Discotek Media (Blu-ray & DVD)
Japan had an infatuation with teen biker gangs in the ’80s. Such hoodlums were the heroes of the classic anime film Akira, the OAV series Megazone 23, and Venus Wars. In all cases, the bikers rebelled against an overly-oppressive and authoritarian government. Perhaps it was social commentary.
In the west, especially at that time, the heroes were more likely to be fighting to restore order from a populous of outlaws (like Mad Max). Of course, fiction aimed at teens has always had its rebel heroes, rejecting authority speaks to that age group; but that has more to do with taking responsibility for one’s self, and not fighting to free society from dictatorship. Indeed, in anime such as this, the average person has no value; they are only a cog in a machine, to be replaced and discarded at the slightest sign of trouble (which come to think of it, is pretty much how we all live these days anyway).
Venus, having been terraformed following an asteroid collision, was quickly colonized, but humanity can not seem to leave its problems behind, and the two nations that popped up on the new planet, Aphrodia and Ishtar, were soon at war (ironically, we’re told that Earth has established world peace since the colonization of Venus; maybe by sending all their riff-raff away on a rocket).
The people don’t seem all that effected. The war is mostly cold, and flares up only in far-off places; also, the government does an effective job of hushing up any unhappy details. Their ability to hide the truth, however, comes to an end when Ishtar, using some high-tech tanks called octopuses (really) invades the capital city of Aphrodia, Io. It’s not so much a war as a minor skirmish. The enemy forces roll in with little resistance and the local government quickly surrenders.
The people are placed under curfew, which does not sit well with Hiro Seno and his ‘gang,’ the Killer Commandos. I say ‘gang,’ but they’re actually a team in a sport that involved racing single-wheeled motorcycles in a group (kind of like roller derby); but it’s not a respectable sport and they’re scoff-laws in their daily lives, so the term ‘gang’ applies. Meanwhile, a reporter from Earth, Susan Summers (really) gets tangled up with the gang; and finds that the local press is just as disinterested in helping the people as the local government.
The gang, spurred on by their female member, Miranda, decides to stage a protest action, which brings them to the attention of the Aphrodia military, who sees potential in their racing skills. Hiro turns down their offer to join, and by doing so brings to the forefront the truth of his character: he just rejects authority blindly; regardless of the value of its cause, or his own self-interest.
What I liked about Venus Wars was that it didn’t try to tell more story than was needed. It wasn’t a giant war chronicle; it was the story of one boy and the few minor battles he was a party to.
The animation is quite nice; this was made back in the day when anime studios thought they had to earn their ticket price, and didn’t depend on the blind allegiance of otaku. The Blu Ray from Eastern Star is beautiful, using a newly restored master. It looks like it was made last year. The disc includes the dub released by CPM back in the day, but no other extras.