The Heroic Legend of Arslan Volumes 1 & 2 (Kodansha)

When I was in high school, anime didn’t occupy the corner of the media landscape it does today. It was certainly gaining a foothold thanks to weekly broadcasts of certain high profile direct to video features and movies on the Sci-Fi Channel and daily doses of VoltronRobotechDragon Ball Z, and Sailor Moon on Cartoon Network’s Toonami block, but we were still firmly in the era of fansub tape trading and commercial releases carrying two, maybe three episodes of a TV series if you were lucky. I still vividly remember buying Neon Genesis Evangelion two episodes at a time for months on end, and buying it dubbed into English because those tapes were five to ten dollars cheaper.

There were a few other anime fans I knew in town, and one in particular who rode the same bus home that I did. He was a big, funny guy who had a vast library of anime series and films at his disposal, all duplicated in Extended Play from tapes he’d rented from our local anime shop. I can’t remember what all he loaned to me over the years; I’m fairly certain that’s how I first filled the gaps I had in the original Tenchi Muyo series, and I know that’s how I saw the first season of Ranma 1/2 and one of my all-time favorites, the first series of El Hazard: The Magnificent World. But next to El Hazard, one of my absolute favorite things he loaned me was The Heroic Legend of Arslan, a gorgeously animated fantasy adventure based on, I would later find out, a series of novels by Legend of the Galactic Heroes author Yoshiki Tanaka. I’m usually not drawn to fantasy stories, but the ornate armor stylings, lavishly garbed and beautiful character designs, and hauntingly lovely musical score enchanted me, and the English dubbed version by Manga UK was well cast and perfectly watchable. In those days most of what we were getting in the States were movies and short direct to video series, so when after four episodes (the last two of which were kind of shabby around the edges) it just sort of trailed off it was irritating but not unexpected. Two more episodes would make it to the states a few years later, but the animation had gotten worse, the English language cast had been replaced with lousy domestic sound-alikes with bad phony English accents, and the story still was far from resolved. Continue reading

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Colonial Souls #1 – 4

“I learn such a great deal from you. You are wise beyond my short years, you are strong and fierce in battle.

“But sometimes you act like a big dumb bug swinging your big dumb sword.”

A couple of years before I moved up to Wisconsin, a young woman I was close to decided one night to regale me with a description of the afterlife according to one Sylvia Browne. Browne was a so-called psychic and spiritual medium, the author of oodles of books, and would crop up on Larry King and Montel Williams’s shows when there was some sort of missing persons case and offer her “expert” predictions. I don’t recall much about her version of the afterlife, except that it seemed designed specifically to be comforting to boring people, basically “here, but nicer.”  Honestly, my opinion is that if there is an afterlife, it had better be an interesting one. In a universe full of infinite possibilities, why would we — why should we — go from this mortal coil to something that’s just like here, but in a slightly better climate? Shouldn’t we have a whole different range of sensory inputs without our bodies? Shouldn’t our forms be something strange and malleable after we die, or maybe some kind of light or shadow? If it is as pablum as Browne sketched it, I can only hope that it’s a cover, the vision an exceptionally boring person with a poor idea of paradise sees because that’s the version he or she wants to see, and in reality it is something a little more prog rock, a little more strange vistas and colors we can’t even comprehend and a ruler above it all that our limited minds can’t even process. Continue reading

Robotech/Voltron #4 & 5 (Dynamite Comics)

“I was sent north to find this Kimba, which I was told could help us back to Earth. I wish I could say more, but I don’t think you’d believe a ghost story.”

Robotech/Voltron #4 is positively tragic. Like the mish-mashed worlds it showcases, it provides a window into a universe where this mini-series as a whole carried the spirit of its predecessors, the lively, pulpy Robotech comics co-writer Bill Spangler scripted back in the early-to-mid 1990s for publishers Malibu/Eternity and Academy. Reading it, I was both elated that the series was picking up steam and worried that there was no way it could be resolved satisfactorily in its concluding issue.

Sadly, I was so right. Robotech/Voltron is easily the worst issue of the run, and is a serious contender for the worst Robotech comic book of all time. Continue reading

Robotech/Voltron #3 (Dynamite Comics)

“I don’t understand. Do you think we’re connected to this SDF-1 somehow?”

“That’s what we’re trying to find out. All we know is that you’re part of this perfect storm of craziness.”

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Robotech/Voltron #3 brings us through the halfway point of Dynamite’s crossover between the two premiere Japanese robot anime imports of the 1980s, and while there is still a certain amount of setup going on, some pieces of this machine finally feel like they’re in motion. The crossover finally feels like it’s underway. Unfortunately, that means that we only have two more issues for the whole thing to resolve itself; pacing remains a problem, despite this issue feeling like the series finally coming into its own.

Continue reading

Vlog 06.25.2011 – Catching Up With Comics

Thirty long minutes of talking up and discussing my reactions to a handful of comic book series I’ve been reading and getting caught up on. The four series I talk about are all ones I’m pretty pleased with as of late; the only one I’ve been waffling on is IDW’s Transformers, and honestly, it really is the least of those discussed; I started reading Uncanny X-Force because of good buzz, while Transformers is something I’m reading because, eh, it’s Transformers. To be fair, these past two issues were especially well crafted, mostly a result of Guido Guidi’s always strong artwork. (Honestly, I think he’s a better Transformers artist than everyone’s favorite Pat Lee ghost-artist Alex Milne, and there are times I prefer him to king of the fan faves Don Figueroa.) And, as I say above, it pushed my nostalgia buttons pretty hard; I’m always a sucker for Rodimus and Galvatron.

Anyway, watch & comment. It’s a long one, like I said, so I don’t expect a massive amount of viewers and hits and stuff, but I’d be interested in seeing what other people have been reading out there comics-wise.