Cast: Meisa Kuroki, Yasuko Matsuyuki, Tetsuya Kakihara, Tomoyuki Morikawa, Romi Park
Anime has long been a morality play watchdog, explicitly casting the limelight upon a rapidly-accelerating tech world, ironic when you consider Japan has always been at the industrial forefront, not just internally but on an international level. Assiduously pointing out the soulless nature of technology, a lingering fundamentalist culture clash within Japan has already prompted timeless animation films such as "Akira," "Bubblegum Crisis" and "Ghost In The Shell." A devotion to tradition, principles, even bushido, perhaps, fuels the cryptic warnings hidden in these films, which humanity stands to lose itself to the machinery and biological tech it has manifested in the interest of playing God.
Consider Vexille (or Vexille: 2077 Japanese Isolation by its full title) a piston-popping variation of "Bubblegum Crisis" meets "Robotech" painted upon an eye candy CGI canvas. In a not-so-distant future, Japan has seceded from the United Nations and the planet at-large when a worldwide ban on robotics stalls the would-be superpower from moving forward in its already-accelerated research programs. In response, the island conglomerate literally isolates itself with radar-busting shield frequencies, preventing communication with the outside world except for limited trade commerce, in addition to creating a literal barrier around its collective circumference. Japan deports all foreigners and literally imprisons its citizens, all the while moving full steam ahead with its robotics development, effectively ushering the judgment day insinuated by The Terminator in which cyborgs rule and the cities become something akin to the cybernetic metropolis depicted in the Beast Machines series. Megatron would so cream his cogs, yyyyeeeessssssss…
Naturally the United States is monitoring the situation, in a plot tweak borrowed liberally from today's headlines. As the U.S. is considered by its neighboring countries a global cop, Vexille utilizes for its scheme an American covert task force (S.W.O.R.D.) that acts in the interest of protecting its domestic interests (and of course the entire world's) in light of the robotics boycott. With no subtleties spared, the gross parallel to President Bush's proclaimed war on terror and his implications of nuclear arms building in the Middle East is dashed and meted to blunt starkness in Vexille. This at least sets the story up for a mostly quick-paced action story and probity lesson in which yet another anime feature gives warning about the follies of mankind's consumptive greediness.
Only one member of the S.W.O.R.D. team (Vexille) that breaks into Japan manages to avoid capture, while her lover Leon is the lone agent to survive detention. What they discover in a transfigured Tokyo is a new populace of previously-infected human beings now morphed into drone-like cyborgs via a falsely-imbued "vaccine." The engineer of this dehumanizing chaos effect is the Daiwa Corporation, spearheaded by a chief cyborg named Kisaragi. As Vexille and Leon escape his clutches after he has vowed to attack the United States, they unite with a tiny resistance movement of humans. All the while, the diminutive rebellion is forced to endure "jags," which are destructive whirlwinds of shrapnel and nanotech that crop up in their midst, as if they didn't have enough brutality to endure. Throw in a somewhat silly intertwining subplot between Leon and one of the survivors, Maria; it nevertheless serves as opportunity for a poetic finish in which Maria sacrifices herself to take down Kisaragi.
As Vexille ends on a downer in which Vexille and Leon depart a Japan left strictly in the hands of an artificial verve, the parable of man's acquisitiveness is the final imprint, as occurs in these types of stories. Along the way, however, Vexille unravels steadily and honestly about its purposes. The CGI is more than impressive, revealing a sometimes breathtaking fluidity that should satiate even the most attention-deficit-stricken who think Grand Theft Auto II has primitive graphics.
Accented with a mostly tasteful electroswing score by Paul Oakenfold (even if he does hijack a funereal chant straight from Dead Can Dance towards the end of the film), Vexille is a throbbing societal examination that may be considered superfluous in relation to its peers. However, considering the out-of-control technodweebism the industrial world has forced upon us (and has contributed greatly to the expected American recession with its upgrade immediately nuance), a little reminder that this world is so consumed with tech that it's damning itself each nanosecond is perfectly welcome…