Anime World Order Show # 152 – Nudity and Violence Instead of More Singing Is Why Anime Rocks

It’s been entirely too long since we’ve reviewed something from before the 1980s, so we all checked out the Toei Douga 1975 film adaptation of The Little Mermaid.

Introduction (0:00 – 34:30)
There are multiple things sapping us of willpower lately, and only a few of them pertain to the anime we’re watching. Be that as it may, we give our answer to a question that doesn’t strictly have any one correct response: how do you come up with ideas for what to do at anime conventions? We’ve talked about it before, but perhaps not in this level of detail. Or perhaps we keep saying the same thing over and over but have no short or long term memory anymore.

This episode is brought to you by Right Stuf Anime, whose current sale (that probably expires in a few hours) is on Discotek Media titles, such as what we’re reviewing this episode. Note: we did not plan for that. We were going to review this anyway.

Review: The Little Mermaid (34:30 – 1:15:36)
We probably ought to state that, for the sake of avoiding customer confusion aka “parents/grandparents bought you the wrong thing because they got tricked into thinking it was the other, more famous thing” this adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid is the 1975 Japanese animated Toei version in which the lead character is blonde instead of a redhead. This selection from Japan’s Ministry of Education, Science and Culture may not be quite as technically proficient as the 1989 Walt Disney musical everyone knows (except Daryl, who’s never seen it), but it does have going for it the things which make anime inherently superior. Namely, added VIOLENCE and TOPLESS BABES. Okay fine, those are not things which are featured with much prominence in either this film or our review of it, BUT IT’S THERE. Gerald ended up not only watching this film and reading the original story, he also watched the Russian animated version, Rusalochka. Russia actually made more than one version, since one was from the 1960s and another was from the 1970s, released shortly after this film. You can see them on Youtube should you wish to weigh in on what YOU think may have been “borrowed” or “inspiring” for the template of the modern Walt Disney song and dance routine cartoon.

11 Replies to “Anime World Order Show # 152 – Nudity and Violence Instead of More Singing Is Why Anime Rocks”

  1. I can report in that West Coast anime cons are their own thing, and nobody really wants to go to panels, except for Sakuracon in Seattle which is basically a nicer Otakon.

    This is mostly because the weather is always perfect, so everyone stands outside and take cosplay pictures and that’s all you need. More sensible people don’t even spend $60 to rent an ugly hotel for a weekend, and just have monthly gatherings in parks with a $5 donation for cleanup.

    There isn’t much non-cosplaying audience at small cons, since you tend to age out, which is healthy. Rumor has it those old SF cons still exist somewhere, with no attendees other than the long-time staff, and everyone spends the weekend arguing about the bylaws…

  2. Great stuff about panels, and all really on the mark. For fan panels and where they thrive, last year’s Anime Central in Chicago had about 200 fan panels over 3 days, while it looks like from the online schedule that Anime Expo in LA had like 15 fan panels over 4 days. And in smaller towns, a con is what attendees make of it, so I think fan panels are an even bigger deal there (and sometimes you get panelists who go way deep on a topic… I remember being blown away by an info-dump panel on Kagerou Project / Mekakucity Actors at JAFAX in Grand Rapids, MI a few years back. Never would have expected that, but it turned out to be really good).

    I’ve done a panel on Muv-Luv at a few cons (ACen, AWA, Youmacon, JAFAX), because I know the franchise and am really into it, and luckily almost nobody else knows about it, so I usually don’t have the fear you guys pointed out of having some other superfan coming in and being all Comic Book Guy “Well, actually, I think she’s properly referred to as the ’00 Unit’ in this scene” or whatever. But yeah, that’s a case where the proper approach is obvious: make it broad and beginner-friendly, toss in deep info nuggets when they’d come off as generally interesting (“hey, the lead voice actress in Schwarzesmarken is also one of the Wake Up Girls” or whatever). Then again, a panel on an obscure topic rather than validating what fans already like (“Saddest Scenes in Anime for all you Key fans!”) sometimes means there’s like 5 people in attendance.

    Anyways, panel discussion is as far as I got through in my workout tonight, so I’ll have to do Toei’s The Little Mermaid on Wednesday. Thanks, gang.

  3. More than whether it’s flat out possible to do a topic justice in 55 minutes, another thing a prospective panelist might wanna consider is organizing their material into discrete segments instead of trying to plot out what amounts to a 55 minute documentary. This is one of the advantages of clip panels, because your responsibilities stop at researching your talking points and collecting materials. Putting together my panels on the history of Gainax and the career of Noboru Ishiguro absolutely *murdered* me with stress because even though it’s technically possible to do those topics justice in the time allotted, sifting through all the research and tying it together was just so much work. Sure didn’t help that I felt like both those topics demanded nothing less than the absolute highest quality. Or maybe I’m just weak ¯\_(?)_/¯

    Oddly enough, I’ve seen feedback from people who don’t like it when it’s obvious that the presenter is reading from heavy notes or a script. I suspect that what they’re *actually* complaining about is dry delivery, but maybe there’s something to be said for leaving yourself a little space for playing off the room.

    Anyway, I’ll definitely have to check out Toei’s The Little Mermaid, both because it sounds neat, and because everything else I’ve heard about it paints it as an interesting piece of anime history (it’s the first anime film with a female AD – Reiko Okuyama no less!).

    As a matter of fact, I have seen the 60s Soyuzmultfilm version (but have only hazy memories of the Disney one). Dunno much about the individual director, but it lacks the atmosphere and imagery of the best of Soyuzmultfilm’s dramatic works. Only the sequence where the mermaid – here nameless – rescues the prince is at all striking or interesting. Still, the dramatic sensibilities of Russian animation fit the story far better than what I remember of Disney’s vision. One wonders how an Eichi Yamamoto or an Osamu Dezaki with their similarly dramatic sense of staging might’ve handled the adaptation.

    Besides, the Soyuzmultfilm version’s got other things going for it too. The whole thing is framed by a cloying tour guide and a brackish babushka fish (!) giving their two different takes on the story in front of the Danish statue: the tour guide struck by the ?tragic beauty? of the story, and the babushka fish calling the mermaid a naïve dipshit. The movie keeps a bit of the counterpoint in the storytelling itself. It’s most striking when the mermaid – who sang “the brave should not die” as she rescued the prince – sings once again after dissolving into the sea, only for the music to drop suddenly as the prince embraces the princess and exclaims “You’ve remembered the song after all!” It seems the babushka fish has the last dramatic word, though the film doesn’t seem to take a side overall. In any case, it’s a neat creative decision. Probably worth checking out, especially since it’s only a half hour.

  4. I knew there was a bunch of Little Mermaid anime, but I have never seen any of them until now. I saw the dub on Youtube – LOTS of “I totally cried at the end” comments. Great episode, guys!

  5. I never saw any version of The Little Mermaid before so I went and looked for the dub on YT before listening to the review.

    That ending with the dolphin chasing after the foam was sad…..

  6. The only version of The Little Mermaid in my book. Epic and tragic and after watching this almost 30 years from VHS copies to the Discotek release, I still cry buckets.

  7. I have seen this version of “The Little Mermaid,” and whilst I was most likely younger than five, I have several distinct memories about this film, so it obviously made an impact.

    I have a feeling that this aired as a daytime movie, most likely during the Christmas period, in Australia in the early 80’s.

    In the version, I saw the nudity was definitely intact; I totally remember the scene when she emerges fully naked as a human. I definitely recalled the tragic ending, though the dub I listened to specifically mentioned that she, “went to heaven.”

    I don’t recall any moments of violence that stood out, though I have reason to believe that it most likely wouldn’t have been cut either as other English language releases of stuff I had seen as a child, most notably another daytime airing of Daikyouryu Jidai (Age Of The Great Dinosaurs), directed by Hideki “Urotsukidoji” Takayama, contained a huge amount of violence that helicopter parents and soccer mums would be pooping their collective pants over if shown today.

  8. A big part of my childhood was a japanese TV anime version of Little Mermaid, which was definitely NOT like this movie. The womanfish was named Marina as well, had blonde hair, a plucky brother, a seahorse talking animal sidekick, and the prince (forgot name) was a major recurring character. The evil sea sorceress was very much like a hag from Grimm fairytales. The show basically took elements from the movie you reviewed, the Disney version, and the writers’ own asses, with the final result being quite weird, and if my memory isn’t false, kind of cool.

    Speaking of japanese TV anime, I wish you would look at their adaptation of Peter Pan. It has a genuinely menacing Captain Hook riding his homemade steampunk giant mecha (but of course!), Peter being basically superman, Wendy being way more proactive, and an entirely new second season that has nothing with the source material. Also, best Tinkerbell, objectively.

  9. Assuming I don’t have another panel right away, I always try to take any follow-up questions outside once the panel is over. I appreciate the fact people were willing to come to the panel in the first place, so I want to make sure they get their questions answered, if possible.

    At the Eva panel at Anime Central 2015, we had an unexpected experience where it turned out the next panel was happening earlier than listed in the schedule. Instead of cutting the panel short and ending it there, we continued the panel outside in the hall around a fountain. This was another example where it was the truly the attendees (rather than the presenter) who made the panel, because they were willing to stick around, even if it meant standing in a circle instead of sitting in chairs. It actually made the panel more fun, like we had freed it up all of a sudden.

    It’s good to plan for a presentation as best one can, but ultimately it is the audience that defines the panel, rather than the panelist, just as it is the attendees who ultimately define a con, rather than its programming. By that, I of course don’t mean that a con shouldn’t strive for good programming. They’re like having strong bones and healthy organs, but as for the blood running through a con’s veins–that’s the attendees.

    On that note, I have experienced hypovolemic shock at a panel ^_^ where there were more people on the panel (2) than there were in the audience (1). This was the Showa Fansabu panel at Ohayocon 2010. The con itself was cool (very cool, as it’s in January) but for some reason there wasn’t an incredible demand to wait for VHS tapes to rewind (just so as to have that authentic experience) then to squint at Reagan-era subtitles in a font size Neil Nadelman refers to as “Glaucom-A-Vision.” What was truly harsh is that we started off with TWO people in the audience, so the person who got up and left not only cut our attendance by 50%, but by his departure silently implied that yes, he had looked around the room; yes, he had considered the situation–and not even pity could stay him.

    My sole experience with The Little Mermaid was in someone’s apartment in Concord, CA in the late 1980s or early 90s. We were young adults having a get-together to stuff envelopes to go out to the mailing list of some anime event. The kids in the apartment, however, were doing their best to ignore us, and were watching The Little Mermaid on a VCR. I remember thinking, “Oh, that’s that film people say has made Disney cool again.” But I was not to be fooled; this so-called “Ariel” clearly wasn’t illustrated by Masahisa Suzuki.

  10. “The Little Mermaid” was one of those I sadly missed as a kid (Toei’s version), but it was apparently one of those infamous films either aired on TV or found on tape at your local rental store.

    The film was distributed in the states by a very obscure company called “G.G. Communications”, who seemed to have a thing with filling cinemas with a lot of foreign kiddie matinee fodder during the 1970’s, in particular the Swedish Pippi Longstocking flicks (one of my favorites they released was an odd German animated feature called “Once Upon A Time”, which I thought felt like Disney, Warner Bros. and Hanna-Barbera in a blender with a touch of Yellow Submarine, the way it was presented). You mentioned in the podcast how often the Japanese were never credited on films often seen in the states, and the same was true for Toei’s Little Mermaid, as the US distributor went out of their way to pretty much remove any mention of the studio and staff from the opening credits of the film besides who they got up in Canada to do the English version at (One or two VA’s ended up on Sailor Moon I think). Even the movie poster said nothing of this being a Japanese production though the only remaining trace of that is the final scene with the “Owari” kanji left behind.

    The Denmark scenes that bookmark the film do come off a bit too travelogue-ish certainly, though I’m glad they didn’t bring up any Legos here. One of those amusing things about that famous statue though is how often it got trashed constantly over the years, they had to keep re-sculpting that thing like crazy!

    I do sorta wonder if Japan’s fascination with the story is akin to that of Ouida’s “A Dog of Flanders”, which of course also got adapted into numerous film and TV adaptations, mostly in the US and Japan. The American films tend to give us a happy ending anyway despite the face the poor boy and his dog never make it originally in the book. The story made Belgium a hot destination, especially the Flanders region, for any Japanese tourist in the ensuing years.

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