The 'Bright' Anime Is Beautifully Well Made (But Totally Misses The Point)
I feel a little bad criticizing the recently-released anime film Bright: Samurai Soul because a lot of work has clearly gone into making it. Kind of sort of retelling the story of the 2017 Will Smith urban fantasy movie about modern humans living alongside orcs and elves etc., the animated spin-off switches the setting to Meiji Period Japan (1868 – 1912) while filling the story with more Easter Eggs than the Easter Bunny’s butthole around mid-April. (Well, where do you think they come from, genius?)
For example, Joel Edgerton’s Nick Jakoby, the original movie’s first orc policeman trying to protect an elf girl, is replaced by a hulked-out orc mercenary named Raiden. This seems to be a reference to a real-life sumo wrestler of the same name, who was so powerful, the legend goes that he once accidentally ripped a guy’s arm off during a match. Sources are unclear whether the real Raiden then offered his opponent his severed limb while saying, “Need a hand?” so we’re forced to merely assume that that’s exactly what happened.
The movie also establishes that there is a large enclave of elves, goblins, and dwarves in Yokohama. That’s a possible reference to Yokohama’s real (and delicious) Chinatown, which was established after the city became one of the first ports opened to foreigners following the end of Japan’s isolationist policy. Even the look of the anime is evocative of traditional nihonga paintings, a style that became formalized during the Meiji Period to distinguish it from Western art that was suddenly widely available in the country.
So, you know, kudos for putting so much effort into the film but, at the same time, anti-kudos … which would be … soduk? Yeah, so, soduk for failing to realize what worked and didn’t work in the original Bright SO HARD that you accidentally erased the absolutely best part of the film: its modern setting and subsequent worldbuilding.
Bright: Samurai Soul is technically set in modern times (late 19th century), but it very much has a feel of a fantasy movie, and orcs in fantasy are like Kubrick using toilets as settings for plot-driving scenes: it’s been done time and time again. But orcs that apparently invented heavy metal and make up like 99% of the NFL because of their massive strength? That is a million times more interesting, and that’s exactly what the 2017 movie was giving us.
Bright’s best scene was probably when an orc went on Joe Rogan to talk about how the orc community rejects Jakoby as one of their own because orcs are apparently ACAB? In any case, it was great seeing something so original and creative. Similarly, in the anime, elves are an oppressed minority, which we have seen as recently as The Witcher. But in Bright, they are the 1% living in heavily guarded, segregated parts of the city filled with more wealth than the butthole of the bastard offspring of the Easter Bunny and the end-of-the-rainbow Leprechaun. (I made a bet with Cracked that if I can incorporate “filled butthole” imagery into a single article three times, I get a hat that says “FBI: Filling Buttholes Inc.”)
The problem with Bright was that it didn’t have a decent, well-paced story with fleshed-out characters to bring this fascinating world to life, and the anime fixed none of that. The original film only needed a few more scenes that would give us more insight into the Bright universe and let us fill in some of the blanks on our own. Instead, we got a weird, mixed bag of simultaneous “telling, not showing” and “not telling us enough,” which was a lot like filling your butthole with live bees. On the one hand, I’m a bit impressed the movie pulled it off but am still baffled as to WHY they did it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a new hat to pick up.
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Top Image: Netflix