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009 Re:Cyborg UK Anime DVD Review

12 min read

RE Cyborg 009 UK DVD CoverAn update of a classic series, in movie form – combining new technology and 3D animation does this update glorify the classic or make you wish for the olden days?

What They Say:
That which does not end, cannot begin anew. Long ago there were nine cyborg warriors who came to save humanity whenever the world fell into crisis. These warriors wore red suits and yellow scarves and were known as the 00 Cyborgs. Through their efforts peace was returned to the world, but thereafter their existence slowly faded from human memory. However, time has passed and the world has started to plunge into chaos once more… February 26, 2013…the nine warriors gather from around the world. That which does not end, cannot begin anew. As the world comes to an end, a new hero will be born…

The Review:
Re:Cyborg 009 comes with a 5.1 English and Japanese track which is always pleasing, and is the standard release with most movie releases nowadays in the UK. I will have to say that I did have to adjust my standard settings though before the sound was an acceptable level so compared to many 5.1 releases this one was a little bit disappointing. That said, this surprisingly was more in reference to the English track as the Japanese one seemed to be much better and didn’t have to adjust my settings. Overall there were no issues with the sound itself in terms of synching with the video or the subtitles, so it is a quality release, just definitely have been better 5.1 English audio releases.

Set on a 16:9 ratio in a wide screen format, Re:Cyborg 009 takes full advantage of the technology and setting it is in, combining 3D, CGI and Cel-Shaded drawings into full effect to bring us a stunning update to a man’s legacy. The animation, whilst definitely can be seen as CGI, is surprisingly flowing (especially with the 3D Models, something the extras also talk about) and gorgeous to look at – with no slowdown throughout everything in sync with the audio and subtitles, or no issues from pausing the movie, there is a ton to enjoy – an anime movie with CGI/3D that executes slow motion superbly, has tons of action to go through and is very free flowing converts well onto the small screen to say the least.

The menu screen is of the back of the city with Francoise and Shimamura in an embrace from the scene when she returns and he regains his memory – the selections are Play Feature, Select Scenes, Setup, Extras on disc 1, and on disc 2 actually extras only but with a sub menu of special features which gives us more extras (though the initial extras on disc 1 are also on disc 2 so unsure why that was done). Easily selectable choices from the menu and from the movie (and like most movie releases has a scene select rather than an episode one) means it is accessible and nice to look at, though the duplicate extras definitely feel like an error.

As mentioned, there are two discs and disc 2 has all the extras of disc one and some additional ones. On disc 1, we have some teasers, which are basically short clips of the show with different voices speaking in Japanese, some with live action clips explaining the cyborgs (which does it better than the actual movie does for those unfamiliar with the original source material).

There are trailers which are quite similar – does actually show which cyborg is which , linking with the original series, whilst the promo videos and commercials are quite fun. There are a lot of clips at first but then some Japanese commercials with the characters in (Pepsi Nex) and some extra clips for other commercials (Staff Service, Zip!) which each cyborb actually advertises.

We also get what is called a special prologue, which is 9 minutes which incorporates the original series, combining with historical connotations, how the creator came up with Cyborg 009 (1964), the story is discussed (which works best if you see this before the movie as helps establish the characters, giving their full names and powers)it uses the original manga intertwined – how the god storyline was incorporated, and how the creator died before his series was original done, and how it leads to the new movie, returning to their own lives.

Disc 2 has some additional extras along with the above. We get a look at how the animation was made combining 3D and CGI technology – Comparing with work on Ghost In The Shell, why the choice to 3D, animation producer process (Daisuke Suzuki) – turning the 3D characters into cel shading with demonstrations to make it look more flat-looking (colour added, then a black outline), how they move – first with storyboards, then CG dolls, then the sets are set up, and then a camera set up inside the computer, before making them the characters and backgrounds – it is a good process which solidifies the decision to make the movie this way.

Next is a behind the scenes look at the sound, where there is talking with the crew and what to use (electric guitar) and when they are used/different scenes, different styles, the film’s theme (His Voice) – showing inside the studio, vocals being recorded (ORULIKO), admits to being a bit spur of the moment – how Skywalker Sound got involved (sound production of Lucasfilm), which leads to the surreal and rare footage as an American company on a behind the scenes feature of a Japanese anime movie ^^

We get an interview with the director Kenji Kamiyama – held a month before Cyborg was released – what messages are included in the film, the theme of God, the background of Joe, why he was made a student, why he was able to hear ‘His Voice’, how his own life experience influenced part of the movie and how the ending was changed are a number of the questions asked.

A preview of the crew/movie at Ishinomaki, where Kamiyama visits the Ishinomori Manga Museum which suffered during the Japanese tsunami, showing many areas and displays before an interview on stage before the premier, which also had the singer of the original series actually coming out and performing, before the last main extra which is the screening at Shinjuku Wald 9. Talking about how it was made (streaming on Nico Nico Douga as well) – all staff members come onto stage, Hiroaki Matsuura (Animation Producer), Daisuke Suzuki (Modeling Animation Director), Masanori Uetaka (Lead Animator), Takahiro Uezono (Line Director & Director of Photography), Yusuke Takeda (Art Director) –show Takeda doing some background art, explaining character animation, how the schedule works with images of storyboards on the screen, character designs, quite comic at times ^^ Similar descriptions to early extras but with more people speaking to an audience, animatics (audience in awe), some of the troubles and tricks used, showcasing characters movement and 3D facial expressions, backgrounds, then introduce the voices (Mamoru Miyano as Joe, Chiwa Saito as Francoise – was watching the stream backstage, enjoying the behind the scenes work, and go over to Suzuki and go nuts with the drawings ^^) Short scene of them doing voices albeit jokingly and then taking a proper take, a few words from them and the director = a lot of extras and care into this release.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Cyborg 009 franchise has been around for a long time – anime wise as far back as 1968 (and two subsequent series in 1979 and 2001, the manga running between 1964 and 1981) – it famously went through many arcs but the death of the creator never gave it a conclusive ending. The various series have done their own way of conclusion, and this reinvention is doing the same. Obviously condensing it into a 2 hour movie is near impossible so the challenge was literally an update of it in today’s day and age. So does the update work?

Whilst the movie does its best in introducing the characters to those unfamiliar of the series, I will say that knowledge of any of the previous incarnations helps a lot (one of the cyborgs names doesn’t even get mentioned in the movie) – plus a lot of the characters are definitely redesigned from their original art. Whilst code numbers are mentioned, it definitely helps knowing about the series. Does that mean it only works for fans of the original or any of the previous variations, or can anybody enjoy it?

We get our look over some gorgeous CG, 3D and hand drawn animation hybrid of Shangai going under martial law after some terrorists attack. Some of the cyborgs are elsewhere talking about this, namely 002, Jet with 007, GB, being summoned by their creator, Dr. Gilmore. Cue a cut of a young man named Joe Shimamura, who appears to be on a date with a girl, but suddenly it cuts to hearing something called ‘His Voice’ a recurring theme and plot device for this movie. The tower he is on is attacked and he himself is attacked by a rather large man, but during the fight, something clicks in his mind, and he is able to react to the attacks almost like he was fighting in slow motion…clicking he is in fact Cyborg 009, who has super speed abilities. The attacker was in fact 005, a giant of a man named Geromino, and the person who wants to bring Joe’s memory around was 003, a beautiful female cyborg named Francoise, who definitely has a history being with Joe…

There seems to be a hint of the past was better with cyborgs in normal lives, when they used to fight for justice – Gilmore however seems to be wanting to bring everyone together as ‘His Voice’ seems to be the catalyst for these terrorist attacks, even Joe was about to do an attack on the tower he was on. Other cyborgs also get involved, due to a mysterious blonde girl/ghost appears where they are, as GB and Pyunma (008) both seem to get caught though Heinrich (004) and Chang (006) are both called up by Gilmore, along with his helper Ivan (001) whose powers of a psychic only have a limited time because of his child like form. Learning that a company called Samuel Capital linked with the US Government maybe involved, and the fact the cyborgs can also hear ‘His Voice’ there is some mistrust and worry involving Joe (who resets his memory every 3 years so doesn’t ‘grow’ as old as the other cyborgs) and the US cyborg Jet who is attacked, forces the two of them via teleportation to work together, yet Jet doesn’t trust Joe because of ‘His Voice’ causing a fight, however when returning to his base (thinking Joe has died) and confirming the government is involved, there is a lot of twists revealed (like Joe’s girlfriend at the beginning, the origin of His Voice, the blond ghost girl and how Jet seems to escape an impossible situation…)

It leads to an attack on Dr. Gilmore’s base – here we get to see the abilities of the Cyborgs still around (unless you know the original, you won’t see GB or Pyunma’s skills, Chang isn’t even mentioned by name but you see him use his fire ability), Geromino in particular is quite the badass and with the reveal of how he escaped and the government trying to blame the cyborgs for the bombings, Joe is revealed to be alive and thanks to Ivan teleports and saves the Gilmore group. The interpretations of His Voice are discussed as Joe apparently hears something different, so it is a race against time to stop an attack of missiles which lead to Joe, Francoise and Heinrich to teleport to a submarine controlled by Capital to stop the missile launch. One does get there, but Joe wishes to sacrifice himself to take out the last missile. It leads to the finale which involves Jet and…admittingly a rather weak ending which isn’t explained terribly well where His Voice could be used for good along with the fates of the cyborgs.

This is a tough one to review. Personally, I loved the movie but this is more because I am familiar with the Cyborg 009 mythos. The redesigns whilst different are understandable considering the original drawings and animation. The characters are set up as best as they can in the movies length to draw in people not familiar with it – that Francoise and Joe have had a romantic interest in the past, Jet is hot headed, and the plot of His Voice (with a bit of too close to home with the terrorist angle). The story is quite simple; it is a terrorist plot with the Cyborgs spread out across the world both in their own lives, but also keeping an eye on things and most of them reuniting with their creator by the end. There isn’t enough time to give them all detailed characteristics and storylines obviously (2 of them disappear half way through, 3 others are barely involved bar the fighting scenes, Francoise, Ivan and Jet do have some character but it is really Joe’s movie) and thanks to the superb animation it certainly doesn’t feel like a rush job, and a lot of love went into making the movie.

The issue is whether anybody can watch the movie. If you aren’t familiar with Cyborg 009, I think there is going to be some confusion. They focus on the plot of ‘His Voice’ as a god motif, to focus on that angle more on the characters – because of this, there can be a fair bit of confusion if you don’t know the characters. (The only reason you know characters are cyborgs is because they are focused in a scene, Chang as mentioned isn’t even named in the movie) They do obviously link with Dr. Gilmore, and there are some traits, but it is set more as a glorious looking action movie. It is thrown at you quite quickly with Joe looking set to attack a tower, but he is snapped out of it and then is on the Cyborgs side, but always that hint that he could be taken over again. The movie has a motif of making your own way; hence he is controlling His Voice to his own way rather than being controlled himself. However, because everything comes at you so fast, it does feel like a rush job in that respect.

That being said though, there is a lot to be taken from this movie. They actually did as much as they could to showcase all of the cyborgs of the original series, and define them as their own creations via the re-designs. Whilst a lot of purists may not like them, as individual designs and not comparing them to the original, they are all distinct, identifiable, and interesting. Their powers aren’t all explained due to screen time, but you can tell they all have their uses and specific jobs. The animation, sound and action sequences are superb, and do feel like a good action movie. And whilst most of the characters are downgraded, Joe himself is an exceptionally good protagonist. There is intrigue when you get the reveal of his girlfriend at the start of the movie (making Francoise a much more complex character than you’d expect), his resetting making him forget things he has done, his selflessness yet his struggle to fighting His Voice, and whilst a bit hot-headed, he isn’t like a typical shounen protagonist as a lot of thought is in his character, he has needs, weaknesses, but is not invincible. This is why I felt the ending was definitely weak, as whilst he got a happy ending , it was way too short and not explained what happened after his missile corrections.

I do feel this movie has the unfortunate middle problem of fans of the original may not like the redesigns and how it felt rushed (it is a remake, and of course the original never had a conclusive ending, so this did despite it being rushed) whilst people watching the movie may not understand the characters as much, just the fact they are cyborgs and do have powers falling it into an action movie cliché. Combining these two together, I felt the movie was definitely enjoyable, but if you are one or the other, I’d say judge for yourself and see if you enjoy the new designs or just enjoy it as an experience. Hopefully, it was be either or.

Re:Cyborg 009 is definitely a ‘re’ something. Remake? Reimagination? It does keep the original spirit in terms of the characters, though trying to compress everything into a movie and keep all fans happy is near impossible. The redesigns however definitely look good, and fans of the original whist may be divisive can at least appreciate the movie as a way to try and get as much in a movie based on a huge franchise in less than 2 hours. Anyone not familiar with it may have problems with the characters and who they are though the movie does its best to explain whilst having its plot unfold. Overall, it is a good movie with a lot of divides – you see if you can fit in between them.

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A-

Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: October 26th, 2015
MSRP: £24.99 (Special edition – I didn’t get the extras with it so couldn’t review them)
Running Time: 108 minutes

Review Equipment:
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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