Snap Discussion is the weekly round table discussion on a topic relating to Japanese pop culture as selected by the almighty Snapodile. Each week the SnapThirty team will weigh in with their thoughts on that week’s topic all with the hopes of providing some interesting and perhaps even conflicting view points on the matter at hand. This week’s topic is Fandom Of One: Obscure or Unknown Anime You Cherish.
For this topic we each looked at series that we cherish despite the fact that they are relatively unknown to the masses. Sometimes the greats can fall under the radar, here are some of our own personal experiences.
This was more difficult of a topic then I had first imagined, the second I began scratching my brain for series that never really got the attention they truly deserved yet held a special place in my heart, many came to mind. Series like Crush Gear Turbo and Big O jumped into my mind immediately, both series I cherish still to this day. Crush Gear was only released in English language in Australia and Singapore so for many years it felt like my little secret and well Big O was just plain underrated and forgotten by the hands of time despite it being one of my all time favourites.
That said the series I really want to talk about today isn’t one of the two I just listed, the series I want to talk about is Casshern Sins, a tour de force artistic masterpiece that may have simply been too good for its own good.
Casshern Sins was a modern reboot of a Tatsunoko 1970’s anime classic, Casshan. Rather than follow the footsteps of the original series and retell its tale for modern audiences, Casshern Sins had bigger things in mind, completely scrapping the story of the original and deconstructing it at its very core. A dangerous game to play, that is for sure.
While the 70’s Casshan was about a superhero battling the evil robot forces of Braiking Boss, Casshern Sins paints the titular hero as a villain from the start, as the robot who had brought about the end of the world. Robot-kind are all slowly succumbing to a mystical illness known as The Rust, which is causing them all to systematically rust over and crumble to dust. The only one not afflicted by the disease? The seemingly immortal Casshern.
The series follows Casshern as he struggles to regain his memory of his crimes and the evil he brought forth upon the world. He journeys through a wasteland not too unlike that of Mad Max, hoping to find answers among the sand and rust. Along the way he meets many different robots who view him in many different lights, but no matter where he goes or what he does, death is his one true companion. It is a truly dark take on what was originally a fluffy kids superhero anime, but beneath the despair and darkness lies a hopeful heart.
In what I consider to be one of the greatest episodes in anime history, Casshern encounters a group of rusted robots who have resigned themselves to their fate, accepting their imminent deaths. Casshern believes himself to be at fault for their fate and swears to protect them from the danger that he has brought with him until their final moments. It is an awe-inspiring sequence to say the least and a lot of it has to do with one of the robots Casshern meets in this episode, the last robot alive with the ability to sing. If you don’t believe me, watch this clip to see how great it truly is.
Casshern Sins holds a special place in my heart for the way it made me feel, it took me on an emotional journey filled with heart break, despair, hope and so much more. It will never get the attention it truly deserves and its dark tone likely turned many away, but at the end of the day Casshern Sins is a true masterpiece that I absolutely cherish.
I really cannot catch a break with these questions can I? Each and every week I find myself digging through the recesses of my mind to come up with a series to talk about within the respective confines of the context at hand and often drive myself, well, not insane per say, but definitely far from normal…let’s go with stressed, that sounds like a nice term. Regardless, an answer I find and this week I have come to find what I believe to be an obscure anime series that needs a little lovin’: Desert Punk.
First things first, this is a bit of a weird one. Taking place in a post apocalyptic world, the series details the exploits of Kanta Mizuno, the titular Desert Punk, in the Great Kanto Desert, a treacherous landscape formerly known as the country of Japan. In said environment, citizens live a rough, kill-or-be-killed kind of existence that sees the weak weeded out pretty darn fast. Somewhat lacking in the physicality department, Kanta has made his moniker feared across the desert through a combination of tactics and ingenuity. One of the most common of these being his use of balloon doppelgangers, which fool his enemies into wasting their ammunition, losing track of the real Desert Punk, or simply forcing them to cower in fear before an opponent who can multiply themselves at will…not every desert dwelling scoundrel is quite as mentally gifted as they believe themselves to be after all.
With this said, and much more yet to be, Kanta makes for an unusual protagonist. Not above cutting and running when the going gets tough, or taking rewards from the poor folk he has saved, he is not that different from the other characters in this crapsack world. Rather, he is just one of the more likeable ones, or, at least, the one we know the most about. Which is kind of awesome. Rather than providing us with some valiant knight who stands above the grime of a post-apocalyptic future, we find ourselves following one who has, and will continue to have, no qualms about staking his claim in the world. Sure he has his moments of heroism and tends to avoid killing those he faces, somewhat of a double edged sword knowing the lives these folks live, but each and every action is in aid of his own agenda. Taking down a vicious gang that terrorises helpless citizens nets him a nice reward, defending a town provides him with a little extra food and perhaps female companionship. Of course, as per the rules of anime comedy, that last one never happens, but it sure as hell doesn’t stop him from trying with each and every one of the impossibly attractive women that live within this hellish desert landscape. Regardless, it always interested me how what would normally be considered a character’s flaws were their greatest assets in a world such as this. Which is good for someone like Kanta, because he’s kind of a jerk.
Despite this insight into the type of person who would thrive in an environment such as the Great Kanto Desert, Desert Punk is a comedy series. Refusing to take anything seriously at almost every turn, what should be a morose tale of survival is instead a humorous jaunt from one misadventure to the next. Hell, one terrifying showdown between two legends of the desert begins with character songs sung by an old guy in the crowd and ends with a standard, and notably uneventful, gunfight. It’s just so goofy and that’s why it’s worth watching. Though I am admittedly not too knowledgeable when it comes to anime trend, I have never come across another person who has ever spoken about Desert Punk, let alone seen it. Which is pretty upsetting. Sure it’s not a revolutionary piece of anime history that will change your view on everything that ever was, is, or will be, but it is sure as hell worth a look.
So my friends, if you have the time, don your protective gear, ready your best weapon and venture out into a world where the end of the world doesn’t mean the end of the nonsense. Also, there’s not many anime I know that could rock a live action intro, or an ending theme that straight up tells you how to draw the main character. Yeah, it’s as odd as it sounds and only part of the reason why Desert Punk is what it is; weird…but, like, in a cool way.
When I was getting into anime for the first time, all I had was a little channel from Singapore called AXN Anime which later became Animax. Without the internet or awesome streaming services like MadMan’s AnimeLab… I had to settle for whatever they chose to air on that channel. It was thanks to this channel I got introduced to two of my all time favourite anime: Rurouni Kenshin (Samurai X) and You’re Under Arrest.
Among the many shows and films being aired, there was one that really stood out, and despite them being Raw Japanese episodes without subtitles even, I was still drawn to it. Maybe I had a lot of free time back then, maybe the show was that endearing, or maybe it was a bit of both. The show was Yamato Takeru. An anime never once released or localised outside of Japan.
Yamato Takeru was a road adventure about a boy and a legendary mecha that he discovers in his own town. It’s your typical coming of age story where a juvenile lad ventures into the world on his mech, learning valuable life lessons along the way. During his journey he makes new friends, and because of his association with this legendary mech, he makes plenty of enemies as well. An interesting angle involving the protagonist’s love interest kept the story interesting, where she is both an ally and adversary to our hero, along with complicated romantic feelings. This said lady also has a complicated relationship with her older brother… as most anime maidens do. Constant betrayal swerves came aplenty in Yamato Takeru.
So really a lot of these elements probably sound quite familiar, I mean what Shonen mecha anime these days doesn’t have some or all of these plot devices? But back then it was refreshing and interesting, in particular the character designs that are still unique to this day. The story progression had a nice pace to it, as we see a group of kids with humble beginnings slowly but surely become something larger than life. The tension between the characters kept the show interesting, every episode somehow squeezed in an interesting mecha battle against a whole range of foes.
The only way to watch Yamato Takeru is by learning Japanese as there wasn’t any official English subtitle effort. However, the closest you can get to watching it in English is by watching the very broken subtitle effort by some independent subbers in Asia. It’s not incomprehensible mind you, but the subtitle work certainly doesn’t drive home the dialogue as it was probably intended. Luke and I spent nearly a month not only recalling the name of this anime, but also digging up the one and only unofficial subtitle effort. This team translated all the episodes, so if you can find it within the trenches of the internet, then you’re in for something very obscure. As far as I’m concerned, you can’t really get more obscure and forgotten than Yamato Takeru.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve had what people would consider a one-track mind. If I wanted something, it was always wholeheartedly, and nothing could be done to convince me otherwise. During the blooming years of my love for Anime, as a young boy, I found myself longing for bigger and better titles to sink my teeth into, regardless of the fact that, being a child, I had not the means of acquiring any of what I desired so. Like an addict, I began looking for different ways to accumulate funds: Originally it was selling my possessions that allowed me to purchase the Anime boxsets I had attached myself to spiritually, but that soon became an inadequate way to fundraise, considering…I was running out of things to sell. My mother, being a kind and gentle woman, would allowed me a ten dollar a week allowance that was to be used solely on food from the school canteen as a weekly treat for being such a good student. It was a shame that the money went not to the purchasing of food, but it would have been a travesty had I not stockpiled my weekly food allowance for the sake of purchasing more Anime.
THAT was how I would afford to by the Anime boxsets that, to this day, still remain on my shelf, now more as trophies from a mission well-completed than anything else. Get Backers, Tenjho Tenge, Afro Samurai, and Trigun, were just a few of the full Anime series’ I purchased with money that should have gone to sustaining my throughout a school day, but let’s be honest…it wouldn’t have done me wrong to lose a bit of weight anyway. Out of all the series’ I purchased way back when, one of them still brings a smile to my face even now, years after I had watched it, with many Anime filling in the gab between then and now. It is a GONZO-developed series by the name Basilisk that, essentially, tells a Romeo and Juliet-style story but in the setting of ancient Japan. This Anime featured Samurai, Ninja, blood, gore, death, destruction, and everything in between…and it was brilliant!
An Anime based upon a Japanese novel from the late 1950s, Basilisk featured many elements a fourteen year old should not have come into contact with, but considering the fact that the gentlemen at the counter who sold me the MA15+ rated series didn’t ask for any identification or take notice of my school uniform, I didn’t think it was too big of an issue at the time. Love, betrayal, deceit, commitment, there was nothing that Basilisk DIDN’T feature, and it quickly became one of my favorite Anime series’ of all time, even remaining as such to this day.
While I wouldn’t consider Basilisk to be “obscure” in any way, I do feel like it is a series relatively unknown to the Anime-loving community. Over my years I have found myself in the midst of conversation with a fellow Anime fan only to be glared at blankly when bringing up Basilisk. The fact that, while writing this portion of the article, I have the boxset sitting to my right with the overwhelming intention to put it into my DVD player after completing this piece speaks volumes about something, not just Anime, but anything. Despite the fact that I havn’t had the opportunity to experience this series since the first time I watched it, and the fact that I had become disheartened by others unaware of the series, there’s still a visceral love for it that I feel as though will never go away. In fact, I would say that Basilisk is one of the series’ that moulded me into the human I am today. My love for Samurai, Ninja, and Japanese culture. My strange sense of honour, respect, and loyalty. Basilisk was a catalyst for growth in my life, and that will never be taken away even if it fades into obscurity.
What obscure or unknown anime series do you cherish? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. Next week’s topic is ‘Friendship, Effort and Victory: The Spirit Of Shonen Jump‘.