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Phoenix 2772: Part Two

he labour camp in Iceland is a strange place. Sure enough, the expected hard work, earthquakes and landslides are there, but no signs of prison life - no massive wall around the camp, no daily marching of prisoners to work under guard, no numbers on their clothes. Instead in a long, stylized sequence we see something like a factory town, with tired workers coming home to their families at the end of the day. Presumably these are free men who also work on the construction.
       Just as in the first part of the film Godo never made friends or enemies among his classmates, at the labour camp he does not interact in any way with the other prisoners. There are no scenes of his life in a crowded barrack, no fighting over food, no tales of injustice. The few men in the strange vacuum surrounding Godo are (once again) his superiors.
       There is Boon, the only one we see of the guards, rough and heavy-fisted, but somehow less intimidating than Volkan.
       There is Black Jack, the chief of the camp, scarred and cynical. His underground office is lit by a dull red glow, and he sits in that cave brooding, wrapped in a black cloak. If the camp is hell - and it is called so by the characters, - then Black Jack is clearly posing as the supreme demon.
       Lastly, there is Dr. Saruta (Doctor of Science, not medicine). This little old man with an impossibly big nose is almost as important to Tezuka's whole Phoenix series as the Phoenix itself. His looks make it difficult to take him seriously, but it is Saruta who reveals the Truth and sets the Goal for our hero.
       The goal is not very original: to save the Earth. But Tezuka shows himself a superb storyteller, as the two tasks that have been mentioned earlier - to capture the Cosmozoon and to tap the energy of the mantle, - both turn out to be means towards this very end.
       The Earth, Saruta explains, is a living organism, and now it is dying. The Senators know nothing about the true purpose of the construction project, they think it will merely solve the energy crisis, but in fact it is a desperate attempt to rouse the global organism with a kind of shock therapy. (The subtitles are not very clear and the dub skips this issue completely, perhaps refusing to believe that such an evil project can be well-intentioned.)
       But it is true nonetheless that the project is a gamble and that it can lead to global disaster. Saruta prefers the alternative - the capture of the Cosmozoon, or the Phoenix, as he calls it. The Phoenix is immortal, and whoever drinks its blood is said to become immortal too. Saruta plans to analyse the chemical composition of the blood and give eternal life to "all the workers - no, all humanity - no, every living thing in the world!"
       His plan to escape to space and go hunting for the Phoenix is less fantastic than it may seem, because there is a spaceship ready, a fully equipped Space Shark. It looks almost as though Godo's ship was punished and sent to the camp along with its pilot, but the fact is, of course, that this is its sister-ship.
       What is it doing here? Tezuka insisted that the film is a fantasy, not science fiction. Probably he meant that the story is not to be judged from the point of view of common sense, or, to put it nicely, that miracles are allowed to happen.
       Indeed, there is another small miracle: Olga arrives in the middle of an earthquake just in time to save Godo's life. She and Pincho have been at large since Godo's arrest. They have even showed up at Lena's wedding and spoilt the ceremony, Pincho falling into an organ pipe and Olga wrecking the instrument to rescue him. Reunited at last, the companions set off under the cover of night to hijack the Space Shark.
       Pincho distracts the robots that guard the hangar, Olga with her immense strength pulls the gates open, and they slip inside - only to find Black Jack there.
       Black Jack has been waiting, ostensibly to stop the fugitives, but actually to help them in such a way as not to be held responsible for their escape. He makes a great show of grimness and severity, almost reducing Saruta to tears (for some reason in the dub Saruta's line "How pathetic!" becomes "I'll be killed!"), and trades insults with Godo until the two come to blows.
       The fistfight is long and almost as tiring for the viewers as for the characters. At last Black Jack pretends to be knocked out and lets Godo and company escape in the Space Shark.
       Two ships come in pursuit, Boon at the controls of one. Godo, fresh from the fight with Black Jack, is ready to forget his humanistic principles, but Saruta begs him to spare Boon. In the end Olga flies to the pursuers and breaks their guns, and the encounter is over without loss of life.
       Godo wants to turn back and take Lena on board, but Pincho explains that it is too late. This is as well - now nothing will distract Godo from his quest.
       Saruta very sensibly begins by looking for information. He takes the expedition to planet Lacrimosa; his old friend Ban lives there among a menagerie of alien creatures and knows everything about even the most mysterious species. Firebirds? "Oh yes", Ban tells them, "a nearby plateau is swarming with firebirds".
       Our heroes jump into Ban's four-legged vehicle, and a chase begins. The birds look like ostriches with exhaust pipes for tails. When one is caught it turns out to be stuffed with cottonwool. The whole thing was too easy and it is much too early for the capture of the real Phoenix.
       But Saruta's decision to come to Lacrimosa proves right. Ban has heard about the real Phoenix. The rumour runs, in the dub, that "272 isn't like any other living thing in the world", and in the original that it is not a living thing at all, but its whereabouts are known.
       Ban provides the expedition with an alien guide called Poox and his interpreter Crack. The two resemble a green bagpipe and a playing die (although Crack finds such description offensive), and were described by Tezuka as similar in spirit to Disney's Goofy and Donald Duck. Together with Pincho they are known as the Alien Trio and serve as the film's official mascots.
       Comical relief is welcome, at least for Olga who suffers bitterly from unrequited love during the journey. Crack gives her eye drops to use for tears and is ready to weep himself in sympathy (though the dub sadly misses his intention), and Pincho plays endless cheerful tunes.
       Then they come across a grim sight - remains of another Space Shark, horribly melted, with the dead body of Volkan floating inside. Apparently Volkan has been sent in Godo's place to catch the Cosmozoon, and failed.
       The expedition lands on a planet where the Phoenix comes to bathe, not in water but in pale blue flame coming out of its many craters. Godo spots the Phoenix, tries to attack it and is nearly burnt alive. The creature sets rocks on fire, flies through the air, melts into a mass of crystals, sprouts tentacles and finally takes off into space.
       Olga protects Godo, but Saruta is injured. He also seems to have whacked his head, because he suddenly changes from a likable old grumbler into a raving madman obsessed with the hunt.
       Things get violent quickly. The Phoenix disguises itself as an asteroid, Pincho recklessly ventures out of the ship to explore it and is swallowed. The hunters become prey, now it is the Space Shark that is being chased by a shape-shifting monster. "It's like seeing a dragon in space", Godo mutters in the dub, "Like visions of impossible", but in the original he supposes that the Phoenix is inducing hallucinations. After all, he is seeing dragons in space.
       The next threat is very material. The Phoenix melts a lump of some green substance that begins to eat through the metal of the ship. Chemical analysis reveals it to be a mixture of acids (and pausing the DVD or tape when the results are displayed will show the words "TEZUKA FOOL" among the components). Fortunately, there is alkali to neutralize it with - caustic soda for Crack's baths. Olga goes outside and sprays the ship with soda.
       Corrosion is stopped, but the Phoenix is circling around the ship, and the main computer would not function. This is not a mechanical breakdown. Olga comes into the cockpit to report, and confesses being afraid. Godo is shocked to hear that she has taught herself human emotions, but it turns out that the ship's computer is also paralysed with fear.
       Something very unpleasant has attached itself to the ship, and now it has slipped inside with Olga. It is a parasitic creature that looks like a plate of fried eggs but is easily as creepy as any of the Phoenix's menacing transformations. It sits on a wall until Saruta passes by...
       Godo rushes into the corridor to see that the parasite has covered Saruta's face and taken control of his body. "I'm using his brain to communicate my own thoughts", it explains in the dub; in the original it does not go so far as to make Saruta communicate with the brain and uses his vocal organs, but this is beside the point. The parasite wants the expedition to turn back at once and never trespass against the sacred Phoenix.
       The ship's computer gathers enough courage to shoot the parasite off Saruta's head, and Godo quickly disposes of the nasty creature. The weapons are functioning again. The great battle of Godo against the Phoenix begins.
       A marvel of technology that the Space Shark is, it does not have a chance against the monster. Saruta is hit against a wall and dies. Poox is swallowed. Olga flies around trying to defend her master, and the Phoenix breathes fire at her. Godo's last desperate attack repels the Phoenix, but it is too late to save Olga.
       As her charred remains drift into the ship's hold, Godo is completely shaken by his loss. He realizes just how much did Olga mean to him, takes her in his arms, weeping, and quite forgets his duty as a captain to see to the safety of his last surviving passenger, Crack. All he can think about is repairing Olga.
       Crack is left to look after himself. He leaves the Space Shark in an emergency boat - and is swallowed by the Phoenix in one grotesque gulp.
       Godo remains alone in the crippled ship with his broken Olga and no hope of rescue. The second part of the film is over, and the third and last begins.
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