Amaterasu is the god of light, the future emperor of the Joker Star System. Under the guise of young mecha conceptor Ladios Sopp, he is compelled by an old friend, Dr Ballanche, to save his two latest Fatimas Lachesis and Clotho. And so began the stories of the Joker System, as well as Amaterasu's love for Lachesis.
The Five Star Stories is a notoriously complex and detailed manga by Nagano Mamoru, who also worked on L-Gaim, a mecha show that Yoshiyuki Tomino fans should be familiar with.
The movie, however, had minimal involvement from Nagano, and only tells the story of the first 3 or so volumes of the manga or the first "book" released here in the U.S. and so by the end it feels like it has just set the stage for an epic, interstellar adventure filled with androids, robots, and androgynous gods. And that's it. That's where it stops. This could be seen as a major flaw, and it
is, for those who don't ever plan on reading the manga. For those who have had the pleasure to experience the story on paper though, this movie is a great visual treat. The story we get to see is nothing but an introduction, so it does feel a bit weak, even if there is an action packed climax at the end.
The art style gives away the era it is from quite easily, and will invoke nostalgia in many veteran anime viewers, and possibly repulsion by those newer and more spoiled. The mech design, though barely seen here is fantastic. I can't stress enough how amazing Nagano's mechanical designs are. If you can get this movie in 1080p, DO IT!
The music from what I remember was great, the notes that bombard your ears as soon as the title screen shows up is very fitting for the type of story this is. The theme played in the credits is catchy and again, very nostalgic for its era.
The characters are all great, and I love them. But this is from the perspective of one who has read the manga. You don't get to really see their full potential here, but there are some glimpses of what they may become.
This movie is just fun to watch, I wouldn't say it's the pinnacle of cel animation, I'd shift more towards "Do You Remember Love?" for that, but this is definitely up there. For those interested in this series, I recommend this movie as an introduction, then the manga as a followup. Grab yourself every artbook you can find, I know there's gigabytes of material out there, they're all worth it, Nagano is fantastic.
Any fan of mecha, especially of the fantastic variety (Escaflowne, Magic Knight Rayearth, Dunbine) should look into this series. You won't regret it.
A fairly standard story. A young man must save his true love from a greedy merchant. Decent way to spend an hour.
-- (Nice aesthetic) - Renaissance Italy combined with mecha and other classy tech
-- (Specificness) - the story is a small piece of a larger tale, so instead of being another tale of The Ultimate Hero defeating The Ultimate Evil, it's a more personal journey of a man realizing that he loves a woman and should save her, even though they're not lawfully allowed to be together
-- (Engagement) - the story is fairly absorbing and moves along well. We have sympathy for out hero and
root for him to outwit his enemies
-- (Overcomplicated) - This is a fragment of a larger universe, so not only is there an infodump at the beginning, but one needs to go to Wikipedia if one is to understand what exactly is going on.
-- (Straightforward) - The actual plot is basic: hero vs. irredeemably greedy, lusty, and gluttonous old ruler. Guess who wins?
-- (Deus-ex-machinas) - The story is so simple, you'd think this isn't needed; but apperently the plot must go in a certain direction, and several fortuitous coincidences conveniently steer it the right way.
This is one of those movies that is so gorgeous, you will immediately want to "plan to watch" everything made by every staff member involved. At this point I've watched almost only anime from before 1989, so I have to say I was a bit overwhelmed by the innovative and experimental art and animation. Some of you normal people, used to more recent stuff, might not share the same experience. I'm not saying it's a milestone of cel animation like Akira or any Studio Ghibli movie. This has more of a still frame style, but also terrific animation when it's needed. Anyway, it excels at
The character designs seem influenced by Leiji Matsumoto and shoujo manga. Which is an interesting choice for a mecha. In fact the whole movie seems to have a hard time figuring out whether it wants to be a mecha or a shoujo fantasy romance. It's even complete with an androgynous lead character, which is normal for shoujo manga, but a first in scifi/mecha. And I'll just let you know, in case you're still waiting for the mecha battle after 45 minutes. Don't worry: it pays off.
You could add "difficulty to label genre" to a list of flaws, next to the essentially simple storyline. You could say it's just a hero, a helpless girl and a cliché villain. You could say the setting, background and big cast of characters are kind of an overkill without reading the manga. You could say they used too much deus ex machina to move the plot forward. You could say there was too much stuff like "Mirage Knights" and "Fatima" or that they randomly tossed the Renaissance, some Arabic stuff (credits go to Hagio Moto's Marginal) and the Crusades into a mixer and then gave you a plate of scifi, and your cat farted a rainbow and you're wondering why they went through all this effort just to make an hour-long love story.
I don't really give a crap. It looks insanely good, the music is great, I liked every character, I enjoyed every character interaction, I was engaged the entire time, and I had at least five or six scifi/fantasy boners. I've only checked out one chapter of the manga, and it looks like the wordbuilding and characters will be more of use in a longer format. Maybe the movie serves a kind of a prequel or a simplified summary of the series? No idea. But I will definitely read the pants off of that manga that's for sure.
OVA's and movies from the 80's range from cheap to innovative animation, and in general settle for an easy storyline to serve their actual purpose: experimenting with animation to make a feast for the eyes, whether it's tentacles, demons, showering women or duelling mecha's. So compared to it's contemporaries, Five Star Stories is at the top of the list, when it comes to story (better than most) and art (the best in it's style so far and pioneering new ideas).
I'd place this as one of my favourite movies from the 80's next to Mamuro Oshii's Tenshi no Tamago. Coincidentally, Kazuo Yamazaki, who directed this, also directed the second half of Urusei Yatsura, following Oshii, who directed the first half, both of them raising the medium to a new level with that series and doing it again in their other work. Which goes to show you how URUSEI YATSURA is the MOTHER OF ALL ANIME cough geesh be cool.
It's a beautiful show, with distinctive character designs and richly drawn backgrounds. And the prettiest of pretty-boy main characters to boot. And yet...
The thing is, Five Star Stories is a very long-running and popular manga series. In fact, so long running is that it started in 1986, and is still coming out three decades later. It's a massive exercise in world building (or, rather in this case, multi-solar-system building), with a back-story that stretches past a thousand years, far too many characters to count, and intertwining machinations that would take hours to explain. Think Dune. Think
Legend of Galactic Heroes. It's a massive amount of material.
And here, you have a single, one-hour OVA, to cover it all. Or, to be more succinct, to introduce it all.
An almost impossible task, and unfortunately it shows. There's a ton of exposition that has to take place, all sorts of explaining of concepts and people, and it's a whole lot to take in at once. You spend half the time just trying to suss out who is doing what and why, and it never really sinks in.
I guess if this whets your appetite, this is to entice you to check out the manga. Which, was probably half the intention of this one-shot OVA in the first place.