#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.

#227 : Legend of Lemnear

Legend of Lemnear… I find it funny how a DVD begins with a parental warning of, “The Following Program Contains Scenes of Nudity“ and yet mentions nothing of other scenes having violence, or even anything about a cheesy plot! I am not going to get into the moral argument here, but really? Legend of Lemnear is one of many late 1980s OVAs that can be classified as shovel wear and yet I am sure many of us have seen it. It was around way back when, released on a multitude of video formats here in the west, so no denying it, you have watched it!… or have you?

Lem_1Imagine Leda: Fantastic Adventure of Yohko mixed with Amon Saga (ever hear of these two? they are worth a watch!) spiced with some scenes of “fan service”, or more precisely… bare breasts. We are adults here ok, or perhaps philosophically wise youths trapped in bodies of various ages, and just because some bits of nudity are shown does not equate porn. After all this was a project created by the same individual who did Plastic Little (oh lord not that one), among other things if you are at all familiar. Legend of Lemnear is at least watchable, with a plot and a supposed point… sort of, but it leaves a little too be desired. … and yes it is more than just a cheap ploy to show the upper halves of naked women.

Lem_2The visual presentation is quite polished and well drafted, including anatomy… and not just the previously mentioned boobs, but also facial characteristics and muscle tone. Drawing talent was abundant for this 1989 release. Yet the story that holds it all together is bland and generic. A lone traveler comes into town wanting to avenge the killing of her parents and gets caught up in a maelstrom of action and mythology that ends up bringing everything around full circle. Yeah ok, sounds like a decent run of the mill fantasy and magic kind of tale, but I want to see the budget spreadsheets. My theory is that they spent 85% on drawing and 15% on story… what about the acting? Never mind that I am on a role here.

Lem_3Like many one-offs that are just over a half hour in terms of total length of time don’t expect much here. I hope the next time that Lemnear gets released, which I doubt will happen, it will need to include, “The Following Program Contains Plenty of Cheese”. And let’s face it folks, we all like cheese, admit it or not. Some like Cheddar, some like Gouda, some like Provolone and even some like Cheez Whiz (that’s not even real cheese either!). I too like my share of cheese because I am human after all and yes I don’t love Legend of Lemnear, but I do watch it from time to time… and it’s not for the fan service, which is fairly tame for the most part. Now then, can you pass the Parmesan?