Strait Jacket (Sutoreito Jaketto)

This was a great taste of action-science fiction from an era of anime that’s sort of long gone now. Well, if you consider 15 years a long time ago, and probably it is – in terms of trends and audience tastes, perhaps.

But that’s not what’s important here.

Instead, here’s little on the premise/plot, before I focus on other things:

Strait Jacket is set an alternate history where magic was proven to exist and spread throughout all facets of society and changed the social and technological development of the world. Rayotte Steinberg, a lone wolf ‘tactical sorcerist’, fights against monsters while wearing a ‘mold’, the straight jacket that keeps him human. (Adapted from Wiki/MAL)

All classic stuff that will usually catch my attention, since I’m pretty easy to please.

Strait Jacket (Sutoreito Jaketto) 2007

However, I will say that events in the Strait Jacket OVAs/film are clearly part of a wider story (it’s adapted from a light novel series), giving me the sense that there is much more to learn about the characters, if only viewers had been given a chance to do so – say, via a full series.

So maybe Strait Jacket was too short but that might be exactly what you’re looking for, and in addition, there are resolutions to a few of the problems the characters face, one of which is major enough to provide an actual ending.

If I was going to continue grumbling here, I guess I felt that the ending itself was a little less impactful than maybe it could have been… perhaps.

I’m more confident noting that a fair amount of the magic/technology as it was used in the film could have used extra grounding.

Actually, now that I’ve said that there is one more thing – the (lesser) antagonists were not as compelling as the heroes for me. That’s at least in part due to the running time of the anime, again I’d say it’s because there wasn’t enough space to expand things, and obviously the light novel series has the luxury of an extended narrative to fix that issue.

And so, now that it turns out that I’ve spent most of the review quibbling over minor flaws, I should finally go over what I really enjoyed – and below, you’ll see ‘4 Stars’, so I clearly liked Strait Jacket a fair bit.

For one, I did enjoy the characters (especially Inspector Simmons). Some of the conflicts faced by the supporting cast also worked as a nice contract to the more stable or at least hidden past that existed between lead Reiott and his mysterious sidekick, Kapel.

Throughout, the use of colour and lighting stood out for me – though I’ll spare you any rhapsodising and just note that some of the images throughout show some of those aspects I enjoyed.

Straight Jacket features some pretty big action sequences and ace mechanical and creature design also – as an example, the plucked/roast chicken shape, rather than being too comical, remained unnerving here:

It was interesting to see the death of a supporting character actually occur ‘off-screen’, since it really worked to drive home the ‘hero-wasn’t-there’ guilt-motivator for events in the final stages of the story.

At other times, there’s a bit more blood and gore than perhaps you’d see on a TV broadcoast anime, so take note if that’s not your thing.

I finished the OVAs pretty interested in the series, keen for more info on the heroes… but that probably won’t happen in a hurry, knowing my disinclination to follow-up on light novels/manga etc, so I’ll probably just have to be happy with what I’ve got on DVD 😀

4 Stars

And before I finish, I want to thank Anime Hanabi for the recommendation – I might not have watched this without your post 🙂

Casshan: Robot Hunter (OVA)

Compared to the 2008 series (Casshern Sins), in some aspects the Robot Hunter OVA feels like more of a somewhat faithful remake of the 1973 original than a full re-imagining, even with the narrative re-ordering here. (However, that’s not to claim that this version makes zero updates or alterations either).

Casshan: Robot Hunter (Robotto Hantā Kyashān) 1993

In other ways it’s very different.

I won’t do heaps of comparative notes here, as I plan to save that for a future post, but the tone of this OVA had an interesting balance between mournful, hopeful and dystopian, whereas I think of Casshern Sins as almost despairing in a way.

As is often the case with stories people write about the future, technology is a bitterly duel-edged sword, appearing as both a tool of violence, of oppression and liberation.

It’s a fairly dystopian society shown in the OVA but as I mentioned, the resistance plot does offer hope and progress toward the eventual showdown between Casshan and Braiking Boss / Black King.

Elsewhere, the music* stood out for me, at times being more symphonic than I was expecting from a 1990s OVA. (Maybe that’s a little dismissive of me, and I mean to note that I enjoyed it as much as the perhaps more to-be-expected rock).

And on the note of OVAs, this is anime, and so it will of course feature an obligatory shower scene featuring Luna – not unlike a typical film from just about any other medium, for that matter. 

Anyway, one thing I appreciated was that this OVA does tell a full story – just be sure to steer clear of the Harmony Gold, cut-down film-length version. The proper Robot Hunter is four short OVAs and is roughly 20 mins longer all told.

Ideally, I’d spend a bit more time on the differences, but basically if you’ve not heard of Harmony Gold, they’re known for making cuts, changing scripts and generally aiming to change anime to be more kid-friendly.

Getting back to Casshan, if you’ve seen any iteration of these characters and were hoping that the classic acrobatic attacks are still here – they are, and they usually look fairy good, everything does generally speaking, but some of the fire effects do seem a bit old-fashioned.

But hey, this is around 30 years ago now.

I will quickly mention two more comparative things, such as the direct visual quotes that I recognised from the first episode of the 1973 series, (see further below) and the way that Braiking Boss’ name was changed in the subs which was interesting.

But again, I’d like to save more of that for the comparison post!

So, is this OVA worth seeking out?

Maybe for Casshern-completionists or for fans of the era (say, where the OVA schedule offered a bit more time to add extra detail to the frames etc), or if maybe you like the classics. Or at least, updates on classics 🙂

4 Stars

*Michiru Ōshima, also known for (among many other things) FMA.

And here we go – an example of one of the shots that references the original 🙂

Puppet Princess (Karakuri no Kimi)

This is a typical OVA in some ways – violence and nudity (or the threat of rape being passed off as ‘comedic’), all predictable things about certain anime genres, some of which have certainly come to tire me after a couple decades.

Puppet Princess (Karakuri no Kimi) 2000

That isn’t to claim Puppet Princess is terrible, or that I think it’s impossible to take on serious themes in anime either, but Puppet Princess feels too casual with its application of that content for me.

I should talk about the story sooner or later – but first, Puppet Princess almost seems bit of a warm up for Karakuri Circus, especially when it comes to the puppetry (which was probably the best aspect of the anime).

An adaptation of Kazuhiro Fujita’s one-shot manga, it’s a straightforward but still at times exciting story of vengeance. Rangiku (the Puppet Princess) recruits warrior Manajiri and together they seek and eventually take on Lord Karimata, who murdered her family.

There are a few fun surprises, especially toward the end, and the art and animation works for me, though this 2000 OVA won’t deliver things you might be used to if you favour modern action sequences and techniques.

Is it worth chasing down?

Maybe if you’re a fan of Kazuhiro Fujita or the era of production perhaps, or just if you really love swords and shinobi.

3 Stars

Supporting the Anime Industry

Back in my Wonder Egg review I wondered how I could directly support animators working in an exploitative industry, and I was feeling despairing of things changing…

And so today I’d like to share a couple of links that allowed me to help at least a little.

One is a bit of an overview of things you can do to help, and the other is a specific, ongoing crowdfunding campaign.

Here’s the first:

How YOU Can Support the Anime Industry

And it was from that link and its range of ideas that I came across the 2020 Animator Dormitory Project.

It looks pretty great and I’ve donated, hoping I can make a bit of a difference that way. (I would have liked to support the union mentioned in the first article but I couldn’t figure it out).

But for the Dormitory Project, if you’re interested in reading more you can check it out below:

2020 Animator Dormitory Project

And there’s a video explaining a bit about it here:

Murder Princess (Mādā Purinsesu)

Get ready for fantasy, sci-fi, political intrigue, romance, action, comedy and prominent use of the body swap trope, if you decide to take a look at Murder Princess.

Maybe that seems like bit much for one text – but I definitely liked the mix and thought this was a fun OVA. It’s not the shortest one out there, and it does tell a complete story across only 6 episodes too.

The series was released in 2007 and animated by Bee Train during their heyday and I don’t remember having many complaints re: the visuals or direction, though you won’t see the super-dynamic camera-work common to modern action anime.

As per the title, you can expect regular violence over the course of the betrayal of Princess Alita’s kingdom and her subsequent struggle for vengeance.

She manages to recruit some interesting folks and while there are a lot of familiar story-beats along the way, I was hooked by the body swap aspect which brought in a few fun ‘fish out of water’ moments.

However, one thing I did wish had been given some extra screen time was both Falis and Alita coming to terms with the switch, as it does play second fiddle to the action.

As an example, I imagine it would be pretty disconcerting to look at someone else and see your own face, see ‘you’ doing things from the outside, yet both leads adjust a bit too quickly perhaps.

Obviously it wasn’t a huge problem for me, but I do wonder whether the manga does more with that aspect?

Even though the star rating will probably seem a bit low, I still enjoyed Murder Princess – in particular Romi Park* as Falis, and remember the ED as standing out.

As I said before, this anime did leave me curious about the manga – and so maybe one day I’ll seek it out.

3.5 Stars

*Took me a moment to recognise her as the voice of Edward Elric, actually.

Nasu: Summer in Andalusia (Nasu: Andarushia no Natsu)

I end up spoiling the ending to this OVA just below these first pics, and so if Nasu is on your list then maybe read no further! Otherwise, I’m going to mention probably my fav part about this cycling drama, which is something that happens at the end.

Nasu: Summer in Andalusia (Nasu: Andarushia no Natsu) 2003

Nasu follows pro cyclist Pepe over the course of a single race on the day his older brother marries his ex.

The narrative describes this as Angel having ‘stolen’ Carmen, though she seems perfectly happy – but what I enjoyed was the fact that at the end of the anime Pepe obviously hasn’t forgiven either of them.

Is it petty of him? Warranted maybe?

I can’t decide, because in the OVA I suspect we don’t get the full context (compared to the source material perhaps) but I was sort of pleasantly surprised that there was no use of the ‘forgiveness no matter what’ theme in Nasu.

(And apparently I was so surprised that I’ve got another paragraph about it below, lol.)

It’s possible I expected that trope to appear due to the unwavering support Pepe receives from everyone while he races through the hills outside, and eventually through his hometown, in a compelling race featuring multiple threads. But the theme didn’t show up and I thought that was an interesting move, story-wise.

But getting back to the race itself, it’s not just Pepe vs the other riders, it’s Pepe vs the oppressive heat, vs his own limitations, vs his dream of escape, vs his lingering resentment and even the threat of being fired by his sponsor.

At only 45 minutes long I never felt a lag and throughout the OVA, the art and animation both felt top notch with a nice blend of 2D and subtle CGI to keep things dynamic perhaps – especially once the race hits town.

You’ve probably noticed from the screen caps that there’s a fair Studio Ghibli feel to the colours and character designs, and that might be because Kitarō Kōsaka* directs, and aside from that, his experience really shows in every aspect of the anime.

As a bonus, while knowing nothing about pro cycling prior to watching, I learnt a little during the course of the anime, perhaps enough to better understand a real life race were I to watch one.

Having said that, I don’t think you need to be a cycling fan to enjoy this – it’s a great, short drama with a vibrant setting and tension-filled race…

… and yet, is the cat really called Negro?

4 Stars

Goku Midnight Eye

As I’ve mentioned here ad nauseam by now, science-fiction, futuristic, cyberpunk stories tend to be among my favs and so I expected to enjoy Goku Midnight Eye. In the end, it’s not my fav cyberpunk release but it still has plenty of the things you’d want from the genre.

Goku Midnight Eye (1989)

So too, if what you want is that the cross-pollination between US cinema and anime, with an undertone of ‘action-movie-from-the-1980s’ clear in both episodes.

Episode one was probably my fav of the pair, probably due to it being an origin story where we see how Goku gets his magical eye, an eye that can hack into any computer in the world.

Almost a year later comes episode two, which features a somewhat overpowered Goku. He still faces threats, and while his super-extending staff is almost comical, there’s maybe a tongue-in-cheek feel to everything that keeps this and the previous episode entertaining.

If I did read the tone of the OVA correctly, I do wonder how much of that is due to Buichi Terasawa’s manga – who is also responsible for Space Adventure Cobra, where the film adaptation is somewhat similar in tone but in a less grimy way, I guess.

And despite great direction from Yoshiaki Kawajiri there are a few tired clichés, especially when it comes to women characters, who seem to have only two options: femme fatale or eye candy (so very much noir-influenced). One character especially is noteworthy for her role as world-building element.   

Ultimately, I would have watched more Goku (if any had been made) because I do like lone detective stories but I don’t know how to rate this.

(It’s a product of its time for sure, maybe of the OVA-era too… and something about that stripper-motorbike hybrid struck me as the kind of element that you could write an entire post on, but I’ll save it for now).

I can say that Goku is not aimed at kids, at least.

But if you want that mix of action, violence, nudity, oddity and futuristic tech from a bygone era of anime, then Goku’s your man.

Sin: The Movie

Sin: The Movie is a cyberpunk OVA with a few big action sequences but a fairly brisk plot in some sections – maybe too brisk. It’s only 50 or so minutes long, but it feels like it’s telling more of a feature-length story.

A connected issue was the character work – the variety in design isn’t matched by the depth of charactarisation, which is a shame, as a bit of extra screentime would have been great – especially for Elyse who too often feels like a plot device.

It is an action-focused cyberpunk anime and so that’s where the focus is (and sometimes that’s exactly what I’m looking for) but maybe Sin didn’t have the kind-of breathtaking action that often makes up for other possible deficiencies.

On the upside, if you’re a fan of the era, the style or genre in general then there’s probably going to be just enough to satisfy.

But before I finish, I want to quickly jump over to video games for a moment.

Back in 1996 there was a game called Quake, which was pretty big deal in the gaming world, and its engine and variants thereof would soon feature in more than a few games that followed, one of which was Sin.

And I mention this of course because Sin: The Movie is loosely based on the game and I was interested to learn that the game team seemed at least somewhat involved in the movie. (It was also produced by ADV Films from top to bottom too, which I hadn’t realised).

3 Stars if I’m feeling generous.

I forgot to mention, the music is performed by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, which does give the movie an extra dimension.