The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

They Were Eleven

Title: They Were Eleven aka Juichi-nin Iru!
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Kitty Film
Format: Movie; 91 minutes.
Dates: 1 Nov 1986

Synopsis: Every three years, nations from across the universe send their best and brightest to compete for a place at the Cosmo Academy. Only the top 0.03% make it through the entrance exam. One hopeful is Tadatos Lane, a young man from Terra with psychic abilities. For the final test, he is sent as part of a group of ten to an old abandoned ship, but his group soon realizes that something is not right. There is an extra person on board who may be working against them.

The Highlights
Vastness of the universe: Reflected in the different types of people and cultures represented.
Motivations: Varied and believable.
Frol: The most memorable of the candidates.
Intensity and urgency: Tries hard but doesn’t quite get there.

Before Kirk of Star Trek became a Starfleet captain, he had to face an exam called the Kobayashi Maru. Starfleet needed to know how he would handle an extreme situation before they could put him in a position of authority. The premise of They Were Eleven is similar, with the academy hopefuls forced to work together to prove themselves worthy of a place at the Academy. Such conditions are intended to reveal much about one’s character, and so they do. Upon realizing there is an extra in their party, several team members immediately start pointing fingers and launching accusations.

Though there are eleven on the ship, the story focuses on six of the candidates, revealing something about each person’s background and motivation for applying to the Academy. They are a diverse group, ranging from a king seeking leadership experience to a cyborg aiming to study medicine. While each case is unique, the tales are explored one by one in a very structured, artificial way, which makes the first half of the film feel like a series of short episodes. Even when the main conflict does arrive, the film never quite captures the emotional intensity it needs.

Also underplayed is the politics of leadership. A natural leader does emerge from amongst the eleven, but the distribution of other roles and responsibilities is handled off screen such that the characters just know what they should be doing. Instead, the focus is more social and cultural, examining the circumstances that prompted the candidates to apply and what they hope to achieve. In this way the Academy is a means to an end and not the end goal itself.

The film does challenge the characters on several occasions and allows the Academy hopefuls to show their strengths and talents. Such scenes often focus attention by adding diagonal blue tints to the top and bottom of the frame. The art in general is very much a product of the 80s, complete with synth background music and awesome outfits, but the animation holds up well and the older style character designs suit the alien species.

The climax of the film sees questions of trust emerge as the various individual stories come together in a satisfying conclusion. Though perhaps not quite as dramatic or intense as the similar and better known Infinite Ryvius, They Were Eleven stands as a solid film with a memorable cast of characters that is certainly worth watching.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: Kaikyaku

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