Fuse: Memoirs of a Huntress is an anime film production released in 2012, which is based upon a classic Japanese novel written by Kazuki Sakuraba. The film takes place in the Edo period of Japan and is a new fantasy interpretation on this renowned story. Directed by Masayuki Miyaji (Xam'd: Lost Memories) the film has a swiftly handled shift in the approach that was made to telling this story.
This interpretation and retelling focuses upon the hunter character Hamaji, and begins with the introduction to this character. She is a 14 year old girl who was brought up living around the mountainsides, and who is now staying by herself - and struggling to survive - following the passing of her grandfather. The story of the film opens with her hunting a white wolf. She is somehow an expert hunter but also has clear conflict over her role in killing the animals she hunts. Over the course of the story, Hamaji reunites with her older brother, who had moved away, and who has decided to get her involved in helping him hunt Fuse.
Fuse are mythological creatures that some (in this story) feel are real. They are a blending of human beings and wolves. They are believed to be able to suck the energy life-force out of humans, eating their souls, and using this energy to become stronger and bigger enemies to people. Yet is it possible there can be more to Fuse than folklore suggests? And are the Fuse creatures even real? Hamaji meets a mysterious and kind young man whose name is Shino who might hold a key to the answers she seeks.
Hamaji must decide what her role is in this wolf hunt (pardon the pun) and whether or not the Fuse are even real or if they are good or bad. This becomes a big part of the film's story as she travels across Edo in unison with her brother. She eventually meets and befriends a girl named Meido too. Things become more complex as the finale is reached and a ultimate confrontation is made between Fuse and those who fear them.
The story is considered a classic to many but this rendition might not be the best way to start to approach it. The writing feels convoluted and rushed and the mythology of the Fuse, despite it initially seeming like a focal point of the film, was hardly explored here. The characters were also surprisingly flat and uninvolving. There was not a significant amount of good character development and it makes the film a bit less successful than it could have probably been.
The background artwork and setting illustrative creations from the art director Shunichiro Yoshihara were notably impressive and showed much accomplishment. These areas of production were remarkable, worthwhile, and should be complimented. However, the unfortunately dull character designs were hardly effective.
The quality of art for the completed film was much weaker than the pre-production sketches and early creations. The direction by Masayuki Miyaji also feels weak and unfocused. This film is an effort that simply doesn't work as well as it could. The story will appeal to longtime fans who are looking for a new adaptation to enjoy but most will find it too uninvolving and uninspired to be a successful feature length story. Ultimately, Fuse: Memoirs of a Huntress just doesn't deliver and for that reason it's a missed opportunity as a feature. There are bursts of reasonable creativity but on the whole it just didn't seem to want to gel.
The 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encode is quite strong with vibrant colors, clean definition, and notable boost from the presentation method. Presented in the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. English subtitles are provided.
The Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation is immersive and memorable and probably one of the best elements of the film. The score is reasonably good quality too. Certainly, the dynamic presentation of the sound mix is a high quality delight.
NIS America has packaged this deluxe premium edition in a handsome art-box with an artbook featuring character illustrations, sketches, production art, short character descriptions, and an interview with the director. These elements added up to a promising start of the extras but it doesn't extend beyond there with a making-of. This is still a impressive release for an anime production and it continues to show how high-quality and worthwhile the NIS sets are from releasing series with such prestigious class.
Fuse: Memories of a Huntress is a disappointing mess of a film with a poorly written storyline, weak characterization, and inconsistent animation (the background art is brilliant, but the rest certainly leaves a lot of room for improvement). While the film might disappoint, this NIS release doesn't. The packaging, PQ/AQ, and art-book are excellent and show why NIS is a amazing anime company that continues to show much promise - even when some of their licenses aren't necessarily up to par for receiving such prestigious quality.