Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Retro Anime - The Venus Wars

For those going to comic stores looking for something different in the late 1980's, translated Japanese comic, or manga, fit the bill perfectly for many. From Studio Tron came Silent Mobius via Viz while Studio Proteus and Dark Horse gave the reader Shirow Masamune's Appleseed. Another manga that came to the US was Yoshikazu Yasuhiko's gritty science-fiction series called The Venus Wars and The Venus Wars II.

Like Silent Mobius and Appleseed, Venus Wars also received the animation or anime treatment. What emerged was a 104 minute movie that dared to experiment with merging live-action with animated elements[animated Hounds rolling across a real desert landscape], a music score from Joe Hisashi, of Nausicaa and Spirited Away fame, that matched and enhanced the movie, and an array of characters that are not one-dimensional cardboard, except for the Ishtarian commander Gen. Donner but even he has a certain presence as he strides forcefully to battle while declaring he will not 'be defeated by children.'

The Battle of the Cosmoport is the climax as Aphrodian forces in exile stage their counter-attack to regain their capital city of Io from the Ishtarian occupiers. First we are treated with an internal uprising of Io police and civilians against their conquerors then the battle shifts to the Cosmoport as Ishtar forces try to keep their supply line open. Here we see one time battle-bike ace Hiro with Major Kurtz ride their Hound monocycles into combat against that dreaded symbol of Ishtarian hob-nailed oppression, the Octopus battle tank that bristles with guns as big as 200mm. For Hiro its payback for the friends killed when battle queen Miranda lead her battle-bike gang against another Octopus. If one thinks of a battle between a skillful but youthful matador, Hiro, against an enraged bull, the Octopus tank, this battle gels nicely and so does Hisaishi's instrumental score for this scene.

Technical notes - The drink the bartender gives Terran reporter Susan Somers to acclimate to the denser Venusian atmosphere could be called a gimmick, exactly how it does what it does is not explained and the viewer accepts it as part of this alternate world. Another bit of world building is the bitterness Hiro expresses at the failure of the algae farms that seek to further terraform Venus for humans, his parents ran such a plantation but we find Hiro in Io as part of a battle-biker gang because he saw no future in that.

Comedic moments - There is one that sticks in my mind from this movie. Its when Maggie's father returns from his work with the Venus Development Board. He mistakes the sandwich that Maggie was making for Hiro as his so he takes it to the table. Meanwhile Maggie's Siamese cat Andrew is very morose as Maggie forgot to get him more cat food and there is a curfew on. So as Maggie's Dad lectures Maggie on dumping that worthless boyfriend Hiro, Andrew makes a play for half the sandwich and gets whacked upside the head. At the end of the movie we are treated to Andrew, who had turned his nose up at a sardine, now eagerly carting one off.

The Venus Wars anime was first released in the United States in 1992 on VHS by Central Park Media and the DVD version was released in 1998. Now that Central Park Media/US Manga Corps are no longer in business this is a hard anime to find, but it is worth it if you are tired of Bleach and Naurto while wanting some serious science-fiction besides Ghost in the Shell:SAC.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

*Update* Discotek Media now has the rights to distribute the anime and has given it the remastered audio and video treatment as well as put it in Widescreen format for full view of the film instead of the zoomed-in, cropped off Fullscreen format the previous releases used. This Must-have looks better now than ever before!