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.