Aim for the Ace!

You may remember that a few weeks ago I shared a really great primer on 80s anime. Since I’ve been enjoying dipping back into some of those old series, I decided to go one step further and try following that complete primer, going through everything that is recommended. Since it sticks to movies and OVAs, it’s not as time consuming as you’d think.

First up on the list is Aim for the Ace! (Ace wo Nerae!), a 70s series that follows a high-school girl as she competes in tennis tournaments. It’s one of my wife’s favorite series (she played tennis as well), and so I definitely knew about it but had never watched any of the TV series. The movie I watched, which came out in 1979, is a condensed version of that series, and you can tell, as it just zooms past so many things, feeling a bit manic at times. I quite enjoyed it though, in part for the fun 70s fashions and style, but especially for the very interesting ways they animate the tennis action. Sure, it’s over-the-top and pretty emo, but I liked watching it.

Daicon III & IV

Following on my 80s anime playlist, I re-watched the two Daicon shorts, which I still find to be fantastic, especially the second one. These are animated shorts that were created for two conventions — Daicon III and IV — and have never been released commercially since they liberally borrow from all sorts of famous properties. Daicon IV is especially glorious, with its use of ELO’s “Twilight,” and was created by a who’s who of now famous anime directors — it was also the inspiration for the opening to the Train Man (Densha Otoko) series. Here are versions on YouTube: Daicon III & Daicon IV.

Dallos

Next up in my 80s anime stroll — I’m not necessarily following the exact order given in the primer, and instead watching stuff when I’m in the mood for it — is Dallos, which has the distinction of being the very first OVA (“original video animation,” or direct-to-video, if you will) ever released. It’s also worth noting that it was directed by a very young Mamoru Oshii, who was of course later known for his Patlabor and Ghost in the Shellfilms. There are 4 volumes, and I’ve watched the first one. It’s not blowing me away, but I’m still digging it. It follows a Mars colony that is in conflict with Earth (reminding me of Gundam), and the best part is when they start configuring work mech components for use as weapons. I look forward to watching the rest.

The Castle of Cagliostro

Continuing with my 80s anime run, last night I watched the Lupin the Third movie The Castle of Calgiostro. Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, I’ve seen this movie countless times (and my wife even more), but it had been a while since the last time I watched it, and so it made for a fun revisit (and my wife ended up watching it too). It’s such a fantastic film, and feels like a perfect blend of Lupin and Ghibli (while being a proto Ghibli film). I had so much fun watching it that I was still in the mood to watch some more Lupin after, so went and watched the first episode of the original Lupin the Third series, that aired in the early seventies (and I believe Miyazaki was involved with the second half of that series). Tonight I discovered that a new Lupin series had aired last year, so started watching that as well (the first 2 episodes).

Lupin the Third (2015)

As I mentioned in my post about re-watching The Castle of Cagliostro, it got my in a Lupin mood, and so after watching a bit from the early shows I’ve now settled on watching a series that aired last year. Simply called Lupin the Third, it’s considered the fifth Lupin series, and is set in Italy — it even first aired in Italy, where it has the subtitle The Italian Adventure. The animation for it is really beautiful, and it feels classic, with a great soundtrack and the portrayals of the characters as you’d expect. I’m quite enjoying it so far, and look forward to watching the whole thing (there are 26 episodes).

Miss Hokusai

It was a pretty great movie watching weekend for me, as I also watched the fantastic Miss Hokusai. I’d been meaning to watch it for quite a while, and I don’t quite know why it took me so long. Beautifully animated, it revolves around the daughter of uber famous Japanese artist Hokusai — she was an accomplished artist as well. It mixes a bit of fantasy with the reality of the setting, in a way that helps accentuate some of the emotional beats nicely. Really enjoyed it.

The Super Dimension Fortress Macross

I recently noticed that the Robotech series from the 80s was added to Netflix (in Canada), and so I thought I’d start watching it. I have memories of really liking the series back when I was kid, but also that I had barely watched any of it, probably because it was only available on cable, which we didn’t have — so I probably only caught episodes here and there at a friend’s house. So I excitedly sat down to start watching it and… I couldn’t get past the first 5 minutes. Never mind the fact that broadcast quality is surprisingly poor (I guess they didn’t take good care of preserving the original tapes), but what really got to me was the voice acting, that made my ears bleed. I was curious to see if watching the original Japanese series would make it better, and it indeed has.

Robotech was famously made up of 3 different series from Japan, slightly edited to make it all work together, so it could get over the minimum required number of episodes for syndication at the time. The first series that was used is The Super Dimension Fortress Macross, which runs 35 episodes. I’ve watched the 4 so far, and not only is the voice acting so much better (well, except for Minmei, who can be a bit grating), but so is the music, as well as the general quality of what I’m watching — and even from just the few minutes that I watched of Robotech, I could tell that they did some weird editing as well.

It’s yet another piece of 80s anime on my current watchlist (alongside Zeta Gundam and Queen Millennia), but I like alternating between these shows, watching a few episodes here and there. And it’s good to finally get a good look at the Macross storyline — and if I enjoy this, I’ll probably continue with The Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, which was the second series to get incorporated into Robotech (the third series that made up all of Robotech, Genesis Climber MOSPEADA, wasn’t even part of the Super Dimension series).

Ping-Pong Club

Along with the new anime I’m watching, as with Macross and Queen Millennia, I’ve been diving into some old stuff as well, and that includes Ping-Pong Club. I’d watched some of it years ago (and read some of the manga), and have always loved the craziness of it. It’s a comedy series set within a high-school ping-pong club, but absurdly so, and might even be too intense for some — it gets a bit graphic at times, but in hilarious ways (one of the students wins exchanges with a special move that is basically him showing off his balls, to disorient his opponent). I’m having a blast watching the series again, and even I had forgotten just how silly and ridiculous it gets.

The Great Passage

The last of the new fall season shows I wanted to check out is The Great Passage (Fune wo Amu). As I had written, I didn’t know much about this one other than the setting, which is of a publishing company that produces dictionaries, following a new hire. It really does come off as a regular drama (not like the sci-fi/fantasy I usually take in when it comes to anime), and I quite enjoyed the first episode. My wife was in the room as I was watching it, and ended up getting drawn in as well, and plans on watching the rest of it with me.

Ajin (Season 2)

Continuing with the shows that I’m checking out for this fall season of anime (as mentioned in this post), I was very happy to see the start of the second season of Ajin. Nothing much to report other than it’s still very good, continues the story of the manga, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how they portray the big events that I know are coming in animated form.