Pile of Shame

by Justin Sevakis,


Kaoru Shintani has never had much of an American fanbase. His most famous work, the fighter pilot drama series Area 88, landed in the US with a resounding thud in both of its anime adaptations as well as Viz's repeated attempts to publish the manga in English. I lay blame for that mostly in his character designs: willowy, doe-eyed, and swirly, they betray his early work as a shoujo manga artist in the 70s. And while Area 88 is a legitimately good show, Americans never did go for military anime much.

But Shintani has more up his sleeve than just that one series. This repertoire includes adventure comedy (Cleopatra DC, Desert Rose), pervy sci-fi (Buttobi CPU, AKA I Dream of Mimi) and motorcycle racing (Futari Daka), among others. While a few have gotten anime adaptations, none of them have really been huge, stand-out hits. Of the ones I've seen, they've mostly been middle-of-the-road OAVs with little to recommend them or make them stand out in any way. And Goddamn!!, the unfortunately-named 2-part adaptation of his 5-tankoubon rally car racing series, is yet another lackluster adaptation.

Gen Todoroki is a young, talented rally car driver. Unfortunately, he's also really really unlucky, and has a track record that has most of his races ending in a wrecked car. Nonetheless, the megaconglomerate Seiou Corporation and its international division manager Rokkoji have their eye on him to be on their new rally team, going up against other giant car corporations like Toyota and Nissan. The rally is to be a days-long endurance course set across the African wilderness. Gen is too broke to refuse, and after a particularly strange test race (where he ends up drag racing against a "nun" and nearly runs her off the road), he's accepted into the team.

The team consists of one other driver, named Raul Uzbek Shin, and two navigators, who are -- I kid you not -- named Rov Lowe and Dick Van Dyke. After a run-in with Raul, it's decided that the younger Rov will act as Gen's navigator. The two set off for one hellacious course -- one that will send them down cliffs, across rugged terrain, and into the path of wild animals. And somehow through it all, Gen is going to have to keep his car in One Piece.

The biggest issue with Goddamn!! is its choppy narrative. The OAV bears all of the usual markings of an OAV that tried to compress the story of a longer manga series, and couldn't quite pull it off. A lot of the corporate and political side of things are only barely adequately explained (Seiou wants to make a mark on the rally car world in order to pursue a distribution partner in Europe), and as a result whole characters and scenes just sort of stand there uselessly, their participation not brought to any obvious point.

Director Noboru Furuse, who has directed nothing else and is mostly known as a character designer and animation director, does a nice job of bringing the races to life, but cuts corners in bizarre ways: crowd reaction shots are hasty-looking scribbles, and the facial reactions are so silly that they're distracting. In fact, the whole production seems rather slap-dash and poorly planned. That said, the actual racing scenes are fun to watch, and exciting. Some of Gen's adventures strain believability (the laws of physics are as fluid in this show as the character designs) but it's hard not to have a little bit of fun watching them.

It's not hard to guess why nobody ever released this show in the US. Its sloppy artwork, sports themes, and retro look and feel would've made for a hard sell even during the early-90s OAV boom. It apparently isn't well known in Japan either, despite the Shintani pedigree. No DVDs exist of the show, and it doesn't appear to have ever been reissued after its initial 1990 print run.

It's hard to hate the show, but it's really not something I can recommend. It's just too rushed, too awkward in its construction, and too sloppy in its execution for it to really stand up to even the slightest bit of scrutiny. But it is an interesting relic, if nothing else.

Japanese Name: ガッデム!! (GADDEMU)

Media Type: OAV

Length: 2 x 32 min.

Vintage: 1990

Genres: Sports, racing, action

Availability (Japan): No DVD release in any country. Just the original Japanese LDs and VHS tapes.

Availability (English): None. Just a pretty rough fansub floating around.

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