Friday, 22 January 2016

#16: Galerians: Rion (2002)

Director: Masahiko Maesawa
Screenplay: Chinfa Kan
Based on the 1999 Playstation videogame
Voice Cast: Akira Ishida (as Rion); Shiho Kikuchi (as Lilia); Akira Ishida (as Cain); Kenichi Suzumura (as Rainheart); Ryoko Kinomiya (as Dorothy); Takehito Koyasu (as Birdman); Yuka Imai (as Rita)
Viewed in Japanese with English subtitles

I remember a review about the original videogame. Not the most spectacular way to start a review, but back then when I used to play videogames a lot I paradoxically read more about them than actually play them. To my knowledge, and I might be sandbagged by fans of the game for saying this, it disappeared into obscurity alongside its anime adaptation, three episodes released straight-to-video and then released in the West in a truncated movie version, the later the first of many times anime's obsession with ESP in their stories will appear on the blog. Even without covering Akira (1988) or the Gundam franchise, anime (and manga for that matter) was obsessed with psychics. Probably the appeal of a teenage protagonist discovering their uniqueness helped make the trope enticing, alongside the notion of it being a good metaphor for the change a teenage goes through to become an adult. Whatever the case it also was an excuse for characters to throw objects at each other without having to lift them with their hands.

In a dystopian city, a young teenage boy named Rion Steiner wakes up in a hospital that has been converted into a secret laboratory. A psychic, the voice of a mysterious girl in his head wakes him up, setting him off to find her, combating anyone in his way and discovering the existence of the super computer Dorothy who runs the city, learning very soon after into his new life that he is a part of a key to destroy her as other psychics are sent to dispose of him. This leads to Rion setting people alight, having to inject himself with an alarmingly diverse amount of various coloured tubes, to avoid "short circuiting" himself and to induce it to amplify his power, and in general crushing any obstacle in his way. This isn't an original plot but as other entries on this blog have shown, originality is less an issue when execution can still create a masterpiece or something entertaining. I cannot stake a claim for Galerians: Rion in this however. It's as lightweight as you can get, particularly in this case where the short length of the film version means that it lacks the detail for any of its plot points to register an emotional reaction. Anime has succeeded with shorter lengths than seventy minutes or so in entertainment but this also commits the cardinal sin of not at least making what I've described excited.

The really interesting part about Galerians: Rion is that it's another, if one of the last, early anime which were done with three dimensional character designs and locations. As with (entry #3) (1999) it was doomed to obsoletion pretty quickly because of advancing technology and how basic it was in look; even if it's a high standard with the resources it has, Galerians: Rion does show its limits even in context of its original release in its crudely simplistic locations and characters' psychic ability to float being depicted by way of not having the weight function turned on in the animation software. Released originally after Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001), it was doomed next to the cutting edge, mega budget film that itself failed anyway at the box office, making Galerians: Rion's chances on video for success smaller. Released in the UK in 2005 with a new nu-metal soundtrack - Slipknot and Deftones stuck with bands like Sevendust I'd like to forget - it was further out-of-date. After 2004, in a move that is still considered ill-advised, the director of the fun anime Metal Skin Panic MADOX-01 (1988), Shinji Aramaki, decided to devote himself entirely to 3D animated works with his first Appleseed adaptation, still more advanced in appearance, whilst in 2005 was the far more success Final Fantasy: Advent Children that was also advanced in look and style with the technology. Seeing the primitives of this 3D anime is fascinating, rather than the uncanny valley of modern CGI you get instead the unreality of it, plus the factor that people like whenever they revisit the Money For Nothing video from Dire Straits. But there's still an issue about the plots and style of these works as a viewer which, unless you like to gorge of bad filmmaking, is difficult to shrug off. The reason why I like Malice@Doll (2001) from this pre-Appleseed lot is because its story is fascinating and it has a style to it that fights against the limitations, more so knowing now that like using pastels on a pencil drawing 2D hand drawn animation was used for detailed touches on the 3D character models and locations.

There is stuff that appeals to me in this anime's dated lot - many corridors set in rundown buildings and septic white labs which have a claustrophobia knowing the animators were actually limited in what they could add - but you're ultimately left with an incredibly average viewing experience with a plot put together Frankenstein-like from other, better sources. When you realise you could get more fun outside of an old Playstation videogame, for irony, for this sort of less than perfect but charming 3D animation but more entertainment, something like this is doomed. It's quite faithful to the original videogame in terms of the plot, but in anime the plot points from a super computer ruling mankind to the villains being innocents forced into being monsters has been done better in other material.The general flatness of Galerians: Rion effectively kills it's momentum from the beginning, starting off with a main male protagonist who's as blank as the scenery at points, with no threats that can viably kill him. Only his drug habit for many ESP boosting chemicals, to the point of a seller of all the drugs available to mankind makes a joke on it, seems to stand out the most even if his back-story is a tragedy of his parents dying. He's important to protecting humanity to a computer with a God complex but its the various red and blue chemical he pumps through his neck that add character, and the less about the girl he finds in her blankness the better.

Ultimately like all its problems could've been overcome, even if made the exact same way, if there was a lot more personality in the content, something which the former film manages with the comedy of a spunky female android who goes through various body changes, the kind of thing you needed desperately here. Even if there were flaws in the scripts and technical qualities charisma helps greatly alongside some inspiration. Dorothy's lair inside a giant skyscraper appears way too late in the film, when it could've helped greatly, with its body horror aesthetic of birthing tubes shaped like literal wombs and Dorothy taking on the appearance of a human figure with giant, almost dreadlocked hair. Aside from this it's really only the psychic minions, her "children", who make up for the lack of personality from the heroes. The lanky, cackling Birdman and his tubby little brother who has a sociopathic and novel use of a clock, to the female member named Rita who looks like a character from a fighting game - red hair, busty figure, white tank top with suspenders and knee high boots which frankly, to be crass, could also qualify as her "fuck-me boots" in their length and style as she throws anything from tables to spoons at Rion with her telekinesis. While you couldn't sympathise with them when their tragic back stories are revelled, because little time is given to them, you can at least find them far more memorable than either male and female protagonist who you're supposed to be rooting for.

That there's none of the esoteric material you can get in these anime involving psychic powers or any supernatural/super/magical abilities is even more disappoint for me as a junky for anime's braver stabs at the unconventional and philosophical. Even if they could leave you utterly baffled with what is going on - when minds meld or people enter forth dimensions, usually with an elaborate monologue like in Akira - it's both more inventive and a lot more entertaining than with what happens in Galerians: Rion even if the preferred choice of ending risks pretentious. This does have villains in a white void confessing that they were turned into monsters due to drugs and experimentation, but in general these attempts at emotional content are non-existent without the time to set it up or anything exciting to make it all stack up. Despite my love for this kind of dated animation, after the initial viewing this does become flimsy in its quality once you beyond the original pleasures and I can't recommend it even as a curiosity piece like 

Now if it had been more like this, if you forgive the use of a gif,
Galerians: Rion might've been more interesting 


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