Robot Carnival [ロボット・カーニバル] (1987)
Starring Koji Moritsugu, Yayoi Maki, Kei Tomiyama, Chisa Yokoyama, James R. Bowers
Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, Atsuko Fukushima, Hidetoshi Ohmori, Hiroyuki Kitakubo, Hiroyuki Kitazume, Kouji Morimoto, Mao Lamdo, Takashi Nakamura, Yasoumi Umetsu
I remember watching this film way back in the ’90s when Cartoon Network would air it about once a year, usually back to back with Vampire Hunter D. As such, it was one of my first and most formative anime experiences. Back then I was far more enamored of Vampire Hunter D and its more overt action. Robot Carnival is a much artsier film, and as a kid/teen I wasn’t really able to appreciate its more subtle points.
It’s been so long that I had pretty much completely forgotten everything about it, other than its anthology format. This wasn’t helped any by the fact that it never saw any kind of home video release, so after Cartoon Network stopped airing it, it was effectively gone for good. Thankfully the folks at Discotek Media recently gave it a DVD release after all these years. And it’s probably past time to give them a shout out, as they have put out a great deal of older anime titles that I have fond memories of or just never would have seen otherwise; films like Space Adventure Cobra, Fist of the North Star, just about anything related to Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express, and tons of other titles.
Continue reading Stephen reviews: Robot Carnival (1987) →
Black Magic M-66 [ブラックマジック M-66] (1987)
Starring Chisa Yokoyama, Yoshiko Sakakibira, Ichirō Nagai, Kyouko Tonguu
Directed by Hiroyuki Kitakubo & Masamune Shirow
The title of this anime has always confused me. First off, there is no magic at all; black, yellow, turquoise or any other color you can think of. This here is a sci-fi film. Nor is there any significant usage of the color black in a non-magical fashion. In fact, the M-66 robots the film is about are far closer to white than black.
Even the second half of the title is confusing. As the film opens, it states that the “M” stands for “Mario.” Is there a significant character named Mario? Of course not. Is there anyone playing a Nintendo, even in the background? Not a chance. The Mario reference is never mentioned, and it is only in the title screen that we ever see it at all. Thankfully I did luck out in searching for info on this, and it seems that Mario is actually short for “marionette.” Why they shortened it, though, is anybody’s guess. I’m just happy that I won’t have an aneurysm trying to figure it out now.
Fortunately the rest of the film is very straightforward and easy to comprehend, although that in itself makes the title even more confusing. If the film had been a nonsensical art house mindfuck, I wouldn’t expect the title to make any sense. But no, it’s just a run-of-the-mill action film ripping off The Terminator, but with less time travel, more half-naked girls, and a dash of goofy comedy.
Continue reading Stephen reviews: Black Magic M-66 (1987) →
Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise [王立宇宙軍 オネアミスの翼 Ōritsu Uchūgun: Oneamisu no Tsubasa] (1987)
Starring Leo Morimoto, Mitsuki Yayoi, Aya Murata, Bin Shimada, Hiroshi Izawa, Hirotaka Suzuoki, Kazuyuki Sogabe, Kouji Totani, Masahiro Anzai, Masato Hirano, Yoshito Yasuhara
Directed by Hiroyuki Yamaga
This is the first anime produced by studio Gainax (though they did make earlier works as a different company, Daicon Film), who are famous for reshaping the entire anime industry with Neon Genesis Evangelion. It’s an art film rather than a genre film, and thus it has been acclaimed by critics (including Roger Ebert) while languishing in the commercial market. It is pretty unusual for an anime to avoid any genre alignment. Even the artsiest of anime usually fall into a genre category as well, such as the romance film Utena or the psychological thriller Perfect Blue.
I suppose I could lump it into the science fiction category since it deals with scientific content, but even that would be a stretch as the technology, though fictional, is outdated and for the most part realistic (such as the airplanes using rear propellers, a design which was seriously considered during the early days of aviation). Perhaps it fits in a broad interpretation of steampunk, but I feel uncomfortable giving it that classification either. There are some action scenes in the second half, but they aren’t central to the story really. At that point I may as well call it a romance, which is also true as far as it goes, but as with the other genres it could technically fall in, it’s just not what the film is about.
Continue reading Stephen reviews: Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise (1987) →