Okay, time to nitpick about a recent animated movie . . .

. . . and boy, have I got one massive nit to pick.

Before that, let me say it out straight: GREAT movie. I mean . . . mm, I’d love to make use of a well-known phrase involving a pair of human appendages posed vertically in such a way as to indicate approval, but I hear it’s been copyrighted and I’m in no mood to go to court. Anyway, good stuff.

Now here comes the nit. Let me get the shotgun ready.

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I mean, come on: San Fransokyo? Really?

On the surface, an interesting premise, and one can clearly see that they’ve done their homework. The signs actually have real, readable Japanese on them (not meaningless strings of random characters). And I do quite love what they’ve done with the facade of the police station in that scene where the lead character reports an incident to the authorities. Reminds me of the old prewar brick buildings in the heart of the Japanese capital, with their subtle blend of local and imported aesthetics.

And then the streetcar comes rumbling in. With little paper lanterns hanging from its roof.

And the bridge, recognisably a fictional doppelganger of a certain real-world structure, but with grotesquely overdone faux-eastern accents that make it look like something out of a dim sum commercial.

And the name. Oh, that horrible name. I won’t say more about it, lest I type something unprintable and find myself darned to heck for all eternity.

It’s just . . . mm, I lack the intellectual depth and vocabulary of a professional critic so I don’t quite know how to put it, but it simply didn’t work. It takes a lot more than pulling out a San Francisco street scene and sprinkling it with tiled roofs and sakura in full bloom to create something resembling a smooth blend of East and West. It didn’t look like a place that organically developed as a harmonious product of two different cultures. It was more like a patchwork metropolis assembled from the atom-bombed remnants of the two great cities that inspired its creation.

As I wrote earlier, they tried. The effort showed. Sadly, it didn’t mesh well.

It would have been better if they’d set it in Tōkyō. Or San Francisco. Either one would have worked. Instead, they decided to stitch together some kind of Frankencity that paid homage to neither.

**********

Okay, nitpicking done. All that aside, it WAS a good film. One of the better ones I’ve seen of late, whether live-action or animated – and I’ve seen some outstanding flicks.

But San Fransokyo? I’ll be having nightmares about this for weeks.

(And to avoid any ambiguity, I was referring to this movie. Cheerio.)

4 Responses

  1. Critics are useless – you don’t need their vocabulary!

    Saying that it does not work…. works!

    “a smooth blend of East and West.”

    Is it even possible?

    The trailer seemed fun. Perhaps, I’ll watch it at some point. Thank you for mentioning it.

    • Oh it was definitely fun – I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece but I thought it was money well spent. Kind of a layered work in some respects (especially in the themes and issues raised throughout the film), which makes it something more than cheap kiddie entertainment.

      Give it a go!

  2. I had no problem with the blending of Tokyo/San Fransisco. To me, other than the fact that “it’s a city,” the setting of the film had little bearing on anything else, so I didn’t pay much attention to it. I would rather focus on the characters and story😉

    Overall, I thought Big Hero 6 was a good movie, too. I wouldn’t say it’s one of Disney’s masterpieces that I’d want to see again and again (like Frozen), but it was still enjoyable.

    • I’m glad to hear that it didn’t get in the way of your enjoyment. Unfortunately, you’re talking to a lad who tends to get obsessed over the tiniest details – so yes, irrational though it may sound, it was a very big deal for me. 🙂

      The setting counts for a lot in my enjoyment of a film, or a book, or anything of that kind. A good story, on its own, will fail to amuse me if the background isn’t as well-developed. Conversely, a splendidly crafted background will fall flat if they layer a terribly written plot on top of it. I’m the sort of chap who will drop an anime series if it’s badly written, even if the production values are amazing . . . but I’ll also stop watching a series if I don’t like how the characters look or the backdrops are poorly drawn, even if you have a Nobel Prize-worthy script. Of course, I respect those who value story and character development more – I guess we run best on different types of fuel, that’s all.

      Probably also comes down to my being a purist. If it was set entirely in Japan, great! Set entirely in the US, fine by me! Set in a completely fictional world created by the writers (Tolkien-style), a-ok!

      Set in a hybrid urban agglomeration that belongs neither to one nor the other, with one foot in reality and one in some kind of strange, nebulous sci-fi haze . . . does not compute.

      Yeah, I have a strange little head sitting on top of my neck. Drives me nuts sometimes . . . but it’s the only head I’ve got and I’m sticking with it. 😉

      In any case, I suppose it’s a measure of how good this film is (overall, that is), that I won’t hesitate to give it five stars out of five despite the disastrous choices they’ve made over the setting. (The name, oh, the horrible name…!)

      Cheers.

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