Thursday, December 8, 2011

Review: Space Family Carlvinson

Ok, now here's one that surprises me - there's no wiki entry on Lucu Lucu. Manga Fox has the complete run, and there's a good write-up on author Yoshitoo Asari in Japanese, but nothing in the English wiki. Lucu Lucu was one of the more popular gag manga in Afternoon magazine, and was very funny, in my opinion. But there's very little written about it on the western side. According to ANN, Asari also worked as the designer on one of the Evangelion movies, assisted on the character designs for the Evangelion TV series, and wrote the equally bizarre Wahhaman manga.

An earlier title that has even less visibility is Space Family Carlvinson. I ran into this manga back in the early 1990's when I first came to Japan and was browsing a used bookstore in the anime color book adaptation section. The book used stills from the OAV to retell the anime in print form. The slapstick humor was hilarious and the story setup was just insane. So, when I had the chance to pick up the original manga for free, I jumped at it. I wasn't disappointed.

Space Family Carlvinson by Yoshitoo Asari, Grade: A
A traveling troupe of alien performers sideswipe another spaceship and cause it to crash on a nearby planet. The only inhabitants of the damaged ship are two adult humanoids (presumably Earthling humans), who died in the crash, and their surviving infant daughter. The actors decide to take care of the baby until a rescue ship arrives, and in order to provide a stable environment for the girl, named "Corona", set up their tent on the planet and enact their longest-running show to-date as her "family". It's a sit-com, so every chapter is just one joke after another, with some sentimentality as well, as the characters bond with each other. There's no point in recapping the chapters, so I'll just highlight the main characters.

Mother: A large furry rat. She's the defacto leader of the troupe, and the one who was driving the ship when it clipped the Earthling craft.

Father: A battle robot. The dimmest bulb in the box, but the most devoted member of the troupe when it comes to caring for Corona.

Corona: The star of the series, more or less. A 4-year-old girl with a curiosity streak a mile wide. Very similar to Arale-chan from Dr. Slump but not as indestructible.

Tur-kun: A creature pulled straight from a 1980's Hollywood horror flick. Identified as Corona's "pet squirrel". At one point, is shown with the full name "Turbo" (where "bou" is a suffix added to boy's names). Loves to get into close-up shots to the reader for the shock value. In one chapter, he states that he is a pet squirrel, not a cauliflower.

Belka: An elf-like humanoid who loves weapons and fighting. When panicked can generate enormous strength. When over-heated, becomes brain-dead. Spends most of her time acting as the local police force.

Andy-kun: One half of an android (the legs and head part). The hardware technician in the troupe. Speaks with a metallic accent.

Parka: Not exactly sure what Parka is, or its role in the troupe. Mostly it just stands in one place.

Note: The title is an obvious play on The Swiss Family Robinson, but the story lines have nothing to do with each other. Another possible connection is with Lost in Space, but again there's no overlap in stories or character designs. Carl Vinson was the Democratic House Rep for Georgia for 50 years, and served on the House Armed Services Committee. He was a strong advocate for the Navy, and the USS Carl Vinson nuclear aircraft carrier was named after him. This carrier was docked in Japan for a while during the early 80's, and may be the reference for the title of the manga, which ran from 1985 to 1996. The OAV came out in 1988.

There's also a papercraft page if you want to make your own Family.

According to the Japanese wiki, "belka" comes from "berserker" and the design for Parka is a parody of the Japanese cover of the Fred Saberhagen Masque of the Redshift Berserker short story.

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