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  Vexille Future Shock
Year: 2008
Director: Fumihiko Sori
Stars: Meisa Kuroki, Shosuke Tanihara, Yasuko Matsuyuki, Takahiro Sakurai, Romi Pak
Genre: Action, Thriller, Animated, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: In the year 2077, Japan leads the way in developing super-robots and bio-technology. Having broken ties with the United Nations, the mysterious, now-isolated nation has become a threat to the entire world. American Intelligence discovers Japan is developing a new weapon of mass destruction and despatches “SWORD”, a special task force led by action babe Vexille (Meisa Kuroki) and her colleague/boyfriend, Leon (Shosuke Tanihara). The team are ambushed, with Leon captured, while Vexille is rescued by resistance heroine Maria (Yasuko Matsuyuki). Discovering the dying populace were infected with a bio-technological virus, Vexille and Maria storm the DAIWA corporation’s island fortress to prevent their attack on the United States.

Japanese national pride takes a bit of a blow here. In a radical departure from the patriotic fantasies of anime’s golden age, director/co-writer Fumihiko Sori portrays future-Japan as a withering nation overrun by cyber-terrorists, while America has to sort out the mess. Indeed, Vexille’s mix of dour, dystopian visuals, robot action and Tom Clancy-style political techno-thriller is pitched a little too obviously towards mainstream, Western tastes. Scattered imagery (bald, black suited villains, skittering droids, gung-ho techno-soldiers) and the achingly hip Paul Oakenfold soundtrack recall James Cameron movies or - groan - The Matrix (1999), lacking that colourful, reckless anime imagination fans adore. The CG characters remain inexpressive compared to the hand-drawn anime heroes of yore, which means some of the human drama falls flat.

However, this is not a disaster of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2000) proportions. There is good stuff here on both a scripted and visual level. The hi-tech gunplay and clashing machinery offer visceral thrills, while the pulse-pounding finale delivers dazzling images, especially the giant worms made of swirling, animated garbage. Plus you get two, kick-ass female leads. Plucky Vexille might take title honours, but ice-cool, pouty-lipped Maria (named, perhaps, after the original sci-fi heroine of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927)?) is the girl to watch. The script may lack the satirical precision Kazunori Ito brought to Mobile Police Patlabor (1990), but it is impossible not to connect this movie’s shanty towns and shambling, homeless folk with documentary images from Japan’s economic collapse in the mid-nineties. The central concept of a whole nation gradually losing its humanity speaks volumes about contemporary Japanese anxieties. Forty years ago, Akira Kurosawa was castigated for making Dodes’ka-den (1970). Now it seems poverty, homelessness and social injustice are things Japanese cinema can no longer afford to ignore.
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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