Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Expanded Universes: Learning Japanese culture with Mega Man

2:20 PM on 03.10.2009 // Tony Ponce

[Editor's note: megaStryke discusses a rarely-seen Mega Man educational film for March's Expanded Universe Monthly Music topic. -- Anthony]

The Mega Man cartoon from the early '90s did not hold up well. I think we all can agree on that. That doesn't stop me from holding on to those dear memories of waking up at seven on Saturday mornings to catch the latest adventures of 'roid-abuser Mega Man and his April O'Neil jumpsuit-wearing, vacuum arm-toting sister Roll. So what if it deviated from the source material a bit? After the mighty green midget from Captain N: The Game Master, I don't think anyone was complaining.

Some years ago, I was browsing the aisles of Best Buy and spotted the series on DVD. I was planning on picking up the first season when I noticed another DVD right beside it titled Mega Man: Upon a Star, a properly proportioned Mega Man greeting me on the cover. Curious, I bought that instead, unaware of the treat in store for me.

I later discovered that prior to the Ruby-Spears production that we've come to love (hate?), a pilot was pitched featuring character designs far more faithful to their game counterparts. In 1993, a three-episode Japanese OVA based on this pilot was produced by Capcom but was never aired. It was decided that the show should be retooled into something a little edgier for American audiences, so the OVA remained MIA until its Japanese video release in 2002 and its American debut three years later. That OVA is Mega Man: Upon a Star.

Firing up the disc, it's hard not to get pumped during the opening montage as Mega Man lays the smackdown on all the Mega Man 5 Robot Masters while the credits roll and '80s synth rock blares. However, something quickly turned my excitement into apprehension:

"Presented by the Japan Center for Intercultural Communications"? Aw crap, it's an educational film! Alright, let's assess the damage, shall we?

Our story begins with Japanese fifth-grader Yuuta Kobayashi who is up way past his bedtime playing his American copy of Mega Man 5 (more on that later). As he's about to deliver the final blow to Dr. Wily, he nods off to sleep, pausing the game before collapsing on the floor. With Mega Man rendered immobile, Dr. Wily jumps out of the TV with aspirations to take over the real world. When Yuuta wakes up the following morning and unpauses the game, Mega Man jumps out as well and asks Yuuta for help tracking down Wily's location. In order to accomplish so, Yuuta and his sister Akane must first teach Mega Man about Japanese geography and customs.


You can't help but laugh at the inanity of it all. Wily is building a doomsday device that is certain to end all of humanity and Mega Man is busy sightseeing in Okinawa. Armed with the knowledge that Japanese children receive money on New Year's Day and attend cram school that often ends late in the evening, Mega Man is prepared to stare cold, metal death in the eye.

Thankfully, the show never dives into CBS territory and is perfectly content with sprinkling random facts here and there. At its heart, it's an action show that offers an introduction to Japanese lifestyles as an added bonus. Actually, I think the intention was to trick parents into thinking their kids were watching an instructional video.

In true Wily fashion, each episode sees him plotting to turn an element of Japanese cultural significance against the population. In the first episode, Wily uses the dormant power of Mount Fuji to construct an army of Magma Men (totally unrelated to the Mega Man 9 namesake... or is it?). In the second episode, Wily steals Dr. Light's time machine in order to gather a large collection of meteors and set them to drop on a specific day in the future, Tanabata, the Japanese star festival, when Japanese people look to the sky to wish upon the stars (say, that's where the DVD title comes from!). In the final episode, Wily studies the nature of the typhoons that assault Japan every year in order to construct a typhoon generator with the destructive force to level the entire country.

Meanwhile, Mega Man's short attention span proves to be his greatest nemesis: "I must find out when Dr. Wily will make his next move! There's no time to lose... oh, what are those, Yuuta? Koinobori raised in honor of Children's Day? How interesting! Tell me more!"

All joking aside, there is a lot for long-time Mega Man fans to legitimately enjoy. The art and animation are quite decent, remaining faithful to the official game artwork and Keiji Inafune's original designs. Well, scratch that. The first two episodes look fantastic, but the third looks to have been farmed out to the 3rd string backup animation team. Seeing as how the OVA was the precursor to the Ruby-Spears production, it's only natural that the Ocean Group voice acting team would be on board for both. The only actors who voiced the same characters in both shows were Scott McNeil as Dr. Wily and Jim Byrnes as Dr. Light, but that was enough for yours truly to totally geek out.

There's also a Japanese-language track option with a curious surprise of its own. I mentioned above that when we first meet Yuuta he is playing an American copy of Mega Man 5. The title screen is clearly visible at one point:

Why would a Japanese child not be playing a Japanese copy of the game? Perhaps his father is an American soldier stationed in the country? No, he is not. Throughout the entire first episode, all the characters are referenced by their Western names, i.e. "Mega Man" instead of "Rockman" and "Proto Man" instead of "Blues." For episodes two and three, everything switches back to normal. I understand that the nature of the show as a foreigner's introduction to Japanese culture would require tailoring towards that particular audience, but since the program was to be released both locally and abroad, why would the Japanese version commit to the same changes? And why weren't the changes consistent across all three episodes? Chew on that for a while.

In the end, the show is pandering. It's silly. Yeah, it's a kids' show. But you know what? I actually wound up liking it despite its faults. This is totally something I could have seen myself enjoying as a child. And truthfully? As forced and pace-shattering as those "The More You Know" moments are, it's an effective way of dropping knowledge on kids while still offering the pulse-pounding action that you've come to expect on a Saturday morning with a bowl of Lucky Charms in your lap. The Ruby-Spears show was great for what it was, but it would have been interesting to say the least if the infotainment angle had been explored further.

I recommend trying to score a copy of Mega Man: Upon a Star off of Amazon if you want to have a good laugh or two. Come for the fanservice, stay for the grade-school level culture lessons!

Tony Ponce, Former Contributor
 Follow Blog + disclosure megaStryke Tips
(Decommissioned) Super Fighting Robot more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

Status updates from C-bloggers

Larxinostic avatarLarxinostic
Overnight, I dreamed Destructoid existed as an old-timey collectibles shop. Quickposts graced the shelves as paintings, available for purchase; the number of faps on a post directly equaled its price. Video games and VG accessories also were up for sale.
Scrustle avatarScrustle
Usually I'm not comfortable showing stuff off like this, but this is something I've been working on for college work, and it's the first thing I feel like is at least halfway worth showing.
StriderHoang avatarStriderHoang
I don't understand how my wife's students could hate her if she ordered this for the classroom's Scholastic service.
weslikestacos avatarweslikestacos
My band's debut album is #31 on the iTunes country charts! Sorry for this shameless plug, but I'm pretty pleased about this!
gajknight avatargajknight
I've been listening to a lot of opera recently. I blame Cowboy Bebop and it's incredible "Ave Maria".
El Dango avatarEl Dango
It's [img][/img]
Alphadeus avatarAlphadeus
Omicron (2011) - From the album "From Alpha to Omega" where I wrote a song for each letter of the Greek Alphabet. The "Base" song is actually A Well-Known Stranger, but a "dance" version of it. Probably my favorite song from this album.
Solar Pony Django avatarSolar Pony Django
Seems we have a few bots in our midst again. Although we typically do.
Gamer girl avatarGamer girl
Hello Peeps, new gamer here, so glad to be one of you starting today! This is how i will spend my evening after office! how about you? :)
Scrustle avatarScrustle
Our friend Jim Sterling talks about the demise of GameTrailers and the problems with the current games media model in general: [url=]GameTrailers Was A Victim Of Itself[/url]
Atleastimhousebroken avatarAtleastimhousebroken
Went into Gamestop on my workbreak to kill a bit of time today. SMT:Devil Survivor 2 RB for €30 and Pillars of Eternity for €5 more.. As if my RPG coma couldn't get any deeper. With Numenera and the 3ds release schedule, what a great time to be an RPG
robtassassin123 avatarrobtassassin123
Isn't This Gif Funny!!!!
Sir Shenanigans avatarSir Shenanigans
Watching the third and fourth Crow movies this morning, because I'm a supporter of #hottopic.
Barry Kelly avatarBarry Kelly
As usual it's up to Simon Miller to ask the hard questions. He's a guy that knows the score
TheBlondeBass avatarTheBlondeBass
I'm still trying to understand the logic behind calling Shiren Mystery Dungeon a spinoff and linking to Pokémon Mystery Dungeon as an example of mainline.
Dr Mel avatarDr Mel
I didn't make this, nor do I know the person who did, but this Shovel Knight remix is too good not to share around. It's of my favorite track on the OST. Those surprise vocals at the end, tho!
Shinta avatarShinta Valkyria Chronicles: Azure Revolution demo stream. Check it out now if you want to see how it looks.
Lawman avatarLawman
Totally game-related, I promise.
Nekrosys avatarNekrosys
Initial impressions on the new Digimon PS Vita game: Has Guilmon. I'll give it a Guilmon/10. Guilmon of the Year 2016. That means it's good.
Larxinostic avatarLarxinostic
Coming soon: the cat-waifu game of our steamy dreams. [img][/img]
more quickposts



Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -