#147c : Botchan (1986)

I never knew Rodney Dangerfield was in an anime? In truth he wasn’t, but in the story of Botchan, our main protagonist literally, “Gets no respect”… except for a couple key allies. Based off of the classic novel by Natsume Sōseki, Botchan would have a couple of adaptations in the anime world including this two episode part of the 1986 Animated Classics of Japanese Literature, which is what will be discussed here.

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), quality = 100Considered a classic in Japan and often read during one’s school days, Botchan was not part of my curriculum here in the States. I got to read The Great Gatsby and Death of a Salesman, but no Botchan. Thankfully the book is readily available as well as many public domain sources online… but we get an alternative as anime fans. Actually two! Botchan also exists as an animated TV special from 1980 as well as this 1986 version from the meta series Animated Classics of Japanese Literature. Of the many episodes and stories I have explored from this series, Botchan stands out as one of the few comedic stories. Many of the Animated Classics of Japanese Literature adaptations are dramas in one shape of another and Botchan is definitely a breathe of funny fresh air.

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), quality = 100Botchan by the way is our main protagonist. From what I can tell this name is more like a title like ‘young master’ so who knows what his real name is as I never seem to catch anything of it from the two episode run. Kind of like The Dude from the Big Lebowski? Botchan is a recent graduate with an education in physics who has been offered a teaching position at a middle school far off in some backwoods town. He leaves his native Tokyo and his trusted family servant to try out a different life so to speak. He arrives, finds the school’s teaching staff interesting (giving them all nicknames), enjoys swimming in the hot springs when no one is looking and likes eating his share of tempura at dinner all to the dismay of his students who constantly ridicule this rookie teacher. Botchan tries to bring up their shenanigans only to find difficulties with the senior school staff.

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), quality = 100Questions arise, who does one trust and why are certain senior staff members extremely unhelpful? Botchan is a great tale of bringing to the light the injustices of nepotism and snobbery. Certain times in life we often wish we could stand up for something that seems very wrong and face those who believe themselves to be worthy of setting the rules to favor certain outcomes. With Botchan we have this played out in a very humerous way. Often times we ask is revenge best served as a cold dish? Sometimes, but enjoying shaved ice with a friend and ally can be better! (it’s part of the story trust me).

“How ya doing there Dude?” “Not too good man.” “One of those days huh?” “Yeah!”

#225 : Patlabor: The Movie

A man examines a woman’s passport and asks, “Sightseeing?” The woman responds, “No.” And then tips her sunglasses finishing with, “Combat.” … Tokyo is becoming the great metropolis for the upcoming 21st century, a true Babylon of the future. With the help of Labors, we see the use of mecha to aid in the evolving construction of this vast city. Labors also have functions and purposes with the military and even law enforcement as well. Progress, and yet all is not well in utopia. A new Hyper Operating System (HOS) is being used for these labors and lets just say it has a few bugs in the system. Following up from the OVA released in 1988, Patlabor would move to the big screen in 1989 with Patlabor: The Movie… a fitting title.

P1Movie_1Labors all over Tokyo and even in other parts of the world are starting to go a little crazy, malfunction and erratically begin acting on their own terms, coming to life so to speak. The developer of this HOS upgrade system, which seems to have something to do with this phenomenon, was a mysterious man, one Eiichi Hoba. Not much is known about him in this movie except he has a very elegant looking raven (thus quote the raven, evermore) and Hoba fancied himself someone like the Abrahamic God, being his name E. Hoba which sounds very much like Jehovah. Ironically he commits suicide at the very beginning of this movie and without ever saying a single word he gives a sly grin whilst jumping off to his death. I believe his actions and facial smirk was all he needed to make a statement?

P1Movie_2Now what about the traditional cast of Patlabor, the crew of Tokyo Police Department’s Special Vehicles Section 2 Division, this wouldn’t be a Patlabor production without them? And you are correct. They are here in full force, you have to get past the introduction. Perhaps this story was is the followup, the possible 8th episode for the previously made OVA? Or not? We begin with Not and Asuma visiting Section 1’s commanding officer, Captain Nagumo, as she finishes her testing in the new Type 0 Labor, the transition mech featuring the new HOS system. Once back at headquarters wejoin Section 2 in full gear during a job to stop one of these troublesome runaway Labors. Much is questioned as to why and how these Labors are malfunctioning. While Patlabor productions often showcase everyone in the cast, I feel we see much from Asuma as a character in this movie, for it is he who feels the calling to dig deep into the mysteries of these troublesome Labors and the connection with th previously mentioned HOS.

P1Movie_3While Patlabor is credited to the Headgear collective and each individual member does get their moment of fame, I have to give a shout out to director Mamoru Oshii. As a big fan of his work: Patlabor in general, Urusei Yatsura, Angel’s Egg, Ghost in the Shell, etc., Patlabor: The Movie interestingly often gets underplayed. Mostly because I am obsessed with the 1993 sequel, Patlabor 2: The Movie. Still, Patlabor: The Movie totally fits his style and approach in terms of visuals, editing, camera angles that sometimes harken a feel of the mysterious. So in total we have a well crafted production that defies any genre… so typical of Patlabor in general? Mecha, comedy, drama, thriller, action film… I say yes to all of them and also a little of something else that cannot be explained with typical words. It’s an intelligent movie that can pass as a more mainstream flick.

P1Movie_4State of the art for 1989, but de rigueur now, Patlabor: The Movie gave us a look into the complexities of technology in our modern world. Though not the first story to tackle this issue in the overall, Patlabor: The Movie would show us the issues dealing with the underlying software that is so common place in our gadgets today. In many ways Patlabor: The Movie has aged quite well because of this, as well as the more subtle imagery that does not scream out a late 1980s aesthetic. While technology does bring a sense of convenience, we have to ask what are we losing in order to gain something that is newer, faster and very appealing? My advice from all this… stick with what works… don’t upgrade. Do I sound old fashioned?

#210 : Take the X Train

If ever an anime made me scratch my head and go what in the world did I just watch, then Take the X Train is perhaps near the top of the list. Just exactly what genre is this OVA? It’s like a comedy and a suspense thriller and perhaps a horror flick(?) and I may be stretching it… a mecha production. Not so much piloting a robot, or cybernetics, but consider this concept… the combining of man and machine on a metaphysical as well as a physical level. Take the X Train is a ride you will never forget. ALL ABOARD!!

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), quality = 100“This work is dedicated to the Jazz great, Duke Ellington,” proclaims the opening credits. A send up to one of his well known hits, Take the A Train, Take the X Train is not so much like the Duke in terms of style. Maybe more like Miles Davis in his more experimental works, or even better, Ornette Colemen, or Cecil Taylor. Why I say the later two is because while the plot is comprehensible, this anime is a free form piece of art, more like Free Jazz than the Duke’s sophisticated Big Band style. Do I love Jazz by the way? Oh yeah, John Coltrane and Thelonius Monk I wear on my sleeve. Jazz is even used as the background music, bur only occasionally… hmm?

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), quality = 100Visually this is a very tasteful movie in the style of the already mentioned Jazz in pictures. The editing, design, everything seems to be to be like an art house film, not at all pristine and mainstream. This is not in the same vain as say Angel’s Egg, but maybe more like California Crisis: Gun Salvo (my opinion). Then a familiar name appears… actually make that two. First was the studio, Madhouse, who always makes anime with a little bit of edge and artsy flavor no matter the genre, or the director. The second is the director, a favorite of mine due to his visual narrative approach mixed with a little avant-garde attitude, Rintaro. His work is definitely an acquired taste; examples include: Space Pirate Captain Harlock, the Galaxy Express 999 films (GE999 and Adieu), Bride of Deimos, Dagger of Kamui, Harmeggeddon, and the Labyrinth section from Neo Tokyo.

XTrain_3Trains of course are at the focus of this OVA, as well as our main protagonist, Tour Ishihara. An average guy, though a bit goofy and kind of eccentric, Toru works for a company that is planning to revitalize and market a more retro attitude for the train market. One train is at the focus of this committee, which goes by EF 5861, a train that Toru thinks is a junk heap. Watch what you say my friend, as this train has a certain destiny that coincides with yours. In other news, one night after a fun time with his girlfriend (this was the most awkward love scene I have ever seen), Toru waits for the next train in a crowd when all of a sudden the lights go dark and sparks fly all over the atmosphere and in particular the tracks. Then passes a mysterious locomotive… could it be a ghost train…is this all for real? May I introduce our other main character, the X Train.

XTrain_4With no expectations coming in I was amazed I found another interesting gem of an OVA buried in the garden of lost anime titles. While a little bizarre, the artsy nature of Rintaro brought out a certain charm in Take the X Train, which is by the way based on a novel by Koichi Yamano (I give credit to fansub ending credits for this bit of info). The only thing I won’t miss are Toru’s twitching pulse and occasional nose bleeds; every time it always gives me the creeps. Now for a send off, check out Duke Ellington’s recording of Take the ‘A’ Train. It swings!