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.