Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars (2017)

Shinji Aramaki, for those of you unfamiliar with his work, has made a series of incredible CGI anime, starting with Appleseed back in 2004.  At the time, someone claimed that Appleseed wasn’t an Anime, but represented an all new genre of films.

Well, that is a tad bit exaggerated, but it is true that his work was miles ahead of what most people were doing with CG at the time — and Aramaki used it with a masterful display of raw talent and non-stop action.

Since then, he’s made several other films, including two more Appleseeds Space Pirate Captain Harlock, and, curiously, a sequel to a live action film:  Starship Troopers:  Invasion.  

He returns with yet another Starship Troopers movie, this time with the help of co-director, Masaru Matsumoto, who was the Animation director on Aramaki’s Appleseed Alpha.  Only this time  it is a very different sort of film than Invasion.  In fact, it is quite different from any of Aramaki’s other films (even if it does have a lot of the signature mechanized combat and intense action we expect from one of his films).  Which might be why it has received some fairly poor ratings.  

Johnny Reno has been stationed at Mars — the most boring possible assignment — and he doesn’t know why. Carmen Ibanez is off on an important mission when she gets a psychic message from their creepy friend from High School, Carl Jenkins, telling her to come back, although he won’t say why.  And the smartest woman in the world — who is the leader of the Federation — has a secret plan to deal with the Martian settlers and their demands for independence.

While there are plenty of bugs to kill, and even a major space battle, this time around the focus is on the deadly politics being played in the background.  Which means that Carl, who had a fairly small role in Invasion, comes to the fore, playing his own little Machiavellian games.

Meanwhile, a character from the original Paul Verhoeven film makes a surreal cameo (with Dina Meyer providing the voice), and we get a glimpse of a political system driven by instant popularity polls.

This is not exactly what we expect of the master of Anime action (although Appleseed did have its political currents in the background, too), but that doesn’t mean it’s bad, just different.  And while the hard core fanboys might have a bit of trouble with different, that shouldn’t be a problem for most of us.  The bug battles have a savage realism, the hardware is beautifully designed, the plot is nicely complex, and character is actually somewhat important to the plot.  Harlock is by far his best film — and neither of the Starship Troopers films measure up to it —  this is still an impressive Anime.

However, I have to say that I’m hoping that, rather than more Starship Troopers sequels, Shinji Aramaki will chose to make more films drawn from the world of Anime and Manga.  That is where he has done his best work, and that is where his talent truly seems to shine.

I just have the terrible sinking feeling that he probably made more on these two films than any of the others he worked on.

Oh well.

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