Fire Tripper

Official Blurb:

"A massive gas explosion in modern-day Tokyo throws seventeen year old Suzuko back in time - 500 years into the past and onto a death-strewn battlefield. Rescued from lecherous bandits by the young warrior Shukumaru, Suzoko struggles to untangle the time-line. Slowly she begins to understand the strange force that has exiled her, and how it relates to her own mysterious past."

"Shukumara and Suzuko tackle mystery, tragedy and disaster as time unravels amidst the roaring flames of past and present."

Original work:   Rumiko Takahashi
Director:        Motosuke Takahashi
Copyright:       Shogakkan Inc./Studio Pierrot Co., Ltd/
                 Shogakkan Production O.B. Planning Co., Ltd

Language Format: English Language
Running time:    49 mins
Certificate:     15
Label:           Manga Video
Catalogue no:    MANV 1028
Price:           £8.99
Release date:    10th Jan 1994


This is the first of the "Rumic World" series: unconnected videos based on stories by famous artist storyteller Rumiko Takahashi. It's an intricate time-travel story which starts with forebodings of danger; after the dramatic credit sequences, the seventeen year old schoolgirl heroine, Suzuko, is seen looking after a little boy, Shu, who has just had an operation. With little warning, a massive gas explosion occurs and throws her back in time to a battlefield in medieval Japan. She is rescued from lecherous bandits by a young warrior, and brought back to his village where he lives with his adoptive father and young sister, Suzu.

Suzuko, no fainting cherry blossom she, soon has Shukumaru searching the battlefield for the missing boy, while the villagers prepare to repel a bandit raid. After more dramatic events the circle of time becomes complete...

Try not to be put of by the embarrassing "rubbish for the kids" cassette cover (you can easily reverse it). Manga Video clearly didn't know what to do with the stylish Japanese original, and have produced a clumsily dubbed version aimed at their usual mass market. However it is just about fit for adults and retains plenty of drama and human interest - and it's cheap. But if money is no object fans should seek out the superior American subtitled edition. This has much better character voicing and should give you a shiver down the spine as the cart descends towards the medieval village.

I may not be the best person to give an impartial review of Manga Video's FIRETRIPPER, as unlike the rest of you I have seen an American subtitled version and also own a Japanese original tape of it. I was pleased by the news that Manga Video were releasing FIRETRIPPER, until I got a copy and played it. The visuals are, apart from retitling, the same 48 mins, but the English sound- track is, frankly, awful. And this time I really feel like complaining.

Japanese soundtracks are produced to very high standards and the original FIRETRIPPER is quite typical in having voices by skilled voice actors that sound just right, the right amount of sound effects and specially composed music to build up an atmosphere. The voice actresses are often stars in their own right and the soundtracks are the result of considerable skill and artistry.

In the English version, Shukamaro sounds like a middle-class English schoolboy, Suzuko sounds like a convent schoolgirl and the little boy sounds much too old. Somebody seems to have thought that the voices ought to sound funny.

FIRETRIPPER, not being especially violent or suspenseful depends on other qualities for its appeal. It casts a delicate spell, a spell that is totally disrupted by comic English voices. In the original, while Shukamaru holds his bloody sword aloft after killing the bandits there is no sound at all. And in the English? Naff sound effects continue. The original Suzuko, a typical Takahashi heroine, sounds less wimpish than the English one. That smirk after she has hurled a rock at Shukamaro is entirely in character. Now some people may like this release, but I suspect that they won't like it enough to make it a big sales success. What a pity that they will never get the chance to hear it as it was meant to be heard. They might have liked it a lot better.

In case it occurs to you to wonder, the English cassette packaging is totally unlike the Japanese, which has a large picture of a pensive Suzuko on the front.[Geoff Cowie]