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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Demo Disc Vol. 10: Odious Oni

It's time to celebrate, because Demo Disc has now hit double digits! Wooooooo!!

Ever since I started alternating between single series & multi-series for Demo Disc, the former category has had a consistent concept behind each entry. Machine Robo: Revenge of Cronos was an unwanted anime license, Get Ride! AMDriver was an unreleased anime license, & Geisters - Fractions of the Earth was an unfinished anime license. Therefore, for the fourth single series volume of Demo Disc, I will be covering an unlicensed anime license!
Huh, that didn't sound good on paper, either.

Due to half-length episodes, there is no eyecatch.
Each episode ends with a still shot, though.

Banpresto's 1990 Game Boy game Oppressive Demon Record Oni was originally conceived as a puzzle game before being redesigned as an RPG. It wound up being the start of the Oni Series, which received seven more games, primarily developed by Pandora Box, across the Game Boy & Super Famicom, before finishing up in 2001 on the PlayStation with Oni Zero ~Resurrection~; Compile Heart brought back the series for one entry on the DS in 2007. In between the releases of 1995's Oni V: Successors to Endurance for the Game Boy & 1996's Tale of the Advent of the Bakumatsu Oni for the Super Famicom, Sotsu Agency & J.C. Staff came together & produced an anime based on the Oni Series. At the same time, the mid-90s saw a number of short-form TV anime being produced (Neo Ranga, Sexy Commando, etc.), so the resulting Touma Kijin Den/Legend of the Fierce Fighting God Oni wound up running for 25 episodes, each of which only lasted 10 minutes as part of TV Tokyo's Thursday morning Anime Asaichi block. Since then, the anime more or less became forgotten, so much so that I could only find 15 episodes-worth fansubbed, two-thirds of which isn't in the greatest quality due to age, plus two more episodes (17 & 18) without any sort of translation. So did it have any potential, does it execute the short-episode style well, and is it primarily for fans of the games?

Shuramaru is an young man raised by one of the village elders as his own grandson. Unfortunately, the rest of the villages shun Shuramaru, as his freakish strength has him labeled a "demon". Unbeknownst to all, though, is that Shuramaru is in fact part of the Oni lineage, which derive from ancient Yoma (demonic spirits) & have existed alongside humanity (both publicly & in secret) for ages. Shuramaru has to come to terms with his lineage, though, when a mysterious group from the future, who call themselves "The Seven Gods of Fortune", arrive with plans to kill all those they deem as having "impure genes", as the future has become bleak & filled with naturally sterilized people, whom they blame on those with said flawed genes. Luckily for him, though, there are other people of the Oni out there to help him fight back against their futuristic foes.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Legend of Zorro (Movie Edit): Zorro's a Terrible Film Editor, Always Splicing in a "Z" Shape...

In JAM Project March, I failed to actually bring up Masaaki Endoh's early days & how he eventually became famous, instead focusing more on his iconic "Super Endoh Time" ability to keep a single note for insanely long amounts of time. Trust me, I tried to keep up with him during a live show once; he visibly wanted to see me go all the way, but I just couldn't. That's mainly because there isn't much to tell, surprisingly enough. After high school, Endoh debuted in the music industry in 1993 as part of The Hiptones, followed by acoustic duo Short Hopes (later Steeple Jack), but neither run really lasted much more than a year. Following that, producer Shunji Inoue signed him for anisong singing, first working as part of Hironobu Kageyama's chorus before forming the short-lived duo Metal Brothers with the man. By this point it was 1997, & Endoh made his immediate mark by singing the iconic opening theme to King of Braves GaoGaiGar, "Yusha-Oh Tanjou!". That being said, however, the final entry in the Brave Series was NOT Masaaki Endoh's debut anime theme song...

Anime based on the works of non-Japanese literature is nothing surprising, as indicated by things like the World Masterpiece Theater franchise or even most of Studio Ghibli's catalog. This has resulted in works like The Wizard of Oz, Cinderella, Snow White & the Seven Dwarves, Robin Hood, The Three Musketeers, & The Count of Monte Cristo, among countless others, being made into anime at some point or another from the 70s to today. From 1996-1997, Ashi Productions (now Production Reed) worked with Toho in producing an anime adaptation of pulp writer Johnston McCulley's legendary masked warrior Zorro, 77 years after McCulley wrote The Curse of Capistrano in All-Story Weekly back in 1919. Titled Kaiketsu Zorro/Zorro the Extraordinary, the anime ran on NHK for 52 episodes & would eventually see release in various countries around the world. Today, the license for the anime, or at least its various dubs, is with Mondo TV, an Italian company co-founded by Orlando Corradi, who is most (infamously) known as being the director & producer of 1999's The Legend of the Titanic & its 2004 sequel In Search of the Titanic (a.k.a. Tentacolino)... Both of which are considered two of the most maligned animated films ever for their bizarre & mind-boggling plots (not to mention having the gall to give the story of the Titanic a happy ending).

So let me do something I haven't done in a while & review an edited, English dubbed version of an anime, specifically a movie edit. Yes, Mondo TV not only dubbed all of the TV series into English, renaming it The Legend of Zorro (I don't know which came first, this dub or the Antonio Banderas movie), but it also produced a 105-minute compilation movie version of Kaiketsu Zorro, which you can actually watch legally over at YouTube. Does it work in any way, & does it at least keep Masaaki Endoh's debut anime theme songs?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Obscusion B-Side: Jumping the Gun on Unreleased Video Game Reviews

Though I don't work in the journalism industry, it is what my Bachelor's Degree is about, and I can understand the concept of deadlines & the like. This applies to video game journalism as well, especially back in the days when magazines were still king. Gaming magazines like GamePro, GMR, Game Informer, Electronic Gaming Monthly, GameFan, & many others were (or still are) monthly publications, and the writers & editors for those publications had to make sure that specific articles, previews, reviews, & whatnot were ready to go for each new issue. Unfortunately, the fact that the magazines were only released once a month meant that there was always time for things to change after publication happened. Granted, the magazines were all generally good at keeping things timely & most games did come out as planned, but sometimes games just get cancelled, and sometimes it's at the last possible moment. Therefore, let's take a look at four times when gaming magazines wound up "jumping the gun" & actually reviewed video games that never truly saw release, at least in North America.

Why only four? Because I don't want to simply get everything I've archived out of the way immediately, that's why.

Early on in the North American life of the Sega Genesis there was a publisher named Sage's Creation that released a scant eight titles from 1990-1992. Since then, people have surmised that the company was simply a way for Japanese publisher Hot-B to release Genesis games in North America, as Hot-B USA was already a licensed Nintendo publisher (similar to how Konami had Ultra Games & Atari had Tengen). Overall, Sage's Creation didn't really release anything of real merit (Insector X & Devilish are probably the most notable games), but the company had one (seemingly) final game in the works for release. Originally titled Blue Almanac in Japan, Star Odyssey was a sci-fi JRPG in the style of Sega's Phantasy Star games, complete with a story that spanned multiple planets, each with it's own different environment style. Sage's Creation was seemingly all set to release the 1991 Mega Drive RPG on the Genesis sometime in mid-1992, but the company's dissolution put an end to that, likely due to Hot-B's own eventual bankruptcy in Japan the following year. Interestingly enough, Hot-B USA would wind up surviving over a decade after its parent company's death, with its final release being Graffiti Kingdom for the PS2 in 2005, which itself was already five years after its prior releases (2000's Runabout 2 on PS1 & Black Bass with Hank Parker on PC).

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Transformers: The Headmasters: Dare to Believe That I Won't Make a HeadOn Joke!

I already gave Hironobu Kageyama a general overview up to his first iconic theme song (Dragon Ball Z's "Cha-la Head Cha-la") during JAM Project March in 2014, but it is important to stress that it did take a few years for him to really become a notable singer in Japan. His songs for the likes of Super Dimensional Cavalry Southern Cross, Dengeki Sentai Changeman, & Uchuusen Sagittarius didn't become real iconic themes, & his songs for the second half of Saint Seiya TV are generally overlooked in place of Make-Up's series-defining songs. Really, the same can be said for his contributions for the subject of this anime review, but let's not hold that against anything; as long as they're good songs, that's really all that matters in the end. Anyway, this review is double-fitting in terms of timing, because Transformers is once again on some people's minds, what with the latest Michael Bay film (The Last Knight) having just come out in theaters & Shout! Factory having re-released the three Japanese-exclusive anime sequels to the original series as another boxset just a couple of weeks ago (for super cheap at that!). Therefore, let's take a look at the first of these sequels...

So when Season 3 of the original Transformers animated series ended on February 25, 1987 in North America, it was decided that the story would end in a three-part finale titled The Rebirth, which aired across three days later that November... And it was terrible. This isn't even going off of nostalgia or anything, as I watched those episodes for curiosity's sake a few years back & was appalled at how badly Generation 1 (as it's now called) ended. In Japan, however, the series still had enough popularity, so when the Japanese dub of Season 3, called Transformers 2010, ended on June 26, 1987, Takara & Toei decided to simply make their own sequel, as The Rebirth had not debuted yet & they wanted a new show to air the following week. So, on July 3, NTV debuted Transformers: The Headmasters, a 35-episode TV anime that continued the story, completely ignoring whatever plans the American writers were going with. It wouldn't be until 2011 that this series (& it's two sequels) would see official release in North America by Shout! Factory on DVD, but was this really worth the effort? How much better is it, really, compared to The Rebirth?

[Please note that, since Shout! Factory's translation maintains the American names & terminology, I will be using those for this review]

It's 2011 (you know, "the future"), one year following the events of The Return of Optimus Prime (where Optimus was revived to help stop the Hate Plague from destroying the galaxy), & the war between the Autobots & Decepticons is still raging on, with the Autobots having bases on Earth, Athenia, & Cybertron, while the Decepticons operate out of Earth & Chaar. Both sides will be gaining the assistance of a new type of Transformers, the Headmasters. Four million years ago, a group of Cybertronians left their home & eventually wound up on the harsh planet of Master, where they eventually evolved & discovered that they could transform into giant heads; they built transforming bodies called Transtectors to utilize, in turn. With forces lead by Cerebros joining Optimus & Rodimus Prime & warriors lead by Scorponok siding with Galvatron, the war might finally find a crescendo after all this time.