Saturday, May 04, 2013

Pinoy Film Focus: RPG: Metanoia (2010)

Director: Luis C. Suarez

Writers: Luis C. Suarez, Jade Castro, Tey Clamor

Cast: Zaijian Jaranilla, Basty Alcances, Jairus Aquino, Mika dela Cruz, Eugene Domingo, Aaron Junatas, Aga Muhlach, Vhong Navarro

RPG: Metanoia is certainly not the first animated full-length feature film in the Philippines, but it's quite likely the best. Endearing, meticulously made, and culturally resonant, the film is a true gem that should have received more accolades than it has.

Nico (voiced by Zaijian Jaranilla) is an average kid who likes hanging out with his friends either online or in real-life (though a lot of the latter is spent in Internet cafes). When a disturbed and megalomaniacal player gets his hands on a rare and extremely powerful artifact in the MMORPG "Metanoia," he takes control of many of the characters and of the game itself. It is up to Nico and his friends to save the day, both in and out of the game.

The movie shares themes with the amazing Japanese animated movie Summer Wars and the Japanese light novel-turned-anime Sword Art Online--particularly the sometimes subversive gaming culture, dependency on technology, and government-funded technology experiments gone awry--and yet it feels so fresh and original. This is due in large part to how distinctly Filipino the characters, their dialogue, and their situations are. A particular stroke of brilliance here is how the online gaming is juxtaposed with the traditional Filipino children's games played on the street, where Nico gets bumps and scars for real and learns how to be a true human being. Which is not to say that the movie is a knock on the gaming culture that has consumed many children in the country and elsewhere. Instead, the film celebrates the value of friendship, camaraderie, and selflessness in both worlds, and it does so seamlessly.

RPG: Metanoia is easily one of the most smartly written Filipino films of the modern era. That it is found in an animated film (a top-notch one, at that!), for which the country is not at all known, is testament to the creativity of some of the country's filmmakers, just waiting to be given a break. Three years after its cinematic release, the original DVD has finally been released, out there for every serious fan of great cinema to enjoy.


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