#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!”

#231 : Purple Eyes in the Dark

Another music video styled OVA? Haven’t we seen enough of these already? And yet this time, it’s different. More akin to an art book set in motion, the release of Purple Eyes in the Dark was not based off of an already established anime like many other music styled OVAs. Only the completed manga was what we had to work with here. Kind of a strange choice to only show a bunch of pretty shojo imagery with a couple full on animated sequences over a selection of pop styled music don’t you think, instead of a conventional story? And in yet from another point of view, talk about a creative idea!

PEitD_1How ironic that a full feature with a plot and story was not conceived for this project. From some basic research about the manga, I think there was a missed opportunity here. An average teenage girl who has a particular birthmark gets triggered when angry and turns into a big cat, a leopard I believe, and in the process her eyes turn purple… when in the dark. Oh wow, so that’s where the title came from. Kind of like The Incredible Hulk meets Blue Sonnet, or Baoh? Release the beast within! This could have been a great angst action drama mixed with some romance as well, imagine the possibilities. All we got instead was music set to a majority of static images. Maybe budget was an issue, or maybe the creators wanted to try something different? If one is desperate to watch a full series with a plot never fear, a live action drama was made in the 1990s.

PEitD_2Now for the fun part, a majority of the music used for Purple Eyes in the Dark was sang in English, very cosmopolitan and international… and convenient for English speaking fans including me! It’s hard to say more without actually watching the OVA in full. A visual art book set in motion that needs a VCR, LaserDisc player, or whatever digital media device you choose, Purple Eyes in the Dark is like an art piece that isn’t artsy with a high brow attitude, but is instead pop culture for the masses filled with lots of period style. I call for a toast to celebrate this OVA which honors the visual cues linked to the art of the original manga. It’s basic simplicity and appealing to the eyes and that’s all Purple Eyes in the Dark needs to be because that is all we got to work with here.

#230 : Greed

One and only one reason why I searched ever far and wide to track down this obscure OVA from the year of 1985. OK maybe two… 1985 is my beloved heart and home when it comes to anime years, but the major reason for acquiring and watching this hour long production belongs to a single name, Tomonori Kogawa. A veteran of the Japanese animation industry, he is well known to me from his signature character designs which were on feature in this OVA as well as his rare directing and scriptwriting skills. Kogawa would helm two projects where he had total control during the 1980s, the later being 1986’s Cool Cool Bye and the earlier, our feature this time round, 1985’s Greed.

Greed_1Most of Kogawa’s character work can be seen in a variety of mecha shows from the early to mid 1980s. Southern Cross (Robotech: The Masters) would be the first time I enjoyed his slightly angular elf-like faced figures, but it would be his work on shows like Ideon, Xabungle and Dunbine where I would grow a strong appreciation. Like many talents in the industry at the time, Kogawa too would have an opportunity to make an OVA where he had total creative control and have his hands in many areas of the production. And to be honest… I wish he had someone help with the script. Visually Greed is nice and the story has a lot of potential, but it lacks direction flowing from one event into another. I scratched my head many times going, where the heck is this OVA going?

Greed_2Certain elements of Greed reminded me of Ideon and Dunbine, sans the giant robots of course. We begin with what seems to be a fantasy styled sword and sorcery hero’s journey when we first meet protagonist Lid Kyle (Kail) who hears from his father’s deathbed to venture north, seek comrades and defeat a great evil; OK then. Lid sets off and meets a girl and a big guy who can morph into a dragon like creature that leads into meeting a mute warrior who shares the same red spot on his neck as Lid… and I thought it was a unique birthmark, or a production error. Then they get caught in the land of the fairies and then move into a mechanized city where again they meet more people, three to be exact.

Greed_3Turns out one of the three also has the red post on her neck as well and they soon realize they need to take to the stars to combat this great evil. Then they repair a spaceship, head into space getting through some psychedelic light show that they have to endure to end up fighting this guy named Vailly who reminds me of a gremlin. The devilish creature is eventually defeated, thanks to our heroes’ ability to fly in space without oxygen (?), but it does not change anything. WHAT!? Perhaps what Vailly said about the inhabitants collective greed being the real problem was what needed to be addressed instead? The end.

Greed_4Honestly I loved the characters, the artwork, the setting, but Greed was a bit of a disappointment. Perhaps I am being too greedy to expect so much from many anime, but maybe I need to curb my expectations at certain times. Kogawa is a genius designer and artist and has much creative talent, but it did not come to full fruition on this OVA. Would I watch it again, yes (but that is me!), but do I recommend it unless you love Kogawa’s work… except for one fun oddity. The character Mimau has some of the most awesomely teased out BIG hair I have ever seen… girl how much hairspray did you use?