Normally I would avoid spoilers, but Roots Search doesn’t deserve that kind of respect.
Here at Colony Drop, we tend to look back at anime’s past with all the bright-eyed nostalgia of people who never lived through it and are very jealous. As such, it’s important for us not to get carried away and remind ourselves that there was also bad anime made in the 1980s. There was very bad anime. Take Roots Search, for example: one of the many piles of detritus left behind by the 80’s OVA boom, it was entirely forgotten by all but enthusiasts of terrible anime. Shall we exhume the corpse?
You might categorize this as a sci-fi slasher flick, but the monster is so unconvincing and the encounters so rote and utterly without suspense that to use the word “horror” is rather insulting. What’s horrific about Roots Search is how obscenely lazy it is. The whole production reeks of laziness, from the stock characters to the nonsense script to the truly shoddy animation.
Like most of these 45-minute one-shots, there’s no time to establish a world, a backstory, or anything at all, so Roots Search just doesn’t bother. So there are some scientists on a spaceship, right? In space somewhere. They’re studying psychics in space for some reason or another, but as far was we can tell there are only four people on board and only one psychic to be studied. That’s Moira, a totally deep chick who looks like Rena from Higurashi in a MC Hammer video, and who dares to ask the question “Why are we here?” There’s a miserable, half-hearted attempt to grope at the metaphysical throughout, but the groping hand decides it’s not worth it and comes back down to earth, where the owner sits on it until it goes numb. It isn’t five minutes into the thing when Moira has a vivid premonition of the upcoming deaths of all her friends. Thanks for the spoilers, pricks.
Anyway, tell me if you’ve heard this one before: a mysterious ship drops by with a mysterious cargo and it’s not of this world, wants to kill everybody, the sole survivor of this ship is named Buzz, blah blah blah. From there the alien picks off most of the cast by torturing them with their respective dark pasts and disinterestedly assaulting them with its various genital-shaped bits n’ pieces. There’s no suspense or horror here: the alien itself is only shown as a still frame (I kid you not) and the alien’s kills, while moderately gory– you will note a silhouette explosion taken straight out of the Fist of the North Star playbook– are about as rote and boring as it gets for an 80’s splatter OVA like this one.
It’s all very pedestrian until it hits half an hour and the staff realizes they have to wrap it up. Trouble is, they clearly have no idea where they were going with this. And so, the story degenerates into total nonsense. The two survivors fall deeply in love for no particular reason: as they kiss, there’s a psychic dream sequence where they frolic nude in the fields and a baby falls from space and Buzz catches it. No, seriously.
After a botched escape from the ship, our heroes miraculously survive, find themselves somewhere or another, and, well, Roots Search just rolls the credits right there and then. There doesn’t seem to be any intention to make another episode: it feels more like the staff decided that hell, they had 45 minutes done, and that’s enough to put on a tape. There are a lot of poorly told nonsense stories to be found in one-shot OVAs, but Roots Search is a strong contender for the most nonsensical and poorly told. There’s a part where the characters wonder whether they’re in Hell, and the joke’s on you, viewer. You’ve been there for forty minutes already. Young women and, indeed, young men and old people everywhere, shouldn’t have to see Roots Search. Don’t let it happen to you.