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 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

#56 : Genesis Climber Mospeada

mospeada_1Long ago, and yet supposedly set in the early 21st century, a band of six individuals bonded together out of fate to be a resistance squad to fight against an alien invasion. And what a rag tag group as it shows you never know who your friends will be. But at it’s heart Genesis Climber Mospeada is a mecha show with a unique transforming concept. And like the name of Mospeada being a type of motorcycle, this show has been around with me for a long, long ride. Strap on your helmets, we are about to head out on the open road.

mospeada_2As for the unique concept mentioned earlier, I have always enjoyed the gimmick of the motorcycle becoming wearable mecha armor. IT’S SO TOTALLY COOL! I remember the first time I saw the so-called transformation way back when and I said in awe, “Whoa… that’s different… I LIKE IT!” Of course this may not be the first time it happened in anime, I have no proof of what was first, but the idea would repeat itself in Megazone 23 (another favorite of mine). Of course both of these shows featured the mech designs of Shinji Aramaki, who would later become a director of a couple CGI movie adaptations that fell flat for me.

mospeada_3Our story begins with Stick (I liked the mistranslated Stig as well) Bernard, a young pilot coming from Mars who is part of a military unit intent on reclaiming Earth after the invasion of the Inbit. Tragically after being shot down by the Inbit’s insect like mechs, Stick finds himself alone as the lone survivor of the failed mission. In typical military fashion, he continues on to find the Inbit’s main headquarters of Reflex Point. But along the way he would gain allies: a desert rat scrounger (Ray), a crybaby kid (Mint), a hot shot blonde with skills (Houquet), a cowardly, but dependable mechanic (Jim) and a lounge singer who turns out to be a soldier who uses the singing act as a matter of hiding out from the Inbit (Yellow, the first individual I ever saw who pushed gender stereotypes). These six gain camaraderie by pursuing Stick’s goal of finding Reflex Point and finding others who are willing to fight for the cause.

mospeada_4One aspect that makes this show great is the fact that to me at least it feels like a western. Our cast are like strangers that come into a town every episode and while each episode is it’s own story it builds towards the whole of the totality. It’s one of those solid series that works for me on a personal level and is one of those shows that has three distinct reasons that make it shine. One is that it is a product of that fabled studio known as Tatsunoko, you got to love the tradition (Speed Racer to Gatchaman, to production on Macross and Evangelion). Two, the character designer Yoshitaka Amano. Not the lilting gothic look most of us are used to, but still the same quality. And of course the music is by old Joe… Joe Hisaishi. The soundtrack is more rock and jazz compared to his grand work with Hayao Miyazaki’s films, but still memorable.

mospeada_5Now to compare to Robotech: The New Generation, I actually have a slight favoritism toward the Americanized adaptation (let me explain). Not saying it is better by any means and I am not flying a flag on stating the original is the measuring stick to follow either. Some of the story development I just preferred in the Robotech version and I can point to two direct points. One, Yellow Belmont (Lancer) was voiced by only one person, a male. True he has the dual gender identity, but keep it honest with the singular voice, just slightly changed. Yellow can rock a dress, but he is an androgynous man , ‘The Lonely Solider Boy’ (just better consistenancy). And two, the character and saga of Rainy Boy (Dusty Ayres). His revenge story in Robotech seemed more interesting than just being a mercenary working along with the Inbit to win back his freedom. Definitely one of my favorite anti-hero characters of all time; tragic, yet powerful.

I often think that the initial anime you are exposed to leaves the most indelible marks on you as you progress into fandom. Some you may out grow due to aging or peer pressure, some you may continue to grow into your first experiences and some you end up trying it on again to find it still works the same as before. Mospeada has always been a strong contender in my book and I am sticking with you till the sun sets in the west for the final time. Long may you run Mospeada… long may you run.

#48 : Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross

Oddly enough, even though The Masters section of Robotech was a little convoluted, I always loved it. It was the characters plain and simple and their relationships. Also how a rag tag bunch of odd balls, a strong trio of female protagonists and an angsty guy who wants revenge turned from a semi-fun sci-fi mecha show into an epic tragedy where there was no clear winner was a breath of fresh air (Ideon did a similar feat, but that was years down the road for me). Of course the Americanized adaptation acted as a bridge between the original Macross and Genesis Climber Mospeada, but what about Southern Cross as it’s own independent story without shoehorning the odd glue of Robotech’s definition of protoculture?

SoCr_1Humanity has expanded out towards the stars and has settled a planet (wow, never heard that one before) named Gloire. On this planet we have a group of military defenders who keep watch  (again, never heard that one before)and one of those fine soldiers is in the brig and is about to be released and taking her place is her lady killer squad leader (NOW, thats different!). Jeanne Francais, our former prisoner, is a bit of a free spirit and occasionally a trouble maker, so it makes sense she is now head of the Tactical Armored Corps 15th Squadron. I love anime logic 🙂 But of course she would be brought back into the brig again while doing what she does best, like knocking over a military police robot. And while all this fun is happening an alien fleet approaches our peaceful planet. Peace time is now over.

Amidst the fun and antics, there is an honest serious military drama with an alien invasion. These invaders, The Zor, are eager to return to Gloire as this was their former home world. A war erupts and in this show we get a unique type of robot, the Spartan. A hovering tank that transforms into a robot. Nice touch. This is the main mecha for our girl Jeanne, but how does it fair against the Zor’s main machine, the Bioroid? And in particular a ‘red’ version… wait a red one? This reminds me of Mobile Suit Gundam for some reason? Hmm?

SoCr_2Complimenting Jeanne are two more strong ladie, who are the direct opposite in personality and method. Marie Angel is a hot shot pilot and Lana Isavia is one of the military police’s strict officers. Totally new for mecha anime at the time, these girl’s set a standard for having girl power in a robot show. THANK YOU! Joining Jeanne as well are her squad mates including tech guru Louis, ‘Casanova’ Charles, grumpy Andrzej and sensitive Bowie; plus General Rolf Emerson and a mystery man who is a captured and put under the watchful eye of Jeanne, Seifriet.  And with Seifriet, the story really begins to ramp up in intensity as well as Jeanne’s fluttering heart for her crush on Mr. Longhair.

SoCr_3And now for something a little different, what of pop culture references? Oh they exist as well. Such as when the 15th Squadron elbowed their way into a downed Zor ship and eventually getting caught into a large trash reservoir. And guess what? The walls are moving together. Sounds like one of those famous scenes from Star Wars: A New Hope. Yet I liked this one a little more as Jeanne gets a little trigger happy and all her boys and her have to deal with a ricocheting laser blast. And all that background music, I wonder if that once popular band known as the Police ever heard what Japan released. True it sounds very much like the Police’s 1983 album Synchronicity, in particular the title tracks Synchronicity I and II, that I wonder if Sting himself wrote this soundtrack.

SoCr_4When the original shows that made up Robotech eventually got a domestic release, Southern Cross would be the first one I got. Perhaps it was the cheapest at the moment, or maybe I was extra curious to see how this uncut tale actually unfolded? Again it like reading the original novel to a major motion picture and you find the details you had been searching for. Some are not too keen on Southern Cross as a series, but I can’t help but enjoy it because it has been around me for so long. Plus this series has made me a fan of character designer Tomonori Kogawa’s work.

If only this show did not have a short run, who knows what could have happened. As for what we got, and in particular the ending, I am more than satisfied (Yoshiyuki Tomino did you work on this?). Super Dimensional Cavalry Southern Cross, you will always be one of my dark house favorites.

#21 : Genesis Climber Mospeada: Love Live Alive

Recall the Disney version of Robin Hood. You have your traveling minstrel rooster, saying the animal kingdom has their own version of the story and might I add it is “what really happened in Sherwood Forest” at least according to our journeyman friend. When you often say the three words ‘Love Live Alive’… now is it ‘Live’ like I want to live through this or I saw that awesome band ‘Live’? Sorry… you think of an attempt on Harmony Gold to squeeze a couple more bucks from the Robotech name. But this blogger has another version of this story and this is what really happened. In 1985, same year that Robotech aired ironically, this little OVA was released in Japan. Here is the real story of Genesis Climber Mospeada: Love Live Alive (thats a long title, eh?). Oh de Lally Golly What a Day!

mlla_1I know the Robotech version emphases ‘Live’ as I want to live through this, but I may be wrong and I don’t care because I read ‘Live’ as I saw that awesome band ‘Live’. And speaking of music, that is the backbone to the OVA as we follow the ‘Lonely Soldier Boy’ Yellow Belmont and what he has been up to after the Inbit invasion war. He still rides his blue Mospeada bike, bends gender better than anyone and performs his music all over. A soldier he may have been, but his heart belongs to fashion and the stage. And it is the career that he deserves as he recalls memories of his recent past. But what about the music as the backbone to this story?

mlla_2Genesis Climber Mospeada: Love Live Alive is a simple love letter. Did you love the show from a couple years back? The staff at Tatsunoko studios have a little something for you to reminisce. The music mentioned earlier that is either recorded or performed live by Yellow splices between flashbacks of his old companion’s adventures that recall the nostalgia in period correct MTV style. This was not in the Robotech version (grr!), but what of this music anyway? Who actually wrote these songs? How about Joe Hisaishi! All you Studio Ghibli fans should know that name. That’s right, Joe has a back catalog of various musical contributions including this OVA and the original TV series. The grand orchestral sounds of the Ghibli films though are not present. Here we have Joe’s sensibility in the flavors of rock and pop. Midnight Rider is my favorite track followed by Mind Tree in case you have the soundtrack handy.

mlla_3I honestly don’t know how popular Genesis Climber Mospeada was in Japan and really it does not matter. Be it the Robotech or original version of the 25 episode show, I liked it very much for the small rebel bandit unit and morphing motorcycle armor, so badass. But again in my book, it is the characters I love most. Yellow was my favorite character from the show anyway and having a video about him makes Love Live Alive double special. Besides being creatively talented and often the strong voice of reason in the group, Yellow was the first individual in my life that I recognized as gender non-conforming, though I did not know what that concept was for years to come. Again, how this OVA got made about a character from yet another scifi mecha show is beyond me? I should not ask and just accep,t after all it was the 1980s in Japan, all kinds of productions got green lighted.

As a fan of either telling of this show I appreciate this short direct to video one off.  I can’t say much more since it is what it is, a string of music videos spliced between moments of Yellow’s current life told in about a span of an hour. …and like what wise people say about cover songs, nothing beats hearing the original. Live on Yellow and rock on!