#196 : Cybernetics Guardian

A dystopian future, rapid scientific advancements, hidden secret societies, high intense action and the coming of a savior of darkness to cleanse the world… yeah that sounds fun, but what else have you got to offer? Well how about massive lion’s mane hair? Oh yes, now we are talking. A possessed beast with massive hair that defies gravity, yeah I don’t care how bad the plot is, or is not, I think we have here a hit for an OVA. But then a familiar name appears, Koichi Ohata. Oh no, not M.D. Geist… again! Never fear, this time we have something different. This time we’ll dive into Cybernetics Guardian.

CG_1Meet now our protagonist. This John Stocker fellow has a bright future ahead of him. His job is to test out a mech suit made of astenite, a metal that draws in transformative psychic energy and has been used variously in many medical applications to great success. All goes well until a test accident awakens hidden powers inside Mr. Stalker. A demonic presence named Saldo begins to emerge which heightens even more so after John Stalker’s body is kidnapped by a masked and robed figure. He is taken back to his childhood home, the slums of the city known as Cancer. There evil priests revive in process this beastly creature that was once John Stalker to lay ravage onto the city of Cyber-wood.

CG_2Simple and basic, this story is a generic tale seen in many comic book scenarios… “Unleash the beast within”, or “OMG, what has happened to me, I’m possessed!” Except this time our protagonist gets the ultimate coif… it has to be a weave! Cybernetics Guardian is definitely anime and has the feel we expect from Japanese hands, yet I can’t help but witness a more Western influence. The characters look more Caucasian than usual, which of course is subjective to my eye, but even the setting feels like Los Angeles from Blade Runner, which of course borrowed many Eastern elements. So perhaps we have a draw of sorts with no real side taken between East or West? Visually in terms of color and mood there just is something different in the palette that draws more into the more indie or underground American style. Maybe it’s just me?

CG_3For being a short one off production and a product of Koichi Ohata, Cybernetics Guardian is actually decent to watch. Nothing against Ohata, but many of his productions have a schlock feel too them with a touch of the ultra violent. Cyberbetics Guardian has a little of this as well, but there is also some substance under the showing off of hyper active macho gore. M.D. Geist I liked, though it is a bit on the ridiculous (so bad it’s entertaining), and Genocyber I could never get through a whole watching (just not my thing). Yet Cybernetics Guardian is a happy medium and can function well as there is humanity in the John Stocker character, unlike say Geist. By no means a top of the line OVA release Cyberbetics Guardian is well executed in terms of paint and pen and has enough of of an okay story to watch through, just not very often. It might be the crown jewel of Ohata’s early work?

#191 : Garaga

Is it over yet? No. How about now? No. Now!? Still no. … Mediocrity is my keyword for Garaga, or to be more precise, Hyper Psychic Geo Garaga. Might as well give the full title and dress this anime up in it’s Sunday best because at least to me and many others this movie ain’t looking too good. Lop this title in with the others on the ‘bad’, or ‘pointless’ list. Spacey sci-fi titles by 1989 were getting a little stale in the face of more contemporary cyberpunk stories and quality standards for animation had grown leaps and bounds since the decade began. Alas Garaga was retreading old territory and not presenting itself very well.

Gar_1Many anime titles are a joy to write for, but this time round I have to do my job and get on with it. Garaga began as a manga like many anime and would eventually makes it’s way into the hands of animation studios. May we return to the late 1980s, a time of great abundance in Japan where in particular direct to video OVAs were being made like food at a short order diner. Some OVAs looked very polished in terms of story and presentation, while some looked cheap and on a budget either because it was a small independent production, or perhaps funding got tight. Garaga began on the OVA route on the cheaper end, but would eventually get expanded into a full feature film by 1989.  This meant it was placed next to titles like Kiki’s Delivery Service, Patlabor: The Movie and Venus Wars as examples. Not to be mean, but Garaga looked like an eyesore compared to these three examples.

Gar_2Beyond what was said previously, let’s investigate Garaga’s plot, which jumps around too much between so many dull characters. First we begin as the ship XeBeC leaves station with a crew more competent than it’s captain. By the way they are carrying special cargo, two life capsules. Then they evacuate in an escape shuttle to some mysterious planet, Garaga, and wake up the two ladies who were sleeping in the capsules. Then it turns into Planet of the Apes… where did these apemen come from? Then some psychic lady shows up. And then the crew all reveal that they are military and have a mission on this planet. What!? Oh yeah I forgot to mention some military commander wanting to control Garaga who is actually a pawn for some cyborg who wants to eradicate everyone, be it the Earth humans, the native psychics who look like humans and the apemen. Is it over yet? NO!! We still have half the movie to go… sigh. Please make it stop.

Gar_3Let’s propose something here? I want to leave something of a point of praise for Hyper Psychic Geo Garaga, though I am finding it quite difficult. The title itself could have been great for a mecha TV show, or OVA. And if it could have been that way then make it a really cheesy super robot show at that. From another perspective when watching Garaga I felt like I was watching a possible Saturday morning cartoon, except the violence is a bit heavier than something shown here in the west. Certain character designs I could see as action figures such as Jay, or Farla and even the apemen. Would you buy these toys? As this was released in 1989, the year Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles debuted here in the west, Garaga would have been a competitor that would have lost out big to Turtle’s popularity. … You know, maybe it’s best to let Garaga just be and move on?

Gar_4Hyper Psychic Geo Garaga won’t be a title I will be re-watching for a while, maybe if ever again. When cataloguing a vast collection, or even doing menial work, sometimes we have to grit our teeth to get things done. Not every piece of anime is a gem, some are quite a drudge in fact. Yet even these less than interesting titles are also a part of this vast family of anime classics; yet I can’t call Garaga a classic in the traditional sense. At least this one is over and I can move on now. … So in my own personal opinion just how bad was Garaga? Honestly, I would rather watch Odin!

#190 : Riding Bean

Know this name of Kenichi Sonada. In terms of 1980s anime, his character designs are a staple, in particular sci-fi and action titles associated with the studio AIC. Bubblegum Crisis, Gall Force and Wanna-Be’s are examples of his work during this tenure, but another side of Kenichi Sonoda was his work as a manga artist creating his own original titles. In the 1990s would come the release of a fan favorite, Gunsmith Cats, but in 1989 another one of his creations would bring Sonoda’s personal vision to anime for the first time. A distant cousin, side story, or alternate tale  of the Gunsmith Cats universe, that actually came first… may we look into Riding Bean.

RB_1The style of Kenichi Sonoda can be summed up in few words: action, fire arms, fast cars (in particular the Ford Shelby GT500 Mustang) and Chicago. Sweet Home Chicago home of Sears Tower, The Blues Brothers, deep dish pizza and a rogue individual by the name of Bean Bandit. Who is this man Bean Bandit? He’s tough, he’s bulletproof (in particular his jacket and headband) and he can drive fast. Not fast like professional race car drivers on pavement, but more like the ‘good ol’ boys’ of the past who ran moonshine throughout the southern United States, or perhaps professional rally drivers. He can’t wake up from a taser to the neck, but a hot frying pan to the face does the trick. Bean is a brick… Chuck Norris you have met your match!

RB_2Bean’s profession is that of a hired driver who for a price will get you out of dodge better than anyone. His ride is the famous Roadbuster. … Gunbuster? … no, no wrong anime. A customized ride that looks like the offspring of a Porsche 959 and a Ferrari F40, but with the engine up front. Of course Roadbuster could symbolize Bean himself as well since car and driver are essentially one when both elements come together. Along for the ride is a familiar Sonoda name from Gunsmith Cats, Rally Vincent. Her skills as a sharp shooter are still there, but the appearance is different… blonde hair over the dark. Together as a team aboard the Roadbuster, Bean and Rally out run the Chicago Police Department time and time again.

RB_3Never will I proclaim any anime to be the best at anything and if I have in the past then I repeal that notion, but Riding Bean may be the best one off action OVA ever made. At only 40–45 minutes it is never boring, dull, or badly done in terms of story, characters, or animation quality. Though the violence does at times get brutal, it is not the focus of this OVA. Riding Bean is a comedic wild ride that expresses the absolute obsessions of it’s creator Kenichi Sonoda. Not one of my favorite picks on any list, Riding Bean is an anime that I do enjoy nonetheless when I do see it and many of you out there are die hard fans of this OVA. Get onboard and take a ride with Bean!