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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Obscusion B-Side: Fehérlófia: Wait, They WEREN'T Snorting Paprika During Production?!

I conceived The Land of Obscusion to be a place where I can help bring to light titles that have either become forgotten with the passage of time or were never truly given that opportunity in the first place. Though anime & manga was & will still remain the major focus, I wanted to grow & have the potential to showcase more, not just expanding my own personal horizons but also share those new experiences with you, my readers; that is why I introduced Obscusion B-Side with the fourth anniversary post. I am leading with this because this review is as different from anything else I've done on the blog. For the first time, The Land of Obscusion is leaving Japan entirely for a post. Do I still have anybody reading? If so, then maybe you're wondering where I'm going with this, and here's the answer: Hungary.

So why Hungary? Simply put, it's my heritage. My parents both came from Soviet-occupied Hungary, and my lineage is nearly 100% Hungarian. While I am, admittedly, not a completely fluent speaker, though I can hold my own if push comes to shove, I do understand the language due to me being around Hungarian school & culture growing up. In fact, I think being mostly comfortable with the Hungarian language has helped me in getting used to Japanese in some ways. For example, both are languages that are notorious for being hard to learn, both utilize sentence structure that are not familiar to Indo-European languages like English (Japanese due to subject-object-verb structure, Hungarian due to a semi-free form structure based on intonation), & both utilize Eastern order naming (i.e. last name first). In fact, Hungary is the only European country to use that naming style, which makes Hungarian dubs of anime always accurate to Japanese names. In fact, Hungary does have a growing anime & manga fanbase & actually had its own Animax network from 2007-2014. The country does also have its own animation industry, though most of it never leaves the country. The title I'll be reviewing, mainly because last week (March 15, to be exact) was one of two National Days the country celebrates (this one being in honor of the 1848 Revolution against the Habsburg monarchy), is one of those products that hasn't left Hungary but is looked at as one of its finest. Fitting, then, that it's a movie from the man who has been called "The Walt Disney of Hungary".

Fehérlófia/Son of the White Mare, pronounced "Feh-hair-low-fee-uh", was in production from 1979-1981 & is the second film from Marcell Jankovics, whose work people may (unknowingly) be familiar with via a 2008 Super Bowl ad for the GMC Yukon Hybrid, as the ad utilized Jankovics' 1974 short film Sisyphus, which he earned an Oscar nomination for; he also helped work on pre-production for Disney's The Emperor's New GrooveFehérlófia remained mostly known only to Hungarians until 2011, when Jankovics finally finished his animated adaptation of Imre Madách's play The Tragedy of Man after more than 20 years of production; Fehérlófia was apparently given a little new life & recognition at that time. Since it still remains exclusive to its homeland, though, I want to see what exactly the rest of the world is missing out on. Also, I'm sadly a neophyte when it comes to Hungarian media, so I should rectify that, even if only in the smallest of ways.

Long ago, the Forefather of the World & his Queen ruled alongside their three princes, who protected the locks that kept the dragons of the Underworld sealed away. One day, the princes asked their father for wives, which he granted, and they all lived happily ever after... Until the princes died. The princesses, curious about what their husbands protected, did away with the locks & unleashed the dragons onto the world. The dragons removed the power of the Forefather, leaving him helpless, and three of them in particular took the princesses for themselves & went back to the Underworld. In his last efforts, the Forefather impregnated a captured white mare, who gave birth to new children slowly at a time. When the third child was ready the mare escaped, hiding inside the World Tree. This last son, Treeshaker, grows up powerful enough to lift the World Tree from its roots & decides to find his two brothers, Stonecrumbler & Ironkneader, make his way into the Underworld, & rescue the princesses.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Demo Disc Vol. 2: Shotgun Shonen Night

A lot of people become anime fans by way of titles based on manga that ran in magazines aimed at the shonen market, which is more or less the pre-teen to teenage range, though it appeals to older audiences as well, and what's considered acceptable for teens in Japan differs compared to the rest of the world. It's a demographic that allows for a lot of variation, though the most common genre used tends to be action-oriented titles, whether it's the strictly fighting kind or a more adventurous type. This is a demographic & style that has been honed since the earliest days of manga as we know it, though the true innovators tended to appear during the 60s, when anime on TV started becoming a actual thing. So in this volume of Demo Disc we'll be taking a look at four anime based on shonen manga. Two of them were animated back when they were running, one came to animation decades later, & the last spices things up by being from the new millennium. Also, I have a special treat at the end as a bonus, so keep on reading (or skip to the end, because I can't stop you).

The Scarlet Adventurer of the Wind & Clouds
As a fan of Shonen Jump I looked into seeing what the first "Jump Anime" was. What I wound up finding out is that crowning that title comes down to semantics. You see, when Tatsunoko's anime debuted on April 2, 1969, Tatsuya Yoshida's Kurenai/Scarlet Sanshiro was running in Weekly Shonen Jump... But it didn't debut in that magazine. It actually debuted in Weekly Shonen Sunday before moving to Jump (Wikipedia incorrectly states that it first ran in Jump's predecessor, Shonen Book), and that kind of stuff was actually common back in the day; just look at how many magazines Cyborg 009 jumped around in (including a stint Monthly Jump!). Now, technically, Kurenai Sanshiro (also known internationally as Judo Boy) is considered the first Jump Anime according to Wikipedia Japan, but it is hard to consider it a true Jump manga, especially when Wikipedia Japan doesn't even list the series in it's list of all manga the ever ran in Weekly Jump. Still, it debuted first, & since I do Demo Disc entries chronologically, we'll start with it.

Sanshiro is on a mad search for his father on his motorcycle, only to find him in the midst of a battle to the death against a mysterious foe. Sanshiro's father dies in battle, but not without removing his opponent's glass eye. Though the father warns to not go after the man, Sanshiro swears on his father's grave that he'll find the man & avenge not just his father, but also the Scarlet Style martial art they use. With only the glass eye in hand, Sanshiro is told by another man about the Kayomaru, a supposed "ghost ship" which no one returns from. After being told that the Captain wears an eye patch, Sanshiro heads to the Kayomaru, only to find men hoarding tons of gold powder... And they now must kill Sanshiro to keep their secret.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Twelve More Anime I Want to Review... But Can't Part 2

I know that my general readership numbers are pretty low, the posts that make the "Most Read of the Week" sidebar are only hitting anywhere from 40-100 reads/week, but I think that makes it easy to notice when something apparently caught people's interest (at least, that's how I'm taking it). Anyway, Part 1 of this list of anime I would love to review but can't made it to that sidebar in less than 24 hours, which I would say is a notable feat for this micro-name blog; for that I thank you all. Therefore, let's not dawdle around & do nothing... Here's Part 2!

Tobidase! Machine Hiryu
When one thinks of the combination of the anime studio Tatsunoko Pro & the genre of racing, there's one answer that always comes to mind... This isn't that. 1977 was the year of the second Japanese Grand Prix, and anime studios & television stations were going off that potential craze by creating & airing numerous racing anime. The one I'll be focusing on here is Tobidase! Machine Hiryu, a supposedly satirical parody of the genre by the studio that, more or less, created the genre for anime. Directed by Seitaro Hara (Blue Blink, Gatchaman F), the series is about two rival companies deciding to sponsor their own racers in order to see who's better. One, President Gapporin, supports Okkanapichi, the best racer in the sport, while the other, President Misaki, puts his hopes into Riki Kazama, a relative no name. Riki may have the advantage, however, due to his secret weapon, the flying car Machine Hiryu.

Even looking at the image above one can easily see the similarities between Machine Hiryu & that other racing anime. There's the eager lead character, his cute girlfriend, a mechanic friend, & not just an small ape partner but also a dog! If this series is indeed a satire, and the supposed Time Bokan-esque elements would support that, then who better to do such a thing than Tatsunoko, right? It's also a showcase of young talent who would go on to bigger & better things, like character designer Yoshitaka Amano, vehicle designer Kunio Okawara, & a lead character voiced by Tohru Furuya (after the first few episodes were done by Koichi Hashimoto). It may not be one of the best examples in the genre, but at only 21 episodes it certainly wouldn't be a time sink.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Twelve More Anime I Want to Review... But Can't Part 1

Back (way back) in October of 2011 I made a "12 Anime" list that was all about titles that I wanted to review at some point or another, but had no ability to do so. Since then I have actually reviewed four of those entries (Kingdom of Chaos - Born to Kill, Fuma no Kojirou: Seiken Sensou-hen, AWOL -Absent WithOut Leave-, & Hareluya II BØY), and I've also seen some of them become available to where I can actually review them one day (Giant Gorg, GR -Giant Robo-, Machine Robo: Revenge of Chornos, & GaoGaiGar FINAL Grand Glorious Gathering). As for the remaining titles (Engage Planet Kiss Dum [the original TV version], Examurai Sengoku, Get Ride! AM Driver, & Touma Kijin Den ONI), they could all be covered in their own individual Demo Disc posts. Therefore, this entire list is now false & can be covered in full on this blog at some points or another (of course, that would require me to watch something like Machine Robo...). With that in mind, allow me to list yet another twelve anime that I would certainly like to watch & cover on this blog, but am unable to actually do so.

And this time I made sure to specifically choose titles that are either next-to-impossible to actually see at all, or would be way too expensive (or difficult) for me to actually want to import from Japan. If I end up reviewing even one of these titles then I'll be amazed beyond all belief. So let's get started & look at the first six picks.

Gou-Q-Chouji Ikkiman
Sports anime is something that I do think is slowly (very slowly) gaining a fanbase here in North America. People might come in for the pretty boys & girls, but I do think they stay for the actual shows. Still, the genre is mainly focused on adapting actual sports & games, with the most variation being the amount of over-the-top style it may or may not use. Anime based on made up sports are generally rare, though there are some notable ones from the past decade, like IGPX & Basquash!. One that has caught my interest upon hearing of it, though, is a 1986 show called Gou-Q-Chouji Ikkiman, a TV series from Toei that ran for 32 episodes about a team that competes in a fake sport called Battleball. Said spurious sport is more or less baseball but with a futuristic twist, since aliens also play, plus the ability to tackle runners as if some football was mixed in; the "Gou-Q" in the title is a pun meant to represent "goukyu", which is a fastball. The main character is Ikki, a talented Battleball pitcher who's also prone to the occasional slip-up, though his cheerful personality keeps him going strong. Alongside the anime was a 2-volume manga that was drawn by a young Kazuki Takahashi. Yes, the eventual creator of Yu-Gi-Oh! drew this manga, though he used the pen name Kasuo Takahashi at the time.