I picked up this Gonzo-animated series on sale and didn’t really know anything about it, other than the box looks unusual and with Gonzo’s name on it it’s going to be pretty. Definitely pretty, not so unusual; plot wise somewhere between classic environmental fable and over-the-top action movie—like Green Legend Ran if it were directed by the Real Ultimate Power guy.
I’m exaggerating a little, but let’s face it: When the ultimate weapon turns out to be a walking volcano covered in guns, it’s so far into “you’ve got to be kidding” territory it’s kind of awesome. And no, I’m not kidding. At all.
It starts out near-perfectly; there’s a weird, warbling, beautiful opening song set to visuals of what appear to be sort of leaf-based dragons decimating the earth. It’s the prettiest and most imaginative scene of apocalyptic destruction I’ve ever seen. The setting is well after the apocalypse in what’s left of Tokyo; ruins, but also relatively green and pleasant for the few people subsisting on the land. We’re introduced then to “the forest” which seems to be some sort of creepy, vindictive hive mind of plant-zombie-people; nice juxtaposition of “it’s nature” and “it’s scary.” The how or why is never much explained past “genetic engineering screw-up.”
Our hero ends up swimming around under the ruins and stumbles on a capsule girl from prior to the apocalypse (such folks aren’t unheard of in this setting, a nice tweak on standard). She gets huge points as far as capsule girls go: Basically ten seconds after waking up, the hero tells her “We gotta swim now.” and she’s off without a second thought. Thus begins the first of several imaginative action sequences running from or on moving things (in this case a flood), pretty much the point of the whole affair. Gonzo does action right, so no complaints here.
We later find out that there’s an industrial empire nearby who fights the forest while the good guys have chosen to live in a somewhat unsteady peace with it, setting up the standard dichotomy in eco-fables, though on the whole this one does a decent job of balancing things out and leaving the “good-ness” of both sides in some degree of question. The capsule girl also goes turncoat—for understandable reasons—which was another decent little tweak on the formula.
Unfortunately, it leaves the hero with basically one role: He spends a good two thirds of the movie running around screaming the girl’s name. Motivation, logic, common sense, and really any personality to speak of are secondary. He’s not exactly a silly character, just so single-minded and shallow it’s kind of funny. He gets some nature-based superstrength to kick the action up a notch, and thus passes the rest of the film. The “bad” guys have neat mecha, in part because they are quite literally tanks—they store water in addition to being basically huge metallic stick bugs. Very, very cool mechanical animation (Gonzo, again), with lots of detail when they inevitably get ripped to pieces during fights.
Then we get down to the big drawn-out showdown at the end as the hero (the entire cast, really) attempts to stop the doomsday weapon… which is the aforementioned volcano. On giant mechanical legs. Covered in guns. Seriously. I was torn between “That is the silliest thing I have ever seen.” and “That is the most completely awesome thing I’ve ever seen.” I mean, it’s a walking volcano covered in guns—like a mad science trifecta of insane overkill.
So basically in the end the plot is pretty simple and, while it spices things up with some unusual tweaks and a complete lack of hesitation in all things—the hero may have no personalty, but he’s not wishy-washy—it’s rather predictable. Whether the overkill finale pushes it into crazy-cool or just plain ridiculous will depend entirely on your taste, but it more or less ensures that it’s going to go one way or the other. Really, that’s kind of the defining feature of the whole thing—it does nothing halfway. Another good example is when the hero gets superpower-equipped: The equipper basically says “go fight” and literally kicks him off a cliff into the midst of a bunch of tanks. That’s to the point in the best sort of way.
The visuals are, not surprisingly, beautiful, with incredibly lush backgrounds, Gonzo-trademark computer assists, and an unexpectedly different cel-art style—very flat coloring, somewhat unusual character designs. Reminded me of maybe a mix of Western comic art and classic anime (Green Legend Ran again comes to mind, though the character designs are much less rounded).
I’m pretty sure the music was also well above average, but oddly the only piece that stuck in my mind was the weird, fantastic opening theme—that alone would probably be worth buying the soundtrack for.
Not a great movie, but reasonably fun and eco-themed without being shamelessly preachy, so I’ll call it a success as an over-the-top, slightly arty action movie.