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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Crystal Triangle: And People Badmouth Indiana Jones 4...

I am almost at a loss for words...  I have just seen an anime that has blown my mind.  Not because it's so amazingly excellent, because it's not (in fact, it's downright dumb), but rather because I honestly couldn't think that such a title could be made.  This is Kindan no Mokushiroku/The Forbidden Apocalypse (or, as CPM translated it, The Forbidden Revelation) Crystal Triangle.


Koichiro Kamishiro is an archaeologist who is on the search for the mysterious "Message of God", which is the supposed lost "11th Commandment" that can save the Earth from its greatest calamity.  With the help of his assistants Isao & Mina, newcomer Miyabi (the daughter of the man who taught Kamishiro), & a yakuza named Ginji Kamishiro will discover the truth behind the "Message of God" and how it relates to the mysterious Hih Tribe.  Unfortunately, Kamishiro also has the CIA, KGB, & even the Japanese government hot on his heels.

It's almost hard to choose a starting point to talk about Crystal Triangle, because this 86-minute OVA essentially tosses in everything but the kitchen sink.  Literally, there's an Indiana Jones-style adventure, explosions, international intrigue, yakuza, religion, mysticism, actual monsters, mystical powers, a spaceship ("What does God need with a starship?"), a potential start to World War III, Japanese, English, Russian, a forced love, &, finally, lots & lots of nonsensical moments!  Right from the start this OVA decides to essentially remove logic except for when the story decides that it's worth using it; for example, early on Kamishiro & Juno, the CIA agent (though he doesn't know she's a CIA agent then) are in the desert and are running late to get on a plane...  So Kamishiro simply drives their jeep through the airfield's chain link fence & stops in front of their plane, which is about to take off.  The plane, in turn, stops before hitting the jeep and the next shot shows Kamishiro & Juno on the plane & in their seats.  Oh, and I can't forget the point in the beginning where Kamishiro essentially destroys some ruins to stop guerrillas from shooting at him & Juno, complete with a scene where some guerrillas try to escape from their car before it gets crushed by a falling rock...  Only to have them crushed by rocks & the car survives untouched.  Then you have Urga, Kamishiro's archaeologist rival who is also a KGB agent, who wields a rocket launcher & has a seemingly infinite amount of rockets on hand; oh, and he's the grandson of Rasputin, which has no impact whatsoever on the story.

But the craziest and most nonsensical stuff comes from the involvement of the Hih Tribe.  The Hih Tribe essentially tells Kamishiro & his crew where to go for their first investigation by possessing Miyabi and having her tell them where to go.  Then they create a giant earthquake that reveals a hidden temple when the group gets to the location, so the Hih Tribe must be helping Kamishiro, right?  Wrong, since after that part the Hih Tribe then tries to kill Kamishiro for finding out too much.  Their leader even says that Kamishiro is getting too close to finding out the truth, but his own tribe essentially shoved him there!  But at the end you find out that the Hih Tribe always wanted Kamishiro to find out the truth, so it's like the Hih Tribe is double-crossing themselves multiple times.  If you can't tell already, Crystal Triangle's biggest problem is that it is trying to do too much all at once.

But for all of this over-ambition, it truly doesn't hit its stride until about halfway through, when the Hih Tribe reveal themselves to be a race of monsters that have been waiting in hiding for a giant space rock called Nemesis to strike the Earth in the year 1999 & kill humanity, like how the dinosaurs were killed, which will allow the Hih Tribe to thrive.  This reveal just comes from out of nowhere and turns the story into seemingly something else, complete with Kamishiro revealing the mystical powers he always had but didn't use before because he had no reason to use them before.  This all comes to a head in the climax, where it's revealed that the "Message of God" is hidden inside of a giant spaceship that's been buried in the ground of Hokkaido for-seemingly-ever.  Oh, and you won't believe what God looks like!  No really, I'm not spoiling this part, go see for yourself...  You'll never guess what God looks like, nor will you guess exactly what happens to God.

To be honest, though, it's this same over-ambition that makes Crystal Triangle so entertaining to watch.  So much stuff is happening & the movie tries to be so many different types of titles at once that it becomes absorbingly enthralling in how ridiculous & dumb it becomes.  Now, yes, I do legitimately enjoy stuff that goes into ridiculous territory, but even with those titles the ridiculous moments work in the context of the world that those titles create.  Crystal Triangle, on the other hand, is the equivalent of throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks.  For all intents & purposes this method shouldn't work & from a practical perspective it doesn't, but at the same time this impracticality is what makes this OVA so absorbing; you just want to know what crazy, nonsensical thing will happen next!

Unfortunately, all of this craziness essentially kills character development.  Kamishiro gets a vague but kind of explained backstory, mainly in regards to where his mystical powers from, & Miyabi gets some reveals, but everyone else is barebones.  Hell, Isao & Mina are essentially useless characters, while Ginji & Urga mainly rely on their respective badassness, though Urga's comes a little too late for him, & Juno is simply there for her apparent good looks (she's supposed to be protecting Kamishiro for the CIA, though she really doesn't do much of that).  The surprising amount of Engrish & Russian used by Juno & Urga, respectively, is worthy of brownie points, though.

One can only imagine what was going through the minds of screenwriter Junki Takegami & director Seiji Okuda (both of Dancougar fame) when they were creating this nonsensical trainwreck.  The music, done by Takeshi Ike (also of Dancougar fame) & Osamu Totsuka (of Dancougar & Ronin Warriors fame), isn't bad by any means, but it also screams "Indiana Jones knock-off!", except for the more subdued songs, one of which is oddly used during the climax while USA & USSR jets are shooting each other down over control of God's spaceship.  The characters at least look nice, which is due to the abilities of Kazuko Tadano (of Dangougar & Dancougar Nova [as KAZZ] fame) & the late Toyoo Ashida.  Rounding out the cast are the likes of Masane Tsukayama (Kamishiro), Kazuki Yao (Isao), Yuusaku Yara (Urga), Mayumi Shou (Mina), & Norio Wakamoto (Ginji), among others.


Crystal Triangle is a dumb anime...  But it's also an admirable one.  It's greatest flaw is that it tries way too hard to be a lot of stuff all at once, but at the same time it culminates in possibly one of the craziest & most nonsensical movie-length anime ever created.  Supposedly even CPM, who released this in North America, admitted that this is likely the craziest anime they ever did, and coming from CPM that's saying a lot.  I am no way saying that this is a good anime, because it's not, but at the same time it's definitely worth watching if you want to see something so crazy that it might blow your mind that such a thing could be created.  CPM's VHS release is pretty cheap, while the LD is really rare (as of this writing, there's only one listing for the LD on eBay, and it's going for, with shipping, ~$30); it also has never been given a DVD release anywhere, even Japan.  But, honestly, this anime should be legally available on DVD...  If Mad Bull 34 is considered "so bad it's good" that it's worthy of a license rescue via Discotek, then I see no problem in Crystal Triangle getting a license rescue.

[4/2015 ADDENDUM: Upon further research, there was a Japanese DVD release back in 2002 by the company who would go on to become Aniplex. My mistake.]

3 comments:

  1. Even though this anime is on my personal "Worst anime ever" list... I would still get this in the wild if I ever found a copy. Of course, for dirt cheap, and then I would puke my guts out in the parking lot knowing I spent currency on this.

    I actually did show the ending to people when I did a panel at Roundcon, those expressions are priceless. Though I really wanna hate this anime with all of my heart, at the same time it has some great things about it (RPG wielding nephew of Rasputin).

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  2. Do not watch anime if you trying to find realism in all sort of things.

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  3. Looking realism in animes? C´mon! Move out the planet. You´re in wrong place. I love the history of this.

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