Sunday, May 26, 2013

MISC. MANGA, *Steampunk Snow White

Since Rod Espinosa had already covered Cinderella and Hansel & Gretel in some of the previous Antarctic Press steampunk specials, he went and made this into a full-color fleshed-out adventure.

Set in a fairy tale environment, an evil Queen is using her steam-powered mechas to enforce her taxation of the poor. The only one opposing her is the masked vigilante, the Lone Fox. The Queen’s forces set a trap for him, but a daring swordwoman saves him. She is revealed to be the Queen’s daughter, Snow. The Queen stages a situation for Snow’s sensei to slay her, but instead he allows her to escape. Snow makes her way to a cottage not owned by dwarves, but really seven large taking badgers. Together, Snow teams up with them to stop the Queen’s raids. The Queen then does the routine of disguising herself as an old peddler, and feeds Snow a poison apple. The badgers stop her, but Snow then falls into a deep sleep. Fortunately, the Lone Fox shows up to save her, and is really a prince himself.

Espinosa brings back his brilliant use of color here, and manages to tell the overdone Snow White story in a decent new way. It does seem like the ending was a little more briefer than it was supposed to be, but all in all its still a great one-shot comic for the whole family.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Happy Towel Day!

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Harlock Saga

The space captain comes back in this 6-episode OVA series. Leiji Matsumoto returns to his "Leijiverse" with this literal spacer opera based on The Rhine Gold opera(s) by Richard Wagner which was the Lord Of The Rings of operas. This takes place sometime after the Arcade Of My Youth movie, but it's exact place in the entire Leijiverse history is uncertain, although its conclusion acts as an explanation as to why all the adjoining titles like Yamato, Queen Emeraldas, and Galaxy Express 999 are all done in no real established continuity.

Harlock is searching for his shipmate Meele, who in some other stories didn't have a mouth. She is found on planet which guards the mystic Rhine Gold element which is supposed to control time in the universe, but has been stolen by her brother Alberich. He and Meele were once subjugated by Wotan(aka: Odin)and the other gods of Valhalla which is an actual planet at the center of the universe. What seems like a plot from a Thor comic book quickly becomes a race against time as Alberich has the Rhine Gold forged into a ring, and sets out with his battle fleet to conquer Valhalla. However, if Valhalla is destroyed, then it could cause the universe to implode on itself. So, Harlock and the rest of the Arcadia crew go to confront Alberich. After a few space wanderings, they battle the would be conqueror, and get the ring back, with plans to return it to its source. However, the battle caused serious damage to Valhalla which results in a lot of existing timeline to go all wibbly-wobbly. This means that a lot of the actual history of most of the other Leijiverse stories is now slightly out of context with each other. Sorta like how the last two Star Trek managed to establish itself in an alternate reality.

This OVA was based on a still unfinished manga series, of which the anime only covers the first two volumes. It helps to be at least a little familiar with Harlock's history, although to be fair he's mostly a secondary character in his own series. A lot of it deals with the space gods and other Valhallians. This is similar to Maetel Legend as it didn't needed to be dragged out as long as it was. It could have easily been a 4-episode series instead of six. The space battles are fair, especially with the appropriate "Flight of the Valkyries" background music. However, this is mainly for big fans of Matsumoto and his work. You'll get a better deal out of the Captain Herlock anime series instead.

Monday, May 20, 2013

MISC. MANGA, *Godzilla

A good near decade since it's ass-kicking debut in the Marvel Comics comic book series, the King of Monsters is back in this first ever manga released in America. An adaptation of The Return Of Godzilla(or as it was the States(Godzilla 1985), Kazuhisa Iwata brings his own spin on the nuclear-powered thunder lizard as he/ returns in what is seen as a direct sequel to the original Godzilla movie. There have been Japanese comic adaptations of most of the Godzilla movies, some of which were in a single one-shot given at theatres with the movie, or done in various editions like kids magazines or regular manga anthologies.

Here, Godzilla returns after several decades by attacking a fishing boat. The only survivor is found by a news reporter, after they fight off a bunch of sea giant barnacles that mutated from gnawing off Godzilla. As usual, the Big-G heads towards Tokyo, so the defense force readies it special weapon, a flying saucer titled Super X. The UFO ultimately fails, and the only thing that can stop Godzilla is a wile professor who uses a particular radio signal to make Godzilla to go back to his old stomping ground on a volcanic island. They manage to seal the big guy in the volcano, and are "sure" he never return.

There are some subtle differences between the manga and the actual movie, but very minimal. If you've never seen the movie, you should still have some serious enjoyment out of this.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

I'm a Motherf**king T-Rex!

MISC. MANGA, *Magic Knight Rayearth

CLAMP's big premiere manga was the epic mahou-shoujo series, Magic Knight Rayearth. This took the idea of the magical girl which was usually some pre-teen girl(s) who would be granted powers to either fight evil invaders or make the world a better place, and instead took a trio of girls from Tokyo and dropped them right in the middle of a Dungeons And Dragons-styled adventure in a fantasy world. This spawned off a hit anime television series that went on for 2 seasons, and a 3-episode OVA remake which took a way more dramatic approach.

Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu are three girls from separate schools that each take a field trip to Tokyo Tower at the same time, when suddenly a flash of light appears and they are whisked away to the enchanted world of Cephiro. They meet the mage Clef who tells them that they were summoned to their world by Princess Emeraude who has been kidnapped by the high priest Zagato. The Princess acts as the "Pillar", which supports their land from any kind of dark forces, but since Zagato took her away, the kingdom is becoming infested with monsters. The three girls must now embark on a quest to become the legendary Magic Knights which are foretold to save Cephiro. They get magic weapons from the blacksmith Presea, and are given the bunny/marshmellow creature Mokona who can produce nearly any kind of object they need out of thin air. The girls then have to each get one of three giant robots referred to as "Spirits", all of which first take on the appearance of large mythical creatures like dragons and such. Proceeding from there, the Magic Knights confront all of Zagato's minions(a special one was made up for the anime), and then finally Zagato himself who of course had his own giant robot for them to fight. After Zagato is defeated, it is revealed that Emeraude wasn't really so much his prisoner but that she was really in love with him, and that threatened the Pillar system. She begs the girls to kill her and if they don't she'll destroy them with her own giant robot. The Magic Knights reluctantly comply, and send Emeraude to the afterlife with Zagato, thus returning themselves to Earth, but full of tears because of their actions.

The second half of the manga series makes up for Season 2 of the TV series, which on its own takes a very different approach with the story. A few weeks after coming back home, Umi, Fuu, and Hikaru are now good friends, and get together again at Tokyo Tower. They are then teleported back to Cephiro, and to a new castle where Princess Emeraude's was now stands. A reunion takes place with Clef, as well as most of Zagato's minions who turned good after facing the Magic Knights, plus the introduction to Zagato's brother, Lantis. Three outside countries are trying invade Cephiro to take control of the Pillar system for their own reasons, so the Magic Knights have to defend Cephiro from their advances. I won't spoil the ultimate resolution to this, but the anime series brings in a totally different antagonist in the form of Lady Deboniar and her clone of Hikaru, Nova. The actual antagonist for the manga however does leave with a serious "WTF?!" that some readers might have a little trouble accepting.

The manga is one of CLAMP's largest staples in their ever-expanding catalog. Some of the characters were incorporated into the XXXholic and Tsubasa continuity, including two talking versions of Mokona. There have been several releases of the manga in English. At least two from Tokyo Pop including their old Mixxzine anthology, plus from Dark Horse Comics in regular volumes and omnibus edition. You might run across variations as far as whether it's printed in right-to-left format depending on the publisher. This one is an absolute must though for any true manga historian, and for shoujo fantatics.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Mazinkaiser

Go Nagai brought back the original Mazinger Z and Great Mazinger into an updated OVA. Although most ol' skool otaku might remember this better as Tranzor-Z from syndicated 80s. TV. This 7-episode series takes place not to far off from the original 70s anime TV shows, but somehow manages to bring it into modern day.

After a brutal assault on the city, mad scientist Dr. Hell and his forces capture their main nemesis, the giant robot Mazinger Z. Fortunately, it's pilot, Koji Kabuto, happens upon his grandfather's even more powerful prototype, Mazinkaiser. He uses it subdue the altered Mazinger Z, and ultimately destroy it. From this point on, Koji and the other members of the Photon Power Lab to battle Dr. Hell and his army of Mechanical Beasts. After Hell's right hand man/woman Baron Ashura has failed countless times, he consigns him to in the pinnacle Frankenstein of robot monsters, which ends up destroying most of the Photon Power Lab. Mazinkaiser looks like its going to perish inside in Mt. Fuji, but Great Mazinger returns after a sabbatical and helps him defeat the remaining Mechanical Beasts. Mazinkaiser then flies to Dr. Hell's island for a "final" confrontation with the Big Boss.

This lead to a OVA one-shot special titled Mazinkaiser Vs The Great General Of Darkness which so far hasn't been released in this country. Another continuation was the Mazinkaiser SKL 3-episode OVA series which features several robot armies fighting on Dr. Hell's old island which threatens to destroy the world, and it has been released in its entirety on DVD in English. Do yourself a favor and get ahold of this awesome blast from the past, which is available on 2 DVD volumes from the now defunct ADV Films.

Anime We Wanna See...

MISC MANGA, *Alice The 19th

From Yu Watase, the creator of the definitive bishounen fantasy anime/manga Fushigi Yuugi, as well as the popular Ceres, comes this manga inspired by the old Lewis Caroll story.

Set in modern day Tokyo, Alice Seno is a young teenager who has trouble speaking her mind. Her older sister Mayura goes to the same school as her, and she has a major crush on a boy in her archery club, Kyo. But so does Alice. One day, Alice notices a strange rabbit lying in the middle of the road. She runs out to save it from getting run over, and she in turn is saved by none other than Kyo. The rabbit is earing a strange collar with a red jewel on it, and it runs off leaving the jewel with Alice. The rabbit then finds Alice later on and reveals itself to be a small bunny girl named Nyozeka, although they call her Bunny in the American version. She goes on to tell Alice that she is someone gifted with the ability to use Lotus Words which are like encantations that when said will actually bend reality for the speaker, something like granting wishes. It might seem like a good thing to have this power, but Alice is very shy and has problems standing up for herself. This costs her when she accidently wishes for her sister to dissappear, and she does! She doen't vanish into nothing, but more becomes blocked from Alice's life. Later on, Alice inadvertantly uses her new power to look into the mind of a boy she jilted which causes the whole school to become a living nightmare.

This is kind of a new turn for Watase's work which were usually a little more original. Where as this is bending to the "magical girl" brand of manga like Cardcaptor Sakura, it does contain some elements which make it more dramatic. Alice is pretty decent shoujo title, as if the cute bunny girl wasn't a big enough pull for it.

Somewhere in the universe...this happened

MISC. MANGA, *Arcana

This Korean manwha by So-Young Lee, the creator of Model, is a lush fantasy that's sure to make the bishounen-watchers happy. Taking place in an alternate fantasy world, and revolves around a girl named Inez who has the power to talk to animals.

This little Dr. Dolittle is taken to the captial with her grandfather. Her gramps is actually a two hundred year old wizard, and an old ally of the empire. Just as they arrive at the capitol, it starts to snow, which is something that only is supposed to happen once a century. This signals that a time of darkness is at hand. The emperor bids for Inez to seek out a race of creatures which will be used as bate to lure ancient dragons to help defend the empire for the oncoming darkness.

Arcana is an interesting story, told mainly from the perspective of a tomboy girl. Inez has to balance her rural upbringing along with her new devotion to her royal duties. Inez also has a strange relationship with her sheepdog Zode, who has the power to morph into a human, and might actually be the reincarnation one of Inez's family. There are a few parts in the plot that are a little vague, but it's clear that Lee had meant to grab the reader's attention with rich illustrations and gorgeous scenery. If you were a fan of the early works of Clamp like RG Veda, then Arcana is a sure hit.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Too much Pink Energy is dangerous

MISC. MANGA, *Avigon

Possibly, you might remember a one-shot prestige format one-shot comic from a while ago titled Avigon. It was a strange but wonderful sci-fi gothic fairytale. Now, its back in an expanded graphic novel called Avigon: Gods & Demons.

Taking place in an alternate reality, mechanical creatures known as Clockworks are used for human amusement. One of the best makers of these is Pulsifer. One of her latest creations is the humanoid one Avigon. Although she sometimes makes creations which appear to be crossovers with animals like a sphinx, Pulsifer usually adds a hint of emotions and sometimes free will to her clockworks. She usually creates for the elite rich, and even her country's young empress.Avigon though longs to be free on her own. She runs away from Pulsifer's castle, and heads for a nearby town. She meets a young student there who mistakes her for a human. But when Avigon asks him what he thinks of clockworks being truly alive, she becomes disappointed, and runs away again. She ends up in a small town at the end of the tracks where a novice mechanic finds her and totally wound down. He forges a new key for her and revives her. This leads to an altercation between the two when he tries to force himself on her, and inadvertantly activates her self-defense program. Avigon then runs back home, only to find that she's been sold by Pulsifer to the Empress herself. After a while though, Pulsifer's new creation Daemon challenges her to the right to be the Empress' personal clockwork. After loosing, Avigon is then given back to Pulsifer. Once back in her castle, Avigon then realizes she was truly happy to be there to begin with.

This comic is what Chobits would be like if it we done by Tim Burton. A fine moody piece that is an instant classic taking you to a new world of what it means to be human, and how someone can see themselves as being truly alive.