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Errinundra's Beautiful Fighting Girl #133: Taiman Blues: Ladies' Chapter - Mayumi


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Zin5ki



Joined: 06 Jan 2008
Posts: 6680
Location: London, UK
PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2016 2:56 am Reply with quote
Errinundra wrote:
If I ever get around to watching Neon Genesis Evangelion for a third time I might bear in mind, as I do so, that perhaps, among other things, it's taking the piss.

None but the hottest of 'takes' today! Its moments of levity aside, the main thrust of Evangelion at least implores us to take it seriously, does it not?

Certainly, if I am wrong in this matter, it might explain why I cannot find anyone who admits to being as disturbed by The End of Evangelion as I was.
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Alan45
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Joined: 25 Aug 2010
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2016 8:17 am Reply with quote
While there were supposed to be elements in The End of Evangelion where Anno was giving the middle finger to critics, they were not real obvious. The movie certainly pulls you in, but once I had seen it and got to thinking about it I did have problems with it. However, I didn't find it disturbing so much as inconsistent and pointless. I suspect that this is one of those shows you could discuss forever without coming to a consensus.

I do agree that except for the obvious, the series was completely serious.
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Beltane70



Joined: 07 May 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2016 11:32 am Reply with quote
It took me several viewings of the Evangelion TV series to realize one of the little in-jokes (can't think of a better term) of it centers around the character Hikari. Turns out that she and her two sisters, Hikari, Nozomi, and Kodama are named after the three service levels of the Tokaido Shinkensen!
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Zin5ki



Joined: 06 Jan 2008
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2016 1:58 pm Reply with quote
Alan45 wrote:
I suspect that this is one of those shows you could discuss forever without coming to a consensus.

Discussing Evangelion forever without reaching a consensus, you say? I remember those days!
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Errinundra
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Joined: 14 Jun 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 19, 2016 7:44 pm Reply with quote
Revisited this title in the wake of last week's review. The original post comes from just over five years ago. I've reformatted it, added a synopsis, the usual images and some comments at the end, and removed the spoiler tags.

Macross Plus Movie Edition

Reason for watching: Part of my project to watch landmark 90s anime.

Synopsis: Thirty years after the events of Super Dimension Fortress Macross concert promoter Myung Fang Lone has created a computer generated idol singer, Sharon Apple, who entrances fans across the galaxy. To enable Sharon Apple to connect with her audience, Myung downloads her own emotions into her creation. The trouble is, Myung harbours a profound grief arising from a past event that involves two fighter/mecha test pilots with whom she had been close friends since their high school days together. The pilots, Guld Bowman and Isamu Dyson, were once rivals for Myung but the same event that so traumatised her have left them implacable enemies. The poisoned emotions turn Sharon Apple into something monstrous, forcing the three humans to confront the past.


Sharon Apple and Macross. The film is unconvincing in its attempts to conflate the two.

Comments: The thing that struck me immediately with Macross Plus is what delicious eye candy it is. It's quite a surprise how well integrated - for a 90s anime - the 2D and 3D elements are. But it goes further than that. The colour palette has a vibrancy and richness and the backgrounds have a level of detail that would be more typical of anime from the last five years (2016 edit: remember, I wrote this in 2011). Looked at from this perspective it has aged very well. The animation is a delight. The fighter plane scenes are never less than thrilling while the camera movements in the Sharon Apple crowd scenes and the in overhead cityscapes are breathtaking. This is an anime where I could re-watch some scenes over and over. And probably will. (2016 edit: I didn't.)

The music isn't bad either. Checked out the credits and, wouldn't you know, it's by Yoko Kanno. The soundtrack isn't up to the standard of Cowboy Bebop or her Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex efforts, nor does the main theme come close to her OP for Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight (my favourite Kanno piece ever) but second tier Kanno is still better than most.

I'm thankful that mecha or giant robots play a minimal role. It's a personal taste thing but I always find them ridiculous. (Now, if they could only take the giant robots out of Evangelion... but then I suppose it wouldn't be Evangelion any more, would it?) Nevertheless, when the enormous Macross Fortress makes its belated appearance, I have to admit it's a pretty impressive sight. Good thing it just stands there and allows the conflict to take place between the characters of the story.

That's what's good about Macross Plus. Now it's all downhill.

The story revolves almost entirely around just four characters: the competing pilots Isamu Dyson and Guld Bowman; their love interest Myung Fang Lone; and her virtual idol creation Sharon Apple. Other than the prescience of the concept of Sharon Apple (pre-dating Miku Hatsune by some thirteen years), all four characters spoil the spectacle that is otherwise taking place on the screen.


Macross Plus tries to provide a more adult love triangle than is predecessor.
I much prefer Hikaru, Misa and Minmay.


The two pilots are unpleasant characters. Now, there's nothing wrong with that, in itself, but their unappealing personae are not softened or countered by wit or compelling back story and personal dilemmas nor are their roles in the plot particularly engaging. Even the origins of their deadly rivalry are obscure - it just seems to be innate and, therefore, never convincing. No matter how violent the rivalry can be, that intensity is no substitute for a lack of storytelling integrity. The rivalry is also poorly resolved: in their final battle, thinking he has finally defeated Isamu, Guld remembers (how could he possibly forget?) he once raped Myung, Isamu's girlfriend at the time. He then realises that Isamu is still alive, apologises and now they're best mates. To atone for his sin he manfully sacrifices himself so that the other can rescue the poor damsel in distress, Myung Fang Lone. Spare me, please.

Myung, herself, along with her music idol avatar, Sharon Apple, are both nothing characters. Her role in the plot is to provide a competitive spur for the two men, and to give a kick start to the development of the Sharon Apple phenomenon. She has no personality whatsoever... well, apart from being so traumatised from some ill-defined event in the past - presumably being raped by Guld, but it isn't clear - that she has given up singing. Sharon Apple is an interesting creation but her character is quite unconvincing. As an avatar of Myung, there isn't much personality for her to be based upon and, while Myung's repressed love for Isamu is understandably transferred, there is no basis for Sharon's psychopathic, cataclysmic actions. Where in Myung does this come from? I suppose it is necessary for the film's climax. Silly me, for not properly appreciating that.

But the film's most egregious fault is the rape scene and what it says about the film-makers' and the intended audience's attitudes to women. The clear message is that the rape is an offence by Guld against Isamu, not against Myung. Not only is the issue resolved by one man's apology to the other, it doesn't seem all that big a deal for the woman. Her relationship with Guld seems in no way affected by it. How? Even her abandonment of singing seems to pre-date the rape. This is mediaeval thinking, where rape was a crime against another man's property. I find it repellent.

Rating: visuals and music - excellent; everything else: bad; overall: decent.


Mecha, phallus and idol. Compare with the image of Hana and her gun in my Under the Dog review.

Re-visit: While I wouldn't change the overall rating - the visuals and music are less than excellent, however everything else is better than bad - I'm no longer entirely comfortable with what I've written above. Apart from some contradictory comments - on the one hand I say the origins of the rivalry between Isamu and Guld are obscure while, on the other, I assume it is the assault on Myung - my recent viewing of SDFM has informed me of the parodic nature of the franchise, thereby providing hints about Plus's intentions that I was previously unaware of.

At its core the Macross franchise is about the idol singer subversively placed in a military context. Even though the concept is ridiculous the franchise embraces it wholeheartedly. In SDFM it is used to take the piss out of militarism, whereas in Macross Plus the only connection between the singer and the soldiers is the troubled Myung Fang Lone. The result is that its thematic explorations become discrete. Militarism and idolatry, while portrayed critically, are dealt with in parallel, not organically. Worse, while Macross Plus is arguably satirising both, the tone of the movie is so serious and so lacking any clear condemnatory point of view that it's difficult to be certain. Where SDFM's Hikaru, Misa and Minmay are silly, fun and likeable, Plus's Myong, Guld and Isamu are absurd, overwrought and unpleasant.

First time around I was highly critical of Plus's offhand treatment of rape. The magnificence of the flying sequences give Guld and Isamu a glamorous, heroic gloss that sits poorly with their personal behaviours. While I now grant that Plus is critical of their treatment of Myung I maintain my view that its resolution of its discourse on rape is antediluvial. It is only resolved from a male point of view. There is no empathy displayed by the creators towards Myung. She remains the object of rape, not the subject. Perhaps that is why I concluded above that she is a nothing character. She is assaulted by both the military and the idol. All that remains for her is to be rescued. What more could a woman want? To be violated, then saved. (I say that rhetorically.) There's a worm inside the shiny apple. Be careful what you bite into.

****

On Monday I'm escaping the fag end of the Melbourne winter, taking my elderly mother to visit my sister's and my brother's families who live in Brisbane's sunnier climes (this time of the year, anyway). One of my nieces will have her 21st birthday while we're there. I'll be depending on my smartphone for internet so, other than looking in from time as a mod or make the occasional short post, there won't be any reviews for at least two weeks.


Last edited by Errinundra on Fri Oct 18, 2019 3:33 pm; edited 3 times in total
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2016 6:08 am Reply with quote
I'm back from Queensland this evening so I'd thought I'd post this housekeeping review from 5 January 2013. As well as the usual formatting changes I've added a link, some comments at the end and replaced the awkward gif of Ringo. I'll leave them to she who does them rather better than I.

Penguindrum

Reason for watching: Again, it was the Best First Episode tournament, which has sure turned into a fruitful viewing source for me.

Synopsis: Himari and her brothers Shoma and Kanba are orphans living as a constructed family in a brightly painted tin shed in the Tokyo suburbs. Sixteen years earlier their parents were involved in a terrorist attack on the railway system and disappeared shortly afterwards. On a visit to a penguin exhibit Himari dies, only to be resuscitated by a possessed hat bearing a penguin design. The three return home and try to lead a normal life, however things are complicated by three penguins invisible to everyone else, the aforementioned hat that triggers a foul-mouthed magical girl transformation sequence, a schoolgirl desperate to be impregnated by the boys' science teacher, an idol group that should have been called Triple Ecchi, a woman with a laser-guided shanghai that fires memory erasing balls (and with a penguin of her own), a prima donna with a secret sex life, a pink-haired librarian come doctor who shouldn't be there, and a dead girl whose diary has fate changing power. We will have to find out what happened on the trains all those years ago to understand how all these characters are connected and what fate intends for them. Can the power of love overcome destiny?


Shoma, Himari (with the hat), Kanba, and the three penguins. One of the penguins is warning us
the "Survival Strategy" magical girl transformation sequence is about to start.


Comments: Despite the seeming novelties in the above synopsis, Penguindrum has a tried and true structure: terrible things happened in the past; many people's lives are affected by those events; no single character knows the full story; the past is slowly revealed allowing the various connections to become visible; one or more of the characters use the revealed knowledge to bring closure to the story. This structure allows for big reveals and a satisfying conclusion but it also runs the risk, especially in early episodes, of a lack of direction or, worse, of becoming tedious. (The classic example of this kind of failure can be found in Madlax). Director Kunihiko Ikuhara (best known for Revolutionary Girl Utena) avoids these pitfalls by using various stratagems, not the least being the sheer novelty value of what's going on. Add to that a sly knowingness that pervades everything about the tale, bucketloads of symbolism that may or may not be meaningful, constant background visual commentary via the penguins and the animated public announcement banners on the trains, and a cast of highly memorable characters led by the maternally inclined whackjob Ringo Oginome who manages to make the series her own.


Molest and be arrested. It's worth paying attention to the advertising banners on the trains,
even at the cost of being distracted from the main action.


The character and development of Ringo was, for me, the single best thing about the series. It's interesting to compare her prominence with Himari's as the show progresses. In the early episodes it's apparent that Himari (too much a clone of anoHana's Menma for my liking) and her dominatrix magical girl alter ego was intended to be the premium character. The design of the latter, in particular, suggests that merchandising was in the forefront of the producers' thinking. It's almost as if a quarter of the way in Ikuhara realised that the dominatrix magical girl wasn't going anywhere whereas Ringo had tapped a vein of gold. Subsequently, for long stretches of the series, magical girl Himari makes no appearance whatsoever. At the very least the viewer is saved the extended and tiresome transformation sequence.

For spoilerific reasons I won't go into, Ringo devises ever more elaborate schemes to get bedded and impregnated by Keiju Tabuki, who happens to teach both Shoma and Kanba. She is so obsessed with her fantasy that she even sleeps under the floorboards of Tabuki's bedroom. At one stage I wondered if she would be bringing out a meatcleaver but, thankfully, Penguingrum didn't fall back onto a yandere routine. Ringo might have become a one-note character but for the sheer hilarity of her personality, for her capers and for her growing friendship with Shoma. It's through that relationship that she grows as a character. Needless to say the two are well matched. It also slowly dawns on them that they are connected by past events and that, ultimately, they share the same goals - to mend the past (and, thereby, the present) and save Himari. As her love for Shoma and her understanding of what's going on grows, Ringo's role in the resolution of the tragedy becomes central. At the grand climax of the story, Ringo has completely grown into the role while Himari (whether as sister or magical girl) is entirely passive, both literally and figuratively.


One of my favourite moments: Ringo coming back from the pit of despair when Tabuki asks her out to a restaurant.
Typically, things don't go the way she wants.


Most of the other characters also get their moment to shine. Himari is the only dud character, while even her alter ego's attitude rapidly wears thin. The pink haired Sanetoshi is creepy - as he should be, the appropriately named prima donna Yuri Tokikago's duplicity is highly entertaining while Tabuki has some surprises of his own. Yuri's lesbian lover, Tsubasa Yuuki, is voiced by none other than Romi Park. In the series Tsubasa is a woman who plays the male roles opposite Yuri in her theatre productions. I think Romi Park has the sexiest voice in anime yet she seems condemned to voice young male characters. The irony of her roles in Penguindrum and its theatrical excursions is no doubt deliberate and an example of the sly humour found throughout the series. Of the three "siblings", Shoma stands out, being at once comic, sympathetic, believable and appealing. His "brother", Kanba, has an angry streak that prevented me from having the same level of affection, although that suits his role in the story quite well.

I liked the uncluttered (the inside of Himari's tin house excepted) visual style and the clean, precise animation. I appreciate it when directors aren't afraid to leave lots of empty space. It's not a high action show so any animation limitations weren't severely tested. The repetitious magical girl sequences had little variation but it was, nevertheless, a very handsome show.

The bitter-sweet denouement came as something of a surprise to me, leaving a sour taste in my mouth. What happened to whom seemed too arbitrary, and not grounded convincingly in preceding events. Perhaps it's just me hoping for a "happy ever after" ending. Earlier I spoke of the "reveal" structure of the series, with its surprises and pitfalls. One of the great things about good examples of the type is their re-watch value - I love to re-live the story, but this time knowing what is going on. I'm looking forward to seeing Penguindrum again. Perhaps I'll get a better handle on the ending.

Rating: Excellent with some reservations.

2016 comments:
1. This review was written after watching the show via fansubs. I subsequently bought the Siren Visual DVD sets, which were released in two volumes under the Japanese title, Mawaru Penguindrum. The first volume is badly spoiled by dull colours and jagged lines, as if it were authored at low resolution. The second volume is much better.
2. Having since watched Revolutionary Girl Utena and Yurukumi Arashi I understand better now how director Kunihiko Ikuhara examines notions of love. He will typically contrast baser forms with more transcendental. In Penguindrum he explores these notions via Ringo's development and her final sacrifice. I'm now more inclined to accept that her role was always central, and that Himari was meant to be the loved one - a catalyst instead of a protagonist. This idealistic interpretation of the ending has sweetened the "sour taste" somewhat. So, excellent, without reservations.


The tough talking magical girl Himari. The transformation theme music is a riff on Sailor Moon's.


Last edited by Errinundra on Fri Oct 18, 2019 3:41 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Aylinn



Joined: 18 Nov 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 2016 2:58 pm Reply with quote
I remember that I liked how even small things like the tone of voice contributed to the story. The Princess of Crystal repeats to the boys that they will never amount to anything, but it always sounded like a challenge to me. It was as if she were telling “prove me wrong!” while Sanetoshi was disturbing, mostly because he was speaking with deep conviction as if their being unable to escape the curse and to be happy was a predefined fact and there was nothing they could ever do about it.
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yuna49



Joined: 27 Aug 2008
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2016 9:21 am Reply with quote
When I think of Romi Park's roles, I certainly don't think of young boys. For me her best roles are strong women like Teresa in Claymore, O-Ise-san in Oh! Edo Rocket, or Kiruuyin Ragyo in Kill la Kill. For a spectacular off-beat performance, she voices the bearded, sake-drinking chick (in the poultry sense) Higepiyo in the show of the same name.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2016 8:50 pm Reply with quote
Crusher Joe

Reasons for watching: part of my ongoing aim to watch anime from last century.

And this:


Yuri and Kei (aka the Dirty Pair) make their anime debut.

The author of the original Crusher Joe and Dirty Pair light novels, Haruka Takachiho, was also a co-founder of Studio Nue, which was part of the production committee for the film. It shouldn't be surprising that his other franchise stars have a cameo. I was intrigued how they would be fitted in. It wasn't what I expected, but it worked well anyway. More on that below.

Synopsis: Crushers do the odd jobs of the galaxy, getting their name from destroying asteroids threatening commercial spaceways. Their work isn't limited to that: anything that requires some derring-do without too much finesse and without being too constrained by regulations suits them fine. Joe - the son of one of the original crushers - is a rising star in the trade. He and his crew on their ship Minerva take on a well paid job to transport a cryogenic chamber containing the terminally ill heiress of one of the galaxy's most powerful corporations to the nearest surgeons who may help her. When, during a warp jump en route, the chamber and patient vanish the crew find themselves in the poo with the United Space Force and the Crushers' Guild, led by Joe's father. Tipped off that the cargo has been whisked to Lagol, a lawless, newly terraformed planet, Joe and his colleagues must use all their wits, courage and endurance to get to the bottom of the affair.

Comments: Needless to say, Crusher Joe looks nothing like the anime of today, for good or ill I'm not sure. What I can say is that it was unexpectedly entertaining. Made in 1983 I can see shared stylistic details with earlier titles like Cyborg 009, Space Battleship Yamato or Space Firebird 2772. Even more telling is the influence of Star Wars from 1977 and Raiders of the Lost Ark from 1981. From the former it pinches sets, props, cute chirruping robots and stunts - there are in-spaceship garbage dump hazards, warp drives as enormous pillars in cavernous spaces (guess how the big bad dies), perilous gangways that cross said caverns and swamps with dangerous creatures to name a few. From the latter it takes its tone - the gleeful embrace of B-grade movie pulp dished up with barely any time to catch breath. It looks to have been made on tidy budget by anime standards, so the Indiana Jones hokum isn't undermined by any animation short cuts. From both it borrows a bombastic, thrilling orchestral soundtrack.


The crew of the Minerva. Clockwise from top left: Joe, Alfin, Talos, Dongo and Ricky.

The protagonists fit the bill nicely. They aren't heroic; they're mercenaries who want their pay packets, but they don't mind the odd stoush or two if that's what's necessary. Indeed they take some pride in their reckless undertakings. All the same they have their code of ethics. Nor are they anti-heroes; they just want to have fun on the way to making some money. 19 year old Joe, a triple-A rated crusher pilot, is the hot-headed leader of the band, though a decent guy under the recklessness. Good thing he's quick thinking and with lightning reflexes or he would have been shot, blasted, drowned, crushed, dissolved or eaten several times over. Visually he's from the same lineage as Hikaru from Super Dimension Fortress Macross or his namesake from Ashita no Joe. His love interest is 17 year old Alfin, a navigator and also a princess. She's the most schizoid member of the team: one moment competent, courageous and good value in a gun fight; the next, screaming and helpless. The latter situations generally provide the opportunity for Joe to save her. She's another proto-tsundere, the first novel in the franchise predating Lum from the Urusei Yatsura manga by a year. As with many tsundere characters she's the one who always falls on her face. At 52, engineer Talos is the old guy from of the crew. His dark complexion and gorilla-like appearance, movements and strength are borderline offensive in this day and age. The film gets away with it, though, thanks to the overall atmosphere of good-natured fun and also because Talos is one smart fellow. Dongo doesn't do much other whistle and beep like R2 D2, except that he has a fondness for porno magazines. Ricky is a boy prodigy engineer with more mouth than sense. Swap Dongo for a corgi and change Ricky's gender and Crusher Joe becomes suggestive of Cowboy Bebop in many ways. Don't be too led astray by that, however - the Minerva crew are fun action types to the Bebop's chilled-out losers, and altogether lack the uniqueness of Spike, Faye, Jet, Ein or Edward.


All the other characters are out to do over the Minerva crew, or aren't what they are purported to be.

While Joe, Alfin and Ricky have fairly typical protagonist character designs for their era, Talos and pretty much everybody else are both less attractive and more interesting than what you will find in contemporary anime. Their mugs have fewer expressions but more personality. The care in giving the faces distinctive personalities seems to me something seen more in western cartoons than in anime. Such an emphasis also gives them a ridiculous edge reminiscent of the way western pulp noir exaggerates the physical attributes of villains to make them distinctive. As in those hard-boiled stories, nobody is what they appear to be and everybody is either out to use the protagonists or fix them up for good. Again, though, Crusher Joe is gung-ho good fun, so the villains are more comical than sinister. The villain who most fits the mould of later character aesthetics is the white-haired Killi (second top left above). He's also the least comical.

Crusher Joe, though, is mostly about the action. It has one set piece after another. In between are short periods of exposition where the main purpose, in hindsight, is to mislead the viewer. The recent Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie had three big action sequences. That seems parsimonious by comparison. The older film has among other things: a hover car/truck chase; the part destruction of an asteroid base; a jet aircraft dogfight; a tentacle monster; gun fights; flash grenades; an escape in an overloaded helicopter; drone attacks; unstable bridges over chasms; cauldrons of acid; multiple warhead rocket attacks; space battles with planetside warp-engine detonations; tsunamis; and a spacetime implosion! But wait, there's more, but you can watch it yourself to find out. One warning. At 132 minutes, if the action sequences don't grab you, or its 1980s aesthetics bother you, then you're in for a long ride.


Crusher is one action set-piece after another with short periods of exposition in between.

Another of the amusing touches is how, throughout the movie, things constantly happen in the background - in both the exposition and action scenes, but particularly the former. If there's a scene in a bar or disco or restaurant, it's worth checking out what the other patrons are doing. There may be a lovers' tiff; or a patron will inexplicably appear naked. In another instance someone may be seen gesticulating through the back window of a hovercar after being splashed with mud. There is a constant sense of activity, helped no doubt by the previously mentioned generous budget. The most notable moment is the Dirty Pair cameo where Yuri and Kei strut their stuff on a movie screen while Joe negotiates clandestinely with the President of Lagol. They not only break up the talking, they also ratchet up the tension (and humour) of the scene while pre-figuring the violence to come.

It's worth comparing the two franchises. Crusher Joe was followed by two OVA episodes, then disappeared. Dirty Pair spawned OVAs, TV series, a film and paved the way for the girls with guns genre subsequently becoming a regular part of anime, particularly their brand of comic destruction. While Crusher Joe has even more explosions and more violence generally (albeit with a comic edge), and while it revels in its cliches (with an enthusiasm bordering on manic) it plays things straight on a metafictional level. As the image at the top of the page demonstrates, Kei and Yuri always seem aware of the camera. That knowingness is an extra factor they bring to the comic violence of Crusher Joe. That said, I found Crusher Joe more entertaining than even the best of the Dirty Pair offerings, Project Eden, which, despite some glorious moments, has just a tad too much Koichi Mashimo prosaicness. Here director Yoshikazu Yasuhiko does his best to make sure things don't stay still.

Rating: At the lower end of good. As much as I was entertained by the film, thanks to its exhilerating action, the characters and plot are little more than launching pads for the fireworks. Nor is there any profound subtext or hyper clever game playing. I suspect I may never return to Crusher Joe again - spectacle, after all, depends on novelty - so perhaps decent would be more appropriate.


As with Star Wars scenes never hang around long enough to allow a leisurely appreciation the beauty of outer space.


Last edited by Errinundra on Fri Oct 18, 2019 3:45 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Night fox



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PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2016 11:16 am Reply with quote
I kinda wish you'd gone all out with the title on this one. Maybe something like "Errinundra boldly goes where no anime fan has gone before", or "One small step for Errinundra, one giant leap for the anime community." Laughing Wink
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2016 6:05 pm Reply with quote
Fixed.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 23, 2016 4:40 pm Reply with quote
There's a worrying trend here in Oz. New anime releases from the two second tier anime distributors, Siren Visual and Hanabee, are slowing to a trickle. Siren Visual's most recent new anime release was A Lull in the Sea, while Hanabee has planned a total of three releases over September, October and November. Madman seems to be proceeding at the same pace as ever, however many titles aren't getting a local release. My fear is that, in the current anime bubble, Siren Visual and Hanabee can no longer afford the licence fees. I shall await developments with interest.

Warning: major spoilers. There is also a minor spoiler for Chobits.


Our android host, Yumemi Hoshino. Loved her scintillating hair ribbons.

planetarian

Reason for watching: The subject matter interested me somewhat, but the clincher was Surrender Artist's endorsement. It isn't available via legal streaming in Australia, nor has anyone announced a local release, so I resorted to other means to watch it.

Synopsis: An intelligent android, Yumemi Hoshino, works as an announcer in the planetarium on the rooftop of a department store. When war comes to the city Yumemi is placed in her cradle and shut down. She is re-activated nearly thirty years later into a deserted, ruined city just as a wandering "Junker", in search of valuable trading items, discovers her. Each tries to reconcile themselves to the implications presented by the other.

Comments: Robot girls have been an anime staple since the days of Astro Boy. It's no wonder. Anime and robot girls are an obvious combination. Just as the 2D girl on our screen is the drawn object of desire who can never be held, so the female robot is likewise the manufactured object who can never be fully comprehended. Both stand before us, metaphorically asking what we want from them. Both, at their best, get us asking questions about ourselves. Likewise, manufactured pathos and uplift are staples from pretty much anything coming from the Key/Visual Art's fold. At their best they provide a powerful emotional fix. With that in mind, when there's a Rip Van Winkle robot girl and a loner soldier boy in an otherwise deserted city but for the odd, rampaging robot tank in a Key/Visual Art's production, the outcome is a given. Therein lies the problem. A worthwhile and richly ironic premise is ultimately undermined by a tiresomely predictable denouement.


Robot girls over the decades. Wouldn't you know it - Osamu Tezuka leads the way.

The anime is propelled by a sequence of contrasts: brightly coloured, fantastical, loquacious Yumemi with drab, prosaic, taciturn Kuzuya; the failure of the human project with her optimism for its future; the eternal stars with the dead city; and the rising sun with the unending rain. Much depends upon how persuasive the viewer finds the argument, and, just as crucially, upon the appeal of Yumemi, who embodies the story's thesis as spelled out in her name: to visualise her reveries on the stars. Personality-wise she's a mixed bag. Her inability to stay silent cycles between sweet, amusing and irritating. I've known several people who live alone who, when in company, talk the ears off anyone unable to escape. Can a robot be programmed for the need to socialise? I suppose so. Similarly, her insatiable desire to please hovers between appealing and cloying, though it's the former more often than not. The overall impression is a girl/robot desperate to please, accentuated by her split-panel skirt that suggests both accessibility and submission. Other than that tease and her luminous, variable hair ribbons, Yumemi isn't noteworthy in terms of character design but she's preferable to the near contemporary Isla from Plastic Memories. Being about 75 minutes long planetarian also avoids all the time-wasting inanities of Plastic Memories, even if both unashamedly try to upset the viewer (in the nicest possible way).

To his credit, Kuzuya, treats her with, at first, forbearance then respect. While I find myself having to conclude that Yumemi cannot develop as a character there's no doubt that Kuzuya's reaction to her and assessment of her changes. One of the better aspects of the series is the way it reveals how he, also deprived of companionship, is drawn to her. He responds to her apparent generosity with his own amiable response - fixing her broken projector, whom she calls Miss Jena. The most notable thing about Kuzuya otherwise is that he's an unusually old looking protagonist for Key/Visual Art's (man, I hate that apostrophe). If Yumemi is interesting in her own right, he becomes interesting because of her. The standout moment in their story, isn't the unconvincing tragedy of the fifth (and last) episode, but the optimism of the third. Beside a broken down projector, in the shell of a department store, in a city ruined by war, Yumemi declares that, "Mankind will be able to solve all its problems and then they would reach out to the world of the stars." Hope amid ruin affects me more than gratuitous self-sacrifice.


Kuzuya: technically the protagonist but is at his best when responding to the catalytic Yumemi.

Given Key's original involvement you know, from the start, the robot girl is going to die. In a way they've cooked their own goose: the death is so inevitable that it lacks significance. In a sequence reminiscent of the climax of the Ueda/Yumi episode of Chobits, Yumemi sacrifices herself for Kuzuya. Of course, this is going to be milked for all it's worth. When the bisected Yumemi tells Kuzuya that her emergency batteries will empty in ten minutes I screamed in my head, "Just go flat already." At least Yumi the Persocom had the grace to just say, "konnichiwa", twice before expiring, but, then, Chobits had master director Morio Asaka (Cardcaptor Sakura, Gunslinger Girl, Chihayafuru) and the beautiful Ningyohime as musical accompaniment. Dwelling on a death scene risks diminishing it. In any case, the main point of planetarian had already been made in episode three - the last two episodes don't add much other than slapstick (episode four) and pathos (episode five). I did like, however, her admission that the broken world she observed was so contrary to her expectations of humans that she concluded that it was she that was broken, not the world. Her optimism to the point of blindness is sweetly pathetic.


Yumemi and Miss Jena, the projector.

As I pointed out earlier the background art is deliberately drab in order to draw attention to the strangeness of the robot girl. It also reflects the grim situation that Kuzuya and the few remaining humans are facing. That said, the detail is reasonably good. The short series doesn't have much need for elaborate animation but where necessary it rises to the occasion. In particular, the tank battle is choreographed effectively. The background music is precisely that: background, so self-effacing as to be barely noticeable. The melifluous voice of long-time seiyuu Daisuke Ono works a treat as Kuzuya, whereas the comparatively inexperienced Keiko Suzuki could be grating at times, not helped by the prolix dialogue.

Changing tack, I was intrigued by the classical planetarium projector portrayed in the ONA. A quick search in that font of all knowledge, Wikipedia, revealed it to be a Mark III Zeiss projector made by Carl Zeiss AG. Here's the really sweet thing: Carl Zeiss was an inovative optical instrument maker who opened his first workshop in 1846 in the German city of Jena. The company made the world's first planetarium projector in 1923 in that city, hence Yumemi's name for the projector. In the wake of German unification projectors are once again being made there. I'm always impressed when anime producers demonstrate they've done their backgrounding.


Carl Zeiss's Jena workshop (the large, dark building on the left) in 1847.
Yes. A photograph from 170 years ago. I like the ghost figure caused by the long exposure time.


Rating: decent+. A middling show that does some things well and others poorly. The stellar idealism of Yumemi the robot girl, albeit ironically portrayed thanks to her decayed environment, is undermined by the cynical emotional manipulation of the final episode. Perhaps it mightn't have seemed so cynical had it been done better. The standard for anime about human/robot interactions was set by Time of Eve (whose original ONA structure is similar) and, while planetarian is a pleasant enough diversion, it isn't in the same league.


Last edited by Errinundra on Fri Oct 18, 2019 3:50 pm; edited 4 times in total
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Blood-
Bargain Hunter



Joined: 07 Mar 2009
Posts: 23890
PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2016 7:37 am Reply with quote
Interesting and thorough take, as always. Although what I'm really popping in to comment on is the state of Siren Visual and Hanabee. As the proud owner of a region free player, I have availed myself of a number of titles from Oz not available here (Monster in its entirety, for example) or else offered so cheaply it made sense to get the Australian version (i.e. I got the 4 parts of Nana for $5 AUD each). I haven't purchased anything from Hanabee, but certainly from both SV and Madman. Very sorry to hear that SV's output has declined to that extent.
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Zin5ki



Joined: 06 Jan 2008
Posts: 6680
Location: London, UK
PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2016 4:12 pm Reply with quote
A pleasure to read as always, Errinundra!
Quote:
The standout moment in their story, isn't the unconvincing tragedy of the fifth (and last) episode, but the optimism of the third. Beside a broken down projector, in the shell of a department store, in a city ruined by war, Yumemi declares that, "Mankind will be able to solve all its problems and then they would reach out to the world of the stars." Hope amid ruin affects me more than gratuitous self-sacrifice.

Something was lacking from the third episode. In many ways, Yumemi's projection screening was the thematic climax of the series, but the poise and significance it could have attained seemed muted in a fashion for which no appeal to subtlety could be drawn. I have pondered before how such a scene may have fared better had Kyoto Animation been at the helm, given that it was the only opportunity wherein any semblance of visual splendour would hold currency in the story's setting. Something, I know not quite what, could have been done to elevate the sense of isolated, foolhardy wonder for which the episode so clearly yearned but never fully embodied.

(Nota bene. Funimation's less-than-stellar streaming system may or may not have been partially responsible for my views on such a sequence.)
Quote:
When the bisected Yumemi tells Kuzuya that her emergency batteries will empty in ten minutes I screamed in my head, "Just go flat already." At least Yumi the Persecom had the grace to just say, "konnichiwa", twice before expiring, but, then, Chobits had master director Morio Asaka (Cardcaptor Sakura, Gunslinger Girl, Chihayafuru) and the beautiful Ningyohime as musical accompaniment. Dwelling on a death scene risks diminishing it.

True to your word, and for reasons that were quite glaring, Yumemi's final scene did indeed outlast the lingering moment allotted to it. Saying this, I would contend that a direct comparison to the equivalent scene in Chobits does not produce so obvious a victor. There is something equally crushing to Yumemi's final words as there is to Yumi's; each character repeats their pre-programmed lines in a withering, stolid state; in mortal throes but resignedly tranquil. To do so much as offer this description is to reveal how unoriginal such a tactic is, though this is not to say that either case failed to prove evocative. It should come as no surprise to say I have my susceptibilities here and there...
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Blood-
Bargain Hunter



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PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2016 9:50 pm Reply with quote
I'm kind of bummed I've had Chobits spoiled for me. I haven't seen the series yet. I won't be reading any more reviews but for the sake of those who might, you may want to think of using spoiler tags in instances where you reveal the ending or other important detail of a show being cited in the context of a review.
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