Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Doamygar-D: So Retro It's Tasty

Short anime are a subject that rarely gets discussed by most anime sites, and the reasoning is a simple one: How much can you really write about something that takes longer to write than it takes to watch? This is especially true when the writer has to do a weekly report on the show, hence why places like Anime News Network doesn't even bother to cover short anime for the most part (at least, anything shorter than 10 minutes/episode). Sadly, that has resulted in some very enjoyable series, like My Neighbor Seki/Tonari no Seki-kun, not receiving as much credit as it deserves. The show I want to talk about, however, didn't even receive the luxury that Seki did by getting a simulcast; it didn't even get fansubbed, and it only aired this past season! At the same time, it's not exactly surprising that this show didn't get a translation, because it also doubled as an advertisement for a Japanese locale, Kyoto.

Anime that's made mostly to advertise actual places in Japan is something that's been happening for the past couple of years, and just about none of them ever received any sort of English translation. For example, does anyone remember hearing about Tenpo Suikoden NEO, a 2013 ONA about a girl who gets teleported back to the past & was made to advertise the town of Tonosho in Chiba prefecture? I'd imagine the majority answer would be "No," simply because it was never simulcasted nor fansubbed (now that I've brought it up, however, watch me review this one day, just for the hell of it). In fact, the only anime of this type I can think of that saw an English release of any sort is 2009's Miracle Train, which advertised Tokyo's subway lines via anthropomorphism. This past winter had a short anime run on KBS Kyoto & Television Kanagawa/tvk called Doamygar-D, which was made to help promote Kyoto's sweets industry. What made this show catch some eyes when it announced back in September 2014, however, was the style of the show, as it utilized a completely retro, 70s mech anime-influenced look. Now that it has ended last month, I'm curious about Doamygar even more so. Was this 13-episode series of 2.5 minute shorts hiding more than its purpose indicated, or was it really nothing more than a 30-minute advertisement for an industry in the former capital of Japan? Or, simply put, was this show just as disposable & high in sugar as the sweets it promoted? Let's find out.

Daijirou Kyogyoku is the 15th generational proprietor of the Amasho-do sweets shop in Kyoto. One day, after falling down the steps into the basement, Daijirou finds a hidden door, behind which is a giant hangar housing a mecha named Doamygar-D. At the same time, people start getting turned into giant mecha/kaiju monsters called Mekaiju, and the only way to return them to normal is for Daijirou to prepare & feed them sweets made via Doamygar! While fighting off each successive Mekaiju, however, Daijirou will also find out who's behind the creation of these monsters, learn about the origin of his robot, & take on Mr. Robert, an American sweets magnate who uses his own giant robot to automatize sweets production.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Fantastic Detective Labyrinth: Elementary (Schoolkids), My Dear Watson

Right Stuf introduced the Lucky Penny label in 2012 as a way for the company to license & release anime that they felt didn't quite meet the criteria for the Nozomi label that was introduced in 2007. Right Stuf wanted Nozomi to be more for beloved titles that the company can put out in with things like boxsets, not to mention expect to simply sell more than other titles. In turn, Lucky Penny would be simpler releases for anime that either just wouldn't have enough art assets to warrant boxset production, or simply would have been too risky or niche for even the Nozomi label. While it started slow, the LP label has brought us titles like Ristorante Paradiso, Hyakko, & re-releases of Princess Nine & Ah! My Buddha. At Anime Expo last year, however, "Dark Lord" Shawne Kleckner announced that one of the new LP releases would be for a show that no one, & I mean NO ONE, would have ever expected getting licensed. As someone who loves seeing stuff like this happen, I can't ignore it when the DVD set is now out (plus, I had planned on watching & reviewing this show one day, so might as well do it now).

In 2006, writer Meito Banjo (later revealed to be legendary anime writer Satoru Akahori under a pseudonym) & artist Seiji Wakayama debuted Suteki Tantei/Fantastic Detective Labyrinth in Kodansha's Magazine Special, home of manga like Gacha Gacha, Pastel, & School Rumble Z, & ran until 2008 (totaling eight volumes). A little over a year after the manga debuted, a TV anime adaptation by Studio DEEN started up & ran for 25 episodes. As was the usual thing of the time, it was fully fansubbed in English while it aired in Japan, before becoming outright forgotten almost immediately after it ended. In the years since it never came up in any real conversation & more or less simply became one of those anime that just came & went. That's what made Kleckner's announcement at AX last year such a surprise, but it was the reason why he & his company picked it up that rekindled my interest in checking it out: It was simply a show that he & his people came across recently, found very enjoyable, & felt that it deserved a chance over here. Upon being released, however, reviews more or less put it down, calling it disappointing & lackluster. So was Labyrinth a show that was meant to be buried under the sands of time, or did the reviewers simply miss what Kleckner & his army of minions saw in it? Well I can't quite answer that definitively, but I can at least toss my hat into the ring.

It's been 30 years since a giant earthquake ravaged Tokyo like none before; it was later deemed The Great Fall. Afterwards, a new city called Shinto was made around the outskirts of Tokyo, and when Shinto was made the new capital after most of the populace moved there, the ravaged old capital was renamed Kyuto. Since then, Kyuto has become home to many "phantom cases", crimes that look to have no discernible culprit, motive, or even evidence. The Shinto police force is technically in charge of protecting Kyuto, but don't really care to do their job, except for two detectives: Ryusuke Inogami & Miyako Tomaru. Lately, they've been able to solve some phantom cases by way of a series of mysteriously helpful phone calls by someone who can explain everything. Tracking the phone call leads them to a European-styled mansion in the middle of the forest, and inside they meet Mayuki Hyuga, the 12 year old boy who has been calling them. Turns out Mayuki has a power unknown to him that allows him to locate the "exits of the labyrinths" & solve cases put before him. While helping out the detectives, Mayuki will also try to solve the mystery behind his power & family lineage, especially when a mastermind named Seiju starts challenging Mayuki with mysteries.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Twelve Older Anime That Deserve License Rescues VI: Overkill Part 2

At last you've come... friends. Last time we looked at six (actually six!) anime from various eras of the anime industry here in North America; the early, mid, & late-90s, the early 00s, & even the end of the bubble era. The other six entries in this list are more or less the same in that regard, but that's not what we're here to talk about. We're here to look at anime that would be interesting to see be given new releases after years of being out of print. Do I know what I'm doing, though?

I'm fully aware of what I'm doing. Can't you see! Anyway, enough Goldman parodying & onto the rest of this list.

When it comes to iconic anime characters from the 70s, one of the most well beloved & manly is Captain Harlock, the legendary space captain who leads the giant spaceship Arcadia. What some people might not know, however, is that Leiji Matsumoto actually didn't originally conceive Harlock as a space pirate. Indeed, before appearing in his iconic cape & eyepatch in 1977, the character originally debuted back in 1972 as Franklin Harlock, Jr. in the manga Gun Frontier, a two-volume wild west manga which actually starred Tochiro Oyama, who would also be re-imagined & made iconic in space years later. Instead of space, it instead took place in a land called Gun Frontier, with Harlock being a former sea captain who now travels with Tochiro, taking out all sorts of outlaws & baddies with a mysterious woman. This original manga wouldn't see a sequel until 1999, in the form of a novel, but in 2002 (the 30th Anniversary), a 13-episode TV anime adaptation was made by Vega Entertainment, a small studio that now works in assistance to other studios.

(NOTE: None of this should be confused with the 1990 Taito shoot-em-up of the same name.)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Twelve Older Anime That Deserve License Rescues VI: Overkill Part 1

I'm in the midst of watching the subject of the next anime review (it's another recent Right Stuf release), so in the meantime I'll do something that's essentially become a yearly standard on the blog: A license rescue list. This will be the sixth iteration of the original "12 Anime" list, since the first year featured two of them, so I think it's fair enough to say that I might be going into overkill at this point... Either that or I'm just trying too hard to tie in the fact that I've been playing some of the House of the Dead series lately. Regardless, let's check out another twelve anime (& this time I truly mean twelve!) that were once given releases here in North America in the past & could use a re-release.

Either that, or suffer like G did. The choice is yours, after all.

There's usually at least one title that gets me inspired to make a new rescue list, and for this list it was a 90s OVA based on a shonen manga. I've actually been reading the recent prequel manga to Kei Kusunoki's Onikirimaru, known as The Legend of Onikirimaru over at CrunchyRoll, and I've been enjoying it. I've heard of the original Shonen Sunday series but never checked it out before, especially since Viz only released the first two volumes of the manga (out of a total 20), and the 1994-1995 OVA adaptation has only ever been released on dubbed VHS; Viz used the literal translation of Ogre Slayer. For those unfamiliar with Onikirimaru, it follows the life of a nameless boy who's actually a full-blooded demon but looks like a normal human. He has made it his life's mission to kill every single demon that exists in the world, as his eponymous sword is the only thing that can kill his kind. If the original title is anything like the presently-running prequel (which takes place during Japan's various historical eras, detailing the boy's birth & early days), then the story is more or less episodic, with the focus being more on how each demon affects the life of a human who has dark, demonic thoughts. Personally, I'm fine with that concept, but I can see where others might prefer a more serialized story.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Yakitate!! Japan Part 1: What Does Everybody Want? Bread!

lortnoc ni eno eht ma I

Wow, was the last actual review of an anime back in December for the Reverse Thieves' Secret Santa project? Maybe that would explain the drop in total views I've been having since January; good thing I don't worry about stuff like that. Anyway, this month I will make up for the lack of anime reviews lately, and this specific one is one that I will consider a request, and it comes from a man whose orders I cannot deny.

That is Shawne Kleckner, "Dark Lord" of The Right Stuf International, purveyor of anime goods & occasional anime licensing mogul. While calling this a "request for review" might be pushing it, I'll take any excuse to talk about one of my favorite anime of my early days as a fan... And re-watching it now is reminding me of why it's one of the best comedy/shonen titles of all time. I'll even break my rule of waiting until I've seen it all & instead split this up across three reviews, one as each DVD set comes out, just so that I give this show all the detail I want to give it. Ladies & Gentlemen, these are the first 27 episodes of Yakitate!! Japan, i.e. the Pantasia Rookie Competition Arc.

Takashi Hashiguchi debuted in manga back in 1987, but saw no big success outside of maybe a short 4-koma gag manga based on Street Fighter II in 1993. It wasn't until 1997 that he gained some notoriety with the 11-volume softball manga Wind Mill in Shonen Sunday & the 7-volume yo-yo manga Chosoku Spinner in CoroCoro Comic, the latter of which was also made into a TV anime series by Xebec from 1998-1999; this anime will likely be a future Demo Disc volume all its own (as I've gotten hold of the first 11 episodes). Hashiguchi's greatest success, however, would come in 2002, which is when Yakitate!!/Freshly Baked!! Japan debuted in Weekly Shonen Sunday. A mix of gag manga, cooking manga, & traditional shonen action, Yakitate!! was a great success for the magazine, running until 2007, lasting 26 volumes, & tying with Fullmetal Alchemist for the 49th Shogakukan Manga Award in Shonen, making it Hashiguchi's single longest work to date. Only his later Saijou no Meii/The Best Skilled Surgeon is longer if you combine the 11-volume original & 19-volume The King of Neet sequel, making 30 volumes. In October of 2004 a TV anime adaptation done by Sunrise debuted & ran until March of 2006, lasting 69 episodes... Get your head out of the gutter. While Viz released the entire manga from 2006-2011, the anime would remain unlicensed until Anime Expo last year, when Kleckner announced that the entire show would be released under the Nozomi Entertainment label. The first DVD set came out last month, so what better choice for my very first Right Stuf anime release review than one of my favorite series of all time?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Supernova Goes Pop: A Farewell to Anime Sols

Sadly, I will not be at Anime Boston this weekend due to personal circumstances; maybe next year. Also sadly, this post isn't exactly a happy-go-lucky one because I want to give a proper farewell to a site that I had hoped would have lasted longer & done more with time: Anime Sols.

I covered the launch of Anime Sols back in May of 2013, and this past January I did a month-long overview of most of what the site offered in creator Sam "Quarkboy" Pinansky's attempt to bring old & left-behind anime to North American fans via crowdfunding; read those if you want an overview of what the site did in detail. Anyway, yesterday Pinansky updated the site with news that, after this month, Anime Sols will be no more. On May 1, the site will shut down & all 318 episodes, stretching across 21 different shows, plus the six 24 Hour TV Specials that were offered will be gone from legal streaming, with the exception of Kindaichi Case Files R (which is still over at CrunchyRoll). While most of the series offered were not fully available for streaming, since most of them failed in their DVD set & streaming drives, Anime Sols did still fully offer Magical Angel Creamy Mami, Dear Brother, & Hurricane Polymar for streaming, with the first two even receiving complete DVD releases via the drives. Also, Black Jack TV saw two DVD set successes, and though no more will be made the show was episodic from start to finish, which lessens that blow. While we can go & talk about what the site did "wrong" & what it "could have done instead" to make it work, the fact of the matter is that we will likely never know all of the decrees that Pinansky had when it came to the restrictions the site had, such as why it simply didn't use Kickstarter (or even Indiegogo) or why it was only offered to the U.S. & Canada. I'm not here to play armchair know-it-all, which I never want to be in the first place, but rather I simply want to consider what Anime Sols has done & what, if anything, can come about in the future due to this site.