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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Retrospect in Retrograde: Monkey Turn

One thing about the "Year of Unfinished Business" is that I finally plan on getting back to series & franchises that I covered years ago, but never really followed up on. Of course, after all these years, I don't feel 100% comfortable about just jumping into a second season or later productions with only potentially vague recollections about what came before. Not just that, but my first couple years of doing this blog saw me write entire reviews based on nothing more than what I remember an anime being like; not every review was like that, but a fair number of them were, especially in those first few months. Therefore, I feel like enough time has passed that I can go back & re-assess anime that I reviewed way back when, & see if I still feel the same about them now; also, I want to this give them the proper write-ups I should have given them back then. So, in place of this season's Demo Disc (don't worry, it'll be back this Summer), I would like to introduce a new concept to The Land of Obscusion.

Welcome to Retrospect in Retrograde, and for my first revisit, I can't think of anything better: Monkey Turn.


On Februaru 25, 2011, I looked back fondly on my memories of the 2004 TV anime adaptation of Katsutoshi Kawai's 1996-2005 Shonen Sunday manga about kyotei/mini-hydroplane racing, and called it "the best sports anime that you've never seen." Since then, I've learned a bit more about this 25-episode anime, specifically two interesting things. First, this anime (& it's successive season) ran in a late-night slot, which honestly surprises me, both because that means that Monkey Turn ran for a solid year in late-night, which just doesn't happen nowadays, and also because of the pedigree the manga had. Kawai's manga tied with Hikaru no Go for the Shogakukan Manga Award for "Best Shonen Manga" in 1999, so I simply figured for the longest time that the anime had a prime time slot, just like its fellow award winner's anime adaptation had; both even aired on TV Tokyo. Second, back in 2011 I had no idea how much of the 30-volume manga the anime adapts, & I really still don't today, but I now do know that the anime kind of pulls a Ring ni Kakero 1 by skipping over an early portion of the manga, so that it can focus on the primary focus, i.e. the actual professional kyotei racing; some of the early parts are done via flashback at points, though. So enough re-introduction, it's time to see if Monkey Turn still comes out as one of "the best" out there, personally, when it comes to sports anime.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Obscusion B-List: Video Game Localizations We Almost Got... But Didn't

Nothing major can happen without a plan being made, first & foremost. At the same time, though, even the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, sometimes to the point of never coming to fruition in the first place. When it comes to video games, I'd say that any region of the world will receive more or less an equal amount of localized games from another region as it would get those made domestically. Like anything, though, there are a lot of steps to making a localization happen, & those steps have to be laid out in a grand plan. Unfortunately, while most localization plans do indeed come to fruition, there are some that were planned for release, and maybe even officially announced, but wound up being exclusive to the region they were originally released in.

So let's take a look at these transposed translations, these retracted reveals, & these candid cancellations that all had hopes for English localization, only to be stopped for a variety of reasons, with at least one even threatening legal action! But... Yes, I'm totally aping Guru Larry, so I'll stop right here & go straight to the first entry.


Sony Computer Entertainment of America has always been a bit of an infamous division of Sony, especially in regards to the lives of the first two PlayStation consoles. For example, there have been complaints that SCEA was "anti-2D", i.e. being downright dismissive to certain video games & publishers that wanted to release games based around 2D sprite work, simply because SCEA wanted to focus on 3D polygons. Working Designs' Vic Ireland admitted that such a policy existed during the PS1 era back in 2012 during an interview with ANNCast, & even Mega Man 8 was initially rejected for release, until SCEA found out that the Sega Saturn was also getting it, so the decision was reversed with the request for some sort of exclusive content (which wound up being a mini-booklet with artwork). Obviously, there were some games & even companies that were exceptions to this, & the policy did relax over time, but SCEA still maintained some variation of it into the PS2 era, but now this even applied to polygonal graphics. In other words, if SCEA simply felt that a video game that a publisher wanted to release in North America didn't look good enough, 2D or 3D, then that would be enough reason to deny release. While proof of this is scarce, Agetec did submit evidence of this back in 2004 with the game Shadow Tower Abyss.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Truth Behind "The Disaster Anime": Game Lab's Musashi Gundoh Interview Translated!

Happy Easter, All You April Fools!

Way back on December 1, 2011, to celebrate the blog's first anniversary, I wrote a review of the infamous 2006 TV "kuso/crap anime" Gundoh Musashi, or Musashi Gundoh (seriously, either order seems to be official), making it the first milestone review (#50). Even back then, though, I had heard of an interview that had been done after the anime had aired in Japan. As the years went on, I managed to actually find where said interview came from: Volume 140 of Sansai Books' Game Labo Tokubestsu Henshu Gendai Shikaku Bunka Kenkyu/Game Lab Special Edition: Modern Visual Culture Research, released December 2006.

While the main feature in this mook was a 36-page article titled "Kono Anime ga Yabai!/This Anime is Dangerous!", likely a parody of Takarajimasha's "Kono ___ wa Sugoi/This ___ is Great!" series of guide books, it actually had nothing to do with what I was looking for. Instead, in the middle of this Volume was a six-page pair of interviews with Nobuyuki Sugaya & Yuki Kinoshita, the respective producer & director of Gundoh Musashi. In fact, these two interviews were conducted literally days after the anime finished airing on satellite network BS-i on October 29; technically, the final episode aired on October 8, but after that came three "summary" episodes. For years, I was curious about what was said in this mook, and since this is a year about "Unfinished Business", I finally found an Amazon Japan seller that was willing to ship a copy overseas (& for cheap, too), & put my money down. So now, with a translation from Anne Lee of Chic Pixel, I give you the raw & (then) fresh feelings about what exactly went down with what I once called "The Anime Equivalent to The Room", & now nickname "The Disaster Anime", starting with the interview done with ACC Production producer Nobuyuki Sugaya. Specific notes by either myself or Anne will be included via italics for clarification, when needed.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Run=Dim: CG=Too Soon?

While the large majority of anime that Idea Factory self-produced were released in the form of "Original Video Animation", i.e. they went straight to home video, the video game company didn't wait too long to enter broadcast television. Debuting back in 2000, Run=Dim (you don't pronounce the "=") was a short-lived series where you took control of giant robots, with three entries to its name: 2000's turn-based combat game The Mechsmith: Run=Dim for PS2, 2001's strategy RPG Run=Dim as Black Soul for the Dreamcast, & 2002's 2D shoot-em-up Run=Dim: Return to Earth for the WonderSwan Color. Idea Factory wasn't the only company involved with the series, though, as Seoul-based Digital Dream Studios was involved from the very start, and Yuki Enterprise (now known as Examu) handled development for Black Soul.


Both IF & DDS had grand plans for Run=Dim, though, as in between the releases of The Mechsmith & Black Soul was "the first full 3D CG animated TV series in Asia" version of the series, one that IF & DDS co-produced & animated. Running for 13 episodes during the Spring 2001 season on TV Tokyo (yes, this aired on mainstream television on Friday mornings!), the two companies had hopes for this to only be the beginning. As indicated via the Wayback Machine, DDS was advertising a theatrically-released movie later that October, plus a second season the following July. Unfortunately, the anime that, according to DDS, "was praised as one of the finest 3D CG animations by the Japanese and Korean press," never received more than that single season of anime, & the later WonderSwan game didn't even feature Idea Factory's name in it, whatsoever. So only a single questions remains now: How the hell did an all-CG TV anime series produced by a couple of game companies fare back in 2001?

At the end of the last century (you know, the past), global warming resulted in the polar ice caps melting, creating titanic tsunamis that completely flooded various nations of the world, including Japan, completely changing the way humanity operated. It is now the year 2052, & the Japan Established Security Army for Space, JESAS for short, is in the midst of a battle with the UN-supported Green Frontier over who will take command of expansion out into space. This battle is a literal one, too, with JESAS having to rely on young teenagers who possess potential with humanity's 6th sense, which they've called "AI", to pilot giant robots called RBs to take on Green Frontier, which has a yellow RB named Run=Dim as its trump card. One of these teens is a boy named Kazuto Moriguchi, but after being deemed expendable when an experimental weapon named the e4 is fired during a battle, he defects over to Green Frontier, even if it means having to fight those he had started consider to his friends.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Rebirth Moon Divergence: Or, as O~3 Entertainment Would Have Used, Reverse Moon Diva Gents...

From 1998 to 2004, Idea Factory more or less made its own anime productions, both for anime & the occasional game sequence. While there were "actual" animation studios involved, they tended to either only assist or work alongside IF as co-producers. The only exception at this point was 2001 TV anime Mamimume Mogacho, a claymation/CG mix that was based on an Idea Factory game, but was co-animated by Sega & Swimmers Animation Studio, though IF's staff were still directing & producing. Starting in 2005, though, Idea Factory decided to stop making animation in-house & simply hire an animation studio to handle that workload. The studio of choice was Wao World, which was established in 2000 as a subsidiary of educational company Wao Corporation, and at this point had only operated as an assistance studio on anime like Wind -a breath of heart- & Zoids: Fuzors. Wao's sole primary production by 2005 was the historical movie Nitaboh, the Shamisen Master the year prior, but has since been the main studio for series like Showa Monogatari, Time Travel Girl, & Anime-Gataris, as well as other historical films directed by Akio Nishizawa, head of Wao Corporation.

Yeah, those are French fansub credits... They're the best I could work with.

Wao World's involvement with Idea Factory wouldn't last too long, as after 2006 IF moved on to simply using still character portraits for things like intro sequences, with the final game to feature actual animation throughout being Spectral Force 3: Innocent Rage on the Xbox 360. Not just that, but Wao World didn't really make all that much for IF, with only four games actually bearing any fruit. Aside from the aforementioned 360 game, there were three PS2 games that saw Wao do both in-game cutscenes & OVA prologues. The most infamous was IFMate dating sim Mars of Destruction, which was the second Wao/IF production, but the other two had a curious subtitle for their respective OVAs. Both early-2005's Spectral Force Chronicle & late-2005's Rebirth Moon were strategy RPGs, and both of their OVAs were given the word "Divergence" in their titles. Anyway, while I've been unable to get a hold of the former's OVA in any way, shape, or form (at least for a decent price), there is a French fansub out there for the latter that I can at least worm my way through. Rebirth Moon was the first (& only) game in the IF Type-0 label, which was meant to be for more experimental forms of gameplay. In the end, though, the only thing that came out of the game was that its radial-based combat system would be carried over to Chaos Wars & IF Neverland spin-off game Spectral Gene. The game would also be given an enhanced HD port on the 360 under the name Diario: Rebirth Moon Legend in 2007. So let's see how Idea Factory ended its foray into anime with Rebirth Moon Divergence, which came out alongside the PS2 game.