Tomoko KawakamiMasako KatsukiKinryuu ArimotoHiroshi Naka
Medium: film
Year: 1999
Keywords: anime, SF
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Director: Junichi Sakai, Katsuyoshi Yatabe, Kazumasa Fujiie, Kentaro Izaki
Writer: Akira Amasawa, Junichi Sakai, Kazumasa Fujiie, Kentaro Izaki
Actor: Akemi Okamura, Akira Ishida, Aruno Tahara, Chikahachi Tsuji, Erina Yamazaki, Hiroshi Naka, Irina Yamazaki, Kazuhiro Nakada, Kenyuu Horiuchi, Kinryuu Arimoto, Kumiko Watanabe, Masakazu Suzuki, Masako Katsuki, Minoru Inaba, Reiko Takagi, Rie Ishizuka, Shinpachi Tsuji, Shiro Saito, Takeo Horiuchio, Tomoko Kawakami, Toshiya Ueda, You Nakano, Yutaka Aoyama, Yutaka Nakano
Format: 84 minutes
Website category: Anime 1990s
Review date: 28 May 2024
I was disappointed. Despite its reputation, it's not a train wreck. It's a bit dull, pointless and stupid, but your eyes won't pop from their sockets. It's okay.
The story of the making of Gundress, though, is apocalyptic.
The Japanese film studio Nikkatsu wanted to branch out into anime. They approached a team called ORCA and hired Masamune Shirow, a big name. They set a budget equivalent to five million US dollars, which was enormous for anime.
Unfortunately, ORCA had only made one anime before (Landlock, which flopped) and didn't know what they were doing. They wrote the script on the fly. Lacking a visual direction for their "new anime franchise", they reused mecha designs from Ghost in the Shell and Appleseed. ORCA and Masamune disagreed on who should be the protagonist (and it ended up being a third girl neither had intended). Most of the budget went on hiring voice actors who didn't normally do voice acting (and had been chosen before all the roles had been written). The animators regarded Masamune's mecha designs as weird and impractical... and, what's more, he agreed and had requested that ORCA modify them.
The production team missed the release date by four months, in violation of their contracts. Nikkatsu and Toei released the film in cinemas anyway with a printed flyer saying, "This movie isn't completed at all. If you enter our theatre to see it, we can't reimburse you for this unfinished movie. However, if you provide us with your address, we'll send you a videotape of the completed version as soon as it's available." Those audiences saw pencil tests, animatics and the few scenes that had been animated, which were all either: (a) static and talky or, (b) any scene where the heroine gets naked. Years later, the DVD release included the unfinished version as an alternate-angle feature.
There was legal action and some of ORCA's staff never worked in anime again. The whole thing's legendary.
The finished film, though, is okay. Unmemorable and full of stupid bits, but there's plenty of Masamune anime I'd be more reluctant to rewatch. It starts with girls in giant robot suits raiding a ship and shooting everyone... but with rubber bullets, so that's okay. Until the ship explodes. Whoops. Also, one of their enemies is a cyborg who shrugs off bullets, so a girl sheds her wardroid battle armour and fights him hand to hand. I'm not sure that's a good idea.
A terrorist villain is the ex-boyfriend of one of our heroines. This is moderately effective and adds uncertainty. He wants to kill a gun-runner (Hassan) because... uh, reasons. The girls want to protect Hassan because... again, I'm not sure. There is, though, a strange law that makes Hassan the legal property of our heroines until his trial concludes, because they're the ones who captured him. The implications of this are surprising. Firstly, the government doesn't claim a monopoly on law enforcement. (Given what we see here of the military and the anti-terrorist agencies, this makes sense.) Secondly, imagine all the ways you could abuse that "legal property" law. Get your friends to arrest you to keep you out of the authorities' hands? Set up a bounty hunting company that makes its income from putting temporarily enslaved criminals to work?
We know Hassan's a good guy, though, because tried to save a child from the terrorists. Unfortunately, they immediately blasted him (and the child he was hugging) with what looked like a flamethrower. Surely that counts as "child endangerment" and "getting the brat barbecued", not "rescue"? There's also a scene where Hassan has a bath... in the living room, with the girls standing around. Was the house designed like that, or did someone convert it to have a combined bathroom and living room?
Result: it's certainly not good, but it didn't drive me insane with boredom, so it's not Masamune's worst anime. I liked that crab/tick mecha design. The girls are functional-ish as protagonists and I didn't know which way Alissa's loyalties would go. The film's unremarkable and its ending sort of dribbles away, but I didn't hate it.