Monday, June 27, 2011

"Twelve More" Older Anime That Deserve License Rescues Part 2

Time to get back to talking about older anime that deserve license rescues. Part 1 was, inadvertently, filled with titles that had been featured on ANN's "Buried Treasure" series of articles, including one "Buried Garbage", but Part 2 is devoid of those kinds of titles... But they still deserve license rescues all the same, because they are definitely quality titles.

I've talked about the Saint Seiya movies not too long ago, and though the TV series is very well-known around the world I feel that it still deserves one more chance here in North America. The 114-episode TV series adaption of Masami Kurumada's most-well-known title aired from late 1986 to early 1989 in Japan and was quickly aired around the world in the 90s... Except North America, specifically the United States and Canada, where it didn't debut until 2003. The version we got, renamed Knights of the Zodiac (which, translated in different languages, was the name used around the world as well), was DiC's attempt at finally bringing over Saint Seiya. Unfortunately, DiC's handling of Saint Seiya went more in the style of what they did with Sailor Moon back in the 90s, and in 2003 it just wasn't going to cut it anymore. ADV tried to save what good name the series had by releasing it uncut and with a 100% accurate dub, which was better but still only above-average, but a major problem came about: DiC only licensed the first 60 episodes of the TV series. ADV had only sub-licensed the series from DiC, much like what had been a few years earlier with Sailor Moon, and that restricted them from doing anything beyond those episodes.

Friday, June 24, 2011

"Twelve More" Older Anime That Deserve License Rescues Part 1

Back in January I did a piece called "Twelve Older Anime That Deserve License Rescues", where I listed off more than twelve older anime that I felt deserved getting licensed and released in North America again (12 =/= 12...  Thanks, College Education!). These titles were chosen based off of a number of factors, such as present availability and affordability (i.e. is it OOP/Out-of-Print and/or is it expensive?), whether or not it ever got a DVD release over here, and if the show itself just seems worth it to license rescue (i.e. Did we get all of it the first time?  Are there dubbed episodes we never got?  Is it even good?). At the end I also listed some "Honorable Mentions" that also could deserve license rescues, which just showed how much anime we truly have gotten released outside of Japan. Well, I feel it's time to come back to this idea and list off another twelve(-ish) older anime that deserve license rescues. Like last time this will be split up across two parts, each featuring six entries, but I will say that this list doesn't have as many titles that I am personally familiar with like the first list, so this is mostly going off word-of-mouth and any research I could find. But, anyway, let's get started:

Maison Ikkoku was the creation of Rumiko Takahashi back during the 80s, debuting after Urusei Yatsura but predating Ranma 1/2. It ran from 1980 to 1987 in Big Comic Spirits magazine, totaling 15 volumes, and is considered by some to be Takahashi's magnum-opus-of-sorts when it comes to her romantic comedies. From 1986 to 1988 it received a 96-episode anime series, and Viz released both the manga and the anime in their entireties. In fact, Viz originally released the anime on VHS in the 90s before releasing the entire show across eight dual-audio, 12-episode sets, twice-a-year, from 2003 to 2006. There's only one problem: Maison Ikkoku never became a big seller for Viz, so these boxsets quickly became rare and now command high prices in the second-hand market. Well that's only partially true, as you can get the first three sets used for pretty fair prices.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ring ni Kakero (Super Famicom): A Different Type of Fighting Game

Seeing as how Ring ni Kakero 1: Sekai Taikai-hen has ended and I've reviewed it, it seems like an appropriate time to cover one more Ring ni Kakero-related item. Anime and manga getting video game adaptations aren't anything new, as they've been done since the NES/Famicom & Sega Master System days (and if you include American comics then you can go back to the Atari 2600). Nowadays games that are delivered through non-traditional methods are very common, such as digital downloads. Nintendo, always willing to try something new, was doing similar things in Japan with the Super Famicom, the Japanese version of the SNES.

First there was the Satellaview, which was a cartridge-modem that allowed gamers to download and play games during specific broadcast times. One of the most infamous game that remained exclusive to this service was Radical Dreamers: Nusumenai Houseki, a spin-off to Chrono Trigger that resolved a minor loose end and served as the inspiration to Chrono Cross. But this wasn't the only non-traditional service Nintendo offered. In 1997 the company introduced the Nintendo Power (no relation to the Nintendo gaming magazine) service, which utlized an empty flash cartridge that gamers could buy. Gamers could then take their "SF Memory Cassettes" to participating stores and use a kiosk that would have Super Famicom games ready to download onto the cartridge for a fee; there was also a version for the Game Boy. Much like the Satellaview there were games exclusive to this service as well, though popular games did eventually get traditional releases, like Wrecking Crew '98. And here is where Ring ni Kakero comes in...

This is what the Nintendo Power SF Memory Cassette looks like.

Developed by Earthly Soft and published by NCS Masaya (the company behind the Langrisser and Cho Aniki series), Ring ni Kakero was ready for release in 1995 but a waning interest in the Super Famicom due to the Sony Playstation and Sega Saturn's releases kept it from coming out. When the Nintendo Power service debuted, though, Masaya decided to give this game a new chance at a release, making it a NP-exclusive title when it debuted in 1998. The game's Story Mode covers the Ring ni Kakero story from the Champion Carnival up through the World Tournament, and here's who made it into the game:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ring ni Kakero 1: Sekai Taikai-hen: Long Live Golden Japan Jr.!!

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

This past December I launched this blog and was forced, on my own behalf admittedly, to start reviewing the anime based on Masami Kurumada's manga that had been made at that point. Though I didn't exactly cover everything that was made (i.e. the other two Fuma no Kojrou OVAs and B't X Neo), it all ended up with my Holiday 2010 gift to everyone: My review of Ring ni Kakero 1: Shadow, which was not only the most recent anime I reviewed but it was also the first review that I did in the same year it aired. Well, the reason why I decided to review all of those Masami Kurumada anime has now finished airing, and now it's time to mark another first on this blog: A review for an anime that just finished airing!

Last December at Jump Festa 2011 (for some reason they're named after the coming year and not the year they happen in), Toei Animation announced the "Masami Kurumada Project", which was comprised of the announcement of a brand-new Saint Seiya movie that would be done in full-CG as well as the announcement that in April 2011 another season of the Ring ni Kakero 1 anime series, subtitled Sekai Taikai-hen/World Tournament Chapter, would air. Unlike the previous season, which aired on Animax PPV, this season aired on the Animax channel itself, though it would still only be six episodes spread out across three months. Being on the channel itself made it more easily available to people who wanted to watch it... Proof of this alone is the fact that "raws" for this new season actually came out not too long after the episodes aired, unlike Ring ni Kakero 1: Shadow. Yeah, they weren't the greatest raws out there, but it was truly better than "the nothing" Shadow got. But enough about production and raws and all of that stuff we don't have to honestly care about... Let's get to the actual show!

The time has finally come: After being formed following the end of the Champion Carnival, defeating Black Shaft's makeshift Team USA in a challenge match, and proving their worth to the Shadow Clan the World Jr. Boxing Tournament is beginning and Team Golden Japan Jr. is ready to fulfill their goal of "World Conquest, Absolute Victory". They will not lose a single match and they will prove their strength to the rest of the world. After defeating Team Mexico in their first match Golden Japan Jr. will have to defeat the likes of Team Italy, Team France, Team Germany, and the mysterious and godlike Team Greece if they want to fulfill their goal.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Team Astro: There's No Dying in Baseball!

Well, much like when I reviewed Super Robot Wars Compact 3, I'm going to talk about something that isn't an anime or manga... But at least it's related to a manga, so it still counts. In East Asia it's not surprising to see live-action adaptations of anime & manga; I say "East Asia" because not only is Japan known for doing this, but also Korea and Taiwan (though, oddly enough, they always love adapting Japanese creations and not so much their own creations). Generally when these titles are adapted to live-action, they are done in the dramatic style that many live-action shows take on, and to fans of Japanese productions call this type of show a "dorama" or "J-Drama". I personally have only seen a few J-Dramas, but this one is interesting because you can actually watch this one legally.

Team Astro, or Astro Kyudan in Japanese (and in no relation to the Houston Astros), was originally a baseball manga that ran in Weekly Shounen Jump magazine from 1972 to 1976, predating the magazine's first true mega-hits like Ring ni Kakero, Kochikame, and Kinnikuman by at least four years. Even though it was popular during its serialization and lasted 20 volumes it still seemed to suffer cancellation in the end and the title ended up becoming mostly forgotten when those previously mentioned titles became mega-hits. Though it did receive a wideban release later on, Team Astro would still stay in obscurity until 1999 when Ohta Publishing gave the manga another re-release, this time across 5 gigantic volumes (each volume had more than 700 pages). This re-release sparked some interest and renewed popularity in the title, and in 2005 TV Asahi commissioned Production I.G. to make some animated footage based on the manga that would be used as the intro for the station's pro baseball coverage. This would then lead to TV Asahi airing a live-action J-Drama adaptation of the manga the very same year.

Back during World War II legendary pitcher Eiji Sawamura, who was the Japanese equivalent of Cy Young, was serving with the Japanese Imperial Navy. While being stationed in the Phillipines he met a young boy called J. Shuro, and he shared his love of baseball with the boy along with his dream to one day face the Americans on the baseball field rather than on the battlefield. Sawamura died during the war, though, and Shuro decided to take up his mentor's dream. Sawamura once told Shuro a premonition he had about how 9 men will be born at 9 seconds after 9:09 on September 9, 1954 (the 29th year of the Showa Era), and Shuro has made it his life goal to gather those nine men, who will be called the "Astro Supermen" and all have a baseball-shaped birthmark somewhere on their bodies. These men will create the greatest baseball team the world will ever see, and one day they'll take on not only the Americans but also the Yomiuri Giants, who are seen as the top baseball team in Japan.