Ikura NanDemo: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for July 2022

I would love if the only thing on my mind was the summer anime season that’s just beginning. There are plenty of shows I’m looking forward to, but the news coming out the US Supreme Court is just too dire to ignore, especially this close to July 4. A lot of people are going to get hurt because of the family planning services denied to them, and the very fact that we’re seeing an established civil right being taken away is truly disheartening—though I choose not to give up hope.

Recently, I’d been watching old clips of George Carlin, and there’s a line that stuck with me that rings with the painful truth about the Conservative mindset in America: “If you’re pre-born, you’re fine. If you’re pre-school, you’re fucked.” It drives home the fact that we’re forcing babies into a world that doesn’t give a damn about them; otherwise, we’d have reliable healthcare and infrastructure that prioritizes bringing people out of poverty instead of acting like all the suffering the poor have to endure is somehow deserved.

Readers might be wondering if I’m going too far off track from the core focus of this anime blog. To that, I say: While there is no inherent political direction to anime, with works that go in every direction on the political spectrum, there is a strong and complex history of feminism through anime and manga that has helped to shape the lives of adults and children around the world. How many, including myself, were inspired to see the notion of women as heroes in a new light through shows like Sailor Moon? What about the fact that there was an episode of Hugtto Precure! dedicated to addressing the stigma towards C-sections in Japan, or how Delicious Party Precure has a non-cisgender character? Even something decidedly more horny and muddled in its politics like Darling in the Franxx portrays a world where pregnancy is controlled against people’s wills, and the main couple can’t actually have children.

Remember: You can be morally against abortion but still be in favor of bodily autonomy. It’s about leaving the choice up to the person whose body has fundamentally changed due to pregnancy.

As with every month, I’d like to thank my Patreon subscribers, particularly these fine folks below.

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from June:

If You Love Literature and Violence, Gimme a Hell Yeah—Hibiki: How to Become a Novelist

I finally got around to reviewing a really great manga about Japanese literature, and it’s one that comes with no shortage of pleasant surprises.

A Deluge of Riches: Super Robot Wars 30

At long last, my actual review of Super Robot Wars 30.

Hololive Alternative, TakaMori, and the Speed of Memes

A post that talks about Virtual Youtubers, but also the way that information changes so quickly in that world.

Kio Shimoku

Kio Shimoku’s Twitter this past month was pretty light, but I definitely enjoyed finding out his thoughts on various movies, both anime and non-anime.

I also got to ask him about his participation in a Star Wars artbook.

Closing

I know many in the US are feeling like their votes don’t matter—otherwise, this stripping of civil rights would never have happened. And indeed, voting is very limited in what it can accomplish. It can be disappointing to see those with greater influence, especially politicians, not do enough to exert more lasting change. However, to not vote at all is to concede a very fundamental power. And while it may seem like a drop in the bucket, the consequences of its utter absence will be far deeper and suffocating. Please don’t give up.

A Deluge of Riches: Super Robot Wars 30

When I first began playing Super Robot Wars 30, I wanted to write a review immediately, but I decided against it because I wanted to complete one run of the game to get a fuller impression. Now, nearly 200 hours of playtime later, I have the opposite problem. There’s so much in here that I feel like I have more I’ve forgotten than I’ve remembered. I’ve already given my thoughts on certain specific elements of the series, including DLC packs 1 and 2, the way the game handles the Gaogaigar storyline, and the attack aesthetics of the Ultimate Dancouga unit, but here, I just want to lay out my broader impressions.

Super Robot Wars 30 is named as such not because it’s the 30th game but because it’s to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the franchise. To that end, there are a number of callbacks to its roots, from the fact that you can use the original RX-78-2 Gundam to specific guest characters making appearances. The roster is no mere nostalgia dive, though, as it consists of plenty of series old and new—both in terms of the release date of the source material from which these mecha come from and when they first appeared in SRW in general. L-Gaim and Victory Gundam are two franchise veterans making long awaited reappearances, while J-Decker, SSSS.Gridman, and Knights & Magic make their mainline debuts here.

Having lots of series is always an overall good thing for SRW, but I got decision paralysis when thinking about which units to deploy on multiple occasions. I’d want to bring out anyone who might be plot-relevant for a stage or at least have interesting dialogue with boss characters, but that didn’t always narrow it down. I’d waffle between doing what’s beneficial strategically and what’s cool thematically, and this might have made an already long game take even longer. It’s to some degree a curse that I accept with the blessing of a robust roster.

There is so much content in SRW30 that it can be overwhelming. While many missions are optional and a lot can be played out of order, I was struck by a sense of FOMO many times. What funny stories are on this stage? How did these characters get together? As someone who wants to revel in that fanfiction-esque lore, skipping felt wrong. 

One problem with that, however, is that every so often, I’d trigger a compulsory mission, whereby the intermission screen flashed red and locked me into a specific next plot-relevant stage. I don’t mind their presence so much as that the game itself never really explains what trips them off. I specifically remember playing some EXP-farming missions (called “Fronts” in the menu), not realizing that doing so meant I didn’t get to see how the sixth member of Team Rabbits from Majestic Prince joins. 

The game feels like it was designed to be fairly lenient, as if it was assuming that SRW30 would be a lot of people’s first Super Robot Wars. This wouldn’t be surprising, given that it’s the first officially translated SRW game to show up internationally on Steam. Even at the hardest difficulty (at least originally), it was possible to upgrade and improve your units to brute force your way through. They would later add a “super expert” mode that put it closer in line to a classic SRW experience, but having a really tough game isn’t necessarily what I want or expect, and the initial absence of a hardcore mode isn’t really an issue to me. 

Rather, if there’s any major criticism I have of the gameplay, it’s the lack of stage variety. There are a number of levels that have specific win conditions, but they felt too few and far between, and even they felt like they came from a general template. On top of that, for whatever reason, SRW30 refuses to take advantage of a classic system that is literally built into the game: terrain differences. In many SRW entries, there are stages with bases or areas where units can recover HP while on top of them (usually 30%). They usually exist in missions where you have to defend an area, or perhaps they’re being used by a stubborn boss that you have to dislodge. However, not a single stage I played had any such spots, even when it would make sense both gameplay- and story-wise.

A Final Dynamic Special—usually a combination attack with Mazinger and Getter robots, would have been nice too. Given the anniversary theme of the game, I’m surprised it didn’t include one.

I think this review may come across as more negative than I actually feel about the game. I think that’s simply because the game is so long that it took me months and months to complete, and my view is tinged by a patina of fatigue. SRW30 has a lot to offer, especially from a mecha fanservice perspective, and it feels satisfying to successfully utilize your units’ strengths and mitigate their weaknesses through smart play. I just wish there were more opportunities to do that.

Against the Barrel: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for June 2022

I have to admit that the world feels overwhelming. If it’s not COVID rates ticking up, it’s deadly shootings and war and racism and the fact that these things are all tied together. As an anime blogger, I also think about these things in relation to entertainment, and in light of recent events, we’re seeing old boogeymen like “violent video games” being brought up. I remember those conversations from two decades ago, and though my perspective has changed from childhood to adulthood, I’m not so naive as to think that the root cause is violent entertainment. Rather, it’s at best a symptom of a deeper problem—that power is conflated with self worth, and that gun lobbyists want men to feel that threat of emasculation so badly that they’re willing to go to extremes.

I’m not someone who believes that glorifying violence in entertainment is inherently a problem. I like my action series plenty, and even if something like sports can be argued to be a conduit for aggression, I don’t think that it’s automatically going to lead to the kind of mind-poisoning we’re seeing from cultures that refuse to confront their own pasts. As long as media can be media and not propaganda, even the most depraved depictions of human behavior can have a place. If fiction is the only alternative for someone to find themselves comfort, that’s not the fault of the fiction.

On a less somber note, I’d like to thank the following Patreon subscribers:

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from May:

Lots of Brain with a Bit of Heart: Combat in Girls und Panzer das Finale

A review of sorts for GIrls und Panzer das Finale, especially Part 2, but more of an analysis of how combat is portrayed in the series.

Ultimate Dancouga in Super Robot Wars 30 Is Quintessential Obari Masami

How this particular SRW30 DLC captures the essence of its original creator.

The Tools to Express Yourself: Blue Period

Thoughts on the moving story of a guy who’s suddenly inspired to become an artist.

Apartment 507

Why Zhong Lanzhu makes Love Live! better by being a heel.

Looking at the way the English translation of Spy x Family adapts Anya’s kid speech.

Kio Shimoku

Kio Shimoku’s Twitter was full of design drawings for Hashkko Ensemble. There’s a lot of insight into his early decisions for the manga.

Closing

I’m going to leave off on a nicer and more personal not: I finally beat Super Robot Wars 30! It only took…200 hours. I want to write an overall review of it, but part of me wonders if all the existing posts might be enough.

Ultimate Dancouga in Super Robot Wars 30 is Quintessential Obari Masami

One of the highlights of any Super Robot Wars game is seeing how awesome mecha look in their attack animations. So when Ultimate Dancouga first performed its ultimate attack in Super Robot Wars 30, I expected the kind of spectacle associated with its designer, Obari Masami. After all, he personally designed this exclusive version of Dancouga for the game, and his penchant for flashy action poses is unmistakable. When I first saw Ultimate Dancouga strike the characteristic warped-perspective sword pose seen above during its Dancou Shinken technique, I could only think “Yep, there it is!”

But then a few other thoughts immediately followed. “Why didn’t I associate this Obari Pose with Dancouga’s finishing moves in SRW?” “Did it even strike the Obari Pose in older titles?” “Did it ever Obari Pose in the original anime?!”

That’s when I remembered: The 1980s anime Super Beast Machine God Dancouga predates the Obari Pose, which emerged in the 1990s with the Brave franchise! In fact it’s sometimes more commonly known as the Brave Perspective and Sunrise Stance, among other things.

Sure, recent toy releases make reference to the Pose, but it’s not the same as having it in the show itself. And while there’s been plenty of creative license with attacks throughout SRW, their desire to capture the flavor of the source material is likely why the Pose never made it in. On top of that, the Dancouga TV anime was Obari’s first credit as mecha designer, so the series holds a special place in his massive body of work.

So Ultimate Dancouga ends up being a kind of “combination” of two aspects of Obari’s legacy: It’s his first professional mecha design striking his signature pose. It’s not technically going full circle, but there’s a wholeness to Dancou Shinken that makes it satisfying.

Super Robot Wars 30, Shinkalion, and Pioneering DLC

The developers of Super Robot Wars 30 have announced a final expansion pack that brings many surprises, the biggest of which are new DLC units.

  • Scopedog, Scopedog TC LRS (Armored Trooper Votoms)
  • Ultimate Dancouga (Super Beast Machine God Dancouga)
  • Red 5+ (Majestic Prince: Genetic Awakening)
  • Getter 1, Getter 2, Getter 3 (Getter Robo Devolution: The Last 3 Minutes of the Universe)
  • Shinkalion E5 Hayabusa Mk. II, Shinkalion E5 Mk. II Over Cross ALFA-X (Shinkansen Henkei Robo Shinkalion the Movie)
  • Dygenguar with Aussenseiter (Super Robot Wars Alpha 3)

Gan Gan Zudandan

The big news on this list in my opinion is Shinkalion, not because it’s one of my long-desired franchises for SRW or anything, but because it has ties to a major company like Japan Railway. In hindsight, however, it was ridiculous to think that could be a barrier: Shinkalion did already appear in the mobile game Super Robot Wars X-Ω, and the series itself is crossover central. Seeing the series debut is nice, and I enjoy how the originally-3DCG units in this game have a different look and feel to them (see also ULTRAMAN). I’ll also be hoping for DLC missions where train otaku Hayato gets to geek out with all other mega nerds in the cast. Too bad Evangelion isn’t in SRW30 for some truly fun references.

I’m Seeing Double: Four Ryomas!

The other new main-series debut is Getter Robo Devolution, and I’m surprised at its inclusion. While other SRW have taken references from multiple Getter Robo series at the same time (mostly in terms of how Shin Getter Robo presents itself), this is the first time we’re seeing variations of the same characters crossing over—and no, I’m not counting Sanger and evil Sanger in Alpha Garden. Interestingly, they announced voice actors for these characters (and big ones too!), which makes the decision to omit a lot of the Gaogaigar vs. Betterman mecha all the more mysterious.

Incidentally, the manga is actually out in English from Seven Seas, so I plan on picking it up to see what this one’s all about. It’s also from the creators of Linebarrels of Iron.

30th Anniversary Versions

The Scopedog TC LRS and Ultimate Dancouga stand out because the idea of making special versions of robots specifically for SRW is very rare, with Mazinkaiser being the #1 example. Sometimes there are units taken from unused production materials (like Final Dancouga), but this is a step beyond. Moreover, both anniversary robots are from their original mechanical designers—Ookawara Kunio and Obari Masami, respectively—contributing to the epic feel of this collaboration. I’ll be curious to see what animations the Scopedog has, as I do miss Chirico’s amazing final attack from the SRWZ games.

When Will I Use Them?

I’m in a strange position where I’m pretty much at the final stages of SRW30, and I’m trying to figure out if I should just get all the DLC units before proceeding or if I should focus on them in a possible New Game+. Either way, I can’t wait to try them out.

Super Robot Wars 30, Gaogaigar, and J-Decker: The Compromises of a Composite Narrative

Brave Police J-Decker has made its debut appearance in Super Robot Wars, joining its fellow Brave franchise series King of Braves Gaogaigar. However, J-Decker effectively replaces in Super Robot Wars 30 a huge portion of the Gaogaigar cast of characters—specifically the Brave Robots introduced in the novel sequel King of Kings: Gaogaigar vs. Betterman—and in doing so merges their two plotlines together in a way that defies SRW precedent. It’s something I can appreciate, but I also feel that it comes at the expense of the “everything and the kitchen sink” approach the game franchise is famous for.

While J-Decker precedes Gaogaigar in terms of their air dates (1994 vs. 1997), Super Robot Wars 30 flips things around. The story specifically has the events of the latter take place first, and makes the Brave Police the first Brave Robots since the events of Gaogaigar Final. I find this to be a pretty clever way to tie the two plots together, especially in order to reconcile having an adult Mamoru (the kid character in Gaogaigar) with a young Yuuta from J-Decker

However, the idea that the Brave Police are the latest generation of units doesn’t square with what takes place in the Gaogaigar vs. Betterman novels where a new Brave Robot Corps is formed with the likes of NichiRyu, GetsuRyu, ShoRyu, and Porc-Auto. Those robots aren’t even included in Super Robot Wars 30, meaning that their role in the story has been supplanted by the robots of J-Decker. This is highly unusual, if only because SRW games are often about “more is better.” While the franchise over the past decade-and-change has been trying to streamline a lot of the bloat inherent to it (so no excessively redundant attacks, for example), it’s rare to have them omit entire groups of potentially playable units that are an important factor in the source material.

I suspect that there are a number of extenuating circumstances that resulted in this compromise. It wasn’t that long after the conclusion of Gaogaigar vs. Betterman that SRW30 was announced. There are elements of the story, regardless of the mecha, that are skipped over. In addition, most of the new robots introduced in the novels don’t already have voice actors, so it’s not like calling up Hiyama Nobuyuki and telling him to reprise his role as Guy. While there have been cases of SRW assigning voices where there weren’t any before (see the Virtual On units in Alpha 3), that was also over 15 years ago. 

Incidentally, that’s also a case where only a handful of reps are included (as opposed to every Virtuaroid).

So while having Gaogaigar vs. Betterman is one of my favorite parts of SRW30, the changes made mean we still don’t have the might of the full cast of characters from it. Maybe we’ll see it happen in the future. 

And maybe what could make it easier is having an actual anime version…

Super Robot Wars 30 and the Two Chizurus

I love the way the Super Robot Wars series combines plots together, and one example is the “connection” between the two Chizurus featured in Super Robot Wars 30.

One of the anime series in Super Robot Wars 30 is the 2000s-era anime Gun x Sword, and among the cast is a veteran robot crew called El Dora Team, who are portrayed as old-fashioned relics of a bygone era who find the spirit to fight again instead of sitting on the sidelines and waxing nostalgic. They’re essentially meant to be 1970s robot anime characters (with a bit of Mexican and spaghetti-Western flair) thrust into a modern context.

One of those 70s elements is they once had a female teammate named Chizuru, possibly as a nod to Nanbara Chizuru, the girl member from Super Electromagnetic Robo Combattler V. However, both Gun x Sword and Combattler V are in Super Robot Wars 30, and the setting is such that El Dora Team are still the old timers and the Battle Team are the upstarts. As a result, they flipped the script and made the Combattler V Chizuru the younger one who reminds the grandpas about their dearly departed friend.

This swapping of ages and influences is a clever maneuver to allow both sets of characters to retain their identities and physical ages within the story. But it also reminds me of someone: Elvis Presley.

Elvis famously wore flashy jumpsuits with collars and sometimes capes, and there’s speculation that he didn’t do it out of the blue. Growing up, he was a big fan of the Fawcett superhero Captain Marvel Jr., and the similarities between the character and Elvis has led to fans of both wondering if Elvis took elements of his famous aesthetic from the comic character. The story doesn’t end there, though.

Over the years, DC had acquired the license to the Captain Marvel (aka Shazam) characters. In one of their many later reboots, they placed Captain Marvel Jr. into their setting as a modern teenager, so rather than being a child of the 1930s, he was now a product of the 1990s. But in a similar twist to how the two Chizurus are connected in SRW30, it was now Captain Marvel Jr. who was the Elvis fan.

It’s a funny kind of geekery that I appreciate, and it reminds me why it’s fun to be a fan.

The Ongoing Dream of a Truly International Super Robot Wars

In recent years, the Super Robot Wars franchise has been looking hard at international fans, and that has been reflected in part by the mecha that show up in it. In interviews for Super Robot Wars T and Super Robot Wars 30, the game’s director mentions that titles like Gun x Sword and J-Decker were, in part, nods to fans outside Japan. It reminds me of how different Japanese giant robot series became the spark of inspiration in different parts of the world, as well as how I once had my own half-formed idea for an American-fandom-centric SRW. Together, all of this makes me want to entertain the notion of a truly international SRW that puts the entire spotlight on those anime and manga that introduced countries to mecha and maintain that enthusiasm.

Shows like Golion, Grendizer, Transformers, Groizer X, etc. Furthermore, I’d like to see the roster be even broader than that. In that respect, limiting it to things that can connect to anime might even be too narrow. Ideally, a game like this would include Robot Taekwon V and The Iron Giant.

One question that arose as I engaged in this thought exercise is whether series that were heavily localized should come in their original Japanese forms or their adaptations. Should Golion and Dairugger be two separate titles, or should they be joined under the Voltron banner? Then it hit me that Super Robot Wars is all about modifying plot details to make crossovers work. Thus, you could split the difference between the Japanese and the American versions, and just find a way to make Golion and Dairugger connected within the new storyline.

There are giant robot fandoms around the world with their own idiosyncrasies, and I’m actually a bit sad that I don’t know them all. I wish I was an experienced polyglot so I could explore these communities and memories in greater depth. I think the real reason I’d love to see an international SRW is because I want something that celebrates these histories.

Who Dares Interrupt My Corona-tion?!: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for December 2021

A low-angle view of the planet-sized Transformer, Unicron.

The end-of-the-year holidays are rolling around, and I feel like I’m in a strange place mentally and emotionally. I think it’s tied to the assumption that this year’s Christmas would be a far cry from the feelings of hesitation and dread that came with COVID-19 and hot off of the 2020 US elections, and how history might potentially be repeating itself. Virtually everyone I know is vaccinated, including many kids, but reports of the new Omicron variant make me wonder if I need to temper my expectations. And inevitably, it just makes me think of a certain planet-sized Transformer.

(Speaking of which, I got the new blu-ray recently. I don’t know for sure when I’ll re-watch the movie, but it never fails to disappoint.)

On a lighter note, I haven’t been looking at as much anime and manga lately, but there’s a very good reason for that: Super Robot Wars 30. It’s supposed to be over 100 hours, and I haven’t even scratched the surface. I am enjoying the hell out of getting to use Gaogaigo and the J-Decker squad, though.

I also attended Anime NYC 2021, but due to my blog schedule, my coverage of it will be in December. Look forward to a review of Pompo the Cinephile!

I wish for safe and soul-comforting holidays for everyone, and I’d like to thank my patrons for the month:

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from November:

Real Character: Love Live! Superstar!!

My review of what turned out to be the best Love Live! anime—emphasis on anime.

The Best Sports Manga You’re Not Reading: Shoujo Fight

My long overdue general review of thia fantastic volleyball manga.

Imagine Fourteen Balls on the Edge of a Cliff: Ogiue Maniax 14th Anniversary

An anniversary post turned into a reflection on the site Something Awful in light of its founder’s death.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 46 is more serious than silly, and it provides a window into Jin’s inner turmoil.

Kio Shimoku’s Twitter involves sharing his thoughts on erotic manga artists.

Apartment 507

Six giant robot anime came out in Fall 2021. Here are my basic impressions of all of them.

Closing

The world is ever unpredictable, and I hope we do what we can as people to watch out and care for one another. Get vaccinated if you can, look out for your fellow humans, and understand that no one is free until we’re all free.

Away with Ads: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for November 2021

Readers may have noticed something different this month: Ogiue Maniax is now ad-free! And right in time for this blog’s anniversary!

I felt that the ads were getting more and more intrusive on the blog if you don’t use any sort of ad block, so I’ve been wanting to do something for a while now.

I’ve also had my Patreon going for more than a few years now, and I wanted the money to go more directly to giving my readers a better experience when reading my posts. I’m thankful to my patrons for allowing me to talk about the new anime season or giant robots or whatever, with special gratitude to the following this month:

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from October:

The Anime THEY Don’t Want You to Know About: Makyou Densetsu Acrobunch

I reviewed a lesser known but quite peculiar mecha anime from the 1980s.

The Best Sports Manga You’re Not Reading: Shoujo Fight

My long overdue general review of thia fantastic volleyball manga.

Sora in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Gameplay Thoughts

My personal take on the style and potential of the final DLC character.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 45 might just be my favorite chapter to date. Things are coming to a head between Akira and Jin!

Kio Shimoku’s Twitter has been buzzing with preparation for both his collected-volume releases in September. In a rare treat, he’s actually been retweeting fans who are supporting both Spotted Flower and Hashikko Ensemble, which is how I got retweeted by the man himself!

Apartment 507

A look at the farewell episode for Jigen Daisuke’s retiring veteran voice actor in Lupin III.

Closing

The two things that have my attention as of late are the final Hakai-oh: Gaogaigar vs. Betterman novel and Super Robot Wars 30, which features that very same story. I’m in a constant internal struggle as to which I prioritize. Do I spoil the novel or the game?

This month is also Anime NYC, and I’ll likely end up going. It’s smaller than New York Comic Con, so I predict it’ll be safer, but it’ll still be important to exercise best COVID-19 prevention practices. Remember, vaccinations will be required!