Monday, January 30, 2006

5000 PSI Is A Whole Lotta Lovin'.

Steamboy
2004, Japan
Katsuhiro Otomo
DVD

The best part about Japanime is that no matter how sweet the story, how full of childish wonder the film appears to be, there’s always a fifty/fifty chance of someone getting raped by a tentacle before the end credits roll. It’s that threat of the unexpected, of flirting with danger, that keeps me coming back to the genre time and time again, despite never being able to understand what’s going on. Unlike my Underworld Evolution experience, I lay the blame for this disconnect between my brain and the story squarely on the filmmakers, and more generally with the entire Japanese culture. Their society is unique, independent of Western value judgements, and of course totally insane, if my collection of La Blue Girl DVDs is anything to judge by, and I don’t see why it wouldn’t be. If that’s the face they want to present to the world, then I’m more than willing to accept it. However, the bizarre story-telling style evident in many Japanime films is difficult for many North Americans to grasp. In order to fully capitalize on cultural export to the Americas, The Japanese need to realize that Western audiences prefer stories told in a linear fashion, with a beginning, middle, and end, not a long middle, a giant robot, three talking Pokemon blobs and a girl in panties giggling. Well, maybe we like the girl in the panties, but a story served along side the nascent pedophilia wouldn’t hurt.

This can only end in tragedy.

Steamboy is one of those anime films which fully realizes that no adult with cognitive brain function will be able to understand a run-of-the mill anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion. So, filmmakers like Spirited Away’s Hayao Miyazaki and Steamboy’s Katsuhiro Otomo, director of seminal Japanime cartoon Akira, try to appeal to children, whose synapses have yet to solidify into pathways that require more than flashing lights and shrill female characters to be amused. Set in an Alan Moore-ish Victorian England, Steamboy follows a young boy, the latest in a line of genius inventors, conveniently all named Dr. Steam. The child is caught in a struggle between his grandfather and his father over the control of a vast steam castle and some nonsense called a “steam ball”. Eventually, the film devolves into an endless progression of those Star Trek moments when all seems lost and then Geordie Laforge or Scotty spurts a load of gibberish and the day is saved, except instead of taking 45 minutes plus commercials this lasts over two hours. But despite that, the film is a sweet and inventive story set against humanist and anti-industrialist philosophy, coupled with an innocent sense of wonder and the perpetually threat of steam-powered robots ramping up their cylinders and pistons to cluster-fuck a schoolgirl. And despite the fact that they never do, I found plenty to enjoy.

11 Comments:

Anonymous Muttley said...

I watched Steamboy last year, and I liked the setting and the animation, but I was less than impressed from the simple plot.

Last Sunday I watched "The Great Yokai War" by Takashi Miike. It's a director you should follow closely. The movie had a very imaginative anime quality. It was a fantasy story, not unlike "Labyrinth", with lots of Japanese ghosts, and hot japanese chicks instead of Jennifer Connelly.

Alas, no bukkake,

2:35 PM  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

I hate Takeshi Miike with a vengeance usually reserved for prop comedians and sitcoms.

And anything without Bukkake is a disappointment to me. Once you go women-drenched-in-buckets-of-sperm, you never go back. Sadly.

7:44 PM  
Anonymous Muttley said...

Any particular reason?

2:27 PM  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

Mainly I don't like his movies. I'm a huge fan of horror films, and a defender of the subtext and artistic integrity apparent in films that are often dismissed as mere exploitation fare. But Miike's films, to me, mean nothing. He makes like 10 a year, and therefore I CANNOT be convinced that he's doing anything other than running around with a video camera shooting people having cruel things done to them.

4:22 PM  
Anonymous Muttley said...

I understand. But the movies of Miike I saw were non-horror (a fantasy saga, a lynchian drama, a dark-humour musical, a mafia movie and Ichi the Killer), so this explains our complementary point of views.

Maybe I will downl... ehm, rent Audition, to try the horror genre.

6:03 PM  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

Well, it's not strictly his horror stuff. For example, I thought Ichi The Killer was a horrible movie, cruel and totally pointless, and I've seen nothing to change my opinion of Miike's work. And again, I'm not one to easily call things pointless. Even Hostel, for all its faults, was trying to say something about voyeurism that was at least passably interesting, but Miike? I don't buy it.

However, that said, I recognize that I am pretty much alone on this, judging from Miike's reputation and ongoing acclaim. Incidentally, Audition is far and away his best film, so I'm sure you'll like it if you like his other stuff. Visitor Q is also among the better ones, so try that one out as well.

Thanks for the link, by the way. I'll reciprocate shortly.

11:08 PM  
Blogger Sam Kahn said...

I liked Steamboy a lot, even though most people I know were unimpressed. Sure, the narrative wasn't great, but I thought the visuals actually made up for it.

It's definitely no Akira, though...

11:31 AM  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

I think I liked it, too. Did it come off like I didn't?

By the way, even Akira is no Akira. The legend of that movie far outweighs the movie itself.

12:14 PM  
Blogger Sam Kahn said...

I thought Akira was mindblowing, but the manga was to a much greater degree. The film only covers like a third of epic.

8:49 PM  
Anonymous the sneering (homo-phobic) leering bastard said...

why couldn`t the film have been called "STEAMGIRL" then at some point in the film she could`ve been buggered.

11:48 AM  
Anonymous ash karreau said...

yeah, i know what you mean.

2:36 PM  

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