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.