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.

What's Blocking Me?: Complete Unavailability
Oddly enough, Tatsunoko Pro has never released Tobidase! Machine Hiryu on home video. Combine that with it's short length & I'm going to hazard a guess that this wasn't a notable success for the studio; it might even be a bit of a bomb for them. Who knows, it could have simply been a casualty in a laser-focused & crowded market at the time, due to the aforementioned Grand Prix, or it simply could have been a failure of a show. Sometimes, the best part of all is finding out why something has become forgotten with time, and I certainly wouldn't mind seeing why this has happened to Machine Hiryu. It's just too bad I likely won't get the chance to do so, barring some sort of surprise home video release after all these years (maybe in 2017 for the 40th Anniversary?).

Mach Go Go Go [1997]
Ah, who am I kidding? We all know why Machine Hiryu likely became forgotten, and that's because it wasn't the iconic Mach Go Go Go, a.k.a. Speed Racer. The previously mentioned show came out ten years after the anime adaptation of studio-founder Tatsuo Yoshida's manga about the young Go Mifune & his multitude of wacky races (ha, I made a pun), so naturally people still had that previous series in their minds. Anyway, 30 years after the original anime came out in Japan, Tatsunoko Pro brought back Mach Go Go Go for a reboot, much like what they had done in the decade with Tekkaman, Gatchaman, Casshan, & Hurricane Polymar. Directed by Hiroshi Sasagawa, the same man who directed the original (with this reboot being his final anime before retirement), the show revamped the old formula with a new look (designed by Masami Suda), new style, & even new names, changing the entire Mifune family to the Hibiki family; the first OP was all new, too, before switching to a cover of the classic original. Unfortunately, while 52 episodes were originally planned, only 34 were produced; I don't know the exact reason why.

Just like the original series, though, this reboot also saw television airing here in North America, though it was very much a blink-&-you'll-miss-it-sort of thing. In 2002 Nickelodeon debuted a new programming block called SLAM!, which literally lasted only a few months. Kind of sad, too, because the block had a solid line-up, including titles like KaBlam! & Invader Zim, and it was obvious that Nickelodeon was trying to be a part of this growing surge of popularity that anime was receiving at the time by airing what fans have ended up calling Speed Racer X. The show was brought over by DiC, but the dub itself was definitely meant to feel more like anime than what DiC had done prior with Sailor Moon in the 90s. Said dub was done by Media Concepts (Noein, Hajime no Ippo/Fighting Spirit), and it featured known anime voice actors like Dave Wittenberg (Speed Racer), Joshua Seth (Sparky), Michelle Ruff (Mom Racer), & Richard Epcar (Racer X). Unfortunately, the dub wouldn't have lasted long even if SLAM! didn't die out quickly, as DiC wound up getting into a long-running legal battle with Speed Racer Enterprises over copyright, so the English dub never went beyond the first 13 episodes.

What's Blocking Me?: Way, Way Too Expensive to Import
Quite honestly, I would consider watching & reviewing the English dub on its own, much like how I covered Dragon Warrior, Warriors of the Wind, etc., but the best quality rips I have ever seen were atrociously bad, so don't count on that ever being done, barring a better quality version being made available. Still, I wouldn't mind seeing the original Japanese version, but there's a problem with that option: It's insanely expensive. The entire show did receive a DVD release back in 2010 via two boxsets (17 episodes each), but those sets are now out-of-print & go for prices in the tens of thousands of yen; the cheapest on Amazon Japan is 30,000¥, or ~$250, and this is only for one set! (the other set is triple the price, too!) Also, while the original '67 series saw a Blu-Ray release in 2012, I highly doubt that the '97 reboot will ever see a re-release in Japan.

I guess you could argue that Anime Sols might give the show a try, especially since Tatsunoko Pro now has full rights to everything Speed Racer after the recent legal battle with Speed Racer Enterprises, but that wouldn't guarantee that the entire show would become available. The same could be said for Machine Hiryu in this case, too. There is also the first episode ripped on YouTube, but that would only make it eligible as part of a multi-title Demo Disc post, which wouldn't be enough to negate it's spot on this list.

[6/2020 UPDATE: It took a while, but I finally was able to review Mach Go Go Go: Restart (as FUNimation calls it) as Review #250, complete with covering both Speed Racer X & the original Speed Racer Y2K English dub pilot!]

Tekken Chinmi
Martial arts fighting is probably the most basic type of action manga there is, so what makes them stand out is by the execution & appeal. The one most anime & manga fans will likely name in this genre right now is Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, but there's one even older that has continually returned to Japanese readers for over 30 years. Takeshi Maekawa's Tekken/Ironfist Chinmi has been a Monthly Shonen Magazine staple since 1983 & follows the eponymous lead as he trains to become a master warrior, learning both hand-to-hand combat as well as how to wield weapons. The original manga ended in 1997 after 35 volumes, only to return a month later with the sequel Shin Tekken Chinmi, which ran until 2004 for another 20 volumes. Then in 2006, Chinmi, now with his own students, started a new adventure in Tekken Chinmi Legends, which is still running to this day, with it's 18th volume coming out later this month. At a current total of 73 volumes, I think it's safe to say that this is likely the authority when it comes to showcasing a boy becoming a man through martial arts. The original manga did see an attempted release by Studio Ironcat (& Bloomsbury in the UK), but never got far (the UK received the first 12 volumes).

Naturally, at some point the manga did receive an anime adaptation, which in this case was a 20-episode TV series in 1988 by Ashi Pro & Toho. This anime saw some international success, where it was renamed Kung Fu Boy (after the name of the opening theme). It was apparently a massive success in Arabic-speaking countries, where it's supposedly one of the most popular anime with the populaces. There may be an English dub as well, but like the Ikkiman dub I mentioned in Part 1, it was likely only for non-American markets like the Phillipines. Obviously, the anime only covers a small portion of the manga, but considering how fragmented the fan-made translations are for the various manga, with the original series having the least done for it, it would be cool to see the anime, as it would likely give a good introduction for something as long-running as Chinmi.

What's Blocking Me?: Complete Unavailability
For the longest time I believed that something like Chou Kousoku Galvion, which never saw a home video release until last year, was a rare thing for TV anime, even back in the 80s. I thought that there was, at least, a rental market that put almost everything that was on TV onto VHS; the 60s & 70s obviously would be less likely due to the times. Now, however, I see that, while not common by any means, TV series in the 80s never seeing any sort of home video release, even for rental purposes, wasn't exactly rare, either. It happened to Ikkiman, it happened to Galvion, it happened to Tekken Chinmi, & it likely happened to a few others, even into the 90s. There are apparently rips out there to be found, but like the Speed Racer X dub, it isn't anywhere near watchable now. Sometimes, long-running manga just get more appreciation & cataloging for their original format, and not for their anime adaptations, and this is the situation for Chinmi.

Now, to be fair, there is apparently a video for rental called Tekken Chinmi Kenpo Daizukan/Encyclopedia, but that seems to be a one-shot production, like a compilation movie. While that could be a potential thing for me to look at, if I really wanted to, it wouldn't be a replacement for the original TV series.

This is cheating somewhat, simply because I actually did an entire "non-review" for this movie back in August of 2011, but it's still worthy of inclusion here. For those who don't want to read that older post, here's the story about this production. Namco debuted Xevious in arcades back in 1982, where it would become a minor classic in terms of games of the era. It was especially popular in Japan, where the backstory was fleshed out in more detail & creator Masanobu Endo even created more stories that took place in the world of the game. For the 20th Anniversary, Namco teamed with Groove Corporation to make a 75-minute movie based on the game that would be done in full-CG. The story behind the movie was that space pilot Takeru, & his super-AI computer Mother, would come across a giant spaceship while on patrol. Inside, our lead would come across a girl named Ru Mi, who would warn Takeru about an invasion of Earth by the vile Gamp, who plan to make the planet their own. Wanting to protect his home planet, Takeru decides to take on the Gamp forces on his own, using his space ship, the Solvalou.

The production staff didn't really have any big names, though some of the cast would be known to some fans, but it was interesting for Xevious to be given this kind of treatment. The movie was fully produced & was included as part of a road show that Groove Corporation was using to showcase their new films. Alongside Xevious was a movie edit of the Six Angels ONA & two compilation films for the Korean/Japanese TV co-production Geisters: Fractions of the Earth. Those who did see the game-based movie, however, didn't have much positive to say about it, with the main complaints being poor CG & a substandard script that resulted in a lackluster story. So, quite honestly, if this movie really isn't all that great then why is it even on this list?

What's Blocking Me?: Retail Release Never Happened as Planned
Here's where the story gets weird. My only source for this is hearsay at this point, but apparently the head of Groove Corporation (or at least someone high up) essentially took all of the money, & the masters for all of the company's productions, & simply ran off. This essentially screwed the company over to the point of death, resulting in the second episode of the Nakoruru OVA they were making never getting finished, as well as the planned home video releases of Xevious & the Geisters compilation movies never happening. Xevious even got as far as having listings over at Amazon Japan, where it would have been released on both VHS & DVD on September 25, 2002. Quite simply, I want to see this movie because it exists & no one is allowed to see it anymore. The only people who had the opportunity to do so were those who went to the road show.

I couldn't care less if the Xevious CG movie is crap... It was finished & shown to the public, but has now seemingly left the face of the Earth, so I want to see it even more.

Kuroi Ame ni Utarete
The late Keiji Nakazawa's Barefoot Gen is still probably the harshest & most sincere look at what the atomic bombings did to Japan, and it was made by a man who wanted to promote peace after suffering something that very few could truly understand... But this was only after years of anger. Indeed, before first detailing what he saw in the one-shot I Saw It, Nakazawa was a man who was filled with hatred towards those who made him & his people suffer. Probably the most infamous of manga to come from this disgusted Nakazawa was Kuroi Ame ni Utarete/Struck by Black Rain, a single-volume title from 1966 about young people who participate in the black market. The main character specifically is a survivor of the atomic bomb who makes it his mission to take out American dealers in the name of true justice. The manga was actually the first one Nakazawa wrote that was about the atomic bombing (the "black rain" referencing what came directly after the explosion), after trying to suppress his anger for the sake of doing manga, & was fully scanlated a couple of years ago; I might review the manga one day. The entry on this list, however, is about the anime movie based on the manga.

Yes, surprisingly enough there was an anime adaptation of Kuroi Ame released in 1984, 18 years after the manga. By this time Madhouse had already released the first Barefoot Gen anime movie & a live-action trilogy were already nearing a decade old, so it's weird that such a hateful manga would be made into an anime movie. That being said, it seems to be a pretty low-budget affair, being produced by Tsuchida, a company that didn't amount to much with anime. Still, the staff behind it has some interesting surprises, like having the music done by New Age pioneer Kitaro (Ninja Scroll TV, the Queen Millennia movie) or having Keiji Nakazawa himself help script the movie. There's a fair chance it will be an awkward production overall, but the only way to find out is to see it, right?

What's Blocking Me?: Too Expensive to Import
Unfortunately, this is another example of me being only willing to spend so much when it comes to importing. It was released on DVD in Japan back in 2005, but the prices it goes for now are pretty high, with a good condition copy running at least 4,750¥, with better copies going for even more. If you haven't guessed by now, none of the entries in this entire list can be found digitally through "other means", either. This is a pretty cut & dry case of something just being out of my price range when it comes to importing. Who knows, maybe I'll read the manga first, and if that keeps my interest enough then maybe I'd consider paying extra, but the manga would have to really make me curious about it.

[12/2020 ADDENDUM: As part of a trio of articles in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the end of World War II, in this case the aftermath of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima & Nagasaki, I wrote about the Kuroi Ame ni Utarete movie in an article about the original manga one-shot & its fellow Black Series productions.]

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood
At one point I had considered reviewing the first TV anime adaptation of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, as it had only been fansubbed & I felt more people needed to know about. A year or two later the second half of the Stardust Crusaders TV series is simulcasting on CrunchyRoll & Viz' hardcover release of the first volume of the entire manga debuts at #1 on the New York Times' Best-Selling Manga list... Either I did the right thing by hoping that people would realize how great JoJo is or I missed out on an insane opportunity to be ahead of the curve; the world will never know. Anyway, the original TV series, which adapted the first two parts of JoJo, was made the celebrate to 25th Anniversary of the manga's debut in Weekly Shonen Jump back in 1987. The announcement of such a production was a shock in & of itself, though, since a production was made five years prior that went down in bizarre infamy & for the time looked to have killed any chance of JoJo ever being animated again.

In 2007, the 20th Anniversary of the manga, Studio A.P.P.P. released to theaters JoJo's BIzarre Adventure: Phantom Blood, a feature-length adaptation of the first part of JoJo. It was heavily promoted, featured notable seiyuu like Hikaru Midorikawa (Dio Brando), Katsuyuki Konishi (Johnathan Joestar), & Rikiya Koyama (Will A. Zeppeli), had an utterly fitting ending theme done by SOUL'd OUT, was released not long after a PS2 game based on the story arc came out, & even featured some returning staff from A.P.P.P.'s prior JoJo Part 3 OVAs. Notably, Marco D'Ambrosio was back for the music, with help from Skywalker Sound once again, while the character designs & animation direction were handled by Junichi Hayama for the third time; this movie also marked Hayama's first (& only) time in the overall director's chair. This was going to be the triumphant return of JoJo to anime after the 2000 series of Part 3 OVAs were looked at with less love than the original 1993 episodes, with maybe more productions coming from it.
So what in The World happened?

What's Blocking Me?: Hirohiko Araki Denied it a Home Video Release
While I can't say how it did financially, this movie bombed reception-wise in the worst way possible. First off, the Phantom Blood story, while the shortest story in JoJo, was just too long to properly adapt in a single feature. Reviews & fans who actually got to see the movie repeatedly complained of how much was simply removed, especially the change made to secondary character Robert E. O. Speedwagon. In the manga, Speedwagon became Johnathan's ever-reliable friend after fighting him, one who was willing to follow him in his battle against Dio, no matter how useless he really was. As the manga ran on, Speedwagon's very corporation would be a common ally for any & all JoJo leads. The movie, in turn, apparently turned Speedwagon into nothing more than a one-time enemy, if even simply removing him entirely; having never seen the movie I can't verify which one is true. Still, a movie being a poor adaptation isn't anything new, except when it angers a certain person...

While the movie did see a theatrical release, creator Hirohiko Araki, allegedly disgusted over the final product, outright banned Studio A.P.P.P. & distributor The Klockworx Co. from ever releasing JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood onto home video. Yes, after the theatrical release ended this film went into the vault, never to be seen by human eyes ever again. Even with the massive success of David Production's TV adaptations, I don't think we'll ever see the Phantom Blood movie on home video. Hell, David Pro even made three feature-length compilation movies for the first TV series (one for Phantom Blood, two for Battle Tendency), essentially making A.P.P.P.'s production more or less a moot point.

Still, as a fan of JoJo, I would love to see this movie. I want to see with my own eyes where it succeeded & where it failed. I want to see how Midorikawa & Konishi delivered their takes on Dio & Johnathan, respectively, in comparison to the performances everyone now knows from Takehito Koyasu & Kazuyuki Okitsu (I know I can simply play the PS2 game, but still...). I simply want to fully understand why Araki hated this movie so much that he demanded that it never be allowed to be seen by the larger public (it's likely it will never be licensed, either). This is similar to the Xevious movie in that it exists, yet I will never be able to experience for myself.

*At least, I'll never get to experience it in the way it was meant to be seen...*

[12/2020 ADDENDUM: I had hesitated to count this for years, but I guess I should at least mention that the 16-minute Music-&-Effects only unfinished footage of JoJo: Phantom Blood's movie adaptation was covered here as part of Volume 2 of Demo Disc.]
That brings an end to this list of anime I would love to review, but due to various reasons may never get the opportunity to actually do. Unlike the first list from 2011, however, I really doubt that I'll ever truly be able to fulfill most (if any) of this list, and while that annoys me to an extent I'm also okay with that. I understand that it's impossible to ever see it all, and the fact that I can't rely on these twelve anime just means that I need to rely on other titles to take their potential spots on the blog. What will replace them? Well, you'll just have to keep checking back, I guess.

Tobidase! Machine Hiryu © Tatsunoko Pro・Toei
Mach Go Go Go [1997] © Tatsunoko Production・TV Tokyo
Tekken Chinmi © Takeshi Maekawa · Kodansha/Toho · Ashi Productions
Xevious © 2002 Namco Ltd.
Kuroi Ame ni Utarete © Gen Production
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood © Hirohiko Araki/Shueisha・JoJo Phantom Blood Production Committee


  1. Someone has uploaded the first episode of Mach Go Go Go '97 if that helps.

    1. Yeah, I mentioned it ever so briefly in the last sentence of my bit of the show. While it would fit inside a Demo Disc post involving other shows (I'm thinking of doing a sports-themed one sooner or later), that wouldn't count as a review or even any sort of comprehensive covering of the title, so on the list it stays.

  2. Lucky for you, Hokuto Smart Ass has managed to upload the entirety of the Tekken Chinmi anime on Nyaa. While lacking subs, it's an important first step that he did.


  3. Tobidase! Machine Hiryuu raws are now available: