Monthly Three: Arcade Game

If computer games are about the complexity of things, then the arcade was pretty much the opposite. Flashy graphics, tight action, fast gameplay, intoxicating sounds, and most importantly, the audience and the social aspect it brought to the table. Another aspect that they had is that they were made to be picked up and dropped. They would grasp into the game the very moment you drop a coin in. Computer games demand longer periods to be spent with them due to their complex nature, which is pretty much the opposite to arcade games. Arcades were designed to munch your coins down, which doesn’t mean difficult gameplay, just design that puts up a challenge. The best and most famous arcade games were not hard like how the hardcore crowd thinks.

There should be no surprises on this list, you most likely already know the games I’ve picked to represent what an arcade game is.

Pac-Man

I’m not sure if I can say anything profound about Pac-Man that isn’t repetition. Essentially, everything it in is iconic, from the waka waka sound to the idea of Power pellets. It’s fast and can get hectic, very easy to learn but mastering the point gain requires time and practice.

But most importantly, it was colourful and abstract. It was this sophisticated kind of abstract approach that allowed games in general to branch off into wide variety of different directions. After this, there is almost an explosion of games that would become more fantastical, as well as huge amounts of Pac-Man clones.

People flocked arcades to play Pac-Man, as it had universal appeal. It had a cartoon, comic series, serials and huge loads of merchandise. For a game about a yellow ball eating pellets and running from ghosts, the Pac-Man is a phenomenal game that embodies arcade games’ nature of appealing to everyone the best.

Space Invaders

Space Invaders is few years older than Pac-Man, but it’s just one of the three elements that created the Golden Age of video games alongside the aforementioned and Atari. Pac-Man was popular had a wide appeal, and so did Space Invaders. After Taito had launched Space Invaders in Japan, arcades that had nothing but it began to pop up and the game raked in profits like no other. Something about Space Invaders simply attracted customers, and that something was pure, distilled gameplay.

Seemingly a simple game, Space Invaders speeds up with each destroyed alien. This is a quirk of the hardware, as originally it couldn’t handle all the materials on-screen. Combine the relentless beating from the cabinet and the experience is perfect. Strategy is not only recommended, but required to beat the game, as the shields the player have can be show through. The shots take time to travel through the screen as well, meaning you had to time and aim your shot almost far better than expected. It birthed a genre, and clones like Galaga would pop up very soon after. Just like Pac-Man, Space Invaders is still a phenomenal game that veterans of the industry, like Miyamoto and Kojima, refer as the game that got them interested in games.

Space Invaders attracted people to play it.

Defender

Space Invaders and Pac-Man may have been hectic, but their one-screen nature didn’t really lend to feeling of speed. A scrolling screen would be required for that.

There are some conflicting reports whether or not Defender was the first horizontally scrolling game, but it’s popularity gets the spot here. Defender‘s fast, colourful and relentless. Compared to Space Invaders, it is very complex with game with positioning, destroying enemy UFOs and saving civilians. For a game of its time, it was intimidating, and at first its success wasn’t evident. However, much like how Atari’s Missile Command gathered people around it, Defender was a very much like a spectator’s game. If you got good at it, you could play the game longs times on just credit, a feat that people wanted to behold.

Defender is still one of the harder games that came from the arcades that wasn’t designed solely to eat your coins. Much like other great arcade games, players throughout the years have created strategies and methods to play the game as long as possible. Defender didn’t simply require split moment decision-making and eye-hand coordination, also forming the aforementioned strategies and applying them.

Both Space Invaders and Defender have roots in Asteroids and Computer Space, and while those are historical games, Asteroids is the only one that people remember and for a good reason. Computer Space may have been the first modern arcade game released to the public in 1971, but it was a failure. Both of them are largely first steps towards what defined the arcades.

Space Panic and Donkey Kong

I feel that it is necessary to say that Donkey Kong, while the most popular early platformer-type game, Space Panic predates it by one year.

Developed by Chris Crawford of Universal Entertainment Corporation, Space Panic has all the elements that would later appear in both Donkey Kong, Pitfall!! and Lode Runner. While Space Panic is largely forgotten in the annals of game history, it sets up the groundwork for a the whole genre.

To be fair, discussing Donkey Kong would be to echo many of the previous points already mentioned, but it’s a game where you can see how much games could evolve at the time in on year’s time. The Golden Age of video games is not defined one game, but by this evolution Donkey Kong was part of that constant evolution where arcade game developers and manufacturers would be inspired by each other and try to create a more popular product.

Street Fighter II

The 1980’s was the era for arcade games to flourish, and the beginning of the end for arcades began in the early 1990’s when computing technology had advanced to the point where everybody could begin to afford a home computer. Arcades used to be the place were you went to see the latest and most advanced graphics and gameplay compared to consoles, while computers had their own thing going on. While games like International Karate, Yie Ar Kung Fu and other fighting games predated Street Fighter, they all had their own conventions and no real standard was set. SEGA’s Heavyweight Champ from 1976 is probably the first fighting game, but even with that position it is very much a forgotten game

The reason why Street Fighter II, despite being almost two decades younger than its predecessors, gets this spot is due to it essentially taking all that and blowing the whole genre wide open, waking waves of clones in its wake and being copied to some extent by essentially every single 2D fighting game since. Just like Missile Command, Defender and the like Street Fighter II was a spectators’ game, but unlike with its predecessor, now you could challenge the master of the machine with your choice of character.

Street Fighter II embodies all that an arcade game still is; attractive to look at, easy to get into and hard to master, requires forming strategies and split second decision. It’s not slow and methodical like a computer game, and could say it lacks the sophistication of Ultima and Wizardry. However, arcades and computer games were two different kind of beasts, meant to strike completely different nerve, and their catchy style of gameplay is still used to this day despite the death of arcades themselves.

Monthly Three: Computer game

This Monthly Three (imaginative name, I know) will most likely consist less content than usual, as the theme will be System X defining games, in this case What games define computer games? In this way I hope to showcase the core differences that stand between computer/PC gaming, arcade gaming and console gaming. As all three systems have differences in their core, the selection here are largely picked to present the definitive elements that a platform excels at.

We start with computer games, because they are the first to stem from the general field of electronic games. That’s a whole another can-o-worms we might open one day after discussing how computer and video games are simply continuation if child play culture.

But onwards, games that defined computer gaming as we know it nowadays. These are not in any particular order, so there’s no reason to look into that. The amount of games will be kept under ten for the sake of removing excess fat.

Continue reading “Monthly Three: Computer game”

Monthly Three: What’s in a name (of a remake)?

Remake get a lot of hatred, overall speaking. Unlike with remasters, remake takes something that exists, and rather than creating something new, it recycles elements of the previous product to create something new. Rather than creating something new or enhancing something old with new techniques and technology. Still, simply using the same core starting point with a piece does not make a remake. For example, the Transformers live action series are less a remake of any of the cartoons and more a different take on the work and story. Their quality is another thing altogether.

In film, remakes have become something to abhor, especially how the 2000’s was largely controlled by panned remakes of reheats of past franchises. From Clash of the Titans to Wolfman and whatever the latest horror movie remake out there is. That actually may be Godzilla Resurgence, which shows that remakes have their time and place as well, and that they can be done well, potentially. 1982 The Thing is an excellent remake that brought the story to a new generation with visuals and tone that still haven’t made obsolete. Similarly, The Fly from 1986 gave David Cronenberg a reason to do further body horror through a classic horror movie, and

That is the core idea of remakes after all; to take the old piece and recreate it for modern audiences. The problem is that not all pieces require a remake of any sorts. Wolfman is an example of an ageless classic that works more as a period piece nowadays, and much like 1934’s Dracula, works the best because of the era they were made in. This particular Dracula has never seen a remake, but further adaptations of Bram Stoker’s original book have been many, for lesser success most of the time.

The 1998 Pyscho is an example of a remake that remakes the original film point by point, almost replicating every scene of Hitchcock’s version. It’s a largely pointless way to make a remake, as it doesn’t do anything on its own, outside one added masturbation scene for shock value. The resources wasted on this Psycho could’ve been used for something better.

While we do expect remakes to do their own thing and add something to stand apart from their progenitor, often they just miss the point of the original piece. 1999’s The Haunting went straight up haunted house with being absolutely explicit that yes, there are ghosts about. The original film from 1963 is very subdued, never defining whether or not the main character is truly seeing ghosts or not, and works in allegories. It’s a subtle piece, something that the 1999 remake is not. It’s completely in your face remake with broken budget and has absolutely no subtely to it, not to mention it lacks any sort of legit scary moment. It stands apart from the original, and outside them idea basis, has nothing to do with the original piece and should’ve been named something else completely. Just like Gatchaman Crowds.

2010 A Nightmare on Elm Street on the other hand is just a bad movie outright, largely having worse special effects than the original 1984 and being explicit in everything it does instead of treating the viewer with respect.

In music, covers and different versions of songs are essentially the industry’s remakes. The basic beats and lyrics are the same, most often, but given completely new sound to them most of the cases, or simply taking it as it is and trying to do it better.

Remakes in music does offer much more freedom, in a sense. While a film remake can aim to change genre and stand completely apart from the previous work, just use it as an inspiration, in music you can take pretty much any song and give it a completely different take without much any hate. Game music is an example of this, with large number of songs being remade in rock, metal, symphonic, jazz and other arrangements. Companies themselves do this very often, Nihon Falcom having perhaps the largest selection of different pieces of each of their songs.

I’ll have to indulge myself just a bit here and list few of Yuzo Koshiro’s Morning Grow from the first Ys game, because the piece is simply one of my favourites in the series…





…Thou this dance pop version confuses me to this day. Provincialism Ys is a strange album

Unlike with films, cover songs in music are often less about the money and more about the love for that a particular song. The other side of the coin there are songs that are remade simply to be sold rather than about the song itself. Still, some authors and studios push remakes and covers of certain songs to ride on their popularity for simple monetary. After all, all remakes, film or music, are meant to be sold. However, in music remakes rarely obsolete the original piece, if ever.

In games all this is a bit mucked because companies tend to use remake and remaster liberally. Ducktales Remastered is an example of this, as it is a full-blown beat to beat remake and not a remaster.

Much like films, game remakes may get a cold shoulder from the consumers, sometimes because they don’t simply play as well as the original, sometimes because they have nothing new to them outside lick of new paint, or sometimes because they’re simply not wanted or needed.

CAPCOM tried to reboot the Mega Man franchise on the PSP with Mega Man Powered Up and Maverick Hunter X, but the main problem with both of them was that they were the exact same games CAPCOM had re-released for decade and a half at that point, solid two now. It didn’t help that they were on a system that wasn’t really all that successful, Maverick Hunter X ran slower and had more issues than the Super Nintendo original and only fans really bought MM Powered Up. It looked too cutesy and despite its addons offered nothing of real value, at least according to the bush radio. It didn’t help that it was a game aimed for a younger demographic on a system that was clearly meant for the older audience in the market.

What do the consumers expect from game remakes? The general idea seems to be that keeping it true to the original, refining some rougher elements and adding more content seems to be the right thing to go with. However, with older games this can become a problem, especially if the title is required to move from 2D to 3D, a change that can screw up the gameplay.

a boy and his blob is an example of a remake that took the original game and worked it from the scratch up. It’s a pretty good game on its own rights, and rather than hitting on nostalgia cashgrab, did something good. It largely ignores stages and everything else from the original game. Perhaps this sort of ground-up remodelling of a game is beneficial, as it allows the remake to stand apart from the original game, and act both as an independent piece and semi-sequel/reboot.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Metroid: Zero Mission, a game that remakes the NES original with seemingly the same maze layout while streamlining the experience, adding new content and forcing a story narrative in. Zero Mission is often called the better between the two, but it can’t be denied that it only stands on the shoulders of the NES original, removing large parts of the adventure the original game had going on for it, and perhaps even saying that Zero Mission tries to pander with nostalgia rather than stand on its own legs. It’s speedier gameplay is not necessarily better either, as original Metroid was very methodical, seemingly slow, and required a lot exploration from the player’s part instead of being directed to the next destination. In many ways, the Metroid is similar to Dark Souls in this rather than to its remake. To many the simple fact that Zero Mission is on a better hardware and plays more like a modern game makes it better, despite the fact that as a game it is a simple repeat, just like Ducktales Remasted.

Remakes have a place in every industry, despite their divisive nature. The good remakes show that you can use the same basis and narrative to create a new wholesome piece that can stand against the original without any problems, whereas the bad ones on the other hand show you how much certain works are largely timeless, at least for now. Remakes can work as a vessel for something great, despite their inherent repeating nature. Sometimes, repeating something is required to move forwards.

Monthly Three: Which is the true version; remaster or original?

When Predator: Ultimate Hunter Edition was released, it was largely panned by the fans due to its remastering. The original Predator has a lot of film grain and dust in its image due to the film stock used. The aforementioned BD release had gone through a heavy digital remastering, as for whatever reason the amount of grain and dust was deemed unacceptable by the higher powers whoever decided on these matters. The removal of dust and grain can have an impact on the film, and at times characters look like wax figures of themselves due to the smoothing. Another thing that’s usually done with remasters is colour correcting and brightening the scenes for further clarity. The AVS Forums has a rather expanded comparison with few selected screencaps.

The question is, is this the “real” version of Predator? The remastered one, or the original grainy one? The intention of the remastered version was to upgrade the movie to new generation and definition, and it can be argued that Predator has never looked so slick, but at the same time, the remaster is largely panned by the fans due to the remastering itself. To many, simply digitally remastering from the original film reels, i.e. basically post-process it again with modern techniques. The size of the film, the quality of the stock and how degraded it is affects the final quality quite a lot. Digital remastering didn’t become common until sometime mid-2000’s, and most of original release DVDs before that either had a second grade LD or VHS transfer on them. It’s not uncommon to find VHS and Beta tapes that look better than some of their DVD counterparts, and LD largely had better sound quality than DVDs due to the compression methods. One could argue that it wasn’t until LD’s quality became completely obsoleted, but neither LD or VHS are completely obsolete, as not even half of the movies that are on those two formats have seen digital conversion for either DVD or BD.

Similar applies to music. Original masters are taken and modernised for whatever chosen format. Loudness War began with the advent of CD, and this has impacted how your music sounds. The same applies to mp3, but mp3 in itself is a lossy format that music enthusiasts want to avoid. The louder the music, the less definition each individual element in the song becomes, with dynamics reduced. Rather than trying to explain it further myself, I’d better let higher authority to explain all this.

Like with films, enthusiasts look for older versions of released albums because they have better mastering, and modern remasters are too loud. If you have followed ARG podcasts I do occasionally with Alternative Projects’ people, you should notice that they are ultimately a little low on volume, as I do not turn up the volume for loudness.

Does a remaster look better with its visuals against the original is up to an opinion, but at the same time we should consider the age pieces have been made in.

Visual and sound technology advances constantly, sound less so. If you want to keep up with the best pictures, you’d need to purchase a new screen once in five years at least. With sound, you can run with a good set for a good decade and then some. Star Trek is a good example of remastering, as the BD versions comes with both original version and ones that have been retouched with newly recorded sound and CG to replace old effects as well as add new elements to the screen. Star Trek is old and was made to be seen on 1960’s television, not on 2016’s 4k screens. While the BD’s remasters look great after their proper remastering, you can see every single seam, scratch and crack on the sets and costumes.

Whether or not you regard the changes depicted in the video above to be valid or something to be desired, that’s completely up to one’s own devices.

With video games, old PC porting could be regarded as remastering the original code for a new platform, as a new platform always required a new level of coding. For example, the visuals, sound and controls between ZX Spectrum, Atari ST and NES versions of Double Dragon all differ largely due to the platforms themselves and the code in them.

Unlike with audio and films, porting a game usually required some sort of reworking, sometimes from the ground up, down- or upgrading, or completely reworking sprites and other assets from original version, be it arcade or whatever else. In modern era, most games are developed porting in mind for multiple platforms and everything from design and visuals mirror this, with PC version often getting shafted because of the cross-contamination of platforms.

HD Collection are the game equivalent of film and music remastering, as the original elements have been taken and given a sleeker look to them. Nevertheless, the code underneath the new visuals has been reworked in every HD re-release, for better or worse. Zone of the Enders HD Collection is a good example of a long-awaited port, which fares worse than its PS2 original. While the games between platforms are essentially the same game, the HD port suffers from constant slowdowns and framedrops, with some particle effects and the like losing to the visuals of the PS2 originals. With video and audio, one doesn’t need to concern themselves on the action of the consumer, as there is no interaction between the consumer and the piece, unlike with games.

In order for any HD port to make their original versions obsolete, it has three core criteria; it has to run at least as well as the original with no drops in FPS count that did not occur in the original, the visuals need to be clearer and in higher definition and the sound mixing needs to be on the same level. Some HD remasters simple don’t do it, running worse than the original, and very few get a chance, like ZOE did. Konami essentially reworked ZOE HD Collection‘s code to run the game better, which is a rarity.

With remasters there comes the question what is the definitive version of each works? Is the original, untouched version of Predator the one true version over the BD digital remaster? Remasters rarely try to actively change the product, but with the likes of Star Trek you have sound, backgrounds and visual effects changed completely. Is the original, unaltered footage the true version of the series, or is the new reworked footage that contain alterations? Furthermore, Metropolis‘ BD release didn’t simply see a remaster, but almost complete restoration of missing footage that was edited out due to how badly the original cut of the film was received.

While Star Trek’s footage was tweaked, the episodes themselves have not altered in story or pace, and whichever version is the definitive one is up to opinions. However, with Metropolis this is not the case. Because of Channing Pollock’s cut altered the story and the pace of the movie to a large degree to the point of altering Fritz Lang’s original vision, some argue that it is not the definitive version over the restored one, despite Pollock’s cut being the one that defined the film in history. Rather than calling on cut more definitive over the other, I would call the restored one being more in-line with Lang’s vision of the movie, in all good and bad, and Pollock’s cut being the more iconic one. SF Debris reviewed Metropolis recently, and goes over some of these elements in more depth.

Whatever one’s personal view is on remasters, they have their place due to the constant advance in technology and formats. Remastering in itself is not the thing to be worried about, but the methods, intentions and goals that remastering has. At times, remasters will see something like with the Predator, trying to fix and upgrade the original to new standards with rather lacklustre results. Other times, the remaster is simply stays true to the original look and intention of the piece without mucking around with it, like with the recent Fight! Iczer-1 release.

Monthly Three: Of remakes and remasters

The difference between remakes and remasters to some is cosmetic or about marketing terms, but when you look at the examples, there’s a bit more to them. A remake is based on a previous work, a new piece of product that recreates the original piece somehow. Another meaning of course is that something is taken and remade anew, like reconstructing a knife. Remaster on the other hand is completely tied to the original piece, like video or audio, and then improved on it somehow. For example, the recent Fight!! Iczer-1 Blu-Ray release was a good one, containing a properly digitally remastered version of the original.

NES remaster

Unlike what the package says, Ducktales Remastered is a remake. Nothing really is taking from the original game outside the overall stage designs. The musics have been remade, the graphics are remade and so on. If WayForward had remastered Ducktales, the two screenshots would look the same, except the resolution of the remaster would be higher. Digital things are pretty neat in that way that in principle as long as you have the source code and assets, it should be relatively easy to adapt those to a new machine. This is essentially doing a higher resolution ports, but I’m leaving HD “remakes” for next week.

Remasters on the other hand would look something like this.

dvd_28_09.57.35] screenshot016

The first one is from the Anime Works DVD, the second being the recent BD release. The difference is rather staggering, with higher definition bringing the line work out much more and showing more detail in form of dust specks and the like. For more colour, check the examples for these two stitches, first being from the DVD, the second being from the BD.

A remaster can bring new life and vibrant dimensions to a product that didn’t really have it before. An original master may have all the elements in there, but for whatever reason it could not be put into use. The LP-records  could not contain as much data as the compact cassette could, just as the compact cassette couldn’t hold as much data as the CD could. A CD on the other hand lost its place to digital sound formats that can, in principle, be as large as one wants them to be, even to obscene amounts.

While having as pristine version of something is desirable, the fact is that at some point there is no point of trying get any higher version of that piece. It could be even argued that the screenshots of Iczer-1 above is too highly defined, as it was never intended to be seen at that resolution. That goes for anything in audio and visual department, as in case of Star Trek, sixty years of development in television technology show every bit of those sets, costumes, double actors and the like, which were never visible before thanks to the lower standard definitions. This can have a largely negative effect on the piece from some, as they will point out and laugh at how cheap some of the things look nowadays. Can’t really fault them for using the best technology they had available at the time, which would be a good thing to keep in mind.

Another thing that pops up from this is that now that we can see absolutely everything, we can enjoy and even research the way some of those sets Trek used were made and so on. In animation we can admire all the fine lines and colours that were put in there by the animators and painters, things that we didn’t see before because of the lower definitions.

The necessity of remakes can be questioned, as in film their quality has been largely dubious. From making remakes cult flicks like Nightmare on Elm Street to remaking television series like Charlie’s Angels and Kamen Rider (The First is an atrocious movie with great suits), none of these really all the well received. The idea is solid; take an existing franchise and update it to a modern audience with modern techniques and technologies. However, rarely these remakes are made for the benefit of product and aim for pure nostalgia grabs instead. Very few remakes stand against the originals because of this, like the 1982 The Thing against 1951’s Who Goes There?, and 1986’s The Fly against its 1958 counterpart.

It’s often argued that remakes miss the point of the originals, and that the excess use of CGI elements do not stand up to the originals’ practical effects when it comes to films. Simply put it, it can’t hold the candle in direct comparison. This can be up to opinion to some extent, but it is true that CGI ages faster than practical, so take that as you will.

Maybe the most pressing argument against remakes is that they do not add anything new to table. While everything we produce nowadays is more or less a remade variation of pre-existing myths, stories and legends, exact remakes in and out of entertainment media don’t even try to create a basis for something new or expand into region less explored. An example of starting with a similar core idea and making it its own piece could be made in comparison between Star Trek and seaQuest DSV. On the surface, the both shows have similarities with their missions and overall idea of a top of the line ship send to the unknown for exploration and research. Yet, both shows stand apart from each other because of their themes and how they were handled, adding something to the cultural view in ways that a simple film remake never could.

I would wager that the bottom line is that some expect a remake to simply remake an original piece for the modern era, while some expect a remake to stand on its own two legs and be something more. There is a golden middle way, but not many seem to be willing to take it.

Monthly Three: Aliens are awesome!

It doesn’t take half a brain to turn Robocop into a children’s franchise, it wasn’t the first robotic cop kid’s show after all. Rambo came along just the right time in right place to be able to get a kids’ cartoon in G.I. Joe’s wake, but how in the hell they though Aliens would make a great children’s franchise?

When Alien came out in 1979, it was almost an instant classic. Without a doubt it was a B-Class horror movie done right with almost A-class budget. It was a straight up science fiction horror that didn’t hold back on its themes or visuals. 20th Century Fox was partnered with Kenner at the time, and then they had Kenner to produce and release an Alien action figure.

I’ve heard this tale few times around, but it still boggles my mind. How did they think they’d get away with releasing Giger’s alien to store shelves? Soon after the toy hit the shelves, Kenner began to receive tons of complaints from parents. The toy was too terrifying for children to play with, and I’ve heard some rumours saying that kids were crying in the you isles when they saw the Xenomorph figure. There were plans to realise a full-scale action figure line of Alien toys, but the uproar from this 18″ toy doomed that idea.

I get the idea. Star Wars was a massive hit to Kenner and can be counted as the origin point of current toy tie-ins of games, movies and so on. It’s not hard to understand the line of reasoning Kenner and 20th Century Fox had at the time. They had a successful sci-fi piece under their belt from Lucas, and with Alien being similar sharing the genre, of course it would be a hit. This is one of the prime examples of people in charge not understanding their products or to whom they were aimed for. If Alien would be released nowadays, it would be pushed to have PG-13 or similar rating.

Supposedly, 20th Century Fox was planning to create an Alien TV-show in the early 1980’s, but that never went anywhere. The only mention it has can be found in a small newsbit in Fangoria #6 June 1980. Television version of Alien could work, if it was allowed to be its visceral itself. The series most likely never left writing board, and Aliens followed soon after.

Fast forward to 1992, and they were making a cartoon based on the franchise; Operation: Aliens.

The only thing that was pushed to the general audience were these toys. Operation: Aliens was based on the second movie with the shooting and action, but it’s only know that only a pilot was produced, and even that might not be. Plans obviously were made and series was mostly already largely budgeted, as Kenner’s released a toyline, a boardgame was produced based on the series’ concepts and a comic labelled with the same name with trading cards began to run in 1994 . As the series’ plug was pulled before it got properly off the ground, there’s not much to go on about it, and only a handful of screenshots exist.

SHOOTY SHOOTY
The show’s poster was damn cool too

One has to wonder what the hell were they thinking. It’s not too far removed that the success of G.I. Joe and Transformers were looming in people’s minds, and the success of The Real Ghostbusters, another horror movie turned kid’s cartoon, most likely boosted the idea of turning Aliens into an action packed Saturday morning cartoon. Imagine the face of some 20th Century Fox exec when he has commissioned the series, and the first footage he gets is filled with soldier littering dark hallways with bullets and ripping xenomorphs apart. Visceral violence is something you can’t separate from Alien no matter how much you try, that is in its very core idea.

Nevertheless, the early 1990’s was bad time to both Japan and toy companies. The toylines of 1980’s were essentially more or less dead and new ones were taking their place. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles became the hottest shit when the 1989 cartoon hit the airwaves, and Power Rangers would soon follow in suit. In general terms, large toylines that were supported by a cartoon had become passé.

Three main theories exist why Operation: Alien died before it even started. First being that Alien 3 bombed in the theatres and 20th Century Fox just cut their losses. Another is that when the exec’s saw whatever was done of the pilot, they saw that it was either far too violent for children, or had no edge to it as an Alien cartoon. The third is basically combination of both, which is most probable.

In 2007, there was supposed to be another Aliens cartoon called Aliens: War Games, but that went nowhere either. It was supposed to be similar to Tartavosky’s Clone Wars, but whether or not it would have been for children or adults is another thing altogether.

Alien doesn’t simply work as a children’s franchise. Its core is far too violent and gruesome, partly thanks to Giger’s biomechanical visual world and the fact that in Alien violence is met with violence. You can not remove these elements that build the Xenomorph as a creature, not to mention the sexual tones. The idea of a group of people being called to fight against a Xenomorph invasion under different situations sounds cool, but not for children. Ben-10 could do it, but not Alien.

With Deadpool’s massive success in the box office, I have hopes that some executives will realize that something that’s build for adults will do well when they’re not forced for children. The same goes the other way as well. However, I’m not confident enough to say Deadpool will have a huge effect, as Hollywood seems to lack common sense.

To add a bit more crafts to this, I recommend watching this 1979 documentary on Giger designing and creating props to the movie. Is shows a master craftsman at his best.

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: Robot cops are awesome

Rather than talking about Robocop for three entries, I’ve changed the theme of this month to discuss how certain franchises and series get turned into either family or children’s franchises, which in the end may doom the franchise. We’ll startwith Robocop, then discuss the Rambo franchise and then end with Alien.

Robocop may not need any sort of introductions. Alex Murphy being turned into a law enforcing robot stuck with pop-culture for a good reason. It’s a damn good movie and its satire still hits hard. While there are some elements that certainly dates it, its designs and overall look are largely timeless, portraying an upcoming cyberpunk future with OCP wanting to usher Delta City on Old Detroid. This makes Robocop’s world very bleak, violent and corrupt, where no man can trust another, lest he be backstabbed. Low- and middle class citizens who have no place in OCP’s bright future are left to rot, and OCP owned law enforcement has to quell these people down despite the moral conflicts. Criminals revel in this world, abusing the corruption of the officials and taking every bit they can from those who just want to survive in this changing world. It is powerful stuff, and only handful of Robocop’s stories dwell deeper into the possibilities what sort of dichotomy this change ushers.

It is also a story and world that is very much an adult one. It can’t be naturally turned to a children’s franchise or something the whole family could enjoy. The over the top violence combined with the satire is something children don’t get, and removing violence leaves the satire largely punchless in this case.

Robocop himself it the main reason why the franchise began a downslope from its third movie onwards, and the main reasons for this is because Robocop is seen as a good guy robot who apprehends bad guys. My description of Robocop above is how the franchise is overall seen, but it would be more apt to say that Robocop is about a man who dies in the line of duty, is used to build a cybernetic being to function as a puppet to the villain, but regains his humanity in the end. Space Detective Gavan is an example of a franchise that build for children from the ground up, and there’s nothing wrong in that. Gavan excels very well in being that sort of show, and bringing it to the adult audience would be incredibly easy, just like with almost any other children’s franchise. However, it is very easy to fuck up this transition with a bad script, which happened to Kamen Rider the First, and arguably, to Man of Steel. It’s not necessarily a good idea, but many fans that have grown up with something like comics expect these comics to grow with them, which has essentially fucked up the comic industry.

It’s like a bunch of bloggers from Tumblr wrote this list

Turning an adult franchise to children’s or even family friendly franchise without a doubt will take something away, be it sexual imagery, violence or otherwise something that could shock the unprepared or kids in the audience. When you remove something that is essential to the tone to the work, you need to replace it with something else. Robocop 3 is a good example, alongside the two cartoon series, how the very idea of a robotic cop is not taken seriously as entertainment for adults in the larger scheme of things.

The movie tries to try to keep the spirit of the original work intact, with the third movie trying to keep OCP being a dominant evil entity, but even then they’re reduced to almost a bumbling fool status with Kanemitsu Corporation taking over them and sending Outomo, the android ninja, to take care of Robocop. Kid characters are often used to have the children something to relate to, but kids never give a damn about them. Just like with Batman and Robin, kids don’t want to relate to Robin as they can never become him. They can become Batman, which is why they look up to him. However, Hollywood idiots still force child characters as secondary main characters to create a relation that is experienced by a very small margin of the audience. In Robocop, there is nobody for kids to relate to. Murhpy is a gunned down cop and is not supposed to be a role model of any sorts and he can’t be made to be. This is unlike Gavan alias Retsu Ichijouji, who dons the armour of Gavan to fight crime and be an overall just guy. He is someone kids can look up to.

The first movie in the franchise was relatively successful and has become a classic. The second movie isn’t up there with the first one, and script suffers largely due to Frank Miller’s base script combined with exec meddling, and the third one was bumped top PG-13 for larger audiences and possible profits. Robocop 3 succeeded the most in Japan, unsurprisingly. After the horrible reception the third movie got, and lacklustre success of the cartoon, Robocop the Series tried to be a sort in-between the R-Rated original and children’s franchise. It didn’t really succeed. The main reason for this is that Robocop himself could not be violent and the action reflects that. He has cartoony non-lethal methods of incapacitating criminals instead of blowing their kneecaps or dangly sacks. Much like how Robocop 3 played OCP for comedy, most of the darker and more violent scenes in the Series is treated with humorous tone and played for laughs rather than using Verhoeven’s over the top violence to give it an accent. It has heart, but it just can’t achieve what the original movie had because of wasn’t not allowed aim to follow in its image. The Series’ script wasn’t anything worth mentioning really, and overall didn’t do much service to showcase the franchise.


Another problem The Series had can be heard in how Robocop is seen. Rock Shop has a heroic renderition, something that it wasn’t originally

The Prime Directives TV-series in the early 2000’s wasn’t a family friendly entry in the franchise, but it wasn’t over the top with the violence either. This series suffered from low-budget, mediocre acting at best and not the best script out there. The franchise finally had given the chance to aim for the same kind of take Verhoeven realized, but the vision wasn’t in there. So, a franchise that went from being a hard R-18 action movie with surprisingly spiritual heart went to be a children’s Saturday morning cartoon and superhero movie in relatively short time, and then tried returning to its roots with Prime Directive only to be ultimately to be dismissed.

The trailer for Prime Directives is kinda awful and tries to hide bad acting with a constant barrage of action.

The reboot movie from 2014 followed the same lines as the third movie and the Series, and its reception was not favourable. It retreads the same points the original did with worse results, especially how it handled the relationship between Murphy and Robocop. There no weight to anything in it, because it doesn’t do anything new. It’s more or less a forgettable PG-13 action movie that doesn’t stand out from the current comic book movies as it uses the same style, tone and looks. Outside few scenes, especially the one where Murphy is shown his current nature, it’s a very safe flick. You could say that just like J.J. Abrams’ Star Treks, the new Robocop was supercharged for the new generation and very few things have a feeling of weight, be it in physical objects or in themes. One of the problems in this is that the motion original Robocop was staccato and very deliberate in movement. The new 2014 version looks like a man in a suit.

Anyway, the 2014 Robocop didn’t get a standing applaud. SONY has been wondering whether or not to make a sequel, but it has the same problem as the original; Robocop’s story is essentially over. While you can expand on his further adventures, at least the 2014 reboot can go deeper into how cyborg Murphy could function as a husband and father, for better or worse.

Robocop seems to be successful when the violence and darker tones are intact. While Robocop is not a heroic robot like Gavan, the character and movies can discuss humanity and our relationship with machines and change, something a wholly family friendly show and a kids’ cartoon can’t do to the same extent. Not to say kids’ shows couldn’t do that, but Robocop can’t without stripping itself from the adult take and themes it set since its creation. Children can enjoy Power Rangers and the like just fine, but Robocop should have stayed as something only for adults.

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