Anime, often, cribs from works of western science fiction – particularly films. Star Wars, Star Trek, the Starship Troopers novel, and Lensmen have all been borrowed from or in some cases adapted outright. However, there are some instances where the level of cribbing doesn’t quite pan out, and Odin: Starlight Mutiny is one of those.
Odin: Starlight Mutiny comes from Yoshinobu Nishizaki, the co-creator of Space Battleship Yamato and Space Carrier Blue Noah. Like those series, Odin takes the idea of sending an ocean-going vessel into space – in this case, a sailboat.
The premise is that in the far future, humanity has used solar sailers, both powered by the sun and later using laser relay stations to colonize the solar system, and now have managed to adapt the technology somewhat with a ship called the Starlight which can use solar sails for in-system flight along with an FTL drive for interstellar flight.
On their way out of the Sol system, near Jupiter, they come across a distress signal from a mysterious space ship, and in turn a derelict station with unknown alien technology. The destroyed space ship has only one survivor, and the space station self destructs, but not before the crew of the Starlight can retrieve a data crystal that provides the coordinates to an alien planet called Odin.
The captain of the Starlight is reluctant to follow those coordinates, particularly not through a wormhole that leads to parts unknown, so the young crew of hot-headed cadets mutinies and takes control of the ship, leading the Starlight through the wormhole into conflict with the massive machine intelligence which sent the space station.
So, Odin: Starlight Mutiny is basically Nishizaki mashing up Yamato with 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Now, I like all of those things on their own. In combination, they don’t quite work, for a variety of reasons.
Probably the biggest issue is with pacing. The film feels like it’s trying to cram twelve to twenty-four episodes of television into a 2-hour-and-15-minute film – as if this was a compilation film for a TV series that doesn’t exist. I’ve watched a few compilation films, so I’m familiar with the format, but I’ve also found them universally inferior to the original work.
Even in those cases where the original could have withstood some narrative tweaking, like Mobile Suit Gundam, I have found that the compilation films were inferior to either the Gundam: The Origin manga or the original work, due to the ways the pacing has suffered.
However, Odin: Starlight Mutiny was, near that I can tall, always meant to be a feature film. Thus, the gaps feel less like editing existing material for time, and more like skipping over parts that the writer thinks are boring, but which the reader viewer needs to build rapport with the characters and to understand their predicament. I know the names of only a handful of characters in this film, and not because the cast is small or because a small number of characters have lines.
Indeed, the show has a Yamato or Gundam level cast, but because we don’t get enough time with them, we don’t get to know who they are. This isn’t helped by some impressive padding scenes – including a five-minute scene at the start of the film, and another five-minute scene at the midpoint of the film, one with the cast rushing to their stations, the other with the titular mutiny, all of which set to exactly the same piece of music by the band Loudness, who contributed several songs to the film’s soundtrack.
That said, the film’s animation is – near as I can tell from the DVD version, absolutely gorgeous. This is 1985 feature film animation, direction both of the film itself and animation direction from veterans of the Yamato TV series and films, with some of the best animation that Toei has done.
However, it’s done in service of a plot that is rough and disjointed, and with something of a non-ending, with this film’s threat defeated but the main plot unresolved and unlikely to ever be resolved considering that this film did poorly at the box office in ’85, followed by Nishizaki’s death in 2010 after repeated drug and firearms trafficking convictions (but not before making one more Yamato movie).
The film is out of print and considering the quality of most of the releases out there, I can’t recommend picking it up on DVD. I especially recommend skipping any dub-only releases, which takes an already awkwardly structured film and cut it down further to 90 minutes. If this film did get a blu-ray release, I’d consider picking it up, if only to give the animation the appreciation it deserves.