Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2019 & 2020!! Part 2

Looking back at that first part of this (two-year-spanning) "favorite posts" list, I definitely put the massive efforts into it, the stuff that took literal months to fully do. It was a great reminder of the sheer insanity I had put myself through the past two years, and I really have to avoid doing that to myself like; plan smarter, not harder. Regardless, there were still way more "traditional" articles/pieces/posts/etc. over these past two years, so let's end off by looking back at more of these less insane but still cool subjects that I covered. And what better year to start seeing off the hellish year that was 2020 by looking back at the 75th Anniversary of one of the most horrific moments in world history, and the way those who survived it were horribly treated by their own country!

Trust me, things will get more upbeat after this first one.

It's been more than a century since World War I was a thing, "The War to End All Wars" as they called it, while 2020 marked 75 years since the end of World War II... Because the first was so much trouble that they had to make it double. And how did WWII end, pray tell? By President Harry S. Truman feeling that it was necessary to drop two atomic bombs onto Japan, specifically Hiroshima & Nagasaki, killing hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens, as well as 1 British, 7 Dutch, and 12 American prisoners of war! You know what was even "better"? The post-war "hibakusha" being treated like horrible monsters by their own fellow Japanese, and looked at as potential science examination subjects by the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission! Thankfully, one of those very hibakusha, the late Keiji Nakazawa, wound up becoming a mangaka, eventually creating the manga Barefoot Gen, which showed the trials & tribulations Nakazawa went through (by way of fictional proxy Gen Nagaoka) after surviving the Hiroshima bombing as a child. However, I knew that other people would cover the obvious subject of Nakazawa's iconic manga for the 75th Anniversary of the atomic bomb (props to Bennett the Sage for an excellent video about the anime movies), so what I felt was worth writing about was how Nakazawa first told his feelings on what happened that day... specifically the sheer anger & hatred he had.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2019 & 2020!! Part 1

Happy Boxing Day, once again! (after skipping last year)

So last year I didn't make a "favorite posts" list, partially because I felt that there were too few things to choose from; I want to be forced to make actual decisions regarding this stuff, after all. However, I did mention in the 9th Anniversary piece that I would consider combining two years into a single list, so that's what we'll be doing this time around. The past two years have both been less productive from a sheer quantity perspective, but they were definitely strong contenders for some of the best quality I've delivered, if you allow me to toot my own horn for a microsecond. Therefore, it actually was a bit tricky to whittle down this list to just 12(-ish) entries, and I did want to try to keep things relatively even between 2019 & 2020. The end result is this list weighing more towards this year, but the picks from last year are definitely great, so let's get it on & see what I thought were the best from the past two years!

I considered somehow getting all 27 volumes into one image,
but that'd be insane, even for Bastard!!.

Bastard!! (All of the Manga) (February 29, March 7 & 26, & April 12, 2020)
With the concept of this year being the blog's last being a factor at the start of this year, though now it certainly isn't, I wanted to cover some subjects that I had planned on doing for literally years. Easily the biggest one for me, personally, was to finally review the entirety of (or at least whatever there is of it) Kazushi Hagiwara's "heavy metal dark fantasy" Jump manga, Bastard!!. As of this "Part 1" getting posted, it was announced that Tatsuki Fujimoto's Chainsaw Man will be moving from Weekly Shonen Jump to the online service Shonen Jump+, after having finished "Part 1" of its story, and that only reminds me of what happened to Kazushi Hagiwara's late-80s fantasy manga. Much like Fujimoto's work, Hagiwara's Dark Rebel Armies storyline, though still following some of the standards of shonen action manga, featured a wild level of violence & sexuality to it, the likes of which would make one wonder how it even managed to run in the magazine at all, which was aimed at (more or less) young teens. Similar to what's happening now, Hagiwara's manga came to an "end" after the story arc finished, only to wind up being moved to an offshoot, in this case the Shonen Jump Seasonal Specials, which is where the majority of the next arc, Hell's Requiem, was told, & the change in magazine allowed Hagiwara to be even more violent & sexualized than before.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Kill Me Baby: This Ain't the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew Mystery, It's Just Yasuna & Sonia in Your Vicinity

On three prior occasions I participated in the Reverse Thieves' Anime Secret Santa program, where participants get a "victim" (as I like to say) & have to recommend three anime to pick one from & put out an article, podcast, or what have you in time for Christmas Eve. Last year, the podcast All Geeks Considered took the reigns & have returned for another year, so I decided to participate once again. I specifically asked that my "Santa" challenge me this time around, and the trio of anime I got definitely is one of the strongest I had to choose from, I'd say. First up was 2018's SSSS.Gridman, Studio Trigger's wild & highly beloved interpretation of Tsuburaya Pro's tokusatsu series from the 90s, better known in English as Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad, hence the "SSSS" part of the title. Second was 2008's Michiko & Matchin, the directorial debut of fan-favorite Sayo Yamamoto that had music produced by Shinichiro Watanabe. Without a doubt, both of these shows are ones that I have had interest in watching one day, and both would definitely challenge this blog's focus on obscurities, as both have very ardent & notable fanbases. However, that made the third choice I was given feel all the more from out of left field, and it's definitely something I probably wouldn't have gone after on my own, hence why I chose it.

The actual title splash is rather generic,
so here's the literal final image of the show!

Debuting in mid-2008 in Houbunsha's seinen magazine Manga Time Kirara Carat (home of manga like K-On!, Hidamari Sketch, A Channel, & Doujin Work), Kill Me Baby is the debut work for a man known only as Kaduho (though he specifically uses the rarely-seen katakana "ヅ",  so it should technically be "Kadzuho"); it's also known in Japan as Baby, please me kill me.. Like its fellow Kirara Carat series, it's a 4-panel gag manga that's still running to this day & is currently at 11 volumes. At the start of 2012 a 13-episode TV anime adaptation done by J.C. Staff aired in Japan in late-night, followed by a bonus OVA episode coming out in mid-2013 alongside a CD album called Kill Me Baby Super. While Kaduho was initially hesitant about how the manga would adapt into animation, he wound up being very active in its production, attending production meetings & responding to any & all questions about dialog the staff had for him; everyone had hopes for a second season, but it never came. The anime then found itself in hot water in late 2015 when cast member Ai Takabe was arrested for allegedly owning cocaine & the like, resulting in the anime being taken off of streaming services, though the charges were dropped in early 2016 & the anime returned to Japanese streaming; Takabe has yet to act in another anime, however. Sentai Filmworks licensed Kill Me Baby in early 2013 & released a dual-audio DVD boxset later that year, followed by a Blu-Ray set in late 2014, though the OVA is not included in either release, so I'll be relying on a fansub for that bonus episode.

I have absolutely no prior experience when it comes to this kind of source material, so will I regret asking for Patz from The Cockpit podcast to challenge me, or will Anime Secret Santa give me yet another pleasant surprise? Let's lock & load and find out!

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Obscusion B-Side: The Legend of the Iron Man at the End(?) of the 3DO World: A Look at Tetsujin, Iron Angel of the Apocalypse

Minoru Kusakabe, who today also goes by the name Munoru Kusakabe, isn't exactly a known name in the video game industry, but there is a decent chance that you might have come across something he was involved in, namely in regards to CG cutscenes. You see, Kusakabe is a long-time veteran of producing computer-generated sequences, having directed CG cutscenes for games like Sonic the Hedgehog [2006], Panzer Dragoon Orta, Culdcept II, Tales of Symphonia, Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth, N3: Ninety-Nine Nights, & Gravity Rush. Prior to all of this, though, Kusakabe was an employee of Synergy Inc., a small Japanese developer/publisher that worked almost solely on PC software during its entire life from 1986 to 1998, all of which focused mainly on utilizing CG imagery. Kusakabe originally got his start helping work on the visuals for Haruhiko Shono's trio of Alice: An Interactive MuseumL-Zone, & the highly influential Gadget, & eventually was given the opportunity to direct himself, resulting in a pair of games that are immensely interesting for what they are, and have either become forgotten to time or sadly misunderstood.

Join me as I look back at the Tetsujin duology, better known abroad as Iron Angel of the Apocalypse.

Originally released for the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer on April 9, 1994 in Japan, just a little over two weeks after the console's March 20 launch in that country, Tetsujin/Iron Man wouldn't see release in North America until May 1995, where it received the less literal but more awesome-sounding title (though I'll be using the Japanese title for brevity), and most surprisingly enough all of the voice work is simply subtitled, rather than dubbed over; Europe wouldn't receive either game, sadly. As for the concept, you play as the titular Tetsujin, an armor-plated "motoid" (i.e. an android) based around a nameless human that suddenly awakens at the bottom floor of a giant tower by a video message by a nameless mad scientist. "The Scientist" feels that humanity hasn't managed to properly move on to the next level of advancement, so he has created Tetsujin, the "ultimate killing machine", and now wants to test his creation & see if it truly is worthy by challenging Tetsujin to make its way up all 30 floors of the tower, destroying any robotic contraptions that get in its way. During the trek up, Tetsujin meets & is occasionally contacted by a mysterious golden android, which also is trying to make its way up the tower.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Retrospect in Retrograde: Haja Taisei Dangaioh

While The Land of Obscusion got its start on December 1, 2010, it actually wouldn't be until December 5 that the first actual review would get written & posted. As for why I chose Haja Taisei/Evil Crushing Great Star Dangaioh, I just felt that it would be appropriate that my first review for the blog should be for one of the earliest anime to be officially released in its original Japanese, with an English-subtitled translation. While I now know that the actual first ever anime release of this type was AnimEigo's VHS release of Metal Skin Panic MADOX-01 in 1989, U.S. Renditions' release of "Dangaio" in 1990, alongside Gunbuster, remains one of the earliest official, uncut, subtitled anime releases in North America, so at least I was still pretty close; it may not be "The Forgotten 'Start-of-it-All'", but it's at least semi-forgotten today. So, after giving Next Senki Ehrgeiz the RiR treatment this spring & expanding on Momotaro's Sea Eagle with the Momotaro: Sacred Sailors review this summer, let's finally revisit the subject of the review that started it all here on The Land of Obscusion... And on the exact same day, only a literal decade later.

There's no eyecatch, so here's the end of the OP.

Toshihiro Hirano, also known by his pseudonym Toshiki Hirano (he seriously switches between them whenever he feels like it), got his start in the anime industry back in 1979 as a simple animator at Tatsunoko for Gatchaman Fighter, before moving on to titles like Urusei Yatsura, Dr. Slump Arale-chan, & Super Dimensional Fortress Macross. In 1985, though, he got his big break by doing the female character designs for Ninja Senshi Tobikage, being a major part of Megazone 23 (character designs, storyboard, & animation direction), & creating the Fight! Iczer-1 OVA, his directorial debut. He'd follow all of that up with doing the character designs for 1986's Cosmos Pink Shock, before returning to directing with two OVAs in 1987: Haja Taisei DangaiohDaimaju Gekito: Hagane no Oni. Both of them actually came from the dissolution of a planned OVA remake of Mazinger Z titled "Dai Mazinger", and from what I can tell Dangaioh seemingly maintained the super robot aesthetic, while Hagane no Oni maintained the darker aesthetic. Three episodes would come out from 1987 to 1989, before essentially disappearing into the void. Following U.S. Renditions' original VHS release from 1990 (Ep 1) & 1992 (Eps 2 & 3), Manga Entertainment would get the rights to the OVA after Renditions' demise, releasing a dubbed VHS titled Dangaioh: Hyper Combat Unit in 1996, followed by a DVD release in 2003. I purposefully ignored Manga's dub in the original review, and this time we will cover it, but enough backstory...


Tuesday, December 1, 2020

D-Obscusion X: A Decade of Obscure & Forgotten Degeneracy

I know nobody knows where it comes and where it goes, but when you talk about things that nobody cares, or wearing out things that nobody wears, & when nobody's calling your name but you gotta make clear that you you can't say where you'll be in a year... And, boy, was the year 2020 a real good liar, 'cause the world stage boogie certainly set our pants on fire! There's nothing I can say about how the world itself, & especially the country I live in, that hasn't already been said online this entire year, so how about how things worked out for me? Admittedly, I got lucky in that the global pandemic didn't do anything with my actual job beyond changing me into an ad hoc employee, coming in to work when needed, while still getting paid regularly, since I have a salary; I wish everyone got that kind of treatment. Still, that resulted in me having a lot more time to write for the blog, & already I've put out slightly more this year than I did last year. However, all this extra time also got me thinking, likely too much so, about something:

Have these past 10 years of The Land of Obscusion really amounted to anything?

"Legacy" is something that no one naturally thinks of when they start doing something, and for some the concept never really comes to mind. However, the longer & longer you do the same thing, I think it's only human to start wondering if what you've been doing has any "point" to it, beyond doing so simply because you enjoy doing it; you don't have to think this, but I just think it's natural. This is all the more so when you do something in which the entire point is for others to experience it, such as writing. Really, the catalyst for this came this past May with the sudden passing of Zac Bertschy, Editorial Director for Anime News Network. There's no doubt that Zac was a polarizing person, and some might argue that he purposefully played it up as a way to encourage good conversation, but there's no denying that he left behind a legacy for ANN, one that transitioned the site from a simple "news & review site" into one that actively encouraged its visitors to not just enjoy anime/manga/games/etc., but also dig deeper & search for why they loved it, while also encouraging people to call out its problems (both meta & industry-wide) & hope for improvements. I certainly had my grievances with Zac at times, though nothing that reached into hateful, but I always had the highest respect for him & seeing how his death affected so many (including myself), regardless of whether they personally knew him or never even interacted with him online at all, made me start to think about what this blog's entire relevancy even is, after a decade in operation.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Giant Gorg: Standing Tall on the Head of My Dream

In October 2011 I made a two-part list titled Twelve Anime I Want to Review... But Can't (Anytime Soon, at Least), and over the course of the following nine years, I've knocked them out one at a time. Kingdom of Chaos - Born to Kill? Done in 2013. Fuma no Kojirou: Seiken Sensou-hen? Done in 2012 (& re-done in 2019!). GR -Giant Robo-? Done in 2018 for Mecha Month. Engage Planet Kiss Dum's original TV version? Done partially this year via Demo Disc Vol. 16 (& a full review for Kiss Dum R afterwards). AWOL -Absent WithOut Leave-? That was Review #150 back in 2014! Examurai Sengoku? That just happened via Demo Disc Vol. 18 last month. Get Ride! AMDriver? Demo Disc Vol. 6 in 2017Hareluya II BØY? Also in 2012. Machine Robo: Revenge of Cronos? It was the first "Single Series" Demo Disc (Vol. 4) in 2016. Touma Kijin Den Oni? Demo Disc Vol. 10 in 2017. King of the Braves GaoGaiGar Final Grand Glorious Gathering? Reviewed in the same Mecha Month as GR -Giant Robo- in 2018.

That's eleven down, leaving only one left to review & put an end to this original list. No better time than just before the 10th Anniversary to do this, so it's finally that "Gorg Time" to switch over to that "Gorg Channel"!

Yoshikazu Yasuhiko is one of those rare mangaka that actually went on to direct at least one anime (Hi, Monkey Punch!), and while "Yas" doesn't have quite the same legendary & acclaimed resume as Katsuhiro Otomo does, he has one thing that Otomo cannot claim the same to: Directing a TV series. Airing from April to September of 1984 for 26 episodes, Giant Gorg is not just the only time Yas ever directed an entire TV series, but it's also the only anime-original work he ever directed, as everything else he did was either adapting from his own work or was an adaptation of someone else's. You'd think that this being Yas' only TV series might mean that he had a bad experience making Giant Gorg, turning him off from directing more, but from all accounts it was actually quite the opposite; this was likely just an experiment for him. In a 2012 interview with the Hokkaido Shimbun, Yas revealed that the anime was originally meant to debut in the fall of 1983, but the show's sponsor asked for a delay, since they couldn't figure out a concept to sell merchandise for it at the time. Yas, however, simply used this extra time to allow him & his staff to simply produce the anime well in advance; because of this, the home video release started happening extremely fast for the time. Unfortunately, a more extreme variant would happen for its English release, as Bandai Entertainment originally announced at Anime Expo 2001 that it was starting a new sub-only DVD label called "Sunrise Classic Action", with Giant Gorg & Blue Comet SPT Layzner listed as the debut titles. Unfortunately, neither anime ever saw release, with the only word that came out being that the masters Sunrise had sent Bandai were tinted blue, for whatever reason. Anyway, it wouldn't be until April 2015 that Discotek Media announced that it had license rescued Giant Gorg (sorry Layzner, but you're still abandoned), with a sub-only DVD boxset finally coming out in January 2016; it has since also become available via streaming on services like Crunchyroll, Tubi TV, & RetroCrush. In a nice touch, Discotek's translation is done by David Fleming, the same man that was hired for the original Bandai release; in fact, it's plausible that Fleming had translated the show back in 2001, and Discotek got that translation.

Personally, I first experienced some of Giant Gorg at Otakon 2008, when I came upon a screening of the first few episodes in one of the video rooms (back when Otakon still screened fansubs), so now it's finally time to see if this show is just as cool as I remember those few episodes being all those years ago.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Obscusion B-Side: Dragon's Lair 3D (& III): You Either Die a Remake Hero, or You Live Long Enough to Become a Cash-Grab Villain

Arcade laserdisc game icon Dragon's Lair has had a surprisingly semi-active past few years. In 2016, after a failed initial attempt, Don Bluth & Gary Goldman successfully crowdfunded a pitch production for the long-awaited movie adaptation/prequel, which earlier this year actually got greenlit by Netflix as a live-action production (potentially) starring Ryan Reynolds. The game was even featured in a Season 2 episode of Netflix's smash hit series Stranger Things in 2017. Meanwhile, on the gaming front, Dragon's Lair (as well as it's successors, Space Ace & Dragon's Lair II: Time Warp) have seen ports to current hardware, whether it's through Steam, GOG, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch... or even an officially licensed release on the Texas Instruments TI-99/4A computer from the 80s! Essentially, if you own any sort of modern device that can play games, you can bet Dragon's Lair has been officially released on it, including smartphones. Most recently, however, is New Wave Toys' Dragon's Lair X Replicade unit, which is a 1/6 reproduction of the original arcade machine, right down to playing the 1983 OG version via the DAPHNE emulator & even including (non-working) 1/6 replicas of the laserdisc player & LD that housed the game itself.

However, while the Don Bluth-animated trio of arcade games have managed to remain in the spotlight, there is one game that has, sadly, gone forgotten: The "3D" remake, & the bizarre reworking that said remake would later receive.

Once video gaming started moving over to polygonal visuals during the second half of the 90s, anything well known was either remade or given sequels using polygons, becoming a common sight. Games like Pong, Spy Hunter, Breakout, Frogger, Pac-Man, Tetris, Q*Bert, Street Fighter, & even Worms all went "3D", so it was really only a matter of time before the same would happen with Dragon's Lair. While most would argue that it was an old relic by the start of the new millennium, it actually never really left the market during the 90s, as it was essentially released on anything that had a CD-ROM drive, minus (ironically enough) the PlayStation & Sega Saturn; it even saw a miracle port to the Game Boy Color in 2000. Still, with the 20th Anniversary on the horizon, co-creator Rick Dyer (who was the mind behind the "game" aspect of Dragon's Lair) brought back Don Bluth, Gary Goldman, & John Pomeroy (the minds behind the "animation" aspect), founded a development studio called Dragonstone Software, & all together they created Dragon's Lair 3D: Return to the Lair. Originally released in November 2002 on PC & Xbox, the game wound then see release on GameCube the following month, but only in North America at first by way of Ubisoft (PC & Xbox) & Encore Software (GC). Europe wouldn't get the game until September 2003 for PC & March 2004 on consoles, this time also including the PlayStation 2; THQ handled EU publishing for GC & PS2 as "Special Editions". Developed using WildTangent's Genesis 3D engine (which also powered the controversial FPS Ethnic Cleansing...oops), this would be Dragonstone Software's only game, so was it at least a good effort at bringing Dirk the Daring to the third dimension? Also, what was up with Dragon's Lair III?

Monday, November 9, 2020

Choju Kishin Dancouga Burn: Yatte Yaruwa!!??

The idea of serializing a manga alongside a newly-debuting anime has been around since at least the 70s, and has especially been a regular sight for mech anime, with Mazinger Z possibly being the first for that genre. However, the concept of making a tie-in for some upcoming production is one that requires plenty of planning ahead of time, so what happens when things don't quite work out for the "main attraction"? A good example of that would be the 1994 TV anime Shinken Legend Tight Road, which was produced by Toei in order to promote a fighting game developed by Gust (yes, that Gust) & published by Zamuse... Only for Zamuse to go out of business by the time the anime started airing, resulting in it being a tie-in to a video game that never got released (if even developed). Another example would be the initial shonen manga version of The Vision of Escaflowne by Aki Katsu that ran in Monthly Shonen Ace from 1994 to 1997, & was one of the series that appeared in the debut issue of the magazine, even though the anime it was meant to be a tie-in to wouldn't air until 1996. This is because Escaflowne went through a bit of production hell, completely changing from a Yasuhiro Imagawa-directed action series into the Kazuki Akane-directed drama it became beloved for, but a deal with Kadokawa Shoten had likely already been inked early on, so Katsu was left no choice but to make a manga based on the original action-focused concept, less than two years before the anime finally debuted; a shojo tie-in manga would debut alongside the anime, but would be forgotten with time. For a non-Japanese example, there's SpyHunter: Nowhere to Run, a 2006 video game based on a Hollywood movie starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson that never went into production.

So, to start the return of Mecha Month, let's look at another example of what one can call a "Vestigial Work", i.e. a weird remain that shouldn't really exist.

Running from April to December of 1985, Ashi Production's Choju Kishin/Super Beast Machine God Dancouga was a unique entry in the giant robot boom of the 80s. It behaved like it was a real robot anime by telling the story of how humanity fought its hardest against the seemingly insurmountable odds of the alien Zorbados Empire, especially since one of their own betrayed humanity & joined the enemy as a talented commander. However, the giant robots showcased (& especially the titular mech they eventually combined into) were undoubtedly super robot in nature. It even took 1/3 of the show's length for Dancouga itself to first appear, treating its formative animal-themed mechs as (semi-)realistic weapons of war. Unfortunately, poor ratings resulted in it getting cancelled early, ending unfinished after Episode 38, but strong merchandise sales resulted in it getting not just a proper finale OVA (Requiem for Victims) in 1986, but also two sequel OVAs in 1987 (God Bless Dancouga) & 1989-1990 (Blazing Epilogue); it also received a collection of official AMVs (Jyusenki-tai Songs). After that, Dancouga lay dormant until 1995, when Banpresto decided to include the anime in Super Robot Wars 4 for the Super Famicom. To build off of this, Ashi Pro then decided to reintroduce three of its mech anime properties to new audiences, starting with 1996's VS Knight Lamune & 40 Fire, a next generation sequel to a series Ashi Pro had success with in the early 90s.

Second in line was Dancouga, & pre-production work started on Choju Kishin Dancouga Burn. Unfortunately, the producer spearheading this mech anime initiative at Ashi Pro then left the studio, and after realizing that Dancouga's inclusion in SRW4 was only because the staff at Banpresto were big fans of the show, and not because it was especially popular, Ashi Pro decided to just can the entire initiative right then & there; the third was apparently going to be GoShogun, though Lamune would receive one last OVA in 1997. However, very similar to the Escaflowne manga, enough work had been put forward with Dancouga Burn that a deal with Kadokawa Shoten was finalized, so from 1997 to 1998 a two-volume manga adaptation by Yuichi Hasegawa (Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam, Maps) ran in the short-lived (as in "it literally existed the same years the manga did") spin-off magazine Monthly Shonen Ace Dash; in fact, all of this backstory comes from the 2005 research book The Otaku Gene: Yuichi Hasegawa - The World of SF Manga. So let's see how this vestigial manga born from a (seeming) misunderstanding of popularity (or lack thereof) fared in the end.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Obscusion B-Side: 40 Years of "Chicken" Humanoids, Mindless Robots, & Evil Otto: A Berzerk Retrospective

Prior to games like 1983's Crystal Castles, most arcade games with a single-player or cooperative multiplayer style were technically endless, not including any sort of actual "ending". If you think about that from a storytelling perspective, that means that many of the most iconic "Golden Age" arcade games always had "bad endings". In Space Invaders, the aliens successfully invade Earth. In Pac-Man, our titular hero will succumb to the ghosts. And in Missile Command... Everything you fought to protect is reduced to rubble. Sure, many of these games didn't actually go on forever, as integer overflow would result in a stage/screen that effectively forced the end of the game, but even those weren't exactly "good endings"; they were called "kill screens" for a reason. Of course, very few arcade games of the time were actually designed with this storytelling concept in mind; the designers were just thinking of fun ways to get people to keep pumping change into a machine. Still, I feel that one the arcade classics of this time to truly nail that feeling of helplessness, that all your efforts are truly for naught since you'll eventually lose in the end, is Stern Electronics' Berzerk, which turns 40 this year.

Man, Atari 2600 artwork was just amazing.

By 1980, Stern Electronics was known solely for its pinball machines, but decided to expand into arcade video games after seeing that market expand, due to the success of Space Invaders. While it'd mainly be responsible for being the American home for many of Konami's early arcade games (Scramble, Amidar, Super Cobra, etc.), the company also had its own division for creating games, called Universal Research Laboratories. One of the employees of URL was a man named Alan McNeil, who one night had a dream about a video game in which he had to fight a never-ending barrage of robots. With that inspiration in mind, McNeil got started on development, though the original intention for it to be a black-&-white game was eventually replaced with color; only the earliest versions of the game used B&W monitors, but with a color overlay on top. When it came time to give this game a name, McNeil had a fitting inspiration: Berserker, a series of science fiction novels by Fred Saberhagen about a never-ending robot menace that aimed to kill all life. Come late 1980 (a Stern production note says November 12), Berzerk was unleashed to the general public, so let's take a look at the game, some of its ports, its lesser-known sequel, & the legacy it's left behind.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Demo Disc Vol. 18: Xenophilic Xiphoi

All of the previous volumes of Demo Disc so far have followed one of two styles. The first is "Multi Series", where I cover a single episode or pilot (though I've done up to three in rare instances) of various anime, with there being some sort of thematic link between all of them. The second is "Single Series", which is effectively the same as my traditional reviews, except that it doesn't cover the entire thing, and therefore is not eligible to be part of my review numbering. The thing with the latter style is that they have all covered 13-26 episodes, with generally ranges from 1/4 to 1/2 of the entire show. Not every anime (or manga) that I have considered eligible for Demo Disc necessarily hit that fraction for a "Single Series" volume, but I feel that they're just a little too large to include in a "Multi Series" volume; even three episodes pushes it, honestly.

Therefore, this is a bit of an experimentation, one that I'll be calling a "Double Series" volume, as it'll be covering only two series, but each one gets a little more detail in their write-ups than "Multi Series" volume entries would normally get. The theme for this volume of Demo Disc? "Foreign Swords"!

Am I the only one getting a Berserk vibe here... for Zorro?!

If there's one thing Japan isn't shy about, it's adapting foreign works into things like anime & manga so as to tell them to their own domestic audience in a way that works for them. A good example of that is Zorro, known in Japan as Kaiketsu Zorro/The Extraordinary Zorro, which was originally created back in 1919 by American pulp writer Johnston McCulley in All-Star Weekly magazine. McCulley's creation, which is one of the earliest masked heroes with a double identity, didn't seem to come over to Japan until the 50s, by way of translations done by Kazuo Inoue, but ever since has maintained some bit of notoriety in the country as an iconic foreign creation, most notably via Yutaka Hara's ongoing children book series Kaiketsu Zorori, which is inspired by Zorro. In 1996, Toho & Ashi Pro teamed up to produced an anime based on the work, using the same Kaiketsu Zorro title that Japan had known it as for decades, and this series would run for 52 episodes, ending in early 1997. I actually have covered this anime before in the past, but that was back in 2017 via the absolutely terrible compilation movie by Mondo TV called The Legend of Zorro. Since then, I've always been curious about how the original Japanese version was, and luckily the first five episodes were fansubbed into English back in the day, so let's see how Japan's take on the American-made Spanish hero started off.

Monday, October 12, 2020

It was a Blog Before Time: Looking Back at the "AoD Proto-Blog"

Last year I put out two retrospectives about stuff I did online prior to the creation of The Land Obscusion, one about how I got published on GameSpot back in 2004 & another about my short-lived, half-hearted attempt at making YouTube videos. In between those two, though, there was something else I did, though it was nowhere near anything "notable". Still, with the 10th Anniversary of this blog coming in less than two months time, I figure I should complete the trifecta & see what I can wring out of writing about what I like to now call the "AoD proto-blog", something I had only previously mentioned in passing on rare occasion.

For a generation of online-savvy anime fans, was an iconic website that helped grow not just fandom in North America, but also the industry itself, namely through its forums. During the first half of the 00s, the "AoD" forums became known for being the home of very tech-focused anime fans, especially those who wanted the anime they cared about being given the best releases possible. In turn, actual industry reps visited the AoD forums & communicated with the fans, taking what they learned about what those fans wanted in their DVD releases & implementing what sounded like good ideas; it's sometimes stated that the AoD forums are why anime releases wound up being the best they could be. When I first started entering the fandom myself in 2004 I eventually found my way to, and I signed up for the forums, where I definitely found a bunch of posters who were... passionate, to say the least; I mean this in both the good & the bad. Still, there was only so much AoD founder Chris Beveridge could do to expand on the site by himself, so in April of 2008 (the 10th Anniversary of the site itself) he sold AoD to, a more general entertainment news site. Beveridge & the AoD staff stayed on board to continue covering anime & manga, though, wile the forums would transition over as well, with the URL for said forums even literally including the phrase "aodvb" (as in "AnimeonDVD vBulletin"). Things more or less continued as usual after the move to Mania, but the new home did bring about something new for the AoD forums: A blog section for forum posters.

Through the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, some bits & pieces of the "proto-blog" can still be accessed, so let's go over everything that still exists, if only to look back and see if I cringe at all while writing this.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Quiz Magic Academy - The Original Animation 1 & 2: Is This a Daily Double... Or Just a Whammy?

Out of the entire English alphabet, the letter Q is, statistically speaking, one of the least used of all, alongside J, X, & Z. This is all the more true in Japanese, which doesn't actually have a proper equivalent to the letter, resulting in it being solely used via the katakana "キュー", which itself isn't even a single character, as it's the "ki" kana being followed up with a mini "yu" kana as a "yō-on" so as to palatalize it into sounding like the letter Q. However, unlike the English quartet mentioned, J & Z are actually "seen" slightly more often via romanization, because those actually have proper equivalents in Japanese, namely "じ/ジ/ji". That leaves just Q & X, which a quick visit to the ANN Encyclopedia (though not 100% comprehensive) shows that they have the least amount of anime starting with those letters, after romanization. However, I actually had already reviewed an anime starting with X back in 2015, when I wrote about the Xanadu -Dragon Slayer Densetsu- OVA, so all that remains from the alphabet for me to do a review of is Q.

But this is The Land of Obscusion, so I can't take the easy way out & cover something like Queen's Blade, Qwaser of Stigmata, the Queen Emeraldas OVAs, or even Qualidea Code. No, this is "Final Jeopardy", so I'm going to "Press My Luck" on a game of "Twenty-One" (hopefully it's not rigged), and that IS my final answer!

While never managing to succeed in North America, Japan really enjoys its quiz video games, especially in the arcades; SNK had a bunch on the Neo Geo, for example, while Capcom has made a few, as well. Wanting a piece of that pie, Konami debuted Quiz Magic Academy in Japanese arcades on July 24, 2003, with its main appeal being that the cabinets could be connected online via Konami's e-AMUSEMENT service, allowing up to 16 players to compete against each other at once, though this was reduced to 9 starting in 2016; that's still a wild amount of players for a quiz game, though. Being online also allows Konami to run tournaments, update cabinets, correct mistakes in questions, & even add new questions to keep things fresh; using a touch interface also allowed for more variety in the types of questions asked, instead of just multiple choice. Every year a new entry debuts, and the previous one goes offline, with the latest being Kibou no Koku/Time of Shining Hope this past June. With that kind of success, it's no surprise that the series eventually made its way to things like old mobile phones, modern smartphones, & even two entries on the Nintendo DS. Not just that, but QMA has also seen adaptations to webcomics, books, and (finally) the focus of this review: Anime.

On September 12, 2008, to help promote the release of Quiz Magic Academy DS that same day, a half-hour OVA titled Quiz Magic Academy - The Original Animation came out on DVD. Two years later, on February 11, 2010, another half-hour OVA titled Quiz Magic Academy - The Original Animation 2 saw release to promote Quiz Magic Academy DS: Futatsu no Jikuu Ishi/The Two Spacetime Stones that same day. Since the two OVAs share the same cast & staff I'll just review them together as a single entity, so let's see what happens when an online-connected arcade quiz game gets turned into anime.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Looking Back at Weekly Shonen Jump's Era of Mangaka Covers Part 2: 1989-1997

Last we looked at Shonen Jump's 19-year run of yearly covers featuring various mangaka in all their photographed glory, we saw Shueisha slowly expand its horizons with the concept. After a few years of simple "New Years kimono" covers, we saw the mangaka dress like spacemen, American football players, ready to attend a matsuri, Warring States period daimyo, & even futuristic high-flyers. We've seen the "full runs" of mangaka like Hiroshi Motomiya, Shinji Hiramatsu, & Yoshihiro Takahashi, while the likes of Masami Kurumada, Yudetamago, Akira Miyashita, & Yoichi Takahashi have stuck in there, though we all know that their most iconic works are nearing their respective ends. Likewise, mangaka like Osamu Akimoto & Akira Toriyama are already feeling like evergreen mangaka in that they'll never leave these covers, and with the second half of the "Golden Age of Jump" left to cover, we'll be sure to see even more iconic names.

So let's get straight to this latter half & start with the end of the 80s!

After a four-year stint of single-numbered issues for these mangaka covers, we break the streak with 1989's combined Issue #5+6, which features 19 mangaka. So, after seeing everyone fly in the sky the previous year, it only makes sense that Shueisha would do something similar the next, so for this cover we have everyone donning power suits as literal "Cosmo Warriors"! No, this has no relation to Saint Seiya, though Masami Kurumada is definitely "front & center"... though not literally in the center, as those would be Hirohiko Araki & the only appearance we'll see of Kazushi Hagiwara (Bastard!!). Due to the non-standard grouping, it's tough to really say that anyone's on the "front row", but the most prominent (i.e. the largest) are easily Kurumada, Osamu Akimoto, Akira Toriyama, Akira Miyashita, & (arguably) Yoichi Takahashi, who had ended Captain Tsubasa the previous year & was now doing tennis manga Sho no Densetsu. Likewise, Tetsuo Hara is still making an appearance, even though Fist of the North Star had now ended, & in its place is Cyber Blue. Motoei Shinzawa also returns with new manga Boku wa Shitataka-kun, while Masaya Tokuhiro returns after a four-year cover hiatus with the manga he'd become most well known for, Jungle King Tar-chan; Shinji Imaizumi, who had previously appeared in 1987, also returns with his major work, Kami-sama wa Southpaw. As for newcomers, the main one is definitely Masanori Morita (Rokudenashi BLUES), who'd be on every single mangaka cover from here on out, though we shouldn't ignore Tatsuya Egawa (Magical Taruruuto-kun). Finally, though Yudetamago is nowhere to be seen anymore due to the quick end of Yurei Kozou ga Yattekita!, the duo still are in the issue, due to the original one-shot for Scrap Sandayu, which would also wind up being a really short series in the end. This is kind of the only mangaka cover that one can call a "sequel" to a previous one, and while it's not quite as memorable as 1988's weirdness, it's still a cool one, nonetheless.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Looking Back at Weekly Shonen Jump's Era of Mangaka Covers Part 1: 1979-1988

One notable thing about the manga industry today is in how many mangaka, possibly even the large majority, aren't exactly easy to find photographs of, instead simply masking their identities behind self-portraits that either exaggerate their faces or simply use something else entirely, like Hiromu Arakawa using a cow as her avatar or Paru Itagaki literally wearing a giant chicken mask when in public. Considering today's always-online world, which can make things more difficult to maintain privacy the more famous you become, it's a completely understandable thing to see happen. In the past, though, many mangaka were more willing to show their faces & let readers know what they look like; pretty much every single icon in the manga industry has a recognizable face. For a perfect example of how things were different, just take a look at the covers of a manga magazine like Weekly Shonen Jump. Today, it's always about the manga that's being serialized within its pages, but for a period of time the mangaka themselves were given a single, solitary issue every year that let them be the stars featured on the cover.

Looking over the history of Shonen Jump's covers, which are all amazingly archived over at Comic Vine, the magazine had the rare cover which starred a single mangaka, like Go Nagai in 1970 on Issue #23, Hiroshi Motomiya in 1971 on Issue #21 (up above), or Noboru Kawaski on Issue #47 that same year. However, Jump would never put all of its mangaka on the cover together until 1978, when Issue #47 showcased the creators of all 15 manga currently serialized in the magazine at the time, though this was done by way of self-portraits, each of which featuring a quick message from said creators. I can't verify it due to age, but I'd wager that this was the beginning of the author's notes that would appear in the table of contents of each issue, which continues on to this day. However, a mere 11 weeks later, 1979's combined Issue #5+6 celebrated the New Year with a group shot of the mangaka themselves... And not via self-portraits. Yes, for the first time ever, Shonen Jump put all of the creators themselves on the cover in photographic glory, and this marked the start of a yearly tradition every January that would last for nearly 20 years. So let's take a look at all 19 "mangaka covers", across two parts, & see how Jump celebrated the New Year over & over, not to mention which mangaka took part in this old tradition.

Monday, September 7, 2020

The TRUE & SECRET History of Shonen Action Manga!: First at Crunchyroll Expo, Now on YouTube!

From the Crunchyroll Expo Panel Description:
"Manga like Dragon Ball, One Piece, Naruto, and My Hero Academia all fit into the shonen action genre, and is among some of the most popular manga world-wide. However, few fans know where their favorite aspects of this genre come from, simply assuming that Dragon Ball (or, if you're lucky, Fist of the North Star) is where things originated.

Join George from The Land of Obscusion as he gives a general overview of 19 different manga to explain how shonen action came about."

2020 has been... a year, to say the least. There's nothing really I can say about what happened in the world starting this past March that you likely didn't know already, so I'll just move on to how it affected my plans. I had been asked to be a Featured Panelist for Anime Boston 2020, something which had never happened to me. Obviously, the pandemic wound up with Anime Boston getting cancelled, and in place of (most) in-person anime cons, we've had many virtual cons spring up. To act as a replacement for AB not happening, I decided to create a video version of one of my planned panels, with it first debuting at a virtual con before getting uploaded to YouTube. After turning down an invite (Anime Lockdown) & not getting accepted elsewhere (Otakon Online), I did get accepted for Virtual Crunchyroll Expo, which was cool since that's a con I'd normally never have the chance to attend, due to it being on the opposite side of the country from me.

So, after running on September 5, 2020, a finalized version of "The TRUE & SECRET History of Shonen Action Manga!" is now available over on YouTube. The main difference with this "final" version is the inclusion of two musical gags, which had to be changed for VCRX due to a "no music" policy, and an alternate final thanks to reflect the path this entire panel went through this year. As for the panel/video itself, it is a general overview of the evolution of of shonen action manga, from the early manga that inspired entire generations to the early sports manga that set up the ideas & concepts that shonen action would rely on, followed by the later sports manga that acted as the direct transition to the iconic non-sports series that would become world renown & influential. For a full list of the manga covered, with links to related articles I've written, as well as the video itself, simply continue on:

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Theory Musing: Can (& How Would) You Use Fansubs for an Official Anime Release?

In the before time, the long long ago, back before simulcasting existed (a.k.a. the 00s), English-speaking anime fans had two options before them if they wanted to watch a newly-debuting anime series: Hope that it eventually gets officially licensed by an anime distribution/licensing company in the region that they lived in, or download an unofficial translation made by their fellow anime fans, usually available within a day of the episode's original airing (if not even mere hours after it aired in Japan). Said fan translation would differ from the later, official translation that was made for the licensed release, and some tech-savvy anime forum posters of the time would ask a simple, seemingly logical question, & only in the most polite & reasonable of ways:

"Why don't these companies just use the fansubs, instead of making their own translations? I mean, the work was already done for them, so I'm sure it'd save them a ton of money, so they should just do that! It'd totally work!! I mean, those official translations suck anyway, and the fan translators obviously know better, in the first place! Man, those anime companies are such idiots for not doing this! I mean, I just thought of it right at this moment, so I'm obviously smarter than any of them!"

"As Seen on ANN!"

I'm reminded of this type of bizarre logic, because vintage anime streaming service RetroCrush actually did what those old anime forum "geniuses" asked, and used a fansub as their translation for an anime. Namely, the company used Johnny English Subs' fan translation for Episode 20 of Magical Idol Pastel Yumi (at least, that's the only one that lists the group's name on screen), because they had only received pre-existing English subtitles for the first 15 episodes (which is what Anime Sols had translated up to during that site's existence), and simply decided to use Johnny English Subs' translation for the remaining 10; they have since taken the entire show down until further notice. It's a bad look for RetroCrush for a variety of reasons... But were they wrong in the entire concept? For this year's Theory Musing, let's ruminate on the idea of using a fan translation for an official anime release, and the benefits, hurdles, & downright problems the concept has shown in the past.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Insufficient Direction (TV): Thus Spoke Anno: An Anime for All and None

In 1883, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche introduced the idea of the "Übermensch", German for "Superman" or "Overman", in the book Thus Spoke Zarathustra & defined it as a goal for humanity to aspire to. In short, an Übermensch is one who is not beholden to "otherworldly" things & deems that "God is dead", as there's no need to believe in a higher power to look for human values. In turn, an Übermensch would define those new values to aspire to, and they'd be completely stuff to be found on Earth. I bring this up mainly because I truly feel that, while Nietzsche's concept of the Übermensch may not be something that can actually happen, a different type of Übermensch does indeed exist in Japanese otaku culture... And his name is Hideaki Anno.

I say this mainly because Anno himself is a bit of a madman among otaku; in fact, he's even an admitted agnostic. Having been a part of the industry before he even finished attending Osaka University of Arts, he was one of the men behind the DAICON III & IV Opening Animations, was one of the founders of Gainax, directed the likes of Gunbuster, Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, & Neon Genesis Evangelion... And whenever he's portrayed in stories by other people, he's usually shown as a bit wild & crazy. Take, for example, Aoi Honou/Blue Blazes by Kazuhiko Shimamoto, who was a classmate of Anno's while at Osaka, which features Anno as a young man obsessed with anime & manga culture, almost as if it was competition in who reigns over all. The other notable example would be the manga Insufficient Direction by Moyoco Anno, the woman who married Hideaki in 2002. Running from 2002 to 2005 for a single volume in Shodensha's josei magazine Feel Young, the manga known in Japan as Kantoku Fuyuki Todoki/The Incompetent Director told a fictionalized account of Moyoco's life as the wife of Hideaki... One which required a literal "otaku dictionary" at the end of the compiled volume, because of the sheer amount of references made in less than 140 pages. In the Spring of 2014, as part of TV Tokyo & AT-X's anime info program Animus!, an anime adaptation of Insufficient Direction aired on TV as a series of thirteen 3-minute episodes, with animation done by DLE, a studio best known for other short-length adaptations like Thermae RomaeSkull-face Bookseller Honda-san; interestingly enough, this anime adaptation was never licensed, not even for simulcast. So let's see what happens when Hideaki Anno becomes the anime character he may have always wished he could become.

Rompers is the baby-like wife of Director-kun, a man completely unabashed in his love & obsession with anime, manga, tokusatsu, & their respective theme songs, model kits, toys, & other associated merchandise. Though she felt she knew what she was getting into when she agreed to marry him, Rompers is constantly shocked at just how far Director-kun's obsessions go... And living with a madman like that only makes her more & more into an "ota-wife".

Monday, August 17, 2020

Demo Disc Vol. 17: Technological Titans

So this Summer has been focused around the theme of "World War II in Anime", a subject with heavy real world connotations & themes. Therefore, let's follow the end of that up with something a bit more fun & silly: Old-school giant robots!

Large robotic constructs are no stranger to the restricted-viewing realm of Demo Disc. The very first volume in late 2014 was about one from each decade from the 70s to the 00s & the fifth volume in early 2016 returned to the genre with a similar focus, while the seventh, ninth, eleventh, & thirteenth volumes all featured at least one mech anime. The genre's even been featured in "single series" Demo Discs, specifically the fourth (Machine Robo) & sixteenth (Kiss Dum, though this one is tangential), and while there have been plenty of mech anime that have since seen complete English translations (both officially & by fans), I still managed to find a quartet that have only seen one or two episodes translated, much like how that original volume worked, so let's take a look at some first episodes of mech anime, even if it's for the last time as its own themed volume, from the 70s & 80s!

Gowapper 5, Moving Out!
While Tatsunoko Production is known for its various anime about heroes saving the day from evil, doing so by way of giant robots is a true rarity from the prolific studio. Sure, Gatchaman's Science Ninja Team occasionally fought a giant robot of some sort, Tekkaman had the large robot Pegas, & the original Time Bokan featured giant, robotic contraptions, but Tatsunoko didn't actually make a "standard" mech anime until 1976 with Gowapper 5 Godam, which itself would become mostly forgotten when later mech anime like Toshi Gordian, Golden Warrior Gold Lightan, & (especially) Genesis Climber Mospeada would later come out in the decade following Godam's run, which came to an early end after 36 episodes due to low ratings; one of the shows it competed against was Toei's UFO Robo Grendizer, so it had no chance. But let's instead act like it's April 4, 1976, the date Gowapper 5 Godam debuted on Japanese television, and see how well its first episode hyped kids up for this new mech anime from an already iconic studio.

(Fun Fact: Both this anime & Gold Lightan originally were each titled "Abaranger" in pre-production, though neither has any relation to the eventual Super Sentai entry that actually used this name)

Thursday, August 6, 2020

75 Years After Hiroshima & Nagasaki Were "Struck By Black Rain": A Kuroi Ame ni Utarete Retrospective

After Nazi Germany unconditionally surrendered World War II in May of 1945, plans started being drafted for an invasion of Japan, the sole remaining force for the Axis Powers. In the end, those plans were never followed through on, with President Harry S. Truman instead deciding to take the "nuclear option"... Literally. On August 6, 1945, the uranium gun-type atomic bomb "Little Boy" was dropped by the Enola Gay on top of the city of Hiroshima, killing an estimated 90,000 to 140,000 people. Three days later, the plutonium implosion bomb "Fat Man" was dropped by the Bockscar on Nagasaki, estimated to have killed another 60,000 to 80,000; four days later, Japan unconditionally surrendered, with World War II officially ending on September 2. To this day, these remain the only nuclear attacks in history, as they showcased a power that, quite honestly, should never be used again. Though there was so much death that came from those two days, there were also survivors, ones who could tell the world of the horror they saw on those two days.

One of those survivors was the late Keiji Nakazawa.

Nakazawa, in 2011, in front of
the "Atomic Bomb Dome" in Hiroshima.

Born on March 14, 1939, Keiji Nakazawa was only six years old when the "Little Boy" hit Hiroshima, & he only managed to survive the blast because of a wall he was by that managed to stay standing; while his mother also survived, his father, brother, & (later) sister all died from the bomb. Come 1972, Nakazawa was a mangaka & was encouraged by his editor at Monthly Shonen Jump to publish a one-shot about what he saw on that day 27 years prior, which resulted in the short story Ore wa Mita/I Saw It. The story caught the attention of readers, almost all of which had been born long after the end of the war, so Nakazawa was asked to expand the concept, which resulted in 1973's Barefoot Gen in Weekly Shonen Jump, a fictionalized telling of how Nakazawa survived the bombing & grew up into wanting to become an artist, with the intent being to show not just the horror of the bombing, but also the hope that rose back up from those who survived. While it only lasted a year in Jump, mainly due to the magazine's size being cut in half, Nakazawa would continue the manga in other magazines, eventually ending in 1987 after 10 volumes, receiving various novels, live-action adaptations, & even two anime movie adaptations. Though Nakazawa eventually planned to create a sequel in the late 00s, he had to retire due to deteriorating health before passing away on December 19, 2012 from lung cancer, no doubt caused by irradiation from the bomb all those decades ago. Unfortunately, since his death, parts of the Japanese government have made some efforts to downplay Barefoot Gen, as Nakazawa was critical of not just the United States, but also Japan for letting things get to that point; to be fair, though, there are also efforts to make sure Nakazawa's tale is not forgotten.

This, however, is NOT that story. Instead, as the third of a three-part look at how World War II was reflected in anime (in this case, the aftermath), to remember the 75th Anniversary of the Hiroshima & Nagasaki bombings (& all of the lives lost from those days), & to honor the memory of Keiji Nakazawa himself, let's take a look at Kuroi Ame ni Utarete, a story from a different side of the man behind Barefoot Gen, both in its original manga from 1968 & in the feature-length anime adaptation it received in 1984.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Zipang: If a Butterfly’s Wings Can Cause a Tornado... What Can a Japanese Guided-Missile Destroyer Do?!

If you're familiar with the name Kaiji Kawaguchi, then you've likely heard him referred to as "the Tom Clancy of Japan". I bring this up not because it's 100% true, but it's also not an absolute misnomer. Unlike the late Clancy, who pretty much exclusively wrote political & military-related fiction novels, Kawaguchi has made plenty of manga not involving those two types of genres, like Boku wa Beatles, Actor, or Seizon -Life- (the last with Nobuyuki Fukumoto). However, when you look at his longest & most notable manga, they're almost exclusively about politics or the military; Actor's the only real outlier, unless you include titles he only drew for, like Osamu Eya's Kuubo Ibuki. 1997's Eagle: The Making of an Asian-American President (11 volumes) is about how a man of Japanese heritage runs & becomes President of the United States, and has been deemed rather prescient ever since Barack Obama became the 44th President. 1988's The Silent Service (32 volumes) is about a Japanese submarine captain who takes claim of a brand new submarine & declares it an independent state; not quite the Japanese equivalent to The Hunt for Red October, but I'd imagine Kawaguchi was inspired by it, somewhat. 2003's A Spirit of the Sun (17 volumes) is about Japan being physically ravaged by a series of natural disasters, and how its citizens have to emigrate to refugee camps on the Asian mainland, while also dealing with the political side of things in how Japan itself can rebuild; it even saw a 9-volume sequel, subtitled Foundation Chapter, in 2008. This also applies to the single longest series Kaiji Kawaguchi has ever done, Zipang.

Fiction detailing some sort of alternate history or timeline has been around since at least 1490 with Valencian novel Tirant lo Blanch, and Japan has been no stranger to it, either. One of the most well known would be Sengoku Jieitai, a 1974 novel by Ryo Hanmura that's best known internationally for its 1979 live-action movie adaptation starring Sonny Chiba; it's also known abroad as Time Slip, G.I. Samurai, or Samurai Commando: Mission 1549. Another would be Konpeki no Kantai/Deep Blue Fleet, a 20-volume novel series by Yoshio Aramaki from the 90s most notorious for starring Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who time warps back to his younger self in 1905 after dying in Operation Vengeance in 1943 & proceeds to change the course of World War II... Starting by absolutely destroying Pearl Harbor & occupying Hawaii; Japan eventually joins to Allies the fight the Nazis, though, & gives America back its independence. Kawaguchi decided to dip his toes into the genre with 2000's Zipang, which ran in Kodansha's Morning magazine until 2009, totaling 43 volumes! It also received a "follow-up" with 2012's Zipang: Shinsou Kairyu/Flow of the Deep Blue Ocean, which details the Genpei War & has absolutely no relation to the original series, whatsoever; "Zipang" was likely used simply because it's a semi-equally ancient spelling for the country's name. In late 2004, a 26-episode TV anime adaptation by Studio Deen aired in late-night, adapting partway into Volume 7, & Geneon Entertainment would then license & release it across seven dual-audio DVDs in North America from 2006 to 2007, with the last DVD coming out mere weeks before Geneon's closure. So, as the second of a three-part look at how World War II was reflected in anime, let's take a look at the anime adaptation of Zipang.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Obscusion B-List: Video Game Ports That Shouldn't Have Been Possible... But Actually Happened... Again

Three years ago, I did an Obscusion B-List about ports of video games to consoles that they had no real feasible right to actually exist on, and while some were definitely compromised in the move, if not outright unplayable, others actually came out either remarkably well, if not absolute miracle ports. It's a concept that I've been meaning to come back to at some point, but at the same time I didn't simply want to mention any old notable ports, especially if their status as "ports" can be debatable. For example, while Lobotomy Software's ports of Quake & Duke Nukem 3D to the Sega Saturn are absolutely impressive, they also don't necessarily actually categorize as "ports". Instead, they're downright remakes, since the staff at Lobotomy used their own proprietary SlaveDriver Engine in order to fully recreate those two games to work with the Saturn's complicated architecture, rather than simply port over the "Quake engine" variant of id Tech 2 or the Build Engine.

At the same, though, I shouldn't be too picky about technicalities like that, so let's just get into yet another six games that appeared on consoles so unlikely that the only natural reaction is to ask either "What?" or "WHY?!". Also, half of this list is first-person shooters, which is totally just by freak accident, I swear. Anyway, speaking of Quake...

Got to love how the cover is literally just the PC release,
but with an Amiga sticker slapped on the back.

Making video games for personal computers is a veritable minefield, and that was only all the more true prior to this decade, especially during the 80s & 90s. Back before your choice was between "PC, Mac, or Linux", you had IBM, Apple, Tandy, Atari, & Commodore (to name only a small few) all releasing seemingly countless variants of personal computers, all of which likely using their own proprietary hardware & software; in fact, even computers from the same company were likely to be incompatible with each other! In Europe, Commodore was effectively "King of the 80s" with both its cost-effective Commodore 64 & its more robust Commodore Amiga line. Debuting with the Amiga 1000 in 1985, the latter line would continue to be officially updated & supported up until 1998, even outliving Commodore itself; later Amigas after the 4000T are just modern PCs using the Amiga name & its own OS. Therefore, it's not surprising that computer games would continue to get ported over to the Amiga line during the 90s... But you just know that there's a limit to what even the Amiga 4000 was capable of, right?

Well, tell that to a company called clickBOOM.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Momotaro: Sacred Sailors: I Hear It's Amazing When the Famous Peach Boy in Mitsuyo-Seo Space with the Kaigun-Sho Does a Raw Blink on Celebes Rock. I Need Anime! '63!! A-I-U-E-O!!!

The year 2020 marks the 75th Anniversary of the end of World War II, which came shortly after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima & Nagasaki in Japan. Being a fan of Japanese animation, it's important to understand its history as a medium, and that inevitably brings things over to WWII. Though there were Japanese animators working hard prior to the war's start in 1939, including the likes of Noboru Ofuji, Yasuji Murata, & Kenzo Masaoka, they were all shorter fare, either for simple amusement, advertisement, or for personal experimentation. I actually covered a number of these "pre-anime" works back in the blog's second ever review, which covered Zakka Films' Roots of Japanese Anime DVD (which you can still buy from Zakka for ~$20!), but the main attraction of that release was 1942's Momotaro's Sea Eagle. Directed by Mitsuyo Seo, this 37-minute production became Japan's first theatrically-shown anime... And it was a propaganda film showing a surrogate attack on Pearl Harbor as though it was lead by iconic folk hero Momotaro & his animal friends, so as to make it look appealing to children.

Considering the environment it was released in, & its lack of showing any on-screen deaths, it's not surprising that it was a success & spawned a sequel.

The text on the side cites that the film
was finished in December 1944.

Let's face facts, people: World War II was an era of propaganda films. Nazi Germany had movies directed by Leni Riefenstahl, most notably Triumph of the Will. The United States had Walt Disney & the Warner Brothers producing various wartime movies, with probably the most infamous being the one where Donald Duck worked on the production line of a Nazi factory. Therefore, it's easy to see that Japan did the same and took advantage of a slowly growing animation industry to do so, just like how there were too many Looney Tunes propaganda shorts to count. Anyway, on April 12, 1945 (just months shy of the war's end in September), Momotaro: Sacred Sailors debuted in theaters, and at 74 minutes long became Japan's first theatrical-length anime; while the Japanese Naval Ministry merely "sponsored" the first film, this sequel was specifically ordered by it. Following the end of World War II & Japan's occupation by American forces, it was long presumed that Sacred Sailors was confiscated & burnt, and the fact that it had never resurfaced helped strengthen that idea. However, production company Shochiku eventually came across a negative in a warehouse in 1983, and the following year saw a new release on VHS. Come 2015, it was decided to remaster the film, to celebrate both Shochiku's 120th Anniversary & the 70th Anniversary of World War II's end, and through the financial support of partners around the world it received an HD remaster & even got screened at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. One of those financial partners was FUNimation, which in turn licensed the film for North American release in 2017, making it probably the least likely anime the company has ever released; Anime Limited did the same for the UK. So, as the first of a three-part look at how World War II was reflected in anime, not to mention tie things in with my second-ever review for the blog, let's see what all the hubbub is with Momotaro: Sacred Sailors.

After taking out the naval fleet on Devil's Island in a surprise bombing raid, sailors Sarukichi, Wankichi, Kijisuke, & Kumakichi return home to visit their families, but it's not long before they're called back to action by Momotaro. This time around, they have to help establish a new airbase on Manado, educate & endear the natives, & then launch another surprise attack on Devil's Island, this time via parachuting, with the intent to make their foes agree to unconditional surrender.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Twelve Anime Theme Remixes & Covers That Surpass the Originals Part 2

As a matter of course, when I say that a remix or cover "surpasses" the original song, that is simply my opinion & not a declaration of absolute truth. Also, for every single one of the songs I brought up in Part 1, or will bring up shortly in Part 2, I am a fan of their original forms; after all, there had to be something in the original that made it worth remixing or covering, in the first place. If it sounds like I'm kind of rambling & pointing out something that doesn't really need pointing out... That's because I am, and I have no real idea as to how to properly lead into the second half of this list.

Therefore, let's just move right on!

"Kesenai Tsumi~raw "breath" track~" by Nana Kitade
(Fullmetal Alchemist [2003] ED1)
Just like Part 1, let's start Part 2 with a theme from a pretty notable & popular anime, in this case the original TV anime adaptation of Hiromu Arakawa's Fullmetal Alchemist. A true-blue gateway anime for many, including yours truly, the original 2003 series featured an extremely strong selection of 4 OPs & 4 EDs, and what we'll be focusing on is the first ED. Ever since the 80s, anime has been a reliable way for new singers & bands to get some exposure, and the same is true for Nana Kitade, whose debut single "Kesenai Tsumi" became a bit of an instant classic by being associated with FMA, which was airing on the very lucrative Saturday 6PM time slot on MBS. Seeing as the first quarter of the anime often blended together dramatic moments with lighthearted comedy, it was appropriate for those episodes to end with an upbeat pop song, though the staff at BONES wasn't against using the song's unassuming nature to essentially troll viewers at the end of one particularly infamous episode, which ended with a real heart-wrencher.