Thursday, December 29, 2011

Twelve Anime I Would License (Or How to Kill an Anime Licensor in 12 Steps or Less) Part 2

Time for the second half of the twelve anime I would license if I had my own anime licensing company. Now, just to be honest, the whole "Company-Killing" stuff is mainly a tongue-in-cheek reference to the times people say that my tastes are really niche, but I've already stated in Part 1 that I simply like to root for the underdog. Still, Part 2 of this list will be a little different from Part 1, which featured titles that I had either seen all of or at least had fairly extensive knowledge of. Naturally, many anime licensors will license anime without seeing even a single episode. That's even more true nowadays with simulcasts being a big thing, since companies like FUNimation and Sentai Filmworks have to judge whether an anime is worth trying out based solely off of production materials and maybe a short animated clip at the most. With that in mind, Part 2 will be all titles that I have not seen one episode of, with the exception of one title (but even for that title I have only seen half of it). With that explained, let's finish this up...

Air Master
In 2005 Toei Animation's USA division tried their hand at releasing anime themselves, with Geneon handling the distribution. Their titles of choice were the 101-episode basketball classic Slam Dunk, the 27-episode action parody/homage Air Master, and the 3-episode game-based OVA Interlude. Unfortunately, every DVD Toei did was handled badly, as there were seemingly no chapter breaks, barely-functioning menus, and dubtitles in place of subtitles; not quite the horror that was Illumitoon's DVDs, but still bad. Though Interlude was released on a single DVD, Slam Dunk and Air Master never were fully released. While Slam Dunk is getting a proper manga release by Viz right now, it's length makes me want to go after Air Master first. The story of Maki, a former gymnast-turned-fighter, is both a parody & homage of shonen fighting titles. Maki is a girl, yet she's extremely tall and isn't much of a looker, the complete opposite of shonen leads usually, and one of her best friends has breasts that look more fitting on a character from Eiken, an obvious joke towards fanservice. But, at the same time, when the fights happen the animation is apparently handled so beautifully and the fights are apparently amazing to watch, though it's no surprise considering that Daisuke Nishio (a.k.a. DBZ's director) handled this show. Now you can watch all of Air Master subbed online through official streams that Toei made, which removes a lot of the subtitling work, though who knows if the subs are as bad as Fist of the North Star's (Discotek had to fix them up for the DVD boxsets). Also, there was a dub made for the show, but who knows if it went all the way to the end after the DVDs stopped coming out. Either way, I'd love to give Air Master a proper and complete release, and that includes the dub, no matter where it stops.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Twelve Anime I Would License (Or How to Kill an Anime Licensor in 12 Steps or Less) Part 1

Like many anime fans, I am passionate about the medium as well as the business itself, especially when it comes to North America, which is where I live. I love seeing new license announcements, and I especially love seeing the "underdog", i.e. license announcements you would not expect. For example, though I felt that Shigurui might get licensed one day, I was in no way ever thinking that FUNimation would license it, let alone it being a good seller for the company. At the same time I would have never expected something like Lupin the 3rd's First Season to ever get licensed, yet Discotek will be releasing it this upcoming Spring. Naturally, seeing the more "mainstream" titles licensed can also get me interested or even excited, but let's be honest: Those titles are more than likely the ones that companies are more-willing to potentially fight over licensing. If I was to run my own anime licensing company, I would prefer to go for those titles that aren't looked at as often, much like how this blog is about anime that is obscure... And, admittedly, I would probably kill my company with the titles I would choose. But let's be honest: Anime licensing is not a one-man decision, as companies have entire divisions where multiple people gather together and pick titles that seem like they are worth licensing and releasing here in North America. With the year 2011 ending, let's have some fun and take a look at twelve anime that I would license if had my own anime licensing company. Admittedly, I will try to take this seriously and not just turn this into a "Most Wanted" list, so don't go expecting something like Legend of the Galactic Heroes... Though that getting licensed would most-definitely be awesomely amazing.

[2017 ADDENDUM: Yeah, Legend of the Galactic Heroes eventually got licensed... Good thing I didn't include it, right?]

Kochikame The Movie & Kochikame The Movie 2: UFO Shuurai!  Tornado Daisakusen!!
I recently reviewed the first Kochikame movie, which was a great mix of seriousness and comedy as well as being a great starting point for newcomers to the still-running manga about police officer Kankichi Ryotsu and his many misadventures. Though I haven't seen the second movie, it looks to have an interesting idea behind it, with Ryo-san and everyone encountering (maybe) aliens. Considering that Toho was the distributor for both of the movies, I think that they would make a great way to bring Kochikame to North America for this very first time. They would also be the only time the series would come over, as not even I would think about bringing over the TV series, which totaled close to 400 episodes when it ended in late-2004. Maybe if the movies were to do well enough I would think about doing a "Selections of Kochikame TV", just like how the Japanese DVDs are handled. The first movie was even officially subtitled in English, removing the translation costs for one of the movies, which is always welcome. Would I dub these movies? Probably not. Even though they add up to a total run time of about 200 minutes, dubbing isn't cheap, and these movies might still be too risky to dub in the end. See? I'm being conservative here. Anyway, I think Kochikame deserves at least one release in North America, and a double-pack of the two movies would be the best way to do so.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Nakoruru ~Ano Hito Kara no Okurimono~: SamSho by a Hentai Director & Yasuomi Umestu

When it comes to SNK's many, many franchises the largest and most well-known is easily the King of Fighters series, but right behind that is the Samurai Shodown series, known as Samurai Spirits in Japan. Even when the first game debuted back in 1993 it's focus on slow-paced, weapon-focused combat made it different and memorable to fans of fighting games. SamSho, as it's called by its fans, has many memorable characters but it's two most identifiable characters are easily the crazy-haired ronin Haohmaru and the cute miko Nakoruru. While Haohmaru is a loved character, Nakoruru has been given some titles all to herself, one of which was the 2002 PC & Dreamcast visual novel Nakoruru ~Ano Hito Kara no Okurimono~/~The Gift From That Person~. Along with the visual novel came an OVA production that I actually talked a little about back during my non-review of the Xevious movie, specifically how distributor Groove Corporation's supposed runaway CEO/producer/etc. screwed over the company's titles, including Nakoruru. Effectively, this is an unfinished OVA production that obviously ends on a cliffhanger, but aside from that was this OVA even worth it in the first place?

Nakoruru is returning home from a hard-fought battle in a foreign land. Since she's walking in a snowstorm I'm going to guess that she's returning from the battle with Zankuro Minazuki and Shiro Tokisada Amakusa from Samurai Shodown IV, which took place during the winter. She's badly injured and falls down before being rescued by her childhood friends Manari and Yantamuu, who bring her back to her home village of Kamui Kotan. While recovering from her injuries Nakoruru sees that there are changes happening in her village: Yantamuu wants Nakoruru to stop being a miko and to leave fighting up to him, which she's heavily considering, Manari reveals that she might have feelings for Yantamuu that go beyond friendship, and Nakoruru herself is seeing visions of a mysterious girl who wants Nakoruru to stop being so fragile and realize that violence is a necessary method to protect people. While Nakoruru is dealing with these situations, the neighboring village has been decimated by a plague and the only survivor is a mysteriously calm woman named Mizuki...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Kochikame the Movie: Ryo-san, You're the Bomb!

As big as anime fandom can get here in North America, the fanbase still seems to generally ignore certain titles. These certain titles are the mega-hits that have become as big of a part of Japan's culture as titles like The Simpsons, M*A*S*H*, and even 60 Minutes are over here. Titles like Doraemon, Sazae-san, & Chibi Maruko-chan are rarely, if ever fansubbed, let alone streamed, and that's simply because these titles aren't exactly the kinds of anime that these people are all too excited to watch. Generally, these anime fans like stuff that isn't episodic and look to eventually have an ending that makes watching all of a show feel like a journey that has reached an end rather than simply feel like an accomplishment. This also applies to manga as well, which is why a title like Golgo 13, which debuted in 1968, is over 160 volumes long and still going, hasn't been scanlated and Viz's release of the manga was a 13-volume "Best of" release (the same can be said of food manga Oishinbo). This also mainly applies to Golgo's long-running compatriot, Kochikame.

Kochikame, which is the short for Kochira Katsushika-ku Kamearikouen-mae Hashutsujo/This is the Police Station in Front of Kameari Park in Katsushika Ward, debuted in the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump back in late-1976 and is still running in the magazine to this day. While Takao Saito has probably taken breaks from Golgo 13 during it's 43-year ongoing run, Osamu Akimoto is known for being one of the most punctual manga-ka in the industry, which probably helps explain why Kochikame is currently at 177 volumes in less time than Golgo, and that's not even including the many manga Akimoto has done on the side. People both young and old have been reading Kochikame for the past 35 years, taking delight at the misadventures of police officer Kankichi Ryotsu (Ryo-san to his readers) and his many, many get-rich-quick schemes that always fail, with the occasional police work actually being done. This open-ended plotline and enjoyable characters combined with the manga's habit of poking fun at the many fads and celebrities that Japan has had in the past 35 years is the reason why Kochikame has been often called "Japan's Equivalent of The Simpsons", even though Kochikame came first by around a decade.

In 1996, the 20th Anniversary of the manga's debut, Studio Gallop and Fuji TV debuted the TV anime adaptation of the manga, which was the very first long-term adaptation of the manga and lasted until late 2004, totaling 367 episodes; in 1985, Tatsunoko made a special that has since gone into obscurity due to it never getting a widespread physical release. Three years later, in 1999, Kochikame got its animated theatrical debut, simply titled Kochikame The Movie. When the DVD release came out the movie was given English subtitles as an attempt to reach out to foreign fans, but is this movie a good start for newcomers to the franchise? Hell, is it even a good movie at all?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gundoh Musashi: The Anime Equivalent of The Room

During my college years I had to take two semesters of physics. For both semesters I had the same professor, and though he was a good teacher the thing I remember most about him was that the next class after taking an exam my physics professor would "torture" himself as payback for torturing his students with an exam. Granted, he knew what he was doing, but he still did some crazy things, like laying on a bed of nails, complete with having one of his students put a large cinder block on his chest, or even putting liquid nitrogen into his mouth before immediately spitting it out, and he would come out of it perfectly fine. Why do I bring this up? Well, after one year of doing this blog and reviewing 49 titles, I felt that review #50 should be something special... Something known to be absolutely horrible, yet never really given a review that covers the entire show with a complete lack of bias... Something that I had put on my future reviews list from the very beginning but was afraid to actually watch all of. And, trust me, it's tough not go into straight-up bashing when it comes to this show.

This is actually a letterboxed image from the DVD... 

This anime has many variations of its title: Gundoh/Way of the Gun Musashi (which is the name I use), Gun-doh Musashi, Musashi Gundoh, or, just simply, Musashi. This is truly one of those anime that come up once in a red moon (yes, a red moon), and shows anime fans just how bad something can be. M.D. Geist? That's simply the anime equivalent to the violent action movies Hollywood loved making back in the 80s. Apocalypse Zero? That's simply a homage/semi-parody of tokusatsu and shows just how violent having power suits can really be. Sure, people are quick to put titles like those on lists of absolute worst anime of all time, but more often than not that's simply because the people making those lists simply aren't into that kind of material, i.e. it's a matter of personal taste/subjectivity and not really an objective decision. Now, yes, reviews in an of themselves are subjective, and that's the point of reviews, but saying that stuff like Geist and Apocalypse Zero are the worst anime ever is really just parroting an exaggerated view. Now titles like Garzey's WingPanzer Dragoon, which feature problems that involve the actual production itself, are undeniably bad. Sure, some people might like them in a "So Bad it's Good" way, but that doesn't mean that titles like those are good by any means because their problems go into the actual production aspect and aren't simply a problem with the content. And Gundoh Musashi fits into the latter category... In fact, from a production standpoint it's probably the worst anime ever, and even though there are glimpses of a good show while you watch it, the negatives just overpower everything and make this an absolute joke to watch.

The Land of Obscusion Turns One Year Old Today!

Exactly one year ago, December 1, 2010, I did something that I had thought about doing for a while: Start up a blog. Though I had already done a mini-blog over at the AnimeonDVD forums over at, not to mention the multitude of videos I had done on YouTube (go back to my very first post to check that out), those two didn't exactly have a central focus based around anime. The AoD blog did involve anime but it wasn't a central focus, and the YouTube videos were more about game reviews, with anime being a secondary focus. I wanted to create something with the focus being on anime that seemed to be forgotten, ignored, or simply unknown. That idea ended up becoming the blog you are at right now:

The Land of Obscusion: The Home of Obscure Anime (and a really bad pormanteau of the word "obscure" and the Genesis song "The Land of Confusion")

Why create a blog about obscure anime? Well, you can easily find a multitude of blogs where people simply talks about the new shows that air each season, but even those blogs tend to simply mention the smaller-name titles but then focus on the anime that they're watching, and because of that there's a lot of overlap. But considering how long anime has been around, there's a wealth of anime that has been seemingly lost to the annals of time, not to mention new shows that just don't get any sort of coverage. Are all of these shows must-watch diamonds that have somehow been lost? Probably not, admittedly, but at the same time there are plenty of titles that are still worth checking out, and it's very easy to forget about them as time goes on. I do love watching anime that are big-name and have tons of coverage & popularity, but at the same time I enjoy digging around and finding titles that aren't known that well. It's like digging for precious metals, where you go through a ton of dirt, finding some stuff that's worth small change but taken together can still be worth something, until you finally find that valuable material that's been hidden for who knows how long.

And that's the focus of The Land of Obscusion: To simply give these obscure, forgotten, or underappreciated anime a chance to shine, even if it's from an extremely small-name blog that can only give them a small glitter to shine with. Even a small glitter is better than darkness. And if it's not an anime, then at least be assured that it's related to anime in some fashion.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Violence Jack: Hell's Wind: Old Jack vs. New Jack... Fight!

Violence Jack: Evil Town was a definitive improvement over the previous OVA, Harlem Bomber.  But, admittedly, one thing Evil Town had a minimum of was action. Sure, the last third of the OVA definitely delivered the action, but the rest was slower-paced story. For those who want mostly action, though, the last Violence Jack OVA, Hell's Wind from 1990, definitely delivers on that and then some.

From the ruins of Kanto a small village formed, and it's residents called it Hope Town. There, children go to school and try to plant flowers, a small trader business exists that allows commerce to thrive, and all is well. One day, though, an infamous motorcycle gang called Hell's Wind comes to Hope Town, creating havoc. Men are ripped in half in sadistic games of motorcycle tug-of-war, women are raped, and it isn't until Violence Jack and a battle-hardened woman named Jun come in to save what's left of Hope Town. Hell's Wind escapes, gunning Jack down with a torrent of bullets in the process, and kidnaps schoolteacher Miss Keiko. Jun wants nothing but the destruction of Hell's Wind after her boyfriend Tetsuya was ripped to shreds by a chainsaw and she was raped by their leader Dante, and the determination a young boy named Saburo Tenma has towards saving Miss Keiko prompts Jack to help take out the gang.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Violence Jack: Evil Town: Violence & Rape... Yeah, that's Go Nagai.

The first Violence Jack OVA, Harlem Bomber, wasn't a bad anime but at the same time you could tell that there was more to Violence Jack than what the OVA showed. In 1988 a second OVA was made called Violence Jack: Evil Town, based on the manga story arc of the same name. Coming in at barely less than one hour long, Evil Town fixes pretty much all of the problems Harlem Bomber had, resulting in an production that really feels like a 100% Violence Jack anime.

The earthquakes that shook the planet affected people in different ways. One group of people ended up being trapped in a giant mall buried under tons of rubble, and after a incident involving mass-rape the group split up into three sections: A Zone is home to the men, B Zone is home to a gang calling themselves the Mad Riders, and C Zone is home to the women. The people of A and C Zone are digging their way back into the sunlight, and when the men of A Zone come across Violence Jack in an air pocket among the rubble, they see Jack as their way of protecting themselves from the Mad Riders. Mad Saurus, the head of the Mad Riders, sees Jack as a threat to his authority, though, and the women of C Zone want Jack to help them find a way out. Once again, Violence Jack will bring about death and destruction behind his wake...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Violence Jack: Harlem Bomber: Not the Best Start, But It'll Do

Out of Go Nagai's list of creations, Violence Jack is more than likely his most controversial one. Debuting back in 1973 in the pages of Weekly Shonen Magazine, the original manga jumped to Monthly Shonen Magazine and then Weekly Manga Goraku before finally ending in 1990. Violence Jack portrayed a post-apocalyptic world, possibly one of the very first in manga, and in Nagai's usual fashion he was unflinching in showing off the most primal things that can come about from a world like this. Things like grotesque violence, rape, and other taboo things of the time were shown commonly in the manga, but even with all of the controversy behind it Violence Jack ended up becoming Go Nagai's longest work ever, totaling 45 volumes across the three magazines it ran in. And, in fact, the manga kept on going after its end with multiple short stories about Jack being published in magazines like Bessatsu Young Jump and Weekly Comic Bunch, but these short stories are considered separate works and aren't counted towards the original manga's total volume count. Naturally, a work this popular and controversial resulted in an anime adaptation, but Violence Jack is an interesting beast in this sense. There are three OVAs made based on three different story arcs from the manga, but these OVAs are considered separate works and not related episodes. With that in mind, let's take a look at the first OVA, which is subtitled as Harlem Bomber.

In the near future the Earth is hit with a meteor storm of apocalyptic strength. The Kanto region of Japan is hit especially hard, resulting in earthquakes so strong & destructive that the moment was called the Kanto Hell Quake. In the remains of Kanto now exists a lawless world, with one man aiming to rule over it: The Slum King. But there is a legendary being in that same area: One with the muscles of a gorilla, the fangs of a wolf, and eyes that burn with primordial fire yet also shine with the light of intelligence. He is called Violence Jack and with his giant jackknife death and violence always follows in his wake. After his fight with Jack is interrupted by a tidal wave, the Slum King realizes how strong Jack is and orders that his men make it a focus to kill Jack so that no one can stand in the way of his rule. King's right-hand man, the Harlem Bomber, runs a place where young women are tortured and turned into sex-driven slaves who are then sold. When a truck carrying a new shipment of women crashes after running into a vision of Jack, two women, Mari & Yumi, escape. Mari is on a journey to find her lover Kenichi, who she has heard survived the apocalypse, but after getting re-captured by Rose, Bomber's slave warden, the two women will be drawn into a meeting with Kenichi as well as the eventual fight between Jack and Bomber.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I Have Now Reviewed All Ring ni Kakero Video Productions... But Could More Be On the Way?

With Manga DVD Ring ni Kakero reviewed I am now 100% done with reviewing Ring ni Kakero on this blog. I've reviewed all five anime productions (all four TV series & the Pilot), I've reviewed the sole video game based on the series, I've reviewed this not-quite-an-anime production, and I've ever given an overview of the beginning of the manga the anime skips over. Quite honestly, the only other Ring ni Kakero-related production there is is the Image Album that was made back in the early 80s. but it is literally just a vinyl record (& later CD) with a series of songs and that's where I draw the line at reviewing stuff on this blog. OK, there is Ring ni Kakero REAL, a Japanese reality show where hopeful boxers were apparently promised a contract if they won or something like that, but I don't have access to that show, and even if I did I wouldn't watch it. I could talk about Ring ni Kakero 2 as well, but I only have 8 volumes of the manga, so it's useless for me to talk about it. Still, next month will be Jump Festa 2012, which takes place from December 17-18. At the past two Jump Festa's new seasons of the Ring ni Kakero 1 anime series were announced, so there's a possibility that a new season could be announced this year as well.

There are some things going for it: Next year, 2012, will the 35th Anniversary of Ring ni Kakero's 1977 debut in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine, so it would only make sense to celebrate that with a new season of the anime. Also, the "Masami Kurumada Project" that was announced at Jump Festa last year seems to be more than just Sekai Taikai-hen and the upcoming Saint Seiya CG-movie, as Kurumada himself said on his personal blog that Saint Seiya Senki, the Musou/Dynasty Warriors-styled PS3 game, is also part of the Kurumada Project,  not to mention the Chinese-developed Saint Seiya Online PC game, the upcoming musical based on the first Saint Seiya movie, the new Seiya Pachinko machine, and the new Cloth Myth EX series of collectible figures. Yeah, Saint Seiya is 99% of this Kurumada Project, but it shows that Kurumada's creations are in overdrive right now, so having a new season of Ring ni Kakero 1, even if its only another six episodes, would be awesome.

Manga DVD Ring ni Kakero: New Cast Sound, Same Series Smell

Anyone who reads this blog should know that I am a giant fan of Masami Kurumada's Ring ni Kakero. Though you can classify it as a sports manga & anime series, specifically boxing, it's over-the-top style also makes it more of a shonen action/fight title, in the vein of Dragon Ball, Fist of the North Star, and One Piece. Understandably, there are people who prefer to have realism in stuff like this, and I do enjoy those kinds of titles as well, but to me Ring ni Kakero is simply 100% concentrated fun and entertaining all the way through. Like I mentioned in the last review, when Shadow Entertainment and Sony Pictures Entertainment teamed up to make the Manga DVD series, Ring ni Kakero was chosen as one of the titles to be used. Coming in at a little over an hour in length, Manga DVD Ring ni Kakero (it uses the logo style RnK2 introduced, but doesn't have the "1", oddly enough) is the shortest of the three productions, and in some ways it does suffer a little because of that. Still, it's definitely an interesting piece that shows off how the series was adapted before Toei started animating it.

There's no real need to go into a full-on synopsis here, as Manga DVD Ring ni Kakero adapts the World Tournament Chapter, much like this year's Ring ni Kakero 1: Sekai Taikai-hen did. Instead, I'll bring up the parts that are the same and the parts that are different. The Manga DVD adapts the fights against Team France, Team Germany, and Team Greece, skipping out entirely on the beginning of the story arc as well as the fight against Team Italy. Since this is only about an hour long, this adaptation is very fast-paced, with fights going from start to finish like lightning when compared to how Sekai Taikai-hen adapted them. Admittedly, I don't really understand why this Manga DVD is only slightly over an hour long, while the other two (Kyoufu Shinbun and Sanctuary) are in the 80-minute range. Having it be this short results in some little portions of story being cut out, making this not as approachable for newcomers, and the fights definitely can go by way too fast, but that was probably the main idea anyway. Outside of the Super Famicom game, this was the first time the manga was adapted into a production with voice work, so they made it for pre-existing fans who simply wanted voices to go with some of their favorite scenes. But even with this shorter time, the Manga DVD does actually adapt two small scenes that the anime would skip over, both involving Team Germany; the first is a scene where Helga meets Team Golden Japan Jr. and then brags about how his country's style of data-based boxing is the future of the sport while the second scene is simply a moment where Scorpion and Ishimatsu trade some trash talk right outside the ring. They're not big scenes, but it was still cool to see that they were adapted in some way.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Manga DVD Kyoufu Shinbun: I Want to End My Subscription...

Back when I was reviewing the Ring ni Kakero anime series & Super Famicom video game I had mentioned something called the "Manga DVD". The Manga DVD series were a trio of DVDs produced by a company called Shadow Entertainment and distributed by Sony Pictures Entertainment. Each DVD was based on a different manga series, Jirou Tsunoda's Kyoufu Shinbun, Masami Kurumada's Ring ni Kakero, and Sho Fumimura (a.k.a. Yoshiyuki Okamura/Buronson) & Ryoichi Ikegami's Sanctuary, and they were all released on October 3, 2003 at a price point of 980 Yen. With a tagline of "Enjoy the Digital Comics World!", the best comparison I can give for the Manga DVDs are that they were the manga equivalent of those video graphics novels based on popular comic series that occasionally come out here in North America, usually now with one of those original animated features that Marvel & DC produce lately. From what I can tell, SPE was hoping to make Manga DVD a larger brand, with these three being a test. Unfortunately, sales must not have been good since nothing else came from Manga DVD, making these three productions an obscure-yet-interesting part of anime & manga history. It isn't quite manga, since there's audio involved, and it isn't quite anime, since it's not actually animated but rather uses the manga panels with some video effects added in. And since today is Halloween I figure that it's the perfect time to talk about one of these productions.

Kyoufu Shinbun/Newspaper of Terror originally debuted back in Ahita Shoten's Weekly Shonen Champion magazine in 1973 and ran until 1976, totaling 29 volumes. Jirou Tsunoda is mostly known for doing horror manga, and Kyoufu Shinbun is no different, and with an apparent occult boom occurring in Japan during the 70s this manga was in the perfect time to shine. Even after its end the title still has a strong name behind it. In mid-1991, Studio Pierrot made a two-episode OVA based on the manga, with Tohru Furuya voicing main character Rei Kigata, and just a few months ago a recent live-action movie adaptation of the manga was released on DVD. In between the two, though, is Manga DVD Kyoufu Shinbun, an 86-minute feature that adapts the beginning, three individual stories, as well as the end of the manga. Though it's not subtitled in any way, if you have a basic knowledge of Japanese you should still be able to follow this feature just fine.

Rei Kigata is a no-nonsense high-school student who only believes in what he can see, so things like ghosts and the like don't exist to him. One night, though, a mysterious newspaper comes through his window; calling itself the "Kyoufu Shinbun" the newspaper describes the death of Rei's teacher that will occur the next day. Confused, Rei shows the paper to his teacher the next morning before they get to school, but all his teacher sees is a normal newspaper. After shooing Rei away, the teacher is then hit by a car and dies, making Rei believe fully in the paper. The paper Rei gets the next night reveals that every time he gets a paper 100 days will be taken from his remaining life. From here on out Rei becomes involved in mystery after mystery involving the occult, with the Kyoufu Shinbun still being delivered to Rei.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mutant Turtles: Chojin Densetsu-hen: T-U-R-T-L-E Power in Ways You Never Imagined

As a person who grew up during the 90s it's no surprise that I am very familiar with the mega-hit, money-making franchise known as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Though I have not read any of the original comic series, I was a big fan of the 1987-1996 animated series and the three live-action movies still hold a special place in my heart. The first is still an excellent movie, TMNT II is silly but fun, and I'll get to TMNT III later (I haven't seen the CG movie, but I heard good things). Still, it's not hard to find TMNT productions that are bad... Really bad. Many can argue TMNT III, but there's also the Coming Out of Our Shells music tour, the subway-promoting Operation Blue Line, and I personally couldn't watch anymore of the 4Kids reboot series after a certain revelation about Shredder's past, which is a shame as I really enjoyed it up to that point. TMNT wasn't just a North American hit, though, as it was big in Japan as well. In fact, after Japan finished airing the original TV series in 1996 a two-episode OVA series was released and it has remained exclusive to Japan. Since then it's been put down and considered a hilariously bad extension to the original TMNT series, but is that really the case?  I mean, it's hard to top things like Vanilla Ice's "Ninja Rap", Lord Norinaga, and Shredder talking about getting rid of music... Via song.

In episode 1, during an investigation of the ruins of the ancient Neutrino Kingdom, the Ninja Turtles come across the spirit of light, Chrysemue, who gives them mutastones, which allow the Turtles to mutate into powered-up forms called the Super Turtles. Unfortunately, Shredder, Bebop, & Rocksteady come across the Dark Mutastone, which houses the spirit of dark, Darkemue, and allows the three to transform in powered-up forms of their own. Krang wants to awaken Darkemue, who can destroy the Earth, by having the crystal she is in absorb stars in space. Thankfully, if the Super Turtles aren't strong enough, the four can combine together into a single being called Turtle Saint, and hopefully Turtle Saint will be strong enough to save the day. In episode 2 the Turtles, Splinter, and April O'Neal head to Japan after getting a request for help from Kinzo Hattori, a ninja from Splinter's past as Hamato Yoshi. A mysterious mirror Kinzo is guarding is being hunted after by Shredder and the gang for the mutastones it houses, and the Turtles have to protect them from being captured.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Naikaku Kenryoku Hanzai Kyousei Torishimarikan Zaizen Jotaro: Say His Name, Say His Name...

This next review is one that I have wanted to do since I started this blog, but since only seven episodes had been fansubbed  I wasn't able to properly review it. A few months back subtitle files for the remaining four episodes, taken from the bootleg DVDs, were released, but the raw videos that they go with were still impossible to get. Luckily, I found out recently that a batch containing every episode, including the raw videos for those last four, was released. Needless to say, I got those four episodes, and here it is: My review for an anime that, in my opinion, is horrifically underrated and incorrectly considered one of the worst anime in existence... Though those haters certainly had a valid reason for hating the show.

Naikaku Kenryoku Hanzai Kyousei Torishimarikan/Government Crime Investigation Agent Zaizen Jotaro debuted in the now-defunct Comic Bunch Magazine back in 2004 and ran until 2007, totaling 17 volumes. It was the creation of writer Ken Kitashiba, who has written other detective manga before and was apparently an actual police officer before that, and artist Yasuhiro Watanabe, who was once an assistant to Tetsuo Hara and has done mostly baseball manga. From July to September of 2006. Trans-Arts, TV Asahi, and Universal Pictures Japan (now known as Geneon Universal) created an 11-episode TV anime based on the manga. When the anime debuted it was summarily trashed and hated by the general non-Japanese anime community for being ridiculously unrealistic, having horrific animation, and it was generally considered to be nothing but a show to watch for Mystery Science Theater 3000-esque laughs. It must be stated, though, that seemingly 99% of these opinions came solely from watching the first episode and nothing more. I'll get into episode 1 in particular later in the review, but I must say that these reviews are mostly invalid due to them being based solely off of the first episode, as the rest of the show is in fact an fun, if not exactly realistic, journey into dirty politics & business and how a group of people aim to stop it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Twelve Anime I Want to Review... But Can't (Anytime Soon, at Least) Part 2

[12/2020 ADDENDUM: I have since reviewed all 12 anime I put into this list, making it's existence kind of moot. That being said, this is still a neat look at how simple my "ambitious" plans were for the blog so early on.]

Part 1 was certainly an interesting look, and Part 2 should be no different, so let's go straight into it:

The Japanese music group EXILE is pretty popular in their home country. Their leader, Hiroyuki "Hiro" Igarashi, is especially a big fan of anime & manga, and 2009's 24-episode TV anime Examurai Sengoku is but one of his productions. The original Examurai, a combination of EXILE and the word "samurai" (and I thought "Obscusion" was a silly play-on-words), was actually an anime short made to go with the group's "Love" album from 2007, and it turned each group member into a weapon-wielding warrior and put them into a post-apocalyptic Japan in the near future. Examurai Sengoku, on the other hand, was animated by TMS and took place during the "Warring States/Sengoku Era" of Japanese history in a fictional city called Yasaka. The story involved a mysterious man of great strength and how each EXILE-inspired warrior became involved in this story, with the focus being on the Igarashi-inspired character Hiro. Combine that with 12-minute episodes and kick-ass character designs by Hiroshi Takahashi (creator of Worst & Crows, and overall legendary yankii mangaka), and Examurai Sengoku was actually pretty cool, with the first few episodes easily getting your attention.

Unfortunately, this show is simply another case of a fansub group translating it, but never finishing it. A second group picked it up early this year, but after two more episodes nothing else came about. It's a shame too, since Examurai Sengoku was looking to be an honestly good show and not simply a vanity project. Since Sengoku's finish, Hiro actually is helping create an Examurai manga based on the original near-future concept that is still running in Jump Square magazine, & there is one for the Samurai offshoot as well. Since EXILE is such a big name in Japan that probably makes an actual license of either Examurai Sengoku or even the Examurai manga very unlikely, as the price is probably very high simply due to the star power they're based on. It sucks, but sometimes that's how things look to end up.

[12/2020 ADDENDUM: While I wasn't able to fully over Examurai Sengoku, I did cover the first six episodes as part of Volume 18 of Demo Disc.]

Friday, October 14, 2011

Twelve Anime I Want to Review... But Can't (Anytime Soon, at Least) Part 1

[12/2020 ADDENDUM: I have since reviewed all 12 anime I put into this list, making it's existence kind of moot. That being said, this is still a neat look at how simple my "ambitious" plans were for the blog so early on.]

That Shin Seiki Den Mars review ended up being the 42nd review I have done through this blog (yes, I'm counting each TwinBee OVA I did in the double feature). Hitting 50 reviews will certainly be an accomplishment, and if I was to make it within my first year that would be even cooler. Going against my usual style I actually have Review #50 chosen already and it's been like that for at least a month now. Yes, I do have a list of titles I plan on reviewing, but I generally don't go in any order unless it's a series of titles I'm reviewing. Now while I haven't explicitly brought it up, it's easy to see that every one of my reviews involves titles that I have seen the entirety of (or read all of for Ultimate Muscle or played all of for Super Robot Wars Compact 3 and Ring ni Kakero on the Super Famicom). Admittedly, I have thought about talking about anime that I have not seen the entirety of, and I even did something along those lines with my "non-review" of the Xevious movie (which doesn't count towards my review total), but Xevious was a special case in that it's truly impossible to watch that movie.

Regardless, I've decided early on to only review anime that I have seen the entirety of and that isn't changing unless it's a truly special case like Xevious. With that in mind, let me show you all that this decision of mine has resulted in anime that I honestly would love to review, but can't simply because I'm unable to see everything they entail. Just like my two license rescue lists, this will involve twelve anime and it will be split up in two halves. Remember, this list doesn't mean that I will never review these anime, but rather I don't have the ability to properly review them now as well as in the foreseeable future. If I ever get the chance to see the entirety of any of these anime then you can guarantee that they will be reviewed. There are two restrictions for this list, though: Titles that have only one episode subbed and titles that are still being subbed, even if it's only semi-actively, are not counted here. With all of that said, let's start the list:

Readers of this blog already know that I do watch fansubs and even rely on a badly-translated bootleg at times (but I still support the North American anime industry, and so should everyone else who enjoys anime), and I'll fully state that I started watching fansubs back in 2004 with the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime (though, oddly enough, I had already bought a few anime boxsets before then), and Kingdom of Chaos - Born to Kill is another of my very first fansubbed anime. Game developer Idea Factory has been having great success with their otome games, the Record of Agarest War series, and the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, but the company first made their mark with their Neverland series of games, which now is made up of at least 20 different titles. Along with that, Idea Factory also made their own anime during the period of about 1998 to 2006, with most of them simply being prologues to their games, Neverland series included; now you instead see other companies handle the animation duties, like with the Hakuoki anime. Kingdom of Chaos, on the other hand, was actually a completely original creation that simply used the name and time period of the online game of the same name.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Shin Seiki Den Mars: The Third Time's the Charm?

This anime has since been re-reviewed in a more comprehensive & detailed manner via Retrospect in Retrograde, which you can read at this link.

The late Mitsuteru Yokoyama may not be as big of a name to anime and manga fans outside of Japan, but in his home country he is right up there with the likes of Osamu Tezuka and Shotaro Ishinomori in terms of trailblazing. The "first giant robot"?  Tetsujin 28, known in North America as Gigantor, was created by Yokoyama back in 1956 and debuted on television back in 1963. The first magical girl anime? That would be Mahoutsukai Sally, which debuted back in 1966. In 1971, Yokoyama debuted Babel II, which might just be the first manga about a boy with psychic powers who fights against evil. The man's magnum opus? Sangokushi/Romance of the Three Kingdoms, a 60-volume manga adaptation of the legendary novel based on China's Three Kingdoms era... And Yokoyama's manga adaptation even goes beyond the novel and tells the entire war! The most well-known and beloved anime based on Yokoyama's works outside of Japan is Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still, a 7-episode OVA series which came out from 1992 to 1998, which, ironically enough, is actually not an adaptation of Yokoyama's Giant Robo manga, but instead is a giant love letter to the man's catalog, bringing together characters, locales, and giant robots into one crazy world. Odd how his most-well-known work isn't even his own creation...

And that same factoid even applies to an individual work of Yokoyama's: Mars. Though most manga fans will probably associate the "Mars" name with the shojo manga that debuted in 1996 and was released in North America by TokyoPop, I am talking about the sci-fi action manga that Yokoyama debuted in 1976 for Akita Shoten's Shonen Champion Magazine. The manga ran for 5 volumes and has seen three separate anime adaptations since then. The 1980's TV anime Rokushin Gattai God Mars/Six God Combination God Mars is by far the most popular and well-known of the adaptations, but it's also the least accurate, taking simply the basic idea of the manga and creating its own story; it's also known for having arguably the worst-looking mechs ever, the God Mars itself aside. This anime lasted for 64 episodes, along with one side-story OVA and a recap movie, the latter of which was licensed by Right Stuf back in the 90s and called simply Godmars. The 90s were home to a two-episode OVA adaptation, simply titled Mars; not much is really known of this OVA, though I do have it and can review it in the future. But what we're looking at is what the 2000s had: Shin Seiki Den Mars/God Century Legend Mars, a 13-episode TV anime from 2002.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Gyakkou Burai Kaiji: Hakairoku-hen: He's Got 99 Problems But a Debt Ain't One

You can argue that this show isn't that "obscure" since it literally finished airing this week and had its fair share of viewers (one of ANN's reports on viewership ratings in Japan had this show with a rating of 3.4, which for a late-night anime is really damn good, I believe). Still, I reviewed Season 1, so I should definitely do this show as well.

This past February I reviewed Gyakkou Burai Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor and downright gave it absolute praise. It's interesting characters, crazy gambling games, and overall tense-as-all-hell style was just absorbing and easily made its way as one of my absolute favorite anime of all time. At the end of the last episode came a short segment where creator Nobuyuki Fukumoto, voice actor Masato Hagiwara, and the segment host herself revealed that a second season of Kaiji would be coming out, with Fukumoto promising that the wait would be about 1-2 years. Well, it took 3 years but Kaiji finally got its second season, complete with advertisements that teased Kimi no Todoke (the show that Kaiji took the time slot of, and called "KimiTodo" for short) fans and called itself "Yaku/Anti-Moe Anime". Now, 26 episodes later, Gyakkou Burai Kaiji: Hakairoku-hen/The Suffering Pariah Kaiji: Destruction Record Chapter has ended and not only has it been as good as the first season, but it's actually surpassed it!

[3/2016 ADDENDUM: Since this review, this season has now been given the official English title  of Kaiji: Against All Odds]

[NOTE: This review will contain spoilers regarding the end of Kaiji Season 1, so read at your own risk...  Though why you still haven't watched Kaiji yet, if you haven't, astounds me.]

Monday, September 26, 2011

TwinBee "Double Feature": Enjoyable, But Too Short

This will be the last game-based review for the month of September, mainly due to the fact that a show that is still running will be ending soon and I want to review that one as soon as possible. Also, I'm coming up to my 50th review! I've done 38 reviews in total so far, and that includes my two video game reviews (Super Robot Wars Compact 3 & Ring ni Kakero [Super Famicom]), my one manga review (Ultimate Muscle), and my one live-action J-Drama review (Team Astro). So what better way than to get closer to fifty reviews than to do a twofer... That's right, this will be two reviews for the price of one and what better way to end a month of game-based reviews than to go back to where I started and look at an anime based on a shoot-em-up developed by Konami!

The TwinBee series of video games debuted in Japanese arcades back in 1985 and has gone on the become a bit of a cult-classic series in Japan. While the series is most well-known for its shooter entries, there are off-shoots that go into the platforming and RPG genres, with 1998's RPG/dating-sim hybrid TwinBee RPG for the Playstation being possibly the last "new" entry in the series. While the Gradius series has a heavy sci-fi element to it and it's main characters are known but not highly recognized, TwinBee exists in a comical world and thrives on its world and characters, and the first anime based on the series, 1994's TwinBee: WinBee no 1/8 Panikku/WinBee's 1/8 Panic, definitely shows that aspect off. Released as a tie-in to TwinBee: Rainbow Bell Adventure, a SNES platforming game, this half-hour OVA is a continuation of the 1993 radio drama series TwinBee Paradise and is more about the characters and not so much about the shooting.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Ninja Ryukenden: We Got Tekken But Not This?!

The Ninja Gaiden (literally "Ninja Side Story") series is definitely one the most notorious video game series ever, partially due to its insane difficulty. While the arcade original is mostly forgotten now the NES trilogy is infamous for being controller-throwing hard, the recent reboot series isn't any different (and some could argue is ever harder), and more than likely even the games on the Sega Game Gear, Master System (which is actually an original entry and not simply a higher-resolution port of the GG game), and Game Boy follow suit. One must also remember that the "Ninja Gaiden" name was only used in North America up until the Sega-developed entries, followed by the reboot series. In Japan the series was originally called Ninja Ryukenden/Legend of the Ninja Dragon Sword, and this is where this 50-minute OVA comes in. In November of 1991, months after Ninja Gaiden III came out, Studio Junio (a company known mostly for assisting in productions but made some of their own titles, and is now known as Studio Brain Trust) created an OVA loosely-based on the NES games. Watching this OVA makes me wonder why companies like ADV and CPM were seemingly happy with licensing sub-par game adaptations like Tekken, Samurai Shodown, & Panzer Dragoon while there were much, much better titles out there... Like Ninja Ryukenden.

Some time has passed since Ryu Hayabusa's second adventure where he defeated Jaquio once again and stopped the Evil God from being revived. Since then he has been running a Japanese item shop with Irene Lew, the woman he met during his first adventure, and maintains a friendship with Robert T. Sturgeon, a U.S. Army agent-turned-detective he met during his second adventure. When a man named Dr. Ned Friedman reveals that he discovered a cure for cancer without any side-effects, Ryu, Irene, Robert, Jeff (Robert's partner), and Sara (a reporter and Robert's girlfriend) all become involved in a scheme to create a new superhuman race and possibly even try to revive the Evil God once again.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Jikuu Bouken Nuumamonjaa: The Infamous "Chrono Trigger OVA"

First Xevious, then Salamander... I'm just going to make this September Game-Based Anime Month. But don't go expecting stuff like Battle Arena Toshinden and Tekken, as this is the Land of Obscusion and we'll be looking at some pretty obscure game-based anime! But that doesn't mean that I still can't talk about some infamous titles...

Squaresoft, now known as Square-Enix, has many memorable and loved RPGs under its belt, and one of its most well-beloved games is Chrono Trigger, partially due to the "Dream Team" behind it: Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of Final Fantasy, Yuji Horii, creator of Dragon Quest, and Akira Toriyama, creator of Dragon Ball and the character designer of every single Dragon Quest game. Chrono Trigger came out on March 11, 1995 and became pretty much an instant hit. On July 31, 1996, during the V-Jump Festival, a 16-minute promotional OVA made by Production I.G. called Jikuu Bouken Nuumamonjaa/Time & Space Adventures Nuumamonjaa was shown. It took place in the world of Chrono Trigger and throughout the years took on a slightly misleading nickname, the "Chrono Trigger OVA". Now, yes, it is related to the game but that nickname gives people a completely wrong idea of what this OVA is about.

It is the day before the Millennial Fair, which will celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the Guardia Kingdom's founding. Everything is set up and the villagers go to sleep; that night, though, portals open up which allow monsters to enter the fairground. Instead of causing destruction or anything like that, though, the monsters instead have their own Millennial Fair for the night. One of the stands is operated by two monsters, Nuu and Mamo (Kilwala in the English versions of the game), who together call their group Nuumamonjaa. Unfortunately, their attempt at getting new members is a complete failure so the two check out the rest of the fair, winning a golden shovel in a drinking contest in the process and annoying a half-monster/half-motorcycle creature called Johnny. Later that night the two come across a robot called Gonzalez (Gato in the English versions of the game), and through some craziness the two enter a race with Johnny, riding on the shoulders of Gonzalez.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Salamander: ↑, ↑, ↓, ↓, ←, →, ←, →, B, A!!!

Man, that "non-review" of the Xevious movie I did was kind of depressing since it's impossible to ever see it.  I need something to cheer me up...

Ah, that's better. I miss you, Konami swiggle logo.

Thankfully, if you want to see an anime based on an old-school 2D shooter there is another option... And would you believe it's actually one of the best examples of how to adapt a video game into an anime? Sure there are better overall examples out there, like the Gungrave TV series, but when it comes to OVAs you can't do much better than Salamander.

Debuting in 1985, Gradius is one of Konami's most well-beloved and cherished video game series. One year later a spin-off game came out called Salamander, which traded in Gradius' mechanical-styled enemies for a bio-organic look. Though it kept its original name when it came out in Europe the same year, when it finally came over to North America the title was changed to Life Force, and it's that name that many fans over here remember due to an excellent NES port. In 1988, Konami teamed with Pony Canyon and Studio Pierrot to adapt Salamander into an anime, which would then be released under the "Konami Video Collection" label; the result was a 50-minute production that told its own variation of the game. It must have done very well, as nine months later a second episode came out and three months after that, in 1989, came a third and final episode. Though this OVA has never been given an official DVD release anywhere, it isn't exactly hard to find and it's an excellent case that video games can be made into really good anime.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Xevious: It's Dangerous... It's Devious.... It's Nowhere to be Found!

When it comes to old-school 2D shooters, Namco's Xevious is definitely one of the most well-known. Debuting in arcades back in 1982, Xevious became a bit of a cult-classic around the world, but in Japan the game is loved by many. Game creators and even musicians in Japan have been inspired by the game, and it has had multiple sequels and spin-offs created since then. Personally, I do enjoy Xevious and have even bought the recent 3D Classics version of the game for the Nintendo 3DS. It's mix of shooting enemies in the air while bombing enemies and facilities on the ground is still not a widely-used game mechanic and the game does indeed get difficult very quickly, requiring lots of replays and memorization in order to not only reach the point of the game where you start repeating stages but to also reach an uber-high score. So, naturally, when you have something that the Japanese love an anime sounds like a reasonable thing to make. Xevious is no exception here, but this specific anime is special as it is not only supremely obscure but also 100% unattainable. Since it cannot be bought or even downloaded I naturally haven't seen this movie, but I do feel that the story behind this movie should be told.

In 2002, the 20th Anniversary of the game, Namco teamed with a company called Groove Corporation with the intent of creating an animated movie based on Xevious. The result was an all-CG, 75-minute movie. Sshooters aren't really known for their story, but Xevious' creator, Masanobu Endo, truly loved this game (he just about did everything himself when making it) and even created stories based on the world of the game, one of which was even featured on the insert of an album of Namco remixes. Oddly enough, though, Endo's name looks to be nowhere on the credits for this movie. Endo was involved with the overall production of the Tower of Druaga anime, which was based on another of his game creations, but his name looks to be nowhere found when it comes to Xevious. As for what the story of the movie is about, here is what I can gather from the multitude of Japanese synopses you can find on the internet:

In the year 2150 A.D. space pilot Takeru and his human-type computer Martha come across a giant battleship in space. In it they find a mysterious girl named Ru Mi, who warns the two about a race of aliens called the Gamp, who are planning to attack Earth and make it their own. Takeru decides to take the fight to the Gamp himself so he enters his fighter ship, the Solvalou, and heads for the Gamp's home base on the planet Andor.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Clockwork Fighters: Hiwou's War: Proof That Kids' Anime Can Be Good For Everyone

This anime has since been re-reviewed in a more comprehensive & detailed manner via Retrospect in Retrograde, which you can read at this link.

The anime studio BONES is barely 13 years old yet has become a very prominent force in anime today. From Angelic Layer to Fullmetal Alchemist (both TV series) to Darker Than Black to Eureka Seven and many other titles, a new BONES work is usually anticipated fairly highly.... But this is the Land of Obscusion, so let's instead look at BONES' very first solo work! Though the studio debuted in 1998 and helped out with productions such as Escaflowne: The Movie, it wasn't until late 2000 that the studio came out with a production of its very own: Karakuri Kiden Hiwou Senki. And, honestly, I fully believe that the only reason Bandai Entertainment licensed this show back in 2006, calling it Clockwork Fighters: Hiwou's War (a more or less accurate translation), is because they hoped that the BONES name would help out with sales. Either that, or BONES threw it in with another title as part of a package deal (much more likely). But regardless of why this show was licensed it must be said that Hiwou's War is, in fact, an enjoyable and pretty original take on a mech anime.

On July 8, 1853 Commodore Matthew Perry of the U.S. Navy came to Japan with four battleships, demanding that Japan open trade relations and end their era of isolation. The Japanese would call these the "Black Ships", and a year later Japan would open itself to the influences of modern civilization. It's been eight years since the Black Ships came and now both steam power as well as karakuri/clockwork creations have become very popular with the Japanese. In a small village lives a boy named Hiwou, who with his family and friends run a clockwork festival every year, showing off their great skills with these new creations. Hiwou's father, though, left his family a few years back with the hopes that he could return one day with a better life for his family. One day, though, a group calling themselves the Wind Gang, who use clockworks and steam in order to force Japan into a new Industrial Era, invade Hiwou's village, causing great destruction and even resulting in the death of Hiwou's mother. During the attack Hiwou and the others come across a giant clockwork that his father made called Homura, which has the ability to transform from a carriage-like device into a large, human-esque figure. Using Homura, Hiwou and the others head off in search of Hiwou's father, who they hope can help them take on the Wind Gang and maybe even show the citizens of Japan that peace is still what's most important.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Majuu Sensen: The Apocalypse: The Other Dynamic Armageddon

Manga legend Go Nagai's studio, Dynamic Productions, is just about as well-known as the man himself. But one must remember that Go Nagai is only half of what made Dynamic Pro the name it is. We must never forget about the late Ken Ishikawa, who met Nagai back in the 70s and had been just as important as Nagai up until his unfortunate death back in November of 2006. Still, there are similarities between these two men. Aside from having their own giant robot series (Nagai's Mazinger to Ishikawa's Getter Robo), they both also have their own stories about the apocalypse. Unlike Mazinger and Getter, though, Nagai and Ishikawa's takes on the end of the world aren't anywhere near as equally-known. As a fan of anime & manga it's very easy to hear about Devilman and Violence Jack, which are Go Nagai's stories about the apocalypse and what happens afterwards, respectively, but Ken Ishikawa's Majuu Sensen/Demon Beast War is nowhere near as well-known.

Majuu Sensen originally ran in Futabasha's Shonen Action magazine, debuting back in 1975, and lasted four volumes. As you can tell, the manga was Ishikawa's personal story about the apocalypse. In 1990, a 3-episode OVA adaptation was made, directed by Shunji Oga, who also directed the Amon Saga OVA and would later be the chief director of Golgo 13 TV in 2008. Majuu Sensen would go into hiding pretty much after that, outside of some references in later Dynamic Pro anime like Getter Robo Armageddon (where Ryoma's character design is based on MS's main character Shinichi Kuruma), until 2003 when animation studio Magic Bus (Mad Bull 34, Play Ball, Cobra the Animation [2010]) created a 13-episode sequel of the story with the TV anime Majuu Sensen: The Apocalypse.

On a seemingly normal day an entire city is destroyed by two gigantic and godlike beings, which signified the beginning of the coming apocalypse. Professor Genzou Kuruma is the leader of a cult who wish to awaken God so that humanity can finally be destroyed, but in order to awaken God he needs a specific type of blood. There are two people who carry this type of blood: Shinichi Kuruma, Genzou's own son who left his father, and Ayaka Sanders, a normal teenage girl who has a similarity to a woman named Maria, who Shinichi cared for up until her death. Genzou sends his genetically-altered beast people, called "New Humans", after Shinichi and during his adventures Shinichi meets up with Ayaka as well as a boy named Tomizoro (who claims is a descendant of ninjas). The only thing on Shinichi's mind is revenge against his father, since Genzou has experimented on his own son and wife, the results of which left his wife dead and Shinichi with the ability to absorb the power of beasts from his enemies as well as summon one of three animals from his body (a lion, a bear, and a hawk), and he will do anything to kill Genzou and protect Ayaka from harm.

Monday, August 15, 2011

DD Hokuto no Ken: There's no Need for "Hidebu"!

It's natural for any big-name title to get spin-offs. Saint Seiya had it's movies and live-action musicals, Dragon Ball has a ton of movies, OVAs, and even spin-off mangas, and even Ring ni Kakero apparently got a reality show where potential boxers can enter to make it big, just to name a few. Hokuto no Ken/Fist of the North Star is certainly no exception, as it's had a bunch of spin-off mangas (all of the "Gaiden" manga based on the major characters, with the most-well-known being Raoh Gaiden/Legends of the Dark King), OVAs/movies (the New Savior Legend series of films), etc. But there's also a smaller name spin-off to FotNS that some fans might write off simply due to the use of super deformed character designs. That title is DD Hokuto no Ken.

DD Hokuto no Ken, which doesn't exactly translate as easily as it should (the "no" in this title is not the hiragana の but rather the kanji 之, which is an antiquated usage & done as a pun), is a gag manga that takes the characters of FotNS and puts them in a 199X world that isn't destroyed by nuclear apocalypse. Therefore, the Hokuto brothers live normal lives (Raoh works in construction, Kenshiro works in an office [Hokuto Hundred Crack Fist does wonders for his typing skills!], and Toki is jobless due to illness; Jagi is still a crook, though), but the big part of the comedy is that all of these characters still maintain the character traits they have in the original series. The manga runs in Monthly Comic Zenon, which is the replacement magazine for Comic Bunch after it shut down, and at the beginning of this year a 12-episode anime adaptation aired on television. Comprised of 3-minute episodes, 3:30 if you count the opening sequence, this show takes no time in getting straight to the jokes and purposefully-awkward situations and can easily be watched fully in one go. But is it good?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Not-So-Rise & Absolute-Fail of Illumitoon Entertainment: Can Anything Be Salvaged?

Readers of this blog might remember me mentioning the name Illumitoon Entertainment a few times already, but something interesting happened to me today in relation to this company. After listening to some music from B't X Neo, which I will review one day, I was reminded that the license was still owned by Illumitoon, who at the beginning of this year changed the copyright listing on their website to 2011, indicating that they were indeed still alive. But today I went to their website for laughs and noticed that in place of the usual black background and pretty rough layout was a message that said this: "This Account Has Been Suspended". It's interesting to see this, as it means that there is a high chance that Illumitoon didn't pay to keep their site up and running, and that hopefully means that the company is either dead or very near to death.

Now normally the death of an anime company should be mourned, but in Illumitoon's case there is nothing to mourn. The company formed back in 2006 and was the brainchild of Barry Watson and others who helped create FUNimation back in the 90s. Illumitoon's goal was the be similar to that of 4Kids, where they would license anime that they would then get aired on television here in North America, but with the major difference being that Illumitoon was also going to offer uncut, dual-audio DVDs for the anime they licensed; it was an attempt to serve both markets. Overall that sounded like a fair idea: The mainstream audience get to watch these shows on TV while the core anime audience gets to own the shows uncut on DVD. Illumitoon also went big and hard with their license choices: Beet the Vandel Buster, which was made up of the original 52-episode TV series from 2004-2005 as well as the 25-episode Excellion sequel series from 2005-2006; B't X, which was made up of the 25-episode TV series from 1996 as well as the 14-episode Neo OVA sequel from 1997-1998; the 51-episode Get Ride! AM Driver TV series from 2004-2005; and finally the 76-episode Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo anime from 2003-2005 (which also aired on Cartoon Network's Toonami block from 2005-2007). Most new companies tend to start small with either a number of shorter series (i.e. OVAs or 12/13-episode TV series) or simply one larger title, but Illumitoon's shortest series had a total of 39 episodes (B't X) and the longest went for 77 episodes (Beet the Vandel Buster)!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Yoiko: Fuuka Likes to Keep Clean

Remember the 1996 American film Jack, starring Robin Williams? For those who don't, here's the basic premise: Williams played Jack, a boy who ages four times as fast as everyone else, so that when he joins public school for fifth grade at age 10 he looks like a 40-year-old man. It was an okay movie, but the premise was certainly interesting. Well, in 1998 mangaka Yugo Ishikawa created his first truly successful series, called Yoiko (which is one way of saying "Children" in Japanese), which is also about someone who ages faster than the usual human. It ran in Big Comic Spirits magazine and ended in 2001, lasting 15 volumes. It was apparently so popular that in November of 1998, not even a year after it debuted, Studio Pierrot and Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS for short) created a 20-episode TV anime series that ran until March of 1999. Though the basic premise of Yoiko is similar to that of Jack, it naturally delivers is a very different, and hilariously amusing, way.

Fifth grade student Fuuka Esumi is going through a change: Her mother is going away on a business trip for an unknown amount of time, so she is sent to Dotonbori, Osaka to live with her Aunt, Uncle, and cousin Jiro. Naturally, Fuuka has to transfer to Dotonbori Elementary and continue fifth grade over there. Like most children her age she just wants to live a happy life with her extended family and gain new friends with the move to Tonbori. There's just one "big" thing about Fuuka: Though she's only about 10 years old she has the body of a university student, and a fairly sexy woman, at that.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Two New Anime Licenses in Just As Many Days: Ray & Lupin the 3rd Season 1!

Anime Expo is over with and Otakon will be coming in a couple of days; for those interested, I will be at Otakon by the way. Anyway, the con season doesn't mean that anime licensing companies can't still go around and announce new licenses, especially if they don't go to cons normally.

First, this past Monday Maiden Japan, a "label" of Section23's (of which Sentai Filmworks is a label of as well), announced that they will be releasing Ray the Animation on DVD. This 13-episode anime adaptation of Akihito Yoshitomi's medical drama manga of the same name aired in Japan in 2006 from April to June. Akihito Yoshitomi is one of my all-time favorite mangaka, with Eat-Man being his absolute greatest work. ADV did release the first three volumes of the manga, and I can say that I certainly enjoyed them. More than likely this will be revealed as an October release, since when David Williams announced Sentai's October line-up at AX it was only made up of two titles. Section23 generally releases something every week, which means the unmentioned October slots are titles that aren't Sentai-related.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ultimate Muscle: The Kinnikuman Legacy: 4Kids' Anime This Ain't!

The original Kinnikuman manga ran in Weekly Shonen Jump from 1979-1987. Created but the manga duo of Yoshinori Nakai and Takashi Shimada, who go under the pen-name of Yudetamago ("Boiled Egg" in Japanese), Kinnikuman started off as a parody of tokusatsu heroes like Ultraman but quickly changed into a splastick, superhuman-wrestling action story. It became a gigantic hit in the history of Shonen Jump, but Yudetamago weren't able to create a similar hit... Until 1998. Eleven years after ending their debut manga, the duo returned to the Kinnikuman world and introduced Japan to the "New Generation" of superhumans with Kinikuman II-Sei, with "Nisei" translating as "Second Generation", which was released in North America under the name Ultimate Muscle: The Kinnikuman Legacy. The anime, brought over by 4Kids Entertainment, became a fairly big hit with 4Kids commissioning Toei to continue making episodes after the show was canceled in Japan. The manga, released by Viz Media, never really seemed to be anywhere near as popular, even though it tells the same story and was fully released, with the volume having literally come out a couple of days ago. Why is that? And is this manga worth tracking down?

Twenty-eight years have passed since the end of Kinnikuman, which had Suguru Kinniku, a.k.a. Kinnikuman, taking his place as the new king of Planet Muscle alongside his new wife Bibinba. The Earth had no villains left to threaten it, and the other remaining superhumans stayed vigilant. Unfortunately, even superhumans get old and now the evil superhumans, banding under the name of the dMp (Demon Manufacturing Plant), have returned to Earth and the legends realize they have to train a new generation of warriors at the Hercules Factory. Among them is Suguru's own son, Mantaro Kinniku, who has already received special introductory training from the legendary warrior Ramenman. Unfortunately, Mantaro is still a wimp at heart and easily poops his pants, literally, before fights. Still, Mantaro, a.k.a. Kid Muscle, might just be the Earth's best chance at surviving... We're screwed, aren't we?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Hunter X Hunter 1998 JSAT Pilot: Familiar, Yet Different

Hunter X Hunter (you don't pronounce the "X" in the middle) is probably the longest-running-but-not-really-running manga in history. Debuting in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine back in March of 1998 this was the third title from Yoshihiro Togashi, who hit it big back in December 1990 with Yu Yu Hakusho and spent a couple of years between these two titles with Level E (which had an anime adaptation just this past winter). The basic story is about a boy named Gon Freecs, who finds out that his father Jing, who is very rarely home, is actually a hunter; in the HxH world, "hunters" are people who are pretty much freelance professionals. They can be well-versed in almost anything, from actual "hunting" to food research. Gon decides to become a hunter himself so that he can find his father.

Anyway, this manga became very popular and Togashi has very special treatment with the brass at Shueisha. Unofficially called "Togashi-ism", the man is allowed to take year-long+ breaks without actually doing anything, followed by doing the manga for a few months and then going back on break. But let's get back to the actual review. Pilot films aren't exactly common in anime, but they do happen often enough. Hell, the Dororo anime from the late-60s had a pilot film first, and it was even in color whereas the TV series was done in black & white (which was apparently a cost-cutting decision). Anyway, before Shuiesha now has festivals at the end of each year called Jump Festa, and often pilots are made for anime that haven't been given actual anime yet; Toriko, Eyeshield 21, and Gintama all have gotten this treatment. But before Jump Festa there was JSAT, or the Jump Super Anime Tour. In 1998 three Jump manga received pilots: One Piece (which needs no explanation), Seikimatsu Leader-den Takeshi (which was from the then-future-creator of Toriko), and Hunter X Hunter. The biggest trick with pilots are that info on them can be scarce, but let's take a look at the Hunter X Hunter 1998 JSAT Pilot.