Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Para - The Parabiotic Guy: Man! He Feels Like a Woman

Sometimes you just learn new words from the strangest places.

Taken from (British definition to be exact)

Yep, never saw that word before I found out about this manga. Comics are educational, after all!

When it comes to seinen manga, Kodansha has the Young Magazine series. Most people know about the Weekly & Monthly productions, but in 1998 Kodansha debuted a third entry, Young Magazine Uppers. Debuting on April 1, 1998, the magazine ran semimonthly & lasted until October 19, 2004, but in that time it featured a few notable titles in its pages, like Garouden, Rose Hip Rose, Seizon ~LIFE~, Hagane, & Basilisk. What I'll be reviewing, however, is one of the manga that debuted alongside the magazine, and it's one that I'm sure almost no one has heard of; even searching in Japanese gives barely any results. Still, it's short, it's funny, & it's absolutely bonkers.

Kazumasa Kiuchi is a manga writer who works with artists to tell his stories, with his most iconic work being Emblem Take 2 alongside artist Jun Watanabe (who would go on to make cult boxing favorite RRR: Rock 'n' Roll Ricky). Emblem is the story of a pathetic yakuza who winds up going back in time to potentially fix all the wrong decisions he's made in life, but is too hopeless to actually change anything. Debuting in 1990, the manga would surprisingly run until 2004, lasting 62 volumes(!) as well as seeing both a live-action movie & a 2-episode OVA (which Justin Sevakis complimented in his Pile of Shame review in 2013). During this time, however, Kiuchi would team with Yutoku Inoue to create a new manga for the debuting Uppers magazine in 1998. Said manga would be Para - The Parabiotic Guy, a 3-volume series that takes the old body swap concept & uses it in a way that's silly, ridiculous, & even a good bit dirty, all while still having an amazing sense of decency to it.

Toshihito Hara is a 22 year old man who works as a carpenter, though he prefers to call himself a "Wandering Yakii" & dreams of becoming "big" one day. A visit by his girlfriend Shizuka at work winds up being interrupted by a bunch of yankiis, but Toshi scares them off with a chainsaw (which acted as his "knife" for a fight). While being held back by his boss, though, Toshi falls backwards & whacks his head on a rock; the doctor tells him he'll recover. That night he asks Shizuka to help him feel better him with a kiss, which winds up becoming full-on sex. After passing out post-climax, Toshi wakes up, but something's wrong... He's inside Shizuka's body! Returning to his body later that night by masturbating as Shizuka, he finds out that he can possess (or would it be parabiose?) people after climaxing, but with one big restriction: He can only possess women that are close by. Turns out this ability will come in handy for Toshihito, though, as he eventually winds up becoming a spy for the CIA (because that's what you do) & gets involved in a terrorist action that leads all the way up to the Araqi Army.

*Yes, the country is named Araq, likely after the Levant vodka... I never said that this was a thinking man's manga.*

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The d-low on d-rights Part 3: Bring it On!

It's the finale of this overview of what d-rights has in its metaphorical vault of (as of this post) unlicensed anime titles, and to end it off we'll be investigating the last six (actually seven, but you'll see) shows left to look at. The cool thing is that, unlike the previous two parts, there isn't any "bonus" entries that vary from the theme of each prior post, ala Night Walker being a CPM title among the unlicensed or the ADV titles mixed in with Media Blasters. Instead, this final part will be all about one company... Both versions of it (kind of).

Bandai Entertainment debuted back in 1998, but wouldn't start using its actual name on its releases until 1999, specifically for its DVD & dubbed VHS releases. For the subbed VHS releases the company instead used the name of its online store, (yes, as you can see, the ".com" was part of the actual name) By 2000 the store was gone, though it would return in 2006 as Bandai's store once again. Only two years later, though, Bandai Ent. merged with Bandai Visual USA, and fused with BV USA's store, keeping the latter's web address. Sadly, in 2012 Bandai Ent. was forced to close down by owner Bandai Namco, leaving behind a legacy that first gave anime fans classics like Cowboy Bebop, Vision of Escaflowne, & the Gundam franchise, among many, many other titles. The ones I'll be bringing up in this part, with the exception of one, were some of the earliest anime Bandai ever licensed & released here in North America, & Media Blasters' John Sirabella once told me that these early releases were all part of a giant package deal that might, one day, "find a good home". Unfortunately, none of them have yet found such a home, so let's see why & calculate if they even have any chance of being adopted.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The d-low on d-rights Part 2: You Better Recognize!

With the never-before-licensed titles out the way, it's time to cover the rest of d-rights' as-of-now unlicensed properties. As I mentioned in Part 1, though, it's pretty amazing that most of this company's titles have actually seen (or will see) release here in North America at one point or another. Therefore, the easiest way to handle this will be to block them together into groups, with Part 2 here focusing on what Media Blasters once released in the past. Also, I'll include the titles ADV once licensed from d-rights, but that's only because it, like CPM, only handled a smattering of titles from this licensor.

So let's see what the anime company equivalent of a cockroach (i.e. it never dies, no matter how much cynics want it to) once had from d-rights...

Gunparade March "Spirits of Samurai"
Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't there a time when this was kind of popular among anime fans? I could be completely wrong about this, but I remember back 11 years ago, when I became a true anime fan, there was generally nothing but praise for 2003's Gunparade March, a 12-episode TV series based on a PlayStation game from 2000. Taking place in an alternate universe where World War II abruptly ended when aliens appeared & started slaughtering mankind, humanity is still fighting against the "Phantom Beasts" 50 years later for the sake of survival, but now battle is done via giant robots called Humanoid Walking Tanks/HWTs. The show focuses on the 5121st Platoon lead by Atsushi Hayami & Mai Shibamura.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The d-low on d-rights Part 1: You're Lookin' at the Real Deal Now!

"Way back when" in January 2011 I did a three-part inspection at some of Enoki Films USA's catalog of anime & what titles would seem interesting to bring over. Not long later, Enoki USA shuttered down & everything reverted back to the Japanese office, but the concept of looking at what titles are with a company has always lingered in the back of my mind. With the news of Discotek licensing a many, many anime within the past couple of months (as they tend to awesomely do) coming out, specifically the news of IRIA: Zeiram the Animation, Earl & Fairy & Shining Tears X Wind, I've been reminded of an old series of posts I did on my old proto-blog on the Mania (formerly forums. With said proto-blog now seemingly gone, I think it's time to give it another go, so let me introduce you all to a Japanese company you just might have heard of.

d-rights is a fully-owned subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corporation that deals with licensing entertainment properties. Though it does work with some live-action productions, the company's forté is animation, and even if you already know of the company you might not understand the extent to which the company is involved in North America. When it comes to children's anime, d-rights is the licensing force behind the myriad of productions in both the Beyblade & B-Daman franchises; not the biggest names out there, but certainly not small fry. It's also involved with other titles like Scan2Go & Beast Saga. Then there's the catalog of other anime the company licenses out, and that's where d-rights' presence on anime fans' shelves may surprise some. Checking out the company's catalog shows that a number of known, presently in print, or still streaming, titles come from d-rights. Nabari, El Cazador de la Bruja, Gun X Sword, Disgaea, Maria Watches Over Us, Bamboo Blade, X TV, Shingu, Boogiepop Phantom, Virus Buster Serge... And that's only what's listed on the company's redone site! Looking back at the company's old site, via the Internet Wayback Machine, shows that d-rights is also why we can buy titles like Princess Nine & The Irresponsible Captain Tylor or watch Reborn! online. Also, alongside the titles Discotek recently picked up, Right Stuf will be releasing the first boxset of Yakitate!! Japan next month, which also comes from d-rights. Now that I've listed every single title that's presently licensed from them, in one way or another, let's look at every other title the company has the rights to license & whether or not they have any chance at getting license rescued (or for the first time, though that's amazingly the minority here). How am I going to calculate those odds? Why via APBL, of course!

What's APBL? It stands for Arbitrary Percentage of Being Licensed, and I just made it up. The APBL is calculated via this formula: (((X1-2) + (X2-2) + (X3-2))/3)*10. What does that mean? Well, I'm going to roll a pair of dice three times, subtract two from each roll so that the result is within 0 to 10, & then average the three results. After that I'll multiply by 10 to make it within 0 to 100. Yes, it's truly arbitrary, and I'm only doing it for the hell of it.  Since I mentioned that non-rescues are actually the exception rather than the rule for d-rights, which is pretty surprising for a licensing company, let's start with those.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Obscusion B-Side: Guilty Gear: Heaven or Hell... Duel 1... Let's Rock!

This past December marked the return of one of my favorite fighting game series of all time: Guilty Gear. The first true fighting game sequel in the series since 2002's Guilty Gear XX (in 2007 there was Guilty Gear 2: Overture, but that wasn't a fighting game & I'm not counting the upgrades), Guilty Gear Xrd is an great game that reminds one of why this series is so awesome, and the use of cel-shaded 3D polygons truly makes it look hand-drawn. With Xrd's release, though, I want to go back & give credit to where it all began, and how it made a unknown development studio into an actual name in the business.

Arc System Works was actually founded back in 1988 by Minoru Kidooka as a simple programming studio that ported games to other consoles. Its debut work was the Sega Master System port of Double Dragon that same year, and "ArcSys" would also be responsible for the Famicom port of Namco's Final Lap as well as the Genesis & Game Gear versions of Rare's Battletoads. They also had some original works for the time, like Code Name: Viper on the NES (published by Capcom), but in these early years the company mostly stuck with licensed properties, making games based on titles like Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger (a.k.a. the original Power Rangers), Banpresto's Compati Hero Series, & Future GPX Cyber Formula (which actually came to the SNES as Cyber Spin). By the time the company hit a decade old, though, something would happen that would change their notoriety, and it was mostly because of one man.

Daisuke Ishiwatari was a young man in his early 20s when he joined Arc System Works, but at that point he already had an idea for a video game. Having also worked shortly with SNK on what would become 1997's The Last Blade, though his involvement in the game wasn't anything influential, Ishiwatari would be given a team of 12 people to make this fighting game he had in mind; he would name the group Team Neo Blood. The game was in development for nearly three years, even switching from a pre-rendered, 2.5D look to traditional 2D sprites, and in May of 1998 the original Guilty Gear was released as an exclusive for a console that wasn't known for handling 2D fighters well, the original PlayStation; it would come to North America later that year via cult favorite publisher Atlus. Being heavily influenced by Shonen Jump manga Bastard!!, Guilty Gear was a stark departure from what Arc System Works normally did, and was the beginning of the studio's future as one of the premier fighting game developers. Still, nearly 17 years later, has this game held up well with time, or has it been outshined, outdone, & outclassed by its successors?