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Friday, March 29, 2013

Dragon Warrior: A 90s TV Dub That's (Mostly) Uncut?!

Akira Toriyama is probably the most well known mangaka in the world, with only the "God of Manga" Osamu Tezuka besting him. Ask just about anyone what the first Toriyama anime North America ever got & they'll all say Dragon Ball Z... But they would be wrong. Back in 1989, Harmony Gold tried bringing the original Dragon Ball anime to North America with altered names (like "Goku" becoming "Zero"), but after being test marketed it never actually aired. Still, the first Toriyama anime to ever come over to North America is an incomplete dub done by the well-versed Saban Entertainment, Toriyama-related only by original character designs... I think you know where I'm going with this.

The Dragon Quest series of RPGs is one of the biggest video game franchises in Japan, so popular that an actual law was enacted in Japan that requires all DQ games to launch on Sunday so that businesses don't suffer from a lack of productivity. In North America, the series was renamed Dragon Warrior due to trademark issues & enjoyed some slight popularity, no doubt helped by the fact that early subscriptions to Nintendo Power came with a free copy of the original game. From 1989-1991, a TV anime based loosely on DQ III called Dragon Quest: Yuusha Abel Densetsu/Legend of the Hero Abel aired in Japan, lasting 43 episodes. In 1990, while the show was still airing in Japan, Saban brought the anime over to North American broadcasting, simply calling it Dragon Warrior. Due to unfortunate circumstances Saban's dub only lasted 13 episodes, which is sad because it's actually a very well done English dub, even doing things that are considered highly taboo today.

Long ago there was a kingdom called Estark, which was filled with evil & only cared for themselves, resulting in harsh destruction throughout the land by way of a powerful dragon before it was sealed away. Time passed & peace came about, but a demon named Baramos, a descendant of Estark himself, begins to hunt for the red stone that can unseal the dragon. Coincidentally enough, a girl named Tiala is celebrating her fifteenth birthday, and her gift by Yogi, the elder of the village, was the red stone, because she is (unknowingly) the descendant of the people who sealed the dragon once before. Unfortunately, Baramos finds Tiala and kidnaps her in front of her friend Abel, who finds out that he is the legendary hero who carries the blue stone that can seal the dragon. With sword & stone in hand & allies alongside him, Abel goes on a journey to save Tiala, defeat Baramos, & stop the dragon from being resurrected.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Attack of the Supermonsters: Defying Tradition & Expectations

With the Idea Factory anime out of the way, for the time being, at least, I am now at 96 reviews, and to get into the right mindset for Review #100, every review up through it will have a theme to it: Obscure Edited English Dubs. To be exact, these aren't simply dubs that ran on TV all the way through; no, these are dubs that either are (purposefully) incomplete or are downright infamous. To start it all off, let's go with what I had originally planned to be Review #100, but later changed my mind on... And, surprisingly enough, it wasn't as bad as I was expecting it to be.

I like tokusatsu ("toku" for short), that style of production that utilizes explosions, giant areas made of models, and suitmation, a.k.a. a guy in a rubber suit. I liked watching Power Rangers as a kid, I enjoy Kamen Rider nowadays (& have tried getting into Ultraman), and I will always love the likes of Godzilla & Gamera. Usually toku is a live-action thing, but in the late-70s a brave attempt at mixing toku with anime was made: Kyoryu Daisensou/Great Dinosaur War Aizenborg (or "Izenborg" in some cases). Aizenborg was a co-production between Tsuburaya Production (the people behind Ultraman) & Studio DEEN (not Toei, as some places indicate), which featured animated characters interacting with live-action environments & fighting against toku-styled villians (i.e. suitmation & puppetry dinosaurs). Lasting for 39 episodes from 1977-1978, Aizenborg was a modest production with an interesting idea behind it (interesting enough to get mentioned over at the Golden Ani-Versary blog, at least), but it essentially stayed in Japan until 1983, when Associates Entertainment International/AEI brought over the first four episodes in the form of a compilation movie titled (The) Attack of the Supermonsters (at least, I'm guessing it's 1983, because the credits say [sic] MCMLXXXIIL, which would be 1982[50], so I'm guessing the "L" at the end is a typo). Featuring some notable old-school voice actors, this compilation movie may be extremely cheesy but it's also pretty fun watch.

Dinosaurs once ruled the Earth, but died away billions of years ago. Unbeknownst to humans, though, some dinosaurs actually survived and lived under the surface, evolving to the point where they have become psychic & can even breathe fire, laser blasts, & radioactive gas, making them "Supermonsters". Now, under the command of the evil Tyrano (Gottesu in Japanese), the supermonsters decide to attack the surface & destroy the humans, unless they agree to become slaves. In order to stop the supermonsters, Dr. John Carmody (Dr. Torii) has created the Gemini Defense Squad (D Sentai/Squad), made up of brother & sister duo Jim & Gem Starbuck (Zen & Ai Tachibana), Wally Singer (Ippei Kurosawa), & Jerry Fordham (Goro Kambara), who pilot the Gemini Vehicles (Izen Vehicles). If all else fails, though, Jim & Gem are actually augmented humans (cyborgs) who can combine into the powerful Gemini (Aizenborg) for 3.5 minutes, transforming their Gemini Vehicle (Izen I) into a force that can defeat the supermonsters.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Kingdom of Chaos - Born to Kill: The Diamond in the Idea Factory Anime Rough

Finishing up my look at Idea Factory anime, for the time being, is the sole OVA they made that is technically an original creation. It is based on a game, this time being online browser game Kingdom of Chaos: Spectral Force the Universe for PC, but the story & characters are exclusive to this four-episode OVA from 2003-2004. Even among Idea Factory anime, it is pretty obscure, with the OVA's webpage ( being inaccessible now with use of the Wayback Machine. On the fansub front, the first two episodes were subbed, but those fansubs essentially became lost for years... But now those two episodes can be seen over at Veoh, of all places. Unfortunately, the latter two episodes can only be seen if you own the DVDs for them, or have access to the Bandai Channel, but I have since bought all four DVDs, and for good reason. This is another of those anime I've wanted to review but couldn't until now, and it is the very best Idea Factory anime that I have ever seen, i.e. it is legitimately good. This is Kingdom of Chaos - Born to Kill.

On Neverland's Old Continent there is a country called Bjor, which, under the command of its present ruler Fract, is on a warpath across the land. The country has already taken over roughly 75% of the continent, and next on Fract's list is Orthozes, a small country that was able to fend off Bjor when Fract's father first attempt attempted conquest decades ago. In Orthozes, though, is an amnesiac wanderer named Aide who joins the mercenary front in order to protect the country. Alongside Mara, a member of the female Crimson Knight guard, & Dino, a demon who is considered a "killing machine", Aide will find out who is... And why he looks exactly like Fract.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Mars of Destruction: Can "Bad" Be Overrated?

While most of Idea Factory's anime output is based around the IF Neverland franchise, there are a few that are based on other titles. For example, before IF's Otomate brand, home of visual novel series like Hakuoki & Hiiro no Kakera, there was IF Mate, which was made up "adventure" games (i.e. visual novels, but not the bishojo kind) like Steady X Study & the video game adaptations of anime like Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan & REC. In 2005, the last year Idea Factory would release anime, there was a game in the IF Mate label called Hametsu no Mars/Mars of Destruction, an adventure game with a sci-fi influence. Two months after the game came out, it received a 20-minute prologue OVA, and nowadays it is considered one of the absolute worst anime ever made. Hell, it even has the "honor" of being the #1 Worst Rated Anime in the ANN Encyclopedia, beating out the likes of Reign: The Conqueror, the Tekken anime, Psychic Wars, & even SD Gundam Force! Technically, this anime is so infamous for being bad that it's probably too well known to even talk about here, but since I'm on an Idea Factory anime binge I might as well review it myself... And then there's the fact that if there is such a thing as "Overratingly Bad" (a.k.a. it's 'badness' is highly overstated), then this is probably the poster-boy for it.

In the year 2010 (you know, the future), mankind sent its first human-piloted ship to Mars, the Mars Exploratory Vessel, and on its re-entry to Earth the vessel exploded, with parts of the vessel crashing to the planet. A few months later, Tokyo becomes attacked by mysterious beings that are being called "Ancients", and to combat them an organization called AAST (Anti-Unidentified Ancients Special Team) is formed, comprised of experts in fields such as firearms, information retrieval, & hand-to-hand combat. Also within AAST, though, is Takeru Hinata, who has been chosen to use AAST's last-resort: MARS, a special combat suit that Takeru seems to be the only one who can use it without dying. While delivering pieces of the vessel for transport to America, the AAST crew are attacked by a special form of Ancient... Who reveal to them that the Ancients are actually the true Earthlings, and humans are actually the race that came from Mars and invaded the Earth with a deadly virus.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Gakuen Toshi Vara Noir: This is Why Idea Factory Can Be a Piñata...

All right, when it comes to Idea Factory anime so far we've got an average one (Generation of Chaos), a below-average one (GOC Next), & a damn good one (GOC III)... But I know what people want to expect. You guys want to hear about the crap, right? The stuff that helped make Idea Factory a laughing stock to many people, so bad that it might not even be "so bad, it's good". Well, here's one for you: A prime example of Idea Factory's ambition being a little too big for their abilities, or at least their budget, and a title I am willing to break my "Only Titles I Have Seen Everything Of" review policy, at least for the moment.

By the time 2002 came about, the Spectral & Generation of Chaos series were the main force behind the IF Neverland franchise, but Idea Factory decided to expand on the world by introducing characters that can be used later on in the timeline, essentially allowing fans of the franchise to see these characters start out young & inexperienced but grow into true heroes. The result was Gakuen Toshi/School City Vara Noir (subtitled Kingdom of Chaos The Universe), a strategy RPG that was all about the students of the prestigious school Vara Noir, where young boys & girls can learn to potentially become the heroes of the future. Going alongside this RPG was a two episode OVA to help promote the game... And if the second episode is anything like the first, then I hesitate to want to watch it one day.

Myu is a simple girl who lives with her (lecherous) grandfather in the city that surrounds Vara Noir, helping out as a chimney sweep. One day, her grandfather sneaks a message into her sandwich; the message reveals that Vara Noir, normally open only to the best, is welcoming regular folk in for a limited time. Myu takes this opportunity to enroll, mainly with the intent of making friends, but unfortunately she has absolutely no skills in fighting... Which is made all the worse when Lute Crystal, the top student in the school, challenges her to an introductory fight.