Sin: The Movie Anime Review
Sin: The Movie
US Release By
Video Game-Based Action/Adventure
John Blade, torn by the death of his best friend and his father's wheeling and dealings, leads a police group called HARDCORPS. When mutants begin to appear throughout the city, John Blade is thrown into a mystery involving his own past. Along with the president of SinTEK, Elexis Sinclaire and a lonely young girl named Elyse Steward, they may hold the key the world's safety or destruction.
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Sin: The movie needed to be just that: a movie, as opposed to a one-hour feature. I know that if forty minutes to an hour was added on and proper direction and pacing were used, along with less-choppy animation, Sin would be solidly recommended. As is, despite its interesting pedigree, the characterization is thin, the background underdeveloped, and the ending rushed. The visuals are tainted by hurried action sequences and ill-fitting attempts to use CG hardware along with the cel art. The English and Japanese versions have different scripts, and it's not a translation issue, as the English version is arguably the original. It's also somewhat better; the Japanese language version features some big name actors, but is looser and just not as satisfying on the whole. At least orchestral score is good.
If you are part of Sin's cult following, I'd say that Sin is worth buying (the creators of the game seem to love it after all). If you're a big fan of video game-based anime, Sin is worth a look. If you don't fall into either of those categories and are just an anime fan, you may want to wave Sin off.
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Note: In case you do not know, the English and Japanese versions of Sin: The Movie have different scripts. This is not due to a bad translation, as the English version is arguably the original, since Sin was animated for that script. The main portions of this review will pertain to the English version with follow-up comparisons with the Japanese version.
It's almost impossible not to talk about Sin's origin. Sin is based off an American PC video game that has a small cult following, but was never terribly successful. Regardless, ADV choose it as their first anime project. The creation of Sin begins what could very well become a popular trend in the creation of anime (i.e., taking a North American concept and co-creating it with the Japanese). Sin's story and characters were mostly conceived in the US, but the Japanese had a fair amount of input. The entire animation process took place in Japan, which makes it anime in my mind (some disagree), despite its American origins. I feel the entire concept of Sin's creation is very interesting and commendable, but in the end it's what I see in front of me that counts.
The story begins with a well-done funeral/flashback introduction, showing us only one of the conflicts in the main character John Blade. When it comes to characters in video game-based animes, the main character shows an iota of personality but that's about it. Then we're bombarded with twenty to fifty more character that serve no real purpose, except for cameos. In Sin's case I was pleased to see that, while some characters were just "there," not too many of them were crammed in and the main characters had a good amount of depth. Elexis, the villain, did at least have a motive for being the way she was and doing what she did (despite how ridiculously far she took it). While she didn't break any new ground at all, her sexy and twisted personality made her appealing enough. I must admit to liking John Blade in the English version. I enjoyed seeing a cool anti-hero actually breaking some stereotypes by emoting; having a personality and actually doing something that involved him with the plot. Not only that, but his interesting, unpredictable past and surprising layers tied in with the main plot and made it so I could actually feel empathy for him. The little girl, Elyse, while more of a plot device than I would have liked, was interesting in her own way, and slightly scary.
While the characters in Sin had some potential, they suffered alongside the story because of the running time. This show tried to cram a movie-like story into a sixty-minute timeframe and it did not work out. Maybe things would have worked better if Sin were animated as two OAV episodes. If you ask me, Sin needed another forty minutes tacked onto its running time, at least. While John Blade and Elyse were interesting, some key elements in their pasts were kind of thin. Also, while it was nice to see that the main characters (John, Elexis, JC and Elyse) carried the story more than I would have expected, the fact that their pasts were a little thin made the story thin. That was a shame, because it could have been an interesting little tale otherwise. Elexsis' past was actually passable on its own, but it could have stood to be fleshed out more. Many story elements were not really explained in enough detail and therefore seemed kind of unbelievable, simply because they said, "this is what's happening," and nothing else. Even when I took the running time in mind I felt that the story was thinner then I'd like, but maybe it was unavoidable.
Like I said, it's hard to cram a movie into a sixty-minute time frame without it feeling rushed. Sin was no exception. I felt that the organization and, most importantly, creation of HARDCORPS (John Blade's police force) should have been explained. My biggest gripe was the ending, as it was too rushed for it's own good and left me with a "blah" taste, so to speak. I do feel really conflicted about saying all of this too, because I kind of liked the characters in Sin, and I liked many elements of the story. If Sin was made into an actual theatrical-length production then this anime could have been a solid production.
Having finally watched Sin in Japanese, I'll give my opinion on which story I liked more. To be frank, I feel the English version is superior. To be fair, I did watch the English version first so that might be coloring my point of view somewhat. The majority of the two plots were similar, but some of the goals the villain at SinTEK hoped to achieve were different. These motivations were more believable in the English script. They seemed to fit in better with the plot and, overall, made the whole story a little more sensible. The Japanese version, on the other hand, had some pretty weird concepts that kind of came out of nowhere. It's hard to describe without spoiling the plot, but the Japanese script and plot just fell a little flat for me. In its defense, I can appreciate the Japanese version trying to be more creative with the plot. The motivations and goals in the English version's villain were not terribly original. Unfortunately, the Japanese script was a little too cloudy for my liking. The plot felt a little looser then the English version (which was far from perfect mind you). My main gripe with the Japanese version isn't so much in the plot as it is with the characters. John Blade wasn't as interesting in the Japanese version. His character felt a little more detached from the story and I kept getting the impression that he didn't have as much at stake as he did in the English version. While I recommend the English version over its Japanese counterpart, the choice is up to you.
Production-wise I was impressed with all the talents ADV organized. They had the animation produced at Phoenix Entertainment, a studio known for producing violent animes (and this show's got violence in spades). When you get right down to it, however, there was good, bad, and very bad in the technical department. The very bad would be the computer animation, particularly the helicopters. They were poorly rendered and didn't mesh well with the cel animation. The CG in Sin will only add fuel to the fire for the people who feel CG has no place in anime. The good would have to be the animation itself, as it was generally well done. The character designs were not very original, though the stoic look of John Blade looked good and the monsters were also interesting to look at. The art was also designed well and blended right in with the atmosphere Sin presented. The animation was smooth and some of the action sequences looked good, but some didn't. This is where the bad comes in. Maybe it was because of the American involvement that this happened, but for whatever reason the action was sped up in some scenes, like in many American animations that I watch, and it looked bad.
The acting in the English version was very good. The writing tended to lean towards corny and cliche at moments, but overall the script was solidly written and well acted. John Blade's voice was a standout, as I liked how he sounded hardened and cold, but had no problem showing emotion when he needed to. The main villain, Elexis, was nicely voiced with a deep, sexy tone that fit the character well. It's worth mentioning that a child voices the little girl, Elyse. This is a practice I feel is sorely underused in anime voice acting (in both English and Japanese) and I would like to see it more often. The voice and, surprisingly, performance from this young girl (who I peg to be around eight to ten) was pretty darn good.
The Japanese version is kind of interesting at first glance. There are several high profile voices in the cast list (including Kikuko Inoue, Akio Ootsuka and Shinichirou Miki). What's more interesting is that a lot of the Japanese actors specialize in dubbing foreign films into Japanese. With that said, however, the acting in the Japanese version was kind of bad. Most of the voices were fine and the majority of the acting was okay, but there weren't any memorable voices or performances. What pulled the acting down for me was the voices chosen for John Blade and the mafia boss Mancini. Mancini wasn't too badly acted from what I could tell, but I've never heard Akio Ootsuka play an old man before, and now I think I know why. He didn't sound right. While the character was frail in appearance, his voice was too weak for his personality. The worst offender was the main character John Blade. I dare say that he didn't even sound human. Performance-wise, he wasn't much better. John Blade didn't emote enough when required and he occasionally came off as flat and bored. It's not a complete loss, however, as the actress playing Elyse was able to portray the characters quiet pain and loneliness pretty well (although I don't believe a kid was used like in the English version).
The music shows another wise choice in ADV's selection of creative talents. Masamichi Amano returns with the Poland Warsaw Symphonic Orchestra to deliver a fittingly intense and theatrical musical score that I enjoyed.
If Sin has one thing going for it, it's replay ability. Anyone who happens across the DVD will probably want to watch each script at least once to see which is better. For me, as I mentioned, I liked the English version more. The story was slightly better, the characters were more interesting and the acting was better when compared to the Japanese version.
Sin: The movie needed to be just that; a movie, as opposed to a one-hour feature. I know that if forty minutes to an hour was added on and proper direction and pacing were used, along with less-choppy animation, Sin would be solidly recommended. Maybe it was a budget issue, or maybe an issue of inexperience on ADVs part, or both. I like the idea of Sin's creation and I support it fully. America has many great ideas that would make fine animes, if done properly. For a first try, Sin could have been a lot worse. Thankfully, Sin seems to have done well enough for more ventures into this new field to be taken (such as a sequel, Sin 2). If you are part of Sin's cult following, I'd say that Sin is worth buying (the creators of the game seem to love it after all). If you're a big fan of video game-based anime, Sin is worth a look. If you don't fall into either of those categories and are just an anime fan, you may want to wave Sin off.
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It's pedigree is original, but Sin is akin to most of the video game based anime out there.
Notes and Trivia
Sin is based on a 1998 first person shooter game for Windows, SiN, by US-based Ritual Entertainment. ADV used it as the basis for their first (but not last) effort in producing anime. In this case, while the foundation and funding came from ADV and the SiN concept, the actual production was mostly handled by Japanese company Phoenix Entertainment, and most of the production staff (director, animation staff, music) was Japanese.
SiN (the game) had something of a rebirth in 2006 through Valve's Steam online distribution system, where it was available packaged with the then-new SiN Episodes: Emergence, a later game set in the same universe. There was also an expansion pack for the original game released in 1999 that acted as a sequel.
The soundtrack of the anime rendition is also available from ADV.
US DVD Review
This DVD is solid. The video, while not perfect, is well represented in several areas. During the scenes that have choppy animation, the video doesn't look too hot, but that's not a fault of the DVD transfer. The audio is clear in both languages and comes with two subtitle tracks. One is a closed-caption for the dub (surprising, coming from ADV) labeled as v.1 subtitles. The second subtitle track contains a literal translation for the Japanese track (the one that has the different script) labeled as v.2 subtitles. The extras contain a theatrical trailer, ADV previews (which play at the beginning of the disc annoyingly enough), conceptual art and a "making-of" feature that lasts 20 minutes. This helps give insight on the creation of Sin from the director, cast members and creators of the Sin PC game. Interesting stuff.
Rated 16 and up for lots of graphic violence. I wouldn't be surprised if they blindfolded Elyse's English voice actress during recording sessions.
Violence: 4 - Scenes of several HARDCORPS officers torn to pieces.
Nudity: 2 - Nothing is actually seen, but it gets close.
Sex/Mature Themes: 3 - Once scene.
Language: 3 - Strong, but not overly so.
Staff & Cast
Original English Cast
Colonel John Blade: Markham Anderson
Jennifer "JC" Armack: Shelly Calene-Black
John "JC" Armack: Chris Patton
Elexis Sinclaire: Taylor Matthews
Vencenzo Mancini: Andy McAvin
Kait Palmer: LaTeace Towns
Tim Perko: Vic Migmogna
Elyse Steward: Danielle Kimball
Lorenzo Vitello: Ted Pfister
Dr. Daniel Greenwall: David Parker
Tina Vansant: Jocelyn Donegan
SkyCity Announcer: Hilary Haag
Blade's Father: Robert Villani
HARDCORPS Commander: Jason Douglas
Cop 1: John Swasey
Cop 2: Lew Temple
Cop 3: Jason Douglas
Cop 4: Matt Kelley
Dispatcher 1: John Swasey
Dispatcher 2: Kelly Manison
Dispatcher 3: Lew Temple
Dispatcher 4: Lash Bourque
Mutant Elyse: Hilary Haag
Elyse's Dad: Lew Temple
Elyse's Mom: Kelly Manison
Guard: Randy Sparks
SinTEK Executives: John Swasey, Jason Douglas, Matt Kelley
Medie: Randy Sparks
Priest: Mike Kleinhenz
Receptionist: Kelly Manison
Ensign: Lash Bourque
Reporter: Matt Kelley
Additional Voices: Robert Atkins, James Bates, Zak Belica, Lash Bourque, Mark Dochtermann, Jim Dose, Steven Foster, Richard Gray, Chris Hawley, Kelly Manison, Tom Mustaine, Andrew Orjuela, Sharon Papa, Jason Remmert
Japanese Dub Cast
Colonel John Blade: Kouji Ishii
Jennifer "JC" Armack: Kikuko Inoue
John "JC" Armack: Hiroya Ishimaru
Elexis Sinclaire: Kaori Yamagata
Vencenzo Mancini: Akio Ootsuka
Kait Palmer: Masako Katsuki
Tim Perko: Shinichirou Miki
Elyse Steward: Ayako Kawasumi
Lorenzo Vitello: Hidekatsu Shibata
Dr. Daniel Greenwall: Tamio Ooki
Tina Vansant: Yuriko Yamaguchi
HARDCORPS Commander: Masaru Ikeda
Reporter: Katsuhiro Harasawa
SinTEK Executives: Takehiro Murosono, Junro Maryuyama, Naohiro Yamamoto