Friday, January 11, 2019
Unfortunately I will be taking a little bit of a forced break from this blog for a little while. My PC is on the way out (think the hard drive is just about to give up the ghost. Had this PC for 9 years, which is a decent run), so I'll be getting a new one. However no one in my local area does custom PCs (I refuse to go to Harvey Norman for an overpriced one), so I'm going to have to order one online. Been meaning to do this for a long time now, but the impending death of my current PC has finally forced my hand. As a result I won't be doing any more posts for a little while. Hope to be back within a month. It's bit of a shame as I have been on a roll for a little while and have been able to make a post almost every week for a while now.
Friday, January 4, 2019
Format: PAL VHS, Japanese Dialogue with English Subtitles
Runtime: 77 mins
Catalogue Number: WEST038
Japanese Title: Chouju Kishin Dancouga: God Bless Dancouga (God Bless Dancougar)
Japanese Production Date: 1987
This is the eighth part in a series of nine articles on the somewhat obscure 1990’s UK based video distributor Western Connection and the anime titles they released in English, titles that no one else bothered to re-release anywhere else. For a run down on what I thought made the company so special, see here. Continuing on with their 1995 releases, a very productive year for the company, we come to one of the odder tapes they released; the feature length OVA “God Bless Dancougar”, a concluding chapter to the 38 part “Dancouga” TV series which had not been released in English at that point in time. I previously reviewed the 2017 Discotek DVD release of the TV series here. Besides being an odd choice for UK release, what makes this release one of the strangest releases from the company is the baffling state of the video master that licensor Toho gave Western Connection.
The next day Sara goes to see an old friend of hers from the Space Officer Academy that she hasn't seen before the war. Sayuri was rather timid when Sara first met her, but now she has a doctorate in computer engineering and seems very confident. Sara almost doesn't recognise her at first. The following day the CBF are scrambled as a giant monster, possibly something left over from the Muge Empire invasion, attacks the city. The team are having trouble trying to defeat the monster, and even Professor Hazukito is unable to provide them with any information or tactics to deal with the creature they're fighting. During combat Sayuri contacts Sara and gives her all the data she has on the mysterious creature. Unfortunately a tragedy is about to occur. The fighting closes in Masato's family villa and it is destroyed, instantly killing his father. The monster then self-destructs destroying the city as a result.
When the three CBF team members arrive, Reki tells them that she was the Black Knight’s girlfriend, and that she has carried on his legacy. Professor Hazukito is also there and tells them that he is involved in this too. He explains that Sayuri is planning to control the world by the use of a super computer and the government has become tyrannical. Somehow Sayuri has managed to create a computer that lives off data and this computer has created a new dimension that might cause the world to vanish into dimensional space if it isn't stopped. Not only that, Sayuri has kidnapped Sara. The CBF members set off to defeat Sayuri and rescue Sara, but unbeknown to them Emperor Muge is alive and well, and it is he who is behind this plan.
Unfortunately the mind boggles at the reasoning behind this release from Western Connection. This tape was released over a year before the “Dancougar” TV series began being released in the US on VHS by Software Sculptors. “Dancougar” never played on TV in the UK either, so why in hell would they pick it for UK distribution? While you could probably understand the OVA to degree without watching the TV series, it’s far more beneficial to do so. UK viewers must have been utterly confused as to who these people were and what they were doing. The wedding sequence at the end of the film must have bamboozled them completely. I can just see hundreds of UK viewers saying “where the hell did this girl come from?”. I bet some viewers must have concluded that all of her scenes prior to the wedding sequence had been deleted from the video.
So what in hell was going on? It would seem this OVA was shot in a “open matte” aspect, possibly for dual TV/theatrical distribution. This was a very common practice in the 1980’s for theatrical anime. What used to happen with anime films in this era was that they were shot in an “open matte” format (i.e. 4:3 ratio, same as a normal TV screen), then matted into theatrical ratio for theatrical distribution (i.e. the top and bottom of picture blacked out so it was the same as the theatrical ratio, “vista” size, 16:9 ratio). This way when it was later shown on TV or for video distribution, there was no need for an expensive pan and scan conversion since it was originally filmed in a 4:3 TV sized format. What doesn't make sense however is why the camera operators have filmed “God Bless Dancouga” in a way so you could see where the tops and bottoms of cels had ended (the painters and animators only paint and draw what needs to be shown in a shot or frame, nothing more. Characters don't usually take up a whole cel from top to bottom).
Western Connection's production is also up to their usual crappy standards. The subtitle timing is a little off as per usual but more spot on than some of their other titles. Surprisingly some of the translation isn’t great. Some of the lines don’t make a lot of sense. As for the VHS slick, instead doing the usual and taking the synopsis from a Anime UK/Anime FX review, they've actually written one themselves. However it misspells or makes up character names (who the hell are Shino, Rat and Masa?) and borders on the edge on being incomprehensible. In fact it's complete dribble and barely makes sense. Bizarrely two of the three pictures on the back of the cover of the tape aren't even from this OVA. One is a shot seems to be from the concluding “Dancouga” OVA series “White Hot Final Chapter” (which hasn't been released commercially in English anywhere in the world yet and most likely it will never be). The other picture isn’t even from the “Dancouga” franchise at all. It’s from “Ai City”, another Toho movie that Western Connection released as “Love City”.
It's nearly impossible to find this tape. It’s not listed on Amazon UK like the majority of other Western Connection titles and I’ve never seen it for sale on eBay. I had real difficulty trying to get a copy until I discovered somebody selling off their personal anime collection and offered them a decent price for it some 15 or so years ago. I don't know if it was worth all the effort to find it as the story and plot are a little silly and trite. The state of the master used for UK VHS release would also dissuade even the most hard core fans of the franchise from tracking the tape down. Still it's a decent robot anime and I got some kicks out of it, plus the animation is very good for a mid-1980's production. I would have thought that Discotek might licence and release this OVA plus the remaining OVAs to complement their “Dancouga” TV series DVD release. To date this hasn’t happened which is a bit of a shame.
Friday, December 28, 2018
Publisher: Kadokawa Shoten (Japan)
Format: Region Free Blu-ray, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue with optional English and Japanese Subtitles
Length: 105 mins
Production Date: 2012
English Version Release Date: 25 January 2013
Currently in Print (as of writing): Yes
Debuting in the same season as the much hyped second series of “Code Geass”, as well as “Macross Frontier”, “Kaiba” and a whole slew of ongoing anime series based on very popular shonen manga titles, its little wonder that the original 2008 TV series of “Library War” was lost and forgotten by many anime fans (despite finally getting an English language DVD release from by Discotek in August 2015). Naturally this follow up movie had even less chance of being noticed by English speaking fans, despite the fact the Japanese blu-ray came with optional English subtitles. Based upon an extremely popular series of light novels aimed at young women by Hiro Arikawa, the series was turned into a 13 part anime TV series by Production I.G and broadcast on Fuji TV's noitaminA programming block.
The anime adaptation however begins in 2019, where we are introduced to new recruit Iku Kasahara. She decided to join the LDF after encountering one of its members who saved her after being harassed by a MBC troop in a bookshop who wanted to confiscate the book she wanted to buy. Kasahara considers the man who saved her to be her prince. While she is quite proficient at the military side of her job, her librarian skills aren’t so great. She is always being chewed out by her commanding officer Atsushi Dojo. Neither of them gets along too well with the other (yes, of course they develop romantic feelings for each other!). Kasahara is roommates at her dorm with Asako Shibasaki. Shibasaki is a Library Clerk First Class, but also an intelligence specialist who is exceptional at gathering information. She also is very caring of Kasahara and is always helping her out. The series veers from “slice of life” light-hearted comedy and drama mixed with romantic undertones from our two leads (Kasahara and Dojo) to full on battles with the MBC wrapped in the politics of censorship and issues to do with freedom of speech.
Kasahara and Dojo meet up, go to the café and later decide to head out to see a film. But before they can even reach the cinema they are both recalled back to work as an emergency has been declared. Upon arriving back at barracks, they spot several MBC agents in suits outside. Determined to get inside they barge past them, however it seems they aren’t there to stop LDF officers from getting in. Inside Kasahara and Dojo are given new orders; they are to be security detail to author Kurato Touma. Dojo is huge fan of his work and almost overeager to comply. It is explained that Kurato is being sought by the MBC as his novel “Nuclear Peril” has a plot similar to the crisis developing at the nuclear reactor in Tsuruga. The government believe that terrorists have copied the plot from the book and have put a warrant out for Kurato’s arrest. However the LDF want to defend Kurato and are horrified that the MBC is now going after authors. They attempt to have an injunction put in place for Kurato’s arrest.
The MBC infiltrate Kazuichi’s residence, but Kasahara and Dojo have already initiated an audacious plan to get Kurato to safety. The MBC try to stop them by any means including firing live bullets at their car, but ultimately fail. Video of the MBC’s incredibly violent actions in attempting to stop Kurato's escape reach a local TV station who broadcast it. The public are disgusted at the MBC’s actions; however the station is shut down for a day by the MBC for violating the Media Betterment Act. Knowing they practically have no chance in winning the court case and that Kurato will be forced to stop writing or worse, locked up for good, the LDF try to come up with a new plan to protect Kurato. Kasahara suggests the idea of him asking for asylum at one of the embassies. The court case verdict comes down and Kurato is bared from writing for five years until they capture the terrorists. Kasahara and Dojo first attempt to get Kurato to the Dutch embassy then when that fails, to the British one, but are blocked by MBC agents at every turn. Worse is to come with Dojo being hit by a bullet in the leg. However Kasahara refuses to leave him behind or give up on getting asylum for Kurato.
While the actions and uniforms of the Media Betterment Committee agents in the TV series scream “fascism”, the movie amps this up even further. The pre-credit sequence shows agents raiding the main branch of Kinokuniya Book Shop in Shinjuku, loading up several trucks worth of books then depicting them being taken to a large industrial incinerator complex and being dumped to individual incinerators by dump trucks. Unlike the TV series which shied away from showing mass book burning, here it makes no bones about the fact that it is done literally on a large industrial scale. Also not explicitly shown in the TV series was the censorship of mass media in regards to how the actions of the Media Betterment Committee agents are reported. In the movie it is made clear that any criticism of them would be met with sanctions against the offending TV station or paper.
However due to the heavy emphasis on the main characters and their relationships, as well the somewhat dry lead up to the injunction to Kurato’s detainment, the movie doesn’t really kick into gear until almost half way through. Once it does however, the action sequences are pretty spectacular, albeit in limited supply and perhaps a little over the top. However this is also one of the problems with the anime franchise as a whole. The over the top actions between both warning camps who are defending what amounts to a few books seems absurd, especially when there doesn’t seems to be any restrictions on other forms of media such as the internet (which is barely mentioned at all in the series or film). However the actions sequences are to a degree depicted in a more realistic light in the movie. The latter part of the movie shifts the film’s location to Osaka as Kasahara attempts to get Kurato into one of the city’s consulates so he can claim asylum. However this section of the film contains some of the worst Osakaian clichés imaginable, including the abuse of the local accent.
Overall I can probably only recommend this movie to those who know and like the TV series. Due to the fact there are several flashbacks in the first part of the film, it’s fairly easy to watch it without any prior knowledge of the TV series or novels, but it would make the experience far more rewarding. The early part of the film is mostly preoccupied with tying up some loose ends from the TV series as well reintroducing some bit players, but also conveying the plot of the movie in regards to Media Betterment Committee wanting to detain Kurato Touma and the LDF filing an injunction to stop this. It really is a lot of elements to keep track of. I think for the most part the screenwriter and director manage to juggle all of those elements fairly well. However some parts are glossed over or just forgotten about. For example several characters claim that the terrorist attack on the nuclear reactor was set up in order to further clamp down on authors. However this is only mentioned twice in the film in passing and never followed up. The second half of the film is far more exciting and action filled, but it can become a little bit silly at times. However I think on balance both the TV series and film are worth your time. It has been over three years since Discotek released the TV series and it seems a little unlikely at this stage they will release the film. Luckily both editions of the blu-ray are still in print in Japan. The single disc version will set you back ¥5,800, the special edition set costs ¥7,800. Both can also be found in the second hard market for less.
Saturday, December 22, 2018
Original Year of Release: 1989 - 1990
English Video Release: 1994 - 1995, NTSC VHS, Japanese Dialogue with English subtitles (also released as a NTSC Laserdisc, Japanese Dialogue with English subtitles in 1995 and PAL VHS, English Dubbed in 1996, in the UK)
Japanese Title: Red Fang Blue Sonnet (Akai Kiba Blue Sonnet)
Runtime: 5 episodes x 30 mins
Sonnet Barje grew up in the slums of an unnamed US city. After being treated in an extremely cruel manner by a group of men, she discovers that she has the power of telekinesis and ends up taking revenge. Later she is rescued by Dr Merikus and who transforms her into a cyborg for the evil organisation Talon. A test in the Arizona desert, where Sonnet takes on and defeats a platoon of tanks and helicopter gunship, shows she can take on whole armies with the use of her heightened ESP solely by herself. Dr Merikus sends Sonnet to Tokyo to investigate a girl named Lan Komatsuzaki. Dr Merikus believes she is the “Red Fang”, an “esper” from a long line of Ancients who possessed incredible powers. Sonnet transfers into Osei High, Lan’s school, where Sonnet gains a reputation as being a “super lady”. She can speak seven languages, tops all her classes and is exceptional in any sport she plays. Lan however feels a certain unease about Sonnet and is wary of her. When she tells her guardian, investigative journalist and author Jin Kiryu, he laughs it off. He has taken care of Lan since she was small, and reminds her that her abilities as an esper are a gift and though she should show anyone her powers, she isn’t a monster. However Kiryu is aware that something inside Lan is changing her.
Soon Wataru’s condition is stable. Torigai warns Lan to be careful of Sonnet as he leaves. She is rather surprised at this advice and tells Kiryu that she feels that Sonnet is after her. Sonnet is convinced Lan is the Red Fang. Dr Merikus arrives in Japan to confirm. He is greeted at the airport by representatives of Talon’s Japanese front, Azumi Industries. But upon travelling to the company’s experimental base in Narita, a group of bikers force them off the road and attempt to take Sonnet hostage (because as we all know, Japan is full of violent “Mad Max” style bikie gangs that attack people constantly). After making sure there are no witnesses present, Dr Merikus gives Sonnet the go ahead to dispose of the bikers. This display shocks the two representatives from Azumi, however they are also impressed. On a hunch Kiryu begins to investigate Azumi Industries after he learns that they are researching psychic powers as well as cyborg technology. The investigation takes him out of town which gives Talon a chance to pounce on Lan.
Unfortunately for Dr Onagara and his guests, Talon agents including Sonnet and Dr Merikus surround the house and take Lan and Kiryu forcefully. Dr Merikus orders them to kill Onagara, his assistant and his granddaughter, but Sonnet, who is beginning to question his tactics, secretly stops the bullets from killing them. The Talon agents set the house ablaze, but Onagara's assistant, daughter and grandchild are saved by Wataru and Torigai (or as Wataru nicknamed him, Bird). Bird reveals himself to be a prototype cyborg that Dr Merikus created. He rebelled and now fights against Talon. Meanwhile Lan and Kiryu have been taken to a secret laboratory. Talon wants to make clones of Lan so that they can have an army of Espers to do their bidding, and forcibly remove ovum from her to be planted into two surrogate mothers and a mechanical womb. Bird, Yuri and Wataru attempt to hatch a plan to rescue Kiryu and Lan.
From what I’ve seen the OVA, like the manga does have a load of violence and nudity in it. Girls love exploding heads and naked women apparently. It’s kind of hard to fathom really. But then again look at the violence and bloodshed in CLAMP's “X” manga. However I think producers of the “Blue Sonnet” anime may have decided to amp up the violence and nudity content to make it more appealing to male viewers. Even though Sonnet is the bad guy, you really feel for her, especially after the opening sequence which shows her back story. She's been abused sexually, raped and is forced to be a prostitute. Of course she later violently kills the evil men that did this to her with the use of ESP. During the series Sonnet begins to change after she goes to school for the first time and realises what a normal life is like. She begins to question her life of violence and killing. The opening animation also shows Lan attacking Sonnet with her powers. This unfortunately doesn't happen in any of the episodes. Lan is just a normal reserved girl, except for the fact she has ESP, but she never lets anyone know she has it. She only uses it when she's in danger or upset, and then it's used almost subconsciously.
The only real negatives of the show are the animation which isn't that spectacular for its time, especially for an OVA series. There’s also the lack of a conclusive ending. Will Lan and Bird continue to fight Talon? Will Sonnet finally rebel against Dr Merikus? Annoyingly these questions aren't answered in the anime. Like a lot of short OVAs based upon long running manga series, the series partly seems to be a ploy to get people to buy the manga to see what happens next. This OVA was released by Central Park Media (CPM) at a time when they had a dubbing deal with Manga Video in the UK. Manga dubbed a lot of their early titles, mainly because it was cheaper I suppose. Dubs like “Project A-ko” and “Dominion Tank Police” were a part of this deal. For whatever reason Manga didn't take on this project until two years after the US release. CPM didn't release it dubbed in the US either. It's a bit unfortunate as it's a really underappreciated anime.
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Format: 210mm x 280mm (Standard Magazine Size)
Genre/Type: Anime, Manga, Tokusatsu, Anime Music, Model Kits, Role Playing Games, Convention and Fandom Events Coverage
Years Active: 1991 – 1996
Issues Published: 17
As San Francisco Bay Area based anime magazine Animag entered the 1990’s, several internal issues within the magazine’s staff and its publisher, Pacific Rim, caused a major rift. Though the magazine did survive the internal and external conflicts, several staff left Animag for good. This included Animag’s co-founder, Matthew Anacleto, who was reportedly so frustrated with chaos at Animag that he along with other ex-staff created their own magazine; V.Max. Though not explicitly stated in the magazine itself, though referred to in a line below the masthead, V.Max was intended to be an upgrade of the A.N.I.M.E. (Animation of Nippon Inter-Mediary Exchange) newsletter. That newsletter was the original newsletter of the fan collective/club that Animag was born from. The title of the magazine, V.Max, was taken from the mid 1980’s anime series “Blue Comet SPT Layzner”. In that series, the titular robot’s A.I. system Fouron could engage a high performance system named V-Max at will.
Like other magazines of the era,V.Max had similar content; several anime and manga series profiles, a rundown of several new OVA releases, CD soundtrack reviews, a short one page profile of someone in the anime industry, a somewhat light-hearted news section and lists of Japanese laserdisc releases which of course included catalogue numbers so you could order them. The magazine was initially bi-monthly and ran for 28 pages in black and white with a colour cover. With the exception of CD soundtrack reviews, no actually critical review appeared at this stage of the magazine’s life. Instead there were only short synopses of anime and manga. An editorial from editor Chris Keller explained that it wasn’t the magazine’s job to tell the reader what they should or shouldn’t watch. They would only provide information and it would be up to reader to decide. The magazine also included lyrics or quotes from various anime which began on the cover and concluded on the contents page. This was a rather cute idea, but it only lasted until the sixth issue.
As further issues of the magazine were released, it became quite apparent that the staff really didn’t think much of any English language adaption made for the US market, be it manga, or English dubbed or even English subtitled VHS tapes. The two main targets seemed to be Viz Communications and of course Streamline Pictures. The report on the Streamline Pictures panel at the Anime Expo ’92 was rather scathing. It stated that Carl Macek implied that “Robotech” was far better than “Macross” and that the core target of Streamline Pictures’ dubbed VHS tapes were people who “live in trailer parks watching TV and eating fish head sandwiches”. Not sure if this quote was 100% accurate, but I think we all know that at time Macek could come across as bit of a narcissist and was often rather critical or downright hostile to anime fandom. While I think a far bit of criticism and bile directed towards him by elements in fandom was way out of line, its little wonder he pissed off a large section of fandom.
Only after three issues, the era of Newtype running the show was over. Enter R. Talsorian Games, a role playing game company best known for their games “Mekton”, “Cyberpunk 2020” and their adaptation of “Dragonball Z”. In some ways they were a perfect fit for the magazine, but in some ways they weren’t. The first major change was the magazine went from bi-monthly to quarterly. The list of new and upcoming Japanese and US releases disappeared and the fan art page only continued to appear sporadically until it eventually disappeared altogether. Worst of all R. Talsorian Games devoted least eight pages to its anime related role playing games each issue. Despite the fairly sickening self-promotion by its new commercial publisher, V.Max continued to produce the same high quality articles on various anime and manga including features on “Yu Yu Hakausho”, “Compiler”, “Gatchaman” and more obscure manga such as “Desert Rose”.
The author of the sidebar article on Comiket was the infamous K.J. Karvonen. He gained quite a reputation due to a review of a book and various articles and opinions written for Hawaiian based anime magazine Animeco. I won’t be going into what he wrote or why his views were not appreciated (to put it mildly) in the US anime community at the time as I will be looking at Animeco sometime down the track. At any rate, Karvonen got his own regular column in the magazine in late 1994 called Otaku World. While his article on Comiket might have been informative and measured, his writing (and rantings) in Otaku World weren’t. His first article about Rumiko Takahashi’s panel at the San Diego Comicon in August 1994, wasn’t too bad. It did however get a little worse from there on. He got his wife, Tery, to write up a perspective on fandom from the viewpoint of female anime fans. Tery, being a comic book artist, supplied the drawings for the article as well. It’s as you’d expect and terribly fanish. A latter article on Canadian anime fans, in particular the Vancouver Japanese Animation Society and its fansub offshoot, the infamous Arctic Animation was just as embarrassingly fanish. Editor Chris Keller’s promise in the very first issue that it would never navel gaze or pander to this stuff seemed a rather hollow one.
While a lot of the writing on anime, manga and various conventions and events was really well done, the major problem I had with this magazine was its issue with English adaptations, specifically English dubbing. Not a great deal of the reviews received anything beyond three stars out of five. I do think the US actors and directors who take on the task of dubbing anime always seem to have a difficult time with the material they're trying to localise, and the results are rarely as good as the original. But I understand that people like them, and for whatever reason a lot of people just won't read subtitles. But the staff at V.Max didn’t want to acknowledge this and hated dubs with a passion. No matter how well a dub was done, they seemed to just rip it apart, simply for the fact it was a dub. Chris Keller even wrote a three part editorial (meant to be a four parter, cut short by the demise of the magazine) devoted to why he didn't like dubbing. It was quite tiring at times. I really wished they concentrated on the content of the anime when reviewing, rather than the English voice acting.
Saturday, December 1, 2018
Format: Beta, VHS and Laserdisc, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue
Length: 34 minutes
Original Release Date: 10 September 1988
Animation Exclusive to this Release: No
Other Sources (Japanese unless noted): Kimagure Orange Road The OVA DVD Box (2007), Kimagure Orange Road OVA Series 1 (Rental DVD, 2007)
Currently Availability (as of writing): Out of Print
In my last instalment in this series, I made the observation that very few of these anime music video compilations ever get a commercial English language home video release. This video was next on my list to review when US video distributor Discotek Media announced they were re-releasing the “Kimagure Orange Road” TV series, OVAs and first movie in a standard definition blu-ray release. The most surprising aspect of the yet to solicited release is that this music video compilation is to be included in it. Regardless, I decided to review this anime music video compilation as I think the earliest the Discotek set will be released is a few months into 2019, perhaps we'll have to wait a little longer than that. Before we get to the actual music videos, a rundown on the story of the anime;
Kyosuke and Madoka strike up a conversion about how many steps there are leading up to the park. After a brief and playful argument, where Madoka says there is 100 and Kyosuke swears there is 99, Kyosuke compromises and says there is 99 and a half. This amuses Madoka. She leaves telling him to keep the hat as it looks good on him. He tries to ask her name by she just smiles and walks off. The next day at his first day at school, Kyosuke is befriended by two girl crazy classmates, Seiji Komatsu and Kazuya Hatta. He realises that Madoka goes to his school and asks Seiji and Komatsu about her. They tell him that she is a delinquent and it’s best to avoid her. However he is already smitten by her. After school Kyosuke witnesses Madoka defending her best friend, Hikaru Hiyama, from a group of bikers who are mad at Hikaru for dumping their leader. Even though Madoka is much smaller in stature, she beats the living daylights out of all of them. Shocked and impressed, Kyosuke goes to talk to her, but she claims they have never met. She pulls out a cigarette to smoke but Kyosuke uses his power to destroy the tip of it. He berates her for smoking to which she replies by slapping him.
“Night of Summer Side” performed by Masanori Ikeda
There’s not much to say about his one. This opening video is basically a list of credits of all the songs that appear. Little snippets of the other videos appear as the credits are listed. Unlike most of the other songs in this compilation, the version presented here is the cut down opening theme “TV size” version, which runs about a minute and half. As most fans of “Kimagure Orange Road” know, this song was the first opening theme of the TV series. It was first released as a single in May 1987.
“Summer Mirage (Natsu no Mirage)” performed by Kanako Wada
“Orange Mystery” performed by Hideyuki Nagashima
“Dangerous Triangle (Kiken na Triangle)” performed by Masanori Ikeda
“Sad Heart is Burning (Kanashii Heart wo Moeteiru)” performed by Kanako Wada
“Like a Salvia Flower (Salvia no Hana no you ni)” performed by Kanako Wada
“Inside This Heart One More Time (Kono Mune ni One More Time)” performed by Hideyuki Nagashima
“Again” performed by Minako Fujishiro
“Breaking Heart” performed by Yuiko Tsubokura
“Genina” performed by Kanako Wada
“Actress in the Mirror (Kagami no Naka no Actress)” performed by Meiko Nakahara
“Dance in the Memories” performed by Meiko Nakahara
Like the first video I this compilation, this one is a just a closer with credits. It does feature some still scenes from the TV series as “photographs” on a black background. “Dance in the Memories” was used as the TV series’ third closing theme. It was first issued as a B-side to the “Actress in the Mirror” single in January 1988.
Since the original 1988 release, the compilation has only been reissued once; as an extras on the three disc “Kimagure Orange Road” The OVA DVD Box back in 2007 by Toho in Japan, which of course is out of print. As a result currently it’s a little hard to come by. That three disc set costs ¥17,000 to over ¥30,000 in the second hand market. The box set was also released as three separate discs, which Toho pressed up for rental video shops. I saw a bundle of all three discs on Rakuten selling for ¥3,000 which is a lot cheaper. Original VHS tapes go for around ¥1,500. But it doesn’t really matter as Discotek will be releasing the compilation as part of their blu-ray release of the OVA series sometime in 2019, making it widely available for the first time since 2007.
Friday, November 23, 2018
Format: PAL VHS, Japanese Dialogue with English Subtitles
Runtime: 47 mins (OVA 1), 26 mins (OVA 2)
Catalogue Number: WEST037
Japanese Title: Idol Boueitai Hummingbird (Idol Defence Force Hummingbird), Idol Boueitai Hummingbird ’94 Natsu (Hummingbird '94 Summer)
Japanese Production Date: 1993 - 1994
Continuing on with the seventh part in my series on the utterly obscure 1990’s UK based video distributor Western Connection and weird and wonderful anime titles that they released in English that no one else bothered to re-release anywhere else. This time we’re looking at my favourite title they released; “Hummingbirds”
The show's producer, Kudo, is quite interested in the girls performance despite of, or perhaps because of Satsuki's brain explosion. He arranges a meeting with the Hummingbirds' manager, Hazuki, also the girl's mother, where the two of them nut out a deal to make a record and music video to make them into idol superstars. But Satsuki is a little uneasy at the idea that she will be the focus of the group. Her real goal is to win the best pilot award and follow in the footsteps of her pilot father who disappeared while on a mission some eight years ago. Still the dancing and singing lessons and training begin in earnest and soon they are ready to make their debut. Standing in their way is the manager of SNAP, Yajima. He deliberately attempts to sabotage their debut by forcing the girls to wear animal costumes and performing in old clapped out Phantom F-4 jets, while out on a mock sortie against SNAP. While the girls reluctantly comply, they take out their revenge on the SNAP boys by locking on to all four of them to “shoot” them down in less than a minute.
Kudo for some unknown reason knows how to dismantle bombs and radios instructions to the girls. Naturally they discover the bomb is a fake and the girls take off just in the nick of time to perform their single, much to the displeasure of Yajima who had the fake bombs planted. Later at home, the Hummingbirds are called out to defend Japan against invading aircraft above Tokyo Bay. But the girls have to deal with Kudo and his cameraman offsider who have taken off in a helicopter to obtain footage of the girls in action for a music video. One of the enemy aircraft shoots at Kudo and it's up to Satsuki to save him. In the second OVA on the tape, an idol swimming competition on the USS Enterprise is interrupted by an invading plane. The Hummingbirds take off to investigate only to find that the pilot in question is an invited guest. However the guest takes it on himself to challenge the Hummingbirds and in particular goes after an unwilling Satsuki. The second eldest sister, the tomboyish Yayoi, locks on to the guest and gleefully “shoots” him down.
Essentially this show is nothing more than the core part of a multimedia project for a five woman idol group, oddly enough like the anime also called Hummingbird. The group was made up of Kotono Mitsuishi (who played Satsuki), Sakiko Tamagawa (Kanna), Yuri Amano (Yayoi), Fumie Kusachi (Uzuki), and Hekiru Shiina (Mina). Of those five, Kotono would be the most famous in the west. She has played Excel in “Excel Saga”, Murrue Ramius in “Gundam Seed”, Misato Katsuragi in “Evangelion” and in her most famous role, Usagi Tsukino and her alter ego Sailor Moon in the series of the same name. Sakiko although not a well-known name in the west, would most recognisable to fans as the voice of the Tachikoma in “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex”, Pirotess in “Record of Lodoss War” and Natsumi Tsujimoto in “You're Under Arrest”. In four short years, the group pumped out a huge catalogue of items including 14 albums, four singles, two concert videos, four cassette dramas, two pocket novels, three CD-ROMs and of course four anime OVAs.
The series itself is quite frankly totally inane. It's dumb, silly, quite superficial, mostly a cynical ploy to help the singing careers of five women and to sell a lot of merchandise. However it is quite fun like a lot of 1990's OVAs, and can be surprisingly clever and is very funny most of its length. Like Macross, we have a defence force and idol singers, but this time it's played for laughs. Everyone involved knows the show is silly and is having fun with the concept. Funnily enough “Macross 7”, released two years after this video series, was somewhat similar with a band that defended their Macross cruiser home against enemy attack by flying in Valkyries and singing. The “Hummingbird” anime's story focuses mainly on the middle sister Satsuki, but there are moments dedicated to all of the sisters. As the ages of the girls range from 12 to 19 and with a number of personalities between all five, there is probably a girl here to please anyone. And with all of the insert songs and concert scenes (as well as the merchandise tie-ins), of course the show is squarely aimed at the idol otaku. There are quite a few fan service shots but unlike a lot of modern anime it's relatively tame.
Western Connection’s VHS tape contains only the first two OVAs. Frustratingly the tape has edits to the closing animation on the first OVA and both the opening and closing animations on the second. First they removed the end credits to the first OVA, but then also cut the opening to second OVA, removed the ending of episode two and stuck the opening of episode two on the end of the OVA. Seamless it ain't. There's a prologue before the opening credits on episode two, and the opening theme song begins before the opening animation starts. The sloppy editing with the music abruptly stopping is incredibly jarring. There were two reasons why this was done, both explained by translator and UK anime guru Jonathan Clements. In an article on music translation in Anime FX magazine from 1995, Clements explained the ending was cut because he had received a video tape from the company which had audio through one stereo channel only. As some of the solo singing of the girls was panned into left or right channels in end song on the second OVA, he couldn't hear the lyrics to the whole song, hence he couldn't translate the whole thing and therefore the ending was cut.
What the hell is up with that?! Am I watching some crappy little fan subtitled tape or a professional release? Honestly, what sort of professional video company does that? Oh that's right, I forgot I was watching a Western Connection tape. They aren't professionals. The packaging is the usual; slapped together artwork and the synopsis from Anime FX. The artwork isn't too bad, but the picture is stretched on the front and text covers Mina's face. In late 1995 in the news section of Anime FX magazine, it was stated that Western Connection had acquired the remaining two unreleased OVAs for “Hummingbirds” and were planning to release them in 1996. However by the time 1996 rolled around the company was dead and buried. I suspect they hadn’t even acquired the OVAs and Cipkalo was just stringing the public along.