#224 : Lily C.A.T.

Space can be a lonely and dark place. When one is on a long interstellar space flight time can play funny things with it’s crew. Moving at light speeds puts us decades behind our home world, which begs the questions of are we really returning home? Now if that wasn’t bad enough lets add a killer virus invasion on this ship as well. Two strikes for sure, but let’s add a third. Two of the passengers brought on board are not who they say they are and one is a suspected murderer. Did I really sign up for this flight? The saving grace, at least for me, is the fact that we get a cat to join us on this trip. Thankfully this is all fiction… an OVA from 1987… Lily C.A.T.

LilyCAT_1Certain anime titles are painful for me to watch and Lily C.A.T. is one of them. Not because of the subject matter, a dark who done it mystery set aboard an interstellar spaceship, or the occasional depiction of blood, or violence to human characters. Or even the fact that this is an average run of the mill thriller sci-fi OVA that can be lobed in with a slew of other titles that are very similar. As someone who loves cats and has had cats around since my birth watching the few scenes of violence towards, or hearing, the extreme cries coming from the feline character always makes me uneasy. Seeing a cat in pain or suffering in plain bold sight hits too close to home from personal memories that just hurt. No cat should suffer, as well as anything else either.

LilyCAT_2Lily C.A.T. is often compared to the film Alien, but I also see this OVA as a combination of three anime productions as an alternative (this is my theory by the way). I see Lily C.A.T. as a mix of Gall Force: Eternal Story (which is in many ways similar to Alien), They Were 11 and Dallos. The obvious double whammy of a who is the stowaway here (They Were 11) and confronting a killer alien virus, which leaves two people left alive to start over (Gall Force), are obvious if you are familiar with these two films. But Dallos is a little more of an outsider, unless you examine the production credits. Both Dallos and Lily C.A.T. have a similar visual look as they were both made at Studio Pierrot (with differing character designers) and feature the talent of Hisayuki Toriumi, a long time veteran of the anime industry.

LilyCAT_3Toriumi’s approach for a darker and more serious sci-fi is characteristic of the earlier Dallos. But unlike Dallos, Lily C.A.T. does actually have a plot that progresses without plot holes, has an ending that has some sort of resolution and makes… SENSE! Maybe something got lost in the shuffle when production began for Dallos, or perhaps there were plot holes from the start?… hey now this one is about Lily C.A.T. remember?… Toriumi had been around for decades and is in some ways one of anime’s best directors that never gets much attention. Many of the Tatsunoko classics like Gatchaman as an example as well as Area 88, Baoh and a co-director on Mysterious Cities of Gold. Nice resume! And those character designs which are attributed to both Yasuomi Umetsu and Yoshitaka Amano are stellar mixed with the production work of Studio Pierrot.

LilyCAT_4For a thriller that mixes up a lot of ideas, Lily C.A.T. is a damn good action sci-fi drama examining relationships in a time of crisis. Of course I had my difficult moments, but I know this was all a work of fiction and no cats were really harmed in the process. Still… those cat cries are terrifying. This was also one of Streamline Pictures releases way back in the VHS era and the dub is quite good as well. Mike Reynolds as the captain is one of my favorite roles he has ever portrayed. We learn over time the secret of who this Lily C.A.T. really is and this reminds me a little of 2001: A Space Odyssey in terms of the character HAL… even yet more sci-fi influences. I guess there is no harm in mixing up a lot of stuff to come up with something quite entertaining.

#210 : Take the X Train

If ever an anime made me scratch my head and go what in the world did I just watch, then Take the X Train is perhaps near the top of the list. Just exactly what genre is this OVA? It’s like a comedy and a suspense thriller and perhaps a horror flick(?) and I may be stretching it… a mecha production. Not so much piloting a robot, or cybernetics, but consider this concept… the combining of man and machine on a metaphysical as well as a physical level. Take the X Train is a ride you will never forget. ALL ABOARD!!

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), quality = 100“This work is dedicated to the Jazz great, Duke Ellington,” proclaims the opening credits. A send up to one of his well known hits, Take the A Train, Take the X Train is not so much like the Duke in terms of style. Maybe more like Miles Davis in his more experimental works, or even better, Ornette Colemen, or Cecil Taylor. Why I say the later two is because while the plot is comprehensible, this anime is a free form piece of art, more like Free Jazz than the Duke’s sophisticated Big Band style. Do I love Jazz by the way? Oh yeah, John Coltrane and Thelonius Monk I wear on my sleeve. Jazz is even used as the background music, bur only occasionally… hmm?

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), quality = 100Visually this is a very tasteful movie in the style of the already mentioned Jazz in pictures. The editing, design, everything seems to be to be like an art house film, not at all pristine and mainstream. This is not in the same vain as say Angel’s Egg, but maybe more like California Crisis: Gun Salvo (my opinion). Then a familiar name appears… actually make that two. First was the studio, Madhouse, who always makes anime with a little bit of edge and artsy flavor no matter the genre, or the director. The second is the director, a favorite of mine due to his visual narrative approach mixed with a little avant-garde attitude, Rintaro. His work is definitely an acquired taste; examples include: Space Pirate Captain Harlock, the Galaxy Express 999 films (GE999 and Adieu), Bride of Deimos, Dagger of Kamui, Harmeggeddon, and the Labyrinth section from Neo Tokyo.

XTrain_3Trains of course are at the focus of this OVA, as well as our main protagonist, Tour Ishihara. An average guy, though a bit goofy and kind of eccentric, Toru works for a company that is planning to revitalize and market a more retro attitude for the train market. One train is at the focus of this committee, which goes by EF 5861, a train that Toru thinks is a junk heap. Watch what you say my friend, as this train has a certain destiny that coincides with yours. In other news, one night after a fun time with his girlfriend (this was the most awkward love scene I have ever seen), Toru waits for the next train in a crowd when all of a sudden the lights go dark and sparks fly all over the atmosphere and in particular the tracks. Then passes a mysterious locomotive… could it be a ghost train…is this all for real? May I introduce our other main character, the X Train.

XTrain_4With no expectations coming in I was amazed I found another interesting gem of an OVA buried in the garden of lost anime titles. While a little bizarre, the artsy nature of Rintaro brought out a certain charm in Take the X Train, which is by the way based on a novel by Koichi Yamano (I give credit to fansub ending credits for this bit of info). The only thing I won’t miss are Toru’s twitching pulse and occasional nose bleeds; every time it always gives me the creeps. Now for a send off, check out Duke Ellington’s recording of Take the ‘A’ Train. It swings!

#198 : Hades Project Zeorymer

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the form of a four episode mecha anime… never thought I would say that statement. Here we have an OVA that begins a little weak and then evolves very quickly after the initial introduction into one of the darkest tales of the piloted giant robot genre. In the end who is the hero and who is the villain? Maybe it could be played from either side, or maybe neither side is truly on the side of justice, which brings up another topic, the aspect of self identity. Am I really who I think I am, or am I only the programming of someone else’s will? Wow this sounds deep, so this must have been well loved? By some yes, by others not so much… this was Hades Project Zeorymer.

HPZ_1Let’s now dive into this interesting stew. Mix part Izcer-1 and Dangaioh from director Toshiro Hirano; 80s mecha OVA experience check. Now add in some Silent Möbius from character designer Michitaka Kikuchi (a.k.a. Kia Asamiya); gritty cyberpunk attitude check. Now add this to a previously released mecha manga that was featured in a lolita hentai magazine and was created by the mind responsible for the Guyver (Yoshiki Takaya). What the?! Now how did this all work out as a mainstream OVA release? Easy… no hentai, or lolicon stuff… oh good that was creeping me out. The final product became a possible prototype for what became of mecha anime in the late 1990s. Angst filled, psychological, darker in tone… perhaps Evangelion was not as revolutionary as we are led to believe? After all Evangelion paid homage to the many things from creator Hideaki Anno’s past, including his mental journey states. Now let us return to Zeorymer.

HPZ_2How is it that I am so mixed about Zeorymer? The first episode was a bit of a let down and I was thinking that things were pointing to a plot direction of a mecha of the episode fighting against a wimpy hero. Then things change over the remaining three episodes moving into an extremely darker tone that shapes not only the characters, but the plot as well. We begin with our protagonist who plays the victim card and is taken by strangers to pilot a giant robot that was stolen from a large organization bent on conquering the world. With this renegade machine we find our protagonist change from scared and mild mannered into inhumane and cold. This is like shifting from Gundam’s Amuro Ray, or Evangelion’s Shinji Ikari into the archetype of M.D. Geist at the drop of a pin. Our hero is not a hero, or a victim, but perhaps a villain? Or is he? Several characters in this OVA, including our main character, end up looking inside themselves to realize what they thought they were was nothing more than a manufactured hoax.

HPZ_3Very heavy themes surround Zeorymer, but the shorter episode count format could have been longer in my opinion. The subject matter could have worked very well for a TV series, or at least a longer OVA run to develop the plot even more. We have to accept what is given even though for me this anime had a lot of potential. I am always a sucker for a deep intense story so when it gets good in terms ot being ‘serious’ I want to dive even deeper down and down and down. Even if darker themes are not your cup of tea what cannot be denied is the quality of Zeorymer in terms of presentation. Like many of Hirano’s directorial projects the detail and fluidity are very high in terms of quality. Spare no expenses here, this is a nice looking OVA.

HPZ_41988 brought many reinventions and presentations in the OVA market. Gunbuster, Patlabor and Dragon’s Heaven all brought a hope of light to the future of mecha anime. But what of the former dramatic titles from the past that filled either epic space opera, or deep sacrificial tones to the story that were on television? This all seemed to be a memory until the appearance of a lone dark figure, Zeorymer, who would appear against the previously mentioned titles as a both a call from the past and a harbinger of the future. Zeorymer may not be too everyone’s taste palette, but it cannot be ignored.