Monday, May 4, 2015

Tomoe ga Yuku! (Tomoe's Run!)

Orphan has done a number of OVAs from the 80s and 90s, including Dallos, the Lion Book series, Blazing Transfer Student, Sonic Soldier Borgman: New Century 2058, and the Maze fanservice special. While many of these had languished in well-deserved obscurity, I find the OVAs from that period to be more interesting and varied than the cookie-cutter OVAs of today, which mostly serve as uninteresting pendants or inter-season connectors for popular series. (The Anime Mirai series is a terrific exception, of course.) So here's another one.

Tomoe ga Yuku! (Tomoe's Run!) dates from 1991. It is fairly typical of its time, with a hyped-up tone and melodramatic plot, but it's great fun. The characters are engaging, the artwork is distinctive, and the action moves along smartly. Above all, it doesn't look like anything on the air today, and that's a good thing. There's not a moe-blob, tsundere, or harem lead in sight.

The plot, of course, won't withstand scrutiny. Our heroine, Tomoe Oujima, is a seventeen-year-old roller-skating j.d. She liked to play peek-a-boo and tag with speeding cars on Tokyo's crowded highways, until her best friend was run over and killed during an outing. On the rebound, Tomoe joins a training school for stuntmen called Green Day. There she launches a torrid love affair with Kazusa Himuro, one of the "managers". Little Does She Know, however, that Green Day is actually the Tojo yakuza group's assassin training school, and Kazusa is the group's chief enforcer. Informed of the truth by an undercover policewoman whom Kazusa ruthlessly executes, Tomoe makes her escape on skates and flees to the arms of Iori Tojo, the alienated son of Tojo's leader. Together, they fight to foil Kazusa's nefarious plots, take down Green Day, and restore Iori to his rightful position as heir to the group. Tomoe and Iori fall in love, but they realize that Their Love Is Not To Be.

Along the way, many parallels are drawn between Tomoe Oujima and Tomoe Gozen, the legendary twelfth century female samurai. Tomoe Gozen fought in the Genpei War at the side of her liege lord and lover Minamoto no Yoshinaka (identified in the anime by his original clan name, Kiso Yoshinaka), surviving both the war and him. Tomoe ga Yuku! hypothesizes that Yoshinaka did not marry Tomoe because their difference in rank was too great. Iori cannot marry Tomoe Oujima for the same reason. At the end, They Must Part for their different destinies, he to rule a prominent Japanese corporation/yakuza group, she to roam the roads on her roller skates...

As I said, the plot doesn't hold water. Tomoe is a young superwoman, able to jump tall fences and outrun speeding vehicles and machines-gun fusillades on roller skates - good old-fashioned four-wheel skates at that, not those newfangled roller blades. Iori is impossibly noble for a soon-to-be yakuza overlord. Even Kazusa has a samurai's honor, challenging Iori to a fight to the death with swords in the burning ruins of Green Day as Tomoe skates through blazing buildings to reach the side of her former and future lover. But even if the plot follows well-worn tracks, it's a hoot. Tomoe is a spunky heroine who makes her own decisions in life and love; for example, it's clear that her relationship with Kazusa is an adult's love affair, both emotionally and physically. The supporting characters are interesting and not just the usual wingmen (and women). And the ending is bittersweet.

Moho Kareshi did the original translation. convexity translation checked the dialog and translated the songs. ninjacloud timed the scripts, and Juggen supplied nice karaokes for the two ending songs. I edited and typeset, and Calyrica, konnakude, and Saji did the QC. The raws are from Piyo Piyo Productions and are excellent, ripped directly from pristine LaserDiscs. Tomoe ga Yuku! was never released on DVD.

So here, at last, is an English translation of Tomoe ga Yuku! Enjoy - and if you have the original soundtrack, let me know; I'd like to get a copy.

Update: the first released version had frame rate problems that caused all the sign timing to be off. V2's have been released. Patches for changing v1 files to v2 are available here. I apologize for the inconvenience.

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