Dir.: Shuko Murase; Animation; Voices of Yuichi Nakamura, Sanae Kobayashi, Takahiro Sakurai; USA/Japan 2017, 115 min.
This screen adaptation of Project Ito’s cult novel is a puzzling and often violent animation. Shuko Murase’s film is part Jason Bourne spy thriller and part video game with countless casualties, Murase questions not only government policies, but also how human memory works.
Set in 2022, after the Bosnian capital Sarajevo was victim of a nuclear attack, the US government creates a special force to deal with genocidal tyrants, whose wars are proliferating outside the ‘safe’ world of the fully industrialised nations. This squad is led by Clavis Shepherd (Nakamura), hunting John Paul (Sakurai), an enigmatic American, who is suspected to be the ringleader of the warlords.
In Prague, Shepherd meets Lucia (Kobayashi), Paul’s ex-girl friend. We learn, that he was with her, when his wife and children were killed in the Sarajevo attack. Later Paul explains: “he does not want to be grieving again”, and therefore will keep all terrorist attacks outside the territory of the major powers. Lucia shows Clavis Kafka’s grave, and explains that Paul was working at MIT, finding a language pattern of dictators, prone to suicide. As it turns out, Paul is still in Prague, and has Clavis drugged in a seedy nightclub, where no fingerprint scans exist, which are usually needed, even if one buys a pizza. Travis escapes Paul’s clutches, and hunts him down in Africa, with a crew which is “emotionally optimised” – meaning that they do not feel any pain or regret for their mass killings. The leading trio finally assembles for the statutory show-down.
Project Ito (Satoshi Ito) published Genocidal Organ in 2007, followed by Harmony (a novelisation of Metal Gear soldiers 4), before he died of cancer aged only thirty-four in 2009. His status in SF animation circles is unrivalled, and Murase had a monumental task of keeping Ito’s followers happy. Whilst he clearly succeeds with the fan group, it’s unclear if a wider audience will share this enthusiasm for a near two-hour bombardment of half baked philosophies and gruelling mass murder. Whilst the colours are often muted, the violence is very graphic. Somehow numbness soon sets in and what seems original at the beginning, is less and less exciting as the narrative unspools. All said and done, the two hour running time does nothing to make this attack of explosions and sound effects user friendly for a larger audience. AS
ON RELEASE FROM 12 July 2017