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SOS! TOKYO METRO EXPLORERS: THE NEXT (A J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

April 30, 2008 by  



“What a beautiful film this one is! S.O.S! TOKYO METRO EXPLORERS: THE NEXT is definitely setting a new standard for the future of 3D anime! Awesome!”

DVD TITLE: SOS! TOKYO METRO EXPLORERS: THE NEXT

DURATION: 40 Minutes + 27 minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9LB and 4:3 (for special feature segment), Japanese Language, Dolby Digital 5.1ch/Stereo

CATALOG #: BUDHO141

COMPANY: Bandai Visual/Honneamise

DIRECTOR: Takagi Shinji

NOTES: Based on an original story and original character designs by Otomo Katsuhiro

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

Search for the “treasure” that rests in the Tokyo underground!

A group of children unlock the entrance to the unknown. A new standard for the future of 3D anime!

Fifth-grade student, Ryuhei, discovers a notebook containing the “Tokyo Exploring Records,” a text written by his father. Together with his friends, he forms an exploration team, heading into a manhole to find a world that goes beyond imagination. With a thorough knowledge of the Otomo world, the staff of Steamboy took Katsuhiro Otomo’s short manga and fully demonstrated their ability to make it into a 3D anime. Otomoe even praised the anime saying, “It made me feel lucky to be the original author.”

One of the most beautiful anime that I have seen in a long time!

“SOS! TOKYO METRO EXPLORERS: THE NEXT” is based on an original short manga titled “SOS DAITOKYOTANKENTAI” by Otomo Katsuhiro published back in 1980 for now-defunct Manga Shonen.

As the team were preparing to work on “Steamboy 2”, a film that would feature a hybrid visual style that brings together hand-drawn 2D graphics and 3D characters. Unfortunately, due to certain circumstances, plans for the second film was put on hold.

Thus the team of Sunrise Emotion Studio began working on “SOS! TOKYO METRO EXPLORERS: THE NEXT”.

When I first watched “SOS! TOKYO METRO EXPLORERS: THE NEXT”, I was just blown away by the actual art used by the film and the technology used to create this anime.

The opening scenes of Japan, the paintings were whimsical but yet almost realistic. I was just in awe that I found myself pausing during each scene just to appreciate it.

Upon watching this film, I can’t help but grin and smile.

[Please note: From this point on, there may be a few spoilers. Reader be warned]

The storyline revolves around fifth-grade student Ryuhei who discovers his fathers notebook which contains information of the “Tokyo Exploring Records” which leads him, his little brother and a few friends embarked on a journey ala Tokyo underground to search for some treasure.

The story features the children going underground and discovering a new world.

Sure, this may read a bit farfetched but it’s not for children to do something like this but it’s not.

I actually have done something similar with a group of friends when I was younger. Going through a manhole in an old area of town and we were in eighth grade at the time and relying on hearsay and rumors of what exists down there.

And similar to the world that Ryuhei and friends have discovered in the Tokyo Underground, it’s similar to what we discovered but in a more surreal (and dirty and messy) sense as many homeless were seen living underground.

The situation is no different for this film but the world of those living in the Tokyo Underground is something that is innocent and that makes it a very entertaining children’s story that adults will love (especially if they had a similar adventurous side as a child).

In a way, child adventures have done quite well in capturing that fantasy that a lot of us have felt when we were younger and like a Hollywood adventure classic like “The Goonies”, “SOS! TOKYO METRO EXPLORERS: THE NEXT” manages to capture that feeling of adventure, discovery and the excitement that one feels when you are much younger.

Also, for sheer enjoyment, there were just subtle things that caught my attention and also made me smile. From the children using Apple, Dell and Vaio computers to Ryuhei’s father working figurines and Gundam and My-Hime figures in the background. To one of the guys singing “Tomo yo”, a 1960’s Japanese song by Okabayashi Nobuyasu and everyone all singing “When the Saints Go Marching In” in English and much more.

And going back to that visual enjoyment of watching the beautiful scenery and conceptual art backgrounds, I found the images (done through scenery scouting for the film) of the overpass looking down Odakyu Line, to the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line and how things were just detailed just was breathtaking.

Even on the human perspective as Ryuhei tends to get bothered by his little brother Sasuke and knocks him in the head and Sasuke cries. Sakuragai Shun, the child who wears the glasses and keeps adjusting them. Capturing those moments to give a sense of realism to the animated film is something that I truly enjoy.

The animation is presented in 16:9 LB. The animation is vibrant, colorful and what Sunrise Emotion Studio was able to accomplish through toon shading and finding a way to capture hand-drawn animation via 3D. What an awesome attempt that I can see them refining in future animations. Bravo!

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1ch and Dolby Digital Stereo. Definitely some scenes when the action comes alive, that the sound is well done. The acting is well done and the subtitles were nice, crisp and easy to read. There is no English dub for this anime but considering Bandai Visual trying to help stop piracy by shortening the windows of anime DVD releases from when it was released in Japan and a few weeks later releasing it in the US. I’m happy to see Bandai Visual going this direction.

As for special features, this is where Bandai Visual DVD’s rock!

The special features on this DVD comes with a “Making Of” that really goes into the behind-the-scenes of creating this anime and interviewing people on staff (not just the director and screenplay writer but actual members of the staff involved in the creation of the anime) was a great addition!

Special features included creator interviews, the trailer and even commentary (which is English subtitled) with Director Takagi Shinji, CGI Director Kokubo Masashi and Chief Animator, Nakajima Tomonari. This addition of a subtitled commentary from the Japanese staff is just awesome!

And similar to the “Gunbuster” DVD releases from Bandai Visual, “SOS! TOKYO METRO EXPLORERS” also includes a detailed and informative 12-page booklet with an introduction, the transition from manga to anime, character information, “Did You Know?” section that goes into the scenes that I enjoyed watching over and over and featuring some notes on those scenes.

Also featured is “The Making of SOS! The Next” and with an interview with Takagi, Ohara and Otomo.

All in all, this film is just visually impressive. It’s not an action or mecha film, it’s a film about children going on an adventure to look for treasure underground.

For me, I can’t help but appreciate this film in many levels, mainly because the kids going out and going underground is an experience that I also had done as a child.

But what I found more touching is how the original manga by Otomo and the current animated film, finally are bridged together to know how the new relates to the old and I found it extremely touching.

Again, Bandai Visual manages to give the anime fan so much more with its inclusion of in-depth interviews and behind-the-scenes look at how the animation was created. And the inclusion of the informative booklet for this film, again, a nice touch!

All in all, “SOS! TOKYO METRO EXPLORERS: THE NEXT” is a film that will appeal to animation fans who appreciate great art, great storytelling and the awesome effort by the Sunrise Emotion Studio in creating this beautiful animated film.

Overall, this DVD is a winner!

PLUS:

+ Awesome animation and overall art! Innocent storyline!

+ DVD features commentary (English subtitled), informative special features and a cool 12-page booklet.

+ Knowing the effort of the team bringing 2D and 3D together and watching it visually work!

+ Bandai Visual shortening the window of Japanese and American DVD releases.

+ Well acted and crisp, clean and readable subtitles.

NEGATIVES:

– No negatives… But if I had to be finicky, the fact that there is no English dubbed version for the fans who really want that, can be seen as a negative.

OVERALL SCORE: A

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