2.5, Japan

20th Century Boys 1: Beginning of the End

New York Asian Film Festival2008 / Yukihiko Tsutsumi > I’ve only read a handful of comics in my life, but easily one of the most fascinating (and daunting) was Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys. It spanned decades, continents and felt epic from the start. But translating such epics to the silver screen has always been an issue: More often than not, the story is altered for a new generation or the heroes and heroines are significantly miscast. Here, these are not issues. The movie stays true to the original and most of the actors seem proper enough for their roles. The big problem arises from the film’s mediocre production. For a film with one of the biggest budgets in Japanese history (around $60mn), the final product seems like it was dusted off the bargain bin. The colors are flat, lacking the glossy, refined look needed for this kind of movie and even the blood gushing scenes reek of amateur techniques. Japan, as a country, is not keen on blockbusters. When it comes to quiet, reflective cinema, it has excelled for the past decade but the mega-movie style of Hollywood continues to evade them. And it’s quite sad because 20th Century Boys should be as hyped up as Watchmen, yet the film will remain unmarketable outside Asia (and to certain manga buffs) because of its lack of polish.