on 19 February 2013
Loups-Garous (which we all know is French for werewolf) is adapted from Natsuhiko Kyogoku's novel of the same name, is totally devoid of werewolves & is set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic near future (so favoured by Japanese S.F. & fantasy writers) in which adults are unaccountably absent & children live largely alone & only communicate with each other & the outside world through hand-held devices known as "monitors" (a bit like today's tablets). Everything - education, entertainment, socialising, control of home environment, contact with their adult "Counsellors" - is done with these audio-visual devices. The children live in a tightly controlled world, are observed constantly by surveillance cameras, & their monitors relay their whereabouts to an unseen authority.
In this scenario we are introduced to four fourteen year old girls who comprise a "Communications Group", who all live alone & only see each other physically once a week at a "Community Centre" under the guidance of their "Counsellor". They are the seriously insecure & introspective Makino Haduki (the heroine of our piece), boistrous & extrovert (& I.T. genius) Mio Tsuduki, taciturn & withdrawn transfer student Ayumi Kono (why do transfer students always have to be scary?), & lively would-be manga-ka Yuko Yabe, plus (introduced later) mysterious martial-arts expert Rei Myo (a long-time friend of Mio's younger days & an "undocumented citizen" living by her wits on the fringes of society). We are also informed that recently six young girls have been found dead in the area with their internal organs removed.
The action starts when Yuko is viciously attacked by masked assailants when walking home & is only saved by the timely intervention of Rei who then hides her in a shack in the abandoned part of town where the "undocumented" live. Alarmed at these events Mio takes the lead & brings Makino & Ayumi to Rei's place where they decide to find out who, or what, is behind the killings. First they have to get Yuko safely home & Mio formulates a plan that will ensure she's taken in by the police & delivered safely home with everything being recorded on the ever-present security cameras (which Mio can easily hack in to). Unfortunately things go disastrously wrong. The deeper they dig the dirtier it gets & the body count keeps rising as they follow the vicious trail of murder & corruption to the highest levels of power.
A couple of the main characters are sometimes annoyingly frivolous (e.g. Makino & Mio) but this is interspersed with scenes of explicit violence & bloodshed & I'd imagine that this anime would get a "15" certificate in shops in the U.K. To lighten-up the grim scenario of the subject matter is a light-hearted interlude of a "Communication Exercise" that they perform to help them with face-to-face talking that consists of them all singing along to a pre-apocalypse music video. This turns out to be the great Japanese all-girl rock band called SCANDAL performing their songs as anime characters.
Finally, one anomaly that annoyed me was that throughout the film Ayumi Kono was referred to by the other characters as "he" instead of "she", & Makino calls her "MISTER Kono" at one point. Although Ayumi Kono (who, in the original novel, is definitely female) is made to appear as a bit of an androgenous character, in a flash-back sequence to a scene where she was attacked by an unknown assailant when younger, she is shown wearing a skirt & blouse, & when the knife-man cuts open her blouse it's quite clear she has female breasts. So why try & make her out to be male?
This is a 2-disc set & the second disc is packed with great extras (all comprehensibly sub-titled), including interviews with the director, the original author, the Japanese cast, members of SCANDAL, plus a KOSHI-TANTAN promotional video, a movie digest, pilot movie, promotional videos, trailers & much more. (I bought the U.S. version so I hope the extras are the same).
This is a great DVD. Although I struggled with the original novel (at over 450 pages & a plot that unfolded at a glacial pace), Production IG have made an entertaining anime with a dark thematic undercurrent interspersed with lighter interludes set in a thought-provoking scenario. Although written in 2001 as "Sci-Fi" so much of what it depicts is happening right now, it's quite scary to think about. I might have given this five stars but for the Ayumi Kono balls-up & the distractingly childish chirpiness of the characters of Makino & Mio.
on 19 May 2013
I had such high hopes, I really did. The cover art and synopsis offered a thrilling ride in a complex new world system. Unfortunately it didn't live up to the hype it promised.
The story takes place in a futuristic world, where a virus has massively reduced the world's population and now those who remain must live in a closed off society, eating synthetic food, and avoiding physical contact. Children live alone, with their parents `absent', only communicating with them via the online system. Each child has a Counselor, with the Counselor overseeing a group of children assigned to them. These groups can meet physically once a week at schools (re-named Community Centres) in order to bond and develop. Hazuki Makino is one such member of one of these groups and upon one the first physical meeting she soon befriends the other members but when they find out that one member of their group (who didn't show up to the community centre) has gone missing, they go on a dangerous search outside of the online system to find her. Along the way they get wrapped up in a string of deadly murders, in which young girls have been found dead, and with their organs removed...
I'll start off on the technical side of things. Voice work and acting is good in both languages, though I didn't find any stand out performances, though that's probably due more to the sparse script rather than their own talents.
The animation is stellar though, with the use of deep blues and warm yellow tones really creating a mood for the film. You can see that they really made an effort with the style and the characters aren't card-board cut outs and all have unique identities.
Now this is where things turn a little sour. The plot is rushed, simple as. This is such a shame as it had so much potential - I really believe if they'd made this into a TV series it would have been a lot better. As it is, they don't spend nearly enough time developing the characters or relationships between them, which makes it hard to really care about them when they were thrown into danger. Their backstories are basically non-existent and there is no time spent finding out why they are the way they are. For example, one character `Mio Tsuzuki' is a hacker (or as she calls herself, a `magician') and prides herself on being able to get around the system. Later in the story, Mio finds out that someone has managed to override some data and get around the system better than she can and is almost brought to hysterics, crying out over and over that she alone is the magician. Why does she get so upset? Why is she so frightened? Why is she so desperate to be the one in control? What happened to her in the past to push herself to this? Nothing is explained, leaving us, the viewer, un-moved by her emotion as we can't understand her actions. Things like this really let the movie down for me.
The ending is also a big disappointment, as the big `villain' of the series again isn't developed enough so I couldn't bring myself to really feel any hatred. It's just like they plonked the baddie in at the end with no real progression or thought.
Another thing I was a bit confused by was the world the characters lived in. It is barely explained why or how the world has come to be the way it is. Also the motivations of the adults and the lesser `baddies' were so bare, and usually not clarified at all, that I just spent most of the time confused as to why any of them were acting the way they were, rather than disliking them.
Now for something a little strange - I went through the film believing that the character of Ayumi Kono was indeed a boy, being referred to as `he' by the other characters, and yet I was surprised to find out when reading wiki and other reviews that Ayumi Kono is actually a girl! I was pretty shocked by this revelation as the production team seemed intent on making this character appear to be male (they even had her voiced by a man). I can only imagine that they tried to change it to somehow make the character more `interesting' as there aren't many other males in the movie and to perhaps even hint at a love interest between Ayumi and Hazuki, and thought that it would appeal more if it was boy-girl rather than girl-girl. It's a shame as I think it would have actually worked better if they had kept her as a girl, rather than try and force a male identify on her character.
Overall I found myself feeling rather empty after my viewing of Loups Garous. There were far too many un-answered questions and poorly developed characters which is a shame. With a little more time and planning it could have been a good, solid sci-fi thriller.
After that scathing review you might be asking why I still gave it three stars. Well it's not awful. The production values are high, and the story does have some great ideas so it is worth watching, and perhaps some will find it more interesting and fulfilling than I did. I might give it another watch sometime and see if it gets better with a second viewing, but I'm in no rush.
There is also a novel (on which the anime was based) so perhaps that would offer better explanations and development, so if you can give it a read, it might be of some help to understanding the plot.
I would recommend this if you enjoyed Boogiepop Phantom or Paranoia Agent.
on 24 June 2013
Me and my husband enjoy anime's both series, one shots and movies and although my husband made a comment that he had seen better I had to agree a bit however we have seen our fair share and everyone had there own preferred style. I can say that if you like anime's this would be a good watch, I was very happy with the film and enjoyed it throughout, I would recommend to anyone looking for a good watch.