Sunday, December 3, 2017

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Riding Bean

Kenichi Sonoda got his start working for Artmic studio designing the Iron Man suits for Bubblegum Crisis, but later gained enough traction by creating his own OVA one-shot through Artmic, Riding Bean. Sonoda was a huge fan of The Blues Brothers movie, so he set his story set in Chicago making for what could be described as "The Transporter in the 80s starring Sylvester Stallone".

Bean Bandit(also known as "Roadbuster")is a professional underground getaway driver operating out of Chicago along with his gun-expert partner, Rally Vincent. After a previous job where he helps a two crooks rob a mall, Bean is visited by a bodyguard working for a wealthy industrialist whose daughter was kidnapped. Bean and Rally have to deliver the rescued girls while the bodyguard is seemingly gunned down by snipers. So our professional drivers head out in Bean's suped-up car to the wealthy family's mansion, only to find out they've been duped by the actual kidnappers who have been using them the whole time. Bean and Rally eventually track down the boss lady of the whole caper, which leads to a major chase through downtown Chicago, and a climax right out of Terminator!

Riding Bean eventually spawned off its own unfinished manga series, which Sonoda reformatted into a completely new manga titled Gunsmith Cats where Rally is now about 1 ft. shorter and half-Indian instead of a statuesque blonde who is a professional bounty hunter along with her partner Minnie-May(slightly based on an existing Riding Bean character), and Bean is a underworld driver that works alone. It's success lead to a 3-episode OVA series, which acted as a separate story making it okay to check out if you've never read the manga. Bean and Rally had a background appearance in Scramble Wars OVA special where characters from various Artmic titles engage in a Wacky Races-styled event(because Wacky Racers was a huge cult hit in Japan!), but all of the characters are in super-deformed or "chibi" form. The original Riding Bean OVA has been released in English through Animeigo that first put it on VHS and DVD, along with laser disc double-feature with MADOX-1, plus they recently produced a Kickstarter-funded blu-ray. It's a short 45-minute one-shot, but makes for a fantastic take on 80s American action flicks, and for anybody who thought Baby Driver was to "tame".

Monday, October 16, 2017

MISC. MANGA, *Don't Meddle With My Daughter

What if Power Girl from DC Comics had a daughter, went in to retirement, and then her daughter takes her mantle? That's the premise behind Don't Meddle With My Daughter. Created by Nozomi Tamaki, who also made Dance In The Vampire Bund, put this together largely based on American comic book superheroes, but in a more ecchi take than what One Punch Man did for shonen manga.

There was a powerful heroine called the Eighth Wonder, and she worked with the secret S.H.I.E.L.D.-like organization referred to as N.U.D.E. Secretly, Eighth Wonder was a young woman named Athena who allegedly comes from an island of goddesses, but along the way fell in love with a mysterious man, and had a daughter named Clara. With her husband now M.I.A., Athena retires from the hero biz to become a full time mother. Years later, Clara discovers she's gained the powers of the original Eighth Wonder, and not having a single clue that she gets it from her mother. So, Clara joins up with N.U.D.E. to fight the criminal gang called "Blowjob". Discovering that her daughter is the current Eighth Wonder, Athena gets into her old outfit which barely fits her anymore, and secretly helps out Clara from behind the scenes along with her old N.U.D.E. mates. However, the forces of Blowjob seem to have some connection to Athena's estranged husband who was a super-skilled sniper that assassinates heroes and villains alike.

This might seem like a step down from all the "female empowerment" that the current Wonder Woman movie that SJWs love to go on about, but it still maintains a good level of comedy and action for a superhero comic. If you found Adam Warren's Empowered non-offensive, then this manga.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Metal Skin Panic MADOX-1

One of the first one-shot OVAs of the 80s was this early gem by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Aramaki. This was still at the dawn of what was considered "cyberpunk anime", so it doesn't totally fall into the same category like Bubblegum Crisis or Akira. It's more similar to Black Magic-M66, a high-octane sci-fi OVA inspired by American action films.

A new mecha-suit similar to the Hulkbuster called the MADOX is goint through its final testing by the Japanese government, but gets lost during a delivery that was seriously lacking in security. Young mechanic Kouji comes upon it, and gets locked inside it. Normally, he'd just wait for help to get out, but he has to meet his girlfriend on top of a skyscraper before she leaves on a trip abroad. So, he bulldozes his way through downtown to make it on time, all while the MADOX keeps automatically causing more damage than Kouji intended. The mecha's sexy creator Elly is out to stop it, but her bitter rival Kilgore goes mad and tries to take the MADOX down by any means necessary, including using his suped-up urban mini-tank!

As one of the pioneering OVAs, Metal Skin Panic MADOX-1 is pretty standard by today's anime viewing experiences. It makes for an enjoyable single-episode feature for any moderate fan of anime, but its greatest strength is seeing some amazing mecha fights!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

MISC. MANGA, *Captive Hearts Of Oz

While there are numerous anime/manga titles based on the works of L.Frank Baum(including Santa Claus' origin), Captive Hearts Of Oz takes a modern day shojo approach to the classic tale, mixing in not only elements from the original Wizard Of Oz book, but others fragments of the Oz novels. Author Ryo Maruya teamed up with artist Mamenosuke Fujimaru who worked on the various Alice In The Country Of Clover and its various spinoffs to create this reverse-harem manga.

Dorothy is a farm girl who has her house blown away by a tornado to the enchanted land of Oz, where it happens to crash on the Wicked Witch of the East. The Good Witch of the North, Locasta arrives and gives Dorothy the Wicked Witch's magic shoes as she is directed to go to the Emerald City to find the enigmatic Wizard who could send her home. Along the way, Dorothy runs across more human-ish versions of the Scarecrow(here called Haward), Nick Chopper(Tin Woodsman), and "Leon" the Lion. Once all four of them have assembled, they are joined by a joyful but mysterious jester named Zero. The quintet eventually reach the Emerald City, where Dorothy is greeted by Glinda, Good Witch of the South. All while this is going on, it appears that Locasta is working with the other Witches and the Wizard to have Dorothy follow a certain path, indicating that this has been done by Dorothy more than once who kept no memories of her former adventures. This plus the Witch of the East is not only still alive, but a male, as well as the Witch of the West.

The over all story arc seems like a cross between the original Oz story, and The Truman Show where someone's life is being directed by outside forces within a self-contained world. Whether this is all in storybook, a dream, or a pocket universe is yet to be seen. The plot moves along fairly well, although it seems to hide to much which disallows the narrative to know where its all going. The artwork is satisfying, and should appeal to bishonen otaku.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Gold Digger: The Time Raft

A first in the field of independent comic book based film productions, Gold Digger has been a long-running adventure/fantasy title from Antarctic Press created by Fred Perry, who also took up the role of main animator under this 3-episode OVA. Based on the original short comic story that ran in Mangazine(and then eventually it's own one-shot), The Time Raft acts as an introduction to the main characters, super-intelligent archaeologist Gina Diggers, and Brittany, her adopted were-cheetah sister. The duo trot the globe for treasure and lost civilizations. Brittany gets by with her enhanced strength, speed, and healing, while Gina contributes her intellect, and a hyperspace toy chest filled with groovy gadgets.

The two heroines are looking around the British countryside searching for the ancient relic known as the Time Raft created by Merlin. Upon first entering the ruins of where they believe the relic is, the Diggers sisters are attacked by panther-like golems, and then accosted by a pair of warrior elves. Gina and Brittany awake to find their host, a menacing-looking dragon calling himself Swiftwing, who claims to be the protector of the Time Raft left to him by Merlin, but needs their help to figure out how to actual activate the device which allows its user to manipulate and travel through time. Gina initially agrees, but learns from the elves that the dragon is really Dreadwing, an evil dragon who conquered numerous kingdoms in the past, and hopes to use the rafts capabilities to plunder throughout time. Gina rigs the raft to open up a wormhole ripping the flesh off of Dreadwing, leaving the Diggers with Dreadwing's horde of gold to spend.

The OVA is mostly faithful to the original story, although some fight scenes were strung out for time, as well as some story elements which in the OVA elude to future events in the comic. The three episodes were first done about 2-3 years apart as Fred Perry did all the main production of the animation, which was mostly all done in traditional style with only some CGI. There was eventually a collected edition titled "The Movie", although this version has some different voice actors used in the first episodes, as well as mostly redone action sequences which were a vast improvement from the initial production. All 3 OVAs are still available individually on DVD, as well as the collected movie which is the better buy as it more convenient with a higher production value for the complete package. Most of the animation is considerably remarkable considering it was an in-house production, the only main draw back is some of the voice acting and lip-syncing. The Gold Digger comic series itself is a sprawling epic that has stretched for over 25 years, so it is slightly hard to get into sometimes, but over the last few years it has become more accessible by channeling into self-contained short arcs that don't dwell too hard on past plots. Surely worth looking into for fans of American-styled anime, or otaku and gamers in general!

Dammit, Irma!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

ANI-MOVIES, *Dante's Inferno: An Animated Epic

Following up their prequal to Dead Space: Downfall, Film Roman was pinned to do an animated version of the Dante's Inferno video game from Electronic Arts. This was a dark fantasy adaptation of the first part of The Divine Comedy poem by Dante Alighieri from the Middle Ages. But unlike some other animated video game tie-ins, An Animated Epic is an abridged playthrough retelling of the game itself. However, it acts similar to anthology films like The Animatrix as different studios were tasked to handle the various levels of Hell. This includes anime productions companies like Manglobe and Production I.G.

During the tale end of the Third Crusade, Dante(named after the poet)is a Templar Knight coming back home to England to find that everyone in his house has been murdered, including his sweetheart Beatrice who begins to pass over into Heaven, but is then dragged down to Hell by Lucifer's shadow-self. Dante follows Beatrice's soul into the underworld while being guided through all 9 Circles by the ghost of the Roman poet Virgil. Along the way, he encounters the various tortured residents, some who offer help and direction, while others are seeking to win favor with Lucifer, including members of Dante's family and fellow Crusaders. Lucifer plans on making Beatrice his wife to rule at his side, so Dante has to make it to the "church" on time to crash the wedding. This all turns out to be a ploy by the fallen angel to make his way back into Heaven.

The movie works well as a single narrative, despite the various chapters its layered out in depicting the various levels of Hell. Each chapter is done by different studios, which makes for some clashing character designs carried over from the following chapters. The plot flows pretty well enough, with some standard level bosses for each chapter, given the fact that there are numerous flashbacks going over the various characters' past sins. Despite the NR rating given to it, this film is a hard R, with blood and gore that make Clive Barker look like Mister Rogers! Even if you're not heavily into video games, Dante's Inferno does make for a literal epic, but for profoundly mature audiences.

Monday, August 21, 2017


Originally done as a Gainax's first bite into the new millennium, FLCL(also called Fooly Cooly and Furi Kuri), this 6-episode OVA has recently been changed into an ongoing TV series backed up by Adult Swim. Being a meltdown of several anime tropes and gag humor, FLCL went on to being a genre-defining movement within anime, as well as American comics and animation.

Naota is a grade school student living in a small Japanese suburb whose popular older brother is in America on a baseball scholorship. This fame has an effect on Naota's trying to live up to his brother's image, as well as his resident ex-girlfriend Mamimi keeps clinging to him. One day, a crazy girl named Haruko shows up riding a scooter and hits Naota on the head with her guitar. This leads to Haruko becoming his family live-in "housekeeper", all while strange robots repeatedly keep appearing out of portal coming from Naota's head, which usually make him look like he's either sporting a horn or a pair of cat ears. This never really defined plot device has unexplained things like Haruko being an alien, a space pirate being captured by the enigmatic company referred to as Medical Mechanica, also a covert military organization keeping tags on all the parties involved. These usually lead to outrageous battles with runaway robots, and Haruko's constant changing from one anime cliche to another in devastating acts of violence filled with fan service.

The OVA made a large impact in the otaku community, both in Japan and America, but it soared after it was broadcast on Toonami in nearly endless 6-week loops. This embarked Cartoon Network to ride the current nostalgia train of continuing previous shows like Samurai Jack and Invader Zim by continuing it in two more 6-episode mini-series set for 2018. There was also a 2-volume manga done in a sketchier style based on the anime that was printed in English through Tokyopop. The OVA was first released by Sync-Point, also being one of the anime series that they actually completed before going bankrupt, and then re-released through Funimation. Even though this could've been released as a single feature like Read Or Die, but it works much better in its uncut episode-to-episode format.

Monday, August 7, 2017

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Tenchi Muyo

Tenchi Muyo has probably one of the most diverse legacies in all of anime. Originally a 6-episode OVA series, followed by a special(which became Episode #7), then continued in another 6.25-episode series, it left a trail for several TV and movie remakes, along with a spinoff set further in the future, until finally being officially continued in a third installment of the original OVA about 12 years later. This is was also the foundation of what would become the "harem anime" genre. Picking up the concept that Urusei Yatsura, Tenchi Muyo takes the boy-meets-alien-girl concept and ramps it up with even more hot extra-terrestrial babes!

Tenchi Misaki is an average teenager spending the summer working at his grandfather's temple where he unintentionally releases an ancient demon, who turns out to be the sexy space pirate Ryoko sealed away in a tomb by Tenchi's ancestor. Fortunately, Tenchi has a handy lightsaber which is really the key to an alien empire known as Jurai, whose princesses Ayeka and Sasami come to Earth looking for their half-brother Yosho. Later, the bubbleheaded space police girl Mihoshi drops in, just before the intergalactic criminal Kagato invades looking for the secret to Jurai's power. Kagato was keeping his old teacher Washu(and Ryoko's mom!)prisoner, that escapes and helps Tenchi defeat their shared enemy. All five girls eventually move into Tenchi's home with his father near their grandpa's temple. This portion of the OVA was continued in the 2nd series with more background on Washu, and the Jurai royal family. The 3rd OVA takes place sometime afterwards, which gave Tenchi even more love interests, and leading into how the universe was created, despite the fact that there's some added plotlines that pointlessly tags more loopholes to the series, making most of the last two episodes as exposition fests. This and the tacked on time travel factors make it so that most of the first parts of the 3rd OVA are completely re-enacted, plus an odd take on the Evangelion finale.

The OVA is being continued in a 4th series, hopefully having Tenchi finally picking one of the multiple girls from his harem as his one true love. Tenchi Muyo was most heralded in America as part of Toonami's lineup, even though it was profoundly edited, and was broadcast with the Tenchi Universe and Tenchi In Tokyo TV remakes. It's spinoff, Tenchi Muyo GXP(the title character of which only shows up in one episode!), also played on Toonami. The multiple magical girl parody remake starring Sasami called Pretty Sammy has also had it's own OVA series, and two TV remakes. Another mini-TV series titled Ai Tenchi Muyo shows an older Tenchi as a teacher, although its considered to be a sequel to Tenchi Universe. Aside from the Mihoshi Special, the only other anime directly tied to the first Tenchi timeline is War On Geminar dealing with Tenchi's younger brother on another planet, as well as a slight tie-in to the Dual: Parallel Adventure TV series which has some connection to GXP. The original OVA series also spawned a manga series released in America as No Need For Tenchi, as well as an American-created 6-issue Tenchi Muyo comic book series which was really a sequel to Tenchi Universe. If you have trouble shifting through all these various spinoffs, sequels, reboots, and remakes, it might be best just to stick to the primary OVA series, and any of its various official continuations.

Introducing the new White House Communications Director...

Thursday, July 27, 2017

ANI-MOVIES, *The Lego Batman Movie

Having no direct connection to Lego Batman: The Movie, this theatrically-released film was a semi-spinoff of The Lego Movie, apparently dealing with the Batman that exists in that "reality". Lego established that the Batman from their video games and made-for-TV/video animated movies is in a completely different universe from The Lego Movie, as in the Lego Dimensions game had both Batmans meeting up with the video game Batman beating out The Lego Movie Batman as the one you play as who meets up with characters like Gandalf and Doctor Who. Chris McCay directed The Lego Movie, and takes up the reigns again with a satirical look at the Batman universe, who also exists in the same Lego universe as various other Warner Bros. licensed titles.

Joker gets all of Gotham's villains(including some really obscure ones)to take over the city, but as usual, Batman shows up and takes them all down by himself. Joker gets miffed when Batman tells him he's not his main enemy. Bruce Wayne later attends James Gordon's retirement from police commissioner, whose position is replaced by his daughter Barbara that in this reality was never a librarian or part of the House of Representatives, but a top cop from Bludhaven, and plans on having the police work closer with Batman as he's never actually caught any of Gotham's villains(except for the opening scene!). Batman plans on sending Joker to the Phantom Zone to permanently get rid of him, so he takes his newly adopted ward Dick to sneak into the Fortress of Solitude and snatch the zone's generator it right under Superman's super-senses, all while him and the rest of the Superfriends(not the JLA!)are partying down. Batman then busts into Arkham and sends him off to the zone which also has several other Warner Bros. villains like the Eye of Sauron(the actual tower), Voldemort, King Kong, Jaws, flying monkeys, and gremlins, although oddly enough we don't see General Zod there as Batman gets the idea for the Phantom Zone from a news report on Superman having previously sent the mad Kryptonian to. Joker along with the WB lot baddies take over Gotham, so Batman teams up with the newly named Robin, Alfred(now dressed like Kato), Barbara Gordon as 60's Batgirl, along with the other Arkham inmates to form their own "Suicide Squad", a concept that Batman: The Return Of The Caped Crusaders handled a little better. All this destruction causes the entire city breaking apart, and all the heroes and villains have to unite to pull Gotham back together, but for some reason with no help from the Superfriends who are supposedly still having their hero orgy at the North Pole.

The Lego Batman Movie is a visually intriguing production, and a real payoff for longtime Batfans. However, this version of Batman is a gross exaggeration of the Dark Knight, even by parody standards. For a better Lego adaptation of Bats, albeit of a lower production value, it's better to stick with the "official" Lego Batman/Justice League animated projects and video games.

Friday, July 14, 2017


ANI-MOVIES, *DC Super Hero Girls: Intergalactic Games

Branching out from the online animated series, Intergalactic Games is the second made-for-video full-length movie made for the DC Super Hero Girls line. Probably taking place sometime during what is now Season 3 of the web series, this shows teenage versions of most of the various DC Comics characters all attending Super Hero High School in Metropolis, mostly used as a vehicle to sell dolls, similar to how Batman Unlimited was intended to sell action figures.

The Intergalactic Games comes to Earth where Super Hero High is competing with the only other school, Korugar Academy, composed mostly of alien bad guys like Sinestro, Mongal, Maxima, Lobo, and Starfire's sister Blackfire. Later, the Female Furies arrive to represent Apokalips, although their real intention is to steal some advanced robot tech that teacher Doc Magnus used to create the Metal Men. Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, Starfire, and Bumblebee represent SHHS in the game, while Lena Luthor is planning on using Magnus' tech along with a reprogrammed Platinum to take down the superheroes. It's later revealed that Lena was secretly working with Brainiac who shows up after the games end to act as a stand in "final boss" for the heroes to fight.

This was a decent outing for the Super Hero Girls, although there was less of a coherent plot, and acted more like a series of plots loosely tied together to form a "movie". It might have worked better as just a season of the web show. It's interesting to see some re-imagined DC characters, like a teenage version of the original 70s Black Orchid, or a Yellow Lantern version of Red Lantern Bleez. But the film is mostly for younger viewers with substandard animation.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Spider-Man's Invisible Jet?

Spider-Man: Homecoming. Phrasing! Boom!

Aw Shit...Spider-Man!

ANI-MOVIES, *April And The Extraordinary World

Created as an international production between Belgian, Canadian, and French studios, this full-length animated movie is done as one of the few steampunk stories that takes place outside of the normal given boundaries of the average points in time that would normally carry over into the "deiselpunk" era. Inspired by the artworks of cartoonist Jacque, this is an original story that spans decades set in an alternate history version of Europe.

Beginning in 1870, Napoleon the 3rd comes to inspect a new weapon his leading scientist Gustave Franklin, but instead of his army of super ape soldiers he was hoping for, Nappy III gets a pair of super-intelligent reptiles(possibly dinosaurs). In his anger, Napoleon causes a lab accident leading to his own premature death along with Gustav Franklin. Over the next few decades, several different "Napoleons" take up the leadership of France, while the rest of the world suffers from having their most brilliant scientists go missing. Due to this, there were no World Wars, and mankind's technology has been reduced to a slow pace with still relying on producing steam. In 1931, Gustav's grandson Pops along with his own grandson Paul, Paul's wife Annette, and their daughter April, have created special elixir which gave their cat Darwin that enables him the powers of speech and human intelligence. However, the French government is rounding up every scientist they can to bolster their arsenal, and track the Franklins down to their secret hideout, which has Pops going missing, and April's parents seemingly disintegrated by a bizarre thundercloud that chased them. Cut to 1941 where April has been living in secret on her own with Darwin. Meanwhile, a French policeman is tracking April down for any connection to her family, and using a vagrant pickpocket named Julius to do his legwork for him. Julius ends up falling for April, and joins her after she finally gets word that her parents are still alive, along with reuniting with her grandfather Pops as they unite to try to find out the conspiracy of the missing scientists, all while being chased by the French government.

The animation in this has its own unique style of animation and the look of the characters, very reminiscent of The Adventures Of Tintin, while blending in the feel of The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec comic that also got its own French-created live-action movie. Those who have seen A Cat In Paris should be familiar with the quirky style of storytelling that usually goes into a European high adventure/chase plot when it comes to this film. It makes for an interesting all-ages movie to, featuring American voice actors like Susan Sarandon, J.K. Simmons, and Paul Giamatti, even though they are mainly playing supporting characters. For real makes for an excellent entry in any steampunk movie marathon!

Friday, June 16, 2017

ANI-MOVIES, *Vixen: The Movie

Spinning off from the "Arrowverse", this online animated series was edited together into this video release. Taking place in the same universe as Arrow and Flash, this spinoff shows the origin story of a member of the ill-fated Justice League Detroit from back in the early 80s, but in modern day with a heroine discovering her magical heritage.

Starting up with our heroine Mari being chased by both Flash and Arrow, we then flashback to her to her hometown of Detroit after getting bailed out by her foster father, but getting held up by thugs who want her mother's necklace which gives her the magical power to use the abilities of whatever animal she can think of. This leads Mari to discovering that the necklace is really an enchanted totem from Africa that her influential sister wants to use to avenge the destruction of their village. After going back to Mari's first meetup with Arrow and Flash seeing if she's a meta-human(person given superpowers), she then gets kidnapped by her sister Kuasa, taking her to Africa in an attempt to claim the totem for herself. Mari manages to call on the spirits of the animals to defeat Kuasa, Mari returns to Detroit where she's confronted again by Arrow and Flash who give her the name "Vixen" as she uses her newfound powers to protect the people. The story then skips ahead to about a year later where Vixen helps Flash and Firestorm stop Weather Wizard. From this point on, the rest of what is the second season has Vixen locking horns with the user of another totem which gives him firebending powers, and having to call on help from Black Canary(the 2nd one)and The Atom, along with her now-waterbending sister.

The movie collects both seasons of the internet series(12 episodes), which was directed by most of the regular creators of the WB superhero live-action shows, which does come through quite clearly as the flow of the story is more sporadic than a full-length story. It seemed more interested in trying to shoehorn Vixen in the rest of the Arrowverse than actually fleshing out the title character, which so far has lead to having Vixen showing up in a single episode of Arrow that was portrayed by the animated series voice actress Megalyn Echikunwoke that actually fits Vixen in 4-D. The animation is good, although not up to the same standards as the regular DCU animated films. It's worth possibly renting it on its own, or just watching it for free on the CW Seed website.