Review of GoShogun: The Time Étranger (1985)

Moving picture, 90 minutes

Seen in 2018.

Former giant-humanoid-vehicle pilot Remy Shimada, daughter of a short-lived prostitute, is supposed to be about 70. She doesn’t look it, but death is near.

A spin-off of a 1981 mecha TV show about a kid, where Remy was a side character. A peculiar production. It’s got the nonsensical violence of mecha action shows, but no mecha, except as miniatures in a museum. It’s got fairly pronounced anti-Islam imagery, with thousands of sinister-looking, turban-clad, all-male worshippers in a quasi-oriental desert city falling to their knees in prayer several times a day, facing a central temple rather than Mecca. These men are described as “inhuman”, acting like zombies, and are killed en masse with fetishized weaponry. Outside of those distasteful action sequences, the film tries to be fancy. The main body of the plot, apparently imagined by Remy on her deathbed, is spun out of an episode in her childhood when she hid in a pit, overwhelmed by a fear of death. This is done on several narrative levels, with dream-like qualities cheaply copied from Michelangelo Antonioni, Dario Argento et al.

Action aside, another trait preserved from the original is shōnen camaraderie. Watching the film I did not realize that several of the characters were originally Remy’s enemies, converted to her side.

I greatly appreciate the attempt to take children’s schlock somewhere below the level of Fang of the Sun Dougram (1981) and make a serious film out of it, violating genre conventions left and right. It doesn’t try to rescue the original TV show, and does not rely on viewer experience with it. Rather, the point seems to be to make a good movie with very little conventional wisdom involved, in a media locus where expectations would be extremely low. The strangeness of this attempt is worth the viewing. The characterization of Remy—in character design, animation and Koyama Mami’s acting—is good, but alas, there is not much other visceral pleasure in the experience.

References here: Time Stranger (1986), Cowboy Bebop: Knocking on Heaven’s Door (2001).

moving picture Japanese production animation fiction