Narr8‘s unique brand of motion comics further blurs the line between comicbook and animation and with Subject 9 they have a beautifully rendered, Anime-infused prison escape drama that is one of their very best titles.
The scenario for Subject 9 is pretty straight forward and a familliar set-up. Rick is a teenage thief, thrown into a mysterious prison cell where he encounters fellow prisoners Jess, Tina and twins Coldy & Hotty. This is no ordinary prison though as Rick is quickly taken off to have mysterious experiments conducted on him by a power mad general and his team of scientists. There he sees the mysterious Shado and upon his return to his cell begins to plans an escape. Along with his fellow inmates, and a few extras they pick up on the way, they break out of their enforced captivity and as the issues progress we follow the teams escape plan and the generals attempts to get them back. (As well as finding out more about the mysterious powers and the nature of those experiments!)
When it comes to classification this very much an animated comic rather than a dynamic page turning comic book. Navigating the page with a tapable arrow that initiates a series of full screen cut scenes rather than cross fade between panels this is much more or a watching experience than a reading one. It looks and feels very slick though with incredibly polished animation featuring a variety of focus pulls, pans and zooms that sees the readers point of view zoom in and out and across the page. Characters continue to move (blinking or moving their hands or tails) once the scene has been rendered while lighting effects also continue to give the pages an incredibly dynamic feel to them. There’s even an immersive musical score with sound effects to really make you feel part of the story.
The story itself is fairly predictable with the escape developing over several issues, and the characters are fairly archetypal (a thief, a femme fatale, kids and a mysterious stranger plus an evil general and some evil scientists thrown in for good measure) however the look and feel of these animated pages should be enough to keep your attention until the action and story picks up around issue 3.
The characters are rendered exquisitely in a highly polished Japanese/Manga style with incredibly expressive faces and dynamic action-packed poses. Each character is based on an animal and so has stunningly rendered faces and anthropomorphic anatomy, in particular Bert the fox and the squirrel twins Hotty and Coldy, but the mix of animal and human attributes are rendered brilliantly and have a professional quality that puts other many Manga wannabes to shame. The colouring is also stunning with a slick finish that makes pages leap out at you.
As is often the case with Manga infused artwork though, several of the characters have a highly sexualised look which might not be to everyone’s taste. The women are stunning to look at but their clothes are beyond skintight with bulging unnatural looking cleavages and shorter-than-short hotpants and t-shirts that border on the obscene. These are made worse by the need to have tails on the animal-inspired characters which seem to give the artist an excuse to show even more flesh! There are several scenes in the first issue which leeringly linger on the female characters ‘assets’, and although this is put to one side during the escape makes an unwelcome return in issue 6.
This may be ok for some, but for us took away from what is otherwise a very strong series from the app-based motion comics publisher.
Blending the world of anime and manga seemlessly to create something really exciting and action packed. The story is fairly vanilla but the impressive and expressive artwork is the star and is only let down by the slightly sleazy styling of some of the characters.