Produced in time for what would have been Osamu Tezuka's 80th birthday, Ravex in Tezuka World is a short animation featuring characters from Tezuka's body of work meeting an animated version of the musical trio Ravex. It was included as an extra DVD with the group's debut album.
I first reported on this a couple of years ago, and in reading that now I'm kind of surprised at how unfavorable my initial reactions where! I was kind of harsh on it when this project was first announced.
Well, it's taken awhile for me to see it, but it's out there now thanks to a recent fansub. You're on your own if you want to see it for yourself, but I thought it would be fun to give it a quick review with some screenshots right here on ABW for those who are curious. After finally seeing it, I can say that it's at the very least worth being curious about because watching this is kind of bizarre! Whether it's good or bad, it sure is different, so let's go through the the whole story.
Click on the images for a bigger look. Feel free to leave your comments because I'm looking forward to seeing what you have to say.
Before it starts, we get a very cool animated bit featuring several Tezuka characters and a giant birthday cake. Astro lights a large candle, and then other candles illuminate in the shape of the number 80. This is just a wonderful heartwarming tribute to Tezuka.
But after that, well... things get weird!
As soon as the story gets started, there is some kind of dance party where we are treated to seeing dancing girls shaking their butts. And we are given a particularly close viewpoint of these shaking butts too, though I will refrain from including an image of that specific shot.
This dance party is the result of Ravex, comprised of "The Passion" Shin, "The Heart" To, And "The Brain" Taku. Known as the "Music Healers", they fly in a space ship bringing music to dark planets as they explore the galaxy.
Later, their ship discovers a something floating in space. It's Astro, and in an interesting bit of continuity, he is melted to a piece of metal from when he flew into the sun in his final adventure.
So Ravex decides to bring him aboard and they use their music to revive him. Congratulations, Astro Boy! You have been brought back from the dead to help this band sell some albums!
Actually, Astro immediately tells Ravex about how the planet Reearth is in danger. "The Dark Silence" is attacking the planet and is out to conquer the universe! They are evil robots from a world with no music or dance or joy. They step on a butterfly and shoot a litlle girl's doll, so you know they are bad. How Astro knows about all of this as soon as he wakes up after being melted for who knows how long, I do not know. It is never explained. Let's just go with it though. Ravex vows to stop Dark Silence, but Astro is unable to help as he was built on Earth and can not get power on Reearth.
Astro and Ravex meet up with Spider and young Melmo. She doesn't like being talked down to as a kid so she eats one of her special candies and becomes older. She is also pretty hot. Maybe that's creepy since she can change age, but Taku also thinks she's hot, so it's actually in there!
Sapphire arrives and explains the history of the planet Reearth. They could not defend themselves against the invaders, and their leader Rattoo (Rock Holmes) was wounded and hasn't recovered.
Everything is hopeless and everyone is depressed, but that's not going to stop Ravex from partying down! They play their music to pick up the mood and Tezuka's characters dance around. Even Kimba and Unico get in on it.
But besides all this dancing, Shin has an actual plan! You might have noticed his distinctively familiar hair style. Seems it must run in the family because his big brother is a very famous surgeon who wanders the universe. That's right, SPACE JACK has arrived! SPACE JACK. Space Black Jack. Black Space Jack. SPACE.
Space Jack and Dr. Ochanomizu perform an operation on Rattoo and Astro in a very vague sequence to create a new green and blue hero, Ratom! Of course, Ravex plays their music the entire time to bring Ratom to life. I don't really know if Ratom is a rebuilt Astro or a revived Rattoo or what. It's not really clear. Again, let's just go with it!
The Dark Silence attacks and there is a huge fight. Ratom shoots his lasers and starts busting out kung fu moves. It's a fairly impressive little bit of animation. Sapphire fights too, and Ravex uses their music to fight the robots. Even Melmo gets in on the action.
Now, all that's left is the Dark Silence leader. So he eats Ratom. Yep. He just goes and swallows the kid.
With their only hope lost, what will Ravex do? If you guessed "Play music", you are right! At this point, the music playing animation has been reused 3 or 4 times. A glow shaped like the Phoenix appears and the bad guy vanishes forever because music is so powerful or something!
The war is over, so To and Taku get to cuddle with Sapphire and Melmo, and Shin is mobbed by several dozen random brunettes. I guess that's his thing.
Space Jack was promised treasure in exchange for his services. It turns out that the treasure of the planet Reearth are "The Creations of our Children", which are cheap kids' toys. Nope, not love or happiness or knowledge or anything metaphorical, just cheap toys. I have to admit, I did not see that coming! Pinoko liked it though.
As if there was any doubt as to how this was going to end, we get to watch yet another music and dance sequence with reused animation. Astro and Ratom dance at the same time, which is amusing to see, but confusing since it seemed like Ratom actually was supposed to be Astro. Whatever, man.
Leaving no Tezuka reference untouched, even these things get to dance.
The story is over but we are informed that MUSIC NEVER END.
That's pretty much it. All in all, it's a rather strange little film. The plot somehow manages to be both paper thin in its simplicity while confusing in its vagueness. The animation has got that really bright, shiny, but washed out overproduced visual quality that many modern productions suffer for, and there are several reused sequences that stand out by how obvious they are. But it's only 18 minutes long and was only made to be a special extra, not something to be consumed in any major way or be taken seriously. And that winds up being its strong point, allowing for things to get crazy and have fun with the story.
I have nothing of note to say about the music. It didn't add or detract from the story in any major way. It was just background noise to me, and I suppose that for a project that was based around a musical act, that's not a very good thing. The tunes just didn't do much for me.
I have a few problems with how Astro was handled. They bring him back quickly without explaining how (using the power of music, I guess,) only to have him immediately go into exposition mode with the whole Dark Silence thing. How does he know all of this when he was melted? And then, he can't even do anything about it because of his energy, which was a cheap excuse to bring in this new green and blue guy that looks just like him. I don't want to think about it to the point where it bothers me, but I kind of feel like Astro got exploited here.
However, there are some really cool things here too. The fight scenes are very well animated and fun to watch. It was great seeing so many of Tezuka's characters at the same time and interacting together in brand new story. Some of them had futuristic redesigns that looked great. Finally, Sapphire and Melmo where pretty hot. Yeah, I mentioned that already, but in all seriousness they really stole the show in general and popped off the screen whenever they were around.
Again, you're on your own if you want to watch this for yourself. I can't help you find it, so don't ask, but I don't think it should be too hard. Google is your friend.
I think it was worth watching just to see so many Tezuka characters together in a new way, and it was pretty interesting in that respect to see how these characters would be used in the story. Since this was a one-off special, there were some surprises with how Tezuka's character were utilized and the result was kind of a unabashedly hyperactive, cool-for-the-sake-of-cool kind of thing. And that's alright, I really like it for that. I know that Tezuka Productions is very open to reimaginings of these characters in order to keep them relevant. I just wish it would have been for a better purpose than publicity for a band.