#194 : Okubyo na Venus

Pop idols are plentiful in terms of anime. Creamy Mami, Lynn Minmei (Macross) and Eve Tokimatsuri (Megazone 23) are three that come to my mind from the 1980s and depending on the audience are mostly, fairly well known names. Then there was Yumiko Kirita… now that is a name one does not hear everyday. Simply put she is a lost one hit wonder of sorts for her only appearance was in an obscure OVA from 1986, Okubyo no Venus.

OnV_1This time round the explanation with be quite short for Okubyo na Venus (sometimes spelled Okubyou na Venus) simply put because this OVA is only about 20 minutes in length. Very short and easy to digest. Yumiko Kirita was apparently one of the many pop idols in anime during the 1980s who had only a few hit songs. This OVA is the only document we have left of her career as far as I know. Four songs cover the entirety of this compilation of sorts (one gets repeated at the end by the way) that is styled after the then current MTV music videos of the time. Maybe this is her lone surviving EPK (electronic press kit)?

OnV_2Dialog is absent throughout the production and each of the segments are small individual statements where only the songs, as well as the visuals, tell the story. This vaguely reminds me of Robot Carnival, though Robot Carnival was much larger in scale and concept, a true work of art. I have seen the anime Cipher also linked to Okubyo na Venus in terms of a similar style, need to check this one out eventually (update… I have seen it!). So then, these are the segments in a nutshell, hope this does not spoil things: the first follows a day in Yumiko’s life of singing, shopping and practicing; the second pays many an homage to classic movies and characters; the third is a slower more artsy collection of still shots and relaxed moments over a ballad and the final is a scene from a concert of hers.

OnV_3Okubyo na Venus is not your usual 1980s OVA. While the facade of idol signer Yumiko Kirita is flashed everywhere, there is after all a flesh and blood human being who brought her singing voice to life that also needs recognition. Her name is Maiko Okamoto and she as well needs to be recognized in this posting. Without her singing ability and the animation talents of those involved, this little oddity of an OVA production would have never seen the light of day. A simple, charming title, Okubyo na Venus without question belongs with the pantheon of our more usual 80s anime favorites. I shall now reserve a spot on the shelf just for you!

#180 : The Death Lullaby / Lullaby to the Big Sleep

There are obscure titles in the anime pile of forgetfulness that are fondly remembered. Some titles are often condemned, or criticized and then there are some titles that go beyond any convention. The Death Lullaby, or Lullaby to the Big Sleep is perhaps the most uncompromising piece of animation I have ever seen from Japan. This was not created for entertainment, or broad mass appeal, but instead to make a statement. Much like a piece of post modern abstract art in a museum, we are asked to look, to think, to feel and to question many issues within ourselves and the consequences of how it reflects into our environment.

DL_1Violence. So much violence, hatred and destruction are depicted in Lullaby. Hard to watch and very grotesque and raw at times, these depictions are to educate us through discomfort. Scenes of a child with protruding bottom teeth and his constant abuse and bullying are contrast with business men and politicians optimistic propaganda showing their enforced single minded agendas. See this fancy bullet train, these great buildings. Look at how fat our wallets are getting by bulldozing habitats unspoiled by nature, or more importantly, former places of residency where tenants are forced into eviction where in their opinions, degeneracy once existed. This price of progress reminds me of the great quote from Patlabor 2: The Movie in regards to… a just war versus an unjust peace, an unjust war verses a just peace.

DL_2The abused boy mentioned earlier has primary focus in this short film and can be seen as a mascot, or figurehead. Similar in ways to Tetsuo from Akira, we see a boy with much promise and potential through constant mistreatment and negativity transform from a weak victim into a true monster bent on vengeance. Beyond his disfigurement, he is no threat, but many people like to judge what they either fear, or don’t like. Or, like Shinji from Evangelion, we see the self destructive tendencies from constant depression and internalized anger. This youth is of no concern to his peers, watches horrors at home and has no light, or thought in his consciousness to point him out of his situation.

DL_3I have read from a source that this may have been a protest film in regards to many urbanization projects that were present during the mid 1980s. Whether it is or not, this is a film that is much more like an artist’s expression of social commentary than standard animated entertainment. The issues are universal and stand up today beyond it’s extremely low budget look; I believe it was shot on 8mm film, which for film stock will be very rough looking. If you can find Hiroshi Hirada’s The Death Lullaby it is worth a watch, but I can’t recommend it for everyone. Years ago I had never heard of this, but became acquainted with it during my research for my 1985 panel during 2014 to 2015. This is the first time I have rewatchedWhile a powerful film in it’s own right, it shows that we in humanity have so much more to do in regards to learning about fear and compassion.

#25g : Robot Carnival : Cloud

This is one of nine entries that take an in depth look into each of the segments of the 1987 anime compilation Robot Carnival. For the original entry, click here.

RCg_1Cloud is perhaps the most controversial of the Robot Carnival collection. Now for a little personal bias, Cloud is my favorite segment. Yet why is Cloud controversial? Mainly due to the strict minimalism of this short. Cloud exists as flashes of images and scenes that drift by (kind of like clouds?) while a little boy is just walking along. There is no plot per se, no story, just images set to music. Some may say Cloud to be boring and even skip over it in the process. Yet I ask you to look again. View cloud in one of two ways. First it is the most art for art’s sake production of Robot Carnival. Treat it more as a piece of fine art, to be looked at, questioned and absorb one’s self into the imagination of creator Mao Lamdo (Manabu Ōhashi). And second, view this as an example of meditation. Sit back, relax and take in what is being seen and go with it.

RCg_2The imagery and the entirety of Cloud could be seen as an innocent dream of a young boy out one day just looking up at the clouds and giving into the wonder. While steeped in a very simple format, the artwork is very fluid and organic with a great sense of care given to the line work. So much in entertainment asks us to go on a wild ride, get into a fast paced mood and expect the images themselves to be just ephemeral ghosts that fly by not to be held in one’s hand or heart for more than a blink of an eye. Cloud asks us to slow down, observe, take in and view life and our world with our senses without any judgements.

Robot Carnival entry index:

    1. Opening
    2. Franken’s Gears
    3. Deprive
    4. Presence
    5. Starlight Angel
    6. Cloud
    7. Strange Tales of Meiji Machine Culture: Westerner’s Invasion
    8. Chicken Man and Red Neck
    9. Ending