Archive for October 16th, 2013

Queen Millennia

In the year 1999, the planet of La Metalle is heading towards a disastrous near collision with the Earth as it nears a 1000 year erratic orbit around the Solar System. An inhabitant of La Metalle named Yukino Yayoi who has been given the task of overseeing the Earth and its people for 1000 years as its Queen is nearing the end of her reign where she has to hand over the task to somebody else. The Queen has disguised herself as an Earth inhabitant and is working as a teacher and a part-time assistant to an astronomer. The people of La Metalle who have been in suspended animation in their crystal city for many years wake up from their long slumber as their planet nears the Earth. Yukino is shocked when she discovers that the ruler of La Metalle has plans to conquer the Earth by creating a space bridge between the two worlds in which La Metalle’s troops will take-over the planet thereby forcing the human race to flee into space. Yukino, Professor Amamori and his nephew Hajime vow to stop the invaders. Yukino’s sister Selene is also on hand to help the trio. To complicate matters further for Yukino, the commander in charge of La Metalle’s forces in none other than her boyfriend  – Fara.  Yukino’s underground ship The Ark is deployed in a last ditch effort to stop the La Metallians? Will they succeed in their mission?

This is one of Leiji Matsumoto’s lesser known works and it is based on a long 42 episode anime series which aired in Japan during 1981/82. It wasn’t a big success for some reason. Basically the plot compresses the season long storyline into a 2 hour movie. I would say it is a prelude of sorts to Galaxy Express 999 as the main character Yukino is the mother of Maetel, the heroine of GE999. In another similarity to GE999, the story is told through the eyes of a young boy Hajime who has lost both his parents. They were both working on Yukino’s ship The Ark when a mysterious explosion killed them.  Hajime adores his beautiful blond haired teacher Yukino and there’s a hint that it is more than that and Hajime is secretly in love with her. The movie has a typical tragic storyline that Matsumoto likes to employ in his work.  The character of Yukino takes centre stage in the movie in which she tries to hide her true identity from Professor Amamori and Hajime whilst trying to plead with her sister Selene and her assistant Yamori to what the extent of La Metalle’s plans for Earth is going to be. I’m sure most people will get a feeling of deja-vu with the 2 main characters. Yukino and Hajime apart from wearing different costumes more or less look like Maetel and Tetsuo. I’m not sure why Matsumoto has made Professor Amamori’s head and features look so odd. It’s almost like he’s Homer Simpson!!

Queen Millennia screenshot

I might be in the minority here but Leiji Matsumoto is right up there with Hayao Miyazaki when it comes to epic anime movies. I’ve never seen a bad movie yet from Matsumoto and this story is another brilliant and exciting space opera. There is one devastating sequence which shows a seeing a city being pummelled when La Metalle launches fiery meteors as its first line of attack with Hajime searching desperately for Yukino amongst the ruins of her badly damaged apartment in a skyscraper. Earth forces respond back by using old tanks, giant catapults and WWII planes to hit the enemy. There’s also the awesome sight of seeing Yukino’s circular shaped The Ark spaceship rising from the surface of the Earth for the first time.  It’s like a chunk of the Earth’s surface disappearing off the face of the planet! There’s also plenty of drama and tears in the story especially towards the end as Yukino bravely sacrifices herself to save the planet she loves and the old dead Queens who oversaw the Earth centuries ago with their effigies lining up on the walls with a glowing green flame containing their souls on a long corridor inside The Ark coming back to life to help Yukino. It’s quite an emotional climax as Hajime says goodbye to Yukino as her coffin is escorted to an awaiting ship in the sky to whisk her body out to deep space. A lot of the plot is Earth based rather than being set in deep space and although there are several battle scenes I didn’t feel it had a sense of grandeur as the ones in the Space Battleship Yamato movies.

Undoubtedly another big reason why I love this anime movie so much is the superb evocative soundtrack by New Age composer Kitaro.  It suits the spectacular storyline very well and the end song Star Sky Angel Queen which is sung in English by American singer Neil Sedaka’s daughter Dara is excellent. This is yet another soundtrack I’ll be trying to buy in the near future!!

Once again I’m giving this epic Leiji Matsumoto movie the maximum rating. It gave me a superb moving plot with characters I cared about.  I’m sure this will appeal to Matsumoto fans but this movie is very hard to find at the moment (I think it’s only available in Japan). It’s a shame that no distributor in the West has given it the proper DVD release it deserves as I’m sure old school anime fans would love it. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 5 stars out of 5

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In murky silence, a cell divided and created 3 lives. Bem, Bela and Belo are 3 sub-human creatures which were created in a lab. Despite looking humanoid, when they get angry they change into monsters. They roam the world and take on the role of protecting humans from other creatures such as their nemesis The Man With No Name (another sub-human created around the same time as Bem, Bela and Belo). What the trio want more than anything is to become human but if anybody finds out about their secret they have to move on to another city. When they arrive in a new city, there’s a spate of mysterious deaths linked to a pharmaceutical company. A female employee Sayuri who is also a single mother has been infected with a virus that is gradually turning her into a monster. She unleashes her vengeance on mankind and it’s up to Bem, Bela and Belo to stop her. Belo falls in love her with her daughter Michiru. There’s also a chance for the monsters to become human at last.

Humanoid Monster Bem was originally an anime series which first came to the attention of the Japanese public way back in 1968. This is the spin-off movie from the drama series of the same name which aired in Japan during 2011 and had respectable viewing figures at the time. I first saw the trailer for this movie during my last trip to Tokyo at the beginning of December 2012 and there was heavy promotion for it at the time. In fact the monster trio were even used to promote the anti-piracy policy of Shinjuku Piccadilly cinema! Perhaps I should have watched the drama series first before watching the movie as all the characters (even the supporting ones such as their detective friend Natsume who is a part of a group of humans that are helping the trio out) are already established but as it has a story that’s easy to follow it didn’t really hinder me at all. There’s a quick recap about their background story right at the beginning. It’s a simple enough tale of good versus evil and of the trio questioning if they want to really become human. A special plant which is growing rapidly holds the key for them to fully turn human but will they decide to use it or not? Judging from the trailer I thought it was about a trio of good vampires but it has nothing to do with those creatures in the end. The main characters are interesting with each having a special talent: Bem has a rod/stick that can make him look what has taken place in the past but can also be used as a weapon as well, Bela has a whip to attack her opponents and Belo as the youngest doesn’t have a weapon at all. The trio cannot die from conventional human weapons such as bullets as witnessed in a scene in which they charge full speed into a police ambush before flying off. They heal fairly quickly afterwards. I quite like the overall look of each of the leads. Their behaviour differs from each other with Bem being fairly quiet and contemplative though he is haunted by a ghost like image of The Man With No Name often. His wife Bela is quick tempered and Belo behaves just like any small child!!

Humanoid_Monster,_Bem screenshot

The first third of the movie had me glued to the screen but I’m afraid my mind did wander during the middle section when the story does drag a bit too much and focuses on Sayuri’s torment on becoming a monster and worrying that if she loses control of her human side she’ll hurt her daughter. The trio also have to contend with the corrupt head of the pharmaceutical company who has a hidden agenda of his own and is responsible for Sayuri’s condition. As the movie runs just a touch over 2 hours I felt that 20-25 mins should have been cut to make the movie flow better as the pace really slows down during this time. Things do pick up in the final third as Sayuri transforms into a fully-fledged tentacled creature and it is only Bem, Bela and Belo that can stop her. The trio of popular male idol Kazuya Kamenashi, Anne Watanabe and Fuku Suzuki do well in their roles making the audience care for them. The special effects are a bit of a mixed bag. The transformation effects with Sayuri’s claw emerging from her arm is great and disgusting at the same time. The other CGI effects are just OK. Is the movie suitable for a family audience? Yes I think so, although there are a couple of scenes that might frighten the kids.

In the end, I was more or less satisfied with the movie. It had a good storyline which got a little bit sidetracked during the middle but it recovered well enough for the action packed finale. It’s directed well enough by Shunsuke Kariyama. As it goes on for too long though I don’t think it could sustain a kid’s attention for the entire running time. Worth a watch.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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