Monday, December 30, 2013

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2013!! Part 2

It's New Year's Eve's Eve, so let's look at the other "six" posts I found to be the best of this past year. Don't worry, there won't be any "steaming" like the end of Part 1, so let's start off with something excellent.

Asura (October 15)
With so much anime being made every year now, it's only natural that quality titles fall through the cracks, especially when the titles aren't exactly "mainstream-friendly". Toei, in particular, put two anime movies out into theaters last year that were completely ignored, and while Niji-Iro Hotaru ~Eien no Natsu Yasumi~ was a calming & relaxed production, Asura absolutely came out as the "Best Anime Movie of 2012 You Didn't See." Based on a 70s manga that got itself banned due to some of the content (namely, the cannibalism), this movie was simply amazing. The "hybrid animation" that mixed CG characters with 2D backgrounds gave it a one-of-a-kind look, the content was harsh but extremely engrossing, & the characters and story were truly memorable. On the one hand, I find it annoying that it hasn't been licensed yet, especially since it technically debuted at a North American film festival, so there should be English subs made for it already, but at the same time it isn't exactly a title that your traditional anime fan would likely check out. Hopefully one day this movie will get a real chance over here, but until that day comes you should really check it out if you get the chance... You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2013!! Part 1

It's Boxing Day once again, so I'm going to look back at what this past year has brought to this blog & list off the "twelve" posts that I am proudest of. Admittedly, the longer I've been doing this blog the more I see that talking about obscure & forgotten anime isn't quite as much of an unheard thing as I first thought. Ani-Gamers has The Trap Door by Phillip O'Connor, Otaku USA has Paul Chapman's Vault of Error, there are other people like Prede who talk about forgotten anime, and this year Justin Sevakis (one of the major influences for this very blog) returned to obscurity digging with The Pile of Shame. Still, I think I offer enough of a variety from the others by digging into places that few would really think about going towards. Anyway, out of everything I wrote about, which were my favorite posts from this year?

Spelunker is a Teacher (August 28)
Oddly enough, this title came to my attention indirectly from Justin Sevakis himself. In an episode of ANNCast with Mike Toole & Daryl Surat, right when he had started Pile of Shame, Justin brought this up as something he watched & enjoyed. He decided not to write about it, because of how recent it was, but when I decided to look at a couple of video game adaptations based on Western titles, this came up as a perfect choice for me to review. The end result was an absolutely hilarious Flash OVA that was long enough to play around with its (admittedly) one-note joke, yet short enough to not become tired & boring. While the joke itself requires some knowledge of the original Spelunker game, the OVA still manages to work on its own as piece of absurdist humor, and I love it. I highly doubt that we'll ever get this licensed for release in North America, though, since short one-shots like these aren't really appealing anymore. I could see the 4-koma manga it was based on maybe being brought over, but outside of a multimedia manga/DVD combo release (Enterbrain owns the rights to both productions, so it could be done) I just don't see the anime ever coming over. Thems the breaks, I guess.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Colorful vs. Colorful: Maybe Purapura Should Headbutt a Sexy Woman in the Breasts...

Merry Christmas to All... And to all a Good Fight!

Ehrgeiz vs. Ehrgeiz may be one of the most infamous examples of two completely different titles having similar names, but for our "Main Event" I have a doozy, made all the more important because they are both being offered by (sort of) the same exact company! Normally, if a TV series & a theatrically-released movie share the same name, it's because the movie is an extension/reboot/compilation/etc. of the TV series, but thinking this would be the situation for these two titles would result in your mind being blown. Finally, the greatest question of all shall be answered: Fanservice or Story!

Logo Battle: The movie is classier, but the TV series is more notable

In 1998, in an attempt to enter the burgeoning late-night anime market, TBS (that's Tokyo Broadcasting System, not Turner Broadcasting System) debuted Wonderful, an short-lived anime block which showcased comedy anime that utilized 9-10 minute episodes, rather than the usual 24-25 minute episodes. It was the home of titles such as Sexy Commando Gaiden: Sugoi yo!! Masaru-san (how this never got licensed astounds me), Di Gi Charat (which was recently re-released by Sentai Filmworks), Futari Kurashi, Iketeru Futari, Ippatsu Kiki Musume (another case of "Why wasn't this licensed?!"), Let's Dance with Papa (which ADV had licensed once, but never released), and Nippon-Ichi no Otoko no Tamashii, as well as some You're Under Arrest! TV specials & the non-comical Petshop of Horrors. One of the titles from this block that did get licensed was 1999's Colorful, the anime adaptation of Torajiro Kishi's 1998-2000 Young Jump manga. ADV wound up releasing it three times (in 2003, 2005, & 2009), & just a few days ago Sentai Filmworks started offering it on Hulu, confirming that they indeed have licensed it. One year after ADV's last release, though, things got complicated... Or, at least, a potential old complication came back.

On August 21, 2010, Toho, Ascension, & Sunrise debuted an animated movie titled Colorful, based on the 1998 novel of the same name by Eto Mori, which won the 46th Sankei Children's Publishing Culture Award in 1999. Needless to say, Eto Mori & Torajiro Kishi's creations has no relation to each other, so when they both debuted in 1998 I would guess that there was some slight confusion between the books, no doubt made worse by the fact that (unlike the two Ehrgeiz's) the two titles had the same exact katakana spelling of "カラフル". Anyway, Sentai Filmworks announced their license of the movie at the beginning of this year, & released it on DVD & Blu-Ray this May; yes, Sentai literally licensed two titles titled Colorful in the same exact year. What's even crazier is that the two productions have similar run times, with the TV series' 16 episodes totaling ~120 minutes, while the movie rounds out at 126 minutes. Why would you not want to get these two titles confused, you ask? Well, when recommending one to a friend, you want to make sure that you don't confuse the perverted look at the male libido with a drama about a man who gets a (literal) second chance at life. Still, when all is said & done, which would you want to recommend?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ehrgeiz vs. Ehrgeiz: Can Final Fantasy VII Help Defeat Giant Robots?!

There are only so many words in any language, so therefore it's only natural that, when it comes to naming things, there will be repeat uses. One thing to remember, though, is that just because multiple titles have the same name, that doesn't mean that they are similar in idea or execution. Just recently, Disney released a CG-animated movie titled Frozen, based loosely on Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, but as time goes on one could easily mistake this movie with Frozen (the 2010 thriller about a group of friends who get stuck on a snow lift during a blizzard), or Frozen (a 2005 British film), or Frozen (a 2007 Indian film), or Frozen (a 2010 Hong Kong film), or Frozen (a 1997 Chinese film), all of which are completely different from each other. In manga, this kind of thing can happen at times, just look at how many manga are called Toriko, but in anime it's a pretty rare instance. Still, going with the Highlander reference in my anniversary post, I've decided to pit two sets of titles with the same name against each other & see which one is "better", simply because, "There can only be one." So let's get started with our opening bout!

Logo Battle: No contest...  Game Wins.

When it comes to similarly-named titles being released at nearly the same exact time, there are probably none more fitting than these two. Next Senki/Record of Next War Ehrgeiz was a mech anime that ran on a late-night slot on TV Tokyo, from October 2 to December 25, 1997, making it the first mech anime to ever air that late. Two months after the anime finished airing, February 26, 1998 to be exact, Squaresoft (now Square-Enix) & Namco (now Namco Bandai Games) teamed up to release Ehrgeiz: God Bless the Ring, a 3D fighting game developed by DreamFactory. Three months after the game debuted in Japanese arcades, on May 25, the anime received its first home video release, a VHS & LD that both containing the first two episodes. The last anime VHS & LD came out October 25 & two months after that, December 17, the game was released on the Playstation. Essentially, throughout 1998, Japan had two titles named Ehrgeiz in the (relative) public conscience, but they were not related to each other in any way! Even their katakana spellings were only barely different, with the anime being エーアガイツ, while the game is エアガイツ... Yes, that one "ー", which stresses the initial character, is the sole difference!

This similarity & confusion also stretched into North America, when AnimeVillage (which would become Bandai Entertainment) announced on February 8, 1999 that they licensed the anime for North American release. Two months later, on April 30, Square Electronic Arts released the game's PS1 version in North America, followed by the anime's first subtitled VHS tape being released that November. After 2000, though, both the anime & the game were mostly forgotten, & the confusion died down. On July 9, 2008, Square-Enix released the PS1 version of the game for the Japanese Playstation Network, as a part of the PSOne Archives. Almost as if the bring back the confusion, though, Bandai Visual has since made the anime available on Japan's PSN via the Bandai Channel, as well as making it available digitally via computer; there still isn't a DVD release of the anime in Japan, though. So let's finally put an end to the confusion, & have these two titles duke it out. Which one is superior?!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Land of Obscusion 3(rd Anniversary): The Quickening!

Some may say that "The Third Time's the Charm". I don't know if that applies to me but today marks the third anniversary of The Land of Obscusion! Did I ever expect for this blog to last three years? Probably not when I started it up back on December 1, 2010, but I don't have a problem with it lasting this long. Also, I'm probably just stubborn enough to want to keep doing this & not stop. Post-wise, this year has already resulted in more posts than last year & there was a good bit more reviews this year than last; Year 1 had 50 reviews, Year 2 ended with 32, & Year 3 featured 41. In fact, some months this past year I came out like an outright reviewing machine. Also this year I had a larger con presence, by doing panels at Anime Boston, AnimeNEXT, & Otakon 20, all of which I had fun doing in some way or another, & I'll likely be doing the same this next year.

Number-wise, I broke 2,000 pageviews/month last December, & this entire year I never went below that number; in fact, this recently-ended November was just shy of hitting 4,000 in one month! I'm almost positive that, when compared to other anime sites & blogs, my numbers are probably just a drop in the bucket, but I'm just happy that the trend has been nothing but positive. Considering the stuff I review & talk about here, it's encouraging to see more & more people (potentially) interested in reading about such obscure & forgotten anime and manga. In terms of the site itself, I'm sure some of you readers may have noticed some changes. In an attempt to make my posts look more professional & easier to read, I started putting titles in italics, song names in quotations, & I've tried fixing as many little typographical errors in my old reviews as possible, while keeping them to a minimum in new reviews. Finally, I've started to add in screenshots for my reviews! I've been doing it on a regular basis since October, but look into my catalog of reviews & you'll find some of them have been updated with screenshots as well. Eventually, all of my reviews (old & new) will have screenshots, but adding them to past posts will be slow & happen when I have the time to do so. But, hey, think of it like I'm giving you guys a new reason to re-read old reviews.

At the end of the month I'll do a "Favorite Posts of 2013" list, but like always this post will end with an extra "gift". For Anniversary #1, I did random stats & thanks, and Anniversary #2 had the most-read posts as of that post, so for this Anniversary here's another different thing: A mini-review for something extremely short!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Gaiking Movie Trilogy: A "Heck" of a Fun Time

It's been often said that when it comes to releasing anime in North America, the older it is the tougher it is to sell to fans. Sure, some have been able to make a living off of older properties, but in those cases the titles selected generally have some sort of established fanbase... But what about the more obscure titles? Well, in late 2009, Toei announced that it would be working with William Winckler Productions, the studio known most for its insanely cheesy dub of the original Tekkaman that aired on TV here in 1984, & produce compilation movies based on eight anime productions: Daiku Maryu/Space Dragon Gaiking, Wakusei/Planet Robo Danguard Ace, Space Pirate Captain Harlock, Ashita no Nadja (under the name The Adventures of Nadja), Fist of the North Star, SF Saiyuki Starzinger, Hana no Ko/The Flower Girl Lun Lun, & GeGeGe no Kitaro (under the name Kitaro's Graveyeard Gang [the exact version that was adapted is unknown]). Instead of simply making one movie per series, though, Toei & Winckler Pro decided to split up each series into 2-3 movies each (Fist of the North Star was split into six!), allowing their stories to be told in greater detail. Originally, these movies were only made for viewing in Japan via a broadband rental service, but Shout! Factory, which has been doing more & more Japanese productions lately, decided to give this concept a try, & this year alone has released the Gaiking, Starzinger, & (just last week) Danguard Ace movies as individual collections for only $19.99 MSRP each. So, to go with Mecha Month, let's go over the Gaiking movies & see if there's any merit to this interesting production idea.

The planet Zela is on the verge of destruction, due to a looming black hole that's slowly coming closer & closer. Emperor Darius decides to send his forces to another planet, so that the people of his planet can have a new home. Unfortunately, Darius has chosen Earth, which was once visited by Zelans in the past, and he has no intent on co-existing with Earthlings; his first order is to kill off any & all humans that have potential psychic powers. One of the targeted humans, Sanshiro Tsuwabuki, was attacked during his debut baseball game in the major leagues, leading to his pitching wrist getting permanently injured & ending his career before it could truly start. Luckily, Dr. Daimonji has recruited Sanshiro to his group of humans, who are willing to take on the Zelans with the help of their giant mecha base, the Space Dragon. Sanshiro's job is to be the pilot of Gaiking, a combining robot that uses the Space Dragon's face for its chest/cockpit.

Gaiking originally aired from April 1976 to January 1977, lasting 44 episodes. While Toei credits the creation of the show to Akio Sugino (Toei's equivalent to Sunrise's Hajime Yatate, a.k.a. a pen name for the overall staff), credit actually goes to the legendary Go Nagai. Word is that Toei wanted a mech anime of its own, without sharing credit, so it simply didn't credit Nagai, especially since there is no Nagai manga equivalent for the show. Nagai then hit Toei with a legal battle that lasted 10 years, & resulted in Dynamic Pro being credited with "Collaboration" for the first half. In 1980, Jim Terry Productions licensed Gaiking to be part of the Force Five series, which dubbed about half of the show. Anyway, how do you turn an episodic, mid-70s super robot anime into three compilation movies?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Cybuster/Psybuster: I, For One, Welcome Our Alternate Universe Overlords

[2018 NOTE: This review was done back when Geneon's original DVD release was all there was for this anime, which used the "Cybuster" spelling. Since then, Discotek gave it a re-release under the "Psybuster" spelling. Just for simplicity's sake, though, I'm keeping Geneon's spelling for this review.]

It wouldn't be Mecha Month without a review of some sort of title from the Super Robot Wars franchise... So how about we go laterally a little bit & talk about a spin-off, its very first anime to be precise?

Debuting in 1991's Super Robot Wars 2 for the Famicom, Cybuster (Psybuster, in some spellings) & its pilot Masaki Andoh were the very first original mech & character Banpresto ever created for its crossover franchise. The character ended up becoming popular, so Banpresto decided to expand the character & his mech with 1994's Super Robot Wars EX for the Super Famicom, which introduced more units & the Masou Kishin/Elemental Lords/Warrior Robot Gods storyline, which was then given complete focus with 1996's Super Robot Wars Gaiden: Masou Kishin – The Lord Of Elemental on the Super Famicom. The Masou Kishin mechs & characters would then make an appearance in every major SRW title up until 2001's SRW Alpha Gaiden for the Playstation. The reason for their lack of appearances afterwards, outside of Cybuster, Valsione, & Granzon (who have been featured in the Original Generation games since the beginning), was generally attributed to the break-up between Banpresto & WinkySoft, who helped develop the early "Classic" games. This wound up being false, Banpresto simply felt that Masou Kishin was given too much focus instead of developing the new original characters, but it certainly was a strong rumor due to WinkySoft developing 2000's Seirei Hata Rayblade, which was essentially a Masou Kishin remake with all of the names changed, & the fact that no other Masou Kishin mech or pilot appeared in an SRW title until 2010, when The Lord of Elemental was remade on DS. So, where does an anime fit into all of this?

In 1999, Banpresto decided to try new things with the Masou Kishin universe. At the end of the year, they developed a retelling of the Super Famicom game with Shin Masou Kishin PANZER WARFARE, which showcased the Masou Kishin themselves in slightly new designs & gave them brand new pilots; for example, instead of Masaki Andoh, Cybuster was piloted by a boy named Keigo Kurtz Ferdinand. Earlier in the year, though, Ashi Productions made a 25-episode TV series (a 26th episode was made for home video) that introduced another alternate universe take on SRW's fantasy sub-franchise. Simply called Masou Kishin Cybuster, this was the first SRW-related anime ever made, even if the relation is only tangential, & was actually released in North America on DVD by Geneon Entertainment across 2004 & 2005, shortening it to just Cybuster. This wound up being the first official release of any SRW title in North America, a year before we got OG1 on the Game Boy Advance. Unfortunately, not only was the anime one of Geneon's worst-selling releases, selling less than 100 units/DVD on average, but it's also abhorrently hated by the hardcore Masou Kishin fanbase... Mostly because it's not the Masou Kishin universe that they love. So, to be fair, I'll leave comparisons to the original precursor to a minimum, because I want to judge this on its own merit; also, the amount of differences is so massive that I don't want to simply end up listing them. Is the Cybuster anime worth the vehement hatred or are crazed fans being just that: Crazy?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Matchless Raijin-Oh "Season 1": Defying Expectations in Every Way Possible

It's November once again, and that means one thing... Outside of Thanksgiving & Election Day, that is: Mecha Month! That's right, it's once again time to to talk about nothing but giant robots, & this year's Mecha Month will be better than before. Admittedly, last year didn't quite come off as well as I had hoped. Super Mobile Legend Dinagiga was pretty sucky, Kikou Sen'nyo Rouran was good but had a horrible tease of an ending, & my mecha-themed Twelve Anime list is one of my sillier ones; Super Robot Wars GC & XO was fun to write up & is now one of the most-read posts on this blog, though. Starting off this year, on the other hand, is the first half of a series that's been beating the odds & getting released here in North America, even if it's slow as hell.

I've already done a post about Anime Midstream last year, so I won't go into any detail about who they are, but they are still doing only one thing: Releasing Matchless Raijin-Oh, also known as Zettai Muteki/Absolutely Invincible Raijin-Oh. Announcing their license of the series back in December of 2008, & then releasing their first DVD at the tail-end of 2009 (with a wider release via Right Stuf & Amazon in January 2010), Anime Midstream has been churning out single DVDs of the series (each containing five episodes) at a pace of roughly one DVD every year. This past June they released Volume 5, marking the half-way point of the series, and Midstream even stated that this was the, "end of Season 1," & with it would come the end of the English dub that they had been producing; the second half (i.e. "Season 2") will be released sub-only. Considering that I've been wanting to review this series & DVD release ever since I started this blog, I've decided to break my "completely watched" rule & review the first half, with the fact that the dub ends here simply being all the more reason to talk about it now. Would you rather wait another five years (at most) for me to review this show?

The Jaku Empire of the Fifth Dimension has come to Earth with plans to invade & take over the planet. Belzeb, leader of the invading forces, plans to launch a giant missile filled with Akudama, evil creatures that take the form of whatever is found to be a "nuisance", but a giant robot named Raijin-Oh appears & tries stopping the missile. Belzeb is able to stop Raijin-Oh & force it to Earth, but the missile explodes & the Akudama all fall with no control. Raijin-Oh lands on top of a school, Class 5-3 specifically, but the being that was piloting the robot, Eldoran, saves the children of Class 5-3 by entrusting them with Raijin-Oh as he was weakened in the attempt to stop the missile. Calling themselves the Earth Defense Class, these children & their three giant robots, Ken-Oh, Juu-Oh, & Hou-Oh (which can combine to form Raijin-Oh), are the only things that can stop the Jaku Empire.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sci-Fi HARRY: Do You Really Want to Be Special?

Happy Halloween, Obscure Anime Thrill Seekers!

Two years ago, I reviewed the Manga DVD based on Jirou Tsunoda's horror manga Kyoufu Shinbun, but last year I didn't talk about any sort of horror title. Instead, I did my very first Theory Musing post about the "Three Pillars of Sports (Boxing) Anime & Manga"... But, to be fair, Superstorm Sandy was more than enough of a horror story for some people here on the East Coast. Well, for this year, I'm going back to fictional horror & reviewing an anime from a man who knows a thing or two about Japanese horror. George Iida got into the film industry in the 80s mainly writing for pink films & the like, but in 1987 was able to direct his first film, Cyclops. The next year he had his feature-length debut with the movie Battle Heater, which is about a man-eating kotatsu, and would later go on to direct movies such as 1998's Rasen/Spiral (based on the novel sequel to J-Horror classic Ringu) & the live-action movie adaptations of manga like Tokyo Babylon (1993), Akagi (the first movie in 1995), & Dragon Head (2003). His most iconic work, though, was the 1992-1993 sci-fi/horror TV series Night Head, which wound up getting a made-for-TV movie sequel in 1994, a manga adaptation in 1997 with art by Makoto Tateno (CUTE x GUY, Yellow), and in 2006 was retold in anime form under the title Night Head Genesis, which Media Blasters released here on DVD. What I'll be talking about is a spin-off of Night Head that actually was planned for a North American release by a company that brought over the horror-inspired JoJo's Bizarre Adventure... Fitting.

Sci-Fi HARRY originally debuted as a 2-volume manga back in 1995, which was written by Iida & drawn by the late Asami Tojo (X - Kai, Renai Junkie), but in October 2000 an anime adaptation debuted on TV Asahi that ran for 20 episodes; there was also a redo of the manga in 2001 drawn by Shinobu Abe. According to Iida, HARRY is actually a prequel to Night Head (or at least the original concept for what would become Night Head), showcasing one of the first cases of humans with psychic powers... And the psychological mess that it can bring to the user & the people he knows & meets.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Money Wars -Nerawareta Waterfront Keikaku-: New Hong Kong is About to E・X・P・L・O・D・E... With Money!

Let's face facts here: Beat Shot!! & Circuit no Ohkami II: Modena no Ken were projects Gainax did simply because they needed work. After Wings of Honneamise & Gunbuster, the studio needed work to do. In fact, before Gunbuster, they did the 1988 Appleseed OVA, based on the Masamune Shirow manga, for likely the same reason; this, too, isn't acknowledged by Gainax's "WORKS" page, but this OVA at least got licensed. Then, on April 13, 1990, something big happened for Gainax: Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water debuted on Japanese television. Needless to say, it became a giant hit for the studio, it's still the longest work they have ever done, & it gave them more mainstream attention. So, hoping to go off of that attention, Gainax & Pony Canyon teamed up to create a two-episode anime based on Kazuhiko Shimamoto's popular manga, Honou no Tenkousei/Blazing Transfer Student... As the "World's First Original Laser(disc) Animation!!", with Gainax getting special attention on the packaging. That's right, an anime released exclusively on laserdisc, with no VHS release in sight, & on May 21, 1991, just a little over two months after Nadia ended, the OLA reached Japanese shelves. Unfortunately, laserdisc was never going to be a mainstream way to watch anime, & the release bombed; at least, the LD-exclusive anime getting a VHS release on January 1, 1992 seems to indicate that. Still, Gainax needed to stay in work, so on September 21, 1991, the studio released one more 45-minute OVA based on an existing property, only for the studio to ignore its existence afterwards.

Though why one would ignore an anime based around the stock market is beyond me!

There isn't much info to find about Souichiro Miyakawa, because in terms of manga he didn't do much. He debuted in 1980 & stopped doing manga in 1989, with his biggest (and, from what I can tell, only multi-volume) work being Money Wars, a manga based on battles in the stock market, which ran in Business Jump magazine from 1985-1989, lasting nine volumes. This is not to be confused with the 2000 Lupin the 3rd TV special 1$ Money Wars, known as Missed by a Dollar outside Japan, or the Money Wars Chapter spin-off of Salaryman Kintaro. What happened to Miyakawa afterwards? Well, interestingly enough, he founded Family Soft, a video game company that dealt in games based on various anime such as Mobile Suit Gundam, Area 88, Crusher Joe, Aura Battler Dunbine, & Armored Trooper VOTOMS, in 1987, but their most well known work was the Asuka 120% series of 2D fighting games before they died out in 1999. Anyway, when Gainax made this OVA, subtitled Nerawareta Waterfront Keikaku/The Targeted Waterfront Project, the manga had already ended two years prior, so instead of adapting any part of the manga it instead told an original story. As the last of Gainax's ignored works, does it follow off of the excellent momentum of quality that Blazing Transfer Student had, or does it follow the former two "forgotten" OVAs & decide to be lackluster?

Tsuyoshi Aiba is a stockbroker who buys & sells stocks for his clients alongside his fellow workers Hitomi Yamazaki (who works the front counter) & Haruhiko Emoto. One morning, he awakes to news of a big shake-up with the stocks of a company that's in charge of a new waterfront area that's being made in Tokyo. After receiving a phone call from his friend Kurihara, about how he was fooled into selling other people's stocks to Chinese mafia member Lin Haifeng, followed by Kurihara's immediate suicide, Aiba vows to avenge his friend's death. He hopes to do this by stopping Lin's plan to take control of the waterfront by becoming majority stock holder, & turn it into a gateway for the Chinese mafia, essentially turning Tokyo into "New Hong Kong".

Monday, October 21, 2013

Circuit no Ohkami II: Modena no Ken: When the Breast Hits Your Eye, Like a Big Panty-Pie... That's Amore

Number 2 in Gainax's ignored OVAs comes from the same place as Beat Shot!!, i.e. the pages of mangaka Satoshi Ikezawa. Though he debuted back in 1970, Ikezawa wouldn't have a real hit until 1975, when he debuted Circuit no Ohkami/The Circuit Wolf in the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump; it was the story of Yuuya Fubuki, who dreamed of becoming F1 Champion. Ending in 1979, & lasting 27 volumes, the racing manga was one of Jump's earlier "big hits" (i.e. before the likes of Kochikame, Ring ni Kakero, & Kinnikuman debuted), and even saw a live-action movie adaptation in 1977 directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi, who previously directed the Sister Street Fighter movie series & Karate Bearfighter. Ten years later, Ikezawa returned to his iconic manga with a sequel, subtitled Modena no Ken/Ken of Modena, which starred a new main character & ran in Weekly Playboy magazine (because all sequels to older Jump manga either ran in Weekly Playboy or Super Jump... No exceptions) until 1995, lasting 25 volumes; in fact, this might be the first sequel ever made to a Shonen Jump classic. In late 1990, a 45-minute OVA based on this sequel was animated by Gainax & released on VHS & LD. So, after the intensely dull & (oddly) erotic Beat Shot!!, can Circuit no Ohkami pick up the slack?

I'm only using "Ohkami" instead of "Okami"
because the OVA uses the former on the title splash.

Ken Ferrari is a Japanese/Italian F1 racer-in-training from Modena, Italy, who lives in Tokyo. After helping a photographer named Aiko Yoshinaga out with a car problem, & escaping a group of bikers that they rushed past, the two become "close friends". At the same time, Ken meets a high school student named Eri Hayami, who he also becomes smitten with, but after saving her from some rough bullies he becomes the target of said bullies' leader, Hebijima. They kidnap Eri while Ken races against her brother, Tohru (a skilled street racer nicknamed "The White Wolf"), so it's up to the two racers to team up & save Eri.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Beat Shot!!: (Gainax + Golf)/Sex = ???

This past August a special anniversary happened: The DAICON IV Film turned 30 years old. What's DAICON, you ask? Every year in Japan since 1962, the Nihon SF Taikai/Japan SF Convention, a celebration of science fiction from around the world, is held, and each convention has a special name based on where it happens; Tokyo has TOKON (except the very first time, which was MEG-CON), Nagoya has MEICON, & Osaka has DAICON. In 1981 a trio of aspiring animators created a short opening animation for DAICON III all on their own. It's still an impressive feat to this day, and it got them all jobs in the anime industry, but two years later was DAICON IV, and these three men decided to come back, better than ever & with some help. Who were these three men? Hiroyuki Yamaga, Takami Akai, & Hideaki Anno... I think I've heard of them, especially that third one.

With the help of Ichiro Itano, Toshihiro Hirano, Narumi Kakinouchi, Sadami Morikawa, & Kazutaka Miyatake, the DAICON IV Film from 1983 is generally considered the beginning of what would become the animation studio known as Gainax. The studio would make its official debut with the classic movie Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise, which will be getting a new release by Maiden Japan at the end of this month. Anyway, Gainax is now known as one of the most influential studios in anime, but even that studio has its super-obscure titles that they seemingly refuse to even list on their own "Works" page. In April 2011, I reviewed the most infamous of Gainax's ignored works, the excellent anime adaptation of Kazuhiko Shimamoto's Blazing Transfer Student. It proudly called itself an OLA/Original Laser Animation (only available on laserdisc!), but bombed to the point where it was quickly released on VHS & then never heard from again. Well, that's not the only anime that Gainax doesn't acknowledge, so let's take a look at what else they offered from 1989-1991, only to never speak of again (& never even get fansubbed), starting with 1989's Beat Shot!!.

Kyoichi Sasuga is an up-and-coming golf player who enters the local tournament in order to show off his skills on the links... And hopefully show off his "skills" with some women in the process. His biggest opposition on the links, though, is Akihiko Hanamatsuri, who might just be his toughest rival.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Asura: Even Frankenstein's Monster Had a Heart, You Know

Niji-Iro Hotaru was definitely an interesting movie from last year, but now that I've seen the other "ignored Toei movie from 2012", I realize that this first one was simply a warm-up. Originally running from 1970-1971 & lasting three volumes, Asura by George Akiyama (the creator of Haguregumo, one of the longest-running manga of all time) ended up becoming banned in Japan for a time, due to some very controversial subject matter. On September 29, 2012, Toei debuted a 75-minute GC-animated movie adaptation of the manga that wound up tying for the Audience Award for Best Animated Feature at the 16th Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal... Yet wound up being completely ignored by the anime fandom at large, even with it being directed by Keiichi Sato, the man behind Tiger & Bunny & the upcoming CG movie based on Saint Seiya. In fact, this title didn't seem to get any real recognition online until Daryl Surat (of the Anime World Order podcast & Otaku USA) showed clips of this movie at his "Anime's Craziest Deaths" panel at Otakon, and even then no one's really saying much about it. Well, I'm going to do something about that, because you must see Asura. It's easily the "Best Anime Movie of 2012 You Didn't See".

There is a regular title screen, but this just looks cooler.

In the mid-15th century, Kyoto was hit with intense drought & famine, creating a desolate environment of death. It is in this world that a woman gives birth to a son, but due to a lack of food she tries cooking her son in a fire; while the child is in the fire she becomes frightened & runs off. Eight years have since passed, & the boy has become a feral beast of a child, wielding an ax & killing people whenever he gets hungry. After encountering a wandering Buddhist monk, who teaches him to say the sutra "Namu Amida Butsu" & gives him the name Asura, the boy winds up in a small village lead by Lord Jitou. In the end, Asura's encounter with the villagers, especially a girl named Wakasa that teaches him to talk, combined with the famine, could very well be the worst thing to happen.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Niji-Iro Hotaru ~Eien no Natsu Yasumi~: I Don't Want to Grow Up, I'm a Firefly Kid...

Sometimes you just have really strong years for movies, and 2012 certainly was a really good example of that in terms of anime movies. There were Tibetan Dog, the first two Berserk: The Golden Age Arc movies, the Strike Witches movie, the first three Space Battleship Yamato 2199 compilation movies, Blood-C: The Last Dark, 009 Re:Cyborg, the first two Madoka Magica movies, the first Tiger & Bunny movie... Oh, and a couple of movies titled Wolf Children & Evangelion 3.0: You Can [Not] Redo.  Therefore, it's only natural that a couple of Toei movies were completely ignored. Hell, Toei themselves were guilty of this lack of promotion, what with 2012 also being the year of the excellent One Piece Film Z, which was hyped & promoted like crazy. Still, I'm curious about these two ignored movies: Niji-Iro Hotaru ~Eien no Natsu Yasumi~/Rainbow Fireflies ~The Eternal Summer Vacation~ & Asura. Based on a 2007 novel by Masayuki Kawaguchi, no relation to the anime director of photography of the same name (once again, a single kanji makes the difference), Niji-Iro Hotaru was a theatrical anime adaptation that debuted on May 19, 2012. From first look, the movie might seem more like a Ghibli production than from Toei, but is that, & an interesting animation style, enough to make this a forgotten gem from last year, or was it rightfully ignored?

Yuuta visits the Hotarugaoka Dam during his summer vacation, because he once visited the area with his father when he was a kid to catch beetles. His father had visited the area back in the 70s, when a village resided where the dam is presently located ,& loved the "ocean of fireflies" he saw; unfortunately, Yuuta's father died in a motorcycle accident in the same area not long ago. After getting stuck during a flash flood, when no rain was predicted, Yuuta ends up slipping & falling down a cliff. Luckily, he's saved by a mysterious old man, who he had given some water to earlier in the day, who magically transports Yuuta to safety. After meeting a girl named Saeko Yuuta, he notices something odd about the area: The dam is gone & there's a village in its place. Indeed, Yuuta has been transported to the year 1977, one month before the village is abandoned due to the construction of the dam. In this one month, Yuuta will learn about how life was in the village, what Saeko's mysterious past is, and how it relates to him.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Twelve(?) Anime BGM That Deserve More Love Part 2

Here we are... The End. I've brought up 56 songs from nearly as many anime (a few repeat showings here & there), so why not list eight more? Unfortunately, only one of these clips were available for me to link from YouTube via Blogspot, let alone even be on YouTube, but I've improvised. Let's finish this!

"Shakunetsu no Ikari" by Osamu Totsuka & Takeshi Ike (from Dancougar: Super Bestial Machine God)
Sometimes an anime is defined, sound-wise, by something like an OP... And then there's stuff like this, where an anime is defined by a piece of BGM. That little intro is like a tease, making you almost want to skip ahead but you worry you'll miss the real into to the song. Afterwards this song just simply rocks. Sure, it's little more than a simple riff that's repeated ad-nauseum, but like I mentioned with "Destiny girl" from the OPs list, sometimes that one riff is enough to keep your attention. In terms of show use, this song is sometimes used during the combination sequence of the Dancouga[r] itself, other times you'll hear "Kemono wo Koe, Hito wo Koe", & other times it's used during battle. Regardless of timing, though, this song just screams absolute awesomeness. You want to know how badass this song is? Games in the SRW franchise that feature Dancougar originally used the first OP, "Ai yo Faraway", or the first ED, "Burning Love", but once "Shakunetsu no Ikari" was used in SRW Alpha 3, it became the absolute only song that represented the series. Screw any sort of song you can sing to, even Banpresto knew that you shouldn't mess with this song!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Twelve(?) Anime BGM That Deserve More Love Part 1

First off, let me tell you how annoying it is to keep the same style of title with a phrase like "background music", which has no plural form... Anyway, it's the beginning of the end here in this month of obscure anime music appreciation, and what better way to end it off than to appreciate the stuff everyone hears but only rarely is remembered: The Background Music, or BGM for short. Granted, there are some people in the anime industry that have become iconic solely through their OSTs. People like Shiro Sagisu, Kenji Kawai, Susumu Hirasawa, Yoko Kanno, Yuki Kajiura, & Kohei Tanaka might vary in terms of name recognition, but just about every single anime fan knows at least one song from their gigantic catalogs, much like how Nobuo Uematsu is an icon of video game music. That said, there are plenty of great BGM from other people that aren't as well known. Like what? Well, I'm glad you asked... (Yes, I know you probably didn't ask... Shhhh, you'll interrupt the great music!)

"This world III" by Hideki Taniuchi (from Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor)
You know you have excellent music chops when you go from doing the guitar to two excellent OPs of a boxing anime classic & start doing your own anime music. That's what Hideki Taniuchi did, originally doing the guitar work for Shocking Lemon's contributions to the original Hajime no Ippo anime series, before going solo & doing music for Madhouse anime, starting with 2004's Otogi Zoshi. Taniuchi's guitar work is downright masterful, creating not only upbeat anthems but also downright creepy & downtrodden works like this very one. While there are also "This world" & "This world II", those two don't quite deliver the intense, life or death mood that Kaiji is all about with its games. Really, Taniuchi's OST for the entire first season is simply one of his absolute best, & "This world III" is only a portion of what this man can do. The continual addition of instruments between each repeat of the beat just makes the song sound all the more evil. Unfortunately, in May of last year, Taniuchi was arrested on marijuana charges, and while that wouldn't do much a musician's career here in North America, in Japan a charge like that can be an absolute career killer. The previous year had Tsuyoshi Kosuga of the band cro-magnon, who did the OP to Hyouge Mono, hit with the same charge; cro-magnon called it quits shortly after, & Hyouge Mono's OP was changed after only six episodes. Considering that Taniuchi's last anime work was Kaiji: Against All Odds from 2011, I worry that the man's anime career is essentially dead now, and if that's the case then the anime industry has lost one of it's best up & comers. Oh, where did that subtitle for Season 2 come from? Why, it's the subtitle CrunchyRoll is using for its official stream for that half of the show! That's right, Kaiji has an easily available, official English streaming option! Watch it now!!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Twelve(?) Anime Insert Songs That Deserve More Love Part 2

We're in the middle of a list about insert songs... What a perfect time play some insert songs! Luckily, all but two of the songs I'll be listing in this half are linkable via Blogger's YouTube feature, so I got lucky this time around (who knows if I'll be that lucky for the BGM list). So let's start up Part 2 with a bit of a swerve...

"Rise Above the Storm" by Daniel LeBlanc & Creighton Doane (from Beyblade G-Revolution)
You got to give credit where is due... Those Canadians over at Nelvana knew how to make a battle between two modified tops sound awesome. Yeah, Beyblade is a Japanese creation, but outside of the last two DVDs FUNimation released for G-Revolution, we've only officially received the Nelvana-edited dub of the original three series; the "Metal" era stuff is co-produced by Nelvana, so they don't change quite as much stuff. Admittedly, Nelvana did keep the actual story of all three shows intact, with only some of the names being changed (Takao changing to Tyson) or slightly altered ("Rei" changing to "Ray"), some new video clips being added in to replace other shots, and the music being completely re-hauled. To be honest, though, Nelvana could have made the new music score more kid-oriented, but instead they got a bunch of people & bands to create some really cool insert songs, all of which were outright rock songs! Sure, some were more upbeat songs ("Never Gonna Take Me Down" by Anthony Vanderburgh), but as they went from one show to the next the songs became much more "hard" ("Switchblade" by Lenz & "Underdog" by Mudd being good examples), & when they got the final show in the original series we got "Rise Above the Storm", which is probably the absolute best of them all. Sure, these songs were used during battles between tops, but you can't deny it really helped made the shows pretty cool to watch. Hell, this song itself isn't even ten years old yet! Considering how we've now gotten Saban's Digimon on DVD, & Monster Rancher is coming out next year, could we maybe see these three shows get complete releases? I'll admit it: I'd buy them.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Twelve(?) Anime Insert Songs That Deserve More Love Part 1

So let's recap quickly: OPs can be iconic, & EDs can be forgotten, so where does that leave the INs? You know, the insert songs. For those who don't know what an "insert song" is, it's a piece of music that plays while the anime itself is still running, usually during specific scenes & the like. Unlike traditional background music, though, insert songs are usually NOT done by the same person/people behind the BGM, but instead are performed by other musicians and are usually vocal songs. Nowadays, it's usually a popular music band or the like, but INs are usually saved for really special moments where traditional BGM just wouldn't do it justice. Or, quite simply, it's a scene which is meant to be treated as "special", and therefore the use of an IN gives it a more identifiable quality. While not quite as easy to name as that of iconic OPs, there are some INs that "everyone" knows of, like "Komm, süsser Tod" from End of Evangelion, the multitude of non-OP DBZ songs Hironobu Kageyama has done, & some might count "Forces" from Berserk TV (it was performed by Susumu Hirasawa himself, but is voiced & used in "special" scenes), among some others. So what insert songs have been in anime before that you may have missed?

[NOTE: Even more so than the ED list, this IN list will try to use simpler videos so as to not potentially spoil the scenes they are used in, so people unfamiliar with the songs or scenes don't have to worry.]

"Number One" by Hazel Fernandes (from Bleach)
The anime adaptation may be over, & the manga is still running and very popular, but I do wonder how many people honestly still remember this cool IN from the early days of the anime? Performed by British singer Hazel Fernandes, "Number One" was the perfect match for Bleach's starting point, where lead character Ichigo Kurosaki was still new to his new-found shinigami/soul reaper powers, so whenever Ichigo found a way to fight his way back after nearing defeat this song would play, and to this day it's still one of the coolest "second wind" themes. Fernandes' voice is just engrossing right from the start, simply due to the awesome screams she belts out, before any words are even spoken, & the lyrics themselves fit the characters nicely, making each of them come off as badasses whenever the song is played for them. Unfortunately, the song's more upbeat mood seemed to contrast the story as it went on, & by the time the group headed off to Hueco Mundo (the third story arc), this IN would be completely gone from the show. An instrumental version was played on very rare occasion from that point on, but it never really matched the grandiose feel the original song has, and it was usually used more as a "showstopper", anyway (i.e. it would suddenly stop when the enemy would get a surprise upper hand). Still, for those early days of the anime, this IN was hard to beat.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Twelve(?) Anime Ending Themes That Deserve More Love Part 2

Welcome back for more ending themes that have been left to the wayside or simply skipped over for the next episode! Wonder what else you missed by always pushing "fast forward" or "next chapter"? Then keep reading & watching...

"100 Miles ~ Niji o Oikakete" by Santara (Oh! Edo Rocket ED1)
All right, let me make sure I understand this correctly: This is an anime written by Shou Aikawa & directed by Seiji Mizushima (the duo who helmed the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime), based on a play written by the man who did the story for Gurren Lagann, Re: Cutie Honey, & the upcoming Kill la Kill... So why isn't this show more well known, again? It can't surely be the OP done by PUFFY (Ami Yumi), which is so absolutely infectious & catchy that even I absolutely love it. Regardless, I've only seen a few episodes of 2007's Oh! Edo Rocket, which finally came over by way of FUNimation in 2010, but I really did like what little I saw of it & the ED that each episode ended with was simply amazing. It sounds like some sort of gender bent, Japanese version of Beck (the singer, not the manga & anime) mixed with The Proclaimers' "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)", and Santara's voice is absolutely unforgettable in her performance. The ED footage certainly doesn't disappoint either by coming off like some sort of weird "trip" that only an alien like the "Blue Girl" can seemingly think of as "normal". I'm definitely going to get my hands on the complete collection one day & get to this show in full, because I'm interested once again in checking it out, especially with the pedigree it has behind it.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Twelve(?) Anime Ending Themes That Deserve More Love Part 1

It's easy to name an iconic opening theme, but ending themes aren't exactly as easy to name. OPs are things that viewers gladly watch, as they set the tone for the show & get people excited for what they are about to see. EDs, on the other hand, signify the end of an episode; crazed anime fans don't want to see an anime, even if it's just an episode, end. Even I'll admit that, if I'm watching multiple episodes of a TV series, I'll simply skip the ED so that I can get to the next episode faster. Still, I do save the ED for the end of the last episode I'm watching at the moment, and throughout my time as an anime fan I have heard a good number of EDs that I think deserve some recognition. So let's take a look at them...

(NOTE: Unlike the OPs list, I will not show the ED footage for every entry. Some EDs, by nature, may feature spoilers as to what happened in a show, and I wish to respect those who haven't seen some of these shows.)

"nothing" by SEE SEE/Hitomi Yaida (Cybuster ED)
As a quick note, the OP credits this ED as being performed by SEE SEE, which was the name Hitomi Yaida initially used when she entered the music industry; she's since switched over to her real name. Anyway, the 1999 anime version of Cybuster is definitely the "black sheep" of the entire Super Robot Wars franchise. In fact, regardless of the actual quality of the show itself, many SRW fans refuse to even acknowledge, let alone watch, this show that has nothing to do with the lineage of the main Masou Kishin storyline. Yeah, this show is a completely different universe from the original one, and that alone makes me want to eventually watch this show & review it. Anyway, the OP, "Senshi yo, Tachiagare" by Masaaki Endoh, is a really cool song, but the ED to the show also succeeds as a memorable tune. Starting off as a simple acoustic ballad, the song eventually becomes a really cool & powerful song about taking whatever hardships come by & making it a part of yourself. Even if the show ends up being disappointing, at the very least one can't deny that each episode ends on a strong song.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Twelve(?) Anime Opening Themes That Deserve More Love Part 2

If you sometimes wonder why I rarely use embedded videos on anything I post onto this blog, my previous post is a perfect example of why. You see, as big as YouTube's catalog of videos is it still doesn't have everything. Therefore, the OPs for Zaizen Jotaro, Monkey Turn, & Clockwork Fighters: Hiwou's War I used were all captured by me & uploaded onto YouTube by me... And after only a couple of days of being online, and even when the clips were "unlinked" from YouTube (i.e. you can only view them via this blog), ShoPro still blocked Monkey Turn's OP from being viewable to you guys. So for those who read Part 1 of this look at anime OPs that deserve more recognition & love, consider yourselves lucky that you got to see it the way I put it together. For everyone else, from this day on you have to deal with the music video for "Kokoro ga Tomaranai". Hopefully this won't be something that will happen again in the future posts from this month... Anyway, back to your (not) regularly scheduled "Twelve Anime" list.

"Mononoke Dance" by Denki Groove (Hakaba Kitaro OP)
Shigeru Mizuki's GeGeGe no Kitaro is an institution in Japan, being the inspiration for a lot of the methods & ideas about yokai culture that anime & manga uses to this day. Toei has made it downright tradition to make a new Kitaro anime series every decade, ever since the original B&W series from the 60s, but for the most recent adaptation Toei did something different. In 2007, they debuted the fifth TV series based on the kids manga, but in 2008, while GeGeGe was still running, Toei also debuted an 11-episode anime based on Mizuki's original version of the manga, Hakaba Kitaro. The animation style was similar in execution to Mononoke, which simply has to be seen to be believed, but for the OP Toei went absolutely zany. Denki Groove's song can only really be described as "Halloween Dance-Techno", and the footage being based on the actual pages of the manga just makes it a fun watch. The song itself, though, is downright infectious ad once you hear it once it will never leave your head.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Twelve(?) Anime Opening Themes That Deserve More Love Part 1

In 1994, President Bill Clinton proclaimed September to be Classical Music Month... Too bad I already reviewed some portion of the Legend of the Galactic Heroes series last year, because it's heavy use of classical music would be a perfect fit. Also, I do hope to one day get to the Violinist of Hameln anime & review it, but it won't be this month. Luckily, I do have something planned for this month, though it isn't "classical". As a fan of anime I have also become a big fan of Japanese music, especially those found in anime. Sometimes I won't even watch an episode of an anime, but I'll have heard the opening before & I'll become a fan of the song. With this in mind, I decided to bring back the "Twelve Anime" motif, but this time focus it on a specific aspect of anime: The music. To go with a music-themed commemorative month, I'll be doing four sets of "Twelve Anime" lists, one for each variation of music one would hear in anime: Opening Themes ("OPs"), Ending Themes ("EDs"), Insert Songs ("INs"), & Background Music ("BGMs").

What, you didn't seriously expect me to use K-On!, did you?

"Tank!"... "Ready Steady Go!"... "We Are!"... "Sorairo Days"... "A Cruel Angel's Thesis"... Let's face it, truly memorable anime tend to have equally memorable opening themes. The idea of an opening theme sequence is to get one interested in the series if it's the first watch, or to hype the viewer up when it's successive episodes, and as time has gone by some of these OPs have become downright iconic, needing only the first few seconds (if even that) for someone to identify it & be reminded of a favorite series. Sometimes, though, a really good OP gets shafted. Maybe it's the follow-up to an excellent first OP, licensing issues kept it from reaching a larger audience, time has made the series (& therefore the OP) forgotten, or maybe people just didn't really know of it in the first place. Well, since this is a "Land" where forgotten & obscure stuff is given the spotlight, allow me to remind and inform you guys of some opening themes that definitely deserve more love. Technically, this is chosen based on the songs themselves, but having a really good OP sequence certainly helps. And, in true "Twelve Anime" tradition, I have ended up with way more than twelve entries.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Spelunker is a Teacher: You Too Can Surmount Incredible Difficulties!

Part 2 of this look at anime based on Western video games goes in a different direction than the first part. While Wizardry felt like it was "in on the joke" in the way it handled its world, it really wasn't joking but rather simply took the way the game played seriously & went with it. In comparison, the subject of this review most definitely IS "in on the joke", mainly because the Japanese created the joke in the first place.

Spelunker was developed by Tim Martin, one of the founders of the short-lived company MicroGraphicImage, back in 1983 for Atari's line of 8-bit computers. It was ported to the Commodore-64 by Brøderbund in 1984, the arcades & Famicom in 1985 by Irem, the MSX in 1986, and the Famicom version was released in North America for the NES in 1987. The goal of the game was to simply get your nameless spelunker from the top of the giant cave he was exploring to the bottom, where a pyramid filled with treasure was located. The original Atari & Commordore versions helped make it a popular computer game back in the 80s, but the NES/Famicom version was what took the game beyond anything Mr. Martin could have imagined.

You see, this spelunker was easily killed, and the NES version made it all the more easier to die. You die in one hit, so anything, including falling bat droppings & even your own flare when it comes down, will kill you. Also, falling down more than just a few pixels worth will kill you (literally, you die in mid-air!), so even jumping off the top of a decline will kill you. This resulted in the title being loved in Japan as a "kusoge/crap game", i.e. it was loved because of how "crappy" it was... Yet, oddly enough, Spelunker is actually highly addictive; you always want to keep playing & get further than the last time. The spelunker himself (simply named "Spelunker" by the Japanese) actually even became a part of Japanese lingo, with the term "Spelunker Taishitsu/Spelunker's Constitution" & word "Superu", both of which essentially mean "getting injured by the smallest things"; it's commonly used in Japan for professional sports. In 2009, Spelunker received a Spelunker Anthology Comic, as well as a full-on remake for the Playstation 3 called Minna de Spelunker/Everyone Spelunker, which was released internationally via PSN in 2010/2011 as Spelunker HD. Then, in 2011, Enterbrain released a 4-koma manga called Spelunker Sensei/Spelunker is a Teacher. It's this 4-koma manga that also received a Flash OVA adaptation that's funny & just short enough to keep from becoming tired & repetitive.

It's a new school year at high school and one of the new teachers is a man who wears a plain white t-shirt, blue jeans, sneakers... And a spelunker's hardhat. His name is Mr. Spelunker & there's something special about him: He dies. Very easily. A lot. And he's downright terrified of dying.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Wizardry: 100s of Hours of Gameplay Told in Just 50 Minutes!

I had planned on stretching out this next batch of reviews across a month, but considering how short each of them are (2 OVAs) I've decided to get them through in only one week... Welcome to Video Game-Based Anime Week! Like the previous time I did this focus (September 2011) every review will be of an anime that was based on a video game, but there's another focus this time around: Anime based on Western video games. Even though Japan is sometimes called a xenophobic country at heart, every now & then a Western creation does become a big hit over there. In super-rare cases, a Western title becomes more popular in Japan than in its country of origin, and in two cases anime have actually been made based on them. Ironically, these anime based on Western video games have never been released in the country they came from. Case in point is the anime based on an RPG series made by two Americans, one of which wound up founding an anime licensing company himself!

Wizardry is a RPG series originally created by Andrew C. Greenberg & Robert J. Woodhead back in 1980, when the two were still students at Cornell Unviersity. As the years went on, it became a big hit for PC gamers, lasting up until 2001's Wizardry 8 by Sir-Tech; Woodhead left the series after IV, & Greenburg left after V. In Japan, though, the series became one of the biggest inspirations in that country's video game industry, most importantly with Yuji Horii, who used Wizardry as one of his big influences when he created Dragon Quest; Horii even tossed in a reference in his mystery game The Portopia Serial Murder Case for the Famicom. Games in the series have been ported & remade to numerous PCs & consoles as Japan-exclusive release as recently as 2000, and a metric ton of spin-offs have been developed by Japanese companies ever since 1991, with only three of them having seen international release: 2001's Tale of the Forsaken Land for Playstation 2, 2009's Labyrinth of Lost Souls for Playstation 3 via PSN (released internationally in 2011), & 2012's MMORPG Wizardry Online for PC (released internationally this year). Not only that, but in 1991, TMS & Shochiku made a 50-minute OVA adaptation of the original 1981 game, Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord, which managed to take a game with essentially no story & make a fun, if sometimes (accidentally) funny, little adventure.

I try to use "clean" screencaps, but for some it's impossible.
In that past, King Trebor worked with the wizard Werdna & protected the kingdom from its enemies. One day, though, Werdna betrayed Trebor and stole an amulet that was sealing a destructive power that could leave the kingdom in ruins. In order to stave away Trebor's forces while he worked to undo the seal, Werdna created a ten-floor dungeon filled with all sorts of ferocious monsters, with Werdna at the very bottom. In turn, Trebor offered a reward to any & all brave warriors that dared take on the challenge to kill Werdna & retrieve the amulet. As years have gone by, people have turned dungeon crawling into a job all in & of itself, but during one journey into the dungeon a trio of friends, Shin the Human Fighter, Alex the Human Lord, & Hawkwind the Human Ninja, come across three other brave dungeon journeyers: Jyuza the Dwarven Bishop, who used to work with Werdna & Trebor; Alpa the Hobbit Mage, Jyuza's student; & Sheila the Elven Mage, who went into the dungeon to search for her boyfriend, Randy the Human Samurai. Together, this six-man party will dare to enter the tenth floor & take on Werdna himself.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Theory Musing: Möbius Strip Anime & Manga

Well this is certainly unexpected... I had done a post this past October that I gave the moniker "Theory Musing", because it was simply me explaining an idea I had on my mind, in that case the "Three Pillars of Sports (Boxing) Anime & Manga". Honestly, I had no plans on doing another "Theory Musing" post, mainly because it's not something I can come up with easily or at any sort of vaguely-defined "rate". Anime Sols, though, recently reminded me of something I once said in passing during a conversation last year that really made me think about it in more detail: The concept of "Möbius strip" anime & manga.

Discovered in 1858 by German mathematicians August Ferdinand Möbius & Johann Benedict Listing, the Möbius strip is, to put it simply, a surface with only one side. If you were to draw a line across the entire surface of a looping Möbius strip you would end up back at the start, having drawn the line across the entire surface, without ever having to stop. In real life, it's very simple to create a strip like this: Simply take a strip of paper, give one end a half-twist, so that one end is the opposite side from the other end, and then tape the ends together. If you want to think about in a more complex way, a simple strip, or line (if you will), is defined in one way by the fact that it acts as a boundary that is defined by two components: Each "side" of the line is a separate thing. A Möbius strip, though, is a boundary that is defined by only one component, because what would normally be two disparate components are now one & the same. So...  How can this apply to anime & manga?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Bari Bari Densetsu: Not Quite Initial B... But in a Good Way

When it comes to racing manga, Shuichi Shigeno's Initial D is likely considered to be the standard bearer. Debuting back in 1995, Shigeno ended the manga, totaling 46 volumes, just a couple of weeks ago, with a new movie & a "Final Stage" anime being made to finish the adaptation. What most people don't know, though, is that Initial D is Shigeno's second hit manga, as well as his second manga to get an anime adaptation. From 1983-1991, Shigeno did Bari Bari Densetsu/Rippin' Roarin' Legend, a manga about motorcycle racing that lasted 38 volumes, and in 1986 Studio Pierrot made a two-episode OVA based on parts of the manga. In 1987, Nippon Herald had Pierrot cut the two 50-minute OVAs into a single 85-minute movie, and it's this movie version of the anime that ended up getting fansubbed. So there's only one question to ask: How was Shuichi Shigeno, before making the Toyota AE86 Trueno an iconic car?

Gun Koma is a high school student who knows a thing or two about riding a motorcycle, and he uses his rough & fast skills in illegal street races on the Touge mountain road. One day, though, he's unable to defeat a newcomer & crashes during the race; the newcomer then berates him for being such a stupid rider. A few days later, Gun sees the newcomer again, as he's Hideyoshi Hijiri, a new transfer student from Osaka. As much as he wants to beat Hideyoshi, though, the two get paired together as a racing duo when Gun's friend Miyuki Ichinose, the daughter of the owner of a motorcycle racing team, decides to get the three of them, & Gun's best friend Hiro Okita, to form two pairs that will race in the upcoming 4-hour endurance race at Suzuka Raceway.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Post-Otakon Update: 45 Years of Shonen Jump Line-Up!

Excuse the wait I've taken, because I was getting ready for Otakon 20 this year, and I have come back home just yesterday. Normally, I don't talk about a con visit after the fact, but I wanted to get a couple of things out of the way.

First, a big "Thank You" to Otakon for letting me be a part of the 20th Anniversary of the second-biggest anime convention in North America. For a first-time panelist at the con, I feel honored to have helped celebrate such a joyous occasion for Otakorp. In terms of the con itself, it was easily the best Otakon I have ever been at. The panels I went to were all excellent, & the panelists prepared & bringing their A-Game (except for one, but nothing's perfect), the guest roster was definitely top-notch, and though the Baltimore Convention Center is becoming too small for the con, I have to agree with Zac Bertschy & Justin Sevakis during the live (& unfortunately un-captured) ANNCast when they agreed that Otakon in general has a strong, welcoming, & celebratory feeling to it. I got to meet a lot of great people, including the likes of Anime World Order's Daryl Surat (a reader of this blog, no less!) & ANN's Justin Sevakis (the man who inspired me to start writing about obscure anime), & I have Otakon 20 to thank for this.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The "Kurumada Curse": Or Why Can't Anyone But Discotek Do This Right?

If you haven't heard, New Video Group/Cinedigm Entertainment (a.k.a. the guys who released Saban's dub of Digimon's first four seasons on DVD) quietly solicited three new releases for later this year: A second collection for Yu-Gi-Oh!, a "Megaset" release of Zatch Bell (the edited TV airing of Konjiki no Gash Bell), & a "Sanctuary Complete Collection" of Saint Seiya. NVG, though, is confusing anime fans in regards to their Saint Seiya release... Which will apparently be a dub-only boxset containing Episodes 1-73.

It's pretty damn confusing for a few reasons. First, why is it dub-only? Calling the release "Saint Seiya" makes it pretty obvious that NVG is not releasing DiC's aborted Knights of the Zodiac adaptation (unless the company is trying to promote false advertising), so it has to be ADV's dub. But if it's ADV's dub, then why isn't the company simply going for a dual-audio release? There are subtitles already made for Episodes 1-60, and the company has done closed captions for their Digimon releases, so adding in soft-encoded subtitles shouldn't be an impossible thing for them to do. Second, if it is dub-only, where did the dub for Episodes 61-73 come from?

The now defunct DiC Entertainment licensed Saint Seiya back in 2003 and, as reported by ICv2, the company only adapted 40 episodes into Knights of the Zodiac. ADV, in a deal with DiC, was able to sub-license the series & give it an uncut & dual-audio release, complete with a 100% accurate dub, as long as they also released KotZ on DVD alongside Seiya. From what I can tell, low ratings resulted in only 32 episodes of KotZ being aired, which ADV only released 28 of on DVD, while ADV released the first 60 episodes uncut on DVD. Unfortunately, it was at this point that ADV realized that DiC had only licensed those first 60 episodes of Saint Seiya, leaving them unable to release anymore of the show. The company continually stated at cons that they wanted to continue releasing the show, even being so specific that they would have been fine with only Episodes 61-73, so that they could finish the Sanctuary Chapter, but it never happened, & in 2008 DiC was bought up by Cookie Jar Entertainment; the next year DiC's original license expired & Cookie Jar let the series go back to Toei. This whole ordeal between ADV & Toei was the first example of what I have called the "Kurumada Curse".

Monday, July 22, 2013

Rokudenashi BLUES: Don't Worry, Goku... Taison's Got Your Back

We're taking one more trip into the yankii well this month with a reverse case of what I usually do. Normally, when I review a series of anime productions, I go through them in chronological order, which makes perfect sense... But sometimes issues come up, namely a lack of materials. That's what happened last year when I reviewed Rokudenashi BLUES 1993, the second anime movie adaptation of Masanori Morita's long-running-yet-completely-unknown (in North America) Shonen Jump manga. At that moment, I only had access to that movie, and since the two movies were made separately from each other (and featured a different staff & cast), I figured I could review the second movie first. Well, now I have seen the original movie, a 1992 production that debuted in theaters on July 11, as part of a triple-billing with the seventh Dragon Ball Z movie, known to us as Super Android 13, & the third Dragon Quest: Dai no Daibouken movie, Buchiyabure!! Shinsei Roku Daishogun/Defeat the Six Great Generals!!, and it makes for a great intro the Rokudenashi world.

Inside Teiken High School there's a rough rivalry between the Boxing Club & the Cheer Squad, and when Taison Maeda accidentally gets involved in one of their fights, when his scooter goes out of control & crashes into the fighters, Mr. Ioka makes it his mission to get Taison out of school. Fortunately for Ioka, wannabe-bancho Koheiji Nakata gets Taison suspended when he manages to trick Taison into fighting off guys from a rival school. Unfortunately for Koheiji, those guys now want blood and are challenging Teiken to a fight, bringing Koheiji, the Boxing Club, the Cheer Squad, Taison's friends Katsuji & Yoneji, and even Chiaki (the girl Taison has a crush on) into trouble. It's all up to Taison to save the day...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Golden Ani-Versary's Coverage of 2004 is Public! Why Did I Choose 2004, Anyway?

First off, for those who do not recognize this banner, if you're not reading the Golden Ani-Versary blog then you have a lot of reading to do! Thought up by Geoff Tebbets, former reviewer & columnist for the now-defunct Animerica magazine, the blog's purpose is to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Tetsuwan Atom/Astro Boy's debut on Japanese television by covering each year in detail... With the help of 49 other contributors! Who's helping out? Here's a portion of the list: "Anime Anthropologist" Charles Dunbar, old-school anime blogger Dave Merrill, ANN's Mike Toole, Assistant Prof. Akiko Sugawa-Shimada of Kansai Gaidai University (an honest-to-god Ph.D.!), blogging duo the Reverse Thieves, Anime World Order's Daryl Surat, Patrick Drazen (writer of Anime Explosion: The What? Why? And Wow! Of Japanese Animation), Brian Ruh (formerly of ANN fame), Ani-Gamers' Evan Minto, and that's not even one-fifth of the roster! This is, most likely, the biggest & most ambitious chronicling of anime history in English... EVER! Anyway, each writer takes a year and writes about what made it identifiable: The popular shows, the innovative creators, the notable moments, etc. This has been going on since January, so why wait until now to bring it up? Because my essay is now up, that's why!

When Geoff revealed the idea of this blog, I was on-board as soon as I could send him a message, and there really wasn't any deciding what year I wanted to cover: 2004 was my first choice. Yeah, I could have gone a bit more research-worthy & chosen an earlier year, but I chose 2004 for good reason... In fact, I chose it for numerous reasons.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Kick-Heart: Anime For The (Non-Japanese) People... Really, Really, Weird Anime

If there is one absolute truth it is this: Anime is made for Japanese people. Sure, there are exceptions, but those are because non-Japanese companies are involved. Within the past year, though, that idea has been challenged to an extent. Time of Eve, though made a couple of years ago, used Kickstarter to fund an international home video release of its Movie edit, & even earned enough money to commission at dub done by NYAV Post. Most recently, & still running, is the second episode of Little Witch Academia, which was already going to get made, but is using Kickstarter to add more length to the new episode & already earned more than 2.5x its goal with still slightly over three weeks to go! But everything needs an origin, and for Kickstarted anime that start is Kick-Heart.

On October 1, 2012, anime studio Production I.G. & director Masaaki Yuasa (of Mind Game, Kaiba, & The Tatami Galaxy) announced a Kickstarter program to fully fund a 10-minute anime short about a love-story between two wrestlers, with the legendary Mamoru Oshii acting as a project consultant. It was truly a one-of-a-kind idea: Anime fans funding the creation of an anime, regardless of actual length? It was too good to be true, but over the entire month, the program earned the $150,000 goal in its entirety & even went beyond that, totaling $201,164. With that amount reached, the anime was extended to 12 minutes (the final running time is ~13 minutes), Spanish subtitles would be added to the video release along with English subs, an English dub would be done featuring Richard Epcar (Batou in Ghost in the Shell), & a special "Backer Dub" would be made featuring select backers that could make it to the LA dubbing studio. Well, after some screenings at film festivals earlier this year, Anime Expo a couple of weeks ago, & a short LA theatrical screening this past weekend (they're trying for an Academy Award), the final product has finally become available to everyone who pledged $5 or more via digital download, with those who pledged at least $30 receiving a DVD version a little later (at least $60 for the Blu-Ray). So, now that Kick-Heart is out, was the wait & pledging (I pledged $115, which also gave me a mention on the $100+ Sponsor Credits page) worth it? Or did Masaaki Yuasa do what he does best: Messing with people's minds?