Big Wars: Kami Utsu Akaki Kōya ni (Big Wars: the Gods’ Crimson Hideout Under the Desert), directed by Issei Kume and Toshifumi Takizawa. 71 minutes. September 25, 1993.
Big Wars (in Japan often called just Daisenki; a straight translation) went almost unnoticed, but it was one of the higher-quality productions of the 1990s, produced by Tokuma Japan Communications Co., Ltd. based upon a novel by Yoshio Aramaki (not surprisingly published by Tokuma Shoten); with good art design (character design by Satomi Mikiyura; mechanical design by Hiroshi Yokoyama) at the Magic Bus studio. I liked the music by Michiaki Kato, too.
Yoshio Aramaki (1933-current) specialized in military s-f; stories of wars in the future and alternate histories, that were essentially World War II with bigger weapons – and a Japanese victory. His alternate-history novels also postulated that late-1930s-early 1940s Japan had rejected an alliance with the unpopular Nazis, and had been a more humane Japan that promoted a genuine Greater East Asian equality, winning the support of the Korean, Indonesian, Philippine, Indonesia, Burmese, Indian, etc. peoples.
Big Wars opens with two minutes of futuristic warfare. There are five captions. “AD 2023. Mankind begins to terraform Mars.” “AD 2085. Huge numbers of immigrants arrive on Mars.” “AD 2116. The Mars Independent Government is established.” “AD 2376. Mars is attacked by the alien race.” And finally “Mars – AD 2416”. I am bemused by CPM’s OAV blurb and all the contemporary 1990s online reviews that say that this takes place at the dawn of the 21st century.
A background crawl establishes that the human Martian government has been at war for forty years against “The Gods” or “God’s people”, who appeared by surprise in 2376. They quickly captured the outer planets. The enemy appears to be human, but nobody knows whether the leaders of “God” are really humans, or whether they are aliens who have taken mind-control of and are using humans as their soldiers.
The real story begins with Fleet Captain Kanki Akuh of the Mars Defense Forces flying from Pedec Base to the Achilles Springs base to take command of a newly commissioned ground navy battleship. The deserts of Mars are defended by battleships just like those in World War II, but built to “sail” on the sand oceans of Mars rather than on water. More background in dialogue in a flashback over the next minute establishes that Akuh had previously been in command of the Aoba, Mars’ greatest battleship; that the Aoba had suffered devastating damage in the Battle of Eden Plateau and is being decommissioned and replaced; and that Akuh is coming from two months of rehabilitation. He is anxious to get back to action. His orders from Admiral Mikawa are to reinforce the Nile Canal, a crucial supply line that the Martian High Command has determined is about to be the focus of a major enemy attack.
Akuh finds that about half of the new battleship’s sailors are from the old Aoba, and that his two closest subordinates are Commander Yutaka Todoroki (an old friend) and Second Lieutenant Takeshi Hijikata. He also finds that Achilles Springs is a hotbed of God’s terrorists and spies; and that his old lover, Lieutenant Dasha Kerrigan of Intelligence (spelled “Darsa Keligan” in the Japanese text) at Pedec Base, is there, too. They were separated during the Aoba’s final battle so quickly that they never said goodbye. Akuh, Todoroki, and Hijikata go for a tour of the new battleship, still under construction, and learn from Chief Engineer J. Dalton that it is secretly the old Aoba being repaired and fitted with new secret weapons. Akuh’s real orders are not to just defend the Nile Canal, but to lead a counteroffensive against God’s troops to knock them out of the war.
Akuh and Kerrigan resume their romance to an almost-NSFW degree. Their dinner table talk establishes that God’s soldiers are attacking Earth with their long-range “sun cannon”, and that “being subverted by the enemy” does not mean just deciding to join the enemy but being mentally taken over by The Gods. The enemy’s supposed rationale is that The Gods created all life and gave everybody their place. Humans were given Earth. Once humans expanded beyond Earth and began colonizing other worlds, this was a sin that God has to punish. Moving into the bedroom, Kerrigan uses a “happy” pill to enhance their sexual enjoyment. She becomes so aggressive that she claws deep furrows into Akuh’s back, which she covers with artificial skin.
As Akuh is later eating dinner, he is accosted by Col. Coleman, the Chief of Intelligence at Pedec Base and Kerrigan’s former superior. He asks if she’s given anything to Akuh. She is suspected of having been subverted to God’s soldiers as a spy. Coleman’s arrogant manner instantly turns Akuh (and the viewer) against him.
All the Martian soldiers are ordered to take a psychological profile test, administered by Doctor Lee, to reveal anyone who is slowly being subverted by the Gods. Akuh passes. He asks Dr. Lee what the signs of subversion are. Dr. Lee answers that anyone who is fully subverted will refuse to take the test, and will exhibit nymphomania. Akuh suspects against his will that Kerrigan has been subverted.
That night as they are intimate, Kerrigan drugs Akuh. She begs him to escape with her before the Gods destroy Achilles Springs the next day. When he refuses, she tries to kill him. He kills her. Col. Coleman reappears and demands that Akuh give him what she gave him. Akuh thinks that Kerrigan must have given whatever it was to him because she didn’t trust Coleman or anyone else in the Intelligence division. He challenges Coleman to take the test to show whether he has been subverted. They fight, and Coleman is killed. As Akuh returns to Achilles Springs, he finds a message from Kerrigan in his wrist computer. She had been interrogating prisoners when she felt herself and the whole Intelligence division being subverted. Before she was completely taken over, she hid what she had learned under the false skin she gave him, and put this message into his wrist computer. Akuh takes the Aoba out just in time to save it from a missile attack. Dr. Lee finds a microchip under the false skin. Akuh’s information about the coming assault on Achilles Springs enables the Martian Navy to meet and defeat the Gods’ attack.
The next day (?), news comes that the enemy’s greatest weapon, the invincible giant stealth submersible carrier Hell, has appeared. Admiral Mikawa orders Captain Akuh to take the Aoba out on a solo – and suicide — mission to locate and destroy the Hell. The climax of Big Wars is 24 minutes of battle action. The OAV ends with the destruction of the Hell; presumably this means the defeat of The Gods and the end of the war.
(But what about the Gods’ having previously taken over Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, and whatever base their sun cannons that bombarded Earth is on? I also wondered about all the signage in the OAV being in English, but the Aoba being named in Japanese; both the word and in big hiragana letters.
There was an actual IJN Aoba heavy cruiser launched in 1926 that served throughout World War II, being destroyed in 1945. It was named after Mt. Aoba, a low mountain near Kyoto and Osaka, popular with hikers.)
Big Wars was released by Central Park Media on DVD on October 14, 1998 and rereleased on April 8, 2003. Its English-language dub was of particularly high quality.
Next week: “Forgotten” OAVs #28.