Old School Takahashi Blitz
Been on an 80’s OAV mini-binge of sorts. Some of it pretty fun. Some of it pretty mediocre.
Insert obligatory comment about how anime has always sucked and just sucks in different ways depending on what decade you’re observing.
I started off the binge with a triple dose of Rumic Theater shit. These are Rumiko Takahashi’s short stories that usually tackle the same themes and genres as her more lengthy stuff, they just don’t drone on and on and on.
Fire Tripper was the worst of the bunch, and by that I mean it was a tepid, mediocre thing much along the lines of Inu Yasha. Hell, it even uses a similar plot to Yasha: Girl is born during ancient Japan. Has the power to time travel when under extreme duress (The trigger always happens to be fire/explosions, hence the title of the story.). Travels to 1980’s Japan. Is adopted by a family. Gets caught in a gas explosion. Returns to ancient Japan. Fights stuff. Stays in ancient Japan. Even her boyfriend has the same punkass attitude as Inu Yasha, although he looks more like that punkass wolf dude what with the loincloths and such.
The thing takes itself a bit too seriously, and Takahashi’s never been one to pull off seriousness very well if you ask me. It tries to tug at your heart by having the girl decide between staying in the present with her adopted parents or returning to the past to be with the dude she just met (But really has known for years for convoluted reasons I won’t give away but are far too obvious once you see the anime.) and has fallen in love with. But considering the nature of time travel and how convenient it is story-wise, it’s hard to give a damn about anyone whose angst revolves around “I can travel back and forth between these times as much as I want if I just bother to use a few brain cells to figure out how my power works since there’s completely obvious triggers at work.” At least it got to the point and wrapped up in about 40 minutes.
The next one in line was Laughing Target. It neat in that it was fairly different from what I’m used to seeing from Takahashi. I’ve seen stuff like Mermaids Scar, so I’ve seen her horror-related stuff before, but this one played out more like your traditional slasher flick with a few Japanese horror elements tossed in. A young girl is possessed by gaki, nasty ghosts that like to eat people and shit like that. The possession starts of “innocently” enough because the ghosts help her when she’s about to be raped by some kid that looks like a Japanese Skinhead. She whacks the kid over the head and beats him to death while the gaki clean up her mess afterwards. All things said, I don’t think killing rapists and having ghosts eat their flesh is a bad thing.
But we know how these things play out. You can’t use evil forces to defend yourself without having those forces come back and bite you in the ass. Her mother finds out she’s possessed and tries to kill her. Now her mom’s gaki chow. With her only living relative dead, she’s forced to move in with her cousin, with whom she has an arranged engagement. The catch is that said engagement was made when both of them were kids. The dude in question has long since figured it was nothing and has a pretty nice girlfriend. They hang out in archery club and seem to have a healthy relationship. So while the dude’s happy to see his cousin, all he’s interested in is being her cousin. He’s not down with the arranged marriage thing. The possessed girl totally has a thing for her cousin.
You can see where this is going.
It all plays out like the sort of stuff you’d expect to see in an 80’s horror movie. The girl wants her cousin’s girlfriend out of the way, and she tries to do so through increasingly violent methods. At first she just tries to scare her away. Get all glowy and spooky and shit. That doesn’t work. Then she tries to make it look like an accident. No go. Then she kills the poor girl’s dog with her bare hands. That just pisses everyone off. Finally she resorts to outright aggression, breaking into the girlfriend’s house and trying to go at it one on one. It should be obvious how this turns out, but I give it props for avoiding certain pitfalls that similar stories tend to fall into. It all plays out pretty well. All in all it was a solid short story, but it’s only remarkable for being different from Takahashi’s regular stuff.
The best of the bunch was easily Maris the Chojo. In all honesty I’m shocked I hadn’t seen this one until this week. It’s in the same screwball comedy vein as Lum and Ranma 1/2, but it skews even more towards the sci-fi realm than Lum. It’s about a chick from a Krypton-like planet that blows up, forcing its inhabitants to make a mass exodus before it blows. And much like Superman, people from her world have super powers. Seems like it’s because of the planet’s intense gravity or whatever, because they have to wear harnesses that inhibit their mass and strength and whatever other vague abilities they have.
That kinda reminds me of Project A-Ko, which was born out of this era as well. Maris and A-Ko both have Supermanish origins and both have to wear some sort of inhibitor in order to function in normal society. The kicker is that A-Ko can actually use her powers to a limited degree with her bracelets on while Maris is rendered almost powerless.
Anyway, it boils down to a variation of the Dirty Pair formula. Maris works for the Space Police or whatever they’re called and she’s sent out to beat up bad guys. But she’s horribly in debt because of her own failings and the failings of her deadbeat parents. It’s all played out pretty amusingly, especially since her villain counterpart is also a deadbeat super powered person that’s also horribly in debt. The only difference between them is that one turned to crime and one turned to law enforcement to pay off their debts.
The best bit about Maris is the fact that both the titular character and her nemesis are former Pro Wrestlers, so their fights come down to some snazzy wrestling matches. And when’s the last time we saw female Pro Wrestling in anime? Air Master? Hell, was that the last time we saw wrestling period in anime? I’m not a big fan of wrestling, but it’s kinda neat to see all the tropes play out like this. Something different, y’know?
So yeah, Maris the Chojo was a hell of a lot of fun. It’s the only one out of these three that I’d really recommend outside of some need to be a completionist or whatever. Space alien wrestling rocks.
(Also, we’ll mess with the other OAVs in a later post.)