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

HEAD CANON EXCEPTED!

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.

SUPRISE, BITCHES!

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 Amazon.com, 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.