When I was looking for some suitable anime series and films to watch for Halloween, this one stood out to me in the shop. I assumed it was going to be a werewolf film, and it sounded interesting, so I bought it. What I watched turned out to be a bit of a surprise, as this is nothing to do with werewolves, but it is still a fascinating film and reasonable well suited to my Halloween viewing, featuring some scary murders.
So if this isn’t a werewolf film, what is it about? It’s actually sci-fi, set in a future where most of the population has been killed off by a virus. To survive, the remainder of the human race has become locked in to their individual residences, eating only survival rations and communicating by internet. But it’s not the internet as we know it. It’s a network apparently under the control of one individual, and that of course is far too much power for one person. Even schooling is a melancholy affair, conducted via screens. Personal contact has died out.
Daring to fight against the system and go out into the city are a group of children, who run the risk of being caught by the endlessly patrolling robots. They soon become involved in investigating a series of murders, and realise that nobody is safe and the authorities cannot be trusted. There are some great moments, most notably when the main character Hazuki is trapped in her apartment with some men who have come to kill her. As a thriller, this film works very well. However, it is a film that has certain issues with it.
The worst problem by far is one that only affects the dub version. The other main character, and the one who I assumed was going to be a love interest for Hazuki, is Ayumi Kono, who I originally thought was a boy. Well into the film something happens that makes it quite clear that she is in fact a girl. Bizarrely, whoever was in charge of the English dub somehow failed to notice this or understand that a girl can actually have short hair, so “she” is referred to as “he”, and is voiced by a male actor. It’s an absolutely hideous mistake. Was there no communication between the creators of this film and the makers of the dub? It would have also been useful if somebody had recognised that the names Mio and Myao sound exactly the same to the ears of a Western viewer. Or at least they do the way the dub actors pronounce them.
Both of the cat-call-named characters are interesting ones, although I am starting to tire of anime teenagers who just happen to be computer geniuses capable of out-thinking everyone and working magic with the world’s speediest typing fingers. At least she describes herself as a magician, so there is some meta-ish honesty there.
The artwork for the backgrounds is beautifully done, but I disliked the character animations. From the front they look very cute, but the profile view reveals impossibly sharp chins and noses that make all the characters look unattractive. It is hard to reconcile the front and side views as actually being the same characters, so this was constantly off-putting. However, if you can get past all the little annoyances and focus on the story it’s actually a very good one, and one of the murders in particular is genuinely surprising and shocking. I just can’t quite understand why nobody involved ever tries to defend themselves with their razor-sharp chins. RP