During Anime Festival Asia 2012, I was invited by the organiser as well as Production IG for a preview screening of Kamiyama Kenji’s latest full length animation film, RE: Cyborg009. If you felt that the title is familiar, this is because it’s a remake of an old Ishinomori Shotaro’s (of Kamen Rider fame) manga title. Done in full CG with the help of Studio Sanzigen, did Kamiyama-san did justice to this title with this adaptation? Read on then.
Unlike many other much more hardcore otakus, my first experience with Production IG’s Kamiyama Kenji was with the much acclaimed Higashi no Eden (or Eden of the East). Higashi no Eden was quite an experience at the time, as it was quite different from all the normal moe animes that were force fed into fans seasons after seasons. The storyline is gripping, and while it’s easy to pass it off as a fancy sci fi, it does tend to have some elements of reality in it. It was then that I was told it was directed by Kamiyama Kenji, who had earlier came to fame directing the TV series version of Ghost in The Shell (which amazingly, I have yet to watch).
Caution: Some Spoilers in this review
Three years prior to the start of the film, Dr Gilmore led 00-Cyborg team which had been protecting the world was disbanded, and most of the members seperated all across the world. Cyborg 009, aka Shimamura Joe had his memory reset by Dr Gilmore for him to live a normal life, but terrorist suicide bombing of skyscrapers across the globe (including KLCC) forced the team to regroup again to find out who was behind the act.
I never read nor watched the various incarnation of the original Cyborg 009 series, hence I can’t compare what Kamiyama-san did with the original. But there is some similarity between the lead, Shimamura Joe with Takizawa Akira from Higashi no Eden. Both had their memories wiped prior to the start of the show. And both seems to be plauged by what they have done in their past. I think Kamiyama-san uses this approach so that he can easily tell what is happening without making the viewers feel that they are being babysat into it.
Along for the ride are Cyborg 001 Ivan Whisky, Cyborg 002 Jet Link, Cyborg 003 as well as Shimamura’s love interest Françoise Arnoul, Cyborg 004 Albert Heinrich, Cyborg 005 Geronimo Jr, Cyborg 006 Chang Changku, Cyborg 007 Great Britain, and Cyborg 008 Pyunma. Each has their own unique ability, which was retained from the original design of Ishinomori Shotaro-sensei.
So how was it? Well honestly speaking, it was a really thought provoking movie. Kamiyama-san focuses not only on the political state of the world, with subjects of war profiting as well as fake terrorism being an issue, but he also touches about the spiritual aspect of humans, as well as religion, making you think deeply about what is happening in the world currently. This could be a problem for casual viewers if they are not up to date with most of the happenings around the world, but as Kamiyama-san told me in his interview, this movie is not for casual viewing.
While at first I had my doubts over usage of CG for this movie, all those were squashed once the movie starts. This movie was made with 3D in mind from the start, and the usage of CG means that they could emulate a stereoscopic camera easily in the computer, hence giving you a realistic depth of feel perception compared to movies that was converted in 3D in post production. And while it’s ‘officially’ a CG movie, it’s not what you think of CG like what Pixar does. It does retain that distinct ‘anime’ look. Heck, my only complain would be the snail paced 15FPS the film was rendered into but most people won’t even notice it.
Music is as expected from Kawai Kenji. Most, if not all of the soundtrack seems appropriate to the scene it was featured in. In addition, the sounds were done at (the now formerly) George Lucas owned Skywalker Sound Studio at Marin County. The surround sound is just right without being too overwhelming. And yes, this is one movie that you NEED to watch in a cinema, and not in front of your PC using your shitty 2.0 cheapo speaker.
But this movie is not without it’s flaw. It’s easy to see that Kamiyama-san wanted to tell an important message in this movie, and yet it’s hard to cram everything in just 2 hours. Hence there was a lot of reduncency, especially in some of the cyborg characters. Come to think of it, none of the 00-Cyborg were given much background story, and some even appeared in one or two scenes only. To make sense of the character’s relationship, you really need to keep focus on what is happening, as it will turn out confusing if you don’t.
The end was left ambigous, but Kamiyama-san personally told me that it was intentional, that the ending is left for the viewers to decide. Honestly for me, RE: Cyborg009 would have been better off as a TV series rather than a movie as it could lead to better pacing and explanation.
So did I like it? Yes, very much. Some parts of the movie reminds me of Evangelion in parts, questioning humanity, religion as well as political culture of the world. The 3D cg is awesome and hats off to Sanzigen for pulling this off magnificently. Just that don’t expect to understand this movie in just one sitting, especially if you are not giving attention. You might even need a second or third watch to really catch Kamiyama-san’s message. A must see if you are a fan of his, but if you are a casual anime viewers, you might be better off starting with some of his earlier works as well as TV series that is similar to this before watching it.
The movie will be shown in Singapore starting on December 1st, but Anime News Network listed Malaysia as one of the places it will be shown, so who knows, you might be able to watch it locally.
Director: Kenji Kamiyama
Screenplay: Kenji Kamiyama
Unit Director: Koudai Kakimoto
Music: Kenji Kawai
Original creator: Shotaro Ishinomori
Character Design: Gatou Asou
Art Director: Yusuke Takeda
Animation Director: Daisuke Suzuki
Director of Photography: Takahiro Uezono
Producer: Tomohiko Ishii
Color design: Yumiko Katayama
Lead Animator: Masanori Uetaka
Line Director: Reina Kawabata
Production producer: Mitsuhisa Ishikawa
Project Producer: Hiroaki Matsuura
Sound Design: Tom Myers
Chiwa Saito as Cyborg 003 / Françoise Arnoul
Daisuke Ono as Cyborg 002 / Jet Link
Hiroyuki Yoshino as Cyborg 007 / Great Britain
Mamoru Miyano as Cyborg 009 / Joe Shimamura
Noriaki Sugiyama as Cyborg 008 / Pyunma
Sakiko Tamagawa as Cyborg 001 / Ivan Whisky
Tarou Masuoka as Cyborg 006 / Chang Changku
Teruyuki Tanzawa as Cyborg 005 / Geronimo Jr
Toru Ohkawa as Cyborg 004 / Albert Heinrich
Nobuyuki Katsube as Professor Isaac Gilmore
SANZIGEN Animation Studio