Analog Diaries III: The Path To Legend

The life of a responsible older brother of a hyperactive eleven year-old was practically a full time job by the time the VHS maelstrom was upon us. And growing up in a community, mostly divided between wealthy retirees & small-town denizens, there was little place for those with tastes outside the typical. And as there were many a time when our video rental binges would become not unlike a romanticized trip to a junkyard. ( filled to the seams with crap, yet host to a bevvy of hidden treasures) For every Suspiria, we’d find four or five Witchcraft‘s. And even at this point, I wasn’t one-hundred percent about this anime thing.

It didn’t help when looking for titles that were dubbed for western audiences, the dearth of these led to some pretty interesting discoveries.
Most notable in this sweepstakes run were the ones we found, carrying the logos of Celebrity Home Video’s Just For KIDS emblazoned on them. And these little hauls of fun came bearing images & characters that were familiar, but upon viewing them, they sure weren’t the icons I remembered them being.

The first in this series of releases that had us doubling over was their version of the Captain Harlock origin feature, Arcadia Of My Youth(1982). Recut and dubbed, the film was repackaged as Vengeance Of The Space Pirate. Now as I had been accustomed to the tales of Harlock via friends & tapes of the tv show long ago, it was pretty clear kids were getting a huge dose of false advertising.(Not to mentin the kind of violence on the cover that would never fly in this day and age. Han Solo this! ) Missing roughly forty minutes of its epic running time, the film whisks by at a Cliff’s Notes clip, and features some oddball, yet competent (for its time) dubbing. If one can survive the stilted dialogue delivery, they may not be able to contain themselves as the newly liberated space cruiser Arcadia leaves a locked down Earth to a song only the worst Barry Manilow-lover would go nuts for. We’re on the verge of a crucial, emotionally fulfilling sequence, and all we get is theme music best fitting of a 2:30 in the morning Vegas show after a sixteen hour sucker’s streak at the tables. (If I could share this monstrosity with you via a video –Someone get on this. This pain must be shared!) Even as the cut is somewhat tolerable(albeit a little too literal at points), the film is missing so much of what makes ‘s film such a vital piece of Leiji Matsumoto history.

All that was left post this initial viewing, was me in disbelief, and a very out of sorts little brother.

Could’ve been worse…It could’ve been THIS.

Which leads us to a tape I ran into at one of the local Blockbusters that grabbed my eyes with a mad fury unrivaled.

Clash Of The---whaaa?
Clash Of The---Wut?

That’s right. Celebrity also had the home video rights to the legendary Macross 1984: Ai Oboete Iimasuka? (Do You Remember Love?), and really gave it the business. A chop-shop treatment at best, this not-Macross Macross is the anime equivalent to a victim of Dr. Herbert West; Mangled , bizarre, and ultimately only good at haunting the living. Not only is the film missing some crucial moments (including one very significant death scene – seriously, if you’re going to sell this to kids, it might be best to know what you’re selling.), but it also features dubbing that is the very definition of….Awkward.

Sound familiar?(I vaguely remember the same studio and actors being used in the dub for HK favorites such as the original Police Story. ) In short, it was nice to have a home version of the Macross feature, but to settle for such a painfully wasted opportunity. It’s something that still stings to this day. If only they had taken care of this situation long ago. C’est La vie.

As a good guardian for those weekends while the mother unit was busy keeping us well fed and raised, we had our fair share of experiences such as these that kind of gave us a gauge from which to measure how video companies were treating something so regionally based. And even as the claws of anime love had yet to dig irrevocably into my being, there was a growing curiosity within me to continue to look into what was so attractive about it. And how was I to know that everything was soon to take on shapes never before witnessed when a little movie came over, and began playing in major metropolitan areas throughout the country.

Being a kid in Theater, and up for the chance to check out something outside the ordinary, I was invited by classmates to catch this film in a new theater in Palm Springs that also served as the region’s art house location. Even as there had been some talk about the film’s impact that had steadily growing over the west, nothing could prepare me for the sheer visceral impact of Katsuhiro Otomo’s little movie , AKIRA.

A film that truly requires no intro of any kind, this one viewing evoked feelings for the medium that had yet been experienced. And that is very much in the manner as films such as AKIRA must be digested as, an experience. Not being familiar with the incredible source material, it was something akin to allowing ones’ self to be absorbed into the chaotic world of these characters, and to drink in the dystopic fury of what must have been brewing deeply within many folks in Japan at the time. The film felt like a much needed purging of emotions in a rapturous package that helped illuminate my mind to the possibilities of manga art, and its animated extensions. Coming out of that theater, dizzy, and drunk with love for the film, it became something akin to what was referred by Professor Brian O’Blivion in Videodrome as “a new part of the brain”.

And it is also possible that in those pre Subs Only Watching/Japanese studying days, that it was the sensational dub licensed by Streamline Pictures from Kodansha  that helped seal the deal. Utilizing only a handful of familiar-sounding actors (These guys, anyone?) to play what is essentially an epic-sized cast was no mean feat. And even as a great deal of it is played for camp value, it at least was translated & performed well enough for many to accept it, and embrace the achievement that Otomo and company had brought to the world stage.

Aside from being such a landmark piece of work, it became something of a prophecy for the relationship between us siblings. While both of us being well-versed in film as kids, few films would ever have the same kind of jarring effect that this one had, especially once Orion & Streamline brought the film to American VHS not too much later. And once this film came into our possession, it felt as if little was to remain the same for the both of us.

11 thoughts on “Analog Diaries III: The Path To Legend”

  1. BINGO. Watch the TV series again, and keep that in mind with the Zentraedi the entire time, and then, think of what the show is saying. LOL Such a hysterically bad dub. “So what? You can still fight when yer drunk!”

  2. VHS era is very fascinating to know. Only a few could be otaku back then, so it’s really precious to read your article.

    Titling is always missing the point. When Japanese import Hollywood films, they totally change the meaning. It’s far from the original title. Lost in Translation.

    I have to watch Arcadia Of Youth then, after reading a review that this film was Ishiwara Yujiro’s last role before his death. It’s funny now his brother Shintaro is Governor of Tokyo. Well, my youth was certainly not arcadia. 2-D is my arcadia.

    That clip is hilarious. Sex over war. Make love instead of waging war. Love-making was peace-making. Very flower generation concept. Everyone got long hair. I thought Macross was in the 80s, when this concept faded away. (´Д`;)ハァハァ was really funny. But Zentradi were able to mingle with humans through skinship while an Otaku can’t embrace flower generation concept of peace-making. Are we lower creatures than Zentradi? Is this the only choice left for us for peace-making? http://www.masturbateforpeace.com/

  3. Well, in the case of changing the title…Especially when considering Celebrity For Kids; their view of children was quite low on the scale. They practically figured that the average kid had the brain power of a pea.

    As for Macross, it makes total sense that these concepts would work. The film IS directed by anime veteran, Ishiguro. And the anime medium was barely coming out of love of the sixties by this point.Ever wonder where a lot of the old anime music stems from? Mostly early James Bond scores. At least for me, Macross was the first attempt at anime turning the camera back onto this growing phenomenon, by looking at it via one of the most common anime plot devices, the space war.

    1. Oh I see. Interesting to know. So original Macross was made by flower generation people like Ishiguro. No wonder Macross is really music-oriented. Even Macross Frontier, some songs are very Ringo Star rhythm feeling. Music over war. Very Lennon-Ono like idea we can still feel today, though May’N is a product of the 90s.

  4. Well..it is written in the books that Macross was one of the very first shows to feature a whole new generation of young animation talent boosted by the early brimming of the economic bubble, but they still had many pioneers who had worked on major productions over the previous 20 years. This was like camp for a bunch of junior artists like Hideaki Anno, Ichiro Itano, and also featuring work by Toshihiro Hirano. The spirit of the 60s-70s was riding high in this show. But as the Studio Nue/Big West drama unfolded in the years afterward, Kawamori wrangled hold of many elements that he liked about Macross, and made his spate of shows as original Macross co-writer Sukehiro Tomita wrote the infamous Macross II OVA. Needless to say, things didn’t go so well for that team, and Kawamori’s more modern sensibilities won out in later shows, for better or worse.

    Long and short, the 60s sentient practically lasted until 1990. Keep in mind much of Sunrise’s shows at the time (including The Dirty Pair – totally Swinging Sixties, baby!)We can likely thank Gainax, Mamoru Oshii & pals for giving the medium a much-needed kick in the shins. That said, I do have a big soft spot for this era.

    Now if only more dubs were so lucky.

    1. I see. Interesting inside story. So, Macross is now more Kawamori style. Original Macross seems more gekiga realistic drawing. Japan prospered from the 60s to 1991. The 60s, land on the moon time, and space war. 1991, bubble burst and end of cold war. Then, now the lost decades generation, youth without dream, like East of Eden. So the 60s sentiment ended in 1990 makes sense. The good thing is machismo has been weakened, the 70s infamous supo-kon anime died out. Now we’re in multi-D time. We can proudly say we live in 2-D. I think the election of first black president marks the dawn of multicultural time. I’m looking forward to seeing how anime will evolve.

      Lol. “The woman must not penetrate!” What’s more hilarious is that the dub is with Japanese sub! But the sub didn’t say “penetrate.” It’s just saying, “Stop these women from approaching us.” How is their acting skill? Are they good? I can’t really tell if they are good actors.

  5. I think I can safely say that the acting here is pretty horrible. Only made worse because it’s pretty clear the actors aren’t native english speakers.( wasn’t joking that I heard these actors on the first Police Story dub, and that was naturally terrible) That or aren’t being told to emote, and just fit the words in the mouth flaps. They sounds like 60s robots, LOL

    1. Was exposed to the wonders of Gialli movies via the Drive-In near my home. And the trailer for this gave me nightmares for years. Argento’s Suspiria is an all-time shocker for me, and a big inspiration for a lot of art I like to create and support. There’s just something about the mad atmosphere of the whole thing. And Goblin’s music is classic. :)

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