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Loups=Garous UK Anime DVD Review

10 min read

Loups=Garous
Loups=Garous
Such an interesting world they live in, yet nothing interesting ever happens.

What They Say:
In a near future, the world’s population has decreased dramatically due to a deadly virus that terrorized the whole planet.

Now people eat only synthetic food and tend to avoid as much as possible any form of physical connection or “real contact” with living creatures. Real shops have disappeared from the streets, and with the exception of the community centres (what were once called schools), people communicate with each others exclusively online.

But even in this tightly controlled and systematized society, there is a group of young girls who actively pursued real contact. And when a string of brutal murders emerges, their challenge to this closed world is just about to begin.

The Review:
Audio/Video:
Visual and audio quality seems solid throughout the film both in dub and subbed format, with no noticeable problems or issues.

Menu:
Menu design is relatively simple, with a style similar to the technological devices used in the show, options on the left hand side and a short video clip looping on the left. Oddly enough the title of the actual film doesn’t appear on the menu aside from during the initial loading animation, after which it seemingly disappears behind the video. A simple circular pattern appears next to the selected option on the menu, although there is a slight delay of about a second when moving between options. Annoyingly you can’t actually click on the options themselves; you need to click on the circular icon for it to register at all. Why they didn’t just make the text part of the selectable surface I’m not sure, but it seems somewhat counterintuitive. During the main menu itself a short clip of the ending theme (Sayonara My Friend by SCANDAL) loops, but the other menus are silent. Due to the short length of the clip it gets tired after a few minutes though, especially since it never lets the song get into anything more than ‘lalalalalala’-ing.

There’s a short animation between menus which doesn’t seem particularly necessary, complete with sound effects. Scene selection menu features images for the particular scenes, something which I wish more releases would do as it makes it far easier to pinpoint which chapter relates to which part of the film if you’re searching for a particular clip. Set up menu features a simple selection of English or Japanese 2.0 and whether subtitles are on or not. Bonus menu gives links to a large variety of extras ranging from interviews to trailers to original concepts and works well enough, although it would be nice to have an indicator as to the length of each individual feature visible from the menu.

Extras:
Loups=Garous has a generous selection of extras including cast interviews, trailers and music videos. Some of the features are quite lengthy and together actually last nearly as long as the film itself.

One of the features focuses around the inclusion of J-rock band SCANDAL in the film (who play a part… for some reason) and includes the girls from the band talking about the two songs used in the film, those being the ending ‘Sayonara My Friend’ and the insert song ‘Midnight Television’. The feature also includes them watching themselves performing in motion capture gear and commenting on both that and the animated results of the procedure, which is interesting to see.  The clip also features a few sessions of song and voiceover recordings. Overall it’s an entertaining clip and the girls all seem happy to be involved in the film and interviewed, so it’s worth a watch.

There’s also a 12 minute clip which sets up the world and introduces the characters of the film and then seems to condense and recap the first half or so of the film. What reason or use this clip had originally isn’t really explained and it doesn’t really add anything to the story and it seems way too long to be a promotional feature, so I’m not sure what the purpose of it is.

There’s a few short trailers for the film included in the extras too, plus a couple of music videos for SCANDAL’s insert song, one of which includes clips of the film and one which is just the animated versions of the band performing. Also featured is an 8 minute picture drama focussing around Hazuki and Kono which is relatively dull and adds a additional depth into Hazuki’s affections for Kono.

One of the other features amongst the extras is a short pilot version of the film which, whilst a lot of it was then used in the final product, it seems to be taking a slightly different direction in regards to the plot. There seems to be a bigger focus on the music video being used as some form of hacking device rather than a school project (in fact, the school barely plays a part in this version) which frankly seems like a much better direction to take than the one they finally decided upon. It’s just a shame that this version of the film will never be completed as it shows potential.

The special features also include three interviews, one for the voice actresses of the main characters, one for the director and one for the writer behind the original concept. The cast interview features their viewpoints on the film itself, on the characters they play and a quick look into how they performed their work. The director interview is a relatively short clip of him explaining how and why he did certain things in the film, how he approached the idea of creating a futuristic but believable world and where some of his ideas came from, plus the reasoning behind including SCANDAL. The writer interview mostly focuses around him saying that whilst the film is different to the original story, he believes that experimentation between media is necessary for each product to stand on its own. For some reason, intentionally or not, it seems a little as if he’s trying to say that the film is not his original story and is in fact something different with some shared concepts, although he’s supportive of it. All three interviews are relatively interesting and give a different viewpoint on what they had in mind whilst it was being worked on and what their thoughts are about the final product and its parts. Unsurprisingly the director and cast interviews are overwhelmingly positive about their work, but that’s to be expected really.

Overall, it’s nice to see a good selection of extras available with a release as a lot of series and films don’t get many bonus features at all. Not only that, but there’s some genuinely interesting material amongst the extra features which are worth watching, although some of the material is a little dull.

Content:
Loups=Garous has an interesting setup and a setting which is ripe for expansion and further development. It’s just a shame that a lot of this potential is squandered by the set of characters which the story revolves around and the path which the plot decides to take. The film starts out with a chase sequence in which a girl named Yuko is chased by an assailant with a lead pipe, with a cut occurring as the final blow is dealt. After the scene shift we’re introduced to our main character, Hazuki Makino.

The issue with Hazuki is that she’s got a problem conversing with other people (no, really, that’s actually stated in the film) and as such spends most of her screen time making various embarrassed noises or being shocked or whatever else is relevant at the time. This makes her come across as being annoyingly weak and useless and it never lets up throughout the entire duration of the film. Not long after this a couple more characters are introduced; Mio Tsuzuki, a feisty hacker girl who regards her skills as ‘magic’ and a… character by the name of Kono Ayumi who doesn’t really speak much and I can’t quite tell the gender of. Neither can the people bringing the series over to Western audiences it seems, since the subtitles designate Kono as a girl, whilst the dub seems to think it’s a guy. These three have something in common: they’re all working on a group project for their school, which also involves a fourth person. There’s a fourth person in their group that they go out in search of, another girl by the name of Rei Myou who’s your typical fighter tsundere type. They eventually find her by hacking into the 1984-esque panopticon system which watches the entire city and meet up with her just as she’s beating up a bunch of guys which turn out to be human traffickers and find that the girl from the chase at the start of the movie is one of those held captive, who they quickly befriend.

It’s at this point that the film grinds to a bit of a standstill in regards to plot progression and pacing, as the group of four characters, along with Yuko, practice dancing for their project in a musical montage. This doesn’t really add much to the film and does very little in regards to character development either, so it comes across as filler more than anything else. Eventually everyone devises a plan to get Yuko taken into protective custody by the police force without making it seem as if they were the ones involved in her disappearance which goes swimmingly, no blame or problems at all… until she turns up dead the next morning.

The film changes scope entirely after this incident and starts going into heavy conspiracy theories about the chief of the police department being the big bad, coupled with some action sequences of the guard grunts trying to assassinate the main cast ineffectively. After escaping and meeting up, they all independently flee the city aside from Hazuki and Kono who go together, somehow managing to walk a good 20 kilometres with seemingly no supplies in the middle of the day without any attention. Unfortunately for them, the place they’re fleeing to just happens to be the antagonist’s main hideout and a showdown occurs. It all gets a bit pretentious for the finale and still somehow fails to be interesting despite the faster plot and action sequences.

It’s really quite sad to see such an interesting world get so ignored in favour of ridiculous plots out of nowhere and sometimes banal dialogue and, coupled with the disjointed pacing and irritant cast of characters, it doesn’t achieve much in the way of redeeming features. As is usual for Production I.G. the animation quality throughout the film is decent, although not up to par with some of their better works. Sound design and background music is generally somewhere between forgettable and decent, with a good selection of rock tracks for the fight sequences and a catchy if Engrishy ending theme. Designs are a mixed bag too, with some interesting choices for the world itself, the items and devices used by the characters and the robotic droids that patrol the streets, whilst the characters themselves are often plain and relatively generic. Whilst there’s nothing special about the designs they do at least stand out from each other and every character is instantly recognizable from another. The actual designs themselves are a little different to the usual types of design featured in anime and that may put some viewers off, plus I did notice some shots with decidedly off-model characters.

Whilst the film isn’t much shorter than the usual hour and a half that most animated films tend to be, it certainly feels like the story presented could’ve taken up a 45 minute time period. Events are constantly happening through the film but very few of them seem to actually have any relevance to the plot and a lot of them do nothing to expand upon the intricacies of the setting or the history of the characters. It comes across as if someone had tried to expand a short clip into a feature-length film despite only being enough content for a double-length OVA, padding the film out with filler whilst somehow also forgetting to expand upon things which would’ve likely benefitted from further expansion.

Overall Loups=Garous really isn’t very memorable and can probably be summed up in a couple of sentences. In fact, I can do it right now: Group of children save someone who was nearly murdered, get targeted by the government for trying to reveal a corrupt police force and end up somehow infiltrating the Big Bad’s base and defeating him with very little resistance. Also features ancillary scenes of children dancing and a side-story about a school councillor trying to protect her children which just happens to get solved indirectly by the other plot arc succeeding. The characters come across as too irritating to feel any sympathy or connection with and the ending feels surprisingly abrupt despite taking up nearly a third of the film, whilst  other aesthetics are generally nothing to write home about aside from the interesting setting symbolising unfulfilled potential. Whilst I wouldn’t really recommend viewing of Loups=Garous, it may be of interest to those who enjoyed No.6, Fractale or (the vastly superior) Dennou Coil as they all share similar themes.

In Summary:
In short, Loups=Garous is an interesting topic with some interesting themes but falls flat in regards to actual execution. Whilst there are interesting moments and some nicely choreographed fight sequences, the plot is underwhelming, the characters mostly irritating and the pacing is a complete mess, leaving an hour and a half long film feeling as if nothing has happened during that time. Whilst the aesthetics are pretty to look at and listen to, it isn’t enough to make the film really worthwhile as the other areas let it down considerably. There are other works with similar themes and ideas both within and outside the anime medium which perform significantly better.

Features:
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Interviews, Promotional Video, Pilot Movie

Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: April 15th 2013
Running Time:  98 (Series) 81 (Extras)
Price: £14

Review Equipment:
23” Samsung HDTV, Creative speakers and Sub, Laptop with HDMI connection.

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