Special : Lady Oscar

How often do we see live action adaptations of the anime we love? Of more recent there have been many a handful from the studios of Hollywood and depending on your fandom, you see these movies in whatever light you hold to the original. Some like to see anime turned into “real” people and some don’t… again depending on your fandom. Yet how interesting would it be to see a live action re-interpretation of a beloved classic during that anime’s original run when it was current in the zeitgeist. Enter 1979… the year Riyoko Ikeda’s manga of Rose of Versailles would become a full blown animated television series and… and, a live action motion picture by the name of Lady Oscar.

LO_1Twice I have talked about The Rose of Versailles here at CAM (original entry, updated entry), so I will not delve very deep into the story. Without question one of the landmark anime of the 1970s, The Rose of Versailles is for me and many others a personal favorite. A story of passion, duty, humanity, freedom, love and gender identity all wrapped up under the guise of late 18th century France, the time of the French Revolution. A radical time and a dangerous one at that, a powder keg of the clash between old and new. I love The Rose of Versailles and respect Oscar François de Jarjayes as one of my favorite characters of all time. When I learned there was a live action film adaptation, I was keenly interested.

LO_2Financed by Japan and directed by famed French director Jacques Demy, ironically the film’s native dub would be in English. Interesting and convenient for those of us who speak English as our native tongue, but perhaps French may have been more appropriate? English of course allows for more international distribution as I am sure this film was made more for an overseas audience than just Japan alone, my hypothesis. And how does it fair as a film? It’s good, slightly above average, but nothing like the tv series. Accept no substitute when comparing 40 half hours of content to only two hours. Anime is often more colorful and The Rose of Versailles does show itself with many grand colors, but it is never off the wall. Lady Oscar is more muted, which makes sense as this is not animation. Props for the costume designs though!

LO_3Besides the original TV series of The Rose of Versailles, I also think of another contemporary film to Lady Oscar, which told a story in a similar time frame of the late 18th century, Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. Honestly I kept thinking why couldn’t Lady Oscar look and feel more like Barry Lyndon? I am sure Lady Oscar’s budget was nothing close to Barry Lyndon’s. Stanley Kubrick’s style for lighting, intensity and photography are also his own, a true auteur, and I am sure Jacques Demy had to play the part of following the boss’ orders to the best of what he was given. My ideal vision for a filmed version of The Rose of Versailles would be more Barry Lyndon than Lady Oscar, but I have to accept what is. Instead of a grand cinematic experience, Lady Oscar feels more like a TV special, but it does a good job with what it had to do. I can’t be judgmental, or hard on the things in life I cannot control.

LO_4Lady Oscar is not a bad film, or a great film, it is just a good movie to enjoy and try out at your own leisure. While live action adaptations are often tempting, they never seem to hold a candle to the original TV series, or even the manga if that is your preference. Lady Oscar is a good supplementary entry on your watch list, but should never be a full blown substitute to the grandeur of the original The Rose of Versailles TV series. Yet it is a treat that this film was even made, but when it comes to live action adaptations, I prefer to keep them as their original form. Let cartoons, be cartoons and anime, anime (which to me is saying the same thing twice,) because it is perhaps one of the best story telling mediums ever created.

The Spirit of 1979

I have a soft spot for the anime of 1979. Why? Well, these are my ‘twin’ siblings so to speak. This means as of 2019, we all celebrate a big 40 years of existence on this material plane. 40… people think I am 28 or something when they meet me and perhaps like my brothers and sisters of 1979, we all hold a timeless classic quality. We all still look good for our age and have matured like fine wine. Anyhow, I have not seen every production released that year, but the ones in which I have, well, they all have left an imprint onto me. My favorites include: Aim for the Ace (film version)Anne of Green Gables, the original Mobile Suit GundamRose of VersaillesGalaxy Express 999 (film version) and The Castle of Cagliostro. That’s a fine listing if I do say so myself.

I can also include Space Battleship Yamato: the New Voyage and Taro the Dragon Boy as well since I have seen them, but they did not leave near the impact on me as the titles listed above. Of course I have a wishlist of titles that I have not seen as of this writing. I am in no hurry to find these titles, but I know eventually they will crop up into my view list. The second series of Cyborg 009 and magical girl Hana no Ko Lun Lun/Flower Angel rank on the top of that listing if I can find them in their totalities. And maybe even Yamato ripoff Space Carrier Blue Noah if I so wish. Maybe. I do have the DVD set of Gatchaman Fighter so that will take precedent; I enjoyed the first two series of Gatchaman. Oh yeah I forgot, thanks Anime News Network’s encyclopedia… The Unico pilot movie was in 1979 too. I know I have that one on file.

So a big happy 40th birthday to all of us. May we continue to stay young and inspire generations in the future. KANPAI!

#104 : Aim for the Ace (movie)

AftA_movie1I often find that the older I get, an interest in professional sports and following a team, or such, is not something to aspire towards. Yet I respect sport and competition and my love for anime is strong, if only there were anime about sports… oh, yeah there IS! And LOTS of them too. There are several I have enjoyed and are quite good as well. And then there are entries that are legendary, hall of famers so to speak. Aim for the Ace is part of that higher echelon of sports legends. As I make my way through the original 1973 Aim for the Ace TV series I had to stop and take a break to revisit the cinema version of 1979.

AftA_movie2The influence of this movie is epic and goes well beyond the sport of tennis and sports anime itself. I am sure Studio Gainax and a young Hideaki Anno loved this story because Aim for the Ace is written all over Gainax’s first OVA release and Anno’s directorial debut Aim for the Top! Gunbuster. The name totally gives away the influence, but also the story in and of itself is a close facsimile except tennis was swapped out for a sci-fi world with mechs. Still in both stories the concept of aiming to be your best! And not just the best in your own frame of reference, but also to your fellow peers and most importantly, to a mentor who sees more potential in you than you see in yourself. It’s a type of story that never gets old because don’t we all need a reminder to pick ourselves up and try again if we stumble?

AftA_movie3Aim for the Ace’s story begins with it’s starry eyed protagonist Hiromi Oka, a new student at Nishi High School. She and her best friend Maki join the illustrious and highly noted tennis club and soon she has her eyes on two particular individuals. The first being the all-star of the girl’s varsity team, the amazingly talented, most beautiful and girl with perhaps the best hair in all of anime (seriously where do you get all that volume and curls?), Reika Ryuzaki better known as Ochoufujin (Madame Butterfly, so fitting). The second is Nishi’s new coach, Jin Munakata, a former champion, who is a tough yet fair mentor whose presence brings out a little fear and sweat. His first objective is to test the team, to see which of the hundred or so members are most fit to play on the school’s varsity squad. Hiromi is still very much a rookie and when her time comes to test her skills, she connects with one ball that impresses the coach in more ways than one. So much so that she lands a spot on the varsity team… wha, say what? Now the drama, no, more like soap opera begins!

AftA_movie4While watching the original TV series concurrently with this film, I could not help but notice the jump in animation quality and complexity. The fluidity of the film is a quantum leap from the TV series and could be down to a number of factors. First, the idea that you go from TV to movie is obvious since there is often a budget increase. The second is the six year gap between TV to the movie. This second reason is a strong point to a theory I have about how the 1970s is perhaps the most important decade in all of Japanese animation. Stories grew into more sophistication, many traditions and cliches settled themselves during this time and drawing and animation began to mature and become more complex. Such an awesome decade and Aim for the Ace is a great example of the growth of anime during this era. Ah to be born in the ‘70s… wait I was born then… 1979 no less… so that means I am the same age as this movie… interesting!

Now for the final wrap up… Aim for the Ace, is based on a great shojo manga (check!), was made at the awesome Tokyo Movie Shinsha (check!), was directed by the creative and artistic Osamu Dezaki (check!), and it still stands the test of time (double and triple check!). Aim for the Ace wins in straight sets!