Thursday, August 30, 2012


Another one from the female gang of four known as CLAMP. This time around though they actually have it tying into more than one title. XXXHolic is supposed to be a spinoff to another title from Clamp coming out at the same time called Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicles where characters from other manga titles by CLAMP are redone like from parallel universes. In fact, it's hinted that XXXHOlic exists within the same contiunity as the regular Cardcaptor Sakura, Tokyo Babylon, and X/1999 mangas.

The story here though is about Watanuki, a troubled young teenage boy who keeps seeing spirits and ghosts. After being chased by some pesky ones, he wanders into a strange looking curio shop. There, he meets Yuko, the owner who explains that she can grant wishes, but only for a price, usually something of great value to the customer. Watanuki takes it as being a joke, but Yuko knows he wants to be rid of his spiritual visions. So she makes a deal with him for him to work at the store in exchange for having his wish granted since he doesn't have anything of value to trade for. After this, Watanuki accompanies Yuko out to see a client rid herself of her internet addiction. We learn more about how Yuko helps people with their problems, although she doesn't seem to use any magic in this case. However, her powers are revealed more when she recieves a visit from Syaoran and Sakura who both are from the world of the Clow.

This is where the worlds of XXXHolic and Tsubasa connect into a single story, although briefly. Yuko is known as the space-time witch who can help Syaoran in his quest to bring back all of Sakura's lost memories. These are dopplegangers of the regular Cardcaptors from another reality though. Yuko gives them one of two different versions of Makona who most would remember as the little rabbit creature from Magic Knight Rayearth. At that point, they go to another world along with two other travellers, and the XXXHolic storyline continues mostly on its own. For most of the rest of the series, it deals with Watanuki learning more about Yuko and her childish helpers, Mary and Moru. While at the same time, he starts to realize the extent of his curse and what its powers might do for him.

XXXHolic can become a gothic moody manga at times, but is filled with the normal sort of funny moments that CLAMP has as a hallmark for themselves.

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 4: Page 14


ANI-MOVIES, *Castle In The Sky

Hiyao Miyazaki followed up his epic of Nausicaa with this equally spectacular animated movie, Laputa, which was released in America through Disney under the title Castle In The Sky. This was the first official film done by Studio Ghibli. It was also one of the first major uses steampunk in an anime, and later became the influence for several other young adventure anime like Nadia.
This story is set in an alternate version of Earth which has retro-modeled aircraft and other vehicles that look like they just came out of WWI. In it, government agents lead by the scrupulous Col. Muska have accosted a young girl named Sheeta who owns a special blue jewel, and she is the last descendant of the royal line from Laputa, a fabled flying lost city. The airship taking her is attacked by a group of sky pirates called the Dola Gang, and in the pandamonium, Sheeta escapes by falling out of the sky! Luckily her magical jem cushions her fall, and she lands in the arms of Pazu, a boy from a small mining town. Pazu’s father died searching for the Laputa, which motivates him to want to assist Sheeta. He helps her get away from some of the agents chasing her, and make off for the mines where an old friend of Pazu’s figures out that Sheeta’s magic jewel is connected to Laputa somehow. Muska manages to recapture Sheeta, and convinces Pazu to leave her with them. Pazu is then ambushed by Dola and her boys, and he gets them to take him on when they go to rescue Sheeta. While imprisioned, Sheeta unintentionally uses her jewel to bring a large robot the military found from Laputa to life, and goes on a rampage. Pazu arrives with the Dola-mites, and flees with Sheeta on Dola’s pirate airship. They later find Laputa, although Muska and the army/air force show up to take all the treasure there. Muska reveals that he’s also a descended from the Laputans, and uses Sheeta’s jewel to control the mystical power keeping the city in the air. Sheeta and Pazu use an ancient destruction spell to stop Muska, and a giant tree starts to grow taking the entire castle into orbit. Pazu and Sheeta escape with the pirates, along with some treasure to pay for the loss of their airship.

Miyazaki once again draws alot of influence from European literature in this movie, mostly Gulliver’s Travels(which is where the name “Laputa” comes from). There’s also some major Biblical tones to it with reflecting Laputa like being the Tower of Babel. Plus, the in it robots are modeled after ones from Max Fleischer’s Superman. The animation is flawless, and even surpasses Miyazaki’s work in Nausicaa. Disney’s treatment of the movie is really good, except for leaving out the original title(Laputa). This was the second Ghibli movie they had gotten after Kiki’s Delivery Service. Although it was dubbed by them in the late 90s, it wasn’t released until 2003, partially due to the success of Spirited Away winning an Oscar which prompted Disney to finally put it out. This is actually the second time it was dubbed though, as Streamline Pictures did it for international audiences in the late 80s. Disney’s dub is actually pretty decent, especially with Cloris Leachman as the spunky old pirate Dora, Mark Hamill as the scheming Muska, and Anna Paquin in her first anime dub as Sheeta. My only real complaint about the dub is James Van Der Beek as Pazu who was only cast in it because Dawson’s Creek was popular when the dub was made. This is a great family adventure for fans of sci-fi, fantasy, and great storytelling!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Heavy Metal

This was the very first full-length animated movie anthology based on a comic book. The French comic magazine of Metal Hurlant had been running since the mid-70s, and was brought over to America and printed in English by National Lampoon as part of their lineup. It was then retitled Heavy Metal, and had become such a strong subculture hit that Columbia Pictures hired several Canadian studios to put together this film adaptation, which has since become a stoner sci-fi legend.

The movie is broken up into several mostly non-sequential stories, although they are all tied together to a wandering sinister entity known as the Loc-Nar, which is a glowing green orb that changes size at different times on different worlds. The Loc-Nar appears as a small object that an astronaut brings his daughter from space(in his kickass sub-orbital Corvette!), which melts the poor trekker, and proceeds to terrify the girl with tales of his evilness throughout the cosmos. We are first sent to New York in the mid-21st Century where aliens are a common everyday thing(you gotta remember this film was made in the late 80s!), and taxi driver Harry Canyon gets roped into a caper with a sexy archeologist. She’s on the run from some mobsters who want the Loc-Nar from her, althought no one can touch the damn thing without turned into goo. The next story was based on the works of Richard Corban and his Den comic about a geeky kid who finds the Loc-Nar in his backyard, and it sends him to a totally different world where he’s transformed into a muscular bald guy called Den by the locals. He rescues a voluptuous babe meant for a sacrifice to some god, only to have go and take the Loc-Nar(which has somehow found its way to this world too)from a corrupt buxom queen. We’re then introduced to the slimy Captain Sternn who is on trial for several galactic offenses, but is sprung by his flunkie who “hulks out” and rips the space station apart. Following that is a grim war story about airmen that are turned into zombies by the Loc-Nar. This takes us into a more comedic(but slightly unrelated)segment where a secretary is accidently abducted by two alien cokeheads and their horny robot. The last chapter supposedly takes place in the past about the Loc-Nar morphs a nomad tribe into possessed mutants that ravage an entire city of scholars. The bikini-clad warrior woman Taarna is psychically called by the last of these scholars, and goes to avenge them. She kills the mutant leader, and uses her magic sword to destroy the Loc-Nar. This leads into the revelation that the girl that the Loc-Nar was confronting at the beginning is the next incarnation of Taarna’s warrior lineage, and somehow Taarna’s nixing the Loc-Nar in the past causes the one in the future to be finished too.

Ivan Reitman of Ghostbusters fame produced this movie at the same time he was doing his other film, Stripes, so it features quite a few actors from it doing voice overs in it, with weirdly enough John Candy as the beefy Den, plus some other Second City alumni like Eugene Levy as Captain Sternn. Heavy Metal had numerous studios behind it, including CineGroupe(who ironically later did Tripping The Rift), and Atkinson Film-Arts that did mostly family friendly stuff like Care Bears and The Racoons. There was a segment that wasn’t included in the theatrical release about how the the Loc-Nar influenced the evolution of life on Earth, but was dropped because it seemed to stop the flow of the movie, it did make it to the video release though. This movie has achieved a cult status, mostly due to its adult nature which made it one of the classic midnight movies of its time. There was a sequal made called Heavy Metal 2000(one of several films to come out at the time with “2000″ in the title), but is very skipable. If you want check out what old school comic book nerds got off on back in the day, or just wanna see a killer rock & roll/sci-fi epic filled with babes and blood in it, then spin this LP long into the night!

MISC. MANGA, *Lycanthrope Leo

There's not alot of manga about werewolves, even though this one is more about general lycanthropes, including werebuffalo. Kenjo Kaji(scriptwriter for the Wolverine anime)put together this number back in the early 90s along with artist Kenji Okamaru(from Crimson Wolf), which only had a limited run in America through Viz. They did seven single issues that was later compiled into a trade paperback volume, even though there were about four volumes printed originally in Japan.

Leo Takizawa is an athletic high school student who seems like he's going to score big on his track team. But for his seventeenth birthday, his father takes him into a cabin to the woods to tell him that he's not his real father. He tells Leo that he's part of a special group called Hunters that track down and kill lycanthropes, and that he adopted Leo as a baby after slaying his mother. Leo's father then tries to kill him, but Leo transforms into a lycanthrope himself(which is actually a werelion), and unintentionally murders his father. Fearing for his life, Leo heads back home, and manages to get away with not being suspected as it turns out his father's corpse was cleaned up by the Hunters. One of his teachers at school, the seemingly meek Mr. Okure, also reveals himself to be a Hunter, and tries to take him out with a special toxin that slows down his transformations, along with a particularly dangerous repeat-firing crossbow. Leo though musters enough strength, and turns into his full werelion form to defeat(but not kill)Okure. Okure's replacement is the uber-sexy Asuka, who is also a lycanthrope, and a member of the Protectorate. They are an elite group of carnivore lycanthropes that looks out for the other meat-eaters in their tribe, which has infiltrated some of the highest levels of government in preparation for a planned war with humanity. Fortunately, the captain of the school's kempo team, the large Shunusuke, helps pull him away from the dark side. Shunusuke is actually a werebuffalo from a lycanthrope tribe in the mountains which is made up entirely of herbivores. Leo has to decide whether to fight his animal instincts, or give into the beast within.

This was an okay manga, although not really in the level of a regular horror story. More of a supernatural action series. The artwork is pretty intense, although the story could use some better pacing. It would be worth looking for the entire series if you can find it translated into English.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Space Adventure Cobra

Here’s an old one to look for as it finally was released in the U.S. on DVD. Space Adventure Cobra was originally a manga that ran from the late-70s to mid-80s by Buichi Terasawa(who also did Goku: Midnight Eye). This was later given four different manga sequals, an outrageous TV series from the 80s, two recent OVA series, and a brand new TV series that just came out this year. But one of the most memorable incarnations was this full-length anime motion picture. It came out prior to the TV series, so it was the first anime based on the manga, and was directed by Osamu Dezaki who later went on to do the TV series too. Dezaki had prior to this directed Astro Boy and Lupin The 3rd, and since then: Might Orbots, Bionic Six, Visionaries, Black Jack, Air, and Golgo 13. His brilliant direction makes this movie visually ahead of its time.

In what seems plot with Flash Gordon in the Star Wars universe, Cobra is a space pirate who faked his own death two years ago, and had some serious plastic surgery in order to hide from the galactic mafia known as The Guild. Cobra reveals his identity to the sexy bounty hunter Jane, who has been searching for him. Jane is one princess triplets of a wandering planet., and has to rescue her sister Catherine from a floating prision on another world. She sets off in Cobra’s ship along with his android babe Lady, and Cobra manages to break into the prision, but is captures by the Guild lieutenant, the cybernetic Crystal Boy. Jane finds Catherine, who is under Crystal Boy’s control, and kills Jane. Cobra escapes, and then goes to find Jane’s other sister Dominique on an ice planet. Dominique is the head of a group of all-women freedom fighters who are constantly at war with the Guild. Crystal Boy and his cronies show up and waste most of the snow amazons, with Dominique getting killed in the process. Despite losing both of the sisters he cared for, Cobra warps to the wandering planet to stop Crystal Boy from using Catherine to control it. Cobra finally defeats Crystal Boy, and Catherine then leads the planet away for another century.

Osamu Dezaki really went the extra routre in this movie to make it as visually seductive as possible. The 3D-like effects and backgrounds make for hell of a rush. There is some unbelievably great action and chase scenes, plus some fine fan-service for the early 80s. Fans of Heavy Metal will totally dig this flick!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Note to Cosplay Girls from Fanboys...

ANI-MOVIES, *Batman: Under The Red Hood

Being the first full-length Batman animated movie in a long time that had one consistant story to it(Gotham Knight not withstanding), the latest movie, Under The Red Hood is a retelling of the Under The Hood story arc from the Batman comics. This is a bold new direction for DC Universe by taking a character they’ve tried selling as being more family-oriented in productions like Batman: Brave And The Bold, and bringing the one that most die-hard comic readers can identify with on the level of The Dark Knight.

The story begins in the past with Joker under the payroll of Ra’s Al Ghul keeping Batman and Robin #2(Jason Todd)busy while he tries yet again to take over the world. However, the Joker “shockingly” goes way overboard, and kills Robin. Fast forward to five years later where a new masked man called the Red Hood is shaking up things in Gotham City by slowly taking over territory of local crime lord, Black Mask. Batman busts up a delivery of an Amazo robot with the help of Nightwing, but the goons smuggling it are taken out by the Red Hood. Originally, the Red Hood was the alias that the Joker used before he was given his permanent skin bleach. Bats and Nightwing check with Joker in locked in Arkham to see if he’s got any connection to this new Red Hood, but even your novice Bat-Fan could tell you the real Joker would’ve let you know if it was him. The Dynamic-former-Duo track down Hoodie robbing some pushers, but Nightwing hoits his widdle toe, and spends the rest of the movie on the bench. Black Mask sends out the Fearsome Hand Of Four after Red Mask, who are a team of cyber-ninjas original to the movie, but Batman shows up and they fold that deck together. Batman then deduces that R.H. is really Jason Todd, and takes the Batwing over to the other side of the world to have a chat with Ra’s Al Ghul. Ra’s revealed that he tried making amends for causing Jason to die by dipping him in his time-honored plot device, the Lazarus Pit. Jason came back, but pissed off as Hell, and escaped from Ra’s. After hearing this, Batman zooms back to Gotham, to find that Black Mask sprung Joker out of Arkham to kill Red Hood, but Joker doublecrossed him(suprise!), and uses him as bait to lure out his current successor. Red Hood makes off with Joker, and gets Batman to meet him in Crime Alley. Red Hood unmasks to show is indeed Jason Todd. Jason then corners Batman into either choosing between shooting him or Joker, which he stops Jason, and the building they’re in blows up. Batman and Joker survive, but Jason’s fate remains unknown. The movie ends with Batman reflecting on when Jason first became Robin.

First, I’d like to say how this movie differs from the comics. In the original context, Jason Todd was brought back to life mainly because the evil Superboy-Prime “punched reality”, and made it so Jason came back to life, although recent retellings of Red Hood’s origin also include him backstoking in a Lazarus Pit. There’s ben alot of retconning involving Jason’s resurrection, but the movie managed to pull it all together well. A few other things like the Black Mask hiring some C-List supervillains from the Secret Society instead of the “Hand Of Four” from the original story, although it makes more sense for them to have Batman taking on Mortal Kombat wannabes instead of Captain Nazi, even though they could’ve had them be the Royal Flush Gang or some other recognizable DC villains. There was also the rewrite of the Death In The Family story where Joker blows up Robin in the middle east, instead of Europe. Plus, no supervillain would ever be stupid or desperate enough to hire the Joker to do anything, and certainly not a criminal mastermind like Ra’s Al Ghul! Nightwing was also a little to flippant in this, like freaking out over the Amazo shooting lasers at him, which he should be used to after being with the Titans. Another character who was out of place was Black Mask, who is usually alot more cool and calculating, where here he was way more hotheaded.

As for the movie itself, I think this one has the best animation out of any of the other DC Universe movies, including some of the shorts from Gotham Knight. The city backgrounds look like it might be taking place in the actual downtown New York instead of fictional Gotham City, despite the fact that there are still police blimps in it. The character designs are awesome too, and Joker really looks menacing for once. Speaking of Mr. J, John DiMaggio(aka: “Bender”)does a bang-up job as Joker by bringing in influences of both Mark Hamill and Heath Ledger. Bruce Greenwood is fair as Bats, but he’s no Kevin Conroy. Jason Ackles is good as Jason Todd, and Neil Patrick Harris makes for a decent Nightwing. My only real low grade on the movie is that it should’ve ended on a more realistic note instead of just some happy flashback with young Jason Todd. The special edition DVD and Blu-Ray versions also feature a killer DC Showcase animated short of Jonah Hex starring Thomas Jane which is waaaay better than that crappy live-action movie, plus a decent documentary on Dick Grayson as Robin. So, in closing, I’d wholeheartedly demand that any Bat-Fan should store this in their cave between the giant penny and robot dinosaur

MISC. MANGA, *Vampire Game

If Garfield were a reincarnated vampire lord leaving in a midevil castle, I think it might go something like this. From shounen-ai expert Judal comes this tale of fun, intrigue, and fantasy with sparks of Samurai Deeper Kyo and Bastard.

Set in an alternate past, the Vampire King Duzell waged a war against the human kingdom of the great saint Phelios. Duzell was defeated by means of a spell that would kill the caster as well as the person it was used on, but he swore to be reborn a century later, and kill the reincarnation of Phelios. A hundred years later, the great grandaughter of Phelios, Princess Ishtar, is now the regining head of the kingdom. She is constantly being lectured by her bodyguard and captain of the guard, Darres, as well as the court wizard, Keld. After hearing reports of a mad creature in a neighboring village, Ishtar heads out to confront it. Darres follows her and kills the beast which is a tiger-like animal called a kyawl, but not before it gives birth to its son. Ishtar takes the cub home with her as her pet cat and jokingly names it Duzell after her family's long dead enemy, What she or no one else knows, is that the cat houses the spirit of the actual Duzell, who has also used some of the blood he tasted from Ishtar in their first meeting to be able to take on a human form, looking like a male version of Ishtar. Ishtar discovers her pets weird ability to assume her shape after he is confused with being an assassin, but she keeps it a secret, still unaware that it is still the reborn vampire king. Duzell continues to play the part of Ishtar's cat while he searches for King Phelio's reincarnation within the extended members of Ishtar's family.

Vampire Game is a visually fine manga. The character designs rival those of Clamp, and has very interesting sequential movement. Better make room on your bookshelf!

Friday, August 24, 2012

MISC. MANGA, *Van Von Hunter

Another "lucky winner" of Tokyo Pop's Rising Stars Of Manga contest, the boys from Pseudom Studios took their entry and turned it into this ongoing series. Apparently a followup to their original story(featured in R.S.O.M., Volume #1), and their webcomic, this new one picks up after the whole original cast suffers from some weirdo amnesia spell.

Taking place years after the brave warrior, Van Von Hunter, defeated the "Flaming Prince" of the underworld land of Dikay, he has reappeared to seek out his sexy sidekick(whose name we never really find out!). Van finds her working as a barmaid and totally not remembering her previous encounters with him. He takes her to his old mansion run by an eccentric butler and psychotic maid. Afterwards, they are approached by a young woman who wants to hire Van for a sacred quest. They head to remote village where Van's old enemy, the "Flaming Prince", is planning on stealing an enchanted artifact called the Ebon Eye which is supposed to give its holder necromatic powers. The Prince himself has allied with a very hungry minotaur called The Beast, and a doublecrossing jester goblin, plus some out of work distgruntled farmers who're rebelling against the current king. Van and his crew eventual clash with the prince and an undead monster he creates with the Ebon Eye. Everything wraps up in a weird comic fantasy-type way, but still leaves room for more chapters to come.

This is a pretty well written American manga. It doesn't have the pure zany madcap humor like alot of role-playing game spoof titles like Slayers or Sorcerer Hunters, but it does have great timing and development, almost like a Monty Python sketch. Be sure to thumb through this number.

ANI-MOVIES, *Paprika

Based on the story by Yasutaka Tsutsui(which weirdly enough was first printed in a French women’s magazine), was turned into the late Satoshi Kon’s most celebrated production. Even though it was done in 2006, this was the last full-length animated movie he completed before he passed away, but its influence has been far reaching, including allegedly Christopher Nolan’s thriller, Inception.

Set in the not to distant future, therapists are using a new invention called the DC Mini to monitor patients’ dreams, and sometimes actually enter their subconscious. Atsuko is an all-business psychiatrist on this project, and goes into people’s dreams in her secret identity, the energetic Paprika. Paprika is currently helping out the troubled police detective Toshimi with his anxiety complex, either through his dreams or a website which can somehow link patients to Paprika even without being hooked up to the DC Mini. However, some of the DC Minis are now missing, and its apparent that those working on it have become susceptible to it as they are now having their own dreams taken over causing them to go temporarily insane, and in some cases suicidal. The creator of the DC Mini is Tokita, an obscenely obese fanboy who you can’t believe actually made it into some of the places the movie shows him in, like an elevator or compact car. He has a serious chubby for Atsuko though. It’s revealed that the corrupt Chairman of the hospital is behind the whole scheme, along with his perverse partner Osanai. The major downside is that for some reason dreams and reality have now been put into a big margarita mix, and Paprika pulls a deus ex machina by completely sucking up the Chairman. The event really did happen as the city is damaged from the events filled with giant robots and people turning into walking appliances. The most reality-bending aspect of the whole movie is at the end when Atsuko plans to marry Tokita, even though how the hell they could possibly have sex on their honeymoon defies all anime physics.

This is one of the most mind-warping anime films ever made, it pulls some convincing fusion of the real world and dreams in ways Satoshi Kon did in Paranoia Agent, but Paprika takes it to levels only seen in productions like Spirited Away and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. There’s some great use of both generic and computer animation, although its got some serious mature elements to it which is definately not for kids. Its one of the few anime movies to be released in the States under an R rating. But if you have no problem with its more adult nature, then its definately one of the few anime acid trips that ultimately pays off.

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 4: Page 12

Story by Jer Alford, art by E. Aedo.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

MISC. MANGA, *Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase

Another vampire manga? Well...this ones a little more for the shojo and gothic lolita crowd.

Kouhei is a photographer working for a spiritual investigation magazine. The problem for him is everytime he takes a picture a ghost appears somewhere in it. He is part of a long line of spiriualists and psychics, although his only real ability is spectral photography. He and his crew are at an old castle in Europe which is rumored to be haunted. While taking pictures from far outside the castle, Kouhei notices a young girl on one of the towers.Later that night, Kouhei goes in to investigate. He finds the girl inside. Her name is Hazuki, and she sweet-talks him into kissing him. It turns out that Hazuki is really a vampire, and the kiss is supposed to make Kouhei her servent. However, Kouhei is psychically immune to all forms of possession, and he's also very thickheaded. Then, Hazuki's guardian comes after the both of them, but Kouhei escapes the castle. Unbeknownst to him, Hazuki also is now free of the bonds placed on her within the castle, and she follows him back to Japan. Once she catches up to him, Hazuki convinces Kouhei to help her find her mother. Hazuki's mother was seduced by a powerful vampire lord, and he placed Hazuki in the castle to keep her to himself. Since her father was now gone away, Hazuki could search for her mother, but she needed the help of her "servant" to do that.

This is a pretty good and intriguing manga. It's funny and well drawn, with an engaging storyline. Hazuki's habit of wearing different outfits(primarily ones with cat ears)make it a good selection for cosplay fans.

With blackjack and hookers...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

MISC. MANGA, *Soulfire

Michael Turner's work on Superman/Batman brought it to godlike popularity. This comic of his own that he collaborated with writer Jeph Loeb.

Soulfire takes place in the early 23rd Century. Even though it doesn't seem as advanced as a future you'd imagine would be two hundred years from now, they still cling to outdated concepts like virtual reality arcades. Its here that young Mal and his mates were enjoying a nice afternoon engaged in electronic fantasy worlds. They are soon brought back to the real world when a mysterious bikini-clad woman approaches them, and grabs Mal and hurls them both out of a skyscraper. What seems like a botched suicide attempt turns into something different as the woman reveals to have a pair of large wings on her back. Mal manages to knock himself free from her, only to plummet to almost certain doom. Luckily he hits a few streamers on the way down to break his fall. After landing, another strange woman on a motorcycle rides up and offers to save him. The winged woman chases after them. The biker chick also has a pair of wings, and she flies up after the other one where they engage in mortal combat. After the evil winged-chick leaves, the other one reveals herself as Grace, and that she must take Mal to Hawaii on a matter that involves saving the entire world. At the same time, reports start coming from all over the planet about dragons showing up and causing devastation to numerous major cities.

Soulfire has a very crisp and colorful look to it. The dragons featured in it look like they're something that the makers of Evangelion would quake at. The story itself has a great "Blade Runner meets Lord Of The Rings" appeal to it. It appears to have a bright future, provided the creators can avoid the pitfalls of other hyped-up fantasy comics like Battle Chasers and keep their mind on track with their artistic vision.

Pony Hunt NES

Monday, August 20, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Howl's Moving Castle

Hiyao Miyazaki came out of retirement for like the third time to do this adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones’ book. It was originally going to be directed by Mamoru Hosodu of Digimon(although he went on to do the awesome Summer Wars!), but bugged out early, so Miyazaki stepped in to fill in the part. Like Castle In The Sky, Miyazaki elegently fuses steampunk with magic in this romantic fantasy.

Taking place in a European-like country, Sophie Hatter is a young hatmaker(convenient name!)that has a brief encounter with the bishonen sorcerer Howl. Sophie has a curse put on her by the spiteful Witch of the Waste who is jealous of Howl flirting with her. Sophie is now turned into an old version of herself, so she heads out into into the land known as the Wastes to find a way to break the curse. With the help of a living scarecrow(shades of Wizard Of Oz), Sophie makes her way to the mobile castle of Howl himself, which is powered by the fire demon Calcifur that is under Howl’s service. Sophie takes on the role of Howl’s housekeeper, although she can’t tell him about the curse she’s under. Howl on his own becomes aware of Sophie’s enchantment, but also starts falling for her inner-self, just as Sophie is stricken with him. While all this is going on, a war has been escalating between Sophie’s country and an opposing kingdom. Howl is called in to be of service to their king, but has set up multiple aliases to keep from being drafted. He sends Sophie to the castle to answer for him disguised as his mother, although its trap set by the royal sorceress Madame Suliman. The Witch of the Waste is caught in her trap first and has all her magic stolen from her, reducing her to an old woman. Howl rescues the both of them, and then tries to set up a new life for everyone away from the war. Suliman sends her goons out to hunt down Howl, which seems a bit wasteful of resources since she should be using them to help fight in the war going on. Howl ends up using too much of his magic though, and it causes the castle to fall apart. Sophie has to travel deep inside Howl’s psyche in order to bring him back from turning into a monster from his overuse of magic. She manages to save him, and at the same time the curse on her is lifted(even though her hair is still grey). It’s revealed that the scarecrow is the prince from the warring country, and returns to stop the conflict, while Sophie and Howl go to live happily ever after in their new “castle in the sky”.

The movie goes off in a different direction towards the third act than that of the original novel, plus a few things are altered like Howl being a skirtchaser, as well as less emphasis on the actual war going on around the characters. There is a real sense of romance in this movie as opposed to some of Miyazaki’s others, at least in the sense of a more mature nature instead of between two children. Visually, its one of the best anime movies of the 2000s, and finely handles CGI with 2D animation. Its been met with mixed reviews, even though I believe it has a well-thought out storyline, especially for a Miyazaki film which sometimes tends to get a little muddled near the conclusion. The Disney dub is fair too, with Billy Crystal as Calcifur, even though Christain Bale is a little weak at time as Howl(especially when he uses the Batman voice). This is a great storybook fantasy, and one of my personal favorite animated movie classics.

Brock Samson Vs. Black Dynamite

Saturday, August 18, 2012

MISC. MANGA, *Sokora Refugees

Another of Tokyo Pop's original manga-styled graphic novel series. This was is put together by writer Segamu(assuming that's his real name)and artist Melissa DeJesus. It's take on the time honored tradition of a girl travelling to other dimensions. But Alice and Dororthy didn't have monsters and fanatical elves to deal with.

In it, Kana is a girl who is suffering from lack of cleavage. Her friends Julie and Tamara try to cheer her up, but to no avail. Then, a new transfer studend named Tien shows up. He always wears a hat on his head, and it turns out its to hide the long elf ears he has. Tien is on Earth because his elvin brother Tristan is forming a resistance group in their dimension of Sokora against an army of monsters who are ravaging the land. These monsters had taken a voluptuous elvin sorceress called Veila hostage, but she just barely managed to escape being roasted alive by them.

Tien grows restless, and plans to escape Earth and go back to Sokora. For some reason though, he creates the portal between the two worlds in the school's girls locker room. Kana accidently falls through as Tien makes it, and ends up running into Veila. Veila is badly injured from her encounter, and transfers her essence into Kana. Unaware of this, Kana ends up running away back through the portal, but now with her body altered resembling Veila's gorgeous physique.

From here, the story fluctuates with Tien and his brother going back and forth from Sokora to convince Kana to come with them, Kana realizing the spirit and new power dwelling within her as well as how her new body will affect her social status, plus Kana's friends get in on the action too. All this while the forces of evil in Sokora plot to destroy all traces of the elves in their world.

Anime fans will totally dig the authentic manga artwork and storytelling. Plus, furries will undeniably fall for Salome, the sexy racoon girl/nymph who's a part of Tristian's resistance movement. There's lots of gratuitous fan service and fun in this gem.

ANI-MOVIES, *Superman/Batman: Apocalypse

Being so far being the only direct sequal to one of the DC Universe movies, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse acts as a follow-up to Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. It was based on the second story arc from the Superman/Batman comic book series which regularly teams up the World’s Finest, although this one acts more as an origin story for Supergirl in the new DC Universe. Lauren Montgomery takes over from Sam Liu as the director, who also did the Wonder Woman and Green Lantern animated movies. Tim Daly and Kevin Conroy return as the voices of the title characters, along with Susan Eisenberg coming back from Justice League as Wonder Woman, and Ed Asner reprising his role as nasty-ass Granny Goodness. The addition of the sultry Summer Glau as Supergirl is a real bonus for the fans too. Despite the title though, there isn’t anything really “apocalyptic” about it, at least not in the Earth-destroying kind of way.

Set sometime after Luthor was impeached, a chunk of the Kryptonite crashes into Gotham Harbor, which had a small lifepod in it. Batman goes to investigate, and discovers that there was an occupant in the pod with powers and abilities far beyond those of normal hot blonde chicks. While walking around dazed in Gotham, she realizes she has super-strength, heat vision, and can fly. Batman tries to bring her in, but the mystery girl accidently knocks down one of Gotham’s numerous automated police blimps(might wanna rethink about having those be piloted, Gotham PD!). Superman stops the blimp from causing any real damage, and after Batman scans the alien girl at the Batcave, he realizes that she’s really his cousin, Kara Zor-El. Superman brings her to the Fortress of Solitude where he brings her up to date on Earth and its culture. He tries passing her off as Clark Kent’s cousin, although Wonder Woman steps in to take Kara to Themyscara for special training so she can control her powers better. Cut to a few months later, Kara has had special warrior training under Wonder Woman and Artemis(the “ex-Wonder Woman”), and befriends Harbinger, who here she just goes by the name Lyla. Meanwhile, Darkseid plans to kidnap Kara to add her to his honor guard, so he teleports an army of downgraded Doomsday clones to keep the heroes occupied while he kills Lyla and makes off with Kara. The Big Three enlist Big Barda for a Boom Tube to Apokolips(that’s how its spelled!), and all go off on seperate missions. WW and Barda take on Granny Goodness’ Female Furies, Batman tracks down a storehouse of explosions, while Superman battles a brainwashed Kara who is intent on destroying her cousin. Batman threatens to use Darkseid’s explosives to destroy Apokolips if he doesn’t release Kara from his control, and he reluctantly lets her go. Once back on Earth, Clark takes Kara to live on the Kent farm for a while, but Darkseid bursts out of the house(probably was waiting their couch!)and wailes on Superman by Falcon Punching him into the atomosphere. Kara gets pissed, and starts tearing Darkseid a new a-hole, however Darkseid gets the advantage. Superman gets a brief solar recharge which gives him the strength to beat the rocks out of Darkseid, and ship him through a Boom Tube into deep space. Kara then decides she wants to use her powers to protect people, so she adopts the identity of Supergirl to follow in her cousin’s bootprints.

Unlike a few of the other DC Universe movies, this one followed the comic book pretty much to the letter. There were quite a few but still minor changes in Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, but this really stuck to the original source material. The character designs were closely modeled after those of the artist’s, the later Michael Turner, with the characters being very lean and muscular. The film also has probably some of the best fight sequences in a DC Universe production since Wonder Woman. The Special Edition DVD and Blu-Ray also features an original DC Showcase of Green Arrow, plus a cool retrospective on the history of Supergirl. You don’t have to watch the original Super/Bats movie in order to enjoy this on its own, that and its a great introduction to Power Girl Jr.!

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 4: Page 11

Story by Jer Alford, art by E. Aedo.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *DC Showcase

DC Universe decided to go ahead and take their DC Showcase features from three of their prior regular full-length releases into a single movie anthology, along with a brand new longer segment, the headliner of Superman/Shazam: The Return Of Black Adam. It also claims to have all three of the previous shorts now in expanded editions, but that is not the case with this as none of the shorts of The Spectre, Jonah Hex, or Green Arrow were changed in any way from their original release. Why they advertised it like this I have no idea, as Warner Bros. is usually pretty straight forward with their promotions and let you know what you’re really getting.

The first feature is of Superman/Shazam that actually acts as an origin story for Captain Marvel, which is pretty cool since there’s never really been anything done of him outside the comic books. BTW, I need to point out that this is the DC Comics’ Captain Marvel who is really the original one, and not the Marvel Comics character of the same name. There’s a long history behind that involving copyrights and whatnot, that I suggest you look up on your own time. Anyway, it opens with an evil superpowered baddy called Black Adam arriving on Earth after hitchhiking it across the galaxy for the last 5,000 years. Adam was given the powers of the Greek Gods by the wizard Shazam long ago, but went rogue, so the wizard sent him far into space. Now that he’s returned, Adam seeks out the next one who will inherit the powers of Shazam. It turns out to be a young orphen named Billy Batson who is currently being interviewed by Clark Kent for a news report on the homeless(even though he has an apartment). Adam shows up and flings Kent through a wall, although conveniently Superman shows up(weird!)to give him a run for his money. Billy manages to escape, and is magically sent to the underground lair of the aging Shazam. He gives Billy the ability to turn into an older version of himself with the powers of flight, speed, and superstrength, with the new name of Captain Marvel. He and Superman team up to take down Black Adam, and with the help of Shazam’s talking tiger friend, con the villain into reverting back to his old form which ages him five millenia in a single moment. The mini-movie ends with Billy sorta forgetting the whole concept of a “secret identity” when confronted by some punks. This was a great little feature which explored some of the old DC Comics Presents territory where Superman would team up with other heroes in Brave And The Bold fashion. It was wonderfully directed by Joaquim Dos Santos who also did great work in Avatar: The Last Airbender, as well as the other DC Showcase shorts.

The first of the three original Showcase stories is The Spectre which is done like a cross between a 70s detective TV show and a grindhouse movie. Jim Corrigan is a police detective who is really the Spirit of Vengenance, and as the Spectre he hunts down the murderers of an ex-girlfriend’s rich father. This has some particularly spooky and gripping scenes in it. The Spectre himself is very convincing as voiced by Gary Cole(aka: Harvey Birdman!)

Next is Green Arrow, where the Emerald Archer has to rescue a young princess in an airport from assassins. He gets into a chase with several thugs while being shot at by the evil archer, Merlyn The Magnificent. GA bests Merlyn, but is nearly taken out by his client, Count Vertigo. Luckily, Black Canary shows up to bail Arrow out. Neal McDonough was fine as GA, and Malcom McDowell is charismatic as ever as Merlyn.

The final bit is Jonah Hex which was phenomenally better than that crappy live-action movie. It’s a regular tale of the horribly scarred gunslinger with no supernatural plotpoints thrown in for no good reason. Jonah goes hunting for an outlaw with a large bounty on him, and runs a fowl of a crooked but dead sexy bar owner and her goons. This holds up as being a great Old West tale, while still holding onto the great feel of a nostalgic comic story. Thomas Jane is also just as tough as the voice of Hex, and not just doing a Western version of The Punisher.

Aside from how there was nothing new added to the previously released shorts, I’d say this is worth at least renting if you didn’t have the Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths, Batman: Under The Red Hood, or Superman/Batman: Apocalypse special edition DVDs or Blu-Rays. I dunno if there are plans to release Superman/Shazam as a bonus on an upcoming feature release, but otherwise unless you’re a huge Superman or Capt. Marvel fan you might wanna save your money until this ends up in the used DVD rack.

MISC. MANGA, *Sgt. Frog

From Mine Yoshizaki, the creator of Arcade Gamer Fubuki, comes this great mixture of Invader Zim and The Grim Adventures Of Billy And Mandy. Sgt. Frog, or Sgt. Keroro as its called in Japan, is your typical boy-meets-cute alien story, but this one is done for anime fans with plenty of hyjinks enstore.

Sgt. Keroro is the leader of a squad of five invaders from the planet Keron, where everyone there is basically 2 ft. frog people. While doing observations of an Earth family, he is discovered by the two children, Fuyuki and his older sister Natsumi. Now, his mission has been comprimised as they capture him and capture his Kero Ball which is a piece of alien hardware. They then get a quick message from his planet that they're cancelling the invasion of Earth and have to leave all their soldiers there behind. Now, the sergeant is stuck on Earth, but luckily Fuyuki takes a liking to him. He convinces Natsumi to let the stay with them, as long as he does all the chores. Then, their mother Aki, a manga editor, comes home from an extended business trip to discover an alien frog now living in their house. Weirdly enough, she becomes completely fascinated with him, and unknowingly makes him the star of her next manga, Baron Frog. After that, they all learn that Fuyuki's classmate Momoko, who secretly has a major crush on Fuyuki, is housing Private Tamama, the younger member of Sgt. Frog's missing team. He also has a split-personality and the ability to shoot lasers from his eyes. They later find Corporal Giroro, the trigger-happy officer from Frog's unit.

Sgt. Frog has already developed into a popular anime series, as well as a line of merchandise that nearly rivals Hello Kitty. The manga is extremely funny, and great fun for younger readers, although it does have some mature themes to it. Better than E.T., and funnier than Alf, this is one alien abduction you'll like to see. Also check out the Arcade Gamer Fubuki anime which is in the same universe at this too!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 4: Page 10

Story by Jer Alford, art by E. Aedo.

ANI-MOVIES, *Firebreather

Cartoon Network decided to go an extra step further with one of their regular productions with this CGI made-for-TV movie based on the Image Comics series by Phil Hester and Andy Kuhn. The comic has been was two seperate mini-series and a one-shot special, although the title character is a regular part of the Image Comics universe, and seen in comics like Invincible and Bomb Queen, even though he was first concieved to be part of Marvel Comics’ Young Avengers team. The film was written by Jim Krieg who also wrote for Ben 10 and Spider-Man, plus it was directed by Peter Chung(creator of Aeon Flux!).

The movie takes place sometime after a there was an an attack of giant monsters referred to as “kaiju” that ravaged metropolitan cities across the country. The king of the monsters, Belloc, reaches somekind of treaty with the humans by having a woman bearing his child. There is never any explanation as to how this was done! I mean, did they go out for a movie and some dancing, and then end up doing it on top of the Houston Astrodome? The sheer size-difference is mindboggling enough! It’d be like Smurfette trying to get it on with Wilt Chamberlain! Anyway, cut to 16 years later, and Godzilla Jr. has grown up into a slightly normal looking teenager boy named Duncan, aside from the orange-ish skin and rugged skin that most people must think is zits. He and his mom Margaret have moved into a southeastern suburban town, and Duncan has trouble dealing with the token a-hole jocks at his new school. Duncan goes to a party later that night and tries to pick up a cute blonde there, but it all goes to Hell when his Dad shows up and carries him off to his underground lair. Belloc explains to him since he is the heir to the kaiju monarchy that the other kaiju can challenge him for succession. Duncan mutates into full dragon-humanoid mode where he can breath fire and has superstrength. He is later found by the anti-kaiju military force, one of whom is undercover as his school’s gym teacher, and Duncan is brought home to his mother. Later, he becomes the target of two rebellious kaiju who want to take over. Duncan sprouts large wings(larger than what he had in the comic), and manages to bury them under a mountain of snow, which is weirdly enough right by the desert. Despite his secret being blown, Duncan goes back to being a high school student, even though you’d think that he’d have to be swarmed by paparazzi after taking down some rejects from Monster Island.

This was a pretty well executed movie. There’s some great action scenes, and the animation really grabs the full scale of the giant monsters. You’d almost wish that these guys were working on Power Rangers. I’m not sure if some of the animators who did this worked on The Clone Wars, but it was a vast improvement from their normal work if it was. I’d highly adise you to check this out next time it plays on TV, or if when it makes its inevitable DVD release.

Monday, August 13, 2012

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 4: Page 9

ANI-MOVIES, *Nadesico: The Motion Picture

Most of the time, when a movie is a continuation of an anime TV series, its either a remake like Escaflowne, or it takes place during the show like Naruto. However, alot of times the movie will act as a conclusion for a series that has already run its course, such was the case in Evangelion and Fullmetal Alchemist. The Nadesico anime(also known as Martian Successor Nadesico)was a 26-episode TV series that was billed as being a “space opera”, but at the same time was one of the first shows that actually riffed on anime fandom, specifically the outer space and giant robot genres. There were numerous references and jokes used throughout it which spoofed/honored the whole mecha theme in anime, even to the point where the opposing alien army had based their entire culture on a 70s super robot show. It was also a harem anime with the main antagonist had at least 2-3 girls vying for his attention, even during the middle of a space battle. So, mix Star Trek with Gundam and mix in a Love Hina sense of humor, this is what you’ll get.

The movie itself takes place about three years after the series ended, where fan-favorite Ruri who was an ensign when we last left her is now a full-fledged captain with her own ship, the Nadesico-B. The war between Earth and the Jovians(who’re really outcasted humans from Jupiter)has ceased, and the original Nadesico-A crew has split up, most of which left the military altogether. Three of their numbers were killed though during an accident: the main character Akito, Captain Yurika, and the over-explaining Inez. It might seem a little disheartening to have some of the major characters murdered offscreen, but this comes into play later on. Ruri and her crew go to inspect the main station involved in the Hidalgo Plan which combines several warpgates using Boson Jumping linking parts of space into one big junction. The station suddenly gets taken over by a rogue new faction calling themselves the Martian Successors made up of people from the Jovian and Earth governments. They are utilizing the alien artifact found on Mars at the end of the TV series to capture the entire Boson Jump network, which is being controlled by an unconcious Yurika who is not as dead as rumored. Akito is not so dead either, and acting on his own in a dark Aestvalis mecha trying to stop the rebels. Ruri is given command of the new Nadesico-C to head to Mars and confront the Martian Successors, so she has to get the old Nadesico-A crew back to man it. Her officer Hari teleports to Mars with another A-class Boson Jumper, the also not-dead Inez, and prepare the new Nadesico for the final battle. Akito has a last duel with the commander of the Successors who caused him and Yurika to have their deaths faked in the first place, and then takes off into space leaving Yurika finally awakened by Ruri and the others. This leaves room for a sequal where Akito and Yurika are reunited, which unfortunately never happened.

As a followup to the TV show, this was fairly good. Given the extensive original cast, they managed to give most of them some decent screentime, although the two main ones are either now tragically emo or unconcious for the whole movie. This was really a chance for the supporting characters to shine, especially Ruri who had been thrust into the captain’s chair to make the fanboys happy. The animation took a serious upgrade from the series to the movie, mainly in the space battles and mecha fights which were downplayed quite a bit on the TV show. I’d mainly only advise this be watched by fans of the original anime, even though the ending leaves you wanting for there to be more.

Crush! Kill Casshern! Destroy! Swag!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

MISC. MANGA, *Sea Princess Azuri

Another of Tokyo Pop's original American manga titles. This one however is fully anthropomorphic!
Taking place in an undersea kingdom, you might think this would be your standard Little Mermaid ripoff. But, the merfolk here are actually half-orca called Orcans. They have had an unsettling peace with the Eel people for a while, and both kingdoms wish to settle their differences by having the heirs to each throne get married. The pricess Azuri wants to live a more carefree life though, and spend time with her best friend Thalo who is in the royal guard. On the day that she is supposed to meet her future husband, Azuri befriends an orphened unicorn seal and takes it as her pet. She then encounters the Prince Unagi of the Eel people and starts to recongnize his charms. At the same time, Thalo is confessing his true feelings for Azuri to her.

This was a pretty short volume for your average Tokyo Pop graphic novel, at only about half the size of their standard publications. But still the artwork is very good, and the story is enchanting. It's one you have to buy into a little at first though, otherwise you might get lost in the inner-workings of this self-contained little world. Great fun for anthro-fanatics!

ANI-MOVIES: Sword Of The Stranger

Probably the best samurai anime since Samurai Champloo, this recent movie won international awards across the board. Studio Bones, best known for Fullmetal Alchemist and Eureka Seven through together this epic clash of Japanese and Chinese fighting styles, but with Western gaijin taking the center stage.

Set in 19th Century Japan, a local lord is working with some representatives from the Chinese emperor who are looking for a young boy whose blood is supposed to grant immortality in a ceremony that can only be held once a year. The sacrifice in question is Kotoro, and is on the run from the Chinese agents with his dog Tobimaru(who is arguably the most talented dog in all of anime!). They come across a ronin called “No-Name” because he never gives his actual name to the boy, although its later revealed to be Nanashi. He defends Kotoro from some samurai, but Tobimaru gets hit with a poison dart. Kotoro hires No-Name to help cure the dog while protecting him from the Chinese hoods. Amoung the Chinese warriors is the proficient and very blonde Luo-Lang who is mainly only in this whole business to find worthy opponents to fight, so basically he’s this movie’s “Vegeta”. It’s later revealed that No-Name is also a honkey as he really has red hair, but keeps coloring it black, probably so he won’t be called a Ginger. No-Name delivers Kotoro and a healed Tobimaru to a monastery which is secretly controlled by the lord in league with the Chinese. Kotoro is taken to a large monument erected for the sole purpose of taking in his blood to give to the Emporer of China. No-Name shows up in time to save Kotoro, although he’s lucky as the Chinese agents and soldiers of the lord end up killing each other off, until all that’s left are No-Name and Luo-Lang. Aside from the fact that his a top notch swordsman, Luo-Lang like the other Chinese uses a special drug that supresses pain, but what he doesn’t know is that No-Name uses some of too in their duel. A bloody fight ensues where No-Name just leaves Luo-Lang dead in his tracks, although No-Name appears to be near-fatally wounded as Kotoro rides off with him as they plan to be pirates(sequal?).

Sword Of The Stranger seriously fills in the void that’s been forming for the last few years in anime as there hasn’t been much any real samurai stuff at all. The closest example would be Samurai 7 which is really more sci-fi, but there has been almost nothing in the field of a samurai anime movie since probably the Rurouni Kenshin movie. Anyway, Bones comes through with some awesome animation and their traditionally somewhat jarheaded character designs. All the characters are each given their own rich background, even the supporting ones. Plus, this probably has the best fight choregraphy I’ve ever seen in an anime movie, and its not afraid to pump up on the brutality, so Tanrentino fans are in for a real bloodbath with this bad mutha! I recommend that anyone that is a fan of action movies, epic adventure, and the true dark path of the samurai should check it out.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Royal Space Force

Studio Gainax, famous for Evangelion, Nadia, and Gurren Lagann, got their big start with this, their first ever theatrical production. Royal Space Force, or as its also sometimes called: The Wings Of Honneamise, was an parallel universe tale about mankind’s first attempt at space travel. Hiroyuki Yamaga directed this as his premiere project, although he went on to quit Gainax early on during the production of Gurren Lagann. This movie was first released on DVD and VHS by Manga Entertainment, but then again on a pricy DVD/Blu-Ray by Bandai Visual.

Taking place in an alternate version of Earth, a faction of the military called the Royal Space Force has been practicing on and off to gain proper funding for their space program. Shirotsugh Lhadatt is part of the RSF, and is mainly just in the military for laughs with no real direction. However, when one of their crew dies in a test, he becomes concerned with his direction is life. While out drinking with his crew, he runs across the religious girl Riquinni who invites him back to her place the next morning. She’s not some Jehova’s Witness though, but seems a little to faithful to her religion to the point that it leaves her very clueless about how the real world works, like paying her bills. Lhadatt gets inspired by her devotion, and decides to live up to his lot as an astronaut by volunteering for the first planned orbital flight, otherwise the whole space program would’ve been shafted. The military takes over a large portion of this project claiming the rocket is a warship, and it becomes viewed by the neighboring country as a threat, so much so that Lhadatt gets targeted by some rather creative assassins. The situation escalates to where the actual launch site becomes the focus of a full blown battlezone, and the entire thing gets cancelled by the government, but the RSF decides to brave the odds by continuing with the launch. Lhadatt finally achieves his space flight, and reflects that all the hostility and wars humanity has going on seem pointless since from where he sees the world now there are no borders.

This movie is considered to be the crowning achievement in Gainax’s long history. The world it takes place in is modeled after own, but redone in fashionable steampunk way. It pools elements from several of our cultures into it, and seems to really dig neon lights in ways that Las Vegas never did. Gainax outdid itself with this, and set the standard for their future productions like Gunbuster. It has some of the most memorable animation you’ll ever see in sequences you have trouble telling the difference between them and live-action. Royal Space Force was a real game-changer.

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Knights Of Ramune

This is kind of a weird anime because its the OVA sequal to a TV series. The anime is really titled VS Knights Lamunes And 40 Fresh. The original TV show was VS Knights Lamunes And 40 Fire

The story starts out on an alternative future version of Earth after the events of the TV series where two holy virgins, Cacao and Parfait, who originally helped save the world with the help of the third in a great line of warriors called Ramunes that was really a kid who got sent into the future via a video game(kinda like on Monster Rancher). They are sent further into the future to find the 4th Ramunes warrior along with their small blob robot commrade Piqu. The girls find someone claiming to be the 4th Warrior, but he’s actually the commander of an invading force. They escape his space fortress in a giant mecha, along with the orphen girl Lemon. What follows is the realization of who the 4th Warrior really is and the recovery of a large robot named the Mythical Knight that was created to destroy the galaxy.

Knights Of Ramune is mostly funny and brings a good aftermath to the original TV series which should hopefully get picked up in America. Oddly enough, VS Knights Lamunes And 40 Fire was really the remake of another anime called NG Knights Lamunes which had 2 sequals of its own. It’s a little odd having an anime like Knights Of Ramune which is really the tail-end of the whole saga to be released before any of the other Lamune titles. This was also supposed to be the lead in to another new series called Knights Of Lemon which never got off the ground though. There’s lots of great action though and tons of juicy fan service. This series lives up more to the title “Slayers in space” than a certain other sci-fi show did.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 4: Page 7

Story by Jer Alford, art by E. Aedo.

OBCURE O.V.A.S, *Puppet Princess

Don’t let the title fool you! This isn’t some sugary “magical girl” anime. This ninja anime from Case Closed writer Junichi Miyashita has some bloodgushing fun to it.

After a failed ninja recon mission on the lair of the evil warlord, General Karimata, the sole survivor of the group, Yasaburo, runs into the strange girl Rangiku who carries an extra-large box on her back. Rangiku is the long lost daughter of the lord who used to rule Karimata’s land. Her father was also an expert at making puppets, and even made ones that could move on their own like robots. Karimata took control of this art and made his own invincible army of puppet ninjas to take over the kingdom. Now, Rangiku seeks to use the remaining puppets her father left her to stop Karimata and his horde. With the illusionary tactics of Yasaburo, the two of them team-up to take on the evil puppets.

This feature is a little short, but hot-dang it rocks! Sort of like a mini-Ninja Scroll. The action is fresh and quick and the animation is riveting. For a one-shot OVA, this is great!!!!!!!

ANI-MOVIES, *The Hobbit

Ahead of Peter Jackson by at least two decades, the crew of Rankin/Bass decided to take a break from holiday specials or tokusatsu movies and put together this, the first ever animated production based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. The Hobbit was a prelude to The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, and Rankin/Bass created this made-for-TV movie which aired a year prior to Ralph Bakshi’s Rings theatrical animated feature(which only covered most of the first two books). Rankin/Bass later went on to do another TV movie based on Return Of The King, which alot of rumors state was done to finish up where Bakshi’s film left off, but according to R/B was really intended as a followup to their version of The Hobbit. Like some of their other productions, Rankin/Bass did this in association with a Japanese studio, in this case Topcraft(aka: Studio Ghibli).

The movie is a pretty faithful adaptation of the original novel. Bilbo Baggins is an average Hobbit, a race of short humanoids that live in the quiet area of Hobbiton(or “Shire”)in the mythical land of Middle Earth. He gets drafted into a quest with the drifter wizard Gandalf and thirteen dwarves to be their lucky number as a burglar. Thorin is their leader, and is taking them to Lonely Mountain in order to reclaim their treasure stolen generations ago by the evil dragon, Smaug. Along the way, they run afoul of trolls, but Gandalf(on one of his many coffee breaks away from the party)saves them, and leads them to Rivendell to meet up with the elf lord Elrond. Bilbo and the dwarves are later on captured by goblins(or “orcs”), but Bilbo falls down a whole into a dark underground cavern where he runs across the froglike creature Gollum. Bilbo happens upon a magic ring that makes him invisible when he wears it, and uses it to follow Gollum to an exit. He rejoins his friends and frees them, but only for them to be captured again by giant spiders. Bilbo liberates them again, but they are in turn caught again by wood-elves(or “silvan elves”). Invinsibly, the phantom Hobbit manages to get the dwarves to the lake town near Lonely Mountain. The treasure hunters then go to Smaug’s pad, and Bilbo is elected to go burgal something out of there. Using his inviso-power, Bilbo manages to gander at the overgrown reptile to find he has a small patch in his scaly armor, but his presence ticks Smaug off, and he heads to the lake town for some serious Godzilla-on-Tokyo action. Bilbo sends a bird to give the head of the lake town Smaug’s design flaw, and the big lizard gets arrow’d once and for all. The story concludes with an epic battle of five armies feuding over the treasure, which with Gandalf’s help ends about as peaceably as at could. Bilbo heads back to Hobbiton/Shire unaware that this part of the story is only the beginning.

This TV movie has become the stuff of legend, winning the Christopher Award, a Peabody, and was nominated for a Hugo Award. It features some of the amazing character designs Rankin/Bass has used in both its 2D and 3D productions, most of which for this film were inspired by the illustrations of Arthur Rackham. The best is the all star cast employed for this, including Orson Bean as Bilbo, John Huston as Gandalf, and Richard Boone completely dominates his role as Smaug. For a 70s TV production, there is some breathtaking animation, far beyond what you would’ve seen in even a Disney movie. The Hobbit is available on VHS and DVD, plus a special films set with The Lord Of The Rings and Return Of The King animated movies.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Tekken

“You’ve played the game, now see the….” How often have you heard those words used to plug an video game-based anime? Based on the first two Tekken games, this 2-episode OVA combines some elements of the Mortal Kombat movie with Jurassic Park.

The Mishima Corp. plots to take over the world with its hybrid invisible dinosaurs and robot troopers. The main story involves Kazuya vs. Heihachi with Jun trying to lead Kazuya away from the dark side.

Like alot of ADV Films releases, this “movie” is really a 2-episode OVA spliced into a single feature. The dub of Tekken features music by the Offspring and Stabbing Westward, plus the DVD has a rarity in English dubs: a French track. The action’s okay. This anime also follows in the the Tekken 3 video game with the appearance of a very young Jin. Too bad most of the other fighters barely even get any speaking parts!

MISC. MANGA, *Dirty Pair: Biohazard

Adam Warren’s first Dirty Pair comic probably stuck to the way the Lovely Angels were originally concieved based on the novels of Haruka Takachiho. Up until now there has never been a DP manga, and still isn’t. This is an American comic book mini-series done by Dark Horse Comics. Actually, this story was first printed by the now defunct Eternity Comics. It was available in graphic novel format before, but this time with a special back-up comic feature with Kei having a simulated fantasy about killing Yuri.

In the main story, Kei and Yuri have to protect a genetics expert who’s rival has been after him for years and planted his body inside a small rodent. After busting into the bad guy’s compound and rescuing him, they help him get a new robotic body while then trying to retrieve his stolen tissue samples so he can clone a new body for himself.

This one was alot like the way the Dirty Pair were portrayed back in their old anime series. Biohazard is also one of the only ones of Warren’s version that you’ll ever see either the Pair’s assistant Muhgi who in this one looks more like a large panther than a grizzly bear, and its about the only one that Yuri uses her special “Bloody Card” weapon. It’s alot of fun, but they only keep getting better from here on in!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Samurai: Hunt For The Sword

Originally titled Kai Toh Ran Ma: The Animation, Samurai: Hunt For The Sword is a 2-episode OVA based on a Japanese video game. This basically seems like its “Tenchi Muyo meets Rurouni Kenshin”.

It takes place during the shogun days of Japan. A young swordsman named Shinjuro, who is the heir to a prestigous dojo, takes charge of his father’s duties while he is off on a mysterious mission. But the quiet place soons turns into an episode of Tenchi with two cute girls quarreling over him. Then, it is revealed that some ninjas are causing mayhem in the city, but its a cover up for their attempt to start a revolution against the government by stealing a magical sword. The leader of the revolution challenges Shinjiro to a fight with the opposing magical sword that his father is searching for. All this while the true identity of one of the ninjas is really a shrine maiden that Shinjiro has the hots for.

There are some funny moments in this and some decent action. Check it out!

MISC. MANGA, *Bubblegum Crisis: Grand Mal

Gen 13 writer and creator of the English Dirty Pair comics Adam Warren gave of us this sweet slice of colorized manga heaven in this U.S. interpetation of Keichi Sodana’s “babes in armour”. This 4-part mini-series is actually a prequal to the original Bubblegum Crisis OVA series, but taking place after A.D. Police Files.

A runaway Boomer threatens to destroy Megatokyo, and the Knight Sabers assemble to take care of him. This has a much more agressive Priss still wearing her trademark blonde wigs and punkish attitude. Alot of the story seems to revolves around the rouge Boomer set out to cause chaotic destruction, with the GENOM corporation out to get him and cover their asses.

This was one of Warren’s best anime off-shoots and he did a brilliant job of colorizing it. The action is hot hot hot, and Priss is even hotter than that. If you liked either the BGC OVA or the BGC: 2040 remake, then you must try this out for size!

*JESI THE GENIE, Part 4: Page 6

Story by Jer Alford, art by E. Aedo.