VOICES OF: Koji Moritsugu, Yayoi Maki , Keiko Hanagata , Kumiko Takizawa, Aya Murata

1987, 91 Minutes, Directed by: Atsuko Fukushima, Hiroyuki Kitakubo,
et al.

I really, really hated this movie. It is not often that I respond with such visceral hatred towards a movie - after all, I do review science fiction movies, a genre not particularly noted for its quality fare (to put it mildly). But I hated Robot Carnival, a late 1980s Japanese animated feature length movie that consists of nine short pieces made by different animators and creative crews - a bit like the original Heavy Metal movie.

All of the short episodic pieces are supposed to feature robots of some sort. That the end results would be mixed is a given, but that all the episodes would be so dismally poor especially considering that Katsuhiro Otomo (of Akira fame) was involved, is a surprise. The premise might seem promising, but one is instead battered by almost every visual and plot cliché that the anime genre is known for.

At the risk of being tagged an uber-geek I often defend anime movies. The genre is a welcome change from cultural colonization by the Mouse House (Disney). After all, animation can be more than cute animal sidekicks and songs as the likes of Ghost in the Shell, Metropolis (2001) and Princess Mononoke have illustrated. But whatever goodwill towards some cultural diversity engendered by these efforts was practically eradicated by Robot Carnival - half an hour into the movie I was wishing that I was rather watching Lilo & Stitch again . . . or even straight-to-video Disney crud like Cinderella II! Anything damn it!

Maybe Robot Carnival is an illustration of those "cultural differences" that skeptics claim make anime such an unappetizing prospect to Westerners such as myself. That it has the worst subtitling I have ever encountered in a movie doesn't help either. The only interesting segment about a lonely inventor who creates a female robot companion and then kills her is made almost incomprehensible by a translator to whom English must be a third or forth language. This is a lot worse than those instructions one gets with electrical appliances made in Hong Kong!

The Japanese seem to have been translated directly word by word, making no effort to restructure the words into grammatical sentences. Instead the viewer is left with Zen bon mots of which the phrase "rider in white horse" is the least inane example. Even some of the English spoken dialogue was given inadequate subtitles! No - I don't know how they managed that one! After a while one is thankful for the sequences that feature no dialogue whatsoever . . .

Robot Carnival is dull, long-winded and incomprehensible at times. The soundtrack music, which consists of synth-type Muzak keyboards, will make your ears bleed and you'll want to tear your hair out in frustration. I soon found myself wishing the movie to move on to more interesting sequences, but when there weren't any, I hoped for the movie to be over. "Cultural differences"? I don't know - I am sure that boredom and pain is universal . . .



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