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.