NY Times reviews X kills Y and Vice Versa

"Characters Who Cavort in and Out of the Anime and Human Worlds"
September 3, 2005

Animating anime might seem a redundant proposition: anime is already the animated-film version of Japanese manga comics. But the choreographer and dancer Kiyoko Kashiwagi, Japan-born and New York-based, has taken the animation process one step further in her Anime Dance Theater, currently ensconced for a two-weekend run at the Chocolate Factory in Long Island City, Queens.

There is actually one more level of animation in her 45-minute piece "X Kills Y, and Vice Versa," since it deals with a robot who is fitfully brought to life, along with a superhero and a gender-confused heroine who (until the end) keep popping back up when they seem to be down and out for good.

"X Kills Y" is nothing if not good-natured, and the hyper-friendly audience at Thursday's opening chortled at every joke and wisp of a joke, and applauded wildly at every blackout. The plot involves a male scientist (Ms. Kashiwagi, got up at the outset to look like Prince in a white robe) who creates a dominatrix robot who can kill people with her breasts (the full-figured Suzi Takahashi, who acts more than she dances). A Hero (Vincent McCloskey) flits about with his little cape. Because of either his manly charms or an inadvertently consumed potion, the scientist becomes a sexy, simpering superfemme. Their domestic bliss is disturbed by various assaults from the robot, and the woman partly changes back to scientist to combat her. Eventually the robot kills both of them and stalks toward the audience in triumph.

The dancers are all willing and accomplished. The video projections on the floor are well done, and there is an appropriately eclectic, popsy recorded score.
But not being a devotee, I found their cavortings a little sophomoric. Anime and manga owe their charm and their power to the depiction of an idealized world with which the viewer or reader can identify. The presumed humor of reducing these characters to merely human form may be momentarily amusing, but much of what is seductive about anime gets lost in translation.

Photo: Nan Melville for The New York Times

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