There’s a brief overview on the form itself below, before I get to the actual review.
I hope you enjoy these and as I mentioned before, I’d love to hear any suggestions you might have for future OVA-weeks 🙂
An animated film or series made for release on video, rather than for broadcast/theatrical screening
Generally, high budgets that can mean visual qualities are better than a typical television series
No fixed length, nor broadcast time-constraints when it comes to storytelling
To some extent, created outside regulation – and so they have a reputation for ‘anything goes’ when it comes to restricted content
Often (but certainly not always) based on original scripts, rather than being adaptations
Long wait times between episodes/installments for some OVAs
First OVA to be described as such was 1983’s Dallos from Mamoru Oshii
The ONA (Original Net Animation) is an obvious more modern equivalent
Twilight of the Dark Master (Shihaisha no Tasogare)
Twilight of the Dark Masteris a pretty dark OVA released in 1997 US / 1998 JPN, at a time some years after the peak of the direct-to-video format.
Even so, it’s mostly exactly what you might expect from an OVA – extra detail in general, extra detail on the violence and nudity, with some of it gratuitous but here, not exactly falling into the realm of modern shock-horror either.
And there is a story. And some great animation and use of colour and light at times too – not just via the general high-level from many OVAs, but there was one sequence in particular that was pretty compelling. Not because it was the greatest thing in the world, but because it was just really effective.
I think it’s the mix of flicker, of slow-motion, and the use of muted and also selective colour, that brought things together – I wonder how much of it was computer-assisted via layering, possibly? Seems like a lot of work to get everything in place.
The story follows the conventions of a revenge* thriller mixed in with some procedural, magic, horror and cyberpunk aspects too, and has at least a couple of surprises to go with the wide range of genres.
Now, that might sound like a lot going on, and it is, but I enjoyed the mix.
Today, director Akiyuki Shinbo would probably be best known for March Comes In like a Lion. Obviously, something such as a previous work by Akiyuki, The SoulTaker, is a far closer comparison in terms of content, when it comes to Twilight of the Dark Master.
In the end, I’m not sure how much of the visuals I can attribute to Akiyuki Shinbo or storyboard artists, verses manga artist Saki Okuse, but from the composition to lighting to framing, it’s definitely all well-above average for me.
So too, some of the character designs, which have both detail and some range. (Again, I mention this to contrast what seems like one of my more recent pet peeves – anime with characters who all look generally quite similar).
Now, this OVA is most definitely not suitable for the younger viewers out there – although, I doubt Twilight of the Dark Master is on the radar for that age group anyway.
(Or perhaps, on anyone’s radar for the most part).
I must note that for all the things I enjoyed about the OVA, Twilight of the Dark Master suffers a little from its reliance on low-key lighting and some pandering, but maybe more than that – as the ending just wasn’t as strong as the rest of the short film.
Ridiculously, I can’t put my finger on exactly why that is… maybe the shift in scale? It feels too sudden for me. If you’ve seen this one, that might make sense. Or maybe not!
I think I’ve seen Roujin Z described a dark comedy fairly often, but one that is set within the plot boundaries (I guess) of a science fiction film. Or even of a monster movie, since there is definitely something large and dangerous threatening the city here.
Roujin Z Rōjin Zetto(1991)
But one obvious theme that gets discussed just as regularly, is the treatment and care of the elderly.
It’s obviously a topic that doesn’t get a lot of attention in any film medium, not just anime, so I was glad to see it in Roujin Z. It adds a lot of sombre moments, and painful ones too, the kind of ones that you’d hope policy-makers and bean-counters would take heed of.
Okay, so here’s the premise phrased as a question – what if a high-tech bed, one that doubled as a life-support system for the elderly, went on a rampage? (Okay, there’s a LOT more to it than that, but I don’t want to go into spoilers here. Also, I’m feeling a bit lazy).
Despite all of my reading about the film, it took me many years to finally find and watch Roujin Z, and I went in with pretty high expectations, noting director Hiroyuki Kitakubo and writer Katsuhiro Otomo (amongst others like Satoshi Kon), behind the scenes.
I was certainly not disappointed either – as it is amazing from start to finish, from animation to story and character, setting; it’s all executed so well to my eye.
Perhaps especially the characterisation.
It’s not jam-packed with one-note characters for a start.
Instead, the themes are played out via the conflicts both between and within the leads, as much as it is via the technology.
And more disconcerting than the militarised aspect to Kijuro’s bed, is the supposed dignified, helpful aspects – such as the management of bodily functions. The well-intentioned but misguided Takashi embodies the tragic need for such a device, and it’s great to see him drift away from antagonist to take a stand against the larger threat, military stooge Yoshihiko.
Other smaller characters are nice mixes of principled and cowardly, and even the ‘horny old guy’ trope so common to anime doesn’t just lumber its way through the anime; as the elderly residents who band together to save Kijuro reveal more than one facet to their actions.
Visually, I was of course super-happy to see lots of detail and integration of character and setting/background, to see the old school ‘solid’ use of colour to evoke different lighting effects. Another stand out aspect were the flashbacks, they had a sombre tone, matched by the softer colours, and the ‘disappearing’ of the characters.
Getting back to character now, before I finish, I meant to mention her before, but Haruko is a classic anime heroine, kind, strong and moral, and determined enough to get some justice without superpowers or gadgets.
Great ending and the final shot is a nice surprise too.
Another quick review today – feeling less than stellar after some dental work!
Jubei has so much going on re: the levels of parody and satire, and even a fairly constant stream of sight gags and absurdist stuff too – I recognised some but basically couldn’t keep up at all, and I’m sure I missed dozens and dozens of cultural allusions.
Jubei-chan: The Ninja Girl – The Secret of the Lovely Eyepatch (1999)
But the comedy aspect almost always still worked for me!
The series holds the overarching, action-based storyline within the fairly sophisticated comedy framework nicely, it was usually pretty funny and on top of which, featured some great action sequences throughout its 13 episodes – with some of the more intense ones happening during the closing eps.
Here’s the premise, adapted from Wikipedia:
Jubei-chan follows Jiyu Nanohana, a modern junior high school girl and unwilling heir to the Yagyu Jubei school of swordsmanship as she deals with a mystical artefact, the Lovely Eyepatch, and all the enemies who seek her power.
Now, rather than dissect the plot, I’ll leap in to some dot-point highlights before finishing up the review:
The kanji changes on Bantarou’s t-shirt were a fun extra layer to his scenes
(And his song was pretty funny too)
Sai, Jubei’s ghostwriter father, was an interesting character… for positive and negative reasons
Visually, there were plenty of ratio changes or dramatic close-ups of objects like candles etc, that really helped to sell the parody of Chanbara
The tropes of the Shounen anime also get a bit of good-natured ribbing too
I also enjoyed seeing certain characters (without spoilers) cycle through good/evil roles
Poor old Koinosuke
Visually there’s a great range of styles within the show as well
The charming and resolute innocence of Jubei is a great counter to the action + comedy, even as it works on its own comedic level
Bonus points for a cool transformation sequence!
Having mentioned all of the above, I did grow weary of everyone’s obsession with Jubei’s breast-size.
And also, can anyone explain to me what the hell Jubei’s father is supposed to be doing when saving Jubei from the fever? Anyone?
And finally, there’s a sequel series available but I haven’t checked it out just yet, might do so one day, not sure.
For fans of comedy, satire and samurai stories.
3 Stars (4 without the creepy shit).
As a quick, closing example to show a touch of the humour – there’s these two shots one after the other during a dialogue scene, which I really enjoyed.
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).
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 🙂
*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 🙂
Not sure exactly how this series of posts will work, maybe it’ll evolve over time into a different structure or focus?
But for now, I’m planning to just highlight a few shows or episodes I’ve enjoyed + include extra titles that I didn’t realise the writer was involved with.
Further to the above, I’ll note right away that my research is rarely going to be exhaustive 😀
And further further related to the above, while any given writer might be credited with ‘series composition’, ‘screenplay’ or ‘script’, the terms aren’t always interchangeable. That also means that I can’t always directly credit the writer I’ve chosen with a tone, character, sequence or line of dialogue with 100% accuracy.
Nevertheless, here we go with Sadayuki Murai!
Perfect Blue comes to mind first.
I think the main idea for this series of posts came from noticing that Sadayuki Murai adapted Perfect Blue for the big screen and also worked on another Kon film, the amazing Millennium Actress.
When I later realised that he was also credited with one of the standout Cowboy Bebop episodes: ‘Pierrot le Fou’ I was surprised (in a good way). And if you’ve seen either the Bebop episode or Perfect Blue I think tonal similarities are clear.
There’s a relentless kind of menace to both and perhaps something similar can keen seen in Boogiepop Phantom, which credits Murai with series composition. (There’s also Bebop’s ‘Gateway Shuffle’ too, which always struck me as another comparatively dark episode).
You can also see Murai’s work in screenplays for Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040, Devil Lady and Knights of Sidonia along with all of Kino’s Journey and the script for Steamboy too – among plenty of others.
Ideally, I’d like to include a quote or two or mention a few moments in the various scripts to highlight things I’ve enjoyed.
I think I ought to do more than that actually, but while I’m still figuring out how I want these posts to work, I’ll just note three things today:
• Spike’s sleight of hand in ‘Gateway Shuffle‘ always pleases me • InMillenium Actresswhile Chiyoko takes medicine she says “never listen to doctors, they always think that old people are sick” • I’ve said this before but the inter-generational conflict inSteamboyis one of the real highlights for me, I always thought it was written really well
For the next one of these posts I’m planning on writing about Chiaki J. Konaka.
As a side note, I found it surprising that here in Australia my DVD release (the uncut version) is rated MA rather than R, which would be more in line with the rest of the world.
Which I guess is meant to be a segue into a point about content – Perfect Blue is a psychological thriller featuring early internet culture and horror elements, a fair amount of gore and sexualised violence. There are other films out there that are more full-on but this is still a confronting adaptation*.
It’s also compelling on every level; from the intertwined elements of narrative, character, and sound to the visuals and the script and acting – I feel like it’s hyperbolic of me to say, but it’s probably a masterpiece.
I know that’s a loaded word but I can’t give everything I review here a rating of 3 or 4 stars, can I? 😀
So, preamble aside – I should mention the premise finally:
The film follows Mima Kirigoe, a member of a Japanese idol group, who retires from music to pursue an acting career. As she becomes a victim of stalking, gruesome murders begin to occur, and Mima starts to lose her grip on reality.
And that blurring of reality and fantasy when I first saw the film was so immersive, and I love it now too, even though I know what’s going on when it comes to those subsequent viewings.
I was definitely wrong in my prediction about who was responsible for the murders when I was younger. But if you’re quicker than me, you won’t need any second or third screenings to see all the clues, because they’re nice and clear and so the truth doesn’t seem like it comes from out of no-where. There’s no cheap, empty twist.
But I hope if you have never seen Perfect Blue that you still experience a bit of surprise at the ending.
And if you were inclined to watch this film more than once, I hope you also get a chance to focus on the mechanics. I won’t go deep into the production and story elements but I want to use just two classic examples, editing and camera/point of view, to discuss how effortlessly Perfect Blue establishes that feeling of unreality and positions the camera as an unreliable narrator.
[From here, I think it’s possible to see and/or infer spoilers, so tread with caution]
Onscreen, we are shown Mima as the following over the course of the story:
Idol turned actress/centrefold
A character on drama Double Bind
Blogger from ‘Mima’s Room’
However, the intercutting between scenes, locations and roles is often done without viewer cues for time or space.
This is one way that Perfect Blue visually represents that blurring between real and unreal. And when the cutting-rhythm between picks up its pace to show Mima’s state of fear and disorientation, the same effect is cast onto the viewer too.
Here, I’m thinking especially of a long sequence in Mima’s room where she’s waking up over and over when the frequency of cut becomes fast as 2 to 3 seconds compared to maybe an average of 5 or 6 seconds elsewhere. Obviously, it’s not a strobe effect (not yet) but the audience doesn’t get a lot of time to interrogate what they see. Instead, you’re dragged along, just as unsure as Mima is about exactly what’s real.
On to camera!
Camera (and its role in creating point of view) when it comes to storytelling is clearly a very versatile tool.
But I want to focus on when it presents as ‘objective’ and ‘omniscient’ by nature of its ability to see and show things beyond what a main/point of view character perceives.
Again, as with the editing** what I’m always thrilled to notice here is how unreliably the camera operates in the film.
Kon takes advantage of our assumptions. Firstly, if we are shown something on screen that Mimi is not aware of then it is true. This is definitely a feint but it’s aided by the storyline and the idea that the camera is objective – the idea that it shows us, the audience, truth.
We see what Mima cannot see/remember, even if Mima is not involved in events because we need that extra information to think that we’re ‘ahead’ of Mima, that we might know who the killer is and why they kill.
Secondly, we assume that we’re generally riding along in Mima’s point of view during the film. This is another natural assumption. It’s her story, her struggle, and we spend the most amount of time watching her, invested in her life. When the narration moves beyond Mima and her immediate surrounds, it’s almost always to show how other folks are interested in Mima.
These assumptions help the camera to operate in that sly way of the unreliable narrator.
In a movie asking us ‘what is real?’, the scenes it chooses to show us are often clothed in Mima.
When we witness Mima murdering the sleazy photographer and right after see her inability to recall how bloody clothes appeared in her wardrobe, we accept that what we’ve seen is truth. After all, Mima has been having trouble keeping track of reality and we know she deeply resented filming the rape scene at the club. Of course Mima is somehow involved in the murder! And yet… just because the camera showed us something from ‘her point of view’, doesn’t mean we must accept any of that at face value.
I hope I was able to explain what I saw in those elements, as it stands that’s probably giving a bit much away re: spoilers, if you’ve never watched the film. If you have seen Perfect Blue, then you doubtless know what I’m talking about there.
Okay, so moving on from production and story elements now, I want to write about one of the major themes, and also quote Kon’s related remarks.
The exploitation of pop idols is one theme that runs through the movie but perhaps not in a didactic way – at least, not via dialogue. Perfect Blue is still a psychological thriller rather than being a drama or documentary, but the entertainment industry and related obsessions are key to everything that happens.
I suppose you could argue that putting a naive singer through such horrors is in and of itself a heavy-handed comment on the industry but it doesn’t strike me as a lie either. Pop idols (world-wide, not just in Japan) are certainly regularly exploited. (Here’s a much better article on the film and topic).
And Horror can not only function to illuminate the evil that humans are responsible for, but become cautionary too. For me, the story of Perfect Blue has that effect.
Getting back to my opening comment, I want to repeat the idea that this film isn’t for kids. Sexual violence is a significant part of the plot. It’s used as a weapon by the entertainment industry, almost as a way to tarnish Mima’s reputation and inflict self-loathing and doubt (and thus, presumably, later make her much easier for the industry to control).
In fact, the writing of the rape scene into Double Bind isn’t really considered a decision worth involving Mima in, the scriptwriter and director are more worried about her agency’s reaction.
The same violence is also both a threat (and action) from a certain character and shot in such a way that definitely evokes terror. (And so if you know that’s something you don’t want to see then skip Perfect Blue.)
Satoshi Kon himself seems to be of two minds about the club scene from Double Bind especially. The special features on my disc include interviews and lectures and in one part, he is looking back on the film from years later, which I found very interesting:
“At the time, it was supposed to be an OVA. We didn’t know it was to be released in theaters. So we thought we had to make it stand out as much as possible. OVAs don’t get a lot of publicity. So I thought we should have a graphic scene, but I went too far.”
“But this scene was too graphic. When I saw this blown up on a threater-size screen, I ended up looking down.”
These quotes make me wonder exactly how much pressure the industry and OVA-era forms put on creators, as well as performers? Is Kon suggesting that he might have made a different version of the same story if he directed it during a different time, after becoming so well-known?
Impossible to know, of course.
Now, I can’t miss an opportunity to mention Darren Aronofsky.
You might know his films, two of which are Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan. In the same interview/lectures I mention above, Kon mentions that Aronofsky wanted to remake Perfect Blue and you can see here a famous homage(?) from Requiem for a Dream and if you are familiar with the premise and tone of Perfect Blue then you’ll be right at home with Black Swan.
I’m not as well-read on this issue as others out there but Kon didn’t seem to be too impressed himself.
And finally now, I should mention that nostalgia plays a roll in how much I enjoy Perfect Blue. Both for a time when the internet was young and for something I first saw long ago. (In terms of the technology aging, I think it’d be fun to update things with today’s technology if this film were ever remade).
To my eye, pretty much everything looks top notch from Madhouse in terms of the animation and backgrounds etc but if you’ve been raised on modern, bright anime then the colours here may feel a little dull (which adds to the realism of course).
I don’t want to forget mentioning Masahiro Ikumi’s disturbing score, which will probably echo in your head for a while after watching the film – especially Virtual Mima. Some parts evoke a real clash of analogue and digital and it’s all drenched in tension 😀
This has turned into one of the longer reviews I’ve written for quite a while and so I think it’s time to wrap things up, otherwise it’ll never end.
I think this might be Kon’s best film although my favourite of his is probably still Paprika, but if you’re seeking something equal parts confronting and compelling, then Perfect Blue is probably worth seeing at least once.
*Pāfekuto Burū: Kanzen Hentai as written by Yoshikazu Takeuchi.
**Costume plays a really big role here too.
WordPress is (for whatever reason) not letting me add captions to the images but I want to note a couple of things – the ‘anime billboard/poster’ is funny and I noticed that like in many other films from Satoshi Kon, film-making itself is once again referenced in the story.
The recurring reflection motif is sometimes very ‘upfront’ like in the first image, and other times a little more subtle like in the image two above.
The amount of clutter in a lot of the rooms really adds to the sense of claustrophobia that develops in some scenes.
I also eventually noticed just how often the camera shows us Mima from behind, hiding her face and expression, maybe obscuring her relationship to the Mimi who torments her?
So, I took a fair few screenshots and wanted to share some that I didn’t include before… just because, I guess 😀
Hopefully I don’t accidentally double up, but these are just meant to be shots or moments I found interesting in one way or another – if I have the energy I might add a few captions or comments here and there too.
Below, a shot from episode 4 which is actually where the manga starts, from memory.
Lots of dramatic, deep red and orange sunsets in Trigun.
Kuroneko Sama here appearing as she sometimes does, on a poster or a label etc, instead of in-person.
Below that, green, headless birds? 😀
Here is another (somewhat) rare shot of a city-scape that suggests the level of technology in the past/some parts of Gunsmoke is a fair bit more developed than most of what we see during the series.
Feels like the smoke below could almost read “SOS”.
Switch between power being the thing that hides clear view of Vash’s eyes and then his glasses:
Another costume/hair change for Vash.
For the two above, sometimes I forget the twin suns, obviously having some impact on how arid the setting can be.
I’ve always wondered who wrote this – sinister as it is, I can’t recall if Knives is supposed to be out and about at this point?
In the future, I might like to do this sorta thing again – have a series of posts for one show – and see how many I can build up. They tend to take a really long time though, so it might be a while.
Next time it could be Cowboy Bebop, or FMA or Neon Genesis or Samurai Champloo perhaps… not sure yet!
While hardly so divisive as the ending to Neon Genesis, there are a fair few disappointed folks out there when it comes to Trigun’s conclusion.
It’s not an unfinished series, and it’s not the discontent from “it’s not like the manga” that I’m throwing out here in this post either, but something I guess somewhat different… but more on that below.
[Spoilers of varying degrees from this point onward]
So, the leading episodes first.
Wolfwood is quite the scene-stealer and I think you could argue that he does this in the final arc, as his exit during the previous episode hits pretty hard. It’s a bitter end to Vash and Wolfwood’s friendship, to the influence they have on each other too, and the ramifications continue into this arc.
You could certainly argue that his death is in service to Vash’s character development but it certainly functions within his own storyline too.
I say that because, like many other deaths or injustices in the series, they seem to operate (not only) as justification for Vash to finally, directly take a life.Legato and Knives have pushed Vash so close to the edge that, when he must chose to save Meryl and Milly by killing, he does so – and the pain that act causes is a neat, cruel time-bomb left by Knives.
But again, I think of it as necessary in order for the audience to accept Vash’s action, after all the pain he bore to save lives and prevent death in the preceding 20-odd episodes.
Okay, to the ending itself finally.
As I said before, I think the conclusion to Trigun is inevitable and it’s also very clearly set up. That doesn’t mean I found it entirely satisfying, but I don’t think the anime could have ended any other way – Vash was always going to save Knives, rather than take revenge.
Here’s why I think that:
Vash is shown to be a pacifist, often and convincingly.
Rem is kind of Angel-like and her memory functions as a paragon, and one Vash has been striving to live up to for over one hundred years.
Rem charged him with “taking care” of Knives, which doubtless means not just protecting, but redeeming his brother somehow.
When Vash kills Legato, we see that even killing an enemy has quite the impact on him (and the storyline paused to show us that with episode 25) making it clear that he’d never be able to do something similar to his own brother.
Okay, so, having made that list, I definitely wish that Knives had experienced a different consequence for his sociopathic reign.
It did not feel to me that he’d earned forgiveness, nor Vash’s almost infinite patience, and so the final shoot out between them, while impressive, had less of a visceral impact for me. In fact, I think the final flashback (of their years together after the crash) ended up being more compelling.
And I’ve always wondered, actually, what would the final episode be like if we saw the shoot-out first and then the long stretch of their past together?
… and there it is, six posts on one of my favourites 🙂 If you’ve never seen Trigun and it’s already on your list then I think you’re in for a fun ride. It’s one of those shows that feels like it has stood the test of time pretty well – and coming up on 25 years old soon!
But before I finish up (for now) I’ll quickly mention a few quick things like usual:
I’ve always wondered whether the narrative ‘punishes’ Wolfwood and rewards Vash for their respective lifestyles.
(I forgot this last post, but‘Empty Smile’ guitar piece from the OST seems usually to be directed at Vash but its obviously aimed at Wolfwood instead during #23).
Animation quality goes up here in the last few eps.
Of course, as with many villains, Knives is deeply hypocritical – he still uses Plants himself for example.
…and finally, Milly’s laugh after the boulder is pretty great.
I think I will do a gallery/extra bits and pieces post tomorrow for fun – so one more Trigun post coming tomorrow sometime!
Post number five for Trigun – this time it’s a span of episodes that I’ve called something simple, just ‘Doubts’ as I reckon it suits fairly well.
To contrast with the excitement at seeing everyone together again (not right away), there’s an undercurrent of unease here, of impending doom. Part of that feeling for me is fed by the ongoing tension between Vash and Wolfwood’s respective approaches to life.
Opening up with ‘Eriks’ I’m always struck by the sadness that’s pushing forward now – Vash is doing his best to protect everyone by hiding away, but of course he can’t help but form bonds with the people he meets, bonds which we all know are going to be broken. (The use of ‘Not An Angel’ in the OST here always gets me too).
And more, while Wolfwood sort of brings the gang back together there’s a cost – once again, to those Vash loves.
Especially in the ‘Flying Ship/Out of Time’ episodes, as more Gung-Ho Guns attack and interrupt those important memories connected to Vash’s past. To me, it feels like a few bits might even be overplayed but on the other hand, it’s all building to something. The narrative really, really wrings Vash out here, forcing him to absorb more grief on behalf of the promise he’s trying to keep for Rem.
Of course, even the fearsome Vash the Stampede has a limit. And while we don’t see him reach it in these episodes, he gets plenty of trauma to nudge him further toward Wolfwood’s way of life. It’s trauma the narrative needs to show the audience, I reckon, in order to have them accept something that’s due to happen later.
And Nicholas himself is still pushing Vash too. Maybe he can’t accept that someone could ‘permit’ the suffering of many by a refusal to commit violence, while clearly also wanting to prevent it. I guess it’s another facet of the tension between Vash and his world view and so many others upon Gunsmoke. (Actually, maybe that’s a bit simplistic of me).
I guess you could argue that it’s an extension of the ‘outsider’ trope, a classic one that Vash fits really well, not just via his character design with the red coat and blonde hair, but of course his pacifism. Which kinda sets him up as an underdog too, which is another way to manipulate an audience… but I’m always happy to go along with it.
And Vash has the contradiction of being a gunslinger but one who doesn’t want to draw blood – at times he’s covered in the imagery, poses, props and conventions of violence as equivalent to ‘cool’, but the goofy side, the gentle side both add that internal tension to his character.
So, getting back to the arc itself again, toward the end of this stretch of episodes is where Wolfwood confronts his own reluctance to commit a certain act (that I won’t spoil just in case). And I’ve always found it striking that he tells Vash “don’t tell me your dream in a place like this” here, another quote that always leaps out at me.
Some more quick observations:
Milly being late to work 20 times, I think it was
The rare costume change in ‘Hang Fire’ (#19) for Vash
I always thought the puppet master/dolls are creepy designs that double as good ‘fodder’ for Vash and Wolfwood – allowing the heroes to do some damage, and give the audience that outlet, without murdering
Chapel is a pretty memorable character, maybe a bit under-utilized perhaps
Finally we get to learn the sad truth about Plants
Well, it seems that the next and final* post is suddenly right around the corner – the ‘Final Shootout‘ with episodes 24 – 26!
(yep, I had to use a Western trope for the title of this arc).