As I watched Bayonetta: Bloody Fate, the new anime film based on PS3 and 360 title Bayonetta, two thoughts kept running through my head: "This is the most '90s anime I have seen in a decade" and "this is even more over-the-top than the game was!"
Good — An Amazing Game-to-Film Adaptation
Too often, when making an anime adaption of a game, directors tend to keep too close to the source material — which is often to the anime's detriment. After all, a story that is designed to be told over the course of 15 to 80 hours often suffers greatly when stuffed into a feature-length (or even series-length) time limit.
However, Bayonetta is one of the few anime adaptations I've seen in which the story works better as a film than as a game. This is mainly because the creators of this film knew what to cut and what to keep: The overall story and major plot points are kept, while needless details — i.e. specific locations, order of bosses, gameplay-related story developments — are left by the roadside. So while the story of Bayonetta was a bit drawn out and confusing in the game, the movie streamlines it into a tight and rather enjoyable plot.
Good — Beautiful and Budget-Saving
Visually, Bayonetta feels like some of the most beautiful anime feature films from around the turn of the millennium. It shares a dark style and hyper-detailed character designs along the lines of classics like Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. The male characters are all walking Adonises — thin frames covered in muscle (regardless of age) — and the females are all Barbies; busty, thin, and with legs that go on for days. There is no sign of the typical moé-invoking art style common in most modern anime — even in the case of Cereza who is legitimately a little girl. Moreover, everything is wonderfully, unbelievably detailed — backgrounds and characters alike.
For animation of this detail, however, there has to be a trade-off. And that trade-off is the 90s' greatest budget-saving trick. Outside of the action scenes, large swathes of the film are camera pans over static shots while the only real animation is a repeated gesture or the movement of lips. Of course, even when the characters are just standing around talking, everything is still breathtakingly beautiful.
Good — Beyond Over-The-Top
Once you see the action scenes of Bayonetta, it's easy to see where the film's budget went. In nearly every fight, Bayonetta uses a different weapon from the game in all its absurd wonder as she massacres angels en masse. If you have played the game, you know what to expect from the action you'll see here as Bayonetta shoots, stabs, and spins through the air — always in the most oversexualised poses possible.
But when it comes to being over-the-top — as you'd expect in a film that shares a director with Afro Samurai — the movie blows past the game by having a new ending that is just this side of Gurren Lagann in how far it's willing to go. It is truly awesome.
Mixed — In-Your-Face Fanservice. All. The. Time.
As I mentioned above, Bayonetta's fight scenes are filled with the characters making sexy poses — but that is only the start. There very nearly isn't a single scene in the movie without some sort of overt fanservice: Bayonetta in a nightgown; Bayonetta in the shower; Bayonetta sucking on a lollipop; Bayonetta rubbing her hands over her body for no reason. It goes so far into pandering that it becomes parody.
But what makes the fanservice truly enjoyable is that Bayonetta herself is clearly in on the joke. She acts this way simply to mess with people — to throw them out of their comfort zone and then see how they react. This includes every member of the viewing audience. It also makes every pose a joke in its own right and it's pretty darn funny to see just how crazy it gets.
While it's not exactly the pinnacle of modern anime, I had a blast watching Bayonetta: Bloody Fate. It is a movie that in no way takes itself seriously and is constantly pressing the limit of how far over-the-top it can go while bringing you along for the ride. Moreover, it perfectly streamlines the game's story and still manages to keep true to its characters. If you are looking for a film that screams '90s anime or you just love campy awesomeness, be sure to give Bayonetta: Bloody Fate a watch.
Bayonetta: Bloody Fate was released in Japanese theatres on November 23, 2013. It will be released in Australia and New Zealand sometime in the future. Currently, no other international releases have been announced.