Saturday, April 9, 2011

Time Jam: Valérian and Laureline

Last month I discovered and posted about the long running French comic Valérian and Laureline with mention of the French/Japanese cartoon. Since then I've had opportunity to view several episodes from said series. And I'm in love. Again, the entire series is freely available on YouTube at the time of this post.

The first impression of Time Jam is that it is definitely a Japanese anime in appearance and animation. It could easily be a product purely from Japan, but I believe the French sci-fi element is clear. The alien creature design is refreshing. The artists provide a wide variety of humanoid aliens as well as creatures that come from the far corners of one's imagination.

The show is pure space opera pulp. Many of the things I enjoy visually were also triggered (or developed) by the Star Wars franchise. The technology levels are pretty much the same. Perhaps many of the tech in Valérian is beyond Star Wars. A Long Long Time Ago... seemed like the galaxy was past it's peak. There's so much variety in Valérian that some stories capture that past peak feel, while others are set in worlds at their prime. One aspect that Time Jam: Valérian and Laureline has as an advantage over the Star Wars milieu is we can enjoy that sci-fi tech level, but still retain the social commonalities and customs of our real world where Star Wars was separate and any modern catchphrases or English text has no place in that setting and is poor continuity or cinema error. Valérian enjoys this freedom like Star Trek does.

Another point of higher quality is the incidental soundtrack. With Japanese anime, music is often top of the line. As anime becomes more and more recognized as a serious medium, higher quality becomes the norm. Still, there have been more than a couple of times where I note that the music in this show is often just great. There are points in the music that are reminiscent of John Williams or other similar musicians (taking something for Star Wars would probably be OK considering... see last month's post).

I'm very glad to have such easy access to the series. I only wish there were more available comic book-wise. As I compose this post I realized that I do, in fact, have two English language copies of Valerian comics published in the later '90s from Fantasy Flight- Heroes of the Equinox. It seemed that their book never really took off, but I recall talking to the Christian about the series, not appreciating it until almost a decade later.

Time Jam is not the first time there was an attempt at making an animated Valérian and Laureline film or show. The first was tried in 1973, but didn't get much further than notations, etc. Next, Mézières created concept art for one episode in 1982 entitled Asteroids of Shimballil, but the show was never made. In 1991 a three minute pilot episode was created but nothing came of it. Another attempt was made in 2001 and again, nothing came of it. Finally, Time Jam debuted in France October, 2007.

My brain takes a tangent considering what RPG system I'd use if I wished to run a game like Valérian and Laureline or something like it. I noted that the initial premise of the series, not necessarily the cartoon- at least not 8 or 9 episodes in, but traveling through time and space and visiting alternate timelines lent itself to GURPS Infinite Worlds. I wonder if the Valérian and Laureline is a bit too space opera or pulp for the likes of GURPS, though. On the other hand, the show doesn't glorify guns-a-blazing. There'd be more roleplaying which I think would be supported by the system better than other more tactical systems. Obviously, GURPS Space would be heavily used and maybe a dash of GURPS Tales of the Solar Patrol.

My own suspicion is that the newest rendition of the Doctor Who franchise's companion- Amy Pond was created with Valerian's Laureline in mind. Watching Time Jam the Laureline character reminds me of Amy Pond quite often. Not only in appearance, but also in attitude and mannerisms. Both characters are the sidekick to a traveler of time and space. This idea is based on nothing I've read or seen other than both shows and the similarities noted about each.
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