Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2018!! Part 2

With me slowing down after this upcoming March, the 100th consecutive month for the blog, this will more than likely be the final favorite posts list I'll ever do, or at least in the yearly format that I've been doing ever since 2012. I have considered maybe doing just a one-part list with six entries, but I won't have to really think about that until this time next year. Anyway, it will certainly be interesting to come to the usual Boxing Day & New Year's period of time & not have a two-part list to compile, because it's always been fun to look back at what I've written throughout the year & see what I felt were either the best or meant the most to me, personally. This is especially true for this year, because often I though back to some stuff from the start of the year, only for me to constantly realize that they were indeed done this year. So, for one last time in the format that I've been using for the past six years, allow me to list another six-ish posts that I did this year that I felt had something truly special to them.

The Ages of Jump Redux (August 1 & 8)
After finishing up the original Ages of Jump back in 2016, I knew that there were some titles that I didn't really cover that probably could have been worth including, but considering how much insane work that seven-part series took over the course of two months, I think it was understandable that I didn't really want to return to it. Of course, with 2018 being the 50th Anniversary of Shonen Jump, it was the perfect time to return to what might become my most well known work & give credit to those previously indicated titles. Instead of splitting it up across another four articles, though, I instead just did it as two, with the Bronze & Golden Ages (plus a single title from the Dark Age) being Part 1, & the Silver Age being bundled with a look at the possible start of a new "Iron Age" in Part 2. I made sure to replicate the style that I gave the original Ages articles as closely as possible, and I think I succeeded in that regard.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2018!! Part 1

After an entire year of looking back at what I had done in the past & putting a close to as many loose ends as I could over the course of the past (nearly) 365 days, I close out 2018 by looking back at what I had done over the course of the entire year. Because, yo dawg, we heard you like reminiscing so we put a reminiscence in yo reminiscence so yo can look back while you look back.

In other words, reminisception... Yeah, I went to those old memes.

Anyway, I already mentioned in the 8th Anniversary post about how well I feel the "Year of Unfinished Business" worked out, and that's no lie. If anything, this has been one of the most difficult years for me to properly whittle down to the usual favorites list, and that's because it's like having to pick & choose from some of my all-time most enjoyable pieces of writing. You know when you ask an actor who their favorite character to play is, or a creator what they're favorite work is, & they respond with, "That's hard to answer, because it's like having to pick which of my children is my favorite"? That's kind of how this year feels in regards to having to make choices. Sure, there are always some that were fun to write but otherwise are obviously not going to be worthy of being my favorites, but in this year's case there really aren't too many of those. But, after deliberating & procrastinating throughout this entire month, here are what I feel are my favorite posts of "Unfinished Business".

The Truth Behind "The Disaster Anime": Game Lab's Musashi Gundoh Interview Translated! (April 1)
Being the shy & (much too) humble guy that I am, it is honestly rare for me to be the one to initiate contact with another if I feel that I am incapable of doing something, especially if it's one-on-one; contacting a company feels much more anonymous. But when I found an opportunity to get a hold of Volume 140 of Sansai Books' Game Labo Tokubestsu Henshu Gendai Shikaku Bunka Kenkyu, which held within it an infamous interview with two of the people behind the equally infamous kuso anime Gundoh Musashi, producer Nobuyuki Sugaya & director Yuki Kinoshita, just days after the show finished airing, I knew that I had to get some help to translate the two interviews. While I do know some people who know people who translate, I don't really know any personally, which is where my natural inclination to hesitate came in. After some searching, I remembered that I had previously heard of the site Chic Pixel, run by professional writer & translator Anne Lee, and I saw that she was open to offers, so I decided to see what she'd say. Anne not only was interested in the project, but her price seemed more than fair (of course, I had no prior concept of translation costs), so I scanned the pages with the interview & we were off! For the first time ever, I actually had to be the equivalent to a producer or editor, which was definitely interesting.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Sukeban Deka: Cane Sugar, Carolina Reapers, & Buckets of Blood, That's What Little Girls Are Made Of

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, & just general Happy Holidays to everyone! It's that time of the year, so once again, for the third time, I've become a part of the Reverse Thieves' Anime Secret Santa program, where anime writers/bloggers/podcasters anonymously recommend anime to each other in an attempt to get people to check out titles they'd normally not think of watching. This time around, I was recommended three OVAs, and I've decided to just go for one. First up was All-Purpose Cat Girl Nuku Nuku, which I did heavily consider, especially since the entire series (OVA & TV) did get re-released by Discotek Media earlier this year (along with the super-obscure UK dub for the OVA!). The second was both of the 3x3 Eyes OVA series, which I did actually see once, but it was over a decade ago, and I honestly don't remember too much of it; that being said, I'd love to see a license rescue for this, so I decided not to go with it. In the end, I decided to go with the last option, primarily because it was related to something I had covered on the blog before, which would fit perfectly with this being the "Year of Unfinished Business".

I prefer using the original Japanese title splashes,
but sometimes you just have to use what's on the DVD itself.

Though Go Nagai & Masami Kurumada may have been two of the first mangaka to create manga once the word "sukeban" entered the general vernacular of Japanese language, neither Oira Sukeban nor Sukeban Arashi would really become icons of manga starring female delinquents. Just a couple of months after Kurumada's debut manga got canceled, & about a month before Nagai's delinquent manga would come to an end, Shinji Wada debuted his new manga, Sukeban Deka/Delinquent Detective, in Hakusensha's Hana to Yume magazine. Wada, who entered in the industry in 1971 & passed away back in 2011, was easily the most recognized male shojo mangaka out there, and Sukeban Deka would become his most iconic work, running for six years & 22 volumes before ending in late 1982; Wada would return for the single-volume Sukeban Deka if in 2004. Afterwards, in 1985, the manga was adapted by Toei into a live-action TV series that aired on Fuji TV & was similarly successful, running for 108 episodes across three shows until 1987, with each season starring a different woman taking up the "Saki Asamiya" moniker. After those, there were two movies in 1987 & 1988 that acted as sequels to the second & third shows, with the first movie also being a crossover of the latter two Sakis; these movies would actually see release in North America on DVD by Media Blasters' Tokyo Shock label. Then, in 2006, there was a third movie that was mostly standalone but did relate slightly to the first TV series, and in 2016 I reviewed the DVD release Magnolia Pictures put out under the name Yo-Yo Girl Cop. Between the second & third movies, though, there was one last production made, which was the two-episode OVA adaptation of Sukeban Deka from 1991, which was the third title recommended to me by Evan Minto from Ani-Gamers. So let me see if I'll be 3-for-3 in really enjoying the anime that I was recommended by my Secret Santa.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Demo Disc Vol. 14: Diminutive Delinquents

Without a doubt, one of the most curious genres in the history of manga is that of the delinquent variety. Known as "yankii" in Japan ever since the Post-War Era, delinquent culture has always maintained an allure to Japanese manga readers, which has resulted in icons of the genre, like the Crows x Worst franchise or Rokudenashi Blues, to titles that have utilized the culture to add a unique spin on a subject or simply poke fun at it, like Nyankees (where cats are portrayed as yankii); at the same time, though, this is mainly a manga genre, as yankii anime is extremely rare. This isn't simply a male-oriented culture either, as women are just as known to have their own delinquent culture, with the most well known being "sukeban", the female equivalent to a "bancho", or male delinquent boss. According to the book Beyond Polite Japanese: A Dictionary of Japanese Slang and Colloquialisms, the word sukeban was originally a bit of an insider term until 1972, when it entered the general vernacular, which makes the subject of this volume of Demo Disc all the more interesting, because it may have been one of the very first manga to use the word sukeban in its title. You see, at essentially the same exact time (there were probably only one or two weeks between their debuts), Go Nagai started the manga Oira Sukeban/Delinquent in Drag in Weekly Shonen Sunday, which was about a boy delinquent having to dress as a girl to infiltrate an all-girls school, while over at Weekly Shonen Jump a newbie mangaka made his debut in the industry with his own (sort of) take on sukeban culture.

The works of Masami Kurumada is a subject that is nowhere near foreign to this blog; hell, I've already written four prior articles regarding the man's various works this year alone. Still, for all that he's generally known for being about hot-blooded, passionate boys who grow to become "true men" by way of combat, it is interesting that his debut manga was NOT exactly like his later works. First appearing in Weekly Shonen Jump in mid-1974, though apparently the debut chapter actually got re-run due to the existing oil crisis at the time (a.k.a. the "first oil shock"), Sukeban Arashi/Delinquent Storm originally ran irregularly for six chapters until early 1975. Ten weeks later, the manga returned as a regular part of Jump's weekly schedule, but would end up canceled by the end of the year. It wouldn't be until late 1977, due to Kurumada's success with Ring ni Kakero, that Sukeban Arashi would actually be compiled into a proper tankouban release, but this two-volume edition only covered the later weekly run, plus a 1976 one-shot titled Mikeneko Rock. It wouldn't be until 1983, during the run of Fuma no Kojiro, that the original six chapters would get collected, though instead of being considered a Volume 0 or 3, they were instead treated as a bonus to the main attraction of one-shots Mabudachi Jingi & Shiro-Obi Taisho, with the former story also being the name of the book; I actually reviewed both of those one-shots years ago. Then, in 2013, a scanlation effort started up for Sukeban Arashi, which started with the original irregular run & then moved into the weekly run, but died out shortly into Volume 2; only 19 chapters were fan translated into English. Because of that, I can't properly judge the entire series, nor can I ever cover Mikeneko Rock, but I've always wanted to cover this manga, so let's see what a 20-year-old Masami Kurumada was up to in the mid-70s, before he truly made a name for himself.

Monday, December 3, 2018

In Remembrance of Yu Yamamoto, the Most Unique Mech Anime Writer We Barely Knew

Last week, anime fandom found out about the passing of anime screenwriter Yu Yamamoto, who died on November 25, 2018, just a month shy of his 72nd birthday. To most anime fans outside of Japan, this news isn't really too shattering, as most of the titles that Yamamoto worked on did not see release outside of Japan. Those that did, like Green Legend Ran & Dark Warrior/Makyo Senjo, weren't highly notable releases, either. Looking into the man's resumé, however, showcases that Yu Yamamoto actually has a bit of a legacy, specifically for mech anime, and it's one that should be celebrated, so let's look over it.

Born in Niigata Prefecture in 1946, Masaru "Yu" Yamamoto graduated from Tokyo's Hosei University before entering the anime industry in 1973. He got his start on comedies & action shows like Dokonjo Gaeru, Jungle Kurobee, Zero Tester, & Hurricane Polymar, but eventually found himself working on more & more mech anime episode scripts. Titles like Dino Mech Gaiking, Gowapper 5 Godam, & Super Electromagnetic Robo Com-Battler V all featured Yamamoto on the writing staff to varying degrees. For most, he'd only be responsible for no more than a handful of episodes, but in the case of Super-Combining Magic Robo Ginguiser, which was infamous for being utterly absurd in what the robot could transform into (because magic), he wrote 12 episodes, out of a total 26. Yes, half of the show was done by Yamamoto himself, with another five people handling the rest of the episodes. While certainly not the most amount of episodes he had to write for a single show by any means by that point, he had previously written 33 of the 108 episodes for Yatterman (including the finale!), Ginguiser was effectively the first time a good majority of an anime's plot followed the stroke of his pen... Or maybe not.

You see, upon further research, I came across something interesting. There's another writer for Ginguiser, Akira (or maybe it's Rou?) Hatta, who was only credited for writing the unreleased two-part finale of that show, plus the two recaps that took the place of the final episodes. His only other notable credits are for Blocker Corps IV Machine Blaster, where's he's also listed as "Original Creator", & 1977's Her Majesty, The Queen Petit Ange, also known as Angie Girl or The Casebook of Charlotte Holmes, both of which Yu Yamamoto also wrote for (& even was the credited creator of, for the latter). Similarly, Ginguiser's head writer, who never actually wrote a single episode, is listed as Rei (or maybe it's Rai?) Hatta, and his name never appears again from what I could search. It's not unheard of for an anime writer or director to create pseudonyms that allow them to work on more episodes, possibly due to studio restrictions & the like, so it's possible that Yu Yamamoto created the Akira/Rou/Rei/Rai Hatta name(s), which would mean that he was the original creator of two (admittedly obscure & forgotten) mech anime of the 70s. Anyway, moving back on track, Yamamoto would continue writing throughout the 70s, & in 1979 was brought on by Sunrise to help write for a new mech anime that was being directed by a bit of a loose cannon named Yoshiyuki Tomino.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Tobor the 8th Anniversary: Countdown to Final Obscusion?

"Weirdest Dresser", Judd Elementary School Class of 1998

Yes, that was a real "award" I was given by my sixth grade class as we left elementary school for middle school. The interesting thing about that, in retrospect, is that I wasn't a "weird" dresser for the reasons you'd think. I wasn't bad with color coordination, my mother made sure of that, & I wasn't dressed in any peculiar way. Instead, I simply preferred to wear shirts that were either one solid color, or have some sort of pattern (lines, checker-boxed, etc.), & I really didn't like wearing any sort of licensed property on it; today, I'm not as picky, but I'm still prefer simpler designs. No, I was deemed the "weirdest dresser" simply because I didn't follow the status quo, and for some reason my classmates didn't like that I was so "different". My fellow boy classmates would call me an "alien", say that I wasn't from this planet, & just pick on me in general, while the girl classmates simply didn't want to have anything to do with me... And then it all stopped once someone decided to apparently get so annoyed at me for being "different" that he decided to punch me in the head after school; not the face, but the forehead.

Boy, did that shut everyone up, and I think it really made them realize something about ostracization. After that moment, everyone treated me just a little bit nicer, & by high school I was at least tolerated enough that, on rare occasion, they'd ask me to help them if they had a question about an assignment, because I guess I was smart, in their opinions. But by then the damage had been done years ago, and I'm sure it really hurt my ability to relate to others... And it's something that's honestly stuck with me to this very day, unfortunately, if even only a little bit. If you ever came across me in real life & I wasn't exactly the most open guy to talk to, I hope that at least explains why I might have come across like that, and I'm sorry if I gave you a less than stellar first impression.

If I was to be my own (hack) psychologist for a moment, I'd say that's the reason why I love focusing on the obscure & forgotten: Because they deserve the attention & respect that others wouldn't give them, kind of like how I was ignored or treated as "less". Today, a common claim is to "fly your freak flag high" & celebrate what makes you special, but the truth of the matter is that, deep down, those who say that tend to be the ones who still determine what's "normal", even within little niches like anime fandom; be yourself, but not so much that you're too unlike others. Ever since I started The Land of Obscusion, I've had moments where my "different" tastes were questioned, simply because they were not like those of others & were unexpected. I once got called out, in person, by professional translator Neil Nadelman, because I had the apparent gall to give Zaizen Jotaro, a constant pick for his Totally Lame Anime panel at cons, a more positive review over here a few years prior; to clarify, he brought it up, not knowing I was in the same room as him. Once on ANNCast, I told Zac Bertschy & Justin Sevakis, two guys I have nothing but the greatest respect for, that Ring ni Kakero 1 was my most-wanted anime license, and their collective response was effectively, "WHAT?! WHY?!?!?!"; granted, they heard me out & humored me with a conversation, but the reaction said it all. Finally, & most recently, I had a friend pretty much say to me, "Well, you are a [insert anime title here] apologist, so..." when I defended another anime I enjoyed; I get that it was in jest, but the joke still comes from a feeling of superior opinion. Obviously, all three are isolated incidents, and only the first actually came off as aggressively intentional, but they still, unfortunately, all carried the same general air to them: You're "different", and that's not a "good thing" to the rest of us.

Friday, November 30, 2018

GR -Giant Robo-: You're Not Alexand... Er, I Mean Imagawa!

I've said it before here, but it bears repeating that Mitsuteru Yokoyama might be one of the most underappreciated people in the history of anime & manga, and that even applies to mecha. While the likes of Go Nagai, Ken Ishikawa, Yoshiyuki Tomino, & even Tadao Nagahama are acknowledged for their contributions to the genre, they all worked off of the template that Yokoyama introduced back in 1956 with Tetsujin 28. After that manga was made into a wildly successful TV anime from 1963 to 1966, Toei Company contacted Yokoyama with an offer for him to create a pilot for a new tokusatsu show, likely to follow up on the success of shows like Ultraman & Ambassador Magma. What Yokoyama created was Giant Robo, which still featured a teenage boy controlling a giant robot by way of a voice-operated remote control on his wrist; unlike Tetsujin, though, which could be controlled by anyone, Robo could only be controlled by a "hero". The toku series ran from 1967 to 1968 for 26 episodes, & would shortly later be brought over to North America under the Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot. Alongside this, & similar to what Go Nagai & Shotaro Ishinomori would do with their creations later on, Yokoyama also drew his own manga take on Giant Robo, which ran for three volumes in Weekly Shonen Sunday while the show aired on TV.

Of course, as time went on, this title has become associated with something else entirely: The 1992-1998 OVA series Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still. Created by cult-favorite director Yasuhiro Imagawa, this OVA was not really an adaptation of Giant Robo, as Imagawa was actually barred from using any of the supporting cast from either the manga or toku. In response, the OVA became a celebration of Mitsuteru Yokoyama in general, featuring characters from a bevy of the man's manga catalog. That honestly seems like how the Fleischer Brothers didn't want to make Superman cartoons in the 40s, so they asked for an absurd amount of money... Only to wind up making said cartoons because they were being paid more than they ever had. Still, once that OVA came & went, the name "Giant Robo" was automatically linked with what Imagawa created. That's why, when production company Softgarage announced a new 13-episode TV anime to celebrate Giant Robo's 40th Anniversary, there was a fair bit of trepidation, hesitation, & annoyance from anime fans, even with it being in the seemingly good hands of director Masahiko Murata (Mazinkaiser, Corpse Princess) & head writer Chiaki J. Konaka (Digimon Tamers, Serial Experiments Lain); fans wanted more of Imagawa's story, not something completely unrelated. In the end, 2007's GR -Giant Robo- has become a bit of a mystery to most people, as the only English translation it ever received was for the first three episodes by Softgarage itself via its YouTube channel... Which quickly only became Episodes 2 & 3, as BandaiChannel copyright claimed Episode 1 not long after Softgarage put it up in 2009; yes, the Japanese production company got copyright claimed by the Japanese streaming service. Those who have seen some part of this show also aren't too hot on it, either, so I want to finally see for myself what happened with the Giant Robo anime no one speaks of.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

King of the Braves GaoGaiGar Final Grand Glorious Gathering: I Won't Give in 'till I'm Victorious, I Will Defend, And I'll Do What I Must Until the End!

"The Year of Unfinished Business" here at The Land of Obscusion is nearing its end, and one part of it that I had planned but never actually had the chance to get to was knocking out those anime on my original "Want to Review... But Can't" list from 2011. Since then, seven of the twelve anime have actually been covered on this blog, either via full review or through single-series volumes of Demo Disc. That being said, out of the remaining five anime from that list, three of them are mech anime (four, if you count Kiss Dum), so how about I take advantage of yet another Mecha Month & get another two of those shows out of the way? First up is an alternate take of the sequel to one of the most iconic mech anime of the 90s!

In early 1990, Yusha/Brave Exkaiser debuted on Japanese television & marked the start of the Brave Series, a collaborative effort between Sunrise & toy maker Takara, as the latter wanted a spiritual successor to Transformers, which had lost interest in Japan come the new decade. The Brave Series would run until the start of 1998, totaling eight entries, with the last being 1997's Yusha-Oh/King of the Braves GaoGaiGar. By this point, interest in the Brave Series itself was waning, and this wound up being the final entry. A ninth show, Saint of the Braves Baan Gaan, was in pre-production, but never got made into an anime, though it would be included in crossover 1998 PS1 game Brave Saga, & elements of it would be re-purposed into 2000's Gear Fighter Dendoh. What's most interesting, though, is that while kids weren't really watching GaoGaiGar as much as hoped, the home video releases on VHS & laserdisc were surprisingly strong. In short, the anime found a notable otaku audience, and that resulted in the staff at Sunrise Studio 7 being given the greenlight to produce a sequel.

Now, to clarify, this was NOT the first Brave Series sequel, as prior series Brave Command Dagwon did receive the two-episode Boy with Crystal Eyes OVA while GaoGaiGar was airing. Still, King of the Braves GaoGaiGar Final, which came out across eight episodes from 2000 to 2003, has gone down as not just one of the greatest mech anime of the 00s, but is considered by many to be one of the best mech anime of all time. I am not reviewing the OVA, however, mainly because of how synonymous it has become. No, what I'll be reviewing is the retelling it received on late-night TV in the Spring of 2005 (the same year the original series took place in, coincidentally enough). You see, in between the TV series & Final OVA, a spin-off series called Betterman aired in 1999 that took place in the same world as GaoGaiGar, but otherwise was completely different, thematically. Still, the OVA did call back to Betterman, especially since a character from that series became a supporting cast member in the OVA, so Studio 7 wanted to more directly link the two productions, while also giving otaku who didn't buy the OVA a chance to experience the story. The end result was King of the Braves GaoGaiGar Final Grand Glorious Gathering, or just King of the Braves GaoGaiGar Gathering for short, which expanded the eight-episode OVA out into twelve episodes, but has otherwise been forgotten with time. So what better time than the year that marks the 20th Anniversary of the Brave Series' finale as a yearly production to check out the very last anime made for it?

[WARNING!! There will be some slight spoilers regarding the end of the original GaoGaiGar TV series, so you've been warned.]

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Obscusion B-List: "That One Song" from B-Tier (or Lower) Fighters

Back in mid-2015, I did the very first Obscusion B-List, and in it I celebrated six small-name, at best, fighting games that had soundtracks that were simply stellar. Simply put, it can be argued that if a fighting game doesn't have a truly memorable soundtrack, then it almost doesn't matter what kind of outstanding mechanics, flow, & gameplay it has. Granted, this does sound a bit like hyperbole, but consider some of the most iconic fighting games of all time, & then try to deny that at least one song from each of them won't suddenly start playing in your head. Almost any Street Fighter (even the first, honestly), King of Fighters, Guilty Gear, SoulCalibur, Vs. Series, & Tekken game, among others, has a wide variety of instantly memorable stage or character themes to them... Even if it's really just "That One Song".

Therefore, let me give credence, respect, & credit to six lesser-known fighting games that aren't quite known for their soundtracks as a whole, but each have "That One Song" that transcends their limited notoriety & should be celebrated. And since I ended that first B-List with a Toshinden game, let me start this list with another.

Recently, Sony announced the complete 20-game line-ups for the two versions (International & Japan) of this December's PlayStation Classic, and one pick that got people talking, for various reasons, was the original Battle Arena Toshinden. Originally released alongside the PS1's launch in every territory, the 3D fighting game was Tamsoft's second game ever, the first was the Game Boy version of Samurai Shodown a couple of months earlier, but Sony hyped it up beyond all belief as a killer app. I had polygonal graphics that were notably more detailed than Sega's original Virtua Fighter (VF2 just came out in arcades, & wouldn't be released on Saturn for another year), & its use of a sidestep maneuver made it the first "true" 3D fighter. Once more advanced games, like Tekken, came out, though, Sony dropped it like a hot potato (except in Europe, where SCEE would release up through BAT3), and reaction towards it since has been mixed, mainly due to its stiffer gamplay & how it's aged compared to some of its contemporaries. It also didn't help that Tamsoft was already working to port the game to the Saturn, which would see release in late 1995 in Japan as Toshinden S, & internationally in 1996 as Battle Arena Toshinden Remix.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Night Head Genesis: Carry On, My Psychic Sons... Wear Your Weary Minds to Rest...

Previously on the Sci-Fi Harry Review:
"Watching this show definitely makes me interested in watching Night Head Genesis, so that might just be a future review one day... There's always next Halloween, right?"

Five years later is "next Halloween"... Right? Oh well, better late than never. Happy Halloween!

Back in 2013, I celebrated All Hallows' Eve by putting out a review of Sci-Fi Harry (you can put the lead character's name in all caps, if you prefer), which was the creation of Joji "George" Iida. Today, the man is known as a master of supernatural movies, like Rasen (the original sequel to The Ring), Another Heaven (based on one of Iida's own books), & Dragon Head (based on the manga). Before all of those, though, there was the series that made Iida a name in Japan, Night Head. Airing from October 1992 to March 1993, Night Head was a supernatural live-action drama series featuring psychics & the like that ran for 21 episodes via late-night, because the producers felt that stories featuring espers weren't as appealing at the moment. Luckily for Iida, the series became a surprise hit, especially with women, so it received a side-story TV special, Night Head: The Other Side, half way through the show's run, and in November 1994 there was a theatrical film, Night Head: The Movie, which told a new story that took place after the TV series.

Being a writer, Iida also wrote various novels based on Night Head, either retelling the series, retelling the movie (NH: The Trial), telling another side-story (NH: Deep Forest), & even telling a brand new sequel story (NH: Inducer). There were also a few manga adaptations during the 90s & early 00s, a PS1 game (NH: The Labyrinth), & even a cell phone app for i-mode-compatible phones (NH: The Gods of Misofagata)! As for where 2000's Sci-Fi Harry fits into all of this, the only explanation I can find indicates that it's the original concept that Iida thought of back in the day before refining it into Night Head, kind of like how Go Nagai's Devilman was a refinement of Demon Lord Dante before it; admittedly, Harry's US-based storytelling would have been impossible to make in Japan. Anyway, Iida would make one last return to his breakout hit in 2006 with Night Head Genesis, a TV anime remake of the original series, where he'd handle the writing. The anime ran for 24 episodes throughout the second half of 2006, & like its originator also aired in late-night, and from 2008 to 2009 Media Blasters released the anime on sub-only DVD; there was also a three-volume manga version that Del Rey licensed, but only two saw release. So, to close another loose thread I've left open for years, it's time to finally check out Night Head Genesis.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Obscusion B-Side: GamePro Presents The PlayStation 2 & PlayStation Encyclopedia

With "retro gaming" being as notable of a market as it is today, it's not surprising that some people have published their own "comprehensive" books detailing all sorts of old gaming subjects, especially about how specific games hold up. Hardcore Gaming 101 has published its own series of books covering specific publishers & genres, Pat "the NES Punk" Contri has his "Ultimate Guide" to the NES library (with one for the SNES in the works), & you can find books of this ilk for things like the North American Master System catalog & even the entire Game & Watch roster. Over a decade before all of these, though, was a curious spin-off published by IDG's GamePro magazine, then self-described as the "World's Largest Multiplatform Gaming Magazine", that dared to compile reviews for every game for a single console, the Sony PlayStation.

On October 26, 2000, Sony released the PlayStation 2 in North America, and with its precursor console absolutely dominating the market during the second half of the 90s, GamePro wanted to be a part of the PS2's launch. So, at some point around the console's launch, you could find a 160-page, magazine-sized book titled GamePro Presents The PlayStation 2 & PlayStation Encyclopedia, which sold for "Only $5.99" & claimed to be "The Ultimate Guide to Every PlayStation Game". As for a rough release date, the PS1 reviews contained within cover up to a few games released in October/November 2000, with the most recent looking to be Breath of Fire IV, so I'd put the magazine as having been released either November or December of that year. I actually bought this book back when it came out in the day, so I'm curious about how well this compilation of GamePro reviews holds up, or if it's nothing more than a look at how gaming journalism was like during the 90s.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Obscusion B-List: Longshot ACA Neo Geo Hopefuls

[6/2019 UPDATE: Earlier this year, Hamster released Samurai Shodown V Special, the 108th ACA Neo Geo title, and announced that it had fulfilled the deal that it made with SNK for the program. However, Hamster did confirm that it would still be interested in reviving ACA Neo Geo sometime in the future & continue releasing games, so who knows what the future may hold...]

On November 1, 1999, the game division of Toshiba-EMI spun-off into a company named Hamster Corporation, and from its very conception the entire purpose of Hamster has been to re-release video games. It started off with your standard physical re-releases of PS1 games, like Overblood, Magical Drop F, Shienryu (a.k.a. Gekioh: Shooting King), & Wolf Fang, before moving into new releases of old arcade games on the PS2 through the Oretachi Game Center Zoku series, & then helping release PS1 & PS2 games digitally on the PS Store via the "PS Archives" line, better known as "PSOne/2 Classics" internationally. What people know Hamster for the most today, however, is the Arcade Archives series, which strives to release the original arcade versions of various old-school games to modern formats via the absolute best emulation possible, and "ACA" has been the first ever home release many of these games ever received; most of it is only available on PS4, but the Switch has been seeing some games as well. Starting back in May of 2014, Arcade Archives has since released (& is planning release of) 83 arcade games, but after just two years Hamster started a spin-off of this series, one with a more laser-targeted focus.

On October 27, 2016, Hamster released The King of Fighters '94, the first in the ACA Neo Geo sub-series, which would be solely dedicated to re-releases of games originally put into arcades via SNK's Neo Geo hardware; this line is available on PS4, Switch, Xbox One, & Windows. Take note that these re-releases are specifically of the MVS versions released in arcades, unlike the Wii Virtual Console, which re-released the AES versions for home. As of this article, Hamster has since released (& is planning release of) 95 Neo Geo titles, which is more than the main series, and with only 156 games ever officially released for the hardware, that means that roughly 60% of the entire Neo Geo catalog is now available for purchase on modern consoles, which is amazing. In fact, similar to the main series, ACA Neo Geo has resulted in the first-ever home releases of some games, like Gururin, Prehistoric Isle 2, Zed Blade, & ZuPaPa!. Now while I'm sure Hamster's ideal goal is to eventually release all 156 games, I'd imagine that some just aren't going to be possible, due to various reasons. For example, licensed games like Eight Man, Legend of Success Joe, & Chibi Maruko-chan: Maruko Deluxe Quiz might be too unlikely to happen, while untranslated & Japan-centric titles like the various mahjong, shogi, & quiz games may either never see re-release or will simply remain Japan-exclusives; to be fair, Hamster has released Japanese-only games internationally via the main line, like Ikki.

Still, even after all of that, I found six games that I feel are longshots for ACA Neo Geo, but still have some hope of a chance for them to see inclusion one day. Also, I found an unreleased, 157th Neo Geo game that could possibly see its first ever official release.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Obscusion B-Side: Waffenhund Panzer: A Metal Max Retrospective

Post-Apocalyptic visions of the future have been around in fiction for longer than anyone can remember, & Mary Shelley's The Last Man from 1826 is generally considered the first "modern" example of the genre, but in the past 30 or 40 years it's really started to become much more focused, defined, & expected. Today, it's easy to think of fallout-riddled wastelands filled with road warriors & legendary omega men that roam about metal jungles on planets of new dawns due to the fact that war never changes. Out of all of the countless takes on the post-apocalypse, though, one has always dared to be different, challenged the status quo, and found no hesitation in being the most bizarre of all...

In 1986, Hiroshi Miyaoka was a 27-year old college drop-out from Shinjuku's Waseda Unversity, working as a "free writer" for video games. He eventually was brought on to work as a scenario assistant & dungeon designer for a new RPG on the Nintendo Famicom being lead by Yuji Horii, a friend from his little "Wizardry Club"; the game was called Dragon Quest. Yes, Miyaoka was a part of the iconic franchise's earliest days, and wound up being an essential part of "The Roto Trilogy" that comprised the first three games. Following the release of Dragon Quest III in early 1988, though, Miyaoka decided to start up his own development studio, Crea-Tech, with the intention of creating his own RPG. Unlike Horii's creation, however, Miyaoka's would be the complete opposite, conceptually; ads for the game even said, "We've had enough of dragon slaying!". Where Dragon Quest was generally linear & fantasy-based, this new RPG would be as non-linear as possible & influenced by post-apocalyptic works, like George Miller's iconic Mad Max Trilogy. In fact, Crea-Tech made no attempt at hiding the influence of those movies, because the game would be called Metal Max.

With today marking the English release of Metal Max Xeno, the latest entry in the franchise, I figure now is the perfect time to give a detailed overview & retrospective on Metal Max, from it's humble start on the Famicom, to the death of its original trademark holder & creation of an offshoot series, to its revival for the modern era. So let's head out in our tanks, with our rocket launcher-strapped dogs, & get into a "Battle with the Wanted"!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Retrospect in Retrograde: B't X (from Masami Kurumada)

I've mentioned this on the blog before, but Saint Seiya is NOT how I got into the works of Masami Kurumada, which is totally unlike most people around the world. I remember seeing ads for DiC's Knights of the Zodiac back it was getting ready to air in 2003, and they didn't make me interested at all; rather they made me actively want to avoid it. Now that I've just seen that dub, though, I worry that, had I seen it back then, I'd have never given anything else by Kurumada a chance. After I started becoming a full-on anime fan in 2004, though, I started looking for shows to see via fansubs, and one that caught my eye was B't X (pronounced "Beat X"); if anything, the interesting spelling made me curious. At first, I was hesitant, especially after finding out that it was from the same creator as KotZ, but I decided to not hold this anime accountable for something that I had no interest in seeing, so I watched it. Needless to say, I really enjoyed what I saw, & after then giving the Ring ni Kakero 1 anime a try & liking that, I finally decided to give Saint Seiya a try, but through the manga this time around. Now, 14 years later, I'm a true-blue "Masamist", though today Kurumada seems to prefer the term "mabudachi/true friend", according to his site.

Of course, little did I know until recently that I actually first "saw" B't X via one of its Newtype Magazine posters making a cameo in M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable, years before it first became officially available North America... So maybe me becoming a Kurumada fan through B't X was just my destiny.

Therefore, when Illumitoon Entertainment announced in 2006 that it would be releasing the B't X anime on DVD here in North America, I was ecstatic. So imagine my disappointment in 2007 when Ilumitoon's first release, Beet the Vandel Buster Volume 1, came with "dubtitles" in place of proper subtitles (which weren't even timed to the Japanese audio!), an English dub that jammed in its own music, & the original Japanese OP & ED sequences being tossed aside as extras with video encoding so poor that I think I could have done a better job back then. Granted, B't X's first DVD didn't have that last problem, but the other two were still there, and with a sad heart I refused to buy it. To no surprise, Illumitoon stopped putting out DVDs before the year was over, with one of the final releases being B't X Volume 2, which was at least a proper release with accurate subtitles (plus a silly "from Masami Kurumada" on the top of both the cover & the DVD itself); it was too late by then, though. Then, in 2008, it was announced that B't X & AM Driver's dubs would be made available on-demand via The Anime Network, just for people to eventually realize that Illumitoon only dubbed up to Episode 14 for both shows. Since then, TokyoPop showed one last hint of a heart by finishing up the B't X manga in late 2010, following a two-year hiatus, and after that I pretty much gave up hope for B't X ever being given another chance here... Until 2016, that is.

At AnimeFest that year, Anime Midstream announced that it would releasing B't X on DVD in North America, complete with a brand-new English dub, and said release finally happened just last month in the form of a complete TV series boxset; in fact, it even became the #4 Best-Selling DVD release at Right Stuf for a week or two! So I think it's time for me to revisit the anime that started my path to becoming a fan of Masami Kurumada for the first time in roughly eight years, and see if it still makes me feel the same way it did back in 2004. Also, I want to see what Anime Midstream & Sound Cadence Studios brought to the table with this new English dub, & I even decided to buy those two Illumitoon DVDs so that I can finally see what the original dub was like for the first eight episodes. Battle Gear... ON!!!!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Theory Musing: Ehrgeiz is Cyberbots!?

Licensed properties can sometimes be a tricky thing to work with, especially since it's owned by a different party than the one working with it. In fact, sometimes said licensed property can be taken away from the production, which just throws a giant wrench into the works. A perfect example would be cult-classic 1990 NES game Journey to Silius, or Rough World in Japan, which was initially meant to be based on The Terminator, but had to be altered after Sunsoft lost the rights. Now while this resulted in the plot of the game having to change, there are still some bits & pieces in the game that hint at what it was originally meant to be, simply because it'd be impossible to remove or alter every little aspect before release. It does make one wonder, though, if something like this ever happened with anime. Well, at least according to various Japanese blogs & even Wikipedia Japan, there might just be an instance of an anime getting the Journey to Silius treatment...

I've written numerous times about the late 1997 TV anime Next Senki/Record of Next War Ehrgeiz before, & how I will forever have a soft spot for it, even though it's been completely forgotten with time; it just "clicks" with me. Now when it comes to the first ever mech anime to air in late-night, most people will quickly assume that it has an association with the 3D fighting game of the (almost same exact) name, 1998's Ehrgeiz: God Bless the Ring, especially since the game came out in arcades around the same time the anime was receiving its (only) home video release in Japan. Those people would be wrong, though, since the two Ehrgeiz-es have absolutely nothing in common, aside from both using the German word for "ambition" in their titles; they also share a couple of voice actors, coincidentally. But what would you say if the anime may actually have a link to another video game, one that is mech-based? Specifically, was Next Senki Ehrgeiz really an aborted adaptation of Capcom's Cyberbots?

For those unfamiliar, Cyberbots: Fullmetal Madness originally came out in April 1995 for Capcom's CPS2 arcade hardware, & was a 1-on-1 fighting game where you took control of giant robots piloted by a variety of different characters; it was the spiritual successor to 1994 beat-em-up Armored Warriors, as they used the same mechs. While it did become a bit of a cult favorite over time, today it's best known as the game that Marvel vs. Capcom 1 & 2 pulled Jin Saotome (& his mech Blodia) from. Unlike most Capcom fighters of the time, though, Cyberbots wasn't ported to home consoles for a whole two years, with the first being the Sega Saturn version on March 28, 1997. Now, in terms of any relation to Next Senki Ehrgeiz, the Saturn port still predated the anime's debut later that year on October 2, but the second console port is where things get interesting. You see, the Sony PlayStation wouldn't see a port of Cyberbots until December 25, 1997... The same day (sort of, since the show aired at "25:15" on December 24) that Ehrgeiz's final episode aired on TV Tokyo! While one can chalk up the port's delayed release down to the PS1 not being as friendly for 2D fighting games, though the Saturn version didn't require the RAM expansion cart to play (it did improve performance, however), maybe the port was also delayed so that an anime adaptation could be made to help promote it... At least, that's if these Japanese blogs are correct. So, to change things up for Theory Musing, allow me to ruminate on a theory made by others & see if there's something to this idea that Next Senki Ehrgeiz was originally meant to be a Cyberbots anime.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

DiC's Knights of the Zodiac: I Just Ran, I Ran So Far Away, But I Couldn't Get Away...

Today, in the year 2018, it's not hard for someone in English-speaking anime/manga fandom to give Masami Kurumada's Saint Seiya a try, especially when it comes to the anime side of things. In fact, almost every single Seiya anime production currently made is fully available in English, either via streaming or home video, with the only exceptions being the last two movies & the entire second half (Episodes 74-114) of the original 1986-1989 TV anime adaptation by Toei; some of these options even have English dubs. Come next year, I don't think this will change in any way once the Saintia Sho & all-CG Netflix reboot anime series both debut, either, since the former will obviously be simulcasted over at CrunchyRoll, at the very least, while the latter is meant for international distribution, especially in English. However, things were completely different in the year 2003, as before then Saint Seiya had never seen any sort of official English release, either via anime or manga. Fifteen years ago, this series finally came to the United States of America & Canada, i.e. "North of Mexico"... But I'm sure even Toei Animation & Masami Kurumada himself would prefer that you forget all about it.

In June of 2003, ICv2 reported that DiC Entertainment had licensed the Saint Seiya anime & was producing an edited version that would air on Cartoon Network later that year titled Knights of the Zodiac, which was the English version of the name that the anime had become known as when it was exported around the world during the 90s & became a smash hit, especially in European & South American territories. As DiC CEO Andy Heyward pointed out, "There has never been a Japanese series that has been a mega-hit in Asia, Europe and South America that has failed to become a mega-hit in the U.S.", and considering the success DiC had with Sailor Moon previously, it made sense to give Seiya a go. So KotZ debuted in the U.S. on August 30, 2003 at 7:00 PM, being the new lead show for Cartoon Network's Saturday Video Entertainment System block, or SVES, which acted as a sort of weekend counterpart to Toonami, which aired on prime time on weekdays. The show kept that lead time slot up through October, which covered the first nine episodes, before getting moved to a 12:30 AM "death slot" that November, where it would stay until SVES was outright killed off after April 10, 2004; the block would be replaced by Toonami's move to Saturday evenings, but KotZ was left behind. Of the 40 episodes of Saint Seiya that DiC had adapted into Knights of the Zodiac, only 32 actually aired on Cartoon Network, 23 of which were barely seen by anyone, due to the "death slot". Canada's broadcast on YTV, which started a day after the US, did air all 40 episodes, however.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Saint Seiya: Legend of Sanctuary: Well... It's Definitely a Different Take on the Series, I'll Give it That

Back in May of 2011, plus the end of that prior April, I reviewed the four non-canon movies made for Masami Kurumada's Saint Seiya during the run of the original TV anime, plus the fifth movie from early 2004 that was meant to lead into a proper continuation of the manga story, but wound up being made non-canon by Kurumada's eventual Saint Seiya Next Dimension manga. At that time, that's all there was when it came to movies based on that series, but in February of 2012 a "New Masami Kurumada Project" was announced, as the first "Masami Kurumada Project" from late 2010 was Ring ni Kakero 1: Sekai Taikai-hen. The only things known were that it was tentatively titled "Saint Seiya the Movie", would be directed by Keiichi Satou (Asura, Tiger & Bunny), & looked to an all-CG affair, similar to Shinji Aramaki's Harlock: Space Pirate that would come out a year later; both films were co-produced by Toei & Marza Animation Planet (Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, next year's Sonic the Hedgehog movie). Following this, there was no new info whatsoever until October 2013, when it was revealed to be titled Saint Seiya: Legend of Sanctuary & later given a June 2014 premiere at the Annecy Animated Film Festival. It'd debut in Japanese theaters ten days later, followed by numerous showings around the world... Except for the United States & Canada, of course. Since then, the movie has yet to be given any sort of "North of Mexico" release, even though the Japanese Blu-Ray & DVD both have a perfectly fine English subtitle translation, likely the one used for Annecy.

So how is this sixth Saint Seiya movie, the one meant to celebrate Masami Kurumada's 40th Anniversary as a mangaka, & even featured Kurumada himself as an often-consulted "Chief Executive Producer"? Well... It's... "Interesting", to say the least.

Saori Kido is the adoptive granddaughter of the late Mitsumasa Kido, a rich mogul, & has special healing powers, but doesn't know why. On her 16th birthday, her butler Tatsumi says that her powers are that of "Cosmo", the inner strength inside all beings, and that she is actually the Greek goddess Athena. Mitsumasa & Tatsumi came across her as a baby 16 years ago in the Himalayas, when she was taken away from Sanctuary by a wounded "Saint", the guardians of Athena, named Sagittarius Aiolos, as he discovered that the Pope of Sanctuary wanted to kill her & install a fake in her place; in his last breath, he gave Saori & his Sagittarius Cloth to Mitsumasa. In turn, Mitsumasa searched for young boys who he then sent out around the world to train to become Saints who will protect the real Athena. Saori & Tatsumi are then attacked by assassins from Sanctuary, only to be rescued by Pegasus Seiya, Dragon Shiryu, Andromeda Shun, & Cygnus Hyoga, who were the boys that Tatsumi was taking Saori to meet at the airport. Saori has no time to come to terms with all of these revelations, though, as later that night she & the Bronzes all attacked by Leo Aiolia, Aiolos' younger brother, only for him to realize that Saori may actually be the real Athena, after all. Saori & the Bronzes decide to head to Sanctuary & put an end to all this confusion, especially when Saori is hit with an energy arrow by Sagitta Ptolemy, which allows the Pope to absorb Saori's Cosmo over time.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Otakon 25 in 2018: Remaining Steadfast Against Great Odds

Back in 2013, Otakon went all out for the 20th iteration of the "Convention of Otaku Generation", but I wonder how many people actually realized that this year was the 25th (read: not the 25th anniversary, which will be next year). To match that, some have argued that the roster of guests this year was a bit lacking, even though icons like voice actor Nobutoshi Canna & Macross creator Shoji Kawamori came over for the weekend; sure, Mr. CreepyPasta was an odd choice, but I won't complain. Still, the panels themselves were mostly outstanding, or at least the ones I went to, the Washington DC area is starting to feel more & more familiar, & the convention center still felt really open & uncrowded, even with this year being the fifth-most attended Otakon ever; don't be surprised if they go past 30,000 once again next year.

Sure, there are still some problems, like the autographs always feeling like a work-in-progress after 25 years of experience to figure out what to do(!), but Otakon has proven that the move to DC is truly for the best, and the fans came to the city in such a large number that a white supremacist rally planned for Sunday wound up being absolutely innocuous, partially because there wasn't enough space in the hotels for them! Anyway, as always, allow me to go over what I personally held at Otakon, because I was more than pleased with the results.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Ages of Jump Redux Part 2: The Iron-Forged Future is in "Our" (read: Japan's) Hands

So in the two(-ish ) years since the original Ages of Jump, a lot of things have happened related to the mangaka & titles I brought up back then. Play Ball received a currently-running sequel, 2017's Play Ball 2 by Yuji Moritaka, & I've heard it's very faithful to the style of the late Akio Chiba. Kochikame surprised everyone by ending in late 2016, after 40 years & 200 volumes, and a new anime TV special was made to celebrate. Captain Tsubasa finally saw a new anime adaptation by David Production, which is still airing right now & about to make its English debut on Primo TV. Speaking of David Pro, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 5: Golden Wind's anime adaptation will be debuting this October, after having its first episode premiere at Anime Expo. Dragon Ball Super ended not long ago, for the time being, & a new movie is in production. City Hunter is getting a new anime film by Sunrise that's set to debut on February 8, 2019, featuring the original cast & director. Goku!! Otokojuku ended, & has since been followed up with Shin/True!! Otokojuku. Saint Seiya is getting a full-CG remake series that will air on Netflix in 2019, under the Knights of the Zodiac name, and spin-off manga Saintia Sho is getting a Toei-produced TV anime that same year.

Yes, this is nothing but re-purposing already existing artwork... But it still looks awesome.

The Hana no Keiji spin-off manga franchise will be coming to an end later this year. Yu Yu Hakusho is getting its first new anime production, an OVA, in over 20 years. Hoshin Engi finally received a new TV anime adaptation, almost 10 years after Shomei TV's alleged attempt at gauging interest. Hiroyuki Takei left Shueisha & moved to Kodansha, taking all of the Shaman King rights with him... Oops. Bleach finally came to an end in 2017, totaling 74 volumes. Muhyo & Roji's Bureau of Supernatural Investigation finally received an anime adaptation that just debuted last week! Toriko ended in 2016, totaling 43 volumes. To-Love-Ru Darkness ended in early 2017 after 18 volumes, giving that whole franchise a total of 36 volumes. Saiki Kusuo no Ψ-nan received not one, but two seasons of TV anime; you might know it better now as The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.. World Trigger has been on an unfortunate indefinite hiatus, due to Daisuke Ashihara's health, ever since the end of 2016. Hinomaru Zumo is set to debut a TV anime adaptation this October. Finally, My Hero Academia has truly become Jump's new smash hit, all around the world, both in manga & anime form.

Oh... And Nobuhiro Watsuki was revealed to be in possession of a ton of child pornography, yet was given nothing more than a slap on the wrist & allowed to return to his Rurouni Kenshin: Hokkaido Arc manga after only a few weeks. Compare that to Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro, who had his manga Takeshi! outright cancelled, was pretty much exiled from Shonen Jump for six years following his "incident", & needed the good word of Eiichiro Oda just to be given a second chance to prove that he had changed. Hey, they can't all be good news, unfortunately. Anyway, let's see what noteworthy manga I let fall between the cracks from the Silver Age of Jump, shall we?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Ages of Jump Redux Part 1: We Can Be Heroes, Just For One Week

Back in 2016, I did something absurd & ridiculous by giving a giant, two-month overview of the history of Weekly Shonen Jump. I did so by covering the 123 most notable manga to ever run in the history of the magazine as of that moment (plus mentions to a bunch of other, smaller series), covering up through the end of Naruto, which I deemed the end of "The Silver Age of Jump". At the end of that year, when I included the entire "Ages of Jump" in my favorite posts of the year list, I finished up with this quote:
"Still, at least I completed this foolish journey, and that means that I'll never have to do it ever again, so there."

Hi, I'm George J. Horvath... I'm a dumbass.

Hey, Shueisha finally acknowledged a manga that predates Kochikame!

Of course, with this year being the 50th Anniversary of Jump's very existence, how could I NOT come back to what will likely be my most successful series of posts? Seriously, while none of them have entered most-read of all time territory yet, the "Most Read of the Week" sidebar almost always features at least one part of The Ages of Jump in it, and to this very year I still get the occasional response to it. So, to follow this year's theme of "Unfinished Business", let's celebrate Weekly Shonen Jump's Golden Anniversary (yes, I know that the literal 50th Anniversary was on July 11... I was busy that month) by giving credit to the other notable manga that I neglected to properly include in the original 2016 overview... And how about we just split this up across two parts, just to keep things consistent?

So, for Part 1, let's do the time warp again & see what I "forgot" from the Bronze & Golden Ages!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Nekojiru Gekijou - Jirujiru Original: Cats May Have Nine Lives, but They Give Zero ****s...

Back in September of 2012, I watched & reviewed the short 2001 OVA Cat Soup, which was known for its surrealistic visuals & its bleak worldview. The former was due to the OVA being the first time Masaaki Yuasa would be allowed to go all out, by director Tatsuo Sato, while the latter was due to the fact that the OVA was based on the works of the late Chiyomi Hashiguchi, better known by her pen name, Nekojiru/Cat Soup; in fact, the OVA's Japanese name was Nekojiru-sou/Cat Soup Grass. In that review, though, I had mentioned that the OVA was not the first adaptation of Nekojiru's work. Instead, the tales of her two cat siblings Nyako & Nyatta were first brought to animation back in mid-1999, as part of TV Asahi's Bakushou Mondai Boss Chara Ou/Bakusho Mondai's King Boss Character program. Said anime was Nekojiru Gekijou/Cat Soup Theater - Jirujiru Original, a series of shorts that ran for 27 episodes that were adapted from stories that were compiled in the books Nekojiru Senbei, Dango, & Donburi; Nekojiru always named her collections after snacks & the like. Of course, nearly six years ago, I said that "since that show was fansubbed years ago I might review that at a later date"... Promises like that are why I made this a year of "Unfinished Business".

Nekojiru Gekijou has no overarching story by any means, to no surprise. It's simply a collection of stories that range somewhere between one or two minutes each, though a couple go slightly longer, and every single one of them features a pretty cynical view of everything. Nekojiru became known for her bleak, blunt, & very cruel outlook when it came to her manga, and she admitted that her ideas often came from her dreams. Unfortunately, it's possible that this very extreme cynicism led her to eventually commit suicide on May 10, 1998, and that could potentially affect how you react to the stuff that happens in this anime series. I bring this up, because Nekojiru Gekijou can be dark... Really, shockingly dark, and possibly even vile at times, but all in an amusing way, nonetheless.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

A Matchless Beat is on the Horizon: An Interview with Anime Midstream's Jimmy Taylor

Back in August of 2016, Anime Midstream announced at that year's AnimeFest that it had license rescued B't X, the 1996 anime adaptation of Masami Kurumada's manga of the same name; previously, Illumitoon Entertainment gave the anime a (poorly done) try back in 2007. For those unfamiliar with Anime Midstream, which is understandable, the company first broke onto the scene back in 2008, when it licensed early-90s mech anime Matchless Raijin-Oh. From 2009 to 2014, the company released the first half across five dual-audio DVD singles, once per year, followed by a sub-only boxset for the second half. Over the next two years, Anime Midstream went silent until about a month before AnimeFest, & almost nothing has came out in terms of information regarding B't X's release since the con, except for a teaser image in March of 2017 saying that "Season 1" would be "Coming Soon...", and what looked to be an indication of dub work being done a month before that.

Huh, now there's a Shueisha credit in the copyright, instead of Kadokawa Shoten...
Haven't seen that happen with an anime before.

Now that we're coming up on two years since the original licensing announcement, I decided to see if I could get some answers from Anime Midstream regarding not just B't X, but also about Raijin-Oh, the change in the anime industry since 2008, and other topics. Thankfully, Midstream's founder Jimmy Taylor was able to find some time during the hectic, final weeks leading up to release, he plans to make an announcement by the end of this month, to answer my questions via e-mail.

Monday, July 16, 2018


Katsuhiro Otomo may not have a large catalog of work, but he remains one of the most iconic & influential names in both anime & manga, and his magnum opus is most definitely Akira. Debuting first as a manga in Young Magazine back in 1982, Otomo would work on it here & there while also working on anime productions like Neo Tokyo & Robot Carnival, before finishing it up in 1990, with a total of 6 volumes. On July 16, 1988, a host of companies decided to bring the manga into anime form as a theatrically released movie, with Otomo only agreeing to such an idea if he was given total creative control, which resulted in him becoming the director of the movie itself, and animation so fluid & mind-blowing (in general, let alone for its time) that the movie came with an absurdly high ¥1.1 billion, or roughly $10 million, budget that it obviously just could not recoup in its home country; only when you account for worldwide that the movie made its money back. Today, however, the Akira movie is looked at as one of the all-time greatest anime ever made, if not simply one of the best movies, in general; to this day, it remains the sole anime that The Criterion Collection ever released (Laserdisc #151).

So pinball sounds like the perfect tie-in for a movie about a mad, newly-powered psychic causing havoc & destruction everywhere he goes... Right?

Obviously, with hype of a scale such as this at the time, there were going to be video games to go with it. Unfortunately, this movie has had nothing but a rough time when it comes to this medium. The first game was 1988's Akira for the Nintendo Famicom, which was a visual novel-esque adventure game by Taito that was notorious for its ridiculous difficulty, with decisions that can kill you instantly, & sometimes requiring the player to pick painfully obtuse & illogical decisions, multiple times at that, in order to advance; even Famitsu gave it a 17 out of 40, or an average of 4.25/10 from each reviewer. For the longest time afterwards, the only other Akira game to see release was a British-developed action game for the Amiga & CD32 by International Computer Entertainment in 1994; it, too, was lambasted for its poor quality. Around the same time, THQ was developing a few Akira games for the Atari Jaguar, SNES, Sega Genesis, Sega CD, Game Boy & Game Gear, but all of them were postponed before eventually being canceled; prototypes for some of these unfinished games have since been retrieved & preserved, and now can be found online. After all that, there wouldn't be another Akira game until 2002, when Bandai worked with the video pinball meastros over at KAZe for Akira Psycho Ball for PlayStation 2, which came out to help promote the newly-remastered DVD release of the movie; Europe would receive the game in 2003 by Infogrames, using the 2001 Pioneer dub for audio. Unfortunately, there isn't much in terms of useful information regarding this game, at least in English, as nearly every review you can find online more or less dismisses Psycho Ball, either because the reviewer simply associates it with the piss-poor games that came before (including THQ's unreleased games), or outright downplays its relevance simply because it's a pinball game.

Therefore, to both celebrate Akira's Pearl Anniversary & put an end to my coverage of KAZe's video pinball legacy, let me tell you what Akira Psycho Ball really is all about, because this might very well be the best, if most forgotten, entry in the Digital Pinball franchise.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Demo Disc Vol. 13: Feisty Forerunners

After taking a season off for the newly-debuted segment Retrospect in Retrograde (that will return in September), it's the return of Demo Disc! Back in April of last year, for Volume 9, I looked at four pilots that were originally meant to lead into something more, but none of them went anywhere. Whether it was to an attempt to produce an English dub for Space Adventure Cobra back in the 80s or simply trying to get actual series made via Transformers Zone, Genjiku Senki Shiden, & Justeen, they were all examples of pilots not going anywhere. Therefore, for this (maybe unlucky?) Volume of Demo Disc, let's do the opposite & look at the other side of the spectrum: The forerunner (I've also used the term "precursor" before, but I'm trying to eventually use every letter of the alphabet for Demo Disc...). Unlike those prior four, every product I'll be "Demoing" here was simply the first anime product of something that would eventually see more anime made for. In fact, of them all, only one is actually intended to be a "pilot", so let's start with that one. The fact that it helps celebrate the Golden jubilee of an iconic series that I've actually covered on the blog before is a just a sweet bonus... Also, I always do Demo Disc in chronological order, so there's that, too.

Ashita no Joe Pilots
No matter what name you decide to call it by, Ashita no Tomorrow's Champion Rocky Joe will forever be one of the most influential manga ever produced, even 50 years later, and its original anime adaptation directed by Osamu Dezaki is arguably just as important. Still, back in late 1969, it's not like the anime was simply going to be instantly greenlit. Therefore, Mushi Pro's Osamu Dezaki & Masao Maruyama decided to produce a couple of pilots, both around 10 minutes long, in an effort to find a TV station willing to help produce it, all because they were fans of the manga. In fact, they made these pilots without the knowledge of Mushi's founder Osamu Tezuka, because they felt that he wouldn't approve it, since it'd be "competing" against Tezuka's own work. In the end, Dezaki & Maruyama found an interested party in the form of Fuji TV's Koji Bessho, and the rest is all history. So now, with 50th Anniversary anime Megalobox having just ended, let's see the earliest forms of Ashita no Joe in anime form!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Obscusion B-Side: Power Rangers Zeo: Full Tilt Battle Pinball: Wait... Isn't Getting "TILT" a Bad Thing?

So while going over the legacy of game developer KAZe's double duology legacy of Super Pinball & Digital Pinball, I mentioned that Super Pinball II: The Amazing Odyssey was done by a second team, while the first game's team was working on what would become Digital Pinball: Last Gladiators. Lead by Naruaki Sasaki, some of the people on this team would assist on the Digital Pinball games, usually in bug finding, artwork, or more general "Special Thanks" positions, but while Norio Nakagata & Takashi Kobayashi were making the first of two of the best video pinball games of all time, Sasaki was put in charge of another pinball game at KAZe, this time based on a licensed property: Saban's Power Rangers.

Debuting back in 1993, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is a franchise that I don't think needs any introduction. At this point, everyone at least knows that Haim Saban & Shuki Levy took a Japanese TV show, in this case Toei's Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger from 1992, removed (more or less) every single bit of footage featuring the original Japanese cast, leaving only the footage of the Rangers in their suits, the monsters, & the giant robot fights, and mixed in original footage featuring an American cast, telling its own story. Needless to say, it was massively successful, but eventually Saban had to move on to actually acknowledging the fact that each new Super Sentai show utilized (at the very least) a new outfit for the team. The first entry to do this was 1996's Power Rangers Zeo, which utilized footage from 1995's Choriki Sentai/Super-Powered Squadron Ohranger, but while the "Mighty Morphin" series received numerous video game adaptations, Zeo only received three, all in 1996. The PC & (intensely forgotten) Bandai Apple Pippin received platformer/beat-em-up Power Rangers Zeo vs. The Machine Empire, the Super Nintendo received racing game Power Rangers Zeo: Battle Racers, & the PlayStation received Power Rangers Zeo: Full Tilt Battle Pinball; in fact, this was the last season to even get video games, until Lightspeed Rescue. While the first two are not considered all that good, I want to focus on the third game, which is the only one to see release outside of North America. Japan received the game around the same time as America, two months before Digital Pinball: Necronomicon's release & under the simpler name of Power Rangers Pinball, while Europe wouldn't receive it until roughly a half year later in mid-1997.

So, does this pinball game manage to keep up with the legacy of KAZe's output, or did Sasaki & crew fail at forming the Zeo Megazord?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Obscusion B-Side: KAZe/Pinball: The Super Digital Legacy

While not technically a "video game", especially since it predates them by decades (if not over a century, if you want to count the earliest predecessors), pinball is probably most associated with them in modern knowledge, due to the two of them cohabiting arcades ever since the 70s. Today, though, while pinball is still around in some form via companies like Stern & Jersey Jack, most people likely experience the classic game in the form of digital experiences, either via 100% original means like Zen Pinball, or through outright recreations of actual tables via The Pinball Arcade. The latter is especially poignant now, as Farsight Studios' product will be suffering a major loss at the end of this month, when its licensing agreement that gave players the ability to purchase & download classic Williams & Bally tables will come to an end. In that regard, it's Zen Studios' original experiences that might win out in the long run, but before that company, there was another company that became a cult legend for its dedication to bringing players the most accurate feeling pinball experience one could find on a video game console.

That company was Tokyo's KAZe.

Founded back on February 2, 1987 as Live Planning, KAZe Net Co., Ltd. made its debut with Abarenbou Tengu, a 1990 Famicom shooter that was heavily modified into the (now expensive) NES game (Samurai) Zombie Nation, with the giant tengu face that you controlled being changed into a giant, decapitated head of a dead samurai... It was really weird, to put it lightly. Following that, KAZe stuck with publisher Meldac & developed Game Boy games like Heiankyo Alien & Tenjin Kaisen (known internationally as Mercenary Force), as well as numerous pachinko video games, but in 1994 Zombie Nation director Norio Nakagata teamed with a new designer named Takashi Kobayashi to do something that had never really been done before on a console: Recreate the pinball experience in as accurate of a form as possible, and on a Super Famicom, no less!

Monday, June 11, 2018

AnimeNEXT 2018: Hitting the Vertical Limit

I first started going to AnimeNEXT back in 2009, when it moved to Somerset, NJ & became a "local con" for me. When it moved to Atlantic City in 2016, I stuck with it, even though it now became much more expensive, due to hotel reservations. Still, the move to the Atlantic City Convention Center was instantly a major improvement. The venue is much larger than what Somerset offered, with more than enough room to grow, and the fact that the ACCC is a four-floor building gives the entire convention a verticality that you just can't find in most other cons, which only tend to feature two floors, at most, which feel more self-contained & seperate than anything. Simply put, it's awesome to be at AnimeNEXT, look above & below you, & always see people moving about. It also helps for special features that utilize the atrium, like Cosplay Pro Wrestling, as the multiple floors create an arena-like experience. Still, if I've been continually going to ANext, why haven't I reported on it?

Well, to be frank, it was because I tend to only report on cons that I do panels at; they double as an info guide for what I showed. In 2016, I only went for a single day, just to get a feel for the new venue. I did apply for panels in 2017, but communication problems meant that I didn't know all of them were denied until the schedule itself came out. This year, though, I finally returned to doing panels at my "local(-ish) con", and I got two approved. Overall, AnimeNEXT has become a rather challenging convention to do panels at, mainly from a content perspective. As AniGamers' Evan Minto said a day ago, it's effectively a mini-Otakon, especially when it comes to panels. ANext has given a lot of priority towards really informational & researched presentations, which in turn make them all the more interesting to check out, so much so that plenty of people I know had put in panel applications that sounded awesome, only for them to get nothing approved.