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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.