Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Kigyou Senshi Yamazaki: Long Distance Call

Kigyou Senshi Yamazaki Long Distance Call (Business Fighter Yamazaki: Long Distance Call) was a successful manga by Tomizaki Jun. It ran from 1992 to 2000 and was collected in twelve tankoban volumes. This OVA, from 1997, was released about three-quarters of the way through the manga's run, probably as a promotion. Despite the success of the manga, the OVA was only released on VHS tape; it never appeared on either laserdisc or DVD.

Kigyou Senshi Yamazaki tells the story of Yamazaki Takurou, a workaholic salesman whose job eventually kills him. A temp staffing agency (!) rebuilds him as a cyborg business consultant. In his new, semi-robotic form, Yamazaki is sent into troubled companies to consult on new products and, occasionally, to fight other cyborgs who have been similarly revived.

At the start of the OVA, Yamazaki meets a runaway delinquent teenage girl, Kashima Rinko, and saves her from trouble with the police. Despite his determination to have no human connections, Rinko attaches herself to him as sidekick and observer. Yamazaki's assignment is to help Itsusuba Electrics develop a new telephone product. The market is already crowded with cell phones, cordless handsets, answering machines, and so on; the planners at Itsutsuba despair of finding a new and compelling product concept. Yamazaki, of course, finds a niche and proposes a wall-mounted LCD panel that acts as a voice-operated telephone. This seems remarkably silly in today's age of smartphones, but then again... hello, Alexa? Before he can finish his work, Rinko runs afoul of another cyborg named Suzuki. Yamazaki then finds that his studiously cultivated emotional detachment is not quite as ironclad as he thought.

The voice cast includes:
  • Chiba Shigeru (Yamazaki) played Megane in the Urusei Yatsura franchise and Nezumi in later GeGeGe no Kitarou movies. He appeared in Ai no Kusabi, Akai Hayate, Bagi, Condition Green, and Yamato 2520, all Orphan releases. He is still active, appearing in the current Overlord series.
  • Kawakami Tomoko (Rinko) starred as Akane in the Harukanaru Toki no Naka de: Hachiyou properties and as the title roles in Hikaru no Go and Revolutionary Girl Utena. She also did a marvelous comic turn as Elise, the hard-as-nails assistant to the lecherous ojii-san Stresemann in Nodame Cantabile. She died prematurely in 2011, at the age of 41.
  • The peerless Ogata Kenichi (Suzuki) played the put-upon father in Gosenzosama Banbanzai and Maroko, as well as Smee in Peter Pan no Bouken, the crooked casino boss in Okane ga Nai! (an Orphan release), the Hong Kong chef in Yuukan Club (also an Orphan release), and, most recently, Gran Torino in Boku no Hero Academia. However, he's best known to me as the voice of Ranma 1/2's Sataome Gemna, whose alter ego - the grumpy panda - is my avatar on most anime forums.
  • Katsuki Masako (Kirika, Yamazaki's maintenance engineer) played Maroko in Gosenzosama Banbanzai and its movie version, Maroko, Mira in Ginga Tansa 2100-nen: Border Planet, Queen Bee in Golgo 13: Queen Bee, and Tsunade (Fifth Hokage) in the Naruto franchise. She also played Kenbishi Yuuri in Yuukan Club and Hojo's lover in Sanctuary, both Orphan releases.
The director, Tominaga Tsuneo, also directed the first four Initial D properties, Juliet, Lime-iro Ryuukitan Cross, and Wind: A Breath of Heart. He did the storyboards for Sanctuary and the screenplay for Tenkousei, both Orphan releases.

Iri picked up a VHS tape of Kigyou Senshi Yamazaki as part of his regular survey of secondhand media sources in Japan. Our media mogul ripped the tape, and eventually, M74 encoded it. The source is mercifully free of tape stretch and tracking loss, but it is a VHS tape, so it's rather blurry, with a lot of blended frames. Sunachan translated the dialog, signs, and songs. M74 timed. I edited and typeset (the repeated shots of the wall phone account for the bulk of the script). VigorousJammer and banandoyouwanna QCed; bananadoyouwanna also styled the songs.

I'm not sure quite what to make of Kigyou Senshi Yamazaki. It feels like a satire at times, but I rather suspect it isn't. Yamazaki is portrayed as a hero (and a rather tragic one at that), not as an object of ridicule. Japan's insane workaholic culture is held up as something to emulate, not as a crippling burden on the young leading the country to demographic disaster.  Regardless of its intent, you can find the show as the usual torrent site or on IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.

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