Friday, April 29, 2011

Video Backlog: Silent Mushi from Hades

"Hades Project Zeorymer"Publisher: U.S. Manga Corps (Central Park Media, USA)
Format: Region 1 DVD, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue with optional English dub and English Subtitles
Length: 4 episodes x 29 minutes
Production Date: 1988 – 1990
Currently in Print (as of writing): No

Like a lot of Toshihiro Hirano OVA anime of the 1980’s, in this one there's robots and cute girls galore. I do prefer his earlier work such as the crazy sci fi reference filled “Iczer-1” and cool but rather flawed “Dangaio”. However this four part OVA is pretty darn good. Never mind the implausibility of the story (wouldn’t anyone notice the world’s largest electronics company was building eight giant robots piloted by genetically raised humans to take over the world?), it’s just a whole heap of fun. When you look at it closely, the story is pretty damn absurd. But whatever, most of the viewers are here for the robot battles. They’re exquisitely animated most of the time. I think it’s really sad that the OVA format is practically dead and buried. Let’s face it, a lot of anime series are just trash, however if they condensed some of those 12 or 13 episode series down to four or six episode OVAs, I think maybe we’d have a lot more palatable anime series out there, if not, much shorter high quality ones.

I didn’t realise the first time I watched this show some 15 years ago that it was based off a early 1980’s manga that was published in a hentai anthology. Toshihiro Hirano had nothing to do with the manga whatsoever, so it’s his take on it. Interestingly there is absolutely no sexual content in the OVA at all, except maybe just a hint of fan service from the lead girl Miku Himuro. If the character designs are familiar, that’s because they’re Kia Asamiya’s (working under his real name of Michitaka Kikuchi). There’s not much more I can say about this show really. It’s fun trash, but forgettable in a lot of ways. It looks great, but it’s fluff really. I note that this title got a DVD release in the early days of DVD in Japan and most recently got a Blu-ray release over there as well. So for some reason this short OVA series must have some sort of fan base over there. I’ll give it 6 out of 10.

"Silent Service"
U.S. Manga Corps (Central Park Media, USA)
Format: Region 1 DVD, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue with optional English dub and English Subtitles
Length: 100 minutes
Production Date: 1995
Currently in Print (as of writing): No

This is a TV special originally aired on TBS in late 1995, based on a late 1980’s manga and produced by Sunrise. As I’ve said before, there’s hardly a Sunrise show I dislike. Sure some are mediocre, but hardly anything from that studio really sucks. When I first saw this special about a decade ago (and I can’t remember if I borrowed someone’s tape or it got played at the local anime club, probably the former), I disliked it immensely. It felt quite dull most of the time. On my second (or is it third?) viewing I’ve come to appreciate it a lot more. The central core plot of a rogue nuclear submarine coupled with the action sequences makes for an exciting story. However the big negative here is how that story is framed. The original manga was probably intended for jaded salary men who remembered the time before the economic bubble burst and Japan was number one. There’s this absurd nationalism woven though the plot. Because as you know, everyone is against Japan and wants to bring them down, especially the US who wants to reoccupy the country just like after WWII. Uh huh. Yeah, sure I can understand the whole Self Defence Force thing versus the country actually having a defence force argument, especially back in the 1980’s, but at the time of the anime’s broadcast, Japan had taken part in at least a couple of peace keeping missions (and continues to do so today), so the argument is moot really.

Apart from the flag waving right wing nationalist rhetoric, the plot is pretty absurd. First you have the sub’s crew, who are playing dead as the whole nuclear sub thing is secret. You also have this tortured plot thread where the Japanese sub crew actually comes under the US military, not the JSDF. The actions that the loony captain of the nuclear sub takes are really quite strange (making the sub an independent nation for instance). It’s really hard at times to take any of it seriously as it seems so farfetched and out of character in terms of the foreign policy of Japan and the US. Because the designs and the realistic setting, you’re expecting the story and plot to be credible. However in the end it just comes off as a right wing nationalist’s wet dream. Kind of reminds me of something like rather laughable 1980’s movie “Red Dawn” in terms of its right wing paranoid outlook.

I’ve probably made this show sound a lot worse than it is. You can easily ignore all the nationalist nonsense and enjoy the action sequences and the hunt for the sub as the JSDF try to head off the US Navy. There’s also the relationship between the mutineer captain and the other submarine captain sent out to stop him. Both were in the same military academy together, and their personalities and roles become reversed. The big problem for English speakers though is that only one third of the anime has been released. The two concluding parts, both feature length OVAs, never made it to the English speaking world. This is a bit frustrating as the TV special just ends part way through the story with no real resolution or even an attempt at one. Overall, this one was pretty good. 6.5 out of 10.

Funimation (USA)
Format: Region 1 DVD, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue with optional English dub and English Subtitles
Length: 26 episodes x 24 minutes
Production Date: 2005 - 2006
Currently in Print (as of writing): Yes

Another title I got from Right Stuf’s bargain bin. It’s always a bit of a lottery, especially when you aren’t familiar with the title. I had heard some good stuff about this show, but it wasn’t hyped like some shows are. I had this incorrect assumption about the show that it would be rather gory or a bit like “Princess Vampire Miyu” or “Hell Girl” with a lot of mysticism and what not. The promotional material for the show threw me as well. The main character, Ginko, is seen in what looks like modern clothes, which also tricked me. What the show is in reality is an extremely well-produced and mature series. Yes it does contain mystical elements, but the Mushi are treated as everyday occurrences and aren’t shown as being malicious phenomena. And interestingly only some in the show believe in the existence of the Mushi. This works really well as it set in a time period which was full of local legends and myths.

The basic structure of the show is that Ginko is a wandering through rural Japan collecting items and stories related to Mushi and solving problems caused by the creatures. Partly this is to make a living and partly because he attracts Mushi and can’t live in the one place too long as it would cause problems. His philosophy is that humans and Mushi should exist side by side in peace. After all, they’re both only trying to live and survive. The series is episodic with no episodes which really carry on from one another. Some may not like this, but I thought it worked really well. There are also a couple of episodes dedicated to Ginko’s early days. While the basic plot of any episode has Ginko solving a Mushi related problem and moving on, not all episodes end on a happy note for either Mushi or humans. I thought this was quite refreshing. Also refreshing was the leisurely pace the story was told. It never seems to be any rush to come to any conclusion. The writers also leave a lot of time for codas rather than episode coming to a conclusion in the final seconds of the show. There are some tense and creepy moments, but these are few and far in between. The artwork is gorgeous, especially the rural backgrounds. The Mushi themselves range from the harmless and helpful to the horrifyingly deadly and seemingly malevolent. Their function and behaviour are also varied which makes each episode unique.

I did have a couple of minor problems with this show. The big one was the secondary character designs. A lot of the characters we meet seem very similar in design. I had a lot of trouble at times figuring out if characters had appeared previously in the series. Young women and men seem to be all the same in this world. Also some of stories were just a little hard to swallow, however this only related to a couple of episodes. Most of the time I could easily suspend disbelief. Back to praising the show a bit more, I also loved the opening theme which sounds very much like a José González impersonator. Overall this was a fantastic show. Definitely not what I was expecting at all. Funimation’s packaging (I got the single DVD releases) was fantastic. Probably one of the best shows I’ve seen in quite a while. I’m surprised that the fan buzz around this show isn’t all that big. 8.5 out of 10.

Remaining Backlog: 23 months (it's much easier this way than listing the number of discs).

No comments:

Post a Comment