#208 : Super Dimension Century Orguss

The opening theme says it all, “Where are you going, when are you coming home?” … Atomic, biological and chemical weapons are all heavy duty in terms of destructive power… but this pales in comparison to dimensional weaponry. For a young and carefree pilot who ends up completing the arming sequence for a space time oscillation bomb, the consequences of dimensional weaponry would alter not only his life, but affect the entire structure of the Earth itself. Anything was up for grabs for this stranger in a strange land, yet how much of a sacrifice must he yield himself towards in order to return the world to equilibrium. It all began in the future of 2062, but we remember this tale from a mecha anime from 1983… Super Dimension Century Orguss.

Orguss_1Following up the success of 1982’s Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Big West advertising and Studio Nue would strike out again the following year with Orguss. Retaining much of the staff from the previous year including director Noburo Ishiguro, character designer Haruhiko Mikimoto and music composer Kentaro Haneda to name a few, Orguss would despite similarities adapt to change. Shoji Kawamori did not stay and the services of Tatsunoko, who did the heavy lifting of animating Macross, would be supplanted by Tokyo Movie Shinsha. Thus we have a slightly different product. As a Macross fan I am often jealous of Orguss as TMS in general always has a certain patina that cries quality in terms of line work and color palette. Orguss is for that time (and even now!) an attractive looking show, but what about the bigger issue? What of the story and the characters?

Orguss_2Speaking of characters, let’s start with our protagonist Kei Katsuragi. Fighter pilot, happy go lucky and the biggest ladies man I have ever seen, Kei is a complete 180 from Macross’ Hikaru Ichijo. He eyes all those who are cute to his ocular perceptions, but in the end he is ever faithful to the ones he is truly in love with. The series begins with him in an intimate moment with his girlfriend at the time, quite bold, which is interrupted by her father barging in with a shotgun. Not many times I have seen that to open a piloted robot show. And like Lupin III, he escaped unscathed to be picked up by his best friend and fellow pilot Olson (or is it Orson?). Together they are part of a mission to use the previously mentioned space time oscillation bomb in order to get rid of a space elevator. The mission goes awry, but Kei feels it is only right that the mission

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 100Arriving in a parallel alternative Earth, which at the time he does not know, Kei is thrust 20 years into the future into a world born of his consequences. Here he meets friendly nomadic traders known as the Emaan, who oddly have tentacle like antennae coming out of the back of their heads, the aggressive Chiram, a militaristic society and Jabbi (I’ll let you figure out who he is!). All parties involved have interest in capturing, or obtaining Kei… why? Because he is the chosen one, or in more precise language the singularity (or, differentiated idioblast… what did you call me?) This makes him quite valuable on the market. So what are the issues that the Earth is facing in Orguss? First it is suffering from excessive heating, global warming to the extreme. And second, the mixing of races and landscapes on Earth are appearing from different dimensions due to the explosion of the previously mentioned space time oscillation bomb. Space and time are unstable and guess who is the one who can right these events? A little hint, he’s a womanizer fighter jock who happens to be named Kei! Now I know that name from somewhere? (sarcasm)

Orguss_4Oh Kei, look what you have done! Orguss is an interesting show in that we have a character that has to come to terms with fixing past issues that resonate with the present. Call it karma, fate, or what have you, Orguss is a show that strikes a chord as a mech show for a more mature audience looking for an alternative to the usual space opera of the time. Like Macross, we again have transforming mechs and a heavy romantic subplot which makes Orguss ever more enjoyable. Just be ready for the final climactic moment, as the scene appears to be very open ended, but from my eye brought in an element of the tragic, which really left me surprised… and a little teary eyed.

#188: Dallos

“And if the band your in starts playing different tunes… I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.” There is tension in the air… on the moon of all places, which has no breathable air except for the enclosed colonies where the inhabitants live. These colonists who mine resources to feed the Earth are beginning to find their social treatment and political conditions unbearable. Beyond these tensions on the dark side of the moon is an odd mystery. A gigantic mechanical device that many of the inhabitants revere as a deity sits in utter silence. The name of this mysterious giant as well as the production that features it is a landmark title in the history of anime, Dallos.

Dallos is known for two distinctions in the general knowledge category of anime. The first was the fact that it was the original direct to video release, known better as the OVA. The second was it was directed by Mamoru Oshii (Angel’s Egg, Ghost in the Shell), which is partially true. Also directing was a quiet legend, mostly unknown here in the west, Hisayuki Toriumi (Gatchaman, Salamander, Lily C.A.T.), who as the senior of the two should honestly be listed first. As the first OVA release, Dallos broke ground in terms of distribution of anime at the time. Within a couple years the category became a viable market for projects that may have had the budget, subject matter, or space for creative freedom to afford itself to be either on television or the cinematic big screen. Long before the internet, or digital sharing, the OVA was a gray area to work in as an in between, a place Dallos fit into very well.

With a slick presentation, Dallos does perform in terms of the action sequences in terms of detail and fluidity, but the story is something that still leaves me questioning. Though we do have a good cast of characters, no one really stood out in this hard sci-fi dystopia as the major focal point. The young, slightly angsty Shun Nomomura is our obvious protagonist, yet the overall collective and environment felt like the star of this show. Dallos is an anime about society under Orwellian social control, an anime about the status quo bourgeoisie versus the working class proletariat, an anime about native Earth born humans versus spacenoids (Gundam?), an anime about the varying opinions of generations. All great themes, but unfortunately with all this great drama, it never focused itself into a cohesive narrative that went anywhere, or answered to any conclusions.

Mixed with the underdeveloped story is the concept of the supposed deity like machine Dallos itself. A giant mechanized mystery on the far side of the moon that looks like a face has no real mythology beyond the respect by the original moon settlers. This older generation, well into the twilight of their lives, try to explain this to the younger elements with little acceptance. Such is youth to take life into their own hands, but they to will soon learn. Autonomously Dallos defends itself  during the uprising tensions, but as to any explanation as to what the mechanical behemoth stands for, or even it’s purpose for existence is a pure mystery.

The DVD copy that I own also contained a retrospective containing interviews with many members of the crew from Studio Pierrot including Oshii. Even though this was not an episode of the OVA series it was my favorite part of the whole viewing process. Perhaps the inclusion of two directors for one project weakened the possibilities of what could have been? The discussion of doing a hard sci-fi production with no promotional material, like toys or model kits, and having heavy subject matter was a great idea, but needed more time for polishing the final product. Dallos had so much potential, but is nothing more than an experiment that just did not fall completely into place. A visual treat for sure, but a disappointment in terms final explanation. A longer narrative run could have helped? Although Studio Pierrot’s upcoming OVA for 1985, Area 88, performed flawlessly as a short run episode count series as well. Area 88 by the way was directed by Toriumi.

#187 : Magnos the Robot

If this is the best I can do for a substitute for Magne Robo Gakeen, I may just stop right here. Magnos the Robot is a condensed localization I found my via a bargain bin DVD, though I am sure it may exist as well online as well as this seems to be a public domain type of thing. I am not going to give up hope in eventually seeing the original and I look forward to the opportunity, but it may end up being on the lower end of my priority list.

Magnos_1The story is very typical mid 1970s super robot anime having a small group of humans fight against an alien invading force to protect the Earth and it’s inhabitance. Super robot mecha was the de facto go to for shonen type stories during these times due to mainly toy promotion and often each series had it’s own schtick. Magnos is piloted by a male and female pair representing polar opposite charges like a magnet. Magnetically both do one of the most bizarre unifying sequences I have ever seen in a mech show, much like aerial summersaults, that bring all the pieces of Magnos together with the precision locking of LEGO bricks. This alone makes the show worth a watch. In fact I could watch the launch and combining sequences on repeat all day.

Magnos_2Can I please say that this is an ugly show? The editing to make this version is very spastic and abrupt shifting from scene to scene with no real direction of where the direction is going except we have another monster of the week to fight in ten more minutes. I am sure the original has a more flushed out story? The designs for the Magnos robot, Magnon and Magneta (two supporting robots piloted by our heroes) are not very aesthetically pleasing either. Compared to period alternatives like Getter Robo, Combattler V, or Voltus V, Magnos, or Gakeen just did not do it for me. And then the invading aliens, very bizarre like left over sea creatures morphed into humanoid form with garishly complimentary color schemes. I often think of Go Nagai villians as being on the bizarre end of the spectrum, but they have some class and style about them. These opinions are mine of course, but all these factors really made it hard to watch.

Magnos_3“Now it’s up to you!” to decide on whether this is worth your time. Another production complied by the same folks as Magnos, Super Grand Prix, was more pleasing to my taste palette, but it may not be the same for all of you. Yet there is a rule of thumb I always go by… better to watch ‘bad’ anime than an average live action production. Even if it is so ‘bad’ I can’t help but take in these little ones as well. All classic anime deserves a home and a chance. I only pray that the original Magne Robo Gakeen, when it does come my way, can fill in the necessary gaps that are missing in Magnos, because I do love the launch and transformation sequences too much to throw off the whole production for an awkward re-edit.