Jan 16, 2016
Spira (All reviews)
Asuka, Yukinon, and Menma become cyberpunk mahou shoujos and fight viruses in a speculative fiction setting under the supervision of Shin Sekai Yori's director, Masashi Ishihama, and Nozaki-kun's head writer and script composer, Yoshiko Nakamura. While this sounds like it has all the potential of being fucking great, all it turned into was an emotionally detached snorefest, trying to cram too much into too little and not doing anything with its assets.

Not to say that it isn't without its highlights: it's certainly pretty, with some set pieces being actually gorgeous, making use of its movie sized budget to make sure shots flow into one another with animation at a near consistent high note (though there's more than a few wonky edits), and the music isn't too bad (though its reliance on piano pieces as a gateway to melodrama feels forced and almost comical). There are brief moments that made my bottom lip quiver a little, so I guess it must be doing something right there. But even then, the film didn't really earn those on its own merits, it just used a lot of cheap tricks to pull emotion out from the viewer, complete with a "shoot the dog" sequence, ultimately making it feel shallow and working off of the audience's own inherent connection to those images instead of building something on its own. I can see it pulling a few heart strings if you're new to this genre of Dark Mahou Shoujo shows, but for us that are well versed in its various trappings it'll feel like a carbon copy of a certain other Dark Magical Girl show from 2014, down to its major plot points, world, and 'big reveal'. The character development in this is actually not that bad either, in that the ensemble definitely experience worthwhile changes as the film reaches its climax, which is neat, though the way they went about developing them was all wrong (I'll explain this point in a bit). There's also a reasonably fascinating setting here, one that approaches a prototypical speculative fiction backdrop in a somewhat refreshing way, and that's something worth crediting it for. While the notion of a post-apocalyptic world where lives are lived out through data is nothing new in this medium or any other, the manner in which this is presented places it further from the tech singularity of standard genre fare and into something just a teensy bit more unique than a few of its influences and contemporaries. With the correct approach, the universe being established here could be salvaged and make for good franchise fodder, though they'd have to steer clear of the pitfalls in worldbuilding that plagued this particular product.

But that's all I can really say in its favor. While the notorious pair at its head are known for spearheading incredible stories, this film somehow manages to pull off the unthinkable by being a paragon of mediocre storytelling. About a solid fourth of this hour long feature is nothing but infodumping, throwing a lexical onslaught of meaningless technobabble at the audience in the most repetitive forms of exposition available: the dreaded "as you know" and "as we both know" banter. This vice extends to the general dialogue as well, which comes off as inorganic and honestly a tad annoying at times, with characters constantly reaffirming their feelings towards themselves (at eachother) in bloated solipsistic monologues. I understand they're not meant to be human, and a certain form of uncanny valley is to be expected in their mannerisms, but they never felt strange or compelling in their inhuman behavior, they just felt poorly handled. I just couldn't really care what happened to any of these "people", and the fact that they start off as the most derivative forms of their moe archetypes doesn't help that cause either.

Going off on the exposition dump is one of the most ill conceived montage sequences I've ever witnessed. While the match cuts in the film's central Cute Girls Processing All Sorts of Things segment were impressive and the whole idea of it works well on paper, the fact that what should have been the most interesting part of the whole film was condensed into three consecutive music videos makes me incredibly frustrated. This shoehorned appeal to pathos severely disrupted the flow and pacing of the film, and this ties back to my previous statement about the film lacking "true" emotional resonance: in lieu of fleshing these experiences out, all three of the major character arcs are given life in 5 minutes through a combination of "watch these cute girls make food together! so cute!" and "watch these cute girls look sad as they stare at tragedies! so sad!" It's just bad usage of film length overall and boy is it frickin' dull. Considering this makes up about a half of the film's runtime, and the second half owes all of its impact on how well we connect to the first half, the whole experience just sort of falls apart right there before it ever really began.

Overall, this just isn't worth the investment, which is upsetting considering it's founded on some pretty solid ideas and found itself in the hands of some rather talented people. I felt like a big issue with this came from it feeling like an aborted television series, like if it were a recap film to a show never made (think MSG: F91). If this were given even half an hour more to breathe, perhaps we'd have something worth talking about here, but instead it's just a mess.