#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?

#229 : Tobira o Akete / Open the Door

Once the door has been open, you will never be the same. So true when certain circumstances happen in our lives it can feel as if one has entered through a gateway, a portal if you will, that signals that life will never be the same again. Enter the fantasy genre which is full of stories of entering into parallel worlds where your once ordinary existence is flipped upside down. Humble little old you is actually a hero in disguise and all you had to do was go through the door… literally. A case in point, lets watch a movie from 1986 named Tobira o Akete, or Open the Door. … the title says it all!

ToA_1Protagonist, Miyako Negishi, or Neko, is a literature major at a private university… whoa, an anime about a college student?! I mean I know they exist, but talk about something different from the usual high school, or junior high standard. She is quite the distant type who at times sits by herself in lecture classes and does not have any interest in hanging out with classmates, or meeting any boys. She garners a secret, which only a select few know about and that she keeps hidden due to past troubles with this hidden trait. Neko can apparently do magic, though I prefer to see her as an esper with psionic abilities. She does have confidants to share these abilities with and with them she comes to life. They include Haruka Saiki, a friendly flirt (though he likes to be called a city boy) who can teleport and a newcomer, one of Neko’s classmates, Keichiirou Yamagishi.

ToA_2Upon a full moon meetup all three of our cast members soon gets whisked away into an alternate dimension transporting them into a medieval like society where Neko is heralded as the much exalted hero as foretold from prophecy. Here she is given the name of Neryulla who was once the heroic princess who vowed to return to avenge her fallen people at a later date. So the other second coming? The welcomed stranger in a strange land is nothing new to fantasy anime, it’s often labeled as Isekai, but really… another one of these? Why not? Sword and sorcery mixed with a coming of age story is a good combination, particularly if coming to terms with one’s level of comfort in terms of romantic relationships. Neko is asked “Do you believe love always fails?” And her expression is something that hit close to home with me.

ToA_3Tobira o Akete was one of several releases from the Magic Bus studio in 1986. I know three of them at this moment including this movie as well as Grey: Digital Target and They Were 11. This trio is a choice grouping in terms of well made animated features that are not on the top of the well known charts. A nice selection of dark horse choices for 80s recommendations. Visually Magic Bus aways delivers sharp looking quality so nothing new here. Yet again it is the story and characters that draw me in and in particular our heroine Neko who is quite unsure of herself. And yes she begins to grow as a character and marches forth to save the day by the end, which we have seen many, many times, but this time round it felt a little different. I can’t explain how so, but this is quite an appealing fantasy adventure story.

ToA_4Now we come to the moment where we pick which door to look behind to see which prize we are going to win! This is no game show here and really there is only one choice because well… there is only one choice. Often there is too much selection and deciding which anime to watch next can be a shot in the dark, but this not a new experience for me. I initially watching Tobira o Akete several years ago when I gave a panel on 1986 in 2016 and it was one of those productions I rushed through, but now I am glad I gave it more space to be in my viewing experience this second time around. Tobira o Akete, Open the Door, the title says it all… it’s a simple invitation.

#228 : Megazone 23 Part III

And I thought this was a 90s anime… goes to show I need to read the release dates more carefully. Megazone 23 is supposedly not done telling it’s cyberpunk mecha storyline just yet. The original from 1985 is a personal favorite of mine and the 1986 sequel is quite good as well, but I thought the story was over? As much a sequel as well as a reboot, Megazone 23 Part III would bring back the legendary red Garland motorcycle and virtual pop star Eve Tokimatsuri one more time to finish the decade of the 1980s with this third installment in the guise of a two part OVA.

M23_3_1Here is a question… can you have too much of a good thing? In terms of Megazone 23 I sometimes say yes. I was satisfied with the original as a complete stand alone story. I accept the second part as a possible alternate ending to conclude the first, but where do we go from here? Into the even farther future after mankind has resettled onto the Earth and yet similar problems have re-emerged, such is the fate of humanity. The more we change, the more we stay the same? Potential is possible here, but much of Megazone 23 Part III feels like borrowed re-hatching from the initial installment of Megazone 23 from a certain point of view. The dynamic of young man on a motorcycle meeting a girl and a stoic rival and unraveling a mystery of the underpinnings of the structure of society are very, very similar. So how much is truly brand new here?

M23_3_2Welcome to the world of Eden, the new civilization for humanity, and meet a new face Eiji Takanaka. Our new protagonist has been hired by EX, a large tech giant, for his computing skills as well as his exception abilities in the arcade galleries. Eiji’s game of choice is the big hit of the moment, an immersive cockpit shooter that makes the SEGA classic Afterburner look like amateur child’s play. The name of this game he dominates with his friends is none other than… Hard On? (yes you can laugh here) Yet there is another name that seems to follow Eiji’s high scores and that name is Sean, a name that seems to be familiar to the girl Eiji just met, Ryo. Eiji’s later meetup with Sean would become a twist of fate where Sean parlays to Eiji to meet Eve in the heart of Eden. And when I mean meet Eve, I mean the real Eve… wait a minute… I thought she was a virtual idol?

M23_3_3Design consistency is something this series needs to learn. Following the trend from the previous two incarnations of Megazone 23 we get yet another character designer to join the group and new directors to run the show. Hiroyuki Kitazume would lend the his hand to character designs and as a fan of his work (Starlight Angel, ZZ Gundam, Char’s Counterattack as examples) I welcome it, but I miss the originals from Toshihiro Hirano. Directors Kenichi Yatagai and more importantly Shinji Aramaki would run the show behind the cameras. Aramaki had been with Megazone 23 since the beginning, as a mechanical designer (a skill he is quite good at), but now he flexed his directorship muscles which for this OVA came out pretty good… just don’t give this guy CGI films, the are really a snore fest (my opinion).

M23_3_4There was a song and album by the band King Crimson known as Three of a Perfect Pair and how fitting it is for this final installment of Megazone 23 as this was the third part and comprised of a pairing of episodes. But is it perfect? Well… It’s a sharp looking OVA, perhaps one of the most polished looking cyberpunk stories I have ever seen. And by being polished I mean very fashionable. Cyberpunk usually gets a little gritty, or has an air of danger, but Megazone 23 Part III is like a mix of Vogue and GQ stylings circa 1989, gamer and hacker culture, a sterile dystopian fantasy aesthetic, that could pass in Hollywood, and mecha fighting in the even farther future. Megazone 23 Part III parlays a whole lot of style and even adds to the progression of the history of the Megazone 23 universe. So in its own way, Megazone 23 Part III is kind of perfect. …except for Hard On, lol.