Lord, It’s Not My Shepard: A Mass Effect Movie

By Alec Meer on April 8th, 2011 at 10:06 am.

Will Martin Sheen play Martin Sheen?

I’m regularly taken aback by how quietly enormous Mass Effect is. While common conception is that EA’s getting its mega-corp bottom kicked by Activision, it’s got a breadth of franchises that it’s CoD’n'WoW-dependent rival does not – and Bioware’s sweeping space opera universe is one of the foremost of those. It’s really doing the Star Wars thing, I guess, as there was perhaps a vast sci-fi fandom void waiting to be filled in the wake of Lucas’ long-running exploitation/ruination of its galaxy far, far away.

So it makes perfect sense that Mass Effect would turn to other mediums – specifically, movies. Well, anime movies.

I’m aware ‘anime’ conjures mixed feelings for some folk, but those who aren’t keen on such things might be glad to hear that Bioware exec producer Casey Hudson, one of the main ME bods, will also do the exec production thing on the film. Primary duties, however, will be handled by Tokyo studio T.O Entertainment, Inc, with the flick to be distributed by the hilariously stupidly-named FUNimation.

We don’t have any plot details yet, beyond “an epic science fiction adventure set in a vast universe filled with dangerous alien life and mysterious, uncharted planets.” My wild’n'craaaaaaaaaaaayzeee guess is that it won’t tell Shepard’s tale, as that could conflict with the game fiction (so a confiction?) somewhat. But who knows. Here’s what Casey thinks:

“Over the last few years, we have revealed different pieces of the Mass Effect world through different media. Extending the story through an anime medium is another amazing opportunity for us. Partnering with FUNimation ensures that we will bring this rich universe to life with the utmost quality and the same attention to detail that the Mass Effect games are known for.”

Righto. I must admit that if someone asked me what I thought of Mass Effect, “attention to detail” wouldn’t be my immediate description. Not that it doesn’t have it (that sure is a lot of lore), but if I was trying to sell it to someone I’d suspect I’d bang on about its guns and conversation rather than how anally retentive it was.

The Mass Effect anime will be straight to DVD/download rather than in cinema, and isn’t due until 2012 alas. Bioware and FUNimation are also working on a Dragon Age flick, which we should see a whole lot sooner.

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69 Comments »

  1. Jono00 says:

    Shepard-kun!
    Someone set us up the bomb!

    • subedii says:

      “More importantly Mordin, why are you wearing a schoolgirl uniform?”

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      Lars Westergren says:

      In this version, Jack is a perky and optimistic 13 year old who loves food, and teaches Shepard about the importance of friendship by making odd smiley faces at him!

      Nah, kidding. There is plenty of good anime. But I’ll wait for reviews before buying it

    • Caleb367 says:

      Good call, better wait for reviews. However… I can already hear girls shouting OMG KYAAAAA GARRUS-SAN SO KAWAII DESU NE

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      A bomb!

  2. jeremypeel says:

    Haha! What a headline!

    I guess I’d be open to a good shoot’n'talkie. It will be of the epic space war variety, presumably, rather than real sci-fi (sorry, I’m on a post-Source Code high).

  3. Dajs says:

    FUNimation isn’t a bad studio, but still… anime is usually targeted at younger folk, and with the happenings and going-ons in Mass Effect I can’t really say it’s anime material unless watered down.

    Dragon Age too.

    • Dominic White says:

      “anime is usually targeted at younger folk”

      Anime is targeted at all age-ranges, just like animation from any country. Venture Bros can exist in the same world as The Lion King, and Hellsing (singlehandedly makes vampires awesome again after Twilight) can exist in the same world as Sailor Moon.

      Let’s keep the wildly inaccurate sweeping statements to a minimum, please?

    • Dajs says:

      Well if you think something good may come of it, I believe you. Hell, I’d love to see a good DA or MS flick. I’m just a bit cynical because I’ve seen that many good shows were ruined story-wise because they were shooting for getting serialized in order to milk the cash cow of the fan base. I guess time will tell.

    • Saiko Kila says:

      Most manga is targeted at men, which have often childish minds and some of them never mature properly.

    • aoat says:

      Why all the focus on FUNimation when T.O Entertainment is handling production? They’ve only done a handful of shows, none of which I’ve seen; I have heard good things about Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu, though. Probably the best predictor of their success would be Gekijouban Bungaku Shoujo, which is the only movie they’ve helped produce. It seems to be excellent and has an incredible line-up of voice talent, which bodes well for Mass Effect.

      This reminds me of Marvel’s partnership with Madhouse, which seems to be a good fit. Madhouse has plenty of experience and range — especially in the drama and action areas that Marvel would need. They’re also very flexible, which should let them adapt to western source material.

    • Inigo says:

      It’d be more accurate to say “the majority of anime distributed to the West and shown on mainstream TV during the day is targeted at younger folk.”

      At least it isn’t being done by 4Kids.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      If most japanese animation is targeted at men, then it shares that with video games, so would be a perfect fit with the Mass Effect universe.

      On a more serious note, people who doubt the entire medium output of a nation full of really quite a lot of people are a) maybe being a little bit silly and b) should checkout Cowboy Bebop because 1) it’s playing in the same sort of wheelhouse as Mass Effect (‘soft’ sci-fi roughly aimed at the same demographic) and 2) it’s quite good.

    • JackShandy says:

      I’m no expert, but as far as I know Anime never got stuck in the age ghetto that western animation has languished in for years. 2D animation doesn’t seem to have the implications of “For Kids” it does over here.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      Watch the first few minutes of Elfen Lied* and then say it’s for kids again.

      *ah, there it is (NSFKids, obv.)

    • Olivaw says:

      No one should watch Elfen Lied.

      Also this reminds me of that Batman anime compilation they put out before the Dark Knight came out. That was pretty cool stuff, for the most part!

    • benjaminlobato says:

      When people say that anime is targeted towards all age ranges, including adults, what they mean is that some anime has boobs and graphic violence, not that it intelligently deals with mature themes in a way that only an adult can appreciate. There are some exceptions (see Satoshi Kon’s work), but they are really few and far between. Anime often cited as mature, like Cowboy Bebop or Elfen Lied, and even though I may enjoy it, is really targeted towards teenage boys. But I guess Mass Effect is as well to some extent, so this might all work out.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      I was only addressing the ‘for kids’ idea. I don’t think there are that many Western series or movies that “intelligently deal(s) with mature themes” either. Sturgeon’s Law applies there just as much as to anime. In fact, I’ve stopped watching Western tv series completely at the moment. They just don’t interest me anymore. Whether it’s a medical procedural, or random happenings on some island, or a gritty reinvention of an old series, it all seems to come across as more ‘competent’ than ‘inspired’. And sometimes not even that.

      There are many reasons anime is such a huge influence these days, and even seems to be functioning as the next source for always-out-of-ideas Hollywood to steal from. It’s one of the few cultural phenomena that can resist the dominance of Western culture and even challenge it on its own turf.

      Just an example; I’m currently watching a series called Dennou Coil. Its main theme is augmented reality. Already there we have something that I like to see in scifi, thoughts about a future technology and its impact on our world. And it’s not just a technology and its imagined mechanisms, the writers have built a whole mythology around it. It’s fascinating to see. And that’s all before you get to sympathetic charactes and a well-rounded plot and all that.

      What does the West have to compete with that in terms of scifi? Pulp, that’s what. And if you don’t like that particular example, there’s plenty more. From the psychological mystery of Serial Experiments Lain, to the random shenanigans of FLCL, to the sophisticated referencing of Ergo Proxy. There’s so much interesting stuff out there. Even a series I got bored with, like .hack//Sign, I still prefer to Western tv series, because it’s set INSIDE A COMPUTER GAME! Who would ever make a series about that? The Japanese, that’s who.

    • phenom_x8 says:

      have anyone here ever read/ watch Monster?? It has heavy theme and great story with strong characterization set in cold war era in Russia, ukraine,Germany, poland and another eatern Europe country that will make you curious till the end! Believe me, I would like to see hollywood realisation of this manga/ anime!
      And its absolutely not for kids/younger people!

    • Dreamhacker says:

      I have three words for you: Shadow Star Narutaru. You will NEVER sleep well again.

    • crazygeneral23 says:

      he actually is right in japan anime can be targeted to anyone but since this is an ENGLISH anime where 60 to 70% of our animation IS targeted at children.

  4. ChaosSmurf says:

    Assuming this is as high quality as EA’s other animation movies (I’ve watched two for Dead Space and one for Dante’s Inferno, the Dead Space ones were both frankly awesome and the DI one wasn’t bad either), this is actually very exciting. The Mass Effect novels have always been actually pretty damn good, I’m currently about halfway through the 3rd one in audiobook form.

    • Wulf says:

      This is true, the Dead Space animated films were fairly damned nifty.

    • The Dark One says:

      I saw the Dead Space anime that ties the two games together and thought it was awful. The ‘present day’ CGI portions were terribly animated, the voice acting wasn’t that solid and the timing of the lines was completely disjointed.

      The idea of farming out the different flashbacks to different directors (or at least having them done in different styles) was a nice idea, but overall I wouldn’t recommend the thing to anyone.

  5. Kaltano says:

    Why must it always be anime these days? You can do non child aimed western animation without going straight to Heavy Metal, Titan AE was fairly decent imo. Why such a stale artform is still so popular remains a mystery to me.

    • Optimaximal says:

      Cynicism aside, I’d guess there are a larger number of Anime workhouses in Korea to get your stuff animated… Either that, or they’re all booked out by Fox animating The Simpsons, Futurama & Family Guy.

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      Rinox says:

      Yeah, no Western company actually makes complete animated movies or series anymore. The artists in the West do the ‘key shots’ (man, man with arm up, man smiling with arm down again), then those get sent to low-wage countries and the mechanical parts in between (man lifting up arm, man starting to smile, man lowering arm) are done by local artists/slaves. Usually under supervision of a liason artist.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      “Anime” (animation from Japan) doesn’t strike me as any staler an art form than animation from the west.

      There’s quite a diverse range on offer, and while there’s certain aesthetic similarities that are present in a lot of Japanese animation, that’s also true of western animation.

    • edit says:

      If you think anime is stale, have a look at the work of Masaaki Yuasa. There’s plenty of shitty anime out there, but there are plenty of shitty games, films, paintings… etc etc. I’m quite fussy when it comes to film and some of my all-time favourite movies are animations from Japan. Individual artworks (and genres, when they are defined by very limited characteristics) can be stale, but it’s crazy to write off entire mediums when at any moment an artist can turn up and do something that’s never been done in it before. The more creative stuff often just takes a bit more effort to find.

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      The_Terminator says:

      I wouldn’t describe anime as being stale. In fact, I’d be very hesitant even to lump all anime together as a single genre. I’m of the opinion that doing so would be similar to lumping all Hollywood films together in one category.

      While it’s true that anime films are alike because they’re all animated, that’s really where the similarities end. There’s just as much variation in anime as there is in live-action cinema; everything from hardcore scifi (eg Ghost in the Shell), tragic love stories (5cm per Second), teen high school dramas (Clannad), etc; all the genres you’d use to classify live-action films apply to anime too.

      Sure, there tend to be certain clichés and stereotypes which appear commonly among anime films; but in the exact same way as there are various clichés that occur commonly in Hollywood movies.

      Only a small subset of anime seems to be popular in the west, which leads to only similar films getting officially released here; hence the mistaken perception that anime is all the same, and thus stale. In actuality, just saying something is ‘anime’ doesn’t really say much about it at all, so judging it based on that is about as silly as judging a film based on the fact it was produced in America.

  6. Dominic White says:

    On a general anime sci-fi note, anyone looking for some serious ‘hard’ sci-fi needs to check out the Ghost In The Shell series (it’s basically Neuromancer as a cop show), Planetes (realistic series about a team of astronauts that clear up hazardous orbital debris) and Legend of The Galactic Heroes (sprawling politically focused space-opera with an all classical soundtrack and some of the best analysis of the merits of democracy Vs autocracy I’ve seen in TV or film). There’s plenty of good grown-up sci-fi stuff out there.

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      Clavus says:

      And let’s not forget Cowboy Bebop, which unlike the silly name, is one of the best shows ever.

    • Dominic White says:

      Cowboy Bebop goes without saying. Also, it doesn’t really fit into the ‘hard’ sci-fi category. It’s basically a John Woo movie in animated long-form style, with space bits.

    • Bluepixie says:

      Re-watching it just now, still excellent.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      I’m on a rewatch right now, and yeah, it’s pretty much the best. Sometimes I wonder if people know it’s the best, then I realize that no, probably most people don’t, but the right people do, so I guess that’s okay.

      But yeah, not hard sci-fi at all. Still excellent though.

    • phenom_x8 says:

      Dont forget 20th century boys, it has very strong theme about our near future!

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    mickiscoole says:

    I was reading the other day that IMDB put the plot of the live action Mass Effect movie to be centered around the First Contact War with the Turians (~25 years before Mass Effect 1), so little chance of plot inconsistencies with the details of the games.

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      James G says:

      Wait, there’s a live action movie as well? I had heard rumours, but assumed that was just a conclusion people had jumped to on the basis of a lack of information.

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      AndrewC says:

      Never trust IMDB. Also: oh god, prequels.

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      I was trying to work out whether this was the same film as the one that’d already been announced, or whether there actually is both a live action one and an anime one coming. Anyone know for sure?

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      mickiscoole says:

      The film got a similar press release announcement a while back, so yes, it’ll be a film and an anime.

      I’m not familiar enough with the workings of IMDB to comment on the accuracy of what i’ve heard. I know that the information requires an IMDBPro account, if that helps.

      I wouldn’t actually mind seeing something based on the First Contact War. they kind of touched on it in the prologue of the first book, but then skipped to after it.

  8. Deano2099 says:

    Eurogamer also reporting no multiplayer in ME3, which I’m oddly relieved about. Although for some reason they seem to think Shepherd is a man:

    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2011-04-08-mass-effect-3-details-no-multiplayer

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      mickiscoole says:

      Did anyone else cringe at the bit of the article where the author said “returning is liara, kaiden and ashley”

    • steggieav says:

      @mickiscool: Liara is okay I guess, but Ashley and Kaiden… ugh. Hopefully Tali comes back.

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      mickiscoole says:

      “And” being the operative word.

  9. edit says:

    It’s my experience that the best anime comes from inspired creators with unique ideas. Anime based on an existing license… not terribly interested. If Mass Effect 1 & 2 (which I thoroughly enjoyed) are remarkable for anything, it’s not the plot.

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      The_Terminator says:

      But when you stop and think about it, 70-80% of all anime is based on some pre-existing license, rather than being totally original. And I’m certainly hard-pressed to think of more than one or two really good ones that weren’t based on something else: Clannad (and especially After Story) was superb… and that was based on a game. Ghost in The Shell is amazing… and that comes from a manga. The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi was based on a popular Japanese light novel. Etc etc. I can’t think of many which are totally original concepts.

    • edit says:

      Now that you mention it and I give it more thought, a surprisingly huge portion of anime I like is based on manga. The reason they work though is usually a combination of the strength of (or at least the presence of some interesting concepts within) the manga and the strong vision of the interpreting director. Assuming the anime is not a radical departure from, or visionary re-interpretation of, the games, it will sit safely in ‘predictable, good vs. evil, blockbuster sci-fi’ territory, which is the source of my disinterest. Having not read the novels though I admit that I don’t know whether or not they bring more to the table.

      I’ll still look out for it and if it turns out interesting I’ll happily eat my hat and buy the dvd.

  10. Nighthood says:

    The people who say Anime isn’t for nerds and people who never grew up tend to be people who are nerds and never grew up. Correlation doesn’t equal causation, but it certainly suggests it.

    • CMaster says:

      Remember that it’s of foreign origin and often subtitled (and even more often best watched subbed cos the dub is terrible).
      I hardly imagine you’d suggest that films like say Departures, Infernal Affairds, Tricolour series etc are only for oddballs, but in the english-speaking world where there are huge amounts of own-language content, only a few people bother to go see it.

      Edit: This isn’t to say that animé fans don’t sometimes get over defensive. A lot of the popular stuff certainly is teen-targeted. That doesn’t always mean that it isn’t still good for others to watch however.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      You know that post up above about “wildly inaccurate sweeping statements”?

    • Deano2099 says:

      I’ll happily admit that I watch anime which is for nerds that haven’t grown up: stuff like Bleach and Naruto.

      I also watch anime which is so grown up I barely understand it.

      Also calling people nerds that haven’t grown up on a bloody gaming site is a bit rich isn’t it? They both have a hell of a lot of stuff that fit in to that category “hey look, when I blow this guy’s head off in CoD I’m so mature aren’t I?” but anime has much, much more stuff at the other end of the scale. Proper, respectable, complex, mature stuff.

      Anime has a lot more than just Planescape, put it that way.

  11. ALJA says:

    The rumor on the bioware forums is that the film will take place during the first contact war. This would be a prequel to the mass effect games, and take place before shepherd is born. The first contact war is when humanity discovered the prothean ruins on mars and inturn the giant mass relays and came into contact with the turians, resulting in a war and setting the basis for the rivalry between humans and turians shown in the games.

  12. sinister agent says:

    Coincidentally enough, I just finished Mass Effect last night. I think there’s a fair chance they could make this quite decent, as some of the storytelling and character development was handled reasonably well. I do hope the disappointing denouement isn’t a habit, though. Copying the first game’s great build-up, exciting climax, and then dissatisfying pillow talk would leave a slightly sad taste in the mouth.

  13. Minim says:

    Should be fun as long as they don’t try to follow the main plot of the games, which I also doubt they will. The universe has a lot of stories and plots it allows for. I mean shoot they could effectively do a story about the fall of the Protheans. That’d be a hell of a prequel, 50,000 years before the main game!

  14. RP says:

    I think it would have been a really, really good idea to show off a piece of concept art or two at the same time as the press release. I can’t imagine the realistic space look translating well to anime. Huge ME fan, highly dubious about this.

    I’d like to say I trust Bioware, but DA2 followed by Arrival has cashed in a lot of my goodwill towards them, frankly.

  15. Araxiel says:

    What coincidence I just created the following “trailer”. Mass Effect could really become a non-canon movie…since canon is only MY Shepard and all those other Shepards are lies…LIES!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cj_qyRQXSTs

    But as an Anime that does not (directly) follow Shepard’s tale, I’m happy. I’m very very happy indeed. I’m Mass-evly happy so to say. On the other hand, we’ve got T.O. Entertainment. A studio that only made anime with schoolgirls and Robo Gaisha
    Be afraid, be very afraid.

  16. Jimbo says:

    In what way is Mass Effect ‘enormous’? The games haven’t sold particularly well at all. It has some books and shit I suppose.

    And EA *are* getting their bottom kicked by Activision. Very, very badly.

    • Olivaw says:

      I think selling millions of copies for each game isn’t necessarily what you’d call “bad.”

    • Commisar says:

      uhh, it has sold very well, and all Activision has are some washed up music/ Tony hawk franchises and CoD :)

    • Olivaw says:

      Yeah, the Activision machine pumped out a million and one Tony Hawk and Guitar Hero games, and now both of those franchises are basically dead, with the one remaining moneymaker being Call of Duty, which a lot of people are speculating will end up the same way unless they do something drastic.

    • Jimbo says:

      There’s a bit of a difference between ‘bad’ and ‘enormous’ wouldn’t you say? Like the entire spectrum? ME2 sold around 2 million copies, which is fine, but not really anything to shout about. It’s small fry compared to what some of the games around them are selling.

      Activision’s washed up franchises apparently made them a profit of ~$400 million last financial year, while EA’s ‘breadth’ lost them ~$700 million. I don’t think they’re going to turn this around on games selling 2 million copies, at all, even if they do have a wider range of properties than Acti.

  17. zeekthegeek says:

    Fuck. Male. Shepherd

    That is all

    Okay not all: Seriously the man-Shepherd voice actor is dreadful, like, PSX era bad voice acting quality. Give me Jennifer Hale any day.

  18. YourMessageHere says:

    Funimation are not producers, they’re not even Japanese. What they are is a US publisher and distribution firm. What they also are is notorious for cutting stuff for outside-Japan releases and serving C&D notices to fansubbers (bear in mind anime piracy is even more complex than game piracy, what with much of the output either never getting outside Japan, or taking literally years). As a company that clearly prioritises short-term moneymaking over integrity or customer service, their involvement in anything is bad, in my view.

    T.O Animation isn’t a company whose output I’ve seen anything of. They are a young company and pretty small, and what they have done has not exactly set the internet on fire, most of it coming across to me as pretty formulaic on the cursory glance I’ve given this, but I think it’s fair to say none of it has been terrible either, and they seem visually skilled. I imagine that their involvement will be strictly graphical anyway, with writing and characterisation handled by Bioware.

    I very much welcome the idea of Mass Effect anime in principle – I found myself thinking of Crest of the Stars several times while playing, and the design ethos is highly anime-inspired at times. As mentioned, this is a universe that deserves greater exploration.

    • Araxiel says:

      On the topic T.O. Animation, I’m again refering at this point to Robo Geisha…it has two chicks shooting ninja stars from their buttocks.

      But for the rest I agree. I just hope they will not exagerate with the Asari boobies. I can feel their fingers itching to draw them triple-melon size.

  19. Iskariot says:

    I just hope this is not going to be the kind of rather static anime, with very simplistic, crude and sloppy animation and characters with large eyes, very large eyes.

  20. BobsLawnService says:

    I just can’t bring myself to enjoy the overly simplistic visual aesthetics of anime. The over-simplicity of the faces is somewhat off-putting to me.