A Time Slip of 10,000 Years: Prime Rose [タイムスリップ 10000 年 プライム・ローズ] (1983)
Starring Yuu Mizushima, Mari Okamoto, Junko Hori, Katamasa Komatsu, Kaneto Shiozawa, Shuuichi Ikeda, Yuusaku Yara
Directed by Osamu Dezaki & Satoshi Dezaki
It’s time for another Osamu Tezuka film, and it’s one I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time now. The few images I had seen of it convinced me that it was going to be crazy, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s very unusual for a Tezuka film, and I’m a bit flummoxed on what to think of it. For one thing, it has virtually no cameos of other Tezuka characters. I only noticed one small appearance by Ban Shunsaku, and the cast felt somewhat lonely without the usual ensemble of familiar faces.
The film also has a much more defined narrative flow. The other Tezuka films I’ve reviewed have all bounced between tangents in a manner that anyone unfamiliar with his works would likely find jarring. But Prime Rose rarely deviates from its central course. The comedy elements are also downplayed a bit. It has plenty, but the jokes don’t saturate the film in the same way that they do in most Tezuka stories.
The story itself is perhaps the most reminiscent of traditional Tezuka fare. It starts with a space station named Death Mask (well, that’s not ominous at all) that breaks in two and plummets to the earth, wiping out two cities in the process. But then Spock (!?) shows up and tells the main character that the cities weren’t actually destroyed; they were flung 10,000 years into the future. So now Gai hops in his time machine to see what happened to them. It turns out the future is a lot like a cross between ancient Greece and ancient Egypt. Then Gai gets kidnapped and forced to build statues with a bunch of other slaves, and in the only major Tezuka-style focus-shift of the film, we switch to the perspective of Emiya, a girl forced into marrying a total jackass that executed her boyfriend. So she does what any girl would do in this situation: she hops into an outfit halfway between a bikini and a dominatrix costume and runs off with an old homeless guy who promised to teach her sword fighting. Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.
At this point the film turns my head to jelly. It’s not even the oddity of the scenario. I’ve seen much weirder and loved it. What throws me is Emiya looking sexy. First off, I had figured these 24 hour TV specials to be aired in a family time slot, so what’s with all the sexual tension and the random bathing scene here? Is it cultural disconnect, or did I miss something? But whether it’s kid friendly or not, the pressing issue for my sanity is seeing Tezuka characters in sexual situations. Now I’ve read Ode to Kirihito, so I know just how far down the depravity hole Tezuka can go, but seeing his characters looking in any way provocative always crosses a few wires in my brain. I’ve never gotten used to it. The designs are just too childish looking. They look like they should be playing peekaboo with toddlers. When you sprinkle a layer of kinky on top of that, the contrast just fries my brain.
Now don’t think any of this diminished my enjoyment of Prime Rose at all. If there is anything I have gotten used to from Tezuka, it is being confused. It just comes with the territory. Tezuka’s stuff always gives off a surreal vibe. And never let it be said that I don’t love a good warrior princess story. That’s my favorite kind of story. Mix it with Tezuka’s unique style and you get one hell of a fun ride filled with bizarre giant monsters, wacky sword fights, and mysterious demonic entities.
As much as it drifts from Tezuka’s normal M.O., Prime Rose is also undeniably his. While the humor is subtler, its tone and timing could only have come from Tezuka himself. The plot may be focused, but the twists are every bit as sudden and baffling as ever. The film carried me from start to finish eager to see the next bit of inexplicable insanity.