The concept of four amnesiac superheroes saving the universe might seem fairly perverse, even by the loose standards of anime, yet the memory challenged quartet of “Dangaioh” offer a refreshing change of pace by providing twin battles from without (intergalactic intruders) and within (erased brain cells).
The feature film “Dangaioh” is actually a pair of episodes and a lengthy prologue from a popular Japanese television series, in which the mysterious Doctor Tarsan picks up four young humanoid warriors from various parts of the universe with the plan of tapping into their “cyonic power” to stop the power-thirst of a megalomaniac named Captain Garimoth. Doctor Tarsan, for no clear reason, wiped out the memory of the four warriors; they can only recall their names, but the circumstances of their previous lives are lost and only shine through in the oddest moments.
The team consists of three women and a guy. The lone male is Rol Kran, a 29-year-old rebel from the planet Latesia who is hampered by a curious lack of self-confidence. Working alongside him are Lamba Nom, a 14-year-old escaped princess from a destroyed planet who shows bouts of immaturity at inopportune moments; Mia Alice, a 19-year-old who is often overly compassionate (her big blue eyes get watery when the sincerity kicks in); and 23-year-old Pai Thunder, a blue-haired Amazon who actually has a low cyonic power force but who compensates with a high level of aggression. The four warriors each fly their own spacecraft, which can link up and transform into Dangaioh, an oversized robot with the power to beat and destroy the best of Captain Garimoth’s gaggle of goons.
While no one approaches anime expecting logical plotlines, “Dangaioh” is overcooked even by the standards of the genre. We never know just who or what Doctor Tarsan is supposed to be (he has Mr. Spock’s ears, the Grinch’s complexion and a platinum hairdo similar to Peggy Lee’s late-life wig), and no one bothers to explain the good/bad doctor’s weird pet (a pink Pokemon-type rodent with a handlebar mustache). Captain Garimoth’s evil is never explained either, nor do we get to see much of him. Instead, he outsources his skullduggery to a brigade of henchmen (humanoid, cyborg and unidentified things) who spend a fairly considerable level of time bickering with each other regarding who is the best for a particular job.
The English dubbed version is clearly playing the story for easy laughs by saddling Doctor Tarsan with a Benny Hill-style phony German accent and putting salty language into the character’s mouths. When enemy spaceships approach with a message of peace, a disbelieving Doctor Tarsan’s mock-Teutonic response is: “Zis ees total bull-zheet!” When an invading army makes an offer of goodwill, a cocky rebel exclaims: “You don’t fool us, you imperialist piece of s**t!” But perhaps the ultimate epithet comes when Pai Thunder dismisses her good-natured comrade Mia Alice as being nothing more than a “bleeding heart liberal.” Hmmm, it seems that Pai Thunder has been watching the Fox News Channel when she’s not saving the galaxy.
Although there is a scant amount of heavy violence (one gruesome scene has Pai Thunder landing a punch in the face that drowns her hand in a gush of blood), “Dangaioh” is primarily focused on commotion versus pain. The film has a ton of explosions, saber slashing, explosions and weapon flashing, but strangely it creates more sound than fury. If any film is guaranteed to keep the viewer awake, this is it.
But still, “Dangaioh” is intriguing thanks to having the unexpectedly vulnerable heroes finding clues to their identities in the midst of their mad adventures. The first part of the film connects Lamba Nom with her royal past as her former chambermaid returns in a new role as an assassin for Captain Garimoth. The second part brings Rol Kran to his pre-Tarsan days as a resistance fighter whose lack of confidence doomed his mission. While it is inevitable the characters find new strength in themselves and are supported by the others on their team, it comes as a nice surprise to be reminded that the truly super aspect of superheroes comes in their humanity. “Dangaioh” is the rare anime offering that spices a bit of inspiration across its healthy serving of chaotic and addictive adventures.