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REVIEW: Mystical Laws, The




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invalidname



Joined: 11 Aug 2004
Posts: 705
Location: Grand Rapids, MI

PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 7:59 am Reply with quote
Kind of interested in the logistics of this review… how did it come to be screened for ANN, if there's not a US home video release and if the Oscar-qualifying runs in LA and NYC have come and gone? Is Happy Science just casting a really wide net? Or did Justin go check it out during the LA run?
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Chagen46



Joined: 27 Jun 2010
Posts: 4259

PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 8:28 am Reply with quote
Quote:
One could be forgiven for not getting too excited when the neo-religion known as Happy Science (Kofuku no Kagaku) comes out with a new anime feature. The religion, which started in 1986 when banker Ryuho Okawa announced that he was the reincarnation of Buddha and his then-wife was the reincarnation of Aphrodite, has become one of Japan's biggest "new religions," with increasing influence in politics and local chapters on several continents.


I just....what. I believe there's a term for this: mental insanity.
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keichitsu0305



Joined: 24 Apr 2010
Posts: 1012

PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 9:04 am Reply with quote
This actually sounds like a fun movie. More interested in the Sci-Fi elements, than the whole converting into a Happy Science practitioner.
Quote:

"Normal" adults don't get to meet alien races and save the universe in anime.


Usually it's up to teenagers with little to no military background, who have plenty of emotional baggage to save the day. Adult protagonists who got their act together is fine by me.
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GWOtaku



Joined: 19 Jul 2003
Posts: 631

PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 9:42 am Reply with quote
Well color me surprised, this might be the most forgiving review I've ever laid eyes on. I suppose I should praise the superhuman open-mindedness on display here, though I have a hard time processing the notion of a narrative characterized by near-unhinged, scattershot absurdity working out so long as it is sufficiently earnest.

I can believe this is the best animated thing from Happy Science, at least...I suppose that's something.
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Levitz9



Joined: 06 Feb 2007
Posts: 720
Location: Puerto Rico

PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 12:32 pm Reply with quote
The underlying concept behind this whole film--a science-fiction-fantasy starring an average joe with some kind of Kamen Rider villain in the background, made by a religious cult--makes this worth a watch by virtue of sheer perverse curiosity. That this movie seems to be decently made is just icing on the cake.
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Ryvius213



Joined: 03 Aug 2006
Posts: 290

PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 1:34 pm Reply with quote
Honestly, I found this movie hilariously bad. I don't think good intentions and interesting concepts are enough to make up for the horribly contrived plot or hammy writing. When I watched it in an early US screening, by the end of it the whole audience was laughing and mocking it.

Quote:
What could have been another barely-coherent mix of sermonizing and propaganda was actually a respectable little sci-fi yarn, reverential to anime history and yet new in its approach.
I thought a barely-coherent mix of sermonizing and propaganda, was exactly what it was, though.
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jsevakis
ANN Director of New Media


Joined: 28 Jul 2003
Posts: 1550
Location: Los Angeles, CA

PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 2:03 pm Reply with quote
invalidname wrote:
Kind of interested in the logistics of this review… how did it come to be screened for ANN, if there's not a US home video release and if the Oscar-qualifying runs in LA and NYC have come and gone? Is Happy Science just casting a really wide net? Or did Justin go check it out during the LA run?

We were invited to a press screening here in LA when they were (earnestly) trying for an Oscar nomination. Yeah, I know.

Ryvius213 wrote:
Honestly, I found this movie hilariously bad. I don't think good intentions and interesting concepts are enough to make up for the horribly contrived plot or hammy writing. When I watched it in an early US screening, by the end of it the whole audience was laughing and mocking it.

To be fair, in situations like that, audience snark tends to feed on itself. At my screening everyone was respectful and, if not impressed, then at least quiet.

Mind you, I went in with rock-bottom expectations (I'd just seen Rebirth of Buddha a few months earlier, and thought it to be one of the most hilariously awful things I'd ever seen), so I'm sure that helps a bit. That said, anime sci-fi shows have been marinating in cliché and hammy writing for decades, and the same charges could easily be leveled at, say, Macross DYRL. (Not that I'm comparing the two, mind you, just an example.)

Mystical Laws isn't a GREAT anime, but it's interesting, and way better than I expected it to be.
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Zin5ki



Joined: 06 Jan 2008
Posts: 3487
Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 3:48 pm Reply with quote
I was quite surprised to see a number of posters for this film in strategic locations on the London Underground recently. Aside from the titles associated with toy and game franchises, I cannot recall another anime to have been marketed so aggressively to a general audience through this medium.
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SquadmemberRitsu



Joined: 26 Jan 2012
Posts: 733

PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 8:24 pm Reply with quote
I was going to see this movie at a screening in Sydney a while back but I decided instead to see the Madoka movies (Which I enjoyed thoroughly). Did I miss out on anything?
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Ryvius213



Joined: 03 Aug 2006
Posts: 290

PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 1:00 pm Reply with quote
Quote:
To be fair, in situations like that, audience snark tends to feed on itself.
Fair enough.

Quote:
Mind you, I went in with rock-bottom expectations (I'd just seen Rebirth of Buddha a few months earlier, and thought it to be one of the most hilariously awful things I'd ever seen), so I'm sure that helps a bit. That said, anime sci-fi shows have been marinating in cliché and hammy writing for decades, and the same charges could easily be leveled at, say, Macross DYRL. (Not that I'm comparing the two, mind you, just an example.)

Mystical Laws isn't a GREAT anime, but it's interesting, and way better than I expected it to be.
Well, the hammy writing I'm referring to has less to do with the ripe cheese and more to do with arbitrarily placed plot points that are given little to no explanation. Off the top of my head, spoiler["Science has proven this vase is from another planet." "I know everything about modern science, so that means this technology must be from another planet." "You're the reincarnation of Buddha!" and, my personal favorite, the fact that Darth Vad--erm, Tatagatha Killer, seems to have a variety of powers, including the force, that's really given no explanation beyond "he's evil."] Even if it's an anime or fantasy world where magical powers exist, the world should establish some level of depth or coherence when it comes to how these things actually work. I understand you view these elements as satire and homage, and maybe it is, but I find that aspect of the film less enjoyable because of how seriously it seems to take itself. If I didn't find the film so hilariously bad I wouldn't have enjoyed it at all.

I haven't seen anything else from Happy Science, so I went in with no expectations, but I still don't feel that "relatively good" justifies the high praise for the movie, especially because anything can easily seem better or worse when one goes into it with certain expectations.
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tasogarenootome



Joined: 24 Feb 2007
Posts: 562

PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 3:57 pm Reply with quote
I'm pretty impressed at this review and may actually watch this now (though I still intend to keep my expectations low). I think it's hard to detach a work from the circumstances surrounding it.
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Greboruri



Joined: 09 Jul 2003
Posts: 225
Location: Canberra, ACT, Australia

PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 5:24 pm Reply with quote
SquadmemberRitsu wrote:
I was going to see this movie at a screening in Sydney a while back

I assumed their films only got played to the faithful (there were tons of posters for the film through the suburbs past Okubo when I was in Japan last October), so it really surprised me to adverts for it on ANN au for Sydney screenings. Surely there can’t be any sort of Happy Science presence in Australia? Well certainly not big enough to justify a screening of the film at Hoyts in George street. It also surprised me that ANN au didn’t mention the screenings in the news section despite agreeing to advertise the films.
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Juno016



Joined: 09 Jan 2012
Posts: 1406

PostPosted: Sun Feb 24, 2013 11:25 am Reply with quote
The people at ANN are going to love this.

When I was in Japan this past Fall, when this movie was showing in theaters, I was walking by the theater with my roommate and a Japanese friend. This guy approached me there. He was training a guy, who apparently works for Nissan, in English, and a Westerner walking by, translating a conversation between his roommate and friend, was the perfect victim to help out. My friends went off to the arcade and I stayed to help out. They took me out to lunch and introduced themselves from "Kofuku no Kagaku" and gave me free tickets to see this movie. I watched it the next day and it was... funny. Not a bad movie at all, but still made me think it had a ridiculous premise and conclusion. But as I was leaving, the same guy approached me and asked me how it was, taking me out to dinner. We talked for a while and he said he was visiting the "church" down the road and promoting the movie. At the end of the day, I said I needed to return home, and he gave me a book to take home, in Japanese, and two more in English, for some of my friends. He also gave me a clear file for the movie, two guidebooks for the movie, and an ice coffee, all in a bag. He said it was from the "Kofuku no Kagaku" and to look over it carefully and email him what I thought later.

I got home and looked through it, wondering what it was. I flipped to the back of the book and saw a photo of the author. It was the guy. His name was 大川隆法 (Ookawa Ryuuhou). And a quick internet search later, I found out that he was the FOUNDER of this "New Religions" sect, the GUY BEHIND THIS MOVIE, and he had given me the equivalent of their "bible" (more like a book describing their beliefs and what kinds of scientific research they've done to prove themselves and why others should believe them)...! I never saw him again, but I emailed him, saying that I read it all and it was an interesting idea, and that I'd give the English versions to my friend and a Professor at home I know who studies Japanese religions.

I'll never forget the first thing him and the other guy asked me when I sat down to lunch with them the first day and I just ordered some rice to not overindulge on their kindness:

「宇宙人の存在に信じますか?」

Literally,

"Do you believe in the existence of aliens?"
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samuelp



Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 1591
Location: Tokyo, Japan

PostPosted: Sun Feb 24, 2013 12:26 pm Reply with quote
I'm gonna go ahead and say that if your religion is gonna proselytize, the above is definitely the way to go about it. Free swag? Silly sci-fi movie propaganda? If only western religions were this peaceful and harmless...

Actually I've had some cute young girls ring my doorbell and hand me brochures about Happy Science myself here in Japan. From what I can tell part of your duties as a church member is to go out and spread the word one a week or so.
They were way less annoying than Jehovah's Witnesses at least.

That being said I'm naturally wary of any religion, especially new ones, but from everything I've read Happy Science is really harmless and not a danger to anyone at all.
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Juno016



Joined: 09 Jan 2012
Posts: 1406

PostPosted: Sun Feb 24, 2013 12:43 pm Reply with quote
samuelp wrote:
I'm gonna go ahead and say that if your religion is gonna proselytize, the above is definitely the way to go about it. Free swag? Silly sci-fi movie propaganda? If only western religions were this peaceful and harmless...

Actually I've had some cute young girls ring my doorbell and hand me brochures about Happy Science myself here in Japan. From what I can tell part of your duties as a church member is to go out and spread the word one a week or so.
They were way less annoying than Jehovah's Witnesses at least.

That being said I'm naturally wary of any religion, especially new ones, but from everything I've read Happy Science is really harmless and not a danger to anyone at all.


They've been compared to the Aum Shinrikyou, the New Religions sect that gassed the subway in Tokyo in 1995, because they can be pushy at times and are HUGE. But I doubt they'd ever do anything like that because their motto is "compassion and kindness." I find a bit of an egotistical stroke in the movie, though, because spoiler[the main character is literally a self-insert of Mr. Ookawa, being the reincarnation of the Buddha and all, prophecized to save the world.]

The movie felt VERY propaganda-ish for a few other reasons, too. There's a buddhist monk in training, introduced spoiler[as a monk who does not know whether or not to believe in the Buddha or what his mentor says about the world's religions. In the end of the movie, when THE WHOLE WORLD decides to shed their ignorant attachments to their own beliefs and pray to the main character to give him strength against the aliens, the monk is all like, "You were right, mentor! You were right! I believe! I believe!"] If that isn't trying to persuade the audience's sentimentalities, I don't know what is. Anime hyper

I want to own this movie on video, though. It was ridiculous, but it was really fun and, like I said, it wasn't actually a bad movie. Plus, I can tell people that the guy behind the movie invited me to lunch and dinner on two consecutive days! =D
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