Just thought I’d cross-post this review of the anime Vexile I did for Behind Anime Lines here.
Vexile, while not as definitive a touchstone as Blade Runner or GiTS or Akira is certainly part of the cyberpunk genre of a dystopic near future where issues of humanity and machine blurrings are at the fore. It depicts both images of high tech utopias of machine assisted life. As well as dystopias of alienation from each other, baren wastelands, scientific abuses that have had resulted in the death and mutation of large populations. It also has a nostalgia for a early post-war Japan where people struggled to make do with make-shift housing, black markets, the proliferation of yakuza culture, and sustenance where they could find it. The portrayl of a low-tech Tokyo inhabited by high-tech humans becoming androids foregrounds many of these concerns. The US is presented as high-tech, while Japan, save for the dominant Daiwa corporation is portrayed as low-tech and fostering a rag-tag guerilla force within its remaining population which has been correlled into the protective walls of Tokyo.
Japan here certainly isn’t coming to the aid of anyone, and has regressed to this modern Tokugawa fortress Japan space. Underlying this high tech/low tech clash is some important issues of isolationism, xenophobia and national identity. But this is never adequately followed up or effectively integrated to felsh out the characters further. From Vexille’s hatred of androids, to Maria’s sudden outburst of xenophobia towards the American Vexille, as well as the tension between the mad scientist and his henchman – this tension over identity flares up, but never crystalises around a stronger character conflict or broader political statement. It looks great, but its potential critical voice is muted and dulled through a confusing narrative and a rather anti-climatic ending.