Image source: シネマトゥデイ on YouTube
Aooni: The Blue Monster pokes fun at the indie PC horror game, though it’s been a pretty entertaining show so far. It’s getting its own feature-length anime film in 2017 But this isn’t the first time the Ao Oni series will have shown on the big screen. There was a movie release in 2014–a live-action one–based off of the video game.
Ao Oni hit Japanese theaters as a completely serious horror film, totally unlike the current anime adaptation that pokes fun at the game. The result was a pretty dismal attempt at horror–even if the trailer did take some of the content and make it a little chilling. Having watched the movie, however, you’d probably be better served watching the anime–unless you’re in the mood for a silly good time. That’s exactly what this movie is. It isn’t quite as funny as the anime can be, but the sheer shlockiness of what’s going on is entertaining nevertheless.
The movie follows a girl named Anna, whose little brother has seemingly committed suicide. She’s played by Iriyama Anna of AKB48, in fact, which is one of the bright spots of the movie thanks to the bubbly charm that you can see shining through, even though she’s not a great actress at all. Not too long after her brother’s funeral, we see a real glimpse into the in-game universe of Ao Oni. Anna ends up tagging along with a character named Shun to a spooky old house. Little do they know, the blue demon is waiting for them there, which is basically where the carnage begins.
As an interesting side note, after doing a little research because I didn’t recognize anyone from the game named Shun, the character introduced at this point: He is pulled from the novel that hasn’t been translated into English yet. So imagine how confused I was when trying to figure out how this character fit into the Ao Oni mythos I was used to. Luckily, you don’t have to know that much to be able to follow along.
In any case, I just figured the creators had taken some artistic liberties, which really ramped up when the Oni made is appearance in the decrepit old house. There’s murder after murder when the Oni shows up, and that’s to be expected, but things do turn into a bit of running around, screaming and yelling for a good portion of the movie.
Speaking of monsters, the Oni itself looks only a modicum like the creepy monster from the game, possibly because it’s been given an actual 3D makeover, which either makes or breaks the movie for fans of the original game. That’s not to say it isn’t creepy, because it can be, but I felt the game and the anime did a better job in keeping things appropriately scary with the Oni’s design. What was really creepy was the official trailer. They really should have just made the entire movie like that.
There are some interesting twists and turns when it comes to Shun himself as well as the Oni’s secrets, but as far as character-building goes or psychological horror, you’re better served playing the game. It is interesting to see such a small cult hit being turned into a large, big-budget title, however.
I wish there had been less carnage and more mind-screws in the narrative, however, and more attention paid to ensuring the Oni was as creepy as it could be. Anna isn’t a very good actress either, but I suppose she tried. In the end, I felt like I had been watching some haphazard adaptation of a game no one really knew anything about–though it did have some fun horror moments sprinkled through here and there.
Here’s to hoping the Ao Oni animated film improves upon the live-action version. But if you can’t wait to see it in Japanese theaters this March, check out Ao Oni: The Blue Monster, which is available for streaming now on Crunchyroll.