#11 : Maris: the Chojo

maris1Can’t a girl get a break? FOR REAL. Case study: Maris known as the Chojo, or the Supergal, is known to have “some” issues. She is short tempered, always broke, her parents are complete airheads and always asking for money, she has to work during her vacations, her boss is strict and she has to wear these odd braces around her body because she possesses super strength. Hence being the “Super Girl.” That… and the planet she was born on was blown up in front of her eyes as a child. Maris, Maris, Maris… don’t fret. I love you and you have many fans as well (stand up folks). Maybe your next assignment will have you saving some attractive guy who is the heir to a powerful family, maybe? It’s either that or go back to the world of women’s professional wrestling where you had that nasty rival, Zombie Sue. Such is the life of working for the Galactic Patrol’s Special Police. Much like the ending of the Malcolm in the Middle… “Life isn’t fair.”

maris3As a creation of Rumiko Takahashi, Maris the Chojo is much like a lot of her other work… a goofy, crazy, fun time. And it was Maris the Chojo (and Mermaid Forest as well) that got me onto the “Rumik train.” Many of her works, particularly the really popular titles including Ranma 1/2, Inuyasha and bonus points for you Urusei Yatsura fans out there, are very lengthy. Hundreds of episodes is a bit to take in and sometimes for certain properties or creators you need a smaller dosage. Luckily Maris the Chojo is a smaller property, just a one-off OVA part of the Rumik World series which featured other classics such as Fire Tripper, Laughing Target and the previously mentioned Mermaid Forest. And in my experience with Takahashi’s work, I love these shorter stories as they are for me more focused. Like many longer series, and this is not exclusive to any particular genre or creator, they are kept alive because of their popularity and in some ways it begins to wane or grow tired over time. Keep it short and sweet and with a solid ending.

maris2The beauty of Maris: The Chojo is it is a wonderful example of the early adoption of the direct-to-video format, the awesomeness known as the OVA. For the time of 1986, Maris: the Chojo could
have been a television special, maybe even a movie (but at about 45 minutes it’s kind of short), but never in a million years a TV series. But as an OVA, it’s JUST right. Also being one of Rumiko Takahashi’s lesser known titles, and much like other oddball OVA titles of the 1980s in particular, it makes collecting or hunting down these harder to find titles very appealing. Of course some titles are bad, but many are brilliant and they are all unique and different. Kind of like late 1960s/early 1970s rock music, anything went.

That and the lovely Mami Koyama provided the voice (kinda a fan of her you know?) for our short tempered red-head who can’t catch a break. Maybe Maris needs to learn about the Law of Attraction? All and all a whole lot of fun and one of the reasons I still use and love Laserdisc. …Oh, I forgot about her partner in crime Murphy. I leave that for you to learn about the crafty fox he is. No really, he is a fox!

#10 : GoShogun: The Time Étranger

For an updated perspective on GoShogun: The Time Étranger, click here.

It is time to be a bit sentimental. Can you show me an opening sequence that brings a tear to my eye? This one does! I have yet to see the entire original GoShogun series due to the fact that the only source I have found has no subtitles (speaking from August 2016). And yet it does not matter as this follow up, this movie or OVA, is enough of a stand alone piece that it works without any real prior knowledge. How we in the west got this without the original series (Macron 5 doesn’t really count this time) is a mystery? But life is a joyous mystery indeed.

TimeE1I heard of this one from a few people put this production into their 80s Top 10 listings and it sparked my interest to seek out this OVA. And I found it for around $5, nice deal! But what is this OVA, GoShogun: The Time Étranger? Étranger, that’s French for stranger. FANCY! Just don’t be confused with a similar production translated as Time Stranger, as that is a Studio Madhouse movie from 1986, this is a 1985 production. GoShogun: The Time Étranger was a follow-up OVA to a mecha series from 1981, Sengoku Majin GoShogun. This was a bit of a parody series where you have a group of three good guys (one being a very pretty lady) and three bad guys who eventually become the ultimate team of six friends. That was 1981, so what happened four years later? A bit of a tone shift.

Remember that lady I mentioned earlier. Her name name is Remy Shimada and she is the star of this OVA. Not only that, but I will be really honest here… I think of her as one of the most beautiful women in all of anime. She favors Voltron’s Princess Allura (Farla if you are a GoLion fan), but she has awesomely better hair. And she is voiced by Mami Toyama; love her voice (also Veronica Taylor gives a great performance in the dub)! ANYWAY… we begin with her in the desert where she asks, “Where am I? Where is everyone?” She then pulls out this massive revolver, points in to the sky and shoots. She turns and hears distant shots in the background and then… her five friends from the past emerge and comes toward her with anticipation and happiness. Isn’t that beautiful? I need a tissue folks; this scene does it to me every time I see it.

TimeE2So Time Étranger, the time stranger, where does this come into play? Simply put this production is told over three different times in Remy’s life. The first being her childhood in France (ah hence the French spelling perhaps?), the second a surreal environment during the time of the original GoShogun series (where she is approximately 20) and the third, the so-called present where Remy is all of 70 years old though she does not look a day over twenty (at least what we see of her, which is very little). All three segments are spliced together in a style very remeniscent to that of Federico Fellini’s surreal 8 1/2 (highly recommend this movie), with a heavy dose of suspense and drama that stands as a dichotomy from the original TV series. Also, each of these three episodes from Remy’s life all have one commonality, she ends up fighting for her life. How does she survive through each circumstance?

TimeE3I want to go back to the what I mentioned earlier; how did this OVA release in the west, particularly North America? I often think when I watch this about switching the characters from something more well known to me, say the Voltron/GoLion cast? There is enough room to allow this as the story is not tied into GoShogun particularly. This could be a great live action film, but I think it would loose it’s intimate flavor that I have grown to have with this production. But when one thinks of a follow-up or a so-called sequel, this OVA should be THE yardstick that any other production, live-action or animation, should follow. That and a few of the one-liners are priceless, ex: “It isn’t stolen, merely rented without the benefit of paperwork.” Timeless. And would you believe this was an early work for the director of Pokémon, Kunihiko Yuyama?

In the end what I learned from this OVA is that no matter how bad things can go somebody, somewhere wants to have you around and the inner strength you have for yourself to fight each and every day to give it your best shot is all that really matters. It’s very cliché, but this is a spiritual and special cliche interpretation for me. If people wonder why I love anime, this is one of the strongest examples. I even doubled dipped for this one (it’s worth the two separate DVD versions, long live Central Park Media). Funny how some of the more obscure titles become the ones that stick the most to your experience. But, that is why I am still mining the classic era (this is my opinion, yours can vary) of anime. GoShogun: The Time Stranger, you are truly a friend I love in a very special way.

#9 : Aim for the Top! Gunbuster

Igunbuster1 want to preface this with a little Pink Floyd lyric… “Remember when you were young. You shown like the sun. Shine on You Crazy Diamond.” I can take this a couple ways in regards to Gunbuster. First it is a love letter homage to an era of anime and special effects shows from the 1960s to about 1980. This is Studio Gainax remembering the beauty of discovering such fantastic visual fun in their youth. But, I have to point out our main heroine, Noriko Takaya, as the second reason. In this six episode OVA everything and everybody to some certain extent got older and or eventually left the material plane of her existence. All except Noriko, who because of traveling so much in sub-space remains forever young and in the process missed out on being with most of her peers. How many times have you felt that no matter what you did, you could not share it with certain individuals you truly loved?

gunbuster2Gunbuster begins amid much promise and joy as sixteen year old Noriko Takaya is a new student at an Okinawa high school that specializes in training space pilots. She hopes to someday be like her father (an admiral who died while serving in space), like her idol the beautiful and talented Kazumi Amano and prove herself able to the Coach Ohta (COACHEE!). Right from the word go we are essentially brought into a shojo sports anime that passes itself as a sci-fi mecha series (Aim for the Ace+Yamato+Getter Robo+Top Gun (wait that’s a Hollywood film)=GUNBUSTAA!!). Who knew one had to train in robots and run laps, do sit-ups and various other forms of exercise. I thought our heroes just climbed into mecha and magically knew how to pilot them from instinct?

Gunbuster3As stated earlier this is a love letter, the real definition of “Fan Service.” Aside from a couple shots of the usual “Fan Service” this show drips references of the many series I listed earlier and more as cues to say this show is for you or us. You loved this show, this type of character, this scene, etc.? Gainax is a studio founded by fans after all and this is them paying homage to the highest degree. It’s anime about anime. And what makes Gunbuster special is the fact that yes, there are a lot of these references, but it also tugs at you over time. Similar to Evangelion or Nadia (both directed by Hideaki Anno) we start off in fun and games and eventually step into the darker side. But Gunbuster is not so much grim as it is poignant. Young Noriko grows up learning about falling in love, reconnecting with the her lost past and maturity in general. It has a sweetness that is missing from Evangelion or Nadia. And it is this tenderness that makes it hold up still today. Plus, the artwork and animation is gorgeous and handled with the greatest of care. Even the last episode fades to that old standard of black and white. The first time I saw it I thought something was wrong with my TV.

Now Studio Gainax aside, if there is one individual who makes this OVA very special for me, it would have to be the great Haruhiko Mikimoto. I love this man’s work (I DO!, I DO!, I DO!) and for me, nothing and I mean nothing tops his character designs. The elegance and grace that is apart of his early signature style shows true form here and I rank the designs as great as the work he did for the original Macross and Orguss. “I wish they all could be Mikimoto girls”  (to the tune of Beach Boys’ California Girls). There is always a certain twinkle in the eye of those who are conceptualized by my man, right?

Gunbuster4Gunbuster may have been the second official project of Studio Gainax, and the directorial debut of Mr. Anno, but it would set a precedent that would follow for this group into the 1990s. It also reflects back to those of us who were excited about the future and the possibility of traveling through outer space like it was driving down the highway and piloting large mecha… but alas all we have are smart phones and wifi, kind of a let down when you compare it to our utopian vision of the future. Still there is a possibility if we all believe it is possible and stay young in heart and mind. Let’s raise a toast to you Gunbuster… we love you. KANPAI!!!