Archive for anime

Another blast from the past…

Posted in Nostalgia with tags , , , on March 11, 2011 by simonmarshalljones

My good friend Nick Williams reminded me the other day, just after publishing my blog about The Mysterious Cities of Gold and Ulysses 31, of another anime that figured a great deal in my childhood (and I WAS actually a child when I first saw this series) – Marine Boy. This was actually one of the very first anime to be dubbed into English for the US, Australian and UK markets (although I think Astroboy took the distinction of being the first anime to be shown in Britain) and was one of the few anime to be produced in colour.

The history of the 78 episode series, reading the Wikipedia entry (with the usual proviso that Wiki isn’t entirely the most accurate fount of knowledge), is convoluted to say the least. Starting off as Dolphin Prince (3 b&w episodes), then metamorphosing into Hang on! Marine Kid (13 colour episodes) and finally into the Marine Boy (78 colour episodes) that people of my generation know and love, it didn’t really take off until Seven Arts Distribution in the US got hold of it. It was first broadcast in the UK in 1967-68 and, from the very moment I clapped eyes on it, I was hooked.

I was four or five years old when it was shown on BBC TV and it was everything a young boy could possibly want – a boy who, just by chewing special gum, could swim indefinitely underwater and who used an amzing boomerang to destroy ships and underwater craft. Plus a beautiful mermaid creature called Neptina as his companion and a dolphin, Splasher, who appeared to understand his every word.

But the biggest draw for me was the theme tune – it is singularly THE most recognisable theme somg for people of my generation. Every time I hear it, it sends shivers up and down my spine, as well as propelling me back along the years to the time when I was a young lad, trying to cope with being newly diagnosed as a diabetic and facing a lifetime of injections, non-sugary foods and having to test for my bloodsugar levels (which involved testing urine in those days – not the spohisticated blood-glucose monitors we have now). It instantly reminds me of the kindly district nurse who used to come every day to administer my insulin, and who finally taught my mum and dad how to inject me. It was also around that time or just after that I started school – in fact, I can remember my very first day in infant school, which was 43 years ago!

In subsequent years, I’ve made sporadic attempts to locate episodes on VHS or DVD and I have now learnt that a complete set of all 78 episodes is available for $49.99, so, once I am flush, or I find a generous benefactor, I’ll be acquiring this slice of nostalgia. Once more, I’ll be a five year-old boy sitting transfixed in front of the TV and watching the adventures a boy who can breathe underwater, a white dolphin and a girl with a fishtail instead of legs.

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Blasts from the Past…

Posted in General Musings, Nostalgia with tags , , , , , on March 9, 2011 by simonmarshalljones

During my enforced rest over the last few months (see previous blog entry for details), to keep myself from total boredom and the creeping onset of ennui, I indulged in watching something that I have been fascinated with since childhood – animated films and serials. Back then I went through the stages of watching series such as Scooby-Doo, Hong Kong Phooey, The Pink Panther, all the Warner Bros cartoon shorts, the slightly obscure DePatie-Freleng version of Dr. Doolittle (does anyone actually remember that?), the various Charlie Brown shows and the full-length ‘classic’ Disney movies. Then I progressed onto longer films like Watership Down, Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings (which, perhaps oddly, I absolutely love, despite its very obvious flaws), the same director’s Fritz the Cat and Fire and Ice, the strange and surreal Fantastic Planet (original title: Le Planete Sauvage) and an obcure little porn cartoon called Jungleburger (classic dialogue: the villainess says at the end “So what if I have six tits?”). Add into the mix other obscure gems which I’ve completely forgotten plus, later in my twenties, my discovery of anime, and I must have seen thousands of ‘cartoons’ and suchlike.

However, during that brief restful sojourn, I revisited a couple of series for which I have a particularly fond attachment – The Mysterious Cities of Gold and Ulysses 31. Both of these were French/Japanese co-productions, and both were screened over here in the eighties. Okay, I admit, I was in my early twenties when I watched these shows, programmes that were resolutely aimed at younger teens, but, to be quite frank, I didn’t care. The two shows exhibited a modicum of imagination severely lacking in mainstream British and American productions of the time, a fact which  inspired me to watch them in the first place. I would avidly sit down every week and be glued to the TV set to follow the respective character’s adventures.

The Mysterious Cities of Gold was a 39 episode adventure series set against an historical background: the Spanish conquest of South America and the avaricious search for gold (and it didn’t stint on the cruelty exhibited by the conquistadores towards the natives in the greedy search for the yellow metal). The plot mainly centres around three children, Esteban, Zia and Tau, and their search for the fabled seven cities of gold, located somewhere in the impenetrable jungle. The show contrasts rather sharply the reasons for the search – the children want to find family or solve the mystery of who they are and their place in the world, while the adults accompanying or chasing them only want the wealth that will inevitably follow on from finding a city completely made from gold. It paints Western culture as avaricious, superficial and greedy – not as inaccurate a picture as all that, judging from the history of the actual conquest.

Ulysses 31, on the other hand, mixes Greek legend with sci-fi action and adventure. It updates the legend of Oddysseus (Ulysses is the Latin variant of the name) but sets the action in space. Ulysses has angered the gods by destroying Cyclops whilst in the act of saving his son Telemachus – and his punishment is to wander through an unknown part of the Cosmos in his spaceship in order to find the Kingdom of Hades, so that he can eventually return to earth. Simultaneously, Zeus, who hands down the sentence, also puts Ulysses’ crew into suspended animation and they will only be returned to life when the Kingdom of Hades is found. Accompanying our hero and his son is Yumi, a tiny blue-skinned girl from the planet Zotria (her brother Numinor is also there, but he’s  in suspended animation along with the rest of the crew) and Nono, a small and very nervous robot. Twenty-six episodes were made, a fairly short number for a Japanese production, but boy did they pack in a lot of action. It’s very typically Japanese fare and, stylistically, is also typical of eighties anime. And of course, there’s that stirring opening theme song… (there are also the tantalising rumours that there will be sequels to the series due in the near future, but who knows…?)

It’s funny how you remember, or not remember, things. I distinctly remember not catching the first episode of either, but coming coming into them with episode two with Cities and three with Ulysses. But, having watched all 39 episodes of the former, I remembered surprisingly little of it, apart from the characters and the Solaris ship and the Golden Condor. I also didn’t remember the short factual films at the end of each show, filling out the historical details of that particular episode. I am only a third through Ulysses and I remember more of that one, but I’ll report back when I’ve seen them all.

Be that as it may, however, what utterly delightful (and thrilling) blasts from the past. Whilst it would be true to say that technically I am more in tune with the anime of today, it was still a hoot watching these shows and reacquainting myself with them after something like thirty years. Back then, of course, I never thought that there’d be any means by which I could see them again, other than the terrestrial channels deigning to rebroadcast them. Which did happen with Cities I think – once. So, I for one say ‘Huzzah for the internet!’…

Now, to make my life complete, I need to find a source for Battle of the Planets or, better still, the original Science Team Gatchaman, which will be miles better than the bastardised Sandy Frank bowdlerisation screened on British TV (7 Zark 7, the robot who ‘starred’ in the linking sequences, was never in the original Japanese version…). Having said that, I’d still watch, if only for the sake of nostalgia…