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The Unvexatious "Vexille"

Science fiction movies that take place in the future have a certain charm to them. More often than not, civilization as we know it is advancing in some ways and declining in others. Advances in technology can either help or hinder us as a species. So there are a lot of questions that can be raised. For instance, wouldn’t it be cool if technology were so advanced that men could become androids while still looking completely human? Well, according to Vexille, apparently not. This animated feature, recently released by FUNimation, paints a world where combining human biology and technology is not only frighteningly dangerous, it’s also illegal.

The opening narration of Vexille establishes that its setting as about fifty years into the future. Robotics are widely used, but Japan has taken their technology a step further by developing bio-technology and creating androids from human beings. The United Nations are appalled and put a ban on this practice. Rather than give up their scientific pursuit, Japan withdraws from the UN and seals itself off from the rest of the world, going so far as to cloak the entire country from any kind of surveillance equipment.

The movie begins ten years later. Although the powerful Japanese company DAIWA supplies the world with all its robotics, no one knows what’s been going on inside Japan. An ill-fated meeting between representatives from across the world and DAIWA makes it apparent that Japan has stayed in secrecy long enough.

The heroes are a group called S.W.O.R.D, a military organization that uses robotic armor and advanced weaponry to keep the peace. The titular character, Vexille, is a S.W.O.R.D. operative, who shows the audience this futuristic landscape through her eyes. First by establishing what the United States is like in 2077 (reliant on robots branded with the DAIWA logo) and then later on, by showing us what Japan really looks like. After S.W.O.R.D. gets concrete evidence of the illegal bio-technology coming out of Japan, they are assigned the task of piercing the country’s mysterious veil and shutting down their unethical practices.

While Vexille and her allies with S.W.O.R.D. make up the good guys and DAIWA the bad guys, a third group in the conflict is revealed towards the end of the movie. Although not many characters get development, there are a couple stand outs. I wish I could say that about the DAIWA group. Using a powerful corporation as the enemy reeks too much of the simple “mwahahaha” type of one-dimensional villain. There is a little bit of a twist to the schemes of DAIWA that’s ultimately revealed, but as antagonists, they’re best viewed as a force of nature trying to manipulate humanity in a certain direction.

Vexille‘s animation style is very close to being life-like, particularly with the character designs. This works well for some of the more sickening scenes that depict how the blending of human biology and technology actually works. There are moments that look so realistic, it’s wince inducing. Character emotions are also portrayed well through the animation. The fight scenes are a lot of fun to watch. The designs of the robots and battle suits are creative and make for some great action sequences. There are a few scenes in the beginning that are too dark to showcase the designs, but they really go all out for the last few battles.

The movie clocks in at a little over a hundred minutes and is paced pretty well. There’s an action scene right before the opening credits, and a few more weave in and out of the story as the plot progresses. Even the dialogue-heavy scenes keep the suspense going. The mystery of just what happened to Japan after it shut itself off from the world keeps the viewer wondering what state the country is in, and the revelation doesn’t disappoint one bit. The music is a bit of a mixed bag. It enhances the action in some scenes, but becomes distracting in others.

The idea of a future world where man is pitted against machine has been done so many times it’s long become considered a cliché. Fortunately, Vexille sidesteps the cliché by putting a human face on both sides of the conflict. The movie is more geared towards the question of what happens when man merges with machine and what it means to be human. This theme is largely absent during the beginning of the movie, but by the end, it’s clear that the conflict is a struggle to retain humanity, something that becomes a precious commodity in a future where it’s possible to program a living person.

Vexille has many things going for it. It’s got a strong animated style accompanied by a solid plot. The characters’ expressions are rendered nicely, and the voice actors do solid work. Some viewers may find it treading familiar ground, but the unique visual effects and mystery at the center of the story are enough to hold the attention of any anime or sci-fi action fan.

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