Film Review: Asura

   Directed by Ke'ichi Sato, Asura is the tale of its titular character, a monstrous creature who is left orphaned after his own mother tries to eat him due to the famine that is flooding across 15th century Japan. Feral and alone, Asura must learn to fend for himself in the wilds of Kyoto which have also been struck by floods and droughts leaving behind a country full of the dead and the alive who are willing to do whatever it takes to stay that way, even if this means losing their humanity.

   Asura is a feature which, for the most part, plays up to the more negative associations Manga receives from its critics: Asura is violent, graphically and crudely so, and, perhaps more depressingly, Asura is vapid and superficial, juvenile and ham-fisted in an unrelenting and unapologetic fashion. It's the type of movie which will be loved by a certain type of adolescent male, ones who do not discern when it comes to quality of movies as long as cartoon violence fills their bloodlust, but will appeal to no one else. It's a rare feature in which, despite the animation techniques combining computer graphics with hand-drawn backgrounds in a similar fashion to the archly inventive and staggeringly beautiful Beauty and the Beast, there is simply nothing there to it. Asura serves no purpose and there is no point to its existence which, in my eyes, is the worst thing that can be said about a film.

   The feature is about an individual who is barely recognisable as human and this is the problem for the rest of the film too - there is nothing here, and no characters or individuals, that a person can relate to. Nobody is redeemable or corruptible as none of the characters are believable; they are catoon-ish in the worst possible way. And, whilst ostensibly being a brutal film about the depths humanity will sink to, the aestheticisation of Asura's violence glorifies it and sends out a hypocritical message - is the violence here supposed to be cool or is it supposed to represent how far our species can fall? I don't think this is something the film-makers have even thought about and nor do they need to - as long as there's gore it will find an audience.


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