Silent Mobius: The Motion Picture
There are very few films that can capture the essence of a manga. The epic nature of most manga stories, lasting for several thousand pages, is a daunting task to translate within a reasonable time frame. Some films, like Akira, succeed. Others, like X, fail. Thankfully, Silent Mobius: The Motion Picture is a first-rate adaptation that manages to get us thoroughly involved despite only a 50-minute running time. Although a short television series has recently expanded the animated world of Silent Mobius, the first film is an excellent taste of what lies ahead.
The film starts in 2028 as the AMP force are tracking down their prey--a newly unleashed Lucifer Folk, a nasty beast from a parallel dimension. One of the AMP officers, a dark-haired beauty named Katsumi Liqueur, takes on the giant tentacled monster with a gigantic enchanted sword. We then hastily cut back to 2024, when Katsumi is planning to visit her mother who's been hospitalized. Katsumi is a somewhat naive 19-year-old who isn't exactly sure what the future holds. As she heads for her mother's hospital, she blindly breaks a spiritual barrier that the AMP had set up to keep out innocents during a battle with a Lucifer Folk. No ordinary person could just walk through the magical barricade--and both the AMP and Lucifer Folk know it.
Though she is loath to learn it, Katsumi finds out that the Liqueur line has held an ancient magic for generations. The Lucifer Folk are out to destroy the entire lineage, believing that the magic was stolen from them. The AMP want to recruit her to fight, but Katsumi wants nothing to do with it. The Lucifer Folk have no plans to abandon their blood feud, and despite her misgivings, Katsumi must realize her destiny if she and her family are to survive.
Silent Mobius: The Motion Picture is almost a perfect blueprint for how to adapt a huge story into a manageable short. Although the manga gets deeply involved in the lives of all the women who are a part of the Assault Mobilization Police, the film wisely follows only Katsumi's origin story: her transformation from unsure adolescent to demon-slaying adult. That story is enough to draw us in, and it's completed by the film's end. Are there lots of unanswered questions and storylines left to pursue? Absolutely. But the main thrust of the movie is resolved, and so we are not left unfulfilled, merely interested in learning more about this world. I've never read but the first chapter of the manga, and I was never lost.
The environs of Silent Mobius's cyberpunk Tokyo are sleekly designed and follow after the pattern set by the Bubblegum Crisis OVA series. However, whereas I was never overly impressed by BGC's tendencies to drag storylines out and wavering commitment to character development, Silent Mobius delivers on most of its narrative obligations. It also has the rare mix of legitimate science fiction and horror, delivering some tentacled creatures that are genuinely grotesque and creepy without descending into the utter gore and depravity of hentai titles like Legend of the Overfiend.
Although I gave the film an A+ on its first go-around, I believe that time and experience are going to force me to lower it a little bit, despite its standing as one of my personal favorites. The artwork is not uniformly excellent--a few minor detailing errors in slow sequences are noticeable. A great majority of it looks wonderful, even by today's standards, but it's not at the level of a top-tier production. And if there is one frustration with Silent Mobius: The Motion Picture, it is that it was apparently scored by a schizophrenic. Though most of the musical selections work well, the arranger apparently felt that every single scene had to have at least some background instrumentation. This is disturbing when driving martial music is playing under an interrogation scene; it utterly destroys the mood. There are a few other scenes that would have benefited from more appropriate music as well. Minor, perhaps, but certainly conspicuous.
Silent Mobius: The Motion Picture is still a great cyberpunk film in my mind. In its own genre, excellent features like Metropolis have surpassed it. However, as a near-flawless adaptation and teaser for the manga, Silent Mobius sets a standard I wish other manga-based shows would live up to.
Silent Mobius: The Motion Picture -- violence (some graphic), nudity, mild profanity, rated R by the MPAA -- A-