Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bruce Lee's Legacy of Shame

Because Chuck's Creationism-Believing Ass deserves more humility.

And this is about as official as it's going to get, ladies and gentlemen. To quote Cliff MacMillan (aka "cmac") from the forum thread, in full:

From Fortune Star regarding the masters -
Checked with our material department, it is the same HDCAM master we provided to you and our HK video distributor. The HDCAM masters are not up-converted version but were re-mastered version originated from the negatives of the Films several years ago in Canada.

The HK video distributor didn’t spend money to improve the masters but the studio who worked for the blu-ray encoding has fine tune the colour and brightness of the films before the production.

As I have mentioned before, we also spent time color correcting the masters and removing scratches. 

Call me a cynic if you like,  but it sounds an awful lot like Cliff just said "These are clearly HD masters because FORTUNE STAR SAID SO, and thus there's nothing to talk about". Never mind the fact that all four reviews on the site itself - The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, The Way of the Dragon and Game of Death - all admit that the films included in the set are probably SD upscales, but won't confirm or deny it one way or another because that'd be "impossible" to do. Having been on the other end of that pendulum, I don't blame him; there's nothing more humbling than saying out loud, on the internet, "This looks like X!" only for someone roughly as nerd-rage fueled as yourself to prove it's actually Y. But what I feel totally comfortable saying is that anyone satisfied by the transfer in this set has no business upgrading much of anything on Blu-ray, and while I can accept that Fortune Star is just awful enough to have sent SD materials by mistake, I refuse to believe that anyone at Shout Factory doesn't know they're lying right to our collective face.

So what now? Now, we wait. Shout Factory is either going to realize they've fucked up hard enough that sales have actually been affected by - gasp! - having sold a crappy product, or... well, I shudder to think at the thought of the entire North American market simply throwing their hands up in the air, muttering "I give up already!" and settling for a $120 box set with upscaled content, but I've seen worse things... like Pacific Rim getting bashed in the cock by Adam Sandler at the box office.

Also, for the record... can someone please explain to me what PedroMC69's deal is in that thread? There's a moment where he gets all sulky and says the price on this should drop to peanuts and that it's clear Shout Factory screwed the pooch, but once MacMillan drops the above non-answer he does a 180 and continues defending Shout Factory so goddamn hard you'd think Cliff has his hand up the poor guy's arse...

Wait, what? No, I never said he was a probable sock-puppet account! I mean, cripes, that'd just be absurd. For a guy with "MC" in his screen name to have the real-life name "MacMillan" and blindly support a studio he, evidently, owns exactly 10 BDs from, yet doesn't seem to own any other genre releases from companies like Synapse Films or Arrow Video. Who'd think that was suspicious? (And  honestly, what's worse? Him being a falsified dupe-account, or legitimately having Stockholm Syndrome for a fucking video distributor?)

Whatever the case, Shout Factory's set is officially a hot upscaled mess. I expect more middling reviews to follow, and with most sites doing it to get Amazon kick-backs I expect most of them to sound very similar to Jeffery Kaufman's own, suggesting we weigh the positives for the bonus material before writing off the dreadful transfers off by default. Personally, I've just had it; if I have to buy one release just to rip the audio tracks and add it to another release to get a proper release out of it... well, I'm just not doing that shit anymore. Life's too short to do custom releases of titles that have no excuse not to be competent out of the gate, and frankly, if anyone does do the deed and slap the Shout language options on any other international transfer, I'll happily do the color correction myself and share it with the lot of 'ya.

*Sigh* Okay, I feel better. I'm officially done with this subject, until Cliff either says something amazingly stupid, or they actually fix this completely inexcusable fuck-up. I won't break my neck defending the films themselves - The Big Boss is whatever, at best, and Game of Death is a train wreck of proportions that makes Ed Wood look like a genius - but still, show a little fucking respect!

Tune in tomorrow (or Friday!) when I talk about something awesome instead. Seriously, this may be a wash but barring some major unforeseen atrocity, we've potentially got the Cult Blu-ray Of The Year in the fucking bag.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Bruce Lies Collection

Sweet looking box, right? It's packed to the gills with 11 discs [4 Blu-ray + 7 DVD] with a retail price of $120 - though most pre-orders are hovering in the $70~80 range. It includes all of Bruce Lee's Hong Kong produced action films - THE BIG BOSS/唐山大兄 (aka "Fists of Fury"), FIST OF FURY/精武門 (aka "The Chinese Connection"), WAY OF THE DRAGON/猛龍過江 (aka "Return of the Dragon") and GAME OF DEATH (aka "This Movie Actually Sucks, But Ends With A Bunch Of Cool Ass Fights Bruce Lee Never Got To Finish So Watch It Anyway And Forget 90% Of It"). Also included are two feature length documentaries, Bruce Lee: The Legend (plus a separate, updated cut!) and I Am Bruce Lee, along with over two hours of newly commissioned interviews on a separate bonus disc, packaged in an oversize book with original essays and rare on-set photos. Neat!

Notably absent are ENTER THE DRAGON - which Warner Brothers just re-released as a collectible 40th Anniversary Edition, since they own the North American rights - and GAME OF DEATH II/死亡塔, which is actually kind of cool little flick on its own, but has so amazingly little to do with Bruce Lee that you're better off watching Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave or The Clones of Bruce Lee or... seriously, anything that wasn't a handful of outtakes stuffed into a completely unrelated film.

Shout Factory went out of their way to include original MONO mixes in both Mandarin and English, and promised that all the titles had been newly color corrected for their North American Blu-ray premier. This also marks the first ever "official" home video premier of the original, rejected English dub for The Big Boss, as well as the US premier of the Japanese alternate dub for Game of Death, which features a handful of exclusive music cues and Lee's actual battle cries where applicable.

The set is due to drop August 6th, but was shipped a few weeks early to anyone willing to pay the $102 price tag they were asking for from their own website, which a handful of excited fans were happy to do. By all counts, it sounded like Shout Factory had brought on their A-Game and really made this pricey Blu-ray collection the centerpiece of any Lee fan's shelf... it's just too bad they weren't smart enough to double check that the High Definition masters they got from Golden Harvest were actual High Definition masters, and not upscales of the older NTSC DVD masters.

Full disclosure - I made none these caps, nor have access to the Shout Factory release personally - but the handful of very excited Bruce Lee fans who have gotten their hands on sets early by way of paying an extra $30 have all confirmed that the results are exactly what we're about to see below. If ANY of this information turns out to be less than accurate, I'll make a new post and update this one to avoid any further confusion, but with this release being an expensive item that a lot of readers may be ready to pull the trigger on, consider this a public service announcement until proven otherwise:





I can't find a proper matched cap for Way of the Dragon (and I'm far too lazy right now to dig out my German BD copy), but... trust me, it's just as bad as the other two, and the DVD BEAVER REVIEW confirms that, once more, the import is a legit HD transfer. If someone does proper 1:1 comparison, same frame and all that, I'll happily update the lot of them - in the meantime, here's the THREAD from which the Shout Factory BD caps first surfaced.

There's really no squirming out of this one. This isn't me being an asshole and taking a shot in the dark on a handful of crumby caps to guess what the source might have been; someone to have ordered the set and gotten it early by willingly paying more for it has gone above and beyond to confirm that this is what the Shout Factory box set transfers actually look like, and with a "Full HD" master having already been released abroad for 3 of these films, there's no question as to if we're just expecting too much from dated materials. Shout Factory's High Definition Blu-ray box is nothing but upscaled content, and consumers got hosed out of HD transfers that already exist. With them having pimped the fact that they paid Fotokem to color-corrected the Fortune Star sources they were given, this smacks of almost comedic incompetence.

Some clarity is required here, since it's just hella confusing: Fortune Star is the international entity that owns and distributes a massive chunk of Hong Kong's cinematic past, and are responsible for creating new video elements for all of Golden Harvests features - including the Bruce Lee films. Kam & Ronson does the home video distribution for much of Fortune Star's catalog in Hong Kong. Fortune Star restored all three of Bruce Lee's "original" Hong Kong films from the original negatives in 2006, and released these new masters to DVD in a restored box set, along with the slightly different cut of ENTER THE DRAGON, which - outside of East Asia - is distributed by Warner. (And Game of Death II, which is not actually a Bruce Lee movie by any sensible definition.)

Blu-ray releases for the Bruce Lee films followed in 2009, and... well, by that point Kam & Ronson had released BDs for several Fortune Star titles starring genre regulars, and - to put it bluntly - they were virtually all SD upscales. At this point I don't think anyone with more than a half a brain even questions it. Jackie Chan, Chow Yun Fat and Jet Li movies have always looked like piss on DVD though, so plenty of long time fans shrugged and decided that lossless audio, high resolution subtitles and no obvious MPEG-2 compression artifacts were all "good enough" reasons to upgrade anyway. To be fair, even a crumby upscale is such a dramatic step up from the usual LD dumps made from theatrical prints that most fans were willing to take it anyway. There's a handful of legit HD masters kicking around, including City Hunter and The Accidental Spy, but they're so few and far between that you're safer assuming that anything Kam & Ronson are offering is a dusty ol' Digibeta, and getting a nice surprise if it turns out to be an HDCAM tape instead.

The Bruce Lee early HK trilogy, however, was a bit of a shock in that they were - gasp! - legit HD masters. The Big Boss in particular shows a dramatic improvement in HD over any prior home video release, and while both Fist of Fury and Way of the Dragon have their problems, there's no doubt in mind that was a fairly fresh scan of the original camera negative on a piece of legit High Definition hardware. Even Enter the Dragon got a completely new scan from Fortune Star, though having less than ideal duplicate film elements for that film to start with and some pretty severe color timing issues, it was still beaten out by Warner's own problematic "BOB'ed 540p" Blu-ray from 2007 (though the margin of error on that one was far too thin to give anyone a pat on the back - they're both incredibly mediocre presentations). Also, the HK release of Enter the Dragon only has various Chinese dubs and English subtitles - no original English dialog, again, due to licensing restrictions between Golden Harvest and Warner Brothers, who distribute slightly different editions of the film.

For the record, there's been a lot of hemming and hawing about that Warner 40th Anniversary remaster for Enter the Dragon, and while I agree that there are some minor issues, it's easily the best presentation the film has had in HD so far, and everyone who finds an excuse not to upgrade is probably doing so more out of the $40 MSRP than any major grievances with the slightly dark color timing. Well, I guess that that or they really don't want to lose A Warrior's Journey, which was evidently removed from later pressings of the old Warner BD due to licensing issues.


There was, however, a dirty little secret hiding in the expensive Kam & Ronson Blu-ray box set; you see, Game of Death didn't get stand-alone HD releases in Hong Kong, they were only sold as part of the complete box set. Having been produced later on and likely with more accurate sales numbers in mind, both Game of Death films were - much like the rest of Fortune Star's output - merely an upscale of an older standard definition tape master. As of 2012 they finally released the upscaled Game of Death disc as a stand-alone release in Hong Kong, though how many fans in Hong Kong are willing to upgrade to the English-only upscale is anyone's guess. Also included is the Bruce Lee: The Legend documentary on DVD, which proves that Shout Factory was trying really, really hard to emulate this thing stateside.

As far as I know, both France and Germany were both provided the same HD materials by Fortune Star used in Hong Kong - and yes,  that means the European releases of Game of Death are also upscaled from an NTSC source, which means previous PAL masters may technically yield higher resolution. The oddity here is the Japanese release through Columbia Home Video, which - in the case of Game of Death, anyway - includes both Fortune Star's SD upscale, and a newly created HD master of the slightly different Japanese theatrical cut, often known as "Bruce Lee in G.O.D." Sadly, the Japanese 35mm master has optically printed Japanese subtitles during all dialog scenes and more than its fair share of optically printed dirt and scratches, but at least the result appears to be decent (if not reference) 1080p transfer from archival 35mm elements, which is more than I can say for the upscaled garbage everyone else has had to play with. The Japanese release of The Big Boss also includes a slightly alternate Japanese theatrical cut, but with that being - by far, in my personal estimation - the best of the Fortune Star HD masters, it's more a curiosity than a major selling point.

So why not just import the damned films and be done with it? Well, there is no "perfect" import, particularly if you speak English as a first language. The Hong Kong versions include English subtitles and ridiculous 6.1 surround remixes on the various Chinese dialects, all of which sound like garbage due to overzealous new foley effects and over the top noise reduction to eliminate any and all hiss, getting dangerously close to some T-Payne level auto-tune. Also, there's no English dubs on the otherwise quite English friendly HK editions, which - much as they aren't my preferred way of watching the film - are easily the most familiar versions seen by anyone in North America, the United Kingdom or any other typically English speaking region. (Game of Death is in English with optional Chinese subtitles though, because reasons I don't have the time or energy to get into right now.)

Universum Films BRUCE LEE: THE COLLECTION (DE - 2011)

The German and Japanese (and probably French?) releases all include the old-school English dubs, but no English subtitles. This is a sticking point since, after all, three of these four films were originally shot in Hong Kong, which - as was standard at the time - means they planned for the master language to be Mandarin Chinese. This may sound silly, with Hong Kong being a region that speaks the Cantonese dialect, but the standard practice of the era was to shoot the film silent, dub it in Mandarin and then subtitle it in both Traditional Chinese and English, so anyone in Hong Kong who didn't understand Mandarin could still follow the movie. They would later sell the prints to mainland China, which was a dramatically larger market than Hong Kong by itself. Lee himself didn't speak Mandarin, but he'd fake it on set, asking those who were familiar with both forms of Chinese what dramatic moments would sound like in the mainland dialect, and contort his performance to match better. Hong Kong didn't start embracing Cantonese as the "original" dubbed dialect until guys like Tsui Hark took control of the HK industry in the early 80s, recognizing that home video and cable TV revenue was going to justify proper Cantonese dubs sooner rather than later. Incendentally, the quality for Mandarin dubbing took a sharp turn down once they were being made as an after-thought, so if you watch a Tsui Hark or John Woo movie and it sounds like a pack of dogs vomiting through a plate of rancid spaghetti, you're probably

Back to the shameful upscaling part, though. Thus far, Shout's own genre guru Cliff MacMillan - or "cmac", as he's known on the Blu-ray forum - has only had this to say to the increasingly frequent criticisms of what's clearly a clusterfuck of unwarranted proportions:

The masters received from Fortune Star are HD.
We color corrected the first three films at Fotokem.
I asked my telecine [operator] "do these look like HD masters" and he said "yes".
He's been a colorist for over 25 years and has worked for Fox and Universal.

Your colorist was clearly wrong, Cliff... and so far, it's the customer who suffers. Shout Factory even went out of their way to offer it through their own website at a less than cheap $102 to get the set early, versus paying around $70 on Amazon and getting it in August. From the looks of it, no more than half a dozen or so posters have actually chosen this option, and after the first round of terrible screenshots and resulting discussions surfaced, at least half of them are sending it right back.

Oh, did I mention that Shout Factory have released I Am Bruce Lee on Blu-ray, but here it's only included as a DVD? Yeah, that's just pissing on the open wound, but whatever. Apparently Bruce Lee: The Man, The Legend is also a PAL > NTSC conversion, so have fun with two different ugly frame-blended DVD presentations that were originally shot on 35mm film. Also, the Bonus Disc and one of these docs (can't remember/care which) have their silk-screen labels flopped. So yeah, this package is just amazing on every possible level.

With the constant questions this set has raised marching on to Facebook - which is, I admit, where all the cool kids are doing their official announcements these days - we basically got more of the same:

Hi Sam, we are told these are the new HD transfers from Fortune Star.
They might have a better idea of the details beyond that. Thanks! 

Shout Factory drops the ball, and keeps on running like a champ. Way to show you're okay with living in denial, if it means you don't have to cop to having completely fucked up what might be your most impressive release of the year otherwise.

It's a shame, honestly. Shout Factory clearly spent a lot of time, money and effort to cobble all the available audio materials, created new subtitles from scratch, and offer a total of over two hours of exclusive video content. If it weren't for this cruel joke of giving us SD upscales instead of the "real" HD masters Fortune Star created, we'd finally have the single definitive English-friendly release of a trio of films that have always had a nightmarishly convoluted history on home video. Internet denizen and long-time Bruce Lee Master "Old Pang Yau" has done these films proud by providing restored original mono tracks for the lot of them. (Fortune Star has the nasty habit of down-mixing their awful 5.1 mixes, effectively saying "There's your fucking mono, asshole.") Shout Factory's literal Mandarin to English subtitles are most welcome, and the consensus has so far been that they're quite good - if not quite perfect.

Honestly, everything but the transfers for this set are a suitable tribute to the man who single-handedly introduced the world to Kung Fu Mania in the mid 70s, and had this been a DVD-only set for half the price, I may have been willing to accept the positives and ignore the lack of proper HD materials. But as it stands this release is a hot mess, and that's really a sadder story than it ever had to be.

Glad I haven't ditched this DVD set yet...

Wait a second, didn't Shout Factory just release some Double Feature Bruce Lee DVDs in butt-ugly packages for a bargain price? They sure did! But don't even bother, since they went out of their way to remove the original Mandarin audio tracks and English subtitles. Yep, the 20th Century Fox/Fortune Star R1 DVD box set may have had numerous flaws, but at least it still included original Mandarin audio (with some minor sync anomalies) and English subtitles for the three original Hong Kong films... which, may or may not be dubtitles. I think the subs were okay, but it's been so fucking long I don't even remember. (It even has the fun-in-their-own-right Cantonese tracks, but they're 2.0 down-mixes and sound like ass on tape.) It's still easy enough to find used for dirt cheap though, which only makes Shout Factory's box look bloated and overpriced by comparison. At that point the only real advantage Shout offers are the bonus features, and while I'm sure they're pretty damn cool, I doubt it's worth the $50+ difference between them.

The most recent twist in this whole ordeal was the fact that Shout Factory has changed the status from the Legacy Collection to "Sold Out" on their own website, despite the fact that repeated cancellations would suggest they've got more stock than they know what to do with. Are they investigating materials and considering a recall/replacement for this expensive collection? One can only hope, but the fact that pre-orders are still being taken elsewhere neither confirms nor denies a damned thing... but it gives me hope that they're at least looking into it. For what it's worth, I've already contacted them and offered my services. No, I don't expect to hear a word back, but fuck it, they know where to find me when they're done embarrassing themselves if they're that desperate to fix it without going back to Fotokem (who clearly know even less about SD upscales than I do).

Once more, consider this more a PSA than a review, or even a permanent condemnation: SOMETHING went horribly wrong at Shout Factory, and while part of me thinks they're aware of just how badly they screwed the pooch, I have no idea how much money went into producing what already exists, and thus how much it would cost to fix the three main films. To be perfectly honest I expected Game of Death would be an upscale, but the other three films is a left-field shocker. This isn't a title that's never had a Blu-ray release for, and this isn't a title who's fans aren't familiar with the concept of importing, either; heck, anyone who really wants these movies probably already has the Kam & Ronson box set, and was merely looking forward to this as the "Definitive" upgrade. If Shout Factory can't convince the hardcore fans who have been buying Bruce Lee movies since the days of Laserdisc, they've already lost the battle to sell a $120 box set... and that's just depressing for everyone involved.

I'll keep you posted as this one develops. In the meantime, vote with your wallets, but take the 5 minutes and tell Shout Factory WHY you aren't picking this up. I certainly haven't been shy, but... then again, when have I been?

You deserved better than this, Little Dragon. Maybe someday...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Fighting On in the Pacific Rim

Y'know what? Fuck you all.

I'm trying not to get too excited about this whole thing, seeing as how Guillermo del Toro's PACIFIC RIM was tailor made for international audiences and will - I'm sure - by this weekend's close have made a small fortune in China alone. The universality of the kaiju threat and the total lack of genuine political angle is one of the many unusual, praise-worthy things this film has brought to the Imax screen, but in the end it still got its ass kicked by a fucking Adam Sandler sequel.

In no uncertain terms, Pacific Rim is a glorious success: A thoroughly unpretentious, gloriously realized tale of giant monsters getting punched in the goddamn face by equally giant robots. The film's simplified borderline ethnic stereotype cartoon heroes are about as deep as a finger bowl, sure, but they're fleshed out enough that we care about their personal struggle, if not them as actual people - and you'll cease to care that we're watching rejected Street Fighter II characters the minute they get into a deliciously convoluted clunker of a 90 foot robot and fight critters that look like Cthulhu and the Hellboy cast got their extended family freak on. It's a bold, bombastic, family-friendly fantasy that's fallen out of style in the wake of depressing superhero movies as the go-to popcorn fodder, and it finally proves that you CAN make a legitimately great giant-robot driven live action film, meaning that Michael Bay can finally put down his Transformers Proof of Concept franchise down before it wipes its ass with Unicron and officially pisses everyone over the age of 30 off into a blind, frothing rage, and we can all finally stop pretending that Robot Jox is anything but Stuart Gordon having a great time with some particularly cool 80s action figures. (And there's no shame in loving that, damn it!)

And hey, holy shit, Pacific Rim is an original property - a logical, sincere next step created by a childhood fueled by Godzilla movies, and legitimately classic mecha anime like Tetsujin #28 - and not, contrary to much gnashing at early trailers, a wholesale Evangelion rip-off... if anything it owes far more to Gunbuster and Mazinger Z. It isn't a hipster mockery of their tropes and ideals, it merely is an obnoxiously awesome film full of the deceptively simplistic, conceptually gonzo childish wish-fulillment power fantasy Go Nagai, Ken Ishikawa and Mitsuteru Yokoyama made their legacies out of. Del Toro promised to create a film that would have blown his own mind were he still a 12 year old boy, and by God, he's done himself proud on that front. I wouldn't go as far as saying Pacific Rim is a perfect film - that'd be giving it just a little too much credit - but it is a perfectly realized look at what the boundless talent and budgets of the Hollywood blockbuster machine can turn these simple, kooky ideas into when it has the balls to not try and craft an ironic parody or a gritty reboot of the material; sometimes, fun is just fun, and Pacific Rim delivers everything I could have ever asked from it.

And yet, here we are watching it get a lukewarm reaction in the United States. Oh, don't get me wrong, reviews are quite positive - it's got a healthy 72% Fresh rating and an even higher viewer score, which is about as good as a movie that's best summed up as "Mighty Fighty Robot Action!" is ever going to get with the public at large - and Warner Bros. has already said they expected it to open stateside with a $30 Million weekend gross, which means it's already ahead of "official" predictions.  Warner is either downplaying matters a bit, or expecting huge international returns, since the film's estimated $190 Million cost - which, remember, includes neither the marketing budget nor the fact that ticket sales are split with the theater - are, as of this writing, still not yet met (though the gap will surely be closed by Monday morning).

To draw an infuriating comparison, TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN - a film even people who are willing to defend Michael Bay's other Transformer movies tend to admit is a pile of shit - made more money in 24 hours than Pacific Rim will have made on US receipts in two weeks. Yes, by and large Nerd Culture has slowly usurped the "mainstream" in the early 21st century, and that's pretty damned awesome in a lot of ways, but it's become clear that only certain parts of Nerdy Stuff actually ever took; in this case, the presence of giant robots punching other equally giant things seems to have less draw than the nostalgic title and the promise of your own fond memories of a toy truck that turns into a toy robot, with the actual "good movie" part being fully optional for commercial success. Similarly, GAME OF THRONES - or more specifically its love for tits and beheadings, on top of all that "high fantasy" nonsense - has taken cable by storm, but if you can somehow convince anyone who isn't already a huge manga fan to give even a half a shit about BERSERK, please, let me know.

But this is to be expected, to some degree at least. Known properties always do better thanks to the concept of "Marquee Value" - the idea that people are more willing to spend money on something they've already seen in some form before, which explains why sequels always do better than the first part in a series, despite most sequels being not-really-as-good. So no, Pacific Rim isn't a failure as a lot of the Hollywood rags are reporting... it just isn't doing as well as it deserves to. And that's a wholly different kind of disappointment, isn't it.

I could write 10 pages explaining why PACIFIC RIM is awesome, but... why bother? Go watch the trailer. Know you're getting exactly that for just over 2 hours, and do yourself a favor and find the biggest fucking screen you can find - 3D be damned, I wouldn't have it on anything but a 50 foot tall IMAX screen. Already seen it? Grab a friend who hasn't and go again. Hell, ask a person on the street to a date and take them; if they aren't ready to bone you 'till they bleed after 2 hours of hot mecha action, you've clearly wasted your time. Go see Pacific Rim, go see it all the times you possibly can. I mean, fuck, it's either that or wait for The Smurfs 2 inexplicably set new box office records... and you really want THAT on your conscious?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Regular Shit

REGULAR SHOW is a great little cartoon series, and is - oddly enough - the closest thing to a successor to Beavis & Butthead I've seen in the 21st century. No, not in the laughing at dick-puns sense, but in that the real draw of the show is watching this world-weary friendship between a pair of socially awkward nerds who have been together for so damn long they're not even sure why they became friends, but they're close enough at this point that they aren't willing to part ways.

While Mordecai and Rigby's begrudged friendship are the show's most valuable asset, the show is better known for its high levels of 80s nostalgia and bizarre, probably inappropriate for children sense of humor that focuses on everything from unicorn bodily fluids to scenes of the show's two heroes getting just drunk enough to order incredibly dumb things on the internet. It's also chock full of thinly veiled references to films by Stanley Kubrick and Dario Argento, like so:


With all of that in mind, and the fact that Cartoon Network is backing a show that may as well be this decade's iteration of Rocko's Modern Life, it's not all that shocking that the show's oddly naturalistic focus on dialog and bullshitting with friends would, occasionally, lead to language that - while not outright South Park style cussing - leans a bit more blue than the average CN series not found on [adult swim]. Comes with the territory of making cartoons about that bizarre, awkward period when you've moved out and are holding down a job and are identified as an "adult", but the concept of responsibility and accountability still haven't settled in, and you assume it's some kind of permanent summer vacation until reality kicks you in the balls. Granted, for this show "reality" involves giant arcade bosses come to life, wieners in revolt and audits on reality itself, but that's... why it's on Cartoon Network, I suppose.

Unfortunately, it's been confirmed by a number of posters that the new "Complete Season 1 + 2" set has censored several episodes in a way that, conveniently enough, may also explain why the promised lossless 5.1 track has been replaced with a DVD quality stereo mix! So, yeah, no lossless for you on this one. Normally I wouldn't care that much for a show like this, but as this is one of the very few cartoons out there to use actual pop music along with one of the best original American vocal casts assembled since Invader Zim, yeah, that alone is kind of sticking in my craw.

Reports are far from conclusive at this point, but it's been widely agreed that most - though seemingly not all - uses of words like "hell", "pissed", "screwed" and "crap" are being swapped out with slightly less abrasive language. Pissed becomes ticked. Hell becomes heck. And, yes, they're just copy-pasting words from other episodes and reports confirm that it sounds like hairy, pimply ass. Amazingly enough, none of the show's sexual humor or over the top cartoonish violence seems to have been affected - or at least if it has, nobody's caught any examples of it yet.

The fact that this typically airs in the evenings on Cartoon Network with a "TV PG" rating has always left it with a certain level of leeway with standards and practices, but the show's increasing popularity has convinced Cartoon Network to edit out the minor cussing so they can play it as a "TV G" series before dinner hours. As far as I know the second season had a bit less psuedo-cussing to start with, so the edits may only be to the first season, but until some more obsessive fans have combed through the set I'm not convinced one way or another.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that while the iTunes versions are supposedly the uncensored, original broadcast version, Amazon Instant Video versions are the newer censored versions. I'm getting mixed info on both Netflix's presentation of Season 1 in HD and Playstation Network's available SD episodes, but it's safe to say that any "new" release of this show will likely be the edited versions. How rampant and dramatic these edits get, however, remains unconfirmed.

What makes this even more confusing are reports that the creator commentary tracks on these episodes are rife with actual swearing. "Shit" and "Fuck" and the whole goddamn nine. Hang on now, the bonus features can be all droppin' F-bombs and the show can't even say pissed off?

Who the fuck even--

I can't, why would--



If this were *only* an issue with the broadcast I wouldn't mind much, but the fact that it's wound up on the Complete Blu-ray is, frankly, inexcusable. Warner Bros. and Cartoon Network have shot themselves in the foot on this one, presenting a show with a large adult fanbase who actually appreciate its crass and unusual sense of humor watering it down, and yet leaves content so much more potentially upsetting in the same package. Man, it's almost like they don't have a fucking clue what they're doing...

Earlier DVD releases were also uncensored - such as the "Slack Pack - but they're SD, have no bonus features, and with each "pack" containing 12 to 16 randomly selected episodes it's kind of a shitty way to keep track of how much of the show you have. The fact that I even have to look into what the cheap "Babysitter DVDs" include as a potential alternative to a 'complete' box is pretty fucked up, isn't it?

I was ready to pick up a copy this weekend, and who knows, I still might just to see what punching in the Konami Code on the menu does (yes, that's actually a thing), but man... that's a bitter pill to swallow. If I can get a rundown of all the changes that have been made I'll update this/make a new post, but at the very least, both "The Power" and "Meat Your Maker" are confirmed as edited, and I have little doubt that others have been affected as well.

Go Nagai Holy Trinity GET!

Pictured: The best surprise I've had in ages.

As of yesterday, Discotek announced the 1972 DEVILMAN/デビルマン TV series was joining their DVD line-up alongside the previously announced CUTIE HONEY and MAZINGER Z sets. These titles are easily the three most famous and influential pieces of the Nagaiverse, and I couldn't be happier that the trio are finally due for an as-of-yet pinned down US premier. None of these titles have even been fansubbed past the first few episodes - not last time I bothered to check, at any rate - and with Go Nagai's less than chipper attitude towards how American publishers treated his comics in the early 90s, I wasn't convinced we'd ever see them in English.

Discotek/Eastern Star has spent the last few years slowly and surely become the only studio specializing in vintage R1 anime releases, and the fact that they now own basically all the early 70s Go Nagai anime has me nothing short of thrilled. These guys are absolutely worth throwing money at, so if anything they've ever done looks worth the plunge, GO AND GET IT NOW. Don''t be shy, unlike a lot of block-headed labels Discotek always prices their stuff at their official site to be more or less even to what major retailers are selling it for. They need that extra 50 cents more than Amazon does anyway, and with most other sites ordering from the publisher in batches anyway, why not skip the middle man?

Seriously, go buy their DVDs. For the love of Futanari Satan, if so much as one of those titles gets cancelled I'm opening a rift straight to Hell myself and watching all of humanity burn in the bloody waves of Nagai's Apocalypse. Try me, maggots of the human ra-- *Ahem* So, yeah. Pretty goddamn excited about Devilman TV getting picked up. As always, refer to Animetal USA for all that really needs to be said.

But it's not all Adam West-esque violence over at Discotek! They've made a number of equally surprising announcements, and while some of these I knew were in the works, a couple of them slapped me out of left field just as hard as everyone else:

* JIN-ROH: THE WOLF BRIGADE/人狼 is going to get a reasonably priced US release to finally replace the insanely expensive stand-alone US release, which has reportedly been so limited and desired by competitions that it's sold for over $1,000 USD.

The "International" release had a pretty massive window-boxing issue, but otherwise was a top notch effort that looked very similar to the 35mm print I was lucky enough to see several years ago; if this new disc is essentially the same thing at a fraction of the price, nobody will have an excuse not to own this tragic masterpiece.

* CARD CAPTOR SAKURA: THE MOVIE/劇場版カードキャプターさくら is an interesting announcement, to say the least. Card Captor Sakura was the show that convinced me that you can find fantastic stories in the most unexpected places, and while the first movie is just one of those stand alone, only semi-canonical side stories that most popular long-running anime TV shows get eventually,  it's cute and exciting enough to justify picking up on its own, even if you aren't familiar with the manga or TV series proper. Discotek has already confirmed a Blu-ray, and I have little doubt it'll be an adorable demo disc, if nothing else.

It feels... odd that we're getting the first movie announced but not the TV series, doesn't it?

* Mamoru Oshii's DALLOS/ダロス is typically considered the very first OVA series ever made, and even had an English dub made back in the late 1980s, yet it hasn't seen a US release since the VHS days for one reason or another.

I've always been curious to see this early piece of Oshii's animated history, and an officially subtitled DVD sounds like a decent place to do it. Sadly, I don't think this has ever been remastered, so much like Discotek's CRYING FREEMAN and MAD BULL 34 DVDs, it'll probably look about as good as the old analog materials will allow it to.

* LILY-C.A.T. couldn't be any more 1980s if it had A Flock of Seagulls haircut and a neon green keytaur and a "Where's The Beef?" t-shirt. Combining ALIEN/S, TERMINATOR and THE THING into a claustrophobic horror one-shot OVA about - SPOILER ALERT, highlight to find out...

Sentient robot cats. Yes, fucking robot cats.

Still, I'd hesitate to call anything that Streamline picked up back in the day outright bad - that was more Central Park Media's thing at the time - and only being familiar with this monstrosity's infamy I'd be lying if I said I wasn't curious to an almost painful degree. Every year Discotek seems to get closer to closing the door on the Streamline catalog, and if this brings up one step closer to finally having a proper Vampire Hunter D release, or even those bizarre "Tales of the Wolf" episodes of Lupin III, I'll buy two.

* G.T.O - GREAT TEACHER ONIZUKA/グレート・ティーチャー・オニヅカ feels to me like it came out a lifetime ago now, but any show that has a punk kid grow up to become a combination of Robin Williams from Dead Poets Society and James Dean in pretty much goddamn anything can't be all bad... especially not when he cracks jokes about Doraemon out one side of his mouth and Kenshiro out the other.

This was released by Tokyopop about a decade ago as singles first, then a pair of box sets, and has laid dormant since.  Not a title I'd have expected to see re-released in 2013, but not one I'm going to grumble about either.

* BLUE SUBMARINE NO. 6/青の6号 is getting a Blu-ray release to mirror the JP BOX that came out a year or two ago. I've confirmed with Discotek that we'll be getting the same Q-TEC upscale as the Japanese set, which is pretty "meh" as far as these things go, having an unnaturally filtered look to it not unlike FLCL.

Sadly, as a fellow video nerd friend of mine pointed out, odds are a Gonzo produced OVA series from 15 years probably wouldn't look very good at 1080p no matter what upscaling method was used, so while the bizarre smeared edges and ringing artifacts aren't ideal, it's not like we got it instead of anything perfect. It is what it is and odds are even a "better" upscale wouldn't please everyone, though that doesn't make Q-TEC's reliance on warp-sharpening style filters any less... weird.

A shame Discotek never hosts any convention panels or appears on podcasts or anything like that; the titles they announce through the magic of Facebook are some of the biggest legitimate surprises in what little remains of the US home video market, and every time they announce a list of new titles it's like stumbling across a cache of forgotten Christmas presents. Sure, some of them are socks or something else that isn't the best thing ever, but it's all cool stuff, and you don't really expect or demand any on it... it's just awesome when it happens.

Keep it up, Discotek. Do more Blu-ray releases, but otherwise stay the damn course.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

I Will Finish What Was Started.

Last Week: Hung out with Toshio MAEDA.

Tomorrow: I fight alongside The Protomen.

Sunday: Totally getting my Pacific Rim on.

I REFUSE to say it myself.
You all know what this means.

Don't wait up, kids. Daddy's gonna be busy for a while.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Let Me AX You Something...

So yeah. Anime Expo was pretty goddamn cool - and is also totally convent excuse as to why I haven't posted in forever! Sweet.

For one thing, an old online friend of mine - one who's actually been heavily into anime for longer than I have - got the chance to visit for the week in Meatspace, and we hit up some local nerdery hobbles and had all sorts of delicious take-out and generally had a grand ol' time. Too bad we didn't think to buy booze until the last day, but with us getting out at around midnight and then waking up at 7 the next day as it was, it probably would have been more counter-productive than we'd hope it would be, anyway. Good times were had by all, far as I can tell, and I do hope I'll get a chance to have him over again next year.

I didn't go to any of the "premiers", but with most of those essentially being titles long since leaked to the internets with a fresh dub I have little to no interest in, the only one I actually regret missing was the English subtitled world-premier of the firts ever crowd-funded OVA, KICK HEART. My friend managed to get there, and said it was a fantastic experience - far more impressive in motion than the stills would suggest, and the only real downer was the fact that they wound up playing the entire 45 minute making-of (for a 15 minute project) PLUS a giant promo reel for Studio I.G, evidently by mistake, not leaving any room for director to go over what an unusual piece it was. He did leave with a very special piece of director Masaaki YUASA crafted art, and while it's a shame my schedule didn't quite line up to see it for myself, I'm glad to hear it was everything it could have been and so much more.

The highlight for me, you'll surely understand, was the chance to meet Toshio MAEDA, infamous "Tentacle Master" and creator of both 淫獣学園 La☆Blue Girl and 超神伝説うろつき童子 / UROTSUKIDOJI: LEGEND OF THE OVERFIEND manga. While, true, I fell in love with the OVAs that were very loosely based on Maeda's original comics, I later discovered the originals which had their own unique style and aesthetic that do a fine job of complimenting the wildly differing adaptations - one isn't inherently "better" than the other, they're just drastically different takes on the same broad ideas. Maeda is in no uncertain terms the man who created the universe of the Choujin, the sexually charged and violently spiritual concept that helped set me on a lifetime of fascination with both extreme exploitation films and animation as a means of pure artistic expression, and while I certainly tried, there's nothing I could ever do to truly thank him for having had such an impact on me.

I did, however, commission an original sketch from the man - for a fee as high as he'd ask for, I find no shame in admitting - and when we'd discussed the terms and the price, he asked me to write it down: "So you wanted: Akemi, with tentacle rape. Penetration visible, fully X-rated." He then turned to my wife, hiding behind me and beet red, and began to tell her "It's okay you know, there are actually a lot of women who enjoy this erotic material - even when it's shocking." I just smiled and told him she has been a big fan of La Blue Girl for years, and we were only asking for Akemi because it looked like everyone else had already requested Miiko. I was even lucky enough to get the Urotsukidoji LD BOX insert I've owned for a few years signed, as well as an inexpensive full color print that's ripe for framing right in the living room.

At that point I was thrilled to go to his panel, and it may be the most inspiringly honest, no-bullshit interview I've ever seen. He talked about the fact that his current wife didn't care about his legacy as the creator of tentacle rape pornography, but probably never would have given him the time of day if she'd known he was originally from Osaka. He was perfectly honest about not being a fan of manga and anime himself, preferring old Hollywood movies and even jokingly telling his son that manga's a waste of time. When someone asked him a stupid question ("What would you give up for the power to grow tentacles?"), he'd give a fitting answer ("Sorry, I don't speak English!"). He revealed that the animation crew behind Urotsukidoji was the same staff that handled the Gundam TV series, but used fake names to protect their identities from being ruined with the mainstream. He talked about how he always considered himself a child of American pop culture, particularly television and comics, and was surprised that his work seemed so amazingly foreign to most Americans.

And, yes, when he asked a young black man in the audience if the rumors about "his people" having large genitals were true, and the audience roared with laughter, he looked around shocked and asked us all: "What? I didn't say the N-word! I am a decent man!" See? It doesn't even matter what you did on the Fourth of July. Mine was the best.

Sunday was even better, as Maeda was willing to take a handful of fans - my wife, my good friend and I included - on a journey to a local steak house to eat, drink and be merry. We did just that, talked about everything from the American school system to the difference between Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, the difference between religion and morality, how devastating the car accident that had forced him to retire for a long period had been, and yes, what a swindling asshole Uchuu Senkan Yamoto producer Yoshinobu NISHIZAKI was.We even discussed eating pussy, and I made a joke that had him laughing so hard I thought he'd bust a gut. Maeda speaks very good English, has a fantastic sense of humor and a charming level of brutal honesty, I couldn't be happier that the man who helped shape me into the creepy erotic-grotesque obsessed bastard that I am today is actually a cool, fun, perfectly normal guy who just reads John Grisham novels in his spare time between drawing paradoxically impossible rape-fantasies to pay his rent. (So, no, he wasn't directly inspired by the Cthulhu Mythos. He says he doesn't even like zombie movies, and always looks away during the scary bits... go figure.) Toshio Maeda is a wonderful person, an exceptional talent, and I'm thrilled I got to spend as much quality time with him as I did. The wife and I even made a few new friends at the table! Good times all around, and I couldn't have asked for a better way to cap off the convention.

And, for those curious, here's MAEDA'S WEBSITE. You can pay about $6.50 to get access to damn near everything in the tenticular style he's drawn for a month (though for obvious reasons his "political" and even kids mangas are owned by different publishers). Considering how fucking amazing his work is, and how little he seemingly has to show for it after he lost everything in a major accident a few years back, your 650 yen would indeed be a good deed towards a good man.

Tentacle Master aside, I had quite a bit of fun. The food trucks out front were something; Jogasaki's world famous Sushi Burrito was pretty damned tasty, but left me sick as a dog the next day. The Maine Brothers Lobster Roll was also a surprising addition and, being a New Englander by birth, it was nice to get a fresh, cool bite of underwater Lovecraftian Horrorbug with just a hint of mayo after a year and a half of brain-burritos and elastic noodles being my daily dietary staples. Probably the nicest surprise was the Super Boba truck that had the strongest goddamn iced green tea I've ever tasted, but just enough diabetes-catalyzing sugar and pomegranate syrup to make licking a tea bag sound like the best fucking idea on the planet.

Cosplayers, naturally, ran the gambit from "Aw, that's cute that they tried..." to "HOLY SHIT that's the best [insert character] possible" to "...goddamn it, now I can't look at Link and not get a boner anymore." Mrs. Kentai is quite a seamstress herself, so she's always skulking about with an over-priced camera looking for particularly well made costumes, and will utterly ignore even the most gorgeous of cosplayers if their work wasn't up to snuff. It's one of the reasons I love her, truly. I am a little sad I didn't get a photo of one particular entrant, though; without trying to sound any more like a pedophile than usual, a young lady who showed up on Saturday with what I can only assume was her parents dressed as a bloodied Vegeta may have been the most amazing costume on the floor, and I'm incredibly disappointed she disappeared into the throng of unwashed otaku before I had photographic evidence of it. Vegeta Girl, you were awesome, and if you're reading this... well, you probably shouldn't be anywhere near the Kentai Blog to begin with. But I guess I was mainlining Maeda OVAs at 14, so I'm not one to judge who does and doesn't look over explicit Berserk comparisons, now am I?

Just so y'all know, I'd be lying if I didn't say that this guy was the star of the show:

So... THIS the hit show of 2013? Really?
You're sure about this one, internet? Alright...

We went to several panels, though Maeda's obviously stole the show. My friend was quite satisfied with the Makoto SHINKAI Q&A - apparently he was into it, discussing the process for his animation and even the symbolism behind it all, but having always found his movies to be a bit of a dull slog I decided to go play arcade games instead. Mike Toole's Dubs that Time Forgot covered some fun, obscure nonsense including the Toei produced WILD SWANS film, Sanrio's delightful looking Greek mythology rock-opera THE WINDS OF CHANGE, and even had a rarely seen promo reel for ROCKY JOE, an aborted English dub of the classic Ashita no Joe TV series that was reportedly killed off when the localization team got wind of how the TV show ended. (SPOILER ALERT: It's one of the single most iconic images in anime. Even if you don't know what it means, you do know how Ashita no Joe ends.) There was a panel called Ero-Manga: The Good, The Bad and the WTF that turned out to be a charmingly educational basic course on the history, styles and range of fap material available in Japan. It covered a wide range of artists, even paying attention to artists like John K. Peter, Horihone SAIZO and even Waita UZIGA. Truth be told I knew most of what the panel had to cover, but I suppose having run around in the same circles as the guys who actually had those artists' scanned and translated in the first place, I'm probably far more experienced and jaded than I tend to assume I am. Whatever the case, the gentleman* in the neon Goth-Loli gear who ran the panel was refreshingly amusing, really had his shit together and was, above all else, treating the material with the respect it deserved: Whoever you were, good sir, I salute you.

*When I say "gentleman" I'm merely assuming the neon Goth-Loli gear was a festive occasion choice - then again this is Southern California, and I'd be lying id I said I hadn't seen more unusual fashion choices around.

As for what I spent most of my time doing... well, hell, you guys know me. I'm a collector at heart, and after throwing more dollar bills at Maeda than I could keep track of a good chunk of my time was spent either getting bumped out of panels or being too fucking exhausted to care, at which point I'd simply go back to the Exhibit Hall and spend more money. At this point I don't even remember everything I and my wife bought; the Pile of Toys has mushroomed pretty hard (particularly on the Wifey's side...), but I'll go over the surprise highlights and leave it at that for now:

* Region 1 DVD copies of GUNBUSTER 2: DIEBUSTER, MAD BULL 34 and CASSHAN: ROBOT HUNTER ('93). Discotek is, sadly, about the only table that sells titles for more or less the same price you'll find them for online after shipping, so they were the only ones I threw cash at for home video releases. If Viz, FUNimation or Sentai Filmworks/Section 23 wants me to drop coin at their booth, they can at least pretend to be competitive with Amazon and TRSI.

Seriously guys, Discotek kicks ass and they only up the ante every year. GO BUY SOMETHING. C'mon now, they've gotta be losing their shirt on re-doing the subtitled original version of Samurai Pizza Cats. Yes, really, the subtitled version of a show people only even know exists because of it's absurd English dub! Why did they even bother to release the subtitled Cat-Ninden Teyandee version? Because they're just that cool.

* While not "mine", technically, I did stand in line for over an hour as a tap-out to help my wife get an exclusive Madoka Nendoroid - THIS little cutie pie, to be specific. What's cool is she's an event exclusive, but they're actually releasing her world-wide at the same time in Japan, North America and China. She also got THIS BEAUTY, but that's... another story. I have mixed feelings about skipping the Maiko Miku Nendo, particularly once sell-outs completely cock blocked my Link and Samus Figma sexiness, but we own so goddamn many things with that cute little bitch I guess I can let this one slip past.

* SUPER ROBOT CHOGOKIN: Shin Mazinger Z. I spent way too much on this one, but the product is pretty goddamn awesome so, whatever.  The world of die cast robots is a new one on me, and I honestly don't know if I can go back to plastic for my big honkin' kaijuu punching fun after this. Just wish I hadn't literally seen it the next day for twenty bucks cheaper...

I also picked up a set of Tamashii figure stands for an okay price, so my Megaman toys are at last able to stand without blue tack on their oversize feet. Finally, Mega can pew-pew-pew without falling over!

* A 12"~ tall black-and-white Kenshiro figure.. which I can't even find a photo for. Don't get too excited, it's not the Real Action Hero figure or anything - it's copy-written to SEGA 2003, so I assume it's a forgotten run of UFO crane toys and only cost someone 500 yen and some patience. But it's a pretty cool looking figure, and well worth the $15 I paid for it.

* "Devilman Lady Cyber Figure". Yes, really, it's a goddamn talking Devilman Lady alarm clock from 1999. For $30, I couldn't say no, though I am a little pissed that the box suggests I'm missing a remote control for it. Yes, a remote controlled Go Nagai alarm clock. If I'd known it was incomplete I may have been a shit and tried to talk them down, but for something this shockingly absurd I'm still pretty satisfied.

* Three NHK circle ero-doujinshi featuring artwork by NEWMEN. For those of you unfamiliar with Newmen, go read his SECRET PLOT books and come back when you've mopped up your own shame. I was thrilled just to see more filthy Newmen pr0n, but the fact that one of those books was a hardcore Dominion (ie: "Tank Police") book went from "Wow, this is a cool surprise..." to "FUCKING HELL, WHERE'S THE ATM?! HOLY SHIT, SERIOUSLY? A $5 TRANSACTION FEE? ...WHATEVER!"

* DBOX. What's more fun than unlicensed porno fan-comics? Unlicensed and horrendously lazy foreign reprints OF unlicensed porno fan-comics! Yeah, this is exactly what it looks like and somehow even worse, and is especially notable just because of his hilariously shitty the whole thing is; some French publisher went to Japan in the mid-90s, picked up all the late Cell/early Buu era doujinshi they could find and then reprinted them without giving a half a shit if they'd get slapped on the wrist or not. There's no fake copyright, no table of contents, no translation - yes, the book published IN FRANCE is still in Japanese! - no blank pages at the front and back of the book to keep the cover from getting all stained by the ink, the page numbers in the corners are based on whatever the original books had, there's zero consistency between art styles, the very first story is a weird Dragon Ball cross-over with I don't even fucking know what, sometimes creator notes are included and other times they're not, everything's cropped to fit the same weird sized page... it's kind of awesome. Plus it's got Gohan X Piccolo buttsex. How was that alone not worth $20?

* REVOLTECH - QUEEN'S BLADE: Sigui (1P Version). For $20, brand new! Christ, I'm surprised I didn't buy two. If they'd had the 2P version I'd be tempted to swap the underwear bits to my ultimate preference, so it's... probably for the best that they didn't. I should not own more than one of each of these figures, particularly not at the prices some of them have been selling for.

* Devilman Polystone Bust Collection Vol. 2. A gorgeously sculpted and okay-painted lump of pure Body-Horror released in 2005, it was available at a stand offering a BOGO sale, which in turn justified the purchase of a different 1/7th figure (which is, for better or worse, another story). It was marked at $40 while the "big" figure was $100, which means we either got this one free or we each got them for $50 - justify it however you like.

Either way I'm absolutely in love with the nasty concept of Devilman literally shredding out of Akira FUDOU, and I'm only disappointed that American eBay resellers have the other Polystone busts listed at outrageous prices starting at $100. Guys, c'mon; these actually sold in the US for $50 a pop through Diamond Comics Distribution. I get the concept of after-market mark up, but when somehow it's cheaper to buy them through YAJ with all deputy and shipping fees accounted for, you're probably doing it wrong.

I'm sure I'm forgetting a hundred little things - stories, purchases, anecdotes and so much more - but for the time being, it's nice to have one last day off to see my friend home and chill the fuck out before I plow back into work head-first. Anime Expo was a blast period, but the fact that I actually got to hang out and have dinner with the man who created something that touched me so deeply (and in so many crevasses!) was a once in a life time experience. Thank you, Toshio Maeda. And yes, thank you, Anime Expo. It's been one hell of a weekend.

Also, by far my favorite non-Maeda quote of the weekend: "Unico is Best Pony." Amen to that, sister, amen to that.