|Cardcaptor Sakura (TV)||Excellent||This is a “magical girl” type story from Clamp, a four woman artistic team from Osaka whom do a wide range of different types of manga; from “magical girl” stories like this (and Magic Knight RayEarth), to graphic horror tales like X, and even “mature readers only” manga like Miyuki-chan in Wonderland, which is raunchy but not really pornographic. A young girl named Sakura opens a mysterious book in her father’s library and Clow Cards (note: in the original Japanese version, “Clow” rhymes with “glow” and not “cow”) fly everywhere. Cerberus (a.k.a. Kero-chan), is a cute flying stuffed animal-like creature that informs Sakura that since she was able to open the book, she must possess magical powers. Kero entrusts the rather reluctant Sakura with the duty of finding the Clow Cards, each of which takes the form of a mischievous spirit, some benign and playful, others dangerous and destructive. Her rich friend Tomoyo (“Madison” in the TV dub) has a disturbing obsession with Sakura, and one night she videotapes Sakura flying around on her winged wand, much to the consternation of Sakura, to whom Tomoyo shows the videotape the next morning! Tomoyo assists Sakura by making ridiculously complex costumes out of scratch for each confrontation with a Clow Card, which is why Sakura rarely wears the same costume twice. Several episodes later, in episode 8 to be exact (although this was the first episode shown in English!), Sakura meets another Cardcaptor, Li Shaorin, who at first tries to beat Sakura to every new Clow Card, but eventually realizes that he must work together. And who exactly is this “Yue” person about whom Cerberus frequently talks in his sleep? As you may know, a heavily-edited version is shown on North American TV under the title of “Cardcaptors”, but you may not know that there is also an officially-licensed unedited version, in Japanese with English subtitles, available DVD from Pioneer Animation, so I refrain from giving an opinion on the dub, which was done for 5 year olds and not me. Please note that you can easily tell the subtitled DVDs apart from the videos of the dubbed TV version, as the subtitled ones are sold under the title “Cardcaptor Sakura” and not “Cardcaptors”.
By the way, I'm of the opinion that Tomoyo's feelings for Sakura are idol worship, perfectly normal for girls in the latency stage of development, exaggerated because it's a cartoon... I don't think Nakayoshi would print something with 10-11 year old lesbians. Also, I think her mother, Sonomi, wasn't really a lesbian, she was just immature, stuck at the idol worship phase.|
|Urusei Yatsura (TV)||Masterpiece||This series, which started as a manga in 1978, and which, in 1981, was made into a television series that lasted 196 episodes (plus a dozen or so made-for-video episodes, 5 theatrical movies, and a 10th anniversary special in 1991), made Rumiko Takahashi the richest woman in Japan. Rumiko Takahashi, who also created Ranma ½, Maison Ikokku and Inu-Yasha, was (and still is) a pioneer for women cartoonists in Japan; prior to Urusei Yatsura, the Japanese manga industry was pretty much a men’s only club. Today, there are many rich and famous female “mangaka” such as Naoko Takeuchi (Sailor Moon), Yuu Watase (Fushigi Yuugi) and the four-woman artistic team known as Clamp (Cardcaptor Sakura, X). (While I have no doubt that there were some female “mangaka” prior to Takahashi, Urusei Yatsura was the first comic written and drawn by a woman to become a mainstream Japanese pop culture phenomenon.) Urusei Yatsura may be the Japanese anime series most comparable to the Simpsons in that, besides the main characters, there is a whole town full of well-developed supporting characters, alien and human alike. The basic premise of Urusei Yatsura is this: aliens from the planet Oni (an oni is a kind of a devil) invade the Earth, but they decide to give Earth one chance. The Oni randomly select a human by computer to participate in a game of tag, and they choose Ataru Moroboshi, Japan’s unluckiest yet most lecherous boy. He has seven days to grab their princess, Lum, by the horns, which sounds easy, but Ataru doesn’t know that Lum can fly and shoot lightning bolts. Ataru wins at the very last minute, using a barefaced tactic that I won’t reveal here, but, in the process of winning, Ataru accidentally “proposes” to Lum, and she accepts. (He was actually talking to his poor, tormented girlfriend Shinobu.) Lum proclaims herself to be Ataru’s “wife”, whether he likes it or not. Ataru actually does love Lum (along with every other girl he knows), but Lum is insanely jealous of his girl-hunting, and isn’t niggardly about zapping him with electricity to keep him in line. Incidentally, Lum is the green-haired, yellow-tiger-striped-bikini clad anime babe featured in Matthew Sweet’s 1991 music video “I’ve Been Waiting”, which used clips of Lum from the movies and made-for-video episodes. Most of Urusei Yatsura is goofy comedy rooted in traditional Japanese legends, science fiction, and late 70’s/early 80’s pop-culture (from both sides of the Pacific), but animation director Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell, Patlabor) wanted to take the show in more serious directions. This path culminated with his 1984 masterpiece Beautiful Dreamer, the second Urusei Yatsura film. Ataru, Lum and the students and faculty of Tomobiki high school slowly become aware that they’ve been living the same “day before the school festival” over and over. Soon after they start investigating the nature of their new reality, people start disappearing, until the only people left in the town (and the world) are Ataru, his parents, Lum, Jariten (Lum’s cousin), Sakura (a school nurse and a Shinto sorceress), and a handful of Ataru’s classmates. After several days, or perhaps decades, most of Tomobiki town falls into ruin, except for Ataru’s house, which still receives gas, electricity and even the newspaper, and the local convinience store, which remains fully stocked with fresh food. Most of the characters find this new world to be an idyllic Shangri-La, wherein they swim every day around the ruins of the school, watch Godzilla in what remains of the town cinema, and never grow old; only Sakura and Mendou (the scion of Japan’s richest family) are determined to find out who put them in this world and how to return to the real world. This film is a beautiful examination of the existientialist questions of what is reality, and whether the worlds of our dreams are any less real than the “real” real world. It’s being slowly released in North America on DVD, with two more boxsets soon to appear (comprising volumes 16-20 and 21-25) for direct order, and earlier volumes being sold individually at stores, subtitled only, though AnimEigo is doing a new dub for the first movie, Urusei Yatsura: Only You, and, should that sell well, they may dub the 4 other movies (not including Beautiful Dreamer, which was sold by Central Park Media/U.S. Manga Corps and which has always had a dub) and the OVA episodes.|