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A.Li.Ce   C+

Artsmagic DVD / GAGA Communications

Year Released: 1999 (USA: 2004)
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Kenichi Maejima
Writer: Masahiro Yoshimoto
Cast: Kaori Shimizu, Mariko Kouda, Chihiro Suzuki.

Review by Jim Harper

Time has revealed the basic flaws with computer-generated animation (as well as the merits, it must be said), but in the mid-'90s the technique looked set to become a major new art form. Then Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) happened, and suddenly people weren't quite so sure whether CGI was the way of the future or not. Prior to the Final Fantasy debacle, there were several experiments in producing CGI anime, including A.Li.Ce.

First of all, A.Li.Ce is most definitely anime rather than animation. There is no attempt to render the kind of striking realism characterized by Final Fantasy. Instead the computers are used to generate the kind of fantasy-tinged images found in traditional Japanese manga and anime. This is a refreshing change from the beautiful but entirely soulless work on display in Final Fantasy. Also in keeping with its cell-animated roots, A.Li.Ce partially sacrifices story in favor of visual artistry. There's nothing inherently wrong with this approach, but five years on the animation here has begun to show its age. In 1999 this film would undoubtedly have been cutting-edge, but the art of CGI has progressed since then, and unfortunately A.Li.Ce looks more like one of last year's PC games.

On the plus side, the film has a certain charm. While the plot is rather simplistic and predictable, there are a handful of interesting characters, including a smart sex droid and a megalomaniac rebel leader. At roughly 80 minutes, A.Li.Ce moves along at a tidy pace, which helps gloss over some of the film's shortcomings. Older viewers might well find their attention wandering, but the lack of complex plot developments and the boldly drawn characters make the material ideally suited to a younger audience. In years to come the film is likely to be an interesting historical document, but as a contemporary effort A.Li.Ce is somewhat unsatisfying.

Nevertheless, Artsmagic has produced a quality Region 0 disc. The anamorphic 16:9 picture is perfectly complimented by a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound mix. Thankfully both subtitled and English-dubbed versions are included, for those of us who like to have the choice. There's a featurette about CGI animation and an interesting interview with the director, as well as Artsmagic's usual trailers, filmographies, biographies, and an image gallery to round out the disc.

Review published 02.03.2005.

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