Some time in the future a deadly virus wiped out half the world's population. As a consequence people now only eat synthetic food made from sunflower seeds and avoid physical contact wherever possible. While adults communicate entirely online, children still attend schools but lead joyless, solitary lives carefully monitored by hi-tech surveillance robots. Awkward, introverted schoolgirl Hazuki Makino (voiced by Kanae Oki) learns her pink-haired classmate Yuko Yabe (Kana Uetake) was killed by masked maniacs and is drawn to investigate this mystery alongside feisty computer genius Mio Tsuzuki (Marina Inoue) and the enigmatic, androgynous Ayumi Kono (Hiromi Igarashi) with whom she is fascinated. Teaming up with Myao (Miyuki Sawashiro), a formidable martial arts expert in a cheongsam dress, the girls set out to uncover the truth behind Yuko's murder. In doing so they forge firm friendships that show there is a world beyond their sheltered existence.
The late, great anime auteur and J-pop culture icon Osamu Tezuka once directed a serial called Vampire (1968) that wasn't about undead bloodsuckers at all but concerned werewolves. Similarly perverse, Loups=Garous draws its name from the French language variant on the werewolf but is actually a taut murder mystery with science fiction overtones: Nancy Drew meets cyberpunk if you will with a little giallo thrown in for good measure. Adapted from a novel by Natsuhiko Kyogoku this is a compelling, well-handled mystery yarn that paints an intriguing dystopian future where civilization has not collapsed so much as ground to a halt. Advances in technology have left everything pristine and picture perfect on the surface and yet human beings have collectively grown emotionally inert. Parents only talk to their children via computer screens while youngsters have become overly dependent upon hand-held devices that keep the world at a distance. As is so often the case with science fiction the plot might be set in the future but actually satirizes the present.
Embarking upon this ominous but exciting adventure forces the five girls to finally open up and communicate with each other, eventually rejecting the sterile, computer-controlled lifestyle hitherto imposed upon them. What at first seems to be an extreme case of bullying grows increasingly sinister resulting in a series of fun and genuinely shocking plot twists. The final revelation of what is really going on fuels the provocative idea of a state keeping its children socially inert so that rather than nurture it may feed on them. Despite the relatively sober mystery the tone is not overly dour and includes some cute comedy from the hyper-manic Mio Tsuzuki. In fact viewers may well find themselves wishing the sexy, funny Mio or ass-kicking Myao were the lead heroines given Hazuki comes across hapless and whiny by comparison. Unfortunately the film ends up focusing on the two least interesting characters although the sub-plot proves a worthy counterpoint following concerned schoolteacher Miss Fuwa (Eriko Hirata) as she attempts to unravel the mystery and ends up out of her depth in a labyrinthine conspiracy. Nevertheless, Hazuki's character arc provides the heart of the story and it is pleasing to watch her grow more outgoing and confident.
Director Junichi Fujisaku previously worked on Blood + (2006) the well-received television spin-off from the flawed horror-actioner Blood: The Last Vampire (2000) and penned the screenplay for xxxHolic (2005), a supernatural adventure created by cult manga collective CLAMP. His side career in console role-playing games is evident from the heroines each conforming to an otaku-friendly stereotype but the tight plot makes up for any overt attempts at being cute. There are well-orchestrated suspense set-pieces and exciting action scenes including robot combat and Myao's kung fu battles while the slick, eye-catching visuals are what fans have come to expect from Production I.G.