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.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

MISC. MANGA, *Clockwork Planet

With a recent anime TV series adaptation, Clockwork Planet is shaping into a pretty popular manga. No Game No Life writer Yuu Kamiya teamed up with artist Tsubaki Himana to come out with this steampunk-themed post-apocalypse sci-fi story.

Set over a millennium after the Earth was made over by a brilliant creator known as "Y", the world is at this time one big "clockwork planet" with cities built on giant gears and sprockets. Young student Naoto Miura runs across a very dynamic gynoid called RyuZU who he reactivates with his technical know-how. She accepts him as her new master after sucking his thumb, although RyuZU appears to have exceptionally advanced circuitry. This connects to an investigation being lead by Marie Breguet, a machine master called a "meister" who suspects the main company in charge of the operation of the gear cities is planning to sabotage one of the lower class sections and have it be destroyed(similar to Shinra in Final Fantasy VII).

Clockwork Planet was originally a series of four light novels that soon adapted into this ongoing manga. It features some pretty stunning artwork, and a compelling story, even if it does take a little while to have the two main plots come together into a single storyline.

I should grow a "Batee".

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Aku Drive Thru

ANI-MOVIES, *Teen Titans: The Judas Contract

After nearly a decade on the schedule, Warner Bros. finally got around to coming out with what was going to be one of their first few DC animated made-for-video movies. The Judas Contract was one of the big story arcs from The New Teen Titans comic series during the mid-80's by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. This has the teenage superheroes finally butting heads with the hitman Deathstroke(aka: Slade), which was played out during Season 2 of the Teen Titans TV series.

The movie starts out during the early days of the Teen Titans which is lead by Dick Grayson as Robin, along with Beast Boy, Kid Flash, Bumblebee, and Speedy as they rescue the alien Starfire from an army of space thugs. Cut to a few years later(sometime after Justice League Vs. Teen Titans)where Starfire is now leader, plus Beast Boy, Raven, Robin(Damien Wayne), Terra, and the current Blue Beetle. They collaborate with Dick Grayson who now goes by Nightwing to take down a criminal group called HIVE, secretly lead by cult televangelist Brother Blood. Blood hired Deathstroke who is apparently still alive after Son Of Batman and stronger than before with the purpose of capturing the Titans so he can absorb their powers. Deathstroke planted the earth-manipulator Terra in their ranks to learn their secrets. First capturing Robin, Terra then proceeds to help Slade take down the rest of the Titans, but Nightwing managed to escape. Deathstroke betrays Terra by giving her to Brother Blood who hooks the Titans up to his power-sucking machine, and turns himself into a DC Comics version of the Super-Skrull. Nightwing busts in freeing the Titans, and Raven uses her magic to remove the superpowers from Blood. Terra ends up burying herself resulting in her death. The story changes to sometime later with Beast Boy doing a podcast with the actual Kevin Smith about Terra's impact on the team, plus a certain new member whose joined the team. There's also a post-credits scene of a certain kid with a blonde afro!

The Judas Contract was a much better Teen Titans movie than the previous Justice League crossover, especially with the flashback at the beginning with the original Titans. Hopefully, this will lead into at least one more Titans movie with the bonus characters teased at the end of the film.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

MISC. MANGA, *Zombies Assemble

After doing a nearly endless succession of Marvel Zombies comics, a Japanese take on the idea is done for Zombies Assemble. Set in a carbon copy of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ixion Saga creator Yusaku Komiyama has also previously worked on a manga prequel to the Avengers: Age Of Ultron movie which has yet to be released in English(similarly to the Cloverfield manga), and carried that on to this undead outbreak.

Featuring most of the cast from the first Avengers movie, Pepper Potts throws a birthday party for Iron Man/Tony Stark, but one of the guests is infected with a zombie virus which spreads through human contact. Before the Avengers can go an help the rest of New York from turning into the City of the Damned, Thor becomes infected as he's unworthy of holding his hammer, and infects Black Widow as well. With two of their members in quarantine, it's up to Stark and Bruce Banner to come up with a cure, although it's symptoms seem familiar to Tony somehow.

This was released in two separate issues in Japan, and is being printed the same way in America, but in right-to-left format which is rare for a single comic book issue nowadays. No word yet if there's going to be a collected edition of both issues, so you might wanna grab this eerie adventure while its out.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Special Combat Duty Shinesman

With Power Rangers now with a new film, Shinesman should catch your eye. Originally based on a still-as-yet to be released in English manga, this 2-episode OVA series sentai parody was a Production I.G. release came out in the mid-90s, but was put out in America through Media Blasters with an exceptionally of the walls dub!

Instead of 5 teenagers with attitude, the Shinesman(singular)are a quintet of young adults working for a trading company who secretly protects the Earth under the leadership of human resources head Kyoko, who established the Shinesman after the alien princess provided them with their equipment to defend themselves from space invaders. The evil aliens in question is Prince Sasaki, his brainwashed assistant Seki, and Sasaki's dizzy cousin Princess Shiina who arrives to help with the takeover. The Shinesman themselves have their own take on traditional superhero colors like Shinesman Red, Grey, Moss Green, Sepia, and Salmon Pink, all of which picked their colors based on their own personal preferences. Grey picked his because his beloved SUV is grey, Salmon Pink because she likes salmon desserts, etc. The main bulk of the OVA's plot has the Shinesman protecting an amusement park from Shiina with her "monster of the week" attacks.

The OVA has been dubbed in English by Coastal Recording, who did the bulk of dubbing for Animeigo and some Bandai releases, and has gone down as being one of the secret fan favorites among America otaku. The dub was conducted similarly to shows like Samurai Pizza Cats, Duel Masters, and Ghost Stories as it was given alot of freedom to take it's own direction by making even a more satirical version of a parody. With superhero lines like, "I can't die now! I've got a date with Turkish twins!", totally stealing the show. The anime has been released on dubbed and subtitled VHS, as well as DVD, and has been out of print for a while, but you can still rent it from Netflix, plus several used video sellers.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Gatchaman

First titled Gatchaman '94, this 3-episodes OVA series was a 90s remake of the original 1970s TV series. Key animator Yasuomi Umetsu, who created Kite and Mezzo Forte, had also worked on two other remakes of Tatsunoko series, Hurricane Polymore and Casshern. This was slightly edgier, and war more fan service-y adaptation of the original "five teenagers with attitude"!

Set in the mid-21st Century, a rising nation creates its own world power, but is secretly a front for the alien invasion force known as the Galactor, lead by the gender-bewildering Solaris. To counter this, the UN sends out their science ninja team, Gatchaman, a quintet of costumed teens who can take on entire armies and giant mechas with their superior weapons and tech. Their stellar ship the Phoenix can even turn into a giant fiery bird that can plow through nearly anything. The battle is on between super-heroic bird-themed ninjas and aliens in mod-ugly uniforms.

Gatchaman was first put on VHS and DVD by the now defunct Urban Vision, but was recently re-released by Sentai Filmworks, along with most of the other Gatchaman titles, most of which have brand new dubs to them. If you'd like a streamlined version of the first season of the 70s TV series with some lightning-quick action, then this is sure to please any fan of Marvel Comics!

Ugh! Again with this "Godzilla Vs." crap!

Goku just done stole yer glasses

Sunday, April 9, 2017

MISC. MANGA, *Rion 2990

In what could be viewed as the first genuine attempt at creating an original American manga-styled comic, Rion Productions created this 4-issue mini-series. Blending in styles of Osamu Tezuka and Leji Matsumoto, Rion 2990 came out in 1986 just prior to officially licensed manga like Mai the Psychic Girl and Legend Of Kamui were being released, so this was a trendsetter in its own right. It was first going to be printed in the pages of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic from Mirage Studios, but they were conditioned to self-publish it, along with a one-shot titled Boogieman.

An advanced alien race of humans decides to send some consultants to Earth in order to help them out of their violent ways. Their ambassador is the altruistic Lord Auron, along with his robotic/cybernetic son Rion. However, their craft is shot down by the U.S. military fearing the aliens to be hostile, and Auron dies in the crush. Rion manages to rocket-boot his way out of the wreck, and takes on the remaining military forces. This coincides with a young Earth girl who seems psychically connected to Rion, plus a mysterious criminal organization has plans for Rion's power.

Even though this was slated to be a 4-issue series, seemingly only 2 issues were actually printed, at least according to most back issue comic book catalogs. It was done in black and white art by Ryan Brown who also worked on other TMNT comic titles, and written by Doug Brammer. Rion 2990 is worth looking up if you come across it in a used comics bin somewhere, at least for a look at the mid-80s anime fanzine set.


Friday, March 31, 2017

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Black Magic M66

The first manga series by Ghost In The Shell creator Masamune Shirow was Black Magic. Originally a doujinshi, it was later printed by a mainstream publisher, and was a series of short stories all connected to a future civil war between Earth and a colonized Venus. Taking one of the single chapters from the manga and removing most of the background surrounding its continuity, a one-shot OVA was made under the title Black Magic M-66. Directed by Shirow himself along with Hiroyuki Kitakubo, the anime takes the basic premise for the manga chapter it was based on, and turns into a bizarre hybrid of 80s American action films.

Set in a somewhat idealized future, an aircraft hauling two battle androids called M66s, crashes in the woods, so the army shows up to reclaim the robots which have now been activated and gone on a killing spree. Ace reporter Sybil gets wind of this and heads to investigate. The army deactivates one of the androids, but the other escape, now with its programming shifted to killing Ferris, the teenage granddaughter of his creator. Being only one to uncover the androids target, Sybil sets out to save Ferris by stealing an "inner-city plane", and arrives at the club she's at just as the M66 discovers them both. They manage to get away briefly, but the M66 seems near unstoppable, even with help from the army. The ultimate showdown has the M66 falling off a building Hans Gruber-style, and being reclaimed by the government.

Black Magic M66 manages to mix in elements from Predator, Terminator, and Die Hard into a single OVA which runs under an hour, and was probably put together in Japan with the intent of getting more Americans interested in anime. It did succeed in this respect, at least among the earlier days of U.S. otaku during the late 80s to early 90s. The animation is acceptable for its time, especially considering it was one of the first OVAs ever made. The love for the actual manga never really caught on out in the States, except for GITS fanatics who collect all things Shirow-related. The initial North American release was by U.S. Renditions in one of their few VHS selections, and later dubbed by Manga Entertainment. It's currently also available on DVD in subtitled-only by Maiden Japan.

Monday, March 13, 2017

OBSCURE O.V.A., *Oh My Goddess

Before the 2 anime TV series, or the full-length movie, Ah My Goddess received this prestige 5-episode OVA series. Originally titled "Oh My Goddess" mostly because its seemed trendier, this name-change caused quite alot of stir with the American otaku community at the time back when they were really specific about how some anime titles were labeled in English. Bubblegum Crisis director Hiroaki Godai put together this series, and subsequently all the other future Ah My Goddess anime titles. Since it was being produced around the dawn of the manga, the producers came up with their own semi-conclusion to it, but really works as far as the story goes.

Keiichi Morisato is a freshmen living in the mens dorm, when his upperclassmen leave him behind for the evening to stay and take phone messages. Being hungry, he orders for takeout, but accidentally phones the Goddess Helpline, and the goddess Belldandy(really the Norn goddess of present)appears and offers to grant Keiichi a single wish. Thinking the whole thing is a joke, he wishes for a goddess like her to stay with him forever. Belldandy then declares that the two of them will be forever bonded together, not technically in a romantic enchantment kind of way, but more like being together as a duo. However, Keiichi's roommates kick them out since a guys-only dorm, so now the couple have to find a new place to crash. Belldandy leads them to a vacant temple out of town where they magically get permission to live there. Later on, Bell's sisters Urd and Skuld move in with them too, providing their own personal brand of shenanigans to the mix. The OVA has its own personal ending though revealing a secret past between Keiichi and Belldandy as she is told she needs to go back to the heavens.

This anime was a big contender for the most beloved 90s OVAs on both sides of the ocean. American fans took to it slightly because the manga it was based on was also being released at the same time from Dark Horse, a rare occurrence at the time for a simultaneous anime + manga release of a title. The OVA had serious theatrical quality animation, and made for the first genuine release of a shoujo anime in the U.S., which give the whole market a gigantic foothold in the otaku market. Animeigo did an supreme job in the Region 1 release of this, and their dub is masterful, even though both the single volumes and collected edition are currently out of print.

Monday, February 27, 2017

ANI-MOVIES, *Justice League Dark

Trying to keep up with Marvel's Cinematic Universe release of Doctor Strange, DC Universe through in their own animated feature of supernatural superheroes, Justice League Dark. Even though the actual comic book series this movie was based on was cancelled nearly two years prior to its release, DC still felt confident enough to have this be part of their "post-Flashpoint" line of titles.

Individuals from all over are suffering from temporary insanity causing them to see everyone around them as demons, the Justice League grows concerned, so Batman tries to make contact with John Constantine, a "Hellblazer" with an expertise with for the paranormal. The professional magician Zatanna happens to be a colleague of Batman's, and she leads him along with Deadman to the House of Mystery where Constantine hangss, which is an old mansion that acts like an interdimensional Tardis. Hosted by Black Orchid who is a living personification of the House, the gathering of heroes decide to work together to solve the mystery of these strange killing. They go to Constantine's old accomplice Ritchie whose suffering from a cursed form of cancer to get a magic coin which allows them to see inside the minds of the demonic victims. After an attack by a rampaging poop monster, the JLD goes back to Ritchie for answers on a magic ring Constantine found in one of the victim's memories, but discover that immortal knight Jason Blood is there as Ritchie starts to succumb to his illness. Jason reveals his origin of becoming bonded to the demon Etrigan by Merlin back in the middle ages in a fight with the warlock Destiny, and hopes to gain the fabled Dreamstone from the House of Mystery to free himself. Ritchie awakens briefly to tell them the ring comes from supervillain sorcerer Felix Faust, so Constantine persuades Swamp Thing to lead them to Faust's lair, where a tussle between the heroes and the Demons Three + Faust, but Zatanna going all Dark Phoenix jams the tide in their favor. Their win is short-lived as they realize Faust had nothing to do with the conspiracy, and that Ritchie was the one behind it all to gain access to the House of Mystery and get the Dreamstone for himself to cure his cancer. However, the whole thing was a plot by the remaining spirit of Destiny(here an ancient version of Dr. Destiny from the comics)to possess Ritchie's body and go on a rampage by causing people from all over to start going totally psycho, including some of the other Justice Leaguers. After removing Etrigan from Jason Blood, and Swamp Thing's human spirit(supposedly killing him!), Deadman knocks Destiny out of Ritchies, while Constantine sends him to Hell, while allowing Ritchie to be carried off by shrouds. Later on, Constantine and Zatanna bury Jason's remains, while contemplating taking up Batman's offer on joining the regular Justice Leauge.

This was an original story based on the JLD comic, leaving out some of the other team regulars like Princess Amethyst, Pandora, and Shade, it manages to briefly debut a few new Leaguers like John Stewart, Hawkman, and Martian Manhunter who mainly just fill up the background in a few scenes. The movie does have some above par voice acting, especially from Matt Ryan reprising his roll as Constantine from the cancelled live-action TV series, although Alfred Molina playing yet another evil DC entity as Destiny was mostly drowned out by voice modifications. It's a deep analysis into the otherworldly events going on in the DC Universe, but is largely intended for hardcore comics fans, mostly of their Vertigo line.

Monday, February 20, 2017

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Project A-ko

In what could be considered the first official anime parody, Project A-ko(named after one of Jackie Chan's earliest flicks)is combo of several anime genres and titles that were popular during the early-to-mid-80s. This was one of the first anime productions by APPP, who still do work today on various TV shows.

Starting out around the mid-21st Century, a tremendous alien craft crashes on Earth creating a huge crater. Using technology acquired from the wreckage, the new Graviton City is constructed over the remains, which is a new bustling high-tech metropolis. A new school semester begins at the local high school where longtime buddies A-ko and C-ko start attending. A-ko is a spunky redhead with incredible super-strength, enhance speed, and near invulnerability(the answer to why is hinted at during the end of the first chapter), while C-ko is the single most annoying character in the history of anime, plus it's shown in the spinoff series that she's also the single most dangerous character too. All seems like plums and pudding for the old school friends, but the snobby B-ko has some kind of "romantic" fixation for C-ko, and was odd considering the whole shoujo-ai genre didn't really start up until the early 90s. So, B-ko uses her unlimited resources and genius intellect to constantly act as A-ko's personal Lex Luthor, even to the point of creating a scantily-clad power suit to match her strength. They have an overly-extended battle throughout the city, which is conveniently getting invaded by an alien armada searching for their long last princess, who they believe is C-ko. After the shrieking blonde hellbeast is capture by space invaders, A-ko leaps up several oncoming missiles to the mother ship to rescue C-ko. A-ko eventually grounds the giant spaceship, resulting in dozens of male-looking female aliens getting stranded on Earth.

The original first chapter spun-off three more OVAs, mostly dealing with B-ko and her gang trying to separate A-ko and C-ko, or fighting over a newcomer bishounen named Kei. There was also a spinoff OVA titled Project A-ko Vs. Battle which is one of the first anime reboots that definitively takes place in another universe and not just another remake. The first chapter of the original OVA was dubbed in English with a very questionable script, while the rest of the anime was dubbed by the Ocean Group from Canada which is a big of an improvement. There's also been an American comic adaptation of the first two OVA chapters, and spinoff by Ninja High School's Ben Dunn. The original OVA is pretty much mandatory for old school otaku to have seen at least once, but might be lost to some of the millennial anime fans.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

ANI-MOVIES, *Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League-Gotham City Breakout

Even though there's a new theatrical film featuring Lego versions of Batman, that's a spinoff of The Lego Movie, which is inside the imagination of a young boy, so technically that one is "Bootleg Batman", while the one featured in the Lego Batman video games and DC Comics Lego animated movies/TV specials are considered to be the more canonical. This latest one mixes in the standard Justice League with the extended Batman cast.

Starting out in Gotham with Batman breaking in a new Robin(no specifics as to which of the multiple Robin understudies it is)while thwarting a supervillain team-up of Penguin and Harley Quinn. After arresting them, Batman is surprised by his allies from the JLA and Teen Titans for his anniversary as a crimefighter, and allow Batman to take a vacation with Nightwing and Batgirl while Superman watches over Gotham in the meantime. The movie then splits up into two recurring plots, with Batman and his former proteges chasing Deathstroke, and Superman bungling by releasing the inmates from Arkham. The story with Batman after Deathstroke leads into Bane and a completely made up for the "DC Legoverse" plot of Batman's old martial arts teacher Madame Mantis and an underground civilization of cave people. The other and better plot has Superman, Wonder Woman, and Cyborg being completely inept at dealing with Batman's rogues gallery despite their incredible powers, so Robin has to bale them out in the end.

Gotham City Breakout is a textbook example of what to take or leave in an all-ages production. The portion with Batman on vacation is like some abandoned Ninjago plot that Lego didn't bother with, while the parts of the Justice League succumbing to villains using laughing gas and robot penguins is much more enjoyable. The film is good enough for kids to wet their appetites for The Lego Batman movie, but most standard DC fans could pretty much skip it.