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AKA: Spirit of Wonder: Scientific Boys' Club
Genre: Retro science fiction drama
Length: OAV, 4 episodes, 10-30 minutes each
Distributor: R1 DVD from Bandai
Content Rating: 13+ (nudity, lecherous old men, martial arts violence, alcohol abuse)
Related Series: Spirit of Wonder: Miss China's Ring
Also Recommended: Patapata Hikousen no Bouken, Spirit of Wonder: Miss China's Ring, Yokohama Shopping Trip
Notes: Based on the manga by Tsuruta Kenji, which in turn was inspired by works of scientific speculation by astronomer Percival Lowell.

Though this is billed as a movie, this has not received theatrical release to our knowledge. Also, the subtitles refer to one character as "Windy", but the reviewer has chosen "Wendy" as the more likely romanization.
Rating:
 

Spirit of Wonder: The Movie

Synopsis

After months of being away at sea, a young man finally returns to the side of his wife. She is delighted to see again but finds his time taken apart by his participation in the fiftieth anniversary project of her fatherís Scientific Boys Club. Frustrated, she attempts to distance herself from the project but soon finds herself drawn in as well and soon the couple will be involved in a great step forward in the history of space exploration.

Also featured are two short films focusing on eccentric the Professor Breckenridge, his assistant Jim, and the cute Miss China. Accidents involving the professorís odd inventions will have Miss China exploring two very different types of frontiers.

Review

I should note that the two Miss China features are actually extremely short add-ons and have little to do with the main hour long plot focusing around the Scientific Boys Club. They are certainly entertaining and fun enough on their own but without having much previous exposure with these characters or this setting, they didnít have much lasting impact on me. I imagine fans of the manga or the original title will get a kick out of seeing Miss China, Jim, and Professor Breckenridge involved in more scientific shenanigans though and the second short does function well in helping enhance the mood communicating by the main story arc. Also, well, let's just say one of the shorts features an odd, unusual, but still very creative fight sequence.

The two episodes that form the main story arc, though they take place in same general area (though it is unclear if it is the same general time period) focuses instead on a different set up of characters: Wendy, her husband Jack, and the elderly Mars-obsessed adventurers of the Scientific Boys Club.

While the two shorts are more focused on somewhat comedic and surreal scenarios of retro science gone amok, this main arc is, at its heart, an atmosphere piece. Combining the interplay between a loving couple and the eccentric but doggedly optimistic men of the Scientific Boys Club, it effectively draws in the viewer into the showís world where science, exploration, and advancement arenít the province of billion-dollar government projects but the province of significantly dedicated and resourceful individuals. It draws the viewer into the attitude of a more optimistic and innocent age where wonder and achievement for their own sake were considered worthy goals to pursue.

Considering the overall dialog in the title is fairly sparse, the title did a good job with characterization. I could feel the life long enthusiasm of the Scientific Boys Club and find myself liking the eccentric (and occasionally lecherous) old men. The motivations of Jack, Wendy, and their tender relationship were particularly communicated well. Their simple interactions around each other and even the body language of the characters around each other told me more about the characters than hours of dialog would have. Wendy, in particular, ends up an intriguing character. She is much more than she appears at first and her abilities provide a ironic commentary on certain implied social elements of the Scientific Boys Club.

In regards to animation and art design, this title is fairly good, though it did have a few flaws such the use of CGI for certain scenes that wasnít integrated with the 2D work quite as well as I would have liked. The well-done scene and background work helps bring alive the environs of the town of Bristol which is vital to helping to maintain the mood in an atmospheric title like this. The animation isnít perhaps as fluid as Iíve seen in some other OAV titles but it adequate for the needs of this title.

In addition to the visual aspects, the music work in this title was well done. While the soundtrack of Spirit of Wonder, isnít something that people are going to rush out to buy anytime soon, its light classical and flute intensive background music were vital in helping to maintain the wistful atmosphere and setting of the show. As many scenes in this title have minimal dialog, the music ends up helping to communicate the mood while keeping itself from being too overwhelming. It was well crafted and effectively integrated with the other elements.

A well-crafted and atmospheric piece, Spirit of Wonder: The Movie is the kind of anime title you just donít see all that often.

Lingering on in the mind even after its finish like a pleasant bit of nostalgia, Spirit of Wonder: The Movie is a nice change of pace in the anime world. Action fans or those who donít like slow paced stories might want to subtract a star, though one of the shorts features the only 'small Chinese restaurateur versus rats martial arts brawl' that I can claim to have seen. Jeremy A Beard

Recommended Audience: While there isnít a lot of violence besides Miss China using kung fu on a few lecherous old men and the occasional threatening animal in one of the shorts, there are a few gratuitous nude scenes and a lot of excessive drinking. Overall, it best for teens and above.



Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (4/4)
Spirit of Wonder: The Movie © 2001 Asiadou