Tuesday, September 7, 2010

They Were 11

Juichi-nin iru!; Animated science-fiction, Japan, 1986; D: Satoshi Dezaki, Tsuneo Tominaga, S: Akira Kamiya, Michiko Kawai, Hideyuki Tanaka, Michiro Ikemizu

Tada is one of the rare lucky lads who have passed all the space exams and are now sent for their final test: 10 space cadets have to stay in an isolated space station, orbiting an uninhabited planet, for 53 days without any help. They can contact the space academy at any moment if they feel in danger, but that action will automatically disqualify them. Once on board, they discover there are actually - 11 of them. Tada, hermaphrodite Frol, King, Doricas, Ganga, Amazon, Knu, 'Thickhead', Dolph, Toto and Chaco all suspect each other as being a saboteur. As malfunctions appear, they start suspecting Tada is the troublemaker. As the rise of the temperature rouses the spread of a vine that releases a virus, they contact for help. It turns out 'Thickhead' was the saboteur, but he informs them they have passed the test. Frol turns into a girl and marries Tada.

An anime adaptation of Moto Hagio's manga with the same title, "They Were Eleven" is a science-fiction version of the thriller film "Das Experiment", playing with the notion of a group of a couple of people who have to stay closed in a tight, isolated space, slowly losing their minds and projecting their anxiety into the aggression on a scapegoat, though the sole film does not have that truly intense spark of 'kammerspiel' mood. Still, it's a good little cult film on its own merits, with an occasional poetic moment, like when Tada and hermaphrodite Frol are sitting on the "roof" of the space station, without any spacesuits, and just indulging in the stars in space above them, because a safe glass dome surrounds them. The story could have been stronger and more suspenseful, since it seems mild at times, except maybe in the segment where the temperature of the space station is slowly rising because it is approaching the hot blue star, yet directors Dezaki and Tominaga craft it competently, whereas the revelation of the identity of the 11th member is rather surprising.



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