Silent Möbius: The Motion Picture [サイレント・メビウス] (1991)
Starring Naoko Matsui, Chieko Honda, Gara Takashima, Hiromi Tsuru, Masako Ikeda, Toshiko Fujita, Kouji Nakata
Directed by Michitaka Kikuchi & Kazuo Tominzawa
I went into this film with a bit of trepidation since I had found the TV series to be a rather boring drag. I was more tolerant of this version, perhaps because it came in at less than an hour long, but it’s still far from a masterpiece. At first I thought it was a condensed version of the series, but the 1991 release date surprised me. I didn’t think the series was that old — mainly because it isn’t. The TV series didn’t release until 1998, which means this film was fully meant to stand on its own.
Silent Möbius tells a pretty generic tale of an all-female police squad fighting mystical monsters in the future. There’ve been tons of similar anime over the years, and Silent Möbius is nothing out of the ordinary. It’s got a typically diverse cast of girls who each have their own gimmick going on, but you won’t see much of that for this film. It centers on one particular member of the team, Katsumi Liqueur, as she first learns of her magical heritage and comes to terms with her powers. It’s a pretty traditional call-to-adventure arc that could have worked a lot better than it did. But I suppose it could have been a lot worse as well.
The first problem I had with the film is the frame setup of the story. It starts out with Katsumi already on the team and chasing down the bad guys, then cuts immediately to four years earlier. The technique is certainly not an unusual one, and it can certainly be done well. In fact, it probably would have worked just fine here, too, if it had been executed better, but instead it fell apart. The reason is that the film forgets to complete the loop. When Katsumi learns of her powers, she immediately rejects the idea and refuses to believe it. What we never see, however, is the moment when Katsumi actually accepts her fate and joins the team. That whole part of the story is forgotten. Katsumi’s angry rejection of her powers also gets pretty old after a while when we already know that she becomes part of the force in the end.
There are a fair amount of action sequences with the demonic Lucifer Hawk bad guys popping up all over the place, but it’s not all that epic or exciting, though it is fairly well animated. It’s also really creepy tentacle action. The film never has actual tentacle rape, but it goes out of its way to make you think about it. I do not remember that happening in the TV series, but that series was extremely forgettable. This film is, too. I’m having trouble coming up with anything interesting to say about it. Perhaps the most interesting thing is that it feels so similar to the TV series even though the two versions share very few cast members.
In terms of telling the story it manages to illustrate the most important things about Katsumi’s origin, and in all honesty the ending of the film was a perfect way to wrap the whole thing up, tying the “present time” plot back into the flashback bulk of the film. Had it addressed Katsumi joining the force I would have no problems with the story. What hurts the film most is something far less easily fixed. It’s just plain ordinary. The action is never exciting enough to make you want to see more, the characters lack any interesting traits to make you care for them, and the setting is meaningless and unexplored.
Silent Möbius is one of those odd ones that I just don’t care for, even though I can’t pinpoint many specific flaws. It’s just drab, and nothing else. It makes for a dull time-killer of a film, but at least it doesn’t overstay its welcome.