A local question

Astro Boy, Gigantor and Eight Man are classic shows that have a place in American pop culture, even thou Eight Man is probably the most forgotten piece of the bunch. This was the 60’s, and a cartoon with robots flying in the sky, high-speed androids and robot boys fit the era fine. From what I’ve gathered from what people who grew up with these shows, nobody questioned their origin. They were entertaining shows on the telly and that’s all that mattered. I’d throw Speed Racer into the mix as well, thou it arrived just a tad later to the mix, but met with the same treatment.

Video and computer games have a similar history, all things considered. Nobody really cared where from arcade games came from, they just rocked the place. Not even the name Nintendo raised some eyebrows, it was just some exotic name cocked up in a meeting. Pretty much what Herb Powell did in The Simpsons.

Games had a shorter gestation period than robot cartoons when it comes to finding the source to some extent. US saw the mid-1970’s Shogun Warriors, a toyline that used wide variety of toys based on Toei’s show with some changed names to fit better the American market. The NES era is relatively infamous of its localised games, and much like how American reception of these Japanese cartoons ultimately was felt back in Japan, so was the localisations and changed made to games. Perhaps the best example of this would how Salamander became Life Force in its arcade re-release and effectively became its own spin-off from the base game.

This, of course, has been largely in America. Europe is a bit of a different thing, with France, Italy and Spain having their own imported animation culture to the point of Spain having a statue for Mazinger Z. I remember reading about a tennis comic that a French publisher continued after its end in Japan. This was done by hiring an illustrator who could replicate the original style and saw healthy sales for a time. Something that like probably could never happen in modern world, unless the original author has died and has made it clear that continuing his work is allowed. Somehow I can see titles like Mazinger  and Dragon Ball still gaining new entries to the franchise long after Go Nagai and Akira Toriyama have left for Mangahalla.

Sadly, I am not as well versed in pan-European phenomena when it comes to Japanese animation in the Old World, but there are numerous resources in both online and book format, often in native tongue. Perhaps worth investing time into for future entries.

While things like Robotech and Voltron made their names around the American landscape, the 1980’s saw a growing appreciation for the original, unaltered footage. This was the era of Laserdisc, and people were mail ordering cartoons solely based on the covers. Can’t blame them, LDs tend to have absolutely awesome covers. Whenever these shows were shown in a convention, a leaflet explaining the overall premise and the story would be spread among the visitors or a separate person would enter the stage and give a synopsis of the events on the screen. There were those who felt, and still feel, that localisation demeans the original work.

Similarly, game importing became a thing in the latter part of the 1980’s and in the early 1990’s with NES’ success, though it should be mentioned that Europe saw PC game importing across regions far more. The Nordic countries began importing NES games anywhere they could and specialised mail service stores popped up just to service this part of the population. It wasn’t uncommon to see Genesis and Mega Drive titles sold side by side in-game stores. Appreciation for the original game saw a rise, either because of it was simply cool to have shit in Japanese or from America, or because some level of censorship was present. However, more often it was because Europe was largely ignored when it came to releasing certain games. Importing unavailable games to a region is still relevant, perhaps even more so than previously now that companies are investing in English releases in Asian versions and region free consoles are becoming an industry standard.

The question I’ve been asking myself for a long time now, longer than I’ve been writing this blog, is that whether or not wholesome localisation like Space Battleship Yamato and Starblazers was a necessary evil of the time that we can be do without now, that we are grown culturally to accept the original work as a whole, or whether it’s just hubris of the people who are too close to their sub-culture and co-fans. A person who is tightly knit with music’s sub-culture doesn’t exactly understand the sub-culture of pinball or golf.

By that I mean that pop-culture in general doesn’t give jackshit whether or not panties are censored in a video game, it’s irrelevant in macro-scale. Even in a localised form a product can impact pop-culture in ways that the original couldn’t, the aforementioned Speed Racer and Robotech being highly impacting examples in American pop-culture. I guarantee that these shows would not have their impact without the localisation effort.

Is it a necessary evil then? Perhaps this is the subjective part with no answer. Those who value original, unaltered product without a doubt will always prefer the “purest” form of the product, whereas someone who doesn’t have the same priorities will most likely enjoy the localised version just as fine. It would be infantile to assume that people who don’t know better can’t appreciate the original piece or lack in intelligence somehow. It is merely a matter preference, and like assholes, everyone has one.

If it matters, I personally vouch for unaltered products whenever applicable for the sake of keeping the integrity of the product and the intentions of the creators intact. However, also see complete localisations having their valid place in e.g. children’s cartoons. While it would be nice to have two or more versions of everything for the sake of options, that’s not always an option for budgetary, marketing or some other reasons.

Perhaps that’s what could be argued; when it comes to Western culture, we are more acceptable to unlocalised products more than previously, but total localisations still have their place. Even without knowing much about the source, we can appreciate the intentions and look past the cultural difference.

Or at least we should be able to, and appreciate the differences and intentions without resorting to raising a hell for nothing.

Three approaches to transforming mecha designs

Unfolding, folding, opening, twisting, turning, exposing areas and revealing hidden parts is basically what mecha transformation is all about. There is no one way to do it, and the sheer amount of examples there exists eclipses the scope I’m willing to work for free. To tackle transformation schemes in general requires part problem solving and part puzzle making in a nice balance, where a irregular shapes can be turned into e.g. a humanoid and vice versa. By first introducing this sort of base idea of categorizing transforming mechas into will give some foresight how I’ll tackle the subject down the line.

Much like Three approaches in mecha design (which will be rewritten at some point this year,) I tend to employ a similar template for transforming mechas specifically. These three are not necessarily connected to the three initial approaches as some sort of rule, but they do work under them if you’d wish to make a transforming mecha. These might help you to lock down your approach better. This post can barely scratch the surface of it all with the given limit I’ve set to myself.

The three approaches in transforming mecha design are Fantastic, Toyetic and Realistic. As with previous, there are overlapping elements with each of the three and can be even split into sub-categories if necessary. Examples of Fantastic transforming robots are all the outright impossible ones in any form outside animation and movies. Getter Robo and Gurren Lagann are probably the best examples, where thing just fall into their place and morph into new shapes. Mass shifting is nothing short of expected and even mandatory.

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Mecha design; made for production

Because I’m currently in a moment where I have no access to my books and most of my materials for a TSF comparison, I just have to pull this one out for now.

I have discussed mass production of mecha in some of the previous entries in the mecha tag posts, but never really touched upon the idea in itself and how it usually reflects back to designs. Usually in mecha stories, especially those from Japan, the prototype unit is usually stronger than its mass-produced counterpart for numerous reasons, be it higher output or better weapons. This, of course, makes little sense in real world to some extent. Often mass production models, or MPs from now on, are optimised versions of the prototypes. The cost of production has been taken down with material and design choices, unnecessary elements are removed due to them being too complex, or too complex elements have been streamlined for maintenance and production.

How this is reflected in design? Let’s take a look at RX-78-2 Gundam and its MP counterpart, RGM-79 GM.

The similarities between the two are instantly visible, outside the stance. The legs largely the same, with GM losing openings under its knees. The skirt armour is largely simplified due to the removal of front compartment and whatever those yellow squares were. The torso is largely the same, carrying that iconic shape with yellow vents on both sides of the cockpit. Shoulders are the same as are the arms. However, only one Beam Sabre is visible and the head has seen the largest overhaul in terms of the silhouette. GM lacks the V-fin and eyes have been replaced with a singular visor. There is no mouth guard or vents on the sides of the head either, so I’d assume it shows that GM has lower temperature inside its head than the Gundam. A lot of those little assumptions could be made on the GM based on the idea of streamlining a prototype.

Outside those, the dull gray and use of red is another cost saving measure, as there’s no need for white and blue, two colours that are iconic in Gundam design. White isn’t technically a colour, so take that as you will. For another example, that has more detail, let’s take a look at MSZ-010 ZZ Gundam and its MP variant, MSZ-013 Mass Production Type ZZ Gundam.

In terms of Gundam design, the ZZ follows basic Gundam design; vents on both sides of the cockpit, a V-Fin and the three-colour scheme with the eponymous Gundam face. The MP variant here is a bit more clear how ZZ’s complexities were trimmed down. It lacks the Core Block System and all the transformation functions, so it drops all those extra wings from those. While technically being a Gundam, it lacks the V-Fin and now resembles head of a Nemo to an extent. The cockpit seems to be better armoured and has an extra cannon installed above it. The side skirt has something that looks like a  missile pack and the shoulders’ Beam Cannons are straight from the base ZZ itself. You can see your run of the mill sabres on the right side of the skirt armour. The thrusters’ sizes in the legs have been adjusted and the knee things have been adjusted in size.

These two examples show two ways that mecha seems to deal with its MP units. GM is very stripped down Gundam with worse weapons. MP ZZ, while still stripped down, is a formidable unit with comparatively as heavy weaponry as the base ZZ, just with more finesse in the design and weaker generator output. While Core Fighter gimmick is something that still persist in Gundam, and for a good reason, its removal does make sense in-universe when wanting to make cost cutting procedures.

Most MP units share the base core with each other. If you start looking for GM variants, you’ll find out that all of them use the same base GM and bolt shit on top of it or change some of the geometry to fit a new element to fit a niche need. There is about eleven or twelve base variants, that all have further variants and redesigns. Zaku II has three times that amount.

As it has become apparent, the MP models are more or less stripped down versions of the originals, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. ZZ is a nightmare to maintain due to its Core Top and Core Base forms, not to mention its G-Fortress formation, not to mention the wear and tear its far larger surfaces would cause to the unit. The MP variant probably costs significantly less than the base ZZ, especially considering Anaheim had to roll out Full Armour parts to maintain structural integrity, but the question is whether or not there is a need for this sort of Heavy Assault Mobile Suit in-universe.

Both are still thick in build and design, making them a bit of a large target. Then there’s the FA-010A FAZZ, but that’s another story altogether whenever I get to discuss mechanics of Gundam Sentinel.

This really plays back to the idea game in designing a mecha; the purpose and role. If you follow this overused trope and intend to use MP units as your main designs, thinking back at the background and the world overall would serve you well.

Mobile Police Patlabor is an interesting piece, where we never see the prototypes, just the mass-produced labors, mainly the Ingrams. However, the idea of further developed piece being more streamlined is turned upside down in the first Patlabor movie, where the AV-X0 Type X-0 prototype model is more streamlined than its predecessors with sleeker silhouette and smoother surfaces with less angles.

While we could say that the AV-98 on the left might be cheaper to produce, we can also assume that by the time Zero was rolling out, the technological evolution both in labor tech and its production is at the point that their benefits outweight the rising costs.

A wholesome mecha design takes into account the world setting as well. A reason why giant robots prevail over other options needs to be sensible. Another show where you can see technological advancements between prototypes and MP units, and gives rather interesting explanation why there are invisible mechas jumping around, is Full Metal Panic, but that’s another can-o-worms I’d like to open later down the line.

The Force was woken up, but it asked for fifteen more minutes

I’ve commended Disney for pushing out new Star Wars movies each year. That’s what people seem to want and consume. I can’t fault that. However, there is a downside in all this, and that is that Star Wars will become mundane and yet another franchise that will be run to the ground by a big corporation if Disney intends to keep this pace up. This post, in the end, is more about personal view rather than the blogger view I aim to employ otherwise. Why? Because Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is a boring disappointment to yours truly.

I recommend reading my initial reactions to the movie here, as I that should give you a base on things. It’s essentially a post on its own right.

Star Wars as a franchise could be described to have four distinct eras. The Classic era, which lasts from Episode IV to Episode VI, the 1990’s Resurgence Era starting with The Trawn Trilogy, the 2000’s Prequel-era and all the side materials that brought with it, and the current Disney-era. I would argue, from a personal point of view, that the two first eras were the best of times for Star Wars. The franchise’s birth was a massive popular cultural shift that we still and see to this day in franchising and how Hollywood changed, and the Resurgence era expanded the lore immensely and took advantages of all the existing ideas and properties, which Timothy Zahn engineered, sort of.

The Prequel era on the other hand brought in people who couldn’t be critical of Star Wars, and it shows. Stories suffered from ideas that didn’t hold much water. Prequels themselves too suffer from this. Lore expansions saw further retcons in favour of these new ideas, like how The Force Unleashed games changed things as well as saw the use of some discarded concepts of the original Star Wars. You may be thinking that I’m harping on this using unused concepts too much, but it tells you how little anything truly new modern Star Wars has to it. Recycling the same story frames has become a common thing, not to mention the aforementioned concepts. Can Star Wars really exist just by doing this? If the money has to anything to say, yes.

This is why I have no interest in the new canon to any extent any more. Episode VII was recycled trash that made no sense and had numerous glaring faults. People who grew up adoring Star Wars are now running it, and it shows. To say that the new stories read out like expensive fanfiction that got an official status would be correct to an extent, as often in fanfiction the writer doesn’t realize what made the original piece tick. To use an example from Episode VII, no character has an arc of sorts. Kylo Ren barely has one, but we only see the end of it. Finn turns into a sidekick after the first few minutes, Poe has no arc to speak of and neither does Rey. Poe’s sold like a new Han Solo or Wedge Antilles, but lacks everything that made those characters interesting. Hell, Wedge had less screen time than Poe and still had more character to him.

Essentially, people who run Star Wars, but don’t exactly get why the original trilogy is so admired. They’re no better than George Lucas, and it shows. The fact is that Lucas experienced how Star Wars fans are absolutely impossible to please, but they also think how things should be. I don’t claim that, but as an observer I can see that people writing these new movies and shows does seem to think that. I doubt we will ever see a Star Wars product that will have a brand new story that is able to stand on its own two legs with its concepts and ideas before Star Wars becomes mundane with nothing but forgettable trite, like it did during the Prequel-era. Rogue One is yet another telling of how they stole the plans for the Death Star. We’ve seen, read and played it already, the story itself is not important for Episode IV. If fans want it, then by all means do it. It’ll make you some money, like always. Big Star Wars titles will always sell, no matter what the quality is.

Disney has all the chances to make Star Wars something better, but as it stands now, it’s simply cashing in. Then again, perhaps that’s what the franchise needs to do, as there are those who seem to enjoy the Disney-era products. Each to their own, I can afford to miss all movies’ theatrical runs and wager them on their own later down the line, just like how I did with Episode VII.

Monthly Three; WAR-ER ONE

If one doesn’t find much sources about Hariken Ryu in English (his career with Godzilla gives him a lot of leverage over other of his contemporaries, Arain Rei is barely recognized in any degree. While Aran is known as one of many people who made up the best era of Comic Lemon People, and thus one of those who influenced then-current Japanese popular culture, and to that extension modern Japanese pop-culture, his name is all but lost in the Western front. He was at his most active in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, having an influence over stylistic sensibilities as well as contributing to the OVA scene.

I have discussed his original Iczer-1 to some degree previously, so in this entry I’ll be concentrating on Aran himself rather than retreading old ground.

Born in 1960, Aran’s first published work was Fairies of the Star in Comic Lemon People #6, 1982. Whether or not he had released doujinshis before this is unknown. The one work he seemed to like the most and kept working on  between 1983 and 1993 is Galaxy Police Patrizer-3. If any of his works, it is this one that shows how Aran refined his self-taught skills within one decade to a whole new level.

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Monthly Three; Space Punch!

This monthly three will be a bit different. I’ll be treading some grounds that I’ve been through in previous entries, but this will be more or less a more cohesive series. This series of three will be about how Fight!! Iczer-1 OVA came to be, starting with Hariken Ryu’s Gekisatsu! Uchuuken, then continuing with Rei Aran’s original comic of Fight! Iczer-1, and ending in image comparisons between the DVD and BD release. The problem doing this entry is that a lot of information is just unavailable on certain issues, and thus some conjecture is needed.

So, where do we start when it comes to the OVA of Iczer-1? We start a comic illustrator who liked live action shows a lot. Hidemi Miyata, better known as Hariken Ryu, made his debut in #1 issue of Comic Lemon People February 1982, with his Mad City 16 Beat.

Take a good look at the lady on the left
This is according to Gekisatsu! Uchuuken Vol.1. In reality, Hariken Ryu had already been published in Daya Publishing’s Comic DUMP #10 with his Parabola of Ecstasy

Continue reading “Monthly Three; Space Punch!”

Harder they are, the better they shatter

Dick jokes aside, popular culture loves things being hard. This is the hardest sword around, this shield is so hard that it can stand any damage and so on. This is largely bullshit, to be honest. Popular culture just has the habit of buying the idea of diamonds being the hardest generally known substance to man and going with it, because it seems it is too hard to teach that hardness alone doesn’t add to anything worthwhile. You need toughness to go along.

Hardness in Mohs is how well a material can resist penetration of other material, i.e. scratched. In all fairness, this is rather weak scale and is mostly useful with minerals Mohs scale is intended for. For geologists and craftsmen, the Mohs scale is still relevant. The higher the item is on Mohs scale, the better polish it can attain, with some exceptions.

The hardest naturally occurring material known to man is lonsdaleite, or hexagonal diamond. It was first identified in the late 1960’s from a Canyon Diablo meteorite, where specimens were found in microscopic size. If you checked the provided link there, you may notice that when actual stuff is talked, the Mohs scale was kicked to the curb. Mohs scale is essentially useless for industrial use.

In a more industrial meaning, hardness relates how much material resits compression and changing its shape. When we go up to superhard materials like diamond, their modulus of rigidity are very high as is their bulk modulus, the resistance to uniform compression. They do not deform plastically either.

Think it like this; when you strike wood with a hammer, it just dents. It deforms to form a spot where hammer was struck while leaving the rest of the wood intact. Strike glass and it’ll shatter without deformation,  sending shards flying about.

There are numerous tests in which material hardness is tested with. Vickers, Rockwell and Brinell hardness tests are the most often used, followed by Mohs. Oustide the Mohs one, all the aforementioned use different methods to attain the scale of hardness and the results can be converted between each other. If you’re interested in reading further into this topic, I recommend giving this site a go.

But as said, hardness alone is of no real use when it comes to how popular culture wants to showcase it. Toughness is needed. As a general rule of thumb; The harder something is, the more fragile it is. For example,. despite diamonds being the hardest general substance, you can pick up your hammer and smash them to bits. They’re also common as hell, and nobody should be willing to pay the insane prices jewellery shops are selling them. You can put that on DeBeers.

Toughness is the ability of any said material to absorb energy and plastically deform without fracturing. This is the opposite of hard materials that have low toughness, as they do not absorb energy or deform. They fracture, sometimes in an explosive ways. Toughness is after all a combination of both material strength and ductility.

Just like how hardness has its tests, the Charpy V-notch test and Izod impact strength tests are the most commonly used measured. While Charpy  is more about the fracturing the tested material, Izod tests impact power.

Ultimate tensile strength needs to be mentioned in this context, as it is effectively how much a material or structure can withstand elongation as opposed of compressive strength. Materials like diamond would have a very sharp breakage, called brittle failure. Other that are more ductile in nature would malform in plastic deformation before point of fracture. Something like glass has Mega Pascal of 33, depending on the glass variety and so on, while something like diamond having 2800 MPa, which still loses to multiple other materials, like graphene at 130 000 MPa.

How does all this come together with our topic? Let’s take the Destroyer-Class BETA as an example. It has a shield on top of it that is said to be Mohs 15 in hardness. That is to say, it is harder than diamond.  To follow the rule of thumb, this material then should be relatively easy to shatter, especially with the large surface area it has. However, as the BETA are biological mining machines, and the fact that their shield’s can withstand considerable stress before penetration, saying that it is Mohs 15 does not actually mean anything. It’s the same with any other fantasy sword or the like that gets called harder than anything else. It it to give an idea of a tough, unbreakable object, which is rather far from reality, all things considered. But Mohs scale is simple and easy and doesn’t require studying. Saying that something is harder than diamond is enough to give a certain mental image.

What the Destroyer-Class BETA has, and all those other fantasy things, is high toughness and resilience to deformation. A sword good sword should be able to bend itself and conform to stress without breaking, something that Japanese sword don’t actually do that well because they were made hard. They were probably the hardest sword made, and thus far more brittle than swords that conformed and bent. The hardness contributes to the sharpness without a doubt, but sharpness alone can’t win a fight. Skill aside, sword’s shape, material, balance and toughness are all factors. Katana being so hard, materials like bone could dull them fast. The idea of a sword being samurai’s soul is gross exaggeration, as the katana was the least used weapon during wars over spears and bows, and were discarded if a better sword was in vicinity. Later on you got guns that made close combat weapons largely obsolete. Japanese swords are most likely the most romanticized swords  there are, mostly thanks to movies and comics, but there are sources that put things right.

With shields or general tools, you do not want it to be hardest. You do not want a hammer shattering into your eyes or shield breaking down when an enemy hits it. With shields, you want it to malform and take the impact’s force instead of breaking it and allowing the opponent to advance. The worst idea you can have is shattering armouring or shield.

In giant robot series, it’s not uncommon to see armouring shattering like it was made of bricks or glass. It’s much easier to understand and is more dramatic, but a good armour doesn’t shatter. At best, it’s ripped apart into shreds under massive power. After all, most metals can be chipped like wood with proper tools, unlike something like diamond.

All in all, this was a very long and convoluted way to that hardness is almost a fetish in popular culture and is far too often depicted in a very uneducated manner, especially when Mohs scale is mentioned. But hey, all of that is fiction. Let’s just say this sword is Mohs 25 and has intrinsic tensile strength 500 Giga Pascals and tell it’s made of bullshittium and all would be well.

The thing is, in the end, that you can’t have a material that’s soft and hard at the same time, in general sense. A diamond like material can’t elongate itself and will experience fracturing instead. As such, in a case of Destroyer-Class BETA example, without any further information we can assume that the Mohs 15 hardness of indicative of other material strengths, making its shield very brittle. You don’t want your shuffle to be shatter the first time you hit a stone, you want it to be able to take the force from the impact. Of course, in-fiction it’s hard to penetrate with any weapon, where the whole deal with bullshittium steps in again.

Hard fiction often tends to step around these issues most of the time, as there are things like flexural strength and multiple others when it comes to material sciences, and simply relies on general terms and points of comparisons. General fiction on the other hand will simply play it safe and pull a diamond from its pocket and tell that this shit is hard, and that’s all you need to know.

Now let’s end this post with some great machining in slow motions.


“Almost sexual, isn’t it Smithers?”

Monthly Three: Freedom fighters are awesome?

Kids can’t become Robocop, but kids can become John Rambo. What the hell is he saying, kids can become a war veteran with a severe PTSD? That’s pretty much what I’m saying, yes.

Robocop was easy to understand why and how it became a cartoon few times around and why it never reached that R-18 status again. For the Rambo franchise, it dibbled into the cartoon region and then never returned, becoming a hard R again with John Rambo, giving the franchise a satisfactory end. The cartoon on the other hand just went nowhere. But let’s start from the point why they even made Rambo: The Force of Freedom.

In 1982 First Blood became a box office hit, and despite it got a mixed reception from the reviewers, its success could not be underestimated. First Blood wasn’t exactly fresh on its material, as post-Vietnam War America and the treatment of soldiers had become somewhat overused theme in war movies. It was nevertheless an intelligent action movie, especially in its changes and with the new ending, which deviated from the original novel’s ending. It didn’t force the viewer to think itself too seriously, but it’s events required some thought.

Rambo: First Blood Part II hit the theatres in 1985, and used the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue as its backdrop. As an action movie, it’s a classic and without a doubt one of the best and is the most iconic film in the franchise. It’s been parodied and ripped off more than one can count, and hell, even the cartoon’s first episode replicates some of its scenes pace by pace, just with less violence. While the critical reception was less than favourable, First Blood Part II was an international box office success.

Meanwhile, Hasbro had renewed their G.I. Joe toyline with the help of Marvel. Before the televised series in 1985, G.I. Joe saw mini-series that were essentially just vehicles for toy advertisement, much like what pretty much all multimedia franchises’ televised parts would be named as. Rather than going deep into G.I. Joe’s history, I recommend you to check first part of SF Debris’ Transformers History, because the two are linked to a large degree.

G.I. Joe was big in the 1980’s and changed popular culture much like how the two first Rambo movie had. Despite Vietnam War had made war toys a big no-no, but 1980’s was pretty much the opposite. Hasbro didn’t just learn from G.I. Joe’s success when creating Transformers and their other franchises, like My Little Pony and Jem and the Holograms. Say what you will, Jem and the Holograms was fucking awesome with good music and I hate the fact that I only see bits and pieces of it when I was a kid.

It wasn’t just Hasbro that learned from the success, as the competing companies saw potential in replicating Hasbro’s multimedia franchise hit. Despite Rambo being an adult only movie series at that point with plenty of violence and themes that kid’s don’t really get, somebody thought he would make a great lead for a fighting force themed series.

I get the logic, I really do. Especially in the context of the cartoon. Rambo III suffered from the perception that Rambo had become a soldier who would be summoned to do operations for the military, as he was the only man who could do it. The usual super soldier trope you have in Escape from New York and Metal Gear series. The cartoon dropped all the hard issues First Blood had brought up and essentially made no references to PTSD or Vietnam War issues. The cartoon Rambo was character at its stereotypical, a one-man army.

It ran 65-episodes and was essentially made for syndication. It’s one of those rare shows that allowed to have realistic weaponry and vehicles, thou to push toys some of the vehicles were very cartoony. Outside that, it’s a very non-descriptive piece, not very high in entertainment value. It feels and reeks like a G.I. Joe clone, and that’s what it is, with the exception that the character cast was smaller. Some of the plots were stupid as hell too, like General Warhawk raising the battle ship Yamato from the bottom of the ocean to conquer a fictional country of Tierra Libre.

In the cartoon, Rambo could be something Robocop never could; a sort of role model or something to aspire kids to become; a hero to fight evil forces in the name your own country and whatever ideology it upholds. It’s not a bad one either, just very damn generic one.

Generic is also the term you could give all the villains in the series, as their dime in the dozen designs would fit any and all fighting force cartoon from the era, and some even fitting in with the likes of Hokuto no Ken. The music on the other hand was licensed from the two first Rambo movies, and they give the series far more oomph than what it should have.

Rambo III hit the theatres in 1988. A this point people were more or less tired of the character and overall everything of like it. It’s overbearing anti-Soviet themes and lacklustre plot has given it the spot of being worst movie in the franchise. For whatever reason, I remember this movie being the one kids would see the most often see after it came out. It lacks any and all finesse First Blood had, and replaced all that with even more action and death.

Rambo III suffered from mediocre acting and bad script, but at least it wasn’t forced to be kid friendly. Even with all the blood and violence the movie had in it, it was mostly a harmless, slightly backwards movie for the time.

(John) Rambo was an independent release in 2008, closing the franchise. Unlike the third movie, Stallone’s performance here is excellent and he didn’t shy away from the core roots of the character. There was no overly political connotations thrown around or pampering around issues. The character of Rambo has grown old, and is more in-tone with the original novel, and the movie mirrors this. The character also is given a solid closure.

Both Rambo and Robocop were at their weakest when they made compromises to make either franchises more family friendly. Both franchises had cartoons that had the original points removed and tailored them for general consumption. It can work, like with G.I. Joe, but a tool should always be used for its intended purpose.

Monthly Three: The Horror of Iczer-1

Seeing how Japan’s still buzzing about Iczer-1’s 30th anniversary with the upcoming Blu-Ray release and TV Kanagawa’s censored broadcast last Sunday, the theme for this month might as well be the Iczer series. I went through the conception of the franchise in the 30th anniversary post last year and then some, so may have some repetition. This will be spoiler country.

The original Rei Aran’s Fight!! Iczer-1 comic was a thirty page, two chapter story. Very tidy, very neat, very different from the OVA. It is by far the most exploitative version out of them all, with Aran’s THE ICZER ONE following in suit in the 90’s. Nevertheless, certain elements exist in the original comic that would appear in the comic, and other elements would be completely revised for the better or worse.

The first episode of the OVA is essentially retelling of the comic, having the same basic structure; showcase enemy base, moving to Nagisa having normal, then getting attacked and saved by Nyan/Iczer-1, ending with them two fighting against invading enemy.

The two versions are superficially similar when described that way. Of course, reading and watching the two is night and day, just like Nyan’s and Iczer-1’s designs.

Nyan is one of the most stereotypical 80's character design you'll see in your life
Nyan is one of the most stereotypical 80’s character design you’ll see in your life, thou OVA Iczer-1’s hot pink screams the same

I recommend you to look up a book called Robots and pretty girls Best Works Selection – Lemon People 1982-1986 as it has the original two-parter in it among other Lemon People goodies. I intend to go deeper into the original comic at a later date.

TV Kanagawa’s censorship brought up a comment that struck with me. It was something along the lines of How can anyone call this representative of Cream Lemon? It’s a good question, which also shows how the original OVA, or the first episode at least, stands apart from the rest of the OVA crowd. Much like Megazone 23, Fight!! Iczer-1 was one of the first successful OVAs, and both balanced between themes you couldn’t depict on television without troubles. Unlike Cream Lemon, which was porn through and through, Iczer-1 and Project A-ko were projects that were deemed to have a very different nature to them, A-ko seeing even further changes and removal of all sexual themes outside girl love.

Iczer-1’s edge is that it was one of the first of its kind in many ways for home release anime, or Japanimation as it was called at the time in the West. It had Cronenberg-esque body horror with Lovecraftian themes, it’s music was excellent, animation quality was a thing to behold and it hold you in its grip. It was serious enough with some rare moments of comedy and was handled superbly. It’s main mechas were one of the earliest cyborg-like hybrids, containing an organic being inside while clad in armour mechanics.

Let’s get into the first OVA.

The very first scene in the whole franchise is about a man running down the street as if he was being chased by something. He stops, and sees a silhouette of a golden-haired woman standing above him. His face becomes distorted, until it breaks apart and a red creature rips through his skin, only to be killed by a beam from the woman.

It’s an effective first scene.

After a short girl on girl love and establishing the invading enemy, the show continues from here to follow our second heroine and her morning routines.

I'm betting she was watching porn
I’m betting she was watching porn. Note that the newspaper reads Fight!! Iczer-1 in Japanese

Nagisa passes Iczer-1 on her way to school, where she’s just leaning to a tree. Nagisa doesn’t give two damns about her, thinking Iczer-1 is just some sort of cosplay deviant. At school she’s blanking out, until she sees a ball constantly bouncing up and down, with no one bouncing it. The ball flies towards her, breaking the glass and dropping her into a sub-space. Then, she sees her friend’s skin complex getting worse.

Most of the body horror has a very Japanese flavour to it
Just add few tentacles and a mouth extending from there, trying to eat her

One of the main elements that keeps you on your toes in the first episode is that you barely know what’s happening. Much like how Demon in Devilman are able to posses human bodies, the Cthulhu in Iczer-1 take over a human host. They moult out of the human, ripping its flesh apart and sprinkling blood everywhere to show themselves for full mobility, and it seems they can take that shape back to some extent. It’s not just living things these Cthulhu can possess, but at least two houses are taken over as well. The scene above has a blue gradient to it, as the horror element adds another layer to it with sub-space, a space where the Cthulhu can freely travel to and from. It starts as a very abstract space at first, but then become a generic battlescape later on.

Nagisa’s being attacked, but the golden-haired woman saves Nagisa first with pure intimidation, then from falling to her death when her turned classmates ditch her from the roof. She runs from her saviour, only to be captured into the sub-space once again.

Nagisa offers some slapstick with her reactions
Nagisa offers some slapstick with her reactions

In the sub-space, Iczer-1 kills the Cthulhu and returns Nagisa home. Sir Violet, the leader of Cthulhu has a discussion scene with a the mysterious golden child in a sphere. What makes this scene effective is that everything looks organic and there is a constant heartbeat in the background.

Nagisa has a nice, normal night while Iczer-1 looks after her. Well, her last normal night, as in the morning during her family’s normal morning routines both of them moult. Even the house is being possessed, and Iczer-1 is fighting a Void, a high-class enemy trooper, inside sub-space. She manages to beat the Void just in time to stab the house and kill whatever spirit is being possessing it.

Enemy plans move onwards as Cobalt, one of the characters we’ve seen from the enemy side before, is being dispatched.

GGGAAAAAYYYYY

Cobalt and Sepia are directly lifted from the original comic, as is Cobalt’s demise. Cobalt walks around the city in her Delos Theta and taking down the military’s super weapons without any hassle. She takes it all in good humour, laughing at how weak humans are. Nagisa, who still doesn’t want to fight, turns her head around a bit, and is dragged into the fight by a summoning.

ICZER ROBO KENZAN

Iczer-1 doesn’t understand why Nagisa wouldn’t want to fight. She is her partner, and she’s facing their enemy. After they’re getting their collective asses handed down to them, Iczer-1 pushes Nagisa even further, making her recall her recent parents death she still hasn’t dealt with. With that she only seeks to kill everybody around. With Iczer Robo’s Get the Hell out of Here! beam. Delos Theta is still functional after this, but is severely hurt. Nagisa, not Iczer-1, walks Iczer Robo next to it and punches through the cockpit, crushing Cobalt. The episode ends in Nagisa crying her eyes out in Iczer-1’s arms.

The first episode alone has a death count of Nagisa's classmates and her parents, alongside loads of townspeople
The first episode alone has a death count of Nagisa’s classmates and her parents, alongside loads of townspeople

Second episode is all new material, starting with Cthulhu dropping their invasion pyramid Nova in the middle of city. Nagisa’s still in Iczer Robo and wanting out, and the invasion spreads to military bases.

Accompanied by a lovely sound of cracking skulls
Accompanied by a lovely sound of cracking skulls

However, one thing the OVA does right and garners a special mention is that it keeps the antagonists human. Cobalt, the pilot of Delos Theta that Nagisa and Iczer-1 defeated at the end of episode one, is lying dead in what essentially is an open coffin. We never see her face, or the lack of her head, but we don’t need to. We see the horror the cannon fodder enemies do in order to understand how shitty the situation is, but with moments like this we don’t need to see to what a character reacts. Sepia’s shocked expression is enough.

Sepia sees Cobalt
And if that’s not enough, seeing her lover all crushed up makes her vow revenge, even thou we already know how emotionally soft she is. She’s more like Nagisa in that regard

We return to Nagisa’s, with Iczer-1 giving her a bracelet that protects her and gives her access to Iczer Beam. While she dallies around, Iczer-1 fights a Void, one of the Cthulhu’s higher level peons, inside a sub-space that looks like a desert instead of something a Russian expressionists would paint. Meanwhile, Iczer-2 is prepared to be born.

Nagisa has found a safe place with a little girl and her mother, all the while Iczer-1 now fights in another sub-space that looks proper, but then is thrown into Japanese painting with a ninja. All this happening while the military fights against its own troops as well as against the fortress Nova.

There is a serious feeling of hopelessness about, Iczer-1 fighting to her best, humans essentially losing the war and now the little girl’s, Sayoko’s mother is being taken over.

dun
And oh, the house is possessed as well

Nagisa’s ring protect her and whoever is close to her for sure, but even it has its limitations. She manages to save Sayoko, but her mother is dead deal. At least Iczer-1 manages to defeat the second Void, but is then confronted by Iczer-2.

Iczer-2
Sometimes I whistle her theme while walking in the snow

 Iczer-1 and the main villain Big Gold are two sides of the same coin. The two share the same origin, whereas Iczer-2 has no such connection. She is built from the same basic blocks as her elder sister, but much more powerful. In straight up 1-to-1 fight, she would dominate with her power, but she is less experienced. Still, Iczer-1 is tired from fighting two Voids and while she is getting her ass handed to her, Nagisa is trying to protect Sayoko from possessed townspeople. She ultimately realises why Iczer-1 chose her as her partner and wishes for power to protect Sayoko, which summons Iczer Robo and devastates all the possessed people.

Iczer-2 takes this like a good sport she is, summons her own robot Iczer Sigma with Sepia as her partner and the fight is on! Well, in the third episode, the second episode ends in this screen.

end2
The ending song for the second episode is NEVER RUNAWAY

The third episode was produced later than the first two, as OVAs were usually produced in batches of two in the 1980’s.  It starts with retreading how Sir Violet was wondering through space, until she met with Big Gold. There is a clear change in animation and slight tweaking character designs, but the mechas are completely redesigned. Masami Obari had his hands all over this, and it shows.

There is much less horror elements in the third episode to the point of essentially having none. Sure, Cthulhus tentacles make an entry, but most of the episode is just mulling over events that happened, what it means to fight, why they fight and the occasional action scene.  Iczer-2 loses the opening fight and understands that Nagisa is Iczer-1’s power source while the mankind fights a losing fight. It’s nothing new, and retreads what the first two episode was about in far more menacing way.

As such, the tonal shift from the two first episodes is completely intended. It goes from that depressive horror to a more introspective view and the horror of the situation is in lesser focus. What matters is what is the relationship between Iczer-1 and Nagisa. Nagisa finds her will to fight, and like all heroes of new century, she carries a great sorrow in her hear. Iczer-1 being a war machine, she doesn’t really get this. She loves a lot of things, but she’s all about killing Chtulhu.

It’s not until Nagisa is kidnapped and Iczer-1 fights to the point of exhaustion we get some sort of answer and a resolution to this. Iczer Robo essentially sacrifices itself to bring Iczer-1 to Nagisa inside the Nova fortress, where the she is forced to kill brainwashed Nagisa. This is the point where Iczer-1 realises what is that sorrow Nagisa was carrying. With her soul resonating with Nagisa’s, she pulls out one of the more iconic scenes from the OVA.

If filling up the room with all-destroying golden light wasn't enough, Iczer-1 one-shot kills high ranking enemy
If filling up the room with all-destroying golden light wasn’t enough, Iczer-1 one-shot kills high-ranking enemy

What synchro does did in Iczer Robo was that it powered the Robo up. For Nagisa, she could face her fears and fight, and for an artificial being like Iczer-1, full synchro allows her to see the world through all the emotions and push herself beyond.

Iczer-1’s and her little sisters fight after this is very short and to the point.

killed

What follows after is that Iczer-1 flies to Big Gold, trades some words, accepts him/her/it as a part of herself, fusing each other and then returning everything to normal somehow, time travel or godly powers.

The third episode is also a full forty something minutes compared to first two’s 25min, and it drags itself. The first two episodes hold reins very tightly, but the third episode’s mangled plot resolution gives an unsatisfactory ending. It has a different tone and can’t really exist as a standalone piece. The first episode however is perfect as a standalone piece, and I appoint this to the fact that it was based on something. The original comic lacked any sort of horror element, and it’s a far more comedic romp overall, concentrating on how silly a psychic alien catgirl in heat was with some slightly serious things happening when aliens invade.

I doubt this post conveys how much I really dig the original OVA, despite third episode being slightly weaker overall. I’m sure you get the atmosphere this three parter has. What Fight!! Iczer-1 did to the direct-to-home and OVAs at the time can’t be underestimated. It did what you couldn’t do on television, and became a massive cult hit.

Sadly, its direct sequel, Adventure! Iczer-3 would essentially abandon and tone everything down. I need a week to go through that piece, haven’t seen it in years.

The series, for now, ends with a song called Eternal Iczer-1.

…does this count as a review? No? Ah damn.

Generational growths

Comics and games share the same stigma of being kids’ stuff. Like any other, the people working in these industries wanted to show otherwise, despite both having more than enough adult material from the very beginning.

Let’s retrace this a bit. Back in the day when I was a wee lad, Masters of the Universe, Transformers and Turtles were the hottest shit around. Not at the same time, mind you. Despite Turtles having its indie comics, the cartoon was far more widespread and popular.

When looking at the modern renders at each franchise’s comics, I found them all catering to the thirty-something hardcore fans. While there is nothing inherently wrong, there is something wrong when that’s the only thing offered in the field of comics. Yet, the mainstream comics outside these three franchises have become something that barely sells and are supported by a similar, if not the same, thirty-something crowd.

It’s a sad world when I can’t even think about buying a Superman comic for my nephew, because I know how much murder and other unsuitable subjects it will have.

There are so many who feel that a franchise should not stay the way it is to become popular. They feel that it should always cater to only them, the people who are the hardest of the core fans, those who made it popular and who have been following a franchise for all their life. The forever basement dwelling virgin doesn’t even describe these people accurately.

These people and their parents have essentially doomed comics and video games in a weird dual movement, where the older generation has deemed and credited both media as nothing more but a children’s entertainment, and then the younger generation has been working hard proving them wrong. The current generation that has grown up with games want to make the games more mature and thoughtful media, but at the same time they’re killing the industry as they are pushing the games medium through storytelling rather than from what’s inherent to games; play. That is not to say that games can’t handle difficult matters, but that’s not what people play games for.

Games, be it computer, arcade or console games, are about a certain level of escapism. The same applies to comics. We consume these products to momentarily leave the everyday worries and politics behind for a while and enjoy something completely different. Games like Gone Home or similar will never be successful if they’re going to be mundane, uncool and force an agenda down your throat. Those games will never beat Super Mario Bros., because SMB is all about fun.

Both comics and games have stifled because neither of them are for everyone anymore. This is very, very clear with comics, but with games you still have the occasional title that still is a hit with everybody.

If you’ve ever wondered why once popular franchise has lost its gleam and fallen into obscurity, it’s basically this. Concentration on a diminishing market rather than expanding it to a wider audience can keep something alive for those fans only, but if a niche is open, it will be filled sooner or later. The new generations will have their own popular franchises the older ones will deem straight up shit and not worthy to compare to what they liked.

Pokémon is twenty years old, rounded up. It’s been a damn big hit with the kids because Pokémon has refused to change to meet the demands of the time. Most of its fans are adults who grew up with Pikachu. When you consider this, it’s no wonder how Yo-Kai Watch became so popular. It’s got a similar approach, much what Level 5 did was something that every single company should be aim to do; design. The main character of Yo-Kai watch was designed to be flawed and have the same problems that the modern kids have. He is not without his faults, but still aims to make the best of everything. The children can see themselves in the protagonist, and I would argue that this is also the very reason many adults can relate to the protagonist as well.

Then you have the fact that very rarely kids want to consciously be fan of the same thing as their parents, at least to the same extent. We can’t force our children to like the same stuff we did, and we shouldn’t. However, Transformers Prime and Nickelodeon’s Turtles cartoons are a proof that when you make your product universally appealing to children and adults alike, you have a golden egg. This exact same damn things applies to comics and games. You don’t need to make them mature; it is essentially cutting their flight short.

The DC Masters of Universe comic could have been great. It has awesome ideas, like Adam having to forge his own Power Sword based on King Grayskull’s, but from the very beginning it was something that wasn’t very MOTU. It is visceral, raw, crude and violent. It does not have the same appeal as the 80’s comics or the cartoon, it’s directed to the old fans only. Hell, the comic read like a fanbook too, but with a constantly changing visual style. It’s extremely jarring to read a comic when characters don’t even look the same, but change with each new story. House style should make a return to comics.

Don’t feel bad when you favourite thing will die out or be replaced with something new.

Recently Spider-Man became Tony Stark with Peter Parker becoming a head of a business and having Spider-Man as his bodyguard and company mascot. I kid you not, this is an actual thing. Luckily, Disney has finally started to make some rulings over MARVEL and we’re getting a comic that concentrates to Spider-Man’s young days, and this comic looks like it could be a hit. The title may be a bit stupid, but this comic is aimed at everybody, just like Spider-Man comics should be.