Odin: Photon Star Sailor Starlight
I would like to thank Louis Patterson for locating this material and the University of Melbourne for owning it and providing viewing facilities. Although it was probably the Melbourne Teachers College (my old school) that actually bought the material. This anime was actually on Laser-disc, (in fact three discs), a mysterious and archaic (not to mention chunky) medium.
And once again it's an anime that failed to live up to it's reputation. Still, in this case, that's not a bad thing since this title is widely regarded as being one of the most boring anime ever made. And, while admittedly there are good reasons to be wary of the title, it's not that bad.
Still, at least this title is up-front. Before the story even starts we are treated to a 10 minute history lesson on the wonder of ships and maritime exploration. Not only is the title willing to take it's own time, but it's determined to be an epic combining hard sci-fi and classic adventure. More specifically mankind has just finished a wonderful new ship destined to explore, "where no anime character has gone before". The ship is called the `starlight' and includes a new `gravity' powered engine, in addition to the traditional photon sails. And, incidentally, it just happens to look an awful lot like a traditional sailing ship with a `tech' overhaul.
And aboard this ship there are the usual characters. A young hot-head desiring adventure. A crew of brave young men and a couple of crusty `old-salts' who are there to command and `father' these impetuous youngsters. The missing element, romantic interest and plot device, occurs when they attend the scene of an S.O.S. signal and find an escape pod carrying the sole survivor, a beautiful young woman. And the cause of the accident proves to be a huge, powerful, alien vessel. In fact before you know it they're knee deep in alien opposition and chasing alien secrets about alien worlds...especially the mysterious world they call...(drum-roll)...Odin.
As I mentioned above, it's not as boring an anime as some would suggest. Although I, for one, won't be in any great hurry to watch it again. And those who want a quick fix of entertainment, or some humor, will find it tough going. The real problem is not the lack of activity, it's the nature of the show. It's absolutely determined to `boggle' the mind and present an `epic' space adventure, but it doesn't really manage to achieve that. In fact there's some really silly flaws in it.
The first thing is that they want you to be wowed by the awesome nature and epic depiction of this high tech sailing ship. And there's lots of `fan service' passes over the ship and of miscellaneous technology. But it's actually not that impressive. The idea of photon sails has been used in science fiction before, and I believe there is some truth in it, but it's too obvious this is just an excuse for a sailing ship in space. And a lot of the other `science', such as racial memory, converting peaceful tools into weapons and instantly mastering alien technologies is deeply suspicious. not to mention that, for a high-tech ship, there's an awful lot of manual lever pulling.
And I also have to mention the production values. There's lots of `lights' in the show. All the ships propulsion systems and instrumentation are depicted by fields of radiance. This might have looked really cool when it was made, but it simply looks an awful lot like bad disco lighting now. And combined with the badly dated `glam rock' songs in certain segments it's almost too much to cope with. The section where the new crew runs through the ship, to wailing guitar and neon lighting, was almost freakishly seventies. Likewise when, at the end, it suddenly cuts to the band complete with weird outfits and lots of dry ice.
Meanwhile the character and story elements are also afflicted with the urge to be awesome rather than good. Medical science never stands in the way of a noble death at the right time. There's lots of pompous speeches and references back to the origin of maritime adventuring. For such a long film there's precious little character work of interest. And the story is actually fairly simple when the eye-candy is stripped away. However the most difficult part I had was with the hero. We're obviously supposed to find him `gutsy' and aggressive, but if I were on the team I'd simply shoot him. He does lots of stupid things, including one really bad idea midway, but everyone forgives him in the end because he's got the `energy of youth'. Admittedly he's forced to do stupid things to keep the story going, but it still means he's a tough character to like. And naturally being the hero, he always manages to win no matter how improbable it is, and how many story holes are required to make it happen.
So in the end it's not actually a bad film. It's simply mis-focused. It tries much too hard to wow and impress when a bit more subtlety, character and story would have gone a long way towards making it good. And sadly the visual impressiveness, and `feel' of the story, have definitely dated.
This is actually a pretty old film, and it's clear they've tried very hard to make it look good. And generally they do succeed, it looks quite decent. There's still clear signs to it's age however. The coloring is very heavy which gives objects an almost too solid look, especially for things like smoke or flame. This is enhanced by action and motion being somewhat stiff. The technical design is somewhat dodgy, the writing more average than it should be and I've already slapped the over-use of lights and the dated choice in music. The voice acting is generally over-staged and over-dramatic in addition to the rather simplistic sense of character.