#8b : Angel’s Egg

For my original entry for Angel’s Egg, click here.

Sometimes you have to recover your tracks in order to move forward. In terms of classic anime and in particular, Angel’s Egg, I have a little more to say…

Angel’s Egg was a one of my earliest entrees here at The Classic Anime Museum and it has been one of my more viewed entries, even receiving reference links. I am proud that in particular that Angel’s Egg is linked in some way with this site. I love this film, I love the atmosphere it projects, I love the art and I consider it a masterpiece of 80s anime cinema and one of Mamoru Oshii’s best works of all time. It’s not an easy film to watch since it is more symbolic and esoteric, but in terms of great film making it is one animated feature that is distinctly it’s own in terms of any category you throw at it.

AE_21Much is written on director Mamoru Oshii’s struggle with faith and the all supposed Christian symbology. But if you take a step back, isn’t much of Christian imagery borrowed from other more ancient, or pagan references? Could these references also elude to Eastern spiritual practices as well, or another alternative? The vast open space of Angel’s Egg makes this a film that can have much in terms of interpretation, which leaves it as perhaps the most profound and powerful films ever made in the Japanese animation industry during the decade of the 1980s, if not all time. Assuming one’s interpretation, or an accepted standard is one thing, but sometimes when other opinions are offered as well, they are just as valid.

AE_22Propose now another possible metaphor for the piece of art that is Angel’s Egg. Could this be a film about the fragility of holding to the material world. To quote from the Bible “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth, and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.” I had to look up the passage as I am not a perfect Bible scholar, it’s from Matthew 6:19. Or if we philosophize from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure with none other than Socrates where we notice that we are “Only Dust in the Wind”, and “Like the Sands of time, so are the days of our lives.”… With this in mind we fall for the greatest illusion that what is material is eternal, which of course is not true. It is human to mourn the loss of what is seen and touchable, but to consider it permanent is a grave mistake.

AE_23Solid structure, matter and form are standards that we often base entire civilizations, relationships and lives on. Yet this is the most unstable force in the universe. This makes me think of the relationship in astrology between the Moon and Saturn and the pair of signs associated with them, Cancer and Capricorn. Both are opposites, yet mirror images of each other dealing with growth and decay, love and austerity, protection and isolation. Is it a time to be sentimental, or perhaps hard nosed. We need both sides, but when one side of the extreme takes on a priority there is imbalance. This is not a bad thing because after all we as humans get caught up in the games and circumstances that we deem as life. At times we crest, but soon fall. We also hit rock bottom too and find the strength to rebuild by knowing what has passed can’t ever return.

AE_24These concepts are the basic dynamic of Angel’s Egg. The girl, very innocent and naive holds like a mother the giant egg she possesses. The object is in every way her identity. She brings it with her, treats it kindly and never lets it leave her sight much like a cautious mother. Enter then the young man with the cross like stick, or weapon, or whatever it is. He becomes the catalyst, a source for change who cruelly breaks and destroys this precious object. The girl whose whole existence in life has now been destroyed in the end destroys herself, unable to find any reason to live beyond sticking to what she only knew. It is a sad end, but we all fall down from time to time and we mostly see something outside of the job, relationship, situation, or loss that has occurred in our lives. We put on another hat to keep going with life because we still feel that life still has something left to provide for us, despite the pain and sorrow.

This year of 2020 made me think of this interpretation particularly. It has been painful for many of us dealing with loss as well as uncertainty. Those who hold so dearly to rigid ideas are struggling the most to control a situation that seems so random. I hope you are all doing well despite the times.

#188: Dallos

“And if the band your in starts playing different tunes… I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.” There is tension in the air… on the moon of all places, which has no breathable air except for the enclosed colonies where the inhabitants live. These colonists who mine resources to feed the Earth are beginning to find their social treatment and political conditions unbearable. Beyond these tensions on the dark side of the moon is an odd mystery. A gigantic mechanical device that many of the inhabitants revere as a deity sits in utter silence. The name of this mysterious giant as well as the production that features it is a landmark title in the history of anime, Dallos.

Dallos is known for two distinctions in the general knowledge category of anime. The first was the fact that it was the original direct to video release, known better as the OVA. The second was it was directed by Mamoru Oshii (Angel’s Egg, Ghost in the Shell), which is partially true. Also directing was a quiet legend, mostly unknown here in the west, Hisayuki Toriumi (Gatchaman, Salamander, Lily C.A.T.), who as the senior of the two should honestly be listed first. As the first OVA release, Dallos broke ground in terms of distribution of anime at the time. Within a couple years the category became a viable market for projects that may have had the budget, subject matter, or space for creative freedom to afford itself to be either on television or the cinematic big screen. Long before the internet, or digital sharing, the OVA was a gray area to work in as an in between, a place Dallos fit into very well.

With a slick presentation, Dallos does perform in terms of the action sequences in terms of detail and fluidity, but the story is something that still leaves me questioning. Though we do have a good cast of characters, no one really stood out in this hard sci-fi dystopia as the major focal point. The young, slightly angsty Shun Nomomura is our obvious protagonist, yet the overall collective and environment felt like the star of this show. Dallos is an anime about society under Orwellian social control, an anime about the status quo bourgeoisie versus the working class proletariat, an anime about native Earth born humans versus spacenoids (Gundam?), an anime about the varying opinions of generations. All great themes, but unfortunately with all this great drama, it never focused itself into a cohesive narrative that went anywhere, or answered to any conclusions.

Mixed with the underdeveloped story is the concept of the supposed deity like machine Dallos itself. A giant mechanized mystery on the far side of the moon that looks like a face has no real mythology beyond the respect by the original moon settlers. This older generation, well into the twilight of their lives, try to explain this to the younger elements with little acceptance. Such is youth to take life into their own hands, but they to will soon learn. Autonomously Dallos defends itself  during the uprising tensions, but as to any explanation as to what the mechanical behemoth stands for, or even it’s purpose for existence is a pure mystery.

The DVD copy that I own also contained a retrospective containing interviews with many members of the crew from Studio Pierrot including Oshii. Even though this was not an episode of the OVA series it was my favorite part of the whole viewing process. Perhaps the inclusion of two directors for one project weakened the possibilities of what could have been? The discussion of doing a hard sci-fi production with no promotional material, like toys or model kits, and having heavy subject matter was a great idea, but needed more time for polishing the final product. Dallos had so much potential, but is nothing more than an experiment that just did not fall completely into place. A visual treat for sure, but a disappointment in terms final explanation. A longer narrative run could have helped? Although Studio Pierrot’s upcoming OVA for 1985, Area 88, performed flawlessly as a short run episode count series as well. Area 88 by the way was directed by Toriumi.

#160 : Mobile Police Patlabor (OVA series)

PatOVA_1PATLABOR! Veni Vidi Vici… and then… retirement. Yes there have been reboots of more recent for Patlabor, but in essence like Space Battleship Yamato, or even the Beatles… well maybe the Stone Roses as we are talking the late 1980s here, Patlabor would have it’s time in the sun with the original ‘band line-up‘ in tact for only a minute period of time. A manga, TV series, two films (I am not going to count WXIII as a third) and a follow-up OVA would be born from a little seven episode OVA created by a partnership in 1988. What happens when super talented folks in the anime industry unite for a project? They make a classic. … now then, can we get the old band back together?

patova_2One of the greatest mecha shows that is also a comedy, a drama, a showcase for parody and a cop show all rolled into one nice neat seven episode package. Very tidy and an example of bringing together talented minds to make something original and special. The main creative group behind Patlabor, known as Headgear, consisted of manga artist Masami Yuki, mechanical designer Yutaka Izubuchi, writer Kazunori Itō, character designer Akemi Takada and director Mamoru Oshii. I leave it to you to look up their resumes. The direct to video OVA had proven itself as an affective medium to distribute anime for almost half a decade and the diversity of projects showcased that this was a free for all medium. When Patlabor was released in 1988, it was positioned at a good place and time. Independent and smaller focused projects were abundant and ranged from well done productions to experimental eccentricities to the laughably bad. Yet as fans we love them all! 1988 would kick up the notch with several releases that elevated the OVA into a format that became a viable art form including Patlabor, Gunbuster and the behemoth Legend of the Galactic Heroes.

PatOVA_3Patlabor as a mecha show speaks to those who were fans of giant robot animation as children and still are even as adults… myself included. Watch the opening credits and feel all that enthusiasm from both past and present collide… “nothing’s impossible.” The aspect of going to work and fulfilling a role in society is something many of us understand well and is a main contributor to the storyline of Patlabor. The cast of Special Vehicles Section 2 are not super heroes, nor space pilots, they are your average everyday police officers… who pilot, or work with mechs while solving a case. The whole concept of mecha in Patlabor is perhaps the most extreme portrayal of giant robots as standard everyday equipment. a real “Real Robot”… no pun intended. Yet the mascot like patrol labors, the Ingrams, are not the be all end all of this show.

PatOVA_4The true stars are the cast and what a mixed bag indeed: an aloof, but genius captain; an enthusiastic tomboy who names her Ingram after her dog; a cynical rich kid; a gun crazed lunatic; a nerdy husband, a gentile giant and an American transfer round out the crew of SV2. The dynamics between each personality is what fuels Patlabor. The episodes are a mixed bag of ideas, some of which come out of left field. You get your introductory episode, a bomb defusing episode, a Godzilla inspired episode, a summer camp murder mystery episode and even a two parter that vaguely reminds me of a prototype for the future film Patlabor 2: The Movie. References galore pop up time and again, but in clever and funny ways that makes the comedy of Patlabor pure gold. One example that left me laughing… “What do you think your piloting? Great Mazinger? Dangaioh?”

Who would have thought that this little project would grow into a massive success? And the beauty of it all is that as Patlabor grew it seemed to have gotten better… perhaps because we get hungry for more adventure of the SV2. Traditional mecha anime, piloted robots, by this time had waned in popularity on TV in terms of younger fans except for a few exceptions. All of us seasoned fans, perhaps a little bent on nostalgia, welcomed the initial Patlabor OVA that filled a need to those of us who may have grown and taken on additional roles into society, but are at heart are still enthusiastic fans of animation. We all may have jobs now, even our heroes, but were still at the root of it all the same. Now, time to go to work!