iSugio

Cencoroll – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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Cencoroll tells the story of a provincial Japanese town under attack by a mysterious monster, and a young girl—Yuki—and boy—Tetsu—who hold the secret to fighting back: a strange and even-more-mysterious pet called Cenco. When another Cenco user discovers Tetsu, the two will ultimately duel for control and dominance, involving the entire city as their battleground.

Atsuya Uki’s Cencoroll is more or less a film constructed entirely by the author himself. Stemming from a one-shot manga by the name of Amon Game—and with the backing of anime Distribution Company Aniplex—Uki was responsible for directing, animating, writing and designing the film solely on his own. Uki’s transition from his original source material to an animated mini-film showcases the broad and creative talent behind both the creation of the manga and film. It takes tremendous time and talent to turn one’s own vision into an animated reality, and Uki has been successful in accomplishing not only that, but also in the finalize product itself.

What’s so impressive about Cencoroll as an animated film is that it’s so bizarre on a variety of levels. The usage of creative measures are showcased abundantly within in the film—from the strangely plump and dull looking creatures known as Cenco’s, to the rather outlandish duels that take place between them, Cencoroll truly transports the viewer into a realm of abnormal and eccentric circumstances. This bizarreness doesn’t distract from the film though but only reinforces stylistically what the film is striving for in terms of conveying its otherworldly presentation. The animation is crisp, vibrant and distinctive and establishes the tone of the film from the very beginning.

One thing to mention is the incredible transformation sequences that the Cenco’s perform throughout the film. The fluidity of such scenes really shows the technical prowess that Uki has for understanding the amorphousness nature of his creature designs. This prowess is showcased primarily within the battle sequences, which are a treat to watch not only for their creativeness, but also for their exhilarating tempo. While not many battles are showcased due to time constraints, the few that are shown is what makes the film stand out as a prime example of the quality of animation.

And while visually stimulating, one begins to wonder where the actual substance of the story is to be found. Since this film is based entirely on a one-shot manga, the story is considerably lacking for the most part. This should be expected, and to suspect otherwise would be a great disappointment. The film feels almost like a teaser for something bigger, detailed and more realized—an ode for what’s to come. The scope presented showcases a beautiful and imaginative world that is just teeming with technical brilliance, but at what depth? We really only get a glimpse at what Uki has to offer in terms of visual flare, with not enough time to fully engage with the world through story. This is obviously a hindrance to the overall film, but the animation seemingly makes up for it.

As for the characters, we first have Tetsu—the surprisingly relaxed protagonist of the film. He pretty much brings an air of confidence when necessary, especially during the confrontational segments. We then have Yuki—played by voice actress Kana Hanazawa. While known primarily for her Moe voice roles, Kana does an exceptional job as the inquisitive Yuki. Yuki unexpectedly gets caught up in a battle between Tetsu and our next character—Shu, all the while gaining extraordinary powers herself. Viewed as the antagonist of the film, Shu literally appears out of nowhere to cause havoc and destruction in pursuit of attaining Tetsu’s Cenco. While relentless, Shu brings a rather obnoxious sense of cockiness to the film, which I found to effectively counterbalance Tetsu’s rather intrepid mannerisms—which makes for some interesting confrontations. Considering that the film is only 30-mintues in length, they were intriguing to say the least, but more time would’ve been appreciated towards development.

Quite similar to the background of another successful up-and-coming director by the name of Makoto Shinkai, Atsuya Uki has presented a surprisingly detailed and involving world with Cencoroll. The most tragic realization one will inevitably come to after viewing the film is that there isn’t another film or series planned at the moment, but we can always hope. For all it’s worth, Cencoroll is still a visionary film from a rather talented and promising new director. I believe we need more films and series like Cencoroll, not entirely in the sense of the weirdness it offers, but more so in the spirit of elevating the exploration of what anime can offer in terms of creativity. While the ideas shown in the film have been done before, it most certainly expresses them in a most unique way. Here’s hoping that Atsuya Uki has a promising future ahead of him—he most definitely deserves a chance.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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