Thursday, December 19, 2013

MISC. MANGA, *Shirahime-Syo

CLAMP has had its share of manga anthologies with Miyuki-chan In Wonderland and The One I Love, so in 1992 they decided to tackle the Japanese tale of Yuki-onna about a ghostlike beautiful woman who appears only when its snowing. They took their own spin on it and made the central figure a goddess who slightly has an influence over several short stories.

The manga starts out a woodsman encountering a woman in the snow that claims she is waiting for something, and he mentions the legend of the Snow Goddess. This leads into the first story, On Wolf Mountain, where a young swordswoman named Fubuki goes out to hunt for the large lone wolf that she thinks killed her father. After she is attacked by a pack of mountain dogs, she finds refuge in a cave which is the den of the wolf she is hunting. He takes care of Fubuki, and she starts to believe it was the wild dogs that killed her father instead, but her older brother shows up to kill it, and he claims that the snow put a spell on her making her think the wolf cared for her. The next chapter The Ice Flower is about a young man who leaves to take place in a war to get the approval of his love's father so he can marry her, and she pledges to keep herself as she is until he comes back. The war however keeps him from coming back for thirty years, and he returns to her home to find that she has been buried under the ice looking the same as she did when she was young. The final story is Hiyoku No Tori is slightly similar about a soldier travelling through the snow returning to his true love, but his encounter with a passing heron bird changes his destiny. The anthology closes coming back to the opening story where the woodsman discovers the woman he was talking to was the Snow Goddess as she rides off into the sky with her wolf spirits.

This makes for a pretty good anthology, although the artwork is what really sells it. Clamp did an amazing job with the details, especially with some of the pages that appear to be done completely in ink with no pencil work. Storywise its pretty good, although the individual stories work better on their own without the arcing Snow Goddess plot. The manga has been released in a single paperback and hardcover through Tokyo Pop, even though its currently out of print, so you might wanna look for a copy while they're still around somewhere at least used.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Hades Project: Zeorymer

"Supervillains in Giant Robots vs. other Supervillains in Giant Robots" would be the ideal tagline for this 80s gem. This 4-episode OVA was based on a very adult mecha manga by Yoshiki Takaya, best known for creating The Guyver. The original source material was particularly more explicit than the anime as producers wanted to reach a broader audience. That doesn't downplay the action though as there is plenty of Super Robot Wars thrills to go around.

In the not too distant future, a clandestine criminal organization known as Hau Dragon has been implementing a plan to take over the world called the Hades Project. They use their connections from their big business links, their elaborate plot is to connect to every computer system to launch all the world's nuclear weapons, but to spearhead the project they construct eight giant robots, each one piloted by an elite member of Hau Dragon, all of which were test tube babies, including their organization's empress. However, one of Hau Dragon's more zealous scientists in charge of the setup, Masaki Wakatsuki, steals the main robot, Zeorymer, along with the the test tube babies of its two pilots. He gives them to the Japanese government apparently for their own defense, and the seemingly disappears. Fifteen years later, Masato Akitsu is dragged out of his humdrum life and forced to be the pilot of Zeorymer along with the enigmatic Miru as it turns out they're the two test tube kids grown for this operation, except the Japanese want to use them to defend their country. Hau Dragon sends their robots out to bring back Zeorymer, but Masato and Miru manage to stop them. With their last three remaining mechs, the bad guys launch a final assault on the military base, just before their plan to ignite all the world's warheads comes to fruition. Its revealed though that Masato is really the vessel for Masaki Wakatsuki, the deposed ex-Hau Dragon scientist who really wanted to use Zeorymer to take over the world himself, and Miru is in fact and android that transforms into a power booster for their robot. However, Masato takes over his other personality, and manages to fight off the other mechas, and lead to an explosive final battle with Hau Dragon's flying battle fortress, of which they seem not to survive.

This was pretty damn good for a late 80s mecha OVA. The giant robot fights are pretty intense, although usually kinda one-sided when Zeorymer lets out its big bang attack. There are some serious shades of what would eventually become Evangelion. Point of interest, the OVA was written by Nadesico creator Kia Asamiya, who here used the pen name Michitaka Kikuchi, who also has done official manga of Batman and Star Wars. Hades Project: Zeorymer has been released on 2 separate DVDs from Central Park Media that are currently out of print, but hopefully this dynamite blast from the past will get a license rescue someday.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

ANI-MOVIES, *Shinbone Alley

Here's one for the history books. Set back in 1971, this full-length animated feature was based on a Mel Brooks musical that in turn was based on the series of New York Tribune articles by Don Marquis titled Archy And Mehitabel about a philosophic cockroach and his flirty alley cat friend. The articles were first illustrated by George Herriman who was best known for creating the comic strip Krazy Kat, and his designs were a big influence on the movie. The animated film was directed by former Disney animator, John David Wilson, and done by his studio, Fine Arts Films, which most people know from the opening credits to Grease. This was meant to be a family feature, but tends to go towards more mature concepts that your average child just wouldn't get.

Set in New York, Archy, a magazine writer and poet drowns himself in the river, but is instantly reincarnated as a cockroach with all the memories that this new life as a roach entails, including his undying love for a certain frisky feline. Mehitabel(voiced by Carol Channing)is an estranged cat who waltzes through life from one affair to another. One in particular is the gruff one-eyed tomcat Big Bill(voiced by the original Fred Flintstone, Alan Reed)who she runs off, but ultimately dumps her. Archy convinces her to give her flippant ways and settle down as a regular house cat. However, she gets dazzled by the smooth talking dramatic cat Tyrone(voiced by John Carradine)who cons her into a career in the theatre. Mehitabel soon realizes thought that she's being taken for a ride with Tyrone as he really just uses her to steal food, and doesn't approve of her turning Romeo And Juliet into a swinging showtune. She gets back together with Big Bill, which makes her into a momma cat. Archy has a poetic tangent about how he wants to raise an army of insects to fight the human scourge in a scene done to mimic the style of George Herriman's Krazy Kat, but runs back to Mehitabel after hearing about her motherhood. She has a litter of kittens rather quickly, and regrettably takes Archy's advice to be a housecat with her kids. This makes her very upset, and she kicks Archy out. After an evening of debauchery with some loose ladybugs, he comes to his senses and find he accepts Mehitabel for what she wants to be. This is convenient as she then comes back to the alley, apparently leaving her kittens in the care of her former owners, and the two friends reunite in a big music number.

This is a very eclectic ensemble as far as an animated movie is concerned. It's style is very reminiscent of Ralph Bakshi's early works, and even some of the lower grade quality that Disney was producing at the time. The music numbers are pretty good, even if all the actors aren't professional singers. It's one that's definitely worth watching, at least for nostalgia's sake. Plus it provides an honest look at attempting to make an animation just for animation's sake.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

You came to the wrong neighborhood, Mudderflubber!


OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Blood Reign: Curse Of The Yoma

This late-80s 2-part OVA was probably one of the first horror anime to be released in English. Originally released in subtitled VHS as Curse Of The Undead Yoma, it was later re-released on dubbed VHS and DVD as Blood Reign: Curse Of The Yoma. Adapted from the short-lived manga series Yoma by Sengoku Nights creator Kei Kusunoki, this was first billed as "ninjas vs. zombies" years before zombies were made popular again thanks to the Dawn Of The Dead remake.

Set in feudal Japan, a young skilled ninja named Hikage is charged with tracking down his childhood friend/fellow ninja Marou who has deserted his clan and is feared to leak the death of their leader who was killed by yoma which are Japanese demons. Hikage's quest leads him to a village inhabited by stragglers and derelicts. All its inhabitants are really sacrifices for the yoma, and grizzly giant spiders harvest them for their leader, who turns out to be Marou, that is really a yoma himself apparently born from the ground itself. Marou escapes, and then the next episode takes place two years later with Hikage still on his trail. This has Hikage getting into a feudal war between the yoma clans and his ninja clan, facing all matter of beasts and monsters. Everything from flesh-eating horses, wolf-taurs, butterfly-women, giant snakes, and other video game bosses that even Ash from Evil Dead say "Screw this! I'm going home!"

Toho handled this animation for this, and for a late-80s production it actually is pretty damn good. There is some serious full-scale gore in store for anyone who wants just a good slasher flick, and they don't skip on the details during the disemboweling. This also makes for a great ninja story too, not Ninja Scroll mind you, but a close second. The dub is pretty stale though, so you might wanna just watch it in Japanese.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

MISC. MANGA, *Steamcraft

This recent steampunk manga-styled comic was inspired by the works of Jules Verne and Lovecraft. Oz: The Manga artist David Hutchison put together this horror/adventure tale.

A man interviews the wealthy Sir Beachfort who was the sole survivor of in the expedition of the fabled ship, The Thorpe, from twenty years prior. He discovered a wrecked barge which belonged to a Cthulu-like race called the Deep Ones, and underwater terrors which Captain Nemo wouldn’t have messed with. The artwork is effectively spooky, and brings the atmosphere of an old ghost pirate tale.

You can find some of Hutchison’s preliminary art for this in his Steampunk Sketchbook special from Antarctic Press. Hope this gets made into a movie!

Monday, October 14, 2013

MISC. MANGA, *Reiko The Zombie Shop

Unlike some manga series with the word "zombie" in it, this one had for real zombies in it! The manga was released in Japan as an 11-volume series, but was released in English through Dark Horse stopping at the sixth(for now). The author, Rei Mikamoto, is more well known for creating the manga, Big Tits Dragon, which was later adapted into the live-action Japanese movie out here known as Big Tits Zombie. So, he's kept up a pretty decent history with horror/action stories, but it all stemmed from this original series.

Reiko seems like your average snarky busty redheaded Japanese schoolgirl, however she is really a "zombie shop". This means that she's able to summon someone back to life as a zombie if most of their body is still in tact, which gets her hired by all kinds of customers for her special talents. She does business with child murderers, mad scientists, plane hijackers, fatal rock stars, and even her friends at school who don't seem to have a problem with her being a part-time necromancer. All through the first volume there is a side-story of a teenage girl named Yurikawa that is also a homicidal maniac. She eventually crosses paths with Reiko, and the two have a climactic fight to the death, literally! One would think that having the title character die from decapitation in the first volume would be the end of the series, but Reiko was lucky enough to get some help from some fellow necromancers that manage to reattach her head and bring her back to the land of the living, while not being a zombie. Reiko then sets out to stop her evil sister Riruka who uses her own zombie-raising powers to create a walking dead army to take over the world, which becomes the focus for most of the rest of the series.

Reiko The Zombie Shop is one of the goriest manga to be released in print out in the States, which is possibly why Dark Horse discontinued the series about halfway through its run because of its limited market for adult titles. It's not hentai really, but the violence is and splatter scenes really make it the manga equivalent of a Rated-R movie. Weirdly enough, this does have a slight shojo factor working for it with Reiko and her interaction with her schoolmates. This makes for a very creepy manga, and works through like an actually good grindhouse flick with moments that will give you jump scares!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

MISC. MANGA, *Cobra


Beating out Cowboy Bebop by about twenty years, Cobra(also known as Space Adventure Cobra)is the original space cowboy in anime! Originally a manga series from the late 70s to early 80s, this spawned off several other manga, an anime movie, two OVA series, and two TV series. Only the original anime movie has been released out here so far, but the first manga was also put out in English through Viz Manga, adapted by non-other than Marv Wolfman. The best part of all, the manga was Total Recall before there was Total Recall.

Set in the far off future, a common blue-collar worker named Johnson goes for a virtual reality trip where he's the famous space pirate Cobra. However, the Matrix run activates his old memories as the actual Cobra who was supposed to be dead for several years. Cobra faked his own death to get the evil Guild off his back, and gave himself a different personality to completely disguise himself. Cobra then sets off to stop the Guild once and for all. The Guild's latest venture is to collect three special sisters, each one is tattooed with the map to the fabled Ultimate Weapon that they plan to take over the universe. Cobra runs into one of the sisters, Jane Royal, who is a hot bounty hunter that teams up with him to hunt down her other siblings and foil the Guild's plot.

Creator Buichi Terasawa was very influenced by American films like Star Wars and Flash Gordon, and he was also a student of Osamu Tezuka himself. His art style is extremely appraling, and is very close to American styles of comic book designs. It's worth looking the Cobra comic collections, even though it was never put out in graphic novel format.

Friday, September 20, 2013

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Lupin The 3rd: The Fuma Conspiracy

While there's still some debate among the fans as to whether this was movie instead of an OVA, Lupin III: The Plot Of The Fuma Clan was in fact the very first OVA starring the famous thief. It did have a limited theatrical run in Japan to promote the movie(similar to a certain Pony movie!), but this was an early OVA during the mid-80s. It features a few different voice actors from the regular cast in the Japanese edition. It was released originally in America by Animeigo using the name "Rupan" instead of Lupin apparently due to international copyright involving the original French Lupin character, even though it didn't stop Streamline Pictures from using "Lupin" in their releases including the original dub of Castle Of Cagliostro. This has recently though been re-released through Discotek Media along with some other Lupin anime.

The actually acts as a follow-up to the second manga series where Lupin was thought to be dead by the rest of the world after an explosion on a boat. Thinking this, Inspector Zenigata had retired with his family to becoming a Buddhist munk. But, Lupin comes out of hiding after his mate, the swordsman Goemon, when his bride Murasaki gets bridenapped by the modern day ninja originization, the Fuma Clan. The Fuma want Murasaki to get her family's ancient treasure, which is a lost stash of hidden gold. Zenigata comes out of retirement to take on the case, although its revealed early on that his subordinate is really an agent for the Fuma. After several great chase sequences, our heroes manage to rescue Murasaki, and make their way to the mountain cave where the treasure lies. However, this cave is filled with more traps than Indiana Jones could deal with. The Fuma corner the Lupin gang at the subterranean castle of gold, with their leader getting into an thrilling duel with Goemon. But the gold kingdom starts to cave in, burying the Fuma. Lupin & Co. escape, with Zenigata in hot pursuit.

You can really tell the difference in how more emphasis was given to the quality of animation in this one than the previous three Lupin movies. Granted, Cagliostro is great mainly because Hiyao Miyazaki was at the helm of it, but The Fuma Conspiracy holds it on well enough with the attention given to the movement of the characters. The fight sequences and chase scenes are exceptionally fine considering the time they came out in. The story is a little against the norm of your average Lupin flick as it takes place entirely in Japan, as opposed to in some exotic location. It's certainly worth a look, even though you might want to check it out in the original Japanese only as the American dub is a little stale.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

ANIME ARABIAN ADVENTURES, *Page 5

Story by Jer Alford. Art by Natalie Prayor.

MISC. MANGA, *Girl Genius

It’s kind of impossible not to think of steampunk nowadays and not have your mind stray a little in the direction of this fan favorite. What started out as a regular printed comic, has become a successful webcomic. Often referred to as a gaslamp fantasy, this takes place in a world where eccentric scientists run most of the show.

The title character Agatha begins as a unlucky college student in Transylvania of all places, and she later gets picked up by the local Baron and his son to take on the secrets of her family’s special ability to use the “Spark”. This is a rare trait that for those who possess it can become supremely great at science and technology, almost in a technopathic fashion, but it also makes them very mad and susceptible being duped by those in authority. As the last of the Heterodyne family, Agatha has trouble balancing her genius and madness sometimes, especially when the spirit of her insane mother keeps invading her mind. The rest of the cast is also very eclectic, including a talking power-hungry cat, a princess from a lost city, airship captains, smoke knights, dashing heroes, sky pirates, and manner of strange creatures.

This comic is featured exclusively from the creators, Phil and Kaja Foglio, but is a pretty much a much for all steampunk fans and lovers of high fantasy.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

MISC. MANGA, *Ah, My Goddess

I've read my fair share of manga over the last few decades, but this was the one that really got me started into not only being an otaku, but a lover of finely-crafted Japanese comics! Kosuke Fujishima created this as a slight spinoff of his You're Under Arrest manga about female police officers where the characters were briefly praying to a goddess. With this in mind, Fujishima took the already cliche premise of a normal guy with a magical girlfriend, but managed to make it one of the most endearing and charming titles in anime and manga.

The manga starts out with college freshmen Keichi stuck at his dorm having to answer phone messages for his gruff upper classmen in the motor club. After unsuccessfully being able to order take out, he accidently contacts the Goddess Helpline. Answering his call is the lovely goddess Belldandy, sent from Heaven to grant him one wish. Keichi jokingly wishes for a goddess like her to be with him forever, and a grand lightshow signifies that his wish is approved. Belldandy is now "bonded" to Keichi, and any attempts to separate them are repelled by the Ultimate Force which twists fate around to keep them together.

Bell and Kei then luckily move to a spacious abandoned temple outside of town after getting kicked out of the dorm. They are later visited by Belldandy's older half-sister Urd, who after using her powers to force some romance between them gets banished to Earth for a time, and ends up moving in with them. Belldandy's younger sister Skuld later moves in alsoi to add to the hysterics. Aside from them, Bell and Kei's relationship is constantly being interrupted by rivals at school, other pesky goddesses, and forces from Hell itself, including Urd's mother Hild who's in charge of all devils. One of the most reoccurring villains is the demon Mara who is an old school rival of Urd's, and is constantly trying to ruin the goddesses' time on Earth.

The manga has been running constantly since 1988 with nearly fifty volumes in print. This has spawned off a 5-episode OVA series in the 90s, a full-length anime movie in 2000, and an anime series involving the Mini-Goddess back-up feature from the manga that ran on an anthology show. A brand new anime series ran in 2005 that retold the origin story but in greater detail than the original OVA, and lasted for two seasons. There have recently also been several OAD shorts offered with volumes of the manga in Japan, but so far nothing in English. The manga was released out in America at first under the title "Oh My Goddess" to make it seem more appealing to western readers, but was later renamed to the original, and also included some of the chapters that were left out of the first printing. There are currently several omnibus editions available through Dark Horse Comics which makes for a great starting point, so give one of them a look.

ANIME ARABIAN ADVENTURES, *Part 3

Story by Jer Alford. Art by Natalie Prayor.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

MISC. MANGA, *Magi: The Labyrinth Of Magic

This Arabian Nights-inspired manga has caused a big buzz in the otaku world, possibly because there are so few titles in the past that actually in Scheherazade's big book of fantasy. Some anime/manga like RG Veda and El-Hazard dabbled in it, but Magi throttles it up to 11, with the average otaku tropes thrown in.

Set in a magical realm, Aladdin is a young wanderer that happened to become master of a seemingly headless djinn in a flute named Ugo. He used his one wish with Ugo to become his friend, so the two of them roam the deserts searching for a good meal and voluptuous women. After helping some traders escape a bandit raid, Aladdin gets a ride from the cart rider, Ali Baba. He saves his life from a reject monster from Tattooine, and the two become partners in adventure. They set out to tackle one of the many "Dungeons" that have sprouted out in the world during the last few years. Each Dungeon is said to have the treasures of lost kingdoms in them, as well as their own djinn inside waiting to grant wishes to. After pretty much burning all the bridges of his former life behind him as a jack-of-all-trades, Ali Baba convinces Aladdin to raid the local Dungeon which was conveniently just a few yards from his house. The resourceful slave girl Morgianna plays a part in this too as we'll see later on in the series.

Manga creator Shinobu Ohtaku, who also made Sumomomo, Momomo, chronicles in the manga how much trouble he went through to get Magi published. Fortunately for him it paid off, as it has become a monster hit as an anime series. The artwork is very good, and the story moves along fluidly, albeit in your standard comedy/fantasy manga fair. The manga is just now coming out in English, and the anime is soon to follow. If your a fan of Slayers, then this is just up your alley.

Monday, August 19, 2013

MISC. MANGA, *Fantastic Panic

What became a secret trendsetter in more ways then one, Fantastic Panic was the first authentic Japanese manga to be released by Antarctic Press back in the early 90s. It was technically a Comic Market release as it wasn't featured in a regular magazine like Shonen Jump. It was created by Satoru Yamasaki who went under the pen name of "Ganbear". This started off the manga line for AP, which on its own eventually lead to the formation of Studio Ironcat after AP dropped their manga titles after the whole Bad Girl fad passed and they had sunk too much money into their Warrior Nun Areala merchandise. The manga also contributed to AP's ever-growing list of manga of anthropomorphic titles like Furrlough, which also lead to the formation of Radio Comix which mainly deals in furry comics. So, this manga has a real history behind it.

Set in a fantasy world filled with anthropomorphics, the story centers around Nee, a young mouseboy who wants to be the very best hero he can, like no one ever was. Armed with the magic Dagger of Minos, he set out through the Demon Forest to get to Tora Castle and take part in the Great Hero Contest. Along the way, Nee adds a menagerie of eccentric characters to his party, including the missing tiger prince Taigar, the vivacious bunnygirl Uun, and the narcoleptic master chef girl-cow Kyau. Nee eventually is honorarily wins the Contest, and then embarks on another quest to gain four gems from ancient dragons so he can be their champion. He manages to get the first three gems easily, but the manga finished without a completion to his quest. All this is going on while the evil Lord Indra and his four lords of the Demon Forest plot his downfall, and send various enemies to stop Nee in his efforts, but keep failing each time. Some of them, like Uun, eventually team up with Nee and join his party.

This manga originally went on for two series through Antarctic Press. The first volume went on for eight issues, and the second also for eight even though near the end of its American run it was labeled as being ten. Ganbear provides a great old school approach to manga, as seen in the late 80's-early 90's, similar to Outlanders and original Dragonball. It's got some really slapstick moments going on too, so it's great if you liked Dragon-Half. The first four issues were collected in a single graphic novel which you should check out since those issues are really hard to track down.

Monday, August 12, 2013

ANIME ARABIAN ADVENTURES, *Page 1

This is a new story taking the characters from Jesi The Genie in a shorter one-shot.

Story by Jer Alford. Art by Natalie Prayor.

Friday, August 9, 2013

ANI-MOVIES, *Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox

Probably the quickest direct from comics to video production by DC Universe, this came out less than two years after the original story arc. Flashpoint was one of those big crossover events in comics that usually effects all the main characters of a comics universe, but this also acted as a catalyst for restarting the entire DC Comics product line into what is now referred to at the New 52. Before this, the DC Universe was made up of several different ones, including the Wildstorm and some of the Vertigo titles. So, anyone interested in how DC's new product line started out, this is pretty much where to begin from. This was directed by Jay Olivia, whose prior work includes Young Justice and Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, as well as some of the previous DC Universe films, so you know he knows his superhero material. Plus, a large portion of the animation was handled by Studio 4C, the anime studio who have also done production on Memories, the new Thundecats series, and the Berserk movie trilogy.

Starting out in what could be called the "Post-Final Crisis" DC Universe, the Flash(who here is the second one, Barry Allen)is ambushed by the Rogues Gallery, who are suckered by Professor Zoom(the Reverse-Flash) to kill Flash. But the Justice League shows up to give Barry a hand and save everyone. Zoom goats Flash into regretting not saving his mother when he was a boy, and Flash inadvertently goes back in time to try an change things, even though in the comics it was actually Zoom who did that. Barry awakens in a new reality where his mother is still alive, but everything else has changed. In this new timeline, Aquaman and Wonder Woman have plunged Atlantis and Themyscira into a blood feud which brings the whole world into catastrophe. The Amazons have take over Britain as "New Themyscira", and the Atlantians are constantly trying to conquer them and the rest of the surface world. Barry realizing that he's in a different reality, but can't do anything about it because he doesn't have any super-speed now. He goes to Gotham to get help from Batman, but shocked to discover that the Batman here is Thomas Wayne, Bruce Wayne's father. After convincing Batman the truth behind his story, Barry has him recreate the experiment that transformed him into the Flash. The first time results in Barry getting nearly burnt alive, but a second time gets his spark going and gives him his super-speed, which luckily allows him to heals his burns quickly. The downside is though that Flash can't access the speed force which allows him to travel through time, because Prof. Zoom is here too which corrupts the speed force, and only by defeating him can Flash go back in time and change everything back to normal. So, Flash and Batman team up with Cyborg, who here is one of America's "Man of Steel", to then find where the real Superman is at. Kal-El was captured by the government when he first came to Earth, and kept in an underground facility. The heroes bust Kal out of there, only to be confronted by the army, and Superman flies off afterwards. Flash and the others team up with the Shazam Kids to try and flush out Zoom that the figure is somewhere in England where all the Atlantean/Amazon battles are going on. The Shazam Kids form Captain Thunder(Capt. Marvel)to take on Wonder Woman, while the others keep Aquaman busy, with some assistance from The Resistance(made of Lois Lane and Grifter). After a grueling battle, most of all the heroes die, while Zoom finally steps out of the shadows, and cripples Flash by impaling his leg. Batman manages to plug Zoom strait through the head, but only to have Aquaman activate his failsafe plan which is to turn the captured Captain Atom into a nuclear bomb which will wipe clean all life on the surface of the Earth. Realizing what is at stake, Flash somehow manages to utilize the speed force again despite his broken leg, and goes back in time to stop himself from altering it in the first place. Barry awakens back in his old reality, although it's not completely the same timeline as he now has a totally new outfit. He seems to remember the previous timeline with the world war, along with the fact that he has a letter from Thomas Wayne to give to Bruce. The ending has Flash running off in a scene very similar to most of the Spider-Man movies.

This was the most brutal of all the other DC Universe movies, so even though you'd see this in the Kids Movies aisle at your local Target, it's really meant for older viewers. There's a lot of differences between this mini-series and the original comics, mostly because this isn't just a single mini-series but several tie-ins. One of the main changes is that it was Zoom himself that caused the Flashpoint timeline to come about, and not Flash. The vocal casting is very interesting with Nathan Fillion returning as Hal Jordan, Kevin Conroy as Batman(Bruce, not Thomas), Ron Pearlman as Slade, Dee Bradley Baker as Etrigan, Dana Delany as Lois Lane, and Vanessa Marshal as Wonder Woman. Additions to the cast include Hynden Walch doing a slight reprise as Harley Quinn(here, Yo-Yo) and Tim Daly's son Sam as Superman. This does act as a better Flash movie more than it does as a Justice League one. Be sure to watch all the way through to the closing credits as there's a stinger for the upcoming Justice League: War movie!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

MISC. MANGA, *Pirates Vs. Ninjas

While this was one of the biggest geek debates ever a few years ago, the fine tradition of "who would win in a fight between..." cemented it's hold when it latched on to ninjas and pirates. There's been several parodies based on this concept, but Antarctic Press started their foray into doing parody comics with this trail of mini-series and one-shots.

The first Pirates Vs. Ninjas mini-series was four issues long, and took place sometime during the reign of King George III, the bookworm scribe Kineas Montague is shanghaied by hookhanded Captain Mako and his pirate crew to help them find the lost treasure of the legendary pirate Shadow Beard who wielded the actual trident of Poseidon. After using the power of the trident to stop his advisory, the ninja clan leader Raiga, Poseidon cursed Shadow Beard, but the pirate lord tried to gain vengeance over the sea god by grafting the trident to his lost hand. Mako's crew take Kineas to the island where the trident is supposed to be, but they are confronted with a group of ninjas, lead by the alleged reincarnation of Raiga who also seeks the trident which he believes is with his ancestor's powerful Disaster Blade which rivaled Poseidon's power. After several clashes, Kineas manages to make off with a good amount of treasure, and both mystical weapons, leaving the ninjas and pirates stranded on separate sides of the island.

The sequal mini-series was Pirates Vs. Ninjas II: Up The Ante!, unlike the previous volume was done in color, and reprinted in a full-sized graphic novel. Where as Volume 1 was done all in black & white(considering the first issue was done in color anyway from Free Comic Book Day), and in a manga-sized digest book. Anyway, this was twice as long as the previous one, and takes place a few years later where Kineas has been through a few other adventures, and managed to hide the ancient weapons away. But the pirates and ninjas manage to track him down, mostly due to planting Raiga's hot sister as his assistant. Despite her mission, Sayuri falls for Kineas, and does her best to protect him from being harmed during the continuous pirate/ninja clashes. As if this wasn't enough, a group of immortal vikings enter the fray looking for a mystical hammer Kineas found to forge their own mystical weapons and take over the world. Realizing their common enemy is too much for both of them, the pirates and ninjas team up to stop the vikings. The end result is really pretty good, and the story is fleshed out a lot more than the previous volume, even the conclusion could've been done in something other than in storybook format.

Following this was four one-shot specials. The first was Ghost Pirates Vs. Ghost Ninjas about super-deformed undead swashbucklers battling zombie ninjas. The next was PNV: Global Harming set in 300 Million B.C. where a civil war on Atlantis draws in dinosaur-riding pirates and ninjas, and a gold-making machine was the original cause of global warming. To keep in with the presidential election, the final special was PVN: Debate In '08 which was an anthology of short stories involving pirates and ninjas running for public office. There was also a PVN Annual that was also an anthology, the best of which were the Yonkoma comic shorts, as well as some pretty good pinups too. All four of these are collected in the PVN: It Takes A Pillage graphic novel.

So even though this was a huge internet joke carried out into a full-length saga, Antarctic Press managed to turn it into a damn good yarn that is more than likely to please manga fans, and trolls of internet memes alike.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Japan gets ready for the Jaeger Cold War


MISC. MANGA, *Amulet

Creator of the hit anthology series Flight, Kazu Kibushi, has done some steampunk material with his webcomic Copper, plus the space western Daisy Kutter. However, his biggest project is this ongoing graphic novel series.

This all-ages fantasy takes place in modern day when Emily and her younger brother Navin move into their great-grandfather’s old mansion in the woods a few years after their father’s death. Their mother is taken away in the night by a Cthulu monster into another world, and the two siblings follow while being lead on by a mystical amulet they found in their grandfather’s study. Emily and Navin encounter their dying great-grandfather who has built mechanical friends to help them. After their attempt to rescue their mother fails via a snazzy airplane, they have to resort to using their grandfather’s mansion which is actually a giant mecha.

This has a Harry Potter meets Miyazaki style to it, and should be something your kids should enjoy, if they don’t mind a little dark fantasy.

Monday, July 22, 2013

ANI-MOVIES, *Justice League: Doom

This is the third DC Universe movie with the JLA, although it's a little different from the original plot as it breaks down the separate members of the League while uniting them in a common story. Loosely based on the Tower Of Babel story arc from the comics, Doom brings together the age-old tradition of "superheroes vs. supervillains". It was written by the late Dwayne McDuffie, who adapted it from the Tower Of Babel story arc from JLA comics.

After stopping the Royal Flush Gang from using some fancy new phasing technology to rob a jewelry vault, the Justice League are targeted by a collected group of their personal enemies going by the handle, the Legion of Doom. Immortal formal caveman Vandal Savage organizes several supervillains to take down the JLA using plans heisted from Batman which were designed to neutralize members of the League. Each of the bad guys corner the heroes in their own way. Bane buries Batman with his parents, Mirror Master places an unshakable bomb on Flash, Cheetah tricks Wonder Woman into thinking everyone is her and attacking them, Star Sapphire uses fear toxin to scare Green Lantern into quitting, Martian Manhunter is set on fire by his evil twin, and Metallo shoots Superman with a Kryptonite bullet. Savage sets all this up to get the League out of the way so he can implement his master plan of using a nuke to send a giant solar flare which would kill half of the world's population, afterwards he and the Legion would take over what's left. Batman manages to free himself though, since his original plans didn't include subduing himself, and with Cyborg help the rest of the League from their own personal traps. They then reconvene to hear out Batman's reasons for creating scenarios for subduing them, but pull their act together to locate Savage's lair. After a classic heroes/villians battle, Savage's rocket does make it to the sun, so the League uses the special phasing technology Savage had made to protect themselves from the solar flare to make the entire planet temporarily intangible, making it safe for the flare to pass through the Earth. In the end, Cyborg is inducted into the League, but Batman decides to leave knowing his techniques weren't accepted by the other members.

Justice League: Doom is a splendid mix of the original comic book story, and merging it with a new plot. The original comic one had Ra's Al Ghul acting on his own as the main villain with the League of Assassins, and no other supervillains or Legion of Doom, and using Batman's plans to keep the League out his hair while he tried taking over the world. Dwayne McDuffie expanded on it by keeping the League down to its core members, while adding Cyborg probably because DC Comics was pushing to have him in the group to make them look more diverse. Young Justice animator Lauren Montgomery directed this, and her more realistic style stands out quite well. The vocal casting is great, with most of the Justice League animated series actors returning, except Tim Daly as Superman, Michael Rosenbaum playing the Barry Allen Flash, and Nathan Fillion reprising Green Lantern from the previous GL animated movie. It's a good enough stand-alone film that you can enjoy without having to see any of the other DC Universe flicks, and a decent foundation for a possible live-action Justice League movie.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Jet Jaquar invades Pacific Rim


MISC. MANGA, *Steam Wars

With all their steampunk-inspired stories, it was only a matter of time before they decided to do a Star Wars parody with it. It's a more fleshed-out version of the story Fred Perry did in the Victorian Secret: Girls Of Summer special.

This ongoing series takes place on an alien world that thrives on steam-driven technology, and dominated by the evil Hegemonic Crux. The Duchess Imoen leads the Resistance against them, and she along with with the pushy airship Captain Lowe, his co-pilot bear Smokey, and the stuck-up droid Clees have to get the plans for the revolutionary Warp Coal away from Crux’s troops. Fortunately, they come across the last of the “Quantum Dragoons”, Bo Baron, who is really Crux’s son.

Even though it’s a tribute to the original Star Wars trilogy, it does manage to maintain its own identity as a steampunk adventure. Plus, Fred Perry brings his own unique take on fanboy love for both steampunk and Star Wars.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Maids & Minions

MISC. MANGA, *Shy Girl

Mix in Back To The Future and Tank Girl, and you might get some idea as to where this 2-volume original manga-styled graphic novel series is coming from. From the now defunct Best Sellers Illustrated comes this "Cinematic" graphic novel which tried to cash in on alot of the Americanized anime and manga that was going on around the mid-2000s, although this tried to bring in a little of the "bad girl" influence from the 90s too. Written by Stephen Stern, one of the creators of Zen Intergalactic Ninja, and drawn by Bill Maus who created the Zen spinoff series, Nira X: Cyber Angel, you can see where the creators were trying to use their flare for cyberpunk in this.

Beginning in the year 2140, the hoverboarding scantily-clad teen Shai Rand comes home to find her parents murdered. They were working on a time travel theory, and Shai realizes that the evil corporate beeyatch Vanessa Largo that her parents were in league with is the one who had them killed and stole their research to go back in time and change history. Shai uses some of her parent's leftover technology to jump back to the year 2005, and makes contact with her teenage great-great grandpa to secure her own timeline. Shai learns that Largo and her minions are trying to steal the original foundation of the time travel tech from a young genius, Warren Havermeyer. Shai(who has now been dubbed "Shygirl" by her grandpa)becomes Warren's bodyguard after explaining the situation to him, but ends up falling in love with him too. Shygirl then chases after Largo into a nexus between realities where anyone can be given any kind of power they want. After a superhero-styled fight with their new abilities, Shygirl locks off Largo in the nexus leaving her trapped there forever. Shai heads back to the future, even though her parents still remain dead in it despite the sacrifice she had to make to keep reality from being altered.

Shygirl was biled as a "cinematic graphic novel", and that does slightly play out in these two album-sized volumes, although your average manga tends to lend itself to that style anyway given the steady relationship between anime and manga. The publishing company folded business a while ago, but you can still find copies of both volumes from regular comics dealers, so its worth looking for if you manage to get a good bargain on them.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Sailorbike


Me Grimlock no bozo! Me King!


OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *The Chronicles Of Riddick: Dark Fury

Similar to what they did with Van Helsing, Universal Pictures decided to do an animated lead-in to their Chronicles Of Riddick live-action movie. Given the success of The Animatrix, it was a semi-growing trend at the time to do made-for-video animated spinoffs to feature films, not to be confused with all the home sequals Disney did for their original movies. Dark Fury acts as a bridge between the first movie, Pitch Black(a killer sci-fi/thriller!), and the somewhat successful COR sci-fi/adventure. Although, unlike some other media tie-ins like comic book prequels, this actually has some resonance to the given material.

Taking place right after their escape from the hellish pterodactyl planet, Riddick along with survivors Jack and Imam(all voiced by their original actors)get picked up by a swanky ship filled with space mercs. This cruiser is run by the sultry Chillingsworth, who collects bounties, not to collect on the price on their heads, but to keep them as works of art by literally putting them on ice. She gives Riddick a challenge to save his comrades in a fight to the death with some alien creatures. Riddick succeeds, and frees the others as they make their escape from an entire ship of bounty hunters set to catch them. After taking down most of the competition, Riddick squares off with Chillingsworth's main flunky, and finally the dragon lady herself. The trio gets away, but the bounty hunter Tombs lives through the ordeal with his sights set on bringing in Riddick.

Peter Chung of Aeon Flux fame was the director behind this, and his style of animation pays off very well, although there's some shots during some of the last fight that seemed to have less detail put into them, possibly to get this project done in time to coincide with the COR movie release. Dark Fury is currently available only on its on single DVD release, as well as the Riddick Trilogy DVD box set. There isn't a Blu-Ray release of it at this time, even though there are features about it shown on the Pitch Black and Chronicles Of Riddick Blu-Ray editions.

My Brother...Have you heard of yaoi?


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

MISC. MANGA, *Codename: Sailor V

Before the world shattering successful manga-turned-anime that is Sailor Moon(set nostalgia factor for 10!), there was a still to this day lesser known prequel manga featuring Sailor V in her early days before the Sailor Scouts/Senshi/Soliders all get their act together. Naoka Takeuchi started out her Sailor Saga with a single heroine, and then some eager-minded corporate folk hipped her to the idea of creating an entire team of magical girls, a trend which has had serious ripples in the whole mahou-shoujo genre since then. Minako(Mina in the original TV dub)was Earth's first acting Sailor hero, and this chronicles her original adventures with nagging mentor Artemis. It was in Japan a 3-volume manga series, but was compiled for the first time in English by Kodansha Comics into two large volumes. Some of these chapters were actually released after the Sailor Moon manga had ended, but lead into the events of its beginning.

Minako Aino is your average "blonde" Japanese schoolgirl who is very athletic, loves video games, and a totally boy crazy(remind you of someone?). She's leading a semi-normal teenager's life when she's visited by a talking white cat named Artemis. He lets her know that she's got a special destiny as the Pretty Soldier, Sailor Venus, or just Sailor V to keep it short. There is an evil corporation called the Dark Agency that is in league with the Dark Kingdom((aka: the Negaverse), and they're trying to steal life energy from people to turn them into mind-controlled followers. Artemis gives Minako a magical pen which transforms her into Sailor V, as well as give her the ability to perform a sort of "Honey Flash" where she can disguise herself as anyone she can think of, regardless of age or gender, although her disguises usually end up appearing like a blonde girl. The Police aren't too happy with there being a masked crimefighter stopping these new mysterious new criminals, so the swooning fangirl Inspector Natsuna sets out to make her part of the SWAT team, and sicks the hapless officer Toshio to recruit her. All this leads to Minako getting help from another masked Phantom Ace, who it may or may not be working secretly for the Dark Agency.

Codename: Sailor V not totally essential if you're just interested in the main Sailor Moon storyline, but its still is a great manga read. It's got a great comedy element to it that a lot of the Sailor Moon manga usually only uses in the backup stories. I'd recommend this for any fan of seriously funny shoujo, or those who appreciate a superhero story with a winning sense of humor.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

MISC. MANGA, *Victorian Secret Agents: Owls Of The Ironwork Isle

While not being a direct followup to the Victorian Secret Agents: Steampunk Angels sketchbook under the same title, this is an actual new story as part of Antarctic Press' ongoing series of steampunk comics.

It's about Penelope, a member of the special group of protectors to the crown known as the Owls. It seems as if Queen Victoria is under attack by an unknown assassin, so Penelope straps on her handy jetpack, and teams up with her dashing airship pilot husband to stop this menace. Although it appears that Penelope’s own mother is somehow involved with this plot.

This mini-series features some witty dialogue and real intrigue for a ripping yarn indeed.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

ANI-MOVIES, *Superman: Unbound

Since his big-budget remake is about to hit theatres, it was timely that DC Universe decided to make their next release another "just Superman" title. Animation veteran Alan Burnett takes on as producer in this adaptation of the recent Superman: Braniac story arc from the comics by Geoff Johns, which was later collected into a graphic novel.

Set sometime after Supergirl first arrived on Earth, Superman encounters a strange alien android. After defeating it, he takes it to the Fortress of Solitude, which shocks Supergirl into remembering how the city of Kandor on Krypton was taken away by a powerful invader known as Brainiac. Fearing Earth might attacked by Brainiac, Superman heads out into space to hunt for him. After stopping him from destroying another world, Supes gets taken aboard Brainy's giant "skulltopus" ship, and comes face-to-face with the Martian Manhunter-lookalike himself. Brainiac shrinks Superman down into the now bottle city of Kandor, and meets Supergirl's parents. Superman manages to get big again, and takes Kandor with him back to Earth. Brainiac follows, and shrinks Metropolis. Superman and Supergirl team up to stop Brainiac, while taking on all the dangers of his ship. After pulling him literally down to Earth, Supers manages to overwhelm Brainiac with being exposed to all the elements of an actual thriving world instead of observing them within his little bottled cities. This shuts down the mad computer, although the stinger at the end indicates not permanently.

This was a well executed animated feature, and a definite step up from the Superman Vs. The Elite movie at least as far as animation quality. There were some things from this that were left out of the original story, like Pa Kent's death, and any ties to the rest of the DC Universe. Also, Superman restores Kandor on an alien planet with a red sun, instead of on Earth, which in the comic leads into the whole New Krypton story arc. The movie can be viewed as a slight sequel to Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, since it begins with a still fresh from space Supergirl, although it's apparent its trying to be its own entity. It's definitely worth a look if you're a big Superfan, but it also makes for a good sci-fi/superhero movie too.