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.