Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Towa no Quon - Movie Series 1-6 Review

Year: 2011
Studio: Bones
Genre: Sci-fi, supernatural, action

Synopsis: [ANN: Towa no Quon]
"In a futuristic Tokyo, humans who have awakened distinct powers are being hunted by a secret organization named Kestos. Denominated as Attracters, these exceptional individuals are joining forces to defend themselves. They are led by an idealist named Quon who is determined to save all Attracters he can."

Following Broken Blade, Towa no Quon is yet another project released in movie format as oppose to regular cours. While the production schedule for this kind of release is likely more flexible as it doesn't have to work around a fixed broadcasting slot, the narrative unfortunately tends to fall short of potential thanks to the movie-style set-up. We've seen how abruptly Broken Blade ended, and Towa no Quon, even if it does offer some closure, also suffers from glaring pacing issues. Movies are generally more concerned with key events and artistic expressions than narrative nuances, and for Bones whose strength is in characterization and slow world-building, the lack of time for details deals considerable damage to the overall feel of the story and its characters. Masterpiece it is not – if anything, generic and sappy are more fitting descriptors, but despite its many flaws, I think it managed to entertain in the Hollywood blockbuster sense with its epic music and even more epic animation. 

In terms of story, if you've seen X-men, then you know what to expect, Towa no Quon could not have stemmed from a more similar premise – Quon (the anime Xavier if you will) rescues and shelters humans with supernational powers (Mutants in X-men, and Attracters here) from Custos, an organization that mercilessly hunts and kills them. Admittedly, Quon's past serves a unique plot twist, but regrettably, it ended up as a thread poorly developed. In a way, I find it to be a true Bones-style twist infused with their usual flair – ambitious, dramatic, and mysterious – but it's an idea too big, one that needs too much padding that it didn't have the luxury of having to float. Towa's involvement in all this feels very contrived, and in my opinion, it would have been better left out all together. For someone with so much presence in the final showdown, his backstory is extremely rushed and underdeveloped. That said, the plot is actually incredibly straightforward for the most part, and it's no guessing game what role each character plays. The only revelation, which I think is supposed to be shocking, came off too deus ex machina to generate any real emotional impact. It only made Kamishiro, who was already flat even before his true nature was exposed, appear frivolous and cliched. As a villain, he's no more than a cookie-cutter plot device with little purpose than to be an adversary for Quon. By far he's the biggest disappoint for me.  If the story intended to position him as the anime Magneto, then it really did a poor job crafting him.

Quon, being the main character, also comes off a little one-dimensional, though to a lesser degree than Kamishiro. I can empathize with his pacifist stance given his traumatic past and wisdom accumulated through centuries of human experience, but it would have been much more interesting to see the mental struggle behind his resolve. It's a little too convenient to assume the audience will simply accept his almost naive ideals just because he's lived a long life and therefore entitled to be a saint whose psychology is far removed from our own. I did like the interaction he had with many of the supporting characters, especially the children who were terrified of him after discovering his gruesome past; it provided some of the most sentimental moments in the show.

Oh wow, for all this ranting, I must sound like I truly didn't enjoy the show, which I can assure you is not true. Well, let's get to some of the positives. I like the supporting cast a great deal, truth be told, I think many of them all better fleshed out than the mains. Quon's crew is reminiscent of the Gekkostate and Zanbani. It's got the family feel Bones seems to like to reproduce in many of their shows – a classic Bones element that I will always appreciate. All of the characters have distinct, vibrant personality that works for the group dynamic. Of course, there is always room for improvement, I'd have preferred to know more of their backstory, but for the size of the cast, the development is well handled. Then we have Shun, the bad-turned-good cyborg Attracter with a dark past. He has the most in-depth characterization out of the entire cast, main or otherwise. The series invests a lengthy chapter in telling his story, past to present. Throughout the story, his role constantly changed – he's an enemy, a revenger, an attracter, a comrade, a hero, and finally a human who lived and died. In other words, he's a conflicted personality, and therefore a good one to focus on.

Well, if the plot and characters aren't enough to captivate you, I'm sure the animation will – it takes on a life of its own and deserves to be appreciated as such. I've said this about a million times, there is really no studio that animates action sequences like Bones. The movements in these scenes are sharp and fluid, and the camera work always dynamic. The animation shows a great sense for space, through which the effects created are powerful, intense, and endlessly exhilarating to watch. The only place where animation falters is actually the quieter, more static scenes – face off-model being the biggest offender. It's not noticeable enough to be distracting, though. Also, I'm a big fan of Kawamoto's character design (Cowboy Bebop and Wolf's Rain), so that probably added to my liking of the overall look.

All things accounted, the experience I have with Towa no Quon is mixed. I enjoyed it but I didn't love it as I wish I did. With how much it wanted to tell, it's a story that would benefit from a two-cour adaption. We see time and time again Bones is a not studio suited for short adaptions – both the source material and their original work are almost always too ambitious to be trimmed down and packed into the run-time equivalent of one-cour. With director Umanosuke Lida's unfortunate passing, I would think the chances of the project being dropped was pretty high, so it was admirable for Bones to honor his memory by completing his final work. It may not have turned out as well it could have, but for an action-flick, it's well worth the time.

Overall: 7/10 

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