The Right Stuf // 2005 // 125 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Mac McEntire // April 20th, 2006
A desperate battle to save the Earth that could cost all of their lives.
Hajime is an eighth grade class rep, who has discovered that several of his classmates and other folks in his home city are not what they seem. They're aliens with amazing abilities disguised as humans, living secretly among us. One of Hajime's friends, Muryou, dresses in an outdated school uniform and has amazing telekinetic powers. Nayuta, the aloof, snarky, new girl in class, holds the power of the Shingu, which protects the Earth from evil outsiders. Many of the adults living in town are either members of a galactic federation with an interest in protecting Earth's future, or enemies bent on the destruction of humanity.
So, this set begins with the characters in deep trouble. Hajime is at Nayuta's side, while her body lies vulnerable and helpless as her soul travels out into the deepest reaches of space as the Shingu to battle an invading spaceship. Hajime and his friends must protect Nayuta's body from attack, while encouraging her to overcome obstacles in space. Seems like an interesting set-up for some sci-fi action, but, as with most episodes of Shingu, the balance is off. We get a lot of Hajime worrying, while only briefly glimpsing the space battle. To make matters worse, these scenes are cut together with the adult/alien characters watching the space battle on a futuristic hologram-type display. It's here that they describe what's happening, and how the evil spaceship can transform into different forms. Now, this is anime, right? Where stuff like giant transforming battleships is the big draw, right? But here, we only get descriptions of the evil ship, without seeing the ship itself. Frustrating. The battle finally does end in appropriately explosive fashion, but by then it's a little too late.
The narrative improves somewhat when Nayuta learns of her past, and of the previous girl (now an old woman) who once held the power of the Shingu. It's here that her hardened heart melts a little, and we finally get a look at what makes her tick. Once that's over, though, suddenly it's summer vacation, and we get a travelogue of the characters on their trip through the scenic countryside. Eventually, this vacation plot reveals itself to have an otherworldly element to it, but what it means to the overall plot remains ambiguous at best.
Despite the go-nowhere nature of the plot, there's also a ton of characters to keep track of by this point, now that it's been revealed which townsfolk are and aren't part of the big alien conspiracy. Keeping track of all the different aliens and who's on whose side will be tricky enough for regular viewers and nearly impossible for anyone who hasn't seen the first two volumes. As episodes in this volume progress, a running joke about the federation officials sitting around getting drunk gets old fast.
Like before, the audio and video quality here is fine. The animation has the attention to detail and sense of kinetic movement anime is renowned for, and it comes across bright and clear on DVD. Likewise, the audio pushes the 2.0 track to its limit. Audio is both an English dub and the original Japanese, so pick your preference. Subtitles reveal little difference between the two. The extra features here mirror the ones on previous volumes, including production notes, character bios, and a handy booklet explaining Japanese customs seen in the series to anime newcomers.
It might look all colorful and exciting on the surface, but Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars suffers from so much clunky, awkward storytelling that I can't foresee many viewers enjoying it.
Review content copyright © 2006 Mac McEntire; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: The Right Stuf
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Japanese)
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Character Bios
* Line Art Gallery
* Original Production Notes
* English Production Notes
* Right Stuf Trailers
* Twelve-page Booklet
* Reversible Cover
* Official Site
* Volume One Review
* Volume Two Review