Driver vs. Machine

A vision of Musk-sama’s desired future

by Punch Rockgroin

In the year 20X6, the vast majority of citizens will no longer drive. Instead, they will be able to rent an AI-driven car of their choice, depending on their needs. This system will greatly reduce the number of driving-related deaths, and also allow a more rapid response to road-related emergencies. These new cars will also be driven by electric motors, thus also being much cleaner for the environment.

But any system is prone to issues and random errors, and the world of éX-Driver is no different. When one of these self-driven cars goes rogue, a small but elite group of human drivers and their internal combustion-powered vehicles to chase and safely stop these runaway cars from going further.

Self-driving cars have been discussed for many years, and occasionally make an appearance in anime and other media. In éX-Driver, the concept is discussed a bit further to address the what-if and potentially hazardous situations a fully autonomous vehicle would cause if it ran amok.


Lorna prepares to use a Single Shot Sticky Stuff Shooter
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Riding That Bean

An ’80s Action Anime Classic

by Bolt Vanderhuge

As Anime Central 2019 approaches, and the premiere of a new crowdfunded OVA featuring Bean Bandit along with it, I thought I’d take a look back at the OVA that started it all. It occurs to me that some (or most) of you might not know who Bean Bandit is, nor the man who created him, Kenichi Sonoda. To be fair, most of the work he is known for came out in the ’80s and ’90s, but he’s probably best known for the anime and manga Gunsmith Cats. Less known is his previous work featuring many of the same characters, Riding Bean, which also takes place in Chicago.

Just imagine the Blues Brothers theme playing to this.

Bean Bandit is essentially a shady getaway driver for hire, who drives a tricked out sports car of his own design that is not only bullet-proof, but can swivel all four of its wheels ninety degrees so he can drive it sideways. If you’re familiar with Gunsmith Cats at all, you might recognize the name Rally Vincent. In Riding Bean, she’s a blonde-haired, blue-eyed anime American, who’s partners in crime (and the sack) with Bean Bandit, which is something of a surprise given their back-and-forth relationship in the Gunsmith Cats manga, and the fact he appears basically the same in both. He never did make it into the anime, though, which is probably why most anime fans aren’t even aware of him (uncultured swine!).

As for plot, Riding Bean isn’t super complicated or anything (it is only 48 minutes long after all). It’s just a classic ’80s action flick, featuring plenty of violence and brief nudity, and a tone that’s never quite entirely serious in spite of the blood and gore. Basically, a sadistic lesbian kidnaps a millionaire and his daughter, and her brilliant plan is to frame Bean Bandit for the kidnapping since he’s already on the Chicago PD’s shit list. Unfortunately for her, Bean Bandit is basically the Terminator, and manages to escape the trap she set for him by sheer awesomeness alone.

Please note this is after he’s been run over by this car.

The soundtrack is very ’80s, and despite the fact it was dubbed much later than the original 1989 release, the delivery of the vast majority of the lines fits right in with the era. But that’s okay, because that’s all part of the glorious ’80s anime experience.

There’s also an interesting “what if” scenario with this anime, because this was apparently originally planned as a series and that never happened. There was also a manga based on this premise that was left unfinished because the magazine publishing it cancelled, which caused Mr. Sonoda to move on and create the Gunsmith Cats manga. While Mr. Sonoda prefers Bean Bandit because he can identify with him better, I tend to prefer Gunsmith Cats and that version of Rally Vincent. All the same, I’m excited to see what the new OVA is going to bring, and I hope to catch it when it premieres at ACEN this year.

In the meantime, it’s fun to look back at what started it all, and I recommend you check it out yourself!

FUCK YEAH! LOOK IT UP
Riding Bean Original Video Animation
Based on the manga by Kenichi Sonoda
Produced by AIC, Licenced by AnimEigo

Check your rearview!

Future GPX Cyber Formula is coming back from behind

by Bob Johnson

One country’s breakout hit is another country’s also-ran. Notoriously, Cowboy Bebop – perpetual pinnacle of the genre among western anime fans – never caught on in Japan, whereas shows like Future GPX Cyber Formula outsold it and got sequel after sequel. So what gives? How is *THIS* such a huge franchise?

Maybe it appeals to Japan’s affinity for achievable futurism and plucky protagonists. At age 14, Hayato Kazami is hanging around his dad’s co-workers, “Cyber Formula” race team SUGO – but his main jam is riding his motorcycle. Everything is turned on its head when thieves come for the team’s car, forcing Hayato to take the wheel. Day saved, no problem? Well, Asurada’s computer locks everyone else out except the kid, and even the race team’s top cyber-whiz can’t crack the FaceID. So their up-and-coming Cyber Formula team is doomed unless Hayato can learn to drive.

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GOTCHA!

China makes its first shots and corrects for windage and elevation
by Punch Rockgroin

If the new Diablo: Immortal game is any indication, mobile gaming has yet to take off in the West in the way it has in Japan. Mobile gaming continues to grow in popularity, while the Diablo fiasco is only exacerbated by the statement “You guys don’t have phones?” As other parts of the gaming market lag and dwindle, mobile gaming has found its footing.

Japan is spoiled for choice when it comes to mobile, such as Granblue Fantasy and Fire Emblem Heroes, among others. One such mobile game I have mentioned before, Kantai Collection (for a time overtaking Touhou Project as the top spot for doujins released at Comiket), has stagnated and is falling behind a rival with a similar premise.

A rival made in China. Continue reading

City Pop

-or- How I Learned To Stop Worrying About the Radio In My Supra
by Gristle McThornbody

Once the domain of vaporwave-blaring hipsters pining to be ironic under the guise of A E S T H E T I C, city pop is Japan’s answer to the bombastic 80s. Clawing back from relative obscurity, we are treated to neon-filled, tape deck fueled ode to the big city life. Filling this watercolored, pastel world is the melodic and often horn-filled songs that toast to the bustling life of a never-ending, 24-hour day. To some degree, it mirrors America in the same time, with artists like Chris Cross who –well sparkle- with some technopop elements, while letting the mix aerate with elements that naturally advect into our stream of consciousness, and you have the recipe for that musical entrée.

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Illang: The Wolf Brigade

Ungrounded Jin-Roh retread misses the point
by Bolt Vanderhuge

When I heard that there was going to be another addition to the Kerberos Saga, a live-action movie made in South Korea, I was cautiously optimistic. While plenty of my fellow weebs know of Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade, most don’t realize it’s actually the third adaptation of an alternate-history manga written by Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell, 1995). It’s set before the two live-action films, both directed by Oshii. Thing is, these films are not like Jin-Roh.

These movies are kind of weird to put it mildly.
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A look at copyright in Japan


Loveable rogue Lupin the Third – a case study in Japanese attitudes.

by Bob Johnson

The Japanese approach to copyright and trademarks used to seem a lot more relaxed, especially when it came to characters. In the 1980s it seemed like every other character was lifted straight out of a Hollywood film! In those days, to use some famous character in an anime, was seen as a parody in itself, or failing that, as no big deal. Probably the biggest example of this relaxed era is Lupin III, whose manga spawned an eternal fountain of new TV shows and feature films – plus a lawsuit from the Maurice Leblanc estate. By the time the family of the creator of the original Arsène Lupin caught on to the craze, their lawuit was essentially ruled to be too late.

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Touhou is on Steam!

No anime convention is without a bank of PCs loaded with one of the Twilight Frontier’s fighting games like Hopeless Masquerade or Antinomy of Common Flowers.  But here’s something you couldn’t say last Cirno Day – Touhou is on Steam!!!

There’s a fair selection of official Team Shanghai Alice titles, plus doujin games!  Some assembly still required – check the Touhou Wiki for the lowdown on English patch[i]es!

Kickstarting Bean Bandit

by Gristle McThornbody

The Kickstarter for Kenichi Sonoda’s Bean Bandit New Anime Project is our last, best hope for a Gunsmith Cats sequel. A self-contained anime, 5 minutes long, located in Chicago. A story about guns, girls and couriers for 1,928 otaku backers. A shining beacon in today’s ecchi-based world, all alone in Japan. It was the dawn of the fourth wave of weeaboos, the year the Great American Space War came upon us all. This is the story of the last good crowd-funded animes. The year is 2018, the place Panel Room 5.

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