Garakowa -Restore the World-, is a new movie produced by A-1 Pictures, and with the talent behind this one, you would assume it couldn’t be anything but great. I was extremely hyped after watching the PV’s on Crunchyroll, and while at first I was rather disappointed at the fact that it’s a movie instead of something we could enjoy all season, I still anxiously anticipated its release.The director, Masashi Ishihama, is behind one of my all time favorites in From the New World, and Fumihiko Shimo is a screenwriter with a history of works that many of you know all too well, with the likes of Clannad, Air, Kanon, and a multitude of other fantastic titles under his belt. I think we should also take a minute to appreciate the fact that Crunchyroll is streaming a feature film so shortly after it aired in Japan. I’m not sure what kind of strings they had to pull to make this happen but it’s something that I hope we see more of going forward. Maybe I’m spoiled by the simulcast privileges we have enjoyed with anime series, but I hate the near year we have to wait for the movies to come across the sea.
Garakowa follows Dorothy and Dual, two anthropomorphic antivirus programs, who are tasked with cleaning up the viruses that infiltrate the “Box of Wisdom,” a supercomputer which holds all of the backups of human history. While the world and those within it are treated as mere data, Dual has apparently befriended one of its inhabitants, Sumire. While sharing the excitement of winning first prize in her piano competition, Sumire begins to manifest as a virus, and Dual is forced to delete her, along with the entire world. This scene effectively explains the fundamentals of Dual’s function and how, with only a hint of regret, she will follow her programming even if it means killing her friend.
Back at what I guess I’ll call “headquarters,” which is a house floating within a digital space where the girls live, we first meet Dorothy. While Dual’s character appears very cold, emotionless, and obedient to her programming, Dorothy’s hot-headed and stubborn persona is a complete contradiction. Although a little cliched, I thought their interactions in the brief moments of the first act of this movie were a highlight, and I found Dorothy particularly endearing. Things start to turn upside down for them however, when a girl under attack by a virus suddenly appears on their doorstep. The two eliminate the threat, and subsequently have this mysterious new girl named Remo living with them. Remo’s moe presence adds some heart and emotion to the dynamic, and serves as the main catalyst for the characters growth throughout the movie.
From the animation to the character designs, Garakowa’s visuals were absolutely stunning. The color palette was bright and vibrant, which gave great contrast in scenes where the viruses black tendrils were threatening to infect the world. This gave an added concern for not only the safety of our characters, but for that of the environment itself. While some could argue that the character designs were generic, I really enjoyed them and thought the animators did a fantastic job with each and every scene. There were moments throughout the movie that were completely sold by the body language and characters’ facial expressions, and the context they gave for their state of mind. This is a movie that could be appreciated even silently (without subtitles), though I wouldn’t recommend it because the soundtrack was great. I don’t normally expect to notice a score when viewing a movie because, in my opinion, its job is to exist in the background and be heard but unnoticed. There are a couple of stand-out moments in this one however, including a pair of great performances by Risa Taneda (Dual’s seiyuu) that play during a montage and the end credits. In terms of voice actors, they got some big talent on board for Garakowa, and they lived up to their potential. Taneda did a great job as Dual, and Ayane Sakura’s Dorothy was a huge part of why I loved the character as much as I did.
Surprisingly, especially considering the reputation of its penman, I felt the writing in this movie left a lot to be desired. While it may have had some interesting takes on the human overreliance on technology, a lot of what the movie had to say was just a little too familiar; most were things we have seen a hundred times before. Despite the fact that I really liked Dorothy, and thought her character had some pretty good progression, overall I didn’t connect with any of the characters to the degree needed for some of the emotional punches to land. Garakowa seemed torn between creating moe characters that would sell figures, and tackling an ambitious narrative, that, while possible in a series, felt hamstrung in a movie with a mere hour runtime. At the end of the day, we have a story that felt emotionally a bit flat, and we’re left wondering what might’ve been if Shimo were given some more time to flesh things out.
I can’t say that this movie lived up to my expectations, but with the talent pool behind it, admittedly my expectations may have been a little inflated. Overall I would say that I enjoyed Garakowa -Restore the World- for its beautiful imagery, fun characters, and good soundtrack. The story didn’t blow me away, but it also wasn’t terrible; there are going to be plenty of people who can appreciate this movie, and I would recommend it to most. However, If you are expecting some deep message or great sci-fi element, you will probably leave disappointed.
Chiming In! (Logan’s Thoughts)
I won’t go too deep into the a lot of the details about Garakowa, as Jeff did an awesome job of that already, so here are my brief thoughts about this anime film!
The story is really a fascinating one when you dig deep. I won’t get into any spoilers here, but everything in this movie surrounding AI and the consequences of that technology fascinate me. Dual and Dorothy are surprisingly good characters who get an impressive amount of development for a 66 minute movie. The world is interesting and right from the get go there is an underlying sadness to it. Visually, it looks fantastic. The characters are pretty and have fluid animation, and the set design is quite beautiful. On a sound design level, there was nothing bad, but there was nothing there that left an impression on me; I can’t recall a single song or melody. The writing was fine, and admittedly I was teary-eyed by the end of the film (I’m a big softie), but I feel that it definitely could have benefited from a longer runtime.
I would have liked Garakowa to have a runtime closer to the 120 minute mark, so they could expand on the story as well as the world and characters, especially Remo who is the catalyst for the story.
Overall, I enjoyed the movie and look forward to watching it again, with the knowledge of what happens. Do I think it’s $80 good, which is what Pony Canyon is selling it for? No, sorry. I struggle to spend that much for 24 episode anime. It’s definitely worth a look though if you subscribe to Crunchyroll.