A.Li.Ce (1999)
By: CJ on September 7, 2004  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Artsmagic (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 1:85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1 Japanese DD 5.1 English Subtitles. 84 minutes
The Movie
Director: Kenichi Maejima
Screenplay: Masahiro Yoshimoto
Music: Akira Murata

Art Direction: Hirosuke Kizake
Country: Japan
Artsmagic once again dabble in the world of Japanese animation and present Kenichi Maejima's A.Li.Ce on DVD with a nice new anamorphic transfer that looks and sounds terrific.

The plot tells of Alice, who having won a lunar trip in a sweepstakes competition, finds that upon embarking on her journey is catapulted 30 years into the future, landing in Lapland. Upon her arrival in this forbidding environment she is abruptly picked up by a young man, Yuan, and his sidekick, a robot called SS1X (who she later renames 'Maria') and rapidly flee from some gun-toting villainous types who seem set upon executing them. However, it soon becomes evident that her arrival in the future may well be through design rather than by chance, as it is revealed to her that she is the mother of Nero, the man who is the dictator of this unfriendly world of the future. Moreover, she could also be the key to his undoing and she is entreated by the leader of the rebel forces, the somewhat suspect Nicoli, to help them overthrow him. But who is the real enemy? That, you will have to find out for yourself.

The film is a fairly early example of CGI animation, and although it's five years old now, it still looks very much ahead of its time. It is to director Kenichi Maejima's credit that he is able to produce a film that not only looks and sounds good, but also has some depth to it. The characters are well realised and the plot is involving enough to keep most viewers interested through to the final frames. Kenichi keeps the action coming fast and furiously and the plot is driven along at a breakneck pace, all of which works in its favour, as some animation features do tend to slow in the middle and get bogged down in their over-convoluted plot lines. Overall it's a very satisfying slice of cinematic animation and there are far worse ways to spend your time.
The video transfer is top-notch and the feature presentation looks excellent. Colours are deep and vivid, remaining consistent throughout, and the blacks are solid. There is no evidence of any compression artefacts. The aspect ratio is quite hard to pin down though, as it's narrower that 1.85:1, but not as wide as 2.35:1, but for argument's sake I'll say that it's nearer to 1.85:1 – and it's anamorphically enhanced too, which is always a bonus. It's hard to imagine that this could look any better and Artsmagic are to be commended for the fine job they have done of rendering this film on DVD.
The film comes with two audio options; both mixed into 5.1 – one Japanese (with clear and easy-to-read subtitles) and the other an English dub. Both sound tremendous and make full use of the surround sound platform, however, to my ears the Japanese had the slight edge, but the difference is negligible.
Extra Features
The disc sports some nice extras, all of which are worthwhile additions to the package. First up is an on-camera interview with director Kenichi Maejima, who comes across as a very likeable and knowledgeable chap. It's interesting to note that he reveals that A.Li.Ce was possibly the first film to be projected digitally in theatres in Japan, and explained some of the teething problems they had. The interview as a whole is very informative and interesting and well worth your time. Next is a lecture presentation on the history of CGI animation (also to be found on the DVD of Malice @Doll), which gives a nice overview of how CGI has become commonly used by animators. The only drawback with this featurette is that the audio is annoyingly out-of-synch, which is an unnecessary oversight on the part of Artsmagic, and the only flaw on an otherwise superlative DVD. Also provided are a couple of trailers, filmographies and biographies, an image gallery and an artwork gallery. Overall it's a very nice package which is only letdown by the aforementioned audio problem, although this could well have been a problem isolated only to the initial promotional pressings.
The Verdict
A very entertaining piece of animation cinema and one of the better examples of this genre that I have seen. It's not going to be everyone's tastes, but for those with an interest in animation, and in particular Japanese animation, this is an essential addition to their collection. Once again Artsmagic prove that they can come up with the goods and produce a top-notch DVD. Although I'm not the greatest fan of animation, I really quite enjoyed this – so you can take that as a recommendation.
Movie Score
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