(aka, GoShogun: The Time Stranger)
There’s weird, then there’s Japanese Anime weird.
And if you want proof you need look no further than GoShogun: The Time Étranger: here we have a children’s bright and colorful Giant robot television series, much in the vein of Voltron, which was adapted four years after the series ran into a movie without a single giant robot in sight.
Now that, of itself, would be strange. But we’re talking an Anime movie, so we’ve barely scratched the surface of the weirdness. Instead we have a remarkably dark and adult movie which is about death, fate, and the weight of the past.
And GoShogun, itself, only appears as a toy robot on a keychain carried by Remy Shimada, its one-time pilot.
It’s been forty years since the events of the series.
The crew of the GoShogun have all gone their own ways, but thanks to some mysterious event which barely gets referenced, none of them have aged.
For some reason which we actually never learn, Remy has called them all back together again: however, as she races to the meeting, dealing with a crew of bank robbers on the way, she crashes her car and ends up in the hospital with her condition rapidly deteriorating.
Or are she and her crew in a strange city on a mysterious planet ruled by a weird cult, where those who are about to die are told when and where it will happen — and the members of the cult won’t allow them to leave the city?
And then there are the flashbacks she is experiencing to her childhood — except that even there, the threat of death seems just as real as it does in the present.
Whichever present that might be.
The notion of a giant robot anime series dealing with weighty issues using non-traditional and non-linear approaches to storytelling brings to mind Neon Genesis Evangelion which was still a decade away at the time they made this film. It is totally at odds with the series that produced it, and a quick glance at the careers of the writer and director — Takeshi Shudo and Kunihiko Yuyama — reveals that they never did anything else like it.
This is perhaps why the second half of the film turns into a series of battles against the people of the mysterious city and the powerful entities controlling it, complete with a Kaiju-sized monster, as if they were returning to what they had done before on the series.
Nor is it easy to say exactly what this one is — a death dream? a remembered adventure? Remy’s thoughts as she lies in the hospital? a meta-fictional musing on how the characters of our favorite series never change or age in the minds of the fans?
Or perhaps it is all of them at once.
And don’t ask me why it was first released in this country with the French word for “Stranger” in the title. Perhaps they just felt it wasn’t weird enough yet.
Now there were better looking anime from the Eighties, but the characters are interesting even if you’ve never encountered them before, the story is exciting and suspenseful, and it is just so strange and weird that it is irresistible. The images of the city, with its dull faced and empty-eyed residents and the gleaming cathedral-like structure at its center which seems to pulse with power, are powerful and memorable.
It isn’t generally considered a great Anime classic — in fact, it has been nearly forgotten since its VHS release a long time ago, when there weren’t as many Anime films in the U.S. to compete with — but it is such an intriguing film it deserves a little more attention than it has received lately.
Fortunately, you can watch it for free on Tubi.
Just don’t expect a giant robot fighting monsters.
They left it out of this film…