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  Leda: Fantastic Adventures of Yohko Oh Yoko!Buy this film here.
Year: 1985
Director: Kunihiko Yuyama
Stars: Hiromi Tsuru, Chika Sakamoto, Kei Tomiyama, Shuuichi Ikeda, Koji Toya, Kozo Shioya, Mahito Tsujimura, Naoko Watanabe
Genre: Animated, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Adventure
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: Cute, pink haired piano prodigy Yohko Asagiri is in love with a boy who doesn’t even notice her. She composes a song to express her feelings, but this magical tune somehow opens a doorway into the fantasy world of Leda. It’s a wonderland of fairy villages, ten foot tall magic flowers, friendly monster turtles, and rampaging super-robots. Yohko befriends a talking dog named Ringhum and, whilst fleeing a gaggle of punk cyborgs on shapeshifting robo-steeds, is magically transformed into bikini-clad heroine with superpowers and a magic sword, able to trounce whole space-armies single-handed.

Glam rock supervillain, Master Zell sets a trap, but Yohko is saved by an enormous robot reminiscent of the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz, and little warrior-priestess Yoni who foretells her destiny. Aided by her friends, Yohko must overcome all fears and pilot her own skyscraper-sized super-robot, the Wings of Leda, into the floating Castle Garubo and stop Zell’s army from conquering Earth, the galaxy and beyond.

A much beloved title from the golden age of anime, this crams more ideas into seventy minutes than most televisions serials manage in an entire season. Giant robots, plucky girl pilots, battle bikinis and love songs to save the world were reoccurring elements of anime from this period, but Leda pulls them off with wit, panache and a surprising layer of profundity. The tone is set from the opening image: fishes swim in a tank, through which a silhouette slowly forms into young Yohko playing her haunting piano theme. Ingenious visual storytelling conveys internalized adolescent angst and the exuberant release offered by daydreams, music and fantasy adventure.

Led by co-writer and director Kunihiko Yuyama, the talented production team create a remarkably evocative fantasy world, drawing imagery from fairytales, pulp sci-fi, teen magazines and girly, bubblegum pop. Many of the crew went on to major careers, with Yuyama inflicting Pokemon upon a defenceless world, while key animator Shigenori Kageyama later wrote and directed the conceptually similar Zeguy (1993).

At heart this is an empowerment fantasy for adolescent girls, albeit one also peddling eye-candy for teenage boys. Lovely, leggy Yohko became quite the video crush for young fans, even if in her only anime appearance. She has her ditzy moment, conversing nonchalantly with Ringhum for a whole minute before exclaiming: “A talking dog!”, but grows into a poetic, faceted heroine with no lapse into squealing caricature. Key to Yohko’s worth is an ability to discern true love from falsehood. When Zell entraps her in a syrupy romantic fantasy with her dream hunk, she breaks the spell using common sense as a symbol of dawning maturity. Shiro Sagisu supplies a wonderful score that switches from sitar-driven pop, Britney ballads and John Williams-style orchestral flourishes, and weaves in Yohko’s beguiling piano melody as a reoccurring motif. Animation wizards pull off an exhilarating finale with duelling spaceships, hair-raising escapes across not one, but dozens of Death Star-style flying fortresses, and fast paced robot-fu before the poetic, understated coda.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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