Sunday, March 31, 2013


"Mr. Jackson, we officially present your new home in space."

To say that Michael Jackson has done it all would not be that big of a stretch. Aside from a multi-platinum music career, he has also starred in film, television, and even video games. Michael made his animation debut in the classic 1991 episode of The Simpsons, "Stark Raving Dad", where he played a large white man at a mental asylum who believed he was MJ. In 1997, MTV Animation released a short made-for-TV film centered around the King of Pop called Planet Jackson, which stands as one of the most heartfelt, as well as obscure, works based on his life. It was thought to have been lost because MTV discarded the sole film reel after a lack of publicity resulted in staggeringly poor Nielsen ratings. This may also be due to the fact that Jackson did not voice himself in this feature, presumably because of scheduling conflicts that arose while he was filming the movie, Ghosts.

In order to escape unwanted media attention, the King of Pop hires a large crew to build him his own space station, far out of the public's eye. Isolated out in space, Michael is finally able to rediscover true happiness now that nobody's trying to leech off of his success. However, his euphoria is cut short when he is visited by a fleet of enemy ships, commanded by his siblings, who have all become white in an effort to emulate their famous brother. Now, Michael must make the difficult, heartbreaking  decision of whether to fight his own family in deadly starship combat, or be forced to bend to the wills of everybody around him for the rest of his days.

Planet Jackson is a perfect metaphor for all of the hardships that Jackson was going through during the late 1990s. It does a very good job of getting across the idea that no matter how hard he tried to hide from all of the negative attention he was getting, stemming from his divorce with Lisa Marie Presley and the many child molestation allegations, he couldn't escape. It is a tragic tale that pulls you in with its bright animation style, courtesy of acclaimed sci-fi animation director Toshihiro Kawamoto (Macross Plus/Gundam 0080), and then silently tugs at your heartstrings, showing just how high the price of fame can really be. It's truly unfortunate that not many people have had the pleasure of watching a production so worthy of Michael Jackson's name.

Although Planet Jackson was once so obscure to the point where many doubted its existence, a few years ago, somebody came forward with a VHS recording of it that had been taped during the film's initial broadcast on MTV, and uploaded it to YouTube. Now here, for all of you to enjoy, is Planet Jackson:

Planet Jackson aired as part of an episode of MTV Animation's Cartoon Sushi during its anime parody-themed Ultra City 6060 segment, and was created using stock footage from the direct-to-video series, Mighty Space Miners.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

CLIP SHOW: "Flight of Icarus" by Iron Maiden

While the original music video for "Flight of Icarus" was released in 1983, this alternate version was released alongside it on Iron Maiden's 2003 compilation DVD, Visions of the Beast: The Complete Video History. This edit, along with five others featured on Visions, was animated by the now-defunct flash animation studio, Camp Chaos. It was brought to life by interweaving shots of the band from the original video with newer animation meant to evoke the image of the 1983 EP cover:

Monday, March 11, 2013


"It was the dark ages when Braiking Boss and his robots ruled the Earth. Some found the courage to resist this tyrant. Among these freedom fighters, one stood out above the rest."

Tatsunoko Productions is a famous animation studio that is probably most recognized for its many superhero characters created during the 1970s. Among them is the Neo-Human, Casshern (romanized as "Casshan" in the original Streamline Pictures release of this series), who was the human son of a scientist that developed androids to try to benefit humans' needs, only to have them turn on their masters. In the wake of this worldwide catastrophe, the boy, named Tetsuya, volunteered to be turned into a cyborg so he could defend humanity. Together with his girlfriend, Luna, and his transformable robot dog, Friender, Casshern wanders post-apocalyptic landscapes, saving villages and fighting the robot armies of the android who originally started this rebellion, Braiking Boss ("Black King" in the Streamline release).

In this iteration, Casshern is portrayed as an amnesiac Jesus allegory whose strength is determined by whatever the writer feels will prove more exciting at the time. Unfortunately, the big problem with this incarnation is that it never actually does feel exciting. Even with an endless supply of exploding robots and a theme song from Mr. Exciting himself, Hironobu Kageyama (Dragon Ball Z/M.D. Geist), this miniseries was unable to elicit any sort of reaction from me. I say this because it just feels like there's far too much emphasis on providing exposition than giving me a reason to care about these characters and why their struggle is so important. Too much tell, not nearly enough show.

The backgrounds and character designs are all really good, but it becomes hard to care once you realize that Casshern has only slightly more fluid animation than a motion comic. The animation was another reason I couldn't get absorbed in any of the fight scenes. There was very little movement during the action, and the fights were kept very short, presumably due to budget constraints.

What could have been a cool, action-packed series about a cyborg superhero karate-chopping robots in half turned out to be surprisingly dull. Casshern: Robot Hunter is a story with a lot of potential that was ultimately squandered by its tendency to put world-building before anything else and its lame animation. I spent most of its run time wanting to just stop it and pop in The Terminator instead, since it explores very similar themes without making me constantly want to check the clock. For a far less mediocre take on this character and his quest to save mankind, I would recommend you watch the original series. The more recent remake, Casshern Sins, is also pretty good, if a fair bit melodramatic.

Casshern: Robot Hunter is based on the 1973 television series, Neo-Human Casshern, created by Tatsunoko Productions.

Sunday, March 3, 2013


"This devil... it will be the god who brings us salvation..."

No matter what it may be, if it has Go Nagai's name on it, you can sure-as-hell expect to be entertained, and this is no exception. Mazinkaiser SKL is the most recent animated offering from Nagai's company, Dynamic Productions, and exists as a spin-off of the miniseries, Mazinkaiser (itself a spin-off of Nagai's 1970s comic series, Mazinger Z). Thankfully, absolutely no prior knowledge is needed to enjoy this, as this is series is completely stand-alone, and makes for a pretty good introduction to the exciting world of Go Nagai.

In the far future, there exists an island called Kikaijima, where three different tribes have been waging a seemingly endless war for complete control over the island and its resources. The first tribe we're introduced to is the Kiba Army, a large group of Mad Max-style badlanders who rely more on brute force than anything else. Next, the Garan Army, who have a Warring States Era samurai motif, and are more strategy-reliant than the others. The last tribe is the Hachiryokaku, a convent of toga-clad women with magical abilities. The only thing these groups have in common is that they all use the same instruments of destruction: GIANT ROBOTS!

The only thing keeping this small-scale war contained is a device called the Gravity Curtain, which is a powerful force-field that regulates what can and can't enter or leave the island. Unfortunately, due to the amount of power being used by Kikaijima's inhabitants to keep the war going, the Gravity Curtain has become so unstable that it will explode in 66 hours, possibly ending all life on Earth. In light of this, the government has dispatched two former mercenaries and their demonic-looking robot, Kaiser, to the island to crash, smash, and slaughter their way through legions of other robots in order to save the world from a massive cataclysm.

From the time when I found out that Mazinkaiser SKL was being made, I couldn't wait to see it. Ninety minutes of two homicidal psychopaths in a giant robot tearing apart everything in sight in the name of justice while 80s heavy metal masters Loudness belt out some face-melters is exactly the kind of thing I look for in my action entertainment. There isn't a dull moment to be found here. The action manages to remain exciting throughout, which definitely makes up for its very simplistic plot.

Due to the nature of Mazinkaiser SKL as a three-part direct-to-video series from Japan, you really shouldn't go into this expecting a more complex plot than what I described above. Towards the end of the second episode, there are hints of possible character development in the final episode, but all that gets dropped in favor of more robo-carnage. Considering I wasn't expecting any development before watching this, I was able to let it slide.

If the very thought of robots exploding in a huge bloody mess to the sounds of screaming 80s metal gets your blood pumping, then you'll love Mazinkaiser SKL. Just be warned that prolonged exposure to this series may lead to the following symptoms: 1) Adrenaline starts to flow. 2) You're thrashing all around. 3) Acting like a maniac. 4) WHIPLASH!
Mazinkaiser SKL is based on an original story by award-winning comic book writer/artist, Go Nagai.