Friday, December 30, 2022

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2021 & 2022!! Part 2

Well, here we are with the final entry of this blog for 2022. "What to expect in 2023?", you may or may not (but more than likely the latter) ask? Well, I think I should finally focus on ideas that I have had in mind for literally years, but simply always held off on for other stuff, usually simply because I can be a bizarrely lazy person, in some ways. The death of an iconic SF mangaka that was only announced earlier this month has made me decide to finally move forward with one of those writing ideas, and I have another 8-9 of those kinds of ideas (where I literally have had some images ready to go for years!) to continue on with, so I feel it's time to force myself to move forward with them. I also have other ideas in mind that are just concepts on Windows Notepad, so some of those might also get done. However, that's for next year, so what are the other six "posts" that I am most proud of from these past two years?

On November 26 of this year, Albert Pyun passed away at the age of 69, after having dealt with both multiple sclerosis & later dementia. Even though he literally was able to work as an intern to Takao Saito, a director of photography who was most known for his repeated partnerships with the legendary Akira Kurosawa, Pyun would go to on be considered a modern-day equivalent to Ed Wood, due to his notoriety for directing B-movies, oftentimes very cheesy ones. However, upon news of his death, what came about was more a sense of gratitude towards a director who knew the kinds of films he wanted to make, and the joy many had in watching those films, among which includes the likes of 1989's Cyborg with Jean-Claude van Damme, the 1990 Captain America film, or 1997's Mean Guns with Ice-T & Christopher Lambert, the latter of which would praise Pyun for his passion about filmmaking in a French interview for the film. Coincidentally enough, just seven months prior to his death, I happened to make an April Fools' Day piece where I pitted his 1994 film Hong Kong '97 against the infamous unlicensed Super Famicom game of almost-nearly the same exact title, Hong Kong 97 (the apostrophe is paramount!), and while I'm absolutely sure he never actually came across this piece in those last months of his life, I would imagine he would have found it amusing.

Monday, December 26, 2022

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2021 & 2022!! Part 1

Happy Boxing Day!

Another two years have passed, and with it the first two years of The Land of Obscusion's second decade of operation! Needless to say, both 2021 & 2022 were... a lot to take in. In the midst of all that happened in the real world these past two years, including the good, the bad, the ugly, & the sad, I can only hope that this little blog has acted as a fun little reprieve for some, a place where one can relax & read about something that you'd normally not see covered in other corners of the internet. After a pandemic-induced attempt at staving off things like lockdown resulted in a more active 2020 than I had initially planned, with me averaging 3-4 writings per month, the following two years returned things to the more relaxed idea I originally had in mind after 2018, with an average of only 2-3 writings per month; it may not seem like much, but one less thing to write can be a lot. I also managed to somehow find myself getting paid twice for writing about stuff, with 2021 seeing the publication of Hardcore Gaming 101 & Bitmap Books' A Guide to Japanese Role-Playing Games (which I contributed a single page to, covering the Super Robot Wars series), while 2022 saw me do what I thought was impossible & actually get published over on Anime News Network with The Apocrypha of Hareluya II BØY & Why It's Worth Watching.

However, as those two were NOT written for The Land of Obscusion, they are not eligible for this very list I'll be going over. With that in mind, what were the "12 posts" (i.e. it's actually more like "12 subjects" than "12 individual writings") that I was most proud of over the course of 2021 & 2022? Let's get started with the first six...

That last cover has some real "Everything is Fine!!" energy.

Mars 45th Anniversary Retrospective Trilogy (March 9, 16, & 24, 2021)
Pretty much any year can be a notable anniversary for an anime and/or manga, & by that I mean "five & zeroes". 2021 wound up being just that for Mitsuteru Yokoyama's Mars, which celebrated its 45th Anniversary that year, as it originally debuted in the pages of Weekly Shonen Champion magazine back in 1976. Yokoyama was a legend in manga that arguably rivaled the likes of Osamu Tezuka & Shotaro Ishinomori in setting standards when it came to certain genres & the like, but unlike either of those names there has never been an official English release of any Yokoyama manga; his legacy in English-speaking fandom has exclusively been experienced (officially) only via adaptations. However, to showcase just how influential & inspirational Yokoyama was, even some his shorter works have gone on to achieve notoriety, and one of them was Mars, the tale of an amnesiac who discovers that he's actually an alien meant to decide the fate of Earth itself by being able to command a giant robot named Gaia. Despite being able to command Gaia to instantly destroy the planet, because of humanity's history of violence making it a potential threat to the rest of the universe, Mars decides to believe that humanity can learn from its mistakes, despite this decision making him a marked man by his own kind, who have their own giant robots to kill Mars with, as Mars' death will still cause Gaia to destroy the planet.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Oh Me, Oh My, OVA! γ: Deus ex Rota

It's been well over a year since the last installment of Oh Me, Oh My, OVA!, a segment where I cover four different anime released straight to home video in Japan, with the only prerequisite being that it can only be no more than two episodes long, i.e. the "Short-Form OVA". The past two entries have followed what the victor of the initial poll in April of last year decided, "Theme Each Set of Four", though the very first entry also followed the second-place winner, "Go in Chronological Order", but I must admit that there is an appeal in the third option from that poll, "Just Pick at Random". However, going with that idea means that I can't simply pick on my own, as I will have my own inherent biases that would likely keep me from checking out certain titles, and I'd like OM, OM, OVA! to be something that can, on occasion, push me outside of my comfort zone. At the same time, though, while there are websites out there that can randomly pick for you out of a list you make, there's something bland & robotic about letting a website just pick things for you. No, if I'm going to have a quartet of short-form OVAs be picked for me at random, I want it to feel fun for me, even if it's only fleeting in execution.

And then I discovered an Irishman named Sean Seanson.

Not the actual wheel that was used, though the titles are accurate,
but it certainly makes for a good visual, doesn't it?

For those unfamiliar, which is likely a fair amount of people as he has less than 11,000 subscribers as of this piece, Sean Seanson makes videos on YouTube where he covers "retro" video games, with a primary focus on the original Sony PlayStation. While he does also make videos about individual games or games with a shared theme (same franchise, same publisher, etc.), his most interesting videos are from his two series where he covers "Obscure & Forgotten PS1 Games" & "Japan Only PS1 Games", i.e. he's pretty much the video equivalent to me, but with the PS1. In those, he leaves the selection of games for each video up to chance by randomizing which games are up for selection, before having a literal prize wheel make the decision for him; the specific site Sean uses is Wheel of Names, if you're curious. After seeing how Sean does it, I must admit that I was kind of inspired, to put it likely. Therefore, starting now, every third entry of Oh Me, Oh My, OVA! will be a random selection "provided" by the wheel, and this apparently is being done with the approval of Mr. Seanson himself. We have 122 different OVAs on board for this initial selection, so which four has the "God from the Wheel" chosen for me?

While I'm not showing the wheel selections themselves (I'm already copying Sean Seanson enough as it is), I promise that I did indeed use the wheel to decide for me. The only thing I've done is organize them in chronological order, as per OM, OM, OVA! tradition, but that's actually a lie as the wheel literally gave them to be in order already. Up first... (Possibly) Women's Erotica!

Well, that certainly is me being pushed out of my comfort zone, isn't it?

Monday, December 12, 2022

Arcadia of Anime Gaming's Youth: The Original Anime Video Games on Console?

Today, looking for a video game based on an anime or manga property is like shooting fish in a barrel, i.e. you don't even have to look, because they are everywhere! Turn the clock back nearly 40 years, though, and things were very, very different. While there was the rare game based on licensed properties elsewhere during the 70s & early 80s, the idea of making video games based on a popular anime/manga in Japan didn't really become a regular thing until after the Nintendo Famicom & Sega SG-1000 both came out on July 15, 1983 (Epoch's original Cassette Vision from 1981 had no licensed property games), with the only real exception that I could find being an arcade game based on Lupin the 3rd by Taito from 1980, though some believe that the license was only added late into development. However, the Famicom's first "anime video game" looks to be Kinnikuman: Muscle Tag Match from late 1985 (over two years after the console launched), while the SG-1000 had Golgo 13 & Orguss games a year prior in 1984, but none of those are actually the first anime/manga-based video game on console. If you want to be picky, companies like Epoch & Popy had released handheld LCD games (ala the Game & Watch) before any of these, based on properties like Golgo 13, Dr. Slump, & Doraemon, but that's a "Square/Video Game vs. Rectangle/Electronic Game" situation there; sure, all "video games" are "electronic games", but the inverse isn't exactly true. No, for the "true" origins of the anime video game, at least on console, we instead have to go back to just prior to the launch of either Nintendo or Sega's first systems... and on a console that actually originated in the United States, amusingly enough.

Originally released in May of 1982 in North America for $199 (or the equivalent of just over $614 in 2022!), the Emerson Arcadia 2001 was manufactured by NJ-based Emerson Radio, which at one point was one of the largest manufacturers of consumer electronics (but today simply licenses out its branding for other companies to use), in an attempt to enter the competitive console gaming market that defined the second generation of video game consoles, which was ruled over by the Atari 2600. Unfortunately, Emerson joined in just a year before everything started to crash, & would discontinue the Arcadia in 1984, with the console only receiving 51 games around the world & no known sales records; I imagine they weren't good, though. That said, the console was home to then-exclusive ports of some lesser-known arcade games, like Tekhan/Tecmo & Sunsoft's Route 16, Konami's Jungler, & Hoei/Banpresto's Jump Bug. However, the Arcadia did wind up having a notable place in history for its generation, as it was cloned like crazy the world over (with the possibility of most, if not all, of them being officially licensed), with over 30 being known! In France it was both the Advision Home Arcade & Hanimex MPT-03 (yes, some countries had multiple clones), in Spain it was the Tele-Computer Cosmos, in Germany there were eight different Arcadia clones(!), & even the US had a clone in the form of the Tryom Video Game Center; nice job cutting into your own sales, Emerson. Meanwhile, Japan had three different Arcadia 2001 clones, but I want to focus on just one: The Bandai Arcadia, the only clone in the world to actually keep the "Arcadia" name.

Monday, December 5, 2022

Obscusion B-Side: Business Superiority Through... Alphabetry? A Look at the "Children of Atari"

While the concept of "video games" certainly existed prior to the founding of Atari, Inc., the successor to the short-lived Syzygy Engineering, on June 27, 1972, there's no doubt that the company co-founded by Nolan Bushnell & Ted Dabney, and featuring Al Alcorn as the man who'd create Pong, has a relevance to gaming history that cannot be downplayed in any way, form, or fashion. While the Atari that exists today has next to nothing to do with the original company, outside of owning the rights to the wide majority of its classic games & IPs, the end result has been 50 straight years of that brand, which is certainly an accomplishment, no matter how you shake it. One of the biggest things Atari established, even if it wasn't by intention, was the concept of third-party companies in the gaming landscape, i.e. companies that only develop and/or publish video games for other companies' hardware. Originally, literally all companies involved in video games were making their own hardware for their games to be played on, whether it was arcade machines or home console systems. However, the founding of Activision on October 1, 1979, & the release of its first Atari 2600 games in mid-1980, would truly change everything by opening the floodgates for video game development & publishing, for good & bad.

If companies are legally considered "people",
then I guess they're a species capable of asexual reproduction.

However, the amusing thing about this is that there was partly a reason for why Activision, which was founded by ex-Atari programmers, used the name that it did (& still does, to this day): Alphabetic Supremacy. In short, "Activision" would appear before "Atari" when organized in alphabetical order, thereby somehow implying that it was inherently superior to its "father", and when various people from Activision left to form their own respective video game companies throughout the 80s... they did the same exact thing & chose names that would put them before any of their fellow Activision progeny, i.e. Atari's "granchildren". So, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Atari (& because I was inspired by the stellar Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration collection that recently came out), let's take a general overview of how Atari spawned a rebellious child of its own, and how that child then later gave Atari a trio of grandchildren (& how that last one ruined the entire naming game *side-eyes Acclaim*).