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Locke the Superman

ESPers (people with ESP) are a topic that manga and anime like to visit fairly regularly. Locke the Superman is an older such outing originally appearing in a manga running through the 1970s, with this movie being released in 1984. It’s not an overly complex story by any means focusing on a group of renegade ESPers and the people trying to stop them. However, the art is quite nice, the director got a bit experimental with camera work (or whatever the equivalent of that would be in animation), and the soundtrack was surprisingly decent.

The story’s hero is a man named Locke, a 1,000 year old ESPer shrouded in mystery. He would largely keep to himself, tending his sheep, only rarely coming out to save humanity. This was one such time. A woman named Lady Khan opened an academy to train young ESPers, but she has been secretly using it to raise an army to take over the universe. Her plan was to use these super humans as an army to overthrow all the planets run by regular humans, bringing in a new order. Of course, intelligence agencies caught wind of this, and they eventually enlisted the help of Locke.

Much of the story involves travelling from planet to planet, trying to find Khan and her subordinates, sometimes resulting in a psychic fight between Locke and one of her cronies. However, there is also a girl named Jessica who is one of Khan’s students and a prodigy almost on par with Locke in terms of power. Lady Khan has brainwashed the girl in hopes that she will eventually meet Locke and kill him. Along the way she meets Locke’s partner in his investigation, Ryu Tamaki and the two fall for each other. As such, things understandably get complicated when Jessica does finally encounter Locke.

This isn’t to say that Locke the Superman’s story is in any way riveting because it isn’t. It’s fine, and may get more chuckles than it intended with a smattering of overly intense scenes that appear throughout. It’s a simple story about people with ESP, but it’s also one of the earlier ones so of course that would be the case.

That being said, the character design was pretty nice. While this is a movie based on manga from the 1970s, it feels like there was an effort made here to update the art style a little bit. To an extent the character design is trying to bridge the gap between the 70s and the 80s, and it looks pretty good. Meanwhile, there is some very dynamic camera work going on in this movie. Fast, sweeping pans were quite popular, as well as a chase scene from the eyes of one of the people running. It was interesting to see such experimentation, and some of it looked good, while other parts were quite jarring.

It’s also worth taking a moment to mention Locke the Superman’s soundtrack, as it is fairly enjoyable. The music is a blend of orchestral pieces, rock guitar, outer space electronic bits, and the occasional funky track. The varying types of music are vaguely reminiscent of series like Yamato that had a similar feel to its soundtrack. People probably won’t find themselves humming the melodies to songs here but the music is still quite enjoyable nonetheless.

Espers have been done to death in this day and age. We’ve had 40 or so years of these stories developing. As such, more recent anime with this sort of theme tends to have a much more interesting story. However, as a piece of history Locke the Superman is worth a look to see how these stories were told in the 70s and 80s, while enjoying the aesthetics that were prominent at the time.

- IroIro
October 2, 2020

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Directed by: Hiroshi Fukutomi
Studio: Nippon Animation
Released: 1984
Episodes: 1

Locke the Superman Image 1
Movie Poster

Locke the Superman Image 2
Jessica training to fight

Locke the Superman Image 3
Locke using his powers

Locke the Superman Image 4
Locke in a fight