Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Fantastic Children: Magnificent Excellence Wrapped in Plain Clothes

I've compared The Land of Obscusion before to digging for rare metals & the like. In any sort of mining you get a lot of dirt, the occasional small find (which alone may not be anything special, but when gathered together is worth it), and then you get the big one... The literal "diamond in the rough". Upon first look it's nothing more than large piece of dirt, generic & unassuming, but by breaking apart that outer shell you slowly uncover something valuable. Similarly, I have reviewed many titles that are enjoyable to watch, with a stinker every now & then. But then I see something that astounds me, something that's completely unassuming at first glance and even when you start to watch the first couple of episodes it seems interesting but not anything special... But then you watch more of it. You keep watching more of it & soon enough you realize that what you're watching is something beyond your expectations. In fact, it smashes them & you start wondering how it all falls apart at the end... And then you reach the end & it never implodes. Instead it does everything it set out to do & stays in your memories forever. This is one of those shows.

"Don't Judge a Book By It's Cover", indeed.

The Children of Béfort: Aghi, Soreto, Hesma, Tarlant, Hasmodye, Palza, & Mel. A group of young children, all with white hair & blue eyes, that have been spotted throughout Europe ever since the late 1400s, named after a town in Belgium where they were first seen. They all leave their homes with no word, seem to be looking for someone named Tina, and they all die by the time they hit 12 years old. In the early 1900s, photographer Bob Cooks was able to take a picture of the Children before they died shortly afterwards; there were only five of them, with Palza & Mel missing. It is now the year 2012 (you know, the future) & Thoma, a young boy who lives with his parents on Papin Island, meets Helga & Chitto, two orphans who continually run away from their orphanage in an attempt to find the place Helga always draws, though she doesn't know where the place is. These three will become involved in an adventure that brings together the Children of Béfort, the mysterious Ged Group lead by Professor Gherta Hawksbee, & Detective Cooks, the grandson of Bob Cooks who voluntarily took on the job of finding the Children who ran away from home five years ago.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Yugo the Negotiator 2nd Negotiation: In Russia, Mouse Chase Cat!

When going from the first story arc of the Yugo the Negotiator anime to the second, it becomes immediately apparent that a completely different studio is behind it now. The animation looks better, Yugo (& Kogure) are visibly different, & even the entire feel of the show changes to an extent. Does that make the 2nd Negotiation better, or does the first half still win out by being different? Let's find out...

Yugo is called upon by Andrei Sergeivich Romanovski, the son of Prince Sergei Romanovski, the last ruler of the East Siberian Trade Company before the Russian Revolution of 1917. Andrei has discovered that he has a niece, Nadenka, who he wishes to have emigrated over to Japan so that they can live together. Nadenka also has half of a special ring that Sergei split into two parts and gave to each of his sons, Andrei & Vladimir. The problem is that the Romanovski family, due to Sergei's escaping to Japan after the Revolution, has become a political enemy of Russia, so Nadenka is under constant watch, which complicates the job. Yugo agrees to take on the request, but underneath all of this is the mystery of the two rings, behind which lies the legacy of Sergei Romanovski, which the Russian government wants for themselves, and Yugo has his doubts about Andrei's true intentions as well.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Yugo the Negotiator 1st Negotiaton: Music to Torture to

Much like the previous review I have done, Megazone 23 Part II International, this is another exception to my usual rules regarding reviews. In this case, it's because I technically haven't seen all of the anime yet, but due to the way the show was produced I feel that it is worth breaking the rules, because technically I have seen all of what I am talking about.

A rare ADV release that didn't alter the title splash...

Debuting in 1994, the manga Yugo by Shinji Makari (story) & Shu Akana (art) ran in Kodansha's Afternoon magazine for ten years. The year it ended, a reboot/sequel manga called Yugo ~Koushounin~/Yugo the Negotiator debuted in Evening magazine (where it still runs to this day), and the first two story arcs of the original manga were adapted into a 13-episode TV anime series using the new manga's title. Completely breaking from tradition, though, the anime had two different studios produce each story arc, with the only things staying the same being a couple of seiyuu, the music composer, and producer or two. Because of this, instead of reviewing the entire series at once, I've decided to split up the review into two parts, so technically Yugo is getting two reviews. With that in mind, let's look at the first six episodes, which makes up the 1st Negotiation: Scorching Bonds: Yugo the Negotiator in Pakistan.

Yugo Beppu is a master negotiator, with a near-100% success rate. If there's someone that's been taken hostage, & the captors are willing to negotiate, then Yugo is the person you want. A Mr. Iwase has been taken hostage by Yusuf Ali Mesa, the leader of an anti-government group in Pakistan, and is demanding a ransom for Iwase's freedom. Unfortunately, Ali will only agree to negotiate with a "hero" that has been chosen by Allah and doesn't have anyone following him, so when Iwase's company teams with the Pakistani government to supply a negotiator, who has a mic on him, Ali has no problem killing the negotiator. With nowhere left to go, Iwase's daughter, Mayuko, acts on her own & tries hiring Yugo, hoping he can rescue her father without getting the government involved. Yugo agrees to take on the mission, partially because it reminds him of his first negotiation, which has been his only failure & resulted not only in the death of the hostage, but also the death of Yugo's best friend.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Megazone 23 Part II International: Teaching English to Japan, Name Changes & All!

When it comes to reviews on this blog, I tend to follow two main rules: I don't review it unless I've seen it in full & I usually don't review what has already been covered by people whose writing I highly regard. When it comes to the second rule, I mostly mean that I won't review a title that Justin Sevakis covered via Buried Treasure/Garbage over at ANN (his new series, Pile of Shame, would also count), because I feel that he had already covered anything that I would have said; when it comes to manga the same can be said of Jason Thompson & House of 1000 Manga. Granted, I did review One Pound Gospel, even though it had a BT article, but I really wanted to honor Osamu Dezaki's legacy. This review technically is another example of me breaking this rule, as Justin did cover this title, but at the same time I'm focusing on a specific edited dubbed version of the title that Justin only mentioned in passing. Putting an end to my focus on "Obscure Edited Dubs" is a special take on Megazone 23 Part II!

Released in 1986, Megazone 23 Part II: Himitsu Ku-de-sa-i/Please Give Me Your Secret continued off of the "non-ending" that the original Megazone OVA ended on, putting an end to the story Part I started. In 1987, Victor Entertainment, one of the distributors, asked Harmony Gold to produce an English dub for Part II, supposedly to act as a way to help teach English to Japanese fans. After the colossal failure that was Robotech the Movie's handling of Part I, this dub is essentially a redemption-of-sorts for HG, as it is extremely well-polished and still holds up well to this day, even if it is still an edited dub in some ways.

It's been six months since Johnny Winters (Shogo Yahagi) disappeared after an attempted attack against B.D. resulted in a loss for Johnny, & his abandoning of the Prototype Garland he got his hands on. During that time Eve, the AI that the computer system Bahamuto (Bahamut) used to keep watch over humanity, has disconnected herself from the main system & is acting on her own, continually trying to contact "Operator 7G", a.k.a. Johnny. Johnny, in the mean time, has befriended a motorcycle gang called Trash who are fans of Eve's old music, rather than the pro-war music the military has been using as of late, waiting for the moment to strike back. Also, Sue (Yui) has managed to get into contact with Trash & find Johnny after waiting these long months. It all comes to a head when Johnny hears Eve's message & regains the Garland, which leads to a final confrontation with B.D.'s forces, lead by Lt. Armstrong (Shiratori), and a meeting with Eve that will determine the future of the entire Megazone, which has been invaded by the alien Gorig (Dezalg), at the hands of the mysterious ADAM.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Robotech the Movie: "Now That's a Cannon Movie!"

[Review #100 is dedicated to those who have suffered from the Boston Marathon bombing earlier today. To those who have died, may you rest in peace. To those still alive, don't give in to sorrow; it only gives victory to those who perpetrated this. Keep on fighting & living.]

If I had one of those celebration noisemakers I would use it right now... Because this is Review #100 on The Land of Obscusion! That's right, I have hit triple digits, people! Starting off with Haja Taisei Dangaioh, I have been slowly making my way through anime after anime, game after game, & manga after manga, tallying each one up (remember, the Twinbee & Generation of Chaos "Double Features" each count as two reviews). When I hit my first landmark, Review #50, I felt that I had to make it be about a title so legendarily bad that no one had ever given it a complete review; that wound up being the infamous Gundoh Musashi, and for #100 I wanted something similar. It not only needed to be bad but it also needed to have a great backstory, and if it ended up being so bad that it was disowned by its creator then all the better! What company could house such horror?

To Be This Bad Takes Ages...  To Be This Bad Takes Cannon

Who betta than Cannon? When it comes to being an infamously bad movie production company, nobody's betta! Really, the whole story of The Cannon Group is too big for me to cover. Luckily, there's a documentary in production called Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films!, so I'll keep it short. Cannon Films originally started up in in 1967 and did nothing more than cheap movies so that there wasn't as much money to make back. Come 1979, this idea wasn't working too well, so the company was sold to Isreali cousins Menahem Golan & Yoram Globus, who decided to take advantage of the action B-movie craze that Hollywood was getting into & bought extremely-cheap scripts to put into production. Granted, they ended up with some successful films, like Death Wish II-IV, the Missing in Action movies, Cobra (the Stallone movie, not Space Adventure), & Kickboxer, not to mention "classics" like Masters of the Universe, Cyborg, & Superman IV... But Cannon's legacy ended up being a lack of understanding of how movie making worked & effectively screwing over partners at every possible opportunity. And, yes, they did get involved with anime to a slight extent, teaming with one of the big names in television at the time: Robotech.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Warriors of the Wind: "No Cuts"

Hayao Miyazaki is one of the most respected anime directors in the business, and the title that truly made him a name in the industry, and lead to the creation of the venerable Studio Ghibli, is Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Originally debuting in December 1981 as a manga drawn by Miyazaki, Nausicaä ran irregularly until March 1994 & became a classic in the world of manga. In 1984, Miyazaki was asked to make his manga, which he purposefully made as "impossible to animate", into a movie, which likewise became a classic in the world of anime. In 1985, Manson International licensed the movie for North American release, but felt that the movie was unprofitable in its original form, so they made cuts & altered the story to make it more "family friendly". The end result angered Miyazaki so much that he supposedly put an embargo on his films from ever getting international release until Disney/Buena Vista got the rights in the late-90s, though there were special exceptions, like My Neighbor Totoro. How bad is this dub? Well, the trailer that was made for it certainly doesn't give a great first impression:

Oh boy. This is Warriors of the Wind.

One thousand years ago, giant creatures called "Fire Demons" (Giant Warriors in Nausicaä) destroyed the Earth in what has been called the "Seven Days of Fire", and in the time since then giant toxic jungles have sprouted filled with giant insects, the largest & most dangerous ones called "Gorgons" (Ohmus). In a small place called the Valley of the Wind lives Princess Zandra (Nausicaä), who welcomes her "uncle" Lord Yuppa (Yupa) after his long journey to survey the world. One night, though, a cargo ship from Tolmekula (Tolmekia) crashes into the Valley. Inside is Princess Listelle (Lastelle) from Plecita (Pejite), & the last remaining Fire Demon; all the others became petrified & broke apart. The next day, Tolmekulan forces lead by Queen Selina (Princess Kushana) invade the Valley & take over it, killing Zandra's father in the process. Selina promises that the Fire Demon can burn away the toxic jungles & save the world, and she takes Zandra hostage on her way back home. This is only the beginning of the adventure that will also involve Plecita & it's prince, Milo (Asbel).