These posts were originally posted as a Monthly Three, as well as Iczer-1’s 30th anniversary celebration series. They are now here collected for easier access. This post covers introduction to the history and the Original Video Animations the franchise has seen.
If one doesn’t find much sources about Hariken Ryu in English (his career with Godzilla gives him a lot of leverage over other of his contemporaries, Aran Rei is barely recognized in any degree. While Aran is known as one of many people who made up the best era of Comic Lemon People, and thus one of those who influenced then-current Japanese popular culture, and to that extension modern Japanese pop-culture, his name is all but lost in the Western front. He was at his most active in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, having an influence over stylistic sensibilities as well as contributing to the OVA scene.
Born in 1960, Aran’s first published work was Fairies of the Star in Comic Lemon People #6, 1982. Whether or not he had released doujinshis before this is unknown. The one work he seemed to like the most and kept working on between 1983 and 1993 is Galaxy Police Patrizer-3. If any of his works, it is this one that shows how Aran refined his self-taught skills within one decade to a whole new level.
This monthly three will be a bit different. I’ll be treading some grounds that I’ve been through in previous entries, but this will be more or less a more cohesive series. This series of three will be about how Fight!! Iczer-1 OVA came to be, starting with Hariken Ryu’s Gekisatsu! Uchuuken, then continuing with Rei Aran’s original comic of Fight! Iczer-1, and ending in image comparisons between the DVD and BD release. The problem doing this entry is that a lot of information is just unavailable on certain issues, and thus some conjecture is needed.
So, where do we start when it comes to the OVA of Iczer-1? We start a comic illustrator who liked live action shows a lot. Hidemi Miyata, better known as Hariken Ryu, made his debut in #1 issue of Comic Lemon People February 1982, with his Mad City 16 Beat.
A thirty years anniversary special time. If you’re looking for Hirano related Iczer-1 stuff, this post will have very little to none. We’re going to concentrate on the original creator.
In 1983, the first chapter of Rei Aran’s Fight!! Iczer-1 was printed in adult comic magazine Lemon People. It ran two whole chapters and was a rather short and self-contained story. Despite the original Iczer-1 having so little time to get an audience, Aran kept illustrating the main characters Nyan and Nagisa in the magazine’s covers, despite them having no further adventures.
The two-chapter story follows a strange alien catgirl falling from sky and saving Nagisa from being violated. This catgirl takes liking to Nagisa, and when an alien presence begins to invade Earth, the catgirl takes Nagisa into a cover with a grim look on her face. The second chapter begins where the first one ends, with Iczer-1, the catgirl, teleporting her and Nagisa into a giant mecha called Iczer Robo. They proceed to fight the alien invader, defeating an opposing pilot called Sepia.
During the early to mid 80’s the Original Video Animation was getting wind under its wings, but was still relatively small. With Lemon People becoming a pop-cultural phenomena in Japan, an OVA based production was set into motion. Cream Lemon was that series, and much like the comic, its stories ranged from fantasy to science fiction, handling comedy and horror alike with good splash of erotic thrown in there. 1984 saw first three episodes; Be My Baby, Escalation and Superdimensional SF Legend Rall. Out of these three Be My Baby is remembered as part of the Ami series, and the titular character Ami would appear in many later episodes of the series. Escalation can be seen as good example of girls-in-catholic-boarding school stories, and a series like Maria Is Watching Over Us clearly have taken cues from Escalation.
In that same year Gekisatsu! Uchuuken was supposed to become a TV-series and it got even a radiodrama LP. This LP and various ads in the Lemon People magazine show how the series would’ve been toned back in sexual content, and that would’ve done only good. Not that the comic was overt with this content as it concentrated more on referential comedy. For whatever reason, the deal fell through and the series never came to be.
In 1985, Fight!! Iczer-1 OVA was released and it is this what Iczer-1 is remembered by. Toshihiro Hirano handled directing and writing, adapting Aran’s original two-chapter work into a normal length episode. While the basic structure is the same between the OVA and Aran’s work, all characters and their looks were revamped from ground up. Iczer-1 was no longer a space catgirl, but a space elf of sorts. Her hair was changed from green to blonde yellow, and her painfully 80’s outfit was replaced with a bit more sensible pink leotard with pieces of armour. She also got a new origin, and now she acted like a toughened up warrior rather than a catgirl that could only speak trough telepathy. Iczer Robo went through a complete redesign as well, thou Nagisa stayed mostly the same. Similar changes happened more or less all around.
Despite all this, Aran kept illustrating Iczer-1 covers for Lemon People and even illustrated a continuation comic in full colour for Lemon People Special – Fight!! Iczer-! in 1986 during the production of the second act. Aran’s Nya/Iczer-1 would later incorporate similar elements from Hirano’s version, making it a bit more timeless design than the leg warmer design from the original comic.
The OVA was a success, and was essentially the first Lemon People derivative animation that wasn’t porn. It can be said that this greenlighted further similar animation productions, like Project A-ko, which was actually supposed to be a full on adult production, and ultimately paved way to Lemon Angel, one of the first semi-modern late night animation shows in Japan. All this, of course, was because the bubble economy allowed this to happen, and from 1985 to 1991 the OVA boom became larger than ever with incredibly amounts of LaserDiscs and VHS prints made for the Japanese market in relative numbers. Money, cocaine and mushrooms flowed rather freely and there is a very good reason some people automatically relate beautiful animation and shit story with the OVAs. This is because OVAs were free of television and theatrical restrictions. Megazone 23, released the same year as Fight!! Iczer-1, was supposed to be a television series first, but ended up being released as an OVA and so got few more adult themes and scenes included, thou they build some character and flow naturally with the story.
The second episode of the OVA, Fight!! Iczer-1 Act II; Iczer Sigma’s Challenge was released a year later in 1986. Because the first act exhausted the little original material Rei Aran had done, Hirano wrote completely new continuation for the story and introducing Iczer-2 to oppose Iczer-1 in the same level. Iczer-2 is more or less a direct evil clone, having same skills and powers, but much like all evil clones, lacks the spiritual side of things. The animation quality changed a little bit, not enough to be noted outside scenes where Iczer Robo was introduced. This is due to presence of fan favourite Masami Obari, who is known to paint and animate mechanics with his more or less unique way. According to Obari, Hirano told him to paint Iczer Robo more like a hero robot, thou this results Iczer Robo looking nothing like in the first part. It could even be argued that Iczer Robo looks less a hero now, but that’s to individual opinion.
The second episode explores further into the invading alien force, the Cthulhu, or Cutowolf as the official romanisation by the Japanese goes, and how they terrorise humans by warping space and time, dimensional barriers and morphing humans into monsters. It can be argued that the second episode is a more balanced piece, allowing Nagisa to grow as a character rather than be dragged around by Iczer-1. The second part ends with a cliffhanger, Iczer-1 and determined Nagisa facing Iczer Sigma. That fight would have to wait until next year.
The final and third part, simply subtitled Act III: Concluding Volume, was released in 1987. It begins with a recap of the previous two parts. Modern audience that watches all the acts back-to-back will find this a bit jarring. At the time, this was a good move to make, as by that time some of the staff had become relatively well known and more people could pick the third part up without seeing the previous two, that were not in production any more at the time. There would be new releases later down the line, of course.
The third chapter is more disjointed, as it tries to explain what happened to the Cthulhu, the origin of Iczer-1 and the main antagonist Big Gold. However, Hirano fails to deliver on these accounts, making it a more an open question what really happened rather than. In Iczer-1 Mediamix Special, the origin story was told far more clearly as follows;
ICZER-ONE is an embodiment of “conscience,” which is originated the two wills when CUTOWOLF made a contact with an alien. BIG GOLD is an embodiment of “desire” and dominates the center of CUTOWOLF fortress. As both are born from the mind of CUTOWOLF SIR VIOLET, they are destined to contradict each other. BIG GOLD has produced his man, ICZER-TWO in order to knock down ICZER-ONE who is much superior in his fighting ability.
-ICZER-ONE MEDIAMIX SPECIAL, p.2
Even thou the book claims Iczer-2 to be a man, she certainly is a woman. The third episode suffers somewhat from the pacing, as it tries to establish all this information, showing an army of modified Cthulhu who look similar to the other warriors as well as juggle between action and why Iczer-1 needs a partner to synchronise with. What happens during the ending is rather strange, as Big Gold seems to be defeated by merging with Iczer-1, who becomes an overpowered goddess, restoring Earth and reversing time, fixing the damage Big Gold had caused. No Earthling remembers anything, and the final scenes of the OVA ends with familiar scene where Nagisa saw Iczer-1 in the first part.
Hirano would continue to work with Iczer-1, producing a prequel comic Golden Warrior Iczer-1, produced a novelisation on the OVA and even illustrated a side-story comic Iczer Legend, that took place in a different timeline. A sequel OVA, Adventure! Iczer-3 was produced in 1990, which also got a cassette adaptation that continued from the novelisation of Iczer-1. The novelisation of Iczer-3 met the same demise as most of Hirano’s Iczer related productions, as in they never materialised or were finished. While Adventure! Iczer-3 has more time to go over with the characters and story, it stripped all the gore and horror elements the predecessor was known for. The animation wasn’t anything special and the overall deal had practically no impact on the popular culture. In 1994 another sequel was produced, Iczer Girl Iczelion. Here the two episode OVA had absolutely no impact as none of the characters returned, opting to use a new version of Nagisa and sentient robots that form power armours around their users.
1994 also saw Rei Aran’s return to the franchise, where he began to illustrate his take on the larger Iczer-1 mythos with THE ICZER-ONE. This remake comic was serialised in Lemon People much like the original one and incorporated many elements seen in the OVA, but sticking far more to the core of Aran’s original piece. The series stays as one of the more elusive entries in the series, as it has not been collected anywhere, most likely due to its unfinished nature. Lemon People folded in 1998, ending the pop culture defining magazine’s run in a relatively high note with an illustration collecting all the most important pieces it had brought forwards throughout the years. Both Aran’s and Hirano’s versions of Iczer-1 appears on it. As it is NSFW, you’ll have to use this link. A sharp eyed reader will also notice Lien Yun doing a kick there and Zeorymer looming in the background.
So, what’s the deal? Why did it became a cult classic?
Iczer-1 OVA was a relatively high budget production for its time, comparatively speaking. The story it tells may be simple and rather clumsily told in the third act, yet it grabs you and keep you with it. This is thanks to the detailed animation and heavy use of black accents. The music may not be Oscar worthy, but there are more than few tunes that you will hum to yourself. Iczer-2’s theme is one of those pieces I find myself whistling, outside singing the three vocal songs out loud. Iczer-1 is still relatively unique in series and being one of the few shows that toy with the idea of direct erotica, but ultimately decides to keep it with the bodily horror. Still, the first act is the shining example in the OVA series, as it keeps strings together the best and allows the latter parts to build on top of it. The atmosphere and presence has stark contrasts with each other, and if the viewer is swayed along the story, there are few moments that you will find slightly terrifying. The characters themselves are clear personas, and while the short runtime of the acts do not allow much character development, Nagisa’s character goes through a full cycle while Iczer-1 herself finds understanding rather than keeping with the single minded fighting she’s been doing.
From all this, it is not hard to see why Iczer-1 is remembered by its 1985 OVA. It’s the one that was the biggest hit. Rei Aran hasn’t returned to the franchise afterwards, Hirano hasn’t attempted to revitalise the animation side either after his Iczer-4 series got cancelled very early in production. Some of the Iczer-4 elements were incorporated into Magic Knight Rayearth TV adaptation in form of Nova, which has overall met with criticism. Both Fight!! Iczer-1 and Adventure! Iczer-3 appeared in Super Robot Wars L for the Nintendo DS.
In the West, or more precisely in the US, Iczer-1 was a massive cult hit. Hirano’s Golden Warrior Iczer-1 got a translation with interviews and Iczer-3 got English language comic. When Evangelion was a new thing, a reviewer mentioned how it was certainly a good television series, but couldn’t hold up against a classic like Iczer-1.
My first set of Laserdiscs were Fight!! Iczer-1, and to some extent it was also my first real foray into OVAs and step into the deeper Japanese pop culture. Nowadays Iczer-1 is readily available on DVD from your Amazon store. The quality on the DVD is on par of the 1991 Laserdisc releases, which is actually pretty damn good, and the price hasn’t been going up too much.
Whether or not there will be another Iczer-1 production is an open question, but the chances are low. Iczer-1 is a product of its time and I’m saying that as a good thing. Most of the time it doesn’t really hold back, and early on it is rough and direct. Perhaps a digitally remastered Blu-Ray release would be in place, if possible.
For a short two-chapter comic, Iczer-1 has come a long way. I hope this little trek into the franchise has brought some new information to you as well as made you interested enough to check it out.
I present you the complete recording of Gekisatsu! Uchuuken vinyl record in mp3 format with scans. Download at MediaFire.
So, what is Gekisatsu! Uchuuken? When it comes to this LP, Gekisatsu! Uchuuken was to be an animated television series. Whatever happened to the production of the series is unknown. Uchuuken would have been the first Lemon People based animated production before Tatakae!! Iczer-One, Cream Lemon, Project A-ko or Lemon Angel.
The LP holds what sounds more or less pre-production material for the series alongside drama bits. Whether or not the LP was sold because of contractual reasons or something else is unknown for me. However, an educated guess could tell that the level of material put in here shows that at least the drama bits were produced to advertise and hype the series.
The recordings were taken by using a Pioneer PL-Z93 player and only minimal adjustments have been made to them in order to preserve authenticity. As such, expect some level of noise, hissing and pops as per usual vinyl records of this age.
The comic the series was based began running in Comic Lemon People Issue #2 in 1982. I described Uchuuken to some extent about two months or so ago and I do recommend checking that post for further info, but I may do a bit more extensive showcase based on the first few chapters I’ve scanned thus far sometime in the future. As in possibly sometimes next year. I have plans to scan at least the first seven chapters, as the comic used staples up to issue 8 or so.
Enjoy the recordings, I do hope you enjoy the ending song in Side 2 at least.
Edit; If you’re interested to read more about the author and the series, please refer to this post.
It’s a late music of the month, so let’s get on with it already. Turn the bass up.
Ar Tonelico games are weird, but the music hits just the right spot with me.
It’s been surprisingly unforgiving weekend. The plans to write a larger, more elaborate entry got destroyed with turn of events that caused me to work twice as much as I usually do. It’s linked to the project post I made earlier in the week, but we can come back to that subject when we reach another deca-post.
Seems like the books I was to scan have now been lost in mail, or my friend hasn’t even sent the books. Either way, it’s a loss to those who were expecting these. Anyways, I’ve turned my head towards scanning some chapters of a more unknown series; Gekisatsu! Uchuuken.
What is Gekisatsu! Uchuuken, I hear you asking. It’s comic by Hurricane Ryu, the man who later went on to be Heisei Godzilla movies suitactor. You may know him better as King Ghidorah, among others. The comic serialised in Comic Lemon People from its second issue on in 1982 and had somewhat humble beginning. Gekisatsu! Uchuuken, or just Uchuuken among friends, follows the kung-fu girl Lien Yun. Her adventures start from street brawls and escalate all the way to full blown city destroying fights against all the largest giant monster icons. The series is absolutely balls to the walls insane, using SM as its main sexploitation device and adding almost every character from the Japanese sci-fi pop culture at the time to the extent you had Lien donning a power armour that looks mistakenly similar to Macross’ Valkyrie’s FAST pack. The comic had a collected release, which is stupendously expensive and yet I’m looking for gain them. I’m sure those would have higher quality than the early Comic Lemon People issues. What made Uchuuken popular among readers, at least according to small snippets I’ve see on Pixiv and elsewhere, was the rough, high speed action combined with absolutely bombastic tokusatsu parodying from chapter to chapter. The series style improved slightly as it went on, but it does have a level of amateurish vibe to it, which will put a lot of people off. Especially when it’s 80’s stuff. That shit’s ancient in the eyes of young ones nowadays!
Here’s the kicker thou; Gekisatsu! Uchuuken was supposed to get a TV animation adaptation. It’s absolutely insane to think how this would have been done. It would’ve been toned down in content in order to attract younger audience, meaning removal of the sexploitation element and crafting more a family friendly approach. Still, the few paintings we have still show monsters getting slashed apart and a man standing on a machine armed with tentacles, so some of the origins would’ve been there. The adaptation might’ve been good for the series, in the end. While the comic is quite practically Reference the Comic due to its copyright infringing portrayals, the TV-series would’ve taken all these out and concentrated on the core characters and elaborated more on Lien herself, perhaps creating far more wholesome entity.
There was a record published before or after the project folded, which contains a sort of prototype to the opening music the series would have. Sadly, the instruments are very rudimentary and do no justice to the possibility the song has. The songstress carries the whole deal, really. You can listen to it on Youtube. Be sure to read the description. The rest of the LP has some similarly rudimentary tracks, but also radio drama. These radio drama bits are there to introduce the characters to us, and I admit I’m biased, but I liked what I heard. I’m intending to record the rest of the LP when I get my hands on a higher grade player, but in the meanwhile I can at least share some selected scans.
Seeing they even released a record and had announced the series, I have theorised that there may exist some sort of short video. At least few minute snippet how it could look. Japanese economy experienced a boom from 1986 to 1991, after which everything just fell down. The 90’s and 00’s are know as the Lost Decades due to this. Uchuuken’s series would have been done just a tad too early. It’s no surprise that OVA’s based on Comic Lemon People series were produced afterwards; Iczer-1, Zeorymer and Cream Lemon. It wasn’t until late 80’s a TV-series based on Comic Lemon People came to be in form of Lemon Angel. Too bad it was just a series of short music videos that carried a set of separated character and their racy slice-of-life adventures. If you want to see them out of some interest, I’m sure Youtube can help you with that as well.
Now for the bits not everybody like. You may want to ready a translation side to software for few upcoming links.
There’s some things I want to get out. #GamerGate has been seen some shit going on with it, and locally we’ve finally seen some news of it. Somewhat actual news, not just clickbait blog posts from people going with the narrative the press is making. Yet, the news we’ve seen do go with the narrative. That’s surprising, as I’ve though the local media and people would’ve taken more objective view and balance the issue’s sides, both from the journalists’ and customers’. However, this has not happened and I guess now that we’ve got the official statement from IDGA-Finland and Neogames Finland that they stand against any sort of harassment against game developers and gamers. This is great, because #GamerGate does support that exact same stance. However, the news is more or less baffling due to the fact that it calls #GamerGate out on the death threats and harassment it has directed towards game developers and gamers.
This is interesting because this is the first time I see anyone telling the movement is harassing gamers as well. I’m not sure what it tells about IDGA-Finland’s statement or the level of journalism the author of this article practices. The normal namedrops are made, and it saddens me that it is apparent that no actual research on the subject has made.
But wait! There’s a game researcher who states that the movement does not represent all the gamers out there. This second article has more balanced narrative, the little there is. The movement is still blamed on all the harassment that has been going on and has emphasize on the developers while ignoring the whole journalism side. It’s apparent that the writer has basically written what has been told to her, which makes a man sad.
It’s understandable, if you look at the movement from a distance. Because the movement is against a media, it is completely expected for the media to strike back and have that unbalanced view on the events. However, when you do have something like YLE, the Finnish equivalent of BBC, not making any research to their news, it seriously causes some amazement. On one hand this is treated as an American event, but that would mean that the journalists at YLE have even better option to do some journalistic research and see whether or not the allegations on either side are valid. I’ve had some good discussions about the movement and its goals, but most people seem to go into the press’ narrative more. Then again, often this narrative is shoddily built, but same minded people often buy to a narrative they want to see fit to their world view.
For this reason alone, I would recommend any #GamerGate supporter to keep yourself outside the comfort bubble and see the countering arguments and keep an objective view. The same should apply to everybody, really.
Have I ever told you the reason why I love the 80’s? It’s not just that it was the last truly great decade we’ve had thus far before the Internet set in as we now know it, but because the decade brought together a lot of things that the 60’s and 70’s had been developing on many fronts. 80’s saw the boom of home media, computers, video games, and a lot of other stuff we just take more than for granted these days.
Personally, it’s the whole feeling of 80’s for me. How it looked, how it felt and sounded. I meant to stay only a while in the 80’s, but I keep returning to it. The 90’s saw large scale digitalization, and thus we lost a lot of analogue warmth, if I may be poetic for a moment here. Electric Light Orchestra is a bit special case for me, as it’s one of the few bands I heard when I was a kid, next to an insane bunch of other strange 70’s and 80’s bands thanks to my godfather, but nowadays ELO is the only I can remember clearly… party because of Daicon IV, but that’s another story.
Before the Internet, computer and video games made a large impact on the overall culture that was. After the Internet, video games became a common commodity and have not been making any impact on anything since. Same goes for movies and music, which made their last truly large impacts in the 80’s. However, TV is still making some impact with its somewhat quality offerings, but even now there’s constantly new revivals being churned out, or at least attempts at revivals. An example of this would be Mockinbird Lane, which was a Munsters revival, which wasn’t half bad but it wasn’t Munsters. It was… something. It could’ve worked as a separate series that got its inspiration from Addams family and the Munsters. However, I’m not seeing any home media format having any impact on the culture. BD and Streaming barely grazed the what VHS, and to some extent, DVD managed to create in cultural context.
We live in a generation where it’s completely acceptable to just take someone’s idea and use them as their own with a little tweaking. 50 Shades of Grey is unacceptable work on Twilight, even if both of them are horrible piles of garbage. I can’t find it acceptable that we as a society allow people to build their life work on plagiarism. I will oppose plagiarism for as long as I my mind understands what the hell is going on.
The next two decades will show how large a cultural impact the Internet has left on us. For now we see that we have screens everywhere and that everybody’s connected to everybody else and to everything via the Internet. It is, as Josh Hadley put it, the new flesh. How long it will be that the new media will be integrated to our physical being? Seeing we’re already making DNA into flashdrives, I’d say that at some point dickwaving will get a new meaning.
Have some pretty 80’s artwork from 80’s Japanese adult magazine to end this post.