Monday, October 22, 2018

Anime On the Big Screen: “Detective Conan: The Crimson Love Letter”

Venue: Dendy Cinemas, Level 2, North Quarter, Canberra Centre, 148 Bunda Street, Canberra City, ACT
Date: Sunday 21 October 2018
Distributor: Toho Pictures (presented by the Japan Foundation as part of the Japanese Film Festival)
Format: Digital Projection, Japanese dialogue with English subtitles
Length: 112 minutes
Production Date: 2017
Currently on Home Video in English (as of writing): No

Unlike the horrible weather of the previous day, Sunday was a fantastic, sunny and warmish spring day with scant cloud cover in the blue skies above. Surprisingly Canberra Centre wasn’t crowded as usual. The second anime movie I went to see this weekend was playing as part of the 2018 Japanese Film Festival which had run over the previous three days. Two anime films played last year, however we’re back to one feature this year and it’s a doozy; a film based on a continuing franchise over two decades old that has made no real impression on western anime fans, let alone in Australia. I was given a survey as I walked in and told to complete it so more anime was programmed for future festivals in Canberra. I wasn’t going to argue the point of why in hell this film was programmed. There was plenty of other recent features they could have programmed such as the two Science Saru films; “The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl”, which oddly Melbourne did get, and “Lu Over the Wall”. However I made the comment that one of the better independent Japanese films of recent years, “One Cut of the Dead”, wasn’t even playing in Canberra for the festival, yet was listed in the line up for other capitals.

I really don’t get what goes on in the minds of the festival’s programmers. I honestly don’t. Despite the strange selection of the 2017 “Conan” movie, almost 50 people showed up for the screening. As per usual it was a mix of people; quite a lot of Japanese parents bringing their children to the screening, the usual film festival types, a couple of otaku types (with one rather large guy continually shoving popcorn into his face) and strangely a couple of groups of young women. Dendy had the Vapors song “Turning Japanese” playing over the PA before the screening commenced, which was quite frankly strange. Before I attempt to dissect the film, I think a quick rundown of the franchise is in order; based on the long running manga by Gosho Aoyama and published in Shonen Sunday, the manga became so popular it spawned an anime series in 1996 which still to this day gains high ratings and is now up to episode 917 as of last week. 22 films have also been produced since 1997, with this one being the 21st and also the highest grossing one at the time of release (with nearly a million tickets sold and ¥6.87 billion in box office receipts).

The series follows Shinichi Kudo, a high school detective who gains fame by helping the police solve murder mysteries. While on a date with his childhood sweetheart Ran Mori at a theme park, he comes across a shady deal being hatched by a criminal organisation, but is caught by its members and knocked out. They force a strange new poison down his throat in an attempt to kill him. However instead of killing him, it oddly shrinks his body down to that of a first grade child. To hide his true identity, Shinichi takes up the alias Conan Edogawa and tags along with Ran’s bumbling detective father, Kogoro Mori, in the hope Kogoro will take a case involving the organisation that poisoned him so he can obtain the antidote that can turn him back into his old self. When he is able to solve a case, he uses a tranquilizer to put Kogoro to sleep and impersonates him using a voice changer to reveal the solution. Conan enrols in a local elementary school where he makes friends with several classmates who form their own detective club called the Detective Boys. He also befriends a professor, Dr Agasa, who makes various gadgets for him to use in his investigations and often teams up with teenage detective Heiji Hattori and his not quite girlfriend, Kazuha Toyama.

This movie has the Detective Boys club along with Detective Kogoro, Ran, Heiji and Kazuha traveling to Osaka to cheer on Mikiko Hiramoto who is playing in Japan’s biggest karuta tournament as part of the high school karuta club she and Kazuha are in. A mock tournament is being played in front of the cameras in a local TV station with Mikiko and champion Momiji Ooka playing as a rehearsal. In between setting the stage up for the broadcast, Momiji bumps into Heiji and states that she has just met her future husband. Naturally Kazuha is rather miffed at this accidental meeting and interrogates Heiji to find out if her really knows her. The local police inform the station that a bomb threat has been received. The station is evacuated, but Mikiko goes back to retrieve a special set of karuta cards that will be used in the final. Conan, Heiji and Kazuha run back in to save Mikiko, but the bomb goes off during their evacuation. Mikiko manages to escape, but the others are trapped and decide to head to the roof. Conan uses his Elasticity Suspenders to lower Heiji and Kazuha to the ground, but a second explosion weakens the roof and he forced to use his Turbo Engine Skateboard and the station’s satellite dish to catapult himself towards the river. He doesn’t quite make it, however Heiji saves him by catching him in his arms.

In the aftermath we learn that Mikiko has broken her arm and can no longer play. She convinces Kazuha to play for her, though she feels that she is not up to Mikiko’s standard. Help arrives in the form of Heiji’s mother, Shizuka Hattori, a famous karuta champion, who teaches her everything she knows. It is later revealed that karuta champion Toshiya Yajima has been murdered. Several karuta cards are spread around the crime scene. It becomes obvious that the murder is related to the forthcoming karuta tournament, and soon people connected with the tournament start receiving threatening emails containing images of karuta cards which all have the word “Momiji” in their poems. It is believed that a man named Shikao Nagoro is behind the threats. Missing for several years, Nagoro was the leader of an elite karuta group in which Momiji was his greatest student. Conan believes the final target of the bomber is Momiji herself and that the bomber will strike in the finals of the championship.

This film, like the last six “Conan” films which preceded it, was directed by Kobun Shizuno, who is better known to anime fans as the director of CG anime such as the recent “Godzilla” trilogy and “Knights of Sidonia”. Besides Shinzuno, there isn’t any other really notable staff who worked on this film. But on the voice acting side of things though, there are some really big hitters; Megumi Hayashibara plays Ai Haibara (who plays only a small role in the film, but a large one in the “Conan” universe), Yuko Miyamura (Asuka in “Evangelion”) playing Kazuha Toyama, Akira Kamiya (Ryo Saeba in “City Hunter”) plays Kogoro and Minami Takayama (Nabiki Tendo in “Ranma ½”) as Conan.

On the positive side of things, much of the action is really well done. There are approximately three major action sequences and Shizuno shows off his fantastic skills in all three (Shizuno storyboarded the film as well). He certainly knows where to place the camera to obtain some great shots. According to interviews for the film, manga author Gosho Aoyama cited the recent live action adaptations of the manga series “Chihayafuru” (also made into an anime with the live action films being screened at this Japanese Film Festival) as inspiration. Much like “Chihayafuru”, this film makes use of the beautiful surrounds of the Omi Jingu Shrine which in real life hosts the national karuta championship. In the game play of karuta itself, Shizuno cleverly uses the cards flying in the air as moving screens to depict the action in and around the game being held. The closing credits also uses really beautiful live action footage of the area in and around Omi Jingu, which I thought was great way to end the film.

Now having said that, I really struggled with this film. As it was part of a much larger franchise that I practically knew nothing about (apart from the few episodes I managed to catch on TV in my travels to Japan), I attempted to read up on as much as I could before I went. However it’s pretty hard to jam over 20 years of the franchise into a quarter of an hour or so of reading. As the cast is rather large (and even with the fact many characters did not appear or had mere cameos in this film), I found it really hard to work out the relationships in the film and generally couldn’t get their personal idiosyncrasies that had been built up over the last two decades. Coupled with that was a rather convoluted mystery involving karuta cards and organisations with characters being introduced left right and centre at a rapid rate.

Adding to this hellish mix was the rather bizarre world of “Conan” in which not only do you have to suspend disbelief that a teenager has been shrunk to the size of a young child, but also that he solves crimes and uses his unconscious girlfriend’s father and a voice changing bowtie in order to announce the culprit of the crime, because no one is going to believe a child. And this is despite the very realistic world settings. The gadgets Conan uses are really silly and implausible (turbo propelled skateboard?!) and the action sequences have some plainly absurd moments. The worst offender is the action sequence at the TV station. One part involves Conan escaping the burning and crumbling roof top by riding his turbo skateboard around and around the TV station’s satellite dish in an effort to gain speed so he can jump over the road into the river several hundred metres away. It’s utterly daft. Meanwhile the bomber standing outside the burning building is depicted as if he is wearing a black zentai suit, which I assume is to hide his identity from the audience, however it just looks strange, as nobody in the crowd seems to notice this weird man in a black zentai suit grinning manically. Other methods surely should have been considered to hide his identity from the audience. Why they chose this method baffles me.

I also didn’t think much of most of the animation. It doesn’t really get above TV animation level for the vast majority of the film. The music isn’t much chop either. For the most part it’s quite dull synthesizer music that at times sounds like it escaped from a B-movie. Adding to the film’s woes are the subtitles. First up they were white and quite thin and didn’t have a great deal of black border to them. Any time there was a light or white background, they could be extremely difficult to read. The translation wasn’t up to snuff either. There were a lot of grammatical errors and obviously the script editor or translator couldn’t work out how to handle the puns and wordplay all that well. For instance if there was a bit of wordplay, the line would be translated literally, plus the line would also romanised in Japanese. Apparently the audience was meant to read all the subs in a very short time frame, then work out the pun or wordplay for themselves. This film was screened in Singaporean cinemas last year, so I’m assuming the version screened here is identical to Singaporean one. Odex was the distributor, who are pretty notorious for their shitty subs and translations. It certainly looks like their work.

Summing up, I couldn't get into this film much at all. It was too hard me coming into this film fresh without really knowing the history of the franchise. It was extremely difficult to work out the convoluted mystery, keep track of the suspects and try to figure out who all these characters are and how they relate to each other in the “Conan” universe. I also couldn’t suspend my disbelief in spots. Parts of it were a bit too silly. The choice of this feature for the film festival beggar’s belief; a movie from a 20 year franchise that is pretty much unknown to a lot of western anime fans, let alone general festival goers, involving a mystery set around a card game unfamiliar to the vast majority of westerners. I mean the manga series is a relatively good seller for Viz and American late night show host Conan O'Brien has recently raised the profile of the series, but come on! At times the film did interest me, I did like part of the mystery and lot of the action sequences where fun (when you could suspend disbelief), however it wasn’t exactly a fun experience for me. 5 out of 10 and I’m being quite generous.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Anime On the Big Screen: “I Want to Eat Your Pancreas”

Venue: Dendy Cinemas, Level 2, North Quarter, Canberra Centre, 148 Bunda Street, Canberra City, ACT
Date: Saturday 20 October 2018
Distributor: Madman Entertainment
Format: Digital Projection, Japanese dialogue with English subtitles
Length: 108 minutes
Production Date: 2018
Currently on Home Video in English (as of writing): No

In the space of a few weeks there are three anime films in local cinemas, with two on this weekend. Spring has arrived and while it’s rather warm, storms have arrived. Instead of rain all day there several were short torrential downpours accompanied by lightning. Not the best weather to go out in. And despite the weather. as per usual the Canberra Centre was packed. There was a desk near the top of the escalators in the cinema for the Japanese Film Festival which was currently screening. I’ll be going to see one film from that tomorrow. It was a pretty low turnout for this late afternoon session of the film; seven people, a Malaysian family of three who really seemed to enjoy the film, a couple in their early twenties, myself and one other bloke. I sort of wonder what the future holds for theatrical anime… Anyway, let’s talk about the film;

In a town in Toyama Prefecture, an unassuming, quite 17 year old teen routinely goes about reading books, all the time ignoring his classmates. After having an appendectomy, he returns to the hospital a few weeks later to have the stiches removed. Sitting the waiting area of the hospital, he notices a book on the seats of the next aisle. He tentatively looks around for its owner and finding no one decides to read the cover, “Living with Dying”, written in pen. Inside he is slightly startled to see it’s the diary of a girl in his class, Sakura Yamauchi, which chronicles her life with a pancreatic disease which she knows will soon end her life. Suddenly she appears in front of him asking for the diary back. Sakura realises he has probably read at least some of the pages and tells him that she is dying. He rather aloofly tells her that he doesn’t really care for other people and as it is it is turn to be served, walks to the counter. Sakura is rather intrigued by his response as it is most definitely not the usual response she hears from people when she tells them.

Much to his annoyance, Sakura pesters him to hang out together. Initially she helps him at the school library (being a loner and a total bookworm this totally suits him), where he puts returned books back on the shelf. The chatty, happy go lucky Sakura tells him that she has told no one of her pancreatic disease outside her family, except him. One day she tells him that she heard that in other cultures people eat parts of organs to cure their own sick organs and suggest she wants to eat his pancreas to get better. Sakura later manages to drag him around town where she saves an old lady from being shaken down for compensation money by a gang. He questions if she has no fear due to her limited time, however Sakura denies this. Classmates see both of them out together and they become the talk of the class. No one can figure why Sakura wants to hang out with the most antisocial guy in the class.

The pair are go to an all you can eat sweets restaurant when Sakura’s best friend, Kyoko, spots them and publicly questions Sakura why she is dating him. Kyoko is incredibly protective of her friend and is unashamedly hostile towards him. Sakura accosts him at school and warns him not to hurt Sakura. Later Sakura shows the boy her bucket list and despite his reluctance to be with her they cross off a number of activities she has always wanted to do. She tells him that she needs him to be her friend until the end. During the summer holidays Sakura asks him out for a short day trip, which ends up being a two day overnight journey to Fukuoka. They see the sites of Kuyshu, but when they return to hotel Sakura realises she has made a booking error and has booked only one room. She gets beer and snacks from the local convenience store, which shocks the rather conservative boy as both of them are underage.

Despite that the two of them end up playing truth or dare, in which the boy discovers more about Sakura. He also accidentally finds her pills, insulin and syringes which keep her alive, which affects him greatly. The night ends with her too drunk to get up and her forcing him to carry her to the bed and to sleep next to him. Sometime later Sakura forces him to visit her house. She becomes a little too playful and hugs him, suggesting that they both have sex. However she backs off saying it was a joke. Rather frustrated, he picks her up and pins her to the bed. Realising he has done the wrong thing as Sakura cries, he leaves disgusted with himself. Outside he runs into the class representative, Takahiro, whom he doesn’t realise is her old boyfriend she has recently broke up with, and accidentally ends up insulting him. Takahiro punches him and Sakura runs outside to stop Takahiro from hurting him further. Thinking he could win her back, Takahiro is baffled by her response. The boy now realises that he needs to be beside her until the end.

This is the third adaptation of Yoru Sumino’s light novel which was originally published in 2015. It has spawned a live action film, released last year, and a manga adaptation. Both the novel and the manga will be published in English by Seven Seas Entertainment next month and in early 2019 respectively. This anime adaption was produced by Studio VOLN, a relatively new studio whose only claims to fame are a co-production of the recent “Ushio and Tora” TV series and “Idol Incidents”. They also produced a new anime film from the “Garo” franchise called “Usuzumizakura -Garo-“, which came out in Japan earlier this month. The director and screenwriter, Shinichiro Ushijima, is also a relatively unknown quantity. His previous directing credits include several episodes of the TV series' “Death Parade”, the newer “Hunter x Hunter” series and “One Punch Man”. I do find it quite interesting that a lot of new anime films coming to the cinema are helmed by pretty much complete unknowns. Producer Aniplex seems to have faith in him and the studio though. The film made its Australian debut a bit over two weeks after the Japanese theatrical release at the Madman Anime Festival in Melbourne and is in cinemas just a bit over six weeks after the Japanese release.

From what I’ve seen in a lot of the reviews so far the film has polarised many people. Because of that my expectations were relatively low going in. I was quite surprised that they easily exceeded those expectations. First of all the promotional material and the story synopsis lead you to believe this going to be a really overly sentimental, mawkish tear jerker of a film. Secondly, it does seem rather obvious where the film will end up. Perhaps I have become rather sentimental in my old age, but I didn’t feel my emotions were blatantly manipulated like they were in “Maquia”. In part I think this due to the writing and fact Sakura is not presented as some weak, sickly girl we forced to feel for. She’s presented as an incredibly cheerful and outgoing young woman. Her illness is barely touched upon and we never see any obvious decline in her health or her looking fragile. When the end comes, it's like a bolt out of the blue. There is no gradual decline as you might expect. I am rather glad for this as I thought I was going to be put through an emotional wringer.

I’ve seen some reviews completely miss the point of the unnamed lead male character (who is finally named in the last reel of the film). It’s not about wish fulfilment for young men. I certainly don’t view it as being a fantasy about dull men getting the good looking girl. It’s clearly about having empathy for others, about bringing joy into other people’s life. Sakura trusts the boy because of his initial reaction to her illness. He won’t treat her as some fragile object. In return she brings him out of his shell. I honestly can’t see why some people can’t see this or why they have a problem with it. The other thing I took from the film is how awful the pecking order is at Japanese schools. Apart from one exception, the teen named “Gum Boy” in the credits, everyone in the class seems to ostracise the unnamed protagonist when he gets close to Sakura. It’s pretty awful and its little wonder the boy doesn’t want to get close to others.

While the first two thirds of the concentrate on the relationship between Sakura and the boy, the last third the film does become somewhat schmaltzy with a number of “cute” shots of the elderly and children and after Sakura’s death (you know it was coming) a rather odd pastel coloured dream-like sequence with the boy reading her diary. There are also three Japanese pop songs (the opening, insert song and end credits) from various pop rock bands which don’t help the story at all. All three sound the same and are rather dull, like a lot of commercial pop rock songs from major Japanese labels. The title, although explained fairly early on in the film, is rather odd, especially to those not familiar with its origins from certain Asian cultures. Considering the bemused responses to the film's title I've seen online, I’m surprised it wasn’t retooled for English speaking audiences, especially since neither the light novel nor manga had been commercially released in English yet.

Despite the fact this film has received some quite negative reviews, I really enjoyed it. It has been quite a long time since a theatrical anime film has actually surprised me. The street cars and the depiction of the town in Toyama Prefecture look fantastic, as does a sequence involving the tragic young couple watching fireworks. The last two reels of the film do veer on becoming quite maudlin, but manage not to teeter over the edge. The film really is a bit of tear jerker, however I felt a lot of this emotion was rather genuine. There’s no blatantly obvious manipulation of emotions like you see in other recent films (“Maquia” for example). It seems the director has adapted the material fairly faithfully. I have read that people (including the novelist himself) prefer the novel or live action adaption, however I am coming in fresh to this film and have not experienced either. I quite liked this adaptation and am looking forward to whatever director Shinichiro Ushijima does next. Oh, and by the way, stay until the after the end credits. My mantra for modern anime films is wait until you see the Eirin mark and copyright details before walking out of the cinema! 7 out of 10.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Anime Music Video Compilations: “Genesis Climber Mospeada: Love, Live, Alive”

Publisher: Victor Entertainment
Format: VHS, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue
Length: 50 minutes
Original Release Date: 21 September 1985
Animation Exclusive to this Release: Yes
Other Sources (Japanese unless noted): Genesis Climber Mospeada Box (Laserdisc, 1992), Genesis Climber Mospeada Volume 6 (DVD, 2001), Genesis Climber Mospeada Box (DVD, 2007), Genesis Climber Mospeada Blu-ray Box (2013), Robotech: The Complete Set (DVD, 2013, USA, Japanese Dialogue with Optional English Subtitles), Robotech: Love Live Alive (DVD, 2014, UK, Japanese Dialogue with Optional English Subtitles), Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles and Love Live Alive 2-Movie Collection (DVD, 2014, UK, Japanese Dialogue with Optional English Subtitles), Genesis Climber Mospeada Blu-ray Box (2017)
Currently Availability (as of writing): Genesis Climber Mospeada Blu-ray Box (2017)

Very few anime music video compilations have ever had a commercial English language home video release. This one only made the cut as it was attached to the “Robotech” franchise. Announced and released in 2013, “Robotech: Love Live Alive” is an adaption of the original “Mospeda: Love Live Alive”. It’s a pretty dire adaptation which pads out a 50 minute music video compilation to about 90 minutes, mostly with recycled animation from the “Mospeda” TV series. Luckily some video releases of “Robotech: Love Live Alive” got “Mospeda: Love Live Alive” subtitled as a bonus. This is a far more interesting video. Created as bookend to the TV series, it follows the character Yellow Belmont as he makes his way to a concert he is performing at. First up though, a rundown on the “Mospeda” series;

By the mid 21st century, mankind has begun to colonise Mars. In 2050, a mysterious alien race called the Inbit invades Earth. The population is decimated and the Earth is all but defeated. Those who can leave Earth via shuttles and seek refuge on Mars. In 2080, mankind regroups and reequips themselves with newly developed military hardware in an attempt to wipe the Inbit from the face of the Earth. But the forces from Mars are decimated before they can enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Three years later a second force is sent in to directly attack and destroy the Inbit’s main base, called Reflex Point, which is located in North America. Amongst the troops sent in from Mars is Lieutenant Stig Bernard who proposes to his girlfriend, Marlene, just hours before the troops are scheduled to attack. Though she initially tells him she wants to think it over, Marlene says yes moments before he is about to be deployed and hands him a pendant with a holographic message inside it.

As per the previous battle three years ago, the Inbit attack the fleet before they can enter the atmosphere. The battle does not go well for the Mars troops, with many of the fighters wiped out. The ship Marlene is on is destroyed while entering the atmosphere, but Stig manages to crash land somewhere in South America in his fighter. Seemingly the sole survivor of the battle, Stig, unfamiliar with the Earth’s weather and wildlife, is stunned and sadden by Marlene’s death as he watches the holographic message she gave him. Regardless, Stig decides to procede with the orginal pan and heads to Reflex Point using his Ride Amour, a transformable motorbike named Mospeada, which can turn into a robotic type of battle amour. Along the way Stig comes across a young man called Ray, also on a Mospeada which he has salvaged from a crashed battleship, being attacked by the Inbit. Stig destroys the attackers and asks Ray if he knows where the other Mars troops are. Ray says he hasn’t seen any troops for a long time.

Despite the fact the pair don’t get along well, both ride to the next town where they come across a short childlike young woman called Mint who has just been dumped by her boyfriend. After Stig asks the townsfolk if there are any troops stationed there, they are directed to an abandoned section of the town where the Inbit attack them. Later it is revealed that the townsfolk sold them out to the Inbit in exchange for protection. Disgusted with them, Mint leaves with Stig and Ray for the next town. There the trio discover the townsfolk are harassed by a local gang. They come across famous wandering female singer Yellow in a bar, and along with a woman named Houquet Emrose (who helped them fight off the Inbit in her own Mosopeda in the previous town), throw them out of the bar. The gang later kidnap the friend of a man named Jim Austin, a former soldier who hides the fact he is a deserter. But with the help of Stig and his new colleagues, they manage to free Jim’s friend as well as fight off an Inbid attack which happens almost simultaneously. When Yellow asks to join Stig his hodgepodge crew, he says he won’t let women join. Yellow then reveals that she is actually a man. Yellow soon joins Jim, Houquet, Mint and Ray on their journey to Reflex Point.

All of the songs in this compilation are form a newly recorded album of the same name which was released on the same day as this music video compilation. As far as I can figure out the vast majority of songs are originals, with only a few being re-recordings of previously released songs. Most songs are sung by Jin Haneoka (who previously performed songs for the “GoShogun” anime) who is backed by While Rock Band who wrote and performed most of the music on the previous “Mospeada” soundtracks. Interestingly Jin Haneoka's name is written in hiragana on the album, while his non-anime music album releases have his name written in kanji.

“Mind Tree” performed by Jin Haneoka and While Rock Band
The first video contains all new animation. It depicts Yellow riding his motorbike through forests and later small cites in ruins as nature takes over seems to swallow them whole. The scars of the now ended war are apparent with hulks of old battle damaged war machines dotting the landscape. Yellow stops for a short break in his journey and reminisces by going through old photographs of his colleagues. Yellow later arrives at the concert venue which is out in a field. In the band’s trailer he greets his fellow bandmates and gets ready for the concert.

“Fire!” performed by Jin Haneoka and While Rock Band
Night has fallen and Yellow is ready to perform. He walks out of his trailer towards the stage and is given encouragement by staff members along the way. On stage he calls out the crowd to hype them up and rips into his first song. Early into the song the new animation ends and switches to footage form the TV series. Most of it is sourced from the early portions of the first episode but it also includes several scenes from various battle sequences. This song is a remake of “Yattsukero!”, originally performed by Mine Matsuki and While Rock Band which was first released on the first “Genesis Climber Mospeada” soundtrack in December 1983.

“Clap!! Clap!! Clap!!” performed by Jin Haneoka and While Rock Band
Though there is no footage of the concert in this video, the crowd can be heard cheering as Yellow goes straight into his second song at the concert. Most of the footage for this song is sourced from episode nine, “Lost World Fugue”, which is probably one of the odder episodes in the series. It involves most of the cast falling into a “Genesis Pit”, which like an experimental area for the Inbid. The area looks like the Jurassic period and filled with dinosaurs. Random action footage from several other episodes is mixed in.

“Dream Road” performed by Mine Matsuki and While Rock Band
We go back to concert and new animation where Yellow addresses the crowd stating that the concert has got off to a great start. He says the next song is a love song. Here Yellow reverts to his female voice, provided by Mine Matsuki who not only provides his singing voice but the female dialogue for Yellow in the anime. The song soon switches to footage from the anime, mostly culled from episode 11, “Lullaby of Distant Hope”, in which Yellow reminisces about his former fiancé whom he had to leave.

“Midnight Rider” performed by Jin Haneoka and While Rock Band
We take a break from the concert as a female journalist interviews Yellow in his dressing room. As Yellow now dresses as man and no longer performs as a woman, the journalist asks him why. He later talks about his former colleagues he was with during the war. The footage then cuts to several clips from the show highlighting their relationships within the group. After a couple of minutes of clips, we briefly return to the interview before finally going to the song, which is naturally 100% footage from the series, mostly battle sequences and various performances of Yellow singing.

“Crystal Moment” performed by While Rock Band
Unlike the other songs on the compilation, this one is an instrumental. From what I can gather, unlike While Rock Band’s other tracks for the series, this album uses drum machines quite heavily. They are also quite high in the mix as well, possibly too high. For me personally I think they do drown out the rest of the instrumentation and are quite distracting. Like most of the videos in this compilation, various battles sequences make up the footage. A clip from the show at the end of the video highlights Yellow’s first encounter with the humanoid Inbid pilot Sorji.

“Devil's Eye” performed by Jin Haneoka and While Rock Band
While like the majority of songs on this compilation this video does contain mostly edited shots from the TV series, this one is slightly different as it also contains around six rather stylised drawings of Yellow inserted several times during the video at various points, drawn by Yoshitaka Amano who did the original character designs of the cast. Amano is probably best known to anime fans as the original character designer for “Vampire Hunter D”. At the end of the video, a clip from episode 15, “The Ballad of Breaking Up”, is inserted which highlights the temporary break up of Stig’s group.

“Blue Rain” performed by Jin Haneoka and While Rock Band
The clip from the previous video segues into the next one. This song is a remake of the TV series’ ending them, originally sung by Andy Koyama and Mine Matsuki, which first appeared as a B-side to the 7 inch vinyl single of the opening theme, “In Search of Lost Dreams”, in May 1983. I keeping with the theme of the song, the editors have taken things a bit too literally and have included mostly sequences involving rain, especially episode 21, “Arpeggio of Assassination”. Episode 23, “Black Hair's Partita” in which Aisha, a young woman with amnesia whom the group discover and take in, has her secret revealed to her astonished colleges.

“Love is Free” performed by Jin Haneoka and While Rock Band
We are treated to another clip, this time from the penultimate episode, “The Dark Finale”. Here Stig’s group say their goodbyes as they prepare to go into battle against the Inbid at Reflex Point, not knowing if they’ll see each other ever again. The song itself is mostly set to footage from this episode and the final one; lots of battle footage, some from orbit and some on the ground at Reflex Point. Towards the end of the song, we are treated to new animation of the concert as it ends and Yellow says to the crowd “Love is free, love is love!”. This song is an original by Jin Haneoka, the only song on the album which wasn’t composed by While Rock Band.

“Heart Wave” performed by Jin Haneoka and While Rock Band
With the concert long over, Yellow sits on the stage by himself late at night with his eyes closed. Lights shine on his face and Yellow open his eyes to find Stig, Ray, Jim, Houquet, Mint and Aisha holding torches waiting for him. The group reminisce about the old days around a campfire near a tree in the rain (recalling the closing animation in the TV series). The next morning just before dawn, Yellow gets up while the others sleep, says his goodbyes and leaves without waking them. However it is revealed to the audience that the others were awake all the time and they sadly watch him leave. We later see Yellow’s home and his partner (I’m not going to spoil who it is) waiting for him. But Yellow still has concerts to perform. We see him at his campsite near a river as he composes a new song. His partner can be heard saying “I Love You” as the video ends.

“Horizon” performed by Jin Haneoka and While Rock Band
The concluding video is mostly various shots of characters edited from the TV series with an early emphasis on Stig’s relationship with Marlene. As per other videos there’s lot of battle sequences and shots of the other characters. Finally the credits begin over a shot of a photo frame containing a group shot of the cast on stage playing instruments. Right at the end a motorcycle can be heard stopping and someone running to a door and opening it, implying that Yellow has returned home to his partner. This song is a remake of “Areno e” by Mine Matsuki and While Rock Band which appeared on “Genesis Climber Mospeada Vol. III Live at Pit Inn”, an actual live recording and was released in June 1984.

I’m not a big fan of this series, but this set of songs and their accompany videos aren’t too bad. It’s a nice way to end the series without producing a new OVA or film for it. Despite my dislike of the very heavy and very electronic sounding drum machine, most of the songs aren’t too bad at all. “Devil's Eye” and “Fire!” are probably my favourites. The animation isn’t too bad either, but barely gets above what was seen in the TV series. Oddly all of the song titles are English, including the re-recorded songs which originally had Japanese titles. Not sure why that decision was taken for this project.

Unlike most anime music video compilations, this one is pretty easy to get. There is a Blu-ray box set of the series currently in print from NBCUniversal in Japan which contains this compilation as an extra. However the price tag for that set is ¥19,440 and of course contains no English subtitles. A&E Entertainment’s “Robotech: The Complete Set” contains the compilation as an extra, but is out of print. It is easy to find on the second hand market for as low as US$40, but typically goes for US$80 to over US$200 depending on the seller and condition. It is of course subtitled, but the subs are a little shonky with random quotation marks around some subs and oddities such as Stig subtitled as Stick. The single disc UK version of “Robotech: Love Live Alive” probably provides the best value (if your player can play region 2 and PAL discs). It is out of print as well, but on the second hand market goes for £3 to £10. The subtitle issues on the US version are identical to the UK one.

Overall, this is quite a decent set of music videos which add a lot of story to the end of the “Mospeada” series. But if you haven’t seen the TV series previously, you probably won’t be able to follow what is going on. With that said this compilation is probably for fans of the show only.

Friday, October 5, 2018

The Obscurities in the Western Connection Catalogue: “Slow Step”

Release Date: 24 March 1995 – 26 May 1995
Format: PAL VHS, Japanese Dialogue with English Subtitles
Runtime: 5 episodes x 45 mins
Catalogue Numbers: WEST033, WEST036, WEST040
Japanese Title: Slow Step
Japanese Production Date: 1991

This is the sixth 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-released anywhere else. For a run down on what I thought made the company so special, see here.  As I said in the last part of this series, 1995 was a very productive year for the company with a whole slew of releases. With Manga Entertainment being the dominant force in the UK market, anime on home video at the time was filled to the brim with violent OVAs and action films. This title was a romantic comedy. First up, let’s talk about the show itself;

Minatsu Nakazato is a teenage girl in high school who's a bit of a tomboy with a no-nonsense kind of attitude. Her childhood friend Shu Akiba is making subtle hints that they should become girlfriend and boyfriend and the coach on her softball team, Satoru Yamazakura, is a lecherous creature always making lewd comments at the girls or perving at them. As she heads off to school one day Minatsu meets a young man her age in the elevator of her apartment building. He starts reciting a trite pick up line about seeing her everyday on the train and that is the only joy he gets in his life. However he seems to fumble his lines, curses himself and leaves before he can ask Minatsu out. Minatsu is later disgusted to find out he tries the same lines on nearly every girl he meets. However if the girl is overjoyed and immediately says yes to a date, the young man seems to have not factored this response into his plans, clams up, tells her that he’ll have to think about it, backs off and walks away. Minatsu can’t figure him out at all.

One morning Minatsu witnesses a hit and run from the bathroom window. She reports the distinctive car to the police and later that evening sees it parked on the street. She runs into a café to report the car but doesn't realise that the occupants, who are gang members, are listening to her every word in the café. They dash out of the cafe, but later follow her home and try to silence her on the rooftop of the apartment building she lives in. Luckily she is saved by the young man who chats up girls, Naoto Kadomatsu, a highly ranked high school boxer, who beats them senseless. A few days later Minatsu decides to go out but spots the gang members waiting outside believing they are still after her. Not wanting to give up she disguises herself with a wig and glasses. Unfortunately Naoto spots her and tries his clichéd lines on her, not realising its Minatsu. She rejects him, but he eventually falls in love with her and asks Minatsu (out of disguise) if she can organise a date with her. Minatsu decides to go on the date disguised in an attempt to end the matter, but makes things worse and ends up giving him a fake name to go with the disguise, Maria Sudo, as well as a convoluted backstory.

Complicating matters is Minatsu's belief that Kadomatsu is dying after misinterpreting his fainting spells and his comments about him having limited time. Meanwhile Yamazakura is trying to get juvenile delinquent Ayako Sawamura to join the softball team. She's smitten with the coach, but doesn't want to play softball, despite her obvious talents. Shu notices this and decides to make up a contract with Yamazakura and Ayako. If she joins the team, he has to go out on dates with her. Minatsu somehow ends up going on double dates with Naoto and Shu and always switches between herself and the Maria persona so that she doesn't get caught out. Unfortunately Coach Yamazakura's young niece, Chika, discovers her changing and decides to blackmail her. Chika is has been under the care of Yamazakura since her mother died. Since Yamazakura isn't very good with the housework or cleaning, she has to do it herself. She decides she wants a break and forces Minatsu to cook a meal. Bemused by the attention, Yamazakura drives her home afterwards, but Ayako accidentally sees them driving home together, which enrages her. In response she makes the softball team lose an important match and later quits.

Even worse is to come. Minatsu’s dual life is soon over when Chika accidentally lets slip that Maria and Minatsu are the same person, and the two boys Shu and Naoto, decide to make another contract and fight for her in the boxing ring. The loser will give up Minatsu. Unfortunately for the boys Minatsu doesn't like the idea of two men fighting over her. In fact it horrifies her. She decides to run away from it all, however Ayako forces her to confront the mess she has caused head on.

Based on the manga by Mitsuru Adachi (of “Short Program”, “Touch” and “H2” fame), like a lot of his other works, “Slow Step” is a mix of romance, comedy and sports. The OVA series was directed by Kunihiko Yuyama who previously directed “Minky Momo”, “Windaria” and “Leda: The Fantastic Adventure of Yohko” and would later go on to direct “Wedding Peach”, “Brave Story” and most of the “Pokemon” anime of the last two decades. The other name of note in the staff is character designer Norihiro Matsubara who cleaned up Adachi’s original designs for the animators. He has provided the character designs for the 1990’s anime versions of “Berserk” and “Ushio & Tora” as well as “Gunsmith Cats” and “Pokemon”.

Although “Slow Step” seems to have a rather convoluted plot, it's really easy to follow and is quite funny. Rather than going for a typical high school romance, Adachi flips the entire scenario around and comes up with something quite unique. I particularly like the way he gets Minatsu into deeper and deeper trouble with seemingly no way out of the situation. I also liked the additional elements of the lecherous teacher (played by Akira Kamiya who previously played Ryo Saeba in “City Hunter”, perfectly cast for this part) and the sukeban (juvenile delinquent or girl gang member) Ayako Sawamura, who add a lot of interest to what could have been a really standard love triangle set up. The ending and Minatsu’s final choice are really not what you’d expect from this type of show. On the initial viewing of the OVA, I felt everything was a little too rushed and too neat. But having seen the show again recently, I can now see the subtle hints of how Minatsu came to her decision. However I feel to a degree it’s a little too hard to swallow the concept that a high school girl would make that choice.

In modern fandom, the idea that you could have a school girl under contract to date a teacher is a bridge too far for many, even if the show is a comedy. And I have to admit there are several sequences in the show which have not aged too well; Yamazakura is seen touching school girl’s breasts and bottoms, and in another sequence he comes to Minatsu’s home and orders her around, demanding tea and ordering her to bring the washing in. The casual sexism and male chauvinism in this OVA is pretty blatant and a bit shocking. Even when taking into account that 1980’s Japan (when the original manga was originally published) was a terribly patriarchal and sexist place, the OVA really comes off as quite sexist and completely out of touch with modern sensibilities regarding women’s place in society.

Putting that side for the moment, the fact this OVA series was actually released in English is quite amazing. Right in the middle of the 1990's in UK, at the very highest peak of the “Manga Videos” era, where hyper violent OVAs and movies such as “Guyver”, “Mad Bull 34” and “Fist of the North Star” were racing up the video chart, our beloved Western Connection decided to release this title. Subtitled as well, when dubbed tapes were the dominant force. In this climate how do you think a romantic sports comedy would have gone down with the video tape buying public? One word; awful. According to Jonathan Clements it was the worst selling anime title in the UK until the “Kimagure Orange Road” OVAs were released a year or two later. The saving grace was the fact that supposedly Western Connection didn't make many copies of “Slow Step”.

Because the series flopped quite badly, I suspect “Slow Step” played at least a part in Western Connection's downfall. With the public weaned on Manga Entertainment's near monopoly on anime in that market, which was mostly of the exploitative kind, this show’s mix of romance, softball and boxing turned a lot of UK anime fans off. Western Connection's usual poor handling of their product was also to blame. Apart from their ubiquitous mistimed subtitles, they also cut out the ending animation of episode 3 and the opening animation of episode 4 to make it look as if there was only one episode. The reason why? The British Board of Film Classification would charge them more if there were two episodes on the tape, a lesson learned from the first volume. The synopses on the slicks of the three VHS volumes were mostly taken from an Anime UK (later called Anime FX) magazine article by Julia Sertori, which they falsely credited to Helen McCarthy.

Possibly the most extraordinary thing about this release is that it's a Mitsuru Adachi anime. So very little of his work has ever made it commercially into English. Apart from this rather rare three VHS tape release, the only other works of his to be released in English are his manga "Short Program", released by Viz in 1999 and the anime series “Cross Game”, streamed for a limited time, also by Viz, back in 2010. As Adachi's work is beloved in Japan and has a small but quite dedicated following in the west, you really have to wonder why western anime and manga publishers have generally ignored his work. Perhaps the length and age of titles like “Touch” and “H2” are off-putting. But then again during the frenzy of licensing in the early to mid 2000's which sometimes saw the release of long, odd and plainly “unsellable” titles (like all of “City Hunter” and “Marmalade Boy” for instance), you have to wonder why so very few of his titles made the leap into English.

Despite practically not receiving any recognition at all during its initial release, “Slow Step” is quite a good comedy/romance/sports OVA series. It's mostly a romance/drama but there's tons of comedy in the show to break it up so it never comes anywhere near being melodramatic. The sports part of it stays in the background and only becomes the focal point of the show in a few sequences. The longer than normal length of the OVAs let a lot of story to be packed into a very short time frame comfortably, but some may feel the conclusion is a bit too rushed and not entirely realistic. The other problem is the show really hasn’t aged well at all. If the blatant sexism and male chauvinism aren’t enough to turn most modern day viewers off, the fact that two of the lead 17 year old female characters have relationships with older male teachers will probably do the trick.

But if you can get past all of that, the characters and a lot of the situations are generally charming and humorous and might just win you over. And Adachi's distinctive jug-eared character designs are so delightful. Jonathan Clements, at every opportunity he gets to talk about this title, states that the VHS tapes were practically impossible to find only a few months after Western Connection released them. However I managed to snap up all three volumes online fairly easily around a decade after they were first released. Now days it’s pretty much impossible to find copies of this show. It was never reissued on DVD in Japan either. However I did recently spot the first UK VHS volume on eBay going for £15, so with a bit of searching you may be lucky. Honestly the chance of “Slow Step” seeing a re-release in English is highly doubtful. While “Slow Step” is a rather funny comedy/romance OVA, I can really only recommend it to die hard Mitsuru Adachi fans.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Video Backlog: “Sailor Moon S”

Publisher: Madman Entertainment (Australia)
Format: Region B Blu-ray, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue with optional English Dub and English Subtitles
Length: 38 episodes x 24 mins
Production Date: 1994 - 1995
Currently in Print (as of writing): Yes

In the time that has passed since I’ve reviewed “Sailor Moon R”, Madman Entertainment announced new Blu-ray sets based upon masters used in a 2015 broadcast on NHK Premium Broadcast Satellite. I was rather sceptical that these set of masters would be much of an improvement over Viz’s dreadful sets. However I was really impressed with the video quality. First though, let’s talk about the show itself;

Rei has started to have disturbing apocalyptic dreams where the city is engulfed in darkness and destroyed and the Sailor Senshi are tuned to stone then eventually rubble as the darkness destroys everything in its wake. Attempting to gain more insight as to what her dreams mean, Rei preforms a Shinto fire ritual reading. When that yields few results, Rei later places a prayer on a sacred tree. The tree suddenly transforms into a monster who pins her to nearby wall and proceeds to draw out her heart in the form of a floating, glowing crystal. Usagi hears Rei’s screams and transforms into Sailor Moon, but is unable to defeat the monster. The remaining Sailor Senshi appear to help out but are also pinned down. Tuxedo Mask manages to distract the monster and Sailor Moon attacks it using Moon Princess Halation, but it has no effect. In response the monster overpowers Sailor Moon and ends up breaking her Crystal Star brooch. She reverts back to Usagi and all seems lost until two mysterious energy blasts destroy the monster. Two shadowy figures in Sailor Senshi outfits take Rei’s crystal heart but return it after determining it isn’t the talisman they’re looking for.

It is later revealed that the monster was born from a Daimon Egg, cultivated and sent from a mysterious new enemy called the Death Busters headed up by a strange scientist, seemingly always hidden the shows, named Professor Tomoe, he orders his subordinate, Kaolinite, to plant the “eggs” into inanimate objects. Once a pure hearted person touches the object, a Daimon monster is born and draws out the person’s Pure Heart Crystal. Tomoe reveals he needs three of these crystals (or talisman as he calls them) to order to obtain a Holy Grail which will bring him great powers. After the Daimon’s attack on Rei, the Sailor Senshi discover a second monster attempting to take a young girl’s Pure Heart Crystal. As the Sailor Senshi struggle in the ensuring battle and are once again saved by the mysterious pair of Sailor Senshi, Usagi regains her ability to transform again through the power of her and Tuxedo Mask’s love. Sailor Moon’s damaged Crystal Star brooch transforms into the Cosmic Heart Compact, and she gains the Spiral Heart Moon Rod and, along with it, the ability to transform and defeat the monster.

Usagi and Minako later meet Haruka Tenou, an attractive student of a prestigious high school. Both are smitten by Haruka but are soon disappointed to discover she is a woman. Her constant companion, Michiru Kaiou, is a talented violin player. The pair always seem to be present whenever Daimon are present. The attacks from the Daimon increase, facilitated by Kaolinite and later Eudial of the female scientist group in Death Busters called the Witches 5. In one attack, Haruka and Michiru become trapped in an underground carpark with the Daimon and Usagi. Having no choice but to transform and reveal their identities to each other, the Sailor Senshi are shocked to discover Haruka and Michiru are in fact the mysterious Sailor Senshi Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune. Sailor Moon asks why they need the talisman, but they refuse to tell her. In the midst of this, Queen Serenity sends Chibi-usa to present day Earth in order for her to continue her training. As the Daimon continue their attacks, Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus tell Sailor Moon and the rest of the Sailor Senshi to stay out of their way and not to interfere.

With the sudden and unexpected resurrection of Sailor Pluto and Eudial of the Witches 5 creating a computer program to find the talisman, the story arc comes to a thundering conciliation with Eudial setting a trap for Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune. However of course Sailor Moon and the rest of the day manage to save both of them and thwart Eudial’s plans. In the second story arc, Chibi-usa encounters sickly and lonely 12 year old Hotaru, whom she quickly becomes best friends with. As their friendship continues to blossom, Usagi pays a visit to Hotaru’s home where they meet her father’s assistant, a woman who looks just like Kaolinite. Usagi is initially taken aback, but comes to the conclusion that the woman merely just looks like her as the real one was defeated. However Hotaru is in fact living the same house as Professor Tomoe and is supposedly his daughter. A mysterious being called the Messiah of Silence, who has the same appearance as Hotaru, is shown living in the house as well, and demands Tomoe deliver her Pure Heart Crystal. Sailor Uranus accidently witnesses Hotaru using a mysterious power to fight off a Daimon and warns Sailor Moon that she and Chibi-usa should stay away from her.

By the third season of this series (actually called “Sailor Moon Super” as evidenced by the next episode previews) the format of each episode had been set in stone. While the “monster of the week” formula is rather predictable, the creative staff manages to make things interesting by creating some really hilarious and bizarre monsters. All of the Daimon monster names are puns on whatever the theme of the episode is such as festivals, an episode revolving around a planetarium etc. The women of the Death Busters sent out by Professor Tomoe also spice things up, in particular the Witches 5. While their main goal is pretty dark, taking the hearts of innocents, a lot of the time they are used for comedic purposes. In particular Eudial and her station wagon and Mimete’s continual obsession with celebrities. By this series Kunihiko Ikuhara has really stamped his influence on the show. There are some really surreal moments in this which at times seem like experiments and ideas that would be refined for “Utena”. A lot of the Witches 5 sequences in the lab look and feel similar to those in “Utena”. In one episode directed by Ikuhara himself, he uses a set of bespectacled triplets which look very similar to the triplets in “Utena”.

One of the biggest changes in this series is the addition of a yuri-like subplot. The addition of Haruka Tenou and Michiru Kaiou is quite interesting as we are never in doubt of the nature of their relationship. Apart from their relationship and despite obviously being Sailor Senshi, their goals and allegiances are not made clear to at least the half way point of the show. Even then at times it’s unclear if they actually have the same goal as Sailor Moon and the rest of the Senshi. Besides the sudden resurrection of Sailor Pluto, the other big surprise is the return of Chibi-usa and her ability to transform into Sailor Chibi Moon. Her attacks are of course hilariously ineffectual. But Chibi-usa’s reintroduction into the series isn’t just for comedic effect. Her relationship with the lonely and sickly Hotaru is what makes the second story arc work, as well as her and Professor Tomoe’s tragic backstories and redemption. In amongst all of this are some really good episodes focusing on individual members of the Sailor Senshi. In particular I liked the episode where Minako’s self-doubt kicked in as the Daimon hadn’t attacked her for her pure heart.

Interestingly as the series progresses, it increasingly focuses in on the Sailor Senshi at the detriment of the secondary cast established in the first two series. By this series there are only fleeting appearances of secondary cast. Some only appear in one episode only such as Umino, Naru, Rei’s grandfather and Usagi’s family. However one of the episodes highlights Yuuichiro and Rei’s feelings for each other. It’s a fantastically sweet story with Rei finally letting him know how she feels. This series also contains the infamous Shin-chan parody sequence with Chibi-usa which baffled many fans of the show who were unfamiliar with “Crayon Shin-chan”. Both shows were huge at the time of broadcast and featured on the same TV network. As a result the voice actors for Shinnosuke (Shin-chan) and his mother, Akiko Yajima and Miki Narahashi appeared in that episode. “Crayon Shin-chan” included a parody of “Sailor Moon” within the show called “Sailor Mufoon” and Aya Hisakawa (Sailor Mercury), Emi Shinohara (Sailor Jupiter), and Kae Araki (who voiced Sailor Moon when Kotono Mitsuishi was ill in the final episodes of the first season) reciprocated by appearing in an episode of “Crayon Shin-chan”.

The video quality of Madman’s Blu-ray box set is miles ahead of Viz’s substandard video. As I previously said before, it seems the video for the series was remastered for a 2015 broadcast of the series. While it is a major improvement, it’s certainly not perfect. There is some banding visible at times and for some odd reason lighter optical camera effects, such as light strobing effects or scene transitions to white screens, don’t look that brilliant. In those shots the video can look rather “splotchy” (forgive me; I don’t know what the technical term is). Darker scenes fare much better. Overall it’s more than passable and the vast majority of the time it looks very good. Other aspects of the set don’t live up to Viz’s admittedly excellent looking box sets. While the video on the discs is vastly better, the discs oddly have no pop up menu and no chapter stops before the pre-episode preview, which means you have to rewind to the end of the opening if you want see it if you skip the opening. Other than the clean opening and closing animations (which seem to be from an unremastered composite tape, and look rather mediocre when compared to episodes), there’s no other extras. The set comes in a chipboard box with the same artwork used for Viz’s set, but complied in a different way making it look totally different to Viz’s set. It also contains a much smaller booklet which only has artwork, character bios and a relationship chart. The discs are definitely region B coded and not region free like some other Australian discs which state region B on their covers.

Overall, this is a very good release of one of the best magical girl shows ever produced. The “monster of the week” formula can be frustrating, but there’s more than enough variety to keep things interesting. Of note is Kunihiko Ikuhara’s style seeping into the series with some sequences looking like early prototypes of what would be used in “Utena”. The story revolving around Hotaru and Professor Tomoe is well written, as is the climax of the series. But I think the two episode post climax could have been truncated or cut all together. This series has pretty much escaped the ravages of time, but I think the magical girl shows which came after it probably toped this show and as result the series doesn’t feel quite as exciting as it first did. 7.5 out of 10.

Remaining Backlog: 25 TV series, 4 OVAs, 10 movies and one TV special. In addition I am also waiting for additional parts of three TV series and one movie to be released before viewing them.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Anime DVDs You May Have Missed “Kochikame the movie”

Japanese Title: Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Koen-mae Hashutsujo The Movie (This is the Police Station in Front of Kameari Park in Katsushika Ward The Movie)
Publisher: Pony Canyon (Japan)
Format: Region 2 DVD, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue with optional English and Japanese Subtitles
Length: 95 minutes
Production Date: 1999
English Version Release Date: 19 July 2000
Currently in Print (as of writing): No

Good for nothing middle aged police officer Kankichi Ryotsu (or Ryo-san to his colleagues) has been chosen via computer as a “robber” for a drill at a local bank. But due to Ryo's nature he has decided not to follow the script and make the drill much more “realistic” by stopping staff from setting off the alarm and actually taking wads of cash from the bank. This horrifies everyone including his robbery partner and police officer, the long suffering Yoichi Terai. After Ryo deliberately lets Yoichi get splattered with a paint dye bomb so he can grab the bank's money, he escapes giving his waiting colleagues the slip. However Ryo happens across a real bank robbery in progress. The two bank robbers have taken one of the employees hostage. Ryo fires blanks at both the robbers from a machine gun that had been confiscated from a gang the previous week. The robbers are shocked and drop their weapons, which gives the waiting riot squad a chance to arrest them. But Ryo's commanding officer, Daijiro Ohara, is as per usual livid at him.

There is no time for Ryo's punishment as the robbers have left a time bomb behind which has five minutes until it detonates. Ryo rushes in to defuse it, but ends up entangled in its wires. He attempts to commandeer a passing bus in an attempt to have the device explode in a safe place, but the driver refuses to leave. The bus cuts a swathe of destruction through the city and eventually ends up on its side to avoid hitting a temple. Luckily for Ryo, the station's motorcycle cop, Hayato Honda, was following the bus and they make a beeline for an isolated spot where Hayato unceremoniously dumps Ryo and flees. Ryo makes a futile attempt to remove the bomb from himself and then neutralise it, with the only result being that his pants fall down. Much to the surprise of everyone, a helicopter lands and young woman exits who cuts one of the wires stopping bomb from exploding.

Later the next day, Ohara is chewing out Ryo, but he makes an excuse that he should be on patrol and quickly rides off with his boss continuing to shout at him. Unfortunately for Ryo the townsfolk have heard of yesterday's incident, one in a very long line of disasters for Ryo, and the townsfolk criticise him as he rides along the road. So to avoid them he cycles out further to he gets to Ueno park. There he reminisces about his childhood days spent there until he discovers that the temple in the park has been replaced by a gaudy hotel. Disgusted at it, Ryo throws a small rock at it, and much to his surprise the entire building collapses. However this disaster wasn't Ryo's doing for once. It is the work of Bentan Mask, a mysterious terrorist who gave a warning via the internet of his intent to destroy the building. The department has invited Lisa Hoshino from the FBI (the same woman who defused Ryo's bomb) to help investigate the crime and to help thwart any future attacks. Ohara orders Ryo to attend Lisa's lecture on dismantling bombs, in which the disinterested Ryo falls asleep in. Lisa punishes him by programming her bomb defusing robot, Dandy, to dismantle his chair, which sends the sleeping Ryo crashing to the floor. Incensed at this, Ryo challenges Lisa to duel with his homemade robot, Densuke the 28th. Naturally Ryo's poorly made and odd looking robot loses.

Lisa's lecture turned robot competition is interrupted by an emergency callout. Bentan Mask has sent another waring to the police. This time his target is the Shinatora Moonlight building and it will be bombed at midnight. Like the previous hotel complex, this one is owned by the Shinatora Company. The police have hypothesised that Bentan Mask may be out to get company CEO Torazo Shinatora. He has suspected links to criminal activities, but has managed to dodge any charges that have been levelled at him. Much to Ryo's disgust, Ohara has ordered him to be Lisa's partner on this case mainly because no one will miss him if he's killed by a bomb. Upon arriving at the building, the reluctant partners find charges in the pillars inside the building, and then search for the timing device. However due to Ryo previously kicking Dandy several times, the robot’s drive shaft is broken and it cannot reach the timer. Ryo lifts the heavy robot above his head, but slips which causes the robot to short circuit the timer advancing the detonation time to just 40 seconds. Lisa, Dandy and Ryo escape in the nick of time as the building is reduced to a pile of rubble. However the police spot a safe in junk pile that was once the Moonlight building. Inside are hundreds of thousands of yen in banknotes and Torazo is arrested on suspicion of tax evasion.

Despite the positive result in charging Torazo, Ryo is yet again chastised by Ohara. Ryo believes it is all Dandy's fault and breaks into Lisa's trailer to graffiti the robot. Unfortunately he is caught red handed and even after viewing closed circuit TV footage of him writing on the robot, he claims that someone who looked like him broke in and committed the crime. Ohara can't take anymore and confines him to the police dormitories for two weeks. Ryo's work colleague, the young, rich and handsome officer Keiichi Nakagawa, visits him and is utterly astounded to find him digging a tunnel underneath his room. He says that according to a magazine article he read (actually from a 1968 issue of Shonen Jump) that a shogun's gold is buried somewhere below. Keiichi has to leave Ryo to his own devices as Bentan Mask has sent another warning. This time it's an industrial area owed by the Shinatora Company. Lisa and Dandy are about to go in to find and defuse the bomb. But a worse problem arises when a group of children tell them that they were playing hide and seek in the building and one child cannot be found.

Luckily Ryo who has been digging all this time manages to dig through the floor of the industrial area and finds the child. Meanwhile Lisa quickly defuses the bomb. However in the child was trapped under a number of large pipes. In order to save the child Ryo removed all of the pipes, which somehow weakened the whole structure of the industrial area. It begins to topple and promptly falls apart around them. But all three of them manage to escape via the tunnel Ryo had dug. As a result the Shinatora Company is in trouble again with the law again as due to its destruction, the industrial area is revealed to be hiding an illegal toxic waste dump. The incident has also led to some within the police department to be suspicious of Lisa as so far she has been unable to stop any of Bentan Mask's bombs.

Oddly, like a number of the most popular and highest rating anime on Japanese TV, "Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Koen-mae Hashutsujo" (shortened to "Kochikame" by fans and later the producers of the show) has been pretty much ignored by fans in the west. One of the main reasons for this was the TV series never got a release on Laserdisc or even a later release on DVD. Therefore in the mid to late 1990's when this show was released, the fansubbers didn't bother with it. It's a shame as the show is really funny. To back up just a bit, the "Kochikame" TV series which ran from June 1996 to December 2004 for a total of 367 episodes (though there was a one off anime special created in 1985), is based on an extremely popular manga by Osamu Akimoto. The manga ran continuously in Shonen Jump from September 1976 to September 2016 which made it the longest ever running manga without a break. It has reached a total of 200 volumes of manga and sold over 157 million copies. Never heard of it? Can't say I'm surprised. For some reason a lot of the extremely popular mainstream manga and anime never make it in the west or are complete flops. Hence the reason why you can't buy “Sazae-san”, “Chibi Maruko-chan” or “Doraemon” on DVD in English (except for a couple of movies released in Hong Kong) or see them on TV. I think for the most part they're "too Japanese". It's much easier to market sci-fi or fantasy anime which have universal concepts and storylines.

Though the story picks up some three years into the anime's broadcast run, for the most part you can watch this film without knowing anything at all about the series. First we have Kankichi Ryotsu, or Ryo-san, a lazy, undisciplined mono-brow cop who would rather think up get rich schemes and play around rather than do any real police work. In fact he's always getting himself and his other colleagues in trouble or difficult situations. The storylines usually revolve around Ryo inventing a new gadget or some other money making scheme and pulling rich boy police officer Keiichi Nakagawa into help when he's in financial dire straits. Other characters which regularly feature (but aren't all that important to this film) include Reiko Akimoto, a half French, blonde and busty lady police officer, and like Keiichi also comes from high society. Also in order to understand the final reel of the film, I have to make mention of the character Ai Asato or Maria as she known to work colleagues. Maria is a transvestite police officer who loves Ryo, but obviously the feelings aren’t mutual. Excusive to the anime are two young female police officers Komachi Ono and Naoko Seisho. As you can tell from this film they both love to tease and ridicule Ryo and his schemes. There are a bunch of other characters in this show, but none have particular relevance to this film, so I'll omit them from this review. The entire series is mostly confined to the Katsushika Ward of Tokyo (hence the literal name of the show in English; "This is the Police Station in Front of Kameari Park in Katsushika Ward").

In the very early days of DVD, a small number of anime in Japan was released with English subtitles, of which some were really odd choices. In 2000, possibly because the film had been translated in an attempt to sell it to various international markets, Pony Canyon released this movie with English subtitles. Strange really, as none of the TV anime or the manga has ever made it into English. However despite the fact the disc was English friendly and most DVD players could have region coding disabled, the show really failed to make a splash amongst English speaking fans, even those who regularly imported Japanese DVDs. I think that's quite a shame because as I've said before this show is really funny. While the main plot has to do with a mysterious bomber named Bentan Mask, this is nothing more than an excuse to cram in a ton of absurd jokes that have nothing to do with any aspect of the storyline. I have to say that for this most part this works really well. There's just gag after gag coming at you from all directions. Finally at about the two-thirds mark it does slow down to resolve everything and you could say at this point things get bogged down a bit. However the climax to the film and the whole absurd build up is hilarious.

While the show is supposedly set in the late 1990's and the surroundings and technology confirm that, you can't help feel that it has a distinct 1970's feel, especially in the way some parts of residential Tokyo are portrayed. Being that this a comedic police show, I suppose comparisons to “You're Under Arrest” can't be helped. In a way the two shows are very similar to each other, though I think “Kochikame” anime is aimed at a more for an older demographic. I also noticed that both the “You're Under Arrest” and “Kochikame” movies were both released in 1999 and oddly both have plot points which specifically involve raising the Kachidoki Bridge in Tokyo! There's also a bit of a nod to Masamune Shirow as the robot Dandy is obviously modelled on the Fuchikomas from his “Ghost in the Shell” manga.

Pony Canyon issued the film on DVD twice, once in 2000 in CD jewel case packaging and the second in a more standard DVD case in 2004. Despite the popularity of the series in Japan, both versions have been deleted. I have the oddly packaged CD jewel case version, which quite a number of early Japanese DVDs were released this way. It includes a “making of” featurette, several trailers and TV spots as well as cast and crew biographies. Unfortunately none of these features are in English. The disc also includes an 8 page booklet, which like all inserts in Japanese DVDs, shows how the menus works, and amusingly clearly shows where the “Easter Egg” is located in one of the menus (it's another TV spot). Both DVD versions of the film can be found online for less than ¥2,500 second hand. While hardly a classic film, “Kochikame the movie” is yet another title that against all odds made it out into the commercial market in English and then was promptly ignored. I think this is really unfair. If something as long and laden with Japanese pop culture references as “Keroro Gunso (Sgt Frog)” can be marketed in English, then this show could easily be also. While the movie has one small scene at the very end which would require previous knowledge of the show, the rest of the film can be watched without knowing anything about the manga or TV anime. This sadly out of print DVD offers a small glimpse into the wider world of “Kochikame”, and disappointingly I don't think I'll be able to see that world in English.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Forgotten Anime: “Robotech the Movie”

Distributor: Rank Home Video (UK)
Original Year of Release: 1986, 1985 (Megazone 23), 1984 (Southern Cross)
English Video Release: 1987, PAL VHS, English Dubbed
Japanese Title: Megazone 23, Southern Cross
Runtime: 82 mins

It’s been over nine months since my last instalment of this series, so I have decided to resurrect it. I really want to review all of the old video tapes I have as generally no one seems to talk about this stuff anymore. Most reviews will initially be revisions of stuff I published on my old defunct “Lost World of Anime” website and blog. First up will be a film that has fascinated me for a long time, so much so I created a now dormant website about it; “Robotech the Movie”.

I’m going assume people reading this review are already familiar with the “Robotech” story, so I’m not going to give a synopsis of the series. Instead I’ll plunge headfirst in the story of this film; some 16 years after the events of episode 36 of “Robotech” (the final episode of the “Macross Saga” arc), the Earth has begun to rebuild and is peaceful again. However the Robotech Masters have arrived to retrieve the memory matrix from the computer that was on board the SDF-1, which crash landed in the Pacific in 1999. A platoon of Bioroids is sent down to battle the humans. Solider Todd Harris and his squad members are sent in to fight off the attack. But something strange is happening. Civilians are being captured alive by the enemy. Colonel B.D. Andrews joins in the battle and fights alongside Todd's unit. However Andrews is captured, and the enemy retreats much to the Earth Defence Forces puzzlement.

On their flagship, the Robotech Masters make the surprising discovery that one of the captured humans, Andrews, is a high ranking officer at the Robotech Research Centre where the memory matrix is being held. The Masters decide to make a bio-genetic twin simulant of Andrews, who will be able to follow their orders to the letter. The Masters dispose of the real Andrews and the other captured humans then send the cloned Andrews down to Earth. Upon arrival, the clone manages to gain control of the Robotech Research Centre and orders a cover up of the alien invasion. After a crushing defeat in a battle against the Bioroids, Andrews proposes that they use the alien computer found on board the SDF-1, named the E.V.E, to provide a counterattack plan. But before he sets the plan in motion, he gives orders to transmit the entire computer's data to an old abandoned satellite. He explains to his team that this is just to warm up the computer, but they have their doubts. The data is in fact being intercepted by the Robotech Masters.

Later we meet Mark Landry, a teenager who works at a motorcycle repair shop. He receives a phone call from his friend Todd Harris. Todd is a little agitated, and asks Mark to meet him in an underground car park. There Todd shows Mark a large motorcycle called the MODAT 5. The machine is in fact acts as a database terminal to a giant military computer as well as transforming into a robot. Todd tells mark that he stole it from the military in order to expose cover-up about the new invasion by Supreme Command and Colonel Andrews. He tells Mark they must contact "Eve", but their conversation is cut short when Andrews men come to retrieve the bike. In the confusion, Mark escapes with the MODAT 5 and unbeknownst to Mark, Todd is killed by Andrew's men. An attempt is made to search for Mark and the bike, but Mark has already disappeared and gone back to his workplace. There he gets the bike repainted red and tells the story to his disbelieving workmates.

Despite the death of his friend and warnings he gave about the bike now in his possession, Mark is roped into using the bike in a student film starring him and his girlfriend, Becky Michaels. As Mark and Becky film a scene together, pop star Eve appears on a giant screen bellowing out her new hit single. Mark wonders if she is the "Eve" Todd was referring to. After the shoot, Mark decides to ring into Eve's TV talk show to see if she knows anything about Todd and the MODAT 5. But the call is cut short on TV, even though Mark continues talking to Eve for several minutes assuming his call is still being broadcast. Eve suggests that he brings the MODAT 5 to the studio, but on his way there several of Andrew's men in civilian clothes try to capture him. They fail, and soon transformable bike mecha, known as Harguns, along with military vehicles are sent in to apprehend him. Mark once again eludes capture after a fight on a highway which destroys most of his pursuer's equipment and sends Mark and the MODAT 5 crashing into a neighbourhood playground. Mark is unsure if Eve set him up, so he disguises himself as a delivery boy and searches the TV studio for her. However he soon discovers the shocking truth behind Eve.

“Robotech the movie” is one of those films where the story behind the film is far more interesting than the film itself. However the story of the production of the film, even in places like Wikipedia and as told by other supposedly reliable sources and writers, is often flat out incorrect and repeats easily disproved myths that have built up around the film over the last 30 years. This mostly due to fact the film, outside of a few European and South American releases, did not have a wide release. My own research material I have accumulated over the years includes interviews with the film’s creator Carl Macek, (such as Bob Miller’s extensive interview in “Animato! Magazine”, Spring 1990 and his interview on  ANN Cast, Anime News Network in January 2010), the film’s entry in the “The Animated Movie Guide” (written by Jerry Beck, who hatched the plan to form Streamline Pictures with Macek after seeing a film festival screening of “Robotech the movie” in 1987) and Peter Walker’s Robotech Research website (Peter actually saw the film in the cinema in Dallas in 1986).

The origins of the film go back to 1985 when Harmony Gold was contacted by Menahem Golan of Cannon Films, who had seen a news report on TV about “Robotech” and the popularity of anime on US TV. Both companies hatched a plan to release a “Robotech” film to cinemas in time for the Christmas holidays. Cannon Films was a notorious film company run by two Israeli immigrants that released mostly B-movie shockers. Some of their more well-known films include “Death Wish II”, “Invasion U.S.A.”, “Runaway Train” and “Lifeforce”. I recommend watching Mark Hartley’s fantastic documentary “Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films”, which just shows how insanely the studio was run. Realising that a “Robotech” film could not be completed in the time allotted, Harmony Gold looked at existing films which could be used. “Macross: Do You Remember Love” was immediately struck out as Tatsunoko (the studio that had animated “Macross”) had optioned the film for a US theatrical release in case “Robotech” was a massive success in the US. They even forbid Harmony Gold the use of any “Macross” terminology, such as “Super Dimensional Fortress”, “Zentradi” and even “Protoculture” for any planned “Robotech” theatrical feature.

Eventually Macek stumbled across an OVA called “Megazone 23”. Due to fact it was born out an aborted TV series and had an inconclusive ending, Macek commissioned anime studio AIC to create a new ending for the OVA (which makes no sense if you’ve seen the original OVA) based on his story with other additional animation of generic looking outer space scenes (stars, planets, galaxies etc.) to create an opening title sequence for the film. This early version of the film was to be set during the SDF-1's return to Earth after accidentally warping to Pluto's orbit in the third episode of “Robotech” and supposedly was a straight dub of the OVA with few cuts. The profits of the “Robotech” were apparently meant to fund the follow up TV series “Robotech II: the Sentinels”, which Macek was handling the production of in Japan.

However when Macek returned from Japan to check in on the production of the English dubbing of the film, he was horrified by the direction and acting. Worse still was Harmony Gold had already previewed the film to Menahem Golan who despised it. His directions to Macek to fix the film are the stuff of legend (as per Macek’s recollections); “They didn't understand it; they didn't like it. There was too much talking. So they said, 'Cut this scene out and cut this scene out; they've got these girls; there's too many girls; get rid of this; get rid of that. I was told I had 24 hours to make a new movie. So I said, 'Okay, what do you I want?' And the Cannon people said, 'We want lots of guns, lots of shooting, lots of robots.'”. According Macek, he recut the film with random pieces of footage from “Southern Cross” TV series (which formed the second arc of the “Robotech” the TV series). Again, more recollections from Macek, about how it went down; “I edited together a new version of the Robotech movie in about six hours. I went into a meeting the next day. I played the film silent, and I acted out all the parts for about eighty minutes, and when it was over the lights came on and Menacham Golan said, 'Now that's a Cannon movie'”.

While Macek’s statements about his interactions with Golan seem absurd, judging by the comments of those interviewed for Hartley’s Cannon Films documentary, it’s entirely likely it happened just as Macek states. But the film’s release, reaction to the film and its supposed failure are basically myths in Robotech and wider anime fandom. Frustratingly these myths are repeated ad nauseam with little to no evidence to back them up. In July 1986, Cannon Films test marketed the film in 35 cinemas across the Metroplex area of Dallas, Texas. Not realising the “Robotech” series had a wide demographic across many age groups, the company only marketed it to children. The film was generally only screened in matinee sessions and TV advertising limited to very early morning slots. Yet despite this Macek claims that the film did very well; “It did exceptionally well at the box office 'Robotech the movie' beat the hell out of (Roman Polanski's) 'Pirates', and did respectable against James Cameron's 'Aliens', which was amazing to me”. Reviews of the film were good as well. In the September 1986 Lone Star Comics newsletter, “The Lone Star Express”, Derek Wakefield wrote a very favourable review in his anime column “Banzai!” and noted that the film “had several good reviews by critics”. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the only paper in the region to review the film, gave it a 7 out of 10 score

The real reason for the film’s failure to be allowed a wider release was Cannon Film’s own incompetence (Macek’s recollections again); “When they got the demographics back, they realised - it was poised to open in 1,400 theatres a month later - they got the demographics back, they realised 95% or more of the audience was adult. And they had committed to buy time on every major kids program, they were going to market this thing to children. And it was reported that children couldn't stand this movie, there was loud explosions and kids were crying. It wasn't a cartoon for kids. And so they freaked out. They got cold feet and withdrew the film from distribution so they could figure out how to retool it and remarket the film”. In several Harmony Gold sponsored Robotech convention programs in late 1986, it lists promotional videos for the film in the schedule as well as stating the feature was “coming soon to this area”. However the film was never retooled or remarketed for a US audience. The film did get a successful theatrical and video release in Argentina plus video releases in the UK, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands. By 1987 Cannon Films was finically in dire straits after some very bad finical decisions such as the acquisition of Thorn EMI film group and a few too many box office bombs. The company folded a couple of years later.

Eventually Harmony Gold’s licence for “Megazone 23” expired. The official line from the company is that as Macek despises the film (and over the years he’s made it very clear he hates it) and they don’t want anything to do with it. Despite that statement a fair amount of material relating to the film has been released over the years; a two part comic adaptation in 1996, a wealth of promotional material relating to the film on ADV Film’s “Robotech” DVD box sets, the sale of a Garland bike figure from “Megazone 23” on Harmony Gold’s online shop, and bizarrely an incomprehensible 29 minute edit of the film with all of the “Megazone 23” footage excised which was released on a “Robotech” DVD box set in 2011. My own personal opinion is that Harmony Gold cannot be bothered relicensing “Megazone 23”. It’s nothing to do with Macek’s feelings on the film. In the 2000’s, ADV Films did have the licence to “Megazone 23” while simultaneously holding the licence for “Robotech”, yet the film was never released. As Macek was an employee of ADV Films at the time and was credited as a producer for the “Robotech” DVD sets, naturally he would have pushed hard to have any release of the movie vetoed.

My personal feelings on the film are mixed. It’s a pretty strange beast. The soundtrack, filled with a great selection of original pop music, is a highlight of the film. Being a fan of “Megazone 23”, the “alternate ending” is pretty darn cool compared to the original, but makes little sense in terms of the original OVA's plot. Of course I can easily see the many, many flaws in “Robotech the movie”. The major one is that the “Southern Cross” footage doesn’t mesh very well with the “Megazone 23” scenes. And of course the “Southern Cross” material was previously used in a completely different context in the “Robotech” TV series. There's also the problem of having two different sets of characters that never interact at all during the entire length of the film. The second major problem is that he plot is also a complete mess. The original material was literally cut up into small pieces and reassembled into a different narrative, with only the nearly non-stop dialogue relaying the plot, which serves as a glue in attempt to hold everything together. The audience is practically bombarded with dialogue and plot almost for the entire length of the film. It's all a bit tiring really. Macek was pretty much forced to attempt to string everything together as one cohesive narrative through this dialogue because of the way the film was edited and complied. But it doesn’t really work all that well.

I readily admit that the film is pretty bad. In fact it’s a total mess of film. However I do find it to be kind of a fun film. It's utterly silly and filled with almost non-stop action. But it's not exactly the worst part of the “Robotech” universe. That title has to go to the abysmal “Robotech: Love Live Alive”. But honestly, how well does this film stack up against the rest of the franchise? Not a great deal of the material in the “Robotech” universe is what you'd call a work of art. A lot of it is poorly written, is full of cliché ridden dialogue and has plot holes a mile wide. Take for instance “Robotech II: The Sentinels” which at times is as poorly written as “Robotech the movie”, and still it’s considered by most “Robotech” fans as part of the official story. You also have the continually changing meaning of the word “Protoculture” in the original TV series. One minute it has the same meaning as that in “Macross”, next it seems to be an actual fuel source.

Despite the fact I do see why people think it's a bad film, I am continually perplexed as to why fans despise it so much when the other parts of “Robotech” are just as bad or worse. According to an article by Peter Walker on the Unofficial Robotech Reference Guide website, it was the San Antonio, Texas branch of the C/FO (Cartoon/Fantasy Organisation) that first made a lot of negative noise in regards to the film. Peter also rightly notes that most people who write off the film as terrible probably have never even seen it. Prior to its first appearance on torrents and Youtube around 2008 or 2009, the movie just hadn’t been widely accessible to fans, especially those in the US who were mostly the ones deriding it. For whatever reason, “Robotech the movie” is regarded as an anomaly in the “Robotech” universe. I understand why Harmony Gold doesn’t really wish to acknowledge it or the fact Carl Macek, in his own words, wanted "for everyone to forget about it". But the fan hate is something I’ll never understand.