Oct 27, 2017

Lastman (Jérémie Périn, 2016)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

Lastman is the prequel to the comic book series of the same name co-authored by Bastien Vivès, Michaël Sanlaville and Yves Bigerel aka Balak, the last of whom is also credited as one of the screenwriters. According to its creators, it is the result of attempting the impossible - daring to make an adult animated TV show despite the unfavorable situation at home. Thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign (with more than 3000 backers), the impossible is made possible and now we have this ultimate smorgasbord of ideas and genres to enjoy and admire.

The story is set in a fictional city of Paxtown brimming with dangers. Getting into trouble more often than anyone else is Richard Aldana - a cheeky, stubborn, impulsive, hotheaded and incredibly gifted bruiser with a heart of gold who would rather idle than put on a satin outfit to compete in the UFC-esque Fist Fight Funeral Cup. When his best friend and owner of a boxing club, Dave McKenzie, gets murdered, status quo begins to crack and all of the sudden, mobsters' threat seems like 'a walk in the park' compared to the mysterious 'Order of the Lion'. These guys mean serious paranormal business and they're after Dave's adopted daughter Siri whose nightmares indicate that she is an integral part of the narrative. With a possible apocalypse at hand, Richard reluctantly accepts the role of Siri's protector and they are both plunged into an adventure that will challenge their perception of reality...

Pulling you in instantly, Lastman puts a firm grip on you and keeps it all the way to the last episode, and throws 'everything but the kitchen sink' at you without ever feeling overstuffed or unfocused. It proudly wears all of its influences on its sleeve, including action, horror and blaxploitation movies, mixed mythology, bandes dessinées, dark fantasy anime and fighting video games (speaking of which, there is a 3D arena brawler inspired by the same source material, developed and published by Piranaking) and yet, it is its own animal, wild-spirited and pretty peculiar. Initially puzzling and 'retrograde' in its nostalgic approach, it gradually reveals the answers regarding the abovementioned order, Siri and the so-called Valley of Kings (briefly introduced in the prologue), while lacing the dynamic proceedings with tongue-in-cheek humor and half-serious social commentary to great effect. Add to that a good deal of twists, homages and references and you're in for loads of fun.

But the amusement doesn't end there, as Lastman comes with involving or, at worst, slightly intriguing characters - a motley crew of neatly developed, if a bit archetypal protagonists, bad guys who turn out to be not-so-bad after all (and vice versa), as well as 'disposable', broadly sketched villains whose outlandish powers are linked to their true (and not to mention monstrous) forms. The focus is set on Richard and Siri, so it is no surprise the two of them get the largest portions of screen time, but there are some memorable, scene-stealing side-players, such as the aspiring singer and Aldana's love interest Tomie Katana, the fiery Grace Jones look-alike boxing coach or the obese Godfather-like figure accompanied by a couple of twin gangsters at all times. Regarding the otherworldly creatures dubbed Kinglets, watch for a representative of 'abstract neo-formalist' who holds a terrifying many-headed secret.

And 'watch' is the keyword here, as the most inviting aspect of Lastman is the crisp and clean artwork which remains très cool and 'gritty' all throughout the series, whether it's the noirish urban mise-en-scène or the freaky supernatural menace at display. Jérémie Périn is no stranger to the latter, given that he has already proven his penchant for bizarre or rather, grotesque imagery in the provocative, 'teen erotica meets Lovecraftian dread' music video for DyE's Fantasy. Supported by a stellar team of artists - Baptiste 'Gobi' Gaubert as the character designer and studio Tchak of April and the Extraordinary World fame creating the backgrounds, among the others - he delivers stylish visuals and doesn't shy away from the graphic depiction of violence.

Also commendable is the score by Fred Avril and Philippe Monthaye who go for an '80s rock and synth sound mixed with modern electronica - a befitting choice for a show immersed in pulp sensibilities. Encore, s'il vous plaît!

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