Love Live! April Fool’s “CYaZALEA☆Kiss”: References and In-Jokes

This year’s April Fool’s brought out one of the best things ever from Love Live!: the “announcement” of a new 80s-style action anime called CYaZALEA☆Kiss

But the Love Live! fandom and the 80s anime fandom generally don’t overlap, so I’m here to explain some of the jokes/references on both sides.

The name itself: “CYaZALEA☆Kiss”

The characters featured in this video are collectively known as Aqours (pronounced “aqua”), and are the heroines of the Love Live! Sunshine!! iteration of the franchise. These nine girls, in turn, are composed of three idol sub-units with their own distinct styles called CYaRon!, AZALEA, and Guilty Kiss. In the “plot” to this video, the three sub-units must join forces, but rather than calling them “Aqours,” their separate group names have just been mashed together.

It’s sort of like if you called the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles “Leodonphalangelo.”

The narration is a spoof on Fist of the North Star

The introduction of a post-apocalyptic backdrop set in the year 20XX is a reference to the opening narration of Fist of the North Star, a violent 80s shounen series about a world-saving martial arts hero who can make bad guys explode with his fists. In the anime, the narrator explains how in the year 199X, the Earth was ravaged by nuclear war, setting the stage for the series. 

On top of that callback, the over-the-top voiceover featured in CYaZALEA☆Kiss is none other than Chiba Shigeru, the actual narrator from Fist of the North Star! Famously, he’s known for getting more and more ridiculous and impassioned over the course of that series, and he brings that very style to this April Fool’s gag:

The general feel of the opening is an homage to Saint Seiya

From the team aspect, to the outfits the girls wear, to even the swooping logo (featuring 80s cel-animation shakiness), the whole CYaZALEA☆Kiss endeavor is largely based around the 80s shounen manga and anime Saint Seiya. Following a group of heroes who gain special armor and cosmic powers based on the constellations, Saint Seiya is famous for pioneering the “armored pretty boys” genre, and was responsible for bringing many female readers to Shounen Jump.

The general art style is also very reminiscent of the aesthetics of Saint Seiya author, Kurumada Masami.

Sentai colors run amok

At the beginning of the opening video, all the girls in CYaZALEA☆Kiss announce their designated colors, similar to what’s often seen in Super Sentai and other tokusatsu works. But whereas those shows typically have six, maybe seven members at most, there are nine in this case. Not only does this cause a jumbled mess of talking-over, but the actual colors named can get very specific.

Chika: Mikan 

Riko: Sakura pink

Kanan: Emerald green

Dia: Red

You: Light blue

Yoshiko: White

Hanamaru: Yellow

Mari: Violet red

Ruby: Pink

These are the actual signature colors of their respective characters in Love Live! Sunshine!! too. If you buy a glow wand (or “light blade,” as they’re officially called), it’ll come with all nine of these colors.

Though perhaps not intentional, it also harkens back to the sentai parody anime Shinesman, which featured a team of red, gray, sepia, salmon pink, and moss green.

The character designer and artist for CYaZALEA☆Kiss is a famous 80s manga artist

While the overall look of this parody is based on Saint Seiya, the actual artist himself is not Kurumada but rather Shimamoto Kazuhiko, creator of Blazing Transfer Student and Aoi Honoo, aka Blue Blazes

Blazing Transfer Student is a ridiculous school fighting manga. Blue Blazes is an exaggerated semi-autobiographical work about Shimamoto’s time in art college, when his classmates included modern anime/manga luminaries such as Anno Hideaki of Evangelion fame. The former received a 1991 OVA by Gainax (the original Evangelion studio), while the latter was adapted into a TV drama in Japan in 2014.

What did you think of CYaZALEA☆Kiss? Did you appreciate it as an 80s anime/manga fan, as a Love Live! fan, or perhaps as both?

Mandle in the Wind: Be a Man!! Samurai School

Last weekend at the New York Asian Film Festival, I got the opportunity to see the live action film adaptation of the 1980s Shounen Jump manga known as Sakigake!! Otokojuku. The title translates into something along the lines of Charge!! Mancademy, but the official English title is Be a Man!! Samurai School, which while not a literal translation gets the point across just fine. The director and star of the movie, Sakaguchi Taku aka Tak Sakaguchi, as well as his head stuntman, was there watching the movie along with us, and would stay around for a Q&A session afterwards.

You see, Otokojuku is a school for MEN in every respect. Led by its principal, Edajima Heihachi, a man who can take out hundreds of opponents just by mentioning his name and his title, Otokojuku is an all-male school, and the only remaining school in all of Japan that trains men to be MANLY MEN. The story begins as Tsurugi Momotarou, an impossibly calm and cool Samurai-esque man who carries a sword with him everywhere and wears a headband that barely misses the ground, is entering Otokojuku as a freshman shortly after beating up a gaggle of thugs using the power of Punching Fast. He makes some friends, endures some hardships, and then has a Shounen Fight Finale. I don’t really think that’s a spoiler because what can you expect from a movie based on an 80s Shounen Jump property?

There are many things you might look for in a movie, such as plot coherence, solid character development, subtle themes and undertones, and a straight and sure path from start to finish. Otokojuku has none of these, and is instead just a bunch of scenes from the manga faithfully adapted and strung together. Now, don’t hold it against the movie that it doesn’t seem to flow too well, as it is literally a faithful adaptation of the manga, a series which tended to flop back and forth between comedy and serious action more than most Shounen Fight Manga. It’s almost treated as isolated vignettes of the various ways in which the primary characters of the movie turn into manlier men than they were previously. The movie is fun and nonsensical, and if you really want to know an equivalent, it feels somewhat similar in pacing to the live action Cromartie High School movie. Basically, it doesn’t really watch like a movie. If this bothers you, then I would not recommend it, and whatever you do don’t be an ass about it.

The highpoint of this movie in my opinion is the narration, done by the masterful Chiba Shigeru, better known as the narrator for the Hokuto no Ken anime and an expert at making anything he says sound serious and dangerous. Any time anything at all needed to be explained or any time there was a special move to announce, sure enough Chiba would be there to tell us with power and fervor about it. It left such an impression on me that during the after-movie Q&A session, I had to ask Sakaguchi about what it took to get Chiba to do the movie. Sakaguchi said that he personally went and asked Chiba to do it, feeling that he was necessary for the movie to succeed and reach its true form.

Sub over at Subatomic Brainfreeze informs me that the entire movie was filmed in only two weeks with a budget of $400,000. Based on what I saw, I believe him. Don’t let that hold you back though, as it is one of the truest adaptations of an anime or manga I’ve ever seen. More than Casshern, more than Devilman, and especially more than Dragonball Evolution, Be a Man!! Samurai School is the movie to watch  if you want to see a manga brought to life.