Thoughts of a Madman: Anime – By Joshua Samford

 For the record, no, I don’t think this is another series I aim to start up to go along with my Psycho Freakout volumes and the Oh Snap Movie Moments columns I write from time to time. Maybe it will turn into it, I don’t know, but I figured since I didn’t have the time nor the work ethic to come up with a highly detailed and knowledgeable article about the subject of Japanese animation – I decided to just come up with something based on what I have seen and what I do like. So, for anyone looking to judge my technique; think of this as more of a blog posting than actually supervised article. I know the boss around here, he’s cool, won’t mind if I free-wheel out some content. So going back to anime, no, I am no superfan or fanboy, I’m just another movie geek who watches a little bit of everything. So, hey, why not just write up a lengthy article of subjective opinions with a slightly clever name? Sounds like a plan! The real inspiration for this article comes from a couple of flicks I’ve seen as of late, the ever popular hentai flicks Urotskudoji flicks. Also known as The Legend of the Overfiend, and other such classy films, all seemingly revolving around women being molested by monsters, women being probed by monsters or women being murdered by monsters… whilst being probed and/or molested. Lots of good fun for the whole family. So, I’m sitting around the house, limbs and bodily fluids are flying across my screen and I think to myself: I have something to say about this. Then again, with content so obviously over the top, you’d have to be pretty out there not to have some kind of opinion. So, why not just run the gamut and I’ll do my best to gloss over what I know of Japanese animation and give you people some ideas on what to look for when being introduced to the market.

Now like I said, I’m no old-schooler when it comes to this genre. It’s not something that has always been available to me, and I didn’t grow up in this anime boom that we here in the states are experiencing – and which is likely heading for a backlash shortly. My first experience with pure Japanese animation was through Vampire Hunter D being played late at night on The Movie Channel when I was a kid. Don’t ask me what I was doing watching that channel unsupervised as a kid, but regardless, I was blown away even as a child. Vampire Hunter D to me is perfection in the art form, an unadulterated fantasy film that takes place in a future/past scenario where technology is mixed in with a western vibe. The sequel to the film, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is just as much of a must-see as the original and to this day I would have to classify them as being what I always hope for every anime to succeed and become. At this point in this article, I am wary that I’m starting to sound as if I’m disappointed or disrespectful of the artform, when really I’m not. I just see it as a field I am on the outside of, and even though I do have interest, I don’t think I will ever be on the ground floor of any anime community. This is mainly due to me not really showing a ton of interest in the ‘animated series’ side of things. Something I find many anime fans are more attracted to. Even though I did enjoy Cowboy Bebop and FLCL, the only series to really grab my interest and keep me occupied was Berserk. A hack and slash, knights and horses, kings and queens battle for the world type of story about a young man named Guts who travels the world under the leadership of a slightly feminine man who despite being three times smaller than Guts, still manages to best him in battle. Despite how odd it may sound, it really will make you an addict if you give it a shot. For a good while, I know I sure was. My only problem was how the series ended, and this is where the starts so skip the remainder of this paragraph if you don’t want to know anything about the conclusion of this fine series, well my problem was… – well, it had no real conclusion. The manga (comic) that the series was based upon continued for many, many years but the series apparently just didn’t have the longevity, and it is sort of sad that it ended without any form of conclusion other than all of our lead characters being in a dire situation in one of the most harrowing and disheartening episodes of the series. Sadly I still haven’t been able to track down the manga series myself to see just how on earth Guts might pull himself out of that situation I last saw him in.

 Despite any problems I might have had with Berserk, it is still up there with my favorite television series’ of all time. Animated or not. So, for my money, anime is not a limited artform. It is an expansive one, and when used in that manner, I think you can get so much out of it. It’s more than just cartoons for grownups, it can be a way to explain ideas and flesh out stories just not possible without major Hollywood budgets and a six or seven hour running time. Very few shows on television, aside from maybe 24, are as literary as the Japanese animated medium. Telling stories in chapters, but having them constantly picking up exactly where they left off the week before. Even though I haven’t been sucked into the serial form of the art as many, I do respect it and am blown away just by the creativity often ensuing. Moving back to the film world however, I am not always impressed. As some of you might know, but I highly doubt it, I wrote up a piece for the site many moons ago about my love/hate relationship with Akira. It’s a film I feel is extremely overrated, yet also a wonderful work of art and even to this day I can’t fully explain to anyone where exactly I stand in terms of opinion with that particular film (great reason to write an article, right?). There are others, such as Ghost in the Shell that I feel deserved far too much credit due to their amazing imagery, but had their relatively unintelligible plot glossed over. I know, certainly not a popular opinion (and being that Duane garnered him some hate mail this month over a funny review he wrote about The Wolf Man, here’s hoping some angry anime fans will belittle me in an e-mail!) – but I can’t help it, one shouldn’t have to read through the manga to understand what is going on in your feature film. Harsh, but true. With that said though, I might as well mention that I’m by no means a traditional anime fan and I think my love for exploitation and b-cinema shine through if you were to list my favorite anime films.

 Works such as Fist of the North Star and the above mentioned Overfiend films (really only the first flick) are all highly ranked on my list, mainly due to either how goofy and/or fun they are to watch – and despite what Roger Ebert would have you believe; there IS a place in the cinematic pantheon for films that do just that. It’s an entertainment medium just as much as one meant for the arts. Also of the films I highly recommend anyone looking for something new, diverse or possibly perverse; Perfect Blue a psychological and surreal trip into the mind of madness and mystery. Blood: The Last Vampire a short but entirely sweet action film about a girl with vampiric powers going undercover in a school, sniffing out monsters. This of course leads to bloodshed, violence, action and lots of other great descriptive words. Then there’s Ninja Scroll, which has made a name for itself the world over as being one of the most violent, fun and exhilarating flicks ever made. Making every young man wish he were a ninja… so he could stab rock men in the eye. Something like that at least.

As I close this article, I’d like to say that even though I’m still just a "newb" to a lot of guys out there, I’d like to say the purpose of this article – aside from me just getting some different thoughts and ideas down on paper – is to get the idea out there for anyone who hasn’t dabbled in the foreign arts to at least give it a try. If you’ve heald out this long, well, I think you’ve missed a lot of fun and think it’s time to get on the friggin’ boat. Pick up Fist of the Northstar this weekend, watch a lot of people being ripped to shreds and a whole lot of blood being spilled and see if you aren’t at least interest in venturing further. You’d have to be a heartless beast to not want more.