I watched The Five Star Stories movie a few days ago. It was first described to me as “a work where characters are either strikingly beautiful or hideously ugly”. It took me years to see it, mainly because everyone and their mother claimed how incomplete and unsatisfactory it was, and because the original creator hated it, then You Should Feel Bad If You Like It.
Well, fuck those people.
I’m an anime fan, and prefer anime over manga by default. If this is good, and the manga is better, then great! I’ll check the manga at my own leisure. But I believe that the manga shouldn’t invalidate the enjoyment I derived out of watching the movie.
I came out of the hour-long movie very satisfied. I had read up on the FSS universe beforehand, so I had a cursory knowledge of how things worked, like Fatimas and Mortar Headds. The movie’s plot is rather straightforward anyway, and it worked for the most part. I imagine a less-involved viewer to have more questions, though.
If I were to sell this movie to others, it would be: “Reuental molests Reinhard, who is a trap.” Or “Coach molests Vegeta”. Really, the main draw for me was Ryo Horikawa and Norio Wakamoto, who both had great, atypical performances as Ladios Sopp and Voards Viewlard, respectively. It was hard for me to take that Horikawa could voice a girly man! Honestly speaking, I prefer that Wakamoto voice more Coach/Reuental roles that don’t require him to do that super-rumbly voice and instead focus on actual voice-acting. You don’t hear him like this often, because he’s too shoehorned into villain/batshit-insane roles nowadays.
Man, Ladios Sopp. The entire movie practically hinges on him. He’s this person of absolute, godlike power who eschews all that in order to be united with his beloved. At its core, FSS is a traditional love story with epic trappings. Sopp is a good guy whom I couldn’t help but root for, innocent and kind despite what his real identity would suggest. He could’ve taken Lachesis easily using his power and authority, but he did it the hard way. You’d almost forget that he’s royalty, until he’s forced to reveal his true splendor and might.
I really liked the atmosphere of the movie. While the animation isn’t really that jaw-dropping, the characters and backgrounds look beautiful. There’s a sense of scale with the world, and the Mortar Headds look and fight like mythical titans. It’s much closer to a fantasy story IN SPACE than proper science fiction. I mean, there are even lightsabers, which came as a huge shock because HEY INSTANT VIOLENCE!!
I wouldn’t really call this a mecha show, though. The mecha only figure in the final act, and the fight is short as it is. Despite the lack of intricate choreography, I found the fight scene extremely satisfying. Nothing solidifies Sopp’s absolute power more than his possession of the strongest Mortar Headd, clad in gold and powered with the Fatima he loves. It is a smiting of the most royal kind, and the destruction is awe-inspiring to behold.
One last thing: I really admire stories that have the balls to spoil themselves. At the end of the movie, the narrator explicitly states that Amaterasu and Fatima’s marriage ushers in a new age of warfare between the solar systems. This statement sets up expectations, and its brazenness is practically telling us, “it doesn’t matter if you know what’s going to happen in the future, we’ll still floor you with how it happens”. That’s an epic for you. I believe that too many stories rely on shock factor to hook people in. I prefer that people get hooked by solid writing and execution instead, which doesn’t lose appeal with age.
And neither does this, I guess!