#228 : Megazone 23 Part III

And I thought this was a 90s anime… goes to show I need to read the release dates more carefully. Megazone 23 is supposedly not done telling it’s cyberpunk mecha storyline just yet. The original from 1985 is a personal favorite of mine and the 1986 sequel is quite good as well, but I thought the story was over? As much a sequel as well as a reboot, Megazone 23 Part III would bring back the legendary red Garland motorcycle and virtual pop star Eve Tokimatsuri one more time to finish the decade of the 1980s with this third installment in the guise of a two part OVA.

M23_3_1Here is a question… can you have too much of a good thing? In terms of Megazone 23 I sometimes say yes. I was satisfied with the original as a complete stand alone story. I accept the second part as a possible alternate ending to conclude the first, but where do we go from here? Into the even farther future after mankind has resettled onto the Earth and yet similar problems have re-emerged, such is the fate of humanity. The more we change, the more we stay the same? Potential is possible here, but much of Megazone 23 Part III feels like borrowed re-hatching from the initial installment of Megazone 23 from a certain point of view. The dynamic of young man on a motorcycle meeting a girl and a stoic rival and unraveling a mystery of the underpinnings of the structure of society are very, very similar. So how much is truly brand new here?

M23_3_2Welcome to the world of Eden, the new civilization for humanity, and meet a new face Eiji Takanaka. Our new protagonist has been hired by EX, a large tech giant, for his computing skills as well as his exception abilities in the arcade galleries. Eiji’s game of choice is the big hit of the moment, an immersive cockpit shooter that makes the SEGA classic Afterburner look like amateur child’s play. The name of this game he dominates with his friends is none other than… Hard On? (yes you can laugh here) Yet there is another name that seems to follow Eiji’s high scores and that name is Sean, a name that seems to be familiar to the girl Eiji just met, Ryo. Eiji’s later meetup with Sean would become a twist of fate where Sean parlays to Eiji to meet Eve in the heart of Eden. And when I mean meet Eve, I mean the real Eve… wait a minute… I thought she was a virtual idol?

M23_3_3Design consistency is something this series needs to learn. Following the trend from the previous two incarnations of Megazone 23 we get yet another character designer to join the group and new directors to run the show. Hiroyuki Kitazume would lend the his hand to character designs and as a fan of his work (Starlight Angel, ZZ Gundam, Char’s Counterattack as examples) I welcome it, but I miss the originals from Toshihiro Hirano. Directors Kenichi Yatagai and more importantly Shinji Aramaki would run the show behind the cameras. Aramaki had been with Megazone 23 since the beginning, as a mechanical designer (a skill he is quite good at), but now he flexed his directorship muscles which for this OVA came out pretty good… just don’t give this guy CGI films, the are really a snore fest (my opinion).

M23_3_4There was a song and album by the band King Crimson known as Three of a Perfect Pair and how fitting it is for this final installment of Megazone 23 as this was the third part and comprised of a pairing of episodes. But is it perfect? Well… It’s a sharp looking OVA, perhaps one of the most polished looking cyberpunk stories I have ever seen. And by being polished I mean very fashionable. Cyberpunk usually gets a little gritty, or has an air of danger, but Megazone 23 Part III is like a mix of Vogue and GQ stylings circa 1989, gamer and hacker culture, a sterile dystopian fantasy aesthetic, that could pass in Hollywood, and mecha fighting in the even farther future. Megazone 23 Part III parlays a whole lot of style and even adds to the progression of the history of the Megazone 23 universe. So in its own way, Megazone 23 Part III is kind of perfect. …except for Hard On, lol.

#227 : Legend of Lemnear

Legend of Lemnear… I find it funny how a DVD begins with a parental warning of, “The Following Program Contains Scenes of Nudity“ and yet mentions nothing of other scenes having violence, or even anything about a cheesy plot! I am not going to get into the moral argument here, but really? Legend of Lemnear is one of many late 1980s OVAs that can be classified as shovel wear and yet I am sure many of us have seen it. It was around way back when, released on a multitude of video formats here in the west, so no denying it, you have watched it!… or have you?

Lem_1Imagine Leda: Fantastic Adventure of Yohko mixed with Amon Saga (ever hear of these two? they are worth a watch!) spiced with some scenes of “fan service”, or more precisely… bare breasts. We are adults here ok, or perhaps philosophically wise youths trapped in bodies of various ages, and just because some bits of nudity are shown does not equate porn. After all this was a project created by the same individual who did Plastic Little (oh lord not that one), among other things if you are at all familiar. Legend of Lemnear is at least watchable, with a plot and a supposed point… sort of, but it leaves a little too be desired. … and yes it is more than just a cheap ploy to show the upper halves of naked women.

Lem_2The visual presentation is quite polished and well drafted, including anatomy… and not just the previously mentioned boobs, but also facial characteristics and muscle tone. Drawing talent was abundant for this 1989 release. Yet the story that holds it all together is bland and generic. A lone traveler comes into town wanting to avenge the killing of her parents and gets caught up in a maelstrom of action and mythology that ends up bringing everything around full circle. Yeah ok, sounds like a decent run of the mill fantasy and magic kind of tale, but I want to see the budget spreadsheets. My theory is that they spent 85% on drawing and 15% on story… what about the acting? Never mind that I am on a role here.

Lem_3Like many one-offs that are just over a half hour in terms of total length of time don’t expect much here. I hope the next time that Lemnear gets released, which I doubt will happen, it will need to include, “The Following Program Contains Plenty of Cheese”. And let’s face it folks, we all like cheese, admit it or not. Some like Cheddar, some like Gouda, some like Provolone and even some like Cheez Whiz (that’s not even real cheese either!). I too like my share of cheese because I am human after all and yes I don’t love Legend of Lemnear, but I do watch it from time to time… and it’s not for the fan service, which is fairly tame for the most part. Now then, can you pass the Parmesan?

#225 : Patlabor: The Movie

A man examines a woman’s passport and asks, “Sightseeing?” The woman responds, “No.” And then tips her sunglasses finishing with, “Combat.” … Tokyo is becoming the great metropolis for the upcoming 21st century, a true Babylon of the future. With the help of Labors, we see the use of mecha to aid in the evolving construction of this vast city. Labors also have functions and purposes with the military and even law enforcement as well. Progress, and yet all is not well in utopia. A new Hyper Operating System (HOS) is being used for these labors and lets just say it has a few bugs in the system. Following up from the OVA released in 1988, Patlabor would move to the big screen in 1989 with Patlabor: The Movie… a fitting title.

P1Movie_1Labors all over Tokyo and even in other parts of the world are starting to go a little crazy, malfunction and erratically begin acting on their own terms, coming to life so to speak. The developer of this HOS upgrade system, which seems to have something to do with this phenomenon, was a mysterious man, one Eiichi Hoba. Not much is known about him in this movie except he has a very elegant looking raven (thus quote the raven, evermore) and Hoba fancied himself someone like the Abrahamic God, being his name E. Hoba which sounds very much like Jehovah. Ironically he commits suicide at the very beginning of this movie and without ever saying a single word he gives a sly grin whilst jumping off to his death. I believe his actions and facial smirk was all he needed to make a statement?

P1Movie_2Now what about the traditional cast of Patlabor, the crew of Tokyo Police Department’s Special Vehicles Section 2 Division, this wouldn’t be a Patlabor production without them? And you are correct. They are here in full force, you have to get past the introduction. Perhaps this story was is the followup, the possible 8th episode for the previously made OVA? Or not? We begin with Not and Asuma visiting Section 1’s commanding officer, Captain Nagumo, as she finishes her testing in the new Type 0 Labor, the transition mech featuring the new HOS system. Once back at headquarters wejoin Section 2 in full gear during a job to stop one of these troublesome runaway Labors. Much is questioned as to why and how these Labors are malfunctioning. While Patlabor productions often showcase everyone in the cast, I feel we see much from Asuma as a character in this movie, for it is he who feels the calling to dig deep into the mysteries of these troublesome Labors and the connection with th previously mentioned HOS.

P1Movie_3While Patlabor is credited to the Headgear collective and each individual member does get their moment of fame, I have to give a shout out to director Mamoru Oshii. As a big fan of his work: Patlabor in general, Urusei Yatsura, Angel’s Egg, Ghost in the Shell, etc., Patlabor: The Movie interestingly often gets underplayed. Mostly because I am obsessed with the 1993 sequel, Patlabor 2: The Movie. Still, Patlabor: The Movie totally fits his style and approach in terms of visuals, editing, camera angles that sometimes harken a feel of the mysterious. So in total we have a well crafted production that defies any genre… so typical of Patlabor in general? Mecha, comedy, drama, thriller, action film… I say yes to all of them and also a little of something else that cannot be explained with typical words. It’s an intelligent movie that can pass as a more mainstream flick.

P1Movie_4State of the art for 1989, but de rigueur now, Patlabor: The Movie gave us a look into the complexities of technology in our modern world. Though not the first story to tackle this issue in the overall, Patlabor: The Movie would show us the issues dealing with the underlying software that is so common place in our gadgets today. In many ways Patlabor: The Movie has aged quite well because of this, as well as the more subtle imagery that does not scream out a late 1980s aesthetic. While technology does bring a sense of convenience, we have to ask what are we losing in order to gain something that is newer, faster and very appealing? My advice from all this… stick with what works… don’t upgrade. Do I sound old fashioned?