A lot of these older action/adventure series and movies that have a core team of adventurers usually play around with certain archetypes. You usually have your blandish lead dude who’s a bit of an audience cipher. You have your hotheaded, blunt type who (usually) has a softer side. You might have the older dude who’s experienced and wise and there to teach the young peeps. You might have the brainy nerd or the outsider or the kid or the aloof type. Then there’s “the girl.” Doesn’t matter what she does. She might fill in one of these roles, but that isn’t why she’s there. She’s there to be “the girl.” That’s her archetype– to exist as the obligatory opposite sex character, possibly as the romantic interest for either bland dude or hotheaded dude (or both). It isn’t a binding pattern in these sorts of shows, since some things eschew a woman character and some may have two (but one of them is usually relegated to “the brain” or something like that, and is functionally not a woman in many ways), but it happens enough to be recognizable and annoying (to say the least).
While I haven’t seen the original GoShogun (or the hour-long recap movie that comes with the Time Éstranger Blu-Ray, something I’ll remedy eventually), the movie gives a pretty good impression that it was one of these shows. We have a lone female lead surrounded by several male characters who fall into variations of the above archetypes. While half of these characters are apparently former villains from the series (something that wouldn’t be noticeable just from watching the movie, since they all seem to be on good terms in all facets of the story), the dynamic is pretty obvious– a “diverse” cast of dudes with a lone lady filling in that role.
Thing is, even before the movie dives into what really makes it stand out, it’s clear that Remy isn’t just some token. The GoShogun crew parted ways some 40 years ago, and Remy’s off doing her own thing. She never settled down with one of the male characters, and we see her cruising along the highway casually thwarting a bank robbery because said robbery is making her late for a meeting. It’s no big whup for her to take on several heavily armed hovercars driven by dangerous criminals. It’s just an inconvenience. But said confrontation, and the mysterious terminal illness she’s suffering from, leads to her losing control of her car and being rushed to the hospital with little time to live.
That’s where Time Éstranger turns into a bizarro fever dream that functions as a denouncement of the tokenism archetypes mentioned above.
Said dream takes the form of a “lost” adventure from these characters’ past. They’re in a middle eastern-styled city on a distant desert planet for unknown, dreamlike reasons– just like any dream where you know why you’re there within the dream, but can never grasp why once you’ve awakened. Said city is ruled by some god or force of nature that determines when each individual will die, and when said decision has been made, said individual is given their time of death. Custom dictates that the individual can do nothing to thwart their fate– escape is futile, since the power that controls the city doesn’t allow anyone to leave, and any noticeable attempt to change fate is severely punished by its loyal followers. Each member of the gang receives such a death notice, and Remy’s is the first in sequential order.
Being the action/adventure types they are, they obviously fight back. The very nature of being such a character is to fight against the forces of fate, especially when they’re unjust and domineering in a manner such as this. And since Remy is first on the list, she fights back the hardest. It all boils down to strange action sequences that play out like something from a survival horror story– zombie-like city dwellers mindlessly chasing down the Go Shogun peeps, throwing away their lives to obey the oppressive forces of fate that rule over their home, dying at the hands of the machine guns and flame throwers and grenades wielded by our heroes. It’s all very much in the vein of an 80s action movie, where firepower and brute force are king.
Sprinkled throughout this dream are flashbacks to her youth. Her mother was a prostitute, and because of that she was bullied by her peers. This only gets worse when her mother passes away and she has no one to look after her. Remy was no pushover, as seen in the infamous gif pictured above where she kicks the asses of her bullies, but even an awesome kid like her can’t handle everything on her own. During the flashback to her mom’s funeral, she finds herself trapped in a cave– an event that I’m willing to wager didn’t actually happen during her youth. While in this cave, she begins to have doubts about whether she’ll be able to escape from this trap, and she starts to think that she should just give up and allow herself to die since she’s all alone in the world.
So yeah, between her fever dream about fate and death and her altered recollections of her youth, something deep within her is actively telling her it’s OK to stop caring and just die already. She’s actively at odds with herself in terms of whether she’s worthy enough to continue existing. It’s never really clear why she feels this way, but it kinda makes sense for someone who has lived as long as she has who is suffering not only from a seemingly incurable disease, but also devastating injuries, to think that maybe it’s OK to given in this time.
It might be because she misses her friends. As she’s dying, her friends all gather for the first time in decades to be at her side. And while in these dual dreams, it’s her memories of her friends that help push her over the edge and conquer her desire to succumb to her ails. What’s neat about this is that it isn’t a case of her “hearing” her friends’ pleas for her to not give up. While they’re clearly working in her favor by getting the best doctors and the general sense of love and camaraderie, Those voices aren’t carrying over into her dreams. It isn’t their voices that rile her out of her despair, but her personal memories of them. It all comes from within her own psyche rather than from outside forces. It’s how much she values them rather than how they value her. It’s a self-victory rather than a victory about her place in the group.
That’s a cool way to approach it. She isn’t defined by her role within the group. Rather, she’s defined by how she sees herself both as an individual and as a friend. You see this echoed in how A Woman Named Fujiko played out. All along we thought we were seeing an origin story for Fujiko and how she became the woman she is and why she’d ever join with a bunch of criminals like Lupin and gang, but that origin story is a lie and Fujiko just happens to be Fujiko. Fujiko and Time Éstranger are all about women defining themselves, rather than allowing outside forces to define them. And given that both shows play by similar “party composition” rules, it’s cool to see the creators playing around with those archetypes within the actual confines of a show that seemingly adheres to them, creating some sort of self-critique that still hews to the original. It allows the stuff from the past to be viewed in a new, even more awesome light.