This Week: Dream Dimension Hunter Fandora (Mujigen Hunter Fandora)
Go Nagai’s first original anime, an OVA built from the ground up to be such a project, near as I can figure out. He had other anime adaptations before, sure. Some gigs where an anime and manga would come out at the same time as well. And indeed even a previous OVA based on his Barabanba manga.
Here though, was for building something direct and specifically for going to the store and buying a tape. Which is interesting to me to check out, given how he works and how his ideas have been received at times.
I do not mean in a sense where one consumes the elite literary writers of an area like sci-fi or fantasy. I mean more akin to sorting through an old box of nickel and dime books at a library clearing out sale, where the pages are yellowed, the spines are cracked, and none of the authors have recognizable names. One of them has an alright cover though, with hints of jewels, swords, girls, outer space, and so on. So you buy that one, and you take it back home. And it is, well, OK. The plot is functional for purpose, not too detailed but one is never lost on who is doing what and why, and it moves along at a solid enough pace where you are not bored. Everything falls into an archetype role played straight as can be, but it is not pretending to be anything more than that either. And it is hard to fault it too much because the intended consumer audience was young grade schoolers but old enough to have some pocket change and wanting a helping of action adventure staples.
Dream Dimension Hunter Fandora I found is basically that kind of book. Except it is a three episode OVA instead.
Depending on one’s experience with Go Nagai, if they enter this with the hope of seeing something notorious like Violence Jack, they would leave extremely disappointed. There is a bit of gore, a lost limb here and there during a fight, but it always passes quickly. Heck, it barely even has any nudity at all, aside from a near regulation bathing scene and another short bit when Fandora has a small section of the top of her shirt forcibly ripped by someone. Throw in a few underwear shots, and that is about it. But, for what amounts to nearly two hours of Go Nagai home video original content that is all, well, exceptionally tame by his sexual content standards.
I go with the genre fiction setup and example then because it really feels as though Go Nagai and related staff were hurling in all sorts of things the target audience would be into in one way or another. Female bounty hunter who is also a princess and kicks faces in with a summonable sword and shield? She is not only in, but also the lead character. Guy who can transform into animals like birds and caterpillars? Sure, make him the sidekick and co-pilot for their… spaceship? Yeah, get them in a spaceship. Need to have those for flying to other dimensions.
And there, we will have arena wrestling over spiked pits, dinosaurs, and a big bad guy standing on rocks in the middle of space . Who we will name Yogu Sogos, because H.P. Lovecraft references (Yog-Sothoth) for any older viewers. Plus a bunch of other Stuff Grade School Kids (And Especially Boys) Like in terms of space fantasy mixes that I am refraining from mentioning, as the most enjoyment comes from seeing what they throw out there.
Which may make this series sound like it is some kind of hyperactive wacky random go nuts comedy, but it really is not was the odd thing.
It has humor, sure, but more in the light science fantasy sense where a situation leads to a bit of a wisecrack or joke here or there. These events all chain together in a logical enough fashion and spaced far enough apart for what the story needs to do and where they want to go, even if it is not a very complex narrative surrounding bringing two jewels back together. The series essentially remained interesting enough for me, is what it comes down to. Competent. Able to move tapes and burn some allowance money, and would probably be pretty alright if not cool were I under ten years old.
Which feels about right, for an original OVA release from a creative figure with such a vast manga history prior and angling for that sort of audience here without botching the job. It tries basically nothing new for its time, and a number of other of its contemporaries surpass it outright in story, characters, and even animation in places. But it progresses well enough, like a very readable and consumable comic or book, even if the impact is virtually non existent. It always had a sense of when to throw up a new visual transformation, location shift, action scene , or the like to break things up and prevent itself from feeling like it was dragging, which is commendable in execution and attention to at least core structural needs.
I like the format of OVA’s a lot, even for just sort of average ones like this, given the time involved to make them yet without needing a theatrical release allowing for the crew to rotate around. To share the experience and try things out. In its own ways probably also helping to avoid a sense of boredom for the viewer given the pretty standard issue material, since one has a constant bit of oversight shakeup from episode to episode to keeps things fresh that way. In that respect, in the directing chair alone across three episodes we have Kazuyuki Okaseko, Hiroshi Yoshida, and Shigenori Kageyama.
Okaseko has a pretty limited anime resume by number of titles. But, several are pretty long runners, and he was one of the directors for Beast King GoLion (Voltron), so he had that going for him even before coming into Fandora. It also seems to be one of the last anime he ever worked on.
Yoshida has a massive list of credits even without comparison, but Fandora is one of the only things he has a top level Director claim to. He would instead go on to be more of a Photography / Director of Photography specialist, helming that role for things like the entirety of the Aria the Animation franchise. Oddly enough he is also the Producer for the currently airing Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara, which I have been commenting on each week since that series started.
Kageyama went on to more directing roles, especially under their pseudonym Yōsei Morino: My Sexual Harassment, Welcome to Pia Carrot 2, Pia Carrot 2 DX, and the ever successful line of Queen’s Blade television series and OVA’s. He has worked plenty under his normal name as well, doing storyboards and other mercenary work here and there in and even directed a chunk of the Fist of the North Star TV series prior to Fandora. But he came to know where his bread is buttered, as it were: fanservice and hentai.
So yeah, for anyone who ever needed to field questions about Queen’s Blade due to its prior high visibility anime section dominance on services like Netflix, I suppose one can blame / credit / applaud Kageyama’s exploratory direct to video role in Dream Dimension Hunter Fandora at least a little bit and Go Nagai in general. Pulp genre books may be a serviceable place for the youth consuming them to daydream while passing the time for a bit, but sometimes also the teams can use them as a stable means by which they too figure out what kinds of things they want to do when they grow up.
Mothballs is a weekly write-up of already completed anime I have either removed from my backlog or have recently revisited. A crash space for my immediate thoughts and personal processing, these are not intended as full reviews.