Broken Luv

One pastime I’ve seen Muv-Luv taking part in has been making up ways how the core story could be translated and adapted for animation. Everything from two cours (aka twenty-four episodes) to a series of movies, things have been explored a lot. However, very few of the discussions have been what I’d describe realistic. They’ve been best case scenarios after all. With the announcement of Muv-Luv Alternative in Animation, the issue has become less academical. I’ll be using that in Animation suffix when specifically speaking about the upcoming animation to make a clear difference. It’s not its official title or anything, but I like the sound of it. Sue me. Guesses are left and right what form the adaptation will take and how many episodes, what changes will be made, what studio will be working on it and how the air-intake hairs will survive. Looking at modern trends and the history of Muv-Luv in animation should give us some idea.

The main reason Muv-Luv  as a whole can’t be adapted for television or otherwise is because at its core the storytelling is broken. Fans know that Muv-Luv was originally supposed to be relatively contemporary piece to Kimi ga Nozomu Eien/Rumbling Hearts (which really should be Trembling but âge English is kinda like that.) It was not intended to be three-part sprawling venture, but as KGNE saw success, plans grew and bloated to the point where it had to be cut in half. Extra was meant to be its namesake, an extra chapter after you’ve managed to find the one true love that would prevent world from going to hell with The Day After, not a character-setting twelve hour comedy romp it became. Unlimited wasn’t supposed to be a thing on itself even, but more akin to different routes that lead to similar ending. After multiple read-through, perhaps needing to unlock all other endings or just few at first, you would be able to find the titular True Love route. With ML Alternative putting emphasis on Takeru being cycled over and over again with little to no memory all the while retaining physical attributes, the original core design of the Visual Novel was completely different what we got. Its scale was smaller, more focused and KGNE‘s running success changed that.  âge originally pushed back Muv-Luv to a 2002  release instead of its original 2001 as they revised its scale, but ultimately had to be pushed out in February 2003 due to the company running out on time and money. At that point, the story the original product was already split and broken. Alternative would definitely follow in 2004. It wouldn’t until February 2006, and in the meanwhile some smaller stopgags like Muv-Luv Supplement were pushed out.

Muv-Luv is often described as a trilogy, but in two titles. This still trips people up, which further shows that something went wrong at some point. Maybe making a difference between Unlimited and Extra was a mistake in itself and something better should’ve been implemented. Merch and spinoffs make good use of the labelling though, but only if you already know what’s what. There is no product separately sold as Muv-Luv Unlimited

Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative has been criticised for being badly paced, and that’s just one result of the work as a whole becoming so huge. The Genre Shift between Extra and Unlimited is a direct result of this as well, which has lead many people to dislike the now-first part of the three core stories. Multiple real-world events changed the plot-line here and there, like the 2005 London bombing. Certain event later in Alternative probably saw the most changes, as âge wanted to avoid accusations of portraying terrorism in a positive light. That wasn’t the only issue, during development âge always feared that their work would be be labelled as extremely right-wing, so the original version of MLA’s Imperial Japan went through revisions. Some hints to the original plotlines still exist in the final work, like having a tsunami at the end of Operation 21st, whereas originally it as supposed to devastate Niigata. 2004 Chuuetsu earthquake was the reason its results are largely glossed over rather than be a significant part of the story, where Kashiwagi was supposed to have a major role. Discussion whether or not real world events should be allowed to influence artistic integrity and vision like this may be relevant, but at the same time we also have to remember how Muv-Luv overall is a commercial product and companies have to be aware of how they depict things in order to avoid bad rap. It’s a careful balancing act, sometimes you have to sacrifice some of your vision for the sake of the product itself.

With numerous revisions that weren’t originally intended, bloat finding its way in with meandering bits here and there, it’s not hard to see where bloat sets in by itself (just like this post, amrite guys?). Things kind of just ran ahead of themselves as the scope grew, but deadlines are a bitch and you can’t delay a product indefinitely, no matter how âge would like to do so. All three parts suffer from spots where the story grinds to a halt. The VNs are somewhat infamous for halting the progress of the story to deliver information to reader in major sections as info dumps. Very few works have managed to drop an hour’s worth of info into the reader’s lap and expect the reader to absorb it, and Muv-Luv isn’t one of them. No matter how interested you’re into the characters and the world, being stuck in a literal school lesson for information that could have been worked in better is simply bad design. Lacrosse arc’s existence is literally just to foreshadow how the character dynamics will clash later in, and has an equivalent even later in the story, yet the arc itself is considered to be low point in the whole body of work. It’s dull and we already knew the character’s personalities at that point. It’s overly long and some people just skip it. Despite the story itself being damn well written at its core, the bloat shows itself here and there. Muv-Luv is at its best when it has a nice jogging pace with few moments to slow down here and there before the events hit a nitro boost. It likes to wallow in going on and on about things, especially during Alternative. Being invested into the characters is its saving grace, but that’s almost a coin toss.

If an animation would like to cover all of Muv-Luv as it stands now, from the very start of Extra to the very finish of Alternative, we’re too late for that. With the lack of success with Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse and near total disaster with Schwarzesmarken, I can assure you Muv-Luv Alternative‘s animation adaptation will not get more than one cours, twelve episodes. The IP may have been in a better in late 00’s when Akane Maniax was supposed to set Muv-Luv animation up, which never happened as the deal fell through, but now the IP is volatile at best, dangerous money waste at worst. âge has not produced anything that has made an impact since Alternative and I’d argue their most successful project after that was the Kickstarter. That of course attracted lot of attention and played large part in the future of âge. A million dollar crowdfunding from an internationally unknown company is bound to raise some attention. We know that something is always going on in the corporate background, and you can bet animation rights were discussed in the background at that time, culminating in in Animation. Avex’s obtaining âge from Acid and ixtl being terminated in favour of /restructured into aNCHOR are all results from âge’s media failures and Kickstarter’s success. We should put an emphasis on the Kickstarter, as it served as a cornerstone for âge’s real realisation that they got international fans and untapped market. Well, as untapped as you can get with Visual Novels, they’re not exactly a success in Japan either with handful of companies going bust each year. The media being sold as games harms it, as it does not represent its true nature as literature allowed by our digital age. In short; VN based IPs are pretty fucked at the moment, unless they can diversify themselves. âge’s both mobile games have failed and closed in about year after their launch, VNs sales have been lacking (mostly due to lack of products) and both television shows were effectively bust. âge might still have faith in the IP, but the surrounding companies will think twice or thrice before throwing their lot in.

All this, and the current trends, tells me that Muv-Luv Alternative will be a one cours show with about twelve episodes. We’ve already seen numerous redesigns of the characters in Exogularity books, and modern take on the characters is effectively required. The show and the story must be retooled to fit the modern age, both in its core structure and in designs. I’ll argue that the Tactical Surface Fighters are the best designs in the franchise, as they’ve been designed to be largely ageless. They don’t really look like mechas from the early and mid-00’s. Hell, if anything the visual flavour TSFs are in has become somewhat popular. Sure, you have the paper thin waist and some oddities here and there, but largely TSF designs are made well enough to still look fresh. The same can’t be said for the characters, who look like they’re stuck in the change of millennium. Anime style has dropped geometrical (and puffy) hair in favour of sleeker, flatter hair. I don’t find anything offensive about the characters despite being an old fart who still buys 1980’s comics like they were new, yet we can’t ignore how each era has its own visual flavour. The above are not the animation designs or anything related to the animation in itself, but this is the direction we’re going to some extent. âge is a trend follower rather than setter in this. Despite Ban being 10/10 in visual style and I would want him to be employed 24/7 with everything I love, you should expect something different still. Something that’s already tested the waters and that is massively successful. Maybe the guy who did Girls und Panzers or the LoveLive guy will do the redesigns for the anime. Those have been popular shows, and something people would recognise. Hell now I want to see Sugimori-style Muv-Luv content just for the kickers.

One cours adaptation might be able to fix Muv-Luv‘s pacing as much as it probably will completely destroy it. If it gets more than one cours, hey that’d be fine too. However, what Muv-Luv Alternative in Animation needs from the original work is its core intention. The original form of Muv-Luv is still there, under all that extended plotlines and content, all that bloat and info dumps, under all the sectioned and split parts. Let’s take it as face value and consider the title as true; it will be just the Alternative portion of the package. This would mean both Extra and Unlimited would be relegated to being flashbacks and references. The series would be build on mystery about this one guy who clearly knows something bad is going to happen if things aren’t done the right way, but at the same time he doesn’t belong here. There’s a crashed giant robot outside his home, but somehow that doesn’t really phase him. Familiar faces, familiar places, but it’s not his home. Muv-Luv Alternative in Animation would have to build itself on the last cycle of the original design, and on Alternative we got, relegating Extra and Unlimited as necessary flashbacks, maybe even visiting those events. You could start the series with one episode of showcasing everyday comedy in Extra setting, then move into an episode ending cliffhanger with the BETAverse. In between this, show Takeru dreaming of all the other possible routes and events, all the misery and death the world would know if he didn’t put the foreknowledge be obtained from repeated deaths into proper and immediate use. While the Visual Novels build on the reader becoming invested into the characters and even falling in love with them, that is the result of the whole product having been restructured. It has become the VNs main strength and weakness. If you’re dedicated and invested in these characters, you will stand through the bloat and bad pacing. Hell, you probably won’t notice them all that much, because you’re heart and soul is in it. If you’re not, the rest will probably kill your interest before you get to the main dish of the whole story. Muv-Luv Alternative in Animation has to focus on the core and leave all what we now consider as set-up as something a mystery. Other characters will get emphasised, lesser ones will be cut. The same applies to events, and some will see modified, rest assured. Twelve episodes is enough to adapt Alternative with some Extra and Unlimited trickled in, but as said, it’s a delicate surgeon’s job. It will be familiar to the fans, but at the same time, this show really needs to be a hit with the larger audience. At this point, a Muv-Luv Alternative animation can’t serve just a commercial vehicle for the Visual Novels, we’re about a decade too late for that.

While we’re at it, go watch AyuMayu Theatre

I have no data why âge’s 20th anniversary stream didn’t put anything solid down on development and releases outside Project MIKHAIL. All we got We’d like to do this and We don’ have budget set. At face value you could almost believe that âge doesn’t have the money to put projects into full development cycle and publish their products. Maybe that rumoured Kimi ga Nozomu Eien translation got stuck due to the same issue, maybe requiring crowdfunding down the line or be split into two products like Schwarzesmarken was. SM VN’s sales were terrible, mind you, splitting a whole product like that is never a good idea. Except they kind of did that with Muv-Luv already. Still, the lack of sales would indicate this for sure, but at the same time I have to question if the fans have been the only thing keeping âge alive? If the fandom wasn’t so solid and willing towards the company, would âge have gone the way of the dodo already? That Kimi ga Nozomu Eien remake has been in the works on some level for at least five years now, and Muv-Luv Integrate seems to take elements from Strike Frontier’s second season but I’ll get to that whenever I write about Integrate. A new The Day After probably will most like maybe be done. Everything’s vague, outside that we’re going to get that animation, and that’s probably a linchpin in all this. If this is the third time a Muv-Luv animation fails, they don’t have much material to work on anymore. The core story where everything else stems from has to hit the mark, there really aren’t any other options.

Just as a quick tangent, what can they hope to do with Kimi ga Nozomu Eien‘s Reboot? The story doesn’t need more elaboration on, it is a full package unto itself. The only worthwhile addition I can see it happening to it if they’d actually make it more an actual game, with scheduled events, character stat management and Adventure game styled options to interact with each scene. I don’t have faith that modern âge can add anything worthwhile to the package. If it’s going to end up being similar to Kimi ga Ita Kisetsu remake, aka worthless waste of everyone’s time, I can say I’m not interested. I may be be a fan, but I’m not one to blow money blindly on products that can’t make their original versions obsolete. Sure, modernise it with new style, tweak the story a bit here and there to fix some of its problems, maybe add a scenario or two, but what are they going to do in order to add unique value? Tie it more to Muv-Luv? I’d consider that a major misstep. Integrate may be a project to bring all that together, but Christ if everything just ends up being Muv-Luv in a way or another, I’d like to have that early 00’s struggling âge back in order to force them to work with smaller scale titles and even more limited budget and staff. It’d be the very opposite of diversifying your product line. KGNE Reboot has to have value on its own, something that will both obsolete the original product and its Latest Edition iteration, and make it stand alone on its own two feet without resorting to nostalgia and other IPs.

It’s both rather funny and disheartening to consider Kimi ga Nozomu Eien to be âge’s breakout title, but also the title that made the company name to be reckoned with. As much as Muv-Luv Alternative is talked to have influenced this and that, like Attack on Titan, it still had less an impact that KGNE. Hell, at the time I was reading Japanese magazines claiming the title solely created so-called nakege, titles intended for the consumer to cry over due to its emotionally hitting writing and topics. Tsundere is often coined for âge and KGNE as the originator, which isn’t exactly all that correct, but sure let’s just go with it. It was also KGNE animation that broke through to the general consensus and people who didn’t care for VNs at the time were reportedly picking up the PS2 version just to check the it out. The sheer success of that one property was never replicated in later works, and ultimately âge became almost obsessed solely to make Muv-Luv related products, dropping their other sub-brands completely and all other types of products they were making. I don’t see this as a healthy way of doing  business. Visual Novel companies never had million dollar budgets to throw around, especially now that they’re a slowly dying niche. It is a small miracle Muv-Luv and Alternative were even made with in their current form, especially by a company who often gets criticised for mishandling scheduling and budgets.

I’m not worrying over Muv-Luv Alternative in Animation. If it fails, nothing has changed and the course of the company will stay the same. If it succeeds, âge should have more resources under its belt to get something off the ground again. While you can live on your core fans to certain point, with remakes, localisations and sequels, expanding that base is required if you want to do more and expand your company. Maybe building a full-fledged strategy RPG could do the trick, or an action game similar to Virtual-On and Another Century’s Episode could do draw in some attention. The setting surely allows all this. Perhaps finally create something new and not rely on Muv-Luv as the only piece they have to offer.

I hope I’m not alone in thinking how Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative together make a great story, but the way the story is told in the Visual Novels is not exactly a class in masterclass prose. Perhaps the original intention was worse, maybe it was better. Maybe all those revisions, all the work that, blood and tears that went into making its final form, flawed and lacking as it may be, allowed the title to be the very best it could. It might have become somewhat impenetrable to some. Muv-Luv may not have become a pop-cultural juggernaut, but its impact on different sects of popular sub-cultures can’t be denied. If Muv-Luv were ever to get a full-on remake, I’d wish the originally intended form to be implemented, that its original intention would be realised  in full-scale. in Animation has all the chances to fix the spots where Alternative faulters. It’s going to be a tough job, especially all the while it has to be modernised for completely new audience that wasn’t there in the early and mid 00’s. Expectations are high. We’ll have to sit tight to wait and see.

Short synopsis on âge’s 20th Anniversary stream 2019.10.22

âge’s 20th Anniversary stream announcements were more or less what I expected. All of my three predictions were met, but let’s cover the what happened in the stream itself.

Before the main event started, a fan of Muv-Luv Alternative Strike Frontier appeared on the stage alongside with âge’s staff to showcase his sequel idea. The game looked like a Diablo clone with RTS elements. Overall, it would make an interesting doujinshi game, or even a nice mobile phone game, something that wouldn’t take too much of your time. The game would consist of strategy phase and an action stage. Nothing much else was shown outside a small proof-of-concept gameplay, as he fan found making a video too gruesome.

The first real part really was covering the twenty years of âge, with jokes about how everything turned to Muv-Luv at the turn of the decade. Pretty much everything after Muv-Luv Alternative became just Muv-Luv and no new IPs were created. There’s nothing much to be said.

The whole chart be available later in their website

After this some lingering issues were covered. Mobile and tablet version of Kickstarted Muv-Luv is still in works, but they don’t have any dates set. The final The Day After still in works, Kouki jokes that it’ll never come out, but he wants to push it out, finalise it even if it means that it has no animations to speak of. Koki is also adamant on pushing out a new issue of Agekunohate, their official fan book for their fanclub, though it it will be digital only. I find this sad.

Some people really want this

What should be noted that Tororo, the producer of VN studio Circus, made a revelation by taking his shirt off, revealing âge’s shirt with the announcement that he enters âge as Muv-Luv’s general producer. Guessing he has been the guy in charge of having those numerous Da Capo and âge character visual cross overs we’ve got now and then.

 

We’ve known few years now that Kimi ga Nozomu Eien remake has been in works. We got further confirmation on it, though there is no set budget, date and even the showcased logo and subtitle Reboot are preliminary. What we should be expecting from it is expanded story, at least, and some other elements that wasn’t elaborated on.  This was my first bet, as it was a confirmed thing already.

 

The next long bit was the panelists and some visiting people giving their own history with âge and telling their story with the company and how it has impacted their lives. Hajime Isayama appeared via screen to retell how Muv-Luv Alternative impacted his  life and inspired Attack on Titan. He read it through in two days.

Both Koda Kumi and Hironoby Kageyama appeared after him. Koda Kumi told how much she appreciated working on Over the Top for Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse opening theme after she was getting back into music business, and Kageyama mentioned how working with âge further pushed them into the limelight with their collaborations. Similarly Granrodeo made their appearance and iterated much of the same points.

The next guess that hit my mark was some sort of spin-off title, mobage or similar. Currently titled as Project Mikhail would hit this mark, and was presented as straight up 3D action for Android and Steam. It would use subscription model, instead of pay-2-win or gacha. Rather than just describe it, have some footage they showcased.

Relatively simple, but there is potential. It will be released in Japanese, English and Chinese. Yoshiki Kashitani, the game’s director, has worked on such games as SD Gundam Gundam Wars, Final Fantasy XIII, Front Mission 4, Online and 5, Ogre Battle 64, Vagrant Story and numerous others. The game is intended for 2021 release.

 

My third guess was that we’d finally see a sequel to Muv-Luv Alternative that doesn’t take place in EXTRAverse. This has been hinted multiple times over, and both Exogularity books have hinted to what sort of direction it will be in.

 

The above screenshots are image boards, they are not representation of the final product or what will be in there, just the image, motifs, themes and intentions. Considering Yoshimune Kouki uses Turn A Gundam‘s Black Hisatory, the past Gundam series as sort of amalgamation timeline, as an example what he wants to do. I would assume him mentioning the multiple timelines that exist in Muv-Luv would be brought together, and considering Strike Frontier‘s unproduced second season intended to bring the BETA into the EXTRAverse, Muv-Luv Integrate would move toward that direction. If you look at some of the shots there, you can see people turned into BETA mutates, certain kind of fissures existing on the ground that are too smooth for natural ones. This is just me guessing the dark, maybe I’m far off. Probably am. There is no set date, things are still early in development and writing, and pretty much everything is mostly showcase of it could be like this. Don’t raise your hopes, yet.

What you should raise your hopes was something that was greenlit some time ago, that was showcased to the live audience and stream viewers could only hear sound of

Muv-Luv Alternative in Animation.

Images courtesy of Urahichi, yuganikoimas_hs and wizism.

If all goes well, we should be having more streams in the future as well as more Comiket stuff. Here’s for twenty more years.

You can watch the stream interpreted in English here in or in Japanese here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GDP – Gabumon Design Progression

Sorry, no Aalt today, A9 to the rescue. You guessed it, time for another Digimon design post.

1 Gabumon Digivice

What a cute little bugger. Like all early Digimon, Gabumon had its sprite designed first. The actual drawing and finalised design only comes later. As usual, the first sprite comes from the Pendulum toys with its small displays. As we don’t have the official design yet, this is the most basic image that exists, and it looks like a weird bunny that’s standing up, ready for a fight.

2 Gabumon

And there we go, the actual design. Naturally, the first thing that springs out here is the pelt, a new addition compared to the sprite. Other features have been exaggerated: a longer snout, large teeth, bigger horn, thicker legs and bigger ears. The sprite already featured stripes of some sort, but now they are transferred unto the fur and boy howdy have they multiplied. Giant claws extend from the fur, with two extra (empty) arms hanging in the back. Another new addition is the tail, which seems quite reptilian (which Gabumon is, underneath this fur). Finally, there is the egg shaped mark on its belly. Personally, I see some small resemblances to Agumon here as well, the yellow colour of the main body, the small feet and the somewhat protruding snout with higher placed eyes.

3 Gabumon_ver_s

Games time: Digimon Ver. S. Although our friend got squashed a bit, most details remain, although the fur colour got quite a bit darker. Most of the stripes on the fur stay in approximately the same place though, which surprised me of a sprite of this size. Furthermore, the toe claws are a bit sharper instead of the dull ones from above. The only other major change is the belly, only because there was no enough room to properly put that whole design in such a limited space.

If there is a chance to talk about the V-Tamer manga, I’ll take it. It’s one of my favourite pieces of Digimon media, but that’s something for another time. This is not quite the Gabumon you know, yet he appeared a few months later than the sprite above.

Disregarding the ladle and pan as props, it’s a more simple design with a cute charm. While Gabumon still wears his fur, it has a more smoother look. This manga isn’t really clear on his extra arms though, as they can sometimes be seen (as in the picture above, below his left arm) but on other drawings they are completely missing. The overall shape of a lot more simplified, with the snout being much more flat and wide (yet retaining his teeth). The very small tuft of hair that was present in the original design has grown quite a bit, even surrounding his horn. The belly markings are still there, but have seen a bit of a redesign giving the top marking extra curves while giving the lower ones pointy edges. To top it off, its feet have also shrunk considerably so the for actually drags over the ground a little.

Very noticeable is the fact that its claws turn into digits, allowing it to grab things. Previous incarnations actually have hands hidden inside the fur, making the claws part of the ‘wearable’ fur.

6 DMW

As can be seen here, in a screenshot from Digimon World. A very faithful model, with only the smallest details left out or simplified such as the bumps on its tail, no small tuft of hair around the horn and the lack of extra arms, the rest is fully visible. The aforementioned hands within the fur, the belly design, the horn and the long ears. Its teeth are even protruding giving it a bit of a savage look.

7 Gabumon Anime

Time for Adventure. This design is a whole lot more rounder and cuddlier, with the savage details being toned down for a cuter look. Let’s start from the top, the horn. It is almost completely identical, save for a few missing lines on the top and bottom and the colour. The original horn had a lighter shade of yellow than the main body, but those are minor things. The fur has gotten a bit lighter and the purple stripes have turned dark blue. Most of the markings are in their original place, but some are missing like on his ears and his extra arms. Now for the most major change, the face. Just like in the manga it is shorter and wider, giving it a cuter look. This is also made possible by making the teeth smaller and making them stick out less. Because of these changes, this reptile head looks more like a weird dog.

The eyes have changed ever so slightly, with a little less eyewhite being visible. This also contributes to the cute factor, has it is less of a predatory look. The mouth is changed in a very subtle way, by giving Gabumon a chin of sorts clearly defining the head by adding an extra line above the markings on its belly. This gives off the idea of it having a very fat neck.

Yet again we have to look at its belly markings, because they have changed again. Just like the rest of the design, they got smoother and lighter, but more importantly it got symmetrical. You can argue that the original design has no clear perspective for the belly markings, but it’s also possible it’s just a very weird shape in general. The arms lack a few veins as is common with the early designs, but they’re also slightly longer and more importantly closer to the actual claw part of the fur. Ending at its feet, we have smaller toes (claws) that are more removed from each other while also being sharper.

9 Gabumon_dgp

Honestly, we cannot tell all that much from this image. I just really wanted to include it, since he looks baller as fuck.

11 Gabumonx

X-Antibody time. As always, these designs are complete overhauls being based more on nature and ‘realism’ as far as that’s possible. In the case of Gabumon, that means that it’s no longer a reptile, but a beast, drawing more inspiration of a giant ferret. Its horn size (heh) increased and the fur changed to a darker shade of blue / purple. It covers almost the same area, except for the snout and one of its arms with a different pattern. This also reveals the way smaller teeth and a snout that’s not on the fur. Claws have formed at the end of his hands, and the claw on the fur has drastically increased in size. According to the lore, it picks up pieces of fur left behind by Garurumon and shapes it into his fur pelt. He keeps one arm bare to set it on fire to punch others with (we can only hope it’s magical fire). It’s unclear if this form has two extra sets of arms as well, as images are scarce of Gabumon-X. The tail has changed from a reptilian tail to a furry one and the other big change his the belly markings. The belly itself is a dark purple instead of teal, and the markings itself have a drastic different form with very sharp corners. As far as I know, the markings have no meaning but it’s still interesting how they even changed that aspect.

13 Gabumon_redigi

We also got a slight redesign in Re:Digitise. This one is fully based on the original design and doesn’t have too many differences except for some minor ones. The horn is sharper at the end, and the markings are more subtle and thin. The fur is almost the same, except that it looks raggedy and worn. The darker stripes are also a little lighter while being in the same places as before. An extra detail is revealed at the mouth however: since the mouth is open, we can actually see the teeth of Gabumon itself and not the fur. The reptilian side comes more way strongly here and is a nice touch. The muscular legs are more defined, and end it sharper claws. All in all, this is personally one if my favourite designs, even is it starts to look a bit like Agumon with a cloth over its head. In all essence, this is not as much as a redesign, but more of an update.

 

Two more 3D models, from Digimon Masters Online and Digimon Allstar Battle Arena. Both are based on the anime version of Gabumon, but they both show one important change: there are straps beneath the fur to hold unto. It actually makes sense, how else would Gabumon use the claws without them flying off his hands? Nevertheless, it’s seen after. The only other major difference is from the first 3D model, where the belly marking has gotten significantly smaller.

 

Gabumon from Cyber Sleuth and Cyber Sleuth Hacker Memory. These games share the same artstyle, hence them being grouped together. As you can see, no straps to hold unto, but there is another change: big hands. The size of the hands has increased, causing them to not be fully enveloped by the fur and ‘pop out’ a little. The fur got some extra detail as well, causing it to look a little bit more rugged. To top it all off, and this is a pretty strange choice, the eye colour starts to turn a little brown.

Even though they are basically from the same game, there is one other change between them, although I suspect it’s mostly artstyle related: the first one has a very clear defined tongue while the other goes with a more ‘the inside of the mouth is just red’ approach. Maybe a little mundane to focus on, but at least I mentioned it.

17 Gabumon_tri

Yet again we wrap up with Digimon Tri, and yet again the fur looks a little bit more shabby. Moreover, the colours have turned a little bit less saturated. The tuft of hair as increased at the base of the horn (it hit puberty) and the eyelashes are way more defined. Funnily the eyes itself have turned a little bit more red again, but not as red as the original.

With that we come at the end of some of Gabumons designs, but we have our first bonus feature here: peltless Gabumon!

 

Only a few images of peltless Gabumon exist, and they vary in colour. This is the true reptilian form: no teeth shown, droopy ears, no beast-snout. You can see the scales on its tail moving along its spine, but the most interesting detail are the markings on its arm. It almost feels out of place, as it looks to me like a military rank tattooed on its arm. But hey, I won’t judge.

Fight! Iczer-1 series celebration

These posts were originally posted as a Monthly Three, as well as Iczer-1’s 30th anniversary celebration series. They are now here collected for easier access. This post covers introduction to the history and the Original Video Animations the franchise has seen.


Rei Aran

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, Aran 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.

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.

Continue reading “Fight! Iczer-1 series celebration”

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.

Review of the Month; Schwarzesmarken TV

To preface this review, I do have a bias for Schwarzesmarken as a fan of Muv-Luv overall. However, because of this bias I’ve decided to approach this series from the point of view that it is a singular entity without any ties to pre-existing franchises. This decision also stems from the fact Schwarzesmarken was marketed with that title alone without any naming connections to Muv-Luv. Within the fiction there is no pretence about the connection, and one can only guess why this decision was ultimately applied. Whatever the case may be, the show still needs to stand on its own and deliver a solid show for a positive review.

To expand upon the series needing to stand on its own, this review could compare Schwarzesmarken to the Light Novels and the Visual Novel, and to Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse. This wouldn’t allow the work to present itself as it is. A comparison between different versions of Schwarzesmarken is worthy of its own post altogether.

A television series is a different beast to literal works. Total Eclipse is a lot of people’s first experience with the franchise and Schwarzesmarken served the same role to some extent. Because of this, in this review, I won’t hold against the staff for the changes that were made during the adaptation. Whatever is on the screen and how it is conveyed to the viewer are the only things that matters, supplemental and source materials be damned.

This’ll  be more or less in-line with the Kimi ga Nozomu Eien and Muv-Luv posts I’ve done. Expect a general outline of the whole series with commentary running along with it. Not the best way to make a review, but never thought I’d go over this episode-by-episode basis. Expect loads of terrible jokes to boot. If you want a short tl;dr version, you can slip straight to the end paragraphs.

Now that you know where this review will have its base stance on regarding the series, let’s start with the show.

Continue reading “Review of the Month; Schwarzesmarken TV”

Monthly three; Fight!! Iczer-1 DVD-BD image quality comparison

Looking at how well recent OVA BD remasters have gone through, Megazone 23 being absolutely beautiful, it was more or less just the question of time when Fight!! Iczer-1 would see its conversion. There were some fears about upscales, but gladly what we got is the definitive version of the series.

This is pretty much just a gallery post. The versions used here are Media Blasters’ Anime Works release from 2005 and the recent BD release. It would seem that whatever source Media Blasters’ is pretty bad, ranking below any of the Japanese Laserdisc releases. If we’re completely honest, the DVD is probably the worst release, on par with the VHS release. This remaster really something the series required, looking and sounding absolutely bomb. Whether or not it will see a Western release is an open question, but I would hope so. The Japanese release came with a memorial booklet and two CDs containing the series’ soundtrack.

Continue reading “Monthly three; Fight!! Iczer-1 DVD-BD image quality comparison”

Monthly Three: The Backdrop of Iczelion

When the 1990’s rolled, the bubble economy Japan was enjoying the in the 1980’s burst open. The bubble economy is far too large here to go into detail, but long story short, real estate prices were inflated to stupidly high proportions alongside overheated economy activity and other factors. In order to keep inflation in check, Bank of Japan enacted a policy to raise inter-bank lend rates in the late 1980’s, and in late 1991 after fifth monetary tightening, assets had visibly plummeted and this decline would continue throughout the whole 1990’s, and being named as the Lost Decade. This has been later been expanded to 2000’s as well, making the Lost Decades, as Japanese economy growth has not recovered.

This directly affected any and all companies, and safe moves were essential. While reading Comic Lemon People we can see that after the first tightening by the Bank of Japan, there is a change in the stories’ style and content. The 1990’s Lemon People was a pale shadow of its former self, stories being less fantastic and illustration quality harshly dropping, until the magazine was cancelled in 1998.

The animation industry didn’t see truckloads of money and cocaine poured into it. Adventure! Iczer-3 was produced just in the time when the bubble economy burst, and knowing the history of the era we clearly see how it was supposed to be something more than six episode deal. Toshihiro Hirano himself tried to launch Iczer-4 related series off the ground pretty much straight after, but it never went anywhere and stuff got recycled into the second season of Magic Knight Rayearth due to the fact the comic had not yet finished. Sen-Shoujo Iczelion, or Iczer Girl Iczelion, was released in the early 1994 and was seemingly another attempt to create a mainstream television Iczer series.

I have the least background information on Iczelion outside what surrounds it. Much like with Adventure! Iczer-3 I haven’t paid it much attention. I do have the A.D.Vision VHS release sitting on my shelf (it never saw and English language DVD release), but just like with the predecessor series, I have no sourcebooks the or the like to read from. Guess it would be a time to fix that up one of these days and see what was going on in the background. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that neither Adventure! Iczer-3 and Iczer Girl Iczelion were successes enough to carry the torch, leaving this to be the franchise’s last animated piece. It didn’t help that Hirano never finished his damn comics.

On with the show!

The OVA starts with a pan over a wrecked city, with a fight still going on in it. Iczelion is hurt, and is she is soon trapped by the enemy and is killed off in rather visible manner. Then, the planet is destroyed and the opening fanfare rolls in.

This is an effective opener, showcasing that once again we have a competent group of villains, and there is just enough raw violence not to soften things up too much. Just like with Adventure! Iczer-3, there is no horror, bu the atmosphere is really damn nice. It sets the OVA to a good start.

Things don’t let go as we’re presented with the Nagisa of the show, Kai Nagisa. She wants to be a pro wrestler, and that’s awesome. Despite the economy crash, the early 1990’s was pretty damn good era for Joshiprowres. As Nagisa stop to wait a train to pass by, an enemy attacks to her direction, throwing the train towards her instead, and a strange little robot takes her to sub-space.

Unlike the geometric hell in Fight!! Iczer-1, the sub-space in Iczelion is more a distortion, and I approve. The two offer a very different flavour from each other, and this works better here
Unlike the geometric hell in Fight!! Iczer-1, the sub-space in Iczelion is more a distortion, and I approve. The two offer a very different flavour from each other, and this works better here

The mascot of the series introduced itself as Iczel, in English no less. It knows her name, explain the situation and proceeds to the blow Nagisa’s clothes off in order to become her armour just as the enemy arrives.

"Nagisa has become Iczelion"
“Nagisa has become Iczelion”

The armour design in Iczelion is neat. It’s nothing to write home about, but it mixes the Hirano-Iczer look with the Robo designs. Iczel is essentially just a mascot version of Iczer-Robo anyway. It’s a bit on the plain side, especially with the head gear. Orange is a bit weird choice for main character colours, but nothing bad in deviating from the form from time to time.

supplexNagisa is told to fight, in which she proceeds to neck-jab the enemy with a kick, then pulls a back-drop, exploding the enemy in the process.

God, I love this Nagisa.

Iczel of course reprimands her for not using beam attacks, and as the sub-space fades away, she finds herself next to the railroads in her new getup and arguing with Iczel. Nobody else hears the other participant, because of course armours talk to you telepathically. Iczel just flies Nagisa away. Can’t have her identity blown out. Nagisa and Iczel keep bickering about which way to fight, with Iczel not understanding what pro-wrestling is. Then we get the info dump about the forces of good and evil fighting against each other, and how Nagisa needs to be the next Iczelion as Chaos and Cross with their fighting machines called Gears intend to destroy the planet. The info dump is interrupted as Cross enters the scene and we’re given a scene change. Disco dancing time

This scene change serves as the point of showing that Nagisa is not alone. There are more than one Iczelion around with each one of them having their own Iczel as a partner. They’re all coloured coded too and as per super hero team standard, they all carry different types of powers.

Nagisa proceeds to lock Cross down, cracking her arm, but that doesn’t really help much. Shiina Nami, the Black Iczelion, enters the scene to beat Cross up in a very familiar manner.

Hirano seems to employ this pose all the time
Hirano seems to employ this pose all the time

And Black Type Iczel reprimands Nagisa’s Normal Type for screwing things up. Chaos lock Black Iczer into sub-space and throws a Chaos Gear against her so that Cross can beat Nagisa in another sub-space. Nagisa has faith in her wrestling moves for sure, but in this situation where those are not an option, she’s helpless and scared. Cross isn’t getting much fun from beating her up, until Nagisa just forces her and Iczel’s synchronisation off.

Hirano employed the same core dynamic with Iczel and Nagisa as with original Iczer-1 and Nagisa, where the two need to be synchronised in order to work and pull the most power possible. However, this Nagisa does not carry sadness in her heart or wish to revenge anyone, and is instead saved by Silver and Gold Iczelions. Looks like these three Iczelions have fought against Cross before, as they’re on familiar terms with each other, but as Chaos drops by and tells Cross to stop shitting things up as Voids want to fight too.

The episode ends with the three Iczels bantering and laughing, while Nagisa breaks the fourth wall and asks from the audience what’ll happen to her.

Always a Nagisa
I’m not Kenshiro, you know!

The second episode begins with a new Kawai trying to convince Nagisa to join them on their fight against Chaos and Cross’ forces, just as while the other Iczels are trying to convince Normal Type

Iczers
I guess they didn’t want to colour Iczer-1 with gold to keep the darker tone. Y’know, her being the Golden Warrior and all that

to seek out a new partner. I can see the toy potential in these Iczels as characters that could split up to form either their own toys, especially when when they have that becoming-armour-gimmick going on for them. Kawai then proceeds to describe the origin of Iczels as beings created by Iczers to fight malevolent machine life form spawned from Big Gold that were spreading throughout the universe. Thus, allowing humans to combine with an Iczel would grant them the same power the Iczers wield, hence the name Iczelion. Nagisa, of course, won’t have any of that. Their chit chat is interrupted by Void attack, throwing them into sub-space and separating the two. Nagisa’s ass is saved by Gold Iczelion. The Voids are intend on killing Nagisa, but each one of them is stopped by one of the Iczelions. If this was a TV-series, Voids would’ve been the end-series upgrade to Gears.  The same goes for the sub-spaces, as in the first episode they were twisted versions of the local space, but with Voids they return to the original OVA’s weird ones with one resembling a graveyard of sorts.

While the rest of Iczels are fighting the voids, Cross is after Nagisa. We get some nice character development for them during these fights, and one of them grows to giant proportions. Cross is enjoying the whole situation, but just like every Nagisa out there, she grows a pair when someone else is being threatened.

DOWN
It’s time to let Nagimania run wild, brother!

Because we are dealing with Awesome Nagisa, she proceeds to show thumbs down and drop kick Cross. Much like her predecessors, she pulls all the power there is, but unlike any other Nagisa she knows what she needs to do. Namely, grab Cross and back-drop her from the sky and explode Cross’ body. This forces Cross to merge with the giant Void. As Iczelions don’t have access to an Iczer-Robo, all of them do a combo attack that blows the combined giant up, most likely taking a few blocks with it.

SRW entry when?
SRW entry when?

Naturally, just like all sibling villains, Chaos goes all out and throws each and every Battle Gear under his command at the four Iczelions. The show ends in Nagisa telling her friends (and audience) to call her as Iczelion, completing her role as the character she was set up to be.

After the credits we see the four kicking the shit out of the Gears.

Probably the best bit of animation in the two episodes for sure

Iczer Girl Iczelion doesn’t stay its welcome, but it leaves wanting for more. However, it’s really nothing special overall. It doesn’t really fail at anything, but it doesn’t outshine anything either. It establishes characters that are not wholly archetypical and its main band is rather diverse. Not many magical girl shows have an adult stage dancer as one of its main characters next to schoolgirls.

The first episode establish how the series has stepped further away from the core of the original Iczer OVA, but that’s to be expected. It didn’t really have any good points to continue, and Hirano worked his ass off to expand on it and retcon things the best he could. Iczelion OVA doesn’t expand on how it’s linked to the rest of the franchise too much, but its radio drama does, but as an alternative world take of sorts. The animation quality is not terribly impressive, but for a 1990’s OVA it’s slightly above standard. Lines are well-defined and colours are reasonably rich. The music is pretty damn nice, even when it sounds relatively generic. There are some nice pieces spread across.

Nothing of original Iczer-1 remains in Iczelion, and around this time Rei Aran had rolled out his own remake in Lemon People. It’s a very enjoyable piece as a side story for sure, and I admit that I prefer this over Adventure! Iczer-3 any day. The whole pro-wrestling thing is just a bonus. Overall, it’s a very nice, short  1990’s OVA that does its thing well enough. It had some potential to become a full-fledged series, but that would’ve required some overhauling in some bits.

It seems that the series didn’t sell all that well overall and you can still pick up US VHS tapes shrink wrapped for ten bucks or so. In Japan it got the usual OVA treatment with VHS and LD release, a novelisation and was expanded with the aforementioned radio drama, but sales across the board were low in Japan too.003_004_Iczelion

Iczer as a franchise never had true long standing staying power, and was always going to be a cult classic. Trying to force it into a mould it was never intended to conform into wasn’t successful. A franchise that started as a sexploitation comic about a space catgirl was most likely what defined Rei Aran to an extent, thou I’ve seen some signs that Patlazer-3 was originally his work of recognition. Iczer-1 just trumped over it with the OVA.

I don’t see the Iczer series having a new entry or a reboot any time soon, but we’re well past the time when it would’ve been relevant. The originals were production of their time, and the two sequels teetered out, lacking the punch the original had. Maybe, just maybe, if the upcoming Blu-Ray release sells reasonably well, something interesting could come forth.

With this, we’re done with the animated Iczer entries. We’ll see what I’ll cook up next month’s theme.

Monthly Three: The laugh of Iczer-3

Adventure! Iczer-3, or as the old U.S. Manga Corps release renamed it, Iczer Reborn, takes me back with its old subtitle style and the use of M.D. Geist as their mascot character. Outside that, I feel that this series is just so damn unnecessary. It’s been a long time since I watched this, so maybe now I can reassess Adventure! Iczer-3 and give it a bit more credit.

It’s a six episode OVA, so unlike with Fight!! Iczer-1, I try to keep from going into details all that much. Unlike with the original OVA, the information I have on the genesis of Iczer-3 is lacking, but that’s mostly due to personal choice. Why?, you may ask and the answer to that would be because Adventure! Iczer-3 lacks almost everything that made Fight!! Iczer-1 a cult classic. It’s even lacking those two exclamation marks. The sound novel version would have that.

The show starts with an exposition fight between Iczer-1 and Neos Gold. Neos is a creature created by Big Bold’s core terminal, but how and when is not expanded on. What we know is that Iczer-1 is now on a planetary system busting in power levels and sports a redesigned armour. We never learn where her reality/time altering powers went after the end of the first OVA, but that’s the least of the show’s problems. It’s main problem is that it changes how the ending of the Fight!! Iczer-1 ended. Neos Gold refers Big Gold as being destroyed, but maybe that’s just Evil Alien propaganda working for you. As a side note, Neos Gold looks a lot like a random Lucifer Hawk from Silent Möbius when it comes to design. Maybe it’s just the design sensibilities of the time.

Maybe the opening shows some of the problems I have with the series.

The opening contains a lot of spoilers, basically showcasing all the minions, the return of Iczer-2, Atros and the return of a Nagisa. Sir Violet has also been replaced with Sister Grey. It feels and looks like a TV-animation opening instead of something out of an OVA. It sets a very different to tone series to the point of effectively abandoning the atmosphere of original OVA. Granted, let’s just allow it stand on its own. Despite that, the four minions look like something straight out of Sailor Moon, despite Iczer-3 bring older.

The show is set years after the death of Big Gold, and the humanity has moved further into stars. We had super technology already in the original, and now we’re even further out there. We see a spaceship being destroyed near Saturn’s orbit. Humanity has a space station on Moon, where Nagisa’s granddaughter, Nagisa, lives. In a surprising move, Neos Gold just announces her invasion intentions, and then proceeds to take over satellite weapons and shoots the shit out of Earth’s defence forces bases around the world with them while spreading alien insects. Alien invaders are pretty competent in Iczer series, but Neos Gold just ends up being petty and lets the lot of them live out of spite for Iczer-1.

The moonbase is soon after razed over, but unlike with Iczer-1’s body horror, Iczer-3 opts for straight up bloody massacre, but that’s pretty much it. Neos Gold then sets up a base on Earth, and the wounded Iczer-1 curses her. Sister Gray, a new character recommends sending Iczer-3 to Earth.

IN tank

Iczers are artificial life forms, and there’s no reason to raise them. Iczer-2 was developed and built in matter of days, or overnight, the original OVA really doesn’t give any timeframe, but it is fast. It’s sort of twisted to make Iczer-3 this sort of little brat in size and looks, but aesthetics for the series mattered more for sure than making sense.

The moonbase is still being screwed over and Iczer-3 comes in just in time to save everybody. When she announces her name, Nagisa thinks she knows the name Iczer, which she shouldn’t.

The concept of child soldier who takes war and fighting as literal child’s play is a good one. Her introduction seemingly hits the right beats, her not giving a damn about anything, wrecking the place while going on a killing spree. However, it lacks any punch to it. As with the opening, all of it feels very TV-safe. Maybe if body horror had come back and Nagisa with her crew would’ve witnessed her slaying their old possessed friends while laughing manically as blood sprayed everywhere. That’s the whole show really, not bad in itself, just very, very safe in its execution and not doing anything special.

It doesn’t really help Iczer-3’s voice actor was a Joshiprowres named Cutie Suzuki. She was relatively popular in the early 1990’s and even has a Mega Drive game after her. It’s not very good. Iczer-3’s voice does grow on you, but in the end it just doesn’t cut it. Not to say the second episode has its moments character. Iczer-3 goes around destroying those satellite weapons, and accidentally punches one in the wrong place and causes it to shoot towards the battleship Queen Fuji Nagisa’s in, causing it to entry the atmosphere in the wrong angle and into wrong place.

Speaking of Nagisa, almost all characters have these Seed-mode/rape eyes that are completely blank
Speaking of Nagisa, almost all characters have these Seed-mode/rape eyes that are completely blank. Nagisa’s friend on the right is named Kawai, btw

We get some body horror in the second episode with the surviving people finding cocooned humans in the empty city they crash landed. Alien insects were using them as breeding caskets, but it’s very TV-safe again and less than explicit. The body looks something like from the Moomins. Another good moment for Iczer-3 is when she is sleeping next to one of the surviving soldiers, Rob, without any care in the world. The scene would’ve been nicer, if it wasn’t just exposition and plot convenience.

Much like everything else in Iczer-3, the episodes follow how a TV-series would pace its shows. Nothing really stands out from the animation or the like, though the new Iczer-Robo is reasonably well animated despite being a complex design.

It's a mix of Obari's and original Iczer Robos's design with a healthy dash of late bubble economy flavour
It’s a mix of Obari’s and original Iczer Robos’s design with a healthy dash of late bubble economy flavour

Monster of the Week is killed with a renamed Get the Hell Out of Here! beam. I have to give it to them that they kept Nagisa nude in the new Robo, and despite her sitting inside a metal harness, it’s has influences from Aran’s cockpit design. The episode ends with Nagisa collapsing from powering Iczerio Bomber too many times.

If Adventure! Iczer-3 was a TV-show, we’d now spend about fifteen episodes adventuring around the globe and beating up MOTWs, but this being the middle point of the OVA, we’re introduced the the Rival character Atros being produced from energies from Iczerio Bomber. Before that we of course need a fever dream to explain how Nagisa remembers the name Iczer in form of a flashback. It’s really hamfisted, blame it on genetic memory or something.

Meanwhile Iczer-3 is running with animals and finds a stadium that was set up for her to fight against this week’s monster. No, seriously. Of course, she gets her ass handed to her, because this week it’s Nagisa’s turn to realise things while everyone else tells her not to. The whole battle ships arrives to the scene, and of course the enemies attack Nagisa & co., giving Iczer-3 a reason to fight better and goes toe-to-toe against the Boss of the MOTW.

Notice that swords the Iczers use are now just beams of energy, instead of lightsabres. I like this, but them being just sticks of light seems lazy
Notice that swords the Iczers use are now just beams of energy, instead of lightsabres. I like this, but them being just sticks of light seems lazy

Of course, Iczer-3 is almost winning, until the Boss’ pet sacrifices herself, giving the bad guy some humanity to her. Every thing’s fine and the Boss, Bigro, is now having a change of heart, which means Neos Gold kills her and her pet. Straight after we’ve introduced to Atros, the only real doppelgänger in the franchise.

Iczer-3 even commments YOU LOOK JUST LIKE ME
Iczer-3 even comments YOU LOOK JUST LIKE ME

At this point you may have noticed that the series, by its third episode, has set into a pre-established formula. Similar things would pop up later in Toshihiro Hirano’s TV works, and it feels like this OVA was supposed to be a TV-show originally, but for whatever reason it was turned into 6-episode OVA. Another reason is that this doesn’t look or feel like an OVA. There’s nothing explicit, nothing that stands out, no violence going over the top and even the animation quality is on-par with the higher budget shows of the time. Anyway, on to the next episode.

Atros is more mature than Iczer-3, further showing that Iczers can be pre-programmed with more mature disposition towards life. She’s the smug bastard for the time being to Iczer-3’s naivety. Turns out Nagisa just throws exposition out after their fight, mentioning how Iczers are born of something called Iczerio. A type of energy? Nobody knows, because this is the first time in the series and proceeds to function has a plot device from thereon. Nagisa’s kindness throws Atros into spastic headache like with all evil clones that really are good guys.

Atros’ self-confidence is lacking with the newfound confusion over what or who she is, and Neos Gold scolds her for that. She’s fallen into generic evil mastermind stature by now, and the last Boss of the four Heavenly Kings has what people can only call as Anime Hair.

Golem, go get a haircut
Golem, go get a haircut

This episode really is just all about exposition on the origin of Iczers, going how the Cthulhu have advanced technology, what’ the source of their power and the like. Rob shows some data screens on Iczer-3 and Nagisa really wants to ride him.

Queen Fuji arrives in Japan, we probably skipped about fifteen episodes of this was a 2 cours series. Queen Fuji and Golem do some fighting, before Iczer-3 meddles and gets her ass handed to her while Neos Gold laughs with her next plan.

GUESS WHO'S BACK
This might be an interesting surprise if they hadn’t spoiled her in the opening or in the case of the DVD

Something had happened between episodes 4 and 5 in the production, as the quality jumps here and there in regards of the animation. This is very apparent in the fight between Golem and Iczer-3, and these two episodes feel very stretched. They could’ve shaved some off from both ends to shove them into one piece. Atros makes Golem retreat and tries to make Iczer-3 fight, citing that they are made to fight and that’s what weapons do.

This shows that the Iczer-3 we saw in the first episode, the fight-happy child, isn’t there any more. Her characterisation is an inconsistent, but can be attributed to her character growth, but neither writing or the voice actor really makes this clear. Nagisa’s face doesn’t really do any favours, and despite her trying to turn her side. Just like all confused evil clones, she runs away.

Iczer-2 is reintroduced in a very dull way, just pointing her Hyper Sword towards Golem. She’s not a copy or a clone, but a full-blown resurrection. her armour has a very slight update to it with new racing stripes and bigger, unsymmetrical shoulder armours. The light up pieces on her chest armour has been redesigned as well. She also got new boots!

Nagisa is also having those flashback dreams about the death Iczer-2. There’s a pretty damn neat moment right after, where Iczer-2 walks on-board Queen Fuji in the dark, just to greet Nagisa, and just proceeds to shoot a laser to Iczer-3’s forehead, throwing her on the ground. The two take it outside, just as Neos Gold’s deformed Macross Cannon defences begin to shoot around. While Queen Fuji is fighting Golem and Iczer-3 is fighting against Iczer-2, it’s Atros who picks up Nagisa.

fight

The fight between Iczers is really damn nice, showcasing that while their power is comparable, Iczer-3 takes like a game while Iczer-2 is a seasoned veteran. In the end, she doesn’t play with the kid, first beam-gut punching her to the ground and the shooting a beam stright through her when Iczer-3 gets up. In the meanwhile, Atros has come to terms who she is and goes against Golem’s fabulous hair.

Iczer-2 doesn’t understand why an Iczer like the third one would be made, but we all know why; to become more human to experience life outside war. Atros didn’t really deal with Golem, and as she tries to kill both Iczers, Iczer-2 just blows her up. The episode ends in Iczer-1 getting back to the field after her fight in the first episode opener. She also flies faster than light, because we see her flying into our galaxy from incredibly far away.

The last episode sets clear that Iczer-2 has changed somewhat from her origin. She was always under Big Gold’s commands in the original, yet here she claims not to be anyone’s soldier. She just wants Iczer-1 dead. Atros’ character development is filled with her resurrecting Iczer-3 and changing sides completely. It’s not a bad moment at all, and is one of the better warm moments.

Y’know what’s been lacking in this series thus far? Sub-space, which makes its glorious return when Iczer-1 arrives to the orbit and gets challenged by Iczer-2 straight away. While the two fight, Queen Fuji makes approach towards Neos Gold’s defences. They manage to break through the defence parameters with difficulties, and I doubt I need to mention who sacrifices herself to make that happen. That’s what evil clones turned good are for.

Iczer-1 is well handled overall with her fight. When she becomes focused again, it’s clear that the difference that existed between her and Iczer-2 in the end of the original OVA is still there. She avoids, parries and moves from Iczer-2’s attacks and showcases her compassion, and ultimately, refuses to kill Iczer-2 again. If the animation quality was higher end here, this would be a crowning moment.

Why am I getting Rayearth vibes?
Why am I getting Rayearth vibes?

Neos Gold comes out with her upgraded body, and Iczer-3 just can’t touch her. The final battle starts with Iczer-1 and 3 fighting against her while Queen Fuji just sits there doing nothing. Just as Neos is going to kill the smallest Iczer, Iczer-2 steps in to save her and changes her sides. This shot also releases Iczerion, which allows the summoning of Iczer Robo once more. However, Neos can’t be killed here as she is using Earth itself to resurrect her form, a thing she does to spite Iczer-1 further.

So what to do? Combine all the Iczers’ power lift her from Earth and the blow the Neos to pieces with that combined power. Despite that, wounded Neos tries to escape, but Iczer-3 just uses her Iczer Bomb to tackle her body to bits.

Too bad the final death looks something like out of Sailor Moon
Too bad the final death looks something like out of Sailor Moon

Earth is saved and Iczers are going to return to space to destroy all the evil Big Gold has spread across space. Except, y’know, the entity known as Big Gold is part of Iczer-1, but that’s just one of the retcons. While Iczer-1 and 3 return to Cthulhu, Iczer-2 goes on her own path. Her tory is yet to be told.

With this watch, I reassessed what sort of show Izcer-3 is. It doesn’t have the charm or the atmosphere of the original, nor even the characterisation outside key scenes. Nagisa Kasumi is the granddaughter of the original Nagisa, but she couldn’t have those memories from her granny due to how the original OVA ended. There are little retcons like this in Adventure! Iczer-3. It also overstays its welcome just a bit too long at times, but it keeps things more cohesive and together than its predecessor. This is a guess, but it would seem like Icer-3 was supposed to be a TV-show originally, as Hirano had some troubles to get other Iczer related TV-shows off the ground, namely Iczer-4. You can check Rayerth’s 2nd season for some of the designs he was going to use, and Nova is essentially just a refurbished Iczer-4. She even uses the same swords made out of light.

Fight!! Iczer-1 was something with an attitude, whereas Adventure! Iczer-3 lacks in uniqueness. It established what a mainstream Iczer series would be like, but a mainstream Iczer series wouldn’t work because it would lack the edge. Someone described Iczer-1 as an OVA that was about horrific invading aliens and space lesbians. It’s not too far from the truth.

Iczer-3 is a fun watch, much more entertaining than what I want it to give credit for, and it’s a feel good series even if the Earth is completely fucked in the end. It’s not exactly what I’d call a successor due to how different it is, but maybe it didn’t really need to be. Deep Space 9 was a step away from the spirit of the original Star Trek and TNG, and that wasn’t a bad thin in itself, and I tend to view Iczer-3 the same way. I may not prefer it over the original OVA, but I am glad it exists to entertain those who like more than I.

Both OVAs appeared in Super Robot Wars L, and the way they handled the two series was simple; they were alternative universes to each other, which negated any problems between the two products. Honestly, that’s what I tend to think too.

Adventure! Iczer-3 wasn’t the last animated Iczer piece, however, and next week I’ll dive into Iczer Girl Iczelion and stop using ks sounds for a while because holy fuck writing and saying Iczer three weeks in a row is starting to feeling stupid.

cassette drama iczer-3There was also an audio drama for Iczer-3, but that’s a whole another can-o-worms in another continuity. Maybe I’ll open this up a bit when the Fight!! Iczer-1 BD releases

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.