Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Giant Robots of Kokusai Eigasha: Innovators or Oddities?

When you think mech anime there are specific studios that fans will think of, like Sunrise, Gonzo, Toei, & Ashi Pro. Back in the 80s, mech anime was a gigantically big genre of anime, with all sorts of properties being made during that era and, coincidentally, being a big part of the Super Robot Wars series' history of using actual mech anime. Anyway, a lot of these mech series followed a similar idea behind them: There was a war going on between humans and aliens/other humans/evil organisations, and space was a battlefield. But there was one studio that boldly decided to buck some of those trends & try different ideas. Granted, some of these productions still followed some elements of the usual 80s mech anime, but in general they all had at least one thing that made them identifiable & original... And that might possibly be part of the reason why Kokusai Eigasha, also known as Movie International Co. Ltd., died out in just six years.

Now I know that most of you are probably wondering, "Who the hell was Kokusai Eigasha?", so I'll give a little backstory about the company, which I'll be calling Kokusai for short (others have used MIC), first. According to Wikipedia Japan, Kokusai technically started up in 1974, but didn't enter the anime business until 1979, with their debut title being Mechakko Dotakon, a children's title about a robot boy who wants to become a real boy. After that Kokusai found some success with two titles aimed at girls, Wakakusa no Yon Shimai (which was based on Louisa May Alcott's Little Women) & Honey Honey (which was based on the shojo manga Honey Honey no Suteki na Bouken), both of which found TV airtime around the world, including the USA. During this time, though, Kokusai did get involved in mech anime by helping Ashi Pro out with what is now a somewhat infamous mech anime: 1980-1981's Space Warrior Baldios.

Baldios was the story of Marin Reigan, the main pilot of the giant robot Baldios, & his battle against a race of aliens who destroyed their own world through pollution & were looking into doing the same to Earth. Yeah, it seems that the show was kind of a "Save the Environment!" message wrapped up inside of a mech anime, and though it was planned to be 39 episodes, the show wound up getting canceled after 31, & the last shot of the TV series would become one of the most infamous "bad endings" in anime history. The TV series ended in early 1981, & at the end of the year Toei (yeah, not Ashi...  Weird, huh?) made a movie adaptation that acted both as a compilation movie but also as a proper ending to the original story, telling what happened after the "bad end" of the TV series. It was this movie that was released here in North America by Celebrity Home Entertainment under the name "Space Warriors", and I included the movie in my most recent license rescue list, adding that what we got was a 99-minute cut, while a 117-minute cut exists in Japan. Technically, Baldios isn't a Kokusai anime, since Ashi was the main studio behind it and still holds the rights to it, but it's still worth bringing up. Kokusai teamed up with Ashi Pro four times total, with this bring the third team-up, and Baldios is likely the most interesting of the four, though Zukokke Knight - Don De La Mancha, an anime adaptation of Don Quixote where De La Mancha himself is a dog-man, comes in at a close second through the sheer odd factor.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Explorer Woman Ray: and the Light of the Ords

I was going into this 1989 OVA expecting a horribly bland & bad anime. After all, any review I could find of this title wasn't exactly nice (even Mike Toole's old AnimeJump review from 2003 was negative). But here I am, having watched both episodes, and I honestly liked it. True, it isn't one of the all-time greats, nor is it one of the best of the 80s, but I honestly enjoyed watching Explorer Woman Ray.

Rayna Kizuki, Ray for short, is a professor & archaeologist who is currently on the search for more info on the mysterious Ord Tribe, who were known to worship the Sun. Her grandfather had started this search ten years ago with his assistant Rieg Vader, but he disappeared without a trace, & Rieg left shortly after. During her research two young girls, Mai & Mami, find her and have brought the mirror-like artifact that the Ords used, which Ray's grandfather had possession of, in hopes that it can help lead to them finding treasure. Unfortunately, Rieg has also been on the search & will do anything to get the mirror and find out the true nature behind the light that the Ord had once worshiped.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Crystal Triangle: And People Badmouth Indiana Jones 4...

I am almost at a loss for words... I have just seen an anime that has blown my mind. Not because it's so amazingly excellent, because it's not (in fact, it's downright dumb), but rather because I honestly couldn't think that such a title could be made. This is Kindan no Mokushiroku/The Forbidden Apocalypse (or, as CPM translated it, The Forbidden Revelation) Crystal Triangle.

Koichiro Kamishiro is an archaeologist who is on the search for the mysterious "Message of God", which is the supposed lost "11th Commandment" that can save the Earth from its greatest calamity. With the help of his assistants Isao & Mina, newcomer Miyabi (the daughter of the man who taught Kamishiro), & a yakuza named Ginji Kamishiro, he will discover the truth behind the "Message of God" and how it relates to the mysterious Hih Tribe. Unfortunately, Kamishiro also has the CIA, KGB, & even the Japanese government hot on his heels.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Cat Soup: The DVD Cover... It Bleeds!

There really isn't any way to concisely describe this title... It's weird, surreal, slow-paced, disturbing, silly, childish, adult, and all in roughly 30 minutes! This is Cat Soup.

Nekojiru/Cat Soup, real name Chiyomi Nakayama, was a mangaka who became well known for her works involving a world where animals live just like humans do... And she wasn't afraid to be both cute enough to attract a strong female audience while also being adult, dark, & violent enough to attract a strong male audience. Her works were so popular that in 1999 a TV series, Nekojiru Gekijou/Theater - Jirujiru ORIGINAL, was made that lasted for 27 two-minute episodes, and since that show was fansubbed years ago I might review that at a later date. For now, though, I'm going to focus on the award-winning 2001 OVA, Nekojiru-so (Cat Soup Grass) that Central Park Media felt was so crazy that it was worth releasing on its own.

Nyatto & Nyako are two cat children who live with their parents. Nyako is deadly ill & Nyatto decides to play with a car in the tub, drowning himself in the process. In his near-death experience, Nyatto sees a figure taking Nyako's soul away, and when he catches up he tries saving his older sister, but only getting half of her soul back. Nyatto is revived but Nyako dies before Nyatto decides to put her half-soul back into her body; Nyako revives, but is essentially brain-dead. Mother sends the two out to get some food, but Nyatto decides to drag his brain-dead sister with him to a circus & magic show... Which ends up in the flooding of the entire planet. And this is only the beginning of the siblings' adventure.