TO – 2001 Nights is the latest project from the acclaimed creators of the new Appleseed films and Vexille. TO is actually two short films (about 43 minutes each) that are based on stories from 2001 Nights, a series of manga and an anime from the mid 80′s and have now been recreated using state of the art CG animation.
The first story is Elliptical Orbit a story of family bonds and the effects that time and space can have on them. After an extended mission to deep space the Flying Dutchman returns to earth and docks at the Midnight Bazooka, a space station that catapults supplies to the moon, for repairs. The captains of the station and the ship are in fact much closer that it would appear and so begins a rather lengthy and drawn out story of how their relationship has developed and changed over the years, while the captain of the station has grown old and tired the captain of the Flying Dutchman has remained youthful thanks to years of hyper-sleep. Things soon get complicated when a terrorist group take over the station and plan to use it to destroy a lunar base, the crews must work together to stop the terrorists.
The second story is Symbiotic Planet. This story is very much along the lines of Romeo & Juliet with two lovers from rival science colonies conducting their relationship against the wishes of their superiors. Tension between the two colonies is high and it doesn’t take long for things to get violent with the possibility of armed conflict starting at any moment. While one of the lovers tries to keep the peace by keeping the two sides talking things go pear-shaped when the colony is overrun with potentially deadly alien spores.
Out of the two stories Symbiotic Planet is by far the more interesting of the two. Elliptical Orbit can often seem very slow and events feel improvised, while the relationship of the main characters is interesting it is not very exciting, often there are moments when characters will blankly stare are each other for no apparent reason other than to fill out the run time, perhaps with better character designs they might have been able to portray a wider variety of emotion and expression. Both stories have their good points but they also suffer from the same problems as each other, they seem to be constrained by the hard sci-fi settings that they are based in, but they also seem to be limited by the restraints of the technology that is being used to capture them. The emotionless, sometimes ridiculous looking, semi-cel shaded characters completely detach you from being able to relate or associate to them, perhaps trying to create more realistic looking characters would have aided both the visual appeal and the stories much better.
One way to describe the visual style of the films would have to be “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”. The detail of the sci-fi world that have been created is stunning, I have not seen such amazing looking effects outside of a blockbuster A-list movie. The environmental detail is extremely good with some great lighting and texture effects. All the hard work on creating these beautiful settings has been let down by the very poor character design that has already been mentioned. On top of this much of the motion capture looks too floaty, more often than not the characters don’t look like they belong if their surroundings, this is a serious problem and it does detract from the overall viewing experience of the films.
The films soundtrack varies from orchestral scores to modern electric riffs, both are used effectively and work fairly well with the unique visual style. The english dub by funimation is certainly not up to their usual high standard. Many of the lines feel as though they have just been read for the first time with very little expression or emotion, this does not seem to have been helped by the lifeless characters that could be the cause of these problems. It’s not usually my kind of thing but the original Japanese dub does fair a lot better and is the best way to watch these films.
I really wanted to love these films but have been left very disappointed. They do have their good points, the stories aren’t too bad and most of the animation is good but there are flaws that stop this release being the masterpiece it should have been.