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.