Written by Akinori Endo, based upon the manga by Mamoru Nagano
Directed by Kazuo Yamazaki
Music by Tomoyuki Asakawa
Character Design by Nobuteru Yuki
- Extensive DVD insert
- Staff profiles
- Original Japanese promo spot
Dindrane’s Anime Warnings:
- Epic, yet mild, violence
- Political maneuverings
- Enslaved “women” who choose to serve
- Broken light saber
- Cherry blossom love at first sight
Released by: ADV
My Advice: Get it and love it forever
Five Star Stories, as the title might suggest, revolves around the Joker Galaxy (or Star Cluster), which has five stars and four main solar systems, each with their own host of civilizations and kingdoms. These kingdoms all have giant mecha known as Headdliners [sic], controlled by knights of a sort known as “mortar headds.” These human pilots are in turn assisted by the “fatimas,” or genetically manufactured warriors, who look entirely human, but completely merge with their Headdliner during battle. The titular stories follow the progress of two new fatimas, known as Clotho and Lachesis, new creations of Dr. Ballache, the galaxy’s premiere fatima designer and the civilization that both created and controls them.
The action is 100% space opera, relaying the potential decay of a grand civilization of the Joker Star Cluster. Over a span of thousands of years, there are hundreds of characters, each with their own destinies to fulfill within the constellation of action and their own personalities. The mythological overtones created by the Greek names of the fatimas and others (knight of Juno, Lachesis, Atropos, Clotho, etc.) lend yet another level to this show that allows additional readings into the themes and characters, especially when combined with the name “Amaterasu” in the show itself.
The constant warfare unites both traditional science-fiction and fantasy elements, such as genetic engineering, knights, sorcery, clones, mythical beasts, and mecha. The result could be a hodgepodge mess, but somehow is not, given the skill of the original writers and the creators of the OAV screenplay. There are elaborate back-stories to each plot element, such as the complete devotion a fatima swears to a master/knight, but not to a country.
Given the complexity of the original story (and the fact that it is still ongoing), this version does not intend to present a full version of the manga, but rather an introduction of sorts, or another option for those who cannot afford the entire manga run. It is a second-best option, of course, but a good option nonetheless.
The audio is solid, with skilled voice acting, powerful music, and good balance with special effects. Some otaku, however, will be quite annoyed by the lack of a dubbed version, especially given the beauty of the art on this OAV. However, it is more likely that traditionalists will be drawn to this older title, and they tend to prefer their anime read anyway. The visuals, designed by popular character designer Nobuteru Yuki, are much in the style of Leiji Matsumoto, which should please most viewers.
The DVD case comes with a long insert that provides a list of credits, lots of shots from the show, and a lovely and useful timeline of the Joker Star Cluster that should be read prior to watching the show. This will help viewers keep up with the world and to be prepared for the technology, such as what the fatimas are. The insert also has a story section, providing backstory and insight into the current action, a text speech from the producer, and a most useful glossary that will prove quite helpful to first-time viewers and includes concepts like “headdliner,” “regrowth,” “Kingdom of Grees,” and of course, “fatima.” There is even a character listing that provides a portrait and a small introduction to the character. Would that all anime, even the more straightforward and less ambitious ones, came with such fine inserts!
Other extras include an original Japanese promo video/TV spot and a selection of Japanese staff profiles, which provide text about the director, original writer, character designer, and composer. Quite informative about these people who all too often stand in the shadows of their creations. The screenplay writer deserved to be here as well.
The only real quibble about this release is that, while the slip-cased DVD case is attractive, the fact that it is at heart cardboard makes it a little bit less durable than such a loved and likely frequently watched show would demand. Of course, the option at least of a dubbed version would have been nice, even making it a higher priced release.
In short, if you are a fan of space opera or anything epic, you will enjoy Five Star Stories. Given that Nagano’s original intent was to create a manga that defied animation, the producers of this OAV did an excellent job of thwarting him, creating a title that is not only far more coherent, but entertaining than the complex original might infer. It is a fantastic program sure to please anyone but those determined to hate anime. Watch it (or rather, read it) and crave the full version manga with the rest of us.