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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Robotech/Voltron: ♪1+1+1+1+1... Macross! Macross!! Macross!!!♪ Wait, That's Not Right...

In the 80s, two anime dominated North American TV airwaves when they were localized & adapted in similar ways. Harmony Gold's Robotech from 1985 was an amalgamation of three separate mech anime, 1982's Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, 1984's Super Dimensional Cavalry Southern Cross, & 1983's Genesis Climber Mospeada, while World Events Productions' Voltron: Defender of the Universe from 1984-1985 was made up of two series, 1981's Beast King GoLion & 1982's Armored Fleet Dairugger XV, but in both cases only one of the sources would become the de facto face of their own respective franchises. For Robotech it would be Macross (though, due to legal issues, Mospeada would eventually be used as the basis for future productions), while for Voltron it would be GoLion (so much so that an adaptation of Lightspeed Electroid Albegas was scrapped in favor of completely original "Lion Force" episodes). After decades of ups & downs for both franchises, though, we're at an interesting time for both of these icons of the 80s.

There hasn't been anything truly "new" from Robotech since the maligned movie The Shadow Chronicles in 2007 (yes, I know of 2013's Robotech: Love Live Alive, but that was just an adaptation of the 1985 Mospeada OVA of the same name), and after filing an arbitration lawsuit against Tatsunoko that revealed that HG's license to the three shows that comprised the series will expire in 2021, it looks like Robotech is slowly approaching death's door; while money does talk, I highly doubt Tatsunoko will renew HG's license at this point. Meanwhile, Voltron has had a couple of full-length animated series within this very decade alone, 2011's generally maligned kind-of-sort-of-maybe sequel Voltron Force & 2016's highly beloved reboot Voltron: Legendary Defender. In between those two series, though, a company called Dynamite Entertainment had the comic rights to both franchises, so it was decided to have the two cross over, which resulted in 2013's Robotech/Voltron, a five-issue American comic that focuses specifically on the Macross cast meeting with the "Lion Force" GoLion cast.

Amusingly enough, this is literally the only time these two series have ever officially interacted with each other anywhere in the world, as the only Super Robot Wars game to feature GoLion, 2007's W on the DS, did not feature Macross in any way. All this being said, was anyone even asking for this to happen, & is it any good in the first place? Let's find out...

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Obscusion B-List: Video Game Publishers' Last Stands

The video game industry, like any form of entertainment, can be absolutely cutthroat & ruthless. If products just continue to sell less & less, then the company behind them will eventually just die out. For video games that means the publishers that put games out on store shelves, and there is a theoretical graveyard filled with the corpses of video game publishers that eventually died. For every Nintendo, Sega, Electronic Arts, Activision, & Capcom, there's been a Sage's Creation, Kaneko, Vic Tokai, Treco, Big Fun Games, Acclaim, Seismic, DreamWorks (no relation to the movie studio), Majesco, & Data East that once existed but have since either simply left the game industry to survive or outright died out, never to be seen again. But on rare occasion there were game companies that seemingly died, only to make one last stand & try again years later. Still, they wound up dying for salvation, with dedication. They took no capitulation, but faced annihilation. They looked for gamer commendation & reincarnation, and I want to give them the last rites they were denied. So let's don our sabatons & take a look at six game publishers that made one last stand when it looked as if there was nothing left from them!

First up on this list is a company that, for all intents & purposes, was likely never going to make it past the 90s, no matter what, and it all comes down to the name it operated under. Founded in 1990 & operating out of Salt Lake City, Utah, Electro Brain had a name (& logo) that simply screamed that it was a product of a new decade, but at the same time instantly dated itself for the future. Still, the publisher does have some relevance to an anime & manga-focused blog like this, as they got their start with anime-based games like Fist of the North Star: 10 Big Brawls for the King of the Universe! for the Game Boy & Puss 'N Boots: Pero's Great Adventure for the NES, and it would start off by bringing over games developed in Japan, like Dead Heat Scramble, Trax (both for the Game Boy), & the SNES version of Raiden Trad; they even did a Japanese release or two themselves, like for Super Kick Boxing, a.k.a. Best of the Best: Championship Karate on the SNES. Eventually, Electro Brain would move on to publishing games by Western developers, like Imagineering's Ghoul School & Sculptured Software's Stanley: The Search for Dr. Livingston (both on the NES), before hitting 1994. Late that year saw Electro Brain release Vortex on the SNES, a Super FX chip-powered game developed by Star Fox's Argonaut Software. Following that release, Electro Brain just up & disappeared, with no releases from them for 1995.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Obscusion B-Side: The Death Crimson Retrospective That Destroys Your Soul!

If you haven't noticed, I've been trying to do more Obscusion B-Side pieces in general, and so far this year all but three months have had either a B-Side or a B-List. Aside from trying to create some sort of consistency, there's another big reason for this: I wanted to hit my 20th B-Side this year. While I'm not sure if I'll do this like I do with my reviews, I thought that (since I don't do these quite as often) I should make every 20th piece a milestone for Obscusion B-Side. And since I was able to time this for Halloween, how about we look back at something horrifically terrible?

You have to admit, though...
That cover art is metal as all hell.

"The Emperor of Crappy Games", "The Lowest Emperor", & "Master Death"... They all are used by Japanese video game fans online to describe a single game: Death Crimson. A video game so infamous that even saying just its name can potentially deliver psychological pain to certain people. Housed within a single CD is a game for the Sega Saturn generally considered one of the absolute worst of all time, and I'm not doubting or refuting that consensus. That being said, though, there is more to Death Crimson than just a single game, but very few tend to put any focus towards the rest. Therefore, to celebrate 21st Anniversary of Death Crimson, which happened back on August 9 (the day the first game came out in Japan), I want to go over all three games in this infamous series. Did things improve in any way with time, or are all three worthy of such imperial nicknaming? Also, why the 21st Anniversary? Because I missed the actual 20th last year, though I think drinking age should be the more appropriate time to look back at something like this.

Before we get to Death Crimson, though, let's first quickly go over the man & development studio behind it...

Friday, October 27, 2017

Demo Disc Vol. 11: Gaussian Guardians

I started Demo Disc with Volume 1, a focus on mech anime that I otherwise would not normally be able to cover here on The Land of Obscusion, & I did more of that for Volume 5. I had planned on doing the same for this volume, but something very interesting has happened in the past number of years. With simulcasting all but killing the concept of fansubbing anime as they air in Japan, though scumbag rippers & illegal streaming sites have pretty much taken that spot, the few fansubbers still around have quietly moved on to anime of the past, and mecha has seen a lot of movement on that front. For example, every single entry in the Brave Series has an unofficial English translation now, and stuff like that has effectively removed a lot of previously unfinished anime for me to cover via Demo Disc; I can still return to that genre exclusively at least one more time, though. Therefore, for this eleventh volumes, I decided to go with a more overarching motif: Guardians of the People!

Tetsujin had such a light step back then
that the cops couldn't hear it sneaking up on them.

Record of Life
Not counting the bonus at the end, Volume 5 of Demo Disc, Rowdy Robos, finished with a look at the first episode of Tetsujin 28 FX, the early 90s far sequel to the "originator" of giant robots in anime & manga created by Mitsteru Yokoyama. Therefore, let's start off this volume with a look at where the genre all began. Tetsujin/Iron Man 28 debuted back in mid-1956 in the pages of Kobunsha's manga magazine Shonen (not to be confused with Kodansha's Shonen Magazine, which debuted three years later). The manga would run for 10 years, ending in mid-1966 after 24 volumes. It was first adapted to television as a live-action drama that ran for 13 episodes in 1960, but in 1963 it became one of the earliest TV anime ever produced, running until 1966 for 97 episodes & featuring animation by the Television Corporation of Japan/TCJ, now known simply as Eiken. It would start being exported internationally under the name Gigantor the next year, but only 52 episodes wound up getting dubbed. In fact, the first episode just celebrated its 54th anniversary earlier this month (October 20, to be exact), so let's see how the very first giant robot anime got its start!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Theory Musing: The Anime Kickstarter Konundrum

At Otakon this year, one of my favorite panels I attended was the Right Stuf panel, and one of the most interesting announcements made there was that Aria the Animation would receive an English dub if a Kickstarter drive for the new Blu-Ray release was to succeed. I knew that Aria in general had a fervent fanbase, so my immediate feeling upon hearing "Dark Lord" Shawne Kleckner announce this drive was, "Oh, this is going to succeed, easily."

That being said, even I couldn't imagine it earning nearly four times its initial goal, resulting in every season of the Aria anime, including the previously unlicensed Aria the Avvenire OVA from 2015, receiving an English dub. I have nothing but happiness for the fans of this anime series (I'm personally fine with the DVDs I have yet to watch), but at the same time it started to make me think. Are anime crowdfunding successes like Aria an indicator that there is potential for smaller name & niche anime to be given chances that they would normally never be given outside of Japan, or is this just more proof that these can only reliably succeed for titles that already have existing fanbases to support them in the first place? Before all of that, though, let's start at the beginning...

If you somehow aren't familiar with Kickstarter, it's a site where people & companies can start drives that requires the general public to pledge funding to in order to achieve a required goal. While there are other sites like it, such as IndieGoGo or Fig, KS has the most notoriety behind it, and even recently has started allowing drives based in Asia. Eventually, the Japanese anime industry would come to notice the potential of crowdfunding, & on October 1, 2012 Production I.G. teamed with director Masaaki Yuasa to crowdfund an original OVA short titled Kick-Heart. With a goal of $150,000, the OVA would earn over $200,000, which resulted in it being two minutes longer than initially planned & even receiving two English dubs (one professional & with one with backers voicing the cast); I not only supported this drive but also reviewed it back in July of 2013. The success of this drive has since opened up the gates for anime crowdfunding, with successes like Santa Company, Under the Dog, Mecha-Ude, Nekopara, Cannon Busters, & others which were done via Japan-exclusive sites, but I'll only be focusing on Kickstarter campaigns here.