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I've been totally out of it lately in terms of animation, but I'll be awakening from my slumber quite soon, as Masaaki Yuasa's latest TV series at Madhouse, Kaiba, is going to be starting two weeks from today, airing on WOWOW. Hopefully I'll get to see it. If I do, maybe I'll be driven to blog the show. I've been watching very little anime lately, and basically nothing new, just old stuff. Thank god there are producers in Japan like Masao Maruyama giving talent the opportunity to create something remotely interesting for once, otherwise my anime consumption would be pretty much zilch. Denno Coil was the last new anime I can recall waching through to the end. I even gave up on Ghost Hound out of sheer exhaustion. What a wasted opportunity that was.
I was thinking the realistic, sketchy style of Kemonozume might have scared some people away, so this show seems like it might attract viewers who might have been turned away from that aspect. The characters are very cute, and much closer to Yuasa's usual style, with their simple shapes made with just a few lines. I get a distinct vibe of early Osamu Tezuka in the design on the first page of the site, so I wonder if Yuasa was inspired by 50s manga aesthetic here. He obviously has some kind of a retro thing going. Nobutake Ito is credited as character designer, though, so I'm curious to know how the characters were thrown together, if Yuasa laid the basic groundwork and Ito cleaned them up into workable character sheets, or if it's more Ito's work. Either way, it's great to see these two working together again, and this time going in such a different direction. I remember Ito did a short for Kimagure Robot that was more cartoony like this, and he recently did that Junk Town short, so I know he's got it in him already for this style.
One of the old things I've been watching is Nippon Animation's 1986 show Spaceship Sagittarius, which features weird looking simply designed creatures travelling to another planet and having lots of odd encounters with 'alien cultures'. For someone as sick of seeing anime characters as me, the designs are refreshing. It's an interesting show not because of the animation necessarily (though we do see some interesting faces occasionally), but more because of the script, which is pretty smart. The whole alien thing is nothing more than a vehicle for geopolitical metaphor, with each episode acting as a fairly obvious parallel for some issue on planet earth like the exploitative practices of oil or mining companies working in Africa or Latin America - just transposed to aliens on an alien planet. I suppose it would be impossible to have done such a thing with characters in the real world (and I think this show was probably intended to some extent for overseas broadcasting), so I see this as being a way of getting around that. The strokes are broad and it pulls its punches too much sometimes, since this is Nippon Animation we're talking about, but it's quite watchable, which is more than can be said for a lot of the other things NA was making at the time.
You can see what I presume to be the pilot for the series on Youtube. I don't know about the history of this project other than that Andrea Romoli is credited as the creator, making this a co-production of some kind. But I'm not sure to what extent. The show itself seems 100% Japanese produced, but the pilot seems to be a little more European-inflected, reminding me alternately of La Planete Sauvage and Yugoslavian animation. But Nippon Animation is credited with production even on the pilot. It was made in 1982, and the series dates 4 years later. I can't find any info on Andrea Romoli on the web, so I can't figure out in what way he could have been involved, or how this show came about, although at the very least he seems to have been responsible for the look of the characters. It's an unusual show, so I'm curious to know about its inception.