Stephen reviews: One Million Year Trip: Bander Book (1978)

banderbook_1One Million Year Trip: Bander Book [100万年地球の旅 バンダーブック Hyakumannen Chikyū no Tabi – Bander Book] (1978)

Starring Yuu Mizushima, Mami Koyama, Masatō Ibu, Iemasa Ieyumi, Kaneta Kimotsuki

Directed by Osamu Tezuka


Osamu Tezuka has a large catalog of creations beyond his most famous one, Astro Boy. Bander Book may be one of the more minor entries in that catalog, but it isn’t without some significance. This was the first of a series of TV movies made once per year beginning in 1978, so it kicked off a series of films that helped bring Tezuka’s creations to a new generation of viewers.

Tezuka’s visual style takes some getting used to. Despite having defined the genre, his designs look very little like anime as we know it today. It carries a very cutesy and childish impression that reflects his own influences from western animators such as Walt Disney and Max Fleischer. Since this is a children’s film, the art style fits naturally here. Although, Western audiences will no doubt be startled by the nudity. There’s some cultural disconnect here. Japan never considered bare breasts to be particularly taboo until American influence after World War II changed things. Nowadays, I wonder just how much the nudity would surprise even Japanese viewers.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: One Million Year Trip: Bander Book (1978) →

Stephen reviews: Galaxy Express 999: Eternal Fantasy (1998)

galaxyexpress999_eternalfantasy_1Galaxy Express 999: Eternal Fantasy [銀河鉄道999 エターナルファンタジー Ginga Tetsudo 999: Eternal Fantasy] (1998)

Starring Masako Ikeda, Masako Nozawa, Kōichi Yamadera, Kaneta Kimotsuki, Keiko Toda, Yoshiko Sakakibara, Noriko Hidaka, Yuko Minaguchi

Directed by Kōnosuke Uda


When I said in last week’s review of Adieu Galaxy Express 999 that it was an impromptu trilogy I had no idea just how true that was. Eternal Fantasy was not quite what I expected. Despite my assumptions going in, it was not in fact meant to conclude anything. Eternal Fantasy fully intended to have a sequel, and even advertised for it after the credits. But low and behold, no sequel was ever made. So the film that actually concludes the Galaxy Express trilogy was the only film that wasn’t supposed to be a conclusion. And just to compound the irony, Eternal Fantasy‘s tagline is, “The future will never betray you.”

This is a shame since the film has a lot of potential. I would have happily signed on for another sequel if one actually existed. The changes were a mix of good and bad, but on the whole, things were going pretty well. Its only huge failing is its cut-off ending.

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Stephen reviews: Adieu Galaxy Express 999 (1981)

adieugalaxyexpress999_1Adieu Galaxy Express 999 [さよなら銀河鉄道999 -アンドロメダ終着駅- Sayonara Ginga Tetsudo 999: Andromeda Shuchakueki] (1981)
AKA Goodbye Galaxy Railway 999: Andromeda Terminal (more of a literal translation, really)

Starring Masako Ikeda, Masako Nozawa, Kaneta Kimotsuki, Makio Inoue, Reiko Tajima, Kei Tomiyama, Youko Asagami, Toru Emori, Ryoko Kinomiya, Hidekatsu Shibata

Directed by Rintaro


As the title implies, this is the conclusion of the Galaxy Express series. But wait, didn’t I tell you all in last week’s review that this was the second film in a trilogy? Well, yes, but it’s a rather impromptu trilogy since the third film, Galaxy Express 999: Eternal Fantasy, didn’t come out until the late ’90s, so Adieu was intended to be the conclusion. Actually, the original Galaxy Express 999 wasn’t intended to have a sequel either, so all three films in the trilogy were the end of the series. And none of them actually stayed that way. (Ok, ok, so Eternal Fantasy was followed by a TV series spin-off rather than a true sequel. So sue me.)

Of course, making a sequel to a film that doesn’t need one is always tricky business. Not only do you have to unravel the ending that had already been neatly tied up, but you have to then face the twin complaints that the sequel is either too much or not enough like the original. While I enjoyed Adieu quite a bit, hecklers will complain about it from both sides of the field. Probably simultaneously.

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Stephen reviews: Galaxy Express 999 (1979)

galaxyexpressGalaxy Express 999 [銀河鉄道999 Ginga Tetsudo 999] (1979)
AKA Bonjour Galaxy Express 999

Starring Masako Nozawa, Masako Ikeda, Hidekatsu Shibata, Kaneta Kimotsuki, Youko Asagami, Kei Tomiyama, Makio Inoue, Reiko Tajima

Directed by Rintaro


Say, did you know there was anime before 1980? It’s true. It’s also damn near impossible to find American releases of it. That’s why this is my first review from the ’70s (unless you count the Champion Joe compilation film). It’s also the first film of the Galaxy Express trilogy, which I’ll be tackling over the next few weeks.

One of the few things I know about ’70s anime is that the animation quality was generally crap. I’ve seen brief snippets of anime films from the ’50s and ’60s that could stand proud next to Ghibli films, but somewhere along the line it all went to hell. By the ’80s, animation quality had hit bottom. Sadly, Galaxy Express 999 met my expectations for the ’70s. That doesn’t mean this is a bad film. It just means that Galaxy Express is a product of its time.

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