Ancient beyond understanding, his power is immeasurable. He has destroyed half the universe and is on his way here. He is... Genma.
Only two people are aware of the imminent catastrophe: Princess Luna, a modern day prophetess and Vega, a cybernetic crusader from a world long since ravaged by Genma. Determined to spare the Earth from a similar fate, Luna and Vega must try to mobilize the most potent psychics in the world. Together, this army of fledging psychic warriors must succeed where billions have tried... and failed.
But will they be able to gather their champions in time? Genma's agents are already on Earth to ensure that their master meets with no opposition!
So, Genma Taisen: Harmageddon; a super-influential 1983 anime about a bunch of psychics including a "transylvanian princess" (lol), an angsty teenage boy and a badass robot with a broken heart taking on the galaxy-destroying demonic entity Genma and his evil followers. All this with Rintaro at the director's helm, Yoshinori Kanada (AKA THE most important Japanese animator that ever lived) doing some of his all-time best and most influential animation, and a young Katsuhiro Otomo doing the character designs and a bunch of artwork. Predating it are a series of novels from the 70s written by 8-Man creator and Spiderman manga writer Kazumasa Hirai and
the original 60s manga he cooked up with one of my favorite authors, Shotaro Ishinomori. The soundtrack for the movie was done by progressive rock musician Keith Emerson and Japanese composer Nozomi Aoki. Apparently the former was high off his ass the majority of the time while recording which is extremely fitting given the film's general hippie theme.
Harmageddon is an anime considered to be one of the worst of all time by the western fanbase, devoid of any unironic merits, worth watching only for a few ironic guffaws. As usual, that's total nonsense and you shouldn't listen to it. Genma Taisen is a flawed film, but when it's good it's absolutely amazing and the quality and uniqueness of its highest highs absolutely make it worth watching despite its issues, especially if you're into historically important anime, stylish inventive visuals and progressive rock.
First, I want to get the bad out of the way: Otomo's character design input, while solid, feels like it had to be held back significantly in terms of style. There's a sort of Captain Planet-ness to the protagonists that's nowhere to be seen in his manga work from around the same period. If you compare his very own Harmageddon art book to the actual designs of the film the difference is quite obvious. I largely prefer the original cartoony manga designs over the more realistic movie versions, however there are some exceptions. Vega's girlfriend has a fantastic design and Vega himself looks absolutely freaking awesome. I love this robot design to no end and I would love to own a figure of him.
A common criticism with the film is that it draws from the epic, long-running story of the novels while failing to give that stuff any substance because it's turning a lengthy series of books into just one movie. As a result many assume that the Captain Planet-y diversity crew of psychics all had elaborate backstories in the original text. This is based on a huge misconception completely made up by The Anime Encyclopedia along with the nonsense claim that the manga came after the novels. Colony Drop sadly went on to repeat this misinformation along with the (for once) true claim that the movie only drew from the first 3 volumes of the novels. From what I gather the movie is simply a mix of the manga story and the first 3 novels; the same basic story but made to be more realistic, in tune with the novelization (the original manga had, among other things, cartoonier villains and *talking animals*). However Vol 3 did not go up to the epic final battle with Genma and in fact I'm not even sure if the novels went in that direction to begin with given from a quick skim of their illustrations. Meanwhile a lot of the movie scenes from near the end appear to be near-perfect manga adaptations. So from what I gather, the finale is instead taken straight from the manga. All of the extra psychic heroes like the Saudi Arabian guy, the Native American man and the Chinese girl seem to be anime originals. None of the novel illustrations show them off and by the end of volume 3 of the novels when the protagonists fight the giant rampaging ball thing that absorbed Sonny, the team is composed of only 4 psychics: Luna, Vega, Jo and the recently freed Sonny. By adding the new characters the anime simply creates the illusion that there's a deeper backstory to them in some kind of original source material. Instead they were just added to make the final battle more epic and give it all a teamwork feeling by having psychic fighters from all over the world come together for the final showdown. They were never meant to be deep.
But with all that out of the way, the movie's execution is still flawed. The mere fact that it feels like something wwas missing from the second half is still a problem. While there are still plenty of great moments, I can't help but feel there's a bit of rush-work and missed potential during the second hour. However, despite all this, I still feel that the west is horribly off in its reaction to this movie, which is just non-stop hatred. Looking at Japanese reviews, the gushing love for this movie from the 80s is not quite there anymore, but it's generally not disliked either. It's still mostly seen as above average, with a few people still loving it; not a masterpiece, but certainly not a failure. I like the film more than that, but I find that to be a reasonable response from a general Japanese audience. This is in stark contrast to the western reaction which is one of pure, unbridled, outright illogical hate that often denies any and all merits this film might have. Some people will go as far as to directly compare it to such actual abominations as Mars of Destruction. Existing flaws aside, this is total nonsense. Interestingly, the author has gone on record to state his dislike of this film; but, as I can't read Japanese and have to rely on translations for my Japanese information, I have no way of knowing if the original manga and book were significantly better. After all, one of the author's main complaints wasn't even the writing but the artwork, claiming that Otomo missed the spirit of Genma Taisen, nitpicking the hell out of the designs and complaining about Jo's forehead of all things. He just seems to have a strange hate boner for Otomo, I guess because he was popular and young and the kids liked him; a sort of "get offa my lawn" sort of attitude. Personally though I think the illustrations in the novel are extremely boring and sort of up their own ass in their seriousness, like they were trying really hard to go for a pulpy western style. I vastly prefer Otomo's work, even in its blandified form.
The first half of the film, with its mixture of surreal and down-to-earth imagery, is shockingly good. It has a relatively focused story, starting off with an exposition of the main villain's threat and the mission of the protagonists, then focusing on Jo Azuma's normal life and his eventual discovery of his psychic powers. It's filled with visually brilliant shots, from down-to-earth realistic ones to super-creative expressionistic fantasy compositions. Some scenes, like the one where Vega stops time and chases Jo around, have an absolutely fantastic sense of atmosphere. During these glorious moments, the artwork is pitch perfect. The sense for timing and cutting is spot on. And to top it all off, it's delivered with kickass animation from some of the best people in the industry; such as the climax of the aforementioned chase scene, by Takashi Nakamura, who went on to animation-direct Akira and then come up with his very own charming creations, like the Robot Carnical short Nightmare and the underappreciated children's anime film Catnapped. My favorite part from the first half, though, is the moment when Jo finally accepts his ESP powers and starts screwing around with them, having the time of life. It's a very well animated, well voiced, well drawn scene of a boy discovering something fantastical in an otherwise quotidian, realistically portrayed world. In fact, it reminds me of the equally awesome first Digimon short film by Mamoru Hosoda, right down to the use of classical music. Also worth noting is the oldschool monster movie tinge they gave to the title screen.
Despite what you might have read, the film is not internally inconsistent, confusing or thematically incoherent, and in fact it has an obvious message: one of throwing away prejudice, not being single-minded and being a philantropic person. Above all else, the messagea that impacted me the most was the one about embracing a love of the entire world instead of clining to a single-minded obsession with one person. A relationship might fail, someone you cared for deeply might change beyond recognition and someone you've dedicated your entire existence to might end up leaving you one way or the other. Given my personal life experiences this is a very effective message that had a legitimate emotional impact on me. But of course, the highest high of the movie is the climax. Like a modern day Hokusai, Yoshinori Kanada brought us one of the greatest masterpieces of Japanese animation. The uniquely Japanese, hyper-stylized, super-flat yet gloriously alive final "boss form" of Genma, that of the now-iconic Kanada fire dragon. A sequence of pure creative genius that left a massive mark on the minds of many animators and still inspired young artists to this day. What's even more impressive is that the idea of the final battle being against not just a dragon, but a shape-shifting dragon made of fire, was an anime original. While still very cool, the manga version was a far more standard design and the manga-to-anime change was a brilliant one that takes great advantage of the medium. And then there's the criticism of the stereotyped nature of the "Captain Planet diversity crew"; but really now, the same thing applies to Cyborg 009 and that one is considered a classic, yet somehow it arbitrarily makes this movie an abomination. The thing is, I'm Romanian and I should be the first one to take issue with Luna's characterization, yet I don't really give a crap given the overall message is a good one and the staff have their hearts in the right place. And hey, they definitely toned down Sonny hugely from his offensive blackface manga incarnation. I don't think Ishinomori was racist, and in fact he showed great respect for African and other black people in Cyborg 009, but he way he chose to stylize them is hard to morally justify in this day and age.
One of the main reasons to experience this story is to realize just how massively influential it was on pretty much everything from Japan that was "nerd-related" in some way. From anime and manga (Akira) to video games (Chrono Trigger, Streets of Rage 2, even more obscure stuff like Monster Party) to Gainax's second Daicon short, the influence is just all over the place in Japanese culture. In fact, from what I gather, one of the main reasons this movie was hated at first was that Americans thought it was a ripoff of Akira, which is absolutely ridiculous.
But perhaps the most shameful criticism people direct towards Genma Taisen is the claim that it's badly animated. I mean, sure, there is some budget saving; the cataclismic scenes are mostly a slideshow. But they're well-drawn slideshows. One of them was even done by Otomo himself and it looks great. Not to mention, no one bitched when Gunbuster slideshowed its way out of the final battle. Besides, there's still a ton of wonderful art and animation in this movie.
This is a flawed film, but one that's nonetheless a must-see for fans of iconic, stylish old-school Japanese cartoons and I assume it's utterly fantastic if you've read the novels, manga or both first. I'm sad to announce there are no translations of either of those. I'd like to read both in English, but the Ishinomori-drawn manga is the one I REALLY want to experience because I love that guy's artwork. Scanlators, please pick that up. For now, though, watch this film and unironically enjoy the good parts, because they're definitely there and they're super-underrated.
If myanimelist let me, that would be the entirety of the review. Here's my old review:
This film left me annoyed, invigorated, frustrated and amazed.
This is about a boy getting love-powered psychic abilities and his journey as he discovers this, plays with this, discovers the consequences, and of course has to help the handful of other psychic warriors on Earth defeat a countless-galaxies-destroying being. I found myself really enjoying and relating, not only to his journey, but to a few other characters. Until the last third. Oh god what did I just see.
I have mixed feelings about this anime, but they're mostly a mixture of good
things. At first it seemed awful, then it seemed so bad it was good. The visuals fluctuate from excellent and lavish to pretty appalling - there is a lot to like here. The plot initially seems awful and it is. It goes out of its way to be awful around the last third. It's still watchable, but it's mostly coasting off goodwill earnt in the middle and pretty visuals.
Who the hell is the character at the start is a fair question. Where the hell did nearly all the cast go in the last third and how much time has elapsed just after that and how has what appears to have happened happened at that point? THESE ARE ALL FAIR QUESTIONS. But I don't begrudge it because it's amusing. But seriously, it managed to endear me to a large cast and then changed most of the cast very suddenly, which was unsatisfying and confusing.
The dubbing is awful, but for this kind of movie that's not really a bad thing. I honestly don't want someone telling me with convincing emotion that the psychic abilities are powered by love. I want to enjoy how explicitly hammy that premise is.
This feels like it's set in a similar world to Dragonball Z, but the comedy is unintentional coz it takes itself much more seriously... which can be really interesting at times. What would you really do if you got psychic powers? It makes you wonder that and I love this movie for helping me explore that.
I love this movie. I think. Don't expect much and it'll be a good fun ride in ways it didn't often intend.
If you want a drinking game, trying taking a shot every time someone catches someone else.
Please do message me if this review made your life significantly better or worse!
One of the BEST oldskool anime movies ever made, just because it contains NO drop of blood, and its really fun, if u like long movies. Personaly this is really an anime movie to watch with the whole fammily, wich is really an reccomendation, or just for a good movienight alone, the story is easygoing and fun how it develops, same wich intro of the char. througout the movie, its animation was , more mature like for its time wich a lot of ppl these days have forgotten about 80´s anime movies, and they had time to kill for making such a nice story, not
rushed like a lot of todays anime. Overall i enjoyed the psychic development and internal struggle of some persons as well to make it really compassionate at times!
After getting a good laugh from the infamous Mars of Destruction, I decided to watch Genma Taisen thinking that I would have a somewhat similar experience. I was gravely mistaken...
Typical save the world from the bad guy plot. Things happen for no apparent reason, and anytime something did happen I felt like punching myself in the throat.
Still frames, expressionless faces, recycled/ choppy animations, and horribly drawn backdrops (with the exception of a few decently animated scenes). Nothing much else to say here.
Below average voice acting. Terrible soundtrack. Cheesy sound effects (this is a plus though). Again, nothing much else to say.
is by far the worst aspect of the entire movie. There is little to no character development at all (not that I was expecting any). The inner conflict of, whom I can only assume is the protagonist, is completely trivial. Every few minutes a new character is introduced for no reason whatsoever and they contribute absolutely nothing. Their physical features are the only thing that distinguish them from one another and they all have the complexity of a cardboard box. I actually grew increasingly frustrated with the introduction of each new character.
The only semblance of enjoyment that I received from this garbage was from the unintentionally created comedy, which was surprisingly almost nonexistent.
The message that the film is trying to convey is so mind-numbingly retarded that it makes me want to throw myself off of a bridge; generic love thy neighbor bullshit (which isn't a problem within itself, but rather how poorly it was executed). The vast majority of this movie isn't even laughably bad and if your sole purpose for watching this is to laugh at it: I would strongly recommend that you just watch the last ten or so minutes. On the other hand, if you have the mental capacity of a four year old or just like the feeling of your brain cells killing themselves then this may be the movie for you.
However, my advice to anyone is: do not waste your time with this.
*Note that this is a review for the subbed version, the dub has potential to be hilarious.*