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Loups=Garous: The Motion Picture (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 11, 2011 by  



“Loups=Garous: The Motion Picture” is not a great animated film, nor is it the worst.  But while I was entertained by the characters and the futuristic storyline, I was also bothered by how rushed the film felt.  Otherwise, if you are a Natsuhiko Kyogoku or SCANDAL fan…or someone wanting not a series but an anime mystery film, then definitely give “Loups=Garous: The Motion Picture” a try!

Image courtesy of © Natsuhiko Kyogoku/Loups=Garous Committee.  All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Loups=Garous: The Motion Picture

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2010

DURATION: 98 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16×9), English Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RATED: TV 14V

Release Date: November 29, 2011

Originally created by Natsuhiko Kyogoku

Directed by Jun’ichi Fujisaku

Screenplay by Midori Gotou, Sayaka Harada

Music by SCANDAL

Original Character Design by Chizu Hashii

Character Design: Akiharu Ishii

Art Director: Koji Eto

Animation Director: Akiharu Ishii

3D Director: Kenji Isobe

Sound Director: Kisuke Koizumi

Director of Photography: Tsuyoshi Shimura

Editing: Junichi Uematsu

Anime Production: Production I.G.

Featuring the following voice talent:

Hiromi Igarashi/Corey Hartzog as Ayumi Kouno

Kanae Oki/Melissa Davis as Hazuki Makino

Marina Inoue/Hilary Haag as Mio Tsuzuki

Eriko Hirata/Shelley Calene-Black as Shizue Fuwa

Haruo Satou as Adoptive Father

Kana Uetake/Serena Varghese as Yūko Yabe

Kiyoshi Katsunuma as Yūji Nakamura

Kunihiro Kawamoto/David Matranga as Tōji Kunugi

Manabu Sakamaki as Ryū Kawabata

Miyuki Sawashiro/Luci Christian as Rei Myao

Tomomichi Nishimura as Executive Office Chief

Yutaka Aoyama/Andy McAvin as Riichirō Ishida

After a virus claims millions, most live in the safety of a closed-off world, relegating themselves to an on-line existence. But when a young girl decides to brave life outside the virtual world, she finds a group of friends – and a killer. Someone is hunting and violently murdering children. Who? Why? And is she the next target?

In Japan, Natsuhiko Kyogoku is a well-revered mystery writer who has written many novels, some that have won several of Japan’s top awards.  And some of those novels have been made into anime TV series such as “Moryo no Hako” and “Kosetsu Hyaku Monogatari” and most recently a film adaptation of his novel “Loup-Garou Kihisubeki Okami”.

While hardcore fans are typically vocal about anime adaptations of his work, Natsuhiko has always been vocal of how he encourages the anime adaptations of his novel to be different and in this case, the animated film would utilize social media and also a J-Pop collaboration for this latest work.

“Loups=Garou: The Motion Picture” would feature the all-female Japanese rock band SCANDAL in their first anime voice over, but also supplying not only three theme songs but also motion capture for the film.  Also, a Mixi (Japan’s popular social media website) tie-in that allowed winners to sing background along with Scandal for the ending theme of the film.

The film is directed by Jun’ichi Fujisaku (Director of “Blood+” and writer of “XxxHOLiC the Movie: A Midsumer’s Night Dream” and “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex”), a screenplay by Midori Gotou (“Blood+”) and Sayaka Harada (“Library War”), music and voice acting by the band SCANDAL, character design by Akiharu Ishii (“Blue Seed Beyond”, “Blood+”, “The Prince of Tennis”) and background art by Koji Eto (“Angel Beats!”, “Oreimo”).

And now, Sentai Filmworks is bringing “Loups=Garous” to the U.S. on Blu-ray and DVD.  It’s important to note that the Japanese and U.S. version slightly differ in that the character Ayumi Kono for the English dub version is a male, while the Japanese version, she is a female (verified by the Japanese special features on this Blu-ray release).

For the sake of continuity, I’m going to refer to the Japanese version as Ayumi as a female in my review, not by the English dub version depicting him as a male.

“Loups=Garous: The Motion Picture” begins with main character Hazuki Makino talking about a Japan in the distant future.  A time where security cameras have been installed all over the city to monitor young children/teenagers.  Each carry a small computer/cell phone device which allows for them to be monitored.

In this future Japan, the children/teens do not have any contact with humans as they are constantly online and their human interaction are typically done online.  But they are required to go on communications training in order to learn how to communicate with other humans.

Also, in the future, humans no longer eat animals.  They eat synthetic food made of plants.

On the day of communications training, Hazuki is joined by a few students.  One is a hacker named Mio Tsuzuki, the other is the expressionless Ayumi Kono and a third student named Yuko Kabe.

One night, Yuko Kabe is seen running from a group of young men wearing masks as they look as if they are going to kill her and thus she has gone missing.

The three wonder about Yuko and because Mio is a hacker, she lets them know about what she does for fun. But because they are being monitored, she would need to create some magic and faking the monitoring devices to let the security think they are at home, when in truth…they are out of their homes.

When Hazuki and Ayumi visit Mio’s home, they find computers everywhere and Mio has manages to hack into the main security system and they see that Yuko was followed by men dressed with masks and possibly was attacked.  The footage that Mio hacks into showing a friend of her’s, a fighter named Rei Myao defeating the fighters and saving Yuko’s life.

But it is also revealed that Ayumi was there at the time when Rei was trying to protect Yuko and for some reason, two of the people in masks that were fighting her, were killed.

When the three go to talk with Rei, they realize that she has rescued a few other female students that have gone missing and one of them is Yuko.

So, the group sneak Yuko out to stay in an area where there is no security, a place where Ayumi hangs out.  And while the four hang out together, they have fun and enjoy 21st century music, especially the all-female band SCANDAL and inspired by the music video clips, they joke around about forming their own all-female band.

And the four can’t wait to hang out with each other again.  But when Yuko goes to give Hazuki a message at her home, but because she escaped monitoring, Yuko is caught and taken into custody by the security company.

But not fearing for her because she should be safe with them, unfortunately, the following morning, the trio learn that Yuko has been killed.  This enrages Mio because she has had security on Yuko and has been monitoring the data.  The only thing they can think of is that someone in the security company is changing the data in order not to be caught.

But when Mio’s home is blown-up and Hazuki is nearly killed by people working for the security company, they realize that their lives are in trouble.  Now Ayumi and Hazuki are determined to find out who is trying to kill them.

But with Japan monitored so closely, will they survive by the end of the day?

VIDEO:

“Loups=Garous: The Motion Picture” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  While Production I.G. is typically known for gorgeous art backgrounds and character design, for this film, there is an interesting animation style in conjunction with 3D work.

For a film, the character designs are not exactly as detailed as one would expect from a Production I.G. film but at the same time, the emphasis by of a futuristic Japan but also incorporating traditional Japan was quite intriguing.  For the most part, the character design was rather interesting to see for an animated film but at the same time, it gave the film a refreshing style.  But while it worked for me, I know it won’t work for some others.  The basic look may give viewers a sense of low quality or rushed animation, it’s definitely was subjective topic when it came out in Japan, as many voiced their opinions towards the overall design of the film.

But for the most part, the art background work does look vibrant and detailed but other than that, the character designs may be too basic-looking for some viewers.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Loups=Garous: The Motion Picture” is presented in lossless Japanese and English Dolby TrueHD 2.0.  I was a bit surprised that there was no 5.1 lossless track but for the most part, dialogue and music is clear through the front channels.  I decided to have my receiver play stereo on all channels for a more immersive soundtrack.

As mentioned earlier, there is a difference between the English and Japanese soundtracks.  Sentai Filmworks decided to make the character Ayumi Kono as a male character rather than a female character.  I’m not sure if it’s because the character Hazuki Makino takes a liking towards Ayumi but the fact is that Ayumi is a tomboy and that because Mio features the band SCANDAL, they come up with an idea to also have an all-female band like SCANDAL which makes sense.

Nevertheless, it was a decision that Sentai Filmworks decided to go for in their English dub of the film, including the English subtitles for the film, when the Japanese voice actress talks about Ayumi being a “her” and the Japanese promotional videos talk about the film featuring “four girls”, the English subtitles also refer to Ayumi as being “him”.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Loups=Garous: The Motion Picture” features the following special features:

  • Interview with Jun’ichi Fujisaku – (7:20) An interview with the director of the animated film.  About what he wanted to accomplish in terms of look and feel for the film.
  • Interview with Japanese Cast – (17:19) An interview with the Japanese voice cast.
  • Interview with Natsuhiko Kyogoku – (3:45) The creator of “Loups=Garous” talks about his feeling of a anime adaptation of the film, the technology when he wrote the book and how some of it has come true today and also working with SCANDAL.
  • SCANDAL meets Loups=Garous – (15:45) The four members talk about the motion capturing of KOSHI-TAN, their first anime voice dubbing job, the MIXI contest and more.
  • KOSHI-TAN Promotional Video – (1:34) The animated segment featuring SCANDAL.
  • Movie Digest – (12:31) A promotional video that goes into detail of what the animated film is about.
  • Pilot Movie – (12:43) Featuring a quick runthrough of what “Loups=Garous” is about, less shading more basic looking version.
  • Picture Drama – (8:30) Featuring a non-animated tale of Hazuki’s interest in Ayumi via still frames.
  • Japanese Promotional Videos – (1:58) SCANDAL tie-in with the animated film.
  • Japanese Trailer – (1:20) The original theatrical trailer.

Intriguing from start to finish!  “Loups=Garous: The Motion Picture” is a film that manages to be interesting, but at the same time, has quite a bit of shortcomings.

First, let’s begin with the good.  I did enjoy the storyline of a future Japan where humans stopped interacting and everything is done online to the point that everyone has no need to venture outdoors.  Also, interesting is humanity giving up eating meat and the thought of eating animals is considered uncivilized.

I also liked the pop culture interaction with the Japanese rock band SCANDAL who has three songs in the film, but also provided the motion capture and voice dubbing for their characters in the film.  But also, the social media marketing aspect by having a contest for people to lend their voice for the SCANDAL ending theme.

And if you have Production I.G. working on an animated film, you expect quality, especially when they are known for making anime look so beautiful.

And “Loups=Garous: The Motion Picture” does look good when it comes to the art backgrounds, while the character designs may seem a bit too basic for some, I look at it as bit refreshing and to see something new and different from other anime films.

While I enjoyed the concept of the film, while I’m sure Natsuhiko Kyogoku’s novel probably made a more interesting storyline to read, the anime adaptation had a few things that worked against it.  For one, in a futuristic setting, Japan is almost like modern-day North Korea, there are hardly anyone in the streets.  Yes, people must be monitored and are kept in their homes.   I understand that people do not need human interaction but to see a Japan that is not alive with people, it’s a bit surprising.

Aside from the main characters and a few perpetrators in masks,  I wonder if director Jun’ichi Fujisaku captured the feel of Natsuhiko Kyogoku’s novels because Japan’s life seemed to be sucked out as there are no cars, there are very few living people around.

The film is also hurt by its rushed climax.  I felt the screenplay was rushed when it came to the end of the movie. There are some story plots which were not well-executed.

The other nitpick was Sentai Filmworks deciding to change Ayumi’s character to a male character.  Even in the subtitles, Ayumi is referred to as a “him”, while in the Japanese special features, she is referred by the Japanese voice actress as a “her” and also the promotional video discussing the film as a story about “four girls”.  So, I was a bit surprised by the decision to change the character and I wonder if it was because the female character Hazuki had an interest towards Ayumi.

For me, what made me enjoy this Blu-ray release of “Loups=Garous: The Motion Picture” were the special features included.  Loved the fact they included interviews with the Japanese voice talent, the director but also the creator Natsuhiko Kyogoku.    Also, as a fan of SCANDAL, it was great to see them involved in an anime series as voice talent but also more interaction than just an ending theme.  The special feature with them observing their motion capture, voice dubbing and MIXI contest footage was very cool!

“Loups=Garous: The Motion Picture” was a film that had potential but perhaps the team were under a tight schedule (as Production I.G. typically has so many other projects going on at the same time) that the screenplay and the execution of the film made it feel that the animated film was rushed.

Not to say that I didn’t enjoy the film, because I did.  I enjoyed the characters and how the film started out a bit cute and innocent and later became to be a darker film.  And as mentioned, I probably enjoyed the look much more than others because it was different from other anime series.   But I do understand some Japanese viewers who criticized the film as they have high expectations of an adaptation of literary works by Natsuhiko Kyogoku.  This was not the adaptation that some were looking forward to.

While the film may seem a bit cutesy and fun, it does have its share of darker moments.  While the overall film is not violent, by the final half hour, we get to see people getting killed, and for those wondering about the title “Loups=Garous” which means “Werewolf” in French, in the context of the anime series, the title refers to being human that does things that only a monster can do, and in this case, we get some interesting situations of where a human does some monstrous things.

Overall, “Loups=Garous: The Motion Picture” is not a great animated film, nor is it the worst.  But while I was entertained by the characters and the futuristic storyline, I was also bothered by how rushed the film felt.  Otherwise, if you are a Natsuhiko Kyogoku or SCANDAL fan…or someone wanting not a series but an anime mystery film, then definitely give “Loups=Garous: The Motion Picture” a try!

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