny that just about every single one I've seen so far is bad, though Kingdom of Chaos: Born to Kill & even Generation of Chaos III are actually rather solid. Since the original Spectral Force on PlayStation, the game I argue is the proper start of the IF Neverland brand, was turning 20 this year, I decided to finally watch the OVA tie-in that Idea Factory made, its very first, in 1998.

Like I said, terrible products can give you so much to write about, especially if they fail on many levels. The Spectral Force OVA is a perfect example of that, with its lackluster animation, video game CG backgrounds (which wasn't a surprise, but still), lack of any pay off due to its "all set up" nature (a.k.a. "Buy our game!" syndrome), and even its long-in-gestation North American release. It was in getting ready for this review that I truly understood that this OVA being released outside of Japan was supposed to be part of a multimedia co-production between Idea Factory, ADV Films, & Studio Ironcat that was going to also bring over the manga adaptation & one of them games back in 2000 or so. Unfortunately, Ironcat's own fiscal problems resulted in the manga never seeing release, though it was announced as being fully translated, & the game's release obviously never happened (wouldn't be surprised if Sony denied it outright, since it relied heavily on 2D graphics), so ADV decided to simply sit on the OVA, until finally throwing it out on DVD in 2003.

At the same time, though, it was through this OVA that I finally felt a sort of respect for Idea Factory's anime efforts, because they truly exuded the style of Ed Wood, i.e. they weren't really "good" at what they were doing, but the fact that they actually managed to do it in the first place, let alone continue doing it for years, is worth admiring. Luckily, I have more Idea Factory OVAs, & even an entire TV series, planned for next year, so I'll be able to see if this feeling of respect can be maintained.
This brings an end to the year 2017 for The Land of Obscusion. Thank you to everyone who visits the site, whether you're a consistent reader or an accidental drop by, and I'll "see" you all in 2018. It should be an interesting time, going back & returning to series & the likes I covered once, long ago.

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