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


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Beltane70



Joined: 07 May 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2021 12:46 pm Reply with quote
There's a second two-part OVA series for this called Ariel Deluxe that has the narrator credited as Ikuya Sawaki. I found both OVAs on Youtube and I think that the narrator is the same for both OVAs even though the narrator isn't credited in the first two.

Interestingly enough, my first exposure to Ariel wasn't the OVAs. Instead, it was pictures of an ARIEL model featured in a 1988 or so issue of Hobby Japan magazine.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2021 3:54 pm Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl index
****

I have files of Ariel Deluxe and will review it in due course. To my ear the narrator has a different accent, although the pitch of the voice is similar.

Hey, my first exposure to the Fate franchise was the Saber Lily figure, which I purchased before I'd seen a single episode.


Last edited by Errinundra on Mon Feb 14, 2022 3:42 am; edited 1 time in total
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 21, 2021 5:05 am Reply with quote
The review of Legend of Lemnear that originally appeared in this post has been moved here so that it appears in its correct chronological order.

Last edited by Errinundra on Mon Feb 14, 2022 3:42 am; edited 7 times in total
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nobahn
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 21, 2021 2:04 pm Reply with quote
Errinundra

I am currently going through the Bubblegum Crisis OAVs (2004, AnimEigo). I don't know yet how I'll rate it, although I'm surprising impressed by the dub ─ the English interpretations of the songs are remarkable in and of themselves! spoiler[The tragic deaths are another PRO in my book.] If I recall correctly ─ a BIG if ─ in one the commentaries, one of the directors is quoted as saying that he later worked (scripted?) on Streets of Fire.
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AkumaChef



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PostPosted: Sun Feb 21, 2021 5:29 pm Reply with quote
nobahn wrote:
Errinundra
I am currently going through the Bubblegum Crisis OAVs (2004, AnimEigo). I don't know yet how I'll rate it, although I'm surprising impressed by the dub ─ the English interpretations of the songs are remarkable in and of themselves! spoiler[The tragic deaths are another PRO in my book.] If I recall correctly ─ a BIG if ─ in one the commentaries, one of the directors is quoted as saying that he later worked (scripted?) on Streets of Fire.


Streets of Fire (1984) came out before Bubblegum Crisis (1987+) and served as a major inspiration for the show. Bubblegum Crisis is basically Streets of Fire + Blade Runner. I don't know if you've seen Streets of Fire but several of the scenes with Priss's concert in the first ep of BGC are more or less ripped straight out of Ellen Aim's concert in Streets of Fire. Some of the music was too. Go listen to "Victory" from BGC and then "Nowhere Fast" from SoF, for example.
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Redbeard 101
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 21, 2021 6:08 pm Reply with quote
I swear I read that as you were saying that Streets of Rage came out before Bubblegum Crisis. I was scratching my head wondering what those old Sega Genesis games had to do with Bubblegum Crisis. Apparently nothing at all, I'm just blind.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 28, 2021 1:47 am Reply with quote
I've done it again. I reviewed Legend of Lemnear too soon. There's at least three (maybe four) titles I'll be covering that were released beforehand. I'll move Lemnear when I go beyond 25 July.

****

Beautiful Fighting Girl #110: Atsuko Kagami,



Himitsu no Akko-chan: Umi da! Obake da!! Natsu Matsuri
(ie, Secret Akko-chan: It's the sea! It's a shape-shifting creature!! Summer Festival)

Synopsis: Akko-chan, her best friends Moko-chan and Taisho, along with the rest of the neighbourhood gang are holidaying at her grandfather's fishing village on the eve of the local summer festival. Akko's grandfather warns them against going out to a mysterious island whose waters are the home of a white dolphin that, according to legend, warns fishing parties of treacherous seas. If annoyed, however, the dolphin can transform into a terrifying white sea-dragon. Needing no further encouragement the boys - led by Taisho - row out to the island with the intention of capturing the dolphin for display at the festival. Akko-chan decides some shock therapy is in order and a new chapter in the dragon legend is born.

Production details:
Release date: 15 July 1989
Studio: Toei
Director: Hiroki Shibata
Source Material: Himitsu no Akko-chan by Fujio Akatsuka, published in Ribon magazine from from July 1962 to September 1965 - generally regarded as the first manga with a magical girl as the protagonist. As an anime it was pipped by both Sally the Witch and by Princess Knight. Writer and artist Fujio Akatsuka is also famous for creating the original Osomatsu-kun manga that inspired multiple television series - most recently in 2020. That and Tensai Bakabon led to his title as the Gag Manga King.
Screenplay: Hiroyuki Hoshiyama
Music: Yusuke Honma
Character design: Yoshinori Kanemori
Art Director: Kyouko Nakayama & Nobuto Sakamoto
Animation Director: Nobuhiro Masuda


Akko-chan gets a Minky Momo / Studio Pierrot style transformation, albeit truncated.
In addition to a kappa and a dragon, she has stints as a seagull and a dolphin.


Comments: This is the second short movie produced during the 1988/9 TV remake of Himitsu no Akko-chan, which originally aired in 1969-70. I remain intrigued by the half hour format of these movies: I can't imagine they were screened on their own, so I presume they were part of a larger presentation. Not being able to track down any of the TV episodes I can't compare their technical merits with TV broadcast. What I can say is that, while not being exceptional, they are perfectly adequate. The scenery in the movies falls well short of the Studio Pierrot best efforts - notably Shinichiro Kobayashi's expressionistic backgrounds in Magical Angel Creamy Ami. There's little updating of the character designs so, in that area at least, the franchise is showing its age.

Certainly, in other ways the franchise has been brought into the 80s (well, almost the 90s) . Where the original series seemed artless in its choice of settings - remember, it aired only six years after Astro Boy - this instalment more self-consciously gives us a beach / vacation episode, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise given that it's a side story. Of course, the trope isn't complete without swimsuits, supernatural stories, summer festivals, fireworks and yukata.

The tone of the franchise has also changed. Akko-chan herself is more cheerful, more genki and seemingly more genre-aware than her earlier self. The original transforming girl finally gets a half-decent transformation sequence, complete with an ecstatic demeanour that suggests an older version of herself, but also reinforces the anime's awareness of its place in the genre's history. That said, it still can't compare with better efforts seen in the survey. This more upbeat Akko-chan reflects the breezier tone of the film generally: there's more activity, more of the facial distortions of the kind fashionable at the time and, above all, heavy doses of cuteness - witness the "real" dolphin dancing along to the summer festival music. Even to this outsider, the tropes of Japan's kawaii culture developed enormously between 1969 and 1989.


The main players in the film. Left: ringleaders in the dolphin plot Taisho and Kio.
Right: nosey Chika-chan, Akko-chan and her best friend Moko-chan.


Rotund, comic gang-leader Taisho is once again the driver of the narrative, though as villain rather than hero (as per the first short film). Excited by the old man's story and egged on by his friend (and rival), the comparatively rational Kio, he organises the expedition to the island. With his exaggerated and wide-ranging expressive behaviour, he can carry and communicate the emotional elements of a scene more reliably than anyone else in the anime. That's because the other characters have fewer quirks in their personalities. I don't want to give him too much of wrap; he's clichéd in multiple ways. Remember, he was born as one of the 1960s / 70s stock Toei character types.

In contrast to Akko-chan's background role in the earlier film, here she's the heroine, the righter-of-wrongs and the dispenser-of-justice. You might say she has something of a righteous, condescending big-sister reaction to the bothersome and troublesome boys. They can't help what they do; she has to save them from themselves. Even her best friend is little more than a more irascible version of herself. The other female character to play a significant role is regular spy and snitch, pint-sized Chikako. She's an important narrative shortcut tool in the franchise by informing characters of whatever the plot requires they know (and frequently charges for the service). In one sequence, Akko instructs Moko to tail Chikako to ensure her silence, all to comic effect. The franchise relies on the more eccentric characters such as Taisho and Chikako simply because Akko is so straight. What Toei needs is a magical girl heroine who is comic, expressive and fallible. Of course, I say that with Sailor Moon in mind.

Rating: so-so.
+ fun, economic story telling; brings the franchise into the 1980s; Akko-chan turning into a kappa was a funny surprise; indeed, her transformations generally
- main character is dull; story never anything more than diverting; lacks the emotional foundations of the better Studio Pierrot magical girl anime

Resources:
ANN
The font of all knowledge
The Anime Encyclopaedia 3rd Revised Edition: A Century of Japanese Animation, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle
TV Tropes



Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 5:51 am; edited 3 times in total
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 07, 2021 6:37 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl #111: Noa Izumi,



Patlabor: The Movie

Synopsis: When several giant industrial mecha - known as labors - go on destructive rampages independent of their pilots, Noa and the rest of the team at Tokyo Metropolitan Police Special Vehicle Section 2, Division 2 find themselves on the trail of a mad programmer who has covertly inserted viral code into the labors' operating systems.

Production details:
Release date: 15 July 1989
Planning / production: Headgear (Kazunori Ito, Yutaka Izubuchi, Mamoru Oshii, Akemi Takada, and Masami Yuki), set up by the members to retain copyright control of the Patlabor mixed media franchise
Studio: Deen
Director: Mamoru Oshii (Gatchaman II, The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, Urusei Yatsura, Dallos, Ghost in the Shell, The Sky Crawlers, Vlad Love)
Screenplay: Kazunori Ito
Music: Kenji Kawai (Dream Hunter Rem, Maison Ikkoku, Vampire Princess Miyu, Devilman, Ranma ½, Burn Up!, Mermaid Forest, The Irresponsible Captain Tylor, Blue Seed, Fate/Stay Night, When They Cry - Higurashi, Moribito - Guardian of the Spirit, Eden of the East, The Perfect Insider and Maquia - When the Promised Flower Blooms. His collaborations with Mamoru Oshii also include his two Ghost in the Shell movies and The Sky Crawlers. Mamoru Oshii, who says he can't work without him, attributes 50% of his films' success to Kenji Kawai.)
Character design: Akemi Takada
Art director: Hiromasa Ogura
Animation director: Kazuchika Kise and Koji Sawai
Mechanical design: Yutaka Izubuchi


Mamoru Oshii tropes that will, in time, became very familiar (clockwise from top left):
a leap from a high place; a tilted horizon, spider tanks and menacing helicopters.
(All taken from the prelude and opening credits.)


Comments: This was my first ever exposure to the franchise - way back in 2010 via a poorly reproduced version on DVD from Madman, not helped by the placement of the wide screen image within a 5:4 format. Yep, I got both letterbox and pillar box formats in one package. This was fixed easily enough by cropping the black space, but the resolution and image quality were definitely substandard for a commercial release. The screenshots for this review were obtained by other means.

Although the film and its sequel are generally regarded favourably, I wouldn't recommended them as a starting point to the franchise. Here's what I wrote in my anime (link below) at the time. "To someone who has never seen the series the main problem with the movie is trying to figure out who on earth everyone is and what their role within the Patlabor team is. By the second viewing and some judicious use of Wikipedia things become clearer and the story can be enjoyed..." This is compounded by the use of an ensemble cast, which obviously created a barrier for me initially, but with familiarisation is a hallmark of the franchise. Thanks to the wonderfully apt and engaging character designs along with the intelligence that went into fleshing out the character's back stories and personalities, once the viewer gets to know them, the whole bunch at Special Vehicle Section 2 will prove to be a rich vein of gold.

The use of an ensemble cast also means that this film is only borderline appropriate for inclusion in the grand survey proper. Different episodes of the franchise - whether OAV, TV or film - tend to highlight one or other of the team, and this is no exception. In this instance the focus is mostly on sharp as a "razor" Section Commander Kiichi Goto who masterminds the covert investigation into the arcane machinations for Ei'ichi Hoba (= E Hoba = Jehovah: yes he's that sort of villain) and the persistent, headstrong but gullible Asuma Shinohara. He's Noa's leader in the field and generally positioned as something of a love interest for her. All this isn't to say that Noa is insignificant to the story. Present throughout the film she gets to shine at the climax in a desperate mecha battle against a rogue prototype super patlabor (= patrol labor, the police version of the mecha) atop a gigantic platform in Tokyo Bay at the height of a typhoon. She's also the marketing focus for the franchise, appearing on the front cover of my Madman DVD. And even ANN's encyclopaedia has her as the sole protagonist. I'm not about to argue with that source.


Clockwise from top left: Noa and Asuma; Shinobu & Goto; prototype patlabor; Kanuka Clancy about to deliver her memorable line.

The other two recurring female characters - Shinobu Nagumo and Kanuka Clancy - have only token roles in the movie. Sharing an office with Goto, Shinobu has plenty of screen time but contributes nothing to the narrative other than be a sounding board for Goto's theories and through acting as sort of dispassionate observer to unfolding events. Kanuka Clancy makes the trip over from the US specifically because her awesome mecha combat skills might be useful in the middle of Tokyo Bay in a typhoon. In one of the films many sly, ironic gags, her contribution to the final confrontation is actually negative in its effect . She does get to utter perhaps the most memorable line (well, one word really) of the entire franchise upon her arrival in Tokyo. The director and his animators milk the moment it for all its worth, having her pause, remove her sunglasses and pause again before delivering her outrageous response to a customs officer's pro forma question.

Mamoru Oshii isn't afraid to linger on a moment, or a scene. Characters will talk, stop and then look at each other for seconds on end. He will place two characters in a frame in unorthodox ways that engages the eye in the absence of dialogue or action (see the first Matsui image). I am reminded of Peter Greenaway and other European art house film directors - Oshii is, after all, the most cinematic of anime directors. This predilection is given full rein in three magnificent sequences, all involving regular policeman Matsui and his unnamed assistant as they explore Tokyo's decaying suburban landscape in search of clues about Hoba. In Angel's Egg Oshii overdosed on urban landscape as a generator of uncomfortable atmosphere, but here the discipline of what is basically a police procedural forces upon him a more considered use of the 100 minutes available. All the same, the sequences aren't rushed. They powerfully suggest a dismal side to Japanese progress, where a nostalgia-inducing past isn't simply replaced by a gleaming new city, but where the detritus of lost time is left to fester before our very eyes. "I guess the past is worthless in this city," says Matsui. The combination of summer heat, the policemen gagging at the decay, their tiny figures in a derelict landscape, the ruined homes, the acres of dumped refuse from consumerism - all gorgeously detailed and beautifully framed by the camera, along with the dreary but absolutely apt soundtrack from Kenji Kawai, create a detached, somnambulant and menacing atmosphere. It suggests that the very city is an enormity, an affront to moral order. The otherwise ineffable viciousness of Hoba's aims seem therefore almost understandable. (Just as well, that, as a mad villain seeking righteous vengeance on an uncaring world pushes hard against my scepticism.) Similar sequences, also involving canals and discarded bicycles, occur in the second Patlabor movie and, most memorably, in Ghost in the Shell where Kenji Kawai provides his best ever accompaniment for Oshii.


Images of a decaying city. Detective Matsui in search of Jehovah.

Hoba's motivations aren't the only things straining credibility. Shinohara's infiltration of Shinohara Heavy Industry's computer network (the shared name isn't coincidental), his freakishly opportune discovery of a disk containing the source code for the suspicious operating system, and his escape after setting off a company-wide alarm just happen to conveniently push the plot along. Nor was I convinced that preceding events would lead to him discovering that the labors running amok were triggered by subsonic sound waves.

In his speech about the value of the past Matsui mentions Tokyo's 1980s real estate bubble. In 1989 - the year the movie was released - land prices crashed in the Tokyo metropolis. This would lead to a stock market crash and the so-called "lost decade" of the 90s. Many see 1980s anime as bloated, where projects of little merit (and the survey has covered a few) had generous budgets thrown at them. The upside to that is that the 80s was a golden era of hand animation. This movie may not be notable for its action sequences, but it does show how an intelligent director working with a talented team and with an adequate budget, can make a satisfying film with beautifully detailed artwork and marvellous animation.

Rating: the high end of very good.
+ Matsui's Tokyo sequences; characters and their designs; artwork more generally and the animation; Oshii's direction
- viewer expected to be familiar with the characters; some plot developments just a tad too convenient; frequently relies on verbal exposition.

Resources:
Patlabor 1 & 2: The Movies, Madman
ANN
"Why Were Anime Budgets So Big In The 80s?", Answerman article by Justin Sevakis
The font of all knowledge
The Anime Encyclopaedia 3rd Revised Edition: A Century of Japanese Animation, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle
100 Anime, Philip Brophy, British Film Institute Publishing



Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 5:52 am; edited 4 times in total
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Beltane70



Joined: 07 May 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 07, 2021 12:19 pm Reply with quote
An interesting note about Patlabor: The Movie, is that Shoji Kawamori of Macross fame, actually designed the attack helicopter for the film.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 07, 2021 4:12 pm Reply with quote
Clements and McCarthy mention him along with Hajime Katoki. I can see him now, way down the ANN encyclopaedia page under Mechanical Design Cooperation.

Last edited by Errinundra on Sat Jul 10, 2021 2:55 am; edited 2 times in total
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 04, 2021 3:09 am Reply with quote
Having finally burned a fuse with so much mediocre 1980s anime content, I took a sabbatical for the last quarter. The best cure for burn out is to take a break in order to pursue something different. I didn't give up anime, just changed eras. That meant watching four series from the season just past (Higehiro; To Your Eternity; So I'm a Spider, So What? and the pick of them, Super Cub), along with MoonPhase (because it was available on AnimeLab) and two series largely because Yoko Kanno provided the music: Turn A Gundam and Wolf's Rain. And, most recently, I've been watching the amazing Wonder Egg Priority. In a related activity I've finished the first two volumes of the deluxe edition of Battle Angel Alita, along with a bunch of non-anime reading. I also had a (planned) hospital admission dealing with old-guy stuff.

During that time off from the grand survey a fansub of the original MAPS finally became available. The OAV was released on 14 July 1987, so I somehow have to slot it into the thread in its correct place on the time line, between #s 78 and 79, Black Magic M-66 and Majokko Club Yoningumi - A Kuukan Kara no Alien X. The plan in coming weeks is to review Kiki's Delivery Service and MAPS in that order, then shift the prematurely reviewed Legend of Lemnear to follow Kiki in the thread, find a spot for MAPS way back when, before reviewing either Mamoru Oshii's Gosenzo-sama Banbanzai! (if it turns out to be appropriate for the survey) or Angel Cop. After that there are nine titles to go (depending on availability) before I hit the nineties. I hope to be there well before the end of the year.

Beautiful Fighting Girls #112: Sonnet Barje & Ran Komatsuzaki,



Blue Sonnet
(Akai Kiba Blue Sonnet, ie Red Fang Blue Sonnet, which is way cooler than its English language release name)

Synopsis: Sonnet Barje is a cyberised young woman with induced ESPer powers. She has been enhanced and brainwashed by scientist Dr Merekes to be a soldier and assassin as part of his plan to rule the world. Merekes also believes that the lost ESPer powers of the ancients were genetically based and that someone exists today with the right combination of genes. Sure enough, Japanese school girl Ran Komatsuzaki turns out to be just the person he's looking for. He enrols Sonnet at Ran's school so he can confirm the latter's suitability as breeding stock for an army of ESPers. He doesn't take into account the support Ran has from her family and among her friends, including a renegade prototype cyborg. To complicate matters, Sonnet's exposure to the everyday warmth of Japanese life has her doubting her loyalty to Merekes. And when Ran's monstrous powers are finally let loose as Red Fang, the mad scientist might just get more than he bargained for.

Production details:
Release date: 16 July 1989
Director: Takeyuki Kanda (The Adventures of a Little Prince, the anime version of Ultraman, Uchu Taitei God Sigma, Doraemon: What Am I for Momotaro, Taiyou no Kiba Dougram, Shiroi Kiba White Fang Monogatari, the Ginga Hyoryu Vifam franchise, Choriki Robo Galatt, Kiko Senki Dragonar, Armor Hunter Mellowlink, Dragon Warrior, Tanoshii Moomin Ikka: Bōken Nikki, Konpeki no Kantai, and died in a car accident part way through the production of Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team)
Studio: Mushi Pro (formerly Osamu Tezuka's anime production company)
Source material: 紅い牙 ブルーソネット (Akai Kiba Burū Sonetto, Red Fang Blue Sonnet), published in the manga Hana to Yume from 1981 to 1987
Screenplay: Koichi Mizuide & Seiji Matsuoka
Storyboard: Yuichiro Yokoyama
Music: GO!
Character design: Asashi Abe & Katsuichi Nakayama
Art director: Naoshi Yokose & Toshikazu Ishiwata
Animation Director: Hisashi Abe & Katsuichi Nakayama
Mechanical design: Masahito Yamashita


The taming of a monster: from Blue Sonnet to Sonnet Barje.

Comments: Until now Blue Sonnet proved itself a bridge too far in my incursion into the world of 1980s anime OAVs. In my stop / start efforts to review it I've ended up watching it through four times, which is about three times more than this level of mediocrity warrants. The anime isn't without merit, but its combination of an outlandish, even silly, premise with Mushi Pro's post-Tezuka tendency to earnest but ragged narratives married to prosaic design work and indifferent animation left me uninspired. Writing about awful anime is much more fun than their indifferent contemporaries. The Go Nagai giant robot shows were excruciating to watch but a hoot to discuss.

I'll start with the anime's strengths. First up, Blue Sonnet likes to startle, though its success in these efforts varies. The very first scene sets the tone: Sonnet walks into a deserted Western-style town complete with tumble weeds and hanging saloon doors. The ensuing tank battle upends (at times literally) expectations multiple times. Dr Merekes's casual viciousness alarms me still, while some of the climaxes take unexpected turns. Beware of regular commutes along freeways. Then again, after Akira, freeways could never again be mundane.

More interestingly, in a series that otherwise takes a decidedly black and white approach to its characters' moral codes, the two lead female characters are notably ambiguous. The bad, cyborg girl with a sweet name, Blue Sonnet, must contend with irruptions of her better nature, while the sweet, homely girl harbours a suppressed monster, Red Fang. The two never reconcile their conflicting natures, whether internally or with each other. By the end of the five episodes, Red Fang may have defeated Blue Sonnet for the moment, but the two have gone their separate ways, each pondering how to integrate their divided selves. Each has become the mirror of the other. The only real difference is that Ran's bifurcation is portrayed as intrinsic, genetic and even natural, while Sonnet's is constructed and artificial. It also occurs to me that Dr Merekes's method of fashioning his tool, by breaking down her personality through relentless physical and psychological abuse - as portrayed in the OP - then reconstructing her as a killing machine, prefigures later anime such as Kite, Noir, Gunslinger Girl or even Neon Genesis Evangelion. As a baby Ran was rescued from the same fate by her father who was a researcher working with Dr Merekes. (He died in the escape - hence Ran and her brother have become the wards of Jin Kiryu.) And, of course, the transformations both girls undergo ties them to anime's magical girl lineage.


The release of a monster: from Ran Komatsuzaki to Red Fang.

The anime is relentless in its earnestness. Dour Sonnet and Ran don't provide a single moment's relief for the viewer from the ugliness and the peril that surrounds them. The exigencies of the plot even force the designated comic relief character, Ran's brother Wataru, into a desperate action role. He's nonetheless an unexceptional character. Novelist and freelance journalist Jin Kiryu's wry approach to his failures, marks him as the most likeable character. As orphan Ran's mentor he provides a welcome bedrock for her.

Oddly enough, the one character who consistently goes about their business with any sort of positivity is the prime villain, Dr Merekes (alternatively Merikus or Mericus or Merkis, depending on source). Don't take that as an endorsement, however. His obvious glee as his machinations pan out don't provide sufficient amusement to counter how unpleasant he is. Sure, he's meant to be unpleasant, thanks to his pathological indifference to the fates of others and, more immediately, to his atrocious character design. That design also renders him ridiculous and, combined with his officious personality, exacerbated by his clownish voice, you have a villain who, despite his ambitions toward world conquest, seems petty rather than grand. And, yes, he does his own version of an evil laugh - frequently and tiresomely. You could see him as a very pale version of Wattsman from Dirty Pair: Project Eden. Anime rarely gives us good villains, and those that rely on them narratively are invariably unsatisfying.

Dr Merekes is symptomatic of much that is wrong with the OAV. The bleak atmosphere, sudden twists and eruptions of violence can't gloss over how ridiculous the premise is of two truly average schoolgirls using their latent or constructed psychic powers to fight for the future of the world. Better anime have succeeded where Blue Sonnet fails, but Mushi Pro didn't have the talent at their disposal to make the final product convincing. The premise of Puella Magi Madoka Magica is no less ridiculous, but there the writer, studio and composer are at the absolute top of their games. When it's revealed that Ran - still in baby's swaddling - was the sole survivor of the aeroplane crash that killed her parents and was subsequently raised by - wait for it - a WOLF PACK, all remaining credibility is thereafter shot. It was if the the director and writers, afraid they would lose their audience to indifference, kept throwing more ideas into the mix to keep them invested. Many of the aforementioned twists come across as little more than attempts to save a flagging narrative. On top of that, plot holes and rabbits being pulled from hats abound. My favourite involves the incarceration of both Ran and Jin in the bunkers beneath a Japanese research facility (five and seven levels down respectively). When they escape their cells and re-unite at an even lower level, the look out a window (!) to reveal themselves three levels above the ground. Handy, that, for their subsequent rescue.


Clockwise from top left:
Jin Kiryu - Ran's guardian after the deaths of her parents - is an unsuccessful novelist and freelance journalist;
Shūichi "Bird" Torigai - one of Dr Merekes's earlier, failed cyberisation experiments who aids both Ran and Sonnet;
Dr Merekes - combining the ridiculous (intentionally and unintentionally) with ambition; and
Yuri Onagara - a telepath and clairvoyant whose burned off face is covered by a latex mask.


In more assured hands, Blue Sonnet could have been a riveting action thriller built around the conflicting motivations of the two female leads. The preceding anime in the grand survey - Patlabor: The Movie - throws into stark relief the newer anime's (by one day) shortcomings: mediocre art and character designs (Sonnet's visor makes her look like a blowfly - was that intentional? And if so, why?); poor writing with altogether too many contrived developments (a more tongue-in-cheek tone may have got away with them) and too much spoken exposition; and, probably most importantly, a pair of heroines with insufficient liveliness to be compelling or, at least, to become fan darlings. Clements and McCarthy make the telling comment that the anime "seems engineered more to appeal to male fans than the female target audience of the original manga titles". Perhaps that's also why it lost its way.

Rating: so-so
+ ambiguity in the characters of Sonnet and Ran and the dilemmas that result; unexpected turns in the narrative can be arresting; the action is generally exciting and atmosphere tense
- ridiculous premise not helped by the script; character designs, especially Dr Merekes and ESP researcher Professor Onagara (Yuri's father); unexpected turns in the narrative can be contrived; tinny incidental music

Resources:
ANN
Justin Sevakis's Buried Treasure article for a more sympathetic view
The font of all knowledge
The Anime Encyclopaedia 3rd Revised Edition: A Century of Japanese Animation, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle


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Location: Melbourne, Oz
PostPosted: Sun Jul 11, 2021 5:50 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Flying Delivery Girl #113: Kiki,



Kiki's Delivery Service
(Majo no Takkyubin, ie Witch's Express Home Delivery)

Synopsis: Thirteen year old witchling Kiki decides now is the time for her year of work experience away from home. Taking only the clothes she's wearing, a broom (courtesy of her mother), a transistor radio (courtesy of her father), her talking black cat Jiji and a carry bag with a cut lunch, toiletries and her life's savings, she sets out on her broom in search of her dream seaside town complete with clock tower. She soon finds just the place in bustling Koriko where she lodges with a friendly baker's family, gains an admirer in the geekish Tombo, discovers that her broom makes for a handy courier steed and saves the day (and Tombo) when an airship crashes into the clock tower.

Production details:
Release date: 17 July 1989
Director: Hayao Miyazaki (co-director of the first ever season of Lupin the 3rd, director of Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, My Neighbour Totoro, Porco Rosso, Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle, The Wind Rises and more - I've only included those anime I've reviewed in this thread)
Studio: Ghibli
Script: Hayao Miyazaki & Nobuyuki Isshiki
Music: Joe Hisaishi (a long time collaborator with Hayao Miyazaki, he has also provided songs and soundtracks to other anime - most recently Children of the Sea and Ni no Kuni)
Source material: the novel 魔女の宅急便 (Majo no Takkyubin) by Eiko Kadono, first published by Fukuinkan Shoten 25 January 1985
Character design: Katsuya Kondo (regular character designer and key animator with Ghibli, most recently with Earwig and the Witch)
Art director: Hiroshi Ohno
Animation directors: Katsuya Kondo, Shinji Otsuka & Yoshifumi Kondō
Other notable contributors: an early credit for Kenji Kamiyami as a background artist (directed the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex franchise, Moribito - Guardian of the Spirit, Eden of the East, 009 Re:Cyborg, Cyborg 009 Call of Justice, Napping Princess, Ultraman and the upcoming Blade Runner: Black Lotus and The Ninth Jedi segment of Star Wars: Visions) and Koji Morimoto as a key animator (co-founded Studio 4°C, directed Franken's Gears from Robot Carnival, Hero from Ai Monogatari, Magnetic Rose from Memories, Eternal Family, Noiseman Sound Insect, Four Day Weekend, Connected, Beyond from Animatrix, Dimension Bomb from Genius Party, the OP for Dirty Pair: Project Eden and the opening animation sequence to Short Peace)


Kiki quickly finds friends in Tombo and Osono. The latter provides accommodation for Kiki in her bakery attic.

Comments: According to the commentaries on the Madman Blu-ray, Kiki's Delivery Service was Studio Ghibli's first box office hit. I was also surprised to discover recently that it was more expensive to make than Akira from the year before. (I shouldn't have been surprised: Kiki's artwork and animation are more detailed.) The comparison with Akira highlights the revelations and consequent reappraisals brought about by reviewing anime titles within the context of my grand chronological survey of female protagonists. Most English language reviewers and commentators consider Kiki in isolation or, if they place her within any context at all, limit their enquiry to contemporary American animation or within Hayao Miyazaki's creative oeuvre, or Ghibli's marketing and production strategies. Some do go further, but are, more often than not, limited to considering anime released to the American market, which excludes almost all magical girl and related shows made to that point in time. To their credit, many make passing allusion to the magical girl genre but then, mostly correctly, point out that Miyazaki's film goes beyond the genre by both limiting the magic at the protagonist's disposal and, more importantly, by transforming the narrative into an account of Kiki's coming of age. (I say "mostly correctly" because some examples of the genre are coming of age stories, for example Leda: The Fantastic Adventure of Yohko.) Tamaki Saito - writing, of course, from within the Japanese cultural milieu - sums up Kiki succinctly, saying that the film,

Quote:
... while not a beautiful fighting girl work, is still important. This anime is about learning rather than the use of magic because it is about the coming of age of the heroine Kiki. Depictions of both learning and coming of age tend to be excluded from the standard beautiful fighting girl works in the magical girl subgenre. This is because, although the traditional magical girl repeatedly matures and regresses with her transformations, she never truly comes of age. In this sense, Kiki can be categorised as a nonconforming member of the subgenre.


Almost all the magical girl shows dealt with to this point have been TV series or subsequent spinoffs. The insurmountable problem for these shows is that once the girl grows up, the "matures and regresses" trope evaporates thus obliterating the whole point of the production. Killing off Momo (Fairy Princess Minky Momo) may have resulted in an unconvincing, messy workaround, but having her grow up would have been just as devastating to the show's structure. That's not to say a series can't have the heroine mature over the course of its run. Maturing (especially in a strictly biological sense) is the major theme of Marvellous Melmo, though it is telling that it came from the eccentric imagination of Osamu Tezuka rather than the production lines at Toei. Even the latter occasionally allowed their girls to grow beyond their magical role. An example would be Lunlun the Flower Child where, upon completing her magical task at the end of the series, she forsakes the magical realm, recognises what's truly important - the love of the boy who has watched over her - and returns to what presumably will be a mundane and mostly happy life. The Studio Pierrot shows also have their heroines develop, but they're never fully formed; their future is unknowable. My favourite of the straight magical girl shows, Cardcaptor Sakura (even if still nine years in the future), also has its heroine developing throughout the series, although she's back to her former self of latent possibilities in the sequel movies. The more deviant magical girl shows such as Revolutionary Girl Utena (admittedly an outlier of the genre), Princess Tutu or Puella Magi Madoka Magica have the dilemma at their thematic core. What makes Rebellion so interesting, if not satisfying, is how Homura releases the magical girls from their inevitable death sentences (even if palliated by Madoka before their passing) - inevitable because none of them had any prospect of growing or living beyond their chosen role. One of the tensions at the end of the sequel movie is that we cannot know whether they have the chance to grow up or if, instead, they have transmogrified into some sort of eternal magical girl.


Kiki and Tombo. Motorcyclists appreciate a pillion who knows how to lean. Kiki's broomstick skills makes her a natural.

A more relevant influence on Miyazaki would be the World Masterpiece Theatre and associated productions that adapted popular books from around the world. His friend and Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata directed three of the series at a time when the franchise was at its most popular: Heidi - A Girl of the Alps, Marco - From the Apennines to the Andes and Anne of Green Gables. Miyazaki worked under him on all three as well as other titles in the franchise. Recurring tropes include a child's separation from, and the search for, family and home along with what would be an exotic setting for Japanese viewers. Kiki also delivers on these themes. Koriko, despite its Japanese sounding name, is an amalgum of Scandinavia (Stockholm and Visby), the Mediterranean, Paris and London. It is worth noting that, to this point, all of Miyazaki's directorial efforts involve foreign or post-apocalyptic settings. Whether it was his personal preference, a catering to what was popular in Japan at the time, or perhaps an eye towards overseas markets, I cannot know. Japan's economy had prospered in the 80s and, it seems to me, anime content was more outward looking then (notwithstanding the growing importance of the otaku audience through that decade). Philip Brophy draws a direct parallel,

Quote:
Kiki must leave her home and spend a period of training as a witch while living with humans under their conditions. The premise cannily symbolises Japan's relation to the world - forcing itself out of isolationist traditions to connect with Others - but this theme's execution in the film is multi-faceted, soulful and never didactic.


Brophy may be reading too much into things. I will say, however, that I think that one of the reasons isekai genre is so pervasive these days is that, having artificial fantasy settings, they are palatable to both Japanese and foreign viewers who, by recent reports, now account for half of anime's audience. And, no, the movie isn't didactic, (unlike this review or, rather, essay).

Kiki is another of Miyazaki's terrific female characters. In the blu-ray's extras he admits that, having neither sisters nor daughters, he struggled with her creation. The solution to his inexperience came in the form of producer and friend Toshio Suzuki's daughter who happened to be the right age. The template worked as Kiki is entirely convincing in her combination of tenacity and prevailing cheerfulness despite her self-doubts, her openness to new experiences and to learn from them, her spontaneous selflessness in moments of need, and her thoughtfulness - in multiple senses of the word. Her crisis of self-confidence may seem forced in terms of a plot that is mostly free of conflict or angst, but it's something all of us who struggled though adolescence can relate to and, hence, very real seeming. And, best of all, the girl saves the boy, not the other way around as is so common. Like Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind before her she truly has become the heroine of her story.


Kiki's familiar, the wide-eyed and sceptical Jiji, here with his newly acquired family. Animal mascots have a long tradition in anime.

On that last note, a friend of mine has a daughter who last year completed a tertiary course in animation and who recently cosplayed as Kiki at a university event. That a young woman in her early twenties should identify closely with Kiki is hardly surprising, but the success of the film suggests that her appeal goes much further. Why would a much older male, like myself, find her appealing? The answer possibly lies in the role of the feminine in mediating between the fantastic and the mundane (and the film is a combination of the two with a spoonfuls of sentiment and humour). I've mentioned this already with Nausicaä in my review of that film. This mediating role appears frequently among Miyazaki's young female characters. There's Sheeta in Laputa: Castle in the Sky, the two girls in My Neighbour Totoro, San from Princess Mononoke, Chihiro from Spirited Away, Sophie from Howl's Moving Castle and the eponymous Ponyo. You might consider them a defining characteristic of his style. The result is that I depend on her to understand the world she inhabits and thereby appreciate her insights and her actions. In effect, she is leading me through Miyazaki's imagination.

Susan Napier sums her up thus (last quote, promise),

Quote:
Besides Miyazaki's fantasy worldscapes, the other key element of his independent imaginative universe is his deployment of female characters, in whom he provides a crucial potential for change, growth, and compassionate empowerment. Precisely because they are indeed not "real" at the "level of daily life," (referring to a critique from a Japanese girl - Errinundra) his heroines are the conduits through which the promise of Miyazaki's magical alternative realities are mediated or idealised guides helping the viewer understand and imaginatively participate in Miyazaki's distinctive and defamiliarising vision of the world.


Some of my favourite scenes in Miyazaki films involve quiet, often otherworldly, moments of reverie. Think of the train journey in Spirited Away, the lair of the forest god in Princess Mononoke or Nausicaä observing the ecosystem of the Toxic Jungle from within the ohmu eye lens. They are at once introspective, magical and a little threatening. Such a place or mood can be found in Ursula's forest abode and, more specifically, in her Chagall-like painting of a girl on a pegasus (see image below). For Miyazaki, flight is used as a representation or illustration for several things. Here it is a metaphor for artistic creativity, thereby linking himself to Kiki. This connection recurs throughout his works. It is most specifically made in The Wind Rises where the designer of the Zero fighter can be interpreted as an alter ego of the director. In Porco Rosso, when Fio asks whether it's experience that makes a pilot great, Porco replies that it's "inspiration", according to the subtitles, or "intuition", according to the dub. (Damn! I lied. That's a quote.) Whatever the correct translation is, the connection is clear. When self-doubt creeps in inspiration dries up. Ursula can't complete her painting; Kiki can no longer fly on a broomstick. Take a sabbatical and the inspiration will come back of its own accord. It's kind of like me and reviewing 1980s anime: now the words are flying from my fingers. There's always a risk of making a fool of yourself, but life is worth that gamble.


Kiki and the forest dwelling painter Ursula.

The film is packed with fun characters and moments. There's an old dog, wiser than a dog should be, who grasps a diabolical problem facing Jiji the cat and protects him; there's two old ladies trying to bake a herring and pumpkin pie in an electric stove; and the silent but mischievous baker (the husband of Osono) who delights in boggling Jiji. The animation and exquisitely detailed artwork set a new high standard for Miyazaki. In particular, the aerial perspectives of Koriko, the seaside and the countryside are wondrous, thrilling and immersive, quite the antithesis of the mood of annihilation that pervades the first movie instalment (Overlooking View / Thanatos) of The Garden of Sinners, to give a contrasting example (but astounding in its own dark way). Joe Hisaishi provides an appropriate and sensitive soundtrack. Favourite of the tunes is the jaunty Ooisogashi no Kiki (A Very Busy Kiki) that can be heard while Kiki completes one of her deliveries.

Rating: very good.
+ artwork and animation; main character; overall optimistic tone; fun supporting characters; soundtrack
- Kiki's loss of her ability to fly (apparently not in the original novel) comes out of nowhere; that and the airship accident seem forced; not the most profound anime you'll ever see (but why should it be?)

Resources:
Kiki's Delivery Service, Madman
ANN
The font of all knowledge
The Anime Encyclopaedia 3rd Revised Edition: A Century of Japanese Animation, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle
Anime from Akira to Howl's Moving Castle, Susan Napier, St Martin's Griffin
Beautiful Fighting Girl, Tamaki Saito, trans J Keith Vincent and Dawn Lawson, University of Minnesota Press
100 Anime, Philip Brophy, British Film Institute Publishing
Anime: A Critical Introduction, Rayna Denison, Bloomsbury Academic
Anime Explosion: The What? Why? & Wow! of Japanese Animation, Patrick Drazen, Stone Bridge Press



Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 6:06 am; edited 9 times in total
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Beltane70



Joined: 07 May 2007
Posts: 3921
PostPosted: Sun Jul 11, 2021 12:30 pm Reply with quote
Several months ago, both Susan Napier and Helen McCarthy gave a wonderful presentation on Miyazaki and his use of children in his stories for a program streamed on Youtube for the Japan Foundation out of New York City. It's part of their series of videos about anime.

One of the more recent anime that invokes feelings of Kiki's Delivery Service is the 2016 TV series Flying Witch, a show which I feel is greatly deserving of a second season!
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Alan45
Village Elder



Joined: 25 Aug 2010
Posts: 9911
Location: Virginia
PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2021 7:15 pm Reply with quote
Quote:
Having finally burned a fuse with so much mediocre 1980s anime content, I took a sabbatical for the last quarter.


Errinundra, you do realize that this is heresy, don't you. According to a very vocal minority of posters, the 1980s were the golden age of anime and that the anime from that period is all good. Wink Supposedly it has all been down hill since then, and nothing more than meh has been put out since.

When I see some of the stuff from your reviews that you have gone to great lengths to view, I think you need some sort of award.
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Errinundra
Moderator


Joined: 14 Jun 2008
Posts: 6545
Location: Melbourne, Oz
PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2021 7:59 am Reply with quote
@ Beltane70,

Thanks. I'll check them out.

@ Alan45,

There's a distinctive tone and style in 1980s anime that makes much of it seem both farcical and superannuated. To a 2020s viewer it can be so alien as to be hardly anime. That also means however, if you like the tone and style, then the decade dishes it out in great gobs. The explosion in the amount of anime titles produced in the second half of the decade, particularly as OAVs, did mean the release of a lot of substandard stuff. It also produced many gems. I plan on doing another "Recap episode" / "The Show So Far" when I reach the end of the decade, covering the era from Daicon IV to Gall Force: Earth Chapter.
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