Short anime reviews

June 25, 2017

By Avi Green

Here’s several items about anime series I’ve seen that I’ll post all in one page.

Mazinger Z (1972-74), based on the manga by Go Nagai

Japan is under attack by the evil forces of German scientist Dr. Hell, who, with the assistance of his two cronies, Baron Ashura and Count Brocken is conducting assaults on the country with a whole store of mechanical beasts. The only ones who can stop them are technology scientist Dr. Yumi, who supervises Kouji Kabuto, the grandson of murdered colleague Juzo Kabuto, who developed the titular giant robot fighting machine. Aiding Kouji are Yumi’s daughter Sayaka, who pilots her own two giant robots (the first one, Aphrodite A, is replaced after being destroyed by another that's closer in development to Mazinger Z), and even comedy relief character Boss, who gets his own robot built towards the middle of the series’ run.

It was the first anime to feature a robot that required a special smaller vehicle connect with the head of the mecha in order to control it, and there’s plenty of excitement as the heroic cast does battle with the sinister forces of Dr. Hell’s army of darkness. Ashura, by the way, is a combined man/woman creature, and has the amazing distinction of being voiced by both a man and woman, either when turning the two half heads in either direction, or speaking in both voices together! As for Brocken, he’s a “headless horseman” type of figure, a cyborg whose head does not attach to his body and can float in the air! It’s certainly as scary as it sounds.

The upside: the robot battles are exciting. And some of the character situations are both touching and funny.

The downside: there are a few crude jokes like Boss’ two other buddies, Mucha & Nuke, wanting to flip up Sayaka’s skirt when she wears one, and another moment where they need to take a moment to urinate in the grass of a forest, even if it’s not seen directly. There's also at least one moment involving an ugly spat between Kouji and Sayaka where he slaps her - a very surprising scene for its time in a cartoon, to be sure - and they even lash out at each other by throwing furniture at one another.

The verdict: a fun ride with a girl who’s as brave as the leading male star in battling the bad guys.

Cutey Honey (1973-74), based on the manga by Go Nagai

This is the bizarre tale of a robot beauty, Honey Kisaragi, seemingly an ordinary Catholic schoolgirl until she learns the real story of her origins, who finds herself dealing with the evil forces of Panther Claw gang, whose members murdered her inventor, Professor Kisaragi. She’s befriended and aided by reporter Seiji Hayami and his father and younger brother, Danbei and Junpei, respectively. The Panther Claw gang is led by Panther Zora, and are bent on the usual world domination, which Honey must stop.

It’s a pretty entertaining romp, described at the time as a magical girl series aimed at boys. Honey, in her main combat shape, is one of the sexiest, bustiest babes in anime, and has the ability to disguise herself in various outfits to reach the crooks and monsters pitted against her, mostly so she can say “sometimes I’m fill-in-the-blank” before shedding the disguises to show who she really is, and why she’s a lot more formidable than they think, even though her inventor almost deliberately gave her the ability to feel pain like a real human can; one of the most unusual ideas for a series starring a robot.

The upside: there’s a lot of entertaining slapstick and charming humor in this adventure romp, and even a few times it breaks the fourth wall.

The downside: a few times, there’s some grope jokes which are in questionable taste no matter how you look at this.

The verdict: recommended for viewing.

New Cutey Honey (1994-95)

Coming two decades after the original, there was this OVA series set a century later in the fictionalized Cosplay City (an amusing nod to what you could expect to find at comic conventions by that time), with Danbei now living as a cyborg, and the Hayami family’s descendants discover that Honey is still operating in the guise of a secretary for the mayor at city hall. Evil forces are once again swooping down to cause chaos, led by a warlord named Dolmeck, and so, it’s a new challenge Honey and friends need to face. This is mainly in the first set, and in the second, Zora emerges once more as an adversary.

And wow, there is simply no letup here. It’s exciting and suspenseful from the get-go, has a sense of humor, and overall does justice to the original.

The upside: a fun ride.

The downside: there’s still questionable grope jokes.

The verdict: just as wonderful to watch as the first time round.

Please Teacher (2002)

The story in this very weak “ecchi” drama is about Kei, an 18-year-old boy whose life fell into a “standstill” after witnessing his sister’s suicide at 15 years of age. His school gets a new teacher who turns out to be an alien sent by the Galactic Federation, with whom he ends up in a love affair. But even if he’s legal age in this story, the way it’s set up is embarrassing, bordering on sensationalizing the series issue of teachers having affairs with students who could be underage.

The upside: the teacher herself is drawn very beautifully, but that's about it.

The downside: the sensationalized approach ruins everything.

The verdict: don’t bother. As I said before, it’s embarrassingly bad and makes a mockery of serious subjects.

You’re Under Arrest (1994-97)

A comedy-drama about the friendship between two policewomen of mostly different backgrounds in Tokyo, Natsumi Tsujimoto and Miyuki Kobayakawa, it’s based on the manga by Kosuke Fujishima that originally ran in Monthly Afternoon. It focuses on the goings-on at the fictional Bokuto police precinct, which has several other notable members. And it’s honestly a very mixed bag. Some of the humorous moments involve characters like a “scooter mama” who’s obsessed with shopping while riding a motorcycle, and even “Strike Man” a tall masked man trying to be a local superhero vigilante and arms himself with baseballs and bats, suggesting a nod to Batman. Natsumi even sometimes is depicted with amazing feats of superhuman strength in one of the better moments for surrealism.

But from the 5th episode onwards, they also feature Aoi Futuba, a medium-height man who’s become a Christine Jorgenson – that is, he got a sex-change operation – and is now pretending to be a woman, as part of his role in the undercover police operations for dealing with gropers on city subways. I found it irritating how one of the co-stars suggests he’s more female than they, and that’s just the beginning. Almost every time Futuba shows up, this takes away from the real impact the show could have.

The upside: plenty of comedic moments, plus the relationship between Miyuki and motorcycle officer Ken Nakajima, and, of course the friendship that develops between the two policewomen.

The downside: the portrayal of Futuba is annoying, and gives surrealism a bad name.

The verdict: there is entertainment value here, if you take it with a grain of salt.

You’re Under Arrest mini-specials (1999)

A collection of at least 20 ten-minute shorts and one nearly half-hour story, this continues the series, with brief looks at more in the encounters of the main stars. The best part has to be a clever invention of Miyuki’s – a purse that clamps itself onto the hand of a thief, and even has handcuffs added for extra measure. This helps emphasize how Miyuki is as good an inventor as she is a mechanic, working as she usually does on the customizations for their Honda Today patrol car. And, some of the guest characters from the first series turn up again, including Strike Man.

The upside: these short stories do have plenty of engaging impact.

The downside: there are still a few crude jokes.

The verdict: they’re worth seeing.

You’re Under Arrest: The Movie (1999)

A film length addition to the franchise, this concerns the search for a magnetic disc and a gang smuggling firearms. Officers Natsume Tsujimoto and Miyuki Kobayakawa return to their jobs at the Bokutou police precinct and help solve the crime. The story is pretty engaging, but the portrayal of Aoi Futuba, the male officer who got a sex-change operation, tends to be annoying at nearly every turn. Again, I have no problem with surrealism in itself, but when it's pushed so absurdly, it becomes more like an agenda. Save for that matter, the story is entertaining, and Natsume's portrayal as the tough chick on the force is a very fine part.

You’re Under Arrest, series 2 (2001)

The two starlets return to Bokuto station in Tokyo, and not much has changed. Their friendship resumes, and the surreal situations continue apace. A girl who was inspired to take up working in police business joins the cast here.

The upside: the usual assortment of guest characters turn up here again.

The downside: they still keep on with some of the embarrassing jokes involving Futuba, some of which get even more aggravating.

The verdict: this too is okay so long as you can get past anything that does register on the crudeness scale.

You’re Under Arrest OVA (2002)

This 23-minute standalone shows the crew from Japan moving to Los Angeles in the USA and demonstrating their talents to the local authorities. Miyuki’s Ford Mustang is stolen, and she needs to go a long way to locate the thieves and get it back.

The upside: it’s a pretty amusing look at the whole team transplanted to the west.

The downside: fortunately, there’s very little here that could count as detracting.

The verdict: worth a look.

You’re Under Arrest: Full Throttle (2007-2008)

The final entry in the series for now, the two best buddies of Natsume and Miyuki are back in action, and the first storyline involves the former befriending a young boy flying in from the USA whose father was a mafia don. Because of this, he’s become a target for rivals within the syndicate. After he nearly gets snatched away by another gangster at the airport, Natsume intervenes and a chase ensues on the highway as the criminals try to get the boy back while armed with guns. Thankfully, Miyuki, who’s just come back from a training program at another precinct, is able to board the vehicle commandeered by Natsume and helps stop the gangsters before they can cause any harm. The youngster’s got a Japanese uncle and ends up in his custody.

And, while less frequent in this installment, the guests like the Scooter Mama and Strike Man do turn up to add more comedy to the mix.

The upside: there’s still more surreal moments to find here that do hit the mark and are entertaining. The opening theme is pretty catchy too.

The downside: Futuba is still here, and there are several moments that are just plain insulting to the intellect, as usual.

The verdict: it’s overall worth the effort, and ends on a very impressive note as two new cadets are given some training in traffic patrolling by the two leading ladies.

Full Metal Panic: Fumoffu (2003)

The idea of this miniseries is to focus on some stories that take place between the main action of the first series. But not all of them are so great. The first episode is a real botch, as Sousuke Sagara’s asked for a meeting by a girl in the school during the evening, and mistrusting everyone, all he can think of doing at first is watching her from a short distance to see what she’s like. Then, when she’s threatened by hoodlums, though he stops and chases them away, he points a gun at the girl asking why she wanted to meet, and she’s upset and runs off feeling this was a cruel joke. It was just too insulting for words. I felt as angry as Kaname Chidori was.

The later tales, including those where Sousuke dressed up in an animal costume at an amusement park, are an improvement, and the part where he trains some guys while wearing it were quite funny indeed.

The upside: when it gets to the costume hijinks, it’s a fun moment.

The downside: the first and even second story were crummy.

The verdict: see it more for the latter than the former.

Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid (2005)

This is the more official sequel to the first miniseries, where we see Kaname and Sousuke continue their relationship, and at the same time, a terrorist seen in the first series turns up again. So, Sousuke has to return to his Lambda Driver mechs in order to deal with the whole situation.

It’s considerably better than the series that came in between, and there was impressive character development between the two leads. There’s also an extra OVA which focuses on Teletha Testarossa’s job as a captain who’s still very surrealistically 16 years old.

The upside: the mecha moments are exciting.

The downside: there's a throat cutting scene here where a villainess attacks a man. No matter how adult this was meant to be, it's still very disgusting.

The verdict: it’s a good sequel, vastly improved over the prior in-between series.

Copyright 2017 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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