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Monday, November 29, 2021

Acrobunch: The Quest for Treasure: Goblins... Why Did It Have to be Goblins?

I've written about the unique history of mech anime that came during the 80s from the duo of anime studio Kokusai Eigasha/Movie International Co., Ltd. & anime writer Masaru "Yu" Yamamoto a couple of times in the past on this blog. Back in 2012 I did a general overview of MIC's giant robots to see if they were "innovators" or just mere "oddities", while in 2018 I did something similar for Yu Yamamoto's overall history of mech anime, due to him passing away about a week prior. However, I have never actually had the opportunity to watch any of MIC & Yamamoto's conceptually interesting mech anime, outside of an episode or two, primarily because they were not easily available to English-speaking anime fandom; there were some fansubs here & there, but the actual quality of the translations varied wildly. The most I had previously covered here was the first episode of Galaxy Whirlwind Sasuraiger back on Volume 5 of Demo Disc in 2016.

However, in just the year 2021 alone, things have changed in all the best ways.

On February 23 of this year, Discotek Media released Makyo Densetsu/Legend of the Mysterious Places Acrobunch on SD-BD, under the wonderfully localized title of Acrobunch: The Quest for Treasure (though the Japanese-conceived English name of "Acrobunch in Devil-Land" is a close second). This is MIC & Yamamoto's second collaborative mecha effort, which debuted back in mid-1982 as freshman effort Galaxy Cyclone Braiger was entering its last few episodes; Discotek would later release Braiger on SD-BD on September 28. Acrobunch would run for 24 episodes while the second entry in Yamamoto's iconic J9 Series, Galaxy Gale Baxinger, was also in production; they aired on completely different days on completely different networks, though. Also of note is that halfway into Acrobunch's run, alongside a change in air date & time, MIC outsourced the animation to Toei, which was helping MIC out with some other shows during that time, including both Braiger & Baxinger; because of this, each half has some unique staff, namely directors.

So, after nearly 40 years, let's see if Acrobunch: The Quest for Treasure is a journey filled with fortune & glory, and if it belongs in a museum.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Eighteen(?!) Older Manga That Deserve License Rescues Part 3

So when I put out Part 2 of this of manga license rescues, it was brought up that I kind of made the latter days of the 00s manga boom era sound like it was a "Fall of Rome" situation, and the fact of the matter is that it kind of was. Easily the biggest blow to that era was the downfall of Borders, which was one of the strongest supporters of the manga industry at that time, essentially the equivalent that Suncoast was for the anime industry. The death of that retailer across 2010 & 2011, combined with the Great Recession that happened in 2008, made it tough for publishers to continue like they had before, though the likes of Viz Media, Yen Press, Seven Seas, & Kodansha USA managed to survive & continue going. However, the bigger indication is in just the sheer amount of publishers that simply didn't even make it to the death of Borders, showing just how bloated the manga market had become by the end of the decade, and this was before the modern days of simulpublishing & a much more prevalent digital footprint. To most people who got into manga within the past ten years, they won't know anything about the likes of CMX (DC's manga label), Go! Comi (co-founded by the late David Wise), ADV Manga, ComicsOne, DrMaster, Broccoli Books, Infinity Studios (which picked up ComicsOne's various Korean manhwa & was also an early proponent of digital releases), Del Ray Manga (the precursor to Kodansha USA, essentially), or even that Media Blasters once had its own manga division, & that TokyoPop went into hibernation for the better part of a decade before coming back.

I guess, if anything, that's where a list like this truly has value, as it shows just how long manga has been coming out in English, and what plenty of readers missed out on & should be given the chance to read today. So, with all of that out of the way, let's go over six more manga that were picked by others over on Twitter, and put an end to this supersized list.

One of the most common comparisons that's usually made in regards to "Manga vs. Comics" is that manga isn't primarily identified by way of costumed superheroes, though it is somewhat ironic that one of the biggest modern-day hits (My Hero Academia) is exactly that. However, Japan certainly has its own fair share of costumed/armored heroes, and Viz Media gave one of the most iconic a go back during the 90s. Debuting back in 1985 in the very first issue of Tokuma Shoten's Monthly Shonen Captain magazine, Bio-Booster Armor Guyver is easily the most iconic work from mangaka Yoshiki Takaya, also known for his adult manga (& mecha series Hades Project Zeorymer) under the pseudonym Moriwo Chimi. It tells the epic battle between Sho Fukamachi, a high school student who accidentally comes across Guyver Unit I, a biomechanical & symbiotic armor developed by the mysterious Cronos Corporation, and the monstrous Zoanoids that secretly wishes to rule the world. Yes, it sounds very similar to Kamen Rider, and that was the intention of Takaya's editor at the time, but it wound up becoming its own thing very quickly.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Eighteen(?!) Older Manga That Deserve License Rescues Part 2

In Part 1, I mentioned how the concept for a license rescue for manga is much rarer than it is for anime because of the sheer amount of manga that gets produced, resulting in publishers putting more focus towards licensing new works over rescuing older titles. However, that's only part of it, as there's another big reason to consider, and it's arguably even more important. You see, part of the appeal in an anime license rescue is that it can not only be released in better quality than before (an HD remaster, improved audio quality, a better translation, etc.), but it can also take up less shelf space than before, because of improvements in physical media storage, from the VHS to the DVD to the Blu-Ray (&, in certain instances, the SD-BD). It's just harder to do that for manga, as a page is a page is a page, with the best you can do being re-releasing an older manga via omnibuses, but even that can only help with shelf space so much. Sure, there is more merit to buying manga digitally, and there are tons of series today that are only available in that fashion, but physical will always be something to consider for a manga license rescue, and in that circumstance there's really not much else that can be done, in that regard, outside of small little changes, at least when compared to anime.

OK, that looks to be a good length for an intro, so let's move into Part 2 of this list of eighteen manga that I & others have felt deserve a new release in English. For this part we'll be looking at six manga that I've personally chosen, prior to going to Twitter for picks. Amusingly enough, none of my picks actually were brought up by others, so is that a bad thing... or a good thing? I'll let you decide!

We're starting things off with a series that I don't believe I've ever really brought up on the blog before, and by a creator I've never actually covered before: Kaori Ozaki. Making her debut back in 1993 & seeing her first serialization with 1995's Piano no Ue no Tenshi, Ozaki would see her biggest success with her second serilization, 1999's Meteor Methuselah, which ran in Shinshokan's shojo magazine Wings until 2011, lasting 11 volumes; Wings is a bi-monthly magazine, as in "every two months", hence why it took so long. The manga tells the story of Machika, the granddaughter of Zol the Grim Reaper, a bounty hunter with a nigh-perfect success rate... except for one man, Rain, who's nicknamed "Methuselah" for his seeming immortality. After Zol's passing, Machika takes up her grandfather's weapon & hunts after Rain, only for the two to eventually fall in love with each other, made all the more difficult due to Rain being repeatedly hunted after by Yuca, an old acquaintance who has the opposite power, i.e. Yuca can never stay dead, instead reincarnating into a new form every time. Simply put, Ozaki created a perfect fusion of shonen & shojo sensibilities, giving readers well done action sequences, a fittingly dramatic plot, characters you care about (even for the villains, to an extent!), & an absolutely perfect love story between Machika & Rain; plus, Ozaki's artwork is just outstanding. It is, without a doubt, one of the best manga I have ever come across by complete & total accident.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Eighteen(?!) Older Manga That Deserve License Rescues Part 1

Over the past decade+, this blog has played home to eleven different lists ("listicles", if you prefer) that gather together a wide variety of "older anime that deserve license rescues", some of which have since indeed been given that new lease on life, while others will likely never be given such a luxury. However, The Land of Obscusion is not a blog aimed exclusively at anime, though it is the main focus, so what about manga? Why have I never done a list of this type for manga? Simply put, it's because manga license rescues, let alone manga re-releases in general (i.e. not simply a reprint), are a rare breed in North America. While there is indeed an incalculable amount of anime out there over the course of history, it still pales in comparison to sheer inconceivable amount of manga that has been produced; quite simply, it's like comparing the size of the Moon to the Sun. There's just always so much new manga being produced that publishers will give priority to license towards, so whenever we do get a manga rescue by a different publisher or even a new release by the same publisher, it is both extremely rare & usually reserved for only the most notable of properties. Unlike when I make an anime license rescue list, I can't make such a list for manga with the idea that any of them could realistically happen, even if only hypothetically.

Still, I figure I should give sequential art from Japan previously licensed a spotlight, even if only once, and in doing so I asked people on Twitter to give me their own picks, to go alongside a selection of my own. However, what wound up happening was that I received so many picks that I decided to make this (possibly one-&-only) manga license rescue list super-sized, so instead of the standard two-part list of twelve this will be a three-part list of eighteen! Starting things off is the first half of what was chosen by others over on Twitter, and we begin with a series that, quite honestly, I am amazed is not still readily available, even if only digitally.

Ask any manga fan who's been around since the late 90s & early-to-mid 00s, and pretty much every single one of them will admit that they have "complicated" feelings when it comes to TokyoPop. I mean, this was the publisher that literally helped bring manga to the masses, shifting things over from comic book-style "floppies" to trade paperback "volumes" that were modeled off of the original Japanese tankouban (only larger), right down to requiring people to read from right to left, & changed the place to buy them from comic stores to bookstores like Barnes & Noble and (the long defunct) Borders. However, TokyoPop was also infamous for straight up licensing way too much crap, flooding bookstore shelves with numerous manga that just wasn't going to sell (not helped by all the other publishers putting titles out, many of which didn't last long), delivering translations that wildly varied in quality, books that often felt the cheapest, quality-wise, and I won't even bother to get into the OEL manga stuff, because otherwise this will never end. Regardless, TokyoPop was a big name during this time, and part of that was due to its extremely fruitful relationship with Kodansha, similar to how Viz Media was the home for just about any manga by Shueisha & Shogakukan. This finally brings us to GetBackers.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Oh Me, Oh My, OVA! β: We'll Have a Horrorshow Old Time!

It's that time of the year again, when a day that technically means "All Hallows' Eve", as in "the day before we celebrate the lives of all saints, known & unknown", is twisted into a celebration of the dark, mysterious, macabre, & scary; it truly is "Thriller Night". As is tradition on this blog, there must be a piece for All Saints' Eve, and preferably one that focuses on something scary, horrifying, spooky, or at the very least supernatural. With that in mind, let us return to a segment that I introduced earlier this year: Oh Me, Oh My, OVA!. For those who haven't read the pilot entry back in May, OM, OM, OVA! takes a look at the immense well that is the short-form Original Video Animation, i.e. anime released straight to home video that's no more than two episodes long, four productions at a time, with the pilot focusing on the earliest OVAs that came out between Dallos (the first ever OVA) & Megazone 23 (the first OVA hit). Therefore, let's celebrate Pervigilium Omnium Sanctorum, as they say in Latin, with a quartet of OVAs that aren't afraid to show monsters that shed some blood, raise some hell, & let loose some souls from within their mortal shells.

Are they the ones that you wanted? Are they your superbeasts?

Here's the rarely-seen Japanese title card!

As we always go in chronological order, we start with 1987's Lily C.A.T., which is based on an original script by the late Hisayuki Toriumi, who also directs. This OVA is notable in that it features two icons of character design on staff, with Yasuomi Umetsu handling the human characters & Yoshitaka Amano handling the monster. Streamline Pictures would license & released a dubbed VHS tape only in 1995, featuring many of the standard actors that the late Carl Macek relied on for his dubs at the time, and it even saw some TV time in North America back in the day via the Sci-Fi Channel (now Syfy). Discotek Media would then license rescue it in 2014, releasing it on dual-audio DVD, making the original Japanese audio available for the time over here. So let's start things off with this cult-classic & see what Hisayuki Toriumi brought to the (dissection) table.