Sin: The Movie

Invariably, sometimes one has to ask the question, "Just what is anime, anyway?" Is it something completely created by Japanese artists, writers, and animators...or can other Asian cultures contribute (as they invariably do right now in the inbetweening work)? Can a German or an Australian write it? Can it be based on a non-Japanese property? Can an American company wanting to expand their product base pay for it? These are questions that each viewer must ask when deciding what they consider to be "real" anime.

Sin: The Movie is based on a middling American-created videogame of the same name released by Ritual Entertainment. It was paid for by ADV Films, and they helped collaborate in a variety of ways on the 50-minute feature. It's a bizarre piece of work where the Japanese and US scripts are strikingly different. Although it's not exactly the first of a kind, in 2000 it was the first film completely funded by an American anime distributor, which makes it unique and worthy of note. It could have very well started making the distinctions between American and Japanese productions irrelevant. Unfortunately, Sin is a rote exercise in cliché and bad form, very much what you would expect from a professional hack trying to copy the "anime style". With a Frankenstein mix of CGI and cel animation, bad writing, and Japanese subtitles too funny to read aloud, Sin: The Movie is almost laughably bad.

Colonel John Blade leads HARDCORPS, a strike force that takes care of difficult military issues in the city of Freeport. However, his family has been in cahoots with the Mafia for years. Though his father tried to break the ties and helped get several mobsters imprisoned, the cost was his own life. John has worked to free himself of those burdens and harbors a huge grudge against those kingpins still in charge. One of them is the boyfriend of SinTek's mad genius, Elexis Sinclaire. Driven mad by her parents' deaths after her father discovered the secrets to evolution and DNA manipulation, she plans to create a new ultimate lifeform with her father's breakthrough. However, that lifeform could easily spell death for every other creature on the planet. John Blade will find himself and his crew the only barrier stopping Elexis from her insane plans.

Frankly, this show is a joke. The plotline is atrocious, filled with every possible anime cliché, ranging from familial revenge to superhuman monster baddies with tentacles. There is not a single original idea on display here. If that weren't enough, ADV Films uses the fact that there are two scripts as a selling point. The press release states, "The DVD will contain 2 completely different subtitle scripts for the same animation. It will be like watching two movies in one..." It was bad enough watching one script; I certainly can't imagine watching this dreck twice.

If the animation were good, it might be worth the effort to check out both versions. But that's screwed up, too. Not since Golgo 13 has computer animation looked more out of place in a Japanese animated feature. Although the traditional cels look good (though the animation itself is a mixed bag), the CGI looks like something my Pentium 733MHz could render. Placed side-by-side with the handpainted work, it looks downright stupid. Vaguely passable CGI and cel mixing like that found in Blue Submarine No. 6 or Harlock Saga appears brilliant in comparison.

I shouldn't be surprised by Sin's lack of finesse or grace, looking at the names that put it together. ADV Films built a sizable anime distribution empire based on releasing a lot of questionable second and third tier titles up front, then using the money made to buy the rights to better programming. Unfortunately, Sin has more in common with old ADV embarrassments like Tekken than with respectable titles like Neon Genesis Evangelion. But then again, looking at the production and directorial choices, there should be no bombshells. Yasunori Urata directed parts of Princess Nine and Giant Robo, to his credit, but he was also responsible for the vile putrescence of Ninja Resurrection. Yasuhito Yamaki produced Princess Nine and Giant Robo, too, but he made his name as executive producer on the legendary tentacle porn series Legend of the Overfiend. Though Sin does not have the grotesque violence or sexuality of those two titles, the general repugnance comes through.

I cannot, however, say that Sin: The Movie is a complete loss for only one reason: its soundtrack. Masamichi Amano has created a moving score worthy of far better a feature. It redeems several otherwise worthless scenes in the movie. It gives direction when the show flails around. I would be surprised if his talent isn't recognized shortly and we see more excellent work from him.

Final verdict: search out a copy of the CD soundtrack to the film instead of buying Sin: The Movie. The hype machine has worked overtime on this title, but it's yet another in a long line of very bad videogame-to-anime junk.

Sin: The Movie -- violence, brief sensuality, profanity -- D