Dream (Level 20)

Time for crap to fly again. Shall reveal what I've got in store in two weeks.
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Genocyber was a five-episode cyberpunk OVA series animated by Artmic Studios and Bandai Visual and released in Japan from May 24 to July 21 of 1994. The series is based on an unfinished manga series written by Tony Takezaki and illustrated by Byakuya Shobo. The series was licensed for American video release in the late 1990s by Central Park Media, who released it on VHS and later on DVD. Both releases of the series are now out of print.

Genocyber is notable for having a couple notable figures in anime involved in its creation. Koichi Ohata, whom some of you may know as the director of another infamous anime dud called M.D. Geist, was responsible for directing and writing on the series. Shou Aikawa, a screenwriter notable for his future involvement in writing Twelve Kingdoms and the first Fullmetal Alchemist anime, was also involved in Genocyber’s writing.

The Plot

This wasn't how I wanted to be left after surgery.
This wasn't how I wanted to be left after surgery.

In a near-future setting, the world’s nations are beginning to make moves in establishing a global government and corrupt corporations are trying to take control of them through their private armies. One such corporation known as the Kuryu Group is in development of a powerful weapon called Genocyber that combines cybernetics with powerful psychic abilities. To complete its creation, the corporation seeks out a psychic girl named Elaine who escaped the Kuryu Group’s confines and befriends a homeless boy.

Notable Characters (from left to right)

  • Elaine- A young mute girl with powerful psychic abilities who escapes from the Kiryu Group’s laboratories. Her consciousness is needed by Kiryu in order to complete their creation of Genocyber.
  • Diana- Elaine’s older sister who has nearly her entire body covered in cybernetics. She is very jealous of Elaine’s powerful abilities and tries to kill her at points in the first episode of the series.
  • Genocyber- The powerful cybernetic monster that Kiryu Group wishes to complete its creation of, having powerful physical attributes and psychic abilities.
  • Myra- A doctor aboard a military ship in the second arc of the series who believes Elaine to be her missing daughter Laura, unaware that her daughter was actually killed in a plane crash during one of Genocyber’s attacks.
  • Mel- A blind woman with powerful psychic abilities in the title’s third arc who travels with her boyfriend Ryu into Ark de Grande City to get money to cure her blindness. She comes upon the stone form of Genocyber in some ruins of the city, worshipped by a religious cult who believe it to be an angel brought down to punish the city populace.

Why It Sucks

Genocyber is quite infamous among older anime fans for its ultra-violent content and nihilist direction it takes to exploring the futuristic society it takes place in.

One of Genocyber's few heartwarming moments.
One of Genocyber's few heartwarming moments.

Sporting worst violent content at points than even M.D. Geist, Genocyber features a good number of gory scenes such as disembowelment, dismemberment and exploding heads. Two notable graphic scenes that stick out in the series include a detective whose skin on much of his body is completely torn off to expose all his internal organs while still alive and some kids getting mowed down by helicopter gunfire in graphic detail.

The series also comes to increasingly glorify its nihilist direction in later episodes, best shown through the degrading quality of the series as episodes progress, which are divided into three arcs and take place in differing settings and time periods. While the first episode is somewhat decent focusing on Elaine’s bond with a homeless boy and the evils of genetic engineering, the series quality increasingly tanks in later episodes with greater focus on the depravity of many in the show’s cast, limiting depth on characters and some confusing elements in the show’s narrative involving timeskips and Genocyber that don’t get much focus thanks to the title’s rushed pacing.

Because of the limited depth of characters in this series and a good number of them being depraved scumbags, you are likely to care less for them as many of them will inevitably be killed in a bloody or graphic matter from either the depraved characters within an arc of the series or Genocyber destroying everything within the setting of the arc towards its end.

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Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie is actually a two-episode OVA series animated by Studio Pierrot in 1996, being based on Sega’s popular video game character. The anime was picked up for American video distribution by ADV Films in 1999, who released the series to VHS and DVD. The 1999 release of the OVAs had some censorship to edit or remove scenes considered objectionable to a young American audience, but had an uncut re-release done in 2004. All versions of the OVA are out of print.

The Plot

Even Sonic and Tails get bored of their own movie.
Even Sonic and Tails get bored of their own movie.

Dr. Robotnik unleashes his latest robotic creation, Metal Sonic, to destroy his arch-enemy, Sonic the Hedgehog with Metal Sonic having the ability to match the abilities of Sonic and think like the blue-haired speedy hedgehog.

Notable Characters (from left to right)

  • Sonic the Hedgehog- The titular main character of the series. A blue, spiky-haired hedgehog capable of running at super speeds, he normally protects others against the evil acts of Dr. Robotnik.
  • Dr. Robotnik- Sonic’s main villain he contends with. An evil scientist with robotic armies who desired global conquest with the blue hedgehog always in the way of his plans. He created Metal Sonic as his means of taking out his hated nemesis.
  • Metal Sonic- Robotnik’s latest robotic creation capable of mimicking the thoughts and abilities of Sonic.
  • Tails- Sonic’s young fox friend and companion with two tails that give him the ability to fly.
  • Knuckles- An echidna who was a former rival of Sonic with the ability to glide in the air and attack with his spiked knuckles. Helps to aid Sonic and Tails in their struggles against Robotnik and Metal Sonic.
  • Sara- The daughter of South Island’s president with romantic interest in Sonic and whom Robotnik wishes to make his bride.

Why It Sucks

Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie is another case of a 90s OVA used to promote a popular video game series. The plot, for the most part, is just an excuse to feature Sonic and Metal Sonic’s extended battle in the title’s second half as it doesn’t really add anything new plot-wise to the Sonic mythos with its plot being rather simple and forgettable.

Metal Sonic being a peeping tom.
Metal Sonic being a peeping tom.

The OVA does take a number of liberties with elements to the characters from the video game, which make its relevance to Sonic fans even questionable. Examples include Knuckles shown to be capable of flight despite only gliding in the games, Metal Sonic having similar personality quirks as Sonic despite it being more hostile and self-centered in its intentions and Robotnik desiring a romantic partner despite being self-absorbed in his plans of global domination and destroying Sonic in the games.

The visuals to the OVA are quite subpar with simple and crude details on scenery and character designs, washed out colors and plenty of animation shortcuts implemented with reused animation frames and speed stripes being the norm in action scenes.

ADV’s English dub for Sonic is also worth mentioning as it has a good amount of infamy for how the voice actors portray their characters as their acting is laughably awkward with Tails sounding like a sick 4-year old child, Knuckles sounding too perky and Robotnik sounding quirky and comical. In Robotnik’s case, this should come to no surprise considering the movie reduces him to a comical loon, somewhat similar to how the American “Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog” cartoon portrayed him.

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While many anime titles new and old are regularly released on DVD and Blu-Ray, there are some from yester-year that lay under the radar for current distributors or are preferred over the DVD release, thus the only means of getting enjoyment out of them legally are through dusting off your VCR and tracking down the VHS releases of said titles online. Some of these I personally own in my collection, so pictures I have of them will be posted to accompany the titles I discuss while others are whatever I could dig up from online. Whether due to censorship or lack of popularity or licensor interest, these are seven titles that would be worth looking into on the VHS format that haven't had a release in the American market in years.

The Ultimate Teacher

Central Park Media picked up this bizarre 1988 anime comedy in the mid-90s for subbed and dubbed VHS release focused on the female leader of a gang of delinquents named Hinako going up against her school's eccentric and genetically engineered new teacher, Ganpachi. Much of the comedy of this hidden gem comes from the bizarre antics of Ganpachi to "correct" the behavior of his students and trying to counteract Hinako's efforts to take him out of commission. The series has great comedic timing in the delivery of its gags and is worth a look if you don't mind bizarre and mindless comedies. Do be warned though that this baby is becoming harder to find online as tapes of the series are selling anywhere from $30 to $50 online as of this posting.

Mermaid Forest and Mermaid's Scar

Before the 2003 TV anime adaptation of Rumiko Takahashi's memorable Mermaid Saga horror manga series came about,

a pair of OVA titles were made in the early 1990s that adapted story arcs from the manga series with both later getting VHS releases in the mid 1990s by different American distributors with Central Park Media getting Mermaid Forest and Viz Media getting Mermaid's Scar. On their own merits, both OVAs decently adapt the story arcs they follow and have smoother animated details on character designs compared to the 2003 TV anime's rough look, though both have a setback in that you don't learn much about Mana and how she met up with Yuta. There are a fair number of copies you can find of both titles online and you can likely get copies for less than $10 depending on their condition and what site you get it from, with Mermaid's Scar usually being the more slightly expensive title of the two.

Robot Carnival

This 1988 film anthology with a robot theme was a collaboration between well-known animators of the time period like Katsuhiro Otomo and Yasuomi Umetsu, offering some of the best animation you can find of a 1980s anime title. The film features several shorts of differing moods and direction from the makers who did them such as the over-the-top opening of a mechanical carnival showcase tearing havoc on a village in , a man's efforts to make a robotic companion take a twisted turn in "Presence" and a fun parody of chambara and super robot anime with "A Tale of Two Robots Part 3: Foreign Invasion". Streamline Pictures picked up the film for VHS release in the early 1990s and is dubbed only, considering the company's reputation for rarely releasing subbed releases of their acquired titles during the time period. Prices for the VHS release vary quite heavily from sellers depending on their condition, selling anywhere from as low as $10 to as high as near $100.

Ringing Bell

This 1978 children's film from Sanrio is notable for how dark it gets in its later developments with the lamb, Chirin, seeking revenge on a wolf that killed his mother. While seemingly light-hearted with the cute-looking character designs of Chirin and the sheep he live with, the movie quickly turns into a cautionary tale that explores the ramifications of running away from home, seeking revenge and nonconformity through Chirin's interactions with the wolf. RCA/ Columbus Pictures had a VHS release of the film in 1990 that was English dubbed and surprisingly faithful to the Japanese script with no censorship and only altering the final song of the movie to give it English lyrics. However, it is becoming difficult and expensive to acquire copies of the movie legally as VHS tapes for Ringing Bell sell for close to $100.

The Cockpit

This 1993 film anthology is an adaptation of a collection of war stories written by acclaimed creator of Captain Harlock, Leiji Matsumoto. The film depicts three different tragic stories focused on soldiers facing some sort of dilemma during events that take place in World War II with one focused on Nazi Germany (Slipstream) and two on Japanese soldiers (Sonic Boom Squadron and Knight of the Iron Dragon). Slipstream focuses on a German soldier forced to choose between loyalty to his country or following what he believes is morally right. Sonic Boom Squadron offers a unique perspective on how Americans and the Japanese view the act of kamikaze piloting during a heated battle at sea. Knight of the Iron Dragon focuses on a pair of soldiers trying to return to their air base, unaware that it has been taken over by American soldiers. The Cockpit offers a great visual presentation for an early 90s anime with a great amount of detail put into scenery and plane designs, with nicely animated aerial dogfights that offered fluid movement of planes and a diversity of camera shots like first-person POV shots from within the plane's cockpit. Character designs are drawn in Matsumoto's style, so do expect some crude-looking and deformed characters in comparison to others here. Urban Vision released the movie in subbed and dubbed formats on VHS in the mid-1990s, with online sellers offering it anywhere from $25 to $50 depending on condition.

The Dog of Flanders

There have been a number of live-action adaptations of the 1872 children's novel that are known to either tone down or sugarcoat the novel's tragic tale involving poor child Nello and his dog Patrasche. Fortunately for this 1997 animated film adaptation, The Dog of Flanders shows no restraint in depicting the tragic circumstances faced by Nello and Patrasche. The boy and his loyal dog go through plenty of hardships throughout the film that push Nello's optimistic outlook to the breaking point as whatever he is directly or indirectly connected to negatively affects him in some form, showing that hard work, optimism and perseverance don't always get you what you want. It is a believable depiction of life in 19th century rural Belgium showing the large divide and prejudices between social classes, as well as the daily struggles faced by the peasant class. This adaptation is quite memorable for the sad ending it depicts with Nello and Patrasche, implementing some solid use of CG animation despite the simple details shown with the title's scenery and character designs.

The film was picked up by Pioneer in 1999, who desired to release the film to video to coincide with the theatrical release of the American live-action film that year. While released to DVD in 2000, Pioneer had edited out some scenes in the film considered objectionable and slow-moving for American audiences and only included an English dub option for audio. Fortunately, they did release an uncut subbed version on VHS in 1999, which is the version that is mostly sought out by those interested in the film. The edited English dubbed version was also released to VHS, so one would have to be careful with what version they pick up. The version I own in the picture above is the uncut subbed release, while the edited version has different cover art. Regardless, all versions of the film are quite difficult to find online, with prices varying depending on condition and the version being offered for sale.

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Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer is a three-episode action OVA series animated by JC Staff and is based on the fighting video game made by SNK for their Neo Geo game system in 1995. The series was animated from September 1996 to January 1997 and directed by Masami Ohbari. Gowcaizer was licensed for VHS and DVD release in America by Central Park Media in the late 1990s up to the company’s closing in 2009. Both releases are currently out of print.

The Plot

Ohbari's ridiculousness and T&A emphasis in action.
Ohbari's ridiculousness and T&A emphasis in action.

In a post-apocalyptic future, Shizuru Ozaki is hatching a plan to obtain immortality from a powerful force called Omni Exist that desires to wipe out humanity. To thwart Ozaki’s plans, teenager Isato Kaiza is given a powerful gem called the Caizer Stone by his best friend Kash that gives him the power to transform into the armored superhero known as Gowcaizer.

Notable Characters (from left to right)

  • Isato Kaiza- A hot-headed young martial artist given a Caizer Stone that allows him to transform into the armored superhero Gowcaizer.
  • Kash Mizutani- Kaiza’s close friend with his own Caizer Stone that allows him to transform into Hellstinger, an armored hero capable of flight.
  • Shizuru Ozaki- The headmaster of Isato and Kash’s school, as well as the master of the Kaizer Stones. Also called Master Owga by his servants, Ozaki desires to obtain immortality from Omni Exist at the cost of humanity’s existence.
  • Karin Son- A female classmate of Isato’s with a crush on him. She is a high priestess who wields a golden staff to use in battle.
  • Kyosuke Shingure- A humble and courteous young man wielding a shinai that possesses divine powers. He seeks to avenge the death of his sister from the hands of Ozaki.
  • Shaia Hishizaki- The school’s popular idol and a capable fighter, who is accompanied by a robotic drone servant named Ball Boy wherever she goes.
  • Kubira- A demonic dog serving as Kyosuke’s familiar and is capable of taking on human form as an attractive and busty brunette.
  • Assahina Twins- Twin siblings Ryo and Suzu, serving as fighters fighting on Ozaki’s behalf. The two have an incestuous relationship with one another and are capable of combining together to form a large, powerful creature.

Why It Sucks

Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer’s biggest flaws stem from the typical issues that arise from anime adaptations of video games and Ohbari’s direction of the series.

Does this sports bra look good on me?
Does this sports bra look good on me?

As you would expect from a bad anime adaptation of a video game, Gowcaizer offers up a barebones plot with enough anime clichés laid out and pumping out as many characters from the video game as possible who either barely get fleshed out or serve little purpose for the anime’s main plot. The events of the anime breeze by at a fast pace, preventing any time to be devoted for proper buildup or depth on its characters and elements. The series quite often has some sloppy moments of consistency and focus in its narration. While action scenes are somewhat engaging at points, it does get silly seeing characters call out the names of their attacks from the video game and the animation is on the subpar side with still shots, speed stripes and other shortcuts employed throughout the title’s run.

Aren't we looking slutty today.
Aren't we looking slutty today.

What makes Gowcaizer stick out particularly as a bad anime comes from the direction of Masami Ohbari, an animator who is quite infamous for offerings of fan service in his works. Character designs are drawn in a way where portions of their bodies look anatomically incorrect in proportions and the clothes they wear are quite over-the-top, usually having you question the sexuality of the male characters with wearing midriff-exposing shirts and tight shorts/ pants. There is quite a bit of emphasis on getting as much T&A and scantily-clad shots of major female cast members as possible throughout the course of Gowcaizer. The series also sports infamy for two of its antagonists being siblings in an incestuous relationship with one another, shown quite blatantly in an implied sex scene with the two in an early scene in the series.

Central Park Media’s dub for the series is also worth mention for how bad it is with Gowcaizer, consisting of flat emotional delivery from the voice actors and awkward delivery of lines coming from moments of bad scriptwriting.

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Wolverine is the second of four anime titles animated by Madhouse that are based on a Marvel Comics superhero character, which aired in Japan from January 7 to March 25 of 2011. The anime is loosely based on a four-issue arc from Wolverine’s first comic series released by Marvel Comics from September to December of 1982. The series premiered as an English dub in America on the cable network, G4, on July 29, 2011 and was later released to DVD the following year.

The Plot

Oh Logan, what have they done to you?
Oh Logan, what have they done to you?

Logan’s lover Mariko Yashida was abducted a year ago by thugs involved with the crime syndicate Kuzuryu. Learning that she is being forced into marriage with the leader of another syndicate, Logan arrives in Japan to fight his way through various criminals to free Mariko from the marriage.

Notable Characters (from left to right)

  • Wolverine/ Logan- A mutant who possesses the ability to regenerate damage from attacks, heightened senses, superhuman attributes, three retractable claws from each of his hands and a skeleton laced with the indestructible metal known as adamantium. His goal throughout much of the series is to rescue his lover Mariko from the crime syndicate Kuzuryu.
  • Mariko Yashida- Wolverine’s lover and the granddaughter of Kuzuryu’s leader. She is abducted and forced into an arranged marriage with Madripoor’s leader Hideki Kurohagi.
  • Shingen Yashida- The leader of the crime syndicate Kuzuryu and Mariko’s grandfather. A formidable swordsman and martial artist, Shingen has the ability to hurl thrusts of wind with his katana to cut apart his foes.
  • Hideki Kurohagi- The ruler of an island of criminals called Madripoor who is Mariko’s fiancée that she is forced to marry.
  • Yukio- A mysterious woman who comes to Logan’s aid to halt Shingen and Kurohagi’s criminal activity. She makes use of projectile weapons like throwing knives and chakrams in battle.
  • Kikyo Mikage- An assassin recruited by Shingen to kill Logan. He wields a pair of katana laced in adamantium infused in each of his arms which he can use to release cutting wind pressure at his foes and possesses regenerative abilities. Despite being a frequent enemy of Logan’s throughout much of the series, Kikyo has a personal code of honor that prevents him from desiring to kill his target while in weakened condition.
  • Arkady Rossovich/ Omega Red- A serial killer whose body was given superhuman attributes by the Soviet government in their efforts to replicate America’s use of the Super Soldier Formula. He wields a set of tentacles in each arm made of the metal carbonadium that possess the ability to drain the life force out of any foe he ensnares with the tentacles. Because carbonadium possesses poisonous properties, Omega Red must regularly drain the life force of his victims to sustain his health. A device called the Carbonadium Synthesizer was capable of stabilizing his condition, yet this was destroyed by Logan during one of his missions in the Soviet Union. This leads an enraged Omega Red to seek revenge on Logan during his current conflict in Japan.

Why It Sucks

Wolverine’s biggest problem is that the plot arc it adapts from the comics is loosely adapted and mostly serves as a backdrop for the various battles that Logan faces throughout the series. A number of characters in the series like Kikyo and Omega Red only exist to put Logan in various battle scenes to drag the plot out, a good number of whom you don’t really get to learn much about or have no relevance to the main plot of the series.

Omega Red not looking too good.
Omega Red not looking too good.

The series also suffers in that it relies on too many convenient moments to advance the plot. For example, Logan finds himself in trouble at several points in the series yet winds up being saved in the nick of time from characters that happen to conveniently be there at just the right moment. Plus, one certain character’s appearance in the middle of the show is only to toss a bone at fans of the comics and to help get Logan and Yukio to another point in the anime’s plot.

Unlike Iron Man, Wolverine also has its issues with animation, faithfulness to elements of the titular character and accessibility to mainstream fans. While the series retains its detailed scenery and character designs from Iron Man, Wolverine tended to cut corners quite a bit for its animation as still shots, speed stripes and other shortcuts were employed for battle scenes. This made battle scenes feel flat and not as engaging compared to Iron Man’s battles with robots and battle suits in his series.

Logan about to cross blades with Shingen.
Logan about to cross blades with Shingen.

Logan’s character and appearance for this series also raise some red flags in how he is adapted in this series. While the series does retain his abilities from the comics and some of the history he has with certain characters, Madhouse’s design of the character is quite different from his Western counterpart looking like a bishounen and lacking the impressive physique he has from the comics. His restrained attitude in battle, habit of being conveniently saved in instances and the anime having some consistency issues with Wolverine’s abilities kills quite a bit of the badass vibe you would expect of the titular character.

Also depending on exposure, Wolverine’s accessibility may be a problem for fans not as familiar with the comics. While Iron Man made use of elements from its recent 2008 live-action film to give familiarity to casual viewers of it, Wolverine makes quite a number of nods to the comics involving certain characters, organizations and elements within them that would fly over the heads of those not as familiar with the source material.

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