Watch Out Bad Movie: loups=garous

Good Lord, this movie is stupid.

I’ve built up a fair amount of immunity to the specific styles of lazy writing and recycling of stock material which Japanese animation relies on, but I’ve still got some standards. You can construct a plot entirely from off-the-shelf parts if you’d like, as long as you make it entertaining to watch and remember to include a coherent structure to lash all your hackneyed junk to. And if you’ve got a sense of pacing or mood you can add in to make this stuff go down easier, all the better. You’ll never guess, as Colony Drop is nothing if not optimistic, but Loups=Garous lacks all of this.


About thirty years from now, Japan’s existing society is replaced with the ominous-sounding “System,” an institution which provides all the goods and services one could need, such as a near infinite supply of healthy and environmentally-friendly artificial foodstuffs, and which tightly controls the lives of the populace with the aid of 24/7 video surveillance and a general discouragement of public life. People mostly interact through the Internet, using smartphones that spy on them (a far-fetched idea!) to carry on their lives as much as possible without ever leaving the house. No one goes out on the town at night except for the odd creepy loner, and all of our teenaged protagonists live on their own in homes of varying shape and size with absolutely no adult supervision or even influence, aside from the guidance counselor at their local Community Center (schools apparently exist entirely online now).

What all this means, in practice, is if our heroines want to sneak around at night, they have to first hack the System so they won’t show up on the cameras, then time their trips down the barren streets so they aren’t spotted by the odd manned patrol. It’s an excuse to depict an desolate urban environment as menacing and horrific without falling back on the usual method of setting it in the post-apocalypse or something to get rid of all the people. It’s only been thirty years or so since the “barbarism” of the old society was replaced by the System, so either there are multiple generations of people out there who lived before the great societal shift who just rolled with it and have fully integrated, or there were a couple of violent purges that didn’t make it into the exposition. (I kinda like the latter theory, personally.) The only people over the age of 16 we ever see in the film look like they’re probably the ripe old age of 32 (an epidemic in Japanese cartoons) and they’re in either in positions of authority in the new society, with little to no reason to question its rules, or they’re the thugs we see in a single scene who are knocked out in about ten seconds flat.

So what is this film about, then? Serial murder! It’s not really a murder “mystery,” because you can probably already guess that the perfect society isn’t, and we know just about everything that’s going on barring the final (and similarly cliched and awful) twist regarding the villain’s motive by halfway through the film. Our heroines, a handful of stock teenage girl types with maybe a personality and a half between the four of them, discover that one of their System-assigned IRL-friends has gone missing. The outgoing, bubbly hacker girl Tsuzuki has been peering into law-enforcement databases, and she’s discovered that Plot Device-chan’s disappearance fits into a pattern of killings, where girls who like to post art on DeviantArt become involuntary organ donors. So she enlists the help of our meek narrator, Makino, and sullen, stone-faced Kono to track Plot Device-chan down, because it wouldn’t be much of a movie if the meddling kids didn’t start meddling, now would it?

Splitting screen times with our heroines are the girls’ counselor, who is the only trusted authority figure these girls ever interact with, and her old friend the police detective, who seems to be there mostly to dump exposition for the viewers when Tsuzuki needs a break. Coincidentally, Ms. Counselor is following in the footsteps of her mother, who apparently committed suicide along with one of her pupils under mysterious circumstances several years back. Even more coincidentally, Mr. Detective seems to have been involved with the investigation of that case. No points for figuring out where this goes.


Thus starts a series of confused subplots which all seem to revolve around a number of unconnected groups trying to abduct and/or kill Plot Device-chan. We pick up another major character, Myao, a slightly older gal who wears the stock “Chinese dress,” punches through security robots using her tonfa and lives outside the loving arms of the new Society as an “unregistered individual,” when the girls walk in on her beating the crap out of some thugs who intended to sell her, Plot Device-chan, and a number of other illegals into slavery. Well, there’s a plot hook, isn’t it? Maybe we’ll get to see a bit about how the underclass lives, and it’s not hard to imagine the hooks a sinister and controlling government might have in the underworld. But no, none of this is ever mentioned again; since Myao’s home was already compromised by the kidnapping ring before we ever saw her on the screen, they have no reason to go back there.

Following a few other false starts, including a “psychotic cartoon fan” angle, our heroines figure out that, shock of shocks, the government is behind the kidnapping and murder of the kids! And they’re doing the most dastardly thing imaginable, and digitally altering the evidence in the databanks! Of course, there’s nothing left to do but to get all the surviving players in one place: the headquarters of the System’s security patrol.

You know that scene where the heroes are cornered, facing certain death against impossible odds, and the villain stops for just an instant to savor the look of anger/horror on their faces… but suddenly, a voice cries out, and our heroes look up with excitement to see that their friend is here to save the day? Yeah, Loups=Garous does that about every five minutes in the second half. Characters will walk out of the scene just so that they can come back in the next one to do it again! After the third time or so, one starts wishing that the heroines would just walk into the next room and not fight anyone, just to freshen it up.

And so our heroes advance up the tower, stabbing and slashing the opposition as they go, until they find the central computer of the system responsible for overseeing and controlling their world! Tsuzuki immediately hacks it to delete the evil AI responsible for most of the evil and cover-ups of the film, while the rest of our heroines break random electronics in a massively tone-deaf montage set to energetic J-pop, all of which is sandwiched between fountains of blood and Serious Grim Revelations. Cut to shots of the city as security robots pour into the street and malfuction, as the lights in all the skyscrapers bounce up and down to the beat of the music like the visualizer in an MP3 player! The whole sequence is absolutely fantastic, and if I had to pick one scene to represent how stupid this movie is, this is totally it. Then, as the music fades out and our heroines walk triumphantly down the hall, Myao actually stops to ask Tsuzuki what they just did. I guess she was just breaking shit for the fun of it!


There’s a brilliant shot in the midst of the musical destruction: one of the many kidnapped children inexplicably stored alive and conscious in a room inside the facility, walls covered with monitors tuned to the Important Plot Developements channel. She looks directly at the camera and explains that “Somebody is trying to destroy the rules of this world. Probably a wolf.” I know from reading Brian Ruh’s review of the original novel on Anime News Network that there’s something going on here regarding metaphorical “wolves” and “lambs,” but very little of that made it into this film in a form that makes any sense if you haven’t read the book. The line’s a total non-sequiter here.

The book’s been translated into English by Viz’s Haikasoru SF/Fantasy label, but I think you’ll forgive me if I’m not jumping at the chance to read it now. Ruh’s review suggests that a lot of the problems I had with this film are, in some form, common to the book, but perhaps the film decided to skip over even more internal monologues that might’ve made themes, motivations, and plot threads clearer. Being based on a book might also explain why everyone stands around talking about what’s happening, though bad cartoon writers tend to do that anyway.

The ultimate resolution of all the violence and monologuing about how certain characters were driven to kill and exploit those weaker than them, heroic and villainous alike, is so tediously predictable and stupid that I’m not even going to give it the dignity of spoiling it here. Just know that it’s an even worse explanation than usual for one of the most well-known twist endings in American science fiction. Once the villain completes their monologue, they’re promptly stabbed in the neck, and our heroes go home, having apparently suffered absolutely no repercussions for the trail of bloodshed and destruction left in their wake, never mind the whole “physically destroyed the security system responsible for the oversight and protection of the entire city, if not the whole System” thing. FILM OVER.

In case you were fooled by the Production IG logo into thinking this film might at least be visually interesting, let me correct that. The film has only slightly better than high-budget TV animation, with a whole lot more gradients to try and disguise the single shades used on characters and their outfits. And there’s the dark, moody lighting which suggests that somebody watched the Garden of Sinners series but didn’t get the message about the little touches that make those movies attractive. The direction isn’t outright inept, like, say, Night Raid, but the fight sequences are dull and uninvolving. After all, they’re between “characters” I can’t bring myself to give a shit about. “Inoffensive” and “unremarkable” are the orders of the day here.

This is a dumb, ugly, boring movie. Don’t watch Loups=Garous.

13 Comments

  1. Thanks for the review. I was thinking of checking this out when I first read Ruh’s review awhile ago, but put it aside. Not going to check it out now. Sounds terrible.

  2. Yeah, pretty much. I was fortunate enough to read the book beforehand and while it’s not the best murder-mystery I’ve read (the story is pretty clever and thought-povoking…it’s just really heavy-going and prone to extended monologues) the movie is a complete travesty.

    The problem is that the book is really dark, philosophical and dystopian but the makers of the anime inexplicably dumbed down and sanitised it…pretty pointless when you think about the revelation at the end. Injecting humour and adding a ‘school girl romp’ angle was baffling and inappropriate as hell.

    While we’re on the subject of inappropriate, the showdown in the building originally had one of the girls blasting away with a home-made plasma rifle, which is a bit far-fetched in some ways but replacing that with her piloting a robotic plushie was so…I’m afraid words can’t describe it.

    To get a real sense of how badly this film fails, bear in mind that the Loups-Garous novel was written by the same author as that of Mouryou no Hako. Even though the MnH anime isn’t perfect it recreates the ‘feel’ of Kyogoku’s atmospheric writing style, has a twisting plot that actually makes sense by the end, and generally does everything right that the Loups-Garous anime didn’t. On a TV budget.

  3. Thanks for warning me against this film. I’d originally been planning to watch it because a friend of mine told me it was about the internet becoming a werewolf, which would have been to awesome to risk passing up.

  4. When I saw this go up, I was thinking, “Oh, that thing wasn’t so bad”. Then I realized I had completely forgotten the movie even existed after seeing it until reading the title again right here.

    Nevermind!

  5. While the movie was undoubtedly poor, I must say I’m surprised you had any expectations going into it at all Jeff, considering the shows target audience – namely, Elementary and Jnr High School girls. Loups=Garous was intended as a marketing tie in with girl band SCANDAL first, and an adaptation of the source material second. As such, it was aimed at a younger audience. No excuse for shoddy direction or animation quality I know, but not mentioning the SCANDAL angle seems as remiss to me as trying to review Avatar while neglecting to mention that it was in 3D. Seriously here in Japan the only marketing the show got was based on the SCANDAL connection.

    • The band’s presence in the film (a music video and two montage sequences) is hardly worthy of any particular notice if you don’t know going in that they were being used as a marketing hook for an audience the production committee wanted.

  6. Firstly, I’m not entirely sure that Scandal’s audience is primarily elementary and junior high school girls. Here’s a photo from one of their gigs, and the audience seems to be composed entirely of young men:

    http://www.tokyohive.com/2010/08/scandal-surprise-live/

    Also, I don’t really get what the band tie-in has to do with any of the criticisms Jeff mentions above. I mean, you surely aren’t suggesting that he should be making allowances for it simply because its plot has been mutilated in order to sell records for Sony Music, right?

  7. Ian, oh they undoubtedly have plenty of male fans – high school uniforms will do that – but the band is basically one age bracket above K-on in terms of target audience (K-on itself, while renown mostly online for its hardcore male otaku fanbase, actually has a much much bigger mainstream young female following. There has been a bunch of news reports on how it is motivating girls in Jnr. High to start learning music – my local music shop even put K-on posters up in the front window). Scandal (and this movie in particular) was advertised heavily in the tween-teen prime time advertising slots on early Sat/Sun nights. I also saw some coverage on the JR train lines – it was definitely being aimed at girls in their tweens/teens.

    Now, as far as what affect this should have on reviewing – well thats the question, Isnt it? While I don’t think the overall score/rating should be expected, its an element that should at least be noted – possibly a disclaimer of some sort?
    Look at it this way: would you compare a freebie burger king 360 game to a regular AAA 360 game without noting that one was basically promotional material for burgers? Would you review a fighting game anime without noting that it was based on a fighting game? (ie, initially saying that immediately tells the reader to lower their expectations. Would you review one of the Mass Effect novels without noting that if the reader hasnt played the first game they won’t get as much out of the story they are about to read?
    Why should this even be necessary in the case of Loups=Garous? Well, while I knew there was a novel, 100% of the advertising I was exposed to branded it as a SCANDAL tie in. The hook was SCANDAL and the only people I knew who made a point of seeing it asap were SCANDAL fans, not necessarily anime fans. So to not even mention that in the review, to me, is like reading a review of Avatar where the 3D isnt mentioned once. Because while the movie had a story and cinematography, everyone really just went for the 3D.

  8. As you say, that’s the question. Are junior high school girls less deserving of well thought out plot lines and competent direction? I guess we both agree no to this.

    As for whether Jeff should have mentioned Scandal, I guess that’s a question of audience as well. If we agree that the Scandal audience (I refuse to write their name with shouty all caps — I’ve had enough of that shit dealing with small-c capsule’s fucking management over CD reviews) has a lot of teenage girls, what would you guess the profile of the average Colony Drop reader is? My guess is that it’s a rather different demographic, and probably one for whom a band like Scandal is not an enormous deal.

    As you say, it is interesting that the film was made as a tie-in with a J-Pop band, although from my perspective as a music journalist, it’s interesting largely for what it says about the direction of the music scene in Japan than for what it says about this rather predictably dull looking anime. I guess since the fact is there, it’s worth mentioning, and fortunately for us all, there are comments beneath the OP for us to talk about this.

    Oh, and about K-On!, when you mentioned Scandal, K-On! was the first thing I thought of. Among indie music scenesters in Tokyo, K-On! is almost a point of worship, for reasons I still find inexplicable (bands who wouldn’t piss on that kind of bland pop-punk if it was on fire, still adore K-On!) although it’s interesting to note that the main girls from the series share last names with the legendary and awesome Japanese new wave band P-Model, whose leader Susumu Hirasawa went on to do the (excellent) music from Satoshi Kon’s Millennial Actress, Paranoia Agent and Paprika. I’m guessing that one point at least is a reference not aimed at the tweens.

  9. I’m not a Japanese teenage girl, nor do I tend to consume marketing & advertising aimed at them, so I was actually unaware that the band tie-in was more than a token theme song deal until I saw the film. What marketing I saw mostly related to the novel being published in English, and while Highcastle is no stranger to obscuring the demographic origins of the work they publish, they do tend to skew darker and more thoughtful, and were marketing the book as such. Let’s all blame Viz!

    But this doesn’t really change my thoughts on the film itself: it’s still a confused, dissonant and incompetent mix of elements that don’t work together. The band’s presence in the film (a music video and two montage sequences) is hardly worthy of any particular notice if you don’t know going in that they were being used as a marketing hook for an audience the production committee wanted. (Side note: “committee” is a fun word to type. Lots of double-letters.) Besides, just because a film’s acting as a vehicle for a pop band doesn’t mean it has to suck, or that when it does suck, we all just have to throw up our hands and say “It can’t be helped.”

  10. Ian – you make some good points – well thought through and I pretty much agree with you on most of them. For me, I suppose its more about the disconnect I felt reading a review that didnt mention the music angle while everything else I’d been exposed to did. It felt like there was a big ol’ white elephant in the middle of the room. Like seeing a poster for Gundam with no mecha on it. Or something like that. Naturally I don’t expect Jeff to review the show the same way Japanese reviewers did. Having said that I find it interesting – the way different methods and orders of consumption affect the way anime (or anything else for that matter) is viewed.
    Are Junior High School girls less deserving of quality anime? Of course not. But being bombarded by marketing with the message that it is primarily aimed at them definately caused me to lower my expectations based on past experience with other jpo/anime aimed at a similar audience. While this didnt change my ultimate view that the show was shite, thanks to the marketing I wasnt really expecting much to begin with. Which is the point that I have been trying, in my rambling, to get accross I guess.

    Jeff – blaming Viz for anything is generally a sound tactic. Having said that, I do not believe for one instant that you are not, in reality, a teenage Japanese girl 😉

  11. tl;dr 🙁

    I downloaded this, so I guess I’ll have to watch it and either curse myself for not listening to you or curse you for saying it’s bad.

  12. Can’t say I’d recommend the book either: It’s the ONLY book I’ve ever given up on reading. I’ve read pretty much everything else High Castle have put out, but the editing for Loups-Garous is shit. Really shit. I don’t know what the hell happened, but the book is practically unreadable in it’s current state. You can end up with a good page of wall-of-text ‘conversation’ consisting of alternating lines of speech between three people, with every other line being “huh?”, and with absolutely no indication which character is saying what, and some cases of crazy-ass -sometimes-indented-sometimes-not formatting making things even worse.

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