Monday, April 25, 2022

Twelve Older Anime That Deserve License Rescues XII: Duodenary Decisions Part 2

In an English anime industry that's now only become more & more contracted over time (remember, FUNimation technically dies after this May!), it is something to think back at the 00s bubble days & considering how many "major" names there were, all vying for the biggest slice of the pie, and each of them having at least one or two titles that made them giants for a period of time. Because of that, though, I have been able to continually make license rescue lists like these consistently for 12 years, and as titles go out of print for long enough I could theoretically keep it going until the end of time. Who knows, maybe I can at least stretch this out for another 8 entries & make it to #20!

Speaking of something being made to celebrate a 20th of some sort.... G-Saviour!

On the very first license rescue list back at the start of 2011, I included both G Gundam & Gundam Wing as a double entry, and while both have since happened as part of Right Stuf's working relationship with Sunrise, in retrospect it was a little silly to do that, since Bandai Entertainment was still actually around at the time; that company wouldn't get killed off until 2012, an entire decade ago! Even after Bandai Entertainment got killed off, though, I still pretty much never really considered adding another Gundam production to any of these lists, mainly because I figured that the franchise was too big to never be given another chance. Not like I would have had much time to consider them, anyway, since Right Stuf announced its partnership with Sunrise in 2014, with said partnership still going strong to this day. That said, there really isn't much left in the Gundam vault for Right Stuf to release that hasn't been released before, let alone stuff that actually did see release in English back in the day...

Monday, April 11, 2022

Twelve Older Anime That Deserve License Rescues XII: Duodenary Decisions Part 1

It had to happen at some point, right? Eventually, a "Twelve Anime" list was going to hit twelve iterations, and it only makes perfect sense for it to happen on the 12th year of this blog. So do I have anything special to celebrate the 12th entry in the yearly license rescue list? After all, the number "12" has a lot of importance to it, as it's the smallest abundant number, the largest single-syllable number, is the number that time itself is effectively based around (both in seconds, minutes, hours, & days!), is the number of signs in both the Western & Chinese zodiac, has all varieties of relevance to various religions & mythologies, & is the total number of Earthly Branches. Surely there's some relevance to these twelve entries for this twelfth edition of "Twelve Older Anime That Deserve License Rescues"!!!!!!!!!!!! (That's twelve exclamation points, people)

Not really, but we can at least start things off with the "Most Dangerous" anime of all time.

There was once a time when M.D. Geist, short for "Most Dangerous Soldier Geist", was often cited as one of "The Worst Anime of All Time", though today it's honestly rather silly & even quaint to think of it like that; today, it's a roughly-produced anime take on violent 80s Hollywood action movies, warts & all. Still, there's no doubt that this 1986 OVA created by Koichi Ohata (though due to him only being 24 at the time, Hayato Ikeda was the credited director) & written by Riku Sanjo (who'd later see success with Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai & various Heisei Kamen Rider shows) wouldn't have achieved the notoriety it received if it wasn't for a single man: John O'Donnell, the founder of Central Park Media. At some point the boss of CPM found out about this OVA, likely from the legendary 1988 Gaga Communications anime reel (where it was titled "Thunder Warrior"), but O'Donnell seemingly became instantly smitten with M.D. Geist, releasing it on VHS & LD in 1992/1993, where it apparently became one of the earliest anime to ever enter Billboard's Top 10 video charts; CPM even made Geist himself (in full armor) the literal mascot to the U.S. Manga Corps label. With that kind of success, O'Donnell would then work with Ohata directly to create EVEN MORE GEIST, resulting in the 1996 trio of M.D. Geist: Director's Cut (which added in five minutes of new footage & rearranged some things), a comic book adaptation by Tim Eldred, & even an OVA sequel, M.D. Geist II: Death Force.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Obscusion B-Side: Hong Kong '97 vs. Hong Kong 97: The Final Showdown of Ultimate Destiny

The year 2022 will mark the 25th Anniversary of the "Transfer of Sovereignty Over Hong Kong", when the United Kingdom gave control over the island of Hong Kong back to the People's Republic of China, as per the extension agreement made in 1898, when the Qing dynasty was still around; while it's often referred to as "99 years of British rule", the actual full reign was 156 years. If you are hoping for a look into the intricacies of life in Hong Kong during the past quarter century & how China has treated the island & its populace ever since, then I must apologize. Besides, I'm sure there will be people doing just that when the actual anniversary of the transfer comes to pass on July 1. However, this was a very notable moment in world history, so naturally there were a variety of movies, books, & stories that based themselves around this moment, to some extent. Some, like 2014's The Midnight After, looked at things from the perspective of those living in Hong Kong itself, while others, like Rush Hour, Chinese Box, & James Bond novel Zero Minus Ten, make the handover itself a notable part of their plots.

However, two productions (a movie & a video game) made the then-future 1997 transfer of Hong Kong from Britain to China the focus of their actual titles! I mean... how can I NOT pit them against each other?!

Released straight-to-video on November 9, 1994, Hong Kong '97 was a ~91-minute movie directed by Albert Pyun (Captain America ['90], Cyborg), written by Randall Fontana (who'd reunite with Pyun for 2010's Bulletface), & starred Robert Patrick, Ming-Na Wen, Brion James, & Tim Thomerson. It went on to receive a mixed reception & more or less would be forgotten with time after Trimark Pictures (Warlock, Leprechaun) released it on VHS & laserdisc; it's since never seen an official re-release of any sort. The following year then saw something of almost exactly the same name see unofficial release in Japan... barely. Released whenever-the-hell in 1995, Hong Kong 97 (note the lack of an apostrophe, because that is essential in differentiating between the two), or "HONGKONG 1997" on the cover, was produced by Happy Software Ltd., or HappySoft for short. This was a company based out of Shinjuku & run by Yoshihisa "Kowloon" Kurosawa, a notorious Japanese writer who has made a small name for himself in certain circles for traveling to various "underground" regions within Pacific Asia & writing travel journals about all of the seedy, illegal, & just messed up stuff he saw. Kurosawa, however, was also a fan of video games, and would hire people he knew to program satirical & cheap PC games for unofficial release, like a strategy game that parodied Aleph (formerly Aum Shinrikyo). After finding out about various backup devices that can rip video game cartridges to 3.5" floppy disks, Kurosawa decided that he'd give releasing a game for the Super Famicom a try.

So, after hiring a programmer friend who worked at Enix to help him, Hong Kong 97 was completed in just two days, and after hiring someone else to translate the on-screen text (so the player can choose between Japanese, traditional Chinese, & English), he sold the game via mail order for ~$20 (or $37.23, in 2022), allegedly on both floppy disk & cartridge (though no one can confirm the latter)… and Kurosawa wound up selling around 30 copies, before simply forgetting that he ever made it. However, unlike Albert Pyun's movie, Kowloon Kurosawa's game would eventually find itself notoriety online during the 00s, as someone wound up ripping the rom & distributed it online. Then, in 2015, YouTube video pioneer James Rolfe covered Hong Kong 97 as Episode 134 of Angry Video Game Nerd, during which Rolfe also brought up Pyun's movie, due to their nearly-matching titles; Rolfe's video has since been viewed over 9.7 million times. Later, much smaller channel Ultra Healthy Video Game Nerd wound up getting hold of the floppy disk release itself in 2018 & even did an in-person interview with Kurosawa himself in 2020 (following Kurosawa's 2018 interview with the South China Morning Post), and today the full story of Hong Kong 97 is readily available for anyone to find out.

However, one question remains left to be answered:
WHICH HONG KONG (')97 IS BETTER?!?!?!?!?!?!