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Through Older Lenses: Megazone 23 Part One


Is maturity the bane of otakudom? Can one retain the same love for something years after life has added on the experience, and insight capable of seeing through much of what made it exciting in the first place? For those who have followed The Analog Diaries thus far, many have seen that a great bulk of material that drew me to the anime & manga arts were awash in the heyday of the OVA. Having been inundated by the form throughout the latter 80s thru the 90s, I have experienced a fair deluge of shows, and series that while far from masterful, helped create the admirer that I grew up to become. Being already a youth weaned on looking at the Reagan era with a bit of sourness no doubt brought upon by growing up in a family not as fortunate as so many in the trickle-down pathway, various artistic, and literary influences were already making waves in this once innocent mind.

So perhaps anime came at the right place at the right time. A dash of rogueishness to set the embers to a glowing high, and a sense of dare to raise those flames beyond control. Much like the burgeoning new music culture forming from the ashes of punk & noise, there was something immediately attractive to the anime artform when it was willing to be more than anything the west could conjure. And as in any art, all it takes is a byte, a mention, a whisper in the ear, or a song to send it all home.

It was more than mere escape, it was a thumb to the eye of caution in a media sphere fraught with zeroes and ones.

What I hope to introduce within Through Older Lenses, is an expansion beyond merely Bridging The Gap, and tackling influential works contrasting both my youthful, and current points of view.

As a first title to make mention of, I’m going to go head to head with an oft remembered, if not wholly loved first installment of an OVA series that has maintained perhaps a greater amount of influence than some are willing to admit: The Noboru Ishiguro directed Megazone 23 Part One!


Again, while this was in no way anything more than a stepping stone in anime history’s days before OVAs truly took off with Bubblegum Crisis, the life behind this strange title has made more than it’s fair share of waves in international fandom as (inexplicably, save for the involvement of several Macross key staff) Robotech:The Movie, as well as a briefly released VHS version via Streamline Pictures back in that company’s latter days. As mentioned previously, the Megazone 23 project started as a television series pitch under the name Omega City(as well as various monikers), which was inevitably scrapped after head sponsors pulled out mid-production.

But the pedigree behind the project is almost a who’s who of late 70s- early 80s pioneers such as Toshihiro Hirano, Ichiro Itano, & Shinji Aramaki during the burgeoning days of Artmic. All in the name of telling a tale of Tokyo awakening to a revelation that the Bubble-decade’s sunny skies, colorful clothing, and endless shopping was merely a facade concocted by a hyper-aware AI system in the hopes of lulling what remains of humanity into a happy dream. A humanity on the brink after generations of infighting that has left the populace in a perpetuated fiction, hiding an ultimate secret; that Tokyo itself is within one level of a monolithic space vessel 500 years after the remnants’ endless warring left Earth uninhabitable. Through the eyes of biker-teen Shogo Yahagi, his friends, and would-be love interest, Yui Takanaka, twist upon twist threatens to undo the fabric of Japan’s happy, yet suddenly fragile reality. And all this as the lives of Yui’s roommates take steps into following their dreams within this already volatile web of notions. With Mai, her longing to become backup singer to the era’s top idol singer & tv personality, Eve Tokimausuri, and Tomomi, hard at work guerilla-filming her very own science fiction masterwork. Streets are alive, the music heats up, as this initial outing culminates in a strangely potent finale as the truth is revealed, casualties are felt on all sides, and the moral quagmire concerning the future of the human race reaches critical mass.



Youthful Pull:

So what was it that intially drew me to this? Quite simple, actually. The unrepentantly 80s design aesthetic was an instant win for me, being one of a generation who had grown up on Macross via Robotech, and my instant recognition of the visual stylings at play here was massive. The images of both the Garland, and EVE were enough to sucker me in. Even as the look, and animation seems crude by modern standards, there was something instantly tangible and bizarre in the presentation that sealed away any doubt that I would miss this project.



Reflections Of Youth:

Being wholly frank, I loved what I saw, even if it didn’t make a lick of sense. And back then, it hardly mattered as I had already long accepted that OVAs were something of a grab bag of disparate ideas, often not cohesive enough to fully justify a continuing series. And despite knowing that the series was resumed years later, with an almost entirely different creative team, there was something inherently right about what this series’ initial outing was suggesting. It probably didn’t hurt that only a few years later did Hollywood flirt with a similar premise in the guise of the fiendishly fun, They Live (1988) where the sleeping populace were being manipulated by an alien force masquerading as the rich and powerful, and amassing many into their cult of submission in the name of interplanetary domination. It was a Streets Of Fire-infused take on Plato’s The Cave that while mired in enough 80s cheese to block an entire state’s plumbing systems, had enough cool factor & attitude to make for a fun afternoon. Again, the excitement here being a product of just being in love with the idiosyncracies of the project’s world, its wildly paranoid world view, and most importantly; the music. Few anime tracks of the 80s has the emotive power of Senaka Goshi Ni Sentimentaru, all while a young Shiro Sagisu let’s loose throughout the series. Even as it has a thing or two to say about the time it was released, it also became a surreal embodiment of it.


Through Older Lenses:

Upon watching this first chapter again recently, several things began to stand out that while tangible, never seemed to gel properly in my mind before. The first of which is how the show’s cast continues to act, regardless of what Shogo has uncovered while on the run with the show’s hopelessly tacked-on transforming mecha/motorcycle, The Garland. And it is in the means by which these characters either mildly shrug off the incredulous story of them living within an elaborate fiction, all the while tending to their lives, looking to either be a part of the contemporary entertainment industry, which can be considered a business of fictions in itself. Something about this connects in ways that even the oft-rumored Hollywood progeny of this series, The Matrix never did. While the main character, Neo grapples with the revelation of living in a whole new reality, he never seems to care one bit about the world he’s left behind. Something that begs some interesting questions regarding human behavior. Especially human behavior within a sprawling metropolis, while the world changes dramatically around them. There’s something very L.A. about what the kids of Megazone 23 are doing amidst all the intrigue. Characters continue to act selfishly, even irrationally to the point of sexual hysteria it seems, which is an interesting take on what has now become something of a cinematic science fiction cliche, “The world within the world”. And yet it in many ways makes a great deal of sense for a decade drunk on media success, Coca-Cola nightmares, and SONY Walkman dreams. Even if it is a dream, it’s still lights years more attractive than what’s “out there”.

Another thing that comes to mind about what makes it all work despite how patchwork this “compilation film” functions, is the almost bizarre visual juxtaposition it plays on the viewer. While Yasuomi Umetsu, and crew revamped the series to strong effect in the second chapter/film, there is almost something sly & sneaky about such dark left-field notions placed within an anime so alive with color, and adorned with many a Haruhiko Mikimoto & Toshihiro Hirano Macross-era beauty. Also telling that Ishiguro and company were hard at work on this right off the heels of Do You Remember Love? It might imply a growing distrust of all the success and artifice that was consuming Japanese culture at the time. Not that the anime industry was ever seeing too much of this, save for more eyeball-straining work. At least for this blogger, art is at its most exciting when it is calling out social norms that many don’t seem to bring up as often as some should. Something about the early moments of the film with its wanton shopping, breakdancing, and garish fashion that is almost contradicted by the uptempo-yet-saddened tones of Kumi Miyasato‘s song playing over them. As if it is preparing the viewer to look back at all of this fondly, because none of it is real.

Also worth noting while we’re talking Matrix here; the concept behind a military cover-up, and the role of the relentless officer, BD is something that I had always preferred to be the natural outcome for that film series. The concept that the AI that has created this illusion is in it only for “evil” purposes never rings true, and seeing this concept presented as it is here makes for a much more believable reason. This also leaves the door open for the story to illustrate that after all is said and done, humanity’s greatest enemy has been, and always will be itself. Philosophically, this just makes more sense, and is dramatically more interesting. Now the fact that Megazone 23 never goes all the way with this is a missed opportunity, but I appreciate that it is there. (again, something that is in many ways remedied in Part 2)

So after so many years of having this as something of a personal touchstone title, does it hold up any compared to how I saw it years ago? In many ways, yes and no. The fact that the footage was culled from a scrapped TV production makes for some seriously confused storytelling, and incessant pacing issues muddle things a bit. Not to mention more than a few baffling character beats. It’s a bumpy watch these days to be completely honest. And yet despite all of these problems, it’s all about the attitude, the presentation, and the show’s overall place in the zeitgeist that make for an interesting prototype of a film, rather than a successful one. But it takes some rather big risks for what it is, and how many shows these days can that be said?


Tsundere Banana – Anime Diet’s 3-year anniversary special

On this very special anniversary for the Diet, Ray talks about his thoughts about being normal or not instead after watching Kara no Kyoukai 7 for the second time. It’s an introspective and unplugged Ray for 10 minutes and 34 seconds.

Also: Tsundere Banana 4, Tsundere Banana 2, Anime Diet Radio Episode 44

Believing and Striving.

Bubblegum Crisis - Art Pack

Hi all. Seeing this title, if you actually read this far, I congratulate you. After all, why bother reading someone’s effort pouring out his heart? At the same time, I’m elated to see all the interaction we have on the site – praises and criticisms, loves and hates, positives and negatives. All that means we have people reading, getting up and responding. That’s what we thirst for, really – interacting with y’all and knowing that, positive or negative, we’re being read. After all, why bother leaving the comment section open if we didn’t want to hear what you have to say?

I can be such an ass sometimes and a loser at other times; I get angry and reactive easily toward comments I don’t like; I’ve been know to respond in unkindly matter and not just taking it in. But that’s me; I take all your comments seriously and I answer each one with one comment field, not bunched together in the same reply. Maybe I am an idiot; maybe I take it all too seriously. In today’s world, nobody takes those things seriously; I mean, there is real life and there is the net; only teen people sometimes gets quite serious about it and yell back and forth.

However, sometimes I still feel as if though it mattered, no matter what the rest of the world thinks. When called, I still stand up sometimes and answer as the fool, receiving all the mockeries and jeers and  blush. Does it mean I care? Who knows? But sometimes, even though it’s once in a blue moon, I’d do something special, and someone says in the comment section:

You’ve made my day.

Heh. You know I made that into a sentence on its own because I did it on purpose to demonstrate a point. But yes, that tend to make me feel really good.

Even though, in my sometimes very humble and other times very proud opinion, I’m just a loser not too different from trekkies and other nerds wishing that someone out there  would understand and agree with their views on a certain article.  After all, like them, I’m just another nerd with a different title – “Otaku”, and feeling oddly proud of it.

It’s the fact that even if I were the only person in the entire world that’s listening to “Lost Type Rival” on Bubblegum Crisis CD right now, I’d still enjoy it and wishing that I were in 80”s Japan. Even if I were the biggest idiot in the world for liking what I like, I’d still like it.

(Yes, I’ve been drinking and it’s 12:56 AM in Taipei.)

A little thought about us recently…

Hi everyone, I thought I’d share some of our progress taking over the world and fandom in maturing and growing as a site. This isn’t an official announcement so relax, nothing major is happening…yet.

It’s funny, but recently I’ve got this incredible boredom for lack of work and not wanting to study burst of energy for trying to help out our side a little. As the greatest writer that has graced the pages of Anime Diet one of the contributors on this site – yes, we have 5 people on staff and out of the five, Mike, Moritheil, Matt, and I (Ray) write. For all the new readers (first, a bow from me), please don’t be mistaken; we have more than one face and each is very unique and quite different in writing style.

Some of Mike’s Articles:Review: Ponyo (Dub) – 88%, First Look Fair: Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 (1-4), As the End Nears: The Surprising Quality of Toradora.

Some of Moritheil’s Articles:The Zen of Eureka Seven, Strike Witches: The Evil Without, The cancer that is killing Bleach.

Some of Matt’s Articles: AX 2009, Day 0: Behind-the-Scenes From the Cameraman’s Perspective, Code Geass R2 episode 22– It gets weirder and weirder(and his other Code Geass articles), Bleach 145– stupid tornados.

Jeremy, AKA. Big J, doesn’t write anything because he’s the chairman and the task master guy with goals and dreams, also to give a well-needed kick in all of our collective asses.

Of course, one of the biggest and baddest thing we do is our ever-faithful and steady podcast, subscripable via iTunes and RSS and downloads. In fact, we completed our latest episode recording (41) just 2 and half hours back. We promise, oh do we promise, more wacky news commentaries, discussions on shows that aren’t anime remake worthy, and well…licking around the rim of a chocolate coronet and then thrusting my tongue deep inside. Yes, all wholesome and Otaku friendly stuff indeed.

Last Friday night (Pacific Time), we had our first ever discussion on what the fuck is our site really about and what the fuck have we been doing for the past 2+ years our values, missions, dreams, ambitions and goals, one of which was to bring the funniest possible entertainment to the larger anime watching community (read: just otakus). That, we’re sincere about, because one commentor gave this comment on the podcast: “I was having a really shitty day and then I listened to you guys; I was laughing so hard and that made my day better. Thank you.”

Folks, when it boils down to it, that’s what we’re really all about – entertaining without trolling, fun and enjoyable without being overboard (really?), and thought-provoking without unfriendly attacks and mockeries at our community, as the guy we fired tried to do – he gets no name here and we deleted his contributions – we take this matter seriously.

We’ve all been struggling in the greater world, but we’re proud of what we have. So yes, as probably the last article written for AnimeBlips in the effort to promote us and to let people know what we do, I’m writing this article. Yes, I go silly, way overboard a little close to crossing the line and almost crazy sometimes, but I hope you guys really enjoy our personalities on air and on the site. Remember, we’re here to entertain and hopefully to give you a smile.

Have a good night/good day and see you around!

– Please Vote for Moritheil here. To see our Ponyo review on IMDB please go here, now at #8).

– We have worked with big names like Anime Genesis, Anime3000, How a Girl Figures, Makenai the Band, and so on. See Makenai in action below:

(OK, yeah, not the utter best video, obviously. But get a taste of their passion and power!)