#159 : Odin: Photon Sailer Starlight

Odin_1Oh, Oh, Ohh, Oh Deen!!! Odin: Photon Sailer Starlight, or is it Odin: Starlight Mutiny? May I call you Odin for short? Ever wondered how a laser powered sailing vessel would fair in the vastness of outer space? We all know that old battleships (Space Battleship Yamato) and trains (Galaxy Express 999 and Night on the Galactic Railroad) can tackle the great void of the cosmos, but a ship with sails… is it possible? In anime anything is possible… ANYTHING! Anime and the imagine can be ever expansive, yet it has to finally materialize into some substance to achieve true satisfaction. With Odin, we spend a long time traveling around, but do we ever get anywhere? Not really, but we get to head bang to heavy metal along the way.

Odin_2Many will say from the word go that Odin is a bad anime, a bad movie period. I am not here to judge one way or another, but I will say as a fact that it took me three attempts to get through this movie to finish it the first time eons ago. Why three times? I fell asleep the first two times. Odin, the alternative to melatonin. From past watchings I was under the spell from others who painted this as one of the greatest monstrosities ever created by Japan’s animation history. In many ways there is merit to this hypothesis, yet a recent rewatch has changed my tune slightly. One thing that I kept in mind this time round was to treat Odin as a large scale blockbuster action film with lots of action on a huge scale, but limited in terms of being a blockbuster. Also everything has it’s flaws… focus on what is working.

Odin_3My main issue with Odin is that it is the embodiment of excess gone wrong… ego and arrogance to the Nth degree. A true poster child of 1980s overabundance in one extreme direction. This is a big budget movie with lots of ideas and yet not enough follow through at the end product stage. What may have worked before in another guise and time may not always catch hold with the public at that current moment. Yoshinobu Nishizaki, the producer and anime exec responsible for Space Battleship Yamato, thought otherwise. If resurrecting the sunken battleship Yamato and turning it into a space epic with heroes and glory could yield success, then maybe Nishizaki could do something similar again. By the time of Yamato’s retirement in 1983 with the release of Final Yamato, perhaps the concept of epic space opera romanticism had runs it’s course?

Odin_4The story as a whole makes sense, but it gets scattered easily from the bombast and spectacle. A group of young men board the Starlight to become the main crew and run in abundant enthusiasm accompanied with heavy metal. GO!! Once on the bridge they meet their more mature superiors who want to follow everything by the books because they are after all in charge. A clash of generations? While on their maiden flight they answer an S.O.S., rescue a mysterious girl and discover alien artifacts. They learn of the civilization Odin and somehow the girl has memories of this civilization, even being able to read the language. The old men want to go home, but the boys want to go discover this new find. Enter mutiny and locking up the old men. Now we set sail for Odin, whatever it is. Could they be a mechanical civilization? Why is the Odin race very warlike? The Starlight crew find an Odin outlying base and subsequently attack it. Then the old men die leaving the ship in the boy’s hands. So should the boys go home? No way, they have to go to Odin! The End… or should I say to be continued, yet there is no more story to tell.

If Odin had life as a TV series maybe the story could have worked out. All the possibilities were there: the budget, the voice cast, the art and designs, but sadly they could not fully come to fruition as a whole. You could watch the abridged version at 90 minutes as a substitute, but the longer cut, well over two hours, has the full story; just pace yourself. The greatest reward if you finish the longer cut is a metal ballad music video that runs over the credits… “Searching for Odin my love…”  … Arguably the best part of the movie?

#152 : Salamander

Salamander_1Not very often one sees the Konami logo making an entrance before the start of an anime. Video games most definitely as Konami created many a classic for early consoles during the 1980s and 1990s, but an anime… what’s the catch? Could it be an anime based on a video game in Konami’s library? Obviously. Anime as a promotional tie in is nothing new and with Konami’s Salamander (Life Force for the NES) a three episode OVA would be commissioned to begin release in 1988. So we have an anime based off of a space ship shooter? A schmup? Work with your strengths here add some heroic characters, space opera and a little character development and you get a production that is actually pretty good.

Salamander_2While the video game of Salamander lays down the foundation of this anime with attacking an alien threat while piloting the ever well designed Vic Viper space craft, other influences would also color the anime into a more flushed out production. Why not add in references to Salamander’s fellow siblings Gradius  and Gradius II: GOFER no Yabou as well. Plus lets include veteran director Hisayuki Toriumi and Studio Pierrot for production and character designs by Haruhiko Mikimoto (nice choice!) to polish off this package. Salamander is solid 1980s space opera complete with the look and feel one would expect from the era and best of all you don’t have to be a fan of video games. Now let’s see how this plot unfolds!

Salamander_3Much like 2001: A Space Odyssey we begin with mysterious black monoliths, except these look like the giant stone statues found on Easter Island. Legend states that these protect the planet Latis from a sleeping fire dragon. This dragon has ties with an invading power, the Bacterian of the planet Salamander and recently on the planet Gradius, three young heroes defeated this power. Latis’ prince Lord British (nice name) calls forth these three fighters even though the relations between Latis and Gradius are difficult at best. Arriving in Vic Vipers, our heroes Dan, Eddie and Stephanie make their entrance in front of the regal Lord British. Sounds fairly ordinary at first except Eddie and Stephanie have some baggage from the past which become major plot points. Eddie’s family has ties to the planet Latis and Stephanie mourns the loss of her father from the invasion on their home world of Gradius. Instead of being just a flash and dazzle showing of aerial acrobatics and dogfighting, we get character drama, which I can be sure was not part of the original video gaming experience.

The following two episodes bookend the opener. Episode two acts as a prequel, tying up unfinished business that was hinted at previously, and episode three delivers a subsequent sequel and finale. Being based on space ship shooters it is nice to sit back and relax for once instead of being in intense in the moment. Let the pros handle this one! And maybe it is just me, but Salamander does feel a little slow. Watching the first episode alone is enough of a story in and of itself and then adding in the final two gives more depth, but kind of repeats similar themes, characters and stories already. Maybe I am being a little too critical since I have seen my fair share and a half of space opera anime and know many of the tropes familiar with the genre. That being said, Salamander is still well above the upper end of average.

Salamander_4Cast in the same era as other space opera OVAs like Gunbuster and Dangaioh, Salamander is a worthy recommendation if you can get a hold of it. My initial draw to Salamander were the Mikimoto character designs. As a fan of his work I do my best to track down all that I can to see those tried and true sparkling eyes again and again that he is known for. I won’t lie, this OVA for me is all about the visual appeal. Ironically this anime also led me to later give Gradius a try on the NES; a fun game. As of this writing I have not tried Salamander/Life Force, maybe in the future. And just in case you are wondering… the famous ‘Konami Code’ will not work with this OVA. No free power ups, or 30 extra lives this time round.

#138 : Gall Force: Eternal Story

What ever happened to our old friend Gall Force? Debuting in 1986 with a feature film that spun off into a pairing of direct single release OVA sequels and then a couple more larger arc OVA series, Gall Force seemed to become a major player in anime. Then quiet arose over the landscape and Gall Force faded away into the sunset. It’s time to come out of retirement ladies, we miss you! To get a foot hold and get reacquainted with this series as a whole we have to start from the very beginning. Let us return once again to the maiden voyage to the 9th star system with Gall Force: Eternal Story.

GFES_1All is war in the galaxy. It has been for a long, long, long time. Two factions fight it out to the death with their huge armadas of spaceships that fire laser beams that take up half the real estate of your viewing screen. This is the story of the Solenoids vs. the Paranoids. Wound coil magnets vs. people who are extremely afraid, or perhaps Black Sabbath fans? … “Finished with my woman ’cause she couldn’t help me with my mind, People think I’m insane because I am frowning all the time” … Not exactly, but seriously, where do you kids come up with this stuff? No, this is more like… the battle of the sexes… in DEEP SPACE! The Paranoids (ugly parasitic monstrosities of aliens), being the masculine and the Solenoids (a race of women that look very ‘familiar’?), the feminine.

GFES_2Gall Force: Eternal Story is not my favorite anime of all time by a long shot, but it is one I enjoy watching for the fun of it. This was one of those titles that was part of the steady diet of titles that solidified my love for Japanese animation. It’s a sci-fi homage of everything we loved about space and adventuring through the galaxies all thrown into one. This is a film that borrows much from earlier titles in anime, but also live action references such as: Star Wars, Alien, 2001 and Star Trek. It’s a film that defines all that is generic and cheesy, but pulls it off so well that it’s classic. Even the English dub gives the movie so much character. Gall Force: Eternal Story is a film where everything falls apart in order to give birth to something new and fresh. One trial after another hits our heroines and slowly one by one they eventually bite the dust. And yet would you believe that this movie does ends on a happier note?

GFES_3Our protagonists are a group of seven Solenoid soldiers whose mission is to pilot their vessel, the Star Leaf, to the 9th system to defend a new world for colonization from the Paranoids, Chaos. Along the journey Eluza, Rabby, Lufy (my fav!), Catty, Pony, Patty, and Rumy run into several obstacles including repairing a part of the ship to activate the warp drive (which also meant a scary trek into the belly of space), a battle with the Paranoids, fighting a stow away monster and eventually… childbirth! An interesting voyage isn’t it? I mentioned earlier how the girls all look very ‘familiar’, this is due to the fact that they were designed by Kenichi Sonoda. These seven girls all prototypical examples of his character stylings, which were also featured in Wanna-Be’s and Bubblegum Crisis, both being early work Sonoda did at AIC along with the Gall Force series.

GFES_4I have a weird theory about Gall Force: Eternal Story… maybe it’s… maybe it’s… our true origin story? This will make sense when you see the film in whole and make it all the way to the end. To put this into perspective, a child is born from the mating of the Paranoids and the Solenoids and that child along with one of the girls are the sole survivors to start a whole new evolution. A whole new race, a new beginning. Kind of like Adam and Eve? Maybe Gall Force: Eternal Story is the opening parts of Genesis from the Bible? … In the beginning there was void and war and laser blasts covered the deep of space. And then God spoke and said, “Cut out the fighting kids and have a baby instead!” … I dunno, it makes sense to me, what do you think?

#111 : Space Pirate Captain Harlock

SPCH_1Let me tell you about about a man by the name of Harlock. “Now thats a name I have not heard in a long time, a long time,”… ok, the truth is that it may have been only five minutes because this man, this character, this legend is so ingrained into my fandom that I sometimes wonder what would I be without the presence of Captain Harlock. A creation of one of my favorite manga heroes, Leiji Matsumoto, Harlock is in many ways the man I would like to become. And while there have been a multitude of instances that Harlock has been brought into the zeitgeist of the present, the original TV series of 1978 stands as a personal Bible and one of my favorite series of all time.

SPCH_2Space Pirate Captain Harlock was and still is a show that I hold near and dear to my heart. Harlock’s premise is quite interesting as our hero, Harlock, is very just and high on being a moralist of his own convictions and yet, a villain to the establishment. Many times Harlock reminds me of Alan Watts take on the outsider (Youtube link) as Harlock is not productive to what is dictated by society. He lives by his own rules and pirates because he sees the corruption and waste in the downfall that is called humanity. The human race would rather play and waste their time and resources for their own self indulgent pleasures, while taking for granted the beauty of their environment. Plus, it does not help that an alien invasion of plant like female agents known as the Mazone (Amazon variation?) are also on the scene. Yet it is Harlock in the end who saves the Earth and humanity even though he has been forsaken and branded as a criminal. How ironic?

SPCH_3While our eyed patched hero is the star of the show, it is the rest of his crew of 42 (just who is this mysterious 42nd crew member?) that give life to this sci-fi epic. It seems that everyone on the ship Arcadia has a story. Usually it’s heartbreaking, or fated, but the only place, the only solace that this group of 42 has found is with each other aboard Harlock’s beloved Arcadia. All ages, all circumstances and all walks of life are welcome to join the ship so long as you help in your own way at the appropriate time. Seems fair and easy, but it is a hard road because in the end you end up finding out more of who you really are.

I want to spend a moment more on Harlock as a character; in particular his loyalty. I have mentioned his loyalty to the Earth, but why does he fight for a planet and it’s people that refuse to welcome him? The answer lies in the strong loyalty to his deceased best friend, the architect of his ship and the best sidekick ever (maybe?), Tochiro Oyama. Harlock is guardian to Tochiro’s only daughter Maya and she still resides on the Earth. She represents the future of humanity and Harlock protects her and the Earth like they were his own children because Harlock could not forgive himself if he ever took back his loyalty and promises to his best friend. Again, how can this man be branded a criminal? Maybe they are jealous of his awesome hair (I know I am!).

SPCH_4Visually Space Pirate Captain Harlock looks the era it was created in, which is all analog and extra stylish… awesome indeed. Rintaro, Captain Harlock’s director, is known for a visual approach that exudes drama and intensity. Many of his works often get lost in the visual eye candy of each scene; the image become the focus more than the story (from my experiences with his work). This may be the case since most of his better known projects are auteur films, but Space Pirate Captain Harlock is a longer run TV series (and a job for Toei where he is not in complete control), so this provides room for story to exist with the impressive visual narrative. Rintaro’s arthouse style exponentiates the emotional space opera brilliance of Leiji Matsumoto. Watch in particular the high contrast scenes that turn a simple moment into a great happening such as the murder of Professor Daiba as an example.

As long as a Jolly Roger waves aboard that beautiful ship named Arcadia, I know I can and will live free, question authority and search for that quiet spot in myself to find my own piece of personal authenticity. This story, while set in the future of 2978, with the corruption and downfall of man, echoes of truth today. After all what is the difference between 1978, 2018, or 2978? It is all the present moment, just a different cycle. Are we in the end being true to ourselves, our environment, and/or our humanity?

Space Pirate Captain Harlock, what a man and what a show 🙂 Gohrum!

#100 : Super Dimension Fortress Macross

Macross_1It’s #100 and I saved this one for this occasion. 🙂 In the far future of the year 1999… oh wait it’s 2018 now… don’t you hate it when the once thought of far future becomes a past memory? Well let pretend it’s 1982 once again, when a little show created by a bunch of anime and sci-fi fans hit the airwaves. Their story as stated before began in the year 1999 when suddenly a warp gate opens, bringing a behemoth of a spaceship into our local area of interstellar space. And much like a wild meteor with a mission, this ship came down like a speeding bullet onto a little island in the South Pacific. Ladies and gentlemen we humans are most definitely not alone anymore and this lone fictitious event in the sky is the beginning to THE most important anime in my whole fandom and life.

Macross_2Love is something you can’t describe with simple language and if you can, it really is not the passionate love you should feel from the bottom of your heart. In 1985, as an impressionable six year old, via an adaptation named Robotech, I fell in love with the most beautiful of space operas. NO, one of the greatest mecha anime ever. NO, the greatest love story that I have ever encountered. Well… maybe all three combined. I had experienced a story, characters and emotions that resonated with me on a level one cannot define. This was and still is a title many of us hold in the highest regards as something beyond special. It was one of my gateway anime and remains to this day the yardstick that I measure anything else I watch up to it… Super Dimension Fortress Macross.

Coming from my perspective and fandom and with all the variety of opinions already stating what happens in the show, the only thing I can give is what Macross has given to me on a personal level. Macross is not a television show, or even an anime. It is a part of my family, pure and simple; close knit family to be exact. These are my adopted brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and best friends. Even though the cast are not with me in the physical plane, they have been instrumental in keeping me alive, healthy and happy. Macross for me is the Beatles’ In My Life, “there are places I remember… some have gone and some remain… all these places have there moments… In my life, I love you more.” I don’t see this posting as another entry, this is a soliloquy in the form of a love letter.

Macross_3Much credit to Macross is given to Shojo Kawamori (way too much!) almost as if it was “his” project alone, which of course is NOT true! But again where did Macross come from… a manga, toyline, yada yada… nope? It was it’s own creation, completely original and influenced by a group of young creative fans. An almost proverbial otaku’s dream come true, the purest form of fan service. Not the emphasis on the usual definition of fan service, but the wanting to add reference upon reference making the story grand and sentimental. You can give credit to others like Noburo Ishiguru or Ichiro Itano, but one individual makes Macross very special (my opinion)… the greatest character designer ever (again my opinion), Haruhiko Mikimoto!

Macross_4Mikimoto’s eye designs are always what win me over. Beautiful eyes with a romantic quality, they glisten like stars in the night (Mikimoto insists it was a shojo influence). Therefore this is the best looking cast ever (my opinion yet again), particularly our main cast… the perfect trio, handsome Hikaru, elegent Misa and adorable Minmei. Beyond the ‘main’ cast you have a huge subsidiary group and all of them get a couple minutes to show their individuality, but I have only been speaking of those of us who are all Earth born. Macross, after all, is an epic space opera and humanity meets another race from a far off area of the universe. Remember that spaceship I mentioned earlier that crashed onto the Earth… it is of interest of giant alien race, the Zentradi.

Macross_5Thus the plot begins… a spaceship gets refurbished, an alien invasion leads humanity into outer space, a war ensues, a young girl’s dream of becoming a pop star comes true, a love triangle becomes difficult and the questioning of the origins of both humanity and the warlike Zentradi are tied to the mysterious Protoculture (not exactly the same thing as in Robotech folks)… and stretches over 36 episodes in total. Wow! Busy show indeed and never boring. No wonder Macross reached the tops of popularity since there is something for everyone to enjoy. But then again like I said before, this was a show made by fans of anime, manga and sci-fi. They knew which buttons to push to get the reactions which we all can identify with.

Macross_6Wait a minute… I forgot to go into detail about one important piece of Macross that I love. One word… MUSIC! Music plays a major role in the plot and the soundtrack is oh so good. I love music, I play music and great music in an anime is a thumbs up from my end. Kentaro Haneda’s orchestral work is inspiring and certain tracks, in particular Dog Fighter, are anthemic. The character of Minmei and her pop idol status was one of the first iterations of this character archetype. Love it or hate it, Macross would not be the same without Minmei as the cheerleader so to speak. She was the true star of Macross, yet not the major protagonist who was Hikaru. Her simple pop songs, a blast of culture more precisely, changes the course of events in this show. Love conquers all, literally.

The closing titles features a song called Runner, a sentimental ballad. And I will end this entry by saying that Macross and I have run together a long, long time (hard to admit you are getting older, but wisdom is worth the age!). Hand in hand, Macross and I will run forever. …with 100 postings down, it’s time to write another 100! 🙂

 

#73 : Super Dimensional Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love?

DYRL_1Wait, wait, this is my favorite part… This is an often quoted statement when watching a movie you love. The thing for me is that for Super Dimensional Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? (jeez thats a long title) I say this throughout the whole film, or I have to shut people up so I can listen to each line of dialog. Wait a minute… I usually watch this film by myself… anyway… Do I remember Macross? I do. Do I remember love? I do. Do I love Macross? I most definitely do. Do I remember and love that most awesome movie adaptation Super Dimensional Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? I DO!

DYRL_2This sounds like a marriage ceremony with all these I dos, but in truth I am married metaphorically speaking to the original Macross. I don’t have a ring to prove it, so you have to trust me and as a mega fan of the original show, what is my take on the remake that was made for theaters in that magical summer of 1984? Well… it’s hard to be biased and/or objective, but it’s a masterpiece and a half. After all just look at it, no really look at it! NOW! That line work, the quality and care, the special effects and the fluidity of movement are some of the best of the decade. That and Haruhiko Mikimoto’s character design work is at it’s pinnacle here. Some have called it a labor of love as in my mind Macross was the first series made by otaku that ended up being for otaku at the time. It’s the ultimate space opera, mecha and romance story ever told wrapped in the prettiest of packages.

DYRL_3Now here’s a story, ‘do I remember’ (pun! on the title) seeing this the first time? Thankfully I do. Back in the days of VHS and being a bored teenager at the mall I stumbled into a Suncoast store and a tape caught my eye. Now mind you, my knowledge of anime was limited as I was a small town kid in the early 1990s here. I knew of and loved Robotech very much and when out of the blue I saw a tape labeled Clash of the Bionoids, I scratched my head. It looked like Robotech, it had the SDF-1 on the cover and some pictures in the back with Rick and Minmei. I was impressed and bought it. Upon watching it, three things happened. One, this was not Robotech. Two, the drawings looked much better than TV series. And three, it had this weird dub and everyone had different names? With no material to tell me anything I took a guess that this was the original Japanese Macross. I was right.

DYRL_4The plot is similar to the TV series except we start en media res with the Macross already in space and the sprawl of the shopping mall like city already installed. Minmei is in concert, Misa is with Claudia and Captain Global in the Macross’ bridge and Hikaru, Max and Roy are out in space doing their fighter jock best in those classic Valkyrie fighters going up against the Zentraedi armada. OK, par for the course, but what is different besides the already mentioned artistry? First, we get a glimpse of this possible Protoculture civilization, although it is in ruins. Perhaps it is the fabled Lemurian continent often quoted in many anime? And what is found there? A simple love song. A song that would eventually turn the tides of the battle, an established staple of Macross. Second, the budding romance between Hikaru and Misa is more poignant in this movie. The first serious kiss between these two when they were on Earth always makes me giddy. And third, going back to music, and even more epic soundtrack. Macross and music have always gone hand in hand, but this film takes it up a notch or two, ok three… actually four, lol.

DYRL_5On the flip side, I can see how dated this film is in some respects and often cries back to me a lost summer in the sun. The fashion and hair are of the period, but doesn’t it look good anyway? After all there was a quote I once read that the 80s was when anime and real life fashion and hair were one and the same. The inside of the Macross reminds me of how a shopping mall used to look like and in particular at the Holiday Season. Colorful, exciting and full of life. Malls nowadays look like badly branded race cars with corporate logos all over the place, run down and tired. Even with all this, the magic is still there as the optimism I remember growing up that the 21st century was just around the corner and new exciting things were on that horizon. I’m still patiently waiting for space travel and robots.

If ever an anime is to the likes of the biggest celebration, championship or awards ceremony where people say that this is the BIGGEST show in town and matters to the point that you have to be a part of it no matter the circumstances, then Macross DYRL is that anime to me. It’s an apex to my fandom, to a property that I would either marry on the spot, or take a bullet for. It’s the flag I wave proudly and it’s the movie that symbolizes what anime can be and what it once was and yet can still be again. It may not be to everyone’s liking, but I don’t care. It belongs to me and hopefully to you as well.