1979: Everything New is Old AgainFebruary 26, 2013
If anyone has read the Reverse Thieves blog they will know that I even more than Narutaki love to wax poetic. Therefore we decided that I might as well put that too good use in a supplemental post about the anime of 1979 as our first draft was getting sort of monstrous. I was going on a bit too much on the little details that I found fascinating about the shows that year so we streamlined our post for the main Golden Ani-Versary around some solid themes and then threw my random observations and quirky esoterica about the shows we watched for this post. If our main post yesterday looks at how each show contributed to greater themes of the year than this looks at why each show had its own charm.
The Castle of Cagliostro and the Galaxy Express 999 movie
Before I can get into the TV shows for 1979 it would be criminal to skip the two movies that have gone on to influence countless anime since they were created.
The Castle of Cogliostro alone could be its own essay. It inspired legions Japanese animators to be artists (and even influenced western animators with its luscious visuals and fluid animation.) While distinctly being its own animal that it is hardly unheard of event as the Lupin franchise constantly toys with the details its own formula.
While I don’t think the Galaxy Express movie was as influential as Cogliostro but it is still a classic film that cannot be overlooked. Think of it this way, just because My Neighbor Totoro came out the same year as Akira does not mean Totoro is any less of part of the fabric that defines that year.
While certain green-eyed ladies would eventually give Japan a reputation for majorly altering the Arthurian legend it seems that anime is more than able to create a proper anime centering around the King of the Britons. The series deviates a great deal from the classic Le Morte d’Arthur formula but it is important to remember King Arthur is actually a mishmash of several dozen historical figures and local legends that have changed considerably over the years. In truth no Arthur is the definitive Arthur. We have just come to accept some parts of different iterations as iconic more than others.
The show itself is pretty standard. Arthur seems to have a bit of the generic shonen hero syndrome in effect. But this generally seems like a case where the political machinations of the villains and the personalities of the side characters will buoy up the protagonist.
As Sailor Moon was more than a decade away Hana no Ko Lunlun is clearly steeped in the old magical girl mold where the heroine is routinely faced with mundane problems which she solves with her magic and kindness. It also adds in the classic quest formula where Lunlun has to find a magical flower to save a magic kingdom. LunLun makes me realize that some of the older shojo shows really liked to hook up the younger female protagonist with a much older romantic lead. Candy Candy and My Daddy Long Legs come to mind as similar titles.
I would like to note that the series synopsis shows that the Lunlun is just a variation on the Bluebird of Happiness story. But it would hardly be the first or the last time anime references that story. It is a tale that anime likes to touch about in countless different ways.
I could not track down a copy of Daltanious but I felt I could not leave it out of a discussion of 1979 if for nothing else because it biggest claim to fame is in fact getting left out. It turns out that Daltanious was originally supposed to be the first leg of the three shows they would use to make Voltron. Armored Fleet Dairugger XV, Lightspeed Electroid Albegas, and this anime were supposed to be combined to make enough episodes for a unified syndicated American cartoon TV series. But World Events Productions was accidentally sent Beast King GoLion instead of Daltanious due to a mix-up with what was meant with “the show with the lion.” In turn World Events Productions decided to go with Go Lion instead. In the end Daltanious and Albegas mostly went on to be titles that are now only recognized by people who like obscure mecha trivia.
Who knows what would be different had Daltanious been sent in the first place?
It is impossible to talk about 1979 without discussing Mobile Suit Gundam. It is the origin of real robot genre as well as the spark that would generate the seemingly unstoppable franchise that is Gundam (although it did not seem like it would be like that at the time.) Previous mecha series might have played with idea of adding some elements of realism to the mecha formula this was a series that completely embraced that idea. The history of robot shows in Japan was forever changed by this show’s contributions.
I remember in an interview with CLAMP that all four of them mentioned the Rose of Versailles manga being one of the first titles each of them read (along with Candy Candy) and all four of them were independently moved by it enough it to pursue a career in manga. The anime of Rose of Versailles was no less influential when it came to how it came to influence shojo anime and anime as a while.
Oscar François de Jarjayes in an unforgettable character whose powerful presence would go on to create a ripple of influence that still shapes characters today. A woman raised to be more manly than a man while still being beautiful cannot be forgotten. At the same the setting created a romance with France and its revolutionary period that would rival in not supersede that of Les Misérables in Japan. Also the Duke of Orléans would forever be portrayed as one of the most dastardly villains in all of Japanese literature past this point.
Also the Rose of Versailles would go on to inspire Revolutionary Girl Utena and that fact in of itself would make it a vital and unforgettable piece of the medium.
Sasurai no Shojo Nell comes from the plucky heroine who constantly smiles in the face of never-ending despair school of shojo. When Nell and her sickly grandfather have to escape in the middle of the night to prevent her from being married to a pedophile working for the greedy man who has repossessed their home you have a good idea of the genre of shojo this is.
It looks like a show where Nell and her Grandfather will constantly be on the road looking for a way to earn enough money to go back home while being chased by their debt collectors. Usually in these shows most of the people they meet will be horrible but occasionally they will find some happiness only to have to go back on the run before they can enjoy it.
This is based on the The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens so you can’t expect much happiness until the end. Hopefully this series ends a little brighter than the Dickens novel but it is 70s shojo so it could still have a majorly downer ending as well.
There are several stories that Japan loves to reinvent endlessly. I can’t see a day when there will not be a new spin on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Similarly Journey to the West is the inspiration for over a dozen anime. Including this one. In this imagining they decided to put an sci-fi twist on the classic story. I’m sure that Star Wars coming out in 1977 helped them decide to make this retelling as a space opera.
Like Maeterlinck’s Blue Bird this is one of those Leiji Matsumoto projects you don’t normally think of as opposed to something like Captain Harlock or Galaxy Express 999 but it does have his romantic space opera fingerprints all over it in reflection.
I will say that Xuanzang being re-imagined as a delicate space princess makes sense but does make me wonder how different her character would be if this was made in 2013. Also how the reaction to this gender swap would be as well.
To everyone who solely points to Yoshinobu Nishizaki as the reason for Space Battleship Yamato’s success may wish to remember that Leiji Matsumoto and Noburo Ishiguro went on to have legendary careers and Nishizaki to helm Blue Noah.
I mostly bring that up because when Yamato came out it was new and fresh and took the world by storm. You can’t look at Blue Noah as anything but an attempt to recreate Yamato with a sub instead of a battleship. Everything from the setup to the characters seems to be trying to recreate the magic of Nishizaki’s previous smash hit. But without the other creative talents that made the first series a hit this series is more of an odd footnote.
I would also just like to quickly mention that the trinity of Yamato, Blue Noah, Odin all have only one slightly mysterious girl. And her purpose is almost always to be a mixture of the mascot character and the love interest but very little beyond that. When the main character convinces the captain to keep the token girl he brings up that she should stay on board because she could make a great cook. Narutaki audibly groaned when she heard that line and for good reason.
If you ever found yourself going, “I like mecha anime but I wish it had more Matryoshka doll based robots” then Gordian Warrior is the show for you.
The show starts with an unusual blend of Mad Max and wild west aesthetics while in contrast the main character, Daigo, has a totally futuristic bike, a 70s jumpsuit, and a robo-panther. That contrast is even more apparent when we see the city where Daigo is traveling to is still a high technology bastion that is clinging to what little it has left. Most post-apocalyptic shows play the difference between the inside and the outside of the cities a little closer to the middle which gives it a unique flair.
I remember Carl Li from Ogiue Maniax mentioning that the director of the show was very apologetic for making what he thought was a very mediocre anime that only got to 73 episodes due to the fact that the toys sold incredibly well. I think there is little proof that illustrates how toy driven the industry was at the time.