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Blue Remains
voice cast: Kazue Fukiishi, Takehitu Koyasu, Masane Tsukayame, and Riko Matsumoto

directors: Toshifumi Takizawa, Hisaya Takabayashi

77 minutes (PG) 2000 widescreen ratio 16:9
Eastern Cult Cinema DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Richard Bowden
Amamiku (Kazue Fukiishi) is the young daughter of two environmental scientists with a mission to rejuvenate a nuclear war-ravaged Earth. As they arrive from space however, a new conflict is in progress and, when her parents are fatally affected by contamination, Amamiku is placed in suspended animation under the sea for decades - until awoken by her ship's supercomputer, to take up the task of finally seeding the planet. She is discovered and helped in her projected 'terra homing' by some human survivors, a mechanised dolphin called Kail and three good super-mutants. At the same time the evil super mutant Glytofane Sex (Masane Tsukayame), obsessed with ridding the Earth of humans once and for all for the benefit of "pure will and pure soul," unleashes his killer aquatic robots, the Gadoms...
   Blue Remains is a juvenile CGI science fantasy made in 1999 for the approximate equivalent of the 'Okinawan Tourist Board'. It apparently was shown once and then, until this resurfacing on DVD, sank without trace. This is peculiarly apt, as for not only has Blue Remains (in the words of the disc's commentary) already become a "strange curio," but most of its narrative takes place underwater, and carefully placed in the Okinawa area at that. One reason for this submersed setting was undoubtedly to fit into the tourist board's brief to the makers - to show scenes most relevant for promoting a seaside resort. As it happens this is a happy choice as, for technical reasons, it is much easier to computer-animate figures and movement underwater, where sharp edges are blurred and slow movement is commonplace. Unfortunately, even with this helping hand, CGI techniques have moved on apace since Blue Remains was completed, and for those adults familiar with Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) a lot of Blue Remains will seem a little clunky, especially in the depiction of the human. Out of the water, people here tend to move a little clumsily, facial expressions are wooden, reactions lethargic. Neither is the film helped by a script sometimes at odds with logic, and which spends too little time setting up any real tension or dramatic dynamic on the way to its phantasmagorical conclusion.
   On the plus side, Blue Remains does a reasonably good job of depicting an aquatic environment, although sea life remains resolutely limited to a single dolphin and small fish. Watching the film, one is reminded of the tremendous impact that Cameron's The Abyss (1989) and then Titanic (1997) made in Japan. There are also one or two specific lifts from The Matrix (1999), while the underwater battle sequence, which takes up almost 10 percent of the film's 75-minute running time, is well staged. With its strong environmental message and youthful female protagonist, Blue Remains is a fair snapshot of what second rank animation was up to at the time.
   Interestingly, the most memorable characters in the film are those of the mutants, notably the monomaniacal villain Glyptofane Sex. He and the others are shown as disembodied brains, eyes on stalks, suggestive of The Brain From Planet Arous (1957) or Fiend Without A Face (1958). This conscious or not resemblance gives a frisson of recognition for genre fans that's less hand-me-down than some of the other plot elements, such as tentacled villains and the appearance of a 'tree of life'. A lot of the film is taken up with issues of generation, environment, and the succession of the human species. The three good mutants, Adenine Unum, Mymine Duu and Cytosine Tria have names taken from the combinative structure of DNA - a theme continued at the plot's climax at Sinerik Sanctuary, where a transformed Glyptofane is confronted around a structure which resembling a double helix. The final scenes of the film include some of the best animation - although, as the commentary (by the excellent Jonathan Clements, co-writer of the Anime Encyclopedia) points out, its symbolic climax arguably reveals the maker's game design sensibility, rather than the dramatic movement required for film narrative.
   Clearly aimed at younger viewers, this is the sort of film that cries out for an English language dub, unfortunately not offered by the otherwise excellent DVD edition. The disc also offers trailers and subtitle options.
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