When approaching anime one must be cautious. One must keep in mind that Japan and western countries have very different cultures, and it often comes across in anime in bucket loads. I can, however, only judge films how I see them. Through my own experience I’ve developed a taste and an opinion as to what makes a good and bad film. While the defence of “well that’s what they like over there” can be sometimes justified, generally I hold filmmaking standards to be the same throughout the world. That being said, 009 Re: Cyborg firmly fits in the ‘bad’ part of that paragraph.
Being written and directed by Kenji Kamiyama, whose previous work includes popular shows like Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex, 009 Re: Cyborg is an adaptation of the manga by renowned manga author Shotaro Ishinomori. The story focuses on a group of cyborgs who sort of have names and sort of don’t. They’re called things by the characters, but just referred to by numbers in the credits. I’ll just use the numbers. Okay so this group of cyborgs all have superpowers, and they have to use them to find out what is making people suddenly want to become suicide bombers and blow up skyscrapers. They come to the conclusion that all these people have spoken about following ‘his voice’. They need to find out what ‘his voice’ is before humanity is destroyed completely.
That was my very bad attempt at summarizing the plot, simply because I wasn’t sure what was going on even while watching it. The story is all over the place and has a habit of either not explaining things or explaining very briefly in a line of dialogue that’s very easy to miss. For instance, these cyborgs. Who are they? Where did their powers come from? Why are they doing what they’re doing? Why are they only called numbers? I don’t know. The movie never gives us any backstory for anyone, and instead likes to go off on long exposition scenes that talk about the ‘themes’ of the story. I wouldn’t even mind except that they never elaborate of half of these further and just sort of let the elements sit there, some of the time just saying “yeah, that wasn’t true” and discrediting the scene entirely. I must ask, then what was the point?
009 Re: Cyborg is a film that tries to be too much. I tries to be philosophical and action-packed at the same time, and while that can be done, it crams in loads of speculative dialogue about the nature of god, man, and the relationship between the two. Again, not a bad idea, but that’s all it is. It’s not developed enough to be called a theme. Plus, the animation looks dated, looking suspiciously like a 100 minute long video game cutscene. I know anime CGI can look great (see the two Final Fantasy movies for evidence of that), but it doesn’t work here. Not to mention the 3D is very badly utilised, and exploits the technology by throwing something at the screen every two seconds.
Speaking of the 3D, subtitles do not work in the format. While everything else is in 3D, the subtitles themselves aren’t, meaning they get very prominent and look like they’ve been stuck onto the screen itself. 3D already messes with your depth perception, so attempting to watch the action and read the subtitles at the same time is next to impossible. Anyway, rant over, this film is over-stuffed with ideas, has poorly used technology, and has a bonkers plot that never bothers to explain itself.