1981 – A Year of Anime in Review

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Truthfully, the impact of Japanimation so far has not changed the game yet in the West, but 1981 is just another development for anime fans in the United States. Can you feel the storm? It’s coming.

However much the US was affected by 1981 releases, Japan exploded with quality and a great many of the series released would either get picked up way later in the 90’s or even the Millennial plus, or serve as confusion bait for their references in other more popular anime and fighting games (I’m looking at you GOLD LIGHTAN)

Even if something was released in the US, you’d have to take it with a heavy dose of salt, because outsourcing animation to Japan for bible and religious cartoons became a thing.

Some people cite this series as why anime became popular in the US. Some people are wrong.

Some people cite this series as why anime became popular in the US. Some people are wrong.

Not that I’m talking smack about Superbook, it’s just an interesting case of CBN (now ABC Family) having anime bible stories, especially one with a happy little robot pal. Everyone knows it’s not anime without robots.

As expected of a Moe-Alt staffer, I goofed on the picture for Superbook, that’s the 1983 release cover, but I doubt it matters any way. It’s Superbook.

As I mentioned before Starblazers and Battle of the Planets have the honor of stirring interest in anime with consumers. Speaking of consumer interest, other subcultures of media and electronics began their descent into failure and creation:

  • The video game industry. Notables include Donkey Kong (1981) featuring “Jumpman” aka Mario, Castle Wolfenstien, and Wizardry.
  • Microsoft released MS-DOS, and was competitively marketed against gaming consoles of the day touting it’s educational benefits and how much of a fucking computer wizard you looked like using DOS.
Something like this.

Something like this.

Now that all the opinions are out of the way, we can move onto the main feature!

BEAST KING GOLION – Wait A Minute, That Design…

I get the feeling I've seen this before....

I get the feeling I’ve seen this before….

Now, this may confuse some people. If it hasn’t already, good job. We’re all aware how much Beast King GoLion looks like Voltron, and how it’s a combining mech made out of large cat robots with a primary color scheme, has that sword, and well, just everything about it. The odd truth is, Voltron is the US adaption of Beast King GoLion that had quite a few things cut out. Most notably, the extreme violence.

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As with all the happy anime of the 80’s, the story is about the planet Altea being captured and enslaved by Galra Empire, inspiring 5 dauntless space faring  humans to go back to Earth, only to find it annihilated by thermonuclear war. Already to a good start, the group of 5 discover a giant sentient robot that was struck down for his hubris and seperated into 5 different colored cat mechs, we can only expect the happiest of ending at this point. Conveniently, all on the same planet.

Definitely recommended if you want to feel superior and confidently hip, as all the “internet honies” love a guy with the smarts to tell the difference between  giant robots (Edison, Aleksei. Treatise on the Fairer Sex and Giant Robots. Hanford: Edison, Nguyen,  and Madnar, 1997.).

FANG OF THE SUN DOUGRAM – All Space Colonies Are Ruled By Evil Dictators

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On the desert planet of Arrakis….

Oh wait, wrong series. Fang of the Sun Dougram does indeed take place on a barren desert world with a oppressive, interchangeable government that presumably keeps the local populace under tight scrutiny to keep the mineral wealth flowing. Or maybe Denon Cashim is like General Gattler, and wants to blow shit up for the laughs.

One of the reasons I’m featuring this show is because it’s noted for two reasons. Being the successor of the “real robot” genre is tough, as the norm was having giant robots fight in a not so realistic setting and everything was style and form. Fang of the Sun Dougram has a complicated plot off political drama and intrigue that most good stories have in order to get things rolling, but has another downer ending on par with previous series.

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The second was the BattleTech controversy, which was one of the driving forces of the popularity of the “western mecha”, but a more realistic one. Other major contributors were Voltron and Transformers of course. It still stands to say that BattleTech fans hold a vigil of hatred for their Japanese counterparts.

Oh and did I mention this series inspired the creation of VOTOMS?

URUSEI YATSURA – Lum Is In Your House and There’s Nothing You Can Do About It

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It’s hard to talk about 80’s anime without mentioning Urusei Yatsura. It really is.

Instantly recognizing the art styles and characters are pretty much a given if you took part of the anime scene in the early and late 90’s in the US (especially if you are Japanese), mostly due to the popularity of the dub and it getting attention within the online community at the time. That in itself is a feat; the online anime community was either composed of lonely GeoCities shrine pages, “walled gardens”, or part of a webring, making it very very hard to communicate with people that you don’t have local access to.

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I could dedicate a whole post to why Urusei Yatsura is great, wax philosophical about the avant garde, or just reenact being a 90’s fanboy that obsessively collected only the most risque of Lum pictures. I won’t though, because that’s been done to death. However what I will talk about is how you should watch it, because if any anime you could think of as being important to the anime fan culture, Urusei Yatsura is definitely a contender.

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In Japan it had a much larger effect, and it spawned a new wave of what we call “otaku” today, or here as fanboys. It changed the game, and there was no going back.

url10bit: Whew, 1981 was a really exciting year for anime. I know there’s a lot more to cover, but I was biased and picked some of the more important anime of that year. Honorable mentions are the Mobile Suit Gundam movies, Belle and Sebastian, Dr. Slump, Golden Warrior Gold Lightan, GoShogun,Honey Honey’s Wonderful Adventures, Little Women (1981), Queen Millenia, and Six God Combination Godmars. See what I mean? Maybe I’ll add these in later. Any who, thanks for reading! Oh, and for added convenience I’ve added links to the MAL pages on the titles.

 

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2 responses to “1981 – A Year of Anime in Review

  1. I’ve been meaning to ask you, how does Urusei Yatsura compare to Rumiko Takahashi’s other works, like Ranma 1/2, Maisson Ikkoku, or Inuyasha? I heard Oshii directed the first hundred episodes or so, and that is probably the only reason I’m willing to watch the anime over reading the original manga. Also, like you, I do marginally enjoy that zany QUALITY direction of the 80’s. Well, at least more than mecha mecha mecha mecha.

    • Anyone who tells you that Ranma 1/2 is better than Urusei Yatsura probably wrote fanfiction back in the 90’s and had no clue the canon plot of the show anyway. Seriously, the fanfiction for it seems like it’s a whole other show. Maisson Ikkoku is alright too, but Lum holds a special place in every nerds heart, like cholesterol. Inuyasha is cool too, but really fucking long, definite timesink there.

      It appears that Takahashi’s works are a prime target for fanfiction, haha.

      Yeah, the 80’s had a boom of mecha thanks to Gundam in ’79, but you’ll notice in my later post how the trend waned down a bit and gave way to the more diverse series and genres we enjoy today. It was a learning process.