#64 – Zatch Bell

I know nothing of this show apart from telling me I should watch it.

Actually that's not entirely true.

I know it was Golden Gash Bell in the original Japanese version. And that the US version involves digital underwear being worn by the title character.

The internet tells me it's about 100 demons battling on earth to find who will be the demon king. Sounds shonen tournament plot mixed with Pokemon to me. Is it?

EDIT: I watched a random subbed episode I found on Youtube. It reminded me a little of Shaman King, only better. The humour played out a better than that show did, and it doesn't suffer so much from being a clearly watered down Jojo's Bizarre Adventure. But there's definite similarities.

Oh and I see Gash is voiced by Ikue Ohtani (Pikachu, Tony Tony Chopper, Mitsuhiko Tsuburaya), who I've really liked ever since seeing her on the goofy Club Escaflowne extra on the second Vision of Escaflowne disc. Which outside of the Giant Robo extras is probably the best anime DVD extra I've seen. Jouji Nakata is awesome in it. But then he's kind of awesome by default.

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#65 – City Hunter

Despite never having seen an episode City Hunter actually plays an important part of my introduction to anime fandom.

It's 1990, and welcome to the world of grey imports and unintelligible Japanese videogames. Now I never had a PC Engine myself. It tended to be the spoilt rich kids who imported consoles. However, I did have a number of spoilt rich kids as friends, so I was familiar with the machine and it's games. And amongst the games folks imported for it was a Platformer RPG called City Hunter.

Yes, people did used to import Japanese text heavy games with no understanding of the language. They tended to rely on the fanzine “PC Engine Fanatics” for plot and gameplay information. I remember playing a Gameboy Lupin III game thinking it was the third game in a series of games called “Lupin”.

Bizarrely the City Hunter game did get an English translation for the ill-fated US launch of the PC Engine as Turbografx. Echoes of the Golgo 13 NES game US release. I remember it getting reviewed in Dragon Magazine by Sandy Petersen (the Call of Cthulhu RPG creator who'd go onto work on Doom and Quake). I also remember Dragon Magazine printing a letter about anime where a reader listed loads of shows that I wouldn't see for another 4 or 5 years.

But I digress. The point I'm making here is one I've made before, my anime fandom is born somewhat out of that early nineties import scene, and without it, I'd doubt I'd be doing this longwinded blogging challenge I've set myself. 

So what about City Hunter itself. Created by Tsukasa Hojo, it's the story of Ryo Saeba, a “sweeper” (bodyguard/P.I.) and his business partner, Kaori Makimura. Hojo also created the series “Cat's Eye” and an “alternate universe” sequel to City Hunter, “Angel Heart”. It's arguable that it is only an alternate universe due to adverse fan reaction to the main change in the series from City Hunter. However further changes have also been made to clarify it's alternativeness.

Ryo Saeba, I should point out, is voiced by voice legend Akira Kamiya (Mouri in Detective Conan, Kenshiro in FotNS, Mendou in Urusei Yatsura, to name but three).

Famously there is a live action version of City Hunter starring Jackie Chan. Indeed this is the form most familiar to the UK, and noted for a Streetfighter II parody sequence that has little to do with it's material of origin.

The City Hunter manga managed to get 5 volumes released in english before the collapse of Rajin Comics. The anime has been released by ADV.

Here's the second opening of City Hunter:

Bonus – Jackie Chan City Hunter Street Fighter Parody:

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Blimus!

Feline Stop Motion Japanese  Cuteness

Star Trek/Monty Python Convergence

Angle's TNA clip

Jim Cornette, Michael P.S. Hayes, King Kong, Godzilla, Grampa Munster: A WINNING COMBINATION

ISB unleashes The Bill Mantloest Story Of All Time

Drawn! talk about James Harvey's 100 Pirates In 100 Days

Terrible Twist Ending

“The power that a man loses in his legs is transferred to his arms.”

What's the point of daddy longlegs?

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#66 – Rurouni Kenshin

Now we're starting to get to shows I really don't have to write much about as there's plenty out there already.

Anyway, this is one of those shows that I've avoided watching any of as I know I'd like it and really don't need to be following another long running show I don't have time to watch.

I will say this though. This opening theme sucks. That is some godawful singing. There's a clip coming later for another show that's arguably worse, but for now here is the worst musical clip so far.

And the first opening (which has embedding disabled) is even worse.

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#67 – Akage no Anne (Anne of Green Gables)

Another World Masterpiece Theatre show. This time it's 1979, and it's another one directed by Isao Takahata (Grave of The Fireflies), with some input from some fella called Hayao Miyazaki. It's my understanding that this is considered the best adaptation of the novels, due to it having the room to cover a lot in it's 50 episodes. But seeing as I'm totally unfamiliar with the books or any of the adaptations, beyond putting the Kevin Sullivan (not the Dungeon of Doom one!) adaptations on the Videolog database.

However I do know this. It's Ophantainment! Which is a word, that yes, I invented.

Anne of Green Gables – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Anne Shirley is a skinny, red-haired, freckled orphan who is mistakenly sent to live with shy, elderly bachelor, Matthew Cuthbert, and his prim spinster sister, Marilla Cuthbert. They live together in the fictional town of Avonlea, situated on the charming, scenic north shore of Canada's Prince Edward Island, and had submitted a request to adopt a young boy who could work on the family farm.

The good news is that it has been fansubbed. And that torrents still have seeds.

Now I can't actually find a clip of just the opening so instead you are going to get the first episode!

Next bit:

And the last bit:

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Stuff That Rules 3000

The long-delayed return of stuff that rules!

Black Lagoon

12 episodes of immaculately animated action. It felt a lot like some of the arcs in Ennis' Hitman comic in terms of the level of violence and ridiculousness it delivers with a deadpan face. Treasure hunting neo-nazis, war criminal maids, crazy boat vs. helicopter gunship fights, nuns with guns, scarred ex-Spetznatz Russian Mafia-types (actually that's more like Ellis – there was period in the nineties where he seemed obsessed with Spetznatz…). Anyway, there's a lot to love here in terms of slightly OTT action thrillers. And it's nice to have a show that is an office worker's fantasy rather than the adolescent fantasies most anime shows serve.

Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso UFO – Mantra Of Love

Acid Mothers Temple have always been a band lurking on the outskirts of my radar, taunting me to listen to them. And really considering I have album of 60s and 70s Japanese psychedelia, I really should give the modern equivalent a try. So why not start with one that only has 2 tracks. One of which is a thirty minute version of a traditional tune that only contains 3 syllables. It is, needless to say, awesome.

Kemonozume

I've written enough here already about how great this show is. The first 3 episodes have been fansubbed now, so go watch it already.

That Mitchell And Webb Look

OK, I'm putting the fact that there was a totally unnecessary second Numberwang sketch down to the first episode seemingly being a pilot episode. The second episode seemed to be mainly new material, whereas the first was culled almost entirely from the radio show. That minor quibble aside, this is looking to be first great UK sketch show since Jam. Hopefully it will be a great success and we can see the death of catchphrases and rewriting the same sketch again and again as a way of producing sketch comedy.

The Office

After the pilot episode that was too reverent to the original BBC show, I dismissed the US version of The Office. But on hearing good things about the second series, I thought I'd give it a try again this season. And it is great. Now it's deviated enough from the source material and found it's own voice it is wonderful. It's played broader than the original, but it works well. And the introduction of Ed Helms' character Andy is great idea, both as the character itself, as a contrast to Dwight character and the jokes it got out of acknowledging the presence of the camera (a gag which also was played out elsewhere in the episode).  I really do suggest giving it a second try if you were put off by the first series. It's certainly better than Extras.

Can we stop pretending that it was a better idea than making more Office episodes? Getting “stars” to portray exageratted versions of themselves is an one-note gag, and getting Ketih Chegwin to say bigotted things isn't deep or edgy, it's the equivalent of Dick and Dom In Da Bungalow's “Bogies” game. A snickering childish “look how shocking we are!” type move that has no deeper meaning. It's not like Borat tricking real people into joining in with racism, it's a script Gervais has written that is entirely reliant on who he could find to say it in order to make it funny. Because without the shock value of who is saying it, it is just racism and homophobia.

ALSO: THE RETURN OF THINGS THAT A WANT A PUNCH IN THE FACE

CIVIL WAR #4

Firstly a defence of Millar's poor characterisation. The people he is writing the worst are Reed Richards and Tony Stark, two characters of that a lot of writers have struggled to find the voice of. Stark is particularly hard and it's arguable no one has found a voice that works since the Micheline/Layton run. In fact it probably would have been wiser to permanently put someone else in the suit after they left as it's unlikely that they can be matched. So I'm willing to let their general jerkiness and poor characterisation slide.

And the cloned Thor, as bad an idea as that is and as contradictory to past Iron Man stories as it is (Starks hate magic, remember?), is not the problem either.

Nor is the mini series contradicting stuff going on in ongoing titles, that's a more a criticism of Marvel editorial than the comic itself.

HOWEVER what is godawful about this comic is the actual internal logic of this issue. Tony is feeling bad about Goliath biting it when Cloned Thor gets out of control. So what's his next plan of action to handle the rogue heroes? Send supervilains after them! And not just any supervillains, ones who are known murderers.  Honestly, what sort of idiot sends Bullseye on a mission to capture people?

The reveal only serves to be a reveal, it doesn't actually fit in with what has been said by people on the previous pages. Millar's tricks work in The Ultimates because he's the stories less condensed and there isn't 40+ years of continuity to contradict him and hold him back. Here it just feels like he's working to story beats, with little in the way of characterisation or plot to link them together.

I wouldn't say it's an out and out bad comic, as McNiven has some great art here, but it's not working as the spine of a massive crossover company event, and it also isn't working as a stand alone mini series either, both due to poor plot and characterisation issues raised here and due to some plot elements being resolved in other comics. Where inevitably contradications start to arise. It's a shame as the core idea is good, just poorly executed.

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#68 – Adventures of Hutch the Honeybee

Another Tatsunoko show. This time from 1970 and about a Bee. Now, according to ANN, a sequel was made in '74 and there was also a remake from 1989.

Now one of these got Saban-ised, but I'm not entirely sure which. I'm pretty certain it was the 1989 series, but it's not entirely clear. BCDB states there was a US release in the mid-nineties, but it also states it it was made in 1994. It's possible this is the series that ANN lists as being from 1974 as that listing does have some english credits on it.

Tatsunoko's own page only mentions 2 series, with episode counts matching ANN's listings for the 1970 and 1974 versions, thus furthering my confusion. The BCDB entry lists 55 episodes which matches the ANN's 1989 series listing. The Japanese wikipedia page agrees on the 1970 and 1989 series, but no mention is made of the 26 episode series from 1974.

Confusing, is it not?

Here's something I forgot when discussing the other Tatsunoko shows, and something strangely missing from a lot of ANN entries – Yoshitaka Amano. The famed artist started his career at Tatsunoko at fifteen years old. In this interview with 1UP, he mentions Hutch as being one of the first shows he had a major contribution to.

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#69 – Card Captor Sakura

It was because of Spoon's encyclopedia type knowledge of this show that we came third in the 2005 Ayacon quiz.

Anyhoo. CCS is I think it's fair to say CLAMP's second successful attempt at creating a license to print money (the first being Rayearth). It's precision made commerical anime, full of merchandisable characters and items. And as well as being a machine made to sell things to young girls, it also has cross-over appeal to fetishists of various forms. Oh CLAMP you money making geniuses! Hitting two streams of revenue!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not dismissing the show for it's commercial aspirations and success, there's plenty of shows that have tried the same thing and failed. CLAMP are great writers not so much for the content of their stories on their own, but because they seemingly are able to understand an audience and write directly for that audience. Often that audience is an audience of CLAMP fans (Tsubasa and xxxHolic being prime examples), but on at least three occasions they've gone after and got distinct types of audiences (CCS, Rayearth, Chobits) that lay outside the normal “CLAMP fan” realm. And in doing so widened their core audience.

Bonus Feature: Classic worrying fan made credit sequence…

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#70 – Majokko Megu-chan

Back to anime, then. And back to anime I'd neither seen nor heard of.

KASHA's Majokko Megu-chan:

Kanzaki Megu-chan is a 15 year old girl who is a possible successor to the throne of the Magic World. As part of her test, she is required to go to the Human World to learn about how human beings live on Earth. You see, in Meg's world, there are no families – they don't even understand the concept of family…

A 1974 Magic Girl show coming on the heels of Go Nagai's Cutey Honey. It shares an animation director in the shape of Shingo Araki and also theme performances by Yoko Maekawa. It's another show considered by some to be one of the major influences on the genre (even though it's basic plot can be said to come directly from Sally The Witch).

One element it does have that can be seen clearly today is the idea rival Magic Girls. The site I've linked to above goes on to explain that Megu has a rival for the throne, Non who is also sent to Earth.

Hmm… Rival witches sent to Earth to determine who gets the throne… that sounds familiar…

Even Sugar Sugar Rune's theme seems a call back of sorts to Yoko Maekawa's 70's themes

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