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


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Errinundra
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Joined: 14 Jun 2008
Posts: 6545
Location: Melbourne, Oz
PostPosted: Wed Mar 13, 2019 5:48 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girls index
****

Thanks for the pics, Alan45. I've formatted them to match the thread.

alan45 wrote:
I found the Robotech figures in the early to mid 1990s. I got into anime in 1997. In either 1998 or 1999 during Joy and my annual trip to visit her mother on Florida's Gulf coast we found these figures in a small hole in the wall store in an industrial park in Clearwater Florida. This was after I found out what Robotech/SDF Macross were but before I found a copy of either. They had a bunch of different figures from the show. This included several of Lynn Minmay in various costumes and poses and some of the other characters. They were almost $30 each and I had to pick and choose. After I saw some of Macross, I was sorry I didn't pick up Roy Focker. These figures are closer to 1/6 scale, Hikaru is 12 inches and the others are about 11 1/2 inches.

The store was rather disappointing and it turned out to be the outlet for unwanted goods from the online store Anime Nation. What Japanese figures from a mid 1980s show were doing on sale in Florida in the late 1990s I don't know. I later bought from Anime Nation online but only for awhile as they tended to want full MSRP for everything. They have since closed shop but the same people now run One Peace Books.



The Robotech Four.

Quote:
First off is Dana as the box shows. She comes with a small white pocket book. Her uniform is in the unopened pack. It looks as though the cuff of the left leg has discolored the right leg of the uniform. The Toys R Us sales sticker show we paid $2.97 US. I can't find the price on the cloths but I think it was under $2.

The back of the clothing pack is larger so you can read it. We don't have (or I can't find) Ricks Tux, the exercise outfit and the nightgown.


Quote:
Lisa. Her accessories are a set of ear phones with an attached mike and a pad or clip board which is at her feet.


Quote:
Next up is Rick Hunter. He has as extras his helmet and harness. Both are hard to get on and they are at his feet.

These dolls are a bit larger than 1/6 scale. A standard Barbie is at 1/6. Barbie is 11 1/2 inchs and Ken is 12 inches. This translates to 5' 9" for Barbie and 6' for Ken. Rick here is about 13 inches and the girls are about 12 inches so a bit taller than standard fashion dolls.


Quote:
Now for the girl whose name didn't change. Her accessory is a microphone. That was a pain to get her to hold long enough to photograph.



At least Lisa and Lynn pretty much kept their original names.


That 1980s gym outfit!

Quote:
According to the Wikipedia article on Robotech, the failure of the Matchbox line of toys led to the cancellation of the follow up show. I'll buy that, these dolls were still in the clearance bin ten years after they were issued. There was also an extensive line of 4 inch action figures and a line of mecha none of which I have. Interestingly these boxes show that the Robotech name was Trademarked by Revelle a US maker of model kits.



L-R (as I know them): Misa Hayase, Lynn Minmay and Hikaru Ichijyo.


Last edited by Errinundra on Mon Feb 14, 2022 3:36 am; edited 2 times in total
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Alan45
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Joined: 25 Aug 2010
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Location: Virginia
PostPosted: Wed Mar 13, 2019 7:35 am Reply with quote
Just as a matter of clarification, the Japanese market figures from the Anime Nation store mentioned in the first paragraph are those shown at the very bottom of the post.

It occurred to me that fussing about the figures being almost $30 each was a bit funny as a set of three 1/6 figures from Japan today would likely set you $400 and up. The plastic they are made of is harder than today's figures and they are not as detailed.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 24, 2019 2:05 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl #43: Sandy Brown

Noozles
(aka Fushigi na Koala Blinky, ie Blinky the Wonderful Koala)


What happens when you run afoul of the fascist fauna of Koalawallaland. Look closely and you'll find
koalas, kangaroos and joeys, supersized platypodes and parrots, cassowaries... and a kiwi. What the?


Synopsis: Twelve-year-old schoolgirl Sandy Brown comes into possession of a seeming (but seamless) stuffed koala - a legacy from her long missing grandfather. When she noozles (that is, rubs noses with) the koala he reawakens from his sleep of decades whereupon he reveals himself to be from the magical dimension of Koalawallaland. Blinky's reawakening summons his even more magical little sister, Pinky. With Sandy's father constantly overseas on scientific expeditions and her mother working long hours as a television journalist, she finds herself becoming fast friends with Blinky, sharing all manner of capers with him. Pinky, however, just wants to return home with her brother. It turns out that Sandy has closer ties to Koalawallaland than she could have possibly imagined and that the magical realm is a little darker than its cutesy antipodean denizens might suggest.

Production details:
Premiere: 07 July 1984
Director: Taku Sugiyama (a veteran of the early days of both Toei and Mushi he directed Wonder Three, Space Firebird 2772, Alice in Wonderland, Bosco Daiboken and Satsujin Kippu wa Heart-iro among others)
Studio: Nippon Animation
Source material: original work, although it has some nods towards Dorothy Wall's Blinky Bill character.
Character Design: Isamu Kumada
Layout Supervisor: Yasuji Mori, a veteran from Nichido Eigasha (the precursor to Toei) and mentor to Isao Takahato, who descibed his influence on anime as "incalculable".
Note 1: Noboru Ishiguro (director: Space Battleship Yamato, Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Megazone 23 and Legend of the Galactic Heroes, among other things) was a storyboarder for four episdes and episode director for three.
Note 2: Key staff, including Taku Sugiyama, Isama Kumada, Yasugi Mori along with Akiko Koyama (colour) and others worked on both Alice in Wonderland and Fushigi na Koala Blinky.
Note 3: Two versions of the series can be found on YouTube: a poor quality, low resolution transfer of the Saban Entertainment localised English language version and 19 episodes of somewhat better quality Arabic version. Needless to say I watched the English dub, however the pictures are from the Arabic dub.


Clockwise from top left: Dorothy Wall's Blinky Bill, Blinky, the High Dingy Doo, Pinky.

Comments: Some twelve years after Chinese panda diplomacy and the subsequent pandamonium in Japan gave us Isao Takahata's Panda! Go Panda! and its sequel Panda! Go Panda! Rainy Day Circus (reviewed here), a gift of six koalas from the Australian government inspired a similar outbreak of enthusiasm. By 1990 there were around 100 koalas in zoos around Japan. The number has been in decline since due to the expense of maintaining them and their disinclination to breed. (Perhaps familiarity breeds contempt, but I think pandas are much cuter; koalas spend all their time sleeping.) To cash in on the craze Nippon Animation and Fuji TV produced this series while rivals TV Tokyo and Tohokushinsha Film came up with Adventures of the Little Koala a few months later. Noozles is on the fringe of the Beautiful Fighting Girl survey so I would have passed over it but for its Australian theme. And, despite the Japanese title, the protagonist is a capable, autonomous girl.

Saban Entertainment provided an English dub of Noozles for Nickelodeon where it was run on heavy rotation from 1988 to 1993. To put that in perspective it predates the American screening of either Akira or Ghost in the Shell, or the TV broadcasts of either Dragon Ball or Sailor Moon. Noozles would have been the first exposure to anime for many people. Not that they would have have known it. The Saban intro credits have no mention of its Japanese creators, while the only end credit is the very last, "Original animation by Fuji Eight Co, Ltd," which sounds very much to me like the production committee. The names, taken from the original Japanese broadcast (with the one exception being "Pinky" understandably replacing "Printy") are all English, while the frequent use of diminutive forms of names is very Australian. The cultural milieu is a mixture of American and Australian tropes. Sandy's home is somewhere in middle America or middle Australia or middle-class Britain. The prosaic backgrounds of spreading parkland, bungalow houses and busy downtown could be in any affluent western country. The character designs, with their beady eyes and spindly limbs, don't fit anime norms of the mid-eighties. And then there's the koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, parrots, platypodes, ostriches (apparently, according to the dub - they look more like cassowaries to me) and, in what is either a clever joke or supreme geographic incompetence, kiwis. The only moments that might give away the Japanese origins are the very occasional aghast expressions where the mouth forms in the general shape of the infinity symbol - something ubiquitous in the 80s but rare now - and, meals laid out as a banquet. Deep fried battered prawns are featured from time to time and, although not a common choice for home-cooking in Australia, may be an allusion to the contemporaneous and highly successful "Shrimp on the barbie" ads.


Clockwise from top left:
the central trio: Pinky can levitate and fly at will;
dancing atop Uluru;
Sandy reacts to Pinky mischief; and
Osgood the frilled-necked lizard in a near miss with Sandy's mother's Porsche.


Key locales are Sandy's house, the eucalyptus tree outside her bedroom window and Uluru, with its portal to the extra-dimensional Koalawallaland. I'd like to mention a favourite Bill Bryson quote,

Quote:
...I'm suggesting nothing here, but I will say that if you were an intergalactic traveler who had broken down in our solar system, the obvious directions to rescuers would be: "Go to the third planet and fly around till you see the big red rock. You can't miss it." If ever on earth they dig up a 150,000-year-old rocket ship from the galaxy Zog, this is where it will be. I'm not saying I expect it to happen; not saying that at all. I'm just observing that if I were looking for an ancient starship this is where I would start digging.


Noozles is predicated on this kind of fantasy. Uluru is an overlapping of two different worlds. A hidden fold in the rock leads to a cave containing a portal to Koalawallaland. (Pinky's magic can circumvent the necessity of going to central Australia - she simply draws a virtual circle in the air with her lipstick from her compact and bingo! Koalawallaland beckons. I suppose you could say Noozles is a magical girl show where the magical girl is a companion character. Majokko Tickle, an accepted member of the genre, uses the same principle.) In keeping with the comic tone of the series the world on the other side of the portal is, at first blush, a jolly place, composed of small islands of earth floating in the air. One simply flaps one's arms and legs to move from one island to another. The inhabitants - all supersized Australian native wildlife, except for those pesky Kiwis - seem, for the most part, to be living a carefree and relaxed existence. Perhaps this reflects Japanese perceptions of the Australian psyche. The only gainful employment activity appears to be the flying police force who outnumber the rest of the apparent population and whose sole pre-occupation is to protect the realm from the rarely appearing trouble-making humans. Once found, humans are disposed of by marooning them on a crystal floating island that acts as a sort of soul jar where the victims are entrapped for eternity. Sandy's long-lost grandfather has met this very fate. About six widely-spaced episodes make up the Koallaland arc, climaxing in a discovery that the two realms are drifting apart. Sandy learns that, should the Uluru connection break, then both dimensions will self-destruct. These darker developments are peculiar given the otherwise episodic and jolly tone of the series. That said, militarised police have rarely been so cute.

In another way, the dissonance makes some sense. Made by much the same crew who gave us Alice in Wonderland, it shares the same penchant, though not as pronounced, for absurdity, sudden non-sequitur twists in the narrative, a vaguely threatening other world and strange characters whom the viewer can't ever be sure are villains or allies. Sandy is Alice; Koalawalland is Wonderland, Blinky is Benny Bunny, the High Dingy Doo is the hookah smoking caterpillar and Pinky is an innovation. Sandy is a nice, well-meaning non-entity. I guess she's supposed to be a sort of "every girl", but she is a cipher. In her favour she isn't ever portrayed as foolish or clumsy or incompetent. Like her mother, she'll probably grow to have a successful career and marriage (although the family as displayed doesn't spend much time together). Ever cheerful Blinky's bemused response to human behaviour allied with his sometimes misdirected idealism complement his natural koala charm. More amusing is his impish, provocative sister Pinky, who is the narrative impulse for several episodes thanks to her indignant, impudent and rash behaviour. All is forgiven because, underneath it all, she has a heart of gold. Maybe, after all, Pinky is the Queen of Hearts. There's a couple of villains who want to kidnap Blinky, one of whom does such a good impersonation of Bullwinkle that I wouldn't be surprised if Bill Scott played the role using a pseudonym. An anticipated event each episode is the reliable lunatic appearance of a frilled-necked lizard for a few moments. They get the leg movements pretty right. On a more sober note Sandy's clueless mother and mostly absent father are more than compensated by her midly unconventional grandmother who is the only adult who gets what's really going on until the penultimate episode.


Sandy is nobody's fool.

Rating: so-so. Noozles is a mildly diverting show that relies on a prevailing fad for much of its appeal. In its favour, at two episodes a day, it wasn't a chore to watch and the Australian references amused this viewer.

Resources:
ANN
The font of all knowledge
The Anime Encyclopaedia, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle
the japan times
Down Under, Bill Bryson, Random House


Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 4:24 am; edited 6 times in total
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2019 4:41 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl #44: Ami Nonomura et al


You'll have to take my word that this is Ami. To tell the truth, I'm no longer sure who it is. Or what it is.

Cream Lemon

Synopsis: Ami is in love with her older brother. When their mother catches them making love, he is sent overseas. Thereafter Ami seeks consolation in the caresses of a gigolo... Rie enrolls in a strict Catholic girl's boarding school where she catches the eye of Naomi, a popular senior student. Naomi leads the initially reluctant Rie in an ever escalating series of lesbian encounters... Magical girl Caron must overcome her own incompetence to rescue Julia, a village princess, from sexual enslavement to a proto-tentacled demon... Mako is torn between her libidinous inclinations and her modesty. She isn't helped by the appearance of two other selves who push her in both directions. These four arcs along with six stand alone episodes make up the original production of Cream Lemon.

Production details: (As many of the staff used pseudonyms, I'll keep this section basic in this instance.)
Premiere: 11 August 1984
Director: various
Studio: APPP (mostly a sub-contractor these days, but notable for Project A-ko, which was originally intended as part of Cream Lemon, Robot Carnival, Roujin Z and JoJo's Bizarre Adventure) and Fairy Dust.
Source material: original work for the most part.


A saloon bar proprietor sings the praises of the sailor suit. Oddly enough, most of his clientele are schoolgirls.
Justin Sevakis's article on school uniforms comes at a timely moment for this project.
(POP♥CHASER)


Comments: In my willingness to watch pretty much anthying for the sake of the grand survey it was only a matter of time before I introduced pornography for your delectation. Not familiar with the genre within anime I had expected that Cream Lemon would take advantage of the possibilities opened up by the arrival of the OAV to push anime in new directions. That's true to an extent, but, outside the emphatic sexualisation of young girls, there isn't much on show that's new. Many of the episodes rely on tropes already established in mainstream anime. That said, pornography, not science fiction as is commonly held, was the first genre to exploit the new medium of the animated OAV. This enabled the producers to avoid the costs and legal concerns of live action production. Cream Lemon wasn't, in actual fact, the first porno anime, being preceded by Lolita Anime from production company Wonder Kids by some six months. Somehow, I couldn't come at having something called Lolita adhering to my hard drive. What's more, where much of the content of Cream Lemon is of questionable merit from a political or a moral point of view, some of the stuff in Lolita Anime sounds positively nasty. Anime such as these were indicative of the changes happening in anime production. Earlier anime such as Cleopatra, Belladonna of Sadness, Cutie Honey and even Magical Angel Creamy Mami had highly sexualised protagonists, but they were, it seems to me, exceptions rather than the rule. In the wake of Cream Lemon we will get in short order Leda - The Fantastic Adventure of Yohko, Dream Hunter Rem, Dirty Pair and Fight! Iczer-One where the sexualised female body becomes normalised in anime.

All of the episodes feature underage girls, or girls that look underage in those episodes outside of school settings. (That is, until they are undressed where, other than their lack of pubic hair, they have fully developed bodies). Most scenarios involve the girls' first sexual encounters (mostly with other girls), where their responses range from willing to reluctant to outright opposed. As a viewer I'm faced with two moral issues: paedophilia and rape (not to mention incest). Now, I get that no real underage girls were harmed in the making of Cream Lemon (as far as I know), but that doesn't absolve me, the viewer, from weighing in my mind the implications of what I'm viewing. This is complicated by how the narratives are structured and by my own viewing predilictions. On the first matter, the notable thing is that, following the tradition of magical girl anime (and other anime besides), the protagonists of every episode bar one (Black Cat Manor) is a girl who is both appealing in her design and sympathetic in her character. This encourages the viewer to root for her (so to speak). Given that the girls will suffer through their ordeals, they will engender considerable sympathy, so characters such as Ami, Mai, both Makos, Yuki, Narisu and Caron warrant the label moe, even if the term wasn't in use in 1984. (I regret not covering Urusei Yatsura in the survery - Lum is often cited as the first moe character.) Add to that my habit of identifying with characters against my own gender, then the sexual assaults and paedophilia come across as violations, rather than gratification. That's only a marginal improvement - I'm still watching the anime for entertainment - but it does leaven my culpability somewhat. The notion of violation of cute, underage, female characters got me thinking about Puella Magi Madoka Magica where the trope is elevated to its exquisitely painful emotional and logical zenith, albeit with the sexual elements downplayed somewhat.


Sex can be liberating and rewarding for some of the characters.
Top left: a beckoning Mai will give bounty hunter Rio the night of her life. (POP♥CHASER)
Top right: Yuki focuses her newly awakened libido upon her favourite classmate. (Happening Summer)
Bottom left: Mako's orgasm unleashes a magical force that will overcome the school's sex vigilantes. (Super Virgin)
Bottom right: the POP♥CHASER episode approaches a climax - Mai and the mecha she's in will detonate simultaneously.


Running counter to the seeming sympathetic portrayal of the female protagtonists and tied in with the rape scenarios, is the depiction of female pleasure. Some girls, like Mai (POP♥CHASER) and the Dirty Pair inspired astronauts (Star Trap), are willing and enthusiastic participants, but many are, in effect, initially assaulted - most often by other girls. Never mind, in a moment or two they will be overcome with waves of pleasure. The implications being that a) the initial assault is justified by the outcome; b) that women's carnal nature is beyond their control; or c) at someone else's whim; and d) that, despite their negativity they "really want it". Odious by today's standards, and transgressive perhaps (taboos are created in order to be breached), yet for most of the girls the arcs or episodes end on a positive erotic or romantic note. The big exception is Ami, who is left in an enormous emotional hole, though she will get her own sequels to sort things out. Oh, and in a gag finish, Rio loses Mai to the mecha pilot come child abductor depicted in the image just above. Shame about that.

Certainly, my favourite moments were gag scenes, even if they were sophomoric. Sadly I can't include screenshots here but the pickled cucumber scene in Star Trap is hilarious and one of the few times the series steps outside its otherwise mostly formulaic depictions of sex. (It wouldn't suprise me if some sequences were re-used across multiple episodes, even with different characters.) The setups to the sex scenes vary considerably, but once the clothes come off, things follow a predictable pattern. In 100 Anime Philip Brody describes them as banal. Best orgasm is Mai's as her mecha explodes. It's obvious what's coming, but that simply adds to the anticipation. I found the more transgressive bondage scenes in some episodes unpleasant, but you may see them otherwise. Other highlights include the use of classical music in the Escalation episodes that greatly adds to the atmosphere, the creepiness of Black Cat Manor, including the sex scenes, and the aforementioned unexpected upbeat resolutions to some of the scenarios, eg Super Virgin and Summer Happening.


Fighting girls make frequent appearances.
Top left: more POP♥CHASER. Rio (Black Lagoon's Revy, anybody?) is out to save Mai. She's in for a huge letdown.
Top right: magical girl Caron prefigures Leda - the Fantastic Adventure of Yohko by some four months. (Superdimension SF Legend Rall)
Middle: these two (channelling both Star Trek and Dirty Pair) provide the best laugh of the series when their shared pickled cucumber snaps in half. (Star Trap)
Bottom left: I suppose a lesbian nazi was likely at some point. (Narisu Scramble)
Bottom right: the eponymous Narisu. (Narisu Scramble)


While I don't rate the series highly overall, the production values are quite good - startling when you compare it with live-action internet porn. Cream Lemon also compares well with its TV contemporaries and is superior to the recently viewed Noozles. The animation in POP♥CHASER is the crème de la crème of the series - a glance at ANN's encyclopaedia reveals the involvement of such luminaries as Hideaki Anno, Mahira Maeda and Yuji Moriyama. (And, if you haven't guessed already, it's my favourite episode.) Even more of a stand out are the character designs, at once cute, effective and subtly nuanced. The images of Caron and Julia below are simply gorgeous while the Mako expression (also below) beautifully captures her simultaneous innocence and anxiety. To cap things off that "come hither" look from Mai above is so irresistable it's dangerously evil. The character designers deserve much of the credit for those areas where the franchise excels.

Cream Lemon reveals a debt to several other anime, especially in the comedy episodes, with obvious references to Leiji Matsumoto's Wild West scenarios, magical girl shows including Magical Angel Creamy Mami, the Superdimension Fortress franchise, Star Trek and Dirty Pair (there's no condradiction here - Cream Lemon was released over a 2½ year period, so the episode in question came after the premiere of Dirty Pair.) I wouldn't call them parody; they're more a case of sharing something familiar with an in-crowd. Some prescient moments are the character designs of Superdimension SF Legend Rall that are so redolent of Leda - the Fantastic Adventure of Yohko that I wonder if one or other of Kei Kazuna or Waho Konoma isn't a pseudonym for Matsumi Inomata. The demon who appears in that same episode has a long, sinuous penis that can erupt from any part of his body, thereby presaging the arrival of tentacle rape in anime. (According to the font of all knowledge the earliest anime example of tentacle rape can be found in the original hentai version of Dream Hunter Rem, some ten months later.)


Sex brings with it tribulations.
Top left: Music is both consolation and the catalyst for Rie's disquieting sexual encounters. (Escalation)
Top right: Ami caught in flagrante delicto with her brother. (Ami)
Bottom left: Mako frets over her competing promiscuity and modesty, embodied by two other selves. (Don't Do It, Mako! Mako Sexy Symphony)
Bottom right: Julia (channelling Magical Angel Creamy Mami) is haunted by nightmares of demonic bondage. (Superdimension SF Legend Rall)


Rating: not real good, maybe heading toward so-so. On the upside it has higher than expected production values with effective character designs and animation, a couple of fun gag episodes, and frequently demonstrates a positive approach to sex. On the downside the sex scenes are repetitive and after some initial surprises mostly unadventurous, the sexual politics backward and the depiction of underage girls questionable. Watching it was something of a chore - I started it June last year and dropped it around the halfway through. I picked it up again - returning to the start - for this review. I'm now at liberty to purge my hard drive.

Resources:
ANN (recommended reading, Justin Sevakis's Answerman article mentioned above)
The font of all knowledge
Anime: A History, Jonathon Clements, Palgrave MacMillan via Kindle
The Anime Encyclopaedia, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle
100 Anime, Philip Brophy, British Film Institute Publishing
Beautiful Fighting Girl, Tamaki Saito, trans J Keith Vincent and Dawn Lawson, University of Minnesota Press
Erotism, Georges Batailles, trans Mary Dalwood, City Lights


Caron the natural born girl bathing in the woods. That someone is watching isn't unwelcome for her.
(Superdimension SF Legend Rall)


The final words:

Jonathon Clements wrote:
Okada Toshio** comments (2010: 190– 1) that, while he regards the objectification of girls and young women in anime as benign, it places anime fans on a continuum that is inextricably connected to the activities of murderers and molesters. This was brought home by the arrest in 1989 of Miyazaki Tsutomu, a paedophile serial killer whose home was found to contain many works of violent pornography, including anime, and igniting a round of discussions of media uses and effects. The Miyazaki murders, or the Otaku Incident (Otaku Jiken) as the press unfortunately dubbed it, was one of two significant media ‘events’ that damned anime by association – the other being the 1995 Aum Shinrikyō gas attacks (Nagayama 2012: 246– 7).

‘Neither I, personally, nor my company has that element’, notes Okada (2010: 191), ‘but if we were to gather 10,000 anime fans or otaku, we would find five such people.’ His phrasing is oddly similar to that of a reporter who noted that Miyazaki Tsutomu himself had been one of the 100,000 attendees at the manga convention Comiket (Nagayama 2012: 247) – both inadvertently imply that anime or manga fandom somehow nurtures such a sociopathic mindset, in a way that other arbitrary groups, such as ‘people who ride on the train’ or ‘people who wear glasses’ do not. It is, Okada concedes, a lunatic fringe, but just as the identification of fandom has created a discourse for appreciation of anime, it may also facilitate a discourse of deviance.


- Clements, Jonathan. Anime: A History (Kindle Locations 5836-5847). Palgrave Macmillan. Kindle Edition.

**Toshio Okada co-founded Gainax Studio.


Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 4:24 am; edited 6 times in total
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HyugaHinata



Joined: 25 Jun 2005
Posts: 3505
PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2019 9:21 am Reply with quote
Thanks for putting so much effort into your Cream Lemon essay. I translated about 12 episodes, so I'm glad people are watching it. And investing time to write so much on them. Smile
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Errinundra
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Posts: 6545
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2019 10:03 pm Reply with quote
And thank you for the encouragement.

I actually watched it raw, which was mostly okay as, after all, its visuals are its reason for existence.

You may be able to answer a question for me. Episode 11, Black Cat Manor, ended with the main character shocked by something he reads in a newspaper:



What does it say? (The big headline, that is.) Thanks.
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HyugaHinata



Joined: 25 Jun 2005
Posts: 3505
PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2019 2:25 am Reply with quote
It says "Yamaoka West Hall burns down. Residents still missing."
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2019 6:23 pm Reply with quote
Thanks. That supports my interpretation that spoiler[the women the protagonist meets are ghosts].
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HyugaHinata



Joined: 25 Jun 2005
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 08, 2019 1:55 am Reply with quote
A more common trope is that spoiler[if they can't find the bodies, the supposed "dead" actually escaped.]
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 13, 2019 9:19 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl #45: Nora Scholar



Nora
Twinkle Nora Rock Me


Synopsis:
Nora: The eponymous heroine takes a break at Holiday Inn - a gigantic orbiting space station where every conceivable leisure activity can be indulged - just as a rogue AI named Artifiend takes control of its operations. Not satisfied with making every vacationer's stay miserable, the AI mischief becomes steadily more ominous, culminating in its commandeering of earth's nuclear arsenals. Nora, with the assistance of Doctor Zakariasen, a holidaying scientist, and Professor Doherty, a drunken Irish computer programmer, sets out to locate the AI then neutralise it. Turns out the petulant AI is simply lonely, so who better than the effervescent Nora to convince it that she can be its friend.

Twinkle Nora Rock Me: A hostage crisis at a spaceport leads Nora to an anarchic planet and the lair of a villain with psycho-kinetic powers. Not only does Nora prove that she is more than a match for him, she also has the moves to get just about anyone up and dancing.

Production details:
Premiere: 21 January 1985 (Nora) and 21 November 1985 (Twinkle Nora Rock Me)
Diector: Satomi Mikuriya, Kazuhito Kikuchi and Reiko Nakata
Studio: Filmlink International
Source material: developed from Satomi Mikuriya's series of manga based around the character of Nora - from Nora's Ark (1977) to Twinkle Nora (1984).
Storyboard: Satomi Mikuriya
Character Design: Satomi Mikuriya (do you see a pattern here?)
Mecha design: Satomi Mikuriya
Animation Director: Masami Suda and Satomi Mikuriya
Computer graphics: Osaka University (Faculty of Engineering CG Group) and Toyo Links Corps.
CGI Director: Takashi Fukumoto
Art Director: Hidetoshi Kaneko and Tadami Shimokawa
Animation Director: Masami Suda and Satomi Mikuriya


Nora's design is easily the best thing about the anime, which isn't saying much.

Comments: Nora is an anime that I would have dismissed as a negligible indulgence had I not discovered, via this chronological survey, its significance in the history of the beautiful fighting girl. Placed it in its proper context, Nora can be seen as the vanguard of a long and storied line of fighting female protagonists gracing the spotlight of an OAV franchise. For sure, Cream Lemon had female protagonists - and some who fought - but the anthology structure meant that the individual characters had to share the spotlight and, more telllingly, were subsidiary to the pornographic content, which, in turn, would have restricted it to a fringe audience. So, finally, in Nora we have arrived at one of anime's most characteristic formulae - the upbeat, sexy, fighting, female protagonist with a comic edge. Don't misunderstand me: all the elements have appeared previously in anime; it's just that they are now presented together for the first time in an OAV. A leak has appeared in the dyke; the flood is nigh. Pity the anime has so little merit otherwise. Nora pretty much deserves its near forgotten status (ANN records only 14 viewers; the English language Wikipedia has no entry for either the OAV or Satomi Mikuriya).

If Nora is remembered at all, it's for the second rate animation that makes a mockery of whatever merits the two instalments may otherwise have had. The first film opens with flashing mono-coloured screens out of sync with the accompanying music, then segues into an uninspired minimally animated sequence of disco dancing, arcade game players and a contrasting war ravaged landscape. That last bit lacked any connection with the revellers, not helped by the (unsurprising) lack of a fansub. This is followed by fifty seconds of full-on 3D computer generated animation leading to the title screen, which, while not the first I've encountered in the survey, is the most obvious so far. Presumably that was all the budget allowed for, as the rest of the film retreats into its indifferent level of animation. I'd put it on par with, say, the low budget TV animation of 1970s Toei (Mako the Mermaid, Mazinger Z) or Mushi (Nozomi in the Sun, Marvellous Melmo). Given the money that would soon be splurged on OAVs, perhaps my expectations are too high. Things get even worse in the thankfully much shorter second film (which, at thirty minutes, is only half the length of the first). Twinkle Nora has minimal animation, minimal plot and minimal merit. People hold conversations over long stills and motion is often a repeated cycle of three or four cels, something that brings to mind Osamu Tezuka but without his flair. An early action sequence in an airport involving a hostage and their rescue is as badly animated as anything you may have ever seen in anime. It can't possibly have been shot in twos or threes. Each frame is held so long the entire scene has a jittery, almost strobe-like feel to it, or as if the air is somehow viscous. That and the prosaic direction kill any dynamism or tension that either episode ought to have had. Given that the original mangaka Satomi Mikuriya had so much creative input to the films, I'm left wondering if they were handicapped by the miserable resources available, or if they were simply incompetent. If it were me I'd be heartbroken.


Grotesqueries are the order of the day.

Other factors exacerbate the languorous feel. Most obvious, after the animation shortcuts, is the genial tone, as exemplified by Nora herself, though in different ways in each episode. In the first film, Nora is simple, cheery, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed even to the extent of seeming ditzy, for example in the chaos she creates with popcorn in a weightless flight to the space station. Her most characteristic expression is comical surprise (see image with Doctor Zakariasen above). Though I'm not fully convinced, Nora provides the occasional hint that the dumb blonde persona is a front - in moments of crisis she displays a cool head and moves acrobatically. Indeed, her physicality and mobility are at odds with the prevailing narrative and tonal sluggishness. Importantly, she has a wholesomeness and innocence (feigned or otherwise) that makes her irresistibly likeable to everyone she meets, from drunken Irishmen to rogue computers. She's a positive life force who confronts chaos and returns order with little more than a carefree laugh. This cheerfulness infects the film: no threat is serious enough to upend the expectation of a happy ending. Her charisma, her postivity is accentuated by her action girl looks, which are acutely contrasted against her middle-aged male companions and the grotesque designs of the other characters, who range from obese, to deformed to bizarrely tattooed. In the second film the fleshy lips of the men are as threatening as their barrel chests. Nora also changes: she is smarter, even smart-arsed occasionally, more violent and now invested with psychic powers hitherto not even hinted at. Her life force has become dangerous. Her smile, as weapon of choice, has been replaced by a gun and psychic annihilation. Now her potency kills the tension... along with the dismal animation. I wonder if the short second film was an afterthought in much the same way that many TV series, even to this day, have a needless OAV episode or two to earn extra revenue. The best thing about it is the mid-episode insert song that, not uncommonly for the time, brazenly plagiarises a Western pop tune - in this instance Van Halen's Jump, which was a worldwide hit twelve months earlier. I'm no Van Halen fan, but the rip-off mostly captures the swaggering headlong tempo of the original.

Rating: Nora = so-so; Twinkle Nora Rock Me = bad; overall = not really good. An appealing, attractive protagonist and a good-humoured tone cannot overcome the poor, and at times dreadful, artwork and animation or the inert narrative.

Resources:
ANN
The Land of Obscusion blog: Nora: Bubbly, Charming, Reckless, That Girl!
Japanese language Wikipedia Google translated
The Anime Encyclopaedia, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle


Nausicaä might have her mehve, but Nora can do it hands free.


Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 4:26 am; edited 4 times in total
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 14, 2019 5:19 am Reply with quote
Watching these shows in chronological order dishes up some fun connections between them. I've just started Magical Star Magical Emi for an upcoming review (though 2 OAVs will be covered first). The protagonist is a member of a performing magician family and in the very first episode Mai and Rio from the POP♥CHASER episode of Cream Lemon appear in the audience of one of their shows.



The colours of Mai's neckerchief have been reversed, as have the colours of Rio's shirt and vest.

Perhaps the inspiration for their appearance is Mai sharing her name with the protagonist of Magical Star Magical Emi in her non-magical school girl form.
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Beltane70



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PostPosted: Sun Apr 14, 2019 10:21 am Reply with quote
The girl behind them looks like she might be Lum without horns and her signature green hair, although I could be stretching it a bit.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 21, 2019 4:37 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl #46: Yohko Asagiri

Leda - The Fantastic Adventure of Yohko


The survey's emblematic image of the phallic girl.

Synopsis: Yohko Asagiri's unrequited yearning for an unnamed boy inspires her to compose a piano piece that so faithfully and powerfully expresses how she feels that it awakens a magical force within her and connects her to another world - Ashanti - where she soon finds herself transported. Ashanti, once ruled benignly by the now absent goddess Leda, is decaying. Its psychic ruler, Zell, seeks a way to escape to more favourable circumstances by subjugating Earth. He learns that Yohko, along with her portable cassette player with its recording of her music, is the key he needs to open the portal between the two worlds. That key, however, is going through fantastic transformations of its own: Yohko, with her "Leda" power now in full bloom, joins forces with a talking dog and giant-robot piloting girl and sets out to deny Zell, return home and confess her love. To succeed Leda must understand the nature of what has awakened within her and learn to distinguish between truth and falsehood.

Production details:
Premiere: 01 March1985
Director: Kunihiko Yuyama (Josephina the Whale, GoShogun, Fairy Princess Minky Momo, GoShogun: The Time Étranger, Windaria - aka Once Upon a Time, Ushio and Tora and Wedding Peach on the way to conquering the world with Pokemon).
Character design and Chief Animator: Mitsumi Inomata (Acrobunch - The Quest for Treasure, Windaria, Utsunomiko, Future GPX Cyber Formula, The Weathering Continent, Brain Powered, Tales of Eternia, the uniforms in My-HiME, Sacred Seven, Tales of Zestiria).
Studio: Kaname Production and Toho.
Source material: original work; a novelisation was published in May 1985. ANN credits Kaname Kikaku, which means "Kaname plan" or "Kaname project", where Kaname is the Production company.
Script: Junki Takegami and Kunihiko Yuyama
Music: Shiro Sagisu (Megazone 23, Ai City, Kimagure Orange Road, Nadia - the Secret of Blue Water, Ushio & Tora, Neon Genesis Evangelion and its spinoffs, His and Her Circumstances, Bleach, Berserk: The Golden Age movies and subsequent TV series.)
Art Director: Tadami Shimokawa
Animation Director: Mutsumi Inomata
Mechanical design: Takahiro Toyomasu
Background Art: Tadami Shimokawa


Left: 1st century Roman oil lamp.
Right background: Leda and the Swan by François Boucher, 1740.


Comments: Once again this chronological survey has drawn my attention to the otherwise overlooked pivotal status of a particular anime in the development of the beautiful fighting girl. Where Fairy Princess Minky Momo introduced to the magical girl genre an elaborate transformation sequence, and Cutie Honey and others presented the transformed protagonist in a sexualised form, Leda - the Fanstastic Adventure of Yohko goes a couple of steps further by presenting, in a fantasy adventure, the most interesting thematic discourse in the genre since Princess Knight, and an appearance that exceeds anything before it, including the standard bearer to that point, Studio Pierrot's Magical Angel Creamy Mami

Leda has three key sequences that reveal that the fantasy plot is merely a gloss layered upon the real narrative of Yohko's journey to understanding and acknowledging her most powerful emotional impulses. The first is the opening sequence where Yohko is recording a piano piece she has composed, then playing it on her Walkman as motivation as she sets out to confess her love to a boy whose name and face are never unambiguously revealed. (A clever ploy by Yuyama that places the focus on Yohko's feelings, not the relationship.) The music is quite unlike the usual fare in anime, so full marks to Kunihiko Yuyama and Shiro Sagisu for dishing it up. Combining a yearning lilt with a powerful crescendo, which we hear as she fails in her resolve, it expresses Yohko's inner self and feelings that she neither understands nor is able to act upon. As Helen McCarthy puts its, "The intense longing of young love wouldn't be conveyed so successfully in anime for another two decades, until the emergence of Makoto Shinkai." Importantly, for Yohko, the yeaning is creative - not only in the piece she has composed, but also in how it enables the magical potential within her that is detected by the psychic Zell and leads to her summoning to Ashanti. That power will also lead to his undoing, but more on that shortly.


Yohko Amazona.

Next is the gorgeous transformation sequence, as shown in the screenshots above. You can see what is easily the best transformation in anime to this point in the chronology here (unfortunately at low resolution and slightly stretched horizontally). Toei's Secret Akko-chan made the concept central to the protagonist's identity way back in 1969, albeit involving little more than a momentary flicker in her hand mirror. (Akko-chan's discovery of her ability is shown here, following some instances from the earlier Sally the Witch, where the occasional change in appearance is peripheral to the magic that is being thrown about profligately. You can also see two other subsequent Toei magical girls in the clip.) The same studio's Cutie Honey gave us the ritual undressing (well, more accurately, clothes shredding) of the protagonist in what was still a brief affair (examples here). Despite the elaborate outcomes and the implied (or explicit) romantic and sexual potential of the transformed protagonist, Toei never explored the possibilities within the transformation process itself. It wasn't until Ashi Production that we get the first fully realised transformation of the type we recognise today (example here) in Fairy Princess Minky Momo. It should come as no surprise then that the same director, Kunihiko Yuyama, helmed Leda. After Pokemon, it's arguably his great contribution to the art form we all love. Crucially, in this instance, Yuyama is doing somewhat more than giving us a set of pretty, or sexy, images. What we get is the visual expression of Yohko's, hitherto latent, sexual nature. In a corny but effective sequence she is swallowed by an enormous, obviously fecund, flower, then revealed as a sex goddess. Visually, the only changes are her outfit and a slight relocation of her pony-tail. More importanty, her attitude has changed - from anxiously yearning to bemusedly self-confident - although she is yet to understand the meaning or import of what's going on. Importantly also, thanks to the earlier scene, the focus is on Yohko's perception of her self. What we have here is sexuality as a theme, not merely as decoration (which it is, as well). This elevates it above Go Nagai's inanities in Cutie Honey and, thanks to the medium of the OAV, allows Yuyuma to push things beyond the imposed limitations of Leda's TV contemporaries.

The third, and critical scene, involves the villain Zell, whose psychic powers have brought Yohko to Ashanti and where, by this stage, he has succeeded in ensnaring her. Using his powers, he enters Yohko's subconcious mind and attempts to get her to fall in love with him by inserting himself as the identity of her hitherto obscured object of desire.** If successful he can use her "Leda" powers to transport himself to Noa, as our world is called. The contest between Zell and Yohko comes down to his beguiling, but false, offer of love and her clinging to the most honest thing she has ever expressed - the piece of music she wrote. Her triumph proves that not only has she sexually matured - that happened in the transformation sequence, if not before - but she now grasps the power of her feelings and assimilates them into her identity. She has become self-aware. To quote Helen McCarthy again, "Leda is a deep, dark parable of first love and sexual awakening whose disguise as a fantasy adventure is so successful that you might not notice its hidden depths." Tellingly, in Beautiful Fighting Girl Tamaki Saito is dismissive of Leda, describing its importance to his subject as "minor", despite acknowledging it as "a hit work that sustained the OVA genre early on" and describing it as a forerunner to such works as Sailor Moon, Fushigi Yugi and The Vision of Escaflowne. (Isekai here we come!) I shouldn't be surprised: psycho-analyst Saito is really only interested in male otaku sexuality. Yuyama's exploration of female sexuality (albeit from a male point of view, though sympathetic), via the possibilities inherent in the magical girl formula, isn't relevant to Saito's pre-occupation. I consider it to be canonical.


Top: Yoni, the "Tin Man" giant robot pilot (left); compare with Caron from Cream Lemon (right).
Bottom: Yohko and Lingam (yes, that's his name).
Lingam (left): This "high school student" thing must be very impressive.
Yohko (right): It's like I'm full of power.


As is common in anime, symbolism, metaphors, references and archetypes are thrown about with wild abandon, which is fitting, in a way, given Yohko's path toward Jungian "individuation". Some are hit and miss, most are amusing. The flower that engulfs Yohko is the most obvious: the beckoning bed of colour in a lush botanic setting is redolant of female fecundity and heightened sensual perception. Oddly, when she emerges from the flower, and the camera lovingly scans up her exposed body (see stitched image above), the viewer will note that her "phallus" at her hip is dormant. Within seconds it will be fullly extended. The exhibitionist phallic girl, where the male viewer finds the image of his own adolescent self, may seem at odds with Yuyama's main theme, but the wielder of the phallus can be considered as the person who asserts their power, regardless of gender. Yohko's denial of Zell's enticements is the outcome of that assertion. The obvious foil to the phallic girl is the effeminate male. Zell and his off-sider provide two examples: the former is glamorous with his fine features, long hair, make-up, lipstick and flowing Mughal garments; the latter a parody of a middle-aged rich housewife in similarly Mughal-inspired attire. Yohko will dream of sex with Zell as father figure then slay him as mother figure, making her Electra to his Clytemnestra, which brings us to the Greek myth mentioned in my text box. (Electra is the female analogue of Oedipus.) The depiction of Zell's love as a dark and threatening manta flying about his bed may be random but it beautifully contrasts with Yohko's bed of flowers. All complicated and perhaps contradictory at times, but enormous fun. The Mughal outfits worn by Zell and his offsider are just part of multiple references to Indian history and mythology. Ashanti is Sanskrit for "absence of peace of mind; restlessness; distraction", while the talking and floating dog's name of Lingam has its origins in the phallic representation of the god Shiva. In a clear castration reference Lingam pleads with a robot not to cut off his tail, "a dog's pride and joy". Yoni, the name of the impish priestess and pilot of the Tin Man robot (think Wizard of Oz), is the vulva, referencing the goddess Shakti. Both lingam and yoni invoke creative energy. In an inversion of gender roles, Zell's Death Star inspired lair is a giant egg that will be penetrated by the phallic girl. I'm not sure, however, about either Zell or Noa. Both may be Hebrew, with Zell meaning wise and peaceful (which, if correct, would be intentionally ironic), while the latter may refer to Noah's ark, which makes sense within the context of the narrative.

With her character designs Mitsumi Inomata, at times beautifully and at others comically and yet others with a sinister edge, complements Yuyama's script and direction. Sure, Yohko is very much a product of the 1980s (and a good one at that) but she's attractive to the eye while simultaneously expressive emotionally and with a functional design in action sequences. As both character designer and chief animator Inomata brings a female perspective to an otherwise male depiction of a female subject. I don't doubt that her talent and reputation had a significant bearing on the anime's success. I've mentioned Zell already, while Lingam constantly reminded of Mr Peabody from the original Peabody's Improbable History (part of The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends), not so much with his scruffy appearance, but rather with his expository role in the narrative and matter-of-fact examination of events. Yohko and Yoni, in particular, strongly bring to mind the characters in the Superdimension SF Legend Rall episodes in Cream Lemon where the names of the production crew are quite possibly aliases. You can see the similarities in the bulbous eye designs, their lashes, the line at the base of the eye, the noses, the ears, the dimples under the mouth, the body proportions and the outfits. I guess I'll have to check out Windaria one of these days. That said, sometimes the animation isn't as snappy as the action might suggest it ought to be, giving the feeling that Yohko is floating through some of the scenes. I think the idea is that she has so much power that her movements are effortless, but the effect does draw attention to itself awkwardly at times. The action / fantasy narrative itself isn't at all compelling, while the fights lack energy, compounding my reservations about Yohko's animation. The lacklustre fantasy elements bring down my rating a notch or two.


Top: Zell and his offsider (Chizamu?).
Bottom left: Zell's Star Wars inspired lair.
Bottom right: the sinister creature that hovers around Zell as he attempts to seduce Yohko.


Rating: Very good. In Leda - the Fantastic Adventure of Yohko a tepid fantasy tale belies an underlying thematic density. It represents an important evolution in the magical girl with its sophisticated sexual undercurrent and by introducing to the genre the isekai scenario, while re-introducing a warrior protagonist not seen since Cutie Honey over eleven years ealier. As an early succes in the format It also expanded the possibilities inherent in the OAV. Exceptional character designs and artwork for the era and format easily make up for the fantasy shortcomings.

Resources:
ANN
500 Essential Anime Movies: the Ultimate Guide, Helen McCarthy, Collins Design
The font of all knowledge
Beautiful Fighting Girl, Tamaki Saito, trans J Keith Vincent and Dawn Lawson, University of Minnesota Press
A Brief Sanskrit Glossary
The Oresteia, Aeshylus, trans Robert Fagles, Penguin Classics
Leda and the Swan, WB Yeats, poets.org



****

** Hey! I got in a Luis Buñuel shout-out.


Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 4:27 am; edited 13 times in total
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Beltane70



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PostPosted: Sun Apr 21, 2019 7:28 am Reply with quote
I haven’t seen Leda in almost thirty years and don’t remember much of it. However, thanks to it, I did discover the fabulous artwork of Mitsumi Inomata!
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 27, 2019 10:57 pm Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl #47: Remy Shimada



GoShogun: The Time Étranger

Synopsis: Living as a recluse for forty years after saving the world, Remy finally agrees to a reunion with her original GoShogun teammates, Shingo and Killy, but is seriously injured in a car accident en route. Advised by doctors that she only has hours to live the two men call their three former adversaries, Bundle, Cuttnal and Kernagul to her bedside. As her comrades and erstwhile enemies keep vigil, Remy has flashbacks to her childhood life, her single mother's ordeals as a sex worker and the resulting bullying from other children in her neighbourhood that culminates in her intrapment in a graveyard pit. Along with these memories Remy has visions of a desert city where she and all five men have arrived after a trek across the sands. There they each receive a message telling them that fate has decreed they will die horribly within days. In the face of outright hostility from the city residents, they resolve to defy their fate to the very last. Will Remy the child escape the pit? Will Remy the warrior survive her fate in the desert city? Will Remy the old and frail woman defy the odds?

Note: Remy previously appeared in this survey as Splash of Crimson #16 in the original GoShogun mecha TV series from 1981. (Reviewed here.) Though an important character, she, along with Shingo and Killy, was secondary to the child protagonist, Kenta. Co-piloting the giant robot GoShogun the team fought against the miltary industrial complex known as Docooga - led by Bundle, Cuttnal and Kernagul - that secretly controlled the entire world. The GoShogun team's exclusive access to an infinite energy source known as Beamler becomes the key to their eventual victory.

Production details:
Premiere: 27 April 1985
Director: Kunihiko Yuyama (Josephina the Whale, GoShogun, Fairy Princess Minky Momo, Leda - The Fantastic Adventures of Yohko, Windaria - aka Once Upon a Time, Ushio and Tora and Wedding Peach on the way to conquering the world with Pokemon).
Studio: Ashi Productions
Screenplay: Takeshi Shudo
Music: Tachio Akano
Character Design: Hideyuki Motohashi
Art Director: Torao Arai and Yutaka Kawasuji
Chief animator: Hideyuki Motohashi
Among the key animators can be found one of my favourite animators and directors, Koji Morimoto (co-founded Studio 4°C, directed Franken's Gears from Robot Carnival, Hero from Ai Monogatari Magnetic Rose from Memories, Eternal Family, Noiseman Sound Insect, Four Day Weekend, Connected, Beyond from Animatrix, Dimension Bomb from Genius Party and the opening animation to Short Peace).


L-r: Cuttnal, Killy, Shingo, Remy, Bundle and Kernagul.

Comments: I first watched this movie some 7½ years ago after reading a postive appraisal from Justin Sevakis in his Buried Treasure article and a recommendation from Surrender Artist. At the time I hadn't seen the TV series, which isn't at all necessary to appreciate the film, although I was surprised to discover later that three of her comrades had been her one-time enemies. Thanks to Discotek I now have both titles on DVD. One thing that hasn't changed over all this time is my ambivalence towards the movie: I love Remy, but I'm uncomfortable with way the "fight to your last breath" theme is played out, particularly in its narrative implausabilities, the perhaps unintended valorisation of violent militarism and the racist undercurrent, which is accentuated by the relentless killing of mindless religious fanatics of Middle Eastern appearance. There's an enormous tonal divide between the TV show's breezy, affectionate parody of the mecha genre and the film's ponderous, pretentious and wayward examination of death. Even the occasional wisecracks - such a feature of the TV show - fail to lift the tone, coming across as tasteless, given the prevailing gloom and casual slaughter. Director Kunihiko Yuyama had broken new ground with not only the original TV series, but even more so with Fairy Princess Minky Momo and Leda - The Fantastic Adventures of Yohko, but this time he has overreached.

Remy is the best thing about the film. Technically, she's a septuagenarian - how many of them have you encountered as protagonists in anime? Most of the time, however, we see her in her thirty year old version. Even that's a rarity and marks her as a milestone in this survey. Remy is self-assured without being infallible and quick-witted without being arrogant. She makes mistakes, sure, has moments of incomprehension and stumbles from time to time in her endeavours. That makes her human, not clownish, and that means that her one superhuman quality remains plausible. Despite the nightmare scenario of her condition and the ongoing nightmare of the surreal hallucinations she experiences in her coma, she remains positive. More than positive, actually - this is one character who will not give in to any threat. Even with her hand broken and strapped, and with death imminent in the form of a gigantic ravening wolf, Remy will load one last bullet... For all her appeal, though, she is oddly masculine. (That's not a criticism, by the way.) Early in the film Killy wonders why Shingo and Remy never "hooked up", but, it seems to me, she isn't feminine enough to be the wife of either. (Again, not a criticism.) Remy's strength is her autonomous identity, but, paradoxically, she constantly relies on the men to help her out of scrapes. For their part, the men rarely manage to be more than different manifestations of macho stereotypes, from samurai to soldier, from politician to businessman. Admittedly, they don't get the space that 26 episodes provide to demonstrate their eccentricities. (Bundle's jet fighter in the basement, though, is a good example where it is apparent.) What makes each of them human is their shared love and respect for the protagonist.


Remy's visions of death as she lies dying. There are nightmares within nightmares within nightmares.

The film begs two comparisons that, unhappily, show up its shortcomings. The first is that it comes hot on the heels of Yuyama's visually superior Leda - The Adventures of Yohko. Mitsumi Inomata's absence makes itself keenly felt. Not that Time Étranger artwork and character designs are bad, just that they're merely serviceable. Remy's design is successful - her characteristic bemused expression works well in the surreal circumstances in which she finds herself. Shingo's and Killy's former roles as heroic parodies also translate successfully to the drama. The film's trick is to downplay their comedic sides thereby allowing their self-confidence to show through. All three - Remy, Shingo and Killy - are handsome characters in any case. The original, more deliberately comic, appearances of Bundle, Cuttnal and Kernagul don't translate well to drama. Furthermore, as the surreal action of the desert city scenario pushes into hyperbolic overdrive, the three become ever more ridiculous. The surrealism itself depends less on the strangeness of the artwork and more on the way the situation plays out. This brings me to the second comparison - the appearance among the staff of the, later, master of surreal juxtaposition, Koji Morimoto. My first exposure to the film (see here) came immediately after a Morimoto binge. The wonder and terror in his short films Magnetic Rose, Beyond and Dimension Bomb, admittedly benefitting from newer, more advanced production techniques and perhaps bigger budgets, again bring attention to the creative limitations of Time Étranger.

The otherworldly, surreal desert city scenario also highlights the narrative issues of the film. I get that it's Remy's deathbed vision, and thus dream logic applies. The issue isn't so much the logic but in the underlying values that are being suggested, not only within Remy and her companions, but also the creative team. Rather, it lies with the repeated depiction of the clearly Arabic population as characterless, single-minded, fundamentalist and possessing a hive-mind psychotic hatred of the GoShogun team. Oddly enough, while their appearance and method of worship are clearly Islamic, their temple is ambiguous and their graveyard Christian. Not only do they have no redeeming features, but the film offers no narrative justification for their depiction. The film proceeds to top things off by having the GoShogun team, gleefully I might add, mow them down by the thousand. Clearly, Middle Eastern people are nasty types fit only for killing on a mass scale. I find the attitude more disturbing than the scenes themselves, which are gung-ho rather than gory.


Scenes from the desert world. The two oracular characters top left represent Remy from her other death scenarios.

Whereas the conclusion of the desert city scenario neatly illustrates the theme of resisting death until the very end, things aren't nearly as clear in the childhood flasbacks or the films enigmatic conclusion. Going against the current of the rest of the film, child Remy surrenders to despair at the bottom of the graveyard pit, only to be saved by similar child versions of the five companions at her hospital bedside where she is dying as an old woman. So...? Is the film arguing that we fight to the end? Or that we must rely on others? Time Étranger seems to trying to have it both ways, becoming incoherent in the process. What's more, she didn't know her companions at that age, so is the scenario a flashback? Or an alternative scenario to the desert scenes, with an alternative choice for Remy to make? Who knows? At this level of examination the film stops making sense. Even the final scenes in the hospital go awry: they aren't open-ended; we aren't asked to ponder the final outcome. As depicted, Remy both dies and she doesn't die. I'm left scratching my head. I'll quote Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy at length as they summarise the problems so well,

Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy wrote:
Remi and her friends fight off the seething locals in quietly racist scenes of the God Thunder team, with vastly superior firepower, shooting into wave after wave of stick-waving towelheads. They steal a tram (yes, a tram, driving it off its rails, not unlike the plot), mess around with hang gliders, and have a fight in a bar while pontificating about destiny and fate. All this, it transpires, is a metaphor for Remi’s critical condition in the present day, since she must confront the demons of her childhood and psyche if she is to awaken from her coma. However, her fate is left unclear in an ending that is either a ham-fisted metaphor for her death or a reunion scene riddled with continuity errors and poor writing. So Remi either makes a miraculous recovery, springs out of bed, and chases after her comrades, or dies, recovers, and dies again, depending on your interpretation.


- Clements, Jonathan; McCarthy, Helen. The Anime Encyclopedia, 3rd Revised Edition: A Century of Japanese Animation (Kindle Locations 21391-21397). Stone Bridge Press. Kindle Edition.

The anime is trying hard to have the viewer identify closely with the protagonist, Remy, so that it can provide an emotional pay-off as it concludes. As much as I love Remy, my discomfort with the implied racism and my scepticism of the narrative logic, meant that I couldn't engage with the film emotionally. Perhaps I'm being unreasonable; your response to those shortcomings, may not impede your enjoyment of what the film does well. I prefer Leda - The Fantastic Adventure of Yohko: Yuyama's ruminations on eros are more cogent than his ruminations on thanatos. I also prefer the original TV series, with its fun scenario and goofy parodic humour, while still giving us a terrific beautiful fighting girl in Remy.



Rating: decent.
+ Remy, the depiction of the horror she is subjected to in the desert city scenes.
- Implied racism, plot holes

Resources:
GoShogun: The Time Étranger, Discotek
ANN, including (for well-argued alternative viewpoints):
Justin Sevakis's Buried Treasure article;
Surrender Artists's What are you watching right now? Why? post; and
Mike Toole's Etranger in an Etrange Land article from The Mike Toole Show
The Anime Encyclopaedia, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle
The font of all knowledge


Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 4:29 am; edited 3 times in total
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