#226 : Giant Gorg

You know, sometimes there is nothing better than a show about a young boy and his giant mechanical companion. Mix that with a mysterious island in the South Pacific, natives, a corporate organization bent on owning the secrets of the island, a rogue criminal outfit, a small group of friends and the possibility of an ancient alien civilization. This sounds like one stiff cocktail to drink, care for a taste? I like this basic premise as I believe this could be a winner of a TV series. Let’s look now at a show that did mecha a little differently way back in 1984 by harkening back in a way to how mecha used to be. Have you ever seen Giant Gorg?

Thirteen year old Yuu Tagami is in for a big adventure. After the passing of his father he travels to New York City to meet one of his father’s colleagues Dr. Wave. He also meets Dr. Waves sister Doris and their Great Dane Argos. We begin to learn about the mysterious Austral Island, a place where Drs. Tagami and Wave both did research on, when all of a sudden they are attacked! Fleeing for their lives and also making headway towards Austral Island, they meet the Skipper who acts as their strongman of the group. They trek their way across America and eventually the Pacific where they sail the rest of the way to Austral Island. Again they are attacked leaving Yuu separated from his comrades when soon he encounters a new friend. This is someone much taller and more metallic whose size is threatening, but whose eyes and outreached hand shows a very compassionate demeanor.

Imagine this… if Hayao Miyazaki could have made a mecha series, Giant Gorg would have been a close possibility… and I mean close. Released in 1984, Miyazaki was busy working on Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Giant Gorg on the other hand was created, directed and designed by the one and only YAS. That’s Yoshikazu Yasuhiko folks, the guy who designed the characters for the original Mobile Suit Gundam, the director of the Crusher Joe and Venus Wars movies and the manga artist and overall director of the OVA adaptation of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin. Yeah that guy! Giant Gorg is a unique part of YAS’ portfolio as this was his lone auteur project produced for television. As stated earlier Yasuhiko had a hat and say in many areas, but it was definitely not created by him alone… or was it? Either way what you get is one sharp looking, well polished release from a studio well known to many of us, Sunrise.

Giant Gorg may remind me in many ways of Miyazaki, but this 26 episode TV series belongs totally to YAS. Certain elements appearing in Giant Gorg would never appear in a Miyazaki production. Yet my reference of Miyazaki for Giant Gorg is due to the fact that Gorg reminds me so much of Miyazaki’s Future Boy Conan. A boy on a quest in the South Pacific joined by friends and going up against adversaries are similar to both shows. Maybe YAS also drew some inspiration from his work on Brave Reideen, a series from a decade earlier? This was a show that featured a found artifact type of mecha from an unexplainable origin. Yet in reality we have to go back to the giant robot origins appearing in the 1950s and 60s where the robot was more of a guardian for a kid than a piloted machine. No matter the influence, Giant Gorg was a modern retelling of classic ideas brought forth into a 1980s aesthetic.

There is that old saying that a dog is man’s best friend. In terms of Giant Gorg I think we could say that a guardian like giant robot is a boy’s, or girl’s, best friend. A metallic angel strong and brave with eyes as kind as a warm hug could be the best friend we all wished we ever had. Giant Gorg brought many of the elements of classic mecha tropes back into circulation that were left in the dust years prior. I must say… I like the change. There is something magical about Giant Gorg, almost wholesome in a way, that appealed to me from the start among other things including ending every episode on a cliffhanger… Tune in to the next, The same Gorg time, The Same Gorg Channel.

#225 : Patlabor: The Movie

A man examines a woman’s passport and asks, “Sightseeing?” The woman responds, “No.” And then tips her sunglasses finishing with, “Combat.” … Tokyo is becoming the great metropolis for the upcoming 21st century, a true Babylon of the future. With the help of Labors, we see the use of mecha to aid in the evolving construction of this vast city. Labors also have functions and purposes with the military and even law enforcement as well. Progress, and yet all is not well in utopia. A new Hyper Operating System (HOS) is being used for these labors and lets just say it has a few bugs in the system. Following up from the OVA released in 1988, Patlabor would move to the big screen in 1989 with Patlabor: The Movie… a fitting title.

P1Movie_1Labors all over Tokyo and even in other parts of the world are starting to go a little crazy, malfunction and erratically begin acting on their own terms, coming to life so to speak. The developer of this HOS upgrade system, which seems to have something to do with this phenomenon, was a mysterious man, one Eiichi Hoba. Not much is known about him in this movie except he has a very elegant looking raven (thus quote the raven, evermore) and Hoba fancied himself someone like the Abrahamic God, being his name E. Hoba which sounds very much like Jehovah. Ironically he commits suicide at the very beginning of this movie and without ever saying a single word he gives a sly grin whilst jumping off to his death. I believe his actions and facial smirk was all he needed to make a statement?

P1Movie_2Now what about the traditional cast of Patlabor, the crew of Tokyo Police Department’s Special Vehicles Section 2 Division, this wouldn’t be a Patlabor production without them? And you are correct. They are here in full force, you have to get past the introduction. Perhaps this story was is the followup, the possible 8th episode for the previously made OVA? Or not? We begin with Not and Asuma visiting Section 1’s commanding officer, Captain Nagumo, as she finishes her testing in the new Type 0 Labor, the transition mech featuring the new HOS system. Once back at headquarters wejoin Section 2 in full gear during a job to stop one of these troublesome runaway Labors. Much is questioned as to why and how these Labors are malfunctioning. While Patlabor productions often showcase everyone in the cast, I feel we see much from Asuma as a character in this movie, for it is he who feels the calling to dig deep into the mysteries of these troublesome Labors and the connection with th previously mentioned HOS.

P1Movie_3While Patlabor is credited to the Headgear collective and each individual member does get their moment of fame, I have to give a shout out to director Mamoru Oshii. As a big fan of his work: Patlabor in general, Urusei Yatsura, Angel’s Egg, Ghost in the Shell, etc., Patlabor: The Movie interestingly often gets underplayed. Mostly because I am obsessed with the 1993 sequel, Patlabor 2: The Movie. Still, Patlabor: The Movie totally fits his style and approach in terms of visuals, editing, camera angles that sometimes harken a feel of the mysterious. So in total we have a well crafted production that defies any genre… so typical of Patlabor in general? Mecha, comedy, drama, thriller, action film… I say yes to all of them and also a little of something else that cannot be explained with typical words. It’s an intelligent movie that can pass as a more mainstream flick.

P1Movie_4State of the art for 1989, but de rigueur now, Patlabor: The Movie gave us a look into the complexities of technology in our modern world. Though not the first story to tackle this issue in the overall, Patlabor: The Movie would show us the issues dealing with the underlying software that is so common place in our gadgets today. In many ways Patlabor: The Movie has aged quite well because of this, as well as the more subtle imagery that does not scream out a late 1980s aesthetic. While technology does bring a sense of convenience, we have to ask what are we losing in order to gain something that is newer, faster and very appealing? My advice from all this… stick with what works… don’t upgrade. Do I sound old fashioned?

Anime Wisdom from Tetsuo Shima… What have I done? The destructive power of anger as seen in Akira.

Many view Akira as one of the the most groundbreaking films in the entire catalog of Japanese animation. This was a film that here in the west opened our eyes to technical expertise and visual eye candy that we thought was only possible in terms of the impossible. Many see it as a badass action film. Many others see it as a reflection on power and control in society. Many others see it as a gateway, a sign post, that once crossed you can’t go back. All so true, but this is also a story of a troubled young man who took his personal hatred so far that it literally destroyed the world.

Anger, resentment, pain… feelings of inadequacy, fear… putting up a front, a wall, a shield… depression, anxiety?… No one is born this way, but for many of us we learn this sort of behavior and adopt it as our reality. I find it scary how accurate Akira is to our current reality. Akira was set in 2019, I am currently writing in 2020. Tokyo was to hold the Olympic Games. The streets are full of rioting. Police are not afraid to open fire and behave in a militaristic manner. Science and technology are puppets of the government, medical industry and large scale business. Complications over the ideal blessings seems to be the products of these institutions. We have an overload of control which for someone who are not on top of any hierarchy, be it a job, social position, in a gang, etc. can make you feel left out.

Enter Tetsuo Shima, the runt so to speak in Kaneda’s bike gang. He is the one who always has to catch up, find a way to be recognized and situate himself into his peer group. Just who would have thought he had dormant psychokinetic powers after being taken by the military during a bike accident? Little Tetsuo not sure how to control himself ends up taking revenge on everything around him, which in turn begins to break down his body. This is true for us as well, though not on the scale of this anime. It is a metaphor for how we end up destroying ourselves and the world around us as well all because we can’t control our anger. Yet Tetsuo was not born this way, many of us are not, but we end up holding onto some type of anger that eventually begins to show itself in the body. At least we can counteract this if we catch it early and have awareness to our inherited patterns and emotions.

I shifted my frame of reference about Akira and Tetsuo as a character after rewatching Harmagedon recently. Harmagedon was a film that Akira’s creator Katsuhiro Otomo worked on. He did the character designs. The main character of Jo Azuma has his issues with anger, but is surrounded by like minded people who channel his inner demons, and inherent psychic abilities, towards constructive means… that being fighting the outer demon. Tetsuo is not so lucky and tragically loses himself and all of Tokyo in the process. It is in the end Tetsuo does see his mistakes, but it is too late. His sacrifice does lead him to peace, but also death. I am not sure Otomo borrowed ideas from Harmegedon for Akira, but the similar theme, with a different outcome, cannot be denied.

I too suffer with issues of internalized anger, resentment and insecurity. I also know what its like when your body tells you that you need to calm down, transmute the feelings and build a new foundation to stand on. The past can often haunt you and even though it may not be one’s fault, it is I who keep those feelings alive. Thankfully things can reverse, without scientific explanation, but it takes work as a recapturing of joy in the moment. I doubt many of the people I have hurt in some form, angered, or frustrated, or who have hurt me, or caused me to continue certain emotional patterns for too long are not reading this, but in any case all I can say is I am sorry. I am only human and can make mistakes, but I don’t need to feel that I am a mistake.