Another title taken from a dusty LD hidden in the depths of a Melbourne University library. I could potentially thank them for the opportunity, but I doubt they even know they own it. I wanted to see it before they threw either it or the last LD player out.
His name is Genma. He's a sentient being comprised entirely of energy and with unbelievable power at this disposal. Which is clearly pretty damn boring because all he can find to do with his time is destroy the galaxy one universe at a time. Apparently he's already gone through 500,000,000 of them when he realized that some annoying earth teenager has sensed his existence. So it looks like we're all set to be number 500,000,001, certainly something to look forward to I reckon.
Fortunately there's another cosmic entity. Although whereas Genma is a gigantic transparent skull the embarrassingly named Floy is an effeminate disco-ball. He informs the female lead that he has awakened her psychic powers, that there are others on earth with super-human powers, and that they'd better get their act together before Genma arrives and trashes the place. Thus she must awaken and recruit a group of powerful psychers, and an alien cyborg warrior fleeing a previous loss, to oppose Genma. Little do they realise that Genma already has his hunters on earth seeking them.
This title has been on the "should review" list for a long time. Getting access to a viewing room certainly made it more difficult. But the main problem was I was pretty certain it was old, that it wasn't all that great, and that it ran for over two hours. And, sad to say, it didn't surprise me. It is old, it is long, and it's not really good enough to make the experience a pleasure.
I haven't particularly hidden anything in the synopsis because the background plot is about that subtle and about that interesting. It's also pretty much given away in the first five minutes of the title. For some unknown reason there's a ghostlike fortune teller in a voluminous cloak prancing around and, um, pretty much telling us what the plot is. Genmas coming and he's going to eat this planet like an over-sized chocolate chip cookie.
The actual bulk of the film is filled out by the story of one particular esper. A young Japanese male, living alone with his sister. He has issues of his own but they pale into insignificance between being first threatened, to awake his psycho-kinetic talents, then recruited and quickly becoming the point man in an upcoming war with a nihilistic cosmic power bent on his destruction. It's the sort of thing that can really ruin a guys day, especially given that Genma's hunters are on the trail and they don't play fair. It's a familiar enough story, normal youth suddenly discovering he has awesome powers and equally awesome enemies. I even have a magic warrior category just for this type of thing, but it's not bad and has some decently dramatic scenes and a bit of tension. Genma's hunters are, like Genma himself, not corporeal beings so it also has elements of horror and ghostly business about it.
The problem is the story calls for many more psychic warriors and they're running out of time. So the anime moves to a much weaker story about a young black American child who is awake to his powers but needs to be recruited. A process complicated by a fight with one of the monstrous hunters. A fight that causes the original female character, who's a telepath, to send out a psychic call for help. Not only does she get the Japanese guy described above but she also gets a full village people worth of psychic warriors from around the world. Each of them gets about, oh, 5 seconds worth of character introduction. Once they're all together, and the two who have a character are comfortable with their powers, it's onto the showdown.
There's nothing massively wrong with any of this. It's just that the story wanders a bit, many of the characters are shallow, the back-ground plot fades in and out of relevance and the pacing is odd. There's lots of scenes which achieve too little, run too long or seem symptomatic of story threads there just isn't time to follow up on. It's just, in essence, not that well written or directed. The sections that have power, such as the relationship between the male lead and his sister, are often clumsily handled or so predictable that they end up not having nearly the effect they could have had in better hands. It also has, at best, a leaden and dreary sense of style.
Then again this part is really only the build up to the final fight. The dramatic conflict in which their powers will be tested and the future of earth will be won or lost. A huge and exciting climax giving meaning to all that has gone before, including the sacrifices the lead has made in mastering his power and himself. Shame then that this is by far the weakest part of the film. Tokyo gets trashed but it's never really made clear why, perhaps it's just traditional. There's an incredibly painful sequence meant to show how "love" will be the power that saves them which is incurably dire. And then there's the fight with Genma which is a huge disappointment. They effectively beat him twice and it's open to debate which of them is the weaker sequence. The unavoidable feeling is distaste that one has spent so much time building up to such a unsatisfying ending.
The production was clearly big budget at some point in time, but that time was not recent. The production dates from the era when anime consisted of complex designs that they didn't quite have the skill to animate or color. As such the line-work and design are detailed but the colors are blocky and overly strong (lots of unmixed pink in explosions for example) and the animation lacks dynamic movement. They use a lot of tricks to try and hide this, including pans, repeated sequences and even still frames on the really complex shots. Then again there are a couple of shots where they've decided to blow the budget on lots of moving parts and effects. Those're still impressive, but they're pretty rare. Action tends to be with static characters and ranged energy attacks, which is ultimately un-interesting. The character design is clearly by Otomo because the lead male looks an awful lot like Kaneda from the film Akira. Sadly the other characters are sketchy at best, the female lead being ultimately useless both as a psychic warrior and a romantic interest in addition to having a bad case of disco hair as her power progresses. The style is inconsistent, at first I wondered if they used multiple directors for some of the different parts they were so different. The music is diabolical, some cheery boppy electronic which was massively out of place in the battle scenes that featured it. Ambient sound is decent, the voices are quite good although virtually no one other than the lead male has a personality let alone much dialogue.
I'll also note in passing that the LD cover had a picture of a giant robot trashing a town, presumably Tokyo because there's no point is going against tradition. Not only does this not actually exist in the movie is completely against the logic of the character depicted. An extremely questionable image to use as the front of the packaging. But then the American distributors are the same people who use MD Geist as a logo which gives me no faith in their dedication to quality, taste or accuracy.