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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

009 Re: Cyborg review: hasta la what now?

009 Re: Cyborg red light

A whole lotta WTF folded into a derivative, misogynist, and just plain incoherent mess.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): so not a fan of anime

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

I keep giving anime a chance to impress me, and it keeps failing to reciprocate with anything approachable. I figured if a flick is getting a release, even a tiny one, in the West, someone somewhere must think it’s got some appeal for non-Japanese audiences, but 009 Re: Cyborg is a whole lotta WTF folded into a derivative, misogynist, and just plain incoherent mess. Are there different narrative rules for anime, like the plots don’t actually have to make any sense? Someone tell me now so I can give up trying to understand the genre.

The superfriends gang here is kinda like X-Men meets The Avengers, except this multiracial superpowered team are all cyborgs, apparently: “cyborgs” is just thrown out to inspire geek awe without any explanation of what it means, and none of their superpowers appear to align with what we generally think part-human, part-robot beings might be able to do; the term is nothing more than technobabble. They’re called into action as skyscrapers are tipping over into one another in cities around the world, because Terrorists, and maybe it’s some sort of nefarious plot by the Americans? (The universal mistrust and suspicion of the U.S., which is not the great savior of the planet here, is the only potentially interesting thing about the story, but a slip of attitude alone is barely the beginnings of anything intriguing, and is never pursued.) Maybe some of the bad guys are hearing “His Voice,” and maybe some of the good guys are, too. Maybe some people obey “His Voice,” and maybe some people don’t. Maybe it’s good when some people resist “His Voice,” and maybe it’s good when some people obey. I have no idea what the hell “His Voice” is saying, and no idea who He is, and neither does the movie, either. It’s just another thing tossed in because it’s allegedly creepy or cool or mysterious. Like how there’s an ethereal ghostly blond girl wandering through the movie for reasons unknown. Or how the cyborg’s leader is like what would happen if you threw Professor Xavier and Davros and a Child of the Damned into a genetic blender. Or how someone can shout, halfway through the film, “Doctor! Send me there via teleportation!” and you just have to throw up your hands and cry, “What?! They’ve got teleportation all of a sudden?!”

Did I mention it’s in 3D? That’s so you can fully appreciate the many shots up a lady cyborg’s ass, cuz her skirt is too short so whaddaya gonna do? It’s not like anyone deliberately drew her in a state of near undress for her streetwear, or placed the virtual camera up in her crotch. These things just happen.

Comprehensibility must have gotten accidentally thrown out with that poor woman’s clothing.

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009 Re: Cyborg (2013)
UK/Ire release: Jun 7 2013

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated AI (contains anime incoherence)
BBFC: rated 12A (contains moderate action violence)

viewed in 3D
viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • RogerBW

    Superpowered nonsense is just a tiny part of the vast medium that is anime; similarly giant robots. And at least as far as I’m concerned most of the good stuff happens at series length (13 or 26 25-minute episodes) rather than as a film.

    This particular film seems to be based on a TV series from 1968, which in itself is rarely a good sign.

  • Marc

    Unfortunately, almost all anime films are based on pre-existing material and rather than attempting to adapt it properly to a sub two-hour format they instead try to cram as many fan call-outs as they can into the process and then call it a day. Get bent, everyone coming in cold. Unless you have the clout and budget of a studio like Ghibli, getting an original animated film off the ground seems to be an incredibly difficult process. I think the last anime film I genuinely enjoyed was The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and it was based (somewhat) off of a novel itself.

    Sturgeon’s law seems to hit anime especially hard, which I think stings just because ostensibly they’re trying to say that animation as a medium can be used for ANY kind of story, something that’s pretty rare. And then most of the stories that result from it are just plain crap.

  • RogerBW

    I don’t know if Paul will comment here (as someone living in Japan), but certainly the impression I get is that most of the distributors who choose what material to bring to the UK and USA are keenest on the crowd-pleasers, the anime equivalent of Transformers and Battleship.
    I really ought to come up with a list of things I’d recommend as an introduction to Japanese animation. Hmm. Miyazaki, of course (Totoro). Of recent series: Shinsekai Yori, Stein’s Gate, Psycho-Pass.

  • Bluejay

    I assume you’re exempting Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli from your hatred of anime? Loved his most recent one, From Up On Poppy Hill.

    I also really liked the three films of Mamoru Hosoda that I’ve seen: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars, and Wolf Children. No incoherence/ultraviolence/misogyny that I can recall.

    Of course, I saw all of these films via the New York International Children’s Film Festival, which probably screens for better anime films than the ones you’ve had the bad luck of seeing.

  • Jonathan Roth

    Just picked up Summer Wars on Blu-Ray actually. One of my favourite recent anime films.

  • I’d call it more mystification than hatred, but yes, Ghibli is mostly exempt.

  • Paul

    I’ll comment, but I have to say that despite (or because of?) living in Japan I don’t like anime myself, save for obvious exceptions such as Crayon Shinchan, from which I learned an unfeasible amount of useful stuff about Japanese culture. But yes, I think the anime that makes it big in the West is always going to be the most flash-bang big stuff (plus Ghibli). And although Marc is right, there’s an even bigger problem: that even in Japan manga and anime are consuming themselves: it’s a veritable spaghetti-tank of intertextuality.

    The “His Voice” thing reminded me of Tomodachi from 20th Century Boy, and everything else mentioned in the review seems to be pointing towards other manga. Which is fine if you live and breathe this stuff* but a bit impenetrable if you’re trying to make sense of it.

    There are much more thoughtful, subtle manga and anime than this. Obviously, There are also, I am sure, immeasurably worse: especially the ones involving sick misogynistic fantasies (tentacles?). Anime reflect Japanese society which, while more heterogenous than many people imagine, nevertheless is mostly more repressive towards women than any country in the West.

    My son likes Naruto, which would be equally incomprehensible if packaged up into a single movie, but which makes some sense if approached steadily from the beginning. He also likes Chibimaruko-chan and Sazae-san, which would probably be repudiated by Western anime fans, but which are actually among the most authentically popular Japanese anime.

    * Well, I say fine, but the misogyny and other problems bother me massively.

  • Paul

    I must admit, I found Mononoke Hime suffered from some of the tendencies towards spectacle and WTFery mentioned in your review here.

    It might be interesting to hear your reaction to 20th Century Boy, a live-action “anime” (ie a movie based on a manga) which doesn’t seem entirely dissimilar to what you’re describing above, but which seems to benefit from not being an anime!

  • FormerlyKnownAsBill

    i leave these things in a state of utter confusion. i try over and over to appreciate whatever it is that they offer. but i can’t find it. i was tickled by the idea that this one got a release. but it sounds like the same tired old garbage.

  • Dogface

    Hi, travelling anime evangelist here. :P I can’t blame anyone for bouncing off of animé, even the things that are commonly recommended, because a lot of it is unfortunately rubbish, and in particular a lot of it relies on using a bevy of tired and shallow tropes to entertain teenagers (sorry teenagers). But there is a lot of work out there that, I think, really can appeal legitimately to an audience, western or otherwise, interested in intelligent, mature, insightful and/or simply exciting, imaginative, solid cinema/television.

    Cowboy Bebop is one of the archetypical “animes that appeal to non-fans” and I think it’d appeal to anyone who likes, say, Firefly. (Check out the film, too, Knocking On Heaven’s Door). Mind Game is an incredibly thoughtful, adept, and artfully insane meditation on life that I personally count among my favourite ‘literature’, or the filmic equivalent. Beyond that, if it’s within the rules, it’ll save me a lot of re-doing of links to trailers if I can just link to a comment I made elsewhere (“CB” in the post is Cowboy Bebop). Hopefully anyone interested in breaking into this broad and varied and simultaneously over/underrated medium might find something that interests them there!

    Link: http://www.metafilter.com/127841/OK-3-2-1-Lets-Jam#4965861

  • Josh Leitzel

    If you claim to not like anime then you need to check out Evangelion (all of it) and Studio Ghibli, Mamoru Hosoda, Makoto Shinkai and Satoshi Kon’s works. Most people who claim to not like the art form haven’t even scratched the surface of it. They look at the generic shonen crap like Naruto and assume that it represents the entire medium. Anime is just a form of storytelling just like any other form of entertainment. Maybe you don’t enjoy shonen, angst filled crap, but it’s ridiculous to say that you dislike Japanese animation as a whole. There’s so much variety to the medium that it just seems ignorant to brush all of it off as implausible and ludicrous. It’s the equivalent of saying you dislike Hollywood films. Sure there may be a lot of trash, but you’re guaranteed to find gems underneath of all that when you’re actually looking for it.

  • Josh Leitzel

    Wow, really? Mononoke is a near flawless masterpiece. Everything in that movie makes complete sense if you actually pay attention to it. It’s imaginative, not WTFery. If you cannot respect it for it’s complexity then just get out. And when has a movie having spectacle a bad thing?

  • Josh Leitzel

    But animation CAN be used for any kind of story. It’s just ignorant to assume otherwise. Go watch Grave of the Fireflies or Barefoot Gen. Plus, Summer Wars and Eva 2.0 were two really great anime films that cam out after Girl Who Leapt Through Time.

  • RogerBW

    This may come as a surprise to you — it does to a lot of people in comics and anime fandom — but telling people that their opinions are wrong rarely wins them over to your side.

  • I reviewed CB a while back:


    I can’t say that anything there made me want to explore more.

  • RogerBW

    I am quite certain that there exists some Japanese animation you’d enjoy.
    Whether it’s worth the effort to you of finding it is another matter. Goodness knows you already watch plenty of things you don’t enjoy.

  • Paul

    Well put. I tend to find it especially galling when combined with an “expertise” about Japanese culture, that extends about 10cm beyond anime (not that I’m saying that’s the case here, but your reference to comics and anime fandom makes me sure you know what I’m talking about).

    Despite my earlier comments about not liking anime, I thought Tonari no Tottoro and Hotaru no Haka were both remarkable, moving films which showed what could be done with anime as a (mainstream) medium. I can see what people like in Mononoke, but I find it a bit overblown.

  • Paul

    I’ll have you know my son is a (Koga-trained) Ninja who will be very upset at you dissing his favourite anime. Ironic, also, that you are happy to be artfully snobbish about “generic shonen crap” while objecting to anti-anime sentiment.

    In retaliation (if I’m being childish) or for information (if I’m trying to help MaryAnn) I’ll point out that Evangelion — which I had to video for a friend in the UK when it was first broadcast here — is essentially intricate fan-fodder. If you plug right in to the look, and to the mecha stuff, and the “philosophy,” then it’s pretty rapidly addictive. Otherwise it’s just a load of typical anime with built-in slash.

  • RogerBW

    I know not, and know that I know not.

  • RogerBW

    Yeah; I quite enjoyed Evangelion, but I would recommend it primarily as source material — if you’re watching anime of the late 1990s and early 2000s, it’s hugely influential, in much the same way The Lord of the Rings and Aliens were on the genres they defined, and a lot of that later stuff won’t make sense if you haven’t seen Evangelion — rather than for its own virtues. It sets up a whole bunch of tropes, but at leat as far as I’m concerned I didn’t find it the masterwork as which it had been portrayed.
    (It doesn’t help that many of its fans obsess about the Christian symbology, even though the show’s creator has admitted that he only threw that in to be an unfamiliar religion to his intended audience.)

  • As I said above, Studio Ghibli, for the most part, I like very much.

  • Paul

    And it should be remembered that Evangelion didn’t “set up” all those tropes. It drew from many predecessors, with relatively few original elements. But it did successfully pull together those elements into a highly influential whole.

    Religious symbology is a great fan-pleaser, of course (fans so often resisting the lure of explicit religion), and in this case it’s that great Japanese fan-pleaser: exotic Western religious symbology. Which in turn provides Western fans with that equally exotic delight: slightly orthogonal Western religious symbology through a Japanese prism.

  • englerp

    Yes, while there are indeed animes and mangas with more substance than then typical Shonenanimemanga. (Monster, 20th Century boys or Planetes from the top of my head. Mabye Ghost in The Shell:SATS (Never was partial to the movies) ).

    i don’t see why that should stop one from enjoying titles from the genre. (Here in Europe Saint Seiya is still considered a classic and i personally quite like Detective Conan, Kenshin and Yuyu Hakusho. Never could get into Naruto though).

  • Paul

    I find it slightly odd that Saint Seiya is considered a classic, but that’s because my only experience of it is from translating the Sony PS2 game (for my sins I also did Dragonball Z and One-Piece).

    But the discussion here isn’t really about being prevented from enjoying anime. It’s more about the effort involved in finding something to enjoy. If that effort is considerably greater than the effort involved in finding something to enjoy in a different genre, why spare the effort? I can think of a few reasons, mainly involving diversity and appreciation of other cultures, but it isn’t like MaryAnn doesn’t already have a varied diet of entertainment, is it?

  • Josh Leitzel

    I was in a bad mood that day. :/ Sorry for sounding so butthurt. It’s not a surprise, in fact I agree with you. So please don’t claim that I’m unaware of this.

  • Josh Leitzel

    Well, overblown may a bit of an over reaction.

  • Josh Leitzel

    Sorry but Naruto is NOT a good example of good anime. I fail to see how I can’t defend anime and not like a lot of shonen? That makes no sense, you’re implying that it’s all anime has to offer. That is simply not the case. I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to make myself sound higher up than other anime fans, but there are a lot of other series/films out there that I find much more enjoyable. Stuff like 5CM Per Second, Summer Wars and Paprika.

    Evangelion greatest strength to me is the characters and their emotional trauma, I honestly don’t watch it for the “robots.” They’re just a bonus for me, and they do have some cool and unique designs. And no, back in it’s day it was NOT a typical anime, still isn’t in fact. Yes, it was inspired by many previous mecha anime, but those only served as rough outlines for it. When you get into the meat of the show you realize that it’s not even truly about giant robots. The creator, Hideaki Anno, just wanted to troll otakus and mislead them into believing that it was just another mindless mecha show.

  • Josh Leitzel

    I find it hard to get into those really overly long anime series like Naruto. But I did watch a lot of it for a while. Then I realized it wasn’t too good.

  • Josh Leitzel

    Well, everybody has different opinions. I actually only recently watched the series around two years ago, so it has nothing to do with nostalgia. Yeah, the symbolism has literally no importance whatsoever. Anno just stuck it in there to be cool (rule of cool). It’s nice aesthetically, but serves no significant purpose. What the fans SHOULD be talking about is the stuff that actually matters, such as the characters.

  • Josh Leitzel

    It was one of the first notable deconstructions of an anime genre. It took the mecha set up and turned it on it’s head. Other than that, it explored mental problems and the intricacies of the human mind, and the main character was designed to be pretty unlikable. Before Evangelion, that had not been done much if at all before in a series or film. What it did do with those familiar tropes was define them for future anime to come. Many have constantly tried to replicate them. There have even been multiple clones of Rei Ayanami in more recent anime. She was the original shy blue haired girl.

  • Danielm80

    You may be aware of it, but you keep criticizing other people because they don’t happen to agree with you. You just posted a comment where you said: “Sorry but Naruto is NOT a good example of good anime.” If you want to convince anyone, you have to explain why a show works, or why it doesn’t. Does it have nuanced acting or witty dialogue? Is the premise of the show a clever metaphor that sums up our entire society? If you can’t put it into words, then you’re just saying that chocolate is the best flavor of ice cream. As someone wrote elsewhere on this thread, “everybody has different opinions.”

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