My previous column on “Outrageous Anime” was popular enough that here is a followup on more jaw-dropping anime – deliberate or not.
Excel Saga. Heppoko Jikken Anime Excel Saga (Quack Experimental Animation Excel Saga). I am not sure that I should even get started on this one. Excel Saga was 26 TV episodes, October 10, 1999 to March 30, 2000 at 1:15 to 1:45 a.m., except that this only covered episodes ##1-25. #26 featured every TV taboo that was unairable, and was added to the DVD release. Lord Ilpalazzo of ACROSS plots to conquer the world, one city at a time, with the help of his two henchgirls, the ditsy high school graduate Excel, and Hyatt who dies at least once each episode. Excel talks so fast that Jessica Calvello, her original voice artist in the American dub for A.D. Vision, strained her vocal chords so badly that she had to be replaced. Each episode was a parody of a genre of anime: crime shows, bad s-f shows, action movies, romance, sports, talking animals, social dramas, horror, even Americanized anime. The manga’s creator, Rikdo Koshi, and the anime director, Shinichiro Watanabe, both had “breaking the fourth wall” roles, Watanabe as “Nabeshin”, a Lupin III lookalike. A running gag was that Excel is starving and is preparing to eat the dog Menchi, who is sentient (although nobody notices) and is always trying to escape. In the closing credits, Menchi walks onto a stage to a microphone, and barks the end-credits song, “Menchi’s Bolero of Sorrow” (translated for the viewer’s benefit), roughly “please don’t eat me, but if you must, do it quickly before I get stale.” There are too many other absurdities to mention. Excel Saga was and is still extremely popular with anime fans.
Dragon Half. Two OAVs, based upon a manga by Ryosuke Mita and published in Monthly Dragon Magazine, a Japanese Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game magazine. The OAVs were released in March and May 1993, but sales were dismal, so magazine publisher Kadokawa Shoten discontinued the proposed 4-part series (animated by Victor Entertainment) halfway finished. Therefore when new (August 1992) American anime licensee A.D. Vision went to Japan looking for anime to license, Dragon Half was available extra-cheaply. A.D. Vision’s subtitled videos came out in late 1993. The dubbed video came out in November 1998.
It was very unfortunate that Dragon Half was never finished, because it was an extremely funny parody of the fantasy gaming genre. A review by Marc Marshall in Akemi’s Anime World said, “Dragon Half is the supreme ruler of silly fantasy anime. Plot, logic, and any semblance of maturity are hurled out of the ring in favor of a no-holds-barred SD free-for-all of epic stupidity. It’s sure funny, but only for those prepared for a straight hour of chibi nonsense. Perhaps the best part, though, is listening to the entire cast repeatedly go from straight to baby-talk in mid sentence.” Dragon Half was outrageous in its sendup of the Dungeons and Dragons formula. It switched frequently from a regular cartoon art style to “Super Deformed” depictions of the same characters. The main character is Mink, the daughter of a dragon-slaying knight and the dragon that he was supposed to slay, but eloped with instead. Mink is a cute teenaged girl with tiny dragon horns, wings, and tail, who can breathe fire when she loses her temper. She has a crush on Dick Saucer, the reigning pop singer and dragon slayer, and is oblivious to the fact that he wants to slay her because she is half dragon. Her enemies are the King, who earlier sent her dragon-slaying father to kill her mother; Rosario, the King’s unusually inept wizard; and Princess Vina, the haughty president of the Dick Saucer Fan Club. Rosario carries a bucket of dry ice so he can appear in a sinister veil of mist. Rosario to Mink: “Now, now. Why don’t you take this apple and calm down.” Mink: “No way! That’s a poisoned apple.” Rosario (aside) “What? The Snow White Strategy has failed.” Mink wants to go to the big city to see Saucer perform live at a concert, but to get the money for a ticket, she has to enter the Brutal-Killer Martial Arts Tournament. The closing credits song, “My Omelette”, has original gonzo lyrics by Kyoko Matsumiya to a medley from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, 4th movement (and other symphonies), fully orchestrated. “Don’t eat the tomato! It’s mine, and I should know!” “Damn! Bloody eggs! Bloody eggs!” At an anime convention around the early 2000s, I suggested to either John Ledford or Matt Greenfield, the head honchos at A.D.V. Films, that since Dragon Half was selling so well and they had a lot more money now than when they’d started, that they commission Kadokawa and Victor Entertainment to produce the last two episodes as American original OAVs. The answer was that they’d already thought of that, but that they couldn’t get permission from manga creator, Ryosuke Mita.
Hellsing. 13 TV episodes, October 10, 2001 to January 16, 2002, based on the manga by Kouta Hirano. (He insists on presenting his name in the Japanese fashion, family name first.) Broadcast on Thursdays from 2:25 to 2:55 a.m. due to its extreme adult nature. This was a horror shocker not for the squeamish, emphasizing names from American horror movie classics. In this series, humanity is constantly being preyed upon by traditional vampires – immortal, sleeping in coffins in the daytime, vulnerable to silver, holy water, and a stake through the heart, etc. There are at least two top-secret international organizations battling the vampires “with extreme prejudice”; unfortunately, they hate each other just as much. They are Great Britain’s aristocratic Royal Order of Protestant Knights, informally known as the Hellsing Organization after its founder and hereditary leaders, and the Vatican’s Section XIII, informally known as the Iscariot Organization. Both are sworn to exterminate vampires, ghouls, zombies, black sorcerers, and other enemies of mankind, but Hellsing’s reliance on using “good” vampires to fight vampires leaves it open to suspicion and accusations of hypocrisy from its enemies. Iscariot is fanatically opposed to all vampires, and to Hellsing for having “good” vampires among its agents; besides, Iscariot is Catholic and Hellsing is Protestant. There are hints that Iscariot is not reluctant to kill any non-Catholic. (Later, in Kouta’s manga, a third secret anti-undead organization was introduced: the Millennium Organization, as in Thousand Year Reich; created by Adolf Hitler as Germany’s counterpart to the Hellsing and Iscariot Organizations, and outliving the Nazi regime.)
The protagonist was the immortal vampire Alucard (which A.D.V. Films, the American DVD licensee, spelled “Arucard” in the subtitles, saying that they knew it should be Alucard, Dracula spelled backwards; but Kouta insisted on the Arucard spelling). Alucard is the chief hitman against other vampires for the Hellsing Organization, taking orders directly from Sir Integra Hellsing, the crippled, bitter young woman who is the last of the Hellsing family. However, there were indications in Alucard’s arrogant body language that he was not really subservient to the Hellsing Organization, but was using it for his own purposes. The point-of-view character was Seras (Sarah?) Victoria, a young policewoman killed in the first episode. To “keep her alive”, Alucard bit her and turned her into a vampire before she died. Victoria hates being a vampire and tries to carry on being a British policewoman despite her blood-lust, her aversion to sunlight, etc., to Alucard’s amusement. As Victoria gradually adapts to her vampire nature, the viewer comes to understand the difference between “good” vampires and the rest of the vampires, the social and political divisions among vampires, and so on.
The 13 episodes focused upon the British Hellsing Organization. The fights against vampires were almost overshadowed by the political sabotage in the House of Lords to shut it down; the scheming within the Hellsing family for control of the Organization; the attacks by Father Alexander Anderson of the Iscariot Organization against Hellsing in general and Alucard in particular, the organized attack by ghouls commanded by the Valentine Brothers against the Hellsing mansion that killed 90% of Hellsing’s agents, and so on. The first episode featured a priest who had been turned into a vampire and was feasting on his parishioners, and who slaughtered the police team sent to combat him. Almost every episode showed more violence, gore, and suspense than were in the American horror features that had inspired them. Hellsing was certainly outrageous.
The Shame of Teacher Machiko. “Maicchingu Machiko-sensei”, literally I Give Up – Teacher Machiko. 95 TV episodes, October 8, 1981 to October 6, 1983, on Thursdays at 7:30-8:00 p.m. In other words, this was a family TV comedy. We started getting videos of this from Japan at the same time that Urusei Yatsura started coming out. Both rotated around highjinks in a school classroom, and at first we equated them as a new anime genre; the school fantasy-comedy. We were delighted at this, until we realized that Urusei Yatsura was constantly evolving and growing, while Miss Machiko was a one-joke show.
Miss Machiko was based on a popular manga by Takeshi Ebihara. Wikipedia has described it succinctly but a bit misleadingly: “The series revolves around Professor Machiko, who wears a revealing red mini-skirt, and her regularly finding herself in accidental sexual situations. Machiko is very popular with her students, especially the boys, who take delight in lifting up her skirts and devising traps to catch her in various stages of undress. Rather than get angry, Machiko responds by laughing it off and uttering her trademark phrase, “Maicchingu!” (roughly meaning ‘I give up.’).” That description implies that Machiko Mai is a college professor and her students are in their late adolescence. The correct description is that she is a new teacher at Asama Elementary School, where “teacher” or “Miss” would be a more accurate title than “professor”; and there is very little “accidental” about the sexual situations. Her students, led by impish Kenta, who look like they are about 9 or 10 years old, work very hard to set up situations that “cutely” lift her skirts, or that require her to undress to change clothes. Both the boys and the adult male teachers enjoy this, especially the Principal and Fukuoka-sensei (both bald and mustached), while the sexually frustrated spinster teacher, Miss Aomori, fumes helplessly. This outrageousness was very funny for about the first half-dozen times that we saw it, but it got old fast.
Most of the Miss Machiko scenes on YouTube video (above) are edited highlights of skirt-lifting scenes. Early anime fans may have tired of it fast, but Miss Machiko still remains very popular in Japan: There were eight live-action feature-length theatrical movies and direct-to-video releases between March 2003 and September 2009.
Coyote Ragtime Show. 12 TV episodes, July 4 – September 19, 2006, Tuesdays at 1:30 to 2:00 a.m. For me, this tongue-in-cheek space opera was outrageous for the way that it used American-style names. For most others, it was the “bevy of bionic battle beauties”, the twelve android assassins designed to look like goth Lolitas, cute little girls in Victorian frilly black dresses, with deadly weapons. January carried two FN-P 90 guns, April had a gold-plated Luger pistol, July was an expert with a katana, August liked hand grenades, and so on.
Pirate-King Bruce Docherly, usually referred to as just “Pirate-King Bruce”, is killed by Madame Marciano, the leader of the Criminal Guild that unofficially rules the galaxy. Bruce has left his loot, ten billion space dollars, to his young daughter Franca (or Franka), who has escaped Madame Marciano’s assassins and has taken refuge with Bruce’s friend and rival pirate known only as “Mister”. Mister has been captured, and Franca makes herself useful running his “Pirate” bar. The loot is hidden in an impregnable vault somewhere on the planet Graceland. Graceland is now in such a violent state of civil war that the President of the Milky Way Federation (secretly in connivance with Madame Marciano) has announced that he will blow up the planet in a week. This gives Mister a deadline to break out of prison, escape in his spaceship the Coyote to Graceland, and find the treasure for Franca before it is destroyed. Madame Marciano, having planned this, is following to claim-jump the treasure. Mister has with him his sidekicks Bishop (another space pirate) and Katana (the pilot of the Coyote), Franca, and Bruce’s former first mate, Swamp Gordon. The Coyote is pursued separately by Madame Marciano with her android “daughters”, the Twelve Sisters, named January to December and looking like cute little girls in old-fashioned lacy dresses packing automatic weapons; and Mister’s nemesis, Detective Angelica Burns of the Federation Bureau, and her partner, Chelsea Muir (or Moore). A fast-paced, devil-may-care space opera with enough humor mixed with drama to please everyone.