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Bagi, the Monster of Mighty Nature

Entry updated 28 June 2021. Tagged: Film.

Japanese animated tv film (1984). Original title Daishizen no Majū Bagi; vt Baghi. Tezuka Productions. Created, directed and written by Osamu Tezuka. Voice cast includes Masako Ikeda, Kazuhiko Inoue, Saeko Shimazu and Kosei Tomita. 85 minutes. Colour.

In the South American Republic of Monica, Ryosuke Ishigami (Inoue) awaits the Monster who killed his mother. Whilst doing so, he tells his story to a local child:

At 15 he was a member of a Japanese motorcycle gang, his delinquency due to inattentive parents, particularly his usually absent mother, Professor Yoko Ishigamia (Ikeda). The gang pesters a woman, who attacks them; when they seek revenge she kills them all save for Ryosuke. When he was a child his father had brought home a kitten, found near his mother's laboratory. Named Bagi (Shimazu), she learned to walk upright, talk and read: eventually she ran away. Bagi is the killer: now an adult, she is humanoid, with a catlike face, fur and a tail.

Both are happy to be reunited, and investigate Bagi's past by sneaking into Professor Ishigamia's laboratory, finding live animal heads in jars and on Robots (see Cyborgs) – plus killer plants. The laboratory's chief (Tomita) explains these are part of their Genetic Engineering research – we get a short, illustrated lecture on the subject (see Infodump) and learn human genes were added to a cougar egg to create Bagi. Ryosuke's mother is now working in the Republic of Monica, so Bagi, who has Hypnotic powers, orders the laboratory chief to arrange a flight: Ryosuke fantasizes about bringing the Professor "back home and have her act like a mother", with Bagi a family member too. On reaching the Republic's laboratory, Ryosuke is imprisoned and Bagi treated to reduce her intelligence prior to dissection. Meanwhile, the Professor is distressed that her genetically modified rice is poisonous; however the Republic's President is delighted, seeing as a means to kill his enemies. Fortunately, Ryosuke and Bagi's escape leads to the laboratory being burnt down, but the Professor dies: Ryosuke believes her murdered by Bagi.

Back in the present, he fights Bagi, stabbing her: then discovers she carries a message from the Professor ("I've been a bad Scientist and a bad mother") and was not responsible for her death. The following day Bagi's body is gone, with tracks heading to the forest: he accepts this is the best place for her, away from humanity.

Produced by Tezuka in response to the Japanese government's support of recombinant DNA research, Bagi has a serious purpose, though its argument is one-sided. Doubtless as a result of wanting a quick release, the film comes across as rushed. The dialogue is poor, the plot ramshackle and silly (expelled from a plane, Bagi makes a parachute out of a blanket and vines whilst falling); Ryosuke is unlikable, the Villains one-dimensional (the South Americans are stereotypes) and the Humour unfunny. This Anime's main virtue is Bagi, who evokes the sympathy of the audience; she deserved a better vehicle and less Fan Service. Regarding the latter, the sexualized Bagi can probably be considered an early Furry icon (see Fandom). [SP]

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