Friday, May 30, 2014

Raise the roof!


Some people have seen this as being a follow up of some kind to the original Burn Up! one-shot OVA. Both of them are future cop comedies featuring busty female officers and done through AIC, but in most respects Burn Up W is a remake of the first one. The original highlighted a kickass buxom blonde named Maki, and W also has a character named Maki but slightly older with short blue hair and glasses, although it's never revealed if this is the exact same person in the same storyline. Similar to how the TV series, Burn Up Excess is an extended remake of W, and the Burn Up Scramble TV series is almost a remake of that too. So the franchise seems to be one remake after the other, but Burn Up W was the one that cemented it within the otaku zeitgeist.

Set in the not to distant future, a select special covert team within the Tokyo police has been assembled to handle special cases dubbed Team Warrior, although each member has their own unique quirks. Their leader Maki is extensive with their budget, their main fighter Rio is a battling blonde with a talent for spending way too much of her pension, Maya is their gun expert who is obsessed with firearms, Lillica is the playful hacker, Nanvel is their tech genius, and Yuji is the token male of the group whose main contribution is helicopter pilot and according to the opening credits(which only were completed more with every episode)is also a decent driver. They repeatedly butting heads with a mysterious underground group trying to introduce a new "virtual drug" to the market. Granted this OVA came out when the idea of VR involved huge helmets with large visors and going into somekind of Lawnmower Man sim, but this is maguffin of the story. The criminals first take a hotel full of dignitaries hostage to show them their product while some rank thrillseekers pretend to be the actual terrorists. The bad guys then loose track of their virtual idol Maria who is supposed to front the VR drug, and the AI downloads herself into an android body, which Team Warrior's response is to send an oversized Evangelion mecha to deal with it(talk about overkill!). The police eventually get a hold of one of the virtual drug headsets, so the bad guys invade police headquarters to get it back, so Team Warrior has to put them down.

Despite all the gags and fan service, the last two episodes have a pretty somber note to them with Rio's friend getting killed which causes her to go all Punisher on the bad guys. The OVA doesn't have an official ending to it, which is why it was remade as the TV series, Burn Up Excess, but the OVA on its own has a serious mad streak of fun and no holds barred action that the other TV remakes really seemed to capture. Burn Up W has been released twice through ADV Films on DVD, once on its own and again as part of their Essential Anime line, although it originally was unforgivably put on VHS as one episode per tape!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

MISC. MANGA, *Atomcat

Osamu Tezuka is known as the "Father of Manga" mainly because he spearheaded the frontier back in the 50s with works like Kimba and Princess Knight, but is probably best known for his creation of Tetsuwan Atom(aka: Might Atom), known out in America as Astro Boy. This has had three anime TV adaptations, and an animated movie done as a joint American/Japanese production. After several years of not doing anything with the manga, Tezuka created a spinoff of sorts titled Atomcat which is a play on the term "a tomcat", although this manga had the original Mighty Atom as being an actual manga that parallels this story its set in. Although this sees some serious shades of Doraemon.

Tsugio is a weak little kid that gets picked on a lot by bullies at school, but is a big fan of Astro Boy. He finds a baby kitten in the trash one day and adopts him, despite protests by his struggling inventor of a father. Tsugio names the cat Atom after Mighty Atom as it resembles the character a lot. Unfortunately, Atom gets run over by of all things two aliens disguised as humans vacationing on Earth. They rebuild Atom into being a cyborg. Atom can now speak human language, and is gifted with super-strength and jet-feet allowing him to fly. He saves Tsugio from another bully attack, and then his father from a burning building. Tsugio keeps Atom's new superpowers a secret, even though its a little hard to with demonic cats, kidnappers, mummy animals, and some serious angry birds. Atom befriends a local girl cat named Munch that he tries to woo while saving her from forest fires and malicious rivals. Each chapter usually begins with a passage from the original Astro Boy manga that acts as an into to the story.

This made for a profoundly enjoyable all-ages manga, aside from all the times they have Tsugio ending up naked in nearly every chapter. Tezuka's approach to turning Astro Boy and remaking him into a cute kitten is thoroughly adorable. This seems like what the live-action Underdog movie should have been! The manga was released through Digital Manga's Platinum line which reprints classic manga not previously made available in America, and crowdfunded by Kickstarter. It's worth getting for the young ones as a great intro to manga.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

MISC. MANGA, *Cowboy Bebop: Shooting Star

While Cowboy Bebop managed to have a 3-volume manga that tied into the original anime, Shooting Star takes the Bebop crew into alternate storyline where we introduced to new additions in a different order, as well as a completely new protagonist. This was written and drawn by somewhat manga artist Cain Kuga, although he seemingly never went on to do another manga afterwards.

Spike Spiegel and Jet Black are both bounty hunters onboard the spaceship Bebop in the late 21st Century after Earth was decimated after a warp gate accident. They become involved with the Dragon's Head Syndicate which is an interplanetary mafia with ties all over the Solar System. Afterwards, the genius young hacker Edward joins up with them as she becomes threatened by the Dragon's Head after she gets some data on them. It's learned that the Syndicate is run by a new head, a genius young prodigy that goes by the name Scorpion, and he sets his sights on Ed as being his rival. The addition of the data dog Ein gives the Bebop crew a little more edge over the Dragon's Head, and then their double agent Faye Valentine(who is apparently didn't spend a few decades in cryogenics)defects to the Bebop too. After a run in the space pirates called the Chess Pieces, they uncover more about Scorpion and his turn towards the dark side of being head of the Syndicate. In the end, the characters separate briefly, but get back together, and nobody dies!!!

This was a pretty good take on the anime, which only made up a 2-volume series which was printed in English through Tokyopop. It's worth looking up, although you might be better off seeing if you're local library has a copy to check out instead of paying full price for it.

Monday, May 12, 2014

MISC. MANGA, *Nadesico

Even though Kia Asamiya of Silent Mobius was given the task of doing the manga adaptation of Martian Successor Nadesico, his take on it starts out similar to the TV series but slowly spins it into an homage to the Mirror Mirror episode of Star Trek. The anime series became a fan hit in the late 90s, partially due to it being a comedic space opera, but mostly because it was one of the first anime that took a sincere look at the otaku lifestyle, even it was on a spaceship set in the future. The manga series however went in a different approach after about the first third of the story, not necessarily in a bad way, but taking some serious liberties with some of the characters and their personal histories.

Set in the late 22nd Century, after decimating their Mars colony, Earth is being attacked by aliens from Jupiter. Akito a lone survivor from Mars who ended up on Earth, and accidently runs into his childhood friend Yurika, who just happens to be the captain of the space battleship Nadesico, set to reclaim Mars for Earth. After getting roped into the crew when the ship takes off, Akito manages to pilot one of the Aetivalis mecha to defend Nadesico from the aliens. Once off in space, Akito befriends the overzealous pilot/otaku Gai Daigoji, who unfortunately dies in battle later on(unlike in the anime!), This rekindles Akito's boyhood love for giant robot anime. The Nadesico is pursued though by a character original to the manga, Captain Kaguya, who is another of Akito's childhood friends, and considers herself a Yurika's rival for his affections. Akito however ends up actually forming a relationship with Minato, the large breasted helmswoman who for some reason becomes strangely attracted to Akito, even to the point of them regularly sleeping together. Akito later looses his eyesight too, and has to use special techno-specs that you'd expect Geordi La Forge to wear. Speaking of which, this is where the manga starts to steer way more towards Star Trek, as the alien enemies are in this series are not really outcast humans from Earth, but in fact alternate versions of our heroes from a parallel universe. In their reality, their ships run on magic, and their sun is dying out, so their only hope was to come and take over our universe. To do this, they kidnap Yurika who is the counterpart to their main shamaness, Himiko, and the bride of the evil version of Akito, who is the leader of the invasion. Much more revelations come like the ship's doctor Inez is really from the other universe, as well as fan favorite Ruri who is actually promoted to captain of the Nadesico just before Yurika's abduction. Ruri, as well as her brunette twin, are not with the main alien force known as the Yamato, but with a resistance force run by Gai's counterpart, the space pirate Captain Government(a deliberate Harlock homage). It all comes down to the Nadesico crew teaming up with the Yamato rebels to stop the invading dopplegangers.

This manga even though it takes a lot of liberties with the original anime plot really does work as a single story, mostly because the anime had numerous tons shifts due to the show having a different director every few episodes. Some other major differences between the anime and the manga was that here Howmei is not the Nadesico's cook but an admiral in the space fleet(and a guy!), plus the addition of the cute robot 98 created by Ruri who acts as sort of like Akito's own personal Jiminy Cricket without being too annoying. Kia Asamiya did a bang up job with the original spaceship designs, and put his own "long-nosed" take on the characters. This was released original as four comic book-sized graphic novels from CPM Manga in left-to-right format as the entire series was printed first as 26 comic book issues, some with variant covers by American artists like Brian Stelfreeze and Jeff Matsuda, but the entire series was later reprinted in four manga-sized novels. It's totally worth looking into if not only you were a fan of the original anime, or if you want to read an actually good Star Trek manga!


Story by Jer Alford. Art by Natalie Prayor.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

ANI-MOVIES, *Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher

Following up Iron Man: Rise Of Technovore from a year prior, Marvel Anime continues its line with this, their second full-length movie. Having already done four TV series that were slightly connected and taking place in their own version of the Marvel Universe, this time we switch gears to a team-up with two of the comics' regular solo-artists. Even though it says "Avengers" in the title, it mostly centers around The Punisher and Black Widow, Agent of SHIELD.

Punisher captures Cain, an arms dealer, but Black Widow and SHIELD appear to take Punisher in for getting in the way of their investigation of Cain's supplier, a terrorist organization known as Leviathan(no relation to the DC Comics group of the same name). Nick Fury makes a deal with Punisher for him to help SHIELD capture Leviathan by teaming up with Widow to track them down. The unlikely duo sneak into Leviathan's base where Widow is shocked to discover their whole operation is being supervised by Elihas Starr, a former SHIELD scientist who was presumed dead(and really Egghead in the comics), and only happened to be Widow's lover. Now, he's enhanced himself as well as an army of kidnapped spies into super-soldiers using DNA taken from various members of the Avengers. Elihas did this for Leviathan so that he would be worthy of being with Widow because the fact she was a super-spy and an Avenger can make a fella feel inadequate, although faking your own death and selling out to terrorists is a little extreme. Widow and Punisher barely make it out alive with a peace of Leviathan's tech used to brainwash spies, which Punisher was exposed to temporarily turning him into killing machine. SHIELD's resident techie, Amadeus Cho, manages to create some special shades that block out the hypno-rays. They then find out Leviathan is holding a special auction for their super-soldiers on Madripoor(which was the location for about half of the Wolverine anime series)for a bunch of supervillains. Widow and Punisher head out there first to sabotage their efforts, and then the rest of the Avengers show up, including: Iron-Man, Captain Marvel(formally Ms. Marvel), Thor, and War Machine, but still no Spider-Man! Widow runs into Eliahas and convinces him to turn against Leviathan, so they go to take on his boss, Orion. Elihas ends up being killed in the fight, but Punisher shows up to put a knife right in Orion's one eye. In the vein of Blade II, the movie ends with Punisher tracking down Cain for a final kill.

This was a pretty decent extension of the Marvel Universe, although not totally related to the comics or any of the live-action movies. It has some great direction by Kenichi Shimizu and the rest of the Madhouse crew, with exceptionally fine details to the characters and vibrant fight scenes. The only truly WTF? part of the whole thing is trying to imagine Black Widow and Egghead getting together(Eeeew)! You can see this movie on its own without having seen any of the other Marvel Anime stuff, although its a great successor to the series as a whole so far.