#15 : Touch

touch1A one hundred episode plus series is no small feat, in both the production and the stamina for one to stay the course in finishing it. Some series continue on and on and on and on (I can think of many a Shonen Jump title) with no real end and then, keep on going due to the fact that the popularity and economic factors are ever strong. Then other series have set endings and go on to a cult like status of being crowned the “greatest anime ever made” (Legend of the Galactic Heroes, great yes, greatest depends on one’s point of view). And then there was one show from 1985 based off of manga by Mitsuru Adachi that told a story over a four year time span that was one of the most beloved and popular series of it’s time; it could even still hold its viewer records today, kind of like M.A.S.H. I now present my favorite long runner, at a total of 101 episodes, Touch.

touch2Touch has nothing fancy to show. The designs are flat and plain. The setting is mundane and ordinary. What you see is what you get and what you get comes up to the surface so strong that it shows where the real value stands in the characters, story and pacing. Touch is a coming of age high school series concentrated on the Usegi twins: Kazuya (soft spoken, hard working, popular and determined) and Tatsuya (aloof, insecure, not popular and a slacker with hidden talents he shies away from with a mask of bravado) and their best friend who has lived next door since child birth, Minami Asakura, who both boys love dearly. And baseball as the glue that holds it all together. The supporting cast is just as strong although I wished you got to know more of the players on the Meisei High School team a little better. A few get spotlighted, but again they are the backing to the the twin boys. A shonen series without rivals would not be much and you get a good cross section including: goofy Terishima, chivalrous Nitta, jealous Yoshida and the cruel Coach Kashiwaba. And then you have Punch, the funniest, most mischieveous dog ever (my opinion, never knew dogs could laugh so well)? But none hold a candle to the gentle giant Harada. True he may look like a tough guy, but his real skill is being a therapist to the unsure Tatsuya (future Psych major?).

touch3Gameplay when shown is intense, the character relationships are honest, the sad moments bring massive tears and the ending, though a little open ended as of course the characters lives will go on, is solid to close this chapter on the lives of our heroes’ youth. If only all our youths were this ideal and in almost in a way… perfect? But nothing in truth is perfect. Sometimes we lose those we love, we questions our abilities, we wonder if we will ever be brave enough to face loving another, or we just are not sure what we are doing. All of this is in Touch and the trio of our main cast I could see in myself when I look in a mirror. When a show becomes so personal as if it is family, you know you have encountered something rare. Some series you watch because you want to, and then there are those which make you wonder what took you so long to get around to it? But when the time comes time to taste the flavors of something slow, gentile and personal, it can almost feel like being in love with someone special. And for me Touch was and still is beyond special.

Touch also reaffirmed another love I have and that is for the game of baseball itself. Not following a MLB franchise and being a jock-like individual, but the fact that it is a great game with dynamics and strategy that gets lost in the tribal mentality of many fans. Touch reminds me of, but is not completely similar to the movie Field of Dreams. Again a story using baseball as the glue that holds the narrative of several characters redeeming their talents or relationships. We all deserve that one time in the sun, be it in the case of Field of Dreams: a chance to bat once as a professional, re-pursuing your writing, or the reconnection and understanding between a father and son. For Touch, it is Tatsuya getting his time to show that he is not without possibility, untalented, or unloved. Sometimes passion takes time, a little guidance and a moment to just give in to fate. I for one know that to be true in regards to areas of my life.

touch4.jpgI cannot not recommend this show to anyone. I truly do love this show and loved watching it from one to 101. It took me a long time to get around to it, but presenting the anime of 1985 in a panel gave me the opportunity. It is one of those shows that for me, reaffirms my love of anime and shows that you have yet to see all the really good stuff. And as an older fan sometimes I get tired of all the flash and dazzle of fantasy, sci-fi and/or high production values. Sometimes I want a show like a glass of lemonade on a hot day or a hug from mom, real comfort food. Because sometimes, after all, simple is best.

#14 : The Little Mermaid

This movie has been with me for a long, long time. Believe it or not, this was one of my foundation anime that began everything that has led me to this point. To be honest at the time of this writing, I am dealing with a lot of unresolved issues throughout my life and I need something to help me give a good cry. Forget Grave of Fireflies, if I have a bad day and require to curl up in bed with a warm blanket and a lot of homemade popcorn and need some ‘comfort food’ I pull The Little Mermaid. True I can go with Windaria, or Farewell Space Battleship Yamato, but to be honest… the nostalgia runs very deep and when you have a feeling of being wounded, nostalgia feels beautiful.

lm1Lots of love always goes to Disney’s version. I remember when it was brand new in the theaters and eventually home video, rocking the VCR. Ariel defined a generation as Disney came back strong after years of releasing films that did not attach significantly with audiences. And that’s because films need to make a lot of money to be successful? In any case my sister was all over the Disney release. And I though now wait a minute, didn’t we see this years earlier? And it looked a lot better (anime art style bias on my part). That and Ariel gets to, in the end, win? WIN! Life happily ever after? Uh, Disney, did you read the source material at all? Did Hans Christian Andersen ever write a happy story? I am sure he did, but every one I have read sure goes with the standard I know well.

LM2.jpgI often think about how much trauma I was subjected to as a child from entertainment. Trauma may not be the right word, maybe a dose of reality outside of a rose tinted fantasy that we all at some time must face the tragic. Watership Down, the death of Optimus Prime and Marina’s final moment all left their mark or memory, but Marina’s is personal. To sacrifice one’s own life knowing that you can never make the other person return the love that one has for another is quite moving. Not to the same extent, but sacrifice is very powerful theme that I love in other anime: Night on the Galactic Railroad, Mawaru Penguindrum and even the end of Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam with Kamille’s loss of sanity.

A few years ago when the death announcement of Kirsten Bishop was all over the news in the anime world, most every one were mourning one of the original dub actors for that mega-hit show known as Sailor Moon. I was also in a state of melancholy, but not for Sailor Moon, but for the movie you are reading about. Kirsten voiced Marina during her teens and that innocent quality of her voice added so much for the character. The dub is not perfect, but her performance for me is pure gold. Kirsten from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

LM3.jpgTruth, in time, can never be hidden. Facing one’s own issues and honoring another’s decision is often painful, but a critical part of growing up. Death is never an answer, but often the experiences we know we can never fulfill end up in a way killing a part of  us inside. Accepting these events, though necessary, is never easy. Such is the value of what many consider only simple a ‘fairy tale’ or ‘children’s story’.

#13 : The Humanoid

humanoid1COFFEE!!! Double expresso latte with caramel and whipped creme… Ok, maybe decaf. Wait a minute, I don’t even like coffee. And to be honest, I just spoiled the Humanoid. If you have seen in you know what I mean. You think it’s some goofy space adventure rip off with elements of Star Wars and the robot from Metropolis (well a more pretty version?). No it’s just coffee, probably got backing from Starbucks most likely. You know I’m done. See ya.

Oh you are still here? Yes there is a lot of coffee mentions in the short one off OVA, but in reality it is in my honest opinion the most 80s-tastic greatest bad anime ever. So it is in reality not that bad, just unbelievably entertaining. If this is not in your collection, look for the loose change in the couch, or borrow from a friend. And yes, you could download via torrent, but you are different, eh?

Well what to say without ruining this one, its a short production? Well there is the… no can’t say that. Or how about… no can’t say that one either. OH POOH!!! Our story begins with a rip off of Lando Calrissian, Alan making a big remark about how “memories of Earth and the rich smell of this coffee keeps my spirits up.” (Yes that is a direct quote) Wait, wait a minute here… Coffee… already. See told you so.

humanoid2OK, now to be serious. Despite The Humanoid being ridiculous beyond measure, cliche as all out, I have to say one thing about. I LOVE IT. It’s a goofy mess and a half, but as I said earlier, it has an entertaining value that only cheesy low budget sci-fi can only do right. Here is the basic plot. Two guys travel to a far off planet to make a stop to meet up with one of the boy’s girlfriend’s (and that would be the yet to be named Eric, because we find out later Alan is married, sorry ladies) and her grandfather who is a scientist. And guess what grandpa Dr. Watson invents, this really sleek and sexy ultra feminine robot named Antoniette who eventually learns about love and such even though she is only a machine? But, you also have a plot where you have some princess held in exile from another planet. And her administrator is a megalomaniac bishonen, Governor Proud is his name and that is no lie, who tries to reactivate some old ship which could destroy everything. WHAT? All of this in about 45 minutes? Yeah and our heroine Antoinette saves the day, but at a price. Plus, even more COFFEE references.

humanoid3Now I will give The Humanoid some credit, it is the only show I have seen where people have to escape from an escape capsule. That is a first for me? I mean this is what cheesy one-off OVAs from the 80s are all about. Highly creative, ridiculous and when done right… fun. It’s not that massively over testosterone gore of M.D. Geist, the what-the-hell did I just watch Crystal Triangle, or the Dirty Pair rip-off of Wanna-Be’s. (whoa two of these three were released by Central Park Media too, love ya CPM) It’s The Humanoid. Slightly flawed, yet beautiful in the eyes of those who have a taste for ‘bad’ anime. No not ‘bad’, more like ‘totally awesome’.

And I forgot to mention that my beloved Kaname Production was the studio that made this one. I am really sorry everyone. So now watch or rematch this mess because after all, it is good for you be it mind, body and soul. As for me. I will just Dance, Dance in the Rain… If you like the opening credits song you will get that one.

#12 : Tokimeki Tonight

The great thing about doing panels about years of the 1980s is that I end up finding out that I have barely scratched the surface in regards to classic anime. For 2017, I am working on a panel for 1982 which features classics like Space Adventure Cobra, Arcadia of my Youth, and the original Macross (yeah for Macross). And in the process I find undiscovered gems, at least for me, like Tokimeki Tonight (Heart Throbbing Tonight), which I just finished recently finished and enjoyed very much. So what is this shojo comedy all about?

tmt1Ranze Eto is much like your typical teenage girl. She is totally into the boy she sits next to in class, Shun Makable (she always calls him Makable-kun, I thought it was cute), and she has to deal with a rival, the ‘thick eyebrowed’ and conniving Yoko Kamiya. But there is more than meets the eye because Ranze comes from a family of monsters. I mean she does not look like a monster, but ask her parents who are a vampire (her father) and a werewolf (her  mother). And when these two fight, wow, they go way off the wall, but they do love each other and their family. And plain looking Ranze, in time, discovers she has a vampire-like ability where if she bites anything or anyone she transforms into the victim. And don’t worry, no harm is done to any humans or animals as they end up passing out for a while. To transform back, she has to sneeze… pepper please!

tmt3Similar in a way to the Shonen Jump classic Kimagure Orange Road, as this has a prototypical  love triangle of one boy being fought over by two young ladies (the simple days before harem) and super natural elements, this one is a bit different. First of course it being a shojo, the ‘target audience’ leans the story telling a little different, but the big difference is the elements of horror and mythology. And it works quite well with all these odd elements, but that is just the surface. The real essence is the comedy. And I will give my two cents, I had moments where I was laughing a lot, A LOT! Going in cold on this one, I was surprised with the all out lunacy. Such a funny show. Although I felt after watching episode 26 it got a bit heavy with filler episodes. Episode 26 was such a great climax, but maybe that could be due to popularity extending the series, maybe (it ended after 34 episodes in case you are wondering)? Just my hypothesis. Funny thing this show ended well before the end of the manga, yeah never heard that before.

tmt2And then there are the opening and closing tracks, especially the closer (named Super Love Lotion… kinda kinky?) as it makes you want to dance with that electronic disco beat. Also an interesting observation from me as this show was animated in 1982 because the background artwork reminds me a lot of titles from the early 1970s like the original Lupin III. A little bit on the plain side, but then again this was animated by Group TAC (from my research as they seemed to be the main studio?) and they are also known for their 1985 classics Touch and Night on the Galactic Railroad both of which are a little sparse in the art department, but masterpieces due to the story telling.

Tokimeki Tonight you were a pleasant surprise indeed. I can never give up the faith that there is more gold left in the ground to harvest. Now the only question is… what should I watch next?

#11 : Maris: the Chojo

maris1Can’t a girl get a break? FOR REAL. Case study: Maris known as the Chojo, or the Supergal, is known to have “some” issues. She is short tempered, always broke, her parents are complete airheads and always asking for money, she has to work during her vacations, her boss is strict and she has to wear these odd braces around her body because she possesses super strength. Hence being the “Super Girl.” That… and the planet she was born on was blown up in front of her eyes as a child. Maris, Maris, Maris… don’t fret. I love you and you have many fans as well (stand up folks). Maybe your next assignment will have you saving some attractive guy who is the heir to a powerful family, maybe? It’s either that or go back to the world of women’s professional wrestling where you had that nasty rival, Zombie Sue. Such is the life of working for the Galactic Patrol’s Special Police. Much like the ending of the Malcolm in the Middle… “Life isn’t fair.”

maris3As a creation of Rumiko Takahashi, Maris the Chojo is much like a lot of her other work… a goofy, crazy, fun time. And it was Maris the Chojo (and Mermaid Forest as well) that got me onto the “Rumik train.” Many of her works, particularly the really popular titles including Ranma 1/2, Inuyasha and bonus points for you Urusei Yatsura fans out there, are very lengthy. Hundreds of episodes is a bit to take in and sometimes for certain properties or creators you need a smaller dosage. Luckily Maris the Chojo is a smaller property, just a one-off OVA part of the Rumik World series which featured other classics such as Fire Tripper, Laughing Target and the previously mentioned Mermaid Forest. And in my experience with Takahashi’s work, I love these shorter stories as they are for me more focused. Like many longer series, and this is not exclusive to any particular genre or creator, they are kept alive because of their popularity and in some ways it begins to wane or grow tired over time. Keep it short and sweet and with a solid ending.

maris2The beauty of Maris: The Chojo is it is a wonderful example of the early adoption of the direct-to-video format, the awesomeness known as the OVA. For the time of 1986, Maris: the Chojo could
have been a television special, maybe even a movie (but at about 45 minutes it’s kind of short), but never in a million years a TV series. But as an OVA, it’s JUST right. Also being one of Rumiko Takahashi’s lesser known titles, and much like other oddball OVA titles of the 1980s in particular, it makes collecting or hunting down these harder to find titles very appealing. Of course some titles are bad, but many are brilliant and they are all unique and different. Kind of like late 1960s/early 1970s rock music, anything went.

That and the lovely Mami Koyama provided the voice (kinda a fan of her you know?) for our short tempered red-head who can’t catch a break. Maybe Maris needs to learn about the Law of Attraction? All and all a whole lot of fun and one of the reasons I still use and love Laserdisc. …Oh, I forgot about her partner in crime Murphy. I leave that for you to learn about the crafty fox he is. No really, he is a fox!

#10 : GoShogun: The Time Étranger

It is time to be a bit sentimental. Can you show me an opening sequence that brings a tear to my eye? This one does! I have yet to see the entire original GoShogun series due to the fact that the only source I have found has no subtitles (speaking from August 2016). And yet it does not matter as this follow up, this movie or OVA, is enough of a stand alone piece that it works without any real prior knowledge. How we in the west got this without the original series (Macron 5 doesn’t really count this time) is a mystery? But life is a joyous mystery indeed.

TimeE1I heard of this one from a few people put this production into their 80s Top 10 listings and it sparked my interest to seek out this OVA. And I found it for around $5, nice deal! But what is this OVA, GoShogun: The Time Étranger? Étranger, that’s French for stranger. FANCY! Just don’t be confused with a similar production translated as Time Stranger, as that is a Studio Madhouse movie from 1986, this is a 1985 production. GoShogun: The Time Étranger was a follow-up OVA to a mecha series from 1981, Sengoku Majin GoShogun. This was a bit of a parody series where you have a group of three good guys (one being a very pretty lady) and three bad guys who eventually become the ultimate team of six friends. That was 1981, so what happened four years later? A bit of a tone shift.

Remember that lady I mentioned earlier. Her name name is Remy Shimada and she is the star of this OVA. Not only that, but I will be really honest here… I think of her as one of the most beautiful women in all of anime. She favors Voltron’s Princess Allura (Farla if you are a GoLion fan), but she has awesomely better hair. And she is voiced by Mami Toyama; love her voice (also Veronica Taylor gives a great performance in the dub)! ANYWAY… we begin with her in the desert where she asks, “Where am I? Where is everyone?” She then pulls out this massive revolver, points in to the sky and shoots. She turns and hears distant shots in the background and then… her five friends from the past emerge and comes toward her with anticipation and happiness. Isn’t that beautiful? I need a tissue folks; this scene does it to me every time I see it.

TimeE2So Time Étranger, the time stranger, where does this come into play? Simply put this production is told over three different times in Remy’s life. The first being her childhood in France (ah hence the French spelling perhaps?), the second a surreal environment during the time of the original GoShogun series (where she is approximately 20) and the third, the so-called present where Remy is all of 70 years old though she does not look a day over twenty (at least what we see of her, which is very little). All three segments are spliced together in a style very remeniscent to that of Federico Fellini’s surreal 8 1/2 (highly recommend this movie), with a heavy dose of suspense and drama that stands as a dichotomy from the original TV series. Also, each of these three episodes from Remy’s life all have one commonality, she ends up fighting for her life. How does she survive through each circumstance?

TimeE3I want to go back to the what I mentioned earlier; how did this OVA release in the west, particularly North America? I often think when I watch this about switching the characters from something more well known to me, say the Voltron/GoLion cast? There is enough room to allow this as the story is not tied into GoShogun particularly. This could be a great live action film, but I think it would loose it’s intimate flavor that I have grown to have with this production. But when one thinks of a follow-up or a so-called sequel, this OVA should be THE yardstick that any other production, live-action or animation, should follow. That and a few of the one-liners are priceless, ex: “It isn’t stolen, merely rented without the benefit of paperwork.” Timeless. And would you believe this was an early work for the director of Pokémon, Kunihiko Yuyama?

In the end what I learned from this OVA is that no matter how bad things can go somebody, somewhere wants to have you around and the inner strength you have for yourself to fight each and every day to give it your best shot is all that really matters. It’s very cliché, but this is a spiritual and special cliche interpretation for me. If people wonder why I love anime, this is one of the strongest examples. I even doubled dipped for this one (it’s worth the two separate DVD versions, long live Central Park Media). Funny how some of the more obscure titles become the ones that stick the most to your experience. But, that is why I am still mining the classic era (this is my opinion, yours can vary) of anime. GoShogun: The Time Stranger, you are truly a friend I love in a very special way.

#9 : Aim for the Top! Gunbuster

Igunbuster1 want to preface this with a little Pink Floyd lyric… “Remember when you were young. You shown like the sun. Shine on You Crazy Diamond.” I can take this a couple ways in regards to Gunbuster. First it is a love letter homage to an era of anime and special effects shows from the 1960s to about 1980. This is Studio Gainax remembering the beauty of discovering such fantastic visual fun in their youth. But, I have to point out our main heroine, Noriko Takaya, as the second reason. In this six episode OVA everything and everybody to some certain extent got older and or eventually left the material plane of her existence. All except Noriko, who because of traveling so much in sub-space remains forever young and in the process missed out on being with most of her peers. How many times have you felt that no matter what you did, you could not share it with certain individuals you truly loved?

gunbuster2Gunbuster begins amid much promise and joy as sixteen year old Noriko Takaya is a new student at an Okinawa high school that specializes in training space pilots. She hopes to someday be like her father (an admiral who died while serving in space), like her idol the beautiful and talented Kazumi Amano and prove herself able to the Coach Ohta (COACHEE!). Right from the word go we are essentially brought into a shojo sports anime that passes itself as a sci-fi mecha series (Aim for the Ace+Yamato+Getter Robo+Top Gun (wait that’s a Hollywood film)=GUNBUSTAA!!). Who knew one had to train in robots and run laps, do sit-ups and various other forms of exercise. I thought our heroes just climbed into mecha and magically knew how to pilot them from instinct?

Gunbuster3As stated earlier this is a love letter, the real definition of “Fan Service.” Aside from a couple shots of the usual “Fan Service” this show drips references of the many series I listed earlier and more as cues to say this show is for you or us. You loved this show, this type of character, this scene, etc.? Gainax is a studio founded by fans after all and this is them paying homage to the highest degree. It’s anime about anime. And what makes Gunbuster special is the fact that yes, there are a lot of these references, but it also tugs at you over time. Similar to Evangelion or Nadia (both directed by Hideaki Anno) we start off in fun and games and eventually step into the darker side. But Gunbuster is not so much grim as it is poignant. Young Noriko grows up learning about falling in love, reconnecting with the her lost past and maturity in general. It has a sweetness that is missing from Evangelion or Nadia. And it is this tenderness that makes it hold up still today. Plus, the artwork and animation is gorgeous and handled with the greatest of care. Even the last episode fades to that old standard of black and white. The first time I saw it I thought something was wrong with my TV.

Now Studio Gainax aside, if there is one individual who makes this OVA very special for me, it would have to be the great Haruhiko Mikimoto. I love this man’s work (I DO!, I DO!, I DO!) and for me, nothing and I mean nothing tops his character designs. The elegance and grace that is apart of his early signature style shows true form here and I rank the designs as great as the work he did for the original Macross and Orguss. “I wish they all could be Mikimoto girls”  (to the tune of Beach Boys’ California Girls). There is always a certain twinkle in the eye of those who are conceptualized by my man, right?

Gunbuster4Gunbuster may have been the second official project of Studio Gainax, and the directorial debut of Mr. Anno, but it would set a precedent that would follow for this group into the 1990s. It also reflects back to those of us who were excited about the future and the possibility of traveling through outer space like it was driving down the highway and piloting large mecha… but alas all we have are smart phones and wifi, kind of a let down when you compare it to our utopian vision of the future. Still there is a possibility if we all believe it is possible and stay young in heart and mind. Let’s raise a toast to you Gunbuster… we love you. KANPAI!!!