ArtsMagicDVD // 2000 // 77 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // November 18th, 2004
When humanity is destroyed, only blue remains.
Taking a break from their normally more adult-oriented fare, ArtsmagicDVD is releasing a North American version of Blue Remains, a lightweight computer animated tale about humanity and hope. While it's by no means perfect, it proves to be a captivating story on a solidly presented disc.
When the world is destroyed by human wars, the last few humans escape into the depths of the sea. A pair of ecologists and their young daughter, Amamika, escape in a spaceship, only to return later with seeds that will restore the Earth. They are injured by radiation, though; so they put Amamika into cryosleep, from which she wakes up in around 80 years in order to fulfill her parents' mission. When she begins to explore around the ship, she is caught up in a battle between a small group of humans led by a man named Malloz and a robotic army led by a mutant named Glyptofane Sex (really), who wants to prevent the protection of human life, because he doesn't believe that humans will ever be able to live together peacefully.
I sometimes wonder why I am drawn to the same types of films over and over again. I just finished reviews for the thoroughly disappointing Kaena: The Prophecy and the downright painful Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water: Collection 2. Here I am, though, reviewing yet another animated film about an innocent girl who has to save the world. It seems that the third time is the charm in this case, though, because I found that Blue Remains is actually quite a bit of fun.
I think the difference this time around is the more creative approach to the admittedly worn-out story, as well as the creation of a completely unique world. I think the team behind the film realized that they weren't telling a completely new and innovative story, so they intentionally kept things simple and small. So many anime films try to cram as many plot twists and turns as possible into their films, but I never felt that Blue Remains was biting off more than it could chew. In fact, at 77 minutes, it's a refreshingly compact environmental fable. The underwater world is one of the most interesting post-apocalyptic visions I have seen, with a seemingly safe glow filtering down through the water into the ghostly ruins of destroyed and drowned cities.
At such a short running time, it's hard to get to know any of the characters that well. Amamika is simply innocent, curious and childlike, and her emotional and compassionate responses rarely get annoying. The humans that she eventually joins up with are interesting, since it's unclear at first whether or not they can be trusted. It would have been nice to get to know them all a bit better, but I respect the decision to keep them out of the way of the story. The mutants, who look sort of like brains with eyeballs attached encased in bubbles, are also quite interesting. Although the distinction between emotional humans and rational aliens/robots is certainly not new, it is used here to good effect, even becoming central to the outcome at the end. The action builds nicely, with some weak sequences towards the opening of the film giving way to some excellent chases towards the end.
What doesn't fare so well is the animation. Blue Remains was obviously made on a relatively diminutive budget, and it really shows. Although the backgrounds are well-suited to the story, they are often severely lacking in detail. The characters are simplistic and move stiffly. When a lot starts happening on-screen, the frame rate slows down and looks quite choppy. The mutants look somewhat decent, but it's nowhere near Finding Nemo quality at any point. Glyptophane's robotic minions look really silly and not at all threatening. In the first half of the film, I often found myself noticing how ugly everything was. The fact that I thought about it less during the second half is a testament to how effective the storytelling is.
For the most part, ArtsmagicDVD delivers the goods with their transfer of the film. It certainly looks nice, with a far better video transfer than the animation deserves. It's easy to pick out every single digital flaw and weakness, but it is always the fault of the source material and not the transfer. The audio is somewhat less impressive. The dub is truly dreadful, seemingly taken from the cast as they were half asleep and perhaps a little drunk. The original audio track is much better, although somehow it seems as though the front channels have been reversed. It's not that distracting, since there isn't too much action in the front surrounds, but there are a few moments where it is noticeable.
The only real extra on the disc is an interview with director Hisaya Takabayashi. It is interesting, though, as he is far more candid about the production of Blue Remains as well as his own opinions on the state of Japanese animation than any other director I have ever heard. He is a relatively small player, but that allows him to speak with a rare boldness and honesty.
From the simple introduction of the characters and plot to the beautiful and highly symbolic ending, Blue Remains proves itself to be a film that works even though it has little going for it. Simple, solid storytelling can still make up for the lack of a big budget and quality animation. Connoisseurs of fine animation may want to pass on this one, but others may find that it's worth at least a rental. Because it's so short and the animation really is sub-par, few will likely want to add it to their collections.
It's not going to set the world on fire, but Blue Remains is a cute little movie that is worth checking out. Not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2004 Joel Pearce; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Japanese)
Running Time: 77 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Interview with Director