#84 : Blue Sonnet

BS_1Say shojo and often words like romance and magical girls become the defacto answer. Of course this is only stereotyping and not the complete truth. As an example, CLAMP creates shojo material and it is anything but light fun and flowers. More like some of the best dark and psychological material ever made. But, what if a shojo title was more like say Fist of the North Star in it’s level of action and even at times… gore. Hang on a minute… got to thumb through these old LaserDiscs here… AH HA found it! Let’s rap about a little OVA from 1989 called Blue Sonnet.

BS_2For an OVA that is five episodes in length, Blue Sonnet hits you fast and hard from the beginning with intense fervor as we dive into the opening credits. That theme song, “What is love?”… such a favorite of mine. Interspersed between the rockin’ guitars and gritty vocals we see the back story of our anti-hero Sonnet Barge. She is a teenage esper who seems to have come from the rough streets of New York and awakens her latent powers during uncomfortable circumstances, which brings more confusion into her life. After the credits we fast forward to find Sonnet showing her skills in a training example, against tanks no less (damn girl!), which highlights the cyborg enhancements she has received from a group known as Talon. She also has this weird tiara like headpiece that becomes a funky visor… stylish! From here she becomes focused on her new mission, to find Red Fang… and go to a Japanese high school as well.

BS_3Now onto our other main character and perhaps the true hero of this anime… wait… Blue Sonnet is not all about Sonnet? The original manga title was Red Fang Blue Sonnet, so either the producers or the English translation dropped out Red Fang. In a way this works out because Lan Komatsuzaki doesn’t have a clue she is Red Fang, a super esper from an ancient lineage. She is just an average high school student… yeah we have all heard that one before. Come on Lan, you can move objects and mentally sense things at a higher level than most of us. All kidding aside, her eventual meeting with Sonnet becomes fated, confusing and dangerous. Lan’s questioning of why the new girl in class has it out to get her mixed with emerging powers will turn her life upside down. Plus, she is beginning her menstrual cycle as well. When it rains, it pours.

Over the course of these five half hours, more characters become involved (including two more super powered espers!), the story gets darker and the action explodes. Almost like a video game with five levels, will you be ready for the final boss at level five? Just watch out for that tank thats called a Tarantula. Or, perhaps on another view, like an organism Blue Sonnet just keeps multiplying out of the shear reason of existence. The plot is fairly run of the mill 80s sci-fi and action, but it does it so well that it doesn’t matter. Much like punk rock, this OVA is a more simplified approach in art style and attitude, but loud and big in presence.

BS_4Let’s return to our girl Sonnet. She is after all a tool for the Talon organization and eventually she comes to question what is right and just for herself. She questions what is her true enemy and is it right that she should commit these violent acts in the name of a group that brought her out from her troubled past. Will she ever learn, as the opening credits say, What is love? And maybe more appropriate, what is my own truth for me? By the end we get a little glimpse of a vulnerability from Sonnet, but because this is a short OVA, its glanced over very quickly. Could we get an episode six to finish this off instead of all of this being up in the air? I mean there are romantic tendencies here, but I leave that to you to view as to with whom.

So on a final note… Blue Sonnet you kick ass oh so well. Now I need to re-listen/watch those opening credits yet again just because 🙂

#78 : Saint Seiya: The Movies

Saint Seiya, oh how I love thee, let me count the ways… I can forgive many of the short comings of Saint Seiya. In essence, it is a run of the mill shonen fighter, but the inclusion of Greek mythology, astrology and heavy melodrama make it a heavy favorite for me. The original TV series I love dearly, the manga was great, the Hades Arc OVAs which finished the original manga adaptation was welcomed. A couple years ago, the company Discotek released a bunch of SS materials. I bought a few of these DVDs and here is what came of that purchase.

SS_M_1I will only make comment on the four SS films that were released from 1987 to 1989. All of these were released by Discotek and fall into my blog’s concentration on anime of the 1970s and 1980s. Several other productions would appear decades later, but these four titles will be under the spotlight: Evil Goddess Eris (1987), The Heated Battle of the Gods (1988), Legend of Crimson Youth (1988) and Warriors of the Final Holy Battle (1989). All four are out of canon to the original manga and ironically The Heated Battle of the Gods is an alternative to the filler Asgard Arc from the TV series. These films are more for fun and I am sure were created to keep the SS marketing machine going.

SS_M_2All four movies are very cliche and are so formulaic that I end up predicting the whole plot before the beginning credits. Though each film has it’s own pace and variation on the so called theme, or leitmotif of the fightype formula of successive adversaries leading up to, they all kind of go like this… A great arch enemy descends and brings five subordinates. In the process Saori/Athena either gets kidnapped, or wooed away (if this enemy is oh so charming and handsome). Then our five Bronze Saints begin there quest to save their sacred leader. Usually Pegasus Seiya goes first and then gets that crap kicked out of him, but defeats the adversary. Next comes Cygnus Hyoga and the process repeats and then we get to Dragon Shiryu. He as well falls after a great fight, but Shiryu ends up having his cloth removed because we all have to witness his owe so muscular chest. Seriously, watch any SS and this always happen.

SS_M_3Next we get a double feature with Andromeda Shun, the ‘cute’ one who is more of a pacifist, also falls victim to his adversary. And that is when Shun’s brother Phoenix Ikki shows up and says, “Yo, you be messin’ with my brother? I’m gonna mess you up good!” Then Ikki puts the smack down. Seriously, always bailing out your younger brother. When will Shun learn to take care of himself? Later, Athena falls into further peril and all five of the boys, though being deeply beaten, trek towards the final showdown to take down the big bad enemy. All five boys take a stand one at a time and then like a miracle of the heavens, the Sagittarius Gold Cloth appears. Of course it chooses Seiya every time and all the boys cry out “Seiya, Seiya” and after that… Seiya reborn to perfection and full of strength draws the bow to shoot the golden arrow to save the day. Then all is happy ever after. …you can’t make this all up?

SS_M_4Of the four films, three are 45 minute shorts so it makes sense that they are not the most deep in regards for plot. You are cramming a supposed arc into less than an hour! The third film, Legend of Crimson Youth, which is over an hour long, has a plot that bends the predictive formula and has a bit more drama and… is my favorite of the four. Plus, in this film, we see the resurrection and inclusion of the five Gold Saints who fell during the Sanctuary Arc of the TV series: Gemini Saga, Cancer Deathmask, Capricorn Shura, Aquarius Camus and Pisces Aphrodite. Gold Saints forever!, they add to the plot greatly. This was also a film which celebrated the 20th anniversary of SS’s parent publisher, Shonen Jump.

So in final, I would watch these one at a time and… Nothing is ever a substitute for that original Sanctuary arc of the TV series 🙂 These are, as mentioned earlier, sideline stories that are not a part of the original plot so take these for what you will.

#60 : Yotoden: Chronicle of the Warlord Period

Japan, the feudal era of approximately the early 1580s, is where we find a demon lord that has come to power… He is looking to unite the country all for himself… There is a legend of a comet splitting the sky telling of his coming, but also of a legend of three weapons that have the power to take this dictator down. These three weapons: a long sword, a halberd and a short sword. That legend is Yotoden: Chronicle of the Warlord Period.

Yoto_1Is it me, or does Yotoden feel like a 90s production (it was originally released in 1987)? Almost like mixing up Ninja Scroll, Record of Lodoss War and the more serious elements of Rurouni Kenshin? Maybe? Or, maybe not, but for me it showed the direction where a certain branch of OVAs were heading towards in the next decade. Much like Lodoss War, Legend of the Galactic Heroes, or even the original Heroic Legend of Arislan (Arslan), Yotoden is an epic. A BIG EPIC! And yet it is contained into a small amount of space (just three episodes). Yet, that space gives enough to show off our main cast of heroes: Ayanosuke, or Ayame, the tough pretty girl, who has the short sword; Sakon, the quiet rebel wielding the long sword (he could be a proto-Kenshin with that red hair) and Ryoma, the big guy with heart, who has the halberd.

Yoto_2Much in the tradition of shonen action, our heroes have to fight through foes before getting to the final big boss. Except… we have no gratuitous filler; we have a tight schedule to keep here. These foes are the seven Oboro ninja and the boss is known as Nobunaga Oda or could it be his henchman Ranmaru Mori? And much like other shonen adventures, there is a heavy, heavy emphasis on… action, yes, but the supernatural, even more so. Monsters, demons and omens written in the stars make a huge chunk of what ties the whole story together. Maybe if the original novel by Takeshi Narumi was more focused on direct realism it would have been say more like Legend of Galactic Heroes in approach, but this is me on a soapbox. It’s a fine fantasy story, with great drama and even the little tinge of a possible romantic feelings between Ayame and Sakon. Not a bad combination of elements if I say so. I mean why tell history the way we think we thought it was instead of making it into what you want it to be?

Yoto_3Two versions have been released of this early J.C. Staff creation. The first, the original 1987 three part OVA of approximately 45 minutes each, which bear the name of the title of this writing (though only on VHS here in the west). The second is a collected movie version from 1989 called Wrath of the Ninja (DVD is available in the west with an optional dub) and was a minor staple on cable television during the late 1990s. Pick your poison as both are action heavy and move at an even pace. I like the original three parter since it goes a little more in depth (I am partial to the episodic format), much like my relationship with one of my favorite 90s OVAs, Macross Plus.

Yoto_4Now I will be the first to admit that I am no expert in Japanese history, or the so-called historic or samurai genres which number in the plenty. But, what I have seen, has been a good watch. It may not be the most natural cup of tea for me in particular, but the flavor is a welcome experience. I like Yotoden enough to give it a watch every couple years, but I doubt it will ever be top ten or twenty in my book. I like it and it should be a hidden gem recommendation that often does not see enough time in the sun. Fight on fine warriors of the magical blades and bring about the prophecy of justice.

And whoever did the character designs… nice job my friend. (According to Anime News Network it was Kenichi Ohnuki… I leave it up to you to check his resume)