An American scientist constructs a laser–satellite with hope to prevent any nuclear conflicts. However, after a fatal error from both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. government, war breaks, and humanity faces a new bloodshed.
I will be reviewing the Australian release of this obscure as heck anime.
Story: This is one of the most unique anime ever made. Few, in fact, practically no other anime can claim to depict conventional modern warfare as faithfully as this anime has. No aliens, no overpowered mecha suits, no ancient interdimensional vampires etc. Just war! One side of its story is a geopolitical thriller about WW3 and the escalation of nuclear warfare. It captures the general essence of anti war cold war era movies like Strangelove, Fail Safe, Wargames etc. which in itself is an admirable feat for an anime. Equally unique IS
the dub; it features solely one person as the narrator, giving the film a docudrama feel that works well with the main, geopolitical storyline. The other storyline is a romance focusing on a scientist (Japanese in the original version, white in the dubbed one) who works on the SDI inspired missile defence system and one of his coworkers. Obviously, the narrator only approach means no dialogue, totally destroying the immersion or meaning of these scenes though I doubt the original romance plot was good either! 8 for the unique anime depiction of nuclear warfare.
Art: Artstyle is appropiately realistic and more western looking. Research was done well and period accurate military vehicles are depicted faithfully.
The animation itself is horribly subpar for an anime film, even for the early 80s. The anime tends to be too dark, meaning things become a horrible blur. The poor video quality this anime was released in doesn't help either. 5 its pretty bad.
Edit: anime looks much better if you can find a higher quality version. The more realistic artstyle really shines. 8/10.
Sound: The original version had a standard orchestral film score. But as for the musical choices in the dubbed version? Period accurate rock music featuring Asia's Sole Survivor, Wildest Dreams, Only Time Will Tell
and Rush's Witch Hunt! (in shitty quality but...) NICE! Tangerine Dream is also used as background music. 10 I've never heard rock music of this calibre being used for an anime.
Character: The narrator only approach screws up any characterisation that the original may have had. However, the reactions of the various military personnel to the war such as the warmongering Soviet secretary of defences villainous coup of the Soviet government, the American President's decision to not launch a retaliatory strike and the Soviet sub commanders deliberation on whether to launch nuclear missiles or not are very powerful scenes based on the sheer gravity of the situation. 6 Their actions manage to speak for themselves and give some semblance of characterisation.
Enjoyment/overall: This is actually one of the HANDFUL of anime about WW3/ conventional, modern warfare that doesnt feature any far fetched sci fi or fantasy elements. If you are in this niche audience like I am this anime will be worth a watch and rather entertaining despite the crazy limitations of having one voice actor and the horrible animation. For those war nerds out there; there are some military hardware featured in this anime that you just wont seen in any other anime; what other anime could possibly feature Panavia Tornados or Gepard Flakpanzers?
If I watched this at the time it came out (1982), it would have scared the crap out of me, and I would have been obsessed with it for weeks after.
Many people today may not really understand what this movie means, but for anyone who lived during the height of the Cold War, this really rings true. The level or fear and anxiety was palpable, and omnipresent -- it's not so much a question of "if" WW3 breaks out and the world is thrown into nuclear winter, it was really a question of "when". We all watched
the clock clicking a few minutes to midnight, and the media was sprinkled with gloom and doom scenarios just like this.
The "X" in the title indicates this war takes place in the near future of the late 1980's, and imagines if the technology of "Star Wars" laser intercept systems envisioned by Ronny Raygun became a reality. The names of people are fictional, but everything else is very real - the places, the positions, the military equipment, the procedures. They really did their homework.
There are no character voice-actors in this movie, it's all presented with a background orchestral soundtrack (and occasional rock ballad), sound effects, and a voice-over narration of the main character, explaining everything in deadpan delivery. The first part of the movie puts all the chess pieces into play, giving a detailed breakdown on where all the characters in this drama are, what they are doing, and what is happening.
Then, small events turn into larger events. Misunderstandings lead to bigger misunderstandings. Mistakes lead to death, jealousy and hatred turn to more death, powerful men back-stab into even more death. World events spin out of control, and soon the entire world is thrown into war.
And what is scary, is that it paints a VERY PLAUSIBLE scenario. The paranoia and distrust you see between the Soviets and the Americans was very real; the political in-fighting inside the Kremlin was also very real. Even if the authors could not predict the fall of the Soviet Union and West/East Germany, replace those players in this 'game' with other players, and it could have played out just as easily. As the movie progressed to the halfway point, I started to get chills and a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as the worst-case scenario was playing out, and no one could stop it.
I won't spoil it, but about three-quarters of the way through, there's a shift in the movie, and suddenly there's that "one chance" of a Jack Ryan-type character saving the world, and it becomes less of a docu-drama and turns into a cinematic-action-thriller. The movie sort of goes off the rails of realism at that point (otherwise I would have given it a higher rating).
Artwork and animation are perfunctory and unimpressive, with the notable exception that they made sure they got all the military hardware correct. But the point of this chilling movie is not about the artwork, it's about the scenario it paints. And for people of a certain age (like me) who lived through the latter part of the Cold War, it really hits home.
And it can also serve as a warning for today. The world is a different place than it was half a lifetime ago, and some of the players are different. But history has a nasty habit of foretelling the future, and we aren't too far off from a possible hell scenario like this today.