Oji, I mean Gabriel, is not having fun! One minute he was a lean mean rock god at the night if his glory and then he blinked and it was all gone. Now he’s just another middle-aged salary man shlub working way too many hours at a boring desk job just to keep his modest lifestyle. His wife doesn’t get it. She’s throwing out his guitars to make room for appliances. His son doesn’t get it, all he cares about is his silly power rangers like show. His friends don’t get it, they’re all old suddenly. But deep down there’s a passion still burning in Gabriel’s soul and it might just save the galaxy.
When I saw this older series (1999 – whoa) pop up on Crunchyroll, I was intrigued how that title matched up to the unassuming man in a tie, obviously not enjoying whatever he was typing on a computer that as pictured on the thumbnail. I read up on the synopsis. A washed-up metal guitarist turned salaryman has to fight an interstellar battle through his rock! Sounded delightfully oddball. I had to give it a watch.
I am a staunch defender of the quality of contemporary anime and the importance of visuals to the medium. So it might surprise you to hear that I really enjoyed the classic look of this show. Don’t get me wrong, it looks old, retro even. You get a super strong 80s vibe from everything (despite being released almost 2 decades later) that was so popular 2 years ago. (I like to pretend I actually know what the 80s looked like. I don’t. I’m assuming…)
I suppose the visuals didn’t bother me because they must have been fairly impressive at the time. The designs are old fashioned but good and realistic enough to not look stupid. An odd thing for what is essentially a parody. There are occasional stylish touches added to backgrounds or scenes edited to look like old school hair rock heavy metal videos, both of which added a lot of visual interest in my opinion. And the unpretentious voice acting only made the production more charming.
Don’t get me wrong. It shows its age. There is very little movement. Still shots and reused scenes are both very frequent and of course, the aspect ratio is the old 4:6 letterbox which made me have to play with me screenshot settings every time. None of this matters much until you get to the space battles. There, the repetitive imagery and lack of dynamic animation really brought down the action. But otherwise, the production fits the narrative well.
The tag line of The Legend of Black Heaven is “Hard rock save the space” isn’t that awesome! It’s not quite up to the glory of “all your bases are belong to us” but it’s in the same vein. And it fills me with joy. Weirdly enough there are a few scenes that take place in the US with English speaking characters and it’s maybe the best English I’ve ever heard in an anime. They could have just let that voice actor proofread the tag line. Or maybe it’s that way on purpose to which I would have to tip my hat!
That’s a bit of a running theme through the series. Either because I’m not familiar enough with classic space fighting anime or 80s metal bands but I was never really sure of what’s funny on purpose and what was funny just to me. In the end, it doesn’t matter all that much but I still felt like some things were getting lost in translation. Speaking of which, the Crunchyroll subtitles did explain the silly Japanese wordplay which I thought was a nice touch.
Generally speaking, the story is pretty much what you think it is. The official synopsis really sums it up well. And the characters are quite realistic if a bit one-note. Note…get it… Cause music. One thing I should say, it often looks like a middle-aged dude’s fantasy in anime form. Oji is bored and disillusioned with his run of the mill life, annoyed by the responsibilities of having a family and a full-time job. And he’s not particularly devoted to either. Then all a sudden he can save the world through his sweet guitar riffs. He is very selfish in this new endeavour, ignoring his wife, blowing off work and even putting his son’s life in danger in the process. And the consequences are, having beautiful women throwing themselves at him. Having his poor wife (he puts her through a lot) appreciate him more because he’s in a better mood, earning the admiration of his son and all those around him. It’s pretty funny in a way but also a little sad at times. Gabe/Oji is fun enough to watch but I couldn’t help but think that it must be awful to have to put up with a guy like him in real life.
I should say that this show didn’t really speak much to my sensibilities. It purposefully chose themes and topics I just have no connection to. Moreover, there isn’t all that much to the story. The space fights and music scenes are all the same so it did get a bit boring and the middle drags at times. As such, the fact that I still had fun with it speaks to its quality and I’m glad to have watched it.
If you are into the retro vibe, old school heavy metal or old school space battles (although that’s a rather underused element) you might want to give the Legend of Black Heaven a try. If nothing else, you can live your midlife crisis vicariously through anime and get it out of the way. Efficient!
Favourite character: Eriko
What this anime taught me: Your partner will probably forgive just about anything as long as you look cool doing it
A drunkard is like a whisky bottle, all neck and belly and no head
Suggested drink: Black Heaven (ooohhh yeeeaaahhh)
- Every time we hear the word “dream” – take a sip
- Every time Oji’s family ruins everything – roll your eyes
- Every time ladies be gossipy – sigh
- Every time the three stooges show up – raise your glass
- Every time Oji has bedhead – take a sip
- Every time there’s a concert flashback – light your lighter (don’t have one? take a sip then!)
- Every time we see or hear about the “Flying V” – take a sip
- Every time Oji’s wife gets mad – agree
- Every time we see the guitar store – take a sip
- Every time Yuki wears green lipstick – take a sip
- Every time we see the food cart – get a snack!
- Every time we see the city lights at night – take a sip
- Every time Oji gets drunk – join him