#180 : The Death Lullaby / Lullaby to the Big Sleep

There are obscure titles in the anime pile of forgetfulness that are fondly remembered. Some titles are often condemned, or criticized and then there are some titles that go beyond any convention. The Death Lullaby, or Lullaby to the Big Sleep is perhaps the most uncompromising piece of animation I have ever seen from Japan. This was not created for entertainment, or broad mass appeal, but instead to make a statement. Much like a piece of post modern abstract art in a museum, we are asked to look, to think, to feel and to question many issues within ourselves and the consequences of how it reflects into our environment.

DL_1Violence. So much violence, hatred and destruction are depicted in Lullaby. Hard to watch and very grotesque and raw at times, these depictions are to educate us through discomfort. Scenes of a child with protruding bottom teeth and his constant abuse and bullying are contrast with business men and politicians optimistic propaganda showing their enforced single minded agendas. See this fancy bullet train, these great buildings. Look at how fat our wallets are getting by bulldozing habitats unspoiled by nature, or more importantly, former places of residency where tenants are forced into eviction where in their opinions, degeneracy once existed. This price of progress reminds me of the great quote from Patlabor 2: The Movie in regards to… a just war versus an unjust peace, an unjust war verses a just peace.

DL_2The abused boy mentioned earlier has primary focus in this short film and can be seen as a mascot, or figurehead. Similar in ways to Tetsuo from Akira, we see a boy with much promise and potential through constant mistreatment and negativity transform from a weak victim into a true monster bent on vengeance. Beyond his disfigurement, he is no threat, but many people like to judge what they either fear, or don’t like. Or, like Shinji from Evangelion, we see the self destructive tendencies from constant depression and internalized anger. This youth is of no concern to his peers, watches horrors at home and has no light, or thought in his consciousness to point him out of his situation.

DL_3I have read from a source that this may have been a protest film in regards to many urbanization projects that were present during the mid 1980s. Whether it is or not, this is a film that is much more like an artist’s expression of social commentary than standard animated entertainment. The issues are universal and stand up today beyond it’s extremely low budget look; I believe it was shot on 8mm film, which for film stock will be very rough looking. If you can find Hiroshi Hirada’s The Death Lullaby it is worth a watch, but I can’t recommend it for everyone. Years ago I had never heard of this, but became acquainted with it during my research for my 1985 panel during 2014 to 2015. This is the first time I have rewatchedWhile a powerful film in it’s own right, it shows that we in humanity have so much more to do in regards to learning about fear and compassion.

1985… Homeward Bound

Anime and Simon & Garfunkel… now here’s a nice combination to consider…

I’m sitting in the railway station
Got a ticket to my destination
On a tour of one-night stands my suitcase and guitar in hand
And every stop is neatly planned for a poet and a one-man band
Homeward bound
I wish I was
Homeward bound
Home where my thought’s escaping
Home where my music’s playing
Home where my love lies waiting
Silently for me

Slightly melancholy, a yearning to go back somewhere to feel safe, warm, or protected. A return to the familiar for a short time before continuing again on your journey; sanctuary. Some of us have a series or movie that we return to that symbolizes home, for me it’s the original Macross. Yet there is one particular year that also represents a place of peace for me as well and that is 1985. Not that I want to go back to the year 1985, it’s just that there are many productions from the year that I personally love and if I had to do a top 10 listing from the 1980s, I could fill a majority of it with titles from the ole ‘85.

Before diving into titles from 1985, I have to back track with two key experiences I have had for the year. The first being the airing of Robotech, which as a child became the keystone that solidified my love for Japanese animation. Criticize, or praise the show if you wish, but for what it was for my life at that time… it was just, perfect. Also my first panel presentation I gave was about the year 1985. What a coincidence to give a presentation in 2015 and needing a topic when 30 years prior was a storehouse of awesome anime from 1985. Again… perfect. Some titles I knew well, some I got acquainted with for the first time and some I never knew existed became familiar. It was scary, but highly rewarding, as that panel gave me confidence and allowed me to share something I loved and know I was in good company.

1985 was a classic year for the direct to video OVA market. Having only existed for a year and change, 1985 would breed many classics and stand as a testament for quality productions. Titles such as Area 88, Bobby’s Girl, Cosmo Police JustyDream Dimension Hunter Fandora, Dream Hunter RemFight! Iczer-OneFire Tripper, Leda: Fantastic Adventure of Yohko and Megazone 23 all had a place to shine outside the normal confines of cinema and television. One could create original work that may not fit into the two previous categories and be both of high quality and in some cases commercially successful. Yet the format also allowed previously created properties a chance to expand beyond their own previously created spaces. OVAs would feature titles that gave more depth, or alternate stories to Armored Trooper Votoms, Dirty Pair, Fairy Princess Minky Momo, Genesis Climber MospeadaGoShogun, Magical Angel Creamy Mami and Galactic Drifter Vifam. Of course all of these titles were released on analog formats like VHS and LaserDisc. DVD, Blu-Ray and even streaming were still far off sci-fi concepts in the mid 1980s.

And what of the big screen? Anime cinema of 1985 has quite a few options from the entertaining to the challenging to the… ee… shameful, perhaps. Action and adventure abound in the Dagger of Kamui, Vampire Hunter D and Lupin III: Legend of the Gold of Babylon (Pink jacket!). Sanrio released Fairy Florence/A Journey Through Fairyland and Mamoru Oshii challenged us with the haunting Angel’s Egg. Even more challenging was a rare film called The Death Lullaby, or Lullaby to the Big Sleep; a very intense psychological portrait. My favorite film from 1985 is the gentle and melancholy Night on the Galactic Railroad. Outer space, trains, cats and deep philosophy… perfect. And then there was Odin: Photon Space Sailer Starlight… ODIN! Some folks love it, but I often times end up falling asleep though it.

That leaves us with television for our final category. It is a good thing it is 2019 and not 1985 because I would be watching way more TV than I do now. …wait? Besides anime I don’t watch hardly any TV anymore, well except for an occasional weather report. If it were 1985 I would be wearing out a few couches watching the great mecha titles like Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam and Blue Comet SPT Layzner and more average titles like Dancougar and Tobikage. But then there are the shojo titles like Alpen Rose, Little Princess Sara and Pierrot’s Magical Star Magical Emi which will require another couch. And then there was the Dirty Pair, High School Kimengumi (a Shonen Jump title), Musashi no Ken and a variation of GeGeGe no Kitaro. More couches! And finally Touch. All 101 episodes of baseball, drama and romance. That may require two couches to sit in and is the title I recommend the highest for all the TV series. Touch is so, so good! Don’t take my word for it though.

Also of note for 1985 was the founding of Studio Ghibli after the runaway success of 1984’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. The first fruit to bear from the likes of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata came in 1986 with Castle in the Sky. And the rest they say, became history!

So welcome home, to my adopted home of 1985. Hope you stay long and enjoy the variety that made the year special. Of course this is but a mere sampling of the total output from 1985, but it is plenty to get one started. Now it looks like I am going to need some more couches for all these guests, especially if we watch the TV shows! What beverage suits your fancy?

Silently for me
Silently for me…
tacet