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 # 19 : Leda: Fantastic Adventure of Yohko

One thing hits my mind when I begin each watch of Leda: Fantastic Adventure of Yohko… Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune. The gentle piano music that Yohko plays, at least to me, sounds very similar to the dreamy and romantic Debussy classic. Our young heroine is in love and is totally crushing on a boy she wants to share her feelings with. As she plays on, she says that this music reflects the love in her heart and will give her the strength she needs to expose her affection. What a way to start an anime!

leda1With music in hand via a recording being played on tape via a Walkman (ah nostalgia) Yohko walks down a road to see her beau. And as they both approach the anxiety builds. They both pass by and all is silent. In disappointment our heroine sighs, she just couldn’t say it. OK now we need something exciting… how about we do a shojo cliche? The surface begins to melt away and she is soon sucked into a weird teleportation where she confronts an evil looking bishounen asking for Leda’s heart. She refuses and cries out to vanish and then soon appear in a strange surreal land where her greatest adventure is about to begin. Sound familiar? Much like Escaflowne, Magic Knight Rayearth, Twelve Kingdoms, or a number of other productions our heroine is about to have a sublime experience.

leda2An experience where she encounters baddies, a short friend, a cool mech that looks kind of like something from Castle in the Sky, Mr. bishounen again and she transforms to gain powers and a sword while rocking her red hair in a side ponytail (ah nostalgia… again). Oh and a talking dog too. I mean come on, who hasn’t seen a talking dog? Yohko never has apparently (note: if you never seen this, it is one of the funniest moments). I mean my cats, they talk, so what is the big deal? 😉 Sounds like a lot of magical girl standards and yet there is no magic wand and gibberish spoken within a stock transformation sequence. In the end what we have is a coming of age story mixed with the concepts of love, music, over coming fear and being honest to yourself. And… it’s a fun ride in the process.

leda3A production of my beloved Kaname Production, 1985’s Leda: Fantastic Adventure of Yohko is one the studio’s best and is a hallmark of quality classic shojo (my opinion). Though it is a stock and trade story of the average high school school wisked away to become the ultimate hero in a foreign land, Yohko leaves it mark and is a favorite of my collection. Only released here in the U.S. on that good old format of VHS, I am honored that two copies of this rare release have found their way to me, sub and dub. In fact the dub was done by the same company and actors that did Macross: Do You Remember Love, if anyone has info on this company or actors please send it my way. I will be able to sleep better at night knowing this 😉 (strange, yet true?)

leda4What I find is how productions like Leda: Fantastic Adventure of Yohko can get lost in the classic anime shuffle, but then again during ye olden days of fandom most fans were predominately male and I am sure if Leda: Fantastic Adventure of Yohko was up against say Akira I am sure most of the ‘boys’ would have picked Akira (maybe?). Which is a shame because back then in regards to my personal exposure, when I thought of anime from the 1980s, shojo was not even on my radar. Times and circumstances have changed and now I have a treasure trove of stories that are not testosterone driven. And now with each new experience with older shojo titles I have something magical and fresh. Maybe I am saying something about myself? Even so, I love a strong female protagonist who is strong, independent and still feminine. Girl power for the win!

So now I will sum up Leda: Fantastic Adventure of Yohko with only one word… ADORABLE 🙂

afterthought: Hey Gurren Laggan fans! I wonder where Gainax got the idea for a bikini clad redhead named Yoko? Though missing an ‘h’ in the spelling the resemblance is close enough. What do you think?

dyr #13 : The Humanoid

humanoid1COFFEE!!! Double expresso latte with caramel and whipped creme… Ok, maybe decaf. Wait a minute, I don’t even like coffee. And to be honest, I just spoiled the Humanoid. If you have seen in you know what I mean. You think it’s some goofy space adventure rip off with elements of Star Wars and the robot from Metropolis (well a more pretty version?). No it’s just coffee, probably got backing from Starbucks most likely. You know I’m done. See ya.

Oh you are still here? Yes there is a lot of coffee mentions in the short one off OVA, but in reality it is in my honest opinion the most 80s-tastic greatest bad anime ever. So it is in reality not that bad, just unbelievably entertaining. If this is not in your collection, look for the loose change in the couch, or borrow from a friend. And yes, you could download via torrent, but you are different, eh?

Well what to say without ruining this one, its a short production? Well there is the… no can’t say that. Or how about… no can’t say that one either. OH POOH!!! Our story begins with a rip off of Lando Calrissian, Alan making a big remark about how “memories of Earth and the rich smell of this coffee keeps my spirits up.” (Yes that is a direct quote) Wait, wait a minute here… Coffee… already. See told you so.

humanoid2OK, now to be serious. Despite The Humanoid being ridiculous beyond measure, cliche as all out, I have to say one thing about. I LOVE IT. It’s a goofy mess and a half, but as I said earlier, it has an entertaining value that only cheesy low budget sci-fi can only do right. Here is the basic plot. Two guys travel to a far off planet to make a stop to meet up with one of the boy’s girlfriend’s (and that would be the yet to be named Eric, because we find out later Alan is married, sorry ladies) and her grandfather who is a scientist. And guess what grandpa Dr. Watson invents, this really sleek and sexy ultra feminine robot named Antoniette who eventually learns about love and such even though she is only a machine? But, you also have a plot where you have some princess held in exile from another planet. And her administrator is a megalomaniac bishonen, Governor Proud is his name and that is no lie, who tries to reactivate some old ship which could destroy everything. WHAT? All of this in about 45 minutes? Yeah and our heroine Antoinette saves the day, but at a price. Plus, even more COFFEE references.

humanoid3Now I will give The Humanoid some credit, it is the only show I have seen where people have to escape from an escape capsule. That is a first for me? I mean this is what cheesy one-off OVAs from the 80s are all about. Highly creative, ridiculous and when done right… fun. It’s not that massively over testosterone gore of MD Geist, the what-the-hell did I just watch Crystal Triangle, or the Dirty Pair rip-off of Wannabe’s. (whoa all of these were released by Central Park Media, love ya CPM) It’s The Humanoid. Slightly flawed, yet beautiful in the eyes of those who have a taste for ‘bad’ anime. No not ‘bad’, more like ‘totally awesome’.

And I forgot to mention that my beloved Kaname Production was the studio that made this one. I am really sorry everyone. So now watch or rematch this mess because after all, it is good for you be it mind, body and soul. As for me. I will just Dance, Dance in the Rain… If you like the opening credits song you will get that one.

dyr #4 : Birth

I have seen many opinions in regards to this one off. Some like it, some think it’s too weird, some think it’s garbage. I LOVE this OVA and I am out and proud of it. True it is an acquired taste, but I think I may know what turns off some, but also what turn’s me on to this oddity. What is it? Well that little ol’ production from 1984… Birth.

birth1Birth was a title I was lucky to come across very cheaply. Remember when you could get a brand new title off of Amazon for under $4.00? I believe I spent around $3.50 (the glory days of $2.99 shipping). I see it as one of the best return on investments I have ever put into any DVD, because I have watched Birth time after time after time and loved it more each time. And just what is it about Birth that I love so much? I mean it is basically a long chase scene and treasure hunt that ends with the whole universe… whoa wait, don’t want to spoil the ending now. Now… I present my reasons, so read on.

An animator’s playhouse: As someone who has a background, education and interest in art and design I often view certain anime a little differently. In this case I see this property as a fun time for all the animators and staff who worked on it. Very creative, but not serious and artsy fartsy (if you want to go that route try Angel’s Egg). If I could get a gig like this, I would say yes in a heartbeat.  Plus Yoshinori Kaneda had a big hand in it’s conception (see recommendations below). So expect lots and lots of motion. Plus, it was animated by one of my favorite, now defunct, smaller animation houses, Kaname Production. Also, Hideaki Anno (Mr. Evangelion) had a hand as well as an up and coming animator.

birth2Characters and their design: The design and animation of Birth is very much in contrast to almost a majority of what came out in Japan in the 1980s. The characters are very organic and blob like, maybe a touch liquidy. Is that is why the planet is called Aqualoid? Plus our main cast is a rag tag group. Our main duo, Rasa and Nam, are either brother and sister or boyfriend/girlfriend, in any case they are close and watch out for each other. Boa is a goof ball space trader who has a lolita complex for Rasa. His business partner, Kim, is often the voice of reason in their partnership. Plus you have your array of minor character including the Inorganics, other humans and these blob type things, one of whom belongs to Rasa and is named Monga. MONGA! MONGA!!!

birth4Humor: I find Birth to be amazingly funny. True some of the humor is ridiculous, but it works well for my tastes. I mean you have the scenes where Rasa is called out as a jiggly-butt by the Inorganic bikers or they have the comment “Just because a woman is smart does not mean she can sell a cow.” Or, the kid Inorganic hitting on Rasa and after rejection he has a scene at a beach. Or Bao just being Bao. All in all it is weird, spastic and goofy.

birth3A higher reason: Now how can Birth be deep? Well, the notion of the spirit like Arlia (hey she’s a pretty ghost according to Nam) explaining the universe is made up of several levels and that the Organics and Inorganics are both a product of the same source makes you think twice, what am I really watching here? Even goofy cartoons can add a like mind bend. Plus at the ending… oh yeah can’t spoil it if you have not seen it.

Music: And finally… the soundtrack… composed by the one and only… Mr. Joe Hisashi. Oh yeah, Miyazaki’s favorite composer did this one too. It has a similar vibe to what he did on Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Genesis Climber Mospeada. Not very orchestral and more synthesizer and pop/rock in it’s approach.

This is one that I think needs to be viewed in order to have a proper frame of reference. Or having the option of viewing it with someone who is familiar to the property to point things out or hear them chuckle at certain times. As I mentioned above this is an acquired taste, so take what you will from it. If anything this showed the freedom of the era it was produced because we just don’t see this kind of odd ball stuff being released as often anymore, unless there is a huge marketing campaign behind it. As for me if I need to make a top 10 of 80s anime, this is one I would include (honest).