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Zin5ki
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 21, 2018 4:32 pm Reply with quote

Heavens, I am unsure why credit was due, but you are most welcome nonetheless!
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 21, 2018 5:16 pm Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girls index
****
@ Zin5ki,

This post.
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Beltane70



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PostPosted: Mon Oct 22, 2018 2:33 am Reply with quote
I quite enjoyed your presentation regarding my favorite anime franchise and its female cast! The original Macross series was also my gateway anime (not including shows that were shown in the US before it, since I wasn’t aware of the term anime at the time), so it holds a very special place in my heart.

I look forward to seeing what you’ll be covering next!
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 23, 2018 3:38 am Reply with quote
Thanks for the kind words.

More Tomino!
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Beltane70



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PostPosted: Tue Oct 23, 2018 11:02 am Reply with quote
Errinundra wrote:
Thanks for the kind words.

More Tomino!


I’m guessing Dunbine, perhaps?
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 04, 2018 6:30 am Reply with quote
Splash (or rather, cascade) of Crimson #19: the many female characters of

Aura Battler Dunbine


Ciela Lapana, Queen of Na.
I've chosen her to head the post as she's the most powerful of the regularly appearing women.



Synopsis: Japanese motocross competitor Shou Zama is unwillingly sucked into another dimension - the mediaeval fantasy world of Byston Well - where his "Upper Earth" aura grants him exceptional capabilities when piloting mecha known as "battlers". That the mecha even exist, alongside gigantic floating battleships, is also due to transported Upper Earth humans, who have brought their modern engineering expertise along with their auras. Drake Luft, the man behind the inter-dimensional transporting using the magical powers of an enslaved silkie, builds an aura fleet to forcefully unify Byston Well, leading to an arms race involving its various kingdoms and factions. Rebelling against Luft, Shou joins a resistance group led by Neil Given who eventually allies with two queens, Ciela Lapana and Elle Humn. Angered by the aggressive behaviour of the humans - whatever their origin, Byston Well or Upper Earth - the queen of the silkies transports every last battler, warship and their combatants to Upper Earth, where now it's the Byston Well aura that is magnified stupendously. The inhabitants of our world can mostly only look on in stupified wonder as, unable to curb their instinct for war, the Byston Well factions race towards a final apocalyptic battle above the North Atlantic Ocean.

Production details:
Premiere: 05 February 1983 (between Beautiful Fighting Girl #30, Minky Momo, and Beautiful Fighting Girl #31, Yuu Morisawa)
Director: Yoshiyuki Tomino
Original creator: Yoshiyuki Tomino, Tominori Kogawa and Sunrise (under their pseudonym Hajime Yatate)
Source material: Tomino's light novel series The Wings of Rean, which, oddly enough, doesn't contain mecha.
Studio: Sunrise
Music: Katsuhiro Tsubonou
Script: Sukehiro Tomita and Yuuji Watanabe
Character Design: Tomonori Kogawa
Mecha design: Kazutaka Miyatake
Art: Shigemi Ikeda


Protagonist Shou Zama with his constant battle companion, the fairy Cham Huau.
Insert: Queen of the silkies, Jakoba Aon, and three of the insect inspired "battlers", with the titular Dunbine on the left.


Comments: Tomino's original novels, upon which is the series is based, are set in a mediaeval European inspired fantasy landscape replete with castles, unicorns, fairies, silkies, druid-like priestesses and assortment of reptilian, slime and insectoid monsters. Sunrise and Bandai were amenable to making a TV series if it included mecha, so a compliant, if not happy, Tomino maintained thematic integrity by utilising mecha designs inspired by the aforementioned insects that, when still, are an improvement upon his earlier shows, what with their carapaces, wing covers and transparent wings. (In fact, the "battlers" are built from the bodies of the giant insects.) When animated, however, the curved body parts, the insect appendages, and uniform colouring (particularly the cannon-fodder rank and file soldiers) meant that I too often struggled to make out what a mecha was doing.

The combination of Tolkienesque fantasy and mecha warfare not only pre-figures The Vision of Escaflowne by some thirteen years, but also provides considerable scope to appeal to a wider demographic than, say, either of Tomino's earlier Mobile Suit Gundam or Space Runaway Ideon. The gorgeous, otherworldly landscapes - somewhat reminiscent of the artwork of Roger Dean - make this easily my favourite Tomino setting. That said, the magical transportation of the warring fleets to our modern world two thirds of the way though is the dramatic turning point of the series, allowing Tomino to hammer home his gloomy view of the human race's inability to avoid destructive warfare. That means, in typical fashion, he will kill off large swathes of the cast. And, for once, the TV stations didn't pull the pin on his show prematurely, so that the last few episodes of ABD don't feel rushed. The oppressive doom-laden mood is steadily, deliberately ratchetted ever upwards, though the near non-stop battles do became a chore to watch at times. In fairness, I watched the entire 49 episodes over ten consecutive days, whereas the original broadcast would have spread the violence over the best part of a year. Under that viewing regime one wouldn't feel quite so bludgeoned.


Byston Well landscape.

The series also suffers from characteristic Tomino shortcomings. First of all, his principal characters are devoid of wit. They are a uniformly dour bunch. Tomino follows the Toei practice of siphoning the humour through secondary gag players, in this instance mainly through the Mi Ferario characters, Cham, Bell and El. These comic relief fairies correspond to the mascot characters of shoujo anime. While Cham is, on balance, a positive addition to the series, Queen Ciela's Bell and El spoil any scene in which they appear, unintentionally and comprehensively undermining her supposed gravitas. GoShogun proved that anime can give us witty action heroes; Super Dimension Fortress Macross seamlessly transitioned its characters from heroic to absurd. Funnily enough, when Tomino took over directing The Star of the Seine (my favourite of his shows) around the half-way mark, he introduced a cheesy, sly humour to the mix, so he can do it. Secondly, episodes (or strings of episodes) can be heavy handed in their execution and repetitive in their structure. It isn't nearly as bad as the TV version of Ideon, while the detailed Byston Well world-building mitigates the problem somewhat. Lastly, Tomino plots can be directionless for long stretches, moving in fits and starts, and all the while leaving the characters reacting to events instead of shaping them. His fatalistic worldview that humans are incapable of resisting their self-destructive impulses may well exacerbate the problem, but great anime can be satisfying on a thematic and narrative level simultaneously.

As I mentioned earlier the series shifts up a gear when the super-powered aura mecha and battleships arrive en masse on earth. (This is the oldest show I know where "powering up" is featured and discussed in story.) Australia is worthless (apparently koalas have rat-like tails and our deserts have cacti), Tokyo is trashed, Paris burned to the ground and the rest of western Europe cowed. Like all the Byston Well queens, the Queen of England proves herself heroic, while pretty much only Russia and America resist. The former get their nuclear missiles flung straight back at them, while the Americans have the good sense to side with one of the factions. The delicious irony is that we, the earth's population, are forced to bear witnesses and become victims to the very behaviour we are unable to restrain. We become collateral damage thanks to an alien personification of our own innate folly.


Paris burns. That's an aura battleship cruising above the Arc de Triomphe

Although the characters may be earnest, ABD has a vast array who are both distinctive and interesting. None of the villains can match the charm of Gundam's Char Aznable, but their very earnestness means that the viewer is spared the evil laugh for the most part. Protagonist Shou Zama is, like his counterparts in Gundam and Ideon, a straigtforward, serious young man who somehow can't extricate himself from a fight. He'd be totally dull if not for his early incomprehension in the face of his summoners' iniquity, his inept, wooden responses to romantic interest Marvel Frozen, or Cham's behaviour humanising him. (And, yes, Aura Battler Dunbine is the apotheosis of stupid anime character names. Along with Marvel Frozen there's Shot Weapon, Drake Luft, Keen Kiss, Neil Given, Bishott Hate, Galeria Nyamhi, Musy Poe, El Fino and Zet Light to list the best of them. Don't ask me how a redheaded Belfast woman could be baptised Jeril Kuchibi. I would add also that there doesn't seem to be any canonical way to spell or even say many of the names.) The big bad, Drake Luft - a bald-headed variation on Ideon's Doba Ajiba - is yet another humourless character. His ruthlessness is tempered by the gnawing suspicion that he may genuinely be working hard for the benefit of the people he rules. Like Ajiba Doba he has a daughter who, objecting to his methods, defies him. The big difference is that he somehow manages to retain a soft spot for her in his heart. That helps redeem him in this viewer's eyes.

Aura Battler Dunbine may be a pinnacle of stupid names, but, more tellingly, it has the best ensemble array of female characters so far in this grand survey. Sure, Maetel and Oscar surpass them on individual comparisons; sure, the protagonist is male; and, sure, their designs are, for the most part, intended to please the male viewer, but, grunts aside, they appear in pretty much equal numbers as the men amongst all the factions and, protagonist aside, in importance to the story. The final cataclysmic battle pits two battlefleets commanded by men - the big bad Drake Luft and his rat-cunning confederate Bishott Hate against two battlefleets led by Queen Ciela Lapana, with her enormously expanding aura powers, and Queen Elle Humn. Silkie queen Jacoba Aon's banishing of all the combatants from Byston Well pins her as the most powerful character until Ciela brings the war to its ultimate conclusion. By this point Shou Zama has been rendered superfluous. Although it's as if there's a smorgasboard of female characters to appreciate, much as with Super Dimension Fortress Macross, I believe something else is beginning here. At least some of these characters elicit a degree of admiration from the male viewer, though there's still a way to go before the connection of male viewer identifying with female protagonist is made.


Fighting women of Aura Battler Dunbine

The women (left to right)
Top row:
Elle Humn. The granddaughter of King Phaezon of Lao, when we first meet Elle she is more interested in the mystical powers of Byston Well than politics. After her father is killed in battle she reluctantly takes command of his forces against Drake Luft. Her affinity with the sacred makes her a powerful aura commander. Elle's journey is from the domestic and spiritual to the public and military realms or, if you will, from the feminine to the masculine. It is something she accepts rather than chooses.
Ciela Lapana. A steadfast character who does what she does because it is right to do so, Ciela will ultimately become the most powerful aura user. Her final act that concludes the story, and which is a variation on the earlier banishment of the warmongers from Byston Well, indicates that she has taken the mantle of final arbiter from silkie queen Jacoba Aon (whose act meant the sacrifice of her own life). This makes her, thematically, the key character of the anime. (Oh, and the fairies in the image are the dreadful Bell and El.)
Middle row:
Marvel Frozen. Raised on a Texas farm before her summoning to Byston Well she is the best "battler" pilot of Neil Given's resistance force against Drake Luft until the arrival of protagonist Shou Zama and the catalyst for his change of heart. Their's will be the chief love interest of the series. So, while her role defines her as adjunct to the male, she is strong-willed, otherwise independent, and capable. Unlike so much other anime, her romantic involvement does not diminish her personality.
Keen Kiss (or Keats in some souces). Tomboy "battler" pilot in Neil Given's resistance force aboard his flying ship Zelana, she lacks the innate abilities of Frozen or Shou so overcompensates by fighting rashly. Keen personifies Tamaki Saito's phallic girl to the extent that she has cast aside feminine traits idealised elsewhere in 1980s anime such as Magical Angle Creamy Mami.
Riml Luft. Naturally enough, the daughter of the big bad and the evil mother will be the lover of the leader of the resistance force, Neil Given. You'd expect that sort of thing in an epic yarn. Her father keeps her under house arrest for, he supposes, her own good. The funny thing is, after several failed attempts by Neil and Shou to rescue her (or abduct her, depending on your point of view), she has to do it on her own.
Bottom Row:
Galeria Nyamhi. Near psycopathic "battler" pilot in the Drake Luft forces, she is motivated by a lust for glory and, after repeated defeats in battle against Shou Zama, an overwhelming desire for payback. As an unhinged phallic girl, she volunteers for ever more outrageous fighting missions to achieve her goals. In her own way she is subordinated to Shou, defining herself against him.
Musy Poe. Begins as Riml Luft's music teacher. Her love for the ambiguous American engineer Shot Weapon, summoned to Byston Well by Drake Luft, brings her into the war as a "battler" pilot. Despite being submissive to Riml, Drake and Shot in turn, she is one of the few decent characters amongst Drake's forces.
Jeril Kuchibi. Born and raised in the tenement slums of Belfast , Jeril concludes that life as a "battler" pilot in Drake's army is much preferable. Is she pissed off when Jacoba Aon trasnports her back outside her childhood home (though sitting comfortably in her aura battler), or what? A complete cynic, she's out to look after herself and if that means fighting a war of little interest to her or sticking with the big bad because he's the likely victor, then so be it.

Rating: Good. Aura Battler Dunbine stretches the boundaries of how far an anime can develop autonomous female characters for a mostly male audience, though it may be argued the anime is also hoping to expand its female audience. The detailed world-building of Byston Well gives the setting more depth and appeal than Tomino's two previous franchises, and he has more space to properly prepare the viewer for his epic and explosive climax, however the characteristic earnest characters, pessimistic take on human nature and attenuated narrative style remain.

Resources:
ANN
Terminal Tomiosis from the Mike Toole Show
The font of all knowledge
Aura Battler Dunbine at Super Robot Wars Wiki
Aura Battler Dunbine archived from The World-Wide Gundam Informational Network
The Anime Encyclopaedia, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle


Notice how Frozen is taller than Shou?
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2018 4:02 am Reply with quote
Splash of Crimson #20: Alfin, Princess Royal of Kingdom Pizanne



Crusher Joe

Synopsis: Alfin is a runaway princess acting as navigator on the spaceship The Minerva, captained by Crusher Joe. In 2161 Crushers can be relied upon to take on the tough jobs across the galaxy. They have a strong code of ethics, so when Joe is accused of piracy after their cargo - a cryogenically frozen heiress - disappears mid space warp, he and is crew on the Minerva lose their operating licence for six months. With clandestine assistance from the United Space Force and a politician who's up to more than he's letting on, Alfin, Joe and their crew mates set out to find their missing cargo. This leads them to notorious space pirate, Big Murphy.

Production details:
Premiere: 12 March 1983 (between Beautiful Fighting Girl #30, Minky Momo, and Beautiful Fighting Girl #31, Yuu Morisawa)
Director & character design: Yoshikazu Yasuhiko - has spenct most of his long anime career as a character designer, especially with the Gundam franchise, but also directed Giant Gorg, Arion, Venus Wars and the boy's love anime Kaze to Ki no Uta SANCTUS -Sei naru kana-
Studios: Studio Nue & Sunrise
Source material: Haruka Takachiho's light novel series Crusher Joe, published from 1977 to 2005. Takachiho also wrote the Dirty Pair light novels and was a co-founder of Studio Nue.
Screenplay: Haruka Takachiho and Yoshikazu Yasuhiko
Art Director: Mitsuki Nakamura
Animation Director: Norio Kashima and Yoshikazu Yasuhiko
Mechanical design: Shoji Kawamori
Art design: Michiaki Sato
Music: Norio Maeda


The crew of the Minerva sans Dongo the robot.
Left to right: Talos, Ricky, Alfin and Joe.


Note: This is another revisit. You can read my review from 10 September 2016 here. In my conclusion to that review I speculated I would never revisit the film, but time makes a mockery of us all. Not only have I watched, and enjoyed, it again, I'm now the owner of Discotek's DVD issue. As with Macross I'll make some brief comments and then look at Alfin in more detail.

Comments: Watching Crusher Joe again after two years not only reinforces its debt to Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, but the crew of the Minerva (Joe, Alfin, Talos, Ricky and Dongo) constantly reminded me of the crew from Cowboy Bebop (Spike, Faye, Talos and Ed with the corgi Ein replacing the robot Dongo). My strong feeling is that the creators of the newer anime used Crusher Joe as a template for Cowboy Bebop's inventive riffing on the theme of maverick business operators in space. There's no plagiarism involved here: CB explores themes and characters in altogether different ways compared with its older inspiration. And, of course, replaces a bombastic faux-Hollywood soundtrack with Yoko Kanno's memorable jazz inflected numbers.

Stepping back into Crusher Joe's own era, it was part of the anime science fiction new wave in the wake of the enormous popularity of Star Wars, alongside other titles I've covered as part of the project: the Space Battleship Yamato movies, Galaxy Express 999, Mobile Suit Gundam, Super Dimension Fortress Macross and GoShogun, and some I haven't, such as Space Adventure Cobra. Like most of the others - Tomino's mecha series are the notable exception - Crusher Joe's tone is marked by its tongue-in-cheek humour and its frequent use of sci-fi action tropes. That said, while it happily exploits said tropes, this is in no way a parody in the manner of GoShogun or a knowing fan-focused romp like Macross. It's a straightforward anime without any major message, self-aware cleverness or emotional investment from the viewer. The film must rely on its verve, its non-stop derring-do action and its goofy comedy to keep the viewer's interest over the rather long viewing time of 132 minutes. (Anime movies of the era were very generous.) Judged by those parameters Crusher Joe is largely successful. Character appearances, spaceship designs and futuristic architecture are conventional for anime of the time. Joe not only shares his name with many contemporary heroes, he looks like all of them to boot. That's not to say the animation and artwork aren't good - in particular, the actions sequences are lively and detailed. Japanese stylistic conventions aside, the influence of American movies permeates throughout. If the big set piece scenes owe much to Star Wars, then the willing embrace of B Grade movie cliches shows the influence of Indiana Jones. Indeed, Joe is Indiana Jones light in a sci-fi setting, though he lacks the American's more self-aware ironic overlay. He's a comic character precisely because he doesn't know he is. In that sense he owes a little to Luke Skywalker.


Alfin: for every subversive demonstration there's an act of conformity.

Alfin: The rebellious Princess of Kingdom Pizanne also calls to mind American big screen heroines of the time. Her back story, feisty character and sparring with Joe are clearly referencing Princess Leia, including the latter's relationship with Han Solo. More proletarian than princess, she entirely lacks Leia's aura of authority. Instead of meeting her in the corridors of power, or participating in a military de-brief, Alfin seems the sort of young woman I'd expect to meet in a suburban beer barn on a Saturday night: out to get pissed, have a rollicking time, listen to a band, get into a stoush, and suffer the consequences the morning after. As it happens, she does precisely those things in her most memorable sequence in the film (see middle left in the picture above and also the image at the top of the post). She's gritty and rough and, for the most part, highly competent, though not the sharpest needle in the sewing basket. The catch is, she is not only secondary in importance to Joe, she is the cheesecake female tethered (admittedly willingly) to the male and whose main purpose is once removed gratification for the viewer identifying with the protagonist. She clings to Joe in a crisis (despite repeated demonstrations of her courage), is helpless when he saves her (despite repeated demonstrations of her capabilities), throws tantrums when she thinks he's eyeing off another woman, and it is she who embraces him when they are re-united. In addition, she has a proto-moe tsundere nature that accentuates her weakness. But wait, there's more: she's frequently treated as a clown, undermining her credibility yet further. Yes, she's a fun character, but a very traditional one for all that, even with her layers of anime tropes. Haruka Takachiho would improve the mould with Dirty Pair. Yuri and Kei will blend Alfin's mixture of courseness, competence, clownishness and gleeful violence, then add an insouciant fourth wall breaking camera awareness before topping things off by playing second fiddle to absolutely nobody. Their drive-in theatre cameo in Crusher Joe is but a harbinger of things to come.

Rating: Still at the lower end of good. What price can be put on unadulterated fun? LIke most anime of the time, becoming acclimated to the visual style is something of a pre-requisite to enjoying the anime on its terms. Having immersed myself in the era I'm no longer bothered by the seeming peculiarities. Once past that hurdle, the film will reward with its exciting, well animated action sequences and its mostly clownish cast.

Resources:
Crusher Joe: the Movie, Discotek
ANN (recommended reading: Justin Sevakis's Buried Treasure article)
The font of all knowledge
The Anime Encyclopaedia, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle

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nobahn
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2018 2:56 am Reply with quote
I've been neglecting the Anime with Strong Female Leads/Co-Leads? recommendations thread. I say that to segue to the following YouTube video I've found that deals with Magical Girls:

"Why There Are Magical Girl Transformations In Anime" by Get In The Robot

It's pretty good; but I can't decide whether or not to post a link in the Strong Female Leads/Co-Leads thread. What do you think?
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2018 5:09 am Reply with quote
Go for it!

(Though she totally lost credibility by not mentioning Princess Tutu.)
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2018 9:50 am Reply with quote
It's not quite a new year and not quite a new page, but after almost two years, and now that I've completed the Splash of Crimson sidetrack, it's time to check out where we're at.

Anime's Beautiful Fighting Girls Recap Episode



This survey has shown me that, before the rise of the otaku in the late 1970s, the evolution of the beautiful fighting girl can be observed in four disparate strands. First, Toei's initially innovative then, later, more formulaic - with one notable exception - magical girl series. Second, Mushi Pro and its successor studios expandiing the magical girl genre beyond Toei's limited settings into shojo TV series and offbeat flims where the female heroine finds herself in a greater variety of roles and circumstances than ever before. Third, the rise of World Masterpiece Theatre type shows and films, again with clear links to their magical girl antecedents, that aimed for a wider audience. And, last, the increasing sophistication of female characters in shonen anime, mostly as secondary players, but sometimes giving us outstanding and memorable characters. Naturally enough there is some cross-over between the threads and, also, eccentric examples that defy classification.

As I child of the 60s - I had the good fortune to watch Astro Boy, Gigantor and Kimba the White Lion on their original western release when they were age-appropriate for me - and a teenager in the 70s (the character in the Monty Python image above might just be a parody of me today), my memory informs me that western children's TV shows of the time rarely, if ever, had female protagonists. I can't think of one off the top of my head. My speculation - and I don't think its outrageous - is that, with anime evolving from manga where shojo titles were as successful as shonen ones, Japanese TV companies weren't as nervous as their Anglophone counterparts when it came to giving us female protagonists.

Beautiful...

Top (l-r): Bai Niang, The Tale of the White Serpent; Françoise Arnoul / Cyborg 003, Cyborg 009; and Sally Yumeno, Sally the Witch
Bottom: Sapphire, Princess Knight; Kathy Flint, Animal Treasure Island; and Nozomi Mine, Nozomi in the Sun


Looking at the strands in more detail, the wellspring of the beautiful fighting girl is to be found in the Toei canon, beginning with Bai Niang, the titular character of The Tale of the White Serpent (1958). She is magical, demonic, enigmatic yet loyal and sets the tone, if not aesthetic standard, for many a magical character to come. The first magical girl TV show, Sally the Witch (1966) was famously inspired by the American TV show, Bewitched, and featured a schoolgirl witch from the magical realm who must contend with the Japanese education system and assorted bad guys who cross her path. Their next offering, Secret Akko-chan (1969) flipped the setup by having the protagonist a regular girl who gains transformational powers with a magic mirror. Every magical girl since is one or the other or a blend of the two prototypes. These early shows are simple, geared to a young audience, episodic and ripe for merchandising. They are largely formulaic, other than gimmicks around their identity - there's a mermaid, a couple of androids, a super-powered ninja and a variation on a doppelganger as examples - and the occasional exploration of uncomfortable topics such as family disfunction, suicide and environmental degradation. The most innovative by far was Cutie Honey (1973) which introduced many of the tropes we take for granted today in the genre. It's a shame it's such a crappy show. Aimed at a male audience, many of those tropes were lifted straight from the super robot shows of the time (Go Nagai was the creative force behind both Cutie Honey and the tranforming giant robot). If the magical girl was the genesis of the beautiful fighting girl, then you could equally say that, without Mazinger Z (via Cutie Honey) there could be no Sailor Moon. Lunlun the Flower Child (1979) upgraded the aesthetics of the genre while transposing the setting to Europe but otherwise largely conformed to the formulae of its predecessors. Subsequently Toei lost interest in the genre. By the end of the period under examination Studio Pierrot had taken over Toei's mantle, broadcasting Magical Angel Creamy Mami (1983), the first of several combining the genre with idol stardom. The priceless gift that Toei bequeathed us is an autonomous heroine with her own agenda who triumphs over adversity and who garnered a suprising level of cross-gender appeal.

The 60s were also the golden years of Osamu Tezuka's Mushi Pro, the other studio to play an indelible role in the genesis of the beautiful fighting girl. After some early experimental films followed by more popular TV fare with male protagonists he produced the groundbreaking Princess Knight (1967) which added a level of sophistication to anime unimaginable in its contemporaties. Utterly self-aware, the series makes the arrival of the female protagonist in anime a central theme of its fantasy setting. The girl must pretend to be a boy to succeed in a world of narrow expectations. Her ultimate triumph as a girl becomes a metaphor for the anime industry itself. Emboldened, he made another, peculiar magical girl show, Marvellous Melmo (1971) that was too often an indulgent exercise in expounding Tezuka's humanist worldview. Fine sentiments but audiences hated its pedagogic tone. The studio also attempted to chase an older audience with the films Cleopatra (1970) and Belladonna of Sadness (1973) where the magical girl is replaced by an adult witch. Both bombed in theatres, though the latter is a striking film if watched without normal anime expectations. Mushi pushed the boundaries in another direction with Nozumi in the Sun (1971) about two pop singers who, unbeknownst to them, were swapped at birth. With the collapse of Mushi, staff founded two studios - Madhouse and Sunrise - that continued the Mushi tradition, but with a rigorous business approach. The former produced Aim for the Ace! (1973) while the latter gave us the unjustly forgotten Star of the Seine (1975). The crowning glory, so to speak, of this lineage and for beautiful fighting girls generally in the seventies, would be the Rose of Versailles (1979), although Toei's Galaxy Express 999 (1978) gives us an equally commanding female character in a marginally inferior package. Oscar and Maetel stand astride the era, clearly owing a debt to their predecessors but having more in common with the women who will follow them in the decades to come. Trailblazers and great characters by any measure.

...fighting...

Top: Fujiko Mine, Lupin the 3rd; Hiromi Oka, Aim for the Ace!; and Honey Kisaragi, Cutie Honey
Bottom: Yuki Mori, Space Battleship Yamato; Simone Lorraine, The Star of the Seine; and Maetel, Galaxy Express 999


Next is the strand of anime that takes it inspiration from the Western literary tradition. They were very popular at the time not only in Japan but also Europe and South America. The major studios treading this path were Toei (we owe so much to them) and Nippon Animation (and its earlier incarnation Zuiyo Eizo). I only skimmed the genre as the protagonists aren't always female and when they are, aren't strictly fighting girls. Nor is there any obvious connection with later anime protagonists, especially since the genre declined and eventually disappeared as the otaku fandom commandeered the industry's attention. I included them as they demonstrate anime's preparedness to seriously embrace the female as protagonist for a family audience. The Toei films such as Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid (1975) and The Wild Swans (1977) while not disposable weren't able to live up to the promise of their source material. The Nippon / Zuiyo TV series such as Heidi, Girl of the Alps (1974), Anne of Green Gables (1979) and Lucy of the Southern Rainbow (1982) are gems that exceeded my expectations. They are also exceptional in having heroines who, unlike their anime contemporaries, are anything but fantastical.

The biggest lesson for me, and in hindsight I should've known this, is that once the magical girl genre had successfully established the female as protagonist, the development of the beautiful fighting girl who will blitz the 80s and 90s can be traced most clearly in the final strand I'm examining - and one I hadn't intended pursuing when I began the project: the splash of crimson in shonen anime, ie the supporting female character to the male fighting protagonist. It makes sense, given that the later ubiquitous heroines are intended for a male audience. Their early appearances weren't always auspicious. The archetype is Françoise Arnoul (aka Cyborg 003) from Cyborg 009 (1966, also 1967, 1968 and 1979), who, despite her blood-red uniform, remains an anaemic character throughout the period. Rather more ahead of her time is Kathy Flint in Animal Treasure Island (1971), who brings magical girl autonomy to a violently masculine, if comic, scenario. Fujiko Mine from Lupin the Third (1971, also 1978 and 1979) is even more breathtakingly liberated until Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahato bowdlerise and contain her. It will be Go Nagai, however, who will form the link between Françoise Arnoul and the more sophisticated female characters in the famous robot shows of the late 70s / early 80s. His sour treatment of his female characters in Mazinger Z (1972), Cutie Honey (1973), Getter Robo (1974) and UFO Robo Grendizer (1975) belies their growing capabilities and depth (though I don't want to overstate either). Space Battleship Yamato (1974) provides the female character, Yuki Mori, who is considered the first otaku darling. More importantly, later heirs to the giant robot genre will provide their audiences with an array of complex female support characters beginning with Yoshiyuki Tomino's Mobile Suit Gundam (1979, the movie trilogy of 1981 reviewed), Space Runaway Ideon (1980) and Aura Battler Dunbine (1983). (I note that Tomino also directed the second half of The Star of the Seine.) The female characters of Super Dimension Fortress Macross (1982) aren't quite as strong as Tomino's, but are memorable nonetheless, while Remy Shimada of GoShogun (1981) combines smarts with a femininity (however undefinable that might be) designed to appeal to a male audience. That combination will become a feature of one strand of beautiful fighting girls over the next decade, including a notable re-imaganing of Remy herself.

...girls

Top: Oscar François de Jarjayes, The Rose of Versailles; Sayla Mass, Mobile Suit Gundam; and Chie Takamoto, Chie the Brat
Bottom: Remy Shimada, GoShogun; Misa Hayase, The Super Dimension Fortress Macross; and Yuu Morisawa, Magical Angel Creamy Mami


Looking at individual anime there have been surprises. On the positive side, there was Princess Knight's unexpected thematic depth, the incongruous adult sensibility that constantly seeped out of Fairy Princess Minky Momo (1982) and being utterly beguiled by the three Masterpiece Theatre shows - Heidi, Girl of the Alps, Anne of Green Gables and Lucy of the Southern Rainbow. And, admittedly no mecha fan, I enjoyed Tomino's three shows in the genre - probably because of his strong and interesting female characters. The revelation, though, is the other Tomino show that I watched, The Star of the Seine. with its French Revolution scenario, a sweet heroine who becomes a deadly fighter for justice, its breaking of new ground for a series geared to a female audience, and its allegorical ruminations on the emancipation of women in postwar Japan. Overshadowed by the later, and superior, Rose of Versailles, and unashamedly inpsired by the latter's source material it is nonetheless a crucial link between the early magical girl shows and later, more violent, action series - in particular, the girls with guns genre.

On the negative side, despite how much a debt is owed to Toei through all four strands examined here, both their magical girl shows and the Go Nagai giant robot shows were excruciatingly dull much of the time. That the latter were all too often odious as well, didn't help.

Beautiful literature girls

Top: Jeanne, Belladonna of Sadness; Adelheid, Heide, Girl of the Alps; and Princess Marina, Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid
Bottom: Princess Elisa, The Wild Swans; Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables; and Lucy-May Popple, Lucy-May of the Southern Rainbow


Casting my gaze forward, my view, at the moment, is that anime is about to undergo a major transformation, largely brought about by the options available to the new otaku fanbase thanks to the emergence of the OAV lacking the content constraints of TV anime. This technical development coincides with an explosion of anime with premium female characters aimed at a male audience. Notable titles in the near future include the otaku statement of intent, Daicon IV (1983); the first OAV, Dallos (1983); the pivotal Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984); Cream Lemon (1984) signifying the profound effect that pornography will have on the depiction of females in mainstream anime; Leda - The Fantastic Adventure of Yohko (1985), which, despites its shortcomings, points the magical girl genre in new directions; Goshogun - Time Stranger (1985) with its new treatment of an old franchise; and Dirty Pair (1985 and more), which will kick off a whole new genre of anime. Of course, there will be much, much more and I expect to be suprised all over again.

I've decided to include the Studio Pierrot magical girl shows as I want to understand where the genre went before Sailor Moon re-wrote the rule book in 1992. They are proving difficult to track down, so, like their ealier Toei analogues, I may be limited to sampling the various series. I had also intended to restrict my viewing to shows with female protagonists. One unexpected discovery is that several of the shows I thought would have female protagonists turn out not to. An example would be Armitage III (1995) where Naomi Armitage is indeed the subject character, but the point of view character is the policeman Ross Sylibus. To me that sort of narrative structure is piss-weak, as if the creators are afraid a female protagonist might alienate the male audience they are chasing. That said, it does highlight the otherness of the beautiful fighting girl. Burst Angel (2004) is basically a harem where a meek male cooks for a bunch of mercenary killers. If I've invested in the shows I'll include them in the survey and express any disappointment within the review.

Female characters in what was, at the time, an increasingly male dominated market domain, are frought with political implications. Frankly, that dynamic is a part, though not the major part, of their appeal. I hope that anyone following this thread will have, by now, some notion of what I appreciate in them. I'll be asking myself a few questions when watching and reviewing titles. Do I empathise with the beautiful fighting girl or is she the strange other? Is she subject? Or object? Is she meant to be treated seriously? Or laughed with? Or laughed at? Do I treat her patronisingly? An astonishing aspect of anime is how often I, a male, am invited to empathise with, or stand in the shoes of, female characters. The archetype is Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaa (and why I consider it such a revolutionary anime), but more on her ambiguities when I review the film some time in the new year. I might add that moeru isn't empathy; it is a patronising response to a character portrayed as weaker than the viewer.


Sailor Moon in Northcote - almost two years after the original photo.
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Psycho 101
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2018 5:11 pm Reply with quote
Interesting and fun read man.
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