(Bekushiru: 2077 Nihon Sakoku)
Sori sets up some enthralling action sequences that certainly give Shinji Aramaki a run for his money the sequence with two SWORD agents pursuing a motorcycle-riding android between rows of packing crates; and especially the penultimate sequences where the various rebels race through the tunnels to the Daiwa laboratory in futuristic dune buggies dragging cables while pursued by The Jags, which are what look like the sandworms from Dune (1984) made up of a whirling vortex of junk metal. The climactic sequences fighting amid the collapsing city have that massive scale of anime action that kicks in with the essential wow factor.
Vexille works less satisfyingly in terms of story (but then, so did Ex Machina). The first half of the story contains a great build-up through the infiltration of the barrier, which very much recalls WWII spy films in spirit. There is the dazzling moment that pulls back to reveal that the market shantytown and the whole of Japan around Vexille is all peopled by androids. Thereafter the plot slips into the generic. There seems to be too much running around and scheming between the camps. Eventually, Sori settles on action as a means to wrap the story up but even then his introduction of a villain and his world domination scheme to turn everybody into androids is one that we have seen in too many films before see the likes of Scream and Scream Again (1969), Futureworld (1976) and Android Apocalypse (2006). The other complaint one might have is that for a film that names itself after its heroine, Vexille is a passive character who never seems to come to the fore of the action. Indeed, she looks so much like the rebel leader Maria that one ends up confusing the two.
Beneath the action, Vexille has an interesting subtext about Japanese racism. Japan has always been a country that has had a traditional sense of its own superiority among other races, of belief in the necessity of keeping its blood pure. On many levels, Vexille reads as an extreme critique of Japanese racism where Japans drive towards business success and becoming a technological world leader has led to the ultimate in isolationism. (The point is made clear in the English-language subtitling, which unsubtly names the barrier R.A.C.E., while the translation of the original Japanese subtitle reads as Japan National Isolation). The mad scientists experiments with the population (who are characterized as a poor but decent underclass) is not dissimilar to the exploitation of the feudal classes seen under shogunate rule and during WWII. Although, the issue of race that the film raises is confused by having the characters look the same standard Asian anime faces, even including the American SWORD team that are conducting the commando raid.
Director (Fumihko) Sori next went onto make the live-action Ichi (2008) about a blind swordswoman and returned to animation and genre material with the science-fiction film Orbital (2009) and the fantasy film Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker (2012).