Anime Review 33: Outlaw Star, Grenardier, and Perfect Blue
Outlaw Star is a science fiction series about a war between three fractions: Space Pirates, Space Forces, and Outlaws. Space Forces enforce the law, Space Pirates defy it, and the outlaws are those who take neither side, choosing their own destinies. Gene is a former space pilot and now an outlaw, with a haunting past, who runs into a female Space Pirate named Hilda, who at first met him wearing a disguise and using a false name. She hires him to help her flee from a bunch of Space Pirates, who wear robes similar to Taoist priests and use Taoism-based psychic attacks. Traveling along with Gene and Hilda is a little boy named Jim Hawking and Melfina, an android with a lot of real human emotions. Melfina wants to find missing memories and understand who made her and why. Melfina is shy and feminine. Along the way, new characters appear such as Aisha, a proud woman leader from a cat-like race of sentient aliens called the Ctarl Ctarl. (Yes, like the way Homer Simpson mispronounced the name of the Control key.)She has the power to turn into a very powerful animal form provided she's had enough to eat (and she eats a LOT), but don't call her an animal or she'll get very mad!
The show mixes interesting action sequences and emotional drama with good old fashioned wacky hijinks. It was an interesting and unusual sci-fi show that stuck out in my mind for having offbeat, truly original characters and a fascinating storyline. I found myself so entertained by the story I didn't mind some of the breaks from reality such as loud explosions in space and similar physics-bending. I was also surprised at how a show that seems a lot of the time like a wacky Saturday-morning kid's cartoon can have this much emotional depth. Also, I like the opening theme song! (It makes a difference, believe me, first impressions and memorability matter a lot.) So overall I found this to be warm, engaging, amusing, and exciting, just great entertainment. I want to see more, because if I remember right, episode 5 ended on kind of a cliff-hanger. I definitely recommend this for anyone who watches Sci-Fi, in fact, TV Tropes says that some fans of the series Firefly claim Firefly might just have been influenced by Joss Whedon watching OUtlaw Star, as some fans have noticed some similarities.
Grenadier is another one where episode 5 ended suspensefully, making me want to see more. Grenadier is a show about Rushuna, a big-breasted, innocently naive blonde girl who just happens to have incomprehensible gun skills, and Yajiro, a young samurai afraid of losing his value as a swordsman in an approaching era of gun fights.
This series takes place in an alternate-Japan (Japan's civil war period in history) fantasy kingdom ruled by Empress Tenchi, who happens to be Rushuna's mentor. Rushuna was skilled in a martial art designed to first at all costs avoid fighting by stopping the enemy from wanting to fight. Tactics include hugging, rubbing your ginormous boobies in the enemy's face (it's kind of how Rushuna meets Yajiro, when she's naked to boot, the lucky guy), sex appeal, and begging. However, if those tactics fail, Rushuna also knows amazing gun-fu stuff but always manages to wound opponents non-fatally, usually shooting them in the hand or arm to disarm them rather than killing. She's basically a female, huge-boobed version of Vash the Stampede from Trigun in that respect.
The plot is kind of predictable, there's a clownish-looking but serious bad guy pulling strings to try to get Rushuna killed and controlling this young prince boy by exploiting his desire for power, possibly with the intent of overthrowing the Empress while pretending to be on her side. This series was fun, but a lot of things happen with guns that are so outrageous that I think a gun expert would either cringe every few seconds or be seriously impressed. One thing I never get sick of seeing, no matter how unlikely it is, is the way Rushuna reloads her weapon. I think it's the kind of thing you really need to see for yourself. ;)
Perfect Blue is a 1998 psychological thriller/horror movie. I looked into this movie because TV Tropes said Black Swan was basically a live-action version of this movie. However, I disagree. My opinion is that this is the movie Black Swan could have been like, if it had been more daring. Or the movie Black Swan wishes it was.There are a lot of similarities but I think the definite winner is Perfect Blue for having better, scarier villains (not this silly omg-im-turning-into-a-bird crap), more hardcore violence and sex making it more disturbing,a more interesting plot, and characters whose emotions don't look terribly painfully fake and robotic.
Mima is an idol singer in a pop group called CHAM with two other girls. However, she decides to give up singing and take up a new career as an actress in a murder mystery TV show. Her mother doesn't approve of this change very much, wanting her daughter to be happy and thinking she won't be as an actress since she came to Tokyo to be a singer.
From there, the movie becomes derailed and tough to describe as the viewer is left unsure of what really happens and what was a dream, an illusion, or the main character's psychosis. However, what's clear is: Mima has a very dangerous, very creepy, very weird looking, pervert stalking her and tracking her every move.This movie was made during the advent of the internet in the 1990's, and the weird stalker makes a web site pretending to be Mima's blog, creating a sort of fake alternate version of Mima's life.
The real Mima meanwhile seems troubled by her decision to give up becoming an idol singer and taking a role as an actress that is more grown-up and sexual, when her pop idol persona was extremely girlish and innocent. In a way, it's a twisted take on the coming-of-age story. It makes you wonder what is there to celebrate about being a woman coming of age in a world that's bent on defiling, degrading, and objectifying young women? The movie seems to be laden with horrifyingly misogynistic images (rape scenes, bloodied and murdered women's bodies), it seems to be telling the viewer that young girls today can either protect themselves by playing up the innocent stereotype, clinging to a kind of eternal childhood, or they can subject themselves to abuse and sexual assault as the crowd moves in to steal that innocence away.
For a long time, Mima is haunted whenever she sees herself in a reflective surface by an alternate Mima who remained an idol singer. This Mima looks sweet and nice, all dolled up in the stage outfit Mima was performing in in the beginning of the movie, a sexy but childish pink thing. However, towards the end of the movie, alternate Mima becomes tougher and tries harder to kill or overpower the original Mima, when at first she was just showing up as a phantom shadow taunting original Mima for not remaining an idol singer and instead choosing a path that would "taint" her. When the fake Mima becomes tougher there is a significant costume change, her outfit becomes bright red, possibly symbolizing mad blood-lust (at this point the movie has been abundantly gory) or the passage into womanhood, possibly both.
This movie starts out without the expectation that it will become very violent or sexual, however I would like to warn others that it has graphic nudity, sexually charged scenes, and some of the most brutal violence I've seen in a movie in a long time. However, this surely cannot be missed by anyone who's a fan of horror or psychological thrillers. It was dark, twisted, and captivating.