Thursday, September 13, 2018

My Favorite Sentai Series; TATTOOED TEENAGE ALIEN FIGHTERS FROM BEVERLY HILLS

The Galactic Sentinels; Scorpio (Green), Taurus (Black), Centaur (Purple), and Apollo (Yellow)

There are some shows I thought I would never see again in their entirety, and this is definitely one of them. During the Power Ranger craze of the early to mid 1990's, this show popped up on Sundays on the USA network, and I was pretty hooked to it. To my knowledge, it might still be the only truly original American sentai series. If i'm not mistaken, most serious sentai fans just sneer and shrug this series off, but actually really enjoy it. It's abnormally low budget, making the original 1960's Land of the Lost look like Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park, and the sets are very obviously sets. Some of the locations look inherited from failed sitcoms and stage productions. Unlike Power Rangers, nothing seems to have been shot in a public park or on location anywhere, and most scenes take place in the same handful of locations; coffee house, backyard pool, high school hallway, cave, desert, and space. There are occasionally battles in the "city", but nothing is ever destroyed. Actually, no citywide destruction ever occurs, and at the most you'll sometime witness a small fake tree being burned. It might lack the bigger budgets of other sentai shows, but I can't help but love Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverly Hills. 

Nimbar and the Trans-O-Discs ("Transactional Time Space Re-generator Discs")

Aesthetically, this show looks like any other sentai show. A group of teenagers who brought together by an alien force to confront and defend against that attacks of another alien force with evil intentions. But unlike other shows, this show feels closer to a sitcom than it does to an action series for kids. It really is a sort of Saved by the Bell sentai show.Set in beautiful Beverly Hills, in the 1990's, we have all the archetypes for a time capsule of that era; a privileged yuppie, a grunge era poet and non conformist, an over achiever, and a studious super nerd. None know how to fight, and they aren't even friends really. They're just a group of classmates who happened to be summoned to take part as "Galactic Sentinels" against their will. They work together quite well, but when not on duty they are constantly arguing with each other. 

Garganus and his evil pet, Lechner

When the evil emperor of space, Garganus, comes to conquer the Earth because of the planets qualifications as a "Power Portal focal point", Nimbar (a blob from space who is the Head Protector of the Power Portals and Consulate of the Galactic Sentinels) summons a group of eccentric teenagers from a local Beverly Hills high school to assume the roles and take on the responsibilities as Galactic Sentinels, so that the Earth might have a fighting chance against Garganus and his army of monsters. Garganus is after all of the Power Portals so that his conquest of the universe will be swift, and unstoppable. Luckily, Garganus' plans always fall short thanks to a team of bickering teenagers and their space blob leader. 

Ninjabot, the Samurai Robot Monster from Space


As I stated earlier, the teenagers chosen have no fighting skills of their own, so thankfully when they transform into Galactic Sentinels they inherit all the acquired skills and fighting techniques that their new identities have accumulated before they reached them. Their Sentinel powers are activated when Nimbar lights up their glowing space tattoos, and they stand on the "Trans-O-Discs". After they transform, they are transported to face the monster wherever they might be in California, and do battle on a titanic scale. There is no point on this show where they fight as normal size humans first, then gain robots to battle a giant monster; at all times the Sentinels and the monster are at a colossal height. There are no giant robots, or "make my monster grow!" spells. It's pretty epic, but also a tad bit disappointing. This show does lack any evil henchmen like the "Putties" to fight, but at least the stories move at a quick pace, and we don't have to wait too long for a nice monster fight. The fights are pretty well choreographed, but as I stated earlier there's none of the usual sentai property damage. And most lazer beams look really, really cheap. Like they were drawn onto the fight scene using the earliest version of Microsoft Paint.


Knightron

And, as the Galactic Sentinels battle monsters in Garganus' army, if they ever need an extra boost of power to defeat it, the can unite their powers to form the amazingly power, but unfortunately finite, Knightron. Knightron wields the might "Megacalibur" sword, which happens to be the most powerful weapon in the galaxy. Usually, Knightron will use Megacalibur to fire blasts of energy to obliterate the monster, and save the day.

The mighty Megacalibur! 

And I have to talk about the monsters that appear, and what a rogues gallery of weirdos they are. They range from being being somewhat awful like "Ninjabot, the Samurai Robot Monster", to being absolutely cool like "Meragula, the Brain Monster" (who looks like a creature straight out of Resident Evil. It really is a hit or miss, but that was kind of the same with any of the old Power Ranger shows. One episode we'd have some awesome creature like "Eye Guy", then we'd have the lamer"Pungy Pig". So at least in this regard, it delivers exactly what we want to see; giant good guys fighting giant monsters. I've not been let down yet by the creatures on this show.

Menagular

As for the writing for the show, it really surprises me. Because it was the 1990's, the show was pretty influenced by the counter culture of that time. Even the soundtrack to the show is nothing but grunge and rock music from that time! And it's common to see some of the characters talking about gender roles, philosophical concepts about conformity in society, talking about the problem of pollution, alternative eating habits like veganism, and even the affects of peer pressure on modern youths; which were all hot topics back in that decade. And it wasn't done in a hokey way, even though it could have. Somehow this show respected it's audience enough to not dumb down it's dialogue for children, and that's pretty rare. The acting is okay given the context of the show, and I'm sure the actors involved had trouble finding a balance in their roles. Some actors come across more naturally than others, but sometimes the characters themselves can be reduced to just being their archetype and not their character. What I found pretty cool about this interpretation of a sentai team, was that there was no leader; it really was just a team. No one Sentinel had more attention than the others. There were of course episodes where the plot would revolve a particular individual, but there was never a point where I was like "Well, Taraus is the leader!" or "Scorpio is the leader!". Not even the wise Nimbar takes the role of a leader, but more as an adviser. I actually find Nimbar to be a lot more charming as a character than Zordon from Power Rangers. His voice, provided by the late Glenn Shadix, is so soothing, and even though Nimbar has no true shape or form, some how that voice alone is enough to give him a very strong presence on the show.



Currently the complete 40 episode run of the series is available from Mills Creek Direct for a low cost. If you love this genre and want to see something particularly rare and special, then this right novelty item for your collection. There were no true products for fans of this show when it was on television. There are no toys to collect, but every so often you can find a Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters lunchbox on eBay. For me, owning this series brings back a lot of great Sunday morning memories, and I plan on watching the Galactic Sentinels fight the evil forces of Garganus, over and over again.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Finally, an Update! Check out the "new" links!

So it was a horrifyingly scorching summer, especially since I took a trip to the Philippines and nearly died from mosquito bites and humidity. As I write this, the weather is beginning to cool down and I hope it sticks. This current cloudy, windy, rainy weather makes me want to sit down and watch some old shows which I currently don't have too much time to do because of schoolwork. 

My favorite anime series is "Cyberteam in Akihabara". I didn't watch it during it's original release, rather, I discovered it by accident while hanging out with some friends at a local anime shop. I adore this series because of it's great use of idiotic characters, serious plot-lines, and weird esoteric plot. Also, the character designs are a lot of fun too. The designs are what come to mind for me when I think back to 1990's anime. 


If I'm not mistaken, the same character designers/creators also worked on the "Saber Marionette J" (SMJ). I watched SMJ with my friends on VHS, and it holds a special place in my heart even if the plot makes no sense to me. Also, I'm grateful for the creation of the character Bloodberry, who is definitely the least annoying of the Marrionette's on the show. Now, as we all know my favorite anime character is Sasami, from "Tenchi Muyo!", but Bloodberry comes pretty close too funny enough. I guess we can't explain why certain characters 


I like Bloodberry so much that I recently found some and touched up an old fan-made wallpaper of her. 

The original:

My edit: I tried to make the colors more vibrant. I think it came out pretty good.


Well, in any case, that's more or less what I've been up to. Just reminiscing about shows that meant something to me. I really need to look into making time to re-watch these shows, even if I am working on my final thesis! 

In other news, I've added links for everyone to explore. Most of them are just ancient anime websites, but a couple of them are still being updated. I really want to spotlight that lost internet culture of fansite building; there isn't enough of it these days. 

Until next time!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Learning a Universal Language of Notes and Rests

I've wanted to mess around with vocaloids for a while now.


I never got crazy into the vocaloid scene, even if I did think the designs were neat. I don't think I even really understood what vocaloids were until maybe a year or two ago and while I never got way into looking up songs or getting into specific vocaloid characters, I really loved the concept of a virtual singer.

I ended up in some film making classes in high school, and while I didn't know much about film making (Due to not taking the prerequisite classes) I did enjoy mixing soundtracks for our awful student films in Garageband. I'd also taken some music classes in middle school, but none of the information has stuck with me over the years.

So I've started looking into the basics of how music works and how to make it. I may take a class next semester if it fits into my schedule, but there's plenty of resources online to teach me the same stuff for free, so we'll see where I end up. 

Either way, it's something I plan to pursue learning, and I guess the whole reason I'm writing about it here is so that there's some form of accountability. I tend to want to learn things and then get quickly distracted and move on to something else. So I want you all to wish me luck, and I hope in the future I can present you all with a musical gift brought back from this cyber adventure.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Akikan is a good show with a weird/dumb premise, and I love it

 

"Akikan" is a powerfully stupid anime about a "war" between sentient, anthropomorphized, steel and aluminum drink cans organized by a small but somewhat influential government agency. These humanoid-cans are called "Akikan". They aren't robots, but rather advanced and powerful human-like cans with superhuman abilities. The reason for this supposed war, called he "Akikan Elect", is to figure out which kind of can should be eliminated from the market place. 



I adore this series. It's so cute and dumb as to be endearing. It's also really funny. The animation is choppy sometimes, but the voice-acting is so over-the-top, and the dialogue so preposterous that I can't help but become engaged with the idiocy going on. Even though there's a plot to this series, I don't really feel like that plot matters all that much. There are action scenes, and conflicts, but this show is more like a sitcom. It's all about the ridiculous characters and their reactions to things. The main conflict of the Akikan Elect hardly matters. 



Melon (a can of melon soda), the main Akikan, is full of personality and is short tempered and free-spirited. Yell (a Gatorade like sports drink), is a duty bound and subservient Akikan; she's almost like a soldier. There's a decent amount of conflict between the two characters, since they're both different kinds of cans, but they're more like frenemies.


My main attraction to this show, aside from it's premise, was how it was so difficult to obtain on DVD. It's strange to think that this series was so rare to find out in the wild, or even online. I remember eBay sellers trying to sell used copies at prices that were clearly trying to bank on the rarity of it. I'm not sure when it occurred, but sometime a few years ago all the DVD's dropped down to normal price. Maybe there was a re-release of it on DVD; maybe there was a warehouse full of them; I have no idea. 

Oh, I forgot to mention the main hero of this series Kakeru. Most of the real humor derives from his eccentric nature. He's loud, perverted, and says very strange things. Often he'll be talking to himself, so stay attentive when he speaks and you'll see what I mean. Kakeru, by the way, collects cans as a hobby. It's not the strangest hobby, especially in Japan where collectible bottles and cans are always on the market place. I just found it somewhat humorous how this hobby of his was mentioned only in the first episode, and never talked about again. Why even make it a part of his personality if it never comes into play again? 

This show is weird, but it does have a sort of devoted following. If you Google search "Akikan", eventually you'll stumble upon fan art and even OC's based on this show. Maybe I should create my own "can-sona" and join the fandom? 



Saturday, August 25, 2018

Samurai High School: Mochizuki Kotaro


I’m not totally sure what I want to think of this as, but I’m going to talk a bit about quite possibly one of my favorite dramas among the small handful that I’ve watched -- Samurai High School, and in particular it's lead character. "Samurai High School" aired 9 episodes in 2008 on NTV in a late night time-slot, and is a super-natural slice-of-life/coming-of-age comedy about Mochizuki Kotaro, a high schooler who comes to be possessed by his ancestor of the same name who was a samurai that fought under Yukimura Sanada.

Mochizuki Kotaro of the present (left) and past (right). 
The premise of the show is fairly basic -- When Kotaro is under duress, his ancestor will take over and due to the culture gap between 1615 and 2008, hijinks then ensue. It begins rather episodic for the first handful, portraying various incidents at Kotaro's school that he is dragged into and must deal with while trying to do damage control on his ancestor taking over his body now and again.


Kotaro has an over-bearing mother, a little sister with better grades and prospects than himself, and no real ambition for what he wants to do with his life. He's a fairly standard slice-of-life protagonist when you write him out on paper. But I think the thing that truly stands out to me about Kotaro is how earnest he is in his mediocrity, and how aware he is that it stacks the deck against him.


Kotaro's ancestor is loud and abrasive, ready to fight for anything and against anyone, which often puts Kotaro is some very real physical danger. He criticizes Kotaro for essentially being the opposite, avoidant and non-confrontational, but frequently tries to guide his descendant into not letting the world beat him, or his friends, into submission.




Much of the core theme of the show beneath it's time-travel-ish antics is Kotaro learning that even though the world is unfair, and the race is rigged for him to lose because there's nothing in particular he accels at, that doesn't make him worthless. He's got a good heart, people he loves, and even if the world isn't going out of it's way for him, Kotaro can still carve out his place whether the world likes it or not.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Let's learn subpar English with Ribbon-chan!


So, this series is kind of a trip. It's definitely heavily influenced by "Moetan", even having the legendary POP work on the character designs, but it sort of came out of nowhere and left no impact during it's run. And even though there are two seasons of it, "Maji de Otaku na English! Ribbon-chan" isn't popular at all. There is absolutely zero merchandise to coincide with this show, which is odd because Japanese animation companies will produce any kind of merch to promote a show. I suspect these characters all appear in an illustration book by POP, since I was able to find a high quality image of Nerd (below.)


Still, as usual, I love it. Why must I be so attracted to strange and obscure shows like this. Each episode is less than or about 4 minutes long, and usually end with an FAQ session with the characters Nerd (the wanna-be magical girl) and Valko (the main villain of the series.)


The first season isn't about the show itself, but rather, it's about the cast trying to find the budget to actually make their show. The first episode shows an action sequence from the final episode, which was really quite dramatic, but it also took up all of their budget. By episode two they're going to conventions trying to raise more money for their animation, just to lose it all again by episode three because they spent it all on a vacation and booze. We finally see the opening theme song by episode 6 or 7, and that shows us how serious and dramatic this show was "meant to be"; it's so dark and brutal actually, the lead characters are all in shock. 

So, in all honesty, this show is essentially pointless, but I love it.The actual plot of the show is about a student, Ribbon, who's terrible at speaking English, but has to use English skills to battle evil forces. That's why the show still takes breaks to do a quick English lesson, but, the English they use is quite bad and unusable. Again though, this show isn't about that at all, it's just a show with those characters trying to find the money to make that show. It's a dumb joke, and if this show ever came to the US officially, I think it'd have a cult following.


Monday, August 20, 2018

Cyber Adventurer Sono Citrus

Hey, all. I've been given instructions to introduce myself, so my name is Angela, but I am and have for at least half my life at this point been known in a large variety of internet circles as Sono. I met Guimo through a mutual friend at the time when we both attended a concert across the street from my college dorm, and we've been friends and on-and-off collaborators ever since.



I started watching anime as a young kid around the beginning of DiC's release of Sailor Moon on television and old re-runs of Speed Racer. I became captivated by their use of over-arching story as opposed to the episodic storytelling of American cartoons of the time. Like many, I threw myself into that hole and never looked back, being part of the culture that saw anime and manga sections of my local book and video stores grow from a single niche shelf to an entire case and then entire sections of stores. I was and am still proud to have been part of that.


Just after college some friends got me into Kamen Rider and Super Sentai and I embraced the Tokusatsu genre with just as much passion as I had anime and manga. I made a name for myself in the community surrounding Kamen Rider and Super Sentai, and have begun folding Japanese TV Dramas into the fold of my media experience.


I consider myself an adventurer above all else, and I like to learn to do a little bit of everything. While my main career is illustrator, focusing on video game art and charatcer design, I've also been podcasting for about 4 1/2 years and am throwing my hat in on video production and streaming. My other hobbies include cooking, crafting, video games, and Dungeons & Dragons. I hope to bring a little bit of all of these things that I love to Downtown Otaku.