If you grew up in the 70’s or 80’s you probably saw at least a bit of Gatchaman or Battle of the Planets. It still has a strong following today and with the recent trend of making live action adaptions of anime properties It was bound to happen.
If you’re a fan of the series, you’re going to find all the changes irritating. It’s not just a matter of streamlining the story for a feature’s running time, there are a lot of continuity changes that don’t make any sense. If you’re not familiar with the source material it may help, but the film remains a bit confusing.
The costumes appear in a wonderful set piece battle at the beginning and then we don’t see them again until the last act. It almost reminds me of the trend in the 90’s to make superhero movies, but keep the characters out of costume as much as possible so maybe people wouldn’t realize it was a superhero film. It’s structured very much like Albert Pyun’s Captain America, but not quite as dreary. However the middle section is dialogue heavy, dripping with melodrama that the films does not earn.
One more note about the costumes that was a bit of a disappointment – these are very high tech suits, armored and leathered. The bird motif is gone and you kind of miss it in the still shots. However, the colors and general imagery feels fine when they are in action – it’s a forgivable update.
The action by the way, is very good. When we get it it’s very over the top, with a small budget Michael Bay feel to it. It frequently gets punctuated with long awkward pause of shoehorned drama, particularly at the end. Still, these set pieces are amazing and I suspect that these were written first, with a mandate to create a story around them.
It’s not a bad film, but if I ever watch it again, I’m probably going to skip right to the final act and just go from there.
In stark contrast, Space Battleship Yamato is almost a textbook example of how to do a live action adaption of a classic anime.
The look is dead on. The characters and the uniforms (and I really want one of those jackets now…). The ship has to be seen to be believed.
Again there’s a lot of story compressed into the feature running time, but the relationships feel natural and the drama works here. There’s an engaging story and a genuinely heartbreaking end, but you never stop believing in the film through the entire thing. I’ve spoken to someone who has seen it without the subtitles and he was still able to follow it all the way through, though admittedly the subs make it 80% better.
My only complain here if any is the running time. At well over two hours, it’s far longer than I expected, but it never drags. This is definitely one to catch, but know what you’re going into.
For someone whose anime days are really based in the 80’s and 90’s, this was a great time and really fascinating to see so many familiar faces and places done so well in live action. If you’re an old anime fan or a new one or even just a fan of jamanese cinema, these are definitely worth a try. I’d recommend a rent first. These might not be everyone’s thing, though I suspect I’ll be purchasing a copy of Space Battleship Yamato fairly soon.