5000 PSI Is A Whole Lotta Lovin'.
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.
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.