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


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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 12, 2020 6:54 am Reply with quote
Thanks for your generous endorsement, Blood-.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 19, 2020 7:32 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl index
****

Beautiful Fighting Girl #90: Hinako Shiratori,



Ultimate Teacher

Synopsis: Outwardly sweet and demure, Hinako has the strength of ten boys her own age - so long as she's wearing her Lucky Kitty shorts. She's also the alpha female of every gang in Japan's most unruly school, where the violence is so out of hand that a mass grave in the school yard has run out of space requiring bodies to be jammed into the wall cavities and plastered over. Into this deranged environment comes new teacher Ganpachi, an escaped laboratory experiment - part human and part cockroach - with the self-appointed task of restoring order by whatever means necessary. Hinako and Ganpachi face off to determine who will stand at the school apex, whether cockroaches or spiders will ultimately triumph in the world, and whether Lucky Kitty shorts or more feminine panties endow a school girl with greater power.

Production details:
Release date: 06 February 1988
Director: Toyoo Ashida (spent most of his career as a character designer and animation director, the most notable anime under his direction would be the Vampire Hunter D OAV, the Fist of the North Star movie and the second TV run of the same franchise.
Studio: JC Staff / Studio Live (depending on source)
Screenplay: Monta Ibu
Music: Kou Otani (the first effort from one of my favourite anime composers; his resume includes Mobile Suit Gundam Wing; Birdy the Mighty (OAV); Outlaw Star; Haibane Renmei; the Shakugan no Shana franchise; Deltora Quest; one of the few bright spots in Gunslinger Girl - Il Teatrino; the 2008 version of Blade of the Immortal; Hyouge Mono; Another and Humanity Has Declined to name just a few)
Original creator: Atsuji Yamamoto
Character Design: Atsuji Yamamoto andToyoo Ashida
Art Director: Setsuko Ishizu
Animation Director: Toyoo Ashida


Clockwise from top left: Hinako's Lucky Kitty shorts are exposed; Lucky Kitty intimidation Mk I (school rivals) and II (Ganpachi);
the anime is littered with scenes apropos of nothing; Hinako's most loyal minions; and Spiderman parody Burei Karima


Comments: It should be clear from the synopsis and the images above that Ultimate Teacher is wallowing in absurdity. Such humour has been ever present in the survey from the days of Mushi Pro under Osamu Tezuka, through Cutie Honey and GoShogun, the Daikon films, Project A-ko and the Dirty Pair franchise among others. Nor is it unique to the survey - Igano Kabamaru from 1983 uses much the same approach. You could also include the Urusei Yatsura franchise among them. It's a trend I associate particularly with the late 1980s and through the 1990s with cute, sexy girls, slapstick violence and flimsy plots. Nothing so far, however, has been this intent on being thoroughly silly. Scenes are populated with incongruous people or objects; odd things are constantly happening all around the main action; the premises that drive the narrative are deliberately unlikely; the narrative itself leaps from one comic set-piece to another without regard to logic; and every character other than straight Hinako is a clown (well, she's a clown also, albeit a serious one).

Some examples. The OAV begins in a secret government laboratory in what appears to be the sewers under Tokyo. We will learn that they are modifying the DNA of human test subjects. In an explosive breakout part-human / part cockroach Ganpachi bursts through into a wedding reception taking place in the building above, leaving the bride and groom embedded in their wedding cake. Next time we meet him he approaches Hinako - depicted here at her most kawaii - as she's about to hop on her bus to go to school (followed by a native American in full headgear). Smitten by her, Ganpachi asks the way then slinks off face first along the nearest walls. The gag being that he could have caught the bus. He then presents himself to the headmaster as the new teacher - fresh out of the genetic laboratory, mind you - who will straighten out the school. No context. No history. Nothing. Quite clearly not necessary. He will soon learn, to his chagrin, that Hinako is top dog among the students and far less kawaii, and rather more violent, than he first thought. He sets out to take her down a peg, happily supported by many other students who hope to usurp her erstwhile dominance. Meanwhile Burei Karima, the chief scientist of the lab, reasons that the only way to combat something as unkillable as a cockroach is to blend his own DNA with a spider's. Like the real thing - and a parody of Spiderman - his threads come out his anus, so his spandex suit is necessarily perforated with an inverted funnel. These instances demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of the OAV's comedy. The slapstick antics are snappily timed and animated; the incongruous, and sometimes surreal, juxtapositions set a jauntily unsettling tone; and the gags are sometimes clever. The catch is, they are hit and miss in their effectiveness. Sure you can expect that in any comedy, but Ultimate Teacher rarely hits the bullseye. All it got from me was an occasional snigger.


Hinako turns the tables.

The central topic of Ultimate Teacher is school girl underwear. While not pornographic as commonly understood, the OAV is predicated on fanservice. If you want to take an optimistic line you might say that Hinako's transition from Lucky Kitty shorts to panties represents her growth from girl to woman, of her awakened sexuality empowering her. You know, sort of like magical girl transformations. Yeah, sure. This is all about the the delectation of her male fellow students along with the adult male characters and, of course, the viewer. Other than Hinako, who is ritually exposed to her audiences multiple times, females are notably absent. She may be the main character, but she is the object, not the subject. The OAV's saving grace is that she is both a strong character and she triumphs, albeit with the help of Burei.

It gets worse, however. Hinako's issue with her underwear goes back to her childhood. She is traumatised when she discovers that the boys of her neighbourhood played and fought with her simply so she'd expose her panties. Her mother solves the issue, much to Hinako's satisfaction, by dressing her in exercise shorts of the type you see in many an anime. The problem is that, should Hinako wear regular panties she loses her self-confidence and, with it, her prodigious fighting ability. Ganpachi, who's motto is "the first step on the road to education is forcing the student to submit", sets out to diminish Hinako by attacking that self-confidence, first by publicly revealing her children's underwear and then by dressing himself and a horde of male students in the same Lucky Kitty shorts. In a disturbing sequence they form a ring around her, stepping towards her while thrusting their Lucky Kitty clad pelvises. I'm reminded of the rape scene in Perfect Blue, but without the layered contexts or irony. This is rape played for laughs. Hinako turns the tables by, once again, exposing herself, but confounds her tormentors by revealing she's wearing regular panties. She may have won this time, but she has conformed to the male diktat.

If you want to experience anime absurdity then I suggest you watch Elf Princess Rane, Excel Saga, or, on a more adult and sophisticated level, Hyouge Mono.


Standing alone against the world, exposed and fetishised.

Rating: so-so. That may seem better than the review suggests. I enjoyed aspects of the OAV, however the focus of the survey is, after all, the beautiful fighting girl, so, naturally, I viewed Ultimate Teacher from her perspective.
+ animation and timing up to the non-stop gags; occasionally clever; surreal juxtapostions; general madness on display; Hinako; Scott McNeil as Ganpachi in the American dub
- pretty dumb most of the time; not many laughs to be had from the effort that was put in; sexist - disturbingly at times; Kelly Sheridan as Hinako in the American dub

Resources
ANN - I recommend Justin Sevakis's more positive response in his 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 5:18 am; edited 4 times in total
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 02, 2020 1:16 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl #91: Ikuuru,



Dragon's Heaven

Synopsis: One thousand years after a cataclysmic war between mecha-armoured humans and renegade robots the world is still a ruin; where the once lush rainforests of Brazil are now a vast desert. Orphaned Ikuuru roams these wastelands scavenging for food and anything else useful she can find. When she stumbles upon a dormant self-aware, hyper-intelligent mecha named Shaian buried in the sand she discovers she has means to defeat Elmedyne, the leader of the defeated rebel machines who has survived by steadily, ruthlessly consolidating and expanding his power.

Production details:
Release date: 25 February 1988
Director / original creator / miniatures / manga version: Makoto Kobayashi (his only role as a director, he is more notable for his manga, including What's Michael?, and for his design work in such anime as Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam; Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ; Venus Wars; Final Fantasy: Unlimited; Gravion; Second Renaissance from Animatrix; Last Exile and its sequel Fam, the Silver Wing; Samurai 7; Steamboy; Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo and Space Batlleship Yamato 2199 among others)
Studio: AIC, Youmex
Screenplay: Ikuyo Koukami
Music: Yasunori Iwasaki
Character Design: Toshihiro (aka Toshiki) Hirano (director of Don't Do It, Mako! Mako Sexy Symphony arc of Cream Lemon; Dangaioh and Great Dangaioh; Fight! Iczer-One, Iczer Reborn and Iczelion, the OAV and TV versions of Vampire Princess Miyu, Rayearth and Magic Knight Rayearth, and Baki, among others)
Art Director: Ichiro Nakano
Animation Director: Kiyoshi Fukumoto
Mechanical design: Osamu Kobayashi

Comments: Very occasionally an anime is more notable for where it leads the viewer, beyond the actual experience of watching it, than it is for any intrinsic qualities it may itself have. Dragon's Heaven is a perfect case in point. While researching the OAV a YouTube review led me down a very rewarding rabbit hole inhabited by Jean Giraud - better known as Moebius. As the reviewer put it, "Koboyashi and his crew essentially took Moebius's art and adapted it into an anime instead". The result is an anime whose flimsy plot and undeveloped characters are more than compensated by a visual style unlike most other anime then or since with, Moebius aside, one big exception as you will see.


Clockwise from top left: Elmedyne - Clements & McCarthy describe the OAV as having "the weirdest robot designs until Evangelion";
Moebius inspired scenery; a girl and her mecha / robot; the flying machines, and much else, owe a debt to Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.


Mind you, the attractive artwork at the core of the OAV is padded out at either end with extended depictions of the models Koboyashi lovingly built as part of the project, complete with back lighting and copious amounts of smoke in an attempt to disguise their miniature scale. The two segments add little to the anime unless you consider as cool robots posing menacingly. For an OAV that's 43 minutes long only about 24 minutes is animation, which isn't enough time to explore either a world that is redolent with possibilities and characters who aren't. The epic setting deserves a more substantial story.

At the heart of the story is Ikuuru, a cheerful fighting girl common to anime of the time, especially in the vague borderline between pornographic OAVs and more mainstream titles, not surprising given that character designer Toshihiro Hirano worked on the Cream Lemon, Iczer, Dangaioh and Vampire Princess Miyu franchises among others. Typical of the 1980s, both her hair and her form are full-bodied, suggesting a softness, a richness and a pliability lacking in anime character designs of the last decade. She is a reassuring anime face amidst all the surreal imagery surrounding her; the one human amidst the warring machines. The emphasis on the female body is given a meaning beyond mere fanservice, even if it is superficial. Indeed, her full-bodied promise doesn't extend much past her appearance. While she has personality - minimal at that - she lacks a sense of character or any compelling motivation. She's every bit as willing to throw off her clothes as she is to pick up a laser cannon and shoot an approaching flying machine. No urgent reason is given as to why she does either. Much of the time she follows Shaian's directions. The lack of an internal dialogue coupled with the unstoppable power of a laser cannon that belches "Dragon's Fire" also means that the OAV lacks tension. The 24 minute core of the OAV is a pleasurable but hardly profound or compelling way to spend your time.

Shaian, the mecha / robot that Ikuuru finds and comes to idolise, is a strange and lopsided thing. Thanks to shortcomings in the palette range, the low contrast lighting and the messy style of the line drawing, he too often becomes a jumbled blur, not helped by a tiny sliver of a head, all of which gives the viewer no focal point to latch onto. He's not the only element of the OAV where the unfocused graphics undermine the anime's impact. The visual field too often lacks contrast or a sense of depth or distance. Combined with the deliberate Moebius-like artificiality the images fail to provide sufficient information or stimulation to engage the eye. The screenshot at the top of the post provides an example. Beyond her head, everything else sort of blends into a sort of undifferentiated porridge - a pity given how attractive the anime can be. Anyway, getting back to Shaian, the rich, baritone timbre of his voice belies his one-note character. He just wants revenge against Elmedyne for killing his original pilot some one thousand years ago. (Shaian has been in shutdown mode ever since.) For his part, Elmedyne gets the best design - huge head, arms and legs incongruously attached to a spindly torso - and the worst voice, whose high-pitched, distorted electronic tones are meant to contrast with Shaian's and thereby mark him as the obvious villain.Think Analyser from Space Battleship Yamato or a less distorted version of a Dalek. And, like the latter, he just wants to rule everything. That's all.


Top: Jean Giraud, aka Moebius.
Middle: Makoto Kobayashi.
Bottom: Hayao Miyazaki.


The debt this OAV owes to Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is very obvious, from the setting's mythology, to the flying machines, the transport beasts, the desert locales and the heroine's role as saviour, although Makoto Kobayashi's anime lacks the finesse and sophistication of Hayao Miyazaki's early masterpiece. It even has an epic main theme worthy of gracing one of Ghibli's high adventures. What the two directors also share is their love of the French comic book artist Moebius, something that Miyazaki, for his part, has acknowledged. Nausicaa is possibly his work where the influence is most apparent , although elements of Laputa: Castle in the Sky - including the scenes accompanying the opening credits and the architecture of Laputa - also bring the French man to mind. It isn't a case of two anime directors using the same source to arrive at a similar destination: Kobayashi is clearly aping Miyazaki, but the appropriation dovetails nicely with an OAV that is, more than anything else, a celebration of the Moebius legacy. In its borrowings Dragon's Heaven puts it best qualities on show; it is, after all, an attractive anime.

Rating: decent.
+ attractive artwork and designs inspired by Moebius and Hayao Miyazaki; interesting back story.
- lack of contrast in some scenes create an unfocused flatness; flat characters; simple plot.

Resources:
ANN
kenny lauderdale, If Moebius Made Anime | The Beautiful Art of Dragon's Heaven (1988), YouTube
Hasko Baumann, Moebius Redux: A Life in Pictures, YouTube
Distant Mirrors, Moebius, YouTube
The Anime Encyclopedia, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle



Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 5:19 am; edited 5 times in total
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 16, 2020 2:26 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl #92: Miho, aka Fashion Lala,


Miho and her dog, Mick. So big, if he got too friendly he'd crush her.

Harbour Light Monogatari Fashion Lala yori
(Harbour Light Story from Fashion Lala)

Synopsis: Miho's single father is a ship's officer who travels the world. While he's away she stays with her aunt, who runs a dressmaking business, and her three daughters. Too young to enter the popular local Disco Queen Contest, Miho dreams of designing and making the winning dress for the kindliest of her cousins, Shuri. Meanwhile, the organiser and chief judge of the contest - the town's mayor - is re-acquainted with his son, Kit, recently released from prison. Disgusted with his father's venal behaviour and hypocrisy, Kit sets out to stop, by violent means, the contest from going ahead. When the aunt, in a fit of rage, shreds the dress she's made, Miho cries herself to sleep until alerted by two small magical creatures who transform her into a dazzling Disco Queen and transport her to the now bombed-out arena, where she uses the power of her dance routines, her mutating outfits and the restoration of the venue to win everyone's hearts. But, how much of all this is actually a dream?

Production details:
Release date: 11 March 1988
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 The Laughing Target)
Studio: Pierrot
Screenplay: Kenji Terada (most notable for scripting the original Dirty Pair TV series and various instalments of Kimagure Orange Road)
Music: Kenji Yamamoto
Character Design: Yoshiyuki Kishi
Art Director: Kazuo Okada
Animation Director: Motosuke Takahashi
Mechanical design: Masahiro Sato
Background Art: Mayumi Hijikata & Tatsuo Imamura

Comments: In my review of Magical Idol Pastel Yumi I said that Yumi was Studio PIerrot's last magical girl until 1998's Fancy Lala. I've since learned that's only partially true: Lala makes an appearance in this odd, one-shot OAV - although under the slightly different moniker of Fashion Lala - a whole decade before her resurrection and, by all accounts, rebuild. (I haven't seen the later series so can't comment upon the differences.) In the review I also argued that the Pierrot magical girl recipe had become stale. The formula mandated an energetic, tomboyish primary school-aged protagonist, cute alien mascot characters who gift her with magical abilities that lead to stardom, whimsical townscapes in pastel colours, sweet and loving parents running a child friendly business, mildly menacing yet comic adults otherwise, a handsome boy who's friendly but distant contrasted with a plain boy who dotes upon her and a by-the-numbers transformation sequence. The second half of Pastel Yumi so lacked inspiration that it contained three recap episodes in the space of ten and concluded with a crisis forced inorganically upon the narrative. It felt as if the studio was going through the motions


Top: Miho encounters - Kit (left); Pigu and Mogu.
Middle: Kit's wayward sister and father.
Bottom: forgotten, abandoned sailing ships in the modern world; Miho's dress design for her cousin Shuri.


With this OAV Pierrot attempted to break the mould by giving us a grittier scenario and more venal characters: there's an arrogant and possibly corrupt politician who, it is strongly hinted, sleeps with his daughter; and a male romance object who's been recently released from gaol, re-connects with his underworld associates and organises a terrorist campaign against the politician who just happens to be his father. Miho's own father is frequently absent overseas, while there's no mention of her mother whatsoever. Given that Miho eagerly awaits her father's return, the unreferenced mother suggests they are utterly estranged or, more likely, she is dead. These new and darker elements create a weird, dissonant tone when juxtaposed against the retained Pierrot tropes such as the genki girl, the cute mascot characters and the idol aspirations. What primary school viewer is going to tune into incest or the bombing of an idol contest? Yet again, when watching a magical girl show I find I'm asking myself who precisely is it aimed at.

The dissonance goes beyond the peculiar blending of disparate elements and into a narrative structure that seems simple enough at first blush, but becomes incoherent under further consideration. Into this weird mix we also get a riff on the tale of Cinderella, where the aunt plays the role of the evil stepmother, the cousins the ugly stepsisters, mascots Pigu and Mogu the fairy godmother, and the night-time idol contest the palace ball. That's all very well, but everything falls over when, in the last scene (following upon the rapturous idol display by Fashion Lala), Miho is awakened in the morning by her cousins to the news of her father's return. That they are now gracious and friendly is odd enough - perhaps their behaviour is simple hypocrisy in the presence of Miho's father - but the anime provides little clue as to exactly what Miho has awakened from. There are three possibilities. None bear scrutiny. First, if the events actually took place in-universe, then a prodigious amount of magic, including the restoration of the arena and Fashion Lala's multiple instantaneous transformations, was thrown about before an audience of hundreds, if not thousands. Until the concert Miho's world is distinctly unmagical. Alternatively, the dream began when Miho cries herself to sleep. While this is my preferred interpretation, the "it was all a dream" scenario is not only a cop out, but it's contradicted by an earlier appearance of Pigu and Mogu. Further, the contradictory behaviour of the aunt and cousins needs to be explicated. And forgotten sailing ships where the dregs of society hide to escape attention? In the modern world they'd be tourist attractions. (The setting itself is a blend of the Bronx, London and the Riviera.) The remaining alternative - that it was dream from the get go - is the most alarming of all. Not only is it guilty of the same narrative sleight of hand as scenario two, but what eight year old girl dreams of intergenerational incest? To quote the police inspector from Paprika, "I find that very disturbing." Unlike Satoshi Kon who, in Paprika, deliberately and artfully deceives the viewer as to when Dr Atsuko Chiba is dreaming, the director of this OAV is simply having a bet each way. Well, three ways in fact. Motosuke Takahashi is no Satoshi Kon.


Shades of Cutie Honey: Fashion Lala at the bombed out ampitheatre.

Miho herself doesn't break any new ground for Pierrot. One 45 minute episode doesn't allow for the same character exploration available in a 26 or 52 episode run. Not only that, but, intrinsic to the Cinderella story, is the heroine's lack of agency: she's at the mercy of her stepmother and stepsisters; is saved without any effort on her own behalf by the fairy godmother; and is chosen by the prince simply for having small feet. As with the dream solution, the Cinderella tropes are just more narrative cop outs for a protagonist who, despite her surface appeal, doesn't actually do much to push the story along. Miho doesn't do magic; it's done to her. One thing I did find interesting was her relationship with Kit. Both are outsiders, estranged from family, victims and observers. Despite their ten year age difference I could sense in each their recognition of a kindred spirit. He's not bad at heart, it seems, but why does he instigate a bombing campaign? And why, when he discovers that his father keeps his sister in a boudoir connected to his office, doesn't he challenge either about it, especially when he's happy to throw around other accusations?

It all makes little sense, as if Miho had walked into the wrong story and continued with her own fantasy regardless of the madness around her. I'm not surprised the OAV didn't spawn a TV series at the time. Perhaps it's all that was retrieved from an understandably failed project. As with the second half of Magical Idol Pastel Yumi, Studio Pierrot seem to have made only a half-hearted effort. Even the background artwork is mediocre when compared with their earlier shows in the genre. I'm intrigued to find out what remained of the scenario in their 1998 TV remake.

Rating: weak
+ Miho, character designs for both Miho and her alter ego, Lala; interactions between Miho and Kit; music (even if one tune rips off the ELO song Twilight used in the Daicon IV special)
- unsuccessful mixture of magical girl tropes with darker themes; cop-out "it was all a dream" ending; incoherent narrative with disturbing undercurrents.

Resources:
ANN
Recommended reading: Justin Sevakis's Pile of Shame article
The Anime Encyclopedia, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle



Last words:

Justin Sevakis wrote:
Sweet mother of god, did anybody making this anime step back and actually realize what happens in this story?! I mean, I know it was a more innocent time and all, but even months after seeing Harbor Light Story for the first time, I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around it. HOW does someone think this is a good idea for a little girl's cartoon about dancing?


(I put off reading Justin's article until after I'd written my review. We pretty much arrived at the same conclusion, although his prose is much more fun to read than mine. I think he's misinterpreted Kit's back story and also hasn't picked up the incest angle. Then again, perhaps I've got them wrong.)


Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 5:20 am; edited 6 times in total
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Calathan
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Joined: 27 Aug 2005
Posts: 9112
PostPosted: Sun Aug 16, 2020 10:55 am Reply with quote
Harbour Light Monogatari Fashion Lala yori is one of the weirdest anime I've seen, which prompted me to write a long post about it (which got ignored by everyone except TK turning it into an "official discussion topic" for it). Besides just being extremely weird in its own right, one thing that threw me off about it is that I had seen people write or talk about it before, but none of them mentioned the incest angle. Since I didn't expect that aspect, I basically watched the whole thing without getting that until right after I finished it. I think just the fact that it is nominally intended for kids made Justin and the other people I'd seen talk about it miss that.

Anyway, I think I had basically the same impressions of it as Errinundra (other than that my anime ratings tend to be much more generous, so I gave it a decent rating). I do find your third interpretation of the ending that I missed, that the ending is a dream but the rest actually happened, to be interesting. However, after more thought I think the interpretation of it all being a dream might make the most sense, despite the disturbing implication that Miho has incestuous feelings for her father (perhaps subconsciously). The weirdness of what came before makes more sense if it is supposed to be a dream, since dreams are just weird. Anyway though, I think the creators intended it to be ambiguous, so there is no real way to know what actually happened.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 16, 2020 5:30 pm Reply with quote
I picked up some of the the incest implications on my first watch through, but was so astounded that I suspected I was reading more into it than was actually there. Second time around I paid more at attention and concluded that the inference in the anime is pretty clear.

I have a couple of theories on what was going on, but, because they're speculation, I didn't include them in the preview. They aren't mutually exclusive.

The first is that the OAV is a parody of Pierrot's own magical girl shows. Not as comedy, but in a subversive sense. The normal pretty town is actually a den of sin; instead of loving and sweet, parent figures are absent, cruel or predatory; the handsome romantic interest is a terrorist bomber recently released from gaol; the idol event isn't an apotheosis, but a shambles. That still raises the question: will children appreciate this?

The second is that the OAV is what remained of a failed TV project. We will never know that for sure unless the makers fess up. Pierrot have a track record. Their first OAV - Dallos - was originally intended as a children's TV show with toy marketing involved. When the toy company withdrew, they re-cast the idea as an OAV for an older audience. Dallos, though not as strange as Harbour Light Story, shows the same signs of abbreviation and unexplained jumps in the narrative. With Harbour Light Story perhaps Pierrot took existing footage meant for a children's show and added the more dangerous ideas?


Last edited by Errinundra on Fri Nov 27, 2020 2:04 am; edited 2 times in total
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Alan45
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Joined: 25 Aug 2010
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 16, 2020 7:03 pm Reply with quote
You really should follow this by viewing Fancy Lala. It is closely related. Same main character and same familiar creatures. She also designs the clothing for her alter ego. It, however, has none of the negative elements you cite as a parody. Going by your theory, it is the straight version for a younger audience.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 16, 2020 9:26 pm Reply with quote
Fancy Lala will be covered as part of the survey & the OAV wiil be referenced. Given the rate I'm getting through the reviews it might be a while though.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2020 4:51 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl #93: Mako Domon,



Madonna

Synopsis: Fresh out of teacher's college, Mako takes on a class at Gyunabe High School, located in a decaying industrial suburb beneath the approach path of an airport runway. She may have chosen the career for its supposed short working week and extended holidays, but she quickly discovers that the delinquent students' only ambition is to expose her underwear, by whatever means possible. She slowly wins them over - especially once the principal makes the insane / inspired decision to appoint her the staff advisor for the school's resurrected rugby team.

Production details:
Director: Akinori Nagaoka (known mostly for helming the Soreike! Anpanman franchise)
Assistant director: Mamoru Kanbe (his directing credits include Elfin Lied; I's Pure; Sound of the Sky; The Perfect Insider and The Promised Neverland among others)
Studio: Toei
Release dates: 11 March 1988 and 23 June 1989
Original manga: Madonna, Our New High-School Queen by Ikuko Kujirai in Big Comic Spirits from 1987 to 1992
Chief animator: Marisuke Eguchi
Script: Kaori Okamura
Character design / animation director: Minoru Maeda (Dragon Ball and Soreike! Anpanman franchises)
Art Director: Jirou Kouno


Top (l-r): Mako and the school principal; student ringleader Obayashi.
Middle (left): a "proper" coach is appointed in the second episode.
(According to Clements and McCarthy, coach Akira Fuwa was a reprise of Norio Wakamoto's similar character in Gunbuster,
which premiered between the two episodes of Madonna.)
Middle (right): Mako wins over Daigo, the most frightening delinquent - he has his own Roman Polanski in Chinatown moment.
Bottom: Mako's first day at the school. Alarming.


Comments: In the space of four titles and covering just under five weeks of anime history the survey has encountered a second example of an outsider trying to deal with a school of delinquent students. Not a genre I'm drawn to, it will become a staple subject in anime over the next couple of decades. The scenario goes back a long way in anime and manga - think Go Nagai's Harenchi Gakuen as an example. Even anime's first TV series with a female protagonist (Sally the Witch from 1966) has its share of school yard reprobates and a set of terrible triplets from an impoverished single parent household who cause mayhem wherever they go.

Madonna takes some different approaches when compared with Ultimate Teacher, being more of a sentimental comedy, despite some alarming scenes, than an exercise in absurdism. It also makes the point-of-view female character the teacher rather than one of the students. Given how the intended audience for both OAVs is adolescent or young adult males then the contrasting roles have a bearing on how each female protagonist is treated by her respective anime. Hinako (Ultimate Teacher) is the most powerful student at her school. The anime sets out to undermine her by revealing that her power comes from a self-confidence that, in turn, derives from the brand of panties she wears. The powerful female will face organised exposure and ridicule of a highly sexualised nature. Anyone knowledgeable with recent Australian political history will have seen the same happen with former Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Male fear of strong women can be powerful, ugly and brutal.

Quite the contrast to Hinako, Mako is sweet and innocent, if a little coarse at times. She is also endearingly stoic. Although the term moe may not have gained currency by 1988, classifying her as such is appropriate. The type was making an appearance in anime by then, even if it hadn't yet evolved into the later, more characteristic design style. Moe is about sympathy, not empathy. The viewer is the subject, distanced from the object (by a screen, if nothing else) and more powerfully situated. Mako gains our sympathy due to the threatening circumstances she finds herself in, and more particularly as a result of two sexual assaults she endures in the first OAV. Both end just short of actual rape, thankfully. In the first it turns out that the entire classroom of students have pinioned her (see image above) to determined the design of her panties - they had laid bets on the outcome. In the second she holds her assailants at bay with a can of petrol and a cigarette lighter (see image at bottom of post). Depicting rape (or almost rape) in entertainment is always fraught. To use it for laughs as in the earlier instance or even to affect sympathy in the viewer is pushing the envelope perhaps too far. The anime's excuse that the boys behaviour is a result of their overflowing male energy lacking an outlet doesn't cut it. Rugby may be the means by which the boys are socialised, but sexual assault is always inexcusable.

Rant aside, the moe analogues continue. As Mako wins the boys over - by sticking by them after coming to understand their dismal circumstances and, full credit to her, asserting her gender - they respond by treating her as an idol (hence the title of the original manga). They leave fan letters in her locker and transform her into their team mascot. Coach Akira Fuwa may mould them into an effective team, but it's Mako who inspires them. She has become their object of moeru.


Mako expressions.

Funnily enough I found myself going through something of the same process while preparing this review. I'm fairly sure this is the first Toei OAV in the survey. Their magical girl TV series were marred by the minimal, production line quality animation, so the relatively high animation standards were a surprise. Full credit must go to Minoru Maeda for Mako's wonderful and vast range of expressions. In assembling the pastiche of images above I took nearly fifty screenshots, almost all of which warranted including. As I poured over the images, trying to decide which to include, then cropping, re-sizing and putting them together, and never getting tired of doing it, I found myself becoming affected more and more by her moe charms. She really is sweet. Through this experience the realisation sunk in that one of the keys to the moe phenomenon is investment in the character. After committing hours of work into splicing together images of her, my response to her had mutated into something almost tangible, but still distant. I may admire Rin Tohsaka (Fate / Stay Night) or Homura Akemi (Puella Magi Madoka Magica) but the moment I placed their figurine simulacra on my shelves they became superstars.

All sentimental stuff, of course, and the anime ends on a suitably sentimental note. The team doesn't quite make it to the final of the all-Japan final round (happily, the anime doesn't take the rugby seriously), but all fifteens students receive a kiss from Mako. She is everybody's and nobody's.

Rating: so-so
+ sentimental story; Mako and her range of expressions; character design & animation direction; doesn't get bogged down in rugby details
- sexual assault as humour or to establish viewer response; simple characters; the course the rugby matches take can be fanciful

Resources:
ANN
The Anime Encyclopedia, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle
MAL



Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 5:24 am; edited 4 times in total
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Alan45
Village Elder



Joined: 25 Aug 2010
Posts: 9897
Location: Virginia
PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2020 9:47 am Reply with quote
Madonna is one of the titles Media Blasters put out under the Anime Works label. I don't remember them advertising it so it may have been something they got as a part of a package deal. I know I bought a copy when it came out but I never got around to watching it. I don't remember giving it away so it should still be around here somewhere. I should probably see it I can find it in deep storage. Wink
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Errinundra
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Joined: 14 Jun 2008
Posts: 6545
Location: Melbourne, Oz
PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2020 8:10 am Reply with quote
Yesterday I discovered that the Sailor Moon mural in nearby Northcote, the original image for this project, has been painted over.


All things shall pass.

Beautiful Fighting Girl #94: Deunan Knute,



Appleseed

Synospsis: In an anarchic and violent aftermath of an apocalyptic war most humans are reduced to a precarious existence. One group, however, has established a utopian, technological city, Olympus, where the welfare of its inhabitants is ministered to by self-aware organically created human-like robots known as bioroids. They handle their tasks so efficiently that even the day-to-day political decisions are made by a benign bioroid dictator, Athena. As the city brings into its fold people from the outside, including the SWAT officers human Deunan Knute and her heavily cyberised male companion Briareos Hecatonchires, many find the pampered existence stifling. For some escape lies in suicide, while others are driven to violent opposition. Deunan and Briareos hunt down a terrorist cell whose explosive activities aim to divert attention from their true goal: to acquire the DNA of a sweet, well-meaning bioroid named Hitomi, that, in shades of Ai City, is the key to controlling the vast, interconnected computer network that keeps Olympus running smoothly.

Production details:
Release date: 21 April 1988
Director & screenplay: Kazuyoshi Katayama (Maris the Chojo, Doomed Megalopolis, Super Atragon, Those Who Hunt Elves, Sentimental Journey, The Big O, Argento Soma, King of Thorn)
Studio: Gainax
Source material: アップルシード (Appurushīdo) by Masamune Shirow, published direct to paperback in four volumes by Kodansha between 15 February 1985 and 15 April 1989. The series was hugely successful both financially and critically, winning the best manga category in the 1986 Seiun Awards. Shirow is also notable for Black Magic, Dominion, Ghost in the Shell (all with anime adaptations that have been or will be covered in this survey) and Orion, and for creating the concepts behind the anime Ghost Hound, Real Drive and Pandora in the Crimson Shell.
Music: Norimasa Yamanaka
Character design & animation director: Yumiko Horasawa
Mecha design: Takahiro Kishida, assisted by Hiromasa Ogura, Jun Tamaya & Kiyomi Tanaka
Art director: Hiromasa Ogura


Clockwise from top left: Briareos; bioroid city administrator Athena Areios;
classic Masamune Shirow spider mecha; Briareos has trouble fitting in.


Comments: After a few weeks of reviewing relatively obscure titles - well, at least ones that haven't earned themselves recent re-releases - Appleseed begins a sequence of franchises more familiar to Western viewers. While 1988 isn't a major turning point insofar as the subject of this survey is concerned, it seems to me that titles from this year were part of a vanguard of cool, new Japanese animation entering the Western consciousness in the wake of Akira, which appeared in Japan in July 1988 and the US in December 1989. Akira's relative success likely encouraged American fans and distributors to seek out contemporary titles. This first adaptation of the Appleseed manga came out as a low-budget OAV for the home market, but received limited cinema screenings elsewhere.

The OAV's budget limitations are very apparent, if like me, you come to it having previously seen the 2004 CGI film version. While the two adaptations may be world's apart in their presentation, they share a lifelessness that, at it's core, can be slated home to the lead duo whose bland personalities fail to engage the viewer, exacerbated in this instance by the OAV's unconcern with their inner world. What you get is a half-arsed mystery, a sequence of unexceptional action set pieces instigated by the villains - one motivated by his wife's suicide and other out to sell Olympus's newest hi-tech spider mecha (a Masamune Shirow favourite) to a rival nation - and a plot twist that isn't startling enough to matter. For the most part, Deunan and Briareos are observers, rather than instigators. The art, which isn't helped by its grainy rendition in the Discotek release, is workmanlike, without once provoking any sense of wonder that such a futuristic setting should inspire. The city is little more than 1980s Tokyo with a couple of gigantic semi-circular glass buildings known as Tartarus plonked in for feeble dramatic effect. Again, reminiscent of Ai City, Tartarus houses the central administration, the bioroid incubators and Gaia, the computer that runs pretty much every activity in the city. Why a system based on utopian ideals, if misguided, should be in a location named after the Greek equivalent of the Christian hell, ie where the wicked are subject to eternal torment, is beyond me. Sure it's ironic - a signature aspect of anything from Masamune Shirow - but the in-universe architects couldn't be that perverse, could they?

Given the zaniness of the Daicon films and Gainax's later more adventurous proclivities, the ordinariness of Appleseed is something of a surprise. It does, however, share a sort of earnest and worthy dullness with the studio's film from the year before, Royal Space Force - The Wings of Honnêamise, though it altogether lacks the film's enormous budget and attention to detail. Nevertheless the animation has some clever touches here and there, such as Briareos using his ears to see around corners and either loose change or a key dropping from Deunan's trouser pocket when she hangs them up before showering. The character designs are an improvement over Royal Space Force, but that isn't saying much: they are more typical fare of the late 1980s. Before I move on to the characters and themes in more detail I'd like to mention a couple of things. Firstly, the subtitlers didn't always understand the ancient Greek and Viking provenances of the names, sometimes mangling them totally. Then again, the Japanese animators weren't much better, being unable to spell either Olympus or Freya. Secondly, the soundtrack, while the style is typical of 1980s anime, is forgettable. Occasionally an industrial rhythm stands out, then quickly sinks back into its easy-listening, mildly jazzy surrounds.


Deunan and Briareos. While I like his rabbit ears they do undermine his credibility.

Appleseed badly misses out on the possibilities inherent in Deunan and Briareos: both awesome, untapped concepts begging to be examined. Instead Gainax concentrates on plot and action, neither of which are interesting conceptually or exceptional in their execution. If only the studio had paid more attention to what the two characters represented. Deunan could have been the original bad-ass, take-no-prisoners anime heroine but, despite her proficiency as a cop, has just enough male audience oriented girlishness and 1980s goofiness to render her less memorable than she might have been. Don't get me wrong, neither the bad-assery nor the goofiness are overplayed. Perhaps they should have been - the overall impression she leaves is of a bland, albeit capable character with a few silly moments. I think of her as a link between the more comic heroines of the Gall Force franchise and later anime adaptations of Shirow's own Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell. Admittedly all the anime versions of Kusanagi are more serious than her manga creator's.

Briareos is likewise understated and under-explored. He's almost entirely cyberised (though he does bleed in one scene) so could easily have been the site for examination of what makes humans different from machines or, more specifically in this instance, bioroids. The anime isn't that sophisticated, so limits treatment of his singular body to its technical aspects: ears that can "look" around corners, memories that can be downloaded for accurate identification of criminals and, of course, his brute strength. Even more than Deunan, he can be comical, even farcical. His rabbit ears are cute and along with their size and expressiveness (they respond to his emotions ), deprive him of the gravitas his bulk, strength and technological prowess might otherwise imply. I suppose they are meant to compensate for his rigid, mechanical face. A running gag is how he doesn't fit into cars or onto motorcycles (see image above). His relationship with Deunan is a tease. The anime provides hardly any back story, but they are clearly a couple. The two are so accustomed to each other that they work flawlessly and intuitively as a team, but the anime, like all the other possibly interesting themes, glosses over what the combination of soft human body and hard synthetic body might imply. One doesn't have to be prurient to be intrigued about what they do in moments of intimacy. The anime's greatest shortcoming is that it couldn't compel me to become invested in them.

I'm also intrigued by the relationship between his female protagonists and cyborgs in Shirow's oeuvre and, particularly, in their development from Black Magic to Ghost in the Shell. In Black Magic the cyborg is an ineffable Frankenstein's monster - but without the sympathy - running amok, placing the female protagonist in extreme danger and requiring disposal. Appleseed is less sure about things: the bioroids are both useful and appealing; while the cyberised figure - Briareos - inhabits a more intimate place in her life. The genius of Ghost in the Shell is that the female protagonist is the cyborg, instantly making her more compelling and a much richer source of enquiry.


Top: villains AJ Sebastian and Charon Mautholos.
Bottom: soft feminine Hitomi contrasted with hard masculine mecha
(easy to forget she's a robot and there's a human inside the machine).
I also like how the mecha has separate appendages for pilot's arms.


That said, thematically, the anime suggests much and delivers little. Two broad themes are canvassed and linked: the blurring of difference between self-aware human and artificial beings; and the primacy of liberty over comfort. While I haven't read Shirow's Appleseed source material I am familiar with his Black Magic manga where he posits that humans have innately creative qualities that cannot be replicated by machines. The Appleseed anime is ambivalent - bioroids are indistinguishable from humans unless they self-identify. Perhaps that's simply due to the anime's superficial treatment. Either way, the viewer is left to ponder things as they see fit. Interestingly, the anime goes so far as to suggest that totally cosseted humans are effectively reduced to being machines. This leads me into the other major theme: an individual's freedom to live their life as they choose, without the state interfering. Valorising liberty has become such a motherhood trope that I find myself pretty much disregarding it whenever it appears. Appleseed is clearly satirising a Japanese tendency to conformity and the prevailing notion that the welfare of the whole is more important than the welfare of the individual. Fine, but it's an easy target. Harmony from 2015 indulges the same satire, but far more ambiguously: its alternative - or solution, if you will - is horrifying. (Not only that but the female protagonist is way better. I wonder if this survey will manage to get to her.) I find much more interesting the occasional anime, ie ERASED, that argues for collective responsibility ahead of individual compunction. In these COVID-19 times our impatience with personal constraint is killing thousands of people a day across the world.

Rating: decent, which may seem generous given the comments above, which reflect my disappointment with how the OAV takes a concept brimming with possibilities then gives us a simple action story with a comic edge.
+ interesting themes and lead characters; snappily paced
- mundane execution both at a technical level and conceptual level

Resources
Appleseed: The Original 1988 OVA, Discotek
ANN
The font of all knowledge
The Anime Encyclopedia, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle
500 Essential Anime Movies: the Ultimate Guide, Helen McCarthy, Collins Design



Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 5:25 am; edited 3 times in total
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Beltane70



Joined: 07 May 2007
Posts: 3919
PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2020 10:49 am Reply with quote
Ah, Appleseed, my first ever manga and one of my favorites, too! That being said, none of its anime adaptations really do its story justice. One thing that's pretty certain about the OVA, at least to me, is that it relies on the viewer's familiarity with the manga since there's so much that isn't explained. The manga really fleshes out the setting and characters really well.

Even thought it's not apparent, especially going by the terminology, bioroids are completely organic beings with the only difference between them and normal humans being the fact that bioroids are entirely genetically engineered with some being engineered to fit specific roles. An interesting side-note is that despite her young appearance, Hitomi is actually around 50 years old, Athena even older.

While I don't remember how much their relationship is touched upon in the various animated versions, in the original manga, Deunan and Briareos are in a fully committed intimate relationship. To quote one character in the manga to Deunan, "You sleep with that dude, that's heavy!". The two have known each other for quite a long time, with them meeting when Deunan was 13 and Briareos was still fully human. Briareos' human appearance is actually shown in one of Shirow's supplementary works, the Appleseed Data Book, which I believe is also where Hitomi's actual age is revealed, though I might be mistaken since it's been about 20 years since I've last read the manga.

I could go on forever if I had the manga easily accessible to refer to instead of just my memory!
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Alan45
Village Elder



Joined: 25 Aug 2010
Posts: 9897
Location: Virginia
PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2020 7:19 pm Reply with quote
My first impression of the OVA was disappointment. It is a washed out faded version of the original manga.

In the manga version, there is no question that Deunan is a badass. She was raised from childhood by her military father to be a warrior. Briareos refers to her as his "point man". She tends to treat any new situation as an active battlefield until proven otherwise. Briareos last name, Hecatonchires refers to his ability to handle the multiple sensory inputs provided by his cyberization, including the eyes on the tips of his ears.

By the way, both Deunan and Briareos are black.
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Beltane70



Joined: 07 May 2007
Posts: 3919
PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2020 12:22 am Reply with quote
Technically speaking, Deunan is of mixed race, hence her light complexion and hair color. I believe it’s mentioned that she has north and Central European and northern African ancestry.
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Alan45
Village Elder



Joined: 25 Aug 2010
Posts: 9897
Location: Virginia
PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2020 7:34 am Reply with quote
Yes, according to Deunan in volume 3 her grandmother was a "cafe au lait" from the Sudan and her grandfather was an Anglo-French journalist with the BBC. Her father was a Green Beret and met her mother in then Rhodesia.
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