Here are more reviews of Streamline Pictures’ video releases. These are being posted to reference purposes (mine in particular) and recall some of the earliest serious commentary about anime published back in the 1990s.
“An enormously huge amount of work went into the Dirty Pair Movie, making it an instant classic, forever burning a very specific look of two busty space gals into our retinas. Streamline Pictures brings us Sunrise’s production of the riotous exploits of Haruka Takachiho’s famous duo, Kei and Yuri, two ace troubleshooters of the WWWA, two girls with big — er, bazookas. There, I’ve made my one and only joke; in point of fact, the sexual aspects are all very tame, the hypertrophied mammary glands and slick, skimpy work garments notwithstanding. There is by far more violence and humor than sex to the total DP scenario, and the girls themselves are more like the old idealized Play-boy centerfolds. Some politically sensitive types may raise eyebrows, but our Lovely Angels are really no different from Jessica Rabbit when she says, ‘I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.'”
“The characters of Kei and Yuri are appealing not only because of their good looks but also because of their fully realized personalities.” “The animation brings Tsukasa Dokite’s character designs to life, with an amazing range of expressions and movements. A few rough spots detract, but the maneuvers of Kei and Yuri and their reluctant partner Carson, along with some extraordinary special-effects animation, more than make up for a lack of total consistency. The animated techy graphics, a Sunrise specialty, are a sight to behold. The backgrounds of the planet and the laboratory are unequivocally among the most inventive in the hard SF side of anime. The music, too, is still some of the best anywhere. From the ‘Safari Eyes’ 007-type opening to the closing ‘Pas de Deux,’ the sounds are jazzy, interspersed with some background strains, giving the wastes of Agerna an uneasy moodiness.” “Streamline has brought us a very fun video avatar of this classic.” “A recent development, Streamline gives the voice-actors remarkably visible credit — it’s a nice touch. The sound reproduction and stereo separation are great. The color transfer is clean with only a smidgen of blooming-out of the saturated reds (the [original Japanese] LD was prone to this, also). Single-frame fans will truly flip out over Mughi’s display-board antics aboard the spaceship Lovely Angel.” “For a title some of us thought would never be released in our lifetimes, Dirty Pair: Project Eden will satisfy the science fiction action-adventure big bazooka craving, at least until Flight 005 Conspiracy, the next DP feature, hits the market.”
Rick Sternbach, Animerica, v.2 #8, August 1994, pg. 61-62
“More Japanese animation dubbed in English with overly sexy and busty female heroines and bumbling heroes who somehow get the job done.” “What saves [the film] from going into the realm of the absolutely absurd is its sense of humor, both visual and verbal …” “No extreme nudity in these cartoons (hope to get some of that before its too late) […] However, the animation itself is so enjoyable and so fast-paced, you won’t care if you see a animated girl’s exposed tits and muff or not.”
Scott Munroe, Chairs Missing, August 1994, pg. 
“They’re cute, they’re sexy, and they’re packing some major heat. And with their reputation, you can bet they know how to turn up the fire when they need to. Besides, who else could take on these kinds of problems and still look so good? I liked this film very much. Carl Macek has done another great job producing and directing the English language version; and the English script by Ardwight Chamberlain meshes perfectly with the original Japanese animation. This makes a great intro to the Dirty Pair films, as it was the only theatrical release of the series. […] Think of it as James Bond meets Betty & Veronica meets Alien. Simple idea, really.”
Don Birmingham, ConNotations, v.5 #1, Winter 1995, pg. 19
“The SF graphics look great.” “Streamline’s dubbed version is as good as the Japanese original.”
Walt James, The Phantom of the Movies’ VideoScope, v.2 no.10, July 15-Sept. 15, 1994, pg. 13
[#1-#4] “Anime horror is one of the rarest of breeds. Iczer One’s Cthuluesque aliens and the likes of Urotsuki Doji: Legend of the Overfiend aside, Doomed Megalopolisis about the only example I’ve ever seen of real animated horror…the eerie kind. The kind that keeps you up nights. And it’s a good one. The story opens in 1912 with a mysterious sorcerer named Kato trying to wake the guardian spirit of Tokyo […] Lean, pale, and hatchet-faced, dressed in an early twentieth-century Japanese officer’s uniform, Kato casts his spells, screaming in a raspy voice, ‘Arise, ARISE!’ The earth rumbles, spirits howl, and apparitions swirl across the sky, but Kato cannot break the seal on the grave. Frustrated, the evil Kato turns his efforts toward a young girl named Yukari Tatsumiya to use as his tool in raising Masakado’s ghost. The Tatsumiya family’s curse starts here, and the entire Doomed Megalopolis four-volume OAV story turns on the legacy of Kato’s original choice of Yukari as his pawn. […] Even with the help of a powerful priest, Yukari’s defenders are unable to protect her, and she’s eventually kidnapped by Kato, going on to bear a child who then becomes the focus of his evil attentions. There’s a fair amount of sexual imagery in this series, but be warned — it’s of the creepy sort, not the erotic. There’s also some real stomach-turning stuff; psychologically speaking, this series just isn’t for younger viewers. The first volume of Doomed Megalopolis alone is a deep-dish helping of horror, but the story goes on for another three volumes to cover more than a dozen years, encompassing the great 1923 Tokyo Earthquake, demonic possession, madness, incest, and a mystical attempt to make the moon crash down on the Earth. Doomed Megalopolis watches like a good horror novel reads, with new fears being uncovered in each gothic chapter. Produced in 1992, the animation has the benefit of some excellent staff names. Supervising director Taro Rin (Dagger of Kamui) and the character designer known professionally as Masayuki both pitched in to write the screenplay, along with Akinori Endo. (Later in the series, Gainax names begin to pop up, such as Honneamise’s Hideaki Anno as animation director, and even Nadia’s Yoshiyuki Sadamoto as character designer.) As you might guess, the animation is pretty spectacular — the mystical effects alone are mind-blowing, and the whole production has a moonlit, muted color palette with effective, eerie lighting. Streamline’s English adaptation is first-rate. The evil Kato’s rasp still gives me chills, and the voice of his main nemesis, the old priest Hirai, is about as perfect for a grizzled old man as you can get. If I may voice one complaint, it would be that the sound levels may take a little tinkering on your TV. On my set, there were a few spots in the action where people seemed not to be speaking, but whispering very quietly. You might want to avoid the problem entirely and turn the thing up, and let the loud sounds shock you. This is a horror film, after all, and if you’ve got the stomach for a good, creepy, animated chill, Doomed Megalopolis is definitely a memorable nightmare.”
Angeline Kim, Animerica, v.3 #8 [August 1995], pg. 64
[#1 & #2] “Very powerful images and a sophisticated storyline combine in this brilliant example of mature-themed animation from one of Japan’s master directors, Rin Taro.” “Doomed Megalopolis has been dubbed very smoothly into English so you can sit back and watch the story unfold without the need to keep your eyes glued to the bottom half of the screen. One translation that is not as smooth, though, is the cultural differences between East and West. Like most Japanese films I’ve seen (animated and live-action), I get the feeling that more is going on than I understand. Sometimes this detracts from films, but in this case it helps create a strange mood that enhances the story. I highly recommend Doomed Megalopolis.”
Don Birmingham, ConNotations, v.3 #3, Fall 1993, pg. 24
[#1 & #2] “This is without a doubt, one of the best OVA series we have seen in years.” “The animation itself is technically and esthetically fantastic and we could not find anything wrong with it. The character designs, if unusual (they remind us of WINGS OF HONNEAMISE with some touches of NADIA), are perfect and the music is extraordinary. Even the dubbing is satisfactory. If you have to buy an OVA series, try this one. You will not be disappointed: it is certainly not the typical horror-style anime.”
unsigned, Protoculture Addicts, #26, January-February 1994, pg. 37
[#1] “The last couple of years have seen a string of resurrections of beloved anime heroes (…) The latest familiar face to crop up in a slick, modernized incarnation is cyborg superhero Eight Man. I confess that I’ve never seen the vintage original, but Eight Man After, released in dubbed form by Streamline, is solidly entertaining on its own merits.” “The production here is top-notch. Directed by Sumiyoshi Furakawa, Eight Man After’s slick, high-budget animation is complemented by a distinctive visual style.” “Streamline’s dub certainly does the characters justice, especially in the case of one endearingly gawky cop. The music in particular is excellent, some of the most interesting and distinctive background music I’ve heard since Akira, although it seems to be turned down terribly low through most of the video. I hope that Streamline will opt to release their original music on CD, so we can crank it up ourselves. If Bubblegum Crisis, Dangaio or Giant Robo light your fire, Eight Man After is a safe bet. This first installment may be a little light on combat for the hard-core action buff, since it’s largely exposition and character setup, but when the fighting starts, it’s pretty breathtaking. Eight Man’s last-minute appear-ance in particular is a real treat — I can hardly wait to see him in action in future episodes. Even if you’re not a fan of cyborg battle, you may still want to check this out as an example of exciting, high-quality animation.”
John Lau, Animerica, v.2 #9, September 1994, pg. 64
[Perfect Collection] “Streamline Pictures has released all the volumes of their 8 Man After series onto one video. The original 8 Man was a black-and-white animated series created in Japan in the early ’60s and brought to the U.S. soon after. […] The story actually begins by continuing from the old series. Upon discovering exactly what he was, 8 Man disappears. Years later, cyborg punks run rampant through the streets, committing horrifyingly violent crimes. Private detective Hazama is hired by a police-friendly cybernetics lab to track down Professor Eddy Schmidt, who created the cyborg punks with stolen top-secret information. […] 8 Man After – Perfect Collection is worth every buck. Old fans should be surprised with the return of an old friend (though certainly altered by contemporary events). First-time viewers may find themselves wanting to see what has gone on before.”
Roy Ware, Hero Illustrated, September 1995, Anime Action section (on line)
“The 1960s 8 Man concept — a policeman is killed and revived as a cyborg superhero — may have pre-dated RoboCop by 20 years, but it’s hard not to suspect that the producers of this 8 Man sequel were thinking more of RoboCop than of their own origins. Of course, the whole superhero genre has grown much grittier, gorier and more cynical over the last three decades. ‘The City’ has fallen under the control of a mysterious crime boss, Mr. Hallowe’en, who is building street gangs with lethal weaponry surgically grafted onto their bodies. This technology was stolen from Dr. Tani, the inventor, who is hiding the fact that 8 Man was destroyed months ago in his last battle. When a new ‘good guy,’ Hazama, is killed in action, Tani turns him into a replacement 8 Man. But the original hero had been a squeaky-clean, idealistic cop. Hazama was a bitter and disturbed private eye. The main plot follows Hazama as he uses his new 8 Man powers to track down Mr. Hallowe’en and his kill-crazy henchman Tony Gleck. The subplot centers on Hazama’s fears that his angry id will override his civilized mind, provoking his 8 Man body to slaughter rather than merely arrest everybody who ticks him off. This four-episode serial is aimed at contempo fans of psycho heroes with deep personality flaws, bitchin’ dynamic art design, and slugfests wherein characters rip each other’s arms off. Good English-voice acting and nice ‘cyberpunk’ mood music further embroider the animated episodes.”
Walt James, The Phantom of the Movies’ VideoScope, v.3 no.14, March 15-May 15, 1995, pg. 13
“Northstar is a must see for anyone who is a serious fan of violent video games, Bruce Lee movies, or just wants to have a good time watching a corny movie.”
TAP, Axcess, v.2 #2, [May-June] 1994, pg. 109
“It’s violence as only the Japanese can do it, and the film stuns its
audience with a mixture of grotesque gore and almost balletic beauty. The colorful animation techniques are eye-boggling: every frame is a work of art. And the animation will hold one’s interest even after the endless violence begins to wear thin.” “…the Toons look so Occidental that, with its quality English dubbing, the film should import easily to major markets.
Karen Kreps, Boxoffice, February 1992, pg. R-19
“‘Fist of the North Star’ […] is one of the most violent epics on screen in years. So where’s the X — excuse us, we mean NC-17 — rating? ‘We couldn’t afford it,’ said Jerry Beck of Streamline Pictures, the film’s distributor. ‘It costs $800 to go before the film industry’s ratings board. And we’re a small company.’ Beck describes the film’s plot: ‘Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy explodes heads of other boys who took girl.'”
Barbara Lippman, Columbia University Spectator, November 19, 1991, pg. ?
“Both the good and the bad guys in Fist of the North Star are so much larger than life, they make Hulk Hogan look like Pee Wee Herman. The setting is a medieval future following a nuclear war. The story follows a number of characters, some of whom are trying to rebuild the devastated world, while others are battling over the woman they both want. It’s this last story that gets the most screen time, and why not? The characters were probably more interesting to draw; they’re certainly interesting to watch. […] What makes [the plot] interesting is the way Chin [N.b.: Shin], Ken, and the other warrior characters settle their differences. They fight, but not in any way you’re seen before. Their advanced martial arts skills allow them to crush skulls with one hand and literally tear each other limb from limb (all in glorious slow-motion). When that’s not enough, they’ll lop off part of a mountain and drop it on their opponent. Fist of the North Star is a hot mix of Road Warrior imagery crossed with samurai legends.”
Richard Kadrey, Covert Culture Sourcebook 2.0 (St. Martin’s Press, 1994), pg. 154
“Apart from anything else, ‘Fist Of The North Star’ is the only eco-apocalyptic/kung fu movie known to be in captivity — and it features more exploding heads than ‘Scanners’.”
unsigned, Empire; The Monthly Guide To The Movies, May 1992, pg. ?
“There is plenty of action packed into this 100 minutes, and some of the graphics, such as heads exploding and faces melting, are quite impressive.” “It is […] entertaining on several levels, and offers some curiously, and hopefully intentionally, humorous dialogue.”
Jeff Menell, The Hollywood Reporter, November 15, 1991, pg. ?
“…looks like a Saturday morning kidvid version of a Jean-Claude van Damme movie.”
Charles Solomon, Los Angeles Times, December 16, 1991, pg. F6
“Director Toyoo Ashida creates elegant, atmospheric visuals; the Japanese depiction of a nuclear holocaust is firsthand, specific and haunting.”
F. X. Feeney, L.A. Weekly, v.16 #6, January 7-13, 1994, pg. 37
“Its occasional pretensions aside, ‘Fist’s’ chief appeal lies in its often spectacularly rendered martial-arts showdowns — complete with bone-breakings, head-crushings, and blood and gore galore.” “Hardcore Japanimation fans, on the other fist, should find the flick just their cup of saki.”
Phantom of the Movies, New York Daily News, November 15, 1991, pg. ?
“After watching ‘Fist of the North Star,’ even a confirmed free-trader might grow concerned about the flood of Japanese imports. Alas, a tariff wall would be no defense against the film’s devastating martial artistry.” “‘Death should not be rushed,’ one of the many villains pronounces. ‘One should savor it like fine wine and enjoy it.’ Ah, so that’s why ‘Fist of the North Star’ is so bloody, and seems so bloody long.” “Imagine a mix of ‘Mad Max,’ spaghetti westerns and samurai epics, with exploding heads by David Cronenberg and blood spurts by Sam Peckinpah. The violence never ceases, because Ken has an endless supply of semi-distinguishable enemies.”
Terry Kelleher, New York Newsday, November 15, 1991, pg. ?
“The time is the future, which is when lovers of apocalyptic fantasies like to see stories set. The place is planet Earth after a nuclear holocaust, which is to say it could be any desert planet where mutant giants sport Mohawk dos and battle each other over babes.” “‘Fist’ is not intended for children. It is unabashedly and unremittingly violent, a head-banger’s entertainment in which blood spurts freely and eyes pop out every time there’s a fight.” “‘Fist’ seems intended for fans of heavy metal comics, though the absence of sex will probably disappoint them. It may also attract devotees of Nintendo’s ‘Game Boy’ video games, which features the same characters.”
Matthew Flamm, New York Post, November 15, 1991, pg. ?
“‘Fist of the North Star’ […] offers one of the more brutalizing examples of a malaise that permeates pop culture: technological dazzle as a substitute for content. Set in a postnuclear wasteland that shares some similarities with the world of ‘Mad Max,’ this ‘splattertoon,’ as its distributor calls it, purports to be a cautionary tale about the use of lethal weapons. But it is really a 100-minute orgy of blood and martial-arts violence carried on by futuristic Neanderthals so mountainously proportioned they make Arnold Schwarzenegger look like a 97-pound weakling.” “Tetsuo Hara, its artistic mastermind, has created a spectacularly creepy city-scape of corpse-strewn tunnels and crumbling bombed-out skyscrapers, and the evil warriors exceed one’s nightmares of heavy-metal thugs bent on pure evil.”
Stephen Holden, New York Times, November 15, 1991, pg. C8
“Who would ever think that a concept as violent as Hokuto no Ken would be picked up by Streamline Pictures?” “I have seen both [Japanese and English] versions, and being that I am a big fan of Kenshiro, not to mention that I am an adamant purist, I surprise myself by saying that both versions are fantastic!” “It should be noted that Greg Snow does a superb job of voicing Rei, as does Mike McConochie (B.D. of Megazone 23 Part II) for his wicked interpretation of Shin’s dark humor. On the other hand, the voice actor who plays Ken made the character seem flat at times, but he does a surprisingly good job of interpreting Ken’s awesome super-strikes, the unforgettable AAA-TAH-TAH-TAH-TAH-TAH-TAAH!” “Streamline’s Fist shows every single unedited minute of what they aptly call an ‘Epic Assault on the Senses’. And while the traditions that gave the original Hokuto no Ken its zest were lost in the interpretation, Macek and Wyner definitely do the basics of the story justice.”
John Bardy, The Rose, v.6 #31, January 1992, pg. 20
“‘ARRRRGGGH! I have turned my body into solid steel! Now I will … crush Raoh’s army … like insects!’ Yes, gigantic mutants and superheroes have survived the atomic apocalypse, along with generic rock songs and big-eyed children — left over from velvet paintings, no doubt — and road warriors with muscles Leonardo never dreamed of.” “The finale holds no surprises, but the mother of all fights — with its devastating effects on the surrounding cityscape — has its own kind of fascination.”
David Armstrong, San Francisco Examiner, October 25, 1991, pg. D-6
“Japanese animated features have drawn considerable attention recently, a result of their vibrant, saturated colors, dynamic action sequences and lush, densely painted backgrounds — as well as their propensity toward graphic violence and an obsession with death and the brutal effects of nuclear holocaust. Fist of the North Star is the next logical step in this progression (or regression, depending upon your viewpoint) toward an absurdly grotesque aesthetic that Japanese animated films like Akira have hinted at. If you com-pare the violence in a traditional 1950s Western to Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, you’ll grasp the extent to which Fist marks a radical shift in Japanese animation. Fist’s plot is complex and silly, rife with sibling rivalry, torn allegiances and post-apocalyptic tragedy. […] People don’t just die — they suffer a myriad of mutilations. A truncated list of the sadistic mayhem includes head explosions with brains splashing in the foreground, limbs sliced off, and hands penetrating torsos and ripping out organs. Credits for the voices used in the film list such notable characters as Pillage Victim, Thugmeister and, well, you get the picture. The gratuitous and exploitative violence might be considered offensive and irresponsible if Fist of the North Star were not so completely over the top. The visual presentation of the violent acts borders on the surreal, with characters often battling against a psychedelic tie-dye backdrop in a languid faux slow-motion; at other times their fists are flying so fast they just blur across the screen in various stages of movement, as if in a Cubist painting.” “Though Ashida’s film is clearly aimed at teenage boys, fans of truly bizarre films in general should also appreciate it. At times approaching Wagnerian proportions (the climax — with rival brothers fighting it out, their arteries spurting everywhere, as an entire city collapses and our heroine suspended on a 500-foot crucifix sways in the background — could never be sufficiently described in words), Fist is a visually powerful film, the wildest cinema to come out of Japan in years.”
Michael Arago, The San Francisco Weekly, October 23, 1991, pg. 24
“It’s a nonstop gore festival in which animated blood spurts like red ribbons, arms are severed for comic effect, heads are sliced off or explode, the hero’s fiancee is literally crucified, and the killers talk dirty.” “‘When opposites become as one, a savior will emerge,’ we’re told at one point. But when you can’t tell the opposites apart, it’s hard to feel much investment in the outcome. Almost the only character who makes an impression is a pathetic mute child, a Pollyanna with gooey Keane eyes ‘whose innocence and purity symbolize the hope for a better future’ (that’s what it says in the press kit).”
John Harll, The Seattle Times, October 18, 1991, pg. ?
“With spectacular animation and a very solid plot, surely inspired by epic stories of good versus evil, the film positions itself above other animated flicks that lack one or two of the characteristics mentioned above. The almost psychedelic fighting scenes, which make Mortal Kombat look like Pacman, play a central role in the story.”
Henning Lindblad, (Cal State Los Angeles) University Times, v.139 #12, February 17, 1994, pg. 5
“At the end of this crudely animated Japanese feature, the audience sullenly filed out, unable to meet one another’s eyes. It wasn’t simply that Fist was a ‘bad’ film; after all, the guilty pleasure of Japanese animation is camp (the Four Elements of the anime world being surreal bombast, technoviolence, romantic melodrama, and Mickey Mouse mysticism). It was simply that this was a cold, hard, ugly little picture.” “There is grotesquerie here that only animation can convey — it’s beyond makeup. But the gruesomeness of the action is nothing compared with that of the film’s implied premises, that only the strong should survive; that the weak — women and children — are hostages or chattel; that it’s a Rambo world, and a thousand years of human experience, even nuclear holocaust, won’t change it. Had the filmmakers been conscious of this message, it might have worked as grim allegory, a Maus-like cartoon warning. Their sanguine enthusiasm suggests that perhaps it’s too late.”
Jeff Yang, (New York) Village Voice, December 10, 1991, pg. 72
“Frame by frame, ‘Fist of the North Star’ is spectacular.” “…this 100-minute feature is […] an unsettling mix of cosmic preachiness and red-ink-splattered violence. Definitely not for children, ‘Fist’ would be rated R, and possibly X, were its stars human.” “Technology is useless, the land is barren, cities are in rubble, and hapless survivors vie for water rights and shelter. This is all near-irrelevant background to a series of clashes between titans both good and bad but equally possessed of supernatural martial arts skills — the most dangerous being their ability to slice and dice foes, and to make heads explode, ‘Scanners’-style. Since there’s a steady stream of Mohawked biker outlaws and armor-clad sinners from Central Casting, heads explode with regularity and blood flows by the barrel.” “All this is played out in fine, colorful graphics embracing wide, desolate panoramas and extreme action — an Eastern, if you will, but with director Toyoo Ashida paying homage to Sam Peckinpah and Wes Craven rather than John Ford. There are other film echoes here, as well: ‘A Fistful of Dollars,’ ‘Triumph of the Will,’ ‘Mad Max,’ ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Alexander Nevsky.’ ‘Kung Fu’ and every Jackie Chan and Jean-Claude Van Damme film ever made. In fact, the graphic violence is so extreme and visceral, so bloody, that Chan, Van Damme and the entire World Wrestling Federation might get queasy.” “‘Fist of the North Star’ is a gut-punching ecological fable (a stretch, but it’s there), but watching it you’ll feel as comfortable as a hemophiliac in a razor blade factory.”
Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, October 25, 1991, pg. B9
Next week: More reviews