By Will Whitehurst / November 3rd, 2014
|Title||Bayonetta: Bloody Fate|
|Distributor||FUNimation (North America)|
|Premiere Dates||October 21, 2014 (North America, Blu-ray premiere)|
|Genres||Action, adventure, exploitation|
|Age Rating||TV-MA (graphic violence, sexuality, language)|
Anime adaptations of games are a rare breed. They can either be quite good and faithful to the spirit of their source material or crap of the highest caliber. I’ll get this out of the way―Bayonetta: Bloody Fate is neither. It manages to capture the heart and soul of its franchise, with a decent retelling of the first game’s story, fanservice galore, pitch-perfect music and voice acting that is quite literally taken straight from the game, and violence that hits Ninja Scroll and Angel Cop levels of ridiculousness.
While new in terms of technology, story and even source material, the conventions that Bayonetta: Bloody Fate embraces are definitely more akin to old ’80s and ’90s anime. In other words, if fanservice and violence were the only factors in terms of a recommendation for Bayonetta fans, the answer would be a resounding “Absolutely!” And there’s a lot to like, but a few things felt somewhat off about this adaptation.
Five hundred years before Bayonetta: Bloody Fate takes place, the Lumen Sages and Umbra Witches lived in harmony until one of the former had a child with one of the latter. Bayonetta, an Umbra Witch, is that child, and she’s all grown up―albeit without much in the way of memory. And so, she must find out the true meaning of her past, kick some butt and meet a few interesting characters along the way, with subplots involving the resurrection of a god named Jubilaeus and Bayonetta’s supposed daughter (?) Cereza showing up.
Fuminori Kizaki, known for the similarly ultraviolent Afro Samurai, seemed like a perfectly logical choice for a director, and he keeps things as simple as possible as the film unfolds. As those who’ve played the game might expect, Bayonetta: Bloody Fate has ludicrous action sequences in spades. From the intense and bizarre opening scene onward, she kills angels with copious bloodspray, rides her motorcycle and gets in a car chase, and just does her thing for an hour and a half.
Like the original game itself, Bayonetta: Bloody Fate‘s low point is its story, and the fact that this is placed front and center is one place where it falters. This factor is redeemed several thousand times over in Bayonetta because of both the sheer spectacle and that snarky self-awareness Platinum Games puts in just about every game they make. While some of both are carried over into Bloody Fate, the humor that made Bayonetta so great isn’t always there. Sure, a few great moments with the aloof Luka are still kept in, as well as a pretty funny scene with Bayonetta giving Rodin her broken guns, but there’s precious little of the banter that Bayonetta shouts at her enemies―save for her infamous f-bomb towards the end.
The animation in Bayonetta: Bloody Fate is mostly gorgeous but occasionally flawed. It’s just about what one would expect from a Gonzo production―2D and 3D animation intermingle, and the results are breathtakingly beautiful in some parts, but disjointed in others. One of the strengths that Gonzo series and films usually have is beautiful fight scenes that put CGI to excellent use, and Bloody Fate is no different in that regard. Many of the action sequences are fast and fluid, but there are moments that could be better. The CGI is sometimes very obvious―for example, a car chase with Bayonetta on her motorcycle gets really choppy because of the CGI background, and there are plenty of explosions that look like pasted-on GIFs. One thing is for certain, though: the set design is amazing. All of the beautiful stained-glass windows and iconography in Bayonetta are both fully intact.
The character designs are also occasionally off-model. When the Bloody Fate version of Bayonetta suggestively licks her lips in anticipation for a kill, the effect is slightly more cringeworthy than sexy, and the full-body pan which ensues when she summons her Climax attacks seems to remove a layer of outrageousness from scenes that define it. These moments are brief, however, and the animation remains fairly vivid throughout the film.
The music is mixed in quality, too. Some of it is, quite literally, ripped from the game. Watching Bayonetta kill some angels to the tune of “Mysterious Destiny” is still as enthralling in Bayonetta: Bloody Fate as it is in Bayonetta itself, and the original song “Night, I stand,” which would have felt right at home in the game, plays over the end credits. But some of the generic orchestral themes just don’t capture the epic scale of the battles going on, and the same themes are occasionally used in a repetitive fashion.
On the positive side of sound-related things, the voice work doesn’t disappoint. I’ve had mixed feelings about most of New Generation Pictures’ dubs of late, but Bayonetta: Bloody Fate has an excellent one. Gonzo translated it in-house, and most of the original Bayonetta cast, including Hellena Taylor (Bayonetta), Grey DeLisle (Jeanne), Dave Fennoy (Rodin) and even Yuri Lowenthal (Luka) returned for this dub. In fact, for those reasons alone, I’d go as far as to say the dub might be superior to the original Japanese version. Sure, the latter is still good, with one of my all-time favorite voice actors Atsuko Tanaka (mainly known for voicing Motoko Kusanagi in most of the Ghost in the Shell franchise) putting on an incredible Bayonetta, but there’s still not much of a comparison in my book―Taylor IS Bayonetta.
Bayonetta in general has been criticized for its rampant fanservice that panders to the male gaze, and Bayonetta: Bloody Fate takes this aspect up to eleven. There’s no full-frontal nudity per se, but Bayonetta: Bloody Fate definitely shows more skin than in the game, especially in the transformation sequences and a shower scene placed about halfway in. So, if you’re into that kind of fanservice, you will be all over this film. In spite of the problematic and leery nature of the camera, Bayonetta is still never victimized and shows off all her assets just for kicks. I see where people are coming from when they say it’s voyeuristic―that camera is the main part of it―but she’s definitely empowered here by using her sexuality both in a “Look at me, I’m hot!” kind of way and in ways that even criticize the male gaze, just like in the games. Even that gratuitous shower scene doesn’t feel as pandering when, just after it, Luka shows up out of nowhere and she lures him over half-nude.
FUNimation’s Blu-ray treatment of Bayonetta: Bloody Fate does not disappoint in the technical sense, though they could have included a few more extras. The film’s Blu-ray transfer is in beautiful and smooth 1080p, and the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track sounds excellent. The combo pack also comes with a DVD version of the film, as well as a few bonus features, including a commentary track with ADR director Jonathan Klein and Bayonetta’s voice actress Hellena Taylor, a series of storyboards, and a US trailer. Finally, the shiny cardboard sleeve is sure to look good on your shelf.
I’ll set the record straight―although Bayonetta: Bloody Fate is an incredibly mixed bag, I still think some of the protagonist’s sexy charm and the games’ breathtaking action both shine through just enough for fans to drool over. If you’re a diehard Bayonetta fan like me, you might be able to overlook the hiccups in Bloody Fate‘s storytelling, animation and characterization and just take it in. And if you’re in the mood for an outrageously violent anime with Mnemosyne levels of sexualized violence, this is also perfect for you. For other anime fans, however, Bayonetta: Bloody Fate is worth a rental. It might not win over any converts, but it’s still an interesting, if flawed, spin on this franchise’s bizarre mythos.
Bayonetta: Bloody Fate was purchased by this reviewer for review purposes on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.
Anime AdaptationBayonettaBayonetta: Bloody FateFunimationGonzo