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[Harmagedon box art]
AKA: 幻魔大戦 (Genma Taisen), Genma Wars, Ghenma Wars
Genre: Psychic horror fantasy action
Length: Movie, 132 minutes
Distributor: R1 DVD from US Manga Corps / Central Park Media out of print.
Content Rating: PG-13 (violence)
Related Series: Genma Wars
Also Recommended: Akira, Curse of the Undead Yoma, X TV
Notes: Based on the manga "Genma Taisen" by Shoutarou Ishinomori. The Genma Wars TV series is also based on this manga, albeit on a different set of chapters.

This title has nothing to do with the Korean animated feature, Armageddon, nor, obviously, the Hollywood blockbuster film of the same name.
Rating:
 

Harmagedon

Synopsis

Princess Luna (I think that was her name) is on an airplane, and it explodes. But she's saved by some psychic robot, who tells her to find these other psychic warriors to stop the world from being destroyed by the demon god Genma (no, unfortunately, not the panda).

So, she finds the other psychic warriors: an angsty Japanese guy (of course he's Japanese, this is anime!), a black kid from the ghetto, an Indian guru, and a Native American shaman, and by their powers combined, I am CAPTAIN PLANET! -er, sorry, I mean, they fight off Genma in a climactic battle at Mount Fuji.

Directed by Rintaro, who we hold responsible for X: The Movie and The Dagger of Kamui.

Review

Guess what - it's the Asian knockoff of Armageddon! Just kidding.

This movie was so easy to make fun of that Project A-ko did it. (Remember the scene with the creeping Colonel Sanders - well, Mister Fried Chicken? Yes, that was a Harmagedon gag.) Seriously, though, this is another of those sprawling, listless "epics" that make me seriously wonder why Rintaro is so important, anyway. And, no, I didn't see the Sci-Fi hack job of this - this was the uncut, subtitled version that ran on the Independent Film Channel.

It's a good thing that I saw Grave of the Fireflies first, because Harmagedon has aged way beyond what is a proper representative of modern anime - or heck, '80s anime, for that matter. The animation is a bunch of dark, post-apocalyptic stuff that doesn't exactly stretch the bounds of a movie budget. It's creaky and dated, too. Also, the characters are really stereotypical (especially the roller-skating black kid straight from Harlem, was he supposed to be an extra from Good Times or something?). Even the Japanese guy is portrayed as being too dang angsty for his own good, and the pathetic thing is that you really can't give a damn for the whole lot of them.

So what do we get? Well, this is from the same people who would later produce Dagger of Kamui, and it's almost as bad. I think the operative words here are "long", and "boring". Perhaps even "lobotomizing".

But at least there weren't any ninjas - instead, there's these stupid undead things that manage the kill the protagonist's sister and tick him off enough to do something about it. Oh, yeah, and no WHOTTAWHOTTAWHOTTA, but that actually might've helped, as the soundtrack was acid-trip wa-wa synthesizer, which defuses almost any tension there should have been in the battle scenes by being so icky.

The plot? As any good Rintaro movie should, it meanders around aimlessly, grabbing a character here, a random battle there, with various evil henchmen showing up here and there to make things difficult for the protagonists.

And then there's Genma, a demon king or something like that (why he dresses like my grandfather is anyone's guess) who uses the powers of lava, and petrification, and fire in general to try and defeat the psychic warriors and destroy the world. Yawn.

And minus points for the metaphysical ending, which exceeds my tolerance for cheese by several degrees more than I could handle on a good day.

I guess this movie might've been a big deal in 1980-whatever, but there are older anime out there that I've enjoyed far more than this (Nausicaa and Angel's Egg, for starters). But when there's lousy characterization, boring plot, and lackluster execution, of course I'm not going to give this thing an age handicap.

Why is it not a one-star? Well, it -tries-. Katsuhiro Otomo (who was so frustrated by this project that he was motivated to create the infinitely superior Akira) turns in a script that shows occasional signs of sophistication, but is largely wrecked by the direction of Rintaro. Actors like Tohru Furuya and Mami Koyama are simply wasted left and right, and it's a real shame because you know damn well this could've been *good*, but it simply isn't. At the same time, it *just* avoids being a crash scene, simply because it's paced too slow for a crash to even happen.

Perhaps Harmagedon is one of the earlier titles to go for a darker horror tone and all, but so many others have done it better since then, that Harmagedon is best left for anime completists and historians. Though horror fans might be able to get more out of this than I can.

It's not the worst anime movie ever made, but it's so boring! Carlos Ross

Recommended Audience: Halfway through the movie, there is an angsty, onscreen death (complete with glowing blue tears). There's enough violence here to prevent younger children from seeing it. Too boring for most, anyway. Didn't particularly notice any nudity, and no sex at all. Teens and above.



Version(s) Viewed: Cable broadcast (IFC), Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Harmagedon © 1983 Kadokawa Shoten