The Shonen Jump Revolution of 1986

A couple years ago I gave a panel with this very title, and I am trademarking it (LOL). I thought to myself why not include a paired down version here at CAM. 1986 was a landmark year for the shonen fighting genre and while it was not invented in that particular year, it without question rose to an elite status that garners even today a place at the top of the popularity polls in terms of genre. Three titles would cement this stature and rocket Shonen Jump from one of Japan’s top manga publishers into a brand that for many define what anime means for them.

The original panel covered a cross section of Shonen Jump material from the 1980s as padding to surround the eclipse point of 1986. I had to fill an hour and this also showed that Shonen Jump is far more than fighting anime alone. Titles as diverse as Baoh, Captain Tsubasa, Cat’s Eye, Dr. Slump, Kimagure Orange Road and more would be included bringing curiosity, laughter and smiles to the approximate crowd of 25 in the room. But the main focus of anticipation would be the holy trinity of 1986 and when I got to that particular year all ear perked up. Luckily for your I left hints in the header image… spoiler alert!

First on our list is a film… an adaptation of a 1984 TV series that is often considered the “Father of the Shonen Fighter.” Who’s your daddy? … Kenshiro … Good answer! Fist of the North StarHokuto no Ken… the ultimate struggle of good vs. evil, power vs. restraint and ying and yang with enough muscle and martial arts to satisfy a healthy diet of action. (For more indepth analysis click here.)

Next comes my unabashed favorite… very heavy bias, but I will spare the details on that. Any other Saint Seiya fans out there? A show based loosely on Greek Mythological themes with aspects of astrological significations, no wonder I am in love with this show. I was heard a description of Saint Seiya that went like this… “It’s like pretty boys in armor fighting while galaxies explode in the background.” Yeah, I can vouch for that. (For more indepth analysis click here.)

And the finale, one of the most popular anime titles of all time that still continues today. The original Dragon Ball, long before Z, is perhaps the prototypical, most influential Shonen Jump fighting series of all time. As a loose adaptation of the traditional Chinese story of The Journey to the West, Dragon Ball would add Akira Toriyama’s humor to create an unexpected ‘Heroes Journey’ narrative that stretched the bounds of adventure, comedy and one’s imagination. (For more indepth analysis click here.)

This of course is a theory, my own personal opinion, and if your view varies that is ok, but one cannot deny that 1986 can be considered an important step in the evolution of the shonen fighting genre’s popularity. For many years mecha was the king of hill in terms of shonen adventures, unchallenged and towering in strength. Then came 1986. Ask a majority of casual, hardcore, or even non-fans of anime about our love of Japanese cartoons and Shonen Jump anime adaptations often comes up in conversation. Shonen Jump anime is as much part of the zeitgeist of the landscape as much as Studio Ghibli, Pokemon, or whatever else is in fashion at the time. And it is to Fist of the North Star, Saint Seiya and Dragon Ball that we have to thank for not so much laying the ground work, but solidifying the foundation.

#165 : Wicked City

Our world is not what it seems. Beneath the surface of the apparent calm and modernity of our lives resides a more primal force. Do things go bump in the night where a shadow world coexists in parallel with our modern civilization? Indeed it does. While there are peace treaties between both the light and dark worlds, there are rogues who disturb this peace and give a bad name to the darker side of existence. Enter the Black Guard, a secret organization of humans who fight these monster terrorists of the shadow realms. For one Black Guardsman, our protagonist Taki Renzaburō, an assignment with a brand new partner to escort and guard an emissary to an upcoming peace negotiation would change his life forever.

WC_1

Wicked City, while loaded with eroticism and violence, is very tasteful and exudes style. As a Madhouse production we see a heavy emphasis on great line work, color, mood and lighting. Adding in the directorial style and character designs of action superstar Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Ninja Scroll, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust) we gain more to the overall package. While still an action film, Wicked City is so much more, like fine jazz with monsters and the supernatural, occasional nudity/sexual action and Kawajiri’s signature element of cool. If a B grade action movie, a horror film, and a passionate late night romance flick got married under the umbrella of animation we would get Wicked City. And the product would become a first class production… a sum of separates becoming greater than the whole, but still at heart a B-movie.

WC_2

Now with all the film-noir esthetic and the action you may think you have the entire plot and structure of this movie. Not quite. One might miss a very important element to Wicked City, though it’s hard not to. This is a genuine love story. A true romance based on bringing together two people destined for each other, yet from completely different backgrounds. “Two different fates, my love paramour, ooze out and away…” (any Cocteau Twins fans?). The bringing together of protagonist Taki with his new partner Maki (how cute, it rhymes) destines many great things for the future of both humanity and the dark world. Ironic that the match maker is an emissary for the human world, Taki and Maki’s assignment, who is one dirty old man who makes Dragon Ball’s Roshi seem tame in comparison. Oh Giuseppe Mayart, you’re such a character. Being part of the Black Guard may not pay much and includes a lot of risk, but you can meet your special someone if you take the right assignment. How’s that for job security?

WC_3

While the original Japanese track is quite good, I have a strong love for the English dub. As one of Streamline pictures best recordings in my opinion, Wicked City would be naked without the voice work Greg Snegoff’s adaptation of Taki. Do you remember Golgo 13 in The Professional: Golgo 13, or Scott Bernard from Robotech? Yeah that guy! Taki is my favorite role Greg ever played, almost as if it was tailor made for him. Mike Reynolds as Giuseppe Mayart is hilarious and much of the cast is very familiar if you have seen any other Streamline dubs, or even Robotech, you will hear many familiar tonal resonances from these characters. The debate of dub vs. sub, or older dubs vs newer dubs can be arbitrary. If it floats your boat, it’s the only ship worth sailing on.

WC_4Back in the day many of us in the west thought anime was more mature focused, heavy in action and that old cliche, “Not a cartoon… not kids stuff.” Wicked City was a target example of this trend, yet like the cream in one’s coffee, it rises to a slightly higher standard. Much like Fist of the North Star and Wicked City’s fellow sibling Vampire Hunter D… and I say this because because the original novel based on both Wicked City and Vampire Hunter D are products of author Hideyuki Kikuchi, Wicked City presents a story filled with action and mature themes, but also contains substance underneath the facade of being “bad-ass.” My personal favorite of Kawajiri’s work along with his direction on Phoenix: Space Chapter.

Thank you all, have a great holiday (2019)

To all of you who read my work whether following me long term or starting out this year, I wish to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for the support. I started CAM three years ago having never created a blog before and wanting so dearly to talk mostly about 80s anime… I never thought it would be were it is today back then. Whether you find my posts on Google, add me on Pinterest, Tumblr, or Twitter, or are a part of my WordPress family, you have brought me joy thee last few years in knowing I am not alone in being an old fashioned otaku of sorts.

As a final greeting for the year I have two questions for you all…

Question 1: What is your favorite Christmas themed episode, or movie that fits under the anime umbrella? I am interested to see if there are any I have not seen, or forgotten, or if you and I have similar tastes 😉

Question 2: Any requests for next year? I have a few series in process at the moment and I have stuff marked out on my shelf and my hard drive, but I wouldn’t mind a helping hand from you all to help me narrow down future entries. Also, I am always on the look out for any new releases both physical and fansub. My only rules are simple: has to be anime or animated in Japan and focused mostly on the 1980s, but you know I also have a groovy interest for the 1960s and 1970s too. 

Have a great New Year, Christmas, Solstice, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Yule, or whatever you celebrate! See you again in 2020.

Josh

P.S. I want to give a final quick thank you to companies like Discotek, Rightstuf/Nozomi, Funimation, Sentai/Maiden Japan and all you fansubbers for keeping these old classics alive and available. Never in my wildest imagination as a kid would I have thought I could have watched so many titles of anime I only heard rumors on or read about in various sources throughout the years.

#164 : Locke: The Superman

LtS_1Never mind the fact that Locke is a superhero’s superhero and an esper beyond all espers. You know what I think makes Locke really cool? His hair! Anime hairspray is the best in the whole world as it can hold up any fancy stylized coiffure. An after thought film from 1984, a year which featured three blockbuster films that defined the 1980s, Locke: The Superman is a title that exudes cult status, a true outsider. It is not a title one often runs across everyday in terms of classic anime, but I am sure it will pop up from time to time for all of us if we are on searches for new or familiar titles. And yet in a way I am sure the character of Locke may find a little joy in being in a film that is not as well recognized. It fits well with his own private character.

LtS_2The history of Locke fascinates me as a quick search shows that he has origins all the way back to the 1960s as a manga franchise. Locke has been around a long time (and it is still in publication!), but he is not as common a name like say Astro Boy, Cyborg 009, Lupin III, or even Golgo 13. Much work exists, but Locke fits more into a niche category. Yet their is nothing niche about Locke: The Superman beyond being the one who gets picked last at recess. He is a mystery, a young looking man who has lived longer than many of us, who mostly lives a peaceful secluded life as often as he can. He is very wise, not big on violence and possesses great psycho-kenetic abilities that make him an enigma to some. He could rule or control the universe if he so chooses. Yet he knows he holds great esper powers and uses them only when necessary, kind of similar to Fist of the North Star’s Ken (though Ken is a martial artist). This is Locke’s fate, his karma, his knowing that true power requires responsibility.

LtS_3A young officer, Ryū Yamaki, has great interest in the hermetic Locke at the beginning of the film. He hopes to convince Locke to return to the service to help in investigating and eventually stopping one Lady Kahn from creating a great esper empire, the Millennium, a group that Lady Kahn once persuaded Locke to join some time ago. Locke of course refused, preferring the life of a sheep herder. Amongst the many training espers of Lady Kahn is a young girl named Jessica, who has both great potential as a soldier and a shadowy past where she believes Locke was the murderer of her parents. This of course was fabricated so that she could be the ultimate weapon against the powerful Locke and in many ways I feel she is as much the main protagonist as Locke. Jessica receives training from one Miss Cornelia Prim (I love that name!) and eventually meets up with Yamaki during a bought of amnesia. Que the song… “Strangers in the night, exchanging glaces…”, you get the idea? Why not add romance into an already complicated plot line of mystery, intrigue and esper superpower action? And don’t forget, awesome hair! All the great writing, and plot twists will mean nothing if one does not show off incredible locks held up with vast amount of anime hairspray! 🙂

LtS_4Locke: The Superman is a product of Nippon Animation, a studio I am more familiar with stories of history and coming of age adventures (the World Masterpiece Theater shows as examples), yet Locke is total sci-fi action. A nice showing of a diverse portfolio for a studio that I had pigeon holed into only one category. Compared to bigger films of that era, Locke feels smaller in scale in terms of art and editing. Looking a couple years out of date, or perhaps similar to a TV series in terms of production, don’t let this detract you as this is still a fine movie. Perhaps the budget may not have been as high as a Nausicaa or Macross: DYRL, but it serves its purpose very well. I see nothing wrong with adding a film showing a little grit to go against all the other highly polished options.

 

#163 : Frosty the Snowman

FtSM_1According to this calendar right in front of me it’s December and it is yet that time of year when many of us get ready for that holiday known as Christmas. While many of us get a little cynical at this time of year due to all the high amounts of stress, the over spending, or eating a little too much, we often over look a basic fundamental. The daylight is short and it’s colder outside for us in the northern latitudes (I envy you all in the southern hemisphere), but… but there is still something to look forward to on the near horizon. I myself don’t technically celebrate Christmas anymore, yet I am still within the festivities (I prefer to see it as the Winter Solstice), I still love and treasure Christmas cartoon standards like Frosty the Snowman and I feel no matter how you celebrate this time of year, Frosty’s story can inspire all of us to try yet again.

FtSM_2It all started with a simple song about a snowman who came to life all with the help of a magical hat. Recorded originally by Gene Autry and Jimmy Durante and re-recorded by nearly everyone you can name under the sun, Frosty the Snowman is a playlist staple during this time of year. Yet there is also the animated cartoon brought to us from Rankin/Bass from way back in 1969 to enjoy as well. Wow!, this makes Frosty 50 years old this year and he still does not look like a day older than… how old was Frosty anyway? A newborn? After all, he just came to life one day from a magic silk hat picked up by a bunch of kids during recess. Just a throw away item from a supposed magician whose rabbit sidekick has infinite times more talent than him. Yet this mean old magician wanted that hat back after seeing the potential of bringing a snowman to life. Tisk tisk. “It isn’t yours anymore, you threw it away!”

FtSM_3The story is a simple travel adventure with Frosty, Hocus Pocus (the previously mentioned rabbit and my favorite character!) and Karen (one of the children from the school) making their way from their little modest town all the way to the North Pole to see Santa Claus… who else! The North Pole of course is a cold place year round with lots of snow, so it makes a perfect habitat for a naive and jovial snowman. Plus Santa Claus will be his neighbor, always a bonus. They run into a cop who swallow a whistle, get chewed out from the train ticket attendant for not having any money and are always one step ahead of that mean old magician. Give up the hat man, it didn’t go with your complexion anyway. Will our heroic trio make it to the North Pole? Will they meet Santa?

FtSM_4Now for the fun part… just what is Frosty the Snowman’s connection to the Japanese animation industry? Rankin/Bass for years have used several studios in Japan for a majority of their work and Frosty is no exception. A studio by the name of Mushi Production would hold the honor of doing the heavy work of making Frosty come to life.… so it wasn’t just the magic hat after all, hmm? Mushi Production was Osamu Tezuka’s original studio that turned out many a classic like the 1963 version of Astro Boy, 1965’s Kimba the White Lion and 1967’s Princess Knight and even the adult gothic film that put the studio into backruptcy, Belladonna of Sadness. Frosty the Snowman, even though considered an outsource job, is a good cousin to what we call anime.

A film I am sure we have all seen 1,000 times and perhaps may get another 1,000 views into our near futures, Frosty the Snowman connects us with what we love about the winter. It is a time to reflect, remember and contemplate on where we have been through out the year, yet it is also a time to start new into a new year, the future. Winter is a like a bridge and sure as clockwork Frosty the Snowman will be a part of of our winter festivities and traditions for generations to come as it has for generations in the past. No matter how you celebrate, have a great winter and holiday everyone!

#162 : Twinkle Nora Rock Me!

TNRM_1There is more Nora?! Either I am crazy to jump into the Nora pool again, or maybe I am a believer in second chances. Twinkle Nora Rock Me!… can I consider it a ‘bad’ anime? Yes, but it is so so bad that it goes into the category that I call entertaining beyond explanation. I had no expectations this time round, so I let myself go. Word of advice…sometimes the worst anime ever made can be the best to watch. I admit to this and maybe you do as well… and you love it like me. I found redeeming qualities in Twinkle Nora Rock Me! that episode one lacked and I am count these blessings. Your opinion may vary, but I am sticking with mine.

TNRM_2I have seen many poo poo this entry of Nora as well, but I enjoyed this second coming. I declare myself to be the minority here! Yes some of the animation is like a couple frames per second and looks like a limited budget show. Yes the plot is all over the place. And yes, it has dancing, but I see this as a redeeming factor. Have a good time now folks and let’s not take watching anime that seriously this time round. Have a little dance and party. Nora as a character in Twinkle Nora Rock Me! is at least interesting. No more just being some cute girl on display, Nora is a full fledged bounty hunter this time round and has esper abilities. Where was this from the first episode of Nora? No time to complain this was a welcome addition, perhaps this was part of the original manga as well? I am still interested in finding a couple chapters to read to see what was originally there…

TNRM_3Nora, a bounty hunter, goes after bad guys one by one, but she meets one who is like hulking giant and she puts him in his place. Big bad guy has a brother, another felon, who has magical and esper qualities. Nora makes a point to go after bad guy’s brother, bringing a fan along who desires to be a dancer. Nora too has the moves as well, but she has a job to do. Dance and rock out later, but first things first, capture the esper magician. And how does she do this… with magical esper abilities of her own. Who knew she had so many talents to match her beauty? With both brothers captured and subdued there is only one thing left to do… dance! “Shake shake shake, shake shake shake, shake your booty.” Silly yes, but entertaining to a certain frame of mind!

When choosing an episode of Nora to watch, one can liken it to the Lupin III jacket color reference. Will you watch her in the green outfit (Nora) or in khaki tan outfit (Twinkle Nora Rock Me!)? You may choose neither and yes both are not even close to the level of masterpiece, but when push comes to shove I choose the khaki version. The other bonus to Twinkle Nora Rock Me! I forgot to mention is it is only a half hour instead of the first episode’s full hour. The lesser of two evils, hehe!

 

Tag! I’m It: My ‘Geeky’ Past

I have been tagged and asked to talk about my geeky past. I prefer the word niche over geek, probably because geek was slightly derogatory term in the past, but whatever… nine things about me. Keep in mind I was born in 1979, so my childhood was the mid to late 80s… late Gen X.

1. What was the first toy that you wanted so bad that you thought that you would die without it?

I was really obsessed with having Voltron when I was very young, but the most important toy was LEGO hand downs. I could build anything I dreamed of, within limitations of the bricks at the time, and I still have a passion for the studded plastic bricks. The original NES was an amazing device at the time too (and even still, minding the fact you have to tinker with it)

2. What was the first time that you realized you were doing something geeky?

I guess when I realized what I love to do, or have interest in did not conform to the standard mainstream?

3. What was the first geeky thing you collected?

Perhaps the Robotech comic books released by Comico. I also collected baseball cards as they were cheap back then. The Robotech comic collection finally reached completion later in life and the baseball cards are mostly gone… shows where I landed on my tastes in general in life?

4. What was the first anime you watched that you knew was anime?

I kind of knew that Robotech featured animation from Japan, perhaps Voltron as well, but maybe it was Akira, Record of Lodoss War or Venus Wars as these were titles my friends had. Even with awkward dubs or adaptations, all the stuff that originated in Japan always had

5. What was the first hobby that you had to explain to your parents?

I have to explain everything to my parents to a certain degree. LOL! The good thing about anime is I got my mom into it via Miyazaki/Ghibli and Osamu Tezuka titles. She loves animation in general so it was an easy fit.

6. How many geeky hobbies do you have, and when did you start them?

Anime, animation and cartoons: since 1984, Video Games: since 1988, Astrology: whole life, yet it has peaked and valleyed over the years, LEGO: as long as I can remember, Gender Bending: since maybe age five to six

7. Why do you find joy in your geeky hobbies?

They are like great friends, or an extension of myself, a way of individual expression

8. When was the first time you realized that you wanted to write about your hobbies?

I guess I always wanted to talk about what I enjoyed, but it wasn’t until 2016 that I launched CAM.

9. If there is one blogger you wish you could have had as a childhood friend, who would it be?

Tough call… I would have loved all of you to hang out with me as a kid, we could have been power in numbers against all the bullies and had fun times at my house watching cartoons and having a snack.