In Kyokutei Bakin's classic Japanese epic novel Nansou Satomi Hakkenden, eight samurai serve the Satomi clan during Japan's tumultuous Sengoku (Warring States) era. The Edo-era samurai are the reincarnations of the spirits that Princess Fuse mothered with a dog named Yatsufusa. In Fuse Gansaku: Satomi Hakkenden, the female hunter Hamaji comes to her brother in order to hunt Fuse. Thus, the karmic cycle of retribution that began long ago with the Satomi family begins anew.
Everybody knows that dogs are a man’s best friend, am I right?
They are cute, intelligent, affectionate, and loyal until the very end. Now what does that have to do with the movie Fuse: Memoirs of the Hunter Girl?
Fuse (pronounced “foo say”) is the story of an energetic hunter girl named Hamaji who moves from the mountains to the bustling city of Edo after the death of her grandfather. Hamaji is taken in by her older brother, who is also a hunter himself. Shortly after arriving, Hamaji is greeted with a rather gruesome site of bleeding dog’s heads put out on display for the entire town to see. Taken aback by the display, she lashes out in horror. The citizens tease her a bit and then explain that they are fuse; half dog and half human menaces that terrorize and murder the human residents of Edo. A hefty bounty is put on the heads of these fuse, so every third rate samurai across the city is after their heads for the money and the glory.
Well gee, so much for being man’s best friend.
Hamaji’s brother wants to hunt down the remaining two fuse. Little does he know that Hamaji had already met and befriended a fuse named Shino on her way to his humble adobe.
The thing that stands out the most in this movie is most definitely its art, animation, and sound. The movie has a highly detailed, colorful, and polished world. Backgrounds are bursting with life and vibrant color. Beautiful Edo will amaze you with its sights and sounds, from the chaotic red light district, to the elaborate feudal castles, to the beautiful foliage. The character designs themselves are also quite interesting, vaguely resembling the characters from a Ghibli film or perhaps an older anime from the 90s. The soundtrack is also given equal treatment, with a traditional flair pulsing from its chords.
The movie’s story is an interesting yet rather simplistic tale. It’s an engrossing, character driven story from beginning to end, though it is not without its flaws. Character development is rather minimal, aside from what’s given to the two main characters, and the ending to the movie felt rather abrupt. Which was a shame, because it had such an epic buildup. The pacing for most of this movie was just right, with no scene feeling like filler, nor were any of the scenes dripping with an overabundance of cheesy melodrama. And thankfully that is the case, considering the movie’s focus on romance. Now the romance of the movie could have been handled better as well. Like the ending, it is given a rather unsatisfying conclusion. Throughout the movie, it’s built up in a rather subtle way, not feeling as if it were awkwardly shoehorned in.
The relationships of the characters were the main focus of the movie, though it does have its moments of brutal and bloody actions scenes. These scenes are rather fluid and detailed, down to every drop of blood, every bullet, every swift swing of a sword.
However, the characters, not the action, are what make this movie so interesting. The main character Hamaji is a country bumpkin at heart, illiterate and quite ignorant of city life due to her upbringing that took place exclusively in the mountains. This gives the viewers a convenient window to learn about the city of Edo and its culture. Her relationship with the fuse Shino is the main focus of the movie. Shino is revealed to be somewhat of a tormented and deeply troubled character later on. They grow closer and closer as the movie progresses despite the people of their respective races being bitter enemies out for each other’s blood.
The other characters include a cast of lively and fun individuals. There is Hamaji’s older brother Dousetsu, a somewhat childish bachelor that appears to be far less responsible and much less humble than his little sister. There are also Dousetsu’s neighbors, a young man and his son, and a round heavyset man with a not so subtle crush on Hamaji. There is Dousetsu’s love interest Funamushi. There’s also Meido, a talented artist and writer. She is the grandchild of a famous author who attempted to paint the fuse as something more than the monsters they were made out to be through his revered novels.
In a way, perhaps the movie was trying to convey a message of acceptance and understanding. The humans would mercilessly hunt down fuse without a second thought, all for the sake of protecting their own people. Although it’s also clear that some were only hunting fuse simply for the money and fame. Likewise, the fuse hid amongst the humans and ate soul after soul, like animals making no effort to restrain themselves. Neither side made much of an effort to call a truce. Neither side tried to come to understand each other. Instead, a vicious cycle of killing turned without any hope of stopping. It presents an interesting “chicken or egg” argument. Did the Fuse start eating human souls because the humans were killing them? Or did the humans start killing Fuse because they started eating human souls?
Of course, that conclusion was drawn up with a generous amount of personal interpretation. There was far more room for them to convey their message a lot more cleanly.
Fuse is an interesting little feudal fantasy tale that comes together as a wonderful experience bursting with life. It has its obvious flaws, but it’s a great little lighthearted watch.
It has a very feel good vibe to it and is definitely worth your time. read more
For those who are impatient, my simple review would have me say that i found it a mixed bag. I really wanted to write two separate reviews for this -an unbiased one and a personal one- but that's quite tedious and im not sure MAL would allow it. Anyways, i'll try to keep this short and simple.
Going into the film, i really really wanted to like it - I really did. And that's likely why i felt a bit disappointed. The simple plot of the story sees our lone heroine move into edo to live with her brother and to help him hunt down the fuse (human/dog hybrids). Her search leads her to meet with Shino.
My unbiased review would have me say that the story is fairly simplistic (no major plot twist) and maybe even enjoyable. In other words, if i were to take it at face value, there's nothing really wrong with it. However, a personal review would have me say that something about it just irked me. One of the genre listed with this film is "drama" but it didn't really feel as dramatic as it could have been. I blame this on execution. I personally think they could have focused more screen time on the fuse and their situation/circumstances instead of the heroine who hunts them down.
The character development was almost none existent imo. I wont hold it strongly against the film, cause it IS a film but im suppose to feel inclined towards Hamaji and Shino when they only meet up 4 times in the movie? About the fuse, particularly Shino, I just never got around to really liking him. I cant really describe why i feel this way without spoiling so lets just say i felt he doesn't get enough screen time/explanation for a character of his importance.
As for the art, i have no real complaints per se, but i personally don't think it really matched the theme(s) of the film. The art is variant and almost colorful but that doesn't really match with the theme(s) found in the film, etc:'we're gonna hunt down these fuse, cut off their heads, and display it for the public.' This is just a personal opinion and most people are hardly going to have much issues with the art.
There's nothing really wrong with the film, it has decent plot and action but i found that it suffers from its inability to make me want to try and connect with the characters. I think the story would have had a much stronger impact had they choose Shino as the main lead instead of Hamaji. Anyways, as another reviewer said, it does kinda have a Princess Mononoke feel to it except that its more action orientated and slightly less developed characters.
So, do i regret watch the movie? kinda, but not really. Would i recommend it? As long as you go in not expecting anything great. It has a "meh" fell about it. read more
I had a lot of fun watching this movie, it kinda reminded me of Princess Mononoke. :')
(Read the actual plot on MAL for more info)
Hamaji, a young girl hunter living alone, gets a letter from her brother living in edo, to come and help him with hunting, Hamaji goes to edo to help her brother out and ends up meeting Shino, a very beautiful guy with shiny silver hair, and she runs into him a few more times later on trough out the story. In this movie there are 'Fuse' part human, part dog creatures that eat the orbs from humans, when beheaded they die. (Okay, I suck at explaing things and I don't want to just copy and paste the plot from MAL because that would be stupid.) but anyways, the story dose sound a little cliche, sure. You probably think 'Oh, another InuYasha wannabe or something.' But it's actually pretty good and heartwarming. Makes you feel all fuzzy inside after it ends. Like you feel after you finish a good Ghibli movie. :)
They art was very good and eye pleasing with much detail to the background and scenery, Not really focusing on the people, they they where nicely done too. Another part that reminded me of Ghibli.
Also, they where not scared to use lots of Blood, another plus side imo. ;)
The characters wheren't cliche, they where funny and I didn't feel like ripping my hair out watching any of them. I fell in love with Hamaji, she was such a strong, brave, beautiful and passionate girl.
Shino was hot, mysterious and interesting. He ate people orbs, and he wanted to eat Hamaji's too, but he tried very hard to fight his hunger, and not harm her.
It was funny, I laughed, cried a little and smiled like crazy while watching this movie. It was very exciting and I can't wait to own it on DVD. ^_^
It's def one of those 'feel good' movies and I recommend it to people who enjoy movies like that.
(Okay, now I can take my sleepy self to bed. //yawn)read more
‘Fuse: Memoirs of the Hunter Girl’ is the fantastical brain-child of Masayuki Miyaji – an assistant director on Spirited Away - yet is also a work inherently dependent on many other historical writers and creators, most notably the author Takizawa Bakin. A recent anime TV series adaptation of his most famous work, the epic Nansō Satomi Hakkenden, was highly derivative of – and, in my opinion, somewhat insulting to – the source material. Fuse, on the other hand, seems very playful, reverent and effective in its adaptation of the same novel’s premise. Not only does the film pay it homage, it also directly references it and even features both Takizawa as a minor character and his granddaughter Meido as a member of the supporting cast. Aptly, it is through Meido – an aspiring writer herself - that the metafictional concerns of the film are mostly explored, supporting the notions of “fakes” and “counterfeits” that are central to the characterisation of the Fuse – mythical were-wolf like creatures - and the Shogun, who serves as the narrative’s underlying antagonist. Indeed, it is through Meido’s perspective that the film is given a narrative frame, thus adding to the sense that this story is very much enveloped within the traditions of Japanese story telling itself.
Another key theme touched on throughout is that of prejudice, though the extent to which it is successfully tackled is up for debate – after all, it becomes quickly apparent that humans have a very genuine reason to fear the Fuse, despite however much the latter may try to control their natural instincts. The discrimination and subjugation of women is, on the other hand, depicted in a historically accurate manner for the most part, with a poignant parallel being made between the lives of the Fuse and the ‘pleasure-district’s’ courtesans about half way into the film. The female lead and her samurai brother’s love interest are also used to explore the nature of womanhood and the construction of gender identity throughout, though in between everything else these areas aren’t really given enough time to be dealt with deeply, and the answers offered are again of questionable significance. However, the fact that the film manages to touch upon such things without losing its balance between fun and drama means that their inclusion is in no way detrimental.
One of the film’s most striking factors is its direction, which – once you get into the meat of the plot – may seem somewhat all over the place at points. This, though, is sort of the point: in order to locate the film in a broad historical context of Japanese story telling, a menagerie of varying techniques from a diverse array of traditions is used, from parodies of famous wood-block prints to a depiction of a Kabuki theatre play. Whilst I can’t deny this was an approach somewhat alien to my general cinematic experiences and perceptions, it certainly had the desired effect more often than not.
Despite the interjections of these sometimes visually contrasting modes of story telling, the movie does not eschew aesthetic unity: there is a default art style used throughout the majority of the film that features a Ghibli like approach to scenery coupled with the more distinctive character designs typical of most serialised anime. The animation is also largely of a high standard, aside from a few points near the beginning where it seems to slow down unnaturally for brief instances. What’s more, the various other aesthetics that are superimposed on the more conventional style - such as the woodcut imitations and the use of charcoal lines to depict aerial spinning motions - are used repeatedly, thus creating a continuity that makes them seem less intrusive and obscure when regarding the film as a whole.
Continuous movement between light and serious tones – as befitting traditional Japanese stories - is another effective aspect of the film: for the most part, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the humour is very well done. Despite some typical anime fare - brother and sister becoming emotionally hysterical and beginning a sobbing contest upon reuniting, for instance - the various comedic elements, from the woodblock parodies and use of several Ronin film clichés to the more self-referential conceit of the story itself being "counterfeit", are all executed well. However, one couldn't help but laugh at the unintentional ludicrousness of the film's climax. Indeed, the last twenty minutes or so are perhaps the only parts of the film were it strays slightly too far into reliance upon typical anime tropes. It was refreshing, though, to see a somewhat more abrupt and believable romantic confession from the female lead as compared to most anime heroines, even if the peripheral circumstances and the reaction of the male lead were excessively cheesy.
The film’s pacing is also generally quite good, though one sequence of events in the mid part of the movie – involving the introduction of a relatively important character, and several rather sudden revelations and pivotal plot points – comes on slightly too suddenly for my liking. Aside from this, the film breathes when it needs to – for example, in the introductory scenes in which Hamaji the hunter girl pensively stalks a wolf through a forlorn and snow-covered mountainous landscape - and keeps the action from getting too frenetic during the various fight scenes.
The characterisation was something that I was wary of in the opening minutes – given Hamaji’s anachronistic character design and voice - though as the film progressed any fears were for the most part laid to rest. The main cast are quirky, but not to the extremes anime characters are often prone to be, and none of them are particularly one-dimensional. Hamaji, her brother Dousetsu, and Shino – the male lead – all receive good character exploration and development. Indeed, I particularly appreciate how some of Dousetsu’s actions - being perhaps slightly deplorable to a contemporary Western audience - seem in keeping with the historical context he inhabits, and that he remains an endearing character in spite of also being very much a man of his age in some retrospectively negative regards.
One element I feel is too much of a mixed bag is the soundtrack. Whilst the sound design itself is fine, the musical score is somewhat inconsistent: several pieces sound very much derivative of Joe Hishashi’s Ghibli scores, whilst others seem to have come straight out of very average TV productions. In particular, the music underpinning several anticipatory periods building towards visual climaxes are very cliché. There was one montage sequence, however, in which one of the Ghibli-esque pieces was juxtaposed well against the unfolding visuals, providing an emotional commentary that would not have otherwise been apparent.
For many, the main caveat for greater enjoyment of the film would be a broad understanding of historical Japanese culture, including myth, art, theatre and story telling. That being said, the only one of those things that I had a small degree of knowledge in was woodblock printing – along and a vague idea of what the Hakkenden was - and I still found the film very enjoyable and humorous. Indeed, though I came away from Fuse with somewhat antithetical feelings in regards to how well certain aspects really worked, my final impression was an overwhelmingly positive one; for me, it is without doubt one of the best anime films of recent years not to have come from either Ghibli or Mamoru Hosoda. read more