Wednesday, December 22, 2010

merry xmas and a happy 2011

My apologies to all; I fully intended to have another post up here before the Christmas holidays rolled around, and that just isn't gonna happen. In the meantime, however, I want to wish everybody a happy holiday season full of joy and good cheer.



See you in 2011!

-Dave

Friday, November 26, 2010

Welcome To The GALATT

In a defenseless world where war has been outlawed, only one brave scientist stands between the alien hordes and our precious Earth. Can his super robot creations protect us all from destruction?


Sure, this is the basis for hundreds of Japanese cartoons. But CHORIKI ROBO GALATT (aka “Galatt The Great”) dares to take this concept and “transform” (haw haw) it into a gag comedy! Premiering on October 6 1984 and lasting until April of next year, GALATT’s 25 episodes were a humorous digression among Nippon Sunrise’s more serious mid-80s series like VIFAM, the sadly neglected PANZER WORLD GALIENT, and HEAVY METAL L.GAIM. Yet GALATT’s squat comedy robot action idiom would live on in later Sunrise series like GRANZORT and WATARU, as well as the Ashi Productions hit NG LAMUNE & 40, and something called S.D. GUNDAM, whatever the heck that could be.
our heroes Michael and Patty and their robot pals
Two things distinguish GALATT. One is the Yumi Murata theme song, which is fun and funky with great 80’s style techno hooks. I mean, come on, hear the song and you’ll be mumbling “G-A-L-A...T-T” to yourself for weeks. The other thing is the running gag about how our genius inventor, Dr. Kiwi, is a total child molester. Seriously, he spends the show trying to grope the female lead, 13-year old Patty Pumpkin. Hell, he spends the OPENING CREDITS of the show trying to grope Patty Pumpkin. And this is not portrayed as a serious issue, as a “very special episode” of DIFF'RENT STROKES guest-starring Gordon Jump, or as anything anybody should be particularly concerned about. It’s just joke fodder. Oh Japan, you so crazy.

Yes, even in the opening credits.
When he isn’t trying for the inappropriate touch, Dr. Kiwi is working the whole DR SLUMP comedy inventor motif pretty hard. The show as a whole owes a lot to DR SLUMP, actually; a wacky SF gag show starring a loser inventor can’t help but feel similar. Of course Dr. Slump lusts after the more age-appropriate Midori and rightfully considers 13-year old Akane a total pest.

creepy Dr. Kiwi 
Anyway, in between his “Barely Legal” subscription renewals, Dr. Kiwi invented a super metal out of stuff he had lying around the house. Just in time too, because the Universal Real Estate Syndicate has arrived to carve Earth up into subdivisions and turn it into a galactic Levittown with their legions of giant combat robot Century 21 sales representatives. This is terrible for just about everybody except Dr. Kiwi, because Dr. Kiwi has been using the threat of alien invasion to bilk cash out of people for years. Now that the aliens have finally arrived for real, it’s time for Dr. Kiwi to deliver the goods!

Michael, Patty, Dr. Kiwi, annoying rich kid Camille Cashmere
Since Dr. Kiwi spends a lot of time hanging around the local junior high (WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN??) he knows Michael Marsh, your typical clean-cut wide-awake youth. Michael has a squat robot watchdog-buddy named Janbu, which after some retooling from Dr. Kiwi is suddenly able to transform into Galatt, a brave robot fighter with a Galatt Blaster, a Galatt Javelin, etc. Michael’s girlfriend, the aforementioned, long-suffering Patty Pumpkin, ALSO has a robot helper, and this “Patigu” also gets the power upgrade –including factory-standard Patigu Slicer and Patigu Shot. When annoying rich kid / rival Reggie Mantle – er, I mean Camille Cashmere comes to town, his robot butler “Kamigu” also gets the Galatt treatment to become an 8.8 meter robot with a green color scheme, and a bazooka.

our heroes and their robots in upgrade mode
And just when you think things were getting too linear, the show will casually toss in a cameo from the Sumo Sisters, “Dosukoi the elder and younger”, two schoolgirls whose name is a sumo wrestler exclamation and whose task in GALATT is to keep the nonsense at appropriately high levels.
okay then
Veteran mecha designer (you’ve seen his work in something called GUNDAM) Kunio Okawara’s substantial yet classy design work is on full display in GALATT; the cutesy Janbu robots are both functional and friendly and the Galatt-sized combat mecha satisfy both as inspirational pieces of design and as fighting machines. Guest mechanical designs were by Koichi Ohata, known for his later work on everybody’s second least favorite anime M.D. GEIST. Character designer Toyoo Ashida, credited on everything from SPACE BOY SORAN to SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, from DEL POWER X to, unsurprisingly, WATARU and GRANZORT, brings his 1980s A-game to the show with headbands, sideways-mounted sun visors, and the popular “overalls with one strap down” look for ladies that has mesmerized the male gaze since overalls were invented.
Galatt LP cover art by T. Ashida
And that’s the show; Michael, Patty and Camille battle space pirates and evil plans of the Galactic Real Estate Overlords while defending Patty’s virtue from the grotesquely inappropriate advances of Dr. Kiwi. GALATT fansubs are nonexistent and even raw Japanese episodes were hard to come by, so the series didn’t get the same critical examination afforded anime from the same time period. Considered alongside contemporary shows like VIFAM, GIANT GORG, etc, it would be easy to assume GALATT has the same narrative heft. But let’s face it, VIFAM this ain’t. GALATT’s a lightweight; a gag-a-minute show with pleasant visuals and a disturbing pedo subtext that likely explains its absence from the overseas market.

Patty's super robot combat suit by Jockey For Her

Poorly translated GALATT episode guide:
1. Galatt challenges the arrival of evil!
2. If a dog barks, a mechanical monster will appear!
3. The appearance of Camille, the beautiful rival!
4. Born with a smile – Patigu!
5. Dangerous mistake! Good weather is sometimes bad
6. Kisses are wasted on pirate children
7. Find the master thief, Janbu!
8. Eggs falling from the sky?
9. Battle! This obstacle course is murder!
10. Is it an ancient romance? The Doctor’s Abnormal Greed
11. Wandering Hero: Space I
12. Dinosaur Ranch Death Duel: Space II
13. A Stuntman Reeks Of Danger: Space III
14. The Messenger Of Justice Is A Bounty Hunter? Space IV
15. Return With A Disadvantage
16. The Customer Has Psychic Powers?
17. Remember to dance, Janbu!
18. The Doctor’s End Is Cold
19. Heart Pounding! A Corps Of Beautiful Women in the Clouds?
20. Galatt might also like love
21. What the heck? Sara Marian Dothan is kidnapped?
22. Meow of surprise! Tsu Mihi’s exclamation of love!
23. Galatt crisis – Michael’s mistake!
24. Never surrender! Battle of the fireworks counterattack!
25. Shout it out loud – DOSUKOI!

It's cool when girls hit on you but NOT LIKE THIS
We can’t fault GALATT for being merely diverting – let’s be honest, one of the characters is named “Patty Pumpkin”, and expecting it to be another XABUNGLE or L.GAIM is asking too much. Like they say in the fight game, you gotta punch your weight, and as a zany gag show involving space robots and whacked-out mad scientists GALATT holds its own with the best of this admittedly small sub-sub genre.


good-bye

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Lupin III The Mystery Of The Secret Of Mamo

(this review of Pioneer's LUPIN III: SECRET OF MAMO originally appeared at the ANIME JUMP website in 2004.)

Funny how perspective changes things. When I first saw SECRET OF MAMO, back before you were born, I had already seen Miyazaki’s Lupin film CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO. Little did I know that the clean-cut, dapper, chivalrous Lupin of CAGLIOSTRO was not in fact the norm – was actually a total departure from Lupin’s true nature. When that faded-out thirteenth generation color bar faded from view and MAMO started, I was appalled. Not just at the incredibly lousy copy, but because MAMO’s Lupin wasn’t the charming rogue of CAGLIOSTRO. No, this Lupin was the perfect freewheeling bastard, a larcenous, horny, hairy-chested swaggering chainsmoking sonovabitch who fought dirty and attempted to molest Fujiko at every opportunity. In other words, what we’re seeing is the real Lupin III.



Of course this film's actual title is simply "LUPIN III". The original, unreleased English dub was designated “Mystery Of Mamo”, an appellation that stuck thanks to the thousands of home copies that were distributed through the American anime fan world of the ‘80s. An apt title; who dubbed this film? What was the purpose? Where was it shown? It’s a mystery, a mystery of Mamo, one might say. Theories range from the film being screened for the Armed Forces Network in America’s Japanese military bases, to a version produced for the inflight movies of JAL. This dub has surfaced attached to Lupin releases in Italian and Dutch. And maybe someday some intrepid reporter will track down who dubbed this film and why they changed Fujiko’s name to Margo. But I digress.



SECRET OF MAMO has been rendered into English four times – five if you count the scenes included in the CLIFF HANGER Laserdisc videogame. Curiously, even this latest Pioneer version – lovely DVD transfer, swell extras and all, does not measure up to the original “Mystery” dub. But that’s OK. You can’t beat perfection.

This film wastes no time; it opens with Lupin III being executed. Naturally, Lupin’s Interpol nemesis Inspector Zenigata is skeptical. His suspicion pays off in Transylvania, where a living, breathing Lupin escapes his clutches. Zenigata’s next ambush at the Great Pyramid in Egypt also fails to catch Lupin, who escapes along with fellow rogue Jigen with the Philosopher’s Stone in tow. Why is Lupin risking life and limb to swipe a mythical piece of rock? And why is he in Paris, handing it over to Fujiko, his double-crossing sometimes girlfriend?

The mystery is revealed along with Mamo, a blue-skinned dwarf resembling an underfed Paul Williams who is quite possibly the most powerful man in the world. To capture the Stone, his agents turn Paris into a battleground complete with attack helicopters and monster trucks. I don’t mean balloon-wheeled pickups, I mean monster 18-wheelers that roar like prehistoric beasts.



The rest of SECRET OF MAMO is a whirlwind of philosophical speculation and wild globe-trotting action. A crucified, brain-tapped Lupin betrays his overwhelming subconscious desires for women and Pop Rocks, a thinly disguised Henry Kissinger threatens Goemon and Jigen with America’s military might, and Zenigata wanders around Mamo’s secret Caribbean island, interrogating famous historical figures in an attempt to finally capture Lupin. The ten-thousand-year-old genius Mamo has cloned himself countless times; human history is a result of his constant interference. Is humanity powerless to stop this diminutive psuedo-deity? Will he succeed in destroying the world and replacing the teeming masses with his private collection of immortals? Will Fujiko choose eternal life - or Lupin?

Our heroes escape the Air Force bombardment of Mamo’s island and regroup in Colombia, where who should appear floating in the window? Mamo still lives, and with Fujiko mesmerized, departs to begin his campaign of world destruction. Alone, Lupin stakes his life on one gamble – that Mamo isn’t the god he appears to be, and that he himself is the one and only original Lupin III.



It’s at this point that MAMO really distinguishes itself. Lupin has been deserted by his most faithful companions, and even his hideouts, weapons, and wealth are gone – and yet he’s clawing his way up the Andes, facing down what may be an immortal super-genius with nothing more than a tacky blazer and a few homemade gadgets. Meanwhile, Inspector Zenigata defies direct Interpol orders and resigns – to continue chasing Lupin. Here’s where Zenigata and Lupin become brothers, both fighting for what makes life worth living.

SECRET OF MAMO seethes with this kind of philosophical subtext, but never forgets to entertain. The movie is a big, brawling, colorful set-piece adventure filmed in one hundred percent Tohoscope, full of nods to spaghetti westerns, James Bond, Hitchcock and even 2001. Lupin breezes through Paris, Egypt, Colombia, and the works of De Chirico and Dali without a backward glance. It’s the kind of film where Henry Kissinger lights his cigar with a lighter set in the torch of the Statue Of Liberty, where earthquakes are faked by detonating underground nuclear power plants, and Hitler and Napoleon brood on a Caribbean island – and when Our Heroes learn the Terrible Truth behind What Is Really Going On, they’re more interested in finding a place to neck. After all, they already know everything they know is wrong.

Yet where another, lesser film would get bogged down in boring What Does It All Mean mumbo-jumbo, MAMO never forgets its roots as an animated cartoon, heir to the tradition of Wacky Gags handed down from Tom & Jerry and the ouvre of the Warner Brothers. Throwaway jokes and visual puns abound; for instance, when a low-flying plane barely misses Lupin on a strafing run, its landing gear skids across Lupin’s head and leaves tire tracks, and what would be a fairly gory finish to one of Goemon’s sword fights has the shock value removed by what can only be described as a “sight” gag.



The Lupin franchise really put the animation studio TMS on the map, and it’s easy to see how MAMO turned them from a reasonably successful TV cartoon studio into one capable of holding its own in the cinema. MAMO’s widescreen is used to good advantage, with panoramic views of the film’s many locations giving the more fanciful aspects of the plot some solid ground to rest upon. The crew from the original 1972 Lupin TV series was reassembled for this film, and it’s evident from the painstakingly accurate vehicles, weapons, and gadgetry that the designers take great love in bringing realism to the cartoon world. I think the Lupin franchise –heck, culture as a whole - lost something when consumer electronics quit being hulking great boxes of leather and chrome with giant dials and knobs- it hearkens back to the golden age of home stereo when receivers and amplifiers were complicated, woodgrain combinations of function and form that looked impressive as hell on your bookshelf, instead of the insubstantial products of today. When you find out that history is worse than bunk, nothing more than the bored pastime of a crazed, ancient dwarf – what’s left but total, Playboy Philosophy, leather-interior, Hai-Karate soaked, quadrophonically amplified 70s style hedonism? This was a movie for grownups in 1978, and it’s even more so now; do kids today even know who Henry Kissinger is, let alone recognize the Clark Bar superhero contest ad when they see it?


It may just be the countless screenings of crappy bootleg copies talking, but this DVD looks FANTASTIC. There’s not a scene where my jaw wasn’t scraping the floor, agape in awe at how stupidly CLEAR everything is. I’ll come right out and say that Pioneer’s new dub isn’t bad. In fact, if I hadn’t had the soundtrack of the original “Mystery” dub burned permanently into my brain, gain hiss and all, I’d think it was fine. However, I have, and I don’t. Pioneer’s dub is not only not as funny as the original dub, it takes liberties with the original script that not only aren’t as funny or as dramatic, but in a few cases are just plain wrong, and once or twice they simply take this film places the film doesn’t want to go and in fact has made it pretty clear that it never wants to be anywhere near.


Henry Kissinger reads an issue of Lupin Comics featuring the famous Clark Bar Superhero Contest ad, now starring Lupin - edited from the American DVD release for obvious reasons.
The original “Mystery” dub is actually the closest yet to the original Japanese dialog. I don’t see why these outfits knock themselves out writing new lines when perfectly good dialog already exists. Sure, the Pioneer voice actors do a great job. Tony Oliver does a tremendous job with Lupin, and while Zenigata’s Jake Martin gets a bit too cowboy at times, he approaches the role with the right amount of bluster.

Luckily this new DVD comes with subtitles, so you can get the full effect of Jigen preparing to abandon Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart, albeit in Japanese. The disk also includes a digitized version of the original movie program book – the DVD booklet is a translation of same –and an art gallery full of conceptual sketches of all the characters in the film, and a few that aren’t. It ALSO comes with a Lupin keychain, which is kinda cool.

Not that I’ve seen all eleventy-hundred Lupin films, but of the ones I’ve seen, MAMO stands out as my favorite. There are plenty of Lupin adventures with gags, exotic locales, outrageous escapades, and other trademarks of the series, but MAMO combines the typical Lupin ingredients with a Cinemascope sense of spectacle and a good chunk of post-Watergate 70s cynicism (Can a Japanese film be “post-Watergate”?). Paradoxically, the outrageousness of Lupin works best when firmly rooted in the real world, and there’s not a Lupin film more outrageous yet more authentic than THE SECRET OF MAMO.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

can't stop the littles

North American anime fans impatiently await a release date for Studio Ghibli’s new picture ARRIETTY THE BORROWERS, based on Mary Norton’s children’s books. But didja know that this isn’t the first time a Japanese animation studio has produced work based on Western stories about a race of tiny people that live in our walls? Huh? Didja?



THE LITTLES was one of the earliest animated series produced by DIC Entertainment – once the entertainment powerhouse responsible for INSPECTOR GADGET, THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS, part of CAPTAIN PLANET, some of the English dub of SAILOR MOON, and many others – now, after mergers and buyouts, a completely different beast altogether. But in the glory days of the 80s DIC was the kidvid king, responsible for giving many Western cartoons a distinctly international flair. Their Japan connection, producer Tetsuo Katayama, spearheaded Miyazaki’s CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO over at TMS. This relationship would pay big dividends as the Japanese studio was tapped to provide animation for a wide variety of DIC projects, including the aforementioned INSPECTOR GADGET, the Homeric SF adaptation ULYSSES 31, the video game tie-in POLE POSITION, Cousin Oliver’s comeback show KIDD VIDEO, and of course, THE LITTLES.



A loose adaptation of the children’s books by John Peterson, DIC’s THE LITTLES began a three-year run on ABC in 1983. The adventures of Tom and Lucy Little, their parents Frank and Helen, Grandpa and goofy aviation enthusiast Cousin Dinky as they survive inside the walls of the Bigg family house – with the help of normal-sized Henry Bigg – were popular enough to spawn both a feature film and a TV special, as well as resurrection in the syndication television afterlife and on DVD.



Up against Saturday morning cartoon rivals like THE GARY COLEMAN SHOW, RUBIK THE AMAZING CUBE, DUKES OF HAZZARD, MR. T, BENJI ZAX & THE ALIEN PRINCE, and of course BISKITTS, television viewers couldn’t help but notice THE LITTLES’ clean-line look and solid animation backbone. Unlike THE SMURFS, THE LITTLES had to ground its fantasy elements firmly against the real world of 1980s suburban housing. You can’t cheat your way through animating a series about tiny people that live in crawlspaces and underneath floorboards. The show’s versimilitude proved the fantasy staple of magical beings lurking in the nooks and crannies of the ‘real world’ translates well to television. Personally I was a little older than the target audience, but I enjoyed THE LITTLES regardless; how else was I gonna kill time before the premiere of MIGHTY ORBOTS?



There’s a strange appeal in tales of hidden creatures living on the margins of the human world – MRS FRISBY & THE RATS OF NIMH is still a juvenile SF favorite (and would get a big-screen animated adaptation around this time, though Disneyfied with enough magical fairy dust to make my teeth itch) and I’m pretty sure I read at least one of the original Littles novels to be at least familiar with the concept.


Henry and the Littles (with pet turtle Slick), the Bigg family, Dr. Hunter and his life partner Jeffrey

Viewed 25 years later THE LITTLES is aggressively 80s, from the lowercase font of its title to the pastel colors of the characters clothes, from the boxy compact cars the Bigg family drives to the dirt bike (and helmet, can’t forget the helmet) Henry uses to get around town from one Littles-infested crisis to another. Chased by Doctor Hunter and his assistant, LITTLES author John Peterson (!!), the Littles civilization is always at risk of being exposed to the outside, giant-sized world. This doesn’t stop them from using the big people as a template for their own lifestyle – there are apparently enough Littles living in our cellars and attics to require Littles-sized highways, filled with Littles traffic, running through our cities. One hopes the Littles are thankful for whatever zoning board decreed all structures needed lots of air vents and steam tunnels. When they aren’t going about their mysterious Littles business, Tom and Lucy always have time to help Henry out of a jam - complicated as usual by the antics of Cousin Dinky- and Grandpa can always deliver a lecture about how drugs are bad or how stealing is wrong, except when the Littles use it as the basis of their civilization. Well, that’s not really stealing. We didn’t need all that stuff anyway, go ahead, take it. THE LITTLES – charming children’s fantasy, or commentary on the wasteful nature of Western civilization? You decide.





Miyazaki's 'Famous Detective Holmes' makes an appearance

Episodes were capped with a “make it yourself” segment usually involving pipe cleaners, balloons, straws, scotch tape, and elementary laws of physics. In the third season of the series Henry’s family travelled the world (with Littles in tow) and the end segments became history or geography lessons. I’d quit watching by that time. My Friday nights were lasting a lot longer – movie theater popcorn isn’t going to pop itself, y’know – and my early Saturday mornings were spent sleeping instead of watching cartoons. Did the little people living inside our HVAC system shed a tear as one more viewer succumed to creeping teenageism? Only THE LITTLES know.

Friday, September 24, 2010

FLYING WARPED BOY

“Did I just see that?” It’s a question that used to be heard a lot more among anime fans, before Japan figured out they could sell these things to America and started tailoring their cartoons to the desires of a small but impulse-control poor community. No, used to be you’d throw in a VHS tape of something you vaguely comprehended, like Captain Harlock or Nausicaa, and stuck on the end of it would be an episode of some absolutely insane gag cartoon that you honestly didn’t believe you were seeing. Thank goodness for the pause and rewind buttons.




I’m speaking, of course, of RANPOU, or “Warped Boy Rampoo” as you may have seen it scrawled in marker on the label of your Fuji T-120. This 1984 series, a mere 21 episodes worth, was like all the wacky parts of the wackiest URUSEI YATSURA episodes, only with all the extraneous, non-comedy stuff left on the side of the road.


Ranpou meets Godzilla and Ultraman, rides a hoverbike, cuts one.

Yeah, I know, Japanese animation is serious adult science fiction drama for mature viewers like you. Only it isn’t and never was; “anime” also contains plenty of Warner Brothers style sight gags and inexplicable pop culture references. For every deathly serious blood-splattered action adventure, there’s a gag comedy full of Scooby-Doo style chases, hammers that strike with a fun “BONG!” and mischievous animal sidekicks that are always there to cause more trouble.

That’s the story with RANPOU. Produced by NAS (Nihon Ad Systems), the television anime first aired in April of 1984 and lasted all the way to September of that same year. Abandoned by a fickle public, or victim of the same sponsor-bankruptcy fate that struck many other anime series in the latter half of ’84? Certainly not because of laughs, because that’s all this show is. Our title character used to be a dreamy, handsome, fairly normal junior high kid – and then he got a little close to a flying saucer, which kidnapped him and turned him into a squat, blonde troublemaker. Or is this really some kind of alien plot?


Ranpou before his tragic UFO accident.

Teachers, classmates, monsters, office buildings, other planets – all bow before Ranpou, whose little mouse friend Chutaro invents crazy inventions and whose farts – yes, fart jokes – are classified as weapons of mass destruction. This gleefully anarchic program can’t go thirty seconds without somebody’s skirt getting lifted, somebody shooting a laser pistol at a giant cockroach, or somebody getting hit repeatedly in the nuts to the accompaniment of a cheerfully painful GONG BONG GONG.


Hiroshi-sensei, Mutsumi, Iwasaki-sensei & Ranpou catch a train

Everybody’s favorite is the episode that presages virtual reality by a few years, in which Ranpou becomes Captain Harlock, girlfriend Mutsumi cosplays Nausicaa, and long-suffering schoolteacher Hiroshi is forced to portray FUTURE BOY CONAN’s Lepka in a hodge-podge mish-mash of MACROSS references and Miss Iwasaki bowling alley sight gags involving the theft of a giant gemstone.


Copyright infringement is your best entertainment value.

Masatoshi Uchizaki’s original RANPOU manga ran for nearly ten years in Weekly Boys Champion, racking up an impressive 37 volumes of collected tankubon. However, print success doesn’t always translate to cartoon longevity.


Manga Ranpou from '78

RANPOU the TV anime suffered because of a later time slot that went up against baseball games in some markets, never a good idea. The last episode didn’t even air in some markets. RANPOU has never been released on any kind of home video, another crime left unpunished – so if you wanna see it you better know somebody. And that’s a shame, because RANPOU is exactly the kind of irresponsible fun that people watch cartoons for in the first place.


Monday, August 16, 2010

spreading the japanimation gospel

In the days before "anime cons", we had to express our enthusiasms for Japanese cartoons in different venues. This meant hurling ourselves at the gates of the local comic book, Star Trek, Dr. Who, gaming, fantasy, and sci-fi conventions. But could the world of anime succeed in a head-to-head battle with Mr. Spock and/or Darth Vader? Yes it could and it did, and we have the con publications to prove it.

encounter8

I know nothing about the Kansas convention advertised here, other than that it featured fanart of Grandizer and therefore caught my eye. But soon, the spectre of Japanimation found its way to my home town in the form of the Atlanta Fantasy Fair.

aff86

At the time Atlanta's largest fandom convention, the AFF started in 1975 and by the mid 1980s had realized these big-eye cartoons from Japan could very well be an attractive inducement to potential Fantasy Fairers.

aff86video1

Not to be outdone, other Atlanta SF cons also jumped onto the Japanimation bandwagon with both Starfleet-booted feet.

dixietrek86anime

You'd think a convention called Dixie-Trek would be strictly Trekariffic, but they embraced the philosophy of "IDIC" and expanded their worldview to include Dr. Who, Blake's 7, comic artists, and eternal con guest Brad Strickland. And Japanese animation.

dixietrek88anime

By 1988 the anime fan community in Atlanta was secure enough in its masculinity to break down the walls of tradition, smash the prejudicial, provincial attitudes of the bourgeouis, and run the darn anime rooms themselves. And when the convention wouldn't give us a room to show anime, we would just rent a guest room and bring a few VCRs and throw a TV Party.

cfo party

By the early 1990s the march of technology was unstoppable and new video formats were making the old fashioned VHS tape a thing of the past.

aff90laserdisc

I was on staff by this time and had chiselled my way into running the anime room, the schedule of which is an informative document showing exactly what people wanted to see in 1990. Or at least what *I* thought people wanted to see. And no, I am not responsible for the typos, as amusing as it might be to contemplate watching something called "Riding Beam".

aff90anime

By 1991 I was running both video rooms, as evidenced by the trend towards Godzilla films, Twin Peaks, SubGenius propaganda, and my very favorite Star Trek episode.

aff91anime

Here's a tip for time-travelling anime room programmers - as much as you like Future Boy Conan, nobody wants to watch 13 un-subtitled episodes of it in a row starting at 2:30am. Take my word for it.

By a strange coincidence the last year for the AFF was also the first year for AWA and our energies became focused on our own convention world, leaving the comic book and Star Trek conventions to wither away, deprived of the life-giving force of Japanese cartoons. Don't let your convention die - show some anime already! Preferably RIDING BEAM or ORNGE ROAD.
(thanks to Devlin Thompson for much of this archival material)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

F IS FOR FAKE

Okay, I guess "fake" is too strong a word. In fact I don't want to even call these "bootlegs" because honestly, they don't represent knockoffs of already established product. But there's a degree of copywrong in the provenance of these pieces that speaks volumes about the desire for Japanese anime characters, as well as the casual disregard for intellectual property that has been the hallmark of Japanese animation's impact outside Japan.



If it's the 1980s, kids are crazy for robots, even in the form of cheap, tiny coloring books meant to be handed out as door prizes or favors at birthday parties, perhaps at Showbiz Pizza. And just think, that cheap coloring book you threw away because you were 8 and had no idea of the dramatic struggle of White Base to survive the Zeon onslaught was actually pirating artwork from a famous Japanese anime series! Let's look inside.



In spite of the Gundam cover, the characters inside are from Star Musketeer Bismark. Because... they couldn't find art to trace of Char or Amuro? Somebody really liked Marianne Louvre? Who knows? All I know is now I need something to put my crayons in.



Luckily this soft vinyl-covered pencil case will do the trick! And hey, it's not going to bother with your typical RX-78 Gundam, but instead chose to decorate itself with a weird approximation of what appears to be a RMS-179/RGM-79R GM II, the Earth Federation's mass production mobile suit from Zeta Gundam. I guess my pencils feel kind of safe, sort of.



The Gundam theme continues on the back with a fairly accurate GunCannon and hey, from a completely different series produced by a completely different studio, it's a Cyclone from Tatsunoko's Genesis Climber Mospeada! Because when you're using unauthorized artwork sometimes you just have to go a little crazy.

So let's take a break from all this pen and paper stuff and play some cheap plastic hand-held pinball. Surely this inexpensive dollar store party favor type game won't feature appopriated character art!



Oh wait. That's a soccer-playing Sailor Mercury going for the gold, isn't it?



Yup, it sure is, her Mercury Healing Tiara contrasting nicely with her striped soccer jersey. I suppose there was a time in the 1990s when it was thought you could sell anything with Sailor Moon characters. On the other hand, I did actually buy this thing, so I guess their plan succeeded.

Speaking of satisfying toy play value, it's hard to beat cheap Taiwanese knockoff robots for some good robot toy "fun".



Combining the classical looks of Mazinger Z with the trendy lion motif of Voltron, the "Lionbot" stands ready to defend himself against all the copyright lawyers in the galaxy!



This box art was apparently copied right off the side of THE GREATEST AIRBRUSHED CUSTOM VAN EVER. The other robot isn't a Lionbot, but Tiger Mask captured in a rare moment cosplaying as Great Mazinger.

So just let your feelings about intellectual property and quality childrens toys retreat into the background. Unless you want Lionbot to open you up a clumsily-painted, badly-cast, frosty cold can of BEAT-DOWN!