Special : Lady Oscar

How often do we see live action adaptations of the anime we love? Of more recent there have been many a handful from the studios of Hollywood and depending on your fandom, you see these movies in whatever light you hold to the original. Some like to see anime turned into “real” people and some don’t… again depending on your fandom. Yet how interesting would it be to see a live action re-interpretation of a beloved classic during that anime’s original run when it was current in the zeitgeist. Enter 1979… the year Riyoko Ikeda’s manga of Rose of Versailles would become a full blown animated television series and… and, a live action motion picture by the name of Lady Oscar.

LO_1Twice I have talked about The Rose of Versailles here at CAM (original entry, updated entry), so I will not delve very deep into the story. Without question one of the landmark anime of the 1970s, The Rose of Versailles is for me and many others a personal favorite. A story of passion, duty, humanity, freedom, love and gender identity all wrapped up under the guise of late 18th century France, the time of the French Revolution. A radical time and a dangerous one at that, a powder keg of the clash between old and new. I love The Rose of Versailles and respect Oscar François de Jarjayes as one of my favorite characters of all time. When I learned there was a live action film adaptation, I was keenly interested.

LO_2Financed by Japan and directed by famed French director Jacques Demy, ironically the film’s native dub would be in English. Interesting and convenient for those of us who speak English as our native tongue, but perhaps French may have been more appropriate? English of course allows for more international distribution as I am sure this film was made more for an overseas audience than just Japan alone, my hypothesis. And how does it fair as a film? It’s good, slightly above average, but nothing like the tv series. Accept no substitute when comparing 40 half hours of content to only two hours. Anime is often more colorful and The Rose of Versailles does show itself with many grand colors, but it is never off the wall. Lady Oscar is more muted, which makes sense as this is not animation. Props for the costume designs though!

LO_3Besides the original TV series of The Rose of Versailles, I also think of another contemporary film to Lady Oscar, which told a story in a similar time frame of the late 18th century, Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. Honestly I kept thinking why couldn’t Lady Oscar look and feel more like Barry Lyndon? I am sure Lady Oscar’s budget was nothing close to Barry Lyndon’s. Stanley Kubrick’s style for lighting, intensity and photography are also his own, a true auteur, and I am sure Jacques Demy had to play the part of following the boss’ orders to the best of what he was given. My ideal vision for a filmed version of The Rose of Versailles would be more Barry Lyndon than Lady Oscar, but I have to accept what is. Instead of a grand cinematic experience, Lady Oscar feels more like a TV special, but it does a good job with what it had to do. I can’t be judgmental, or hard on the things in life I cannot control.

LO_4Lady Oscar is not a bad film, or a great film, it is just a good movie to enjoy and try out at your own leisure. While live action adaptations are often tempting, they never seem to hold a candle to the original TV series, or even the manga if that is your preference. Lady Oscar is a good supplementary entry on your watch list, but should never be a full blown substitute to the grandeur of the original The Rose of Versailles TV series. Yet it is a treat that this film was even made, but when it comes to live action adaptations, I prefer to keep them as their original form. Let cartoons, be cartoons and anime, anime (which to me is saying the same thing twice,) because it is perhaps one of the best story telling mediums ever created.

#174 : Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp

Don’t judge an old dirty lamp by it’s appearance alone. A quick rub on the metal, ceramic, or whatever material you choose (I vote for lapis luzali) can bestow to it’s owner quite the unexpected surprise of abundant wishes. What do you wish for? All I want is an anime adaptation of Aladdin. After all Japan has animated everything it seems and there must be an alternative to the Disney version. Nothing against the Disney version, I just want to include an adaptation of this classic tale from the classic One Thousand and One Nights here at CAM. I may not have a lamp, but I did get my wish granted via a 1982 Toei production, Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp.

Aladdin_1Our story is a familiar one… a street punk who wants to do more with his life gets the chance of a lifetime to go search for a hidden treasure aided by a mysterious and perhaps villainous character who bestows a ring to the young man in case he comes into danger. Our hero finds this lost treasure, a lamp, but is soon trapped. Talk about being double crossed! With the magic of the ring and eventually the lamp our young man finds his way home and bestows a great luxurious meal once returned. Soon our young man meets a young lady, a princess in fact, who has run away from the palace to avoid selecting a suitor for an arranged marriage. Our young man has an idea and uses the lamp to grant his wish to become a prince himself so he could marry the princess. All is well… until the lamp and the princess are taken like a thief in the night. Our hero must now recapture both his prized lamp and his true love.

Aladdin_2Sounds like Aladdin, but this also reminded me of the previously mentioned The Wonderful World of Puss n’ Boots due to the fact that a common young man tries to pass himself off as royalty to impress a princess. A common story theme, but now my question to propose is did Disney see this version? The evil wizards, Grand Wazir and Jafar are similar looking. The genie is green instead of blue in the Toei version. Also no Robin Williams. The name of princess is Boudour and not Jasmine, much closer to the original Badroulbadour. Aladdin does get a ring in the original story, another point for the Toei version. Much like The Little Mermaid, Toei created a more faithful interpretation to the original source material. And even without the mega budget and musical numbers that the Disney version is noted for, the Toei version was released a solid decade before Disney’s version. Was the 1982 Toei version watched as source material? Your guess is as good as mine.

Aladdin_3For many years, Toei adapted fairy tales, or folk tale classics into full length animated features. Many of which would find release during the VHS era in the west with appropriate dubs. Aladdin was one I was not aware of, yet Swan Lake and The Little Mermaid I had known since childhood. Plus, there was The Wonderful World of Puss n’ Boots and The Wild Swans as well. Now I can include Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp amongst all these other stories as official anime! The Disney version is great as well, but now we have an alternate to bring into the fold. Funny how Teoi as a company wanted to be the Japanese equivalent to Disney way back in the company’s inception.

Aladdin_4This debate is almost like the SNES vs Genesis Aladdin games as both are different, but fun and entertaining as well. Take your pick! The same story told from a very different perspective. For me I will side with the Toei version because I always cheer for team anime, but I do like Disney’s version as well. Fun and adventure in a far off time and place that seems almost surreal, yet very familiar. And to add another feather into the team anime hat, Toei’s Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp is only an hour long, shorter yet I prefer compact and just the right size, but with no added filler. A nice simple tidy package. The perfect gift, or should I say film…  or better yet… the perfect wish.

#154 : Phoenix/Hi no Tori: Yamato Chapter

PYC_1We continue our journey through the Phoenix trilogy from the 1980s with the second part, an adaptation of the Yamato Chapter. Debuting as a followup to the previous year’s film Karma Chapter, 1987 would bring the Yamato Chapter as a direct to home video OVA release. The issues of karma, fate and destiny would be told once again in another historic era from Japan’s history. And riding along side for the ride to make sure that order and fate are in good hands is that beautiful bird of fire herself, that avian goddess, the hi no tori, the firebird, the phoenix.

PYC_2From some quick guerilla research, the Yamato Chapter is loosely based (very loosely) on the famous traditional legend of Yamato Takeru, a name not known very well to us in the west. From time to time and from watching various anime, we may come across and hear this very name… Yamato Takeru No Mikoto… Oh lord not Garzey’s Wing. Yet beyond the experiences we have may hearing this name from oddly dubbed projects we come to learn about the Arthurian qualities of this mythological tale and figure and it’s importance to Japan. … reason #1 to watch anime: you subtly learn more about Japanese culture!… How ironic that historically both king Arthur and Yamato Takeru are from very similar eras in time and even though a great distance existed between both heroes in terms of worldly distance, they arrived concurrently in time. Could this be the work of our friend the phoenix? Hmm… Onward now and back to the Yamato Chapter

PYC_3Tezuka’s reimagined version begins with a pastoral scene featuring a traveling youth, Oguna. While walking along one day he gets shot in the arm by the bow of a beautiful young maiden, Kajika. Too bad this was not cupid’s arrow instead, because from the beginning these two had sparks in their eyes; love at first sight defined. This developing relationship will become the cornerstone, the pillar, the axis, from which the entire story centers itself. Star crossed lovers who share a common destiny. While treating Oguna’s wound, Kajika would introduce her brother, Takeru, leading to a moment of hesitation in the eyes of Oguna. This is a familiar name, but why? Soon Oguna begins to enjoy his stay with the rustic Kumaso tribe and begins to have strong feelings about wanting to join their ranks and marry Kajika. Except there is something that is biting at him. Oguna is actually part of the rival Yamato clan and he has a particular vendetta towards Takeru.

PYC_4A tale of love vs. duty, fate vs. freewill and justice vs. mercy, the Yamato Chapter can be likened to a drama where at the beginning we begin in ignorance and slowly as the plot progresses we move into clarity and truth. Each layer slowly reveals itself to twist the plot in a slightly different direction that finally concludes with a slow tragic tale of love, sacrifice and redemption. The Yamato Chapter becomes at the end of the movie a romance that shows the power of humanity, compassion and trust. The legacy that Oguna and Kajika share together at the end shakes the established order and calls for change, yet it must come in the face of martyrdom; such was their fates. Never think one small step, or sacrifice, towards progress and bringing clarity to all of us is too small as we all have our parts to play in this game of life. Only the phoenix knows what and when our roles have been fulfilled, so keep giving it your best attempt.

Adapting Osamu Tezuka’s original manga was again Madhouse. A double combination of high quality presenting a rare gem of mature genius. As I have said before in regards to any of Tezuka’s Phoenix adaptations, I view these anime productions as one of my sources for spiritual pondering. How many times do we turn to a religion, or spiritual philosophy to find answers to the complexities of life? I know I have and still do yet there is ironically an alternate source via Japanese animation from the pen of anime’s ultimate grandfather. To Osamu Tezuka… I greatly thank you for sharing these stories with us and I hope I can be one source of I don’t know how many to continue your legacy. Peace be with you my friend.