Reviews of Phoenix 2772 (1980) and related work

Phoenix 2772 (1980Moving picture, 122 minutes)

A boy raised by computers and by a transforming android is sent to capture the legendary Firebird, whose infinite energy might save the Earth in a distant future, where the only other alternative seems to be agitation of the planet’s molten core to produce more geothermal energy.

One of the science fiction variations on Tezuka Osamu’s Phoenix (Hi no tori or “Firebird”, not entirely to be confused with the phoenix), a widely varied series of comics he worked on until his death. This particular film is occasionally close to Disney, featuring some music/dance numbers and several goofy sidekicks. A rather empty showcase, particularly the first 10 minutes.

References here: Casshan: Robot Hunter (1993).

moving picture animation Japanese production fiction

“Firebird: Karma Chapter” (1986Moving picture, 60 minutes)

Around 750 CE, a woodcarver at a campfire describes his dream of depicting the Firebird. He speaks to a stranger in the wilderness of Yamato-era Japan: A lawless killer who stabs the woodcarver on impulse, never thinking they’ll meet again, changed by life, while the great Buddha of Toudaiji is born.

Pseudohistorical variation, directed by the great Rintaro. The casting of the real statue took two years and some 800 tonnes of charcoal for smelting the bronze and pouring it into an eight-stage mould that was built up in place around the figure. This film has much of the appeal of Buddhism—in the same light as The Life of Oharu (1952)—with great animation and very good music. Tezuka’s character designs are suitably softened.

References here: Tales from Earthsea (2006).

moving picture spin-off animation Japanese production fiction

“Firebird: Yamato Chapter” (1987Moving picture, 48 minutes)

A young man journeys alone into a strange land, finding the leader he’s been looking for, and love. Still, he carries out his murderous mission. History will remember him as Yamato Takeru, a prince of his people, a people that would go on to oust all others and become synonymous with the concept of “ethnic Japanese”. However, the young man’s fellow princes have no more need of him. He realizes he has thrown away happiness, and resolves to die. The Firebird has other plans.

Pseudohistorical, set a few hundred years before Firebird: Karma Chapter, probably in the 5th or 6th century. Same style as Rintaro’s treatments, but with a different director. Neat though shallow anti-ethnocentrism.

moving picture spin-off animation Japanese production fiction

“Firebird: Space Chapter” (1987Moving picture, 48 minutes)

Kawajiri Yoshiaki (storyboard artist).

A 500-LY cargo haul through space is interrupted when an asteroid hits a vital part of the ship in 2557. The only crew member who should have been awake is a desiccated corpse who’s typed into a nearby console, “I’ll be killed”.

Another science fiction variation and a comparatively heavy-handed morality play, not bothering to properly underpin Makimura’s rage. The character designs clash much more heavily.

moving picture spin-off animation Japanese production fiction