Tobira o Akete (Open the Door), directed by Keizo Shimizu and Tsuneo Tominaga. 81 minutes. November 1, 1986.
This is another anime that was a brief 1986 theatrical release and almost immediately went to a video. It is often confused with other, later creations with the same title, notably a 1995 11-minute OAV that was Studio 4º C’s first production, and the opening credits theme song of the Card Captor Sakura TV anime series. This one was produced by Magic Bus for Kitty Films.
Open the Door is a shallow wish-fulfillment fantasy for adolescents, especially girls. Neko-chan is a university student who gets lots of favorable attention from her classmates, but she is bored by it all. She has a secret power (telekinesis), and a handsome boyfriend, Haruka, who is also “magic” (teleportation). They are transported to another dimension where she is hailed as the reincarnation of Princess Neryulla, who will lead her people to revolt against mysterious Duran III.
The movie/OAV starts at a beautiful-but-boring private university in Tokyo; but young co-ed Miyako Negishi, nicknamed Neko-chan by her classmates (she doesn’t have any real friends) for the “ne” and “ko” syllables in her name, is more bored than that explains. Note Gokudo-san, the toy cartoon dinosaur fob on her notebook. He’ll become important later. Neko becomes alive on evenings of the full moon when she goes out on a date (note her “grown-up” smoking) with her handsome slightly-older boyfriend, Haruka Saiki, a playboy – or wanna-be playboy. They both have psionic super-powers; she’s telekinetic while he can teleport. On this date they’re waiting to meet a third psionic teenager; Keiichiro Yamagishi. He’s embarrassed to reveal what his talent is.
Suddenly a cloaked stranger kidnaps the three to another dimension/reality. Keiichiro-kun is separated from the other two, who arrive before a giant, ornate golden door. Neko opens the door to reveal a large cavern filled with pink-haired people dressed as medieval peasants chanting “Neryulla! Neryulla!”
The cloaked stranger reappears, revealing himself to be a handsome but emotionless albino, Ladin, who is Neko’s high priest. He claims to have found/reawakened her after 500 years. She is really Princess Neryulla (or her reincarnation), revived to lead her enslaved Naka no Kuni people to freedom from their Nishi no Kuni oppressors. (Naka no Kuni and Nishi no Kuni are just Japanese for “the land of all of us” or “the land of us together”, and “the Western Land”.) Ladin urges Neko to address her people with “the words of revival” before they become restless. She automatically knows they are “The day of humiliation is nearly over!” and “I will open the door!” The crowd cheers, and Ladin gives her Princess Neryulla’s fancy sword.
Suddenly the Roman-esque soldiers of Nishi no Kuni enter, led by brawny he-man Altire. He laughs menacingly, makes fun of Neko’s brown hair (all the people of both lands have pink or white hair), and vows to cut off Neko’s head. She finds her telekinetic power enhanced by the larger, closer moon and disarms the soldiers, levitating Altire, but he breaks her power and attacks with his mace. But he breaks one of the cavern’s supporting columns and is buried in a rockfall.
The Naka no Kuni people revolt and the soldiers are driven out. Towado, a Naka no Kuni archer, begs to be Neko’s personal champion. (Is Ladin displeased?) Ladin, whose face was scarred in the battle, advises Neko to lead them to attack Kamura Castle, the former capital of Naka no Kuni now held by the enemy. That night, around a campfire, Ladin tells Neko and Haruka their history. Naka no Kuni was a happy land until Nishi no Nuni invaded 500 years ago and beheaded their king. Princess Neryulla led a resistance but she was finally captured and also beheaded, vowing to return. Now she has returned through Neko. Ladin says that the capture of Kamura Castle will be the first step in leading the people of Naka no Kuni to Nishi no Kuni’s capital, Shaa, to kill their cruel leader, General Duran III.
During this time, Altire is seen winning free of the rockfall and vowing to kill Neko.
The next day they ride toward Kamura Castle on giant dodo birds; Ladin with Neko, and Towado with Haruka. Towado tells Haruka that he was the leader of the Naka no Kuni people until Ladin showed up as a mysterious wanderer a half-year ago. He made many predictions of future events that all came true, so the people made him their leader.
When they get to Kamura Castle, they find it ruined. Four children tell them that a blonde Princess Neryulla riding a golden beast and leading an army recently conquered it. Neko’s group is puzzled until a lion appears who turns out to be Keiichiro-kun. His talent is turning into a lion. He came to this world in the Hanao Mountains, where he ran into a exploration party from Higashi no Kuni (“the Eastern Land”) led by their blonde Princess Dimida. When they reached Kamura Castle, they were mistaken for Princess Neryulla and attacked, but they defended themselves strongly and won. Ladin says he’s heard of Princess Dimida, “La Medin Dimida, the ogre princess”. She’s a sexy blonde (is that long hair practical in sword fighting?) who challenges Neko to a duel to the death. She orders Ji, her general, to let nobody interfere, but after Neko proves that she can hold her own, the two girls become best friends.
Neko, advised by Ladin and Dimida, leads the Naka no Kuni people to attack Fort Shiko. It is defended by flying dragons, and Altire leads the Nishi no Kuni warriors. After a long battle, Altire is killed despite shouting that he’s invulnerable. But Ladin is also burned to death. Neko’s reaction hints that she was starting to love him. She is despondent that every time she starts to form a relationship, the other party is either frightened away by her power or somehow leaves her. (Neko and Haruka smoke a lot in this sequence. Haruka points out that they haven’t needed to eat since coming to this dimension, proving that their bodies are still in Tokyo and that this is a dream to them.)
The three see a vision of Tokyo, but Towado and Dimida warn that it is Hiyoka Forest which traps people with false visions. Neko relives her past. Her power has made her a monster, but she’s really afraid of forming relationships. Neko vows to go on leading the revolt against Nishi no Kuni until she knows whether she’s really Princess Neryulla or not.
They fight to the enemy capital of Shaa, where they confront Duran III’s elite Black Knight Corps, led by an older commander with a falcon. The Naka no Kuni lose for the first time, and are despondent.
The final battle! Neko uses her power to enlarge her Gokudo dinosaur fob to Godzilla size and terrify the Black Knights. Neko is still hesitant to form relationships.
The Naka no Kuni army fight their way into Shaa. The three from Tokyo, plus Princess Dimida enter Duran III’s castle. The Black Knght Commander and Dimida fight while the others go on. Duran III turns out to really be Ladin. (Is anyone surprised?) He says that he engineered the whole thing to shock the lands of Naka, Nishi, and Higashi no Kuni out of their long peaceful stasis and “open the door to the future”. He made up the legend of Princess Neryulla to inspire the Naka no Kuni to dissatisfaction and revolt. He keeps using the metaphor of awakening the people; of opening the door to the future. Meanwhile, Dimida and the Black Knight Commander come to respect each other as they fight, but she still kills him.
Duran III reveals the golden door and tells the three that they are free to return to Tokyo; he no longer needs them. Neko resents being told that she is no longer necessary and all the deaths in battle that Duran III caused, and kills him.
In a coda, the three are back in Tokyo a month later, treating the incident as a shared dream. But a manuscript from Princess Dimida, delivered by the falcon, says that she hopes the incident has led to Neko going through her own door.
Most anime fans of 1986 didn’t consider Open the Door to be a theatrical feature, and weren’t very interested in it as an OAV. The lack of English subtitles at the time made it almost impossible to understand. The casual ending – “It was all a dream. Oh, it wasn’t? Who cares.” – was not popular with the few fans who did watch the fifth- and sixth-generation copies of the Japanese OAV. By the time fans could subtitle it, almost nobody was interested.
Next week: Forgotten anime #46: “Wizardry” (1991)