Saturday, January 13, 2018
The Obscurities in the Western Connection Catalogue: “Samurai Gold”
Format: PAL VHS, Japanese Dialogue with English Subtitles
Runtime: 60 mins
Catalogue Number: WEST018
Japanese Title: Toyamazakura Uchucho Yatsu no Nawa Gold (Cosmic Commander of the Toyama Cherry Trees: His Name is Gold)
Japanese Production Date: 1988
Note: Originally published on the "Anime Archivist" blog June 2014, based on a previous version published on the "Lost World of Anime" website in 2005.
This is the fourth part in a series of nine articles on the somewhat obscure 1990’s UK based video distributor Western Connection and the anime titles that 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. During 1994, the company continued on down the path of releasing some very obscure titles. Slightly more well known titles such as “Grey: Digital Target” got an English subtitled release several years before the USA as well. And so we come to yet another obscurity; “Samurai Gold”; a sci-fi anime adaptation of a late 19th century kabuki play. Here’s a rundown of the show I swiped from a review I wrote long ago;
Gold arrives in Fedovar with Midi and meets up with Ebota’s son, Ritt. Ritt has been looking into the attempt on Retklaad’s life and has made some surprising discoveries. Retklaad was supervising a test flight of a small space craft named Ovaconia. On board was the ruler of Fedovar, Tonodono Plenmatz, his wife and his son Ion. During the fight, the ship goes out of control and crashes, apparently killing all on board. Afterwards people connected to the ship and the family commit suicide or end up having fatal accidents. Ritt and Gold decide to check out the abandoned Plenmatz mansion. Unfortunately inside they discover the large gay man who attacked Gold on Earth had been following him and the pair end up dodging his massive blade. The killer tells Gold that he was the family butler and faked his own suicide to avenge the deaths of his employer. He believes that Retklaad casued their deaths. Gold doesn’t get much more information out of him as during their fight he throws the butler out of the window.
Midi returns to Ritt’s house in utter disbelief over the death of Gold. However they hold out faint hope that he may have survived and wait for several days in hope for him to return. The pair are soon surprised to see a news report on TV saying that Gold has been appointed as a new Overseer. In a press conference, Gold claims Ion has been killed and that he has received information that Retklaad was part of a conspiracy to kill the Plenmatz family. The other Overseers begrudgingly decide to hold a trial for Retklaad, but they know a lot more about the conspiracy than they are willing to say in public.
Though my synopsis makes this OVA look like it’s a serious piece of drama, quite frankly on the surface it’s complete fluff. The plot is certainly there and it’s quite good and has plenty of twists, but at times it just hangs there in the background, and if you weren’t paying attention to it, it just wouldn’t really matter. It plays second fiddle to the comedy, action set pieces and the laser sword fight scenes that take centre stage. That is until the quite long and somewhat dry court room scene at the end of the OVA. This manages to put a spanner in the works and if it wasn’t for another laser sword fight sequence in the middle of it, things would have come to a grinding halt.
Despite the negative points which are few and far in between, I kinda liked this OVA. The character designs are pretty good (despite Gold’s mullet), the action is handled well, the comedy at times hits the right spot and music is one of the highlights with some good orchestral pieces. The bottom line is that it’s sort of fun for what it is. It flows pretty well and it’s action scenes are well done, but the totally misplaced court room sequence (well it’s more like a Roman Colosseum than a court room) destroys that flow and the interest of most of the audience.
But being a Western Connection release, of course the VHS tape itself is riddled with problems. The subtitle timing is horrendous on this one. More than a couple of times I had to figure out who said what as the previous lines would end up looking like being said by another character. And to make matters worse, characters would talk, and there would be no subtitles. Jesus Christ, there’s just no professionalism on display here at all. The plot is already convoluted as it is. The subtitles just confuse things further. And then we get this credit during end title sequence;
Seriously, what the fuck? The only time I’ve ever seen this kind of rubbish on a commercial anime tape or DVD is on a Western Connection tape. What were they thinking? The other weird thing which I have only really seen on Western Connection tapes, is that the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) rating is actually a sticker, not printed on the cover itself. Somehow the VHS slicks were being printed before the tape had been rated by the BBFC, then the appropriate classification sticker was (crudely) stuck on. Pretty much every Western Connection release from this tape onwards has a classification sticker affixed to the tape’s slick. I really can’t fathom how or why this would be a good idea. There’s also the synopsis of the anime, taken directly from the Anime UK/Anime FX magazine review. So Western Connection where sending preview copies to the magazine, getting the review early, then quickly designing the covers using the reviews as the synopsis on the back and then somehow printing up the covers before the BBFC had a chance to classify it? The mind just boggles at the insane way this company must have been run.