009 RE:CYBORG is the latest rework of the classic manga Cyborg 009, produced by Tokyo-based Production IG (Ghost in the Shell, Blood: The Last Vampire and the animated sequence from Kill Bill: Vol 1) and directed by Kenji Kamiyama (Eden of the East, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex). The entire task force behind this film helped in giving it a fresh lease of life in this new era, updating the story, but with sly nods for original fans. The original Cyborg 009 was the brainchild of Shotaro Ishinomori, who, in 2008, was officially acknowledged by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s most prolific solo comics author. This achievement was a close call between Ishinomori and the God of Manga himself, his mentor Osamu Tezuka, creator of Astro Boy (if you Google ‘god of manga’ Tezuka’s name will be the result of this search).
The story of 009 centres around a group of secret agents, described as bionic minions, cyborgs created by an international crime organisation, who were recruited to work for the forces of good. Having turned on their masters, their mission soon became that of upholding justice and world peace. After all it’s not where you come from but what you do that really makes the difference, making a person who they are. However, after many adventures they completely disappeared. Fast forward to 2013. The world is in crisis and suicide bombers are attacking cities around the world because of the voices in their head that they refer to as “his voice”. A seemingly divine voice that wishes to do a total reboot on humanity, infecting people with instructions that they soon fulfil with no choice in the matter. The dispersed group of agents are slowly located by their mentor, Doctor Gilmore, to once again uphold justice and world peace, in the hope that the super-powered cyborgs will be able to deal with this new unknown, if perhaps mysterious, threat.
009 RE:CYBORG mixes elements of both 2D and 3D animation, using 3D computer graphics (3DCG) on the characters; creating depth whilst maintaining the charm of cel-shaded imagery. The animation studio behind this is Sanzigen – specialists of 3DCG that is as close to hand-drawn animation as possible. It is a relief that they kept with the look of more traditional 2D Japanese animation that we have grown to love, as opposed to a more visually realistic look. For 3D skeptics, in most cases it’s nothing more than a novelty to help sell films. But once the technology was introduced on a more mainstream scale that novelty soon wore thin and people actually began expecting quality, and something to improve the experience of a film. Few films have truly triumphed in the 3D field and 009 RE:CYBORG is an addition to that list.
Overall, the subtle details and visuals were beautiful to watch, a real visual treat. However, it fell somewhat short story wise. It was almost as if it began the leap, diving into a vast ocean with great potential, and only made it halfway to its destination. It was difficult warming to the characters, leaving few feelings for what happened to them, which was one of the major pitfalls. There isn’t a huge amount of back-story for those whose first experience of the franchise is via this film. So perhaps it is one for those who feel rather nostalgic about this already existing franchise.
It was getting to a point where the excitement was building up, then it just ended, leaving a ‘is-that-it?’ feeling, as well as a little confusion as to what actually happened at the end.