- Genre : Sci Fi, thriller, action, CG
- Episodes: 1 movie
- Studio: POLYGON PICTURES
Imagine a world where constant health worries are a thing of the past. Where the looming risk of hospital bills and expensive drugs simply doesn’t exist. A world where medicine has progressed enough through genetic engineering, nanotechnology and endocrine manipulation to essentially equip all humans with their own internal upkeep system. Wounds and organs will simply regenerate in time and if you ever take enough damage in a single blow to die, simply have someone call the friendly s.e.l.l. technician on call for your area of the human network and they’ll reboot you right up, good as new. Sure, humans are still humans. They’ve still polluted the planet to an unnacceptable point. They still decided themselves up into a small upper class that lives in luxury while the others wallow in poverty. But at least they’ve all hot their health? Right. There’s no way playing god with the human body could ever have any horrible consequences!
I saw Human Lost t the Fantasia film festival based entirely on the promotional poster and a short blurb saying it was loosely based on Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human. All this information will be useful later in the post I promise!
Visually, Human Lost is… particular. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was entirely CG. It looked a lot like a video game or a bit like Kado The Right Answer. I figure this is an aesthetic that won’t appeal to everyone but I quite liked it. The character designs were pretty good and the world a little spartan which worked well in context. This being a distopian story, those desolate slightly empty cityscapes are a staple of the genre.
The CG had some up and downsides. One of the strengths was that naturally cg special effects Integrated flawlessly and some were quite spectacular. In fact high speed dynamic action was just beautiful and an early extended bicycle chase scene left me with my jaw on the floor. It was truly impressive. Also, as these were essentially 3d models all angles were perfect and art consistency didn’t waver at all.
The trade-off was an almost complete loss of texture. Everything looked so smooth and it made lighting effects dull. Also while big action was great “small” action was almost inexistent. What I decided to call soft animation (it is definitely not the real term for it) was completely sacrificed to the medium. What I mean are those little movements like strands of hair falling out of place when a character moves their head, clothes wrinkling along with movement or leaves blowing in the wind. None of that was present and after years of traditionally drawn animation, I really noticed their absence.
The soundtrack was interesting with a lot of bass heavy metal beats which coming out of a theatre surround sound made the place feel like a nightclub. You know when you can feel the bass throughout your entire body! It was perfect to get me pumped up in those conditions but I wonder if it will work as well if you watch the movie on your computer. It could end up being a distraction. However, as far as sound in the movie goes, it’s really the voice acting that got my attention.
I wrote a note early on the simply said “overacted!” I’m not sure if that’s entirely fair but the performances are just sooooo serious and dramatic in delivery. The mildest emotional moment is acted like a stage play tragedy (you need to really emote and project on stage so the people in the cheap seats can still get your performance…) and even calm completely neutral lines are spoken in such a deliberate way. It’s as if every single comment is crucial to the plot! And this is cast wide. Every single character is acted this way so it’s not just an actor hamming it up. I assume it’s a directorial choice and I can see why.it creates this sort of grim rigidity in dialogues reminiscent of a “noir” title. And Human Lost does give off heavy Blade Runner vibes so it makes sense! It’s just that I have a clear preference for ultra casual and naturalistic delivery which this definitely was not! It took my quite a while to get used to it.
Phew, I honestly didn’t think I would end up spending so much time on the production. I guess that race scene really did have a huge impact on me!
As I mentioned, the blurb for the movie claimed it to be loosely based on No Longer Human and boy did they take that “loosely” to heart. Certain people have the nanotechnology and genetic programming in their bodies go out of control and they are called “lost” and are no longer on the “human network”, a wide net that monitors citizens’ biotech implants. There’s your allusion to the title. The main character attempts suicide a lot and there’s even a particularly tone death mention of a botched double suicide. The arcs are introduced by notebooks. And exceptional people have their DNA recorded to be used as a template for future human programming, they are called “qualified”. In case you don’t catch that, a character helpfully spells it out at the end proclaiming that “humans can not be either qualified or disqualified” and that’s about it.
A handful or superficial allusions. It doesn’t get deeper as the central themes are completely unrelated as well. In my opinion, Human Lost had a lot more in common with Psycho Pass that Dazai’s masterpiece. And that’s not just a random comparison. A governmental agency that controls humans *bodies* (well their health) for the good of society and that rests on some very morally questionable secrets. A white-haired villain who uses brutal means to get to an end that sounds unnervingly understandable when he explains it. A confrontation of personal values weighed against practical our outcomes! The parallels are pretty obvious and yet Human Lost can’t even compare.
The first half of the movie is actually great. The great premise and for the time being interesting plot, as well as the technical merits, easily carried the movies and hid the weak parts. For a while I was exhilarated, looking forward to earnestly urging you all to drop everything and go see it. And then…it lost its way.
Human Lost tried to combine a gritty Sci Fi noir thriller with a fighting action anime and it failed at doing so cohesively leaving both aspects unfinished. The fascinating plot elements and moral quandaries set up in the first half are either abandoned or explained away in the simplest most superficial way which was thoroughly unsatisfying. While the action is beautifully animated, the motivations and stakes behind it are too flimsy to make us care beyond looking at the pretty pictures. And at the turning point, the tone also shifts from thriller mystery to action drama with romantic undertones cutting out the most interesting feature of the film.
I mentioned I saw this at a festival and this is where that detail becomes pertinent. I am not very patient when it comes to drama and it tends to get on my nerves very quickly. That’s why I either try to manually adjust my perception or give you a disclaimer whenever I review dramas. But in this case I could actually observe the reactions of a large theatre completely filled with people. Fantasia screenings regularly sell out as has been the case for every movie I’ve seen so far. When Human Lost turned to melodrama, half the audience started to burst out in laughter and the more cheesy and unintentionally ridiculous moments. It just went way too over the top and without the good cheer of a festival audience, I would have found it tedious.
But by far the biggest weakness were the characters, or lack there of. I mean there were characters obviously but most of them remain so little developed stereotypes that they might as well be set pieces. The main antagonist lacks the charm and menace to pull off the ideologue monster thing effectively. Yoshiko is the love interest and that’s about it. Our main character Youzou fairs a little better but the problem with him is that he’s so dull…
Wait what I mean is that Youzou is a deeply depressed suicidal young man who is generally disinterested in everything. That in itself isn’t bad character building. It’s not even bad for a main character to be that way and could even be intriguing by how unusual it is. Unfortunately the narrative is tightly focused on him and his personal journey which really kneecaps world building and development. Youzou doesn’t care about the political machinations he gets roped into so we never find out any details as he doesn’t seem them out. He doesn’t get to know anyone so neither do we. Even the girl he falls for stays mostly as an infatuation so unless you also fall for the character design, it’s difficult to empathize with his feelings. It’s telling that my favourite character is Takeichi (despite his brief involvement in the story), who is a childhood friend of Youzou’s so they already have an established relationship that gets communicated to us. He’s the only one that felt complete to me.
Wow….this was a long review let me TLDR it for you. If you have the chance to see Human Lost and enjoy gritty Sci Fi and CG, I say give it a try. Their are lots of interesting ideas even though they aren’t properly exploited. However it fails to stick the landing so I wouldn’t go out of my way for it.
Favourite character: Takeichi – I just said it!
What this anime taught me: nanomachines may sound like a good idea but you’re really just doubling the types of viruses that can get to you
Suggested drink: Lost in the Woods
- Every time we see a “lost” – take a gulp
- Every time anyone says “human” – take a sip
- Every time we see the human network – take a sip
- Every time we see one of Youzou’s painting – admire
- Every time they discuss healthcare – get some water
- Every time Youzou smiles – finish your drink
- Every time someone is naked – take a sip
- Every time there’s an explosion – breath in
- Every time you wish they would explain something – take a sip instead