#157 : A Journey Through Fairyland / Fairy Florence

AJTFL_1May I present the love child between Disney’s Fantasia and the Isao Takahata directed Gauche the Cellist. Classical music framed around animation is nothing new, but how many can fall under the banner of Sanrio? The quintessential company of cute is so much more than Hello Kitty and for a time Sanrio released full length animated features. Released in 1985 A Journey Through Fairyland, originally titled Fairy Florence, would be the final film of the original lineage of Sanrio produced cinema treasures and it would go out in grand style and cement a legacy that is often over looked in anime. Join us as we celebrate a true ‘Waltz of the Flowers’ under this ‘Moonlight Sonata’.

AJTFL_2Our protagonist Michael is an aspiring oboe player and attends a very posh conservatory. Fancy! Music is very much Michael’s passion… yet not his only joy. It seems he also has a way with plants, a true green thumb. Music and botany… an interesting combination, just don’t forget about occasional allergies. This balancing act of interests has Michael in the green house caring for the flora and fauna often, so he is often late for rehearsals and may not be practicing enough to keep up with the rest of the orchestra. His teacher seems to agree and is concerned as the boy has a great talent that may be going to waste. After one particular practice Michael finds an abandoned flower in the campus courtyard and rescues it by taking it back to the nursery. Saving the flower’s life he discovers the flower fairy Florence who invites him on a journey he will never forget.

AJTFL_3As Michael’s quest begins we can start to see the similarities to the two films mentioned previously, Fantasia and Gauche the Cellist. My my, you look so much like your parents! Fantasia’s open visual interpretations are very obvious when Michael begins his quest with Florence. With wild colors, crazy creatures and a little dancing, I think we have ourselves a party! The basic story however is akin to Gauche the Cellist. Hmm, sounds familiar… a musician having trouble playing their instrument and needing some encouragement and support in getting their groove back… sure sounds similar to Gauche the Cellist. Except where is the tanuki this time round, or Indian Tiger Hunting? As for both films influencing A Journey Through Fairyland, I don’t consider it cheating or stealing. Maybe more like ‘borrowing‘ these ideas? “It isn’t stolen, merely rented without the benefit of paperwork.” (Thank you GoShogunThe Time Étranger)

AJTFL_4While light and easy in plot development, A Journey Through Fairyland more than makes up for this in terms of visual presentation. It’s just pretty… no wait… purrty. And with a fine cross section of western compositional classics from Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert and Tchaikovsky (wait a minute… no Satie!) to color one’s ear drums, the pastel visuals become the frosting on the cake for your auditory and ocular pleasures; its easy to get lost in these unfolding visuals. Can one have a visual version of a sweet tooth? Perhaps A Journey Through Fairyland could be considered psychedelic to a certain degree? Or better yet, A Journey Through Fairyland is like being wrapped up a big fluffy oversized warm blanket that makes you feel all safe, warm and super cozy. Very soft, gentle and easy to relax with so just breath in and chill out. A Journey Through Fairyland, a meditative family film. Or, perhaps the anime equivalent to microfiber, or memory foam?

A Journey Through Fairyland is unequivocally true fantasy with no need for boundaries. Limitations… yeah they can be checked in at the door, but they are not allowed in. There is no gravity here to tie down ones’s imagination, or creativity so sit back, get comfy and enjoy the ride. A Journey Through Fairyland is a pure example of what I call an animator’s playhouse where anything goes. This movie helps us remember that there is magic in the world and all around us. See that tree, magic… see that flower, magic… hearing the distant sounds of music, magic… and even watching classic anime… now that’s definitely a special kind of magic, but you already knew that. 🙂

#25j : Robot Carnival : Closing

This is one of nine entries that take an in depth look into each of the segments of the 1987 anime compilation Robot Carnival. For the original entry, click here.

RCj_1The time has come as the show is over and as much as the anime Robot Carnival has to come to an end, the behemoth vehicle of destructive entertainment, Robot Carnival, also has to find a place to retire. The second bookend to the Robot Carnival anthology begins with the ever awesome machine giving everything it has to climb a sand dune with all it’s shear power. In the process of straining the engines beyond their limits, the once mighty Robot Carnival destroys itself in a blaze of glory. The end, peace in the land at last as the mighty beast has fallen… yet it’s not quite over. Katsuhiro Otomo still has a little more to tell, but first the credits so everyone can get their name in lights.

Now for the encore… with the destruction of Robot Carnival there is much in the way of debris. Some of it is quite appealing like a shining gem in the dirt, so thinks a traveling nomad who picks up a metallic sphere to give to his children. Once home they all stare in amazement at this ball as it opens to reveal a beautiful doll of a dancing ballerina. Hold on, have we seen this before? BOOM! Yup, that’s what I thought. Until next time… “That’s all folks!”

Robot Carnival entry index:

  1. Opening
  2. Franken’s Gears
  3. Deprive
  4. Presence
  5. Starlight Angel
  6. Cloud
  7. Strange Tales of Meiji Machine Culture: Westerner’s Invasion
  8. Chicken Man and Red Neck
  9. Ending

#25g : Robot Carnival : Cloud

This is one of nine entries that take an in depth look into each of the segments of the 1987 anime compilation Robot Carnival. For the original entry, click here.

RCg_1Cloud is perhaps the most controversial of the Robot Carnival collection. Now for a little personal bias, Cloud is my favorite segment. Yet why is Cloud controversial? Mainly due to the strict minimalism of this short. Cloud exists as flashes of images and scenes that drift by (kind of like clouds?) while a little boy is just walking along. There is no plot per se, no story, just images set to music. Some may say Cloud to be boring and even skip over it in the process. Yet I ask you to look again. View cloud in one of two ways. First it is the most art for art’s sake production of Robot Carnival. Treat it more as a piece of fine art, to be looked at, questioned and absorb one’s self into the imagination of creator Mao Lamdo (Manabu Ōhashi). And second, view this as an example of meditation. Sit back, relax and take in what is being seen and go with it.

RCg_2The imagery and the entirety of Cloud could be seen as an innocent dream of a young boy out one day just looking up at the clouds and giving into the wonder. While steeped in a very simple format, the artwork is very fluid and organic with a great sense of care given to the line work. So much in entertainment asks us to go on a wild ride, get into a fast paced mood and expect the images themselves to be just ephemeral ghosts that fly by not to be held in one’s hand or heart for more than a blink of an eye. Cloud asks us to slow down, observe, take in and view life and our world with our senses without any judgements.

Robot Carnival entry index:

  1. Opening
  2. Franken’s Gears
  3. Deprive
  4. Presence
  5. Starlight Angel
  6. Cloud
  7. Strange Tales of Meiji Machine Culture: Westerner’s Invasion
  8. Chicken Man and Red Neck
  9. Ending

#25f : Robot Carnival : Starlight Angel

This is one of nine entries that take an in depth look into each of the segments of the 1987 anime compilation Robot Carnival. For the original entry, click here.

RCf_1You know what Robot Carnival needs? A simple little shojo story. And we have it with Hiroyuki Kitazume’s Starlight Angel. One of the more popular and familiar segments, Starlight Angel brings a breath of fresh air with a lighter, more innocent story. In a Disney World like theme park (Robot World?) two girls are having a good old time one evening… seeing the sights, riding rides, having a snack and enjoying a goofy photo opportunity or two. In the process of all the fun, she drops a star shaped pendant, which is found by a robot who works at the park. Comically he does his best to return it to her.

As the main girl continues to run all throughout the park, the robot mentioned earlier continues chase. As best as he can he shows kindness in the face of her heartbreak and confusion. Then out of nowhere we get a segment with a fight featuring a giant robot… now where did that come from? The original robot fights and protects the girl as the metal armor falls off to revealing a young man… PLOT TWIST! Who would have known that this robot is her true shining knight in armor instead of that blonde guy who showed up earlier with the toothy grin? Yeah, I couldn’t trust him either! The sweetness of Starlight Angel is what draws us back as fans and evens out most of the other segments that are either very serious, darker in humor, or just abstract in concept. If one needs to start with any of the segments, Starlight Angel is the most accessible and inviting to anyone no matter your background.

Robot Carnival entry index:

  1. Opening
  2. Franken’s Gears
  3. Deprive
  4. Presence
  5. Starlight Angel
  6. Cloud
  7. Strange Tales of Meiji Machine Culture: Westerner’s Invasion
  8. Chicken Man and Red Neck
  9. Ending

#25e : Robot Carnival : Presence

This is one of nine entries that take an in depth look into each of the segments of the 1987 anime compilation Robot Carnival. For the original entry, click here.

RCe_1“Ah… look at all the lonely people”… The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby. A sad song that feels quite lonely, a little despondent, saturnine and yet poignantly beautiful wrapped up in sophistication. The same can be said of Yasuomi Umetsu’s Robot Carnival contribution, Presence. This too is a story of loneliness, despondency and regrets that may also be the most gorgeous of all the Robot Carnival films. The level of detail, the colors and the music define this as perhaps the signature segment of Robot Carnival. Mostly in regards to the doll like robot, who could be the mascot for the entire production.

RCe_2Yet with so much beauty there is also pain. Set in a technologically advanced era that is reminiscent of the early 20th century we find a married man to a very successful business woman and also mourns over the fact that his mother never gave him the love he wanted so badly. Much is missing from the feminine in his life and in desperation, and in secret, creates a female robot as a companion in an isolated shed in the country. To some this may be an odd hobby, or fetish, but it is a cry out for loneliness, a desperation to connect to something… perfect. Still no human, or robot, or relationship is perfect. The robot develops her own personality and questions who she is to the amazement of the man. In fear he retaliates destroying something he loves and wanted to love him so dearly. The only thing left are the ghostlike memories that remain. What could have been and what shall I do now and is there a way to return to try again? Common questions that we all have, though we don’t share the same path as this man.

Robot Carnival entry index:

  1. Opening
  2. Franken’s Gears
  3. Deprive
  4. Presence
  5. Starlight Angel
  6. Cloud
  7. Strange Tales of Meiji Machine Culture: Westerner’s Invasion
  8. Chicken Man and Red Neck
  9. Ending

#25d : Robot Carnival : Deprive

This is one of nine entries that take an in depth look into each of the segments of the 1987 anime compilation Robot Carnival. For the original entry, click here.

RCd_1Now coming to a theater near you… Deprive could for all intensive purposes have been a pilot or trailer for a much bigger production. The elements are all here to showcase a bigger idea but alas, Deprive was and is just a tight concise package that functions very well. It is stock and trade shonen fighting action akin to Fist of the North Star, or even better, Casshan. This may not have been the most original in terms of plot, robots and action yeah seen all that before, but Deprive is one of the most fun of the Robot Carnival segments. Also think of it this way, it’s a shonen fighter with absolutely no filler. Not very often you can say that when popular shonen television shows in particular are considered short at about 100 episodes. Of course there are exceptions to that rule as well.

Hidetoshi Ōmori had the director’s chair this time round telling a story about an alien invasion kidnapping a girl away from her android guardian who eventually takes on the guise of a young man. He fights his way to, gets captured and then breaks out and fights at the lair of the alien force where he meets the bishonen leader. Boy/android rescues girl and she recognizes him not from his looks, but from a pendant she gave to him earlier in the production. The End. That’s the plot, but you have to watch it all in full as the action is fluid, the music dramatic and the colors vivid. Deprive may be in the end just shonen action, but very few times has that genre looked, or performed as well as this Robot Carnival short.

Robot Carnival entry index:

  1. Opening
  2. Franken’s Gears
  3. Deprive
  4. Presence
  5. Starlight Angel
  6. Cloud
  7. Strange Tales of Meiji Machine Culture: Westerner’s Invasion
  8. Chicken Man and Red Neck
  9. Ending

#25c : Robot Carnival : Franken’s Gears

This is one of nine entries that take an in depth look into each of the segments of the 1987 anime compilation Robot Carnival. For the original entry, click here.

Much of the segments of Robot Carnival don’t feature any perceivable dialogue. The 1980s was the era of the music video and many of Robot Carnival films could fit this description, but in regards to Franken’s Gears, let’s go back to the beginning of cinema itself. The Silent Era to be precise when motion, setting and even background music were key elements to tell the story instead of the spoken word. Franken’s Gears feel’s like one of those ‘old time’ movies with both the exaggerated gestures and the more sepia toned color palette. And also lets add in some German Expressionism too with exaggerated lighting as well for good measure.

RCc_1The primary influence had to have been the classic Shelley story of Frankenstein… it’s all in the title, Franken’s Gears. Our mad scientist, who looks like Doc Brown from Back of the Future, is making a mechanical creation that he wishes to bring to life. Same story for the most part as the Shelley story except this time round we get the visual genius Koji Morimoto to tell an alternate version. Amidst a nasty thunderstorm and within a laboratory of wild electricity flashing all around the big robot that lies horizontal begins to move. The mad scientist is all in glee. IT’S ALIVE! IT’S ALIVE! It’s a miracle and even though the mechanical hodge podge is not much to look at, it rises and begins to take in it’s surroundings including our scientist. All seems to be in perfect harmony except Mr. Scientist, did you check to make sure that this robot is stable and it’s weight is evenly distributed? Uh oh…

Robot Carnival entry index:

  1. Opening
  2. Franken’s Gears
  3. Deprive
  4. Presence
  5. Starlight Angel
  6. Cloud
  7. Strange Tales of Meiji Machine Culture: Westerner’s Invasion
  8. Chicken Man and Red Neck
  9. Ending