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Tokyo Vice (or Tokyo Project in its most recent release) is an hour-long flick that, had you never randomly come across it, you would never know existed. A late 80s cyberpunk action OVA which performs about half-decent for what it is: an 80s cyberpunk action OVA. No, really, there are no other ways to describe it. If you want to find a 60 minute run of averageness when it comes to 80s anime, Tokyo Vice is the perfect pick.
The story is practically all-stock. A guy stumbles into a rock concert and hands a college student (Junpei) a floppy disk (oh, the days when those things were considered high capacity!). Right before he dies, the guy tells the kid to give it to someone. This doesn't even qualify as a spoiler, so it's better to just tell you that it contains diagrams to highly advanced control systems--weapons related. Obviously, this sensitive information needs to be recaptured by its true corporate owners. The back of my clam-shell case wasn't kidding when it billed it as a Mission Impossible/Enemy of the State type of movie. Despite predating both of those live action films, you get that vibe the whole time.
For the 80s, there's nothing wrong with any of the artwork. In fact, some of it is rather cool (the robot, for instance). But that's also the problem. It's the same stuff you see in every cyberpunk movie coming out of this period. Aside from some stiff character animation in one or two scenes, the product of the higher-budget OVA creation is well displayed. The character designs are the same way. They're not bad to look at, but they're about as original as the plot of Star Wars. Few people today are going to find the muted city and high tech computers impressive, and the obligatory military helicopters go without saying.
The Japanese dialogue (the only dub I have access too) was --by even my English-speaking standards--not that great. You can tell. The hero of the story reminds me of a DBZ character impression (the usual shouts, murmurs, etc). The PI (Akira) and Keiko (the adult woman in the group) came through though, and I liked their performance well-enough. Don't even get me started on Junpei's sister though... The music is standard, but I give it credit for being upbeat enough to give some spice to the action scenes.
The kid enlists the aid of his friend Akira (whose uncharacteristic behavior in some scenes is the only thing that makes him interesting), where we also meet his kid sister (annoying as is typical), and the slightly sultry Keiko. Nothing special to see here, move along. Though again, Akira does offer some slight points, and I liked Keiko. The rest is stock, and not even inventive at that. Seriously, the background on any of these people is zero. It's as if this was meant to be the middle episode in a series or something. Either the writer's forgot or they decided to hell with character info in a 60 minute movie.
So now comes the important stuff.
-Originality; on all fields (story, art, sound) perhaps forgivable in the 80s, but that doesn't give anyone a reason to watch it
-Characters; my god, they could have at least given an interesting back-story to why this group of people are even friends!
-Sense of Timing; this movie has a very bad habit of drawing-out suspense until it dissipates, which does no credit to otherwise cool action sequences
But allow me to offer some more tidbits.
Why You Should Still Watch It:
-Quick-fix; the 60 minutes you spend watching this will not be too painful, especially if you've never seen the aforementioned live action movies with similar plots. If you're a real cyberpunk/sci-fi fan, it's also a way to expand your repertoire, or a way to avoid rewatching a more popular flick for the umteenth time.
-Cool stuff; there's a robot and a huge gun that look pretty nice. If everything else is stock, these items they actually bothered to invest some thought.
-Unintentional Hilarity; this may be common in the 80s, but it's also the best reason I can think of to recommend viewing a movie like this. You will be impressed with how many times the main character should be dead--make a drinking game out of it if you like.
At the end of the day, Tokyo Vice is a middle child in anime. It doesn't deviate enough to good or bad to be known for its quality or horrendous play. It's much like one of those B or TV movies that you can remember watching once, and never bothered to watch again. Trumped by its more noted contemporaries like Bubblegum Crisis (in terms of quality) and Angel Cop (in the other direction), Tokyo Vice will likely stay at the peripheral of even the most devoted 80s sci-fi fans. I can't really call that a shame in anything but principle, as I think all anime deserve a chance.
But on one last note, I will revert to a saying of mine when it comes to anime. If you never watch the mediocre and the bad, how will you ever know when you truly find the good? read more
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English-speaking members of MAL might recall this feature movie as "Journey Through Fairyland." The movie feature by Sanrio (the makers of Unico and Ringing Bell) was their last animated movie until just a few years ago. It tells the story of a faltering music student (Michael) who spends more time with the flowers in the greenhouse than with the orchestra. After being kicked-out, a fairy named Florence comes out of one of the flowers and takes him to visit fairyland. There he finds both love and his muse.
The story is a bit simplistic, and is utterly predictable to anyone that has seen Fern Gully (and upon critical examination, I now realize where they got their inspiration. bonus points for inspiring an American movie). Being a children's movie--if a bit sophisticated for the very young--this is not very surprising. I would actually have scored the movie higher in this regard if it wasn't painfully anti-climactic. Apparently children weren't meant to notice this needless drawing-out of the film; and in retrospect I in fact did not notice as a child.
The way I see it, the art in most portions of the movie is excellent. Obviously they ripped several pages right out of Disney's Fantasia, but there are enough added visuals of their own to overcome the similarities. For once I have to actually bemoan the fact that the VHS version is the only version around for America--thus much of the visuals are muted by the degraded quality of the tape over time. The art is amazingly trippy by the time they get to Fairyland, and we are even greeted by an all-too-familiar face as a cameo (which I will save as a bonus for those of you that watch it). The viewer is bombarded with music-related visuals and swarsm of fairies--to say nothing of the gigantic monster near the end.
Yet again we must come to grips with the Fantasia playbook. With one exception; the movie soundtrack consists of classical music. This is quite likely by design, as the feel of the movie is that of getting kids to like the genre. The songs are well-chosen, at least. They settle quite nicely with the animation and even the corny introduction song (the only piece of discernibly original music in the movie) is not too difficult to sit through.
The English dub is the only viable copy around, so there's not much I can compare it to. The script isn't very elaborate, and the voice actors perform their lines on about par with other VHS-release animated movies of the time.
There are a grand total of five characters with lines/purpose of any note. All of them seem to be standard stock characters, from the tragic heroine Florence to the troublemaker Treble. Shallow characters are a notorious occurrence in children's movies, and this one is no exception. The movie was not designed with character development in mind, and there's really no other way to put it.
My recent rewatching of Florence reminded me that (quite often) childhood movies are better in our memory than in actuality. Florence is actually a rather charming piece, and despite its flaws I enjoyed the viewing. It really is a kid's movie though, and thus I cannot easily recommend it to the average MAL user unless you are a connoisseur, looking for a classical music anime, or have a younger (12 or under) associate to watch with you.
On the bright side, I would consider Flroence to be a very nice alternative to Disney's Fantasia. Don't get me wrong, I love the movie. However, Florence provides both a single plot and a continual stream of actual animation. Really, happen to know from experience that the introductions by Deems Taylor were not enthrawling for younger audiences. To put it another way, Florence is the very young's Fantasia.
I don't expect anyone to seek this movie out; espeacily given that the VHS-only release continues to see price-gouging on ebay. However, if you do happen to get the oppertunity to view or own Yousei Florence, I encourage you to keep it as an animated treasure. At the very least, you can pass it off on your kids who will, I think, enjoy it more than we adult otaku ever could.
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The movie version of Space Adventure Cobra comes right out of the center of anime's intrepid Space Age. The same year publishing began for the manga versions of Akira and Naussicaa of the Valley of the wind, Buichi Terasawa's name-making series had been serialized for several years, and founded the basis for its continuing popularity with the release of this movie (which was shortly followed by the more manga-accurate version of the TV series.
The plot is something of a conundrum, mostly due to confusion as to whether the movie represented a separate part or a "retelling" of the events of the series. In brief, Cobra and his android partner Lady must assist bounty hunter Jane Flower in preventing the Pirate Guild from controlling an artificial, wandering planet. Jane is part of a set of triplets (the daughters of the last Queen), and the planet's course can only be changed if only one sister is alive or if they "all love the same man." Yes, that's right. I'm not making this up.
I'll leave additional details for you to see for yourself. As a consequence of the plot (and due to the nature of the old school Sci-Fi genre) various instances of cheese occur. In fact, Cobra is one of the cheesiest Sci-Fi flicks I know of from the 80s. Mix touching romantic moments in with loss, the fate of the galaxy, and gun-toting action makes for that kind of a flick. Oh, did I mention the classic psychedelic disco scene on the snow planet? Inevitably--as a movie version of a much longer story--the plot is not only changed but also compressed. Occasionally this is obvious, and this may serve as a turn-off for some viewers.
For some this may come as a surprise, but as I see it on every other count Cobra is a shining star in the Sci-Fi library. Early 80s Sci-Fi anime is not reputed for the attention to detail and (dare I say?) beautiful art designs that come as part of this movie. Terasawa's style gives clear indications of his work's intent. Scantly clad (or where weather dictates full wear, jumpsuits that hide little work too) women, storm trooper esque bad guys, and the manly man of all space cowboys: Cobra.
(NOTE: incorporating both Jap and English versions here) Another surprise for me when I first watched it was the soundtrack. The music of the Japanese version is excellent. It plays a great part in setting the mood where required, and can even distract your mind from the hugely cheesy scenes that often creep up. The characters in Cobra's original dub are all voiced well. The voice of Cobra especially. The English version, unfortunately (though not unexpected) doesn't match-up. It's the more common version available in the states; and while some of the cast actually fits as far as sound goes, much of the dialogue comes off insincere and thus tends to put the movie down. The English soundtrack isn't half bad (done by a group called Yello), but this is one of those instances where I absolutely prefer the Japanese version of things.
The characters in Cobra are some of the best one can find in the genre. It is unfortunate that their full potential can't be realized in the movie-length format, but the makings of greatness for them is very clear. The obvious plus is our hero Cobra. After changing everything about himself (appearance, voice, etc) to hide from the Pirate Guild, Cobra reveals his identity effectively to get some tail. He has a playboy demeanor, mixed with a Han Solo/Captain Harlock occupation and an attitude about life most would love to have. Cobra really presents himself as the perfectly balanced character by the end of the movie. He is not so over-the-top that he can't descend to take things seriously; nor does he fall into the dark, brooding persona often associated with lone male characters. Uniquely armed with a revolver and his powerful, mind-controlled "psychogun," Cobra may actually be the best protagonist of any Pop Sci-Fi anime movie ever.
The other major character of note is the antagonist: Crystal Boy. One of the leading figures in the Pirate Guild, Crystal Boy has a personal vendetta to kill Cobra in the process of fulfilling the operation. He isn't your average villain. Not only is he a massive figure, his body consists of liquid glass, making him virtually unharmable. If that wasn't enough, he can pull his ribs out to use as weapons. HIS RIBS FOR GOD'S SAKE! This guy is a walking death machine. If he isn't the best original idea for a villain ever, he only takes second seat to Joseph Kucan's enigmatic "Kane."
What can I say about Cobra? I love it to death. I'm a sucker for the cheesy Pop Sci-Fi movie that represents a different time. Back when the James Bond model of manliness was king, and disco mattered, and women were the center of the universe. Sure, Cobra borrows from a lot of mainstream stuff. James Bond (never more clear than during the opening song sequence), Star Wars, even the short story "We Can Remember it for you Wholesale." Unlike many Sci-Fi works though, Cobra possesses a special spirit all its own, and creates original content within itself that more than compensates for any resemblances to other works. It's not for everyone. Non-oldies and Non-Sci-Fi fans should avoid Cobra like the plague (one notable exception, see the comments on the blog index). For we old fogies that still dream of seeing the days of riding faster-than-sound cars, using jetpacks, and zooming along at lightspeed Cobra is one hell of a trip.
And if I must close this review with a last thought to encourage you to watch Cobra, I will steal a line from the "bad sub" version of the movie to which I was first introduced (again, see comments on blog).
"The passion is the bullet of his magic gun!"
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They Were 11 takes place in the far future where the united races of space have constructed an academy that trains the future leaders of the galaxy. Only the creme de la creme even stand a chance at passing the entrance exam. Those that do must face a final test before admission, and that's where this particular work takes us. Ten applicants must survive on a decrepit spaceship for a giving amount of time. Upon arriving, they find their are eleven rather than the prescribed ten.
The concept for this story--as near as I can tell--is one of the most original I have found coming out of the Sci-Fi-mad 80s (note I speak here of anime originality, as certainly 11--like so many other 80s Sci-Fi works--takes the Lost in Space que as its foundation). And within the story there are enough plot twists to keep anyone from being bored. I have to say, at least one of them seemed just a little too convenient for the story to progress, but it added an interesting dynamic and allowed for a satisfactory conflict. Short of this, I can only say this is one of the best stories I've ever had the privilege to watch in a Sci-Fi anime.
The music and sound effects aren't anything particularly special. I have had a separate opportunity to watch the English dub of 11 (only the sub was released on VHS), and so I'm including it in my review since the DVD is the likely copy you will find. The dub is fair. Fewer awkward moments and statements than many other dubs of 80s anime I have seen. However, I have to fall-back on saying I prefer the Japanese version. This is mostly my own feeling that one or two character's voices aren't fitting (though all the others are a nice match). Also, the American-equivalency of an Osakan accent was, frankly, overdone here. I therefore recommend sticking to the Japanese version.
The artwork for 11 is nice. It's not as pretty or shiny as some other works, but it gets the job done. The character design suits the portrayal of each character. And while the players in this flick do seem to be inspired by stock character types, there's enough interesting back story to give the important characters presence.
My enjoyment of 11 ranks right up there with Space Adventure Cobra and LOGH. I might watch the movie about twice a year on my own, but take any given opportunity to introduce it to an unfamiliar audience. 11 has several qualities that seem to have inspired later anime (such as Infinite Ryvius), so if you're a more recent fan of the Sci-Fi genre, They Were 11 is an absolute NECESSITY to watch. You may call it Lost in Space, but by this point I think we're beyond forcing connections between anime and early live action movies/shows. 11 stands up for itself without having to be supported by inspiration from 60s television. It's a movie you don't want to pass-up.
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Gall Force (likely a language perversion of "Girl Force"), details the ending stage of a great war between two races. Without going as far as spoiling certain parts of the work, Gall Force seems to be a conceptual ancestor to the 21st century work Vandread--essentially pitting an all female race of beings against a (presumably) all male species of aliens.
The story has one of the more interesting Sci-Fi twists I've seen out of the 80s. To a certain degree, you can see it coming (if you've got a good Sci-Fi imagination that is). However, it adds an interesting dynamic regardless. The main focus of the story involves a team from the female race carrying out provisions of a secret project. Really straightforward and--let's face it--dull to most people familiar with the genre. Gall Force's strength is in its presentation. The space battles are rather well done, and the artwork on environment and characters is on par with just about any anime out of the period. And again, the plot twists near the end give it extra points in my book.
It does contain a few plot holes. However, ever since Terminator came out, plot holes in Sci-Fi are acceptable. So if you're tempted to ask how an all-female species reproduces, or why if certain forces are in cahoots they don't try to stop killing eachother... Just use your imagination or ignore it.
The music (a department I generally expect little of) was surprisingly good. Music matched the scene quite well in almost all instances. This makes certain sections of the movie that might otherwise be boring easier to sit through. I wish to note specially portions where character development is lacking. This is the largest failure of Gall Force. I found it impossible to have any sympathy with anyone but the main character (well, until the later movies at least). This would often be a very large turn-off for me, but in addition to being slightly more forgiving of Sci-Fi in this matter, the other aspects make-up for it.
The first Gall Force feature really serves best as the gateway to the other parts of the Gall Force metaseries. As a stand-alone though it makes for a decent selection for Sci-Fi movie night. The first movie really is a love it or hate it kind of deal. Non-SciFi fans will probably find it hard to get into. If you do like it, pursuing the rest of the Gall Force metaseries is highly recommended on my part. Availability of Gall Force is questionable, but a brief internet search should provide you with what you need if you are not the flea market type that picks-up VHS copies of anime.
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Big Wars comes out of the period of anime history when Sci-Fi was the clear and present King of the medium. This stage in the development of the industry suffered a myriad of triumphs and epic failures. Big Wars is one of those obscure movies that falls somewhere in-between.
The basic storyline is familiar enough. Humanity has colonized Mars and, following the opening of transforming operations, is attacked by an alien race known as "The Gods". A massive, technologically advanced war ensues over the next several decades in which (it is implied) there has been no real significant progress.
Big Wars lives up to its name in principle (though it is limited slightly in its presentation). We are greeted by massive clouds of fighters, reports of whole cities being wiped out as if its nothing, sand Battleships (that's right: BATTLESHIPS! MANLY!), and a stealth carrier named "Hell". Without spoiling anything, essentially a cruiser/battleship captain is assigned a covert task-force (how they expect to keep a battleship covert is beyond me, but I didn't write this) and is eventually assigned to take-out the Hell.
The majority of the movie is taken up by references to the actual battlefield action and focuses more on cloak & dagger intrigue. The Gods have the ability to spread a sort of "mind control" virus enabling them to recruit spies and terrorists from within the human ranks. Really most of the story deals with this issue and the Post-Vietnam era "concept-of-war" dialogue. Likely, this movie would have fared better by sticking to the battlefield action.
If I wanted to be crude about it, I could sum it up thus:
I've seen much better work in the art department, even from this period. None the less, the sand battleships are rather well-drawn and fun to watch. The characters are well-designed as well (artistically speaking anyway). The battlefield art varies, though should be given on the basis that it is mostly the standard issue of having massive amounts of units impacting presentation.
The dub did not make me cringe. It may just be me, but CPM's old dubs don't seem as bad as used to expect. Though possibly this is just primary exposure bias or getting used to English versions. Battle sound effects are nothing unique, and often seem repetitive. I've yet to track down a Japanese language version, so I have nothing to compare it to. The sex scenes may be seen as overplayed (though this is common; note, however, that upon learning the actual story throughout the movie the overplay actually fits).
This movie fails pretty hard on the issue of characterization. It's hard to sympathize with anyone, and I came out of it not even sure which side I wanted to win the war. To me Big Wars couldn't make up its mind as to whether the Gods of the Humans were the morally upright ones. This would actually be an interesting aspect, except I'm fairly certain it wasn't done on purpose, merely as poor writing. No individual is given nearly enough time (even with screen-hogging most of the movie Captain) for anyone to get a sense of the people. The best we get are vague references to past events and lack of real character development.
Summing everything up, I am surprised to say I enjoyed watching the movie to a certain extent. I have a fondness for large-scale war anime (they are a rarity these days), plus as an 80s movies I just had to see it. For those of you wondering if you should give this one a try: I'd say "yes". I am not one to shy away from the mediocre; if I did that I could hardly appreciate the good. Big Wars has a certain charm of its own in its massive battle scales and plot-deprived sex scenes; giving a rather decent feel for what entertainment really meant back in the early 80s: sex and explosions, with a token dash of espionage.
It's certainly not for everyone, and I'd recommend it even less than I would Space Adventure Cobra the movie. It's a movie for war fans, or for those of you that have a particularly boring day and want to entertain yourselves MTS3K style.
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