What They Say:
After a virus claims millions, most live in the safety of a closed-off world, relegating themselves to an on-line existence. But when a young girl decides to brave life outside the virtual world, she finds a group of friends – and a killer. Someone is hunting and violently murdering children. Who? Why? And is she the next target?
The audio presentation for this release is pretty straightforward with a pair of bilingual audio tracks that are both in stereo. They’re given lossless DTS-HD MA stereo tracks which work really well in utilizing the forward soundstage and even the English track avoids coming across as just louder sounding. Instead, both tracks have solid dialogue to it where there’s a good sense of placement and depth in a number of scenes, though the bulk of it has a generally center channel feeling to it which is appropriate for what it is. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in 2010, the transfer for this feature is in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. With some very good animation to it and great sense of color, the transfer stands out well here with how clean it is but also having that tinge of a film like feeling to it. Colors are very solid with only some very minor elements of banding to it at times that almost look intentional in some ways. The feature doesn’t have a large number of high motion moments, but when it does it goes all out and holds up very well. It’s definitely an appealing looking transfer that captures the detail of the material and handles the camera scenes without any problems, which is a big plus.
The packaging for Loups=Garous is done with a standard Blu-ray case that works very well with the dark blue artwork that dominates the cover. The main cover features Ayumi in the only outfit with see her in during the show as she’s set against the heavy moon behind her and the curvature of the cityscape itself. It’s a very moody piece that definitely has a great atmosphere about it, though it doesn’t exactly sell the show itself. Not that the feature has an identifiable hook that you can really use to go big with when it comes to cover design. The logo is done in a deep red against the moon which is decent and adds to the welcome murkiness of the overall design. The back cover has more reds to it which is a strong accent color when paired with the tagline of “Someone is killing the children” while also featuring a couple of children along it. The included summary is brief but it’s the kind where you want it to just cover the basic setup well and it does just that. The features are a bit harder as there’s a lot of extras on here so it gets small black print on dark red type, making it harder to read. The technical grid tiself is cleanly done though with white on black along with the production information itself. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design looks good as the main menu uses a static piece of artwork that puts together four of the main kids from the film with a dark look about it. Their artwork isn’t dark per se, but it has red and black backgrounds to them and is well tied together. The navigation menu, which also doubles as the pop-up menu, has a good look along the bottom with a solid red background and easy to ready black text on top of it. The layout is quick and easy to access and everything loads quickly. The disc didn’t read our players’ language presets though and we encountered other issues as well. When you’re in the film and you go to the top menu, you can’t return to where you were by hitting top menu again. It doesn’t recall where you left off. They either need to include bookmarking or make sure that feature works.
This release has a slew of extras to it so there’s a lot to to dig into if you’re a fan. Everything is from the Japanese side so there aren’t any English created extras here. We get the usual in the promotional videos and the trailers which is definitely welcome. We also get a trio of interviews that are worth checking out. One is with the director, another goes with the cast and the third and more interesting one is with the original author, something we don’t usually get to see or hear from. Of course, his is the shortest, clocking in under just four minutes, while the other two interviews are about twenty-five minutes combined.
One of the more fun extras though is the fifteen minute piece in which the SCANDAL group gets together to check out the footage of themselves from the show and provide plenty of animation. I have to admit that while I’ve fallen out of a lot of Japanese music over the last several years, this one is just a whole lot of fun and the music is pretty infectious which definitely made the film tiself enjoyable. Having the women talk about the animation and how well it captured them, and how creepy it was in some ways, was great.
The remainder of the extras are kind of varied as we get things like the twelve minute movie digest version, the pilot movie and even a picture drama episode which feels a little surreal. And it may be short, but I thoroughly enjoyed the KOSHI-TANTAN promotional video and wish we got a full length version, both of the animated type and the live action version. These extras have made me want to seek out more SCANDAL material.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the novel by Natsuhiko Kyogoku, Loup=Garous is a standalone movie from Production I.G. that works an interesting near-future storyline with a twist of magic of sorts. The author has a lot of books to his name and quite an impressive resume overall, but this property is one that seemingly stands alone as just about everything else is part of a series. Not surprisingly though, there’s a good layer of social commentary that permeates this film even as it works a fairly standard storyline at first, before it starts to get into the meat of what’s really going on. Near future storylines used to be interesting to a degree because progress was, relatively speaking, slow. While we had advances throughout the 20th century, things kicked into overdrive in the last twenty years because of computers and doing storylines that doesn’t involve technology just feels weird. Look at near-future material in the mid 90’s that deal with “now” and just a few years from now and it’s almost comical how quaint they look.
The feature revolves around a young woman named Makino in the year 2035, a time after the world realized the problems it was having with violence and society itself and worked to correct it. What we see in Japan is that it’s a heavily, heavily monitored and watched world where cameras are everywhere, tracking is required and everything you do no matter where you are is watched. The kids of this time are used to it because it’s the norm, and because of the distance it’s created there’s a generation growing up that often doesn’t interact with other people and instead perform many tasks just through their computers and other monitors. While there’s a general peace, it’s come at a high price yet one that has a certain attraction to it for some. It’s a very controlled society and one that his very compliant to it.
Because of the way students are encouraged to interact with others within the areas they inhabit, called Communities, she ends up meeting Mio and and Ayumi. In a way, she has a bit of a crush with Ayumi because of his aloofness, but the trio end up becoming an interesting group of friends that Makino has never had before. Ayumi has a real distaste for the cameras and the constant watching that’s going on and it may be something that Makino hasn’t heard before in her relatively sheltered life. Mio, on the other hand, shares this distaste but deals with it differently. For her, she’s managed to watch the watchers in a way as she can see through the cameras with a system she’s developed and she can even use “magic” to obscure what they can see, making it easier for her to move around at times.
What draws these girls together is something that happens in this monitored world but doesn’t seem to be common. A murder. The death of a student by young men in masks has the police investigating this particular Community and some of the teachers and monitors there are hesitant to turn over the data that they have on their students for a variety of reasons. But the police have jurisdiction and one of those involved from a high level is related to the man responsible for the system that’s currently overseeing everything, which makes it even more complicated. It’s an interesting layer to things, and while it is the overall storyline when it comes to the murder, it’s just one of the focuses.
The focus that I liked is with the girls being able to discover the world in a new way here thanks to Mio’s magic that allows them to move, for a limited time, to wherever they want unobserved. They discover close friendship, music and more. The music is a bit key since it’s done by the popular band SCANDAL and they even get a representation in the film itself. Normally these kinds of inserts grate a bit and the music may not be a match, but I found their music to work very well here and really gave the film the right kind of edge it needed to separate itself more. Most features would go with something a little more traditional or just instrumental music as the musical element. And while that would have a certain quality and charm about it, going with a bit of rebellious rock and roll works much better.
The mystery and exploration of the murder, and another subsequent murder, is definitely engagint to watch unfold as it deals with the social aspects of it as well. Like a lot of Japanese films of this nature, it’s very restrained for most of it, specific in what it wants to do but it has a certain atmosphere about it that raises the tensions at the right time while the rest of the time it’s almost laid back. When the show goes into overdrive, it has a reason for doing so and it actually feels like it’s intense because of how the time around it is with the quiet nature. It’s not a constant stream of action or activity and it actually spends time building up what the world is like with all the cameras and monitoring and the way it’s changed so many people.
Loups=Garous is a movie that I rather enjoyed a lot, though I think it’s the kind of feature that you really have to be in the right mindset for. After seeing several things recently that were all very dark and almost murky, I liked that this one plays in the light a bit more even though there’s dark material here. The connected and monitored world is one that I’m very fascinated by with how it can change social norms, something that is unfortunately only touched upon fairly lightly here. But what we get is a reworked world that has a very different feeling. Considering how things have changed in the last thirty years, how much more can they change in another twenty to thirty? It’s hard to imagine in a way how people will act and communicate. And one of the best things about science fiction is that it can show these darker futures in an engaging way. Loups=Garous is the kind of movie that I can easily say won’t be for everyone, but it kept me pretty intrigued throughout and wanting to see where it was going to go.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Interview, Promotional Videos, Pilot Movie
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Readers Rating: [ratings]
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 29th, 2011
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.