#204 : Cipher

Wow, an anime that opens with a Phil Collins song! Against All Odds to be exact, except it’s not Phil’s singing voice, perhaps due to licensing. It really sets the mood during the opening credits and wouldn’t you know it, it closes the film too. Here we have an odd OVA of a shojo manga adaptation that combines 80s era MTV styled music videos, off the cuff interviews and promotional commercials. Interesting and would you believe it’s in English too. What? Like a dub? No no, that was the original audio track. Interesting. All of this combined becomes an exploration into the lives of twin boys that focus into one identity. This was Cipher.

Before diving into Cipher the Video, the proper name for this anime, I had to look into the definition of cipher itself. Basic dictionary definitions point to a secret code and even the number zero. How about a cipher in terms of a person, an individual? I found this description at Quick and Dirty Tips that spoke to me immediately…

A cipher can also be a person, often a fictional character, who is a blank slate—and that’s how I used the word when talking with my husband. A cipher has so little personality—is such a nothing—that the readers or viewers can project their own ideas and values onto the character.

… now we are onto something. I think we can look into the anime now.

Cipher_1What I found interesting about Cipher was how shallow and fake everything appeared. And yet you find a depth within this void of plasticity, which sounds ironic, but then again view this OVA like an art exhibit more so than a piece of entertainment. Everything looks polished, perfect, well dressed and it all comes out very dull and preprogrammed. Listen to the voice acting in particular, is it badly acted or oddly phrased? The English language dialogue is an odd choice, but the story is set in New York, so the creators wanted to be authentic to the native vernacular. And not just the dialogue, even the setting was drawn from scouted photography of New York City for authenticity. Obsession with American culture cannot be questioned as all this is outlined in a documentary that follow the main feature OVA.

Cipher_2Our characters don’t have much back story in the anime and one will have to reference the manga, or some basic research to find out who these twins of Cipher are. Jake and Roy Rang are former child stars who exude blond teenage heartthrob eye candy that lead not a double life, but a life single life in two bodies. A persona of Siva, and at one point see a statue of the Hindu god Shiva, is played by both boys and this role serves as an actor and student in greater society. Yet outside this role, who are these boys? While there is a lot of fun and happiness portrayed, I return back to that opening segment which feels a little lonely and sad. Beyond the man made role, are these boys their own individual, or only a manufactured personality that is split into two? There is often a close bond between twins where we can’t tell one from the other and for one female friend this is the case as she is the only one who seems to know the truth of Siva. Or, is she their girlfriend?

Cipher_3Often who we portray in public may vary greatly from our genuine selves. I question if we are all a cipher to one degree or another? Look at social media, or TV and movies and even anime as well, it’s all a camera angle behind a distorted reality. Some may find Cipher as a bland 80s stream of music plastered on top of unrelated events. Yet I see this as an exploration of identity, or maybe our lack of a genuine sense of self in a world that is mostly unreal. This anime may have been more of a promotion for the manga than an actual story in and of itself, but it spoke to me in a profound fashion. I think the cover of the Phil Collins song Against All Odds says it all…

How can I just let you walk away, just let you leave without a trace
When I stand here taking every breath with you, ooh
You’re the only one who really knew me at all

How can you just walk away from me,
When all I can do is watch you leave
Cause we’ve shared the laughter and the pain and even shared the tears
You’re the only one who really knew me at all

So take a look at me now, oh there’s just an empty space
And there’s nothing left here to remind me,
Just the memory of your face
Ooh take a look at me now, well there’s just an empty space
And you coming back to me is against the odds and that’s what I’ve got to face

I wish I could just make you turn around,
Turn around and see me cry
There’s so much I need to say to you,
So many reasons why
You’re the only one who really knew me at all

So take a look at me now, well there’s just an empty space
And there’s nothing left here to remind me, just the memory of your face
Now take a look at me now, cause there’s just an empty space

But to wait for you, is all I can do and that’s what I’ve got to face
Take a good look at me now, cause I’ll still be standing here
And you coming back to me is against all odds
It’s the chance I’ve gotta take

Take a look at me now

#201 : Magical Angel Creamy Mami: Lovely Serenade

“Now available on VHS and LaserDisc in a store near you. Calling all fans of Creamy Mami! Did you love the show; are you sad that Yuu/Mami has left the airwaves; do you wish you could relive many of the fun moments you saw every week on television again? Are you also a fan of Mami’s music? Well you are in luck because we have for you the perfect piece to add to your collection. May we present a new OVA for you… Creamy Mami: Lovely Serenade.”

CMLS_1Soundtracks on CD, cassette and I guess we can say digital media as well are so archaic. Whoops… forgot vinyl. Why not have a a greatest hits collection on video instead? After all this has been done many times for our favorite bands and singers, so why can’t we apply this concept to the animation world as well? Because hey… we are fans of many of anime’s pop idols too! And in a nutshell that is what Lovely Serenade just is, plain and simple. No plot to talk about here, no real story either, just music… that’s about it. And and as for dialogue, well beyond Yuu Morisawa’s minor introduction there isn’t any.

Perfect for watching with a meal, projecting on a big screen in a crowd or playing in the background like a CD, Lovely Serenade equals casual watching perfection. I could say more about this OVA, but I already have said it all? Just press play and enjoy Mami’s hit songs and either watch, dance, or lip sync to them all the live long day.

… oh yeah and by the way if you don’t have a VCR or LaserDisc player, there is always digital streaming 😉

#194 : Okubyo na Venus

Pop idols are plentiful in terms of anime. Creamy Mami, Lynn Minmei (Macross) and Eve Tokimatsuri (Megazone 23) are three that come to my mind from the 1980s and depending on the audience are mostly, fairly well known names. Then there was Yumiko Kirita… now that is a name one does not hear everyday. Simply put she is a lost one hit wonder of sorts for her only appearance was in an obscure OVA from 1986, Okubyo no Venus.

OnV_1This time round the explanation with be quite short for Okubyo na Venus (sometimes spelled Okubyou na Venus) simply put because this OVA is only about 20 minutes in length. Very short and easy to digest. Yumiko Kirita was apparently one of the many pop idols in anime during the 1980s who had only a few hit songs. This OVA is the only document we have left of her career as far as I know. Four songs cover the entirety of this compilation of sorts (one gets repeated at the end by the way) that is styled after the then current MTV music videos of the time. Maybe this is her lone surviving EPK (electronic press kit)?

OnV_2Dialog is absent throughout the production and each of the segments are small individual statements where only the songs, as well as the visuals, tell the story. This vaguely reminds me of Robot Carnival, though Robot Carnival was much larger in scale and concept, a true work of art. I have seen the anime Cipher also linked to Okubyo na Venus in terms of a similar style, need to check this one out eventually (update… I have seen it!). So then, these are the segments in a nutshell, hope this does not spoil things: the first follows a day in Yumiko’s life of singing, shopping and practicing; the second pays many an homage to classic movies and characters; the third is a slower more artsy collection of still shots and relaxed moments over a ballad and the final is a scene from a concert of hers.

OnV_3Okubyo na Venus is not your usual 1980s OVA. While the facade of idol signer Yumiko Kirita is flashed everywhere, there is after all a flesh and blood human being who brought her singing voice to life that also needs recognition. Her name is Maiko Okamoto and she as well needs to be recognized in this posting. Without her singing ability and the animation talents of those involved, this little oddity of an OVA production would have never seen the light of day. A simple, charming title, Okubyo na Venus without question belongs with the pantheon of our more usual 80s anime favorites. I shall now reserve a spot on the shelf just for you!