Don’t Leave Me Alone, Daisy – episodes 1 to 4

August 9, 2004 on 11:32 pm | In Don't Leave Me Alone, Daisy | Comments Off on Don’t Leave Me Alone, Daisy – episodes 1 to 4

Don’t Leave Me Alone, Daisy is probably the weirdest thing ever made, based on a decidedly amoral idea.
Techno, a boy who lives in a nuclear bunker, one day spies a young maiden on his lawn. The images relayed by his camera system raise his adrenaline levels and tell him that he is experiencing love for the first time. After three months practise with a robot, he goes to school, christens the girl ‘Daisy’ despite her name being Hitomi, and declares that she belongs to him.

It’s not just the idea that a woman can belong to a man. That’s outmoded as it is, but it’s not as blatantly wrong as:

  • Techno trying to coat Hitomi in formaldehyde to preserve her from the dangers of the world – coincidentally killing her (first episode).
  • Techno threatening to drop Hitomi from one hundred feet if she refuses to eat lunch with him (second episode).
  • On these two episodes alone, it’s a wonder that Don’t Leave Me Alone, Daisy had an audience left to watch it.
    Fortunately, after these outings, Techno softens just a little bit, making vague attempts to understand Daisy, and Hitomi making valiant efforts not to get herself killed.
    Come episode four the viewer, if not Hitomi, can start to see something in Techno that made him what he is. He has no parents, and believes in ‘just the two of us’: firstly his grandfather, and then himself and Daisy. His grandfather wants to integrate him into society, while having raised the young boy to anticipate the apocalypse. It explains where Techno’s coming from, but it doesn’t excuse what he does. However, something breaks inside of Hitomi and the audience when they come to understand the desperate feelings of loneliness.

    Don’t Leave Me Alone, Daisy isn’t really offensive so much as it is just wrong, but there’s some aspects about it that allow one to watch without turning off in complete disgust. Firstly, it doesn’t play stalking too much for laughs, as the producers probably realise that one of society’s worst nightmares is being captured by their stalker – so it has other things to lighten the mood. Miss Rarako, the swimsuit donning teacher who panics about appropriateness, is generally hilarious and the one source of fan service.
    The actual comedy comes from Yamakawa X, the self proclaimed outcast of Japanese society (who is actually much more popular than he realises). He’s so down that he even lets Techno pick on him. His rebel without a cause routine is funny by itself, but is boosted by his family. His mother and brother are ashamed of him, because he used to be such a good boy. When Yamakawa runs off after being trapped in a monster suit, his mother cries “I just hope he doesn’t go crazy and destroys Tokyo Tower!” His brother’s response is gold, and worthy of meriting a bracketed exclamation mark, like so – (!).

    Don’t Leave Me Alone, Daisy is a late night production from the team behind Haunted Junction, and they have that nice late night feel to them (although most modern licenced anime is broadcast late at night), but this is significantly different. With the addition of a couple of surprisingly high profile names amongst the general assortment of first timers, it’s okay to listen to, and the OP is genuinely creative. It might be difficult to to get past the definitely disturbing subject matter, but despite itself it can boast a certain charm.
    Still, one suspects that these DVDs are out of print for a reason.
    It might be wrong on a base level, but at least it doesn’t make stalking seem too acceptable a pastime.

    Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight – episodes 18 to 27

    August 8, 2004 on 8:44 pm | In Record of Lodoss War | Comments Off on Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight – episodes 18 to 27

    It’s interesting that Chronicles of the Heroic Knight flowed so well, from situation to situation without a hiccup. Nothing was too protracted at first to make things contracted towards the end, so there was a nice balance all around. And room enough for some super deformed adventures on the way.

    Of these episodes, there’s one off model that goes for some more comedy than usual, and looks incredibly weird in places. It makes up for itself with its ending, but it felt out of place.
    The important parts here were Spark’s sense of duty to Neese. It was implied that there was a love between the two of them, and while that may be true of Neese, it’s better to think that Spark cared very deeply for her welfare. Names are very important in this series, and the two brought each other back from the brink with them more than once; Neese said that she wanted to be of help as well, and she was. Although she was sometimes quiet, she was less than submissive.
    Ashram came back again and did his noble thing, showing that he wasn’t really evil. It’s worth noting that right here, the continuity for Legend of Crystania is established – making that whole OVA spin off make sense. However, it was made before this series. What was once mostly accessible to people familiar with the books is now completely available to everyone. In the end Ashram was probably the most moral and natural leader of all of the characters. He left on a very good note, but knowing his fate he’s really better off where he was.
    Pirotess unfortunately didn’t get to do much, but one can’t really complain.
    The Grey Witch Karla material was good, particularly Leylia’s confrontation with her, although one wonders just what happened to Woodchuck.

    Welcome to Lodoss Island! also exploded with even Wagnard, potential King of the Dead, playing his part in a cookie competition. Kashue made a cameo for a brief pun, but it just wasn’t like the old days. Still, fun was had all around.

    Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight was full of charisma, and easily the best Lodoss animated property. It could probably have benefitted from more swords and less religion, but as it was, it was enjoyable.

    Miyazaki Showcase: Spirited Away

    August 7, 2004 on 6:40 pm | In Spirited Away | Comments Off on Miyazaki Showcase: Spirited Away

    Spirited Away is possibly Miyazaki Hayao’s most well known film, and is arguably the most widely recognised anime (that is, recognised as being anime). It’s a subtle work and much gentler than his previous hit, Princess Mononoke. As with that film before it, it was Japan’s greatest box office success until being surpassed by an American blockbuster phenomenon (Princess Mononoke being surpassed by Titanic, Spirited Away by The Matrix Reloaded).

    At the beginning of Spirited Away, young girl Chihiro is reluctantly moving to a new town with her parents. They get lost along the way, clearly having bought the house sight unseen. Stopping at a roadside guardian, they follow a tunnel until they come to an expanse of grassy fields. They keep on walking until they find a deserted town – and a store full of food. Seeing that it is unattended, they start eating. Chihiro feels that this is not right, and chooses not to partake. She looks about the town, and when she comes back she finds that her parents have been turned into pigs. Chihiro seeks employment with Yubaba, the witch who runs the place as a resort for the gods. If she can work off her contract, then her parents will be free once more.

    Spirited Away is one of Miyazaki’s most epic work on a personal scale. Not the intense personality of Porco Rosso, but full of major growth and depth. Chihiro is what makes the film, because there’s no real narrative to speak of. In fact, for the duration there’s barely any cuts at all. It feels almost like a free flowing film that follows Chihiro from start to finish. The biggest surprise is that only about three or four days pass during the entire film: Chihiro comes so far, and so much happens, but to watch it all it passes in only a few calculable moments. Not many notice, but Miyazaki’s films are epic on a small scale: this was Princess Mononoke‘s chief weakness, but Spirited Away’s chief strength.
    Chihiro is a very different girl between start and finish: at first she has no courage or will beyond feeling “hard done by”, as only ten year old girls can feel. She realises that in order to get her parents back, she must become herself. It’s a strong message, and Chihiro becomes incredibly strong herself.

    Miyazaki has some messages; but they’re not overpoweringly strong. None of the contempt that he could be accused of having for various aspects of modern culture comes through, other than the obvious and outlandish behaviour of Chihiro’s parents at the beginning. The clearest thing is the environmental streak, but for once the movie isn’t about that. It’s matter of fact, shown and gone. Miyazaki knows what is important; it’s not any message about society at large, but about one person’s change.

    Miyazaki’s design aesthetic runs rampant here: he gets to design his own world that draws on Japanese culture. It could be argued that indeed all of his films draw on Japanese culture for imagery and inspiration (a very flawed argument, the more you consider it), but Spirited Away is heavy on tradition.
    The music is some of Hisaishi Joe’s best, and Kimura Yumi’s ending song “Always with Me” is a beautiful example of the music residing in the voice.

    Spirited Away is one of Miyazaki’s finest, and is quite different from his other films: something that makes it at once his most and least popular work. As something to send him to international fame (that is, American fame), it fares much better than the mishandled Princess Mononoke release. Spirited Away is a deceptively simple film; the simple frame work allows Miyazaki to weave complex characters, thus creating an excellent film.

    Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight – episodes 10 to 17

    August 4, 2004 on 6:41 pm | In Record of Lodoss War | Comments Off on Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight – episodes 10 to 17

    Now that ten years have passed, things are significantly different in Lodoss.

    The quest for the Soul Crystal Ball has begun, and with it a new party of heroes has formed. The dearth of Parn, Deedlit and Kashue hits at first, but one soon becomes comfortable with the entirely new cast of characters.

    The most interesting of these new characters is without doubt Ryna, the pink haired thief. In the OP and all of the promo materials her hair is pure white, which is either a stern warning of things to come or a conscious change when it was realised that pink is much more attractive.
    In fantasy lands, thieves have honour, and so too does Ryna – in addition to sex appeal! Which means that she winks at men a lot. Her motivation is revenge, which is always a good pursuit, and her relationship with mercenary Garrack is nothing short of intriguing.
    It’s also something unfamiliar to see a Dwarfish Priest. Perhaps they exist, but they’re more of an underground mining species in my mind. But at least he worships a cool god – Myrii, god of war!

    Fortunately, Parn and Deedlit are not gone altogether and come back when the series would have flagged had they not. Parn has risen notably in the world, leading a free army of people who fight for what they (apparently meaning Parn) feel is right. The questions of tyranny raised in these scenes around Alania are quite interesting, particularly because of the source of the speculation.
    The most questionable aspect of the entire series is that Parn and Deedlit have been travelling together for sixteen years and have still not thought of romance further than holding hands for support.

    Where this ‘ten years after’ approach suffers the most initially is the Welcome to Lodoss Island! segment, which change from topical skits to an ongoing narrative. Spark and Neese are the heroes (along with Dragon-kun), delivering cookies to Mama Dragon while preventing “The Dark Elf with a sweet tooth” from stealing them. It’s funny, but not as spontaneous. Again, the situation improves with the return of Parn and Deed, then becomes truly hilarious with the inclusion of Ashram of all characters, who can pun with the best of them. Memorably, he promises to conquer Lodoss with his “delectable sweets”. I can only hope to see his plan come to fruition.

    On the production side, it’s disappointing that all of the Dark Elves are identical. Sakamoto Maaya makes a welcome appearance as Half Elf Leaf and it shames me to say it, but Hayami Sho’s way of saying “Pirotess” is incredibly sexy.

    Lodoss is big on story, and is branching off further and further, but it’s not overly complicated. Well worth it, so far.


    August 2, 2004 on 11:43 am | In Aika | Comments Off on Aika

    In 1997, Aika set the standard for fan service in anime. Sadly enough, today it seems pretty tame.

    In a post apocalyptic world where most of the planet has been submerged in water (up to the observation deck of Tokyo Tower), Salvagers make a living by retrieving valuable information from the wreckage. The focus of this seven part OVA (two series) is Sumeragi Aika, a salvager with a sentient bustier that increases her power manifold. She’s contracted by a government agency to uncover the mysterious substance known only as “Lagu”. Aika is soon captured by people after the same substance – the incestuous siblings Nena & Hargen (named, of course, for the singer of 99 Luftballoons).
    Aika’s new mission is to stop Nena from killing her in a jealous rage and to avoid being inducted into Hargen’s harem. Also from wiping out the human race and solely fathering the new humanity, but that’s marginally less important.
    The follow up three episode series is a bizarre revenge comedy about nothing in particular, other than the inclusion of significantly more lesbians.

    Is Aika a silly, quasi-biblical panty raiding anime? Is it the single greatest piece of speculative fiction ever animated? Could it perhaps be both? There is no way that the world can ever be certain.

    The story itself is fairly interesting, and would stand alone quite well. What this anime is known for, however, is the fan service. Initially, the panty shots are simply incidental. Then come the character developing “punishment” scenes, and the incest, and the fake seductions. Director Nishijima chose not to isolate these scenes as the sole examples of ‘sensuality’, offering not a few peeks at panties, but devoting almost one hundred per cent of screen time to the celebrated undergarments. There is no escape.
    By its brazenness, and its inability to actually mention itself, this fan service somehow works. Once the shock wears off, it’s all taken as a matter of course. It would truly be sad to allow oneself to become desensitised to panties. Marvelling at the physical impossibility and creativity of it all might help to ease the mind.

    The characterisation is sharp, as it would have to be under such circumstances. Aika is a no nonsense woman, probably the most skilled in her field and quite a few others, yet she chooses to work out of a trailer. Rion is the funniest of the characters, because she is the one who questions the logic of Hargen’s plans and resorts to logical insulting questions that no one else would think to ask. She’s also the most put upon character and as a result gets to pull the funniest faces. Her father Gozo is the caring man, who in the second series is revealed to have a passion for karaoke.
    The villains are suitably villainous, with “insane” being the key. They don’t act without reason, but they are definitely off kilter. The way that their situation resolves itself is actually quite compelling and disturbing.

    The second series’ new characters are lesbians, which seems quite contrary to the plot of the first, and there’s a new person working on Aika’s salvager team. His name is Michikusa, he has a Kappa doll, and he dances from time to time. He also has a penchant for wearing the Delmo’s uniforms. Other than being voiced by the ubiquitous Masaya Onosaka, there’s not much else to him.

    Naturally, Aika thrives on its design aesthetic. Moriyama Yuji’s designs, and director Nishijima Katsuhiko’s very distinct visual style, make it a joy to watch. Everyone is beautiful, and for once I will even let the uniform fetishism slide because it was actually pretty attractive. Of course, Hargen is an effeminate, cold and disturbing man, so he’s never nice to look at. But he doesn’t have to be.
    Surprisingly, it’s not all blatant: Nishijima pulled off some subtle scenes among the panties. The most notable example is Hargen’s attempts to kiss Aika. In traditional anime, a man will force himself onto a woman, and her body will relax and her eyes close. Aika refuses to relent. Her body stays stiff and her eyes remain open; something that might be missed, but a sure sign she will not be dominated. Nishijima was also capable of wringing drama out of Rion digging through rubble in a short skirt, so clearly he can do anything.

    Voice acting is strong, as it draws largely on the acting pool of the late eighties. The timeless Sakuma Rei is a firm yet ‘sexy’ Aika, and Ohtsuka Akio is allowed to have fun for once. Konishi Hiroko’s Rion is marvellous, but every one of her performances is a heartbreaker. One of the biggest shames in voice acting in the last few years is Konishi’s having been edged out of the industry. Her nearest contemporary seiyuu is Horie Yui, who actually replaced Konishi in some continued properties.

    Also included is a secret “transition”, moving trial. The OP and ED for this three part trial are longer than the actual body, but it’s very low key comedy. And, on that omake note, Emotion is without doubt the best presented of all anime production houses.

    Aika isn’t anime for everyone. The panty overload may well be a huge turn off for many, but beyond that it’s fun, dangerous anime that calls a spade a spade, and calls incest “super villainy”. A true triumph of the (animated female) form.

    Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight – episodes 6 to 9

    August 1, 2004 on 1:52 pm | In Record of Lodoss War | Comments Off on Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight – episodes 6 to 9

    Emotions and lava abound in this set of episodes, which end up jumping ahead ten years: a time where everyone is either much older or deader.

    Orson gets many good scenes here, and the tragedy of his existence is played up. The ambiguous feelings of Shiris about him emphasise this greatly. Their last scenes (at least for now) in episode eight were very harsh and touching. Who is to blame for what? Hayama Nobuyuki’s performance as Orson was impressive, keeping himself in check until the very few times he was allowed to show a burst of emotion. That’s all over now.
    The other important scenes were those between Kashue and Ashram, kings of their respective countries. Ashram’s party had no allegiances to each other, so it was ironic that the only person who really supported him was actually from Kashue’s kingdom. Kashue defends his own honour, which poses the great heroic question: is breaking the rules of warfare dishonourable if it puts an end to the battles? These questions are important to the running of countries and diplomacy.
    Ending this arc where they did was a wise decision but it raises another, not philosophical, question: will there be Pirotess?

    Then ten years pass. Characters introduced in the first couple of episodes have grown and are now able to become major characters. Spark and Little Neese seem to be at the fore here, with Parn looking much older and Deedlit looking a little wiser. It’s unclear where they’re going to go or what they’re going to do, but they have some sort of promise. Realising that these characters have been in the OP all along makes the whole thing a lot more exciting.

    Finally, Welcome to Lodoss Island goes from strength to strength: Seeing Orson invested with childish emotions, asking Shiris for milk (“I didn’t think it would work”), and the continued caperings of Kashue and Parn are well worth it. It’s just a pity that the progression of ten years isn’t represented in these segments.

    Chronicles of the Heroic Knight is much easier to become absorbed by with its compelling story and especially its music. These were very, very early DVDs, however, and they look it.

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