Tuesday, December 22, 2015

ANI-MOVIES, *Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League vs. Bizarro League

Done as a sequal to the Lego Batman: Be-Leagured, this short movie/TV special is the first Justice League title in the DC Comics animated Lego line. This time around, it's more like a setup to a Batman V. Superman parody with the Dark Knight continuously being suspicious of Supes, plus Guy Gardner has for some reason replaced Hal Jordon as the League's resident Green Lantern.

Superman convinces is backwards clone Bizarro to leave Earth and stay on a cube-shaped planet they call Bizarro World. However, Bizarro returns later on to get Lex Luthor's duplicator ray gun to make Bizarro copies of some of the other Leaguers, including fan-favorite Batzarro. The Justice League follows their clones to Bizarro World where the find out that Darkseid is harnessing the strange rocks there that negate superpowers of non-Bizarros. So, the JLA teams up with the BLA(or whatever they're called)to stop Darkseid.

This special was essentially an extended version of an old Superfriends episode, but makes for a vehicle for the DC toy line from Lego. Its pretty good for catching on TV, but might only be worth getting for hardcore fans of Lego, or something safe from DC Comics for parents to show their kids.

MISC. MANGA, *Cutie Honey '90

Done as a sequal to the original Cutie Honey manga from the 70s of which all the other Cutey Honey titles are based off of, Cutie Honey '90 was the English translated version of the Go Nagai series which so far has been the only one from that franchise to be released in America. Ironcat released this as two 6-volume comic book mini-series, but there were some difficulties with getting into any collected trade paperback, so all we have to go by now are the 12 issues.

Set in the early 90s, the criminal organization Panther Claw resurfaces headed by its commander, Sister Jill. Jill starts using her monstrous DNA to mutate unsuspecting girls into evil abominations, including one starring as Kekko Kamen(another of Go Nagai's titles). To battle this, police detective Todoroki is assigned help from the current head of the influential Hamayi Group, run by none other than Cutie Honey, who as an android hasn't aged at all in the last few decades. She uses her transforming powers and cybernetic strength to help Todoroki with his investigation. This eventually leads to a showdown with Sister Jill and her Panther Claw god in another dimension to determine the fate of the world.

The manga series holds out considering its over two decades old now. It helps if you've at least read the original 70s manga too, although at least a refresher from one of the other Cutey Honey anime or live-action productions, most of which have been released in English(except for the awesome Re: Cutie Honey OVA!). If you happen to find a bundle of these in a comic lot somewhere, be sure to give it a peak!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

How The Force Awakens SHOULD have started...

MISC. MANGA, *Airship Enterprise

Originally printed partially in the pages of Steampunk Tales, but in black and white. This 4-issue mini-series expands on the story, and in color.

Basically a steampunk version of Star Trek, an airship manned by diverse females and other aliens receive a distress call. Upon investigating, Capt. Janus Tibbs and her crew are met with hostile resistance from sky pirates who wish to exploit a rare creature.

Airship Enterprise makes for an enticing tale for Trekkies and other sci-fi geeks.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

ANI-MOVIES, *Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League-Attack Of The Legion of Doom

This made-for-video movie was intended to be a follow-up to the Justice League Vs. Bizarro League animated movie, but a prelude to the Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham video game. It is a little unique as at is a full-length production as opposed to be the length of a TV special or standard OVA.

The Justice League elects Batman as the temporary leader of the League(similar to the Justice Society having a rotating chairperson), and for some reason Hal Jordan is back as Green Lantern instead of Guy Gardner. After Trickster manages to hit Metropolis with a huge stink bomb, the League get some new duds since their old one stank. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor, Sinestro, and Black Manta decide to put together their own anti-Justice League group of villains called the Legion of Doom, although Luthor is secretly working with Darkseid to take over the planet. They hold Legion auditions, but knock out most of Batman's enemies since they get shown enough in the Lego games, plus Deathstroke is passed since he makes everyone else look like losers. Along with a few other baddies like Capt. Cold, Grodd, and Cheetah, the full Legion raids Area 52(the one after Area 51)for a Martian being kept there, and convince the Martian Manhunter that they're the good guys. They use MM's mental powers to make it look like the League wrecked a power plant, and get exiled from Earth. Cyborg however stays behind and deduces that they were all duped by Martian Manhunter, and convinces him to take over Sinestro's mind to bring the League back. The Legion meanwhile have launched their headquarters into attacking Metropolis, but Cyborg reveals that the Hall of Justice is also a flying fortress(because you really want your local superhero team to have a mobile sky building that shoots missiles!), and defeat the Legion by clearing their names. Darkseid then refuses to bust Luthor out of jail, and realizes he has to team up with Brainiac to get the job done.

Attack Of The Legion Of Doom made for a fair outing in the "Legoverse" established in the Lego Batman video games. The most impressive part in it is the recurring voice cast. Mark Hamill replays both Joker and Trickster as well as Sinestro, Troy Baker switches roles as Joker for Batman, John DiMaggio who also played Joker once is Lex Luthor, and former Joker from The Batman: Kevin Michael Richardson replays Black Manta plus Grodd and Captain Cold. It's enjoyable at least for fans of the old Super Friends show, and makes a good watch for kids.

Monday, December 7, 2015

MISC. MANGA, *Shadow Lady

Shadow Lady is a short-lived manga series by Video Girl Ai creator Masakazu Katsura. It started out as one of those "mysterious thief" stories similar to Saint Tail, it was cut short during its planned run and a new story arc was added halfway through the second volume out of the 3-volume series. This also included a one-shot special retelling of the plot that was released after the series wrapped up.

Set in the gothic metropolis of Gray City, Aimi Komori is a buxom teenage girl living on her own working as a waitress, but she happens upon a miniature demon named De-Mo who bestows upon her a magical make-up kit. Once she applies it to her face, Aimi can transform into the more energetic and slightly super-empowered character called Shadow Lady. She goes through grand exploits to steal small things from grand museums, not like priceless pieces of art but cheap items from the gift shop, but the police are still hot on her tail for all the trouble she causes. Enter Bright Honda, a young inventor turned police detective who sets out to arrest Shadow Lady and bring her over to the good side, but Aimi ends up falling for him even though she knows he loves Shadow Lady and not her. Bright's former partner Lime eventually shows up to win Bright back by adopting the secret identity of the vigilante Spark Girl, and actually gives Shadow Lady a run for her money. The story takes a sudden shift where agents from the Demon World arrive to take back De-Mo and killing him for interfering with humans, but make a deal with him and Aimi if they collect five Demon Stones which would each come to life and take over the world. So, Shadow Lady now has to collect the gems, at least three of which we don't get to see her get, and then ultimately the last Demon Stone becomes the Final Boss of the story bent of destroying mankind.

Following this was the Shadow Lady Special one-shot which takes place in an alternate universe. Here Aimi is a little younger and gets the magic make-up from her grandmother, but can only use a few times. This was more like a Sailor Moon wanna-be story, but still enjoyable.

This was a memorable manga, despite its building up of a decent story and subsequent derailing into a subplot because of its early cancellation. The entire manga was first released as 24 issues in English through Dark Horse Comics, plus the Special, and then collected into three trade paperbacks. It's worth a look if at least for Katsura's amazing character designs and details.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Tenamonya Voyagers

A very obscure OVA 4-episode series from the late 90s, Tenamonya Voyagers holds the distinct honor of being the first anime to be released in America that was a DVD-only release. Prior to this, all anime was put out either prior on VHS, or simultaneously on VHS and DVD. This is possibly why it was so under the radar of most U.S. otaku. This OVA was like a lot of ones done in the 90s as being incomplete(similar to Dragon Half)but still holds your attention, and is basically "Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy meets The Fugitive".

Set sometime way in the future, Ayako is a young Earth woman who just became a teacher, and gets a position at a school on a distant world, but after arriving there the school shut down, leaving her and sports scholarship winner Wakano stranded with not enough funds to get back home. After lamenting their situation, a mecha comes falling out of the sky piloted by teenage space mafa figure, "Space Trash" Paraila, who claims to be a dropout student also trying to find her way to Earth, where apparently once any intergalactic criminal is absolved of all crimes if they make it there. The three ladies pull their resources to get a space train, but the ship is pulled over by the very determined detective Tatsue(also from Earth)who is determined to arrest Paraila to help bring down a galactic syndicate. Fortunately for Paraila, she has a special circuit card that can amp up any mecha to god-mode, and she along with Ayako and Wakano make their escape. Along their voyage, the trio come across Paraila's old flunkie who is keep at heisting robots for them to use, all this while being pursued by both the space cops and space mafia. They eventually jack an abandoned pleasure cruiser, and become end up crashing on another planet while still leaving the fate of their voyage to Earth up in the air, to which even the narrator makes a note of as in to indicate they were waiting to see if the anime would continue past 4 episodes!

Despite the slight abrupt conclusion, Tenamonya Voyages is one of the first truly space anime that goes off the beaten path. As it came out around the same time as Cowboy Bebop and Outlaw Star, this OVA took their star trek from the point of view of the common person just trying to make it back home, sort of like a Planes, Trains and Automobiles version of Lost In Space. It was produced by Studio Perriot, and features intensively good animation, although there's quite a few shots in the last episodes that I can't believe didn't cause seizures for some of the Pokemon victims. The writing is good too, although some gets lost in the English translation. The entire series was released on a single DVD, so its not to hard to track down, but it's so worth a look!

MISC. MANGA, *Herald: Lovecraft & Tesla

Herald: Lovecraft & Tesla is 3-issue mini-series written by newcomer John Reily, and drawn by Tom Artist who also did the luchadore epic, Calavera De La Justicia. It fully embraces the Lovecraftian lore with steampunk madness.

Set in 1923, Nikola Tesla after being duped by Edison receives the shock that his would-be bride Amelia Earhart made off with one of his devices which made her disappearance more of a case of interdimensional interference. So, he gets the idea from a kooky patent-seeker to consult H.P. Lovecraft. The author and the inventor soon realize they have a common goal in sealing up the breech between the human world and the realm of elder gods. A Cthulu cult gets in their way as they seek a copy of the Necronomicon to stop the demons.

This is a particularly intriguing comic with a lot more development of the humanity behind Lovecraft and Tesla, even if this is a piece of revisionist history.

Monday, November 16, 2015

ANI-MOVIES, *Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem

Ol' Longears returns in a second installment of the Batman Unlimited franchise based on the action figure line in this made-for-video animated movie. Monster Mayhem takes place sometime after Animal Instincts with some of the characters and events crossing over to this film, and put together by the same production crew as the previous one.

On Halloween night, Silver Banshee(one of Superman's baddies)and Solomon Grundy escape from Arkham Asylum(although I don't know why a zombie was in Arkjam)and team up with Scarecrow, while Clayface kidnaps a young computer genius, Gogo Shoto, who in this story is some sort of rewrite of the younger version of Toyman. All of the monstrous villains are working with the Joker to launch a killer "Joker Virus"(similar to the Batman: Digital Justice comic)which includes reprogramming Teen Titan Cyborg to be their own war machine. Batman gets Nightwing and Red Robin to help, along with Green Arrow who seems to be on a long leave from Star City in this universe. Joker unleashes his virus on Gotham City, declaring himself "King Joker, and the rest of his crew the new city board. After rescuing Cyborg and Gogo from Joker, the Batman Family takes the fight to Team Joker as the Clown Prince of Crime plans on infecting the entire world with his virus. Batman goes into the digital realm thanks to a virtual reality visor, where he uses a conjured up robot T-Rex to stop the multiplying Joker clones. The offline Joker then uses a giant robot and repainted mecha suit for one last chance, but Cyborg and Batman manage to stop him in time.

This was a pretty good feature, even though this movie is geared more toward selling Batman toys, even to the point that in one of the online Batman Unlimited animated shorts that the Dark Knight now has a working robot T-Rex. The DVD does feature some DC Nation shorts, with the Blu-Ray having more, but so far none of the Batman Unlimited animated shorts, although the same can be said for the Justice League: Gods And Monsters shorts, so maybe they're saving them for a future collected video release. Monster Mayhem has a pretty good cast, including Troy Baker recurring his role as Joker from Arkham Origins, plus some of the animation is a little above average from Animal Instincts. If you're a major Bat-Maniac then you'll want to put this one in your Bat-DVD Player!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

ANI-MOVIES, *Sleeping Beauty

Disney has had the most impressive catalog of animated movies in the world, but when they got around to doing Sleeping Beauty, they really pulled out all the stops in this pure feast for the eyes. As their 16th full-length animated feature(which includes anthology movies like Melody Time), this was also the last one they did based on a fairy tale for at least 30 years until The Little Mermaid came out, mostly because the movie surprisingly didn't initially do to well at the box office, despite how much work was put into.

Based on the Grimm Fairy Tale, a princess named Aurora is born in a faraway kingdom, and her coronation is blessed by three fairies: Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather. Flora and Fauna bless her with magically endowed beauty and singing talent, but are interrupted by the wicked fairy(even though she's more like somekind of she-demon)Maleficent who was seriously ticked for not being invited to the royal shindig, so she curses Aurora with being killed getting pricked by a spinning wheel when she turns 16. Merryweather counters this by having the spell broken not with the princess' death but by sleep awoken only by love's first kiss. The good fairies convince the king to let them take the princess into hiding in a cottage in the woods for the next 16 years, where Aurora is called Briar Rose, and totally unaware of her royal heritage. Cut a decade and a half, Aurora grows up to be quite the looker(although being magically endowed didn't hurt), and an excursion into the woods has the now teenage "Brair Rose" encounters the wandering Prince Phillip, her unknown soon to be husband. The two fall stereotypically for each other, and Brair Rose heads back to tell her caretakers the good news, however the shock of learning that she's really a princess betrothed to someone else puts a serious damper on her birthday. After becoming far too impatient with her bungling underlings, Maleficent sends familiar out to find Aurora, and he hears the whole scoop from spying on the fairies. Maleficent sets an ambush for Aurora(instead of the old "poisoned apple" gag)at her cottage, but ends up capturing Phillip instead. Aurora and the fairies had instead left earlier and headed to the castle, where Maleficent hypnotizes her into touching a conjured up spinning wheel, and sending her into her a magical coma. The fairies put the whole kingdom to sleep in order to shorten the damage, and free Phillip. He makes a dashing escape thanks to a some suped-up weapons they pulled out of hammerspace. Maleficent furiously turns into a nightmarish dragon, but gets impaled by Phillips "magic sword". The Prince then kisses Aurora and everyone else wakes up and live all happily ever after.

Sleeping Beauty is a fantastic visual marvel as it was one of the first animated movies done in widescreen, plus one of the few movies done in Technirama. There is some roto-scoping involved, but this more helps the movie than hinders it. The only downside is there isn't much actual development with the title character as its mostly centered on the good and evil fairies, but as usual the Disney Princess gets all the hype. This is partially why exchanges like the kings arguing over where their children will live or the fairies bickering over dress colors take up a good portion of the movie's run time. The animated movie is more of a necessity to see than the live-action Maleficent reboot, but also for being a major chapter in cinematic animation.

Friday, November 6, 2015

ANI-MOVIES, *Houdini

This French-animated movie originally titled Little Houdini shows a revisionist origin to Harry Houdini as a he was just getting into learning magic as a child.

Houdini is brought in by none other than Nikola Tesla during his unknown magician period. Along with his niece and his clockwork oven robot, Tesla teaches Harry to take part in an upcoming premiere for young magicians at the grand opening of the Statue of Liberty. However, Tesla’s former student dupes Harry into helping him make off with Tesla’s notebook containing all his scientific secrets.

This was mostly put together as a pilot for a possible TV series, but still maintains a truly unique art style, with hints of anime influence here and there. The dub is passable, although it might be worth hearing it in the original French as well.

Star Wars Battlefront will only be cool when it has anime bunnygirls!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

MISC. MANGA, *Saiko & Lavender

Saiko & Lavender was a mini-series was created by "Ameri-manga" veterans Diana Sprinkle and Michael Vega originally printed by Anti-Ballistic Pixelations, whose only other title was the exceptionally decent manga-styled comic Gremlin Trouble. This was later collected into a trade paperback by Radio Comix, followed by an original Halloween special.

Set in an anthropomorphic world where magic is a common everyday thing thanks to the Magi-Cal corporation selling special potions and other magical items, sort of like Materia from Final Fantasy. However, this doesn't stop small-time brick and mortar shops from selling homegrown spells, like the money-grubbing purple catgirl Lavender and her partner, the hyperactive super-speed bunnygirl Saiko who can move so fast it appears as if she's just replicating all over the place. The make a delivery to some needy clients who need a pocket monster to defeat a rival kaiju, but their trip gets held up with Saiko getting abducted by aliens and taken into space, despite being able to move so fast in between both there and space so she's simultaneously in two plotlines, but Saiko is also infatuated by their old car which is fueled by love potion. Are heroines then have to try and get their shop back from overzealous superheroine mousegirl Veronica working for Magi-Cal who confiscates their store in a snowglobe. After a visit from the devil(the same one featured in Monsters Of Rock)they manage to get their store back, take down Magi-Cal, and stop an infestation of obnoxious miniature elephants.

The mini-series had a one-shot titled Saiko & Lavender Spooktacular Special, which shows the girls getting their store ready for Halloween as it brings in a bunch of Harry Potter fanatics. We also get a cute flashback sequence with Saiko & Lavender as kids experiencing their first Halloween.

Even though the comic is well over a decade old, it's really worth looking into. It was available for free on Webcomics Nation, but the site has been taken down, so try to see if you can locate a copy of the graphic novel or the one-shot.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

MISC. MANGA, *The Steam Man

Joe Lansdale and Mark Alan Miller wrote this weird west equivalent of War of the Worlds.

In 1895, an industrial town in the west created their own steam-powered giant called the Steam Man that was created to counter a colossal robot squid that keeps attacking. After the pilots realize the thing running the mechanical menace is something not of this world, the Steam Man’s crew sets out where this creature came from. Jump to 1899, and the story shows the team hunting who they believe is the source of this evil, a demonic vampire known as the Dark Rider, who had killed the Steam Man’s captain.

This has some dark overtones to it, but plays out well in the over the top spirit of a John Carpenter movie.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

ANI-MOVIES, *The Book Of Life

Guillermo del Toro teamed up with former Nickelodeon animator Jorge Gutierrez to make the semi-annual Halloween-related animated movie, The Book Of Life, although this is about the day after, the Day of the Dead(no relation to the zombie flick). Animated by Reel FX Creative Studios, who also created Rise Of The Guardians), this 3D CGI production that bears a strong resemblance to a stop motion animated film, but manages to pay enough homage to the former claymation traditions.

Starting off in a museum in Mexico, a group of rowdy children on a field trip are told by a well-informed tour guide one of the stories from the Book of Life, which conveniently is located in the museum instead of maybe someplace like the Vatican next to the Holy Grail. The tour guide tells them of how on one Day of the Dead, the queen of remembered souls La Muerte(who totally rocks a sombrero)makes a deal with her former husband, Xibalba, the king of forgotten souls(who bears an uncanny resemblance to Discord from My Little Pony). They each wager the other's job that they can have two different boys grow up to be the one who wins the heart of Maria, the daughter of a small town in Mexico, which according to the movie is in the "center of the universe". Of the two suitors is La Muerte's choice Manolo, who carries on the family business of bullfighting, although he doesn't actually want to kill the bulls and wants to instead be a singer/guitarist. Xibalba's choice is Joaquín, son of the local hero who died protecting the town from a gigantic bandits, Chickaki, leader of a band of desperadoes. Xibalba gives Joaquín a magical medal which allows him to win in any fight. A few years go by and Maria comes back to town from boarding school, with both of the now grown men who are still friends rivaling for her. In an attempt to get her attention, Manolo has the bullfight of his life, but backs down from killing the bull in the end. Disappointing his father, Manolo tries to woo Maria with his music along with his mariachi band. The two of them meet outside of town, but Maria is supposedly killed from a snakebite. Xibalba makes a deal with Manolo in the style of Hades from Disney's Hercules, by allowing himself to be also bitten by the same snake to be with Maria in the afterlife. Manolo ends up in the Land of the Remembered(Mexican "Heaven")and reconnects with some of his deceased relatives including his mother, and goes to see La Muerte since he can't seem to find Maria there. Manolo and his family are instead surprised to see Xibalba is running the joint since La Muerte lost their bet, so the family then travels to the Cave of Souls to find their way to the Land of the Forgotten where she's moved to. After meeting the Candlemaker who is responsible for bringing life into the world one candle at a time, Manolo finally reaches La Muerte, and she calls out Xibalba on his meddling. Xibalba makes a deal with Manolo to win a bullfight with the ghosts of hundreds of dead bulls that merge into one enormous monster, but he puts the angry bull spirits to rest and wins his life back. Meanwhile, back in the world of the living, Maria was just knocked out from the snakebite, and promises to marry Joaquín if he will protect the town from Chikaki who has learned of the magical medal with plans to take it. The desperadoes attack the town, but Manolo shows up with the spirits of his family since its the Day of the Dead and the divine gods decide to be "lenient" about letting the dead walk the Earth, and the combined forces of the still living townsfolk defeat Chikaki and his gang. Maria ends up marrying Manolo, and Xibalba gets back together with La Muerte. The movie bookends with the reveal that the museum tour guide was really La Muerte, and Xibalba was really a creepy janitor.

This movie works as a look into Mexican folklore, albeit from a tilted point of view of the rest of the world. The animation is extremely high quality and is particularly effective in 3D, but also good if you can't afford the extra price. There's alot of voice talent behind this including Ron Pearlman, Zoe Saldana, Danny Trejo, and veteran Grey DeLisle. One of the more interesting aspects is the fact that the story takes place sometime far in the past, but the soundtrack features several modern day pop songs in it, and not in a misplaced way like Moulin Rouge. Fer sure worth giving a look at on November 1st.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

MISC. MANGA, *Monsters Of Rock

Here's one worth looking in the back issue bins for. This one-shot spinoff of Saiko And Lavender by Michael Vega who co-created the original mini-series with Diana Sprinkle, Monsters Of Rock is a manga-styled mockumentary from Radio Comix about the forming of a rock band made entirely of genuine monsters.

It starts off telling about Vite, a young half-medusa(gorgon)who is shunned by her family and the other monsters. She takes her angst out by becoming a struggling musician with a guitar her human father gave her. Vite teams up with vampire debutante Nocturne who becomes her co-guitarist. They come across the zombie drummer Grave, and get the lord of Hell himself Dante to join to. Dante turns over control of Hell to a newbie who is the guy running the place seen in the Saiko And Lavender mini-series. Together, the four of them form the Monsters of Rock, and propel themselves to super stardom!

This made for an enjoyable bit for manga fans, especially the battle of the bands scene they have with a group of kaiju! Michael Vega co-wrote this with Kai Robertson who also corresponding with him on other projects like the one he had in Rising Stars Of Manga. Monsters Of Rock makes for an enjoyable update to Monster Mash and what Monster High SHOULD have been like!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Gunbuster

Few OVAs have achieved the level of what could be called true pathfinder in the way this 6-episode series did. Back in Gainax's early days, they decided to get into the giant robot game with Gunbuster, a mix of Top Gun and the Aim For The Ace anime/manga. This was one of the first anime to incorporate the logistics of space travel and its relation to how time passes on Earth, although a lot of it is based on physics made up specifically made for the story. Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno seriously brought all his talent into this production, and you can see its effect on future projects like Nadia.

First starting out in the early-mid 21st Century, mankind's exploration of the galaxy has revealed a race of "space monsters"(and that's the official name for these aliens)that are the size of starships who can survive in space and use stars as a nest for their drone forces. One of Earth's main military fleets was destroyed during one of their first initial encounters, the admiral of which leaves behind his daughter Noriko who spends her teenage years training to become a mecha pilot to help the defense forces counter the oncoming aline threat. She goes to an all-girls facility modeled after a high school where the pilots have the robots doing pushups for some reason, and makes friends and rivals along the way, including the top student Kazumi, who she becomes partners with as they graduate to go onto operating on a space vessel. Accompanying the girls is their Coach Ohta, the sole survivor of Noriko's father's ship. They become part of a special regiment searching for the aliens, and are ambushed by the space monsters, where Noriko learns the horrors of war after her friend is killed during the attack. She and Kazumi split up too as she doesn't believe Noriko has what it takes to keep up with her to pilot the mighty transforming combiner robot labeled Gunbuster. After returning to Earth, the few months they spent in space turned out to be about a decade for the rest of the world. Noriko and Kazumi patch things, and take up the mantle of piloting Gunbuster to escort the fleet from setting of a black hole bomb to destroy the alien fleets. The two spaceship fighters unite to form Gunbuster which is about ten times bigger than the other mechas, and capable shooting multiple lasers at once over long distance of space. They manage to stop the aliens at this time, with Kazumi making it back to Earth in time to confess her love for Coach who is dying of space radiation. The final chapter is set about 15 years later where Kazumi married Coach during his remaining time and became a mecha pilot instructor at her old school, while Noriko has spent what was for her a shorter amount of time in space and is still only a teenager. The two pilots help lead a final assault against the space monsters who have resurfaced using Jupiter as their final standing ground. After the star fleet fails to launch their final black hole bomb, Noriko and Kazumi fly Gunbuster into the heart of Jupiter using their own reactor to set off the remaining space mines. The husk of what remains of Gunbuster returns to Earth what for them was a few hours, but in reality a much longer time has past for the rest of the planet.

Not to spoil the ending, but it is truly one of the most memorable finales to an anime ever. You can simply not forget it, and it is probably one of the few non-downer conclusions to a Gainax story. The OVA features the best quality Gainax had to offer since their previous hit of Wings Of Honneamise, and their attention to detail, including some of the made-up physics for the story(including bionic dolphins!)culminate in a classis anime in the truest sense of the word. Even though there's never been an English dub of it, it's still an integral part of otaku heritage!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

MISC. MANGA, *Zodiac Starforce

Banking on the popularity of the return of Sailor Moon to anime, indy comics creators Kevin Panetta and Paulina Ganucheau started out with a mini-comic titled Zodiac Starforce Adventures, which was recently turned into a mini-series from Dark Horse Comics shortened to Zodiac Starforce. This has a fresh take on a magical girl team with what happens to them after they've retired and go to college.

Sometime in their early teens, four teenagers were given the powers of the constellations to form the superhero called the Zodiac Starforce. Along the way the final boss, the evil entity Cimmeria, was supposedly killed. Years later, the girls are all going to the same college. Emma is randomly attacked by a demonic creature, and transforms into her identity of Gemini. She is joined by her teammate Kimberly who changes into the heroine Taurus, and they team up to defeat the monster. They power down and go to a part to find the rest of their crew, Molly(aka: Aries)and Savanna(aka: Blair), and go over some old history, including that Emma's mother was killed during their superhero years. The four of them then contact their benefactor, the space goddess Astra who acts as their personal Zordon, and learn that Cimmeria is still alive and planning on returning to their dimension. To add more drama, Emma's magical crystal she uses to transform is damaged and will possibly kill her.

Future issues of the story reveal the history of the Starforce in their early days, plus the addition of a fifth member. There's some pretty fantastic and diverse designs to the characters, and a solid basis for girls like that suffering from some PTSD from their past battles. It looks like it should appeal to generic otaku, while also fancying fans of current trends in young adult comics and animation.

Friday, September 4, 2015

MISC. MANGA, *Steam Detectives

Taking his love for Batman(a title that he eventually worked on in an official manga adaptation), Kia Asamiya mixed in the idea of a superhero-styled story with a Victorian detective noir, plus giant robots! Steam Detectives takes place in a steampunk-styled manga but takes place more or less in the early-to-mid 20th Century.

Set in Steam City where the prime source of energy is steam, Narutaki is a genius boy detective whose deceased parents where the best detectives in town until their untimely demise apparently at the hands of the masked villain known as Phantom Knight(who oddly looks like an off-model Batman)that also died during the encounter. His mysterious son takes up the mantle of the new Phantom Knight, and coerces the sexy young nurse Ling Ling to using her brilliant scientist father's robot(known as Megamatons)Goriki to get revenge on Narutaki. After the Phantom Knight's plot has been exposed, Ling Ling and Goriki are taken in by Narutaki and his butler to become part of his crime solving team. Narutaki has a wide rogue's gallery, including the cat burglar Crimson Scorpion, the Machine Baron who is obsessed with obtaining Goriki, and the mad scientist Dr. Guilty. The one who always gives Narutaki a run for his money is his own personal Moriarty, the masked kid criminal called Le Bred, who also employs Ling Ling's older sister Lang Lang as his caretaker and lover. Narutaki also performs acts of bravery for children in need, and seems to have a serious thing for helping damsels in distress.

Kia Asamiya really went all out to make this a visually spectacular manga, with sharp graphics an a rich texture. The characters do suffer slightly from some anime tropes, but that doesn't stop them from being enjoyable. The manga allegedly went on for about 13 volumes, even though only 8 graphic novels have been released in English ending at a possible stopping point. This was adapted into 26-episode TV series, and 2 light novels. Even though most of the manga by Viz has been out of print for a while(most of which was originally printed in Animerica Extra), its worth at least checking out to see if your local library or used book store has any spare copies to check out.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

ANI-MOVIES, *Batman: Year One

Before embarking on doing their 2-parter of The Dark Knight Returns, DC Universe decided to test the waters with Frank Miller's post-Crisis origin story of Batman: Year One. This was an canon telling of Batman's beginnings during his first year of operating as a masked manhunter. A lot of material from the original comic was later used for other adaptations like Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm and largely in Batman Begins, so if you've seen those already, it there aren't a lot of surprises on his end, but it's more about how Gotham City adapts to this new player in town, including the new police lieutenant.

After 12 years of training abroad, Bruce Wayne finally returns home to fight crime on his own terms, but James Gordon is also transferring to Gotham as an addition to the police department. Gordon starts rattling some internal cages as he realizes a lot of the city officials are on the take of the mob boss, Carmine Falcone. Bruce Wayne first tries out taking out some thugs wearing just a ski mask, but after getting beaten badly, he realizes he needs an edge over them. By way of possible providence, a bruised Bruce gets his answer as a large bat just happens to break through the window to his study, giving him the idea to take on the persona of Batman. This new vigilante starts causing problems for the mafia, and the police under their thumb, leading Gordon to take on a the assistance of the lovely Detective Essen, who he succumbs to having a brief affair with while his wife Barbara is pregnant with their first child. While out hunting for Batman, Gordon and Essen track Batman down after he saved a woman from getting run over. The SWAT team corners Batman in an abandoned building, so he uses a special sonic device that leads thousands of bats from the Batcave to downtown, and he escapes during the chaos. While this is going on, Selina Kyle is a prostitute that takes on the masked identity of Catwoman who decides to make a name for herself by scarring Falcone. The Don doesn't take this well, and has his nephew take his hatred out on Gordon by having him kidnap his wife and newborn son. An unmasked Bruce Wayne rushes to save them, leaving Gordon to trust this new vigilante, although not clearly showing he might now who he really is.

Also included in this is a short of Catwoman similar to the DC Showcase features which acts as a follow-up to Year One. Set sometime later, Catwoman is an established cat burgler and anti-hero who learns of a slave trade being conducted by gang leader Rough Cut(who supposedly was made up just for this short). After fooling him and his cronies that she was just another stripper at a nightclub, Catwoman follows Rough Cut to his warehouse, and causes him to have an epic crash into his boat, and she frees her old hooker friend Holly. There's a different style to this than from the main movie and it was mainly done to help pad out the movie for online broadcast as its only a little over an hour long, but still very worth it.

Year One makes for a definitive watch for any Batfan, although totally not for kids with all the serious adult situations and violence. The animation is acceptable, but Dark Knight Returns seemed to capture Frank Miller's idea a little better. Keeping in mind that its more of the beginnings of Commissioner Gordon that it is about Batman himself, it is still a compelling mature crime story. Bryan Cranston does a fantastic job as Gordon, while future Gordon on the Gotham TV series Benjamin McKenzie plays an acceptable Batman, although Kevin Conroy is still tops in my book.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

ANI-MOVIES, *Justice League: Gods And Monsters

While not being the first DC Universe movie based on an Elseworlds story, Justice League: Gods Ands Monsters is an original story in the spirit of Elseworlds and other "imaginary stories". This was written and directed by DC animated alumni Bruce Timm, along with Alan Burnett and Sam Register as a darker version of the Trinity, while excluding most of the other JLA regulars to make for a more streamlined storyline.

Set in a parallel universe from the canon DC comics, the last survivor of Krypton is actually the biological son of General Zod who as a baby crashes not in Smallville, but by immigrant Mexicans. Years later, more egotistical version of Superman has formed an alliance with two other heroes to form the Justice League. Their version of Wonder Woman is not an amazon but Bekka, an outcast resident of New Genesis and wife of Orion. Batman is Kirk Langstrom, while in the original universe he occasionally was Man-Bat is instead here an artificial vampire in the spirit of Mobius the Living Vampire who has none of the weaknesses of a vampire but still sometimes craves blood. The Justice League maintains a shaky alliance with the U.S. government, with Steve Trevor as an agent having an on-again/off-again romance with Wonder Woman. Lex Luthor has had knowledge of Superman's alien origins for years, and help form a group of eager scientists to come up methods of applying the little Kryptonian tech for the American armed forces. Members of this select think tank are being killed off by mysterious super-powered robots made to look like it's the League assassinating them. This trail leads Batman to his old college mates, Will Magnus and his wife Tina, whose research accidently help transform him into a bloodsucker. From them, Batman learns about a project title Fair Play, but sees all the other scientists aside from Magnus get killed by the robots. To uncover the mystery, Superman visits the aging Luthor in his orbital satellite who tells him that Fair Play was the government's contingency against the League if they ever went rogue, but that someone else is using this advance technology to frame them. Superman leaves, but witnesses Luthor's space pad getting destroyed, and the army thinks Superman blew it up. The armed forces converge on the League's tower, but Magnus' awakes inside after being brought back via nanotech magic, and reveals that the robots were his creations. Magnus years ago had killed Tina in a fit of rage because he was tired of hearing her ask him to help cure Batman's condition, so he recreated her as Platinum and decided to use this version of the Metal Men to take out the League, but also to gain access to the Superman's old ship to power up some device for him to launch a wave of nanobots all over the world to take everyone's minds. The League fights back at the Metal Men, and thwarts Magnus' plans while proving their innocence. Luthor appears at the end in his teleporting chair and offers to take Wonder Woman back to New Genesis, while the World's Finest stay behind to reconsider their approach to peacekeeping.

This made for an interesting take on the Big 3 of DC, with alternate versions of various DC characters, including a male Cheetah, a laser gun-toting Livewire, and legit takes on Mr. Freeze and Dr. Silvana. The animation is above average, although the story could've used a little more tweaking. There's so far been a 3-episode online animates prequal series to the movie, although for some reason it wasn't included on the Blu-Ray or DVD release. There's also a series of one-shot comics, and a 3-issue mini-series tied into the movie, although so far no plans have been made to have the Gods And Monsters universe crossover with the canon DC comics. This does make for a great take on the Justice League in an alternate reality, and a great leaping on for any fan of superheroes, although its not totally for kids.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

MISC. MANGA, *Felicia: The Sorceress' Apprentice

Felicia(no relation to the Darkstalkers character)has had a long career in the underground comics and fanzine circuit. An entire story arc ran through several fanzines, and was collected in the Melari's Wish trade paperback, plus she's been shown in several issues of Furrlough and Zu which were anthropomorphic anthology comics. But The Sorceress's Apprentice is a full original tale featuring the magical vixen.

In the anthropomorphic feline line of Katara, Felicia is a fox sorceress that used to live in the neighboring kingdom of Dogtaria, but was either exiled or left on her own to escape the tyranny of her homeland. She takes in a homeless girl from Dogtaria named Sandy, and begins to teach her in the ways of magic. Sandy is being stalked by dark magi from Dogtaria who know she's witness to an illegal slave trade ring. Felicia has Sandy and her elder pupil Cindy sent off to keep the dark magi off the scent, but they make their way back to Felicia's tower where she finishes them off. The whole experience strains the relationships the characters have with their friends and family, but they do end up better off for it.

This graphic novel is currently in print, and has some serious manga influence to it. Even if you're not a big "furry" fanatic, it makes for a good dramatic sorcery yarn, and the dangers of using magic with its effects on those who craft it.