Anime Review: Red Sonja - Queen of Plagues (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Drew Hurley 29.05.2017

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Red Sonja - Queen of the Plagues (UK Rating: 12)

Alongside Conan, Red Sonja has been an icon of dark fantasy violence since her creation in 1973. There have been plenty of versions since that time but this one comes from seminal scribe Gail Simone and Dynamite comics in 2013. Whatever the incarnation, some elements are always present; the trademark chainmail bikini, the flaming crimson locks, and the bad-ass, drunken, surly attitude. This story is a new re-telling of Sonja's origin, the comic of which received much acclaim and the fandom was excited to see an animated adaptation… until it was announced to be a motion comic. This is a medium that rarely delivers what the fans deserve. Can Red Sonja be in the minority that receives a good motion comic?


 
Those new to the franchise may glance at the busty, almost naked redhead on the front cover and expect a cliché fantasy tale filled with twisted artwork. Well, admittedly there is plenty of cleavage and half naked ladies throughout, but that backdrop belies the strength of the heroine. Instead, Sonja is a strong, independent, and inspirational she-devil with a sword; even more so in Simone's adaptation. That story tells the tale of Sonja's childhood, and how she watched her people and her family slaughtered right before her eyes. The gentle girl who couldn't take the life of a stag in the hunt was transformed into a killing machine. Sonja tracked down the ravagers who tore her life apart and travelled the world making a name for herself - until she ended up thrown into a dungeon, her death guaranteed. There were four score prisoners thrown in there, two made it out…

The only survivors of this nightmare were Red Sonja and a woman who became her sister in that pit; when the corrupt king who ran the pits was overthrown by a benevolent one, the pair was freed. Many years have passed since that time when the story picks back up, and Sonja is called back by the kind who saved her. His kingdom is under attack, his people suffering from a plague, and Sonja is his last hope. She has to train a kingdom of civilians to fight against a dark horde of marauders and half man-half fish demons. Even worse, at the head of the army sits Dark Annisia, Sonja's sister from that hell.

Motion comics take the digital version of the original art of the comic manipulate it to give some semblance of animation. Moving the mouths like a ventriloquist's dummy, the bottom lip moving in some attempt to match with the script. Warping parts of the body by swelling and shrinking parts of the image or moving joints in arms and legs to animate combat. There was a series of Marvel motion comics, adapting the Marvel Knights line that managed to look half decent, but other than these, it's rare to see motion comics done well. This one looks awful throughout - speaking faces look like dolls, combat looks silly, numerous scenes strip out all of the quality of the art, removing faces and details from the majority of the story. This art is stunning in the comic and it's a travesty to see what it has been turned into here.


 
As bad as the art and animation are, the voice acting is even worse. Taking the titular role of Red Sonja is veteran voice actress (and magician!) Misty Lee. Sadly, Misty's performance here is quite uninspired, but at least it has a little passion in it. This sub-par rendition is still ridiculously better than every other voice actor in the movie. They are absolutely appalling, to the point that it sounds like an amateur production, something that would be found on YouTube as an unofficial voiceover; it's truly terrible. There are moments that are so horrendously bad that it's truly cringe-worthy.

1/10
Rated 1 out of 10

Awful

Gail Simone's story is superb and it deserved so much more than this lacklustre, low-quality adaptation. The art is butchered, the animation looks ridiculous, and the voice acting is so bad it almost starts to feel like a parody. It would have been better for Red Sonja - Queen of Plagues never to have been made, as if anything it actually sullies the original.

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