After 18 years of collecting anime, I've come to a unique place. With the review of Greed, I can now say that I have watched every anime I own that is still in raw Japanese without translation. It's a bizarre thing to watch a show in a primal form, only understanding perhaps 20% of the dialogue and working to comprehend everything that's going on from visual clues alone. It's a process I've seldom undertaken, but some shows are so undiscovered that it must be done. And this one indeed fits the truly rare category--the helpful listings over at Anime News Network have no details and only one picture of the cover in their database, and Clements/McCarthy's Anime Encyclopedia has a brief and apparently error-filled entry on it. I rarely get requests to look at rare material, and since I'm long past the point of enjoying shows without subtitles, this may be the last one for a long time. I only wish it was better, since Greed is a curiously odd piece from 1985 that is probably best left there.
As Greed opens, our hero Leeto dashes through a swamp to reach his dying father's side. (It's unfortunate that his squashing of various creatures in his way to make it home is unintentionally hysterical, ruining the melodrama of the deathbed speech that follows.) There's an old evil that is trying to take over, an evil that's mechanizing the globe and sending out huge robotic insect-like apparatus into their world. Dad gives Leeto some pointers before he dies and disappears Obi-Wan style. Leeto begins on his quest only to get attacked by some animals, but it turns out they are usually friendly under the guidance of Key, a pretty girl with the ability to tame creatures. They also run into a third party member, a stout, tall fellow who turns into a blue dragon. On their way to the industrial city to confront their foe, they have to deal with giants, fairies, and plenty of other bizarre creatures and landscapes. It all ends with them having a confrontation with an honest-to-deity not-so-little green man in outer space without spacesuits, but not before Leeto and Key realize their love for each other. A forgotten classic, I tell you!
Despite my inability to pick up all the plot points (or even the name of the chief bad guy) from watching it in Japanese, Greed was not dull. It moves at a fairly even pace, spreading out some action sequences and keeping things moving by introducing new characters and situations. Although there's not a lot of depth to it all, it has a flow. Sadly, the animation wasn't good for its day, and now it looks fairly atrocious. Now the designs are fine--in fact, there's real creativity in some of the mecha, the creatures, and even the human characters--but it's wasted when there's not enough money to pay for inbetweening work. Ships, rocks, and people sometimes jump locations. Not badly, mind you, but the average person would notice.
What hurts Greed most, though, is a poorly constructed last act. I can handle all sorts of craziness in my anime, and blending sci-fi with fantasy can actually work out nicely if you try hard enough. After all, Aura Battler Dunbine is finally making its way to the West after fifteen some-odd years, and I'm looking forward to its blend of mecha and magic. But the ending of Greed just doesn't work. It makes no sense for these characters to be flying around literally in outer space, fighting this olive-colored Yoda reject. It didn't make any sense. And although there's a curious scene involving this growing organic mass that tries to squash our heroes (predating the infamous final scene in Akira), it doesn't work. And it wouldn't work translated, either. It just looks stupid. I wasn't enthralled beforehand, seeing as how hokey this show is, but I was amused up until that point. Unfortunately, the last ten minutes pretty much spoiled me on the rest. There are other problems, such as the fact that this world seems otherwise unoccupied except for the characters we meet, but they are small in comparison.
This title will never appear on any shelf any average anime fan will ever see. One might wonder why I even bothered reviewing it. However, when you look at the number of reviews that the average movie critic writes in a year, it's clear they see tons of movies that nobody will ever really watch, expect perhaps on Sunday afternoon on HBO or on a dull day at the Hollywood Video. But these shows deserve write-ups, if nothing else, so that we as viewers can know how to best use our time. If you see Greed on somebody's tape trading list someday--as you very well might--unless you're a fan of old, cheesy anime, find your giant and fairy fix elsewhere.
Greed -- violence -- C-