Radio City Fantasy

There are some anime that will never make it to Western shores. This doesn't mean that these shows are necessarily bad--any fan who's watched much anime that's been released in the West can tell you that quality plays no part in what gets released here--but they are either too old, too bizarre, or simply too Japanese to find a following here. Though Radio City Fantasy fits all of these categories and will almost certainly never be licensed outside of the Far East, it is a unique program that collectors might want to see. Though it has significant flaws, it has an odd appeal in the strange, psychedelic styling that make this one extremely distinctive.

There is a loose plot that holds Radio City Fantasy together. Hiroshi is a young artist who dreams of writing children's books. He fills a notebook with fantastic drawings that one day might entertain kids around the world. He's still uncertain of himself, however, when he runs into a mysterious girl, Hiroko, in a darkened subway station. She's an artist, too, and as they grow closer, he takes her into some of his own landscapes in fanciful sequences. However, there's a mystery that causes Hiroko to leave their peaceful world. Will the two ever get it together? In the ever-ambiguous world of Radio City Fantasy, we're not so sure.

From the moment Radio City Fantasy starts, you know you're in for something different. It begins with a far-off shot of the city, slowly panning in as the narrator (evidently Hiroshi) tells us in English and French how he remembers this time long ago, when he was really only a child and in love for the first time. Then the music starts, and we see that color will play a big part here--the only characters who stand out at first are our protagonists, bright and alive in an otherwise gray world. The artistic styles then change throughout the show as we see the various illustrations Hiroshi has created come to life and tell their stories. Nothing here reflects the typical animation you see in most anime; some of it hearkens back to Disney's styles back in the 1940s, whereas other sections are more in the vein of the psychedelica of the late 60s. The main storyline is the closest we get to typical anime form, though the character designs are original enough to be significant. If you want to see divergent modes of animation, this will keep you busy. Considering that this show was intended for youth--from the advertising on the copy I have, that seems clear--Radio City Fantasy attempts to be something beyond typical childrens' programming.

Although I watched Radio City Fantasy in raw Japanese (and I only understand a small percentage of the language), the plot is not difficult to follow; there isn't much of one, to be honest. However, the love story is actually engaging, and I found myself anxious to get through the dream sequences to continue the plot. Unfortunately, the fantasy sequences rarely make much sense, and thus are more reminiscent of bad fever nightmares than true art. (It is possible that the song lyrics tell the stories more fully; if this is the case, then translation might help immensely in the enjoyment of the show.) The other main problem that consistently weakens Radio City Fantasy is the music itself. Music makes up the core of this show, and it's Japanese pop dating back to 1984. Although it never becomes unbearable, the music is nondescript and unmemorable at best. Because of this, getting through the whole thing can be an exercise if you don't like the songs. Finally, if you don't like ambiguous endings, you won't be impressed. However, I give it credit--it is far more enjoyable than other pop music extravaganzas like Cipher and To-Y, and certainly more understandable than "high art" programming like Angel's Egg.

Radio City Fantasy is a rare anime in that it attempts to be artistic while entertaining. Although it doesn't really succeed, in my opinion, it's still an interesting try. I also think that children, the target audience for the program, might easily get past the musical and artistic barriers and enjoy the program more than I did. Although a hardcore anime collector will have to really work to find a copy of this show--especially since I could only find one reference for it anywhere on the Internet--if this sounds interesting to you, you'll likely find it worth the effort. For those who are tired of the increasing sameness in much new anime, this could be the perk you need.

Radio City Fantasy -- nothing objectionable -- B