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


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.