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Anime '99 - Very vaguely Gatch-related anime write-up



I must have gone to the wrong school. All I remember from school is homework and boring classes that dragged on and on, when in fact every school is built on a fault line between this world and the dimension of demons, with whom the pupils have to do constant battle, its principal is a keeper of ancient secrets, when not a ghost or demon himself, and its pupils vampires, reincarnations of historic figures doomed to relive their struggles in the modern age, and superbabes likely to change from a prepubescent schoolgirl into a crimefighter or idol singer at the wave of a heart-shaped wand. At least, in the world of anime.

This anime weekend started off wonderfully with Haunted Junction, a school that has more ghosts than actual pupils; in fact, the only three pupils I get to see are the son of a Buddhist priest who is a skilled medium, the daughter of a Shinto priest who whacks out all the spirits that enter into the Buddhist priest's son's head, and the son of a Christian priest who isn't much good at anything and just wants to live a normal life at a normal school, pleeeeez? Their adventures start when they have to recover the seven seals of the school which the school's spirits have stolen away; and the school's spirits are really quite benign creatures, their ranks including a huge goldfish with a human face that regularly leaps out of the swimming pool, a ditzy nymphomaniac who's constantly making a pass at the Christian boy - who of course has no interest in such things - a walking, talking skeleton in the biology lab and a red-coated giant Tuxedo Kamen who makes all the girls faint; all except the Shinto priest's daughter, that is, because she's only interested in boys of ten to twelve, and if this series is to be believed, the opposite of the Lolicon complex is called the Shota(1) complex. It is therefore quite heartless of the Christian pupil to try and exorcise all these spirits using his father's holy water; fortunately he changes his tune when he finds that these nice ghosts are the only thing keeping out a whole host of very nasty ones, and the holy water comes in useful after all. In one word, this series is funny; not har-har-panty-shots funny, although the makers could have stuck in plenty of panty shots if they'd wanted to, but genuinely funny.

Even more funny (and totally devoid of panty shots) is Master of Mosquiton, featuring, in what seems to be a parodying crossover between Vampire Miyu and Bram Stoker's Dracula, a vampire reborn into the modern age and a successful schoolgirl who excels in every field as his love. Unfortunately, her love is chiefly for money and under that demure manner of hers lies a true mercenary, as proven by her first reaction to the vampire's presence: lightly skipping over all the exsanguined bodies of her classmates, she presents him with a contract appointing her as his manager and owner of all rights and royalties connected with the publicity she hopes he'll draw. He doesn't quite warm to her proposal as she expected, and with his two minions, the spirits of fire and ice, he gives chase as she flees through the building, pulling out racks of guns from behind panels and unearthing bombs from flowerpots (did Berg Katze attend this school, by any chance?) to slow his advance. Poor chap, he is beaten by his own infatuation and doomed to work as a school teacher by day (and oh, how he hates the daylight) while aiding his beloved's money-making schemes (which chiefly involve chasing demons) in his moments of spare time.

The next series: Lost Universe, a space fantasy along the lines of Dirty Pair, only reminds of Gatchaman in that the male partner, who has a definite cape fetish, uses an emotion-powered psi-blade (at last, an explanation for that stupid sword in Gatch F) and has a whole wardrobe full of identical capes, probably just like my favourite badguy. And then it's back to school again, a "normal" school this time, in Brother, my brother where, spared the agonies of destiny and demonic attack, the pupils invent their own little dramas to forget that they don't have a life. In this case, it's an all-girl school attended by rich and poor pupils - the difference chiefly reflected in sneering on one side, and constant abject apologizing on the other - where one poor girl is about to be initiated, not quite of her own will, into an exclusive sorority of what can only be termed rich bitches. Oh, the tears and the schemings and the broken-up friendships! (yawn) To give some credit to what is otherwise a boring soap, the art is beautiful, and, in true public-school tradition, the poor first-former with her wide-open eyes full of wonder finds some rather mannish senior girls to dote on, one of them, in addition, quite masculinely named "Saint-Juste" (and since they were drawn in what I'd come to think of as the "bishonen" style, I thought at first that they were boys) both of whom have a heart condition (symbolic of something, since they are not "real women"?). (2) But if I wanted to watch a soap set in the playground, I'd opt for Hanayori dango with its rather more spirited heroine, where the emotions are just as soggy but relieved by moments of genuine comedy, the rich bitch is a rich guy (an incredible brat who torments the heroine to suppress his growing feelings for her), the cool Joe-style silent guy plays violin in his moments alone, the soppy "one day we'll fall in love and marry" song of the opening credits is sung by a male voice and the colour scheme is rather original: everyone has dark red hair?! But I only ran there to escape from Clamp Campus detectives, in which I thought the boys were girls until I'd recalibrated my kawaii-o-meter, and which is bad. BAD. A school that is a city in itself, built by the rich, admitting only the most gifted; three elementary school pupils who kick ass to beat Jinpei, some very stupid but near-indestructable villains, teeth-grindingly bad lines and I was out of there like a flash after the first ep. I mean it: watching this series will cause worse brain rot than watching the Sabanized version of Sailor Moon(3). You have to lower your IQ just to follow it.

Of entirely different quality and subject matter were the magic & fantasy items on the programme, and one must-see was Weathering continent, which I remember from a thread in an anime newsgroup about characters of ambiguous gender, where the magician Tieh was said to look like a woman - not surprisingly because, as pointed out in a reply, she is one (4). I can see where the confusion comes from, as she has the light, level OAV Katze voice that fits her serene and mystic nature; but the real gender confusion is in the famished "boy" who attacks them, mistaking them for members of the robber gang that have killed her companions, and to a lesser degree, the bumbling third member of the band of adventurers who has cut off her hair to "forget she is a woman"; not that she's fooling anyone, and here's a bit of confusion on my part: one rule of anime seems to be that male and senior female characters have the long pointed elfin faces and young females have the round chubby ones with saucer-shaped eyes, and that the latter type of chara design denotes beauty. The robbers, set on pillaging a famous underground city of the dead which is protected by a curse, chase our band of adventurers partly because they don't intend to share the wealth they expect to find, but mainly because they fancy that young gazelle, i.e., the bumbling third adventurer who gets on my nerves with her pertness and complaining, and who strikes me as rather too childish for the, you know, adult stuff. But Lolicon rules, it seems, judging from such squealy-girl anime as the Saber Marionette series and the apparently Barbie-sponsored Idol Project (blech). And this with so many genuinely beautiful and attractive female characters in the picture; I just don't get it. Oh well. At any rate, the spirits of the dead are disturbed and quickly have to be pacified before they do in the three heroes, who then set off again into the desert whence they came; a collection of esthetically pleasing and haunting images, but not much of a storyline.

This was followed by two magical-girl series and the first four parts to Kidou Senkan Nadesico (with the seventies sentai show spoof Gekiganger) of which I'd already seen half at a previous showing: my biggest surprise was that the ship's captain, a ditz who hardly looks sixteen even if she's supposed to be a very mature twenty, actually has a functioning brain; Candy Candy, the movie, which was every bit as bad as Brother, my brother except that the art was crappy, too; and the classic I'd been waiting for, Laputa: Castle in the sky. This starts off very much like Nadia and the secret of Blue Water: a young boy with an interest in flying machines, a girl with a magical stone which forces her to be constantly on the run, a band of dim-witted pirates led by a woman, (in this case their mother, and a ferocious, feisty grandma she is) and an, as far as I can judge, European setting - the whole story takes place in what looks like a poor mining village in the Alps, although strictly speaking this all takes place in a fantasy world with a slightly backwards level of technology, but a thorough knowledge of balloon-supported airships (i.e., blimps) and memories of a reign of terror under the inhabitants of Laputa, the island in the sky, of which the simple young girl turns out to be the heir. To give away more would be to spoil it, but I have two things to say: i. the art is amazing. At one moment during their flight, the boy and the girl retreat deep into the mines to where only an eccentric old ore-digger knows the way. To show them the beauty of minerals, he tells them to shut off the lamp and suddenly they seem to be under a pitch-dark, starry sky, every vein of ore twinkling. Having recently had an unpleasant dream of fleeing down a flight of stairs in a deep mine to avoid a life sentence in prison and living on the bottom-most step in constant fear of falling off and into the void below, I was adversely affected by this scene; and seeing the bottomless sky through the maze of roots belonging to the tree of Laputa that, like a second Yggdrasil, keeps the whole structure together, I felt distinctly queasy. ii. Although it isn't really obvious, first due to the slapstick nature of the pursuit and then to the grandeur of the animated scene, the level of destruction is quite high. The bandits chase the young couple over a railway in their car, a railway on quite a rickety high bridge, and it crumbles away behind them. An entire military unit is annihilated. Even the young hero, in testing the magical Levicon stone, manages to make a hole in the roof when it turns out the levitating power of the stone doesn't work for him :)

Having had my mind blasted by this film, I was suitably dazed to watch the end of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Seeing the end of this does not spoil the beginning, at least for me who hadn't seen the beginning but only heard about it and am now doubly keen to watch the whole series from beginning to end to see how one thing led to another. This series draws a universal reaction of "huh?" but I'll try to explain what I can. There are Angels. These are hideous white half-sentient bio-robots attacking the earth. At least I assume they are, because there are Evas, multiform red half-sentient bio-armour suits powered by a human ego, and piloted, therefore, by teenagers with suitable egos, which fight the Angels to protect the Earth; and these Eva units have a power cable running like an umbilical cord to the generator and a maternally protective AT field, yes, mother symbolism galore. One teenager's ego is certainly up to the job: Asuka, a short-tempered redhead who was quite a brat according to watchers' reports; and then there is a young boy with overall attitude problems whom we see deep in apathy at the beginning of the ep because of the death of some fellow pilots that he is supposed to have caused (5). But it's no time for apathy as the military suddenly and without apparent reason attacks the NERV centre, where the Evas are stationed; and of course NERV is unarmed and unprepared, only the apathic boy and the unconscious Asuka left to pilot the war machines. He at last leaps to his craft; she is lifted from the sick bay into hers to stop her from being assassinated by the army and awakens at the bottom of the lake, unaware of how serious the situation is. The scientist behind the machine, his daughter (?) and a strange (bio-robot?) life-form in the shape of a naked, luminous girl are aware that some scientific experiment is drawing to a conclusion, that mankind is about to be destroyed and re-created; and both the army and the daughter try to stop this, but the latter dies trying. Asuka, not knowing what is going on but ready for battle, bravely and with a Condor-like ferocity attacks and kills a number of Angels; then she's out of energy (but unwisely doesn't leave her now unpowered craft) and it's up to the boy, who doesn't put up much resistance as the luminous young girl and the ugly Angels rear up and grow into something truly angelic, crucifying his Eva on a giant Kabalah. The dead Angels come back to life and horribly disembowel the unpowered Eva and, I assume, Asuka who is still within; she dies snarling at them through a red haze. Meanwhile, all sorts of cataclysmic reactions accompany the depressed boy's inner struggle for meaning and clarity, his childhood memories welling up and mixing with flashes of Rei, who has apparently been a substitute mother to him, showing her other, lonely, fallible side; the luminous girl is now a colossal Eve striding the Earth to claim her Adam, which is apparently what he was destined to be, and in the breaking down of his individuality as he merges with the Eve-figure, the last survivors die with blissful expressions, their bodies no longer able to contain their souls. Scenes of real people walking in their masses down real streets, the image heavily distorted with static, are confusingly mixed with the animation, and when young Adam, reawakening as a spirit form in a giant cosmic sea, thinks he would rather return to his limited, isolated human form and meet his friends again, another phase of cataclysm sets in, or was it just before that? when horribly the giant Eve breaks down like a corpse that has gone putrid under the skin's surface, the face splintering down the middle and half of it beginning to slide like a slab of stone on an incline. By now I haven't a clue, although I'm irritated by the eternal destruction of the world to symbolize some breakthrough in human consciousness; there are many other species living on this planet beside humans. I won't give away the ultimate ending, but it's inconclusive and doesn't leave me very satisfied or enlightened. I only hope this whole epic series wasn't just about a boy who wants his mummy (6).

When attending an anime con that has films showing in three different rooms, one inevitably misses one-third of what is shown; when the films are shown round the clock, the necessity of sleep (and Nature does have a way of asserting herself) increases the amount missed even further. So it was that I went home to sleep, regretfully missing Lodoss Wars (there'll be other cons...) and didn't return until afternoon, just in time for Bubblegum Crisis 2040. Now there is something about anime that I find confusing and unsettling. It is when the same anime is animated in different styles between the different formats in which it is released. One obvious example is the difference between Gatchaman and the Gatchaman OAVs, but that can be explained by the stretch of time between the old series and the making of the OAVs. Then there's the two styles of Maze and the almost-super-deformed style that Slayers was cast into for Slayers TRY, a style I hate so much that I refused to watch it although it was shown at this con, there's the TV and OAV version of Dirty Pair and there's... this.

I am not a BGC enthusiast. But it was a pioneer series and at one time I bought a tape just to hear what Priss's voice and the music would sound like. Stupidly, out of a whole line-up of subs and dubs, I had to pick a dub by mistake. So, I tuned my ears and the music of the opening credits didn't disappoint me; then I sat back waiting for the familiar faces to show and the familiar action to start. Guess what: they didn't and it didn't. The story starts with a girl Linna ("What a coincidence, same name as the Knight Sabre!" I thought) who chases a mysterious motor rider round half of Tokyo for having torn past her and made her drop her packed lunch and break a heel. The motorist, a quiet type with brownish-yellow, feral eyes, points at his/her own forehead to let Linna know she scratched her face, as well, and takes off again. Continuing the chase, Linna ends up in the vast semi-underground domain of the owner of Silky Doll Lingerie. I have to face it; this is a remake. Gorgeous animation, I can't deny that, but no prizes for characterization: necklines have dropped gratuitously, facial features are more "sweetened" and now all the Knight Sabres have Nene's obnoxious giggle-isms, except Priss who used to be the brat but is now the only one with any dignity and even more the obvious female anime equivalent of Joe than she already was. But that the entire first ep should be girl fights with a boomer tossed in somewhere at the end for the sake of nostalgia... Bleh. And the president of Genom in a kind of medical contraption with tubes running out of him: how gross does a villain have to look? Apart from Priss, the whole remake wasn't worth it. This disappointment was followed by a parody dub called Koko wa Otaku, mainly about the problems of finding enough girl-otakus to play the female parts in a parody dub ("If you are a living, breathing female, a great career in parody dubbing awaits you") and then started what I called in my mind the Day of Crap Anime. Not that this is criticism against the organizers; their aim was to show i. anime you won't easily get access to in Holland, ii. anime that is mainstream in Japan, and it just so happens that the Japanese do watch crap. Violinist of Hamlin was cancelled, so, after fleeing Clamp Campus detectives, and rewatching the end of Mononoke Hime to avoid both Visions of Escaflowne and Bakuretsu Hunter, I unsuspectingly sat down for two hours of nausea-inducing little-girl series, to wit, Saber Marionette, Card Captor Sakura, Magical Emi, Creamy Mami and Fancy Lala, followed by the same diabetes-inducing girly stuff with nudity mixed in: AIKa and Sakura Tsuushin.

Two of these I had already watched episodes of, and it's time for another explanation: I used to think that the genre known as "magical girl" encompassed, basically, any magical girls, and so would include Vampire Miyu, Shamanic Princess and even, on account of Lina's age, Slayers; and that I was therefore a fan of the genre. In fact, the three cited fall under "fantasy"; magical girls are extremely young characters - the audience targeted must be eight to twelve - who periodically escape the constraints of reality without actually escaping reality itself (so that neither Magical Knights Rayearth, where three girls are transported into a fantasy world, or Akazukin Chacha where the main character is an apprentice witch and therefore literally magical, would qualify as "magical girl" anime) not necessarily to fight evil, but also to become idol singers, supermodels and all those other things that girls are supposed to dream of, rather like the little boy who wishes he was Superman. Typically, they are "growbabes"; their role demands a higher social status than that of an eight-year-old, and a quick way to get there is to age a little. Considering that the growbabes tend to change from plain and flat-chested to luscious and buxom, often with hairdo and hair dye included - Creamy Mami even gets a layer of make-up as part of the transformation - but retain the clueless innocence of their age, which of course imparts additional charm, here's another dark side to the Lolicon business: are young girls to be regarded as adults in a more compact physical form, freeze-dried as it were, to be reconstituted into the more accessible form at will, and their sexual consent considered given because they haven't the wit to refuse? Although these series are supposed to be about young girls' dreams, I can't think offhand of any girl's dream involving nude silhouettes in transformation scenes.

To start with Saber Marionettes, which isn't magical-girl at all, because it shows a world in which there are no women, only men and female robots (if they're robots why make them female? Is this yet again the eternal struggle of men to reduce the concept of Woman to something safe and controllable? Rhetorical question, I know...) called "marionettes". These marionettes play the roles of servant, bodyguard, military elite; being robots, they are of course very strong, and, being robots, they are regarded as disposable, although they are loving and loyal and do have feelings that get hurt easily. The main character does care for the feelings of his marionette, an extremely infantile character whom he has "awakened" (she's a special model, but little does he know) much to the dismay of his rich and rather foppish friend who knows how to cook and is therefore a "girly man" (how can terms like "effeminate" have a meaning in a world with no women, where the closest thing to woman is supposed to be a soulless robot?) and of the second marionette whom he also awakens, a sweet little thing in a revealing bathing suit with trailing veils who has sex on the brain, and audibly enacts her daydreams of nookies with her "master", much to everyone's embarrassment. His awakening both these marionettes gets him involved with the emperor and more specifically the enemy of the emperor, a rather Napoleon-esque dictator called Gantler who wants, you guessed it, power, and has an escort of deadly (and very scantily dressed) marionettes to help him get it. The emperor is a kindly old gentleman and the only redeeming feature of this irritating and slightly offensive comedy that, to top it off, is drawn in the supercute diamond-eyes style I hate so much.

Next came Card Captor Sakura, of which I'd already seen the first eps and which is the only magical-girl series I found reason to appreciate. i. Sakura is neither Supermodel nor Appointed-by-destiny-to-slay-Evil; she accidentally releases a magical set of cards (vaguely reminiscent of the Tarot, except that the cards, each embodying an elemental, have a life and mind of their own) and their keeper calls on her to recover them one by one, using some magic but mainly her wits; which is the most interesting and original premise I've seen to date. ii. She's a little kid and stays that way! No growing and/or nude-silhouette transformation scene: her magical revving-up consists of drawing a magical utensil and uttering the activating magic word in the style of a battle-cry. Does that mean she doesn't wear a "magical" outfit? No, she does wear one and it's a different one each time, her rich, sweet (that's a change, a rich kid who isn't a brat) and camera-crazed friend sees to that: she follows Sakura around with a truckload of bodyguards, superheroine costumes for every occasion, and a video camera. Leading to point iii. this magical girl doesn't bend over backwards to hide her secret powers and/or mission from a world of Grownups Who Must Never Find Out, although she does attempt discretion; she'd rather not have her big brother know, for instance, although he has many odd jobs to augment the family income and will typically turn out to be the waiter at the restaurant where she has to go to find and capture the spirit of the Water card. iv. As the above suggests, this series is practically a spoof of its own genre. It is at any rate my absolute favourite, and if all magical-girl series were like that I wouldn't have anything to complain about.

Fancy Lala - with a name like that, I had to at least check it out - was the second series I'd already seen the beginning of, and it was a promising beginning, the focus switching from a girl standing in a stream watching two dinosaurs tower over her village in what is obviously the Long Ago, to her modern-day counterpart who likes to draw, wants to be a manga artist and picks up two stuffed dinosaurs from a toy shop - or rather, they cling to her bag and won't let go - animated with rich detail, especially her room (which is of course full of toys and fuzzy or frilly things) and the little penthouse garden. One comment about these two new magical-girl series, that sets them off against the older ones I know: the dads are extremely emancipated, as indeed are all family members. One girl's mother has a job, so that her father frequently has to cook, and the cleaning tasks are evenly divided between the members of the family; the other has no mother, but the family hasn't collapsed into a shambles for lack of one. All four of the shows I saw featured warm and loving families and, of course, a profusion of heart-shaped accessories. This applies especially to Fancy Lala, where everything is drawn in rich, sumptuous detail. Not only that, but as she wants to become a manga artist, her own daydreams are animated in the scratchy style one could imagine she would illustrate her own diary with. Unfortunately, her talents are bent off into a disappointing direction; she also likes to draw clothes, and the two horribly pastel-cute dinosaurs - comic note in a series that is not in itself a comedy - know a little magic, enough to magically create the clothes she draws, age her a few years and transform themselves into suitable accessories. Yes, our budding animation talent with her mystical dinosaur connection goes the way of the fashion world; she dresses up (another comic note: the transformation is a do-it-yourself affair, so first she draws the clothes, then she grows, then she has to find a quiet spot to change; imagine the Gatch team having to suit up like that, they'd be mobbed by fans in their vulnerable moment before they came anywhere near the enemy) and goes to hang around in Shinjuku; and before you can say "deus ex machina" the boss of a model agency, desperate to find a replacement for the supermodel who came out in a rash, whizzes her off to a studio, combs her hair (which still remains as messy and wispy, but as many "pretty" anime girls look like bad hair days to me, I assume that in the world of anime, wispy equals cute) and discovers in her a "natural" talent for supermodelling, i.e., this girl makes it big without even having to try. It's this kind of a plot twist that can turn me off a series completely.

Magical Emi is a bit of a relief in that this growbabe is more original - in the evening, she's the "pretty assistant" in a magician's troupe, never mind that she spices up the show a bit with real magic - but of course her agent wants her to be an idol singer (sigh)... Creamy Mami, the mother of all magical girls, was a total disappointment. This girl rolls as easily into the world of idol singing as Fancy Lala (who makes up these names, anyway?) into the modelling world, displacing another, older and more professional singer who of course gets the role of jealous, arrogant bitch, but who actually worked to get where she is, see? This while Creamy Mami - whose real name is Yuu, I believe - doesn't even want to sing, but does it for the sake of a boy she likes who tells her how much he loves to hear Creamy Mami sing; that and the boss of the record company gets dollar signs in his eyes at the record sales he makes with this new artist, so he keeps promising her that if she'll sing just one more song, it'll be the last one. Oh, what is cuter than a successful girl who doesn't realize her own success? This is the first time I watched Creamy Clueless and believe me, it will be the last.

But the Day of Crap Anime wasn't over yet. It was by now something like 5 a.m. and as I'd planned to watch Hurricane Polymar, to be shown in the same room a few hours later, I just stayed in my chair and tried to doze a bit through two shows styled "adult" on the timetable. And shows like these prove what a relative concept "adult" is. The first one, AIKa, made a sad attempt at a plot: there are two armies consisting exclusively of female soldiers, i.e., chubby-faced girls in a minimum of clothing who'll use any excuse to disrobe, led by a dominatrix-type woman and her brother (who doubles as rival and lover), both fighting for the possession of a supposedly superprotective, but mainly ultra-revealing bit of body armour that, in addition, has the nasty tendency to disappear altogether when you push the wrong button; and of course it's so skimpy and tight that you can't wear undies with it. Or something to that effect. Yawn. The only good thing about this extremely immature show was the brother, Hagen, who was rather cute; and when I say cute I mean that he looks and sounds like OAV Katze, but is a great deal more accessible (7). :) Of the series that followed it, I saw very little, being mainly asleep; a poor yokel come to the Big City for an education is paid a suprise visit by an old acquaintance whom he doesn't remember but who is secretly in love with him and, in a friendly attempt at trickery, pretends to be a prostitute... and he flunks his course yet pretends to be economy student to win another girl who is mighty impressed by himzzzzzzzzzzzz........(snore) In one of my waking moments, one of the organizers passed through the room, remarked that he didn't really think this was my thing and that they were showing "wrrsszwy" in room x; I wasn't very awake and he kept his voice down for the sake of the watchers, so I thought he was referring to the all-night showing of Berserk and suchlike in room 2, and declined; little did I know that in room 3, they were watching the entire run of Child's Toy, a genuinely witty show with lovable characters and some very creative plot twists. Oh well. I caught the last two eps after Hurricane Polymar; I'll have a chance to watch all the ones in between at future cons; and I doubt I could have slept so well with motormouth Sana in the background.

As with Candy, Candy and the magical-girl shows, my main reason for wanting to see Hurricane Polymar was curiosity. This was supposed to have been a remake of a show in the same vein as the Gatchaman OAVs, around the same time, in the same animation style, by the same company: Urban Vision; and viewing the trailers of other, mainly tentacle & gore Urban Vision products that preceded the OAVs, including trailers for the Gatch OAVs, which were marketed in a style that made them barely recognizable to the fan of the original series, I could see what kind of a straitjacket that series had been put into to fit the Mangle Video image that Urban Vision tries to project. In short: now I know why the Gatch OAVs were crap. Well, Hurrican Polymar is worse. As with the Gatchaman OAVs, the characters are slightly ugly, one of them having the same bland face and short hair as Silicone Jun. This character is the daughter of a brilliant scientist and a brilliant scientist herself and she doesn't live beyond the first few minutes. The reason: she and her father have made the superstrong and changeable Polymar body armour that, in dormant form, retreats into just a helmet; and a supervillain, with his army of Cat-sharks (yes, Cat-sharks. They're ugly guys in scuba suits with shark masks. Do they look silly? You bet.) wants to destroy the helmet and its makers because he wants to be "the only Polymar". One of said makers is wearing the helmet; the scientist's daughter demolishes every Cat-shark in sight, but she can't handle their leader, who horribly breaks both her arms before breaking her neck and grabbing the helmet, leaving the corpse hanging armourless with lolling head, arms, and boobs; and so we discover she has something else in common with Silicone Jun: she zips up from the nude.

Change of scene: a nutty old detective who doesn't have much of a clientele, and his eager-beaver young assistant who "knows karate" and gets a funny helmet for his birthday from an old school friend whom he hasn't seen in a long time. The rest you can guess. This show is a pathetic mix of sordid gore and attempted comedy. The slabs around the detective's house are so old that you have to walk carefully not to crash through them and into the water (sewer?) below. Of course characters fall through the floor with annoying regularity. This is hoo-har funny, as is the old detective's habit of striking quite a pose before changing into a bumbling, self-important fool again. The main character of City Hunter gets away with this because the change is so complete; when he goes gaga over a length of lady's nude leg, he is lecherous stupidity personified, then when he's in "cool" mode, the silly act seems simply a part of his cunning plan to delude and confuse; but even so it's a one-trick pony, and in Hurricane Polymar it's a very cheap trick. Our hero battles the Galactor-like terrorist Cat-shark organization; he is chased by a lady shark (I believe she was a Cat-fish, with a slightly less ridiculous uniform) for killing her ugly mate; faces her leader - and we learn why this leader calls himself the "only Polymar": he has applied the polymer principle to his own body, so it changes shape like body armour, and, yes, it looks gross and stupid; then the villain leaves after some "we'll meet again" villain schtick, and our young hero is left with the catfish. Why, he berates her, does she help to destroy a world that she, too, has to live in? Ah, but she doesn't have to. In one fierce rip she removes most of her upper clothing, showing him that she has gills to survive under water, and showing us that she has a top two to match Silicone Jun's and doesn't need a bra for support. He then manages to find and defuse the bomb the supervillain has planted with her help, and then, when she's about to jump into the sea and return to her watery home, the rest of her clothing seems to have melted as well, 'coz she's starkers! Closing shot: the old detective has moved to what he hopes is a less derelict office, but one whack of a closing door and all the walls collapse around him, just as he's sitting on the loo with his pants down. Could there be a more literal way to say "potty humour"?

Grumbling and muttering "Stupid *##*%#$ remakes" to myself, I caught the tail end of Child's Toy before sitting down to Jungle de Ikou, a series I had never seen or heard anything about. It was styled "comedy", the main character was a ten-year-old girl and in the first three minutes I'd seen as many gratuitous panty shots. I have a proposal for all anime studios producing comedy shows: either they go for cute'n funny or they take the ooh-la-la approach; but not both at the same time, because it brings up my breakfast. I see nothing funny about a minor's underwear, and that I should consider it erotic (and thereby, through a strange mental twist, funny) is, to me, downright disgusting. Most anime visitors must have thought the same, because the room was virtually empty. To explain what the show is about (except panty shots): this ten-year-old, who is changing into a "little woman", has an archaeologist father who brings back to her from the exotic location of his site a statuette of an African fertility god with what appears to be a carved elephant tusk stuck on his whatchamacallum. She is of course delighted with this gift (not) and puts it on a shelf in her room. But the statuette houses a real deity - Aham, the Earth god - and he visits her in her dreams to warn her of the coming of a mighty evil wizard: Ongo. Against this wizard she will need protection, so he teaches her a magical, and at any rate extremely voluptuous dance (rather, he doesn't teach, he demonstrates - imagine a pot-bellied old man with an elephant's tusk sticking up from his crotch, doing the hula) that she must perform whenever she is in need of magical assistance.

Next morning, the cutest, most ferocious, most shrew-like furry thing ever to leap out of the past and into a whacky anime show bumps into her, demanding to know where the jungle has gone. My heart warms to the little fella, and I share her disbelief when he gives his name: "You're Ongo?" I'll skip a lot of bung involving more panty shots and move to the point where she's sitting on top of a whale with Ongo and he urges her to do the dance again. "Oh no, no that dirty and disgusting dance!" Oh yes, the target audience thinks, collectively rubbing its greasy hands. Oh dear. Another growbabe. Her hair changes colour and suddenly she looks like Dolly Parton in a mini-bikini: what a big little woman the dance has made her become! That female curves can have a practical application is shown when she's thrown off the whale's back and smacks boobs first into an aeroplane: she's unhurt, since the knockers absorbed the shock. Wise in the ways of such things - and utterly impervious to embarrassment - Ongo says that Aham has given her the magic of the flowers. I say that this could have been a funny and even a very good show, if it hadn't been for the continual, misplaced, and highly unfunny innuendo.

After such a crap parade, the Kindaichi Movie, one-but-last item on the list of anime I saw, was water to my parched throat. This is a detective film. It is about a young wiseass who upstages a barking police officer. The police officer's bark is worse than his bite. The wiseass is a nice kid really, as is his theatre-loving female friend (not necessarily girlfriend). The plot is intricate, the outcome unexpected. The setting is a theatre on an island, the owner of which is staging "Phantom of the Opera". The main part used to be played by his gifted daughter, who committed suicide a number of years before. Has there been a curse on the theatre since? A developer wants to buy the island, shut down the theatre and replace it with a luxury hotel. One final performance in this old, memory-ridden theatre seems too much to ask for as one actor after another is murdered in a very Phantom style. This film is worth watching, so I'll refrain from spoilers, and say only why it is worth watching; its chara designs are not only more politically correct than is generally the case, they are downright respectful. This is one of those anime films in which there are no Caucasians, apart from the rich brat of a female playing Christina, and she may well have been intended to look European. The eyes are of relatively credible size and shape. The characters are not so indistinguishably alike that I can only tell them apart by their costumes; they are highly individual. There is a thin hawk-nosed actor and a plump one, and guess what: the plump one isn't jolly! He wants to write a novel and is embittered that his efforts so far have been failures; he even turns out to be a bit of a perv, in a way totally unconnected with how plump people are supposed to think and feel. The developer is both fat, bald and a bit of a toad to look at, but he is not in fact greedy, lecherous or a villain! He is a perfect gentleman, only out to make a living in his own way, and feels rather sorry for the theatre owner's misfortune, even if he has set his sights on the man's property. The painter, then? He looks a right creep. Wrong again. He likes his solitude but had nothing to do with the murders. There are no shortcuts here; this film doesn't involve in typecasting. All in all, a much-needed dose of anti-crap, and a reassurance that all is still well in animeland.

Last item before beddy-byes was Dirty Pair, the TV show. This ain't such a classic and so I have very little to say about it. i. The animation is quite different from that of the OAVs; the girls have much rounder heads. ii. The plots are much sketchier than the OAVs; more action and quick laughs. This pair travels all over the place, mainly through the darkness of Outer Space (woooow) and has a huge bear-like pet stowed away somewhere on their private space cruiser. iii. The TV version doesn't divide the pair into rough'n tough and cute'n wimpy. Yuri is as tough as Kei is, and it's Kei who wants to finish off a villain quickly and be done with it because she doesn't want to miss a date. iv. The space stuff makes the TV series outdated, as I believe we're now collectively past the sci-fi rockets and space travel fad and into the next phase, which is Recognizing the Spiritual Aspects of other Civilizations. Sound ridiculous? Maybe it is. But for me, Star Trek and its anime parallel, the Gundam-style power suit, evoke only a sense of nostalgia. Plus, all that space was giving me the heebie-jeebies.

Conclusion: not much new stuff this time (either that or I missed it), a number of classics, both in the sense of having made a name (Gundam, BGC, Macross) and and being of great quality (Laputa, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Lodoss, the re-showing of Mononoke Hime), selections from a number of genres (a sampling of magical girls, hack'n slash which I passed up, school comedy, and "adult"), and some experimental stuff like the parody dub and Kenji, spring and chaos which I hope to see next time. Not a succession of highlights, but a good cross-section. And now for some sleep....



Footnotes:

1. I read later that "shota" means "first time", so the shota genre is about very young boys having their first experiences with, er, you know.
2. Turns out all the whining was building up towards (gasp) lesbian relationships, which was probably the secret of the rich bitch society and the reason why anyone who joins it becomes socially isolated (the poor hapless newcomer finds her old friendships are being sabotaged). I should have known all that heart stuff and girls-who-look-like-boys would go somewhere. I also read later that "yuri" (the lesbian genre) derives from the doting on senior girls in the boarding school spirit. QED.

3. And no, I didn't watch the SM dub. I caught some dubbed eps on German TV, read about the hacks and cuts in the Sabanized version, heard of the Sailor Says and the homophobia-driven gender change, and listened to soundbytes of the deplorable dub voice acting. And I think that gives me an accurate impression. The biggest surprise I had on watching the original was that I liked it!

4. In the anime, it's a woman. In the original, confusingly, it's a man. The film seems to go nowhere because it's a part lifted out of a novel.

5. Mourning for Kaworu, in fact. And the luminous girl was Rei, a former Eva pilot who, like Kaworu, may not be entirely human; she states she is "not a doll", probably referring back to Asuka calling her a doll for her unconditional obedience in an earlier episode.

6. Or, since Shinji doesn't get on well with either parent but especially craves attention from his father: a boy who wants his daddy...

7. Re-watching this when more awake, I saw that the two were in fact working together, but the sister is so enraged by her brother's habit of running after other women that she swaggers in drunk wielding nasty sharp objects, and breaks a lot of stuff. She would never hurt her beloved big brother, although she accidentally kills him later. And of course he sounds like OAV Katze; they're done by the same voice actor.




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