Category: Anime

Patlabor: The Motion Picture

 

It’s rare that I’ll rewatch a movie months after the effect, take its unpublished review, and almost completely scrap my thesis. Patlabor: The Motion Picture confounded my expectations when I watched it again after having rewatched the later, and alternate, TV series. It’s true that not everything strictly works about this project – some of the movie shorthand is too short – but one thing is clear: Headgear had almost complete understanding of their characters even before their most properly iconic incarnation.

Despite its 99 minute running time, this film is abrupt, but its animation and feel are superlative. If Oshii Mamoru had to cut his teeth somewhere, he couldn’t have picked a better project. I’m not convinced of the viability of this film as a standalone project, as it is best consumed within the context of tens of hours of other material but, rather like the OVA that preceded it, it’s definitely an excellent supplement.

Mobile Police Patlabor – the original series

The original Patlabor OVA raises an interesting prospect when it comes to recommendations: because I have no idea what’s presently showing on Japanese TV, what I present to you is a selection picked from my own collection amassed over the years. Given the metamorphosis of the industry, a lot of the stuff that I own is out of print, so even if I say it’s good it might be hard to find. Still, history is history, and my opinions are valid whenever they’re presented.

That said, can I recommend the original Patlabor when it works best when taken in the context of an entire canon: seven initial OVAs, three movies, a 47 episode TV series, a sixteen episode OVA follow up to that, and three weird paper craft specials?

Yeah, I can, I guess. The original Patlabor OVA series is a collection of experiments met with varying success, and it works best when taken in conjunction with everything that came after it. Had Patlabor ended with the initial six episodes, it is doubtful that it would have had any lasting impact beyond being a playground for Oshii Mamoru before Ghost in the Shell.

As it stands, 23 years after the event,  I’m kind of mystified by the success of Patlabor; but the industry was much different back then. This is a good supplement but not the best at standing by itself.

Slayers Next

 

It was interesting to watch Slayers Try so soon after Lost Universe, because they not only spring from the same source, they also tell significantly different versions of very similar stories. Slayers Try proves that you can achieve a lot more if you focus your storytelling and develop your characters sufficiently, although it does have the admitted benefit of two series’ worth of audience knowledge behind it.

Overman King Gainer

 

I need a King Gainer …

King! King! King Gainer!

Metal Overman King Gainer!

 

Overman King Gainer can be put on record as featuring one of my favourite OPs in the history of anime. Much of the cast, including designated “villains” and robots alike, go-go dance to the rocking tune. It pumped me up so much that most of the time I didn’t skip it. I would dance around the house singing the song even when I wasn’t watching. Thanks to the wonders of the multimedia review age, I can share that OP with you right now:

 


Unfortunately, you’d be harder pressed to find the series itself by legitimate means, as it has been out of print for the English world for a fair while now. Why you can pick up something not particularly exciting like Lost Universe thirteen years after its screening but not this 2002 piece is beyond me. The two of them bear comparison because they represent two different generations of anime: Lost Universe the awkward transition from cel work to digital animation with some clumsy CG, and Overman King Gainer the confident application of digital with smooth results.

 

Overman King Gainer also has the distinction of being a mostly good series, but it’s not without its faults. I think that I noticed the flaws so intently because I enjoyed the series so much. When that happens, any let down is magnified far more than disappointments in shows that weren’t particularly good to begin with.

Lost Universe

 

Lost Universe is the science fiction anime equivalent of Slayers, by substantially the same staff and set in a parallel universe, and it’s pleasant enough. Unfortunately, it fizzles into very little by the end. Given its relatively small cast, very few of the characters have clear motivations, and the ultimate threat isn’t really threatening enough. When it appears that the void of space is what’s at stake rather than visible land and people, it’s much harder to connect.

Godannar – Series One

In the seventies, robots were huge. In the intervening years, boobs have become bigger and bigger. It’s not as if Godannar is the first series to combine the seventies mecha aesthetic with the skimpy clothing and outsize proportions of the modern age, but it’s a particularly … exemplary … example of the form.

Godannar is a series that it’s very easy to be in two minds about, in that it combines something that I love (organisational intrigue and conspiracy) with something that I am suspicious of at best (endless objectification of teenaged girls who make bad decisions). It’s a strange series, and I hope it goes somewhere. Like Princess Tutu, it is two thirteen episode series disguised as a single 26 episode series.

El-Hazard: The Magnificent World

Time was, I used to live and breathe anime. I would get through at least 26 episodes a week. Sundays would be devoted to the fastidious practice of the art of sitting in a chair and reading subtitles. Then, around the time I turned 21, I lost the habit.

I was able to watch a fair bit in the intervening years, but never at the same volume or with the same passion. This time it was a good nine months between drinks, when I gave up on Boys Be…, having graduated with a degree in boredom and bad character design.

I return, baptised by fire! After a few episodes, it was like being back home and finding forgotten treasures in drawers long closed. I may never be manic again, but I taught myself the laws of the OVA form anew in watching El-Hazard: The Magnificent World. Like many OVAs of old, it wastes a lot of time before it decides to start kicking some serious arse − which, most assuredly, is what it does.

Yona Yona Penguin

What did Rintaro do to deserve this? I think that Yona Yona Penguin is a trick that the French played on the Japanese.

“We’ve got an idea about a girl who dresses as a penguin, who gets taken to the land of the Good Fellow Devils to defeat the evil being who rules their land!”

“It would never fly here … Maybe you could get the Japanese to animate it? We can pretend it was their idea!”

Rintaro made Metropolis, which was a great movie. He also made X, which was an incoherent movie. In Yona Yona Penguin he’s made a bland movie, and he’s compounded the issue by making it ugly.

Coco loves penguins. She loves them so much that a goblin thinks that she is the legendary flightless bird, and takes her to his village so that she may defeat the great evil. First, however, they have to deal with the fat kid Zammie who has been terrorising the village.

There’s not a lot to say about Yona Yona Penguin. It features unimaginative CG and ugly character designs. It lacks a lot of the sort of charm that this type of film needs to get off the ground, and amounts to nothing.

The big swelling realisation of the lead’s inner power is kind of offset by the fact that she ends up taking the credit for the work of the gods, and…

…Basically, this is a children’s movie made solely for children with no redeeming features for anyone else. It is not well crafted, nor is it nice to look at. I would not have seen it, but it had Rintaro’s name attached.

The French weren’t tricking the Japanese: this was an elaborate (and expensive) plot against me.

Welcome to the Space Show

Welcome to the Space Show showed at the Sydney Film Festival before it saw its wide release in Japan. It is an impressive piece of science fiction work, albeit not the same film that I was expecting from the synopsis provided by the program (but then, is a film ever the same as its listing?), and one that is perhaps overloaded with ideas towards the end, but I came out of it glad for having seen it.

Ponyo

Miyazaki Hayao is one of the stalwarts of Japanese animation, and possibly the only director known by filmic people in the Western world. After a thirty year career of increasingly telling humanity how terrible and polluting they are, Miyazaki finally returns to the spirit of wonder evident in the heroines of My Neighbour Totoro. In Ponyo he has made a movie about the relationship between a five year old boy and a magical fish girl. In his old age, the man has truly become the freewheeling Miyazaki.