Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Anime Hell 80s Night II: The Return

It's summertime and that means just one thing: I take over the screening room at one of North America's last remaining video stores and drop a few hours of ANIME HELL upon an audience of scenesters and cineastes. This Saturday night I'll be in the back of Eyesore Cinema here in Toronto showing three 80s anime classics, some of which were anime-fan must-haves, others virtually-unseen cult classics, and still others modern-day icons of outrageousness. 

Fight! Iczer One, the thrilling saga of lushly-illustrated space lesbians battling for the fate of Earth itself, was released in October 1985. Written, directed and character designed by 80s anime MVP Toshiki Hirano, Iczer One tells the story of an Earth under attack by alien invaders called "Cthulhu" who infiltrate and replace humans with parasites known as "Vedims". Mysterious fighter Iczer One must find a human with whom she can "synchronize" and control the Izcer Robo to defeat the aliens! Iczer One is based on the original manga that appeared in the magazine "Lemon People," portions of which are probably illegal in Canada. 

Flying Warped Boy Ranpou aired for 21 episodes in 1984, produced by the animation division of an ad agency and broadcast opposite major league baseball, not a great programming decision on somebody's part. Ranpou was a normal high school kid who was kidnapped by a flying saucer and returned to earth shorter and goofier and with a talking mouse companion who is also a genius inventor. When he's not harassing Coach Hiroshi or Miss Iwasaki, his teachers, he's harassing his girlfriend Mutsumi. This zany gag comedy series is based on a manga that ran for nearly ten years in Shonen Champion, and has never been released on any kind of home video anywhere. Without 80s anime nerds swapping VHS tapes through the mail we'd never be able to see this show. You're welcome!

Mad Bull 34 the anime was released in December 1990, which completely defeats my 1980s theme, but hey, it's based on the 1980s manga drawn by Noriyoshi Inoue and written by Kazuo Koike, who also gave us Lone Wolf And Cub and who passed away recently. So relax. This is the story of Daizaburo Ban, a New York City cop assigned to the tough 34th Precinct, where his partner is John "Sleepy" Estes, a giant monster of a policeman who is WAY OUTTA LINE, YOU'RE THROUGH, TURN IN YOUR BADGE! This ridiculously hardboiled piece of attempted grindhouse mixes cartoony slapstick with ultra-violence and is one of those "not for kids" Japanimations you're always hearing about. 

If you're in town, come on over Saturday! Doors open at 7:30, show starts at 8! That's Eyesore Cinema, 1176 Bloor West, Toronto Ontario Canada!

Monday, June 10, 2019

SSX, Eternally Orbiting

The 1980s! Not the sexy Miami Vice 1980s of pastel blazers, cocaine, and insider trading, but the nerdy suburban 1980s of cartoons, comic books, and computer clubs. Specifically the computer club in Conyers Georgia, where I'm off in the corner luring future Bill Gateses and Steve Jobses away from their Commodores and Apple II s with Eternal Orbit SSX on a 13 inch color TV. 

Eternal Orbit SSX was a TV sequel to a movie we'd never seen, itself the prequel to a TV show we'd also never seen, starring characters we didn't know in a language we didn't understand. But none of that mattered, because of Japanese animation's power to entertain across cultural boundaries in general, and specifically because SSX is all about Captain Harlock in black leather and scars and big stompy space boots, tooling around outer space in a giant battleship with a skull on the front, blowing things up in ways that nerdy 80s teens literally could not stop watching. 

Especially riveting for that computer club crowd was a scene in episode 4. Harlock's blasting his way through a space station crawling with faceless enemy-alien Illumidas soldiers. Suddenly he finds himself at bay, faced with a squad holding Kei Yuki and her space-journalist father hostage. They open fire. Harlock uses his cloak to mask his movements, Shadow style, and leaps from the ceiling to blast down the rest of the soldiers. Struck down, the Illumidas commander struggles to lift his pistol. Harlock stares as the gun barrel rises, pauses, falls. Then Harlock casually raises his own Cosmo-gun and blasts that Illumidas commander point blank in the skull. 

This is not the kind of cartoon hero behavior we expected in the 1980s. In fact I don't know if we expect this kind of behavior now. What I do know is that when screened for unsuspecting '80s audiences, this was surefire 100% entertainment. And yet, in spite of moments like this, Eternal Orbit SSX failed to find a TV audience in Japan, was cancelled after half a year, and took thirty-six (!!) years to legitimately reach English-language audiences. 

SSX wasn't popular in Japan and it wasn’t particularly popular with the Western anime fans that finally caught up with the show later in the decade. Raised on the transforming fighter planes of Macross and Mospeada, the space colony mecha warfare of Zeta Gundam, and the male-gaze girls' school battles of Project A-Ko, these 1980s-style anime nerds didn't have time for yet another trip with a very 70s space pirate. 

Were we experiencing Matsumoto burnout? After three series and four films worth of Space Battleship Yamato, after one Harlock TV series and a Harlock movie, after Galaxy Expresses and Danguard Aces and Starzingers, with a Queen Millenia looming on the horizon, maybe we'd had enough of Leiji Matsumoto for a while. SSX became a coda for that era, a winding down of a time when SF cartoons meant fleets of battleships, impossibly thin female leads, and supporting casts of squat dudes with crazy hair and thick glasses. All that would vanish with SSX

A sequel to the 1982 Toei feature Arcadia Of My Youth, Eternal Orbit SSX (airing October 13, 1982 – March 30, 1983) continued that film's narrative of an Earth defeated by the Illumidas Empire and how forcibly demobilized Solar Federation space battleship captain Harlock chases away those defeat blues by teaming up with his engineer pal Tochiro Oyama, donning a new set of sharp space pirate threads, and blasting off in the giant unstoppable space battleship Arcadia, conveniently built by Tochiro just in case some cosmic freebooting became necessary. Together with galactic free-trader Emeraldas (herself another satisfied space battleship owner) the trio seek freedom in the cosmos away from the quisling Earth Occupation Government and the ever expanding reach of the Illumidas. 

SSX literally starts before Arcadia Of My Youth ends. The film's final battle scene is recut for TV to include audience-identification character Tadashi Monono, a young wanna-be bounty hunter who splits the difference between 999’s Tetsuro and the 1978 Harlock’s Daiba - he’s too young to shave, but old enough to know he’s better suited cooking for the Arcadia’s crew than he is as a space gunslinger. In a Matsumotoverse that usually extols the never-flinching last-stand steadfastness of never ever backing down, Monono shines as one of the few characters allowed to change his mind, exhibit personal growth, and to royally screw up on occasion. 

The rest of SSX’s supporting cast also feels like slightly-off version of characters we’ve previously seen. Revi fills the “little girl” position Mayu will fill in 1978, while being a carbon copy of (and sharing a voice actor with) the doomed Mira we saw in the Arcadia movie. Dr. Ban is probaby the most professional and least alcoholic of any of the squat Matsumoto space doctors. Kei Yuki, here the daughter of a space journalist instead of a space scientist, is still rocking that red and blue outfit, but gets even less to do here than in 1978. The faceless lady alien quota is filled by Arcadia Of My Youth's La Mime, who is not the Miime we saw in '78, but that Miime’s sister, or so we would have learned, had SSX not gotten the axe. 

no ghosts or onions on the Arcadia, please

Emeraldas, the X in SSX, remains an enigmatic astral traveler, but spends most of this series absurdly unseen. She stars in a slew of her own easily adaptable manga adventures that could easily fill a third of the screen time, but SSX won't let her. Even episode 7, “X is Emeraldas”, is mostly people talking about Emeraldas, or Emeraldas seen in footage from Arcadia Of My Youth, or our Arcadia crew rescuing Emeraldas from an Illumidas trap. We'll see the same in the other Emeraldas-themed episode, “Save Emeraldas.” With only 22 episodes, this series shouldn't be repeating itself. 

Apologies to the gals but this is Captain Harlock's show and he's in just about every shot, whether he's looking stern at the wheel of the Arcadia, dodging Illumidas task forces, negotiating his way through a galaxy under occupation, or trying to tie together plot threads that dangle all the way from the Galaxy Express film to the '78 Harlock series, counting on his baked-in charisma to carry SSX past the rough patches of clunky animation, creaky sci fi-cliche stories, and a ponderous cosmic seriousness leavened only slightly by Tochiro Oyama's everyman lack of pretense. As a genius inventor Tochiro is always there to repair machines, act as comedy relief to Harlock's straight man, deliver useful expository dialogue to supporting characters, and pine after Emeraldas, whom he never really spends any time with at all. Aren't they supposed to have a kid together? 

Tochiro built the Arcadia, but his other technological triumph is the SSX. Not the SSX that stands for the Illumidas outlaw designations assigned to Harlock, Tochiro, and Emeraldas, but the SSX that's the codename for the orbiting fortress Tochiro built during the war as a secret supply and repair base. The Solar Federation's capitulation forestalled its deployment, but Harlock and crew find it indispensable. The SSX is a central unit with eight disc-shaped sections that can be deployed independently, is sometimes disguised as a comet, and the whole thing travels in an endless orbit (get it?). 

SSX the TV series also meanders a bit. The show coasts on the epic Wagnerian cosmic-opera momentum of the Arcadia film, but fails to generate its own Weltanschauung. SSX doesn't have charismatic arch-enemies or an evil master plan to thwart. We're never told exactly where the Illumidas came from or why they're hell-bent on conquering the galaxy. Give it a few episodes and we start to wonder exactly how the Illumidas conquered their empire in the first place. They seem to be a collection of incompetents and screwups run ragged by a one-eyed guy in a tacky green spaceship. The Illumidas don't have Desslars, Domels or Hakkens or any of those handsome Matsumoto bad boys you love to hate. Just faceless green goons, their storm troopers sleek and slim, a faint echo of the Mechanized Empire troopers from Adieu 999

Arcadia vs Deathshadow

The most memorable SSX enemies are all turncoat Earthmen forced by circumstance to fight for the Illumidas, who at least exercise commendable thrift in putting their conquered foes to work. Grounded space captain Bentselle signs on to fight Harlock in Harlock’s old ship the Deathshadow, last seen crashlanding in the Arcadia film.This tragic encounter leaves Bentselle a mechanized survivor, who, having apparently seen the Galaxy Express 999 film, eventually beaches the Deathshadow in its designated parking spot on planet Heavy Meldar. Former Solar Federation spaceship designer and 1850s riverboat gamber fashion victim Mr. Zone becomes the show's primary antagonist by default. Carrying out a prewar grudge against Harlock by wheedling ships and crews out of the Illumidas and using them up in one ill-fated scheme after another, Zone's obsession has its own hidden agenda, as we learn late in the show. Speaking of turncoats and quislings, the traitor Earth prime minster Triter briefly reprises his role from the Arcadia film. Triter shows up for two seconds early on and then vanishes completely from the narrative, depriving SSX of what might have been an enjoyable, thoroughly contemptible character. 

the hateful and stylish Mr. Zone

How does this hands-off management style work for the Illumidas? Poorly. The Arcadia flies rings around the junkyard of lame, non-souped-up wimpmobiles that creak out of the Illumidas’ outer-space shipyards. Their fleet includes cigar-shaped wuss-boxes, flattened shoebox deathtraps, and agglomerations of cylinders and cubes that seem like rejected mechanical designs from other, more successfully designed series. These are not space battleships anybody would want to build model kits of, perhaps another reason SSX didn’t last very long. 

The Illumidas were perhaps intended as filler; the original Eternal Orbit SSX plan was for the series to wedge itself firmly into the Galaxy Express 999 mythos. There's a hint of this in the first episode, in which 999's Maetel is listed as a wanted criminal alongside Harlock. Supposedly the machine people were to rise up as a menace, Toei would insert that sweet Harlock footage from the 999 films, eventually they'd battle the Black Knight as seen in Adieu 999, and then SSX would end right where the 1978 Harlock series starts. I'll give team SSX points for anticipating the current trend of prequels and sequels and timeline-jumping that replaces actual interesting writing in today's genre media, but we'll never know if SSX's version of the Mechanized Empire would have clicked with TV audiences or not, because those TV audiences had had quite enough of SSX, thank you. 

The series is Harlock with the weird edges filed down, minus all the meandering ancient astronaut stuff from 1978 and with the WWII metaphors dialed way, way back. SSX lacks Space Battleship Yamato's quasi-religious sense of the unknown galaxies and there’s none of the wistful romanticism of Galaxy Express 999. SSX is all business, and that business is watching the clock and waiting for quitting time. Contrast that to a show where cute girls fight for the love of a transforming robot fighter-plane pilot amidst 80s pop music, and you might see how viewers would change channels. 

It's late in the SSX game when the series finally starts delivering the baroque Greek ruins and recovered memories leading to the show's ostensible story arc, the search for the legendary lost planet Arcadia. We only see the SSX a few times in SSX as the Arcadia searches for the planet Arcadia and the audience gets vaguely irritated at having to keep track of all the different SSXs and Arcadias. Somewhere out there is Arcadia, the source of some sort of vague ultimate power that apparently can both power a galaxy and give plot momentum to a TV anime. If Harlock has a specific plan as what to do once he finds this mystery planet, this “Treasure Island in Space,” he’s keeping it close to his eyepatch. Meanwhile Mr. Zone has very precise ideas about what he’s going to do with Planet Arcadia's St. Valkyrie’s Fire. This space MacGuffin / particle energy force is controlled by SSX's last minute entry into the pantheon of Leiji Matsumoto Space Goddesses, the Queen of Arcadia, and she gives it away free of charge to anyone brave enough to travel to the end of space through many dangers, including that hoariest of SF cliches, the graveyard of lost spaceships. 

Eternal Orbit SSX races to its conclusion in a panicky rush. Tochiro bravely battles his incurable space disease long enough to repeat the consciousness-transference scene we saw in the Galaxy Express film. Mr. Zone reveals his plan all along was to (spoiler!) use the super energy from Arcadia to destroy the Illumidas and take over Earth for himself. We learn in one timely bit of dialog that he'd spent months executing his complicated scheme to secretly crew the Illumidas fleet with loyal Earthmen, who revolt at his command and smash their Earth occupation forces. That's right, it turns out Harlock has spent 22 episodes showing off and making big speeches in outer space while the ostensible villain has been the only character taking concrete steps to bring about actual change. Of course, the first thing Mr. Zone does with his new found authority is to send his fleet to attack Captain Harlock, which turns out pretty much the way you’d expect it to. The Illumidas are dispensed with by half a minute’s worth of deux ex machina handwaving, leaving Harlock free to blast off into obscurity after ditching Revi and Tadashi Monono on Earth with orders to fix the joint up. 

This isn't to say there aren't enjoyable moments in SSX. If you're a fan of Captain Harlock, Tochiro Oyama, Emeraldas, and Leiji Matsumoto's character and worldbuilding in general, you'll find enough happening in the show to keep you coming back. That's how strong these characters are. There are, of course, standout episodes where the animation and story rise to the challenge - Episode 17 (The Great Sandstorm: Communication Impossible) and 18 (Rescue Emeraldas) are some of the best. Shingo Araki, the guy who put Rose Of Versailles on the anime map, defined the magical girl anime style, and who, along with Michi Himeno, made Saint Seiya a worldwide hit, here continues his streak of designing characters for Matsumoto series (he’s the guy that slicked up Danguard Ace). With SSX, Araki brings his bold yet delicate touch to Harlock, Kei Yuki, Emeraldas, the Professor, Mary Ann, and the rest. Araki directed four episodes and they’re generally the best of the bunch, filled with goofy moments where Tochiro battles the newly-arrived cat Mii-kun and Kei Yuki actually gets to do something, where the series almost matches its potential. Instead, there's a lot of repurposed Arcadia Of My Youth animation, or static shots of people staring at things, or long shots of the Arcadia moving from one place to another, or a boring looking Illumidas spaceship moving from one place to another. Hardly the dynamic, innovative Japanese anime we’d been promised, and not nearly as interesting as the Eternal Orbit SSX pilot film. 

our first glimpse of the SSX Pilot Film, as seen in the Arcadia Of My Youth Roman Album

Included on Discotek Media's recent DVD release, the pilot is one of those legendary anime artifacts previously glimpsed tacked into the last few pages of the Arcadia Of My Youth Roman Album, a collection of tantalizing images teasing new and much stranger adventures for Harlock and his crew. Promising a SSX that's weirder, more colorful, and certainly more distinctive than the SSX we got, the pilot is a sizzle reel of the Arcadia blasting its way through spaceships lifted from other shows, while strange aliens lurk past six-guns, WWII tanks, and spaghetti western lynchings, altogether a lusty, violent, beer-drinking, and Dvorak's New World Symphony-filled (you can't have a Harlock anime pilot without the New World Symphony) anime that, sadly, the actual show failed to deliver. 

it's SSX pilot film beer o'clock 

Discotek’s SSX release is itself a pleasant surprise for a lot of us who never thought we’d see the show available in North America. The 22 episodes are on three standard DVDs, subtitled in English, and the set includes original TV commercials and the SSX pilot, which somehow looks sharper than the slightly fuzzy, less than optimal transfer of the actual SSX episodes in this set. My old SSX laserdiscs might be delivering better video, but of course, they aren’t subtitled. And try buying a LD player these days! Eternal Orbit SSX is also available for streaming on Crunchyroll, a veritable Arcadia of SSX content for the anime fans of today that can now access the show without risking the  wrath of the Illumidas, the dangers of the Sargasso Of Space, or the slight inconvenience of getting off the couch. 

TV ad for SSX sportwear

We might still feel nostalgic for the 1980s, but I think we've all moved on from 8th generation VHS tapes of sequels to prequels to TV shows in foreign languages without benefit of subtitles or even bad American dubbing. We might have lost a touch of our innocence now that we know what's actually happening in Eternal Orbit SSX, a show that might not have lived up to the dramatic space opera we conjured up thanks to youthful enthusiasm and bad language skills. And clearly, we can live without dragging our TVs and our VCRs through the Georgia heat to a computer club clear across town. But will we ever again feel that electric, slightly outrageous thrill at seeing Captain Harlock dispense brutal cosmic Dirty Harry-style space-frontier justice for the first time? Maybe we're all somehow chasing our own youth through the cosmos, with our own code numbers, in our own Eternal Orbits. 

-Dave Merrill

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

april may update

Hey gang! I know it's been a month or so since I've posted here at Let's Anime and I don't want you to think I've forgotten about you, or classic anime, or blogging, or anything. Because I haven't!  What I *have* been doing is a lot of boring grownup life type stuff; working, laundry, inking comics, digging my car out of the snow, screening Flying Phantom Ship at Toronto's Eyesore Cinema, and generally living my best life. I've also been working on the next Let's Anime piece and it'll be coming your way shortly. 

But first, I wanted to give you a heads up on what I'm going to be up to next month at Anime North! That's right, Canada's number one anime convention is back for its 22nd year of Japanese cartoon fun and frivolity, and I'll be there in the thick of it presenting panels and events solo and with my pals.

Anime Hell is back for another two hours of short-form cartoon audio visual confusion, the hallmark of late nights at anime shows in two nations. If it's funny or outrageous or heart-clutchingly well animated, well, it might make it into Hell. 

Saturday at 1 I'm talking about one of my favorite anime series of all time, Cyborg 009! Clips from every single 009 anime iteration will bring this manga classic to life, and if you're lucky I might just show off some of my vintage Cyborg 009 merch. 

At 4pm on Saturday, the team of Ashley, Greg and myself will be holding forth on what anime fandom was like in the 70s, the 80s, the 90s, the 00s, and now! It'll be a free-ranging discussion on topics as varied as laserdiscs, the proper use of the S.A.S.E., what exactly a "Cartoon Fantasy Organization" was, and more nostalgia than you can throw a VHS tape at. And you will!

Saturday night settle in with anime expert Neil Nadelman as he brings you yet another chapter in the stirring saga of Totally Lame Anime! Cheap, shoddy, incoherent, sloppy work from some of the world's least competent animators is made to look even worse when we consider how much we enjoy most other Japanese animation. Well, nobody bats a thousand, I guess.

Sunday morning at 11 haul yourself away from your brunch mimosa and head on over to immerse yourself in the world of Japanese cartoons based on Western literature! From beloved children's classics to trashy pulp fiction, anime has long availed itself of the deep well of American, European, and Middle Eastern writing. Find out if YOUR favorite anime was actually a book you ignored in the school library!

Sunday afternoon don't let the convention end without remembering to attend Dubs Time Forgot! Mike "Bananya" Toole and myself will be examining weird English-language versions of Japanese properties that have been lost, abandoned, ignored, and in some cases deliberately suppressed. 

And that's my Anime North this year! There's a great slate of events and panels all weekend long that I have nothing to do with, too! See you there, that's Anime North, May 24-26 2019!

One more thing; if you enjoy Let's Anime and my other creative works, like my comic Zero Fighter and the popular, slightly mocking, perhaps sometimes a tad mean-spirited work at Stupid Comics, or the comics and animation work of my partner Shaindle Minuk, well, Mister Kitty has a Patreon now whereby you can help support us and our work in the vital fields of cartoons and comics and sometimes making fun of cartoons and comics. 

That's all for now, thanks for reading and stay tuned for more Let's Anime!

-Dave M

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Welcome To GPress

I'm pretty sure I picked this up at the second Project A-Kon, which was held in May of 1991 at a Radisson off I-35 in Dallas. The first A-Kon was an achievement, but the real test of a convention is coming back for that second year, keeping your momentum up and building on your success. That's what the second A-Kon did, with a guest list of pretty much everybody who was anybody in the nascent American anime industry, and a glimpse of both what was to come and what was about to collapse, in the form of this document. Which document? This document. 

Gainax, the studio we'd know for Evangelion, Kare Kano, and Gurren Lagann, was in 1991 already famous for Gunbuster, Wings Of Honneamise, and Nadia: Secret Of Blue Water. But as befits their origins as a circle of model-kit bashing, amateur tokusatsu filming, Daicon-video animating nerds, in '91 they still had one foot in the land of otaku. When Yasuhiro Takeda, Toshio Okada, Hideaki Anno, Takami Akai and Hiroyuki Yamaga staged the marathon 1981 Daicon opening animation production sequence which would later be immortalized in the Kazuhiko Shimamoto live-action drama Blue Blazes, the subsequent success would lead them to form the production house Daicon Film, and the success of their garage kit sales in the Daicon vendors hall would lead them to also form the General Products company to sell licensed kits and other anime-character merchandise. While Daicon Film would continue to produce ever-more ambitious filmmaking projects (changing their name to Gainax in 1985), General Products would help start Wonderfest and bring garage kits into the legitimate world by getting official licenses for their kits. In 1990 the two companies would merge, becoming simply Gainax.

GPress was General Products/Gainax's combination house organ/fan club newsletter, and as a result of a few prominent American fans spending quality time in Japan making cameos in Gainax productions, Gainax went all in on expanding their General Products brand to the American anime fan market. Hence, this English-language version of GPress. 

Recent anime fans might be surprised to learn how widespread the "Daicon 3 & 4" openings were, but even back in the early 90s we were ruining our eyes staring at freeze-frame images trying to figure out all the cameos. Owing to music licensing issues it likely will never get any sort of professional release in North America, but if you know where to look you can find a copy here and there. General Products organized a members club early on, and soon the "Known Space Club" changed its name to "General Products Club," keeping Japanese fans up to date on the latest anime-culture stuff to spend their bubble-economy allowances on. With General Products moving into the US market, bringing the buyers' club and its newsletter across the Pacific is an obvious move.

Joining the G.P.C. means a ten percent discount on everything you buy from G.P.C.! It's like the loyalty card you use at the grocery store, only for anime girl garage kits instead of bananas.

When they get that backlog of prior commitments cleared up they're going to have a bargain sale. This sort of happened, but not at Christmas. More on this later. 

Oh good, just what the anime fandom of 1991 needed, more rules! From what I understand, for $25 a year you get 4 issues of their newsletter and a ten percent discount. And a card to keep in your wallet to impress people with every time you whip it out and use it, which was once, or maybe twice.  

Here we get to the "News You Can Use" portion of our newsletter, the interview with Hideaki Anno, who in 1991 was super busy and in a super crisis. I hate to tell you this Anno, but it doesn't get any easier from here on out.

Sexy sculpting and superb facial expressions abound on the tables of Wonderfest 90 where legions of lonely Japanese men create their dream girlfriends out of resin and polystyrene. Is this issue of GPress the only time an anime merchandise newsletter hits on a model kit? Sadly, probably not.

Comic Market 38 drew 220,000 attendees to the Makuhari Messe in Chiba. Compare that to the 130,000 that Comic Con International did in 2017 and you can see that what the crowds really want are X-rated Nadia comics. Get with it, San Diego!

Some 1989 interviews with Gainax staff are quite revealing. Yoshiyuki Sadamoto met a Korean animator against his will, Haruhiko Mikimoto was in a car accident, and somehow Takami Akai made a computer strip tease game. 

This fascinating research of General Products Club members proves that the overwhelming majority of club members are (unsurprisingly) male, that they buy New Type magazine, and that they aren't happy with the General Products retail locations closing and the irregular publication of the GPress newsletter. You and me both, guys. 

Here sharp-eyed readers notice the various influences that shaped the production of Nadia: Secret Of Blue Water. Relax Gainax, give it a few years and Nadia will impress a whole new audience that is completely ignorant of Blue Noah or Latitude Zero.

The meat of this GPress newsletter is a rare English-language interview with Leiji Matsumoto. This had happened before - a 1988 interview in Animag might be the most widely known -  but at the time this sort of thing was still uncommon. The interview comes at an interesting time for the popularity of his works in the US - Star Blazers was long off the air, the Viz VHS releases of the Galaxy Express films were almost a decade away, and generally his work wasn't catching the eye of American fandom the way say, Dirty Pair or Iczer One or Bubblegum Crisis was, in spite of the best efforts of die-hard Harlock fan subtitlers and cosplayers. Note the end of the interview where he's asked about the upcoming AnimeCon convention. We'll come back to that later.

If you're interested in girls or robots or girls who pilot robots, well, General Products has you covered! 

Guys, it's the 1990s and that means the digital world of computers is taking over. General Products is giving the PC universe the same painstaking attention to detail that they give all their projects, which means most of these games are about cute girls in various stages of undress, drawing computer games fans throughout Japan into a whirlpool of excitement. 

Meanwhile in the anime world, the hot-blooded ridiculous high school battle manga Hono no Tenkosei aka Blazing Transfer Student is heading straight to laserdisc courtesy Gainax! Based on the manga by Kazuhiko Shimamoto, we were still years away from Shimamoto detailing his time in Osaka with Anno and the rest of the Daicon crew in his semi-autobiographical manga later turned live-action comedy Aoi Hono ("Blue Blazes"), but according to this GPress article Shimamoto was already mining his own Blazing Transfer Student creation experiences for a strip in Young Club. Blazing Transfer Student is a great, over-the-top high school manga parody, and sadly the anime didn't do well, so we never got a Part 3 or a legit North American release. I can confirm, however, that it will entertain crowds of anime fans in late-night video rooms.

Blazing Transfer Student manga
Blazing Transfer Student anime

And if you'd forgotten about Nadia, well, here is GPress to remind you about Nadia coming on home video and there's a behind the scenes video and a limited edition "Nautilus Story" video and a computer game. And a feature film that Gainax is in no way involved with, which is a good point for them to stress, because that movie is awful.

Here Gainax artist Takeshi Honda expresses his wonder and admiration for the heaving bosoms of Gainax's female characters. This kind of thinking goes a long way towards explaining why, as noted earlier, most General Products Club members are men.

And coming Labor Day weekend in San Jose, it's AnimeCon '91, the convention voted most likely to be named "the first American anime con" even though it was not. And no, there wasn't an AnimeCon '92. After the show the con staff immediately split into two factions, and I feel you, fellas, I know what the tensions around putting on a convention can be like.

Cosponsored by Gainax, AnimeCon was a Big Deal - with guests like Haruhiko Mikimoto and Leiji Matsumoto, how could it not be? And even though Matsumoto cancelled, the convention was a total success. Except for the General Products part, which was basically a going out of business sale. Turns out General Products was maybe a few years ahead of its time; the difficulties of delivering the desired product into the hands of the American fans - a market perhaps not as developed or as educated as the customer base General Products was used to supplying - proved insurmountable. By the summer of 1991, General Products USA was circling the drain. And that's a shame, because apart from the shameless Gainax product placement, a regularly published English-language newsletter of Japanese anime news direct from Japan would have been a game changer in the confused landscape of the early 1990s, when we didn't know our Macross IIs from our Giant Robos. 

There are indeed many benefits to a newsletter written by a crew of Japanese nerds eager to inculcate the rest of the world with Japanese nerd culture. One such benefit are instructional articles like this one, bringing Japanese TV presenter etiquette to an audience of American anime nerds who will probably take this to heart and start greeting everybody at their high school as if they were an Asian TV broadcaster. One only hopes Americans were in Tokyo teaching Japanese nerds all of Ed McMahon's mannerisms.

You need to pay careful attention to this page in the next issue because this is where the business-like information will be collected. If you don't read carefully maybe trouble will occur, and once a problem gets started, it's too late, so be careful! This is not exactly filling me with confidence in regards to doing business with General Products.

And now a charming Kiki's Delivery Service by Kimiko Akai, who not only draws comics, but is a character in Gunbuster!

Finally, a word from the editor, up late in Tokyo putting the finishing touches on this magazine, hoping that the General Products dream can come true in America the way it did in Japan. And I guess it kind of did, it just took a little longer than anyone thought it would, it involved technology we didn't yet know existed, and for better or for worse it wouldn't include General Products  selling garage kits of Blaster Mary.   

-Dave Merrill