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Laya

Apologies for the late review (two weeks late)! I went to watch the animated film RPG Metanoia last December 25, as a Christmas present to myself. I'd been waiting a long time for it-- ever since buzz about it first came out two years before, yes, two years! First Filipino film venture into 3-D animation, they said. The few stills I saw then did not seem very interesting (here's the 2009 article about RPG in the Philippine Online Chronicles). I was curious, though, to see how the movie would turn out.

**Spoiler warning begins here**



So it was that when I noticed that RPG the Movie, now renamed RPG Metanoia, would finally be shown at the 2010 Metro Manila Film Festival, I made up my mind that this was one movie I would not miss.

I went into the cinema resolving to keep an open mind, hoping it would be good; I went out feeling surprised and excited, and yes, not disappointed, not at all. It was an exhilarating experience. So I went back again last Saturday, watched it for the second time, and brought a friend.







There is much to love about this movie, which gave me the feeling at times of being in an actual Filipino movie, only rendered in animation, from the electric fan in our young protagonist Nico's room, to the sunshine slanting through the jalousies in the window beside his bed, his mom's rice cooker in the kitchen, the daing na bangus and tomato slices they have for dinner, and even the wrought-iron chairs and table in their front yard. Little details, little surprises, little references to internet culture and Filipino culture are embedded in many of the scenes, much like the little jokes in Sierra's city-building series.

The scenes set in the game Metanoia itself gave me a .hack meets Rose Online vibe. I loved the avatars of each of the characters, and it's lovely that they all chose to make their characters look as much as they do in real life. Well, except for Mark's avatar Ahdonis-- with that distinctive Filipino "H" in his name, LOL-- who seemed to look much older than Mark's actual age, in keeping with his "chicksboy" character. There's a nod to Pinoy cultural diversity in the makeup of our characters, and we know we've seen those faces, those eyes, heard those voices before, on many little Pinoy boys everywhere. And a token girl, you say? Yet May is not just a token girl here, for she effects a rather fascinating role reversal in the course of the movie. How cool is it that her avatar C4SS4NDR4 sports a pixie cut and trendy jeans-- and bakya and a pink modified balintawak crop top (I can't get over those butterfly sleeves)!


My friend posing with C4SS4NDR4. I love that balintawak blouse!

While we're on the subject of avatars, Bobby's weaponsmith is appropriately named Sumpak; Daniel's chi master is K'mao (kamao = fist) whose powers have to do with an old children's game; Nico's vagabond named Zero has for his primary weapon that Filipino invention that is both toy and weapon, the yoyo; and Bryan's healer (and my favorite avatar by far, sorry, Zero) is an albularyo clad in a 19th century barong tagalog and top hat, named Mang Ernie.

Filipino children's games also get showcased here, as Nico learns that there is life outside of the computer that had become his world. An Shoji's Tsukasa he is not!

The story takes on some unexpected twists, and the animation is actually beautiful; the action, when there's action, fast-paced enough to make you try to catch your breath. All in all, for a first attempt, the movie is very good.

Parenthetically, I've read quite a lot of comments dissing that the movie was "not quite up to the level of Pixar" or some such. Why? Does a baby immediately stand up and walk the moment it gets born? And did you actually go to see it, or did you just look at the trailer? I think it's amazing that Ambient Media was actually able to achieve so much, considering the state of technology in this country. If instead of complaining that the film wasn't "up to Hollywood standards" (I don't see you complaining that the other MMFF movies are "not on a level with Hollywood movies") we actually dealt it some constructive criticism and support, like going to watch it, maybe we'd see more and more, and better and better, Pinoy animated movies --and maybe TV series, yay?-- in the years to come. Personally, I think it's awful that a lot of Filipinos help to make animated movies / TV shows for other countries, and that a lot of the programming on Philippine TV features American cartoons and Japanese anime, and nary a one in the lot a Philippine cartoon. Now that RPG Metanoia has arrived, I hope this changes. Maybe Ambient Media can make a TV series spinoff? *looks hopeful*

Anyway, I've watched this movie twice and still want to watch it again. When the DVD comes out (I hope there is a DVD, please please please!) I shall be standing in line to buy it.

Come to think of it, RPG Metanoia is a first for me. It's actually the first Filipino movie I've watched more than once in the cinema, and the first one whose DVD I'm actually looking forward to buying for my collection.

For those who still haven't seen this movie, I think it's still showing at selected SM cinemas in Metro Manila. Don't just take my word for it (or that of those dissing the movie)-- go and watch it, and see for yourself just how awesome it really is.

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