Crusher Joe Anime Review
US Release By
The galaxy in the year 2161 is a strange and dangerous place. With the hazards of space travel, there are some problems so difficult not even the United Space Force (USF) can be relied on to handle them. Fortunately, there is another option: hiring a squad of "Crushers" to get the job done. Highly skilled space privateers, the Crushers will take on any job, big or small, as long as the price is right. And when clients seek out the best of the best for the most difficult assignments, there is no one more suited for the job than Crusher Joe. Aided by his companions, Alfin, Talos, and Ricky, Joe has developed a reputation for taking on the toughest and most dangerous assignments and always emerging successful.
This time Crusher Joe may have finally met his match. During a routine assignment to deliver a cryogenically frozen heiress of a prominent space corporation to the planet Miccola for medical treatment, Joe's cargo, passengers, and shipping manifest mysteriously vanish during a hyperspace jump, eliminating all evidence of their mission. To make matters worse, Joe and his crew are subsequently arrested by the USF, accused of piracy, and have their crusher licenses suspended. It seems that Crusher Joe has suffered a Crushing defeat! But Joe isn't about to accept failure. Determined to discover what happend on their ill-fated mission, Joe and his companions pursue their only lead in the case to the planet Lagol, a place with a reputation as one of the most lawless and crime infested areas in the galaxy, to clear their names. But in order to so, they'll have to take on the notorious "Big Murphy" and his gang of intergalactic space pirates, while also dealing with the police, the military, bounty hunters, jungle monsters, and other hazards, ensuring this assignment will be Joe's toughest job yet.
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If campy 1980s space action is what you're looking for, you can't do much better than Crusher Joe. There isn't much in the way of character depth and development, and many of the key plot points have been done before, but it offers some of the best and most intense action scenes you'll ever find in an anime. It's got everything--gun fights, vehicle fights, space fighter duels, space armada battles, or some combination of them all, backed up by superb animation, particularly considering its age. And while the primary focus of the film is action, it still includes an entertaining and unpredictable plot that's more than an excuse for the Crushers to shoot things, and the characters are likable and interesting. The closest thing to a weak point in the whole thing is that the cast is archetypal and short on backstory.
Crusher Joe succeeds at what it set out to be: a thrilling, fast paced, and entertaining space action film. The concept of the movie certainly isn't groundbreaking by any means, but Crusher Joe stands out as one of the best of its kind.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
If campy 1980s space action is what you are looking for, you can't do much better than Crusher Joe. There isn't much in the way of character depth and development, and many of the key plot points have been done before, but it offers some of the best and most intense action scenes you'll ever find in an anime, supplemented by superb animation and an epic story.
At 125 minutes long, this movie has time to include just about every type of fight and battle scene imaginable, which is precisely what it does. If you're a fan of gun fights, vehicle fights, space fighter duels, space armada battles, or some combination of them all, then this movie is the one for you. And while the primary focus of the film is action, it still includes a fairly good plot and interesting characters.
The action scenes in Crusher Joe are competitive, intense, fast paced, and often rapidly transition from one type of fight to the next, which keeps the pace of the film moving along quite nicely. One moment Joe and his crew will be battling enemy space fighters, the next they'll be on the ground shooting it out with small arms and armed vehicles. The battles take place in a huge array of different environments--land, air, and space--keeping them from getting tedious or repetitive. Some the more notable ones include a drunken brawl in a spaceport disco club, a duel in the jungle with mercenaries equipped with jet packs and rifles, and of course a massive shootout through Big Murphy's pirate lair. The pace really picks up in the second half of the movie, and near the end the film almost feels like one long action scene with a few brief interruptions.
You might think the only way to pull that off would be to neglect the plot, but this is not the case; the story is surprisingly good. There are quite a few interesting plot twists, and the story never feels like an excuse for the Crushers to shoot things. While the main focus of the movie is the simple "good guys vs. bad guys" theme (the Crushers vs. the Pirates), there are many other factions involved, including the police, the military, and the government, each with their own agendas, keeping the story entertaining and unpredictable all the way to the end.
Another notable thing about the Crushers is their ship, the Minerva. It's about as cool as any anime space drama vessel I've ever seen, perhaps even the overall best. It's got a highly detailed bridge and numerous cargo and passenger compartments (we get treated to many good interior and exterior shots of almost every part of the ship in the film), as well as awesome array of weaponry for both space and ground targets. In addition, it also holds an arsenal of small arms, two space fighters, and an armored personel carrier. Overall I'd say the ship was good enough to be considered a "co-star" to the cast, but once again the series writers skillfully avoided making it appear so good as to be invincible. It takes a severe beating on many occasions and never once did I get the impression that it made the team unstoppable. It's another excellent example of how the show gives the team the best, most stylish equipment without crossing the absurdity line.
The characters are fairly one-dimensional and lack depth, but are still pretty likable. Joe is basically the typical dashing space captain hero, which is apparent roughly 5 minutes into the movie. However, he does have a somewhat unconventional and flamboyant charm that reminded me of Lupin the 3rd. Talos, who reminded me of Jigen from Lupin the 3rd at times, is notable in that he is a 53-year old among a crew of teenagers whose job consists of more than just keeping Joe out of trouble (though he does this quite often) or sacrificing himself heroically for the good of the team. In fact, despite his age and grizzled veteran demeanor, he still feels like "one of the gang" and shares some of their impulsive and reckless traits. Alfin is a pretty standard anime "action girl." And Ricky is... well, an annoying kid. I wish there was more to him than that, but in reality, that's about the nicest description I can think of.
One aspect about them I found disappointing was a lack of backstory. We don't find out much about them past a few brief scenes during the opening credits giving their names, ages, and occupations (which hardly seem relevant since all of them basically do the same thing during the movie: fly ships, drive vehicles, and shoot things). That opening scene points out that Alfin is the princess of her home planet, but this has no bearing on the story at all. Eventually we learn that Joe's father was a founding member of the Crushers' union and Talos had originally worked for him, but that's about it. Some better character introductions and more development would have been nice.
The animation looks slightly dated by today's standards, but is exceptionally well done for a movie that was released in 1983. I've seen movies made over a decade later that don't look this good. The ships, weapons, and vehicles are all highly detailed, and the character models are impressive. As one would expect of a space opera, Crusher Joe features a wide array of different locations, from jungles to star bases, and all of them are superbly drawn.
The film also benefits from a good soundtrack, scored by Norio Maeda. While it doesn't have a particularly memorable theme song, the sound effects and music are definitely worthy of a great space opera.
Overall, Crusher Joe succeeds at what it set out to be: a thrilling, fast paced, and entertaining space action film. The concept of the movie certainly isn't groundbreaking, but Crusher Joe stands out as one of the best of its kind.
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There are similarities with The Dirty Pair franchise (not surprising given they were created by the same person), particularly in the Pair's more heroic exploits, although they call them Dirty for a reason--there's a lot more cheese, sleaze, and wanton mayhem. The mostly-forgotten Space Adventure Cobra is quite similar in terms of old-school space opera, though it has a much higher quotient of epic cheese and even harder-core '80s flair.
Notes and Trivia
Based on a series of novels by Haruka Takachiho, who also created the popular "Dirty Pair" series. Midway through the movie, Takachiho's Dirty Pair characters make a cameo appearance in a big screen movie watched by Crusher Joe and his companions.
This film won the Animage Anime Grand Prix prize in 1983.
It was one of the earliest theatrical movies produced by legendary animation studio Sunrise, and the first that didn't involve any giant robots.
As always, AnimEigo has their liner notes available online; in this case you can read a relatively detailed interview with the creator about how the concept got from his head to the big screen.
US DVD Review
The Movie is available as a two disc set released by AnimEigo, containing the film and two Crusher Joe OAVs released several years after the movie. While the dvd itself doesn't have a lot of special features, the fact that it was available with the Crusher Joe OAVs at a fairly low price made this set an excellent deal. AnimEigo's trademark liner notes feature an interview with the creator and song lyrics.
Rates about in the 13-up range on account of sci-fi violence.
Violence: 2 - A lot of death, but not much blood or gore.
Nudity: 1 - A brief bit at the beginning and a few mildly revealing outfits.
Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - Joe and Alfin are romantically involved, but don't do anything other than kissing.
Language: 0 - Clean.
Was available in the US from AnimEigo on bilingual DVD, as part of a 2-disc set that also included the OVAs. Sadly, their licence has expired so it is permanently out of print now. The movie, only, was also available on dubbed and subtitled VHS.
At last check copies of the DVD were ridiculously expensive on Amazon: Crusher Joe DVD.