#219 : Space Pirate Captain Harlock: Mystery of the Arcadia

What is it about this beautiful cosmic sailing vessel? Captain Harlock’s ship the Arcadia is more than just a space battleship, it is a symbolic representation of many things. It is a call for freedom, a freedom that is beyond what we believe that definitive concept is. It is also an oasis for those who don’t belong in greater society. It is a symbol of pure moral compassion that is disconnected from profit or power mongering disguised as a fighting machine that stands up for truth, the exact equal to Captain Harlock himself. Yet the Arcadia is also the soul of a man who put his blood, sweat and genius, as well as love, into creating this piece of art, Harlock’s friend and sidekick Tochiro Oyama. All this and more is on display in a miniature feature film released during the original 1978 TV series and four years before the epic Arcadia of My Youth known simply as Space Pirate Captain Harlock: Mystery of the Arcadia.

… that’s a long title? …

H_MotA_1Rather than tell a new story, Mystery of the Arcadia would base its plot on an adaptation of the 13th episode of Space Pirate Captain Harlock known as Witch Castle in the Sea of Death, or The Castle of Evil in the Sea of Death (whichever translation you prefer). This is stated over many areas of the internet and I did check to see if this was true by pulling the TV series DVD set off of my shelf… yes, it is a variation for sure. Harlock is very pensive, unsure what course of action to take next until the distant echoes of an ocarina can be heard from the Earth all the way out in space. I love the imagination of Leiji Matsumoto in how it breaks the so called reality of our universe. The Arcadia seems to know for sure that this ocarina is from young Mayu and alters course immediately on its own accord. Just what is this ship doing? Eventually we meet up with little Mayu on Earth where the appearance of her guardian, Harlock, brings a welcome smile to her face.

H_MotA_2Temporarily Mayu boards the Arcadia bringing a sense of comfort to the great space battleship. Just what is going on with this ship? It’s as if it is tied to Mayu in some way and has a mind of it’s own… a real… mystery. She returns to Earth which leads to the crew of the Arcadia picking up a transmission that looks similar to other Mazone signals that Harlock and crew have been chasing. The Mazone by the way is the alien antagonist regime in the TV series, in case you did not know.. Located in the Sargasso Sea, Bermuda Triangle territory in the Atlantic Ocean, the Arcadia heads out to investigate. During a run in with Commander Kiruta’s forces (main Earth antagonist) the Arcadia comes into contact with a ghost ship as well that fires on both Kiruta and the Arcadia. Now we have another mystery, a third wheel in the equation… ghost ships… WWII battleships in fact (typical of Matsumoto)… this calls for even more investigation in the area.

H_MotA_3Consider this movie as filler if you have already seen the 1978 TV series as this really tells nothing new, but as a die hard Harlock fan I consider it essential watching, though you may disagree. I love the animation style that Toei and director Rintaro created for this rendition of Harlock (both the 1978 TV series and this movie) so I am a little partial towards it. If you have never seen the original TV series this movie would be a good minor introduction, though it does slightly spoil a plot element later revealed in the series (if you can figure it out). Toei used to make many short films based on TV franchises during the 1970s and show these ‘specials’ in theaters, usually in a cornucopia styled grouping. This was of course well before OVAs (home video was in its infancy during this time) and even the internet, so this was an alternative to watching your favorite shows again, except on the BIG screen. Oh how times have changed, but the legacy of Captain Harlock, then or now, stands as eternal.

#217 : Bavi Stock

Time for Action! And now yet another OVA oddity from that little studio I love so much from way back when. Kaname Production had their name identified with several productions during the 1980s including: Birth, Windaria, The Humanoid, Leda: Fantastic Adventure of Yohko and Dream Dimension Hunter Fandora to name a few. Now it is time to check out the two part action packed adventure known as Bavi Stock. Released in 1985 along with the brilliant Yohko, I had no expectation in regards to Bavi Stock, except a few screenshots to set a general idea of the setting. Overall I liked it, but found it a little confusing.

Bavi_1This first episode left me scratching my head. What did I just watch? We first see a member of the GPP (Kate), this is some kind of galactic police force, rescue a mute girl (Mooma) who has been captured by a renegade esper, Lady Lus Mila and her android companion, Eyesman. Then after getting birthday wishes Kate is asked to bust a guy out of prison who happened to be charged with murder. This fellow is named Bavi Stock (hence the title) and along with him we also add his boxing trainer, Sammy, who has plans to enter a hovercraft style race, even though he also is serving a life sentence (did he have his own method to getting out?). Upon returning to GPP headquarters we find it has been blown up, sadness. And then rejoicing again as Sammy prepares to enter the race while celebrating Kate’s birthday. Talk about a dichotomy. Then we meet up with Lady Lus Mila and Eyesman again… are they planning to enter this race as well?

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 100Holy cow, talk about all over the place, I hope this second episode irons out some of these character’s pasts, or reason for being in this show? But first, the hovercraft race, which reminds me of the Star Wars pod race. Now onto episode two where Bavi, Kate, Sammy and Mooma are living together as a surrogate family. This one begins more comically and the visuals look a tad downgraded, or perhaps different from the the first episode. Thankfully some back story starts to emerge for Bavi and Mooma throughout this second go around. FINALLY! Add to that a treasure hunt on another planet that, as we add back in a little Star Wars, reminds me of meeting the Ewoks from Return of the Jedi. Now we have cuddly teddy bears to add as well that can communicate with us! This is one crazy OVA overall, but when looked at from another point of view, it was kind of fun. This is a B-Grade release for sure… maybe C, D… I leave that up to you.

Bavi_3This is by no means exactly like Kaname’s 1986 OVA release, The Humanoid, but if I could pair this with another Kaname release I would go with this combination. Both have over the top plots too big for their respective releases, not enough information to really understand the full picture, occasional comedic banter and characters that you enjoy and come to love. ‘Bad’ anime literally, but entertaining enough to enjoy despite the flaws. I actually welcome titles like this in my search through the OVA bins of lost titles as these have as much value to me as the bigger masterpieces. I had odd tastes I guess? Plus it’s a Kaname anime and no matter what I stick up for their catalog of work. And if I havd to choose between Bavi Stock and The Humanoid, I would go with the later. Why? COFFEE!

A big thank you to my friends at Kingmenu Subs for helping with this release, it was help on my journey here! (I never thought I would ever see this title subtitled… never say never)

#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!