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.