#229: Tobira o Akete / Open the Door

Once the door has been open, you will never be the same. So true when certain circumstances happen in our lives it can feel as if one has entered through a gateway, a portal if you will, that signals that life will never be the same again. Enter the fantasy genre which is full of stories of entering into parallel worlds where your once ordinary existence is flipped upside down. Humble little old you is actually a hero in disguise and all you had to do was go through the door… literally. A case in point, lets watch a movie from 1986 named Tobira o Akete, or Open the Door. … the title says it all!

ToA_1Protagonist, Miyako Negishi, or Neko, is a literature major at a private university… whoa, an anime about a college student?! I mean I know they exist, but talk about something different from the usual high school, or junior high standard. She is quite the distant type who at times sits by herself in lecture classes and does not have any interest in hanging out with classmates, or meeting any boys. She garners a secret, which only a select few know about and that she keeps hidden due to past troubles with this hidden trait. Neko can apparently do magic, though I prefer to see her as an esper with psionic abilities. She does have confidants to share these abilities with and with them she comes to life. They include Haruka Saiki, a friendly flirt (though he likes to be called a city boy) who can teleport and a newcomer, one of Neko’s classmates, Keichiirou Yamagishi.

ToA_2Upon a full moon meetup all three of our cast members soon gets whisked away into an alternate dimension transporting them into a medieval like society where Neko is heralded as the much exalted hero as foretold from prophecy. Here she is given the name of Neryulla who was once the heroic princess who vowed to return to avenge her fallen people at a later date. So the other second coming? The welcomed stranger in a strange land is nothing new to fantasy anime, it’s often labeled as Isekai, but really… another one of these? Why not? Sword and sorcery mixed with a coming of age story is a good combination, particularly if coming to terms with one’s level of comfort in terms of romantic relationships. Neko is asked “Do you believe love always fails?” And her expression is something that hit close to home with me.

ToA_3Tobira o Akete was one of several releases from the Magic Bus studio in 1986. I know three of them at this moment including this movie as well as Grey: Digital Target and They Were 11. This trio is a choice grouping in terms of well made animated features that are not on the top of the well known charts. A nice selection of dark horse choices for 80s recommendations. Visually Magic Bus aways delivers sharp looking quality so nothing new here. Yet again it is the story and characters that draw me in and in particular our heroine Neko who is quite unsure of herself. And yes she begins to grow as a character and marches forth to save the day by the end, which we have seen many, many times, but this time round it felt a little different. I can’t explain how so, but this is quite an appealing fantasy adventure story.

ToA_4Now we come to the moment where we pick which door to look behind to see which prize we are going to win! This is no game show here and really there is only one choice because well… there is only one choice. Often there is too much selection and deciding which anime to watch next can be a shot in the dark, but this not a new experience for me. I initially watching Tobira o Akete several years ago when I gave a panel on 1986 in 2016 and it was one of those productions I rushed through, but now I am glad I gave it more space to be in my viewing experience this second time around. Tobira o Akete, Open the Door, the title says it all… it’s a simple invitation.

#222 : Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Flashback 2012

“1,2,3,4. 1,2,3,4. 1,2,3,4… Ah 1! 2!” I love, love, love the original Macross. This was a cornerstone series, via Robotech and eventually the original, that I can say without question was the most important influence for my entire interest and fandom for Japanese animation. Macross was a series that defined anime in the 1980s, redefined the mecha genre in many ways and gave us a sci-fi epic that was an original to itself. All wrapped around one of the best love triangle’s in anime history and a lot of music as well. But what happened to our illustrious cast of heroes? The answer would be given in an OVA release, Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Flashback 2012.

MF2012_1Many examples of complied music video styled OVAs exist in plenty during the 1980s that were offshoots from original television productions. Obvious examples include Creamy Mami’s Lovely Serenade and Curtain Call and Mospeada’s Love Live Alive. Each example would follow this idea, or direction in their own way. Macross would be an obvious candidate for this listing as well as this show made the pop idol in anime a standard character stereotype. The song book of Lynn Minmei is synonymous to the backbone of Macross as a show. She was a pioneer in every respect, so where is her representation. Come 1987, the fifth anniversary of Macross’ debut on television, we would get that very answer.

MF2012_2Flashback 2012 in all respects is the final part in the original Macross trilogy of releases that tell the story of the SDF Macross’ fight against the invading Zentaedi. This is the swan song for the triptych of the Macross main cast, Hikaru Ichijo, Miss Hayase and Lynn Minmei. All in all the final wrap up and conclusion for Macross’ signature love triangle dynamic. This was to be the end… and yet sequels and spin-offs would follow much later, but in the classical sense of the original, this was it. 1982 brought Macross to TV, 1984 would bring the Do You Remember Love? blockbuster film and finally in 1987 Flashback 2012. And as a fan I am really disappointed in Flashback 2012. Why?… well… maybe I had my expectations set really high.

MF2012_3The TV Series was a well done affair most of the time, the movie is too me, basically perfect in terms of visual expression and Flashback 2012 brings some new footage of Minmei, Hikaru and Misa including a full animated version of the song Tenshi no Eno Gu (Angel’s Paints) split in half for some reason. We get to see the new Macross life off for outer space with Misa as captain. Hikaru is still a fighter jock, a pilot’s pilot and Minmei’s career seems to be doing quite well. All three meet up again, but this is all for new material, not very much I must say. So what fills the majority of the half hour running time? Compiled footage from the TV Series and the movie over Minmei’s hit songs. Not a bad idea, but the editing and addition of early computer effects make the whole production kind of awkward. This may have been state of the art at the time, but it sometimes ends up looking a little funky around the edges.

Again as a fan I expected something a little more higher echelon in terms of a grand finale. But in the end all we have is Flashback 2012, which does in fact close the original Macross storyline and gives us a tribute of sorts to the music of Lynn Minmei. … If only I was in charge, things would have been different… if only…

#27b : The Rose of Versailles

For my original entry for The Rose of Versailles, click here.

Sometimes you have to recover your tracks in order to move forward. In terms of classic anime and in particular, The Rose of Versailles, I have a little more to say…

2019 Original Entry

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever re-watch certain shows that sit on my shelf or on a hard drive ever again? About a month or so ago I have given one particular show a second go and by the title of the entry it is of course The Rose of Versailles. It seemed like the right time. I didn’t question it, or wonder why. I just needed The Rose of Versailles. After a tough winter with nasty snows, isolation, some setbacks and a gnawing, or itch that chronically comes and goes, the The Rose of Versailles became a sea of calm and a vision of reassurance to say… hey, everything is will be ok. … OK time to get personal.

RoV1The Rose of Versailles has high regard for being a standard of anime excellence. Shojo perfection? Though I feel the show goes beyond the general demographic designation… as most anime does in any case. And with the show turning 40 this year of 2019, it still looks and presents flawlessly; a gorgeous visual masterpiece! The first half directed by Tadao Nagahama is bright and sparkly reflecting naive youth with the second half under the helm of Osamu Dezaki (GENIUS!) is gritty and intense showing the politics of revolutionary France. Beautiful and timeless, this is a show I am honored to share as a virtual twin (both RoV and I joined the world in 1979).

RoV2So what of the personal? The Rose of Versailles’ main protagonist. Oscar Francois de Jarjayes. is one of two women in anime that I whole heartedly admire; the other being Remy Shimada from GoShogun. Blonde, graceful, intelligent and independent speak to both ladies, but Oscar has something else, a particular fragility. Her sense of duty as a noble, a military commander and her enforced gender classification. Raised as a ‘boy’ and expected to follow into her father’s footsteps, much dysphoria abounds in the beautiful Oscar. This expectation of a gender role, to be a ‘man’ in public, tugs at the truth in her heart that she is a woman. Yet also the role of being a noble who has lived in luxury and comfort and seeing first hand the life outside the gilded cage. Being rich and powerful in a position of authority is not all that it is cracked up to be and the same goes for being a ‘man’ as well. To quote Alan Watts, “don’t envy rich people, it’s a great mistake. Don’t envy anyone.”

Personally I understand both of Oscar’s dilemma’s. I am not ‘rich’ in the way we often think with lots of money, fancy car and house, etc. I am comfortable, yes, as I live in the U.S. and have a ‘job’, but I have great health, my mind and intuitive senses. No amount of money can put a price on those three. Living in the affluent west and seeing much of the flash from TV screens, luxury items and being in stores with a glut of stuff… ok most of it can be classified as crap that is constantly being barraged through every sense imaginable. I must question, is this all life is? Is this to be my life? Living in a gilded cage of constant consumption where we are taught there is never enough and you have to bleed yourself dry in order to fit in? Like Oscar, I see the ‘nobility’ of our backgrounds as not real and limiting. Monarchy or capitalist state… looks about the same to me? We just need more corsets and petticoats instead of suits and wingtips. The other dilemma of playing the role of ‘being a man‘, what is that really? Only a facade?

RoV3In terms of the winter of discontent from 2018/2019, I had The Rose of Versailles as a catalyst to pull me out of my depression. Watching this time round made personal issues come into a better perspective; including waking up occasionally in pools of tears. Beyond these personal points, it is a show about love, politics, desires and revolutionary France with occasional sparkly eyes. God I love shojo anime! The Rose of Versailles, a bonfide masterpiece, oh how I love you.  I hope for this show, or any particular anime that you watch, you somehow take something of it with you to heart. Because sometimes a show is more a mirror of your inner psyche than just ephemeral entertainment. Think about that one!

2020 Addendum

A few things to add…

  1. I consider this a blessing that something odd and bizarre happened with the other entry as this allows me to proofread again…
  2. The tides of revolution that were prevalent in late 18th century France would seem a scary place to be… and yet in 2020, it is kind of at our front doors. If only open dialogue and discussion were the norm. Yet the tides of time of  current events seem to favor a showcasing of ignorance and arrogant soap boxing. I hope justice is not blind in terms of karma.
  3. I will admit early on I removed many references I had at the time in my 2019 writing that I was dealing with some gender dysphoria. This is not something I need to hide from, but as a private individual in a more conservative area, it is something that I feel I have to be discreet about.
  4. 2020… could this be the fall of the decadent West, the gilded cage, that I eluded to earlier? Or perhaps, an evolution towards true freedom?