dyr #58 : The Professional: Golgo 13

Duke Togo, alias Golgo 13, you sir are one tough motherf$@%&#.

G13_1To preface the premise of Golgo 13, think James Bond, more like Daniel Craig or Timothy Dalton’s portrayals, but even more sinister. Also think of Lupin III, but a Lupin who has no sense of humor. Golgo 13 is the definition of a hired hitman, or perhaps maybe a programmed machine. He is more humane than say M.D. Geist (I still don’t get that dude, but I have written about that already), but Golgo 13 is still a very stoic and pragmatic individual. His life is a series of contract hits to frag spliced between getting into bed with one glamorous woman after another. To some The Professional: Golgo 13 may be the ultimate action flick, but this film displays other aspects that make it a visually artistic classic.

G13_2One name makes me think of this movie and it’s not the original creator, Takao Saito. The man I am thinking of is in my opinion one of the greatest directors from Japan, one of studio Tokyo Movie Shinsa’s (TMS) best, the one and only, Osamu Dezaki. His style of rough thick lines, triples takes, dramatic lighting and pastel still shots add a level of film noir, style and sex appeal that transforms the story of a dry hitman into perhaps the best pulp noir comic come to life I have seen to date. It looks un-mistakingly hand made, with the exception of the early CG footage in the titles and the goofy helicopter sequence (why did they not just hand draw it?). In my honest opinion it may be the best adaptation of Dezaki’s visual style. Sex and violence never looks so… stylish?

G13_3The plot meanders around various segments, but there is a singular tie that holds everything together. Tycoon Leonard Dawson on the day of his retirement is about to hand over his empire to his beloved son Robert until… until young Robert is murdered in cold blood. Enter the melodrama. Leonard Dawson throughout the film in a psychotic rage has only one passion and that is to get the man who took away his son. And guess who shot Robert? None other than Golgo 13 himself. So why would Golgo 13 shoot young Robert? Because that was his job, his contract to fulfill and I will not reveal who it was who hired Golgo 13, but it definitely makes the movie a very interesting experience. One great plot twist that makes the ending completely difference than what you expected.

G13_4I want to come back to the element of style for this movie. Though it was produced in 1983 and the original manga began in the late 1960s, this movie to me feels very 1970s. Give me the wood grain finish on anything, or everything in any scene’s room. Show me those funky clothes, the nasty smell of Golgo 13’s choice of cigarettes (Parliaments no less), the Farrah Fawcett styled hair from character designer Akio Sugino (I swear all his women could have been one the cover of Cosmopolitan back in the day) and the showcase of classic cars.

Another way I can look at this movie is to compare it to Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. While both films are wild rides and have a similar look, at least from my eye, I find The Professional: Golgo 13 to be less romanticized or idealized, maybe even fun. Both films deal with the story of a hitman, but in typical style from Japan, Golgo 13 is not Hollywood-like and thank goodness for that. I often wonder when this film originally was produced if it could have been created for the Western market as a possible export. This is one of the few films I can show my dad, who is not into anime at all. But, he likes mob and tough guy movies and Golgo 13 hits that mark very well.

The Professional: Golgo 13 may not be everyones cup of tea in regards for story, but I have to highly recommend watching this film at least once to see the style of Dezaki’s work in action. The Space Adventure Cobra movie is another possibility, but it does not hold a candle to Golgo 13 in terms of mood and visual story telling. Lastly, I hope you are never on his hit list and just in case if you are… “I pray for you. Pray for you (enter the whaling guitars).”

dyr #57 : To-Y

Rule number one for rock n’ roll… never, ever, but never, sell out. Rule number two… repeat rule number one. Got that? OK, now let’s move on…

toy_1Here is a common tale about a young man who lived in 1980s Japan. He is a singer in a band and the name of that group was Gasp (note: The ‘A’ is the anarchist symbol when written… that earns 1,000 bonus points from me). A punk quartet they all were and the name of the leader, who this one-off OVA surrounds, as well as the name of this anime title is none other than To-Y (pronounced ‘toy’)… must of had interesting parents.

toy_2Our story begins at a live show where Gasp is playing their hearts out when a rival of To-Y decides to start trouble and the two get into a fist fight. Despite their popularity they are shunned from the venue and the band decides to regroup for their next show which promises to be a big break. To-Y returns homes with what looks like some groupie tag along who eventually meets a beautiful blonde girl who looks very similar to To-Y due to the fact that she is a direct cousin. She of course is a pop star and her manager also managed the boy who started the fight with To-Y. And it seems this manager wants to sign To-Y as well, I wonder what tricks she will try to lure him in (she looks quite dangerous after all)?

toy_3Don’t expect too much of a plot due to the length being under an hour. And… also be prepared for an open ending (I am still scratching my head on this one?). But what you should  be ready for is a production that is filled with style. I mean we are dealing with punk rock, the 1980s and early MTV styled creativity full steam ahead. It’s not a pretty piece, though it caught my eye for sure, but it is a good looking one filled with color and special effect that harken to the period it came from. Never the less, if I can sum up To-Y I would say it is a poor man’s Jem and the Holograms, with the boys being in the band and no sci-fi or holographic transformations (shows over Synergy).

Music is one of my many loves and finding anime that tell stories about young men and women who play instruments and form bands are welcome in my house. Call it wishful fantasy for a guitarist like myself that never quite got a band together, or call it a nice alternative to the usual robots, fighting or magical girls. To-Y is one of those odd ball OVAs that you dig up and for me am happy to have discovered. “Hey, hey. My, my. Rock n’ roll will never die.”

dyr #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). 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.

dyr #51 : Fire Tripper

Is love predestined? Can love transcend time? Can you recognize a soul male in the most unexpected place? If you can answer yes to these three questions then you have an amazing life and partner and understand a higher level of law of attraction. Let’s look at a love story that transcends space and time but, watch out for fire or explosions as we enter the world of Fire Tripper.

FT_1The first entry in Rumiko Takahashi’s Rumik World OVA series, 1985’s Fire Tripper represents what I love about the so-called queen of comedy mangaka. True she is well known for her long, very long, series that are some of the most popular titles in all of anime… I want a show of hands of those of you who love Urusei Yatsura, Maison Ikkoku, Ranma 1/2 or InuYasha? While these shows are classic, I personally like her shorter tales. And the Rumik World collection are perfect gold for me. Give me Maris the Chojo, Laughing Target, Mermaid Forest or… Fire Tripper. Also… give me a more serious storyline (I’m melancholic in temperament).

FT_2Suzuko is your typical schoolgirl except for two things. One, her best friend and next door neighbor is a little boy named Shu. Shu adores Suzuko like an older sister and her nature toward him is almost maternal. And two, in the presence of being caught in an explosion and fire, Suzuko can… travel through time. No, seriously. In one of these explosions she is transported back to the medieval civil war where she meets a tough young man named Shukumaru who has an adopted sister named Suzu. As the plot unfolds it turns out that Suzuko and Suzu share a bell necklace and that Shukumaru has the same scar as young Shuhei. Do I see a pattern here?

FT_3So… sorry to spoil the plot here kids, but these two individuals have known each other in two distinct eras of time as young children and the older senpai type relationship. Now with the passing hands of destiny, they can meet each other during the primes of their youth and realize their connection is meant to be. I may have written it out here as a little corny or staged, but trust me if you have not seen Fire Tripper it is farther from the truth. What we see is the growth of what seems like two completely incompatible people learning to look beyond the proverbial first impression.

FT_4Historically speaking, at least for me, Fire Tripper was the first production of Rumiko Takahashi that I gave a chance to. I was never too big on Ranma’s comedic antics and I tried a couple episodes of Urusei Yatsura, but did not feel like watching the near 200 episode count. Fire Tripper would fall on my lap one day and like destiny so to speak I fell in love instantly. And from there I would move onto Maris the Chojo and Mermaid Forest, my two favorites by Takahashi. So now I realize why Madame Takahashi is held in high regard. I just needed the proper medium at the right time so to speak.

When looking back at all the anime that has been created, we often find many a diamond in the rough. Many shine brightly, or uniquely on their own accord. In the course of time loves shines above all and Fire Tripper shines like no other… ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’.

dyr #50 : Windaria

Windaria_1When it comes to animated fairy tale or love stories, at least here in the west, Disney seems to have cornered the market. Everything ends happily ever after and no matter what good triumphs over evil. What would Shakespeare or the Ancient Greeks think of this? For every day there is a night. Love stories are as much about the pain and hardships of being authentic towards your true feelings. And in 1986, the year Studio Ghibli debuted Castle in the Sky, another film would show the strife and complexity of love, war and honesty. The beautiful shojo masterpiece known as Windaria.

Windaria_2Ask me what is the best animated film from Japan during the 1980s and I will always pick Windaria. Early Ghibli films are great, Akira was amazing and Macross: Do You Remember Love is my version of the Super Bowl, but Windaria is special. Very, very special. A product of my beloved Kaname Production, this 1986 gem is a film that is overlooked to the point of being a crime. I see it as an allegory of not following one’s truest desires or feelings and letting the environment dictate your life. It reminds me of a quote from an obscure movie about the composer Gustav Mahler, “Do things out of love and not duty, Duty destroys, duty always destroys.” And we see this concept through the eyes of two pairs of lovers caught up in a land on the brink of an impending war.

Windaria_3The first set of lovers are the more idealized in the tradition of fairy tale story telling. Princess Ahnas of Itha lives in a seaside paradise. She is carefree and beautiful, but she is also worried. Tensions with the neighboring kingdoms of Paro are begining to escalate. And this becomes a personal issue because she is in love with Jill, the prince of Paro. Neither of our young lovers want to see war and hope to create a bridge of peace, but much like Romeo and Juliet their star crossed love has a difficult road. And when the respective royalty on both sides pass their authoritative powers on, our couple has to decide which decision is of more importance. Is it their love and their hopes for the future, or their duty as members of the royal court to uphold their honors as heads of state?

Windaria_4Complimenting our royal duo is another young couple of more common origins. Izu and Marin are farmers in the neutral territory between Itha and Paro and their lives revolve around selling of their crops. primarily to Itha, and giving respect to their land by praying to the giant tree in their land known as Windaria. The one problem is with Izu, as he desires to be something more than a common farmer. His insecurity and angst shows his feelings that he is not good enough, but for Marin this is not the case. She loves him for who he genuinely is and cares nothing of what others expectations are. Despite this, Izu decides that he must do something to prove he is special and gets involved in the upcoming war. Just how this will this affect his relationship with Marin in the end?

Windaria_5Windaria is a tale of love and responsibility and in many ways is as I have stated above, the inverse of what a traditional Walt Disney film is. Our heroes have to face consequences for their actions and everything does not tie up nicely at the end. It is one of the saddest films I have ever seen, even on a par with Grave of Fireflies, but a little different. Even with all the tragedy, Windaria stands as one of the most beautifully made films in anime and what makes it that way is the gentleness that rides under the current of the madness. What we have is a cautionary tale, much like the true telling of The Little Mermaid, and often times the lessons we learn the hardest often are the ones that eventually make us open our eyes to see the beauty of what you truly have. Never forget the beauty of what you have in front of you and take care of yourself and your environment, because they are interdependent.

I will always hold Windaria high in my regard for the beauty of the story, the music, the haunting yet serene beginning sequence and the tear filled ending. Films like this only come to fruition on rare occasion and their impact is second to none. And lastly, thank you Kaname Production for producing this film. I have always loved the work you all have done and Windaria is a magnun opus you should be most proud of.

afternote: This has been released in the west as an edited film known as Once Upon a Time. I am not here to judge, but from what I have heard and read it is not a genuine retelling. Just be aware in case you come across a copy of this film with an English dub.

 

dyr #45 : Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam

Whether in the afterworld or someplace else, the soul that used to inhabit this cold shell is probably not at peace. And further out there is a green planet… ” … I love that intro and yes I love this show. While I often think you can never go beyond an original, this is a big exception. This is not a sequel, nor a followup to Mobile Suit GundamMobile Suit Zeta Gundam is a melancholic ride of intensity that can never be topped.

ZG_1For me Zeta Gundam is the pinnacle of Gundam. I have not seen every Gundam series and to be honest I don’t know how I can. This show left a mark on me that I cannot shake even now. At it’s best it might be the most brutal and passionate tale of epic space opera mecha. The aftermath of ZZ Gundam and then Char’s Counterattack left me disappointed as I felt the story had no where else to go, or just didn’t go anywhere. Zeta Gundam, for me, was the top of what mecha once was and became. Even watching mecha related shows from later decades that take on the direct seriousness and drama, for me, are more cookie cutter or fall flat with being a bit too much for what it is (Evangelion is an exception, but that is it’s own brillance).

ZG_2When I first watched Zeta I had no idea what was going on and this was due to the fact that I had zero exposure to the Universal Century timeline. I watched almost a third of the show and proclaimed I had to go back a little further to make some sense of all this. Once I got around to the original Mobile Suit Gundam series and digested all there was I was in much better shape. I would come back to Zeta and digested the first half this time with glee and joy. I would eventually purchase the second half and, no lie, watched the final 25 episodes in what was possibly one of the greatest endurance runs of my life. In the span of a day and a half I would finish that second half and my life was never the same.

ZG_3Zeta takes place about eight years after the original series and for me the real draw is our new protagonist. I love Kamille Bidan. Some say he is troubled, maybe autistic. It may be that, but his confusion and angst mixed with raw ability hit very close to almost looking in the mirror. I get this guy, totally get this guy. Also with the reintroductions of Char Aznable… I mean Quattro Bajenna (love those shades dude), Amuro Ray (who I still find it hard to believe had a back seat role in this chapter), Bright Noa (welcome back captain) and most of the other members of the White Base crew makes everything proper and tidy. And with a plethora of many more new characters in this series as well, it is sad to say that a minority live to the end. Many tears have I shed over and over again over the loss of so many folks including the troubled Four Murasume and the brilliant Emma Sheen.

ZG_4Now I want to discuss the ending. How do you describe it… kind of like a car accident? All that heavy action and movement, which breaks to a moment of reflection and confusion which seems to stand still. Where am I, why do I feel in shock that I can’t even talk, what just happened? How sad to watch our protagonist, Kamille, once filled with such passion and drive become nothing more than a confused shell. And that is our finale. Cut… done. That’s it? Yup and somehow even though many call it a downer and open ended ending, I find it beyond satisfying. This is not some wrapped up in a bow Hollywood every one wins and smiles at the end kind of ending. This is a close the book, take a breathe and sighing out type of ending. You have to take some time to process what has just occurred and not just only the ending, but the whole show as an entirety. And because of the need of this processing, it stays with you. LIKE GLUE!

Zeta Gundam… a product of it’s time, a pinnacle of a generation and a classic for all time. One of my all time favorites now and forever.

dyr #39 : Night on the Galactic Railroad

notgr_1I lay awake at night and often think and wonder. A child’s question of, “Mommy, what happens to us when we die?” Or, “Why do we have to suffer?” come to mind. Deep questions, but very important to have a sense of knowing that death is not an end and that life’s lessons can be hard, but beneficial for growth. In the end we all have to make sacrifice and when that sacrifice is to better another for no reason beyond providing a moment of respect, then that is unconditional love and true friendship. This is my friend, who I love, Night on the Galactic Railroad.

notgr_2Childhood can be a difficult time when you are a small and quiet child. Particularly when you grow up as a boy as you can be an easy target for bullying from other children. This is even more true when you are not involved with your fellow peers. Giovanni is such a child. He often falls asleep in class, not because he is a slacker, but because he has to sacrifice for his family. With an absent father and sick mother, young Giovanni has to work to help the family unit. He is essentially alone in the world around him, but his life is about to be turned upside down. On a quiet night he is welcomed to join an incredible journey as a locomotive arrives in a field he is laying in out of no where. And like in Galaxy Express 999, this train does not run on tracks, but flies through out the expanse of outer space… the only way to travel.

Aboard this train he meets his classmate, Campanella, who has always shown compassion towards Giovanni and the two of them enjoy a travel to the stars and beyond. Along the way they meet other travelers and discover the beauty of what the universe has to hold. Each circumstance brings it’s own experience or story as Giovanni and Campanella both enjoy their voyage. Is this all a dream? Could it be the line between life and death? Why are these two boys on this train ride into the great vastness of the universe?

notgr_3Let us look at the concept of sacrifice once again as we all know you can’t get something for nothing or achieve without giving up something in return. The basic law of compensation. The ‘Flame of Scorpio’, which may be my favorite bit of dialogue in the whole movie, I think wraps up the whole idea of giving for a greater cause. Of any ‘children’s story’ I have come across, this has to be the most spiritual, deep and melancholy. As C.S. Lewis once said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” So true for Night on the Galactic Railroad.

notgr_4Plus, this movie has anamorphic cats for it’s main cast. I’m a cat person, so there is a little bias, but from early on the production crew wanted to portray our main cast as other than obvious humans. After all a cat can have a human experience too, as they have a particular sense of their own consciousness. Mix that with the references of Miyazawa’s Buddhist ideals and a sprinkle of Christian symbolism makes this a film that can be understood no matter your beliefs. Faith and spirit always return back to the one source. And that source is the beauty of the darkness and space and the reality of the material and closeness of the cosmos and our own Earth. Night on the Galactic Railroad reminds us about the joy and terror of the unknown as that unknown brings exponential rewards.

How does one describe such subtle beauty? In the vastness of the dark of space, or on our planet Earth, we can often feel out of place or alone. But in all the space between most of us there is always someone who will want to share a moment of time with you? And some of those moments might be the best and/or the last time another may share only with you and you alone. Never underestimate the power of those who love you or, the power of the universe itself or… the power of this movie.

dyr #38 : Space Adventure Cobra (movie)

For most of us, and long before the newer releases, we had two avenues to see Cobra. You either started with the movie being discussed here, or the TV series. And though it is the same character and surroundings, both options are very different. For me I went with the TV series first. When I got to the movie I thought… wait a minute, this is kind of… not the same. Almost like watching the Ghost in the Shell movie compared to the GiTS: Stand Alone Complex series, there is something a little not unlike the other here.

sac_m1As stated earlier the setting, characters and feel are still very much like the TV show, but Cobra the movie, is much more surreal. Surreal to the point of being psychedelic? And perhaps I dare to say slightly darker tone. Wait, how can Cobra be dark? This is Cobra, one of the heights of fun space adventure science fiction. But, if you see the film you will understand. Even the look, going back to the surreal and psychedelia, wraps itself into the movie. It’s director Osamu Dezaki’s vision through and through filled with vivid color and odd moments of spectacle. Without question it is one of the most visually appealing films of the 1980s. You can watch this film on silent and still have an experience you will have a hard time to explain with mere words. And as this is a space sci-fi movie, the experimentation of techniques used here are… far out, but not lost in a mess.

sac_m2The story is a reimagined tale of the first arc of the Cobra TV series and manga. Cobra gets caught up with the beauty triplets of Jane, Catherine and then Dominique as they try to search for the lost treasure… no wait that was dropped… they are searching for love? Well the girls are and guess who is the one who is loved? It’s Cobra himself; I wonder if Lady Armaroid is jealous (Cobra’s female robot sidekick). But, love? I said that the TV series was sexy and this movie is in a way as well, but it’s a more monogamous, perhaps tri-gamous, as Cobra is not being the usual ladies man. How can he? We have to keep to a tight schedule on this movie and only the sisters are for him to admire. It works.

sac_m3Of course the crew are aided with advice from Professor Topolov/Toporo… and where did this guy come from? He is always floating in a bubble and he is kinda creepy. Almost like a chaperone for Jane and the girls… who thought up this guy? And then Cobra has to duel it out with the classic villain of no compare, Crystal Boy/Bowie! That dude is creepy no matter where he is presented, be it TV or movie. Pure genesis having a naked crystal clear man as your antagonist (very,  very bold).

sac_m4My only gripe is that the Japanese voice cast for the film is not the same as the TV show. It’s well done, but it is odd who a television series and a movie made the same year could not share the same cast? A little disappointing, but hey the English dub is not too bad. So I can watch Cobra in English? OK, plus it’s Dan Woren’s voice as Cobra. It’s no substitute for the TV series, but it is equal in it’s own way. You have to see both to understand. But what makes either version great, and in particular this movie, is the production quality. Tokyo Movie Shinsa back in the day always had a great look and with Dezaki as director, it shines even brighter.

A toast to Space Adventure Cobra… and maybe be like Cobra and enjoy a cigar, or maybe not as it is not healthy.

dyr #34 : Anne of Green Gables

aogg_1Families can come in all shapes, sizes, or colors. Many times unlikely circumstances can bring about the formation of a family that may not have been planned. On another subject, how is it that Japan made some of the best adaptations of beloved western children’s novel? And another subject, the work of Isao Takahata before Studio Ghibli. Now to put together all three ingredients… and what we get is one of the trilogy of World Masterpiece Theater Series that Takahata directed. We shall look at the third and final, a beloved story around the world, 1979’s Anne of Green Gables.

aogg_2Before I begin I will say that I have yet to read the original book written by Lucy Maud Montgomery at the time of this writing. I was aware of another animated version that aired here in the U.S. on PBS as well as the famous name of this classic. But of course if a version was created for the Japanese market, in my eyes, I have to watch it. And watch I did as I have been getting into much of the World Masterpiece Theater Series and enjoying them immensely. Add in Isao Takahata’s directing vision and the skills of Nippon Animation and  you have a combination of fine pedigree. Though the first five episodes were a slow start, at least for me, it began to turn into a typical Takahata production of an investigation into the intimate lives of characters.

aogg_3The beginning of this story has Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, an elder pair of siblings who live in rural Canada and are in need of a child to aid in the farmwork of Matthew. Hoping for a boy they end up with a scrawny red headed girl, Anne Shirley, who has had bad luck in finding a lasting home. Marilla’s strictness, Mathew’s gentleness and Anne’s imagination and firecracker temper all seems to meld together as the three learn what it is to be a family unit. Not only does Anne grow from childhood into adulthood, but the Cuthbert siblings also evolve. Almost in a direct opposition of Takahata’s Grave of Fireflies, Anne of Green Gables shows what happens with the community and child relationship working together to create the greater whole.

aogg_4Like many of the other World Masterpiece Theater Series shows I had my moments of joy and moments of tears. Anne’s friendship with Diana is adorable and real as things are not always picture perfect… just watch out for the raspberry cordial. Anne’s temper is also a fun thing to watch, much to the dismay of Gilbert Blythe… don’t call her hair carrots! Though the ending was a little disappointing on my end personally as Anne lets go of a great opportunity, but she has her reason. And that reason was justifiable in regards to the circumstances. I wish I read more books when I was a kid, as this anime is a good example. But the benefit of watching them now is seeing them with character designs I know and love.

aogg_5Released the same year as more ‘revolutionary’ shows like the original Gundam and Rose of Versailles, Anne of Green Gables can seem like a more tame family oriented affair. It is since much of the World Masterpiece Theater Series are basically adaptations of literature, but never, ever, discount these shows. I am honored that Japan back in the day gave the attention to bring stories like Anne of Green Gables a place in the sun. Not only does it show Japan’s willingness to be open to other cultures (because anything foreign is awesome, right?), but it gives those of us in the west to see familiar stories in a different style. Anne of Green Gables you are a fine classic. Who needs Cliff Notes? But you should still read the original… and so should I.

dyr #31 : Arcadia of My Youth

aomy_1“What makes a man, Mr. Lebowski?” The Dude of course has his response. I can’t say for sure what makes a man as gender is a difficult thing to define. It is always a personal expression and definition. But what I can say, is who defines to me to be the architypal symbol of THE man. Not some loud mouth, ultra macho bravado type. Someone strong, determined, honorable and humane and yet a total individual willing to go his own way. That man, to me, is the stoic space pirate, the rebel of the establishment, the only person I know who can rock a facial scar and eyepatch like no one else. Captain Harlock. Leiji Matsumoto’s quintessential hero has been a part of many stories, but one stands out above the rest, the 1982 film Arcadia of my Youth.

aomy_2Being a man of mystery and one of few words, finding the origins of Captain Harlock can be a difficult task. And of course every story that Harlock has been a part of in the vastness of the Leijiverse is always a little different. In Arcadia of my Youth we get the closest to who this man is. Harlock though a strong presence on whatever screen he presents on has his ghosts and skeletons that haunt him. Though he may meet friends and has one he loves, in the end he is alone, on the run, or if he does win in some ways he is defeated. Such is the beginning of the film where we find Harlock aboard his battered ship the Deathshadow after a bitter defeat against the Illumidas Empire, a race of humanoid aliens who have taken over the Earth. Fighting for the Earth and it’s people has become a lost venture and the only thing Harlock can do to is to crash his ship and destroy a runway to leave the message saying you may have beaten me, but I will take something of yours in return.

aomy_3As a film, Arcadia of my Youth feels old fashioned and that is not such a bad thing. It feels like an homage to classic black and white films of yore that made impacts on Leiji Matsumoto youth… his Arcadia. One such example is Marianne of my Youth, a french film which features an actress that left her impact on many of Matsumoto’s famous designs. And much like classic films this is a slow paced affair. The action and battles are present, but the real drama is the slow building between the interactions of the characters themselves. And from these interactions and scenes we see the cast of the ‘Leijiverse’ (Harlock, Tochiro, Emeraldas, etc.) meeting themselves for the first time as well as interpretations of Harlock’s reason for wearing the eyepatch and the scar wounding on Emeraldas face.

aomy_4The film also puts a lot of things into perspective as well, at least for me. Particular are the flashback scenes during World War II. Growing up in America the easy answer was always we were the good guys and the Germans, the bad. Well not always the case. As the 20th century Harlock said in the film, his military service was because he was “paying his rent.” Brilliant writing, but very true, as many soldiers in war serve for their countries because that is where those individuals had lived irregardless if you believed in the politics of a particular leader. Harlock never believed in the politics of anyone besides his own, he had to do what he had to to survive in a time of insanity. Very similar is the Slipstream segment from another Matsumoto production, The Cockpit. The true enemy is not those we see on the other side, but those who make both sides fight in the first place.

In the end Arcadia of my Youth is an homage to a great character. No, a great man. A bit long in the tooth due to the length and the melodrama, the film still stands strong as a portrait of a man of intrigue and fierce independence. Compared to the CGI adaptation of more recent release, Captain Harlock (I couldn’t get through ten minutes) this is the real deal of pure Matsumoto brooding emotions. The most Harlock of Harlock? I salute this movie that allows ‘those who follow it, will live free’.