Digimon Topics: Ryo Akiyama Part 1: The Anime

Ryo Akiyama is a very confusing character within the chronology of Digimon. He first appears in the anime in the film Our War Game! We see him watching the events unfold on his computer screen as WarGreymon and MetalGarurumon fight Diaboromon to save the internet, the Digital World, and the Real World especially from the very real threat of nuclear ICMBs that Diaboromon set off and sent toward Japan, and Colorado (in the English dub). Based on contextual clues like the landscape and the clothing worn by Ryo and his friend in this scene, we can conclude that he is in Turkey.

We next see him in Digimon Adventure 02 in a flashback sequence with Ken. In the Japanese language version of the series this would be roughly three years after the events of the first series, but four in the English dub for some reason (let’s just discount the dub’s four year number out of hand). Ken has a dream that he is in a desert with a young man that looks exactly like Ryo. A then unfamiliar Digimon, Milleniummon, had been defeated and is being dragged below the sand. Some black gears come flying from behind the two boys and Wormmon. One heads directly for Ryo’s neck, but Ken jumps into actions and knocks him out of the way thereby getting hit in the neck by the gear instead, which lodges itself in Ken’s body and becomes the source for his evil ways in the future.

Finally, Ryo’s first real non-cameo appearance comes in the third Digimon series: Digimon Tamers. In the Digimon Tamers Universe, the Digimon Adventure universe is seemingly merely a television show. Digimon are thought not to really exist and instead of Digidestined, we have Digimon card battlers. Ryo is a masterful player of the Digimon card game in this series, but one day goes missing. We find later that he has entered the Digital World, which actually does exist, and has acquired a powerful Cyberdramon as his ally. He later Digivolves his Digimon into the Mega form Justimon and helps the Digimon Tamers to defeat the D-Reaper and the save the Digital and Real Worlds in the process.

So, where does this leave us. If we approach Ryo just through the Anime, we find that he is either Turkish or lived or visited there at the same time as the events of Our War Game! He looks to be around the same age as the Digidestined were then. But later he somehow either moved to Japan or met Ken online and went with him into the Digital World on some sort of quest. After which time, he somehow managed to find himself in the Digimon Tamers universe where his old Digimon Adventure world is a mere television show. Something pretty big had to have happened in between these events to make sense of the whole story.

But one will not find the information they are looking for without exploring Ryo Akiyama’s origins in a series of games for the WonderSwan handheld console in the early 2000s. Here, the story of Ryo Akiyama becomes more clear, but it contains many twists and turns that make the story complex as well. There are bits of retconning that make total sense, parts that don’t, and others that challenge and change all of our preconceived ideas about series chronology and introduce a multiverse theory into Digimon.

To follow the mysteries of Ryo Akiyama with me continue following this blog in the coming months as I review the series of games that explain how the first three seasons of Digimon are connected through their, arguably, most important Digidestined child: Ryo Akiyama.

 

Hasta luego,

The Digidestined Cody

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New Progress Achievement!

Today I wrote my 200th blog post. I think I had already done this at some point in the past, but had deleted quite a few of a very early posts from when I didn’t know what I wanted this blog and this space to be. Now that I do, and I have a fair amount of posts about what the blog is about, this space seems to be really taking shape.

A quick and relevant aside. About five years ago, I watched the show with Ze Frank on the vlogbrothers channel. His approach to making online content was quirky and new and innovative at the time and I could see how his work had influenced so many other vloggers I liked and watched often. His intellect and his ability to pack complex lessons into concise phrases and bits and information inspired me to want to work in a similar vein one day. So I started a blog that I hoped I could one day expand into a vlog. But University and my job and laziness and pretty constant feelings of self-loathing pushed me in different directions and led me to focus on other things.

After I graduated from Wingate University in May 2016, I did nothing but read books for about 6 months. In December, I started a band and kept up my reading. I gave myself monthly goals like reading a book a day or three movies a day to keep busy and to keep my more negative emotions from boiling over as I worked in a dead-end job as a fry-cook. I practiced with my band non-stop, but with no shows on the horizon. I consumed a ton of information, but with no real way to apply it or use it and no intentions to go to grad school or seek a job as a Chaplain with my Religious Studies degree.

And then I rewatched Ze Frank. And I watched his Invocation for Beginnings. I realized that I too was scared of screwing up. I hadn’t begun and was stuck in that place between 0 and 1. I let my past failures lapse from forces that prevented me from going forward and into forces that fired me up to fight harder. My FILDI was weak, but grew in strength until it burst forth and pushed me onward. the video helped me to realize that I don’t need to sharpen my pencils any more, because even the dullest ones can make a mark, and the longer I wait, the less time I have to write, and to create. The video is filled with forty years of advice from a creator who forged a place for himself in a world where there was none.

I started playing shows with my band. I re-started this blog and post 10 essays a week on average. I began drawing more. Trying to forgive more and be kinder, even though oftentimes I fail. I’ve been on more roadtrips and more places than I usually see in a year. I’m learning filmmaking as much as I can from a hands-on, behind-the-camera approach. And I quit my job.

The job of creating is in the creating more so than the creation. The perfecting and fascination with the craft. The building toward something unknown. Gliding over an abyss where we must someday fall and end our quests, but the quality of the life lived before that fall is within the joy of the ride. Both how high we soar and how close we come to crashing prematurely.

 

“Let me not think of my work only as a stepping stone to something else, and if it is, let me become fascinated with the shape of the stone.”

 

Thank you

Fear X

(Check out previous essays on Refn’s films here: Pusher, Bleeder, Bleeder Part 2, Drive)

For Nicolas Winding Refn’s third film, Fear X, he went full Hollywood on his production. At this point in his career he had had a huge hit with his first film Pusher, but less success with his second film Bleeder. His film production company Jang Go Star was on the brink of collapse because of this Bleeder’s box office failure and Refn had a lot of pressure to go big or go home.

Refn began by optioning a script written by Hubert Selby Jr., who was in vogue at the time because of the hit Darren Aronofsky had three years prior with a script written by Selby based on his novel Requiem for a Dream. The script, Fear X, was Selby’s first script not based on a pre-existing novel. The result is an enthralling piece of narrative in a David Lynchian mode whose ambiguities and play with unreliable narration and memory made it perfect for the postmodern epoch that film seemed to be headed toward at the time.

Unlike Refn’s first two films, which were shot by cinematographer Morten Soborg (who would later go on to shoot Refn’s later films Pusher 2, Pusher 3, and Valhalla Rising), he enlisted the help of Larry Smith. A rising cinematographer who began his career working as a lighting assistant and gaffer on Stanley Kubrick’s films Barry Lyndon, Full Metal Jacket, and Eye Wide Shut. This shift in cinematographers highlights a shift in cinematographic focus for Refn who had previously been working with shoe-string budgets and largely committing to a Dogme 95 focus on simplicity of technology. Because of this shift, Fear X is a much slicker film than his previous two works, but was also much more expensive and had a significantly smaller margin of error at the box office. Refn’s choice to go big budget, with a final budget of $6.6 million, far larger than any of his projects to date, would prove to be a bad decision in hindsight. Though it wouldn’t damage Refn’ relationship with Larry Smith who would go on work with Refn again on the television film Miss Marple: Nemesis, as well as his later features Bronson and Only God Forgives.

But Refn’s choices that led to his budget becoming burdensome include more than a script option on a Selby project, the commission of a more expensive cinematographer in Larry Smith, and more special effects and camera tech funds than previously needed on his two former films. Refn also moved the production from Denmark to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, enlisted accomplished musician and composer Brian Eno to create a haunting, pulsating, powerful sonic backdrop for the vents of the film, and hired American actors with bigger guarantees like Deborah Kara Unger and John Turturro. While all these choices helped to create Refn’s most visually, sonically, thematically, and philosophically dense work to date (and I mean that in a good way), it under-performed significantly at the box office and recouped so little of its budget that its even difficult to find out how much it took in today (a sign of embarrassment at the final numbers, I think). Jang Go Star film company went bankrupt and Refn returned to Denmark.

Refn’s next two films (Pusher 2 and Pusher 3) were shot in Denmark and went back to crime film roots in an attempt to make money and work his way back up. His next three films had combined budgets of under $1 million. Those three, plus his following two films all combined totalled budgets below Fear X’s single budget. And it wouldn’t be until 2011 on Drive that Refn felt secure enough financially to chance a larger budget than on Fear X.

By this point in Refn’s career, his future as a filmmaker seemed anything but certain. He had to have been wondering if he would ever be given the same budget to make a film again. And his later career has been filled with the same ups and downs since, with his only sustained period of making big-budget, successful films being from a two-film run of Drive and Only God Forgives from 2011-2013, but bookended by a box office failure before and after this period. I don’t know what to chock up his pretty constant box office failings to. It could be bad promotion or a lack of public interest. But I hope that in some way these essays on the career of Refn, and especially the topical essays of this series, bring more attention to the oeuvre and budding career of one of the world’s greatest living auteurs.

 

Cody Ward

[Part two of my analysis of Fear X will appear HERE soon. It’s a complex film and as such, I’ve got to put it off for later and give my brain time to analyze it and package my ideas about it in some coherent manner. Thanks for reading and supporting TheBoronHeist!]

Digimon Films: Digimon Adventure 3D: Digimon Grandprix!

(Check out earlier Digimon film essays here: Digimon Adventure and Our War Game!)

So far, I’ve been covering the first few Digimon films this week in chronological order, here I’m making a bit of a break. Digimon Adventure 3D: Digimon Grandprix! was originally released on July 20, 2000 and played through June 23, 2002 at the Japanese theme park Sanrio Puroland for the ride Time Machine of Dreams. Later it was released at Toei Animation Festival on October 3, 2009 as well as on home video release through eh event’s short animation DVD. The initial release situates its release chronologically just three and half months after Our War Game!, three months after the original Digimon Adventure series ended, 12 episodes into Digimon Adventure 02, and most importantly for these purposes, two weeks after the release of the third Digimon film: Digimon Adventure 02: Digimon Hurricane Touchdown!!/Supreme Evolution!!/ The Golden Digimentals (which doesn’t fit into the chronology of its series until about episode 21, and even then with some difficulty. Why the release of films before their events happen? Is Toei just weird?)

Anyway, this film is technically the fourth Digimon film even though it would have been the third if Toei released their Digimon films on a logical sort of cycle. I’ve decided to cover this film third because we see Digimon Adventure 02 characters throughout, but no plot from Digimon Adventure 02 has yet been given away. so I can take this time to write about it without chancing season 02 giveaways for when I review that series beginning in January 2018.

The film is only seven minutes long and served as a sort of fun teaser for the series at various events in Toei’s production schedule for Digimon. It recounts a Digital race, a grandprix, between all of the original 8 Digidestined Digimon (Agumon, Gabumon, Palmon, Patamon, Biyomon, Gomamon, Tentomon, and Gatomon), the 4 new Digidestined Digimon from Digimon Adventure 02 (Veemon, Wormmon, Hawkmon, and Armadillomon), and diminutive villain and Myotismon henchman PicoDevimon, or DemiDevimon as we know him in the English dub of the first series. They have created their own flying vehicles and must traverse a complex series of obstacles, cityscapes, and hairpin turns to win the race. The result is a wacky, fun, often asinine racing short that has little to do with the plotline of any Digimon series or the character’s of any of its Digimon characters. Plus it has some pretty rudimentary, and downright ugly, CGI. But hey, what can you expect from 2000 CGI animation when  most CGI today in animated films is still pretty horrendous?

As the Digimon begin the race, each one’s craft either malfunctions or collides with obstacles or one another, and finally, only Veemon and DemiDevimon are left. They are battling it out for the last few miles when all of a sudden, Agumon, who had disappeared into the sky on his rocket vehicle at the race’s start, falls back to the Digital Earth and collects his friends along the path of the racecourse. DemiDevimon manages to knock Veemon out of the race and seems sure to win until Agumon comes barreling down the course with all of the other Digidestined Digimon in tow. his rocket collides with DemiDevimon’s craft and destroys the latter, thereby allowing Agumon and all the other 11 Digimon to win the race. even though it was pretty unfair and the Dark Digimon were only represented by one Digimon: DemiDevimon. Not so hard to overcome the odds and defeat your evil adversaries when the odds are drastically stacked in your own favor, right?

 

Ciao,

The Digidestined Cody

Digimon Films: Our War Game!

(To check out my essay on the first Digimon Film: Digimon Adventure, click HERE)

The first Digimon film was released one day prior to the beginning of the series’ Japanese airing and served as a prequel to build hype and viewership on the following day. And this makes sense. The events that transpire during that first film occurred before the events in the series chronologically speaking. In the second Digimon film, Our War Game!, the vents take place a few months after the Digidestined and their Digimon partners defeated Apocalymon. The Digidestined were back in the Real World while their Digimon partners remained in the Digital World to work with Gennai to combat any problems that could occur there. So… question: when does it make sense to release this film? Before or after the series ends?

After right? But I think you know where this line of thought is headed. Toei released the film on March 4, 2000. A full 22 days and four episodes before the series completed airing on March 26, 2000. In fact, the next day after Our War Game! was released, the 51st episode of the series aired on Japanese television. Piedmon hadn’t even been defeated yet, we had no clue who Apocalymon was, and now Japanese kids find out that the Digidestined are back in the real world after the series and had to say goodbye to their Digimon partners at some past point? Granted this could of really softened the emotional blow of the series’ final episode, but it also spoiled it for a lot of people. I think that a what do?!?!? is in order. But I can’t really find any articles elucidating Toei’s reasoning, so I’ll leave it at that.

Anyway, later the series’ dubbers for the English release of the film had some difficulties. They were told by Toei that they had to release this film alongside the first film, Digimon Adventure, plus a third totally unrelated film, Digimon Adventure 02: Digimon Hurricane Landing!!/Transcendent Evolution!!/ The Golden Digimentals. Because the first two films were narrated by Tai’s character, but Tai plays no role in the third film, they had Kari serve as the narrator instead. This made it necessary to write a totally new narration from scratch. The second major change was a thematic unification of the three films. They did this by retconning the third film’s American Digidestined character Willis backward into the first two films.

In the original Japanese version of the film, a Russian friend of Izzy’s was helping him analyze a computer virus that was attacking the world’s telecommunications networks and cannibalizing data. The English dubbers changed this kid into Willis, who says that he is at fault for everything, but doesn’t explain why in this film. Later, we will find that just as he was retconned into the first film through reception of a DigiEgg at the same time as Kari and Tai, he was retconned into this story by his wishes to create a third Digimon to have as a friend who could play with him and his twin Digimon partners. But in the process of creating a new Digimon DigiEgg, it got corrupted and eventually turned into Diaboromon. These connections make the story move from one film to another in the American theatrical release of Digimon: The Movie without making it too apparent that the films were initially unrelated.

Just as in my previous essay on the first film, I want to introduce some other changes made from the Japanese language version into the English dub of the film. When Infermon sets off two nuclear ICBM’s, they are both directed toward Japan in the original version. But in the English version, one is headed toward the Digidestined in Odaiba and the other is headed toward Willis in Colorado.

Omnimon was not originally called Omnimon in the Japanese version of the film. There he was known as Omegamon and for many fans of Digimon video games today, this is readily apparent as we all work to gain fragments in Digimon Links to create our own Omegamon. the reason this change is significant is that Omegamon is something of an opposite to Alphamon. The Alpha and the Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, the beginning and the end. These two have names meant to fit this typology and mythology. On the other hand, Omnimon represents the All, the all powerful, all knowing, all good, and so on. The difference is between an ancient Persian dualism of a good figure and its dark eternal opposite, and the omni who is the only God, uncontested by an equal force. The omni carries the alpha and the omega within itself in Christian metaphysics and eschatology and as such, is not a very translation of a term meant to convey only the end, as Omega does.

Some other minor changes are as follows. The change from the time of year as spring in the Japanese version in summer in the English dub. Neither do Omegamon nor Diaboromon or any of his smaller forms talk within the film in the Japanese language version of the film, whereas they all talk in the English version. The concept of DNA Digivolution did not exist until Digimon Adventure 02 and as such the fusion of WarGreymon and MetalGarurumon was not referred to as such in the original Japanese version. However, in the English version they call their union a Warp DNA Digivolution. In hindsight, the English dubbers weren’t wrong for doing this, as it basically is a DNA Digivolution. The Japanese creators just hadn’t created a name for that concept at the time of the film’s creation there.

Finally, there are two interesting cameos in the film from other Digidestined children not yet introduced into the chronology (in the TV shows at least). We see a young Yolei sitting in her room with a friend. It seems that she is one of the thousands of children across the world who witnessed the battle with Diaboromon on the net. This interaction may have been what led to her becoming a future Digidestined in Digimon Adventure 02.

The other cameo is much more troubling. We see Ryo Akiyama and a friend also watching the battle with a friend online. But he is in Turkey at the time. The problem here is that Ryo appears in the third season of Digimon, Digimon Tamers, where the whole of the Digimon Adventure chronology is deemed to be a mere television show. How does he appear in two universes of the Digimon multiverse? Well, there are plenty of answers in the Digimon Tamer video game series for the WonderSwan and WonderSwan color consoles, but one thing that cannot be explained easily is how he is both in Turkey watching the events of Our War Game! unfold and in the later Digidestined Ken’s bedroom in Japan watching the same events at the same time in Digimon Adventure 02: Tag Tamers (Released August 3rd later in the same year). Ryo is an extremely complex figure within the series, however, and you can expect some future essays meant to clear up these difficulties in the future.

All in all, Our War Game! is a great film, and another great work by director Mamoru Hosada, that has its difficulties fitting within established chronology. As such, I’ll be coming back to it again and again.

 

Ciao,

The Digidestined Cody

[Next up: Digimon Adventure 3D: Digimon Grandprix!]

Bleeder: Hopelessness and Hope

(Check out previous essays on Refn’s films here: Drive, Pusher, Bleeder)

Last time, I talked about Nicolas Winding Refn’s 1999 film Bleeder, I talked very little about the thematic elements of the film and focused more on how Refn shows his influences through dialogue and scenery, as well as his cinematographic influences musically and stylistically. Here, I want to delve a little deeper into the two story lines that fill the frames of the narrative, the lives of Leo (Kim Bodnia) and Lenny (Mads Mikkelson).

Leo has, by his own estimation, a shit job, a shit flat, and a family on the way. This last detail was by no real design of his own, as he and his girlfriend had used birth control or abortions to avert starting a family for quite some time. Prior to the events of the film, he told his girlfriend Louise that he was okay with starting a family one day, emphasis on one day, meaning not now. But they were not careful enough in their precautions and Louise has become pregnant and now has a desire to start their family. Her choice takes him completely by surprise.

Troubled by his situation and trying to mentally escape through his friendship with Lenny and constant film-going, Leo starts to break down mentally. Plus, Louise’s brother Louis doesn’t make matters any easier for him. Louis is a protective brother who also happens to be involved in gang activity. Louis thinks that Leo is weak and makes apparent his beliefs to Leo’s dismay. When Leo visits Louis’ club, a few young Middle Eastern men try to enter, but are blocked by a racist bodyguard. they come back and shoot the bodyguard, but are swiftly dragged into the club to receive their own deaths at the hand of Louis and his thugs. These sorts of activities spiral in a eye for an eye manner and proliferate racism in Louis that spills out later when he, Leo, and Lenny visit a convenient store owned by Middle Easterners. The racism visibly affects Leo and makes him hate Louis all the more, but paradoxically the violence he witnessed at the club earlier compels him to buy his own weapon, which he will later use to threaten Louis.

As the plot moves along, the hopelessness of Leo’s situation, from his perspective, intensifies. One day, Louise meets a young mother of two in a nearby laundromat. The two become fast friends and Louise invites her up to the flat to talk and hang out, and also so that she can learn more about what it will be like when she has children of her own. Leo returns home from work and the young mother leaves after sensing intense dis-ease in Leo’s demeanor. As soon as she is gone, Leo punches Louise in the face. When Louis later finds out about Leo’s abuse of his sister, he threatens Leo. A few days later, Leo returns home to find that Louise has redecorated the house and moved around some of his belongings, this innocuous act could easily have been reversed, but he takes the time to vent all his frustrations against his wife once and beats her and kicks her in the stomach, resulting in the eventual loss of the pregnancy. From there, the events that transpire are too gruesome for me to detail here, and also serve as high dramatic points in the narrative that are best learned of through watching the film. But let me ensure you that Louis’ revenge upon Leo for the sake of his sister is brutal.

Whereas Leo’s story begins with some hopefulness in the news that a new life will emerge into the world as his child and then takes a quick spiral downward into self-loathing and ennui, Lenny’s story is just the opposite. Lenny works in a VHS rental store and is an avid cinephile. He enjoys watching dozens of movies a week and has access to a cinephile’s dream in the way of a library of classic films he can borrow for free. Instead of hanging out with friends in more traditional manners, his boss, his friend Leo, and Louis meet at his boss’s home on weekends to watch classic horror films like Maniac and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, crime and blacksploitation flicks, and the occasional auteur work like Lindsay Anderson’s If.

Underneath all of this apparent joy is Lenny’s inability to connect with another person on an emotional level. Around the corner from his job is a small cafe where a bookish young woman, Lea, works as a server. Lenny has his eye out for Lea, but finds it difficult to muster up the courage to talk to her. Luckily, Lenny has Leo as a friend who pressures him constantly to talk to her and asks him regularly what they have talked about. Once Lenny becomes annoyed enough by Leo’s constant prodding, he finally makes small talk with Lea. The first two of these occasions are pretty awkward, but Lea recognizes that Lenny has a passion for something creative (film and cinema) just as she is passionate for books and the library. When he asks her on a date to the cinema and she accepts, he is overjoyed. But later when he is supposed to meet up with Lea, he walks to the cinema and sees her waiting there, but chickens out and stands her up in the process.

Being a very internal, awkward sort of person is something I understand a little bit too well. The fear of failure or of looking stupid can oftentimes prevent me from even taking certain types of chances. Ultimately, it takes the death of Lenny’s friend Leo to awaken him to the shortness of life and spur him on toward change. He gets offered a higher paying job a firm his friend owns on the other side of time and talks with his boss about taking it. And in the film’s conclusion, his own hopelessness brought on through self-doubt and fear of reprisals makes way for a new hope as he visits Lea in the coffee shop and asks her out again, this time making it a point to stick around until she gets off of work so that they can go together.

Refn’s first film, Pusher, was a dark tale about a man with bad luck. His circumstances take a turn for the worse and his inability to vocally connect with people leads to numerous miscommunications in situations that could have been resolved. The film is a film about the inability of human beings to connect with one another. In Refn’s second film, Bleeder, he shows that life can be difficult, but it is often our reactions to the events that direct what happens next. We can become hostile and hateful and paranoid about a world out to get us, or we can take initiative and grasp at the future with our two hands, in an attempt to mold it into a fitting shape. The defeatist’s stance leads constantly to defeat, as does the optimist’s stance, but in the latter life is a journey, a quest, while in the former you just stay home.

 

Til min mor ogsa,

Cody Ward

[Next up: Fear X]

Digimon Films: Digimon Adventure

Digimon Adventure, released March 6, 1999 in Japan, is the first anime product of the series and serves as a pilot episode that helps frame the story of Digimon Adventure. The following day in Japan after its release, the first season of the anime series aired and began to gain popularity quickly, prompting the series’ creators to ultimately make the seven seasons and dozen or so films that exist today.

This first film was directed by Mamoru Hosada (along with the first season’s Episode 21 and the series’ second film, Our War Game). His work on Digimon has since been unparalleled in stylistic beauty and composition. And his biggest strength on these productions his ability to make stylistic choices and strong “camera” moves to not only emphasize themes and emotions, but to heighten them. But if you’re reading this, you probably have already seen the film and know about its quality and emotional expressiveness. What you might not know are some of the changes made in the English dubbed version of the film and their significance within the series’ continuity.

When released in Japan, the film was a pilot. When released into the English-speaking market it came as a package deal from Toei along with the films Our War Game! and Digimon Adventure 02: Digimon Hurricane Landing!!/Transcendent Evolution!!/ The Golden Digimentals. But these two later films are largely unconnected to the first. To begin, Tai narrated the first two films, but not the third because his character plays no part in the events that transpire then in that third film. The series’ directer in the U.S. had to work around this problem. He did so by scrapping Tai’s narration and instead making Tai’s little sister Kari the narrator because she is the only character in all three films.

Although Our War Game contained characters from the first film (the 8 Digidestined), the third film did not have these same characters and instead focused on the Digimon Adventure 02 protagonists. Although both Kari and T.K. are in this third film, and both are amongst the original eight Digidestined, the other four protagonists (Davis, Yolei, Cody, and Ken) are from the second series. It becomes even more complicated when an American Digidestined, Willis (actually Wallace in the Japanese language version), is introduced into the story. To tie in all of the disparate stories, Kari’s voice-over narration was absolutely necessary, but something was still missing. An element that would not only make the story a tale from one perspective, but a unified struggle against a singular force.

Here, Willis was retconned pretty heavily. In Digimon Adventure, this first film in the triad, the series’ dubbers made sure to mention that just as Tai and Kari received a DigiEgg from their computer screen, so did Willis in Colorado. This is a unique piece of retconning because it does nothing to dispute later facts within the series. We never find out exactly what time Willis received his first Digimon, we just know from the third film that he received a pair of Digimon from his computer screen as well. As such, this bit of retconning fits perfectly within the chronology without upsetting any established chronology. By having Kari mention that Willis is getting his DigiEgg at the same time, and in this first film, it sets him up as an important character who will be mentioned again and retconned more heavily into the second film as a way to, I think successfully, unify the three films.

The third major retconn in Digimon Adventure does, however, begin to unravel bits of continuity and made for a bad change. This is the relationship between the Digidestined at this early time in Highton View Terrace. In the original Japanese language version of the film, the Digidestined do not know one another yet (except for the obvious pairings of Tai and Kari, and Matt and T.K., who are siblings). This is because in the original Digimon Adventure anime, the group meets at summer camp and only finds out later that they all lived in Highton View Terrace at the same time. Oddly enough, the American dubbers knew this as well because they only started work on dubbing this film after the series was dubbed. For some reason, however, they added a plotline where Tai knows Sora and talks to her on the phone. Joe apparently knows Mimi and Izzy at this point as well. This retconn is a destructive retconn that did more than fill plot holes in unique and interesting ways. Instead, it retroactively creates two timelines of continuity, and therefore, is best forgotten about. As such, today we have to recognize that Tai never threw up in Sora’s hat; that when she called him on the phone it was just static and no voice (like in the original Japanese version); that Joe did not call Mimi or Izzy, but only one of his grade school friends; and Sora doesn’t call out Tai from her balcony during the fight for being ‘stupid Tai,’ but instead just says ‘that dumb boy’ or some such thing as in the original Japanese.

Some other interesting changes between versions made basically no difference and can be chocked up to stylistic departures between the Japanese version and the English language track. First, Agumon and Greymon do not speak in the Japanese version, but they do in the English. When Botamon Digivolves in the Japanese version, Tai and Kari’s father is returning home, drunk, from an evening out with the friends and wants into their room to see what the commotion was. This is absent from the English language version. During the climactic battle between Greymon and Parrotmon, Greymon rips off part of Parrotmon’s beak and injures his arm. These events are absent in the English version, although their effects can be seen on the battle-damaged Parrotmon.

Finally, a bit of an easter egg. We all know, from both versions, that the Agumon and Greymon from this version are not identical with the Agumon who would later become Tai’s partner Digimon. One way we know this is that the narration’s make it apparent. Another is that they use slightly different attacks. Whereas Tai’s Agumon and Greymon use Pepper Breath and Nova Blast, respectively, the oversized Agumon and Greymon of this film use Pepper Flame and Nova Flame, respectively. Further, whereas the Pepper Breath and Pepper Flame attacks are comparable, beyond the size of the fireball emitted, the two Greymon have completely different attacks. Nova Blast is a large fireball, not unlike a powered up Pepper Breath or the Pepper Flame of the film’s Agumon, but Nova Flame is blue stream of fire more akin to a Godzilla attack. Because of the differences between the two Agumons and Greymons, the series creators gave nicknames to the Agumon and Greymon who appear in the film to differentiate them from Tai’s partner Digimon. they call them Big Agumon and Red Greymon.

I hope you found this information instructive and learned a thing or two about the first film, and first anime product generally, within the Digimon franchise.

 

Ciao,

The Digidestined Cody

[If you enjoyed this post and would like to read my commentary/analysis on the series click HERE to go to the first episode! Or HERE for the second film Our War Game!]

Dressed to Kill

Brian De Palma’s 1980 erotic thriller is one amongst a number of classics in the genre by Hitchcock’s greatest student. In the 70s and 80s during the high point of De Palma’s career he created quite a few powerful films including Sisters, Blow Out, Body Double, Carrie, Scarface, Phantom of the Paradise, and Obsession.  His greatest works, those discussed constantly by critics and academics today, were then decried as mere stylistic exercises drawing their whole method from Hitchcock. De Palma always made it apparent that he was influenced by the master of suspense, but consistently pointed out that Hitchcock did almost everything one can do within the medium. De Palma’s focus was to take the thriller genre, whose motifs and methods Hitchcock helped to cement, and add new thematic elements like racier sexuality, gorier murders, new knowledge of psychology and psychosis, and a European approach to cinematography and sound design more akin to arthouse filmmaking of France or Germany.

In Dressed to Kill, these elements are all there, in spades. The film is the first in his career to move from accentuating erotic moments to becoming a full-blown erotic thriller. In the film, Angie Dickinson plays Kate Miller, an unhappy housewife who is sexually frustrated by her husband’s lack of ambition or skill in the sack. In the film’s opening scenes she has a troubling nightmare about being sexually assaulted whilst taking a shower. The scene is shot with pretty gratuitous nudity for the time, outside of pink films, as a body double (Penthouse’s 1977 Pet of the Year model Victoria Lynn Johnson) plays up the nudity for assuredly high erotic response in viewers.

Later, she meets a man in the Met while viewing paintings and taking some time away from home life. A man sits next to her and the two seem attracted to one another right away. She takes off her glove in an attempt to show some more skin and unveils her wedding ring by accident, thereby prompting the man to get up and leave. She hastily gets up to follow him, but drops her glove in the process. As they circle around the museum in a beautifully choreographed, sexually-charged cat and mouse game, he picks up her glove, sneaks up behind her, and places his hand on her shoulder, hand in glove. She storms off, feeling his abrupt gesture to be rude, but does not notice the glove until later. She again follows him, but is unable to find him until leaving the Met. He is entering a taxi cab. She follows and says thank you for the glove that he gives back to her, but suddenly he pulls her inside and the the two begin their one-night stand, except in mid-day, in a New York taxi cab.

After the events in the cab, the two return to his flat and late into the evening she awakens, dresses, and plans to leave, but finds some paperwork in his desk showing that he has recently contracted gonorrhea and syphilis. She leaves and is inexplicably murdered by a woman in the building’s elevator. Local prostitute, Liz Blake (Nancy Allen), finds the body and witnesses the end of the murder, but escapes as the elevator doors close. Like Psycho, our endearing female protagonist is killed in the first thirty minutes of the film, but now we have a murder mystery on our hands as police officers, Liz Blake, and the son of Kate Miller go on the beat and follow leads to track down the murderer. What they find is a man suffering from severe psychosis and split personality, a man with two personalities: one as a cis male, and one as a trans male. These two personalities conflict and lead to murder as sexual desire and identity try to establish themselves against one another in a deadly tango danced on the knife’s edge.

Rounded out with great performances by the film’s two female protagonists and the therapist Dr. Robert Elliot (Michael Caine), a beautiful sound score by Pino Donaggio almost on par with his masterpiece score of Blow Out, and underexposed night-shots somewhere between classical noir and the neo-noir of a modern film like Drive or Locke, the film is an artistic tour de force and stands pretty stably as one of the greatest erotic thrillers ever made, as well as one of De Palma’s top ten films. For its depictions of female sexuality, the boredom of a life of domesticity, the hardness of a life of prostitution, the complexity of sexual assault, mental illness, and personality psychology in a disturbed mind, the film is a nexus for analysis on matters important in the modern American discourse. As a piece of film, it’s a testament to the power of great cinema to transcend its own time and place and remain accessible for generations to come, just as this film has for 37 years so far.

 

Cody Ward

The Great Adventures of Horus, Prince of the Sun, 太陽の王子 ホルスの大冒険

(To check out earlier Miyazaki essays in this Studio Ghibli Saturday series follow one of these links down the rabbit-hole: Lupin, Nausicaa, Spirited Away, Mononoke)

First off, a big thanks to everyone who follows this site and has been keeping up with Studio Ghibli material. It’s been an interesting 11 weeks covering the film career of Hayao Miyazaki. But now, I’ve exhausted his oeuvre as feature-film director and find it’s time to move on to the works of Studio Ghibli’s co-founder Isao Takahata.

Takahata began his animation career in 1959-1960 at Toei Studios. The competition was fierce there, but after a few years, he was able to begin working on big projects, initially as an assistant director on four films between 1961-63. From there he began work as a pick-up episode director on Ken the Wolf Boy from 1963-63, then as the director for the opening theme of Hustle Punch in 1965. By 1965, he had gained enough skill, expertise, and trust with the company execs to gain the go-ahead for his first feature film as director.

Although production began in 1965, the film wouldn’t be complete for three years. The work was rigorous and Takahata had an auteur’s one-pointed focus in making sure that the resulting film would be the greatest animated feature released up to that point by a Japanese studio. Hayao Miyazaki worked as a key animator on the film, which would be his first such job on a major animated film. Takahata and Miyazaki’s professional relationship blossomed during this point and began what would be become a more than fifty year artistic collaboration. When Horus was completed and premiered to public to little commercial success, but uncharacteristically high critical acclaim for an animated feature at that time, Toei limited Takahata’s powers at the studio ensuring he wouldn’t make another box-office bomb. Toei’s actions prompted Takahata and Miyazaki to leave Toei for other prospects.

The story is set in a Scandinavian locale generally speaking, but this was always so. The screenwriter for Horus based this work off of a play called The Sun Above Chikisani by Kazuo Fukazawa. that version of the story took place in Hokkaido where its protagonists were Ainu peoples. Further, Fukuzawa got the idea for his play and reinterpreted it from an epic tale in the Yukar, the oral tradition of the Ainu peoples. Because of Ainu identity movements and the lack of a will on the part of Toei to attach themselves to the movements either for or against, that is to say Toei’s desire to avoid controversy, they changed the locale to Scandinavia. But for those in the know, viewing Horus can be a fun experience of identifying Ainu legends and traditions as the film progresses.

Horus is the story of a young man who lives with his father in the wastes of his world. They are asocial actors who reside by themselves and outside society. Horus is unaware of any other human societies around him and spends his days hunting, fishing, and fighting wolves to help out his ailing, aging father. One day, a group of wolves led by a silver wolf attack Horus, who kills off many of them during the fight, but seems constantly overwhelmed and gets inured repeatedly. As the fight turns against his favor, he climbs atop a large rock that suddenly begins to move in response. The wolves run away as Horus is lifted high into the air by what turns out to be a massive rock golem, Moog. Moog has a thorn in his shoulder and asks Horus to try and pull it from his body.When Horus inspects the “thorn”, he finds that it is a sword, and not just any sword, the legendary Sword of the Sun.

When Horus returns home to recount the day’s events, he finds that his father’s illness has taken a turn for the worse. His father recounts his history. How an evil demon, Grunwald, attacked his village long ago and overwhelmed his people. How he ran away to live a life of solitude far from that region and how he wishes for Horus to go and do battle with the demon and free his people, as a last dying wish. Horus and his friend, the bear cub Koro, travel far north to find the village and meet many evil creatures along the way, including the demon Grunwald who tries to tempt Horus to his own side, offering power and status as rewards. Horus refuses and narrowly escapes the demon.

Later, Horus finds the village and helps them to destroy a large fish that was exhausting their fish supply and killing any human who tried to stop him. Horus gains respect in the village and helps them to build new structures and create a small communitarian enclave that showcases Takahata’s political and social concern and his belief that helping one another helps society as a whole. But the silver wolves return and attack Horus, and the village. He fights them off and follows their leader far into the forest, where he meets a young woman playing a harp. Her name is Hilda and she brings joy to the village through her songs, but is the adopted sister of Grunwald. Hilda is a morally ambiguous character who can bring happiness to young children, but simultaneously work out evil plots to destroy the human race. Her internal conflicts, Horus’ heroics, and Grunwald’s evil hegemony over the village all come to a head dramatically alongside the return of Moog, the rock golem, and the reforging of the Sword of the Sun to create a tale of epic proportions.

And more importantly for the time, a Japanese animated feature with complex narrative, visual-artistic dynamism, socio-political themes, moral ambiguity and psychological realism, and flair that were previously absent from the industry. All in all, the film challenges the hitherto dominant mode of Japanese storytelling: the Disney-Tezuka paradigm. Furthermore, it was the first radical step in to a redefinition of Japanese animation as children’s cartoons into its current designation as a commercial artform with the potential to analyze any complicated social, political, artistic, philosophical, or existential problem. Its influence changed the future of anime and began to shape a space wherein animators could bring their ideas both thematic and visual to bear on the form. and potentially, this film is the reason why anime became the cultural force it is today.

 

Cody Ward

The Fate of Two World (Digimon Adventure Final Episode)

(If you missed it, check out part 53 HERE. To go back to the beginning of this series click HERE)

First off, a big thanks to everyone who has been keeping up with this Digimon Adventure recap series. It’s been a hell of a ride creating my first sustained essay series. As a result, the number of pages I’ve written about the series has exceeded 160 and that’s getting on close to book length. Next week, I’ll be recapping and providing commentary on the first few Digimon movies that cover events occurring within the Digimon Adventure 01 timeline, plus a few surprise Digimon topics essays. After that, I’ll be taking a break for a few weeks to cover a different anime series before my return to the Digimon franchise in Adventure 02 sometime late this month or the beginning of next year.

Now, the Digidestined have just been defeated by Apocalymon and rendered into binary code data within the Digital World’s datastream. Their willpower and faith in their abilities to pull through no matter the odds allowed them to escape their Digital limbo and reconstitute themselves in order to once again challenge Apocalymon in an attempt to save both of their worlds: the Real Human World and the Digital World. Their Digimon Digivolve to their highest forms as Ultimates and Megas and begin the battle. They effectively use teamwork on an elite level for the first time to not only avoid all of Apocalymon’s attacks, but to thwart others and make openings for their own attacks and skills. Finally WarGreymon and MetalGarurumon attack with Terra Force and Metal Wolf Claw thereby dealing enough damage to force Apocalymon back into his Polyhedron-shell defense form.

Apocalymon gives up all hope of defeating the Digidestined using brute force at this point and decides to unleash his final barrage: the Total Annihilation attack. The implosion of his own body would spread out and destroy all worlds in the process if undergone totally, but the Digidestined’  Digivices activate and emit beams of light that create a powerful containment field around Apocalymon and prevent the attack’s power from escaping. With Apocalymon destroyed, the Digimon who were roaming the Real World and causing havoc there also disappear, making the Earth safe once again.

As the Digidestined celebrate their final victory of the series, Gennai and Centaurumon appear and lead the group toward Primary Village. The whole Digital World has reconstituted itself, but it will take time to repopulate with Digimon and as such, Elecmon has his work cut out for him nursing thousands if not millions of DigiEggs in the village. The group takes a photo to commemorate the moment together and as they begin to part ways from the Primary Village, a baby Botamon hatches from its DigiEgg. This poignant moment represents the renewal of life in the Digital World and the new birth, momentarily free of evil, that the Digidestined fight and cause has produced there.

The gang decides that they have plenty of time to stay in the Digital World with their Digimon partners before returning permanently back to their own world. Their summer vacation is not yet over, and with the time differential between the two worlds, Izzy figures that they have around 40,000 days they could spend there, or about 110 years, before they had to leave to go back to school. (This spurs on a question that I’ll be focusing on in the future of my analysis of the series: Do the Digidestined age while in the Digital World?) But things have changed. The time differential was just a product of chaos within the Digital World, and now that the Digidestined have erased that chaos and brought back stability, the two worlds are temporally synchronized.

So what? They can still spend a few more weeks or months with their Digimon right? Nope. Gennai tells the group that the solar eclipse in the Digital Sky represents the opportunity of a pass between the gates of the two worlds and that when the eclipse is ended, they will no longer be able to return home at all. As such, they have approximately two hours left to spend with their Digimon partners. In one of the most heart wrenching of the series’s episodes,  the Digidestined and their Digimon say their goodbyes in what was at the time felt to be for the last time. We as viewers feel appropriately heartbroken and feel a loss as well, especially insofar as hardcore viewers came to know and love the characters and then realized that they may have never seen those character again. When Kari says her goodbyes to Gatomon, however, she states that they will see each other again in the future. This small bit of hope for more adventures with the gang would be a bit of foreshadowing of what was to come, but at the time when viewers couldn’t be sure that it was anything more than a teaser, it served as a basis for their own hopes and dreams of a future for the franchise.

This hope for a future return to the Digital World is ultimately in line with the ethos of the show as a whole. Every enemy represented some force of evil with a potential philosophical interpretation like doubt, sophism, meaninglessness, nothingness, nihilism, deconstruction, power dynamics. All analytical points of view that ultimately have some bearing on truth and what the state of the world is. They all pointed to troubling knowledge of our own inability to gain true knowledge and live meaningful lives in a world without certainty or any grand narratives. As a liminal show about the struggles of growing up and becoming an adult, the Digidestined had to work together to face these problems as well as their own inherent weaknesses of personality. They came out stronger by choosing their own motivations and virtues and morals that they would use to not only challenge troubling truths, but to create their own intellectual worlds in a way that the great prophet of modernity, Friedrich Nietzsche, would champion. Their actions moved themselves one step closer to the Ubermensch by discarding old traditions in lieu of newer virtues tied in with the spirit of the old truths.

This move from the thesis, to the antithesis, and finally a new synthesis is one that they will undergo time and again in their lives. Likewise so shall we. And this process is what living is about: Ultimately meaningless struggle against antifoundational foundational, unsettling truths, and the struggle gains its meaning through the meaning we attribute to it. Go well my friends in your own struggles and conflicts. Fight for what you believe to be right. And fight well. This is the only chance you got.

 

Signing off,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continue following the chronology with my essay on the next film in the series: Our War Game!]

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