#213 : Ladius

A great treasure awaits you! Imagine this, a power source from an ancient civilization that can also act like an elixir which can grant life, the Rido. A young nomadic trio will be our guides and along the way they end up meeting new friends and familiar foes. Sounds exciting right, but there is a catch… this presentation is technically a mecha anime as well… only the last 10–15 minutes though. Oh you like giant robots, well then I have an OVA for you… meet Makyou Gaiden Le Deus, often translated as just Ladius. Or should it just be Le Deus? … to good friends Ladius can be called The Deuce and yes, I made that up!

Ladius_1Finding opening credit music from my favorite anime is one music category I sometimes like to listen to. Now and then I come across a track that sounds really rockin’ yet it does not ring a bell of familiarity. This was my introduction to Ladius and as I really, really loved the song I had to track down the original video. After watching I would scratch my head, HEY!, how come we never saw a release for this here in the West? I believe the UK had a subtitled VHS release way back when but nothing of the such ever happened over in my neck of the woods. This would have been a great seller, I mean I would have bought it, as it had many of the tropes that we all like in adventure and mecha titles. Reminds me of “How many licks does it take to get to the the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop? … The world may never know”. If I was in charge it would have been different, but I was not and I still am not in that position. Thank you fansubbers for all you do!

Ladius_2This red disc, a beautiful lens, one of the Eyes of Zalem is much like a key that opens one of the fabled lost treasure troves of the Rido that is located in the ruins of the Quall civilization at Zalem. Viewing the night sky through this lens also is a treat as well and it is this very act where we meet Riot and his two lady cohorts, Spica and Seneca. This trio on the go are on a mission to discover this refuge of the Rido, but first they must make a quick stop at a little town known as Zigoa to find another Eye of Zalem and in the process meet another key component to our quest. Yuta, a young lady who runs a shop in Zigoa is quite bored from the mundane is soon visited by Riot and crew. Yuta holds this other Eye of Zalem which is also wanted by a gang of theives. Damage ensues and guess who gets the bill, a coy grinning Riot.

Ladius_3Mixing genres makes Ladius a fun OVA. Much like a treasure hunting adventure in the style of a Lupin III caper, we get instead a fantasy environment found in the more quest like and imaginative Birth and Dragon Ball with the Ladius plot for discovering the Rido. Yet finding lost artifacts is only part of the equation. We do have mecha elements as well, which reminds me a little of Dangaioh in terms of fun and action packed robot sparring. Plus our main man Riot has some rockin’ awesome hair and a jumpsuit which is so de rigueur for 1980s heroic fashion. Yet why do I feel this is like a 90s anime when this was made in 1987? Maybe because Ladius can get comedic at times and comedy with questing makes me think of Slayers? All in all, Ladius may not be the most unique combination of elements, but in terms of mecha presentations it stands out as a little different… and in a good way.

Ladius_4Broken record time… time to add yet another oddball OVA release to the shelf of awesome 80s anime. I swear I keep finding these one off releases and they never disappoint in any fashion. I do question as to why only one solitary release? Ladius only reveals one chapter in the longer quest of Riot and the girls, yet there is so much more to discover and to tell. Again I am thankful for what we do have because what we do have is a great example of 80s OVA excellence. My only warning is beware the offering of a jigu nut, it may not agree with you!

#210 : Take the X Train

If ever an anime made me scratch my head and go what in the world did I just watch, then Take the X Train is perhaps near the top of the list. Just exactly what genre is this OVA? It’s like a comedy and a suspense thriller and perhaps a horror flick(?) and I may be stretching it… a mecha production. Not so much piloting a robot, or cybernetics, but consider this concept… the combining of man and machine on a metaphysical as well as a physical level. Take the X Train is a ride you will never forget. ALL ABOARD!!

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), quality = 100“This work is dedicated to the Jazz great, Duke Ellington,” proclaims the opening credits. A send up to one of his well known hits, Take the A Train, Take the X Train is not so much like the Duke in terms of style. Maybe more like Miles Davis in his more experimental works, or even better, Ornette Colemen, or Cecil Taylor. Why I say the later two is because while the plot is comprehensible, this anime is a free form piece of art, more like Free Jazz than the Duke’s sophisticated Big Band style. Do I love Jazz by the way? Oh yeah, John Coltrane and Thelonius Monk I wear on my sleeve. Jazz is even used as the background music, bur only occasionally… hmm?

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), quality = 100Visually this is a very tasteful movie in the style of the already mentioned Jazz in pictures. The editing, design, everything seems to be to be like an art house film, not at all pristine and mainstream. This is not in the same vain as say Angel’s Egg, but maybe more like California Crisis: Gun Salvo (my opinion). Then a familiar name appears… actually make that two. First was the studio, Madhouse, who always makes anime with a little bit of edge and artsy flavor no matter the genre, or the director. The second is the director, a favorite of mine due to his visual narrative approach mixed with a little avant-garde attitude, Rintaro. His work is definitely an acquired taste; examples include: Space Pirate Captain Harlock, the Galaxy Express 999 films (GE999 and Adieu), Bride of Deimos, Dagger of Kamui, Harmeggeddon, and the Labyrinth section from Neo Tokyo.

XTrain_3Trains of course are at the focus of this OVA, as well as our main protagonist, Tour Ishihara. An average guy, though a bit goofy and kind of eccentric, Toru works for a company that is planning to revitalize and market a more retro attitude for the train market. One train is at the focus of this committee, which goes by EF 5861, a train that Toru thinks is a junk heap. Watch what you say my friend, as this train has a certain destiny that coincides with yours. In other news, one night after a fun time with his girlfriend (this was the most awkward love scene I have ever seen), Toru waits for the next train in a crowd when all of a sudden the lights go dark and sparks fly all over the atmosphere and in particular the tracks. Then passes a mysterious locomotive… could it be a ghost train…is this all for real? May I introduce our other main character, the X Train.

XTrain_4With no expectations coming in I was amazed I found another interesting gem of an OVA buried in the garden of lost anime titles. While a little bizarre, the artsy nature of Rintaro brought out a certain charm in Take the X Train, which is by the way based on a novel by Koichi Yamano (I give credit to fansub ending credits for this bit of info). The only thing I won’t miss are Toru’s twitching pulse and occasional nose bleeds; every time it always gives me the creeps. Now for a send off, check out Duke Ellington’s recording of Take the ‘A’ Train. It swings!

#202 : Fist of the North Star 2

Legends never die, heroes are immortal… with all that in mind, let’s have a sequel! Considered the genesis point of shonen fighter that defined the genre we know today, Fist of the North Star was as much evolutionary as it was revolutionary. The epic tale of the wandering martial artist Kenshiro has only just begun after the conclusion of the 1984 TV series. A film adaptation would follow in 1986 and a multitude of reboots have abounded ever since. Yet in 1987 a true sequel, or perhaps continuation was released to TV. Familiar faces have returned and new foes await in Fist of the North Star 2. Are you, “A tough boy (or girl)” that knows what it means to be “livin’ in the 90s”?

FotNS2_1Round Two! Now then, is this going to be nothing more than just a wash, rinse and repeat series almost as if the first Fist of the North Star never ended? I thought the battling was over; Raoh was defeated and peace was brought back to the land. Didn’t Ken and Yuria get to live happily ever after and settle down, build a house, raise a family, etc.? Not completely. Three truths exist in life: death, taxes and shonen fighters are often never over even when it is over. Just add yet another arc again and again and again if the going is good. So don’t expect nothing new in terms of what you have seen before, well except for the characters we meet during this 43 episode sojourn.

FotNS2_2Let us now return to more familiar names. Kenshiro is obvious, this is his show after all, but two faces you may not recognize completely are Bat and Lin. During the first series they were both young children who were often under the care of Kenshiro like a surrogate father. For Fist of the North Star 2, Bat and Lin reunite and fight along side Kenshiro as they have grown into adulthood. A true surrogate family reunion. Many new quests include finding the Celestial Emperor, a journey to the Island of Asura and the distant memories as well as the ever powerful influence of the once mighty Raoh still permeate throughout the land. In usual fashion, Kenshiro ends up wanting to go it alone eventually, feeling he is the one with the cross to bear the heavy load. Oh yeah… and can you believe it… Lin has a twin sister too?

FotNS2_3I have remarked in the past how I appreciate the type of protagonist Kenshiro is. He may be ripped and very masculine, but his quiet and caring demeanor (towards those who are just and kind) and ability to move, or fight, when the time is right is more an aspect of the feminine. He is well balanced, the definition of yin and yang in harmony, but there is more that makes Fist of the North Star appealing outside of the fighting. While Mad Max and Bruce Lee are obvious visual influences there were a couple others that I noticed watching this sequel series in particular. Fist of the North Star is the ultimate lone wolf samurai story, or put another way, perhaps the best Western ever told not in the Wild West. This is totally a Spaghetti Western in every way, but for the fact that Fist of the North Star is a Japanese cartoon about the martial arts. I prefer the cartoons (obviously) 😉 … Who needs cowboys anyway?

… and then wouldn’t you know it, about halfway through the series we do encounter cowboys.

FotNS2_4You can have too much of a good thing. I enjoy Fist of the North Star overall, but in all honesty I was getting a little tired getting through this second series. It’s a great sequel, but like many shonen fighters I often wonder when they will ever end. This second series in many ways can be considered like Dragon Ball Z to the original Dragon Ball in that for both franchises we are just moving into an evolved portion of the plot that takes place years later. After all these years I will be the first to say that after all this fighting, Ken please consider retiring. You must be tired and you have earned your time to relax my friend. But Ken as he is will most likely never retire as he is always on some sort of a journey.

By the way… even though the opening sequence said everyone was fightin’ and livin’ in the 90s… Fist of the North Star 2 didn’t look much like the 90s that I remember. Oh well, maybe I was not livin’ I guess. 😉