#216 : Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light

Technology has fallen… society has collapsed. Retrograding to a more medieval type of life, the people of the planet of Prysmos adjust to a more ‘primitive’ existence. Cars and high rise skyscrapers have ‘evolved’ into horse and buggy and fortified castles and the once beloved technologies that many of us in our modern world are dependent on has been superseded by another form of wonder, the wonder of magic. As the intro states, “Those who control the magic, control destiny. They are the Visionaries.” A short run toy show that was and still is one of my favorite Saturday morning pastimes. Behold Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light.

Vis_01Sunbow, the once fabled production studio has created many propaganda toy shows that at their hearts were to promote mainly the products of Hasbro. Yet somehow with Sunbow, the shows are in my opinion more superior than the toys. They take on a life of their own as a whole world is created around each toy line and supersedes the predominantly plastic creations with an organic mythology. Am I interested in collecting vintage Hasbro lines? No, I prefer to watch The Transformers, G.I. Joe, Jem and the Holograms and the little brother from 1987, Visionaries. An action figure line that also included holographic elements… magical light!

Vis_02Truth be told I did have two of the holographic chest plated figures as a child, Leoric and Arzon. Those two have since left my existence, but the show where both of these gentlemen originated is still a part of my viewing rotation. The plot is a simple one of two factions, the Spectral Knights and the Darkling Lords, who either uphold justice, or raise trouble on the planet Prismos. Yet there is also a third wheel as well, a neutral maverick, the wizard Merklin, who gave each Knight and Lord their specific magic. He is almost like a dungeon master from the veins of Dungeons and Dragons who sets the mood and pace periodically and is perhaps the most valuable character to the whole plot.

Vis_03What makes Visionaries so great is that for only a 13 episode run you get some of the most bang for your buck in terms of an 80s cartoon. Every episode has it’s merit! Why is this so? Mythology and interesting characters, simple. The world of Visionaries is much like more Earth based sci-fi like Vampire Hunter D, or Fist of the North Star. Mix this with a strong medieval themes and you get something a little different from the era. Almost like Aura Battler Dunbine without the robot mecha… though Visionaries does have a couple vehicles that can qualify as a type of mecha. … or maybe if one mixed LEGO’s Classic Space and Castle themes together?… Each character has their own personality archetype which adds to the plot line and is reminiscent of the first initial seasons of say The Transformers, or G.I. Joe when everything was small and simple.

Vis_04Then there is the presentation which is very polished. Visually we have to thank a Japanese studio for the grunt work of creating the ocular quality that is present in Visionaries. Take a guess which studio got the job? It’s a personal favorite of mine… TMS, Tokyo Movie Shinsha. Yet again we have another cartoon which got to use the talents of this studio and trust me it will not be the last time we hear from them again. TMS after all was contracted from time to time well into the 1990s. Could Sunbow have used TMS for The Transformers, or G.I. Joe, or Jem instead of relying on Toei and AKOM? Maybe, but no need to argue over what has passed.

When it comes to toy shows, there are plenty that filled the landscape of 1980s popular culture. Many new heroes and villains often came out of nowhere and sparked the imagination of a particular generation. Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light was among this crowd and is sadly in the more cult status position due to the limited run. This was a solid action adventure that still showcases the previously mentioned great stories and visual treatments. Yet there was also voice acting too as actors made these characters come to life in many ways. Can Visionaries be one of the best Saturday Morning Cartoons of all time? I vote YES!

Anime Wisdom from Remy Shimada… Even at my darkest hour, I am never alone

I will from today until my last breath love and treasure the sequel OVA to the GoShogun TV series, GoShogun: The Time Étranger. I have spoken not once, but twice (and who knows maybe more in the future?) about this special film and my admiration towards the leading lady of the Good Thunder team, the pilot of the Queen Rose, the woman who is at the apple of many a man’s eye… the ever talented, witty and beautiful Remy Shimada. The Time Étranger was her swan song, her tribute, as well as a portrait of her ultimate character. She is someone who even at the brink of death, never gives up… and in The Time Étranger there were many times when this occurred. When she is alone, trapped and on her last option, something, or someone comes into her life to say, “Remy, don’t give up hope. We want you here with us.”

Miss Shimada had a rough life. Her childhood in France was marked with the death of her mother as well as bouts of trouble with the local boys who never suspected that she would not only fight back, but in all honesty… kick their asses. 😉 She was very much alone in the world from the beginning. Or was she? The climatic moment of her youth was in a cemetery where she would fall into an open grave, or perhaps it was some other type of deep hole, or trench where she would become isolated, trapped. She resounded to her fate, yes I shall die here, I except this. And then five spirits would visit her to reassure her that she was not alone and that maybe someday all six of them may team up together. Those five represented the five men so important in her adult life that she would spend so much of the plot of Goshogun with: Shingo Hojo, Killy Gagley, Leonardo Medici Bundle, Yatta-la Kernagle and Suegni Cuttnal. Together till death do us part.

Before joining Good Thunder and the GoShogun team, and well before The Time Étranger, Remy was a spy who failed during one of her missions. All she could do was run to her boyfriend’s arms. He would tragically die soon afterward (or did he?!) leading to her capture and a prison sentence. As a last ditch effort she would bust her beloved locket to use the glass to slit her wrists. Thanks to Captain Sabarath and his convincing By the way if you want to know these segments were from the GoShogun TV series and the recap movie. I had to include this as a bonus as it fits well with the theme of this entry!

Now back to The Time Étranger… What about the time when she was in that car chase that led to an accident that left her in a coma? Or, being diagnosed with an extremely rare illness? Or, receiving a death announcement in the form of an anonymous letter stating she has only two days to live? Or confronting a giant monster in a desert where she only has one more bullet to feed her beloved Magnum pistol? All moments where life was in short supply, but the will to live was still there! Remy had someone still behind her back like guardian angels each and every time. What about the opening sequence of The Time Étranger, which ALWAYS make me cry. It’s beautiful. Alone in the desert she cries out, “Where am I? Where is everyone?” And then her five boys show up out of the mist to reassure her… so dramatic… I love it.

So the moral of this story, even when everything has hit rock bottom and you feel you have nowhere to go, or a friend to rely on, someone will show up like magic to tell you that you are still wanted and loved. It’s only when life is hard that we realize the beauty underneath the surface of the experience.

Remy Shimada… “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You made me happy when skies were gray.”

#8b : Angel’s Egg

For my original entry for Angel’s Egg, click here.

Sometimes you have to recover your tracks in order to move forward. In terms of classic anime and in particular, Angel’s Egg, I have a little more to say…

Angel’s Egg was a one of my earliest entrees here at The Classic Anime Museum and it has been one of my more viewed entries, even receiving reference links. I am proud that in particular that Angel’s Egg is linked in some way with this site. I love this film, I love the atmosphere it projects, I love the art and I consider it a masterpiece of 80s anime cinema and one of Mamoru Oshii’s best works of all time. It’s not an easy film to watch since it is more symbolic and esoteric, but in terms of great film making it is one animated feature that is distinctly it’s own in terms of any category you throw at it.

AE_21Much is written on director Mamoru Oshii’s struggle with faith and the all supposed Christian symbology. But if you take a step back, isn’t much of Christian imagery borrowed from other more ancient, or pagan references? Could these references also elude to Eastern spiritual practices as well, or another alternative? The vast open space of Angel’s Egg makes this a film that can have much in terms of interpretation, which leaves it as perhaps the most profound and powerful films ever made in the Japanese animation industry during the decade of the 1980s, if not all time. Assuming one’s interpretation, or an accepted standard is one thing, but sometimes when other opinions are offered as well, they are just as valid.

AE_22Propose now another possible metaphor for the piece of art that is Angel’s Egg. Could this be a film about the fragility of holding to the material world. To quote from the Bible “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth, and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.” I had to look up the passage as I am not a perfect Bible scholar, it’s from Matthew 6:19. Or if we philosophize from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure with none other than Socrates where we notice that we are “Only Dust in the Wind”, and “Like the Sands of time, so are the days of our lives.”… With this in mind we fall for the greatest illusion that what is material is eternal, which of course is not true. It is human to mourn the loss of what is seen and touchable, but to consider it permanent is a grave mistake.

AE_23Solid structure, matter and form are standards that we often base entire civilizations, relationships and lives on. Yet this is the most unstable force in the universe. This makes me think of the relationship in astrology between the Moon and Saturn and the pair of signs associated with them, Cancer and Capricorn. Both are opposites, yet mirror images of each other dealing with growth and decay, love and austerity, protection and isolation. Is it a time to be sentimental, or perhaps hard nosed. We need both sides, but when one side of the extreme takes on a priority there is imbalance. This is not a bad thing because after all we as humans get caught up in the games and circumstances that we deem as life. At times we crest, but soon fall. We also hit rock bottom too and find the strength to rebuild by knowing what has passed can’t ever return.

AE_24These concepts are the basic dynamic of Angel’s Egg. The girl, very innocent and naive holds like a mother the giant egg she possesses. The object is in every way her identity. She brings it with her, treats it kindly and never lets it leave her sight much like a cautious mother. Enter then the young man with the cross like stick, or weapon, or whatever it is. He becomes the catalyst, a source for change who cruelly breaks and destroys this precious object. The girl whose whole existence in life has now been destroyed in the end destroys herself, unable to find any reason to live beyond sticking to what she only knew. It is a sad end, but we all fall down from time to time and we mostly see something outside of the job, relationship, situation, or loss that has occurred in our lives. We put on another hat to keep going with life because we still feel that life still has something left to provide for us, despite the pain and sorrow.

This year of 2020 made me think of this interpretation particularly. It has been painful for many of us dealing with loss as well as uncertainty. Those who hold so dearly to rigid ideas are struggling the most to control a situation that seems so random. I hope you are all doing well despite the times.