The Amazing Adventures of Sara Corel
A novel by Toomey


        My kids just love anime, the Japanese animation that used to look so cheapo back in the Speed Racer days. Some of it now is quite amazing, though — of course — Sturgeon's Law applies: "90% of everything is crap…" It's a bit of an acquired taste.
        My Superdaughter, Katie, is especially fond of a lengthy series called Ranma 1/2 featuring a main character who changes back and forth from male to female, with all the romantic complications that arise therefrom. There's a bit of casual cartoon nudity here and there. It almost approaches porno for kiddos, but the Japanese have different standards than we do. A lot of what is intended for children's programming would not now meet the AU's standards and could get you caned in Singapore. A lot more is intended for mature audiences. Some of it can only be found in XXX video stores.
        I haven't yet seen AK's recommended Birdy the Mighty, but it's undoubtedly at Planet Anime in Houston, an astonishingly diverse commercial paean to the art form. It's now on my list for the next visit.
        Here's one back at ya. Maris the Chojo, part of the Rumic World series, is perhaps the best film about a supergirl available. It has a lot of references to other anime that you might not pick up on if you're not a fan, and the artwork is a tad on the primitive side, but the characters are wonderful.
        Maris' planet exploded when she was a child, but she was among a community of space-borne survivors. Their great strength on other worlds turned out to be a liability, since they manage to break everything in sight unless they wear a special restraint system. Maris is a kind of Galactic space cop, forever in debt from accidentally but enthusiastically trashing her spaceships — which comes out of her meager pay. She is aided by her partner, a nine-tailed fox-like creature that can become nine of anything he likes.
        Well, I'm not going to synopsize the whole thing. Try it, I think you'll like it.


        Oh, Jeez! Left out the all important caveat regarding anime and Japanese cinema in general. I know this sounds weird, but make sure you rent (or buy) the subtitled version. Never, ever bother with English (or whatever language you're into these days) dubbed versions. The dubbed stuff comes off as ridiculous somehow, like the old rubber-suited Godzilla movies you (admit it) see on the late, late show just before the sun comes up, or Woody Allen's parody What's Up Tiger Lily, or molto cornball Kung Fu chopfests.
        Even the kids have snapped to this. There's something about the original Japanese voice acting that seems so much more authentic. Trust me on this. You get used to reading the subtitles very quickly and before long it's completely transparent.
        The Dirty Pair comics Ed mentioned are a delightful anime series. A pair of fabulous police babes who always get their man, after inadvertently laying waste entire planets in the process. "Oops…!" (a word you never want to hear from anyone with super powers or nuclear weapons). Despite the title, it's only very suggestive, not nearly as explicit as most of the other stuff in the genre.
        Most anime is derived from Japanese comics, known as manga. Adults read it without embarrassment in Japan. Think illustrated paperbacks, with a much more eclectic range of subject matter than American comics.
        Another recommendation would be Oh My Goddess, about a college dweeb who calls out for lunch and accidentally gets the Goddess Help Line. Belldandy (actually one of the Norns from Nordic mythology, the three goddesses of Fate: past, present and future) appears to him and offers to grant him a wish and he asks for her to be his girlfriend. Heaven grants his plea and immediately things start to go wrong. Eventually, Belldandy's sisters, Skuld and Urd, show up, as well as the unfortunate lad's sister. It's charming and beautifully rendered. Be sure to get all five episodes and see them in sequence.
        Related to this are the Samurai flicks AK mentioned, especially films directed by the late Akira Kurosawa. Many of his classics have been remade by Hollywood, such as The Seven Samurai (The Magnificent Seven), Yojimbo (A Fistful of Dollars) and The Hidden Fortress (Star Wars). Rashomon and Ran and Kagemusha and Dreams and — oh, too many to mention — are stunningly beautiful and moving. His later, color films are absolutely breathtaking in their finely nuanced cinematographic impact. He was rightly regarded as a national treasure in his homeland and as a protean genius and inspiration worldwide.
        Though Blockbuster usually has a small anime section, there are usually dedicated sources for rentals. They might be a little difficult to find in the usual ways — they don't need to advertise — but the world of anime and associated collectibles is alive and well in the US. Try asking around at your local comic store, which probably has a pretty decent anime rental section and manga (which I don't particularly care for).        


Proper Waffles
Table of Contents

© Patrick Hill, 2000