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Even these tapes cost something

  Crushers
 
1988 | Enoki Films/Jim Terry Productions
Crushers My•TV

This is one of the few tapes in my collection which I have actually previously watched.

I don't have very good memories of it but maybe I was wrong... let's find out!

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Crusher Joe first appeared in 1977 in Crisis on Planet Pizan the first in a series of novels written by Haruka Takachiho, one of the founders of Studio Nue. Joe is the leader of a band of Space Mercenaries, or "Crushers", who take on any mission no matter how dangerous, just so long as it's legal- union rules. Joe and his team, Alfin- tomboyish girl, Talos- big hearted hulk and Riki- impulsive teen pilot the Spaceship Minerva assisted by their porn mag loving robot Dongle.

By 1979 the stories had been adapted, by their creator, into a one volume manga and finally on 12th March 1983 Joe and his fellow Crushers hit the big screen, chosen by Gundam creators Nippon Sunrise as the subject for their first ever feature length animation. The plot involves Joe agreeing to deliver an ill heiress, who has been cryogenically frozen, to a specialist medical facility. It seems like a straight forward job and not the typical Crusher assignment but things get very complicated when the heiress, her escort and their payment mysteriously vanish mid transit. Accused of being Pirates Crusher Joe and crew must unravel a complex, twisting political conspiracy in an attempt to clear their names and bring those responsible for framing them to justice.

The movie was directed by Yasuhiko Yoshikazu (aka Yas) one of the original members of the studio. Most famously providing the character designs for Gundam he later made his own name for manga works such us Arion and Venus Wars and their anime adaptations. Other famous names working behind the scenes included future Macross mecha designer Shoji Kawamori creating the futuristic machines plus Ranma 1/2 creator Rumiko Takahashi, Dragonball's Akira Toriyama and the legendary Katsuhiro Otomo all providing 'guest' character designs. Simply titled Crusher Joe, the feature won that year's Anime Grand Prix prize from the magazine Animage and also provided the very first appearance of the popular Lovely Angels aka the Dirty Pair. Characters Kei and Yuri are seen in a movie playing in the background of scene and were such a hit with the audience that Takachiho gave them their own series.

The Crushers later returned in two OAV episodes in 1989.

America based Japanese distribution company Enoki Films sold the western rights to the Crusher Joe movie to the one and only Jim Terry. As you'll no doubt now be aware Mr Terry is no stranger to anime having adapted Time Bokan as well as bringing Starzinger, Grendizer, Danguard Ace, Gaiking and Getta Robot to U.S. TV screens as Force Five (see Sci-bots). And where there is Jim Terry you can also expect Bullets! Bargain Bin's favourite musicians provided an all new theme tune while Norio Maeda's original score is left in place for the main programme.

Unlike many Western adapts nearly all the characters original names are kept with Dongle, now Robo, being one of the exceptions. The film itself, however didn't fair as well suffering heavy cuts, mostly to violence and nudity which totaled 40 mins of the original 130 minute running time. With the shortened titled of Crushers Terry's new version hit video shelves in 1988 five years after its original release.

 

 
Crusher Joe OST
The movie poster
 
The Soundtrack LP
 

What better way to start anything than with an original Bullets composition and it helps distract attention from the terrible title card. The music plays over footage, some deleted; most not, of the feature we're about to see. To be honest, unlike most of their songs the tune to this one's not all that bad... but the words are! For instance: #They attack... they zap... they crack... evil, hate and greed/Smash 'em, mash 'em then they trash 'em! That's the Crusher creed!# And the mix is even worse. The audio track is actually faded down, almost to silence, just moments into the two and a half minute opening credits, then suddenly cranked right back up again! It's almost as if the sound man fell asleep at the controls and then figured no one would notice.

#You can't stop 'em. They roll 'em and they rock 'em. Every where they go!# So many terrible lines, they'll be a Youtube clip of this at the bottom of the page for sure!

The story takes place in A.D. 2161. Out on the space freeway a car chase is under way. Armed cars are attacking an equally armed cargo lorry. It's a short fight as the lorry is easily the toughest vehicle- the pursuing cars are no match. It turns out that those in pursuit were the good guys, the FSFI (some sort of space police- the name is never explained). The bad guys park the truck in a shady underground garage and prepare to move their precious, not to mention mysterious cargo but are told by the boss that the 'Bonanza' has been destroyed. Now they'll need to find another way to ship the hot booty they're hauling- I guess Bonanza was their transport shuttle. The scene ends with a brief glimpse of the contraband that's been causing all this trouble. Is it counterfeit DVDs? Bootleg jeans? Cigarettes? No, it's a naked lady. Deep frozen.

Next we are introduced to our Heroes, the Crushers. The mercs are being offered a mission by a sly looking gentleman named Valentine. The task is not a usual assignment for Joe and the team, who it turns out were just preparing for a short break. This mission, if they choose to accept it, is to transport the ill Princess Miraya, to the planet Mycora. The army can't be involved as the mission is to be top secret to prevent "the rebels" from learning of the Princess' condition and taking advantage of the situation.

Joe accepts and Valentine and the Princess are loaded aboard his ship, the Minerva and the course is set to planet Mycora. Before we go any further with the story it's worth mentioning the dodgy voices the characters have. So far it's not so bad but it'll get worse. Joe and Alfin are quite hard to endure. His voice is simply ill fitting, high pitched and chipper while hers is a plumy, aristocratic English accent- a very odd choice.

The journey has barely begun and it's already gone awry. Something is wrong with the controls, it's not entirely clear what, there's talk of levels and warp, but whatever it is it causes the ship and all the crew to vaporise! It seems pretty serious, you wouldn't want your car to do that on the way to work. After a lot of crazy colours and effects the crew awake to find Valentine, their royal cargo and their money have vanished. To make matters worse the united space army want to talk to the Minerva's crew on suspicion of being pirates. Captain Kowalski, voiced by the same guy as Prof Von Spock in Time Fighters wheeling out another accent, possibly French or maybe Spanish- boards the ship and demands proof that they are Crushers and not Pirates but he's not convinced. He hauls the whole crew in for questioning but is forced to release them without charge by Commander Bird in order that they can keep an eye on them, hoping that Joe will lead them to the head of the Pirates- a man named Murphy.

Even though they are free things don't get any better for the Crushers. They are ordered to meet with the head of the Crusher council, who also happens to be Joe's dad. Crusher Joe gets a serious talking to for violating the Crusher Code and he, Talos, Alfin and Riki are all suspended until this mess can be sorted out.

Unaware that they are being closely watched by Captain Bird and Kowalski the Crushers head to Planet Fargo, a well known Pirate hang out, on vacation. On board Minerva the gang discuss how they were given the info on Fargo by Capt Bird which is useful as we never saw any of this. Before they can land on Fargo, first the Minerva must dock for inspection. This section is almost totally pointless as nothing actually happens here other than the final appearance of Valentine (real name Jarvis) who spots the Crushers' arrival and alerts the mob boss Nelo (interchangeably pronounced Nee-lo and Nel-o) to their presence.

Entering the atmosphere of the Pirate planet the Minerva and its crew come under surprise attack from two fighter ships piloted by Nelo and his second-in-command Shara. At this point the quality of "Crushers" really takes a dive. The vocal track is much louder than the effects, the music is almost as loud as the vocals and worst of all the sound effects are noticeably out of sync- explosions are silent at the start and then can be heard moments later where there aren't any. But best of all is the audible cough!

The ship takes a serious hit and goes down with Talos and Riki on board while Joe and Alfin take on the fighters in one of their own. In the heat of the battle the heroes become separated from their enemy and are forced to crash land in the dark forest. Elsewhere Talos, Riki and the Minerva have managed to successfully land in the Fargo Spaceport but the authorities are demanding they disembark so that their ship can be destroyed, as the fire raging aboard it is perceived as a serious hazard. The standoff between them is neutralised by the interjection of the President who offers to have the Minerva repaired himself. What's his angle, huh?

Back in the depths of the forest night has fallen. Alfin and Joe are once again attacked by the Pirate leaders. A shoot-out ensues in which Shara is wounded by Joe and Nelo... well a one-eyed monster appears and Nelo disappears from the story between shots, his fate remains a mystery. As for the monster- shots are fired and it is also never seen again either. Alfin is saved from a man-eating plant by Talos who arrives on the scene in the very recently restored Minerva. Reunited the team head for a meeting with el Presidentei.

Speaking to them via video phone in their taxi, Mr President delivers these, quite possibly improvised lines "We have been fighting with these pirates for well over two years now. But until just recently we had no idea where their secret headquarters were located. But we now know where those headquarters are located and we would like you to turn over all this information and then... you can help us with this one." Do they know where the HQ is or not? Or does Joe know, because I thought he didn't. The conversion goes on without anyone actually saying anything or any of it really fitting what's happening on screen. The gist of it is Joe agrees to help the President.

WIth information from the President, who incidentally has another of those odd French/Italian accents, the four Crushers quietly invade the Pirate HQ searching for Valentine. Somewhere within its walls a pale man named Mr Keeley is anxious that the frozen Princess be de-frosted as quickly as possible since she is the only person who can operate the 'Space-Time Degenerator'.

Joe and Alfin head inside while Talos and Riki keep the guards busy. Joe and Alfin meet then escape from Keeley and then stumble on the frozen Princess. The action really leaps around at this point: from Joe and Alfin heading to the roof in an elevator to a broken window to the naked girl falling back onto the operating table and then to Joe holding the doctor at gun point. The next we see of them the Princess is dressed in a hospital gown and the fleeing Crushers are riding the lift again. They manage to escape in a helicopter but things aren't so hopeful for their fellow team mates who are being interrogated by Keeley and the Pirate Chief Murphy.

Away from danger Joe and Alfin talk with the unfrozen girl. Her name is Liana and she is a scientist and the only one who can control a dangerous weapon. She was kidnapped by Valentine along with this weapon and sold to the Pirates. The two were spirited from the Minerva by a Space Disrupter: "It disrupts space" she explains.

In a flash Shara attacks and the three are quickly in Pirate hands and thrown in the same dungeon as Talos and Riki. Whole moments pass before Joe frees Talos and he shoots a way out with his gun arm. During their escape the Crushers are separated yet again with Joe ending up in the garbage disposal. Shara and several heavies follow after him and they battle around the edge of an acid bath. The villainess doesn't last long and ends up dissolved off camera. Talos, Alfin and Riki show up and the escape continues.

Intercepting the bad guys while they flee with Liana, Talos squares up to Bruno (his bad guy equivalent) but the fight ends up on the cutting room floor. Some how the baddies get away and fly off to another hide out where the Time-Space Degenerator is located. With a little support from commander Bird the Crushers make it to the Secret, Secret Base just as Murphy commences operation of the doomsday weapon. The first target to be turned into a large, smoldering crater is downtown Fargo as a reprisal attack against the President who double crossed Murphy, who he's secretly been working with. I would have told you of this sooner but I only just found out myself.

Now Bruno turns against Murphy for reasons mostly unknown. Murphy plummets to his death, somehow and Liana uses this distraction to attempt to deactivate the Time-Space Degenerator before it can be used again. The Crushers enter the base in an armoured car but are confronted by power-suited Keeley before they can reach Liana. The next thing you know the car has burst through the control room wall. What happened to Keeley? The Crushers open fire on Bruno, the music suddenly stops. "We got him Liana!" shouts Joe. Bruno can be seen in the background- well and truly 'got'. The dangerous weapon is deactivated and the crisis is over.

Time to tie up loose ends. Fargo's President delivers a self serving speech to his people. Returning to his office he finds Joe waiting for him and he's worked it all out- the President has been working with Murphy. The police arrive and take him away. Commander Bird visits the head of the Crusher Council and they have a brief and meaningless conversion and then THE END suddenly appears on screen... but it's not. At least not quite.

While the credits roll and an instrumental version of the Bullets theme plays in the background, Joe and Alfin go for a drive. Alfin explains that something is worrying her- what if another scientist builds something as powerful as the STD (unfortunate acronym). "We've got to learn to use our science to help lots of people. We've all got to work together real hard so that there's more love in the world!" "You're right Alfin" agrees Joe "Maybe some day there will be..."

Let's all hope so.

 

Intro theme by Bullets
Don't adjust your sets
the sound is actually that bad!

Ending & Epilogue
The best way to solve the world's problems is inserting trite dialog in kid's cartoons...

 
Great animation
 
Bullets!
 
Ok dubbing
 
Original names
 
Dull
 
Sloppy edits
 
Dodgy sound mix
 
Miscast voices
 
Lousy ending

The greatest problem with Crushers, forgetting the haphazard sound mixing, is its pace. Having had so much of the original story removed it makes the flow uneven causing it to seem longer than it actually is. In reality it barely scrapes an hour and a half and that's even with a two and a half minute intro and a lot of padding yet when it ended I would have sworn I'd just sat through at least two hours.

In the end it all makes very little sense. It's a shame really since the original is held as one of the greats of anime sci-fi. At least Jim Terry's version still has the original's excellent animation.

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