PREVIOUSLY, ON NATESTALGIA:
CRN writer Nate Ming decided to do the unthinkable, and write about stuff he likes and feels nostalgic about. The last time he dove into this abyssal maw, he looked back at video game graphics that have wowed him through the years. This time, he ventures into the dangerous territory of the maybes and the could-have-beens...
Okay, yes, I lied. I originally planned on doing an OAV Oasis for the two Fatal Fury OAVs (while saving the movie for a later column), but we'll get back to that one later... this just sounded more interesting. I mean, think about it--out of the thousands and thousands of manga that hit publication, how many get the full-on anime treatment?
There are plenty of reasons why this happens, of course--maybe the author doesn't care for having their work adapted into an animated series. Maybe the publisher doesn't think it would be a good investment. Or maybe someone somewhere had some common sense and realized that we don't need another anime based off a 4-koma that features cute girls doing cute things cutely.
But that's just the way of things, right? If a series runs in JUMP, or if it's based off a popular light novel or 4-koma, or based on an eroge or visual novel, it's almost a given that you're going to see an anime for it... most times, anyway. For every title that is obviously going to get the anime treatment like Magi or Yuyushiki, you get one like Attack on Titan that you never would have expected to be animated.
Atypical art, no super-cute girls, no fanservice, detailed animation that moves smoothly, and plot galore? Nah, nobody'll care about that
While the full list of titles that I want to see animated could take up several columns, here are four that immediately spring to mind--and of these, only one has been released in the US. Let's get started!
An insane fusion of the best parts of Fist of the North Star, Dragonball, One Piece and Cromartie High School, Kongō Banchō is a comedy-heavy action extravaganza that ran in Weekly Shounen Sunday alongside Detective Conan and Hayate the Combat Butler, but never quite reached their level of popularity.
Japan is a nation on the verge of societal and economic collapse. Children don't respect their parents, citizens don't respect their government. The "23 District Project" aims to change all that by waging a war for Japan's future using banchō--charismatic delinquent leaders. The young man or woman who defeats the other banchō and earns their allegiance will get to mold Japan into their ideal nation, for better or worse.
The perfect five-man band! From left to right: Hikyō Banchō, Nenbutsu Banchō, Kongō Banchō, Iai Banchō, and Gōriki Banchō
Enter Akira Kongō, alias Kongō Banchō, who has not only sworn to destroy the 23 District Project by beating them at their own game, but has ties to the project's shady founders. Naturally, he'll get some help along the way (after he kicks the crap out of them) and face appropriately-sized teams of villains in tournament-like matches, but this straight-up, no-frills shounen actioner doesn't try to reinvent the wheel--it just aims to make the very best wheel you've ever seen, and does a pretty good job of it.
Dream Production Team and Voice Actors:
Animation Production by Production I.G., 26-episode run
Directed by Itsuro Kawasaki (Sengoku BASARA, Rental Magica)
Rikiya Koyama (Hajime no Ippo's Takamura, Naruto Shippuden's Yamato) as Akira Kongō/Kongō Banchō
Akio Ohtsuka (One Piece's Blackbeard, Solid Snake) as Nippon Banchō
Hikaru Midorikawa (Gundam W's Heero Yuy, Saint Seiya Omega's Koga) as Iai Banchō
Wataru Takagi (GTO's Onizuka, Excel Saga's Koshi Rikudo) as Nenbutsu Banchō
Kaori Mizuhashi (Puella Magi Madoka Magica's Tomoe, Genshiken's Ogiue) as Gōriki Banchō
Tomokazu Seki (Escaflowne's Van, Full Metal Panic's Sousuke) as Hikyō Banchō
It's almost a given that anime based on card games and toys are going to be family-friendly. Cardfight Vanguard, Beyblade, and Yu-gi-Oh! do their job admirably, working as a great marketing shill and a fun story all in one. Then you have something like Chaosic Rune, which takes the tried-and-true "card battles with monster companions" formula and mixes it with visceral, disturbingly graphic horror. Basically, it's Yu-gi-Oh! mixed with a heaping helping of Devilman.
These monsters don't faint when they lose, nor do they run out of hit points and disappear once combat has ended. Losing enemy monsters and players alike are messily devoured, meaning that everyone involved in these horrific life-or-death duels is not playing around. There's an urgency and a discomfort to this series--sometimes it's not very fun to read, and it can veer a little too far into the creepy fetish department, but I think that by playing it straight and not trying to be playful or sexy, it keeps its strong horror feel. Chaosic Rune is not for the weak of heart, but just look at how well Madoka Magica treated the normally-safe magical girl genre!
Dream Production Team and Voice Actors:
Animation Production by MADHOUSE, 26-episode run
Directed by Tetsuro Araki (Death Note, Highschool of the Dead, Attack on Titan)
Kisho Taniyama (Gurren-Lagann's Kittan, Midori Days' Seiji) as Ryouga
Ayako Kawasumi (Samurai Champloo's Fuu, Ai Yori Aoshi's Aoi) as Hanaka
Rie Kugimiya (Shakugan no Shana's Shana, Gintama's Kagura) as Culan
Norio Wakamoto (Cowboy Bebop's Vicious, Sengoku Basara's Oda Nobunaga) as Death Rex
HANAZAKARI NO KIMITACHI E (HANA-KIMI)
Sometimes, I need a break from all the hot-blooded mayhem I usually read, and that's why I have so much respect for good shoujo manga. Hanazakari no Kimitachi e, otherwise known in the US and to fans as Hana-Kimi, is a slightly more serious take on the "crossdressing romantic comedy" that you've seen before in series like Ouran High School Host Club. Mizuki Ashiya is a high school high jumper who idolizes a Japanese competitor named Izumi Sano. Of course, because sending a fangirly email or Facebook message (maybe something over AIM? The series did start in 1996) is too sane, she decides to transfer to his school to be closer to him.
Of course, there's a catch--it's an all-boys school, so she has to disguise herself as a boy. Hijinx ensue.
Because shoujo manga often doesn't have intense fight scenes or crazy action, the production crew can put a lot more into character expression and atmosphere--just look at Kimi ni Todoke's solid overall package, or My Little Monster's ridiculously good soundtrack. Hana-Kimi has actually been adapted several times into live-action dramas (one Chinese, two Japanese, one Korean), but I think the next time they dip into the well, they should go the animated route.
Dream Production Team and Voice Actors:
Animation Production by BRAINS BASE, 39-episode run
Directed by Takahiro Omori (Princess Jellyfish, Koi Kaze)
Maaya Sakamoto (Ouran High School Host Club's Haruhi, Escaflowne's Hitomi) as Mizuki Ashiya
Katsuyuki Konishi (Gurren-Lagann's Kamina, Skip Beat's Ren) as Shuichi Nakatsu
Yuji Ueda (Rurouni Kenshin's Sanosuke, Honey and Clover's Morita) as Hokuto Umeda
I like heroes. I like people who do good things for the sake of being good. It's why I like Superman more than Batman--because if you're going to be good, be good all the way and don't half-ass it. But if you're going to be bad, well... Shamo is all about that.
Ryo Narushima is a gifted student who one day snaps and coldly murders his parents. He's sent to a juvenile reformatory, where he is bullied and violated by the bigger, stronger inmates. In the reformatory, the inmates' physical education is learning karate from an adult inmate, and it is in the martial arts that Ryo finds his inner strength.
This is where you'd normally think that Ryo would reform as a person, build back up from that one horrible moment, but no... giving someone like Ryo the power to fight and hurt people only makes him crueler and more savage. As Ryo's fighting skills increase, he battles his way up the rankings of Japan's martial arts and kickboxing events. But when he comes face-to-face with Naoto Sugawara, the strongest and purest of Japan's martial arts elite, Ryo shows his true colors--and things become far worse than anyone would have expected.
While Flowers of Evil has a divisive rotoscoping style, I think it would really work for Shamo. The manga's art is detailed and skews more toward realism, even during the fight scenes. In fact, I think by motion-capturing and rotoscoping actual martial artists fighting or training, you'd get that realistic feel that the live-action movie somehow failed to capture.
Yeah, there was a live-action movie. It was ass, which is unfortunate.
Dream Production Crew and Voice Actors:
Animation Production by A-1 Pictures, 13-episode run
Directed by Tomohiko Ito (Sword Art Online, Monster)
Nobuyuki Hiyama (Yu Yu Hakusho's Hiei, Genshiken's Madarame) as Ryo Narushima
Issei Futamata (Hajime no Ippo's Coach Kamogawa, History's Strongest Disciple KenIchi's Kensei Ma) as Kenji Kurokawa
Shinichiro Miki (Gundam 00's Lockon, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood's Mustang) as Naoto Sugawara
I think what this teaches us is that I have no idea what a "budget" is and that anime production companies should never expect reasonable aspirations from me. So what about you? What (so far) manga-only titles do you think deserve a shot at animated greatness?
NEXT TIME, ON NATESTALGIA:
OAV Oasis actually returns, I promise! We'll be watching Fatal Fury: Legend of the Hungry Wolf and Fatal Fury 2: The New Battle!