Sin: The Movie
Mike Toole rates it:
Heh heh heh heh heh. Ohhhh, man.
You know, I always get pissed off when I see anime that's truly awesome, because my subsequent review of it always sounds hollow and same-sounding to me. "Wow! It's a real gem! This anime is fabulous!" starts to sound repetitive after a while, even if it's true. Fortunately, really great anime is rare. Mediocre-to-decent anime is the norm for release in the states (the average letter grade I give out on a title is B-), but we've gotten some truly horrendous wastes of production budget in stuff like Panzer Dragoon and Psychic Wars. Thing is, it's always a lot more fun to write reviews for those, because it's easier to be creative while being sadistic and merciless than it is to be creative while heaping praise on something.
Boy, I sure feel sadistic after watching the English dubbed version of Sin: the Movie.
I was kind of confused at first. Initially, I watched Sin, and prepared a very scathing review, one of the worst I've ever given. Then I committed the cardinal sin (heh heh) of having a look at other early reviews, which were generally fairly favorable. I decided that I hadn't been paying enough attention to Sin, that surely it merited a closer study and a fairer chance than the one I'd given it. So I watched it again. And you know, I think it sucks more than ever.
Watching the English dubbed version of Sin: the Movie is like having the dentist forget to give you painkillers before drilling a hole for a filling. It's not just vaguely unpleasant, it's roaringly, painfully awful. The character designs are ugly and silly-looking. The animation, a spectacularly inept blend of 3D graphics and 2D computer-colored animation, is choppy and inconsistent-- some sequences looked great, only to be followed by shots that looked a step below animated GIFs. The music, while surprisingly good, doesn't fit with the mood of the show at all. The story... oh god, the story.
Well, let me just start from the beginning. Our story takes place in the crime-ridden city of Freeport, which we all know and love as the home of camping, shoe, and outdoor gear giant L.L. Bean. Freeport has really gone to hell in the near future year of 2070; it's a towering, threatening metropolis, not unlike Hello Kitty Puroland. Anyway, justice is dispensed by the Hardcorps., a hilariously-named police force stewarded by John Blade, a gigantic, hulking black man with dreadlocks and tiny sunglasses. (He kinda reminds me of ADV P.R. man Rod Peters, a kind man with a name which I will always respect.)
Hardcorps. job is complicated when strange biological mutants start showing up and causing trouble. In particular, one of these creatures kills a little girl's parents before kidnapping her. Hardcorps. pursues the creature to a sewer, where it attacks and subverts Blade's partner, News Radio's Andy Dick. This was hardly surprising, considering that Andy Dick was small and scrawny and unarmed, and crawled alone into a dank pipe to have a closer look at the red, glowing eye contained within. SPLAT! He gets turned into a mutant.
This forces Blade to make several large holes in Andy Dick's head, killing him. This establishing bit is used predictably to make Blade out to be a sad, angry man, and sets up conflict between Blade and the newly-arrived JC, who was Andy Dick's sister. Of course, she blames Blade for Andy Dick getting killed-- not really surprising, but still puzzling in light of the obvious evidence that Andy Dick's death was caused by the mutant. So they fight and stuff. Anyway, JC has some sort of authority to take command of the case (she wears a vaguely official-looking uniform, but never actually identifies who she represents) and steps in.
Meanwhile, the Bad Guy (or girl, in this case), communes with bounty hunters while inexplicably floating in a tank of water. She's Elexis Sinclaire, head of SinTEK, a gigantic mega-corporation whose purpose is only really explained on the box copy of the video. Elexis has been trying to find a certain girl, and has been kidnapping kids in an effort to locate her. Why does she want the girl? Probably to do something EVIL with, because Elexis is one of those characters who seem just barely able to stop themselves from standing there and going "Beheheheargh! I sure do love being EVIL!"
The little girl is, of course, at Hardcorps. She takes a shine to John, despite his numerous prosthetic limbs. But then the bad guy mutants attack the Hardcorps. headquarters and make off with her. Blade somehow deduces that SinTEK is responsible for these mutants, (apparently, his father was trying to shake the company down before he got killed by them, conveniently adding vengance to John's agenda) and prepares to attack SinTEK, but is shaken down by the head office. In one of the video's most hilariously overwrought sequences, he demands to know if his superiors are "in on" the conspiracy. Then, like a good policeman, he quits the force and convinces his buddies to ignore the law and KICK SOME ASS. But before he does that, he meets up with his mafia boss pal to get some advice and help. The mafia don makes some vague reference to John being guilty of some sort of sin, which he doesn't bother to explain. I guess that's why they called the video "Sin".
I had a bad feeling about the English dubbed version of Sin: the Movie from the moment I beheld the grammatical error on the video's cover. You see, Japanese/Western co-productions (or, at least, Western-financed Japanese productions) are not a new thing at all-- they date all the way back to NBC Films helping underwrite Kimba the White Lion. But many of them, particularly recent ones, have been less than stellar-- M.D. Geist: Deathforce and Midnight Panther in particular. But Sin: the Movie (actually, a direct-to-video release) is interesting in that it was based on an American computer game-- in particular, a first-person shooter. Unfortunately, I don't know anything about the Sin game except that it appears to be a poor man's Half-Life (which sounds like a harsh judgement until you realize just how fucking awesome Half-Life is).
Wondering why I keep referring to this video as "the English dubbed version of Sin"? The story with that is this: the Sin DVD will apparently have two subtitle tracks; one that's a straight translation of the Japanese dialogue, and one that's a version of the story told in the dub. This alarms and confuses me; according to the marketing materials, there will apparently be enough differences in plot nuance to actually require two completely separate scripts; the dub will have a slightly different story from the Japanese version. Of course, ADV are hyping it as "Two movies in one!" as opposed to the somewhat more truthful "Two stories over the same animation!" I really don't like this idea, mostly because it puts me in a difficult position. A big part of the English dubbed version of Sin's problem is the weak plot and grossly disjointed script. This is something that could, to a limited extent, be fixed by changing the dialogue. As such, I can't give the Japanese version of Sin a fair review at all, because it might be significantly different from the English dubbed version of Sin.
In short, watching Sin was just depressing, as I slowly realized that it would probably join fare like Panzer Dragoon and Crystal Triangle in the ranks of the Worst Anime Ever. I have to hand it to ADV for creating this, because it'll no doubt sell hundreds of thousands, just because of the game tie-in angle. I have to hand it to ADV for assembling a good spread of talent, including Giant Robo composer Masamichi Amano (his music sounds out of place) and mechanical designer Makoto Kobayashi (whose visual concepts seem strangely uneven here). I have to hand it to ADV, because they had the balls to take the first step into U.S.-funded anime. I just wish the results didn't give us such an amazing clusterfuck of a video release. There's more than enough meat in ADV's schedule to counter it (in particular, the yummy Gasaraki), but while Sin may well end up a commercial success, in this reviewer's opinion, it's an artistic failure.
In the end, all I can tell you is this: avoid Sin: the Movie like the plague. It's dull and poorly-constructed in almost every way. If you see it at your local store for five bucks, buy yourself a blank tape to watch instead. You'll find it much more enjoyable.
Added: Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Related Link: ADV Films