#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!

#203 : Cherry no Manma

Maybe someone can fill me in and my beautiful audience with a bit of trivia… what is the shortest anime ever made? Or maybe a more precise question is what is the shortest OVA title ever made? I can throw a possibility into the ring with this entry, Cherry no Manma, as this one off was only ten minutes long. 10 MINUTES! And that includes the opening and closing credits, so with the law of averages in play this anime is more like eight minutes long. That’s like… uh… well… I’m not expecting much out of this one.

CnM_1Based on the manga of the same name, Cherry no Manma at only ten minutes, got to reintegrate that again, is I hope a very condensed version of the overall plot line. Because if it isn’t… shaking my head. Apparently a young girl, Kanoko, lives with what other sources have said are two housemaids. Both of whom are boys and since it is a shojo comedy verging on the romantic, they are both on the scale of being handsome. One who has a ponytail, Yuzuru, seems to be very much the gentleman and concerned with our lady’s welfare to the point of being a brown noser. Then there is Yuki, who is more of a slacker, has short hair and likes to go into Kanoko’s bedroom to stare at her panties when they are being hung out to dry after washing. What!? Ok dude, if you like to wear them that’s cool (I doubt this is this case), but staring at and admiring her underwear… well we all need a hobby.

CnM_2Kanoko catches Yuki in the act and calls him the ever popular term, ecchi, a pervert! Yuki feels odd, well duh. Then Kanoko puts all her underwear away to find a pair missing. She then blames Yuki and no, he did not take them. Wait a minute, this whole plot, that’s only ten minutes, is centered around missing panties? “Oh Lordy, trouble so hard.” I know this is a quasi comical thing, but… shaking my head. Cherry no Manma is like that one episode of That ’70s Show, “Eric’s Panties”, which was funny, or maybe a weird inverse of the old comedy Three’s Company, except Cherry no Manma… shaking my head.

CnM_3Shake no more my child as ten minutes have passed; you survived. This is far from the worst anime ever made, very, very far, and in its own way is comical, but really… missing panties. I only hope the manga has more to offer… and often the case it usually does, but I prefer animation. Now for the kicker, the punchline… once Kanoko finds her missing panties she writes an apology on them and hangs them up for Yuki to keep in his room. Now he can say he has his own panties. And guess what folks? I saved you ten minutes to watch something else. You can yhank me later 😉 But then again this is worth a watch at least once.

#197 : Outlanders

Magical girlfriends, early harem influences and half naked alien ladies always fall for nerdy Earth boys who dont have many social skills and often get labeled as losers Now that is a different opening statement. Sandwiched between Urusei Yatsura and Tenchi Muyo was a one off OVA that still has its cult following even to this day and can be an easy recommend to otaku types who are into more contemporary titles as a buffer to get into older, classic titles… respect your elders please! Now then, let’s have a little fun this time round with the outlandish Outlanders.

Outlanders_1The super cynical side of myself kept telling me not to like Outlanders. Why in my right mind should I care, let alone watch an OVA which is basically about a hopeless geeky virgin guy who ends up with a bikini clad alien princess from another galaxy who for some bizarre reason falls in love with him? Really now, Urusei Yatsura was one thing to consider, but this premise again? This is space opera after all, it should be totally serious and filled with battle tactics, not his kind of silliness and pathetic romance! Then the inner voice inside me goes, “ya know, you love Maris the Chojo!” Well yeah, there is that And it says again, “you LOVE Dirty Pair too!” Oh all right then! I do love  fun antics in outer space featuring women who wear close to nothing, hello Barbarella. So step one has been reached, remove my cynical snobby side.

Outlanders_2Step two and this one is so obvious. Outlanders has such a beautiful presentation. On par with cinema quality detail and fluidity, Outlanders is a poster child of why fans of 80s OVAs hold them in such high regard. Well some of them. This is a well done production and showcased material many of us in the west were hungry for, but had no idea that this could exist until Outlanders showed up in our faces. Please give us more sci-fi please… an alternative to what we have known already… yeah now that’s what we are talking about. Back to the artwork, each frame is lovingly drafted showing a passion from the artists of Tatsunoko and AIC. And as to which studio did the heavy lifting of drawing I leave that to the historians as I am just in awe over the visuals. Add to this the pacing and a solid story that never leaves one bored either… this may be one of the best 80s OVA ever made from a technical level. What do you think?

Outlanders_3Do alpha males always triumph in the world as successful?… not this time around. Certain alien princesses like Miss Kahm from Outlanders prefer a more beta type like Tetsuya as a perfect specimen for manhood. Don’t ask me why. Only in anime can someone so unassuming become so epically heroic… sniff… it gives us all hope doesn’t it. After all that could me, or you. … Outlanders an example of insane comedy of star crossed love affairs, alien invasion, fun action, treking through outer space and how could I forget catgirls and dogmen… furry love. A coming of age story like no other. A rare flash in the pan. This may sound real cheesy, but Outlanders is so out of this world. Yeah that’s the best I could come up with. 😉