Saturday, June 9, 2018

MISC. MANGA, *Unmagical Girl

Unmagical Girl is an interesting premise in the vein of the old Justice Friends segment from Dexter's Laboratory featuring superheroes living in the "real world" and what they have to do if there are no supervillains to fight. This is one of the first manga by writer Ryouichi Yokoyama and artist Manmaru Uetsuki, and a fresh acquisition by Seven Seas Entertainment.

Mayuri is a student in college whose late father was the creator of a popular anime series titled Pretty Angel Nirvana. Going over her father's old desktop, Mayuri somehow releases the main but forgotten anime character, Pretty Angel NirBrave, who might be a small keychain brought to life. NirBrave has all the same powers that she had in the show, but her "secret identity" form looks almost exactly like Mayuri herself. The now live-action anime character now lives with Mayuri in her apartment, but has problems landing a job with her unwillingness to alter her appearance from a pink-haired girl in flashy bright getup. She also tends to alter her appearance if she ends up doing something that she wasn't originally scripted to do, like getting drunk. It turns out that other characters from the anime start materializing in the real world too, including NirBrave's sexier and more popular teammate Nirwind, and an old enemy now living with Mayuri's classmate.

Unmagical Girl is a funny take on the division between the material and ethereal realms. The manga works as a funny sitcom slice-of-life, while at the same time catering to many otaku tropes that anime fans will find endearing.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

ANI-MOVIES, *Harlock: Space Pirate

Remaking the saga of Leiji Matsumoto's Captain Harlock, Appleseed's Shinji Aramaki pulled all his talent to do this fully-CGI movie. Toei Animation pulled together this which mostly rewrites the ongoing space pirate saga.

Way off in the future, mankind has set up colonies on other worlds, but has left the Earth behind mostly because of it being ravaged by centuries of abuse. But now, overpopulation throughout the galaxy has lead humans to want to return to their planet of origin. This lead to a new government called the Gaia Sanction being formed allowing only the elite to be allowed access to Earth. Harlock, a former space fleet captain broke away from the government and has spent the last century leading a crew of rebels on raids against the Gaia Sanction. Harlock himself has become seemingly immortal due to being exposed by the dark matter that powers his ship, the Arcadia, that and alliance he's formed with Miime, the last of a race of space elves who wish to see peace return to the galaxy. A government spy named Yama joins the Aracdia and plans to sabotage Harlock's efforts to use a special weapon to set back the clock. Whether this means to go back in time or to completely rewrite the timeline completely(like in Star Trek 11), is unknown, as its revealed that the Earth itself has been a wasteland for centuries, but Yama has proof that life is returning to it. So the Arcadia's crew plans to fight the Gaia Sanction to preserve the Earth and expose their conspiracy to the rest of the galaxy.

Shinji Aramaki's work on other popular titles like Starship Troopers and Halo shows in this for adapting an existing canon, although they rewrite it enough to make this film its own story, so its not necessary to have seen any of the previous Matsumoto anime like Harlock Saga or Arcada Of My Youth. Harlock: Space Pirates stands good enough on its own as an epic space opera, and worthy of the brand of "space opera", more so than most sci-fi anime production from the last decade outside of Gundam. Its slightly disappointing that their isn't an English version of this currently available on Blu Ray, only on DVD at this time. Certainly worth a viewing if the last few Star Wars incarnations have left you unfulfilled.

Monday, May 28, 2018


MISC. MANGA, *Cutie Honey A Go Go!

Based on the 2004 live-action Cutie Honey movie by Evangelion's Hideaki Anno, Shinpei Itoh who created Hyper Dolls wrote and drew this adapted from Go Nagai's original story as an unfortunately unconcluded manga series that Seven Seas Entertainment collected into this single trade paperback. It borrows elements from the film, but incorporates elements from the first 1970s Cutie Honey manga and TV anime.

Set in the mid 00's, the super-powered bad guy posse known as Panther Claw is running a muck in Japan, and the only thing that stands in their way is the transforming android girl, Cutie Honey. After her father/creator Dr. Kisaragi is killed by Panther Claw under the leadership of Sister Jill, the public security inspector Aki Natsuko(who here is seriously remade as her Hyper Dolls counterpart)takes over protection of Honey in her civilian identity as a schoolgirl, who is now transferred to mountaintop academy. Panther Claw meanwhile plans to snipe down the members of the investigation team on their case, while secret U.S. forces keep tabs on Honey's activity who it turns out to be originally created for the American military. The story ends with some of Honey's comrades getting gratuitously killed off, and the "soldier of love" preparing for a showdown with Sister Jill.

The manga sold well enough in Japan that it continued to points away from the movie's plot, but not popular enough to fund its conclusion. The OVA remake of the movie's take was Re: Cutie Honey(still not released in English)also done by Hineaki Anno, and acted as more of an action story where similar to Itoh's prior works the plot more focuses on the supporting characters and the effect the superheroics have on the rest of the world. Anno took this similar approach when he created Shin Godzilla which is largely about how the Japanese government operates during a crisis instead of a kaiju attack. If you weren't able to collect the Cutie Honey 90 comic issues from Studio Ironcat, or want more of the original manga(also now available from Seven Seas), then Cutie Honey A Go Go is worth a read.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

ANI-MOVIES, *Batman: Gotham By Gaslight

The second DC Universe animated movie based on an Elseworlds story, Gotham By Gaslight takes elements from the original graphic novel and its sequal, Batman: Master Of The Future, and combines them into a slightly original tale. This is the first time they've taken Batman and put him in a steampunk environment, years before it became the popular genre among the fan community, although Gotham By Gaslight is considered to be more under the label of "gaslamp fantasy".

Set in late 19th Century Gotham City, a mysterious killer known as Jack the Ripper is stalking the loose women in the seedier parts of town. Oddly enough, this "Jack" has no connection to the British one, nor is there any reference to the one across the pond either, meaning this is the only "Jack" existing in this universe. Bruce Wayne disguised as Batman is trying to crack the case, all while keeping his identity secret. His friend Harvey Dent has his eye set on Selina Kyle, who on her own has plans to capture Jack the Ripper. Batman discovers that Jack is his equal as far as in fighting and physical prowess(remember, this Batman wasn't trained by ninjas for years!), and just as elusive. Jack murders Sister Leslie, a nun that runs the local orphanage, which leads to a great zeppelin chase between Batman and the Ripper. Jack also goes to kill Hugo Strange, head of Arkham Asylum, partially to point the blame towards Bruce Wayne being suspected as the killer. Bruce is taken to jail, but gets out when Selina threatens to reveal his identity to Commissioner Gordon to clear his name, climaxing in your traditional Batman showdown in an abandoned amusement park.

In alot of ways, the story in Gotham By Gaslight is similar to Mask Of The Phantasm, at least in it has the Dark Knight pursuing a masked killer, while dodging the police thinking that he himself is the suspect. The story only dips somewhat into full-fledged steampunk, mostly just the Bat-Velocipede and a random airship, so not as much was brought up from Master Of The Future making this more of a gothic detective story. The animation up to the above average specs, although nothing too spectacular you wouldn't see outside of your standard TV quality. The film also doesn't totally commit to the original conclusion as the original source material, which may cheese some die-hard fans off, but still a watershed standout in the DC Universe lineup.