From the Dustbins: Roots Search

There is a reason Roots Search has been forgotten: it’s terrible.  It isn’t terrible because the character development is shoddy, inconsistent, and arbitrary.  It isn’t terrible because the plot is convoluted to the point of making obtuse art films seem lucid in comparison.  It isn’t even terrible because of its low-budget animation quality or awkward pacing.  With the right mixture of each of these, one could make a title that is “so bad it’s good”.  And yet, somehow, Roots Search manages to just barely miss even this mark.  It’s simply a case of being “so bad it’s still terrible”.

This is a relatively early product of the OVA boom, produced in an industry that had money to spare for extraneous or daring titles—and if nothing else, Roots Search is pretty daring.  To start off with, imagine writing a script that included psychic powers, interstellar travel, alien monsters, space stations and star ships and futuristic machinery, and then at the last minute tried to add in religious references to fallen angels, abstract embodiments of the Wrath of God, and a final purge of humanity that takes the form of a fleshy ever-mutating mass of monstrous tendrils and gore.  The result is exactly what Roots Search consists of.  It might be confusing to imagine how these elements could possibly combine to form coherent narrative, but have no fear; they don’t.  Characters die arbitrarily, plot threads are left hanging out in the open, important devices introduced at the beginning are seemingly forgotten halfway through, and the final scene before the credits brings absolutely no resolution to the conflict despite attempting to appear so.  In fact, the climax of the piece bears almost no resemblance to the rest of the work, introduces more unanswerable questions, and creates a tension that ignores the narrative tension that had already been building up over the course of the first half-hour—only to present a denouement that is just as unrelated and mind numbingly bizarre as the climax had been.  It’s quite a puzzling method of structuring, to say the least, helped no doubt by extremely uneven pacing and a total disregard for a coherent development of character interactions. 

The narrative elements aside, the animation isn’t anything all that special either.  For an OVA of 1986, it ranks just below average on a scale of smoothness, but characters spend so much time in static positions that it really makes no difference.  There are a few well-choreographed shots near the end, but again, they last only a few seconds in length and certainly aren’t worth sitting through the rest of the train wreck unless one is truly interested in this kind of surreality.  Colors are dull but standard, and character models, backgrounds, and miscellaneous designs are similarly unremarkable.  There’s a fair amount of blood that pops up in brief scenes throughout the runtime, however the more surreal and horrific material doesn’t come until close to the end.

All said and done, there isn’t much of this thing that has a lot of redeeming value.  The writing catastrophe is so ludicrous that it might be worthy for any daring enough to blow three quarters of an hour on watching it, but the animation and sound is so dated that there is little to no replay value.  For all but the most adventurous journeyers into the underbelly of the OVA boom, I recommend staying away from this title.  It deserves its niche in the dustbins.

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About Merridian
Merri lives with his wife in the USA. He is a happy human being. He wrote for Forced Perspective while the project was active, and he is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of QNUW. His newest project is YNRI // Transcendence, dedicated to poetry, short fiction, and artwork.

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