A few days ago I saw the new movie District 9. Having passively avoided all of the explicit advertising for the movie that would explain any of the story at all, I came in with fresh eyes, and by the time it was over I felt pretty amazed. The movie takes a variety of unusual elements and ideas, such as its balanced blend of strong science fiction elements in a real-world setting of sorts, as well as its documentary-style camera work and uses them to approach a variety of themes, from fatherhood to xenophobia. However, for all of its scope, it is ultimately is a very personal and very emotional story, and that is what makes the movie so strong. It takes all of these wild and disparate elements, presents them naturally, and then tells a surprisingly localized tale of a man not knowing what will become of him. In other words, much like Up, it shares a lot in common with many of the best anime titles.
While not a strength exclusive to anime, I’ve always felt that this recurring ability to take very unorthodox plot settings, be they science fiction or otherwise, and tell a very emotional story with them is one of the hallmarks of Japanese animation and one of the key ingredients to drawing in new fans and keeping them there. As is the case in District 9, when done well or even half-decently, the various parts of the story do not fight each other for your attention.
One might say that the very idea of doing any sort of complex story and having it be a cartoon is unorthodox enough of a setting, but it might also be the case that such unusual trappings and the meat contained therein is generally helped by the stylistic coherency that comes with making something animated. Generally I say, because as you can see there’s a movie called District 9 which manages to do it all with real actors.
On a final note, I’d just like to say that the CG characters themselves were also fantastic and arguably better than the humans. The level of attention they were given is something the Transformers movie franchise should learn from.