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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Ring ni Kakero's Best Bouts Part 1: From Tokyo to the Shadow Clan

Befitting a manga series about boxing, Masami Kurumada's Ring ni Kakero is very much focused around combat. Almost every story arc has many, many 1-on-1 fights housed within, especially once it hits its genre-defining groove & enters its more tournament & challenge match-focused direction. With that in regard, it's obvious that not every fight is going to be a knockout (cue rimshot). This is all the more true for RnK, as many of the fights don't follow the seeming standard that people nowadays associate with fights in shonen manga. Instead of primarily stretching out battles for drama & emotion, like how it's generally done today, bouts in RnK are primarily fast & over fairly quickly, though there are a handful of exceptions. Therefore, deciding which fights are the "Best Bouts" in this series comes down to not just the action itself but also the circumstances in & around them. In the end, I decided to round it down to one fight for each story arc in the manga & one special inclusion so that it's an even ten bouts. So, without further ado, let's get started.

(WARNING! As I'll be covering exact fights, please keep in mind that I may venture into spoilers at times. I'll try to keep them as general as possible, but fair warning.)

Ryuji Takane vs. Jun Kenzaki II
First up is what is officially named the Road to Tokyo Chapter, which shows how Ryuji & Kiku Takane go from a downbeat life with their mother & their new deadbeat stepfather to eventually living with Zoroku Omura at the Tokyo boxing gym that he runs. The main focus in this arc is character development more than anything, showing how Ryuji starts off completely resistant to taking up boxing before he meets young prodigy Jun Kenzaki & finds a reason to take up the sport. In that regard, there are really only two actual "bouts" in this arc, so this wasn't a hard choice to make. The first (impromptu) fight between Ryuji & Kenzaki isn't bad by any means, but as a fight it's pretty one-sided. It's simply Kenzaki beating the ever-living crap out of Ryuji until our lead manages to find an opening & knocks his newfound rival out of the ring & into a giant mirror on the wall of the boxing club's gym. The second fight, however, is another thing entirely.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Ring ni Kakero Trivia Track: Six Neat, Important, or Interesting Factoids

Masami Kurumada made his professional debut in 1974 with Sukeban Arashi/Delinquent Storm, a comedic series about Rei Kojinyama, who tries to be an ideal schoolgirl to honor the memory of her deceased mother but can't help leaning back into her delinquent lifestyle. After that wound up getting cancelled, he decided that his next series would pay homage to one of his favorite manga of all time: Ashita no Joe. He quickly realized that simply following AnJ's style would both be a disservice to that manga as well as his own series, so he wound up adopting a more over-the-top style influenced by Astro Kyudan/Team Astro, a popular Jump manga that was running when he debuted. While being technically a baseball manga, the feats & games that were actually played were so absurdly over-the-top that it kept readers captivated for four years & 20 volumes; it was that concept of "attraction" that Kurumada wanted to bring to his boxing manga.

In doing just that, Ring ni Kakero wound up becoming an important part in the evolution of not just Shonen Jump but also action manga, often called "fighting manga" in Japan, in general. You can read my review of the manga to get a better understanding of why that is, but what I want to focus on are the little things. I've brought most of them up before on the blog but want to describe in more detail here, while one of them in particular I've only alluded to. Call it "trivia" if you will (hell, I did in the name of this post), but let's have some fun here. First up is probably the most important piece of trivia of all, though.

"The Hot-Blood Fighting Manga Bible"
It's easy for something to be called a "classic", since most just equate that word with age instead of saving it solely for those with good quality; personally, I think the word "vintage" should be the general term, instead. It's tougher for something to be called an "icon", as that has to indicate not just age & quality, but also a status as being something that represents an entire group, whether it's a genre, style, medium, etc. What's nigh-impossible, though, is for something to be called a "bible", because to reach that status it has to not only have age, quality, & a status of being a representative behind it, but also be considered the product that everything that comes after it follows; it's an (or the) authority on something. You almost never hear anyone try to actually define something as being the bible on a concept or style, so when something is deemed to that level, then you have to take note.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Put It All in the Ruby Anniversary: Ring ni Kakero Turns 40!

A belated Happy New Year, everyone, & welcome to the year 2017... If you wish to hold on tight or kiss your ass goodbye, then go ahead & do so.

Once again, I have reserved the first month of the year to be "Jump January", and like the previous times I did this there is a singular theme behind it. For this year, I want to celebrate what I feel is an important anniversary that will likely get next to no celebration elsewhere, even in its home country of Japan. Forty years ago, on this very day (or, at least, on the second Monday of January), Masami Kurumada's Ring ni Kakero/Put it All in the Ring debuted in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine.

Calm down, Ryo-san, you'll run for WAAAAYYY longer...

Yes, for those who didn't know (like myself until I checked), 40 years marks the Ruby Anniversary of something, and that's what applies to this boxing manga. Since Shonen Jump doesn't mark exact dates, I had to calculate what day Issue #2 came out on, and since the magazine (officially) comes out every Monday in Japan, that means that Ring ni Kakero debuted on January 10, 1977; interestingly enough, this year is only one numbered day off in that regard. I'm sure most people are not familiar with RnK, so here's how I described it when I reviewed the manga back in 2013:

"Ryuji & Kiku are the two children of Gou Takane, a world-class professional boxer who was on his way to becoming world champion until his untimely death. Kiku decides to train Ryuji into a boxer, but Ryuji wants nothing to do with the sport. After seeing that their mother Chiyo has suddenly re-married to an abusive drunkard, Kiku takes Ryuji and they head off to Tokyo, where Kiku plans to make her younger brother into an excellent boxer, even if Ryuji doesn't want to. Through an encounter with Jun Kenzaki, a young boxing prodigy, though, Ryuji finds his motivation to become a pro boxer, and along the way will meet other junior boxers from all over the world on his path to (potential) greatness."

Since I am a big fan of this manga (& it's eventual anime adaptation), I wanted to celebrate this anniversary. Sadly, however, I feel as though I might be the only one out there who actually will give a hoot about this anniversary, even counting Japan itself.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2016!! Part 2

The internet is an ever-changing environment, especially when stuff like copyright & what can be enforced in which circumstances is taken into consideration. YouTube, for example, is becoming a bit of a hotbed of copyright claims by companies who feel that they are not being given their proper credit (& profit) from the use of their content in things like video reviews & the like. That being said, though, using copyrighted content for criticism & commentary (a.k.a. a review of even simple discussion) is & should be protected under Fair Use; still doesn't stop companies from trying to monetize others' usage of their content, though.

Why do I bring this up here? Because, as of this post, one of my reviews on this blog has recently been forced into draft mode (i.e. you guys can't read it right now) because of a DMCA claim that Blogger (i.e. Google) is trying to enforce. What's shocking (aside from the fact that my review may not even apply to the complaint itself) is that said review only features still images of the anime I reviewed, not video, which I have not seen any complaints about before; in fact, I didn't even start using stills (outside of title splashes & cover art) until a few years in. Obviously, I have put in my counter-claims regarding this, because what I do here is obviously within the definition of "criticism & commentary", but I feel that people should understand that, now, it looks like not even still images are safe in the eyes of some people or companies. Will I continue to use images in my reviews? Yes, because I think I have every right to do so for a review.

With that out of the way, let's get to the rest of my favorite posts of 2016. Thank you for your patience.

"Honorable Mention"
Demo Disc Vol. 7: Badd Banned Broadcasts (October 6)
Nothing against the Spring volume of Demo Disc, where I looked at some more mech anime (there's still enough for that to return again, too!), but the Fall volume definitely deserves a mention, at the very least. Whether it was from Gundam, BerserkMr. Osomatsu, or even Pok√©mon, looking at the episodes/chapters that are "banned" to various extents was a lot of fun... Except for the Porygon episode, as doing that one did give me a slight headache.

Ai no Jidai/Indigo Period -Ichigo Ichie- (February 29)
As always, I try to include one or two reviews of a manga that was done by Masami Kurumada, and this year brought about two titles that had a shared relation. To celebrate his 40th Anniversary in the manga industry, Masami Kurumada did some cool things, most of which did not involve Saint Seiya. First, he brought Otoko Zaka back from its ~30 year hiatus, & so far has made another three volumes worth of content (maybe next year I'll review them to stay up-to-date [depends on how Volume 6 ends]). Second, he teased a return for Raimei no Zaji by making a short "special chapter" that followed off of where that manga stopped back in 1988, so I reviewed that manga in March. Finally, Kurumada ended the celebration with a brand new, one volume short manga, & as soon as I could I read & reviewed the compiled tankouban of Ai no Jidai -Ichigo Ichie-, or Indigo Period -Once in a Lifetime-.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2016!! Part 1

Happy Boxing Day & Happy Kwanzaa!!

Once again, it's the day after Christmas, and that means only one thing here at The Land of Obscusion: Waxing nostalgic on what I wrote during this past year! Granted, it seems like nostalgia-mining has truly become an industry all its own, with so many things having been or will soon receive a reboot/sequel/prequel/midquel/etc., but considering how crazy 2016 was I honestly can't fault people for wanting to look back & "member the good old days". What will 2017 bring all of us around the world? None of us have any idea, & that scares most people (I can't blame them, either), but until the time comes for us to sing "Auld Lang Syne" & reluctantly welcome in the new year, join me in trying to select just "twelve" of my favorite posts from 2016... Because it's honestly damn hard to do that.

Seriously, this whole "part-time" status I put myself into wound up with me writing so many pieces & posts that I enjoyed that, for the first time ever, I have to include some "honorable mentions", which I'll split up across both parts. So, without further ado, here we go...

"Honorable Mention"
Matchless Raijin-Oh OVAs (November 9)
Since the two reviews covering the TV series both made their respective years' lists, I can't ignore the OVAs. They may not be quite as good as what came before, minus the second OVA, but it felt great to close the book on Matchless Raijin-Oh, & I'm so glad to have finally seen it all.

A Newcomer's Guide to Saint Seiya (November 30)
Being a fan of Masami Kurumada, it's no surprise that I am also a fan of his worldwide sensation, Saint Seiya. That's why I wanted to do something special for the 30th Anniversary this year, but I couldn't quite decide on what to do. I had considered reviewing the manga, but I'm still hesitant to do so because I regard Jason Thompson's House of 1000 Manga article from 2010 as the best write-up for that manga; sure, I could just make a review, but I still feel that I need something more to it. I had also considered watching DiC's Knights of the Zodiac adaptation of the TV anime, but getting all seven of the DVDs that ADV released back in the day is no easy task, as some have become quite expensive, & there has yet to be any sort of complete rip of those DVDs online to rely on instead (not that I'd expect anyone to ever want to do that, either). Therefore, when I was coming up at the end of November I knew that it was now or never to celebrate the 30th Anniversary on the actual year it's meant to happen on (take that, Toei's planned triple-feature of productions for 2017!). Therefore, I took the path that was easy in concept but I felt was important in execution: A guide for newcomers to rely on.