Saturday, December 3, 2011

Star Blazers



"I cannot bear to see what has become of Earth. Once green and growing with blue lakes and silver streams, great rivers and mighty seas... Now all gone.

Only day and burning desert left.
Radiation everywhere." -Captain Abaraham Avatar



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STAR BLAZERS
For the record: Marc Kane’s an adult female of the species, talking to Lue, an adult male. This should be read, picturing our mouths moving along with limited motion that doesn’t synch up, occasionally with our lips not shown so the long sentences can finish while you’re looking at the top of our hats or something.

LUE:
So what was your first impression of STAR BLAZERS?
MARC:
Mine? Ok, well…we won’t count when I was sleepy! When it first started, I was looking at it critically: I didn’t like the dress on Nova---but the uniform with the black and yellow looked really good. I found a few little inconsistencies, like her missing the doctor symbol on one of the scenes. But I wouldn’t have watched any more of it if I hadn’t enjoyed it; the characters were believable and engaging, from the first moment Captain Avatar is telling Alex Wildstar to retreat, and he refuses, so he can fight a rear guard action and let the main ship get away from the Gamelas. I think he expected to get out, but it didn’t work out that way. Avatar seems to be the last remaining fighter, in the last remaining ship; lots of people wanted to fight for Earth, but there’s no big network of ships, and a few willing fighters (who become the Star Force.) Captain Avatar’s really good; he fighting to get to Iskandar within a year with a cure for the Earth, where everyone lives underground on account of the planet bombs’ radiation.

There’s the drama, around which hinges everyone’s lives. Everything about the war with the Gamelas, all that it stands for, the way they’ve destroyed a race of people through a cowardly tactic…you don’t have to see the faces when it’s not hand-to-hand combat.


LUE: I was deep in thought about American kids watching a Japanese battle ship become Earth’s last defense, just a generation away, in the real world, from World War II. I wonder when I first figured out it was Japanese? I know by first or second grade I knew America had fought them in World War II, which already seemed forever ago though both my grandfathers served in the Army. A lot of my favorites from childhood were Japanese cartoons; they were my first real impression of the culture.


(Space Cruiser: Yamato was the original cartoon, broadcast first in 1974 in Japan, where it created an anime breakthrough, complete with merchandising not unlike the Star Wars phenomenon in 1977. In fact, that’s what opened the minds of television programmers to assemble a non-union team of voice actors and, with some editing for slightly naughty scenes and a bit of violence, debuting in September, 1979.)


I remember asking what you thought around episode two or three at latest, and you said the dialog was clunky---partially because of translation, and someone’s desire to make it a bit more “talky”---but you liked the storyline and the art. You know, they got different art studios sub-contracting the animation cells along the way; that’s part of its evolution from episode to episode.


MARC: Yeah, by the time they had Nova in uniform, the art seemed consistent.
LUE: I imagine, as the only female with a speaking role, she was important to your enjoyment of the story.


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MARC: It could’ve used more women. They appear in the episode where everyone calls home. I chalk it up to the limitations and mindset of the times.
So, Alex Wildstar gives his life to save the 471 members of Avatar’s ship, in a battle where, we find out, Avatar’s only son died, too. Derek Wildstar is cold and distrustful with the captain, who offers no excuses…does not even contradict Derek’s assumption that he didn’t order Alex back. But first, Derek and his best buddy Mark Venture, posted on Mars, find a beautiful alien girl, deceased, carrying a message(in a shape I won’t repeat, Marc Kane). The message offers Earth a chance to live. Their hope: something referred to as “cosmo DNA” which can restore their planet, but they must make the trip 148,000 light years away---further than humankind has travelled in 2197. They’re given technology to warp across space---a concept introduced here carefully with a metaphor. Their route resembles travelling across the crests of waves, as opposed to the entire shape, up and down, of the waves.


MARC: But they’ve only warped once ---
LUE: in thirteen episodes---
MARC: and only used the Wave Motion Gun once…twice!
LUE: Right! The first warp happens beside Mars, sending them out to Jupiter.
MARC: But so far, they’ve had to travel in normal space. The warps must be hard to plan, or require some natural underlying phenomenon.

LUE: Now, the Wave Motion Gun’s the gun they adapt to the ship from the Iskandarian tech plans. It’s not clear if they meant it to be used as a defense weapon or if that’s something the Earthlings came up with. It’s a signature of the show---it comes out of the huge portal that defines its starboard. Starboard, for front of a boat, always flashes me back to this show. The gun, to the creators’ credit, isn’t the answer to all their problems…
MARC: They found out the first time they used it: the Wave Motion Gun can do a lot more damage than they dreamed. They wiped out an entire floating continent in the atmosphere of Jupiter. It burned out their equipment, too!

LUE: Right! That’s why they needed the element on Titan, the Saturnine moon.
MARC: The story where Nova, IQ9 and Derek look for the Titanite is really good.
LUE: That’s really where I knew I was watching a damn good tv show. By episode six, I was right back in love with the story…like I was six.

MARC: Derek’s always disobeying orders. Sometimes it works, sometimes not! (We haven’t mentioned IQ9 yet---the deadpan, smart alecky robot that describes itself as a “genius” that tags along with Venture, Wildstar, and Dr. Sane. “I am not programmed for regard,” he says to Nova, first time we see him.


LUE: He also lifts up her skirt!
MARC: I like his hula dancing in the hologram room!

LUE: “This is great for my universal joints!”
MARC: He really enjoyed the snow on Mars!


LUE: Yah, imagine: that was the first pure precipitation they’d seen in years. A real moment. Every episode has some really poetic moment. I even sensed this as a little boy.*


MARC: Right. He first appears –Dr. Sane, too--- when Derek and Mark meet Nova in a hospital scene. She starts as a nurse on Earth, and handles that and communications aboard the Argo.
LUE: I like it when she teases Derek with her wish on a star…

MARC: …and the star turns out to be the next thing trying to consume the ship!
LUE: Argo’s what they call the ship the Japanese referred to as Yamato---based on a true sunken hulk. Argo was the Jason and the Argonauts ship from Greek myth, though I knew this myth before that one!


I’ve read, for the Japanese, the ship itself is really the character, the title character. The ship represents Earth, but it represents their country in a way. It’s fascinatingly subversive when I think of Japan as de-militarized in that generation by international treaty. But in my way, I get the country theme; the singing has a military style to it, though the Star Force is not very military nor focused on rank.


MARC: Good thing Captain Avatar doesn’t have to run things by Congress!
LUE: There’s something autocratic about his authority,
MARC: … but he cares deeply for his people, never takes risks that are unnecessary, always finds a way to win,
LUE: ---never loses sight of the importance or danger of the mission, and for that matter…he has a secret we can talk about in a post all its own. Meet me back here for “The Perils of Captain Avatar” !
MARC: We’ll tell them about Alex’s ship next time, too. That’s a good place to pick up Derek Wildstar’s story.

“Hurry, Star
Force. There are only 315 days left!”


next: You Never Forget Your First Time (in Space)

(I discovered their original names, particularly the Wildstars: Derek was “Susumu” which means “to advance, go forward, progress” and Alex’s name, “Momoru” means : “to protect.” Alexander is our English version of the historic conqueror…known as Iskander. Who says college was a complete waste? I presently plan to change the names of Icharu Estuko (“joy child”) and son Gorou’s DANGER BOT characters to Momoru and Susumu Etsuko. I was just casting about when I found those names for the male pilot and his developer father---who also gives his life. I will keep them as middle names. I’ve been perfecting this script now for two months, even though it’s basically one act. But a major character name change is the sort of thing good to figure out as soon as possible, anyway! DANGER BOT came out of my subconscious mind in the weeks after Fukushima Dai-ich plant’s meltdown this spring; it’s been fascinating to dig back into the lost roots of my childhood imagination that coalesced to give it all form. This cartoon---and Alex’s sacrifice, which is way heavier than Saturday morning / syndicated cartoons ever were before---helped me make peace with the seriousness of my own story.)


Look what I found, from starblazer.com


Story note: Lest anyone not make the connection between the voyage to Iscandar and the last great naval battle off the southern coast of Japan, this is the first snowstorm the crew has seen in years. Snow is analogous to cherry blossoms, like the cherry blossoms that bloomed on the Okinawa coast as the crew of the Yamato shipped out to battle the massed Pacific Fleet. Both snow and cherry blossoms are symbolic of sacrifice.


1 comment:

  1. damn Cease ill i had no idea you were such a big Star Blazers fan boy. looks like we got something else in common outside of ROM. i might have some stuff you'd be interested in. i'll look over these SB postings when i have some more time.

    ReplyDelete