Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2012!! Part 2

Now, in time before the end of the year, here's part of of my favorite posts of this year! Let's not waste time and just get right into it.

Rokudenashi BLUES 1993 (July 29)
It's a production like this that really makes me wish that a full-on TV series was made. Rokudenashi BLUES is one of the best yankii/delinquent manga you can read, but when it comes to anime it's a very niche genre with little to none TV anime series made around this idea of a certain type of schoolkid (Hareluya II BØY is pretty much the closest one can get to an actual delinquent TV anime). Even though I have not been able to watch the first movie yet, which is a 30-minute adaptation of the beginning of the manga, after reading the story arc that this specific movie adapts I just had to see how the 1993 movie sequel worked out. In the end, even though some elements of the story were altered to work with the 90-minute time restraint, Rokudenashi BLUES 1993 is an excellent movie, and I wish it had English subtitles of any sort... Hell, I wish it had a DVD in general, because even in Japan both Rokudenashi movies are VHS-only. The funny thing is that there was a live-action J-Drama adaptation that aired last year, yet Toei never thought about releasing its anime movies on DVD & use that recent promotion to help it sell. Still, there is an okay raw out there that has only minor issues, so if you're willing to watch anime raw then by all means check this movie out!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2012!! Part 1

Happy Boxing Day, everyone! I hope everyone had a fun holiday, because I had an enjoyable one. Anyway, we're coming up on the end of the month, so just like what I did at the beginning of this December I am now going to talk about my favorite posts of this year. 2012 was an interesting year for the blog, as I didn't post as much as I did each month last year, yet I still was close to matching the total number of posts in general. Review-wise, I looked at anime with fun titles (Bastard!!, Goddamn), I was able to sneak in titles that are as "mainstream" as you can get in terms of anime in North America (Fullmetal Alchemist, One Piece), and overall it was fun squeezing the term "obscure" as much as I did at times this year. When it came to non-review posts I had some interesting picks, like comparing the two versions of Zaizen Jotaro (TV vs. DVD), investigating the early days of late-night anime, admiring Kokusai Eigasha's legacy of giant robots, and, most importantly, lots & lots of "12 Anime" lists & variants, and that's not including the two lists from this month! But enough talk, let's get to this list!

B't X Neo (February 2)
I had really thought about putting my review for the B't X TV series into the 2010/2011 list, but when I thought about it more, Neo was simply the better part of the B't X anime series. It took everything that was good about the TV series and still improved upon them, and those final episodes are simply amazing in the story they told. Sure, in terms of adapting the original manga, Neo only goes so far, but it more than makes up for it by delivering an ending that I can only hope got the approval of Masami Kurumada himself. I still assert that Ring ni Kakero 1 & Saint Seiya are better titles than B't X in the grand scheme of things, but when you have a production like Neo it certainly puts up an amazing fight for recognition. I don't want to sound like a broken record, but knowing how badly Illumitoon screwed up their releases really pisses me off, because B't X definitely deserved better. I can only hope that Discotek does in fact read this blog, because this here is an anime that deserves an actual fair chance over here. If nothing else, I can only hope that TMS will one day get involved in Anime Sols, that streaming/crowdfunding site Sam Pinansky will be opening up next Spring. TMS has an amazing line-up of titles, and I'd easily put my money towards B't X if it became available on that site.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Model Suit Gunpla Builders Beginning G: We Are... Gunpla!

When it comes to mech anime, Gundam is THE phenomenon. There are anime productions dating back to 1979, tons of video games, and even entire magazines dedicated to Gundam manga, to say the least, but one of the biggest parts of Gundam are the model kits that have been around since 1980. Gundam models are so big that they even have their own term in Japan: "Gunpla", which is a portmanteau of "Gundam plastic model". Personally, I have a few Gundam models, and it is a fun little hobby to do, and while I am pretty barebones when it comes to making them, when you see the hard work of someone who went through the trouble of painting the proper parts, lining out all of the indents, and even adding their own little touches it really looks amazing. Nothing really showcases Japan's (nay, the world's) love for gunpla than this hobby's very own anime: Mokei Senshi/Model Suit Gunpla Builders Beginning G. In 2010 gunpla hit its 30th anniversary, so Sunrise created three little shorts that combine together into a single 40-minute short story that takes gunpla and, arguably, makes it all the more awesome. It also celebrates the hobby in a way that makes one proud to have built a model kit sometime in his/her life.

Haru Irei is visiting the life-size Gundam in Odaiba with his father, Hinode, and his friend, Kenta. After becoming in awe of the Gundam, Haru decides to buy a gunpla, which Kenta already plays with and Hinode did back when he was a kid. After seeing the last 1/144 scale High Grade/HG RX-78 Gundam model taken, Haru comes across a different HG model on the ground: The 1/144 Beginning Gundam. After building it, Kenta takes it to the local hobby shop, AXIS, where he's shown Gunpla Battle, where gunpla builders can "pilot" their very models in a game where the object is to defeat your opponents' units/models. Haru's spark of piloting ability catches the eye of Boris Schauer, a "Gunpla Meister", who wishes to see what Haru is made of.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mabudachi Jingi: Short & Simple, but a Nice Start

Time for another Masami Kurumada mini manga review! Last time, I looked at Aoi Tori no Shinwa, a prologue to what would have likely been a crazy baseball title if it didn't end at only two chapters. This time, though, we're going back to the past and taking a look at a 1978 one-shot, done during the serialization of Ring ni Kakero.

While doing Ring ni Kakero for Shonen Jump Masami Kurumada also made a couple of one-shots: 1978's Mabudachi Jingi/True Friend Duty & 1979's Shiro Obi Taisho/White Belt General. During the serialization of Fuma no Kojirou, Shueisha released these two one-shots, as well as the first six chapters of Sukeban Arashi from it's initial irregular run, into one single book using the Mabudachi Jingi name. As of this post only Jingi has been scanlated, so let's take a look at this 44-page one-shot.

Kintarou Oodera, Kin for short, may not be tall, but he's easily the toughest kid in his school, and when people need him to fend off students from rival school Kamedama High he's usually ready to help out... All the more so when his best friend Sada is in trouble. One day, though, a girl called Momoko Kinoshita transfers into the school and becomes the desire of every male. Unfortunately, everyone assumes that a cute girl like Momoko already has one or two boyfriends, so when some of the guys try to pull a prank on Kin by forcing him to admit his love for Momoko, the unthinkable happens: Momoko accepts Kin's admission and the two become a couple. Momoko's hatred of violence, though, makes Kin stop fighting, which is the worst possible scenario when the leader of Kamedama's delinquents comes over looking to fight Kin, & Sada decides to take his friend's place.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2011!! (& December 2010, too) Part 2

It's time to continue celebrating 2011 (& December 2010) with Part 2 of my favorite posts from the first 13 months of the blog's existence, so let's get straight to it with another series of posts.

The "Madhouse Gambling Quadrilogy" (January 2011, February 2011, September 2011)
Like I said at the end of my Akagi review, if Ring ni Kakero 1 is my #1 most-wanted North American anime license then the "Madhouse Gambling Quadrilogy" is my #2, #3, & #4 (literally, it's Akagi, Kaiji [both seasons], then One Outs). If Ring ni Kakero 1, in my mind, represents anime at some of its most fun & concentrated, then the Gambling Quadrilogy represents anime at some of its most dramatic & psychological. Nobuyuki Fukumoto's general style is simply masterful in its ability to take seemingly simple games and making them outright evil in their execution, & Shinobu Kaitani was able to take baseball and twist & turn it into something that makes you wonder if that's what actual baseball games are like. Akagi's characters & dark demeanor help make the title more approachable to people who don't know anything about traditional mahjong, Kaiji is probably the only title I've seen that makes rock-paper-scissors look demonically manipulative, & One Outs actually made me care about baseball for once. If you haven't seen any of these shows then you are truly missing out, and if you've only seen some of these shows then definitely get to the others, because you're still missing out.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2011!! (& December 2010, too) Part 1

With the blog now starting it's third year of existence, I figure long enough has passed that I can look back at the first year with some sense of minor nostalgia and take a look at what I had posted back during 2011, while also adding in December 2010, the first month of the blog where I posted like a madman who felt that tons of posts in each month was the best idea... Boy was that a silly idea.

Anyway, what were my favorite posts in those first 13 months? That is actually a pretty tough thing to say, and cutting it down to my usual twelve entries was really hard. I had to bite the bullet and not include stuff like the Xevious CG movie "non-review", Salamander, Kochikame the Movie, the Enoki Films USA catalog look-at, and B't X, among many others. That first year had a lot of favorites of mine, but I do feel that these twelve posts (or series of posts in three certain choices) are my absolute favorites from 2011 & December 2010. As usual, there is no actual order to this list, but here are my favorite posts in those first thirteen months!

Blazing Transfer Student (April 5 , 2011)
"Moeru Faiyaaa! Ta-Ta-Ka-E!" This OV... Sorry, I mean OLA is just so much fun to watch and absolutely funny & admirable. Only Kazuhiko Shimamoto can create something that is both something you want to enjoy in an honest fashion yet be so willing to poke fun at at the same time; it's okay, the anime does the same thing. To be honest, the only possible reason I can think of for GAINAX not including this two-episode production in their "WORKS" page is simply because the "brilliant" idea of the Original Laser Animation ended up bombing so badly. Since Japanese businesses don't like to talk about horrifically bad business decisions I'm going to guess that GAINAX probably decided to just ignore Blazing Transfer Student's existence and hope no one will remember it. Well, unfortunately for them, people do remember this little anime short, and it is amazing.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Land of Obscusion Anniversay #2! Cue the Electric Boogaloo!

Happy Anniversary to Me!

That's right, everyone, this blog has now become two years old! Hitting the one year mark last year was an awesome feeling, and while the second year doesn't quite hit the same excellent feeling it's still just as awesome. While the overall number of posts this year won't quite hit the number it was in the previous twelve months, I still got a really nice number of posts, and I have kept up my goal of keeping an average of one post per week, for the most part.

Anyway, I had planned for two more reviews to do for Mecha Month last year, but having a brand new Wii U, combined with friends who wanted to play games like Mario U, ZombiU, & Tank! Tank! Tank!, kind of took the place of watching those two titles for review. Hopefully I'll get to them for this month, as well as a very special review that I am willing to break a rule of mine, technically, to cover this month. But, outside of those reviews, this month will specifically be about celebration. This blog has hit two years, and the main attraction for this month will be me taking a look back at the previous two years, plus December 2010, & bringing up my favorite posts of each year. Trust me, out of all the list-style posts I have planned out, these two upcoming lists have been the hardest...And I haven't even reduced the list for this year down to twelve entries yet!

Anyway, last year's anniversary was filled with stats that I compiled for the hell of it, so this year I'm doing something similar: Here are, according to Blogspot's "Stats - Posts" category as of this post, the Top 10 Most Read Land of Obscusion Posts of All Time! (Plus my thoughts on each one)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

"Twelve +2" Anime I Would License -Mecha Month Edition- Part 2

I hope everyone had a fun, & filling, Thanksgiving as well as a fruitful Black Friday, because I sure as hell did. At the end of the day I somehow was able to simply go into a store and buy a Deluxe/Black Wii U, as well as some games, and I sure had some fun with it with some friends last night. But enough holiday talk, back to Mecha Month. Part 1 of this "Twelve Anime" list featured mostly titles that were either real robots or at least were super robots that handled themselves more like real robots. Well, Part 2 is kind of the opposite, since most of what's here are super robots, so what other mechs would I try to bring over to North America?

Sengoku Majin GoShogun & Time Stranger
Starting off the supers is a neat reverse example of what Dancougar was, i.e. North America got one portion of the franchise, but this time we got the latter part, at least in an uncut form. The original GoShogun aired in Japan back in 1981 and was essentially a parody of mech anime of the time, with a crew of heroes who seemed to be more interested in simply talking to each other than taking their enemy seriously, a group of villains whose goals were sometimes outright ridiculous (Kernagurl's goal was to open a fast-food restaurant chain, supposedly), and scenes that were meant to poke fun at other mech anime. One scene apparently involved the GoShogun crew finding a robot that looked like the RX-78 Gundam from the original Mobile Suit Gundam. Apparently GoShogun itself then gives the robot sentience, followed by the robot killing itself after remembering the horrors of war. Even though it was mixed together with Srungle to make Macron-1 here in North America I'm sure the joking nature of the original show was lost.

Monday, November 19, 2012

"Twelve +2" Anime I Would License -Mecha Month Edition- Part 1

My absolutely made-up, 150% non-existent anime licensing company has now, hypothetically, survived an onslaught of licenses including the likes of Ring ni Kakero 1, Akagi, Mononoke, YamiBou, Air Master, Slam Dunk, and even Zaizen Jotaro... So why not continue this journey into absurdity? At least I'm honest in that every title I list I would honestly consider licensing, so I'm not just tossing random things out. Anyway, the last two lists of this type has had mech anime in them (List 1 featured the likes of Bokurano & List 2 had Gaiking [2005]), but this time the list will be nothing but mech anime! So let's not waste anymore time and get straight into a list than can, possibly, crush the competition under the sheer weight of these giant robots... Don't like my pun? Too bad.

I've used so many B't X covers that I'm down to the OSTs

B't X & B't X Neo
All right, so this isn't exactly a "mech anime", but I wouldn't count Tekkaman Blade or Detonator Orgun as that either, yet those two have appeared in SRW titles... So there. Anyway, I tend to try to avoid listing stuff that I already put in my license rescue lists, but much like how the Eat-Man anime appeared in both types of lists I really do feel that B't X deserves more attention. Sure, Saint Seiya & Ring ni Kakero 1 both surpass it, but that doesn't mean that B't X is bad or simply average by any means. Masami Kurumada's crazy action-oriented style just meshes well with mechanical beasts of destruction, and Illumitoon's aborted attempt at a release, combined with the fact that they couldn't even fully dub the original TV series, just stings & annoys me to no end, especially since this was my first Kurumada series, so there's some sense of nostalgia there, too. I'd either release it across three sets (split 14/11/13 so that all of the dubbed episodes can be on one set, also making that set dual-audio) or maybe even just two sets, with the TV series set being dual-audio for the first half only.

[2/2017 ADDENDUM: I forgot how many times I featured B't X in lists like these, because I only updated the original rescue list inclusion back then. Anyway, Anime Midstream will be giving this series the proper release it never received... Eventually. Yeah, it's Midstream, but at least that means that it should be a solid release in general, if a slow one.]

[11/2023 ADDENDUM: It's a been a few since the release, but Anime Midstream has released both B't X & B't X Neo via DVD boxsets, giving the anime its first complete English release.]

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Super Robot Wars GC & XO: Texas Mack Makes Everything Better... EVERYTHING!

What other way to celebrate Mecha Month than to get Super Robot Wars involved, right? I haven't done a game review since Ring ni Kakero on the Super Famicom back in June of last year, and the last SRW review was Compact 3 further back that FebruaryCompact 3 was a perfect SRW entry to review on this blog, due to its absolutely obscure series additions, like Acrobunch, Mechander Robo, & Betterman. Well, this review isn't too much different, but the twist is that I'm going to be talking about two games! But, unlike when I did the TwinBee "Double Feature", this is only counting for one review, because these games are essentially the same exact thing, only the second one is a HD version of the first. Welcome to Super Robot Wars GC & XO.

Excuse the lesser quality of the XO title screen; it was the best I could find.

SRW GC was released in Japan back in December of 2004, and was a GameCube-exclusive entry in the series (obviously). It did a number of things differently, with the biggest one being the use of 3D models instead of the usual 2D sprites; the last time SRW went 3D was SRW Alpha for Dreamcast. Two years later, in November of 2006, the game was remade into HD & given online multiplayer with SRW XO for Xbox 360. GC/XO was made with a laser-tergeted focus: To celebrate mech anime of the 80s, and that's obvious from the line-up:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Kikou Sen'nyo Rouran: You Just Got Hirano-ed!

The next title for Mecha Month is a bit different from the usual mecha mold in that the giant robots aren't exactly the main focus, at least in the main visual way that they usually are in mech anime. Rather, this show utilizes mecha as a means to an end & are more story-focused in their use, not to mention that the real star is a human-sized girl who is arguably even stronger than the mechs themselves and features some really weird imagery... Yeah, that sounds like a Toshihiro Hirano title.

Man, I haven't reviewed a Toshihiro/Toshiki Hirano title since my very first review: Haja Taisei Dangaioh. To be fair, I did bring up Hades Project Zerorymer in my first "Twelve Anime I Would License" list, but an actual review of something from the man happened back at the start of everything. The man is definitely a mixed-bag kind of director, as he was the man behind fan-favorites like Magic Knight Rayearth (both TV series & the OVA series), Vampire Princess Miyu, & Fight! Iczer-One, as well as mixed-opinion fare like the Apocalypse Zero OVA & The Devil Lady... But he also gave us tripe like Great Dangaioh. Then there is Hirano's more obscure fare, like Angel Heart TV & two of the New Savior Legend Fist of the North Star movies, specifically, Kenshiro-den & Raoh-den: Gekitou no Shou (bet you didn't know that he directed all three of those, huh?). Kikou Sen'nyo/Strange Steel Fairy Rouran definitely fits into the obscure category, but it's also one of Hirano's more interesting works, no doubt helped by the fact that the similarly-mixed Noboru/Shou Aikawa wrote it.

Dr. Masahiko Mikogami created the organization ASY, & it's five mechs called Gousens, to act as the new defense force for Japan after it's own military joined the UN. ASY immediately went after the Shiromorishu, a mysterious group that guided Japan spiritually for centuries, stating that the group had been controlling Japan instead of guiding it. Though their base has been destroyed the Shiromorishu are ready to enact their vengeance on ASY... But a mysterious girl named Rouran will complicate matters further by bringing back the past between Mikogami & the Shiromorishu.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Super Mobile Legend Dinagiga: At Least There's Twitter...

This November The Land of Obscusion will be celebrating a neat idea called "Mecha Month". Gerald Rathkolb, of Anime World Order fame, debuted Mecha Month last November, and the idea of it is for mech fans who have a model kit they haven't made yet to finally get off of their butts... And sit right back down and build that kit! I myself have stopped buying and building model kits, though I do understand the fun of it, but I still felt like celebrating alongside those fans. Therefore, every post this month will be mech-related, and what better way to start it than to finally watch & review something I kept putting off ever since the start of this blog!

The OVA boom of that debuted in the early-80s reached it's end roughly in the mid-90s, with fewer and fewer OVAs being made afterwards. With the idea of late-night anime becoming more popular & lucrative, the short OVA seemed antiquated, but the format still worked in some cases, like maybe if an idea couldn't get a shot at a TV airing or even a personal project. I'm sure Chou Kidou Densetsu/Super Mobile Legend Dinagiga is a case of that, because I can't honestly believe that this short production was originally created the way it ended up.

Hikari Touno has only been with the local robot training facility for three days and already she's caused more accidental destruction around the facility than thought possible. At the same time, though, she looks to have great potential, and her dense positive energy makes it hard for any of her classmates to really hate her, including her roommate Nana Izumizaki. But after a new student from Amsterdam named Marie Vlaanderen comes to the facility a mysterious robot, many times larger than anything the students pilot, attacks the facility. If there's any chance at survival it's in Hikari's potential ability to pilot the secret giant robot Dinagiga, which accidentally caused the destruction of Hokkaido a few years back.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Theory Musing: The Three Pillars of Sports (Boxing) Anime & Manga

First off, Hurricane/Tropical Storm/Tropical Depression Sandy sure was a powerful force of nature, wasn't it? Living in Central New Jersey, I think I was lucky to have nothing more than a loss of power for roughly 30 hours, because driving around yesterday really let me see just how much stuff was uprooted and destroyed, and I know that the coast is in even worse condition. Luckily, I spent the time I had without electricity by relaxing, reading some Prince of Tennis (only 1.5 volumes to go!), and, by way of a laptop with limited power, I watched some episodes of Hajime no Ippo, which I have been getting through slowly-as-hell for the past few years (I finally made it to the third opening!). Me reading sports manga & watching sports anime, though, is really just a continuation of what I had done just a few days earlier, when I offered to appear on ANNCast's most recent call-out show and talk with Zac about sports anime, specifically how there seems to be a split of opinion between the more realistic titles (stuff like Touch, Ashita no Joe, Monkey Turn, & even Hajime no Ippo) and the more "over-the-top" fare (stuff like Ring ni Kakero 1, Prince of Tennis, Team Astro, & even Blazing Transfer Student).

There was more stuff I had thought about bringing up, but most of it would have been simply name-dropping. One thing I had thought about mentioning, though the chance never really came up during the conversation, was a personal theory I have on how sports titles are made up & categorized. Admittedly, though, this theory only really has been fully thought out in terms of boxing titles, but I think it can be applied to other sports, and possibly even sports titles in general, but for now let me ruminate "out loud" about what I like to call "The Three Pillars of Boxing Anime & Manga".

The main idea of the "Three Pillars" is that, when it comes to sports anime & manga, there are three main aspects/focuses that exist: The character-based drama, the action-packed adventure, & the career story. In choosing what titles would be the "Pillars", I mainly had to consider titles that established these aspects and debuted early enough where they could actually be considered trail-blazers. Therefore, when it came to boxing there were three that easily came to mind: 1968-1973's Ashita no Joe, 1977-1981's Ring ni Kakero, & 1989-Present's Hajime no Ippo. Each of these three titles represents one of the aspects of, at the very least, boxing manga & anime, and all three of them have inspired other titles in the same genre, or at least sport. Looking back there is no title boxing title before Ashita no Joe that is like it, Ring ni Kakero was one of the first manga to really focus on being highly exaggerated, & Hajime no Ippo's immense focus & detail on showcasing the lives & careers of its boxers is something that very few titles have tried to emulate.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Aoi Tori no Shinwa - Blue Myth Overture: Kurumada Meets Baseball

When it comes to Masami Kurumada, I've covered his major works: Ring ni Kakero 1, Fuma no Kojirou, Saint Seiya (the movies, at least), & B't X. But that's just in anime, as Kurumada has made many manga outside of those titles. Unfortunately, outside of Ring ni Kakero 2, which ran from 2000-2008 & lasted 26 volumes, none of his other manga work lasted for any real stretch of time. His debut serialization, 1974-1975's Sukeban Arashi, only lasted 2 volumes, as did the infamous Silent Knight Sho from 1992. Then there is 1984's Otoko Zaka, which Kurumada apparently spent years preparing to write & was supposedly going to be his magnum opus... It was canceled after three volumes, with the final page saying "未完" (mikan/incomplete) rather than the usual "完" (kan/complete). After those canceled title there's his short works & one-shots, like 1979's Mabudachi Jingi, but I'm going to focus on an entry in what Kurumada now calls his "NEVER END HEROES": Short works that looked to be the beginnings of new series, but never lasted long enough to even get one full volume-worth of material. Though Otoko Zaka & Sho are also considered these, there are two actual books that were actually released under this name, and recently one of these entries was fan scanlated; the first non-Seiya English scanlation in fact!

1992's Aoi Tori no Shinwa/Myth of the Blue Bird - Blue Myth Overture, a baseball title, was seemingly an experiment by Kurumada in between his forced cancellation of Seiya & the debut of Sho; appearing twice in Jump's Seasonal Specials in Spring 1991 & Winter 1992. Since it lasted for two chapters I can't technically call it a "one-shot", but at the same time I'm not sure if these two chapters were simply a test to see if any fans were going to be interested in a proper serialized run, hence the "Overture" part of the sub-title. Still, at 109 pages it's certainly no slouch of a story... And you also get some indications as to how much of an inspiration Team Astro was to Kurumada.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hareluya II BØY: Repent to His Back, FØØLS!

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

Haruto Umezawa is one of those mangaka that North American fans likely don't know of, but I can honestly see have a bit of a fanbase over here if his titles were more well known. He started off in the industry as an assistant to Tsukasa Hojo and then broke out on his own with Hareluya, a manga about the literal "Son of God" who is sent down to live as a human in order to learn humility; I sent in a short review of that manga for ANN's Right Turn Only!, and it was posted this past SeptemberHareluya ended (read: likely canceled) after only one volume, but Umezawa seemingly felt that his characters had potential so he gave it another go with a reboot: Hareluya II BØY, which removed the whole "son of God" angle and instead treated Hareluya as a normal human... Well, as "normal" as a character like him can be. BØY became a very successful title for Shonen Jump, even becoming a Top 3 title a few times, and ran from 1992-1999, totaling 33 volumes, his longest title to date. Throughout 1997 Triangle Staff, a now-defunct studio whose biggest titles were Magic User's Club, Macross Plus, & Serial Experiments Lain, made an animated TV adaptation of Hareluya II BØY that ran in the early days of "modern-day" late-night anime, also making it the first late-night Jump anime. Unfortunately, this anime is extremely obscure & rare but it's also one of the most unique anime productions to come from the pages of Shonen Jump.

Kiyoshiro Okamoto is just starting his time at Rakuen High School and has only one dream: To go to Paris and become a painter; he even secretly breaks Rakuen's rules and works part-time at a construction site so that he can save money for the trip. One night on his way home he gets harassed by Shozou Momiyama, the "leader" of Rakuen's delinquents, but is saved by Hareluya Hibino, a classmate of his who was suspended on the first day of school for beating up come upperclassmen. Hareluya's dream is a simple one: World Domination. Shortly afterwards the duo meet two of their classmates: Michiru Yamana, a girl who dreams of becoming a jewelry designer & sells her work on the street, & Makoto Ichijou, who fronts his own band, Fire Guns, and dreams of becoming a rock star. Together, the four of them will support each other & help out those who are in trouble.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Has the "Era of Old-School" Hit the R1 Anime Industry?

No doubt you've heard of the insanity that Discotek unleashed on anime fans by announcing that they've licensed both the original Cutey Honey TV series from 1973, as well the original Mazinger Z TV series from 1972-1974. Discotek has just been riding a crazy train of awesomeness by continually announcing cool old-school license after old-school license, plus some more recent fare every now & then, but Discotek is not the only company who has been reaching into the well & pulling out old-school anime. With these two new licenses I'm starting to wonder: Has the Region 1/North American anime industry hit a point where the old adage of "Old Anime Doesn't Sell" actually is being proven wrong?

Think about it for a second or two... While Discotek is certainly making their living on old-school, they aren't the only ones. Right Stuf, under their Nozomi label, recently announced that they will be releasing shojo classic The Rose of Versailles next year, no doubt because their previous releases of old-school favorite Dirty Pair has sold well, not to mention license rescues like Gasaraki & Nadesico. Sentai Filmworks dumbfounded many by licensing the Ghost Sweeper Mikami TV series that aired in the early 90s, but it apparently sold well enough to make "Mr. I Can Neither Confirm Nor Deny" David Williams state a couple of times at cons that Sentai was looking into doing the Mikami movie that Manga Entertainment released more than a decade ago (and also state that "old-school does not start at 2009"), not to mention that Sentai will be releasing the last set of Psychic Squad (a.k.a. Zettai Karen Children) next month, which is based on the manga made by Takashi Shiina, creator of GS Mikami. Anime Midstream has been beating the odds for the past three years & surviving solely on occasional releases of Matchless Raijin-Oh. Shout! Factory has listened to Transformers fans & released all three of the Takara/Toei-produced Transformers entries (The Headmasters, Super God Masterforce, & Victory), and recent Amazon & DVD Empire solicitations have revealed that S!F is trying their hands at 70s mech anime Daiku Maryu Gaiking by releasing the 2009-produced trio of compilation movies that William Winckler Productions made for Toei.

And then there's Discotek, who has already given fans all of Fist of the North Star TV, once thought impossible after Manga's original DVD release, proven that Lupin the 3rd can sell by releasing the Episode 0: First Contact special, the original TV series, & have The Secret of Mamo movie (with all four English dubs in tow!) and the Green vs. Red OVA in the works, with more Lupin in the future. And for next year Discotek is giving us the likes of Saint Seiya (Movies 1-4), Captain Harlock TV, Kyattou Ninden Teyandee (alongside the more beloved Samurai Pizza Cats dub adaptation), the previously-mentioned Cutey Honey & Mazinger Z, and a good number of license rescues (as well as some more recent fare, like Love Com & Shin Getter Robo vs. Neo Getter Robo).

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Kochikame the Movie 2: UFO Shuurai! Tornado Daisakusen!!: Even Here, Tokyo Tower Isn't Safe...

Yeah, Kochikame is still running in Weekly Shonen Jump, and this year hit chapter 1,750 & Volume 180. Still, there is no indication that we'll ever get any form of Kochikame in North America... Which is just sad, because this is funny and entertaining stuff. I reviewed 1999's Kochikame the Movie last year and it was a great mix of seriousness & comedy, and the fact that there were official English subtitles made for it when it was released on DVD was just awesome. In December 2003, one year before the TV anime series ended, Studio Gallop made one last animated movie for the series, subtitled UFO Shuurai! Tornado Daisakusen!!/UFO Attack! The Great Tornado Strategy!!, and even though it doesn't have any official subtitles, or English subtitles of any sort, it beats out the first movie in every way.

The officers of the Kameari Park police box in Katsushika Ward are going on a vacation to Hawaii... Except for Ryo-san, who was forbidden from going on vacation after a money scam involving a crop circle & fake UFO landing went wrong. Of course, that doesn't stop Ryo-san from sneaking onto the plane and getting to Hawaii, since he's interested in visiting Tappei Tanaka, an old friend from school who loved UFOs & moved to Hawaii when they were kids. Upon getting to Tappei's home, Ryo-san is told that Tappei died 10 years after getting involved in a mysterious project for NASA, who Tappei worked for, but after noticing the man himself get kidnapped by a group of terrorists lead by a large man named Tiger & a large UFO-shaped object starts creating tornadoes over Tokyo it's up to Ryo-san & the Katsushika Police Squad, to save the day... But tagging along for the ride is Mina, Tappei's daughter, who wants to see her father again, after realizing that he is still alive.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Giant Robots of Kokusai Eigasha: Innovators or Oddities?

When you think mech anime there are specific studios that fans will think of, like Sunrise, Gonzo, Toei, & Ashi Pro. Back in the 80s, mech anime was a gigantically big genre of anime, with all sorts of properties being made during that era and, coincidentally, being a big part of the Super Robot Wars series' history of using actual mech anime. Anyway, a lot of these mech series followed a similar idea behind them: There was a war going on between humans and aliens/other humans/evil organisations, and space was a battlefield. But there was one studio that boldly decided to buck some of those trends & try different ideas. Granted, some of these productions still followed some elements of the usual 80s mech anime, but in general they all had at least one thing that made them identifiable & original... And that might possibly be part of the reason why Kokusai Eigasha, also known as Movie International Co. Ltd., died out in just six years.

Now I know that most of you are probably wondering, "Who the hell was Kokusai Eigasha?", so I'll give a little backstory about the company, which I'll be calling Kokusai for short (others have used MIC), first. According to Wikipedia Japan, Kokusai technically started up in 1974, but didn't enter the anime business until 1979, with their debut title being Mechakko Dotakon, a children's title about a robot boy who wants to become a real boy. After that Kokusai found some success with two titles aimed at girls, Wakakusa no Yon Shimai (which was based on Louisa May Alcott's Little Women) & Honey Honey (which was based on the shojo manga Honey Honey no Suteki na Bouken), both of which found TV airtime around the world, including the USA. During this time, though, Kokusai did get involved in mech anime by helping Ashi Pro out with what is now a somewhat infamous mech anime: 1980-1981's Space Warrior Baldios.

Baldios was the story of Marin Reigan, the main pilot of the giant robot Baldios, & his battle against a race of aliens who destroyed their own world through pollution & were looking into doing the same to Earth. Yeah, it seems that the show was kind of a "Save the Environment!" message wrapped up inside of a mech anime, and though it was planned to be 39 episodes, the show wound up getting canceled after 31, & the last shot of the TV series would become one of the most infamous "bad endings" in anime history. The TV series ended in early 1981, & at the end of the year Toei (yeah, not Ashi...  Weird, huh?) made a movie adaptation that acted both as a compilation movie but also as a proper ending to the original story, telling what happened after the "bad end" of the TV series. It was this movie that was released here in North America by Celebrity Home Entertainment under the name "Space Warriors", and I included the movie in my most recent license rescue list, adding that what we got was a 99-minute cut, while a 117-minute cut exists in Japan. Technically, Baldios isn't a Kokusai anime, since Ashi was the main studio behind it and still holds the rights to it, but it's still worth bringing up. Kokusai teamed up with Ashi Pro four times total, with this bring the third team-up, and Baldios is likely the most interesting of the four, though Zukokke Knight - Don De La Mancha, an anime adaptation of Don Quixote where De La Mancha himself is a dog-man, comes in at a close second through the sheer odd factor.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Explorer Woman Ray: and the Light of the Ords

I was going into this 1989 OVA expecting a horribly bland & bad anime. After all, any review I could find of this title wasn't exactly nice (even Mike Toole's old AnimeJump review from 2003 was negative). But here I am, having watched both episodes, and I honestly liked it. True, it isn't one of the all-time greats, nor is it one of the best of the 80s, but I honestly enjoyed watching Explorer Woman Ray.

Rayna Kizuki, Ray for short, is a professor & archaeologist who is currently on the search for more info on the mysterious Ord Tribe, who were known to worship the Sun. Her grandfather had started this search ten years ago with his assistant Rieg Vader, but he disappeared without a trace, & Rieg left shortly after. During her research two young girls, Mai & Mami, find her and have brought the mirror-like artifact that the Ords used, which Ray's grandfather had possession of, in hopes that it can help lead to them finding treasure. Unfortunately, Rieg has also been on the search & will do anything to get the mirror and find out the true nature behind the light that the Ord had once worshiped.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Crystal Triangle: And People Badmouth Indiana Jones 4...

I am almost at a loss for words... I have just seen an anime that has blown my mind. Not because it's so amazingly excellent, because it's not (in fact, it's downright dumb), but rather because I honestly couldn't think that such a title could be made. This is Kindan no Mokushiroku/The Forbidden Apocalypse (or, as CPM translated it, The Forbidden Revelation) Crystal Triangle.

Koichiro Kamishiro is an archaeologist who is on the search for the mysterious "Message of God", which is the supposed lost "11th Commandment" that can save the Earth from its greatest calamity. With the help of his assistants Isao & Mina, newcomer Miyabi (the daughter of the man who taught Kamishiro), & a yakuza named Ginji Kamishiro, he will discover the truth behind the "Message of God" and how it relates to the mysterious Hih Tribe. Unfortunately, Kamishiro also has the CIA, KGB, & even the Japanese government hot on his heels.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Cat Soup: The DVD Cover... It Bleeds!

There really isn't any way to concisely describe this title... It's weird, surreal, slow-paced, disturbing, silly, childish, adult, and all in roughly 30 minutes! This is Cat Soup.

Nekojiru/Cat Soup, real name Chiyomi Nakayama, was a mangaka who became well known for her works involving a world where animals live just like humans do... And she wasn't afraid to be both cute enough to attract a strong female audience while also being adult, dark, & violent enough to attract a strong male audience. Her works were so popular that in 1999 a TV series, Nekojiru Gekijou/Theater - Jirujiru ORIGINAL, was made that lasted for 27 two-minute episodes, and since that show was fansubbed years ago I might review that at a later date. For now, though, I'm going to focus on the award-winning 2001 OVA, Nekojiru-so (Cat Soup Grass) that Central Park Media felt was so crazy that it was worth releasing on its own.

Nyatto & Nyako are two cat children who live with their parents. Nyako is deadly ill & Nyatto decides to play with a car in the tub, drowning himself in the process. In his near-death experience, Nyatto sees a figure taking Nyako's soul away, and when he catches up he tries saving his older sister, but only getting half of her soul back. Nyatto is revived but Nyako dies before Nyatto decides to put her half-soul back into her body; Nyako revives, but is essentially brain-dead. Mother sends the two out to get some food, but Nyatto decides to drag his brain-dead sister with him to a circus & magic show... Which ends up in the flooding of the entire planet. And this is only the beginning of the siblings' adventure.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Saiyuki Reload -burial-: No Filler + Koichi Ohata = Best Saiyuki Anime

[This Review is in Dedication to the Memory of My Father, Zoltan M. Horvath, who Passed Away this Morning. I Love You, Apu, and I Miss You Already.]

After Saiyuki Reload Gunlock, the last of the Saiyuki TV series, ended in September of 2004 there weren't anymore Saiyuki anime productions for a short while. Three years later, Studio Pierrot teamed with ARMS to create a new, three-episode OVA series that would continue off from where Reload Gunlock left off in terms of actual manga adaptation. Though Reload Gunlock did use the Hazel Arc from the Reload manga, it was an altered story that went in its own direction, not to mention that Gunlock skipped over what this OVA covers. It slowly came out across 2007, from April to December (March of 2008 if you want to count the Standard Edition of Volume 3), and this OVA, Saiyuki Reload -burial-, is easily the best Saiyuki anime I've seen.

This OVA covers the Burial story arc of the Reload manga, which is a flashback arc that takes place both before & after the original Saiyuki manga's flashback arc, titled Be There. The first episode is roughly 45 minutes long & is split up into two portions: Ukoku's Chapter & Sanzo's Chapter. Ukoku's Chapter is about the previous Sanzo of China & Genjo Sanzo's master, Koumyou Sanzo, and his first meeting with a monk named Kenyuu. The young monk is a genius at mastering sutras and could easily become a Sanzo, but his rebellious attitude, combined with his uncaring outlook on life, makes Kenyuu's master, Godai Sanzo, hesitant to consider him as a successor. Sanzo's Chapter is about Genjo Sanzo's arrival at the Chang'an Temple & his eventual realizing at what it means to be a Sanzo Priest. The second episode, Son Goku's Chapter, is roughly 25-minutes long and details the first meeting of Goku & Sanzo, as well as how the two became an inseparable duo. The third episode, Gojyo & Hakkai's Chapter, is roughly 30-minutes long and is about how Sha Gojyo & Cho Hakkai, who end up living together, realize that, even though they may be different people, they have similar-enough backgrounds to make them have to rely on each other in life, especially when an old friend of Gojyo's comes to town & starts making trouble.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Saiyuki -Kibou no Zaika-: It's "Interactive"... Yet It's Not

After the Saiyuki "Premium" OVA was released in 1999, the manga received a proper TV anime adaptation, Gensou Maden Saiyuki, in 2000, and ADV licensed & released both the entire TV series as well as the 2001 theatrical movie, Saiyuki Requiem. Out of the Gensou Maden anime series, though, there is one entry that was never licensed, and that's likely because it wasn't a traditional anime... Though the only way to watch it with any sort of English translation removes that nontraditional element completely.

There is no title splash during the footage,
so you all get a screencap of the menu screen!

Saiyuki -Kibou no Zaika-/-Hope's Offense- was originally released in 2002 by Enix, shortly before the company's merger with Squaresoft to become Square-Enix. Unlike most OVAs, though, Kibou no Zaika was actually what the package called a "DVD Interactive Animation", which meant that while watching the story play out you would interact with the story by making choices & matching buttons prompts, and you could even jot down passwords so that you could stop and return to the story at another time... At least, that's what I can gather from the back cover of the bootleg DVD I have of this. You see, the bootleg company that released its own version of this DVD removed all of the choices &, potentially, bad endings, essentially turning this into a 45-minute OVA, which is actually how most anime fans have identified this production. So when all of the interactive elements of an interactive DVD are removed, does that still make it an interactive DVD in essence? I don't really know the answer to that, but I can guarantee that this is one of the best entries in the Saiyuki anime series.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Saiyuki "Premium": More of a "Pilot" than a "Premium"

Kazuya Minekura's Saiyuki (roughly translated as "Journey to the Extreme") is probably the most well-known manga adaptation of the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West, known as Saiyuki in Japan (one change in kanji results in "West" becoming "Extreme"). Let's be honest, Dragon Ball isn't remembered as much for its Saiyuki-related origins anymore, outside of Goku's name. Debuting back in 1997 in Enix's shonen magazine GFantasy, the title is also known for its TV anime adaptations, which have a total of 101 episodes across three series (2000-2001's Gensou Maden Saiyuki, 2003-2004's Saiyuki Reload, & 2004's Saiyuki Reload Gunlock), all of which are infamous for having a lot of "filler" to them; that being said, you can actually just "skip (most of) the filler", which is nice.

Let's be honest here: Saiyuki's story is that of Buddhist monk Genjo Sanzo going on a journey with three half-demons (Son Goku, Sha Gojyo, & Cho Hakkai) in order to stop the potential resurrection of the evil Gyumaoh/Ox King by his concubine, Gyokumen Koushu, which has caused the demons of Shangri-La to go crazy & break the peace they shared with humans. That story is so basic that it essentially doesn't just leave the door open for "filler" to enter... There isn't even a door installed! Because of that, across those 101 total episodes that aired on TV, only about 36 are actually adapted from the original manga & it's first sequel, Saiyuki Reload (currently, the series is on its third, & final, manga: Saiyuki Reload Blast). Please note that I am not counting the small bits of spin-off manga Saiyuki Gaiden that are adapted in the first TV series, nor am I counting the second half of Reload Gunlock, which is merely based on the second major story arc of the Reload manga, but is otherwise completely different. Yes, utilizing the Saiyuki Wiki I actually counted how many episodes weren't "filler", and the total isn't even half! Anyway, I'm starting to ramble, so let's get back on track.

Though it isn't technically a "pilot", there is a Saiyuki anime that predates the original TV series. It was released in mid-1999, and is simply titled Saiyuki. Fans have come to call this two-episode OVA Saiyuki "Premium", likely due to a misunderstanding, because the later DVD version was put out only via a "Premium" release; to be fair, it does differentiate it from the later anime productions, so let's use it. While Studio Pierrot has generally done every Saiyuki anime, there are two entries that they didn't do, 2011's Saiyuki Gaiden, which was animated by Anpro & was even licensed by Sentai Filmworks a year ago (remember that?), and this "Premium" OVA, which was done by Tokyo Kids. Even though it isn't a pilot, per se, it does feature a 99% different cast than the later TV series, but is it worth checking out for those of you who love watching the hijinks of the Sanzo Party?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ring ni Kakero 1 Returns to the Pachislot Scene! Could Season 5 Be Next?

Yeah, that's right... I have an actual reason to talk about Ring ni Kakero 1 on this blog! Deal with it!

Though I didn't really mention it that much in my reviews of the Ring ni Kakero 1 anime series, it's very obvious that Seasons 3 & 4 were made partially to help promote RnK1-themed pachislot machines that were out at the time of these shows' airings on Animax: Taiyo-Elec's Ring ni Kakero 1: Ougon no Nihon Jr.-hen in 2010 & Sammy's CR machine of the same name in 2011, respectively. Hell, two of the three DVDs that Ring ni Kakero 1: Shadow were released across had promo videos for Taiyo-Elec's machine as extras! Also, Sammy had been a sponsor for the first two seasons when they aired on TV Asahi, and it suddenly makes perfect sense why Sammy was an outright production partner for Ring ni Kakero 1: Sekai Taikai-hen. Let's face it: The only way more Ring ni Kakero 1 anime will be made is if new pachislot machines get made... And, thankfully, the chances of Season 5 being made have just increased.

Yeah, that's what it says: Pachislot Ring ni Kakero 1: Girishia Jyuni Shin-hen/Twelve Gods of Greece Chapter. The machine isn't out yet, and there's nearly a 100% chance that the Toei-produced animation is only for the machine itself, but the fact that a new RnK1 pachislot machine is coming out means that there's a really good chance that a Season 5 of the anime will be made sooner or later. The fact that the pachislot machine is specifically about the Twelve Gods of Greece Chapter, which is the next story arc that the anime has to cover, only makes the chances of Season 5 being announced much higher. My guess is that we'll have to wait for Jump Festa this December to hear any news about a Season 5, since that was the place where the past two seasons were announced, and I'm guessing that, if there is a Season 5 coming, then it will likely be a Spring 2013 show, also like the previous two seasons... And likely it will get ignored by everyone who speaks English, also like the past two seasons were. Spanish & Chinese anime fans? Oh they'll sub it as soon as they can. English anime fans? Well, consider this: CrunchyRoll doesn't seem to care about streaming this series, & the fansubs are still stuck on Season 3, though I have heard that the rest of that season will be released subbed all at once, hence the extra wait. As always, though, I love to proven wrong about the anime industry, since proving me wrong means that there are companies out there willing to take risks and try something different. I'm just being realistic, that's all.

The pachislot machine only focuses on half of the gods... So there are another six in the waiting.

Anyway, if a Ring ni Kakero 1: Girishia Jyuni Shin-hen anime gets announced then you can guarantee that I'll be talking about on this blog and, potential accessibility of the show willing, I'll review it once it's fully aired... But let's not get ahead of ourselves. First this new pachislot machine has to result in a new anime season.

Pachislot Ring ni Kakero 1: Girishia Jyuni Shin-hen © Masami Kurumada/Shueisha・Toei Animation © Sammy

Friday, August 17, 2012

Seikimatsu Leader Gaiden Takeshi!: The Manliest First Grader You'll Ever See!

With two of the JSAT '98 pilots reviewed, let's finish this up and take a look at the third, & most obscure, one of them all... And all I can say is "W... T... F...?"

There is a commonly referred to "Big Three" in Shonen Jump, made up of One Piece, Naruto, & Bleach, but that terminology is mostly invalid nowadays, since Bleach has tended to not be in the #3 slot as much for the past few years. Taking it's place, to some people, is the gourmet/battle manga Toriko, created by Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro. Toriko is, essentially, an 80s MAN-ga (yeah, I know it's a bad pun) being made in modern times, right down to the anti-bishonen character designs, wild action sequences, & tons of muscles in your face. But, before doing Toriko, Shimabukuro had already worked on another big hit for Shonen Jump: Seikimatsu Leader-den/Tale of the Leader at the Century's End Takeshi!. Looking at those pair of videos I mentioned in the One Piece pilot review, Takeshi was commonly a part of the Top 3 (usually #2 or #3) shortly after its late-1997 debut up until its abrupt end in 2002, which I'll get to later. Naturally, a hit manga will get the pilot treatment, but unlike it's fellow JSAT '98 pilots, Takeshi never became a full-fledged TV anime... And after seeing this pilot I think I understand why.

From the moment he was born, Takeshi was born to be a leader. His first word upon birth was "leader", and his father, Hiroshi, was a "leader" among salarymen. After Hiroshi died suddenly Takeshi made it his life goal to be a leader like his father, so he joins his new first grade class and hopes to become a true leader to his classmates.

The basic idea of Takeshi is fun enough, though a little bland, so one might be wondering if there's anything "special" about the execution. Well, there is something special about Takeshi, and it's the "man" himself...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

One Piece: Taose! Kaizoku Ganzack: "We Are!" not Toei... We Are Production I.G.!

There's no need to introduce One Piece to anime & manga fans. Even if you haven't read or watched any of it, you've at least heard about One Piece, simply because it's been the #1 title for Shonen Jump pretty much ever since its debut in December of 1997. I recently saw a pair of videos on YouTube that listed the Top 3 Jump manga every half-year from the magazine's debut in 1968 all the way up to 2007, and One Piece made it's first appearance on the second video as the #1 Jump manga for the first half of 1998 and, outside of the first half of 2005, it's been #1 every half year from that point on... Yeah, One Piece essentially was the manga to read from day one. For a blog about obscure & forgotten anime & manga a title like One Piece should be kryptonite, but I love this title too much to ignore it and, luckily, there is an obscure One Piece anime out there... And I'm not talking about any of the movies or the TV specials, though the TV specials would just make the cut to make it onto this blog, admittedly. No, I'm talking about the JSAT 1998 Pilot!

Remember when I reviewed the Hunter X Hunter pilot? Back then I mentioned the Jump Super Anime Tour, which was an almost-every-year occasion Shueisha would do where they would commission new animation based on their popular manga and show them off via roadshow; nowadays the JSAT still exists as the annual Jump Festa. Anyway, for JSAT 1998 Shueisha showed off three new anime pilots: Hunter X Hunter, Seikimatsu Leader Gaiden Takeshi! and, the subject of today's review, One Piece: Taose! Kaizoku Ganzack/Defeat the Pirate Ganzack!. It's a 30-minute production that predates the TV series, is not animated by Toei, and features a completely different cast... But, unlike the Hunter X Hunter pilot, this actually can appeal to a wider audience.

Luffy, Zoro, & Nami are in the middle of nowhere on their little dinghy without any food (Luffy & Zoro ate it all), when all of a sudden they're attacked by a gigantic missile. In the chaos Nami is kidnapped by a Sea King, while Luffy & Zoro get washed up on the shore of a nearby island. Turns out this island has recently been taken over by Ganzack, a villainous pirate who aims to use his technology to become the Pirate King, and in return for giving them a great meal Luffy & Zoro agree to help a little girl, decked in armor, named Medaka rescue her father from Ganzack. At the same time, Nami has agreed to join Ganzack in an attempt to look for any treasures the captain has gathered.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Rokudenashi BLUES 1993: Kansai Calling to the Faraway Sons...

Masanori Morita is probably the biggest-name Shonen Jump manga-ka you likely never heard of. The man started as an assistant to Tetsuo Hara (of Fist of the North Star fame), and in early 1988 he debuted as a mangaka with the title Rokudenashi/Good-for-Nothing BLUES, which is essentially Jump's iconic yankii/delinquent manga. Rokudenashi is the story of Taison Maeda, a delinquent with a heart of gold who wants to become a pro boxer. Unfortunately, Taison is not always the smartest guy, so he makes stupid mistakes like not knowing that there's an age limit to becoming a pro boxer or that he can't get into fights, which are normally attracted to him, or else his license can get revoked. Ultimately, Rokudenashi BLUES is not so much a sports manga but rather a delinquent manga with some bits & hints of boxing added in at times. Still, Rokudenashi debuted in the early days of Jump's "Golden Age", where the readership eventually surpassed that of 6 million due to the success of titles like Fist of the North Star, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Dragon Ball, Saint Seiya, Yu Yu Hakusho, & Slam Dunk, and the manga lasted throughout the entire era, ending in 1997 with a total of 42 volumes.

Since then, Morita continued on with the 24-volume manga Rookies, which followed a high school baseball team made up of delinquents whose dream was the reach Koshien, and now he's working of Beshari Gurashi, which is about up-and-coming comedians. Even though Rokudenashi BLUES was very popular, it never received a TV anime adaptation, and with JoJo getting a TV anime this October, Rokudenashi now becomes the longest Jump manga to never receive a TV anime; I can't say for sure if it's the longest manga in general to never receive a TV anime, though. That said, it did get two anime movies. The first one was a 30-minute feature in 1992 that adapted the beginning of the manga & was first shown during a Toei anime festival before getting a VHS release. This movie is pretty hard to find for someone who doesn't live in Japan & it never received a DVD release, but maybe one day I'll be able to see it. The second movie came out the next year, is likewise called Rokudenashi BLUES 1993, and is a feature-length movie that also later received a VHS release, but likewise never received a DVD release. It is unavailable in English, but is it worth hunting down? Hell, is it even good for newcomers to the franchise? Well, if you're the adventurous type then this is worth checking out.

Taison & his older brother Fujio left their home in the Kansai region a couple of years ago to live in Tokyo, partially for their own dreams but also due to the family business. One day the two see a newspaper ad that is addressed to them, saying that their father is ill and it's signed by their little brother Youkou. The two highly doubt that their father is sick but decide to take the trip, especially since Taison's school is already taking a field trip down to the Kansai region. This trip, though, will force Taison to put some closure down regarding his family, his old friend Naoto Watanabe, and his ex-girlfriend Haruka, as well as make him put more faith in his relationship with his "kind-of-maybe" present girlfriend Chiaki.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tough (a.k.a. Shootfighter Tekken): Just Living Truly is a Battle

Tetsuya Saruwatari is a mangaka known for his crazy action manga. In North America Riki-Oh is known for its crazy violence & cult-classic live-action movie & Dog Soldier is known to be one of those titles that's so crazy-violent & insane that you'll either hate it or love it. But the manga Saruwatari is most known for in Japan is Tough, which chronicles the battles that Kiichi Miyazawa ("Kiibo" for short) goes through in his goal to become the proper successor of Nadashin Shadow Style, a secret assassination art. Recently it was announced that Tough will be ending soon, but I'm not going to be talking about that title, per se. Rather, I'm focusing on the original title that Tough is a sequel to: Koukou Tekken-den Tough/High School Exciting Story Tough (even though it technically translates as "High School Iron Fist Legend Tough"), where Kiibo is a high-school student and training with his father, the previous successor of Nadashin Shadow Style. In 2002, while the original Tough manga was finishing up, AIC & Spike (now a game company) teamed up and made a three-episode OVA based on the first major storyline in Tough. How is this OVA and does it hold up roughly ten years later? It's great and, yes, it definitely holds up.

Kiibo & his father Seiko (Kiichi calls him "Oton" for short) are training, with Kiibo repeatedly not being able to quite take on his father evenly. What Kiibo doesn't know, though, is that Oton once fought the the legendary pro-wrestler Iron Kiba in a death match, as Kiba had been taking on all sorts of fighters, from all ranges of styles, in order to prove the superiority of professional wrestling. During the match Oton took out Kiba's left eye, and ever since then Kiba has been waiting for the right moment to get his revenge. After getting into a scuffle with one of Kiba's wrestlers, Kiichi sees how tough and dangerous a pro wrestler can be, and Kiba puts a "target" on Kiichi by telling all fighters that if they can defeat someone who uses Nadashin Shadow Style then they can take on Kiba himself.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Early Days of Late-Night Anime Part 2: Good, Bad, Popular, Obscure... It's All Here!

In Part 1 we looked at Those Who Hunt Elves & Eat-Man, the original two "modern day" late-night animes, and then looked at how TV Tokyo expanded on this concept by looking at what the Monday & Wednesday equivalents offered up through 1998. Now in Part 2 we finish this look, and to start let's go back to the original Thursday 25:15 slot quickly...

While Hareluya II BØY & Maze TV were airing on Mondays & Wednesdays, respectively, the show that immediately followed Eat-Man was Hyper Police, which ran from April to September of 1997. Really, Hyper Police is simply a forgotten title whose only real gem is likely the fact that Kenji Kawai did the music for it. Image Entertainment did license and release the entire show on DVD from 2002-2003, back when Image actually did anime somewhat regularly. Okay, maybe if you're a big fan of half-human/half-animal people then you might be interested in this title, as the entire cast is done like that; the general fan ratings I can find seem to be above-average, too. Following Hyper Police was Virus Buster Serge, which ran from October to December of 1997. Being a Masami Obari title, Virus Buster Serge is generally known as something you'll likely either hate or at least enjoy somewhat for its "Obari-ness", though I don't think anyone really "loves" it, but if you are interested in checking it out it's still a big catalog title for Manga Entertainment. The DVD collection still seems to be in print, it's available digitally on PCs and consoles, and it even got TV airtime on SyFy's now-defunct late-night "AniMonday" block. Whether being so readily available is a good thing comes down to personal taste...

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Early Days of Late-Night Anime Part 1: TV Tokyo's Innovators & Experiments

Nowadays, seemingly most of the anime that airs in Japan is via late-night airplay, i.e. from 23:00/11:00 PM-4:00 AM. Sure there are shows that air in the morning, prime time, & probably even some in the afternoon, but late-night is where anime has found a very consistent home. But there's one main reason why late-night has been the home of anime for nearly 15 years: Home video sales. Though there was anime that aired in late-night time slots before, like Sennin Buraku in 1963-1964, Lemon Angel in 1987, and Super Zugan in 1992, they were all titles aimed squarely at adult audiences who were likely to be up at those late hours in the first place. Late-night anime as we now know it came about in the mid-90s with the end of the OVA boom that started up back in the mid-80s with Dallos; as less people bought anime that was specifically made for VHS & LD, anime studios had to think of a new way to get the attention of potential buyers.

Well, to make a complex story short & easy, otaku were watching late-night televised radio programs done by seiyuu (commonly called "aniraji", a combination of anime & radio), so TV producers & anime studios thought that maybe that audience would be interested in watching anime made specifically for those late time slots, and therefore they would likely be interested in buying the home video release that would come out shortly after the show was fully aired. Essentially, the short OVA was expanded into a late-night anime "infomercial", and it's been like that since 1997. But I'm not here to talk about the history of late-night anime, especially since that requires going into anime that airs on UHF channels, subscription channels like WOWOW, and Pay-Per-View. Instead, just for the hell, of it I'm going to take a rough look at what aired in those first two years (i.e. 1997 & 1998), and I'm going to focus specifically on TV Tokyo's offerings, since they were the first to do late-night anime as we know it. But in order to get started, we have to go back to late 1996, which is when the very first "modern-day" late-night anime aired, and that title was...

Those Who Hunt Elves, which took the place of live-action variety show MEN-Ki, which starred comedian Unlucky Gotou. Yu Yagami's story of three humans & one Type 47 tank that get transported to a world filled with elves whom they must strip in order to find the five fragments of the spell that can take them back home was the first late-night anime of its kind, airing every Thursday from 25:15 - 25:45/1:15-1:45 AM... And with such a ridiculous premise there's no way it could have ever aired on any other time slot, even if the stripping is more comical & not risqué at all. TWHE aired from October to December of 1996, and after that ended in its place came a show that was nothing like it at all: Eat-Man, which aired from January to March of 1997. I've brought up the original Eat-Man anime a couple of times on the blog, and it really seems more like, instead of wanting to adapt from a popular manga, director Koichi Mashimo had these short stories he wanted to tell, and Eat-Man's Bolt Crank was just the perfect figure that he could tell these stories through; an artistic & esoteric title like this wouldn't have ever been picked up for a normal time slot. Now, while the show is excellent in its own way, this didn't really please fans of the original Eat-Man manga who wanted an actual adaptation, but it was still a reaction that meant that people were watching these brand-new shows, so naturally TV Tokyo decided to expand this whole late-night anime idea by not only having something air after this time slot, but to also use this original time slot every Monday & Wednesday; from what I could find, late-night Tuesday & Friday weren't used for anime yet. Because of this we now get four slots to talk about, so let's start with what looked to be the shortest-lived slot, Wednesday.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Kinniku Banzuke: Kongou-kun no Daibouken!: Makoto Nagano Ain't Got Nuthin' on These Guys

It's anime like this one that really defines what this blog is about. In fact, this anime is so obscure that there isn't even a listing for it on the ANN Encyclopedia, nor is there is a request for it to be added to the encyclopedia. Anyway, Kinniku Banzuke was a Japanese sports entertainment show that aired from 1995 to 2002 where people could enter seemingly unbeatable challenges, simply with the goal of attaining completion & victory over the challenge. The show eventually became a big hit and has since created spin-offs, the most well-known of which is the obstacle course show SASUKE, which was aired in North America on G4 under the name Ninja WarriorNorth American audiences later received Banzuke under the title Unbeatable Banzuke. Unfortunately, on May 5, 2002 two participants suffered cervical vertebrae injuries during two different events, and the show went on immediate hiatus, which then turned into outright cancellation. But shortly before this unfortunate couple of accidents a 3-episode OVA was made that starred Kongou-kun, the show's mascot (there was also a Game Boy Advance game to go with it), and, man, is this OVA just a sheer amount of pure sugar.

Kongou is a simple-minded boy who lives for two things: Athletic competition & playing fair. Along with his friends Yuka, Sasuke, & Habato, he dedicates every day to training with the hopes to eventually compete at Muscle Stadium, where the greatest athletes are crowned. One day, though, a group of kids appear outside of the the dojo that Kongou and the others train at. Made up of Randall, Jyogi, Pencil, & Tajiki, the four follow Dark Muscle, the mysterious man behind the games at Muscle Stadium, and offer an invitation to Kongou's group to compete at the legendary athletic competition. Though the games have gained an uncomfortable air to them since Dark Muscle took control, Taisou, Yuka's father & the head of the dojo, allows Kongou & the others to compete. What awaits them, though, are potentially dangerous "death matches" that might have some unfair elements to them.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Captain Power Skill Level Training VHS Series: More Entertaining than an Action Max!

Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future was an American/Canadian live-action TV series that aired from 1987-1988 that was innovative in a number of ways: It helped introduce the idea of "straight-to-syndication" to television broadcasters, it was one of the first TV series to use computer-generated images, was arguably the first "American-made" tokusatsu show, was seemingly made for kids yet featured writing that was definitely more adult-oriented, and was actually interactive to an extent. Unfortunately, its "aimed at kids, but written for adults" execution resulted in some confusion over who the targeted viewership was (not to mention parents didn't like how dark it was for their children), putting it straight to syndication gave it some horrible time slots like 5-6 AM every Sunday, and even the interactive elements didn't quite work as planned...  

This ended with the show being canceled after it's initial 22-episode Season 1, though Season 2 was mostly written already. Still, the show had gained a cult fanbase and this past December it finally received a DVD boxset release, complete with a new "Making-of" documentary, commentary by the cast & crew, & even a detailed look at what Season 2 would have been like. But what does this all have to do with anime? Well, there is one bit of Captain Power that is not included with this DVD boxset: A trio of animated "Skill Level" training VHS tapes, done by Japanese anime studio ARTMIC (of Megazone 23, Gall Force, & Bubblegum Crisis fame), complete with three fairly well-known names hidden in the credits. Power On!

Before we start, let me state that I have never seen the actual Captain Power TV series. When I was growing up I only had the first Skill Level VHS tape, likely brought at a garage sale, and watching it repeatedly was the only time I had experience with this series; only recently did I find the other two tapes for uber-cheap, allowing me to see this in it's entirety. I state this only so that people can understand that I could be wrong or vague when it comes to certain details regarding the show. Anyway, remember how I mentioned that the TV series was interactive to an extent? Well that's because the show had scenes where there would be red flashing lights appearing on the screen; these lights could be "shot at" with certain Captain Power toys, made by Mattel. These toys likely worked the same way the NES Zapper worked with games like Duck Hunt: When the trigger is squeezed the gun activates, and if the gun is pointed at the light then it registers as a "hit". In Captain Power's case the toy would count up how many "hits" the viewer got, and at the end of each episode Power himself would tell the viewers how many "Power Points" corresponded to each rank; the toy could "receive" hits, though, & taking too many hits would result in the ship "blowing up". But since the show was only airing at certain times, kids would only be able to use the toys to their full extent on occasion... And that's where these VHS tapes come in. These tapes were essentially the same thing as the show, but were animated instead of live-action (though there are live-action segments at the beginning & end of each tape), and were only 14-17 minutes long rather than the 22 minutes each episode was. Naturally, HDTVs have made the interactivity useless now, but how are these tapes from a simple animation perspective? Are they even any better than what was available for the Action Max?