The Five Star Stories (Japan 1988)

Rating: **
Review Date: 11/29/08

Huh? This is a very strange and slightly homoerotic twist on the giant robot genre, with a tragic love story at its core. It's only a prelude to a much larger story, so if you're not familiar with the original manga, you're likely to be completely lost (like I was). Here's what I managed to gather: giant war machines known as Mortar Headds can only be piloted by Fatimas, which are artificial lifeforms that just happen to physically resemble teenage girls. Of course. What else would they look like? Two new Fatimas named Lachesis and Clotho are up for grabs on the galactic market, but their lack of emotional conditioning ends up making a mess of everything. Enter the dashing and reluctant young hero named Ladios Sopp (or is he?), who shows up to rescue Lachesis and live happily ever after with her. Or not. The film ends with an epilogue stating that their sad destiny is to plunge the galaxy into a thousand year war. Well, that certainly is a bummer.

Being twenty years old, the film has a nice retro feel to it and Noboteru Yuuki's character designs are bold and distinctive. The hardest thing to get your head around is the major gender bending of Sopp's character, who for all intents and purposes is a woman with a man's voice. And then by the end of the film I had no idea who he/she was supposed to be. The narrative is an equal mixture of science fiction, romance, and political intrigue, with almost no action at all. That said, it's also absurdly violent and bloody in parts. Apart from the striking character design, the most notable aspect of the film is its soundtrack, which is a big sweeping epic that sounds like it came out of the 1960s. It's a beautiful score, but sounds completely out of place in a space opera. Just like everything else in the movie, it's confusing and a little off balance. Overall, "The Five Star Stories" is not at all what I was expecting and didn't speak to any of my interests. Fortunately, its short 70 minute running time didn't make it feel like a huge waste of time.