#226 : Giant Gorg

You know, sometimes there is nothing better than a show about a young boy and his giant mechanical companion. Mix that with a mysterious island in the South Pacific, natives, a corporate organization bent on owning the secrets of the island, a rogue criminal outfit, a small group of friends and the possibility of an ancient alien civilization. This sounds like one stiff cocktail to drink, care for a taste? I like this basic premise as I believe this could be a winner of a TV series. Let’s look now at a show that did mecha a little differently way back in 1984 by harkening back in a way to how mecha used to be. Have you ever seen Giant Gorg?

Thirteen year old Yuu Tagami is in for a big adventure. After the passing of his father he travels to New York City to meet one of his father’s colleagues Dr. Wave. He also meets Dr. Waves sister Doris and their Great Dane Argos. We begin to learn about the mysterious Austral Island, a place where Drs. Tagami and Wave both did research on, when all of a sudden they are attacked! Fleeing for their lives and also making headway towards Austral Island, they meet the Skipper who acts as their strongman of the group. They trek their way across America and eventually the Pacific where they sail the rest of the way to Austral Island. Again they are attacked leaving Yuu separated from his comrades when soon he encounters a new friend. This is someone much taller and more metallic whose size is threatening, but whose eyes and outreached hand shows a very compassionate demeanor.

Imagine this… if Hayao Miyazaki could have made a mecha series, Giant Gorg would have been a close possibility… and I mean close. Released in 1984, Miyazaki was busy working on Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Giant Gorg on the other hand was created, directed and designed by the one and only YAS. That’s Yoshikazu Yasuhiko folks, the guy who designed the characters for the original Mobile Suit Gundam, the director of the Crusher Joe and Venus Wars movies and the manga artist and overall director of the OVA adaptation of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin. Yeah that guy! Giant Gorg is a unique part of YAS’ portfolio as this was his lone auteur project produced for television. As stated earlier Yasuhiko had a hat and say in many areas, but it was definitely not created by him alone… or was it? Either way what you get is one sharp looking, well polished release from a studio well known to many of us, Sunrise.

Giant Gorg may remind me in many ways of Miyazaki, but this 26 episode TV series belongs totally to YAS. Certain elements appearing in Giant Gorg would never appear in a Miyazaki production. Yet my reference of Miyazaki for Giant Gorg is due to the fact that Gorg reminds me so much of Miyazaki’s Future Boy Conan. A boy on a quest in the South Pacific joined by friends and going up against adversaries are similar to both shows. Maybe YAS also drew some inspiration from his work on Brave Reideen, a series from a decade earlier? This was a show that featured a found artifact type of mecha from an unexplainable origin. Yet in reality we have to go back to the giant robot origins appearing in the 1950s and 60s where the robot was more of a guardian for a kid than a piloted machine. No matter the influence, Giant Gorg was a modern retelling of classic ideas brought forth into a 1980s aesthetic.

There is that old saying that a dog is man’s best friend. In terms of Giant Gorg I think we could say that a guardian like giant robot is a boy’s, or girl’s, best friend. A metallic angel strong and brave with eyes as kind as a warm hug could be the best friend we all wished we ever had. Giant Gorg brought many of the elements of classic mecha tropes back into circulation that were left in the dust years prior. I must say… I like the change. There is something magical about Giant Gorg, almost wholesome in a way, that appealed to me from the start among other things including ending every episode on a cliffhanger… Tune in to the next, The same Gorg time, The Same Gorg Channel.

#215b : The Transformers (Season 1)

Nothing screams a genesis point for The Transformers like the first season of the original G1 TV series. Before the live action movies, the AllSpark, all the reinvented, or updated animated series and even before the Matrix of Leadership, the Quentessons, Vector Sigma and Alpha Trion was a blank slate of a mythology for the population of the planet Cybertron. Transforming sentient robots divided into two factions in a never ending war, that’s all we knew in the mid 1980s when we first exposed ourselves to this 16 episode beginning of what was named The Transformers. Hasbro, Sunbow Production and Marvel Comic’s reimagining of imported toys from Japan would turn into one of the most popular icons of animation for the 1980s… and as for me, perhaps my favorite, or most influential show as a kid.

TF_S1_11984 would be the year of this first season for The Transformers, though in all honesty I was not exposed to our robot heroes and villains until the next year when season one was combined with season two to fill the 65 episodes count for syndicated release. The first season is like a nice tidy package… basic and compact. Autobots versus Decepticons… Optimus Prime versus Megatron… Cybertron and Earth… all the basic elements for a show about an eternal war that now has come to a stalemate. Energy is needed on both sides to strengthen their reserves as Cybertron is now depleted. A search mission is initiated which leads to The Transformers crashing onto Earth. Four million years later our robotic friends awaken to the then modern world of the mid-1980s, which means that giant transforming robots now exist among us. Exciting!

TF_S1_2What I love most about season one is the simplicity. We get a basic grouping of Autobots and Decepticons at the beginning adding in a few more as the season progresses. Everyone has a moment to shine in some fashion and for the most part reveal their character. That is a strength which was lacking somewhat in later seasons. While yes, many new faces down the line got to be seen and enjoyed as the show progressed, some others just got brief cameos. We get to know everyone here like a family, despite faction, which makes you ending up having certain preferences to favorite characters, including those of the human faction as well. Now what makes our characters so great as well? They are drawn mostly well in this first season, everything was sent to Toei for animation purposes. No I see, or perhaps hear, another factor. I proclaim this honor belongs to the voice acting talent. We got to know many of Los Angeles’ talent pool at the time who voiced a lot of other shows as well, but came together like a fine recipe with The Transformers.

TF_S1_3Imagine if this would have been the only episodes of The Transformers. Does the original 16 still stand up on their own as a stand alone? Absolutely. Fortunately, The Transformers would continue on for a long time… four seasons and 98 episodes, plus an animated feature film. Very impressive for what some might see as basic half hour toy presentation material for marketing purposes. In terms of mythologies, The Transformers was one of the creations during the 1980s that left an impact for many of us and showcased another storyline to enjoy. After all how many times has The Transformers been reinvented? Too many? Yet the fact it has shows the longevity of the basic mythology… but from this and stalwart, nothing and I am mean NOTHING(!) ever replaces this original series. …and it all started way back in 1984… who knew?

Introduction
Season 1
Season 2
Season 3
Season 4

Special : Streets of Fire

Hold on… have I seen this movie before? Of course I have, it’s Streets of Fire and there’s my DVD copy over there on that shelf. Yet this is not what I am asking initially. So many scenes, moments and characters all seem very familiar, yet I am not talking about Streets of Fire the movie. In the 1980s, within the framework of Japanese animation, Streets of Fire, like many other cultural emblems of the era, would find it’s way into many productions as either parody, reference, or even a total recreation of the story itself. This cult film dismissed by the mainstream would find an unexpected audience outside its native land to become an aesthetic icon that colored many anime of the mid to late 1980s.

SOF_1Truth be told I doubt I would ever watched Streets of Fire if I didn’t keep bumping into it time after time while watching classic anime. And as this is a site dedicated to anime I am not going to review this movie too much in detail. It’s labeled as a “Rock and Roll Fable”, a musical of sorts and in my eye borrows heavily from the 1950s. That is if society was a post apocalypse set in the 1980s where everything around you is from the decade of Eisenhower. And much like a western, this is a tough time where street gangs hold power that even the cops can’t deny. Streets of Fire is the prototypical story of the kidnapped princess who can only be saved by an outsider who is brave enough to stand up against this menace.

The influence of Streets of Fire can be seen in many anime from the 1980s. I can identify three that I have some first hand knowledge of, but if you have others to contribute please do. Now let us examine our three examples: Megazone 23 (Part 1), Bubblegum Crisis and Zillion: Burning Night

SOF_M23Megazone 23’s reference to Streets of Fire is an obvious one, yet it does not quote scenes from Streets of Fire at all. Early on in the OVA when protagonist Shogo Yahagi meets up with a group of friends, they go to the cinema to watch a movie. Guess which movie? It’s even labeled on the outside marquee. The scene is short and is part of a longer sequence displaying the quartet’s night out on the town. Still, Streets of Fire is ever present and must have been a favorite film at the time of production for certain crew members. This inclusion helps to solidify the time period of Tokyo for Megazone 23 , the mid-1980s, which according to the vocalic Eve Tokimatsuri, was the most peaceful time in history. Really?

SOF_BGCNext we move to Bubblegum Crisis , which by and large has a majority of influence from Blade Runner in terms of setting, story and renegade androids. Yet Streets of Fire will show its influence as well. The opening scene where we see crowds pour into a nightclub to see the band Priss and the Replicants (very Blade Runner) play has Streets of Fire written all over it. This mirror’s Streets of Fire opening where we see the concert of returning local star Ellen Aim. Even the songs from both productions have the same tempo and attitude. Take your pick which is the better song as both are great: Bubblegum Crisis’ “Konya wa Hurricane” vs. Streets of Fire’s “Going Nowhere Fast“. Priss even wears an outfit in red and black, just like Ellen Aim!

SOF_ZillionThe most unapologetic anime to cover Streets of Fire is the follow up OVA from the television series Zillion, Zillion: Burning Night. An almost complete remake from the ground up, the Burning Night OVA screams Streets of Fire more than both the original TV series, or even the Sega Master System games. Shot for shot, the plot is nearly identical from the opening concert, to the abduction of the damsel and then the subsequent rescue. Of course the story varies just slightly as we have to accommodate the cast of Zillion, including turning the alien Nohza into human characters. I had seen Burning Night prior to Streets of Fire and this was were I kept saying to myself, “Wait a minute, haven’t I seen this before.”

Three examples and possibly more as well show that a movie from another time and another place can have an impact on the animation we love. Streets of Fire is more than a cult movie, it is a close distant cousin to Japanese animation. Such is the joy of pop culture… wash, rinse, repeat and copy what works for you.