Black Heaven: Hard Rock Save the Space! Anime Review

by Zeus | 2000-05-02

Black Heaven isn't weird in the traditional sense. Sure, the sound of a Japanese salaryman saving the galaxy with hair metal reeks of Bill and Ted's Excellent Lawsuit, but Heaven lacks most of the standard insanity that anime is known for. There's no groping tentacles or hundred foot robots powered by teen angst (at least, not as of volume one).

Overexposed crackhead.
It all begins with a double-exposed shot of an overexposed crackhead.
Then things start to get a little weird.
A black man wearing a newspaper mask wonders: Would Mother approve?
Area defying.
Our old friend the crackhead gets all up in our area...
Good-by, Corwin.
And just as you've begun to seriously consider suicide, a flying manta ray waves goodbye, signaling the end of the opening credits.

Oji was a ROCK STAR before he quit his band, Black Heaven, for reasons untold. (Don't worry, it's bound to wind up on VH1 Behind the Music.) Now he's married to a woman who'd throw away his prized guitar, has a kid and works the standard 47 hour Japanese workday. In other words, the man is miserable.

Sad man
Cheer up, buddy, with all those mandatory workplace X-rays, you'll die of cancer in no time!

But all that's about to change once Oji learns his golden oldies can somehow shift the tide of intergalactic warfare! Three bumbling bimbos and a slightly less bumbling blonde are beamed down to study and hopefully recruit Oji.

How could his music possibly make any difference? No clue. But the "proof" is in a short CGI sequence depicting two stylized alien armadas duking it out. I suppose Oji's tunes wouldn't have seemed quite so irrelevant if they hadn't played the exact same battle every episode. Makes you wish the animators hadn't blown the CGI budget on psychedelics.

The episodes are enjoyable but so formulaic it's hard to separate them in my memory. Oji wakes up, looks adequately indentured, meets up with the mysterious blonde, jams a little (cue CGI sequence), jams a little more (if you know what I mean), then returns home to his wife and kid as if nothing had happened. What a dog.

But aside from that, nothing much DOES happen until the last episode of volume one, when Oji saves his son from an Unnecessary Starship Hallway Obstacle Course of Death (recently featured in Galaxy Quest) with good old-fashioned videogame timing. Chris "Beatmaster" Johnston would be proud.

Who are the aliens? Why are they at war? How can Duran Duran covers make any difference, let alone on a galactic scale? Before the audience has a chance to ask any of these questions, the animators smartly distract them with lesbians, while a helium-addicted J-Pop girl sings horrible rap about the chemical compounds of sea water.

You know, this is really tasteless. I should probably, like, stop cheering so much.
How do you do? My new bikini... I'm really bashful.

What is being feminine? Today...

...on my knees and heels, the waves splash one after another.

A sea slug is submerged. I don't get it.

Ugh, so tight! The strap on my back... What happened?

The dog and the sky are so bright.

Light slips into the sea, where is the Pepsi Cola?

When can I see you again?

Mm... I don't understand men.

Ay... I don't understand men.

Splash! I dive into the sea. Ptooey, salty!

A violent love affair between sodium and chlorine. I don't know.

Love is an insect, a girl's an instinct, you know?

And I'm curious about your logical, physical, practical... forehead.

I throw out my legs, my head feels dazed.

The sand slips, I'm a little sleepy. When can I see you again?

Ha... I don't understand men.

Zeus don't understand the Japanese, so we're even.

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