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NOT A WEREWOLF IN SIGHT BUT QUITE A LOT OF BLOOD!,
This review is from: Loups Garous [DVD] (DVD)
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& introspective Makino Haduki (the heroine of our piece), boistrous & extrovert (& I.T. genius) Mio Tsuduki, taciturn & withdrawn transfer student Ayumi Kono (why do transfer students always have to be scary?), & lively would-be manga-ka Yuko Yabe, plus (introduced later) mysterious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.