So here it is, 9pm on Tuesday night, and I have my news report to do. I used to be so organized and have this thing done by 12:01am on Tuesday. What happened??? I need to get my act together.
Well, with any luck, this will get posted before noon. Since it will technically be late either way, hopefully it won’t be TOO late. If it is, I’m sorry. And yea, my new job is still my excuse.
Before I do anything else, I want to thank the fine folks at AnimEigo for sending me the Kimagure Orange Road OVA/Movie Box Set to review. I appreciate the gesture, and you can read that review further down in this very column!
In case you don’t know, there’s a new virus (worm, specifically) called Novarg. It’s run rampant, and apparently it’s been on the news. It’s apparently not that harmful yet, but it will be soon. It replicates like all other worms out there, by searching your address book and sending itself to everyone there. It comes in attachments or via filesharing networks like Kazaa. Its big mission is to send a distributed denial of service attack against SCO.com on February 1st, which means it was likely Linux lovers who made it. Which is surprising considering the fact that you’d think Linux users would be more intelligent than this. This type of thing will not hurt SCO at all, considering that they are aware of the worm and have likely safeguarded themselves from it doing any damage to them. However, the mass emailing alone will hurt corporate users much more. Hell, Yahoo’s virus checker is down now because of it.
So thanks to whoever made this virus. Thanks for making me have to stay late and update the virus scanners at work. Thanks for wasting everyone’s time. Thanks for giving SCO publicity it doesn’t deserve. Oh, and to my readers, please update your virus definitions, because several of you have this one. I wouldn’t have known about it if I didn’t receive it like 10 times in my email. And as I always say, use common sense when you open an email attachment. If you don’t know who it’s from, don’t open it. If you do know who it’s from, but aren’t EXPECTING it, don’t open it. If you are expecting an email attachment, make sure the file name and format is correct. Then you’ve eliminated 99% of the viruses out there. It’s not a good idea to send executable files via email anyway, because some mail servers will reject them outright. So be smart, be safe, and quit sending me these damn viruses! They’re not going to infect me.
Ok, PSA out of the way, let’s get to da news.
Xenosaga Episode II Update!
Being the Xenowhore I am, I always gotta have any news about these games! Anyway, the details are actually pretty interesting. Xenosaga Episode II begins right where the first episode left off. The Elsa arrives at Second Miltia, and our crew separates. Shion, Allen, and KOS-MOS go to Vector where KOS-MOS is supposed to get some upgrades. In the process, Jr. shoves Allen into Shion, causing the latter to drop her glasses and the former promptly steps on. This explains why she doesn’t have them in the screenshots. Shion will also be reunited with her brother, Jun, who will supposedly be a playable character, and if they use all the same voices, it will be the third voice by CRISPIN FREEMAN!! HELL YEA!!! To see the newest screenshots, go to the link below.
I’m becoming very torn here. I LOVED the art direction in the first episode of Xenosaga. I loved the anime style. It was part of the charm to me. However, with the new, more realistic style of graphics, it look more…generic to me. One of the things that made the game distinctive was taken away. Plus the graphics just don’t look as good. They certainly don’t look like an improvement. I guess I’ll just shut up and wait until the game comes out. I’ll probably love it no matter what.
Tales of Symphonia Pushed Back
In other Namco news, the latest in their other big RPG franchise has been pushed back. Previously, they listed the North American release date as being in the summer, but it has been pushed back to the third quarter. I understand that it’s difficult to translate a game and all, but can’t the Japanese publisher work more with the American publisher to get the games out closer to the same timeframe? It’s happened before. I just don’t see why stuff like this, and even worse, Star Ocean 3, takes so damn long to release.
Dragon Quest V to come with Bonus Disc
It’s not really worth mentioning, but I will anyway. The remade Dragon Quest V will come with a special disc called the Dragon Quest VIII Premium Picture Disc. No other information is known. See, I told you it wasn’t worth mentioning. But seriously, it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out what’ll be on the disc. It’ll be either pictures or a trailer or both. The surprise would be if it’s something playable. The DQV remake comes out in March in the land of the rising sun, and there has been no announcement yet if it will be released here, but if it’s not, I’m gonna hurt someone.
X-Men Legends Screens
Ok, so I’m fishing for content, sue me. I don’t really care about the new Vice City lawsuit or anything else for that matter. I want to talk about RPGs! And the X-Men have an RPG coming out! Check the link for some screens. But in all honesty, I don’t know if this game will be great or not. I can’t remember the last decent X-Men game that wasn’t by Capcom and wasn’t in the arcades. And I can’t remember any RPGs by Activision. But there’s a lot of potential here, so we’ll see what happens when it comes out.
Credit: The Magic Box
Christian’s Crazy Game Releases
Keep in mind, these are ship dates and are not set in stone. Game companies LOVE to push stuff back at the last minute, so don’t blame us if it’s not right. Also, since it is a ship date, it may take several days to arrive at your favorite store, depending on what it is, so please call before rushing over to pick up a game that may or may not have arrived.
Sonic Heroes (P2, XB)
Urban Freestyle Soccer (GC)
Bomberman Jetters (GC)
Auto Modellista (XB)
Intellivision Lives! (XB)
Super Collapse (GBA)
Release dates courtesy of Christian at Game Crazy. From January 24-31, all MVP members will get 20% extra when they trade in a PS2, Gamecube or Xbox title during the January MVP Event. Visit GameCrazy.com for more details and to find the store nearest you!
Christian’s Comments: Really only two major releases this week, Sonic Heroes and Mafia. Sonic Heroes is definitely a game you have to play for yourself and see if you like it. The reviews are too widespread. Mafia is another in the GTA style, but looks very well done. Xbox owners get a chance at Auto Modellista, and that’s really about it. Note: Mafia on the Xbox has been pushed to late February.
Lee’s Comments: You know, I find myself trying very hard, and failing, to get the least bit interested in any of these games. I’ve never been the biggest Sonic fan, and the bad things I’ve heard about Heroes kills any desire to play it. Mafia may be good, but who knows. I don’t know, I just don’t see myself spending any money on any games released this week.
This won’t be a big commentary, because really it doesn’t need to be. But what this is about is we the people. We have the power to get what we want in many cases. But we have to exercise that power. We have to let our voices be heard. We need to get more Bemani brought to America!!!
What, did you think I was talking about voting???
Anyway, how are we going to get more Bemani in the States? My bitching about it certainly hasn’t helped. Well, it starts off by going to Bring More Bemani and “signing” their petition. Before you say anything about online petitions not working, think about this. Most online petition sites are relatively anonymous and allow for mass posts, which skews the actual amount of “signatures”. However, Bring More Bemani is actually a message board, which requires you to register with all your information, and THEN you sign it. Granted, the results can still be skewed, but it’d be much more difficult to do so.
Also consider that the site is a respectable site and was linked to from not only Alex Williams and myself, but also other well known DDR sites, like DDRFreak.com. So there is much more of an air of authenticity than on most online petitions.
The thing about this particular one is that it won’t necessarily bring these games to home consoles. The petition is aimed at the arcade market. But if Namco DOES happen to bring over more Bemani titles, and those titles are popular beyond belief, then it’s a foregone conclusion that they will be ported to consoles.
So sign the petition, and if they are brought over, get your happy ass to the arcades and play play play! You’ll have to fight me for the machines though!
Geneon May Releases
Geneon is planning two big releases in May. The first is a personal favorite of mine, the summer special from the uber-kawaii series Sugar. There will be a limited edition release of it that has two empty shampoo bottles, but no box or anything like that. The other big release WILL have an optional artbox, and that series is Maou Dante, which sounds pretty interesting. And I proceed to add both to my “need” list.
Credit: Anime News Network
AN Entertainment Announces Miami Guns
This was a press release, but since I don’t get their press releases yet, I’m putting it here. AN Entertainment, which sprung from Anime Nation, is set to release their 2nd series, Miami Guns. The story sounds very amusing, and almost like You’re Under Arrest. It’s about two female cops, Yao, who is psychotic, and Lu, who is soft-spoken yet sharp-tongued. That’s sure to be an interesting combination. Disc One is set to be released on June 22nd. Add another one to my “need” list, and check out the official website at MiamiGuns.com while you’re at it.
Credit: Anime News Network
Anime/Manga Press Releases
Amazingly, after the lack of press releases, a whole bunch came in this week!
Ninja Scroll The Series: Volume 2
Urban Vision Entertainment will soon release the second volume in the Ninja Scroll TV series, which is named “Dangerous Path”. Here’s the description of the disc:
The adventure continues as Jubei, Shigure, Dakuan and Tsubute set off to find answers about the Dragon Stone. The battles heat up as the Kimon become more desperate to obtain the Dragon Stone and the Light Maiden, while the Hiruko are just as desperate to keep the Kimon from their goal. Everyone is out for blood, with Jubei stuck right in the middle!
There are 4 episodes on the disc and has a running time of 90 minutes. It will also contain several extras on the disc, including creator interviews, storyboards and art galleries. The release date is set for February 17th.
Tokyopop Manga Announcements
America’s most prolific manga producer, Tokyopop, will soon be adding many more releases to their catalog.
On the top of the list this time is Saiyuki, a story based on the Chinese legend of the Monkey King, Son Goku. This is a new twist on the story in which the heroes are transformed into bishounen and is set in modern times. The first volume will be released on March 2nd. Also being released is the manga based on the game (or is it the other way around?), Culdcept, which is based in a world where battles are fought with cards. It will be released on July 13th. There is also DOLL, which is set in the near future and features android like dolls. It will be released on July 6th.
Three more titles will be released on July 13th as well: Eternity, a contemporary update of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms tale, Evil’s Return, a story of a girl who is cursed to become the mother of Evil, and Passion Fruit, a collection of short stories about examining our innermost thoughts and secrets. Whew. That’s a lot of manga!
Comic Party Volume 1
The Right Stuf International will be releasing their newest series, Comic Party, in March. The title focuses on Kazuki, who is dragged into the world of fan comics by his friend, the ultimate otaku, Taishi. Kazuki is overwhelmed by all that goes on, and soon succumbs to the temptation of being a comic author himself, despite the attempts of his childhood friend, Mizuki.
The story sounds very silly, especially since it spoofs many other shows like Gundam, Evangelion and Initial D. There are three episodes on the first disc, and it includes bonuses such as a reversable cover, Special Mini #1, art gallery, character bios, special booklet, and an interview with the lead Japanese Voice Actors. Also, they are making a limited edition first disc with an artbox with a slipcover that looks simply gorgeous. Comic Party Volume 1: A New World will be available on March 30th.
Viz to Participate in Jump to Japan Exhibits
In a move that is sure to warm the hearts of many otaku, Viz has announced that they will take part in an exhibit called “Jump to Japan: Discovering Culture through Popular Art” which will tour the nation and take place in museums in over 70 US cities. The exhibit starts off in Seattle, in the Children’s Museum at the Seattle Center on January 24th, where it will stay until June 6th before moving on to the next destination.
The exhibit is designed to give people a taste of Japanese culture through the use of art. The exhibit is over 3000 square feet, and is split into three sections called “Fantastic Animation”, “Manga Mania”, and “Artful Traditions”. Viz is lending the use of such shows as Pokemon and Hamtaro, as well as featuring panels on Shonen Jump, Shaman King and Yu-Gi-Oh. The centerpiece of the exhibit will be a life-sized “Catbus” from My Neighbor Totoro, as seen here.
You know, being the anime fan that I am, I just love to hear stuff like this. Some may grumble that they’re only showing kiddie stuff, but that’s kind of the point. It’s to get kids interested in this type of thing, and to educate at the same time. I love to hear it when companies go out of their way to get people more interested in anime and Japanese culture. If everybody in the world loved anime, the world would be a better place!
January 27, 2004
Comments: There isn’t a whole lot coming out this week that screams out MUST OWN except for one thing: the Robotech Remastered. This isn’t one disc, folks. It’s several. It’s 300 minutes worth of footage. Now, I’m not the biggest Robotech fan, but there is no better time to start. This must be why TSRI was trying to sell off all their old stuff. 300 minutes of Robotech for under $30 is a sweet deal to me. There’s also Knights of the Zodiac, but it’s a weenie release, and is dub only, so chances are it’s light on the episodes, censored, or has no bonus features. Gunparade March looks pretty interesting, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Samurai X (aka Rurouni Kenshin) OVA Box.
Matt Weinberg’s Anime You Should Know
Hey, how’s it going. This week’s anime is a little more obscure then the previous ones. Fist of the North Star, Japanese name: Hokuto no Ken, first began as manga in 1983, with a two anime series’ following from 1984-1988. Recently Showtime Beyond has been showing episodes of this classic. So why should you know it?
A few readers will say “hey, I remember that game on Nintendo and Gameboy!” A few more readers will say “hey, wasn’t Last Battle on Genesis a cheat Fist of the North Star knock-off?” Yes, both of these are true. Sub-par video games aside, lets actually discuss the plot of the series.
This isn’t rocket science here. In the year 199X, nuclear war ravages the Earth. What remains of society are ruined cities and small communities of people trying to survive in this new world however they can. The strongest warriors have banded together to take whatever they want from those whom are weaker. If this doesn’t sound somewhat familar, go rent the Mel Gibson classic The Road Warrior.
Our protaganist is Kenshiro, the last heir to the most powerful martial art: “Hokuto Shinken” the Fist of the North Star. One year prior in the series’ timeline, Shin, master of “Nanto Seiken” the Fist of the South Star martial art, kidnapped Kenshiro’s fiance Yuria and left seven scar on Kenshiro’s chest. This is a story of revenge, Kenshiro, also known as “The Man with Seven Scars,” has one goal, to be reunited with Yuria by killing Shin. Accompanied with two surprisingly non-annoying children, Kenshiro battles Shin’s forces in his quest to find the mysterious city “Southern Cross” and have a final showdown with his rival.
Nothing too complicated there. Have you seen this plot before? Think about it for a second… ever hear of a cult classic video game called River City Ransom? There’s the plot in a nutshell. Fist of the North Star is a long series (152 episodes), so there is more to it, the above plot only covers the first 22 episodes. Future storylines introduce more characters, and continue to remind us of classic video games like Double Dragon. Isn’t that kind of cool?
Fist of the North Star is fairly old. You won’t be impressed by the animation or music. Dead bodies pile up every episode, and the characters feel little remorse over killing. It’s a harsh world and violent series. The deaths are violent with people exploding or being cut to ribbons. If you don’t like blood and guts, you might want to pass on this series…
Violent to the extreme with a plot for those who don’t want something deep, Fist of the North Star is an anime you should know. If you’re a fan of the Mad Max movies, violent anime such as Berserk or Guyver, or just want some mindless kung-fu post-apocolypse action, then Fist of the North Star is definately for you.
Every week, I try to review at least one series or multiple discs using a 10 point scale that is loosely based on the one we use for game reviews. Check out the grading scale and format at my website. If you missed any reviews I did using this format, you can also view them on my site.
The review I am doing this week is a series that I have heard a lot of good things about, but as of yet have not actually picked up. But thanks to the kind folks at AnimEigo, I can not only watch it, but review it for my great readers! As a word of warning though, since this is the OVAs and Movie, the events are interspersed with the series itself, and since I have no prior knowledge of the TV series, I will be reviewing it as such. I hope you enjoy it!
KIMAGURE ORANGE ROAD OVA/MOVIE BOX SET
Running Time: 270 Minutes
Our protagonist is Kuyosuke Kasuga, a young boy who just so happens to have mental powers like teleportation, precognition and telekinesis, just like the rest of his family. But his mental abilities are of no use when it comes to his big problem: two women!
The first is Madoka Ayukawa, who is very mysterious but very lovely. She is beautiful, kind, and refined, and Kasuga thinks he’s falling in love with her. But her best friend, Hikaru Hiyama, is definitely in love with Kasuga, and wants everybody to know about it. She’s cheerful and energetic, and calls Kasuga “Darling” every chance she gets.
The problem is that Kasuga doesn’t know which one he likes more. When given the choice between them, he often has a very difficult time picking. But the question is: which one of the two WILL he choose?
Stories like this always seemed somewhat clichÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â© to me. You have a guy who is pursued by more than one woman, but has difficulties picking them, or more often than not, loves another. It’s almost a little like Ranma, wherein the main character is loved openly by all the women in the series, except for one, which just so happens to be the one he loves. It’s obvious that they both love each other very much, but neither has the guts (or is too stubborn) to admit it. KOR works somewhat like that. But they pull it off so well.
It’s wonderful to see relationships between young adults to flourish the way they do, and many a show has failed in my eyes in that aspect. Either the relationship is too cheesy or too over the top, but that never seems the case here. This is a love triangle of sorts that could drive any person mad. You’ve got two lovely ladies that you see all the time: one of which is your girlfriend and other is your girlfriend’s best friend. You care for them both, but you find yourself leaning towards the best friend, but never act on it for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. It’s a dilemma that that people face in the real world, and the way they pull it off is excellent.
You would think that the romantic angle would take a back seat to the whole magical powers thing, but that’s not the case at all. The romance is what the series is at its core. Granted there are episodes where the show brings the powers to the forefront, it still drives home the romance aspect. And that’s EXACTLY how it should be.
Sometimes endings like this are a blessing, and other times, a curse. Sometimes, when I see an ending, I want it to end a certain way, and if it doesn’t, then I can’t help but being disappointed. Well, the series ended, but the result wasn’t absolutely spelled out for me the way I would have liked it. Kasuga DOES pick a girl, but it doesn’t say if he stays with her or not. And of course, there is much sadness involved. The real problem is that the way the characters handled the whole situation put them in a completely different light than I had seen them in before, and it made Kasuga look like a total asshole. I understand the situation he was in was a difficult one, but I think it could have been handled a bit better.
I’ll be perfectly honest here. I’m not a big fan of the animation style that is present in this series. I’m a child of the newer generation of anime, and I hadn’t grown to appreciate older series. The one exception to that was Ranma, which was actually my first anime, and the style is very similar to the one in KOR. In fact, it wouldn’t be too hard to think that Rumiko Takahashi herself did the art.
Anyway, as I was saying, I hadn’t been a fan of this style at all. It’s an older style, and in many cases, I feel newer is better. But that was before watching this show. This show opened my eyes a lot, and made me realize that the style isn’t the show. It’s just a small part. In fact, I think the style helps a lot for this show, simply because even though the Kasuga family has special abilities, the show is grounded in realism, and that’s a point that is very clear with the animation. It’s not quite as realistic as some newer shows I’ve seen (Witch Hunter Robin, RahXephon, to name a couple), but it is very realistic compared to the other types of shows , especially the super-deformed ones. It really helps you feel for the people, and look at them as your own friends, rather than feeling like it’s separate from you.
Though the animation is good, it’s missing some things that I’ve grown fond of over the years. The eyes of the characters simply are underutilized. It’s not something that is true for all older style shows, but it is more prevalent I think. The eyes in Ranma are excellent, but they are rather dull in comparison in KOR and Boys over Flowers. And the hair is pretty generic, but that along with the dullness in color throughout the series can also be considered a good thing, because it helps contribute to the realism. Really, I can’t fault the series at all, because unlike so many shows, it doesn’t go over the top. It isn’t trying to be flashy. It’s just trying to be real.
This show has no English dub, so I’ll be referring to the Japanese voices and subs. All the Japanese voice actors play their roles very well, and I felt they all conveyed proper emotion in every scene. I couldn’t find any that stood out above the rest, so to me it means they all did a good job. And the subtitles were excellent as well. I can’t say if they were spot on in the translation department, but it seemed to be. Everything was perfectly within context, and all the grammar was correct, and you could actually see a the person saying it. In addition, they typically colored the subtitles in a way that you could easily tell who was saying what, which came in handy when multiple people were talking at once.
The music was surprisingly good. There were several openings and closings, and a couple of episodes focused on music, and every piece I heard was good. Much of it focused on rock, but it was all better than an average song you hear on the radio, which is one of the big reasons I got hooked on anime. Nothing is spectacular, mind you, but it’s still all very good stuff.
The menus were attractive and easy to navigate. I had no problems finding where I wanted to go and the load times were minimal. Still, a little more activity would have been appreciated.
The cases themselves are attractive. All three discs come in standard black keepcases, and the covers on them are all beautiful paintings featuring our star female, Madoka. Disc 1 has a picture of her topless (woot!), covering up her boobies. Disc 2 has a picture of her in a nightshirt in front of a mirror (see below), and Disc 3 (the movie) shows an ocean scene with the three friends running on a beach and larger pictures of their heads (Madoka’s featured, of course). The box is a sturdy, hard cardboard box with a painting of Madoka singing (see above). They went for their minimalist approach to inserts again with this release. Disc 1 has some interesting liner notes, but for the rest of the discs, it was only lyrics, which was somewhat disappointing. Still, I give them some props for including an extra space for a disc in the case for Disc 3, for your KOR Movie release from ADV. Still, I can’t see myself putting a disc in there, if I had a perfectly good case for it.
Unfortunately, the minimalist approach only goes so far. For this one, there were no extras. Well, ok, there were trailers for a couple of the OAVs, but they were located on the third disc, which means you would have already seen the episodes that the trailers were for. Personally, I don’t see any use in that at all. But I won’t completely rip on them, because I know that there is a lot of difficulty finding bonus features for older material, especially if no such features existed to begin with, but still, surely there was SOMETHING more.
I’m going to give them a ton of point here because they made what could have been a standard faire romance show into something completely unique. By adding the psychic powers, it gave a whole new element to the series, and you never knew where it would take you. In a series like Ranma, you knew if something was going to happen, he’d either kick ass or turn into a girl and THEN kick ass. In KOR, however, it’s a different story, because the Kasuga family is trying to be discrete with their abilities, so they won’t use them unless absolutely necessary. So maybe in the actual series, they use the powers a lot more, but I found it completely refreshing that they HAVE these powers, but don’t abuse them.
Kimagure Orange Road is a really good series. Well, I can’t say that for sure since I haven’t seen the actual series, but I plan on buying it as soon as I am able to. Even by watching 4 OAVs and 1 movie, I grew VERY fond of the characters involved. It’s a funny show, and at times, a sad show. It gives a good, realistic look at young love. And even though it was sub only (to anyone who is reading, my wife offers to dub for you!), and there was little in way of extras, it was still a very solid release and I recommend the series to anyone. They certainly made a fan out of me!
Final Score: 7.5
Links to the Past
Thank God It’s Thursday News Report – Bryan Berg
This week, Bryan talks about the Nintendo DS, Ninja Gaiden, and Warner in the gaming biz. He also has a kickass commentary on how HE’D run a new Turbografix franchise. And yes, he IS good.
411MAX: News News Revolution – Alex Williams
Alex talks about bringing more Bemani stateside, like I did above, the MGS trailer, and that gawdawful stupid game that mixes a pure and sacred game like Asshole with boobies. It’s just wrong.
Retrograding MAILBAG – Alex Lucard
Nobody answers letters better than Alex Lucard. Which is why he gets them all. Asshole. We used to be friends, but when I got kicked to the curb, where were they? Collecting paychecks, that’s what! I’m going back to drinking. And to think I was sober for at least 20-25 minutes.
Gamer’s Hangover News Report – Cory Laflin
It’s sad when there’s more intro than news. But then again, with little news to report, you gotta get the length from somewhere. Oh, and Cory, you’d be surprised how many people commented on the ass of “Kate Rose”.
The Gamer’s Conscience – Frederick Badlissi
Fred talks about memorable soundtracks. There’s one soundtrack that I remember perfectly, even though I haven’t played the game in like 10 years. That one is, of course, Final Fantasy IV. It’s rather amusing, because I keep meaning to play it, but I never do because I remember it so well still. I could probably go through 50% of the game and get every item without a problem. I think it’s weird anyway.
The As-Yet-Unnamed Tuesday News Report – Misha
Misha pulls a Bebito, and talks about the PSX upgrade disc (explain to me how hardware changes can occur via a DISC??) and MGS. Misha, I’m leaning for the European Video Game Conspiracy, because you get screwed more by the game companies than we do.
Well, that’s a wrap. I get to go back to installing antivirus software tomorrow, and hopefully I can finish it up. So until next week, have fun!