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


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Top Gun



Joined: 28 Sep 2007
Posts: 4632
PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2021 2:45 am Reply with quote
Wow...I've seen Angel Cop, and I cannot even fathom attempting to watch it in Japanese. The dub was entirety of the draw for me, and by God it was worth every glorious second. Take that away, and you're left with something that is really aggressively Not Good.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2021 5:30 pm Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl index
****

Thanks for the responses.

@ Redbeard 101,

Watching all these shows in chronological order is getting me making all sorts of associations that I hadn't previously. Where once I would have said Angel Cop is just another violent sci-fi cop show now I can see there's nothing quite like it that came before.

@ Beltane70,

I see from another thread that you're watching Tokimeki Tonight. Let us know here what you thought once you finish. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

@ Alan45,

Silent Mobius first appeared in August 1991 - less than 2 years after Angel Cop. Triangular faces would become a feature of the 90s. Silent Mobius shares a few features with the older anime. With luck I can get to it in the next year or so.

@ Top Gun,

You've highlight one of the tensions within the project, which is an exploration of the history of the beautiful fighting girl in anime within a review format. It's a history of the Japanese approach to female protagonists. The American dub is a Western overlay that heads off in its own American direction. This means that the dub, even if it's an improvement, doesn't fit within the purview of the survey. I could've mentioned it, but other things are demanding my attention.
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Alan45
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Joined: 25 Aug 2010
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2021 7:04 pm Reply with quote
@Errinundra

I'm more familiar with Kia Asamiya's manga version of Silent Mobius which, according to the Encyclopedia, began in 1988, a year before Angel Cop. The reaction was strong enough that I immediately went back up your post to see if Asamiya was involved (nope). Apparently it was something in the air about that time.
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Top Gun



Joined: 28 Sep 2007
Posts: 4632
PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2021 3:18 am Reply with quote
Errinundra wrote:

@ Top Gun,

You've highlight one of the tensions within the project, which is an exploration of the history of the beautiful fighting girl in anime within a review format. It's a history of the Japanese approach to female protagonists. The American dub is a Western overlay that heads off in its own American direction. This means that the dub, even if it's an improvement, doesn't fit within the purview of the survey. I could've mentioned it, but other things are demanding my attention.

I believe this dub was a Manga UK product instead of something from the US, but I do see your point. It's just that the thought of trying to treat Angel Cop as a serious work to be analyzed instead of a fantastic drinking game for every glorious new use of profanity fills me with existential dread. Laughing
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 22, 2021 7:40 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girls # 116: Junko Yajima & Reiko Shinokita,


Junko Yajima (Yaji-san)

Yajikita Gakuen Dochuki
(The title is often mistranslated as Tales of Yajikita College, however Yajikita is a portmanteau of the main characters' family names, Yajima and Shinokita, so a better translation would be Yajikita Academic Travel Journal or even Yaji and Kita's Academic Travel Journal. Their names are derived from an early 19th century picaresque novel and travel guide Tokaidochu Hizakurige by Jippensha Ikku where two characters, Yaji and Kita, have various adventures on the road between Kyoto and Edo.)

Synopsis: Junko and Reiko are career serial transfer students. As part of the United Kanto Group they enrol in senior colleges around Japan to investigate problems that can't be referred to the normal authorities. Requiring both school girl sensitivity and robust martial arts skills for resolution, the mysteries involve ninjas, political corruption, ghosts and spirits. In the first tale, the principal of Murasame Academy (named after himself as founder) engages the pair to investigate vandalism at the school and at his house. They discover a clan of ninjas out for revenge, a trail of political corruption and the ghost of a girl trying to protect the ninja brother she loves dearly. In the second, the two visit Okadai High School where systematic bullying is entrenched and controlled by a female student who may have become a dark spirit (Yasha). As in the first tale love, rather than conflict, will resolve the situation.

Production details:
Release dates: 15 September 1989 and 25 July 1991
Directors: Osamu Yamasaki - ep 1 (Yotoden, Lemon Angel, The Tokyo Project, Guardian of Darkness, Joker - Marginal City, Tokyo Revelation, Gestalt, Towards the Terra (TV version), ItaKiss, Hakuoki franchise, Hakkenden franchise, Time Travel Girl and ACTORS: Songs Connection) & Yoshihisa Matsumoto - ep 2 (100%, Tenku Senki Shurato: Sosei e no Anto and Babel II)
Studio: JC Staff
Source material: the manga やじきた学園道中記 by Ryoko Shito, published in Bonito from 1982 - 1991 and in Mystery Bonita from 2003 - 2006.
Script: Ayumu Watanabe
Music: Nobuhiko Kashihara
Character design / animation director: Minoru Yamazawa
Art director: Chisato Sunagawa


Reiko Shinokita (Kita-san)

Comments: The anime release of the first episode of Yajikita Gakuen Dochuki comes some five months after the only comparable title in the survey to date, Karura Dances (although the manga began some four years earlier than its counterpart). Both belong to the shojo "occult action" genre that seems to have been hugely popular among its female audience at the time. The adventures encountered here, however, lack the urgent "the world as we know it will end" predicament of the earlier show. There, the action erupted from its school setting, threatening to engulf all of Japan. The two tales in Yajikita Gakuen Dochuki only stray from the school premises into the local neighbourhoods; the conflicts are familial or are restricted to the members of the school community. As Reiko puts it, "Schools are all alike; snakes coil beyond the reach of adults." These comparatively mundane elements don't stop it from being somewhat more fun to watch (particularly the first episode), even if Karura Dances didn't set a high bar to begin with and even if I could only locate a raw version of the second episode. (Thankfully Wikipedia has a detailed episode description). Still, it's good to review another shojo title that sits outside the magical girl genre.

The major factor behind the comparative watchability lies with the two leads, who are something of an improvement upon sisters Maiko and Shoko Ogi, the protagonists of Karura Dances. Junko and Reiko don't have supernatural abilities, which is fine as they don't have to do spiritual battle with either the ghost or the possible spirit they encounter. (I can't tell for certain from the Japanese dialogue or the Wikipedia summary whether Shirotae Anenokoji has completed the transformation to yasha.) Instead, they possess formidable hand to hand (or foot to body, if you will) combat skills. These come in handy in the obligatory melees with blade wielding ninjas who provide the greatest threats in both episodes. Junko is the more skittish of the two: rash, easily swayed emotionally and susceptible to the charms of handsome young men. Her strong sense of justice along with her impetuosity are often the catalysts that land the heroines in their various scrapes. When it counts she's a terrific fighter and dependable ally. Reiko is the leader of the two: more reserved, sceptical and thoughtful. Funnily enough, her casual attire is slapdash compared with Junko - witness her collared shirts hanging out at the waist. As the link to Tokaidochū Hizakurige might suggest, there is a comic streak to the young women, but it remains low key. I'm thankful for that - had the humour been ramped up then the story telling might have suffered. The important thing is that Junko and Reiko are positive heroines for their intended audience.


Clockwise from top left: the ghost of Masako, daughter of the disgraced leader of the Sumeragi clan and loving sister of...;
Yosuke who is determined to take vengeance on the clan's nemesis, who happens to be the principal of Marasume Academy;
the students of Okadai High think of maths teacher Nakamura as "the punisher" for their sins past and present; and
Okadai High ringleader Shirotai Anenokoji appears to have come straight out of Vampire Princess Miyu.


Other characters largely serve the requirements of the narratives and are appropriately portrayed to fit the tone of their role. And the tone is central to Yajikita Gakuen Dochuki. Adults range from patronising to sinister, whereas, with one or two exceptions, the young men glower darkly and smoulder intensely - as you might expect from a shojo franchise. The major exception is Tokunari Yukiya, the leader of the United Kanto Group to which Reiko and Junko belong. He fits another shojo trope, as the anime's most extreme example of the effeminate rendering of young males. Female villain Shirotai Anenokeji is the pick of the supporting characters thanks to her deathly still, otherworldly and chilling aura, especially when attending her peonies. She constantly reminded me of Vampire Princess Miyu. The problem with her story is the perfunctory way it concludes, exacerbated by her abrupt change of heart.

Almost two years elapsed between the releases of the two episodes. The time skip entailed both a change in director and a decline in the production. As can be seen from the production details above, first episode director Osamu Yamasaki was also responsible for the unexpectedly effective Yotoden and went on to helm multiple other projects. Second episode director Yoshihisa Matsumoto had a much shorter career as a director, instead becoming a regular storyboarder and episode director right up to the current day. The first episode doesn't have, nor does it require, complex animation, but, despite the often muted palette and lack of detail, the thoughtful frame composition makes up for the other shortcomings. The second episode is workaday by comparison: the backgrounds are simple and prosaic; the action scenes less thrilling; and the pacing managed less expertly, for example the aforementioned rushed ending. Further, more elements designed to appeal to a young male audience are inserted: fanservice, now including panty shots, is increased; and the fights emphasise the action over the emotional impact. This change might be from a recognition that the OAV market was largely driven by young men, or it might have simply represented the different predilections of the two directors.

The music works reasonably well throughout, despite being limited to keyboards only. There's a melancholy, tuneful piano piece - even played by a character at one point - and occasional driving techno pulses. Episode one ED has a bog standard 1980s pop ballad with standard rock instruments before the female lead singer breaks into "What a woman!" followed by picked shamisen and the singer exhorting, "Call me a Yamato Pink". The shamisen both hearkens to the traditional Japanese folk tales that inform the anime and, more vitally, neatly upends the bland conformity of the song so far. Things get even better when an all male chorus adds to the fun with "Rash, bluster, popping, nice and hip" (the fansub translation might have got that wrong) and their own chanted "What a woman! Call me a Yamato Pink".


Top: Junko and Reiko putting down two more ninja. Bottom left: United Canto Group members Tokunari Yukiya (nearer) and Kotetsu Kakuunsai.
Bottom right: principal Genzo Murasame from the first episode - compare the frame composition with the other images here from episode two.


Rating: episode one so-so; episode two not really good - both would be above average for their grade so overall so-so. A mostly forgettable OAV made on a low budget with nothing very wrong with it and nothing outstanding.
+ on balance Junko and Reiko; first episode frame composition; overall tone, especially Shirotai Anenokeji, first episode ED song
- production limitations, particularly in the second episode; generally forgettable stories and characters

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


Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 6:19 am; edited 2 times in total
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 29, 2021 6:20 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl #117, Agent D (aka D-ko) et al,


Yeah, D-ko is a secondary character but, in my top of the post images for the franchise, I'm up to "D",
The women in this survey come in all shapes, sizes and behaviours. I'm not all that fussed about definitions of beauty.


Project A-ko 4: Final

Synopsis: A-ko's and B-ko's bitter and violent struggle for the heart of C-ko continues. When their thirty-something year old teacher Miss Ayumi falls into a slough of despair due to her fading marriage prospects, B-ko's fabulously wealthy and influential father takes it upon himself to arrange her marriage to the socially awkward son of a business associate. The young man in question turns out to be Kei, the object of desire for both A-ko and B-ko in the previous instalment of the franchise. The two feuding women become unexpected allies against B-ko's father and Miss Ayumi - anything to stop the wedding going ahead. The father, aware of their formidable powers, uses his connections to have the entire Japanese Defence Force protect the wedding. Mayhem ensues and, just when it seems that married bliss will be denied Miss Hayumi, a fleet of three thousand alien space battleships arrive to reclaim their lost princess, C-ko. This time they have brought their ultimate weapon: C-ko's mother, the queen of the aliens. While this is happening three explorers in Iraq discover an ancient Persian temple with a statue of a goddess bearing a resemblance to C-ko and with an inscription foretelling the end of times when the goddess is taken away by visitors from the stars.

Production details:
Release date: 07 October 1989
Director / storyboards / character design / animation director: Yuji Moriyama (Project A-ko 2: The Plot of the Daitokuji Financial Group, Project A-ko 3: Cinderella Rhapsody, Madara, Exper Zenon, 801 TTS Airbats, The Adventures of Kotetsu, Jungle de Ikou!, Geobreeders, Shrine of the Morning Mist, Yawaraka Sangokushi Tsukisase!! and Ryofuko-chan along with an extensive career in character design and animation direction)
Animation studios: APPP and Studio Fantasia
Original concept: Katsuhiko Nishijima, Kazumi Shirasaka & Yuji Moriyama
Screenplay: Tomoko Kawasaki and Yuji Moriyama
Episode director: Shigeru Morikawa (director of Chrono Crusade)
Music: Kentaro Haneda
Mechanical design: Sadami Morikawa


Top: A-ko and B-ko. The latter is standing on the outstretched palm of her latest giant robot - Mazin A-ko Hassaku.
Bottom: princess C-ko and goddess C-ko (or perhaps goddess Ayumi).


Comments: Despite the lack of director's credit at the time, Yuji Moriyama was a driving force in the original feature length film from 1986 that turned out far funnier than it had any right to be. In the wake of the film's success Moriyama helmed three OAV sequels, released yearly, with - as the title suggests - this being the last. (Never keep a successful franchise down, though: fifth and sixth instalments showed up in 1990 as Project A-ko the Versus.) Here Moriyama sticks to the successful formulae of the movie: juxtapose multiple threads that, on their own, seem hardly funny; throw in a bunch of lunatic characters; mix; and escalate until absurdity runs riot. That's the aim, anyway. As with the previous two sequels, the result mostly falls flat. The jokes and the comic situations are present, and frequent too, but can't provoke the combination of astonishment and hilarity of the original with its generous budget, intricate animation, detailed artwork and longer running time that allowed it to introduce the threads and characters, and steadily build the tension. In short, the film is epic, the sequels are diversions. The "divine intervention" Moriyama credits for the film has been withheld.

All is not lost, however. There are plenty of wacky, clever moments of absurd juxtaposition. Favourites include the aliens apologising by loudspeaker to the earth's population for any inconvenience they may have caused: the just want their princess back. Or the use of Japan's military might to protect the wedding from A-ko and B-ko. (The young women comprehensively annihilate them.) Or Miss Ayami's plea to "Save your fighting for the classroom!" bringing to mind Peter Sellers proclaiming, "Gentlemen. You can't fight in here. This is the War Room!" in Doctor Strangelove. Project A-ko lacks the acid satire of Kubrick's movie, but the same methodology is used in search of absurdity. In the anime's case, it's more clever than funny. Snickers, rather than belly laughs are the order of the day.

The characters have evolved since the original film. A-ko is tetchier, more trigger-happy. That's understandable, when you consider that B-ko will kill her the moment she let's her guard down. Part of her former appeal lay in her Jackie Chan / Buster Keaton comic bewilderment at the forces arrayed against her. (As indicated in an earlier review, the franchise is named after Jackie Chan's Project A.) Things move too quickly this time and, besides, the emphasis is more on Miss Ayami and C-ko. Miss Ayami, for her part, has been upgraded from a Magical Angel Creamy Mami send-up spouting gibberish in the classroom to a Miss Lonely Heart spouting gibberish in the classroom. Her planned marriage partner, Kei, is so diminished from the previous instalment - from cool to tongue-tied, that I wasn't aware he was the same character until A-ko and B-ko became apoplectic.

C-ko isn't as annoying as before. Utterly misreading the situation she finds herself isolated and, entirely new for her, this leads to moments of introspection. One outcome is that she's the only one to genuinely sympathise with Miss Ayami's plight. Another is that she's ripe for persuasion by her mother (who's every bit as ditzy and annoying as her daughter) to return with the aliens. C-ko's choice is milked for every emotional milligram possible, so what happens afterwards is a non sequitur of epic proportions. For sure, the plot is elided, but it isn't as truncated as the disappointing, interrupted climax of Project A-ko 3: Cinderella Rhapsody. This time the anticipated comic violence erupts - at the marriage ceremony, if not from the aliens. Alien captain Napolipolita and her loyal Agent D have their expected walk-on moments: the former, having lost her entertainment complex, has succumbed to alcoholism; the latter can't rouse her quickly enough to catch their only chance of a ride home. Agent D's racially stereotyped design is as problematic as ever, giving credence to my suspicion that the franchise generally portrays women disparagingly. But then, it does the same to the male characters.


Clockwise from top left: Miss Ayami is left holding Kei (K-ko perhaps); the alien queen;
B-ko's A-ko giant robot parody Mazin A-ko Hassaku in action; and Captain Napolipolita.


It's worth checking out some of the secondary details on screen. The student test papers that Miss Ayami marks at home might just make your hair curl. Crowd scenes contain some very weird looking people and others doing unexpected things. You might see someone with Donald Duck's head at the wedding, or Edmund Munch's The Scream appropriately appearing in a stampede scene, along with two people in the act of fellatio nearby. Is it violence or sex that's frightening the person so. The franchise's characteristic anime shout-outs can be found, including Go Nagai's combining giant robots and Lum and Ran running down the footpath together (as children and still friends - just as well I'm finally watching Urusei Yatsura, or I may have missed the parallel being drawn).

While not drawing attention to itself as ostentatiously or as extrovertly as the techno and Giorgio Moroder inspired (his name is Giovanni Giorgio, but everybody calls him Giorgio) soundtrack of the film, this instalment's effort is clever in its own way. The musical palette is rich and much of the time derives its inspiration from Dmitri Shostakovich - in particular borrowing the dramatic first theme from the opening movement of his 5th Symphony. Kentaro Haneda isn't the only one to channel the Russian composer: Joe Hisaishi nicks the same sequence in Princess Mononoke. There's also a beautiful, mystical chiming sequence as the alien spaceships fly overhead for the first time that neatly bridges the Iraqi temple scenes with the immediate threat the aliens pose in a moment that's equal part wonder and terror. Even if it can't match the film, the artwork and animation is up to the mark if you don't mind the characteristic 1980s character designs. The biggest let down is the giant robot that B-ko creates as a parody of A-ko. I know it's meant to be stupid, but this is an instance of the franchise getting too silly for its own good.

Rating: decent - my favourite of the sequels.
+ funny and clever at times; juxtapositions can be ironic and / or absurd; soundtrack
- not funny or clever often enough; franchise is stale; gender and racial depictions may offend

Resources:
Project A-Ko 4: Final, Eastern Star / Discotek
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



****
The next anime in the survey has 47 episodes (Patlabor), so it may be 2 or 3 weeks before the next review. Even then, there's another, even longer running series (the remake of Sally the Witch) that premiered beforehand, but I can't track down any version of it.

Edit: I've found the first six episodes of the 1989 remake of Sally the Witch... in Russian. That'll give me more time to watch Patlabor.


Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 6:21 am; edited 3 times in total
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Alan45
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Joined: 25 Aug 2010
Posts: 9878
Location: Virginia
PostPosted: Sun Aug 29, 2021 6:54 pm Reply with quote
I found Patlabor remarkably easy to watch. When I reached the end of an episode my reaction would be "geez, already?" and I would just start the next episode. This only happens with series I really enjoy. Hopefully it will workout like that for you.
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Beltane70



Joined: 07 May 2007
Posts: 3911
PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2021 8:16 am Reply with quote
Finally finished watching Tokimeki Tonight. I thought that the show was very cute and was a slightly less zany show than Urusei Yatsura. Episode 20 was by far, my favorite episode of the show. Ranze was quite likable as was her family. I even liked Yoko, her rival for Shun's affection and even felt bad for her a couple of times. One of the things that actually took me a while to get used to was hearing Eriko Hara as Ranze without immediately thinking of Hikaru Hiyama from Kimagure Orange Road, one of her later roles. While I didn't find anything wrong with the last ten episodes, I do feel like they belonged in the middle of the show instead of where they were. All in all, I did find the series quite enjoyable and actually wouldn't mind reading the original manga, which by the way, looks quite a bit different from it's anime adaptation.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 01, 2021 5:18 pm Reply with quote
For sure, TV Patlabor is proving an easy watch, while Urusei Yatsura is proving, in terms of silliness (and that's not a criticism) to be Tokimeki Tonight on steroids. It's funny to be simultaneously watching two series with the same lead male actor - Toshio Furukawa - playing very different comedic roles.
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Alan45
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 02, 2021 6:54 am Reply with quote
I never managed to finish Urusei Yatsura. I've got the whole thing, perhaps I should try again.
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Beltane70



Joined: 07 May 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 02, 2021 9:33 am Reply with quote
Errinundra wrote:
For sure, TV Patlabor is proving an easy watch, while Urusei Yatsura is proving, in terms of silliness (and that's not a criticism) to be Tokimeki Tonight on steroids. It's funny to be simultaneously watching two series with the same lead male actor - Toshio Furukawa - playing very different comedic roles.


What’s really weird is hearing Toshio Furukawa playing in non-comedic roles. I was really surprised when I learned that he played Aki Manabu, the main character in Dairugger XV and Kimball Kinnison in Lensman.

I’m glad to see that we’re in agreement that Urusei Yatsura is a sillier show thanTokimeki Tonight
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 05, 2021 3:56 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl #118: Sally Yumeno,



Sally the Witch

Synospis: Sally returns to earth for more adventures with her friends Yoshiko and Sumire. This time she's joined not only by the pint-sized Kabu (aka Cub) but also Poron, a pre-school witch girl, and Dabu-Dabu (ie Dub Dub), a cat from the magical realm. Three young children throwing around prodigious amounts of magic is a sure-fire recipe for chaos.

Production details:
Release date: 09 October 1989
Director: Osamu Kasai (UFO Robo Grendizer tai Great Mazinger; Galaxy Express 999: Kimi wa Haha no You ni Aiseru ka!!; Asari-chan Ai no Marchen Shojo; Ai Shite Knight; Tongari Bōshi no Memoru; the 1985 version of Gegege no Kitaro; Dragon Ball GT and Rennyo Monogatari)
Studio: Toei
Source material: the manga Mahou Tsukai Sunny, (ie, Sunny the Witch) in Ribon, by Mitsuteru Yokoyama, published July 1966 - 1967. (He also gave us Tetsujin 28-go, aka Gigantor, and Giant Robo.)
Music: Haruki Mino
Character design: Ikuno Suzuki & Yasuhiro Yamaguchi
Art design: Ryuuji Yoshiike
+ 7 script writers & 12 animation directors

Comments: As is common with 1980s children's anime of little interest to an otaku audience, finding episodes of this re-make / sequel of the ground-breaking original proved impossible until this last week when I tracked down the first six episodes. Catch is, they have the original Japanese dub, but with the voices muted slightly and a Russian dub overlaid, (as I also encountered with Maco the Mermaid). This iteration largely relies on visual comedy so I was able to gain some insight and value from it. That said, with so few episodes, and in two languages I don't understand, please treat this as an impression, rather than a review.

The immediate thing of note (if you except the lurid colour palette, which may have been introduced somewhere in the episodes' journey from the Russian TV studios to my PC) is how little the visuals have changed from the 1966 version, especially once colour was added to the series in 1967 (review here). There really isn't much to show for 23 years of anime development and innovation. The characters now wear proper shoes, while their hair and clothing are marginally more detailed. These minor changes have had little effect on their overall appearance or, perhaps more correctly, style. Sally and her friends remain determinedly fixed in their 1960s time warp. The same could be said of the background artwork, which is Toei production-line minimalist, lacking detail, interest or eccentricity. It's as if Toei's only aim was to put something, anything there to fill in any white space. Some concession has been made to the 1980s by adding some measure of contemporary moe elements as seen in shows like Urusei Yatsura from 1981 and which had been gaining ground through the decade. Admittedly, the series was intended for primary school aged children so high production values weren't necessary. By contrast, all the magical girl series I've covered since Toei vacated the field in 1980 have been marketed to an older audience, with the possible exception of Bosco Adventure. Further, 1989's Sally the Witch doesn't try to appeal to that potential older audience by either sexualising the protagonist or by inserting any sort of sly references or subtext.


Top: Sally's best friends Sumire Kasugano and Yoshiko Hanamura.
Middle left: the Hanamura triplets upend their sister, Sally and Dabu Dabu.
Middle right: Sally and friends including Poron, Dabu Dabu and Kabu.
Bottom: contrasting couples - Sally's parents in the magical realm and her nosey neighbours on earth.


New characters have been added to the franchise. The diminutive, barely out her nappies, Poron journeys to earth from the magical realm along with a Doraemon-clone cat Dub Dub. Both take up residence along with Cub in Sally's pop-up house in the suburbs. Apparently Poron appeared in the later episodes of the original series, though I didn't encounter her in the 13 episodes I saw at the time. Both new characters have been added for their cuteness appeal and marketing potential. Not just them: Sally's wand is now more than just a stick, with a new elaborate and distinctive design. Yoshiko and Sumire have acquired pendants of their own that enable them to contact Sally, even when she's in the magical realm. ("Mummy, I want a pendant so I can call Sally too.") Also new are a neighbouring couple: she's nosey; he's sceptical. I don't blame her: Sally's multi-storey magical house appeared overnight in what was an empty block in the suburbs. The hardly original running gag is that the wife witnesses all sorts of magical mayhem, but by the time hubby arrives Sally and the others have set things to right.

There is little in the six episodes I viewed to suggest that the returning characters have been tweaked. Sally is a bland every-girl which, of course, is part of her success. Her role is largely to clean up the messes everyone else has created. Her best friends are - typical for Toei in the 1960s - a girly upper class girl (Sumire) and a tomboy working class girl (Yoshiko). The circumstances of the latter make her the most interesting character of the show from my 2021 adult perspective. She's a ten-year-old ersatz mother to her unruly triplet younger brothers (their real mother is dead) while her father barely makes a living as a taxi driver. The six episodes didn't explore the dynamics of the various relationships. Being the first six, they spent their time returning Sally to earth, setting up the scenario; introducing the characters and establishing Sally in her neighbourhood and school. The 1989 version, as with the 1966 original, is, when it comes down to it, a platform for gags and comic interactions. Through their 14 year dominance to 1980 of the magical girl genre, Toei moved towards more quest and character based formats. In their subsequent absence Ashi Pro (Fairy Princess Minky Momo franchise) tended to the quest side of the ledger while handing out bucket loads of subversive humour; and Studio Pierrot (Magical Angel Creamy Mami and others) emphasised their characters' inner lives in a quest format (although paying only lip service to the quests in later series). The recently reviewed, and funnier, Tokimeki Tonight and (I'm finally watching it) Urusei Yatsura are much more in the tradition of Sally the Witch, where weird smashes up against mundane to escalating and absurd effect.

Credit, however, for innovation goes to the original series, not this production line rehash. Clearly Toei wanted to find ways to make money from the magical girl genre by dusting off both Himitsu no Akko-chan and now this, hoping that brand recognition and parental nostalgia would garner an audience. Sure, it's mildly entertaining and I'm not its intended audience, but the whole endeavour comes across as cheap, cynical and creatively lazy. By 1989 the magical girl genre had reached a creative dead end. Studio Pierrot, who had dominated the genre through the 1980s, had lost their mojo in a mixture of repetition and misguided self-parody. From the evidence here Toei had not yet found a winning formula. They would find it with Sailor Moon in 1992.

Rating: weak. In fairness, it didn't need to be good to succeed with its intended audience. One doesn't judge chewing gum as one would a restaurant meal.
+ gags can be funny, Yoshiko and her triplet younger brothers
- artwork, animation and atavistic character designs, 23 years behind the times.

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

A vision of the future:



Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 6:23 am; edited 1 time in total
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Errinundra
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Joined: 14 Jun 2008
Posts: 6536
Location: Melbourne, Oz
PostPosted: Sun Sep 19, 2021 6:13 am Reply with quote
The Hylia website - a crucial resource for this project by giving me access to anime otherwise unobtainable elsewhere - has finally closed. Before the final curtain come down the site owners kindly removed the ten file per day limit, so I spent a frantic two weeks downloading everything I might need. I'm sure there are many titles I've missed. The closure is yet another sign that the days of genuine fansubbing are now long behind us. Thankfully more and more older content is becoming available via hard copy (think Discotek) and licensed streaming.

Beautiful Fighting Girl #119: Noa Izumi,


Noa climbing into a recumbent Alphonse (as she names her patlabor). The image manages to convey simultaneously both
how Noa is dwarfed by her Patlabor and how cramped the cockpit is.


Patlabor on Television

Synopsis: Patlabor* pilot Noa and her colleagues at Tokyo Metropolitan Police Special Vehicle Section 2, Division 2 continue to battle labor* crime, solve mysteries, rescue imperilled citizens, destroy vital Japanese infrastructure and private property, keep their police superiors at bay and deal with each others' personality quirks.

* Labor = giant mecha used in industrial applications. Patlabor = Patrol Labor, the police equivalent.

Production details:
Premiere: 11 October 1989
Original creation: Headgear (Kazunori Itou, Yutaka Izubuchi, Mamoru Oshii, Akemi Takada, and Masami Yuki), set up by the members to retain copyright control of the Patlabor mixed media franchise
Director: Naoyuki Yoshinaga (Maison Ikkoku, Cleopatra DC, Patlabor The Mobile Police: The New Files, Wolf Guy, Dohyou no Oni-tachi, The Irresponsible Captain Tylor OAV, Super Mobile Legend Dinagiga & Parasite Dolls)
Studio: Sunrise
Series composition: Kazunori Itou
Music: Kenji Kawai (Dream Hunter Rem, Maison Ikkoku, Vampire Princess Miyu, Devilman, Ranma ½, Burn Up!, Mermaid Forest, The Irresponsible Captain Tylor, Blue Seed, Ghost in the Shell, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, Fate/Stay Night, When They Cry - Higurashi, Moribito - Guardian of the Spirit, The Sky Crawlers, Eden of the East, The Perfect Insider and Maquia - When the Promised Flower Blooms among much else besides)
Character design: Akemi Takada
Art director: Yukihiro Shibutani


Top: Noa Izumi and New York's finest, Kanuka Clancy, are the premium female characters of the series.
Middle: tomboyish Noa is emblematic of the franchise, combining comedy, action and sweetness (note the cherry blossom petals).
Bottom: Clancy is remote and highly competent yet a hoot to watch on screen.


Comments: The arrival of the OAV as a medium via Dallos in 1983 opened a new market - young adult men seeking content unsuitable for regular broadcast television and too niche for a cinema production. One of the most interesting OAV developments over the next six years was the growing enthusiasm among this audience for female protagonists who were invariably sexy, comedic and heroic. A few animation studios, likely staffed by fellow otaku, displayed a willingness to accommodate their tastes. Television networks were, however, necessarily more conservative, rarely taking risks beyond magical girls, romances and World Masterpiece Theatre. The two exceptions that stand out are Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross from 1984 and Dirty Pair from 1986. Both began as a TV franchise that would end up cut short but, of the two, only Dirty Pair would gain a new life via other formats. The Patlabor franchise is significant in the grand survey thanks to how it brought the beautiful fighting girl into mainstream television by reversing Dirty Pair's journey. I've quoted this from Clements before, but it's worth repeating.

Quote:
Arguably, the most worthwhile releases were those that began life as videos, but acquired enough of a following to justify their upgrade into TV serials and movies. Video hence also functioned both as a testing ground for new talent (Tokugi 1999: 311) but also for storylines, with the most notable successes of the period being the Patlabor (1988) and Tenchi Muyo (1992) franchises, both of which upgraded from video into the more established media.


A lingering question remains in my mind. How was it that a small cohort of Japanese male viewers from the mid-1980s actively sought out and preferred narratives with female protagonists? And sufficiently so to sustain an industry? I'm neither a psychologist nor a sociologist and no historian of modern Japanese culture, so any theorising on my part is speculation. I can, of course, examine myself as a someone who has also fallen under the spell of these characters. Beyond their frequent sexualised depictions - see The Legend of Lemnear and Angel Cop on the previous page of this thread - and the possibility of the members of an in-group mutually promoting its own distinctive tastes, something more profound is going on. In the wake of the sexual revolution and the growth of feminist theory in the second half of last century the previously ironclad connection between sex and gender is now seen as a social construction. Sex, sexuality and gender are blurred, subjective and contested notions. Even our genetic code can't always reliably delineate what we are. Sex is no longer binary; gender has been unshackled. Each of us can display multiple "gendered" behaviours. In popular culture such as anime females are de-feminised and males are de-masculinised. Hence the rise of the phallic girl and the herbivore man (草食(系)男子). One positive outcome is that there can be, at once, both infinite difference and no difference between people of different sexes. The scope for empathy has been expanded. This week I, a sixty-something mostly heterosexual male, can say (and I did to a work colleague) that New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Adern is my hero. We have arrived at a time when I can identify with the lesbian protagonists of Yurikuma Arashi or, more recently, the depression-recovering main character of Super Cub. This all sounds idealistic and, yes, other currents were making their way through the anime ocean. Anime in the 1980s saw the rise of the moe phenomenon - often cited as starting with Lum in Urusei Yatsura - where the viewer is the subject, and the anime character - usually female - is weak and thus a site for the viewer's sympathy. This darker take on the anime fan suggests a reinforcement of gender roles rather than any sort of liberation. Well, the world progresses in the face of vigorously competing ideas all clamouring for precedence.


Clockwise from top left: Noa's leader in the field and love interest, Asuma Shinohara; Division 2 commander Kiichi Goto;
Division 1 commander Shinobu Nagumo; the two division commanders are both rivals for ascendancy within the police force and ripe for shipping.


Patlabor demonstrates both these contradictory processes - the blurring of gender roles and the tendency towards moe behaviour - at play, especially in Noa Izumi who, unlike in the earlier film, is undeniably the point of view character. On the one hand, traditionally feminine she is not. Tomboyish in her behaviour, she has a fascination for the mechanical nature of her mecha, is up for a stoush when challenged, wears loose-fitting, practical clothes when off-duty and keeps her hair short. The anime treats her respectfully for the most part. Her peers see her as an equal; the men don't consider her a sex object. The police uniforms cover her, and her female colleagues, from neck to toe. Noa isn't ever caught in compromising positions and the only fanservice occurs when the camera occasionally lingers on her bum which, admittedly, is accentuated by the tight-waisted uniform. Even a beach episode avoids any salacious presentation. Her relationship with Asuma is portrayed as secondary to her role as a patlabor pilot. I like the way it slowly develops without becoming a significant element of the narrative. (Btw, the TV series isn't a sequel to the original OAV; it's more a re-imagining.) On the other hand, Noa has moe elements. She may be in her early twenties, but the round face and short hair make her look much younger. Her enthusiasm, her sometimes comic behaviour, the occasional clumsiness, self-doubts and frequent errors are not simply plot points; they arouse the viewer's sympathy as you would expect from an infantilised, moe character. That said, there is no doubting her appeal.

The other three female characters are de-feminised and moefied to varying degrees (and which seem to be inversely proportional to their age and hair length). From oldest to youngest, Shinobu Nagumo, is the softly spoken commander of the first patlabor division. Sharing an office with Noa's commander Goto, the TV series has plenty of opportunity to cleverly explore the relationship between the two, which hovers between rivalry and affection. Her bitter disappointment when Goto's division gets the new Ingram patlabors in the first episode is only matched by her smug satisfaction when her division gets the even better Peacemakers in the last. Her thick, long hair, which threatens to spill across her face is kept in a ponytail. Kanuka Clancy, on loan from the NYPD and endowed with smarts and attitude, excels at all aspects of her police duties. Her fully justified self-regard never devolves into boorishness thanks to her positive demeanour, acute perception and the well-crafted, genial script. When Clancy returns to New York half-way through the series she is replaced by a similarly competent personality in Takeo Kumagami. Not quite matching Clancy's aura of authority, she instantly finds herself at odds with her subordinate - the headstrong, hot-blooded, gun-nut Isao Ohta. My allegiance immediately gravitated to Kumagami. Her tendency to faint at inopportune moments softens her stiff persona, as do her Noa-like short hair and round face.


Clockwise from top left: mechanical division chief Seitaroh Sakaki; Takeo Kumagami; members of the mechanical team;
Division 2 patlabor team members (l-r) Kanuka Clancy, Asuma Shinohara, Noa Izumi, gentle giant Hiromi Yamazaki, gun-nut Isao Ohta and Mikiyasu Shinshi.


Best of the male characters is division 2 commander Kiichi Goto. He's sly, sharp as a tack, an astute judge of character, but a slob. He just doesn't get that constantly treating is tinia in the office cannot possibly endear him to Shinobu. His droll, sleepy-eyed visage is a comic treat, enhanced by the wonderfully bemused voice acting from Ryunosuke Ohbayashi. Noa's immediate superior is Asuma Shinohara, the rebellious son of the industrialist who builds the patlabors they pilot. As the viewer self-insert character he isn't as comical as the other members of the Patlabor ensemble, which makes him a good foil for the mercurial Noa. The rest of the male characters are well delineated if narrow in their range of behaviours. Patlabor pilot Isao Ohta is so convinced that force is the only solution in a crisis that he's a threat not only to the criminals he's apprehending, but also to himself, his team and the public at large. The patlabor transports are driven by a sweet natured giant Hiromi Yamazaki and a normally meek househusband Mikiyasu Shinshi who humorously explodes in frustration from time to time. No-nonsense head mechanic Seitaroh Sakaki runs a tight workshop with threats of violence, which are belied by his tolerance of the many unorthodox behaviours displayed around him. Close to retirement he feels that new technology is leaving him behind. Towards the end of the series he develops a sweet, paternalistic relationship with Noa.

Above all, Patlabor is notable for its high production standards: in the artwork and character designs (though they slip somewhat towards the end of the series), to a lesser extent the animation (which isn't crucial) and, particularly, in the script, which seamlessly and entertainingly blends action, comedy and the various character interactions. Individual episodes whizzed by; not a one dragged. Credit must go to the main scriptwriter Kazunori Itou and director Naoyuki Yoshinaga who have given us a series that's clever, fun and well-paced. Kenji Kawai returns to the franchise with an impressive yet understated soundtrack. At this point in his career he still sounds fresh, committed and with music off kilter just enough to be interesting without being self-indulgent.

Rating: very good.
+ smart script that seamlessly blends action and comedy; fun, adult characters, especially Noa and Goto; never drags; artwork; the mecha show for people like me who don't much care for mecha
- some one-note characters; thematically superficial; episodic (which may suit some)

Resources:
Patlabor - The Mobile Police TV Series Collection 1, Madman (episodes 1-24)
Patlabor - The Mobile Police - The Television Series 3 & 4, Maiden Japan (episodes 25-47)
ANN
The font of all knowledge
Anime: A History, Jonathon Clements, Palgrave MacMillan via Kindle
The Anime Encyclopaedia 3rd Revised Edition: A Century of Japanese Animation, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle



Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 6:24 am; edited 1 time in total
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Alan45
Village Elder



Joined: 25 Aug 2010
Posts: 9878
Location: Virginia
PostPosted: Sun Sep 19, 2021 7:13 am Reply with quote
@Errinundra

I realize you haven't gotten to it yet, but just a heads-up. The second OVA series, Patlabor the New Files follows the continuity of the TV series. It is not so much a sequel as it is a continuation, like a fifth season. It continues plot lines from the TV series, notably the problems with the Griffin.
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Beltane70



Joined: 07 May 2007
Posts: 3911
PostPosted: Sun Sep 19, 2021 10:28 am Reply with quote
I really do need to go back to Patlabor, which I started watching some three decades ago, long before it was subtitled by either fansubbers or professionals. If memory serves, I've only seen the first movie, half of the first OVA series and maybe four or five episodes of the TV series.What's funny was when I watched it all those years ago, the show took place in what was then, the not too distant future year of 1999. I think that the only reason I never watched further than I did was the fact that the friend that I was borrowing from stopped getting them. I believe here in the US, Patlabor is being streamed by Crunchyroll, so watching it will be quite easy. Besides, I'm a sucker for any anime that features Akemi Takada's character designs!

Speaking of character designs, one of the things that I always thought was interesting was the fact that Kanuka Clancy, despite being only half-Japanese, actually looks more Asian than the characters that are supposed to be full-blooded Japanese.
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