I admit it, I've got a bad case of anime reviewer disease. Thus when my brother and I go to get a video I end up searching for anime, often in the kids section (after all, cartoons are for kids). Sometimes I find hidden treasures, then again, sometimes I find stuff like this.
If Captain Future had to fill in a form that asked for his occupation he'd write `Space Hero'. He's the rugged, square jawed, devil may care guy who'll risk any danger for adventure and the chance to do a bit of hero'ing. After all, he's absolutely secure in the knowledge he'll come out on top. He's got all the necessary accessories too. A super-powerful space ship, his own space base, two loyal followers (a robot and a doughty sailor type), an AI to do the thinking and a delicate damsel to wave him good bye and steadfastly await his return.
In this title they've taken the ship out for a spin when they come across a mysterious asteroid. It contains a message from a 100 million years in the past, a message originating on the now destroyed 10th planet of the solar system. The sender of the message begs any who hear him to come and save them from the war that seems certain to spell their destruction. Luckily for him Captain Future has a lust for adventure, a time travel device and absolutely no understanding of the term `time paradox'. It's time to go back into the past and kick some booty.
First things first. There are really only three ways to use this tape. And those are incendiary, explosive and fragmentation...ah, no, that's what I wanted to do to the tape to protect others. The three ways are really to respect it as a relic from an earlier time, to make us really appreciate how sophisticated modern anime is or when you want something really cheesy to laugh at. It's very unlikely that, whether child or adult, you will actually be able to enjoy this anime in any other way.
In other words, it's bad. It's corny, incredibly dated and simplistic. And what makes it worse is that it takes itself very seriously. The creators thought they were telling an exciting and timeless story, full of humor and character and impressive spectacle. And perhaps they were when it was made, but time has not been kind to it. The characters, story and events are simply thrown together without any regard for logic or subtlety. I honestly believe that even the youngest of children will regard captain future as two dimensional, the story as silly and the pace boring. And I haven't even got up to the animation yet.
Was it good in it's time? I really can't tell anymore. I suspect that it was made to be a simple, melodramatic space-adventure for a very young audience. Full of epic adventure as you imagined yourself in Captain Future's place. Fearing nothing as you defeat wave after wave of bad guys with your dual laser pistols. The artists and writers didn't seem to feel that anything more was required to capture their audience. There's no hidden complexity, no depth to the characters and no message other than "hero's win". And, as such, I suspect it would bore even the most patient of modern children. It really has aged incredibly badly.
It's interesting that the back of the box has a Captain Harlock add on it. Now if you want to see something, from about the same historical era, that has aged much better get some of that. One of these shows is sanitised, one of them is willing to shock. One goes through the motions, one of them has a story to tell. One of them was product to fill time, the other was an artistic creation. One of them really should be forgotten to avoid scarring the next generation of anime fans, the other still has some value. And, in case you couldn't work it out, Captain Future really is a show everyone can afford to miss.
I should also mention that apparently this was a reasonably long television series in Japan. One that has been bought at a discount price and re-packaged for kids TV in America and direct to video sales. Thus while it doesn't mention this fact anywhere on the packing the tape I watched is really only the start of the story. It still hasn't introduced all the players in the story, let alone reached a conclusion, when it comes to an end.
And then there's the production. I suspect it was average in its time and it looks really awful now. Clunky design work, particularly unattractive character design and really bad animation. The action defies all logic, lacks excitement and the lack of respect for any sort of reality (such as futures amazingly resilient ship) is striking. The special effects, such as the time travel sequence, are laughably inadequate. And, as an added bonus, it's been souped up for the modern consumer. This means it has a bad dub, full of corny voices and disconnected sequences and bad `voice effects' for the robot and AI. But, worst of all, lots of disco style tracks in the background. Perhaps meant to add excitement the diabolically evil background music simply means that it can't possibly be taken seriously.
Dave Baranyi posted this rather informative comment to Usenet news: