Lensman (1984) by Yoshiaki Kawajiri and Kazuyuki Hirokawa

Based on the Lensman novels by EE Smith, “Lensman: Secret of the Lens” shares a very similar narrative to “Star Wars” (to the point that the books must have influenced Lukas when he was writing the screenplay), but it remains very Japanese in several ways.

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Kim Kinnison is living a peaceful life as a farmer with her father, when one day a runaway spaceship speeds towards their farm. To rescue him, Kim jumps aboard the ship and manages to land it safely before it crashes. Aboard the ship, he finds a critically injured lone survivor who, with his last words, begs Kim to take something of his to the Starfleet. He then transfers the object attached to his arm to Kim’s arm. The thing turns out to be a Lens, the instrument of a group of guardians of the galaxy called the Lensmen. While it should have been impossible for the original owner to transfer it to someone else, Kim now has one attached, essentially making him a Lensman.

In addition to giving Kim unknown powers, it also contains information vital to the Galactic Fleet’s victory over the evil Boskone Empire. Kim must now use the Britannia spaceship to bring the Lense to the Galactic Fleet. But this is no easy task when Lord Helmet of the Boskone Empire is willing to use everything in his power to stop him. Fortunately, Kim has several friends who eventually end up helping him. Bearded, almost human Van Buskirk, who also serves as a comedic character. Clarissa MacDougall, who serves as a romantic interest, scream queen, and as a nod to Japanese notions of sensualism, particularly the concept of “tentacles”. Worsel, another lens who is probably the coolest character of them all, being a flying alien green dragon, and finally, DJ Bill, an old punk who is definitely the most feisty.

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Clearly, the similarities to “Star Wars” are numerous, particularly in Kim’s background and how he became a photographer. However, as the film progresses, and particularly after Worsel’s appearance, the Japanese anime elements become at least as intended. The slapstick humor, the disco planet, the almost constant and fairly fast battles, the general absurdity of the story, and the fact that the protagonist receives his share of the punishment, all move in the same direction. Above all though, the presence of the villains, and in particular the massive Lord Helmuth, shows that this is actually an anime, with the complexity of its design and general behavior being one of the best aspects of the series, along with the presence of Worsel. .

At the same time, however, the film shows its age thoughtfully, with the battle scenes appearing totally nondescript at times, with the exception of the finale, while the main protagonist is as vanilla as possible, essentially leaving any sort of secondary attraction. characters. Considering that “Macross” and “Akira” came only a few years later, this impression becomes even more intense, highlighting the lack of quality in the technical department. The ‘disco planet’ concept compensates a bit, but definitely not quite.

As such, and despite a few positives here and there, “Lensman” emerges as a title currently only aimed at fans of retro anime.

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