Judge Mitchell Hattaway was thoroughly unimpressed with this Star Wars-aping anime.
A war of two worlds!
ADV Films brings us an anime film aimed squarely at the kiddies. Broadcast on Japanese television before the original Star Wars craze had died, the film promises action and adventure, but does it deliver?
Facts of the Case
The planet has Aqualoid has been invaded by the Inorganics, a race of machines bent on world domination. The Organic (humanoid) populace of the tiny world struggles against their mechanical oppressors. A small band of heroes join together, armed with the power of the mystical sword SHADE, hoping to overthrow the Inorganics and restore peace to the universe.
Stop me if you've heard this one before. Birth opens on the desert world of Aqualoid (which doesn't exactly sound like an appropriate name for a desert world, does it?). We're first introduced to the female lead, Rasa, who's jetting around on her hoverbike. We then meet Bao, a space merchant (read: pirate) and his sidekick/pilot Kim. Kim and Bao are chasing SHADE, a mystical sword so mystical it has the ability to fly through outer space. We then jump back to Aqualoid and meet Nam, a young man and friend (brother?) to Rasa, who finds SHADE after it has impacted on the planet's surface. Nam is engaged in a battle with an Inorganic, and draws the sword from the ground. Bao and Kim soon crash on the planet, having damaged their ship by attempting to use a faulty warp drive. They join Nam and Rasa in a final battle with the Inorganics (I think).
There's a chance I left out a few pertinent facts, but that pretty much covers it. Birth consists mostly of choppy, nonsensical chase sequences. Kim and Bao chase the sword. The Inorganics chase Nam and Rasa. Kim and Bao chase Nam and Rasa. The Inorganics, who don't seem that powerful, dangerous, or intelligent, chase everybody. There is no character development. Everyone's a stock character, with the possible exception of Kim, who's the only example I've ever seen of a metrosexual space pirate. The plot, what little of it there is, lifts ideas from more sources than Willow and barely hangs together. SHADE appears to be the McGuffin of the plot, but at times is forgotten entirely. The Inorganics, of whom I only counted six or seven, spend a great deal of time trying to prevent the heroes from using it, but it doesn't seem to be that powerful. It causes one Inorganic to disintegrate, and is then pretty much forgotten for the rest of the story. The climax involves a totally different weapon, a Doomsday Device the results of which are more whimper than bang (there's a hint to the true nature of the weapon in the film's title).
The animation itself is passable. Having originally been produced for Japanese television, it's not up to the standards of theatrical releases or even latter day OVA series, but it's still a notch above what we've come to expect from animation produced for American television. There are occasional inconsistencies to the style, leading to the impression some sequences were rushed. Line work is clean for the most part, but the art gets ragged here and there. I've seen worse examples, the "Den" sequence in Heavy Metal for example, but it can be a little jarring. Colors in the full frame picture can be outstanding, although the picture exhibits a bit of a washed-out quality near the end. Jagged lines cropped up a few times in one or two fast-moving shots. Overall, the video presentation is slightly above average.
The sound is more of a disappointment. The disc boasts two soundtracks: an English 5.1 mix and a subtitled Japanese 2.0 mix. Neither presents very good fidelity, so the cheesy synthesizer score comes across as pinched and thin. The Japanese mix is essentially big fat mono, while the English track sounds more like a 3.0 mix. There's no activity in the surrounds, and your subwoofer will be taking a breather, too. The dubbing is pretty much what you expect. The actors are either whispering or screaming, and their voices aren't integrated very well. I stuck to the original soundtrack most of the time, occasionally flipping over to the English track just to compare the two.
The only extras you'll find are an incredibly brief art gallery, containing rough character sketches presented in a pseudo-slide show, and previews for other ADV Films releases, which don't appear to be worthy of purchase, either.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Sorry, but they all ran screaming from the room.
The next time someone tells you birth is a painful experience, pay attention. Even with a brief running time, this film kept me thinking of a thousand things I'd have rather been doing. Now I know how Bart Simpson felt when the Babysitter Bandit tied him up and made him watch "The Happy Little Elves." There's only one possible upside to Birth I can think of: If you can't get your children to go to sleep, this might do the trick.
Kaname Productions and ADV Films are guilty of stealing 85 minutes of my life and wasting valuable natural resources on the production of a disc that will probably end up in a landfill. They are hereby sentenced to watch their own product. Let the punishment fit the crime. Court is adjourned.
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