Roots Search

Roots Search
 Mike Toole  rates it:    

Here’s a one-shot OVA from 1986 that’s been swept under the rug. It quietly went out of print more than half a decade ago, and there’s never even been talk of a DVD release. This unfortunate fate happens to some titles. Sometimes it happens to really good stuff, like Area 88 or Unico. But usually it happens to crap, the kind of titles that garnered nothing but negative reviews and sold less than 100 copies. Roots Search would fall under that category; it’s an outlandishly stupid, ugly, rushed Frankenstein monster of other, better science fiction stories. It’s the kind of spectacularly incoherent piece of crap that actually used to be common fifteen years ago.

The Tolmeckius Research Center is a satellite orbiting the planet… uh… it’s… yeah, it’s orbiting a planet. This center is devoted to the study of ESP for some reason (one of the characters halfheartedly explains that the conditions on the planet they’re orbiting mysteriously make conditions better for studying ESP), and the only test subject is a pretty girl named Moira. The station’s staff consists of the leader, a scrawny mustachiod man named Marcus, a fat guy named Norman, and Kaneto Shiozawa as Scott. The reason I’m mentioning Shiozawa’s name is because he was in pretty much every single anime that was released between 1985 and 1989, and usually playing the same character– a handsome, troubled, brooding guy. It’s no different here. Anyway, the trio of researchers and their test subject get jolted out of their work by the arrival of a ship– a ship that comes careening out of hyperspace and smashes right into their satellite.

Roots Search!
Turns out that the crew is dead. Well, they’re not ALL dead, but most of them appear to have met some sort of crazed, gruesome end. The sole survivor is a guy named Buzz, but he’s wounded and incoherent. The ship’s cargo turns out to be a nice matte painting of a scary alien. Actually, it’s a REAL alien, but the only shots we ever get to see of the alien are still paintings– the thing never actually moves on camera. The crew realizes right away that something is dreadfully wrong, and tries to deal with the problem by putting the alien out into space. Too late though, because the alien is omnipotent, malevolent, and has already gotten into their heads. Soon he starts flexing his psychic muscles, attacking his prey in the form of flowing pink vapor stew. Just like in that Fishbone song!

Okay, so that sounds like standard sci-fi horror fare, right? Its premise isn’t so different from the 1997 flick Event Horizon, only there’s no batshit crazy Sam Neill to rescue Roots Search from total shittiness. Beyond that, Roots Search occasionally makes overtures towards ripping off superior science fiction stories like Solaris, but it just doesn’t seem to have the conviction to really follow through and try to achieve the creepy, thoughtful ambience of Stanislaw Lem’s groundbreaking story. It’s an ugly, tedious affair for its first 30 minutes, and then it takes a sharp left into COMEDY TOWN!

Roots Search!
This is the point in the story when everyone except for Buzz and Moira are dead, so naturally the two fall in love. A wacky, happy-go-lucky naked dream sequence starring the two suddenly occurs, culminating in a joyful-looking Buzz holding up a weird-looking baby. This is, of course, their baby of the future, because apparently Moira’s fabulous psychic powers are informing her that the two are destined to survive their encounter with Mysterious Alien X and become a family. It all winds up in the final level of Contra– no, I’m not shitting you, that’s exactly what it all looks like!– and then, just as suddenly as Roots Search started, it shudders to a stop. There’s no ending, no climax, no denoument– just a sudden fade to black and a credit roll.

What the fuck? Did they just run out of money or something? What is this bullshit?! So many fans consider the 80s to be anime’s golden age, but Roots Search is proof that there was plenty of incoherent crap coming out along with all of the Megazone 23s and Zeta Gundams. Roots Search is a colossal, awful waste of 45 minutes. If I ever manage to meet director Hiroshi Negishi (who has somehow managed to stay gainfully employed to this very day), I am totally shaking that bastard down for five bucks for making me watch that crap, after I finish asking him how the hell Roots Search got made. I’m sure there’s an interesting story behind how such an utter shitpile made it to completion. But much more than that, I’m sure that Roots Search sucks. Don’t you fucking dare watch it, you hear me?! DON’T.

Added:  Monday, July 04, 2005

Related Link:  U.S. Manga Corps.
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