Friday, May 30, 2014

Ring ni Kakero Image Album: This is Where Kurumada Gets His "MoJo", Baby!

You can tell I'm running out of Ring ni Kakero-related productions when I'm reviewing something I, years ago, said I would never review; that's essentially why I decided to "retire" RnK after reviewing the manga last year. Still, time goes on & minds can be changed... And when you find out that the legendary Joe Hisaishi did the music then you just have to talk about it.

If you've seen a Studio Ghibli production then you've heard of Joe Hisaishi, but even if you haven't there's still the off-chance you've heard something featuring his music. A student of anime music composer Takeo Watanabe (Mobile Suit Gundam, Cutie Honey, Nobody's Boy - Remi), Mamoru Fujisawa debuted on his own in 1974 with the anime series Hajime Ningen Giatrus, and in 1981 created the alias Joe Hisaishi in honor of the legendary Quincy Jones; Quincy/Kuinshi can also be read as "Hisaishi" & "Joe" is short for Jones. In 1982, shortly after the original manga ended in Shonen Jump, Hisaishi teamed with Nippon Columbia & Shueisha to create an "Image Album" based on Ring ni Kakero that was released on vinyl, making this the very first product based on a Masami Kurumada manga, predating the Saint Seiya anime by four years. There are 12 songs in this Image Album, so let's take a listen to all of them & see if these songs are not only accurate to the characters & ideas of the manga but also if this album could be considered a bit of a "lost" product of Hisaishi.

And, for the fun of it, I made videos putting each song with footage & images from the anime series. Let's see how well they fit...

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

It's Masami Kurumada's 40th Anniversary! How Hot is Your Blood?

Though, technically, the actual anniversary won't be until sometime this September, which is when Sukeban Arashi debuted in Weekly Shonen Jump back in 1974, the man himself has been celebrating it since the end of last year, so why wait any longer? Also, I'm winding down to Review #150 & to counteract the (potential) horror of that title I want to celebrate & review stuff that I like... Which I've already been doing since Champion Joe, but whatever.

When Masami Kurumada celebrates his 40th Anniversary as a manga-ka, he certainly doesn't do it in a simple fashion. For example, this isn't simply a "40th Anniversary"; this is the "Masami Kurumada Hot-Blooded Art of Painting 40th Anniversary"! Also, this isn't a simple celebration, & then nothing, but rather the entire year is seemingly filled with all sorts of Kurumada-related news. The coolest of all, though, is that fact that you can send your thanks & congrats to the man himself!

That's right, Masami Kurumada is taking celebratory messages from fans all over the world! Regardless of what language you speak, though Japanese, English, & either Spanish or Portuguese are the most common ones, you too can congratulate the man himself for being a part of the manga industry for as long as he has. Simply put in a "Handlename" & say what you want! Personally, though, I'd refrain from demanding he get back to Saint Seiya Next Dimension; there are already tons of messages like that & it honestly sounds kind of selfish & non-celebratory. I mean, come on, I think the man knows that people want more of that manga, but at the same time I think he's earned the right to draw whatever he wants.

Now then, here's a sample of what's already happened or been announced in relation to this Anniversary:

Monday, May 26, 2014

Eat-Man '98: It's "Hard" Work Being a "Bolt"-Hungry Mercenary...

In keeping with the return of Eat-Man, here are the covers of the first two volumes of the "Complete Edition" re-release. Every two volumes will combine to create a landscape image, which I think is pretty awesome.

Koichi Mashimo's Eat-Man anime from 1997, while a worthwhile anime on its own, had a big hurdle against it: It wasn't actually an adaptation of Akihito Yoshitomi's original manga. In what is a truly rare instance of complaints from fans actually resulting in something substantial, Studio DEEN & TV Tokyo gave it another go. Essentially, Eat-Man '98, named after the year it aired (obviously, though Jonathan Clements & Helen McCarthy's The Anime Encyclopedia didn't quite get it), was the complete opposite of what came before it: Where '97 was in-name-only, '98 was accurate; '97 aired at the beginning of its year, while '98 aired at the end; and where '97 had a very minor animation budget, '98 was given more to work with... But does that also mean where '97 was really damn good, '98 pales in comparison? Justin Sevakis would certainly argue so, even calling it "putrid" back in 2000, but I would argue otherwise.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Eat-Man: Oh, You Both Have Layers, Oh... You Know, Not Everybody Like Onions

Want to a know an easy way to make me giddy like a schoolgirl? No? Too bad, because I'm going to reveal it anyway:

This image came about this past February in that month's issue of Kodansha's Shonen Sirius magazine, and though they were purposefully coy about what it was about ("Taberu Otoko"... Yeah, really subtle) I was estatic: Akihito Yoshitomi's Eat-Man was coming back. First, starting March 26, chapters of the original manga were added to Nico Nico through Wednesday Sirius. Second, the manga would be given a "Complete Edition"/kanzenban (you know, the really classy re-release type) release that would compile the 19 volumes into 10; the first two books were released this past Friday. Finally, on May 26, Yoshitomi will debut a brand new manga named Eat-Man: The Main Dish. While I have enjoyed Yoshitomi's other works like Ray, some of Blue Drop, and what little I could read of the short-lived Tsurebito, none could top his biggest work. One of my absolute favorite manga of all time, I've mentioned Eat-Man on rare occasion on the blog before, but I've never really gone into much detail about it... I should change that.

Now say "AAH-kihito"....

While I won't be reviewing the manga itself, as I'm hoping the new Complete Edition release might prompt a license rescue (come on, Kodansha USA or Vertical!), I can certainly review the two anime adaptations it received. Debuting in Media Works' now-defunct Monthly Comic Dengeki GAO! (home of titles like +Anima, Those Who Hunt Elves, & Sorcerer Hunters) back in 1996, Eat-Man had to have been a nigh-instant hit because it wasn't even a year old when it received an anime adaptation. Literally, the first volume of the manga came out in December of 1996 & the first episode of the anime aired on January 9, 1997 at 25:45 (which is technically January 10 at 1:45 AM). Not only was this title given one of the shortest manga debut-to-anime debut waits in history but this was actually the second-ever "modern day" late-night anime (a topic I talked about a couple of years ago), also making it an important part of anime history. So, when the anime debuts so quickly after the manga did, how does one handle the adaptation? Well, in this case, it's by making it almost nothing like said original manga... But don't mistake this lack of accuracy for a lack of quality.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Champion Joe 2: Heroes Get Remembered, But Legends Never Die

It could be called "The Dreaded '2'"... Anime that gets a sequel/continuation with the number "2" in the title have generally had a tough battle, especially if it's picking up after a part of the story that's usually considered the absolute high point. Fist of the North Star 2 could never reach the heights that the original TV series did, some don't quite love Genshiken 2 as much as the first season (and that's not including the Second Generation anime), & no one really talks about Strike Witches 2. Still, some anime manage to rise to the occasion & even surpass the first time around. Gunbuster 2 (a.k.a Diebuster) has sometimes been named better than the original, Chihayafuru 2 apparently maintained the high standard that the first show delivered, & City Hunter 2 is generally considered the best of that franchise's TV series adaptations. So, after a near-decade time gap & new anime studio at work but with two of the main names returning, does Ashita no Joe 2 (Champion Joe 2 over at CrunchyRoll) crumble under the weight of the first half's iconic status or does it manage to maintain that quality? Well, I'd argue that this TV series maintains that excellence of execution... In fact, it may even be better.

[SEMI-CAUTION: I'd say that this review includes spoilers from Champion Joe 1... But it's such an iconic spoiler that I'd guess most of you have already heard of it before. Still, uh, spoilers... I guess.]