I was going to review a manga today. I have it sitting right here. But like the magpie I am, when I see something shiny, I just have to go haring off after it. And so, today’s shiny thing is a movie-length sci-fi animation starring a mixed-race female lead and her DNA-modded female lover, Strange Frame – Love and Sax, by Shelley Doty and G.B. Hajim. (Apparently this animation was shown at DragonCon last year to some acclaim.)
Let me get the single major criticism I have for this movie out of the way – there is not one unique or fresh idea in the whole thing. In fact, about a third of the way through the movie, I hit a moment when the Huggy Bear pimp cool voice that all the characters were using started to wear on me. That having been said, the story was very comfortable as a result. It was easy to slip into it and easy to get caught up in it. The pull quote on the website says, “A punk version of Blade Runner” but I think that is slightly off the mark. Not far off the mark, though. It’s more like a jazz version of a slightly gritty Fifth Element.
The animation is quite good. It had Eastern European animation vibes, with that smooth oil-painting feel one encounters in European animation of the last decade, with a sensibility that would be right at home in the pages of Heavy Metal magazine. (You know what I mean, right? All the dancing is hedonistic hip-churning, there’s “futuristic” nudity and the drugs are all post-Op Art black light psychedelic posters.)
The voice cast is a delightful mix of cults, Star Trek (Michael Dorn, George Takei), Farscape (Claudia Black), My Little Pony – Friendship is Magic and a million other cartoons (Tara Strong), Barney Miller (Ron Glass) and Tim Curry who of course has been in everything ever. (And there’s a few other easter-egg voice actors as well.) The cast handles the script deftly. So while every scene is something you’ve seen before, and much of the dialogue is something you’ve heard before (and in a few cases, the writers damn well know it, and are very, very openly stealing from dialogue that has come before) it never feels eye-rollingly done.
The lead, Parker, has a comfy sort of ex-something feel, and her lover Naia is any pop idol ever. As I said, the plot is well-worn and no new ground is uncovered here, but if you’re like me, you eagerly await the day when this story is made as a live action and Parker and Naia are just the leads, not zOMG a lesbian couple!
Art – 8
Characters – 8
Story – 8
Lesbian – 9
Overall – 8