Time Stranger (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Sunday, November 09, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, October 14, 2003

What They Say
From the director of the Pokémon movies and the character designer of Inuyasha: The Movie. Forty years ago, Remi Shimada piloted a giant battle robot and saved the world. Now the former heroine lies helplessly on the brink of death, battling an evil that is driving her mind into oblivion. Her fight to survive rages across her psyche, stirring up the past she has fought to bury forever. Buried alive at age ten, caught in a nightmare at age twenty, Remy is no stranger despair and death. But she has never given up, and she is about to face the greatest challenge of all.

The Review!
A theatrical continuation of a couple of seasons worth of a show in the early 80’s, Time Stranger takes place forty years later and looks at the world afterwards.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Though encoded in stereo this feels very much like a mono audio track but it fits with the source material of the time. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout it but it and most of the action lack any real directionality, instead simply covering the entire sound field. We didn’t notice any dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally released back in 1985, the materials for this transfer look better than the previous release sublicensed to NuTech back in 2001. The print has a more solid feel and colors, particularly blacks, look far less splotchy than they did in that release. The print is mostly free of dirt and scratches, though a few show up here and there, but otherwise has aged fairly well. Cross coloration and aliasing are both very minimal. There’s some slight bleeding in a few areas, more notably in the reds than anywhere else, but it’s nowhere near a deal breaker by any means.

Going with new cover art for this third release of the show, the front cover has an oval clock shape on it with the imagery of a demonic face in the background set against flames reaching from behind it. This fits in well with the tagline of “From the director of the Pokemon movies” quite well! The back cover harkens back to the earlier releases their cover art used here, a nice shot of Remy holding her gun while the rest of the crew crosses the desert in the background. There’s a short three-paragraph summary and a listing of the discs extras and features. The reverse side of the cover has some soft black and white artwork mixed into the background while providing the chapter listings and bilingual cast lists. Production credits for both sides of the release are listed here as well.

The main menu mixes in various aspects of the show together to bring a decent looking menu into play. The shot of Remy from the back cover is the main prominent piece here with it set in front of the backdrop of the highway system we see at the beginning of the movie. In on corner they’ve slid in some animation from the show that’s set to the theme song from the movie. With no transitional animations, moving to submenus is nice and fast and they all load quickly and without error.

The only real extra here is a really useful one, with three screens of background information on the two series and three seasons that the TV series this movie is a sequel to is about. Without that, a lot of this really doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense in a standalone way. Once you know that it’s connected to something else, even if it’s not really brought into play, it changes how you perceive it.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Time Stranger, released back in 2001 under a sublicense to another company, was released under the original name of GoShogun –the Time Etranger. That particular release was a Japanese language only version and must have done well enough to warrant a new dub being commissioned and the movie released again, but this time in bilingual format.

With its origins being in two series in the early 80’s, there’s the inherent problem of not really being sure of what’s going on unless you’ve actually seen those series. This gets tweaked out a bit here by providing a few pages worth of summary of the original series, which in its own way really does show that it’s not necessary to know the series to see the movie. It ends up allowing you to know that at one point that these characters did all get along and fought the good fight together.

The movie, taking place forty years later, still focuses on the same core cast of characters. For whatever reason, none have aged noticeably and are apparently even spryer than they were in their youth. What they lack, as we learn, is the camaraderie that they once shared together.

The movie opens with the central character of Remy, the spitfire kind of anime action woman that gained popularity during the 80’s. We initially see her and her friends coming across a city with no name on a desert planet and they apparently take up residence there. Now, years later, it’s a thriving and bustling megacity. Everyone has gone their separate ways, but we’re still following Remy. Something’s definitely wrong with her though, as we follow her racing through the city in her hover car as she confounds both the police and a group of criminals. It all looks like a simple chase sequence, but then Remy finds herself faltering and her vision fading.

This results in an accident that casts her into the hospital. It’s here that we learn that she’s something of a famous person, the only woman to refuse the Grand Award some time back. Her medical problems are substantial but they find that she has no insurance and nobody willing to take on the apparently high bills that will stem from saving her. Her arrival in the hospital and lack of insurance starts a series of events that brings her friends from the past back to her side in the present.

And it’s really at this point where the story really starts to unfold. Told in three distinct parts, we’re given a look at Remy’s life mixed together. The story in the present as her comrades return to her side tells the tale of how she’s really the heart in the group, which explains why they’ve all turned out the way that they are. Though they’re still decent people for the most part, they’re not the same kind of selfless ‘heroes’ they once were.

The second story takes place in Remy’s young days, when she finds out that her mother is a prostitute. Though it becomes a revelation to her, it’s something that several other children know and they tease and torment her about. During one incident, they offer to buy her dress from her. She starts by pulling her belt off but then wraps it around her wrist and proceeds to hit all three boys. These scenes are very telling due to the way her face is during it, where she’s so excited and thrilled at the prospect of doling out the violence that she can’t help but smile.

The third story is an action tale during the groups heyday, but one of their darker times. It seems that everyone in the group has received word that they’re going to die within the next few days in some gruesome way and that there’s no way to stop it. Naturally, with a group of go-getters and action heroes like this who have dealt with world destruction issues before, they don’t take the news of their imminent demise by sitting on their hands. The group moves into action in trying to solve and then forcefully resolve the issue.

The mixing of the three storylines helps elevate this otherwise simple tale above the average a bit since it gives things more heart and character to it. If they had focused just on the second storyline it would have played out much like a typical action flick with nothing else to hook you unless you had seen the original series. Without that background, there’s not enough time spent to really get you in tune with the leach characters and to get them on you side.

In Summary:
The look and feel of the show is definitely from its time but that’s not to say it’s bad. I like a lot of the look of 80’s character designs and this one is no exception. The movie manages to nicely weave the three storylines together and tell a good tale. The more engaging of the three is the second tale since it’s given more time to breathe, but letting the book end tales flesh out the characters and storyline helps in getting this closer to being a standalone feature than a follow-up to the series. Fans of 80’s material will like a number of things here, especially the ones that have become clichés.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Back Story

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: C+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: B-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Central Park Media
MSRP: 19.99
Running time: 90
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Time Stranger