The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: That Which Created the Transported to Another World Genre

Discotek is trying a little streaming experiment. They’ve subtitled the first episode of a 1986 anime version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and put it up for free on YouTube. If enough interest is shown, they will subtitle and release more episodes streaming. The previously dubbed international version will be released on BD/DVD in August.

My knowledge, and many of you may be the same, of The Wizard of Oz story begins and ends with the classic 1939 film. Which got me pondering how many kids haven’t seen The Wizard of Oz MGM movie and how much or little familiarity anyone going into this series would be.

hisui_icon_4040_round World Masterpiece Theater is an interesting case where you can clearly see the difference between American and Japanese anime fandom. In Japan these are classic anime remembered fondly as entertainment for the whole family along the lines of the most beloved Disney and Pixar films. They were worked on by titans of the anime industry, have influenced many animators in Japan, and continue to have a lasting impact on the industry. In America, there are several fans who have taken an interest in individuals shows or sometimes even the whole series but they are hardly the norm. I would wager that more people know of Rocky Chuck the Mountain Rat as that show “Andes Hedgehog Mountain Chucky from Shirobako is based on” than as a show of the classic World Masterpiece Theater series. I admit both groups are fairly small but the first is larger than the second.

Now The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is not a part of the World Masterpiece Theater series but it is very clearly a show that was made to capture that same feeling. In fact, the producers of the anime had Junichi Seki, who was a veteran of the World Masterpiece Theater, do the character designs on this show. That means if you were unaware there was a Wizard of Oz anime you would hardly be alone. Since Discotek does have a penchant for selecting titles that have some sort of fan following the series did get an English release back in the day from HBO. I never knew this existed but I’m sure it made some amount of a fanbase that would like to see the original thanks to a bit of nostalgia.

So we have a series that has flown under the radar for quite a while but has a fairly impressive pedigree. Wizard of Oz is a beloved children’s series of books and it was adapted during a golden age of children’s anime. I was very curious to see how this dream team worked together. Continue reading


Anime Tamago 2016: Post-apocalyptic RYB Time-traveling Seiryu

hisui_icon_4040_round I feel it is best to start with a brief introduction of what Anime Tamago is. If you’re a longtime reader of the blog you will have seen our previous reviews of the Young Animator Training Project films. Since 2010 four short animated films are funded by the project in hopes of encouraging new talent in the anime industry. If you have ever heard about the project it was most probably because of either Little Witch Academia or Death Billiards. They were the biggest titles that the project has produced. Both of them have their own TV series and developed a dedicated fan following. Since then due to a number of factors, nothing else has really taken off like those two shows from 2013. For the last four years the entries for the year were known as the Anime Mirai shorts but this year they were re-branded as the Anime Tamago shorts.

While these shorts have fallen off the radar of a sizable amount of the fandom we still think they are worth examining. Most of these titles either come from either relatively fresh-faced crews or people who have been in the industry for a while but have been promoted to higher positions than they might normally have. Not all of these are spectacular or even good. Actually, some of them have been downright awful. But these titles are a good way of seeing who might very well be an up and comer in the anime industry. Today’s random Anime Tamago director or animator might be tomorrow’s superstar.  

One of the major downsides of this project that keeps it from being well-known in the English-speaking world is that fansubbers have an extremely varied interest in the titles. Some shorts from Young Animator Training Project get subbed near instantly. On the other hand, I only recently discovered that someone got around to subbing Parol’s Future Island despite the fact it came out in 2014. It really all depends on the tastes of whoever is still out there doing fansubs. None of these are guaranteed to ever get subbed. Therefore we watched two of the films without subtitles. We had no subtitles for Colorful Ninja Iromaki and Kacchikenee! and were forced to watch them raw.

So far we have yet to have any Young Animator Training Project films that had a super dense narrative and at the same time was not subtitled. I can’t guarantee we caught all the nuance of the shows we watched raw but I am fairly confident we understood the broad strokes thanks to anime being a visual medium and the stories being fairly simple. I do wonder when we will collide with a show like Kuro no Sumika: Chronus where we would miss major parts of the story without the translated dialog. But I suppose we will figure out how to cross that bridge when we get to it.

narutaki_icon_4040_round This project is always full of surprises and that’s what holds my interest year after year. While these shorts aren’t indie projects, they are still a little off the beaten path most of the time. What I really enjoyed from this time around was that three out of four were more in the children and family category. And even the fourth one wasn’t especially far from that.

Continue reading

The Boy and the Beast: Heart Of Sword

hisui_icon_4040 One of the problems with success can be that it sets a baseline that can be very hard to live up to. That makes sense. When you have a big hit audiences often don’t just want what the liked with a twist. They want your next work to be bigger, better, deeper, broader, and richer. Anything less can be seen as a failure or step backwards. It can also lead to sequels and follow-up works that overreach their bounds trying to outdo their simpler predecessor. It often leads to big bloated affairs that are merely a pale imitation of what worked. J. D. Salinger and The Catcher in the Rye or Dave Chappelle and Chappelle’s Show are prime examples where an artist was so successful that they run away from the spotlight out of fear that they could not follow-up their big profile success.

Mamoru Hosoda has a lot of high-profile successes. I actively have to rack my brain to think of negative reviews for The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars and all of his films are practically magnets for awards. He is a name that often get brought up when people ask who the next Hayao Miyazaki will be. Heck, even we brought up that idea on the blog. That means lots of eyes are all over whatever he does comparing it what he has done before, what all the best animators in Japan are doing, as well as just putting up his work against the best animation from around the world. You don’t really get that sort of critical analysis if you’re doing the latest Jewelpet movie. This can put a lot of pressure on a director and a movie.

If anyone can live up to that heavy burden it would be Mamoru Hosoda. The real question is not if Hosoda has the potential to overcome this wall of expectations. It is rather can this particular movie do it?

narutaki_icon_4040 The Boy and the Beast marks a departure from Mamoru Hosoda’s other original theatrical releases. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars, and Wolf Children were written by or co-written with Satoko Okudera in which Mr. Hosoda worked on the concept and helmed the director’s chair. In the Boy and the Beast Mr. Hosoda also became its sole writer.

Continue reading