Archived entries for 2things

Two Things: ‘Road Avenger’ & ‘Initial D’

Cars and racing are two things that have never much interested me, I guess mainly because being a girl means lacking the inherent desire (and equipment) to get into dick-measuring contests over things like engine performance and body modifications that most men seem to be born with. Also, being a gearhead is one of the most expensive hobbies you can have, and there’s really no point in souping up your car if you can’t afford to do it right, or if the car itself is a piece of shit. Both of these deterrents apply to me.

That’s why it’s a bit surprising that I’m as big a fan of these two racing and sports car-related things as I am: Road Blaster, the 1985 video game, and Initial D, an anime about street racing.

Thing #1 – Road Blaster/Road Avenger

Published by the now defunct Data East back in 1985, Road Blaster (also known as Road Avenger or Road Blaster FX on some platforms) is an “interactive movie” video game originally released on LaserDisc (remember those?). The version I was first introduced to was Road Avenger, released in 1992 for Sega CD. Like Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace, the gameplay consists of quickly reacting to on-screen instructions that flash over animated racing scenes, for example, swerving left or right when you see the arrows.

You play as a vigilante out for justice and revenge from the biker gang responsible for your wife’s death, driving your red sports car through high-speed chases, split-decision stunts, and dangerous terrain. The game’s intro featured a gloriously cheesy theme song sung by a guy who sounds like a very drunk Bruce Springsteen.

 httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciMTAcqdh4o

You don’t need antiquated consoles to play Road Blaster — a port of the game was released last year for iPhone and iPad.

Thing #2 – Initial D

Initial DInitial D is a manga and anime series about a high school boy who makes deliveries for his father’s tofu shop and inadvertently becomes one of the best street racers in Japan. It is my favorite anime series of all time.

Takumi Fujiwara has been driving his dad’s old Toyota AE86 up and down Mt. Akina every morning to make his deliveries since five years before he even had his license. He’s a bit of a loner who has zero interest in cars or racing, but as a byproduct of his everyday routine and the desire to get his chores done as quickly as possible, his driving skills are far more advanced than those of his peers. The series follows Takumi from his very first reluctant race through his eventual rise to street racing legend.

I was really exited to learn recently that there will be a brand new Fifth Stage of Initial D premiering in Japan on November 9, 2012 which will continue Takumi’s story. If you are interested in this series, I highly recommend watching the original Japanese (subtitled) version over the American dubbed trash that removes most of the awesome Eurobeat music and character developments that made the original so memorable.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDgoYTxeMOs

What do these two things have in common?

Well, it’s probably pretty obvious already, but both Road Blaster, a video game, and Initial D, an anime, are Japanese stories that center around illegal street racing. One character does it for justice, the other for sport. Initial D is set in a mountainous prefecture of Japan called Gunma; I’m not exactly sure where Road Blaster takes place, but it certainly looks like it could be Gunma from the game’s dangerous mountain passes. Both have awesome music, too. I once read somewhere that Initial D was probably inspired by Road Blaster, but I can’t remember where I saw that or I’d share it here.

What is Two Things about?

Two ThingsA series of posts in which I gush about two semi-related things I love, explain why I love them, and what they have in com­mon. I know, it all sounds so  riv­et­ing.  But I hope you’ll at least find it mildly enter­tain­ing, and maybe even dis­cover some cool things you might not know about.

Two Things: ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tale Classics’ & ‘The World of David the Gnome’

It’s been a rough week and I need to go to my happy place. In my happy place, the theme songs from these two cartoons of childhood play on repeat:

Thing #1 – Grimm’s Fairy Tale Classics

This is one of those Japanese animation shows I watched before I knew what Japanese animation was. Each episode was a re-telling of one of Grimm’s classic fairy tales, like Hansel and Gretel and Rapunzel. Some of the stories, like Snow White, spanned several episodes. Of all the cartoons I watched in the 80s, I think Grimm’s Fairy Tale Classics has the happiest theme song I’ve ever heard. It makes me think of rainbows and fluffy clouds and bunnies and sunshine.

Here, have a listen. I guarantee it will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Come along, come along!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QswFm2rvSY8

Thing #2 – The World of David the Gnome

The second happiest cartoon theme song I’ve ever heard is from The World of David the Gnome. It kind of has the same musical vibe as The Neverending Story theme song and has lyrics like, In every wish and dream and happy home, you will find the kingdom of the gnomes. David the Gnome was voiced by American television actor Tom Bosley, who sadly passed away just two years ago.  His familiar, comforting voice made me feel as if I was listening to my grandfather when I watched this show. 

Look around you…

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISHIR3laLng

What do these two things have in common?

Besides having ridiculously happy theme songs, Grimm’s Fairy Tale Classics and The World of David the Gnome are both animated shows that aired on Nickelodeon around the same time, in the mid-eighties. They were part of the original Nick Jr. lineup that I used to watch early in the morning. Both of these shows had a charming, sweet innocence about them and usually instilled some moral value or taught a life lesson. Also, both shows were adapted from foreign languages: Japanese in Grimm’s case, and Spanish in David the Gnome’s.

Just this year a David the Gnome 3-disc DVD box set was released but it’s hard to get a hold of without paying a ridiculous price. Similarly, Grimm’s Fairy Tale Classics is also difficult to find on DVD, and even if you do, only a handful of select episodes are available and even then it’s for Region 2 (EU).

What is Two Things about?

Two ThingsA series of posts in which I gush about two semi-related things I love, explain why I love them, and what they have in common. I know, it all sounds so riveting. But I hope you’ll at least find it mildly entertaining, and maybe even discover some cool things you might not know about.

Two Things: ‘The Secret City’ & ‘Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar’

Two Things

Two Things is a new feature I’m starting. This is the first in a series of posts in which I gush about two semi-related things I love, explain why I love them, and what they have in common. I know, it all sounds so riveting. But I hope you’ll at least find it mildly entertaining, and maybe even discover some cool things you might not know about.

Today’s semi-related two things are an ’80s television show called The Secret City and an album called Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar.

Now on to the awesomeness:

Thing #1 – The Secret City

Children of the ’80s who watched a lot of PBS should remember The Secret City Adventures*. It was a a sci-fi themed educational program for children that taught basic drawing techniques in a really fun, imaginative way and was hosted by the enthusiastic, mustachioed Mark Kistler, better known as “Commander Mark.”

*I’ve always referred to the show simply as “The Secret City” or “Secret City” but Wikipedia tells me its proper name is “The Secret City Adventures.” The more you know.™ On a related note, I’m disappointed the Wiki page for this show is severely lacking.

I recently found out that most if not all of the episodes are available to watch on YouTube, reminding me once again why I love the internet. Here’s a clip from one of the early episodes:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tK70tHKhME

The show also featured some recurring live-action and puppet-like characters from the imaginary world of Commander Mark’s drawings, or sometimes they’d pop in to see what he was up to and help out. I used to live for the surprise appearances by “Cindy,” who was some sort of friendly, giggling dragon-like creature—or at least, that’s what I assumed she was; we only ever got to see her hands.

Cindy

I loved everything about this show. Commander Mark made me feel like I could draw anything! (Even though I couldn’t). And it had one of the coolest, most memorable opening sequences that took you on a first-person journey through the hand-drawn chambers and corridors of the futuristic Secret City itself. The thing I loved most, though, was the synthy, spacey music that conjured up all sorts of wild, cosmic imagery in my head—distant planets, alien cities, lunar landscapes. Just listen to it at 8:09 in this clip. I wish I knew who composed it. (By the way, if anyone reading this knows, please leave a comment and let me know!)

I’ll stop right there because that’s a great segue into the next thing I want to tell you about:

Thing #2 – Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar

This is a brilliant instrumental album by Rich Vreeland, aka Disasterpeace, an artist who composes video game music and designs musically-driven games. He’s most well-known for his beautiful, ethereal score for the critically-acclaimed indie game, FEZ. I cold easily dedicate a whole post gushing about FEZ, but instead I want you to listen to his 2011 album, Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar.

First, have a look at this gorgeous pixel art:

Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar

Vreeland describes the premise for the album like this: “A small band of galactic travelers are bound together by mysterious circumstances. Meanwhile, in the darkest reaches of the universe, an unparalleled force dwells on ambiguous intentions.” His combination of chiptunes and synthesizers on this album sounds like something straight out of the Regan era. It’s dark and spacey, but at the same time dreamy and uplifting. This music takes me to so many places.

I highly recommend giving the entire thing a listen because it really is quite fantastic. You can listen to the full album with the embedded player below, or on Spotify.

By the way, if you like this music, do check the FEZ score too, as I mentioned above. It’s amazing.

What do these two things have in common?

Fantastic, progressive synth music and elements of futuristic sci-fi. When I first heard Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar, I was immediately reminded of music from The Secret City and couldn’t help but envision the sprawling, alien-looking metropolises from Commander Mark’s drawings. I think anyone who grew up watching The Secret City and enjoyed its music and imaginative scenarios would enjoy listening to Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar and appreciate its musical narrative.