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Time Stranger

Entry updated 28 August 2023. Tagged: Film.

Japanese Original Video Animation film (1986; original title Tenshi no Tamago). Madhouse. Directed by Mori Masaki. Written by Mori Masaki, Yoshio Takeuchi and Atsushi Yamatoya, based on the novel Toraerareta Schoolbus/Jikū no Tabibito (1986) by Taku Mayumura. Voice cast includes Takeshi Aono Makio Inoue, Mitsuo Iwata, Seiji Kumagai, Hiromi Murata, Osamu Saka, Keiko Toda, Masane Tsukayama and Tadashi Yokouchi. 91 minutes. Colour.

In new calendar year 392 Agino Jiro (Toda) steals a "time synchronization system" (see Time Machine) and travels to the past: however his transport is damaged by Kutajima Toshito (Inoue), who is tasked with capturing him. Jiro ends up in present day Tokyo where he steals a van and links the device to it, then continues his journey ... unfortunately the van contains three students: jock Nobucho Yamazaki (Kumagai), nerd Shinichi Hase (Iwata) and the beautiful Teko Hayasaka (Murata), plus their teacher Hokuben (Aono). There is a struggle, the device is knocked and the van stops at 9 March 1945, in the midst of a US bombing raid on the city (see World War Two); here they witness the plight of the refugees. Though they do not stay long, Teko has time for a romantic moment with a young officer. Jiro explains he hated the world of 392 so wants to change it. Later we learn he comes from a peaceful but controlled Post-Holocaust future where deep-rooted Psychological problems are erased and replaced with happy memories (see Memory Edit) – which Jiro is threatened with if he does not curb his fascination with the era of hunger and war. Nonetheless, he had discovered there would be a nuclear War in 2080.

The time machine now takes them to 1600. Watching the Battle of Skigahara – which led to the formation of the Tokugawa shogunate and completed the reunification of Japan (see History in SF) – they witness an attempt to change history that is frustrated by the intervention of the Time Police; they also pick up Hirano Heizou (Saka), a rōnin. They next arrive in 1582 just before the murder of feudal lord Oda Nobunaga (Yokouchi) by Akechi Mitsuhide, an event which had prevented an earlier unification of Japan. Mitsuhide is murdered by Hirano. At this point Sedou Jin (Tsukayama), the Time Patrol agent overseeing medieval Japan, who had prevented the attempted meddling in 1600, reveals himself and takes them back one day to prevent the killing. Witnessing Toshito brainwashing Heizou into performing the assassination, Jin kills Hirano and confronts Toshito, accusing him of manipulating Jiro into fleeing 392 so he could use his hunter's privileges to follow and change history. Toshito goes to rescue Nobunaga, but Jiro shoots him, which reveals Toshito to be an Android, built to create a timeline that does not include the 2080 nuclear war (see Alternate History): the dying Toshito persuades Jiro to create this better future by saving Nobunaga (see Jonbar Point) – however the feudal lord has already committed seppuku (see Suicide).

Ranmaru, Nobunaga's son, looks like the officer Teku met in 1945 (she wonders if this is Reincarnation), and they fall in love – she wants to stay or have him go home with her – but Jin says Ranmaru must die here whilst she returns to the present: in the argument he accidentally cuts her finger. Jiro ends up shooting Jin, who – due to the magnetic fields created by two time machines being in close proximity – briefly transforms into a distorted figure before dissipating: possibly echoing a nightmare Jiro had at the beginning of the film. Hokuben, Nobucho, Shinichi and Teko are memory-wiped and returned to the present by the dying Toshito: they meet again in the van, with a dim memory that something had happened and Teku wondering why her finger is cut. Jiro probably dies in Toshito's time machine.

The film's main drawbacks are the four forgettable present-day characters, who – save for Teku – are largely irrelevant to the story, whilst Jiro's temporary support for Jin seems mainly for plot convenience. There are loose ends: we do not learn about Toshito's makers, who might be from a different time to Jiro. But on the whole Time Stranger is a very good film, with some impressively animated scenes – particularly the gory (see Horror) battles; there are no real Villains – even Mitsuhide is portrayed sympathetically – and, unusually for a Time Travel story, though the attempt is unsuccessful, changing the past is not seen as necessarily bad. The film should not be confused with Goshogun Time Etranger (1985), titled Time Stranger for its USA release, which was tied to an earlier Anime Television series Sengoku Majin Goshogun (1982). [SP]


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