Review written by John McGinn
In the not so distant future Venus has been colonized by settlers from Earth that has come to be controlled by two nations that are Ishtar and Aphordia. The two new independent nations are vying for control of Venus as tensions between the nations quickly spiral toward war Susan Sommers a carefree reporter from Earth who is arriving on Venus to report on the growing tensions between the two Venus nations. As war breaks out with Ishtar invading Aphordia’s capital with giant flying ships that drop huge advanced tanks into the city Susan encounters Hiro and the other members of the “Killer Commandos” who are a Venus bike racing team. The rag tag group is soon faced with the horrors of war, and is forced to make tough decisions as their homes and nation collapse around them.
I had originally first Watched Venus Wars back in the very early 1990’s when anime was truly gaining ground in America with such films as Vampire Hunter D, Akira, Ninja Scroll and Robot Carnival started airing in the US on the Sci-fi channel when it actually had true science fiction programming. I had originally loved the film, and I believe I would have given it five stars all those years ago. Besides shows like Robotech and Transformers that I grew up watching Venus Wars along with Vampire Hunter D and Ninja Scroll truly got me involved with Japanese Animation, so I do have the soft spot for Venus Wars, but after recently watching Venus Wars again after about eight years my views of Venus Wars have changed.
Venus Wars is based on a short run manga with the same name created and written by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, which I have never read, so I can’t compare the two, but the biggest issues with the film is the paper thin plot. It’s not that that the plot is bad, it’s just that there it is too familiar compared to many other anime films and films in general during the 1980’s, and there is no real or detailed back story to go along with the unoriginal concept. The prologue to the Venus Wars is about thirty seconds long and does nothing to explain how Ishtar and Aphordia came to be, and doesn’t answer other questions like what their relationship to Earth was or how Ishtar and Aphordia came to be independent. Nor does the film give any detail Ishtar or Aphordia besides they are at war for control of Venus. The lack of backstory for the human history on Venus is continued with the characters. Hiro the main character is from a rich family and he obviously has issues with his family, but yet he only really mentions them once with how the Aphordia government pays them to do basically nothing. The same can be said for the rest of the characters in Venus Wars. Still with that said the characters like Maggie, Susan, Will and Kurtz will keep you entertained and compelled by their flawed, but entertaining stories. I think the problem with the plot and characters rest on the head of Yoshikazu Yasuhiko who was both writer and director of the film. From seeing looking up his credits I think he was the wrong choice for both writer and director. I believe Triangle Staff who produced the film should have made different choices for writer and director of Venus Wars, but Yasuhiko could have compelled the animation company to bring him on as writer and director Venus Wars. If not he wouldn’t have allowed them to make a film about his comic. Whatever the reason I believe the choice of Yasuhiko to write and direct Venus Wars was the wrong one.
What works in Venus Wars, and keeps the film from being below average film is the animation, designs, action and music. While the animation is dated and even at the time of its release didn’t compare to other anime film the animation doe by Triangle Staff still works for the type of film Venus Wars is and the enviroment of the planet. The animation is was dark and dirty that perfectly fit the gritty and desolate landscape of Venus. The designs and detail of vehicles from the advanced military tanks to the tactical assault military motorcycles are cool looking, and extremely well drawn and animated. The actions is riveting from the Venus War’s brutal motorcycle races that is like a marriage between Nascar and Death Race that has so many convoluted rules, and is yet so compelling and exciting to the battles that are well planned out, beautifully drawn and animated. The action and animation is complimented by composer Joe Hisaishi score. Hisaishi who is a long time filming partner to the great Hayao Miyazaki delivers a compelling score that matches the environment of Venus as well as the tone. The combined animation, designs, action and music help to elevate the underdeveloped plot and characters tuning Venus Wars from a flawed below average film into a good action war film.
While Venus Wars isn’t as good as I first thought it was when I first watched the anime film over twenty years ago especially plot and character that is flawed, but does have a decent plot and characters that is saved by good well drawn designs and animations along with some spectacular action, and a beautiful score that keeps Venus Wars from being dragged down into mediocrity. If you are an anime fan, and miss the classic films from the 1980’s and early 1990’s check out Venus Wars you will be entertained if nothing else.
3.5 out of 5 stars