Brave Blog

Just Another Loogie Hocked On The Information Super-Highway!

Archive for the category “Anime”

How I Discovered Hokuto No Ken or Thanks Buncheman!

One Man Is Responsible For My Love Of Hokuto No Ken...

It has been my experience that sometimes the best things in life are discovered completely by accident. This especially holds true for me and a handful of anime shows that I’ve latched on to over the years.While I’ve previously discussed how my love of both Science Ninja Team Gatchaman and Space Battleship Yamato were very concentrated efforts to find their original source material, at least one of my favorite shows was discovered completely at random and I owe it to one man… Steve Bunche!

First allow me to regale you with the story of how young James, at the age of 19 became familiar with Hokuto No Ken, or as it is more commonly known as here in the United States, Fist Of The Northstar. I had been working at Marvel for awhile and had made a friend in one Steve Bunche. Now if there is one person I can point to and say “That guy there! He is the one that expanded my horizons!” it would be Steve Bunche. My friendship with Bunche initially got off to a rocky start due ot the fact I was the geeky kid from the mail room that wouldn’t leave the guys in the Marvel Bullpen alone. I think we broke the ice though because of a common interest. That interest was Gatchaman. I had just gotten my Holy Grail, the last 5 episodes of the original Science Ninja Team Gatchaman from my my then anime pimp Tom. I couldn’t have been more geeked about it. I had spent the day with the tape in my mail cart because I didn’t want the tape to be far away from me…. what? At that moment it was my most prized possession!

... This Guy! Steve Bunche!

I had been doing my rounds and had arrived at the Bullpen to drop off the mail. When not delivering comics to them, the Bullpen usually got the least amount of mail, on top of that the Bullpen was usually one my last stops on my rounds. Bunche had noticed the VHS tape in my mail cart and asked me what exactly was on it. I sheepishly told him it was episodes of Gatchaman and suddenly we had ourselves a conversation. He asked me if I had ever heard of Fist Of The Northstar and I shook my head and said “no”. He then tried explaining it ot me as best he could. His manner of explanation was giddy mixed with the liberal use of the word fuck or derivatives there of. “James, this guy fuckin’ punches this guy and there is fuckin blood everywhere! He fuckin’ explodes! You need to see this fuckin’ show’!”. Provided this isn’t exactly how it was explained to me, in fact my penchant for hyperbole might be clouding my recollection but once he described Fist Of The Northstar to me I knew that I had to see it.

So it went that I asked my anime pimp Tom if he had Fist Of The Northstar. Tom did indeed and the next time we traded comics for tapes I got the first 15 episodes of Hokuto No Ken… SUBTITLED NO LESS!

I went home and watched in awe. I was sucked in immediately. The earth was nuclear wasteland in 199X. Society has collapsed and the only things that matter are fresh food water and gasoline. Sweet fuck it was the plot to Mad Max! I loved Mad Max! Then there was this guy with these incredibly thick eyebrows doing some type of karate and making people explode by punching them… HOLY SHIT! How could I not love this show?

I went to workthe following Monday and told Bunche I had spent the weekend pretty much watching Hokuto no ken. Bunche was surprised but even more surprised when he heard that I had the show subbed in English. Needless to say he borrowed my tapes. He also began filling me in on some the major storylines. How this show was actually more than just about a guy who could make people explode by punching them. I began to delve int othe mythos and began catching on to some of th major themes of it, such as how it dealt with its cast of supporting characters as tragic figure and how the main villains were even pitiable and tragic in their own way. I began to see Hokuto No Ken’s main protagonist Kenshiro as sort of a Japanese version of Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melbinone just minus the albinism. Kenshiro’s discipline of Hokuto Shinken (The Holy Fist Of The Great Bear or Divine Fist Of The Northstar) was a burden he had to bear just like Elric’s cursed sword Stormbringer was his. Both characters were cursed that any who crossedtheri paths, be they friend or foe either died or wanted nothing to do with them afterwards. Hell they even both have extremely depressing endings!

I spent the next 6 months getting tapes from Tom, pretty much getting all of Hokuto No Ken but never getting to Hokuto No Ken 2. By the time I was ready for Hokuto No Ken 2, I had lost my job at Matrvel and actually gotten back into College again. During breaks from school I’d return to NYC and would see Bunche now and again. I haven’t seen the him since… geez 1999? Has it been that long? I mean this is a guy that expanded my tastes not only as far anime goes but cinematically as well.

Who lent me his copies of Shaft and both Dolemite movies?
Who turned me on to the films of John Waters (with Pink Flamingos no less!)?
Sandman and the work of Neil Gaiman in general?

This article was originally going to be about me filling in you, the reader, about other anime I enjoy and instead it has morphed into me telling you about what an impact Steve Bunche has had on me. It isn’t like he taught me how to appreciate classical literature or how to cook. He just basically showed me there was more out there than what I actually realized. This wasn’t in just terms of anime or comics. This was in terms of everything. He made me realize that I had been living a rather sheltered life. The thing is, I don’t think that was his intention, he just wanted show me cool stuff. He did that in spades and in turn opened up my narrow little perception on a whole slew of subjects and interests.

So thank you Bunche! You are one of those unforgettable people that means a lot to me on more levels than you can ever realize. You befriending this nerd/geek meant and still means a lot to me even today. One of these days I’ll return to the City and I’ll consider myself blessed to hang out with you again. In simpler terms, we’ll get drunk. Yeah, he was the first one to take me out and get me drunk. Still… You are and will always be one of the best!

It All Began With Gatchaman…

Always Five, Acting As One... The White Shadow That Slips In Unseen...

The romance for me started when I was 6. Now provided, 6 years old isa bit young for boy to fall in love but it was right there in front of me. 5 teenagers wearing shirts numbered one through five who, at the first sign of trouble would shout “TRANSMUTE!” and become ass-kickinbg superheros dressed as birds. I was six and at that point in time I knew that this TV show I was watching, called Battle Of The Planets, would be one of the great loves of my life. It was my gateway, so to speak, to the world of anime.

Battle Of The Planets was everything a six year old boy could want from a cartoon. It had heros in coloful costumes, a cool ass spaceship and an evil terrorist organization determined to rule the world. I was six, I had no idea that it was even Japanese. I had even less of an idea that it wasn’t originally called Battle Of The Planets, but we will get to that later. BotP led to me watching another show a year later called Star Blazers. I should rephrase this… it led to me sneaking into the kitchen after school to turn on the TV to watch Star Blazers. See I wasn’t ‘Allowed’ to watch TV unless it was PBS or The Muppet Show. So like any good six year old, I snuck into the kitchen to watch TV as much as I could. Now Star Blazers blew me away even more due to its incredible story, telling the tale of Earth’s Space Force raising an ancient Battleship in order to travel to the Planet Iscandar in order to save the Earth itself from the radioactive asteroids being hurled at it by the Gamillon Star Empire. This was 2 years after Star Wars and thus anything that was remotely space opera-ish would grab my attention.

So nothing noteworthy happened to me, in my opinion at least, until 1984. Yes boys and girls in 1984 Voltron hit the airwaves and it became my new afterschool obsession. Thus began what was, most likely, the most physical time of my life before puberty. See, I got out of school everyday at 3:45 PM. My school was on 70th street between 3rd and Lexington avenues. I lived on 82nd street and East End Avenue. All told that is 12 North/South blocks and 5 East/West blocks. The bus was not fast enough for me, I had to watch Voltron and thus learned the art of controlled running. This is the fine art of running two and a half blocks, stopping for 60 seconds to catch your breath and then running another two and a half blocks. It is amazing that I didn’t have a stroke at the age of 12 doing this. This lasted for 3 months. Christmas of that 1984 was when my family got its first VCR.

For those of you who don’t remember the VCR allow me to enlighten you. The Video Cassette Recorder, or VCR, was about the size of one of those women you see used to on the Sweatin’ To The Oldies commecials with Richard Simmons. For those of you who are to young, I really don’t have time to explain “Sweatin’ To The Oldies” and I really don’t have time to explain Richard Simmons. Anyway, the VCR was there so we could record our favorite shows. What it meant to me was that I would no longer be left gasping for air every two and a half city blocks. I was the first one in the house to master the art of setting a pre-record and thus was Voltron taped and thus I was able to go back to being supremely lazy and not having to run home every day and avoid a pre-pubescent heart attack.

Gatchaman - The Best Show Ever!

For 5 months Voltron was king on my VCR. It was the only thing I taped. Yet that to would come ot an end one fateful Saturday morning in March. I used to dread Saturday mornings because from the time I was about six until I was about 11 I was always dragged to my Father’s tennis club. My Dad LOVES playing tennis. If there was a tennis tournment at Madison Square Garden, my Dad had to go see it. I’ve never been taken to Madison Square Garden against my will so many times in my life. My Dad’s tennis club was the Columbia University Tennis Center in Riverdale. I would be woken up at 9 AM every Saturday and be forced to sit at the center until about 2 in the afternoon. This was a my father’s attempt to be clever and prevent me from watching Saturday morning cartoons. This backfired on him because all I did was stay in clubhouse and watch TV. When I turned ywelve I put my foot down and determined that I would be bored by tennis no longer and amazingly my father acquiesced. But this isn’t what happened in March of 1985… no no, this was just a completely unrelated tangent because that is just how I roll…

It was a bleak and cold day. I had, for some reason, woken up at 6 AM that Saturday and found myself unable to sleep. My parents were both asleep and my sister was away at college. Her old room had been redone and made into the family TV room. It ws kind of ironic that this had been done because my parents HAD a TV in their room. Thus ,the Family TV Room became James Harris TV command center. So I, unable to sleep, stumbled int othe Family Room and turned on the television, Lo and behold there was a cartoon like none I had ever seen before. Sure Transformers was on TV and the concept of robots becoming vehicles was nothign new but this show blew my mind because it had robots but also would focus on dialogue. In fact the very first episode of this show featured 2 of the main characters trapped during an air raid drill basically yelling at each other for 22 minutes. This was not your average children’s programming, This was Robotech and this was a revelation to me. Robotech was immediately set to record on the VCR every Saturday at 6:30 AM. After one month of watching Robotech I boldly declared to my friends that “Voltron is for kids, I watch Robotech you losers!”.

Not soo after that I found myself in the New York branch of Forbidden Planet, a magnificent store that catered to all forms of geek hobby. From comics, to model kits, to Role-Playing Games… Forbidden Planet everything! What they had that caught my eye this time though was this slick book titled Robotech Art 1. I flipped through it and knew right then and there that I had to have it. I plopped down the last of my birthday money from my Grandma and it was mine. I rushed home, on my bike no less… no more controlled running for me, especially since Forbidden Planet was on 59th street between 2nd and 3rd avenues back then an not on its ever so posj Broadway location that it is today… I got home, ran into my room and sat down and read the entire book. It had a complete episode guide and a a woderful history of Japanese animation. Robotech was Japanese? Who knew?

In fact, Robotech was culled from 3 completely unrelated series into one cohesive story by one Carl Macek, this I learned from reading Robotech Art 1 I learned that all my favorite animated shows were in fact from Japan. The big shock for me was discovering that Battle Of The lanets was originally called Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. The book also told how Gatchaman was savagely edited to make Battle Of The Planets. Basically Gatchaman is one of the most vioent children’s show ever made and thus whole sections of many episodes had to be edited in order to be suitable for broadcast. I was even more horrified to learn that 7-Zark-7, the beloved robot sidekick in Battle Of The Planets, was an entirely American creation designed to fill in the gaps that got edited out of the Japanese original. Even more shocking was the revelation that my favorite character DIED in the Japanese version in the final episode. I made up my mind right then and there…Battle Of The Planets was dead to me, my goal in life was to watch Gatchaman. It was pledge that I never forgot but feared would never be fulfilled…

The years rolled on. I went to Boarding School and cartoons became somewhat less important as I geared up for college. College came and I achieved the impossible (a perfect 0.0 GPA). This was in no small part to gaming taking a huge hold of my life. Everythiung became about gaming ot me. I skipped class and didn’t do my class-work because I was always either sleeping or gaming. One day, on route to my 0.0, my friend eric and I got talking about how cartoons weren’t nearly as cool as they used to be. This entire discussion was sparked due to viewing on the new and utterly awful Swamp Thing cartoon. Eric mentioned he actually had a copy of the Super Dimensional Fortress Macross movie. I FREAKED out. SDF Macross was the original version of the first third of Robotech. I demanded to know why he had been holding out on me. He told that was nothing, because he had just gotten his hands on Akira. I was vaguely familiar with Akira due to Marvel Comics publishing the series uner its EPIC comcis imprint. I never read it mind you, it was just one of those things that was on the stands that I did not read. What followed was a viewing of Super Dimensional Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? and Akira.

Akira blew me away. It was so mind blowingly incredible that I nearly declared it the greatest movie I’d ever seen. I spent practically every weekend watching Akira and marvelling at how incredible it was. Its range of motion foranimation was just so amazing. Of course then I flunked out of college and had to get a job. Lucky for me I landed at Marvel. It was working in the mail room that I met fred. Fred had 2 friends named Tom & Paul. Tom and Paul were Japan-o-philes and had stacks upon stacks of videos from Japan which they were more than willing to make copies of for me, for a nominal fee of course. I made a deal with them that I’d hook them up with free comcis, both DV and Marvel, every week. But what did I want? What did they have that I wanted to see so badly…

Simple, they had Science Ninja Team Gatchaman and I was going to get it!

Tom copied off 2 tapes for me to start with. The first included the first 4 episodes of Gatchaman and the scond included the last 5. These had no subtitles. I knew not a lick of Japanese. I didn’t care. I went home and spent that Friday night in front of my TV screen, glued to the set as I watched Gatchaman destroy the evil hordes of the alien terrorist organization known as Galactor led by Berg Katse. The Batttle Of The Planets characters of Mark, Jason, Princess, Tiny, and Keyop were dead to me once and for all. In their place stood Ken The Eagle, Joe The Condor, Jun The Swan, Ryu The Owl and Jinpei The Swallow. Once again Gatchaman became my gateway drug. It remains, to this day, my favorite show. Not my favorite cartoon. No, saying that belittles its epic story. Gatchaman is myu favorite TV show ever! It si my number one anime of all time and it is truly the stuff that makes believe that there is a kind and merciful creator that loves me. Why else would he makes suck a great show for me to heap praise upon? Why else would he use it as means to help me explore modern Japanese culture?

Gatchaman - Even Its Song Collection Looks Badass!

I spent a year getting tapes from Tom and Paul. They turned me on to many differnt things as far as anime went including Saint Seiya, Devilman and they re-ignited my love of Star Blazers by handing me a copy of the origianl Uchu Senkan Yamato movie Be Forever Yamato, subtitled in english no less! For the record, Robotech Art 1 taught that Star Blazers was originally called Uchu Senkan Yamato (Space Battleship Yamato) in Japan and it was not only a beloved franchise their but also predated Star Wars by almost 3 years. Yamato was a cash cow for the Japanese spanning 3 TV series, 5 movies and countless toys, video game and other merchandise. But I shall talk of my love of Yamato another time for this i about my love of the White Shadow that slips in unseen, sometimes five, sometimes one. The unbeatable Science Ninja Team known as… GATCHAMAN!


Macross FRONTIER? Probably Not…

Macross FRONTIER--- It's Science Fiction I Swear!

Macross FRONTIER--- It's Science Fiction I Swear!


It has already been a year since we all got to see the first episode of Macross FRONTIER and it was incredible. What was even better about it was that it maintained a high level of quality for 26 whole episodes. Everything about it, from the music, to the animation, to the voice acting was top notch. So are we any closer to Region 1 release of this soon to be classic?


As long as Harmony Gold, U.S. Macross Gestapo, have their death like grip on the overall Robotech license, the chances for anything with the word “Macross” in it showing up in the U.S. have a slim to none chance of getting released. What? You don’t know the sordid saga of how Robotech was 3 separate animated telesion series that were spliced together and re-written by Carl Macek in to one multi-generational saga?

Well yeah that’s what happened. I could spend the next few paragraphs going over the various lawsuits between all the parties involved in the U.S. Robotech/Macross legal snafu but seriously you can look-up that stuff over at . Hell I don’t even want to get into the whole legal quagmire between Studio Nue and Tatsunoko Productions over who is the Japanese owner of the Macross franchise because I don’t even truly understand the problem (NOTE: This is a full fledhed lie on my part. I totally understand it, I’m just really lazy).

So it is all this legal nonsense that is denying us Macross FRONTIER, probably the best Macross series since the original (though a strong case can be made for 1995’s Macross PLUS).  It is a crying shame. Of all the shows that the Japanese released in 2008, Macross FRONTIER was far and away my favorite. I only had one complaint, that being the fact that there were way to many dangling plot threads at the end of the final episode. Even worse is that the announced Macross FRONTIER  movie is supposed to be a recap movie. Now I don’t now if this is going to be a recycled footage movie or if Macross storykeeper Shoji Kawamori is planning on wowing us with a completely new animated retelling ala “Macross, Do You Remember Love?”, the always impressive movie retelling of the original Macross TV series.


The King Of Braves GaoGaiGar... Released In The USA!

So many unknown variables at this point. But none of those variables are pointing to Macross FRONTIER getting to a U.S. retail any sooner.  But what do I know, I was one of those people who thought we’d never, and I mean NEVER, see King Of Braves GaoGaiGar released for Region 1 DVD but Media Blasters made me a believer in the end.

So who knows what the future holds.




NEXT BRAVE BLOG:   I really have no friggin’ idea…

Post Navigation