My first time ever watching anime? When did I lose my supposed anime virginity when it came to watching animation that originated in Japan? It may sound similar to many of you, but no one ever has the exact same experience. So as for my first time(s)… here we go.
I was at the right age when Voltron first aired in 1984, I was five. And then of course the next year Robotech really cemented a life long curiousity. And though there are those who really poo-poo both shows for westernizes edits, they were both products of where the industry was at the time. Give credit that we had an opportunity to see these properties without all the hype that surrounds anime today. There was no stigma, good or bad, about the genre. They were just shows I loved. Though to be honest I may have been a little young for Robotech, but the fact I was watching a show that did not talk down to me and had a little more substance than just beat the bad guys this week resonated the six year old me very hard. Plus another factor to consider is the fact that many of the shows that were on were if not original to Japan, they were animated in Japan. And that patina rubbed off on Transformers, Thundercats, M.A.S.K. and Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors. Even Rainbow Brite was animated at TMS and had Osamu Dezaki on staff. Move over Sailor Moon, Ms. Brite was my first exposure to magical girl genre.
There were other television shows that came to market as well, but I don’t remember seeing them. Of course there were movies and three I do remember very well. The irony is from TV I learned to love mecha, but from these three films I gained an appreciation for Shoujo anime. Gender marketing knows no bounds when it comes to good storytelling. The first that comes to mind is the Little Mermaid. No not the Disney adaptation with red headed Ariel, but Toei’s 1975 version with blonde Marina. And where Disney’s adaptation virtually relaunched the company after a decade and a half of not much large success, the Toei version sticks closer to Hans Christian Anderson’s original. In the end she gives her life and does not live happily ever after with the prince. I still, as a grown man, cry over this and consider it one of the most beautiful tragedies all off time.
And number two, how about an adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. I know of two, a series from 1986, which is cute, but I am here to talk about another adaptation. Let’s look at the 1982 feature film that was not released in Japan until 1986. 1986 again? OK. And again our heroine has blonde hair so if you are used to Judy Garland, expect a little change. The dub is a little goofy and features a few well known names of the time: Aileen Quinn from the film adaptation of Annie and long time Hollywood actor Lorne Greene to name a few. Its fun and for a child it is a good alternative, but I will admit I think the 1986 TV series edges out this movie (my opinion), but I still think it is worth a watch.
And number three, how about Toei’s Swan Lake from 1981. Oh good lets rock some Tchaikovsky. From what I know it has been dubbed twice and the one I am most familiar with is the one with Christopher Atkins, Pam Dawber and David Hemmings (if you have seen old 60s films like Blow Up! and Barbarella, he should be familiar). The much beloved ballet which tells the story of a girl enchanted by an evil sorcerer and the prince who saves her. As generic as that is, what makes it fresh is of course the music of Tchaikovsky and the look, which is very familiar to the Little Mermaid and Voltron as all three were Toei productions of the 70s/early 80s. This is one I would like to have a physical copy of. Oh and I forgot… our leading lady Odette… has blonde hair. AGAIN! I see a trend here?
So who has seen these three? Did you catch them on TV back in the day or did you rent the tape? Ah… VHS, though you don’t have the best video quality, I still love you.