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  Ladius Raiders of the Lost Robot
Year: 1987
Director: Hiroshi Negishi
Stars: Kazuo Yao, Yuko Mizutani, Chie Koujiro, Harumi Nakamura, Norio Wakamoto, Issei Futamata, Ken Yamaguchi, Kenyuu Horiuchi, Sho Hayami, Toshiya Ueda, Daiki Nakamura, Hiroyuki Shibamoto
Genre: Action, Animated, Science Fiction, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Rakish hero Riot Genus (voiced by Kazuo Yao) travels a post-apocalyptic fantasy world with his bubbly pink and blue haired super-powered twin girl sidekicks Spica (Chie Koujiro) and Seneca (Harumi Nakamura) in search of a mystical energy source called Lidorium. A power also sought by their rivals, the evil Dempsters. When a clue is discovered hidden in an artifact called the Eye of Zalem its owner, pretty tavern-keeper Yuta la Carradine (Yuko Mizutani), insists on accompanying Riot on his quest until he has sufficient funds to repair the bar he destroyed whilst saving her from the bad guys. Before long the adventurers discover Yuta is the last heir to the ancient Kingdom of Quall and holds the key to unlocking the power of Lidorium, setting the stage for a rip-roaring robot battle.

Set to a rockin' 80s bubblegum J-pop score, Ladius throws a lot of otaku-pleasing elements into its scant forty-eight minute run-time. You have some Indiana Jones style puzzle-solving and action, a hint of Dungeons & Dragons-esque fantasy interwoven with the vague post-apocalyptic setting, the well-worn anime trope of lone male surrounded by a harem of adoring young women, and of course the inevitable giant robot. That said the titular robot (Riot's secret weapon, hidden inside a humpbacked whale no less!) does not put in an appearance until the closing minutes.

Animated with a lush fluidity and eye for detail a throwaway straight-to-video title could only receive in the big boom Eighties, this has gorgeous background layouts, production and character design and dynamic action sequences (both hand-to-hand and giant robot combat) wedded to the very faintest wisp of a story. Hiroshi Negishi, who went on to make cult favourite K.O. Century Beast Warriors (1992) (which has a very similar plot), had a prolific if inconsistent career bouncing from darker fare (e.g. Roots Search (1986), Judge (1991), Bounty Dog (1994)) to lightweight fantasy fluff (Master of Mosquiton (1996), the sprawling Knights of Ramune saga (1990-97) and Amazing Nurse Nanako (1999)). Ladius falls firmly in the latter camp. While other anime such as the earlier Birth (1984) and later Ruin Explorers: Fam & Ihrlie (1995) are able to do interesting things with very similar ingredients, there really is not a whole lot to Ladius.

Nevertheless the film grabs your attention, maintains a fast pace and remains relatively involving if inconsequential. Riot emerges a likably fallible hero who more often than not bluffs his way out of trouble in the time-honoured Indiana Jones fashion. Elsewhere while Yuta, initially established as a feisty heroine, disappointingly reverts to screaming damsel, the story does at least cast the helium-voiced Spica and Seneca as more capable in a clinch. Aside from a halfhearted attempt at pathos, wherein we learn Riot wants to use Lidorium energy to revive his injured kid sister from suspended animation, characterization takes a backseat to breakneck action. On this count Ladius delivers, particularly towards the apocalyptic finale although the fade-out leaves so much unresolved the creators must have been aiming for a sequel. Needless to say, it didn't happen.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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