Publisher: Sony Video Software/Emotion (Bandai Visual)
Format: VHS and Laserdisc, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue
Length: 25 minutes
Original Release Date: 21 November 1986
Animation Exclusive to this Release: Yes
Other Sources (Japanese unless noted): Dancougar Box 1 (Laserdisc, 1992), Dancougar Complete Box 1 (DVD, 2000), Dancougar Blu-ray Disc Box 2 (2009), Emotion the Best – Dancougar DVD Box 1 (2011)
Currently Availability (as of writing): Dancougar Blu-ray Disc Box 2, Emotion the Best – Dancougar DVD Box 1
While in my opinion “Dancougar” was a rather mediocre transforming robot show, the franchise does seem to have a dedicated, albeit small, following. The plot, structure and some of the dialogue make the show feel like a throwback to robot anime from the 1970’s. In comparison to robot anime screened in the previous couple of years before Dancougar’s broadcast such as “Votoms” and “Macross”, the show does seem a little unsophisticated. It’s only the mecha and character design which date it as mid 1980’s. But despite my dislike for certain aspects of the show, for whatever reason it fascinates me. This is probably due to some of the odder English language releases the franchise has had. Regardless I have bought a fair bit of merchandise from the show. Because of my fascination with the franchise, I have written a couple of articles about it, and I’ll be reposting them in the future. But in the meantime here’s my look at the music video compilation. First, a bit of background on the show;
“Dancougar” aired in 1985 with a total of 38 episodes, and was followed up by a concluding OVA episode in 1986 and later in the year this music video compilation. The series was popular enough to warrant a feature length OVA in 1987, “God Bless Dancougar”, and in a further four part OVA series in 1989. In 2007 it got remade as TV series called “Dancougar Nova”. The initial episodes of the original TV series follow three cadets at the Space Officer Academy in Australia in the very late part of the 20th century. At this point, as alien empire headed by Emperor Muge Zorbados is in the process of invading Earth, and the Earth losing the battle. The situation has become desperate and the cadets are being sent into the conflict. This includes the close couple of Shapiro Keats and Sara Yuki. Shapiro can see that it is inevitable that the Earth will lose and decides to defect to the enemy. Sara attempts to defect with him but another cadet, the cocky Shinobu Fujiwara, fires at her plane forcing her to land. Shapiro surrenders to the enemy and though they have their doubts about him, Emperor Muge soon realises that Shapiro could be useful to them and gives him a prominent position in their army.
Meanwhile Shinobu has been transferred to Japan as part of the Cyber Beast Force, under the supervision of General Ross Igor and Professor Kotaro Hazuki. The Cyber Beast Force (or CBF) is an agency specifically set up to fight the alien attack with advanced technology. Shinobu is given orders to pilot a machine called the Eagle Fighter. It’s not until he is actually in combat that he realises that through his anger, it changes into “Aggressive Beast Mode” (but the fighter doesn’t transform “physically”, though it can transform into a humanoid form latter on in the series) which can defeat just about any enemy. Shinobu is soon joined by Sara who pilots a tank called the Land Cougar. Two others later join them; Masato Shikibu who pilots a tank called the Land Liger, and Ryo Shiba who pilots another tank called the Big Moth (as in Mammoth). All of their machines are able to transform into an animal form as well as a humanoid form and eventually can link up together to form the giant robot Dancougar. Although they are sometimes defeated by the enemy they always return to counterattack. CBF are sometimes helped by a mysterious fighter only known as the Black Knight who has his own beast warrior machine. The war against the Muge Empire worsens and it seems that Earth is doomed. However the CBF have an ace up their sleeve that may be able to save the Earth. With the introduction of the TV series out of the way, let’s have a look at the video compilation;
“Burning Love” performed by Jyusenki-Tai
The first song is pretty unusual. It’s a re-recording of the TV series first ending theme, with this version being performed by Jyusenki-Tai (Cyber Beast Force), who are the four main voice actors; Kaneto Shiozawa (who plays Ryo Shiba), Kazuki Yao (Shinobu Fujiwara), Shigeru Nakahara (Masato Shikibu) and Yuriko Yamamoto (Sara Yuki). While the original version by Takeshi Ike appeared initially as a B-side to Rie Fujiwara’s “Ai Yo Faraway (Love Faraway)” in March 1985, this version seems to be exclusive to this compilation. I’ve been unable to find any album or single with this version of the song on it. The animation used for the video comes from the final episode of the TV series in which the CBF fight in a climactic battle against the Muge Empire.
“Ai Yo Faraway (Love Faraway)” performed by Rie Fujiwara
This is the full length first opening theme song for the TV series. It first appeared as a single in March 1985 (with the previously mentioned “Burning Love” on the flip side). The video for this clip is edited from a number of TV episode sources, mostly of battles inside cityscapes. It also features (perhaps inadvertently) one of the more unusual in jokes of the series; Kamen Rider appears in one of the battle sequences.
“Honto no Kiss wo Okaeshi ni (A Real Kiss In Return)” performed by Rie Fujiwara
This song is the second opening theme and was also a single for Rie Fujiwara which was released in October 1985. With an English language refrain of “Memories of Love” in the song, this video predictably looks at some of the more tender moments in the series (well, sort of). In particular it focuses on the loves of two of the main characters; Ryo and Shinobu. Well the love aspect of the latter is debatable, but still… The Shinobu section is edited from episode 22, “Time Goes Around Still”. The story revolves around a small town taken over by the Muge and where the inhabitants are subjected to a kind of mind control. Shinobu goes to investigate and discovers that no one in the town can actually see him, except for a young woman called Annette who returned from college to find her home town in this bizarre state. Ryo’s section is edited from episode 13, “Betray Town”. In this episode a Mexican town called Tacos (oh for Pete’s sake…) has seemingly joined forces with the Muge. A young woman named Daniella hides an injured Ryo from the townsfolk. Not to spoil things here, but Daniella does appear a little later in the franchise.
“Shadowy Dream” performed by Tougou Masakazu
This is the second ending for the series. It was first released as a single for Masakazu Tougou in October 1985. In this music video, the visuals are culled from episode 33, “Capture the Intelligence”. In that particular episode, Shinobu teams up with the Black Knight on a counter intelligence mission. Watching this video compilation again, a number years after I last watched the TV series, the hang gliding sequence (in the episode Shinobu recalls hang gliding) edited into this music video does seem really, really strange, when viewed in isolation in this compilation. There is a ton of edited robot action, conversations between the Black Knight and Shinobu, then bam, Shinobu hang gliding seemingly for no apparent reason.
“Tamerai ni Period (Put an End to the Hesitation)” performed by Yuriko Yamamoto
From memory, this song doesn’t actually appear in the anime itself. It was first released as a B-side to Masakazu Tougou’s “Shadowy Dream” single in October 1985. This music video’s focus is on the seemingly never ending unresolved sexual tension between Shinobu Fujiwara and Sara Yuki. The main two sections of the series used here are from end of the first episode, “Empire’s Desire” and sections of the 20th episode “Southern Wind”. The plot of the latter is a little bizarre. It involves a plant called the “Heartbreak Flower” which seemingly causes women to go berserk, hence the reason why Yuki has red eyes and is trying to kill Shinobu in the music video.
“Alone ~ Kodoku no Senshi (Alone -Lonely Warrior-)” performed by Jyusenki-Tai with Ike Takeshi
This is a brand new song which initially only appeared on this music video compilation. In June 1987 it was eventually released on the album “Songs For Dancougar”. Again the performers on this song are the four voices actors for the Cyber Beast Force, Jyusenki-Tai. Accompanying them is Ike Takeshi who provided the vocals for “Burning Love”, the first ending theme to the series. What sets this video apart from the rest is that it wholly contains brand new animation. Well, cels dragged along backgrounds at least. OK, maybe I’m being very harsh, but there isn’t a great deal of animation here. There are a lot of still shots, a lot of single cels slowly moving across backgrounds, and a lot of limited animation. I’d say half of this video was “animated”, the other half still shots. And there isn’t a great deal of “story” to this video. It’s mostly Shinobu and Yuki walking around town (a generic city) together, then separately. Then there’s a sequence involving Yuki and paper airplane and a bizarre shot of a Heineken beer in a Chuck Taylor shoe. After that, we get a few goofy shots of the CBF then the entire team walking through the city at night time. Then that’s it, the video compilation is over.
This compilation also contains newly animated “eyecatches” in between each video. Most are a little goofy to be honest such as the CBF watching an egg hatch only for it to turn out to be a mini Eagle Fighter which spews out fire and burns everyone to crisp. Or the rather fanservice laden one, with Yuki in a towel that gets blown up by a breeze. Most of these little eyecatches have the characters in super deformed mode and barely last more than a few seconds. The opening of the collection also contains new animation which features Yuki and Shinobu, but lasts only a fraction longer than one of the eyecatches. The closing credits also feature a few more seconds of new animation. It starts with the eyecatch from the TV series which freezes as it does in the TV show. The credits roll and at the end the CBF (who all feature in the eyecatch) turn into super deformed versions of themselves and fall over. These little off cuts of additional animation barely make up thirty seconds in total.
Those familiar with the TV series would question why one of the most important songs in the series does not appear here at all. The TV series prominently featured a young girl called Laura Sullivan, who was rescued along with her puppy Becky by Shinobu. Throughout the series she sings a song called “Harmony Love” which does play an important role latter on in the story. The other strange thing is there isn’t a great deal of Laura in the music videos either. So what happened to “Harmony Love”? I have no idea. It’s a really odd and glaring omission.
Overall I think this compilation is reasonably well edited. The new animation is adequately done, though a bit on the cheap side, and the music is very mid 1980’s Japanese pop (your tolerance to this genre of music may vary). Though surprisingly, apart from “Alone ~ Kodoku no Senshi”, it’s fairly free of synths. The availability of this compilation (in legit means) is a little on the pricy side. Currently it’s only available on the TV series second Blu-ray box which will set you back ¥42,000, or on the “Emotion the Best” (Bandai’s “budget” line) DVD Box Part 1 reissue, for a still rather pricy ¥15,750. The other legit options are just as pricy. Those who still have laserdisc players may be able to find a second hand copy of the first LD box which might set you back ¥2,500 to ¥7,000 depending if it’s bundled with the second LD box by the seller. Of course there are the original VHS and LD versions, but they can be rather difficult to find. Recommending this compilation goes hand in hand with its affordability. If you are a fan of the show, it’s a no brainer. If not, you may want to give this a miss.