Mezzo Forte (2001)
Directed by Yasuomi Umetsu

Artistic Value: * * *
Entertainment Value: * * * *
Director's Cut

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Three shady characters, including the beautiful Mikura, are hired to abduct a gangster. They do so, but Momomi, the man's psychotic daughter, discovers the kidnappers and violently attempts to recover her father.

While not beautiful, Yasuomi Umetsu's two episode animated program Mezzo Forte is visually appealing, and, while not narratively inventive, or even consistent, it is exciting and engaging.


Despite tending towards realism, the animation used in Mezzo Forte is attractive and of a consistently high quality. The female characters are sexy and charming and the male weirdly ugly, whether in a quirky or a menacing way. Although he might not have created a work suggesting that he possesses any tremendous aesthetic sensitivity, Umetsu has conjured up a vibrant, dangerous, and remarkably sensual vision that is likely both to fascinate and engage the viewer.

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The program's allure is further enhanced by the numerous genuinely exhilarating action sequences with which it is filled. Without constraining himself to what is probable, or even to the physically possible, Umetsu has infused these with a truly enthralling sense of excitement. All are wildly exaggerated, elaborately choreographed, and inventively handled. Mikura is daring and agile, as is Momomi, and both complement the fight scenes in which they appear, lending them a potent vivacity and sexiness. Mikura, in particular, is a consistent delight.

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Fortunately, Mezzo Forte's villains are nearly as fun to watch as is its nubile protagonist. The sexy Momomi and her revolting, batrachian father are both caricatural psychopaths, unconcerned about the consequences of their actions, and their fiendish savagery is strangely and repellently fascinating. Although they do require a certain suspension of disbelief, their extreme excesses are in consonance with the generally exaggerated style of the whole of the program and do contribute to its enjoyableness.

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While it is thrilling and modish, Mezzo Forte is also deeply flawed. The narrative is inconsistent, and a number of threads are introduced into the plot which are subsequently completely ignored. Mikura's resemblance to Momomi is noted, and it is intimated that they are perhaps sisters, but this possible connection is later forgotten. There are also a number of extraneous elements that do nothing but distract the viewer. The director, for example, makes vague hints that Mikura has some sort of ability to foresee future events but does nothing to develop this theme. The first of two scenes in which Mikura's sexual activities are graphically depicted is a gratuitous dream sequence that has absolutely no connection with the remainder of the story, and the second, while it is incorporated into Mezzo Forte's narrative structure, includes comments made by Mikura that are made explicable only by the inclusion of a very forced flashback sequence, which itself detracts from the program's quality.

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Mezzo Forte is in many ways an unexceptional work. The story is not inventive and includes extraneous, distracting details and several unresolved elements. The characters are amusing but largely forgettable, and the animation, though well crafted, is not indicative of any particular sensitivity. Despite its general mediocrity and its various faults, Mezzo Forte is, nevertheless, a fun, even exhilarating adventure that is always able to retain the viewer's interest.

Review by Keith Allen

Note: Umetsu has gone on to tell more of Mikura's adventures in his animated series Mezzo.

Note: The version of this film offered on Amazon is not the director's cut.

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