Thursday, December 22, 2011

Anime DVD Review: ICE

Text © Robert Barry Francos/FFanzeen, 2011
Images from the Internet

ICE: Yesterday, Today, and No Future
Created by Yasushi Akimoto
Directed by Makoto Kobayashi
Eleven Arts / Seminal Films, 2007 / 2012
103 minutes, USD $14.95

ICE - also known as Project ICE - started out as three-episode anime series in 2007 that has been combined into a full-length feature. I understand there is also a dubbed-in-English version, but I’m happy this is the Japanese one with English subtitles, instead.

As with most of the anime I have seen, this is full of lush visual images with spectacular effects, imaginative events, and a tad of WTF?

Here’s what I can make out about the basic premise: In 1988, a young woman is in a car accident, and becomes lodged inside the mind of a warrior woman in the future of 2012 (apparently, this is a somewhat common occurrence to the soldier; perhaps it’s why she hasn’t slept in three years? I’m just askin’).

In this dystopic future, all the men have died out due to their violent nature and fiddling with genetics, leaving a world of women who have no way to reproduce, and naturally resent it. This leads the women to abhor the men’s way of violence by staging a world war (I said WTF, didn’t I?) that leaves central Japan with a population of just 20,000 survivors.

They are broken down into two clans, one a stoic-based group who accept death as inevitability, led by Kisaragi, who is a human-squid mutation (damn, those men!). They display their stoicism by killing and riding around in fast motorcycles. The three main characters among them are said squid-woman and her two pre-pubescent two daughters (not by blood, she notes): Yuki is a symbol of love and hope (despite her whatever attitude about dying), and her sister Satsuki is a miscreant who can’t decide whether she loves Yuki or wants to kill her (she varies to both).

The second and foremost clan in the story is lead by the evil and deeeeeep voiced Julia, who wants to control all of Japan no matter what the cost, showing that power corrupts whatever the gender. Leading her guard is Hitomi Landsknecht (no, I don’t know why she has a German name), who is the hero protagonist of the story. She is the one who has not slept in three years.

Through all the goings on, including the killing and slaughtering while defaming the men who had done the same (still don’t get that), they are searching for a dangerous experiment that will help them reproduce by some volatile means (aka ICE).

The main thrust of the story is the rivalry between the two clans, and the Romea and Juliet story of Hitomi and Yuki. It’s well known that many anime (and especially hentai) stories concern older men and young girls, but this is the first I’ve heard about an older woman and pre-teen. No, there’s no fooling around, it’s all emotional, but there is talk of an exchange of vows. Just creepy or, if you will, yuki.

Other standard anime fare that goes on here is ginormous creatures, monsters with many eyes, beheadings, people exploding, voices that are high pitched and highly emotional (some supplied by the Japanese all-girl group AKB 48), and others that are deep, monotonal, and sound exhausted (usually the leaders and head soldiers).

As I said, the effects and art are just stunning and a joy to watch. There is a mixture of hand-drawn and computer graphics (such as flying machines / weapons). The story does seem a bit dense at times, but I truly don’t know if that is a cultural aspect that is lost of me, or anime doesn’t really care about the details as much as the visuals that it produces. Either way, I accept it for what it is, and even went back and slo-mo’d some parts to see it clearer when the action was too quick for me to pick out details.

There are also many interesting side visuals and touches, such as birds that turn into bushes, and swords that turn into guns (or vice verse, I’m not sure).

As confusing as some of the story is, it’s the conclusion that is the real head scratcher for me. In researching this film a bit, I find a lot of people – especially younger females – are big fans of the series; I’m guessing due to the destruction of all men and the strong women who replace them, replicating both their strengths and weaknesses for power and how to achieve it.

There is a lot of music by pop group AKB 48 (another draw for the young-girl audience), especially around the bookend credits (check the trailer, below). For me, other than Shonen Knife and the’s, I’m not really familiar with Japanese pop, so that factor is not part of what makes this an interesting viewing, but rather the imaginative take on gender, war, greed, and heroism.

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