Monday, July 22, 2013

Movie Review: Fuse: Memoirs of a Huntress

I'm a bit confused by this film, one of the people on my twitter feed a few months back noted that it was streaming on hulu and I recently remembered that and went to watch it. Couldn't find any information about the creators on hulu for some reason, checked ANN and still not much information on it. If I'm reading this correctly, TMS Entertainment is the studio that made the film (which is odd since I feel like I normally see them attached to projects as a committee member or such, the actual studio within them is called Tokyo Movie anyway) and I can't find any US licensor listed with it and I can't think of the last time I saw a Japanese studio stream a full movie on a US site without it being licensed. Heck, while anime bloggers might not cover every film out there this one came out within the past 12 months and I don't recall seeing anyone talking about it, very very odd. In any case, wikipedia is also telling me that this movie was based on a book (which apparently was by the same novelist who wrote the Gosick series, had no idea that the author was a lady) which in turn was based on the Hakkenden which plays a rather large role in the movie but that's where the movie gets a bit, odd.

Fuse: Memoirs a Huntress (Fuse Teppō Musume no Torimonochō)

Summary: Hamaji was raised as a hunter by her grandfather and has continued to live that life in the mountains after his death. A bit lonely she jumps at the chance when her brother invites her to come and live with him in Edo and ends up being drawn into the hunt for half human half wolf (fuse, pronounced, fu-seh) creatures while trying to figure out what she should do next with her life.

The Good: No matter how many times I come across the setting I love seeing stories set in old-world Edo, there's just something cool about it. And on an amusing note I think I'm starting to recognize some of the locations, this movie had a climatic fight scene at what I believe was the same place that Katanagatari had it's final fight which rather amused me. In any case, it was interesting to come across the Hakkenden again but I do wonder if there is a straight adaption of it anywhere, I feel odd seeing adaptations before I see the real thing.

The Bad: There were several moments in the film where a character says something passionately and I thought "Oh, that's supposed to actually make me feel something but it just, doesn't" which was my main feeling about the film by the end. In some ways it feels under-developed, I'm not sure exactly what kind of character arc Hajami was supposed to have (accepting her feminity maybe? Except A that's a terrible arc because stereotypical gender roles and B It's not like she had any problems with that to start with) but I don't really think it was there. The pacing also felt a bit odd, this movie just took a while to get where it was going plot-wise and if it had spent that time developing characters and relationships or just showing off some really pretty art I would have been okay with that and said it just had a slow moving atmosphere or such. Yet here it felt like the story simply didn't know what to do with itself or that they were really having to stretch the source material to make it movie length. And finally, the Hakkenden; I'm familiar with the premise of it so once the movie started I went "ah, this is another interpretation of it, gotcha" and then it got, odd. Since this isn't a spoiler, we do in fact have 8 fuse siblings like the characters in the original story running down and being hunted in Edo but we also have a man who is writing the Hakkenden AND a play that is adapting the story for their play, yet it's implied that the play isn't exactly like the books (and that they aren't the first to do it). They never explicitly state what the backstory for the fuse are but I thought I was supposed to take the play as what really happened and now I'm even more confused, how did the author either create the exact same story or know of it?! In the end this is only a detail to the story, it doesn't alter the plot or the characters yet it's so odd that it just bothers me and I wonder if something important was lost in the adaptation (of this book to this movie, and this book was supposed to be an adaptation of the Hakkenden, ladies and gentlemen I believe we have achieved inception at this point).

The Production Values: I feel spoiled, after seeing so many lovely looking films in the past year this one just looked flat. Literally, everything felt oh so slightly minimalist and while I wouldn't confuse the movie for a tv show for a minute (the color palettes are too different, I rarely see anything using such subdued, almost pastel colors on tv) it was awkward when the movie would have a slow, loving pan across a landscape and all I could think was "eh, seen prettier". None of the action really stood out to me either but after thinking about it I realized that the movie doesn't actually have that many action scenes in it which is why. Still, in the end the art style just wasn't for me although I'm sure that some people will enjoy it quite a bit, the voice acting seemed pretty good throughout as did the music so it's certainly well produced, just not as "artsy" as I would have liked at times.

In the end I was disappointed with this film doing, well, really nothing by the end (a few things have changed situation wise but the character with arguably the most development is a side one) so I'm giving it just 2.5 out of 5 stars. If you want to see it and you're in the US then head on over to hulu and NISA has licensed it as well.