The Island of Giant Insects – Anime Review
Synopsis: Students from Hosho Academy High School were aboard a plane when it crash lands under mysterious circumstances. The heroine, Oribe Mutsumi and her classmates wash ashore on an island. The surviving passengers decide to wait for help to come, but the island turns out to be inhabited by giant insects! Mutsumi wakes up on a beach and finds her classmate Matsuo Ayumi. They use their wits to procure food. Believing that help will come in three days, they decide to endure until then. (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Island of the Giant Insects has all the makings of a perfectly campy, trashy B-Movie: We’ve got the giant bugs with wonky special effects (Read: iffy CGI), violence displayed with a sexual tint, idiotic characters making idiotic mistakes, and people consistently betraying each other based on thin counter-productive reasoning. Yet somehow Island of the Giant Insects is an absolutely painful watch no matter how you look at it. It’s basically everything around those elements that makes this movie a 76 minute slog rather than a ‘so bad its good’ joy ride.
To begin, the film can’t decide how it wants to handle guiding the audience into the narrative. Giant Insects doesn’t want to do a slow build. It doesn’t want to introduce characters, or set up drama, or really anything. It wants to get to the bugs. And that’s probably the right decision. Dump us on the island, let us learn who these idiotic high schoolers are as we go, and begin killing a few off for good measure. And the film does do all that– after a plodding opening sequence meant to set a dour tone. We follow a buzzing bee, a little one, around an airport as we pan over each of our characters. There’s almost no dialogue, and the art isn’t nearly good enough to sell this sequence on visual quality alone. Outside of the dour music the entire sequence feels empty and lifeless. Even when someone finally reacts to the bee and kills it, allowing our hero to be, Oribe Mutsumi, to display her fondness for insects, you still feel like a solid 5 minutes of your time has been completely wasted. Oribe’s loves for insects is even reintroduced later, removing all point to this opening, which does nothing but bore the audience before we’ve even started.
What’s baffling is that we could’ve exchanged this opening for the plane crash that strands our heroes on the island. That would’ve been an exciting sequence, and an excellent way to rev up the audience for things to come. But instead by jumping from this to Oribe waking up on the beach it feels like Giant Insects is more interested in cutting around the interesting stuff and instead offering up all the boring sequences that drag the story to a crawl.
Even once the film gets going, our characters meet up, the first bug attack, Giant Insects still manages to disappoint. This time however it’s more so centered on the production quality rather than narrative choices. Giant Insects isn’t a looker, not in the least. The CGI for the bugs themselves is iffy, but serviceable most of the time. It never meshes all that well with the movie’s traditional 2D visual style, but to be fair the 2D art is actually more disappointing. There’s a real ‘budget’ quality that the film rarely shakes. Characters often lack visual details and definition, with their character art feeling like the bare minimum. It doesn’t help that most scenes are realized in this static ‘mid-length’ framing, perhaps the dullest way to present a story like this. Only on occasion do we abandon that static-mid length framing for anything more visually dynamic and often times it’s only when the violence gets obnoxiously sexual.
B-Movies wouldn’t be B-movies without at least a slight tint of sexual energy. Maybe a character is killed while bathing, allowing the audience a ‘fun’ view before things go wrong. Characters often end up having sex despite the brutal chaos around them, giving audiences a bit more titillation there. Maybe the girls are dressed sexy, whatever, the point is sex and horror go hand in hand, especially for trashy films. Giant Insects takes that a bit further however, providing a number of sequences that see the female characters being ‘raped’ by the bugs. It’s not actually rape, the bugs are more intent on eating us than ever mating with us, but the framing is often so sexual, so perverse in depiction, that it gives these sequences a new level of uncomfortability that isn’t really fun, just awkward or perhaps sickening depending on how uncomfortable the concept of rape or molestation makes you.
Taking the sexuality and violence to such extremes might be easier to overlook if the writing was at least entertaining. B-movie writing is rarely worth, well, writing home about, but it’s often still fun simply for how outrageous it is. Sadly Giant Insects is so much more often bland. Most sequences where the characters are discussing what to do remain unmemorable, lacking even an ounce of personality. The film also thinks it’s an educational anime at times, delving into details about the bugs that feel like too much information, or simply isn’t imparted in an exciting, meaningful way. The most trouble comes from how all the dialogue lacks flair. None of the characters are memorable because of it, feeling like cardboard cut outs of archetypal horror characters with just enough ‘personality’ to keep them distinguishable between each other. There’s also no consistency to the characterization. Oribe is initially very worried about finding her best friend alive. But after her friend is captured and paralyzed by a wasp, which takes her back to its lair, Oribe becomes strangely calm, and doesn’t display a hint of the panic one would feel knowing their friend is in danger. Sure Oribe knows a lot about bugs, but knowledge doesn’t entirely resolve panic and fear, and it would make so much more sense if it seemed like there was a rush to save her supposed friend, rather than excitedly explaining her love of bugs to everyone. Basically, nobody is written like they’re a real person. They act how they need to act in each scene, but otherwise can then become a totally different character in another sequence when the story demands.
Ultimately The Island of Giant Insects ends with a tease for more. It’s said early in the film that it’ll take three days for rescue to arrive (They assume anyway) and this movie only covers day one of events. As the film concludes new characters are ever so briefly introduced hinting at a follow up, one I’ll be surprised by if it ever actually materializes based on how poor the production was for this first outing. It’s no surprise there’s more to the story though. The Island of Giant Insects is based off of a 6 volume manga, making for far too much to tell in just 76 minutes. Looking over the manga briefly it looks like the far superior way to experience this tale. The visuals are more dynamic, and even if the writing is still as bare-bones and uninspired as what’s in the film, at least it won’t be a chore to look at. Sadly the manga isn’t available yet past the first volume (which is apparently heavily censored?), so if this film remains your only option for experience the world of The Island of Giant Insects? Yet I think it’s a hard pass. What few moments highlight the film as fun, classic B-movie camp, are not worthy slogging through an otherwise rough and unmemorable 76 minutes for.
The Island of Giant Insects is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.