Happy new year everyone! I hope you all had a fantastic festive season and that you have lots of great stuff to look forward to in 2019. It’s crazy to think it’s been almost two years since I started this little blog. Where does the time go?
I’m hoping to post a little more this year than I did in the previous two and make more of an attempt to engage with the ani-blogging community if possible. To that end I’d like to ask people who follow me or read my articles: what kinds of content do you like to read? What would you like to see on these pages? I have a ton of ideas but I don’t want to spread myself too thin or stop doing things that people are enjoying. The strapline on my blog mentions that I talk about Japanese toys however I haven’t really written much on that subject outside of twitter yet. I’m going to try and change that in 2019. I have an upcoming article on my “otaku room” upstairs which will talk about toys and models a little bit more. If you read my article on why I collect them you’ll know that I’m very passionate about it. Honestly if I had a lot more free time I could probably do an entirely seperate blog about just that.
I started Animehead’s Retroworld with a very simple aim. To bring older anime and manga to people’s attention (and to occasionally gaze back into the mists of time about the pre-internet days of fandom). I really enjoy doing it and it’s been great talking with so many fantastic people both in the comments and also on Twitter. I love chatting with you all.
Looking back at 2018
2018 was a good year in fandom for me. Let’s briefly recap on some stuff I mentioned I was excited about in my first post of the year (and some I didn’t).
I finally obtained two of my most wanted manga in physical form, you could call them holy grails of sorts: Hokuto No Ken and Devilman. The importance of this cannot be understated. I have wanted to own both of these in English since I became aware of both franchises existence back at the tender age of 13…..I am now 38. Yeah….it took a while. As a writer of fiction both of these stories inspire me creatively and being able to pick em up off my shelf and flip through them any damn time I want is wonderful. Was kind of weird that the Devilman volumes contained the spin off Shin Devilman as well without mentioning it anywhere on the cover. Was not expecting that! Oh well….bonus.
I also got a beautiful new edition of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira manga and gave my old copies to my buddy Ian so he could read it for the first time. Look at the box this thing came in!
In the last few years I’ve started up a brand new collection that I’ve been dipping my toes into now and again. Anime soundtracks on vinyl! I’ve always been frustrated with the price of many out of print japanese CDs and the fact that it’s often been a barrier to collecting old school anime soundtracks without resorting to piracy. In Jan 2016 I got a record player again for the first time in years to enjoy a lot of great limited edition movie soundtrack releases that were coming out and I then discovered that not only were some US labels doing re-releases of old anime records….but that a lot of authentic original Japanese LP’s from the 60’s to the 80’s were a going for a lot cheaper than I thought. Last year I picked up some absolute beauties. Some of which you can see in the pics below.
Also I got some really great anime blu rays that were released this past year that I’ve been dying for since the advent of the format including the sublime Robot Carnival, the 1986 Hokuto No Ken movie (my gateway drug to anime fandom) and the Devilman OVA. Watching these classics in glorious high definition made me a very happy old dude. It feels like it’s taken forever for these to come out. Older anime seems tailor made for the Blu Ray format, it’s incredible to see just how good many shows and movies from the cel anime era look in HD. Thank god for companies like Discotek and Sentai Filmworks for continuing to get stuff like this out in the best format possible.
Dragonball Fighterz my most anticipated anime related game of the year turned out to be pretty great (sadly I haven’t had much time to practice so I still kind of suck). I definitely need to play more and figure out who my “main” team are.
The first year of The Retro Mecha Podcast went pretty well with a fairly steady amount of listeners (Check out the Soundcloud link below if you’re interested). Ian and I are really throwing ourselves into the project and are extremely invested in reviewing almost every mecha show and franchise in existence from the 70’s to the 90’s that isn’t Gundam (Other people have that stuff covered, we’re opting for the road less travelled). We’ve been releasing an episode roughly every three months and released four episodes in 2018. So far we’ve covered Invincible Superman Zambot 3 (1977), Panzer World Galient (1984), Super Dimensional Fortress Macross (1982)/ Macross: Do You Remember Love? (1984) and The Five Star Stories (1989).
In addition to watching a boatload of old anime I also (gasp) watched some new stuff too. Yes! things that actually aired in 2018. I’m not much of a seasonal anime watcher because I like to know that shows I’m watching are worth the time investment and I only usually watch something that’s streaming from the first episode if it’s an adaptation of a manga I really like or the creative staff working on it are people that I really admire. Well there was a few of those this year. I checked out the new Ge Ge No Kitaro because Kitaro is consistently awesome in every iteration and this new one was a lot of fun. Part of Kitaro’s appeal is seeing how they keep on evolving a new anime version for a modern audience and riffing on old classic tales. It’s a franchise I’d like to talk about more in the future. Yokai and Japanese folktales are very much my cup of tea.
Another reinvention of a classic manga was of course the new Devilman adaptation Devilman Crybaby (2018 really was the year of Devilman wasn’t it?). I enjoyed it a lot and it was cool to see a lot of the elements of Go Nagai’s manga brought up to date and handled in interesting ways. I particularly liked the use of the internet and viral videos/social media as a driving force of the story (particularly in the latter half). As an adaptation it falls a little bit short of the manga for me but is still good in its own way.
While I admire what Masaaki Yuasa brings to the table with his unique visuals I’ve always dreamed of a full adaptation of the manga that uses Go Nagai’s art style dialled up to eleven like the original OVA’s did. I’m still a little sore that we may never see that but honestly it’s great that we got a new Devilman anime after so long and that it was actually pretty good.
A brand new show that I enjoyed a great deal was one that was a homage to a classic but had enough of its own identity to be a brand new beast. I am of course talking about the rather brilliant Megalobox. If you’ve never heard of a classic manga and anime series called Ashita No Joe (Tomorrow’s Joe) then you owe it to yourself to amend that situation at the first opportunity. Go and research it if you haven’t. I’ll wait. Without sounding like a wiki entry on Ashita No Joe let’s just say it’s an incredibly iconic boxing manga. So iconic in fact that they actually held a funeral in real life in its native Japan when a well loved character died. Megalobox was part of a project to celebrate Joe’s 50th anniversary and it embodies many of the same elements as the original but in a new setting and with new characters and ideas. Moved from a real world setting to a dystopian sci-fi future Megalobox focuses on “Junk Dog” a young and spirited boxer who fights in underground boxing matches that are fixed by his friend and coach Nanbu.
As the first episode gets underway we soon realise he’s tired of this arrangement and longs to experience a real fight, one in which he does not already know the outcome. There’s just one problem though. He lives in a slum. The tournament of his dreams “Megalobox” which takes place in the neighbouring city of Megalonia requires citizenship status and an ID to gain access to.
Megaloboxing is a massive televised sport with corporate sponsorship and superstar fighters. Its boxers wear metal frames called “gears”enhancing their attacks and speed and making already skilled pugilists into lethal engines of destruction.
When Junk Dog has a fateful ecounter with Yuri (the current champion of Megalobox) he tastes what a real fight is like and he can’t go back. He’ll do anything to get into Megalonia and fight Yuri for real in the ring. Including getting Nanbu’s gangster loan shark “friend” Fujimaki to forge them a citizenship ID for which if they lose…may have to be paid for in blood.
While Megalobox’s framework is a classic underdog story many things make it stand out from standard boxing fare. Its characterisation is absolutely stellar and seeing the growth of J.D. as a fighter and his reckless determination is a sight to behold. When the duo decide to enter Megalobox J.D decides he needs a gimmick in order to stand out from the competition and makes the shocking decision to fight without “gear” going by the monicker “gearless Joe” and making every fight in the series harder to watch as a result! The nail biting risk of each gear enhanced punch that connects with our hero makes some scenes unbearably tense as does the prospect of what might happen to their organs if they can’t pay back Fujimaki.
The series production values are insane too, this show looks beautiful all the time from beginning to end. A real highlight of the year.
Then there was Aggretsuko. The first thing on this list that isn’t an either a very old property or a reimagining of one. A fun and silly show (or at least it seemed to be at the beginning) from Sanrio (the people behind Hello Kitty) about an anthromorphic red panda called Retsuko who works in an office with a shitty boss who is a literal chauvinist pig. Retsuko has an unusual past time that helps her deal with her constant harrassment and belittlement. On the way home she goes to a karaoke bar and blows off some steam by letting rip with death metal!
This show started out looking like a fun, silly diversion but as it went on it got strangely poignant and surprisingly involving. Characters start to become quite well realised and realistic people and I stopped seeing them as animals and just became involved in their little lives. There’s a lot of social commentary and examination of people in Aggretsuko. I found i intentified a lot with some of the characters and situations in the show. Also when it’s funny it’s REALLY funny. The christmas special was an unexpected surprise which dropped without much buzz or fanfare at all. I predict a lot of future academic articles are going to be written on this show. More please Netflix.
Looking forward to 2019 (and beyond)
So what about this year then? Well it’s going to be a busy one that’s for damn sure. In addition to trying to post more I’m also going to try and get back into fiction writing as well as continuing with Retro Mecha Podcast (Hopefully with a new episode due in March).
In terms of stuff I’m looking forward to here’s a few choice pieces of otaku related goodness.
Armoured Trooper Votoms finally hits Blu Ray!
Easily one of my favourite mecha shows of all time (some of which has been reviewed on this very blog. I’ll get round to the rest eventually….promise) returns for a disc release in March in the US courtesy of Sentai Filmworks Maiden Japan label. Shame it doesn’t contain all of the OVAs in the set but I’m grateful for what we’re getting.
Urusei Yatsura Manga re-release!
I am a BIG Rumiko Takahashi fan and it pains me to say that although I’ve read every other work by her available in English that I’ve never read all of Urusei Yatsura. I’ve seen the anime TV adaptation, OVAs and movies but the manga has always been elusive to me since I discovered it when it was already quite hard to find issues of in the US. It will actually be the series 40th anniversary this year having debuted in 1978. I’m quite excited that VIZ are giving this influential classic the same treatment as they gave my favourite Takahashi work Ranma 1/2 a few years back and giving us “two in one” editions reducing the volume count from 34 to 17. Should reduce the strain on my shelves a bit.
Space Runaway Ideon on Blu Ray!
Earlier in 2018 we got wind of the fact that Ideon was finally going to be available to the western world by official means. It was supposed to drop by December in standard definition on BD disc however Sentai filmworks managed to snag a deal to get the show out in full 1080p and so it was put back to Feburary 2019. If you like vintage anime, mecha and the work of Yoshiyuki Tomino then you’re in for a treat with this one. I’m really happy that it comes bundled with both movies (particularly the mind bending Ideon: Be Invoked) can’t wait for Feb to revisit this.
One Piece: World Seeker
I love One Piece. It’s my favourite ongoing shonen series and probably my overall favourite shonen action series to be honest. In 2018 I got back into reading the manga in a big way and was recently reminded by a new trailer about this upcoming game. It’s an open world action adventure set on a mysterious prison island. It’s unclear if Luffy is the only playable character at the moment but even if you don’t get to control the rest of the straw hat crew this looks like a really visually stunning game that makes great use of the property. Judging by the trailer it seems as if Luffy can traverse the enviroment using his stretchy limbs by launching himself through the air in his typical reckless fashion in a similar way to the brilliant traversal system found in Insomiac’s 2018 Spider-Man game.
There hasn’t really been a “true” open world One Piece game before and considering the manga is all about exploring the world and going on adventures of discovery that’s always been a bit of a disappointment to me. Thankfully World Seeker looks as if it’s set to change all that and judging by the way Namco are promoting it they’ve got a lot of confidence it could be a big game. If you’ve got money to burn there’s an expensive edition with a lovely Luffy statue and a replica of the gum gum fruit along with other in game bonuses including a season pass to redeem all future downloadble content. The game hits UK and US stores in March and I can see it spending a lot of time in the disc drive of my PS4 Pro this year.
Future E-one book releases may be coming in English
The E-one book is an amazing device that I reviewed earlier this year (See my article on it). Since the release of the Hokuto No Ken book they’ve also put out Japanese only editions of Zipang, City Hunter, Ginga Densentsu Weed, Gintama, Akagi, Initial D and Death Note among others. I recieve e-mail updates from the creators Progress Technologies and they’re saying that they’d love to bring more titles to western stores with dual lanaguage versions in the same way they did with Hokuto No Ken.
I’ve got my fingers crossed for English editions of City Hunter and Ginga Densentsu Weed in particular from that list. I mentioned Weed in a recent article about long running ongoing manga. Gintama interests me as well as one of the most popular shonen manga that I’ve never read.
When I think about the wealth of great manga that was went unreleased in English and the possibilities for this device I get all starry eyed about the future. Hopefully there will be some annoucements soon.
New Year, new movies
So most of the stuff I’m looking forward to is old school stuff (well the name of the blog does have retro in it after all). What about newer stuff?
Two franchises I’ve adored from recent years have been the dark cyberpunk tales of Psycho Pass and the steampunk/horror/samurai action of Kabaneri Of The Iron Fortress and both have movies coming this year. The new Psycho Pass movie is the first in a trilogy called Sinners Of The System and I’m really looking forward to the first installment which features an interesting character pairing of detectives Ginoza and Shimotsuki. It’s called Crime and Punishment and will hit Japanese cinemas this month (January 25th) might be a while before a subbed version rears its head though.
The Kabaneri movie Battle Of Minato will be a sequel to the TV series. The show oozes quality with amazing visuals and goregeous character design by Haruhiko Mikimoto who worked on one of my all time favourites Gunbuster. I’m glad the franchise is continuing in some form. I was hooked from the first episode of the original show right the way through to the season finale so I’m happy to see more is on the way. Like Psycho Pass it has one of the most amazingly realised fictional universes of recent years I’ve seen in an anime. The meeting of steampunk elements and old school technology with the architechture of aincent Japan really is an aesthetic that I love.
There’s other stuff I’m looking forward to as well but I think I’ve rambled on long enough for one article. I’ll probably end up writing about some of em anyway in reviews at some point.
Don’t forget to tell me what (if anything) you like about the blog and would like to see more of in the comments and feel free to talk about anything mentioned.
Anime shows and movies I watched for the first time in 2018:-
Giant Gorg (1984)
Samurai Troopers (1988)
Zambot 3 (1977)
Panzer World Galient (1984)
The Five Star Stories (1989)
Techno Police 21C (1982)
Devilman Crybaby (2018)
Ge Ge No Kitaro (2018)
Casshern Sins (2008)
Armoured Trooper Votoms: The Roots of Ambition (1988)
Attack On Titan Season 2 (2017)
Neo Tokyo (1987)
Goshogun: The Time Etranger (1985)
Goku Midnight Eye (1989)
Wolf’s Rain (2003)
Genesis Climber Mospeada (1983)
Devilman OVAs The Birth (1989) / The Demon Bird (1990)
Robot Carnival (1987)
Hokuto No Ken/Fist Of The North Star TV Series (1984) (Shin arc)
Hokuto No Ken/Fist Of The North Star: The Movie (1987)
Super Dimensional Fortress Macross (1982)/ Macross: Do You Remember Love? (1984)
Macross Plus (1995)
3X3 Eyes (1991)
Hyper Combat Unit Dangaioh (1987)
Detonator Orgun (1991)
AD Police (1990)
Psycho Pass (2012))/ Psycho Pass 2 (2014)/ Psycho Pass: The Movie (2015)
Lily CAT (1987)
Riding Bean (1989)
Outlaw Star (1998)
Terrarformars Vol 1 (First read)
One Piece (Re-read of Vols 1-24)
Battle Angel Alita Vols 1-3 (Re-read)
Berserk Volume 39 (first read)
Bio Booster Armour Guyver (Re-read of vols 1-3)
Mad Bull 34 (First read of Vols 1-4)
Jojo’s bizarre adventure (Re-read of the first 2 arcs Phantom Blood & Battle Tendency)
Devilman & Shin Devilman (Fourth read of both entire series. They’re pretty short).
Fist Of The North Star (Hokuto No Ken) (My third time reading the entire series).
Captain Harlock Vol 1 (first read)