Exaella

Discussion in 'Books, Music, TV & Movies' started by micky93, Jun 4, 2014.

  1. micky93
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    micky93 Member

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    Jan 12, 2009
    Hey folks!

    I was just interested in getting a bit of feedback on my writing, and I thought this was as good a place as any to start. Being such a friendly bunch and all!:P
    A little bit of context though, this is a review of a 4-part anime OVA, so I may throw around some unfamiliar terms here and there. I did initially write this up for posting on myanimelist, but they didn't have an entry for this series, and apparently never will, so... here we are. I have been writing for a fair while, so don't be afraid to be harsh, I'd like to hear your thoughts for what they are, not what you want me to hear.
    So with all that out of the way, if I still have your attention in any way, here comes the review (it's a text dump, so.. be warned :P)



    Exaella is a four-part OVA series that came about as a result of collaboration between Russian and Japanese creative minds. Most of the creative heavy lifting was done by director, composer and producer Andrew Oudot, with Isakawa Denisu fulfilling the role of co-producer. These two people formed the entire crew behind this production, with a voice cast of four actors rounding out the personnel list. This is by all means a small, independent production, with a low budget, but very high ambitions. Exaella is a work of passion, and it is quite clear that Oudot has a story to tell with his work.

    The story begins with Exaella, the titular android, waking from an induced sleep for reasons unknown to her. From there, it is up to her to piece together what events had transpired leading up to that point, and why she was awoken. It’s quickly revealed that she has awoken aboard a space ship carrying cryogenically frozen humans, and an imminent danger is approaching. It’s an interesting setup, one that leaves the viewer intrigued, and clamouring for more information. However, any and all information revealed is drip-fed to you over the course of the 4 episodes, each spanning roughly half an hour. It’s a slow burn, and there are some interesting reveals in the later half as more of the cast comes into focus, but for the most part it just doesn’t feel worthwhile. There’s not enough of a driving force to keep you engaged through the rather dull middle section. The opening episode does a great job of setting the scene and engaging the viewer, and the closing episode wraps most of the plotline up nicely, with some small threads left open for further development. Most of your burning questions from the beginning will be answered, but few more will rise to take their place, which I feel is a missed opportunity for such an interesting premise.

    The biggest question of the series, and the overall driving force behind its progression, is that of Exaella and her background. She is fleshed out to a certain extent over the course of the four episodes, but in the end she remains a rather unlikable, unrelatable character. I believe this was intentional, as she is the only non-human member of the cast. Those human qualities then transfer to her supporting characters, Piku and Ken. Piku is introduced in the second episode, as a naïve, child-like character. She views Exaella as a motherly figure, allowing the viewer to see Exaella in a more maternal light. Ken arrives later in the third episode, serving as a soldier sent to aid Exaella. He initially acts very coldly towards her, but in seeing the maternal instincts she possesses, gradually warms up to her. These two supporting characters are evidently meant to foster the development of the lead character, but it never quite amounts to anything. Though Exaella does seem to change to a minor degree over the middle course, she reverts back to her original self in the end, thus making any and all attempts at development entirely redundant. Oudot was clearly trying to explore the ‘humanity within technology’ element here, which is very interesting subject matter. To some extent, it works well, but ultimately it doesn’t quite reach a satisfying conclusion.

    The design side of Exaella is where it truly shines. It’s animated in a 3D cel-shaded style, a very interesting approach to the medium. This is notoriously difficult, as it often results in jumpy frame transitions and inconsistent animation, but for the most part it works beautifully here. Animation is smooth throughout, even in the intense scenes, and it is consistently stunning to look at. The visual design is very industrial, with the backgrounds often being very dark and mechanical in nature. This leads on to the heavy focus of lighting effects within the cinematography. Most scenes are incredibly dark, with abstract lighting drawing the viewer’s focus to whatever Oudot deemed necessary. It’s a genuine treat to behold for anyone with the slightest interest in cinematography and lighting effects. For those who aren’t, it’s a unique, yet incredibly appealing sight from beginning to end. This dark, industrial nature gives the whole series an incredibly oppressive atmosphere, with the entire run just drenched in melancholy. It’s an incredible feat of design to both create and uphold such an atmosphere consistently. Character design is aesthetically appealing, if a little straightforward. All of the characters look and move how they should, so there’s no real issue here, it’s just perhaps a little uninteresting considering the rest of the visual design at work here.

    Another highlight of the Exaella package is the soundtrack. Comprised of incredibly heavy industrial and progressive techno tunes, it never fails to set the scene perfectly. It’s one of the few soundtracks I’ve come across that stands up perfectly well outside of its source material. The songs contained here are incredibly well written and performed, and definitely deserve a listen even if you aren’t a fan of Exaella as a whole. Each episode is preceded by an excellent OP, driven by a heavy percussive feel with a gradually swelling string section to bring home that crushing atmosphere of melancholy. The ED takes a similar approach, being solely percussive, but still effectively maintaining that heavy atmosphere. Exaella is only available in original Japanese, with no intention to dub anytime soon. All four voice actors do a solid job bringing their characters to life. Akari Yamamoto in particular, who provided the voice for Exaella, did a great job in bringing a human element to a robotic character.

    I began this review saying that Exaella was a product of passion for Oudot and Denisu. However, I don’t think their passion was quite realised with this production. It’s evident throughout that Oudot wanted this to be so much more. There are seeds planted throughout that seem to be hinting at more philosophical, more existential questions. At the end of the day though, all that really transpires here is a basic, yet satisfying story of an android doing her duty. In terms of design, everything was in place for a great story. The world was engaging, the setup was intriguing, but it just never developed far enough to be great. There’s not enough here in terms of either characters or plot for me to recommend this to everyone, but if you want some phenomenal eye candy with a great soundtrack, Exaella is a great pick. It’s an impressive first piece for Oudot, and I am eagerly anticipating his next foray into animation.


    And that's about it! Thanks for your patience, if you stuck through with that to the end! I'd like to hear back about it, if you're so inclined. Otherwise, thanks for stopping by :) If you want more information, follow this link. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2160163/


    Cheers,
    Micky
     
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