Thursday, March 31, 2016

Ozanari Dungeon: Kaze no Tou: An Unfound OVA Treasure

Fantasy is such a blanket category in general, but I when I see or hear that word the first thing that comes to mind is a world filled with magic, swordplay, epic journeys, & maybe even some treasure to be found. When it comes to the fantasy genre (as I associate it) for anime & manga, it's easy to name an outright litany of iconic titles, especially if you count TV series; I'll refrain from making said list for all of our sanities. When you remove TV & focus on just OVAs, however, the list suddenly shortens pretty sharply, at least for ones that most anime fans in North America can make. As for me, one of the first OVAs I think of when I think "fantasy" is Ruin Explorers - Fam & Ihrie, a four-episode series from 1995-1996 based on the 1992 manga by Kunihiko Tanaka, best known as the character designer for most entries the famed Xeno Series. At the same time, though, there is a fantasy series in Japan that has never left its home country, but at the same time may be one of its most iconic & (overall) long-running, and it received its own OVA adaptation before Tanaka even debuted his original fantasy manga.

One of the earliest works of Motoo Koyama, Ozanari Dungeon was a fantasy series that ran in Gakken's Monthly Comic Nora magazine from 1989-1996, lasting 17 volumes. True to its title, which is probably best translated literally as "Careless Dungeon", Koyama told a lighthearted sword & sorcery-style fantasy story featuring characters who were all named after types of coffee, though apparently its second half did become much more serious & focused on telling a story of epic scale. Koyama would follow up with a sequel, Nariyuki Dungeon ("Resulting Dungeon"), which only ran from 1997-1998 for three volumes. After that Koyama would go on to other manga, but eventually returned with Naozari Dungeon ("Neglected Dungeon"), which ran in Jive's Comic Rush magazine from 2006-2010 for another eight volumes. During that run came a one volume spin-off titled Ozanari Dungeon Special in 2008, and after Naozari's end came yet another sequel, Ozanari Dungeon Tactics. From what I can tell, Tactics ran from 2010-2013 for six volumes, resulting in a total 35 volumes of fantasy manga, though who knows if Motoo Koyama may eventually return to this franchise once again. By the way, I am refraining from using a pronoun for this mangaka because I can't find a definitive answer as to whether Koyama is male or female.

Anyway, during the heyday of the original manga, Gakken & Toshiba EMI teamed with TMS Entertainment to produce a three-episode OVA series based on Koyama's manga. Released throughout the last quarter of 1991 on VHS & LD, Ozanari Dungeon: Kaze no Tou/Tower of Wind looks to be an original story that takes place relatively early in the overall story, giving a stronger focus towards comedy than the later run of the manga. There is some word that Studio Ghibli was more heavily involved in the production of this OVA than it usually has been for other anime (which is usually just in-betweening & backgrounds), but I can't find any definitive proof of that. What I can say, though, is that it did have a couple of (future) notable names in its key animation staff, but we'll get to that when appropriate. Until then, what exactly is the Ozanari Dungeon OVA like, and is it a forgotten fantasy anime that deserves to be up there with the likes of Ruin Explorers? Let's find out.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Obscusion B-List: Video Game Crossovers with Completely Unexpected Rosters

The idea of a crossover product between multiple companies has been around for literally decades, and, more often than not, works well for both the fans that experience it & for the companies involved. On a good day, it could result in a franchise being given new life & products, like how Strider Hiryu's appearance in the original Marvel vs. Capcom lead to the development of the excellent Strider 2. On a bad day, it could result in absolute destruction, like how 1993-1994 comic crossover Deathmate essentially killed Valiant Comics to the point where it had to be bought by Acclaim. Crossovers can be very unpredictable & result in completely unexpected results, but at the same time part of the appeal of a crossover is seeing more than just the expected regulars & big names... Sometimes it's best to go to the deep part of the well & dig up some forgotten graves.

Oh, if only this was real & not just a really cool fanmade video...

Video game crossovers are probably the trickiest of all to execute in terms of compiling a roster across multiple companies. Most people will naturally expect to see the icons of each companies as well as their own personal favorites. For example, Capcom will always bring in the likes of Ryu, Chun-Li, Morrigan, and maybe even a form of Mega Man (if they feel like it), Bandai Namco has characters from Tekken & the Tales Series, SNK has its King of Fighters characters, and so on. Then you have series with fervent fanbases, like Dead Rising, Devil May Cry, Virtua Fighter, etc., which may not be at the top of gamers lists at large but are still notable & important enough to be considered obvious choices for inclusion in one way or another. What comes after that, though? Well, then you start getting into the more wild & unpredictable selections, and sometimes video game crossovers are notable precisely because they are just so inexplicably filled with completely unexpected lineups. Therefore, let's take a look as (not really) six video game crossovers that had rosters so unpredictable that you truly had to play them to believe them. In particular, I've gathered three fighting games & (not quite) three RPGs, simply because they are the most notable ways to handle video game crossovers.

Please note, though, that these are far from the only crossovers to have outrageous rosters. If you have any in mind that I missed, then by all means bring them up in the comments section at the end.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Raimei no Zaji: You've Been... Thunderstruck!

Having now reviewed the "Final" part of Masami Kurumada's 40th Anniversary celebration, allow me to cover one last manga that had something to do with the man's year of revival. While there were a couple of special chapters of Saint Seiya Next Dimension published in 2014 & 2015, respectively, before the series came back for an actual short revival for December 2015 & January 2016, Kurumada's focus was obviously on returning to other works that he had to put on the back burner for literally decades. He brought back Otoko Zaka after a 30 year hiatus, making two more volumes-worth of content, with a third short run having just started last week, but aside from that & Indigo Period there was one other series that Kurumada celebrated his 40th Anniversary with...

At the start of Fuma no Kojirou's second & final year of serialization in Shonen Jump in 1983, Masami Kurumada drew a one-shot that appeared in that February's issue of spin-off magazine Fresh Jump called Raimei no Zaji/Thunder Clap Zaji. A year later, in between FnK's end & Otoko Zaka's start, came a second chapter in Shonen Jump, followed by years later with a third chapter in Shonen Jump in early 1988 (during the run of Saint Seiya). A few years later, though, would come the whole Silent Knight Sho debacle in 1992 that resulted in Kurumada's departure from Shonen Jump & eventually Shueisha as a whole, which resulted in Shueisha putting out a single (not quite) volume for Raimei no Zaji in 1993; it would later be re-published as a double-feature with Aoi Tori no Shinwa in 2001 under the name Never End Heroes 1. While Kurumada did put a "The End" at the end of the last chapter, he also put in a "To Be Continued" below it, indicating that he had plans to continue the story. On October 21, 2014, the debut issue of Akita Shoten's new online magazine Champion Cross featured a Kurumada manga titled Raimei no Zaji Tokubestu-hen ~Haruka Kanata~/Thunder Clap Zaji Special Chapter ~Far Away~, an eight-page return that literally promised at the end that "Zaji will be back!", though said promise has yet to be fulfilled. Until that moment truly happens, though, let's examine what the original three chapters from the 80s, plus those recent eight pages, brought to the table, and see if old Zaji is even worth caring about in the first place.

Zaji is a 16 year old boy who has been raised by a mysterious organization known as Home (the kanji literally means "White Tomb") to be a Hitman (literally "Killing Person"); to Home, he is just known as "WG919". Zaji, though, decides to break away from life as a Hitman, wanting to find the whereabouts of his mother, who lives in Japan. Home, however, feels differently about this & decides to send some of its best First Soldiers out to kill the traitor. Unfortunately for Zaji, his own fellow Mates ("Grave Friends", get it?) & Ladies have no qualms about killing their former ally.