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  Lensman A long time ago in a galaxy very, very familiar
Year: 1986
Director: Kazuyuki Hirokawa, Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Stars: Kerrigan Mahan, Michael McConnohie, Edie Mirman, Tom Wyner, Steve Kramer
Genre: Animated, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Superficially based on the amazing pulp sci-fi novels by E. E. “Doc” Smith, the anime version of Lensman draws more upon another, landmark space opera. You know, that one set a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away?

In the year 2742 A.D. members of the Galactic Patrol are locked in a space dogfight with the evil Boskone Empire. The spaceship Britannia crash lands on the peaceful planet M’queie, where a dying lensman passes his techno-mystic gizmo onto simple, farm boy Kim Kinnison. Kim’s dad, a former patrolman, and comic relief robot Sol sacrifice their lives to get the boy off M’queie before Boskonians blow the planet to kingdom come. Safe aboard a junky ship captained by family friend Buskirk - half Viking, half buffalo - Kim mournfully watches spaceships passing by while mid-’80s J-rock soars along the soundtrack. The kind that makes you want to fluff your mullet, throw a Judd Nelson-style power salute and shed a manly tear. After picking up Nurse Clarissa “Chris” MacDougall, the gang make a pit stop on a nearby planet where they’re attacked by fluffy, pink tentacle-thingies. Rescued by ultra-cool, dragon lensman Wurzel, Kim and co. escape giant, drug-snorting, snail warlords before they’re forced to abandon ship. On planet Radelix, Kim befriends irritating, midget DJ Wild Bill and kick-starts a revolution from the local disco. Finally mastering the power of the lens, Kim re-teams with Wurzel for a high-flying, cosmic showdown with the all-powerful, planet-sized, Boskone Emperor.

This colourful relic from the Eighties anime boom makes early use of computer graphics. Once state of the art, now quaint CG scenes including psychedelic hyperspace leaps and the globulous, transparent Emperor retain a certain eye-popping charm. Making his directorial debut alongside veteran Kazuyuki Hirokawa, future anime auteur Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Wicked City (1987), Ninja Scroll (1993)) maintains a furious pace with plenty of duelling, mile-long spaceships, eccentric aliens (the Boskonians fuse Hanna-Barbera with H.R. Geiger, while the opium-addled snail monsters are memorably icky), and bursts of hyperkinetic action to dazzle any sci-fi mad eight year old. Aside from a few stray cuss words (symptomatic of English dubs at the time), it’s a fine introduction to anime for kids. However, as an adaptation of “Doc” Smith’s marvellous novels, Lensman severely short-changes fans, trading the author’s pulp thrills and mind-blowing concepts for lazy, Star Wars rip-offs (cute robots, Chris’ Princess Leia hairdo, Kim rewritten as a naïve farm boy who dreams of being a pilot).

Chris, a striking heroine in the novels and wielder of her own all-powerful lens, is transformed into simpering scream queen, while pint-sized, obnoxious Wild Bill may drive you to violence. But Buskirk (rewritten from the novel’s Dutchman into a hulking half-buffalo prone to head-butting as a sign of affection) proves fun and high-flying dragon Wurzel is a stylish design, beautifully animated, stealing every scene. One of the earliest anime given a British video release, Lensman has enough going for it to provide a nostalgic night in.
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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