When it comes to anime and manga, when you place Matsumoto Leiji on the “old school” spectrum, it’s pretty simple – you have Tezuka on the one side, and pretty much everyone in the world on the other.
OP: “Neverland” by FTISLAND
It’s a funny thing when I look at Matsumuto-sensei’s designs on screen. I see his visual influence everywhere, but he’s still totally unique – you recognize a Matsumoto character the instant you see one. Everything about this piece is classic and old-school, not just the character designs – it’s a rollicking sci-fi adventure, with elements of Gurren-Lagann, Last Exile (Gonzo is a co-producer with LandQ), Dune and even Star Wars. Set on a desert planet (Earth?) far in humanity’s grim future, a group of outsiders living on a sand ship is in a constant state of tension with the “Theseus”, the military/authority that seeks to control what’s left of civilization.
I enjoyed this first episode a lot, though it’s definitely the sort of material that requires a little bit of participation on the part of the audience. It’s loud, the comedy is broad and physical, the gestures are theatrical, and everything (while apparently budgeted somewhat frugally, judging by the background detail and animation) is set on a grand scale. This is full of the sort of classic anime characters and situations that are going to seem either pleasingly retro or cornball and cliché, depending on what the viewer is bringing to the table. But for me, at least, the great pleasure here is the authentically old-school feel and Matsumoto’s irrepressible character designs.
The plot is going to have to be pretty straightforward to work in the 6-episode format. So far we have the plucky young hero, Sam (Kakihara Tetsuya) who rescues blue-haired (and seemingly blue-blooded) Maya (Tanaka Rie) from the Theseus chasing her, and the titular Ozma – some sort of giant sand whale that randomly appeared from beneath the ground and which Sam is apparently heart-set on catching. There’s also Sam’s on-shop friend who wants to be more Mimei (Fujimura Ayumi), instantly jealous of Maya. The ship captain is red-heated, hot-blooded hottie Bainas (Tanaka Atsuko). A bunch of other classic tropes are represented by well-known seiyuu as well, including Sho Hayami doing voice-over narration.
If you know Matsumoto Leiji, you know basically what the look and feel of Ozma is going to be. The question is whether it’s going to muster any of the same poignancy and depth as some of his classic works or merely be an entertaining lark for a Saturday evening. The temptation is to say this wouldn’t have been sitting unproduced for so long with the master’s name attached to it if it were one of his A-list ideas, but I’m going to try and withhold judgment until the answer is revealed on screen. In the meantime, it’s kind of cool to have a Matsumoto work airing weekly again, even if it’s only for six episodes.
ED: “Utagoe” (ウタゴエ) by Nami Kizuki