Friday, May 31, 2013

Fuma no Kojirou: Yagyu Ansatsucho: But I Wasn't Finished Eating Yet....

It's the end of Manga May! I had planned on also reviewing a non-Kurumada manga this month, but the prep for Anime Boston was more extensive than I had planned, so that title will be done at a later date. Anyway, to end this focus on Masami Kurumada manga, let's take a look at a more-recent spin-off that wasn't drawn by him... Yet is the canon sequel to his fourth-most-well-known manga!

The original Fuma no Kojirou manga ended in Weekly Shonen Jump back in 1983, after 10 volumes. In 2002, Akita Shoten's Champion RED magazine debuted Saint Seiya Episode.G, a non-canon prequel, drawn by Megumu Okada (the creator of Shadow Skill), to the original Saint Seiya manga that starred the Gold Saints of Seiya's time. With that title becoming a successful venture, Kurumada decided to return to another title of his, but this time he would be more heavily involved in the story & actually have it be an official continuation; Kurumada only supervised Episode.G, as well as The Lost Canvas. So, in 2003, Champion RED debuted Fuma no Kojirou: Yagyu Ansatsucho/Kojirou of the Fuma: The Yagyu Assasination Pledge, which was written by Kurumada himself but was drawn by Satoshi Yuri, a former assistant. The end result is a bit of a mixed bag, the biggest reason of which isn't even really the title's own fault.

At least four years have passed since the Fuma Rebellion ended. During this time, Hakuo Academy has degraded into a shell of its former self that's run by delinquents, & the Fuma Clan hasn't really recovered. Renya, a member of the Yagyu Clan, is on the hunt for his older sibling Ranko, who brought the Fuma to Hakuo all those years ago, who has disappeared. Renya is also searching for the Fuurin Kazan, the Sacred Sword Ranko gave Kojirou during the battle with the Yasha Clan, as it was originally meant for him to protect. In his search, he finds the remains of the Fuma Clan's home, but all he finds are three ninja: A girl named Komomo & two boys named "Kojirou". Unfortuantely, Renya has no idea that his meeting with the Fuma is part of the plan of Karma, a mysterious group of people who wish to use Himeko Hojo, Hakuo's principal, as a sacrifice to revive their king Indra, so that they can take their revenge on the Yagyu Clan. In order to revive Indra completely, though, they need Komomo, who is the "Shrine Maiden of the Fuma".

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Shiro Obi Taisho: Kurumada Without the Over-the-Top?

I have returned from an extremely enjoyable Anime Boston this past weekend, but my panels were a mixed bag. In terms of execution, all of them went by just fine, but the turnout was definitely mixed. Anime Pilots & Precursors had what I would consider a moderate crowd, & A Visual History of Weekly Shonen Jump started off light but also grew to a moderate turnout. My Masami Kurumada panel, though, was a bust in terms of turnout, with only four people staying throughout it all with maybe another four in total floating in & out. Granted, the panel was at 12:30 AM, but the Kurumada panel is the one I love doing the most, simply because it lets me showcase a creator who I feel deserves more popularity than he gets in North America. Regardless, I'll have a much better time slot for all three panels next week at AnimeNEXT (I'll post more info when the schedule is released), and hopefully the home town advantage will come into play as well. But, in the meantime, let's actually get back to Manga May, right?

Back this past December, I did a short review on Mabudachi Jingi, a really short one-chapter story Masami Kurumada did in 1978. I mentioned that in the book that story was in, which featured the same name, there was also another one-shot from the same year in it: 1979's Shiro Obi Taisho/White Belt General. It's about the same length as Jingi, and likewise it is also pretty simple in execution. Luckily, it's still a fun little short.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Join The Land of Obscusion Live for Anime Boston!

I am slowly making my way through the next review for Manga May, but in the mean time I've been busy... Getting ready for Anime Boston, that is!

For the first time I am going to Anime Boston, and it's for more than simple enjoyment, because I am doing three panels there! That's right, last year I only did one panel, but this year I am expanding, so if you'll be at AB next weekend (May 24-26), then come check out the three panels I am scheduled for:

Anime Pilots & Precursors
[Friday, May 24; 8:15 PM - 9:15 PM, Panel 206]
Remember when I reviewed the Ring ni Kakero 1 Pilot Film? Or how about the 1998 JSAT pilots for Hunter X Hunter, One Piece, & Seikimatsu Leader-den Takeshi!? Or maybe you remember the Saiyuki "Premium" OVA that predated the original TV series? Well, there's a bunch more stuff like that out there and in this panel I'll be covering a portion of that catalog of pilots & "precursors". Presently, I am planning on covering about 6-8 of them, depending on how long each clip I have goes; with pilots & precursors the focus is on some length, so that viewers can fully take in the differences.

A Visual History of Weekly Shonen Jump
[Friday, May 24; 11:30 PM - 12:30 AM, Panel 202]
Did you know that Weekly Shonen Jump magazine turns 45 this year? If not, then come visit this panel, where I showcase a multitude of Jump anime openings from the 60s to today, and hopefully we can see how the magazine has changed & "evolved" throughout all of these decades. This specific panel idea is meant to be reusable since I can use various themes that tie in the different openings, but for Anime Boston this is simply going to be a "quick & dirty" proof-of-concept. There will be some popular shows, some obscure shows, and everything in between!  It should be a ton of shonen fun!

The Burning Blood Animes of Masami Kurumada
[Saturday, May 25; 12:30 AM - 1:30 AM, Panel 309]
That's right: It's the return of my Kurumada panel from last year's AnimeNEXT! The slides have been updated, the info more recent & detailed, & the clips have all been replaced (& shortened)! It may not have the anniversary theme to it that it had last year, but it's the same hot-blooded history of Masami Kurumada's biggest works, only improved. Unfortunately, AB kind of gave me a super-late-night slot for this panel (I'm running alongside the 18+ panels, even though this is all-ages), but hopefully the fact that this panel is using the biggest room of the three I was given, not to mention it's a Saturday panel, will help alleviate that not-so-ideal time slot.

I am putting the finishing touches on my panels, so I hope any of you who will be at AB next weekend will take the time to check out all three panels I'll have ready to go. It should be a great time in The Walking City...

Monday, May 13, 2013

AnimeSols Has Gone Live! Ninja Robot Tobikage a Surprise Offer!

I'm taking a small detour from Manga May for good reason: Sam Pinansky's Anime-Meets-Kickstarter streaming site has gone live!

Sam announced this site a little over a year ago, and back in November the name plus some initial offerings were officially revealed. For those who don't understand what AnimeSols is, here's a basic primer. Anime Sols is teaming with a few anime studios, namely Tatsunoko, Pierrot, & Tezuka Productions to start, and is streaming anime with English subtitles on the eponymous site. Due to licensing restrictions & issues the videos only work for those who live in the United States & Canada. But AnimeSols is more than a simple streaming site...

Here's where the Kickstarter influence comes in. If you enjoy what you're watching, then you can pledge set amounts (starting at $5) to help produce DVD boxsets that, if successful, AnimeSols can then produce & release. To help give an idea of what I'm talking about, $5 & $10 get you nothing more than digital extras, but at the next level, $40 (the "Core" level), you would get a DVD boxset that contains roughly 12-13 episodes of the show you're supporting. If you want to spend more then you can, & that will net you all sorts of extras, like having your name (& a message if you pledge enough) on the DVD release, "Goods Grabbags", and even title-specific things like signed frame art, dinner with the producer, or even Chogokin models. When a set of episodes debuts on the site, fans will have three months to pledge their money for the release, and if enough money is gathered the sets are made & so on. Rinse & repeat for future sets & shows.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Ring ni Kakero 1 (Manga): It All Starts Here...

Masami Kurumada started off his career as an assistant in the early-70s to Ko Inoue for Samurai Giants & (allegedly) his idol Hiroshi Motomiya for Otoko Ippiki Gaki Daisho. In 1974, he debuted as a mangaka with Sukeban Arashi, a comedy about a female delinquent who tries to be like a normal girl of the time; it ended the next year with a little over two volumes worth of content. For his next work, he decided to look to one of his favorite titles for inspiration: Ashita no Joe. He decided to make a title that was an homage to the boxing classic, but along the way he created a title that changed the way shonen manga was handled. He purposefully brought in female readers to a mainly male reader base, whereas before it was more of a side effect, went fantastical in execution while still staying accurate to the sport of boxing, and used already-existing character traits & story ideas in ways that would become the standard for shonen from then on out. In 1977, he debuted Ring ni Kakero.

Ring ni Kakero became a hit for Weekly Shonen Jump unlike any that had come before it; it was Jump's first ever "mega-hit". It brought Jump's readership to over 3 million, which is where it hovers at around now, and it brought in a lot of money for Shueisha. In fact, Kurumada once said that when Shueisha renovated their headquarters & made it larger in the late-70s/early-80s, it was all possible because of Ring ni Kakero's success; he was told that people in the company called the building the "RinKake Building" or the "Kurumada Building". Because of that success, when Kurumada ended the manga in 1981, Shueisha did something that had never been done in Jump yet: The last chapter included full color pages at the start, while the rest was published in partial color. Jump has only had two other "full color final chapters" since then: Dragon Ball's end in 1995 & Slam Dunk's end in 1996. In 2000, Kurumada debuted a sequel, Ring ni Kakero 2, in Super Jump, and to celebrate the return of the series, from 2001-2002 Shueisha re-printed the original manga across 18 volumes under the name Ring ni Kakero 1. Though there were two previous 15-volume re-prints, the "Jump Comics Selection" & bunkoban releases, for this new "RnK1" re-print Kurumada went back to his creation & "fine-tuned" it, making it more concise & focused. But enough back-story, let's get to the review.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

"Manga May": An Overview & Update

After last month's rush of anime reviews, including Review #100, this month will be light on anime due to other priorities. First, my upcoming essay for the Golden Ani-Versary, which is celebrating the 50th anniversary of "traditional" TV anime by covering each & every year from 1963-2012, is slowly getting closer to its due date (which should be sometime in early June, barring anymore delays). I have been watching multiple titles for the year I have chosen to cover, and I want to finish up those viewings without worrying about watching more titles for review here. Second, con season is coming upon us! I'll be at Anime Boston this month (my first AB), AnimeNEXT next month, & a return to Otakon this August, after missing last year. Though I have sent in panel applications for all three cons, only AnimeNEXT has approved me so far (I'm on AB's wait list & Otakon is too far off for confirmation), so I also have panels to finalize, which also takes away time from reviewing anime. Luckily, I have an idea...

If I won't have the time to review anime, then how about manga? That's right, this month will be "Manga May"! (I like crappy alliteration, so sue me) Thankfully, this man right above makes that kind of stuff, so I'll be reviewing mostly manga by Masami Kurumada, but I'll probably squeak in a non-Kurumada manga at the end. Also, I'll be testing something new out this month by reviewing raw manga. I've reviewed raw anime, but admittedly my understanding of vocal Japanese is slightly better than that of written kanji, so hopefully I can still deliver the goods when it comes to raw manga. We'll be starting off this week with the return of a title that you might have thought I was done reviewing: Ring ni Kakero 1! That's right, I'll be reviewing the entire 18-volume, 2001 re-print of RnK1. hey, if there's still no new seasons of the anime, I might as well just get the entire manga out of the way, right?

Once I get more info on my panels for AnimeNEXT I'll update as well. I do hope you guys keep reading this month, because it should be an interesting one.