Monday, December 8, 2014

MISC. MANGA, *Coco Gun-Bun

Like Sharknife, Coco Gun-Bun blends manga and blacksploitation. Originally a black 'n white one-shot by Shanda Fantasy Arts, this was later picked up as a colorized series by Angry Viking Press. Written by Chelsea Mitchell whose work doesn't seem to expand outside this comic, and drawn by Ron Murphy who also worked on Gold Digger and Ninja High School put this together.

Set in the fictional city of Neo-Metro, the whole town is run by evil pimps, even though we don't see much in the actual prostitution racket. To fight back at the corrupt police and growing criminal forces, there comes forth a rise of Mystery Men-styled superheroes. The most successful is the masked bootylicious babe in a Playboy bunny outfit, Coco Gun-Bun, who uses special "guns" that instead of shooting bullets like regular guns shoot a variety off gadgets like grappling hooks and gumballs(similar to Courageous Cat). This brings forth a little rivalry from wannabe crimefighter Katerina Kat who hires some goons to help her rub out. In the second issue, Coco teams up with the street fighting "Junior" to fight The Flaming Fro who sets them up to get caught by the police. Unfortunately, that's where the series left off, so far...
It's worth tracking down the two color issues that have been done by Angry Viking Press. There's been no word of future issues after issue #2, even though there was a webcomic of Coco Gun-Bun set up by the creators for a while, although it is currently down.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

MISC. MANGA, *Blue is For Boys/Pink Is For Girls

One of the more unusual approaches to a manga anthology was done by UK publisher Sweatdrop Studios. They decided to do one book for the shounen genre, and one for the shoujo genre. Blue Is For Boys usually starts out a story done for the action/ninja/fan service loving otaku, and then continues it in Pink Is For Girls but for the magical girl/bishounen/gothic Lolita otaku. Most of the stories in each book were oddly enough done by separate authors, although sometimes at least plotted by the same manga-ka.

Some of the standout stories were the spoofing of One Piece fans in Two Halves, the epic quest for a lost heir in Chenezzar, and the high fantasy-turned sci-fi tale of Angel's Game. Other stories take modern day same-sex perspectives on Romeo And Juliet, the estranged meeting of two possible lovers in Steaming/Brewing, and the Scott Pilgrim meets Sailor Moon battle of the bands plot of Super Brother/Magical Girl.

It is possible to have only one of these volumes on their own, but you get the full story of each collab. Both books are sold separately, so you'll have to check someplace like to buy them at the same time.

Shipping in a nutshell...

Friday, December 5, 2014

MISC. MANGA, *Free Collar Kingdom

Similar to the Magical Meow Meow Taruto anime, Free Collar Kingdom takes common Japanese housecats and envisions them as catgirls and catboys. Author Takuya Fujima did this as he's an animal lover, and based it slightly on his own pets. The manga was picked up by Del Rey Publishing who did a fairly good English adaptation of it, although they did take some liberties with the script.

In modern day Japan, the manga positions average cats as small humans with cat ears and tails, they also wear cat-sized human clothing and are pictured by humans as cats playing dress up. Cyan is a rare shorthaired cat that gets abandoned by his owner's parents as they think their son won't live through the medical treatment he needs. Cyan teams up with a rogue gang of cats called the Free Collars who fiercely protect their domain, which is Nyan-Nyan's Mansion, Cyan's old apartment building that is the former stomping ground of a legendary stray cat named Nyan-Man. Cyan befriends the cute Scottie, whose master still lives in the same apartment building as a manga creator. The Free Collars' turf is constantly being invaded by the sexy Siam and her catgirl army, although Siam is a sympathetic villain in the spirit of Team Rocket. Siam's lieutenants each have their own unique quirks, but they all want to take over Nyan-Nyan's Mansion mostly to expand their territory, but to search for Nyan-Man's mythical lost collar which is like the alley cat's Holy Grail.

This works out as a pretty good manga trilogy, although they left room open for more at the end. The artwork is excellent, and the characters live up to their manga archetypes both physically and spiritually. This isn't one of those "furry" titles(not that there's anything wrong with that!), but it doesn't hurt if you have a thing for anime girls with fuzzy ears.

Monday, December 1, 2014

MISC. MANGA, *Victorian Secret: Steam Queens

This dieselpunk comic by Iron Man artist Brian Denham acts as a slight continuation to The War Of The Worlds. It's part of Antarctic Press' Victorian Secret line, but stands alone as its own series too.

Set in the late-1930s, Earth is once again being invaded by Martians as part of their regular campaigns that occur about every decade. To counteract these little green men are the dynamic duo of Raven Mask and Magpie, a pair of ace female pilots who fly up to the mother ship and take out in the spirit of Independence Day. Although, Raven Mask herself now has some kind of deadly secret as she has red skin just like their enemies.

This is visually electrifying comic with sensational use of color when it is shown, and definitely entertaining enough for even the average war buff. It's currently an ongoing series with more issues on the way.

Friday, November 28, 2014

ANI-MOVIES, *Big Hero 6

Disney decided to take their own crack at a Marvel comic, but instead of live-action they went with their non-Pixar animation department to make a full-length big budget movie. Even though the comics themselves have only really had about two mini-series, Disney went ahead and remade them in the more "Americanized" anime style similar to Teen Titans and Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Set in the fictional city of "San Fransokyo" which is some kind of Japanese-themed American metropolis, and young genius Hiro spends his time in underground mini-robot battles. His older brother Tadashi convinces him to instead attend the local nerd college, especially after meeting his quirky classmates. So Hiro creates a special swarm of microbots for the entrance exam/science fair that can unite to form any shape as thought be who is wearing a mental headband. But as typical in most Marvel stories, a fire breaks out in the lab during Hiro's presentation, and seemingly takes the life of Tadashi as well as his teacher, Professor Callaghan. After a bit of grieving, Hiro reactivates Tadashi's blow-up medical android he made just before he died by the name of Baymax which looks like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man merged with the Michelin Man. Hiro then discovers through one of his remaining microbots that a masked nameless villain is controlling an entire swarm of them, and has them poised to commit some major crimes. Barely escaping from the "man in black", Hiro brings together the rest of his future classmates from Tadashi's school to help him take down this masked menace. The team consists of the sentimental Wasabi who makes some laserblades for himself, Go Go and her giant-wheeled rollerskates, quirky Honey Lemon that uses a special purse that manufactures special orbs specifically suited for a variety of uses, and fanboy Fred who isn't a student at the school but rich pockets help supply the team with the gear they need as well as give him a special kaiju-themed mascot suit. The 6 track down the Amon-lookalike baddie, but his true identity possesses Hiro with wanting him bumped off instead of bringing him to justice. The rest of the movie has our heroes trying to stop the villain from carrying his deadly vengeance of deadly revenge, but comes to a satisfying conclusion. (P.S. Stay tuned for the post-credits bonus!)

The movie was directed by Chris Williams whose only main credit up until now was co-directing Bolt, but took a good enough hold on the production to produce an exceptionally good animated movie. There are parts that seem make Big Hero 6 like more of a Dreamworks film, but it fits well enough into the Disney warehouse. It might not appear like your typical Marvel movie, but the comic it's based on is outside the given regular comics continuity since the most of the X-Men related characters were left out. However, most generic comic geeks should appreciate it, especially if your a fan of The Incredibles!

Friday, November 14, 2014

MISC. MANGA, *Gold Digger: Edge Guard

Where the regular Gold Digger manga-styled comic book series has been Antarctic Press' biggest ongoing title, there have been several spinoff mini-series, one-shots, annuals, and other specials continuing saga with some of the main cast, but mostly the supporting and reoccurring characters. One of these was not actually released through AP but from a company spun off from them, Radio Comix. John Barrett, well known in the underground comics set for furry art, wrote and drew this story about the GD equivalent of Thundercats, but was also a sequal to a short story he did for one of the Gold Digger annuals.

Set in Earth's sister dimension known as Jade, the Edge Guard are a select group of defenders made up of heroes from each region stationed in the four corners of the realm. The northern Edge Guard is made entirely of werecats, their leader Onoli, their tech jockey Thropan, the womanizing Tirga, and the brother sister were-jaguars: Sheila and Gar. Sheila is different from other werecats as all her strength and endurance come from her human form which resembles a large amazon, and she secretly has a crush on Tirga. The team investigates the emergence of an opposing force called the Dark Edge Guard made up of fox spirits inhabiting humanoid hosts. What it actually is are some kitsune spirit orbs having been absorbed by an female vampire, and after harnessing them becomes all body-builder. With the help of the remaining kitsune and a brave halfling named Cleo, the Edge Guard topple the super-vampire, but Cleo is wounded during the fight, so Onoli uses his lycanthropy to save her by making her a were-lion. The second half deals with the repercussions of this fight, with the vampire, and a conspiracy within the fox spirit society.

All in all, Edge Guard is a good enough comic on its own, and is enjoyable without having to be too familiar with any of the other Gold Digger material prior to reading it. There are some really funny moments and nostalgic fanboy references in it, as well as exceptional artwork. It's not a full-on "furry" title, but it doesn't hurt if you appreciate that style of comic.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

ANI-MOVIES, *Frankenweenie

Based on his live-action short movie from the 80s, Tim Burton spread this out into a full-length stop-motion black and white animated movie some two decades later. Whether this was something Burton himself wanted to do, or if he was urged by Disney to create as an the obligatory stop-motion animation film that seems to always come out sometime before Halloween is unknown. But the result was a better than average production.

A modern day young Victor Frankenstein(who apparently has no connection to the 19th Century scientist)is into making little amateur monster movies, which oddly enough doesn't really play out to anything else in the rest of the movie. After a dramatic new science teacher greatly inspires him and the rest of his school to go full throttle on the upcoming science fair, his classmate Edgar tries to team up with him on a project, but Victor isn't interested. However, his dog Sparky gets run over, so Victor decides to use science to bring him back with common household objects that he ties together to generate electricity captured by lightning, which is convenient since there's oddly a lightning storm in his town about every night. Victor has to keep Sparky's resurrection a secret, but Edgar finds out, and gets Victor to show him he did it. Edgar accidently lets some of the other eggheads in school know about it, and they try to create their own reanimated pets to win the science fair. The results are a bunch of nightmarish creations that run rampant on the small town. Victor and the others manage to stop the monster mash, but Sparky ends up dying again after battling a vampire cat in a windmill. The rest of the town uses their car batteries to bring Sparky back from doggy heaven, and accept him as true hero. You'd think after this, Sparky would join the B.P.R.D.

Frankenweenie on its own original worked spectacularly as a live-action short, but to turn this into a 90-minute animated really called for some slightly unnecessary additional material. Like, it's hard to imagine that there would be this many mad scientist wannabes living in a small Midwest town. Even Smallville wasn't this bad! Plus, all the stuff with Victor's a-hole of a neighbor/mayor didn't really add anything to it. However, the final execution makes for a good enough movie for the family to enjoy. The typical Burton character designs work well, at least mostly in black and white. The voice acting was good too, with Martin Landau at his best ad the overzealous science teacher. At least worth putting on for a good Halloween film fest for the kids.

Monday, October 27, 2014

MISC. MANGA, *Ursa Minors!

So, fuse Clerks with Scott Pilgrim, and add some robot bear suits, and you'll get some idea of what Ursa Minors! is like. Written by Neil Kleid and Paul Cole, and drawn by TMNT artist Fernando Pinto, this 4-issue mini-series from Slave Labor Graphics mixed in manga-styled art with American comic book geek sensibilities.

Tom, Richard, and Harry(get it?)are a trio of fanboys that work at a comic book/ice cream shop, but they also kick butt in robotic suits designed to look like bears, like if Tony Stark designed human-sized Teddy Ruxpin outfits. They have regular run-ins with Nazi-ninjas, jetpack ninjas, and other variety of ninjas. A trip to Japan has them celebrated as the "Mega Bears"(weirdly, they don't actually call them the "Ursa Minors" in any regular part of the series)where they take down a rampaging kaiju. Also, a hop over the pond to England makes way for an obligatory Harry Potter parody. Their final adventure has them dealing with corrupt future versions of themselves where they apparently get stuck in a time warp at the end, but the trade paperback has them in another adventure fighting mutant zombie kids at a fake movie premiere.

This was a fair look at the geek zeitgeist in the usual way of making a couple of hardcore fans into actual superheroes, but they manage to make it their own by having the Ursa Minors acting particularly dickish throughout the series. You probably want to get the collected graphic novel which has a of the bonus material, including webcomics, and a special 10-page wrap-up story as well.

Korean Batman has finger beams! Your argument is invalid!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

ANI-MOVIES, *Vampire Hunter D

"The first animated movie for adults" was the American tagline for this 80s classic. Based on the lengthy series of Japanese novels by Hideyuki Kikuchi(who also created Wicked City) this film borrowed the original book illustrations by Yoshitaka Amano(designer for Final Fantasy), but went its own direction as far as the look was concerned and made it more into a post-apocalyptic dark western.

Set about 10,000 years after humanity nuked themselves, what's left of civilization is now into strange mix of the old west and the Victorian era, but with laser guns and robot horses. During these dark times, vampires and other creatures of the night have come out of the woodwork to feed off the humans. Some of these monsters have mutated into having strange new powers, so the practice of vampire hunters is kind of a common practice. A pretty young werewolf hunter named Doris is stalked by the vampire lord, Count Lee(who bears a strong resemblance to Christopher Lee). Doris seeks help from a wandering vampire hunter named "D" who is also a dhampir. After several clashes with Lee's hot daughter Lamika and the space-warping mutant Rei, D confronts Lee in a terrifically climatic battle, but not before Lee figures out that D is in fact an offspring, and in typical final boss tradition, Lee's entire castle collapses when he gets axed.

Vampire Hunter D was directed by Toyoo Ashida, whose work on Fist Of The North Star shows up here in some of the gritty fight sequences. This has been recognized as both a movie and an OVA, but most American fans view it as an animated movie. It was first released in America on dubbed VHS through the Streamline Pictures, and years later re-released on DVD by Urban Vision. Although it's been on the out of print listing for a while now, so it's in serious need of a license rescue! Most otaku consider the sequal, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, to be the more superior anime, but you owe it to yourself as any kind of fan of animation to check out this 80s gem.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Bastard!!

This 6-episode OVA based on the lengthy manga series of the same name by Kazushi Hagiwara, mixed in D&D with heavy metal. The upshot for the anime was though is that it was directed by Thundercats animator Katsuhito Akiyama, so it had some decent action sequences in it.

Set waaay in the future after your average civilization-destroying armageddon, namely a god of destruction called Anthrasax, one of his followers called Dark Schneider was a powerful wizard that gets sealed away into a young innocent boy named Rushe that is raised by the leaders of the kingdom he was trying to sack as Dark Schneider. Fifteen years pass, and Anthrasax has a new running crew titled the Four Lords of Havoc, and set out to destroy various kingdoms that were created to seal in Anthrasax's resurrection. Dark Schneider is revived by the snippy priestess Yoko, and he sets out to take out the Four Lords one by one. First is the charismatic ninja master Gara, then Dark Schneider old lover Arshes Nei who is the most bootylicious half-elf in anime ever! Darsh(as his friends call him)finally has a tussle with necromancer Abigail who sends an energy-sucking giant cyclops to take him out, as well as Gara and Arshes who have switched allegiance to Darsh. The anime ends with Abigail being vanquished, but still leaving the other Lord of Havoc, Kall-Su, still working for Anthrasax and awaiting its revival.

Bastard!! was released in America through Geneon Entertainment on VHS and DVD, but hasn't had a license rescue since then. It's for reals worthy of adding to your anime hit list if your a fan of dynamic animation, and some pretty hilarious dialogue, especially in the English dub.

Friday, October 10, 2014

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Shin Getter Robo Vs. Neo Getter Robo

This 4-episode OVA series was an adaptation of the Venger Robo manga that was released in English through Viz Manga. The anime was one of several to use the term Shin among the Getter Robo titles like the New Getter Robo TV series, or the Getter Robo: Armageddon OVA, although technically they're not all in the same fictional universe. This particular OVA actually took the mecha from Getter Robo: Armageddom and Getter Robo Go into the same reality, but meant to be a follow up to the original Getter Robo and Getter Robo G(or Starvengers in America)shows from the 70s. Although, like most of the other Getter Robo anime movies that had the word "Vs." in the title, the two title characters don't actually fight in it.

The main enemy from the first Getter Robo anime series, the Dinosaur Empire, returns years after an all-out invasion on New York failed, which also claimed the original Getter Robo mecha and it's pilot Mushashi in its aftermath. The reptiliain humanoids plan their next invasion more carefully as the world forces muster to put together a new team to pilot their newest giant robot, Neo Getter Robo. Once they finally assemble all three pilots, the Neo Getter Team joins forces with the American mecha, Texas Mack, and its badass charismatic cowboy pilots. Eventually though, Neo Getter Robo gets trashed, and the team starts up the even more powerful Shin Getter Robo to foil the Dinosaur Empire's ultimate plan of using a giant flying sauce to dominate the world.

All in all, this was a pretty satisfying OVA. It didn't go on for too much longer like Getter Robo Armageddon did at some points, and carried the passing of the torch for a new generation of Getter pilots while still giving the old school team enough to do. The animation is decent, but mostly in the thrilling mecha fights that make Pacific Rim look like a puppet show. This is available through Discotek Media on subtitled DVD, although an added dub would've been nice.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *K.O. Beast

This rather hilarious pun-filled OVA series was split into two series in its original release. First as a 3-episode OVA titled K.O. Century Beast Warriors and then by a 4-episode sequal with II added to the title. The American release had the entire series under the single title of K.O. Beast, although there was an earlier British dub of the first series by Anime UK(which was their only anime release!)magazine called Three Beastketeers which has gone down as being one of the worst dubs ever. Despite that though, the OVA as a whole managed to pull a bit of success on both sides of the pond.

Way in the future, the Earth has been broken into two halves due to a war between two super-computers, Uranus and Gaea. Uranus took all the humans and turned it's half into something resembling Cybertron, while Gaea kept it green having all the animals, who here are referred to only as beasts, that all eventually took on humanoid forms. Each type of beast formed their own clans, mainly the tiger, bird, and mermaid(even though they aren't all "maids"). Every one of the clans has their own guardian statue called a Jinn. The humans lead by Uranus are now trying to collect these Jinns, along with royal members of each clan. Wan the tiger, Bud the bird(more chicken-like), and Mei-Mer the mermaid are captured by Uranus' main agents, the short-tempered mage knight V-Darn and hitgirl V-Sion. The three beasts team up with turtleman Tuttle, and Yuni, the granddaughter of the human scientist Password pretending to work for Uranus on the Jinns. The Jinns are revealed to be robotic beasts that can unite into a giant mecha that the beasts can pilot. They escape and plan to look for Gaea itself, at first believing it to be a great treasure, with the forces of Uranus in hot pursuit.

K.O. Beast is a slightly acquired taste, although chocked full of hysterical comedy, brilliant sight-gags, and an amusingly original enough plot to it. Put together by some of the same minds that created Samurai Pizza Cats and Mon Collie Nights, their style of humor shines throughout the series. The entire series was released on 3 DVD volumes through Right Stuf, but is now currently out of print. Still, it is available on services like Netflix, so give it a look sometime when your in the mood for something truly off the wall!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

ANI-MOVIES, *Armitage III: Dual-Matrix

With the original OVA series being a cyberpunk smash, and the theatrically-released compilation movie(Poly-Matrix)making some waves with its "star talent", it was inevitable that a sequal would get made. This time, Armitage III is made into a legitimate full-length movie in Dual-Matrix. Although this film had an almost totally different production crew behind it.

Taking place about four years where the original OVA/movie left off, Armitage and Ross Sylibus have new identities on Mars and managed to have a daughter, despite the fact that Armitage is an android. Armitage receives a transmission of illegally-created Thirds being slaughtered in a military installation on Earth. Armitage heads to the blue planet ton confront the assault teams military commander, but it turns out he was secretly under orders of the slimy robotics executive, Demetrio. Ross on the other hand stopped an attack on a power plant in his new identity as a security officer on Mars, and gets roped into being a speaker for the Martian government for a new robotics bill being passed on Earth. Armitage meanwhile is being helped by an underground robot repairman named Mouse, who first sells out some of Armitage's secrets to Demetrio, but then vows to help Armitage after getting beaten up by his personal Armitage clones. Demetrio kidnaps Armitage's daughter Yoko in order to force the secret of robot reproduction out of her, so she and Ross reunite to rescue her. This follows a rather lengthy chase that leads to the family finally coming back together, and defeating Demetrio, partially achieved with some help from Armitage's "brother" Pluto.

Dual-Matrix was a fitting follow-up to the OVA, although maybe not to Poly-Matrix. Actress Juliette Lewis steps in to do the voice of Armitage this time, and possibly the best one so far, plus Ahmed Best(aka: Jar Jar Binks)actually does a serviceable job as Mouse. The animation has that cell-shaded turn of the century style to it a lot of anime did at the time like the original Appleseed CGI movie, but still holds up pretty well. It's probably better off being bought in the special 2-disc collector's set they did of both movies instead of the single DVD release.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

ANI-MOVIES, *Trigun: Badlands Rumble

Vash the Stampede rides again in this midquel, and all because the fans demanded it! Since Cowboy Bebop: The Movie did some decent business for its franchise as a midqual, mostly due to the strong American fanbase, one for Trigun was also made. Unfortunately, this movie came out about 12 years after the original anime ended, but it still managed to gain enough momentum from otaku on both sides of the Pacific to propel this space western into being made in the first place.

Beginning about 20 before the TV series began, the "Humanoid Typhoon" manages to stop a bank robbery by the large outlaw Gasback, who himself is betrayed by his own gang that make off with the loot. Fast-forward to sometime around the middle of the anime series(at least after Wolfwood first appeared), Gasback is still at large, and threatens to take out the members of his old gang who used their stolen money to become big shots, like the last one in his list Cain who became a city's mayor. Cain hires dozens of completely bombastic bounty hunters to try and stop Gasback, and all this noise attracts Vash to make sure things go down peacefully. Insurance agents Milly and Meryl show up too to deal with any damages caused by this grand shootout. Gasback finally arrives, but he's managed to rope Wolfwood in as his personal bodyguard for saving his life. Instead of trying to kill Cain, Gasback makes off with his city's giant lightbulb which powers it main generator. Meanwhile, the appearance of a sexy redhead named Amelia has spurned Vash's affections, and she seems to have a personal beef with Gasback that goes way beyond a large bounty.

As a movie, this fills in the bill for a standard Trigun story stretched out to 90 minutes. Obviously the quality of animation is a lot better, but still keeps the flavor of the 90s TV series. It acts a good stand-alone chapter, while at the same time works as a great intro to the Trigun universe. Badlands Rumble is definitely a fine look at what makes anime sci-fi truly awesome, so pick it up for your library today.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

MISC. MANGA, *Dramacon

Probably the most successful of Tokyo Pop's American manga lineup was this 3-volume series of graphic novels by Svetlana Chmakova, most might remember her from her work in Cosmopolitan, her webcomic Chasing Rainbows, and her series of Nightschool from Yen Press. Recently, she's been doing the "manga" adaptations of the Witch And Wizard novels. This sold well in the States and overseas, mostly because it focused on the otaku culture in general, but also how it affects the lives of its fans inside and outside of conventions.

The series is broken up into one year for each volume, all at the same convention, and using most of the same characters. The first year has webcomic writer Christie going to her first anime con with Derek, her comic artist and boyfriend. Throughout the convention, she meets Matt, a cosplayer who constantly wears sunglasses, although she learns that he has them on to cover his missing eye. Christie and Matt end up falling for each other while she has a falling out with Derek after he sexually assaults her, which admittedly seems a little forced onto the reader to accept. The second year sees Christie returning to the convention with her new artist Bethany, and reuniting with Matt after not having the courage to speak to him since the last con. Matt has found a new girlfriend since then named Emily that he brings with him and his trendy sister. Bethany meets with some of the officials from the "Mangapop" publishing company who want to hire her on as an artist, but she declines until she gets some more schooling done. Matt eventually breaks up with Emily, and he Christie promise to meet up again at the next con. The third year has Bethany having to confront her overbearing mother showing up at the con demanding she look for a real career and not as a comic artist, plus having her artist alley neighbor Raj finally build up the courage to ask her out. Christie meanwhile makes her first failed attempt at her own cosplay while hooking up with Matt after three cons.

This is a pretty essential reading for any hardcore American otaku who regularly go to conventions at least on an annual basis. Svetlana's art style and writing is deeply appealing, and worth looking into not only here but in her other works. Dramacon has been released as three separate paperbacks, plus in a hardcover "ultimate edition" that collects the entire series along with a bonus ending that totally makes it worth getting.

Monday, September 1, 2014

MISC. MANGA, *Clubbing

As part of DC Comics' Minx line of manga-styled comics, Clubbing was written by Andi Watson who specialized in anime-themed titles like Geisha and Skeleton Key, and drawn by Josh Howard of Dead @ 17 fame. The Minx line was largely focused at teenage girls with a love for manga, although aside from Josh Howard's art style, the story plays out similarly to the movie Hot Fuzz which was released about the same time that this graphic novel was released.

Charlotte(or "Lottie" to her friends)is a snobby goth girl from London who gets punished by her parents for trying to get into a club with a fake I.D., and sent to the countryside to spend the summer working at her grandparents' golf course. At first Lottie doesn't mind most of it, especially the young groundskeeper Howard, but the sudden murder of her grandfather's secretary leads Lottie to want to investigate it further than the police do. Without giving away the ending, the story involves Lottie's snarky inner monologue working through the mystery which involves a secret society, and the summoning of an ancient demon.

Clubbing is a pretty good attempt at an original manga, at least for a mainstream publisher like DC Comics, without it getting to mired down in too many clichés. Andi Watson has some incredible dialogue, and Josh Howards cheesecake art is surprisingly toned down for this project, but still appealing. My only real complaint is that about 10% of the book is taken up with previews from other Minx titles.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

ANI-MOVIES, *Legend Of The Millenium Dragon

Even though the English name for the title might seem, Onigamiden as it was originally known was based on a Japanese novel, even though the script was handled by sentai show-regular Naruhisa Arakawa, and animated by Studio Pierrot, which gave it a serious Ghibli look to it. It got a formal release in America through Sony Entertainment who regularly put out anime movies to a wide audience, although there wasn't as large a release for it in stores, despite all the advertising for it that was done on other video releases.

First set during the Heian Era of Feudal Japan, an ongoing feud between samurai and Oni(Japanese demons)has lead to unrest between the nobles and the countrymen. In order to end this threat, their head monk Gen'un uses special magic to travel into the future to find a chosen descendent who can control the large spiritual dragon called the Orochi. Gen'un taps the timid Jun Tendo who bears a special birthmark that allows him to control Orochi once it's summoned. The Oni show up to disrupt the Orochi's resurrection, and Jun gets taken by them. Jun learns that the Oni are in fact simple townfolk who can disguise themselves as monsters in order to use magic against the monks that work for the nobles. Jun turns against Gen'un, although he reveals that he was going to use Orochi to fuse with it and gains his powers. Gen'un is thwarted by his former disciple Reiko, a half-Oni/half-noble warrior that befriended Jun. Jun is then sent back to the future, and peace is restored to the past.

This was a visually bombastic animated movie, and seriously trying to appeal to fans of Haiyo Miyazaki. The main drawback though is the slightly weak characters and very limp dialogue. It's a great film to see on a large flatscreen or theatre, but mainly for the feast to the eyes that the animation itself brings.

Friday, August 22, 2014


OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Phantom Quest Corp.

While it does seem like a pretty shameless ripoff of Ghost Sweeper Mikami, this 4-episode OVA series was produced through Pioneer(and later on Geneon Entertainment)as part of their line of anime being directly released at the same time as they were in Japan. This anime about a team of professional exorcists in modern day Japan at first gained more of a small following in America since it was released before Ghost Sweeper by over a decade, but since then it has been a little overlooked, mostly because it hasn't been licensed rescued by another company. Even though it did manage to get a single issue of what was supposed to be a 4-part comic book mini-series specifically printed for American readers.

The Phantom Quest Corp. consists mostly of the leggy redhead Ayaka Kisaragi who fights monsters with a lipstick/lightsabre(similar to Mikami), and Mamoru, an apparent orphan that lives with her and acts as the company's secretary and bookkeeper. They employ outside help for special cases like a teenage pyrokinetic, an elderly medium, and a spiritual monk. Most of their cases have them working with Kozu, a detective from the government's "X-Files" division. Ayaka takes on possessed doctors, rival companies, and even Dracula himself. Although each case(along with Ayaka's binge drinking and oversleeping)usually cause Phantom Quest Corp. to keep constantly being in the red.

There's been a lot of debate between this Madhouse production and Ghost Sweeper Mikami, although P.Q.C. is a little more sophisticated with better animation, not too mention slightly subtle in its approach to comedy instead of the hammer over your head style of G.S.M.. If it doesn't get picked up by another American licensor anytime soon, you might want to look through some of the used video isles for this one.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

OBSURE O.V.A.S, *Amazing Nurse Nanako

While a bunch of OVAs at the turn of the century were focused the fads of nurses or maids as fanbait. Enter this 6-episode OVA, which the title character Nanako is not only a nurse but also a maid. This was done as one of Pioneer(and later Geneon)'s line of OVAs like Tenchi-Muyo and El-Hazard, so there's a steady balance of sci-fi comedy and fanservice.

Nanako Shichigusa is a voluptuous ditz who works at a specialized clinic under the revered Dr. Omagi. Omagi himself is involved in several projects usually involving cloning and cybernetics. It's speculated that Nanako herself is at first the subject of a cyborg experiment, but is in fact the clone of nurse that's been in Ogami's family for generations. Ogami is in co-hoots with both the U.S. military working on alien DNA, and the Vatican who want to use his cloning skills to make a copy of Jesus for them(if that's how the Second Coming was supposed to work!). Nanako is kept under a strict regiment of keeping herself in shape as the subject of most of his experiments, although she is blissfully unaware of most of this. A number of her escapades have her dealing with mutant monsters, mad bears, enhanced psychopaths, not to mention the other crazies who work at her clinic.

This OVA was released through Geneon as three separate DVDs, as well as a 3-disc box set, but so far hasn't been picked up for a Blu-Ray release or a license rescue by another company since its original release. It's probably worth picking up if you're seriously into busty anime nurses/maids with wacky characters in it. Although the dub could use some serious work, aside from the main voice actress for Nanako is actually pretty passable despite working in only one other anime dub.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

You come into Splinter's place, you better be ready to pay!

MISC. MANGA, *Legends From Darkwood

While being somewhat inspired by the old Tom Cruise movie, Legend, this manga-styled comic takes the old story of a maiden and a unicorn to a whole different level that is sure to irk a few Bronies! This was released through Antarctic Press, who are already pros at American manga, so creators Christopher Reid and John Kantz ran with this dark comedy/fantasy.

Set in an RPG-inspired world, the town of Darkwood has made its main profit by cornering the market in selling of all things...unicorn meat! But unicorns don't just show up for anyone as most of the time they're invisible to mortals. Only a "pure" maiden can gain their favor, so the maiden Raynd acts as the town's official unicorn hunter. The Mayor Moore is most pleased with this business, although his sweet daughter Rose finally learns the truth of her family's business. Rose is an innocent storybook-loving girl who had no idea that her favorite mythical creatures were the source of her father's revenue. Determined to stop this slaughter of the unicorns, she tries hiring assassins to do away with Raynd, but everyone is scared crapless of her. Finally, Rose is told by a raccoon girl that the only reason Raynd is able to hunt unicorns in the first place is because of her virginity, so she hits Raynd with a "love bomb". After waking to the effects of the magical aphrodisiac and a quickie with some guy she met in a bar, Raynd then takes Rose as her new apprentice. All this while a unicorn named Andrew decides he's had enough of having his kind turned into burgers, impales a random adventurer, and eats his flesh. This gives a devil the opportunity to strike a bargain with Andrew to transform him into a large fire-breathing monster, who then goes on a killing spree in Darkwood. After it seems like the unicorn-killing business is kapoot, Raynd gets Rose to tame Andrew, and they all set out into the world to seek their fortune.

This 4-issue mini-series was released into a single "Pocket Manga" collection. There was also a one-shot special(Legends From Darkwood: High Times And Small Crimes)that acted as kind a follow-up and lead-in to the next volume which was never made. There was also another one-shot, Monkeybug Madness, which was showcased some background characters that are small creatures which look like gnomes in crack. I'd recommend getting a hold of the Pocket Manga to look at first, mostly because of a fairy tale that is very self-aware(and not in a crappy Dreamworks kind of way), and some engaging artwork.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Evolution is for pussies!

MISC. MANGA, *The Middleman

Some might remember the fatally short-lived live-action TV series on ABC Family, but the original comics was layered with anime-influences. Written by Javier Grillo-Marxuach whose also written for Lost and Law and Order, and drawn by Les McClaine, The Middleman is a mix of X-Files and Agents Of SHIELD about a secret underground organization that protects mankind from alien menaces, mad scientists, luchadores, and gorilla supervillains.

Mild-mannered artist Wendy Watson is dragged into the strange hidden world of the Middleman when a literal tentacle monster breaks out of a lab she's part-timing out. The Middleman himself is the nameless single ranking officer of this bizarre agency, and takes Wendy on as his subordinate. In their first case, they have to stop a mob made entirely of genetically modified apes put together by a estranged scientist. Their next outing has Wendy learning the martial arts ropes by the world-renowned masked fighter, Sensei Ping, who gets kidnapped by a clan of Mexican wrestlers. The last outing has the Middleman crew confronting the criminal organization called FATBOY lead by Kanimang Kang who has ties to the mysterious Middleman's past.

The series ran for two mini-series which were collected into their own trade paperbacks, while the third one skipped the mini-series and went straight to graphic novel, and all three were eventually put into a now out of print omnibus. There was also another direct-to-trade paperback which acted as a finale to the live-action series which never got made. All four of these have recently been re-released directly through, so you should definitely give them a look.

Friday, August 1, 2014

MISC. MANGA, *Hyper Dolls

Shinpei Itoh has worked on projects involving superheroines like Moldiver and Cutie Honey, but one his biggest claims was his own title of Hyper Dolls. It was an odd mix of Dirty Pair meets Powerpuff Girls. The manga lasted for five volumes, but was unfortunately cut short slightly due to a falling out between Itoh and the producers of the 2-episode OVA series which acted as sort of an in-between chapter of the manga storyline. It did get an American release through Studio Ironcat/I.C. Entertainment, although only three of the volumes were collected into trade paperbacks.

Miyu and Maika look like average anime schoolgirls, but they are in reality the Hyper Dolls! Two super-powered androids sent from an alien collective who are trying to protect mankind, mostly from itself. One of their schoolmates, Akai, discovers their secret identity, and they threaten to rip his head off if he tells anyone, thus he becomes their reluctant ally. The Dolls spend most of their time fighting the mutant were-creatures of an underground organization called CHAOS, which may or may not be getting assistance from an outside alien resource. The Hyper Dolls end up causing usually more damage than the mean to in their battles with this mutant monsters, who can become kaiju-sized making for Ultraman levels of insanity.

The manga unfortunately ends abruptly right after the Hyper Dolls finally coming across CHAOS(mostly by accident), and then they just decide to give up and go get something to eat. You can still find the first three trade paperbacks, as well as the last two volumes in separate comic book issue format. The OVA series has been released under the title Hyperdoll on a single DVD, two VHS tapes, and two laser discs. You might want to at least check out the first graphic novel and from their decide if you want to read the rest of the manga, but it does make for a great superhero manga parody.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

MISC. MANGA, *Ninja High School

Ninja High School has been widely-regarded as the beginning of "American Manga", as it did come out in the mid-80s just a manga itself was first really creeping into the U.S. market, and it was an original story without it being an American comic based on a Japanese franchise like Robotech. It was first done through Antarctic Press, but then in color through Eternity Comics, and then back to AP again. Created by Ben Dunn(whose prior work including the mecha-inspired Dynamo Joe)mashed this as "Urusei Yatsura meets Archie".

Seemingly normal teenager, Jeremy Feeple, is the son of one of the world's greatest female ninja and the world's greatest rat exterminator(who is now missing). Living in the middle-America town of Quagmire, he becomes the target of two very aggressive girls, one is Ichi-Koo, an up and coming ninja clan leader, while the other Princess Asrial, an alien skunkgirl of imperial birth. A duel begins between the two of them matching Ichi's ninja skills against Asrial's alien strength and technology, but Ichi's wannabe boyfriend Lendo intends to win her heart. Jeremy gets some help from the enigmatic Professor Steamhead, and ultimately his friends get him out of this jam, with Ichi and Asrial becoming the "Betty & Veronica" for his affections. This lead into a spinoff series titled Ninja High School: Version 2 taking place years later dealing with Jeremy's younger brother Ricky who is an accomplished ninja-in-training and his own problems with out of this world female suitors, although it was later retconned into the regular storyline thanks to a time paradox. Eventually, the series becomes a mix of folding in several anime fads and clichés, while at the same time telling a cohesive story with the characters mingling with aliens, superheroes, demons, evil ninjas, and witches. One storyline dealt with Lendo's younger sister Yumei as she went to a totally different high school in Hawaii. This folds back into more material with Ricky Feeple and his friends into plots with feuding ninja clans.

There have been numerous spinoffs from this including Quagmire USA., AOK, and several annual specials. NHS also shares the same universe as other Antarctic Press titles like Gold Digger and Warrior Nun Areala. It's a long and complicated series to get into, even though there have been several jumping on points throughout its run(usually the manifestation of some cosmic restart button), but it is worth looking into, at least from the beginning. You can see how the artwork improved over its 20+ year run. If you liked looking at how old school otaku operated in Otaku No Video, then you run through some real American comics history!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Moldiver

When Pioneer was starting out their line of original video anime productions, one of their more forgotten titles was this tribute to the Superman Family. Moldiver was a 6-episode OVA series with super-powered suits, robo-babes, mecha suits, and space adventures.

In the mid-21st Century, Mirai is a young model whose brother Hiroshi has created a special device called a Mol-Unit that allows its user to create a special hologram around them endowing them with powers and abilities far beyond mortal men. Hiroshi at first uses it to be a superhero under the name Captain Tokyo, but Mirai gets her hands on it and Hiroshi somehow allows her to continue using it. The weird part is when Mirai first uses the Mol-Unit, she transforms into her brother's bulky Superman look, which is weird with her girly voice coming out of someone who looks like a bodybuilder in a spandex outfit and cape. Mirai later redesigns the Mol-Unit so it looks more like herself in a frilly superheroine getup, and calling herself "Moldiver". All this while the mad scientist, Dr. Machinegal, is planning on collecting rare bits of technology from the 20th Century for his own selfishness, and he sends his platoon of sexy android women on missions to obtain these collector's items. There appears another Mol-Unit user later in the series to rival Moldiver, who is really Mirai's younger brother, although despite nearly killing her several times, it's never clear as to why he's doing this. The final story arc deals with Mirai's love interest being sent out on a space mission with Dr. Machinegal trying to sabotage it.

This was a fair anime series, but mostly only appeals to any otaku of blatant fanservice and superhero shenanigans. The OVA was released at first on VHS(and laser disc of all things), the eventually on a collected DVD. There was a manga sequal by Shinpei Itoh(creator of Hyper Dolls)which so far hasn't been printed into English. Another attempt at reviving it was going to be a Moldiver American comic book mini-series that Pioneer was planning for several of their titles which only got one issue of Phantom Quest Corp and all six issues of Tenchi Muyo(that was a sequal to Tenchi Universe. Moldiver herself makes a cameo on the Tenchi Universe TV series is it Mihoshi's favorite TV show!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

ANI-MOVIES, *Mr. Bug Goes To Town

A classic among classics, this was the second feature-length animated film from Fleischer Studios who were most known for their work on the original Betty Boop, Superman, and Popeye. Their first full-length movie was Gulliver's Travels was a groundbreaking follow-up to Disney's Snow White, but Mr. Bug Goes To Town was a fresher approach at an animated movie, even though it was inspired by a book by Belgian poet Maurice Maeterlinck titled The Life Of The Bee. Brothers, Dave and Max Fleischer, put alot of time and effort in completing this, even though it broke up the Fleischers for a while, and the movie itself proved to be a financial wreck. However, over the decades the movie has become viewed as a cult hit. The film was originally supposed to be titled Hoppity Goest To Town, although the current DVD release of it is called Bugville.

Set in the big city, a community of bugs live in a patch of land in the park. Their tiny community is in danger as the fence to their area has been damaged and people keep throwing cigarette butts on them setting their houses on fire. Fortunately, former resident Hoppity the grasshopper comes back home to help, and reunite with his sweetheart, Honey the bee. The greedy rich bug, Mr. Beetle has his sights set on Honey though, and frequently sets his two cronies, Swat and Smack, to fowl up Hoppity's attempts to hook up with her. Hoppity finds out their human neighbors are a couple of successful songwriters, and their incoming payment from a recording company would allow them to have their yard repaired, making the bug community safe. Mr. Beetle gets wind of this and arranges for the check to the couple from coming in, thus causing the bugs to have to seek shelter in the newly created sky rise building. Hoppity hears that the couple is getting a place on top of the building, so all the bugs make their way up the building as its being built and eventually make it to the top just as the couple moves into the new penthouse with a lavish garden for the bugs to live in.

Mr. Bug Goes To Town is truly worth seeking out and adding to your collection. It is admittedly a little longer than it should be as the plot seems to string along near the end, but it really makes for a timeless all-ages classic. Since it's in the public domain you can find this under several releases, just maybe be a little picky about the look of the quality depending on what company is doing it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

MISC. MANGA, *Night Warriors: Darkstalkers' Revenge

Despite the title, this was the only full on Darkstalkers manga to get an English printing. Viz first released it as a 6-issue mini-series, and then as a collected trade paperback, unlike some of their other video game-based manga releases which were originally printed in Game On! magazine. There have been other manga based on the Darkstalkers games, including one of Vampire Savior(or Darkstalkers 3), plus a compilation of stories from this series and Red Earth titled Maleficarum was released in English. There were also two American mini-series created by Capcom Comics to coincide with their successful Street Fighter comics. This manga was on its own done by Run Ishida who had also worked on the Warrior Nun Areala one-shot comic. It was probably given the title of Night Warriors: Darkstalkers' Revenge instead of just Darkstalkers to coincide with Viz'a release of the OVA series of the same name, which they used to differentiate between the anime series and the American Darkstalkers cartoon.

This is set up in three sections all set in the same world where monsters are referred to as "Darkstalkers". The first one is a short one where the succubus Morrigan confronts the vampire lord Demitri. The next one is a 3-part story featuring the catwoman Felicia where she frees her "owner" from some kidnappers, teams up with the werewolf Jon Talbain, and the two of them then stop the zombie rocker Lord Raptor from stealing someone's soul. The last segment is another 3-parter about the Darkstalker hunter Donovan(who is half-Darkstalker himself)as he crusades to stop Morrigan from stealing the souls of innocent men.

This was a fair collection of stories that works better than the mish-mash that was the OVA series adaptation of the video games. If you were a big enough fan of the original Darkstalkers video game trilogy, than this is totally down your dark alley.