#197 : Outlanders

Magical girlfriends, early harem influences and half naked alien ladies always fall for nerdy Earth boys who dont have many social skills and often get labeled as losers Now that is a different opening statement. Sandwiched between Urusei Yatsura and Tenchi Muyo was a one off OVA that still has its cult following even to this day and can be an easy recommend to otaku types who are into more contemporary titles as a buffer to get into older, classic titles… respect your elders please! Now then, let’s have a little fun this time round with the outlandish Outlanders.

Outlanders_1The super cynical side of myself kept telling me not to like Outlanders. Why in my right mind should I care, let alone watch an OVA which is basically about a hopeless geeky virgin guy who ends up with a bikini clad alien princess from another galaxy who for some bizarre reason falls in love with him? Really now, Urusei Yatsura was one thing to consider, but this premise again? This is space opera after all, it should be totally serious and filled with battle tactics, not his kind of silliness and pathetic romance! Then the inner voice inside me goes, “ya know, you love Maris the Chojo!” Well yeah, there is that And it says again, “you LOVE Dirty Pair too!” Oh all right then! I do love  fun antics in outer space featuring women who wear close to nothing, hello Barbarella. So step one has been reached, remove my cynical snobby side.

Outlanders_2Step two and this one is so obvious. Outlanders has such a beautiful presentation. On par with cinema quality detail and fluidity, Outlanders is a poster child of why fans of 80s OVAs hold them in such high regard. Well some of them. This is a well done production and showcased material many of us in the west were hungry for, but had no idea that this could exist until Outlanders showed up in our faces. Please give us more sci-fi please… an alternative to what we have known already… yeah now that’s what we are talking about. Back to the artwork, each frame is lovingly drafted showing a passion from the artists of Tatsunoko and AIC. And as to which studio did the heavy lifting of drawing I leave that to the historians as I am just in awe over the visuals. Add to this the pacing and a solid story that never leaves one bored either… this may be one of the best 80s OVA ever made from a technical level. What do you think?

Outlanders_3Do alpha males always triumph in the world as successful?… not this time around. Certain alien princesses like Miss Kahm from Outlanders prefer a more beta type like Tetsuya as a perfect specimen for manhood. Don’t ask me why. Only in anime can someone so unassuming become so epically heroic… sniff… it gives us all hope doesn’t it. After all that could me, or you. … Outlanders an example of insane comedy of star crossed love affairs, alien invasion, fun action, treking through outer space and how could I forget catgirls and dogmen… furry love. A coming of age story like no other. A rare flash in the pan. This may sound real cheesy, but Outlanders is so out of this world. Yeah that’s the best I could come up with. 😉

#194 : Okubyo na Venus

Pop idols are plentiful in terms of anime. Creamy Mami, Lynn Minmei (Macross) and Eve Tokimatsuri (Megazone 23) are three that come to my mind from the 1980s and depending on the audience are mostly, fairly well known names. Then there was Yumiko Kirita… now that is a name one does not hear everyday. Simply put she is a lost one hit wonder of sorts for her only appearance was in an obscure OVA from 1986, Okubyo no Venus.

OnV_1This time round the explanation with be quite short for Okubyo na Venus (sometimes spelled Okubyou na Venus) simply put because this OVA is only about 20 minutes in length. Very short and easy to digest. Yumiko Kirita was apparently one of the many pop idols in anime during the 1980s who had only a few hit songs. This OVA is the only document we have left of her career as far as I know. Four songs cover the entirety of this compilation of sorts (one gets repeated at the end by the way) that is styled after the then current MTV music videos of the time. Maybe this is her lone surviving EPK (electronic press kit)?

OnV_2Dialog is absent throughout the production and each of the segments are small individual statements where only the songs, as well as the visuals, tell the story. This vaguely reminds me of Robot Carnival, though Robot Carnival was much larger in scale and concept, a true work of art. I have seen the anime Cipher also linked to Okubyo na Venus in terms of a similar style, need to check this one out eventually (update… I have seen it!). So then, these are the segments in a nutshell, hope this does not spoil things: the first follows a day in Yumiko’s life of singing, shopping and practicing; the second pays many an homage to classic movies and characters; the third is a slower more artsy collection of still shots and relaxed moments over a ballad and the final is a scene from a concert of hers.

OnV_3Okubyo na Venus is not your usual 1980s OVA. While the facade of idol signer Yumiko Kirita is flashed everywhere, there is after all a flesh and blood human being who brought her singing voice to life that also needs recognition. Her name is Maiko Okamoto and she as well needs to be recognized in this posting. Without her singing ability and the animation talents of those involved, this little oddity of an OVA production would have never seen the light of day. A simple, charming title, Okubyo na Venus without question belongs with the pantheon of our more usual 80s anime favorites. I shall now reserve a spot on the shelf just for you!

#193 : Armored Trooper Votoms: Big Battle

Hey did you hear there’s going to be a big fight between an ex-Red Shoulder with his friends going up against a fortress like transport? This doesn’t happen very often; good time to place your bets! The stakes are high this time round for Chirico and friends as they attempt to rescue Fyana and stop an up and coming Balarant Army PS (Perfect Soldier) who seems a ‘tad’ on the psychopathic spectrum. Enter now yet another tale from the Astragius Galaxy, the world of Armored Trooper Votoms. Presenting now the second OVA released after the conclusion of the TV series, 1986’s Armored Trooper Votoms: Big Battle.

VBB_1Searching for the elusive energy substance jijirium to feed Fyana, Chirico and Gotho, along with Coconna, Vanilla and Shaka, travel to A’koba settling near a gladiatorial battle arena that is being used by the Balarant Army to test their prototype mecha for use against Gilgamesh. Harkening back to the early episodes TV series episodes in Uoodo City, Gotho tries to get Chirico involved in the battling competitions. Balarant’s star battler, Niva, while in the heat of competition recognizes Chirico as a former Red Shoulder. Niva, who has severe anger issues and a ‘touch’ of the insane in his personality sees only revenge. Outside the arena, Chirico would rather work in the world of stealth and focuses on getting the jijirium for Fyana. That all changes when she is kidnapped by Niva and the Balarant, which brings out the dormant Red Shoulder in Chirico once again.

VBB_2Taking place during the final episode after the climatic showdown against Wiseman and before Chirico and Fyana are jettisoned away to live in peace and solitude, Big Battle does not so much fill in any holes in the plot, but instead adds to the previously laid foundations. The usual mystery and attitude that surrounds the world of Armored Trooper Votoms are here, but Big Battle is a rare treat in that it is mainly an all out action showdown… at least for the last quarter of the OVA’s running. Chirico’s piloting magic in a Scopedog are on full display as he, along with his friends, challenge Niva in both the fortress like transport and Niva’s own mech.

VBB_3As a product of the 1980s, just like the emerging direct to video OVA boom, Armored Trooper Votoms would ride this home video trend with great results. Three releases would emerge in the decade: The Last Red Shoulder (I love this one), Big Battle and The Roots of Ambition (still need to see!). Instead of previous compilations, the easy way out, Sunrise and Ryosuke Takahashi would introduce original stories for the Votoms universe. Big Battle, or more precisely Battle of the Heterogeneous Species (odd title… I prefer the shortened version) is for me the most fun entry I have seen in all of Votoms. While this does not dive into Chirico’s past as a Red Shoulder, or develops much in terms of character, or plot development, Big Battle is pure fan service (no not that kind!) giving fans a fun ride with the familiar cast and settings.

VBB_4Armored Trooper Votoms was ground breaking for a mecha TV series in that it brought military grit and a heavier mature sci-fi attitude that was not seen before. Piloted robots mixed with Apocalypse Now and Blade Runner became a hit combination that stills draws fans in. Votoms is a series that we don’t grow out of, but grow into as we age; much like a fine wine. If you have watched the TV series, you have only completed the first stage. If you are prepared to move on to stage two, then Big Battle is one of several great choices.

#189 : The Story of Pollyanna, Girl of Love

We all need something to be glad about… to find the simple things that bring joy in either the moments of happiness, or difficulty. Can one individual have the power to spread this love to others? Of course it is possible and in many ways a child is the one who can often share this superpower. Eleanor H. Porter created such a character, Pollyanna Whittier, with the classic novels Pollyanna and Pollyanna Grows Up. Both novels would be adapted into an anime that was featured in the lineup of the Nippon Animation’s hallmark series World Masterpiece Theater. Let us return to a tale known as The Story of Pollyanna, Girl of Love.

Pollyanna_1The more I watch any of the World Masterpiece Theater series, the more of a fan I become of these shows. Truly a treasure trove of well crafted stories that offer an alternative to the busier familiarity of mecha, magical girls and high school comedies. For this entry, Pollyanna and I had to wrap up some unfinished business. I watched approximately the first half of this 51 episode series back in 2015/2016 for a panel I was doing on 1986. This was my second World Masterpiece Theater show after Little Princess Sara. I enjoyed what I saw and had enough to work with for my panel, but that final half was nagging at me for years. Just recently I made a point to finish Pollyanna to the end. 1986 was a great year for anime on TV, ever here of Dragon Ball, Saint Seiya, Maison Ikkoku? What about Hikaru no Densetsu, or The Wonderful Wizard of Oz? All these shows I enjoyed or loved, but when I finished Pollyanna I never realized that I missed out on something special.

Pollyanna_2The first half of the series retells the Pollyanna novel with the second half adapting Pollyanna Grows Up. Beginning from humble origins to live with an aunt in need of a consciousness shift, Pollyanna would soon spread her kindness to the entire town of Beldingsville. Even with setbacks, some life threatening, Pollyanna preservers. She even brings her magic to Boston in the second half of the series to basically start the whole process over again. Along the way she meets othet children who become loyal allies and also saviors of her special touch of connecting good people together. I also cannot forget her most loyal companion, a furry friend because every show needs one, a chipmunk named… Chipmunk (Chipamunku!). Perhaps one of the most heart warming and surprising shows I have ever seen where in the second half a mystery unravels itself until the very end.

Pollyanna_3And I guess I just spoiled the plot? Not completely folks, I have only provided a skeleton to work off of. So many nuances are in Pollyanna that kept me going, but perhaps the one element that flavored my need to continue was a knock on wood usual contender… relationship dynamics. The way Pollyanna brings life back to everyone, inspires hope and delivers love in times of need lives up to the reputation of someone being a ‘Pollyanna’. The simple joy of being glad, or happy about the little things that we have in the present moment is something we often forget… so don’t forget it! 😉 The fact that your ‘family’ can come in any shape, size, or circumstance is shown that it does not matter who you are, or what has happened to you in life, when you allow love to permeate the hard ice exterior of isolation, or depression, you will be healed!

Pollyanna_4The Story of Pollyanna, Girl of Love… I can only say that my life now can be categorized as pre-Pollyanna and post-Pollyanna. The beauty of this show is that it can change lives, or continue to further influence those who are on the path to give some sort of love into a situation that is difficult. I don’t have children myself, but I deeply respect all of them for what those who I have met have influenced me as an adult to become a better human being. I do have a niece that I love dearly who reminds me of Miss Whittier as she has always been my staunch cheerleader all through out her life. I dedicate this entry to you Sophia… without you my life would not be the same.

#183 : Megazone 23 Part II: Please Give Me Your Secret

“Whatever happened to my rock n’ roll?” … Now the title says so and this plot says so, but this certainly don’t look like, or feel exactly like the Megazone 23 I remember? After the runaway success of the 1985 original in terms of sales, ¥1.7 billion ($21.3 million) from 216,000 copies sold in Japan, it became a no brainer that a sequel would be a viable option for 1986. If you thought the exploits of Shogo Yahagi and the Proto Garland as well as the songs of Eve Tokimatsuri were complete… think again. While this could been an attempt at a cash grab, the final product says otherwise. Megazone 23 Part II: Please Give Me Your Secret may be a sequel, but it has a message and heart at it’s core.

MZ23p2_1Shaken up I was initially with this sequel compared to the original OVA in terms of presentation and even the story. Gone are the familiar character designs of Toshihiro Hirano with that slick fashion magazine look and enter a more punk esthetic mixed with the detail of Yasuomi Umetsu’s handy work. Familiar faces like Shogo, Yui and B.D. have all changed, becoming unrecognizable, but Eve still retains her style with slight updates from the original design by Haruhiko Mikimoto. For a while I played the polarity fence of favoring the first part over this second part. Over time I have come to enjoy both installments, recognizing them as great anime titles on their own, but I will always have a deep place in my heart for Megazone 23 (Part 1). Now on with the show…

MZ23p2_2Months have passed in Tokyo since we last left Shogo Yahagi’s ‘final’ encounter with B.D. Shogo is on the run and has aligned himself with a bike gang of street punks known as the Trash. The war in space is still on with Megazone 23 going against a strange enemy that uses tentacle like weapons that drill through anything, including human flesh (not for the faint of heart). All the while to the general public it is business as usual, though there is some war that is still talked about on the news; bliss in ignorance. B.D. is still trying to crack the main computer controlling Megazone 23 and the EVE program from that mainframe continues to call out with, “Operator 7G please respond!” Operator 7G of course is Shogo and he continues finding Eve on various media streams calling out to him. The time has come to answer this call, but first… Shogo has to get the Proto Garland back! And this is only the beginning of this story.

MZ23p2_3Megazone 23 Part II has the familiar mecha action from the first installment, but with a new director Ichiro Itano. Itano was known primarily for his animation kills with action sequences that have lots of firepower and intricate motion. This is on full display during the heat of action. Yet this is so much more than an all out action fest. The moments of character interaction particularly with Shogo and his friends are where we get the real message of Megazone 23 Part II. A message of anti-authority distrust and attitude towards corrupt adults only bent on power and narcissism are of no concern to Shogo and the Trash. Though they may be street punks, they do have a sense of honor and respect for the simple pleasures of life and friendship. So ‘stick it to the man’… literally. … And as a side bonus, we even get another love scene for those of you who like hot romance… very steamy!

MZ23p2_4I still feel that the original version stands on it’s own as a total package even with an ending that was open ended, yet satisfyingly complete. I feel this second installment gives an alternate future of what could have happened to Shogo, but maybe not the definitive. The beauty of Megazone 23 Part II is the fact that we do get a silver lining at the end. After all the insanity, the violence and the hardship, we get a breathe of fresh air, some peace. Much like life when coming out of hardship, the moment you take a look at what’s in front of you and smile in content you realize it was all worth it. Megazone 23 Part II, in the end you are worth it… no grudges anymore.

… Hey! Side note… did you spot the references to the Thundercats and Silverhawks?

#178 : Blue Comet SPT Layzner (OVA Series)

Sunrise and mecha usually equate to the ever present name Gundam. As a studio Sunrise has a long resume of mecha titles. Some have a famous pedigree and many are only known by a select few who yearn to go beyond the bigger names. Blue Comet SPT Layzner is not a new topic here at CAM. I reviewed the TV series here way back when I was getting started and SPT Layzner needs another shout out. Beyond it’s short comings and twist in plot in the middle of the series, I believe this is one of the best mecha titles of the 1980s. Early cancellation would create problems in finishing the story, but a brilliant solution was available for SPT Layzner. The year was 1986 and direct to video releases were a growing market. Blue Comet SPT Layzner would end it’s sojourn as an OVA.

LayzOVA_1I debated if it was worth the time to review this OVA version of the Layzner story as a separate entry from the TV series. So much of what is presented is a condensed retelling of what is familiar if you have seen the previous incarnation. Of the three episodes, the first two: Eiji 1996 and Le Caine 1999, could be skipped as there is really nothing new under this sun. It is the third episode, Seal 2000, where we find missing links to the rushed ending of the former TV series. Interspersed between some familiar scenes of action and drama we find the hidden passages that make this third episode a more concise and well rounded finale. Much like another Sunrise property Ideon, the TV series would be rushed at the end and would have a second chance of telling the true ending in the form of feature films. All is now complete for Layzner, no stone unturned. That being said, while there is a lot of recognizable sameness, this OVA version is in a small way original to the TV series.

LayzOVA_2Episode one tells the story of the first arc, which for my money is one of the greatest mecha story arcs I have ever seen. Too bad it was condensed heavily. The once far future of 1996, which from 1985 eyes was still a possibility, features a group of students that land on Mars. Suddenly there is an attack by unknown mechs (Layzners) featuring one renegade blue robot defending the Earthlings. Piloted by the troubled Eiji Asuka, he eventually becomes an ally to the group of students as the struggle to survive on Mars and eventually find a way back home to Earth.

LayzOVA_3Episode two recalls the second arc, which jumps the shark from space mecha action and turns into dystopian dictatorship in a cross between Blade Runner and Fist of the North Star. We rejoin our cast of heroes three years into the future. Eventually they reunite to combat the established Gradosian empire who invaded the Earth after defeat at the end of the first arc. The signature Blue Layzner also returns along with Eiji as they now continue their rebellion and solve the mystery of the new Maiden of Cuzco. A new nemesis is also introduced, Le Caine, whose ambition for power blinds his judgement. Episode three finalizes the second story arc and can act as a substitute for the final couple episodes of the TV series. Here we learn of the link between the peoples of Earth and Grados, traverse to South America, Nazca, Peru to be precise, to find the great Seal of Grados and enjoy plenty of heavy mecha action. The final showdown between Eiji and Le Caine is the pinnacle of this episode.

LayzOVA_4You can view this OVA as a shorthand version instead of diving completely into the TV series, almost like Cliff Notes. Remember that much of the drama, character development and finer details will be lost if you take the OVA path over the TV series. Blue Comet SPT Layzner is best viewed by watching the TV series first and then following up with this OVA to tie up loose ends. The shorter path sometimes is the more tempting, but often will lead to missed opportunities. … Eiji may you continue to run like Melos on your “Lonely Way”.

#177 : Dancougar: Requiem for the Victims

Hold on! Thirty eight episodes and this story I have been watching for some time is not over yet!? … Often times a series has a proper ending, or some kind of closure that can be taken care of in terms of a follow-up movie, or OVA to iron out details that seemed odd or rushed. Yet not for the 1985 mecha series Dancougar. Maybe the show was cancelled, or perhaps there was a need for more creative freedom to allow for the final installment to eventually surface as an episode length OVA? The story is far from over, for we must now tie up all these loose ends from the previous 38 episodes to conclude with Dancougar: Requiem for the Victims.

Dan_Req_1Save the final boss fights for last and make it really good! The television series had a lot of potential and I tried to be fair towards it in my initial review, but seeing a lot of mecha anime, I felt this has a lot of super robot re-hatching that had been in place since the mid 1970s that by 1985 was a little derivative. The look of the show is very spot on for the period, still I personally recommend other mech titles from 1985 in terms of watching priority: Zeta Gundam and SPT Layzner. Still, Dancougar had an attitude that was appealing, nice character designs and a fine robot that would have made a great toy to promote. Now after 38 episodes of story we find the Cyber Beast Force with two remaining obstacles to complete before a proper ending could be declared. Shinobu, Sara (still has awesome hair!), Ryo and Masato have to take down long time arch rival Death Gaia and Emperor Muge himself to rid the Earth of the tyranny of the Zorbados Empire.

Dan_Req_2The choice of ending the show as a single shot OVA is an interesting one. Perhaps the creative freedom I mentioned before was a strong reason for this decision. Not being tied to the restrictions, or standards of content for television allowed a greater amount of creativity. Also the possibility of having a higher budget could yield a more polished product… this is a nice looking production. Yet again, this was the mid 1980s and the OVA market was a new and fresh, as well as lucrative market to release animation to the public. You can watch the initial episode run for free, but for the finale, you’ll have to pay for it. For great mecha action, it’s worth the price.

Dan_Req_3It has been some time since seeing the TV series and watching Requiem for the Victims was a breathe of fresh air that reminded me of what I enjoyed in Dancougar proper beyond any personal issues. Also Requiem for the Victims accomplished what it set out to do, which was finish the Dancougar story in a very dramatic fashion… just who were the real victors in this war? As always in war, both sides lose to a certain degree even if one side declares a triumphant declaration. Ironically though, Requiem for the Victims would would not be the final finish for Dancougar as a franchise; out of endings come new beginnings.