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Twenty Years Later: Sol Bianca – Legacy

5 min read
Nostalgia is a hell of a drug.

Nostalgia is a hell of a drug.

Way back in 1990 we had a two-part OVA series called Sol Bianca that was an early ADV Films license. The AIC animated series was the kind of simple accessible show during the early days of licensed anime in that it was a science fiction show, featured mostly non-school age characters, and was relatively self-contained for each OVA but part of a bigger picture. It did well and got plenty of attention before fading out as the industry began to grow more in the domestic arena and we started seeing more TV shows and the like.

It was a surprise in 1999 when AIC came back with a new six-episode series called Sol Bianca: The Legacy. Taking its cues from the original but charting its own path with an early use of 3D animation in the 2D production, which has lead to a lot of shows not making the leap to high definition because of how they were produced, it was a big pickup for Pioneer at the time because of the name recognition that would bring back some of those early fans. It was also a show that, weird to say in a way all these years later, was a title that showed off what DVD could do in a growing market. A lot of this was owned to Nightjar, who produced the menus for the project. Yes, I can hear the thoughts there with “How can menus be important?” Sadly, menu design has become a very basic thing across a lot of distributors in the past decade but when you do something stylish, incorporate music right, and have a great design aesthetic as this company did with just about all of their releases, it just had something special.

The new version was directed by Hiroyuki Ochi and frustrated fans from the get-go since it was a re-imagining that didn’t give us any resolution to what had been started before. The series works with a familiar concept that is timeless in this kind of environment as we’re introduced to a group of women that operate a ship known as the Sol Bianca, operating as pirates and running all sorts of odd jobs. TheThe ship is a relic of sorts from a war some time ago as we learn how it’s been several centuries since the expansion by man into space and the frontier feeling that it once had is no longer there. Humanity isn’t as passionate about things as they once were.

The crew of the Sol Bianca are treasure hunters by trade as they’re a group of women who seek out artifacts from the various worlds. Named after months of the year, April, Feb, Janny, June, and May provide for some fun as we get the usual kinds of personalities at work here. With May being the youngest and a stowaway on the ship, she’s the driving force in the story as she’s trying to find out what happened to her parents and where they are, which will take the crew to all sorts of places and the search for the lost planet of Earth itself. It’s a familiar piece to science fiction expansion stories in how the mother planet ends up being lost the more the species moves out and I always enjoy that element as it helps to really highlight the scale of time and events.

The series works the familiar plot well as May convinces the crew to take her on and what she’s after and we get a few character-focused episodes while working through the bigger picture, allowing us to get into the motivations and nature of their personalities. It’s not done in a really big way, it is an OVA series after all, but it doesn’t skimp much either as you do get a good sense of them and the family that’s bonded together. The animation, at the time and to me, was great. I loved the style and design of it and while CG animation is always divisive depending on how it’s applied to a show it’s been a part of things since forever. The use of it here was one that had AIC pushing at the time and that may give it a bit of a jarring take at times because the blending isn’t always spot on and there’s a kind of layered effect that still stands out a bit. But this is also an AIC from the ‘90s in ways that I like as the character designs by Naoyuki Onda click well with me, hence also liking their work on the Berserk movie trilogy and the Psycho-Pass movies in the same way.

At its heart, Sol Bianca: The Legacy is a pretty standard show and it’s easy to admit that. While I have a lot of nostalgia for the series because of time, place, and events going on, I also know exactly what it is. But the show, much like the OVA that preceded it a decade earlier, are properties that are in some ways fairly timeless and I still have this itch where I’d love to see another revival attempt today. To take the core concept of the original and this one and explore it anew. There are some fun charms to it and there are pieces of it that will stick with me as they have for years, notably that opening menu and the reactions it caused, as well as the visuals and music from it. I can’t say you must hunt up this show but it’s held up well enough for twenty years that you can easily enjoy it with a touch of nostalgia but the slower approach may frustrate modern anime fans.