"26 Days" of Future Boy Conan - Episode 08

Episode 08 - Escape

Episode Summary: Lana hears Conan and uses a lifeboat to save Conan. The GunBoat boards the Barracuda and captures Dyce and his crew. Lana and Conan escape on the lifeboat. While trying to make it to the shore, the GunBoat blows up the lifeboat. Conan & Lana survive and make it to the nearby island. There they discover an old battlefield littered with tanks. Lana hears her grandfather by telepathy, and Conan and Lana set out to cross the desert. 

About a quarter of the way through tonight's episode, I thought to myself, "This is the best episode of Future Boy Conan, by far."  I know that's a phrase I might end up using a dozen times over, but this one is really special.  I think this is the best episode so far, and it may end of being the most poignant and emotionally resonant episode of the entire series.  At this point, I'm nudging the thought in my head that Conan really is Hayao Miyazaki's anime masterpiece.

Episode eight is the romantic's favorite, Conan and Lana forging a bond as lovers.  I'm not sure if this could work in anyone's hands but Miyazaki, but he's an old-fashioned romantic at his core.  His cliffhanger serials could probably be described as "romance adventures" - Castle in the Sky was actually advertised as such in 1986.  He's also what you'd call a "personal filmmaker," which means he pours his own emotions and life experiences into his characters.  The Hero and Heroine are really stand-ins for Miyazaki and Akemi Ota, and the greater themes the inner dialog of Miyazaki's complex worldview.  In this way, he reminds me of Fellini and his beloved Heroine, Juliette Messina, and this pairing is seen again and again and again.

This is also an immensely funny episode, and I found myself laughing out loud more often than ever before.  Maybe I'm just in the right mood tonight, maybe Jimsy and Dyce make a good comic pair.  They both get to really ham it up, and they manage to turn a tense showdown at sea into something out of The Three Stooges.  It's interesting that we get all the laughs in the first few minutes, right up front; you can see the emotional tone shift from thrills to comedy to suspense and finally romance, where most of the episode resides.  This is Conan and Lana's time, and from here on out, they exist in a space all to themselves, slightly separated from everyone else.  From here on out, they're an old married couple.

There are three scenes that I think are among the most touching moments Miyazaki has ever filmed.  The first is Lana's desperate escape and rescue of Conan (a terrific role reversal as Miyazaki's Heroine takes command), the second the climactic scene when Conan is trapped underwater, and the third is at the very end as Conan carries Lana through the desert.  I don't think these moments have ever been matched until the climactic flashback scene at the end of Howl's Moving Castle (a deeply personal confessional between Miya-san and his wife that's just about the greatest sequence of his career).  And, yes, we get the melodramatic music and violins playing.

I wonder where Miyazaki found the inspiration behind Lana's kiss?  It's a tender, intimate moment, as she gives Conan her very breath to keep him alive, as he lies trapped at the bottom of the sea.  When I first watched Future Boy Conan, it was this scene that resonated with me the most.  It towers in my mind above everything else.  I can't really explain why.  This scene is charged with a desperate, passionate intensity.  I think this is why I feel such an extra tension as the two are caught underwater, on the edge of drowning.  A thousand cliffhangers, and this one moment has me at the edge of my seat.

How wise of Miyazaki to devote the entire second half of episode eight to Conan and Lana, alone to care after one another.  They're already laughing about how they met like old grandparents.  This quiet pause allows for a new key change in the story, as a vast desert of abandoned tanks point to the sombre themes of humanity's destruction and nature's revenge.  These serious Miyazaki themes are going to become more prominent and we're going to understand these characters in the context of a post-apocalyptic world.  Until now, the war and destruction has only served as a backdrop for a lot of comedy action scenes.  Now, an emotional maturity and awakening.

The episode closes as Lana discovers the echo of her grandfather's voice in the distance, and Conan carries her joyously across the rolling sands.  She wants to assert her equality and run alongside, but Lana embraces Conan, squeezing him tight.  They love each other like two old souls, and it's a wonderful discovery.


attilio_bettega said...

This episode is definitely the best "so far" because of the complexity, harmony, variety of the elements, their portrayal, and of course the cliffhangers.

However, I will warn you: it gets better, a *LOT* better.

The rising tension kills you as they try to escape. I still remember the underwater scene as a child; it was scary to watch, and I remembered it after all these years.

IMHO, the most poignant scene is the desert scene with the tanks. Just like the core block scene a few episodes later (IMHO the most tense and best episode of all) it is where Miyazaki shares how war destroyed the machines.

Interesting is the juxtaposition of these menacing machines filled with dead soldiers can be teeming with life, those little oranges. Reminds you of that America song about the horse with no name about life teeming under the scorching desert.

What other languages do you speak? If you're interested, I would suggest you check out , an Italian Conan site that is really well done. Specifically this page on the "graveyard of the tanks" very interesting:


hjg said...

That underwater scene is so powerful! It also impressed me a lot (I even made a one-screenshot-summary here), and I also keep wondering if the idea (kiss included) is original from Miyazaki, it's very cinematographic and dramatic. I love it.

Vincent said...

To reply to hjg concerning this underwater scene, I would say it is Miyazaki's own idea as we find this concept of "kiss of life" also in Princess Mononoke (when San chews meat for Ashitaka) and in NausicaƤ (manga), when she sucks blood out of the throat of a Kushana's soldier.

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