Absolutely the best thing yet among Pioneer's UK releases, Kishin Heidan is a masterful exercise is quality animated storytelling. The intricate plot revolves around an 'alternate universe' version of the Second World War, in which the Nazis join forces with an alien race and the Japanese utilise large mechanical robots to aid them in their fight against the Germans. Eva Braun is an evil scientist, Maria, is helping the Japanese with their secret robot programme. However, one faction within the Japanese camp wants to use the robot technology (the Kishin Heidan) to defend the earth against the alien attackers, whilst another wants simply to use is as a weapon of war against enemy countries.
Director Takaaki Ishiyama has taken his cue from the updated serial format of the Indiana Jones trilogy and combined this with the familiar device of having a youngster from a group of roguish street urchins becoming involved. Against the backdrop of beautifully-rendered backgrounds, we are introduced to the first major characters through a hair-raising chase sequence that looks straight out of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The period setting gives rise to inspired character designs - each uniquely distinctive - from maria's glamourous wardrobe and gravity-defying hairstyles, to the wide-jawed simplicity of the robot operator - who reminds one of the retro style adopted by the American Batman: The Animated Series.
The scene where Maria is introduced to the young street gang in their hideout is marvellous - some of the cutest child characters you are likely to ever come across, but not a hint of that cringe-inducing, OTT sweetness that mars so much American animation. The dubbing is excellent and could so easily have been the single component that brought down the rest of the series. This goes hand-in-hand with the great use of surround sound by the original soundtrack, because of this, the exciting John Williams-like compositions and both subtle and dramatic sound effects come across with a force when cranked up load through a stereo. The dialogue itself is intelligent and well-written and helps keep a good balance between both character and story development. The meticulous attention to minor details and wealth of original ideas means that this series will be just as watchable on repeated viewing when friends can enjoy for the first time all that you have already. Kishin Heidan comes with the highest recommendation Dark Star can offer.
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