×
  • remind me tomorrow
  • remind me next week
  • never remind me
Subscribe to the ANN Newsletter • Wake up every Sunday to a curated list of ANN's most interesting posts of the week. read more

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


Goto page Previous    Next

Anime News Network Forum Index -> General -> Anime
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
Errinundra
Moderator


Joined: 14 Jun 2008
Posts: 6545
Location: Melbourne, Oz
PostPosted: Sun May 12, 2019 3:17 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girls index
****

Beautiful Fighting Girl #48: Mai Kanzaki, aka Emi

Magical Star Magical Emi
(Mahou no Star Magical Emi)



Synopsis: Mai would love to be a star in her grandparents' magical troupe Magic Carat, but she's too young to master the necessary skills. Rummaging through their props one day she meets a mirror fairy who grants her a wish. Enter Mai's alter ego Emi - the singing, dancing, magic-using, reality-busting superstar - who soon graces theatres, TVs and the sides of skyscrapers. Magic might be pretty easy for Emi, and it can be helpful solving everyday problems, but when Mai's grandparents decide to retire, Mai wonders whether being friends with the boy she likes and practising so she can contribute to Magic Carat as herself might be more rewarding than life as a magic-wielding star.

Production details:
Premiere: 07 June 1985
Director: Takashi Anno (Magical Fairy Persia, Maison Ikkoku (eps 27-52), Donguri no Ie, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, Spirit of Wonder Scientific Boys Club, Hotori - Tada Saiwai o Koinegau and Kamichama Karin among others)
Studio: Pierrot
Source material: original work; a manga version was released simultaneously
Series Composition: Hiroshi Konishikawa and Mami Watanabe
Character Design: Kouji Motoyama and Yoshiyuki Kishi
Art Director: Satoshi Miura
Art design: Masahiro Sato

Note: Only 16 episodes were available fansubbed; I watched the other 22 via the French Emi Magique on YouTube. My rating will be based on the fansubbed episodes.

Comments: Studio Pierrot returns with its third magical girl franchise, bringing back the idol scenario of Magical Angel Creamy Mami (while adding a new gimmick) after the comparatively prosaic Magical Fairy Persia. Although an improvement over its immediate predecessor, Magical Emi doesn't progress the genre significantly, being more a considered application of what works for its audience than any sort of breakthrough. It seems to me that Pierrot are faced with the same dilemma that beset Toei with their earlier magical girl shows: how to exploit the possibilities of the genre while remaining creative. Don't get me wrong - it's not as if the franchises are clones; they just aren't aiming high.


Mai and her transformation.

The re-introduction of the magical girl as pop idol involves a significant variation on the theme: Emi performs magic on-stage and on-screen in addition to her singing (the same song over and over, I might add). These magical performances are central to the thematic development of the story. If you or I go to a magic show the astonishing feats we observe are, of course, illusions. Magical Emi uses this as a metaphor for the deception at the core of the genre: the girl's reluctance to reveal her other nature. In this instance, we are never given a reason for her reticence. As in analogous superhero franchises, the trope has become so ingrained no one questions it, so I suppose writers no longer feel the need to justify it. At least in Creamy Mami and Magical Fairy Persia the protagonist is warned of the dire consequences should they expose their other selves. The irony is that Emi is using real magic (if you can forgive the oxymoron). The effects she produces on stage are utterly and absolutely impossible. The double irony is that nobody questions the magic, nobody tries to figure out the tricks involved - not even her professional colleagues. You'd think they'd at least ask her. Likewise nobody wonders why Mai and Emi never appear together, especially given how Mai must constantly fetch Emi and vice versa. The creators at Pierre aren't being entirely sloppy, though. Deception or the withholding of information are the themes of many of the early episodes: Mai tricks her parents into believing she's at the movies; the TV producer doesn't inform the troupe they won't be involved in Emi's first TV performance; Mai refuses to allow him to do a documentary on Emi's daily life; a girl on a train claims she's pursued by aliens; a relative hoodwinks land developers to prevent them spoiling his town. And, in the last two episodes Emi must choose between a life as a normal girl or a life in constant denial. It isn't profound, but I like how the split that is an essential element to the transforming girl informs the series more generally. Having said all that, around half the episodes are straightforward stand-alone stories involving problems for Mai or one of the other characters to resolves. Magic always helps, of course.

Mai, despite her initial depiction as a clumsy and highly energised girl, comes across as more alone than her predecessors in the genre. She seems more wistful, more lost in thought. Her eyes and mouth (and Emi's also) have a pensiveness about them. There is an elegiac tone to the series as well, emphasising the ephemeral, if magical, nature of childhood. The foregrounding of the seasons, particularly autumn and winter, and the melancholy of the stream with its arched bridge and weir separating Mai's family home and her grandparents' suggest that all things move on, that nothing is permanent.

I found it curious and satisfying that Mai and Emi are much the same character. For sure, Emi has all those marvellous powers, she's less boistrous and more confident on stage (why wouldn't you be when you can do anything?), but she's the same girl underneath. Magic isn't going to provide directions on her emotional journey. So, yes, Magical Emi is typical for the genre in its depiction of a maturing girl, and by the end she has lost some things and gained others. There's no fairy tale ending. Even the boy she likes, Shou, is little more than a possibility: they may get closer; alternatively, she may outgrow her feelings. We don't know. The young girl is the site of many possibilities. At its best the genre both rejoices in them and notes their passing as choices are made and alternatives discarded. Magical Emi does that without labouring the point.


Top: the cast minus Mai's younger brother. It makes more sense to name them from right to left.
Mai's parents Yoko and Jun Kanzaki, her grandmother Haruko Nakamori, troupe members Susumi Shiozawa and Akira Matsuo,
her grandfather Yousuke Nakamori, troupe member Yukiko Hirota, Mai and her mascot Topo, love interest and troupe member Shou Yuuki,
TV producer Shigeru Koganei, his off-sider Madoka Kokubunji and his son (who has a crush on Mai) Musashi Koganei.
Middle left: the start of Mai's magical transformation sequence - there's nothing much new.
Middle right: Mai's home. Pierrot have given us a crepe shop, a convenience store and now a cookie shop.
Bottom: Topo the fairy turned flying squirrel.


Other characters are variable. Mai's parents could be swapped with Persia's or Yuu's and I'd hardly notice. In one episode they have an uncharacteristice tiff and treat each other cruelly, which is a shock given that the Pierrot magical girl parents are otherwise models of near perfection. Grandmother Haruko Nakamori runs Magic Carat as a tight ship through strength of character alone. I think of her as a former magical girl heroine in old age. Grandfather Yousuke Nakamori is the soother of ruffled feathers after Haruko had told everyone how things are going to be. The other troupe members have mostly comic roles so rarely stand out. The exception is Mai's potential love interest Shou who juggles study and boxing with his magical show duties. I like how, as also happened with Gaku in Magical Fairy Persia, he becomes a close and reliable friend rather than a source of constant unresolved sexual tension. Sure, Mai is occasionally unsettled by her emotional response to him, but the relationship never extends beyond possibility. For his part, Shou could be a triplet of Gaku and Riki from Persia. He has a sort of rival in Mai's classmate Musashi Koganei, but the latter is mostly presented as a clown so isn't much of a threat. It also happens that Musashi is the son of Emi's manager and TV producer Shigeru Koganei. At first Shigeru is portrayed as avaricious, ambitious and a bully - especially towards his son and also his assistant, the bucktoothed Madoka Kokubunji - but I warmed to him as his softer, more sentimental side becomes apparent. Turns out he's a single father who's been unlucky in love. In a reverse develpment Madoka progresses from inept and submissive to self-confident and competent by the end of the series. Mascot character Topo has a more realistic design than any of his precursors. He looks like a flying squirrel, at least. HIs resigned, almost cynical, character makes him a good foil to Mai's mixture of energy and introspection. What bugged me was his name, Topo, which in Spanish means "mole" and, worse, kept bringing to mind Alejandro Jodorowsky's rivers of blood movie, El Topo. But, that's my problem and not Pierrot's fault.

The character designs, Mai and her alter ego aside, are functional at best. Akemi Takada is sorely missed, even if Yoshiyuki Kishi, who worked with her on Persia, is doing his best to mimic her style. The backgrounds are another matter. After the disappointing artwork on display in Persia, Magical Emi is something of a return to the more abstract style of Shinichiro Kobayashi. Satoshi Miura's and Masahiro Sato's efforts are less eccentric, but they successfully enhance the slightly melancholy tone of the series. Pierrot's characteristic use of pastel colours for their highly artificial backgrounds sets them apart from Toei's earlier and more traditional colour palette. Not only is it more appealing to their target audience but the artificiality adds to the otherworldliness. Keiichi Oku's soundtrack also enhance's the series, but doesn't draw attention to itself.

Rating: decent. A solid effort from Pierrot gives us a peforming magician and idol singer as the transformed magical girl, things that are neatly reflected in the underlying themes being explored. While an improvement over Magical Fairy Persia, it doesn't push the boundaries of the genre, but, then, why should it?
+ mildly melancholic exploration of the deception at the core of a magical girl's identity, sympathetic background artwork, character designs of Mai and Emi.
- some of the other character designs, some weak characters, mostly episodic nature of the series.

Resources:
ANN
The font of all knowledge



Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 4:30 am; edited 5 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website My Anime My Manga
Errinundra
Moderator


Joined: 14 Jun 2008
Posts: 6545
Location: Melbourne, Oz
PostPosted: Sat May 18, 2019 9:35 pm Reply with quote
Errinundra's Beautiful Fighting Girl #49: Rem Ayanokouji



Dream Hunter Rem

Synopsis: Due to an unspecified traumatic even in her past, Rem's sleep is ever dreamless. This peculiar state, however, allows Rem (ie, Rapid Eye Movement) to enter the dreams of others where she combats the nightmares that afflict the dreamers and may even kill them. The nightmares include a tentacle monster who is steadily exhausting the life force of his victim, a Doctor Death type who murders people in their dreams leaving corpses in the real world, and the spirit of a girl locked in a school tower to starve to death. Naturally enough the victims are all school girls. Finally Rem must confront the reincarnation of a vengeful samurai from the Heian period.

Production details
Premiere: 10 June 1985 (Hentai version of the first episode); 05 December 1985
Original creator and chief director: Seiji Okuda (Urashiman, Dancougar - Super Beast Machine God, Paradox Dimensional Romanesque Samy - missing '99, Twinkle Heart - Gingakei made Todokanai, Crystal Triangle, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Thunder Jet and Offside)
Studio: Zain.
Music: HIdeo Gotou (ep 1), Heitaro Manabe (ep 2) and Kenji Kawai (ep 3, anime debut - went to compose many, many sountracks including Maison Ikkoku, Vampire Princess Miyu, Devilman, Ranma ½, Burn Up!, Mermaid Forest, The Irresponsible Captain Tylor, Blue Seed, Fate/Stay Night, When They Cry - Higurashi, Moribito - Guardian of the Spirit, Eden of the East, The Perfect Insider and Maquia - When the Promised Flower Blooms. His collaborations with Mamoru Oshii include the Patlabor franchise and the two Ghost in the Shell movies. Mamoru Oshii, who says he can't work without him, attributes 50% of his films' success to Kenji Kawai. I think of him as one of the three great K composers in anime, along with Yoko Kanno and Yuki Kajiura.)
Character Design: Kazuaki Moori
The following staff worked as either key animators, character designers or animation directors in at least two out of the three of Cream Lemon, Leda - the Fantastic Adventures of Yohko and Deam Hunter Rem: Hideki Tamura (all 3), Hiroaki Gohda (all 3), Hiromi Muranaka, Hiroyuki Kitakubo, Kazuaki Moori (all 3), Toshiyuki Inoue, Tsukasa Dokite and Yuji Moriyama. Due to the obvious stylistic links between the three I'll be comparing them throughout the review.

Comments: Dream Hunter Rem is noteworthy for introducing tentacle porn to anime, though you'd be hard pressed to watch it in its original form these days. Only the first episode of the three released on VHS tape over 15 months contained hentai material. It seems the producers came to the conclusion, after the first volume, that the series could cater successfully to a more general audience. Shortly afterwards the first episode was re-released with half the scenes removed and a new shorter story added to replace them. The pornographic version was never made available again. This review is based upon a fansub of the bowdlerised version. Apart from one's feeling of being cheated out of something forbidden, I'm not all that fussed to be honest. For sure the tentacle monster no longer lives up to his promise, but the OAV series has other points of interest.


The time of the anime tentacle has come.

Foremost, in the wake of Caron and others from Cream Lemon and Yohko from Leda, Rem reinforces the link between the magical girl and the fighting girl in a sexualised presentation. She's every bit a magical girl as Leda, though far more capable in a fight and lacking an elaborate transformation sequence. In this instance she's simply enveloped in flame as she changes from teenage paranormal investigator to sword wielding phallic girl (see images at top of the page). There's a chance, though, that before she transforms, Rem will have her clothes shredded or her skin slashed. (Note that, last episode weirdly excepted, these events and transformations take place in dreams.) The version I watched may have downplayed the tentacles and removed the penetration but the occasional nudity and the violence remain. More interestingly, Rem is, in my view, anime's first canonical girl with a gun protagonist. In her awakened state, she is the first to have a gun as a frequent and intrinsic part of how she is presented to the viewer. Just as her magical girl form is made manifest by her sword and bikini, her investigator form is bound to the holster under her armpit, her revolver and the custom-made crucifix-engraved sliver-tipped bullets. Her quick draw and classic pose are signature moments throughout the series. Certainly, this survey has had plenty of females wielding firearms, especially enlisted and uniformed characters, and you know I can't resist showing them, but their occasional dramatic poses aren't central to their marketed identity. This development in the survey is overshadowed by Rem's more eye-catching magical girl form and the supernatural horror, but she and her creators deserve some credit for laying the groundwork for her successors, notably Dirty Pair or even Gunsmith Cats. I've said before that the girl with a gun is a variation on the magical girl. In Rem, the connection is formally made: the former is the daughter of the latter. I would add that her firepower isn't restricted to guns: she has a multi-warhead rocket launcher in the boot of her car. Goodness knows how she can afford it all on her occasional private investigator income. Part of the charm of the series is its disregard for reality.

Rem is, nonetheless, little more that an amalgam of gestures and fancy poses, her singular occupation, and a confident and cheerful persona. She altogether lacks the underlying development of Yohko or the psychological dilemmas facing some of the characters in Cream Lemon such as Ami, Rie and the bifurcated Mako. Rem is the schoolgirl object of desire who is more than she seems and who is to be ritually exposed to the male viewer, making her a site of both autonomous potential and possessed image. The anime doesn't explore this tension in any way thus demonstrating its pornographic origin. Beyond her singular premise - schoolgirl investigator of the supernatural who can enter people's dreams - and her appealing design, Rem doesn't have an interesting internal story to tell.

As befits a magical girl tale, Rem has two transforming mascot companions - Alpha (cat to lynx-like beast) and Beta (dog to wolf). That Beta brings to mind Lingam from Leda, shouldn't surpise. The two mascots are amusing enough to warrant their inclusion but, beyond adding variety to Rem's situation, don't add much to the series. Rem has another faithful dog (metaphorically speaking) in the form of a monk, Enkou, who follows her around unasked. His impressive martial art skills are handy in the waking world and his prayers provide assistance in the dream world, although he isn't able to join her there. He eventually falls in love with the protagonist, which adds to his mildly creepy persona. Contrarily, he has an erotic encounter in a cave with an even creepier scalpel-wielding unnamed young man, so credit to the team for pushing the envelope. Another regular character is police detective Junichirou Sakaki who brings a sense of the quotidian to the otherwise exaggerated scenarios. He's competent as a police officer but finds himself out of his depth with the supernatural shenaningans. I never failed to find amusing his matter-of-fact acceptance of the craziness all about.


Rem's associates, clockwise from top left:
monk and martial artist Enkou;
mascots Beta and Alpha;
paranormal researcher and love interest Umimaru Kidou; and
police detective Junichirou Sakaki


An overwhelming sense of horror is difficult to achieve in any animated production, thanks to the very nature of the medium creating a barrier between the content and the viewer. It can be done, but not here. One route is to ratchet up the shocks with highly unpleasant imagery, but the very artificiality of animation nearly always undermines Dream Hunter Rem's endeavours. In short, the gore is cartoonish. Another route is transgression, but, with the tentacle rape removed, DHR remains relatively tame, which may be why Enkou's encounter with the boy in the cave stands out. A final way is to have the viewers sufficiently emotionally committed to the victim that they vicariously experience the terror themselves. As simple characters, Rem and the others have difficulty managing that. She is little more than the other to be gazed upon. The one time I became uncomfortable was when a giant swinging blade cuts into the exposed breasts of a bound Rem. I'm not sure whether I ought to praise or condemn the animators, but it was an effective moment. Beyond that the anime only succeeds in creating any sort of unsettling or mysterious atmosphere in the final episode, which, as I've already noted, doesn't involve dreams. The conventional ghost story is enhanced by the best artwork of the series - particularly the Heian era styled still images - and the subtly ethereal soundtrack from Kenji Kawai in his very first anime production. Even at this early stage of his career, he deploys a symphonium to create an sense of otherwordly menace. Similarly, Rem's flute-playing at the episode's climax is the first time in the series that she seems, well, magical, helped by the knowledge gained earlier that episode of her direct links to the ancient past.

Rating: so-so.
+ character designs, particularly Rem as magical girl, still images & Kenji Kawai's soundtrack in the last episode, introduction of the tentacle monster to anime & the girl with a gun as signature aspect of the protagonist and then linking her to the magical girl.
- horror aspects only occasionally succeed, flat and unengaging characters, unsophisticated narratives.

Resources:
ANN
The font of all knowledge
The other wiki
The Anime Encyclopaedia, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle
Beautiful Fighting Girl, Tamaki Saito, trans J Keith Vincent and Dawn Lawson, University of Minnesota Press



Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 4:32 am; edited 9 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website My Anime My Manga
Errinundra
Moderator


Joined: 14 Jun 2008
Posts: 6545
Location: Melbourne, Oz
PostPosted: Sun Jun 02, 2019 3:17 am Reply with quote
The Logistics of the Beautiful Fighting Girl Survey


I was relieved I could retrieve this spreadsheet from the hard drive of my ailing computer.
Colour codes: green = reviewed as part of the project; black = watched but not reviewed,
blue = copy obtained but not yet watched; mauve = not yet obtained.


Why the post: All my home entertainment is done through my PC, which is connected to an amplifier and speakers. Television? Old technology! I haven't owned one for decades. Well, a few months ago my PC began misbehaving - it didn't like having multiple applications opened, some wouldn't run properly, Windows updates failed as often as they succeeded, and some US blu rays (I'm in Australia) would crash my computer. (Come to think of it, the problems may have started when Sentai's Kill Me Baby first crashed the PC. The title seems fitting.) Then, Friday week ago while trying to open μTorrent (again fittingly, I suppose), my computer called it quits. Thankfully, I had saved all my anime downloads and images to a remote hard drive about two weeks before the disaster. Fine, but I was forced to survive a week without my PC. In that time I re-discovered the joys of reading, rigged up an old CD player to my amplifier, dusted off my CD collection and re-connected with a part of me that I'd long neglected. And, to add salt to the wound, I'm still in the process of re-loading all the programs and apps that have gone west.

Catch is, I couldn't finish re-watching Dirty Pair (last watched in July 2011), so that means no review this weekend. Rather than go three weeks without a post, I thought I'd explain how I plan my Beautiful Fighting Girl list and build a relevant inventory for review in the thread. (For ironic contrast, it may amuse you to read this thread from October 2012 - What to do with anime backlog?. It seems I have now completely and utterly repudiated my former position on the matter. I love how time makes a mockery of one's pretensions.)

Beautiful...

(I like serious women.)

The list: I began the spreadsheet, as seen at the top of the post, by completing a stocktake of the anime titles I had in my possession that were appropriate for the survey, including the purchased DVDs and Blu Rays on my shelves, the downloaded titles on my hard drive and an old pile of fan-subbed disks donated to me by my nephew, Michael. The latter hail from the late 90s / early 2000s, so their quality isn't real good, but every bit helps. I then went through My Anime and added those titles I had seen but didn't possess. ANN's Shelf Life and the weekly release reports have proved fertile, as have reviews and recommendations from the ANN community. The best resource, however, is ANN's encyclopaedia search tool, being both exhaustive and accurate. All one has to do is key in the desired years (I usually do one year at a time) and then click on each result to see if the title has a female protagonist or subject. I try to keep two years ahead of the current year I'm up to in my reviews, so not long ago checked out 1987. It may be a laborious, but I'm building up a comprehensive list. So far I have 416 titles, and given that I'm reviewing just over 30 titles a year, then senility is a foreseeable reason for abandoning the project. That doesn't bother me - whatever is covered is an achievement. (Well, senility does bother me, but that's another matter.)

...fighting...


The inventory: My attitude to downloading content has changed over time. When I first joined ANN some eleven years ago I had few DVDs and multiple fansubs. Since beginning the survey, I've come around to buying titles wherever possible. One thing to consider is that 1980s fansubs invariably have videotape quality visuals and sound. Re-releases from companies like Discotek or Nozomi, for all their limitations, are fare superior. In addition, I'm single, I have a reasonably secure full-time job and my mortgage re-payments are now somewhat less than what I'd be paying if I were renting my unit. I'm not on a high wage but anime is my hobby after all. So, of the 416 aforementioned titles on my list, I've purchased 221 of them and downloaded 121. The other 74 haven't been obtained yet and, given that I'm only up to 1985, streaming isn't a relevant consideration. Both purchasing and downloading anime have their difficulties and frustrations, mainly because in the 1980s anime simply wasn't as ubiquitous in the Anglophone world as it is today

Until now, my main source of dvds and blu-rays has been Madman. In the early part of this decade, with Siren Visual doing steady business and an enthusiastic Hanabee newly arrived, the amount of anime released to disk in Australia was phenomenal. We were spoiled for choice. Now Siren Visual is defunct, Hanabee no longer populate their "coming soon" page and Madman, recently purchased by Aniplex for A$35 million, has significantly cut back their release schedule. Other than a couple of outrageously priced Ghibli special releases, they have only seven new releases scheduled for July and twelve for August - mostly high volume shonen titles. I keep an eye out and buy what I can. In Melbourne we're lucky to have the bricks and mortar JB Hi Fi stores with their large range of anime titles in stock. The next option is importing anime. I use AnyDVD HD region-cracking software on my computer, which works reliably with dvds, but blu-rays gave me grief from time to time. That was until the recent upgrade: now they all play reliably. Woohoo! Good thing that, as distributors everywhere are cutting back on their dvd releases. If you look at my collection in Shelf Life you'll notice few blu-rays. That's now changing. Purchases from the US are exclusively from Right Stuf thanks to their large range and reliable deliveries. Now that I'm switching over to blu-rays, and with Australia sharing its blu-ray region code with the UK, I've began ordering from there. I also buy stuff from Japan occasionally via CD Japan - mostly movies and OAVs as their TV anime is overpriced, broken up into too many volumes and almost always lacks English subtitles. Buying secondhand has also proven itself a viable option. One site in Australia has a large range of refurbished video rental store stock from the 80s through to the 00s at borderline value-for-money prices. The image quality is fine, however they come in single disk volumes, bad enough in itself, and covered in fluoro stickers. After I purchased a few items they started putting up the prices of other titles I clicked on. Cads! I'll give them a miss for a while to see if the prices come back down.

...girls.


That brings me to downloading. Most torrent aggregator or streaming sites are foul places that do their best to mess up your computer. Therefore, like many others I relied upon NYAA for torrents. Justin Sevakis's Answerman article about the demise of NYAA is worth checking out. They have been reincarnated underground, but require providing email and other details to a third party I simply don't trust. That leaves a couple of places that I won't name that can be safely accessed. One isn't interested in historical fansubs - they're just a ripping service - so I have little to do with them. The other exists for the moment. Funnily enough, YouTube is becoming a fertile, additional download source now that the survey has reached the 1980s OAV era. Hence all the blue entries for 1986 in the spreadsheet screenshot above. RealPlayer has a somewhat unreliable function that enables downloading files from YouTube. I probably don't need to go to that much trouble as those titles that aren't available in hard form aren't likely to be the subject of take down notices. In any case, the 332 titles I have in my collection still offer a comprehensive and canonical survey of the Beautiful Fighting Girl genre. I'm unlikely to finish what I have without having to go to dubious lengths to create extra work for myself.


Former graffiti that appeared in North Fitzroy shortly after the cinema screening in Melbourne of
Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Rebellion


Last edited by Errinundra on Thu Jul 22, 2021 4:12 am; edited 2 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website My Anime My Manga
Errinundra
Moderator


Joined: 14 Jun 2008
Posts: 6545
Location: Melbourne, Oz
PostPosted: Sun Jun 09, 2019 11:28 am Reply with quote
While reading Rayna Denison's Anime: A Critical Introduction this morning I came across a quote that succinctly summarises one of the theses of the beautiful fighting girl survey. Denison takes it from a 1993 edition of the magazine Anime UK. The quote is timely considering where I'm up to in the survey, the emergence of the OAV and its attendant pornographic franchises, the growing proliferation of female protagonists aimed squarely at a male audience, and today's review in particular.

Peter J Evans wrote:
I find it a constant joy that anime continues to give us a plethora of strong, competent, sensible heroines who do not exist purely as a prize or objective for the male "hero". There is really no other genre that treats women in the same way, and yet this positive view of the female is so often tempered by a streak of needless exploitation, sexism and generalised hatred of the female that most of the good that can and has been done by anime in this field is forgotten.


Well, maybe not always sensible in this instance, but these two will use their smarts when they have to.

Beatiful Fighting Girl Pair #50: Kei and Yuri



Dirty Pair
Dirty Pair: From Lovely Angels with Love


(The original TV series was cancelled after 24 of the planned 26 episodes. The last two episodes were released subsequently in OAV form as From Lovely Angels with Love. The Nozomi release brings both the TV series and OAV together.)

Synopsis: Yuri and Kei are "trouble consultants" employed by the WWWA (World Welfare Works Association) - a huge, private company contracted by corporations and governments across the galaxy to resolve intractable law-and-order problems. Codenamed Lovely Angels, they are famous for always getting their man (in multiple senses of the word) and nicknamed Dirty Pair because their successes are accompanied by mass destruction. Their arrival at their mission destination is invariably met with a mixture of gratitude and dread by their clients.

Production details:
Premier: 15/07/1985 (TV series); 01/01/1987 (OAV)
Director: Toshifumi Takizawa (Aura Battle Dunbine: The Tale of Neo Byston Well; Crusher Joe: the OVAs; Dirty Pair: Flight 005 Conspiracy; Big Wars; and Blue Remains) and Norio Kashima (Bio Armour Ryger; Hello Kitty no Mahō no Mori no Ohime-sama; and a number of other titles I've never heard of.)
Studio: Studio Nue and Sunrise
Source material: the light novel The Dirty Pair's Great Adventures (1979) by Haruka Takachiko who also penned the Crusher Joe series. A sequel novel, The Dirty Pair Strike Again, was timed for release during the TV series run. Since then six more novels have been published.
Music: Toshiyuki Kimori
Character design: Tsukasa Dokite and Fujihiko Hosono (uniform design)
Art director: Mitsuki Nakamura and Satoshi Miura
Mechanical design: Yasushi Ishizu
Art design: Masahiro Sato and Tomoaki Okada

Comments: Dirty Pair is an important milestone in this grand project. From the lofty heights of 2019 we can look across the landscape of anime history and see the lineages in anime that can be traced back to the moment this franchise began. Using a biological analogy, you might say Dirty Pair is the most recent common ancestor of a raft of anime we know today. From a personal point of view it's a franchise I've long been familiar with and long wondered where it fitted into the history of anime. You might say that, given my predilection for the girls with guns genre, it was a motivating text for the discourse of this thread (if you can forgive the academic terminology). The project has answered the question, although there are multiple other fascinating threads to follow in the history of the autonomous anime heroine. Extending my biology analogy, in the red-in-tooth-and-claw competitive environment of the anime marketplace, Dirty Pair's DNA can be traced not only in its radiating family tree of teams of comic fighting girls and otherwise more serious girls with guns, it can also be discerned through an ancestry that includes Go Nagai's Cutie Honey and his giant robot shows, the original GoShogun TV series, obviously Crusher Joe, and more strongly in the recently preceding Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, Nora and Dream Hunter Rem.



Biogenesis only happens once, but mutations are frequent and sometimes lasting. The notable innovation in Dirty Pair sits right there in the title: two female protagonists playing off each other. It's such a simple thing, but of the 78 titles examined so far in the grand survey, only one other has a leading female duo: Majokko Tickle, where a muggle and an other-dimensional magical girl become twins. (Even the parents are deceived despite the girls' dissimilar appearances). While it pits staid Chiiku against flamboyant Chikkuru (aka Tickle), this otherwise generic Toei magical girl show's young viewing demographic works against a sophisticated exploitation of the relationship. Certainly the splash of crimson side trip uncovered anime with multiple female characters, and the closest analogue to Dirty Pair among them would be Hikaru Makiba and Maria Grace Fleed from Go Nagai's UFO Robo Grendizer, but they and the other splashes of crimson are, by definition, secondary characters. The genius of the mutation is that it increases the entertainment potential of female protagonists who are objects rather than subjects and thereby somewhat limited in scope. Dirty Pair's mostly male audience will be laughing at them and gazing upon them rather than laughing with them or empathising with them, so Yuri and Kei are narratively limited. Their interplay, however, makes up for that lack. (The tension between the female protagonist's role as subject and / or object will spark an amazing level of creativity in the art form we love so much. So far, the heroines in the survey have either been the subject of shojo anime or the object of or secondary characters in shonen anime. An obvious exception would be Remy in GoShogun: The Time Étranger, but she demands her audience sympathise with her plight and is the forerunner to another class of heroines.)

Kei and Yuri are contrasted in multiple ways: Kei is extrovert while Yuri is more introverted. Both are quick-witted, although their behaviour is adolescent at times and their judgement outstandingly dumb at others. Pink-haired Kei is quick-tempered and tomboyish, impulsive, in your face, vulgar, resourceful, likes her men muscular and manly, her pop music loud and her TV in large doses of day time pulp. Seiyuu Kyouko Tonguu nicely captures her character in the coarseness and rhythms of her speech. Yuri is even tempered and feminine, considered in her thoughts and insinuating in her speech, slow to be roused but every bit as violent as Kei when she is, likes her men refined and cultured, prefers classical music and abjures television altogether. Seiyuu Saeko Shimazu brings a muted but nuanced approach to her character. These traits are good "Odd Couple" starting points, but the key to the franchise's success is the chemistry between them: at once competitive and co-operative, taunting and supportive, critical and appreciative. Their sniping at each other (the more verbally adept Yuri usually prevails) can be brutal, mostly focusing on their opposite's beauty shortcomings, but the depth of their friendship ensures no lasting offence is taken. The byplay is only bettered in anime by the various admirals, particularly Spoor, and their chiefs of staff in the Banner of the Stars franchise and even more so between Holo and Kraft Lawrence in Spice and Wolf and its sequel. What becomes abundantly clear as the series progresses is the degree to which they love and depend upon each other. The picture at the top of the post neatly illustrates the relationship. The affectionate glances are contradicted by their coy body language. Even though they are planning their next tactical move in solving the problem at hand, they are secretly plotting to date the same man (who must be a near-perfect combination of rich, hunky and refined).

That I can't remember who or what that week's object of desire looks like points to the shortcomings of the series. So dominant are the two women that everyone else is inconsequential. Even their companions, Mughi the cat-bear and Nanmo the R2D2 clone, fade out of the picture, barely appearing in the last third of the series. The only other recurring characters are their no-nonsense boss Gooley and his clownish sidekick Calico, but their roles are little more than framing devices for each week's plot. Having 24 stand alone episodes (including the From Lovely Angels with Love OAV) and only one two-episode story arc exacerbates the problem. No big bad is pulling the strings behind the scenes, no ongoing thesis is being argued, no overall goal is being pursued. The plots aren't formulaic, but they are little more than props for Yuri and Kei to strut their stuff. As a result, you may find the 26 episodes less than enthralling at times. I would add that I enjoyed it more watching it as part of this survey than I did some eight years ago when I first encountered it outside of its historical context.


Clockwise from right:
Yuri and Kei dress up for a party - there are occasional yuri suggestions;
the Lovely Angel's stern boss (right) and his foolish off-sider Calico;
mascot characters Mughi (blending feline and ursine elements) and the Star wars inspired Nanmo; and
Dirty Pair's trail of destruction includes entire inhabited planets.


Beyond the appeal of the central duo, the series relies on its absurd humour, where cartoonish violence erupts for no good reason, ridiculous elements are added to already fraught situations, and stakes are raised to outlandish levels. Examples include the opening scenes of episode 18 where the two destroy a hotel while trying to complete an arrest. It turns out that they have the wrong man and the wrong hotel. The sequence succinctly illustrates what the franchise is all about. Another memorable example comes from episode 4 with a chase involving a cat, a pair of female villains, the Dirty Pair and a Blues Brothers style flotilla of police cars. The entire menagerie ends up on a piece of freeway being lowered into place by a giant helicopter leaving everyone desperately trying to make sure they keep the freeway slab balanced as they try to nab their quarry. Probably the most famous example can be found in episode 9 where Yuri and Kei each infiltrate one of two feuding cartels who are mining a planet made largely of a highly unstable but essential ore known as newstone. To prove their bona fides to their new employers the two must fight, something they approach with both relish and regret as it devolves into punching, slapping, hair-pulling and choking. Just when you think everything is resolved Kei (who artfully snuck in one last slap) accidentally sets off a chain-reaction in the ore, culminating in the entire planet exploding.

There is an Australian connection to Dirty Pair, in the form of Anglo-Australian sci-fi author J Bertram Chandler. To quote Haruka Takachiho from the archived AnimEigo website.

Haruka Takachiho wrote:
Bertram Chandler came to visit Japan. To help show him around, Studio Nue's two young female assistants became Mr. Chandler's personal tour guides. One assistant named Tanaka Yuri, and the other, Otoguro Keiko. One thing lead to another, and they came up with an idea of taking Mr. Chandler to a women's wrestling event.

At that time, the most popular women wrestling team was a duo named the "Beauty Pair". As we were watching the Beauty Pair in action, Mr. Chandler joked, "you know, those two in the ring maybe the Beauty Pair, but these two with you --- Yuri and Kei --- should be called the Dirty Pair!" At that moment, in my mind, I conceived a new story. That was the "Dirty Pair."


One wonders what the two young women's behaviour or conversation involved to earn the moniker, Dirty Pair. That aside, the anime plays on its wrestling references, from the official codename and the derogatory nickname for our tag team heroines, to their outfits and the name of their organisation WWWA, which could also stand for something like the Women's World Wrestling Association, though I can find no such organisation on the WWW. In addition, the original novel was written in the aftermath of the Star Wars revolution. Takachiho acknowledges his debt. I also suspect other American influences were at play. Two other 1970s American cultural icons that suggest themselves are Charlie's Angels featuring a trio of female crime-busters and Dirty Harry who likewise used unorthodox methods to bring criminals to justice and who also had a tendency to shoot first and ask questions later.

Dirty Pair's legacy in anime is significant. It can be credited with presaging two related and overlapping genres in anime. The first, incorporating elements of the super sentai tradition, is the, often comic and usually sci-fi, team of fighting girls found in such anime as Gall Force, Silent Möbius, Phantom Quest Corp, Bubblegum Crisis, Sol Bianca, Ruin Explorers - Fam and Ihrie, Carried by the Wind - Tsukikage Ran, Kiddy Grade, Simoun, Bodacious Space Pirates and many, many more. The other is the girls with guns tradition, initially in similarly comic and chaotic guise in titles like Gunsmith Cats and the Burn-Up franchise, then later, absorbing the influences of cyberpunk and film noir, morphing into Kite, Noir, Gunslinger Girl, Black Lagoon, Canaan, Mardock Scramble and Psycho-Pass. The comic fighting girl as protagonist has appeared throughout our current decade in Girls und Panzer, Kill Me Baby, Stella Women's Academy, KanColle, Upotte! and others. Funnily enough, where Dirty Pair owes a debt to the magical girls of Cutie Honey and, in its anime form at least, Leda - the Fantastic Adventure of Yohko and Dream Hunter Rem, it will itself indirectly re-invigorate the magical girl genre when Sailor Moon incorporates elements of the comic fighting teams into its own universe. Sure, I'm dropping a lot of names here and some of the links are once or twice removed, but I want to emphasise how pivotal this franchise was.

Rating: decent.
+ the chemistry between the two main characters; when it works, the over-the-top, absurdly funny mayhem; its enormous influence on subsequent anime.
- too much reliance on the two main characters who may not appeal to some viewers; the episodic structure of the series and the flimsy plots.

Resources:
Dirty Pair Features, Nozomi
ANN
The font of all knowledge
Archived Crusher Joe liner notes from AnimEigo
Anime: A Critical Introduction, Rayna Denison, Bloomsbury Academic
The Anime Encyclopaedia, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle


A shout out to their first appearance in Crusher Joe as seen here.


Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 4:34 am; edited 6 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website My Anime My Manga
Errinundra
Moderator


Joined: 14 Jun 2008
Posts: 6545
Location: Melbourne, Oz
PostPosted: Sat Jun 15, 2019 7:49 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl #51: Minky Momo


Minky Momo and her three companions: Mocha the monkey, Sindbook the dog and Pipiru the bird.
The Momotaro parallels account for her name and peach blush hair.


Fairy Princess Minky Momo: La Ronde in My Dream

Synopsis: When Momo's adoptive human parents disappear over the Pacific Ocean en route to a holiday in Antarctica she investigates a mysterious island where a Peter Pan figure ensures that everyone remains a child forever. The prodigious amounts of magical energy required to maintain this state of affairs attracts the attention of governments, corporations and crime syndicates from around the world to the tiny island. Amid the warring factions Momo searches for her parents and tries to understand the mind of the person behind it all.

Production details:
Premiere: 03 August 1985
Director: Kunihiko Yuyama (Josephina the Whale, GoShogun, Fairy Princess Minky Momo TV series, GoShogun: The Time Étranger, Leda - The Fantastic Adventure 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
Original creator and screenplay: Takeshi Shudo, a long time collaborator with Kunihiko Yuyama
Character Design: Toyoo Ashida (character designer or animation director of various productions including Heidi - Girl of the Alps, Space Battleship Yamato, Candy Candy, the 1979 and 2001 TV versions of Cyborg 009, Fairy Princess Minky Momo TV series, Fist of the North Star franchise as director, Guyver: Out of Control, Ultimate Teacher as director, Time Quest, The World of Narue as chief director and many, many more)
Art Director: Torao Arai
Animation Director: Hiroshi Watanabe
Mechanical design: Tomohiko Sato
Music: Takayuki Watanabe


Momo transformations clockwise from top left:
from a music hall sequence that owes much to Magical Girl Magical Emi;
Momo as Columbia in a spoof of Hollywood movie logos;
as child protector; and
as Peter's ideal woman, Cinderella.


Comments: The TV run of Fairy Princess Minky Momo (review here) had proven itself successful in terms of ratings, if not toy sales. Without the support of merchandising companies to bankroll another TV series, Ashi Productions turned to the OAV medium for this instalment of the franchise. As it turned out, La Ronde in My Dream scored a cinema release as well, and also found itself edited and dubbed for an English language release under the title, Gigi and the Fountain of Youth.

La Ronde in My Dream continues the TV show's thematic exploration of dreams. The antagonist, Peter Pan in all but last name (presumably for copyright reasons), is so disgusted by the adult behaviour he dreams of a world where they don't exist. To that end he has created his own world - enclosed in a sphere and hidden deep in the plume of steam above a volcano. Children who enter the sphere grow no older, while adults who stray too close are transformed back into their childhood selves thanks to the magical breath of Peter's dragon companions. In this eternal, dreamy happiness Momo discovers that her lovey-dovey, childlike parents are immune to the transformation, presumably because they never grew up in the first place. As adults with a dominant child in their nature, they are a hit with the thousands of children living in Peter's constructed world, becoming their de facto Mama and Papa. The problem for Momo is that they don't want to leave their new life of bliss. The OAV also cleverly uses Momo's transformational nature to create additional hurdles for her to overcome. Her child form is already innately adult - she only needs to wave her wand to reveal her grown up form. As a result, Peter's world detects her as an adult, thereby setting off sirens wherever she goes, but it can't transform her as she's already a child. Her solution is to remain in her older form for much of the OAV - like Mama and Papa, thanks to her inner child she's immune to the sphere's magic. It all makes sense, sort of.

Takeshi Shudo and Kunihiko Yuyama are caustic in the observations of adult behaviour. The only adults with any sort of redeeming behaviour are Mama and Papa, and that's because they are so sweet - another reason, perhaps, why they are so at home in Peter's world. They are clowns, nonetheless. As is every other adult character in the film, though they altogether lack Mama's and Papa's saccharine charm. They are greedy, unctuous, conniving, violent, arrogant, treacherous or in multiple combinations of the aforementioned. Every last one is equal part stupid and ridiculous. Don't be put off: this is a fun anime aimed at children, so the lambasting isn't downbeat or overtly cynical. The light-hearted approach also provides space for Shudo and Yuyama to indulge their penchant for spoofs and other references to iconic films and TV shows and to set up several amusing action sequences culminating in Momo's flight in a toy aeroplane, with homing missiles hot on her tail. There's also a dig at the older fans of Minky Momo. The eternal youth of the sphere's inhabitants, while pleasant, isn't portrayed as desirable or sustainable. (That last point is the lesson Peter will learn.) The message of the film is twofold: grow up, but don't become like the adults who run the world today; use your dreams to build a better world. The twist of the knife for us adults watching the OAV is in the questions it asks us? Have we grown up? After all, we are watching Minky Momo. And, what have we done to make the world a better place?


Clockwise from top left:
eternal children, Mama and Papa;
Momo challenges the antagonist, Peter;
even Space Battleship Yamato is shipwrecked on the island; and
Peter's swarming miniature flying robots can disassemble B52 bombers in mid-air.


With three Studio Pierrot magical girl series (Magical Angel Creamy Mami, Magical Fairy Persia and Magical Star Magical Emi) broadcast between the two Minky Momo instalments covered in this survey, comparisons are inevitable. Despite the referential humour aimed at a proxy adult audience, the Ashi shows are emotionally anaemic when stacked up against their Pierrot counterparts. They lack the soul of the Pierrot shows at their best. Momo is rarely internally conflicted. Unlike Yuu / Mami or Mai / Emi, being a magical girl isn't inherently problematic for Momo. There are no identity crises, no consequences to the deception of family and friends and no romantic entanglements. The conflicts she addresses, while they may be metaphors for everyday issues, are external to her. Momo is a cheerful fixer. Yuu and Mai may be anime artifice but, as audience, we vicariously share their emotional lives. Momo, like her wall of hair, is opaque to us. Hence the show must rely on its gags and its constant activity. La Ronde in My Dream is fun, but, despite the humorous censure of adult behaviour, ultimately fluff.

Rating: so-so.
+ the gags may not always be laugh-out-loud, be they referential, spoofs, ridicule of adult behaviour or just plain goofy fun, but they make for a genial experience; the character designs of Momo and her transformed versions; the sly and pointed, but not overplayed, questions directed at the adult audience.
- the portrayal of the indigenous islanders, while amusing - they make a tidy profit from visitor permits and accommodation charges - would raise eyebrows these days; lack of emotional depth for a magical girl anime.

Resources:
ANN
The font of all knowledge
The Anime Encyclopaedia, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle


Momo tries to evade a homing missile in a hotel ballroom.
This sequence breaks an in-universe rule: normally Momo must transform into an adult pilot before she can fly an aeroplane.
I think the get-out clause is that it's a toy aeroplane. Cool toy!


Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 4:35 am; edited 5 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website My Anime My Manga
Errinundra
Moderator


Joined: 14 Jun 2008
Posts: 6545
Location: Melbourne, Oz
PostPosted: Tue Jul 02, 2019 2:30 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl #52: Princess Fandora of Aura in the Phantos Dimension



Dream Dimension Hunter Fandora

Synopsis: Far into the future, or perhaps in another universe altogether, sophisticated criminals jump between dimensions to avoid the law. Fandora, a bounty hunter, is licensed to pursue them, but despite her effectiveness, thanks to a magical gem named Lupia that gives her supernatural powers in battle, she struggles to earn enough to maintain her spaceship. Her loyal retainer, the shape-changing Kue, keeps three secrets from her: his true form, the ultimate power of the gem she wields, and her stolen birthright. A seemingly simple bounty job leads Fandora to Yog-Sogoth, a monstrous being wielding a similar gem to Fandora's. If he can bring the gems together he can unify all dimensions under his control. In her struggle against him Fandora must come to terms with her own past.

Production details:
Premiere: 21 September 1985
Director: Kazuyuki Okaseko (ep 1); Hiroshi Yoshida (ep 2); and Shigenori Kageyama (ep 3)
Studio: Kaname Production
Original creator: Go Nagai (Harenchi Gakuen, Devilman, Mazinger Z, Violence Jack, Cutie Honey, Getter Robo, UFO Robo Grendizer, Majokko Tickle, Kekko Kamen and many, many more). A novel, written by Kouichi Minade and illustrated by Go Nagai was published prior to the release of the second VHS volume.
Scenario: Koichi Mizuide and Ryuji Yamada
Screenplay: Takashi Yamada
Character Design: Hideki Tamura (ep 1); Mayumi Watanabe (eps 2-3); and Hideko Yamauchi (ep 3)
Mecha design: Shohei Kohara and Masanori Nishii


Pulling a gun from nowhere Fandora explains things to the circling villains:
"Cute girls always make sure to have self-defence tools with them."
Perhaps the gun was hidden in her hair?


Go Nagai was born on 06 September 1945 - one month after the destruction of Hiroshima by atomic bomb and 4 days after Emperor HIrohito signed the surrender documents on board the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Inspired by Osamu Tezuka's Lost World manga and famously chastened by a severe and prolonged bout of diarrhoea (makes you wonder about the connection between them), he resolved to become a mangaka. He landed a position as assistant to Shotaro Ishinomori (then Ishimori), the creator of Cyborg 009, the super sentai concept and Kamen Rider. His big break came with Harenchi Gakuen (Shameless School), which introduced erotic elements for the first time in manga aimed at a young audience. It not only launched his career, it gave Shounen Jump a huge boost to its circulation. The "violence and tasteless humour" also made Go Nagai a pariah amongst more conservative elements, especially PTAs, and a target for the media. Undeterred he continued to innovate - creating the first piloted giant robot (Mazinger Z), the first female protagonist in a shounen manga (Cutie Honey) and the first combining / transforming giant robot (Getter Robo). He tightly controls the contractual rights to his creations via his company Dynamic Productions.

Comments: By the time of Dream Dimension Hunter Fandora, Go Nagai's most innovative period was behind him. The OAV had by this time been established, the sexy fighting girl in a sailor suit had been pioneered in Cream Lemon, and even the title is redolent of Dream Hunter Rem. What's more, Rem's entanglement of her gun-toting fighting girl and sword-wielding magical girl personae continues with Fandora who, thanks to the supernatural gem she possesses, slips between similar poles. Funnily enough, when Fandora invokes her gem, her accompanying poses strongly bring to mind Usagi upon her transformation in Sailor Moon. Both sequences can be traced back to Go Nagai's own Cutie Honey and, in a different context, his giant robot shows. Still, despite the pervasive 1980s generic character designs Go Nagai gives rein to his penchant for raunchiness, tastelessness, cruelty and violence - often all at once - so the end product is recognisably and distinctively his.


Top: Fandora's loyal retainer, Kue, in human form and true form.
Bottom left: PK the self-centred bounty hunter and his more ethical robot, GK.
Bottom right: Yog-Sogoth (referencing HP Lovecraft) in one of his more handsome guises.


Actually, from what I've seen of Go Nagai so far in this survey, the erotic scenes are more tame than his reputation suggests. Sure, Fandora's outfits are designed to excite - her skimpy, flapping skirt ensures panty shots are ubiquitous - and she's undressed on more than one occasion, but it's mostly rather coy. The anime is more vulgar in other ways. In a moment of a high danger Kue appears to have shat in his trousers, until it is revealed that the bulge is his involuntarily sprouted dragon's tail. And only Go Nagai would have his cute heroine spit on the face of her adversary. In another scene PK, a supposedly good guy, gratuitously and without provocation, rips open the front of Fandora's clothes to prove, as if nobody knew, that she is female and hence unsuited to life as a bounty hunter. While there's a narrative point to his argument - Kue led her into the occupation to suit his own ends - it seems to me the scenario's primary purpose as written is to display Fandora's nipples. The scene also points towards a common Go Nagai trope: cruelty. I'm not simply referring to the predilections of villains or other, more ambiguous characters. It's a characteristic element of his scripts. All his characters - good or bad, male or female - suffer undue pain, torment and humiliation. Anime has a long and, dare I say, honourable tradition of heroines going through hell. It is central to Noir , while Puella Magi Madoka Magica is arguably the apotheosis of the trope, and Made in Abyss is a more recent example. Go Nagai's sexualised depiction of the women adds an erotic element to their suffering. Perhaps it's just my sensibilities being offended, but, it seems to me that his women always get a worse deal than the men.

That may sound intriguing, but the reality is Dream Dimension Hunter Fandora is unengaging, with a lack of urgency in either its central conflict or the action scenes, a one-dimensional villain with a hackneyed evil laugh, an unfunny comedic foil (Kue's clownish and ungainly design is par for the course when it comes to Go Nagai secondary characters) and a heroine who, sexy appearance aside, is largely devoid of interest. The narrative ends up worse than dull: in the second episode the relationship between Yog-Sogoth and his alter ego Sotho verges on incoherence, while events in the final episode repeatedly come out of the blue.


Fandora has moments where it brings to mind Sailor Moon.

Each of the three episodes has a different director and character designer. The result is that the three episodes are stylistically somewhat different. Fandora's has a new outfit in each, while her face and hair vary between them. The most noticeable change is in Yog-Sogoth's human form, which gets distinctly off model, although which form is the "model" is moot. Things are more or less consistent within each episode so I didn't find the variations a problem, more a curiosity. The miserable resolution of the fansub I downloaded (you can do better on YouTube) marred my viewing experience - perhaps I would mark it higher if I had the opportunity to watch an official release. Discotek?

Rating: So-so
+ Fandora's design even if it's standard 80s fare; Go Nagai's provocatively interesting concatenation of female sexiness and cruelty
- dull and nonsensical plot, clichéd villain, otherwise uninteresting characters; Go Nagai's provocatively sexist concatenation of female sexiness and cruelty

Resources:
ANN (suggested reading: The Mike Toole Show - Tales from the Bottom Shelf)
The font of all knowledge
The World of Before the Apocalypse: Go Nagai
TV Tropes: Break the Cutie
The Anime Encyclopaedia, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle



Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 4:36 am; edited 3 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website My Anime My Manga
Errinundra
Moderator


Joined: 14 Jun 2008
Posts: 6545
Location: Melbourne, Oz
PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2019 7:23 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl Pair #53: Iczer-One and Nagisa Kano

Fight! Iczer-One


The protagonists, clockwise from top left: Iczer-One - light sabres were all the rage in anime in the aftermath of Star Wars;
Nagisa as co-pilot of Iczer-Robo - the intensity of her emotional state powers the robot;
being tentacle molested by, what was shortly beforehand, one of her parents; and
Iczer-Robo about to unleash one of Nagisa's emotion-sourced energy beams.


Synopsis: A homeless race of aliens, ominously referred to as Cthulhu, wanders the galaxy in a forlorn search for a habitable planet they can peacefully settle. As their leader, Sir Violet (she's female, despite her name), is on the point of despair they encounter a rogue computer originally programmed to assist living creatures. The machine, known as Big Gold, takes on the task of finding them a homeland... by any means possible. She takes control of the travellers and turns their companion pets into hideous, shape-changing monsters with ravening tentacles and teeth-lined orifices. Her plan is to infest the next planet they encounter - Earth, as it happens - with the monsters, which will wipe out humans, leaving the planet ripe for colonisation. Appalled at the plan, the most powerful Cthulhu warrior - Iczer-One - escapes. Arriving on Earth ahead of the invasion she searches for a partner with whom she can merge. This will enable them to summon and pilot a giant robot known as Iczer-Robo - a machine with such stupendous powers it might just be able to stop the Cthulhu. She finds a Japanese school girl, Nagisa Kano, who is initially reluctant to fight, but, when her parents are transformed into monsters then killed, she directs her grief and rage towards saving the Earth. As Iczer-One and Nagisa grow ever closer they begin to grasp the sacrifices they must make to prevail.

Production details:
Premiere: 19 October 1985
Director / script / storyboards / character designs: Toshihiro (aka Toshiki) Hirano (Don't Do It, Mako! Mako Sexy Symphony arc of Cream Lemon; Iczer Reborn and Iczelion, Dangaioh and Great Dangaioh, the OAV and TV versions of Vampire Princess Miyu, Rayearth and Magic Knight Rayearth, and Baki, among others)
Studio: AIC
Source material: the manga Tatakae!! Ikusā Wan by Aran Rei, published in Lemon People from 1983-1987
Animation director / key animation: Narumi Kakinouchi - married to Toshihiro Hirano and collaborated on many anime with him
Music: Michiaki Watanabe
Mecha design: Shinji Aramaki, Hiroaki Motoigi and Masami Obari
Monster Design / key animation: Junichi Watanabe


The relationship between Nagisa and Iczer-One is romanticised; those between the Cthulhu are overtly sexual.
(That's two Lovecraftian shout-outs in two consecutive reviews.)


Comments: I've now watched more anime from the 80s than the 90s, though I imagine things will be redressed once the project moves into the next decade. Being immersed in the era has meant that I've long since got over any aversion I had to the look of 1980s anime. At the moment, for me, it's the norm. Furthermore, 1985 is so far away now, and anime design has evolved so much in that time, that it now glows with a quaint, historical charm. In short, don't let the character designs with their bouffy, neon hairstyles, the tentacles or the terrorised maidens prevent you from checking out this hoot of an OAV.

Anime has always embraced a sense of the absurd for its own sake. It was there from the days of Osamu Tezuka (eg, Cleopatra), although he often used it to satirise pretension. Shotaro Ishinimori (eg, Cyborg 009) and his protégé Go Nagai (in pretty much everything he produced) made an art form of it. Things got more sophisticated in the 1980s. While something like Dirty Pair is overtly silly, shows like Fairy Princess Minky Momo, Super Dimension Fortress Macross and GoShogun all have a nudge-nudge-wink-wink-if-you're-a-hardcore-fan-like-me-you're-in-on-the-joke tone to them. Fight! Iczer-One, however, plays its cards with a very straight face. You might think that the horror and gore elements would make for a very dark atmosphere. It does. And, for sure, all the characters are terribly serious, but once I became attuned to the underlying tone then the horror, the gore, even the earnest characters, can be seen as part of the over-the-top fun being indulged in by creative staff.

The first hint of the absurd is the exhortation that is the title, especially in the mouth of the narrator (Yusaku Yara), "Ganbere, Nagisa. Tatakae, Iczer-one!", with his drawn out "Iczerrrrrrrr" followed by a snappy, "One!" His breathless previews sound like he's giving the pre-match hype for a choreographed wrestling match. Another clue is the loud, bombastic soundtrack from Michiaki Watanabe whose long association with Go Nagai's Mazinger franchise should be warning enough on its own. The computerised drum machines so prominent in the mix further shouts out this OAV is from the 80s. I love it. The rhythms are overlaid with eerie voices, synth washes and heavy brass. My favourite is an ominous piece made up of sampled bass male voices heard prominently in episode 2 when Nagisa encounters an infected policeman, closely followed by her first meeting with a terrified child, Sayoko. The breathy voices in the samples strongly suggest Watanabe was using a Fairlight CMI - the dominant synthesiser of the time. The most blatant over-the-top scenes involve Japan's flying battleships Fuji I, Fuji II and Fuji III, one for each episode, and each one larger and more powerful than the last. Crewed entirely by men, in an OAV with an almost entirely female cast, each has a dramatic and elaborate launch with the blaring soundtrack at its most urgent, then approaches the Cthulhu and promptly destroyed. So much for the men.


Villains. Clockwise from top left:
the nicely creepy interface for Big Gold; Sir Violet - be careful of what you wish for; Iczer-Two, an enhanced clone of Iczer-One;
Nagisa's parents after infestation - even the picture on the wall has been transformed from a tasteful portrait into a chilling nude;
Cobalt's death at the hands of Iczer-One and Nagisa trigger Cthulhu rage; and Cobalt's lover Sepia is set on vengeance.


Just three months after Dirty Pair gave anime a couple of spunky and dominant female characters, we get another duo - Iczer-One and Nagisa and a cast of villains who are female to the very last one (regardless of their names). The villains are sour types: arrogant, vengeful, violent and single-minded. I like their character designs in general, with 1980s fuller body plans that are more realistic (hair colour and outfits aside - why would you where your underwear on top of your body suit?) than the stick figures of later anime and that give a more three dimensional impression, especially the faces. The monsters succeed in being simultaneously ghastly and entertaining, while the curvy mecha designs fit the bill well enough without drawing attention to themselves. For their part, the heroines are at their wits' ends: with Iczer-One desperate to get Nagisa on board before it's too late; and the latter scared out of her wits. Ultimately, Iczer-One proves herself a generous and loving heroine whose final act is a far, far more selfless version of Homura's in Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Rebellion. Nagisa's terror is portrayed creditably well, being both convincing and sustained. Too often a horror anime's narrative requires an abrupt shift in the victim's emotional state: a near death experience one scene; happy and composed the next. Nagisa's actions are suitably borne out of desperation. I would add that the tentacle scenes and the nudity are restrained. Fight! Iczer-One isn't hentai by any means. The dripping tentacles threaten for the most part and only once does one enter Nagisa's mouth (as shown above). That's the extent of sexual violation that you see. Nudity and panty shots are frequent, but don't come across as gross. There is one naked yuri scene that is interrupted before it gets beyond kissing. Unlike the pilot, the mecha co-pilots must be both undressed and immersed in fluid (prefiguring Neon Genesis Evangelion). The power of the mecha is dependent on how well the two synchronise emotionally (prefiguring Simoun) and the level of emotional excitation of the co-pilot. As a former Australian Prime Minister once said, "Maintain your rage." Or, in this case, fear. Or hate. Or righteousness.

Another plus of the series is the quality of animation, easily the best of the nine OAV covered so far in this project. Walking looks natural; movements are fluid and realistic; the fight scenes are crisp and kinetic, and the attention to detail impressive. I guess it's a sign of the growing budgets available for OAV production. The background artwork isn't as good, being functional at best. Happilty, almost all scenes take place at night or with dull lighting, so the shadowy scenery hides any shortcomings in the artwork for the most part. The plot can be opaque - some important developments are visually so low key that they can be easily missed, such as Iczer-One's escape from the original encounter with Big Gold or Iczer-Two's escape from her mecha moments before its destruction. I had to rely on the internet to fully understand some of the back story, but, even then, some things remain unexplained, such as where all the Cthulhus' (including Iczer-One's) supernatural powers come from, or how the mecha are seemingly conjured out of nothing. Are they created from their imaginations? I was intrigued by what the Cthulhu actually were in a physical sense. Iczer-One tells Nagisa that she's an android and we see Iczer-Two being constructed in a giant test tube, yet, when we see the Cthulhu prior to their fateful meeting with Big Gold, they seem to be humanoid, organic life forms. There is a hint that Big Gold needs souls to animate her creations so may be using the original Cthulhu to do so, but, counter to that, Iczer-One existed before Big Gold came on the scene. The question remains unresolved.

Rating: good
+ over the top sci-fi / tentacle horror story that presents its absurdities with a sly, straight face; bombastic but fun soundtrack; character designs (even allowing for the 80s provenance); animation
- background artwork; the unrelieved earnest demeanour of all the characters; sometimes hard to follow plot or backgrounding.

Resources:
ANN - Theron Martin's review is recommended.
The font of all knowledge
Animanga Services: Iczer-1
500 Essential Anime Movies: the Ultimate Guide, Helen McCarthy, Collins Design


Sayoko motivates Nagisa to make a stand for humanity.


Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 4:37 am; edited 3 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website My Anime My Manga
Errinundra
Moderator


Joined: 14 Jun 2008
Posts: 6545
Location: Melbourne, Oz
PostPosted: Sun Jul 14, 2019 3:20 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl #54, Suzuko / Suzu

Fire Tripper



Synopsis: School girl Suzuko, whose foster parents found her abandoned on the bank of a river, has the inexplicable talent of time travelling whenever she is caught in a fire (which seems to happen unusually often). She can also transport whomsoever she is holding at the time. After a gas explosion in her home town she arrives at a desolate, body strewn battlefield in the Sengoku period where she meets Shukumaru, a rough but gallant and likeable local villager, who saves her from rapists scouring the site for plunder. They fall in love, only for Suzuko to realise she may be a time-skipped version of Shukumaru's younger sister Suzu after she witnesses the latter vanishing in the midst of a house fire.

Production details:
Premiere: 16 December 1985
Director: either Motosuke Takahashi or Osamu Uemura, depending on the source
Studio: Pierrot
Source material: the manga Honoo Torippa, published in the August 1983 issue of Weekly Shonen Sunday by Rumiko Takahashi (Urusei Yatsura, Mermaid Forest, Maisson Ikkoku, Maris the Chojo, Ranma ½, The Laughing Target, Mermaid's Scar, Inuyasha and RIN-NE among others)
Screenplay: Tomoko Konparu
Music: Keiichi Oku
Character Design: Katsumi Aoshima
Art Director: Torao Arai
Art design: Junko Yamamoto


Shukumaru

Comments: By late 1985 mangaka Rumiko Takahashi had proven her popularity with two long running manga series: the shonen Urusei Yatsura and, aiming at an older audience, Maisson Ikkoku. An anime series of the former was nearing the end of its 195 episode run, while the latter had been green lit for its own anime series. With her reputation established, three of her Rumic World short manga stories were made into OAVs, of which Fire Tripper was the first. In the US, the three shorts (the others being Maris the Chojo and The Laughing Target) are usually lumped together with two later OAV episodes from her Mermaid Saga series as Rumic World. Fire Tripper may be disposable, and probably forgotten if not for its association with Takahashi, but it does fit the survey's general specification for a conflicted female protagonist. In any case, the OAV has a couple of points of interest. And, characteristically for her, the narrative is propelled by a gimmicky twist with romantic implications.

The twist is that multiple time skips have, unbeknownst to her, re-united Suzuko with her brother Shukumaru in Japan's Warring States period. The whole set up is brazenly contrived. Why does Suzuko always travel between the same two places and dates, and at times of the day suitable for narrative requirements? Why is it that, if she embraces her companion closely, they arrive at a new location in time and space together, but if they are only holding hands their new location is in the same place but a decade apart? The time travel shenanigans also provide Takahashi with a convenient get out for Suzuko's dilemma, reinforcing the feeling that the whole thing is little more than a throw-away effort. No attempt is made to explain the mechanics or catalyst for the time travel, though I wouldn't hold this last quibble against the anime. I'm reminded of a friend who didn't like Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis because it didn't explain the cause of Gregor Samsa's transformation. What's important is what happens afterwards. Catch is, establishing the premise takes up so much of the fifty minute run-time, that the incest conflict and resolution are perfunctory. By the way, the OAV neatly avoids any Tolman Paradoxes (ie, time travel causality breaches - see my Haruhi Suzumiya 2nd season review for elucidation). Both Suzuko and Shukumaru meet their younger selves, though only by sight in the latter's case, without creating any unresolvable contradictions.


Top left: Suzu trapped in a fire prior to her first time skip.
Top right: Suzuko and Shu. I learned from Go Nagai that if you see a gas storage facility, it will explode.
(Go Nagai's Storage Tank is the anime equivalent of Chekov's Gun.)
Middle left: Shukumaru and Suzu in a happy moment. Suzuko may have subconsciously retained the memory.
Middle right: a drunk Shukumaru accosts Suzuko in the barn where she sleeps.
Bottom left: Her indignant reaction to his spying on her bathing. (She turns away and smiles.)
Bottom right: arriving in modern Japan, she cradles the injured Shukumaru. The implications for the latter aren't explored.


Fire Tripper is the second instance in this project where incest is the subject, after Ami in Cream Lemon. Really just a tease, Takahashi resolves the dilemma via the time travelling itself. We and Suzuko just need to discover the correct sequence of events and both her and Shukumaru's actual places of birth. The answer is very pat. More intriguing is an unexpected parallel between this anime and Motoi Yoshida's and Takahiro Omori's masterpiece on the subject, Koi Kaze. Both Suzuko and Nanoka (the female co-lead of Koi Kaze) have the same summer uniform, save for one small detail - Nanoka has a second blue stripe on her short sleeves. Suzuko's resemblance to Nanoka in the bottom right image just above is striking. Oddly enough, in From Up On Poppy Hill, another anime where possible incest is briefly canvassed, Umi's uniform is also eerily similar. What's more, I believe in the scenes in question Umi is drawn to suggest Nanoka, especially in her poses and expressions. Coincidences? Deliberate shout outs? Only the creators could confirm the truth. (And, no, Ami's uniform is quite different.)

Not only is Suzuko the protagonist of the story, but, unlike recent examples in this survey, isn't portrayed as an eye-candy object. Regardless of her origins in Weekly Shonen Sunday, she is meant to be viewed sympathetically by her young, male audience. For much of the OAV she remains passive - observing rather than instigating events. Admittedly, her bewilderment and alarm at her circumstances are reasonably convincing. As might be expected for her audience, she will be saved by Shukumaru from assault. To her credit she will, in turn, leap into harm's way to save Shukumaru from immolation (see image at the top of the post). More importantly, she ultimately decides for herself whether or not to return with him to the Sengoku Era. (There's always a gas storage tank handy if she needs it.) Shukumaru is a typical Takahashi male lead - uncouth and a fighter, yet endearing thanks to his energy, optimism and his, mostly, good heart. His failed, drunken attempt to sleep with her is more comic than alarming. When he falls asleep sprawled across her bed of straw, it isn't clear whether her chagrin is due to which particular combination of a) his attempted assault, b) the loss of her bed, or c) his romantic ineptitude. The presentation of the gender roles are conservative: Suzuko is ultimately a nurturer; Shukumaru a doer. Character designs are thoroughly 1980s and thoroughly Takahashi, with prominent curved fringes arching out in front of the faces and long bangs in front of the ears. Female bodies are shorter and chunkier than current standards, as if they never grew out of their childish puppy fat. Clearly aesthetic ideals have changed in anime over 30 years.

Rating: so-so
+ sympathetic portrayal of the heroine who isn't simply eye candy for a male audience; her reactions to her strange circumstances.
- the contrived time travel and incest elements that are resolved too easily; overall disposable story and characters.

Resources:
ANN
The font of all knowledge


A crucial link between the Sengoku Era and 1985.


Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 4:38 am; edited 4 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website My Anime My Manga
Errinundra
Moderator


Joined: 14 Jun 2008
Posts: 6545
Location: Melbourne, Oz
PostPosted: Sun Jul 21, 2019 1:27 am Reply with quote
I watched these OAVS as part of the survey, but they turned out to be too marginal and too mediocre to be added to the canon.


Left: Lamina from Love Position - the Legend of Halley; right: Kate Lee Jackson from Bavi Stock.

Love Position - the Legend of Halley

Synopsis: Despite its pornographic sounding title, this is a humanist sci-fi tale from Osamu Tezuka about an exterminating angel sent by the gods via Halley's Comet in 1910 to cleanse the earth of its miscreant inhabitants. Arriving in Vietnam and enchanted by the Earth's beauty, she refuses to carry out her mission and lives, unwearied by age, as a recluse in an abandoned temple. She helps and falls in love with an injured Hispanic American soldier (he names her Lamina, possibly from the Spanish slang term for a young woman) during the Vietnam War before he is forcibly repatriated to Japan to recover. Jump to 1986 and the soldier's son travels to Vietnam to find the mysterious woman. The comet's return in that year brings with it a more single-minded and ferocious Arnold Schwarzenegger clone bent on killing Lamina and completing her original task. The OAV devolves into a Terminator-style stop-the-unkillable-monster where the the son, Subaru Marita (his father married the Japanese nurse who looked after him), must save Lamina, his girlfriend Yumi and, by extension, the whole world.

Production details:
Premiere: 16 December 1985
Director: Shuji Iuchi
Studio: Tezuka Productions
Original creator: Osamu Tezuka
Script: Masaki Tsuji
Music: Kei Wakakusa


Exterminating angels.

Lamina: Although thematically central to Tezuka's vision of the eternal conflict between the life force and death, Lamina is not only secondary to Subaru in screen time, she is a largely passive character. For much of the film she is little more than a symbol - the enigmatic woman hidden among the savages in the wilds of a colonial imagination. She immediately brings to mind the women in Henry Rider Haggard's lost civilisation novels set in deepest, darkest Africa, such as Ayesha in She and its many sequels and prequels, or Nyleptha and Sorais in Allan Quatermain. Subaru's journey through the jungle (though brief) also suggests Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, which, as part of its satire on colonialism, borrows the structure of Haggard's novels, while the Vietnam setting likewise suggests Apocalypse Now, which pre-dated this OAV by six years and was itself a re-visioning of the Conrad novel. Being altogether sweet, Lamina can't match Haggard's magnificent but unsettling women or even the lucidly deranged Kurtz. Her major activity seems, on the evidence of the OAV, to be restoring the Vietnamese soil after defoliation by the Americans (Lamina can also mean "to foliate"). I wonder how inept the gods were in recruiting her as a weapon of mass destruction. After her discovery, and, on a philosophical level, containment, by Subaru, Lamina's sweet and passive nature ensures she is perfect victim fodder for her rampaging successor, thus enabling Subaru's manly and protective qualities to be foregrounded. She is also ripe as a catalyst for conflict between Subaru and his jealous girlfriend, Yumi. I would have preferred a more ambiguous or multi-layered portrayal (ironically, lamina is also Latin for "layer" - Tezuka's names often have interesting allusions) of someone who is supposed to be very powerful.

Rating: not really good

Bavi Stock

Synopsis: From Terminator inspired to Star Wars inspired we move to a world where people live on and fly between enormous floating chunks of rock in the air. In volume 1, Kate Lee Jackson (surely also inspired by the Charlie's Angels actor) is an agent of the space police sent to break two people out of imprisonment: Mooma - a young woman with latent psionic abilities being held by rivals Ruth Miller and the optically luminous Eyesman; and Bavi (ie, Bobby) Stock - a delinquent young man imprisoned for life for killing a rival in a knife fight (why, in this case, he ought to be released is never explained). After the police headquarters are destroyed by Mooma's rivals, Bavi Stock finds himself in a life and death speeder bike race with Eyesman as Ruth Miller tries to kill Kate, Mooma and anyone else who might impede her ambitions. In volume 2 Kate, Bavi, his former prison friend Sammy and Mooma have a final confrontation with Ruth and Eyesman on a snowy world inhabited by ewok lookalikes.


Left: Kate and Mooma; Right: Kate and Bavi.

Production details:
Premiere: 20 December 1985
Director & character designer: Shigenori Kageyama
Studios: Kaname Pro, Studio Giants, Studio Unicorn

Kate Lee Jackson: As the its title suggests, the protagonist of the OAV is Bavi - a cross between the anti-social Joe of Ashita no Joe and more regular anime sci-fi heroes of the time - but you wouldn't know it from the first episode's prelude where Kate sets the tone with her derring-do. Her action hero status is emphasised by her butch appearance in the style of Kei from Dirty Pair (but without the latter's comic overtones except for one lame domestic scene in episode 2). After the title sequence of episode 1 she quickly settles into her allotted secondary role. The focus shifts decidedly to Bavi Stock until Kate violently breaks him out, then reinforced in the second half where Kate has only a couple of scenes in which to shine. By episode 2 she is little more than superfluous to requirements as Mooma's significance becomes more apparent. She's denied a romantic role - even as a third wheel - as Bavi and Mooma pair off. In short, she's an under-utilised character of unrealised potential - a classic case of the sidekick being more interesting than the protagonist.

Rating: not really good



Resources:
ANN: Love Position - the Legend of Halley; Bavi Stock
The Anime Encyclopaedia, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website My Anime My Manga
Beltane70



Joined: 07 May 2007
Posts: 3920
PostPosted: Sun Jul 21, 2019 10:11 am Reply with quote
I think that these two titles are the first time that you’ve covered something that I’ve never heard of before!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message My Anime My Manga
Errinundra
Moderator


Joined: 14 Jun 2008
Posts: 6545
Location: Melbourne, Oz
PostPosted: Sun Jul 21, 2019 4:05 pm Reply with quote
Neither had I until I compiled the list. They're so marginal that neither get a page in the Font of Almost All Knowledge.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website My Anime My Manga
Errinundra
Moderator


Joined: 14 Jun 2008
Posts: 6545
Location: Melbourne, Oz
PostPosted: Sun Aug 04, 2019 4:23 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girls #55: Kei & Yuri, aka the Lovely Angels or, more usually, the Dirty Pair



Dirty Pair: Affair on Nolandia

Synopsis: investigating the murder of several scientists, the Dirty Pair arrive on the hellish planet Ookbarl just as their client is likewise murdered and her adoptive daughter, Missnie, disappears. Cloud-covered Ookbarl has but two habitable locations. The first is the gravity-defying Ajijijori Plateau that sticks out above the clouds and where all economic activity takes place. The second is the strange and dangerous Nolandia Forest that grows in a permanent whirlpool-generated break in the clouds. Following a tip from the chief security officer of the corporate Watanabe Foundation, Yuri and Kei search for Missnie in Nolandia, where nightmares haunt their dreams, illusions befuddle their waking hours and the very plants and animals violate the building blocks of biology. They discover that the planet holds a secret more terrible and that the business interests of the Foundation are more sinister than they could have possibly imagined.

Production details:
Premiere: 20 December 1985
Director: Masaharu Okuwaki
Studios: Studio Nue and Sunrise
Script: Kazunori Ito (Urusei Yatsura, Creamy Mami franchise, Patlabor franchise, the first Ghost in the Shell movie, .hack franchise)
Storyboard: Masaharu Okuwaki
Music: Yoshihiro Kunimoto
Original creator: Haruka Takachiho
Character design: Tsukasa Dokite
Art director: Yuko Fujii
Animation directors: Keizō Shimizu and Yukari Kobayashi
Mechanical design: Yasushi Ishizu


Top left: psychic Missnie isn't as sweet as she appears here.
Top right: anime's Terminator infestation continues in Affair on Nolandia.
Bottom left: mascot companion Mughi has taken on a darker hue.
Bottom right: one of the denizens of Nolandia.


Comments: Yuri and Kei return in an OAV that differs significantly in tone from the TV series. The give-away is the presence in the credits of scriptwriter Kazunori Ito who will, in time, pen the screenplays for both the goofy / serious Patlabor franchise, the earnest and thoughtful Ghost in the Shell movie and the slow-paced .hack franchise. The OAV's failure to reach the entertainment levels of its predecessor can be blamed largely on the script and the direction from Masaharu Okuwaki. Affair on Nolandia is a more serious take on the Dirty Pair phenomenon, which entirely denies them their strongest asset: their comic interactions. With the comedy downplayed neither the action nor the drama are good enough to lift the narrative above mediocrity. There is a comic edge to the OAV, but its of a form that doesn't suit the central duo. In the place of their famed verbal sparring and the piling of absurdity onto already fraught situations, we get mundane interactions and gags that may be clever in conception but fail to raise the comic stakes beyond incongruity. To give some examples, Yuri and Kei acting like children to win Missnie's trust fails to be funny, or Yuri pursuing a villain along a freeway on rocket-powered roller skates, then on bicycle, then on foot has the potential for hilarious mishaps, but mostly blows it, or Kei confronting a seemingly unkillable cyborg on an aerial monorail train is similarly prosaic. The sequences are amusing, but not hilarious, which is where my expectations for the franchise lie.

The women themselves are likewise diminished, in affect if not appearance. They now have a more solid, more chunky, more 3D appearance, which makes them more realistic, something that is accentuated by the higher quality animation with its more natural movement. They are now earthier in their sexuality, the displayed flesh is more in your face. What you make of that will depend on your taste in such matters and your expectations of the franchise, which has never been shy about its fanservice. The sense of the ridiculous that was part of the charm of the TV series, and that leavened the fanservice, has been diluted. Disappointingly, the mundane dialogue leaves Yuri without much that's clever to say, but worse is the change in Kei. For sure, Kei is the hot-headed, impulsive member of the team, but she's now the obtuse offsider to the exposition spouting Yuri. Kei comes to grief; composed Yuri sets things aright. Altogether gone is the beguiling interplay of sharpness and stupidity that both women displayed previously. Yuri has become the dominant, more capable and more important character, something that spoils a relationship whose charm lay in its edginess and its egalitarianism.


Poise amidst the prevailing mayhem

For the first 35 minutes of its 55 minute run time, Affair on Nolandia leisurely sets up its supposed premise then explores the psychological terrors (including an obligatory, for the time, tentacle rape scene) of the forest (which owes much to Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind) where Missnie is hiding out. The last, and most entertaining, 15 minutes involves two parallel chases: Yuri pursuing the mastermind across town; and the cyborg stalking Kei. Both neatly converge on the local spaceport for a grand climax. In between is 5 minutes of viewing time and 75% of the plot. It's the strangest thing. Yuri and Kei, who had apparently left the planet, re-appear unexpectedly to inform the villains and the viewers what's really going on in a verbal exposition that covers considerably more plot development than we get to witness elsewhere in the entire OAV. I can't help but think 30 minutes got cut from the run time, so the makers simply replaced an entire act with exposition.

That's not the only questionable thing with the narrative. As part of the summary of events we learn that Missnie is one of many victims of the nefarious experimental activities being undertaken on the planet. And while the opening scenes suggest she isn't as innocent as the forest arc suggests, she engenders sympathy thanks to her childish behaviour and the horror of her circumstances. That sympathy is trashed in a final, destructive act that left a bad taste in my mouth. The obligatory Dirty Pair final destruction was never as deliberate or as cold-blooded as this.

Rating: so-so. Affair on Nolandia isn't irretrievably bad, just mediocre.
+ improved production values; last fifteen minutes capture something of the franchise's best qualities.
- narrative shortcomings on multiple levels; relationship between Yuri and Kei downplayed; trademark comic absurdity largely missing.

Resources:
Dirty Pair Features, Nozomi
ANN
500 Essential Anime Movies: the Ultimate Guide, Helen McCarthy, Collins Design


Sure enough, the plateau will collapse, but this time it isn't the fault of Kei or Yuri.


Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 4:38 am; edited 3 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website My Anime My Manga
Errinundra
Moderator


Joined: 14 Jun 2008
Posts: 6545
Location: Melbourne, Oz
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2019 5:22 am Reply with quote
Beginning with this peculiar anime, the beautiful fighting girl / OAV eruption will reach a crescendo in 1986. All in all, I have twenty titles to cover (including movies and TV shows), easily the most for any year so far in this survey. 1987 will see a minor decline in the numbers to review. These two years alone should keep me busy for the next year or so.

Beautiful Fighting Girl #56: Antoinette



The Humanoid

Synopsis: Antoinette is a humanoid robot built by Dr Watson, earth's envoy to the Megalosian planet Lazeria - home of the exiled Princess Ignasia of Megalos. The robot takes a shine to a visiting cargo ship pilot, Eric, who has come to the planet to propose to Dr Watson's daughter, Sheri. When the local governor, the aptly named Proud, decides to activate, against the advice of the Princess's minister Libero, the unearthed ruins of a mighty power source known as Ixion he places the entire planet in mortal peril. With Eric's life at stake, Antoinette puts her own life on the line to save the day.

Production details:
Premiere: 05 March1986
Studio: Toshiba EMI, Kaname Production
Director: Shinichi Masaki (Initial D: Second Stage, Koihime, Pure Mail, Ultra Maniac, Space Symphony Maetel ~Ginga Tetsudō 999 Gaiden~ and an episode director in many, many franchises)
Screenplay: Koichi Mizuide
Music: Masao Nakajima
Original Character Design: Hajime Sorayama (graphic artist not normally associated with anime and notable for his erotic gynoid images)
Character Design: Shohei Kohara
Art Director: Geki Katsumata
Animation Director: Osamu Kamijo
Mechanical design: Shohei Kohara

Note: I watched the American dubbed version from Central Park Media.

Comments: Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy describe The Humanoid as "a sure contender for one of the worst anime ever made", while Justin Sevakis more charitably says, "I love The Humanoid. It's absolutely brainless, has zero budget, and looks about as bad as any other OAV of its age. But when it cranks those 80s rock tunes and ratchets up the pathos, it's hard to keep myself from smiling. With something that reeks of the age this badly, I just want to roll in it like a dog in poop." My own response is somewhere in between. If you break the OAV down into its constituent parts its shortcomings, other than Antoinette's design and the cheesy soundtrack that Justin rightly admires, are manifest, but the whole is marginally better than the sum of the parts, so I'd rate it as merely bad, rather than awful. And, interestingly, in its approach to its female subject the OAV introduces a theme that will, in time, become central to the survey.


Left: the best thing about the anime is Antoinette's design;
Right (from top to bottom): evil Governor Proud does a number on Eric's fiancée, Sheri;
Dr Watson (right) asks, "Is something wrong", to which Libero could be forgiven for replying, "My quads are killing me!";
Sheri and Princess Ignasia would look more at home in a contemporary magical girl anime; and
Governor Proud lifts the lid on the Ixion and gets his Raiders of the Lost Ark comeuppance.



I'll briefly list some of the shortcomings before I concentrate on the one drawback that comprehensively undermines whatever original message the OAV may contain: the set-up is clichéd, with its obvious Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark borrowings; the script - especially the running non-gag about the sublime joys of coffee - is both dumb and wooden (despite the voice actors behind Dr Watson, Alan and Governor Proud trying hard to add some personality to the uninspired dialogue and simplistic characters); the action scenes lack tension; the animation, when it isn't just pans and scans, is minimal and the artwork, again Antoinette aside, prosaic. Occasionally things get downright incompetent. In one scene, where Eric the space pilot is leaning against a doorway chatting with his commander Alan, the camera point of view switches to an overhead shot, only to have the spaceship architecture vanish (see image below).

The biggest disappointment is that The Humanoid lacks the wherewithal to prosecute its central thesis: that a robot, programmed by Dr Watson to both act independently and to "interact harmoniously with nature" might develop the capacity to love. The root of the failure is easy to identify: the feeble script provides almost zero basis for the viewer to get a handle on or identify with any of the characters. Beyond what their character designs and their voices convey to us of their personalities, the narrative and the dialogue is so wooden that all the characters, not just the robot Antoinette, have the conviction and expressive range of marionettes. I'm not convinced that Eric and Sheri love each other, let alone that Antoinette could spontaneously discover the same emotion. Further hurdles get in the way. While her design is notable - despite owing much to both Fritz Lang's robot woman in Metropolis and Osamu Tezuka's Olga the robot from Space Firebird 2772 - Sorayama's metallic eroticism is distancing, leaving the inadequate script to attempt, unsuccessfully as it turns out, to reduce the emotional space between her as object and the viewer. I also find it hard to imagine a character who seems as cold as Antoinette could come to love Eric, even if he actually did something to warrant it. The contrast with Olga is apt. Tezuka takes considerable pains to demonstrate Olga's devotion to Godoh, so that her sacrifice makes complete sense. The tenderness she displays, even if artificial, suggests a capacity to love, while her comic movements and transformations and, dare I say it, amine-typical cuteness, add enormously to her appeal. But then, I suppose I'm comparing a master with a hack. The narrative of The Humanoid doesn't help. There is minimal interaction between Antoinette and Eric, we aren't privy to her inner thoughts, and there are no displays of affection. Most perplexing is her final, unexplicated suicide, presumably because the now engaged Eric is forever out of reach. Seems like she's learned despair as well.


Odd perspective jump. What happened to the doorway? And the Walls? Could these guys accidentally fall into a void?

Yet, in the terms of this survey, there is something of interest, something relatively novel, within the OAV. In Antoinette we are presented - I think deliberately - with the notion of the female as the strange, perhaps monstrous, other as subject of examination. That's not to say the trope hasn't been present to some degree in at least some of the 85 or so anime I've examined so far. You can see her from the very beginning in Bai Niang from The Tale of the White Serpent or in Captain Tonga from Tezuka's Kimba the White Lion and, of course, to some extent Olga. Indeed monstrous women are Tezuka staples. Think Cleopatra or even his studio's Belladonna of Sadness. Looking further afield, Cutie Honey revels in the trope, particularly in its villains: they are nightmares to the very last one. I suppose Go Nagai shares a similar distaste with Tezuka. Both Maetel (Galaxy Express 999) and Fujiko Mine (Lupin III) have elements of the monstrous alongside their other qualities, adding to their complexity and appeal. That all said, since the explosion of otaku-centred anime the female protagonists and / or subjects have been presented, for the most part, positively - even sympathetically. A recent example from the survey would be Lamina from Love Position - the Legend of Halley (Tezuka again), but, as presented, she lacks an inclination for violence. Antoinette isn't meant to be monstrous as far as I can tell, but she is the cyborg other, with the threat that implies. She is also emotionally and intellectually distanced from the viewer. It's worth noting that it is Eric, not her, who is the point of view character of the narrative and who is the intended object of our sympathies. The trope will be explored by anime as we move forward in the survey. We will encounter a much more successful version of the female cyborg other as source of male anxiety in Armitage III.

Rating: bad
+ Sorayama's design for Antoinette, cheesy 1980s rock soundtrack.
- everything else.

Resources:
ANN
Justin Sevakis's Buried Garbage article
The Anime Encyclopaedia, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle
The English version of Hajime Sorayama's website



Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 4:39 am; edited 6 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website My Anime My Manga
Beltane70



Joined: 07 May 2007
Posts: 3920
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2019 6:43 am Reply with quote
I remember confusing her with Lady Armaroid from Cobra in my earlier anime watching days!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message My Anime My Manga
horseradish
Subscriber



Joined: 27 Oct 2015
Posts: 574
Location: Bay Area
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2019 7:50 pm Reply with quote
Haha, excellent! Did not expect The Humanoid to get a review! Laughing I'm afraid I agree with Justin's take on this OVA. I know it's badly and cheaply made, but I like it for some inane reasons. Coffee + cheesy '80s music + lady robot kicking butt = good times for me apparently. I've been sorely tempted to buy the CPM DVD for the Fun Facts subtitle track, but that's frappuccino money. Looking forward to your Blue Sonnet review someday. Wink
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message My Anime My Manga
Display posts from previous:   
Reply to topic    Anime News Network Forum Index -> General -> Anime All times are GMT - 5 Hours
Goto page Previous    Next
Page 39 of 57

 


Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group