Reviewed by: Paul Griffiths

Having worked on James Cameron’s Titanic and helmed the live-action film Ping Pong in 2002, there was really only one way for Fumihiko Sori to go – ahem, post-apocalyptic anime.

Seventy years from now and robot development is vastly advanced, with Japan leading the evolution. However, the country has forged ahead by defying international treaties on bio-technology and now shuns the rest of the world. Shielding itself within an immense eletromagnetic field, nobody’s been in or out for a decade. That is until elite commando team SWORD from the US attempts a break in, led by the determined and nubile Vexille. Once inside what she finds is more devastating than she could have imagined.

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Anything else would be spoiler territory, but it goes without saying that there is a global threat to humanity to uncover and fight down, a threat that rubbishes past traditions for the expediency of the new. So far, so anime, especially when thrown in with a mix of old living alongside high-tech devices, bodysuit-augmented SWAT teams, renegades, Machiavellian super corporations and conceptual sci-fi. Beyond that Dune, Mad Max, Escape From New York, the Matrix trilogy, even Star Wars, all echo heavily through the narrative and especially some of the visuals. This might be familiar fare, but Fumihiko Sori and his team pull it off with sufficient visual aplomb to keep things highly entertaining for most of the running time.

Created by the same team behind the boundary-shifting Appleseed, Vexille is realised with stunningly good animation. While not pursuing the heady tapestries of Ghost In The Shell 2 and the like, most of the advanced stop-cap animation scenes are still great to behold. Action scenes pulse with energy and verve, and from the hair and faces to the crowds, locations and the various vehicles streaming through them, characters and their environments are beautifully rendered.

Fumihiko Sori scripted with Haruka Handa (who worked on Appleseed) and their screenplay is above average, keeping the action and most of the expositions moving along at a brisk pace. Although there are some informatively clunky backfill moments, in keeping with the genre, and they do let themselves down badly with the climatic showdown. After some genuinely exciting chase sequences in the build up the dialogue and final pay off just hit every duff note going, prompting smirks of derision rather than satisfaction. It’s jarring to watch, annoying almost, and disappointing given the better crafted fun to be had beforehand.

It may not reinvent its futuristic cyberwheel, but with original music by maestro Paul Oakenfold keeping the whole adventure throbbing along Vexille is still a great sci-fi romp.

Reviewed on: 24 Oct 2007
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Vexille packshot
In 2077, Japan’s secretive, advanced bio-technology could pose an unimaginable threat.
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Director: Fumihiko Sori

Writer: Haruka Handa, Fumihiko Sori

Starring: Voices of Meisa Kuroki, Shosuke Tanihara, Yasuko Matsuyuki, Tetsuya Kakihara, Toshiyuki Morikawa, Akio Ôtsuka, Romi Pak, Takahiro Sakurai

Year: 2007

Runtime: 109 minutes

Country: Japan

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Escape From New York