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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?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Koukou Butouden Crows: Hello, Rude Boys, Crazy Boys, & Lonely Boys

When it comes to Japan's "yakii/delinquent" entertainment culture, there's nothing bigger than the world Hiroshi Takahashi created. Though he did some fairly no-name manga in the 1980s, he hit it big in 1990 with Crows, which told the story of the delinquent students in the rough & tough Suzuran High School. Crows ended in 1998 after 26 volumes, and Takahashi kept the series alive with some spin-offs & side-stories until 2002, when debuted a proper sequel called Worst, which is only now ending at 33 volumes. To help show off how foreign the yankii culture is to North America, one only has to look at what we got of Worst. Digital Manga Publishing released the first three volumes in 2004, which didn't require one to know anything of the previous series to enjoy, & the sales were so bad that DMP dropped the series faster than a potato that's on fire. Hell, ANN actually had an entire article back in 2008 solely to explain the appeal of the franchise! Meanwhile in Japan, the franchise, collectively called Crows x Worst, is a national phenomenon comprised of a large amount of manga, three live-action movies directed by Takashi Miike (two Crows Zero prequel movies [the first of which we got via Media Blasters] plus the upcoming Crows Explode movie), a giant line of collectible figures, a few video games (including an ultra-rare beat-em-up for the Sega Saturn that uses a super-deformed look & a recently-announced iOS game), & finally a rare two-episode OVA from 1994 made by Knack, the masters of poorly-made anime... So can you believe that the anime is actually really good?

Harumichi Bouya is the new transfer student coming to Suzuran High School, nicknamed the "School of Crows" because of the jet-black school outfit & the fact that all of the students are hated delinquents. Harumichi quickly becomes friends with Yasuo Yasuda, a small & weak boy who is easily preyed upon by the large Akutsu. Though Harumichi has no interest in the existing gang wars in Suzuran to determine who can lead the school as a unified group, a feat that has never been done in the history of the school, he still gets involved when his beastly power in fighting attracts the attention of Hideto Bandou, who leads a division of a motorcycle gang called The Front of Armament.