Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Bander Book (Blu-ray)

Orphan and M74 continue their high-definition survey of the Tezuka Osamu "Love Will Save the Earth" TV specials with the very first, 1979's Hyakumannen Chikyuu no Tabi: Bander Book (Million-Year Trip: Bander Book). This was the first two-hour (with commercials) anime movie made for TV in Japan, and it shows many of the themes, strengths, and weaknesses of the specials that would follow annually for a decade.

Bander Book starts with a bang, literally. A robot terrorist blows up a space liner with Bander's parents on board. In desperation, they put baby Bander in an escape capsule and send him off into space, hoping he will find a home. He drifts to a peaceful planet inhabited by intelligent shape-shifters and is adopted by the Queen. (Superman, anyone? Or maybe Exodus.) Fast forward seventeen years, and Bander is the heir to the throne and the object of unrequited affection from his step-sister Mimiru. However, Bander knows he is different; unlike everyone else, he can't transform. At last, the truth is revealed. He is from Earth, the planet feared throughout the galaxy for its greed and aggressiveness. Bander makes up his mind to leave his home and go to Earth, in order to find out the truth of his origins.

At that very moment, his peaceful home is invaded by "space gangsters," led by... Black Jack! (Yes, the Tezuka Star System is in full swing in this show.) While the rest of the population transforms into animals and flees, Bander attempts to fight off the pirates with just his sword. He is captured, along with Mimiru, who has unwisely decided to stay behind. Black Jack carries them off and maroons them on a desert planet, which leads to a series of spoofs on Westerns. There he rescues Princess Marina of planet Sirius 8 from the Silicon Family of outlaw robots and returns her to her home world. And this is just the beginning. It's ODTAA (one damned thing after another) for 90 minutes until Good triumphs, at significant cost, over Evil, and Bander and Mimiru can be united in True Love.

Black Jack is just the first of the familiar characters repurposed on the show. Ban Shuunsaku, the detective, shows up as Ed the bartender on the desert planet. The leader of the evil Silicon Family is Don Dracula. The henchman to the evil Earth diplomat Dokudami is Hamegg. When Bander is imprisoned by evil Earthmen, his fellow prisoner, Dr. Sharaku, is the "three-eyed boy." Even Kimba the lion and Tezuka Osamu himself have brief cameos:

While the plot meanders towards the inevitable confrontation between Bander and the malignancy controlling Earth (a giant supercomputer, natch), there's time for numerous references, parodies, and gags. The ride to the Silicon Family's hideout includes a spoof of Forbidden Planet and a reference to The Exorcist, for example. The show never drags, but it does meander quite a bit, as Tezuka liked his anime to do. There's also a heavily-sped up, sketchily drawn time-line of Earth history that includes scenes of rape, dismemberment, and cannibalism. It's a kid-friendly show, after all.

Mizushima Yuu, who voiced Bander, played the male lead in another Tezuka special, Prime Rose. He also played the male lead in Tokimeki Tonight, Natsu e no Tobira, and the God Mars properties. Koyama Mami (Mimiru) played the female lead in another Tezuka special, I Am Son Gokuu. She also played Arale in the Doctor Slump & Arale-chan franchise, the mature version of the title character in Millenium Actress, and the title role in the Minky Momo franchise. Oka Masako (Princess Marina) has a fairly thin resume, but she did appear as the phoenix in the first Hi no Tori movie. Ibu Masatou (Black Jack) played the same role in another of the Hi no Tori movies but not in the later TV series and OVAs. He appeared in almost all the Yamato properties, including the ill-fated Yamato 2520 (an Orphan project), where he played the evil Emperor Brone.

Yogicat transcribed the subtitles, which were professionally done, and M74 timed them. I edited and typeset, and Calyrica, M74, and Nemesis did QC. M74 encoded from a BDMV graciously provided by Beatrice Raws. This is a joint Orphan-M74 release.

Despite its meanderings, Bander Book is an entertaining ride, and it's fun trying to spot the references and cameos. You can get the release from the usual torrent sites or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on

Update: Orphan and M74 have created a standard-definition release (480p) to replace the existing DVD-rips on BakaBT. It is also available from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha.

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