Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2016!! Part 2

The internet is an ever-changing environment, especially when stuff like copyright & what can be enforced in which circumstances is taken into consideration. YouTube, for example, is becoming a bit of a hotbed of copyright claims by companies who feel that they are not being given their proper credit (& profit) from the use of their content in things like video reviews & the like. That being said, though, using copyrighted content for criticism & commentary (a.k.a. a review of even simple discussion) is & should be protected under Fair Use; still doesn't stop companies from trying to monetize others' usage of their content, though.

Why do I bring this up here? Because, as of this post, one of my reviews on this blog has recently been forced into draft mode (i.e. you guys can't read it right now) because of a DMCA claim that Blogger (i.e. Google) is trying to enforce. What's shocking (aside from the fact that my review may not even apply to the complaint itself) is that said review only features still images of the anime I reviewed, not video, which I have not seen any complaints about before; in fact, I didn't even start using stills (outside of title splashes & cover art) until a few years in. Obviously, I have put in my counter-claims regarding this, because what I do here is obviously within the definition of "criticism & commentary", but I feel that people should understand that, now, it looks like not even still images are safe in the eyes of some people or companies. Will I continue to use images in my reviews? Yes, because I think I have every right to do so for a review.

With that out of the way, let's get to the rest of my favorite posts of 2016. Thank you for your patience.

"Honorable Mention"
Demo Disc Vol. 7: Badd Banned Broadcasts (October 6)
Nothing against the Spring volume of Demo Disc, where I looked at some more mech anime (there's still enough for that to return again, too!), but the Fall volume definitely deserves a mention, at the very least. Whether it was from Gundam, BerserkMr. Osomatsu, or even Pokémon, looking at the episodes/chapters that are "banned" to various extents was a lot of fun... Except for the Porygon episode, as doing that one did give me a slight headache.

Ai no Jidai/Indigo Period -Ichigo Ichie- (February 29)
As always, I try to include one or two reviews of a manga that was done by Masami Kurumada, and this year brought about two titles that had a shared relation. To celebrate his 40th Anniversary in the manga industry, Masami Kurumada did some cool things, most of which did not involve Saint Seiya. First, he brought Otoko Zaka back from its ~30 year hiatus, & so far has made another three volumes worth of content (maybe next year I'll review them to stay up-to-date [depends on how Volume 6 ends]). Second, he teased a return for Raimei no Zaji by making a short "special chapter" that followed off of where that manga stopped back in 1988, so I reviewed that manga in March. Finally, Kurumada ended the celebration with a brand new, one volume short manga, & as soon as I could I read & reviewed the compiled tankouban of Ai no Jidai -Ichigo Ichie-, or Indigo Period -Once in a Lifetime-.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2016!! Part 1

Happy Boxing Day & Happy Kwanzaa!!

Once again, it's the day after Christmas, and that means only one thing here at The Land of Obscusion: Waxing nostalgic on what I wrote during this past year! Granted, it seems like nostalgia-mining has truly become an industry all its own, with so many things having been or will soon receive a reboot/sequel/prequel/midquel/etc., but considering how crazy 2016 was I honestly can't fault people for wanting to look back & "member the good old days". What will 2017 bring all of us around the world? None of us have any idea, & that scares most people (I can't blame them, either), but until the time comes for us to sing "Auld Lang Syne" & reluctantly welcome in the new year, join me in trying to select just "twelve" of my favorite posts from 2016... Because it's honestly damn hard to do that.

Seriously, this whole "part-time" status I put myself into wound up with me writing so many pieces & posts that I enjoyed that, for the first time ever, I have to include some "honorable mentions", which I'll split up across both parts. So, without further ado, here we go...

"Honorable Mention"
Matchless Raijin-Oh OVAs (November 9)
Since the two reviews covering the TV series both made their respective years' lists, I can't ignore the OVAs. They may not be quite as good as what came before, minus the second OVA, but it felt great to close the book on Matchless Raijin-Oh, & I'm so glad to have finally seen it all.

A Newcomer's Guide to Saint Seiya (November 30)
Being a fan of Masami Kurumada, it's no surprise that I am also a fan of his worldwide sensation, Saint Seiya. That's why I wanted to do something special for the 30th Anniversary this year, but I couldn't quite decide on what to do. I had considered reviewing the manga, but I'm still hesitant to do so because I regard Jason Thompson's House of 1000 Manga article from 2010 as the best write-up for that manga; sure, I could just make a review, but I still feel that I need something more to it. I had also considered watching DiC's Knights of the Zodiac adaptation of the TV anime, but getting all seven of the DVDs that ADV released back in the day is no easy task, as some have become quite expensive, & there has yet to be any sort of complete rip of those DVDs online to rely on instead (not that I'd expect anyone to ever want to do that, either). Therefore, when I was coming up at the end of November I knew that it was now or never to celebrate the 30th Anniversary on the actual year it's meant to happen on (take that, Toei's planned triple-feature of productions for 2017!). Therefore, I took the path that was easy in concept but I felt was important in execution: A guide for newcomers to rely on.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Demo Disc Vol. 8: Crash's Colossal Calamity & Catastrophe

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Life Day? Anyway, Happy Holidays, everyone!

In the last single series volume of Demo Disc we looked at Get Ride! AMDriver, the one anime that Illumitoon Entertainment licensed but never released on home video. This time, though, let's do the inverse by looking at the only thing that another company ever managed to get out, but unlike when I reviewed Joe vs. Joe years ago (which was the only thing AnimeWho ever put out), this anime never managed to see a complete release. Seriously, the only thing worse than only putting out a single anime before dying out is not even being able to fully release a single anime before going into the aether.

A composite image, as the eyecatch alternate images for each side.

I won't really bother going into the history of Anime Crash, as it's actually very long & intensive. Plus, Justin Sevakis (with help from former Crash employee James Veronico) wrote a complete history on the company via ANN's Answerman column over two years ago, so just read that for more info. While I had no familiarity with Anime Crash's 90s exploits, as I wasn't in the fandom back then, I do remember when the company announced its intention to enter the anime licensing game back in 2004. Being a small outlet, the company wasn't able to grab any notable potential hits, but it definitely tried its hardest with what it had. Crash wound up licensing two Korean TV anime from 2002, Ki Fighter Taerang & Olympus Guardian, as well as being involved in the production of a car racing anime called Shiden (of which only a pilot ever got made), but in the end the only thing Anime Crash ever put out was a title that I've actually brought up on the blog before.

A Korean/Japanese co-production from 2001-2002 (which Sevakis admitted in his article had already been previously licensed & dropped by CPM before Crash got a hold of it), Geisters - Fractions of the Earth (or "Guystars", as the official romanization says) was a 26-episode TV anime that mixed together traditional 2D animation (done in Japan) with lots of CG (done in Korea), and more or less came & went when it first aired in Japan. I brought it up before on the blog due to the fact that it was co-produced by Groove Corporation, which wound up going out of business due to the supposed sudden disappearance of its CEO, who also apparently took the masters for the company's latest productions (& all of the money) with him. This wound up in the second episode of the Nakoruru OVA never being made, & the home video releases of the Xevious CG movie & both Geisters compilation movies never coming to fruition. Naturally, the collapse of Groove Corporation resulted in Anime Crash being literally incapable of bringing over the second half of the Geisters TV series, which Veronico swore was a "massive shame", & after a horribly conceived boxset release of Toshiro Mifune's Samurai Trilogy (which they assumed was in the public domain when it had been properly licensed by Criterion), plus some attempts at staying alive, Anime Crash did what it's named after by crashing & burning into nothingness in 2007.

Therefore, let's see if Geisters - Fractions of the Earth even had any potential to its first half, or if it was nothing more than a desperate grasp for anything by people who were in over their heads.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Twinkle Nora Rock Me!: Dies irae, dies illa, Solvet saeclum in favilla, Teste Ipse cum Honora

[To celebrate the 200th review here at The Land of Obscusion I offer you two ways of experiencing this piece: A text version which you can read below & a video version which you can watch via this link!]

(Lacrimosa dies illa) Haja Taisei Dangaioh, Next Senki Ehrgeiz, Ring ni Kakero 1, (Qua resurget ex favilla) Government Crime Investigation Agent Zaizen Jotaro, Rokudenashi BLUES, Crystal Triangle, (Judicandus homo reus.) Hareluya II BØY, Kingdom of Chaos - Born to Kill, Fantastic Children, (Huic ergo parce, Deus:) Asura, Matchless Raijin-Oh, Champion Joe, (Pie Jesu Domine,) Eat-Man, Para - The Parabiotic Guy, Pachislo Kizoku Gin, (Dona eis requiem. Amen.) Otoko Zaka, Dororo, B.B Burning Blood, Nora

After six years, it's time for Review #200. Come & rock me, Amadeus!

The first Nora OVA, based on Satomi Mikuriya's line of short manga, came out in Japan on January 21, 1985, but it would be another ten months before another OVA would see release. Released November 21 that same year, Twinkle Nora Rock Me! saw Mikuriya himself return to the director's, writer's, designer's, & storyboarder's chair once again, but with a completely different staff assisting him in the process. Was the near-entire year wait worth it all in the end, especially since the first OVA was rather fun & worth the watch? Please, this is 200th review on The Land of Obscusion, so it's obviously terrible but worth spreading the word about. Still, I've reviewed some real stinkers for my previous milestones, whether it was the constant downward spiral of non-quality that was Gundoh Musashi, the Frankenstein's Monster of an English adapted anime film that was Robotech the Movie, or the complete waste of time that was the son of a pitch, AWOL -Absent WithOut Leave-. After all of those, I think I can handle an OVA that's barely 30 minutes long... I hope.

After helping put an end to a hostage situation at an airport, galactic bounty hunter Nora Scholar is hired by the Galaxy Police to head to Planet Dazzle to capture Fuchero, a notorious bounty who runs the planet filled with crooks & the like alongside his brother Touchino. Nora is chosen for the job because of her ESP abilities, as Fuchero is a notorious ESPer himself. After landing on the planet, Nora befriends Max, a dancer at the local bar.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Obscusion B-Side: Majesco's Mortem & It's Forgotten Treasures

A bit of a sudden & unplanned piece here, but it's like Frank Sinatra said, "That's life." Being a Jersey-born & raised young man (wait, I'm 30 now... Oh, god, I'm old!), I have always had a bit of a soft spot for any notable (to my interests) company that operated out of New Jersey, and today came news that the Garden State has lost another one. Well, okay, the company I'm talking about didn't die, but it is leaving the game industry, and for me that's just as sad.

The many logos of Majesco, including the short lived indie label Midnight City.

Established the same year I was born (1986), Majesco Sales (later Majesco Entertainment) was an Edison-based video game company that initially started out acting only as a distributor, helping re-release games like Aladdin & The Jungle Book on the Game Gear, before inking a deal with Sega in 1998. Said deal made Majesco the company in charge of the last life of the Genesis, which brought about the third & final model of the system known as the Genesis (Model) 3; the final officially licensed game for the Genesis, Frogger, was in fact published by Majesco. The company also re-released the Game Gear, plus a few games (like the two I mentioned earlier), around the same time before going into traditional game publishing with the advent of the new millennium. The company also tried its hand at development & porting through its Pipe Dream Interactive studio (named because of what everyone thought its chances would be), but after a short attempt in the mid-00s at being a major publisher, the company remained relatively low key & often on the verge of being taken off of the New York Stock Exchange.

Today, though, that all comes to an end, though not how most would assume a company leaves the gaming industry. Instead of going out of business, Majesco has instead merged with (i.e. fully purchased) PolarityTE, a company developing tissue regeneration technology. Along with taking the Polarity name, Majesco has announced a complete exit from the gaming industry, though what that means for the company's existing catalog of games & licenses remains unknown. While Majesco never became a major name in video games, though, there were a lot of really cool games that came from the company, & with it's "death" now announced & official I want to shortly celebrate what we as gamers got from this company.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Nora: Bubbly, Charming, Reckless, That Girl!

It's taken six years, but we're almost there: 200 reviews on The Land of Obscusion. Sure, it isn't technically 200 individual anime, manga, or anime/manga-based productions, but it's still 200 reviews. As always with my milestone reviews, I have something that's (to my knowledge) absolutely terrible yet fairly damn obscure in mind for Review #200, and it may very well be the worst of them all; that's really something considering what I've reviewed for my previous three milestones. Anyway, we still have one more review to go, #199, before we hit that milestone, so it's only appropriate that, before I torture myself as a form of celebration for the fourth time, we take a look at what came directly before it.

Satomi Mikuriya is a mangaka who made his debut back in 1970 with the manga Black Sword. He would go on to be involved in both manga & anime, first being the man behind the original concepts for the two Arthurian legend-based Blazing Arthur anime TV series from 1979-1980, the first of which saw American release under the name King Arthur & the Knights of the Round Table. Later, he would provide designs on the Crusher Joe movie, Odin - Starlight Mutiny, & Phoenix 2772: Space Firebird, direct the (instantly outdated) CG in the intro to Golgo 13: The Professional, and have his unfinished SF manga Garaga be adapted into a 1989 anime movie. Amazingly enough, nearly every anime he worked on saw release in North America at one point or another. What I'll be focusing on, however, is his Nora series, which has never seen official release over in this side of the world.

Originally debuting in 1977, Mikuriya would make a few short manga revolving around the eponymous Nora Scholar, with the original Nora's Ark being followed by 1978's Nora's Shooting Star, 1981's Nora -The Vulcanized Ocean Current-, & 1984's The Twinkle Nora. This is all fine & dandy, and in 1985 Mikuriya decided to adapt this series into anime via the OVA market; two hour-long episodes were made throughout the year. Unlike most mangaka, however, this creator wanted to be a big part of the anime production, even having himself be director, with each episode having its own "episode director" to help out. Not just that, but Mikuriya also wrote the scripts, did all of the storyboarding, & drew all of the designs (both characters & mechanical), among other jobs. So let's see how Satomi Mikuriya fared on his first outing as anime director by looking at the first episode, simply titled Nora.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Obscusion Fighter: The Legend of the 6th Anniversary

"Hey, member December 1, 2010?"
"Ooh, I member!"

Yes, it's been a sexennium (look it up, learn new words) since I made the jump from a rather less-than-amateur one year attempt at doing YouTube videos & decided to start up a written blog, one that is named after a rather "silly alteration" of "Land of Confusion" by Genesis; the cover by Disturbed is rather good, too. When I started up The Land of Obscusion, back at the tail end of 2010, I was 24 & a year out of my student life, B.A. in Journalism & Media Studies framed on my wall, working a part-time job at my local Target. Now, six years later, I'm 30 with a full-time job with the benefits that work for me, but not much else has changed. I'm still the same shy, rather introverted, self-deprecating guy that I was six years ago, somewhat hesitant to try new things & push myself further. To this day, I still think of that day in 2010 as somewhat unlike me, yet here I am, celebrating the 6th Anniversary of The Land of Obscusion.

Maybe I have changed, hopefully for the better, but I just don't trust my own judgment in that regard. I have enough self-esteem to keep me healthy & away from any strong feelings of sadness on a regular basis, but maybe that's just what being a 30-year old single white guy from Central Jersey is like... Hell if I know. Did I go a little off-topic just now (damn my love of self-deprecation!)? Oops, back on track...

This time last year I was declaring that I was putting an end to my "full-time" status on this blog, feeling as if I had hit a ceiling that I just couldn't surpass. In that regard, I'm not sure if I really kept that promise, as I'll only be a few posts behind in terms of sheer number for this year when all will be said & done compared to last year. For the first half of 2016, I did keep that promise, averaging only 3 posts every month (minus that crazy Jump January & February I did), but then something happened: I surpassed that ceiling. By the end of July this year, I hit 13,675 pageviews for the blog, though it seems like that was mainly due to a Russian spam bot of some sort. Still, I had broken the 10,000 views ceiling that I felt I just couldn't get past, which admittedly kind of gave me a resurgence. This October & November proved that July wasn't a fluke, either, as I surpassed 10,000 on those months, as well. From the bottom of my heart, thank you; I no longer care about pageviews anymore, & I feel reinvigorated to continue doing this blog.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Newcomer's Guide to Saint Seiya: 30 Years Later, Where Does One Start?

At the beginning of 1986, Masami Kurumada debuted Saint Seiya in the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump, a manga that would change his entire life. While he had seen notable success from 1977-1981 with Ring ni Kakero (through which the modern shonen fighting manga would be introduced) & respectable non-failure with 1982-1983's Fuma no Kojirou, Kurumada bombed hard with 1984-1985's Otoko Zaka, which he had conceived of as his magnum opus. He directly addressed this in the author's note section in the first volume of Saint Seiya:

"I started creating my current title, Saint Seiya, to target a mainstream audience from the start, totally unlike my previous work... Although there are pros & cons to this, going mainstream will most definitely light up fireworks for my manga."

Thirty years later, I'm sure Masami Kurumada would call that an understatement.

At this point, Kurumada was only a domestic success, with his work having never been released outside of Japan. With Saint Seiya, though, his old-school, action-focused, romanticized style would be seen around the world, where it would become one of the biggest & most iconic manga & anime around the world, where it would be renamed Knights of the Zodiac (in various languages). At the same time, however, Saint Seiya essentially became the anime & manga equivalent of soccer (ignoring Captain Tsubasa, of course), i.e. it's a giant mega hit around the world (or at least Asia, Europe, South & Central America, & Mexico), but in North America (i.e. the United States & Canada) it's only a cult favorite, at absolute best (& even that's pushing it). While it started off extremely rocky & slow back in 2003, when DiC botched their attempt at KotZ on TV, at this moment there's a bunch of Saint Seiya out there for American anime & manga fans to check out... So where does one start?

Therefore, to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Saint Seiya, allow me to give a guiding hand to those who are Seiya-curious but have no idea where to start or even what to try out. While I'm certainly no absolute expert on the franchise, I have experienced more than enough to at least give newcomers a better start than having them simply dive in deep & blind; I'll also focus on what's legally available right now, because this is going to be long enough as it is. Therefore, let's not waste any more time & start with where it all began.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Super Robot Wars (HD): Peer Pressure Can Be a Powerful Tool

On April 20, 1991 a Japanese game developer & publisher named Banpresto released Super Robot Taisen/Wars on Nintendo's handheld system, the Game Boy. Originally founded in 1977 as Hoei Sangyo, the developer would then be renamed Coreland in 1982 & existed mainly to assist Sega's arcade division. When Bandai bought the company in 1989 it was given the now iconic company name (& eye mask logo) & put straight to work at making games based on licensed properties. While crossover games were a part of Banpresto's DNA ever since the Bandai purchase, Super Robot Wars wound up being something different. It became the main series that defined the company, so much so that Banpresto is still essentially identified as the developer, even though that technically hasn't been the case since about SRW Neo on the Wii (which was the last physical SRW game to sport the logo on the cover). Therefore, to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of SRW, let's see how the original game fares after it finally received a complete remake.

Remakes of older Super Robot Wars games are in no way a recent concept, with the first one being Super Robot Wars 2G, the 1995 Game Boy version of the late-1991 Famicom original; it updated the game by being based on SRW4's interface & systems. Since then we've seen remakes of 2, 3, & EX on the PS1 via 1999's Complete Box, Masou Kishin - The Lord of Elemental on the DS & PSP, the Compact 2 trilogy on the PS2 via Impact, Alpha 1 using polygons on the Dreamcast, A on the PSP (rather lazily, though), the first two Original Generation games on the PS2 via OGs, & one can even count F & F Final as a two-part remake of 4 (though those are more outright re-imaginings than simply remakes). The latest remake in the franchise, though, came about on April 24, 2014 (just four days after the 23rd Anniversary), when first printings of SRW Z3: Time Prison Chapter on the PS3 & Vita included download codes for a complete remake of the very first SRW as a digital-only release; shortly later it saw a general release on the Japanese PS Store. Considering how much the franchise has grown & evolved in the years since the original game, was remaking the first SRW an example of making a good game only better & easier to play in modern times, or is it nothing more than an outdated game given a fresh coat of paint?

A blue planet is home to a variety of super-deformed robots of varying types, looks, & style (super or real), and though they may not see eye to eye, they all generally seem to co-exist. All that changes one day, though, when an alien creature known as Gilgilgan comes to the planet & lets out a force that instantly makes many of the robots pledge allegiance to the creature. Only one group of robots manage to avoid being turned & decide to fight back, hoping they can also convince those they once called friends to rejoin them in the battle against Gilgilgan & his ally Picdoron. But even if they manage to save the planet from these two monsters, can they do it a second time when the God of Battle God Noah challenges them, along with a revived (& later mechanized) Gilgilgan & Picdoron?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Twelve Mech Anime That Have Been AWOL From SRW For Far Too Long Part 2

Welcome back to this list of mech anime that were, at various points in time (mainly the 00s), featured in the rosters of various entries in Banpresto's (now B.B.Studio) Super Robot Wars video game franchise, but have not been seen in at least a decade. In Part 1 we mainly looked at games that were last seen in the Alpha Series, D, or MX, so here in Part 2 we'll be looking at six mech anime that were last seen from SRW from three specific entries that all (mostly) came out after Alpha 3, i.e after Bandai (which owned Banpresto) merged with Namco.

Brain Powerd
Yoshiyuki Tomino's ouvre of work has generally been best categorized in two categories: "Kill-Em-All Tomino" & "Happy Tomino". While not every single work he's done fits into these two categories perfectly, you can split his work up fairly well like this. "Happy Tomino", in particular, is where his most bizarre & (fitting every possible inflection of the term) interesting titles tend to wind up, though. Stuff like Blue Gale Xabungle, Overman King Gainer, Turn-A Gundam, & even Gundam: Reconguista in G are all anime he made when he was generally in a much happier time in his life, but one of his most curious in this category would easily be 1998's Brain Powerd (the missing "e" was added back in for Bandai Entertainment's English release). Though initially conceived of & planned before Hideaki Anno & Gainax made Neon Genesis Evangelion, Tomino "resigned" himself to having to accept that people were going to (understandably) see Brain Powerd as his take on what Eva did. Today, this anime is best known for telling a completely unrestrained Tomino story (i.e. it's weird & kind of hard to follow), featuring a completely beautiful soundtrack by Yoko Kanno (which she apparently had to make without ever seeing a single second of animation), having an OP where all of the lead females are butt naked (look it up yourself, perverts), & being a part of only two games in the SRW franchise.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Twelve Mech Anime That Have Been AWOL From SRW For Far Too Long Part 1

Last year I started Mecha Month with a list about mech anime that have yet to been included in any games in the Super Robot Wars franchise, but I felt were not "lost causes", i.e. they could still believably happen. While iDOLM@STER Xenoglossia did technically appear in the mobile game spin-off SRW X-Ω ("Cross-Omega"), it was only for a month as a way to help promote the franchise in general, so I didn't update the list to reflect that as it was such a "blink & you'll miss it" inclusion. Anyway, while I do anticipate what series will be making their debuts with each new SRW game that's announced, I'm also just as excited about what series will be returning, all the more so if it's something that hasn't been seen in a while. It was cool to see Aura Battler Dunbine be included in SRW BX, the first time in over a decade since Compact 3, for example. That being said, there are plenty of mech anime that had made appearances in SRW in past, but haven't been seen in a good long while. Therefore, let me list off twelve series that have been AWOL from the franchise & more than deserve a new appearance.

That being said, I do have four criteria for inclusion:
-It's last appearance was at least 10 years ago, because there are enough with that restriction.
-It has to have already been in at least two SRW games. There are enough single-appearance examples to make another list, to be honest.
-I'm not counting appearances in spin-off games, like Scramble Commander, Super Robot Gakuen, or X-Ω. Sorry, but I'm being picky about this & only counting the traditional, turn-based strategy games. This means no RahXephon, since that only was only in MX, & SC 2nd is a spin-off.
-Finally, I have some stuff I'm excluding, even though they meet the above criteria. These are, specifically, Tosho Daimos, Daiku Maryu Gaiking, & Brave Raideen, and I'm excluding them outright because they all starred Akira Kamiya, who is not only very expensive to hire but also only getting older; let the man retire in peace & with a working voice. Also, Gaiking & Raideen at least have more recent re-imaginings to utilize, the former of which has already been used in K & L. This restriction really applies to most 70s mech anime in general, quite honestly.

Giant Robo - The Day the Earth Stood Still
We're doing this in reverse order, which means the longest hiatus comes first, and it's one that's dear to many mecha fans. The late Mitsuteru Yokoyama is generally considered the man who created the giant robot genre in general with Tetsujin 28, yet his work has rarely been included in the SRW franchise. In fact, none of the man's giants would appear until 1999's Super Robot Wars 64 on the Nintendo 64, which featured the debuts of both 1981-1982's Rokushin Gattai God Mars & 1992-1998's Giant Robo - The Day the Earth Stood Still. While God Mars would make a few more appearances via 2003's SRW D & the Z Series starting with 2011's SRW Z2: Hakai-hen, with the 80s version of Tetsujin 28 debuting in 2012's Z2: Saisei-hen, Giant Robo only had a single other appearance after its debut. That would be 2000's Super Robot Wars Alpha on the PlayStation, which was the first part of the franchise's second main series, following the "Classic Series", & the first game to feature fully animated attack scenes. With a hiatus that's going on 17 years, why hasn't this beloved cult classic of an OVA series been brought back to SRW?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Matchless Raijin-Oh OVAs: Time to Get Kids to Make Their Parents Buy Them Anime on Home Video!

It's November on The Land of Obscusion, so for the fifth time we are celebrating Mecha Month! I've got the first Super Robot Wars game review from me in four years in the pipeline, but before I bring back something for the first time in years, I feel I should put an end to something that's kind of become an accidental tradition for Mecha Month. It's time to cover the last bit of Matchless Raijin-Oh ever made.

While the first Mecha Month in 2012 was admittedly kind of lackluster (though it did feature my last SRW review until "soon"), for the second I decided to start things off by reviewing the first half of the first entry in the Eldoran Series, Sunrise's co-production with Tomy after the success of the Brave Series with Takara. I mainly did so because Anime Midstream, the small-time company that was bringing it over one DVD per year since 2009, had finally gotten to Volume 5 & decided that the English dub it was producing would stop there; since I had no idea when the rest would come out (if at all, even) I decided to play it safe & review "Season 1" right then & there, and it was a fun & always enjoyable ride of a show. To my surprise, Anime Midstream would release all of the second half in a single sub-only boxset the next year, so Mecha Month 3 started off with my review of "Season 2", which I found just at great & even felt was worthy of deeming the show an "Honorary Brave". With that out of the way, I decided to bring everything full circle & close out Mecha Month 4 with a review of the anime adaptation of Mohiro Kitoh's manga Bokurano, which was essentially the complete & utter deconstruction of everything that Matchless Raijin-Oh was. There was one last bit of Raijin-Oh I could potentially cover, but figured to not worry myself over; I'll get to them when I get to them, essentially. Well, at Otakon this year I found a complete laserdisc set of these last products, so what better way to put an end to my Raijin-Oh reviews (& close a chapter of Mecha Month) than to finally watch & review the OVAs that were produced after the show finished airing in Japan?

The week following the final episode of Matchless Raijin-Oh saw the debut of the second Eldoran anime, the comedy-focused Genki Bakuhatsu/Energy Bomb Ganbarugar, but the original series had been a great success for Sunrise & Tomy, so while producing the new series they decided to make some OVAs for the first series, with help from Youmex for distribution. This is pretty surprising, to be honest, because the OVA market was not really meant for children, and no Brave anime would see any sort of OVA continuation until late-1997's Brave Command Dagwon: The Boy with Crystal Eyes; this is proof positive of how popular & influential Raijin-Oh was in Japan. From mid-1992 to early 1993 a trio of Raijin-Oh OVA episodes were released, all taking place after the end of the original TV series & actually running concurrently with Ganbarugar; in fact, these OVAs had "official" episode #s to them. What Sunrise did was make believe that another 53 episodes were in fact produced, even listing the names of every single one of them across all three OVA releases, & even naming the various Jaku Beasts that were created in most of them. These fake episodes included "Earth is an Akudama?" (Episode 52, Earthdama), "Jin Hyuga Becomes a Woman?" (Episode 55, Okaman), "Aim for the Idol!" (Episode 77, Hell Beauty), "Bakuryu-Oh Defeated" (Episode 80, Jaku Bakuryu-Oh), "The Great Christmas Battle!" (Episode 90, Jaku Santa), & "Save Belzeb!" (Episode 99, Dark Falzeb), with some of them actually being told via audio dramas & one of them was even shown partially during a cameo appearance the EDC makes in Episode 17 of Ganbarugar. The OVAs themselves take place during the latter half of this hypothetical sequel, so let's simply cover each of them individually.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Vampire Hunter D (the Game): D Doesn't "Survive"... Everyone Survives Him!

Hideyuki Kikuchi's Vampire Hunter D is easily going to go down as the man's magnum opus. Considering how iconic & successful the series is, with over 40 novels (& still going), two anime adaptations (one a cult-classic & the other beloved), five audio dramas that covered three stories, a manga adaptation of the novels (which sadly only lasted seven volumes [eight in Japan & France]), an upcoming CG animated series, & even an upcoming five-issue American comic series that was crowdfunded via Kickstarter, you'd think something like video games would be a no-brainer, right? Well, you'd be right by thinking that, but only just. Developed & published by Victor Interactive Software (formerly Pack-In-Video, & now Marvelous Entertainment), the sole Vampire Hunter D video game is a survival horror-influenced affair that was released in Japan on December 9, 1999, just a couple of weeks before (the also vampire-themed) Countdown Vampires saw release, with an international release in 2000 by Jaleco in North America & JVC in Europe; in fact, this was the last game released in North America with the original Jaleco logo. Acting partially as a pre-release tie-in with Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, does this game work as an adaptation of the single-lettered dunpeal hunter's adventures, and is it even a good game in the first place?

Well, the answer to the first question is easy, but the answer to the second is tougher.

When playing on a PS3, the title splash & menu is just a black screen.

A "Noble" vampire named Meier Link has kidnapped a woman named Charlotte in the supposed name of love, and her father wants her back. He has decided to hire the half-vampire dunpeal D to retrieve Charlotte, with D's search ending at the Castle of Chaythe, where Meier & Charlotte are hiding. At the same time, though, the hunter group called the Marcus Brothers have also arrived at the castle, as they've been hired by Charlotte's brother to bring her back. As D searches the castle for Charlotte he slowly comes to the realization that Meier may not have actually "kidnapped" Charlotte, and that the castle hides something truly sinister inside.

Friday, October 28, 2016

A Different Type of "DD": Comparing Both Vampire Hunter D Anime

In terms of iconic Japanese horror authors, there may be none more prolific than Hideyuki Kikuchi. From the moment his debut novel, Demon City Shinjuku, saw its first release in Japan in 1982, the man was identified as something special, and in the years since the now-67 years old university student of Kazuo Koike has created a truly iconic catalog of Japanese prose, & even manga, dealing with either horror, the occult, or any combination of the two. Titles like Wicked City, Darkside Blues, A Wind Named Amnesia, & the novel adaptation of Leda: The Fantastic Adventure of Yohko are likely all familiar with older anime & manga fans due to nearly all of them having received an anime adaptation of some sort (or were an anime first in Leda's case), but out of all of Kikuchi's work, there is probably one series that trumps them all, and it stars a man known only be a single letter.

Debuting back in 1983, Vampire Hunter D features Kikuchi's celebrated writing as well as artwork done by the similarly legendary Yoshitaka Amano, with the two working together often in general. The novel series takes place in the extremely far future, 12,090 AD is often stated, after a nuclear war in 1999 destroyed humanity, with vampires having taking over as the apex species of Earth. In the ten millennia since then, though, the "Nobility" (as the vampires call themselves) have slowly started dying off, with professional killers called Vampire Hunters becoming more & more popular among the human populace. The most successful, powerful, & beautiful of them all, though, is a man known as "D", though his status as a dhampir/dunpeal (i.e. a half-vampire) makes him hated by his professional rivals. VHD has gone on to be a highly inspirational novel series in Japan, & still sees new works to this very day. Currently, there are 43 novels comprising 30 stories, and that's not including the various spin-offs, side stories, & even prequels that have been made or are still being made. Naturally, this would result in anime adaptations, but so far there have only been two... And they are honestly pretty different from each other.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Obscusion B-List: Survival Horror Firsts Not Done by Resident Evil

Last month I celebrated the 20th Anniversary of The House of the Dead, but we all know what horror game franchise is getting the pomp & circumstance that a double-decade anniversary deserves this year. March 22, 1996 saw the original Japanese release of Capcom's Biohazard on the Sony PlayStation, and a week later the game saw North American release under the name Resident Evil, due to the word "Biohazard" not being copyrightable over here. The game not only marked the directorial debut of Shinji Mikami (Dino Crisis, God Hand, Vanquish), but also coined the phrase "survival horror" that has gone on the define an entire genre. The phrase is so defining that even Frédérick Raynal's Alone in the Dark, which first came out in 1992 & helped inspire Mikami's team, has been retroactively deemed to be survival horror. This also applies to an extent to 1989's Sweet Home, a Famicom RPG by Capcom based on the horror movie of the same name; in fact, Resident Evil was originally conceived as a remake of this game.

In the end, while Alone in the Dark & Sweet Home did introduce a lot of concepts that Mikami & producer Tokuro Fujiwara also used in their game, Resident Evil still did a number of things first for the genre it coined... Or did it? Yes, the franchise did do some things first, but many things that RE is generally credited for are not actually concepts & ideas that were done first via that franchise. This is not me trying to lessen the impact or importance of one of Capcom's biggest franchises, but rather I want to take the opportunity to give credit to six "survival horror" video games that did introduce concepts to the genre before Resident Evil eventually utilized them; in fact, one of them has yet to even be used by the series. I guess think of it as me celebrating the 20th Anniversary of "survival horror" more than anything. Regardless, let's get going before a zombie comes up from behind & bites me in the jugular.

Starting off this list is easily the most obscure one of them all, but is probably the most important of them. When Raynal made Alone in the Dark, PCs at the time could render some 3D polygons, but in the end his team decided on using polygonal characters on top of bitmap-rendered 2D backdrops, with cinematic camera angles to create tension. Similarly, when Mikami & Fujiwara made Resident Evil, they decided that having it be completely 3D was too much for the original PlayStation to handle, so they went with polygonal characters on top of pre-rendered environments alongside cinematic camera angles. Capcom wouldn't create a full-3D survival horror game until 1999's Dino Crisis, & the first full-3D RE games wouldn't be until 2000 with Survivor & Code:Veronica, but the fact of the matter is that survival horror went full-3D six years prior to when Capcom did it. In fact, it did so before Resident Evil was even fully developed.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Haunted Junction: There's a Review on the Grounds! All Readers on the Double!! WELCOME!!!

Two years ago, I decided to make the entire month of October all about horror, minus the first post (which was conceptually a carryover from September). Well, this year I'm in the same situation, where the first post was originally planned for the month prior, but wound up being an early October piece. Therefore, let's just do a repeat of 2014 & make the rest of this month all about the eerie & mystic. Unlike usual, though, we'll be starting things off with the mirror image of what one assume when things like monsters, ghosts, & things that go "bump" in the night is thought of. Instead, let's start with some levity.

The hiragana used for "Junction" actually looks
a little like the word would in English. Nice touch.

Back in 2012, I did an overview of the early days of modern late-night anime (i.e. treating TV anime like infomercials for the upcoming home video release), and one of the earliest proponents of this method of producing & airing anime was Studio DEEN. The studio's first Eat-Man anime from 1997 was the second-ever modern-day late-night anime, following Group TAC's Those Who Hunt Elves, and DEEN would follow that up with a bunch of early anime made for those wee hours of the night, with Next Senki Ehrgeiz, Don't Leave Me Alone, Daisy, Shadow Skill, AWOL -Absent WithOut Leave-, Eat-Man '98, & the studio's various output for TBS' Wonderful time slot (Iketeru Futari, Let's Dance With Papa, Nippon-ichi no Otoko no Tamashii, Momoiru Sisters); one could even count 1996-1997's Violinist of Hameln, which felt like a late-night anime. In fact, minus Rurouni Kenshin (which DEEN took over from Studio Gallop for the much-maligned final third), some assistance work & two OVAs, Studio DEEN's entire 1997 & 1998 output was put towards late-night anime. I did leave one anime out of this list, though, & that's where this review comes in...

When it came to where the material for a lot of this early late-night anime came from, one of the sources was MediaWorks' now-defunct Monthly Dengeki Comic GAO!. This is the same for Nemu Mukudori's Haunted Junction, which ran for 13 volumes from 1996-2001. This manga is generally considered Mukudori's most iconic, so its no surprise that it received a late-night TV anime adaptation during the Spring of 1997 by Studio DEEN. Interestingly enough, the anime still remains without a DVD release in Japan (VHS & LD only over there), but when it was picked up by for North American release, it not only received a full VHS release in 1999 (half of which was positively reviewed by ANN way back when), but also found itself a sub-only DVD boxset when the company was renamed Bandai Entertainment in 2000. Nowadays, Haunted Junction is a highly forgotten anime from a time when DVD was just starting to gain prominence (hence why we got a DVD, while Japan has yet), but the few who do remember it seem to look back on it fondly. That's why, as someone who got into anime years after its last release, I want to see if this is a lost gem that should be given a new release over here (or even in Japan), or if it's been forgotten for good reason.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Demo Disc Vol. 7: Badd Banned Broadcasts

Mistakes are a natural part of life; everyone will make them, & some are embarrassing. When these mistakes happen, there tends to be two main solutions to them, which is either accept it & ask for forgiveness... Or sweep it under the rug & act like it never happened in the first place, even if it results in there being an obvious lump in said rug that everyone notices but few actually ask about because it'd be rude to do so. When it happens in media this can result in what one can deem to be "banned" productions. They don't happen all too often, and sometimes it only extends to certain countries, but this is a rare occurrence that has even affected the anime & manga landscape. Therefore, this volume of Demo Disc will differ from the usual multi-entry offering in that I won't be looking at just the first episodes of various shows (at least, not all are the first episodes), and they don't have anything in common from a content perspective. Instead, these are four anime episodes (plus one manga chapter!) that have been banned to varying extents across the world. Technically, I shouldn't be able to check these out & write about them for you, but some other fans just don't care.

Let's take a look at what we actually aren't allowed to, shall we? Hell, two of them come from Pokémon!

(WARNING: As these are mostly not the introductions for each of these series, spoilers may vary wildly in importance... So don't complain if I wind up spoiling something to some extent. Sorry.)

Cucuruz Doan's Island
Our first example is proof that the act of "banning" something can be solely due to personal vendettas, and who better to showcase that than Yoshiyuki Tomino. A man of very specific tastes, it isn't exactly hard to disappoint the creator of Gundam, especially in his younger years, and what he does when he isn't happy varies wildly. For example, he was the director for the first half of the iconic Sunrise mech anime Brave Raideen, but supposedly left the production because he didn't want to direct a seemingly derivative super robot toy commercial; Tadao Nagahama would then take over & turn it into a prototype of his more story-focused Robot Romance Trilogy. Later on, if Tomino wanted to kill off his entire cast then he would, and if he never wanted an episode of anime to ever see the (official) light of day outside of Japan because he had a personal vendetta against someone... Well, then you get Episode 15 of Mobile Suit Gundam, which aired on July 14, 1979.

After managing to land on Earth to join the One Year War's Terran front & defeating Garma Zabi in battle, Gundam pilot Amuro Ray & the crew of the Earth Federation's White Base come across an automatic SOS signal emanating from Point 305. What Amuro finds is an island inhabited only by four children & Cucuruz Doan, a former Zeon pilot who went AWOL after refusing to kill said children after a wild shot from Doan killed their parents; he instead took them & fled. After being knocked out by Doan in a short skirmish, Amuro tries looking for his Core Fighter, which Doan hid away, before a Zaku scout happens across the island.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Theory Musing: Is Advertising Anime as "So Bad It's Good" Actually a Good Idea?

The concept of "So Bad It's Good", for those somehow unfamiliar with it, is that someone can enjoy something terrible because of how terrible it is. This has been applied to all sorts of mediums, whether it's movies, books, video games, TV series, comic books &, yes, anime & manga. The thing about "SBIG" (for lack of a better contraction), though, is that it's just like any other type of judgment by being completely subjective. Just like how one person can like something that another just can't enjoy, one person can love something because of how bad he/she feels it is, while another will feel that it's just outright terrible & not "ironically enjoyable"; some others may legitimately enjoy it & don't think of it as bad in the first place, even. Therefore, when FUNimation revealed the cover art for its upcoming, December 6 to be exact, DVD/BD combo set for Ninja Slayer from Animation, it received a mixed reaction due to FUNi trying to purposefully sell it as "SBIG".

Instead of using traditional quotes for promotion from sites like ANN or The Fandom Post, Ninja Slayer's packaging features quotes from seemingly random forum (or even YouTube) comments. Whether it's, "LOL NO." or, "This is easily one of the worst shows FUNimation ever licensed, maybe even THE worst.", it's easy to see that FUNi is advertising this anime as being enjoyable because of how bad it is. Even the trailer the company produced & put online recently, though giving off the feel of a badly worn & used VHS tape from the 80s (which is perfectly fitting), pushes the message that Ninja Slayer is really bad with the quote, "Hot garbage."; oddly enough, there's also a, "Pretty good." quote, which I guess is supposed to even things out? Now, yes, Ninja Slayer has been & will always be a very divisive anime, with the biggest point of contention being the wildly varying quality of animation each episode has. That's mainly because the anime was directed by Trigger's Akira Amemiya, the man behind the similarly minimalist & absurd Inferno Cop, who has admitted to deciding the frame rate for each episode by rolling a 24-sided die (one for each frame that's generally shown for each second of film), as if he was playing Dungeons & Dragons. For some fans of both of Amemiya's shows, they found FUNi's tongue-in-cheek promotion to be amusing & fitting for Ninja Slayer.

Personally, though, while I understand where FUNimation is coming from in this regard (while I haven't seen this show, I did see & highly enjoy Inferno Cop), I don't think trying to push the whole "SBIG" concept is going to be a smart idea in the end... At least, not in the way the company is executing it.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Star Dust: "Mr. Itano, Will This Be on the Final Exam?" "THIS IS THE FINAL EXAM!!!"

Ichiro Itano may not exactly be on the lips of the general anime fan, but for those who admire sleek & stylish animation of the 80s, then this man is one of the most cherished & beloved. After graduating high school in the 70s, Itano eventually joined the anime industry, becoming an animator for the original Mobile Suit Gundam, both the innovative 1979-1980 TV series & the 1981-1982 movie trilogy. He would make his name truly known, though, when he was offered a spot over at Studio Nue to help work on 1982-1983's Super Dimensional Fortress Macross. While working as a mechanical animation director (i.e. he oversaw how the giant robots animated), Itano decided to give the iconic Valkyries a little something extra whenever they fired their missiles. Simply firing off a lot of missiles at once did nothing for Itano, so he decided that every one of them would fly all over the place while in transport, with each having its own specific trajectory & motion. While he technically had done this visual flair before Macross, it was this anime's portrayal that would lead to it being deemed the "Itano Circus", which is now what any sort of wild & crazy multi-trajectory projectile scene is called, regardless of whether it was animated by the man or not (yes, even Pokémon has done it). Not many people have an actual example of animation named after them, so props to Itano.

Itano would eventually direct his own anime, as well, & I even previously reviewed his directorial debut when I wrote about Megazone 23 Part II International. His successive resumé in the director's chair is admittedly pretty small compared to other legends, with only Battle Royal High School, Violence Jack: Evil Town, Kujaku-Oh 2, & the infamous Angel Cop, followed by a large hiatus for the most part. Sure, he did the occasional bit of animation direction or "special direction" during the 90s, mainly for Macross-related products, but Itano didn't actually return to directing until the mid-00s, when he headed up Gantz & Blassreiter for Gonzo; after that, he's assisted on anime here & there. The man's hiatus was mostly because he wound up becoming a teacher, working at Yoyogi Animation Academy, "YoAni" for short. It was seemingly while working at YoAni that Ichiro Itano wound up directing what it easily his most unknown & forgotten work. It's so obscure that I never even heard of it once until a few months ago, when a VHS rip found its way online, there's no entry for it at all over at ANN's Encyclopedia, Wikipedia Japan has nothing on it, I can't find any cover art or even an Amazon Japan listing, & I didn't even realize Itano was involved with it until somewhat recently.

So let's see if there's anything special about Star Dust, a 30-minute OVA from 1992 that was seemingly a pet project done by Itano & his very own YoAni students.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Obscusion B-Side: 20 Years of The House of the Dead

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Capcom's iconic Resident Evil, the game that, though inspired heavily by the likes of Sweet Home & Alone in the Dark, is generally considered the father of survival horror; it did coin the phrase, after all. That being said, I'm not talking about that franchise's legacy (at least, not yet). Instead, I want to look back at another horror game franchise that made its debut in 1996, one that may not have the cachet of Resident Evil but deserves its own love & respect.

Happy 20th Anniversary, The House of the Dead!

While Capcom introduced survival horror to the world on March 22, 1996 via the Japanese release of Biohazard, Sega would introduce its own iconic horror game to Japanese arcades on September 13, 1996. At least, that's the only definitive date I could find, others simply say just 1997, so I'm going with that. Developed by Sega AM1, The House of the Dead, no relation to the 1860's Fyodor Dostoyevsky novel of the same name, was a Model 2 arcade light-gun rail shooter that took quarter-feeding players on a journey through a giant mansion which had been taken over by hordes of undead creatures, eventually stopping a mad scientist from unleashing his ultimate creation upon the world. Yeah, the basic plot (& I mean basic) does sound slightly similar to Resident Evil on the surface, and both franchises would end up receiving their own crazy, semi-convoluted plotlines as sequels abounded. Unlike RE, though, HotD would only see so many entries in its life. Still, there are so many spin-offs in Sega's franchise that I want to simply focus on the main, numbered entries for this retrospective; I'll bring up spin-offs & curious ports if necessary, though. Yes, this does mean that I'll be skipping over The House of the Dead: Overkill, so sorry if that disappoints you. Anyway, let's start it all with a frantic phone call for help...

Friday, September 9, 2016

B・B Burning Blood: An Indecisive KO

"Forgotten Works of Legends"... This is a phrase I've thought to myself not long ago. Like it says, there are some people who are veritable icons, or at least notable in their own rights, who have numerous works to their names, and when that happens there are bound to be a small amount of titles that have simply gone by the wayside. With this in mind, let this month be a reminder to both you, my readers, & myself of a couple of OVAs directed by two legendary men in the anime industry, both of which were produced in the early 90s. First up is the late Osamu Dezaki, a man who I've covered to a small extent on the blog before. Coincidentally enough, the titles that I did review that were directed by him, One-Pound Gospel (under his Makura Saki pen name) & Champion Joe 1 & 2, were all boxing anime, so I think it's only right to bookend that by looking at Dezaki's final boxing anime, B・B Burning Blood.

This is actually a composite of two title splashes the OVA uses, one after another.

Osamu Ishiwata made his debut in the manga industry back in around 1981, but wouldn't hit it big until 1985 when he debuted a boxing manga in the pages of Shonen Sunday. Running until 1991 & lasting 31 volumes, B.B Burning Blood (I'll avoid using the proper dot simply for typesetting purposes) occupies a bit of an odd spot when it comes to notoriety in that it wound up running for a good length of time, & even won the Shogakukan Manga Award for shonen in 1989, yet doesn't seem to be championed as one of Sunday's most iconic works... At least, I can't find any real indication that it is, even in Japan. Hell, it even spawned a 30-volume sequel, LOVe, than ran from 1993-1999, & followed the daughter of B.B's main character as she took up tennis, yet you'd be hard pressed to find much info about it outside of Japan.

In fact, even this very three-episode OVA hasn't seen any sort of new release ever since the initial VHS & LD release back from 1990-1991; even Wikipedia Japan has barely any info on the anime, simply listing a staff & cast list. Considering that this was directed by the late, legendary Osamu Dezaki, was animated & produced by his older brother Satoshi's studio Magic Bus, & had Akio Sugino doing the character designs & animation direction, it simply astounds the mind that the B.B Burning Blood OVA has become as unknown & forgotten as it has. Consider that Dezaki's 1973 TV series Jungle Kurobe, a very early & obscure directorial work, has seen a DVD release in Japan. Hell, even Sword for Truth, often considered one of Dezaki's worst titles, has DVD releases around the world! Therefore, let's see where B.B falls in the annals of Osamu Dezaki: Is it a sort of lost gem in his catalog, or is it anywhere near as bad as Sword for Truth, which came out during B.B's release in Japan?

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Yo-Yo Girl Cop: Shojo-Inspired Fun Hidden Beneath Corporate Lies

One last live-action adaptation of a manga for the time being, so let's end it as it started with another Japanese production. While shojo manga is nominally a world written & drawn by women, there has been the occasional man that has entered the genre. Osamu Tezuka essentially created it, for example, while Leiji Matsumoto originally started his career doing shojo manga. Without a doubt, though, the most successful male shojo author is the late Shinji Wada, creator of Sukeban Deka (literally "Female Delinquent Detective"). While he made numerous manga until his death in 2011 due to coronary artery disease, his 1976-1982 series, totaling 22 volumes, about a female delinquent who becomes an metal yo-yo-wielding undercover government agent is easily Wada's legacy; if you ever see someone in anime or manga that fights with a yo-yo, it's likely a Sukeban Deka reference. Naturally, such an iconic series would be adapted into other media, but while it only ever saw a two-episode OVA in 1991, the series is just as iconic by way of its live-action productions.

First up were a trio of TV dramas that ran from 1985-1987, totaling 108 episodes. Following that were two theatrically-released movies, 1987's Sukeban Deka The Movie (starring the second TV series' lead) & 1988's Sukeban Deka The Movie 2: Counter-Attack from the Kazama Sisters (starring the third series' lead), both of which saw release in North America on DVD by Media Blasters. After all of that, & the mentioned OVA, Sukeban Deka more or less stayed in hibernation for the next 15 years when it came to new productions, minus the single-volume manga Sukeban Deka if Wada did in 2004. That all came to an end in 2006, though, when a third theatrical film, Sukeban Deka: Code Name = Saki Asamiya, was released in Japan. Apparently produced due to strong DVD sales of the TV series at the time, I honestly didn't even know this film existed in the first place... And then a few months back I noticed it on the store shelf of my local FYE (yes, they do still exist). Having been renamed Yo-Yo Girl Cop, which is honestly a little too on-the-nose for my tastes, this movie was actually brought to DVD in North America back in 2007 by Magnolia Pictures, of all companies; hell, it was even given an English dub, alongside the original Japanese with English subs. So how is this movie in the first place?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Crying Freeman (Live-Action): Tchéky Karyo Should Never Hide His Accent... Ever

While many have been in development hell or simply will outright never happen, Hollywood adapting anime & manga into live-action productions is not a new concept by any means. Even though stuff like Ghost in the Shell & Death Note are actually happening right now, & we shall never forget Dragonball Evolution, there's has always been a Robotech, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Akira, or Battle Angel Alita that's been in purgatory, sometimes for literally decades. Still, live-action adaptations of manga not done by the Japanese have been done ever since at least 1979's Lady Oscar, the French/Japanese (but English language) movie adaptation of The Rose of Versailles. There was actually a bit of a surge of these kinds of movies in the 90s, which gave us films like Fist of the North Star, The Guyver, & Guyver: Dark Hero (the last of which is actually pretty good), but what I'll be focusing on here is one that was produced by our neighbors to the North, yet has never seen a release in the United States.

Written by Kazuo Koike & drawn by Ryoichi Ikegami, Crying Freeman debuted in the pages of Big Comic Spirits back in 1986 & ended after a two-year run, totaling nine volumes. Essentially upon ending, the manga was adapted into a six-episode OVA series from 1988-1994, with each episode running ~50 minutes. During the 90s, Viz would give the manga its first release in North America, while Streamline Pictures handled the OVA, with ADV Films finishing up where Streamline left off at in the early 00s. In the mid-00s, Dark Horse re-released the entire manga across five giant tomes, while Discotek Media would give the OVA a re-release on DVD in 2011. Among all of this, though, were a trio of live-action movies. The first two were Hong Kong-produced adaptations, The Dragon From Russia & Killer's Romance, that were both released in 1990, while the other was a French/Canadian production released in 1995.

The first feature film to be directed by Cristophe Gans, who would go on to direct Brotherhood of the Wolf & Silent Hill, the Crying Freeman movie was written & performed in English, complete with a cast of recognizable actors (some already known, while others would become more known), which gave it a little more of a feeling of legitimacy that its contemporaries of the 90s tended to have (minus Fist of the North Star, maybe). Still, even though it was heavily promoted by Viz in both Animerica magazine as well as the compiled graphic novels, the film would never see a release in the United States, and to this day has still never seen a release here, though it apparently did sneak onto cable in the 00s; there was rumor of a release in 2004, but it never happened. Meanwhile, the movie has gone as far as having been given an HD remastered Blu-Ray release in France a few years back. Therefore, let's see if this was an example of us missing out on something good, or if we've been lucky all these years by never getting it on home video.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Don't Call It a Comeback: Anime Midstream License Rescues B't X!

While almost everything about Otakon this past weekend was most excellent, there was one part of the con experience that wasn't quite as happy & wound up not being brought up in my write up. Last year I took the opportunity to ask Selby Johnson, co-founder & head of Discotek Media, if he had any interest to bring over more Masami Kurumada anime after releasing the Saint Seiya movies from the 80s & then the Lost Canvas OVAs from 2009-2011. Selby told me only if Lost Canvas sold well, because the movies bombed, so this year I decided to follow up on that. Sadly, Selby told me that Lost Canvas also bombed hard, so Discotek will no longer take on any more Seiya (or Kurumada) in general; even streaming-only (ala Miss Machiko) got a very weak "maybe". Come the end of the con, I decided to more or less give up on ever hoping to see more Kurumada anime on home video here in North (of Mexico) America.

So imagine my surprise this morning when I'm told by some of my (cool) followers on Twitter that B't X was announced as a license rescue this past Sunday!

While Baltimore, Maryland was holding its final Otakon, that same weekend saw Dallas, Texas holding the 24th ever AnimeFest (which first happened way back in 1992). While nowhere near the size of an Otakon, AnimeFest has found its own niche (it currently sees over 10,000 fans/year), & even managed to snag a cool set of Japanese guests in the form of a Urusei Yatsura cast reunion. Aside from that, though, there were two interesting industry events going on. The first was AnimEigo's live-audience commentary recording for the Kickstarted Riding Bean Blu-Ray (which required two sessions, since Robert Woodhead forgot to actually record the first go around), while the other was a pair of panels by the little company that could, Anime Midstream. The formerly St. Louis, Missouri-based company (now operating out of Dallas) founded by former voice actor Jimmy Taylor was only known for having released early 90s mech anime Matchless Raijin-Oh on DVD from 2010-2014, which you should totally buy all of because its tons of imaginative fun, but the panel descriptions for AnimeFest seemed to indicate that the company had a new license to announce at the con on Sunday. Since it's from a smaller name con & from a company most anime fans continually forget actually exists, if they even know of it in the first place, the news didn't come about until this morning... But now it's known to all, & I couldn't be any happier.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Otakon 2016: Abayo, Baltimore

My first ever anime con was Otakon back in 2006, and all I really did there was buy a crap ton of manga & anime from the dealer's room. In 2007 I decided to start going to panels, but it was still mostly about the dealer's room. Really, though, my first real memory of Otakon is from 2008, when me & my friends attended the JAM Project concert & had the times of our lives. After that I took a small hiatus from Otakon, for various reasons, but when I came back in 2011 (my first time since starting the blog) it kind of felt like I had returned to an old friend, one that I missed visiting for a few years. Even though I had only been to four events at that point, when Otakon 20 was coming up in 2013, I felt that I just had to be a real part of the celebration. I wound up hosting the panel 45 Years of Shonen Jump: A Visual History at that con, which to this day I feel is my all-time greatest panel ever, not so much from a content perspective but rather because of the overall feel of it all; like any good panel, the crowd made it amazing. While I sat out for 2014, I still had a great time in 2015; even if my Kurumada panel had a small crowd, I gave it my all. And now, looking back on all of these years, I actually started to cry while typing this up.

I guess Otakon meant more to me than I ever thought it did, & while it will continue to live on in Washington D.C. starting next year, I feel like something has ended after coming back from Baltimore one last time.

While Otakon first debuted back in 1994, it wasn't until it moved to Baltimore back in 1999 that it seemed to truly become the massive anime convention that it now is. A big part of that was due to the Maryland metropolis that became Otakon's home for the next 17 years, and I think that's the biggest reason for why I felt like tearing up. The Inner Harbor area, even back when I first went in 2006, has just been so supportive of the convention & the crazed fanatics that both run it & attend it. Some of what became so iconic with Otakon just won't be a part of the convention anymore. No more 1st Mariners Arena (now Royal Farms Arena) to hold concerts. No more Ice Cold Water Guy to regale everyone outside of the Baltimore Convention Center about how he's "Got ice cold water! And it's only one dollar!". No more harbor breeze that just feels so different to those who don't normally live next to the water on a regular basis (*raises hand*). No more BCC that you just wound up memorizing like the back of your hand after a couple of years. In a sense, Otakon the way everyone knew it is now over... That's hard to think about, but it's something everyone who's been at Otakon for years will have to remember fondly now.

Still, how was this "Final Otakon"? Well, for me personally, it was simply outstanding & a perfect send-off.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

(Not Quite) Twelve Anime That Adapt More than Just the Manga Part 2: Novel Spin-Offs

Popular manga receiving extra story material is not a surprise at all. Spin-off manga is probably the most recognizable here in North America, mainly because we actually do receive them to varying extents (or there are fan translations out there), but another medium this comes from back in Japan is via the completely written word, i.e. novels. Whether they're light novels with plenty of images, sometimes drawn by the manga creator (lending it a good sense of canonicity), or more traditional novels, there are plenty of manga out there with extra material done in the style of prose rather than comic. Sometimes, even, these extra stories wind up getting adapted into their own anime incarnations. These adaptations can either be their own entire productions in their own right, or they might be inserted into the anime adaptation of the original manga as a type of "filler". To help showcase this occasional phenomenon, here are six examples of when anime studios went to novel spin-offs of popular manga.

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Land of Sand in Fullmetal Alchemist [2003]
Hiromu Arakawa's Fullmetal Alchemist was, to put it extremely lightly, a big damn deal when it was adapted into its first TV anime back in 2003. The tale of two brothers, Edward & Alphonse Elric, who try their hardest to regain the humanity they lost in an alchemic revival of their mother gone wrong, the original manga story was only so far in when Studio BONES decided to turn it into an anime. For the most part, the first half of the anime stayed fairly true to the original manga story, and even elaborated on one or two scenes only vaguely mentioned in the manga, but two episodes in particular were not taken from the manga. Unlike some of the other filler featured in this anime's first half, however, these weren't exactly completely made up by the writing staff (lead by the infamous Sho Aikawa), but instead looked to a different FMA source. You see, by the time the 2003 anime debuted on Japanese TV that October, there were already light novel stories that were fully published, so the staff decided to adapt the first of them as a way to keep from catching up to the manga too fast.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

(Not Quite) Twelve Anime That Adapt More than Just the Manga Part 1: Other Manga

Adapting an existing manga into an anime series is likely a tricky process, regardless of whether it's a long finished series or one that's still running. Most associated with the latter to keep from catching up, though occasionally done with the former for other various reasons, is creating "filler" to help pad out the length of said anime. Very often filler is the creation of original stories & characters that never appeared in the original material, usually with highly varying results; some filler is celebrated, while others are downright despised. Sometimes, though, filler isn't original content, but rather is actually an adaptation of something that isn't the original manga.

Unsurprisingly, this is usually not known to most viewers of said anime, resulting in some thinking that it was nothing but the usual type of filler. It's not common by any means, hence why this list is "Not Quite" twelve entries long, but there are instances of anime adaptations of manga that, to varying degrees, relied on outside material for filler. Probably the most common come from light novel spin-offs, but that will be Part 2, as I was able to find exactly six examples of that. For Part 1, we'll be looking at examples where other manga that are related to the main source of adaptation are used in the anime. None of these examples can really be categorized as outright filler, either, as most of them don't take up an entire episode in length, but instead are interspersed into their respective episodes.

Ring ni Kakero REAL in Ring ni Kakero 1: Shadow
Considering whose blog this is, let's just get the obvious example out of the way first. The Ring ni Kakero 1 anime, though adapting a manga that finished up back in 1981, is no stranger to featuring content that's 100% original. The first two seasons from 2004 & 2006 in particular had numerous bits of original content, with Season 1's new stuff mainly helping set up the other major characters & the World Rivals, while Season 2/Nichibei Kessen-hen expanded on some of the fights (though Ishimatsu vs. Monster Jail was stretched out way more than necessary) & even included a shout-out to Ring ni Kakero 2 by including Cesar Juliano (one of that series' World Rivals) as a little baby. In fact, the latter two seasons, 2010's Shadow & 2011's Sekai Taikai-hen, featured no filler whatsoever, with Shadow in particular nearly being a 100% panel-for-panel adaptation of the manga's version of that story arc. Not just that, but the third season actually started everything with off by adapting the most recent piece of Ring ni Kakero 1 manga ever made.