#190 : Riding Bean

Know this name of Kenichi Sonada. In terms of 1980s anime, his character designs are a staple, in particular sci-fi and action titles associated with the studio AIC. Bubblegum Crisis, Gall Force and Wanna-Be’s are examples of his work during this tenure, but another side of Kenichi Sonoda was his work as a manga artist creating his own original titles. In the 1990s would come the release of a fan favorite, Gunsmith Cats, but in 1989 another one of his creations would bring Sonoda’s personal vision to anime for the first time. A distant cousin, side story, or alternate tale  of the Gunsmith Cats universe, that actually came first… may we look into Riding Bean.

RB_1The style of Kenichi Sonoda can be summed up in few words: action, fire arms, fast cars (in particular the Ford Shelby GT500 Mustang) and Chicago. Sweet Home Chicago home of Sears Tower, The Blues Brothers, deep dish pizza and a rogue individual by the name of Bean Bandit. Who is this man Bean Bandit? He’s tough, he’s bulletproof (in particular his jacket and headband) and he can drive fast. Not fast like professional race car drivers on pavement, but more like the ‘good ol’ boys’ of the past who ran moonshine throughout the southern United States, or perhaps professional rally drivers. He can’t wake up from a taser to the neck, but a hot frying pan to the face does the trick. Bean is a brick… Chuck Norris you have met your match!

RB_2Bean’s profession is that of a hired driver who for a price will get you out of dodge better than anyone. His ride is the famous Roadbuster. … Gunbuster? … no, no wrong anime. A customized ride that looks like the offspring of a Porsche 959 and a Ferrari F40, but with the engine up front. Of course Roadbuster could symbolize Bean himself as well since car and driver are essentially one when both elements come together. Along for the ride is a familiar Sonoda name from Gunsmith Cats, Rally Vincent. Her skills as a sharp shooter are still there, but the appearance is different… blonde hair over the dark. Together as a team aboard the Roadbuster, Bean and Rally out run the Chicago Police Department time and time again.

RB_3Never will I proclaim any anime to be the best at anything and if I have in the past then I repeal that notion, but Riding Bean may be the best one off action OVA ever made. At only 40–45 minutes it is never boring, dull, or badly done in terms of story, characters, or animation quality. Though the violence does at times get brutal, it is not the focus of this OVA. Riding Bean is a comedic wild ride that expresses the absolute obsessions of it’s creator Kenichi Sonoda. Not one of my favorite picks on any list, Riding Bean is an anime that I do enjoy nonetheless when I do see it and many of you out there are die hard fans of this OVA. Get onboard and take a ride with Bean!

#182 : Gall Force 2: Destruction

When we last left the world of Gall Force, the war between the Solenoids and the Paranoids came to an apparent close with the unification of the two races. Similar to a Biblical Adam and Eve story that might have been the origin of humanity here on Earth? Yet the story we thought was once over has hardly begun. May we enter the land of sequels and ignore the previous chapter to conclude that this intergalactic war is far from over. The stakes are higher, the B-movie cheesiness is ever greater and the ladies are back once again… well at least one of them… well maybe two if you count one as an android clone with a host of new girls in Gall Force 2: Destruction.

GF2_1The war between the electrical coils and the Black Sabbath fans (I am going to keep up this pun again!) seen in the film Gall Force: Eternal Story are back. Both sides have lost their respective home worlds by the start of the film, so the question to be asked is what are these kids fighting for? According to the dub, “To win the goddamn war!” Okay… and then what? You win (?) and have nothing to go home to. To top it off a majority of the Solenoid troops are now androids. I guess the yin/yang of the Solenoid and Paranoid conflict is an ever apparent component in the universe in the fact that war and strife are a natural part of creation. To separate and divide are as much an essential ingredient to all life as is harmony and unity. Wow that got deep! Especially for this anime, lol.

GF2_2After the destruction of the Paranoid home world, a Solenoid ship picks up a strange reading from a bunch of space debris. An old Solenoid warrior craft is found with an intact life onboard that is frozen in stasis. Guess who it is? Remember Lufy (my girl) from Eternal Story? She died early on in that film, or so we thought. She is brought on board the Solenoid ship and revived after a few attempts to wake up with one hell of a come back to life hangover. After being debriefed and somewhat interrogated about having knowledge about the Species Unification Plan and Ninth Star System the battle alarm sounds. In true Lufy fashion, she commandeers an aircraft and does what she wants, which is kick some ass as a pilot in combat!

GF2_3After the skirmish she is congratulated on her skills as a pilot, but Lufy ends up going into a spot of self reflection. Kind of out of character, but can you blame her… she is in unknown territory. Soon discussion comes up about the origins of a familiar, yet different character, Catty, whose clone was stationed on the Starleaf back in Eternal Story and the Ninth Star System, the third planet ito be precise, Terra and Chaos (Earth and the Moon?), the last Solenoid possibility of hope in the universe. Many Solenoid ships travel to Terra and Chaos to defend this new world, but where the Solenoids run the Paranoids will follow. Now under the gun of a Paranoid planet destroyer, Lufy’s new allies decide to invade and destroy this large threat instead of fighting the invading Paranoid fleet. Lufy must decide if her heart is in fighting on the front lines, or preserving this possible new utopia.

GF2_4While not as ground breaking as the initial entry in the Gall Force saga, Gall Force 2: Destruction serves as a bridge linking the initial movie to the rest of AIC produced franchise. The characteristic Kenichi Sonoda character designs are back once again as well as the space sci-fi action that was laid down during Eternal Story. Somewhat forgettable and very cliche, Gall Force 2: Destruction may not be the strongest entry in the Gall Force series, but it is fun and at times funny in terms of certain scenes and character reactions. That and Lufy gets a second chance… YES!

 

#138 : Gall Force: Eternal Story

What ever happened to our old friend Gall Force? Debuting in 1986 with a feature film that spun off into a pairing of direct single release OVA sequels and then a couple more larger arc OVA series, Gall Force seemed to become a major player in anime. Then quiet arose over the landscape and Gall Force faded away into the sunset. It’s time to come out of retirement ladies, we miss you! To get a foot hold and get reacquainted with this series as a whole we have to start from the very beginning. Let us return once again to the maiden voyage to the 9th star system with Gall Force: Eternal Story.

GFES_1All is war in the galaxy. It has been for a long, long, long time. Two factions fight it out to the death with their huge armadas of spaceships that fire laser beams that take up half the real estate of your viewing screen. This is the story of the Solenoids vs. the Paranoids. Wound coil magnets vs. people who are extremely afraid, or perhaps Black Sabbath fans? … “Finished with my woman ’cause she couldn’t help me with my mind, People think I’m insane because I am frowning all the time” … Not exactly, but seriously, where do you kids come up with this stuff? No, this is more like… the battle of the sexes… in DEEP SPACE! The Paranoids (ugly parasitic monstrosities of aliens), being the masculine and the Solenoids (a race of women that look very ‘familiar’?), the feminine.

GFES_2Gall Force: Eternal Story is not my favorite anime of all time by a long shot, but it is one I enjoy watching for the fun of it. This was one of those titles that was part of the steady diet of titles that solidified my love for Japanese animation. It’s a sci-fi homage of everything we loved about space and adventuring through the galaxies all thrown into one. This is a film that borrows much from earlier titles in anime, but also live action references such as: Star Wars, Alien, 2001 and Star Trek. It’s a film that defines all that is generic and cheesy, but pulls it off so well that it’s classic. Even the English dub gives the movie so much character. Gall Force: Eternal Story is a film where everything falls apart in order to give birth to something new and fresh. One trial after another hits our heroines and slowly one by one they eventually bite the dust. And yet would you believe that this movie does ends on a happier note?

GFES_3Our protagonists are a group of seven Solenoid soldiers whose mission is to pilot their vessel, the Star Leaf, to the 9th system to defend a new world for colonization from the Paranoids, Chaos. Along the journey Eluza, Rabby, Lufy (my fav!), Catty, Pony, Patty, and Rumy run into several obstacles including repairing a part of the ship to activate the warp drive (which also meant a scary trek into the belly of space), a battle with the Paranoids, fighting a stow away monster and eventually… childbirth! An interesting voyage isn’t it? I mentioned earlier how the girls all look very ‘familiar’, this is due to the fact that they were designed by Kenichi Sonoda. These seven girls all prototypical examples of his character stylings, which were also featured in Wanna-Be’s and Bubblegum Crisis, both being early work Sonoda did at AIC along with the Gall Force series.

GFES_4I have a weird theory about Gall Force: Eternal Story… maybe it’s… maybe it’s… our true origin story? This will make sense when you see the film in whole and make it all the way to the end. To put this into perspective, a child is born from the mating of the Paranoids and the Solenoids and that child along with one of the girls are the sole survivors to start a whole new evolution. A whole new race, a new beginning. Kind of like Adam and Eve? Maybe Gall Force: Eternal Story is the opening parts of Genesis from the Bible? … In the beginning there was void and war and laser blasts covered the deep of space. And then God spoke and said, “Cut out the fighting kids and have a baby instead!” … I dunno, it makes sense to me, what do you think?