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Re: Cyborg 009 Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

Cyborg 009 CoverAn updated re-imagining of the classic within a form of the modern world.

What They Say:
Many years ago, nine humans were captured and transformed into cyborgs for the purposes of becoming agents of evil. Instead, they rebelled, becoming champions of justice anytime the earth was in need.

Now, in a post-9/11 world, the meaning of “justice” has become clouded. The cyborgs, untouched by time, and some without memory of their status as heroes, have since taken up lives as ordinary civilians. But when a mysterious force known only as “His Voice” compels people across the world to commit unspeakable acts of violence, even cyborg 009, Joe Shimamura, falls victim to the irresistible faceless power. In an era when cyber-terrorism is rapidly advancing, how can the cyborgs combat an enemy that has no face, no weapons, and seemingly no motive?

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us both the Japanese and English language tracks in 5.1 form using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. THe mix is one that’s very solid as there’s some great impact and depth to the sound throughout. While there’s a fair number of quiet scenes it’s the action where it really goes big. These sequences have a great flow across the forward soundstage but it also brings a good deal of the music and sound effects to the rear channels. This makes for a very engaging sound field in a well calibrated room and the end result is a full sound mix that keeps you immersed in the material, especially when the attacks hit. Dialogue is well placed throughout with a clean and strong form to it where there’s plenty of placement and depth as well. It’s a very solid mix throughout that should delight fans.

ORiginally in theaters in 2012, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Animated by Production IG, the film has a great look to it – to the point where in a lot of scenes you forget that they’re using the CG character models with it. There’s a lot of detail in this film, particularly in the backgrounds, and it has a really rich and lived in feeling to it that makes it a more fully realized world. THe character animation is kept a bit simpler but part of that is owing to the original designs that they do a good job in bringing to life here in a modern way. I’ve always been a fan of the original style and have loved most of the modern interpretations, this one not being an exception to that. It’s a great looking transfer that captures the film beautifully.

The packaging design for this release definitely steps things up nicely as we get a standard sized Blu-ray case with an o-card over it that replicates the artwork. The o-card goes for a foil approach that lets it stand out well with the logo and just the quality of the color design of the animation compared to the case sleeve artwork itself. There’s a lot of pop here that really makes me wish this had a steelbook release just to give it a bit of extra weight. The front cover gives us our lead character in strong form against the darkened city so it’s eye-catching to be sure. The back cover goes for a darker look in general with its blacks and reds, using an indistinct background overall, but it makes for an easy read for the premise itself while letting the character artwork off to the right stand out nicely. The extras are clearly listed and we get a good breakdown of the dual format technical specs along the bottom.

This release goes a bit beyond the norm with a fantastic forty-four page guidebook included. The full color piece is just incredibly packed with material that shouldn’t be read until after you watch the film. It delves into the individual characters, crediting actors for both languages, and it works through a huge amount of the plot points of the film and some of the secrets and tricks to it in a really detailed well. There’s a lot of small visuals included but what it does is offer up a lot more for fans to dig deep into in order to soak up the details. There’s also an extensive and wonderful interview with the director, Kenji Kamiyama, that further expands this whole narrative. While you can easily enjoy the film just from what you see of it on the screen, digging into what’s provided here will make for a far richer and more engaging experience overall.

The menu design for this release is simple and kind of awkward in its own way as it works with the standard template FUNimation uses. With the bulk of the screen given over to clips we get some good background visuals and sense of the overall design of the show that sets the tone well enough. But a lot of it is obscured by the large 009 logo over it while the re: Cyborg aspect is below it in a smaller black font. So much so that you don’t notice it in a lot of the clips which makes the big, red 009 stand out all the more awkwardly. The navigation is kept along the bottom with a blue strip used in a circuit board kind of fashion. With white navigation text it’s easy to navigate and get around in both as the main menu and as a pop-up during playback.

The extras for this film are mostly familiar pieces when you get down to it but there’s some fun extra material here as well. The bulk of the extras are made up with the various promos, TV spots and theatrical trailers that shows the many ways that the film was marketed. The best extra though is the nearly ten minute long prologue piece that shows the origins of the original work and how it all came together over the years, culminating in this film. It’s one of those kinds of extras that are really important when working with a modern update of an older property – no matter how many other updates there may have been over the years.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Though I’ve not read the original work I’ve had some exposure over the years to the Cyborg 009 material in a couple of different forms. For various reasons none of it ever really stuck for me so I didn’t pay it too much mind. But I always wanted to know more about it and really dig into it some because it’s a Shotari Ishinomori work and I’ve really grown to enjoy his creative output over my years of being an anime and manga fan. With this new feature that came out in 2012 (which I continue to lament that we did not get the 3D version here!), it serves as an actual sequel to the manga with Ishinomori’s last arc back in 1986 as well as serving as a launching point to bring it into the modern era. It’s not an easy thing to do but I’ve found that a whole lot of his works adapt very well in tone to the modern day and adhering to his design work allows them to stand out in a sea of familiar designs.

Taking place in 2013, the film is an interesting one as it invests in events of the real world by talking about 9/11 and what happened there but also placing it into a larger context. With a series of similar events happening around the world with various sites being targeted, there’s a general kind of panic that’s starting to flow out from it. The result is a heightened sense of unease in general and a lot of world powers on high alert because of the views where other powers may be orchestrating this instead of it being something like terrorism from small splinter or factional groups. With no connection being found among the perpetrators after the fact we’ve seen a number of different incidences that have been happening and a really surreal aspect to it. It’s quite rare these days for anime films to reference events like 9/11 or other present day tragedies, and we don’t get much focusing on further back either about World War II like we did for a period as survivors from it worked within the anime field. So having these references here is refreshing as it sets it apart, willing to talk about larger things and to see what kinds of reactions it evokes.

Within this world there are the various 00 series Cyborgs that exists, which have been disbanded some we last saw them in the manga series. The film doesn’t involve all over them but we get to see a few of them and how they’re dealing with the modern world, such as 002 working for the NDS while 007 works for the SIS. Dr. Gilmore is what draws a number of them together as the events with the terrorism start to form something of a pattern, but a key part of it all coming together is that of 009. Known affectionately as Joe, he’s still as youthful looking as ever of course due to being a cyborg but he’s also lost his memories and is living an odd life – one that has him coping with things with a hallucinogenic young woman named Tomoe that helps him through events.

Naturally, the film gets Joe on the right page and we see him brought into the fold once again, but there’s concern as to whether he’s really on the team. The reason being is that as they delve into the terrorist attacks they realize that those involved are hearing something called His Voice. It’s like god telling them to commit these horrific acts and that provides for some confusing narrative aspects as it goes forward because there’s no clear cut villain. Which is fine, but writer/director Kamiyama wants to talk about it as a kind of cel based evolutionary aspect where we’re being forced to realize what we need to do in order to move forward and as a kind of cult/herd status to do it through cullings and forced evolution. As often happens with a number of anime films that are being Very Serious – and this one originally had Mamoru Oshii on board writing and directing, it wants to go for these big philosophical aspects but does it in a way that makes it hard for the average audience to engage in. I like the ideas presented here but it’s so haphazard in how it unfolds that it left me cold to the idea itself. It really ended up removing a sense of threat in a tangible sense and that made aspects of it far less compelling.

That said, Re: Cyborg 009 manages to be one of the most beautifully visual films with some utterly gorgeous choreography to it that it was an absolute treat to watch. Even if it is utterly silly, such as when a small tactical nuclear bomb goes off in Dubai and we get 009 making a run to outrace the explosion. It’s a silly concept – even for the Cyborg series – but it’s pulled off with such visual intensity that you have to give it credit. Particularly since it provides for such large scale destruction and one of the more eerie post-destruction sequences where he walks through it later in the brightness of the day and has a talk with the imaginary woman in his head. The film provides for a lot of really great action sequences to help balance the difficult storyline of His Voice and these really excel in making it a thoroughly engaging film to watch. It’s done with people at the height of their craft, a real love of the property and the ability to pull it all together in a fascinating way that does harken back to the sorta-silly-science of the 1960’s.

In Summary:
I tend to find films like this hard to really break down and dig into because there’s such an extensive history to it that I’m not familiar with and I know I’m missing a lot of context and nuance when it comes to the characters interactions. Watching this film from that perspective and enjoying it for what it presents isn’t hard to do however. The team here has put together a really strong property that even with the problems it has in how it comes up with its villain can be overcome. A lot of it is just on the strength of the action, the overall storytelling and what the actors bring to the table. This is a film that I know I’ll be pulling out again in the near future to revisit and just soak up its visual design and choreography and to see if my views on the philosophical side of the story change as well after taking some time to think it through. This release is very solid all around and treats it like a top notch work. Just on the quality of the animation alone it most assuredly deserves it. This is a film that will definitely be difficult in some regards to get into but it has so much to offer that it’s very much worth the effort.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD Language, English Dolby TrueHD Language, English Subtitles, Special Prologue, Promotional Video, Teaser #1-2, Theater Ad, Trailer #1-2, U.S. Trailer, Trailers.

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: July 28th, 2015
MSRP: $34.98
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.

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