By Justin Graham / May 15th, 2013
Gall Force: Eternal Story is a 1986 anime feature film produced by Artmic and AIC and the first entry in a franchise that spans both theatrical features and OVA productions. Set during a time of interstellar conflict, the film focuses on a small crew as they set out to accomplish their mission: head for the terraformed planet Chaos and defend it from the enemy. Like a number of productions I’ve already profiled in this column, such as Project A-ko and Tenchi Muyo in Love, it’s a film that I originally saw early on in my introduction to anime but haven’t watched in the many years since until recently having the chance to revisit it.
Gall Force tells the tale of a small crew of survivors aboard the Solnoid vessel Star Leaf. The Solnoid are essentially human, save for the fact that the race is entirely female. Their adversaries are the Paranoid, a much more alien race comprised of biological matter encasing robotic endoskeletons. When first introduced, both sides are in the middle of a pitched battle when the Solnoid high command sends the order for all able ships to make a break for Chaos, a freshly terraformed planet that they don’t wish to fall into Paranoid hands.
The Star Leaf manages to escape the battle and enter light speed, but when all able bodies are accounted for, the surviving staff on board totals only seven—including the captain, five crew members, and Lufy, a hotheaded fighter pilot who disobeyed orders to board the ship. On the way to Chaos, their numbers shrink as they’re attacked by pursuing Paranoid troops. Lufy is the first lost, sacrificing herself to prevent the attackers from overwhelming the ship.
Things grow considerably tenser, however, as the Paranoid assault allowed a strange creature to board the Star Leaf in secret. As the crew searches the ship for the invader, it attacks Eluza and embeds something within her. Though she’s taken to the infirmary, she dies shortly thereafter, forcing the ship’s pilot Rabby to take charge of the mission.
When the crew finally makes it to Chaos, their numbers are only three: Rabby and fellow crew Rumy and Patty. Together, they set up a defensive perimeter on Chaos, but not before each awakens from strange dreams involving a mysterious warm figure that’s sort of like a Solnoid, and yet not. What this shared dream means is uncertain, but Rabby tells the others to put it out of their minds, as it could be a Paranoid trap.
Before the survivors can relax, Patty falls ill. As she’s taken back to the ship to be examined, Paranoid troops show up to seemingly spy on her. It turns out that, like Eluza, the monster that had boarded the Star Leaf had attacked her, as well. But this time, Rabby and Rumy manage to extract a strange cell from Patty’s womb, a cell that, in a matter of minutes, grows into an infant, and from there into a full-grown adult something that is both a duplicate of Patty and yet different. Rabby, at first suspicious of the creature, becomes sympathetic when she sees the resemblance, and she and the others choose to defend it from the Paranoid.
Not long after, the Paranoid and the Solnoid militaries enter battle above Chaos, and matters quickly escalate when the Solnoid flagship enters battle against their own Solnoid troops. When Rabby, who has had quite enough of this insanity, finally gets the answers she seeks from the ship’s computer, she learns that this new creature, a boy, was an accident. The Solnoid and Paranoid high command, realizing that their war would lead to mutually assured destruction, chose to create a third race by genetically modifying a Solnoid to become an emotionless new race that could serve as mediator. Patty was the first Solnoid subject in numerous attempts who didn’t reject the cell implant, but its early removal resulted in the birth of a new being. Now, both Solnoid and Paranoid are fighting each other all over Chaos in an effort to get their hands on it.
Rabby and Patty leave the ship, locking Rumy and the boy in the escape vessel as they enact a desperate plan to end the conflict. They engage the terraforming towers and reverse the effects, causing the planet to become a flaming hellhole incapable of supporting life. Rumy and the boy are subsequently launched on a path for the neighboring planet Terra, a mysterious, verdant world capable of sustaining life on its own.
With the war at an end, Rumy and the boy are left alone on Terra, at which point the film flashes forward an untold length of time to a new age: Earth of the 1980s. In a twist ending, the survivors became an Adam and Eve of sorts, giving birth to a new race, a few of whom resemble Rumy and her former crewmates.
Yes, it’s the Battlestar Galactica ending, roughly twenty-three years before Battlestar Galactica ended.
Overall, Gall Force: Eternal Story is an entertaining movie, but it’s hampered by a variety of flaws. Some of them stem from a reliance on common character archetypes and tropes, like Lufy, the badass rocket jockey, and Rumy, who largely serves as the dithering comic relief. For those new to anime, these sorts of overplayed tropes might not be that much of a problem, but the characters largely play to type, and as a result are a bit too predictable.
The other problems related to the story are more endemic to the structure and nature of the narrative’s universe and logic. The plot progresses in part because characters do things that don’t make sense. The entire experiment that kills Eluza and results in the birth of the boy is kept secret from the military, yet the vector that implants the factor into Eluza and Patty was planted on the ship by the Paranoid after aggressively approaching and engaging the Star Leaf in battle. For an experiment with a one-in-a-thousand success rate, why would they choose to conduct it in the most uncontrolled environment that they could have possibly considered?
Further, one of the Star Leaf‘s crew, Catty, is secretly an android planted on board the ship to assist in the completion of the joint Solnoid-Paranoid mission for an ambassador race, but her actual role in the mission is never explained. She’s never shown actively engaging in any activity to assist its success. The only help she provides comes when the Star Leaf is about to self-destruct, and she sacrifices herself to ensure the rest of the crew is able to launch the escape vessel.
In short, there are plot holes aplenty. And while they didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the movie, there are more than enough to suggest that yes, this movie is not good. Not terrible, just not well thought-out.
Part of what makes the film enjoyable despite the narrative faults is its artwork. The character designs were created by Kenichi Sonoda, who also produced work of a similar style for Bubblegum Crisis. There’s also a lot of fast-paced mecha combat with some great design work, as well. Gall Force has all the qualities of a decent popcorn movie: intellectually light, but really pretty to look at.
So while the film doesn’t hold up as well as, say, Tenchi Muyo in Love, Gall Force: Eternal Story is still an entertaining movie that’s worth watching. It’s just best to turn off your brain when you hit Play. The style is much greater than the substance, but that style is still pretty fun.
Gall Force: Eternal Story was released on DVD by U.S. Manga Corps, a Central Park Media label. The DVD features the original Japanese dialogue with English subtitles and two English dub tracks. It is not rated, but is recommend for ages 13+ by the publisher for brief nudity and violence.
AICanime of the pastArtmicCentral Park MediaGall ForceU.S. Manga Corps