1987 – A Year of Anime in Review

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I’ve said that previous years in the 80’s changed the game, and they did, but 1987 really takes the cake for the series that really kicked of a merchandise powerhouse, and managed to infiltrate its way into Americana. Symbolic with girl’s toys and everything cute, it came at just the right time to be introduced into the mainstream teenage pop culture. Hello Kitty has arrived.

FOREWARD

My younger sister, even as she grew up in an era of leg warmers and oversize sweatshirts, was taken by the cuteness of that little white cat thing with a bow. In 1993, I was watching her waddle out the door to grammar school in her Hello Kitty backpack. Even my mom was into it. It was a really weird time to be alive. I still find it amazing when something as niche as an anime can have so much appeal that even the more “normal” and domestic social groups would be willing to represent it in the form of various merchandise and clothing.  It’s not same with the “big 3” anime, it’s mostly contained as “nerd” thing to do, and not the “good” kind of “nerd” either, the bad kind that people tend to forget about. I think I’m getting to old for anime, give me a moment as I buy a sports car and try to fix things around the house.

HELLO KITTY’S FURRY TALE THEATER –  We Did Superbook, Why Not?

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 You must be wondering, why did I choose Hello Kitty as my first thing to write about? Well, after many, many disparaging private messages and communication across various social media platforms I have decided to appeal to our core audience, resident cheerleader Yurinakamura-chan.  That being said let us dig into the interesting history of Hello Kitty.

Unlike previous anime/cartoons that were animated by the Japanese and produced by the US, Hello Kitty was a co-produced effort, showing that the East-West synergy is possible, and when it works, it really works. This isn’t the debut of the happy bow tie cat, oh no. It really began in 74, and in an interesting turn of events, in the 90’s where is was sold as a “retro brand” to appeal to those that once had Hello Kitty products when they were younger, or early brand age hipsters. The anime was just a little part of the overall advertising for the brand, which is fine, but a lot of people have some good memories of the show, much alike the Moomins fans.

Hello Kitty’s Furry (a play on “fairy”) Tale  Theater ran for about 13 episodes, but had two 11 minute long segments in each episode that accounted for 26 total animated stories. If you’re on a cartoon fix and looking to relive the past or really bulk up your appearance as an online female, they this is the show for you. Once again, you can thank me later, Yurinakamura-chan.

KIMAGURE ORANGE ROAD – I am Part of the Desert Warriors

A really good grasp on the 80's aesthetic.

A really good grasp on the 80’s aesthetic.

It is indeed true, I am part of the special operations group, “The Desert Warriors”. In my mission I’ve been known to kill over 100 men with just one volume of Kimagure Orange Road.

It’s pretty much a given that if you want to really have a blast from the past or at least prevent being called a fraud when talking about 80’s anime; watching Kimagure Orange Road is a given. Noted for its text file translations of its source manga, the fansub that circulated in the early 90’s was really what got people talking on various AOL groups, and maybe Usenet. For some reason whenever I think of this show, I can never get the fanfiction scene for it out of my head. The series isn’t bad, but the internet back then had a funny way of coming up with elaborate backed up lies called “fanon”.

Kimagure Orange Road has full marks from me, and there’s a good reason why it’s considered to be one of the classics. Standard love triangle it may be, but the non-standard and amusing characters that it makes up are anything but par for the course.

METAL ARMOR DRAGONAR – Mecha For Those Inclined

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Metal Armor Dragonar is a very interesting series. It was made really quickly after the release of ZZ Gundam, and was intended to be an entry point to get viewers into watching mecha. It was also intended to be the successor of the Mobile Suit Gundam series, but did not achieve the success that the MSG series has enjoyed. In my opinion the series wasn’t as good because it just wasn’t the right time to try to introduce a much lighter series (same for ZZ) into the real robot genre. Had that tried in the 90’s I would imagine they would have had more success.

For resident writer Hss, and perhaps a few readers, it is known for its appearances in the Super Robot Wars series of games, which had a very positive  reception by fans of the series. If you like ZZ Gundam, give Dragonar a chance, or if you’re looking to brush up on your mecha history, then Metal Armor Dragonar is a good choice.

SABER RIDER AND THE STAR SHERIFFS – Space Westerns!?

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Is there any reason not to watch this show? Is there any reason that may discourage someone from watching space cowboys shooting laser revolvers while mounted on mecha space horses? I don’t think there are many, and if there is, they are undoubtedly wrong.

Space Operas are so passé, as resident writer Don Don Kun says in his native language. Especially those that run on for obscene amount of episodes to establish 2 characters as cool guys. Saber Rider only needs one to show you how fucking cool their characters are.

Can “Chinese name beret man” and “Not-Nazi Germany black uniform man” ride on robot space horses and deal out justice, six laser bullets at a time? No?

Checkmate, Space Operas.

BUBBLEGUM CRISIS – Did Anyone Say Blade Runner?

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I’m sure there are people looking for some material for their cyberpunk collection, and Bubblegum Crisis is a solid addition, for any of those that might have passed it up. An interesting thing about the Bubblegum Crisis series of OVA’s is that they span over quite a large number of years, where most OVA series are done within a year or two. The first OVA was released in 1987, and the final OVA was released in 1991, about a 5 year span.

Out of all the Blade Runner inspired works, it is my opinion that Bubblegum Crisis is one of the better ones, among SNATCHER, and the rest, by focusing on the surreal element of what it means to be truly human. In SNATCHER for instance, being human meant not being a suspect. With the SNATCHERS being able to mimic a human, right down to the flesh and blood, the line blurred on being able to tell the difference between an actual human and a Snatcher, making it seem like anybody could have been replaced. In Bubblegum Crisis, it focuses more on the androids, which represents the difficult concept of appearing and feeling like a human, but being completely artificial.

There are a lot of things that I love about the series, the designs and story being a few examples, and I’m not alone in my love for Bubblegum Crisis. It spawned a whole generation of fanartists, a great number of album length music collections, and even a role-playing game. It is definitely one of the “must watch anime” of the 80’s.

TWILIGHT OF THE COCKROACHES – A Movie For Don Don Kun

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Speaking of blending and fusion and what not, I think this one of the few animated works with live action scenes that just, well, work. It’s rare to find an anime of this quality, it’s got that Triplets of Belleville / The Illusionist aesthetic, and to me it’s an all around great anime that can actually be enjoyed as a movie.

It’s an art house production, but it’s not pretentious, or minimalist like Angel’s Egg. It’s a story, that for some reason that I feel inspired a semi-popular story about cockroaches living with humans, but all in all, it’s a sad and heartbreaking title that explores the unknowing kindness of humans and the knowing cruelty that we can cause. You never really think twice about stepping on a bug or gassing them, but Twilight of the Cockroaches will instantly change your mind about how we treat our neighbors, no matter how small they may be. At least for a little while.

My recommendation: Watch this movie in the evening on a rainy day. Be prepared to feel.

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2 responses to “1987 – A Year of Anime in Review

  1. Kimagure Orange Road! Interesting to see that you enjoyed so much. I was almost ready to give up on 80’s romcoms coming from Rumiko Takahashi’s works, but I guess I’ll keep my feet in the water for just a little longer.

    • I’m sure the reason you’ll like Kimagure Orange Road is because it isn’t a Takahashi work, KOR was written by Izumi Matsumoto. I can see why you thought it was, because Studio Pierrot were behind the animation of some of Takahashi’s anime, and Kimagure Orange Road, so they have the same aesthetic I’m sure. Too bad Matsumoto didn’t do much other acclaimed works, but Kimagure Orange Road is a definite “classic”.