Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2014!! Part 2

With only a couple of days left in 2014, let's see the other half of my list of what I loved doing the most on the blog this year! Are they what you think they are? Wait, you actually thought about this beforehand? No? Okay, good... For a second there I thought at least one of you was crazy.

Or maybe I'm the one who's crazy... Oh, wait, that's already confirmed. Anyway, onto the list.

Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro (October 2)
You know what's a silly thing some people like to do nowadays? Call others "hipsters", simply because "B" doesn't like something "A" does. The most common accusations come from someone not caring for something popular among the general fandom, like being a Sword Art Online "hater", or someone liking something that is more underground or different, like loving the ever living hell out of Flowers of Evil. Overall, though, it's pretty silly of an accusation to make, but at the same time those who are accused are so quick to state they they can't be hipsters, because it's such a nebulous term. Therefore, I shall be the first to embrace the term & state with a full heart that I can be defined a "hispter", because I absolutely enjoyed the "Sumo Asshole" hijinks of Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro, an anime from this year that is still hated upon by nearly everyone else. Or wait, considering that the original manga debuted in the 70s, would that make me a "hippie" instead? Eh, I'll accept that moniker, too.

(Yes, I know the hippie movement was in the 60s... Let me make my dumb jokes.)

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2014!! Part 1

It's Boxing Day once again, so it's time for look back at everything I wrote about in the past year & compile the best of the best... Or at least the ones I liked the most. This year in general was pretty special for me, as I ended up talking about some really excellent titles, as well as iconic franchises. I started off with a giant month of Kochikame (21 episodes worth!), dedicated another month to the glory of JAM Project while also getting autographs from them at Anime Boston (Yoshiki Fukuyama had a rush of nostalgia seeing the Ehrgeiz LD I had him sign), & I even dedicated three months worth of posts solely to Masami Kurumada (who was celebrating his 40th Anniversary this year). I hit Review #150 this year as well, & earlier this month introduced Demo Disc & Obscusion B-Side, but I do feel like I may have left the idea of "obscurity", however. Now, yes, there were some unknown titles covered this year, but looking back while compiling this list, I realized that a number of titles were either infamous or known to some extent. While I'm fine with covering titles like those every now & then, like I did with Karneval, I do feel like next year should mark a return to me covering crap you've barely heard of (if you knew of it at all); "back to basics", in a sense.

Until then, though, let's see what I really loved doing the most from 2014, because that's what this is supposed to be about. N'est-ce pa?

Man, do I love this Japanese DVD cover.

Eat-Man & Eat-Man '98 (May 21 & 26)
Sadly, though Akihito Yoshitomi has returned to his most successful work with Eat-Man : The Main Dish this year, there has been nothing in regards to it on the English front; no simul-publish, no licensing, & not even any scanlating. This is actually a very common thing to happen to continuations/sequels of older works, or even reboots of classic titles, which is a shame. Anyway, to celebrate the return of Bolt Crank I decided to finally sit down & re-watch both of Studio DEEN's anime productions from the late-90s, the first time in about 8-9 years. During that time between viewings I've since read the entire manga, which is one of my all-time favorites, & there was a momentary reminder of my love for this series when Justin Sevakis covered the '97 series in his old Buried Treasure column back in 2008. So how did I feel about both shows the second time around?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Legend of Black Heaven: God Gave Rock & Roll to You, To Defeat Aliens, Put it in the Soul of Everyone

This is a special occasion here on The Land of Obscuion, & not just because it's Christmas Eve. No, this is a special review because this wasn't entirely my idea; in fact, I've been (kind of) requested to cover this anime. See, for the first time ever I a part of a giant Anime Secret Santa that's headed up by blogging duo the Reverse Thieves, with this being the sixth time they've ever done it. The concept is that anyone who writes about anime can send in their name, site, & some sort of list of watched anime (MyAnimeList being the most common), and the Thieves randomly assign each writer to recommend three titles to another writer; obviously, this is all under supreme secrecy. The titles have to be something that the "victim" has never watched in full, is at most 26 episodes long (movies & OVAs are also fair game), & has to seem like something the "victim" will most likely enjoy in some fashion. Each writer has to choose one title from the list each of them receive, watch it, & then review it in time for Christmas Eve; some do choose to cover all three. After all the reviews come out the Thieves then reveal who everyone's Secret Santa was. I've thought about being a part of this fun idea, but never did so until this year, so what titles were on my Secret Santa's request list?

Well, it was certainly a list that involved titles that I had some interest in, or at least became interested in. The first choice was C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control (known only as [C] - Control over here), a 2011 noitaminA series directed by Kenji Nakamura, whose work I covered only a couple of months ago via Ayakashi: Goblin Cat & Mononoke. I saw the first episode back when it aired & was interested, but I decided to not make it my choice for this review; I might cover it at a later date, though. The second choice was Heat Guy J, the 2002-2003 series that gained infamy here in North America for how much Geneon hoped that it would be the next big hit. It did see airtime on MTV2, of all places, but it was only the first half & in a seemingly-random order. That is how I saw the show years back, however, so I decided to not choose that, either; maybe one day I'll watch all of it, as I hear it's even better in the second half. So that leaves the final choice I was given, and it was the perfect one for this blog. I had never seen it before, it was pretty obscure (even though it did see a release over here by Geneon), & I knew very little about it beforehand.

Ladies & Gentlemen... Black Heaven!

Kacho-Oji - HARD ROCK save the SPACE was a 13-episode TV series than ran from July to October of 1999 & was the brainchild of Hiroki Hayashi, the man who created Battle Athletes, El-Hazard, & the original Tenchi Muyo!. Pioneer Entertainment released it in North America during 2000-2001 under the name The Legend of Black Heaven, but when Geneon re-released it as a complete collection in 2005 they put the advertising towards one particular person, character designer Kazuto Nakazawa. By then Nakazawa had directed two short animations that were given tons of critical acclaim outside of Japan: The Origin of O-Ren, "Chapter Three" of Quentin Tarantino's stylish 2003 action movie Kill Bill, & the music video for Linkin Park's 2004 song "Breaking the Habit". With that bit of promotional trivia out of the way, let's see if Jack from Beneath the Tangles did the right thing by recommending this show to me.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Obscusion B-Side: Segata Sanshiro vs. Pepsiman: I'm Holding Out for a Hero 'til the End of the Night!

Advertising is likely much more complicated than I think most people expect it to be. Still, the fruits of all that labor to showcase how awesome someone's product is has given us some truly memorable commercials. Some people might want to forget them, while others love to indulge in the nostalgia. In Japan it's very much the same, but due to cultural differences Japanese commercials can seem different from what we get in North America. Okay, they can be downright bizarre & confusing, but sometimes it's because of that oddness that we end up loving them as well. During the mid-90s two companies had mascots to help advertise their products, and both were not only highly successful but simply downright weird. They were so weird, in fact, that both have loving fanbases to this very day. Therefore, in the vein of what I did last December with Ehrgeiz vs. Ehrgeiz & Colorful vs. Colorful, I will be doing what has never been done before & pitting two of the most iconic Japanese commercial series mascots against each other.

This is Segata Sanshiro vs. Pepsiman!

During the mid-90s Sega of Japan needed something to help promote their 32-bit video game console, the Sega Saturn. Taking inspiration from the 1943 movie Sugata Sanshiro, the debut film of legendary director Akira Kurosawa, SOJ created Segata Sanshiro, a Judo master who actively hunted down anyone who wasn't playing Sega Saturn. In true Japanese commercial fashion, however, instead of simply explaining how awesome games on the Saturn were Segata Sanshiro preferred to simply beat down anybody in view, before commanding them "Sega Saturn, Shiro!/Play Sega Saturn!"; the line was a pun, as it sounded similar to his name (just swap the "ta" & "Sa" around). Seemingly defying all logic, these commercials were an instant hit & helped make the Saturn a massive success in Japan. It also helped that Segata Sanshiro was played by Hiroshi Fujioka, the original Kamen Rider himself & Japanese cultural icon. These commercials ran throughout 1997 & 1998, finishing up when the Dreamcast launched in Japan in November of '98.

Not too long before Sega created their Saturn-loving Judo master, though, PepsiCo did something similar in Japan. To help promote Pepsi in that country, PepsiCo Japan created a mascot of their own: Pepsiman. Designed by Canadian comic artist Travis Charest (Darkstars, Ultimates SagaWildC.A.T.s/X-Men), Pepsiman debuted around 1995/1996 on Japanese television. Much like Segata Sanshiro, Pepsiman's commercials were simple in concept, featuring people who were thirsty & in need of a drink; Pepsiman would arrive just in time to quench their thirst. Unlike Segata Sanshiro, though, Pepsiman was a giant klutz, consistently getting himself in trouble or badly injured shortly after helping those in need. Pepsiman would end up lasting a little longer, however, with his last real appearances in Japanese media happening around 2000 or so; he's supposedly still the official mascot for PepsiCo Japan, but I can't verify that.

Now that the introductions are out of the way, let's finally get this Vs. battle started! The categories we'll be looking at are as follows: Concept & Commercials, Design, Theme Music, Video Games, & Memorability. A nice odd number to make sure that there aren't any ties, right? Well, let's get straight into things, shall we?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Demo Disc Vol. 1: Mecha Magnanimity

Welcome to the pilot post of Demo Disc! For those too young to remember them (at least, I hope I have younger readers...), demo discs were the ways people played demos of video games before the days of digital distribution. Generally, each disc contained a wide selection of demos that covered a multitude a genres, but sometimes a demo disc would be more focused. Similarly, the titles that I'll be covering in each Demo Disc post are ones that I am unable to see in full & properly review, yet still wanted to write about in some way. Taking inspiration from last month's theme, for this pilot I'll be looking at the first episode of four different mech anime, one for each decade from the 70s-00s, plus an extra title that is technically complete but is essentially impossible for me to give an actual review for. With all of this out of the way, let's start this off by going psychedelic & into the 70s!

Don't be shy... Mechander only wants a hug.

The Congistar Corps Invade Japan!
Gasshin Sentai/Combining Machine Squadron Mechander Robo is a fairly obscure mech anime from 1977, but it's not like it was made by a bunch of nobodies. Sure, Wako Pro never really made a name for themselves, Mechander is the closest thing to an "iconic work" for them, but some of the staff was either an established name or would go on to greatness. It had opening & ending themes by Ichiro Mizuki (who was already an iconic singer), mech designs by Kunio Okawara (months before Zambot 3 debuted), music by Michiaki Watanabe (Mazinger franchise, Dangaioh, Godannar), animation direction by Takeshi Honda (Millennium Actress, Dennou Coil), & the lead character was voiced by hot-blood legend Akira Kamiya! So what happened? Well, Bullmark, who were making the toys, went out of business while the show was airing, resulting in the production having barely any money behind it. In the end, Mechander Robo infamously relied on reusing stock footage to such an insane extent that the final episode was literally a recap of the entire show! Still, how was the first episode, before Bullmark's demise screwed it over?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Anniversary# 4: World of Obscusion! Meet Demo Disc & Obscusion B-Side!

In many Asian cultures, the number 4 is equivalent to death. Luckily, The Land of Obscusion has survived its fourth year & today is celebrating it's 4th Anniversary! Woohoo!! This day isn't just special for me, but this entire year had a sense of nostalgic happiness for me. Early this year, February 23 to be exact, was the 10th Anniversary of the very first piece of writing I ever did that was released to the public: A short article I wrote about the Sega Genesis 32X for GameSpot as part of their shortly-lived GameSpotting blog feature; they encouraged fans to send in their own articles as a GuestSpotting entry alongside the editors' pieces. Looking back on it, the piece I wrote, 32X: Short Name, Short Life, Big Fun, is pretty rough & not my best work by any means. But as a 17-year-old senior in high school, seeing my name, & something I made on a literal whim, on a high-profile gaming site like GameSpot, during what I would call the site's "Golden Age", was just surreal & amazing. It truly was the catalyst for where I am now, ten years later.

As always, a gigantic "Thank You!" to every who reads & everyone new who comes across this blog, as the number of visits & page views are still trending upwards. At the end of last year I was surprised to see this blog hit just below 4,000 views in one month, but that ceiling was burst through with the coming of the new year; in fact, I'm now starting to scratch the 7,000 views ceiling! As for the blog itself, this year was the first to feature screenshots for every single review along with the use of italics & quotation marks to look more "professional". I also introduced the "30 Days of Popularity" sidebar, which showcases the most-viewed posts from the past 30 days. Unfortunately, that sidebar has resulted in a very skewed alteration to my most-viewed posts; B't X Neo has never left it since it's introduction, for example. I am thinking of maybe reducing it to "7 Days of Popularity", though I worry it will simply skew things in favor of the newest posts mainly. What do you all think? Should I change it to 7 days, or is 30 days doing just fine?

Anyway, one thing I've thought on occasion was how easy it was to see everything that I've written. Sure, you can look at every post by way of year & month it was "published" on the blog, but what if you want to look for something specific? What if you want to simply see a comprehensive catalog of what's been reviewed here? Well, it's not quite 100% finished as of this post, but I am introducing a new tab that will appear next to the "About" tab that I also introduced earlier this year: The Master List. An alphabetically-organized collection of every review, "12 Anime" list, Theory Musing, & "other" posts that I have ever put on this blog will now be easy to locate & link to in a single page. Like I said, it's technically not finished yet, I still need to link about half of the list, but I'm making it open to the public right now & will finish adding in the links within the next couple of days.

With the blog entering its fifth year, though, I am going to introduce some changes. Nothing that will change the focus or execution of the blog, mind you, but rather changes that I hope will benefit the blog from both a writing perspective & from a personal perspective. Just last week Justin Sevakis wrote his final Pile of Shame article, admitting that he needed "to stop writing about specific anime for a while, because it's a really good way to get burned out." Now I don't feel "burned out" by any means, but I will admit that sometimes I do feel like I need a break from watching anime partially for the sake of reviewing them; I don't want this to feel like a job (especially since I don't get paid to do this). At the same time, though, I do want to keep writing. Therefore, I am introducing two new series of posts to The Land of Obscusion: Demo Disc & Obscusion B-Side!