009 Re:Cyborg Is Nothing But A Weird Piece Of Amateur Theology

Warning: spoilers ahead. 009 Re:Cyborg is a new anime film based on Cyborg 009 by Shotaro Ishinomori. It was written and directed by Kenji Kamiyama, the director of Blood: The Last Vampire and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Based on those previous works, I went into the movie expecting a military-related story that explored what it meant to be a cyborg. Needless to say, it was not at all what I expected. But my expectations aside, was it worth a watch?

Note: This review contains major spoilers as that’s the only way to really discuss the movie.

Good — Amazingly Beautiful Action Scenes

During the action scenes, this is a beautiful movie. The use of colours is astounding and the effects used to show off each of the cyborgs’ special powers are stunning -- especially 009’s time-slowing ability. The direction for these scenes is also spot on, and everything feels dramatic and action packed.

Mixed — Exposition Heavy

The talking scenes, on the other hand, are numerous, static and sometimes boring. To explore the movie’s more complex ideas, the characters in 009 spend over half of the movie just standing around talking. While what they talk about is often interesting and necessary for deciphering the movie’s mystery, there are far more interesting ways to convey this information to the audience. As we were all taught in grade school, good writing is all about “show, don’t tell”. This is where the movie’s visual style falters a bit as well. All the characters in this movie have been created using 3D models. During the actions scenes, the models look amazing. Just standing around, however, they often look cheap and out of place.

Mixed — Heavy Religious Supernatural Themes

The movie begins as an investigation into thirty “9-11” style terrorist attacks that have happened across the world, seemingly at random. However, it is quickly discovered by the cyborg cast that the attacks are not only religiously motivated but perhaps divinely instigated. Worse yet, any of them could be the next potential terrorist and never even know it. It is through this context the movie explores what exactly it means to hear “the word of god” and what it would do to the mortal mind in trying to interpret it.

Bad — Deus Ex Machina

When you have so many overt religious/supernatural elements coursing through the story, it should be no surprise that many of the plot twists and revelations are caused by a quite literal deus ex machina -- with the ending of the film being perhaps the most blatant example this side of Bruce Almighty. Frankly, if all it takes is your protagonist yelling at god (read: the sky) to get things to go your way, perhaps you need to rethink your movie.

Final Thoughts

I went into 009 Re:Cyborg expecting a look at human psychology and instead got a strange lesson in amateur theology. While I applaud the director for trying something new, I feel the film’s message was almost trolling the Western world as it basically insinuated that 9-11 and similar terrorist attacks were divinely caused -- if not flat out divinely controlled. For all that, it is a great-looking movie whenever there is action going on and is worth a watch on that level alone. But in closing, I feel I must point out that it is hard to get into any movie where they discover an angel skeleton—I just kept waiting for it to announce the opening of a new mall.

009 Re:Cyborg was released in Japan (as well as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea) on October 27, 2012. There is currently no word on a Western release.


    ...? There's no insinuation that 9/11 and other attacks were divinely caused in this movie - 007 speaks of them as having a clear human root, and they're clearly before anyone started hearing 'His Voice'.

    While there are definitely more interesting ways to give the audience information than 'standing around and talking', doing so in action-heavy scenes just muddles the message and frankly should be avoided. (If you want evidence of this, the guy doing the review for The Guardian managed to miss the 'Lazarus' reference due to this, it seems.) I think I know the scene in question - where 004 is reading from 008's notes - but it's much more rewarding a scene when the viewer is familiar with the characters' backgrounds.

    Which I thought was one of two problems with this movie: it relies far too much on the viewers being familiar with the Cyborg 009 mythos or just being knowledgeable in general. (There's considerable irony in 004 working for the GSG, for example - it stands for 'Border Guard Group', and he was shot nearly to death by border guards while trying to escape to West Germany.)

    The other is that, while the specific motivation behind the bombings and 'His Voice' is oblique at best (I just figured it had something to do with the US military/gov't's use of zombie cyborgs - it being one thing to convert a living human, and another to raise corpses from the dead), 'His Voice' is on the 00-Number Cyborgs' side, and is trying to get them back into the game. 'He' is listening and watching Joe; that's why the yelling worked (Joe proved that the 00-Numbers were capable of overcoming incredible odds to protect the peace), and that's why he had that 'white desert' vision ("this is what's going to happen if you don't get back to work", basically). And that's why 002 isn't impeded by 'His Voice' until very late in his investigation, while 007 and 008 are removed so quickly - 'His Voice' would like the 00-Numbers to be more active in protecting the world.

    ...I think, anyway. This is a film that needs to be watched twice before certain things make sense. (Though, an extra scene between the 'end' and the 'epilogue' would really, really help.) The last friggin' huge angel skeleton especially begs an explanation.

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