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James Cheung T.,
The lone warrior Colin travels with the wise-cracking ghost Amergan through the ages searching for the immortal despot Marcus Octavius, who killed his lover on the Celtic plains tens of centuries ago. On his quest, he discovers New York is submerged, and one dominant monolith fortress towers over the seas. Colin can save the survivors, but his sword only hungers for the blood of one man. Despite many lifetimes of training, Colin has failed to vanquish Marcus on the great battlefields of history. Can he finish what he started and stop Marcus? Will Colin lead the people to freedom or become consumed by hate? There can be only one. Written by
They used to say "there can be only one" great highlander film.
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present "great highlander film" number 2 and one of the best and most highly entertaining anime films of its genre.
"Highlander: The Search for Vengeance" is one of the few rare anime co-productions created specifically for an international audience in mind. In highlander's case, up-and-coming Imagi Animation studios(creators of 2007's TMNT) teamed up with Davis-Panzer Productions and Madhouse Studios to produce this modern animated spectacle based loosely on the cult hit Highlander franchise. By "loosely" I mean that this Highlander show should be viewed as an "alternate universe" separate from the existing highlander movie and TV series; related only in the basic mythos of immortals, swords-n-sorcery, "the quickening" and other basic aspects of what makes Highlander "highlander".
Colin Macleod (the 4th named Macleod character following Connor, Duncan and Quentin. Though he is not officially a "Macleod" clansman by blood) travels the post apocalyptic wasteland or the world seeking to exact his revenge on the immortal Marcus Octavius. The reasons for his obsession with vengeance are told through flashbacks into the past in typical highlander style. We find out that Marcus was directly or indirectly responsible basically for every crappy thing that has ever happened to Colin. From The death of his first wife, to the discovery of Colin's immortality following his first fatal fight with Marcus and his subsequent branding as a devil and being hunted by his own clansmen. Through the course of history, Colin has tried many times to kill Marcus but ends up being severely out matched by his superior adversary. He arrives in a decimated New York in which Marcus Octavius has established himself as dictator. Teaming up with a band of rebels, including Dahlia, a woman who reminds him of his dead wife, Colin Macleod prepares to exact his revenge one final time.
Despite the small number of science fiction clichés like a rebel gang trying to take down an evil despot and some humanity killing virus, I found the story to be quite a strong one which presented a perspective on immortal life that was slightly different from the original Highlander. Where Connor in the original film treasured every moment of his immortal life, made numerous friends across the years, and went so far as to keep an entire room filled with mementos of his exploits throughout history, Colin has let the years slip by. Whatever new experiences he could have had, whatever friends he could have made, were always sidelined due to his obsession with vengeance. By the time we see him in the post apocalyptic setting, he is a lone wanderer with nothing to his name other than a fleeting memory of his wife, and an obsession that is as immortal as himself.
Unwillingness to change and unwillingness to let go of the past has even affected Colin's battle prowess. Unlike previous highlander protagonists, Colin never received proper sword training. His fighting style has never changed over the years, hence his numerous defeats. I like his very direct fighting style(he basically just waits for an opening and finishes off his opponent with a well placed strike), which actually stands in stark contrast to Marcus's fighting style(he has very calm and composed feel and likes to play around with his opponent, proving his superiority, before the final cut); each man's sword techniques mirror's their personality.
Also, I actually found this theme of how an obsession can drive someone to forsake the smaller but more important things in life (such as love and friendship) to be quite a heart wrenching one. This story theme can be even seen as a cautionary tale of sorts as parallels can be drawn between Colin's obsession and "workaholics" in the real world obsessed only in their work and forsaking so much more.
This intriguing story is complemented by some extremely beautiful animation. Yoshiaki Kawajiri applies his trademark style to Highlander making each fight scene a veritable visual feast with his dynamic shot angles, slow motion, and an extremely smooth animation frame-rate. Bloodletting is not as over-the-top as his previous work, ninja scroll, but it is sufficient to keep fans of bloody action happy. Oh yes, and in typical Kawajiri style, there is the mandatory nudity and sex scene in this movie(then again, there is a mandatory sex scene in every other Highlander movie, so nothing new here)
This film does suffer from a few low points here and there, namely in the pacing and the dialog. At times the movie moves along real slowly and this is not helped by the uninteresting script. At other times the show feels truncated and squeezed, with scenes rushing by or ending too abruptly. Also, a longer running time would have improved the narrative by a fair bit(86 minutes is too short to fully flesh out the story and back-story). The voice actors do a great job of instilling their characters with well rounded personalities and very realistic emoting on par with the acting in the original Highlander movie. Too bad about the lazy script and dialog they were given to work with.
Another low point would be how the movie expects the viewer to be familiar with aspects of the Highlander mythos like "the quickening" or the "no fighting on holy ground" rule. Such things are never clearly explained which might confuse the heck out of people who are new to the franchise.
Highlander: The Search for Vengeance is among one of the stronger entries into the Highlander franchise. As an anime film it is very appealing both story-wise and visual-wise. However, do not expect deep philosophical ramblings like Ghost in The Shell or heartwarming family stories like Ponyo. This is a straight forward action movie; pure unadulterated violence but with a great story, characters and some thought provoking underlying themes.
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