Saturday, February 28, 2015

ANI-MOVIES, *Son Of Batman

As part of the New 52 line-up of the DC Universe animated movies, Son Of Batman is based on the story arc, Batman And Son, but also part of this ongoing continuity. Although it brings to the table since the Justice League just formed, this story has Batman being around long enough to have a kid.

Ra's al Ghul is watching over his ninjas training in their mountain stronghold, when the League of Assassins(not "Shadows")gets raided by some heavily-armed attackers lead by Deathstroke. This version of Slade doesn't have superpowers, and here was trained to be Ra's al Ghul's successor, but was cast out. Unknown to him was that Ra's daughter Talia had a son named Damien after a past encounter of with Batman. Talia manages to escape with Damian leaving Ra's to die(for the last time?), and she takes him to meet his father. Batman at first has trouble accepting Damian's superior attitude, despite the fact that the little creep spent his whole youth being groomed to the ultimate warrior. Damian wants to find and kill Deathstroke, but Batman won't allow him to commit murder. Deathstroke meanwhile has captured the family of former Man-Bat, Kirk Langstrom, in order to create an army of ninja Man-Bats, as well as keeping Talia prisoner. Nightwing joins the ranks after nearly getting his butt handed to him by Damian, who now has taken up the mantle of Robin, although its hinted that he's only the second one to take on the title. After rescuing Langstrom's family, the Damian seperates from Batman to Deathstroke's hidden headquarters, an offshore oil rig with an underwater lair near a Lazarus Pit where he's keeping all his new Man-Bat ninjas. Batman rescues Talia, but not before she is shot by Deathstroke, so he revives her with the Lazarus Pit while Robin fights Deathstroke to the death, although Slade is dowsed with chemicals before apparently drowning so he might return with enhanced strength in future DC Universe installments. Damian decides to stay with Batman and be the new Robin with Talia leaving him so she can rebuild the League of Assassins.

This feature had some ecstatic fight scenes in it highlighting what a skilled ninja Damian was raised to be, plus some quality animation, although you see how much better Under The Red Hood was in comparison. The main problem with this though is the inclusion of Deathstroke as the main antagonist, where he wasn't even in the original comic and has no connection with the League of Assassins, when he could have easily have been replaced with a character like Bane or Sensei who actually had ties to Ra's al Ghul, like Deathstroke is just some character from the DC Comics roster to fill a spot when you need some ass-kicking ruthless merc. Aside from that, Son Of Batman definately has a place in the Batman animated movie pantheon, and is one worth keeping.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

ANI-MOVIES, *Ultraman II: The Further Adventures Of Ultraman

Ultraman has had more spinoffs than any other TV series, so it obviously had to get an anime adaptation. It was redone as an animated series in the late 70s and early 80s by Sunrise who at the time was also doing the first Gundam TV series. The series itself wasn't released in English on its own, but the first four episodes were dubbed for an American release as a compilation film.

Set in the future, a strange message from space is seen all over the world written in the sky in an "alien" language. What it was really from the alien hero Ultraman who tries to warn mankind of changes happening to the Earth. He ends up fusing with an astronaut who joins up with a special scientific task force that is assembles select soldiers to handle these new threats to the Earth. The four parts of this movie have some random monster show up, and Ultraman intervenes to stop them. The best of which is in the first one where he takes on four frost-breathing Godzilla clones. He also fights a living tornado! But as usual, his greatest weakness is he can only stay in his giant form for a few minutes before exposure to Earth's sun kills him, like he's a Reverse-Superman or something.

This movie was one of the first anime titles to be release at the dawn of the DVD boom in the 90s, and features some decent animation for the time. The giant monster fight sequences as disasters are exceptionally well done. If you happen to find a place to rent this or in a bargain bin, definitely give it a look. It's a shame that the American production of Ultraman: The Adventure Begins pilot movie done in part by Hanna-Barbera hasn't been released out here yet.

MISC. MANGA, *Blue Monday

Starting off as a series of comic strips in anthologies like Oni Double Feature and Dark Horse Presents, Chynna Clugston took her own idealized version of a teen comedy drawn in a manga style which was printed in a succession of mini-series and one-shot specials through Oni Press. Inspired some of the John Hughes films of the 80s, the regular ongoing storyline started out in the early 2000s, but the plot itself is set in the early 90s.

Bleu Finnegan is a blue-haired teenage girl(you gotta have blue hair!)who is going reaching that part of her life where she's discovering her first love. Bleu herself is a strange one who appreciates old movies and is a major fan of Adam Ant, in fact the main plot of the first mini-series deals with her trying to get tickets for her idol's concert. She's best friends with local rowdy Irish tsundere Clover, and the two of them carry on a "plutonic" relationship with two of the loudmouthed guys from their school, Alan and Victor. Alan has a thing for Bleu, and even manages to con her into going out with him, but only after he agrees to give her a video of her taking a bath. However, Victor seems to have on-and-off feelings for Bleu too, but more committed to Clover. All this while their friend Erin is playing the criminal mastermind at trying to get Alan to go out with her, but at the same time being supportive of her friends. Bleu is actually infatuated with her new teacher, Mr. Bishop, a young history teacher that was first brought in as a substitute. Bleu gets some help from on this with the intervention from a giant otter named Seamus who is a pooka that only Bleu and a few other people can see, meaning that there are some given supernatural elements going on in here, although there are a pair of Jesus head ghosts that sometime haunt Bleu too, so its not so far off to add some otherworldly stuff to it(even Archie had Sabrina!). There's the usual high school hijinks here like Shriner parades, Halloween parties, April Fool's goth fads, and a Jingle Belle crossover, but the story itself mainly contends with the given cast along with the messy Monkeyboy and their relationships both as friends and love interests.

Blue Monday is a really great American manga, and worth a peak if you fell in love with Scott Pilgrim, especially since they both come from the same publisher. A few hiccups in it though are that of the collected four trade paperbacks done so far, most of the third one supposedly happens after the fourth one which is due to the fact that it was a collection of one-shot specials instead of a mini-series. Also, what would make up the fifth volume(the fourth mini-series overall)has been on indefinite hiatus since the first issue of that series was released in 2008, to which so far there hasn't been any continuation of since then. Hopefully, this will get concluded sometime in the near future.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

MISC. MANGA, *Reality Check

While a lot of indy American comics publishers were doing their own "Amerimanga" titles in the mid-90s, Sirius Entertainment went a little further with picking up the self-published comic Reality Check which was first done in black and white, and turning it into an ongoing full-color series. Tavicat Studio was the original studio that printed it, comprised of writer/graphic artist Rosearik Rikki(aka: the voice of Gir on Invader Zim)and artist Tavisha Wolfgarth, who are actually a couple in real life. After doing some work on Academy Comics' Robotech line, they printed some vampire comics under their own Tavicat label, and then two issues of their original title, Reality Check. Sirius acquired it and reprinted the first two issues in color along with ten more. This comic came out at the dawn of the internet, otherwise known back then as the "information super highway".

Set in the far off alternate future of 2012(at least as was envisioned back in the mid-90s)the internet is now a large virtual reality landscape where anyone can plug into with their VR helmets. Collin is a regular teenager with a truly apathetic family who are each in their own little virtual reality, but he finally manages to get enough money together to get his own VR helmet. Collin finds out that his frisky cat Catreece can login to the net on her own through his helmet and manifest in it as a humanoid feline, which Collin has to at first explain to his friends that she's an expert hacker that created her own online catgirl avatar. Collin's friends, Erk and Maiko, buy this, and end up going on a few internet adventures together, including wandering into the the first internet sci-fi sitcom completely done by an AI titled "Ranklechick And His Three-Legged Cat"(which actually produced its own spinoff comic!), the two main characters of which become regulars throughout the series. They also meet Maiko's younger sister Lili who is the internet superhero La La Loopy, who learned all her online tricks from her cat Mimi that only happens to be Catreece's sister that also takes on a catgirl persona while in the virtual world. After staving off the dreaded Puffy Cat Virus that nearly devoured VR France, our heroes form their own online task force called Bullet Cats Inc., and get hired by an escaped video game rabbit that became sentient to seek out its creator who's locked up in an online insane asylum. But first, they must defeat an evil panda!

Sound crazy enough! It actually holds up pretty well by today's standards, including all the conceptions at the time of how the internet might be two decades later, minus the VR helmets. The series ended on a conclusion of sorts, although there was plenty of room for more. Sirius did their twelve issues, and then reprinted the first half in a single colored graphic novel, but not the second half of the series. Reality Check was also later picked up by Tokyo Pop and reprinted in two manga-sized graphic novels, but unfortunately in black and white which denies you the sweet color scheme Tavicat had playing out in the comic. Tavicat does now have the entire series available online in certain places, but do yourself a favor and try to track down all of the original Sirius comics run in all their full color glory!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

MISC. MANGA, *All Purpose Cultural Catgirl Nuku Nuku

Despite being a short-lived manga, Nuku Nuku spawned several anime adaptations. This was the original manga that only went on for about three chapters, with the collected edition containing a special "cine-manga" of a missing chapter from the first OVA series. This was created by Yuzo Takada, who is also known for his work on Blue Seed and 3X3 Eyes, although this brief series became his most successful venture into anime.

Kyusaku Natsume is a struggling but brilliant scientist who had his big industry wife divorce him, leaving him to raise their son Ryunosuke. One Christmas Eve, Ryunosuke adopts a stray cat that is damaged in an auto accident, so his father takes the cat's brain and puts it into an android body. Now named Nuku Nuku, the cybernetic kitty lives under the guise of Kyusaku's daughter as a college freshmen, and Ryunosuke's older sister. She uses her robotic strength to save her new family from an apartment fire, but tries to keep her secret life as a robocat a secret from her civilian classmates. She also takes Ryuonsuke to the beach, and uses some new mermaid-type upgrades to save him from drowning.

The other half of the manga is essentially "Episode 3 1/2" of the first OVA series, taking place between the two halves of the anime. In this storyline, Ryunosuke's mother has a more active role and is constantly trying to win back her son with her office lady henchwomen. However, in this chapter, it features her father more as the founder of the Mishima heavy industries corporation as his agents tries to find of all things an alien cat that Nuku Nuku finds in a crashed UFO. She takes the cat into her family and calls him Myu, who they learn is very intelligent. Eventually, Myu hitches a lift back home, leaving us with Nuku's first love interest. This full color short was done by the actual anime production crew, and included in the American release of the manga, although it's done a fumetti format looking very similar to a photo novel.

The manga is probably worth picking up if you're a big fan of the original anime, mostly to get a look at the beginning concept which wasn't a slapsticky, but also to get a new chapter set in the same OVA continuity. Aside from the first 6-episode OVA, there were also a TV series remake, and a TV series-styled format OVA titled Nuku Nuku Dash!. The American release of the manga also comes with several postcards from the first OVA and TV series to fill out the book a little more, but it's still a pretty decent extra.