27 August 2002 | vkn
A pleasant surprise.
'Magical God of War Goshogun' is one of the less well-known giant robot TV series for kids to have come out of Japan in the 1970's and 80's. Chances are you've never heard of it, even if the series has been aired in an English dubbed, and probably heavily edited version called 'Macron 1'. But the good news is that you don't need any familiarity with Goshogun's obscure roots to enjoy this spin-off film.
Now, animation from way back in 1985 with it's origin in an almost-unnoticed cheesy robot series may not sound very tempting at first, but give 'Goshogun: the time étranger' a chance, and you'll probably enjoy it quite a lot.
The story centers around French-born Remy, the only woman in the Goshogun team of heroes. We follow her through three distinct moments in her life when she came face-to-face with imminent death. As a little girl, she was trapped in a pit for several days, where she heard a voice telling her that she might as well give up, since she was fated to die there.
As a young adult, she and her friends get stranded in a strange Muslim desert town, where each member of the Goshogun team receives a prediction that they would die in the following days. Remy would be the first to die, with only two days to go until her death. And with no way out of the town, and the locals insisting that these announced deaths where the predetermined fate of the Goshogun team, from which they could not escape, the outlook isn't exactly rosy. And as an older woman, Remy gets into a car accident on the day of a long overdue reunion with her friends, and ends up seriously injured and in coma, with the doctor granting her only roughly two more days to live.
The film jumps back and forth between these three time periods, with most of the screen time devoted to Remy's adventure in the spooky desert town. The non-chronological narrative seems a bit jumbled at first, but the film actually does a good job of telling all three different stories simultaneously as well as presenting their common theme of triumphing over despair and the refusal to abandon hope even in the face of impossible odds. These strong themes are carried out very well, and make the film really quite touching, as a whole.
The characters are a likeable bunch, with Remy being a very sympathetic heroine. Neither a helpless airhead, nor a rock-hard tough gal, she's a very human character, and it's hard not to feel something for her efforts to keep struggling against the menaces. While she's being threatened with physical demise all through the film, it's really her will to live, her hope for survival and her faith in her friends that are being tested. And it works well - a touching bond of friendship and mutual trust is evident between the Goshogun gang. And then there are some nice little personality touches from the other team members, such as Bundle's penchant for the sophisticated things in life, Killy's attempts at writing a novel and the big guy with green skin who wears a track suit with a penguin on it.
The only real let-downs are the dated visuals who betray the film's age. While it doesn't look bad overall (in fact, you can tell a decent amount of care was put into the visuals), and features some inspired images, Goshogun looks distinctly retro in it's character designs and animation quality. If you just happen to be a fan of early eighties retro anime you'll have no problem with this, but most viewers will be used to slicker-looking modern efforts, and may find the visual to be a turn-off.
They shouldn't, though. If you can put the lack of superficial eye candy aside, the quality plot and character strength make for a rewarding viewing experience. The scenes of the Goshgun team's battle against the dark forces in the desert town which form the meat of the film provide a good deal of suspense, gloominess, and action (Muslim zombies, spooky illusions and even a giant purple panther are out to get them) but the scenes of Remy's childhood and sick bed are equally important as they make the emotional impact that much stronger.
Goshogun definitely deserves a look for handling a daring story very well, providing strong characters, and telling a touching tale of hope and individual strength. The film has plenty of pleasant surprises in store for those who'll give it a chance in spite of it's age and obscurity.