Akagi: The Genius Who Descended Into the Darkness (2005)

Sometimes I take small trips through Crunchyroll looking for new things to watch, and while some of my experiments aren’t really hits, it’s interesting to see what’s on there – especially stuff nobody’s talking about. I’m drawn to fairly atypical anime as many of you may have noticed – things with weird stories, strange art styles, or retro aesthetics are definitely my thing, so when I saw a picture of the 2005 anime Tōhai Densetsu Akagi: Yami ni Maiorita Tensai (闘牌伝説アカギ 闇に舞い降りた天才, lit. “Mahjong Legend Akagi: The Genius Who Descended Into the Darkness”) I was excited. Even though the premise seemed like it could have been boring I had to see a modern anime with such a strange look. And my assumptions of this being boring? Good God was I so wrong.

The story of Akagi revolves around the mahjong gambling exploits of Shigeru Akagi. After a death-defying game of chicken (two cars race for a cliff and first one to brake loses) one evening in 1958, Akagi nonchalantly enters a yakuza mahjong parlor to shake the police’s trail. Although he is unfamiliar with the rules of mahjong, his gambling intuition saves a small-time gambler, Nangou, and grants him a seat at the gambling table. As the night progresses, the stakes are raised both within the game and for Akagi, who is under the suspicion of the local policeman, Yasuoka. However, Akagi manages to defeat Keiji Yagi —despite Yagi’s cheating during the game—and impresses the members of the gambling house. Eventually he gets stronger and stronger opponents until he becomes the legendary gambler that the full title of the anime alludes to

Akagi is actually a spin-off of another manga called Ten by Nobuyuki Fukumoto who is known for long running manga about gambling and Yakuza. Despite this, you don’t have to know anything of the previous manga which shows a much older Akagi in modern times fighting that book’s main character – after I finish this, I might have to see if I can read Ten.

On paper, Akagi should be an insanely boring show designed for old salary men in Japan and literally nobody else, but instead it is somehow really exciting. This is despite me having absolutely no knowledge of the rules of this version of the game nor any interest in playing said game whatsoever and the relative slow pacing of watching guys play Mahjong. That’s because this show is presented in a way that I will liken it to “Yakuza Yu-gi-oh”. Just about every move is presented as some earth shattering situation where you can really feel the gravity of Akagi’s actions. For example, there are many times where Akagi wins, but due to having a daredevil attitude, he immediately pulls the situation back into the fire to raise the stakes.

Akagi is also a compelling character analysis of a person that appears to be a total sociopath and genius. In the same way that House M.D. or Sherlock are such a compelling television characters, Akagi seems to be the gambling equivalent. In many instances, it’s VERY clear that Akagi doesn’t care if he lives or dies and has no problems killing or using people in questionable ways to get his way. This is pretty heavy stuff for a character that starts out as just thirteen years of age at the beginning of the show. There are incredibly intense scenes like one where he pulls a gun on one of his opponents, loads a bullet into the chamber, and fires as in playing Russian Roulette. Of course, his opponent was not in danger as he could calculate the approximate position of the bullet, but merely wanted to see if he would flinch basically.

This also is shown in his Mahjong play style, where he basically ignores what the perceived basics of the game should be due to intuitively knowing what his opponents are likely doing and using their actions to trip them up and pull wins out of nowhere. Ultimitely, his goal is to make them crack, nd take advantage of their insecurities to win. While I am far from the person to discuss the technical side of his tactics, I would compare this to poker and discarding super important cards because he knows he can win in a more skillful way. or hitting on 20 in blackjack because he has figured out that the next card is going to be a one of clubs.

One of my favorite parts of this show is the silly stuff said by the narrator during just about every instance of the show. There is a point in the second large game where Akagi is close to loosing, the narrator builds this up move by move that he is about to loose and “descend into the depths of Hell itself”. A few minutes later, the table is turned and he chimes in with something like: “The sand in the depths of hell is magical sand! It gives you power to rise up!” Stuff like this is so over-the-top and borderline silly that it always makes me laugh – I’m sure that’s not the intention, but I love it.

Perhaps the only real downside to this show is that the character of Shigeru Akagi is fairly mysterious through the entire show – one never really gets a complete grasp of his real motivations or what happened in his life to make him such a grizzled 13 year old. Maybe this is explained in the manga that this is a spinoff of, but I’d imagine not considering the time difference.

All-in-all Akagi is a refreshing show for those that are tired of overly cliched anime that follows whatever genre tropes are popular today. Yeah, it’s really not much different than the handful of sports anime I’ve seen, but one just really isn’t presented with too many organized crime / gambling shows. I’d definitely recommend it.

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Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These (2018) First Impressions

These past few years have truly been a blessing for fans of both “old-school” anime and manga and space opera anime and manga in general. I plan to eventually go more into detail regarding this topic, but the short version is that I would have never imagined owning legit English translations of things like Captain Harlock and Queen Emeraldas in manga form, and novels and anime of the VERY sought after classic Legend of the Galactic Heroes. Granted, the original anime has yet to materialize over here despite being licensed – but I’ll go with the next best thing – an entirely new show streaming on numerous streaming sites. Today we will be looking at Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These.

While a general synopsis of this show is very hard, I think I can boil it down to the chronicle of a war between three galactic superpowers that spans hundreds of years and involves billions of people. The first super-power was formed in 2801 and is dubbed The Galactic Federation. After power largely shifts from the Earth, a man named Rudolf von Goldenbaum, an ex-admiral turned dictatorial politician is elected to power, quickly makes himself Emperor Rudolf I, absolute monarch of the renamed Galactic Empire. Rudolf adopts extremist policies including the suppression of any opposition and the extermination of anyone perceived too weak, such as the disabled and those in poverty. So yeah, basically space Nazis.

Later on, the second power springs up – a group of serfs in the Altair star system manage to escape captivity and make “the Long March of 10,000 Light-Years” into the Sagittarius Arm to escape the Galactic Empire, which is located within the Orion Arm. These people set up the Free Planets Alliance, a democratic republic. Seeing these people as nothing more than traitors and rebels, the Empire vows to crush the FPA at all costs. Assuming a quick victory, The Empire suffers large losses and has to settle into a prolonged war.

The third realm is the Dominion of Phezzan, a planet-state with connections to Earth (now dubbed Terra). It technically remains a part of the Empire and pays tribute, but it also maintains a relationship with the Alliance. Providing the only link between the Empire and Alliance whilst simultaneously playing the two sides against one another makes Phezzan act like true war profiteers. so far, these guys have yet to show up in the first few episodes.

The first season of this show is just twelve episodes and seems to roughly cover the contents of the first novel (which I really need to finish reading one of these days). This has been a “second season” announced, but it will be comprised of three theatrical films that I assume will be the second book. Time will tell if this new production will achieve that sort of success that could warrant the sort of long-term commitment that eventually led to over 100 OVA episodes, but I really hope it does.

Perhaps one of the biggest differences between this show and the older OVA series, is that some of the theatricality of the dialogue has been removed for a much more subdued (realistic?) version. The example that sticks out to me the most is a scene in episode one where Commodore Reinhard is sitting on an ornate throne on the bridge of his flagship The Brünhild looking out of the observation window. This scene is basically in both versions, but first we’ll talk about the original. His longtime friend and military confidant, Kircheis, has entered the room to comment on his stargazing, to which Reinhard goes into a long, almost Shakespearean, aside about stars and how vast space is in comparison to man-made wars.

In this new version, however, Kircheis rolls and in and Reinhard comments on how tall he has gotten, to which Kircheis basically replies “cool story bro” – end scene. To me, This dramatically alters the character of Reinhard from a more romantic character to a dark brooding one ala Captain Harlock. It’s too early to tell if this is long-lasting or even a detriment to the narrative. One could argue that such flowery dialogue led the original show to coming off as pretentious at times, I personally like it as space operas of that era all tend to be that way.

There is also a tendency for Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These to go into details of specific battle plans and tactics used far more than what was in the original show. In the original show, there were points where you were left to assume everyone was correct in their assertions that characters like Reinhard and Yang were tactical geniuses as most of the actual planning was glossed over. Here we have the exact opposite, in fact some battles are almost laboriously detailed with little maps being discussed and references to as yet to be unseen older battles. Honestly, I think the new show takes the edge, as these battles are far more like the ones in the books by description alone.

Honestly, this and the battle scenes are basically pornography to me – giant space battles set up like old school navel battles have always been a thing I love seeing in science fiction, and you can’t really get any more epic than two armies consisting hundreds of thousands of ships duking it out. These action scenes have immense gravitas due too how dynamic they have been realized and the budget that must have spent to do so.

One notable thing missing is the original score comprised largely of classical music, but this has been replaced with suitable original orchestral music that suits the show and gives it the vibe it needs. Although watching ships blow up to Gustav Mahler or Antonin Dvorak pieces is awesome, this original stuff is pretty good.  I can’t find too much about the new compositions, but they appear to be from famed Japanese composer Shin Hashimoto, aka Sin. He is well-known for his works for Takako Matsu, EXILE, Mika Nakashima, AAA, and LISA.

Perhaps one of my favorite things that these first episodes did was illustrated when Commodore Reinhard, in the first episode, comes up with a seemingly flawless battle plan, only to meet his match with Yang Wen-li in episode two. the way both episodes show the same period of time through the eyes of two opposing men was cool and I hope they do this more.

So far, This is a really solid adaptation of something that I assumed would get ruined in an effort to modernize everything. I know there are still fans that are mad about changed that have been happening, but honestly some would be mad at anything other than a shot-for-shot remake in the same art style which would be a waste of everyone’s time. What we have is a solid introduction to the show and really gets me pumped to finish it up. I plan to continue watching this for the next few weeks and give more thoughts as I go through. Hell, I might get back onto the 100 episode horse that is the original show as I’m pumped that this is getting made!

The Monday Meme: Never-ending Celebration

The Monday Meme: Space Force

A Look at EVEN MORE Cameos in Tiger Mask W

 

One of the more popular things I’ve posted on here in a while was a look at cameos (true or implied) found in the recent pro wrestling anime Tiger Mask W.

A Look at All the Cameos in Tiger Mask W

Since I did that, more episodes have been released and there are even more cameos! Some of the funnier cameos are the “homage cameos” like characters that are obviously WWE wrestlers slightly tweaked to avoid copyright issues. If you’re a new fan of wrestling or not a fan at all, a lot of these references might be over your head, so that’s why this guide is here!


Tiger Jeet Singh / Gorilla Jeet Singh

The Tiger Mask W character Gorilla Jeet Singh is a barely hidden homage to the real-life professional wrestler Tiger Jeet Singh. Singh was a legend in Japan, and made his way over here by way of tape and DVD releases of various Japanese feds. I remember seeing him for the first time when he was teamed with a young Sabu in Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling (FMW) the fed that ECW owed a lot of their influence to.


Tiger the Black / Keith Lee

This is one of those cameos that is just implied rather than being really obvious. Tiger the Black has the same appearance, body type, and moveset as former PWG champion and recent WWE signee Keith Lee.


Gedo

While a popular tag team wrestler all over Japan, Gedo is most notable (now) for being the head booker of New Japan Pro Wrestling. Karl Anderson is quoted as saying the reason Gedo and Jado got these positions, and it involved cleaning up a mess from somebody who didn’t really know how to book wrestling leading to a huge downturn in sales. Gedo was railroaded basically into an office job, and excelled in his new role. He started giving guys more American-style gimmicks while keeping the matches important and the rest is history, now NJPW has a ton of merch in places like Hot Topic – something that would have been unheard of years ago.


The Candy Pair / Mizuki and Saki

Character designer Hisashi Kagawa has said that they are modeled after Japanese female pro-wrestlers Mizuki and Saki. And yes, they do look exactly the same.


Bosman / Michael Elgin

I’m actually not sure why Elgin isn’t officially in this series, seeing that he works for NJPW, but Bosman will have to do. He is signed with New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), where he is a former NEVER Openweight Champion. In NJPW, he was also a one-time IWGP Intercontinental and a one-time NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champion. He is also known for his work in Ring of Honor (ROH), where he is a one-time ROH World Champion. He has also worked for the Southern California-based company Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, where he is a one-time PWG World Tag Team Champion with Brian Cage.


Red Death Mask

This is another case of a wrestler being portrayed in real life to advertise the anime Tiger Mask W. This has been done before with Tiger Mask and Tiger the Dark, so here we go with Juice Robinson in a red suit! In the anime he is one of the earlier opponents for Tiger Mask.


Kota Ibushi

Ibushi actually plays Tiger Mask W in real life, so here he is in anime form as well. Ibushi is probably best known for his work in Dramatic Dream Team (DDT) where he has had several videos go viral including a series of matches he had with a blow-up doll. In 2009, Ibushi started working for New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) and eventually signed with the promotion in 2013. In NJPW, he is a former three-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion and a one-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion. He resigned from both DDT and NJPW in February 2016 and has since been performing in several different organizations as a freelancer, including both DDT and NJPW as well as WWE.


Odin / Gene Simmons

This is one of the sillier ones, but the art designers have said Gene Simmons of Kiss fame was the Model for Odin!

Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Let’s get this first part out of the way:

If there is one thing I’m tired of in the realm of film and television, it’s pre-emptive complainers trying to de-rail everything before it even comes out. with any review of this live action American/Chinese Ghost in The Shell film, everyone has drawn battle lines in regards to the elephant in the room of “Hollywood whitewashing”; in fact, I would say you were almost expected to take a side, and if you took a side that many didn’t like you’d get lectured by the other. It’s annoying that folks are getting in fights and “unfriending” each-other because of opinions over a goofy sci-fi film, but that’s our modern society I guess. Some popular reviews from major sites didn’t even talk about the film, they just reviewed everything that was in some way perceived as racist to stoke the outrage fires, this honestly comes across like they never actually watched it.

I’m not going to dwell on this topic too much because I can see both sides and don’t think arguing over whether or not Scarlett Johanson should or should not be cast as The Major actually addresses the actual problem that Hollywood has with representation. The internet witch hunts and rage were nearly identical to what people attempted to do with both recent Star Wars films, and even last years re-boot of Ghostbusters, and I honestly don’t care anymore. I’d rather discuss a film based on an anime/manga property that I’ve loved for upwards of 20+ years, and how it turned out.

/end rant

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Ghost in The Shell has been a favorite of mine for a VERY long time. I recall being first introduced to it through my older stepbrother that loved cyberpunk stuff – he had the original Masamune Shirow manga laying around at some point when I was visiting and I was enthralled by what I saw. Not too long after that, I was able to rent the anime adaptation from one of our local video stores and was hooked on the franchise from that point forward. every continuation has been something I get really excited about – all the movies, games, TV shows etc. That said, I was torn when they announced that a western adaptation was going to be produced a few years ago.

Readers may recall that I’m pretty vocal about my dislike for most anime adaptations because they don’t treat the source material with respect and are generally bad (Dragonball Evolution is the king of this). That goes for live action adaptations produced in Japan itself. I am always annoyed when they discuss a possible Akira remake because the two directors that were vocally lobbying for it seemed determined to completely alter the entire premise of the story into something else. I recall at one point, the script going around had Kaneda and Tetsuo, protagonists of the film, gender swapped and made into former lovers – nope! Any such fears that I had with Ghost in the Shell were calmed when the released the first trailer – the logo was there, scenes appeared to be adapted directly from the 1995 film, characters looked almost correct – “wait?! was this going to be okay somehow?” the controversy I touched on above was something that troubled me a bit, but I figured I’d give it a shot and see what happens.

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Quick verdict – Ghost in the Shell 2017 is good, not great, and it’s not deserving of the critical heat it’s getting online.

An argument can be made that many of the visual flourishes in this film seem like a road often traveled, somewhat dated, nothing new. That’s by design, as many scenes are literally directly lifted from the 1995 film – keep in mind that the source material is nearing thirty years of age if you go even further back to the comic. it’s filled with typical cyberpunk aesthetics, and much like steampunk, or post-apocalyptic fiction – straying too far from the agreed upon tropes is never a great idea. Most “cyberpunk” properties follow a set groundwork laid by much older films like Blade Runner, books like Neuromancer, and the like. Ideas like megacities run by huge militarized corporations, dingy slums filled with bright holographic neon lights, weird Asian and Western culture amalgamations and the idea of trans-humanism seem passe today, but we seem to be ever closer to that very reality. it might not look the same, but in many ways cyberpunk is closer to our modern society than it was back in the 80’s.

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I mentioned that some scenes were directly influenced by the Mamoru Oshii film of the same name, and I would even go as far as to say that this was almost a shot-for-shot remake of that very film with a little bit of some of the sequel material sprinkled in. This is a double edged sword in many ways, as seeing scenes like the building infiltration, the spider mech fight, and the cloaked fight with the hacked garbage man was cool, but a lot of those scenes were a lot cooler and more fleshed out in the original film. This was because there was a decent amount of new material – some adapted from the comics or TV series taking up the runtime. Reading reviews online, a constant complaint I kept seeing was that “The Major got a new backstory” which is funny because Hideo Kuze and his revelations at the end of the TV series factor into this film quite a bit, meaning that people have not seen Stand Alone Complex and should not be commenting on it as if they are authorities on the matter.

For much of the film, we know The Major as Major Mira KIllian – a cyborg created by a large robotics company named Hanka Robotics. She was a survivor of a refugee boat accident – something that left her family dead and herself severely injured. Her brain was the only thing salvageable from her body, so it was put in a new body as a second chance at life as long as she’s cool being basically sold to the government as a weapon. Of course, this is all BS and the driving force behind The Major trying to piece her previous life back together.

Much like the backstory stuff, I saw people complaining that the inclusion of Hanka was a new addition to the franchise, but they were actually an organization from the original comic, although not as major as here. In both versions they are a VERY bad company, as the comic version of Hanka was caught in a scandal where they were dubbing the ghosts of children into a mass-produced consumer robot to achieve a greater sense of human personality. Here, without going into too much detail – they are trying to create a race of perfect soldiers with human brains in a cybernetic body, where they get these brains could be an issue.

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In some ways, making Hanka Robotics a major plot point in the film is actually going against one of the major philosophical ideas from the original manga. In a world where the internet is literally in and around you at all times, and cyber-warfare is something even low-level street thugs dabble in from time to time, old ideas like national sovereignty and borders are basically obsolete. Section 9 always skirted a fine line between acting within the scope of normal law enforcement, and treating the Networks as a free for all that the old ways stood against. Leaving out some of this diplomatic and political intrigue sort of boils down the role that Section 9 and Hanka have as nothing more than a Corporation acting as The Government and Section 9 acting as their willing lap-dog. I guess in some ways that’s a telling indictment of the current status-quo with our own corporations, but something that I wanted to point out as a major difference. Hanka is also a convenient way to have a blatant “villain” rather than the numerous ephemeral “gray area” antagonists the material usually features.

There are a few differences like this that are not huge deal breakers, but sort of “dumb down” the ideas from Ghost in the Shell to a more palatable product for those looking to see an action popcorn movie rather than a philosophical look into trans-humanism. I’m not annoyed by this in any way because no two versions of Ghost in the Shell are exactly alike. The manga, the Oshii films, The TV series, and the recent Arise films are all different parallel versions of this story, and none of them are very much alike to be honest. I actually prefer the TV series Stand Alone Complex, to the films and dislike the manga sequel. with a franchise like this, there are many ways to look at the story – something for everyone.

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When it comes to casting, I absolutely loved the job they did. And yes, Scarlett Johanson did a fine job no matter what internet folks want you to believe. Pretty much every character from section 9 is present aside from Paz, seemingly replaced by a new character named Ladriya, I’m pretty sure she’s not from any previous version, but could be wrong. Takeshi Kitano (As Aramaki) is my favorite Japanese actor, and having him be such a badass in this film was awesome. He has, by far, the best line in the entire film where he chumps out an entire squad of armored assassins with a briefcase and quips “Never send a rabbit to kill a fox”. I wanted to clap at that very moment, but that probably would have made everyone mad in the theater.

Chin Han is also great as Togusa, perhaps my favorite character from the TV series. He’s not a major part of the film by any means, but I was glad to see him in there. Finally, I wouldn’t be able to discuss this without talking about Batou, as played by Danish actor Pilou Asbæk. I’ve somehow missed him up to this point, but he was really good – he really captured the character and was perhaps the truest to the source material of anyone in the film.

Logicoma-Ghost-in-the-Shell-ARISE-tachicoma-fuchikoma

I’ve already written a lot here, and I don’t want to spoil more than what I have since the film does have a few mysteries and twists. To reiterate from above Ghost in the Shell 2017 is a good, but not great film that stayed close to the source material with a few alterations. Yes, these alterations sort of “water-down” some of the themes of the source material itself, but this was a summer popcorn flick, I was never under the assumption that this was going to be a complex film for jaded otaku. I enjoyed the casting despite the online backlash, and would be up for a sequel if one ever materializes. That is unlikely as the film hasn’t really caught the box office on fire, but who knows. I am sad that there was no reference to any sort of mobile tank unit like the Fuchikoma / tachikoma / Uchikoma /or Logikoma units from the numerous iterations of the franchise. This was no surprise as they are not present in the 1995 film either unless you count the spider tank.

I’d say ignore the haters and see this for yourself – I’m not saying you’ll like it, but it’s not the bucket of dog turds everyone wants it to be.

 


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Godzilla: Monster Planet Announced

For better or worse, the 2010’s have been a big decade for the revitalization of the Kaiju genre. We’ve had multiple Godzilla films from both sides of the Pacific Ocean, a new King Kong film, Pacific Rim, Matt Damon fighting Chinese wall monsters, and even plans for eventual cross-overs. Hot off the heels of 2016’s Shin Godzilla, it looks like Japan is going the anime route for the first time ever for a proposed new series of films called Godzilla: Monster Planet.

godzilla monster planet

a look at the launch website reveals the following:

Since its birth in 1954, the feature film “Godzilla” has been loved all around the world as a giant cultural icon. This is followed by “SHIN GODZILLA” (General Director: Hideaki Anno) released in 2016. The thorough realism depicted in the film grasped the heart of many audiences, recording a big hit of 8.25 billion yen box office. And in 2017, Godzilla goes through a brand new “evolution” no one has ever expected: the animated feature film “GODZILLA”.

The work depicts a severe and hard-core future world unlike any previous Godzilla films. It is a story of human beings destined to confront “Godzilla” that has reigned the Earth for 20,000 years.

One of the dual director is Kobun Shizuno, who realized “Detective Conan: The Darkest Nightmare” (2016), which marked the box office of 6.33 billion yen; the highest record of the franchise. Another director is Hiroyuki Seshita who has proved his abilities at the forefront of CG field through his direction/ general direction in “Knights of Sidonia” and “Ajin”. Original story and screenplay is written by Gen Urobuchi, known for “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” and “Psycho-Pass”. His groundbreaking ideas and unpredictably elaborate structures has grasped the heart of many fans. The production house is the greatest 3DCG studio in Japan, Polygon Pictures, which has created “Knights of Sidonia”, and through their work such as “Star Wars: Clone Wars”, received an award for three consecutive years for Outstanding Special Class Animated Program at 41st Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, known to be the Oscars of the U.S. television industry.

Hear the roar echoing through the world, telling the beginning of the unprecedented, brand new “GODZILLA”.

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also included are details on the plot:

The last summer of the 20th Century. That day, the human beings learn that they are not the only ruler of the planet Earth.

The appearance of the giant living creatures “Kaiju’s” and the ultimate existence that destroys all monsters: Godzilla. Through the battle against kaiju’s that lasted for half a century, human beings has experienced continuous defeat, and finally plans to escape from the Earth. And in 2048, only those who were selected by the A.I. managed under the central government boarded the inter-sidereal emigrant spaceship “Aratrum” to head for “Tau Cetus e”, the planet beyond the distance of 11.9 light-year. However, the environmental condition differences between that of the Earth and Tau e, which they finally arrived after 20 years were far beyond the predicted numbers, and was not an environment considered to be habitable by human beings.

The young man on the emigrant ship: Haruo, who saw his parents killed by Godzilla in front of his eyes when he was 4 years old, had only one thing in his mind for 20 years: to return to the Earth and defeat Godzilla. Shut out from the possibility of emigration, as the living environment in the ship deteriorates, the group of “Earth Returnists” led by Haruo became the majority, and determines to head back to Earth through a dangerous long-distance hyperspace navigation.

However, the Earth they have returned has already passed the time of 20,000 years, and has become an unknown world with the ecosystem reigned by Godzilla.

At the end, will human beings win back the Earth? And what will Haruo see beyond his fate…?

Her’s some more concept art, and stay tuned for details as they are revealed!


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Under the Dog (2016)

Just about three years ago I ran across a Kickstarter campaign that excited me quite a bit. A small company called Mentat Studios LLC had a vision – they wanted to produce an anime for anime fans around the world without the need for the industry standard production committees and TV networks butting in. It seems that there are a lot of industry types in Japan that are not fans of the current road that the anime market is going down e.g. visual novel anime projects and moe shows designed to sell merchandise and little else. Hiroaki Yura, the executive producer at the time, even went as far as to do a solid Reddit AMA that outlined the project’s vision:

“I hope UTD will give an example that the Japanese anime industry should really focus their attention globally, not just our tiny Japanese audience. Anime should be for the whole world, not just Japan. We don’t always want moe anime or a light novel based anime. I for one long to see anime like Akira.”

This was also the original trailer presented, none of this is in the movie, so it could be seen as a trailer of what could have been a later episode I suppose.

 

while the project did not make the five million dollars needed to make a full feature length film, it did make enough money for one 30 minute OVA episode. I really wish that it could have made more (although some issues the project had that I will talk about in a bit could have complicated it) because ideally Under the Dog was meant to be a TV series.

The staff consisted of Jiro Ishii, director Masahiro Ando, producer Hiroaki Yura, character designer Yūsuke Kozaki, and composer Kevin Penkin. Though the project was successfully funded, Creative Intelligence Arts and Kinema Citrus separated due to creative differences, and Kinema Citrus took full control. The split resulted in the replacement of some development staff, including Yura being replaced by Kōji Morimoto and Yoshirō Kataoka.

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This really worried me, because at the time the whole project seemed somewhat “up in the air” backer rewards started getting cancelled and rumors of creative differences were hitting message-boards. Now it’s early 2017 and I thankfully got my psychical Blu Ray disc to review – technically it was released last fall digitally, but I wanted to wait until I had the disk.

The Blu Ray itself is a bare-bones affair with basically just the film and a handful of special features including the above trailer and a few sound options.

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What we see in this episode is largely stand-alone, but like many 1980’s OVA episodes it’s full of stuff that would be awesome if further explained. There are characters, organizations, and other bits of world building that obviously had to be set aside to meet the running time, making this seem like a introduction to a show that will (likely) never exist. According to the original Kickstarter page, the overall plot is as such:

The story takes place within Neo Tokyo in the year 2025, five years after a severe terrorist attack at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Students possessing special abilities are forced into serving an elite anti-terrorist unit created by the United Nations, fighting against threats including other ability users. If these agents fail their mission, they will be killed along with their families, who have bombs planted within their heads. One member of this covert ops unit, a Swedish girl by the name of Anthea Kallenberg, seeks to find who she really is.

Not a whole lot of this actually makes much of an appearance in the actual movie, as the focus of fifteen minutes of it is built around two entirely other characters than Anthea. The OVA’s story underwent a massive reboot in February 2015, shortly after the staff shakeup and the removal of Creative Intelligence Arts from the project. This may be why the OVA’s story and feel is almost totally different from the trailer and the previously revealed plot elements (there is no mention of a terrorist attack on the 2020 Olympics in the final product, for example).

We find a young girl named Hana Togetsu who appears to be a member of some sort of clandestine organization and is referred to as a “Flower.” Flowers are forced to work under the United Nations to carry out assassinations of terrorists and other detriments to human society such as monsters called Pandoras. It’s implied that a failed mission results in imminent death for a Flower agent and her family, and considering the tension she appeared to have with her family at the beginning of the movie, it seems messed up. She has been planted (Flower! Planted! whoooaaa – I’ll get my coat…) into a school to shadow a boy that seems to have some sort of latent abilities that her organization is after. Too bad the US Military appears to run in Team America style to complicate things.

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On the technical side, everything looks pretty nice although not incredibly spectacular. I can only assume that the budget and staff change-ups meant that parts of this production were rushed. Some of the animation, especially some of the American soldiers is worse than other parts of the film, so they stand out as being somewhat off. This isn’t helped by English voice acting for these characters that isn’t the best. If anyone has been anime anime with half-English and half-Japanese dialog (Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad comes to mind), they usually end up like this since they use non-native speakers or untrained people that just happen to know English.

I really enjoyed the character designs for all of the principle characters, and would have loved to know about some of the other agents that we barely see. I found out by looking at the Anime News Network Encyclopedia entry for Yusuke Kozaki to see he has done a TON of stuff I enjoy like a DS game called Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan, Fire EmblemNo More Heroes 1 and 2, and even Pokemon Go. I need to possibly read some of his manga works if I can find any that are translated.

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All-in-all Under the Dog is a solid enjoyable watch that could have really benefited from being a bit longer. it definitely reminded me more of old-school anime (which is what they were going for) in that it pulled no punches, was bloody as hell, and was made for people like me in mind. It’s basically a cross between Gunslinger Girl and Evangelion in many ways, and despite my few quibbles above I’d recommend checking it out if you can. OH! and if you’re there you can try to find my microscopic name in the end credits!

I am hopeful that we get to see Anthea’s story told as this was recently posted on the official Website for this project:

We are excited to announce that a new partnership for Under the Dog is established! We should be able to officially announce more details soon, but for now, we just would like to let our backers know that Under the Dog, which started out on Kickstarter, will now expand beyond crowdfunding!

This is all due to your support. We thank you again and again, and please look forward to seeing what comes out of our new partnership!

I’m still assuming we won’t see more as this was months ago, but I’ll be excited if this turns out false and we do get more.

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And in case you were wondering….

The phrase “under the dog” comes from GREAT3’s song “Under the Dog” with a line that says “Why don’t you sleep under the dog if you are so sad” for which the meaning is trying to convey (in translation) the definition we had placed on our KS page: “when one is in a situation so disagreeable that they would wish to rather be “under the dog,” a place of dishonor, misery, and filth, in order to escape their current state of affairs.” While the meaning for “underdog” can still apply to the situations the characters will find themselves in, the original meaning comes from very specific elements that are not necessarily tied to “underdog.”
–Kickstarter FAQ answer

 


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Leiji Matsumoto ‘s World Illustrations Album Animage (TV Land Extra Edition) 1977

I recently snagged an art-book for fairly cheap that I’ve been trying to get for a while. According to google translate, it’s called  Leiji Matsumoto ‘s World: Illustrations Album Animage (TV Land Extra Edition) 1977 and appears to be some sort of a magazine in the vein of those special edition Time Magazine checkout line books. It contains a handful of artwork from Leiji Matsumoto from various properties like Lightning Ozma, Submarine Super 99, Captain Harlock, The Cockpit and more.

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The above is the English version of the image in the book, I didn’t want to break the spine to get the scan.

lieji matsumoto animage 1977 1


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The Grindhouse – Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals – A Recap of episode 1

The Grindhouse is a new feature kicking off here on Arcadia Pod. This article is NOT a movie review, but a detailed recap of a film set up in such a way that you really don’t have to watch it. I will watch questionable movies so you don’t have to. As this goes on, expect me to go over dollar bin anime, bad cartoons, and even the occasional TV series! Without further ado, here is the first edition, where will be looking at Final Fantasy – Legend of the Crystals episode 1. The next 4 of these will be about this train wreck of a show.

When I first got into anime, it wasn’t at all like it was today. It wasn’t the wide selection of movies and other merchandise currently available. I can fondly remember going to our crappy little video store in town way back in 1998 and rummaging through tapes looking for something cool to watch. This was before DVD players got really big and the anime market seemed to be old VHS tapes locked away near the “adults only” section. All the titles that this dingy, poorly-lit store had were of the exploitative nature, mainly focusing on nude girls and bloody disembowelments – a real treat for any self-respecting sixteen year old kid.

Aside from classics such as Vampire Hunter D and Akira, my friends and I would ALWAYS rent one movie in particular: Final Fantasy – Legend of the Crystals. In hindsight, I have no idea why we actually rented this movie, as we pretty much mocked the whole thing. It was basically something that we would make jokes about due to some poor choices that the movie seemed to take at almost every turn. That didn’t keep us from watching it over and over again, meaning that some of the horrendous plot and bad writing were hidden directly behind a big old layer of charm.

final fantasy legend of crystals 1

The main problem that occurs right from the get-go is that this OVA (direct to video basically) series has very little to do with Final Fantasy despite it purportedly existing as some sort of sequel to Final Fantasy V. It’s almost like some guy that played the games was telling an uninterested writer about the plot over the phone; the writer, while starring at a Ralph Bakshi poster, cranked out what he could, but ended up with this. The tone is all wrong, the music is wrong, and it just really doesn’t feel like a Final Fantasy movie.

The beginning of the film brings a false sense of security for anyone expecting this to be decent, as the main theme from Final Fantasy V, Tour de Japon, plays for a bit here. When I first watched this, I of course had not played Final Fantasy V, but as an older gamer, that was a nice touch. This leads directly into the first scene showing a man sitting on a Cliffside looking at a brewing storm. At this point I’m quite worried as to how this movie is going to be written because this character basically starts repeating every line he says one additional time. In this way we learn that “A storm is coming” not once but twice. I know he’s talking metaphorically about an upcoming battle that this movie will no doubt present, but the storm in the background makes it look like he’s some sort of lonely man that talks to himself all day.

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We learn that this sad old man is in fact the grandfather of the movie’s heroine Linaly, a girl who is supposedly a descendant of Bartz, the Final Fantasy V’s protagonist. Since this takes place hundreds of years after the events in the game, we will sadly not get to see any of those characters, save one that we meet later on. Grandfather announces that it is basically up to him to stop the upcoming storm, one which he can sense because of the “evil winds” and starts rushing out the door. If my grandfather started saying crap like that, it would result in a one way ticket straight to the home. Linaly won’t have that and insists that she needs to go instead or at least tag along with her Grandfather as if to humor him in his senile dementia. It was hard to pay attention to this as my eyes were drawn to Linaly’s ridiculously short miniskirt that seems to be defying some sort of natural law. I wasn’t looking in any sort of sexual way, but looking simply in a sense of sheer wonder.

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Pretty soon we finally get to meet the actual “main character” of this whole ordeal – Prettz. Unlike the usual modern Final Fantasy hero, Prettz is not a douche-bag emo guy covered in zippers and belts that talks in ellipses, but a goofy loud-mouth who won’t mind his own business. When he sees Linaly and grand—you know I’m tired of typing “Grandfather”, from now on his game is Gomez. So anyway Gomez and Linaly are in a boat traveling to one of the temples to see what is going on, and here comes Prettz chasing them around, yelling that “old people and girls should not be alone!”. Since I never had the illusion that this planet was populated by incestuous pedophiles, one can only assume that Prettz is a jerk. When declined as the pair’s bodyguard, he gets mad and insists on going anyway. In fact, he throws such a big tantrum that he collapses a bridge in a “super-comical way”. Aw sweet! Jar Jar Binks is the main character!

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It’s at this point that I want to point out that Prettz has the most true-to-date 90’s attire on that anyone possibly could. Note his shaved-under rat-tail hairstyle, sleeveless T-shirt, and comfy pants. While those aren’t exactly the class of Zubaz pants, they still take me back to a much simpler time; a time when our fantasy heroes did not dress like Lady Gaga when they fight monsters. Seriously, all Prettz needs is a fanny pack and a gym membership and I’d imagine he was an off-duty WWF wrestler.

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This whole plotline gets pretty tiring at this point, and Prettz has only been on screen for a short while. While watching I was basically worried that the movie would consist of Prettz chasing around Linaly and whining the whole time. Prettz gets a huge motorcycle and silly armor to help in his chase, much to the chagrin of Gomez. More slapstick ensues, until we finally get some worthwhile dialog where Gomez relates to Linaly what the “evil wind” is all about. It looks like the wind crystal must be in danger and he could sense the trouble. This is cut short as Gomez comically trips for no reason whatsoever and tumbles a ridiculous distance down a hill, way to take this movie seriously guys. So far the overall tone of this movie is somewhere around a morning children’s show, not the caliber of the games in my opinion.

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Suddenly and literally for no reason at all, a huge demon-like creature with eight eyes leaps from the ground and makes Linaly decide to cast a spell. Since Linaly is speaking as if she is going to summon a creature, I’m at this point wondering what sort of awesome creature will come out. Could it be Ifrit? Shiva? Bahamut? Sadly no, we get this:

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That’s right folks, a stupid looking naked……chicken thing? Please God tell me that isn’t supposed to be a Chocobo!

Gomez apparently shares my opinion of the matters and begins to slam the beast left and right, saying things like “couldn’t you do better?”. Linaly is sad that a half-assed Chocobo is the only thing that her mighty summoning powers can muster, and I can see why, did you see how stupid that thing looked!

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Finally Prettz shows some A-game and rushes the monster on his motorcycle with a huge katana, this not only kills the creature stone dead, but makes Gomez look like a tool for raising such a fuss about him tagging along. After they escape to what appears to be an inn, Gomez lays in bed worried that he is too old to carry on this adventure, this leads Prettz to basically heckle him for being old. Gomez yells at him and tells him to go home. Linaly sets out on her own, only to have Prettz follow her out and along the way. We get a few minutes of glorious dialog where Prettz says he wants to go, and Linaly rejects him. As this pattern has been the majority of the actual spoken dialog of the show so far, my initial worries of the plot of the show may not seem to unfounded. I mean seriously this is basically the movies script up to this point:

Gomez: “A storm is coming”
Gomez: “A storm is coming”
Prettz: “I wanna go!”
Gomez: “NO!”
Prettz: “I wanna go!”
Gomez: “NO!”
Prettz: “I wanna go!”
Gomez: “NO!”
(Repeat infinitely)

Just as with the monster, mere minutes ago, something suddenly leaps out of the ground towards the party, possibly a subtle hint at the random nature of battles in the old games. But this thing isn’t a monster – it’s a huge garishly pink spaceship of some sort. Once it fully lifts out of the ground, we’re told by Prettz that these are in fact sky pirates trying to kill them. A door opens on the ship and what appears to be a dominatrix and her two husky female sex slaves rise from within. Her name is Rouge, and she wants Prettz’s motorcycle apparently. I would too if I had to fly around in a ship as ostentatious as that pirate ship she has. Prettz makes short work of the pirates using some bombs that he apparently carries around at all times, but I doubt that’s the last that we’ve seen of these guys.

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They finally make it to the Wind temple, the first of four that I’m sure we are to encounter in this series, and just as soon as they get there Prettz runs out for no explicable reason leaving Linaly to solve the puzzle of how to enter the temple on her own. We soon find that Prettz has seemingly commandeered the pirate ship we just saw and is holding it hostage with his bandoleer of goofy bombs. By goofy, I don’t mean in a general way, like “oh hey look at those goofy bombs”. These stupid incendiaries actually have smiley faces on them and open up to show the face before they explode. We know this because Prettz insists on clapping them together like a set of garish castanets in order to intimidate the bondage ship’s crew. No doubt Prettz shops at the same weapons shop as the Joker. This of course happens for no reason at all, because Linaly has actually managed to solve the puzzle of how to gain access to the temple all on her own without her jackass buddy.

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Next thing you know Prettz drives the airship through a narrow crack in the surrounding cave and crashes it into the temple. This draws the attention of another person with an equally goofy looking airship by the name of Valkus. Valkus always struck me as the “Cid” character of this show, as not only was he in command of an airship, but he is basically a badass.

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As our heroes walk into the room containing the wind crystal, the scene cuts to someone talking in a robotic gibberish voice, talking about how “the other three crystals are in our hands”. This voice seems to be from a female subordinate of some guy sitting on a huge brain in the middle of the room. That’s right I said brain, as in part of our human anatomy, except this time super-sized. He of course spots a few almost sexual sounding villain catchphrases like “my body aches with excitement”, these are all off-putting.

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What follows is basically the most awkward thing in this entire series, and a scene that would live in infamy for my friends and me. Linaly grasps the crystal only to have it enter her body through the chest.

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She tumbles to the ground looking ill and the camera quickly cuts to her hind-quarters which are now glowing.

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Both turn around and stare at her butt as it radiates a warm golden light.

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Maybe this is why her dress is so unreasonably short, that way we can see her butt glowing whenever she eats too much Mexican food. This is quite possibly the lamest excuse to have fan-service EVER in an anime, and to make it a plot device!

That’s it for episode one, join me again soon as we gaze into the warm golden light that is episode two…


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The Monday Meme: Party!

party

Image from: Tiger Mask W


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A Look at All the Cameos in Tiger Mask W

I’ve recently started watching the winter 2016/7 anime Tiger Mask W, a wrestling anime featuring stars from New Japan Pro Wrestling. New fans might think that all of the colorful characters are from the minds of producers alone, but I’m here to show that a handful of these grapplers are actual people! This has always been something cool when a wrestling anime comes out in Japan, as Jushin Thunder Liger had an anime show, and guys like Terry Funk appeared in Ultimate M.U.S.C.L.E. I’ll eventually review Tiger Mask W, but for right now check out some characters you’ll get to see if you start watching this.


 

 

TIGER MASK

Naoto Azuma is the main protagonist of the anime series, which is actually a sequel to a 1968 manga and 1971 anime series. While Naoto is a fictional character made for this show, many people have actually portrayed the character in real life. There have been a handful of wrestling anime characters that have spilled over into the real world, and Tiger Mask is perhaps the longest running.

  • Tiger Mask I Satoru Sayama
  • Tiger Mask II Mitsuharu Misawa
  • Tiger Mask III Koji Kanemoto
  • Tiger Mask IV Yoshihiro Yamazaki
  • Tiger Mask V Ikuhisa Minowa
  • Tiger Mask W Kota Ibushi

 

TIGER THE DARK

Takuma Fujii is a new character in the anime called “Tiger the Dark”. He is basically this anime’s version of the Black Tiger who has always been a rival of the Tiger Mask character. A lot of famous foreign wrestlers have portrayed “Black Tiger” through the years, even the legendary Eddie Guerrero once held the title! There is currently a version of the actual character of “Tiger the Dark” currently in NJPW and is feuding with the real life Tiger Mask W.


 

SPRING TIGER

Haruna Takaoka aka Spring Tiger is the female protagonist of the series. Like the previous two, she is a made up character, but is not wholly based on fiction. A female Tiger Mask iteration, called Tiger Dream, was played by female wrestler Candy Okutsu in the mid-1990s. unfortunately, Okutsu being injury-prone and having to take several sabbaticals from the ring, the character was easily forgotten by the fans and eventually abandoned.


 

KAZUCHIKA OKADA

Kazuchika Okada is based on the real-life professional wrestler of the same name. Okada joins Naoto in his fight against GWM. In real life Okada is a very accomplished wrestler who has held the IWGP Heavyweight title on four occasions as well as a ton of other accomplishments. He did have a breif, and largely forgettable run in america in TNA (Total Nonstop Action) Wrestling.


 

HIROSHI TANAHASHI

Hiroshi Tanahashi is based on the real-life professional wrestler of the same name. A wrestling ace who helps Naoto in training. In real life, he is a former seven-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion, one-time IWGP Intercontinental Champion, two-time IWGP Tag Team Champion and two-time NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champion. Tanahashi holds the record for most reigns as the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, while his fifth reign holds the record for most successful defenses, with eleven.


 

YUJI NAGATA

Yuji Nagata is based on the real-life professional wrestler of the same name. Aside of wrestling, he’s also involved with the management of NJPW. Most American fans will recognize him for his tenure in World Championship Wrestling in 1997-8 during the height of the Monday Night Wars.


 

TOGI MAKABE

Togi Makabe is based on the real-life professional wrestler of the same name. In the show, he has a sweet tooth and hosts a famous blog about sweets, being so obsessed with them that he can lack motivation without sweets. One cool tidbit – The character is voiced by the real Togi Makabe.


 

KIMIHIKO OZAKI

Kimihiko Ozaki is based on a real-life ring announcer in NJPW.


 

TOMOAKI HONMA

Tomoaki Honma is based on the real-life professional wrestler of the same name. He is currently working for New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). He is a former one-time IWGP Tag Team Champion and a two-time World Tag League winner with Togi Makabe.


 

TOMOHIRO ISHII

Tomohiro Ishii is based on the real-life professional wrestler of the same name.Though pushed for most of his career as an undercarder without any major championship wins, Ishii gathered a cult following, until he was too popular to ignore. Since then he has gained tag championships, singles titles and even the ROH Television title.


 

YOSHI-HASHI

Yoshi-Hashi is based on the real-life professional wrestler of the same name. While he was almost an enhancement talent of sorts in real life, he has slowly started to win occasional matches. a feat that earned him a PWI ranking of 314 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2016.


 

BILLY THE KIDMAN

Billy the Kidman is a fictional character in Tiger Mask W, but it’s funny to note that there is a real-life wrestler from the late 90’s – 2000’s named Billy Kidman.


 

 

BULLET CLUB

Tama Tonga and Bad Luck Fale are real life members of the gaijin (foreigner) heel stable “The Bullet Club”. Also represented is Kenny Omega who is the current stable leader. Previous members of the group include WWE’s Anderson and Gallows, Finn Balor and AJ Styles.


 

QUEEN ELIZABETH AND PAYNE FOX

While not a direct cameo, Queen Elizabeth and Payne Fox are obviously modeled after WWE women’s champions Charlotte Flair (daughter of Ric Flair) and Becky Lynch.


 

TETSUYA NAITO

Tetsuya Naito is based on the real-life professional wrestler of the same name. Naito is currently in his first reign as the IWGP Intercontinental Champion, while also being a former IWGP Heavyweight and NEVER Openweight Champion as well as IWGP Tag Team and IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion with former partner Yujiro Takahashi, with whom he teamed as No Limit. In addition to those, Naito is also a one-time winner of NJPW’s premier singles tournament, the G1 Climax, having won it in 2013, and the New Japan Cup, winning it in 2016. In 2016, Tokyo Sports named Naito the wrestler of the year.


 

BLACKOUT

Blackout is a robot (sure why not) from the Tiger’s Den, he serves as the gatekeeper of the Hell in the Hole match being the last challenge to face. He bares more than a passing resemblance to WWE’s wrestler The Undertaker.


 

METAL BROTHERS

Metal Brothers I & II are a couple of masked wrestlers that make an appearance. They bare a resemblance to the WWE’s legends the Road Warriors.


 

FUKUWARA MASK

Fukuwara Mask isn’t a real character, but his “gimmick” is very similar to a number of clownish wrestlers from Osaka Pro like Ebessan, Kikutaro and Kuishinbo Kamen. He dresses with a Hyottoko mask and common clothes, giving him a ridiculous appearance. Fukuwara Mask’s focus is in providing laughs and serving as a comic-relief by deliberately acting like a fool in his matches, which the audience enjoys.


 

And More!

There are other references and mentions like Jushin Thunder Liger, Captain New Japan, Toru Yano, and members of Los Ingobernables de Japon such as Evil and Bushi. Here’s hoping they do more of this show, as I would love to see a lot of of the real life wrestlers from NJPW! Stay tuned for a full review of this show soon, I still need to finish it up and I’ll let you know what I thought!

To see more of these, check out:

A Look at EVEN MORE Cameos in Tiger Mask W


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Cyborg 009 – Call of Justice (2017)

For me, one of the most overlooked and underappreciated anime / manga franchises out there (at least in America) is the venerable Cyborg 009 series by the late Shotaro Ishinomori. Created in 1963, Cyborg 009 could be considered Japan’s first superhero property, and one of, if not, the first fully racially integrated superhero team stories out there. There have been countless comics, movies and TV shows made for the franchise, this being the most recent. It should be no surprise to my readers that I really like older anime and things that have interesting art styles, and I find Ishinomori’s versions of the classic 60’s manga style to be at least up there with Tezuka.

Sadly, I recall the art style of the 2001-2 show (that aired on Cartoon Network) to be a dividing force in anime fandom at the time, with some of the more “mainstream” fans disliking it “because it looked old”. Thankfully 2017 is an entirely different beast, and while this show has had a modern facelift, anime fans seem to be more willing to try different things today which is great! Don’t be surprised if I do more Cyborg 009 reviews soon, as the 50th anniversary has brought a handful of new shows, films, and comics to enjoy.

Cyborg-009-Call-of-Justice

The main story of Cyborg 009 involves a shady militarized weapons manufacturer and terrorist organization called Black Ghost, and their newest project – cyborg super soldiers. Nine people from around the world are kidnapped and forced to undergo experiments which turn them into cyborgs with superhuman powers. Realizing that they have been wronged, and that Black Ghost is a threat to humanity itself, the cyborgs band together in order to stop Black Ghost in its’ goal of starting the next world war.

This story picks up years after Black Ghost has been eliminated, and the Cyborgs are trying to live as close to normal lives as they can, only to have that ripped away from a new threat – Metahumans with abilities like their own that have seemingly been ordered to kill the Cyborgs. Called “The Blessed” these guys are all sorts of zany bad guys such as a Cowboy that can control the weather, and a man that can alter gravity at will.

Cyborg 009 – Call of Justice is a “Netflix original” that was originally released as three films in Japan. It was produced by Production I.G and OLM Digital and distributed by Toho with Kenji Kamiyama (he directed  Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex ) as executive producer and chief of the project, and Kokai Kakimoto (Psycho-Pass movie unit director) as director of the films themselves. Netflix basically took this footage and edited it into a twelve episode series that premiered last month (Feb 2017).

cyborg-009-call-of-justice-episode-7-english-dubbed

I mentioned earlier that there was a “facelift” of sorts for the animation and character designs, and for once this is a modernization that isn’t terrible. The Cyborgs in Cyborg 009 have always had iconic red costumes adorned with yellow buttons and long yellow scarves. This motif is intact, but the suits have been “upgraded” to armored protective suits with yellow vent ports in the place of buttons. oh yeah, the yellow scarves are there! It’s subtle, but it’s a welcome upgrade for the long running series. Another change is that the character designs have been tweaked a bit, even from the 2012 film 009 Re:Cyborg, also from production I.G.

While this may be the farthest departure from the classic art style by Shotaro Ishinomori, the character  designs are good, in honestly my only quibble is that every iteration seems to make Jet Link (Cyborg 002) look less and less stylized that his original design. Jet used to have crazy spike hair and a huge hooked nose, now he just has a big nose and shaggy blond hair as if played by a young Owen Wilson. This isn’t a deal breaker, but I wish classic character designs wouldn’t be hidden sometimes – this was also an issue for me with the recent Harlock CGI film. The flipside to that sentiment is that thankfully, Cyborg 008 – an African man named Pyunma, has been toned down as to not look like any sort of blackface character as he previously was depicted. Granted, this hasn’t been an issue since the 70’s or so, but seeing the original 1960’s version of this shows Aquaman is pretty uncomfortable at times.

Cyborg_009_Call_of_Justice-5846afec5ad13

You may have noticed that this show uses 3D CGI graphics to render characters rather than a traditional style that mimics old-school cel art. Japan has caught a lot of flack for years in the way that they handle this sort of animation as it seems somehow “cheaper” than American and even European counterparts. This sadly isn’t an actual technical limitation, but a misguided stylistic choice. The following is an excerpt from an Anime News Network column on the issue that may shed some light:

Part of the problem is that not only are CG artists trying to imitate the look of 2D animation, but they’re trying to imitate an aesthetic that was born out of cost-cutting. If anime had always been lavishly funded, it might have consistently been animated on 1’s or 2’s (that is, 24 or 12 frames per second, or a cel every 1 or 2 film frames). But it’s usually far less. To try and match that, CG artists have started rendering at lower frame rates — 6 or even 4 frames per second.

This style is jarring to western fans used to things like CGI animated films from Disney, Dreamworks, or Pixar. Hell there are even crappy children’s shows that look infinitely better than a lot of CGI anime – a recent whipping boy for this is 2016’s Berserk TV series – check out the bloodbath that unfolded after that show premiered to see how passionate fans are about this issue.

cyborg-009-call-of-justice-episode-6-english-dubbed

So where does Cyborg 009 – Call of Justice fall into this picture? Well, thankfully it looks pretty good – it’s by no means the best I’ve seen, but the animators made some cool choices that show a lot of depth and show off action very well. There are a few janky scenes here or there, but for the most part the animation seemed on par with shows like Cartoon Network’s recent Green Lantern series or Disney’s Tron show. It seems that Japan is finally drifting away from the fake low framerate effect on their shows, now they just have to work out stiffness a bit more, and we’ll really start to see the style come into it’s own.

I did forget to mention earlier, but I watched this anime in English on Netflix, so we have an anime dub in play. This one was produced by California-based Bang Zoom! Entertainment who used to always do dubs for Manga Entertainment releases. They are usually a solid studio with this production being no exception. I haven’t followed a lot of today’s voice actors very much, but everyone involved seemed to do a great job, and there wasn’t anyone in the cast that grated on my nerves.

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All-in-all I really enjoyed this show, and hope more people check it out. Thankfully, it exists as an entry point into the franchise and really doesn’t require any knowledge of a 50+ year old back-story, but it also doesn’t alienate long-term fans. Perhaps the plot is a bit “too safe” to be anything immediately classic, but it’s a fitting chapter in a long story. If you think this looks cool, or want to see what is basically “Japanese X-Men” I’d give this show a shot!


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Vampire Hunter D: Raiser of Gales (1984)

Vampire Hunter D Volume 02: Raiser of Gales (Vampire Hunter D #2)

Recently, I was discussing a Kickstarter campaign to bring a new Vampire Hunter D comic to the masses with a co-worker, and mentioned that I had started to read the VHD novel series. They had no idea these books were out there and there was so much material, so we went to good old Mr. Wikipedia to look. 30+ total books WOW! and here I am at number 2…lol!! I have actually read the comic from the Kickstarter, so I will likely discuss it on here soon.

When we last left D, he had defeated Count Magnus Lee, and ventured into the wastelaands to look for more work. This chapter follows D on yet another adventure, this time in the snow-covered town of Tepes. The people of the village once cowered in fear beneath the shadow of a dreary castle once inhabited by a member of The Nobility (vampires). The Nobility moved on, or otherwise vanished from Tepes, and the castle sat empty with only its elaborate traps intact. One day four of the village children vanished, presumed to have ventured into the castle. Only three returned, with no memory of what happened or where they went, and one had gone completely mad. That was ten years ago. Now, in the year 12,090 A.D., vampires who can walk in the daylight have seemingly appeared, and many murders are taking place.

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This book is in some ways better and in some ways worse than the first one. I loved the fact that the majority of the book played out like a murder mystery with D acting as a goth Angela Lansbury, shaking down skeevy locals and fighting monsters at the the same time. Okay I guess that’s nothing like Angela Lansbury in Murder She Wrote, but you get the point. The book unfortunately falls into the tread of repeating a bit of the tropes in the last book – D goes to a town, Vampires are attacking town, D meets 17 year old brunette girl that falls in love with him, all the men in town get real rapey, D is a badass – the end. aside from this, there is a TON of character building for D and some more world building for the world of 12,090 AD.

If you like this series, and Gothic horror in general, check this out. Hideyuki Kikuchi does play around with the narrator of the story a bit, treating the voice as some omniscient deity that knows everything and can leap into the points of views of all of the characters at any time. It’s vaguely similar to how old school pulp writers used to write stories, and I know it can put people off of his writing style. If this isn’t an issue keep reading, and onward to book three!


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Vampire Hunter D (1983)

Vampire Hunter D

When I was a kid, perhaps too young to watch these sorts of films, I fell in love with the movie Vampire Hunter D when it used to air on The Science Fiction Channel (now called Syfy for some reason). This, along with Nosferatu and hammer horror, has made it basically impossible to take many “modern” vampire books or films seriously – especially ones featuring adolescent sparkly vampires. For the longest time, I knew that the film was based on a book series, but had no idea that there were dozens of volumes out there and that most of them were translated into English. The wait was well worth it, and this book was awesome.

For those that have seen the animated feature, the story of this book may seem familiar as it is the basis for that film. There are a few differences, but the plot is largely similar – the studio that did the anime adaptation did a pretty solid job for the most part. For those that may not have seen it, here is a quick run-down. The year is 12,090 AD. Ten thousand years prior to this book, there was a war between humans and supernatural monsters of all sorts, and the monsters won. Humans are now a subjugated race and are seen as livestock  by vampires. These noblemen and women keep mechanical security systems as well as armies of werewolves and mutants to protect them from any human stupid enough to try to face them.

While out hunting one night, a young girl named Doris trespasses into the vampire domain of Count Magnus Lee. As payment for her crime, Lee “kisses” her and discovers that her blood is the sweetest he’s tasted in ages. Lee decides to marry Doris much to her own displeasure. Lee’s daughter Ramica cannot tolerate the idea that her father, a descendant of the Ancient One (likely Count Dracula), intends to pollute the House of Lee with human blood, and she vows to stop the marriage.

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Doris runs into a young man calling himself “D” that claims to be a vampire hunter, Doris makes a living as a werewolf hunter herself, and sees D as a stupid young kid that likely has a death wish. That is, until she sees him in action. D is insanely fast, strong, and agile – all things that would definitely help if vampires were to start walking around – Doris decides to try to enlist his aid. What follows is a story of D, who is himself at least half-vampire, fighting all manner of evil monster to slay Count Lee.

Hideyuki Kikuchi is a master of setting moods and describing events in this book. Considering the style in which he writes, I would not be too amazed if he was a fan of the works of H.P. Lovecraft, as he is somewhat similar to he and other old-school pulp writers. Granted, this was an English translation, so maybe the translator is instead – who knows!  Honestly his only flaw is that he tends to make some characters a tad one dimensional – people like Greco Rohman, the seedy man-child and son of the mayor that has his eyes on Doris, is a cartoonishly evil buffoon that comes across quite trope-y. Sadly D himself also comes across as of he has little personality in this novel existing to be surly and stoic 24/7. Thankfully “lefty”, D’s sentient left hand, is there as comic relief and adds a bit to D’s character. Doris, however, is actually fleshed out really well – a fact that is somewhat surprising considering how she seems like a perpetual victim in the anime. She gets time to look badass, and take names, herself.

I love the pulp style that Hideyuki Kikuchi writes in, I see that some reviewers find it silly, but I read a lot of older science fiction, so this is right up my alley. If you love Vampire Hunter D, gothic horror, post-apocalyptic fiction, or weird sci-fi, I’d check this out. Can’t wait to read more!


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Megaten Games Should Be More Controversial Than They Are

NOTE: A version of this article was originally posted on a now-defunct gaming website that I previously worked for. Some of the references might be a bit dated. Rather than have something I worked hard on disappear from the internet, I have decided to post it on here. 

Remember the HUGE controversy that Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas spawned a few years ago? Despite the “Hot Coffee Mod” being only unlockable by way of a cheating device, many an anti-videogame lobbyist threw up an amazing fuss over the game citing it as the downfall of our civilization amongst other things. Let’s face it, was all the fuss really worth it? Only a few folks could even access the section, so was it really that bad? What about all of the controversy that has recently started up for the new iteration of the Medal of Honor franchise? Being able to play as the Taliban has opened a can of worms that many folks are drawing battle fines for. It’s okay to fight against Nazis and Viet Kong though, as they are old news.
Both examples make me chuckle, as there are tons of games out there with far more objectionable content that would make these people freak out like crazy if they only knew about them. Hell, if you look at a game like Pokémon just right, one could argue that it is simply an animal fighting simulator, and in this post-Michael Vick world, that’s the last thing kid’s need (sarcasm). Another example is the growing H-games category, including awful games that depict things such as rape of digital characters. These are even sold in the U.S. generally by digital distribution, and nobody bats an eyelash.
The main subject of this article is another game series; one that would outrage many folks if it weren’t for that fact that these people that get on anti gaming bandwagons do no research and only get mad about what is popular. Part of me sort of hopes at least one stuffy suit in an offiece finds out about the series so it gets more popular. Called “Megaten” for short by many of its fans, the Shin Megami Tensei games have been alive and kicking since the Famicom (NES) days way back in the late eighties. Many do not know this, as the series was completely unheard of in the west until Persona, a spin-off game for the PlayStation rolled stateside with heavy edits in place. But why was this the case? Why was this game series seen as “un-releasbale” for so long? and why is the game more controversial than most other games out there? I have listed a few, but not all, reasons that I feel truly illustrate this point.


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Way to go guys….

Anti-Government / Anti-Authority Overtones

One of the first factors that I would like to bring up, as to why this series used to be quite sensitive and still would anger pundits and folks like Tipper Gore, is it’s general consistency in the “authority is bad” department. Games and movies alike have been lumped together in the assumption that all they do is create juvenile delinquents. The cornerstone of this belief, especially games like GTA, is that they promote a lack of family values, starting with a lack of respect for elders. This scenario pops up in just about all Megaten games.

Let’s face it, if a demon invasion were to happen in your town, the local government would probably come across as jerks trying to handle it. Martial law, food rations, curfews and other inconveniences would surely occur. Problem is that in most games where this happens there is an ulterior motive for this, one that does not involve the well being of the people.

This exact scenario happens in the Nintendo DS game Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor. An outbreak of demons causes the Japanese Self Defense Force to seal in Tokyo keeping anything from entering or leaving the city. The main characters find out by way of a computer program acting as a “Death Clock” that everyone there is to die in exactly one week. The assumption is that the SDF is going to nuke Tokyo wiping the infestation off the map. The main characters fear the worst, as SDF soldiers are realized as anonymous inhuman soldiers within the game. This sentiment is made worse by the fact that many times within the game, soldiers and government officials stand by while all manner of atrocity occurs, letting religious cults seem the ones to trust in the situation.

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“We don’t have to listen to you adults!”

 

Many games in the main series revolve around a post-apocalyptic backdrop for all the demon wrangling. This is usually caused by a total mismanagement of a small situation by a few world powers, and BOOM, end of the world. If the government wasn’t the cause of the calamity, they usually stand benign and allow all kinds of bad stuff to happen.

Another spinoff of the series, Persona, shows how corrupt and untrustworthy the governments can be in these games. For Example, one of the main antagonists of the game is a huge multi-national company called SEBEC. These guys specialize in looking like any other electrical company from the outside, but actually exist as some kind of militarized pseudo government that rises up to control the world once all hell breaks loose. Pretty soon you are fighting SEBEC agents and soldiers along with the popular demon characters.


 

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Don’t you hate when you forget to wear pants?

 

Gore and Sexual Imagery, Especially in Spinoff Material

Most anime and Manga fans are pretty lucky to have adaptations of or spinoff material from their favorite videogames, as these items can be a huge marketing push for the company producing the game. This success has been seen with Final Fantasy VII and its spinoff materials including the widely popular Advent Children movie. The Megaten series is no stranger to this as there have been a number of anime and manga publications out there for years. Problem is that most of these go overboard with the “adult” tone. While a lot of the Megaten games are full of dark imagery, they never really cross the line into the pornographic side of gore, nudity, cursing, and other hallmarks of mature media. This hasn’t stopped the writers of these movies and books from making their stuff basically all pornographic.
One example of this that immediately comes to my mind is the near ancient OVA (Original Video Animation or Direct to Video) movie Digital Devil Saga: Megami Tensei. The movie came out right as the game series began to be somewhat popular, but is actually based on the original novel that the game originated from. What follows is 45 minutes of gratuitous nudity, tentacle …..uh….situations, and gore. By the end of the movie you end up pretty desensitized to what is happening and you very well could fall asleep, that’s what I did at least. There are a lot of goofy situations like the main character creating a virtual reality version of his teacher in order for a demon named Loki to have sex with in the virtual realm. As you can see, pretty off-base stuff.

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This game where I actually kill people is awesome!

A lot of the manga is equally off-base including the sole Western released manga (as far as I know) Kahn, which takes place storyline-wise after an obscure spin-off game made many years ago. Much like the later Persona games, the action takes place entirely in a school that gets infested with demons. On any given page the reader is blessed with beheaded students, blood sprays and even a lesbian girl-on-demon girl sex scene. I totally remember that in the games! (oh wait…) All joking aside it seems that anyone who wants to shell out some extra cash on some Megaten side stories will have to watch out, as your basically buying porn. Bloody weird porn with demon sex in it.

The games themselves are still fairly violent and risqué, but are a lot more subtle about it. One of the more “out in the open” things found in some of the games are the designs for some of the demons themselves. Had this series been released in any other decade there would be many a digital bikini getting drawn onto pixilated characters as there are some pretty scandalous things in the game, such as:

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and…no comment on the next one:

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Good to see he can still fight like that!

Skewed Religious Overtones

Much like how western folks get random kanji tattooed on themselves that are supposed to mean “strength” but actually says “Kitchen”, the Japanese have always been fascinated with western religious imagery and mythology, especially for works of fiction, and slightly mis-used them. If you are an anime fan and have seen a show called Neon Genesis Evangelion, you know exactly what I’m talking about in this regard.
This topic is actually one of the more controversial aspects of this series, and help lead to the games being dubbed “un-releasable” back in the good old days due to heavy censorship. On the surface the Megaten games take the age old RPG cliché of “the bad guy is an evil religion / deity / priest etc.” motif and attaches actual religions to it. Instead of a fictitious god with a generic name like “the nature spirit” we have YHVH. “YHVH?” “What does that mean?” YHVH, which is also called the tetragrammaton, is the actual perceived “name” for what many of us call God. This acronym can also have syllables added to it to read as Yahweh or Jehovah depending on what religion you come from.

In the game Shin Megami Tensei II YHVH is the main bad guy, a point that would utterly anger most religious types. His motivations in the game are that the world has become so unreasonably bad that he has decided to destroy it and begin anew. This leads to a difficult choice for the gamer: does one listen to their God who wants to destroy the earth, fight against him and join with Satan, or decide that their all idiots and do your own thing. Not only does this fly in the face in just about every Christian concept there is, but it promotes anti-authoritarian values to the highest degree. Did I mention that the main character in Shin Megami Tensei II is the Messiah? Yeah talk about daddy issues!

The “real ending” of this game is one where you chose to kill God himself, to which he gives a speech along the lines of “As long as humanity is too weak to look for their own answers, their weakness will create a belief in me that brings me back to life again and again and again! MWAHAHAAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!”. You walk outside and Satan himself is there acting all cool like the Fonze saying “hey man, good job!”

Don’t take my word for it: Here is a bit of one of the endings of Shin Megami Tensei II for reference –

 

The religious imagery does not end there, as you fight enemies such as a crucified man who looks to be of the Jesus persuasion, bondage clad sado-masochistic angels, demons named after archangels and saints and so on. It would be a safe bet that if the wrong person witnessed various parts of these games, there would be a crap-storm. The Jesus thing is a big problem as labeling a fictitious character as the “messiah” or a reincarnation of Jesus pretty much makes everyone angry. This is especially true when you have a character in a game that looks exactly like the Western depiction of Jesus that is evil and is a false messiah like Takaya in Persona 3.

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Didn’t know Jesus was packing

The problem with this is that anytime one makes a reference to an actual deity in a game, TV show, or movie that doesn’t paint it exactly in the best regard, the followers of said church are probably going to get mad. Two examples of this that I can think of off the top of my head are the Danish Cartoon debacle and the protests over the popular Kevin Smith movie Dogma. Both situations ended up garnering death threats and angry mobs, and in the case of the cartoons, promised violence. Imagine if you will, those folks finding out about these games!


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Kids handling guns

After the Columbine tragedy, depictions of school children doing any harm to each other (or themselves for that matter) are generally frowned upon in the U.S. and much of the western world. Why else would a ten year old movie such as Battle Royale never get released legitimately here despite honors, awards, and wide appeal? It’s because most folks are scared that they will get blamed when the next series of schoolyard violence opens up. Color me surprised when the trailer for Persona 3 opened up and showed what looked to be a group of kids shooting themselves in the head with small caliber pistols. “surely they’ll edit that out” I said, remembering the unnecessary edits done to previous Persona games. These were edits that went so far as to change people’s Races or remove entire chunks of storyline. It’s a different era I guess, because said guns are definitely in the game.

 


 

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Hitler’s short-lived “cool” phase

Other Issues

The following is a small list of “hot button issues” that any Megaten game tries to push the envelope on, but weren’t big enough for their own section.

Occultism – The series is full of depictions of Satanic, pagan, and other rituals including sacrifices, blood orgies, and other items that would make many frown upon the game.
Anti-Semitism – The main storyline of the first half of Persona 2 revolves around a clan of Neo-Nazis trying to resurrect Hitler to take over the world. They succeed and you have to fight Hitler. This would get the game outright banned in some countries such as Germany.

Cannibalism- In the game Digital Devil Saga the main characters are all demons, and gain powers from other demons by way of eating them. When Serph and company devour other demons, they gain magic points, but only if this attack actually kills the demon in question.

Homosexuality – Rather than dancing around the issue of homosexuality in games, (much like the character Birdo in the Mario series) The Megaten games have always presented it in an honest adult manner. Usually there is a random character in the game that turns out to be a cross-dresser or openly gay. Take for instance Kanji Tatsumi in persona 4, and his problems with his own sexuality and it’s perceived “un-manliness” (yeah that’s a word now).


 

So there you have it, the most controversial game series out there should be the Megaten series, yet a very small amount of folks have actually played it. I bet by reading this at least one reader has become shocked and outraged about the series, which is my intention. If we are to believe that “controversy sells”, what better way to promote a game that I enjoy than to use it to anger “stuffy” folks. All kidding aside, most themes in these games make GTA look tame by comparison due to the tone it uses. Other games revel in the immaturity of the gore, sex, and drugs they use, yet the Megaten series does it in an intelligent adult manner.


 

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My Forays into Anime Cel and Original Art Collecting, a lost Otaku Hobby.

Back in around 2001 or 2002, I was poking around an internet forum and discovered the hobby of animation cel collecting. At that time, you could get some cels super cheap online so I jumped in and snagged a few. Cels (or celluloids) are paintings on transparent plastic sheeting used to create an animation. Each cel is one “frame”, and they are filmed and then put behind one another to give the illusion of a continuous motion. Since it takes hundreds of these to do a few seconds worth of film, there are ones that are similar out there, but no two are exactly alike. The cool thing (to me at least) with these was that they are all unique and original, and I that I got to own a piece of my favorite films or TV shows!

I honestly didn’t collect a ton of these because they can be pretty expensive and sometimes VERY rare. Certain shows did not keep their cels to sell; in fact, many of these cels ONLY exist on the secondary market because people fished around in studio dumpsters and hauled huge armloads out to safety. This was also the way people were able to obtain cels for bootleg Korean animation projects that I might review on here as well. At pretty much that exact same time period that I started buying these, animation had really shifted away from animation cels and into digital animation – now I know you can get digital scan sheets used in much the same way as some of the coloring sheets you are about to see, but I haven’t followed up on this, and don’t know the lingo.


Anyway here’s a few I’d like to share with you guys!

These first two are for Mobile Suit Gundam Wing (1995). Notice that  have pencil drawings for each. These are called “Douga” and are sometimes stuck to the cels they accompanied. Thankfully these are separated.

Note: these are crap pictures I took with my phone, my apologies.


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This one is from one of the Tenchi Muyo animes, probably Pretty Sammy (1995)

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These are from Great Teacher Onizuka (1999) – The one of Tomoko in the talent contest is actually multiple cels and a background, that is unfortunately stuck together. sometimes the paint from the cels acts like glue, and trying to force it could ruin the artwork.

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This one is in rough shape, but it’s from Galaxy Express 999 (1978), sadly the cel is stuck to the douga, and the black lines appear brown, meaning that the color was probably sun-bleached. All I’m concerned with is that I have it!

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Akira (1988) This is my prized cel! it appears to be a “key cel” of Kei since the number is circled, but I’m no expert in these things.

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I also have a few pieces of original artwork by two manga creators. These are in marker on  white Shikishi Boards.

dscn0018  Leiji Matsumoto

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Toohru Fujisawa


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ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Department – Mid-Season Thoughts

ACCA

Every year it seems like a billion anime TV shows get released, and with each season having upwards of 50 shows, one can safely assume most of those are mediocre at best. I work a LOT, so I can’t watch everything I would like to, and truthfully, it’s very easy to burn out of anime fandom if one tries to be a completionist of any sort. I have to be VERY selective of what I watch, and usually I go for off-the-wall stuff that strays from the mainstream shonen fighting shows and paranormal adventure shows that everyone seems to absolutely love.

This year I decided to re-subscribe to Crunchyroll in order to watch the relatively recent live action Great Teacher Onizuka show, and have found a few gems from the “simulcast” section of the app. I’m not sure of it was the eye-catching art style, or the fact that it may very well have been the first thing on the list, but I decided to give ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Department a try, and I’m very glad that I did.

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Based on a popular Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Natsume Ono, ACCA (as I will refer to it from now on) tells the story of Jean Otus, who acts as the second-in-command of the ACCA inspection agency. Jean’s job is to travel to the various major cities within the Kingdom of Dowa (which is, itself divided into 13 districts) and visit other ACCA offices to look for corruption, government waste, and other things that may destabilize the Kingdom. ACCA had been created over one hundred years in the past, during a lengthy period of unrest, in order to bring order to the masses. Many feel that ACCA is no longer relevant, but murmurs of revolution seem to be in the air. Small hints of possible revolution have been cropping up, such as scenes where various people start remarking on the increasing number of fires that have been occurring.

I jokingly told my wife (after viewing episode one) that this show could be summed up as “office politics – the anime” which was perhaps a bit flippant considering the way the show has progressed these past few episodes. To some, ACCA might seem slow – as it is free of the ridiculous exposition dumps and false world building that a lot of modern anime seems to be comprised of. Instead, the story is left to breathe while the viewer is allowed to see some sites, and understand the culture of the various districts within Dowa. This almost makes it a animated travel show ala Anthony Bourdain. Jean travels to places, buys gifts for his co-workers and sister, and samples the local cuisine. Food, in particular, takes such a large role in some episodes that one wants to sample the exotic sandwich breads and pastries that everyone seems to be obsessed with.

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I think the main reason this show has endeared itself to me so much, is that it reminds me a LOT of a few other shows from a number of years ago that had a similar traveling theme – Kino’s Journey, and Mushishi. Kino’s Journey was a philosophical show that saw the titular hero visiting various towns that all seemed to be examples of philosophical conundrums, and example being a town where everything was handled by majority vote to the conclusion of there being one person left alive in the entire city. Kino would go to these places and observe the issues these people have and rarely take action to alter the path that fate was going to take. Mushishi was a  bit different but involved a traveling apothecary / exorcist as he went from town to town saving people from paranormal creatures and other bad things.

ACCA is very similar in the way Jean interacts with the other districts, he’s there to inspect these towns, not to do anything to alter them in any way. in some cases, he is even witness to an attempted rebellion, and decides that preserving the status quo is better than reporting this to his superiors. One of my favorite “visits” is Jean’s trip to a city that is full of gigantic people that eat enormous food. It’s never made abundantly clear why this is the case, but I’ll pretend that the produce all has growth hormone in it or something, because nothing else makes much sense. it’s obviously a slight softened jab at America from an outsider’s perspective, but it still gave me quite a few chuckles. Seeing Jean and company try to eat strawberries the size of basketballs and sandwiches that would make that guy from Man Vs. Food blush.

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Jean soon finds himself to be the object of a persistent rumor, one that places himself at the forefront of a suspected Coup d’état that he has no knowledge of. It seems that many feel he is in some way an information broker for coup leaders, and that his travels are actually a cover for bad things that he may be doing. People think he is rich, and privileged due to his large house and his smoking habits (smoking seems to be very scarce and an extreme luxury) so him being some sort of spy makes sense to many. Sure, he has heard the same murmurs from around his office, ones of fires and killings, but has no clue why he is suspected, or why the rumor is so specific. Many see him as non-caring or naive about this situation, but Jean is pretty stoic and street smart. something like a baseless rumor isn’t going to rattle him.

I won’t actually spoil anything here, but episode seven delivers a huge bombshell in the plot department, one that will likely move the narrative to the season finale and hopefully beyond. I have not read the manga or kept up with ratings, so I have no idea how much story is left or how cost effective more would be, but I really hope the show continues for a while instead of stopping at episode twelve. assuming the ending is good, ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Department could end up being a personal classic of mine – an anime that may not be the next Dragonball Z or Naruto, but I will end up remembering for a long time. Here’s hoping it stays this way as we move into the back half of the series!

Stay tuned for my thoughts on the entire show in a few months!


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BROAD EXPERTS LLC Makes Me Wish I was Rich

BROAD EXPERTS LLC, has officially made me wish I could justify blowing money for no reason, as they have teamed up with legendary manga creator Leiji Matsumoto (my favorite if you can’t tell by now) to create some awesome, but very pricey art prints. According to a press release, “BROAD EXPERTS LLC is a Japanese company devoted to creating artwork with pop culture influences.” They will be starting pre-orders soon for a series of 6 limited edition ukiyo-e prints featuring characters and spaceships from Galaxy Express 999, Space Battleship Yamato, and Captain Harlock.

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Source: Official BROAD EXPERT LLC home page


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Here’s an Interesting Thing From The New Yamato 2202 Trailer

A brand-spanking-new trailer for Uchū Senkan Yamato 2202 (Space Battleship Yamato / Star Blazers) just went up, and it looks pretty great. I confess that I have yet to finish the previous Yamato 2199 series as I was holding out hope that the American rights holders would eventually release everything over here eventually. Instead, they seem to be doing a Harmony Gold-styled rights squatting and have all but abandoned the project, but alas I’m used to going to weird lengths to watch my obscure anime that I enjoy.

I have no idea what this trailer says in Japanese, but one thing sticks out to me – that bad guy looks exactly like The Earl de Darkwood, the main antagonist from Daft Punk and Leiji Matsumoto’s Interstella 5555. Granted Matsumoto has common design tropes that he (or the directors using his ideas) use in every property – like a character that always is a waif thin woman with blonde hair (Maetel clones), or a man with a scar across his face (Harlock clones). But seriously check this out:

Gamilas bad guy dude

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 The Earl de Darkwood

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Unless the Earl has Hulk powers, I think it’s safe to say it’s a coincidence, but I’d be floored if they somehow had something to do with eachother.