Sunday, March 30, 2014

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Vampire Princess Miyu

Before the anime TV series was brought out here as part of Tokyopop's short-lived premiere into the world of American releasing of anime, there was this gorgeous 4-episode OVA series from the 80s. With numerous mini-series of the manga having been published into the States through Antarctic Press and then Studio Ironcat, die-hard otaku out here first fell in love with this in the original anime. Directed by Dangaioh creator Toshiki Hirano, this anime broke some serious ground for its time considering OVAs were still getting the bearings in the Japanese market.

Throughout Japan, mankind has been plagued by hidden monsters called shinma, which are apparently the spawn of gods and demons. A daywalker vampire "princess" named Miyu and her masked shinma underling Larva set out to remove all the shinma, partially because Miyu believes they're infringing on her territory, but it's also part of some duty she's been born into. She masquerades as an average schoolgirl by day, and sets out to do the Buffy thing by night. Miyu comes across Himiko, a professional spiritualist who acts as her own personal Van Helsing, stalking her believing Miyu to be pure evil while at the same time taking on various supernatural cases that might lead to her. Among her X-Files, Himiko's cases include a rich boy who sells his soul to a marionette shinma, the vengeful ghost of a deceased girl, and a living suit of samurai armor. Miyu dispatches her prey either by writing the shinma's name which sends it back to the spirit world, or by literally killing it with fire! Her powers aren't just the standard vampire ones, as she can also seem to shoot out beams of energy and teleporting, so she's like an X-Man among vampires, even though there aren't any other Draculas who show up in the series.

The original manga itself actually acts as a middle ground between the OVA and the TV series, even thought its never fully confirmed that the TV series was a sequal to the OVA or its own separate take on the story. There was also the New Vampire Princess Miyu sequal manga, as well as the Vampire Princess Yui spinoff manga that are worth looking into. The OVA series is still on Animego's dwindling catalog of old school anime titles, even though its available as two separate volumes instead of a single collected DVD, but still worth adding to your library.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

U.S. Comics-Turned-Anime

You might have seen the Marvel Anime shows on G4, or checked out the Batman: Gotham Knight film, but American fans might not be aware that there have been several other American comics that have been turned into anime TV series, movies, and OVAs. Now, alot are familar with the Spider-Man live-action Japanese series from the 70s, but even more have made the leap to anime.
Acting as a slight follow up to Iron Man: Rise Of Technovore, this the first Avengers anime movie deals more with Black Widow and her relationship with SHIELD, and her forming an unlikely alliance with the Punisher. The spy and vigilante are caught up in a web of intrigue against former a SHEILD scientist(who was really Egghead in the comics!)and the terrorist organization called Leviathan(no relation to the one from DC Comics), and its leader Orion(which was also made up for the anime). You get appearances by other Marvel bad guys like Gravitron, Grim Reaper, and Griffin, plus an appearance by Baron Zemo which suggested a lead in to another sequal. A number of the Avengers show up(minus Cap)including irregulars like War Machine and the new female Captain Marvel, but their appearance is more for show as the real action centers around Black Widow and somewhat of the Punisher. This was a second attempt to seemingly make an animated feature of Punisher, even though Marvel would be better off making an anime solo adventure of Deadpool!
Alot of Batfans might consider this an American production since it was mostly directed by Warner Bros., but the overall production was handled by six different anime studios. Meant to be a followup to Batman Begins and a lead-in to The Dark Knight, it mostly takes place within its own continuity. This OVA features work by Bee Train, Production IG, and Madhouse. The anime's take on Batman is mostly evident in the third chapter with the bishounen Bruce Wayne and his Gatchaman Batsuit.
The last of the Marvel Anime titles has the Daywalker on his hunt for for Deacon Frost, the vampire lord that cause his own creation. His journey takes him(like all the other Marvel Anime)to Japan as Frost is collecting DNA from various monsters throughout the world so he can take over the vampire council called Existence. On his quest, Blade encounter's Wolverine, plus the mutant samurai Kikyo from the Wolverine anime who also trained under the same swordmaster as him. This is a decent take on Blade, although the live-action movies are better adaptations, even though the character designs an animation are remarkable.
The first of the Marvel Anime TV series lineup, this had Tony Stark going to Japan for an extended business trip after supposedly retiring from being the Armored Avenger. He plans to set up a new arc reactor for Japan, but the emergence of the criminal organization known only as the Zodiac causes some serious supervillainry. Zodiac gets a new mechanized makeover for this show, as opposed to being just a bunch of random guys cosplaying as horoscope symbols. This an the return of an old friend-turned-enemy makes for an intriguing plot, even though the animation for the show wasn't as good as in the original anime pilot, nor does it have Iron Man fighting modern day robot Nazis!
This animated movie was sort of a followup to the Iron Man anime TV series, but was also meant to appeal to fans of the Iron Man live-action trilogy and Avengers movie. Involving no characters from the TV series, Tony Stark has to defeat Ezekiel Stane whose using a Venom-like armor to destroy the world. This guest-stars every other Avenger that didn't already have their own movie deal, including Punisher! It had an almost totally different staff behind it, and you can tell it was written more for Americans, but has some killer animation in it though. You can enjoy this on its own without having to watch the original anime.
This 6-episode OVA series(released as two compliation movies in America)was originally a one-shot special from Dark Horse Comics. Written by Nevermen creator Phil Amara, it was of a look at the spiritual underworld of Japanese monsters and other creatures of the night. The anime turned out to be more of a action/horror story about an armored guardian who protects his city from evil demons. It was animated by Taksunoko Production, which has done several other superhero anime from the 70s like Yatterman, Hurricane Polymar, and Casshern, so this was a good evolution for them with some great 3D animation.
Based on the early 20th century comic strip of Little Nemo by Winsor McCay, this anime movie was written by Chris Columbus. Animated by TMS Entertainment, this film almost got directed by Hayao Miyazaki, but kept most of the geniune look of the originally comic. In it, young Nemo is sent to the fairytale of Slumberland, and battles the evil Nightmare King. Most people might be familar the video game of Little Nemo: The Dream Master which was based on the movie, but the film has achieved a cult success despite its limited release in U.S. theatres.
Loosely based on the Marvel Comics series of the same time, this anime movie was a blending of the original Mary Shelley novel and the original Marvel adaptation. Set in the 1800s, the anime acts as an extended follow-up of the second half ot the Frankenstein story, except that the Doctor isn't a baron, and his disgruntled assistant tries to blackmail him Scooby-Doo style over the loss of his eye from their experiment. The Monster himself learns some compassion from Frankenstein's daughter and blind father, but ultimately this ends in a very tragic way. There's no punches pulled in this one, but seems to carry on way to long with the supporting characters and should've built up more at the beginning with the actual creation of the Monster before Dr. Frankenstein brought him to life.
The Turtles were just as popular out east as it was here in the 90s. So much so, that there was a 2-episode OVA series done in Japan to specifically showcase two different lines of toys that were available out there and in America. It starts out almost like the second episode of something where the Turtles had found some magic stones that turn them into "super mutants", as well as Shredder and his cronies, but this is is shown as a flashback. Both of the new super mutant teams clash which causes them to loose their mutant stones. They then head for Japan to find another possible mutant stone, but instead become endowed with spiritual armor(possibly ripped off of Ronin Warriors). This anime was pretty hokey, even for TMNT, but worth seeing a fansub of just for laughs.
Based on the Marvel Comics series of Tomb Of Dracula, this made-for-TV movie was headed by Dragonball director Minoru Okazaki. Marv Wolfman provided the screenplay for it, where Dracula takes on a Satanic cult after he makes off with their sexy demonic sacrifice. This is the comic where the character of Blade first emerged, but you don't see him in this movie. It had played on American cable, but features one of the most laughable dubs ever. Watch it at least for schlocky fun.
Where as the TNT live-action series might have been lacking a little in the way of action, this recent anime TV series brings the in Witchblade women with luscious anime boobs! Based on the Top Cow comic, this series received a little censorship when it was broadcast in Japan. Set in the not to distant future in Japan after some natural disaster has wrecked a small part of the country, a busty woman becomes the new bearer of the powerful Witchblade artifact, and she now has to spend her evenings almost totally naked and fighting other porn star-looking girls with Witchblade knockoffs. The action is particularly gory and flashy, which works great for an anime, although fans of the original comic might be looking for more of a "plot".
The second of the Marvel Anime shows was a retelling of the original Wolverine mini-series where he travels to Japan to rescue his old flame from being married to a corrupt business man by her yakuza father. He teams up with the sexy ninja Yukio to find Mariko after she's been taken to the crime-infested island of Madripoor where Wolverine has to run against a gauntlet of thugs, mercenaries, assassins, and giant stone monsters. This featured a slightly different Wolverine fronm the X-Men anime series, and even a different voice actor. Steve Blum who normally does him instead did the original character of Kikyo, a mutant samurai that could produce katana blades from his hands. The anime also featured a few other Marvel regulars like Cyclops and a massive fight between Wolverine and Omega Red, but for the most part it featured a lot of original characters, the introduction of most was totally pointless as most of them die in the end. This version of Wolverine also made appearances on the Iron Man and Blade anime series, which means all three supposedly take place in the same continuity.
Out of the four TV series done for the Marvel Anime lineup, this one sticks to the original comics the most. After the death of Jean Grey as Dark Phoenix(for the first time!), the X-Men went their separate ways, but a call from Prof. X pulls them back together to solve a mystery in the mountains of Japan where mutants keep disappearing. After adding Emma Frost and newcomer Armor to the team, the set out to battle the U-Men and the Inner Circle from the Hellfire Club. What defines this from the other Marvel Anime shows is that it feels more like a real story from the comics, and not just one that has some of the Marvel characters on a case somewhere in Japan. This show has a more definitive version of Wolverine that most fans will recognize. Also, the animation is very close to the style of the original Marvel Comics.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

ANI-MOVIES, *A Cat In Paris

America gets its fair share of animated films from France, but this one was exceptionally well done. From Folimage, the studio behind Mia And The Migoo, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature. So that alone makes it worth looking up.

The film is set in modern day Paris, and deals with a cat burglar named Nico that befriends an actual cat(whose name we never cat)that also doubles as a housecat for Zoe, a lonely young girl that lives worth her mother Jeanne, a police detective whose husband was killed by an infamous criminal mastermind, Victor Costa. Victor plans on stealing a large statue from a Paris museum, and has his over-perfumed girlfriend posing as Zoe housekeeper to get info from the police. Despite a lot of bungling from his henchmen, Victor does nearly succeed in his plan, although Zoe's teaming up with Nico through their shared cat manages to bring them together, and reluctantly Jeanne too, despite her knowledge of Nico's "career". The bad guys are foiled, and somehow Nico is cleared of his charges, and is now living with Jeanne and Zoe as a family.

The titular cat plays the intermediary throughout the story, and surprisingly doesn't have a speaking role in it or any inner monologue like Garfield, but still lives up to his role as the focal point of the movie. This movie was totally hand-drawn, so serious props to Folimage for putting on a quality production. It's style might seem a bit adverse to American audiences, but it's old school approach in both style and substance makes it an enriching experience for audiences of all ages.