01 Nov 2008
It's fair to say I'm something of a film buff. I've seen a great many films in my time and have an enviable collection of DVD's. I'm the sort of nerd who will replace his special effects movies on Blu Ray just to get the best experience, and the main area of my apartment is built around watching films in the greatest possible comfort, with a speaker so loud Heaven can hear every last background sound effect. And yet, my taste in films sometimes leaves people baffled.
Whilst I have the special editions of Citizen Kane and The Third Man, I also covet brainless action titles such as Under Siege and the much-maligned Stealth. What makes these movies stand out against other action films is that they are unrelentingly straight-forward, have likeable leads and they get the job done. They also have very good production values for the genre and are, if nothing else, a treat to watch. The fact that they are also utterly implausible and daft doesn't hurt either. I'm not the kind of film buff that appreciates the artificial and forced snobbery of critics such as AA Gill - some films are just meant to be enjoyed, not evaluated for cultural impact.
All of which brings me on to Strait Jacket from Manga Entertainment.
Set in an alternative world where sorcery is a science, Strait Jacket is a tale of caution. Though the mystic arts are used in everything from war to surgery, overuse can lead to catastrophic results for the users - wherein they turn into "Demons" and go on a mad killing spree.
That's a hell of a health warning isn't it?
When such events occur, it is left to the titular Strait Jackets, a group of "Tactical Sorcerists" to fight these freaks with magic, dressed in containment armour which limits the damage from such massive sorcery overuse.
Our main character, Rayotte Steinberg, is something of a loner - he has no license to practice his trade and wanders freely, using the armour of a man who taught him the business. He is accompanied by a young half demon girl, whose parents he killed in an incident several years ago, and he waits for the day that she will take her revenge. I should also mention that she has 2 red insect-like eyes in her forehead, and one of the film's most iconic images is of the little girl dressed in a hooded cloak in which we see simply 4 red glowing eyes... It's an awesome aesthetic.
Due to a recent rise in demonic activity, the official Strait Jackets teams are struggling to keep up with demand for their services, which is where Steinberg comes in - forcibly drafted by a spunky young Sorcerist Operator, he's thrown into action against his will, and in turn has to clean up the mess from an ongoing conspiracy.
Written by the creator of Scrapped Princess, Ichigo Sakaki's steampunk European setting is very reminiscent of Full Metal Alchemist, and it shares many of it's other themes too. But as a stand alone story, it delivers where it counts - a simple, straight-forward action yarn complete with obvious twists, tragedy and a lot of death.
Like the aforementioned Stealth, it boasts excellent production values. It is, on the whole, incredibly crisp and fluid, with excellent mecha designs and some solid, if not outstanding, direction. The monsters rarely last long enough to make any kind of lasting impression, but the overall effect of having humans who use magic for the benefit of others only to become monsters is still quite affecting.
It also ends with the possibility of a sequel, but unlike Stealth, it may actually get one.
Strait Jacket is a solid, if unispiring action yarn. You may not remember it in a few month's time, but like all the best films it entertains while on screen and leaves you satisfied, even if you're not holding your breath for more.