DNA Sights 999.9
Mike Toole rates it:
I grew up watching and loving the works of Leiji Matsumoto. From the faithfully-adapted Star Blazers (originally Space Battleship Yamato) to the quirkily-handled Danguard Ace and Starzinger (part of a 5-series block called Force Five) to the outright butchery of Captain Harlock and the Queen of a Thousand Years (originally Space Pirate Captain Harlock and Queen Millennia, two separate series), the man’s work never failed to enrapture me. As such, I view much of his work through rose-colored glasses; he’d have to turn in some pretty poor work to really disappoint me.
I wouldn’t call DNA Sights 999.9 a complete disappointment, but it’s not exactly a success, either. Like much of his works, it’s set in an indeterminate future time. Matsumoto loves disasters, and this time, the earth suffers from the impact of a huge meteor. In the wake of the destruction, a group called the Trader Force sets up a virtual dictatorship on earth.
On a distant world, a young woman (who strongly resembles all Matsumoto women– willowy, with impossibly long blonde hair) is charged with going to earth to help the planet resolve its crisis. Startlingly, she leaps up and soars off into space, unaided. Back on earth, we join a young man (who resembles all Matsumoto young men– scrawny and constantly glowering) named Tetsuro Daiba. He lost his home and his mother to the meteor (and thusly has Mommy Issues, another Matsumoto staple), but he makes ends meet by running errands for Dr. Shimaoka and his assistant, Moriki. Daiba is understandably bitter, but seems resigned to helping the good-natured doctor rebuild the neighborhood. Then he meets the girl from space.
Her name’s Mello; she descends as if riding a meteor, and she only appears to him fleetingly. The Trader Force quickly arrives to investigate, and takes Daiba into custody. But he escapes, and discovers that, to his surprise, he somehow “remembers” how to fly the Trader Force fighter that he steals. The assistance of a strong-willed girl named Rei Yuki aids in his escape, and then he goes underground with none other than the good doctor, who turns out to be a professor in charge of an organization that seeks nothing less than the liberation of earth.
There’s a lot more where that came from– in a nutshell, DNA Sights 999.9‘s story revolves around the concept of genetic memory, but it all comes off as a bit confused (another Matsumoto staple). The villain of the story is, of course, the head of the Trader Force– named Fouton, she herself is an alien, and seems to know quite a bit about Mello and her mission to earth. Mello tells a disbelieving Daiba and Yuki that they’re humandkind’s next step in evolution, and must leave for the stars to save earth (hey, another Matsumoto staple!)– but will they be able to escape Fouton and the Trader Force in time?
Technically, there’s a lot to love about this show– like I pointed out in my review of Queen Emeraldas, current animation style and quality is very kind to Matsumoto’s character and mechanical design. Visually, DNA Sights 999.9 looks great, with Madhouse turning in their typically awesome animation. I didn’t have the opportunity to review the dub, but the subbed version is satisfyingly entertaining, with Megumi Ogata (Shinji in Evangelion, Haruka/Uranus in Sailor Moon) pulling off her typical pissed-off boy routine as Daiba. Also of note is the ubiquitous Megumi Hayashibara as Mee the cat (hey, another Matsumoto staple!) and Koichi Yamadera as Captain Harlock– he seems to have pretty much inherited the role from original Harlock Makio Inoue.
If you’re a fan of Matsumoto, you’ll notice a lot of things in DNA Sights 999.9 that seem to be lifted right out of his other works. Indeed, the main character is named Tetsuro Daiba, and that itself is a fusion of names of Matsumoto’s other young, surly heroes– namely Galaxy Express 999‘s Tetsuro Hoshino and Captain Harlock‘s Tadashi Daiba. That, taken along with stuff like the entire character of Mello (she strongly echoes all of Matsumoto’s other heroines, particuarly Yamato/Star Blazers‘ Starsha), the cartoonishly sinister Fouton (who looks almost exactly like Maetel’s android mother in GE999), and the friendly, intelligent cat, makes DNA Sights 999.9 seem as though it’s little more than a pastiche of Matsumoto’s great works. Honestly, I got the impression that whoever bankrolled this project just got the idea that if they took all of the usual Matsumoto ingredients and mashed them together, they’d have a good story. I have no doubt that DNA Sights 999.9 was popular in Japan (there seems to be a huge Matsumoto revival going on, with new Emeraldas OVAs, new GE999 movies, and a new Harlock OVA series), but that still doesn’t make for a story that’s compelling or even interesting. Urban Vision have commented that DNA Sights 999.9 was an expensive license and that it wasn’t successful for them, and after watching it, I can’t say that I’m surprised.
In short, DNA Sights 999.9 just seemed forced and confused to me– the only truly satisfying moment was Harlock’s fleeting appearance at the end, when he arrived (as usual) to act as a spoiler on behalf of Daiba and company. The show’s closing shot, with the Space Battleship Yamato itself inexplicably appearing to cruise alongside Harlock’s Arcadia, makes no sense, but is still lyrical in its own way– and that’s about how the entire DNA Sights 999.9 video felt to me.
Added: Friday, October 10, 2003
Related Link: Urban Vision