Anime Movie Slaparound: They Were Eleven

It’s the triumphant return of the column where we, the Animetics crew, trade lowbrow thoughts on whatever’s currently on our minds! In this installment, we discuss a 1986 movie adaptation of a 1975 short short sci-fi/mystery manga, They Were Eleven, which we all recently watched.

TWE-1

Although, frankly, the fashion makes the decade fairly obvious

Drew: So, that was a decent movie. It was weird in parts and was far from perfect, but had a very solid sci-fi mystery at its core.

Sam: I liked it. It had some interesting ideas and I liked how the crises always felt interesting and fresh; the virus crisis was interesting as a plot device and the characters all went into new directions. A shame that the characters all had their relationships reset after the virus threat was gone.

Will: Yeah, decent. I liked it well enough, and am glad to have seen it, but its was just alright. I did a better job predicting things than I’ve ever done with a movie. I had fun with that. It just seemed to be lacking something, I’m not sure what though. Oh, and it was SO 80’s. Like incredibly so.

Drew: Too bad there are no fashion police in space. I think the core mystery was the most solid element, but the characters lacked snap for most of the movie. At least, prior to the epic food fight, when the writers started to have a little more fun. Before that, elements of characters seemed like they were just there to build the mystery, which was admittedly a pretty solid one. But there wasn’t much in the way of true red herrings or things there just to flesh out characters, except maybe the Frol subplot. Maybe I’m criticizing a movie too much for its conservation of detail.

Will: No, I agree. I’d like to add more, but that was pretty much what I was going to say. I don’t know, I would have liked to have seen it fleshed out more, but I don’t know if it would have worked well in the movie, because movies have a greater chance to fall apart the longer they go on. Maybe I should read the manga.

Sam: (TRANSITION!) We should probably touch upon the manga. The original manga was a two-chapter short story from 1975. It was a total of 120 pages long and was penned by Moto Hagio. I think one of the biggest problems with this movie is that it was a 90-minute adaptation of a short story that could be read in half that time. The movie used its time well, and there were no pacing issues, but it still felt a little bit emaciated in the form of details because the movie was designed to be a more involved/longer experience, and the longer an experience is, the more details we want.

Drew: And that’s why I’m a die-hard tv anime proponent. But 90 minutes seems only a little longer than what would be ideal, and they had that fancy-animated sequence at the beginning that had the ships launching that wasn’t in the manga, if I heard you right. I wouldn’t be surprised if this were something similar to Fire Tripper, a panel-for-panel manga adapatation. It works because manga is fundamentally cinematic, and the story was strong enough to carry it through. I guess the major test this one might fail is the “did it need to be an anime?” test, but it passes the “did it need to be a manga?” test. If that makes any sense.

Will: I think I see what you mean. It did a much better job of pacing than most anime movies I’ve seen, but I just can’t sit through movies for some reason, so I’m not a great judge. Maybe it could have been a little shorter, but I just thought I would get more character detail or something in 90 minutes. I don’t know. It felt lacking, and I think it’s partially that the setting never really felt established, like they tried to do it through characters, but didn’t really do enough, and they each just felt like a random collection of quirks from whatever planet or something they’re from. It lacked cohesion.

Drew: It might have been a problem with needing to be a mystery. I can see a sequence introducing the others taking the test as being a very effective short-time characterizer, but that drastically reduces the number of possibilities the viewer can think up. I think the grandmaster’s move would have been to put that food fight more like 20 minutes in rather than an hour in, then we have some non-dramatic character to go by. As opposed to how they behaved in the one specific suspense scenario they had. Yeah, I’m gonna go with mystery was solid, and characters had to be what they were for the mystery, but the characters were lacking.

TWE-2

All criticism aside, this scene was bananas

Sam: One way to test how good/bad a character is is to randomly insert them into another show and think about how they would react. For example, lets choose Kaiji’s rock paper scissors. Tada would just try and win fairly and might get duped, King would be proud but be willing to trick if the going got tough; basically, two very normal and obvious ways of reacting. they have little motivation, so they seem 2-dimensional, and taking them out of their original show and putting them in a situation that they werent written for makes you think of what they REALLY are without being blinded by the plot. I personally felt that the entire movie needed at least 1 or 2 scenes where two characters just talked and we got a little bit of development, because by the end, I realized that, of the 11 characters:

-about 3 had little to no relevance

-about 4 were situational, and contributed really only one or two things to the plot that they were specifically designed for

-about 4 had any lasting impact

For a 90 minute movie with only 11 characters, the fact that they could only get this points to some issues.

Will: I agree completely. I don’t think I have anything else to add, what you guys said pretty much sums up my feelings completely.

Drew: Yeah, I don’t think there’s a lot more to be said. It was a 90-minute movie that didn’t attempt to get at the deeper human emotions, so there’s only so much discussion to be had. Still, it was a solid sci-fi/mystery flick, and it’s on the threshold where I would recommend it to others if I knew they liked sci-fi beforehand. I’m giving it a 7/10.

Sam: I think it could have been better, but what’s there was solid and interesting, and it’s unique enough to be worth mentioning. 7/10.

Drew: Alright, thanks for reading. We’ll (maybe) be back later this month with another installment from a decade to be determined.

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