Fuse: Memoirs Of The Hunter Girl – Review

“FUSE: MEMOIRS OF THE HUNTER GIRL”

Fuse: Memoirs Of The Hunter Girl (or Fuse: Memoirs Of The Huntress as it’s known in America) is the first release of 2016 to come from license company. All The Anime who are largely responsible for many of the films I saw at MCM Loves Anime last year, including the recently released, for a limited time only, Miss Hokusai which will receive a review for the site upon its DVD release in April as well as the film Empire of Corpses which at this point in time has no sort of general release planned for the UK and considering how long it takes for some Anime to make its way over here I wouldn’t count on seeing it any time soon. When I saw it, it had only been in Japanese cinemas for 2 weeks. The company has also been largely responsible for many of the Anime that I have enjoyed in the past including “Patema Inverted” and “Giovanni’s Island” as well as the re-release of many series that would have gone out of circulation otherwise, such as Outlaw Star and The Gundum series which is still being released in various Box Sets and I would highly recommend picking them up if you have any sort of fleeting interest in Gundum or if you are curious about the Mech or Giant Robot anime, though be warned they are very expensive. One half of the series just costing £45.00!

Fuse is a film that didn’t really attract my attention until I saw it was coming up on several animation release sites. It was released in October 2012 in Japan and is a film based on a novel by Kazuki Sakubara whose work has been adapted to other Japanese films though this is the first to be animated and the screenplay has been written by relative newcomer Ichirô Ohkôchi who’s briefly done work writing a couple of the new Beserk movies which I won’t claim to have seen. The director is Masayuki Miyaji whose previous credits included the series Xamd and has directed a couple of episodes of my favourite Anime series Eureka Seven and this is his feature debut. So I had high hopes for this film it’s a good license company and a talented director but I still went into it with minimal expectations mainly because I didn’t see a trailer and I wasn’t even that aware of its release up to the moment it was coming out but I deiced it was worth a watch and even a review. Mainly because I was unaware that Zootopia (or Zootropolis as it’s known in the UK) had previews coming out which both Dr Buchan and myself can highly recommend. I also can recommend “The Witch” for all you Horror fans.

The plot of Fuse starts with a Hunter girl called Hamaji (played by Minako Kotobuki) receiving a letter from her brother Douetsu (played by Katsuyuki Konish)i asking her to leave the countryside and live with him in Edo. Once she arrives she discovers that a Shogun has placed a hit out on The Fuse, a group of half human/half dog people who are supposedly killing indiscriminately throughout the town and a hefty price has been put on their heads as a result. After being caught in a difficult situation Hamaji befriends a fuse named Shino (played by Mamoru Miyano) and she quickly forms a close friendship, however with the fuse being slowly hunted down, how long can it last and will Shino give in to his demons that have been building inside him? Fuse is a rather interesting piece as it feels like it tries to tread quite a few types of stories; fortunately it does many of them very well. The film does a lot of Anime traits very quickly, what Anime is very good at doing is introducing the characters and their personalities very quickly and easily and I think this is something that a lot of Western writers could take note from. This film is no exception to that and there is a really cool cast of loveable characters in this film. The main character, Himaji particularly, who when first seen is portrayed as a very creditable huntress. I loved a lot of parts of this film, there are some excellent aspects to it and Himaji is part of that. She is an excellent character. We see most of the film from her perspective. If you are expecting some narration from this, to read out as a diary, as suggested by the title of the film, then I am afraid you will be disappointed. The title actually refers to a novel being written by Himaji’s friend, Meido who she meets early on in the film and while we do get some narration from her in the beginning and at the end. it doesn’t stay through the entire film, we only get a short part of it in the middle.

There is a lot of interesting back story to this film, but I do think there are a lot of sub plots that may have been cut from the novel. I haven’t actually read the novel this is based on, I’m not even aware if there is an English translation available, but judging by the films structure, I suspect this is a rather faithful adaptation, since there are a lot of sub plots and minor characters and the film doesn’t know entirely what to do with all of them, yet none of them feel superfluous, this is often the case in faithful adaptations of novel to film adaptations but this can also have a poor effect if the characters are not enjoyable. Take for example, the Jason Statham film Blitz, where the sheer amount of characters and sub plots felt more like they belonged in the novel and much of it could have been cut for time. The thing that really translates through is there are some genuinely brilliant heartfelt moments in the film. The film kind of starts out with Himaji and her brother trying to hunt down the Fuse so that they can get paid in order to survive, but then quickly turns into various other stories, such as Meido trying to find her literary muse after spending time working on a printing press, the sub plot about a kabuki troop, (for those of you who don’t know, kabuki is a type of Japanese theatre, but if you are reading a review about an anime film, I suspect you already know this!) and there are several sub plots around characters relationships to one another, mainly Himaji. Her connection with Shino is very well done. They only meet a handful of times throughout the entire film, but you do feel the connection between them and the film takes time to build this up. The whole film in general feels like it is building to a massive event. The best sub plot by far is Himaji’s own sub plot about not feeling comfortable dressing as a woman and feels more comfortable dressed in more masculine clothing. It mainly serves to show that she can appear strong and feminine at the same time and is beautifully demonstrated in a scene where Shino buys her a kimono. The only sub plot that stay along for a long period of time though is one early one, after Himaji and her brother kill a Fuse, she gives them a letter to deliver to her son who lives in the mountains, I won’t spoil how this sub plot ends, but it does lead to some very beautiful moments throughout the film. Overall the story is downright interesting, there is a lot of nice weaves and turns and I felt invested in everything that was going on. I don’t think it quite reaches the levels that Studio Ghibli does and that will probably be especially evident when I review “When Marnie Was There” when it comes out in June, but there is a real level of depth delivered to this. I am very surprised that the screenwriter only had one film to his name prior to this and I think he will do a decent job further down the line. However, I get a real sense that director Masayuki Miyaji really had a vision for this film. While I may not completely have enjoyed Xamd, and I did believe at the time that he showed potential to be a good director, I really enjoyed his work on this film. He has realised that potential with this film. Its major weakness however is that it is a bit basic in its storytelling but I enjoyed it. In my research I did hear of people comparing this film to Beauty and the Beast and there are definitely some similarities, but more in the same way that there are similarities to Alice In Wonderland and Spirited Away, and I don’t think this should, in any way, be interpreted as a Japanese version of Beauty and the Beast, in the same way that I would say Spirited Away is the Japanese version of Alice In Wonderland! They are simply too different.

If there is one thing that the film kind of hiccups on, it’s the climax. While the climax is really good and genuinely suspenseful I don’t quite fully understand it. While everything has been built up well, I didn’t fully understand everyone’s motivations. I will say there are some really good moment, like the final showdown as well as various other plot points which I won’t give away because I really want people to go out and find this film. I would also say there are a lot of character moments that don’t fully make sense to me, although everything is wrapped up nicely towards the end of the film. I would be lying if I didn’t say the climax had one or two issues. Anyone fearing that this is going to be another case of a ‘Twilight type film’ that will castrate werewolves, I would say don’t worry, the film is much better than that, for one thing, it’s not actually a werewolf story, the Fuse are slightly different beasts, but they we are getting into semantics about Japanese myths compared to western myths and we will be going completely off topic. The point is, the film has a very believable romance, very good characters and will keep you invested though out the running time, it’s honestly rather surprising that it is as good as it is.

As for the actors, this is going to be shorter than usual. Normally in these reviews I tend to review the English dub, however, despite being licensed by All The Anime, Fuse does not have an English dub, so if you don’t like watching foreign language films with sub titles, you are out of luck. I do watch films in their original language, but when it comes to anime, I prefer the English dub, with that being said though, Fuse has a cast that deliver excellent performances. In particular are Minako Kotobuki as Himaji and Kanako Miyamoto as Meido who probably give the best performances in the entire film. Mamoru Miyano is also excellent as Shino though I do think at times he seems slightly too old to be playing the part. If you are an anime purist and insist on watching all anime in its original Japanese with sub titles, I believe this cast will definitely suit your needs. I also urge people who don’t normally watch anime outside the English dub, to give this one a go.

The animation is a mixed bag. There is a lot of hand drawn animation in here which is lovingly done and it looks excellent. Anime these days does have a lot of titles that seems to be trying to replicating Japanese Art and this is one that is trying that. A lot of anime these days is trying to mix it in 3D digital animation and while there are a lot of clever moments that use it to good effect in this film there are also moments that follow the same trap that others anime does, it doesn’t blend in with the hand drawn animation very well and as a result can be rather clashing. I’m actually kind of amazed that Fuse went to straight to DVD though because I think this could easily have been screened for a limited time or to an individual chain of cinemas because there are a lot of moments in this film that feel cinematic and actually could easily be played on a cinema screen and look well. When the animation is great is looks downright gorgeous. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s Studio Ghibli gorgeous, but it is still very good. The character designs are also excellent, my comparison to Samurai Champloo earlier is not that far off especially considering both films were set in Feudal period of Japan and the way that the characters are designed in both their look and their outfits is also similar, again it’s designed to give authenticity to the time period and it’s another anime that really illuminates that time period very well purely from a visual standpoint. There are some absolutely lovingly crafted moments in the film and the animation really delivers for them. The climax is a good example but there is also the scenes of the kabuki theatre as well the various hunting scenes and even just some minor moments feel like they were at least lovingly crafted by the animators. In other words, visually, it’s great. Audio wise, while the soundtrack is actually pretty good, the score is really good, I think this is a particularly great soundtrack and I could possibly get this one on CD at some point, or at least look up to score on YouTube. There are a couple of Jay Pop songs thrown in the mix and while a couple of them are half decent they do occasionally feel quite jarring and out of place. Really though, that is a minor complaint. Fuse Memoirs of a Hunter Girl is actually a genuinely good movie. I am really going to recommend it, and I would also recommend getting the special edition which contains the Blu Ray and the DVD disc and it’s great on Blu Ray where the animation really pops out in High Definition, plus you get a really neat little art book that shows off the designs of the world and the characters well. There are more reasons to recommend it than just that, the film has a lovingly crafted story about romance and identity, there are a ton of great characters, a ton of great animation and some really interesting ideas and a well told story with good dialogue. It’s not going to be for everyone and I will wonder how this film will stand up with other anime releases this year such as Ghost In The Shell The New Movie and particularly When Marnie Was There, but I think this is one we should consider. If this is just a footnote, it’s been an excellent year for anime and I suspect this may become one of the under rated classics, though I would say it’s worth a watch, particularly if you enjoy Studio Ghibli films.

“So what are your thoughts on Fuse: Memoirs of the Hunger Girl? Did you agree with me or do you have a different opinion to me?”

Please leave something in the comments section and of course don’t forget you can follow me on Twitter and Facebook. You can also submit your own content on our site by visiting the How To Submit section.

Well that covers my week off from the cinema and it’s now back to business. Come back on 1 April where I will be reviewing what could be the biggest release of 2016 Batman V Superman Dawn Of Justice. Let’s really hope it doesn’t suck!!

Thanks for reading my review, I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

p.s. I am definitely reviewing Batman V Superman next, honestly, it’s not an April Fools joke!!!

Calvin – Nerd Consultant

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