ANN Rintaro page

My average ranking: 5.50

Director Pantheon: Rintaro Rating
Adieu Galaxy Express 999 (movie) So-so

Like the original Galaxy Express 999 this is quite a hodge-podge of a film. Unlike the original, however, the various elements fail to cohere so that, instead of being a coming of age story of mythic tone and proportions, it ends up as a middling space opera. My favourite character, Maetel, is absent for far too long and, when she finally appears, she plays pretty much the same role as she did in the original - the beautiful and mysterious woman who may be treacherous. But we know her true nature so there's no tension. Between these two movies and Maetel Legend, how many times does Maetel have to confront her mother? How often does her mother get resurrected? How many times must their homeworld be destroyed? How many homeworlds do they have? Four different ones as far as I can count. That's the wondrous Leijiverse for you.

Tetsuro is mostly an observer so there was little tension to keep me interested. He has done his growing up already so there's also no sense of him experiencing a right of passage. The Leijiverse heroes make their obligatory appearance as do a smattering of new characters but the encounters mostly come across as random adventures rather than valuable life lessons. The interventions of Emeraldas and Harlock are as contrived as ever but the mythic feel of the original is mostly absent.

Still, Maetel and Tetsuro are great characters so all is not lost. Kathleen Barr and Saffron Henderson, respectively, continue their fine work. One thing: the design and posture of Maetel comes across as slightly wooden compared with the earlier movie. I don't think the issue is the acting but, rather, it eminates from Japan.

I'm coming to the conclusion that Rintaro isn't much of a director. I think he fluked something special with Galaxy Express 999.

Galaxy Express 999 (movie) Excellent

Galaxy Express 999 opens with the surprising sight of a steam train hurtling between the galaxies. Straight away it’s clear that this film is throwing real world logic into the cosmic wind. The railway signals are telling us to suspend our disbelief, but that’s fine, because we are in the realm of mythmaking, not ordinary storytelling. Tetsuro’s voyage recalls The Odyssey where the protagonist either uses his wits to solve his problems or is blessed with divine assistance.

Young Tetsuro is travelling on the famous train to the planet of Great Andromeda, seeking a mechanical body so he can kill Count Mecha to avenge the death of his mother. Success seems unlikely but the gods and the fates are watching out for Tetsuro: the deus ex machina is hard at work. Help in the form of various intergalactic notables unfailingly pops up in timely fashion, getting him out of jams, giving him a handy tool, or providing the answer to a thorny problem. Captain Harlock, pirate queen Emeraldas, Tochiro and Antares are among the larger than life heroes who come to Tetsuro’s aid. These contrived internventions aren’t the problem they might be in an ordinary anime. This is not an adventure story about dramatic scrapes. It’s about the education of a young man who, through each encounter, learns about desire, loss and generosity. The lessons learned will hold him in good stead when he faces much harder tests.

Journeying with him is Maetel, who has an agenda of her own. At once beautiful and authoritative, wise yet vaguely menacing, melancholy yet kindly, she has immediately become one of my favourite characters in anime. Acting as a sort of surrogate mother to Tetsuro (something more true than he first imagines) she seems to bear the weight of the world on her shoulders. Well, she does in a sense, as the viewer learns at the end of the rail journey.

All the female characters have a sadness about them, even the commanding Emeraldas. Is this typical for Leiji Matsumoto? They are each unforgettable: Shadow, the machine woman guarding the lovely body she abandoned, or Clare, who was forced to exchange her flesh for transparent crystal, or Ryuzu, the singer who took on machine form at the request of her lover. Their exquisite, wispy forms perfectly reflect their wistful natures.

The combination of grandeur and melancholy ensure I have a continuous emotional engagement while watching Galaxy Express 999. It’s all in the mythical power of a journey undertaken by two special characters that becomes a metaphor for life with all its joy and regrets.

Kimba the White Lion (TV 1/1965) Decent

Early anime that now seems extremely dated. But I loved it as a kid.
Labyrinth (movie) So-so

Led by a French circus clown, a small girl and her cat take a trip through the imagination in a series of sometimes arresting tableaux that, in the end, don’t add up to much at all. With one glaring exception it is nicely animated while the atmosphere is simultaneously fun and creepy. The segment morphs through several stylistic changes, one of which is so redolent of the evolution sequence form Bruno Bozzetto’s Allegro Non Troppo that I suspect the whole thing is a homage to European animation. From the Neo Tokyo anthology, introducing and framing the other segments.
Metropolis (movie) Decent

This lavish homage to Osamu Tezuka and Fritz Lang doesn't always come off, thanks largely to unengaging characters and an indifferent plot. Throughout the film, the glorious 3D backgrounds overwhelm its other aspects. But that's not the only problem. The character designs are clearly intended to invoke the spirit of Osamu Tezuka and, worthy as that is, the clownish depictions meant that I had difficulty taking the characters seriously. In particular, the central relationship between Tima the robot girl and Kenichi the human boy doesn't convince. Still, it's worth watching for the beautiful backgrounds, the breathtaking animation sequences, and the wonderful use of I Can't Stop Loving You as the Ziggurat collapses and Tima and Kenichi part ways.
X (movie) Bad

For sure, this film warrants the regular criticism that, by concentrating only on the climax to the CLAMP saga, the plot is incomprehensible and the characters inscrutable. Nevertheless, in these days of instant information via the internet I was able to understand what was going on even the first time round. Even so, the compression of events and the omission of backstory does leave a "so what" impression by the time it finished. Proof of the failure of the film was confirmed second time round when its good points - the creepy atmosphere, the portentous dream sequences, the modernist orchestral soundtrack and the well animated action scenes - failed to rescue it from its overall meaninglessness.
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