Ming the Merciless as a Lava-Walrus-Shark

 Anime, Cobra the Animation  Comments Off on Ming the Merciless as a Lava-Walrus-Shark
Jan 012012
 

Finally getting around to those Cobra OVAs from a couple of years ago. I’d seen the movie and both TV series, but kept forgetting to watch these things. I watched Time Drive first, and it was everything I love about this Cobra shit.

There’s a bunch of stuff about time travel and delving into people’s memories and other Inception-like shit, but that isn’t really what I dug about this OVA. Once Cobra travels back in time to when he first meets Lady, the whole thing plays out like the Jabba the Hutt scene from Return of the Jedi. Or better yet, like that scene from Flash Gordon where various nobles are presenting tribute to Ming the Merciless.

The main bad guy in this OVA is Gilos. He’s, like, the splitting image of Ganon from Legend of Zelda. The pig-faced ogre version, not the generic-looking black knight whatever from the more recent games. He has a particular fashion sense, sporting women dangling from leather straps as ornaments. He’s also roughly twenty feet tall, has a fetish for lava, is immortal, and can change into a shape that looks like what you’d get if you mated a walrus with a shark. It isn’t quite Jet Piranha levels of awesomenes, since nothing can be as elegantly badass as that, but this Gilos guy packs a gaudy punch.

So Gilos is holding court, taking tribute from various lords and dukes. Just like the sort of stuff that went down towards the beginning of Flash Gordon. And just like that movie, these dudes don’t take kindly to this asshole tyrant forcing them to pledge undying loyalty. Hell, one dude gives him a harp that grants immortality to those that hear it. Gilos is already immortal, yet he takes the thing all too willingly. Dude needs to learn how to moderate his wealth. I’m not saying he needs to give it all up, but dude, if you’re already immortal let some other ruthless bastard tyrant get a hold of this shit. Anyway, this dude giving tribute dares to utter an under-the-breath curse towards Gilos, and in a matter of seconds he’s being hurdled into Gilos’ lava pits. You can’t even vent your frustration without being put down.

I love these kinds of scenes. You get to see all manners of crazy shit go down in a matter of a few minutes. Like how in the Jabba scene, we saw all manners of strange aliens lining the background while tentacle-headed women gyrate to space disco, only to have said dancer be tossed to the Rancor for coping an attitude. Not only are we seeing some tidbits about the world and the freaked-out, imaginative shit that’s in it, we’re also getting the perfect scenario for the villain to show off just how nefarious he is. Jabba, Ming, and Gilos all put some rebellious fool down for the slightest of transgressions (Granted, in Flash Gordon, the dude actually tried to attack Ming, but it was largely symbolic.). It’s pure storytelling that gives an enormous amount of information about the characters and the world, but distilled down into a few minutes of craziness.

The OVA kinda peaks with that scene, but it’s more a matter of being incapable of retaining godhood once you’re lowered to mere demi-god status. Gilos has a mad scientist servant who gets off on turning people into bugs. He even has what we have to assume is a Human Centipede. But his nastiest experiment is how he takes one of Cobra’s token hot chick friends and turns her into a pill bug. On the surface it looks like your regular giant insect, but once you see the underbelly of the creature you see the girl’s body frozen. It looks like how Han was frozen in Carbonite, except she’s frozen in insect carapace. It’s a pretty freaky image. Good stuff there.

There’s also a living forest that heals Cobra after he has an encounter with a dude who can turn people into swords. It has your usual tentacle trees and fairies made of diamonds, but what makes this living forest unique is the man-eating water. This water isn’t just content with making you drown or washing you away down the current. It literally eats you. Opens up its mouth and devours you. So you get two of the worst ways of dying, drowning and being eaten alive, wrapped up in one monster.

The actual story was just alright. Lady, Cobra’s android partner in crime, is literally vanishing from time and space. Cobra takes her to a lady who can “dive” into people’s “time” (hence the title of the OVA) and Cobra goes along with her. This leads Cobra to the time when he first met Lady, and there’s a bunch of stuff where past Cobra and present Cobra are doing things at the same time and kinda screwing up each others’ plans. They actually see one another at one point, and all that happens is that present Cobra gives past Cobra a knowing smirk. It isn’t like they look like each other or anything, since this past Cobra is pre-face-reconfiguration. I dug how they didn’t make a big deal about paradoxes or anything like that. But yeah, once Cobra is in the past he’s able to find out what’s going on, save Lady, and return her to her proper place in the space-time continuum.

There’s some good convoluted stuff going on with the actual plot, but what makes this OVA truly good Cobra shit is all of the little details I talked about up above. If only we’d get more of these short 2-4 episode Cobra OVAs. I’d love it if we’d get one every year or so, much in the same way they do Lupin. Or maybe once every two years. Something like that. The world’s a better place when Cobra’s in it.

Dec 312009
 

When I originally compiled this list, I left out Detroit Metal City because I made some silly “no OVA” rule.

Then Krauser had his way with me and all of that changed.

But DMC didn’t quite make it to the top despite all of that. Yeah.

 

 

12. Michiko e Hatchin

I wrote about Michiko e Hatchin in this post, and the gist of the series’ problems is that it just doesn’t quite come together. There’s a lot going for it, with its music and action and interesting Latin America/exploitation movie fusion, but all of these elements don’t blend into something cohesive. But those individual elements are strong enough on their own to make the series a pretty cool thing. It has a lot of the cool one-off characters like its spiritual predecessors Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo that make each individual episode enjoyable on its own strengths. The main characters have lots of potential, what with them being two strong-headed women (well, woman and young girl) who defy your usual anime stereotypes for the most part. Unfortunately, they don’t get to do much beyond run and bicker. That might be the series’ biggest flaw: there’s a lot of cool things going on around the lead characters, but half the time they’re barely involved. They just sort of stumble across things Forrest Gump style, and things get resolved through coincidence and happenstance. But yeah, cool style, cool details, the big picture just isn’t quite there.

11. Fireball

It’s CGI. It’s made by Disney. It’s episodes are, like, three minutes long. Despite what some of you may be thinking, yes, Fireball is anime. It’s a cartoon. It’s made for a Japanese audience. That fits the traditional English definition for “anime.” And it’s easily the best of the “lasts as long as most anime openings” series out there. It’s pretty simplistic, since it comes down to two robots bickering with each other, but it has more wit and charm about it than most series ten times its length, episode-wise. And despite it being a comedy filled with puns and sight gags and shit like that, there’s also some really cool undertones. The robots acknowledge that they live in a distant future where humans have died off. They may even be the last two sentient beings on Earth, since no other robots demonstrate any real sentience and nothing outside of their “palace” is ever seen. We may be witnessing the last vestiges of “life” on Earth in the form of a buddy comedy. The sun may be ready to die out any minute in the background, and all of that’s just background fluff. That’s awesome stuff. Also, Drossel is the best Disney Princess. No contest.

10. Kaiba

I don’t pay a lot of attention to anime directors, mainly because most series come of so “samey” when it comes to style and whatnot, but Masaaki Yuasa is one of the few I do care about because his stuff is so distinctive. That said, Kaiba is the weakest of his major projects, but even with that it’s a pretty great series. It plays off of a lot of cool transhuman concepts and other sci-fi elements and it hits on a bunch of philosophical shit about identity and whatnot. And the art style is brilliant, what with its old school cartoon vibe. That style matches the themes of the series perfectly, since the “toon” look makes everything that much more alien and foreign. It’s a shame the ending pretty much sucks and brings the series down from genuine brilliance to being merely “really cool.” Still worth watching, even if it isn’t as great as Mind Game or Kemonozume.

9. Ryoko’s Case Files

Ryoko’s Case Files reminds me of The X-Files. You have two law enforcement officers investigating oddball cases. You have the sexual tension between said characters. You have some of the same humor running through both series. The main difference is that Ryoko is something of a “perfect” character, being your “smart and sexy and an asskicker and…” type. But she manages to be more like someone like Cobra than some bland, generic, annoying type since she’s brash and hotheaded at the same time. She can do all of this shit, but most people find her a bit irritating and unbearable. And she’s pretty cool for that. And there’s plenty of weird stuff going on in the series as well, making the whole thing a hell of a lot of fun. It’s one of those “forgotten” series that doesn’t deserve being stuffed under the rug.

8. Zoku Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei

Is it the same old Zetsubou shit? Yep, pretty much. Is the same old Zetsubou shit superior to most anime comedies? Yep, pretty much.

 

 

 

7. Urusei Yatsura: The Obstacle Course Swim Meet

 

 

 

 

 

6. Ranma 1/2 Akumu! Shunmin Kou

Took these one-off, throwback OVAs to get subbed, but when they did I was finally able to bask in their awesomeness. They’re both more of the same when it comes to their respective series, but since Ranma and Lum are two of my all-time favorite comedies, that’s more than welcome. That’s about all there is to say about these things. If you’re one of those heathens that’s never gotten into Lum or Ranma, you’ll be at a loss. If you dig this shit, they’re a welcome return. I’d totally be down with a revival of either series. Especially Ranma.

5. Mnemosyne

Repulsive, grotesque exploitation. Awesome, repulsive, grotesque exploitation. It’s more than a little hateful. It’s more than a little trashy. It’s about immortals screwing around with each other over petty conspiracies and grudges and some fucked up spiritual shit. I love this stuff. It’s unforgivably violent and nihilistic. People, especially women, are treated horribly. There’s absolutely nothing nice about it. The story’s secondary to the sensationalism. It’s everything you, dear reader, dread about anime. It’s the shit that gave anime a bad reputation back in the 90s. It’s kissing cousins with Urotsukidouji. And I fucking dig it. Yeah.

4. Ga-Rei Zero

I’ve said it before in other posts: Go watch the first episode. That one episode is one of the greatest things ever put in animated form. Seriously. Just go watch it already. The rest of the series is decent, but it’s just there to take up time since they can’t just air one episode and call it a series.

 

 

3. Detroit Metal City

Let me say this about DMC: I hate heavy metal. Totally. It’s obnoxious. The tough guy posturing and faux-Satanism and “GRRR! RAARRARAR!”ness of it all sucks. Even when I was an obnoxious teenager filled with baseless angst, I hated the shit. And yet I fucking love Detroit Metal City. It’s fucking funny. Funny as raping Tokyo Tower funny. So funny that it makes me forget about my loathing of the musical genre in question. So funny that it lets me forgive the series for making fun of a genre of music much closer to my own personal tastes. Yeah, I’d rather listen to his “Swedish pop.” Go To DMC!

2. Astro Fighter Sunred

I really love the dynamic between Sunred and Kayoko. It’s probably one of the most realistic relationships ever depicted in anime. Sunred’s an inconsiderate bum, but he genuinely loves Kayoko. Kayoko’s suffers through Sunred’s idiocy and supports him financially because she also genuinely loves him. It isn’t some fairy tale relationship, where everyone’s all doki doki and shit, and it isn’t some ridiculous “tsundere” relationship where one character is so insufferable and annoying that it’s impossible to believe anyone would put up with their shit. With Sunred we get two flawed people who deal with each other shit because there’s some connection there that we outsiders can barely glimpse. Oh yeah, and Sunred’s damn funny too. Blahblahblah sentai hero gags and cool monsters that I’ve already talked about elsewhere.

1. Cobra the Animation: The Psychogun

It might be the weakest Cobra story I’ve seen, but Psychogun is still the best thing I’ve seen from 2008. It deals with the Pirate Guild wanting to get a hold of a three billion year old snail whose shell contains the history of the universe, and said history tells the location of a device that contains what amounts to a portable Big Bang. There’s three duck people who look a lot like Huey, Dewey, and Louie who craft dimensional space drives. There’s worm creatures that eat people and turn their “people juices” into nerve toxins used to turn women into sex slaves. People ride flying vehicles that turn you into a skeleton frozen in Carbonite while piloting it. SAND WHALES. It has all of the awesome details that makes the Cobra series my all-time favorite shit. And it has the return of Crystal Boy. Awesomeness.