We're still livin'. Livin' in the eighties! We still fight! Fight in the eighties!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Godzilland Attacks Cool Stuff! Say Hellow to Comic Saurs Story!!!

Okay, before I get started I want to introduce everybody to someone.

He ought to be here any moment now. Yeah, I hear him, breathing fire and smoke as he passes the bathroom. The carpet is getting warm. 

The sofa is shaking.  Excuse me while I grab my drink off the computer hutch before it spills.  He's a little worse for wear, but I'm always glad to see him, even if he's a bit pissed at me for leaving him buried in that big box for so long. Years, in fact.  Almost a decade.  I hear him behind me.  And I turn around slowly with my camera...it's...it's him. Yes, directly from the monsters' paradise itself...it's everyone's favorite walking yellow bag o' fun...the "king of monster," measuring in at 450mm X 430 mm...


And, kids, you know what this means, right? 

Another episode of extremely cool and unnecessarily little dumb anime things from the "Comic Saurs Story!" Yaaaaaaay!!!!

So, Mr. Godzilland, sir, what do you have for us today? 

Oh, really.  Sorry to hear that.  Seems he's a bit winded from swimming over from the "happy islet!"  At his age, that's expected. Heck, I carried him from one convention to another for ten whole years before sticking him in that box.  His corners are all torn up and will probably need a bit of first aid in the way of packing tape if he's gonna last a whole lot longer.  Gee, it's been a while.  In fact, it's been so long that I really don't know what treasures are hidden inside.  So this is going to be a bit of a treat for me too as we discover together some stupid lost anime crap from 1986 or '87. 

Lessee, what's first?  Oh, yeah, this'll do.

Looks like a Zeta Gundam postcard book, with Shah or Chaa or Char or Shaa (or whatever the spelling is this week) looking up at us through those cool shades.  Poor guy is the last of his kind, here, as I actually sent all his buddies away through the mail some 15 years ago.  If you look really closely, you can see one of the ZGundam mechs reflected in his shades.  Or maybe that's just the lousy cameraman who's too cheap to buy a proper scanner...

Hmm, what's next.  Oh...lookie...

It's a Touch stationary kit, just the thing you need to write a goofy love letter to the baseball player in your life.  It even comes with a little button, hearts and stickers so you can personalize to your heart's content.  Then you can stick it in the envelope and mail it off so he'll get it just in time for the playoffs!  This show was a huge hit back when I was heavy into anime fandom, though I only met five or six people over here who claimed to be fans. 

Hmm, what's this?

Catseye notepaper.  I had Mitsuyoshi send me lots and lots of notepaper 'cause I wrote lots and lots of notes back in the '80s. I mean, sometimes two or three letters per day.  After a while, that really adds up.  It got so bad that I started running out of Japanese notepaper and had to resort to getting artists over here to create stationary for me.  Sad thing was, they were happy to do it.  That's how much mail I sent back and forth during the heyday of fandom tape trading and such.  These things generally came with anywhere from 20-40 double-sided pages each and sometimes I still ran out.

Lessee, what's next...


Oh, yeah, what good is Catseye notepaper without a Catseye backing board to write on.  At least, I think that's what these things are. I had several from different shows at one time - thin illustrated flexible plastic boards.  Pics on front and back.  I've always assumed they were for use in combination with the note paper, but who knows?  They just look purty.


Oh, here's something for the Robotech: The Movie fans on your Christmas list:

Megazone 23 stationary. I hope you can read the story, 'cause I think that's the best part.  I mean, they make it so you don't have to even watch the movie.  Considerate, no?

A set of City Hunter audio cassette labels. Back in the stone age, before I-pods and mp3 players, we had things called cassette tape players. If you're ever forced to ride in your hippie grandpa's Volkswagon bug or granny's old Caddy, you might actually see one of them. Otherwise, forget it.  Come to think of it, no one writes letters or mails postcards anymore either, so that explains why I still have this stuff lying around.

Speaking of postcards, here are two more from the original Macross. How these managed to survive the mail is beyond me.  I didn't like Macross nearly so much as a lot of hardcore fans I knew, and I usually managed to send out most of the stuff connected to shows I didn't care a whole lot for to truefans who would stick the shit on their walls and so forth. I've always been strange that way. Why have crap in your closet that someone else might enjoy?

Speaking of which, here's a Minky Momo note book with about three pages left in it. I could never find anyone who wanted it, so I used the paper to send notes to the people I didn't especially care for.  You know, the people who wanted five hundred episodes of two hundred different shows on VHS six-hour speed by TOMORROW!  Nothing says "fuck you, but here's Dave Merrill's address" quite like Princess of Magic Minky Momo.

Here's something you don't see just everyday.

A Hokuto no Ken "Posicco Card."  How special. I dunno how obvious it is owing to the piss-poor kung fu photo ability of the moron who took this pic, but that's an actual film piece in the upper right corner. In this case, it's a pic of Ken carrying Shin's body. The card assures me that the film is "only for you" and I should "feel free to use it!!" along with a picture of a pair of scissors and a dotted line to cut on.  Of course, if you cut it out, it leaves a huge honkin' square hole in the middle of the postcard which makes it rather difficult to mail. I guess that means you're supposed to mail it first.  Yeah, right.  This one's going back in the bag...

Huh?  What's that you say, Mr. Zilla, sir?  You're getting tired of me reaching my hand into you?  No?  What then?  Everyone has gotten tired of looking at old shit and has headed over to Carl Li's site?  Okay, whatever you say.  But I can't let you leave without showing them your egg-shaped letter set and have you tell them your story, can I?  Of course not. That would be rude.

So, kids, be sure to wave goodbye to Godzilla as he swims back across the sea to his happy islet.  I'm sure he'll be back very soon with more goodies to show everyone!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Queen Eve Blows Up Love Robot and Goofy Guy! Juuza Twists Cel Contest!

Anime stuff, circa 1986

Fun N' Games

Okay, after that last mammoth post (remind me not to do anything like that for a while, please), it's time for a change. Of some kind.  I'm gonna start off with something I call...

Cross-cultural Hilarity Simularities, or RWG's seein' things a wee bit strangely today.
All together now:  "Awwwwwwww."

Doing the whole Matsumoto groove last post, I got to thinking about the whole Tochiro/Emeraldas thing and damned if it didn't remind me of something I'd seen just a couple years back.  Of course, I could've just been having flashbacks of the other fifteen other Leijiverse versions of the same damn relationship...but, no that wasn't it.  The scruffy little guy with the big heart.  The aloof, powerful, gorgeous gal with the big ship.  Hmm, where have I seen this recently?  Yeah.

Ohhh, yeah.

Love isn't blind, it's deaf and mute too.

Tell me I'm wrong. I dare ya. Now, I'm not sayin' that Andrew Stanton and the Pixar guys are drooling Matsumoto fanboys like me and the Corn Pone flicks crew, but only that some things are just universal: no matter where you go in space and time, there's always gonna be at least one awesome example of womanhood who is willing to go slumming when the right shlub flies through deadly radiation to fix her ship or plants a shrub in an old shoe and holds an umbrella over her head in a thunderstorm.

Well, okay, I'll be honest. It helps if the Tochiros and the Wall-Es are writing and directing the things.  Just sayin'.  But aside from the wish-fullfilment, fairy-tale aspect, there's a nugget of truth in this, isn't there?  Isn't there?

Hmm, okay, just for grins and giggles...

Name: Tochiro Oyama
Physical Characteristics: Short. Big Glasses. Bo legs.
Hangouts:  Dead worlds, Big ships with lots of skulls and crossbones.
Hobbies:  Fixing things,  Collecting scraps to build spaceships.
Hangs with:  Guy who is incredibly difficult to kill.
Ideal mate:  Obsessively driven woman with a big gun
Name: Wall-E
Physical Characteristics:  Short. Big Eyes. No legs.
Hangouts:  Dead worlds.  Big ships with numbskulls and lazybones.
Hobbies:  Making squares.  Collecting scraps.
Hangs with:  Bug who is impossible to kill.
Ideal mate: Obsessively driven bot with a big gun arm.

Name:  Emeraldas
Characteristics:  Quiet, with a nasty temper.
Hangouts:  Big ship with lots of robots.
Symbol: Red rose in a vase
Hobbies:  Blowing up spaceships.

Name:  Eve
Characteristics:  Quiet, with an incredibly nasty temper.
Hangouts:  Big ship with lots of robots.
Symbol:  Green plant in a shoe.
Hobbies:  Blowing up ships.

See. Incontrovertable truth:  No matter what language you speak, English, Japanese or robot, incredibly goofy guys CAN win the love lottery, provided they have the writers on their side.  With Valentine's Day coming up, I was tempted to leave this one 'till next month, but...

Okay, so much for the FUN (well, okay, I had fun). 

On to the GAMES.

I hope to make this a regular feature, or at least as regular as I can before my anime cel collection runs out.  As you may have noticed, I really like being smart ass with my captions.  I figure I'm not alone.  So, with that in mind, I proudly introduce the "Smart-ass Caption Contest!"  It's just like every other caption contest ever run, except that I'm gonna use animation cels from my collection instead of pics from the 'net.  Some are pretty boring, but since most are from Hokuto no Ken, you can figure a lot of them by nature lend themselves to the absurd.  But in an incredibly MANLY kind of way. 

Well, most of them, anyway...some are just...well...I'll start out with an incredibly easy one.

"If you can't snark on this one, you don't deserve to live!!!!"

I have a couple of extra SPT Layzner cells lying around, along with a few generic cels to shows I don't know.  Whoever comes up with the best caption, gets one or two of 'em and I'll even pay the postage.  Assuming anyone is actually reading this stuff and wants to put themselves out there, leave it in the comments section below.  The blog's only been around for a couple of weeks, so I'm giving this one another month or so before I figure no one cares.

"So, when did this skull all-hell-breaks-loose button get installed, anyway?"

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Music Video Praises Pirate Queen! Obsession Drinks to Zero!

Steve Harrison bait.

You say pot-a-to head, I say pot-ah-to head

As I mentioned a couple blog posts ago, one of the more interesting things about being dead to anime for fifteen years is that even the old stuff is new again.  What with all the newly translated anime released in various formats, it's almost like being totally re-introduced to series I watched in raw form way back then.  Unfortunately, that's not always a happy process.  The anime hasn't really changed, but I most certainly have.  My tastes have been - refined - for lack of a better term. This is especially true when it comes to anime that has been dubbed into English because, well, let's face it, the approach that American voice actors and directors bring to the product is not exactly the same as the Japanese sensibilities.  Not only do I have to fight "the pre-conceived notions versus reality" battle that I touched upon in that earlier blog, but I also have to start wondering exactly how accurate the translation is and what kind of effort the American crew put forth. It's tough to decide how much of your bile or applause should be directed at the source material or at the American biz that put together the finished product.  It's one of the reasons I've always preferred my anime subtitled.  It's just much less distracting not to have to worry about that extra level between you and what the original folks put into the production. 

I think I can count on the fingers of one hand the anime I've bothered to watch in the last ten years or so.  Most of  it was, as those who know me can probably guess, Hokuto no Ken related.  A friend of mine in San Antonio manages a comic book store that kept up with a lot of the American releases, so I was lucky in that regard.   I saw the ADV dub of the Cursed City trilogy (though I could've sworn it wasn't in English, probably JAMM again), three of the Legend of the True Savior videos on youtube, the two Queen Emeraldas ADV episodes, and the Maetel Legend release.  Yeah, okay, I love me some Emeraldas too.

Yeah, yeah, don't they always say the book was better?

Bottom line, with all the stuff out there now, I really didn't watch a whole lot.  Part of that was because I was using dial-up until a year ago so I couldn't watch video online even if I wanted to (hell, I didn't even have television for nearly a decade, how perverse is that?), but mostly it was out of pure disinterest.  I'd go into Bob's shop and make a point of checking out the new DVD releases, but nothing really caught my eye.  So, now everything is new.  Even if it's old. A target rich environment.  So...where to start?

The numerous anime blogs that have sprung up here there and everywhere haven't been a whole lot of help.  They mostly seem to me to be written in a different language. And, to be honest, they probably are. Being an older nerd, I'm not up on the newer nerd tongue, so I'm slowly working on the whole translation business. I've already mentioned the whole "moe" thing - hell the word "otaku" wasn't even in our lexicon back in '85 or so.  As soon as I get the whole "moe" thing down, I'm gonna try and tackle "fanservice," though I'm not even sure if everyone agrees on "otaku" after 20 freakin' years, so I dunno how long I'll have to wait to get a consensus on the newer slang.  I remember when name translation fights were all the rage, now we've graduated to more important things like whether or not underaged lolis with WW2 wings on their legs instead of pants is suitable stuff for general consumption.  WhooHoo! Progress! Yeah, I'm just waiting for Bill O'Reilly to get ahold of an episode of that.  Or Chuck Yeager's relatives.  Meh, it's rough getting older.  I start thinking about shit that never would've entered my mind thirty years back...

Anyway, I just didn't feel like jumping right into the newer stuff, so I did what I usually do when searching around for something to watch.  Youtube.  By that time, I'd already seen the rest of the Hokuto no Ken Legend OVAs (for the record,  I seem to have enjoyed them more than many HnK fans I correspond with), done my two or three passes down memory lane by hitting the opening and closing credits '80's style thing (man, Dunbine, L-GaimGiant Gorg, and Xabungle STILL rock after almost thirty years), and even sampled couple of music videos.

Same Gorg time, Same Gorg channel!

One thing led to another to another to another, until I finally came across this one which I really liked. Yeah, I'm an old softie. Even after twenty years or so, I managed to place most of the Tochiro and Emeraldas cuts, but there were a few I'd obviously missed out on. Luckily for me, the person who put together this one was kind enough to list the credits at the end of the vid. After another half hour or so of googling, I set aside half a day or so to commit to something I'd actually heard about, but never even seen more than a a few seconds of.

Hey, kids, Harlock, Tochiro, Emeraldas and...some other guys.

Man, it does this manga oldtimer's heart good to know that, along with gratuitous panty shots, shower scenes, and other timeless tropes of anime, Matsumoto potato heads and machine men with pointless dials all over their bodies have somehow managed to survive into the new century.  All is right with the world. I felt like opening a bottle of fresh spring water to celebrate, but settled for a glass of red wine.  A tall glass.  I'm not usually one to watch anime with a buzz, but it's sort of become a tradition with the Matsumoto-inspired shows.  That way I feel like I'm really down with the characters.  If no one's popped a cork or poured a shot within the first two episodes or so, you know you're in the wrong anime. Plus, it helps get over the English dubbing.  Because the Harlock anime have had special problems with this in the past.  I can see some of you out there nodding.  Yep.  Somehow, I always hope the next one will be different in this regard, but I'm always disappointed.  Just comes with the territory.

I've always figured that the whole "voice acting" thing was probably more a problem for those of us who watched the raw material for years and years before the dubbed stuff was available.  The obvious exceptions being BoTP and Star Blazers, of course.  But speaking for myself, the standards were set early on. The exaggerated "drama" voices were an essential part of what made anime different for me.  Hearing Captain Harlock speaking with a "normal" tone in a "normal" register just doesn't do it for me.  In this particular case, I understand that Steven Blum is an accomplished voice actor.  Hell, I see he even voiced Wolverine for the latest X-Men toon, and I loved the hell out of that particular job.  But he's just not Captain Harlock here.  He's just another voice attached to an icon. But I understand the whole "dramatic reading" thing is just never going to fly here in America,  so I'll be pleased to be shutting up about it now.

Seriously, where do they find these voice actor people, anyway?

I'd never heard of these main characters having appeared in any other medium (unless there's a Matsumoto manga I'm unaware of), so I was left to assume that the source material was originally a special project of some kind.  The wiki article is unhelpful in this regard, the best I could come up with was yet another reference by Dave Merrill - hello, anyone ELSE out there doing articles on old school material?! - to a video game or somesuch.  But enough of that, I tracked down the series, and set out to watch it on its own terms, something which I'm really not used to doing because...well, because I still have memories of the raw versions of most of Matsumoto's shows and it's rare that something comes out that I'm totally unfamilar with in that regard.

So, as I sat down in front of the computer, I was quite prepared to either love it to death, or want to slit my wrists.  A couple hours later, I was actually kind of surprised that I came away somewhere in the mushy middle on this one.

To begin with, I wasn't prepared for the incredibly mellow opening. Luckily for me, I'd tanked up on caffeine beforehand, because I knew I had at least five or six more of these to get through between the actual episodes.  Evidently, the instrumental has an actual vocal version, which I suppose is available on the soundtrack.  I really wish they'd used that one here, because I've been conditioned to think that anime openings meant actual words being sung in a language I couldn't understand.  In the case of Mastumoto series, this meant guys with deep voices, singing manly songs.  Heck, when SSX came out, they released a whole album of manly man songs to go with it.  Even Queen 1000 had a guy with a deep voice singing the opening song and Harlock wasn't even IN that one.  But, what the hell, speaking of millenium, it's the new one, so I'll go with it.  So long as the main character isn't as wimpy as the theme song...

"You talkin' ta me?"

No worries there.  At least once we get past the first episode, anyway. After the opening five minutes or so of understandable angst over the way the machine people made Earth into a giant mud puddle in a war, and a good bit of "blame the guy who wasn't around" from the survivors, Warrius Zero is feeling like his parents had a precog flash of this very moment before they named him.  In addition, he's got this nifty family finder gadget that lets him (and the entire English-speaking audience) know in no uncertain terms that his wife and kid are "Lost." One quick cut later, we're left to wonder if it was all a dream, memory, or premonition because we skip to him sitting in his comfy chair on his space ship.  I'm going with memory, but I'd favor dream if only because the Earth survivors act like a bunch of wusses.  No wonder they lost. 

So Zero's evidently slumming, in charge of a ship on a training mission or something after being a high-fallootin' Admiral in a war that ended in a stalemate between the good guys and the machine people. Well, okay, it's not quite as simple as that, but it'll do for my purposes. He's so down that he's ready to quit the series before his chief knocks some sense into him (literally, in the best scene of the first episode), just in time to pick up an SOS from a bunch of ships under attack by Captain Harlock and Yattaran, who is still playing with toy airplanes after 30 years.  Again, it's a bit comforting to know that some things simply do not change.

Speaking of things that don't change, after a game of chicken that goes bad when the engines on Zero's ship fail, Harlock does that thing that he does by recognizing a worthy opponent; and destroys the transport ship Warrius and crew were guarding, then turns and leaves Zero to stew over living up to his name yet again.  About this time, I start scratching my head, trying to remember the first episode of the last anime I saw where the lead character was so totally ineffectual.  And, no, Urusei Yatsura does not count.  There probably were a few, but it's been a while...

Next thing we see, Zero is trying to negotiate a deal with his bosses to go back after Harlock, who is causing the machine people a great deal of trouble just by being himself.  Of course, Zero's bosses turn out to be part of the problem by having some kind of shady deal with the machine people that we're supposed to find out about as the series progresses.  Zero gets his old ship back with, well, the same bridge crew we saw earlier in the episode. With one major exception, who is introduced in one of the dumbest anime scenes I can recall.  That's probably because I've mercifully blanked the worst offenders from my memory over fifteen years, but even still, this one's a whole planet of stupid.

In fact, I dunno which part boggled me most - that the Analyzer clone in this one was the freakin' FIRST MATE on Zero's previous ship or that whoever designed the ship had the main elevator open directly into a shower stall.  Come to think of it, if Analyzer had anything to do with the design of the ship, maybe it's not so unbelievable after all.  Still might help explain why they got their ass handed to them by the machine people. I bet none of their ships had "fanservice" as part of the standard ship tours.  See, I'm slowly learning these newfangled terms.

"First mate, Shower Scene, reporting for duty!"

Anyway, her name is actually Marina and she does eventually turn into a pretty good character, but man, it's hard to ignore that introduction. Yeah, it's a trope, tried and true, as it were, but it's still just dumb, dumb, dumb to INTRODUCE a serious character that way. Okay, maybe I'm getting too old for this stuff after all. Meh. And, of course, the first mate looks exactly like Zero's dead wife. Like I have absolutely no clue where that subplot's going. Oh, yeah, and it turns out the ship's engineer "ordered" for a new first mate because he didn't like getting bossed around by a robot. Gee, I wonder how such an outfit lost a war, huh?

Only in anime. Double Meh.  It's at this point you kind of hope that something was lost in translation, but you have a feeling deep down inside that you know 90% of the stupid is coming from the source. Luckily, you've been here dozens of times before and know it usually gets better.  Keep in mind, all of the above stupid is the super-concentrated kind, taking up less than two minutes worth of screentime, kind of a black hole of dumb, sucking most of the crap out of the other twenty-two minutes of the episode. Or, at least that's what you hope for.   Because you still have three minutes left to watch...

Not to worry, the remainder of the episode is the launching of the ship, the Karyu, and a great time is had by all.  Although there seem to be a scarcity of ships in this one, the designs are pretty standard for the later Matsumoto-inspired anime and I had no problems with them, though I understand that a few others do.  I like the way the lead character gives the teaser for the next episode - it reminds me of one of my favorite '80s mecha shows, Panzer World Galient in that regard.

"Hmm, this kool-aid tastes funny."

The first few episodes focus on the integration of the humans and the machine people on the ship and we learn again fairly quickly why the humans didn't fare better in the war.  They aren't quite the layabouts from the original Captain Harlock series, but they're definitely on the fast track.  The whole idea of machine people - "We aren't robots!" - is one of the Matsumoto ideas that remains fascinating to me, even if it's used mainly to explore the now-familar bigotry metaphor in this particular series.  Can't have too much of that,  I suppose.

The next few episodes have their share of stupid, but nothing so concentrated that it stood out.  It was kind of jarring to figure they only had a machine man doctor on the ship, but one doc per ship is a Matsumoto staple.  Marina gets shot in thwarting an attempted mutiny by the machine men, which is at least a plausible excuse for the next shower scene, and telegraphs an upcoming plot twist you ought to be able to see coming if you're at all familiar with prior Harlock/GE 999 material.  Aside from Zero himself, the chief engineer is my favorite character, which should come as no shock.  I dunno if it was there in the original material or the English folks had fun with the translation, but there was one reference to Marina having whips and chains in her closet that I thought was pretty funny.  Some "mysterious" third party sets up a test involving pirates that aren't really pirates, which struck me as a bit of a stretch considering the way the pirates were acting towards one another when no one else was monitoring, but that's pretty small stuff.  As part of a continuing subplot, the same "mysterious entity" takes control of the ship's main weapon - the latest version of the "wave motion cannon" trope. 

To tell the truth, by the time Zero added the "outlaw" Grenadier to the crew, I was more than ready for the good stuff.

Good stuff.

To be honest, I came into this series cold when it came to knowing what version of Harlock and crew I was gonna get here. But, considering the way Harlock was introduced in the first episode, the last thing I expected was Gun Frontier.  Hell, Yattaran wasn't even IN Gun Frontier.  Neither was Emeraldas and she's the reason I started with this one instead of GF in the first place.  So, when the fifth episode opened in the wild wild west, my first inclination was to go grab another bottle of wine.  Then I figured it WAS Gun Frontier, so I grabbed a bottle of Jack Daniels instead.  I'm telling you, watching this stuff with a buzz is the only way to go.  It also makes it so that you don't CARE whether or not you confuse Marina with Silviana.  What kind of show is this anyway, when they violate the most sacred rule of animating Matsumoto women - thou shalt NOT give two of them the same fucking hair color. EVER.  Even if one of them uses guns and the other doesn't.  It's just evil.  Bad animators. Bad.

Three.  Count 'em, THREE women with blue hair on this show.  Sadists.

That said, the booze level on this show had been tepid up to this point, so I figured something had to give pretty quickly.  Just a few generic "red liquid" in glasses swirling around Zero's quarters. But, hey, this is fucking Gun Frontier we're talking about.  Booziness is next to Godliness.  So I knew it was coming, just a matter of when.

Unfortunately, there was a whole lot of stupid before then, which made it difficult to wait for Harlock and company to show up before getting wasted.  I knew Gun Frontier was...eh...silly compared to what normally passed for Harlock mythos, but I really didn't expect his Warriusness to jump headfirst into the pool of goofiness, especially after all that talk about how dangerous the territory was.  So, of course, he sends the potato head and the kid along with Grenadier and the comedy relief machine man communications officer. Yeah, that'll work out just swell.

Aw, why bother. By the time I hear the "voice" they gave Tochiro,  two shots are down and the glass is in the sink.  I was just getting used to the voice acting, which (aside from Harlock) is pretty darned good.  But the "Marvin Lee" nym tells me all I need to know about how much they really cared.  Shame.  I guess I ought to be used to it by now, but I'm always hoping that someday...sad to think that the best American Tochiro voice job I can remember is that fucking Roger Corman Galaxy Express film from waaay back in 1980.  I'm sure there have been others I've not seen, but...eh, time to take another swig.  May as well make a drinking game out of it.

Here's to you, big guy.

So, hijinks ensue, milk is spilled, swords are drawn, whiskey is ruined (in no small part because they kept it in barrels in the street because there are obviously no thieves or drunks around); town folk get all riled up, and we have several Scooby-Doo chase scenes, except with ray guns, bazookas, and giant cows instead of goofy grown-ups in fake monster costumes.  Exactly what I expected when the series started five episodes back with Zero getting all angsty and kids crying and ships being blown up in outer space.  Oh, wait. 

Aw, fuck it, it's Harlock. All is well with the world.

The four stooges are back at their shuttle and the machine man explains that he let Tochiro chop his arm off because machine man arms are easier to replace than human arms.  And he's right, 'cause by the next episode, it's as good as new.  Silviana loses her clothes again, resulting in a change to my drinking game.  Marina finally browbeats Zero into rescuing the four stooges.  The riled-up townsfolk string Tochiro up AND point guns at him, which is Harlock's signal to finally show up.  Or maybe it was because the episode hit the twenty-two minute mark.  Just to make sure the riled-up townsfolk don't give him backtalk, he brings the Deathshadow with him.  We know it's the Deathshadow and not the Arcadia 'cause it doesn't burst up out of the ground.  I guess the situation wasn't dire enough...or the budget wasn't big enough.  I'm getting antsy.  No booze AND no Emeraldas in that episode.  Seriously beginning to think there's something wrong with this series...

I love, love, LOVE, this piece of fan art.

Well, okay, that was more like it. For the most part. Seems Harlock brought his ship all that way just to look impressive. I really don't get what they were trying to do with Silviana. One minute she's pointing her gun down the barrell of the Deathshadow's 16-inchers, the next she's talking about how she can't fight 'cause her makeup is running. Dude, for all the talk in this series about mechanized men and bigotry and shit, they really still have these huge blinders on when it comes to women. It really makes this stuff hard to take at all seriously, even silly/serious. You almost have to believe that's in the source material, but I dunno. I kind of feel for the woman responsible for having to say that crap and put her name on it.

Luckily, there's still Emeraldas.

And booze.

"You're lucky Harlock didn't kill ya."

"But who cares? If'n there ain't no booze ta drink, there just ain't no point."

Preach it, brother! I bet they had fun in the voice booth during that particular exchange.  In any case, the riled-up townsfolk explain to Harlock exactly why they were stringin' Tochiro up, Harlock opens up the bar on the Deathshadow and the power of hard liquor conquers all.

Well, almost all.  The four stooges are still on Harlock's trail (despite direct orders from Zero) and throw Tochiro in a cave and start whoopin' on him.  When that doesn't work, one of them gets the bright idea to come up with voice activated bomb that's set to go off when Tochiro opens his yap - they stick Tochiro BACK in the noose and wait for Harlock to show up in the hopes that Harlock will get close enough for an ambush.  I guess four against one would've been cheating so they needed an ambush. Or something.  Of course Harlock shows up and Tochiro yells anyway because that's just the kind of guy he is.  Turns out the bomb was a trick.

Yeah, we know who the real stars of this show are, huh?

Zero shows up just as everyone starts firing at each other and stops the fight.  He slugs one of the stooges because it would look silly for him to slug himself for sending the four dweebs down there in the first damned place.  Then he gives them the manly lecture about how Tochiro was prepared to sacrifice himself for Harlock and they all look appropriately shamed.  Tochiro wonders what they were hoping to accomplish with the voice-activated dud bomb. 

"We wanted to shut you up."

Yeah, "Marvin Lee," I know the feeling.  God, that voice is fucking irritating.  By this time, the bottle of Jack is a quarter empty...

Speaking of drinking, the power of the bottle is on display yet again as Harlock invites Zero and crew to the booze party back in town.  Dunno why I noticed, but Zero is actually about an inch taller than Harlock.  I wonder if that's 'cause it's technically his show.  Just sayin'...

 Back at the saloon, evidently the Deathshadow had so much booze onboard that the bartender could fully stock his bar.  Seriously, all the shelves are full. Harlock and Zero debate the whole pirate vs machine man lackey thing, which puts Tochiro to sleep.  Lucky, Emeraldas' comfy lap is there to catch his little potato head.  Emeraldas looks a bit annoyed.  I'm just happy he's finally shut the hell up.  I actually like the Emeraldas voice here, though it's not quite up to the "Who fired on my ship?!" line from that Roger Corman 999 film.  Geez, it sounds like I'm pimping for that crappy thing today.  To be fair, the poor woman here only had like three lines the entire episode. Hard to show your talent with three lines. Even if one of them was really good.

"Let her get you down from there."

And with that, I ran out of patience, though not out of booze.  I suppose I'll end up watching the rest of the series one day.  Aside from the similarity between the Marina/Silviana designs, I couldn't find a whole lot of fault with the character art here.  I did notice that at least one male character actually sported the "eyelashes outside of the hairline" thing that characterizes the standard Matsumoto female designs.  I dunno if I've ever noticed that in any prior "Leijiverse" anime before.  On humans, anyway.

The music was inobtrusive, if lackluster.  There really weren't a whole lot of really dramatic scenes in space to show off the music to, I expect they'll be more later in the series.  Most of the Heavy Meldar/Gun Frontier scenes were played for laughs.

The animation itself...eh.  Seemed pretty typical for the old OVA series we used to get back in the '80s to me.  The colors were nice and crisp. But much of that may have just been me remembering the hell of having to watch the washed up stuff that resulted from multiple generation tape copies. 

Just because you can't get enough Emeraldas.

Damn, this turned out to be a lot longer than I planned. I'm going to have to learn to break these things up in the future. As for the pic at the top of the blog, it's a plate Mitsuyoshi sent me back in the day. I dunno if it's a particular Matsumoto character that I've just not seen before, or just a generic design. If anyone has any idea, I'd love to know.

The signature is dated "1979" (I think)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Texas Invades the Fifth Radish! Old Fans Find Funny Clothes!

"A scanner. A scanner.  My kingdom for a scanner."

Sometime in late 1984 or early '85, the Daicon III&IV anime shorts started making the American fannish rounds and the result was, in the words of a fellow C/FO-San Antonio member who will remain nameless, a "giant fanboy orgasm" that went up one side of the US and down the other. Seriously, there was so much sweaty goodness concentrated in that seven plus minutes of freeze-frame bait that I made a whole seperate tape (at two-hour speed no less!) of it in order to make copies from so I wouldn't screw up my own.  Yeah, I think I might have made 10 or so copies just for local SA types, some of whom were barely interested in anime.  That's just the kind of magic it held - something for just about everyone, provided they looked hard enough.

Better people than me have done articles on the anime itself, as well as the history both behind it and of the resulting formation of Studio Gainax, so I won't go into it here except to say that it just fucking rocked.

Cute girl with deadly backpack destroying every sf/fantasy vehicle ever put on film or video.  You'd think there'd be screenshots all over the net, eh?

Being the kind of curious critter I was back then, I started asking around about the origin of the thing (all we knew is that it was from some convention in Japan named after a radish) and was informed that the Japanese science fiction community had - and, actually, still has - a national sf convention that moves around the country each year. The con isn't actually called "Daicon" except in the years it's held in Osaka. Strangely enough, I also found that the 1986 version of the convention was also going to be held in Osaka. Which, coincidently, is where my new Japanese friend Mitsuyoshi lived...

Robotech hit the airwaves, the Shonen Jump manga spin-offs and Nippon Sunrise mecha shows were dominating the anime TV schedules in Japan, VCRs were getting cheaper, and new anime fan clubs were popping up all over the country.  Basically, it was a pretty good time to be getting into the fandom - something which was not lost on certain creative business types on this side of the pond hoping to take advantage of the expanding market.  One of these was a California-based travel agency called Ladera Travel.  They organized several fan tours of Japan, mostly using the C/FO and other networks to get the word out.  One of the events on the tour was the upcoming 1986 Daicon 5 in Osaka.

Now, word of the tour spread down to us in San Antonio, but there wasn't a whole lot of interest because, well, because even organized through a travel agency, a trip to Japan was pretty expensive.  Of our group of 20 or so regular attendees, only Ray Elliot and Jack Thielepape showed both the interest and had enough moola to make the trip. Ray was a friend of Randy Stukey and Shon Howell and one of the founding members of C/FO-San Antonio, a military type who joined a lot of his servicemen in deciding to retire in the great town of San Antone.  Jack actually lived in Austin, but made the trip down to SA just about every month for our meetings, a camera around his neck like it was part of his character design or somethin'.  He's since been a fixture at the convention scene in Texas and I think he's still the official photo go-to guy at Project A-Kon.

When I found they were planning to attend, I dropped Mitsuyoshi a letter explaining the tour and he ended up meeting them in Osaka in August of '86 - seems he'd really gotten into the whole fandom thing.  Luckily, he remembered to bring his camera...

An auditorium of Japanese fans all studiously studying...something.

I dunno exactly what's going on here, but I'm guessing a re-enactment of that classic Lost in Space episode?

Jack, on the other side of the camera for a change, showing off a poster to a movie no one saw.

Ray, checking out animation cels.

That's either supposed to be Black Jack in the back or Japanese conventions don't smell a whole lot better than ours.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Great Original Story! The Country Singer Leads to Treasure!

I owe a great part of my '80s anime fandom happiness to Deborah Allen. Never heard of her, huh?  Yeah, I wouldn't expect you to, especially if you're neither over 40 nor a fan of country music.

In just another example of how life comes at you from directions you wouldn't expect, a song on AM radio in 1983 changed my life.  I used to ride with my father to the mobile home outfit we worked at back then and he always had the radio tuned to country music stations.  The song was Baby I Lied, the debut single from the perky C&W singer/songrwriter, produced by her then boyfriend (later hubby) Rafe VanHoy.  As was often the case back then, country singles "crossed over" to the pop charts, and such it was with this one.  I fell in love with it the first time I heard it.  Since she didn't have enough songs put together to make up a full album, the record company released a "mini-album" with six songs. I dunno why, exactly, but it didn't matter to me.  All I knew is that I wanted the damned thing and I wanted it NOW.  Well, I had to wait until the end of the work day, but later that night I was wearing it out on the turntable.  That's "record player" for all of you kids.

By the next morning, I was in love.  Well, okay, more like a potent mixture of lust and admiration, but when I get ahold of a good lookin' woman who can sing and (in the words of Miss Nanci Griffith) "play her own damn rhythm guitar and write her own damn songs" I tend to lose it.  Still holds true today for that matter, but getting into that would make this blog post incredibly long and mostly boring.  In any case, I wanted more.  But, aside from the record itself, there wasn't any more.

Except an address for the official Deborah Allen fan club.

Now, I was 23 years old and the only "fan club" I'd ever joined in my life was the Banana Splits fan club back when I was nine years old.  Hey, don't laugh, those songs were kinda groovy (and if you don't believe me, check out the background music to this.)  And the records (you would NOT believe who wrote and performed some of that shit) they sent played better than the cardboard cut-outs you got on the back of the cereal boxes.  But, again, I'm getting sidetracked.  Gonna have to figure out how to stop doing that.  It's hard when you keep finding new cool crap while googling for old cool crap.  Sigh. Where was I?  Oh, yeah, fan clubs.

Guilty as charged. If it weren't for little shits like me funding Sid&Marty, the world may have been spared the horror that was Sigmund and the Sea Monsters.

I was 23 freakin' years old and told myself I had no business joining a fan club.  Heh, right.  Little did I know.  I don't even remember how much it cost to join the "official" Deborah Allen fan club, but I figured it was worth it to get a poster and autograph.  So I sent out my money and went about my business waiting for the package to come in.  And by "business," I meant comic books and anime. At that time, my newfound love of Japanese toons was slowly replacing my old love of American toons because, frankly, American toons had turned to crap.  This was before the advent of cheap VCRs so even the classic Looney Tunes stuff wasn't being marketted and Saturday morning toons were dying.  It really was quite depressing. Houston UHF stations had shown stuff like Battle of the Planets and Star Blazers, but San Antonio was a wasteland at the time. So a good portion of my time was spent playing and running tabletop RPGs (Champions had come out a few years earlier and was a major obsession) and going over to Ben Dunn's house to watch second or third - or worse - generation Japanese toons and wondering how we could possible get more.  Preferably some that we could watch without getting headaches from all the snow and squiggles and without having to adjust the FUCKING TRACKING EVERY TWO MINUTES!!!!!! 

Sorry, had a VCR flashback there.  I'm sure the oldtimers can sympathize. All better now.

Anyway, months passed and the fan club package came in and I was a happy camper for a while.  Deborah released a new album which I enjoyed as much as the first, but didn't get country airplay because she probably got a little TOO much on the pop side of things.  We started getting a few more tapes from sources other than Austin, I joined the EDC in the summer of '84 and started a collection of my own and started hauling it around to area SF and gaming conventions showing this stuff to pretty much anyone showed any interest whatsoever and even a lot of people who didn't.  But as soon as I landed a pretty decent copy of that Golgo-13 feature from the early '80s, it made my job a whole lot easier.  Nothing like a bunch of sex, guns and death to get the attention of the kinds of people who used to frequent cons back then.

Then, sometime in early '85 I got another package from the Deborah Allen fan club and this one included a membership list and a few reprinted fan letters.  Lo and behold (I always wanted to write that), one of the fan letters was from a Mitsuyoshi Yamashita of Osaka Japan.  "Hmm,"  I thought - for all of two seconds - then I grabbed the letter and hiked up to Mike Cogliandro's house because I knew absolutely nil about Japanese names and had no earthly idea if "Mitsuyoshi" was a guy's name or a girl's name.  Really stupid, huh?  Mike's mom, being Japanese, assured me that Mituyoshi was, indeed a guy, and I wasn't going to be committing some unpardonable offense demanding trans-Pacific communicational seppaku by addressing him as such.  I never was much for the whole "to whom it may concern" thing and I worry about dumb crap like that.  Or did.  In any case, I have the internet now so those kinds of silly problems are a thing of the '80s.  Seriously, you young'uns don't EVEN know how much fandom life is easier now.

To make a long story shorter, I wrote Mitsuyoshi a nice simple letter and had to take it down to the post office, where I was given a quick primer on the ins and outs of sending mail to Japan because, well, because I'd never actually sent anything oversees before. Boy, let me tell you, I got to know all the local post office employees by their first names over the next couple years.  Even brought 'em cookies one year. 

Two weeks later, I find a letter sitting in my mailbox from Mitsuyoshi and my life...changes. 

The moral of the story?  

If you want to get a swell friend from Japan (not to mention anime, manga and all sorts of other goodies) - join a freakin' country music fan club!!!!!

The scary thing is that I had most of those albums myself.

Email?  WTF is email?!!!!