Monday, November 30, 2015

Bokurano: Wheel of Fatality, Turn Turn Turn, Show Us the Victim Who We Shall Burn

The previous two Mecha Month celebrations began with reviews of the two halves of the early-90s mech anime Matchless Raijin-Oh, the first entry in the Sunrise/Tomy collaboration known as the Eldoran Series. Therefore, it's only proper to end this year's Mecha Month with the anime adaptation of a manga created specifically due to Raijin-Oh's legacy... And it's time we come back to everyone's favorite corrupter of childhood dreams, Mohiro Kitoh.

One month after finishing up the Narutaru manga in 2003, Kitoh debuted his next major work, this time in Shogakukan's Ikki, a now-defunct magazine that specialized in underground or alternative manga. Simply titled Bokurano/Ours, the manga ran until 2009 & was similar to Narutaru in that it took a popular Japanese creation & turned it upside its head. As mentioned earlier, Kitoh used Raijin-Oh's concept of children having to work together to protect the planet via a giant robot, but instead of making it look cool, exciting, & hopeful, he instead showcased it as depressing, threatening, & (most importantly) fatalistic. In 2007, Gonzo (which was on the last legs of its surge of international popularity at the time) adapted the manga into a 24-episode TV anime, yet it wouldn't see an official release in North America until earlier this year, and even then it was released by niche anime company Discotek Media instead of the "usual" companies like FUNimation or Sentai Filmworks; hell, by the time we got the anime, Viz had already released all of the manga. Therefore, to bring this whole matchless circle to a close, let's examine how the anime adaptation of Bokurano is and see just how much of Raijin-Oh's DNA is indeed to be found.

One summer fifteen children take part in a Nature School program on an island off the coast of Japan. While on the beach they come across a cavern that leads to a secret area filled with computers. While checking the area out, a man returns, revealing that he's a game designer & asks that he be called "Kokopelli". He offers the kids to take part in a test of the game he's making, which is about protecting the Earth from 15 monsters by piloting a giant robot, and all of them agree to do so (except for little Kana, whose brother Jun Ushiro demands she not sign up). That night a giant creature appears near the island, along with a 500 meter giant robot that the kids are all teleported into. Kokopelli is piloting the robot, telling them that he'll take care of the first monster, & everyone realizes that this isn't a simple "game", but instead is a real battle with the existence of the planet at stake. Unfortunately, as enemies appear one at a time, & a new child is determined to be the pilot at random, they all realize the danger about piloting the robot they name Zearth ("The Earth"). Essentially, after defeating the enemy, the child pilot will die, as Zearth runs off of life force. If a pilot refuses to fight or loses the battle, though, then Earth is destroyed.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Obscusion B-Side: Simple 2000 Series Vol. 31: The Earth Defense Force: Do You Like Death? Then Die!

Technically, this game isn't really "mecha"... But it still features giant robots, and it's very creation came from a game about controlling giant robots, so I'm going to count it. Plus, it's the game that birthed one of the absolute greatest video game franchises in history, so how can I not review it, especially when the timing is pretty good? First, though, let's (once again) look at a bit of history.

Video game developer Sandlot was founded back in March of 2001 by former employees of then-not-long-ago defunct Human Entertainment (creators of the Fire Pro Wrestling & Clock Tower series). Namely, the team had worked on 1999's Remote Control Dandy for the PlayStation, and was hoping to continue that game's concept of controlling a giant robot, limb by limb. The studio's debut game was 2002's Gigantic Drive, released in North America as Robot Alchemic Drive (which was also one of the last games released by Enix of America, months before the Square-Enix merger), which was acclaimed for its novel idea of controlling a human who has to find good viewpoints in order to control a giant robot for battle. Japanese gaming company D3 Publisher, intrigued by the engine powering the game, brought Sandlot on board for its very successful Simple Series of budget-priced video games. Sandlot's response, the 31st entry in the series' main PlayStation 2 line, was 2003's The Chikyuu Boueigun/Earth Defense Force, a game whose franchise is now celebrating 12 years of life & next month will see a simultaneous North American release of updated versions of its second & fourth entries by XSEED on the PlayStation Vita & PlayStation 4, respectively. What about the first game, though? Did it provide a proper basis for what would come later, and does it hold up well after more than a decade? Let's find out.

The year is 2017 & we now know that we aren't alone in the universe. Unfortunately, we only know this because we are being attacked the mysterious "Invaders", who have at their disposal giant ants, flying UFOs, giant walking versions of those UFOs, & even hulking behemoths that can breathe fire. The only possible way of surviving is to rely on the Earth Defense Force, EDF for short, who have at their disposal assault rifles, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, grenades, flamethrowers, & shotguns, among other weapons. With some skills, & maybe a little luck, the EDF may be able to save the world.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Twelve Mech Anime Yet to Hit SRW, But Aren't Lost Causes Part 2

Banpresto's Super Robot Wars franchise will likely never truly die out, especially when there are always new mech anime to bring into the fold. In the end, it's that very mix of the old-school with the new generation that makes the franchise so appealing, and even if the original character leads wind up being less than memorable one can always look to the licensed properties for enjoyment. Without a doubt, SRW is a big part of why I've become a fan of mecha & why I have learned so much about various mech anime in general. Making this list is reminding of how little I've played of the franchise for a good while, and one day I'll have to rectify that. In the meantime, however, let's look at another six titles that I think aren't completely hopeless in their chances of making it to mecha Valhalla.

Heroic Age (2007)
Mech anime featuring Hisashi Hirai character designs are no strangers to SRW, what with Gundam Seed being one of the most popular entries of the franchise in Japan, as well as the occasional use of Fafner here & there (with the currently-airing sequel Fafner Exodus obviously making it to the franchise within the next couple of years). Now I could be facetious & list Gin-Iro no Olynssis, as that would fit this specific criteria, but considering how utterly bland & aimless that show was, or at least I didn't like it much, I'm not even sure if Banpresto's staff could make that anime work any better. Therefore, I'm going to go with the only other option, the more well-received & liked mech epic Heroic Age. Detailing the journey the "Iron Tribe" of humanity departs on to find their savior & help bring about peace between the various other Tribes of the universe, Heroic Age was a Greek myth-inspired series that featured a bit of a change to the genre. While still generally considered a "mech anime", the giant beings called Nodos were in fact the transformations of human-sized characters, like the eponymous lead Age. Still, the show (as I've been told) followed a lot of the standards & traditions of mecha, not to mentioned featured actual robots, making it still viable as a choice for SRW.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Twelve Mech Anime Yet to Hit SRW, But Aren't Lost Causes Part 1

Welcome to the fourth annual Mecha Month on The Land of Obscusion! Once again, this month will be nothing but giant robots & the people who pilot them, and for this year I want to bring back a side-focus that was lost the previous year. Therefore, let's talk SRW...

Debuting back in April of 1991 on the Game Boy, the Super Robot Taisen/Wars franchise has become more than simply a crossover of popular mech anime, like Gundam, Mazinger Z, & Getter Robo. Instead, it's also become a bit of a celebration of the genre itself, bringing all sorts of series, both old & new, together in ways that are usually just awesome; in some ways it's even improved on some entries (SRW Z's take on Gundam Seed Destiny, for example). Personally, the coolest thing about this franchise is that it's brought to light so many lesser known mech anime, titles that have generally been forgotten with time. In fact, there have been a few games that specifically relied on lesser-celebrated shows, I've reviewed two/three of them via Compact 3 & GC/XO, & given them their extra 15 minutes of fame. Escaflowne, Betterman, Mechander Robo, God Sigma, the 80s version of Tetsujin 28, Dai Guard, the J9 Series, the Eldoran Series, Acrobunch, Daltanious, & GoLion are just a spatter of the lesser known shows (in Japan) that have been given the Banpresto push, and this year's entries (BX on 3DS & X-Ω on iOS & Android) have seen the SRW debuts of Giant Gorg, Panzer World Galient, Albegas, & freaking Dorvack! It's, quite frankly, amazing at times.

Naturally, though, there is still a metric ton of mech anime that still has not been given such an opportunity, and in some rare cases may never see inclusion. For example, franchise producer Takenobu Terada coyly hinted in a radio interview a few years back that his team couldn't get Mashin Eiyuuden Wataru for SRW Neo on the Wii, as it would have fit the 90s motif perfectly, due to licensing issues (they went with NG Knight Lamune & 40 as a replacement), and it's been stated that Takara Tomy will "never" allow any Brave Series show, outside of GaoGaiGar, from being in SRW for unknown reasons. At the same time, there are plenty of forgotten mech anime, especially from the glut of seemingly random shows that came about during the late-70s & 80s, that will likely never be included because people just don't care about them. I can nigh-guarantee you'll never see the likes of Astroganger, Gowapper 5 Godam, Ginguiser, Baratack, Daikengo, Govarian, or even God Mazinger in an SRW game. Still, there are plenty of series, both forgotten & celebrated, that I think may still see inclusion in this massive franchise one day, & I'm going to list off twelve of them. So enough of me babbling, let's get to the list, where I can continue babbling.