#211 : Arei no Kagami: Way to the Virgin Space

Do you believe the universe has an edge where beyond that boundary is untouched, pure… virginal?. If space and the universe are infinite, how can there be an edge? We now are about to enter the realm of imaginative sci-fi space fantasy… rules and reason, yeah let’s leave that at the door. Ever hear of Arei no Kagami: Way to the Virgin Space? Like many obscure titles from the 1980s this was an unknown for me as well, but something about Arei no Kagami invited me in with something very familiar.

AnK_1Upon quick glance of the characters one who is in the know would easily recognize that Arei no Kagami is a part of Leiji Matsumoto’s portfolio of work. His hallmark style surrounds the visual appeal of the likes such as Galaxy Express 999 and Queen Millennia, amongst many others, but Arei no Kagami has many other similarities. A young boy in the company of a beautiful blonde woman on a sci-fi themed journey is a common theme expressed in the other two Matsumoto productions, but for Arei no Kagami we see a variation with an auburn female lead instead, Maya. Along with her is the young Meguru and both of them escape a planet torn apart by war to search for the promised land, the edge of the universe, Arei. Onboard as well is a stowaway android, Zero, who also yearns to find this special zone.

AnK_2Created specifically for Expo ’85, The International Exposition, Tsukuba, Japan, 1985, Arei no Kagami would fit into the future oriented theme of the event. And while progress and the hope of things to come were the main focus, Arei no Kagami would also question much about humanity’s past actions. The dark side of war, hatred and mistreatment towards the environment and other humans would be brought forth to our trio of space explorers who must defend the human race’s more redeeming qualities. Architecture, the arts and advancements in science and philosophies would be presented as a counterpoint. Yet the entry into the virgin space of the universe demands the most noble of hearts… can these three characters pass the test of showing that the human race is far more than our past sins?

AnK_3Matsumoto’s Arei no Kagami was a fellow classmate to his former Yamato partner Yoshinobu Nishizaki’s Odin: Photon Sailer Starlight (Oh! ODEEN!). And as different as both men are (artist vs. businessman literally), both productions are literally… light years apart in many ways. Arei no Kagami is short (20–25 minutes), a concise story and has a feeling of conclusion. You feel in many ways you made it to the final destination intended. Odin is two plus hours long, confusing, over complicated and end ups going nowhere. I am still “Searching for Odin my love” like many of us. Matsumoto was always the stronger storyteller of the two and while Arei no Kagami is very simple and kind of generic, it does what it does well with a limited time span.

#207 : The Fantastic Adventures of Unico

Take one… Sanrio… a company known for all that is ‘kawaii’, cute… the home of the beloved feline, Hello Kitty. Sanrio was also at one time a film production company, which created at least one animated feature film a year during the late 1970s to the mid 1980s. They created anime that was very much on the side of the previously mentioned cute factor, anime for children and families to share and anime that also featured a twist of heartbreak. Take two… Osamu Tezuka… the “God of Manga” (much respect to you sensei) and the father of many beloved titles and characters. Take three… Unico, a creation of his from the 1970s, would be published in a Sanrio shojo magazine that by 1981 was ready for the animation world. Add these three elements together and we get The Fantastic Adventures of Unico.

FAoU_1The story of Unico is perhaps one of the most unfair tales of exile that makes me look into the mirror, both personally and collectively. Why are those who are humane, pure and a giver of love and joy often the ones who are a target to those in authority? Simple, they are a solution to the problems that these authorities have either created, or promise to handle if you give up your freedom. Yet these innocent ones when pushed will fight back and defend because they are those who are not corrupted, those who have a heart of pure love to give… those who only want the best for everyone. A baby unicorn named Unico is one of these unsung heroes that because he was born different has a destiny that may be on the side of unfair, but also rewarding to those who meet him.

FAoU_2After angering the Gods, the West Wind is called forth to take little Unico away. What’s his crime? Besides being adorable… he makes everyone happy, he gives love and he will be your friend no matter who you are. He sees the essence inside of each of us and loves us for that and that alone. Talk about a criminal? I guess they feel the same way with Rainbow Brite too? Here’s a theory, maybe Unico is LGBT and the Gods are bigots? I mean he looks a little gender non-conforming and is open to love anyone no matter their gender. Maybe… but then again, he is a little kid who has not been corrupted by adults, or culture. Instead of taking little Unico away, the West Wind decides to hide him in a remote area… at least until he is spoted again and she must find yet another place of refuge for the baby unicorn. The question remains if Unico will ever have a place of permanent residence.

FAoU_3Unico’s journeys has him meet a little devil who has no friends and eventually a cat who wants to be a witch. While light on plot, this film could have gotten away with a shorter run time (maybe by half/45 minutes?). The story of the cat, who becomes a girl becomes the major focus of the movie and could have been the entire plot in its own right. Some make too much of a mention of the creepy baron who seduces the girl, the one who was a cat, by getting her drunk. Hard to believe that much of the themes and situations in The Fantastic Adventures of Unico would label this as a family movie, but then again this was made in a different time. Back in the 70s and 80s animated films had a little more edge and danger and showcased to us at the time that not all the world was squeaky clean and perfect, i.e. The Transformers: The Movie and Watership Down.

FAoU_4Most Sanrio films leave me crying a little on the inside. Inside?! Come on now, I shed tears outside as well since the emotions can be so great. Tezuka as well is a genius at bringing out the feelings with the universally moral messages we all can relate too. You never forget a story that touches your heart. Even at the end of The Fantastic Adventure of Unico Unico is once again swept away with the West Wind to another place to secure his safety and longevity. This in a way is a gift wrapped in silver lining. Unico will still be alive another day, will still spread love to another lonely soul and leaves a trail of influence to all those he has met already to live their lives with a little more joy. Maybe one day he will meet you as well?

… one more thing… did you see the Hello Kitty cameo!?

#205 : Legend of the Galactic Heroes: My Conquest is the Sea of Stars

It all began here. Behold a grand vision, an epic beyond scope. Witness a story about a fated meeting between two talented men who were destined to play the game of life while serving on different sides of a conflict. All of this during a particular point in time… and space. Welcome to the world of Legend of the Galactic Heroes. The grand 110 episode OVA would be released late in 1988, but earlier in the year a film would kick off the animated version of Yoshiki Tanaka’s novel series. Legend of the Galactic Heroes: My Conquest is the Sea of Stars begins this grand space opera that for many of us became an obsession.

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 100How does one open a great anime film? With explosions  flashy colors, or beautiful people? NO!!! You enter a black screen with scrolling German text and the beginnings of Gustav Mahler’s Third Symphony. Heavy! I love Mahler’s music so I was very impressed, but may I ask… is this really an anime? Enter spaceships, multitudes of them, and a blonde young man in a pondering mood accompanied by Chopin. OMG are you for real? All of these great classic pieces of music and superb artwork… would you believe at first I hated anything that was Legend of the Galactic Heroes.

LoGHMCitSoS_2I was very much in a state of ignorance, prejudice and being closed minded from the possibility that this anime franchise was more than the hype I had heard. LoGH has a very, VERY!, dedicated fan following that puts this series on such a pedestal that I with the way I am had to be oppositional.  Then over time as I continued on the LoGH journey I would change my perspectives. I began to see that I was witnessing something very beautiful and special. It may be true that LoGH has a lot of dialogue, battle tactics, politics and is quite a long experience to watch, but at it’s core is a story about people, the lives they live in an extraordinary time and the emotions they go through.

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 100Introductions for both our ‘Heroes’ is long overdue. Meet Yang Wen-li, a well educated junior officer from the Free Planets Alliance that is strategically brilliant. As as a young and lower ranked officer he is often overlooked, unheard, or put into his place by his superiors. Meet also the Galactic Empire’s Reinhard von Müsel (later von Lohengramm), who being the attractive blonde youth archetype and the brother of the Kaiser’s mistress was gifted the rank of Admiral. He commands a beautiful white vessel too. While many elders hold much jealousy toward him in terms of moving up through nepotism, they don’t realize his dormant talents as a commander and tactician. Both young men are not taken seriously, until the events of this movie by way of the two standout moments: The Battles at Legnica and Iserlohn Fortress. By the end of the film both ‘Heroes’ learn of each other and with a sixth sense both end up feeling a great respect towards each other and a tie that binds them together in terms of fated destiny.

LoGHMCitSoS_4Being young, brilliant and full of new possibilities can be a wonderful thing except at times there is a problem. When one is young, brilliant and full of new possibilities that is situated in a group that is propped up by an older, more conservative and, or more stagnant environment, then a clash of energies can bring about tensions. Call it jealousy, call it ignorance, or call it reluctance to surrender. When one is young and wanting to prove oneself in the world there is often resistance and sparks will fly. This in simpler terms is the battle of generations; the older guard who refuse to step aside to allow the new vision and hope take their rightful place in the sun. Maybe this newer regime has to grow some patience within the short term and eventually learn to bend the system and work within strategic loopholes, which are nothing more than opportunities.

LoGHMCitSoS_5This for me in a nutshell is what My Conquest is the Sea of Stars is, a rising up of a new generation and a new ideal to follow. We get a taste of what to expect in the coming OVA and coming back again I was more than ready, excited and loving it all more than the before. What makes this movie, this franchise, so great? Well, the proof is in the pudding. Just open your eyes and ears, because its there for all to see, hear and feel. This may not be for everyone, but this is space opera and science fiction at it’s best. A true hallmark for an intelligent and mature audience be it anime, or any other expression of storytelling.

… the only downside to this movie is that now I can’t get Ravel’s Bolero out of my head. And why is this a downside? … Well it isn’t 😉