“I wonder why the wars never stop. Some say it’s because there are those who profit from war. Well, that’s certainly true, but.. But it might be that … we are born this way- Born with a genetic predisposition to love war when we grow up. But what about him? Is Locke also that way? Why has he remained a child?
What They Say:
The intergalactic wars have begun. The federal army is no match for Lady Chan’s legion of robotic soldiers. Defeat is at hand. Only the super-powered Locke, now a peace loving civilian can save the Earth. Locke must use his superhuman powers and ultra-destructive lightning sword to defeat the villainous onslaught. Will Locke come to the rescue of his doomed planet? Can he resist the beautiful but traitorous Jessica? The final showdown awaits aboard a monstrous asteroid spaceship!
The English and Japanese Dolby 2.0 audio tracks came through just fine with no problems here. The English track is still reminiscent of the quality of English VHS tracks of the 80s. (More on this in the ‘content’ section.)
The video quality here is very nice and crisp for a Japanese theatrical movie released in 1984. The subtitles are yellow with black detail for good reading as needed. It looks better than any previous release to date.
The front contains the original theatrical movie poster with paintings of the main protagonists and villain. The back has a decent synopsis of the movie and a few cells from the film.
The menu is a bright picture of Locke generating his powers against a black &blue space backdrop. The options at the bottom are highlighted by a single underline for easy navigation.
There’s a pilot movie here containing an overview of what the animators would hope to achieve in bringing the original manga to celluloid life. It’s fun and education to see this part of the process, especially when you consider it was only the first step and the character would go on to be featured in two subsequent adaptations in the late 80s and 2000s. There’s also a pretty cool original English trailer on here from the 80s dub (which we’ll be getting to in the ‘content’ section as well.)
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
We’re shown an operative named Yamaki looking over the battle records of a boyish-looking space soldier named Locke. Yamaki wonders why with the ESP power at Locke’s command, he hasn’t aged in 30 years and concludes it’s because he doesn’t want to. Having learned enough, he journeys to visit Locke on Earth and finds him tending to a sheep farm. Locke seems content but has bare knowledge of how to care for the sheep. When one appears ready to give birth, Yamaki lends a hand as his family has raised sheep before. Afterward, while playing with his new arrival, Locke invites Yamaki to stay for dinner.
Over a simple meal, Yamaki asks Locke if he’s heard about Lady Kahn, a millionaire who owns several space stations. Seventeen years prior she formed the Kahn Foundation and founded a school to secretly train ESPers (Extra Sensory Perception users). Locke mentions that Kahn tried to recruit him into her Millennium group in order to build a kingdom to last 1000 years but he turned her down. Yamaki says that after a 5 year investigation, the only thing the Federation has learned is that Kahn has 200 fully trained ESPers, and Yamaki come to ask Locke to help take her down. Locke says he has no interest in any of this as he doesn’t want to be anyone’s pawn. After a heated discussion Yamaki eventually leaves, offering to help if another situation with the sheep comes up.
Yamaki returns to his hotel room, and carefully examines his door, finding an explosive device set to go off upon entry. He disarms it and enters but accidentally trips a laser sensor which activates the bomb anyway. Yamaki barely survives, only to see an old foe named Luke Oh coming in the room to finish his handiwork. However, Luke’s laser repeatedly bounces off a barrier that has surrounded Yamaki, as Locke arrives to check on his new friend and effortlessly dispatch the assassin. Locke agrees to help Yamaki investigate Lady Kahn’s plans.
Ramses and his science team begin forcing violent images into Jessica’s subconscious of Locke brutally murdering her parents. Later, we’re introduced to Corneilia Prim who supervises the ESPers’ combat development. She takes personal care of Jessica, and enacts new methods to turn the girl into a sleeper agent. Jessica is willing to do anything for Lady Khan since meeting her during childhood.
What follows is some galaxy spanning sci fi action that gets wide in scope but is missing a little in its pacing. At its strongest, we get to see the ESPers use the three T’s of their powers (telepathy, telekinetics, and teleportation) in various battles against Locke, while he tracks down Lady Kahn’s whereabouts. Director Hiroshi Fukutomi (Battle Angel, Fatal Fury) displays a fun penchant for progressive dolly rotation shots so that the “camera” could switch perspectives during the important dramatic and action scenes. They were often good bits of animation to see play out. The art doesn’t have many sketch lines and is a bit more abstract in its way than other anime of this time.
The lower budget for this film kind of shows through a couple times though. For example, there’s a strange method of displaying fire at one point as part of the Locke cel is intercut with live footage from a fire, which is later superimposed over the cel of a building. Also, it seems they use a rotoscope technique for animating Lady Kahn at one point. On the other hand, we get a small glimpse of CG animation use to depict the spaceships traveling at one point, and similar technology was to present Locke’s history in the opening scenes. Fukutomi was one of the earliest directors to integrate such technology in anime, much like he would do for the movie SF New Century Lensman.
In watching the screenplay based on the original manga by Yuki Hijiri, you get the sense a lot has happened in this universe prior to the film and that a lot could happen beyond it. Sometimes though, it feels that too much is being shoehorned into the story (especially since this is based on the first arc of a 33 volume manga.) There’s a romantic subplot that is handled clumsily, about as much as Anakin and Amidala in Star wars, as though the romance takes place because someone felt there had to be a love story even though little plausible development is given to it. It’s interesting to see the villain Lady Khan developed in the background in a slow reveal. She comes off somewhat as an ersatz combination of the X-Men’s Professor X and Magneto when you see her ideals and plans announced.
Speaking of announcing, I have to talk about the dub that’s present on this release. Locke The Superman was one of several anime titles that were acquired for U.S. distribution by Celebrity Home Video. They were often edited down to cut out the violence and nudity and placed in the children’s section of video stores such as Blockbuster Videos. Also, the movie titles would be altered as in the cases of Clash of the Bionoids (originally Macross: Do You Remember Love), Vengeance of the Space Pirate (My Youth In Arcadia) and Technopolice 21c. Often though, there would be alternate versions with the footage uncut released to the public as well.
Our movie here was rechristened Locke The Superpower, with several minutes removed like the others. The dub is from that release and much like some of the others, the acting and pacing are a bit uneven. The stories remain intact but the nuances and subtleties… just don’t quite resonate as well as the majority of dubs in modern performances, and come off as lifeless readings sometimes. For example, hearing people pronounce ESPers as ESP-ARRRRS gets to be grating after a while, especially if you understand where the term comes from.
It makes you appreciate the talents of voice directors like Andrea Romano (Batman TAS, Justice League Unlimited) and Colleen Clinkenbeard (Panty & Stocking w/ Garterbelt) who help give the impression that there are characters are dealing with situations as opposed to folks who are reading off a piece of paper and don’t convey much emotion… or too much when told to screech unconvincingly. Coming up in the 80s though, this is mostly what anime fans had available (and not all of them were bad to be honest. Some were quite good actually, and will be covered in a future article.) In any case, I do have to commend Discotek Media for integrating this track with the Japanese remastered release to preserve the history for long time anime fans and present excellent picture quality to boot. It’s also fun to hear the sound effects from 80s anime that you don’t hear in modern works anymore.
Locke The Superman is another solid release from Discotek Media. The pacing is a bit rough at times, but eminently enjoyable if you’re looking to see dramatic action movies featuring Japanese animation’s general take on ESP abilities, similar to what’s shown in movies Akira and Harmageddon. If you can handle the art style and the focus on (as my friend likes to put it) “The green-haired Goku guy,” I definitely recommend picking up this DVD. (PS: thanks to Dave Merrill for the CG pics!)
English Dolby 2.0, Japanese Dolby 2.0, English subtitles, English trailer, Pilot movie
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: A+
Released By: Discotek Media / Easter Star
Release Date: November 13, 2012
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Panasonic 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Marantz stereo receiver