Sunday, April 20, 2008

a tragic waste of cel paint and acetate

(this is an exact transcription of a review that appeared in LET'S ANIME #4, fall 1993. While I regret the convoluted sentence structure and general snotty tone of the piece, I think it's useful not only as a snapshot of the popular trends in anime at the time, but as a look at what some of us thought about those popular trends.)


You know, I was willing to give the movie a chance. I'd seen the overpriced, senseless comics in the store, even tried to read a few, but I have this funny habit of preferring comics that actually have a coherent plotline. So anyway, when I heard that Streamline had dubbed the first Silent Mobius movie, I figured that it would be a good way to get a grip on this whole Silent Mobius thing and figure out just what the hell is going on. After all, it's a one-hour movie! Surely they'll make sure the thing is pretty coherent and understandable!

Boy, was I wrong.

Yes, the characters in the film were speaking English, but that's where the last tenuous link with understanding ends. I sat through the entire film and I still don't have the slightest idea what happened! Who are all these women psychic cops? Why are all these demons attacking Neo-Tokyo? Why aren't there ANY male characters in this film? What is the "Advanced Mystification Police"? Does that mean they're better than the "Regular Mystification Police", or what? How did they manage to rebuild Tokyo into a 5000 square mile city in thirty ears? How did they blow up a building that must have been several miles tall, and yet bystanders just say "Oh!" Shouldn't they be fleeing in terror as several tons of debris rain down upon them? How did all these female cops get magic powers anyway? What is the deal with the talking stick that the lead psychic-magic-cop-chick carries? Do they all have talking sticks? Why does the "Advanced Mystification Police" have an entire truck that folds out to be nothing more than an interrogation chair and some lights? Isn't it just easier to shine a flashlight in the sucker's face? Why does the main character refuse to admit that hideous demons are attacking her and her mom, even though it happens four times? And most importantly, why should we care?

Probably the most ostensible howler occurs when the head demon kidnaps the main character's mom (and ties her hanging upside down from a crane on a rooftop). So what Mom does is prick her finger and use blood to start drawing a magic diagram on the rooftop, OK? So the scene cuts away from her for a bit, and then goes back to her, and she's traced this huge diagram in what must have been hundreds of gallons of blood, all over the roof! The entire audience of the theater where I had the questionable pleasure of seeing this movie erupted into uncontrollable laughter at this scene. That, and the part where they invoke the name of "Helios, the Sun Goddess". Pardon me, but wasn't Helios a sun GOD? Isn't this taking anime feminism a bit too far?

OK, sure, I know that this film is aimed directly at model-building, dateless 15-year-olds who aren't overly concerned with plot or coherent storyline as long as it involves cool explosions and a few good shower scenes. And sure, the overall quality of the animation was pretty good.

But someone needs to tell these people that when you make a movie, these boring things like character development and plot ensure that the viewing audience gives a shit what happens to all your pretty girl cop characters. And giving a shit is precisely what we don't do.

Apparently the committee that wrote this mess (28 people, we counted) rightfully concluded that the last thing their target audience was interested in was coherence. This film's popularity among so-called anime "fans" in the States only serves to illustrate the true nature of both the film and its fans; i.e., clueless.

(at the time I can recall being frustrated at the current trends of Japanese animation - forgettable OVAs populated with ciphers that invariably ended with two characters shooting magic force beams at each other, papered over with a glossy sheen of high-tech nonsense. Not that anime hasn't always been home to glossy sheens of high-tech nonsense, but it helps to have some characterization and a little heart, maybe some old-fashioned burning with the fires of justice to wash it all down. That's why people still talk about Mazinger Z, Gatchaman and Yamato while most of the OVAs of the 90s are currently residing in the "can't believe we used to watch this" pile. )


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Anonymous said...

I think the Helios=Goddess bit might just be they tried to translate Amaterasu and failed. In Japan, it's a sun goddess, but in most western mythologies, the sun is associated with a God, and the moon with a Goddess.

Unknown said...

The OAV series that comes to my mind is MegaZone 23, but that was in the 80s. After that things get foggy.

Anonymous said...

To understand silent mobius you must read the comics before watching the anime or movies.

The characters are explained in the comics. Also there is a issue of the comic that was only put out in japan which told of why the city was destroyed and why rally founed the amp. But yea read comics.

djmasturbeat said...

I would desperately love to find a cap of the Streamline dub from VHS if anyone has the old Silent Mobius US VHS and a way to cap the audio. please find your way over here and hit me up:

d.merrill said...

I had the Silent Mobieus VHS last year, but sold it. It's on eBay right now for $50, which is about $49 too much.