Monday, June 26, 2017

Twelve Older Anime That Deserve License Rescues VIII: Release Date TBD Part 2

Sometimes actually getting all of an anime franchise released here in North America can be a tricky thing, for a variety of reasons. Though FUNimation did manage to release nearly everything related to the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime, I did review FMA: Reflectons, a 2005 Animax-exclusive recap special that featured some original conversations between characters, back in 2012, as it was the sole piece of that original series that never came over legally. Also relating to FUNimation, we've been getting the most recent One Piece movies alongside the TV anime, but FUNi has yet to bring over any of the older movies or even the old TV specials, let alone the 1998 pilot that Production I.G. made for the Jump Super Anime Tour. Therefore, let's start Part 2 of this year's license rescue list with a movie that FUNi has never rescued, even though the company did do just that for another part of one of its most iconic shonen properties.

As much as the anime adaptation of Yoshihiro Togashi's Yu Yu Hakusho is considered one of FUNimation's earliest big hits, that company was not the first to bring it over to North America. Back in 1998, two different companies gave the series its first chance with anime fans, both utilizing the original story movies. The first movie, which is unofficially subtitled The Golden Seal, is a 25-minute short film & came out on July 10, 1993 as part of a triple-bill with Dragon Ball Z: Bojack Unbound & Dr. Slump: From Penguin Village with Love, and saw release by Media Blasters on VHS in mid-1998, followed by a DVD re-release with Ninku the Movie in 2001. The second movie, The Underworld Deathmatch Chapter - Bonds of Fire, was a feature-length film that debuted on April 9, 1994, & eventually saw released here by CPM in early 1998 on VHS under the simple title of Yu Yu Hakusho The Movie: Poltergeist Report. Yes, Central Park Media was the company that actually first brought this series to North America, & in late 2002 was released on DVD, followed by a re-release in 2006.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Twelve Older Anime That Deserve License Rescues VIII: Release Date TBD Part 1

I do this to myself, honestly, but I like trying to compile a license rescue list every year, especially since it's been getting tougher to compile a list in which I feel that every single entry "deserves" being rescued & given a new re-release. There were a ton of rather forgettable & piss-poor anime that saw release in the history of the English-targeted market, and quite frankly a lot of those don't really need re-releases. Now, sure, I've included some titles that may not be marquee-quality in prior lists (Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals or Dark Warrior, anyone?), but at least when I include a title of lesser quality, it has to have a real sense of recognition behind it. It has to be something that still has some worth to it, whether that's due to it having a big name to it, or something worthy of repeat viewings (like multiple English dubs)... Or it has to be worthy of absolute infamy.

So, to start off this eight installment of the license rescue list series, let's go for one of the most infamous anime ever released.

On the very first license rescue list back in January of 2011 I included Yoshiyuki Tomino's Aura Battler Dunbine, which saw a singles-only release from ADV that sold so poorly that not only was ADV literally making coupons that gave customers free copies of the DVDs, but the last two volumes had such small print-runs that they are still two of the most expensive Region 1 anime DVDs ever produced. Granted, Daisuki did give Dunbine a new lease on life via streaming, which sadly will be going down later this year, but enough of the originator of the tales from Byston Well. Tomino put a lot of attention towards this fantasy world, and every now & then he would head back to Byston Well for another round. Easily the most infamous trip back, however, came in the mid-90s when he wrote, storyboarded, & directed Tales of Byston Well: Garzey's Wing.

Friday, June 16, 2017

éX-Driver "Double Feature": A Burst of Turbo Accompanied by a Dead Engine

JAM Project's debut anime, the six episode OVA éX-Driver, seemed to be a bit of a hit release in Japan, so it only made sense to create more of it. The interviews made to go with the final episode, which are on Media Blasters' DVD releases, announced that the éX-Drivers would soon make their theatrical debuts, and the wait wouldn't be too long. The final episode of the OVA series came out in September of 2001, while the movie, simply titled éX-Driver the Movie, started running in theaters on April 20, 2002, but that's not all! Running alongside the movie was a special OVA prequel, subtitled Nina & Rei Danger Zone, which had its own director. Interestingly enough, Media Blasters did not license & release these two, but rather it was Geneon Entertainment, which released the Movie & Danger Zone on a single DVD. Therefore, rather than make two separate reviews, let's make this a Double Feature, where you get two reviews in one! I haven't done one of these in roughly four years, so let's see how it goes.

Probably one of the most interesting subjects that got brought up in the extras of the éX-Driver OVAs was why the cars were traditionally animated rather than done via CG. Director Jun Kawagoe went into some nice detail about the subject, stating that utilizing CG would be tricky (especially at the time), because either it would make it tougher to properly animate the characters inside the cars, or they would also have to be done via CG, which in turn wouldn't look quite as appealing. In comparison, hand animating everything, though requiring more work to get the detail right, allowed the staff to be in complete control over every single frame & moment. I bring this up because éX-Driver the Movie does what Kawagoe brought up by doing the cars via CG, but with the characters traditionally animated. With Kawagoe only in a supervisory role here, does this change in visual style help or hinder the movie? Hell, is it even a good hour-long story in the first place?

Lisa, Lorna, & Souichi head to Los Angeles to represent Japan in an international race between éX-Drivers from around the world. Upon arrival, though, they stop a runaway car that holds Angela Gambino, the daughter of a pasta magnate who's helping sponsor the éX-Driver race. Angela feels that her father, Rico, is participating in illegal gambling with the race, though, so she's trying to find ways to either stop the race or keep her father from getting involved... But is Rico Gambino really the villain in this supposed gambling ring?

Sunday, June 11, 2017

éX-Driver: All thé "É"s Must Bé Accéntéd!

As anime entered the new millennium, the industry had mostly moved towards using popular music for advertising purposes when it came to opening & ending themes. Ichiro Mizuki, the legendary anime song singer for themes to series like Mazinger Z, Tekkaman, Captain Harlock, Mechander Robo, & too many others to name, wanted to "Leave the 'Soul of Anison' with the 21st Century", and decided to found a anison supergroup. Joining him was Hironobu Kageyama (of Dragon Ball Z & Saint Seiya fame), Masaaki Endoh (of GaoGaiGar fame), singer/seiyuu double-threat Rica Matsumoto (of Pokémon fame), & Eizou Sakamoto (of Animetal & Anthem fame). Together the group would be called Japan Animationsong Makers Project, and the five would debut as a group in 2000. While the supergroup would quickly become associated with giant robots & superheroes, though, JAM Project's debut anime was nothing of the sort. In fact, in place of the style of Go Nagai was the looks of Kosuke Fujishima.

From 2000-2001, the creator of You're Under Arrest!, Oh! My Goddess, & character designer for a good portion of the Tales Series (i.e. whenever Mutsumi Inomata isn't doing them) teamed with Bandai Visual & animation studio Actas (making its solo debut) to produce a six-episode OVA series about sweet cars & the people who drive them. Titled éX-Driver (yes, the "e" must have an accent above it), the OVA would be a mixed-media production, with a manga version done by Fujishima & a light novel side story, subtitled Road to Pride, written by Hiroshi Amon & illustrated by Kenichi Hamasaki & Hiroaki Kobayashi. So let's see what the original OVA series, which saw a North American release by Media Blasters in 2002 on VHS & DVD (plus a two-disc complete collection on DVD in 2003) was like.

It's (you know,) "the future", and people no longer drive cars. Instead, the populace utilize AI-controlled electric vehicles to go from place to place, simply telling the car where to go; it even makes reservations on its own, if needed. Unfortunately, Artificial Intelligence still occasionally glitches out, which can result in vehicles going rogue & essentially holding its passengers hostage. When that happens, a call is made to éX-Driver, a group of people who are trained & capable of driving gasoline-powered "reciprocars" the good old-fashioned way. Lisa Sakakino & Lorna Endo are two high school students who also work as éX-Drivers for the Tokyo region, often having to leave class to tackle runaway car incidents. When a third éX-Driver, a prodigal young teen named Souichi Sugano, is added to the team, though, Lisa takes offense at the thought that she & Lorna aren't good enough on their own. Regardless, AI cars will go rogue, & it's up to the éX-Drivers to save the day.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

It's the Summer of JAM... In Living Colour, at That!

Look in my eyes, what do you see? Nothing, actually, since this is all text & that was a trick question!

Back in 2014, I did something crazy called JAM Project March. At that time, I was planning to attend Anime Boston, which was hosting JAM Project as one of its guests, so I decided to review six anime to celebrate the occasion during that month, with each anime featuring a theme song done by JAM itself; one for each of the current regular members & one for the group as a whole. I also shared an anime theme involving each member (& the group at large) each day of the month over at Twitter, and when I think back at it I wonder how the hell I managed to do such a thing. Actually, I technically didn't manage to do it all as planned, as the final review (Robonimal Panda-Z: The Robonimation) didn't get made until April. So, what does that have to do with this post?

Well, as part of Otakon's first ever convention emanating from Washington D.C., Otakorp has teamed with the Anison World Matsuri for the latter's first ever east coast performance, and one of the acts coming to D.C. for Otakon will be JAM Project (alongside T.M. Revolution, FLOW, & Yousei Teikoku). Therefore, I want to do something similar to JAM Project March... Only in a much more realistic & understandable format.

Therefore, I have come up with the Summer of JAM.