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Phoenix: Space Chapter, The

Entry updated 15 November 2021. Tagged: Film.

Japanese Original Video Animation (OVA) (1987; original title Hi no tori: Uchū-hen). Madhouse, Tezuka Productions. Based on the Manga by Osamu Tezuka. Directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri. Written by Hideo Takayashiki and Tomoko Konparu. Voice cast includes Tesshō Genda, Masako Ikeda, Akira Kamiya, Keiko Toda and Mori Katsuyuki Yuu. 48 minutes. Colour.

In 2557 four Spaceship crew members are woken from Suspended Animation when their ship is hit by a meteorite; they wonder why the pilot, Makimura (Kamiya), had not avoided the collision – then find him dead in the cockpit. Fleeing in their escape pods they are horrified to see Makimura's pod following them. The Captain (Genda) says Makimura was murdered – there was a message on his console saying: "I'm going to be killed." One crew member had previously tried to murder Makimura, seeing him as a rival for their colleague Nana's (Toda) affections: his pod becomes separated from the rest, and is lost. As the months pass the remaining three each tell a story of Makimura: he had been on a planet and seen a Phoenix – the immortal and powerful bird of legend – the dust from her feathers making him immortal; he was growing progressively younger; Nana says she had seen him accidentally x-rayed, revealing he was an Android.

The pods arrive at a planet, but the captain's burns up in the atmosphere. Nana opens Makimura's pod to find a baby inside. The other surviving crew member, Saruta (Yuu), meets the Phoenix (Ikeda), who explains Makimura had once been stranded amongst bird-like Aliens: initially bigoted, he had eventually married one – but when a rescue party made contact his racism (see Race in SF) resurfaced – he murdered the aliens and devoured his wife. So he was cursed by the Phoenix to undergo an eternal cycle of aging back and forth, plus exile on this desolate planet. Makimura had built the android to hide his affliction – he had been a young child hiding on the spaceship, the broken android the corpse. Though the Phoenix says the two others will be returned to Earth, Nana wants to look after Makimura; Saruta – also besotted with her – tries to kill the baby: for which he, and his descendants, are cursed by the Phoenix. At her request, Nana is turned into a plant (whose fruit will feed the infant).

The plot is interesting, but the main theme – the cruelty of love – suffers a little from the implausibility of having three of the crew infatuated with the bland Nana, who cannot break from her dedication to Makimura, despite his deeply disturbing actions.

This was the third volume of an OVA trilogy based on Osamu Tezuka's manga series concerning the Phoenix; the first two being Phoenix: Karma Chapter (1986; original title Hi no Tori: Ho-o-hen; vt The Phoenix: Chapter of Ho-o), a Fantasy set in ancient India; and The Phoenix: Chapter of Yamato (1987 OVA; original title Hi no Tori: Yamato-hen), based on the life of the historical prince Yamato Takeru, son of Japan's twelfth Emperor. There had been two earlier films, the live action Hi no Tori (1978) and the anime Phoenix 2772 (1980); later came a 2004 anime television series. [SP]


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