Archive for the ‘Editorials on Animation and Comcs’ Category

Street Fighter (1991)

Monday, October 20th, 2008
Another series that’s gone too far because of strong sales.

A 1991 Cantonese comic by Xu Jing Chen has got some pretty outrageous extension based on the famous arcade game (specifically SFII, if 1991 means anything to you). Xu worked till issue #88 and quit after a contract expiration. Chen Wei Wenresumed the project that had a half-baked ending at issue #100. Then artist Hu Shao Chuan resumed to milk the project that finally ended at issue #113.


Premise
The story’s premise presents a post apocalyptic environment similar to the likes of Fist of the North Star: a drastic universe issued from a nuke heavy WWIII in which all kinds of messed up things go around. The world is so messed up that in the first chapter the comic gives you a rape scene right out of the door. And this subject returns on page regularly with Chun-li as a frequent potential target.

As an amusing twist, part of the premise is that the continents have merged into one due to the radioactive contamination/natural disasters. Strangely, because of this set up I kept thinking that at one point Capcom did have a mutated map somewhere on the character selection screen….

The new world map after WWIII. Learn Mandarin if you want to know the details.

The very first tournament promises the winners to be legitimate immigrants to the dream city, which happens to be governed by M. Bison and his followers. The first arc sets up Bison as the main opponent reasonably. However, after a brief showdown between Ryu and Bison, the later was killed by a third party character. The focus then shifted to the rival/ally relationship between Ryu and Ken, which I think was a more successful run relatively. Then as it turns out Bison had a secret brother who died in his place. The rest of the story continued to its own destruction.

Some fights are done pretty well. But without an interesting plot to balance it out, later on things become incredibly repetitive and tiring as the so called plot became merely as an excuse to have more fixed up fights.

The comic does a decent job by incorporating the background locations, even though some situations are pretty forced (namely Ken jumped onto the jet in Guile’s stage to fly himself to his fiancee).

It’s good to see those backgrounds being appreciated.

Characters

First of all, check out the names in this comic (some pronunciation translations):
Ryu -> Crimson dragon
Ken -> Bunny
Chun-li -> Chun-li
E. Honda -> Sakamoto Okura (???)
Zangief -> Scodrov
Blanka -> Green wolf
Guile -> Gulie (note the difference)
Dhalsim -> Dhaliar
Balrog -> Tyson
Vega -> Iron mask Yugat
Sagat -> Thai king Sagat
Bison -> Red eye commando

Ken is called Bunny

It’s fair to say the majority of Cantonese comics become Dragon Ball – characters keep getting powered up through the rough as stronger opponents keep showing up. The comic faithfully surround its plot around the core characters from the game. But then in order to maintain this, they all take turn to power up. They get to dominate each other at different times. It’s kind of fun to wait for your favorite character’s turn to dominate, but don’t expect much from the less marketable ones. Zangief was probably the only dude who didn’t get any cheap boost ups, therefore he remained one of the weakest later on.

Ryu and Chun-li started as straight up righteous characters who had a feeling on each other right away. The “less pretty” characters such as E. Honda and Dhalsim got the nod to be evil and dirty. Though ultimately they all earn the chance to unite together against this big mean final boss.

Once the “alternative costumes” were introduced to the arcade version, the comic was fast to adjust accordingly by bringing out the so called “inner devil” characters which I think is appropriate. Some other alternative costumes were adapted at stranger places – Blanka powered up and turned into blue, while the dark gray Guile became a “cyborg Guile”.

Yes, they tried being creative with the colors.

I think it’s totally fine for the comic to implement some conventional Chinese martial art “chi” systems into the characters’ special moves. But things got kind of awkward when characters started learning named moves from famous Chinese fictions, such as the True Manual Of Nine Yin from The Legend of the Condor Heroes. On the flip side the comic has some decent modification of existing special moves such as the split images Hadoken and the upside down Shoryuken. As an interesting twist, Guile’s invincible stand glitch and throw glitch are both incorporated as special moves in the comic.

The comic’s ripping doesn’t end there. It’s probably every fanboy’s fantasy to have a monster fighter universe featuring characters from all arcade games. I admitted having that guilty pleasure and I still wish more of the Capcom versus series. This comic doesn’t just feature characters from Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting, they were all trashed. I was truly out of words when I saw Vega performing HaohShohKoh-ken. Geese Howard ends up being Gorbachev’s son and owns a Chinese name. I wondered if the credited legal consultant was doing his job here.

Fatal Fury thugs.

The original characters from this comic show why maybe it’s better to borrow from others. One of the cooler characters who had a heavier role than anyone not named Ryu and Ken, the Battle Tiger, turns out to be borrowed straight from another popular Cantonese comic Dragon Tiger Gate. Perhaps the team’s creativity on character design can be summed up by an alien boss character called “Clinton”, in whom the writers proudly talked about their witty integration of the contemporary world situation. Oh, did I mention the explosive plot twist of Ken being the son of the alien boss? So Ken Master’s full name in the piece is Bunny Clinton (see top image). Great.

Meet Clinton, the human-turned-alien guy who easily crushed the previous boss character. Great design and even better character set up. Bah!

Art Style
Xu, at age of 24, definitely had some outstanding fundamental skills down. The series is full of great cover arts. However, I can’t say I love his style. His pretty characters have a heavy Ryoichi Ikegami flavor, while his other characters feature big cheekbones and fat jaws. The consistency of the character faces can use some balance…

The artist should know there are fans out there

It’s needless to say that Cantonese comics are heavily influenced by the American styles. Xu kept the sound effects in pure English, but strangely that trend only stayed for the first chapter. Xu also seems to enjoy having chibi styled characters here and there. They are really cute, but putting next to his realistic/rough/scruffy style things look a little bit off.

It’s my belief that Chen attempted to keep the style once he took over, but some faces and figures look pretty ugly (namely Chun-Li). However once he started showing his own style, the figures are quite clean and the faces are more comfortable. In a bad way they sort of lost the menacing, down to earth feels.

Hu’s style even brought Chen’s to the next step with cleaner lines and prettier faces. I think it’s comfortable to look at but whether it fits the whole Street Fighter texture that’s up to you to judge.

Too pretty to be a fighter on the streets?

500 Manga Heroes and Villains

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

Published by Barron’s Educational Series in 2006, 500 Manga Heroes and Villains is written by Helen McCarthy.

This book, as the title suggests, is purely on the informative side. It serves as a decent index reference to manga characters, and the subjective selection of titles cover a wild range of works, despite the fact that every other page you’d see a Osamu Tezuka title (who deserves all the praises). However, the quality of the description writings also covers a wild range. Some may promote your interest to google a few keywords, while some others just ruin great titles.

Since the selection is all subjective, it’s inevitable that some of your favorite characters don’t show up. Having that said the organization of the book seems to be subjective as well. The most questionable is the definition between heroes and anti-heroes. In this book you’d find Ranma and Luffy as a anti-hero while playboy Ryo Saeba from City Hunter gets a nod as a pure hero. Wha? Then some super minor characters get their own space and some anti-heroes are considered as “villains”.

Strangely the descriptions themselves are quite objective, even though sometimes they make interesting trivia notes. In general, they are facts laid straightly out. Also head scratching is that male and female protagonists from the same title would have identical description of the plot under their name, instead of you know, themselves.

The biggest strength of this book is definitely all the illustrations, some are of extremely rare manga titles.

Get this book just as a nice reference tool with some nice images, but expect textbook-ish reading experience all the way from the introduction (in which she talked about some US manga industry adaption history and manga’s definition, aka: the boring stuffs). Ignore this book if you’d expect character analysis or opinions.

Gantz Team of Choice

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

Mekaro and I have been big time Gantz fan boys. It’s time for us to debate who make the best team of five out of the cast.


Fool’s Choice – the Obvious Pick.

Max: Kei Kurono
Hands down the best all around fighter, as well as a fearless leader. Grows rapidly. A good heart that cares for his comrades. Sharp instinct on enemies weak-spot. It’s a joke not to take him.

Mekaro: Kei Kurono
I’ll have to agree with you with this pick. Kurono is the man, he somehow always finds a way to win the mission, with or without a suit on which is pretty impressive. For starter he has cleared the game once, probably could have been twice if Gantz wasn’t always pissing on him. So far out of the whole Tokyo team this one man has always come out on top with the most points. He has even completed two missions without even wearing his Gantz suit and still was able to achieve the most point in those missions. So all in all no matter what the danger was Kurono has always found a way to finish this mission even if he has to do it alone.


The Debate Between Elite Swordsmen

Max: Host Samurai Hikawa
It’s still debatable whether he’s stronger than Izumi or Kurono, but he did take the lives of two main characters. He has demonstrated he’s faster than Kaze and Katou combined. He also took out some oni-swordsman with ease. Clearly he’s the strongest guy among the vamps. On top of that he seems to have a clearer understanding on the history of Gantz and the aliens. And he hasn’t lost to anybody yet. I wouldn’t worry about his enemy status since he surely fights for his own survival.

Mekaro: Konata Izumi
Another all star from my list, he has also cleared the game once. I had to add Izumi to the team. As long as Kurono is around he’ll try his best to surpass him. But unlike Kurono, Izumi normally just sticks to using his trusty sword. Even the vamps noticed how strong he was and considered him the strongest of the Gantz members at one point. And another reason for adding Izumi to the list is I don’t see many Gantz members that have the skills to take out a large number of vamps, and 3 out of 4 of the main vamps.

Max: Second thoughts against Izumi
He looks forward to screw Kurono up. I can’t put the two on the same team at all. Besides, the guy becomes a quitter once he faces tremendous power (aka oni boss). Call him Oka Lite.

Mekaro: Second thoughts against Host Samurai
It’s true that he might be strong and all cool, but I wouldn’t put him on my team only because I don’t know how strong he really is yet. Since most of the time when he’s fighting he normally has a large group with him. Fighting like that is kind of cowardly in my book.


The Debate Between Pure Force

Max: George
Experienced fighter who beat the game 3 times. In possession of the gravity gun. Cocky, yet stays in his battle as he showed in his duel against fox boss and 100-point boss. The reason why I chose him over Oka/Kuwabara/Nobu is that he seems to have a good balance between close range and distanced fighting styles. And he’s more determined when he fights, rather than thinking of slacking, escaping, or lusting.

Mekaro: Daizaemon Kaze
I had to add him but mainly for personal reason, since he’s the only member of the Tokyo team that doesn’t use a weapon. No special powers here, Kaze is just a truly badass, he’s been able to take down some of the strongest aliens with just his bare hands. But come on the guy killed a dinosaur with his fist, you can’t get any hardcore than that in my book. And as long as Takeshi is in the mix he’ll fight even harder to protect his lil pupil.

Max: Second thoughts against Kaze
The best crude athlete, but IMO he’s a bit slow in his brain. He pretty much insists to take any opponent hand to hand, which is just flat out dangerous. He’s more like a suicide bomb.

Mekaro: Second thoughts against George
I didn’t see anything special about the guy, yeah the others slacked off and did their own thing.But when its all said and done they all pretty much faired the same in their fights and all died. I don’t see how he cleared the game 3 times, I’m guessing pure luck or he just stayed in the back and stole kills.


The ESP Guys

Max: Kenzo Sakata
Needs to keep an ESP guy around for emergency purpose. I consider them as wild cards. Guess he doesn’t care too much about anything but that means he’s willing to sacrifice for the team, as he showed in his death. Comparing to Cherry he actually seems more aggressive.

Mekaro: Sakurai Hiroto
I picked him mainly cause of his physic abilities, being able to crush someone heart without even touching them is quite a power. He also has the ability to block attacks with his mind. He is a capable fighter and one of the most useful character if his suit dies out.

Max: Second thoughts against Sakurai
The guy tags too much along his master. He’s the lesser experienced one too.

Mekaro: Second thoughts against Sakata
The reason I would chose Cherry over Skata, mainly cause Skata was losing his power to begin with. The only reason he was willing to give up his life is because he was already dieing so he has nothing to lose. I don’t need anyone who is willing on giving up on his life so easily.


The Complementary Piece

Max: Reika
Hot idol chick with tremendous measurements. I take her for her appearance and her Kurono #1 fan identity. Eyes are always glued at Kurono – great amusement value right there. Besides, she showed she has some good ideas and leadership in the Tae mission and the Oni mission. I prefer distance shooters rather than close combatants.

Mekaro: Takeshi
He might be a kid, but he’s shown that he’s capable of handling himself, even better than some of the older Gantz members. And as long as Kaze is by his side I don’t see anyone being able to beat this dynamite duo.


The Sixth Man

Max: Masanobu Hojo
I am very interested in Hojo, who used up some good amount of chapters for his introduction and tagged for a couple rounds before he was cut in half. He learned to understand the situation quickly and was willing to cooperate. For a while I thought Oku was going to make him a long lasting member but I was dead wrong. I doubt he’s coming back, Oku basically incarnated that face on Inaba.

Mekaro: Oka
When I first heard about him I was excited, then when I saw his suit i was in awe. But for a guy who cleared the game 7 times, I never thought I would see him run away from a fight. He had more weapons than anyone but when things got tough he decides to run away and hide and somehow dies. It’s just pretty lame in my opinion.


For the Heck of It….The Best Weak Sauce

Max: Inaba Kouki
Probably the most realistic human being out there. Great for comic relief.

Mekaro: Hoi Hoi
That thing is just so cute. Plus it has bear strength, so if it actually got angry it would probably do some serious damage.


Guys Didn’t Make the Cut
Katou:
Max: Soft. The “Y-gun all the way” philosophy won’t work.
Mekaro: When he wants to he’s a pretty good fighter, but this is kill or be killed and he’s to busy worrying about hurting the aliens feelings. I don’t need someone like this on the team who’s to afraid to kill the enemy when they’re not afraid of killing him.

Nishi:
Max: I liked his sneak from behind tactic but he’s there to jack points from others. In other words, not very useful in needing moments.

Kei Kishimoto:
Mekaro: The only thing she has going for her is a huge rack, that probably nice to look at but she was never useful in any of the mission in my point of view. Just running around following Katou.

Those Dragonball Songs

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

Dragonball was perhaps one of the most influential manga. For its worth the animation series also did a good share of impact… Just when the heated (!?) discussion is on with the Live Action version, some of the opening/ending surfaced in my memory.

Mystical Adventure! by Hiroki Takahashi

All I can remember literally jumping as a kid when this opening was showing on the screen because of the 30 minute entertainment that’s about to follow. Unlike today, the concept back then was that once a program was shown it, doesn’t come back.

Memorable shots: Opening planet (?) with flames forming dragon and Goku’s intro.


I’ll Give You Romance by Ushio Hashimoto

Guess Bulma didn’t strike me as attractive at all as a kid and since this song was all about her the thrill it brings was no match to Mystical Adventure!. But then the melody never went away after all these years and when youtube finally brought it back, it was a really soothing and comforting song. GREAT.

Memorable shots: Bulma’s opening reflection shot and the dragon ball bowling/snooker.


CHA-LA HEAD-CHA-LA by Hironobu Kageyama

As the series matured from innocence to violence, the opening song made a relative adjustment. Yes, the thrill level stayed when I had no clue what he was singing about.

Memorable shots: Sequence where Gohan runs on the back of the dragon, Piccolo’s back towards the camera, and Gohan’s traveling on mountaintops are all good.


Come Out, Incredible Full Power! by MANNA

Call the vocal cute, call it creepy. With the simple visuals of Gohan running around and the corny stuffs coming in and by this song works. No this song really has some good background instrument effects.

Memorable shots: Gohan’s opening jump and the tripping. Piccolo flying on the side is great.


Unfortunately (or fortunately) I have no part with the rest of the series, so the other openings/endings will have to be skipped for somebody else to pick up.


Animation Reviews – January

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

hana.jpg

nana.gif NANA
If you’re like me and LOVE stories that cling closely to real life, then THIS shoujo anime is totally for you.

The story is about two girls – of the same name, of the same age – on a bus, Nana Oosaki and Nana Komatsu from their first day in Tokyo. The plot’s highly dramatic and problems like unwanted pregnancy are faced by characters.

I can’t believe how many times I’ve cried from episode 10-20. The drama is intense, the characters are well made, the voice acting is excellent, and the songs for TRAPNEST and BLAck STones are AWESOME! You’ll be able to watch this series over and over and over again and still get the same reaction from yourself.

HIGHLY RECCOMMENDED despite the fact I got somewhat bored around the introduction episodes. (2-9 i think)

Positive : Very easy to relate to, Character conflicts are consistent, Realistic story and plot, and the songs are awesome.
Negative : Season one’s done, but where is season two?! You’ll love this so much you’ll have problems waiting. (like me) and the first few episodes get boring for some people. But they’re good, none the less.

hajime.gif Hajime No Ippo
Hajime No Ippo is an anime series about a high school student named Ippo taking up boxing. It’s a very character driven series that has a lot of serious moments, comedy, and intense training in it. As if that wasn’t enough, the actual boxing fights in the series are amazingly well done, and incredibly captivating! (Sometimes you don’t even notice those 3 minute rounds taking 10 :p)

Although the series lasts a fair bit, it still ends at what is roughly the halfway point in the series, which is unfortunate. The manga is very popular, and the anime is amazingly well done, even the english versions. Anyone who is a fan of Boxing, Rocky, or Comedy will most likely enjoy this series. Those who love all three, will probably replace their current favourite anime with Hajime no Ippo.

One of the best things about the series though, is how indepth the viewpoint goes in both fighters of every fight. Near the time of the match it can very often lead you to be cheering for the side characters rather than the ‘good guys’, and that leads to very captivating fights. Overall the series has no downsides, except maybe the anime being shortlived for such a popular anime in Japan. For those wanting to play the games, the english releases are titled “Victorious Boxers” (1, 2, and Revolution for the Wii) As the series has no real down sides, I easily give it a 5/5.

Exo-Squad
season 1 (1993)
This is the American response to the Japanese mecha genre. If Mobile Suit Gundam 79 was the Pacific theater with the ships always backing them up, in WW2 then this series is the Western Front of WW2 with paratroopers and large ground fights.

The story is about the second war between the humans and the man made NeoSapiens(think Cylons but more Facist). Unlike shows like Transformers or GI Joe this is an actual war and there are casualties. The stories are actually very good as with the animation. The mechs are actually smaller than most other series most are the size of either a car or a tank which brings in some more interesting battles.

The look however is very early 90s aweful colors for the clothes and stupid hair. The voice actors are decent especially the villains. The story is also impressively mature, with allusions to genocide, religion, and concentration camps. Great series that really needs to be released on DVD. This series shows what animation can do, and most people who work for animation should look back to this show to see how to make a good mature cartoon as opposed to all the Adult Swim shows that are really childish.

watch it at http://www.myspace.com/exo_squad All three seasons are uploaded and are not the best video quality.
Also help support Exo Squad at Hulu.com. Watch it there better quality (apparently).

Season one gets:
Watch it, and demand that it gets an official DVD release which in all honesty it won’t…maybe Itunes but Universal has weird dealings with Apple

Positive: Great Story, Strong mature themes, cool action
Negative: Music, art style, and designs are very 90s and show their age
Overall: A great series that is unfortunately not on DVD and is the best example of what animation can do in the right hand.

batman.gif BATMAN: Mask of the Phantasm (DVD)
Plot: A mysterious new villain in Gotham is killing some of the big mobsters in Gotham. Batman is blamed and must find the real killer. The case brings up memory of Batman’s first years under the cape and the origin of his nemesis the Joker.

This movie features the early 90s art style for the Batman series. It has a noir style with an Arc Deco designs. The mystery and story is genuinely intriguing and the voice acting was top notch. Story highlights involve Bruce Wayne falling in love and wondering whether he should actually become the Batman and whenever the Joker appeared he can manage to act creepy and funny the same time. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill mastered their respective roles. Kevin’s Batman sounds different than his Bruce which adds a nice touch of the personalities to the persona’s. Overall it is not only a great animated movie, not only a great superhero movie, but it is a good movie overall. Go buy it and enjoy it on DVD even though unfortunately there were no extra features on the DVD.

Rating: Buy it

Good
Art design, voice acting, writing, animation

BAD
CGI building intro had no purpose, Ending is a bit odd

mib.gif MIB: The Series

The Long So-Long Syndrome
This is the first episode of MIB: The Series. Before I begin my review let me just state that I’m a big alien conspiracy fan. Shows like this are really my type of shows. The main theme of this series is that nothing is what it seems. From the trees, baseballs, and even the president nothing is quite what you imagined.

Plot: Rookie agent J caused an alien shrimp to explode. Now an entire planet of shrimp monsters are after him. Basically this was a spin off of the popular movies. Though the character designs do not like the actors of the film at all(that’s explained in a later film).

Thumbs up: The art style, it’s is very unique some of the characters designs look kind of like a mixed of Peter Chung with a more western design. Plus the shows intro really shows what it is about. The dead pan delivery of most the agents also improve the story and humors. The designs allows for great character animation. The mix of humor and action really gels for this series. It’s light hearted at points but never in a condescending way.

Thumps down: Some jerky car animations. The ending was really bad compared to the rest of the episodes. They explain it as being it’s just because, and no I’m not kidding about that.

Verdict? Solid episode for a decent series that one would expect to be nothing than just a way to sell toys and shirts for a summer block-buster but it proved that you can do something with a great concept and decent writing. Still despite all the humor and action of this episode it still suffered from a weak ending.