#216 : Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light

Technology has fallen… society has collapsed. Retrograding to a more medieval type of life, the people of the planet of Prysmos adjust to a more ‘primitive’ existence. Cars and high rise skyscrapers have ‘evolved’ into horse and buggy and fortified castles and the once beloved technologies that many of us in our modern world are dependent on has been superseded by another form of wonder, the wonder of magic. As the intro states, “Those who control the magic, control destiny. They are the Visionaries.” A short run toy show that was and still is one of my favorite Saturday morning pastimes. Behold Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light.

Vis_01Sunbow, the once fabled production studio has created many propaganda toy shows that at their hearts were to promote mainly the products of Hasbro. Yet somehow with Sunbow, the shows are in my opinion more superior than the toys. They take on a life of their own as a whole world is created around each toy line and supersedes the predominantly plastic creations with an organic mythology. Am I interested in collecting vintage Hasbro lines? No, I prefer to watch The Transformers, G.I. Joe, Jem and the Holograms and the little brother from 1987, Visionaries. An action figure line that also included holographic elements… magical light!

Vis_02Truth be told I did have two of the holographic chest plated figures as a child, Leoric and Arzon. Those two have since left my existence, but the show where both of these gentlemen originated is still a part of my viewing rotation. The plot is a simple one of two factions, the Spectral Knights and the Darkling Lords, who either uphold justice, or raise trouble on the planet Prismos. Yet there is also a third wheel as well, a neutral maverick, the wizard Merklin, who gave each Knight and Lord their specific magic. He is almost like a dungeon master from the veins of Dungeons and Dragons who sets the mood and pace periodically and is perhaps the most valuable character to the whole plot.

Vis_03What makes Visionaries so great is that for only a 13 episode run you get some of the most bang for your buck in terms of an 80s cartoon. Every episode has it’s merit! Why is this so? Mythology and interesting characters, simple. The world of Visionaries is much like more Earth based sci-fi like Vampire Hunter D, or Fist of the North Star. Mix this with a strong medieval themes and you get something a little different from the era. Almost like Aura Battler Dunbine without the robot mecha… though Visionaries does have a couple vehicles that can qualify as a type of mecha. … or maybe if one mixed LEGO’s Classic Space and Castle themes together?… Each character has their own personality archetype which adds to the plot line and is reminiscent of the first initial seasons of say The Transformers, or G.I. Joe when everything was small and simple.

Vis_04Then there is the presentation which is very polished. Visually we have to thank a Japanese studio for the grunt work of creating the ocular quality that is present in Visionaries. Take a guess which studio got the job? It’s a personal favorite of mine… TMS, Tokyo Movie Shinsha. Yet again we have another cartoon which got to use the talents of this studio and trust me it will not be the last time we hear from them again. TMS after all was contracted from time to time well into the 1990s. Could Sunbow have used TMS for The Transformers, or G.I. Joe, or Jem instead of relying on Toei and AKOM? Maybe, but no need to argue over what has passed.

When it comes to toy shows, there are plenty that filled the landscape of 1980s popular culture. Many new heroes and villains often came out of nowhere and sparked the imagination of a particular generation. Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light was among this crowd and is sadly in the more cult status position due to the limited run. This was a solid action adventure that still showcases the previously mentioned great stories and visual treatments. Yet there was also voice acting too as actors made these characters come to life in many ways. Can Visionaries be one of the best Saturday Morning Cartoons of all time? I vote YES!

#215e : The Transformers (Season 4)

Three episodes! Just three? How can this be considered a season? …that sounds more like a miniseries to me. And alas, The Transformers here in the west would receive a proper finale and in a hurry as well with a trilogy of episodes. Better this than nothing at all, but seriously who cheapened out on the potential here? Then again here is another perspective, maybe The Transformers here in the west were running out of gas? Perhaps ready to retire? In any case let’s properly finish this classic show!

TF_S4_11987, the fall… oh I remember it very well. New episodes of The Transformers were ready for viewing except this batch would be the very last. For real?! Coming in at a total of 98 by the end of this fourth season, The Transformers was a long ride I enjoyed viewing during the prime years of my childhood. This final trilogy would be known as The Rebirth and how does it clean up all the loose ends, while leaving the ending a little open ended. Fun and action packed, being another new season we get another grouping of more characters to watch… I am beginning to lose count here. We get a double spy, twins, the Throttlebots, the Targetmasters, the Headmasters and even one who can transform into six different modes. SIX! Kinda makes me miss the good old days of robot becoming a car, or an airplane. Still, these new types of characters are very creative and innovative.

TF_S4_2Don’t expect too much plot here besides saving Cybertron and restoring the plasma energy chamber. Remember this is only three episodes. The first release of DVDs here in North America from Rhino had an interview with the writer of The Rebirth, David Wise, who gave his take on the process of making this last season work. Originally this was slated as five episodes, then cut to three. If you can find this interview it is a great watch to see the nuts and bolts behind making a show like this. What to expect then is a run and gun approach by bringing in a character, or several, to cameo for maybe a couple seconds then moving on to the next scene, etc. etc. It is very watchable and entertaining, but wow talk about a rush to promote the entire 1987 toy line. At least we get a true and proper ending for The Transformers, a true “That’s all folks!” for us fans. Very few cartoons ever get this type of treatment. The Transformers not only got to walk away at the top of its game, but it also did it in a polished way… that was also rushed.

TF_S4_3And now for something completely different, Japan would release their own version of the season depicting the 1987 toyline. An alternative version of The Rebirth and yet not quite. The Headmasters would have a full 35 episodes telling a completely different take on the mythology which begs the questions, which one is canon? Take your pick… I say both… alternate universes as a theory. I slightly prefer The Headmasters in terms of the larger plot line and direction it took, but The Rebirth is still entertaining. Japan, Toei and Takara would pick up the torch abandoned by Sunbow, AKOM and Hasbro to continue the G1 animation outings for a few more runs showing that The Transformers were far from dead at the end of 1987. Then again, either way you look at it, the beginnings from way back in 1984 were completed in both series to a certain degree. Time to ride out into the sunset. ~ FIN

Introduction Season 1 Season 2 Season 3 Season 4

#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!