In the year 2300, humanity has spread and colonized much of the Milky Way, and has even penetrated the Andromeda Galaxy. One of Andromeda's planets, Solo, is explored by a group of archaeologists and soldiers, and they uncover the remnants of a lost civilization: the Ideon, three giant tanks that can transform into a mystical robot; and a powerful starship. Suddenly, the group encounters a landing party from the extraterrestrial Buff Clan, who assume they are being attacked and retaliate; with no alternative to avoid being killed, the group boards the Ideon and defend themselves with it. When Solo's cities are wiped out in an attack, the group takes any survivors aboard the Solo starship and flee into space, taking the Ideon with them as a guardian. And so from a misconception an epic war is born, which takes the crew of the Solo ship through the stars with the Buff Clan in pursuit for possession of the Ideon and its mysterious power source, the Ide. The crew of the Solo is joined by Karala, a member of the Buff Clan who was accidentally taken aboard. Amidst distrust and destruction, she will hold the key to ending the war... but will anyone listen to her?
Directed by: Yoshiyuki Tomino
. Starring: Yôko Asagami
, Banjô Ginga
, Kôichi Hashimoto
, Kazuo Hayashi
, Kazuhiko Inoue
, Yô Inoue
, Takkô Ishimori
, Seizô Katô
, Shôjirô Kihara
, Tatsuya Matsuda
, Yukiko Nashiwa
, Keiko Ozaki
, Hideki Sasaki
. Music by: Kôichi Sugiyama
THE IDEON: A CONTACT (1982) is a compilation movie condensing events from the first 32 episodes of the 39-episode Japanese animated TV series, "Space Runaway Ideon" (1980). It includes some footage newly created just for the movie to help smooth over transitions between story arcs. It follows the model established by "Mobile Suit Gundam" (1979) which turned its 43 episodes into three movies, each over two hours. Like "Gundam," "Ideon" was created and directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino and deals with a giant robotic fighting vehicle piloted by young people to defend their society from human attackers from another planet. There are so many similarities between the two series that it's easy to dismiss this as a watered-down rehash of "Gundam," which offered more complexity, more attention to character development and more of a challenging narrative. "Ideon" is basically just another giant robot shoot-em-up in space, although done with great skill and design. The movie suffers from having to condense so much into 85 minutes, unlike the Gundam movies which had well over six hours of running time in total to play with. In IDEON, a lot of context is removed and it's clear that huge chunks of plot are missing.
Still, as a fan of 1980s anime, I enjoyed watching the transforming mecha, the massive space ships, and constant flurry of explosive battles in space. The lead male character, young Cosmo, distinguished by the red "afro" hairstyle he sports, is an older, less conflicted character than Gundam's Amuro Ray. He doesn't really get to do much here other than pilot the Ideon. Most of the dramatics are carried out by an assortment of interesting women characters, including Sheryl Formosa, one of the lead officers of the human colony on the planet Solo, which comes under attack from another human outpost in space, a much older civilization most likely also descended from Earth travelers.
The invaders, who call themselves Buff Clan, are looking for an energy source called the Id. They attack Solo with virtually no provocation, setting the stage for a series of battles which last almost till the end of the film. Only Lady Karara, an officer from the Buff Clan fleet who investigates the people of Solo on her own, makes an earnest attempt to communicate with the people of Solo and is soon taken prisoner. She realizes that the power of Id may indeed reside on Solo and may even be powering the giant robot, Ideon, and the massive ancient space ship buried in a cave that is used by the people of Solo to evacuate the planet and head towards Earth.
The wanton cruelty displayed by Buff Clan in its destructive attacks on Solo's civilians is rather casually presented. These are bad guys and there is no attempt, at least in this compilation, to explain them or show a good side to them. Only Lady Karara and one other officer who emerges late in the film to attempt a reconciliation have any redeeming qualities. This is in stark contrast to "Gundam," in which the rebels of Zeon had legitimate grievances against the Earth Federation and created a military society to wage war on them.
The character design is pretty simple for most of the characters, although some of the women are made to stand out, most notably the aforementioned Sheryl Formosa. She's a no-nonsense, proactive type whose job is to identify the power source for the Ideon and the space ship. She has short red hair and attractive but cold and hard features. She has quite a dramatic scene in the aftermath of an ill-fated maneuver in which she lets Karara take the blame for a major breach in security and is confronted by Cosmo about it. The normally steely Sheryl breaks down in tears and declares, "I hate myself." Lady Karara has dark hair and large blue eyes, generally devoid of emotion despite being torn between two cultures, but she's the only character who seeks to change herself and learn something about her enemy. Her actions eventually lead to her being trusted by the majority of the Solo colonists. Lady Karara's ruthless sister is the imperious redhead, Lady Haruru, one of the ranking officers of the Buff Clan fleet and the one quickest to sell Karara out. There are a number of interesting young women among the Solo colonists, including one of Cosmo's fellow pilots, Kasha, and two women taking care of a group of orphaned children, including the adorable baby boy Ruu, whose participation in the action proves quite crucial near the end. Still, the character design is never as warm or rounded as it is in "Gundam." The characters were more engaging there and far more believable.
Neither this movie nor the Ideon TV series are available in the U.S. I watched a fan-subbed VHS tape of the movie and an unsubtitled Japanese tape of the first five episodes of the TV series for this review. There were numerous oddities in the fan-sub's titles-'one character, for instance, has three different names in the course of the movie--so I consulted ClementsMcCarthy's "The Anime Encyclopedia" and the Anime News Network website for preferred spellings and then took my pick. Buff Clan (a name which has an odd connotation to begin with) is spelled Baff Cran in the fan-sub, which matches the pronunciation (which doesn't mean that Buff Clan isn't what the Japanese voice actors meant to say in the first place). While I'm glad I saw this film, I can't say that it's a lost classic or that the TV series is in desperate need of release in the U.S. "Gundam" is still the gold standard for this type of story, particularly the original "Mobile Suit Gundam" series from 1979. THE IDEON: A CONTACT is the on-screen title as written in English at the beginning of the film itself.
Review by Brian Camp from the Internet Movie Database.