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Even these tapes cost something

  The World of the Talisman
 
1987 | Harmony Gold U.S.A. Inc.
The World of the talisman master vision

Originally one of the second batch of OAVs to hit the video shelves in Japan.

In the west however it's a kids cartoon with heavy existentialistic overtones! Welcome to The World of the Talisman!

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Released in 1984 as part of the slow trickle of OAV videos released in the wake of the trail-blazing Dallos (see Battle For Moon Station Dallos) Birth is a prime example of what this blossoming new 'made-for-video' market was able to provide. It follows the lives of brother and sister Namu Shurugi and Rasa Jupiter whose peaceful existence on the planet Aquaroid is destroyed by an invading android race known as the Inorganics. During their battle for survival the two meet Bao and Kim two treasure hunters seeking a legendary Talisman which is hidden somewhere on the planet and will bestow the owner with godlike powers. The four of them are chased across the planet by the unrelenting Inorganics and eventually it is revealed that there is more to this simple quest than it first seemed.

While on the surface Birth seems like a straight-forward comedy, action romp it is actually hiding a much deeper meaning. The surrealist and absurdist humour is just the top layer of a multi-layered parable of the meaning of existence and reincarnation. The reality of Namu & Rasa's situation is that the planet they inhabit is actually a 'proving ground' and the person who can recover the talisman will decide the fate of the evolution of the species be it human or android. The conclusion of the tale goes even further into these issues as the heroes fail in their quest and accidentally bring about the destruction of the planet (and possibly the universe) and their spirits are retained by the universe's life force to be given a second chance when the cycle of existence begins again.

Such unusual subject matter would have been unlikely to have been commissioned for TV or animated for theatrical exhibition (although Birth did later receive one) but in the new video market such experimental subjects were more financially viable the cheaper production making it worth the risk.

It may have been built around metaphysical discussions and ended in the most inconclusive of ways but it didn't have any blood, nudity, sex or violence so it was bought for worldwide distribution as a kids cartoon.

The company responsible was the american distributor Harmony Gold. As with previous Harmony Gold dubs (see Frankenstein and/or Dracula) the cast is made up of easily recognisable voices from other of their releases as well as a number of Streamline productions. The US version of Birth was released on video under two different names. The first release which was sold worldwide in 1987 went by the name "The World of the Talisman". The second was known by the much shorter and more intriguing title "Planet Busters". This version was released by Streamline Productions in 1992, in a possible attempt to capitalise on the emerging Anime craze. While the names are different the content and dub of both versions are entirely the same.

The World of the Talisman is a great example of how the smallest of changes can alter a story significantly. The edits to the animation are few but by simply re-writing the dialog the plot of Birth becomes something much different to what was originally intended...

 
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Japanese Promo
 
The Japanese Atlus DVD
 
The LaserDisc Release
 
Another promo still
 

Even the plot description on the inlay doesn't make The World of the Talisman sound like a kid's tape:

"Rasa and Talin, brother and sister
and hairs to a planetary kingdom embark on a voyage of personal discovery. They have found their way to a mythical planet which legend describes as the homeworld of the Gods. They have embarked on this journey to discover their true path in life. What they find is a planet that can best be described as one giant booby trap. Soon they find themselves the target of a massive manhunt for the prize of their inheritance. THE WORLD OF THE TALISMAN is an adventure filled with humour and a wild, breathtaking sense of the magical and the absurd.
"

"Voyage of personal discovery?" Finding your "true path in life"? This sounds more like a self-help video than a childrens tape!

And how many under 5's appreciate a "breathtaking sense of the... absurd"?

Well Harmony Gold realised this wasn't what junior school kids were after so they edited out almost every single trace of the original video's deep, multi layered spiritual and metaphysical musings leaving us with what amounts to little more than one 80 minute long chase scene with a baffling conclusion.

After the crummy looking opening credits, the background of which is a recycled sequence of footage from later on in the story accompanied by an uninspired synth tune replacing the Joe Hisaishi score, we are treated to a six minute scene (including an added voice over) in which we meet two of the four heroes, the renamed Mo and Keen. During this opening scene it is mentioned that the two are following a floating sword and (in the scene's final line) that they are looking for Rasa and her brother. The rest of it is taken up with wholly unwelcome slapstick, wacky mugging, corny jokes and even cornier space jargon. Not a great start!

The next scene takes place on Planet Pandora with Princess Rasa, in a tight, skimpy costume that I bet gave boys in the audience funny feelings that they couldn't yet understand, zipping around the rocky landscape on a hover-glider looking for her brother. Suddenly she and Ovo, her pet yellow... blob thing, are chased by a giant black orb (little did I realise at the time that this was to become a running theme- no pun intended) that nearly crushes them. The video tape flickered heavily around the frame below - a likely sign of someone making good use of their VCR's Still Pause function!

The floating sword descends on planet Pandora crashing into the ground with such immense force that it causes a huge explosion knocking Talin off of his ostrich Investigating the resulting crater young Talin has a run in with a ghostly apparition which makes the stories only reference to his royal heritage; "Your father, the king, is on the brink of death. Only you can end the power-struggle that will devolve the empire!" It goes on to tell him, in a very drawn out manner, that the sword will lead him to the hidden talisman that will prove his ascension to manhood and secure his place as the new King (of where-ever) providing he can find it. It's job as narrator complete the spirit vanishes leaving Talin to make the hackneyed quip "Couldn't you ask me to do something harder?" As he reaches to take the sword a second giant orb descends on him, exploding to reveal a robotic enemy. Ever the joker Talin breaks the ice with "Hey, I appreciate you dropping in but I think I'm double parked!" What great material, it's a shame it's wasted on a humour-less android.

The android attacks and so begins the almost non-stop action that will continue almost without a break until the closing moments. As Talin wields the mysterious sword the spirits voice echoes around claiming that if he defeats all the monsters on Pandora he will become King. I thought he had to find the Talisman? Never mind.

Elsewhere Rasa is ambushed by three robots on motorbikes. She gives chase and the action continues. The first signs of the tale's "breathtaking sense of the absurd" surfaces during this frantic race as several visual gags including engine stalls and puncture repair are thrown in alongside the motorcycle gang's diminutive boss (a child in the original) and his 'Max Headroom' style electronic stutter. Having been left behind by his subordinates when his bike breaks under the strain of pursuit the tiny bad guy watches time pass from moment to moment with references to the surrealism of Salvador Dahli.

Eventually brother and sister meet and their individual perils are combined. Gradually the bikers are defeated one by one and the appearance of Mo and Kim's Mantis-shaped spaceship makes a well timed if inadvertent rescue sending Rasa's robotic adversary plummeting over a cliff edge. There is a brief respite from the action as Mo reveals that he and Commander Keen have been sent by the 'Galactic Retrieval Flight Command' to take the siblings and the sword into protective custody. Talin refuses as he wants to use the newly discovered weapon to become a "Xeenon Warrior". The spirit being returns and breaks up further slapstick silliness with yet more exposition this time detailing the truth behind there foursome's quest.

No sooner has she left than another adversary appears and the action begins again. This time a green robot, slightly larger than the previous one, bursts through the ground in front of the group and a frantic fight ensues. Eventually the robotic menace is overcome by a huge swarm of Ovos. In it's dying seconds the robot sends a distress signal which awakens the giant orb that attacked Rasa earlier on.

Mo and Keen fly Talin and Rasa across the planet in their spaceship. Landing at a seemingly arbitrary point the four disembark in pairs, the brother and sister in an insect inspired mono-bike and the space-pilots in an old army jeep. They haven't traveled far before the group cross paths with yet another robot, orange this time and even bigger than the last. The chase is on yet again with this new adversary joined by another equally huge android later on.

Eventually our heroes give the robot monsters the slip by heading into the ruins of an underground city. With the danger narrowly avoided Mo and Keen drive around the devastated town in their jeep mentioning briefly the Dongemaharu legend (it has some sort of connection to the Talisman apparently) while Talin leaves Rasa to go exploring by himself on an abandoned motorbike.

Only moments later the peace and quiet it's shattered by the return of Orange & Blue who come crashing in through the ceiling. Before you can say "yet another lengthy chase sequence" yet another lengthy chase sequences starts. The two massive robots force their way through the narrow streets causing collateral damage wherever they go. Mo, Keen and Rasa fight the metal brothers while Talin explores a broken down tower block he seems to remember leaving his sister and new friends in harms way. Deep within the gloomy labyrinth of the basement the Prince finds three skeletons who seem to have died while attempting to press the button on the wall. nervously he achieves what they couldn't- pushing the button. The wall opens and reveals his reward... a large gun!

Outside Orange is still pursuing Rasa and the bounty hunters around the ruins. Blue hunts down Talin but it is actually a trap as the Prince intends to use his new weapon to destroy the towering machine. Mo and Keen arrive in their Jeep and spot Talin. Mo recognises the gun and franticly fires at the Prince to prevent him from firing it. The three are reunited and flee the underground ruins to the outside world with Rasa in toe and the two robots not far behind.

Mo reveals that the mysterious firearm is actually the legendary 'Planet Buster' but has little time to explain further before they come under fire. Eventually Rasa crashes her transformable mono-bike into Orange's eye causing it considerable damage. In response Blue looks to the sky and calls "Dongemaharu!!"

The four heroes look on in disbelief as a spiky metallic planet descends on them from above boring into the ground and bathing the whole area in shadow. The tiny motorcycle gang leader arrives on the scene as Talin and Keen fight over the Planet Buster. Talin wants to use it to save them but Keen knows of it's full capabilities and fears it will destroy them all. Their scuffle is ended when the weapon falls into Tiny's hands. Annoyed at the world and complaining that his cheque book won't balance he is caught off guard by an explosion and the Planet Buster is accidentally fired.

The projectile hits the descending metal planet releasing glowing red beams which arc outwards multiplying on contact and vaporising whatever they touch. It's not long before the whole of Planet Pandora is engulfed and all life is destroyed. Only the mysterious sword remains- floating away through space once more. Deep within it's glowing form float the four protagonists; Talin, Rasa, Mo and Keen.

There is a flash of light and then a young girl's voice. "But I don't get it. Aren't they dead?" she asks. Another voice is heard, this time a more mature and motherly tone. She replies "My child, if you insist on using the same terms as they do you will only learn as much as they." She continues "No they did not die, not as we think of it. They merely changed from one state of being to another. Where each one goes from this point depends on how much they learned on the planet Pandora."

   

With it so far? "Where will they go?" questions the child. "Most of them will ascend a little closer to the light. However Rasa will have to return to this continuum." "Why?" the girl asks. "You know." comes the reply. "I guess because her mind didn't learn." the girl offers. "Almost but not quite." comes the reply, "It wasn't her mind but what controls her mind that didn't learn. Her real being."

"Her infinite consciousness!" the girl blurts out excitedly. "She has to come back in her previous form so that she can combine her past and her future and be rejoined with her friends right?"

"Yes, my child that's right!"

"Even Ovo?"

"Ovo too! Each one determines his or her destiny."

"That includes me too." states the girl, her mother agrees. "Do you remember what I told Talin when we sent him the sword? 'Search for the Talisman buried on Pandora'. Where was that Talisman". The girl replies "That's easy! In the underground city!"

   

"No." the mother corrects "It was buried within himself. I told him that he must claim the Talisman for his own and return with it to his people but that terrible weapon was not the real treasure. The most precious thing of all was what they should have discovered within their own being. Remember at least this one thing, my child, true enlightenment comes with searching, not with finding."

And with that confusing statement it is declared time for bed. "You've had a very busy birthday." the mother states. Well that would explain all the cakes surrounding them on their floating rock in limbo...

 

The Weird Ending... pass the bong
If the transcript left you confused this won't make things any clearer...

The Beginning
Back to front as is fitting this weird movie.

 
Good dubbing
  Fluid movement
 
NO PLOT!
  The constant chasing soon becomes dull
  Inconsistant quality
  Inconclusive conclusion
  MAKES NO SENSE!
  Irritating characters
  Corny dialog
  Not really aimed at kids!

I've often noted that many of these so called 'childrens videos' aren't all that suitable for kids. But unlike Star Warrior or Frankenstein this time it's not because of violence but simply because of the intellectual themes of the story.

Even with all the plot simplifications and the surreal Japanese jokes replaced with corny American one-liners you're still left with an inconclusive and baffling ending which made little sense to me and I'm way older than it's intended market.

If you are interested in Talisman's spiritualistic themes you would be much better off with the Japanese original, since released on DVD in the states by ADV. This version is just boring.

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