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Broken Saints
voice cast: William B. Davies, Kirby Morrow, and Michael Dobson

creator: Brooke Burgess

2001 Budget Monks DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by John Percival
In four corners of the globe, four strangers each representing one of the four elements, receive a message. They must come together to beat an approaching darkness and learn that love is often the greatest sacrifice.

Broken Saints is a 24-part online graphic novel presented in 'flash' animation. Released onto the Internet an episode at a time, this tale of mysticism and corporations garnered quite a following with the heated discussions on its associated message-boards. The web-episodes have now been transferred onto DVD and given a vocal narration for the benefit of a wider audience.

The story follows four people, Kamimura a sage from Japan, banished from his Shinto temple he is drawn to the west by visions of a shattered world. Raimi is the embodiment of our time, a computer technician weighed down by corporate drudgery. One day he discovers a message and a vision of the future buried within the binary lines of program code. Oran is a freedom fighter in the desert. He seeks refuge in the text of his belief but is haunted by the souls of people killed for politics and religion. Shandala is a mysterious girl raised on an island paradise who realises her destiny when her tranquil home is threatened by the oncoming darkness.

This web-noir is certainly an interesting idea, the graphic novel presentation is carried through out with frames containing static artwork with some elements moving images to simulate action. The words appear as comicbook text. For the DVD release the artwork has been upgraded and the vocal talents of some known actors have been added. Presumably this is to enhance the experience but really it only serves to make up for the lack of interaction with the website and with other audience members through message-boards and guest-books. Whilst the story for the most part is interesting, it is deathly long and the lack of visual action makes an 18-minute episode feel like an hour. At the end of the eight episodes (125 minutes, episodes vary from 10 minutes to 20 minutes) on the review disc, I was only barely familiar with the characters and had no clear idea of what was going on. The text is strips ripped from eastern mysticism; Matrix-style cyberpunk and poetry presented as some sort of postmodern Shakespeare. The vocal 'narration' adds only a thick layer of pretentiousness. It's just words being read and there is no real emotion or connection between voice and character.

Whilst, to me, too much has been lost in the translation, there are some positives. The upgraded artwork is definitely superior to the online version giving a less pseudo Japanese anime feel. The DVD itself is constructed with interesting menus and animations to maintain the dark feel of the story. The story is interesting on the surface but it requires a lot of investment from the viewer to get through. Maybe it is deep enough for the questions it wants to ask or just simply too ambiguous for a reasonable interpretation I do not know. For me it was ultimately unrewarding, the package just asks for more than it gives.
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