Wednesday, September 13, 2017

MISC. MANGA, *Captive Hearts Of Oz

While there are numerous anime/manga titles based on the works of L.Frank Baum(including Santa Claus' origin), Captive Hearts Of Oz takes a modern day shojo approach to the classic tale, mixing in not only elements from the original Wizard Of Oz book, but others fragments of the Oz novels. Author Ryo Maruya teamed up with artist Mamenosuke Fujimaru who worked on the various Alice In The Country Of Clover and its various spinoffs to create this reverse-harem manga.

Dorothy is a farm girl who has her house blown away by a tornado to the enchanted land of Oz, where it happens to crash on the Wicked Witch of the East. The Good Witch of the North, Locasta arrives and gives Dorothy the Wicked Witch's magic shoes as she is directed to go to the Emerald City to find the enigmatic Wizard who could send her home. Along the way, Dorothy runs across more human-ish versions of the Scarecrow(here called Haward), Nick Chopper(Tin Woodsman), and "Leon" the Lion. Once all four of them have assembled, they are joined by a joyful but mysterious jester named Zero. The quintet eventually reach the Emerald City, where Dorothy is greeted by Glinda, Good Witch of the South. All while this is going on, it appears that Locasta is working with the other Witches and the Wizard to have Dorothy follow a certain path, indicating that this has been done by Dorothy more than once who kept no memories of her former adventures. This plus the Witch of the East is not only still alive, but a male, as well as the Witch of the West.

The over all story arc seems like a cross between the original Oz story, and The Truman Show where someone's life is being directed by outside forces within a self-contained world. Whether this is all in storybook, a dream, or a pocket universe is yet to be seen. The plot moves along fairly well, although it seems to hide to much which disallows the narrative to know where its all going. The artwork is satisfying, and should appeal to bishonen otaku.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Gold Digger: The Time Raft

A first in the field of independent comic book based film productions, Gold Digger has been a long-running adventure/fantasy title from Antarctic Press created by Fred Perry, who also took up the role of main animator under this 3-episode OVA. Based on the original short comic story that ran in Mangazine(and then eventually it's own one-shot), The Time Raft acts as an introduction to the main characters, super-intelligent archaeologist Gina Diggers, and Brittany, her adopted were-cheetah sister. The duo trot the globe for treasure and lost civilizations. Brittany gets by with her enhanced strength, speed, and healing, while Gina contributes her intellect, and a hyperspace toy chest filled with groovy gadgets.

The two heroines are looking around the British countryside searching for the ancient relic known as the Time Raft created by Merlin. Upon first entering the ruins of where they believe the relic is, the Diggers sisters are attacked by panther-like golems, and then accosted by a pair of warrior elves. Gina and Brittany awake to find their host, a menacing-looking dragon calling himself Swiftwing, who claims to be the protector of the Time Raft left to him by Merlin, but needs their help to figure out how to actual activate the device which allows its user to manipulate and travel through time. Gina initially agrees, but learns from the elves that the dragon is really Dreadwing, an evil dragon who conquered numerous kingdoms in the past, and hopes to use the rafts capabilities to plunder throughout time. Gina rigs the raft to open up a wormhole ripping the flesh off of Dreadwing, leaving the Diggers with Dreadwing's horde of gold to spend.

The OVA is mostly faithful to the original story, although some fight scenes were strung out for time, as well as some story elements which in the OVA elude to future events in the comic. The three episodes were first done about 2-3 years apart as Fred Perry did all the main production of the animation, which was mostly all done in traditional style with only some CGI. There was eventually a collected edition titled "The Movie", although this version has some different voice actors used in the first episodes, as well as mostly redone action sequences which were a vast improvement from the initial production. All 3 OVAs are still available individually on DVD, as well as the collected movie which is the better buy as it more convenient with a higher production value for the complete package. Most of the animation is considerably remarkable considering it was an in-house production, the only main draw back is some of the voice acting and lip-syncing. The Gold Digger comic series itself is a sprawling epic that has stretched for over 25 years, so it is slightly hard to get into sometimes, but over the last few years it has become more accessible by channeling into self-contained short arcs that don't dwell too hard on past plots. Surely worth looking into for fans of American-styled anime, or otaku and gamers in general!

Dammit, Irma!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

ANI-MOVIES, *Dante's Inferno: An Animated Epic

Following up their prequal to Dead Space: Downfall, Film Roman was pinned to do an animated version of the Dante's Inferno video game from Electronic Arts. This was a dark fantasy adaptation of the first part of The Divine Comedy poem by Dante Alighieri from the Middle Ages. But unlike some other animated video game tie-ins, An Animated Epic is an abridged playthrough retelling of the game itself. However, it acts similar to anthology films like The Animatrix as different studios were tasked to handle the various levels of Hell. This includes anime productions companies like Manglobe and Production I.G.

During the tale end of the Third Crusade, Dante(named after the poet)is a Templar Knight coming back home to England to find that everyone in his house has been murdered, including his sweetheart Beatrice who begins to pass over into Heaven, but is then dragged down to Hell by Lucifer's shadow-self. Dante follows Beatrice's soul into the underworld while being guided through all 9 Circles by the ghost of the Roman poet Virgil. Along the way, he encounters the various tortured residents, some who offer help and direction, while others are seeking to win favor with Lucifer, including members of Dante's family and fellow Crusaders. Lucifer plans on making Beatrice his wife to rule at his side, so Dante has to make it to the "church" on time to crash the wedding. This all turns out to be a ploy by the fallen angel to make his way back into Heaven.

The movie works well as a single narrative, despite the various chapters its layered out in depicting the various levels of Hell. Each chapter is done by different studios, which makes for some clashing character designs carried over from the following chapters. The plot flows pretty well enough, with some standard level bosses for each chapter, given the fact that there are numerous flashbacks going over the various characters' past sins. Despite the NR rating given to it, this film is a hard R, with blood and gore that make Clive Barker look like Mister Rogers! Even if you're not heavily into video games, Dante's Inferno does make for a literal epic, but for profoundly mature audiences.