#205 : Legend of the Galactic Heroes: My Conquest is the Sea of Stars

It all began here. Behold a grand vision, an epic beyond scope. Witness a story about a fated meeting between two talented men who were destined to play the game of life while serving on different sides of a conflict. All of this during a particular point in time… and space. Welcome to the world of Legend of the Galactic Heroes. The grand 110 episode OVA would be released late in 1988, but earlier in the year a film would kick off the animated version of Yoshiki Tanaka’s novel series. Legend of the Galactic Heroes: My Conquest is the Sea of Stars begins this grand space opera that for many of us became an obsession.

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 100How does one open a great anime film? With explosions  flashy colors, or beautiful people? NO!!! You enter a black screen with scrolling German text and the beginnings of Gustav Mahler’s Third Symphony. Heavy! I love Mahler’s music so I was very impressed, but may I ask… is this really an anime? Enter spaceships, multitudes of them, and a blonde young man in a pondering mood accompanied by Chopin. OMG are you for real? All of these great classic pieces of music and superb artwork… would you believe at first I hated anything that was Legend of the Galactic Heroes.

LoGHMCitSoS_2I was very much in a state of ignorance, prejudice and being closed minded from the possibility that this anime franchise was more than the hype I had heard. LoGH has a very, VERY!, dedicated fan following that puts this series on such a pedestal that I with the way I am had to be oppositional.  Then over time as I continued on the LoGH journey I would change my perspectives. I began to see that I was witnessing something very beautiful and special. It may be true that LoGH has a lot of dialogue, battle tactics, politics and is quite a long experience to watch, but at it’s core is a story about people, the lives they live in an extraordinary time and the emotions they go through.

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 100Introductions for both our ‘Heroes’ is long overdue. Meet Yang Wen-li, a well educated junior officer from the Free Planets Alliance that is strategically brilliant. As as a young and lower ranked officer he is often overlooked, unheard, or put into his place by his superiors. Meet also the Galactic Empire’s Reinhard von Müsel (later von Lohengramm), who being the attractive blonde youth archetype and the brother of the Kaiser’s mistress was gifted the rank of Admiral. He commands a beautiful white vessel too. While many elders hold much jealousy toward him in terms of moving up through nepotism, they don’t realize his dormant talents as a commander and tactician. Both young men are not taken seriously, until the events of this movie by way of the two standout moments: The Battles at Legnica and Iserlohn Fortress. By the end of the film both ‘Heroes’ learn of each other and with a sixth sense both end up feeling a great respect towards each other and a tie that binds them together in terms of fated destiny.

LoGHMCitSoS_4Being young, brilliant and full of new possibilities can be a wonderful thing except at times there is a problem. When one is young, brilliant and full of new possibilities that is situated in a group that is propped up by an older, more conservative and, or more stagnant environment, then a clash of energies can bring about tensions. Call it jealousy, call it ignorance, or call it reluctance to surrender. When one is young and wanting to prove oneself in the world there is often resistance and sparks will fly. This in simpler terms is the battle of generations; the older guard who refuse to step aside to allow the new vision and hope take their rightful place in the sun. Maybe this newer regime has to grow some patience within the short term and eventually learn to bend the system and work within strategic loopholes, which are nothing more than opportunities.

LoGHMCitSoS_5This for me in a nutshell is what My Conquest is the Sea of Stars is, a rising up of a new generation and a new ideal to follow. We get a taste of what to expect in the coming OVA and coming back again I was more than ready, excited and loving it all more than the before. What makes this movie, this franchise, so great? Well, the proof is in the pudding. Just open your eyes and ears, because its there for all to see, hear and feel. This may not be for everyone, but this is space opera and science fiction at it’s best. A true hallmark for an intelligent and mature audience be it anime, or any other expression of storytelling.

… the only downside to this movie is that now I can’t get Ravel’s Bolero out of my head. And why is this a downside? … Well it isn’t 😉

#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…”

Special : Watership Down

WD_1This is the real real world… this is nature interpreted through an artist’s particular vision and, or vernacular. A veritable John Constable, or even at times a J.M.W. Turner landscape coming to life with all the lush blues, greens and browns that echoes a quiet summer’s day with a punch of yellow and orange. An organic world of basic survival, gut instinct and presence within the moment. Except our vantage point of view is not from our familiar human senses, but from those of the animals of the wild we commonly call rabbits. This is the epic of the heroes journey set in an honest portrayal, a grand adaptation of the original source material (how often does that happen?) and a story that will last for thousands of years. This is the original animated version of Richard Adams’ Watership Down.

I am totally, totally breaking the rules with this entry. Watership Down has absolutely nothing to do with Japan in either the source material, or the production. It is British in origin, British in terms of production and vocal casting and American with director Martin Rosen. The adaptation of Richard Adams’ novel technically should not be here… yet I MUST include Watership Down on this website. I love this film and draw so much inspiration from it. It may be perhaps my all time favorite animated creation. So much so that in one of my classes in college, I used Watership Down as visual material for one of my best design projects of my academic career. Watership Down is not just any other movie, it is my personal spiritual myth, my Holy Book.

WD_2Watership Down begins with a core element that is something we must all face, that of the unexplained. Fiver’s sixth sense of impending danger and Hazel’s trust in him to go on a great journey to find a safe land, paradise, Arcadia (Captain Harlock reference) is not of the rational. I often think sometimes animals in the wild have an intelligence that a portion of humanity has lost. A true deep connection to the universe that does not question the motives behind signs, or feelings. Call it whatever you wish, but to our lapine friends they put their trust to Lord Frith. For it was Lord Frith who bestowed the gifts of swiftness and cunning to El-ahrairah, the original chief of the rabbit race. With cunning, quick decision making, or trickery and a fast stride a rabbit can and does survive. Yet often we humans lose this ability to see and feel our true essence because of the conformity structures we try to belong to. When one “Let’s go and let’s God” (God as your personal definition) we become closer to those of the wild and in essence our truest selves.

WD_3Hazel is not the only one to believe Fiver’s calling. A group of deserters join including a former Owsla (Army) officer, Bigwig, to find this special land of safety. They must traverse unknown terrain, encounter obstacles and at times lose a comrade. They must learn just who to trust and keep faith that their journey is true even when deviation becomes tempting. With a gorgeous film score, exceptional voice acting (I became a fan of John Hurt immediately) and the natural style of the artwork, both characters and backgrounds, I often feel that I am outside in the world of nature and with our little friends on their quest. Sometimes fiction looks more real than fact? Watership Down is a masterpiece that took itself seriously and is a true labor of love. This movie can’t hide from the apparent details.

WD_4Animation and in particular the traditional painted cel has always been a source of joy and a personal sanctuary for me. Watership Down is a testament to this style. After the movie, I felt obliged to buy and read the book which I have gone threw a handful of times. Either medium provides the depth and assurance I sometimes need to know that I am one with this universe and that the cycles that we all live through are worth the ups and downs. Many talk about the so called violence in this film, but they are missing the true core. This is an honest and mature look at our lives and not some flashy over dramatization to appeal to a low common denominator. To Richard Adams, Martin Rosen, Angela Morley, the cast and production crew I heartedly thank you for giving all of us such a beautiful epic.