Garaga Anime Review
ギャラガ (HYPER-PSYCHIC-GEO GARAGA)
US Release By
By the year 2755 interplanetary travel has become commonplace thanks to a sort of highway through subspace that spans the galaxy. The good ship XeBeC (no, that's not some kind of l33t slang), manned by a seasoned crew and an incompetent captain, sets off on a routine trip that, as with most cinematic voyages, is ill-fated. In the tradition of the Minnow, the XeBeC is sent off course and pops out of subspace in an apparently uninhabited solar system. The crew abandon the damaged ship to the surface of the planet Garaga along with two women who were in deep sleep among the cargo.
As it turns out, the planet is not entirely uninhabited: In addition to a number of large and unpleasant beasties, the planet is in the middle of a war between a race of human-looking but very powerful psychics and a race of ape-like men who are being aided by the human military. This works out well enough, since almost nobody on the ship is what they seem, either: Military operatives, mysterious (but dashing) young men, terrorists, people with a grudge, people who get killed in the first ten minutes of the movie, and the requisite funny but helpful robot.
Garaga is generally bad '80s sci-fi action adventure. Not entirely awful, but still generally bad.
There is some good old-fashioned sci-fi technology stuff--the pan-galactic tunnel created in 2200 by spinning three black holes around really fast, the months long sublight journey to get to the gateway to this tunnel, a jet-bike with exactly 1800 seconds of fuel--that kind of thing. And the plot itself, while not wildly original, isn't all that bad, either; it's full of ulterior motives and people who aren't what they first appear to be.
What drags Garaga down is that it's just made badly. The worst offense is the pacing: Even though the film is over an hour and a half long (millennia by anime standards), it seems hurried almost the entire time. And that is hurried, not to be confused with fast-paced. A lot of the plot developments come along abruptly, and most of the characters don't really have much backstory over what's absolutely necessary. Heck, I have absolutely no idea where the main villain came from, why he has a grudge against humanity (other than that's what all evil robot leaders do), or even where he got all his cool equipment. Add to the rushed plot a relatively large cast of characters, and you never have time to get acquainted with any of them. The end result is you don't much care what happens one way or another, and that's not a good thing.
Visually, Garaga isn't much to look at; the character designs aren't interesting and the color scheme has that garish old-style look where everything seems to have been painted with the colors found in a very small box of crayons. At least the animation isn't bad, and the action is reasonably good (and surprisingly gory). If you want a comparison, it's about the level of Gall Force, but not nearly as well done (which isn't saying much).
The Japanese acting is functional, but not worthy of any merit.
If you're a fan of campy sci-fi movies or old-fashioned, kinda cheesy anime, you might really like Garaga, but for most people, there isn't enough here to make it worth while.
Notes and Trivia
A feature length film, but not widescreen. Also, the film would probably have been more accurately named Galaga--the Japanese title was pronounced Gyaraga, which would imply "Galaxy" rather than "Gara," whatever that is. For the retro-gaming fans out there who were wondering, it has nothing to do with the ancient arcade game Galaga (to my knowledge), and some copyright issue with that title may actually be why USM translated it the way they did.