Island of Giant Insects – Review

This 76 minute offering, which premiered in Japan and simultaneously on Crunchyroll in January 2020, is an adaptation of the first nine chapters (of 44) of the completed manga of the same name. Crunchyroll has also simultaneously posted a 22 OVA version which was released in Japan in June 2019; a premiere report on it from 2019’s Crunchyroll Expo can be found here. The OVA is just the movie edited down to 22 minutes (and not in a very comprehensible way), so there is no value whatsoever to watching it. If you’re looking for survival horror shlock in anime form, watch the movie version instead.

And the movie is so completely shlock that I almost have to wonder if it was meant to be entertainingly bad. The faults start early – such as not bothering to clarify that all of the individuals we see in the airport at the beginning are in the same class – and come often. Since they pervade nearly every aspect of the production, so let’s start with the logical holes. At multiple points some of the survivors insist that help will come if they can hold out for three days, but how do they know that when they don’t have any kind of phone reception? And why would it take three days when they crashed near a previously-inhabited island? Search teams scramble much quicker than that when a plane is lost, and one would think that they would check out any islands in the vicinity first. The cast is even able to confirm that their island is part of a known island chain.

The stupidity of some of the cast is also mind-boggling, even beyond the level of that walking hand-in-hand with these kind of survival flicks. This is essentially the Mutsumi Show, as only one character besides her ever demonstrates having functioning brain cells. Let’s see: you have an insect specialist among the group, someone who has repeatedly proven that her knowledge, determination, and resourcefulness is invaluable to your survival, and yet she’s the person you’re going to routinely insult, leave behind in a giant wasp nest, and deliberately lock outside to get killed off during a later giant insect attack? At another point, a character is assumed dead because he screams out off-screen, even though they’re in a secured facility with no sign that the insects have gotten inside; admittedly that one isn’t as much of a stretch given what the characters had been through up to that point, but still. “You have a gag for her in your pants” is practically an exact line spoken during an even later crisis scene – and yes, it means exactly what you think it does.

The story as a whole generally follows standard survival horror beats, but there are plenty of weak spots in it as well. When the aforementioned character is asked why he screamed, his only reply is “oh, I saw something that disturbed me” and it’s left at that; no explanation is ever provided. (In the source manga, he discovered giant crabs in his search of the facility.) Everyone has to strip down in bathe in the ocean at one point to make sure there are no ticks on them, even though the ticks they encountered were the size of a large man’s fist, but hey, the opportunities for nudity to that point had been minimal, right? Also, it gives not one but two characters the opportunity to use sex to secure a personal protector. Perhaps the most egregious offense is the 80+ second long scene of Mutsumi just walking down a hallway while rock music plays. Obviously it is meant to make her look like a badass, but it comes off more like stalling for time. Besides, the facility is not big enough to have a hall that long. The only good thing about the writing is that it at least seems to have done its homework on insect details.

Technical merits don’t fare much better. The animation quality is at mediocre TV series-level at best and cuts corners wherever possible, suggesting that the project did not have much of a budget. CG-animated bugs move well but do not consistently integrate well with regular animation. Although this is presumably supposed to be a high school class, female character designs make all of the girls look college age or older, with ample chests being the norm. Outside of the aforementioned bathing scene, fan service is mostly limited to nudity on insect-victimized characters, and the action and horror content can get graphic enough that censoring was used. Although more extreme examples can be found in anime, this is definitely not tame stuff. The musical score is also sparsely-used, with a bit of dramatic orchestration here and there and a couple of rock numbers towards the end constituting the bulk of it.

As might be expected, the story is nowhere near complete at the end, with a handful of new survivors being introduced in the epilogue scenes. Still, if no more animation of this gets made then what exists here serves the purpose of providing lots of violence and service. Sadly, it’s just too stupid and poorly-made to be worth watching even for that. Mutsumi deserves better.

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