All across the world, unnamed terrorists have been destroying skyscrapers and causing death on an unimaginable scale. Seventeen-year-old Joe Shimamura, influenced by ‘His Voice’, is about to carry out an act of urban terrorism. Fortunately, Joe is ‘woken’ by some of his fellow cyborgs and, remembering who he really is – Cyborg 009 – goes back with them to their creator, Dr. Isaac Gilmore. He and the others are given the mission to try to halt the destruction, as missiles are unleashed by people swayed by ‘His Voice’ to destroy the high towers and rewrite civilisation. And then there are some disturbing archaeological discoveries that seem to be highly significant in what could well prove to be Armageddon. Can the legendary nine cyborgs unite once more and use their superhuman powers to save the world – or have some of them become corrupted too?
It’s a deeply uncomfortable feeling to hear the ominously portentous opening narration (that sounds suspiciously as if it’s been taken from the King James Bible) delivered over disturbing ‘live TV footage’ of skyscrapers falling. Okay, so the story is obviously intended to induce this feeling of deep discomfort in the viewer, but the acts of terrorism depicted here are too close to real-life recent events to pass as ‘entertainment’. (Unless, somewhere, a scientist is developing a team of nine cyborgs to come to our aid…)
I hadn’t seen any of the earlier TV anime series about the nine cyborgs, or read the manga that inspired them, first brought out by original creator Shotaro Ishinomori in the tense atmosphere of the Cold War in 1964. (The Special Prologue included in the extras is well worth watching to gain insight to the background and fifty-year-old history of this story.) So there was no way for me to relate to characters that must be very familiar to older Japanese viewers and I had to attempt to make sense of the set-up as the film went along. After all, it should stand alone as a piece of dramatic entertainment if it’s going to attract new viewers as well.
Unfortunately… although it looks great and boasts some stunningly animated (and chilling) action scenes, the storyline just doesn’t hang together. Somehow, one expects more from a director and writer with Kenji Kamiyama’s talents and experience (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Eden of the East). And the apparently religiously-motivated acts of destruction leave one with a queasy feeling but no real (or meaningful) understanding or resolution. The cityscapes – especially the final one, no spoiler here – are brilliantly rendered in convincing and atmospheric detail. If the (drastically) redesigned characters’ faces look weirdly smooth, one can only conjecture that they’ve been drawn that way to make them work in the 3D version (also included but not viewed).
The excellent orchestral/electronic score by master film composer Kenji Kawai (Ghost in the Shell, Eden of the East) is one of the most successful elements of the film, adding to the tension and enhancing all the most significant scenes. The interview with the composer in the extras is a valuable and enlightening addition.
The Japanese vocal cast is impressive, boasting Mamoru Miyano as hero Joe, Cyborg 009. But the US vocal cast struggle a little to successfully deliver the accents of the individual cyborgs (Russian, German, French etc.) especially John White as Great Britain whose accent switches between Australian and Cockney (while his character uncannily resembles Patrick Stewart).
The Collector’s Edition boasts a wealth of fascinating features and extras which include: a 28 page booklet, Teasers, Trailers, Promo Video and Commercials, Special Prologue, Behind The Scenes Featurettes, RE: ANIMATION, RE: SOUND, Interview with Director, Kenji Kamiyama, 3D Preview at Ishinomori Museum in Ishinomaki and Premium Screening At Shinjuku Wald 9.
The return of the legendary 00 series of cyborgs is beautifully drawn, thrillingly animated and set to an excellent soundtrack, but ultimately – and frustratingly – doesn’t work as a story.
© 2012 009 RE:CYBORG Production Committee
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