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


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Beltane70



Joined: 07 May 2007
Posts: 3921
PostPosted: Sat Oct 12, 2019 1:13 pm Reply with quote
There’s so much that I want to say but can’t due to it being mostly spoilers just in case this is the first time that you (or others reading this) have been exposed to the Gall Force franchise.
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Nom De Plume De Fanboy
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Joined: 14 Jan 2011
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Location: inland US west, pretty rural
PostPosted: Sat Oct 12, 2019 2:03 pm Reply with quote
Lay it on us. That's what spoiler tags are for. Whole page ones or short ones or whatever. Whatever suits your taste.

As in, you know that planet at the end, in the picture above? spoiler[That's the Earth] in my humble opinion. Heavy stuff, for a show from the 1980s. Now, maybe not so much.

The Big Reveal ( in my opinion ) that we are supposed to take away from the spoiler[ montage of street scenes] at the very end? spoiler[That's the human race, and the boy/girl couple left together are an Adam/Eve troupe pair.] And there may be more to it than that, I don't know.

The movie is available on Youtube, by the way. I know there were sequels and whatnot. Like the gag version, 10 little gal force, I think it is called. Lots I'd like to hear about.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 12, 2019 6:37 pm Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girls index
****

It's funny, but, as the thread comes with a general spoiler warning, I haven't felt the need for spoiler tags, especially where the plot points are central to the themes I'm discussing. That said, I do mull over how far I should go. Is mentioning the steady picking off of the crew members a spoiler? Should I have drawn the analogy between Catty and Ash? The tables have now been turned. Someone can now spoil me by discussing future instalments of the franchise. Oh, the irony! And, yes, I will be covering the franchise further.

@ Nom De Plume De Fanboy, I agree with your interpretation of the 2001: A Space Odyssey inspired picture. I think the title "Eternal Story" alludes to spoiler[Rumy and the boy being Adam and Eve]. The epilogue is a case of spoiler["spot the Star Leaf crew member". All eight appear. I get how the genes of the two survivors are part of the human gene pool, but the other six?] Though I haven't watched any of the sequels, thanks to my backgrounding for the review, I'm aware that various characters from the original will be spoiler[revived or reincarnated, so perhaps that's where their DNA contribution will come from].

One thing I forgot to mention in the review is that Gall Force - Eternal Story continues the main gag of Super Dimension Fortress Macros: that the Solnoids, knowing only a life of battle and having no experience of another gender, have no concept of "culture", ie sex or love. Given the range of personalities on show and relative freedom of expression given to the characters, I'd have thought yuri relationships would be a thing. (I'm learning from the survey the tectonic effect SDFM had on anime.)

I've watched so much 1980s anime of late the style has become the new normal for me. I'm no longer bothered by its extravagances. Watching Violet Evergarden recently was a shock to my eyes. Anime has come a long way.


Last edited by Errinundra on Fri Nov 27, 2020 2:07 am; edited 1 time in total
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 27, 2019 3:09 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl #65: Rumi Natsumi



Call Me Tonight

Synopsis: First year high school student Rumi is the co-owner of a phone sex business, so when a customer with a major problem, calls - apparently everything around him is damaged whenever he is excited - she takes him on. Always up for a challenge she meets the customer, Ryou, in a cafe and is instantly drawn to him. Her amorous advances soon draw out his monstrous tendencies: when aroused his body becomes a vessel for inter-dimensional, tentacled monsters to do their thing. His transformations come to the attention of a pair of sisters. One (Oyuki, a classmate of Rumi's and leader of a motorcycle gang) wants to bed the beast, while the other (Maki, a budding newspaper reporter) is out for a scoop. One might think it would be prudent for young women to keep well clear of anything with tentacles, but sometimes human nature follows its own course.

Production details:
Premiere: 28 July 1986
Director / screenplay / storyboard: Tatsuya Okamoto - his only full directing credit, though he was the director of episode 2 of Fight! Iczer One
Studios: AIC & C.Moon
Music: Norimasa Yamanaka
Original story: Toshimichi Suzuki
Character design: Kumiko Takahashi
Art director: Katsuyoshi Kanemura (Studio Jack)
Animation director: Kumiko Takahashi, Masatoshi Nagashima and Osamu Yamasaki
Monster design: Junichi Watanabe

Comments:

"Sex is monstrous. It is love that makes it forgivable" - Patrick White, 1973 Nobel Laureate in Literature **

If ever there was an anime that illustrated White's notion as explicitly as possible, then surely Call Me Tonight is it. Ryou may well become monstrous whenever he is sexually aroused, but when Rumi stirs a deeper response he is able to resist, then reject, his diabolical aspects. That may suggest the anime is making some sort of moralistic point (and maybe it is) but this surprisingly entertaining tentacle anime is far from being polemical. Indeed, when, at the climax, Rumi throws a former gift - a token of her affection - in his face and, in a sense, exorcises him, the affect is more sentimental than righteous. And, equally unexpected in a tentacle anime, this short OAV could hardly be classified as pornographic, even with its frequent fanservice.

Sexual violation may well be an obligatory trope of the genre, but Call Me Tonight is comparatively restrained in that regard. The only tentacle rape in the entire OAV is actually a scene in a movie Rumi and Ryou are watching together. (She is trying to help him develop self-control under extreme provocation.) Not only is the violence of the rape on screen undercut by its cartoonish depiction and by the complaints of the patron behind them (he's irritated by the transforming Ryou blocking his view) but the anime also reaches towards a Satoshi Kon-esque metafictional sophistication - the rape on screen isn't real and, likewise, the sexual violations in the rest of the OAV shouldn't be taken seriously. The patron is affronted by Ryou as tentacle monster, but not by his counterpart on screen. We should be affronted by neither, the anime seems to be saying. (For sure, it falls well short of Satoshi Kon's closely thought out scenes in either Perfect Blue or Paprika.) As with the movie theatre scene, Ryou's transformations are portrayed comically for the most part by highlighting the incongruity of his tentacled form suddenly bursting forth in busy night-time Tokyo. The anime is, on one level, a parody of the genre, which is surprising given how young the genre was at the time. The first pornographic anime, Lolita Anime, had been premiered only 29 months earlier; Cream Lemon just shy of two years; and the first tentacle anime, Dream Hunter Rem, barely a year before. The manga version of Urotsukidoji won't appear until the following December, with the anime version some two months after that. Parody aside, Call Me Tonight can still be disturbing, such as Oyuki's sexual assault on Ryou as her motorcycle gang attempts to rape Rumi in an adjacent room. Tellingly, Rumi beats the crap out of two of them before they subdue her. (See image at the top of the post.) For some the sequence may be difficult to justify. Has Oyuki (a woman) raped Ryou (a man)? Is it an act of betrayal on his part? Is the depiction of rape a legitimate part of something made for entertainment?


Top: Rumi as night time reveller and day time student.
Middle: Ryou can't help his transformations.
Bottom: Some say you are what you wear - the macho Maki and her sister Oyuki.
Would Japanese schools permit wearing your uniform like that?


Getting back to the OAV's parodies - they aren't only comic. Call Me Tonight slyly subverts the gender roles found in tentacle anime. I would normally expect arrogant, rampaging male demons ravishing their comely but helpless female prey. In this instance the male monster is the victim, not the villain, while, much more importantly, the anime portrays the female characters as strong, self-assured and the agents of their own circumstances, be they good or bad. By contrast, the males are subordinate: Ryou to Rumi; the motorcycle gang to Oyuki; and most everyone to the older Maki. Rumi represents the modern, emancipated woman. She's a successful businesswoman, comfortable and confident with her sexuality, game for a challenge and undeterred by Ryou's, shall I say, eccentricities. She will display extraordinary courage when confronted by Oyuki's gang and also at the climax. I just about choked when it was revealed that she was a first year senior high school student. I guess that's part of the joke. Chain-smoking, alcohol swilling, bar-crawling, vampish antagonist and likewise first year student Oyuki may be thoroughly villainous but she's equally liberated and oddly likeable in her brazen approach to life. Accustomed to calling the shots, she has a retinue of violent young men ready to do her bidding. That a sailor-suited minor can frequent the bars of Tokyo is yet another of the anime's droll gags. Macho bodybuilder Maki is, in some ways, the most subversive character. It took me some time to apprehend that she was female, thanks to her musclebound body and masculine attire that de-emphasises her female form. Her constant male companion, the timid, diminutive and androgynous Hayata, is the one who wears the low cut shirt. She rides a Bimota, one of the coolest of 1980s motorcycles, and wields a prodigiously potent laser canon with which she makes a spectacular intervention.

I doubt that Call Me Tonight is making any sort of overt feminist statement. I rather think it is emphasising the female characters as part of its game-playing with the tentacle anime genre. But even that is to some degree feminist. Strong, autonomous females in key roles are always welcome. Add in its depiction of male sexuality as simultaneously monstrous, helpless and stupid; along with female desire too often overcoming sound judgement, and you have an anime that is more intelligent than you might expect from its premise. It also stands up well to repeated viewing.

Rating: decent
+ funny in a clever sort of way; plays with the tentacle anime genre; social commentary; well-paced
- crappy artwork and music (though the poor quality of the fansub exacerbated those shortcomings); rape scene may bother some

Resources:
ANN
Justin Sevakis's Buried Treasure article
The font of all knowledge
MyAnimeList
Cartoon Research: Forgotten Anime #6: "Call Me Tonight" (1986), Fred Patten


Rumi and Ryou can afford to laugh at the end.

** This is quoted from memory. Even though I encountered it some 30+ years ago it has stuck in my mind ever since. I couldn't locate the actual quote for this review, so consider it a paraphrasing of the original.


Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 4:50 am; edited 7 times in total
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 02, 2019 10:10 pm Reply with quote
This is my 200th review / essay in this thread.

Beautiful Fighting Girl #66: Nayuta Yanagihara,


This image of a confident young woman beguiles me.
I love the awareness, the poise, and the latent action.
Shame about the quality of the fansub.


Nayuta

Synopsis: Life for Nayuta as a school girl is nothing unusual until she meets a small, tiara-adorned boy - Kiro - with psychic powers. When she borrows and wears the tiara she discovers an altogether new version of her world, with many people now revealed as green-skinned aliens, known as the Azadd, monitoring human activity. She joins an ESPer underground resistance movement led by a beautiful, mysterious and powerful woman - Soz - and befriends one of the young men of the movement, Ryotaro. Things take a turn for the worse when the resistance cell is ambushed and Nayuta is abducted by the aliens, leading to a confrontation with a being of immense knowledge. She will gain insight into the true nature of the universe and the infinite potential of human beings.

Production details:
Premiere: 31 July 1986
Director: Masami Hata (a Mushi Pro veteran from the mid 60s in such anime as Wonder Three and Princess Knight, he is still directing TV episodes well into his 70s; was the director of such anime as Hans Christian Andersen Stories; Ringing Bell, Sea Prince and the Fire Child, Super Mario Brothers: Mario & Yoshi's Adventure Land, Little Nemo - Adventures in Slumberland, Stitch! and multiple instalments in Sanrio's Hello Kitty and Kiki and Lala franchises)
Studio: Toshiba EMI
Source material: Junko Sasaki's manga of the same name published by Flower Comics in 1981.
Script: Akiyoshi Sakai (long time script writer with Toei, going back as far as Sally the Witch)
Character design & animation director: Akio Sugino (Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, Tales of a Thousand and One Nights, Ashita no Joe, Aim for the Ace!, The Star of the Seine, Nobody's Boy Remi, The Rose of Versailles, Space Adventure Cobra, Golgo 13: The Professional, Oshin, Legend of the Galactic Heroes among many others)
Art Director: Yukio Abe
Mechanical design: Kaoru Izumiguchi


Top: Soz, the 3000 year old ESPer; Ryotaro looks like a hippy from the 70s.
Middle: Nayuta and Soz encounter cute baby aliens crawling out of their production vat; they're not so adorable as adults.
ESPer Kiro in adult and child forms - his motivation remains a puzzle for most of the film.


Comments: We have now reached the epicentre of anime's beautiful fighting girl eruption. Nayuta (in the Japanesed dub pronounced Nay-ə-tah and without stressing any of the syllables) was the sixth female protagonist of July 1986, the fifth in eleven days and the fourth in a week. It's also worth noting that Laputa - Castle in the Sky premiered on the 23rd, so, if you count Sheeta as qualifying for the survey (I eventually decided against it) then late July 1986 is arguably anime's moment of peak fighting girl. Let's not get too carried away, though: I'm talking quantity, not quality. Nayuta is interesting historically, does some things passably well, but disposable when compared with some of its more famous contemporaries like Laputa or Project A-ko from as recently as the previous month.

What's more, the film lacks the breezy, we're-in-on-the-joke-together humour of the Macross generation of, then, young animators. This probably reflects its origins in a shoujo manga and the veteran status of the animators on the project. Nayuta isn't as retro looking as Coral Reef Legend: Elfie of the Blue Sea - Akio Sugino's character designs, while distinct from the bouffy look of the 80s, had developed significantly since his Mushi days - but it still has an old guard feel to it. That's not to say that it doesn't reveal some contemporary influences. Noting that the manga pre-dates both, the film's protagonist fits the mould of the serious heroine set by Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, though without her depth or charisma, and attempts to shoehorn into the plot a coming of age theme along the lines of Leda - the Fantastic Adventure of Yohko, albeit not linking her maturation to any part of her back story the way Leda does so successfully, and remaining comparatively coy about Nayuta's sexuality.

At first Nayuta is portrayed as immature and sexually dormant, if not prepubescent. She's petulant, scatterbrained in the classroom and dependent on her mother. She guilelessly accepts an invitation to meet her teacher outside of school hours - he's an alien in disguise - and whines at the inconveniences she suffers after meeting the underground cell. Hints of her autonomy and generosity come in her willingness to help the refugee Kiro and his mother. At precisely the half-way point of the film, when she's imprisoned in an Azadd spaceship, Nayuta undergoes a metamorphosis from child to young woman. You can see the difference in the images below. Not only does it lack the visual flair of Yohko's transformation, but it seemingly comes out of nowhere. Granted, Nayuta's vicissitudes since the beginning of the film, which culminate in a perfunctorily rendered episode of major trauma, could well be forcing her to mature in a hurry. Granted also, there have been hints of her latent ESPer abilities. The problem lies within the narrative: until this point (and for a period afterwards) Nayuta has been the subject of events beyond her own narrow life; she hasn't been the author of her own story. She will, in due course, take command of the narrative, but, like Ai City, the structure involves solving a puzzle, rather than reaching a goal understood from the beginning. It's not until the end that the significance of many of the events becomes clearer. Even then, some remain opaque.


Top: Nayuta before and after her awakening.
Bottom: the moment she becomes aware of her body's power and the control she has over it - down to the cellular level.


Nayuta's growth from girl to woman is complemented by a discourse on masculinity and femininity. Until the transformation she is portrayed as girlish, being both nurturing and passive. Soz could be seen as the feminine idealised. She uses her immense powers to support the male fighters of the resistance movement. The Azadd are the antithesis: decisive and violent, mechanical in their motivations and kind of stupid. More ambiguous are the two most important young men in Nayuta's story: Kiro and Ryotaro. The former becomes, in his older form, the major antagonist. He is sinister and dangerous yet feminine in appearance and manner. Ryotaro may be an action oriented rebel, but his geeky, hippy appearance give him an appealing softness. It is significant that, before she can act decisively, Nayuta will absorb the souls of both young men into her body. The film seems to be postulating that women must embrace masculine attributes in order to assert themselves. Or, in the terms of this survey, wield the phallus in order to fight. One might even interpret it as a meta-analysis of the anime heroine. Perhaps even hopping onto the post-Macross bandwagon. Make of that what you will, but the anime doesn't foreground this discourse; the characters themselves don't ever ponder or discuss the issues.

The film ends on an ecstatic vision of a beckoning universe reminiscent of The Ideon and, of course, 2001: A Space Odyssey and presaging Evangelion and Puella Magi Madoka Magica, though without the ironies of any. Nayuta has either killed the father figure, or been absorbed into him - I'm not sure which - after some expository clarification of events from said father figure. She has assimilated her various natures into her identity. A future of unlimited possibilities lies before her... If only it were that convincing. The structure of the narrative and its inability to ground her development in her everyday life ensure the film remains little more than a passably exciting adventure story with some understated thematic ideas attached. Soz generally and post-transformation Nayuta occasionally aside, the artwork, character designs, the animation and the soundtrack are mundanely typical of the era. The poor quality of the fansub didn't help.

Rating so-so
+ sci-fi / mystery elements; Nayuta's portrayal and development after her transformation; subtext
- opaque story until the exposition heavy ending; artwork and animation; pre- and post-transformation aspects of Nayuta don't gel

Resources:
ANN
The Anime Encyclopaedia, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle
IMDb - Masami Hata


To infinity, poached eggs and beyond.


Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 4:50 am; edited 3 times in total
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HyugaHinata



Joined: 25 Jun 2005
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 03, 2019 3:57 am Reply with quote
Thanks for writing about Nayuta! I translated it with my tutor a few years ago.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 03, 2019 5:00 pm Reply with quote
It's a pleasure.

Do you remember much about it? Have I understood the ending exposition properly?

1. spoiler[Humans once had full ESPer powers, however our nature was so aggressive that Senal Zyler pretty much wiped us out, then set up a closed space where our ESPer powers would no longer work. The role of the Azadd was to monitor human activity to ensure we didn't get too uppity again. They were given the tiaras so they would be immune to the ESPer damping effect of the closed space.]

2. spoiler[Kiro worked against the human ESPers as he feared that, if successful, they would breach the closed space and start another big band thereby wiping everybody out. In this he was deceived by Senal Zyler (or the entity he left behind).]
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HyugaHinata



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 03, 2019 11:58 pm Reply with quote
I honestly have no idea. I translate anime to give back to the community and contribute to society.

I don't read them in-depth, just like I don't read Shakespeare in-depth. Sad I wish I could.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 04, 2019 5:59 am Reply with quote
No probs. I get your motivation. It's one of my reasons for this thread.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2019 5:18 am Reply with quote
Having mentioned Sheeta in the previous review I figured it would be worthwhile looking at Laputa, partly to see how it compared with its contemporaries and also because Hayao Miyazaki films are always worth a revisit. So I trundled off to JB Hi Fi after work last Monday and upgraded to a Blu-Ray.

Laputa: Castle in the Sky



Synopsis: Sheeta may be an orphan girl but she has deep connections with the past: a secret noble name; some incantations in a foreign language; and a blue gem with powers she doesn't yet comprehend. On the run from government secret agents and the full resources of the army - who believe the gem will lead them to the fabled floating city of Laputa where vast hordes of treasure await - she meets Pazu who is likewise orphaned and who also wants to find Laputa to vindicate his once humiliated father. When Sheeta is captured Pazu enlists the help of the Dola pirate gang to rescue her then find the legendary castle in the sky.

Production details:
Premiere: 23 July 1986 (between Cosmos Pink Shock and Ai City - see previous page)
Director / original story / screenplay: Hayao Miyazaki (co-director of the first ever season of Lupin the 3rd, director of Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, My Neighbour Totoro, Porco Rosso, Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle, The Wind Rises and much more - I've only included those anime I've reviewed in this thread)
Studio: this was the first release from Studio Ghibli, then a subsidiary of Tokuma Shoten
Music: Joe Hisaishi (long time collaborator with Hayao Miyazaki he has also provided songs and soundtracks to other anime - most recently Children of the Sea and Ni no Kuni)
Character design: Hayao Miyazaki and Tsukasa Tannai
Art director: Nizo Yamamoto and Toshiro Nozaki
Animation director: Tsukasa Tannai

Comments: Whenever I watch Miyazaki or Isao Takahata anime alongside their contemporaries in the grand survey I'm struck by the quality and detail of the animation and, especially, the artwork. Laputa: Castle in the Sky is on another plane altogether when I think of Nayuta or most any other title recently reviewed. Only Project A-ko would begin to come close. But, compared with them and despite its superior graphics, Laputa has a retro look about it. The steampunk depiction of Pazu's world, the archaic ruins of the floating castle and robots that are simultaneously sweet and vaguely menacing contribute to the sense of nostalgia, obviously, but Miyazaki has deliberately eschewed the then fashionable aesthetic of angular mecha and bouffy hairdos. The character and robot designs owe more to his days with Toei than they do with Macross or Gundam. As with his bowdlerising of Lupin III it's as if he is pointedly re-stating his vision of how anime should be made. The durability of that vision has vindicated his approach and allows his more recent films to maintain their currency despite their stuck-in-a-time-warp character designs. That's easily forgiven, though, thanks to the craft on display and the memorable blend of character, story-telling and the always present political themes.

Compared with Nausicaä, Miyazaki has upped the action quotient. There are fewer lingering scenes of wonder. Constantly active, Pazu lacks Nausicaä's considered inner world of the scientist / observer - a sign the director is aiming for a more comic, more boisterous mood. That's not to say Laputa lacks its own moments of awesome. While the floating castle, despite its defiance of gravity, lacks impact from a distance, once the cast arrives I'm always captivated by its scale, the nostalgic aura of a lost civilisation, the coherence and majesty of its public architecture, the absurdly loyal robots still maintaining it, the wildness of the now sovereign plants and animals and the ever present chance of a misstep and deadly fall. To that you can add Pazu's Welsh mining village inspired home, the perforated landscape of the surrounding hills, the immense chasm running through the middle of it all and the wondrous flying machines. (In a sort of Tardis effect the inside of the Dola gang's ship seems bigger than the outside allows.) Where Nausicaä begins with a comparatively leisurely survey of the wasteland with Lord Yupa followed by a tour of the Toxic Jungle with Nausicaä herself, Laputa begins with the boggling images of the heroine falling out of the sky and landing in Pazu's arms - an economic example of combining action with awe. Laputa is a high energy film. Like Pazu, it rarely stands still. You could say it successfully combines the thrills of discovery with the excitement of conflict and large doses of kinetic energy.


Sheeta and Pazu explore Laputa, long deserted by humans.
To give an idea of the scale of the tree you can see a robot at its base.


The image of Sheeta in Pazu's arms as he balances atop a crane illustrates an aspect of the film I appreciate: the natural, tactile relationship between the two. This reflects Pazu's physicality and activity. He would be the classic tactile learner. We see it in his mechanical skills and in the very physical way that he interacts with the world around him. He's just as likely to test a surface with his toes as look with his eyes. He revels in the hard surfaces of his environment of metal, wood, pottery and rock. Sheeta brings a softness that doesn't bother him at all. He's unfazed when she falls on him and comfortable under a blanket with her on the Dola lookout. Embarrassed blushes aren't, as it is in so much other anime, an inevitable product of proximity. His first action on discovering they've arrived on Laputa is to grasp Sheeta around the waste and swing her around impulsively. Even when he calms down he continues to hold her (see image at top of post), then the two lie on their backs together on the grass with their arms under each other. Ashitaka and San (Princess Mononoke) never achieve this sort of familiar intimacy.

Pazu isn't the only memorable character, although Miyazaki tends to rely on them having, like Pazu, notable traits rather than complexity or ambiguity - Mama Dola being the notable exception. I'll deal with her and Sheeta separately (through the prism of the grand survey), but even the best of the others lack depth. By the end no-one has developed much: the villains are dead; Sheeta is perhaps a little gamer (her opening gambit suggests she already possessed a steely resolve); Pazu and likewise the Dola gang are much as ever. Because most of the characters are comic in nature and thanks to the creative team's skills they are, for the most part, highly amusing. More problematic are the two villains Muska and the General, neither of whom rise above the level of caricature. That's acceptable as far as the General is concerned as the film is lampooning all things military. Muska, as a would be megalomaniac dictator, is disappointing. He lacks the intriguing ambiguity of the best Miyazaki villains such as (all women!) Kushana (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind), Lady Eboshi (Princess Mononoke) or Yubaba (Spirited Away). Here I'll give some credit to Mark Hamill whose mellifluous enunciation makes his Muska a little creepier than the curt, more transparent Minori Terada.

Miyazaki doesn't push his thematic pre-occupations as hard as he sometimes does elsewhere. For sure there's an anti-militarism message which is expressed in the General's buffoonery, the hyperbole of the fort and his flying battleship, and the craven greed of his troops. For a film that aims for a wide demographic, including children, I find alarming the deliberate, casual slaughter of the troops when Muska removes the floor from beneath their feet. More interesting is the inspiration from Miyazaki's trip to Wales during the UK miners' strike at the time of Margaret Thatcher (boo! hiss!). That inspiration is apparent in the countryside depicted in the film and in his sympathy for the characters working the mines. Miyazaki also presents his familiar yearning for things past along with a belief that the natural world will endure in the face of our worst efforts. The themes are integrated well with the narrative, sitting there for the viewer to make of them as they wish.

For this review I finally watched the original Japanese version, which retains the musical soundtrack as originally provided by Joe Hisaishi. Like Nausicaä before it the production was largely recorded using keyboards and synthesisers - sometimes to mimic an orchestra, at other times more openly electronic. For the Disney dub Hisaishi re-scored the soundtrack for full orchestra. There are pluses and minuses to the two versions. The original is more urgent but the electronic timbres don't always suit the nostalgic imagery. The orchestral version is grander, more refined but treacly at times. It's still Joe Hisaishi, still good and overall appropriate and effective. I would also add that the American version is averse to silence, frequently adding unnecessary dialogue whereas the original is more comfortable allowing the on-screen activity to speak for itself.


First row: Pazu and Sheeta
Second row: the Dola gang's flying blimp; Mama Dola
Third row: villains General Muoro and Colonel Muska
Fourth row: the hero's rescue of the maiden - with the crucial help of an old woman; and
the image of Sheeta and the robot suggests pulp science fiction magazine covers from the 50s.
(The anime is, among other things, a homage to... bricks.)


Sheeta, aka Princess Lusheeta Toel Ur Laputa: From the moment in the opening scene where Sheeta clocks Muska with a champagne bottle then attempts to navigate the outside of a blimp via the corrugations in the hull it's clear that she's game and she's smart, if otherwise pleasantly dull. This isn't a case of Pazu providing the courage she lacks. What he does give her is support and a sense of direction towards Laputa, the home of her ancestors. Her defiance of Muska at the climax of the film isn't arbitrary, nor has it been building over the course of the narrative. It was latent from the very beginning. Defiance and personal principles aside, she spends much of the film as the victim of the machinations of others, or being rescued or led about by Pazu. I'd rate her as a halfway good Miyazaki female character - a significant step down from Nausicaä, but somewhat better than Clarisse (Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro).

Mama Dola: The stand-out, most fun, most interesting character of the film. Helen McCarthy sums her up nicely: "the pirate queen who hides a heart of marshmallow in a shell of steel, is an affectionate portrait of a feisty, fiercely intelligent older woman." Her role in the film isn't simply decorative. Her interventions get the film rolling and are pivotal in transporting Pazu and Sheeta from the village to the floating castle. One of Miyazaki's terrific ambiguous and powerful female characters she is also a template for Yubaba / Zeniba. She may be a sentimental thing inspired by the dreams and the courage of Sheeta and Pazu, but a principal motivation is to profit from the legendary wealth of Laputa. She also allows Miyazaki to indulge some of his coarser humour. Both voice actors Kotoe Hatsui and Cloris Leachman revel in the comic opportunities she provides with the Japanese actor coming across as more sly and the American more rumbunctious. Both interpretations work well with her appearance and behaviour on screen.

Rating: the high end of very good. As I watch more and more anime my regard for Hayao Miyazaki is growing. I started watching anime in earnest in 2007 and within three years had seen all his feature films (Cagliostro excepted) released to that date. They came highly recommended and were relatively easily obtainable. Back then I'd seen about a quarter or less of the anime I've now watched. I was captivated by particular aspects of anime not central to Miyazaki's vision so tended to see his films as less strange, more mainstream. This survey is ramming home what a rare talent he is.
+ artwork and animation, action story and sense of wonder, fun characters especially Mama Dola, themes integrated into narrative well
- villains are one dimensional, compared with some of Miyazaki's other female heroines Sheeta is a little dull, the gratuitous killing for a family movie

Resources:
Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Madman Blu-ray
ANN
The font of all knowledge
500 Essential Anime Movies: the Ultimate Guide, Helen McCarthy, Collins Design
100 Anime, Philip Brophy, British Film Institute Publishing
The Anime Encyclopaedia 3rd Revised Edition: A Century of Japanese Animation, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle
Anime Explosion: The What? Why? & Wow! of Japanese Animation, Patrick Drazen, Stone Bridge Press
Anime from Akira to Howl's Moving Castle, Susan Napier, St Martin's Griffin



Last edited by Errinundra on Sun Dec 22, 2019 7:34 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 16, 2019 3:06 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl #67: Moira,



Roots Search

Synopsis: Moira is a crew member and test subject on an orbiting laboratory around the planet Tolmeckius (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind shout-out there), whose X-ray emanations are known to enhance latent precognitive abilities. Moira experiences visions of the violent deaths of her comrades just as a careening spaceship exits warp space and almost collides with the laboratory. Investigating the ship they find only one survivor, along with a humanoid alien. Reasonably assuming the alien to be the cause of the deaths, the captain orders it to be expelled into space. This action turns out to be ineffective as the alien is able to exist within, and feed off, the emotional, mental and psychic inner world of the humans. One by one it picks them off. Moira's innate connection to the future may be her only prospect for survival.

Production details:
Premiere: 10 September 1986
Director: Hisashi Sugai (his only other credit in the ANN encyclopaedia is as a producer for MD Geist)
Studio: Production Wave
Screenplay: Michiru Shimada (among her many scripting credits can be found Urusei Yatsura, Magical Angel Creamy Mami, Magical Fairy Persia, Dirty Pair, Dragon Ball, Maison Ikkoku, Spirit of Wonder, Rurouni Kenshin, One Piece, Little Busters! and Little Witch Academia)
Storyboard: Katsumi Endo
Unit Director: Hiroshi Negishi
Music: Osamu Shoji
Character Design: Sanae Kobayashi
Art Director: Yoshinori Takao
Mecha design: Yasuhiro Moriki (his long mechanical and monster design career includes Lily CAT, Vampire Princess Miyu, Iczer Reborn, Silent Möbius, Martian Successor Nadesico, Crest / Banner of the Stars, Angel Beats!, Majestic Prince, Bakuon!!, and the art setting for Girls' Last Tour)

Comments: Coming in at #23 as the worst anime in the ANN encylcopaedia's Bayesian estimate of viewers' ratings and universally panned by reviewers Roots Search proves that, if you're making anime, no matter how revered your inspirations may be, lousy execution can reduce everything to an ugly, unintelligible rubble. Now, I'm not going to give this OAV a 💣 rating (weak or worse) as it does have some things working in its favour. Furthermore, its negatives aren't as putridly bad as in some anime (though it does have a lot of negatives). It isn't as nasty as Urotsukidōji II: Legend of the Demon Womb, or as incompetent as Hametsu No Mars or quite as dumb as The Humanoid or as mind-numbingly boring as Limit Cycle. And, when considered in the light of the themes borrowed from its two major inspirations, the ending isn't as opaque or absurd as it may seem at first blush (though it still has gaping holes).

The first thing to notice is how ugly the production is, which is surprising given Yasuhiro Moriki's pedigree. Moira and the sole survivor of the spaceship, Buzz, aside, (it isn't the anime's fault but he just can't be taken seriously in the aftermath of Toy Story), the character designs are worse than mediocre. Sure, the alien is meant to be ghastly, but it looks like a cheap latex mash-up from the 60s or 70s Doctor Who wardrobe department - a Sontaran with a vagina where its mouth should be. Don't be surprised when it sprouts tentacles in the presence of the OAV's only real female character (the other is an apparition), although the image below is as far as her violation goes. Moira's older crew mates are, we learn, haunted by past reprehensible behaviour, so their appearance is, I suppose, indicative of their moral shortcomings. Just the same, Mama Dola from the recently aired Laputa: Castle in the Sky proved that gross can still be captivating. That's not the case here, unfortunately. Of the two exceptions, Buzz is blandly typical of the era while Moira is more distinctive in her beret and high-waisted pants. Background artwork is minimal in detail, functional at best and far too spacious for the circumstances. The animation is similarly minimal, inadequate for the task and draws attention to itself thanks to its shortcomings.


You get the idea.

The screenplay, especially the dialogue, can be daft or nonsensical. Control panels spontaneously erupt in flames when the dramatic tension rises. Doors are melted by laser guns then re-appear a few frames later. One character meets up with another declaring that things are too dangerous for anyone to be left alone then promptly departs - alone - leaving the other person - alone. Then there's this gem from the most psychologically twisted character in the OAV spoken to Moira, pretty much the only person keeping any sort of composure, "That's too gory for a young woman to have to see." As it turns out, he's the one who'll crack up. The characters' unprompted philosophical platitudes are baffling, having little to do with the on-screen context. I see how they fitted in with the overarching thematic ideas but the OAV does a poor job of integrating them with the dramatic content. Again, I'm surprised that Michiru Shimada could produce such a script.

So what does Roots Search do well? It does maintain a creepy and violent atmosphere, even on a second viewing. The OAV is generally effective in the way it links each death with the victim's psychological condition. The alien amplifies a persons guilt about their worst behaviour in the past until it leaves them defenceless against further attack. On balance Moira is a positive character - and I mean that in more than one way. On one level she, and Buzz to a lesser extent, keeps her head when all about are losing theirs (figuratively and literally). Even though she is initially portrayed as highly emotional, as events progress she acts decisively under pressure. At the climax, she will save the helpless Buzz. She's also positive on another level. Her visions of the future contrast with her crew mates' fixations on the past; her hopeful persona with their regrets. She is young (as is Buzz); they are significantly older. When the alien invades her psyche it can only amplify what is there - the future. Note that the name Moira means fate or destiny.

The OAV's debt to Ridley Scott's Alien, released just seven years earlier, is obvious, even if this creature is more self-aware and less comprehensively deadly. Roots Search borrows equally from Andrei Tarkovsky's 1972 Solaris and when viewed in this light the narrative and its outcome make somewhat more sense. Solaris is a planet covered in an ocean that creates multiple effects that have led scientists to believe that the ocean itself is hyper-intelligent. After the crew of an orbiting space station bombard the planet with X-rays the space station begins to be populated with people from their pasts to disturbing effect and sometimes deadly outcome. Roots Search combines Alien's rampaging monster with Solaris's past made real. Moira's satellite appears as a foetus - with the psychically creative planet below and the psyche eating alien penetrating the spaceship from without. The old men will have their fears and their past made real and be consumed; the young couple will have their hopes and their future made real, create a metaphorical baby and stride forth from the womb that their spacecraft has become. Whatever one might make of that, thanks to the shoddy execution the discourse comes across as silly instead of profound. Furthermore, I'm not sufficiently convinced that Moira and Buzz are striding into the future. They may be victims of an illusion created by the alien and the planet and be stepping into the vacuum of space. I'm not sure if the anime is ending on a deliberately ambiguous note or if it's just an enormous plot hole.

Rating: not really good
+ atmosphere and tension; there are some interesting ideas if you're prepared to dig for them; perhaps Moira
- screenplay, animation, artwork, characters and their ugly designs (Moira perhaps excepted), daft philosophising

Resources:
ANN
Justin Sevakis's Buried Garbage article
The font of all knowledge
Dread Central, ROOTS SEARCH Must Have Inspired EVENT HORIZON and I Won’t Hear Otherwise, Jonathon Barkan
The Anime Encyclopaedia, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle



Final rant (feel free to ignore it): The anime, and Moira in particular, illustrates one of the things that motivated this grand survey. Moira is the point of view character, the protagonist (she has the psychic ability to counter the alien) and the heroine (she saves Buzz, who will have his Rochester, a la Jane Eyre, setback to endure). Remember that her name means fate or destiny. Now read the the ANN encyclopaedia plot summary. She's not even listed as a main character, finding herself placed below two males whose roles are to be fodder for the alien. There are other similar instances in the encyclopaedia that I'll mention as the survey progresses. Throughout the survey I've bemoaned how often an anime with a female protagonist could be released in continental Europe, Latin and South America, the Middle East and Asia, yet remain unavailable in the Anglophone world. It was as if we were ignoring her deliberately. Things improved dramatically in the 1980s and I don't doubt that the intended Japanese audience and the incidental Anglophone audience for OAVs were seeking different things from their viewing experience, but it seems to me that some in our English speaking world were indulging in wilful erasure. I will re-state my thesis that anime's greatest single gift to the world is the proliferation of its female protagonists. Not its shonen action heroes, nor its mecha, nor its distinctive visual styles.


Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 4:52 am; edited 4 times in total
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 23, 2019 10:56 pm Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girl #68: Princess Apricot of Fountainland,



Bosco Adventure
(ボスコアドベンチャー, ie Bosuko Adobencha, not Bosco Daiboken)

Synopsis: Apricot is crown princess of Fountainland, and guarantor of the health and fertility of all the lands around. The evil Scorpion, who loathes water, orders his minion Hoodman to kidnap Apricot to prevent her from ascending the throne after the death of her parents. His plan is to make the world a desert haven for his arthropod kin. Escaping Hoodman's flying boat she befriends Frog (yes, an anthropomorphic frog), Tutty (a tortoise) and Otta (an otter). Together they set out in Tutty's own flying boat, the Bosco, on a journey to Fountainland to place Apricot on the throne before a forecast total eclipse of the sun - the moment at which Scorpion's ascendancy will be irreversible. The crew have many adventures on their journey: battling Hoodman all the way; and making new friends. In Apricot's final confrontation with Scorpion those new friends may just be the difference between a barren arthropod future or a return to the halcyon days of the past.

Production details:
Premiere: 06 October 1986
Director: 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 Satsujin Kippu wa Heart-iro among others)
Studio: Nippon Animation
Source material: Il Bosco delle Meraviglie (ie, The Forest of Wonders - published in English as The Woodland Folk series) by Antonio Lupatelli aka Tony Wolf
Screenplay: Nobuyuki Fujimoto and Soji Yoshikawa
Music: Toshiyuki Watanabe (Coral Reef Legend: Elfie of the Blue Sea, The Irresponsible Captain Tylor OAV, Great Dangaioh, Space Brothers, Majestic Prince, Giovanni's Island and Gatchaman Crowds Insight among others)
Character Design: Shuichi Seki
Art Director: Goichi Kudo


Top row: the Bosco and its crew.
Middle: villains Jack, Franz and Hoodman.
Bottom: when Scorpion attacks bring on Dragon Mama.


Comments: The grand project has been on a tonal roller coaster this last month: from tentacles to shojo science fiction to Ghibli, back to tentacles and now a children's television show from Nippon Animation clearly rooted in its World Masterpiece Theatre literary leanings while adding magical girl tropes and Miyazaki influences. Being aimed at a young, presumably female, audience means it likely that older viewers will find it simple fare for the most part. The lack of a clear cut romantic sub-plot suggests younger viewers than Studio Pierrot's magical girl audience; perhaps more on par with the early Toei shows from the same genre. (Well, Frog is fond of Apricot, but my imagining of elf girl / amphibian hybrids hopping around Fountainland says more about me than Nippon Animation's marketing goals.) The artwork lies somewhere between the production line Toei and the more ambitious Pierrot and, thanks to the overarching story line and the mostly engaging characters, wasn't a chore to watch. I could locate only eleven fansubbed episodes out of 26 so watched the others raw. Clear, if oddly worded, episode summaries in Wikipedia, along with the series' straightforward plots, were enough to easily understand what was going on. The raw episodes were from a Russian release. As with so much other previous non-otaku aimed anime with female protagonists, the show was aired all over the world... except English speaking countries.

The fairy tale atmosphere, with the talking anthropomorphic animals, dragons, trolls and unicorns, and the stupendous power of the all-important fountain, reveals the link to the magical girl genre even if neither Apricot nor anyone else have any magical or transforming abilities. Actually, that's not entirely true. When, in the climactic scene of the last episode, Apricot sits upon the throne at the fountainhead beneath the total eclipse of the sun she is revealed as a goddess and life-giver, presaging Madoka (Puella Magi Madoka Magica) still 25 years away. She's also a Nausicaä (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind) - not just in her colour scheme, but also in her intermediary role between the physical world and its inhabitants. Premiering ten weeks after Laputa: Castle in the Sky makes any judgement difficult, but Apricot clinging to the side, then falling from the villains' flying ship is redolent of Sheeta's travails. Convergent evolution, perhaps?

Bosco Adventure serves up a reliable weekly dose of goals, conflict, tension and release - all embellished and magnified by the aerial setting. Over the longer course, the likeable characters carry the show. With one, maybe two, exceptions they are simply defined and easy to appreciate. Apricot, herself, is something of a cipher. She's meant to be the every girl so, other than her moral attributes, doesn't display any notable quirks or make any dramatic poses. For the most part her demeanour reflects the emotional tone of the frame - happiness, fear, wonderment and so on. I had few candidates for a memorable image for the top of the post. She is loyal, kind, empathic and mind-boggingly courageous, to the point of recklessness. And, while she isn't the sharpest chip in the woodpile, her convictions ensure she always makes the right decision when tested. Meant to be the audience's self-identifying character she is the only one devoid of clownish elements, leaving her as a comparatively serious figure. Her fellow travellers are more fun, but still simple. A frog as the heroic man of action, is both unlikely and innately humorous. Tutty is the older, eccentric thinker, strategist and inventor. He and the more direct Frog are sometimes at loggerheads (yuk! yuk!) over strategy, though both always defer to Apricot. Otta is sweet, simple, means well but often goofs up and is generally delegated the menial tasks. Overall, the crew members of the Bosco make an endearing, entertaining quartet.


Damia: so good she deserves a screenshot all on her own.

The villains are a mixed bunch. Scorpion, the ultimate big bad, is veiled on the few occasions he appears before the last three or four episodes. Just as well, as he's thoroughly, one-dimensionally evil and thus irredeemably boring. His chief deputy from the very first episode is Hoodman. I much prefer the Japanese pronunciation of his name - Hoodieman - which, unintentionally, makes it one of the earliest uses of the term "hoodie". Something of a Wyle E Coyote figure, he eventually earned my sympathy. Despite being thoroughly nasty, none of his elaborate plans ever succeed: either the plans were ill-conceived to start with; stuffed up by his own incompetence (or, more likely, his offsiders'), are thwarted by the Bosco crew; or defeated by sheer dumb luck. When Damia, his rival for Scorpion's favour, arrives in episode 15, the two sabotage each other's efforts thereby adding a new element of humour to proceedings. Seiyu Banjou Ginga's voice range is a treat from deep, rich and commanding to agitated to whimpering and simpering. His moans when things go awry are always funny. He begins the series ambitious and authoritative and winds up resigned and fatalistic. His confederates Jack and Franz (a cat and a gnome, respectively) are well-meaning clowns in thrall to their somewhat more capable boss. As to be expected, they don't ever rise above the limitations of their role.

The revelation of the series is Damia, Hoodman's effective rival. From the moment she makes her first significant appearance in episode 15 it's as if she's walked in from another series aimed at an older audience. She has the most expressive design of any of the characters, is fluid in her movements where most everyone else is relatively static, struts about with the best poses and utters the best lines. Had she been the protagonist I'd have had multiple screenshots to choose from for the top of the post image. She has a verve, an intelligence and a chutzpah that dominate every scene she's in, along with a Rin Tohsaka (Fate / Stay Night) I'm-smarter-than-you-and-we-both-know-it aura and the same impish approach to her endeavours. Her intelligence also means that she, alone of the villains, will develop reservations about Scorpion's ultimate intentions. In the 99 anime so far covered in the survey (including 6 proto-beautiful fighting girls, 20 splashes of crimson and 9 marginalia) I've not encountered anyone quite like her. If I search the list I can think of Simone Lorraine's late series dramatic flourishes (The Star of the Seine), Fujiko Mine's brazen villainy (Lupin III) or Jeanne Francaix's impudence (Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross).

Rating: decent
+ fun story and characters, especially Damia
- rarely rises above its limited ambitions as a children's story, ridiculous big bad

Resources:
ANN
The font of all knowledge
The Anime Encyclopaedia, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle
Fantasmary - My First Love: Tony Wolf



Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 4:55 am; edited 4 times in total
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 01, 2019 6:13 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girls #69, Miyako Negishi (aka Neko) and La Midin Dimida,



Tobira o Akete
(Open the Door)

Synopsis: Unsociable Miyako - known to her fellow school students as Neko (from Negishi Miyako) - keeps secret her telekinetic powers. She and two other espers - a werelion and a teleporter - are summoned to another world where she is hailed as the reincarnation of the legendary warrior princess, Neryulla, and urged by a mysterious man who calls himself Ladin to lead the people in a revolt against their oppressive overlord, Duran III. Joined by a spirited Amazon, La Midin Dimida, they march en masse upon Duran's III's fortress where Neko will discover that Ladin is intimately connected to the king and that her naive idealism has been exploited for other ends.

Production details:
Premiere: 01 November 1986
Director: Keizo Shimizu (has had a long career as an animation director from 1980 to 2018; his directorial roles have been limited, mostly involving the side projects of the original Legend of the Galactic Heroes, of which he was heavily involved in other roles)
Studio: Magic Bus
Source material: the 1984 short story of the same name by Motoko Arai published by CBS Sony
Screenplay: Kazumi Koide and Satoshi Dezaki
Storyboard: Satoshi Dezaki (brother of Osamu Dezaki and notable director in his own right)
Music: Mark Goldenberg (American guitarist and composer)
Character Design: Setsuko Shibuichi
Art Director: Torao Arai
Animation Director: Yukari Kobayashi


The good guys (clockwise from top left):
Neko's loyal personal guard, Towado; Neko with fellow espers Haruka and Keiichiro;
La Midin Dimida; and a yuri moment with Neko and Dimida.


Comments: The 1986 roller coaster continues as I plunge from a children's series to a movie aimed squarely at an older male audience. To whit, in the opening sequence the protagonist - Neko - introduces herself as a literature major at a private university, demonstrates her sullen, outsider personality among her female peers, and then reveals her attractiveness while showering to her prospective male viewers. I don't want to sound too critical of this last point: the two main female characters may fight in what are effectively bathing suits, but this isn't an ecchi or pornographic anime, and their sexiness must be weighed against their capabilities, their autonomy and their prominent roles in the narrative. Neko isn't the most memorable female protagonist to be met in this survey but, notably, she will lead a revolution and slay the father-figure in order to emancipate herself, her friends and the oppressed masses of the world in which she finds herself. The title, "Open the Door", is a metaphor for that emancipation as well as the obvious isekai translocation and, also, her coming to terms with a perfunctorily examined sexual assault from her childhood, which presumably accounts for her morose personality. That dourness, along with the anime's portrayal of her as object as much as subject, means it unlikely the viewer will connect with her. Hence, the narrative is amusing but not emotionally engaging, so will probably be largely forgotten as I move on with the survey.

La Midin Dimida is more fun than the protagonist, even if the creators give her little substance beyond her bravura attitude. She leads her army across a mountain range simply because she was told it couldn't be done. (I wonder how the soldiers felt about that.) The moment she hears that Neko may be the re-embodiment of Neryulla she challenges her to a sword fight. To her credit, Dimida submits when she realises that her superior swordplay is no match for Neko's supernatural powers. Thereafter they become fast friends. Indeed, the film strongly hints at a yuri relationship when they have a pillow fight and Neko declares, "For me to express my real self is a real first!" My reaction to that remains cynical; it seems more fanservice than either character exposition or social politics.

The most complex character is Ladin / Duran III, who shares some traits with Kirei Kotomine from the Fate / Stay Night franchise. Both are bored with the their world, but where Kirie seeks to unleash chaos, Duran III foments revolution against himself, which is hard to fathom, in order to re-invigorate the kingdom with new structures and ideas. It is he who scouted for the espers in Tokyo, who transported them to his own world and created the myth of Neryulla. (I have to give him him credit for the time investment involved in creating a continent wide legend.) Naturally enough he expects his ultimate victory will have him ruling over a brave new world. Apart from the obvious flaws that he may be defeated, or that the likelihood is that his rule after the civil war is likely to mirror that beforehand, there's the little matter that Neko might actually "open the door" to other possibilities.


The bad guys (clockwise from top left):
He isn't Durand Durand, or Duran Duran, but Duran III; alter ego Ladin pulls the strings;
The Black Knight is too good to be Duran III's general; muscle-bound Altire thinks he's immortal.


The remaining characters are, like Dimida, simple. There's a playboy teleporting esper (Haruka); a jolly, ethusiastic esper who shape changes into a lion (Keiichiro); an arrogant muscle-bound villain (Altire) who must be routinely beaten; a loyal retainer come personal guard (Towado); an honourable Black Knight to put Dimida to her final test; and a squadron of children to provide comic relief, pathos and be the innocents in need of rescuing. The simple characters match well the breezy pace of the film, making for an easy, but, as I said earlier, disposable viewing experience. It's playful, rather than funny; engaging rather than gripping; occasionally clever rather than profound. Best moment is a riff on the Marshmallow Man sequence from Ghost Busters when Neko uses her esper powers to transform a strap pendant into an army destroying monster. Tabire o Akete has other moments where it plays with or averts familiar tropes. The name Duran III is a joke referral to Duran Duran (which, in turn, was inspired by the villain Durand Durand from Barbarella) The isekai inhabitants, all of whom have the brightly-coloured hair of 1980s' anime, are routinely bemused by the brown and black hair of Neko and her companions from Tokyo. Altire seems to have been dropped in to the film from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. His pompous, self-important behaviour is comic even before he is reduced to impotence by Neko and her allies. These male superheroes have to get with the program: beautiful fighting girls rule.

Rating: so-so
+ breezy pace; playful tone; fun characters
- doesn't stand out in any way; shallow characters, fanservice undermines the positive depiction of the principal females

Resources:
ANN
The font of all knowledge
The Anime Encyclopaedia, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle


Neko as Princess Neryulla. I love the composed set of her mouth and the resolute gaze.

Milestone: 65 beautiful fighting girls + 6 proto-beautiful fighting girls + 20 splashes of crimson + 9 marginalia = 100 anime titles covered in the survey so far.


Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 4:56 am; edited 4 times in total
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 08, 2019 3:09 am Reply with quote
Beautiful Fighting Girls #70: Yuriko Edogawa, Ingrid Shizuka Gruber & Midori Ichinotani,

Katsugeki Shojo Tanteidan
(Girl Detective Club)


Top: Midori Ichinotani. Bottom left: Ingrid "Shizuka" Gruber. Bottom right: Yuriko Edogawa.
They aren't as competent as these images suggest. (And, yeah, the fansub had a low resolution.)


Synopsis: Midori, Yuriko and Shizuka are students at the exclusive St Gautama Girls' Academy. The principal, with an eye to enhancing the school's prestige and, perhaps, even ruling the world, covets the powerful rocket fighter plane thingy that Midori's fabulously wealthy father has constructed in the basement of his mansion. With the help of his three student lackeys - led by the haughty Akiko Jissouji - the principal kidnaps Midori and sends Jissouji and co to find the flying weapons platform just as Yuriko and Shizuka arrive in search for their missing friend. As luck would have it, Yuriko and Shizuka stumble upon the machine first. Yuriko, convinced that her arcade game experience qualifies her as pilot, proceeds to destroy large swathes of the city before rescuing Midori from the rubble.

Production details:
Premiere: 22 November 1986
Director: Masaharu Okuwaki (ten episodes of Space Adventure Cobra (TV); Dirty Pair: Affair on Nolandia; Robotan; Go! Wrestler Gundan; The Twins at St Clare's; Lupin III: Dragon of Doom; City Hunter: Death of the Vicious Criminal Ryo Saeba; Mermaid Forest (TV) and Kirarin Revolution among others)
Studio: TMS
Screenplay: Yuho Hanazono
Storyboard: Masaharu Okuwaki
Music: Hiroaki Sei
Original creator: Yuu Eguchi
Character design & animation director: Masako Goto
Art director: Kazutoshi Shimizu

Comments: The 1986 sludge continues apace with this negligible OAV from TMS and Masaharu Okuwaki, who previously removed the Dirty Pair sparkle from the anaemic Affair on Nolandia (which at least had a half-decent budget and a half-decent last 15 minutes) and now serves up a pale imitation of Project A-ko. Girl Detective Club lacks the innovative comic potential of Kei and Yuri from the former and the elaborate narrative construction and pay-off of the latter. The humour of all three franchises is pretty much based on the same premise: take a parlous and / or comic scenario, then escalate matters by piling ever more fraught or comic developments upon the protagonists and their foes alike. The hoped for outcome is spectacular absurdity. The original Dirty Pair reached such comic heights from time to time but, although Girl Detective Club climaxes with mass destruction, and there's no denying how ridiculous it is, it fails to generate laughs let alone the sheer astonishment that Project A-ko manages. The film had one big advantage, of course: an 80 minute run time - over three times GDC's or the individual episodes of Dirty Pair. Nishijima, Moriyama and Shirasaka use the extra 50+ minutes to leisurely set up the three entwined narrative threads and to engender some degree of sympathy for A-ko and two of her adversaries in B-ko and Agent D. The viewer is properly prepared for the sequence of big pay-offs in the second half. Okuwaki has neither the time luxury nor the elan to pull off something similar.


Shizuka is a rip-off of Project A-ko's C-ko. Hiding a machine gun in your panties must be provoking one way or the other.
The same gun - moments later - appears in the image at the top of the post. How did I miss the bulges? At least I now know where Fandora pulled hers from.


The lack of time isn't the only problem. The central characters are generic and unfunny. The opening scene depicting a lecher trying to pick up the three heroines one after the other is tediously predictable, setting the tone for what's to come. The three girls are the members of one of two rival factions vying for influence at St Gautama's. The senior student of the three - Midori - is presumably the smartest but, given that she's absent for most of the OAV, never gets the chance to prove herself. Shizuka, the youngest, is a clone of Project A-ko's C-ko in appearance, save her straighter and somewhat darker hair, and more comprehensively analogous in personality, except for her more overtly yuri behaviour. She's every bit as self-centred. As with C-ko she gets her way by crying loudly. The catch is, unlike her counterpart, she isn't the object of desire for the contending parties and thus the cassus belli - an important factor that provides an ironic counterpoint to C-ko's obnoxious personality. Yuriko's only notable characteristic is her idiocy. The other faction is, already by 1986, an anime cliché: a bully, Jissouji, with the obligatory anime private girls' school bully's haughty laugh and her two loyal puppets. Working at the bidding of the school principal, they demonstrate a psychopathic determination to do away with their rivals. Funnily enough the inept Yuriko demonstrates a far greater capacity for mass destruction, even when it's unintentional. The cast is rounded off by the ridiculously ambitious school principal and a battleaxe of a female home-room teacher. There's nothing much else to say about the characters because that's about all there is to them. Their role is to inhabit the plot; they have no significance.

The comedy and the characters are suitably graced by indifferent animation, artwork that ranges from plain to ugly, likewise the character designs (Shizuku is the pick of the bunch) and hardly noticeable incidental music. The OP and ED songs stand out, mainly because everything is else is so mediocre. The first is a pre-Beatles style rock 'n' roll tune complete with a la.... la-la-la-la... laaa chorus taken straight from Elton John's Crocodile Rock (itself a homage to the era) and the second a typical 1980s anime syrupy ballad.

Rating: weak. Girl Detective Club isn't outright bad; it's just irredeemably mediocre, doing nothing well. (Happily, my next review will be an example of an absurd comedy that is done well.)
+ Yuriko's and Shizuku's joyride in the flying weapons system; the scale of St Gautama's sensha-do club
- lame comedy, one-note characters, limited animation, mediocre artwork

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


Villains: the Principal & Jissouji.


Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 4:57 am; edited 3 times in total
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Errinundra
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Joined: 14 Jun 2008
Posts: 6545
Location: Melbourne, Oz
PostPosted: Thu Dec 12, 2019 2:54 am Reply with quote
This is my first midweek review for a long, long time. I'm up to my last four anime from 1986, so I'd like to get them finished by the end of the year.

Beautiful Fighting girl pair #71: Kei & Yuri,


Yuri taunts Kei. After the disappointing Affair on Nolandia, the two are back to the their charming and bickering best.

Dirty Pair: Project Eden
(aka Dirty Pair: the Movie)

Synopsis: In the year 2141 spaceship warp drives require the rare metal Vizorium as fuel. Two ideologically antagonistic nations have licences to mine the commodity on the only planet where it can be found: Agerna. When their mines and plants are sabotaged and all the workers killed they naturally blame one another, so the Lovely Angels (more commonly nicknamed the Dirty Pair) are sent to investigate by the 3WA. That mightn't do much for the planet's or its inhabitants' prospects but agents Kei and Yuri will get to the bottom of things. In the process they will meet a mad scientist who lectures rocks about his theories on evolution, a petty thief after a two hundred year old bottle of wine, a butler who's handy with a light sabre and hordes of monsters with ravenous appetites for the precious metal.

Production details:
Premiere: 28 November 1986
Director: Koichi Mashimo (Ai City, Dominion Tank Police, The Weathering Continent, Eat Man, Noir, .hack//SIGN, Madlax, Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE, .hack//Roots, El Cazador de la Bruja, the 2008 version of Blade of the Immortal and Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~, just to list what has been or will be reviewed in this survey)
Studios: Shochiku & Sunrise
Origins: the light novel series by Haruka Takachiko.
Script: Hiroyuki Hoshiyama
Music: Kenzo Shiguma
Character design & animation director: Tsukasa Dokite (the same person who animated the amazing sequence in Project A-ko where the protagonist hops across the sky on fighter planes and missiles)
Art director: Mitsuharu Miyamae
Mechanical design: Kazutaka Miyatake (most notable as mechanical designer for the Macross franchise)
OP animation: Koji Morimoto (co-founded Studio 4°C, directed Franken's Gears from Robot Carnival, Hero from Ai Monogatari, Magnetic Rose from Memories, Eternal Family, Noiseman Sound Insect, Four Day Weekend, Connected, Beyond from Animatrix, Dimension Bomb from Genius Party and the opening animation to Short Peace)




Comments: The Lovely Angels return in what is universally rated as the best of their anime adaptations - something with which I concur on the basis of my previous reviews and having also watched Flight 005 Conspiracy. (I'll be covering that in due course, along with the 1987-8 OAV series and the mid-nineties Dirty Pair Flash OAV). After the backward step that was Affair on Nolandia Koichi Mashimo has condensed all the best aspects of the original TV series into eighty minutes: the fraught yet comic situations, the insinuating banter between the two women, their affectionate familiarity, the affected poses, the explosions, the demolition trail they leave behind wherever they go and, of course, the fanservice. To this Mashimo will add a sly intelligence that subtly worms its way into your consciousness with its self-effacing, leg-pulling absurdity. And, despite the pervasive genial tone, the pacing has more in common with Ai City than his later, often languid, efforts. No, the set pieces follow rapidly one after the other. Project Eden also makes sense, which is a relief after his earlier film. To all that you can add his characteristic use of intense colours presented in sharp contrast and his film noir deployment of light and shadow.

The film gets off to a terrific start with a prologue that is both expansive in its vision, parallels in miniature the main story and briefly introduces the principal antagonist, Carson D Carson - a one time petty thief who has set his eyes on bigger loot - black market Vizorium and expensive bottles of wine. To foil the sale of the precious metal Kei and Yuri visit a gigantic pleasure palace, a la Nora, located on an artificial ring around a planet in the mould of Larry Niven's Ringworld. (It avoids Niven's gravitational instability oversight by mooring the ring to the planet's surface.) When a swimmer dives into a glass-enclosed pool of water it's as if she's being swallowed by a sea of stars. The arresting image may have been inspired by a similar scene in Nolandia, but here Mashimo animates it with far more elan. As to be expected, the interception of the sale goes awry: Carson gets away shortly before one of his confederates detonates a bomb that sets of a chain reaction of explosions that leaves the ring a twisted mess. It's the whole set of Dirty Pair tropes in a nutshell and a foretaste of what's to come after the opening credits roll.


Screenshots don't do the opening credits full justice.

The credits themselves are arresting. The work of one of my favourite anime auteurs, Koji Morimoto (see the list above for a sample of his achievements), it combines James Bond tropes with film noir sensibilities, a psychedelic palette and layered images that constantly shift to reveal some new object to focus upon within the frame. With its jazzy, very 80s nightclub song, "Safari Eyes", the OP manages to be both very much of its time yet still impresses after 33 years. Just as Mashimo will return again and again to the girls with guns genre in the years to come, his intros will likewise mine Morimoto's mini-masterpiece for inspiration.

Kei and Yuri fit together like a gun and a bullet. The film captures the sense that they have been mates and professional colleagues for years. They have an easy familiarity that succeeds for the viewer because it is fundamentally re-assuring. There really isn't any need for personal drama or character development. In any case, you're not going to get either in show like this. Even if Carson D Carson will steal Kei's heart away to leave her seemingly bereaved, you know it's nothing but a momentary trough in a sea of men for her. Rather, the Dirty Pair's informal rapport promotes an innate trust in each other's ability, provides ironic humour whenever one or the other slips up, and encourages a banter that is both pithy and barbed. Because the viewer has been quickly familiarised with their straightforward personalities it's as if we're in on the joke with them.

One of the sly jokes in play is how the film subverts the fanservice of Kei and Yuri's wrestling outfits. The pair lose their iconic clothing early in the piece when they are interrupted while bathing by Carson and a horde of monsters after the Vizorium in his possession. Thereafter Yuri uses towels for a makeshift bikini while Kei takes the expedient route of nicking Carson's clothes, leaving him in only in his pink and purple polka-dotted boxer shorts for much of the movie. Hey! If it's good enough for the females to go around in their underwear, it's good enough for the male. These wardrobe complications lead to one of the two funniest moments of the movie and one of my favourite slapstick comedy scenes in all animedom (see image below, left). Kei pulls a gun on Carson, he kicks it out of her hand, she leaps off the platform to catch it with her toes, Yuri tries to catch Kei and Carson grabs the bottom piece of Yuri's improvised bikini. Down below the big bad, Professor Wattsman, is interrogating, of all things, a rock: demanding to know why it's doing nothing while humans are refining it into Vizorium. Doesn't it know that it'll go the way of the trilobites and dinosaurs? The key to a comic, nail-biting scene like this is to draw it out as long as possible, forcing the victims to endure their agony while the villain remains blissfully unaware of their dire situation. The scientist's lunacy is that little bit extra that pushes the scene beyond fraught to gleefully absurd. Mashimo is a master at drawing scenes out (though, not always to such spellbinding effect). Wattsman gets the other hilarious moment of the movie when he's first introduced by female voices singing his name over a techno rhythm. He even obliges by giving the camera a gormless smile. He thinks the Vizorium enriched rock contains the genetic material of a master species that, in a re-run of the themes in Ai City, will return and bring with it an enlightened era in the universe. Trying to unlock the creatures of his fantasies, all he manages to produce are Vizorium hungry monsters. When Kei and Yuri land on top of one of his experiments he mistakenly believes he has finally succeeded. That's right: the beautiful fighting girls are his long sought after super race, the real newtypes! "The dawn of a new mankind! The Garden of Eden! The whole universe is next!" he rants at the very end of the film. He will go to prison a happy man.


Left: Carson, Yuri and Kei in dire straits.
Right (from top): Wattsman, Carson D Carson and the Vizorium-hungry monsters.


The end of the film is its weakest element. Wattsman is little more than a laboratory nerd who can be easily disposed of, while Carson has progressed from villain to ally and love interest. The film is left to rely on the monsters en masse and upon transforming Wattsman's valet into a fearsome light sabre warrior for the climactic battle. The result is lacklustre compared with the rest of the movie, although compensated somewhat by two ironic contrasts between music and image. The first is the setting of the destruction of Wattsman's laboratory to a mournful cello solo, signifying loss rather than triumph. The second reverses the effect by having an upbeat, positive theme accompany the final scenes as Carson accidentally triggers Wattsman's doomsday device thereby releasing hordes of monsters who proceed to slaughter the entire human population on the planet. Heavy stuff to end on, though typical of future Mashimo and in keeping with the Dirty Pair tradition.

Rating: very good. Since first watching it eight years ago my opinion of Dirty Pair: Project Eden has gone up a couple of notches. Partly because it's still a fun watch after multiple viewings and also because it stands out amongst all the dross from the era I've been watching of late. In the survey so far only Project A-ko can match it as a comic fighting girl anime.
+ Kei and Yuri at their best, opening credits, well-paced, sly humour with a couple of hilarious moments, nicely animated for the time
- climax can't match the best of the other scenes, not the most profound movie you'll ever see, character designs dated

Resources:
Dirty Pair Features, Nozomi
ANN
Justin Sevakis's Buried Treasure article
Mike Crandol's Old School article
The font of all knowledge
500 Essential Anime Movies: the Ultimate Guide, Helen McCarthy, Collins Design



The final word

Helen McCarthy wrote:
Kei and Yuri bicker and banter their way through an adventure as light as a soufflé, and just as delicious... Not all classics stand the test of time, but this delightfully silly movie pulls it off. I still smile every time I watch it."


Last edited by Errinundra on Tue Feb 15, 2022 4:58 am; edited 4 times in total
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