26 Days of Future Boy Conan - Episode 05
Episode 05 - Industria
Episode Summary: The Barracuda arrives in Industria. Conan is thrown in the brig after he assaults Mosley who was visiting the ship. Lepka is introduced threatening Lana to tell him where her grandfather is. Monsley decides to take Conan in admiring his initiative. When the soldiers come to take him, Conan escapes. He goes through Industria and eventually finds Lana.
This was the best episode of Conan yet! Who's with me? I really wish I could post Youtube videos of this series, but barring that, I do hope you're following along by watching at home. If not, too bad. This is the best Miyazaki anime you've never seen. Definitely download Conan if you haven't already done so.
Anyway, where was I? Ah, yes - tonight's episode was the best one by far. I'm always partial to episodes with a lot of action and variety of locales, and "Industria" delivers the goods. Conan and Jimsy are still doing grunt work at the bottom of the Barracuda, shoveling wood into the engine and generally causing mischief, but the crew has warmed up to them. They finally arrive in Industria, a couple terrific chases follow, nearly all of the major players are reintroduced, and Lana is back! This will be her first of many jailbreaks.
Episode five is where Future Boy Conan becomes more complicated. Clearly, Industria represents The Bad Guy in Miyazaki's world, and it's a decaying, rusting, dying wreck of a civilization. There's that early scene of the Barracuda sailing into port, while Conan and Jimsy look upon wreckage and devastation everywhere. We're reminged that the world of Men was almost completely destroyed by war only a generation ago.
There's also a very strong Fritz Lang influence in the design of Industria, with it's lower and lower levels of humans and sub-humans. One anime that really stands out in my mind is the 2001 Metropolis, directed by Rintaro and written by Katsuhiro Otomo. When I see his films, I can see that Otomo is a Future Boy Conan freak - you can see the influence in the industrial design, and a couple main characters were just lifted onto Steamboy. Whatever happened to Otomo, anyway? Remember when the West hailed him as the God of Anime because of Akira? Once they finally discovered Miyazaki, Otomo was dropped like last week's prom date. Strange.
Industria can be seen as a character in itself, with its many layers and hidden secrets. This is an immense city with a deep history as one digs deeper and deeper. Tonight, we get to see the surface, the human dwellings underground, and the sub-underground which houses the "people who serve no use." Those are the ones who've been branded on their foreheads, and they behave like a mindless mob of zombies. They've been cut off from their own humanity for so long, they've accepted the segregation of this culture and lost themselves. There's one moment when Conan falls into a living quarters of the sub-humans, and he's almost mobbed before fighting his way out. A mass of hands lurch at him and I'm reminded of the childhood flashback scene from Nausicaa.
We discover that Industria may embody the old civilization and be run by villains, but it's also a dying city. They recycle plastics into food, and they need the knowledge of solar power to survive; their nuclear power reserves are running out. Those people in the depths didn't ask for any of this, and they deserve a chance at life as much as anyone. The problem, of course, is the stupid, surreal system at the very top. If you could get rid of those old men in white suits, and that bad guy with the wide jaw - reminds you of the Count of Cagliostro, no? - well, this would still be a crummy place. But it would be a start.
In any case, this is Conan's episode. He tracks down Lana was a single-minded determination and focus. He certainly manages to take the Billy-from-Family-Circus path, which is all over the place. And remember when I wondered if video games took their inspiration from classic anime movies? Here's a mine cart level! Here's a jailbreak! Here's a maze of secret passages! Hmm...I wonder why there hasn't been a Future Boy Conan video game since the PC Engine CD-ROM?
Monsely returns wearing a summer dress and riding a bicycle. She's still mean and bossy and a bit of a jerk, but she says she wants to adopt Conan and make him respectable. Or maybe she's just saying that to Lana to be mean. I certainly don't trust her, but Miyazaki's tradition of the "older/younger sisters" strongly suggests that Monsely will eventually come around. Right now, she's playing the Kushana role and domineering everyone in sight. But I don't think Lana will be pushed around. She looks like the damsel in distress, but she has a quiet strength about her. Lana won't break and she won't sell her grandfather out. Like I said, things are becoming complicated.