Monday, May 31, 2021

Oh Me, Oh My, OVA! α: The Forefathers of the Short-Form OVA

On December 26, 1983, Bandai (though its newly-launched Emotion label) released Episode 2 of Dallos in Japan, becoming the first anime ever released straight to home video; yes, Episode 2 came out before Episode 1, so as to promote sales though a more action-packed offering. This would come to be known in Japan as the "Original Video Animation", or OVA for short; "Original Animation Video/OAV" is also often used. While Dallos was a success, though, it wouldn't be until the smash hit release of Megazone 23 (Part 1) on March 9, 1985 that the OVA would truly be considered a viable way to produce & release anime. Ever since then, the OVA has continued to exist in some form to this very day, though now they may be known more as an "OAD" (for disc-based media) or even an "ONA" (for online-first distribution). However, the OVA's greatest heyday was most definitely from 1986 to 1991, when the Japanese "Bubble Economy" allowed seemingly anyone with an idea & money to make their own anime. Even after the bubble burst, though, the OVA continued to see use as a means to release anime, which has resulted in just too many anime to count that saw release straight to home video. I've wanted to explore the depths of the OVA for a long time now, and have finally decided to start dipping my toes into these waters by relying on a format very similar to that of multi-series Demo Disc volumes.

Welcome to Oh Me, Oh My, OVA!

Just like those types of Demo Discs, every OM, OM, OVA! article will feature four anime that were released straight to home video, but with one major restriction: They can't be any longer than two episodes. Once you get to something that has three episodes or more, you start entering the potential for it to be worth giving a proper review of, since you have much more content to work with & write about; also, trust me when I say that there's already way too much anime I can rely on with this restriction. A little over a month ago I did a poll over on Twitter asking how I should tackle this series, and the winner wound up being "Theme Each Set of Four", so that's how I'll be handling OM, OM, OVA! from here on out. However, a decently close second place was to just handle this chronologically, so I think there's no better way to start OM, OM, OVA! off than to take a look at the some of the earliest OVAs ever released. Let's see what happened in between Dallos & Megazone 23!

Friday, May 21, 2021

Megazone 23 Part III (Manga UK Dub): *sigh*... Hard On. Done Laughing Yet? OK, Let's Move On...

Back in April of 2013, I reached my second milestone review with Review #100, in which I watched & reviewed Robotech the Movie, an infamous Frankenstein's Monster of a movie produced by Harmony Gold meant to tie into its loose amalgamation of Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, & Genesis Climber Mospeada. Originally, Robotech creator Carl Macek wanted to simply dub Macross: Do You Remember Love?, but due to "political reasons" wasn't able to do so, so he went with licensing Megazone 23 (pronounced "two three"), specifically the Part I OVA, but movie distributor Cannon Films didn't like the end result (too many girls & not enough action), forcing Macek to jam in Southern Cross footage so that more action would be included. Also, Harmony Gold paid AIC & Artmic to produce a new, happier ending for Megazone 23 Part I, which became Robotech the Movie's ending; said new ending makes no sense in the context of Megazone 23 itself. However, it was likely through all of this licensing & production that resulted in Victor Entertainment hiring Harmony Gold to produce an English dub for Megazone 23 Part II, which today is now known as the "International" dub, which I also reviewed.

So, after eight years, I think it's time to finally end this trilogy of "infamous English dubs of Megazone 23" by looking at the most maligned dub of all, which itself goes with the most maligned Part of the entire franchise.

I just realized that if you add an "x" in the middle of
"Megazone 23 III", yet get "Megazone 6IX". Nice.

While 1983's Dallos is the first anime released straight to home video, & did make a profit, 1985's Megazone 23 was the first "Original Video Animation" to become a big hit, which lead to Part II coming out a little over a year later, despite there being no plans for a sequel originally. However, continued support for the two OVAs resulted in a third production, Megazone 23 Part III, being produced & released in 1989. Unlike what came before, though, Part III was actually a two-episode OVA, so you might see some mention of a "Part IV" online, but that's really just Episode 2 of Part III. To say that Part III didn't receive as much love from fans would be an understatement, with AIC even stating that their (long) planned reboot Megazone 23 SIN would only cover Part I & II. However, that certainly didn't stop Manga Entertainment UK from licensing Megazone 23 Part III (and ONLY Part III), produce an English dub for it, & release it on a single VHS tape in 1995 (simply titling the release "Megazone 23"), the same year Carl Macek finally got his wish & produced an uncut English dub for Part I via Streamline Pictures. Manga UK's Part III dub has since become extremely rare & elusive, having never been re-issued in any later release of Megazone 23. Even AnimEigo's most recent Kickstarter-backed Blu-Ray boxset doesn't have it, and that has literally every other English dub produced for Megazone 23, minus Robotech the Movie (for obvious reasons). However, it's actually been available over on YouTube ever since 2008, though split up across 15 parts (due to length restrictions of the time), while Mike Toole (of ANN & Discotek Media fame) uploaded a rip of the Manga UK dub to just last month (& matched the audio to ADV's DVD release, at that!), so it's time to for me to finally watch Megazone 23 Part III, see how bad it truly is, & then see if Manga UK's dub deserves to have never been given an invite to the English dub reunion party that AnimEigo held.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Obscusion B-Side: Resident Evil's (& Dino Crisis') Original First-Person Exploits: A Gun Survivor Retrospective

A lot of talk happened when Capcom announced Resident Evil 7: Biohazard back in 2016, and aside from a return to the "survival horror" style of the older games (following the more action-heavy style of the previous main entries) much of the conversation came from the fact that the game would be played completely from a first-person perspective. Now, in the year 2021, Capcom has returned to that same gameplay style with Resident Evil: Village, a direct sequel to RE 7. However, like the old saying goes, for RE 7 & "VIII" to walk in those first-person shoes, Capcom first had to crawl, and that's where the Gun Survivor sub-series comes in. From 2000 to 2003, Capcom released four games under the Gun Survivor name, three of which were related to Resident Evil & one was related to Dino Crisis, with their primary gimmick being that they all focused around first-person gameplay, ideally through the use of Namco's GunCon (or G-Con 45, in Europe) light-gun peripheral. However, these weren't rail-shooters in the vein of Time Crisis or The House of the Dead, but rather allowed for traditional movement in between the shooting, making them possibly the first games to combine light-gun shooting with "off-rail" gameplay; Sega's Gunvalkyrie did originally plan to do the same on Dreamcast, but dropped it when moved to the Xbox. Also, yes, I do know of Umbrella Chronicles & Darkside Chronicles, but those are literal rail shooters (really cool ones, too), so they don't count here.

While the games have generally received a mixed reception, namely due to the first game, Gun Survivor is notable for a variety of reasons. It marks the first time an original Resident Evil game was developed outside of Capcom's offices, the first time an entry didn't use pre-rendered static backgrounds, the first time the franchise would hit arcades, the first "side story" that didn't involve any of the primary RE cast, and events found within some of these games not only remain canon to this very day, but also have some notable impact on the storylines of both Resident Evil AND Dino Crisis! With 2021 marking the 21st Anniversary of Gun Survivor (i.e. it's now legally able to purchase a handgun from a licensed dealer in the United States!), & Resident Evil: Village having come out this same year, I think now's the perfect time to look back at these four games, and see if they might just be the missing link to Resident Evil's current mainline direction.