Even when you’re with the person you love most, Hell is other people.
Roots Search starts off like any other 80s Alien wannabe. A crew doing stuff out in space finds another ship with a THING on board. Said THING has killed almost everyone else on the other ship. Said THING resumes killing on their ship. A handful of survivors have to do their best to survive and maybe kill the THING.
Even this OVA’s twist– that the THING can read your mind and use your innermost fears and sins against you– isn’t THAT novel. It definitely makes the majority of this a little more interesting. It may be a knockoff, but at least it’d be trying something different.
But the way things wrap up bumps Roots Search up a few notches. One of the characters– the lone woman, of course– is researching ESP, telepathy, and what have you. She’s able to read the THING’s mind at times and is able to communicate with it. Whatever the THING actually is, it claims to be working for God and is here to judge humanity for its sins. It just so happens that everyone on this ship, save for our two main characters, has committed some pretty grievous stuff in the past. One guy left a fellow soldier to die at the hands of an alien. Another drove his former lover to suicide. You gotta wonder if this alien really IS some emissary of God, or if it developed some sort of divine justice complex because every person Earth sends out into deep space is some scumbag they want to get rid of. If first contact, and most subsequent contact after that, is with the worse of the worst, then aliens with abilities well beyond our comprehension are obviously going to develop a skewed opinion on humanity.
It all leads to some mildly interesting back and forth between the woman and the alien and how such a hateful creature can’t speak for God, all while the alien scoffs at the woman’s naive take.
But the real kicker is the actual ending. Yeah, it’s definitely anticlimactic, but it’s also pretty haunting. The two survivors do the obvious “set the ship to explode and escape with the alien dying in the explosion” routine, but they don’t make it out in time. They embrace and show their love for one another. They’re caught in the blast and… don’t die.
They awaken in a hellish, organic landscape. Are the on the alien’s home planet? Are the INSIDE the alien? Are they really in Hell? They don’t know. We the viewers don’t know. But instead of being horrified by their predicament they hold hands, vow to make the best of their new existence, and walk off into the light to who knows what.
Is this a punishment? Is this a second chance? Is this just some freakish accident? Does it matter? The OVA certainly doesn’t think so.
It’s not quite the same brilliant ending as California Crisis, and Roots Search lacks the former’s aesthetic and musical inclinations, but it does feel like something of a kindred spirit. This is an oddball OVA that’s made all the more interesting because of what’d normally be perceived as its failures. If this actually had some conventional ending that wrapped things up, I don’t think it’d be particularly interesting. If it’s at all memorable it’s because of how it got things “wrong.”
It ain’t a classic, but there are far worse OVAs for this period.