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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Sutural Sutra of Saiyuki: Can You Just Skip the Filler?

Kazuya Minekura's Saiyuki has been running on & off ever since 1997 via three series of manga, Saiyuki, Saiyuki Reload, & Saiyuki Reload Blast, and that's not counting prequel series Saiyuki Gaiden & Saiyuki Ibun, which both ran during the main series' runs. Since it became a rather fast success, it eventually got adapted into a TV anime in 2000, a couple of years before the original series came to an end in 2002. Due to a mix of not wanting to catch up to where Minekura was in the story & the franchise in general being really, really popular, especially with female audiences, the Saiyuki anime adaptations have become one of the most infamous examples of staff creating their own anime-original stories, which are often colloquially referred to as "filler", since they tend to do nothing but pad out overall runtime. In fact, according to the Saiyuki Wiki, out of a total 101 episodes spread out across three TV anime (not counting the Saiyuki Reload Blast anime from 2017), only 36 episodes actually adapt from the first two manga series; yes, just barely over a third of the anime is accurate to the manga. Over the years, I've managed to get all of the DVDs ADV & Geneon released for these original three anime series, and I've always wondered something: Can you actually just skip the filler & watch the manga-accurate episodes as a proper adaptation of Minekura's manga?

You see, filler comes in a variety of ways, but can be categorized into two primary forms that I've given names to. One form is "intrusive filler", which is when the original content mixes into the adapted content, making it effectively impossible to ignore or simply skip over. This can either be beneficial & expand on established story, like how Fullmetal Alchemist [2003] actually showed Basque Gran's death (whereas the manga simply referred to it), or it can be detrimental, like how Saint Seiya's early filler actively changed the way the plot actually happens when compared to the manga. The other form is "passive filler", which is when the original content is self-contained & doesn't really affect the adapted content, outside of maybe said original content being referenced to after the fact. This is usually the more common form of filler, as it allows for things like "filler arcs", which tend to not really interfere with the manga story too much (if at all) & act more like side stories; there are exceptions, though, like the end of Saint Seiya's Asgard Chapter tying into the manga-adapted Poseidon Chapter. Therefore, I decided to experiment & took note of which episodes of 2000's Gensou Maden Saiyuki, 2003's Saiyuki Reload, & 2004's Saiyuki Reload Gunlock are adaptations of the manga, and by only watching those episodes I want to see if Minekura's story is told with little to no interference from the filler.

Are you ready, you hellions?

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Saiyuki Requiem - The Motion Picture: "Open Up Your Mind" to a Different Side of Saiyuki

Welcome, reader, to The Land of Obscusion's 2018, which is the "Year of Unfinished Business". Such an endeavor can be compared to a massive journey, one where I look back at what I had written about during the previous seven years, and see what I ignored, missed out on, or simply forgot to cover. In fact, one could call this a "Journey to the Max", so what better way to start out this year of returning to previous series & creators that I had once covered than with Kazuya Minekura's Saiyuki?

Over the course of a little over a week at the end of August 2012, I reviewed the three Saiyuki OVAs that had never been officially licensed & released in North America: 1999's Saiyuki "Premium" (which pre-dated the TV anime), 2002's Saiyuki: Kibou no Zaika (an interactive OVA, though I watched a bootleg that removed the interactivity & likely didn't give me the best ending), & 2007's Saiyuki Reload -burial- (which adapted the flashback arc of the same name from Saiyuki Reload). To this day, none of these OVAs have since been licensed, which is sad (especially for the last one) but understandable. That being said, there are two other non-TV Saiyuki productions out there, both of which did see license & release in North America, so let's see if I missed out by not including them in my coverage over five years ago. Up first is Saiyuki Requiem: Requiem for the One Not Chosen (yes, it is that redundant), simply titled Saiyuki Requiem - The Motion Picture by ADV, the franchise's sole theatrically released movie from August 18, 2001, a few months following the end of Gensou Maden Saiyuki, the first TV series.

After taking out a small army of crazed yokai, the Sanzo Party get lost trying to head to the next town, only to wind up running into a young woman being hunted by a giant bird monster. After losing it in the woods, the lady, named Houran, offers to welcome the Sanzo Party at the mansion of the master she works for, including food & board for the night. Soon enough, though, the truth starts to unravel, as Genzo Sanjo, Son Goku, Sha Gojyo, & Cho Hakkai were lead to this mansion so that the master, Go Dougan, can enact his vengeance on the group, for misgivings he feels they did to him three years ago. Meanwhile, the Kougaiji Party comes across the bird monster themselves, and after dispatching it, follow the Sanzo Party's tracks to the mansion, in order to find out who could even summon such a creature.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2017!! Part 2

"Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?"

Ask most people, & I'm sure that they'll say that 2017 was a pretty crappy year filled with insanity of the worst kind. I won't deny that by any means, though there's always plenty of good to look back on, but isn't that what New Year's is for? Before I close my book on the year 2017 & open a brand new one for the year 2018, though, let me look back on the other "six" of my favorite posts of the year. That being said, however, I am making 2018 the "Year of Unfinished Business", so maybe I just can't help but always look back on what happened in the past... Even if it's not always the best, as indicated by the first entry of this Part.

The Death Crimson Retrospective That Destroys Your Soul! (October 31)
A "kusoge", or "crappy game", is a video game that is so terrible in just about every regard, yet still manages to find an audience because of that lack of quality; it's the "so bad it's good" of gaming. In Japan, the game considered the "Emperor" & "Master" of kusoge is Ecole Software's Death Crimson for the Sega Saturn, a 1996 light gun shooter made by a bunch of CAD developers who had only one other game credit to their names. That game's instant notoriety resulted in it getting not one but two successive games, one that tried to be a much larger, multi-genre experience & another that kept things simple by being an actual rail shooter that saw initial release in arcades. Last year was the 20th Anniversary of Death Crimson, but since I didn't have all three games at that time yet, I was unable to do a proper retrospective for this infamous series... But, considering the reputation Death Crimson has, it did feel much more appropriate to do it on the year the original game would be legally able to get drunk.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2017!! Part 1

Aside from the very first month of this blog's existence, I've made it a habit to always put something up on December 26, which internationally is known as Boxing Day. That being said, I was born & still currently reside in the United States, which doesn't celebrate Boxing Day in any way; the only reason why our calendars mention it is because of Canada, after all. Therefore, why in the world do I always take the time to have a post ready for Boxing Day? Honestly, even I can't give a definitive answer for that, outside of me having an odd fascination with it ever since I first saw it listed on a calendar as a child. Maybe it's just a natural habit to root for the underdog, but as long as Boxing Day is acknowledged on the calendars that I use in my everyday life, then I shall always be there to wish you all a Happy Boxing Day!

And, as I have done ever since 2012, allow me to reminisce about "twelve" of my favorite posts on this blog from this very year, split up across two lists of "six". This time around, though, let's go backwards & start off with the one that meant the most to me, personally.

Ring ni Kakero's Ruby Anniversary (All of January)
I don't hide my love & fandom for Ring ni Kakero/Put It All in the Ring, the first major work from Saint Seiya's Masami Kuruamda. I won't act like it's some unbeatable masterwork that has never been topped, but there's just a collective "something" about this work, either in its original manga form or the four seasons of TV anime made from 2004-2011, that really appeal to me in a simple, visceral fashion. I, rather hastily, reviewed the hell out of RnK pretty early on via this blog, so I don't really have the ability to continually write about this series, but every now & then I find an opportunity to do so. For this year, that occasion was due to the fact that the original manga turned 40 years old in 2017 (technically the end of 2016, due to Shonen Jump's issue numbering habit, but I won't split hairs here), but since Japan was going to be heavily focused on two major anniversaries, Saint Seiya's 30th (which was technically last year) & Shonen Jump's 50th (which is actually next year), I figured that RnK's 40th was pretty much going to be ignored, which saddened me.

In fact, on October 1, animator & mechanical designer Hiroyuki Taiga had to clarify on Twitter that in the last episode of Senki Zessho Symphogear AXZ, a special attack shown was in fact a reference to Ring ni Kakero's Kaiser Knuckle, because fans were naturally (& mistakenly) assuming that it was a Saint Seiya reference; Taiga even apologized for his "old man concept". Yes, someone actually bothered to pay homage to RnK during its 40th Anniversary, only to not just have most people not realize it, but actually apologized for even going through with it... What the hell.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Corpse Princess: Some Shikabane are Always Trying to Ice-Skate Uphill...

Three years ago, I volunteered to be a part of the Reverse Thieves' yearly Anime Secret Santa, where volunteers are given a fellow participant (or, as I put it, "victim") to recommend three different anime to watch, with the "victim" having to choose at least one to watch & review in time for Christmas Eve; obviously, this is all done under utmost secrecy until Christmas Day, when everyone is revealed. The end result was me watching & reviewing The Legend of Black Heaven, which I absolutely loved. I held off on returning to the project for two years, as I always hate having to actually recommend stuff to people, especially when it's for people I likely don't know. This year, however, I decided to give it another go, & so I received three anime to choose from. There was Angel Links, the spin-off of Outlaw Star, & Descendants of Darkness, which saw a re-release by Discotek back in 2015, but after consideration I decided to go with what was actually the first one in the list, and what better time than the Holiday Season to watch an anime about zombies, am I right?

Kuro's title splash here, but the only difference is the kanji in the lower right.

Shikabane Hime/Corpse Princess debuted in the pages of Monthly Shonen GanGan in 2005 & was the first serialized work from a new mangaka named Yoshiichi Akahito; there were also two one-shot stories that predated the serialization. The manga did very well during its run, lasting 23 volumes until it ended in 2014; Akahito has since only done one other series, Saisei no Phantasma, that actually ended this year. In late 2008, Corpse Princess was adapted into a TV anime that was co-animated by the relatively new studio Feel (Jinki: Extend, Da Capo) & the legendary Gainax, which had been riding off of the success of Gurren Lagann just a year prior. Though it ran straight into early 2009 for 26 episodes, it was technically split up into two seasons, Aka/Red & Kuro/Black. For simplicity's sake, and also since there was no hiatus between seasons, I'll be covering this anime here in its entirety. So was this a good recommendation by [*Secret Santa to be added later*], or did this miss the mark with me in some way?