We start in THE FUTURE! where Earth and other nobody planets have been at peace for over a hundred years. Between them, they developed something called a “Cosmo Academy” which is a jack of all trades school that one needs to be a jack of all trades to get into so that they can come out specializing in one trade. There is also some prestige with being accepted into it, which itself is a motivator for some. Everyone’s dreams and hopes rest on getting in there! Every one of the main cast, anyway. We follow our protagonist Tadatos “Tada” Lane as he is tested, spacesuited, and flown to a derelict vessel. He and the other academy applicants board the new ship, and only upon arriving do they realize that there are 11 of them (the others being named Frolbericheri Frol, King Mayan Baceska, Amazon Carnais, Dolph “Rednose” Tasta, Glenn “Thickhead” Groff, Vidmenir “Knu” Knume, Ganigas “Ganga” Gagtos, Doricas Soldam IV, Toto, and Chako Kacka) when in fact there are supposed to be 10. We learn where each is from, and gradually why most of them claim they want to be there.
They have a pretty red box that contains a means of signaling that they have quit their mission, which is to sit on the ship for 53 days. Sounds easy enough- have a bunch of people who I think are supposed to be young enough that their High School diploma hadn’t arrived in the mail yet and who never did anything like this before babysit a derelict starship- except the ship randomly explodes in certain spots when they board, courtesy of some bombs. They suspect the 11th person of doing this. We spend the film waiting for them to figure out who this 11th man is as various complications from sabotage and the explosion plague them. Will they solve the mystery of the 11th person? Will they save themselves from certain death? Or will they wuss out and call for help, thus ending their chances of entering the Academy?
Plot and Setting Notes
This was based on a manga from the mid-1970s, and itself was produced in 1986. The release I watched was in Japanese, with English subtitles.
To me, it seemed that instead of focusing entirely on who the mysterious extra person is, we see a lot more of this boatload of children cooperating to get through various emergencies. This was an appreciated twist given that I was expecting just another ‘who is the mysterious extra person’ plot, but in the end, we still ended up with a mixture of “Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up” and “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street”.
The primary setting is what appears to be the USS Cygnus from Disney’s “The Black Hole” (and the space suits look like Maximillian), the interior for certain is similar, while the exterior looks kind of like the Cygnus’ bow. The bulk of the film takes place on the ship. The abandoned nature of the ship and its derelictness also recall the first part of “The Black Hole” when they find the Cygnus floating near the titular celestial phenomenon.
Harshing The Buzz
Every last one of the characters just fell off the turnip truck. They were born yesterday. Their wheels are turning but the hamsters are dead. Even the folks running the Academy. I thought at first the problem was just these space cadets (earning the most derogatory use of that term) but as near as I can tell, based on how one of these nitwits is the king of his home planet, based on how these people are supposed to be the best of the best and based on the academy staff, everyone in this universe was dropped on their head as an infant. Maybe this is from that future with the United States Handicapper General.
The Academy ought to be sued into oblivion for its negligence, both what it admits to and for other matters. I can’t get into this without spoiling too many things, and these reviews aren’t supposed to spoil, but suffice it to say there had better be no lawyers in whatever century this is supposed to be otherwise this great collective work between all the planets will be dissolved and war will come. As I think about it
more, I think this Cosmo Academy was supposed to be like Nimbus III where the three warring Alpha Quadrant powers- Romulans, Klingons, and Federation- conned people into settling on the planet as a great peaceful work between the governments. Except the settlers they were getting were the dregs of the galaxy and the governments only sent their worst folks to manage it. Maybe Shatner saw this movie before writing the script to Star Trek V.
Nitpicking And Pre-Feminism Plotting
I mentioned that part of the plot involved the quest for an 11th man. I use “man” grudgingly. Half look masculine, half look girly. The sort of girly men I’d like to see casually, not the sort I’d like to see tag-teaming with the Dudley Boys. Let’s face it- if you whack Bubba Ray or Devon with a chair, they’ll put you through a table. If you whack one of these guys with a chair, their spine will snap like a Cheeto. This should make it quite understandable when they have trouble identifying one of their number as a female during much of the film, but they also immediately identify her as she when we first see her (and then forget I guess), so needless to say it’s a bit inconsistent. And one of the alleged males is voiced by a girl, which I learned from Mega Man 8 and Mega Man X4 never works. So we have 10 males and one not quite, the males are surprised a girl would even be with them, one male is voiced by a girl, some of the rest are doing their best to look like girls, and they’re stuck together for 53 days with no one else around for lightyears (and nothing much to occupy their time). Who wants to bet there’s slash fiction out there from all this?
Yes, this art style criticism is going somewhere other than pointing out the inconsistency in the story vis-à-vis gender identification for one of the characters. Every character here is sexist. This is surprising to me given the above description of them. I’m wondering if there is some deeper meaning here, but since this is based on something printed in the mid-1970s maybe not. Despite the Bionic Woman using her mechanical right arm to punch through the glass ceiling, sexism was quite rampant. Is there a deeper meaning behind sexist male characters that desire to physically look like women? Is this a sign of the psychological state of the artist who designed these characters? Or is this some subtle commentary on there not being much difference between male and female? Too many questions, so I’ll shoot down that last one- it’s a “no” based on several events in the movie and little details. I’ll invite you to invent your own meaning in the comments. We’ve already hit a depth the movie itself never reached.
What I thought hilarious was, spoiler alert, at the end we learn that despite all that happens this troupe of Lord Of The Flies performers that wavered between rock-stupid and angry-mob-chasing-Frankenstein is revealed to be the BEST group out of
those trying to enter the Cosmo Academy. Out of a bunch of planets and many tests, THIS is the best they can come up with? Did all the other groups resort to cannibalism and sacrificing babies to Moloch? For those of you terrified Trump will start a nuclear war, if the future looks like this I’d suggest you help us put him back in office. If only Hillary had won, we’d have shot down Russian aircraft just as she promised and this whole future would’ve been averted by World War III by now. Damn the bad luck.
Even though I’ve been critical, I can safely say that despite plot holes, stupidity, class action lawsuits, and some things that are pivotal to the plot but never given an explanation, I still had an easier time with this than the new Star Wars movie. And I LIKE Star Wars. Big shot Hollywood scriptwriters with a 40-year-old blockbuster franchise screw up royally, while this film based on a 10-year-old comic with a more limited budget and staff did okayish in comparison. So take that for the backhanded compliment that it is, shut your brain off, save $10 by not buying a Star Wars ticket, and go along with what happens to these made-to-order-BL characters.