#61 : Baribari Densetsu

Man (or woman) and a machine working together is a beautiful thing. Not a computer, or an iPhone, but a machine that allows a human being to move at speeds beyond the capability of one’s legs. Moving at high speeds in a vehicle on a race track animated by the animation studios I love most… WE HAVE A WINNER! From a lover of finely crafted machines I present, Baribari Densetsu, translated as the Legend of Rolling Wheels, or Motorcycle Legend. And, this is way more than a story for just speed geeks. I promise.

BBD_1Our hero, Gun Koma, loves riding on his motorcycle, especially going downhill and trying to beat this rival of his who seems to have more skill than himself. Of course they both do this on public roads which makes it totally illegal and dangerous. Now what does this remind me of… Initial D maybe? …Well, well… turns out the original manga was done by the same guy, Shuichi Shigeno. How about that? Needless to say there is a heavy rivalry between Gun and the skilled Hideyoshi Hijiri (probably because he is shorter and smaller?), but there is another rider who one day showed the both of them up; their high school classmate; miss cute tomboy herself… Miyuki Ichinose, or just Mi.

BBD_2Yup, you two boys were schooled by a girl, TAKE THAT! There is good reason for this as she is the daughter of Ichinose Racing Team’s president, so racing would only come naturally presumably. Thankfully she is a generous one as she sees talent in both boys and asks if they would be interested in entering a four hour race at Suzuka racing circuit, but… Gun and Hideyoshi will have to run as a two-man team and get along. And while this race will become the big focus of the story, we have to remember that all our characters are still high school students. And as high school students the usual riffraff of trouble making bullies and romantic infatuations make appearances. Even hot headed and tough Gun has a girl crushing on him really, really bad.

BBD_3When we do get to the big race at the awesome Suzuka circuit we see how Gun and Hideyoshi grow from arch rivals into almost blood brothers. It is idealistic that they do it at one of the world’s best circuits. Seriously, watch any F1 race that was staged there or find a driving game with it included. Suzuka is demanding and fun. As for the racing animation I want to get back to Initial D for a second. One thing that Baribari does that Initial D did not, which maybe because it was the times or whatever, was show all the action as hand drawn instead of the PS2 looking CGI action. The movement is organic and smooth and all the bikes look like they are a part of the actual production instead of oddly placed.

And yet, after this big endurance race, we still have even more story to tell as Baribari Densetsu ends with a tragedy that borderlines on the unfair. Just as so much promise for the future was within sight, it all changes in the blink of an eye. Do I know any anime that features a motorcycle that does not end a little bit on the tragic side? Megazone 23, Venus Wars and Bobby’s Girl come to mind, but it goes to show that one must always be careful when taking responsibility of a two wheeled machine.

BBD_4Baribari Densetsu, for me, is a gift from the heavens. From early childhood I have always enjoyed motor racing. Not for the adrenaline thrill, but for the elegant dance of man (or woman) and a machine on a track. It takes great skill to guide either car or motorcycle at racing speeds and for that I have great respect for those who do it well. Even though I don’t follow the professional circuits anymore, I still yearn for that love only this time within another love of mine, that being anime. Classic anime’s default answer of course is Speed Racer. Then there is the rallying OVA Goddamn (which is ok) and the F1 series I would die to see, F. Is there anything else besides going to Future GPX Cyber Formula (just not interested). Then fate landed this motorcycle racing short into my lap. Thank you.

If only I had a TurboGrapx-16/PC-Engine as they had a Baribari Densetsu game. Oh well, there is always my trusted SEGA Genesis and Super Hang-On 🙂

 

#52 : Ai City

“Everything today is a bargain sale of imitations. That’s why they’re after something real.”

I have an odd attraction to something that leans a little to the bizarre and artsy in anime. I love classics like Angel’s Egg and more modern fair like Mawaru Penguindrum. I also love psychedelia music, art and film be it the original stuff from the 1960s or works that draw from it’s influence from decades later. But what I really like is a). style and b). expression. And Ai City is all of this and something more and to be honest the ending still makes me scratch my head. I LIKE IT!

AC_1Let us consider a cyberpunk atmosphere that could be the future and yet looks like the present moment, whatever that present may be when you are reading this. Kind of like Akira, but instead of the Blade Runner-esque darkness and political intrique… well leave a little of that in for good measure… we need something a little more lets say 1980s and fun. Lets add in a discotheque feel and bright colors that invade into this dark climate. Now we are prepared for this 1986 film. And of course, throw in the fact that a majority of our main cast are espers with powers referred to in that catchy awesome song A Psychik Man. It says… “he’s got super psychic powers.”

AC_2The film begins with a chase between a bike gang who is headed by a pretty lady known as K2. They are chasing our main group of heroes in a car with our main man K driving (he gave the awesome quote at the beginning). His passengers are Ai, or is it I?, who apparently is a clone of K’s former girlfriend, but is younger in age and calls K Papa (?). And in the back seat we have a bumbling drunk detective named Raiden (comic relief) and a big old fluffy cat. Yeah for cats! Needless to say K and K2 meet up and we see how these two espers, or headmeters, charge up and fight. Not so much super saiyan style like in Dragon Ball Z, but they have these gauges in their head that change number amounts. Just watch out if they reach infinity.

AC_3K and Ai have escaped from the confines of an organization named Fraud and K2 is one of their lackeys. After the confrontation between K and K2, K2 disappears and comes back with a state of amnesia and she ends up wearing a Playboy bunny type costume and goes gaga over ohjisama Raiden. No lie to that, its that off the hook! The leader of Fraud, the menacing Lee (this dude reminds me of some offhand villain from Space Adventure Cobra) is having none of it and dispenses more lackays, one a bishounen named Mr. J to recapture Ai. And I will leave it at that because this is a movie that needs to be seen to believe. I have only describes the first third or so so just when you are about to get near the end be ready for an all-out artsy fartsy, off the wall, psychedelic experiences put to celluloid. Everything can and will fall apart. Now see what happens afterward.

AC_4The title itself makes me wonder… which one is my correct assumption for what it means? Of course one of the character names is Ai, which in Japanese means love. So ‘love city’ and could this girl named Ai/‘love‘ be the ultimate meaning of this movie? The idea that love and manifesting one’s happiness and not forgetting that primal emotion could be the key to all of life. Also, and I am no scholar in this area, but in that little book known as the Bible, in the Book of Joshua, there is a city that is captured and destroyed named Ai. And yes, at the end of the film, literally, all hell breaks loose. Or, could it mean Ai as in I, like your ego and watching that come crumbling down to rebuild a new self in case you have a faulty view of yourself and the world? These are a few of my interpretations and many are kind of deep. Maybe I should watch it again because I could be still missing something.

Fluid animation, a fun soundtrack and a stellar lineup of voice actors make this oddity a huge winner in my book. That and once you get to the ending. guess what? We basically start all over again from the beginning. For real? … yeah. Ai City may be out there and different, but it is never, ever boring. And to get back to the beginning, you remember that quote? Ai City ain’t no imitation, it’s FOR REAL!

#50 : Windaria

Windaria_1When it comes to animated fairy tale or love stories, at least here in the west, Disney seems to have cornered the market. Everything ends happily ever after and no matter what good triumphs over evil. What would Shakespeare or the Ancient Greeks think of this? For every day there is a night. Love stories are as much about the pain and hardships of being authentic towards your true feelings. And in 1986, the year Studio Ghibli debuted Castle in the Sky, another film would show the strife and complexity of love, war and honesty. The beautiful shojo masterpiece known as Windaria.

Windaria_2Ask me what is the best animated film from Japan during the 1980s and I will always pick Windaria. Early Ghibli films are great, Akira was amazing and Macross: Do You Remember Love is my version of the Super Bowl, but Windaria is something special. Something very, very special. A product of my beloved Kaname Production, this 1986 gem is a film that is overlooked to the point of being a crime. I see it as an allegory of not following one’s truest desires or feelings and letting the environment dictate your life. It reminds me of a quote from an obscure movie about the composer Gustav Mahler, “Do things out of love and not duty, Duty destroys, duty always destroys.” And we see this concept through the eyes of two pairs of lovers caught up in a land on the brink of an impending war.

Windaria_3The first set of lovers are the more idealized in the tradition of fairy tale story telling. Princess Ahnas of Itha lives in a seaside paradise. She is carefree and beautiful, but she is also worried. Tensions with the neighboring kingdoms of Paro are begining to escalate. And this becomes a personal issue because she is in love with Jill, the prince of Paro. Neither of our young lovers want to see war and hope to create a bridge of peace, but much like Romeo and Juliet their star crossed love has a difficult road. And when the respective royalty on both sides pass their authoritative powers on, our couple has to decide which decision is of more importance. Is it their love and their hopes for the future, or their duty as members of the royal court to uphold their honors as heads of state?

Windaria_4Complimenting our royal duo is another young couple of more common origins. Izu and Marin are farmers in the neutral territory between Itha and Paro and their lives revolve around selling of their crops. primarily to Itha, and giving respect to their land by praying to the giant tree in their land known as Windaria. The one problem is with Izu, as he desires to be something more than a common farmer. His insecurity and angst shows his feelings that he is not good enough, but for Marin this is not the case. She loves him for who he genuinely is and cares nothing of what others expectations are. Despite this, Izu decides that he must do something to prove he is special and gets involved in the upcoming war. Just how this will this affect his relationship with Marin in the end?

Windaria_5Windaria is a tale of love and responsibility and in many ways is as I have stated above, the inverse of what a traditional Walt Disney film is. Our heroes have to face consequences for their actions and everything does not tie up nicely at the end. It is one of the saddest films I have ever seen, even on a par with Grave of Fireflies, but a little different. Even with all the tragedy, Windaria stands as one of the most beautifully made films in anime and what makes it that way is the gentleness that rides under the current of the madness. What we have is a cautionary tale, much like the true telling of The Little Mermaid, and often times the lessons we learn the hardest often are the ones that eventually make us open our eyes to see the beauty of what you truly have. Never forget the beauty of what you have in front of you and take care of yourself and your environment, because they are interdependent.

I will always hold Windaria high in my regard for the beauty of the story, the music, the haunting yet serene beginning sequence and the tear filled ending. Films like this only come to fruition on rare occasion and their impact is second to none. And lastly, thank you Kaname Production for producing this film. I have always loved the work you all have done and Windaria is a magnun opus you should be most proud of.

afternote: This has been released in the west as an edited film known as Once Upon a Time. I am not here to judge, but from what I have heard and read it is not a genuine retelling. Just be aware in case you come across a copy of this film with an English dub.

#44 : M.D. Geist

Let’s see what anime I can talk about. First let’s draw out a name from this basket here and… AH HELL NO! NO NO NO! For the love of the universe, why in all the world do I have to talk about M.D. Geist? It’s universally lauded, hated by some and obsessively loved by others… I question this last group of folks. WHY? WHY? … Ya know… I quit.

… ok I can’t quit just yet, give me one second here …

MDG_1Damn this is such a bad anime. It’s totally a macho cock swaggering violence fest. It is so badly written, acted, produced etc. that once you watch it a couple times… wait a minute. I watched this crap fest a couple times? Shaking my head, oh if it’s so bad why am I watching it a couple times. That is because ladies, gentlemen and everyone else, it is so bad, so dumb, so… cheesy and entertaining that it just… works. Yeah it’s so bad and so poopy that it’s… amazing. And I don’t mean like The Humanoid, I love The Humanoid as it has class. But M.D. Geist is like one of those really bad ‘B’, no ‘D’ action movies that you have to watch because you become a better individual in the process. After all why watch something decently blah when you can fill you life watching stuff that is amazing and  on the other end of the spectrum terrible that you are laughing at it more often due to the absurdity. Never settle for the middle of ordinary with your anime.

MDG_2So how was this production made. Japan had a lot of talent and money floating around in the mid 1980s. OVAs were starting to allow artists who were more production based like designers and animators to gain the coveted role of directorship. And Koichi Ohata, a genius mecha designer and animator, was given such an opportunity. Did he deserve the shot? Perhaps, but he was among a generation of those who got the opportunity… lucky bastards. And for those of us in the west Ohata would find a fan who would raise his production into legardary status, the head of Central Park Media (rest in peace great company) John O’Donnell. Not only would O’Donnell release and re-release this OVA, but would call for a sequel, because of course everything needs a sequel… well maybe not.

MDG_3And much like the production itself, the character of Geist can’t be killed off so easily. After all he is one of the ‘most dangerous’ after all. A creation of the conflicts of the planet Jerra, a universal killing machine of a man. And not only that, but he is unlikeable, crude, self absorbed and even asexual (just ask Vaiya, the only woman ever present in the whole OVA). The total anti-hero, but no… more like the villain as protagonist. So who does Geist fight for? The Nexrum Army? Nope. The Regular Army? No… wait the Regular Army… how generic? For Vaiya? Nope, he won’t even make a pass on her. He is fighting for his own cause and that cause is… uh…who knows. As long as he can keep fighting and shedding blood, he is living. Yeah, not much of a plot, but guess what the ending is only the beginning, even Geist says so with his final line of dialogue. Maybe now I see why there became a sequel a decade later… good lord. I’m done…

MDG_4Once considered the worst anime ever made, or sometimes the second worst ever made because “no one can agree on the worst” (AWO podcast) M.D. Geist has without question, a reputation, or perhaps a legacy. When it comes to bad anime, or maybe even that silly term ‘Manime”, Geist you are truly the king of all kings. May your crown never grow heavy. If you plan on watching this, go with the original cut in Japanese and not the so called director’s cut. But if you want a laugh… director’s cut in English all the way. One of the best awful dubs ever.

… and I might be a dork here, but anyone who is a fan of the show The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers if you remember Shane Gooseman… doesn’t he look like Geist?

#42 : Dragon Ball

Besides Pokemon and Studio Ghibli, Dragon Ball could be considered the ‘franchise’ in anime that equates a license to print money. Even me mentioning it here made Dragon Ball another $25… just because. Dragon Ball Z in particular cannot die if it tried and there were moments that Akira Toriyama tried to make it happen and FAILED! But I never got into all the testosterone over the top fighting of that series, which made me look at the original Dragon Ball for years as a passover. But, in due time I thought to myself, give that original a chance. Many folks say it is a gem of comedic action. So I purchased those blue Funimation boxes… and I must say I really… liked it. Who would have thought it.

DB1Seriously as repetitive and repetitive and repetitive it was, it was a good show. Did I mention it was repetitive because I will mention it again so watch out! Hot off the success of Dr. Slump and Arale-chan, Akira Toriyama thought he should make a rendition of the traditional tale of The Journey to the West mixed with his humor and splashes of 80s sci-fi. And it paid off… BIG TIME! Although to me the show goes something like this… our heroes go and look for the dragon balls, they collect them and make a wish and then we have a martial arts tournament and then we look for dragon balls again, collect them all and make a wish and then have another martial arts tournament. Over and over again with the final tournament taking place a few years later. Repetitive indeed, but entertaining even more so.

DB2A classmate of the 1986 season that along with it’s Shonen Jump brother Saint Seiya would bring about the revolution of what shonen, or more precisely fighting, anime would become. Heavy sci-fi and mecha began to wane and the super hero in the making journey of a hero who would have a number of adversaries became the new standard. The fighting genre though not born in 1986 became the defacto standard and it is because of Dragon Ball that the damn broke open wide to flood us with a multitude of popular series. Rurouni Kenshin, Naruto, One Piece, etc. all owe a debt to Dragon Ball. But, don’t forget ‘uncle’ Fist of the North Star as well and brother Saint Seiya (because I love Saint Seiya so I have to mention it again). But in terms of influence and staying power, Dragon Ball takes the cake.

DB3And what of our hero? Little Son Goku, the ever innocent feral child who is well… kind of adorable. I mean this kid is like the goofy clueless little brother I wish I had. And it is from Goku’s naivety that we get some of the best humor. The first arc of the series, which introduces a majority of the main cast family is a much watch. If you can’t commit to the whole series, give the first 13 episodes a go if you have yet to see Dragon Ball. If this would have been the series in and of itself it would be perfect. Kind of like an OVA, but as this was a TV series and a popular one at that it would keep going and going and again we get back to that old word… repetition. Make the formula and tweak it ever so slightly each time you have to repeat and you get a journey that could possibly never end.

DB4And eventually this original series did end, albeit  a few years later with the cast all grown up. Oh the end of childhood. After all we had to make way for the further adventures of Dragon Ball Z. So then I look back and think what were my favorite moments? Many abound such as Goku climbing to the sky to train with Korin, watching Emporer Pilaf bumble up again and again a lot like G.I. Joe’s Cobra Commander, the world’s most comfortable pair of underwear, watching Tien Shinhan turn from hard corp baddie into one of the most honorable characters, or Goku wondering why Bulma does not have a tail or ‘balls’. But then there was that visit to the Penguin Village where Arale-Chan lives. I may not want to dive into Dragon Ball Z, but Dr. Slump (which I mentioned earlier) is extremely tempting.

I must say, yes, I am a convert. Even that theme song is so catchy. And like in any proper fighting anime I have to get back to training, which for me is watching more stuff, or pulling what I can from memory. So the big question I have for all you… if you had all seven dragon balls, what would you wish for?

#20 : Grey: Digital Target

Imagine life as a constant war and your main ambition is twofold. The first is just basic survival. And the second being that after all of the struggle you are guaranteed citizenship in an utopian city. Kill or be killed, trust no one and above all else get out alive. This is the world of Grey and this is his movie. An adaptation from the original manga by Yoshihisa Tagami, welcome to Grey: Digital Target.

grey1The world of Grey is a cruel one where people volunteer to join their town militia and fight those who live in the other towns. Along the way you acquire the money to live and the credits to advance up the ladder of rank to obtain citizenship in the city where you will be free to live as you please. No one has ever seen this supposed city, only rumors fly as to what it is like. Each town is run by a computer and that computer is connected to the main computer, Big Mama, that sways influence over the entire world. Imagine the Matrix crossbred with the Hunger Games with an 1980s attitude; you pretty much you have Grey: Digital Target. It is possibly my favorite post apocalyptic science fiction war drama and I am here to spread the word on this under appreciated dark horse.

grey2But more about this man Grey. Often nicknamed ‘Grey Death’, our protagonist (can’t say ‘hero’ because he is a total anti-hero type) is known for being cold, distant and only out for himself. Rumors abound he sells out his teammates and takes in all the glory. Perhaps, but Grey is also hungry for vengeance and retribution. Underneath the stoic face and facade is a man with a piece of his past missing, that being his girlfriend Lips (yes that is her name). She became a trooper herself and before her death, Grey was not so ambitious or callous. After the fact, he has become a man to be reckoned with, but humanity still remains in his heart that has yet to be rediscovered. And as for his iconic helmet, it used to be belong to Lips and he wears it as a memento, but you would think a red helmet would be easily noticed? But it looks cool and that is what truly matters… it’s all about style.

grey3Why I really love this movie is due to the fact is gritty. Nihilist, punk rock type grit. Color, flash and dazzle are always fun, but when you are dealing with war, you have to keep it rough and dirty. Also you have to view life in the world of Grey: Digital Target as almost an allegory for contemporary life. Maybe not so much being physically at war, but how often do you or did you fight for something that you heard others tell you was the ultimate goal that turned out to be a let down for you personally? Sometimes the greater gifts of life are from what we trust in ourselves or discover on the way. Life is much more than what the so called ‘mother computer’ of culture dictates to us. So question the status quo!

If you are in the States and collect VHS this is one of those rarities that was only available on tape only (not sure for my friends in Europe did you all get this one?), though it is around digitally as well. Also check the manga too as the ending is a bit different and dire compared to the heroic open end of the anime. Plus, as the credits roll you get a really catchy pop song, Love is Heart. Why do I still hunt for, watch and continue watching older anime, because you find gems in the garden like this one. Time to get back to digging in the dirt.

… also the studio that made this production was Magic Bus and every time I see that name I always get The Who’s Magic Bus going off in my head. Yeah I’m a dork 🙂

 

#13 : The Humanoid

humanoid1COFFEE!!! Double expresso latte with caramel and whipped creme… Ok, maybe decaf. Wait a minute, I don’t even like coffee. And to be honest, I just spoiled the Humanoid. If you have seen in you know what I mean. You think it’s some goofy space adventure rip off with elements of Star Wars and the robot from Metropolis (well a more pretty version?). No it’s just coffee, probably got backing from Starbucks most likely. You know I’m done. See ya.

Oh you are still here? Yes there is a lot of coffee mentions in the short one off OVA, but in reality it is in my honest opinion the most 80s-tastic greatest bad anime ever. So it is in reality not that bad, just unbelievably entertaining. If this is not in your collection, look for the loose change in the couch, or borrow from a friend. And yes, you could download via torrent, but you are different, eh?

Well what to say without ruining this one, its a short production? Well there is the… no can’t say that. Or how about… no can’t say that one either. OH POOH!!! Our story begins with a rip off of Lando Calrissian, Alan making a big remark about how “memories of Earth and the rich smell of this coffee keeps my spirits up.” (Yes that is a direct quote) Wait, wait a minute here… Coffee… already. See told you so.

humanoid2OK, now to be serious. Despite The Humanoid being ridiculous beyond measure, cliche as all out, I have to say one thing about. I LOVE IT. It’s a goofy mess and a half, but as I said earlier, it has an entertaining value that only cheesy low budget sci-fi can only do right. Here is the basic plot. Two guys travel to a far off planet to make a stop to meet up with one of the boy’s girlfriend’s (and that would be the yet to be named Eric, because we find out later Alan is married, sorry ladies) and her grandfather who is a scientist. And guess what grandpa Dr. Watson invents, this really sleek and sexy ultra feminine robot named Antoniette who eventually learns about love and such even though she is only a machine? But, you also have a plot where you have some princess held in exile from another planet. And her administrator is a megalomaniac bishonen, Governor Proud is his name and that is no lie, who tries to reactivate some old ship which could destroy everything. WHAT? All of this in about 45 minutes? Yeah and our heroine Antoinette saves the day, but at a price. Plus, even more COFFEE references.

humanoid3Now I will give The Humanoid some credit, it is the only show I have seen where people have to escape from an escape capsule. That is a first for me? I mean this is what cheesy one-off OVAs from the 80s are all about. Highly creative, ridiculous and when done right… fun. It’s not that massively over testosterone gore of M.D. Geist, the what-the-hell did I just watch Crystal Triangle, or the Dirty Pair rip-off of Wanna-Be’s. (whoa two of these three were released by Central Park Media too, love ya CPM) It’s The Humanoid. Slightly flawed, yet beautiful in the eyes of those who have a taste for ‘bad’ anime. No not ‘bad’, more like ‘totally awesome’.

And I forgot to mention that my beloved Kaname Production was the studio that made this one. I am really sorry everyone. So now watch or rematch this mess because after all, it is good for you be it mind, body and soul. As for me. I will just Dance, Dance in the Rain… If you like the opening credits song you will get that one.