Kuroi Kin-youbi Anime 01.06.04

The column, “Kuroi Kin-youbi Anime”, means simply “Black Friday Anime”. Every Friday, I’ll take a look at the world of Japanese animation and comics (anime and manga) in hopes of getting more people to love it the way I do.

~Introduction~
Hello, and welcome back to the ONLY anime column on 411Mania. I’m your host, as always, Lee Baxley, and I’d like to say welcome to 2004! I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays! I know I did.

As you’ve probably noticed by now, I changed the name of the column. I know I said I wouldn’t. I know I said I’d stick to my guns, but after so many people telling me (most kindly, others not so kindly) that I was wrong, I decided to change it after all. Hey, I’ll be the first to admit when I’m wrong, even though it took a while for me to admit it this time around.

Also, I got some feedback on the column that I’m really taking to heart. Some people have said that it isn’t as good as my anime section in my games news report. They said it was too “corporate” I guess you’d say, with not enough of my own input. I can definitely see where that comes from, and it’s something I hope to change. Basically, I wanted to only provide news that was given to me in the form of press releases, but sadly, few anime companies have actually taken me seriously. In fact, the only press releases I received at the writing of my last column were from Viz, Tokyopop and TSRI. I’ve since received notification from Media Blasters that I will be getting their press releases as well. So what I am going to do from now on is have a News section and a Press Release section. And of course, any news I get from any other site will be properly credited.

Also, you may have read the guest commentary last week entitled Tiger’s Den. Posting that was an unfortunate mistake on my part. Matt offered to do the commentary, and I instantly agreed, thinking it would be a nice change of pace. Well, after the feedback from the previous column, and re-reading the column myself, I realized just how foolish it was for me to jump the gun. To put it bluntly, it was aimed at a completely different audience than I was hoping. So if there is a guest column, it will be from someone I either know and trust (Matt Hardin ALWAYS has an open invitation), or if someone actually submits the work and I approve it, which is what I should have done all along. Hey, it’s like I’ve always said; it’s a work in progress and there will be bumps along the way. I hope to have everything smoothed out and get things rocking before long.

So with all that out of the way, time for the news. And as always, I welcome and appreciate feedback, so be sure to write me if you like or don’t like anything. I’m writing this to be read, and if nobody wants to read, then there’s no point to me writing, right? Ah, I said that was out of the way, and now I’m blabbering, as usual. Anyway, the NEWS.


~News~

ADV Creates Series Fan-Sites

ADV has made some sub-sites based on some of their released and upcoming series. The series (click the links for the sub-site) are: Aura Battler Dunbine, Wedding Peach, Kaleido Star, and the fan-favorite, Azumanga Daioh. All the sites are pretty bare-bones right now, mainly only featuring a trailer, but ADV promises updates in the near future.

Personally, none of these series excite me much, with the definite exception of Azumanga Daioh. I’ve heard nothing but good things about it, and it’s extremely high on my list of MUST GET items, once I actually have some money of course. If anyone has seen the other shows, tell me how they are.
Credit: Anime on DVD

GITS: Stand Alone Complex to go PS2

Production IG has announced that they are developing a Playstation 2 game based on the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex TV series. Published by Sony, the game is an action shooter type, apparently in the vein of Starcraft: Ghost and P.N.03. Not much else is known, other than the facts that you have to find out about an illicit arms trade and battle terrorists. Not much information to go on, is it.

The game LOOKS good, but as we all know, looks can be deceiving. You can view screens by clicking on the Magic Box link below.
Credit: Anime News Network and The Magic Box

Ironcat Manga Titles Delayed, Possibly Cancelled

American Manga publisher, Studio Ironcat, has indefinitely postponed the release of many of their manga. Click the link below for a full list. I don’t want to judge the company, but I have to wonder how long they will stay in business at this rate. They were, at once, the publisher of Fred Gallagher’s popular Megatokyo graphic novels, but due to some unexplained reasons, Gallagher changed to Dark Horse comics for publishing, and caught a lot of flak from many fans who didn’t care to think about the goings on behind the scenes. Possible reasons surfaced when several former employees gave an interview with a website and explained that they hadn’t been paid in many months, which was the reason they left the company. They also said that the company was managed very poorly, and there were many employees that weren’t paid for a long time. This may be the reason that Gallagher moved to Dark Horse, and it’s possible that more employees have since left, which would definitely explain the delays here.

This saddens me for several reasons. First of all, many of the employees of Ironcat work because they love being in the business. Hell, I’D love to be in the business of manga. But then again, I’d love to be able to speak and read Japanese fluently, which would be the primary requirement of that type of job. Second, Ironcat has some decent licenses. Sure, they aren’t on Tokyopop or Viz’s level, but they’ve got Hanaukyo Maid Team, Vampire Princess Miyu, and Cutey Honey ’90. Not to mention some Di Gi Charat stuff. Any company that makes it their business to bring manga and merchandise from Japan to America deserves some credit, but not if they’re screwing their employees for it. I don’t know the whole story, of course, but if they ARE doing that sort of thing, they should be stopped, immediately, because then the licenses could go to a company that DOES treat their employees right. If their employees are all paid, and paid on time, and work in good working conditions, then by all means, I hope they get back on their feet. Because we all know that America needs more good manga!
Credit: Anime News Network


~Press Releases~
No press releases this week due to the holidays.


~Special Feature~

Most Americans (including myself, until recently), probably have no idea what Kinnikuman is about, or what Ultimate Muscle is, despite the fact that many children of the 80’s SHOULD know, because for a relatively short amount of time, the children of America grew to love Kinnikuman, even if they knew it by a different name. And now, almost 20 years after Kinnikuman was brought to the States by Mattel, the series is once again making a resurgence. Though it is not called what it once was, which is M.U.S.C.L.E., the premise is the same and has a chance to reach a whole new generation.

This is going to be a look back at what taste of M.U.S.C.L.E., or Kinnikuman, that we Americans got. Granted, there’s a whole lot more to the story, since as with many things imported from Japan, we don’t get all of it. But I am going to focus on what arrived on this side of the ocean.

M.U.S.C.L.E.(~1985-1987)

Before Pokemon, America was hit with another “gotta catch ’em all” phenomenon. Based on a toy line that was released in Japan by Bandai, Mattel got the rights to release Kinnikuman in the USA. They decided to call the series M.U.S.C.L.E., which is short for Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere. The figures were small and made out of plastic (unlike the rubbery structure of their Japanese counterparts) and each was shaped differently. There were officially 233 released, but in various sets and such, there have been several more unofficial characters found. Only a few were given names (such as Muscle Man, who is the main character and namesake of the Kinnikuman series), and originally, all were a single flesh color. It is rumored that there was supposed to be a second series of figures made, but what was released instead was the same figures, except with multiple colors. There were 9 different colors in all, including the original flesh tone. I collected M.U.S.C.L.E. figures myself, but if I remember correctly, their popularity was relatively short lived. This may be because of the inability to pose the figures, or the fact that there was nothing more THAN the toys released here, whereas other popular toys like GI Joe and Transformers had cartoons and comics. There was a video game released based on the series on the NES, but it didn’t appear to be very popular. The longevity of the series was much greater in Japan, where they had many games devoted to the series, as well as anime and manga series. So for all intents and purposes, M.U.S.C.L.E. was dead in America, except for in the hearts of the fans. Until recently, that is.

Ultimate Muscle: The Kinnikuman Legacy anime(2002)

In recent years, there has been a big resurgence of the Kinnikuman franchise in Japan, and hoping to capitalize on that, Bandai licensed the anime properties for release in the States. The show is still running on 4Kids Entertainment’s Fox Box, that also features shows such as Sonic X, the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Shaman King. The show is about Kid Muscle (Kinnikuman), who mysteriously comes to Earth from a different planet and helps the members of the Muscle League take on the evil dMp in wrestling matches. Sure, the premise is kind of silly, but that’s the point. The show features Kid Muscle taking on members of the dMp in the ring every episode. Along with the rights to the show itself, Bandai also secured rights for many other forms of merchandise, including action figures and trading cards, and hopes to take the toys to levels of popularity rivaling some of their other franchises, including Power Rangers and Digimon.

Ultimate Muscle Video Games(2003)

Realizing they had a hit on their hands, Bandai took Ultimate Muscle to the next level: Video Games. There had already been one released in America, but it had been largely forgotten. This time, they wanted to create games on two fronts: home console and portable. The first was Ultimate Muscle: Legends vs. New Generation for the Gamecube, and was actually developed by AKI, who is known for great wrestling games such as WWF No Mercy and Def Jam Vendetta. The game is an arcade wrestling game, which features several modes of play, including story modes and a really cool toy mode, in which you can accumulate money during the gameplay and spend it on toys. You can collect up to 434 figures, and some will unlock characters to play as. You can read the 411Mania review of this title HERE.

The Gameboy Advance title based on the franchise is completely different. Actually developed by Bandai themselves, Ultimate Muscle: The Path of the Superhero focuses entirely on Kid Muscle rather than the group as a whole. It’s a pretty standard wrestling game, and is aimed primarily at fans of the series rather than wrestling game fans as a whole. What does the future of Muscle video games hold? Bandai has announced a title called Kinnikuman Generations, to be released on the Playstation 2, but little is known about the game, other than that it MAY be a port of the Gamecube title, and it hasn’t been announced if it’ll even be released in America.

Ultimate Muscle: The Kinnikuman Legacy manga(2004)

And now we are caught up with the present, or actually the future, in this case. Starting in March of 2004, Viz will be releasing the first official English language comics based on the Kinnikuman franchise. They will be released in the American Shonen Jump anthology books released bi-weekly, as well as collected in standard graphic novel format at some point. The series will follow the story of the anime.

So this is the time, Muscleheads. The Kinnikuman series is running strong in America, as well as Japan, and it doesn’t look like it will slow down any time soon. I imagine that we will see more and more releases as the time goes on, from anime, to manga, to toys and video games. The future looks bright for Kinnikuman.

Links and Sources
Bandai – American producers of Ultimate Muscle anime, video games and merchandise
VIZ, LLC – American produce of Ultimate Muscle manga
Nathan’s M.U.S.C.L.E. Page – Has information on the original toys, as well as a lot of Japanese Kinnikuman information
AKIA – American Kinnikuman Information Archive – Same as above, except more emphasis on the American side


~New Releases~
Since I didn’t have a column last week, I figured I’d go ahead and include them in this week’s column. Release Dates provided by Anime on DVD. See past releases at my website.

December 23, 2003

TITLE
STUDIO
MSRP
BUY TSRI
BUY ACS
Casshan: Robot Hunter Special Edition
ADV
$29.98
$26.98
$21.98
My Sexual Harassment (H)
Kitty
$29.95
$26.98
N/A
Sakura Wars TV Vol. #6
ADV
$29.98
$26.98
$21.98

December 30, 2003

TITLE
STUDIO
MSRP
BUY TSRI
BUY ACS
Aura Battler Dunbine Vol. #5
ADV
$29.95
$26.98
$19.98
Eden’s Bowy Vol. #6
ADV
$29.95
$26.98
$21.98
Legend of the Mystical Ninja Vol. #1
ADV
$19.95
$17.98
$14.98

Note: In the above table, TSRI stands for The Right Stuf International and ACS stands for Robert’s Anime Corner Store. (H) means Hentai, so Adults Only on those!

Comments: Well, ADV certainly isn’t afraid of the Christmas season! Of the 6 releases over the past two weeks, ADV has produced 5. Despite that, none of them are what I’d consider to be their A-list stuff. Others may disagree with me on that assessment though. Two releases jump out at me though. First off, we have the final volume of the Eden’s Bowy series. I’ve read a fair bit of the manga, and I dearly enjoyed it. I know for sure that when I can afford to, I’ll pick up the whole lot of the anime at once. Then we also have the first volume of Legend of the Mystical Ninja. That’s right! GOEMON. I played the game back on the SNES, I think, and though I wasn’t THAT fond of it, I know there’s a lot of folks out there who love Goemon. The question is: why is it priced so low? It has 5 full length episodes, so it baffles me as to why it’s so cheap. I’m not one to complain though.


~Bargains~
The big bargain for the week at TSRI is the end of the year clearance sale. With this, you get 20% off on ALL in-stock items, and of course, it stacks on top of your Got Anime membership, which adds up to 35% off! It expires on January 4th, so you gotta be quick! Oh, the coupon code you need to use on your order is newyear.

Here’s some other bargains this week. See the full list HERE.

Panty fans, rejoice! This week, you can get Colorful, ADV’s fan service laden collection of short stories for a low price of $16.49, down from $29.98. I’m told that it’s hilariously funny, and at this price, I may go ahead and pick it up.

Still don’t have Gasaraki? Apparently, TSRI has WAY too many of these things, and they want every person in the world to have one! And at this price, it’s REALLY stupid not to. Normally, you’d have to question a price as low as $29.99 for 8 DVDs, but it must simply be a thing of being overstocked. I bought this one at one of their more recent sales and paid at least $50 for it, and I thought that was a DAMN good investment. Personally, I like the show a LOT better than Evangelion, and that’s saying a lot. So really, GET THIS.

Speaking of deals that are stupid to pass up, they have a big deal on all Robotech DVDs. Check the full list of bargains for ordering information. Basically, the way it works is this: you want a single Robotech DVD, you pay $2.99. That’s not a typo, that’s 3 bucks for a Robotech DVD. Want to get the box sets? $9.99. I don’t like Robotech, but I’m seriously considering this one just because it’s f*ckin’ $9.99 per box, and with 7 boxes, that’s like days worth of Robotech for $70.


~Plugs~
Auto-plug for Eric S. since he rules and all.

Mathan talks about Kwanzaa. He’s a good guy and definitely does not perpetuate stereotypes. One thing I want to say though that will likely piss a lot of people off: why is it that whenever slavery is brought up, it is rarely mentioned that it was Africans that sold other Africans into slavery? Is that an incorrect fact? Because it’s not something you hear a lot, but I seem to remember it occurring, at least in some parts of Africa. I could be completely wrong, and if so, I will happily make a public apology and put my foot in my mouth.


~Closing~
Well, it’s my first column of the New Year, and I hope I’m improving this one. I don’t normally make resolutions, so I won’t, but I sincerely want every anime fan to be able to enjoy something about my column, which is why it has changed so much in just 3 editions thus far. I want it to gain recognition from not only fans, but also anime companies, because I want this to succeed in every sense of the word. I know I’ve probably disappointed a lot of people who used to read my games column, but please, PLEASE, tell me if you have ANY problems with it at all. I want to satisfy everyone, and even though that is impossible, it doesn’t mean I won’t try my damnedest to do so.

And before I close, I’d like to say that though I don’t normally talk about sports, I REALLY want Oklahoma to win the Sugar Bowl. I actually went there for a year, and the school is a great place, so best wishes to the players there on kicking some serious ass. GO OU! And with that, I bid you adieu.