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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Fuma no Kojirou (Live-Action): The Definitive Yasha Chapter Experience

As a blog that focuses on anime & manga, it's natural to see live-action products be a non-factor here. I did challenge that fact once, though, three years ago when I reviewed Team Astro, the live-action TV adaptation of the 70s manga Astro Kyudan; it's still over at DramaFever (subs are still rough, though) & has since joined Viki's line-up (though only one episode is crowdsubbed). Before that review, though, I did reference another live-action adaptation of a manga. I'm specifically talking about the 2007 J-Drama/tokusatsu adaptation of Fuma no Kojirou.

Excuse me for a moment while I laugh my Cosmo off to beyond its limit...

While this is the only made-for-TV live-action production based on a Masami Kurumada work, it's neither the first one nor the only one. First, in August of 1991, Bandai sponsored a musical adaptation of Saint Seiya's Sanctuary & Poseidon Chapters, with the Bronze Saints & Poseidon being played by the members of iconic boy band SMAP, while members of the band Tokio played Aries Mu, Leo Aiolia, & Scorpio Milo. From what I've been able to find out, no one dares to ever talk about it & is apparently an infamously bad musical. The third production, done in late-2011 & called the Saint Seiya Super Musical, was an adaptation of the first Seiya movie, Evil Goddess Eris (the original anime of which you can now buy on DVD from Discotek!). From what I can tell, this was a better-received production & even saw a home video release in Japan. Now, on the off chance anyone thinks this, I will NEVER review those musicals, but I can certainly review this second live-action production, which ran in late-07 on Tokyo Metropolitan Television, or Tokyo MX for short. In fact, I should have reviewed this series back when I finished up reviewing the Fuma no Kojirou OVAs back in March of 2012, because this is the perfect example of how to improve on "Masami Kurumada's Fourth-Most-Well-Known-Title".


Seishikan High School has been "stealing" the best & brightest students from all of the other schools in the Kanto area, resulting in many of them closing down. The only remaining school is small little Hakuo Academy, and to keep from closing Himeko Hojo, a schoolgirl who has inherited the position of Principal from her deceased grandfather, has asked her friend Ranko Yagyu to find someone who can help them. Ranko's solution is to climb the Japanese Alps in search of the Fuma, a ninja clan who has helped the Hojo Family since before the Sengoku Era. Feeling that there's some bigger force behind Seishikan's dominance, the Fuma agree to help & give Hakuo a young ninja named Kojirou, who immediately falls in love with Himeko. Soon Kojirou finds out that Seishikan is being helped by the Yasha Clan, the eternal rival of the Fuma Clan. When Seishikan's Musashi Asuka, himself a "for hire" warrior, is given the Eight Yasha Generals to fend off Kojirou, the Fuma send their young ninja assistance, turning a simple fight for school survival into an all-out battle to the death between ninja clans.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Theory Musing: Is Introducing "NBS Anime" via Licensing a Dead Concept Now?

Today, Discotek Media announced that they would be releasing the 2007 TV anime adaptation of Zombie-Loan, based on the Peach-Pit manga of the same name (which was released by Yen Press), & 2009's Shin Mazinger Z Impact on sub-only DVD this September & 2015, respectively. Personally, I'm pretty neutral about Zombie-Loan as I never saw this anime via the fansubs that came out back when the show was airing, though I do like the opening theme, and I am ecstatic about Shin Mazinger but it has made me think about something: Is the concept of introducing "Never Before Seen" (I'll be using "NBS" for short here) anime via licensing dead here in North America?




Think about it for a moment... We live in "the future". Nowadays the combined efforts of sites like CrunchyRoll & FUNimation are offering close to every new anime that gets made each season, though some do slip through the cracks, and adding on sites like Hulu, AnimeSols, Daisuki, & Viki showcases that even a number of "catalog" titles are now getting their first official & legal English-subbed offerings. The sheer idea of such a thing existing even just ten years ago was considered ridiculous, absurd, & impossible to ever happen. Back then, anime fans either went for fansubs to get their immediate fix or prayed for an official home video release via licensing; streaming has lead to a much weaker fansubbing presence now & lessened a "need" for home video. When one thinks about it, though, what does that mean for anime on home video? What exactly are we getting?

For most companies, like FUNimation, Sentai Filmworks, Aniplex of America, & Viz Media, the focus is on bringing out the newest titles that have gotten an audience via streaming, alongside the occasional license rescue of an older title that has since become known as a "classic" (or was simply part of a larger package deal). Meanwhile, companies like Discotek, Right Stuf (via their Nozomi & Lucky Penny labels), Media Blasters, & Maiden Japan (let's ignore the whole Section 23 talk for now) focus now more on license resuces of what could be considered "cult classics" & bringing over titles that were skipped over the last time. Now I wonder if any readers are thinking, "Well, if these companies are bringing over stuff that was never licensed before but has some age to them, then isn't that introducing "NBS Anime" via licensing?" My answer would be both "Yes" & "No".

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Evil Crusher Maya: Heads He Wins, Tails They Lose... Out of the Way, He's Coming Through

For the first manga review in this celebration of Masami Kurumada's 40th Anniversary I decided to go to his sole non-Jump short story. I've previously reviewed Aoi Tori no Shinwa, which was originally published in Shonen Jump in 1992 but not released in book form until 1998 via Kadokawa Shoten, as well as the two one-shots that were in Mabudachi Jingi (the titular story & Shiro Obi Taisho), but the subject of this review will be from Kurumada's post-Jump time (a.k.a. the mid-90s). Let's see what the man was doing during this mostly-quiet time for him...

Excuse the break in the middle; the halves wouldn't line up properly otherwise

During his serialization of B't X for Kadokawa Shoten's Monthly Shonen Ace, Masami Kurumada did a two-part short story for Enix's Monthly Shonen Gangan: Evil Crusher Maya. Running for two issues in early 1996, this short story carried the subtitle Emiria no Kyoukai/Emiria's Church, but whether Kurumada had any plans for more of Maya is unknown. That is somewhat sad to think, though, because out of every short story & one-shot that he ever did, Evil Crusher Maya had probably the best potential to be another great series from Masami Kurumada.

In the world, alongside humans & other animals, exist demonic creatures called "Evils". In one town a man named Emiria arrives & heals the sick as if he was a god. A giant church is erected for him & the townfolk worship him. Three months later he asks for seven girls to be delivered to his church on their thirteenth birthdays, or else he won't save the village from the wrath of the gods. After six are sent to him, the fathers start to wonder why exactly he needs them & head to the church; they haven't been seen in five days. Nana, who is to be the seventh shortly, is worried about the missing villagers & her father, who went with the other fathers. Worrying that Evils might be behind this she sends out a letter attached to a balloon, which is caught by who she was looking for: Maya, a man who comes from the "Land of Dark Night" & calls himself an "Evil Crusher".

Monday, June 9, 2014

AnimeNEXT 2014 Final Thoughts & Panel Listings

I'm back from my local con, New Jersey's very own AnimeNEXT, and I had a fun time once again. The addition of the Somerset Bridgewater Hotel definitely eased the amount of people entering the DoubleTree & the Garden State Exhibit Center, but it also turned the entire thing from a potential "line-con" into a "walk-con". Now, to be fair, I'll gladly take a good walk over constantly having to enter lines just to be able to enter a panel, though my calves definitely felt the repercussions, but it also resulted in me being in the Bridgewater more than the usual DoubleTree when it came to panels.


Anyway, the guest list was definitely varied. For dub fans there were plenty of voice actors, like Matt Mercer & Richard Epcar, for music fans there were ROOKIEZ is PUNK'D & Luna Haruna, for industry fans there were two members of Studio Trigger (who detailed all of the behind the scenes info on Inferno Cop & Kill la Kill), and for internet fandom there was both Daryl Surat & Gerald Rathkolb from Anime World Order as well as Charles Dunbar from Study of Anime. But enough about that, what did I do at the con?

I started off Friday morning with The Golden Age of Weekly Shonen Jump: A Visual History, which was a 90-minute overview of what titles started the momentum into Jump's 1983-1996 reign over manga & what titles from that era were adapted into anime. Due to some problems beyond my control, I was not listed on the printed schedule, and I literally started with only two (quickly four) con-goers, but by the time I hit the "Golden Age" I started getting more people & overall I think I had a moderate crowd for what was one of the very first panels of the entire con; I'll take it.

Having forgotten to apply for a third panel I took advantage of an open-invitation by Charles Dunbar to join his & Katriel "Kit" Paige's We Con, Therefore We Are, which talked about the concept of "Con Convergence" & how anime fandom & anime cons have changed throughout the years. While I did admittedly feel a little like a "third wheel" throughout the panel, which Kit assured me was normal, overall it was an interesting experience to be a part of what was, essentially, a guest panel at the con. I saw this panel over at Otakon last year, where Charles had Daryl on board, but what makes this panel interesting is that the execution & style really changes depending on who's on board; with Daryl it was a much more passionate panel with a lot of back & forth, but with Kit & I it was more subdued & relatable. Once again, thank you Charles & Kit for welcoming me on board... Maybe one day I'll think about trying it again.

Finally, on Sunday I had Great Anime We'll (Probably) Never Get, a "crash course" that showed anime fans the titles that have missed the licensing train throughout the years &, due to varying reasons, may never actually see a legal release of any sort in North America. While I could have gone far back & talked about the 80s & 90s, I actually ended up with a list that was mostly from within the past 10 years that totaled 17 different titles; there were a handful of 80s & 90s entries, though. This had a full room & everyone was ready to learn about titles that may not have known before. This was easily the most enjoyable panel I had at AnimeNEXT, and I even managed to do something I didn't think was exactly possible: I got Gerald Rathkolb wanting to watch an anime (Hareluya II BØY, in this case). Too bad that anime is really rough to watch in complete due to sub-standard raws; two episodes are portioned (ep 1) on YouTube in okay quality, though (ep 7). I'll have to see if I can help Gerald out with this show one day (and the rest of Ring ni Kakero 1, too)...