#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!

#204 : Cipher

Wow, an anime that opens with a Phil Collins song! Against All Odds to be exact, except it’s not Phil’s singing voice, perhaps due to licensing. It really sets the mood during the opening credits and wouldn’t you know it, it closes the film too. Here we have an odd OVA of a shojo manga adaptation that combines 80s era MTV styled music videos, off the cuff interviews and promotional commercials. Interesting and would you believe it’s in English too. What? Like a dub? No no, that was the original audio track. Interesting. All of this combined becomes an exploration into the lives of twin boys that focus into one identity. This was Cipher.

Before diving into Cipher the Video, the proper name for this anime, I had to look into the definition of cipher itself. Basic dictionary definitions point to a secret code and even the number zero. How about a cipher in terms of a person, an individual? I found this description at Quick and Dirty Tips that spoke to me immediately…

A cipher can also be a person, often a fictional character, who is a blank slate—and that’s how I used the word when talking with my husband. A cipher has so little personality—is such a nothing—that the readers or viewers can project their own ideas and values onto the character.

… now we are onto something. I think we can look into the anime now.

Cipher_1What I found interesting about Cipher was how shallow and fake everything appeared. And yet you find a depth within this void of plasticity, which sounds ironic, but then again view this OVA like an art exhibit more so than a piece of entertainment. Everything looks polished, perfect, well dressed and it all comes out very dull and preprogrammed. Listen to the voice acting in particular, is it badly acted or oddly phrased? The English language dialogue is an odd choice, but the story is set in New York, so the creators wanted to be authentic to the native vernacular. And not just the dialogue, even the setting was drawn from scouted photography of New York City for authenticity. Obsession with American culture cannot be questioned as all this is outlined in a documentary that follow the main feature OVA.

Cipher_2Our characters don’t have much back story in the anime and one will have to reference the manga, or some basic research to find out who these twins of Cipher are. Jake and Roy Rang are former child stars who exude blond teenage heartthrob eye candy that lead not a double life, but a life single life in two bodies. A persona of Siva, and at one point see a statue of the Hindu god Shiva, is played by both boys and this role serves as an actor and student in greater society. Yet outside this role, who are these boys? While there is a lot of fun and happiness portrayed, I return back to that opening segment which feels a little lonely and sad. Beyond the man made role, are these boys their own individual, or only a manufactured personality that is split into two? There is often a close bond between twins where we can’t tell one from the other and for one female friend this is the case as she is the only one who seems to know the truth of Siva. Or, is she their girlfriend?

Cipher_3Often who we portray in public may vary greatly from our genuine selves. I question if we are all a cipher to one degree or another? Look at social media, or TV and movies and even anime as well, it’s all a camera angle behind a distorted reality. Some may find Cipher as a bland 80s stream of music plastered on top of unrelated events. Yet I see this as an exploration of identity, or maybe our lack of a genuine sense of self in a world that is mostly unreal. This anime may have been more of a promotion for the manga than an actual story in and of itself, but it spoke to me in a profound fashion. I think the cover of the Phil Collins song Against All Odds says it all…

How can I just let you walk away, just let you leave without a trace
When I stand here taking every breath with you, ooh
You’re the only one who really knew me at all

How can you just walk away from me,
When all I can do is watch you leave
Cause we’ve shared the laughter and the pain and even shared the tears
You’re the only one who really knew me at all

So take a look at me now, oh there’s just an empty space
And there’s nothing left here to remind me,
Just the memory of your face
Ooh take a look at me now, well there’s just an empty space
And you coming back to me is against the odds and that’s what I’ve got to face

I wish I could just make you turn around,
Turn around and see me cry
There’s so much I need to say to you,
So many reasons why
You’re the only one who really knew me at all

So take a look at me now, well there’s just an empty space
And there’s nothing left here to remind me, just the memory of your face
Now take a look at me now, cause there’s just an empty space

But to wait for you, is all I can do and that’s what I’ve got to face
Take a good look at me now, cause I’ll still be standing here
And you coming back to me is against all odds
It’s the chance I’ve gotta take

Take a look at me now