Honored samurai, ruthless ronin, wayward vagabonds, shadowy ninja and helpless villagers... welcome.
It’s said you never fully appreciate what you have until it’s gone. That seems true when it comes to 80s anime (and films) in my opinion. Now living in Japan, I have access to hordes of (just awful) OVA anime (via rental). At a 100 yen a pop for two weeks, who can resist just picking up anything and everything? This week, it was Roots Search, a sci-horror OVA from 1986.
Derided as an Alien ripoff (see Lily C.A.T. for the real Alien ripoff), Anime New Network pundits labeled it as “...stupid, ugly, badly dated, and annoying." I dunno, 80s berets and ladies’ overalls should be a space thing if you ask me. As for badly dated, I’ve seen much worse when it comes to badly dated anime. In this case, it was mostly the relationship between the female protagonist and her beau. Typical 80s Japanese relationship idealism where the young woman is the slightly “fawning” type. It’s literally probably five minutes of the film.
It’s difficult to know when the ANN people caught this movie, but eventually everything is going to “date” itself. It’s kind of hard to fault media for being a product of its time. With regards to Roots Search, ‘86 was peak Bubble Era, so there was money to throw at absolutely everything. And some money was thrown at this project. The animation is decent, the voice actors were extremely well-known (Kaneto Shiozawa, who voiced B.D. in MegaZone 23 and D from Vampire Hunter D, is one of my all time favorite voice actors along with Kōichi Yamadera and Akio Otsuka), the computer graphics used were puuuurrrrrrrrrty, and the mechanical designs were inspiring! (I mean that, I rough outlined a new novella while in the bath after watching this.)
At just under 50 minutes, the story kicks off and wastes little time in killing off the characters one by one by means of their past sins. Odd to say the least, but the creature purports to have its reasons (which are revealed), and given some thought, it’s a disturbing premise. Who reading this doesn’t have regrettable moments in their past? I’m not talking flat out murder, mayhem, rape or anything necessarily heinous; just good-old fashioned human shortcomings that lead to actions or consequences we don’t mean to visit upon others.
What I enjoyed the most about this film was less the story (though, again, I have no problem with it), and more the concepts and ideas laid in my brain like wasp larvae. There’s the aforementioned underlying creepy premise, and then there’s the ending, which seals the deal by opening a whole can of “WTF?” I re-ran through dialogue from the very beginning to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I didn’t, and I’m still in awe. I don’t want to spoil it. It’s one of those completely-up-to-you endings that will upset some and, if it had been released today, would spawn more “Ending Explained” videos than BoubTube has inFLUencers. It’s the chef’s kiss.
While more like The Thing, another extremely popular film in Japan, Roots Search, is definitely one of those “cash in” media products of its era, but that doesn’t necessitate its bad rap in my opinion. I didn’t have any trouble watching it start to finish. In fact, it went quite quickly.
And since I know you’re dying to watch...
WARNING: Brief nudity and “love” scene from 31:00 to 31:40.
Link (Eng subs): https://archive.org/details/roots-search-vhs
Link (JP original LD remaster):
We never meet without parting
Next issue... Hoping to post an interview with artist Atom Cyber.
Made in DNA
I caught The Thing at my independent theater last month. I know I'm getting old, but they don't make 'em like they used to.
Apologies for the small updates. Nothing truly mind-shattering added. Just clarification and an error correction.