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?
For this viewing, I listened to the English track. Both the English and Japanese tracks are offered in 2.0, which was my only disappointment with this release. I know it is common for the Japanese release to only come in 2.0, but I’ve grown a bit used to having 5.1 with my English dubs, and the amount of action here was almost begging for it. The mix itself was fine, with good directionality and no dropout on either channel. I just was hoping for 5.1.
Visually, this is a really nice release. There is a good mix of bright colors and dramatic shades, and both effects come through great. I was worried I might find some gradients in the darker colors, I didn’t see any. The transfer is fantastic. Nothing bad to say here.
Both discs for this release come in a single wide amaray case with center insert for the second disc. The case is a “green” recyclable case, so it is a bit flimsy due to the large gaps in the plastic, but that’s not a big deal. The front cover has a picture of Kono standing against the full moon and night sky, looking back as he drops his monitor. It’s kind of odd in a way that Makino is not on the cover since she is the point-of-view character, but this movie is just as much about Kono as it is Makino, and the whole thing actually reflects the ideas of the movie well. The back of the case has a picture of Makino and Mio against a red filtered background with the dramatic phrase “Someone is KILLING the children.” It’s a well-designed, if simple, case.
The main menu is also simple, but also well designed. Across the middle are pictures of Myao, Kono, Makino, and Mio with the series title right above. Across the bottom on a red bar are the selections, which stand out well, as does the selection cursor. A thirty second loop of the theme song plays in the background. It’s a pretty nice song, but don’t leave the menu up too long or you’ll get sick of that thirty second clip.
There are quite a few extras on this release. On the main feature disc are some trailers, while the second disc houses a bunch of interviews and trailers. I particularly liked the interview with the band SCANDAL, who appear in animated form in this movie, as they discuss the process they went through to motion capture themselves and get their animated music video made. The song is pretty rockin’ too.
Also on the second disc is a movie digest (a short documentary essentially explaining the characters and world this takes place in), a Pilot (basically a clip show hitting on some of the high points), and a Picture Drama. The Picture Drama is done all in still images and shows a fictional first meeting between Makino and Kono (if Kono were a girl); it’s fairly amusing and plays completely to the male fantasy that all women love other women, even if it is a completely innocent story.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Loups=Garous is a 2010 sci-fi movie that plays with the “utopia is really a dystopia” concept. It features a good cast of characters, and a great plot. Frankly, I am at a bit of a loss of anything bad to say about it. It was a lot of fun from start to finish.
In the future, mankind has reached a plateau of safety and prosperity. A world-wide epidemic that wiped out much of the population forced a complete reorganization of society. Food is now developed completely from natural and artificial plant-life, which has eliminated the health problems inherent in a meat-eating diet, and children are raised in a way to try and maximize their abilities and independence while teaching them to communicate with others in a digital age. As a way to control disease, face-to-face meetings are limited.
In order to do this, each child is required to carry a monitor that tracks their movements and makes sure that they are always in a safe environment. The monitors double as a GPS enabled smartphone that enables the child to keep in touch with his/her friends as well. While the child is generally removed from his/her home at an early age and sent out to live on his/her own, the state provides counseling and schooling and the monitor keeps the child safe, so there are really no fears.
Makino Hazuki is one such child. She is fourteen years old and generally capable of running her own life. She does well in school, eats properly, and follows all of the rules. Her only issues are shyness and a vague sense that there is more to life than the sanitized version the SVC (the state organization that controls everything—if they revealed what SVC stands for, I missed it) has provided.
To try and cure her shyness, Fuwa Shizue (Makino’s counselor) places her in a predetermined group of friends with Kono Ayumi, Mio Tsuzuki, and Yuko Yabe. The only problem is that Yuko Yabe has disappeared. A rash of murders have occurred recently, and Yuko was monitored to have been a potential victim in one of them. All indications is that she is alive, but not connected to the system.
Unbeknownst to the SVC, Mio is a computer hacker who has devised a way to disable her monitor so that she can roam free undetected. For the most part, she just does it for fun, but in doing so, she has also learned more about the way society works than what the SVC is letting on. And she has a suspicion as to Yuko’s fate. Working her “magic” (as she calls it), she pulls herself, Kono, and Makino off the system and goes searching for Yuko, but they all soon find themselves in a situation far more serious than a simple murder plot.
Loups=Garous is a really intriguing movie. It has a wonderful cast of characters and a terrific (if not entirely original) plot. Aside from personalities, what is great about the characters is that we have a dual-protagonist story going on, and it works. Makino is the point-of-view character here, and she has her own, deep character growth that she experiences. When the story begins, she is a fairly typical girl, and while I would never suggest that she becomes a strong fighter or leader by the end, she does become somebody who is willing to challenge the system and try to see more than what she is supposed to.
But it is Kono’s story that seems to drive things more than Makino’s, as he seems to know (or at least perceive) more than he ever lets on. He seems happy at the idea that he has friends for once, but he also never lets any of them into his world. From the moment we meet him, it is obvious he has secrets, but the trick is getting them out of him. He never reveals anything about himself until it is absolutely necessary. What makes that interesting is that it doesn’t seem like he does it out of fun or spite, but rather his hidden joy at having friends and his desire to make sure they are never hurt by his past and present. It’s some wonderful characterization.
And as I said, they balance the two characters really well. In many ways, Loups=Garous is more Kono’s story than it is Makino’s (the title itself is a direct reference to him), and that is really hard to pull off since it is told from her point-of-view. But when it is done well, it is some powerful storytelling. And they pulled it off well in this movie. Add in a great cast of sidekicks like Mio and Myao, and you have a great bunch of kids to get behind.
But I think the thing I loved the most about this film was that it was completely a cyberpunk movie without being obvious that it was cyberpunk. Cyberpunk is just about the hardest science fiction you can get, as everything is so cyberized and the internet plays such a huge role, that nobody can ever be sure what is reality. A domineering corporation regulating the world is also a common theme in the genre, as is the small band of rebels who see past all the facades and work to destroy the corporations they see as the true menace to society.
Well, Loups=Garous has all of this in spades. SVC has completely sanitized the world and regulates everything, protecting everybody on the surface but controlling them in reality. And while everything is great, Makino remarks on more than one occasion that her life doesn’t seem real; the life she imagines she has when looking at her photographs seems moreso. And with the help of Mio, Myao, and Kono, they discover the truths hidden behind the lies the SVC have presented and try to expose them. It is all classic cyberpunk. Frankly, it’s almost clichéd cyberpunk.
The problem generally with cyberpunk is that it is so cyberized and psychedelic that even many fans of sci-fi have trouble digesting it. And people who are generally turned off by regular sci-fi pretty much have no use for its more intense subgenre. But Loups=Garous does a great job of hiding its cyberpunk roots. For starters, the world they live in looks much like the modern day one. The monitors the children carry work much like today’s smartphones, and while many of the rules seem restrictive, they can also make sense on some theoretical levels. Much like the way SVC has sanitized life, Loups=Garous has sanitized cyberpunk. You could watch it and never feel overwhelmed the way cyberpunk does to a lot of people.
Loups=Garous might not tell the most original story, but it has a great cast of characters and an interesting world to tell it in, so much is forgiven. And besides, it is still just a very good story. It is intriguing and mysterious and loves to throw twists at you. It is a classic cyberpunk story, and while that might scare away some people, it does a fantastic job hiding its cyberpunk roots. So you’d probably not even notice anyway. From start to finish, it is an incredibly fun movie. Highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles Interviews, Promotional Video, Pilot Movie
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A
Readers’ Rating: [ratings]
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 29th, 2011
Running Time: 98 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony PS3 w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System