Initially daily but now sporadic blog about anime and world animation with a specific focus on the artists behind the work. Written by Ben Ettinger.
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Archives for: July 2005, 21

Thursday, July 21, 2005

09:55:30 pm , 1000 words, 3157 views     Categories: Animation

Goku redux

Death on his steed, from GyatorsHere is another review of Mind Game - but from the DVD rather than either of the festivals. This person writes interesting reviews. I first ran across his page after finding his review of Cat Soup, which I was impressed with because it was the first time I'd heard anybody manage to bring up Stan Brakhage within the context of this film.

I'd mentioned the DVD box of one of my favorite oldie anime TV series, Gisaburo Sugii's Goku no Daiboken (Goku's Big Adventure) in a previous post a long time ago. It included a very tempting bonus that prompted me to want to get it even though I already have the LDs - an entire ep by Osamu Dezaki that managed to get completely produced before the station realized that Mushi Pro had stepped over the edge into insanity and it wouldn't be possible to show it on the air. As this indicates, the station obviously hated what they were seeing, so soon after the first season that insanity pretty much disappeared. What it was that made the first season of that show so interesting was precisely what they hated - the way the staff gleefully broke every rule in the book to create a slew of episodes that are among the most unique and uninhibited ever to grace the airwaves in that country. Nothing I've ever seen in anime is remotely comparable to what they were doing here. I suppose it was too much of a freak of nature to have produced any offspring. Dezaki did a number of episodes in the series, including in the first season, where he directed the one that stands head and shoulders above the rest, representing the pinnacle of what they were setting out to do with that concept. Hearing that the lost ep goes even further in that direction is enough to know that it's essential viewing for me. Unfortunately, like most DVDs from Japan, this one was way overpriced, so there was no way I was getting it. Thankfully and surprisingly, all of the early Mushi Pro TV series including Goku are now coming out in affordable editions, with some the unheard-of equivalent of $10/DVD. The prices are reduced because they're cutting back on the quality production of the earlier sets, but hopefully they will retain the extra ep. Though it's a very mixed bag and not all worth seeing, at the very least a handful of the early episodes are unmistakably unlike anything ever seen in Japan, so it's worth discovering if you'd like to see something totally against the grain, though I can't imagine this appealing to anything but a small minority. As an example of animated anarchy, perhaps it's for the best that it hasn't been imitated. As it is, it remains unique. It's a look at what, as I'm sure Sugii intended, might have been. Or could still be.

Another series in which Osamu Dezaki and Masami Hata were involved a few years later, TMS's Hajime Ningen Gyators or Early Man Gyators (which was apparently quite popular since it ran from 1974 to 1976 in 77 episodes), is also being released in a single box soon, but this one is regular priced and thus out of reach. This series sounds like an interesting conjunction of the more movemented A Pro school with Goku-like slapstick. Here there's no continuous story, it's just an open-ended situation there to allow the animators to come up with successions of gags, kind of in the western vein. It sounds like something of a prehistoric Sazae-san, but more edgy, with death in the form of a skeleton riding a skeleton horse appearing periodically whenever someone is approaching his end. This is one of the less-well known of the 70s A Pro series, mostly because it hasn't been available up until now, but it features all the regulars of the other shows - Momose, Kondo, Kobayashi, etc - combined with Mushi Pro figures like Hata (indeed an unusual period in anime), so one of these days it would be nice to see a 'best of', though sitting through the entire series would probably be a little overdoing it. The characters are drawn extremely freely, with just a few quick lines, almost to the point of looking like doodles, with no effort put into creating distinct physical shapes - very much the antithesis of the stereotypical meticulously drawn anime character. It's clearly a style that would allow good animators like those featured here to do some interesting work, so it's an enticing oddity.

I'm presently engrossed by the Seikilos Epitaph. It hooked something in me after I ran across it in the Harmonia Mundi Grèce Antique album. It's the oldest extant complete annotated musical piece, which would in and of itself be enough to make its having survived the centuries interesting enough, but the beauty of the melody and the way the circumstances apparently surrounding its creation mesh up with the way it's crafted make it all the more moving a relic of our ancient past. A man's wife died, and for her grave he wrote an epitaph, embellished with musical notation. The halting way the melody rises and falls seems to mirror the roller-coaster nature of life, which starts with a glorious rising fifth only to eventually trail off downards to its conclusion below the opening note. We could see into the faces of the people in certain paintings and sculptures, and look into their minds in writing, but without the music it was like we had been deprived of a vital part of the soundtrack to the ongoing film that is our history. I don't know how certain they can be of the accuracy of the transcription after all these centuries, but it's curious how moving it is to be able to hear an actual piece from this period as it was written by a discrete individual. The simplicity of the tune is very appealing. I've been humming it a lot since hearing it.