Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Jump Super Heroes: Tsuukai!! Comedy Heroes: Not Enough Stars & Exclamation Points, I'd Say

Even though battle manga is the backbone of Weekly Shonen Jump, right behind it in overall importance & popularity is comedy manga. Go Nagai made his debut with the semi-erotic comedy Harenchi Gakuen, one of the very first hit manga Jump ever had, and while battle titles like Ring ni Kakero, Fist of the North Star, Dragon Ball, & One Piece were carrying the magazine on their shoulders, assisting them in keeping Jump a cultural icon were comedies like Dr. Slump, Sexy Commando Gaiden, Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, & Gintama. And that's the theme of this last entry in the Jump Super Heroes Special Collection DVD series: Comedy. Anime comedy can be a tough thing to do, though (and that's all the more evident when you consider the fact that only one of the titles on this DVD has ever been licensed, whereas all the other DVDs had at least two), so does this line-up end the series on a high note, or does the punchline fall flat?

You may boo.

This is the only title that doesn't have eyecatch...  Early-80s, afterall

I Love Strange Faces. Come Forth! Kimen Flash
1982-1987's Highschool! Kimengumi was the sequel to Motoei Shinzawa's original San-nen/Third Year Kimengumi from 1980-1982, but the anime looks to start from the beginning of San-nen. Whereas earlier comedy hit Dokonjo Gaeru was more of a traditional comedy title, Kimengumi went straight for being absolutely weird for its comedy, making it a definite precursor & innovator to the modern gag manga, which arguably started with Sexy Commando Gaiden. The plot focuses on transfer student Yui Kawa, who immediately becomes friends with Chie Uru as well as five boys (Rei Ichido, Go Reietsu, Jin Daima, Dai Monoboshi, & Kiyoshi Shusse), who together call themselves the Kimengumi/Funny Face Club. The Kimengumi essentially love being weird & odd for the sake of making others laugh... But the major focus is that they're all weird.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Jump Super Heroes: Koufun!! Miracle Heroes: Because "Unique Heroes" Would Have Sounded Silly...

When it comes to these Jump Super Heroes DVDs Volume 4 is really the big question mark: What exactly is the theme here? What does "Miracle Heroes" mean? The cover emphasizes the idea of "Unique Characters", but I still don't get what the "miracle" portion of the name is there for. Anyway, this DVD's focus seems to be on Jump anime of the mid-to-late 90s, where Weekly Shonen Jump was exiting its "Golden Age" with the end of Dragon Ball and Slam Dunk & for the magazine to keep going it needed some interesting ideas, which it did to an extent. But before we actually look at the 90s, let's take a detour into the early 80s... For whatever reason.

The Girl!? is an Idol!
Let me start off with this disclaimer: The first episode of Stop!! Hibari-kun! isn't a bad episode. This was the 1981-1983 manga by Hisashi Eguchi (probably now known mostly in alternative manga circles for being the founder of Comic Cue magazine), following the end of his highly successful debut title, the baseball manga Susume!! Pirates. It may not have been as successful as Pirates (Hibari-kun only lasted four volumes, also making this the shortest Jump manga represented in this DVD series), but it did have an interesting concept behind it. The main character, Kosaku Sakamoto, moves to live with the Oozora family (a yakuza family) after the death of his mother; head of the family Ibari Oozora was an old boyfriend of Kosaku's mother. Upon moving Kosaku sees a beautiful girl and falls in love... So imagine his shock & horror when Ibari reveals that the girl, Hibari, is actually Ibari's only son! It's explained that since Hibari grew up with three sisters Hibari simply grew up like a girl and is even registered in school as a girl. Unfortunately, Hibari looks to be smitten with Kosaku, so not only does Kosaku have to handle living with a yakuza family but he also has to keep Hibari at bay.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Jump Super Heroes: Kandou!! Legend Heroes: An Oddysey of Old-School, with Some Catchy Tunes

Volume 3 of the Jump Super Heroes Special Collection DVD series strays away from a genre theme & instead focuses on a timeframe: The 70s & early 80s. While it isn't exactly the most inclusive look at the earliest Jump anime, it is really, really close to being it.

[NOTE: Eyectaches seem to be a less common thing in anime from the early 80s, even less so from the 70s, so only two of the titles on this DVD have eyecatches; every other title is using the title splash]

Pyonkichi is Born & Being a Flat Frog is Heart-Breaking
Dokonjo Gaeru has a very important place in the history of Jump anime. Though it's only the second Jump anime ever made (third if you to count Kurenai Sanshiro, which ran in Jump but didn't debut in it), Gaeru is the first long-running Jump anime. From 1972 to 1974, the show ran for 103 episodes and was the first comedy anime from the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump. One day, Hiroshi tried fighting his "rival" Gorillaimo and fared very badly... So badly, in fact, that he fell on top of a frog that was watching the fight. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on whose perspective you're looking at), instead of dying, the frog ended up being embedded on Hiroshi's shirt (his favorite one, no less), and no amount of washing will clean him off. Calling himself Pyonkichi, the frog "follows" Hiroshi around and "helps" him out with his everyday life, alongside Hiroshi's best friend Goro, his crush Kyoko, & even Gorillaimo, at times. Unfortunately, while Dokonjo Gaeru was a gigantic hit both in manga & anime form (the manga ran from 1970-1976, while the anime returned as Shin Dokonjo Gaeru from 1981-1982 for another 29 episodes), creator Yasumi Yoshizawa never had another hit manga.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Jump Super Heroes: Nekketsu!! Battle Heroes 2: Five Cats (One's a Dog!) & a Clown Enter a Bar...

If there is one thing Shonen Jump (& shonen in general) is known for more than anything else, it's battle manga. Lots of action, drama, blood, & fighting are in the pages of Jump, & that's why it's the only "theme" in this series of DVDs to actually get two releases. Whereas Battle Heroes 1 focused on the biggest names of all time, Battle Heroes 2 focuses on titles that certainly were highly influential & revolutionary, but of the six titles represented on this DVD, only two of them have seen a North American release.

Shining Youth
The inclusion of Ring ni Kakero 1 is an interesting one for the Jump Super Heroes Special Collection DVD series. On the one hand, the original manga from 1977-1981 was unlike a lot of what was being made at the time, & set the groundwork for a lot of the cliches/tropes/ideologies that are now standard in shonen manga, so it's kind of essential that it gets included in a DVD series that covers the history of Jump anime. Also, the inclusion of RnK1 makes Masami Kurumada the only other mangaka, alongside Akira Toriyama, to have more than one representative anime in this DVD series, showing how important his works have been in the history of Jump. On the other hand, Ring ni Kakero 1 wasn't animated until 2004, and therefore it comes from a somewhat different era of anime than most of the titles in these DVDs, the biggest difference being that this is digitally animated whereas everything else is cel-animated. Still, as a fan of RnK1 I am extremely happy to see Shueisha include this title in this DVD series. Anyway, how is the first episode?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Jump Super Heroes: Nekketsu!! Battle Heroes 1: Since When is Dr. Slump a "Battle" Anime?

When it comes to the line-up of each Jump Super Heroes Special Collection release, Volume 1, Nekketsu/Hot-Blood!! Battle Heroes 1, is pretty much the most obvious one to do. Why not start off these releases with some of Jump's biggest titles from its "Golden Age"? Well, those and one odd-ball of a choice.

[NOTE: For the sake of difference, the screens for each show in these DVDs are from the design sheets extras on each DVD, as well as each show's eyecatch.]

The Messenger from Planet Muscle & The Man Who Came From America
Kinnikuman is well-known for being a slapstick wrestling manga where super-powered beings fight each other in battle in the wrestling ring, usually between the forces of good & evil... But you'd never guess that from Episode 1, because when Kinnikuman originally debuted in 1979, it was a gag manga. Yudetamago used their love of superheroes & kaiju, specifically Ultraman, and originally had Kinnikuman be the one superhero that no one wants to have save them. He even had his own "Kinniku Beam" and "Kinniku Flash" attacks, which are maintained in the anime & even mentioned in the opening theme (a catchy song by Akira Kushida). Also of note is Akira Kamiya, who pulls in an entertaining Kinnikuman, switching between comical & serious multiple times in the blink of an eye.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

An Introduction to the Jump Super Heroes Special Collection DVD Series

With the Astro Kyudan PS2 game out of the way, let's get into the "main attraction" of Jump January: I cover 30 different Jump anime! But there's a twist to this coverage, and I think it's only fair to first explain how this all came about.

Many manga are sold in convenience stores, but anime, especially older titles, can be hard to get for a good price, let alone find in those same stores. Shueisha, though, had a neat idea in 2011: Why not sell specifically-marketed DVDs in those same stores, next to the manga? The company's first attempt at this was on August 5, and it was a double pack of the two Dragon Ball Z TV specials, 1990's Bardock, The Father of Goku & 1993's The History of Trunks. While these two specials had been released on DVD as parts of Dragon Ball Z sets, they've never received a DVD release of their own in Japan until this release; amazing how we've had them separately for years, right? Needless to say, this "Special Collection DVD", priced at an amazingly cheap 1,000 Yen, became a big seller for Shueisha... And now it commands prices of 9,500-18,000 Yen on Amazon Japan! With a success like that, Shueisha decided to expand on this idea of DVD release, this time delving into the very past of Shonen Jump.

Starting on May 25, 2012, Shueisha started releasing the "Jump Super Heroes Special Collection DVD", where each release compiled the first episodes of six different Jump anime, each for the low price of 1,200 Yen. Though some of the video advertisements mentioned a Volume 6, this was always planned to be five DVDs, making a total of 30 different anime based on the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump. Naturally, each DVD had a theme to it:

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Astro Kyudan: Kessen! Victory Kyudan-hen: One Game, Full Throttle Indeed!

Happy New Year, everyone! Welcome to 2013 in the Land of Obscusion, and we're going to go into this month with a strong & plentiful focus on titles based on manga from the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump. This is "Jump January", and one could say that the motto of this month comes from the insanity of Astro Kyudan (a.k.a. Team Astro): One Game, Full Throttle ("Isshiai Kanzen Nenshou" in Japanese). Though the focus of Jump January will be on a specific series of releases, what better way to ring in the new year & start this month off than to review another product of those crazy Astro Supermen?

When it comes to Astro Kyudan, there isn't that much out there in terms of multimedia. Sure, there's the original manga, which you can get in its original 20-volume release from the 70s, its 12-volume "Special Edition" release from the early-90s, or its (appropriately) insane 5-volume Ohta Publishing release from 1999, but outside of that there really isn't much else. In 1992, the now-defunct Group TAC (Touch, Captain Tsubasa, Night on the Galactic Railroad) was planning to make an anime adaptation, but a lack of support from TV stations due to a lack of baseball anime since 1990, plus a slowly-dwindling OVA industry, kept that from happening. Ohta Publishing would later release TAC's original proposal & "steel cel prototype" in the 1999 book Astro Kyudan Memorial. Finally, in 2005, there was the live-action adaptation that I did review, and in 2007 a pachislot machine based on the manga was released by JPS. But what I'm going to talk about is the title's sole video game entry, which was also released in 2005. This isn't Astro Kyudan's first video game appearance, though, since it was represented in the 1988 RPG Famicom Jump: Hero Retsuden for the Nintendo Famicom, where Kyuichi Uno was a recruitable character.