Newest Reviews
Old Guard, The
Disappearance at Clifton Hill
Sullivans, The
Love in the Afternoon
Black Water: Abyss
Wild Blue Yonder, The
All Hail the Popcorn King
Muriel, or the Time of Return
Great Locomotive Chase, The
American Anthem
Lion and the Horse, The
War of the Wizards
Doctor Faustus
Spite Marriage
Mask, The
Letter to Jane
Quick Millions
Dream Demon
Max Havelaar
Glastonbury Fayre
All Dogs Go to Heaven
Shoot Out
Da 5 Bloods
Kung Fu Monster
Secret Agent Super Dragon
Saint Frances
Boiling Point
Golden Stallion, The
Dragon Force
Anthropocene: The Human Epoch
Luck of Ginger Coffey, The
Junkers Come Here
Newest Articles
Divine Madness: Female Trouble on Blu-ray
Country Matters: Further Out of Town on Blu-ray
Bat-Damn: Was Joel Schumacher's Batman Really That Bad?
The Beat Goes On: Takeshi Kitano Collection on Blu-ray
Dream Treats: Scorsese Shorts on Blu-ray
It's Only Money: Laughter in Paradise on Blu-ray
A Regular Terpsichore: Dance, Girl, Dance on Blu-ray
Teenage Trauma: Baby Love on Blu-ray
The Happening: Pet Shop Boys It Couldn't Happen Here on Blu-ray
Who Watched The Watchmen?
The Golden Age of Colonic Irrigation: Monty Python Series 4 on Blu-ray
Lady of Pleasure: Lola Montes on Blu-ray
Take You to the Gay Bar: Funeral Parade of Roses on Blu-ray
Hit for Ms: Mark Cousins' Women Make Film on Blu-ray
Look Sinister: The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse on Blu-ray
Star Wars Triple Threat: The Tricky Third Prequel and Sequel
I Can See for Miles: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes on Blu-ray
Too Much Pressure: The Family Way on Blu-ray
The Alan Key: Alan Klein and What a Crazy World on Blu-ray
A Japanese Ghost Story: Kwaidan on Blu-ray
The Zu Gang: Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain on Blu-ray
Reality TV: The Year of the Sex Olympics on DVD
The Young and the Damned: They Live By Night on Blu-ray
Mind How You Go: The Best of COI on Blu-ray
Der Kommissar's in Town: Babylon Berlin Series 3 on DVD
  They Were Eleven Lost in space
Year: 1986
Director: Satoshi Dezaki, Tsuneo Tominaga
Stars: Akira Kamiya, Michiko Kawai, Hideyuki Tanaka, Hirotaka Suzuoki, Kozo Shioya, Michihiro Ikemizu, Norio Wakamoto, Tessho Genda, Toshio Furakawa, TARAKO, Tsutomu Kashiwakura
Genre: Thriller, Animated, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: Teenage psychic Tada Lane (voiced by Akira Kamiya) is among ten cadets from the Cosmo Academy sent into outer space for their end-of-course test. Their assignment: to take command of an old spaceship and survive fifty-three days without outside help. Should the going get tough any one of them has the option to give up and push the emergency button, but if they do so all cadets automatically fail. However, the cadets are immediately unnerved to discover there are eleven people on board. One of them is an imposter and while they don’t know who, neither can they contact the academy to find out if this is part of the test or whether there is a saboteur in their midst. No-nonsense, blue-haired bishonen King Mayan (Hideyuki Tanaka) takes charge as the cadets identify themselves. Aside from the revelation that cadet Knu (Norio Wakamoto) is a green-gilled alien, the biggest shock for the all-male crew is that Frol (Michiko Kawai) is - gasp! - a sexy blonde babe though she claims to detest girls and doesn’t want to be treated as one. Tensions flair as the mission grows increasingly perilous and fingers of suspicion are pointed at the hapless Tada.

An intelligent, suspenseful space thriller rather than the sort of slam-bang action epic most casual viewers expect from anime, They Were Eleven was adapted from the fine manga by groundbreaking writer-artist Moto Hagio. Hagio was one of the so-called Show 24 group, a name bestowed upon a generation of female manga creators who collectively redefined the form with a distinctively baroque art style that visualised the psychological worlds of their characters and emphasised existential themes. Many of these women were drawn to the horror and science fiction genres to which they brought a refreshingly humane perspective whilst delivering the kind of thrills and chills young male readers would expect from a boys’ manga.

With its character-driven approach, They Were Eleven evokes the cerebral Russian science fiction of the Soviet era, e.g. Test Pilot Pirx (1978) or To the Stars by Hard Ways (1981), but also prefigures more visceral anime with similar strangers-trapped-in-a-strange-situation conceit such as the remarkable King of Thorn (2009). Gripping, thought-provoking yet agreeably fast-paced, the film is also quintessentially Japanese in its preoccupation with dissecting a fraught social milieu with an emphasis on the need for cooperation and harmony. In classic mystery fashion, every character has a secret to hide but the plot repeatedly stresses the only way these mismatched misfits can get through the experience is by learning how to trust each other. Sparks fly between the placid but kindly Tada and the feisty Frol in a refreshing reversal of traditional gender roles as Hagio ensure the most outspoken and assertive character aboard the ship is a woman.

However, in keeping with shojo (girls) manga’s preoccupation with homoerotic themes, a neat twist reveals Frol hails from a planet whose inhabitants are gender neutral until they reach maturity. By passing the test, Frol hopes to win the right to become a man which is of great importance given she comes from a male-dominated society where women are considered little beyond decorative. While colourful the chara designs don’t quite do full justice Hagio’s vivid artwork but the film does not suffer from condensing the manga. Flashbacks intermingle with psychic revelations as it dawns on Tada he has been on this spaceship before. The suspense is nicely sustained but leavened with welcome humour including one scene where the youngsters settle their differences with a cathartic food fight. Stuck-up King Mayan gets repeatedly pelted in the face with custard pies. The climax is truly uplifting in its analysis of what constitutes real character. Somewhat surprisingly the end credits mimic American Graffiti (1973) revealing what happened to the characters after graduation.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


This review has been viewed 1336 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

Review Comments (0)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which star is the best at shouting?
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Brian Blessed
Tiffany Haddish
Steve Carell
Olivia Colman
Captain Caveman
Sylvester Stallone
Gerard Butler
Samuel L. Jackson
Bipasha Basu

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Darren Jones
Paul Smith
Andrew Pragasam
  Mick Stewart
Enoch Sneed
  Dsfgsdfg Dsgdsgsdg
  Hannah Prosser


Last Updated: