I had heard that Firefly might have been based on an anime series called Cowboy Bebop. So being a fan I rented it. And as I noted elsewhere, I tend to agree that Whedon borrowed many thematic and visual elements from Cowboy Bebop. This being the case I was intrigued by the idea that I might be missing a whole undiscovered land of creative stuff. I decided to try something else that was recommended by people who had liked Cowboy Bebop. I rented Ghost in the Shell 2.0.
I’ll put down my impressions and explain my preferences. First off, the beginning of the story is an introduction to the protagonist. She is a woman who for obvious reasons is mostly topless. This while she is jumping off buildings and murdering bad guys with her bare hands. She’s a cyborg who works for a government agency (I think). After this intro, there is an about 10-minute sequence of very intricate graphics of the heroine being assembled from molecular components all the way up to her synthetic skin being applied. So basically 10 minutes of naked girl.
After that we go through the plot and meet her co-workers who are also mostly cyborgs and follow them as they track down bad people and fight them with guns and cyborg fists. There are all kinds of factions inside and outside the government agencies that are involved in the story line and I’m not really sure who I was supposed to be rooting for. By the end of the movie all the main characters have been smashed and or dismembered pretty thoroughly but since they can be sent back to the factory for demand and periodic maintenance I guess it’s all in a day’s work for your friendly neighborhood cyborg spy.
I guess I haven’t been subtle enough to leave you guessing which way my thumb is pointing. This was not a winner. Pretty girl with no clothes on is not a bad thing. But to what purpose? The graphics are well done and the action is occasionally interesting. But I didn’t care about the characters or the plot at all. I think it was the flatness of the characters and the lack of humor. This is in contrast to Cowboy Bebop which includes lots of humor. Granted some of it is silly and not all of it seems relevant to the story line sometimes, but a certain style builds up which on the whole works pretty well. And the characters have some personality. You find yourself sorting out your favorites and enjoying the silly interactions that the crew go through together. Sometimes it’s closer to Gilligan’s Island than The Odyssey but it has charm.
I will read some more reviews and see if any other anime movies sound like fun. But so far it looks like Cowboy Bebop has no cousins I want to meet. If anyone has any suggestions please leave them in the comments and I’ll give it a shot. But for now the jury is still out.