The elite Cosmo Academy attracts applicants from every stellar nation in the galaxy. One young hopeful is Tadatos Lane, an orphan esper from Terra. The final stage of the academy's entrance exam is a perilous mission simulation aboard an actual derelict starship. The applicants depart for the ships in groups of ten, but when Tada's crew arrives on the Esperanza, they are horrified to discover that they now number eleven. As the test progresses, things go awry and the atmosphere grows increasingly tense. The crew members begin to suspect sabotage, and Tada appears to be the likely culprit.
They Were 11 takes place in the far future where the united races of space have constructed an academy that trains the future leaders of the galaxy. Only the creme de la creme even stand a chance at passing the entrance exam. Those that do must face a final test before admission, and that's where this particular work takes us. Ten applicants must survive on a decrepit spaceship for a giving amount of time. Upon arriving, they find their are eleven rather than the prescribed ten.
The concept for this story--as near as I can tell--is one of the most original I have found coming out of the Sci-Fi-mad 80s (note I speak here of anime originality, as certainly 11--like so many other 80s Sci-Fi works--takes the Lost in Space que as its foundation). And within the story there are enough plot twists to keep anyone from being bored. I have to say, at least one of them seemed just a little too convenient for the story to progress, but it added an interesting dynamic and allowed for a satisfactory conflict. Short of this, I can only say this is one of the best stories I've ever had the privilege to watch in a Sci-Fi anime.
The music and sound effects aren't anything particularly special. I have had a separate opportunity to watch the English dub of 11 (only the sub was released on VHS), and so I'm including it in my review since the DVD is the likely copy you will find. The dub is fair. Fewer awkward moments and statements than many other dubs of 80s anime I have seen. However, I have to fall-back on saying I prefer the Japanese version. This is mostly my own feeling that one or two character's voices aren't fitting (though all the others are a nice match). Also, the American-equivalency of an Osakan accent was, frankly, overdone here. I therefore recommend sticking to the Japanese version.
The artwork for 11 is nice. It's not as pretty or shiny as some other works, but it gets the job done. The character design suits the portrayal of each character. And while the players in this flick do seem to be inspired by stock character types, there's enough interesting back story to give the important characters presence.
My enjoyment of 11 ranks right up there with Space Adventure Cobra and LOGH. I might watch the movie about twice a year on my own, but take any given opportunity to introduce it to an unfamiliar audience. 11 has several qualities that seem to have inspired later anime (such as Infinite Ryvius), so if you're a more recent fan of the Sci-Fi genre, They Were 11 is an absolute NECESSITY to watch. You may call it Lost in Space, but by this point I think we're beyond forcing connections between anime and early live action movies/shows. 11 stands up for itself without having to be supported by inspiration from 60s television. It's a movie you don't want to pass-up.
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In the distant future, warp technology has allowed humanity to explore the vast expanses of space, meeting strange races and populating other planets far away from our humble earth. They Were 11 follows Tada, a man who aspires to join the prestigious Cosmo Academy. As part of the final entrance test, all of the remaining applicants are split into groups of ten and put into actual starships to work together and survive for 53 days without outside assistance.
However, as soon as Tada and his group are safely aboard the starship, they notice something is amiss. There are 11 people aboard. Who's the odd man out? How did he get there, and what is he after? This is the premise of They Were 11, and I have to admit, that alone compelled me to watch this movie.
For fear of spoilers, I shan't venture too deep into the actual plot, which is definitely the main attraction. Seeing the group, riddled with suspicion and paranoia, make their way through day after day, all while facing different challenges and hardships will keep you on your toes. I wanted to find out who the 11th man was just as much as they did, and that's a sign of solid storytelling. Naturally, there are twists and revelations along the way, as well as a conclusive ending. (Which I suspect could be controversial, but I was more than satisfied.)
Let's talk a little bit about the characters. They're great. A varied bunch of personalities, some of them with alien appearances, customs and physiologies. Some get more time to shine than others do, but with eleven characters and only an hour and a half to work with, that's perfectly understandable. What we do learn about the characters in terms of background helps to not only flesh them out, but also flesh out the setting, as each character's tale lets us learn something about his homeworld, and its struggles and conditions.
Again, I find myself limited as to what I can discuss for fear of spoiling anything. I'll just say this; the movie has a lot of heart. There's a sweet charm to much of the character interaction, and a few humorous moments you wouldn't expect a movie like this to have to be found throughout. I appreciated them a lot; they provided both the characters and the viewers with a little break from the suspense.
While some viewers might be put off by the art-style, I find it delightful. It holds up well, and just looks damn good period. There's a lot of personality in every character design, and the setting is brought to life with nice backgrounds and subdued colors. The animation doesn't hold up quite as well, but it was never to the extent that my enjoyment was hampered at all.
Overall, "They Were 11" tells a unique, suspenseful and well crafted tale of survival and cooperation in dire and uncertain circumstances. It has heart, charm, an interesting setting, and will keep you guessing and smiling. It gets a strong recommendation from me; they rarely make'em like this, either now or back then!
This is an extremely obscure anime movie. The only way I even heard about it was because the GeekNights podcast was saying how great it was. Finding this thing is incredibly difficult. I ended up having to get it via a Netflix rental.
I'm not really a fan of old-school anime, but I gave this a shot. And it was good.
It's an incredibly interesting concept. And the pacing is well done. And there's lots of action. There's really interesting situations that the characters go through. And it's suspenseful... I guess.
And well... yeah. There's not much I can say without spoiling it.
OVERALL: 7.4 (Good)
I honestly can't believe I hadn't heard of this before! "They Were Eleven" (1986) is an adaptation of the 1975 manga "11-nin Iru" by Moto Hagio. Among the founders of modern shoujo, she is heavily influenced by the works of science fiction authors Issac Asimov (Foundation, I, Robot) and Arthur C. Clark (The Sentinel, 2001: A Space Odyssey) and even adapted short stories from "R is for Rocket" by Ray Bradbury (Farenheit 451) into manga. "11-nin Iru" would actually go on to win the Shogakukan Manga Award for best Shounen. Originally adapted in 1977 to live action, the anime came nearly a decade later. Producer Kitty Films released the movie in 1986 and it was licensed for North American VHS distribution with subtitles in the early 90s. It was later re-released with an English dub in 1996. The main characters are well developed and the rest of the cast is smartly defined, despite art that is clearly a product of the time. A story that touches on themes of politics, paranoia, and even gender topics that would have been fairly controversial at the time, "They Were Eleven" is an old hidden gem that I was really glad to have come across!