Most cinephiles would agree that David Ayer’s Bright was a failure, despite of what a few BrightBros (yes they exist) might say. But failing upward is a possible trajectory and the Bright Universe (apparently it exists) can achieve that in many ways. One of them is to transport the idea of putting orcs in present day Los Angeles onto 1860s Japan.
During that period, orcs work as hitmen or get work to kidnap a few elves. One of those orcs is Raiden (Daisuke Hirakawa’s original voice, Fred Mancuso on English dub), who bashes a mans head in to get to his team’s goal – to kidnap an elf, Sonya (Shion Wakayama/ Yuzu Harada). Little does he know that she sees something in him that changes their dynamic. Complicating that dynamic is Izou (Yuki Noruma/ Simu Liu), who works in a brothel.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen new anime. I’ve seen three in the past four years, two of them using 3D tech, including this one. The tech brings mixed results including this new Netflix entry. I’ve seen enough pre-2018 anime to know that the subgenre can imitate camera movements.
But the 3D here just enhances the plasticity of the objects on screen. One of the scenes here include the burning of the brothel where we first see Izou and young Sonya (what is she doing in a brothel!?). And the shots look so cheap that it takes the attention of the viewer’s minds. In fairness, Netflix’ investment in the Bright Universe has moments where it pays off.
To recap, Sonya is a child elf and Izou appears as human. And it’s always good to see three ‘races’ turn from antipathy to friendship especially between Izou and Raiden. Even though yes, the metaphor can be obvious. There’s also something fascinating about elves and orcs in Japan. Although there are two other races that the film ignores, so points off for that.
The original assignment, of course, is to incorporate elves and orcs within the human world. This begs the question of why just those Western fantastical races instead of Eastern ones. Another question, then, is whether the film chooses to gravitate towards Izou or the other races. Izou might have been that pull for Bright Bro fans or new converts, but that depends on what version viewers are watching.
Noruma as Izou captures the immediacy of what’s happening on screen but Liu doesn’t. So it’s the other races that either the Bright Bros are into and might the the characters pulling new fans in. And despite the animation flaws, the aesthetic emphasizes character design and give them levels. Even B-shots where Raiden driving a carriage in modern Yokohama can suspend disbelief better than a live action version can.
Bright: Samurai Soul comes out on October 12. Catch it through this link: http://www.netflix.com/brightsamuraisoul.