#213 : Ladius

A great treasure awaits you! Imagine this, a power source from an ancient civilization that can also act like an elixir which can grant life, the Rido. A young nomadic trio will be our guides and along the way they end up meeting new friends and familiar foes. Sounds exciting right, but there is a catch… this presentation is technically a mecha anime as well… only the last 10–15 minutes though. Oh you like giant robots, well then I have an OVA for you… meet Makyou Gaiden Le Deus, often translated as just Ladius. Or should it just be Le Deus? … to good friends Ladius can be called The Deuce and yes, I made that up!

Ladius_1Finding opening credit music from my favorite anime is one music category I sometimes like to listen to. Now and then I come across a track that sounds really rockin’ yet it does not ring a bell of familiarity. This was my introduction to Ladius and as I really, really loved the song I had to track down the original video. After watching I would scratch my head, HEY!, how come we never saw a release for this here in the West? I believe the UK had a subtitled VHS release way back when but nothing of the such ever happened over in my neck of the woods. This would have been a great seller, I mean I would have bought it, as it had many of the tropes that we all like in adventure and mecha titles. Reminds me of “How many licks does it take to get to the the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop? … The world may never know”. If I was in charge it would have been different, but I was not and I still am not in that position. Thank you fansubbers for all you do!

Ladius_2This red disc, a beautiful lens, one of the Eyes of Zalem is much like a key that opens one of the fabled lost treasure troves of the Rido that is located in the ruins of the Quall civilization at Zalem. Viewing the night sky through this lens also is a treat as well and it is this very act where we meet Riot and his two lady cohorts, Spica and Seneca. This trio on the go are on a mission to discover this refuge of the Rido, but first they must make a quick stop at a little town known as Zigoa to find another Eye of Zalem and in the process meet another key component to our quest. Yuta, a young lady who runs a shop in Zigoa is quite bored from the mundane is soon visited by Riot and crew. Yuta holds this other Eye of Zalem which is also wanted by a gang of theives. Damage ensues and guess who gets the bill, a coy grinning Riot.

Ladius_3Mixing genres makes Ladius a fun OVA. Much like a treasure hunting adventure in the style of a Lupin III caper, we get instead a fantasy environment found in the more quest like and imaginative Birth and Dragon Ball with the Ladius plot for discovering the Rido. Yet finding lost artifacts is only part of the equation. We do have mecha elements as well, which reminds me a little of Dangaioh in terms of fun and action packed robot sparring. Plus our main man Riot has some rockin’ awesome hair and a jumpsuit which is so de rigueur for 1980s heroic fashion. Yet why do I feel this is like a 90s anime when this was made in 1987? Maybe because Ladius can get comedic at times and comedy with questing makes me think of Slayers? All in all, Ladius may not be the most unique combination of elements, but in terms of mecha presentations it stands out as a little different… and in a good way.

Ladius_4Broken record time… time to add yet another oddball OVA release to the shelf of awesome 80s anime. I swear I keep finding these one off releases and they never disappoint in any fashion. I do question as to why only one solitary release? Ladius only reveals one chapter in the longer quest of Riot and the girls, yet there is so much more to discover and to tell. Again I am thankful for what we do have because what we do have is a great example of 80s OVA excellence. My only warning is beware the offering of a jigu nut, it may not agree with you!

#212 : Superbook (Series 1)

Can one judge a book by its cover? An old saying and yeah we know that answer, but it’s worth stating. This time round I want to talk about not just any old book, but in fact one known as Superbook. Wait a minute I have heard of that book? It talks and tells stories and transports you into the stories like magic. And yes Superbook does have an alternate name that is more familiar to many of us, ever hear of The Bible? Many titles are often considered gateway drugs that got us into anime. For some of you, depending on your upbringing, Superbook may have been that very series. So where do we begin? Well, let’s start at the house down the street and around the corner!

SB_1Biblical tales have been represented many times in terms of presentation outside of The Bible itself. Live action movies and TV shows, books, brochures, games, various western animated titles and even… anime? Well why not, Japan has adapted almost everything into an animated product including The Bible. Now how did our example of Superbook come about? A joint production between Tatsunoko studios and the American Christian Broadcasting Network, Superbook would serve it’s function on both sides of the Pacific with respective dubs. In America, Superbook would be amongst the many other CBN programs in the lineup while in Japan it was CBN’s hope that this show would be an avenue of introducing the Christian faith towards the population.

SB_2Many of the familiar biblical names appear in Superbook: Jonah, Noah, Joshua… even Jesus. Yet I don’t recall Chris Peeper, his friend Joy and his crusader toy robot that comes to life, Gizmo (Gremlins influence?). Meet our trio of children who through the magic of Superbook get to transport back into time to actually live through The Bible. So that’s the excuse you two kids have for spending so much time in Chris’ bedroom? Hmm? Each episode introduces a new scenario and individual to highlight, mostly Old Testament stories in this batch of 26 episodes. Chris and Joy could have been ripped from one of Tatsunoko’s Time Bokan series, but the biblical characters more often than not end up looking different and often subpar. Maybe budget constraints or creative expression? I mean some of them look kind of funky. Besides that each episode is entertaining and usually has some merit of the dramatic. Just don’t forget to wind up the key in the back of Gizmo! Oh my spring.

SB_3Beyond your choice of faith, belief system, or non-belief in anything, The Bible may have something to teach you. I myself do not prescribe one particular faith, though I consult Buddhist, Native American and Ancient Greek wisdom often, I also find value in The Bible through esoteric and metaphorical meaning. After all these stories have been told numerous times under different names from various cultures in some form or another. Much like the Hero With a Thousand Faces, thank you Joseph Campbell, I find that The Bible does speak of universal and human truths that even though being thousands of years old, are still relevant in whatever fashion you deem to interpret. Superbook takes these usual narratives in a much more simplified approach as an anime for children and while there may be a little of the cheese factor, it’s kinda cute when you get into it.

SB_4Many titles are often credited as early attempts at bringing anime to the West before 1990. Speed Racer, Star Blazers, Battle of the Planets, Voltron and Robotech are a handful of usual suspects, but over there in the corner was Superbook as well. While this is “technically” a “Christian” series, it is also a fantasy story, an adventure, a fun and slightly cheesy cartoon, an anime. Why all the labels because of specific subject matter? Superbook is in my mind no different than say Ulysses 31, or The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as examples in terms of adventure, fantasy and fun. Again why all the labels? All anime no matter your color, creed, belief or popularity status are welcome under this roof at my house. …which by the way is not so much down the street, or around the corner.

#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!