The staff of a deep space station has a chance encounter with the stricken vessel "Green Planet", whose commander and sole survivor, Buzz, warns them of grave peril, but it is already too late, as the fell being aboard the "Green Planet" begins to systemically kill each of them one by one.
I can't even be bothered to make this sound good, because Roots Search is an object lesson in how to get every single aspect of an anime production completely wrong.
Even given that this is the mid-1980s, the art (unlike some versions of the cover art would like to imply) is almost uniformly atrocious, with badly designed and inconsistent-looking characters including a deuteragonist, Buzz, who manages to look smudgy and dirty even during psychic dream sequences. Mecha and set design are essentially minimalistic and blocky and uninteresting. Worst off, though, is the animation, which manages to make the alien being taking everything over look just plain stupid. The music, of course, is the same dated garbage that plagued this era in anime, with lots of synthesized organs being very, very transparently spooky and very embarrassing.
The characters are largely forgettable: the best of the lot are our leads, Moira (our token female, played by Keiko Han, who would have significantly more luck with the cosmos as talking cat Luna in Sailor Moon) and Buzz (Kenyu Horiuchi, among other things, tiger-headed Guin from Guin Saga, in a bit of coincidental theming), who for some reason are given a rescue romance despite interacting with each other for less than about forty-five seconds. Moira is revealed to be (in addition to a refugee from some undoubtedly better manga aimed at young teenage girls) a psychic, which gives the animators a reason to show us a scene where these two have a sudden out-of-body, out-of-clothes experience frolicking around and holding up their future psychic space baby, which is even dumber-looking than it sounds. There's also a subplot involving Moira's erstwhile sponsor / creepy stalker love interest Scott (played by veteran creeper voice Kaneto Shiozawa, whose ability to make characters sound underhanded and weird is nevertheless sorely missed) which plays out about how you'd expect. Everyone else is specifically there to die violent, gory, karmic deaths after being revealed to actually be jerkasses, which is sort of counterproductive as you sort of begin to root for the equally ugly, badly animated eldritch abominations. (There's one particularly insulting sequence with a side-character who is rather weakly implied to have been gay for the guy he left behind to die on an alien planet, whose psychic image prompts the heel victim to walk face first into an airlock. Splat.)
And then there's the plot, which somehow a jumbled, hulking mess of hackneyed space-horror cliches crammed together in the least coherent way possible, as if someone forgot that the very existence of the word "transition". For all the talk of psychics and spaceships and aliens, ultimately 90% of what we actually get is badly animated people running helter-skelter down badly animated corridors away from badly animated aliens, which should be utterly hysterical, but really just feels like being repeatedly punched in the throat by a future psychic space baby.
Who's to blame for this mess? Oddly, we have a few people who went on to better and brighter things: we can start with director Hiroshi Negishi, who would thankfully go on to create the Saber Marionette franchise, among other works. Another staffer, screenwriter Michiru Shimada, worked on Urusei Yatsura and would continue on to Rurouni Kenshin and One Piece -- all infinitely superior works. But the character designer and animation supervisor Sanae Kobayashi seems to have taken the fall for this one: her other two credits are Crystal Triangle and Guyver: Out of Control, giving her a zero batting average. It still seems unfair to lay the blame solely on Kobayashi, though, as it takes more than one person to come up with a failure this catastrophic.
Finally, we get to the ending, with our heroes fleeing down their last corridor, and the horrible, inexplicable, possibly metaphysical cliffhanger ending ... well ... it's like the creators collectively threw up their hands in futility, cut the footage where it stood, and told the company to just press the videotapes already. It's about as unsatisfying an ending as can be had, and for this viewer, it's like riding a rickety, old roller-coaster that has unlatched its safety belts halfway through the middle and dumped me on my keister at the very end.
Do yourself a favor: don't root around and don't search for this rightfully obscure video from the Dark Ages of anime production. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: Absolutely not for children, due to widespread gore and violence. One character is shown undergoing violent decompression (ew). There are a couple brief scenes of nudity that are so badly animated as to be funny rather than arousing.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital source, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Roots Search © 1986 Nippon Columbia
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