Vexille (2007, Japan)

I do not know how long I can play the “I do not know anime styles” card. I think I have seen about 5-10 Japanese animated movies, so buy now I should have some familiarity with them. I do, but I still do not know enough to differentiate the various styles and appreciate the contribution to the genre the better ones bring. So for now all I can say that Vexille is a Japanese animation, with a visual style I am not familiar enough to describe in comparative terms.

While I was enjoying the story, the action, the characters there was something very confusing about it from almost the beginning. I eventually figured it out. I was watching the movies dubbed by American actors. So I had to check the DVD covers and IMDB several times, to make sure, that yes, I was watching a Japanese and not a US production. The reason it was hard to believe was that while there were some grey people, in terms of not absolutely evil or good, but in general the villains were Japanese and the heroes were American. That was the cause of my confusion. If it were an American movie this set up (where the “hometeam” consists of the bad guys) would have been unimaginable. But for some reason, for the Japanese artists who made Vexille this role allocation was not a problem.

That made me think about the possible reasons. It was not too difficult to conclude that it is anti-isolationist movie. The story is set in 2077, in a word, where Japan is once again totally isolated from the world. By the end of the movie, this isolation causes its downfall, with the help of American soldiers. There are some parallels with the previous round of isolation in Japanese history (from 1635 to roughly 1854-58), which also ended by the Americans forcing their way in. So I think one lesson the writers/directors wanted to convey was that resistance to being influenced by globalization is futile on the long term. However there was another message: taking robotic technology to the extreme is just harmful. Ultimately that and the mad scientist behind it caused the downfall of the new political system in this movie.

However you do not have to think about any of the above to enjoy this action packed sci-fi movie. To have the main hero be a heroine is a special treat. But unlike recent American action movies one of the main co-stars will die by the end. Again, that is something that you did not see in any action movie made in the last 15 years. Before that it was OK. Did we finally arrive too an era where moviegoers are thought of being incapable handling death and tragedy? Or because moviemaking is primarily a money making venture moviemakers want to avoid death, as that might bring in less people to the theaters? Either way life’s complexity is lost in most blockbusters. Not here though.

DVD @ Amazon.com

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