#224 : Lily C.A.T.

Space can be a lonely and dark place. When one is on a long interstellar space flight time can play funny things with it’s crew. Moving at light speeds puts us decades behind our home world, which begs the questions of are we really returning home? Now if that wasn’t bad enough lets add a killer virus invasion on this ship as well. Two strikes for sure, but let’s add a third. Two of the passengers brought on board are not who they say they are and one is a suspected murderer. Did I really sign up for this flight? The saving grace, at least for me, is the fact that we get a cat to join us on this trip. Thankfully this is all fiction… an OVA from 1987… Lily C.A.T.

LilyCAT_1Certain anime titles are painful for me to watch and Lily C.A.T. is one of them. Not because of the subject matter, a dark who done it mystery set aboard an interstellar spaceship, or the occasional depiction of blood, or violence to human characters. Or even the fact that this is an average run of the mill thriller sci-fi OVA that can be lobed in with a slew of other titles that are very similar. As someone who loves cats and has had cats around since my birth watching the few scenes of violence towards, or hearing, the extreme cries coming from the feline character always makes me uneasy. Seeing a cat in pain or suffering in plain bold sight hits too close to home from personal memories that just hurt. No cat should suffer, as well as anything else either.

LilyCAT_2Lily C.A.T. is often compared to the film Alien, but I also see this OVA as a combination of three anime productions as an alternative (this is my theory by the way). I see Lily C.A.T. as a mix of Gall Force: Eternal Story (which is in many ways similar to Alien), They Were 11 and Dallos. The obvious double whammy of a who is the stowaway here (They Were 11) and confronting a killer alien virus, which leaves two people left alive to start over (Gall Force), are obvious if you are familiar with these two films. But Dallos is a little more of an outsider, unless you examine the production credits. Both Dallos and Lily C.A.T. have a similar visual look as they were both made at Studio Pierrot (with differing character designers) and feature the talent of Hisayuki Toriumi, a long time veteran of the anime industry.

LilyCAT_3Toriumi’s approach for a darker and more serious sci-fi is characteristic of the earlier Dallos. But unlike Dallos, Lily C.A.T. does actually have a plot that progresses without plot holes, has an ending that has some sort of resolution and makes… SENSE! Maybe something got lost in the shuffle when production began for Dallos, or perhaps there were plot holes from the start?… hey now this one is about Lily C.A.T. remember?… Toriumi had been around for decades and is in some ways one of anime’s best directors that never gets much attention. Many of the Tatsunoko classics like Gatchaman as an example as well as Area 88, Baoh and a co-director on Mysterious Cities of Gold. Nice resume! And those character designs which are attributed to both Yasuomi Umetsu and Yoshitaka Amano are stellar mixed with the production work of Studio Pierrot.

LilyCAT_4For a thriller that mixes up a lot of ideas, Lily C.A.T. is a damn good action sci-fi drama examining relationships in a time of crisis. Of course I had my difficult moments, but I know this was all a work of fiction and no cats were really harmed in the process. Still… those cat cries are terrifying. This was also one of Streamline Pictures releases way back in the VHS era and the dub is quite good as well. Mike Reynolds as the captain is one of my favorite roles he has ever portrayed. We learn over time the secret of who this Lily C.A.T. really is and this reminds me a little of 2001: A Space Odyssey in terms of the character HAL… even yet more sci-fi influences. I guess there is no harm in mixing up a lot of stuff to come up with something quite entertaining.

#223 : Amon Saga

Can you survive the test to join the army of Valhiss? Do you wish to ride the giant turtle that features a city on top of the shell? … A giant turtle? That’s different. … Welcome to a minor introductory for the fantasy adventure known as Amon Saga, a 1986 OVA that made its way over here in the west on physical media somehow. Interesting choice and not my first pick if I was shopping for releases, but hey a $5 DVD is worth a try at least. I have had enough of all this futuristic sci-fi as of late, I want something more grounded, but mystical as well. Classic sword and sorcery are in order this time!

Amon_1Right off from the start I found something appealing about Amon Saga. Many often label it as a very generic fantasy OVA, maybe more on the lower end of the spectrum, but to be honest from my eye it’s good, but don’t expect a miracle. The production in terms of the visuals are strong and make up for the more run of the mill plot line of personal revenge for the death of a family member. Plus don’t forget to add in saving a princess and fighting fearsome monsters. The characters themselves are fairly average, but this is an action flick after all and could pass as a medieval Fist of the North Star featuring the swords and magic over martial arts. Or maybe this reminds me more of Vampire Hunter D?

Amon_2Picture now a post apocalyptic wasteland and a young man wandering on horseback coming to a cantina for a rest and a drink. His name is Amon and soon he catches the eye of the rough clientele and even befriends one in a bar room brawl. Soon that previously mentioned giant turtle makes its way into town. This is the fortress of Emperor Valhiss and his subordinates announce a call to invite nine men to join the ranks of Valhiss. Amon would qualify, as he should as he is the hero of this tale, for the coveted ninth position. His motives are not completely clear as of yet, but trust me, he has his eyes on revenge. Valhiss murdered Amon’s mother in front of his eyes and this is his reason to join up in the Valhiss army. While making a first attempt to slay Valhiss he would fail, but in turn would meet another alley, a captured princess no less, Princess Lichia. How very cliche.

Amon_3Let’s now look into the character designs as they have a familiar and inviting look to them. This grouping belong to the handiwork of one Yoshitaka Amano. Many of us have seen his designs ranging from the classic Tatsunoko superheroes of the 1970s (Gatchaman and Casshan as examples), the casts of Genesis Climber Mospeada (Robotech: The New Generation), Angel’s Egg, the previously mentioned Vampire Hunter D and even artwork for the Final Fantasy games. He even created a tarot deck that really differs from the usual Ryder Waite designs. With all this in mind I can see him being a good choice for Amon Saga and his artistry more than carries any weaknesses, or cliches, in the production.

Amon_4Amon Saga for me is a good popcorn flick and a decent OVA release. It’s a simple story, runs just over an hour in length and comes across well polished to my eye. This was worth a re-watch as often times I trust the judgment of others as to how I see certain anime releases. I liked Amon Saga, but I didn’t hold it to any high standards. While this is not on the level of say Record of Lodoss War, Amon Saga is a smaller and more compact package that doesn’t go over its head. Swords, magic, princesses, a menacing emperor, a Valley of Gold and a giant turtle, who could ask for anything more?

#222 : Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Flashback 2012

“1,2,3,4. 1,2,3,4. 1,2,3,4… Ah 1! 2!” I love, love, love the original Macross. This was a cornerstone series, via Robotech and eventually the original, that I can say without question was the most important influence for my entire interest and fandom for Japanese animation. Macross was a series that defined anime in the 1980s, redefined the mecha genre in many ways and gave us a sci-fi epic that was an original to itself. All wrapped around one of the best love triangle’s in anime history and a lot of music as well. But what happened to our illustrious cast of heroes? The answer would be given in an OVA release, Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Flashback 2012.

MF2012_1Many examples of complied music video styled OVAs exist in plenty during the 1980s that were offshoots from original television productions. Obvious examples include Creamy Mami’s Lovely Serenade and Curtain Call and Mospeada’s Love Live Alive. Each example would follow this idea, or direction in their own way. Macross would be an obvious candidate for this listing as well as this show made the pop idol in anime a standard character stereotype. The song book of Lynn Minmei is synonymous to the backbone of Macross as a show. She was a pioneer in every respect, so where is her representation. Come 1987, the fifth anniversary of Macross’ debut on television, we would get that very answer.

MF2012_2Flashback 2012 in all respects is the final part in the original Macross trilogy of releases that tell the story of the SDF Macross’ fight against the invading Zentaedi. This is the swan song for the triptych of the Macross main cast, Hikaru Ichijo, Miss Hayase and Lynn Minmei. All in all the final wrap up and conclusion for Macross’ signature love triangle dynamic. This was to be the end… and yet sequels and spin-offs would follow much later, but in the classical sense of the original, this was it. 1982 brought Macross to TV, 1984 would bring the Do You Remember Love? blockbuster film and finally in 1987 Flashback 2012. And as a fan I am really disappointed in Flashback 2012. Why?… well… maybe I had my expectations set really high.

MF2012_3The TV Series was a well done affair most of the time, the movie is too me, basically perfect in terms of visual expression and Flashback 2012 brings some new footage of Minmei, Hikaru and Misa including a full animated version of the song Tenshi no Eno Gu (Angel’s Paints) split in half for some reason. We get to see the new Macross life off for outer space with Misa as captain. Hikaru is still a fighter jock, a pilot’s pilot and Minmei’s career seems to be doing quite well. All three meet up again, but this is all for new material, not very much I must say. So what fills the majority of the half hour running time? Compiled footage from the TV Series and the movie over Minmei’s hit songs. Not a bad idea, but the editing and addition of early computer effects make the whole production kind of awkward. This may have been state of the art at the time, but it sometimes ends up looking a little funky around the edges.

Again as a fan I expected something a little more higher echelon in terms of a grand finale. But in the end all we have is Flashback 2012, which does in fact close the original Macross storyline and gives us a tribute of sorts to the music of Lynn Minmei. … If only I was in charge, things would have been different… if only…