Friday, November 24, 2017

Anime Music Video Compilations: “Bronze Cathexis Koji Nanjo”

Publisher: Youmex/Margaret Video/Toshiba EMI
Format: VHS and Laserdisc, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue
Length: 33 minutes
Original Release Date: 6 July 1994
Animation Exclusive to this Release: Yes
Other Sources (Japanese unless noted): None
Currently Availability (as of writing): Out of Print

Note: Originally published on the "Anime Archivist" blog April 2014.

Coinciding with the amazing rise of anime’s popularity in the west in the early to mid 00’s was the fandom around Yaoi. What struck me was that despite all of the material released during that period, Minami Ozaki’s popular manga “Zetsuai 1989” and the follow up series “Bronze: Zetsuai Since 1989”, as well as their anime adaptations, were never translated and marketed to an English language audience. I think it’s easily one of the best in the genre, and I’m not exactly a fan of Yaoi. I first came across the series around 1998 or so when a friend recommended it to me. I borrowed his fansubbed tape which also included the “Bronze Cathexis Koji Nanjo” music video. While I wasn’t completely sold on the OVA (the 1996 “Bronze: Zetsuai Since 1989”, in which the character designs overemphasised the pointy chins and noses almost to parody of the original designs), I thought the music video collection was brilliant. It was dark and moody and the music was fantastic, the antithesis of the brightly coloured, perpetually happy idol filled J-Pop I had heard (and mostly disliked) up to that point

The origins of the story, believe it or not, come from Ozaki’s “Captain Tsubasa” dojinshi published in the late 1980’s. Based on the highly popular shonen soccer manga, it featured forward Kojiro Hyuga and goalkeeper Ken Wakashimazu in a homosexual relationship. As you might have guessed by the title, the manga was released in 1989 and soon developed quite a following. Ozaki halted the series only after five volumes, but recommenced the manga under the title “Bronze: Zetsuai Since 1989” in 1991, only for it to cease prematurely at 19 volumes due to illness. Ozaki later drew a dojinshi to give the story a proper conclusion. The manga spun off two OVAs; Madhouse’s “Zetsuai 1989” in 1992 and Production I.G’s “Bronze: Zetsuai Since 1989” in 1996. A number audio dramas, a couple of albums and scores of mini albums also followed. I suppose with one of leads being a rock star, it was rather inevitable that the music and animation would eventually come together. But before we look at this compilation track by track, I think we should take a closer look at the story of the franchise;

“Zetsuai 1989” follows 17 year old rock star Koji Nanjo, who has become rather apathetic towards life and feels that he can’t find happiness. After a solo pub crawl late at night, he ends up out on the street collapsed on a pile of garbage bags in the pouring rain. 17 year old Soccer prodigy Takuto Izumi is in the midst of training when he comes across Koji. For some strange reason and against his better judgement, Izumi feels compelled to take him out of the rain and back to his flat. Koji awakens the next morning and is stunned that he finds himself being drawn towards Izumi. Passing billboards in Shibuya, Izumi realises who Koji is and asks him to return to his career. But Koji soon develops an obsession with him, much to Izumi’s annoyance. It later occurs to Koji that he had previously saw Izumi some six years ago at school and had immediately fell for him then.

Despite Izumi’s initial reluctance, their relationship eventually develops but Izumi decides to take off for Italy to further his soccer skills without telling Koji. Koji discovers what has happened and races off to airport, but ends up in a serious accident on his motorbike. Nearly dying from this incident, Kojo awakens to find he cannot speak. Soon after the sudden death of his father forces him to become the head of his influential and rich family. He tries to avoid this task and continue his music career, but his brother blackmails him into doing it by threatening to publicly reveal his relationship with Izumi. Meanwhile Izumi decides to turn his back on Koji and their relationship and heads off to Italy permanently to play in the national league. As you’d imagine, the music video compilation is just as melodramatic as the plot of the manga and anime adaptations;

“Bad Blood” performed by Hayami Sho
First up I should mention that this compilation was produced by Madhouse who made the first OVA two years prior. The compilation was directed by none other than Rintaro (“Galaxy Express 999”, “Metropolis”) and features some Madhoue’s top talent of the time working on storyboards. “Bad Blood” was storyboarded by Kodera Katsuyuki who is probably most famous as the director of “Sci-Fi Harry”. This video looks like a typical live action music video of the time. Koji and his band are playing in what seems like an abandoned building. Like the music, fast paced rock with wild guitar and lot of synth, it’s very moody looking. Intercut with the scenes of the band are various shots of a lone Koji; a shot of him in a seemingly abandoned Shibuya, next to a wreck of a car, near a military base etc. Towards the end there is a shot of Koji draped over a young white haired man (I’m not sure if this is meant to be Izumi or not) on a bed, bare chested with his hands tied above his head. It certainly fits the song’s lyrics which are not only sexual, but quite violent. The song “Bad Blood” is performed by Koji’s voice actor, Hayami Sho, who performs all of the vocals on this compilation. The song was first released on the mini album “Shakumetsu Natsu: Zetsuai -1989- Version 2” in September 1992.

“Jesus Christ Love For You” performed by Hayami Sho
Well if the pain, blood and overt homosexuality was too much for you in the first video, then you may not like what’s coming up next; blasphemy! There are a ton of Christian imagery references in the video, mostly to do with angels and most perplexingly an image of the Ark. The song lyrics and imagery leave little doubt that Koji believes he is Izumi’s saviour. However despite his best efforts, in the end he fails. Izumi in his angel form whisks Koji off towards heaven. Apart from the angels, there’s scene of some strange ceremony in a church and unexplained shots of a black carriage being draw though a snowy landscape by galloping black stallions (with Koji in the carriage). There’s also a reference to Izumi’s childhood where we see him as child in a pool of blood, stabbed by his suicidal mother. Believe it or not, Yoshiaki Kawajiri (of “Ninja Scroll” and “Wicked City” fame) drew the storyboards for the video. The song used for here is has a slower tempo, but is just a moody and dark as the other tracks on this compilation. Like the previous track, it also appears on the mini album “Shakumetsu Natsu: Zetsuai -1989- Version 2”.

“Katsuai (Thirsty Love)” performed by Hayami Sho
The third video reverts back to a simpler style of music video. The majority of shots are of Koji and his band inside a recording studio performing the song. Apart from shots of the band and Koji, there are close up cutaway shots of the studio’s equipment. As the video progresses, we see shots of Koji embracing Izumi and standing alone next his car beside the bay bridge in Tokyo. The last part of the video has Koji performing in concert with chains draped over him, and his hands seemingly fondling the microphone stand. The camera finally focuses in on the young white haired boy from the first video, who is standing in the crowd. Yes, it’s full steam ahead with the over the top Yaoi imagery with this one. The song, like all of the tracks here, is really well produced with layers of synth and also a few slightly off kilter notes from a saxophone. The lyrics are really dark and quite disturbing with the one line “I hate you/I rape you” being sung in English. It comes off as a really abusive love song. This version of the song is a was taken off the mini album “Cathexis” which was released in June 1994. The original can be found on mini album “Bronze Endmax Katsuai XX93” which was released in September 1993. Koichi Chigira, who would later go on to direct “Gate Keepers” and “Full Metal Panic!”, worked on the storyboards.

“20XX Zetsu-ai (20XX Desperate Love)” performed by Hayami Sho
The fourth video is set in a sci-fi post apocalyptic world. Izumi seems to be the leader of a resistance group fighting against a tyrannical Koji. It starts off with a number of soldiers being brutally killed with gushers of blood spraying everywhere. Izumi then sneaks into Koji’s compound to do a bit of sabotage. Koji watches him on a monitor and latter goes out to battle him. In the ensuing fight, Koji gets the upper hand, chases him, then strikes him down with his sword to subdue him. He then proceeds to strip Izumi and seemingly sexually assaults him. In the final shot, Koji is crying tears of blood. Putting aside the obvious Nazi imagery (which the animators barely obscure), the other slightly disturbing part of this video is the lyrics, full of sexual violence. But when you think about it, it’s really no more shocking than the other songs in this compilation. Both Koji and Izumi are dressed in black with their over the top capes flapping the in the breeze (reminding me a lot of CLAMP’s “X”). It’s all very dark and moody (I know, I’m overusing those two words…), but almost teeters on the edge of parody. The song used for the video is probably best described as hard rock with a driving guitar but lots of layered synth as well. The song was first released on the “Bronze Endmax Katsuai XX93” mini album in September 1993. Morio Asaka who would later direct such titles as “Cardcaptor Sakura”, “Chobits”, “Gunslinger Girl” and “Chihayafuru”, drew the storyboards.

“Gekkou ~ Möbius no Eien (Moonlight Eternal Möbius)” performed by Hayami Sho
Yet another dark (literally) and moody video clip. It begins with a close up shot of Koji’s face as his long hair (coloured black rather than his usual white/silver) blows around his face in the breeze. This is intercut with real leaves animated as they were blowing in the wind. This progresses to a real shot of a “photograph” of Koji in various stages of destruction, literally being torn to pieces. The clip then reverts to normal cel animation as Koji is seen in a black, but snowy landscape with a giant full moon in the background. Mid way through the clip, we see images of the couple making love and then from the manga the sequence where Izumi leaves for Italy and Koji goes after him. The accident sequence is really well done here, in fact a lot more dramatic than how it was presented in the “Bronze: Zetsuai Since 1989” OVA a couple of years later. At the end of the video Koji sees Izumi in a doorway, only for him to turn and leave Kojio again. The song is essentially a love ballad, but as with the rest of the music here it has a dark undercurrent flowing beneath it. The track first appeared on the “Bronze Endmax Katsuai XX93” mini album. Toshio Hirata did the storyboards for this one. He is best known at the director for “Barefoot Gen 2”, “The Fantastic Adventures of Unico” and “Pet Shop of Horrors”.

The music video compilation ends with an “Original Image Picture Crip” (I think they mean “Clip”, not an LA gang member). This is a six minute slideshow of Minami Ozaki’s colour artwork from the series. The music is a classical piece, Tomaso Albinoni’s “Adagio in G minor” which is actually taken from the “Cathexis” mini album, released in June 1994. I can find no credits for the performers of the piece. A couple of minor effects used in the clip are a little bit cheap and cheesy. Strangely the VHS version of this compilation was released as a two tape set; the first tape with the five animated music videos, the second tape with the image clip. The laserdisc version contains both on one side of the disc.

“Cathexis” is still one of my favourite anime music video compilations. However there is an aspect of the compilation which bugs me. It’s the animation. While it may the animation may be all brand new and doesn’t include any previously released animation, it’s quite obvious it was produced on a budget. There are a lot of still scenes with camera pans, however most of the action scenes are well animated. The animation frame rate is generally a notch or two below TV animation of the time rather than of OVA quality. However for me the budget animation is a minor annoyance. The music is excellent. Sure it’s rather melodramatic and over the top, much like the visuals and the original source material, but it’s extremely well produced and performed with layers of moody synths and wailing electric guitar. Hayami Sho performs the songs with a lot of emotion that feels genuine.

Despite the popularity of the franchise, no one seems to be interested in re-releasing any of the animated adaptations including this music video compilation. Generally you can find the two VHS tape version for less than ¥500 on Japanese auction sites and, though I have seen copies as high as ¥2,500 and even up to ¥10,000. As most copies hover well under the ¥500 mark and are quite plentiful, so there really is no reason why you should pay above that amount for a copy. The laserdisc version usually goes for around ¥1,000 or less. It’s slightly more rare, but can be found easily. Both versions came with a bonus telephone card, however my second hand laserdisc was missing the card and only came with the black and white lyric and credits insert. In conclusion, even if Yaoi isn’t really your thing (as it is with me) and you aren’t offended by subject matter or the perplexing Nazi imagery in a couple of the videos, then you probably should look into getting this compilation. The music is brilliantly crafted Japanese pop-rock and the visuals are awesome.

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