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.