Saturday, November 24, 2007

[Animation Nation] Freedom Project

Rogue of Eden

"Freedom Project is a Japanese promotional project by Nissin Cup Noodles for their 35th anniversary in 2006. As part of the project, a 6-part series titled Freedom, was commissioned with Katsuhiro Otomo - of Akira and Steamboy fame - serving as the character and mecha designer"

And it's therefore no wonder that the vehicles and the bots featured in Freedom, looks similar in form to Akira, in my opinion anyway. But that's the least of anyone's concern. I'll state it upfront, Freedom has your classical mainstream appeal, despite its science-fiction setting. It's simply amazing stuff with the beautiiful animation that carries the movie, and more importantly, it contains a story that engages, one full of action and comedy, with characters that you actually care about and root for.

In today's screening, we were shown an unsubbed version of the Prologue, not that I'm complaining (translation though was printed out and provided at the door), Episodes 1 to 3, and the actual ads that were used for Nissin cup noodles. And it's undoubtedly well received by the audience tonight, and left me, and I'd bet almost everyone in the hall today, clamouring to want to see more, as the collection of ads presented at the end had whet our appetites and provided a glimpse of how the story would continue to its conclusion.

Freedom is set 300 years into the future, where a cluster of humans are living on the moon in domed environments. Earth has become uninhabitable due to environmental breakdown, and the humans in the lunar Eden have thrived in a lifestyle that calls for constant contribution to society, where punishment is met out as voluntary work in maintaining their lunar enclave. We follow the lives of Takeru, Kazuma and Bisu just after their graduation, and journey with them through their adventures in Eden, until they inadvertently discover, as with most utopias under extreme authoritarian control, there's always a sort of a cover up, and witness for themselves, that Earth may not seem like what they are told.

Takeru is the key character here, with his reckless attitude, and infatuation for the female of the species. It is his easy "falling in love" that leads him and his friends from one adventure to the next, which paves the way for excellence par none action sequences in a tube race (akin to Star Wars pod-race), a lunar trek, and a tunnel chase by persistent bots (in the mold of Matrix's and Star War's). With the help of an old fogey Alan who holds the key to many old trinkets that the trio require, and knowledge o the past, Takeru has all the help that he requires for his mission, with the ever reliable best frined Kazuma (the later episodes concerning this character will be worth the watch), and cowardly tech-wizrd Bisu.

Alas we've only experienced half of the series, but what a blast it was! Given it's Nissin produced, I thought the filmmakers were rather creative with the necessary blatantness in having to put the product in, and making it all too visible so that they'll not be missed. No doubt drawing the most chuckles, especially in Episode 3's, this is but a necessary evil. The ads did show a different look and feel of the animation and characters though, with its very 3D look, and it was revealed later by Vong Yonghow that his job was actually the lighting to make it look 2D. I agreed with him that it doesn't matter whether effort was unnecessarily expended to make a 3D product look 2D, and what mattered most was the story.

And Utada Hikaru's This is Love is mighty catchy, being used as the opening theme for each episode (frankly I was waiting to hear it again, and again).

Yonghow was present today for a short Q&A session, and explained that he had to take leave to come back from Singapore as they're still working on Episode 6 and 2 commercials. Despite working long hours in the company, it still took about 2.5-3 months to produce one episode, and while the DVD is already for the earlier episodes, I did a quick check on Amazon and they are really expensive. Perhaps I'll wait for a proper DVD release which contains all the episodes and the commercials, rather than buying each episode individually.

And to a question posed as to why Nissin would want to commission such a project (hey I don't mind, keep them coming!), Yonghow's guess was perhaps cup noodles are convenient, and one can bring them everywhere, so it's freedom in that sense. Ha, perhaps that's true :-)

For those interested to follow through to the end of the series, you might want to pop by Yonghow's blog Halcyon Realms for an indepth look at the development of Freedom, and other anime titles.

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