Thursday, August 21, 2014

AWOL Compression Re-MIX: Not Quite The Anime Expendables, But I'll Take It

The image you see below is a short prequel manga for AWOL -Absent WithOut Leave- titled Lady Steady Go! (get it?) that was drawn by character designer Isamu Imakake. It tells the story of how main character Jim Hyatt met future team member Rachel Hurst, as she was already with Hyatt when she debuted in the anime. According to production assistance studio Ehrgeiz (who in fact helped out with AWOL and, yes, Next Senki Ehrgeiz), this manga released on April 30, 1999 was only available as a bonus to people who bought all of the anime on home video when it was released in Japan; naturally, it's now intensely rare (I've never seen it for sale online, at least). 

Why do I bring it up? No real reason, honestly, other than to say that I've now covered everything AWOL with this review. Speaking of which, let's recap a little with the subject of Review #150... You know, the anime that's a son of a pitch.

The AWOL that ran on TV Tokyo in late-night from January 7 to April 1 of 1998 can be described in many different ways. Justin Sevakis called it "unwatchable", I called it "lopsided", and its sheer difference in quality between the non-existent pace of the the first half & the more focused second half was a true blue instance of an anime pulling a Dr. Jekly & Mr. Hyde, only in reverse. The end result felt more like a short OVA series that was forced to be turned into a weekly TV series, which is kind of the opposite of what usually happened during the OVA boom (i.e. aborted TV series got turned into OVAs). This TV series really felt like the equivalent of a professional runner doing a false start yet still kept running, simply because that's all this specific runner is good at. Eventually, everyone just lets this runner finish the race that never even got started simply because they feel sorry for him/her; they might even play "Chatiots of Fire" by Vangelis just to make the runner feel special. Japan's only interaction with the original TV version of AWOL would be via the airwaves, because the staff involved knew that no one would buy this show on home video in the form it originally aired in; that didn't stop d-rights from licensing the TV version to, though. What Japan got instead was something called AWOL Compression Re-MIX, which truncated the entire production from twelve 24-minute episodes into four OVAs which were released on VHS & LD from August to December the same year; episodes 1-3 are around 53 minutes long, while episode 4 is around 43 minutes. Taking into consideration the fact that the OP & ED are only used four times instead of twelve, roughly four episodes worth of content was removed to compress everything! Does that make AWOL actually watchable now? Hell, is it as "speedy & powerful" as it's claimed to have been made into?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

AWOL -Absent WithOut Leave-: You Inglorious Bastards, You Read No Book!

It's finally time for Review #150! When I did Gundoh Musashi for #50 I knew it was bad (oh so bad), but I wanted to give it the full, complete review that it never had, and when I did Robotech the Movie for #100 I had heard of how bad it was but I didn't actually know, first hand, how poor the final product ended up. For #150 I'm tackling a series that I have had some minor experience with prior, but I never wanted to spend money to see all of. Due to some circumstances though, specifically its odd release history in both Japan & North America, I broke down & bought all of the VHS tapes needed to see the show in full. I worry I have outright wasted money that could have gone to much better things in life...

"原作/Gensaku (Original Work/Concept): et" is such an enigma to me when it comes to anime, & not just because I have no idea how to actually pronounce it ("ette"? "ee-tee"? Why do I even care?). Who or what is et, exactly? It's nigh impossible to research because of how short & simple a name it is, not to mention you have to ignore all of the results that talk about a certain Steven Spielberg classic. One thing I can confirm about et, though, is this: Only two anime have ever had this credit, and they were made one after another. The first was Next Senki/Record of Next War Ehrgeiz, which was the third review I ever wrote for this blog & is an anime that I still am completely willing to defend and admit that I really enjoy. It's also still one of my ten most viewed posts, with my absurd "battle" between it & the video game of the same name recently making it into the Top 10 as well. The other production to be conceived by et, on the other hand, is just about as super-obscure as Ehrgeiz but has no one to defend it; aside from me, Ehrgeiz at least has a Japanese fansite. Hell, those who live in Japan can at least watch Ehrgeiz online via the Bandai Channel, since it doesn't have a DVD release (VHS & LD only); can't say that about this other et anime. At the same time, though, there aren't any reviews online that actually talk about this anime in detail and explain why it's so bad; most out there either only cover a couple of episodes or are little more than a blurb. Therefore, I will bite the bullet & review the entirety of this series, even if it may rob me of my sanity. I have seen the first two episodes before, so I have some vague idea what I'm going into, but I wonder if even that will be enough to prepare me...

This is AWOL -Absent WithOut Leave-, and may God have mercy on my soul.

The Allied Nations watches over a small system of planets, each of which is involved in the Planet Link Project, or PLP for short, a series of satellites outfitted with lasers to defend the planets from enemies. When the PLP system for the peaceful Cyress shuts down for four seconds, though, a mysterious ship sneaks into the planet & causes mayhem. They steal seven PDB missile carriers for their own use, each one capable of destroying a planet. This terrorist group, calling themselves Solomon, is lead by Duran Gash and has one more surprise for the Allied Nations: Peat Culten, the only man who can control the PLP, has gone AWOL & joined the terrorists. This now means that Solomon not only has the power to destroy multiple planets, but they also can use the AN's PLP against them at any time! Major Jim Hyatt is chosen to lead a small group to bring back Culten, & stop Solomon if possible, and with no options left he is given the go to recruit whoever he chooses for his team, which includes relying on a couple of AAA-grade criminals who are presently incarcerated. Unfortunately, Solomon's defenses seem impenetrable & the government itself has its own ideas for stopping these terrorists, leaving Hyatt & his team in a much trickier conundrum.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

10 Years of Marina del ray: The Top Songs

The reviews are written & released, but I still want to celebrate Masami Kurumada's 40th Anniversary one last time by giving focus & appreciation to a group that has been involved in nearly every single anime based on Kurumada's work for the past 10 years.

Marina del ray isn't a well known Japanese music group by any means, but if you're a fan of Kurumada's works then you've heard at least one of their songs. Supposedly forming back in 1986, the duo of composer/vocalist Hirofumi Kakigawa (a.k.a. Kacky) & guitarist Tatsuo Namikoshi (a.k.a. Tatsuology) didn't make any sort of "major debut" until 2004. Since then the duo has been the de facto songwriters & performers for any Kurumada anime that has been made, the only exception being Saint Seiya Omega. The duo has never released an album, though last year's Dojo Raiden Kurumada-ism #2 album featured almost every MDR song at that time, they have performed alongside other anison legends at the Anime Japan Festival concerts in December 2007 (as a duo) & January 2014 (Kacky on his own). Also, Kacky presently runs MDR SoundProduction (guess what it's named after), a studio that helps produce music for various video games, pachinko & pachislot machines, & albums, most recently Disney Yume no Dream Duet, which has multiple seiyuu perform iconic Disney duets in Japanese. What I want to do, though, is give attention to some of Marina del ray's best songs in the 10 years they've been doing themes for Masami Kurumada's works. Like always, this isn't numbered, but I will save the best for last... But first, an "Honorable Mention".

Friday, August 1, 2014

Saint Seiya Hades Elysion: Never Give Up, Never Surrender!

It would take 19 years after the last episode of the original Saint Seiya TV series aired for the actual ending of the original manga to finally be seen in anime form. The path to this point started off with the beloved Hades Sanctuary from 2003, followed by the mixed reception of Hades Inferno that took from 2005-2007 to finish up. In comparison, Saint Seiya Hades Elysion (Japan goes off of the Greek pronunciation of what is spelled "Elysium" in English) was not just half as long, totaling only six episodes, but also given nowhere near as much hatred by the hardcore fans; maybe they just simply gave up on complaining at that point. Anyway, how does the original manga wrap-up & is this anime adaptation a good take on this finale?

Time is running out for the Bronze Saints. After clashing at Judecca, Hades has retreated to Elysium, a "Utopia" that only the gods can access. He also took Athena with him, trapping her inside a giant amphora that's slowly draining her blood. Aside from the few Specters still alive, the only thing standing in the way of Seiya & the others from reaching Elysium is the Wailing Wall, which required the strength of all 12 Gold Saints just to damage. Even if they can reach Elysium, though, Hades still has the protection of the "Twin Gods": Thanatos, God of Death, & Hypnos, God of Sleep. Truly, the Bronze Saints will have to rely on a miracle if they want to defeat the God of the Underworld & stop the Greatest Eclipse, which will forever block the Sun from the Earth & create a frozen world of death that Hades can rule over.

[NOTE: Obviously, I'll be talking about the last parts of the original Saint Seiya at this point. Abandon All Hope of No Spoilers, Ye Who Enter Here.]