Dead Anime Magazines in English: “Animag”

animag1Publisher: Animag, Pacific Rim Publishing Company, Malibu Graphics
Format: A4
Genre/Type: Anime, some manga, some convention coverage
Years Active: 1987 – 1993
Issues Published: 15

As the 1980’s wore on, anime in North America slowly increased its popularity almost by stealth. In the mid 1980’s, a group called Animation of Nippon Inter-Mediary Exchange, or A.N.I.M.E. for short, had sprung up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and by 1987 up to 200 people were showing up to monthly club meetings. Out of this group in October 1987 emerged not only the debut issue of the second English language fan published English anime magazine, but arguably the best anime magazine to be published in North America; Animag.

Started primarily by Matthew Anacleto, Ann Schubert, and Dana Fong, the debut issued featured articles on anime that were quite popular amongst fans in North America at the time such as “Area 88”, “Iczer 1”, “Laputa: Castle in the Sky” and of course “Gundam”. Like most fan publications of the time and being in era where there was no English language anime home video market to speak of, all of the articles were essentially synopsises. The second issue followed the same format as the first, but with a couple of colour pages and colour centrefold type posters at each end of the magazine’s cover. The magazine also increased its page count from 36 pages to 44 pages. A couple more familiar names joined the magazine at this stage including Toren Smith and Toshifumi Yoshida who would latter work for Viz (and become the husband of Trish Ledoux). The third and fourth issues in 1988 brought about a number of changes. Trish Ledoux (of Animerica fame) joined as an associate editor in the third issue and would become editor the following issue. A news section was added in issue three and the following saw two new columns including a Q&A section with contributions from readers and Anime Ja Nai (“It’s Not Anime”, a title taken from the opening theme song from “Gundam ZZ”). Anime Ja Nai began as series of articles looking to various aspects of anime culture and production, but soon devolved into an Animage style character poll and eventually morphed into a humorous look at anime. I think Animag also was the first anime English language magazine to publish manga as an insert, with sample pages of “Grey” placed in issue four and another insert containing a sample of the manga “Appleseed” in the following issue.

animag3By the fifth issue in 1988, the magazine was published by Pacific Rim Publishing Company and in the process received wider distribution. A number of regular features began this issue including Mecha File and in the following issue a regular look at manga called Mongo’s Manga and a column on model making called Animated Plastic. A new insert/newsletter called Ronin Network appeared in the magazine from issue six. This was a newsletter that contained fan club information as well as giveaways and additional anime news. Initially it came free with the magazine, but soon required a separate subscription. Unfortunately due to rising costs the newsletter disappeared after a few issues. While the magazine continued to mainly contain anime synopses, other articles began to slowly appear such as Frederick L. Schodt’s article on robot icons in issue five and an article on Osamu Tezuka in issue seven. Around the late 1988 and into 1989, the magazine had begun interviewing some big names in the anime industry; Leiji Matsumoto, Yoshiyuki Sadamato, voice actor Maria Kawamura and even Carl Macek.

As the years progressed some familiar names would join the staff roster. Along with Trish Ledoux and Toshifumi Yoshida, other future Animerica staff members such as Mark Simmons and Julie Davis also joined the magazine. With this roster of talent, as you can imagine the articles were very detailed and well written. A magazine of this standard was extremely useful to an English speaking fandom that for the most part could not speak a word of Japanese. Especially since this was an era with little internet usage, practically no fansubs or even commercial video tapes, let alone anything resembling a North American anime industry. For a lot of fans of that era, the only time they saw anime was on horribly expensive laserdiscs imported from Japan, or on snowy multiple generation video tapes, or on TV as “Robotech” or “Star Blazers”. It’s safe to say that the magazine was an absolute godsend to many fans. Apart from the articles, the most striking thing about Animag was its cover artwork. Unlike most magazines that just use promotional artwork supplied by anime companies, nearly all of Animag’s covers were drawn and painted by US fans. A lot of them, especially the early covers, are just spectacular and I’m sure a lot of Japanese anime magazines would be proud to have the artwork on their front cover.

animag91991 saw a number of changes. I’m not exactly sure what happened, but the magazine left Pacific Rim and with issue, volume 2, issue 1, Malibu Graphics became the publisher. Matthew Anacleto became editor once again (for a single issue), with no sign of Trish Ledoux in the staff credits. This was around the same time Viz began publication of Animerica, so one can only assume she was working for Viz by now. Some posts on rec.arts.anime.misc suggest Ledoux did work on the final three issues of the magazine, albiet uncredited. Dana Kurtin took over editorial duties for the final two issues of the magazine. Apparently the move from Pacific Rim wasn’t exactly amicable and there were some allegations the magazine had been subjected to, or at least threatened with legal action. A number of posts on rec.arts.anime.misc from posters claiming to be linked with Animag staff refute these allegations. Another post from October 1992 included excerpts from an letter to a subscriber of Animag from Pacific Rim head honcho Jeffry Tibbetts. In the letter, Tibbetts laid out his side of the story and placed the blame for the split squarely on Yoshida and Anacleto. Tibbetts also claimed he sicced his attorney on to them, apparently to no effect. Whether that’s true or not, I really have no idea. What I do know is that the situation with Animag apparently had unintended consequences for another magazine in Pacific Rim’s stable, Markalite magazine (a magazine I’ll be looking at some time in the future). Allegedly Pacific Rim had cut and run leaving Markalite out in the cold and effectively killing off the magazine as the publisher was taking care of their subscriptions and the cash flow.

However the magazine continued to survive through 1991 and on to 1992. The final three issues included articles on the anime that were popular at the time; “Nadia of the Mysterious Seas”, “Record of Lodoss Wars” and “Legend of Galactic Heroes” as well as a smattering of older, mostly mecha anime. Early anime conventions such as Animecon ’91 and Anime Expo ’92 were reported on in great detail. A short lived video gaming column was introduced as well as a couple of articles on western animation. In 1993 with the volume 2, issue 3 magazine finally published after a long delay, Animag just seemed to implode. Why this happened is a bit of a mystery. There’s very little in the public domain which explains its fate. I did read some messages on rec.arts.anime which allege that the final issue was delayed when one ex-staff member had threatened to sue the magazine over the use of a photograph. Also around that time Viz was launching their new anime magazine Animerica. We know a lot of staff that worked on Animag would later write for Animerica. Who knows if that had any influence on its demise?

It’s very unfortunate and ironic that a high quality anime magazine as Animag would disappear at the very moment anime conventions, fandom and an industry had just stated to make its presence noticed by the community at large. The final issue of Animag included advertisements from the main players in this new emerging industry such as A.D .Vision, Animego and Central Park Media, as well as an article on US Renditions.

animag32Flipping through the magazines as I write this article, the thing which sticks out like nobody’s business is the really heavy focus on mecha and other related “shonen” type anime. Sure the magazine had the usual articles you’d expect to find such as synopses of Hayao Miyazaki and Ghibli films, but practically nothing on anime or manga which was aimed at young women or girls. I suppose this was a sign of the times. The fact was a lot of anime fans in the late 1980’s to the early 1990’s were mostly interested in sci-fi type anime and overwhelmingly male, so I suspect it wasn’t the case that the staff were ignoring those genres. The second thing which struck me was the fact the magazine continued to be predominantly printed in black and white for its entire life. Again, I suppose this shouldn’t be too surprising. US anime fandom was still in its infancy at this time. And like a lot of magazines of this period you can dig though and find a fair wack of information which you certainly can’t find on the web. For example issue three has an excellent article on Gainax’s pilot film for the unmade “R20: Galactic Airport” movie. A latter article on Animecon ’91 has a side bar on the child killer Tsutomu Miyazaki (the infamous “Otaku” killer) and the impact it had on the Japanese anime industry, though from what I’ve read elsewhere about the case maybe some of the information on Miyazaki in this article should be taken with a grain of salt.

I probably put Animag as an equal second (with Manga Max) in terms of my all-time favourite anime magazines (Anime UK/FX is my favourite English language magazine of all time). Though it certainly didn’t have the slickness in terms of design like many magazines which followed it, Animag was certainly a lot more substantial than most of them. The articles were brilliant and I still refer back to the magazine for info occasionally. I’d really recommend hunting down copies of the magazine if you’re into anime nostolgia and old 1980’s mecha shows. Copies of almost every issue are quite plentiful and cheap on eBay.

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Anime Music Video Compilations: “Please Save My Earth Music Image Video ~The Passing of the Golden Age~”

psmeimldPublisher: Victor Entertainment
Format: VHS and Laserdisc, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue
Length: 27 minutes
Original Release Date: 24 February 1995
Animation Exclusive to this Release: Yes
Other Sources (Japanese unless noted): Please Save My Earth Volume 4 (DVD 2001), Please Save My Earth DVD Box Set (DVD 2003, Korea)
Currently Availability (as of writing): Out of Print

In my early years of anime fandom, the only thing I was really interested in was stuff which featured either robots or sci-fi titles. I suppose I have “Star Blazers” and “Robotech” to blame for that. Admittedly there wasn’t much else available in English at the time. It wasn’t until I started going to my local anime club (well it was more like casual monthly screenings rather than a club of any sort), that I discovered “shoujo”. While “Magic Knight Rayearth” was the title that initially got me interested (due to the fantasy and robot elements), it was the six part OVA “Please Save My Earth” that sold me on anime that was primarily aimed at girls and young women. While it does have sci-fi and fantasy elements, at its core it is about the relationships between seven (mostly) high school aged teens as they come to terms with their former lives. In order to discuss the contents of the music video compilation, I will be giving away a bit of the plot and possibly the ending of the manga. So if you don’t like spoilers, don’t read any further.

The anime version, released as a six part OVA from late 1993 to late 1994, covers up to the ninth volume of the manga (which ended after 21 volumes), but does skip a number of sub plots and ends without resolving a number of plot point. The final volume of the manga wasn’t released until August 1994, one month before the final OVA volume was released. The story is set in suburban Tokyo, where we meet teenager Alice Sakaguchi who has recently moved with her family from Hokkaido. Unfortunately for the sweet and demure Alice, she is being terrorised by her next door neighbour, a seven year old named Rin Kobayashi. Even worse is the fact is often asked to babysit him by her neighbour’s. After an outing to the zoo with Rin, Alice runs into two of her classmates, Jinpachi and Issei. Concerned that Alice may have misinterpreted a conversion she accidently overheard at school the previous day, the pair explains that they were talking about a series of shared dreams they’ve had since primary school. In the dreams they are members of a group of alien scientists living on the moon who are studying the Earth. In the pair’s recent dreams they have discovered their alter egos are lovers. Both Jinpachi and Issei are male, but in the dreams Issei is a woman.

Later Alice is asked yet again to babysit Rin. Rin acts up and teases Alice about her interest in Jinpachi. Alice chases him to the balcony where Rin straddles the railing. Enraged at Rin’s constant teasing, Alice eventually slaps him. Horrifyingly Rin loses his balance and falls several stories below. Luckily he survives, saved by branches of a tree, but remains in a coma for several days. Alice is mortified at what she has done. Rin awakens with the realisation he has been dreaming that he is also one of the alien scientists on the moon; an engineer named Shion. Rin’s mother later visits Alice and her family. She is there to relay Rin’s request that he and Alice get engaged. Alice faints when she hears this and has a “moon dream” as well; she is botanist named Mokuren. Alice tells Jinpachi and Issei about her moon dream as Mokuren and they decide to seek out others who may be experiencing the same dreams. They place an ad in the classifieds section of a supernatural phenomenon magazine called “Boo”. Not long after they are contacted by two people; Daisuke Dobashi and Sakura Kokusho who confirm details seen in the other’s dreams. The pair explains to the group that they believe they are all reincarnations of alien scientists who once lived on the moon. Meanwhile Rin has begun to act in much or adult way. He has also seemingly developed psychic powers and uses them to threaten a biker gang leader called Takashi, who is the son of a rich and influential family. Takashi asks Rin what he wants. Rin demands that Takashi give him Tokyo Tower.

Certainly there’s a lot more to the story, but this post is about the music videos, so I should really talk about them;

“Prologue: ~Kiniro no Toki Nagarete~ (The Passing of the Golden Age)” performed by Akino Arai
psmemv1Before I start, I must mention that while most people may think the entire soundtrack of the series was composed by Yoko Kanno (of “Cowboy Bebop” and “Macross Plus” fame), that’s not true. Only three of the eight tracks here have any involvement from Kanno. This particular track was composed and arranged by Kanno with lyrics by Akino Arai. It first appeared on the “Please Save My Earth Image Soundtrack Volume 3” which was released in November 1994. The video begins with a live action shot of falling gold dust, then static shots of the galaxy, which then segues into live action shots of the Earth seen from space. The video then shifts to new still images of Mokuren singing in a festival on her home planet with younger versions of the scientists watching on in a crowd, and then images of her growing up. Footage of Mokuren and Shion together culled from the OVA ends the video with dialogue saying how much she would like to visit Earth.

“Mikadzuki no Shindai (Crescent Moon’s Cradle)” performed by Akino Arai
psmemv2The second video uses another Akino Arai song, though this time it is entirely her own composition. The song originally appeared on “Please Save My Earth Original Soundtrack Volume 1” which was released in January 1994. Like the first video, this one contains new animation, though these are mostly still shots. It begins with dialogue from Mokuren’s father who is talking to her about the trees and flowers on their planet. The video essentially chronicles Mokuren life growing up as a child, though you would most definitely need to have read the manga to understand what is going on the in the video. Spoiling plot for the manga, Mokuren was born with a mark on her forehead which means she is a Kiches Sarjalian, a kind of holy person. At age three she was taken away to be raised as a Kiches Sarjalian in a government facility is not allowed any human contact. The video also depicts Mokuren’s father, a circus performer, being badly injured in his act. Though the Kiches Sarjalian have the power to heal the wounded, they do not receive this power until later in life. The young Mokuren feels guilty she could not save her father. The video also features new dialogue from a Kiches Elder called Sairochou which I think features in the 15th volume of the manga.

“Yume no Sumika (House of Dreams)” performed by Rie Hamada
psmemv3This song by Rie Hamada was originally released on “Please Save My Earth Original Soundtrack Volume 1” in January 1994. It is sung in a rather childish and sing-song way. In fact some parts of really do sound like a children’s song. Because of this I find it to be the most annoying song in the compilation. Unfortunately there isn’t much to say about this music video. The video itself focuses in the on the relationship between Alice and Rin and of course Mokuren and Shion. Most of the footage is culled from the OVAs and contains no new animation at all. In fact it repeats the new animation previous found in the preceding videos. Of note is the footage from the OVA of Shion as a child with his temporary foster parent La Zlo and his strange giant cat called Kyaa (easily one of the best moments in the OVA). While it’s adequately edited, this is easily the most disappointing video in the compilation.

“Moon Light Anthem ~Enju 1991~” performed by Akino Arai
psmemv4Unlike the other sings so far, the music used here predates the anime by five years. It comes from the “Please Save My Earth Image Album” was released in August 1988, about a year after the manga began. Mostly a piano piece, it features new dialogue from Enju (who was reincarnated as Issei on Earth). In the video Enju walks with a friend in a snowy forest talking about going to the moon in order to study the Earth with her friend and fellow scientist Gyokulan. It’s bleedingly obvious that she has romantic feelings for Gyokulan. However in her reincarnation on earth, Enju is now male and this relationship can never be as Jinpachi (Gyokulan in his previous life) is male and obviously has no romantic feelings for Issei, regardless of what happened in their past lives. Despite the cheap nature of the new animation (mostly still shots), it works quite well.

“Ring” performed by Gabriela Robin
psmemv5The second Yoko Kanno track in this compilation with her alter ego Gabriela Robin providing vocal duties. This track first appeared on the “Please Save My Earth Image Soundtrack Volume 3” which was released in November 1994. The music is almost identical to the first video, “Prologue: ~Kiniro no Toki Nagarete~ (The Passing of the Golden Age)”. It’s almost like a reprise of that track. This video begins with Rin’s childhood up to the point of his fall from the balcony. It then switches to scenes of Shion’s relationship with Mokuren using the same animation from the first music video that was culled from the OVA. The video then focuses on Rin’s evil side culling shots from the psychic battle with Tamura, who is essentially Takashi’s confidant and bodyguard, and Tamura’s brother, Mikuro who has ESP. However the most interesting section of this music video is the new animation which depicts the ending of the manga, where (spoilers coming up…) Rin attempts to destroy the moon base using Tokyo Tower to transmit the order. The title of the song comes from the manga in which it is explained that “Ring” is apparently an alternate spelling of “Rin”.

“Tokete Yuku Jikan (Time Passes On)” performed by Hajime Mizoguchi
psmemv6This track is an instrumental composition performed by Hajime Mizoguchi, who also worked on the soundtrack to “Vision of Escaflowne”. Mizoguchi was married to Kanno at the time but they divorced in 2007. The song is taken from “Please Save My Earth Image Soundtrack Volume 2” which was released in April 1994. Being completely instrumental, the audio is overlaid with dialogue from Mokuren. She discusses her dreams with Shion, such as her vivid dreams being a girl living on Earth. She tells him that she wishes for a future where the two of them can be together forever. While the majority of animation is taken from the OVAs for this video, part of it is taken from the new animation which features in the previous video “Ring”. There also seems to be a number of newly animated shots of Alice and Rin, but I think these have been taken from the theatrical version of the OVA.

“Toki no Kioku (Memory of Time)” performed by SEIKA
This is the beautiful end theme for the OVA series and the music and animation vary very little from what was seen in the OVA release. In fact the only defence in this version is that a shot of Alice and Rin looking out to the ocean has been replaced with a similar shot of Mokuren and Shion. The song was composed by Yoko Kanno with lyrics by Takako Nishikiori and ARION. It was first released on the “Please Save My Earth Original Soundtrack Volume 1” in January 1994.

“Epilogue: Etude ~Tensei Gensou~ (Etude ~ Fantasy of Reincarnation)” performed by Yuuji Nomi
This simple piano track was taken from the “Please Save My Earth Image Album” which was released in August 1988. The video is just the same “falling gold dust” live action shot taken from the first video with scrolling credits superimposed over the top of it. That’s it, there’s nothing else to say about it.

psmemv7This compilation is one of my favourites. I loved the OVA series so much and the additional animation does fill in a bit of the story which was cut short in the OVA. Though having said that, you will still need to read the manga to figure out what the heck is going on. However like a lot of anime music video compilations, there’s just one problem with it; the cheapness of the new animation. But I suppose these kind of releases don’t sell as many copies as the anime itself, so of course the budget is going to limited. It’s just that it’s REALLY limited at times. Most of the new material comprises of still shots, with occasional overlaid existing animation from the OVA or panning in an attempt to make it look less cheap. Like the OVA, the animation was produced by Production I.G, and as you’d expect its quality stuff – when there is actual real animation, not just still shots. The proper animated sequences look almost as good as what is in the OVA, especially in the video “Ring”. The music on the other hand is a little bit of a mixed bag. The Yoko Kanno tracks sound drop dead gorgeous of course, but a couple of the other tracks misfire. I found Rie Hamada’s “Yume no Sumika” to be particularly grating.

While Viz Media released both the manga and anime series, they didn’t release this compilation or the compilation film “From Alice to Rin-kun” which also contains a few more newly animated shots. The only real options are imports. Unfortunately there’s a little hard to come by. The original VHS release from 1995 is the easiest to acquire, but will set you back at least ¥5,000. I did a search for the laserdisc version, but it was nowhere to be found. Victor Entertainment re-released the compilation movie and music videos on the fourth volume of the DVD release of the OVA in October 2001. Naturally it’s out of print and there’s no DVD box set or Blu-ray re-release. The shocker is the price of that disc in the second hand market; ¥7,000 to ¥12,000. I saw one copy on Rakuten with the asking price of over ¥50,000. There was also a Korean box set released in 2003 by a company called DVD Ani which included the music video compilation. While all of their titles have been legally licenced from Japanese companies, they had a nasty habit of adding English language material to their discs which they had no right to. Whether that bothers you or not, it’s your call. The set is pretty much impossible to find, though I did spot one on Yahoo! Auctions Japan for ¥4,000.

While it is a pretty good anime music video compilation, due to the prices on the second hand market I really think that this one can only be recommended for diehard fans of “Please Save My Earth”.

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The Obscurities in the Western Connection Catalogue: “Galactic Pirates”

galacticvhsRelease Date: 31 May 1994
Format: PAL VHS, English Dubbed
Runtime: 6 episodes x 25 mins (edited into three 47 min episodes)
Catalogue Numbers: WEST011, WEST012, WEST013
Japanese Title: Teki wa Kaizoku: Neko no Kyoen (The Enemy are Pirates: Banquet of Cats)
Japanese Production Date: 1989

In the short period Western Connection existed as an anime distributor, of the 15 or so titles in their catalogue, amazingly only two were English dubbed. It’s really bizarre especially when you consider that the environment they were operating in was the United Kingdom in the mid 1990’s. Island Records was the dominant force with their Manga Entertainment video label. While Island’s marketing plan was aimed a general audience (which boiled down to teenage boys looking for ultraviolent films), it’s really hard to imagine that Western Connection were deliberately aiming for the small anime fandom market in the UK wanting subtitled tapes of obscure OVAs and films. As I said in previous instalments, it was most likely a “buy a cheap licence, get it out cheap” mentality. And so we come to this title “Galactic Pirates”, an utterly obscure English dub of an equally obscure six part series, rejected by every other English language distributor it was offered to. The story behind the dub is perhaps a little more interesting than the anime itself, but I might as well give a rundown of the show;

Sometime in the future, somewhere out in space (well the anime’s not really too clear about when and where it’s set), we meet Apollo, an anamorphic alien cat who talks and can control minds. He’s rather angry that his bird shaped snacks he’s just bought won’t fly like they do in the TV commercial. Apollo is interrupted by his work partner, Latell, a normal human who is angry Apollo’s constant snacking and because he scoffed his box of chocolates that were given to him by a girl. A fight ensues and the space relaxation centre they’re in is damaged, causing the air, as well as everything else, to be almost entirely sucked out into the vacuum of space. Believe it or not these two are officers in the Pirate Control section of the Galactic Police. Their destruction of the centre is interrupted by one of the lower ranking officers Marsha, a young female cadet whom Latell has an interest in. But Marsha hates Latell, but loves Apollo, even though it’s blatantly obvious to everyone Apollo is the worse of the pair. Marsha asks the duo to report to their boss, who promptly sacks both them due to their performance in last case in which they caused almost a million dollars’ worth of damage and hundreds of complaints were made. Latell attempts to protest, but Apollo controls Latell’s emotions so he doesn’t do anything crazy, like shooting Apollo. Apollo quickly decides that if he can no longer hunt down pirates as a member of the Galactic Police, he’ll become a pirate himself. Before Latell gets a chance to pursue Apollo, his boss gives him a disc which contains details on a new mission for both of them (despite the fact he’s just sacked them).

galactic1In the meantime Apollo is in the process of stealing the duo’s space craft, Dola, (a class “A” artificial intelligence ship), but Latell manages to get on board before he launches. Tired of the gluttonous cat, he vows to kill him for losing their jobs, but soon quietens down when Dola tells him that there’s no record of them being dismissed from the Galactic Police. Latell’s mission is to investigate pirate connections with the Titan Movie Company, of which Apollo has apparently been asked to play a role in a 3D movie they are making (yes, I am aware that this story makes little sense). Dola warps into what they initially think is a 3D movie theatre near Saturn. But instead of a fake 3D projection of a battle, real pirate fighters begin to attack them. Dola is hit and they are forced to land on Titan. Latell and Apollo infiltrate the studio and discover the owner, Santos, strapped to a machine. Strangely he is beginning to turn into some sort of dragon-like creature. It’s the work of the C.A.T. System 86, an old forbidden computer system that invades people’s thought processes and can even turn people into other things, in this case a dragon. Latell and Apollo are attacked by what appear to be 3D characters from a movie, but are in fact robots controlled by pirates. While battling the robots, they discover a pirate ship which they believe is owned by the “Phantom Pirate” Yomei. However it launches before they have any chance of stoping it, and worse luck follows with pirates now attacking them. Somehow in the midst of all this chaos, the duo manage to escape with Santos, kill the pirates and force the pirate ship to crash, with a little help from Dola.

Later Marsha travels to Titan to deliver a holographic message to Latell and Apollo from their boss. After giving them a bizarrely excuse as to why he pretended to fire them (because the Titan Movie Company wanted to make Apollo a star?!), he explains that Yomei is planning to take over the solar system using the C.A.T. System 86. Only problem is that it is very unstable and it can even effect intelligent craft like Dola. However a man named Katz, who is working with the pirates has managed to make the system controllable. Their next mission will be to the Tohungas crater on Mars where Yomei is believed to be. Much to her surprise, the message also informs Marsha that she has been promoted to lieutenant and will be joining both of them on the mission. However before they take off, Apollo spots Yomei’s offsider, Jubilee, and decides to follow and arrest him in a illegally commandeered supply truck. Apollo discovers that Jubilee is going to kill Santos to stop him from talking and thwarts his plans by bombing his car. However this doesn’t kill Jubilee, it only makes him mad. This puts Apollo in a situation where is staring down certain death, however Marsha and Latell rush to save him. After a lengthy chase unfortunately Jubilee escapes with Yomei and the other pirates.

galactic2On Mars, the three Pirate Control offices end up playing baseball with the local Counter Crime police group (with Dola playing as well of course). Naturally this is a very clever ruse to hide the fact they’re here secretly to discover where the pirates are hiding the C.A.T. System 86. Due to their dislike of each other, fights break out between the two teams. Eventually weapons and power suits are in use and it degenerates into complete chaos as the local police fight themselves by accident. However peace somehow prevails, and at the end when a commemorative photo is taken, Latell discovers that the Counter Crime police are beginning to turn into cats. Latell orders Apollo to mind control both him and Marsha so they won’t transform. As they travel to the city, they find everyone has turned into cats. Even their ship, Dola is literally now a cat (albeit a flying one). Due to a factional split in Yomei’s group, the pirates have decided to use the Tohungas crater on Mars as a test ground for the C.A.T. System 86. The only other person not to have turned into a cat is a lieutenant called Petoria from the Counter Crime police group, whose utter disgust for Apollo has stopped his transformation. The situation is desperate. They must find out where the C.A.T. System 86 is on the planet and switch it off before it’s too late.

Unless you were a fan of anime and living in the UK in the mid 1990’s, I wouldn’t really be surprised if you’ve never heard of this series. Oddly enough in 1996 or so, I found the Western Connection tapes of the series in a mainstream video rental shop in the southern suburbs of Canberra. This is rather strange as the show has never been released in Australia. Upon closer inspection it was quite obvious that the tapes were copies (i.e. bootlegs). It seems as if the owner of the video store had copied the tapes and made colour photocopied the covers so he could rent it out. It wasn’t until two years later when I came across a VHS fansub of the series that I actually watched the show. The show is based upon a series of novels (nine currently) by award winning Japanese sci-fi novelest Chohei Kanbayashi of “Yukikaze” fame. Unlike that anime, “The Enemy are Pirates” is more comedy and action based, very much in the same vein as “Dirty Pair”. With the short number of episodes, most people would assume that this show is an OVA. Not so, it’s actually a TV series. Only two months after the station opened for business, satellite pay TV station Asahi Newstar screened the six part “The Enemy are Pirates” one episode a day between 26th December and 31st December 1989. It was later given a three part video release (two episodes per tape/laserdisc) in 1990.

galactic3The series is quite silly and illogical at times, but it is reasonably funny. But at the end of the day, it’s not what you’d call a memorable title. It’s not a classic by any stretch of the imagination. This version of the show though destroys most of the elements which made the original version fun to watch. The central problem here is clearly is the English dub. This rather obscure English dubbed version was made in the UK in the early 1990’s by Atlantic Post Productions and Quiet Storm Ltd with the usual cast of American and Canadian ex-pats and British actors putting on American accents. The dub was in part commissioned by French based European distribution company Ucore for the Japanese copyright holder, Kitty Films. As previously stated, I have been lucky enough to have seen the series in its original language a number of years before I acquired these dubbed tapes. I thank the long absent lord for that because if I had only seen the dub, I would have had a very hard time following the storyline. With awful scripting and at times quite dull, monotone acting, the English dub makes the show pretty much incomprehensible a good deal of the time. Probably the best element of the dub is the part of Apollo, played by an actor who thought that the character should sound like he came from the set of a 1970’s blacksploitaion flick. Apollo’s dialogue provides most of the humour in the dub (possibly some of it unintentional). At one point Apollo states that he’ll join the space pirates because he’ll be able to “…eat anything, just like a honkey”. I had to rewind the tape a couple times just to make sure I heard that right. The English script writer and translator, who goes under the bizarre pseudonym of “Dr. D. Shoop”, obviously loved the words “shit” and “arse” (though that should be “ass” as everyone has an American accent). Not five minutes go past without either word being said.

The dub seems to be hated universally. During the Kitty Film panel at the 1993 Anime Expo, Helen McCarthy stood up and voiced her displeasure of the dub while the panel played a tape of it. Everyone in attendance applauded her apparently. Maybe I’m being a bit narky here, but perhaps people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, as Helen had a hand in both the UK only released dubs of “Cat Girl Nuku Nuku” and “K.O. Century Beast Warriors”. Most sane people would say neither of those are a high water mark for English dubbing. Oddly the very next year when it came to reviewing the series Helen stated in Anime UK magazine that the show was “…dubbed adequately, if a little stilted”. In fact the series got a generally positive review. Strange, considering her outburst at the Kitty Film panel the previous year. If the copyright is correct on these tapes (which I have a feeling it wasn’t), Kitty Film had been trying to sell the series for three years before Western Connection picked it up and released the entire series in May 1994. The only changes they’ve made was their patented “snip-snip” to the opening and closing credits on each of the tapes to obtain their discount from the British Board of Film Classification (it’s more expensive if companies submit a tape with multiple episodes on it). So six episodes became three. Well at least the editing looks a little more professional than some of their latter releases. Surprisingly the artwork and design is quite nice on all three tapes. However the covers are printed on some really low grade paper stock, almost like butcher’s paper. For whatever reason, the tapes claim the show has a “18” rating, but the BBFC website states they got “15” and “PG” ratings. I am baffled as to why Western Connection would deliberately label their tapes “18”.

galactic4One of the more unusual elements in this show is the music. What a lot of people in the west don’t know is that if you’re a rock or pop star and your career dies, you can always head over to Japan and make some cash there (hence the term “Big in Japan”). Sometime in the late 1980’s ex-members of Saxon, Iron Maiden and Uriah Heep formed a band called Air Pavilion, headed over to Japan, and performed the opening, closing and insert tracks to the series. Air Pavilion fit into the “hard rock” genre, the stuff that late 1980’s commercial FM radio stations (the ones that had “black thunders filled with icy cold cans of coke” roaming your local city), just loved to play. So in other words the music is of the big-haired 1980’s hard rock variety, but still it’s still a lot better that the cutesy idol stuff of the period. Reading back on this review, I’ve probably made this show sound worse than what it truly is. In its original format, it’s a reasonably funny series, but this English version is quite horrid. Very occasionally the acting is passable, but the majority of it is truly shocking and really not helped by the rather clunky dialogue. The series was released as a box set on DVD in 2003 by Pioneer in Japan (now out of print), but did not come with the dub or English subtitles. So if you really want a legit copy of this series in English, these tapes are the only way to get it. I highly doubt this show will be released ever again.

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Anime DVDs You May Have Missed: “Tamala 2010: A Punk Cat in Space”

tamaladvdJapanese Title: Tamala 2010: A Punk Cat in Space
Publisher: Kinétique/Amuse (Japan)
Format: Region 2 DVD, NTSC, Japanese with some French and Mandarin Dialogue with optional English subtitles
Length: 92 minutes
Production Date: 2002
English Version Release Date: 23 May 2003
Currently in Print (as of writing): Yes

With advent of DVD, a small number of early Japanese releases contained English subtitles or an English dub. As you can imagine most of these titles previously released in English, most already available on DVD in the west. However there were a few films which had done the film festival circuit and luckily Japanese distributors had the foresight to transfer the English subtitled script on to the DVD. In a few rare cases, some of these films never made to the west and the Japanese DVD releases were the only way you could see these films legitimately in English. “Tamala 2010: A Punk Cat in Space” was one of these films. Though it’s quite an odd and somewhat experimental film, I always assumed that someone like Central Park Media would have ended up releasing it. They had already released a similar title, “Cat Soup (Nekojiru-So)”, though that title was far more surreal and arty than “Tamala” . In the end no western video distributor took the opportunity to release the film in English, which I always thought was quite surprising.

It’s quite hard to give a rundown of the film’s contents, but I’m going to have a go anyway; In the year 2010 in an alternate universe inhabited by cats called the Feline Galaxy, we meet Tamala, a childish one-year-old cat who lives in Megalo City in Tokyo on Cat Earth. After awakening she reads a post card which has just turned up in the mail. She then immediately heads off to the Orion star system in her spaceship. Her space ship breaks down but the galactic version of the NRMA is attacked by the Dark God of Death, a ghost like creature in space. Tamala has no option but to fix her space craft herself. The Dark God of Death tries to abduct her, but she manages to scare him off by merely by making eye contact and saying “hi”. It’s obvious that Tamala isn’t a normal cat. Resuming her journey, Tamala is contacted by her “human mother” (who always appears with an anaconda wrapped around her). The human mother orders her to return, but Tamala just insults her and terminates the transmission. The human mother retaliates by covertly sending a Catty & Co. cat mailman out to spy on her and to foil her plans. The mailman shoots a meteor from his ship to disable her ship, and Tamala ends up hurtling towards Planet Q.

tamala1After being welcomed to the planet by a bird, Tamala spies a car driven by a young male cat called Michelangelo. Tamala practically forces him into giving her a ride into the nearest city; Hate, a very violent and seedy town where half the population is dogs and the other half cats. The pair soon become friends, even though she continually calls Michelangelo “Moimoi” much to his disgust. ), Although jobless and seemingly spiralling into debt, Michelangelo takes Tamala out to see the sights if his town. They shop, go to night clubs, bowling and to the Extinct Animal Museum. While trying to find the toilet in the museum, Tamala wanders into an area which has been in a state of neglect and disrepair for a number of years. Here she sees a tapestry of what seems to be a depiction of “cat hell” with a depiction of the constellation Orion in its centre. In another room she discovers a damaged statue of a robot cat called Tatla. Tamala has dreams of this giant robot cat, slowly descending a giant escalator in a city. Later that night Michelangelo end up in rave where Tamala seemingly becomes the centre of attention. The crowd and even Michelangelo shout “Tamala” and “Minerva” as if in a trance. Later that evening at an observatory, Tamala explains to Michelangelo that she received a postcard telling her that her birth mother was still alive in the Orion star system. Previously the only clue she had to the origins of her birth was a piece of cardboard advertising trips to Orion, which was inside the box she was in when her human mother received her.

The next day Michelangelo and Tamala are in the city preparing to go out for a picnic. A police officer dog named Kentauros spots them and takes an immediate interest in Tamala. In previous scenes, we discover Kentauros is a very seedy dog who likes keeps a mouse named Penelope against her will in a cage. He often sexually tortures her in various ways and takes Polaroid photos of his handiwork. His other hobbies seem to include riding around town on his bike with his gay boyfriend and beating the living daylights out of people on the street. Kentauros decides to follow Tamala and Michelangelo out to the countryside. Once there, the couple head for a nearby waterfall and lake for their picnic. Whilst the couple are enjoying the peace and quiet, Kentauros runs from his hiding place and chases both of them down. Michelangelo manages to escape, but Tamala isn’t as lucky. He watches on in terror as Kentauros seems to kill and eat Tamala. Shaken, Michelangelo returns to the city, but things seem to get weirder. Catty & Co., the dominant company in the universe, seemingly have taken over the entire planet, plastering advertisements for their products everywhere. Most of the adverts feature images of Tamala. Young children are having strange dreams about the giant robot cat Tatla, and Michelangelo seems to be having hallucinations. One night a maggot infested zombie cat knocks on Michelangelo’s door asking for milk. Letting him inside, the cat (seemingly the same cat, a Professor, seen in a previous scene set 22 years in the future), tells him the secret of Tamala, her connections to the giant corporation Catty & Co., and a religion named Minerva.

tamala2See? Told you so. At times it’s pretty hard to make heads or tails (no pun intended) of this film. However one thing you can’t deny is that the movie’s style is quite unique. Apart from a handful of CG shots and a couple of computer processed live action shots, all of it is in black in white and is in the style of early 1960’s anime. While the design is obviously modern it does have a real 1960’s retro feel to it, very much in the style of “Astroboy”, “Wonder 3”, “Big X” and other Osamu Tezuka anime of that period. As you’d expect Tamala’s animation isn’t as primitive as those old shows, and is mostly 2D digitally animated and coloured, apparently using Adobe Flash. The Tatla sequences on the other hand are digitally animated in full 3D animation. While you would think the two styles wouldn’t mesh together well in this film, somehow it seems to work. But being more than a decade old, the computer graphics now look somewhat aged though some of the shots still look pretty good, especially the city skyline and sky.

Before I delve deeper into the film, I want to talk about the creators behind this weird film; t.o.L, or trees of Life, are credited with just about all aspects of production including the story, screenplay, and character design (with designs by Kentaro Nemoto as well). t.o.L also created the music. Though most of the film’s promotional material credit t.o.L as being K and Kuno, the credits on the “Tamala 2010” album sound soundtrack reveal that K is Kei Saito and Kuno is Makiko Kuno (I’m assuming she’s not the model/B-movie actress that appeared in “XX: Beautiful Hunter”, but gosh, they do look a little bit similar…). trees of Life were actually a 1990’s rock group whose only claim to fame seems to be a appearance on X Japan front man hide’s “Lemoned” project (a compilation six track EP and video concert – see here for t.o.L’s performance in the video) in 1996. As you’d expect from a project created by musicians, the music is where this project shines with t.o.L creating many varied styles of music for the film such as very up-tempo house music to dreamy guitar and vocal pieces, funk-rock and alternate garage band songs. With all of the varied instrumentation on the soundtrack, I suspect the duo called upon a lot of favours from fellow musicians to help them out. Their track on the “Lemoned” EP, “One Day for Maria”, was re-recorded for the end theme for this film.

tamala3As I may have mentioned a few times, this is quite a surreal and bizarre film. It seems to start out as some sort of sarcastic and surreal black comedy, like a feral, subversive “Hello Kitty” , but heads into David Lynch territory about one hour into the film. It got a little too weird for me at some stages, but it’s surreal humour was something that really appealed to me. For example at one point early on in the film, a giant Colonel Sanders-like robot with an axe stuck in the middle of his forehead is seen walking though Megalo City advertising Catty & Co. meat. The film gets even weirder and nonsensical from that point onwards with the story seemingly aimless at times. Besides the fact that Tamala is heading to Orion to find her birth mother, there really doesn’t seem to be a plot of any sort as such. That is until the zombie cat who pays a visit to Michelangelo blurts out most of it within a couple of minutes. But what is the film really about? Is it some sort of statement about mega-corporations and globalisation? Or is it a comment on organised religion? Or is just bizarre for bizarreness sake? Apparently t.o.L let slip in an interview that the story is based upon Thomas Pynchon’s 1966 novel “The Crying of Lot 49” which similarly features a cult who are operating as a postal service and corporate monopoly. Even with that knowledge, it’s still a difficult film to decipher what it’s real meaning is, if any. But despite the movie’s surreal nature, it is quite enjoyable. I find it works best if you don’t look for hidden meanings and not take it too seriously.

I suppose with the film seemingly lacking a plot for most of its length, it’s surrealism doesn’t quite fill the void where the story should be. So as you’d expect, the film does have a couple of shortcomings. The major problem is that the animation is a little cheap looking. There are a number of repeated animation shots and designs which the animators try to hide, but it is noticeable and a little distracting at times. The other problem is that there are probably a few too many characters jammed into the film, with some of them there only for one gag or scene. I did however like the two transvestite cats who sat the bar waiting for their prefect man. Their main purpose is to fill the viewer in on the city called Hate, but their conversation provides a lot of the film’s humour outside Tamala’s antics. The most probable reason for the over abundance of characters is that this film was supposedly the first in a trilogy. “Tamala in Orion” and “Tatla” were never made, and a planned TV series “Tamala in Space” (a clip of the pilot film appears on this DVD) also never materialised. However a DVD called “Tamala on Parade” was released in 2007 with two short films (“Tamala on Parade” and “Tamala’s Wild Party”) and as part of NHK’s “Save the Future” programme another short was broadcast in 2010 called “Wake Up!! Tamala”. Other than the animation, there’s an ongoing manga series and a bunch of merchandise ranging from Kubrick figures to a bicycle. The over merchandising also extended to the DVD release of the film which came in three versions; a regular and two limited versions, one set limited to 5,000 copies and the second limited to 2,000. Each came with various t-shirts, posters and figures, but a lot of the physical extras look rather cheap. The limited editions aren’t exactly what I’d call value for money.

tamala4Overall this is one very odd little film. I would say that due to the style of the film, and that it was promoted in magazines such as the Japanese editions of Vouge and Elle it’s obviously not aimed at anime fans. I suspect t.o.L’s main aim was to merchandise the crap out of Tamala to sell to a Japanese hipster-type audience. There’s some evidence to this with the film being littered with material that crowd might dig. For example there’s two references to vintage jeans in the film, French actress Béatrice Dalle (Betty in “Betty Blue” aka “37°2 le matin”) voices the CG robot cat Tatla in French for some unknown reason, and there are references to other films such as “The Shining”. While the film really is style over substance to large degree, it mostly succeeds at being a piece of enjoyable entertainment. While it’s probably not a shining example of animation, personally I think it’s great that people are still willing to take a chance to do something experimental with animation, especially those outside the animation industry. Check it out if you’re willing to try something completely different from most commercial anime that’s available out there.

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Forgotten Anime: “Sanctuary”

sanctuaryvhsDistributor: Viz Video (USA)
Original Year of Release: 1995
English Video Release: 1996, Subtitled (dubbed version also released)
Japanese Title: Sanctuary
Runtime: 65 mins

Like a lot of their early manga output, Viz released a lot of anime that you’d think would sell like lead bricks. I often wondered if their game plan was throw whatever was available out there and see what sticks. Shoujo, romantic shonen, ancient anime like “Galaxy Express 999”. Another bizarre genre they stuck their toe in was Yakuza anime. Yep, Yakuza anime. I bet you can’t name five Yakuza anime off the top of your head. The only other one I could immediately think of was “Gokusen”, which is more on the comedy side of things, or “Crying Freeman”, but what else is there? There certainly isn’t many titles in the genre available, let alone in English. First up, the story of this OVA;

Yakuza member Akira Hojo and his underling Tashiro are attempting to blackmail a prominent politician, Shuichi Sakura, with some incriminating photographs showing him making love to woman who isn’t his wife. Before they have time to react, Shuichi’s secretary and right hand man, Asami Chiaki, punches Tashiro. This politician doesn’t take threats from the Yakuza seriously. He tells them that he doesn’t care if anybody sees the pictures. It’s time for the young and clever yakuza Hojo to change tact. Hojo’s boss, the don of the Sagura clan tells him not to mess with politicians. Sagura secretly has dealings with the dirty Shuichi, and he doesn’t want them to mess them up.

sanctuary1Hojo’s main business is running a casino for the clan, but he has higher ambitions. Unbeknownst to all sides in this tangled web of corruption, Hojo and Asami have actually been friends since school. Asami took the path of politics, while Hojo became a Yakuza. Though they’ve chosen radically different career paths, they are working closely with each other for a common goal. Hojo’s men visit Shuichi again. He is taken to a hotel where he sees from a distance Hojo and his daughter frolicking together near the hotel’s pool. Shuichi is told that if he doesn’t retire, something may happen to his daughter. Later Shuichi tells Asami that he doesn’t care about the threats from the yakuza. Things are not going to plan and Hojo is having even greater troubles.

The clan don Sagura is upset with Hojo, but Hojo’s men carry out a plan to appease the don. They pay him off with money from fraudulent loans Shuichi has made with Daito Credit Union. The Secretary General of the Japanese parliament “mysteriously” comes across the photos Hojo was blackmailing Shuichi with and decides the party should withdraw support for him. He doesn’t want a scandal to taint the government. Shuichi vows to run as an independent, but Asami tells him in no uncertain terms that he plans to take over his constituency and run as member of the party with their full support. Hojo and Asami are finally within reach of their goals. Nothing seems to be able to stop them.

sanctuary2However a spanner in the works soon arrives in the form of Tokai. Recently released from prison, he is a yakuza member of the Sagura clan and he likes to do things the old way. This causes friction amongst some members especially Hojo. Tokai built up Sagura’s empire and considering the position he’s currently in, he feels a little short changed. Sagura has seemingly made the situation worse by giving Tokai’s former territory to Hojo. But this is all part of Sagura’s plan. He believes he is far too ambitious, and sets about manipulating Tashiro and Tokai into killing Hojo to get him out of the picture.

As I said before, anime based upon the popular yakuza manga genre is very rare indeed. Having previously seen “Crying Freeman”, one of the very few yakuza anime series commercially released in English, and the fact that I really detested the series, I really wasn’t looking forward to watching “Sanctuary”. Add in the fact that “Fist of the North Star” writer Sho Fumimura (aka Buronson) and “Crying Freeman” writer/artist Ryoichi Ikegami produced the original “Sanctuary” manga, and I the fact I really hated both of those manga and anime, I was even less enthused. I suspected it would be another “Crying Freeman” with naked killers, absurd violence and incredibly implausible storylines, but I was very pleasantly surprised the maturity and realism of this OVA. Unlike the ridiculously unbelievable crime world of “Crying Freeman” and the over the top violence of “Fist of the North Star”, “Sanctuary” has an air of realism about it that is very believable. No naked female killers, no exploding heads. It could almost be a day in the life of a real yakuza clan.

sanctuary3Surprisingly this adaptation of the first arc of the Sanctuary manga is very well done and rarely strays from its source material. The story flows effortlessly, and plot is very engaging and mature. While I really enjoyed the crime aspect to the OVA, the sex scenes felt a bit exploitative to me. But while there are several sex scenes in “Sanctuary”, luckily they are few in number and fairly short. Most of the time I felt they weren’t necessary and cheapened the production. What scared me though is how Ryoichi Ikegami draws the majority of his female characters. Their faces are very similar to his male characters (those damn eyebrows!). As a result it looks quite strange to see all these red-blooded males having sex with women which, quite frankly, look like men. It’s really off putting and makes a lot of the sex scenes a lot less erotic than what they were intended to be.

If the sex wasn’t exploitative enough, another thing which put me off was the way women were treated. There is a short rape scene in the OVA, and one scene has Shuichi saying that he doesn’t care if his daughter gets raped by a yakuza or married off to an idiot husband. To him it’s the same thing. I really found that line to be a little shocking. Another rather cruel scene involves a police woman, Kyoko Ishihara, who is trying to entrap Hojo. She sets out to seduce him, but ends up drugged and finds herself in naked in motel room and what she thinks is blood on the sheets under her body. She thinks she’s been raped, but then notices on the table next to the bed is a can of half empty tomato juice and a letter from Hojo revealing that he knows who she is. It’s a really nasty scene, but at the same it’s a bit humours because it’s a little over the top and quite evil. Due the fact the show is adapted from a seinen manga mostly aimed at businessmen, I really shouldn’t be surprised at the blatant sexism and outright misogyny.

sanctuary4Apart from the very engaging storyline and realistic characters, the other element that impressed me the most was the music. Apart from a couple of minor background music pieces, the music selected for the show is very sophisticated and adult orientated. It makes such a change from the bland pop music soundtrack that most anime have.

Surprisingly “Sanctuary” is a quite cleverly plotted and produced anime. The gratuitous sex scenes and slightly misogynistic tone I could do without, but the story stands up quite well to many American mafia dramas. It’s plays out much like a live action piece, and in fact was also adapted into a live action movie that Viz also released around the same time as the anime. Both the dub and subtitled versions of this anime are fairly easy to come across and are pretty cheap second hand. If you’re after something completely different from a genre not usually seen in anime and want something more mature than your standard anime fare, “Sanctuary” is something you should be checking out.

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Dead Anime Magazines in English: “Anime-zine”

animezine1Publisher: Robert Fenelon, Beverly Headley, Minstrel Press Inc
Format: A4
Genre/Type: Anime, some tokusatsu coverage, some western animation
Years Active: 1986 – 1988
Issues Published: 3

During my initial years in anime fandom, especially in those early pre-internet years, one of the things I loved doing was collecting anime magazines. Most were a wealth of knowledge and data, especially for information starved fans like myself. Certainly in the early years of fandom these were an important source of news and info, especially if you were completely Japanese language deficient. As I’ve already gone through a brief history on the Japanese side of things, I thought it might be good to have a look at what happened in the west. With this series of posts, I hope to cover the majority of English language anime (and some tokusatsu) magazines that are no longer published, but it will be by no means a definitive list. Some are just too obscure (such as ones published in Singapore, Malaysia and South Africa) or were printed in such a low number that they were practically impossible to find when published, let alone years afterwards. Before I begin, I must note that I am including any publication that has been printed on proper printing press as a magazine. Though I am not including fanzines, however I am including magazines which began as fanzines/newsletters which eventually became magazines.

So the first magazine on the pile is “Anime-zine”. Widely considered to be the first English language anime magazine, it’s debut issue was published in April 1986. The magazine born out of the ashes of the Star Blazers Fancub. Club founder Mike Pinto was instrumental in getting the magazine up and running, though the actual core staff of the magazine were editor Robert Fenelon, co-publisher Beverly Headley and Luke Menicheli who did the layouts and graphics. While the presentation of the magazine was a little rough in spots, the debut issue was quite impressive. In its humble 28 pages it included articles on “Megazone 23”, “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” and an article on the “Godzilla” films. In it’s pages you’ll also find some pretty good fan art for the period, including a Desslar “Gamilon Express Card” comic which Fenelon would later act out in cosplay at AnimeCon ’91.

animezine2The second issue, released in 1987, saw the magazine expand to 44 pages and a full colour cover. The magazine had improved substantially with articles on “Saint Seiya” and the third “Yamato” TV series, which included a detailed section on the original aborted plan to make it run for 52 episodes. The late Toren Smith (founder of Studio Proteus) also contributed with an article on “The Wings of Honeamise” that included a script comparison of Go East’s obscure and so-dreadful-it-only-played-once English dub of the film titled “Star Quest” (screened at Mann’s Chinese Theatre in February 1987, a month before the Japanese release). Also in the issue was an article on Toho’s sci-fi films of the 1950’s and 1960’s and what was meant to be a continuing column; Toren Smith’s “News From Japan”. Looking back through some of these old magazines, some of the info really of surprises the bejesus out of you. Toren Smith tells us that Harmony Gold have done a horrible English dub pilot of “Aura Battler Dunbine” and that mecha designer Yutaka Izubuchi (who would go on to direct “RahXephon” and “Yamato 2199”) told him that Lucasfilm will be providing special effects for a live action version of the series. Toren seems to swear black and blue that he saw Harmony Gold’s English dub, but that news about a live action “Dunbine” is kind of hard to swallow.

But regardless of the what could described as somewhat dubious information presented as fact, these three issues are prime examples of why I usually keep these old magazines and sometimes use them as a main source for reference rather than the internet. There’s just some brilliant nuggets of information here. Apparently Viz were considering publishing Mitsuru Adachi’s “Touch” and even the “Doraemon” manga in English. Mark E Rogers’ fantasy short stories book “The Adventures of Samurai Cat” was apparently getting an animated movie adaptation by Hyperion Films (“The Brave Little Toaster”) with character designs by Go Nagai. However quotes from Rogers in a news article in the third issue have him cursing the studio who seem to have led him up in the garden path. Apparently the Go Nagai thing was a lie by the studio, and his characters were reduced to ethnic stereotypes. Unsurprisingly the film was never made. As you may have guessed, general western animation was also covered to a degree with several news items including the aborted attempt to make a sequel to the 1986 animate film “Yellow Submarine”. It was reported in two issues that the new film, titled “Strawberry Fields”, was in pre-production at the New York Institute of Technology Computer Graphics Lab, who had previously produced sequences for the “Lensman” movie. The magazine also noted that ITC Productions was putting up $6 million for the project. Apparently it was due for a summer 1988 release, but in a latter issue it was reported it had been moved to a spring 1989 timeframe. Surprisingly I cannot find information on the web about the film which is as detailed as what is in this magazine.

animezine3The final issue saw the magazine reach 60 pages and included articles on “Gundam: Char’s Counterattack”, The “Dirty Pair” and “Crusher Joe” franchises (with the “Dirty Pair” material taking up more than a third of the magazine), “Dragonar”, 1960’s anime “Eight Man” and a small article on musician Ryuichi Sakamoto (formerly of Yellow Magic Orchestra and composer for the film scores of “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence”, “The Last Emperor” and The Wings of Honneamise”). There were also articles on the works of American animator Ralph Bakshi; one on the 1980’s remake of “Mighty Mouse” and the 1977 film “Wizards”. The “Wizards” article was written by the late Jeff Thompson who would later publish Animenominous magazine in the early 1990’s and also would later become a producer at the Right Stuf. Patricia Malone of the New York chapter of the Cartoon/Fantasy Organisation also wrote an interesting article on the ethnicity of characters in anime and a column called “New Visions” which focused on new TV and OVA releases was published in place of Toren Smith’s “News From Japan”.

It was promised that issue four to was to contain articles on “Zillion” and more on “Saint Seyia”, but luck was not on the magazine’s side. A post on rec.arts.anime in 1991 by Winston Sorfleet of Ianus Publications indicated that the publisher suffered a stroke and during the same period the editor had a serious car accident. Publication of the magazine halted immediately, and it never recovered from these terrible setbacks. Subscribers were given issues of Ianus Publications’ and Protoculture Addicts’ “Poster-zine” (which used many of the staff from “Anime-zine”) to make up a year’s subscription. Despite its short life and humble beginnings, it contained some great info, some of which you can’t find on the web today. Unfortunately I only discovered the magazine in a second hand bookstore in Sydney some eight years after it ceased publishing. It would have been interesting to see how the magazine may have developed had it continued, as each issue was better than the last. While it certainly wasn’t as polished as the magazines which followed it, “Anime-zine” is a great little read if you want to see what pre-US anime industry fandom looked liked. Despite the fact nearly 30 years have passed since it was first published, all three issues can be found easily on eBay.

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Anime Music Video Compilations: “Bronze Cathexis Koji Nanjo”

cathexisldPublisher: 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

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

cathexis1The 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 head 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
cathexis2First 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
cathexis3Well 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
cathexis4The 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
cathexis5The 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
cathexis6Yet 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.

cathexis7“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 Amazon.co.jp, 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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