#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.

#183 : Megazone 23 Part II: Please Give Me Your Secret

“Whatever happened to my rock n’ roll?” … Now the title says so and this plot says so, but this certainly don’t look like, or feel exactly like the Megazone 23 I remember? After the runaway success of the 1985 original in terms of sales, ¥1.7 billion ($21.3 million) from 216,000 copies sold in Japan, it became a no brainer that a sequel would be a viable option for 1986. If you thought the exploits of Shogo Yahagi and the Proto Garland as well as the songs of Eve Tokimatsuri were complete… think again. While this could been an attempt at a cash grab, the final product says otherwise. Megazone 23 Part II: Please Give Me Your Secret may be a sequel, but it has a message and heart at it’s core.

MZ23p2_1Shaken up I was initially with this sequel compared to the original OVA in terms of presentation and even the story. Gone are the familiar character designs of Toshihiro Hirano with that slick fashion magazine look and enter a more punk esthetic mixed with the detail of Yasuomi Umetsu’s handy work. Familiar faces like Shogo, Yui and B.D. have all changed, becoming unrecognizable, but Eve still retains her style with slight updates from the original design by Haruhiko Mikimoto. For a while I played the polarity fence of favoring the first part over this second part. Over time I have come to enjoy both installments, recognizing them as great anime titles on their own, but I will always have a deep place in my heart for Megazone 23 (Part 1). Now on with the show…

MZ23p2_2Months have passed in Tokyo since we last left Shogo Yahagi’s ‘final’ encounter with B.D. Shogo is on the run and has aligned himself with a bike gang of street punks known as the Trash. The war in space is still on with Megazone 23 going against a strange enemy that uses tentacle like weapons that drill through anything, including human flesh (not for the faint of heart). All the while to the general public it is business as usual, though there is some war that is still talked about on the news; bliss in ignorance. B.D. is still trying to crack the main computer controlling Megazone 23 and the EVE program from that mainframe continues to call out with, “Operator 7G please respond!” Operator 7G of course is Shogo and he continues finding Eve on various media streams calling out to him. The time has come to answer this call, but first… Shogo has to get the Proto Garland back! And this is only the beginning of this story.

MZ23p2_3Megazone 23 Part II has the familiar mecha action from the first installment, but with a new director Ichiro Itano. Itano was known primarily for his animation kills with action sequences that have lots of firepower and intricate motion. This is on full display during the heat of action. Yet this is so much more than an all out action fest. The moments of character interaction particularly with Shogo and his friends are where we get the real message of Megazone 23 Part II. A message of anti-authority distrust and attitude towards corrupt adults only bent on power and narcissism are of no concern to Shogo and the Trash. Though they may be street punks, they do have a sense of honor and respect for the simple pleasures of life and friendship. So ‘stick it to the man’… literally. … And as a side bonus, we even get another love scene for those of you who like hot romance… very steamy!

MZ23p2_4I still feel that the original version stands on it’s own as a total package even with an ending that was open ended, yet satisfyingly complete. I feel this second installment gives an alternate future of what could have happened to Shogo, but maybe not the definitive. The beauty of Megazone 23 Part II is the fact that we do get a silver lining at the end. After all the insanity, the violence and the hardship, we get a breathe of fresh air, some peace. Much like life when coming out of hardship, the moment you take a look at what’s in front of you and smile in content you realize it was all worth it. Megazone 23 Part II, in the end you are worth it… no grudges anymore.

… Hey! Side note… did you spot the references to the ThunderCats and SilverHawks?

#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