Anime Review: Demon City Shinjuku


Probably the first anime I ever saw any of as a kid was Demon City Shinjuku. I saw the opening sequence of the anime on the Sci-Fi channel on Saturday mornings. The opening of the anime was exciting, and the conclusion of that opening (with the protagonist’s father failing and Shinjuku being transformed into the titular Demon City) hooked me in.

And then my parents got up and I had to turn the TV off because my dad didn’t like the TV on early in the morning.

I wasn’t able to watch the film again, and with it see the whole story, until I was in high school, and I was able to get the film from the library. Since then I’ve watched the film a few times, and while I still view the film with a degree of nostalgia, I’ve developed a bit of distance from that original viewing, so I have a degree of emotional distance from the film, and can see some of the flaws that I overlooked before.

Demon City Shinjuku is a film that makes a lot of assumptions, and expects you to just roll with them. There’s a Global President who has managed to craft a lasting peace agreement in the Middle East, because why not? He comes to Japan with his daughter by space shuttle because why not? Further, the force responsible for Shinjuku’s transformation, the sorcerer Rebi Ra, targets the Global President for attack, in spite of him not planning to launch a spiritual attack against Rebi Ra, because why not?

None of those points, among numerous others are explained. While the film is based on a novel by Hideyuki Kikuchi, creator of Vampire Hunter D, the first book is effectively a stand-alone story (though there are later sequels), so there’s prior reading you can bring with you into the story, to help explain things. It’s a story that asks you to take everything at face value, while leaving an undercurrent of mystery underneath everything, with no promise that the questions asked by those mysteries will be answered.

That said, the film is a visual feast. This is one of the films directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri (who would go on to direct adaptations of some of Kikuchi’s other work), and Kawajiri has a profound sense of visual style. His action is incredibly fluid and dynamic, without causing the viewer to lose track of the scene. Kawajiri is undoubtedly one of the best directors of action in anime (and sword fights in particular), and this film is a great example of why he’s earned that reputation.

That said, because this film is an OVA from the ’90s, it does run into the problem that it feels visually restrained. By which I mean it was made with a 4:3 TV aspect ratio in mind, so we get numerous sequences where as a view I want to see a little more beyond the edge of the screen, but we don’t get that. It makes me wish, somewhat, that this film had gotten a remake that could take advantage of the fact that everyone has widescreen TV sets these days.

Also, the film has many of the other problems that adaptations of Kikuchi’s work have with female characters. Women are generally written as either predators or passive. Even if they’re somewhat active characters, they’re still weak and vulnerable in the face of larger threats in the way that male characters aren’t – and such is the case here.

I still liked the film, but I simply cannot recommend the film without reservation. Demon City Shinjuku isn’t as openly hostile as, say, Ninja Scroll is. However, it’s still harsh and oppressive, and the way that the film’s female lead is written is rather eye-roll inducing. However, I think it’s more newbie friendly than Ninja Scroll is.

Demon City Shinjuku was license-rescued by Discotek Media a few years ago and is currently available from RightStuf and Amazon. Amazon and Rightstuf also have the novel as well, in a physical edition, and Amazon has it through the Kindle store.

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Film Review: Viva Amiga!


If the The 8-Bit Generation was a documentary that had the unpleasant habit of painting over the truth of Jack Tramiel’s run on Commodore in an appeal to fans of the Commodore 64, Viva Amiga is a documentary that makes a much more sincere attempt to appeal to fans of the Commodore Amiga, in terms of their love for the system. However, due to a runtime that goes over just one hour, it’s attempt to serve two masters – telling the story of the Amiga itself along with the story of the devotees who adopted the system and who are keeping it alive to this day – leaves the film under-serving both.

I understand that this is a documentary that was funded on Kickstarter, and you can only make as much documentary as you have money for. However, it tries to serve two masters and serves neither well. There are really interesting portions of the documentary with great development stories. There’s the story of how the Amiga almost didn’t come out, and they took out a loan from Atari – then headed by Jack Tramiel, with the Amiga Hardware and OS as collateral – and they got bought-out by Commodore at the last minute, with the CEO of Commodore personally delivering the loan payment to Tramiel just to twist the knife a little bit more (perhaps explaining why The 8-Bit Generation chose to downplay the Amiga, considering the film’s view on Jack Tramiel).

Further, the documentary bounces all over on the user side of things. There’s a few seconds discussion of modern Amiga user groups, and a few seconds of discussion of how it was used in video production back in the ’90s (with 2 seconds of footage from Babylon 5), and a couple minutes of discussion of use of the Amiga in electronic music, giving the implication that there’s room for, if not a much larger documentary, then at least more time in this documentary on the modern Amiga user scene – especially considering that part of the point of the film is that there is a modern Amiga user scene,  and that the platform is still a living, breathing viable platform.

It feels like there was enough material here a 90 to 120 minute documentary, but for various reasons, possibly in part due to the amount of Kickstarter funds brought in, there was only enough room for the hour that we got. It’s a bummer, and, honestly, I wouldn’t mind seeing a Viva Amiga 2.

Viva Amiga is available on DVD and Digital from Amazon.com.

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Anime Review – Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ


This week I’m taking a look at a Gundam series that I think is a little underrated.

Footage Property of Sunrise and Namco-Bandai

Gundam ZZ is available for legal streaming on the Gundam Official Channel
Gundam ZZ is also available on DVD or Blu-Ray from these referral links:
Collection 1 DVD: Amazon, RightStuf
Collection 1 Blu-Ray: Amazon, RightStuf
Collection 2 DVD: Amazon, RightStuf
Collection 2 Blu-Ray: Amazon, RightStuf

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Film Review: The 8-Bit Generation


I like retro computing – I grew up on Apple II computers at my school and an Atari 800 computer at home, with a Commodore 84 & Atari ST at the houses of relatives so in addition to watching YouTube channels dedicated to old computers and games like PixelMusement and Lazy Game Reviews, I also love documentaries about the history of computing like Triumph of the Nerds and Revolution OS (which I think I reviewed on a previous blog, but which I am currently unable to find). When I found about about this particular documentary on the history of Commodore, I was very interested in checking it out.

The 8-Bit Generation focuses almost exclusively on Commodore computers, with a perspective from within the company, and in particular from the view of Jack Tramiel and his boosters within Commodore. From the view of this documentary, with Jack at the helm, Commodore can do no wrong, and their opponents could do no right. Apple never gained any real market share while Commodore dominated the market (Wrong – the Apple IIe was solid rival for Commodore), Atari had no 3rd party publishers and actively fought them for the PC (Wrong – their main opposition to 3rd party publishers was on the video game console front, they had plenty of 3rd party developers and publishers for PC), and once Jack was ousted from Commodore, they never accomplished anything ever again (Wrong – The Amiga says “Hi!”). Particularly damning is the claim that Atari didn’t get VisiCalc until a year after Commodore did, which is clearly false.

It’s really rather disappointing. While the documentary has interviews with Tramiel himself, I get the strong impression that the reason the director was able to get these interviews in the first place because they were already a booster of Tramiel.  The majority of the interview footage comes from Commodore employees and Tramiel supporters, with the only exceptions from that being a brief interview with Howard Scott Warshaw about Atari Corporate culture (which appears to lean towards the 2600 and the home games division), and an tragically even more brief interview with Steve Wozniak.

For a documentary that bears the title of The 8-Bit Generation, and which does give a fair amount of time on the MOS Technologies 6510 processor architecture, it is a very strong disappointment that the film wears its slant on its sleeve, and I think it’s very much to the detriment of the film. I’d really have enjoyed a more even-handed take on the various systems from this computer generation, with a serious take given on, for example, the TRS-80 and the TI-99. Instead, we get a pep rally for the Commodore 64, with some flagrant mis-truths. I wanted to like this documentary, but I cannot recommend it in the slightest.

If you do decide to get this documentary in spite of my recommendation to the contrary, it is available from Amazon.com.

Anime Review: Dancouga (1985)


Dancouga (with the alternate full English titles of either Super Beast Machine God Dancouga or God Bless The Machine Dancouga – depending on who you ask) is a hybrid Super Robot/Real Robot anime, taking the serious tone of the Real Robot anime of the mid-to-late 80s, and combining it (har har) with a Super Robot anime of the Combiner variety.

The premise takes elements from some of the iconic premises for both sub-genres. Earth is attacked by alien invaders whose weapons outmatch those of humanity, lead by an evil Overlord and commanded by their Four Generals (Super Robot). The invaders steamroll Earth’s defenses and crush humanity before them, leaving Humanity fighting a guerilla war with whatever high-tech weapons they can get (Real Robot). Humanity’s secret weapon is a team of hot-blooded young pilots piloting a team of mecha that transform into beast machines, and then humanoid robots, and also into a larger humanoid robot – the titular Dancouga (Super Robot). However, there is a connection between one of the pilots of Dancouga and the Four Generals – one of the Four Generals is a Human traitor who is the fiancee of one of the Dancouga pilots (Real Robot).

Now, just mashing a bunch of concepts together will certainly get your foot in the door, but ultimately it comes to the execution to determine if the show is any good, and Dancouga is a mixed bag. Most of the the main characters – the Dancouga pilots, are archetypal. The show’s normative lead, Shinobu Fujiwara, is the Hot Blooded Impulsive Pilot, Masato Shikibu is the Jokester Youngster, and Ryo Shiba is The Spiritual Guy.

On the other hand, the team’s female member, Sara Yuki, has much more narrative depth. Her fiancee was the Human traitor who joined the Four Generals, which makes her role in the story much more personal, than just wanting to save the world. Most of the other characters – aside from their connections to the team – don’t have as much of an outside motivation. They want to save the world from the Alien Zorbados invaders because that’s their job. On top of this, Yuki often demonstrates a wider emotional range than her fellow pilots, and more proficiency than her fellow pilots (even beating opponents in martial arts combat that Ryo fail at). I get the feeling that while Shinobu Fujiwara is the Normative protagonist, from a narrative standpoint, Sara Yuki is the de-facto protagonist.

Unfortunately, there are a whole bunch of stumbles through the production. As with many other contemporaneous anime series, characters of color are very, very poorly written. Some of the Hispanic characters have very stereotypical names, and a depiction of some African American characters in Harlem later in the series could just as easily be taken from a minstrel show, with the clothing updated to the mid-’80s. Additionally, the quality of the animation is across the map – with some vehicle explosions being very well done, while a larger (and more narratively important) fight scene ending up very disappointing.

Finally, the pacing is rather poor. The titular Dancouga is not formed until the series 25th episode, which implies that they were shooting for a 52 episode runtime, but as with Mobile Suit Gundam, the series has a 35 episode length, which leads me to suspect that they got canceled early. The ending of the show goes along with this, giving a “Watch the OVA/Movie” ending, which is especially disappointing since, as of this writing, the Dancouga OVAs currently aren’t included on Discotek Media’s release of the TV series.

Speaking of which, the show has gotten a DVD release from Discotek Media and is available from Amazon.com & RightStuf. The story doesn’t get concluded until the OVA, but that hasn’t been licensed yet – hopefully Discotek will get the rights so we can get the end of this story, but I can’t otherwise recommend it.

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6 Tabletop RPGs for Anime Fans


It’s time for another RPG Roundup video. This time I’m making my recommendations based on Anime series!

Whycalibur’s Log Horizon Actual Play

RPGs Recommended:
13th Age: Amazon, DriveThruRPG
Maid: Amazon, DriveThruRPG
Champions: Amazon, DriveThruRPG
Icons: Amazon, DriveThruRPG
Mutants & Masterminds: Amazon, DriveThruRPG
Wild World Wrestling: DriveThruRPG

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Footage Credits:

  • Sailor Moon – Toei
  • Serial Experiments Lain – Pioneer
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion – Gainax/Studio Khara
  • Armored Trooper VOTOMS – Sunrise
  • Bubblegum Crisis – Pioneer
  • Log Horizon (Season 1) – Satelite
  • Hayate the Combat Butler – Manglobe
  • Tiger & Bunny – Sunrise
  • Goseiger – Bandai
  • Tiger Mask W – Toei

Editorial: Tabletop RPG Publishers need to promote themselves better.


When I read an analysis of a work of fiction – and the person doing that analysis looks at the world presented in this fiction, sees how it’s fleshed out, and because it’s fleshed out goes “This would be better/best as a video game!” I become kind of frustrated. In particular, I become frustrated because it would also work just as well for a tabletop RPG setting. A great example of this is the below installment of the “Mother’s Basement” video series, where host Geoff Thew discusses the narrative and worldbuilding of the excellent recent anime Made in Abyss, and determines that as good as it is, because of that worldbuilding it would be better as a video game:

My frustration isn’t because the opinion is objectively wrong, or because video games are somehow inferior as an medium. It’s frustrating because there’s this mindset I feel in video game fandom circles that tabletop RPGs don’t exist. They’re the thing that people used to day back before MMORPGs, and now nobody plays them anymore. I don’t mean “nobody” in the sense of nobody of consequence – that tabletop RPGs are viewed with the contempt that was/is shown to LARPers in geek circles. I mean that they just don’t exist – that the person who plays RPGs is like the Tasmanian Tiger, who occasionally emerges from the bush, and then runs back into hiding.

Even the gaming news sources that do talk about RPGs tend to focus on certain more niche sides of things. Austin Walker of Waypoint is way into the narrativist Indie game side of things (which is fine – I don’t believe in bad-wrong-fun). It’s also frustrating because there’s so much more to RPGs than that, and most game sites are only willing to do one of three takes.

  1. RPGs don’t exist anymore. People played them when I was in college, but nowadays tabletop RPGs don’t exist.
  2. The only tabletop RPG ever is Dungeons & Dragons. There was Shadowrun and Vampire once upon a time (and I know about those because of their video games), but they no longer exist. This isn’t helped by some forces within the game industry (like the new shepherds of White Wolf and the World of Darkness – and old White Wolf too for that matter)
  3. Dungeons & Dragons exists, but we’re only going to talk about more artistically minded small press RPGs, like some of the Powered by Apocalypse World games or Dogs in the Vineyard.

Quick note about #3: There is anything wrong in these games – it’s just that there’s an excluded middle – there are games that have gotten visibility among tabletop RPG fans, but nobody outside of that circle knows about that are worth discussing and considering – from Runequest, to 7th Sea, to Savage Worlds.

Anyway, my frustration is born out of the fact that these omissions very much come out of ignorance, whether because the people who made these statements have never had the opportunity to play an RPG, or their experience was a bad time at one game, and they dismissed the medium entirely.

I’ve tried to push back against this through videos of my own, giving recommendations based on existing video games and RPGs that are in print, but my audience is small, and there’s only so much I can do by myself, much as I love tilting at windmills. This also isn’t helped by the fact that, for very valid and understandable economic reasons, much of tabletop RPG publication is done online through PDFs instead of through brick and mortar stores, and any connection between big box booksellers and tabletop RPG publishers (in terms of trying to get their books there) is a thing of the past.

What this does mean is that tabletop RPG publishers need to take some cues from Wizards of the Coast (and then some) when it comes to promoting your stuff. There are a ton of livestreams on Twitch and videos on YouTube through the Dungeons & Dragons and Geek & Sundry YouTube channels showing people playing D&D.

Chaosium, Green Ronin, and other tabletop RPG publishers should be doing something similar for their own systems. Get people to stream Call of Cthulhu, Runequest, Blue Rose, and other games. This not only shows people having fun playing the game, but it also shows people who have never played an RPG before how to play the game.

Additionally, and this is a little thing, but whenever a new Bundle of Holding comes out, the new bundle should get tweeted at @Wario64 (or someone similar), to signal boost the bundle.

Finally, the tabletop RPG industry is kinda in a Crab bucket situation. Tabletop RPGs are surviving and enduring, and as long as the books exist it won’t go anywhere, but unless there’s growth in the player base, there’s no room for growth in the industry – especially for people to make money at this full time, for companies to hire the kind of staff that’s necessary to help maintain a necessary level of professionalism (HR departments and publicists to prevent stupid crap like what happened recently with Bill Webb of Frog God Games and TSR Alum Frank Mentzer.) To do that, the industry needs to stop this stupid undermining bullshit. Politely discourage fans on your boards from slagging and actively attacking other companies games (at least professionally published games – they can slag FATAL all they want), and don’t do that yourself. If we work together, we can get out. If we promote a culture of undermining and slagging each other, we promote the perception that all our games are crap, and not worth people’s time, attention, and money.

So, in short:

  • Show people having fun playing your game.
  • Use avenues people are already watching to look for game deals, to showcase deals for *your* game.
  • Don’t run down other publishers – promote how you’re different, instead of “They suck, we’re better!”
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Legends of the Force: Episode XV – The Last Jedi Vlog


There’s a new Star Wars movie – I take a look at it and (while avoiding spoilers for the rest of the film), takes a look at Luke’s teaching style in this movie.

Opening Credits: Star Wars Theme from Super Star Wars on the SNES.
Closing Credits: Chiptune Cantina Band from Chiptune Inc.

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Member of The Console Xplosion Network: http://www.theconsolexplosion.com/
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