Saturday, July 25, 2020

Lily C.A.T. (1987)

... aka: LILY-C.A.T.

Directed by:
Carl Macek (English-language version only)
Hisayuki Toriumi

Seeing how ALIENS (1986) was a huge hit in Japan, where it grossed over 1 billion yen, this anime heavily inspired by it (and released the following year) was pretty much a "money in the bank" no brainer. Sometime in the distant future, the multinational conglomerate Syncam Corporation has dispatched a variety of representatives from different countries to survey and study a distant planet in hopes of acquiring mining rights. The planet is located so far away that the crew has to go into "cryo-hibernation" (suspended deep sleep) for two decades, in which time they'll biologically age just one year. While they're under, their ship - The Saldes - collects a mysterious floating object that appears to be living organism and brings it on board. Once it hits water, it dissolves, turns into an acidic substance and burns through metal. The resultant gas manages to cloud a cat named Lily, who's been brought on board by Nancy, the teen daughter of the Syncam president who's also in charge of supervising the expedition despite being something of an immature, spoiled brat. Somehow Lily managed to escape her sleep pod a little bit early. Meaning, the rest of the crew assume someone had to be awake to let her out.

After the crew are revived, they're greeted by a message from a company personnel director back on Earth who informs them that there are two people on board who are impostors. They're not Syncam employees and entered the training program using false identification. Before they can hear the names and see photos of these two individuals, the transmission goes black. The impostors may have managed to set their sleep timers so they could get up a little earlier than the others to erase the incriminating parts of the message. For some reason, they still want the crew to know they are there though, or else they'd have erased the entire message. They may be "time jumpers;" criminals on the lam who sneak on board such ships to take advantage of the cryogenics technology. By the time the 40 year round trip is over, they'll have barely aged and can safely return to Earth as authorities would no longer still be looking for them four decades later. Or they may have other motives.

Despite knowing criminals are on board, Captain Mike Hamilton encourages the crew to just keep quiet about it as they're all trapped there anyway. Revealing what they know would only cause problems. Plus they have bigger problems to deal with, including a broken air conditioning duct that needs fixed and, soon after that, the death of U.S. representative Morgan W. Scott, who's found white-eyed and has so much bacteria in his lungs the ship's doctor has no real explanation except for Legionnaires' disease (severe pneumonia). And the doctor will provide no further explanation as he's the next one to be found dead. The two ship mechanics soon follow suit as the 13 members of the crew are quickly whittled down to 9. Even stranger, the bodies of those killed disappear. Did they somehow evaporate or were they resurrected?

Of course, the Typhoid Mary in this instance appears to be Lily Cat, who perhaps has been infected by the alien bacteria. However, someone on board has also made a slave of their central computer, which is impossible for the human crew to override and will now only respond to its "master." While there are a few OK twists and turns when it comes to the human and feline aspects of the story, the fast-moving, metamorphosing bacteria is the primary focus. It can change appearances, has tentacles, constantly grows thanks to the absorption of human tissue into the alien cell makeup and is referred to as "outer space chicken pox" by one of the characters trying to downplay the threat. It also takes on some slightly trippy / surreal forms that were clearly influenced by John Carpenter's 1982 version of THE THING, which must have been a bigger hit in Japan than it was in the U.S. at the time.

When it comes to the spate of ALIEN-inspired films that saturated the market in the 80s, this animated take is slightly above average. The characters are well-defined for the most part, with a great central character in the aged and slightly embittered ship's captain, who has missed out on a real life and family for his dedication to his work and has major regrets. Several other characters, including the initially quiet Jiro Takagi (Syncam's Japanese rep) and the somewhat mean but funny Dick Berry (the Aussie rep), have decent character arcs. In a quite interesting touch, the "tough guy" muscular U.S. rep, who's cocky, obnoxious and heavily-armed (likely a nod to the gung ho space marine stereotypes in Aliens), proves to be completely inefficient and is the first character to die. Had this been an American production he probably would have been the hero. On the down side, the bratty female lead is certainly no Ellen Ripley.

This also throws in some social commentary about how corporations don't really give a shit about their workers and chew them up and spit them out whenever they're done with them, plus how automation threatens to take human jobs, something that's even more timely now than when this was released. For the most part, the English dub is well-done and the voice actors are pretty good. This version was produced and directed by Carl Macek, who was responsible for "Americanizing" many other Japanese anime films and bringing them to the attention of U.S. audiences.

Here in America, there was a 1994 VHS release through the Macek-created Streamline Pictures / Video Comics, who distributed other Japanese anime like Neo Tokyo (1987), Twilight of the Cockroaches (1987) and Akira (1988). A cut version also aired on the SyFy Channel with a TV-PG rating, which has since been converted over to a TV-14. I'm not sure exactly what was cut out of the censored version though I assume a bit of the gore and some animated titties.


Rumik World: Warau hyôteki (1987)

... aka: 笑う標的
... aka: Bersaglio che ride (Laughing Target)
... aka: El mundo de Rumiko: La diana risueña (The World of Rumiko: The Laughing Target)
... aka: La sposa demoniaca (The Demonic Bride)
... aka: Laughing Target, The
... aka: Rumik World 3
... aka: Rumik World: Laughing Target
... aka: Rumiko Takahashi's Rumic World: The Laughing Target
... aka: Smiling Target
... aka: Warau Hyouteki

Directed by:
Motosuke Takahashi

High school student Yuzuru is dating Satomi, who's a little jealous that, as popular captain of the school archery team, he always has an audience of freshmen girl "groupies" standing around giggling and fawning over him. But just wait until she finds out he already has a fiancée! And that his fiancée is also his sheltered country cousin, Azusa! And that his cousin / fiancée is also a demon! Years earlier when Yuzuru was just six years old, his domineering aunt, who has also staked claim as being leader of the entire family, struck up an agreement with Yuzuru's father that their children would be betrothed to one another. Something is mentioned about Azusa being the Shiga family's only daughter and, per family tradition, she cannot marry outside of their "clan." However, seeing how the aunt has recently passed away (under mysterious circumstances natch) and the now-teenaged Yuzuru claims he has no intentions of actually carrying through with the union, Satomi can rest easy. Or so she thinks.

Azusa, who has spent her entire life up to this point living in seclusion at her mother's remote mountain home, is forced to come stay with Yuzuru and his family in Tokyo. Having not seen his cousin in five long years, Yuzuru is taken back by how beautiful she now is. But, ya know, she's still his cousin after all! Nonetheless, Azusa is determined to see their marriage to fruition. She starts attending Yuzuru's school and is so shy she trembles whenever other boys try to give her attention. Noticing how clingy she is with her boyfriend, Satomi starts getting jealous all over again. Yuzuru ensures her that Azusa's just never been around boys before and that she will ease off once she notices all of the other options around. That also does not happen.

But Satomi finds herself having real reason for concern whenever she's accosted in the locker room by an enraged Azusa, who gives her a small taste of her supernatural abilities before threatening her life if she ever dares tell Yuzuru what has occurred. During a flashback it's revealed Azusa was almost raped by a boy when she was younger and then bashed his head in with a rock. She has a similar thing in store for three other men who pull her into a warehouse and attempt to rape her. And she has an army of flesh-eating, glowing, "hungry ghost" slugs (!?) at her disposal who can strip a victim down to the bones in just minutes.

Despite Satomi sticking with Azusa's initial demands of not telling Yuzuru about her being not-quite-human, Azusa starts terrorizing her and attempting to kill her. She shatters a window in her face, tries to shoot her with arrows and shows up at her home long enough to rip the throat out of her barking dog. Damned if she does and damned if she doesn't, a terrified Satomi decides to finally just come clean to her boyfriend about what's really going on, which leads to a final confrontation between the love-obsessed demon and bow-armed hero.

Though the story is simplistic and mostly predictable and the finale disappoints somewhat, this is given a colorful and surprisingly cinematic presentation by the animators that helps considerably. The flashbacks, which sometimes utilize black-and-white and even smearing the outside edges of frames to make them blurry (which I've seen used many times in feature films but seldom in animation), are very well done. Good use is also made of slow-motion at times. The Azusa character is presented in a rather enigmatic fashion as we're not quite clear if she's a victim of heredity, a victim of her environment or perhaps a victim of both. The opening scene points to her becoming possessed by something out in the woods when she was a little girl but that doesn't quite explain her mother's involvement nor the childhood marriage pact.

This 51-minute OVA (original video animation) release was made specifically for the home video market and is based on a standalone 1983 comic by the prolific Rumiko Takahashi, who is one of Japan's most successful and well-known manga artists (also one of the countries wealthiest women). The director previously served as an animator and animation director on the author's long-running TV series Urusei Yatsura (1981), which became something of a sensation in Japan. Target received an English-subtitled VHS release here in America in 1993 on the U.S. Manga Corp. / Central Park Media. There was also an English-dubbed version with British voice actors released in the UK and elsewhere. Takahashi's 60 page manga was also released in English.

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