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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Dororo (Live-Action): Unfaithful Adaptation or Neat Reimagining? You Decide!

I've reviewed live-action adaptations of anime & manga before, see Team Astro & Fuma no Kojirou, but they've definitely been a rarity here. Honestly, though, I have been interested in covering these kinds of products for a while, so I might as well make up for that slightly. Luckily, since I just reviewed an anime based on a manga that also received a live-action adaptation about a decade ago, I should start there.

Osamu Tezuka's catalog is no stranger to live-action, both before & after his death in 1989. Astro Boy was a live-action TV series in 1959 before it ever became an anime in 1963 (something which Tezuka quickly regretted ever having been made), the 1966-1967 live-action TV adaptation of Ambassador Magma was the first ever color tokusatsu series, & even as recently as 2009 saw a live-action movie based on Tezuka's MW ("Mu"), which was a response to the gekiga movement of the 70s. What I'll be covering here, though, is the 2007 live-action movie based off of Dororo. Released during the 40th Anniversary of the manga's debut in Shonen Sunday, the movie was (supposedly) originally planned to be the first in a trilogy, but wound up being only a single film; granted, it wound up being a 139-minute film. Directed by Akihiko Shiota (YomigaeriDakishimetai: Shinjitsu no Monogatari/I Just Wanna Hug You), the movie was the eight top-grossing Japanese film of 2007. Universal Studios Home Entertainment, which was releasing the occasional foreign film at the time, brought the movie over to North America via sub-only DVD in 2008, coming out just after Vertical finished releasing the manga.

If you didn't notice, I refrained from calling the Dororo movie an "adaptation", because it isn't exactly one. Does that mean I'm condemning the movie? Not exactly...

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Dororo (& Hyakkimaru): A Litany of Anime History

Anime with great historical value isn't something that tends to get released here in North America on any sort of basis, at least in the sense that it's historical nature is completely established by the time it is picked up; normally, a title becomes historical after it's already been brought over (i.e. titles like Evangelion, Cowboy Bebop, Sailor Moon, etc.). Even more rare to ever see released over here is black & white/B&W anime, which is pretty obvious to see why. Most anime fans are young & interested in the here & now, with older fans only being so interested in titles from the 60s, which is when B&W anime was still being produced. That's what makes the subject of this review so interesting & important, though... This is a B&W anime being released in the year 2016 because enough people were interested in it, & it's historical significance is absolutely through the roof. In fact, it's so important in the history of anime that it being adapted from a manga by Osamu Tezuka seems kind of blasé.

Dororo originally debuted in the pages of Weekly Shonen Sunday back in mid-1967, but it only lasted a year before Tezuka had to cancel it, though that certainly didn't stop it from winner an Eisner Award in 2009 once Vertical published it in North America. Anyway, Tezuka's original anime studio, Mushi Productions, was interested in adapting the manga to anime in 1969, after making a pilot film in 1968 that caught the interest of Fuji TV. As the story goes, though, Fuji was leery about Mushi's use of blood, which resulted in Mushi having to produce the TV anime in B&W; Fuji also mandated the inclusion of a puppy to follow the leads. By 1969, though, anime was well into the age of color, which meant that the Dororo anime wound up becoming the last anime to ever be completely produced in B&W. While anime since it has used B&W in varying ways for artistic purposes, this was the last one made without color because of the very time it was made in.

Also, half-way into the show's airing, the anime changed names slightly, going from Dororo to Dororo & Hyakkimaru, due to how the latter was technically the main character. Come episode 20 would be a new sponsor, Calpis Co. Ltd. (which makes the soft drink of the same name), with the idea being that Calpis would sponsor each & every anime that would air in the time slot that Dororo ran in for the time being; after Dororo finished the slot changed to airing anime based on classic children's literature. Ten years after the creation of Calpis Manga Theater, though, Calpis would stop sponsoring, though the slot itself would stay the same; House Foods would later be the sponsor at times. In short, Dororo was the very first entry in the venerated World Masterpiece Theater franchise, which produced anime like Heidi, Girl of the Alps, Anne of Green Gables, 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother, & A Dog of Flanders, many of which became international classics of anime. It's also the first entry in the anime staple to not be based on a piece of classic literature, with only 1994's Tico of the Seven Seas doing the same by being an original story. Only an anime based on an Osamu Tezuka manga could be both the end of one era & the start of another, & yet there's still more historical significance to Dororo.

That last bit is housed within the staff list for this anime, but we'll get to that when appropriate. For the moment, let's finally get the show itself, which finally saw a DVD release by Discotek Media earlier this year.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Twelve Older Anime That Deserve License Rescues: The Homecoming Part 2

Not a license rescue, per se, but FUNimation announced a few days ago that it licensed Momotaro, Sacred Sailors, a 1944 Japanese propaganda film that is generally considered to be the very first feature-length (~70 minutes, in this case) animated production ever made in Japan; FUNi was actually one of the financial backers of the recent HD remastering it received. The film itself was kind of a sequel to 1942's Momotaro's Sea Eagle, a 37-minute feature that I actually wrote about way back in this blog's first month of existence as part of my short review of Zakka Films' 2008 DVD compilation of Pre-War anime; it was my second review ever, in fact. Anyway, I bring this up mainly to illustrate that, sometimes, one can truly "never say never" when it comes to anime licenses... Even though I just said that word, twice at that.

Let's just get back to the license rescue list, okay?

I'm starting the second half of this list with another case of two adaptations of the same manga, with each take being released by a different company. Megumu Okada's Shadow Skill debuted first as a doujinshi (a.k.a. fan-created work) until 1992, when Takeshobo picked it up as a professional serialization in the pages of Comic Gamma. It ran until the magazine was terminated in 1996 when it was then picked up by Fujimi Shobo & ran in Monthly Dragon Jr. until 1998. Following that, Kodansha picked up the rights & in 2001 Okada continued doing the manga regularly until 2006, when he took a hiatus to focus on Saint Seiya Episode.G, which he debuted in Akita Shoten's Champion Red back in 2002. In 2009, Okada put Episode.G on hiatus & returned to Shadow Skill, releasing a new chapter every other month until finally ending it in 2014 with a total of 15 volumes. Anyway, it's obvious that the martial arts-styled action manga starring Elle Ragu & her surrogate "little brother" Gau Ban had earned itself a loyal fanbase, which resulted in a small variety of anime adaptations.