RPG Metanoia is an official entry to the recently concluded 2010 Metro Manila Film Festival, and is the first 3D CG film written, produced, and animated locally.
The movie follows the exploits of Nico — a fifth grader and an online gaming guru, and his buddies both in and outside the virtual world of Metanoia, as they fight an unknown force that threatens not just their beloved game but the real world as well.
RPG Metanoia marks the first cinematic outing for Thaumatrope Animation and Ambient Media, who have been working on the movie for about four years when they were joined by ABS-CBN’s Star Cinema.
The film featured a mix of professional and amateur staff members, from storyboard and initial rendering all the way to the dubbing and screen adaptation (disclosure: I did the Japanese localization for a portion of the script).
I waited until the very last day of the screenings to view the film — despite getting invites for the premiere, mainly because of scheduling differences. As I settled into the theatre seat, I felt a mixture of excitement and trepidation. On one hand, I was glad that we Pinoys have finally gotten off our collective asses to produce an animated film that we could pit against the dueling dragons of Tokyo and Hollywood.
On the other hand, I was not really thrilled with the track record of Filipino films, so I couldn’t get rid of this sinking feeling that this could be one of those cases of “biting off more than we can chew”. However, most of my misgivings were put to rest by a combination of Metanoia’s spot-on wit, local charm, and superior technicality.
The film was so obviously wrought with love and care — although by no means an original the plot was engaging and brisk, taking you through Nico’s online exploits to his real life gaffs and then back again. The subplots were cycled through clearly without muddling the central plot — however, I do have to warn viewers unfamiliar with the MMORPG subculture that some of the erstwhile witty dialogue would’ve been indecipherable ^^;;
The film’s technical merits were far superior to what I initially expected — more “Chicken Little” than “Upin and Ipin” (sorry, Disney Channel shows are what came to mind — and no, Pixar is in a league of its own). The animation was pretty smooth, and the transition between the “in-game” and “real world” footage was seamless. The change in color palette even told part of the story — no one was left in the dark guessing if the kids were plugged in or offline.
Now, for the bad parts. Although the score and background noises were pitch-perfect, the dubbing was sadly not. I really, really, really disliked the voice of the main character — done by ABS-CBN talent Zaijan Jaranilla. It may be unfair to diss such a young actor, but I honestly have no idea why the production team used a real child to voice-act a young boy.
Zaijan did not have the depth and range of — say, a veteran radio drama actor specializing in child-like portrayals. “Star power” be damned, the director should’ve put his foot down and insisted on using a professional voice actor no matter how old he was in real life (protip: Japanese seiyuu who have done child-like roles are in their twenties or older — even Pikachu).
Long story short, RPG Metanoia is an unexpected joy and is without a doubt the sleeper hit of the 2010 MMFF. It has things that children who grew up today surrounded by video games and wireless connections will enjoy, as well as things that children who grew up ten or twenty years ago covered in dirt and bug bites would love. Catch it today while there’s still time, or watch out for the DVD out very soon.