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


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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 05, 2021 7:44 pm Reply with quote
I won't get a review in this weekend as I've still got a few episodes to go on the next anime. I do hope to get in a recap episode, though, (and have it on a new page. Wink )
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 07, 2021 6:42 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girls index
****
Anime's Beautiful Fighting Girls Recap Episode #2



32 days shy of three years since my last recap post, I think I should draw a line at the end of the 80s and review where I've gone in that time. In the index (link above) I've put this period (from August 1983 to December 1989) under the heading Eruption*. You can see why from this simple statistic: in the almost 25 years from October 1958 to July 1983 the survey covered 34 anime with female protagonists; Eruption covers 89 in just over six. Or, consider this set of statistics derived from the ANN encyclopaedia.

Code:
Total animation production per year
1980:  61       1985:  98
1981:  67       1986: 137
1982:  65       1987: 130
1983:  71       1988: 132
1984:  74       1989: 154


That's 796 from 1983 to 1989. The survey has covered 90 titles in those seven years (with 1983's Magical Angel Creamy Mami being reviewed prior to the first recap post). While I have been thorough, quite a few have been missed: remakes, some sequels, romance or slice of life anime or through lack of availability. Perhaps the number could be increased by fifty per cent, though I doubt it would be that high. That gives a percentage of female to male protagonists somewhere in the range of 1:5 to 1:8. Sure, that's unbalanced, but what other country can match even those figures? To restate one of the main theses of this project, the greatest gift that anime has given to the world isn't the giant robot, it's the female protagonist. Perhaps for the wrong reasons, as we shall see shortly, but an impressive record nonetheless.

Here's another statistic: Of the 89 titles reviewed in Eruption* 62 were released direct to video (OAVs), 15 in cinemas (of which two were 30 minute films for children) and 12 on TV (of which two were made for TV movies). If anime with magical girls (or girls in a magical world) are excluded the numbers drop to 54, 11 and 6 respectively. For all the wrap I'm giving anime, only four TV series had non-magical girls in non-magical worlds as main characters: Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, Dirty Pair, Patlabor on Television and, the pick of them, Yarawa! A Fashionable Judo Girl. My so-called Eruption is confined largely to the direct to video medium.

Beautiful video girls

Top (l-r): Girl in a Bunny Suit, Daicon IV**; Nene Romanova, Bubblegum Crisis; and Ayanosuke (Ayame) Hayami, Yotoden.
Bottom (l-r): the Puma sisters, Dominion Tank Police; the eponymous Vampire Princess Miyu; and Noriko Takaya, Gunbuster.
** First shown at the Daicon IV convention, it was sold afterwards on video cassette.


1983/4 is a significant time in the survey thanks to the release of a sequence of anime that re-calibrated what was possible. Together they set the tone for what was to follow in the decade and later. I had seen three of them beforehand (hence why I chose the start date for Eruption) and known about a fourth, but one was pretty much new to me - it's significance became apparent in due course.
  • Daicon IV (20 August 1983): An altogether upscaled and upbeat improvement on 1981's Daicon III, this introductory film for the 1983 Japan SF Convention in Osaka (known as Daicon IV) was likewise made by fans for fans. With the earlier film's schoolgirl replaced by her grown up version in a bunny suit, otaku were declaring their vision for anime.
  • Dallos (16 December 1983): The first animated product anywhere to have its original release direct to video. The OAV could cater to markets too small to support TV or cinema releases and contain subject matter unsuitable for those formats. Production grew rapidly in the easy-money environment of the 1980s, as reflected in the growth of anime titles from 1986 onwards in the table above.
  • Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (06 March 1984): The archetype of an heroic female character with whom any viewer can empathise. Her influence goes way beyond the period covered in this post.
  • Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross (15 April 1984): A revelation for me, Jeanne Francaix is another archetype - this time the "cute babe" as lead character in a sci-fi / mecha setting. The series had its run on TV cut short resulting in a rushed ending and a subsequent reluctance for female protagonists on TV beyond magical girls. The type would become a staple on OAV, however. (The series is also notable for its positive portrayal, without any hoopla, of a person of colour in a major role.)
  • Cream Lemon (11 August 1984): Pornography, not sci-fi, was the first genre to take advantage of the OAV format in a big way, "capitalising on animation’s facility in depicting scenes that would be prohibitively expensive or illegal to stage with real people." (Clemens) The 17 episodes of Cream Lemon all have female lead characters and would profoundly influence the tropes and designs in subsequent anime, particularly OAVs, even if they weren't pornographic.


Beautiful tentacle-harassed girls

Top (l-r): magical girl Caron, Cream Lemon; Miyuki Gotokuji, Dream Hunter Rem; and Nagisa Kano, Fight! Iczer One.
Bottom (l-r): Rumi Natsumi, Call Me Tonight; Yuu Morisawa, Persia Hayami, Mai Kazuki & Yumi Hanazono, Majokko Club Yoningumi; and Yama Rikudo, Demon Hunter.


It must be said that the period in question (1983-1989) is limited thematically, reflecting the tastes of the largely male audience watching OAVs, as well as the small number of female protagonists on TV and film, and, of course, my restrictions on the types of titles covered in the survey. The dominant genres were magical girls, sci-fi and the supernatural - often mixed - and the dominant tone comical, though leaving plenty of room for drama and horror. The exemplar for this period of the survey is a somewhat comical heroine facing danger in a sci-fi setting packaged in an OAV format. Her name is Noriko Takaya and she's from Gunbuster. Looking further, the studios I associate most with the era are Studio Pierrot for their magical girl shows, as well as with Artmic and AIC (often in partnership) who produced large numbers of OAVS of varying budgets and quality.

The magical girl genre began promisingly, but went astray over the period. Capitalising on the success of Magical Angel Creamy Mami, Studio Pierrot released three more TV series. The best of the three was the second, Magical Star Magical Emi, where ordinary schoolgirl Mai Kazuki uses a magical device to transform into the star attraction of a magical troupe. It's a mildly melancholic exploration of the deception at the core of a magical girl's identity. The studio seemed to lose interest in the genre after their comparatively indifferent next effort, Magical Idol Pastel Yumi before releasing the one episode OAV, Harbour Light Story from Fashion Lala, which isn't just incoherent, it's peculiar. The normal pretty town is actually a den of sin; instead of loving and sweet, parent figures are absent, cruel or incestuously predatory; the handsome romantic interest is a terrorist bomber recently released from gaol; the climactic idol event isn't an apotheosis, but a shambles. And all in under 50 minutes. More entertaining were Nippon Animation's Bosco Adventure with its marvellous villainess Damia and Shin-Ei Animation's ESPer Mami, both of which push the boundary of the genre so far that they're barely recognisable as such. Towards the end of the period in question Toei's interest in the genre had been re-awakened, with marginally upgraded remakes of their 1960s groundbreaking classics Sally the Witch and Himitsu no Akko-chan which, respectively, defined the magical girl and the transforming girl. The two stand-out titles weren't even TV shows. The Cream Lemon influenced Leda - The Fantastic Adventure of Yoko buried its complex romantic and sexual themes beneath a bland, non-pornographic isekai skin, while Hayao Miyazaki's Kiki's Delivery Service was more of a coming of age story. By the end of 1989 the genre was badly in need of rejuvenation.

Beautiful magical girls

Top (l-r): Persia Hayami, Magical Fairy Persia; Yoko Asagiri, Leda - The Fantastic Adventure of Yoko; and Mai Kazuki / Emi, Magical Star Magical Emi.
Bottom (l-r): Princess Apricot, Bosco Adventure; Mami Sakura, ESPer Mami; and Kiki, Kiki's Delivery Service.


With the seeming failure of Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross on TV, the fighting sci-fi girl retreated to the OAV format. Amazingly, the much derided, and deservedly so, Nora was the first ever example on the format, even beating the sci-fi episodes of both Anime Lolita and Cream Lemon. Indeed, Nora was the first non-pornographic OAV female protagonist full stop. Creating a much greater impact - on TV, OAV and film - were Kei and Yuri, the stars of Dirty Pair. As I said in my review of the TV series, Dirty Pair is the most recent common ancestor of a raft of anime we know today. Two other successful franchises from the decade owe much to it: Gall Force and Bubblegum Crisis, where teams of girls fight in a space opera and a mecha / cyberpunk setting respectively. Bubblegum Crisis was part of a trend away from traditional space and mecha shows to a grittier cyberpunk style. Notable cyberpunk titles were Ai City, Black Magic M-66, Dominion Tank Police, Angel Cop and Appleseed.

Anime with supernatural themes (as distinct from magical girls) were also prominent. Leading the way again were pornographic titles such as Cream Lemon and Dream Hunter Rem. The latter is a curious anime on multiple levels. Not only is it the first anime with a bona fide tentacle monster (Cream Lemon comes close, but not quite), the main character is, equally, the first bona fide "girl with a gun". She has a signature pose that she pops for the camera repeatedly, and wields a featured, characteristic firearm with special bullets made just for her. Wielding a firearm isn't just a concomitant part of her role; it's a signature part of her identity. She's also a magical girl, providing the link between the older genre and the newer one. Following in their wake was the more sci-fi leaning Fight! Iczer One, plus Call Me Tonight, Tobira o Akete, Rumiko Takahashi's Laughing Target (with an early yandere character), Vampire Princess Miyu, Blue Sonnet, Demon Hunter and a trio of shojo titles, Karura Mau, Yajikita Gakuen Dochuki and Dark Sea, Moon Shadow (where the yandere character edges closer to the modern type).

Beautiful television girls

Top (l-r): Alice, Alice in Wonderland; Jeanne Francaix, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross; and Sandy Brown, Noozles.
Bottom (l-r): Kei and Yuri, Dirty Pair; Noa Izumi, Patlabor on Television; and Yawara Inokuma, Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl.


This recap post covers enough ground to warrant naming my best anime in various categories. Note that some titles and franchises qualify for more than one.
Best OAV: Gunbuster. Special Mentions: Daicon IV; and Leda - The Fantastic Adventures of Yoko.
Best film: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Special Mentions: Dirty Pair - Project Eden; Kiki's Delivery Service; Patlabor - The Movie; and Project A-ko.
Best TV series: Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl. Special Mention: Patlabor on Television
Best Magical Girl Show (tied): Leda - The Fantastic Adventures of Yoko; and Kiki's Delivery Service. No other candidate rated above decent.
Best Science Fiction Show: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Special Mention: Gunbuster
Best Supernatural Show (tied): Fight! Iczer One; and Yotoden. No other candidate rated above decent.
Golden Boomerang: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.
Other shows considered canonical: Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross; GoShogun - The Time Étranger; Dream Hunter Rem; Dirty Pair (TV); and the Gall Force franchise.

Beautiful film girls

Top (l-r): Princess Nausicaä, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Remy Shimada, GoShogun: The Time Étranger; and Eiko (A-ko) Magami, Project A-ko.
Bottom (l-r): Ai (aka I2), Ai City; Catty, Gall Force: Eternal Story; and Susan Sommers, Venus Wars.


31 December 1989 may seem an arbitrary time to end this section of the survey. Arguably the next beautiful fighting girl anime to profoundly change the landscape won't be until either Sailor Moon in 1992 or Ghost in the Shell in 1995. The turn of the decade does, however, coincide with a profound change taking that took place in Japan: the bursting of their economic bubble. The popularity of Japanese goods through the 1960s and 70s led to money and investment flooding into the country - far more than required for business investment. The excess was ploughed into the stock market and real estate and, with interest rates low, the two markets grew phenomenally. The 1990 Nikkei Index was over ten times its value in 1975. In real estate terms the land in Tokyo alone was worth more than the entire United States. If the rate of growth continued, Japan was on course to overtake the United States as the world's largest economy. At the time it seemed inevitable. In late December 1989 (around the time Assemble Insert and Gall Force: Earth Chapter were released), the central Bank of Japan increased the discount rate from 2.5% to 4.25%, leading to a crash in Tokyo land prices. The Nikkei 225 began to slide from historical peak reached on 29 December 1989. Interest rates continued the rise, collapsing real estate value spread across the country and stock markets plummeted as Japan entered a "lost decade" of decline and stagnation. Money that had poured into anime and associated enterprises would now dry up. As the survey enters the nineties, I'm interested to see how industry's output was affected. Certainly, the lists I've compiled for 1990 and 1991 show no let up in numbers. I guess I'm on the road to find out. I'm calling this next part of the journey Crash.

And, yeah, if it took nearly three years to cover just a part of the 80s, then I fear it will take six years or more to get through the 90s. I wonder if I'll ever include Noir in the survey, let alone Puella Magi Madoka Magica or even Wonder Egg Priority.

Resources:
ANN
The font of all knowledge
Anime: A History, Jonathon Clements, Palgrave MacMillan via Kindle
Answerman with Justin Sevakis: Why Were Anime Budgets So Big In The 80s?
AdvisorAnalyst.com: This Is What A Bubble Looks Like: Japan 1989 Edition


Tokyo in 1989.

*
Part I: Evolution covered anime prior to 1966's Sally the Witch.
Part II: Revolution covered from then up until the premiere of 1983's Magical Angel Creamy Mami.
Part III: A Splash of Crimson looked at the development of the fighting girl in secondary character roles from 1966's Rainbow Squadron Robin to 1983's Crusher Joe.
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Alan45
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Joined: 25 Aug 2010
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Location: Virginia
PostPosted: Sun Nov 07, 2021 8:24 am Reply with quote
Quote:
Notable cyberpunk titles were Ai City, Black Magic M-66, Dominion Tank Police, Angel Cop and Appleseed.


I find it interesting that of these five titles three are from the same author, Shirow Masamune. He is a sort of one man influence.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 07, 2021 8:42 pm Reply with quote
The project has left me much more aware of other staff members' contributions. Previously I had only bothered knowing about the directors and composers. The influence of character designers, original creators and script writers is now more apparent to me.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 14, 2021 6:57 am Reply with quote
Spoiler warning: the identity of Judy's benefactor will be discussed. Mind you, although the anime doesn't tacitly reveal his identity until the last episode, there's only one tall, gangly male character in the entire series, so it's bleeding obvious from the moment he appears. Much of the pleasure of the anime comes from the viewer knowing what Judy is too obtuse to realise.

Beautiful Fighting Girl #125: Judy Abbott,



My Daddy Long Legs
(Watashi no Ashinaga Ojisan)

Synopsis: Left in a basket as a baby on the doorsteps of church in a slum area of New York, Judy Abbott (her surname was taken from the first entry in the local telephone directory) spent the first fourteen years of her life in an orphanage. Her life is transformed after she writes a report, as the senior orphan, for the Board of Commissioners. One of them is so impressed by her report that he offers to pay for her to attend one of the most prestigious high schools in America: the Lincoln Memorial Girls' School in Princeton. His beneficence includes full board at the school and a generous allowance. There are two conditions: his anonymity - he uses the pseudonym John Smith - and that she write regular reports on the progress of her education, addressed to his personal secretary, Walter Griggs. The only glimpse she has of her new guardian is through the glare of car headlights that reveal his long limbs, a top hat and a cane. She henceforth gives him the moniker Daddy Long Legs. Sharing a suite of rooms at the school with two daughters of New York's finest families, Sally McBride and Julia Rutledge Pendleton, Judy must adjust to the strange, new world she has entered, eventually becoming close friends with both. Through Julia she meets her whimsical uncle, the kindly and lanky Jervis Pendleton. The two form an instant rapport that blossoms into love over the four years until she graduates to university, but in the prevailing snobbish New York society what hope has an orphan girl of marrying into a powerful and privileged dynasty? Could John Smith intervene on her behalf? Will Haruhi even remember John Smith when he reappears before her?

Production details:
Premiere: 04 January 1990
Director: Kazuyoshi Yokota (Smart-san; Miimu Iro Iro Yume no Tabi; Space Sagittarius; Dagon in the Lands of Weeds; Chie-chan Funsenki Jarinko Chie; Alice in Cyberland; Maetel Legend; and Cosmo Warrior Zero)
Studio: Nippon Animation as one of their World Masterpiece Theatre productions
Source material: Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster, published in 1912
Script: Nobuyuki Fujimoto & Hiroshi Ootsuka
Music: Kei Wakakusa
Character design: Shuichi Seki
Art director: Shigeru Morimoto
Animation directors: Akira Kikuchi, Atsushi Irie, Masaru Oshiro & Shoji Furuta
Art design: Kōichi Kudo

Note: An entirely forgettable anime film version from Tatsunoko Production was broadcast on TV in 1979.


From the orphanage to graduation four years later.
Her range of expression is complemented by ponytails as mobile as dog ears.


Comments: Combining a love story with World Masterpiece Theatre's formula of a lone child seeking a place to belong, My Daddy Long Legs may seem marginal to the survey. Admittedly, the scope of the grand survey has expanded and, in any case, I did say when I began the project almost five years ago that I would, "consider any title where the the female protagonist is conflicted or contested." Conflict manifests itself in important ways: on a social level between a patronising, fearful New York and New Jersey upper class and a struggling, resentful underclass; on interpersonal levels such as between Judy who is desperate for sovereignty in her life and benevolent men accustomed to control over others; and internally, as Judy struggles with the facade she erects to hide her origins. This may sound oh so serious, but the anime maintains a light, comic tone throughout (even the awfulest character - Julia's mother, ie Jervis's sister - is ultimately persuadable) and the point of view is always on the side of the underdog. I'm glad I gave the show a go because it turned out to be marvellous variation on the Cinderella story where the Fairy Godmother and Prince Charming turn out to be the same person.

The key to the anime's success is Judy herself. Her quirky behaviour and natural optimism in the face of severe adversity, to be expected in a WMT production, rapidly had me on side. The quality of the character writing and her wonderful, ever-changing facial animation (in both senses of the word) sealed the deal. Judy is up there with Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables) as my favourite WMT main character and is a close match for Yawara Inokuma (Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl) in the likeability stakes. Indeed, she's reminiscent of Anne Shirley in her character design, her orphan status and even, superficially, her character. One difference is the way the two express themselves. Anne, even though she's always fun to watch, speaks as if she might erupt any moment with the massed fantasies that have accumulated in her imagination. Judy may be verbally adept, but she's a non-stop bundle of crazy, kinetic movement that also manifests in an ever-changing array of facial expressions along with a pair of ponytails that move with life of their own. At a more fundamental level, where Anne is a fruit loop and tightly coiled bundle of (justified) rage in need of a stable family life to bring out her best qualities, Judy is an exceptional young woman in need of recognition and appreciation. Much of the pleasure in the anime comes from watching Judy grow from a waif to a capable adult with a strong sense of her own worth. Her skill at, and love of, writing, point the way to a future career. Striving towards that future presents issues, but her determination to achieve those goals through her own efforts brings her into conflict with Jervis / Daddy Long Legs. More poignant is her struggle to admit her poverty stricken background to her new, wealthy and complacent peers. When Julia's mother gets wind of Jervis's romantic inclinations towards Judy (a marriage had been arranged with the daughter of another prominent dynasty) she investigates Judy's past and threatens to reveal all unless she forsakes him. Judy shows her strength of character and maturity when she pre-empts the threat at the school's graduation with an emotional and sincere valedictory speech that brought to mind Big Sister Maid's "I am human" plea in Maoyu and Yoko Nakajima's kowtow prohibition decree in The Twelve Kingdoms. (To cap it off, Julia promptly drops a bombshell that had me reinterpreting the entire narrative, but more on that shortly.)


Top left: Judy's only glimpse of "John Smith". Right: Judy and John Grier Orphanage director Mrs Lippett.
Middle left: Lincoln Memorial Girls' School. Right: room mate Julia Rutledge Pendleton.
Bottom left: Mrs Rutledge Pendleton, dorm supervisor Ms Sloan, and room mate Sally McBride. Right: Jervis Pendleton.


Although he is highly appealing, Jervis Pendleton, aka Daddy Long Legs, exposes the few reservations I have with series. The age difference between Jervis and Judy - in the region of twelve to thirteen years - is lampshaded by Sally who comments that it isn't unusual among married couples. I can see some viewers being creeped out, especially given that, as John Smith and her guardian, Jervis has significant power over Judy. Matters aren't helped by the mildly creepy nickname Judy gives her benefactor: "Daddy Long Legs". Erm, "Rock Spider" is prison slang for a paedophile. Somehow I couldn't get that out of my head. The overall good nature of the series coupled with the sincerity of the main couple in their declarations of love should remove doubts viewers may have. Besides, their marriage takes place when Judy is at university. More problematic, but also an entertaining irony throughout the show, is the perspective advantage Jervis holds. Judy is an avid and candid correspondent. Her letters to Daddy Long Legs describe everything and anything of concern to her, including her growing feelings for and tribulations over Jervis. And he keeps mum for four years! It's like sneaking a read of the daily diary kept by someone who has a, supposedly secret, crush on you. I expected Judy to hammer him for it when she finds out but, you know, love is blind. And he does apologise. Again it highlights the power imbalance between the female and male characters.

The anime strives to address these issues of gender inequality in a society where young women go to school primarily to prepare and refine them for marriage. Financial independence, and by corollary personal autonomy, isn't expected of these women. Their future lies in marriage. The anime challenges this notion in a number of ways. Firstly, whereas the novel was published in 1912, the anime moves the timeline to the depression. The spire of New York's Art Deco masterpiece, the Chrysler Building, can be seen from Jervis's apartment window, placing the end of the story no earlier than 1930. (The distant spire provides a cheesy phallic backdrop at the moment Judy discovers that her "Daddy" and the man she loves are one and the same.) Not only does the change give the anime a grounded sense of place and time, but, more importantly, the US constitution's nineteenth amendment granting suffrage to women was enshrined in 1920. The young women of the anime have different rights and expectations from Jean Webster's 1912 contemporaries. More explicitly in the narrative, Judy and Jervis / John Smith come to loggerheads over her choices and plans. He refuses to allow her earn money as a part-time tutor, forbids her from applying for scholarships, and decides how and where she spends her vacations. As much as he loves her, he sees her as dependent upon him. Judy pushes back against his constraints repeatedly. Even on their very first meeting when she's fourteen years old, Judy challenges him to take a risk and widen his view of the world when she leads him up onto her dormitory roof (with hilarious repercussions). He will undertake his own journey of growth and will, in due course fully embrace her choices to attend university and pursue a career as a writer. His own choice will come at some cost. Marrying an orphan will have a seismic effect within the Pendleton dynasty. Don't be put off by these comments about Jervis: he's a charming, kind, fun person who is the first to grasp and appreciate Judy's qualities. And, as all good romances require, Judy and Jervis have chemistry. They spark off each other from the very get go.



Before I finish I want to give props to Julia Rutledge, the dorm mate who winds up as the next most interesting character in the anime. Aloof, condescending, status obsessed, spoiled and self-indulgent - qualities she's inherited from her mother - she's hard to warm to. Her refinement and sense of self-entitlement repeatedly leave her either flummoxed, frustrated or disappointed, leading to bouts of expensive retail therapy. The result is an enormous wardrobe stuffed with unworn clothes and unused fashion accessories. Sceptical of the newcomer at first, she will become, in due course, a loyal friend to both the homely but dull Sally McBride and the effervescent Judy. Her most notable ongoing frustration comes from her continuing failure to win the affection of the boy she loves, Jimmy McBride - Sally's brother. He has his own unrequited love for Judy, but persistence pays off: she gets her man. Impressive. Julia is also, from a narrative point of view, the crucial link between Judy and Jervis. Fond of the latter, by the second half of the series she's using her Pendleton connections to engineer opportunities for the two to meet or communicate despite opposition from her mother. When, at the graduation, she makes her own huge reveal, it becomes apparent that she and Jervis were in cahoots from the moment Judy arrived at the Lincoln Memorial school, that nothing was as accidental as it seemed. More impressiveness. In hindsight it should have been bleeding obvious. I was as obtuse as Judy.

Rating: excellent.
+ characters, particularly Judy; Judy's character design and animation; script; humour; themes explored; Julia's graduation reveal; and the clothes
- power relationship between Judy and Jervis may bother; dorm superintendent Ms Sloan can be annoying; although the anime has a 1990 sensibility; the underlying story suggests that a young woman's priority is marriage

Resources:
ANN
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Friends: Judy Abbott, Julia Rutledge Pendleton and Sally McBride.


Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 6:44 am; edited 1 time in total
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 21, 2021 4:11 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl Pair #126: Yuri & Kei.



Dirty Pair: Flight 005 Conspiracy

Synopsis: Trouble consultants Yuri and Kei - codenamed the Lovely Angels but known across the galaxy as the Dirty Pair - are sent to investigate the destruction of a routine passenger space flight that killed over 300 people. Oddly, no family members or loved ones of the victims have come forward and the only confirmed DNA identification belongs to a scientist who was in the process of defecting between two rival planets. When the Dirty Pair arrive nothing is as it should be, agents from both planets are out to stop them and the missing scientist was more than he seemed. Yuri and Kei must use all their wits, skill and luck to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Production details:
Release date 25 January 1990
Director: Toshifumi Takizawa (Dirty Pair (TV); Dirty Pair: From Lovely Angels with Love; Aura Battle Dunbine: The Tale of Neo Byston Well; Crusher Joe: the OVAs; Big Wars; Blue Remains and Samurai 7)
Studio: Sunrise
Original material: light novel series by Haruka Takachiho
Script: Fuyunori Gobu
Storyboard: Toshifumi Takizawa
Music: Tohru Okada
Character design / animation diector: Tsukasa Dokite
Art Director: Tomoaki Okada
Mechanical design: Kazutaka Miyatake & Yasushi Ishizu



Comments: With Toshifumi Takizawa returning from the original series to direct this sixty minute OAV you'd be forgiven for expecting the original's crazy humour and wayward plots, along with a re-establishment of the original personalities of the two heroines, Kei and Yuri. That's absolutely not what Flight 005 Conspiracy provides. Instead, you will get a tautly plotted, fast paced, action oriented police procedural (except that agents Kei and Yuri aren't police in the strict sense of the term). Where the original series, Project Eden and the OAV series hew closely to spirit of the franchise (albeit with their individual slants on it), this, along with Affair on Nolandia, strays from the formula. Happily, unlike Nolandia, this iteration is worth watching - so long as it is judged under its own terms. Like its contemporary Gall Force franchise, Dirty Pair has headed in a more serious direction at the turn of the decade.

As a sci-fi mystery come action adventure, Flight 005 Conspiracy works well. Served up a conundrum garnished with improbabilities, Kei and Yuri follow a trail of clues that put them in the gun sights of secret government agents, underworld gang members and some who are both. The trail finally leads them to infiltrate a satellite fortress where they race against the clock to rescue the aforementioned defecting scientist and his family before an experimental power plant self-destructs. The scientist's supposed death on Flight 005 is but one of several red herrings thrown before the Lovely Angels. In addition you get plot twists, scenes where the viewer is artfully misled, one sudden, unexpected and gruesome death of a sympathetic character (who'd have thought a spiked drink could have such instantaneous and explosive results), another more emotionally loaded death, hovercraft chases, lethal laser beams and missiles flying in every direction. Not bad for slightly under sixty minutes. This is one compact, quickly plotted show, and all the better for it, although there are minor slips up from time to time. Scenes resort to cliché without the ameliorating self-aware sophistication of earlier instalments. Think Project Eden with its sly, knowing irreverence. In addition, sometimes Takizawa doesn't get the tone right. The second death I mentioned is ham-fistedly maudlin.


Flight 005 Conspiracy can be grainy. Compare with the image immediately above.

Other changes to the Dirty Pair formula involve the leading duo, their relationship and their famed banter. This time around, despite the demented reception they get from the previously rational Gooley, who pleads with them to resolve the case peacefully (which, of course, they can't), they carry out their investigation in a largely professional and skilful manner. In a disappointing development, the relationship - that had begun to drift in the OAV series - has now shifted completely. Previously Yuri had been the brains of the pair, grasping implications of events first, providing exposition when needed, cleaning up after Kei's hot-headed interventions and author of the more barbed, insinuating put downs in their verbal jousts. Now she's something of a bimbo, making foolish comments or finding herself the butt of the instalment's occasional physical, slapstick gags. Verbal humour has declined. Now the only snide comments emanate from Kei, usually criticising Yuri's intelligence with lines such as, "How about you wash that stupid from your face." Kei has become the outright senior of the two, often in a huff thanks to her junior's boneheadedness. I can see why the depiction of the relationship might develop this way. Always the more interesting creation, Kei has more innate scope for the writers and directors to explore. Still, I preferred it when the relationship was more egalitarian.

There are classic Dirty Pair moments of slapstick. Favourites - both conforming to the change in the their relationship - include Yuri jumping on Kei's back in moment of alarm, and Yuri rescuing her partner who has been strapped to an armchair. With bullets flying in a burning building and with no time to finesse, Kei runs from the building with both Yuri and the armchair on her back. It needs to be witnessed to be fully appreciated. (See image at bottom of post.)

Design-wise the two have changed a little, having lost some of the mid-80s soft puppy-fat look despite expanding their bust size and reducing the material in their shorts / bikini bottoms. When not wearing their customary wrestling outfits, they continue their penchant for outfits that are simultaneously attractive and trashy. (Dolly Parton once said it cost her a lot money to look as cheap as she did.) Most bizarre is Yuri's winter outfit with its Davy Crockett hat. Otherwise artwork and animation is middle of the pack OAV standard, which is to say it's perfectly adequate. Really, the viewers' eyes are mostly pre-occupied with the two leads.



Flight 005 Conspiracy has yet another of the era's, and the franchise's, rhythm dominated and techno influenced, soundtracks. The first thing to assail the viewer as the OAV opens, there isn't much subsequent variation, but what there is adds a pulsating urgency to proceedings. Another sequence involving electric piano and percussion brings to mind the opening of the Cowboy Bebop movie (though not as good). Composer Tohru Okada went on to provide the soundtrack for Time of Eve, along with its original ONA ending song, the sweet Time of Tenderness.

I must mention a funny slip up. The scientist at the centre of the brouhaha is working on a wonder chemical known as ignoal. Sent a sample in the mail, Yuri pours the liquid from a pouch into a container as Kei reads from the accompanying letter, "Its melting point is 721,360,000°C." I'm left wondering why the entire planet didn't melt.

Rating: good if you judge it as sci-fi mystery / action; decent if you're after Kei and Yuri crazy high jinks.
+ neatly plotted, fast-paced sci-fi mystery; soundtrack is simple but effective
- Kei and Yuri dynamic is lacking; Yuri dumbed down

Resources:
Dirty Pair Features, Nozomi
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

Suggested reading:
I Watched All of Dirty Pair, and Here's What I Learned, Christopher Farris



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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 05, 2021 8:54 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl #127: Seiko Nagare,



Satsujin Kippu wa Heart-iro
(ie, Heart Coloured Murder Ticket)

Synopsis: Suspended after taking down the school bully, Seiko takes the opportunity to buy herself a train ticket to Nagasaki with the intention of visiting the city's famous sights. Mysteries follow wherever she goes: there's a man on the train who has been reported murdered; a body hanging from a tree in a park, a bed-ridden patriarch with a family secret, and a couple of men who keep turning up wherever she goes. Dragged into events despite her reservations, will she uncover what's really going on before she becomes yet another victim?

Production details:
Release date: 03 February 1990
Director / storyboard: Taku Sugiyama (veteran animator from the first days of Toei and later at Mushi Pro, he also directed Wonder Three, Animal 1, Space Firebird 2772, Alice in Wonderland, Noozles and Bosco Adventure among others)
Studio: ANN lists Nichiei Agency; Clements and McCarthy credit Nihon Eizo
Source material: novel by screen writer and novelist Hiroyasu Yamaura possibly under the title Nagasaki no Onna Satsujin Jiken (Nagasaki Woman Murder Case), though on-line information about either the writer or the book is scant; a manga version written and illustrated by Kaya Urakawa was published from January 1990; the near simultaneous release of the two adaptations suggests they were part of a mixed media release strategy
Music: Hideo Shimazu
Art director: Isamu Kageyama
Animation director: Tomoko Kobayashi


Seiko and circumpendages: Gonbei the cat, Chuuta Misora and a murder victim. (Wouldn't the shoes fall off?)

Comments: This obscure OAV is another shojo mystery from the late 80s onwards, but unlike the others I've covered in the survey (Karura Mau, Yajikita Gakuen Dochuki and Dark Sea, Moon Shadow) Satsujin Kippu wa Heart-iro is the most down-to-earth, the most prosaic and, arguably, the most accessible. Funnily enough, with each of these releases, from Karura Mau to the title under review, the degree of supernatural activity has progressivley diminished. This ongoing development may be coincidental or it might be that anime producers concluded that their young, female viewers were less interested in supernatural activity per se than the response of the characters to the threats brought about by the abnormal circumstances. Although tonally worlds apart, I'm reminded of Scooby-Doo: every mystery ends up with a rational explanation, even if it's absurd (though I'd rather spend fifty minutes with Seiko than the ghostbusting dog.)

The OAV is more about Seiko than any suggested supernatural happenings or the actual murder mystery. This is her story; the murders are peripheral. Clearly inspired by Noa Izumi from Patlabor in her appearance and persona, Seiko's tomboy nature is signalled by her knee-length shorts, short hair and her aikido skills. She's also, like Noa, quickly endearing, for which the creators deserve some credit - they have fifty minutes only at their disposal to establish her character and then delve into a labyrinthine murder case (but earn brickbats for their perfunctory treatment of the latter). The opening sequence on the overnight train when her pet cat Gonbei runs amok indicates that Seiko is something of a clown and also that, despite the supposedly grim plot developments, this is a light-hearted anime. Her boneheaded lack of awareness means that she's can't see what's right under her nose, as is the case with the man who's always hanging about whenever something linked to the mystery transpires. (Then again, he could plausibly argue that Seiko is also a person of suspicion under the very same reasoning, which illustrates the contrived nature of the plot.) It may be Seiko's story, but she's neither the architect of events nor the solver of the riddle. For that we must rely on the murderer providing an expository speech at the OAV's climax. "You want to know? Very well. I'll tell you before you die." As her name suggests our heroine just watches. (Yuk! Yuk!)


Suspects in the sequence of murders.

The man at the crime sites isn't the only person she bumps into continually. Young Nagasaki grifter, Chuuta Misora latches onto her like a limpet. A cheerful sort, he may or may not be related to a senior police officer, lives by his wits and isn't discouraged in the least by Seiko's rejection of his repeated advances. From our 2020s vision he more stalker than paramour. Even without the moral judgement, his behaviour is quickly tiresome. Gonbei, Seiko's pet cat, who, most uncatlike, travels everywhere with her, also views him dimly, as the frequent claw swipes attest. To his credit, the young man's feelings seem genuine, as proven by his readiness to help her - at one point even impersonating a policeman. Of the other important characters, the various suspects are uniformly serious. There's an infirm patriarch of a powerful family trying to exercise control from his sickbed, a suave businessman and a pair of lovers (he's precipitate and she's lachrymose). The anime isn't capable enough to make the underlying events interesting. The two groups - insiders and outsiders - are clearly demarcated by their prevailing emotional tone.

Satsujin Kippu wa Heart-iro is notable for its depiction of the city and surrounds of Nagasaki. In its short run time we are treated to the Peace Park, the Dutch Slope, the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, the cliff-side remains of Hara Castle (just the spot for a murder - one quick push and problem solved) and the nearby volcanic Mount Unzen. Nagasaki is a city that bears the marks of western interference on its soul, not just American but Portuguese and Dutch as well. I appreciate anime that makes its location and history a feature. I had fun bringing up Hara Castle on Google Maps so I could speculate upon where the action of the anime might have taken place. On a more sombre note, photographic images of the cathedral before and after the bombing in 1945 and following its reconstruction is a story in its own right.

Rating: so-so. Gamine Seiko Nagare walks into a murder mystery where she clearly doesn't belong before returning to her blithe existence.
+ Seiko is a likeable heroine; depiction of Nagasaki
- Chuuta is annoying; the murder mystery is perfunctory and uninteresting

Resources:
ANN
The font of all knowledge (even if doesn't have entries on either the anime or Hiroyasu Yamaura - for that matter neither does the Japanese Wikipedia)
OCLC WorldCat Identities: Hiroyasu Yamaura
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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Rekishika



Joined: 24 Apr 2014
Posts: 23
PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2021 6:42 am Reply with quote
The Japanese Wikipedia does have an entry on Yamaura Hiroyasu at
https://ja.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?&oldid=86235775
The first book in his Hoshiko series for Shueisha's Kobaruto bunko label (mostly for young women) is called
"Satsujin kippu wa hâto-iro", i.e. the title of the OVA.
As a screenwriter he was involved in several very well known anime series such as "Galaxy Express 999". And he's also in IMDb:
https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0945517/
Bye
F. Litten
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2021 3:25 pm Reply with quote
Brilliant! Thanks.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 12, 2021 6:11 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Frightened Girls #128: Miko, Masami & friends,


Miko (The Haunted Mansion)

Umezu Kazuo no Noroi
(The Curse of Kazuo Umezu)

Synopses:
What Will the Video Camera Reveal? Schoolgirl Masami awakens each morning from nightmares she only vaguely remembers and with a bleeding puncture wound on her neck. Convinced that a newly arrived mysterious transfer student is a vampire she enlists the help of her friend Umezu who sets up a video camera in her bedroom. What it reveals the next day is unnerving.
The Haunted Mansion. Miko and three friends explore a soon to be demolished mansion where they encounter a ghost. Only Miko manages to escape the haunted house without dismemberment, yet her friends turn up at school the next day. Was it a dream? Intent on discovering the truth, the four return the next evening.

Production details:
Release date: 01 March 1990
Director: Naoko Omi (her only directing credit - ANN also lists her as storyboarding one episode of Bio Armor Ryger)
Studios: Yuuwa (production) and Takahashi Studio (animation production)
Original creator: Kazuo Umezu - hence the title of the OAV. Horror manga artist who flourished from the early 1960s to the 1990s and branched out into acting and movie making. His most famous manga is The Drifting Classroom. He also mentored Rumiko Takahashi for a time: her horror tales such as The Laughing Target and Mermaid Saga may well have been influenced by him.
Screenplay: Shiira Shimazaki
Music: Hiroki Sakaguchi
Sound director: Etsuji Yamada
Character design / animation director / key animation: Junko Abe
Animation supervision: Shingo Araki
Art director / background art: Motoyuki Tanaka


Masami (What Will the Video Camera Reveal?)

Comments: Never released outside of Japan, we have fansubbers to thank for this surprisingly effective (and affective) pair of horror tales channelling Kazuo Umezu. I've said in the past that anime rarely does horror well, but this OAV gives the genre a reasonably decent shot.

On a production level Naoko Omi takes some care in ensuring the visuals and soundscape establish a mood of menace and paranoia. Right from the start she sets a creepy tone, with a parodic rendition of Kazuo Umezu himself (or, in publicity photos, does Umezu parody the guy on the swing?) warning the viewer not to dabble in supernatural affairs. She rarely lets up thereafter. Even the image of a schoolgirl turning her gaze towards the viewer is fraught with unstated significance. The sceptic in me is fully aware that the significance is left unstated precisely because there isn't any, but horror works best when the viewer is unsure what matters and what doesn't. The visuals are kept simple, character designs excepted, and the backgrounds dark - blacks and blues dominate - so that reactions can be highlighted and the shocks have maximum impact. The blues and blacks also contrast with the freely flowing blood in the mansion scenes of the second tale. Even more arresting are the simple and, admittedly, clichéd musical motifs, the stark soundscapes and the deathly, hanging silences. The music might sound like its from a thousand other horror shows, but in this case banality works perfectly well. Omi might not have much anime experience but she's assisted by veteran staff - Shingo Araki we've met before, most notably with The Rose of Versailles. Mind you, the production has some seriously bad moments. While the female faces and expressions can be arresting (particularly the mysterious Rima in the first tale and Miko in the second), all the characters have their moments of ugliness - deliberate when under stress, but I suspect unintended otherwise. Either way, the depiction of eyes bulging, cheeks sunken and mouth agape is so overused that it becomes an unintended joke. Hey, people, keep your mouths shut tight - there are tentacles coming your way. (I can never understand why anime victims don't bite the tentacle that seeds them.) More generally, the very apparent low budget necessarily entails minimal animation, while the sound recording also has its problems: the lip-synching can be woefully out at times.

The viewer's focus is kept upon the two leads (Masami in the first tale; Miko in the second). They are our point of view: only once or twice does it stray to another character. This means that the viewer sympathises with them by default. The shocks, being filtered through their eyes, are made all the more horrific (though, at times, they can be overstated). And, of course, we're dealing with anime schoolgirls: sympathising with them is another anime default setting. That sets the viewer up to react appropriately when these sweet, innocent things are sliced, diced, punctured and penetrated. The OAV is hardly pornographic, but the depictions of their violations are sexually charged - witness the two climactic images below. Clements and McCarthy mention "Umezu's trademark misogyny" but, it's hard for me to judge on the basis of a 43 minute adaptation. I will say that, in this anime, the females are either monsters or they're meat; there isn't much in between. They're also genre ignorant. Who would explore a haunted house by torchlight at night? And who would willingly return the following night?


Masami and Rima (What Will the Video Camera Reveal?)

Happily, the anime avoids comic relief. The Curse is relentlessly serious. The only person who might be deemed fun is Miko's impishly enthusiastic best friend in the second episode, Nanako. A horror video fan, her determination to visit the haunted mansion may be stupid (or genre ignorant, as I've just mentioned), but she's no clown. Her timid friends clinging to her arms in the dark are more clownish. Many a horror anime is undone by intrusive idiocy or by ridiculous monsters. The Curse's creatures may not be all that original, but they are deadly earnest in their approach to their victims. Their behaviour is consistent with the overall dire atmosphere.

The most successful tool deployed by the creative team - particularly in the first tale - is a development that turns the narrative on its head. I won't say what it is, but not looking out for any plot twist meant that what was revealed by the video caught me by appreciative surprise. Once aware of the duplicity at play I was on the look out for narrative shenanigans of the same type in the second tale. The Haunted Mansion isn't as clever and the Twilight Zone type set-up is more obviously flagged. Those factors, along with it being the second tale in the OAV mean that it lacks the impact of the first tale. Given that What Will the Video Camera Reveal? has the more startling reveal, so to speak, it's placement first in the OAV was the correct decision. The second segment makes up for it with marginally more interesting characters, better imagery and by ramping up the blood-letting. (It remains well below Elfen Lied levels.) I feared that, with the surprises gone, a re-watch would be spoiled. While true, it was fun seeing all the clues I'd missed and, besides, at only twenty minutes long after the credits are factored out, the individual segments aren't a chore to watch - even second time around.

Rating: decent.
+ the video camera in the first tale reveals a neat twist; consistent menacing atmosphere supported by the visuals and the sounds; occasional startling character images
- reliance on surprise means that subsequent viewings cannot match the first; lip-synching goes awry; bug-eyed, open-mouthed expressions of terror overused; the vicious treatment of the girls; unoriginal monsters

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


Ghost surveying its beheaded and de-limbed victim. (The Haunted Mansion)


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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 19, 2021 7:42 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl #129: Sally Yumeno,

Sally the Witch


Compare this image with the one on the ANN encyclopaedia page. Perhaps I saw a cropped version of the film?

Synopsis: Spring is overdue as uncharacteristic cold weather lingers throughout Japan. When Sally's friend Sumire brings over a book of "Faeries" from which pleas for help be heard (an idea re-used by Toei from Majokko Tickle) she and her friends find themselves drawn into the fairy realm - where only children with innocent hearts are permitted to visit. There they find that Hermes the witch has entrapped the fairies thereby preventing them from releasing spring in the human world. (What about those of us in the southern hemisphere - are we stuck in summer?) She has also been enticing children to the fairy realm to turn them into sugary sweets. What can Sally do to convince the witch to release the captive fairies and children? And what is the connection between Hermes and Poron, Sally's adopted little sister from the magic realm?

Production details:
Premiere: 10 March 1990
Director: Osamu Kasai (UFO Robo Grendizer tai Great Mazinger; Galaxy Express 999: Can You Love Like a Mother?; Asari-chan Ai no Marchen Shojo; Ai Shite Knight; Tongari Boshi no Memoru; Gegege no Kitaro season 3; Sally the Witch 1989 remake; 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.)
Screenplay: Akiyoshi Sakai (one of the scriptwriters for the original 1966 series)
Music: Haruki Mino
Animation Director: Yasuhiro Yamaguchi


Sally and friend enjoy fairy hospitality (l-r): Sumire; Dabu-Dabu; Poron; Sally; Cub; the triplets and their older sister Yoshiko.
(The fairies are a lie. Only children can enter the fairy realm, and these "fairies" are adults.)


Comments: Despite Akiyoshi Sakai being one of the original team of 21scriptwriters from the 1966 series, this 30 minute movie confirms what I had suspected watching the first six episodes of the 1989 remake: that it lacks the lunatic mayhem and physical humour that was a feature of the original. No more do the triplets pull sado-masochistic stunts on the hapless Cab (despite his magical ability); no more do the children, including the generally sweet tempered Sally, subject the many adult villains to painful comeuppances. The triplets' unruly behaviour is now no worse than skateboarding down supermarket aisles or playing on an iced over pond. In the latter scene, the only consequence is getting themselves stuck on a sheet of shrinking ice - 24 years earlier would have seen people subjected to an chilly dunking. The new movie version is inoffensive, cute instead of rumbunctious, moralistic and sanitised for parental approval. Instead of working class Tokyo it gives us suburbia and Candy Land, where children can gorge on sweets until their blood sugars level become so elevated they transform into the very sweets they're eating (which, admittedly, is creepy). There's a lesson there for greedy children, I suppose. Even the theme song is smoother, without the vocal dissonances and jazz band accompaniment of the original.

The film does continue the franchise's genial anti-adult sentiment. The grown up fairies they meet prove themselves treacherous while Hermes, the big bad, is a witch who used her magic to infiltrate a realm where she was forbidden. Indeed, the fairies Sally and her friends initially encounter are avatars of Hermes based upon the child fairies she has imprisoned. Oddly enough, the most grown-up person is Sally herself who acts as parent and supervisor to the others, keeps her head in the crisis, uses reason to resolve the problem at hand and, patronisingly, keeps the truth of what really happened from the other children.


The artwork used for the fairy realm is a class above Toei's usual standard for the franchise.

Sally's friends, Poron excepted, don't play any significant role beyond victims in the narrative. Poron, for her part, remains unaware of her own significance. It turns out that Hermes visited the fairy realm as a treat for her daughter - Poron, as it so happens. The realm punished Hermes by flinging Poron into a space / time vortex that deposited her into the magic realm (as distinct from the fairy realm) where she would be adopted by Sally's parents. Seems harsh to me. Hermes, for her part, has never got beyond the anger stage in her grieving process and directs her rage against the fairy realm and children generally. Thwarted love has led her to commit atrocities. She gets the most memorable line of the movie when Sally points out the suffering she is causing by responding, "The one who is suffering is me." Rarely has a children's villain in anime be so layered or sympathetic. Even badly behaved parents still love their children. That's quite the sophisticated message to be putting before a primary school age audience. Props to Toei for their faith in their audience's intelligence. The film then takes the weirdest turn: seeing her daughter again, Hermes momentarily transforms into a loving mother, admits her guilt and, to atone for her deeds, melds with nature to assist with its recovery - all without her daughter clapping eyes on her, let alone them even touching. The message is that Poron has new parents now; it wouldn't help her emotional development to see her real mother. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

For a franchise that has never bothered with anything but the most basic artwork, this film is a revelation. The visuals of the fairy realm in particular, with its bare trees and circular canopies, the Leiji Matsumoto reminiscent female characters, and woodland home, sets up an elegiac, mystical tone that Toei rarely attempted, let alone achieved in all their many previous magical girl shows. The enticing but sinister Candy Land isn't as atmospheric, but provides an original set of gooey props for a magical battle between the two witches: one of them an adult and the other a child.

Rating: not really good. Certainly better than the six episodes I saw of the 1989 remake, but lacking the chaotic charm and the innovations of the 1966 series.
+ the best looking version of the franchise to date; respects it young audience's emotional intelligence; surprisingly sympathetic villain
- safe and sentimental with guaranteed parental approval; characters are mostly subsidiary to the plot; strange, nonsensical denouement.

Resources:
ANN


Hermes reunited with her long lost daughter.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2021 7:43 am Reply with quote
Three years and seven months of Kickstarter waiting has come to an end. There isn't much to review so this is more of a report.

Bean Bandit


Explosives expert May Hopkins. Apparently her carpet matches her drapes. So she says in the American dub.

Reason for watching: Long a fan of Gunsmith Cats I was more than happy to contribute to the project. Its relevance to the Beautiful Fighting Girl survey was also a factor.

Synopsis: No plot to speak of, the anime consists of a series of vignettes - Gun for hire Rally Vincent partners with explosives whiz May Hopkins after being convinced that the latter is an adult despite her diminutive size; upon learning that underworld courier Bean Bandit is out and about in his legendary car Road Buster (aka the Buff), policeman Percy Bacharach sets out in pursuit in his Shelby Cobra GT500; Bean and Rally take part in a freeway shoot-out with a pair of no name villains; Rally's associate Becky Farrah finds herself in a sticky situation when she takes an urgent toilet break while infiltrating police headquarters; May distracts a pair of police officers by removing her panties, enabling her to set off a smoke bomb; Bean's supernatural resilience saves him when he's assaulted by two more no name villains in an underground car park; and Becky gains momentary relief in the toilet cubicle.

Production details:
Premiere: a rough version with creator Kenichi Sonoda present was shown at Anime Central in May 2019
Creator / director / character design: Kenichi Sonada (character designer for Gall Force franchise, Wanna-Be's; Idol Fighter Su-Chi-Pai; Otaku no Video; creator of Riding Bean and Gunsmith Cats)
Animation production: Creators in Pack
Direction: Kazuomi Koga
Animation directors: Kenichi Sonada and Keizou Shimizu
Background art: Totonyan
Art director: Hiroshi Kato
Music: Marco d'Ambrosio

In the words of Kenichi Sonoda:
Quote:
In this anime, I fused together the 1989 OVA Riding Bean with my manga Gunsmith Cats into a single world. This was accomplished without 3rd party planning, concept formulation, nor scriptwriting. I personally authored the story boards, designed the characters, the cars and other elements, as well as illustrated the cover.



Clockwise from top left: Bean Bandit; Rally Vincent; May Hopkins; and Becky Farrah.

Comments: the outcomes of Kickstarter campaigns for original anime content, eg Kick-Heart, Under the Dog, Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade (the best of them) and now Bean Bandit, have generally been disappointing. This is likely due to the animators' ambitions and the audience's expectations exceeding what the pledged funds realistically allow for. Campaigns to release blu-ray versions of established titles such as Time of Eve, Gunsmith Cats or Emma: A Victorian Romance have been more satisfactory - probably because I know what bang for my buck my pledge is getting me, and also because the original anime has already paid its way, so I'm getting much more value for an equivalent pledge.

Bean Bandit has turned out to be the most disappointing Kickstarter project to date. My pledge of ¥8,200.00 (out of a total of ¥23,343,872) has resulted in less than eight minutes of animation. The claimed twelve minutes includes the final credits with all the backers listed. Check out Theron Martin's report of the "rough cut" premiere at Anime Central and it becomes apparent that what he saw is what the project backers have got. (The blu-ray should have been released some two years ago but for COVID throwing a comprehensive spanner in the works.) I really don't know whether I expected too much or Sonada couldn't deliver what he hoped to, though, in all fairness, the project was largely a one man effort.

Putting all that aside, the production standard is acceptable. The character designs are better than anything in either Riding Bean or Gunsmith Cats. Rally, May and Becky have a sharpness, colour palette and all-round vibrancy that give them a new life. Sure, they're based on a 1980s aesthetic of which Sonada was such a key part, but this upgrade works nicely. Animation isn't anything special: some of the short cuts and workarounds draw attention to themselves, such as static views of cars on moving highways while the unseen or barely seen occupants converse. Backgrounds are often basic in the extreme. Sonada's forte was always in the design of his characters and the cars and this is where this anime shines. Composer Marco d'Ambrosio pays homage to the cheesy techno soundtracks from the 1980s, but with a 21st century sheen. The American dub is more than up to the task - the setting is Chicago, after all. Disappointingly, the Japanese dub lacks subtitles.

Bean is the same goofy self from the original Riding Bean, while Rally sports her blonde hair and more serious demeanour from that OAV, in contrast to her black hair and cheekier behaviour in the Gunsmith Cats OAV. Neither Becky nor May appeared in the former. Becky reprises her timid clutz persona of the latter, but its May who surprises with her sexual provocations which, apparently, are more typical of the manga.

Rating: not really good

Resources:
Bean Bandit, Ken Sonada Kickstarter project
ANN
The font of all knowledge


The Road Buster and the Shelby Cobra GT500. That's Illinois on the plate and Chicago in the background.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 23, 2022 1:02 am Reply with quote
It has been just on five years since I started this crazy project.

Beautiful Fighting Girl #130: Carol Mudagolas,


Isekai Carol

Carol

Synopsis: Big Ben chimes silently, birds have lost their chirp and musicians all over London have become tone deaf. In the midst of all this disruption, Carol - born to musical family - finds herself transported to another world where she learns that a demon by the name of Gigantica is consuming Earth's music. With the support of three natives of the new world - Flash, Tico and Clark, who bear a striking resemblance to the members of her favourite band, Gable Screen - Carol must confront the beast to recite an incantation that will only work coming from her lips.

Production details:
Release date: 21 March 1990
Director: Satoshi Dezaki (older brother of Osamu Dezaki, founder of Magic Bus studio and a prolific director - represented in this survey previously: The Star of the Seine; A Time Slip of 10000 Years: Prime Rose; and Dark Sea, Moon Shadow) and Tsuneo Tominaga (another prolific director who often co-directed with Satoshi Dezaki)
Studios: Animate Film & Magic Bus
Source material: the novel Kyaroru by Naoto Kine, published by CBS Sony April 1989. (Naoto Kine was also the anime's producer. He went on to write the novel Junkers Come Here and the script for the subsequent anime film, along with writing and singing its opening theme song. His band, TM Network, provided the template for the character designs for Gable Screen. Kine is Tico, although voiced by a professional seiyuu.)
Screenplay: Tomoya Miyashita
Storyboard: Tsuneo Tominaga
Music: Tetsuya Komuro (also a member of TM Network)
Character design: Nobuaki Takahashi, Toshiki Yoshida & Yun Kouga
Art director: Tsutomu Ishigaki
Animation director: Yukari Kobayashi

Comments: If you don't mind the digression but when Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich was a student at the then Petrograd Conservatory under Alexander Glazunov the latter would file musical scores in boxes labelled with letters of the alphabet. Upon being instructed to place scores in the box marked "I" the young Shostakovich pointed out that the composers' names didn't begin with that letter, to which Glazunov icily replied, "I for Insignificant". So, yeah, Carol is in that borderland zone where it's neither notable nor particularly bad. And, at only one hour in length, the execution isn't engaging enough to leave a lasting impression. It never had an English language release - or any other language, it seems, besides the original Japanese - and various anime lists (ANN, MAL, AniDB) indicate that few people have watched it either raw or via fansub. All this is belied by its popularity upon release in Japan: according to Clements and McCarthy, "the end result still became the best-selling anime video of the year in Japan." From the way that's worded I take it that they include video releases of films and television shows in addition to OAVs.


Schoolgirl Carol

The most interesting things about Carol involve its provenance. An early example of the isekai genre, it wears its Alice in Wonderland influence brazenly on its sleeve: from the name of the main character along with her English circumstances and her transformed appearance, to the creatures and environments she encounters. The OAV also brought to my mind Leda - the Fantastic Adventure of Yoko. Both use music as the key that transports the heroine to another world where she is the only one capable of stopping a monstrous figure from ruining both worlds. Leda, however, integrates the music, the transformation and the importance of the heroine to the narrative much more organically and convincingly. The newer anime never tells the viewer why Carol, and only Carol, can use the incantation to stop Giganctica nor does it bother explaining how the Gable Screen band members manage to straddle both worlds (whether they're aware of it or not). More tellingly, the romantic and sexual subtext - represented by Carol's relationship with the band and its music - is feeble when compared with the far richer Leda (review here).

Layered upon the Alice in Wonderland isekai narrative is a media mix strategy that probably accounts for the anime's initial popularity. Carol is unusual in that the impulse for its creation came from a popular J-pop band - TM Network - rather than the more usual sources, such as manga. One member of the band wrote the source novel and produced the anime, while another wrote the soundtrack. The band, who would be best known to anime viewers for providing the ending song Get Wild for the City Hunter franchise, naturally enough performed the music. Given that the fictional band from the anime - Gable Screen - and Carol's allies in the isekai world are all based upon the TM Network members then one might say that the anime is really just an extended video promoting their 1988 album, Carol: A Day in a Girl's Life 1991. It went on to become one of several chart-topping albums in their discography. And the music itself? The sung numbers are, like the anime, middle of the road, pleasant enough J-pop of the era with anthemic choruses. The instrumental interludes can be less conventional for anime of the time. Favourite is a Penguin Cafe Orchestra inspired wistful piece as Carol walks to her London school.

The anime isn't helped by a protagonist whose role, ultimately, is little more than uttering the few words that will vanquish Gigantica. The OAV is meant to promote the band, after all. Carol is an oddly bifurcated character. Prior to her isekai transportation she's a spoiled, self-centred girl who's easily irritated and who desperately wants to be considered an adult. Upon arrival in Labasurubasu (the name as interpreted by the fansubbers - I feel sure a simple English version must exist) she proves her mettle, but without any prior hint suggesting she had such inner resources. Again, in contrast to Leda - the Fantastic Adventure of Yoko, Carol fails to integrate the protagonist's character development within the narrative. She's simply a piece that's used for the sake of the media mix package. Think also of Spirited Away where a similarly bratty child transforms heroically but where the change is convincingly portrayed in the story-telling. Symptomatic is Carol's pleasing to the eye outfit as shown at the top of the page. She appears in it, without warning, in the middle of a scene. Apparently Queppri (Kepuli?), her captor, just happened to have it on hand for her upcoming sacrifice to Gigantica. Like much else in the anime, it just happens.


Pick the TM Network band members.
Top left: Gigantica with Clark Maxwell (at the piano) and Queppri in the foreground. Top right: Flash
Middle: Queppri and Tico. The fansub interpretations of the character names were odd to say the least. I could figure out most of them, but Queppri has me tossed.
Bottom: Domos and Clark Maxwell.


The principal male characters are as you might expect in a series aimed at a young female audience: intense, angsty and, allowing for people's tastes at the time, sexy. One is conflicted by his collaboration with Gigantica, another is a moody artiste, a third is dangerously heroic, and the last is Mr Cool in his shades. As with so many male characters created for a shoujo audience they each have effeminate traits. I suppose they are to their female audience what the phallic girl is to her male audience.

The most off-kilter characters - and thereby, for me, the most notable - are Carol's immediate family. The entire morning sequence came across to me as creepy. Her suddenly tone deaf cello-playing father can't stop himself from directing his rage at his family. Her younger brother's righteous parroting of his mother's instructions are excruciatingly awful, as intended. Her mother's cheery optimism is the ironic icing to a whacked out family cake. Not their fault, though; blame it on Gigantica. Those early parts of the OAV depicting a melody deprived London are far more atmospheric than the later Labasurubasu scenes, which are a dumbed down mixture of Alice in Wonderland, Dungeons and Dragons and The NeverEnding Story. Imagination is in short supply here: Big Ben and Hyde Park can be convincingly copied, but Labasurubasu is an amalgam of clichés. Gigantica is ridiculous - most of the male characters are more intimidating - although not quite as bad as his semi-intelligent mooks. (Goblins? Gnolls? Bugbears?)

Rating: insignificant. Borrowing tropes from Lewis Carroll, Wolfgang Petersen, magical girls, shoujo supernatural mysteries and Dungeons and Dragons, Carol is little more than a melange assembled to promote TM Network's music.
+ London scenes; Carol is handsome in her Alice in Wonderland outfit; some striking melodies
- Labasurubasu scenes; monster designs; Carol as a character isn't compelling enough to carry the story.

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 6:46 am; edited 1 time in total
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Beltane70



Joined: 07 May 2007
Posts: 3911
PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2022 2:47 am Reply with quote
Up until you just reviewed it, I totally forgot that Carol even existed! I now remember seeing ads and articles for this in the Japanese anime magazines that I was collecting back in the early 90s.
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Errinundra
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Joined: 14 Jun 2008
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Location: Melbourne, Oz
PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2022 3:22 am Reply with quote
Just thought of something. Queppri / Kepuli is probably meant to be Capri. Now to figure out a more believable name for Labasurubasu.

@ Beltane70,

Do you still have the magazines? It would be interesting to see the ads.
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