The Passion of the Animator

Eizouken takes us on a journey of inspiration…and cash
by Punch Rockgroin

Back in 2014, Shiro Bako gave us a taste of what it takes to produce an anime in the modern day. These were the more technical aspects, such as the steps in animation, getting the voice work recorded and the humps encountered along the way. It showed a bit of the inspiration of what drove the animators into their profession, but these inspirations tended to come from series in their childhood more than anything else. Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! shows a bit of that, but also shows the creativity that can be derived from the everyday, and what drives them to complete their vision.

The series follows a trio high schoolers (duh) looking to get into animating. Well, two of them are there to animate, while the third sees an opportunity to make some money. Midori Asakusa is seemingly the head, who directs the animation and comes up with the ideas. Her friend (referred to as “comrade”) Sayaka Kanamori isn’t much for watching anime, but can’t resist a great plan for making money, and is generally tasked with maintaining both cash flow and keeping the animators on schedule. Completing the trio is Tsubame Misuzaki, a famous amateur model who is fascinated with movement and would rather be an animator than an actor like her parents.

Tsubame is forbidden by her parents from joining the school’s anime club, so after running into Asakusa and Kanamori and finding their shared interests, they instead form the Eizouken (film club) to get around this quandary. From there, the only way is up, with the occasional meddling from the student council, and Kanamori making sure the animators are staying on task.

Throughout the show, we are treated to Asakusa’s thought process on creating a world and a story, while relying on the real world for ideas. There are times when I have to wonder if today’s animators are more inspired by the anime they watched growing up than the world around them, but this gives me some hope that there are those out there that utilize everyday life to create something other-worldly. Even Misuzaki, who is enthralled with motion, especially drives this point home: She watches people and their movements, and will take even mundane things like tea thrown from a cup to make more believable motion. Some of the backgrounds have a nice “lived-in” feel, looking appropriately dirty in their detail. On top of all this is Kanamori, butting heads with school faculty and other clubs just to get more money.

Eizouken is a fun watch from start to finish. The process of inspiration, to hard work, obstacles and finally fruition for all of their projects is a treat, to both the eyes and the heart. It is not a thought-provoking series, but could at least serve as a way to inspire and guide those who also seek to bring their ideas into reality. All it takes is dedication to your vision…and someone who will keep the money flowing.

FUCK YEAH, Look It Up!
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
Based on the manga by Sumito Owara
Directed by Masaaki Yuasa
Animated by Science Saru
Licensed by Crunchyroll

Making a Spectacle of Itself

Subverting Expectations Before It Was Cool
by Bolt Vanderhuge

Red Spectacles (1987), along with its sequel/prequel, is not well known even among anime fans, even those who are aware of the last of the “Kerboros Saga” films, Jin-Roh.  Its director, Mamoru Oshii, is generally better known for his animated works, especially the 1995 adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, the production of which is actually the reason he didn’t end up directing Jin-Roh.  More recently, however, people have been rediscovering what was Oshii’s first non-animated film, perhaps thanks to reviewers like yours truly retroactively throwing a spotlight on it.  The problem is, a lot of people go into this film expecting it to be like Jin-Roh, and all the marketing for this movie really doesn’t help much in that regard.

The infamous armor is barely even in it

Even the Wikipedia article would doesn’t reveal the fact that this film is as far from Jin-Roh as one can get while still being in the same alternate-history universe.  I will try my best to explain, but one cannot truly have this film explained to them; it must be experienced.

The first step to understanding this film, is realizing that it’s not straightforward, at all.  There are layers to it, and it’s difficult to realize it the first time you watch it, other than the obvious contrast of the segments that are in color with those that are in black and white.  And the majority of the film is in black and white.  The basic plot of film is that the “Special Unit,” created to combat a rising crime rate in an alternate-history Tokyo that had been occupied by Germans rather than by Americans, gained enemies among the Metropolitan Police and was overthrown when a new regime came to power.  The “Kerberos Riot” resulted when the Special Unit refused to stand down, but after a siege it surrendered.  However, senior detective Kōichi Todome, managed to escape Japan, and returns to Tokyo after three years in hiding, only to almost immediately draw attention from the government.  However, it doesn’t take long for things to get stranger and stranger, and it becomes impossible to take seriously, as absurdist humor takes over the film.

Within the first few minutes, actually

It is better to think of this film as more of an exploration of concepts than as a narrative that is meant to be followed and understood by the audience.  If anything, I’d say the entire point of the film is for the audience to figure it out for themselves.  It’s difficult to determine what even actually happened in the “real world” as portions of the film are undeniably only taking place in Kōichi’s mind.  It’s been suggested that the color portions of the film are the only “real” parts, but there are at least two different versions of Kōichi’s escape in color, so which is real?  And who is the mysterious woman who keeps appearing throughout the film?  Everything is pretty much left up to you to decide for yourself, along with whatever it was that Oshii was trying to tell you with this film.

All that can be said for certain is that this film is well worth watching and experiencing for yourself, and that no brothers or friends exist in a small restroom.

Fuck Yeah! Look it up!
The Red Spectacles (1987)
Directed by Mamoru Oshii
Distributed by Omnibus Promotion

A Full Course of Fun

Like someone made a Rosario + Vampire Hentai
by Bolt Vanderhuge

Itadaki! Seieki is probably one of the more vanilla hentais you might watch, as the only “strange” thing about it is that it involves a half-vampire/half-succubus who can change her body and personality based on the desires of her chosen meal. “Meal” is actually the entire premise of this short OVA, as Setogaya Mari lures high school student Kanzaki to the PE storage shed after school in a very stereotypical set-up that the OVA actually lampshades, only to kick him in the head so she can bite him and feed on his blood. He takes it pretty well. She introduces herself as a vampire, and has the bat wings to prove it, but as it turns out, she can’t actually handle blood. Apparently she had been living off of sweat and saliva – secretions which are a form of life energy. Kanzaki has a certain alternative he suggests to her instead. Alas, she doesn’t actually swallow much thick Bavarian cream through her mouth, if you’re into that kind of thing, as she seems to just absorb it.

It’s just so gosh darn cute!

As you might guess, this turns into a regular thing, and Setogaya isn’t exactly subtle when she comes to get her lunch either. It’s a pretty thin premise, which is probably why it’s less than a half-hour long when you watch both parts of this OVA together. So it’s pretty tame in spite of getting a bit rapey at one point, and might not appeal to you if you’re used to something more adventurous than high school students sneaking off to fuck and a woman who can make her boobs bigger or make herself just the way Aku likes ‘em at will.

If you just can’t be bothered to read subtitles, like I used to be before I became a MaximumWeeaboo, this has been localized as Vampire Vixen. Probably a bit catchier than “Gimmie That Semen.” The dub is… okay. It’s better at some points than others. At least they tried. The main appeal here is that the localizers got a hold of an uncensored version, to further enhance your hentai viewing pleasure.

So should you watch this OVA? Fuck, why not? It’s like a half-hour long, bro.

Fuck Yeah check it out!

Itadaki! Seieki / Vampire Vixen
Based on the manga by doumou
Produced by Pashmina, Licenced by Kitty Media

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Gods, Gold, and Revenge

Golden Kamuy‘s Hokkaido Treasure Hunt

by Punch Rockgroin

Great Hunter Asirpa

A young hunter, with the greatest facial expressions known to man.

On rare occasion, I will buy a manga based on its cover. Golden Kamuy ended up being an exception simply based on the fact said cover had what I assumed (correctly) was the main character wielding some type of well-detailed bolt action rifle. Reading the description on the back cover stated the story follows a veteran of the Russo-Japanese war. Being this is a time period rarely covered in fiction, historical or otherwise, I picked it up without much hesitation. Best of all, I was pleasantly surprised to find a decent story with great art and GTO-worthy facial reactions.

Continue reading

What am I watch?! – ACCA 13

ACCA: 13-Province Inspection Department is a romp through a fantasy kingdom composed of distinct locales that are like a photo tour of the real world.  It’s about bureaucracy and baked goods.

Blonde ’nuff for ya?

Our hero is a guy by the name of Jean Otus, who catches wind of the biggest conspiracy since Welcome to the NHK!  and cracks it like a pro, all while making gourmet sandwiches.

It’s a slow burn, but it was fun and classy all the way.