Buried Garbage - The Humanoidby Justin Sevakis, Jan 24th 2008
I've mentioned before how much I love the 80s. However, I usually proudly mention this when I'm describing something good about the era, such as its more progressive music, or experimental theatrics. Really, I tend to wallow in the crappiest parts of the decade, from the hair styles and the leg warmers to the crappy video effects. I mean, I own the Stacey Q album. On vinyl.
It's on that level that I love The Humanoid. It's absolutely brainless, has zero budget, and looks about as bad as any other OAV of its age. But when it cranks those 80s rock tunes and ratchets up the pathos, it's hard to keep myself from smiling. With something that reeks of the age this badly, I just want to roll in it like a dog in poop.
The Humanoid in question is Antoinette, created by Dr. Watson, who generally runs the human side of the population on the peaceful planet Lazeria. Also inhabiting the planet are the Megalosians, and their leader Governer Proud wants to bring their princess back to their home planet, and intends to do this with the Iczeon, a big space ship that crashed on the planet centuries ago. But the power it harnesses is really dangerous.
Meanwhile, Alan and Eric run a space ship together, and are about to land on Lazeria. Eric is engaged to Dr. Watson's daughter, so they spend some time being a cute couple and observing Antoinette, who serves as something of an oddball housekeeper to the family. But when the evil Governor Proud sends his minions looking for the key to the Iczeon, Eric gets caught in the middle. And that's when something strange happens. Apparently, during the fifteen minutes or so Antoinette got to hang with Eric, she was gettin' to feel all female inside. And now she's-a-goin' ta save her man!
That's a lot of plot for a 45-minute one-shot OAV, and it's all shoehorned in there pretty haphazardly. Really, the paper thin set-up (Governor Proud is one of those ridiculous, cackling EVIL villains) is only there for the sake of the 5-minute climax scene where Antoinette comes in, kicks ass and takes names. It's all set to this 80's power ballad (one of the 80 million or so songs called "Power of Love" in English). Just as the song starts with its guitar riff, Antoinette has a mood swing as she suddenly realizes (I guess) that she can never have Eric's hot hunk of love. Pathos ensue, as does sudden rain, a black-and-white sequence, and a bizarre light beam into the sky that really serves no literal purpose.
The animation is just ass, and the production values of the time also show just how cut-rate the production was. You can literally see the film slowly moving up and down in the gate, and as the film was being transferred to video, someone manually adjusting the framing. The color timing is sloppy, so different cuts in the same scene will have different tints. One odd directorial touch during the climax was obviously added as a video effect afterwards. Most of the female cast has that cherubic look reminiscent of magical girl shows of the era. Alan, one of the few examples of African Americans in anime, sports a Lionel Ritchie mustache, while protagonist Eric rocks it with a mullet. ("All business in the front, and a party in the back!" say the liner notes.)
One cannot watch The Humanoid without noticing how often coffee is mentioned. Alan is a coffee junkie. It's his favorite topic of conversation. There's actually a coffee montage easter egg on the disc. The references are so crow-bared in that every scene he's in plays like a coffee commercial. The whole thing is very silly.
The Humanoid was one of those obscure mid-80s OAVs that was produced to fill the burgeoning home video market. As with many of the OAVs of the period, the director (Shinichi Masaki) was helming his first production, and would later serve as episode director for Hikaru no Go and Code Geass, and series direct Initial D: Second Stage. The animation studio, the artist collective known as Kaname Production, produced quite a few notable works during the 80s, including Birth, the wrestling anime Plawres Sanshiro and the unforgettable Windaria. Creating this OAV along with Kaname Pro was the similarly short-lived studio Hiromedia Co., Ltd., who can also claim credit to another crap-tastic OAV released by CPM back in the day, Roots Search.
One should note that Antoinette herself was originally designed by Hajime Sorayama, the fine artist who made a name for himself in the 80s by painting "sexy robot" pin-ups (one of which inspired the cover of the Aerosmith album "Just Push Play"). Sorayama's most recent claim to fame is the design of Sony's recently discontinued robot dog "Aibo". The Humanoid is conspicuously absent from his website's biography page. Like most of his designs of the era, Antoinette herself is clearly inspired by the robot Maria from the 1927 silent film Metropolis.
The English dub was one of a handful produced for CPM by The Ocean Group. Directed by Sarah-Anne Dafoe (Please Save My Earth, Maison Ikkoku), the production is quite well-done, with the usual cast of Ocean actors hamming it up just enough to match the show's inherent cheesiness. The adapted screenplay also punches up the show's myriad coffee references, going so far as to make the show's final dialogue exchange a tongue-in-cheek reference to a Folgers commercial. ("Does it make you feel like home?") The video post-production adds to the cheese by ripping off the Star Wars opening text scroll.
One of my favorite parts of the DVD is the Fun Facts video -- which is basically an extra subtitle track with "Pop-Up Video" style quips about the anime. Written by my then-coworker Michael Palan, the track frequently goes off on ridiculous tangents (when a bald character appears, it proceeds to list famous bald people). It also doesn't forget to point out when the power ballad completely rips off the Yes song "Owner of a Lonely Heart" during a guitar riff.
The Humanoid is not good. In fact, it's really not even passable. It's horribly dated crap that wasn't very good to begin with. But I love it like a mother loves an ugly child.
|A||Abundant. Available anywhere that carries anime.|
|C||Common. In print, and always available online.|
|R1||US release out of print, still in stock most places.|
|R2||US release out of print, not easy to find.|
|R3||Import only, but it has English on it.|
|R4||Import only. Fansubs commonly available.|
|R5||Import only, and out of print. Fansubs might be out there.|
|R6||Import long out of print. No fansubs are known to exist.|
|R7||Very rare. Limited import release or aired on TV with no video release. No fansubs known to exist.|
|R8||Never been on the market. Almost impossible to obtain.|
|Adapted from Soviet-Awards.com.|
How To Get It: CPM's disc of this show was very well-produced and is probably the best we're ever going to get. The show seems to be completely forgotten in Japan, and was never known at all elsewhere in the world. It's still in print, and priced dirt cheap.
Footnote: Originally the director credit was granted to "Shin-ichi Makaki," but this was a typo in ANN's encyclopedia. We have now corrected the error.
Screenshots ©1986 Hiro Media/Kaname Productions/Toshiba-EMI Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
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