STATE OF THE BLOG/OTAKU YEAR IN REVIEW 2020

Hello again! I bet some of you thought I had packed up and left this blog behind for good! Yep it’s been a while hasn’t it? If you follow me on Twitter you’ll know that like many people all over the world I didn’t exactly have a wonderful 2020. The year of Covid and self isolation was tough on a lot of us and my mental health wasn’t always great as a result. However recently I’ve been back to my usual enthusiastic self and ready to try and get back into blogging on a semi-regular basis. I’ve been feeling the itch so often to write and create recently that I have a number of things planned for this humble blog in the near future as well as a few new little projects brewing in the creative teapot. Some of them are solo ventures and others are collaborations. Some of these I’m going to remain tight lipped on until they’re further along. One that I can mention is that in March I’m following the trend set by Scott of Mechanical Anime reviews by joining in on the fun with “Mecha March”. In case you haven’t heard of it it’s a yearly event dedicated to yep, you guessed it……Mecha Anime!

Hopefully by now everyone who follows this blog knows I’m the co-host of a little podcast called Retro Mecha Podcast that I do with my friend Ian. It’s the sister show of his own Retro Anime Podcast and we’ve been going for a few years now. Well….. expect Mecha March coverage across this blog, Retro Mecha Podcast and Retro Anime Podcast. Much like a combining robot we will join forces to become…….Retro Mecha Anime World!

You’d think with being indoors due to the pandemic and having more time on my hands I would’ve managed to get through more of the backlog but actually I think it had the opposite effect. It did give me a bit of a chance to think about my content though and the future direction of the blog .

I’ve had this blog for three years but really I feel like I’ve only been putting in content for two (as alluded to this last year was a write off for me). I haven’t even scratched the surface of what I want to cover so I aim to be much more productive this year and try and motivate myself to work more on my articles as well as other related creative endeavours.

For this first post let’s talk about what I DID get through in 2020. It’s been tradition in recent years to do a post of this kind wrapping up what I saw/read for the first time, what I rewatched and what I got up to in general.

My first anime of the year was one from 1989. A curious little 12 episode OVA called Hi Speed Jecy . I’d never seen Jecy prior to last year (shout out to the wonderful Orphan fansubs for subbing it for us mere mortals to enjoy). It’s a really unusual show about a kid called Jecy (sounds like Jessie in English) who as the title suggests can run at super speed. He travels the galaxy in a biomechanical spaceship with a living computer in it called Paolon (who appears on the ship’s monitor as a refined elderly gentleman) and a cute female sidekick called Tiana. Both of these companions come in really handy when he takes on a job as a bodyguard for a mysterious woman who’s part of a crime syndicate family who may have been responsible for the murder of Jecy’s parents. He also partners with a priest called Falk who may be the least moral priest in anime/manga I’ve seen since Genjo Sanzo in Saiyuki. He’s part of a sadistic religious order who enjoy inflicting pain on criminals because they believe the more their foes suffer the more likely their souls are to go to heaven.

The OVA is based on a light novel series by Eichiro Saito and has character designs by the fantastic Haruhiko Mikimoto (Macross, Mospeada, Megazone 23) who also did the cover/internal art in the original books. If you enjoy old school sci-fi anime you owe it to yourself to give this a look. It’s far from perfect but it is a lot of fun. The first story arc and some of the standalone episodes are brilliant but the last arc could have done with a bit of work plot wise. Still a really good watch though, cool characters (Falk and Paolon kinda steal the show a bit), the bad guys get a lot of screentime and it has some funny moments and interesting plot reveals as it goes on.

Japanese VHS cover art for Vol 4 of Hi Speed Jecy showcasing the wonderfully detailed design work of Haruhiko Mikimoto.

I also rewatched the infamous Golden Boy, an OVA from 1995 I’ve not seen in years that somehow manages to be both endearing, good natured and a little problematic at the same time. If you’ve never seen it it’s an ecchi comedy based on a much more explicit manga by Tatsuya Egawa. It’s about a kid called Kitaro with an amazing work ethic who gives 110% percent to every job he does as he travels the country on an educational (perhaps philisophical) journey. All of these jobs however involve beautiful women who he is constantly losing his mind at the sight of. As worryingly perverted as Kitaro’s behaviour is he also does a lot of good and helps a lot of people as he learns about himself and grows as a person. As the voiceover at the end of each episode says “he might save Japan someday…..perhaps even the world”. Golden Boy is an enjoyable slice of life comedy with great animation and excellent character designs. It might not be to everyone’s tastes but it can be genuinely laugh out loud funny in places.

Promotional artwork for Golden Boy

I didn’t watch much NEW anime in 2020 (as in airing this year and not just new to me) but one I did see was Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! based on the manga by Sumito Owara. It’s basically a love letter to anime production but also a good natured comedy about friendship and dreams. Midori Asakusa is an anime fan who has dreamt about making her own anime since she was a child. As a freshman in high school she takes her friend Sayaka Kanamori to an anime screening on their campus. There they see their classmate Tsubame Mizusaki being pursued by strange men clad in black. After catching up with her in a local laundry they find out that her rich parents are employing the men to keep an eye on her. Midori soon discovers that Tsubame is also into anime and has dreamt of making her own for a long time though her parents don’t approve of it. Soon the two are exchanging sketchbooks and are impressed by each other’s talents; Midori is great at drawing settings and coming up with scenarios and worldbuilding while Tsubame excels at designing characters. The two are soon riffing off each other and combining their creations to make a fantastical world. Because Midori’s friend Sayaka really wants to make some money she spurs the two of them on and “manages” the business side of things. It’s easy to see why Eizouken has become so popular. It’s fun, interesting and the characters are quirky as hell. The way the show moves from the real world to the imagined worlds of the girls minds as they explore and develop their ideas feels quite inspired and there’s a genuine wonder to seeing their projects unfold before your eyes from development to completion. This series is doing so well at the moment that it got an anime adaptation and a live action version in the same year!

The core cast of Keep your hands off Eizouken!

I also watched Aggretsuko season 3 and it might have been my favourite season yet, which is saying something. Sometimes I don’t want to watch a show with a labyrinthine plot or wall to wall action and Retsuko’s comedic and sometimes poignant misadventures definitely scratch that itch. I’ll not summarise it here because I’ve talked about the plot previously in a prior year in review post and I think everyone knows at least a bit about this show even if they haven’t seen it.

Haida teaches Aggretsuko guitar in Aggretsuko season 3.

Next up Hi Score Girl. In 2019 I watched the first season of this, a genuinely touching and hilarious comedy drama about an arcade and console obsessed kid called Haruo Yaguchi who is socially inept and clueless when it comes to girls. 2020 brought us the second season and what a fun season it was. What I love about this show is that though it might sound familiar it really is completely its own beast, nothing is particuarly typical about it despite it being a high school comedy/drama and potentially (if Haruo wasn’t so clueless) a romance story. The character designs ripped from the pages of Rensuke Oshikiri’s manga are really unusual and oddly proportioned, but have a great aesthetic and every character is loveable even the eccentric and slightly weird ones. It also manages to make Haruo’s friend/rival/love interest Ono Akira a compelling character even though she never really speaks. Then there’s Koharu Hidaka who becomes a kind of love rival for Ono and finds she has a natural talent for fighting games despite never having been interested in them before. The way the rivalries both romantic and game related play out over the series is fascinating and you grow to really love these characters.

As someone who spent a lot of time playing arcade and console games growing up and being familiar with most of the games featured I love the attention to detail and accuracy the show goes for. I think it works really well that they chose to use actual footage captured from the roms rather than recreating the games in animated form. They even discuss things like famous glitches and methods of pulling off difficult moves and combos/strategies in Street Fighter II and other fighting games like Darkstalkers. Hi Score Girl in my opinion is just a good show regardless of whether you’re really into games or not but if like me you grew up in the 80’s and 90’s with a lot of arcade games you’ll get even more of a kick out of this one. It also has a scene which killed this gaming geek where Haruo tries to figure out what Raiden is saying when he does his torpedo attack in Mortal Kombat, a mystery many of us pondered in the 90’s only to later discover it was nonsensical gibberish. I found the way this series was localised really interesting because many of the games featured have different names in the US and the UK to their Japanese originals and the subtitled version uses their alternative US names even when the Japanese title is English. I might have to pick up the manga for this, particularly since the anime is streaming only at the moment and not available on home video.

Key visual for Hi Score Girl season 2 which is an inspired parody of the original arcade flyer for Street Fighter II.

It truly is a great time to be into anime these days with so many shows new and old appearing on streaming, and this old school otaku is really digging the amount of older titles announced for blu ray in the States (thank god for multi region Blu ray players).

To finish up here’s a list of some other things I watched and read in 2020. Some were brand new to me but others were rewatches I’d been meaning to get round to.

Anime:-

Terror in resonance
91 Days
Weathering with you (At the cinema! remember those?)
Record of lodoss war (rewatch)
Yoma (AKA Blood reign: curse of the yoma)
Sherlock hound
Gungrave (rewatch)
Cosmic devil Daikengo (Reviewed on Retro Mecha Podcast episode 8)
Golgo 13: The Professional (rewatch)
Samurai 7 (rewatch)
Black Magic M-66
8 Man After (rewatch)
Dragon Ball Super (Partial)
Del Power X
La Deus (upcoming review for Retro Mecha Podcast)
Relic armour legacium (rewatch) (Upcoming review for Retro Mecha Podcast)
Good morning Althea (upcoming review for Retro Mecha Podcast)

Manga:-

Mujurshi: The sign of dreams
Chainsaw Man Vol 1 (would’ve read vol 2 but it’s not in stock anywhere- Arggghhh!)
Ranma 1/2 vols 24-31 (Re-read)
Battle Angel Alita (re-read)

Well, I feel like that’s enough for my first post back. Be sure to let me know in the comments what sort of content you’d like to see going forward and I’ll try and make it happen. Do you have review requests? Are you interested in seeing more of my collection? Perhaps you’d like to know my thoughts on certain aspects of anime/manga fandom or certain genres. I’m always happy to have feedback and interested to know other people’s opinions on things. Hope all who read this are keeping safe in these truly strange times.

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