#206 : The Transformers: Super-God Masterforce

More classic tales of the original 1980s G1 The Transformers from the vaults of Japan!; hip hip hooray! I first want to give the utmost thanks to Japan for not giving up on The Transformers in the late 1980s. In America the tastes were changing, how fickle, and I am sure many marketing adults wanted to pump different toylines into the market, but hey… don’t mess with The Transformers, or fans of the original storyline. Japan began a second original G1 series in 1988 after the previous year’s The Headmasters and while it has The Transformers name, in terms of plot, it really jumped the shark at times. Yet The Transformers: Super-God Masterforce proved to be a strong successor.

TF_SGM_1Often when we think of The Transformers, we expect a mecha show about sentient robots. For Super-God Masterforce we insert a major twist. Humans have played a major role in The Transformers from the beginning. Spike and Sparkplug and then Carly and Daniel were key side characters from the original American version. The concept of combining the human with the machine was also explored in episodes like Autobot Spike and Almost Human. For the American fourth season, The Rebirth trilogy, the Headmasters and Targetmasters were humans and humanoids in robotic suits that allowed them to become the heads, or weapons for their corresponding Autobot and Deception machines. Japan meanwhile went with a differing mythology for The Headmasters as human sized Cybertrons (Autobots) and Destrons (Decepticons) would use larger bodies (transtectors) in an attempt to survive in their particular surrounding.

TF_SGM_2Now we move onto Super-God Masterforce where the human element of being part of the machine would take full fruit in Japan. We begin with the Pretenders who were life sized real honest to goodness Transformers, that have an alternate form of either a human (Cybertron), or demon (Destron). Maybe they used the same shrinking technology that Soundwave and Blaster had, or maybe they are cousins of Ultraman? Talk about ‘Robots in Disguise’… literally. Then we have the Headmaster Juniors which take two sets of three kids and give them fancy suits which become the heads of transactors via magic bracelets. Sounds a little like henshin meets the American Rebirth version of the Headmasters characters. And then you have Godmasters, or Powermasters in the west, who via magic bracelets gain fancy suits to turn into the engine’s of transtectors. Humans piloting robots… you know if this show was not licensed as The Transformers, this could have been like many other run of the mill mecha shows?

TF_SGM_3While Super-God Masterforce is a direct followup to the previous shows, there are some odd plot holes. First, there hardly is a mention of the back history of The Transformers including: the exodus from the planet Cybertron, or the wars from the American G1 shows. The Headmasters is occasionally referenced with the concept of Cybertrons fighting in space and a short communication from Chromodome. Then we get introduced to the new leader of the Cybertrons, Ginrai, who looks an awful lot like Optimus Prime. Didn’t he die again in The Headmasters? So… how did a red semi truck that transforms into the most iconic robot of the entire franchise end up again on Earth to be found by a young truck driver? I have no idea, but we have to roll with it I suppose. While Super-God Masterforce may make you wonder what happened to all the back story I may conclude that maybe this is an alternative universe? One truth to Super-God Masterforce is that it never takes itself seriously, so maybe I shouldn’t with my expectations for this show.

TF_SGM_4Feeling my inner child/longtime fan resonate with this show could not be denied. I too could finally become one of The Transformers, even though I am like you, a human being. While Super-God Masterforce really goes out on a limb in certain categories to what we consider the usual framework of The Transformers universe it certainly worked. And in the end all of the Transformers would revert to sentient robots. My only wish is that I would like to have a pair of those magical bracelets for myself. Then I could yell out, “MASTA-FORCE!” and become like many of my heroes. But as a substitute I and you have this show, which will suffice for now… until I move onto the third series… The Transformers: Victory.

#205 : Legend of the Galactic Heroes: My Conquest is the Sea of Stars

It all began here. Behold a grand vision, an epic beyond scope. Witness a story about a fated meeting between two talented men who were destined to play the game of life while serving on different sides of a conflict. All of this during a particular point in time… and space. Welcome to the world of Legend of the Galactic Heroes. The grand 110 episode OVA would be released late in 1988, but earlier in the year a film would kick off the animated version of Yoshiki Tanaka’s novel series. Legend of the Galactic Heroes: My Conquest is the Sea of Stars begins this grand space opera that for many of us became an obsession.

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 100How does one open a great anime film? With explosions  flashy colors, or beautiful people? NO!!! You enter a black screen with scrolling German text and the beginnings of Gustav Mahler’s Third Symphony. Heavy! I love Mahler’s music so I was very impressed, but may I ask… is this really an anime? Enter spaceships, multitudes of them, and a blonde young man in a pondering mood accompanied by Chopin. OMG are you for real? All of these great classic pieces of music and superb artwork… would you believe at first I hated anything that was Legend of the Galactic Heroes.

LoGHMCitSoS_2I was very much in a state of ignorance, prejudice and being closed minded from the possibility that this anime franchise was more than the hype I had heard. LoGH has a very, VERY!, dedicated fan following that puts this series on such a pedestal that I with the way I am had to be oppositional.  Then over time as I continued on the LoGH journey I would change my perspectives. I began to see that I was witnessing something very beautiful and special. It may be true that LoGH has a lot of dialogue, battle tactics, politics and is quite a long experience to watch, but at it’s core is a story about people, the lives they live in an extraordinary time and the emotions they go through.

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 100Introductions for both our ‘Heroes’ is long overdue. Meet Yang Wen-li, a well educated junior officer from the Free Planets Alliance that is strategically brilliant. As as a young and lower ranked officer he is often overlooked, unheard, or put into his place by his superiors. Meet also the Galactic Empire’s Reinhard von Müsel (later von Lohengramm), who being the attractive blonde youth archetype and the brother of the Kaiser’s mistress was gifted the rank of Admiral. He commands a beautiful white vessel too. While many elders hold much jealousy toward him in terms of moving up through nepotism, they don’t realize his dormant talents as a commander and tactician. Both young men are not taken seriously, until the events of this movie by way of the two standout moments: The Battles at Legnica and Iserlohn Fortress. By the end of the film both ‘Heroes’ learn of each other and with a sixth sense both end up feeling a great respect towards each other and a tie that binds them together in terms of fated destiny.

LoGHMCitSoS_4Being young, brilliant and full of new possibilities can be a wonderful thing except at times there is a problem. When one is young, brilliant and full of new possibilities that is situated in a group that is propped up by an older, more conservative and, or more stagnant environment, then a clash of energies can bring about tensions. Call it jealousy, call it ignorance, or call it reluctance to surrender. When one is young and wanting to prove oneself in the world there is often resistance and sparks will fly. This in simpler terms is the battle of generations; the older guard who refuse to step aside to allow the new vision and hope take their rightful place in the sun. Maybe this newer regime has to grow some patience within the short term and eventually learn to bend the system and work within strategic loopholes, which are nothing more than opportunities.

LoGHMCitSoS_5This for me in a nutshell is what My Conquest is the Sea of Stars is, a rising up of a new generation and a new ideal to follow. We get a taste of what to expect in the coming OVA and coming back again I was more than ready, excited and loving it all more than the before. What makes this movie, this franchise, so great? Well, the proof is in the pudding. Just open your eyes and ears, because its there for all to see, hear and feel. This may not be for everyone, but this is space opera and science fiction at it’s best. A true hallmark for an intelligent and mature audience be it anime, or any other expression of storytelling.

… the only downside to this movie is that now I can’t get Ravel’s Bolero out of my head. And why is this a downside? … Well it isn’t 😉

#78d : Saint Seiya: Legend of Crimson Youth

This is one of four entries that take an in depth look into each of the Saint Seiya movies released during the 1980s. For the original overview entry, click here.

We’re fired!? The look on Seiya’s face alone is enough to understand the shock that the Bronze Saints must have felt when hearing the news at the beginning of the film Legend of Crimson Youth. These boys who have dedicated their lives up to that point protecting and upholding the stewardship of Athena’s guardianship of humanity are now suddenly out of a job? And for what, some guy who strolls into town proclaiming to be her brother of all things. Is this a platonic relationship? This young man claims to be Abel Phobus, son of Zeus, king of the gods. All I see is an arrogant punk whose soul mission is to eradicate the human race as they are supposedly inferior to the gods. Saori, besides being bewildered with his nice hair, can’t you see this guy is up to no good?

SSCrimsonYouth_2Armed with a potent army consisting of new faces including: Atlas, Jao and Bernices, Abel seems ready and even recruits some ghosts from the past literally. Gemini Saga, Cancer Deathmask, Capricorn Shura, Aquarius Camus, Pisces Aphrodite!… aren’t you guys supposed to be dead? All five of you fell during the Sanctuary Arc? Apparently Abel has a bit of a skill in the arts of necromancy. The Bronze Saints don’t take too kindly to their forced resignation and in time Saori realizes the true ambitions of Abel, which displeases him. Now the fight begins and from here the usual Saint Seiya plot formula starts.

The reintroduction of the fallen Gold Saints is a nice addition for this movie as they get another shot to redeem themselves. Nice to see you guys again! Early on a few realize Abel’s plans and rebel, but the remaining group continue to fight on for Abel and eventually come around during their respective fights with the Bronze Saints. Even with the loss of these valuable allies, will Abel still have the potential to destroy the world and rid the Earth of humanity?

SSCrimsonYouth_1Part of the Shonen Jump’s 20th Anniversary celebration (it says so in the opening credits), Legend of Crimson Youth is perhaps the piece de resistance of the Saint Seiya 1980s film tetralogy. Of the collected four this one is the longest clocking in at 70 plus minutes and offers a plot that has a little more depth. That being said the over the top battles are still the center piece of anything shonen fighter related. With this being Saint Seiya related, the melodramatic seriousness is usually on fire and with Legend of Crimson Youth, that drama is burning red hot.

Saint Seiya 80s film index:

    1. Evil Goddess Eris
    2. The Heated Battle of the Gods
    3. Legend of Crimson Youth
    4. Warriors of the Final Holy Battle

#78c : Saint Seiya: The Heated Battle of the Gods

This is one of four entries that take an in depth look into each of the Saint Seiya movies released during the 1980s. For the original overview entry, click here.

“I’m alone here. With emptiness, eagles and snow. Unfriendliness chilling my body. And whispering pictures of home.” Anyone a Deep Purple fan? Let’s enter the world of Saint Seiya and situate ourselves in the deep polar North. Houyga in his natural environment encounters a fight and meets a fallen figure who whispers the words… Asgard… Valhalla. Alone he heads to this mythical civilization of Odin (no, not Odin: Space Sailor Starlight) to find out what is going on. It may be cold up Asgard’s way, but we are heading towards the super hot with the second Saint Seiya movie, Saint Seiya: The Heated Battle of the Gods.

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 100After a widescreen opening of the usual opening accompanied by the awesome song Pegasus Fantasy, mystery will abound as Houyga has gone missing. Three remaining Bronze Saints (Seiya, Shun and Shiryu… Ikki where are you?) along with Miss Saori go to Asgard to inquire about Houyga. He apparently has not shown up according to the local authorities who seem too in some way of having something to hide. A strange presence is felt when a red clothed warrior with a full mask and helmet passes. Something feels oddly familiar about him? This man is Midgard, one of Asgard’s elite along with Ullr, Rung and Loki who to no surprise are going to be the main opposition to the Bronze Saints. Is Asgard looking to conquer Sanctuary, home of the Saints, or are they just wanting their guests to simply leave?

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 100As an alternate to the filler Asgard arc from the television series, The Heated Battle of the Gods would premier in March of 1988, one month prior to the first TV episode depicting the Norse inspired mythology. Was this a trial run for that section of the show? Or maybe, the television crew thought they could expand on the idea put forth in Heated Battle of the Gods? That is an unknown on my end, but would be an interesting followup if the proper information can be found.

The Saint Seiya movies are very predictable, but each of the four films do have their own individual take on that usual formula. Case in point, Ikki often comes in to save the day for younger brother Shun, no surprise there. This of course happens as well in The Heated Battle of the Gods, but in the end Shun ends up saving Ikki. Not a bad twist in that relationship! For The Heated Battle of the Gods, be prepared for several twists, turns and surprises!

Saint Seiya 80s film index:

    1. Evil Goddess Eris
    2. The Heated Battle of the Gods
    3. Legend of Crimson Youth
    4. Warriors of the Final Holy Battle

#200 : My Neighbor Totoro

Imagine a world with the perfect neighbors. Mr. Rogers would be among them, John Lennon too and maybe even a giant furry woodland creature who represents all of nature and what is great in life. This is not just any furry woodland troll, he is in fact one of the defining symbols of a little studio named Ghibli and even anime as well. Totoro represents the magic we often need in our lives to make everything work and often times we forget this when we get so stuck in our day to day lives. Hayao Miyazaki is responsible for bringing many characters to life, but Totoro is something on another level. For two lucky children, this mythical creature would bring much into their lives as both a guardian and a loyal friend. I now want to return again to a place of peace. Return again to My Neighbor Totoro.

“I’m going up the country, baby don’t you want to go? I’m going up the country, baby don’t you want to go? I’m going to some place, I’ve never been before.” How about a little Canned Heat for good measure and no this is not going to be a trip out to Woodstock. Ah man I was looking forward to Richie Havens, Santana and Jimi Hendrix…

MNT_1Another time, another place… a family buys a country home that’s slightly run down, surrounded by lush greenery and has lots of mysteries including dust sprites and acorns scattered in odd places. The story dynamic is basic. So basic I argue there isn’t really a story. It is more like the unfolding of our lives… things just happen. As the father and two girls get situated into this new home they wait patiently for the ailing mother to recuperate from an illness in the hospital. During this waiting period we find the two girls exploring this ‘Garden of Eden’ like paradise. The encounters they have are nothing like they have ever experienced before. Trees, streams and clean fresh air abound. And then, like magic, a chance discovery of a large nature spirit. Isn’t he just some kind of giant odd rabbit? Nope, he is Totoro and it is he who gives these girls the greatest adventures of their lives. Be it growing a large tree, flying in the skies, enjoying time in the rain, or riding a cat bus… cat bus?… yes a cat bus! It’s the only way to travel!

MNT_2Much of Miyazaki’s experience both personally and professionally made this film the way it is. His childhood memories about his own mother’s illness and his staunch believe in being in accord with the natural world around us are ever present. In true auteur fashion the world he created in Totoro is and was the ideal childhood he did have, or perhaps wished he also had at the same time. He would craft a family film unlike any other that even to this day still stands out. This is not so much a story, but a feeling, an experience, a place of solitude. Stylistically, Totoro is as much about the totality of Miyazaki’s experience as an animator more so than originality. Why not borrow what works from previous productions; after all it ain’t broke…

MNT_3From the opening credit sequence we see influence from his work on early Toei films and the short Panda Go Panda movies he did with Takahata. The giant panda from Panda Go Panda is much like a precursor to the giant Totoro n terms of stature and facial expression. The lush green of the scenery and the placing of children into the wilderness where they can run free brings back memories and influence from his work on Heidi, Girl of the Alps. The main characterization of a strong young female lead, Satsuki, is reminiscent of Nausicaä from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Little Mai could have been Mimiko from Panda Go Panda. Even the father looks a little like a young Miyazaki from my eye. Totoro could be an amalgam of everything Hayao Miyazaki had done up to that point in terms of animation? I argue that this movie is both autobiographical and a snapshot of his portfolio at that point in time.

MNT_4Many of us have a place in our hearts for My Neighbor Totoro and I too have a special relationship to this film in regards to the Studio Ghibli catalog. By no means my all time favorite Ghibli film, though I admire Totoro very highly, this was my very first experience of both the work of Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki. At the time I was not very well prepared being more into sci-fi and mecha properties. Here was a simple, yet highly complex film about nature, relationship dynamics, wonder and the magic of childhood. Yet I knew something of substance was there from the very beginning. I was now in the grasp of the Ghibli and Miyazaki’s visual presentation style. A style that spares no expense in creating a world that is beautiful and as close to tangible reality as I ave ever encountered in animation. While this was not Akira, another film released in 1988, in terms of action, intensity, or atmosphere, Totoro would show me another way of visual expression. More yin in approach compared to the yang of Akira.

MNT_5Masterpiece… My Neighbor Totoro is just that being a movie about simple living, quiet moments and being outside in the ‘real’ world. As I have aged these facets have become more my regular pattern of existence. Action and far out stories used to be my mythology and it still has it’s a place, but now the world of Totoro is more in accord of where I am presently. That being said I respect Totoro more today than I did in the beginning as I have grown into a place to call my own home in all the ups and downs of life. Even with the under lying tensions in the plot of this movie (with the mother’s illness), a place of serenity was found. The same holds true in many aspects of our lives. Yet it is the knowing about the simple quiet place where we can truly just be and that is true reality. Be present, be here now, I shall forever be with you my friend, My Neighbor Totoro.

#198 : Hades Project Zeorymer

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the form of a four episode mecha anime… never thought I would say that statement. Here we have an OVA that begins a little weak and then evolves very quickly after the initial introduction into one of the darkest tales of the piloted giant robot genre. In the end who is the hero and who is the villain? Maybe it could be played from either side, or maybe neither side is truly on the side of justice, which brings up another topic, the aspect of self identity. Am I really who I think I am, or am I only the programming of someone else’s will? Wow this sounds deep, so this must have been well loved? By some yes, by others not so much… this was Hades Project Zeorymer.

HPZ_1Let’s now dive into this interesting stew. Mix part Izcer-1 and Dangaioh from director Toshiro Hirano; 80s mecha OVA experience check. Now add in some Silent Möbius from character designer Michitaka Kikuchi (a.k.a. Kia Asamiya); gritty cyberpunk attitude check. Now add this to a previously released mecha manga that was featured in a lolita hentai magazine and was created by the mind responsible for the Guyver (Yoshiki Takaya). What the?! Now how did this all work out as a mainstream OVA release? Easy… no hentai, or lolicon stuff… oh good that was creeping me out. The final product became a possible prototype for what became of mecha anime in the late 1990s. Angst filled, psychological, darker in tone… perhaps Evangelion was not as revolutionary as we are led to believe? After all Evangelion paid homage to the many things from creator Hideaki Anno’s past, including his mental journey states. Now let us return to Zeorymer.

HPZ_2How is it that I am so mixed about Zeorymer? The first episode was a bit of a let down and I was thinking that things were pointing to a plot direction of a mecha of the episode fighting against a wimpy hero. Then things change over the remaining three episodes moving into an extremely darker tone that shapes not only the characters, but the plot as well. We begin with our protagonist who plays the victim card and is taken by strangers to pilot a giant robot that was stolen from a large organization bent on conquering the world. With this renegade machine we find our protagonist change from scared and mild mannered into inhumane and cold. This is like shifting from Gundam’s Amuro Ray, or Evangelion’s Shinji Ikari into the archetype of M.D. Geist at the drop of a pin. Our hero is not a hero, or a victim, but perhaps a villain? Or is he? Several characters in this OVA, including our main character, end up looking inside themselves to realize what they thought they were was nothing more than a manufactured hoax.

HPZ_3Very heavy themes surround Zeorymer, but the shorter episode count format could have been longer in my opinion. The subject matter could have worked very well for a TV series, or at least a longer OVA run to develop the plot even more. We have to accept what is given even though for me this anime had a lot of potential. I am always a sucker for a deep intense story so when it gets good in terms ot being ‘serious’ I want to dive even deeper down and down and down. Even if darker themes are not your cup of tea what cannot be denied is the quality of Zeorymer in terms of presentation. Like many of Hirano’s directorial projects the detail and fluidity are very high in terms of quality. Spare no expenses here, this is a nice looking OVA.

HPZ_41988 brought many reinventions and presentations in the OVA market. Gunbuster, Patlabor and Dragon’s Heaven all brought a hope of light to the future of mecha anime. But what of the former dramatic titles from the past that filled either epic space opera, or deep sacrificial tones to the story that were on television? This all seemed to be a memory until the appearance of a lone dark figure, Zeorymer, who would appear against the previously mentioned titles as a both a call from the past and a harbinger of the future. Zeorymer may not be too everyone’s taste palette, but it cannot be ignored.

#195 : Bride of Deimos

Shojo + horror, or occult subject matter = yes indeed in my book. Be it CLAMP’s early work like Tokyo Babylon, or X, or 80s titles that range from the comedic, Tokimeki Tonight, or the dramatic, Vampire Princess Miyu, I enjoyed them all. Add to that the skills of Studio Madhouse and the director Rintaro with his use of color and imagery and I become even more tempted. Lastly, discovering a previously unknown one off OVA is always welcome. Three strikes and I am not far from out, but totality in… or perhaps I should say win. Let me introduce you to The Bride of Deimos.

BoD_1The underworld… a beautiful woman hangs while she slowly rots away tied to what appears to be a binding of thorns. Reminds me of the opening of The Rose of Versailles where Oscar was bound up just the same, though not in the manner of being crucified. Calling out to her lover Deimos, Venus desperately requires a new body to sustain her immortality. The ever androgynous bishonen figure of Deimos knows all to well this process as he has been through this many times before. And like any hunter, he works on his next prey, a high school girl named Minako Ifu, who is the physical reincarnation of Venus. Minako meanwhile has a friend who is currently into botany and both have an interest in the orchids at a local convention. Her friend soon visits one of the contestants homes who bloomed a very beautiful blue orchid to find out how they grow such beautiful flowers. Ever worried, Minako treks towards this home to find out what secrets are being kept all to the chagrin of Deimos.

BoD_2Reminiscent of the myth of Persephone where a young maiden is dragged down by the prince of darkness and the underworld, Hades, Bride of Deimos is filled with Greco-Roman re-interpreted myth. Deimos himself was the god of dread, a brother of Phobos, fear. Sounds very uplifting? This relationship of tempting the innocent girl to go down the darker path is often seen in many cultures, but Persephone‘s is the most familiar from my experience. Outwitting the Devil, temptation, or even death is very much true in Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, where a knight is in constant struggle to stay one step ahead of Death himself by playing against the black angel in a game of chess. Minako is always outwitting Deimos, refusing his charms and even advice when he means well to keep her safe. Much like a guardian angel, Deimos is always on watch towards Minako and will save her every time she is in danger.

BoD_3Rintaros work always seems to bring controversy. He often puts so much effort into the visual storytelling that the plot often gets lost. In the bold colors, drastic lighting and occasional psychedelic madness that he is known for, Rintaro creates a mood that is often times closer to fine art than entertainment. His style is an acquired taste and works well with my palette, but I know others often mock his work. Something looked just right the moment I started Bride of Deimos and finding his name along with Studio Madhouse definitely rung out many ah-ha moments. Of course this was why this was an attractive anime for me! Added to the darker occult subject matter made this an even more tempting found prize. So many wonders and interesting material from the shojo end of the spectrum exist in plenty that I never knew before.

Even though many times we fear the dark, or the darker aspects of life, it is from those moments we start anew. Like a new moon in the middle of the night, light will return again for both the moons phase and the sky. Deimos may symbolize dread, but there is always a flip side to the so called negative we often label on quick judgement. Take a walk on the wild side if you will because every one deep down loves a bad boy who has a good heart. Could you be the next Bride of Deimos?