Bayonetta first burst onto the video game scene in 2010 for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. Before the release there was a lot of hype for the game due to the famous director of the Devil May Cry series, Hideki Kamiya, being behind the Bayonetta game as well. When it was officially released it did not disappoint; it was well received, commercially successful and the main protagonist made her mark as a gaming icon for a generation of gamers. A sequel wasn’t released until earlier this year for the Wii U (which caused some controversy due to moving away from the platforms the franchise it made its mark on). To build upon the release of the sequel an anime adaption was announced to be made by none other than Gonzo, with the director of Afro Samurai behind the helm.
That’s a lot of information already but exactly is Bayonetta about? Well, it’s about a woman named Bayonetta who’s an Umbria Witch, one of a race of witches who apparently deal with demons and kill angels, but they’re not evil, they just really like to shoot things and summons otherworldly beings to do their dirty work. Bayonetta was asleep for five hundred years in a coffin under a lake but woke up several years ago with no memory of who she is or how she got there. She currently works as a part-time nun, apparently, but believes that a priest by the name of Balder may have the key to unlocking her past. Whilst on the way to Vigrid she meets Jean who also seems to be a witch and apparently knows who Bayonetta really is. Outside of Jean, Bayonetta is also constantly bombarded by angels who call her the ‘Left Eye’ for some reason. Then there’s a journalist named Luka who blames her for his father’s death and wishes to expose her as a witch but is also fascinated by her. AND there’s a little girl named Cereza who calls Bayonetta ‘mommy’ although our heroine has no idea who she is…following me so far?
Don’t worry so much if you are completely lost because Bayonetta the video game is famously known for three things: it’s hyper-sexualised female protagonist, its grandiloquent fight sequences, and its over-complicated story. Thankfully, Bloody Fate is one of the best video game adaptations to film, so it embraces all of the game’s quirks with opens arms and just runs with it, with high quality animation to boot.
The film doesn’t follow the plot of the game one hundred percent; it certainly hits the right notes and covers the main story points but a few details have been altered. For example Enzo’s role has been greatly reduced, so instead of his car being smashed up at the beginning of the game it’s Luka’s car that gets the hefty repair fine in the anime. There are other small amendments here and there but it’s all in favour of trying to make the story flow better and make sense. Playing the Bayonetta game and trying to follow the plot at the same time are mutually exclusive, so the film’s attempts to try to make it easier to absorb is appreciated. It doesn’t take away any of the spectacle of the game but it does remove some of the game’s padding and adds a few (sometimes too many) exposition speeches to keep the audience engaged throughout the film. The premise starts relatively simple at first but it all gets outrageously crazy and ridiculous towards the end, but that’s what made the game so fun and intriguing, and the anime is just as much by using the grand battles and elaborate sets to make one wacky film. That’s not to say that the film is flawless, it inherits the game’s faults in the process from the lack of character development to the script being a shallow string of one line quips after another, so those not fond of the story originally are not going to find the anime a saving grace at all. Also, the film has a few instances where it expects you already have knowledge of the game, such as why Bayonetta sometimes looks like a ghost around ‘normal’ people or how she gets hold of the various weapons that seem to pop out of nowhere in battle (we can’t exactly have Bayonetta pop into the Gates of Hell to purchase weapon upgrades and health recovery lollipops in every scene now can we?)
The action in this film does not disappoint; director Fuminori Kizaki takes great joy in taking advantage of all of Bayonetta’s various weaponry and special abilities to make each battle different from the last. During game play it can admittedly get overcrowded and a lot of Bayonetta’s big final moves and combat can get lost in the action. But there’s none of that in Bloody Fate; we see every bullet from Bayonetta’s feet tearing from the sky, elaborate combat takes place whilst running up the walls and if you wished you could see Bayonetta in all her nude glory whilst performing her special moves, Bloody Fate has got you covered. The extreme close-ups will surely make some audiences uncomfortable, especially as in this film they love to linger on her figure longer than necessary, but it’s also illustrating part of her flirtatious character, so make of it what you will. A nice little addition is the film’s attempts to get a variety of moves and weaponry from the game in the film as well; it would have been easy (and just as fun) to have Bayonetta shoot from her hands and feet for the whole film but she also slices her way through angels with chainsaws, swords and other types of guns that fans of the game would be delighted to see animated.
In regards to the animation, Gonzo does a great job of bringing Bayonetta’s unique look to the film. The European architecture and fanatical designs of the angels are not flatten or ignored here, it looks fantastic throughout and every battle scene really goes for broke with fluid animation. There is one lazy issue with the faces of Cereza and Luka as a kid; they have the same face animation, with just hair and clothing separating them. Bayonetta’s body design is also a bit distracting about halfway through the movie in that it goes through some weird changes and becomes out of proportion in places. Of course the animators know that her boobs and bum are big, and her hair is gloriously flowing, but everything else is fair game, with one scene showing her hands bigger than her head, and a camera pan downwards during a scene with her in the hotel room after a bath reveals her feet looking more like hooves.
Thankfully, the English dubbing cast contains most of the same actors from the first game, all performing just as marvellously as in their debut, except for Enzo who’s now voiced by John Kassir but as he’s the voice of the character in Bayonetta 2 there’s some consistency in the casting at least. Since the first game didn’t have a Japanese dub, this movie is its debut and it’s not a bad dub overall, largely in part to the actress of the title character being Atsuko Tanaka, also known as the voice of Motoko from Ghost in a Shell, her sultry voice fits the flirty character very well.
The music for the film is a mixture of tracks from the game’s score and original pieces. Although some tracks fit nicely with the mood of the film, the theme song ‘Night, I Stand’ wouldn’t have been out of place in the games, but the rest of the original pieces are rather forgettable. A few more pieces from the game would have been nice, especially towards the climax.
DVD bonus includes director’s commentary, storyboards and trailer, the DVD menu is also fully animated – not exactly an extra but a rarity among anime DVDs, so worth a mention at least.
Bayonetta: Bloody Fate is a bloody fun film; it’s one of the best video game to film adaptations out there as it’s not ashamed to take the strengths and weirdness of the original game. Instead it applauds it and brings them to life in high quality animation. Any fan of the original game should add this to their Christmas lists; maybe even use it to get reacquainted with the witch before tackling its sequel. Admittedly watching Bayonetta killing angels isn’t as fun as doing so yourself, but at least you don’t have to wade through the horribly long loading times and ill-placed quick time events.