Premiere Report - The Island of Giant Insects

by Jacob Chapman,

Before this OVA's premiere at Crunchyroll Expo, producer Tatsuya Ishiguro was asked if the anime's staff was fond of insects like the manga's original author, Yasutaka Fujimi. He replied that none of them could honestly claim to be fans; like most people who aren't Fujimi, insects gave his team the heebie-jeebies. That turned out to be a good sign of what to expect from this half-baked proof-of-concept for a crowdfunding campaign, where nobody seems to be having fun.

The OVA begins not just in the middle of the action, but in the middle of its own story, with the first and third acts of the overall plot just plain missing with no explanation. If you hadn't been around for the producer's preface explaining that the characters had crash-landed en route to a school trip and gotten attacked by giant blood-sucking butterflies upon dragging themselves away from the plane's wreckage, you would have no idea what was going on as the OVA opened abruptly with a half dozen teens yelling at each other about the deaths of their friends in a tropical forest. Almost all of the characters are (purposefully) unlikable except for our protagonist, Oribe Mutsumi, who adores bugs of all shapes and sizes—even the enormous ones trying to kill off her classmates! To the story's credit, Mutsumi is immediately endearing as an enthusiastic nerd who boldly uses her entomology expertise to rescue others, asserting that "Insects are not scary! We're only afraid because we don't understand them." She deploys chemical warfare, clever observations of swarming patterns, and all manner of other tricks to keep her friends and haters alike from being liquefied and devoured by horrifying ten-foot wasps. It's easy to cheer her on and hope that her fighting spirit wins over some of her more wretched classmates. (The only other two likable characters are featured on the poster, a sexy track star and bookworm who provide extra fanservice and act as Mutsumi's only defenders.)

Unfortunately, Mutsumi's likability is the only thing The Island of Giant Insects has going for it. The animation and draftsmanship are so routinely laughable that even the CGI insects, awkward and ill-fitting as they are in their 2D environment, look better than the perpetually off-model characters by comparison. (The trailer below contains most of the decent-looking shots in the entire OVA.) Viewers curious about Giant Insects' purported 18+ content are also likely to be disappointed unless they're partial to guro; watching naked women get eaten alive by larvae makes for decent horror schlock, but it's not at all titillating in the way the OVA's ogling camera tries to emphasize. Still, there is an audience for semi-educational sleaze like this, and the premise is unique and entertaining enough as island survival stories go. The Island of Giant Insects' fatal weakness isn't being too gross or too ugly—there's certainly an audience out there for a voyeuristic combo of King's Game and Terra Formars—but the OVA itself just isn't a complete story at all. It's literally the middle portion of a movie that's not only still in production, but will rely on crowdfunding to even see the light of day.

The greatest reaction producer Ishiguro got out of the largely baffled audience was when he mentioned that his goal was to create a more R-rated version for Crunchyroll to stream than what will be shown in Japanese theaters, so that should give you a good idea of the intended audience for this creepy-crawly curiosity. If you're a bug lover with a taste for the tawdry and macabre, The Island of Giant Insects makes for a great trash-watch in theory, but with such poor production values and without the promise of a TV series run, even the finished version of this film project probably won't have enough story content to be worth watching, much less remembering.

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