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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Megazone 23 Part II International: Teaching English to Japan, Name Changes & All!

When it comes to reviews on this blog I tend to follow two main rules: I don't review unless I've seen it in full & I don't review what has already been covered by people whose writing I highly regard.  When it comes to the second rule I mostly mean that I won't review a title that Justin Sevakis covered via Buried Treasure/Garbage over at ANN (his new series, Pile of Shame, would also count), because I feel that he had already covered anything that I would have said; when it comes to manga the same can be said of Jason Thompson & House of 1000 Manga.  Granted, I did review One Pound Gospel even though it had a BT article, but I really wanted to honor Osamu Dezaki's legacy (also, I forgot Justin had done a BT for OPG).  This review technically is another example of me breaking this rule, as Justin did cover this title, but at the same time I'm focusing on a specific edited dubbed version of the title that Justin only mentioned in passing.  Putting an end to my focus on "Obscure Edited Dubs" is a special take on Megazone 23 Part II!


Released in 1986, Megazone 23 Part II: Himitsu Ku-de-sa-i/Please Give Me Your Secret continued off of the "non-ending" that the original Megazone OVA ended on, putting an end to the story Part I started.  In 1987 Victor Entertainment, one of the distributors, asked Harmony Gold to produce an English dub for Part II, supposedly to act as a way to help teach English to Japanese fans.  After the colossal failure that was Robotech the Movie's handling of Part I, this dub is essentially a redemption-of-sorts for HG, as it is extremely well-polished and still holds up well to this day, even if it is an edited dub in some ways.

It's been six months since Johnny Winters (Shogo Yahagi) disappeared after an attempted attack against B.D. resulted in a loss for Johnny & his abandoning of the Prototype Garland he got his hands on.  During that time Eve, the AI that the computer system Bahamuto (Bahamut) used to keep watch over humanity, has disconnected herself from the main system & is acting on her own, continually trying to contact "Operator 7G", a.k.a. Johnny.  Johnny, in the mean time, has befriended a motorcycle gang called Trash who are fans of Eve's old music, rather than the pro-war music the military has been using as of late, waiting for the moment to strike back.  Also, Sue (Yui) has managed to get into contact with Trash & find Johnny after waiting these long months.  It all comes to a head when Johnny hears Eve's message & regains the Garland, which leads to a final confrontation with B.D.'s forces, lead by Lt. Armstrong (Shiratori), and a meeting with Eve that will determine the future of the entire Megazone, which has been invaded by the alien Gorig (Dezalg), at the hands of the mysterious ADAM.


Megazone 23 Part II is an interesting production simply because it's a continuation of the story that came before it, yet it's so different in execution & visuals that it also comes off like its own story.  Whereas Part I was slower-paced and focused more on the story & characters, Part II is definitely more of an action spectacle.  Right from the start there's a great chase scene between the cops & "Johnny" that ends off with an outright decimation of the police by Trash, and that really helps set the tone for the movie in general: A battle between the young, rebellious youth & the older men of the military who feel that they need to make sure that the "kids" don't overtake them.  This is no better shown off than the clear difference between Johnny & "Lt. Armstrong" when it comes to how they operate.  Johnny is more carefree & ready to try risky ideas, whereas Armstrong is very by the books & overpowering; Armstrong even leaves behind a message for his parents on the off chance that he ends up dying in the final confrontation.

At the same time, though, there's a definite message of acceptance of failure & loss throughout the entire thing.  The members of Trash have no problem dying if it means that they did so fighting the people they hated, and even B.D. realizes that, when the chips are down & his era looks to be over, he has to hand everything over to Johnny & the young era.  In the end, among all of the action that permeates this movie, the climax is actually introspective & lacking in combat; the rematch between Johnny & B.D. that looked to be in the making ends up being a fantasy.  Johnny tries fighting B.D., but it's quickly made obvious that there's no way he could win, yet his aims & goals in life make him the victor in the end.  If there is one part that does annoy me, though, it's that the ending is just a little too happy, considering what is shown throughout the entire movie.


The complete change in tone for Part II is also brought about because visually the title is unlike Part I.  Whereas Part I was directed by original creator Noboru Ishiguro & featured character designs by Toshihiro Hirano, Part II features the duo of Ichiro Itano (director) & Yasuomi Umetsu (character designer).  For the most the change in designs don't interfere too much, since only Johnny, "Sue", & B.D. return, but at the same time it's the redesigns of the returning characters that really make it weird.  Johnny in general looks similar enough to the original Hirano design, outside of the change in the face, but Sue is downright unrecognizable, especially since she now has brown hair instead of blue, & B.D. not only looks more muscular than before but also younger!  In general though, Umetsu's designs work really well for the title, especially the crazy looks of the different members of Trash, and Eve still keeps her Haruhiko Mikimoto design (though it definitely contrasts with everyone else now), but this "International" dub makes the change all the more obvious by the simple fact that it includes the alternate ending footage that Harmony Gold had to commission for Robotech the Movie.

Yeah, as an extra for the Japanese fans, ARTMIC & AIC added in that alternate ending footage right at the beginning of this version of the movie with a dub narration that explains the basic idea of what happened in Part I...  And then the dub ignores everything that was just shown, instead acting as a straight dub of Part II, making that footage nothing more than a visual extra.  As for the dub itself, it honestly is really damn good, even outdoing the original Japanese version in making the story be more understandable in some slight ways.  Whereas the Japanese version explains some bits in a vague fashion, like simply mentioning that "the Moon is a weapon", the dub goes into more detail by explaining that ADAM was implemented in a way that turned the Moon into a weapon back 500 years ago, when the Megazone project started.  It also keeps all of Shiro Sagisu's original music as well as Eve's Japanese songs, and Sagisu doesn't go easy one bit by reusing any of Part I's songs, instead creating a soundtrack that's easily just as amazing & fitting.  Eve gets two new songs: "Himitsu Ku-da-sa-i", which is honestly the gem of the entire soundtrack (go listen to it right now), & "Lonely Sunset", which is also really catchy & worth repeat listens.  Honestly, Megazone really has some amazing musical chops in all regards, and in general all of it still sounds great today.


The dub cast in interesting in that it features the return of many voices from Robotech the Movie, but only two of them retain their roles.  Kerrigan/Kerry Mahan returns from playing "Mark Landry" to voice "Johnny Winters", and he does just as good of a job as he did in that mess of a movie.  Likewise, Muriel Fargo returns as Eve and simply continues off of her good performance.  Sue is voiced by the legendary Barbara Goodson, and she makes a fine replacement for Iona Morris's "Becky".  B.D. is voiced by Michael McConnohie (Ikari in Paranoia Agent, EDF HQ in Earth Defense Force 2017), who does an amazing job with the role, really making B.D. come off as truly understanding of the situation he's in while still sounding tough (similar to the late Kaneto Shiozawa's original performance).  Tom Wyner returns from the movie as well, but this time as major character Lightning, and he delivers another great performance as the rude & sarcastic leader of Trash; Wyner also directed & wrote this dub.  Gregory Snegoff (credited as Greg Snow here) plays Lt. Armstrong, who handles him similar to they way he handled B.D. Andrews in the movie: Rough & commanding, but with a sense of purpose (at least it's honorable here).  Sure, there's a bit of cheese in this dub, it's still from the mid-80s, and it pronounces the iconic number in the title as "Twenty-three" instead of "Two-Three", but you can tell that the cast here took everything seriously, and even with some liberties in the script taken it still comes off as a mostly timeless dub, which is what the best ones end up as.


Megazone 23 Part II International is an amazing surprise by being an extremely solid English dub that both fits its era nicely yet also manages to still sound great now, 26 years later.  If one wanted to get this dub, there isn't too much to go for: After its VHS & LD release in 1987 it mostly stuck to being an extra, first as being a special DVD mail-in offer for people who bought all three Megazone DVDs in 2005 in Japan, and then as a DVD extra in the limited edition release of the 2007 game Megazone 23: Aoi Garland for the PlayStation 3.  Being an extra to Aoi Garland is especially interesting because the game is an alternate sequel to Part I, ignoring Part II entirely (I have the game, so maybe I'll review it one day).  Also, supposedly the DVD versions were censored whereas the original release was uncensored...  But all that's missing are gratuitous scenes of hyper-violence by the "Gorig" (it is directed by Ichiro Itano), a shower scene that shows all of the Trash females naked (except for fat girl Dump, who's in a bathing suit), and a pointless sex scene between Johnny & Sue.  Honestly, outside of the Gorig violence accentuating the extremeness of the situation (and taking the series in a complete 180-degree direction in violence) nothing of importance is missing by the cut scenes.  Without the original release, though, I can't verify these changes, but it doesn't really change the fact that this dub is just that... damn... good.

As for Megazone 23 itself, is it truly the "classic" that it's touted as?  Well, while watching Parts I & II separately I must admit that I couldn't quite see why it's called one of the absolute "classics"; I could see why, in concept, it can be called such but it's not like these are ideal titles.  Part I, due to its origins as an aborted TV series, is heavily flawed in terms of pacing & Part II's change in style & execution is almost too much at times (especially if you add in the hyper-violence & gratuitous fanservice)...  But, after watching both movies and letting everything sink in, I start to realize that Megazone was ahead of its time.  In Part I Shogo is a simple-minded young man who doesn't truly understand the gravity of what he's found out & what the Garland represents until it's too late, and when he tries to be the traditional hero & avenge his losses he is outright put down by B.D.  It's essentially a deconstruction of the cliched young hero who always saves the day, proving how silly the concept can be, arguably done before it could be considered deconstruction-worthy.

Part II, in theory, should be the rise of Shogo Yahagi & his redemption by defeating B.D., but instead it's B.D. who goes through redemption, and the promise of a final battle between the two is never fulfilled on purpose, instead having the two come to an understanding by seeing what their world, the Megazone 23, has become.  It's effectively an idealistic resolution instead of the traditional battle of wills, and while one may initially come off as annoyed by that, once the title's themes really sink in you realize that it's ingenious.  Now, yes, Megazone 23 is still a flawed anime, and on immediate viewing its status as a "classic" may not be obvious, but when everything sinks in one can realize that it's status is indeed deserved...  It's just doing so in a way that one wouldn't expect.  As for Part III, that's generally left out of conversation for a reason; I'll watch it eventually, but that will only be for completion's sake.

3 comments:

  1. "In 1987 Victor Entertainment, one of the distributors, asked Harmony Gold to produce an English dub for Part II, supposedly to act as a way to help teach English to Japanese fans."

    And yet it's release ended up on Polydor's backdoor (probably marked "Present for You!")...
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLKKVgj4x8Q

    "And then the dub ignores everything that was just shown, instead acting as a straight dub of Part II, making that footage nothing more than a visual extra."

    The fact the Japanese admitted this was made at all still amuses me (I recall seeing a magazine 2-page spread of it as well so I suppose it was a nice bit of curiosity to them since that wasn't made for domestic use anyway).

    "If there is one part that does annoy me, though, it's that the ending is just a little too happy, considering what is shown throughout the entire movie"

    If you really want to save yourself, don't watch "Megazone 23: Part III", you'll be a better person for it! Though I'm sure you'll probably talk about it eventually, it's not a pretty sight.

    It certainly is something come from the first film and see where it ends in the second thinking, why bother? It's certainly a tough one just coming into this and seeing a change in those character designs and direction and trying to remember who these people were from the first (unless this was the first video you seen like me and had nothing to go from).

    While you note the DVD was censored, the origianl LaserDisc release of Megazone 23: Part II's English/International edition does have the "Doggy-style" sex scene in there from the nth-geneartion copy I've had for years. It was when the film got the DVD release as an extra on the PlayStation 3 game "Aoi Garland" that the scene got deleted as they wanted to sell the game for a specific rating level used in Japan (I suppose similar to our "E for Everyone" rating).

    "Honestly, outside of the Gorig violence accentuating the extremeness of the situation (and taking the series in a complete 180-degree direction in violence) nothing of importance is missing by the cut scenes."

    And yet that was waht sold me on this watching it a decade ago! I would pause around the Gorig sequences just to see those moments play out.

    "Now, yes, Megazone 23 is still a flawed anime, and on immediate viewing its status as a "classic" may not be obvious, but when everything sinks in one can realize that it's status is indeed deserved... It's just doing so in a way that one wouldn't expect."

    It made back it's money, remember that!

    "As for Part III, that's generally left out of conversation for a reason; I'll watch it eventually, but that will only be for completion's sake."

    Please don't!

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  2. Oh, what did you think of the pinball machine in the opening, pretty obvious don't you think? :-P

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  3. Don't be a wuss man, suck it up and watch Part 3. You gotta do it!!! How can you forget the the best arcade game never made, HARD ON!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=pPFxMDy5dpE#t=169s

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