What was supposed to be a routine voyage for the good ship XeBeC goes awry as the crew crash-lands onto the seemingly uninhabited planet of Garaga. However, nothing is as it seems, as a battle of epic proportions between four races of beings brews on this idyllic-seeming paradise planet, with the crew and passengers of the seemingly innocent ship right at the heart of the conflict.
Well, I saw the preview to this movie waaay back when I was first watching anime, and immediately crossed it off my list of titles to see. I mean, it looked cheesy, the animation was bad, and the ape-men. I mean, APE-MEN! It sure *looked* like an MST3K victim.
Much later on, I was bored stiff at the local Hollywood Video and came upon this title again. Well, it sounded like the name to a bad Space Invaders clone, and hey, I felt like heckling something. (I mean, XeBeC! Isn't that an AOL handle?) However, when I actually popped the thing in ... I was in for a shock. After some time viewing, my wife and I were pleasantly surprised to find out that this was actually very decent anime!
Not to say this should earn any awards anytime soon. Garaga is definitely '80s anime, and the visuals haven't aged particularly well. The color palette is fairly limited, and though the fights are surprisingly smoothly animated, much of the rest of the movie is on the creaky side (especially when compared to something like Akira or even Baoh the Visitor). The music is pretty bad as well. However, when you get past that and the seemingly contrived premise, you find a very clever take on the "strangers-in-a-strange-land" motif (though with absolutely NOTHING to do with the Heinlein novel). And nothing is as you expect with the plot. Who you'd expect to be the bad guys aren't necessarily bad guys after all, as everything, and everyone is being manipulated by someone who you wouldn't expect. B-movieish? Yes, but it's well-done.
What else is there to say? Well, the characters are not your typical damsel-in-distress, or your typical ship's mates. Almost everyone has a dark past or secret agenda, and it's hard to tell who's on what side. Sometimes it's confusing, but more often, it's refreshing. The science-fiction aspects, too, are interesting, from the effects of cold-sleep, to bio-engineering and, yes, jetcycles with exactly this many seconds of fuel. I especially liked Jay's battle-pack, which was innovative and well-used.
The biggest letdown, sadly, was that it ended a tad too rushed. They had maybe *too* much of a good thing as far as plot (this could easily have been an OAV series), and not enough time or thought was given to the motivations for the character's actions, or their origins. Still, it's nice to see that even the Umlanga (ape-men) weren't just complete dolts after all, or that the pacifistic telepaths weren't all either milquetoasts. The very sudden kissing scene at the end was entirely out of place, but all in all, this was quite an enjoyable look at some solid science-fiction. Silly? At times, yes, but overall, a more than decent effort, and far better than the previews would have you believe.
A solid movie, hampered by old animation and music, and a quasi-cheesy ending. Not an A-list title, but worth renting if you have the time to spare. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: The first few meetings with the Umlanga aren't exactly friendly - the human deaths aren't particularly gory, but the ape-men do get sliced and diced. Not too much sexual content, though, and no memorable nudity, just a couple of ladies in their skivvies waking up from cold sleep. Best for teens and above (like most anime brought to the US).
Version(s) Viewed: VHS, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Garaga © 1989 Satomi Mikuriya / AVN / ASMIK
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