Niall’s virtual diary archives – Sunday 8th October 2017

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Sunday 8th October 2017: 12.43am. Link shared: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyzXrNrtPhLzFJmBcWSTO3A

So okay, this is a children's animation originally made for the French market by Japanese animators with a terrible English audio conversion. But I challenge you to watch the first five episodes and not become hooked!

This is in fact a simplified children's adaptation of the very long running Laureline and Valerian French graphic novels which were justly very influential on all sci-fi, especially the look and feel of Star Wars and Bladerunner and Farscape. Sure, the original comics have the post-structuralist philosophical commentary on what has gone wrong with and is dysfunctional in the Western-led and especially US/British-led world during the past century, plenty of high brow cultural analysis, though you'd need to be very well educated to get all of it. And the original comics do of course depict sex scenes as would happen with any loving couple, though you never see that in US graphic novels.

The original comics do also pay loving attention to detail on drawing Laureline with the detail necessary which is not present in this Japanese clone. She is supposed to be someone everybody falls in love with, and for the most part the comics deliver on achieving that. Very unusually for a 1960s era graphic novel, and indeed a large part of why it is so famous, in this series it is the woman who is the Übermensch (really Überfrau), not the man. So Laureline is always depicted as almost always a perfect expression of humanity, fantastically beautiful, charismatic, exceptionally intelligent, wise, moral, resourceful, enchanting, fashionable ... almost perfect, with the sole imperfection of not wanting children and a family, despite being from 10th century France (yes, they time travel). Meanwhile Valerian spends most of his time being boorish, impulsive, getting kidnapped, into trouble, or otherwise in mortal danger, and Laureline must repeatedly rescue him throughout the series. She loves him despite him, and he's more than well aware of his luck that someone of her calibre would bother with someone like him at all.

(Laureline, incidentally, did a full spread in French Playboy. No I am not kidding, an actual completely fictional character did a full nude spread in the real Playboy magazine French edition. Yes she is that famous in France/Europe, and yes that issue sold extremely well. I even think there was an intelligent "interview" with her on various hot button topics of that time)

The Youtube account linked has been posting one English audio edition per week for the past six months. They're about half way through. I assume they were spurred to do this by the Valerian and Laureline movies by Luc Besson just recently released (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2239822/). Yeah, that's not a great movie, it's overwhelming in ambiguity and with product/person placement even for someone well versed in the comics. Plus, the movie simply does not get Laureline right, not even close, and she was half the point of the comics and story. Not getting her right ruins the point of the movie. Shame.

The animation linked does however preserve Laureline's essential characteristics, and makes Valerian even more useless, plus strips out the sex scenes, violence, political commentary, quotes from Kant etc. So it is dumbed down somewhat. Yet, the geopolitical problems and motivations remain, all the main characters and stories remain remarkably faithful to the originals in so far of the five episodes I've watched, the same issues with grandfather paradoxes (where they end up "deleting" Earth entirely by changing the past and having to fix that) all remain. Clara, despite being three years old, seems to understand all of this easily. But then she did understand Back to the Future 1, 2 and 3 when she was not even two years old (and can remember the story perfectly, as I learned recently when we we watched them again and she was predicting what would come next. There you go, that's modern three year olds for you!)

So, if you're into sci-fi and you've never heard of Laureline and Valerian, and if you have lots of time, the comics are worth the read. If you don't have the time, these animations, though brutal, are child friendly and very worth watching. Highly recommended!

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