#211 : Arei no Kagami: Way to the Virgin Space

Do you believe the universe has an edge where beyond that boundary is untouched, pure… virginal?. If space and the universe are infinite, how can there be an edge? We now are about to enter the realm of imaginative sci-fi space fantasy… rules and reason, yeah let’s leave that at the door. Ever hear of Arei no Kagami: Way to the Virgin Space? Like many obscure titles from the 1980s this was an unknown for me as well, but something about Arei no Kagami invited me in with something very familiar.

AnK_1Upon quick glance of the characters one who is in the know would easily recognize that Arei no Kagami is a part of Leiji Matsumoto’s portfolio of work. His hallmark style surrounds the visual appeal of the likes such as Galaxy Express 999 and Queen Millennia, amongst many others, but Arei no Kagami has many other similarities. A young boy in the company of a beautiful blonde woman on a sci-fi themed journey is a common theme expressed in the other two Matsumoto productions, but for Arei no Kagami we see a variation with an auburn female lead instead, Maya. Along with her is the young Meguru and both of them escape a planet torn apart by war to search for the promised land, the edge of the universe, Arei. Onboard as well is a stowaway android, Zero, who also yearns to find this special zone.

AnK_2Created specifically for Expo ’85, The International Exposition, Tsukuba, Japan, 1985, Arei no Kagami would fit into the future oriented theme of the event. And while progress and the hope of things to come were the main focus, Arei no Kagami would also question much about humanity’s past actions. The dark side of war, hatred and mistreatment towards the environment and other humans would be brought forth to our trio of space explorers who must defend the human race’s more redeeming qualities. Architecture, the arts and advancements in science and philosophies would be presented as a counterpoint. Yet the entry into the virgin space of the universe demands the most noble of hearts… can these three characters pass the test of showing that the human race is far more than our past sins?

AnK_3Matsumoto’s Arei no Kagami was a fellow classmate to his former Yamato partner Yoshinobu Nishizaki’s Odin: Photon Sailer Starlight (Oh! ODEEN!). And as different as both men are (artist vs. businessman literally), both productions are literally… light years apart in many ways. Arei no Kagami is short (20–25 minutes), a concise story and has a feeling of conclusion. You feel in many ways you made it to the final destination intended. Odin is two plus hours long, confusing, over complicated and end ups going nowhere. I am still “Searching for Odin my love” like many of us. Matsumoto was always the stronger storyteller of the two and while Arei no Kagami is very simple and kind of generic, it does what it does well with a limited time span.

#192 : Farewell Space Battleship Yamato: In the Name of Love / Arrivederci Yamato

Certain anime we all fall in love with instantaneously and many titles leave us with an emotional bind that we will never forget. We jump for joy and many times shed tears watching those we love on screen go through hardship. Years ago when I was on my Space Battleship Yamato fix I would eventually come across the films of the original epic franchise that was perhaps the first otakufest of obsession in the world of anime. Their was a certain idealism in the late 1970 and 1980s and it is written all over Yamato, but at one time that idealism almost died and actually was planned as the finality. The initial sequel, Farewell Space Battleship Yamato: In the Name of Love (Arrivederci Yamato), is a large epic that defines space opera tragedy and is one of the most beautiful movies in the genre that also leaves you in tears.

FSBY_1After the success of the 1977 rebooted film version of the first Yamato series the combined power of Yoshinobu Nishizaki and Leiji Matsumoto would strike out again to create a followup that was bigger than the first and for the time a finality. Seamless would be the transition as we followup one year after Earth’s victory against the Gamilas Empire, which also cooresponds with Farewell Space Battleship Yamato’s release dat of 1978. The artwork is a little more polished this second time around and Matusmoto’s character designs and deep emotional idealism injected into the story are ever present again. Fandom was high for Yamato in the late 1970s, how would they respond to this followup film?

FSBY_2This new story of Farewell Space Battleship Yamato is a lot of redo from before, but in many ways it does not matter. A peaceful Earth that is under the threat of alien invasion to destroy humanity, the meeting of an angelic feminine goddess archetype who has a message for the people of Earth and the trials and tribulations of a converted WWII battleship that can navigate the openness of outer space is all familiar territory from the first Yamato story. Familiar faces like Godai, Yuki and the rest of the Yamato crew are back this time with a new captain, Hijikata, and a group of space Marines led by the likable Saito. And let us not forget our new enemy this time round, the Comet Empire, or the Gatlantis Empire, who also have in their service a familiar face. Remember Dessler, Yamato I’s chief villain? He’s alive and has one of the best redemption moments I have ever seen in all of anime. Dessler was in the end an honorable man.

FSBY_3Massively long, two and a half hours of clock time span this is a behemoth of a film and yet it’s the climactic last half hour where the epic of tragedy of watching our beloved friends, the crew of the Yamato, one by one fall to save humanity from the Comet Empire’s invasion. Personal sacrifices of those who give all that they have and give their lives for something greater than what is expected from society are true heroes. My eyes are never dry through this whole time and while some of the crew does survive, it does come at the expense of the beautiful Yamato herself. Many of us are told who to look up to in regards for the heroic, but real heroes are usually never recognized except by our own experience. I will never forget the crew of the Yamato.

FSBY_4Often I question which is my favorite story in the original Yamato franchise? This film is often at the top of the listing along with the alternate TV series retelling, Yamato II. Yamato I also ranks very high, but this film’s epic tragedy, which can be compared to other great films like Grave of the Fireflies and my beloved Windaria, are moments in time that have stuck with me like no other. Farewell Space Battleship Yamato: In the Name of Love is not considered proper canon anymore since the retelling as Yamato II, yet I consider this film one of the prize jewels of what Yamato once was and one of the best anime of the 1970s. … “Free at last, they took you life, they could not take your pride. In the Name of Love…”

#187 : Magnos the Robot

If this is the best I can do for a substitute for Magne Robo Gakeen, I may just stop right here. Magnos the Robot is a condensed localization I found my via a bargain bin DVD, though I am sure it may exist as well online as well as this seems to be a public domain type of thing. I am not going to give up hope in eventually seeing the original and I look forward to the opportunity, but it may end up being on the lower end of my priority list.

Magnos_1The story is very typical mid 1970s super robot anime having a small group of humans fight against an alien invading force to protect the Earth and it’s inhabitance. Super robot mecha was the de facto go to for shonen type stories during these times due to mainly toy promotion and often each series had it’s own schtick. Magnos is piloted by a male and female pair representing polar opposite charges like a magnet. Magnetically both do one of the most bizarre unifying sequences I have ever seen in a mech show, much like aerial summersaults, that bring all the pieces of Magnos together with the precision locking of LEGO bricks. This alone makes the show worth a watch. In fact I could watch the launch and combining sequences on repeat all day.

Magnos_2Can I please say that this is an ugly show? The editing to make this version is very spastic and abrupt shifting from scene to scene with no real direction of where the direction is going except we have another monster of the week to fight in ten more minutes. I am sure the original has a more flushed out story? The designs for the Magnos robot, Magnon and Magneta (two supporting robots piloted by our heroes) are not very aesthetically pleasing either. Compared to period alternatives like Getter Robo, Combattler V, or Voltus V, Magnos, or Gakeen just did not do it for me. And then the invading aliens, very bizarre like left over sea creatures morphed into humanoid form with garishly complimentary color schemes. I often think of Go Nagai villians as being on the bizarre end of the spectrum, but they have some class and style about them. These opinions are mine of course, but all these factors really made it hard to watch.

Magnos_3“Now it’s up to you!” to decide on whether this is worth your time. Another production complied by the same folks as Magnos, Super Grand Prix, was more pleasing to my taste palette, but it may not be the same for all of you. Yet there is a rule of thumb I always go by… better to watch ‘bad’ anime than an average live action production. Even if it is so ‘bad’ I can’t help but take in these little ones as well. All classic anime deserves a home and a chance. I only pray that the original Magne Robo Gakeen, when it does come my way, can fill in the necessary gaps that are missing in Magnos, because I do love the launch and transformation sequences too much to throw off the whole production for an awkward re-edit.