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


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Alan45
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Joined: 25 Aug 2010
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 05, 2020 7:47 pm Reply with quote
At the time they said it could be worn, with the limitation that it was sized for a short Japanese girl.

Apparently they had a rather close relationship to the Japanese company. They also had quite a number of cells from the show. I'm fairly sure they have had it in print since they first got the rights to it. I've had Bubblegum Crisis on VHS, two different DVD versions and now in Blu-ray. They probably had it out on Laserdisk as well. Possibly they have a very long term license.
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AkumaChef



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PostPosted: Thu Jan 09, 2020 2:21 pm Reply with quote
Nice writeup on BGC in general.

That said, I'm surprised that there was only a passing mention of how Bubblegum Crisis was so heavily influenced by Blade Runner and perhaps even moreso by Streets of Fire. In fact, a great deal of the atmosphere and even the music is straight from Streets of Fire. I don't just mean the Wagnerian style hard rock, I mean the melodies of individual pieces. Priss' concert from the first episode, her character design holding the old-fashioned style microphone, are all from of Streets of Fire. You don't even have to watch the whole film, go on Youtube and watch the music videos for "Tonight is What it Means to be Young" and "Nowhere Fast" by Fire Inc and I think that will make it clear just how much BGC owes to that film.

I'm also surprised to see little mention of the music for BGC. I'm sure the advent of streaming services has largely killed the market, but for many years the BGC soundtracks were hotly contested items at cons and collector shops in Japan. I have seen examples sell for several hundred dollars for one CD, and there are a great many of them attached to this franchise. Music has always been a huge part of BGC, which makes sense given the influence from Streets of Fire.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 09, 2020 3:26 pm Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl index
****

Thanks for the feedback, AkumaChef.

I guess the music didn't leave a strong impression on me. I thought Priss's opening song was OK, but the style of big, hard rock ballad seemed generic 80s. Perhaps for me the style hasn't aged well. With 80s anime I invariably find that the over the top electro-pop soundtracks appeal to me more, ie Project A-ko.


Last edited by Errinundra on Fri Nov 27, 2020 2:06 am; edited 1 time in total
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AkumaChef



Joined: 10 Jan 2019
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 09, 2020 4:18 pm Reply with quote
Alan45 wrote:
At the time they said it could be worn, with the limitation that it was sized for a short Japanese girl.

Apparently they had a rather close relationship to the Japanese company. They also had quite a number of cells from the show. I'm fairly sure they have had it in print since they first got the rights to it. I've had Bubblegum Crisis on VHS, two different DVD versions and now in Blu-ray. They probably had it out on Laserdisk as well. Possibly they have a very long term license.


I do remember that! And if I recall correctly, they had Priss's suit as well. They were, alas, in very poor condition from having been carted from con to con to con for years.

There was a US laserdisc release by Animego, both subbed and later dubbed.
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AkumaChef



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PostPosted: Thu Jan 09, 2020 4:33 pm Reply with quote
Errinundra wrote:

I guess the music didn't leave a strong impression on me. I thought Priss's opening song was OK, but the style of big, hard rock ballad seemed generic 80s. Perhaps for me the style hasn't aged well. With 80s anime I invariably find that the over the top electro-pop soundtracks appeal to me more, ie Project A-ko.


Just to be clear, I didn't mean that the music style had to be your cup 'o tea, I just thought the music in general was worthy of mention. Like it or not BGC has an unusually large amount of original vocal music. Every episode has a unique OP and ED, and there are a few insert pieces in each episode as well. It feels like it has as much music in it as an idol show does. And on top of all that there is a whole pile of officially produced music videos --depending on what release you have these might be at the end of each episode or on a separate disc. But wait, there's more! The LD set and the DVD box sets usually include the "Hurricane Live" concerts too. If you like the music that's a great thing, if you don't like the music then it's probably not a very good thing. But either way I think that sheer amount of musical content is noteworthy.

I almost look at BGC as one of those shows were it's more about the journey than the destination. The plot isn't all that special, but it is perhaps the best example of stereotypical 80's cyberpunk aesthetics in terms of art and music. (And I'd lump Crash and AD Police Files in there too) That, of course, is exactly what it's inspirations (Blade Runner and Streets of Fire) are too.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 12, 2020 1:08 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl #76: Asuza Shiga,



The Laughing Target

Synopsis: To preserve the integrity of the bloodline of the Shiga clan, the matriarch of the family arranges the future marriage of her six year old daughter Asuza to the child's cousin and contemporary in age Yuzuru. When the matriarch dies Asuza - now of high school age - goes to live with her cousin's family, intent on fulfilling the promise made many years before. Problem is, Yuzuru has a girlfriend, Satomi, so isn't too keen on that sort of complication in his life. Asuza sets out to remove Satomi as an option for Yuzuru.

Production details:
Premiere: 21 March 1987
Director: Motosuke Takahashi (Cho Supercar Gattiger, six episodes of The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, Justy, Fire Tripper, Maris the Chojo, Aitsu to Lullaby: Suiyobi no Cinderella and Harbor Light Story - Fashion Lala Yori)
Studio: Studio Pierrot
Source material: Rumiko Takahashi's manga Warau Hyoteki, published in Shonen Sunday Zokan in February 1983. (Takahashi is one of the most successful ever mangaka, creating Urusei Yatsura, Mermaid Forest, Fire Tripper, Maisson Ikkoku, Ranma ½, Maris the Chojo, Mermaid's Scar, Inuyasha and RIN-NE among others.)
Script: Hideo Takayashiki and Tomoko Konparu
Music: Kuni Kawachi
Character design: Hidekazu Ohara (would later director short films such as Kogepan, Keikaku from the Digital Juice anthology, Professor Dan Petory's Blues from the Deep Imagination anthology and Suzy's Zoo Daisuki! Witzy)
Art director: Torao Arai (Urusei Yatsura, Fairy Princess Minky Momo, GoShogun: The Time Étranger, Fire Tripper, Ai City, Tobira o Akita, Circuit Angel: Resolving Starting Grid, Cleopatra DC, Idol Defence Force Hummingbird and Jewel BEM Hunter Lime, just to mention some of interest to this survey)

Comments: The third anime adaptation from Rumiko Takahashi's Rumic World collection of short manga stories, this is marginally the best so far, even if I get more up front enjoyment from the comic Maris the Chojo. From that comedy and the time travel of Fire Tripper the franchise now moves on to horror - in my view a genre where the strengths of animation tend to work against it. More often than not, the very artificiality of the medium becomes a barrier to suspension of disbelief. The spilling of blood and guts becomes absurd while attempts to portray or generate terror are invariably unconvincing. On top of that, anime too often spoils the intended mood with ill-suited humour and inflated supernatural interference. For this reason movies like Wicked City or Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend or an OAV like Dream Hunter Rem seem so risible to me. If an anime is successful, most often it's because it has had ample time to create a compelling mood (eg, Paranoia Agent) or to develop a strong relationship between the viewer and characters before putting the latter through hell (eg, Made in Abyss). Successful short form anime horror is a rarity. Perfect Blue succeeds thanks to its fractured, disorienting structure and Satoshi Kon's sophisticated treatment of violence that renders it deeply alarming without coming across as exploitative. While not in the same class, at just under fifty minutes The Laughing Target is a moderately successful addition to the genre.


Asuza transformations.
Top: the alabaster and ebony contrast along with an intense gaze make her one of the most startlingly gorgeous character designs of the 80s.
Middle: all her life she has been abused - depicted here is an attempted rape and, earlier, murder at the hands of her own mother.
The right hand image reminds be of Mima Kirigoe from Perfect Blue.
Bottom: Frustrated rage. Note the tears accompanying the bared fangs.


The Laughing Target deploys multiple strategies to create a pervasive sense of unease. It saturates the images with a detail-concealing deep blue that hints at a more disturbing utter blackness. Against this canvas Asuza's blood red lips and alabaster white skin become shocking highlights. She is a profane Snow White. Her childhood scenes have an unnatural colour to them that add to the uncomfortable tone. Mind you, the choice of palette masks shortcomings such as a lack of detail, prosaic artwork and basic animation. The soundscape is similarly muted, which is a blessing of sorts. Studio Pierrot may not have been able to devote many resources to the OAV so the incidental music is pretty much what Kuni Kawachi can generate on his electronic keyboards. He's only occasionally effective, but more often sounds tinny. Motosuke Takahashi wisely uses silence or simple, repeated sounds to generate tension. Next, the OAV largely eschews humour - with an important exception I'll come to - which, for a horror / suspense tale is, in my opinion, a good thing. Most anime directors and scriptwriters lack the skill to insert appropriate comic relief into a horror narrative, resulting in tone destroying bathos. Better leave it out altogether. In this instance, comic interludes aren't allowed to interfere with Asuza's relentless, Terminator pursuit of Satomi. In addition, the point of view switches smoothly between the three players, enabling the anime to provide the viewer with whatever perspective best moves the narrative and the tension along.

The most successful aspect of the OAV and the central element of its narrative tension is Asuza herself. Having first watched it some eight years ago the image of "porcelain doll beauty" (to quote Justin Sevakis) has stuck with me ever since. She is gorgeous yet psychotic; desirable yet remote; seemingly perfect yet fundamentally defiled - often depicted with shadows disrupting her severely beautiful face. In a telling scene, Yuzuru, believing Asuza may have killed Satomi, pins her to her bed creating a raw, intense sexual moment between them before he flees in confusion. She is woman as deadly other (and will be contrasted with her laughing target, Satomi). Her intense gaze, the aforementioned white skin, pitch black hair without highlights and pursed red lips dominate every frame in which she appears. Her design alone conveys a constant brooding malevolence, but is tempered by an intrinsic fear and a sense of outrage. That's not surprising given both Takahashis (the creator and the director - are they related?) were early exponents of the later ubiquitous moe style. For all her murderous intents, I find her a strangely sympathetic and, not so strangely, compelling character. The sympathy is amplified by my reaction to the horrible, abused life she has endured. First, thrown to a mass of writhing, supernatural maggots as a child (think Sakura Matou from the Fate / Stay Night franchise) then raped - also at a young age. Even her own mother tries to murder her. Her rage is entirely justified yet her one goal is too consummate her betrothal - to love Yuzuru and be loved in return. Her obsession is almost noble, almost Homura Akemi-like (Puella Magi Madoka Magica), even if she is the first fully-fledged yandere character in the survey (though without the farcical baggage the type sometimes carries).


Unselfconscious intimacy. Yuzuru and Satomi have a natural, comfortable and friendly relationship.

Asuza is contrasted with Yuzuru's initially cheerful and perky girlfriend Satomi. Or, more to the point, Asuza's relationship with Yuzuru is contrasted with that between him and Satomi. The former is - inevitably - toxic and highly charged; the latter is good-humoured, endearing and positive- until Asuza comes along, that is. It is in their early scenes together that the anime has the room to indulge in any sort of comedy. There is never any doubt that, short of murder, the relationship will endure. Satomi believes without reservation Yuzuru's assurance that the betrothal forced upon him a decade earlier is meaningless. In sharp contrast to Asuza, she is woman as friendly, reliable companion. Her and Yuzuru's relationship is unusual for the shonen romances I've seen elsewhere, being without the typical pursuit, frustration, misunderstandings and generally combative tone. The anime knows that the fly in the ointment is Asuza, not either of the these two.

Ultimately, however, The Laughing Target relies on one memorable character and its overall creepily disturbing atmosphere to carry it. That's enough to make it worth a visit in 2020, despite its very 1980s, very Rumiko Takahashi appearance.

Rating: decent
+ Asuza's design and character; Terminator-like escalation; creepy and tense atmosphere; two core relationships
- 1980s aesthetics; basic artwork and animation, incidental music.

Resources:
ANN
Justin Sevakis's Buried Treasure article
The font of all knowledge
The Anime Encyclopaedia, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle



Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 5:02 am; edited 5 times in total
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 19, 2020 7:44 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl #77: Mami Sakura,



ESPer Mami

Synopsis: School girl Mami Sakura discovers she is an ESPer with the powers of teleportation, levitation, telepathy and even "thoughtography". This could be because, through her father's side, she has mixed Japanese and French ancestry that goes back to the European witch hunts centuries earlier. Made aware that human nature tends to persecute difference she sets out, with the help of her loyal friend Kazuo Takahata, to use her new found abilities to help others while simultaneously keeping them secret. That sort of double life isn't always easy for a happy-go-lucky fourteen year old.

Production details:
Premiere: 07 April 1987
Director: Keiichi Hara (directed many instalments of Doraemon - who has an occasional cameo - and Crayon Shin-chan, along with Colourful (the movie, not the collection of TV shorts), Miss Hokusai and Birthday Wonderland)
Studio: Shin-Ei Animation
Source material: the manga Esupa Mami by Fujiko F. Fujio (the pen name of Hiroshi Fujimoto, and one half of the notable mangaka pair Fujiko Fujio, he is best known as the creator of Doraemon), published in Shonen Big Comic from 1977-1982
Script: Akira Okeya, Sukehiro Tomita, Ryo Motohira, Keiichi Hara and Shoei Tsukada
Storyboard: Tomomi Mochizuki (has not only a long career as a storyboarder, but also notable as the director of instalments of the Magical Angel Creamy Mami, Maison Ikkoku, Kimagure Orange Road and Dirty Pair Flash franchises along with the first season of Ranma ½, Ocean Waves, Princess Nine, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou: Quiet Country Cafe, Twin Spica, Momo: The Girl God of Death, House of Five Leaves, Pupa and Battery the Animation, among others)
Music: Kohei Tanaka (most famous as the resident composer of the One Piece franchise)
Character design: Sadayoshi Tominaga
Art director: Ken Kawai

Note: I watched all the fansubbed episodes I was able to track down - that is, 1-35 and 44 - and the last episode raw.


Mami moods. That's her best mate Kazuo bottom left.

Comments: As a magical girl anime made with a young male audience in mind ESPer Mami is something of an oddity in this survey. Sure, we have Cutie Honey way back in 1973 and a slew of shows in the mid to late 80s clearly geared at a male audience and that contain magical girl elements, such as Seiji Okuda's trio of Dream Hunter Rem, Chojiku Romanesque Samy - Missing 99 and, more recently Twinkle Heart - Gingakei made Todokanai, but the 1980s shows, in particular, are aimed at an older, otaku audience and just as likely to ignore, or even trash, the tropes of the genres as they are to embrace them. By contrast, ESPer Mami is, at first blush, a more conventional take on the genre. And, while Mami doesn't ever indulge in any transformation theatrics and her powers aren't bestowed upon her by a magical device or magical kingdom birthright, her innate abilities are nonetheless awesomely powerful, she has a mascot companion (a pet dog who looks like a tanuki and is often taken for one) and a magical device of sorts. This puts it more in the tradition of the early Toei shows (sharing their mundane visuals), the later Studio Pierrot shows (sharing their tomboyish heroines) and, between them, Fairy Princess Minky Momo (sharing its sly, adult undertones).

No doubt reflecting its shonen links, not since Cutie Honey or Marvellous Melmo has a magical girl show been so willing to undress its protagonist. The tone, however, is vastly different from either of those. Where Go Nagai deploys exposure and shame as a form of fanservice titillation and where Osamu Tezuka treats the male gaze as a microcosm of the positive and generative force that is human sexuality, Fujiko F. Fujio (if this anime is anything to go by) treats nudity more casually. Mami's father is an artist by inclination, whose day job is teaching art at college level. All his spare time is spent painting and his favourite subject matter is the nude study, with his cherished daughter as model. While the activity may have plenty of scope for skeeviness, the anime avoids it deftly: her father doesn't have the least prurient motivation; while Mami has been doing it since forever, so it seems entirely natural to her. Indeed, modelling is valuable source of pocket money. She is so unconcerned that she can't comprehend why her best friend, Kazuo Takahata, is flummoxed at an exhibition of her father's paintings. Don't get me wrong: this is fanservice - but the innocent way the characters treat it ensures that it shouldn't offend, though I might be wrong there, as it faced censorship hurdles in its European broadcasts.

Like many of her magical girl antecedents Mami is tomboyish: she's energetic, opinionated, generous, idealistic, meddlesome and, when under the pump, resourceful. Her enthusiasm and spontaneity can lead to foolish and even foolhardy behaviour that just might expose her abilities or, worse, put her in danger. Above all, she's prepared to fight for her principles. Many an episode concludes with a felon dumped on their ear before being led away by the police. When she's dressed - which is most of the time - her clothes are neither highly feminine nor brazenly sexy. Just what you would expect from the average fourteen year old girl next door. Mind you, this is also reflects the anime's unremarkable visual style. None of the character designs manage to rise above being merely adequate for the role, which is a disappointment after some of the comparatively spectacular offerings from Studio Pierrot. Nor is the functional background artwork in the same league as the best of the Pierrot examples, eg Magical Angel Creamy Mami.


Top: Mami poses for her father; Kazuo doesn't know which way to turn at an exhibition of the paintings.
Middle: the family dine at Maxim's Tokyo as a treat but Mami shows more affinity for a beggar at the kitchen door.
Bottom left: school friends Sachiko Mamiya & Noriko Momoi.
Bottom right: senior student Shohei Kurosawa assaults Mami to force her to reveal her powers.


Getting back to the characters, the best of the rest is easily Mami's close friend, confidant and foil, Kazuo Takahata. A baseball nut who can't play to save his life, he's the smartest kid in the class but hides his brilliance - he deliberately makes mistakes in tests to bring his marks down - as he knows from bitter experience that standing out leads to being ostracised. This insight, which also guides Mami's behaviour, is reinforced on those occasions when neighbours or fellow students begin to suspect her of unnatural powers. People, it seems, are still all too happy to succumb to the hysteria of witch hunts. Kazuo also constructs a nifty magical device of sorts for her. When the two figure out that her teleporting ability requires an impending collision in order to activate, he makes a broach that shoots beads. Mami simply points one end at herself and pushes a button to reappear at the point of her choosing. So, yes, Kazuo is smarter and wiser than Mami. I suppose that, while the young male viewer can admire and even empathise with the female protagonist, the male companion will still provide the firm support from which they - the viewer - can be grounded. That narrative approach may be condescending, but don't for a moment doubt that Mami is always the centre of the story and always the heroine. Their trusting, close relationship is one of the pleasures of the series, which, for the most part, eschews normal romantic tropes found elsewhere in anime.

ESPer Mami is earthier than many of its genre predecessors. Despite a light-hearted tone it occasionally deals with difficult subject matter. In one episode Mami interrupts a man in the act of killing himself. Issues such as criminality, family estrangement, child abuse and the constant undercurrent of a fear of difference are canvassed and explored even if the most difficult situations are resolved neatly and happily and many of the episodes are thematically much lighter. The humour is also more vulgar than you might find in a magical girl show for a young female audience. A favourite moment is how, after an evening of friends telling ghost stories at a beach house Mami is too scared to go to the toilet. Easy solution: she teleports the contents of her bladder into one of her friends who must dash off to the loo in her place. Despite the odd serious moment this has been the most fun magical girl show in the survey since Fairy Princess Minky Momo and, before that, Princess Knight. While overall not quite as good as either, ESPer Mami shares, beneath the nicely, nicely surface, an offbeat humour. Best episode is 22, "Lie x Lie = Panic", when Mami, whose telekinesis has been witnessed, argues it was the work of a very swift cat and backs up her claims by using her mother's fox stole in assorted capers to deceive people. Before she knows it, the cat / fox stole has become a national sensation. With Japan's press camped on her doorstep Mami sends the stole at high speed across Tokyo with an ever growing crowd in hot pursuit and a breathless live broadcast on TV. The chase is set to Sergei Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kijé suite, which is both a plot point and an inspired choice, where the story of a fictional soldier created to appease a foolish tsar mirrors the events of the episode. It's one of the great magical girl episodes of the survey so far.

Rating: decent.
+ characters of Mami & Kazuo; interesting themes; earthy humour that can reach absurd heights; overall a fun show - not one episode dragged
- character designs; artwork; the ending of some episodes too pat, gratuitous nudity that may be too much for some

Resources:
ANN
The font of all knowledge (English, French and Italian editions)
The Anime Encyclopaedia, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle

Recommended Reading:
Justin Sevakis's Pile of Shame article on the side story movie, ESPer Mami: Hoshizora no Dancing Doll (I haven't been able to track down a copy.)



Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 5:02 am; edited 3 times in total
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Errinundra
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Location: Melbourne, Oz
PostPosted: Mon Jan 27, 2020 1:47 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl #78: Mariko Okazaki,



Circuit Angel: Ketsui no Starting Grid
("Ketsui" could be judgement, decision or resolution, so perhaps Circuit Angel: Starting Grid of Judgement.)

Synopsis: Mariko and her school friends love to ride their motorcycles along winding roads in nearby hills. She's no doubt encouraged in this by working in the sushi cafe of Raita ("Bullet Rider") Nagase, a former champion motorcycle racer who, it so happens, retired from the sport when his best friend died after slamming into a barrier to avoid hitting him during a race. In her rides through the hills Mariko develops a rivalry with Sho Nabeshima, the aloof son of the very business mogul who manufactured the motorcycle once raced by her boss. Confronting each other in the offices of Sho's father, Mariko and Sho resolve to test their prowess in a four lap one-on-one contest around the same circuit where Raita's friend died.

Production details:
Premiere: 21 May 1987
Director: Yoshikazu Tochihira (his only directing role, all his other anime credits are as producer or planner)
Studio: Studio Unicorn
Script: Mami Watanabe
Storyboard: Toi Tsukumo
Music: Yoshitaka Kuratomi
Character design: Chuichi Iguchi
Art director: Torao Arai
Animation director: Hiroshi Kagawa
Sound director: Noriyoshi Matsuura
Special bike design: Studio Boomerang

Comments: This throwaway 45 minute OAV appears never to have been released outside of Japan. That's understandable: sports anime didn't travel well at the time and motorcycle racing was still a fringe activity outside of Europe. To put that in perspective, there was no US Grand Prix at all in the years 1966 to 1987 (the year this anime was made) while the Australian Grand Prix didn't become part of the international calendar until 1989. Even more surprising, given that it was dominating the sport, Japan itself hosted the premier class (then 500cc, now MotoGP) for the first time ever on 29 March 1987, some eight weeks before the OAV's release. In the likely heightened publicity it is tempting to think the two are connected. That aside, and I'll come back to the motorcycling aspects later, Circuit Angel has some interest for this survey in the way it illustrates how anime was presenting and treating female protagonists in titles aimed squarely at a male audience. Like its near contemporaries Gall Force and Bubblegum Crisis, the OAV tries, with its female protagonist, to do two things at once: give us a credible, sympathetic character while catering to its audience's desire for fanservice. In other words, to make her simultaneously subject and object. On balance Circuit Angel falls short of the others due to its inferior merits generally. It isn't as if Gall Force and Bubblegum Crisis avoid fanservice - they just present it in a better package overall.

Mariko lives in humble circumstances with her widowed father who would like to see his daughter grow into a traditional Japanese woman. Motorcycling is her passion. With money saved from her part time job with Raita she has purchased a bike (which appears to be based upon the 1987 model Yamaha RZ250) on which she blasts through the mountains. Motorcycling is a self-centred activity. The rider is almost always alone on the bike with only the noise of the wind and engine intruding through the insulation of the helmet. Life becomes simple - reduced to just three elements in perfect harmony (when all goes well): the road, the motorcycle and the rider moving along sensuous arcs in staccato bursts of accelerations and braking. The motorcycle can be read as a metaphor for Mariko's search for autonomy so, on that level, she is a welcome addition to this survey. A worthy portrayal, but brought undone by crasser moments: from a panty shot in the OP via her undressing in a locker-room to an onsen peeking scene. Mariko is also subjected to patronising treatment from her irascible father, her boss, her would-be boyfriend, Keiichi, and the antagonist, Sho, all leaving her prone to moments of moe helplessness. These elements sit uncomfortably with her positive traits: her independence, her determination, her defiant bravura and her talent. On balance the anime is positive: Mariko will win the race; Keiichi will come to believe in her ability; Sho will admit her superior talents; her father and her boss will acknowledge her right to chart her own course and Sho's father will no doubt see a business opportunity.


Top left: uncomfortable for Mariko it may be, but this close interrogation from Sho is the only genuine moment of sexual tension in the OAV.
Top right: school mates Jiro and Keiichi discuss the merits of naked girls bathing at an onsen.
Middle (from left): tareme Mariko; a patronising pat on the head; and tsurime Mariko.
Bottom: the motorcycles; Studio Boomerang provided animation cooperation on the subsequent Akira.


The other characters are necessarily covered only cursorily due to time constraints. Audience insert character and lecherous wannabe boyfriend Keiichi is a dill; Mariko's father's bluster covers his sense of inadequacy raising his daughter; and Raita only seems to have a personality because his placid nature is in contrast to most everyone else who possess one or two exaggerated traits. Pick of the them are the supercilious, creepy Sho whose cynicism is neatly matched by his opportunistic father.

Technical shortcomings undermine the anime's ambitions. The modest artwork and animation only occasionally convey the magic of motorcycling - the most graceful of all wheeled motor sports. The machines themselves lack any sort of commanding presence that will be such a feature of their stunning counterparts in Akira, still 14 months away. There are numerous errors in their presentation. The same bike can be accompanied by the sounds of a two-stroke in one sequence, a twin-cylinder four-stroke in another, and a four-cylinder four-stroke in a third. Further, It isn't possible to hold a conversation with another rider at speed with your visor up, let alone down as depicted in the OAV. It's pretty much impossible to even converse with a pillion without some sort of intercom. I suppose narrative necessities overrode real life practical constraints. Finally, two-wheel drive motorcycles might seem nifty but, if they were any good on tarmac, people would be racing them in real life - at the very least now, some 33 years later. Akira can get away with the same because of its fantastical world building; Circuit Angel's more realistic lens doesn't allow it. That said, the street bikes are accurately drawn. Funnily enough, individual screenshots can capture the essence of a motorcycle being leaned into a corner but the animation isn't sophisticated enough to capture the fluid movement involved.

Rating: so-so.
+ Mariko's search for autonomy; Sho as creepy antagonist; on balance, the bikes
- fanservice undermines Mariko's portrayal; modest animation and artwork; errors in the depiction of motorcycling

Resources:
ANN
The Anime Encyclopaedia, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle
TV Tropes



Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 5:04 am; edited 3 times in total
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 02, 2020 4:59 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl #79: Ayame Hayami,



Yotoden

Synopsis: In the Sengoku period Ayame finds herself the last surviving Kasumi ninja when a three-headed demon attacks her homeland. Bequeathed the clan's sacred kodachi (short sword) and assuming a male appearance and name (Ayanosuke) she sets out to find the other two shadow ninja clans, the Hyuga and Hagakure. Legend has it that if the mystic weapons of each clan are brought together their powers will be massively enhanced, enabling the wielders to defeat great evil. Good thing that, as Oda Nobunaga has risen to become the most powerful warlord in Japan after selling his soul to demonic forces, courtesy of his retainer Ranmaru Mori. Clued into the legend of the ninja weapons Oda determines to wipe out all trace of the clans. With the help of Ryoan, an itinerant monk, Ayanosuke links up with Sakon Hayate (Hyuga clan, katana sword) and Ryoma Kogure (Hagakure clan, hoko yari spear). Together they set out to assassinate the now demonic warlord, only to discover that far more powerful forces have been unleashed.

Production details:
Premiere: 21 May 1987
Director: Osamu Yamasaki (His first as director, he subsequently helmed Lemon Angel, The Tokyo Project, Yajikita Gakuen Dochuki, Guardian of Darkness, Joker - Marginal City, Tokyo Revelation, Gestalt, Towards the Terra (TV version), ItaKiss, Hakuoki franchise, Hakkenden franchise, Time Travel Girl and ACTORS: Songs Connection)
Studio: the first release from JC Staff (JC = Japan Creative), formed by Tomoyuki Miyata who had worked with Tatsunoko Production
Screenplay: Shou Aikawa (among his many notable works are Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend, Vampire Princess Miyu, Angel Cop, Urotsukidoji II: Legend of the Demon Womb, Genocyber, Martian Successor Nadesico, The Twelve Kingdoms, Fullmetal Alchemist, Oh! Edo Rocket, Corpse Princess, Un-Go, Concrete Revolutio and Garo: Crimson Moon) and Takeshi Narumi (mulitple English language sources credit Narumi as writing the source novel for the anime, however I've been unable to locate any evidence that such a novel exists; the Japanese Wikipedia has an extensive bibliography of his work, but only notes that he wrote the screenplay of the anime)
Storyboard: Osamu Tsuruyama and Osamu Yamasaki
Music: Seiji Hano
Character design and animation director: Kenichi Ohnuki
Art Director: Chisato Sunagawa, Geki Katsumata and Toshikazu Yamaguchi

Comments: Once again, prosecuting this survey in chronological order has proven to be illuminating. This unexpectedly good OAV turns out to be innovative in multiple ways: not only is it JC Staff's first anime production, but, as far as I can tell, it's the first anime with ninjas in their historical setting (albeit fanciful); the first to have Oda Nobunaga as a major character and, most importantly for this project, a formative example of a resolutely serious female fighting protagonist on the cusp between her teenage and adult years (as opposed to the cusp of puberty as is so common elsewhere). And while Yotoden might number among its progeny anime as diverse as Ninja Scroll and Nobunagun and whereas I'm happy for people to prove me wrong about ninjas and the great warlord, what's of more interest to me is Ayame's place in the survey's pantheon of heroines.


I was frequently reminded of Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.

Ayame's two most notable attributes are her skill as a fighter (although her mind has a tendency to wander during battle, requiring Sakon, Ryoma or Ryoan to extricate her from the occasional perilous circumstance) and her deadly serious demeanour. That's not to say she isn't emotional, but it does mean that, unlike most of her female anime peers encountered recently, the OAV isn't presenting her in a comic light. I found it refreshing. So, a serious, young adult female heroine and point of view character? Let me see. From the survey I can think of Nozomi Mine from Nozomi in the Sun, perhaps Simone Lorraine from The Star of the Seine, Oscar from The Rose of Versailles, Princess Nausicaä from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Remy Shimada from GoShogun: The Time Étranger (note that in her original TV incarnation she was a comic character). Although different from both, she shares with Oscar an intense yet dour personality while adopting a male shell to make her way in the world; and with Remy a resolute perseverance in the face of supernatural threat. Anime centred upon serious, vastly capable women will reach a peak between the mid nineties and towards the end of the first decade of this century. The type can be seen in Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell (they even look alike), Mireille Bouquet in Noir, Re-L in Ergo Proxy and Balsa in Moribito - Guardian of the Spirit. Even the more shounen oriented Claymore will revel in the type. As you should know by now, I like them. They have become less frequent this last decade, although Akane Tsunemori from Psycho-Pass was something of a return to form. But more on that era if I ever get that far. Ayame is a keystone in the evolution of female characters inhabiting the male anime viewing world. To its credit, Yotoden is restrained in its treatment of her, both in terms of fanservice and how her gender impacts the narrative. In short, unlike many of her contemporaries, she's treated seriously and respectfully.

From my 2020 perspective Oda Nobunaga presents few surprises, although he may have been a novelty to his 1987 viewers. He's paraonoid, ruthless, vicious and, thanks to being possessed by a demon, in such pain he fears his head will explode. He has the typical villain's 1-2-3 laughing sequence: a snicker as he first appreciates his good fortune or brilliance; followed by a hearty laugh as he thoroughly enjoys himself, then hysteria as he loses control. All very predictable. The twist is that he's a cat's paw to his otherworldly (personality-wise and also literally) retainer, Ranmaru Mori (an actual real life figure who had an intimate relationship with Nobunaga until his courageous death at the age of seventeen). The more ambiguous, sinister, bishounen Ranmaru is central to a series of plot twists that overtake the narrative part way through the third, and last, episode and that involve himself, Nobunaga, Ryoan the monk, intergalactic travellers trapped on comets, demons from the deep and the role of three ninjas in his plans. To re-use a word, it all gets a tad fanciful. The last development involves Ranmaru the alien duping the central characters in order to harvest their negative emotions as an energy source. Now, where has that concept been used? (Twenty four years later, mind you.) Nice idea, but presented and dealt with in the space of just a couple of minutes. Happily, Nobunaga and Ranmaru just need to be zapped good and proper by the ninja super weapons fired in unison.

Any party of heroes needs tension to embellish their travels in order to improve the viewer experience. The effeminate and pompous Sakon provides most: firstly as a combat rival to Ayame, then by creating uncertainty when he has second thoughts about the mission, and finally when he falls for Ayame. The more appealing Ryoma is a brawny hail-fellow-well-met type who, while no idiot, is predictably suckered by demons posing as girls or pretty young women. Like the Prussians at Waterloo, the two men can be relied upon to arrive in the nick of time to get the protagonist out of a scrape.


First row: conflicted ninja Sakon Hayate; hearty but gullible Ryoma Kogure.
Second row: villains Oda Nobunaga and Ranmaru Mori.
Third row: Ryoan isn't what he seems; this girl's red eyes indicate likewise.
Fourth row: demonic Orobo ninjas and one of numerous summoned monsters.


The anime has some issues. Yotoden has many clichés (and one might use the defence that it is the source of some) but it presents them earnestly and sincerely. They come across neither as stupid nor as manipulative. It simply means that the anime is much better than it might have been without ever being inspired enough to approach greatness. The writing, which treats its viewers as intelligent, has a tendency to elide events or developments. This meant that I found myself repeating scenes to grasp what is going on. Second time around presented no such problems. Some action scenes are so improbable they harm the story's credibility. Yes, it's a show about ninjas and demons, but a glaring example involves Ayame falling from a high rampart locked in the desperate embrace of a demonic ninja. Even though they land together, the demon is crushed yet she walks away. It makes no sense whatsoever.

The backgrounds are simple and muted, but always effective; the animation isn't complex but the action scenes are viscerally choreographed. Despite Yotoden's age and the fansub suffering from being based upon a videotape release, it seems to me that the OAV would shine were it re-mastered and released on Blu-ray. Yotoden would fit nicely in the Discotek catalogue. Here's wishing.

On a final note, the soundtrack also stands out from its contemporaries, with an eclectic set of melodies and arrangements that foreshadows Yoko Kanno and Yuki Kajiura, and incorporating traditional Japanese, Hindu and more modern rhythms, embellished with jazz inflections and with lead instruments that include what sound like viola, flute, harp, chimes that bring to mind Joe Hisaishi, and even a kazoo. Composer Seiji Hano never composed again for anime beyond this release and its later cinema adaptation (other sources suggest he contributed to Kasumin, although ANN credits Yoshikazu Suo instead). What's more, the Japanese Wikipedia doesn't even have an entry for him. Yotoden was his moment in the anime sun, I guess.

Rating: good.
+ introduces new themes and tropes to the survey; Ayame / Ayanosuke is the first of what will become a recognisable character type in anime; soundtrack; engaging plot
- plot twists at the end are high on both exposition and fancifulness and low on impact and credibility; villains lack interest beyond their gimmick value; narrative makes the occasional confusing leap and occasionally pushes suspension of belief

Resources:
ANN
The font of all knowledge
The Japanese font of all knowledge: Youtoden and Narumi Takeshi via Google Translate
VGmdb: Seiji Hano
The Anime Encyclopaedia, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle
500 Essential Anime Movies: the Ultimate Guide, Helen McCarthy, Collins Design


There's a similar perspective shot in the last episode of School Days.


Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 5:04 am; edited 3 times in total
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horseradish
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 02, 2020 11:04 pm Reply with quote
Yotoden! Anime catgrin I have a soft spot for this title and female protagonists like Ayanosuke (Ayame) in general. I find the character and demon designs very appealing. There was some fantastic artwork shown in 1988-1989 Newtype issues (The link has a large side image of Mia Alice from Dangaioh which may be considered slightly NSFW). The story was goofy towards the end, but it's an entertaining watch. This is one of my favorite ninja anime along with The Dagger of Kamui, which is...more ambitious in scope. It's too bad that the old Central Park Media DVD release is super out of print and the OVA seems forgotten. Also, how could you compare that shot to the infamous School Days scene! Anime cry
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2020 3:28 pm Reply with quote
Thanks for the link. According to Wikipedia Yotoden was voted best OVA in AnimeV magazine in both years in which it was released (1987 & 1988); Ayame was voted best female character and Sakon best support character.

Edit: I've moved the following review originally posted on 15 March 2020 here so that it appears in its correct chronological place.

Beautiful Fighting Girl #80: Biko Daitokuji et al,



Project A-ko 2: The Plot of the Daitokuji Financial Group

Synopsis: In the aftermath of the failed attempt by Aliens to kidnap Shiko (ie, C-ko), she and her school mates Eiko (ie, A-ko) and Biko (ie, B-ko) try to return to normal school life. Normal that is if you don't factor in A-ko's superpowers, C-ko's true identity as an interstellar princess or B-ko's pathological desire to wrench C-ko from A-ko, an obsession matched only by her engineering genius. To achieve her aims she has designed the mother of all giant mecha. Meanwhile the homesick aliens have transformed their wrecked spaceship into a commercial pleasure palace to raise funds for its repairs. B-ko's fabulously wealthy father has his own ideas about who should reap the financial benefit so nicks his daughter's blueprints and builds the mecha to take control of the spaceship. Of course, everyone's plans go awry. And all A-ko and C-ko wanted was a fun summer holiday together.

Production details:
Release date: 21 May 1987
Director: Yuji Moriyama (Project A-ko 3: Cinderella Rhapsody, Project A-Ko 4: Final, Madara, Exper Zenon, 801 TTS Airbats, The Adventures of Kotetsu, Jungle de Ikou!, Geobreeders, Shrine of the Morning Mist, Yawaraka Sangokushi Tsukisase!! and Ryofuko-chan along with an extensive career in character design and animation direction)
Studio: A.P.P.P.
Screenplay: Takao Koyama
Storyboard: Tomomi Mochizuki
Music: Maria Takeuchi
Original creators: Katsuhiko Nishijima, Kazumi Shirasaka & Yuji Moriyama
Character design & animation director: Yuji Moriyama
Art Director: Junichi Azuma

Comments: Several important elements are absent in this sequel to the "inspired lunacy" of Project A-ko: director Katsuhiko Nishijima; composers Joey Carbone and Richie Zito; 32 minutes of running time (it clocks in at 48 minutes, regardless of what the ANN encyclopaedia says); and, most importantly, the "divine inspiration" that rendered the original so gobsmackingly funny. Co-creator, character designer and animation director Yuji Moriyama has stepped up to helm the production but, while there's no doubt he has considerable visual flair, the OAV doesn't have the organic, escalating narrative that carried its cinema predecessor to such gleefully absurd heights. What the viewer gets is a sequence of gags - ranging from mostly ho-hum to one admittedly very funny idea - tacked onto an unremarkable plot: the aliens want C-ko; B-ko wants C-ko; and B-ko's father wants the alien ship. The scope of the narrative has been narrowed, the scale of the action has been reduced and the surprises have already been sprung. Instead of all out war between humans and aliens or between two rival school girls - and, believe me, that was the more frightening of the two battles - we are left with little more than an infiltration of a moribund alien ship by a handful of mecha while A-ko and B-ko do little more than grimace at each other.

That's not to say there's a shortage of gags. The plot of the Plot of the Daitokuji Financial Group is just an excuse to roll them out one after the other. Catch is, many of the jokes don't grow out of the narrative; they could be written into many a comic situation. By comparison, the original film took three basic premises, mixed them up and escalated the results until they were totally out of hand. The humour flowed naturally from the manic framework. The OAV, by contrast, adds the humour onto its narrative framework much of the time. It can be, nevertheless, quite clever - A-ko changing into a swimsuit while preserving her modesty - or rely on slapstick - the gigantic Mari emptying a swimming pool simply by jumping in. As these examples from the same scene might suggest, the humour succeeds in raising smiles but it never astonishes. Moriyama's talents are evident all the same, in the artwork, animation and some neat smaller touches that might go unnoticed, such as C-ko rocking on the balls of her feet as she waits for A-ko, or a Grecian Temple (used in a key scene in the movie) now re-purposed to store supplies for the aforementioned pleasure palace. Mammon wins out this time.


Top left: the actual main character, A-ko; right: B-ko's giant mecha forlornly grasps at the departing alien spaceship.
Middle left: Daitokuji Snr dons one of B-ko's power suits; right: aliens D and Captain Napolipolita.
Bottom left: school teacher Miss Ayumi; right: using armco as a prop and with C-ko flapping behind, high speed A-ko leans into a bend.


All the characters are ridiculous. Because the large majority of them are female it might be tempting to accuse the creators of displaying a condescending, even sour, regard for women. In their defence I would point out that the men that do appear - B-ko's father and his company minions, the commander of the Earth Defence Force and his mooks, along with an array of secret agents - are every bit as absurd. The only vaguely regular people are A-ko's parents whose very normality leaves them bizarrely out of place amidst the rest of the cast (and without taking into consideration the hints at the end of the original film as to who they may be). With only 48 minutes at his disposal Moriyama for the most part doesn't waste time fleshing out or introducing characters. He assumes, reasonably, that people would already be familiar with them. The one exception is Hikari Daitokuji - B-ko's father. His boundless greed, opportunism and perfidy are all grist for the anime's comedy. He also brings the best gag to the OAV when he dons his daughter's skimpy power suit as a last resort. A-ko herself remains as innocent and as chagrined as previously, and B-ko is as truculent, as scheming and as jealous. C-ko isn't quite as gratingly puerile but nor has she grown up at all. Why throw away a winning formula? Well, because the result might be stale.

Composer Mariya Takeyuchi tries unsuccessfully to reproduce the sonic style previously deployed so wonderfully by Joey Carbone and Richie Zito, but lacks their instinct for brazen excess. The expected techno rhythms are present, and there's even a passably acceptable guitar and keyboard workout that develops some energy, but it's as if Carbone and Zito's orginal soundtrack has been filtered to render it suitable as elevator music. The original's all out assault to wrest attention to itself was a large factor in its success. Takeyuchi's soundtrack is more diffident. Some responsibility also lies with Moriyama who, unlike Nishijima, isn't inclined to give the music prominence. As it turned out, Takeyuchi never provided another anime soundtrack, although she had a successful career as a singer and songwriter. Notably she co-wrote the last song recorded by Karen Carpenter, Now, and her own recording, Plastic Love, has had over 50 million views on YouTube.

Rating: so-so. First time around, thanks to the the expectations engendered by the movie, I was disappointed. Subsequent viewings have tempered that disappointment. The OAV isn't without merit; it simply can't recreate the magic of the original.
+ animation and artwork; steady supply of gags; pervasive absurdity; Hikari Daitokuji's power suit.
- lacks the glorious lunacy of the earlier film; few of the gags are genuinely funny

Resources:
Project A-ko 2: The Plot of the Daitokuji Financial Group, Eastern Star / Discotek
Project A-ko Remastered Special Collector's Edition, Eastern Star
ANN
The font of all knowledge
500 Essential Anime Movies, the Ultimate Guide, Helen McCarthy, Harper Collins
The Anime Encyclopaedia, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle



Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 5:05 am; edited 4 times in total
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 09, 2020 6:06 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girls #81: Ferris, Sybil and Mario M-66,



Black Magic M-66

Synopsis: Sybil - an investigative journalist in a future unnamed country fighting a low intensity border war with a northern neighbour - witnesses two rogue prototype combat robots lay waste a company of soldiers. Although one robot is neutralised, the other escapes. Sybil learns that the remaining machine is still running its original test software using the inventor's granddaughter, Feris, as its dummy target. She sets off to find Feris before the robot does in a deadly pursuit that climaxes on crumbling masonry atop a collapsing skyscraper.

Production details:
Premiere: 28 June 1987
Directors: Hiroyuki Kitakubo (POP♥CHASER episode of Cream Lemon, A Tale of Two Robots segment from Robot Carnival, Roujin Z, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure (OAV), Golden Boy and Blood: The Last Vampire) and Masamune Shirow (see below)
Studios: AIC and Animate Film
Source material: Masamune Shirow's Burakku Majikku Mario Shikkusuti Shikkusu, published in the dojinshi magazine Atlas in 1983 and re-published by Seishinsha in 1985
Screenplay & storyboard: Masamune Shirow
Screenplay & character design: Hiroyuki Kitakubo
Music: Joyo Katayanagi
Art Director: Osamu Honda
Animation Director: Hiroyuki Okiura (notable as the director of both Jin-Roh - The Wolf Brigade and A Letter to Momo)

Masamune Shirow is the pen name of Masanori Ota, a somewhat reclusive mangaka from Kobe. Black Magic Mario M-66 was his first published work. It came to the attention of Harumichi Aoki, the president of Seishinsha, who published his next work, Appleseed, in paperback book form. Appleseed became a bestseller before going on to win 1986 Seiun Award for Best Manga. He followed this up with Dominion (adapted into anime as Dominion Tank Police and New Dominion Tank Police), Orion and, most famously in the West, Ghost in the Shell. In the 2000s he provided the creative impulse for Ghost Hound and Pandora in the Crimson Shell. He has also published many art books, often with eroticised content with names like Galgrease. And, as his day job, Masanori worked as a high school art teacher. Black Magic M-66 was his only direct involvement with an anime production - by all accounts it was an unpleasant experience for him.

In an interview (link below) Masamune Shirow had this to say:

Quote:
...I do think that science and technology are becoming more and more like "magic." In other words, the experts know what's going on, but the average person doesn't have a clue. To most people, things are becoming more and more of a "black box"; they just know that if they input something into the box, they'll get a specific result. This is especially true of computers. You have to be an expert to know why certain things happen and to understand the principles involved, but the average person isn't an expert. Most people just use computers because they're convenient; they can't explain the principles involved, so they in effect treat the computers like magic. This doesn't mean computers are actually magic. The worlds of science and magic are obviously separate; but in terms of our consciousness and the way we perceive things, they are converging.



Top left: Sybil and Feris - compare with the image from Aliens below.
Top right: the anime hair incongruously induces sympathy for the killer robot.
Bottom left: Feris's grandfather and inventor of the M66. Why would he put his granddaughter in harms way? More importantly, why those glasses?
Bottom right: Leader of the military unit trying to stop M66, Major Arthur.


Comments: This OAV finally brings Masamune Shirow into the survey. Black Magic M-66 is not only a link between the comic heroines of the 1980s and their more serious counterparts from the mid 1990s onwards, via the likes of Shirow's own Ghost in the Shell, but its brazen appropriation of American sci-fi icons provides a clue into the origins of those female protagonists I so admire. Watching it quickly brings to mind two blockbuster American franchises: The Terminator and Alien (in particular the second movie, Aliens). First, we get an unstoppable cyborg killing machine (and I've previously pointed out similar borrowings as they appeared in the survey) whose puppet-like lack of emotion makes it all more ineffable, but, in addition, Sybil is Ripley by another name, while Feris is a stand in "Newt".

That raised an obvious question in my mind. The original Black Magic manga was published in 1983, admittedly after Alien (which isn't an issue in any case), but before either The Terminator in 1984 or Aliens in 1986. What came first? So I set up an account with Dark Horse and checked out the manga. It turns out the OAV adapts only one chapter of six, and then only very loosely. (I also learned that the action is set on a terraformed Venus.) As a matter of principle I don't judge an anime on whether it adheres closely to its source: they are different media, with different staff (except in this case and Nora, but I don't want to think about that) and with different goals. My aim in referencing the manga is to determine the provenance of anime's beautiful fighting girl. In chapter 3 of the manga, Booby Trap, four M-66s are tampered with, sending them berserk. Professor Matthew brings out his even more powerful, six-armed M-77, which in turn goes feral. The main action of the chapter focuses on soldiers using their wits in combat against extremely powerful but rigidly programmed robots. The Shirow message is that humans have special qualities that cannot be reproduced in machines. There is no Terminator-style stalking, no Ripley character and no "Newt" character. In short, the OAV is combining Masamune's manga reputation - with his consent, obviously - to give us an essentially new story that mines the popular sci-fi themes of the time. That's not a problem: the anime is highly entertaining and generally well executed, using over 20,000 cels in its 48 minutes. I mention all this because I want to consider Ellen Ripley and her influence on the OAV in particular and upon anime in general.

It's clear to me that Sybil is based upon Ripley - from the character design, via the poses, to her role as phallic mother protecting the helpless child. In his Buried Treasure article (link below) Justin Sevakis, without mentioning the James Cameron film, describes her thus,

Quote:
...she dresses in fatigues and wields her camera like it's a machine gun. (Think of her as a prototype for Maj. Motoko Kusanagi.)


Her camera as a replacement machine gun is no accident; it borders on the realm of piss take. That aside, from the time of the original 1979 Alien Ripley has had an enormous impact on the depiction of female characters in American movies. Black Magic M-88 now reveals her influence upon anime's beautiful fighting girl. I noted in last week's review how refreshing it was to encounter a serious, and seriously treated, female protagonist in Ayame Hayami (Yotoden). With few exceptions, her predecessors had been comic characters. Both Ayame and Remy Shimada (GoShogun: The Time Étranger) channel the spirit of Ripley, and if Sybil is a prototype of Kusanagi - and I agree she is - then there's a piece of Ripley in every mature anime heroine thereafter. To be sure Sybil has her clownish side - she dashes out of her apartment for a job forgetting she's wearing only a camera slung over her shoulder and a towel around her neck - but by the second half she is totally focused on saving Feris. As in the case of her counterpart, she becomes ever more dour as the stakes are raised.



As an action anime, Black Magic M-66 is a hoot - the second half in particular. Shirow and Kitakubo's predilection for absurdity allow them to escalate the action and make it simultaneously outrageous and thrilling. For the most part the animation matches their ambition. I especially liked the forest road battle, Sybil's rocket-plane flight through a city and the entire sequence from the ground floor to the roof of the skyscraper. Attempts at first person point of view animation such as a couple of campers running through the same forest to escape the cyborgs look amateurish. It won't be until anime masters CGI that the effect will become convincing. Think of the exploding face scene in Ghost in the Shell: Innocence or the cafe scenes of Time of Eve or the alleyway escape scene in the first episode of CANAAN to give three early effective examples, though from much later.

The occasional absurdity can also undermine proceedings. The two principal comic characters, Professor Matthews and Sybil's professional offsider Richard Leakey (is there a reason he's named after a famous paleoanthropologist?) are apt to spoil the prevailing tone. Professor Matthews' spiral patterned clown's glasses are so bad they threaten the credibility of the entire production. At least Leakey has some mildly entertaining lines in his combative banter with Sybil. (She usually prevails.) Feris also tends toward farce with her 1980s exaggerated facial expressions that sit uncomfortably at times with Sybil's usually more serious demeanour. Check out the contrast in the picture at the top of the post. I've never been a fan of goofy comic relief in a horror setting. Later adaptations of Shirow's works will expunge the humour.

Rating: good. A milestone anime of the grand survey that introduces one of its most notable voices, Masamune Shirow, while forging the important link between Ellen Ripley and later, mature female protagonists.
+ action scenes, escalating thrills in the second half, animation, M-66 design and movements - in fact, the design work generally, soundtrack when at its best
- humour can undermine the tone; Professor Matthews' histrionics, occasional first person point of view animation

Resources and further reading:
ANN
Theron Martin's review
Justin Sevakis's Buried Treasure article
Black Magic, Dark Horse Comics
The font of all knowledge
JAI2: An interview with Masamune Shirow by Frederik L. Schodt
The Anime Encyclopaedia, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle
500 Essential Anime Movies: the Ultimate Guide, Helen McCarthy, Collins Design
100 Anime, Philip Brophy, British Film Institute Publishing



Final Word:

"If Hewson wins not even Ripley can save you."

- Australian election poster seen at the University of Melbourne in 1993.

(He didn't.)


Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 5:05 am; edited 5 times in total
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Alan45
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 09, 2020 9:34 am Reply with quote
Professor Matthews and his spiral pattern glasses is a stock Shirow character. That character design denotes a mad scientist/inventor in the Shirow manga universe.

In this connection, I know from personal experience that back before high density plastic lenses (and contacts) that a strong prescription required really thick glass lenses that had a significant distorting effect to people looking at you. I suspect that this is what that is intended to represent.

All of Shirow's manga has strong female main characters.
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Nom De Plume De Fanboy
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Location: inland US west, pretty rural
PostPosted: Sun Feb 09, 2020 12:53 pm Reply with quote
A note on availability: an English dub was done for this, but then a different company got the physical North American release rights and did it sub only. Some kind of rights issue.

Anyway, Youtube has a pretty good quality copy of the English dub version listed as Black Magic M-66.

I also had experience with strong "coke bottle" glasses way back when, especially when extra wide lenses were in fashion in the 80s. And I think they were used in 80's anime a lot as part of the mad scientist and nerd stock characters.

And I agree about Shirow's female manga characters being strong types. Very Happy
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Beltane70



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PostPosted: Sun Feb 09, 2020 1:16 pm Reply with quote
If memory serves, Matthews also appears in the Appleseed manga as a doctor of cybernetics and is pretty much the same character as in Black Magic M-66.

M-66 was one of my earliest OVAs that I saw back in the days before anime had domestic releases here in the States. My friends and I actually had to watch this totally raw!
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