Lady Go, 7-Zark-7 and a Castle in the Sky

A quickish one tonight after Daddy-Daughter movie night.

As part of my daddyly duties, and because I’m watching the 13 year old for next couple days while the youngest and She Who Must Be Obeyed are visiting my in-laws. I took my oldest daughter to see Frozen–especially because the first of every month is discount movie day in Japan. It was visually spectacular, fairly standard Disney fare, and I’m guessing there’s a debate about which version of “Let It Go”–Demi Lovato’s or Adele Dazeem’s–is the best. Unfortunately, the version forever stuck in my head is courtesy of the lady announcers on Fuji TV’s morning show, who, at the end of the promotion segment started singing “Lady Go, Lady Go.”

All this has me thinking about the differences between US animation and Japanese anime. Growing up I mostly remember watching The Krofft Supershow, (which is not cartoons, I know), Scooby-Doo, The Flintstones, The Super Friends, The Jetsons, and Johnny Quest among others. But the only one that had a long lasting impression on me (well, besides the Krofft Supershow’s Electra Woman and Dyna Girl for various complicated reasons I best not explain in detail) was called Battle of the Planets.

It is a heavily edited, nearly ruined (by the addition of 7-Zark-7, the bastard love child of R2-D2 and C-3P0) US version of Japan’s Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. I remember the animation itself being gritty in a way US cartoons didn’t imitate and the level of violence being shocking. It also had cool vehicles and a great opening theme song. I started trying to track down other Japanese animation, and eventually found what in the USA was known as Robotech.

After I got to Japan, and saw other cartoons and lots of Studio Ghibli movies, I realized that the main difference is that, in Japan, most cartoons are intended for adult audiences, not for children. Compare, say Laputa: Castle in the Sky, to Frozen. Even the Japanese animation aimed at children, say Ponyo, are fun for adults, too. If you really want to see grown up, watch Barefoot Gen (makes Threads and The Day After seem rather soft) and Grave of the Fireflies (which is one of the saddest movies I’ve ever seen). If you want to transcend time and space, get drunk and/or high and watch Akira, Ghost in the Shell and its sequel Innocence.

In the USA, Pixar films probably come the closest to being for grown ups, but they’re still a bit sanitary for my taste. In a Japanese version of The Incredibles, the final fight would leave scorch marks and corpses.


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