Odin Anime Review
Oodiin - Koushi Hansen Sutaaraito
Odin - Photon Sailing Ship Starlight
US Release By
139 minutes / 96 minutes
In the year 2099, man sails through space in vessels that resemble futuristic sailing ships of years gone by. One of these laser-sailing ships, the Starlight, is prepared to embark on her maiden voyage; endowed with an impressive array of anti-gravity systems and futuristic gadgetry, she is the pinnacle of human technological achievement. Manned by a crew of elite young recruits and a handful of seasoned veteran officers, the Starlight sets out on her first routine voyage so her systems can be tested.
However, the voyage quickly becomes anything but routine when the Starlight receives an S.O.S. from a ship caught in a strange gravitational pull; arriving on the site, they find only wreckage and a single survivor -- a mysterious girl named Sarah. It quickly becomes evident that she has extensive knowledge of an alien civilization and of a place called Odin. Disregarding their captain's orders to return to Earth, the Starlight's crew stages a mutiny in order to continue on -- and possibly make the first recorded contact with aliens in humanity's history.
Above all else, this needs to be said: ODIN FEATURES MUSIC BY JAPANESE LEGENDS LOUDNESS! Unfortunately, you won't find "Wock N' Worr Cwazy Nights!" in the score, but still...
I also want to address the fact that I've seen blurbs and reviews for this movie which play up the fact that Odin was created by Yoshinobu Nishizaki, one of the minds behind "Star Blazers." While this is indeed true, you'd be extremely hard-pressed to compare this to Star Blazers, let alone anything in the Matsumoto universe.
That being said, "Odin: Space Sailor Starlight" is an excellent piece of space-opera adventure. The film's straightforward story proceeds nicely and is fully self-contained; virtually anyone can jump in and enjoy Odin. However, it should be noted that due to the abundance of characters who essentially share equal screen time, there is very little character elaboration. That being said, the movie is about the journey of the Starlight, and is not focused on any one of the crew, or Sarah, for that matter. Thus, don't expect deep characters, or you'll be disappointed.
The opening narration does an excellent job of laying a backdrop for viewers and introducing us to the concept of laser-sailing. That being said, there are times when the film tends to over-elaborate on technology and that's when Odin slows down. Considering the adventure-nature of the film, I would rather see more aspects of the journey than sit through anti-gravity tests and sail alignment. Thankfully, such occurrences are infrequent, so if you're not befuddled by occasional technical references, don't be deterred from watching.
I'm intentionally trying to be somewhat vague in my summary and review because the very suspense the movie creates is one of its most beneficial qualities. There is very little foreshadowing; coupled with plot twists, it makes for a very engrossing anime.
The animation is good considering it was done in 1985. My only real complaint is that most of the crew members are drawn generically and look the same, which can be confusing at times. The styles of mecha used in the film are pretty random; although the main laser-sailing ships look like traditional sailing vessels with futuristic hulls and masts, all kinds of smaller space vehicles are utilized that range from flying saucers to traditional sci-fi shuttlecraft.
That being said, the spacecraft designs aren't very conducive to fighting. There is some interstellar warfare in the movie, but for the most part, it's free of any ultra-cool futuristic weapons or sleek spaceship designs. If you need large-scale space warfare in your Anime, Odin will most likely fall short of satisfying your needs.
The English dubbing is done very well; while there are few standout performances, none of the acting is abysmal. The actors tend to express the relative ages of their characters well through the voices; the captain of the Starlight is particularly well done.
By far, the most prevalent theme in Odin is the emphasis on the naivete and courage required by explorers of all kinds in order to forge ahead as pioneers in new territory. This is reiterated throughout the film and summarized by the final speeches of headstrong crewmember Akira and the captain in the film. Some viewers may interpret that as being corny, but I personally feel that it adds a greater sense of substance and cohesion to the film.
There's one other very important point to consider. If you hate incomplete stories, DO NOT WATCH THIS FILM! Odin is a portrayal of the journey of the Starlight, not a portrayal of the ultimate fate of the Starlight or her crew. The film ends only with optimistic sentiment. I found it very annoying that so many loose ends were left without so much as the promise of a sequel.
The music is also very well done, and consists of symphonic pieces interspersed with Loudness songs. It's a bit reminiscent of "Transformers: The Movie," since preparation and voyage scenes are set to blaring rock music.
The film is extremely tame as far as Anime goes; there is no nudity (one close-call) and the language is pretty light on profanities. There are a few death scenes, but no accompanying gore.
I also want to note that if you've seen the edited version on the Sci-Fi channel, there's not much on the regular dubbed version to entice you to purchase it. Sci-Fi edited less than 4 minutes of footage, most of which was taken out to mask profanity or to shorten transition scenes. Also, I've heard the English-dubbed video called the "short version." I am unaware of a longer version, but it's possible that some variants exist as Japanese versions or on the DVD.
[Editor's Note: The subtitled VHS version and the older DVD's "director's cut" version are about 45 minutes longer than the dubbed version reviewed here (Sci-Fi Channel or otherwise).]
If you're fond of space opera/adventure/quest movies, Odin is probably a must-see for you. If you're not particularly fond of space opera/sci fi, I wouldn't recommend watching this; there are very few elements present that transcend the space opera genre. I've also found that "Odin: Space Sailor Starlight" gets old very quickly. After a few initial viewings, I never really watched it again, and I had no urges to. It's a fine story, but there are no paramount elements that prompt another viewing (other than Loudness, of course).
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Notes and Trivia
As noted in the review, there are two versions of the film: An "International" version (reviewed here) which is about 96 minutes long (and does, in fact, have a Japanese language track on the DVD versions) and was the original dubbed VHS release. And, a "Director's Cut" version, which is the full 139 minutes long; it was originally USM's subtitled VHS version, and was included as a separate version on their original DVD release.
Odin is an original story by Yoshinobu Nishizaki, best known as the co-creator (with Leiji Matsumoto) of the Space Battleship Yamato series.
US DVD Review
There are two significantly different DVD versions available:
USM's original (1999) DVD had an attractive cover with a painting of the Starlight (similar to the VHS version) and was titled "Odin Photon Sailer Space Starlight" (that's not a typo; it's "Sailer" not "Sailor" on the box). It features two entirely different versions of the film: The "international" version reviewed above, which runs about 96 minutes and has both an English dub and Japanese dialogue, with soft English subtitles. It also includes the full-length "Director's Cut," which is 139 minutes long, Japanese only, and has the same hardcoded subtitles as the VHS version (presumably it used the same master as the laserdisc version, so it may be higher quality than a straight VHS transfer). This version is listed as being 235 minutes long, on account of the two versions of the film. Interestingly, this version is also all-region, like a few other USM DVDs.
Then there is a much newer (2004) DVD, also from USM, titled "Odin: Starlight Mutiny"; it has a significantly uglier cover (it shows three of the characters with rather garish text). While it does feature both Japanese and English dialogue and soft English subtitles, and boasts of "digitally remastered" video and a history of Odin, it only includes the shorter version.
Violence: 2 - Serious but never graphic.
Nudity: 1 - Almost, but no.
Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - Some mature themes.
Language: 2 - Light profanity.
Formerly available in North America from US Manga Corps on Bilingual DVD as "Odin: Starlight Mutiny." There was previously a bilingual DVD titled "Odin: Photon Space Sailer Starlight" that included the (subtitled only) longer Director's Cut version in addition to the edited one. Prior to that, the shorter version was available on dubbed VHS, and the longer version on subtitled VHS. There was also a subtitled (only) 2-disc LD set of the longer version.
While all are out of print, both DVD versions are easy enough to find, though the newer, inferior release is drastically cheaper for obvious reasons: Odin - Starlight Mutiny vs Odin - Photon Space Sailer Starlight