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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2015!! Part 2

Part 1 of this list of my favorite posts from this past year was all about reviews, whether they were part of the main line (i.e. the ones I keep track of numerically so that I know when I'm coming up on a milestone) or Obscusion B-Side (which I haven't kept track of really yet, but maybe I'll try to do something when I come up on something like the 25th one or so, since they aren't done as often). For Part 2, the focus is definitely more split between reviews & my special features. So enough babbling on to use up some space, let's get started with something that I was so sure would never see release here in North America that I reviewed it as soon as possible, only to be shocked about a couple of months ago.

I can't predict the future, okay?!

Doamayger-D (April 28)
I don't say this to sound like I know it all, because I don't, but the one thing I love to have happen when it comes to anime & manga is to be proven wrong. Mainly, I love being proven wrong when it comes to obscure & niche titles actually being brought over to North America. When this short anime first aired this past Winter, I absolutely thought that it would never see any sort of release over here. I mean, come on, a series of two-minute episodes about a giant robot that defeats its foes through the power of making sweets, all done in the veneer of 70s-era limited animation? Who the hell would bring this over if CrunchyRoll wasn't even going to simulcast it? Well, turns out that FUNimation, of all companies, thought it would be worth bringing over. Not only that, but the company decided to "simulcast" it throughout this past Fall, though they oddly replaced the "i" in the name with a "y", which makes it look like it sounds different than it really does; it's similar to how "Bryger" is the apparent proper spelling for what I usually spell out as Ginga Senpuu Braiger.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2015!! Part 1

Another Boxing Day, another first part of my list of my favorite posts from the past year. It may also be the last one, but I'll get to that in a moment. First, however, allow me to bluntly ruminate. I feel that most critics tend to look at the all-time greats as the bar to be matched for something to be worth their time. These may be people who interpret Sturgeon's Law as "90% of everything is crap" as a way to dismiss any & everything they don't care about, even though that interpretation, a.k.a. Sturgeon's Revelation, was originally used by Sturgeon as sarcasm to negate how critics of his time dismissed science fiction as being mostly crap (so he stated that, by that logic, most of everything is crap). But, let's face it, most people will interpret "not everything is the all-time best", which is a better translation of the law, as "90% of everything is crap", so what can you do about it?

I don't follow that concept, so would that mean that I have "lower standards", as I've been told I supposedly have by others? I don't think so, personally, and I think people who use that term are probably trying to put their own tastes & opinions on a special pedestal over others. Seriously, why should you care if people like something that you don't to the point that you're labeling them as having "lower standards"? Couldn't that be interpreted as the other people having standards that are so high that they are so rarely pleased? I understand being snobby & whatnot, because some people are proud about being that, but I just see some of this as being down on others being positive about something you may not be as positive on. If someone enjoys an anime/manga/movie/game/etc that I'm not big on, then so be it. Let that person enjoy it; who am I to judge that person as having "lower standards"? That could just be my own wacky way of seeing it, though. After all, I don't think that 90% of everything is crap... I just think that 90% of everything isn't the greatest ever, which doesn't mean that all of it is crap.

Anyway, to stop feeling down, as for this being the "last" favorite posts list, it's at least the last one in the way it's always been, i.e. a two-part list done every year. Depending on how much I'll be doing next year, I may either reduce the list to only one part or simply make it a biennial (a.k.a. once every two years) thing. With that being said, what did I write this year that I felt was the best, or at least made me happiest the most to write? (It's technically type, but semantics)

Para - The Parabiotic Guy (February 25)
I certainly took my time to get back to writing an actual anime/manga review after covering The Legend of Black Heaven, but I finally returned after two months with a manga that I'm sure 99.999999% of people have never heard of, which made it a perfect thing to review, personally. Still, just because (effectively) no one has ever heard of it doesn't mean that it's automatically a bad product, because Para definitely isn't. It's a pretty silly series with a completely wacko concept, sure, but it is not a bad manga by any means. A perfect example of something that isn't meant to be a "thinking man's manga", Para detailed the journey of Toshihito Hara as he went from "Wandering Yankii" to CIA agent because of his ability to possess nearby women after climaxing that he got after bashing his head against a rock during a random fight.

Yes, that is the actual synopsis of an actual manga that actually exists in this actual world.  I don't think I could make up such a concept if I tried.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Hareluya: *Cue One of the Hundreds of Versions of that Leonard Cohen Song*

"Well I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?"

Luckily, I'm not talking about music here, but Merry Christmas. Love & Peace to all, indeed.

In 1988, a young 22-year old named Haruto Umezawa got his start in the manga industry as an assistant to Tsukasa Hojo during the serialization of City Hunter; Umezawa actually worked alongside fellow assistant Takehiko Inoue during this time. While helping Hojo draw the stories of Ryo Saeba, he did some one-shot manga as well under the pen name Masato Umezawa, even winning the Hop☆Step Award for newcomers with his short Minakata Yuuden/Southern Travel Story (an award later won by the likes of Yasuhiro Kano, Masashi Kishimoto, & Eiichiro Oda). In 1990 he would make his serialized debut with Sakenomi☆Doji, but saw cancellation only 15 weeks later; the manga lasted two volumes.

His eventual success would see its first hints, though, in Weekly Shonen Jump's 1991 Summer Special, which featured a one-shot by Umezawa called Hareluya. The one-shot must have found an audience, because in mid-1992 Umezawa made his re-debut, under his real name, with a serialized version of Hareluya. For a fun fact, one of Umezawa's assistants during this series was a young Nobuhiro Watsuki, a future Hop☆Step Award winner. Unfortunately, though, this series would end after only 10 chapters, receiving a single volume. Still, the seeds had been sown with Hareluya, and less than 10 weeks later Umezawa debuted a retooled version of his canceled manga, Hareluya II BØY, first as a one-shot "Chapter 0" & then shortly after in serialized form. Actually, the manga's proper title is just BØY, with "Hareluya II" being a subtitle (though since it's used before the main title, it isn't technically a subtitle, right?). BØY would end up running in Jump until early 1999, lasting 33 volumes (Umezawa's longest work to date) & becoming one of the last vestiges of the magazine's "Golden Age" (alongside JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Hell Teacher Nube, & Rurouni Kenshin), which had ended in 1996 with the finale of Inoue's Slam Dunk. I have already reviewed BØY to an extent in the past, by way of the 1997 TV anime adaptation, so let's take a look at its immediate precursor. Was there real potential to it that Umezawa simply re-purposed for his reboot, or was it rightfully canceled rather quickly?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Yakitate!! Japan Part 3: What Does Everybody Love? BREAD!!!

ereh ecnerefer gnos emeht wonS lA euC

Previously on the Yakitate!! Japan Review:
"The second boxset for Yakitate!! Japan, covering episodes 28-52, is definitely one that can make or break the show for people... I may be in a minority here, at least when compared to other recent reviews of this set when it came out earlier this year, but I had a ton of fun with the Monaco Cup, and Yakitate!! Japan is still one of my all-time favorite anime comedies."

Hmmm, something feels a bit off... Huh, must be my imagination.

Well, it essentially took me most of the year, but we're finally here: The last 17 episodes of the Yakitate!! Japan anime. At this point the manga was still running, so the anime obviously couldn't finish the same way the manga would one year later. Instead of entering a completely original storyline, however, the staff at Sunrise decided to adapt what they could of the manga's third & final story arc, turning what was called Yakitate!! 25 into the shorter Yakitate!! 9. Considering that the Monaco Cup ended with what was deemed the greatest bread in the history of mankind, where can the story go from there? Not just that, but how well does the anime finish up in these last episodes? It's time to finally see if this anime has survived the ravages of time, or if it's become moldy & stale when all is said and done.

The Monaco Cup has come to an end & St. Pierre's Yuichi Kirisaki was unable to kill off Pantasia. With no option left, he & the vile Yukino Azusagawa decide to more or less merge the companies together, but as a way to determine which bakery is truly the best, & give Pantasia one last chance at survival, Kirisaki offers one last challenge. Instead of a traditional baking competition, Pantasia & St. Pierre will face off in Yakitate!! 9, a TV program where Azuma & his friends will take on various artisans in nine specific towns across Japan, creating competing food that matches with the local environments. While Pantasia is consistently represented by Azuma, Kanmuri, & Kawachi (& is also footing the production bill via the money they won by betting on the Monaco Cup), St. Pierre is bringing in all sorts of outside artisans, whether it's the cooking idol group CMAP/Cooking Meal Assemble People, famous TV celebrities, or even various people that Azuma & Co. have met in the past.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Demo Disc Vol. 4: Accidental Acquisition of Audacious Absurdity

When I conceived of Demo Disc last year, I didn't just want to create it as a way for me to write about anime I couldn't normally cover via a full review by test driving them via an episode or two (or three). I also wanted Demo Disc to be the way I could larger portions of titles that I still wouldn't be able to write proper reviews for. There are plenty of anime series out there that, on the unofficial front, were never fully fansubbed (& are either nigh-impossible to find raws for or aren't worth the effort in my opinion to hunt for), or were never given complete releases here in North America. These would be more in-depth than the single-episode compilations of the usual Demo Disc "volumes", but not complete enough to be full-on reviews. Therefore, I think the best title to introduce this second variant of Demo Disc would have to be one that, for all intents & purposes, we never were meant to even get over here.

Companies outside of Japan that want to release anime obviously have lots of legalese to go through in order to obtain the licenses they want for the shows that they want to release. Sometimes the Japanese licensor will toss in other shows alongside what the company really wants, often called a "package deal", but this here is truly a one-of-a-kind series in the history of the North American anime industry... Because it was licensed by accident. As the story goes, shortly after buying anime software company Software Sculptors in 1995 (which was originally co-founded by John Sirabella, future founder of Media Blasters), Central Park Media was looking for anime to release under its new label. The company looked at what anime studio Ashi Pro (now Production Reed) had in its catalog, and was interested in bringing titles like 1985's Dancougar - Super Bestial Machine God over. What happened next has never truly been explained, & I'm not sure if any one person even knows the complete story, but somehow no one at CPM realized that the contract for licensing Dancougar included another Ashi Pro TV series, 1986-1987's Machine Robo: Revenge of Cronos, based on the Machine Robo line of transforming toys that actually saw release over here as GoBots; in fact, this anime was brought to America in the 80s as Revenge of the GoBots.

Yes, CPM had inadvertently licensed an entire TV anime series, or at least the first 15 episodes of it, & didn't even know that it had happened until the materials for Machine Robo arrived at the office from Japan. Even though the company had absolutely no interest at all in the product, CPM founder John O'Donnell decided that, since they had the materials already, they would still put what they received out, which resulted in VHS tapes being released sub-only in 1997. John Sirabella once told me that he had no care for either Machine Robo or Dancougar & wanted to have nothing to do with them, though he did love the former's opening theme; still, you can find Sirabella's name on some VHS tapes for, at least, Dancougar. After such an odd & confounding circumstance, you'd think CPM would never tough the series again, but you'd be dead wrong. No, from 2003-2004 CPM would actually re-release those episodes of Machine Robo on sub-only DVD singles; in fact, episodes 11-15 were given their very first release, as they were never on VHS. While this re-release would receive (sarcastic) praise from Mike Toole's old site AnimeJump, even getting quoted on the third DVD, former CPM drone (& present Answerman for ANN) Justin Sevakis shared a similar view towards the show as Sirabella, minus any love for the OP.

Hell, even I wasn't really positive towards it when I listed it as an anime I'd love to review but couldn't at the time. Since then the subs from the bootleg DVDs have been ripped & released online, but I'm beyond the point where I want to rely on poorly-done bootleg subs, so in place of a proper review I'll instead make this volume of Demo Disc all about the 15 episodes that CPM put out on DVD. I do wonder if I was being too harsh on the show back in the day, especially since I only saw the first DVD. Was Mike Toole right about "loving it" after seeing it, even if it was actually in an ironic sense, or were Sirabella & Sevakis right in their outright dismissal? Or is it actually worth your time, legitimately? It's time to find out, at least in regards to the first third of the show.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

An Aran Sumishii (5th Anniversary) Post: Burn, Obscusion, Burn

"The Internet" is a massive space, almost a universe upon itself. In some areas the denizens of said universe can communicate with each other, either sharing similar viewpoints or arguing over differing ideologies (and, let's face it, this is putting it very mildly). Still, between those planet-like areas that make up your usual big name sites, forums, message boards, & communities, there's nothing but the void, where many smaller satellites also exist, sending out their signals to anywhere & anyone that may receive them. For many of these places, the proprietors behind them may give up trying to communicate, feeling as though they are doing nothing but broadcasting to nothingness (or maybe they're just yelling at clouds, it's hard to tell at times).

Why do I bring this up on what should normally be a celebratory occasion for me? Because I have some news to share, but first please look at this chart.

I've always been nothing but completely open with my stats, especially my monthly pageviews. If you haven't guessed by now, the chart above is for my monthly pageviews ever since the beginning. The very first month The Land of Obscusion came into existence, December 2010, I had a total of 220 views. Since then my overall view numbers has generally trended upward, and while I truly have never cared for how well, or poorly, my actual numbers were I will admit that the upward trend was always welcome & encouraging to keep on writing. That being said, you may notice something that happened on the far right, something that happened this very year. The blog started its fifth year very strong, with a nice surge of views in December 2014 & the following January. The drop this past February & March was understandable, and I was outright astonished by the sharp increase this April, where I hit 9,826 views. If April 31 was real I may have even hit 10,000 views, which I thought was downright impossible for me to ever hope to reach. Following that, however, I hit a sharp drop which I have yet to even get close to recovering from, with me ranging from 4,700-5,800 monthly views; even at its recent best I can't even hit 6,000 views in a month. Again, the numbers themselves don't matter to me, though they do make me glad that I never tried to monetize this blog. But like how an upward trend helped encourage me to keep pushing & writing, this depreciation & stagnation, not to mention being so close to five digits that I could smell it yet failing, has made me think if it makes any more sense for me to continue operating The Land of Obscusion.

It's not like this year has exactly been encouraging for me when it comes to where I look for inspiration & personal challenge, either. While Justin Sevakis, whose Buried Treasure/Garbage column over at ANN was a big reason for me starting this blog, came back with Pile of Shame in 2013, he put an end to that column in Novermber 2014. Then this past July, Jason Thompson (& Shaenon Garrity) put an end to the House of 1000 Manga column, another big influence, after a five-year run. Following that, Mark Bussler of Classic Game Room, yet another place I looked to often, announced a month or so ago that CGR would be closing down as a full-time/daily product after eight years; Bussler will still do CGR as a hobby, however. I also can't forget Phillip O'Connor's Trap Door column over at Ani-Gamers, which came to an end this year. Paul Chapman still technically does The Vault of Error over at Otaku USA, but it's so irregular now (only three entries this past year!) that it's hard to think of it as ever being a regular column again. For a few years, it looked as if writing about lesser known & forgotten anime/manga (or media in general) had some real appeal & cachet to it, but now it looks to be a mostly dead direction to go in.

So what does this mean for The Land of Obscusion? Is this the end of the blog that's all about the obscure & forgotten? Not quite, but it's a little closer than you think.