Summary: A fictitious 1980s Japan. Soji, a soldier on furlough, returns to his country. He receives a request from Haya, who was sent from the World Bank, to help her on a mission to investigate the actual circumstances of a narcotic called “Golden Monkey” which is running rampant through Japanese society.
Cinema Release Dates: TBA
VOD Release Dates: TBA
Cast: Yoshino Fujima, Yui Fukuda, Yarita Jin, Toshihide Mori, Shinya Tomita, Yukina Tsuchida, Wataru Uenoyama
Running Time: 75 mins
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Kyle McGrath’s Battlecry Review:
I greatly appreciate films which are made as a labour of love by a small crew. Many of my favourite independent films feature stand out performance in bit parts by crew members who jumped I’m front of the camera out of necessity. Likewise there’s something admirable in today’s world of CGI heavy movies with thousands of crew members where films come along with a much smaller amount of people breaking their backs to make something. Filmmakers like Tim Miller or The Brothers Strause have been able to create impressive looking CGI feature films largely by putting in most of the hard work themselves to keep the budget down.
Battlecry is a CGI animated scifi thriller set in a fictionalised 1980s Japan. It follows Soji (voiced by Shinya Tomita) a soldier on leave who is approached by Haya (Yui Fukuda) an agent of the ‘World Bank’ with a request to assist her on a mission. Throughout the world bizarre shadow monsters are appearing unprovoked with apparent links to Japanese citizens. The new performance enhancing super drug ‘Golden Monkey’ is thought to be to blame for these monsters and together Soji & Haya must locate the source of this drug and shut it down. Discovering long hidden connections to Soji’s childhood and a government cover up along the way.
The interesting novelty behind Battlecry is that supposedly with the exception of voice actors and musical talent this entire film was written, produced and created as a solo project by it’s director Yanakaya. Apparently creating the entire thing on his laptop director Yanakaya has produced an anime-like action film which while nothing groundbreaking is one of the most interesting additions to the 2022 MIFF line-up and quite an achievement in low budget filmmaking.
The animation throughout Battlecry is extremely janky at times and it would come as no surprise to the unenlightened viewer that it was a one-man project. Having grown up with early EARLY examples of CGI animation such as 1993’s The Incredible Crash Dummies as well as Playstation 1 era video game cut scenes the aesthetic of Battlecry was one which brought back feelings of nostalgia to me. With character models being extremely simplistic what undoubtedly would look like placeholder pre-vis animation to audiences today I found myself enjoying. The foreknowledge of this film’s production meant that I was amazed by the detail the film exhibited thanks to it’s creator’s hard work rather than being disappointed by the lack of detail which it would be unreasonable to expect a production of this type to feature.
The stand out achievement of this movie’s style would be the beautifully realised locations and backdrops. It features cyberpunk design of illegal black market streets, love hotels and overhead tram systems. This creative flair more than made up for any shortcomings of the film’s more ambitious action sequences which I felt were the only times the director bit off more than it could chew on a technical level.
The storyline of Battlecry is very anime cliche heavy. Soji carries a sword for no real reason, the flashbacks to past trauma, the villain’s direct connection to the protagonist are all stock standard. Even the shadow monsters themselves seem to exist in the film solely so there can be action scenes combating them. Straight story wise there was no real reason for the shadow monsters to feature at all and even if Yanakaya is planning on building on them in follow up projects I think that time could have been better utilised on building up what minimal characters and plot the film had.
Which is to say that although the twists and turns the story goes through did still entertain me on a cheesy level the movie still feels too short. With such a scant seventy five minute runtime the hefty themes of past trauma, government conspiracies as well as the sub-plots involving childhood friends reconnecting years later all feel extremely half baked and rushed as a result.
While Battlecry may not look like much on a big cinema screen the sound design did still impress me with deafening explosions of dramatic gunfire. Not to mention the voice actors do a fine job even though there were some moments where the supposed English speaking characters are having trouble with their lines. In some ways the experience as an English only speaking audience member was just as janky as well. At least with the screening I had there were many grammatical errors, some subtitles disappearing off screen too quickly for anyone to have read them and at one point the dialogue went without any translation text at all with the subs picking up midway through a sentence.
Battlecry isn’t a brilliant film however there simply aren’t many movies it can be compare to and for that I give it credit. It is a quite literal ‘independent’ feature film and I can’t deny I enjoyed the aesthetic and appreciate that the director managed to create something very special all on his own. Now while it may not look the best….well it must be said Thor Love & Thunder cost 250 million and still looked awful in its own way!
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