Asura (October 15)
With so much anime being made every year now it's only natural that quality titles fall through the cracks, especially when the titles aren't exactly "mainstream-friendly". Toei in particular put two anime movies out into theaters last year that were completely ignored, and while Niji-Iro Hotaru ~Eien no Natsu Yasumi~ was a calming & relaxed production, Asura absolutely came out as the "Best Anime Movie of 2012 You Didn't See." Based on a 70s manga that got itself banned due to some of the content (namely, the cannibalism), this movie was simply amazing. The "hybrid animation" that mixed CG characters with 2D backgrounds gave it a one-of-a-kind look, the content was harsh but extremely engrossing, & the characters and story were truly memorable. On the one hand, I find it annoying that it hasn't been licensed yet, especially since it technically debuted at a North American film festival (so there should be English subs made for it already), but at the same time it isn't exactly a title that your traditional anime fan would likely check out. Hopefully one day this movie will get a real chance over here, but until that day comes you should really check it out if you get the chance... You won't be disappointed.
The "Kurumada Curse": Or Why Can't Anyone But Discotek Do This Right? (July 30)
One doesn't have to be a fan of Masami Kurumada to realize that there's something weird going on when it comes to his works coming over to North America. Taking aside the fact that we didn't actually start getting his works until only just ten years ago, there's definitely enough "wrong" going on to make one wonder if a "curse" really does exist... DiC only licensed half of Saint Seiya TV, yet only adapted 2/3 of that for their Knights of the Zodiac version; why even license 60 episodes, then? When ADV sub-licensed Seiya from DiC for an uncut & edited dual-audio release they eventually realized that they could only released what DiC had licensed, and no amount of wanting to do more could help them get anything more out. DiC, in turn, also essentially hurt Viz's release of the original manga by forcing them to use altered names & terms from KotZ instead of allowing the manga to be unaltered, possibly keeping people from being interested in checking it out. TokyoPop tried their hand at doing B't X, Kurumada's hit of the 90s, but ended up releasing one of the worst-selling manga in the company's (possibly even the entire industry's) history; TokyoPop was hoping that KotZ would be a big hit, which would in turn help sales out for them. I don't want to put blame solely on one company, but DiC kind of really screwed Kurumada over, didn't they?
Then Illumitoon simply existed... They were able to get eight episodes of the B't X anime out on DVD (& 14 dubbed episodes over at The Anime Network on Demand) before they finally bit the bullet. By the end of 2010 the "curse" would be lifted from the manga industry when both Viz & TokyoPop finally got the last volumes of their respective Kurumada manga released (B't X Volume 16 literally came out just months before TokyoPop "downsized", to put it lightly), but the anime industry was another story entirely. This year Discotek would finally be the first company to completely release all of a Kurumada anime that they licensed, but when you pick up four short Seiya movies from the 80s that isn't exactly hard to do. Unfortunately, Discotek wouldn't be able to pick up Seiya TV since New Video Group announced that they would be releasing a "Sanctuary Classic Collection" that would be dub-only. Here's the confusing thing: The runtime is totaling up to 73 episodes, which would cover the entire Sanctuary Chapter, but only 60 episodes were ever dubbed into English over here. Granted, the original December release has been changed to February 14, 2014, so maybe something will be done to cover those last 13 episodes; hopefully NVG can also make the release dual-audio, since only 13 episodes would have to be subbed. Anyway, for a creator who helped revolutionize shonen manga in the late-70s, created one of the biggest international hits of anime & manga in the late-80s, & is celebrating his 40th Anniversary as a manga-ka next year, it is astounding how hard it is to even release anything made by him in North America with little to no problems. Truly, Masami Kurumada is cursed over here.
Legend of DUO (June 12)
Even though I try to save the worst of the worst for my "milestone" reviews (50, 100, etc.), there are some titles I review in between those moments that are close to being worthy of those spots. Last year I had Crystal Triangle, which was gloriously horrible & well worth watching, & this year I had Legend of DUO. Admittedly, I had seen this title years ago, but I had forgotten how hilariously bad this was; this title can easily give Gundoh Musashi a run for its money at times. It fails in almost every major aspect: The story, though focused, goes by so fast that you can't really come to like or relate to any of the main characters. The "Disease of Death" that plagues this world seems to work by its own internal logic, even contradicting itself when the story decides it should. The animation is so non-existent that characters have only three or four "faces" at the absolute most & there's nothing but panning shots throughout the entire show, outside of the few seconds of actual animation that's shown on rare occasion. This might just be the "Power Glove of Anime": I love Legend of DUO... It's so bad.
It's amazing that such a show was even shown on television, since it seemed like it was made for cell phones; at least, that's what I'm guessing since Radix's mobanimation label was plastered on every frame of every episode. Within just a few years, though, cell phones would become able to stream actual anime on them, rendering something like Legend of DUO beyond obsolete. I could never find any indication that this show ever received a home video release, either, so it has ended up being nothing more than an oddity of anime; a product of an industry that evolves quickly, though it wasn't any good in the first place. Seriously, just watch Legend of DUO for yourself & wallow in how hilariously awful it is; it's only an hour long, after all.
|Yeah, this image was on last-year's Favorite Posts list too...|
It is a cool image, though.
Sci-Fi HARRY (October 31)
When I was first really getting into anime I had seen the first half of this show, and it creeped the hell out of me. Watching it this year it didn't quite creep me out like it did back then, but it was still eerily compelling & freaky. George Iida was able to do something that not too many anime end up doing: Creating a story that takes place in the United States & does so with a lot of respect for the nation. Iida's style would have worked just as well in live-action, but making it into an anime just gave it even more of an eerie vibe, and the story was intensely gripping. Super Techno Arts did announce plans to release HARRY on DVD in North America, but those plans never came to fruition, though it does make one wonder how it would have done in the first place. Even today it doesn't look like your traditional anime & it's focus on the US would probably turn off most Japanophiles.
Luckily, this world of Iida's hasn't stayed in Japan exclusively. Though the original Night Head TV series, which HARRY is supposedly a prequel to, is still left in Japan, Media Blasters did release the anime remake of said series, Night Head Genesis, on DVD here in North America. As I said at the end of this review, I do have that release and maybe I'll check it out next year for Halloween. While a lot of people tend to worry about nostalgia coming back to hurt them this is series which I was happy to return to and I'm glad I did. I would easily recommend this for anyone who wants something completely outside of the anime box.
The Jump Super Heroes Special Collection DVD Series (January 2, 5, 10, 17, 26, & 30)
Now, technically, this isn't an entire month that I'm including here; on New Year's Day I reviewed Astro Kyudan: Kessen! Victory Kyudan-hen for the Playstation 2, and that's not being included here. Seriously, though, I couldn't not include the "main attraction" of Jump January in this list. Being a fan of Shonen Jump this series of five DVDs released by Shueisha, each containing the first episodes of six different Jump anime, was too intriguing to not buy & review. Admittedly, there were some oddities (Dr. Slump in Battle Heroes 1, Stop!! Hibari-kun! being mixed in with a bunch of 90s properties, Captain being the sole Monthly Jump inclusion, & Dragon Ball GT's inclusion in general) & some notable exclusions (seriously, Shueisha could have easily made a Volume 6 with the likes of Captain Tsubasa, Rurouni Kenshin, Jungle King Tar-chan, City Hunter, Yu-Gi-Oh!, etc.), but overall it was a really cool look at the pre-2000 history of Weekly Shonen Jump. The fact that it also gave Moeru! Onii-san & Hareluya II BØY their very first DVD releases, even if only their first episodes, was also a neat bonus; unfortunately, neither show has since been scheduled a complete DVD release in Japan. Still, with Jump turning 45 this year these DVDs were an excellent way to celebrate that momentous anniversary.
Honestly, since then I've noticed that these "Collection DVDs" have kind of been done by numerous companies: Media Factory did one for Captain Tsubasa back in 2010, Takarajimasha has done a "DVD Book" for Cobra every year (each release has a DVD containing episodes of the 80s TV series & a DVD with episodes of the 2010 TV series) and a couple of Ashita no Joe 2 DVDs, & Shogakukan did a "Soccer Selection" for Detective Conan and a couple of Inazuma Eleven GO/Danball Senki W DVDs last year. Hey, it's honestly a neat idea that gets anime DVDs on the shelves next to manga (these DVDs are technically categorized as "books") and people can get a lot of content for a small price; these might be the best-priced anime DVDs, in terms of content compared to price, in the history of Japan!
Golden Ani-Versary's Coverage of 2004 is Public! Why Did I Choose 2004, Anyway? (July 20)
As always, the last entry on this list of my personal favorites is a personal, emotional, choice. At the end of last year Geoff Tebbets, former reviewer & columnist for the now-defunct Animerica magazine, thought up an intriguing idea: 2013 marks the 50th Anniversary of the debut of Tetsuwan Atom (a.k.a. Astro Boy), so why not celebrate this "Golden Anniversary" by covering how TV anime existed every year, from 1963-2012? Knowing that doing such a feat on his own would be impossible he did the only logical thing: Ask for help from his friends, plus a metric ton of people he never met! The end result is the Golden Ani-Versary, a blog where 50 different writers' essays about each year have been compiled, and just a couple of days ago the blog finally hit its end with the 2012 essay. I sent Geoff a "fun extra" that I hope he uploads onto the blog for the fun of it, but if he doesn't I'm okay with that.
Back to the subject, when I first heard about this idea I knew that I had to be a part of it, and I knew which year to cover immediately: 2004. This post in particular talks about the reasons behind my choice of year, the end result of which you can read here (Part 1) & here (Part 2), and I just have to state, once again, that I feel very humbled & honored to have been a part of this awesome endeavor. Just knowing that my two-part essay is but a piece of a 50-part compilation that also involved the likes of Charles Dunbar, Mike Toole, Daryl Surat, Brian Ruh, and so many other great writers is something that I can hold onto & cherish for the rest of my life; even if small, I was a part of celebrating history. Thank you, Geoff, for giving me the "OK" to be a part of this group... It means a lot, honestly.
That's it for this year, everyone! It's been a fun & productive year, and I will be back next year... With the return of Jump January, this time focused around the return of (for this blog) a certain iconic figure of Weekly Shonen Jump!