After long years of a plethora of failed and mediocre projects, it seems like we are finally experiencing an era where the anime and manga adaptations are actually becoming great films. “Parasyte“, “Assassination Classroom”, “Rurouni Kenshin Trilogy” are just a few of the examples of the particular tendency, and if not for the awful “Attack on Titan” adaptation we would be talking about an absolute phenomenon.
One of the reasons for the phenomenon is Takashi Miike, who has taken on a series of the nonsensical and violent ones (“The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji“, “Ace Attorney”), producing films in a fashion that only he could. “As The Gods Will” is a distinct example of the fact.
The film does not lag one bit, as in one of the first scenes, we watch bored student Shun Takahata entering a classroom, where a Daruma Doll is sitting atop the teacher’s desk, playing a deadly edition of “Red light, green light, 1-2-3,” making the student’s that lose explode in a bloodbath that has filled the place with red marbles.
As the scene progresses, he, and the remaining students realize that this is a trial of sorts, although an utterly unfair one, as Takahata soon discovers. Soon after, Shun meets one of his friends, Ichika, who has also survived a similar massacre and the two of them proceed to the gym, where another trial is expecting them, this time from a giant cat doll. While running for their lives in there, they come across Amaya, a cold and dangerous student who eventually accompanies them to a giant cube flying over Tokyo, where additional trials expect them.
Takashi Miike directs a paranoid picture that plays out as a video game, with the protagonists having to overcome trials in order to progress to the next stage. However, the fact that those trials are presented by dolls that came to life (as the one with the Matrioska Dolls, in a hilarious concept), the permeating slapstick humor and the omnipresent bloodbaths, take the film in a whole other direction, similar to the usual Miike aesthetics.
At points, it seems like the movie is trying to community a message regarding violence in society, but that is soon buried under violence and humor, in a film whose obvious purpose is simply to entertain all those cult followers of Miike and his style.
One of the main reasons that recent anime/manga adaptations are much better than the previous efforts in the field, is that the production companies have finally decided to spend large sums in the aspect that actually has the most importance in fantasy films like this: special effects. In that fashion, the film is magnificent, with great CGI and animation, particularly on the toys. The cinematography is also great in all the splatter scenes, and the blood looks very real. (In my opinion, one of the most important factors in every gore film).
The films three main protagonists, Shota Fukushi as Shun, Ryonosuke Kamiki as Amaya, and Hirona Yamazaki as the blond-haired Ichika, are all very convincing in their parts, although their roles are not very demanding. Nevertheless, they function quite well in the raving madness of the film, and Kamiki is great as the paranoid evil character. Lastly, Shota Shometani, Nao Omori, and Lily Franky also appear in smaller parts.
“As the Gods Will,” is a great film that benefits the most from its production values and the presence of Takashi Miike in the director’s position, that will definitely satisfy both his and the manga’s fans.