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.