Beware the Spirit Bugs
- Run Time : 85 Minutes
- Genre : Fantasy, Horror, Mystery
- Airing Date : August 2018
Aragne: Sign of Vermillion wastes no time showing you that it is a movie that will attempt to mess with your senses, but don’t let that fool you. Aragne is an anime movie with a clear emphasis on trying to be something different and often misses the mark. Does that mean the entire movie was horrendous and not worth your time? No, but as our review will show, Aragne: Sign of Vermillion is as lost as the main protagonist Rin is.
Home, Creepy Home
Rin is the central character of Aragne and clearly, she isn’t the sanest young woman. In an attempt to escape her past or possibly move on in life, Rin moves to a small city but quickly learns she has been fooled. The new apartment she heads towards might look beautiful in the realtor pictures but the reality is far from ideal. This apartment complex is old, run-down, and looks straight out of a horror film…convenient, right?
From the minute Rin steps into this apartment complex things feel askew. Rin begins to notice strange people like a young man watching a bug with other bugs coming out of it and a woman who claws her arms in some feeble attempt at removing the “things” within her. Rin’s world quickly establishes that nothing is going to be peaceful and hell is just waiting to spring up on her.
As Rin dives into a strange world of madness—thanks in large part due to weird bugs appearing from corpses and a hooded cloaked figure with a powered handsaw—Rin runs into a man who seems to know what she is seeing. The man identifies himself as Tokiyo and tells Rin the bugs she noticed have been seen by many for several decades. Known as “spirit bugs” these little creatures infiltrate the body and seem to stay until the host moves on. However, those who see them—or the red moth—end up dying shortly after as if a curse befalls them. Rin can’t handle this madness and runs away home.
Aragne does one move that makes the viewer question everything and that comes in the form of Rin’s medication. For unknown reasons, Rin takes medicine that apparently causes odd dreams making you wonder is this all a dream? Is Rin’s sanity to be trusted or is she really witnessing something paranormal? Trust us folks, you’ll never know yourself but we’ll get into why that is in a few moments.
Rin’s paranoia begins to grow as she begins to look up more information on these “spirit bugs” and a slew of recent murders that have plagued her new home. This is where—yet again—Aragne throws a red herring into the mix. Rin unveils that her small town was once thrown into chaos when an odd disease called “Tilting Sickness” affected various folks. Those with Tilting Sickness had died with their heads turned to a strange right angle and left looking ghastly. Add to this incident, red moths—which Rin was warned about earlier—were sighted and people believed these little insects spread the illness.
At this point, Aragne: Sign of Vermillion reaches the halfway point and you’re probably thinking you have an idea what’s going on. Rin must be involved in a pandemic reoccurring in the modern era. Well, you would be right until a new incident happens to Rin that involves an earlier character we meet briefly.
Just When You Think You Know What's Going On...
Nasuha is a strange dancing girl Rin runs into earlier on and the two seem to hit it off. On her way home, Rin meets Nasuha again but realizes that in the distance, she said “goodbye” and Rin wastes no time chasing her new friend. This leads our female heroine to a warehouse where Nasuha is indeed at but no longer in the form of a normal human. Nasuha—or what she now has become—attacks Rin but the mysterious cloaked being from earlier appears and rescues her just in the nick of time. This is where a new story forms in Agane and where we begin to wonder if we’re the ones losing our minds while watching this film.
Rin’s savior tells our confused and angry girl that these spirit bugs aren’t so innocent. After a spirit bug leaves a body, the body becomes unstable and demon-like. Nasuha must have died and her corpse became what he dubs a “Dead Soul Solider”. Before we can learn anything further about this new piece of info, our “hero” dies when a car on a nearby highway is hijacked by a Dead Soul Solider and slams into him at full speed through the building.
Rin, now thoroughly lost—who can blame her—runs back home but spots what looks like Nasuha in the distance. Chasing her friend, the two reunite in a bathroom but their cute reunion is cut short. Nasuha pushes Rin into a bathtub that has a giant gaping hole leading to a strange new place for our girl to explore.
In this creepy new location, Rin finds a bunch of dead corpses, several red moths, and a small hole that seems to lead outside. Using the corpses, Rin reaches the hole and ends up in a room with a convenient document that talks about 1944 and an experiment that is named after the Dead Soul Soldiers. Rin also finds a projector/film reel—because, why not?—and sees that the army was somehow able to bring the dead back to life as soldiers but equally was unable to control them. As Rin watches in horror, one of the corpses from earlier revives and begins to chase our poor girl. Rin is lucky enough to escape thanks to a charm she received from Saion—the man watching the dead bug who randomly gives her one and then disappears later in the movie—giving Rin some time to escape.
Confused? Don’t worry folks, this movie goes even further down the confusing road when Rin escapes the Dead Soul Soldier to then be stabbed by a random woman in red. Rin seems to be dead but awakens in a strange orb device—which appears briefly in the beginning of the movie—and starts to remember her past.
As a child, Rin had a friend—also named Rin—and the two seemed to get along at first. However, the other Rin is mistreated at home and takes her frustrations out on our main lead Rin. This causes our Rin to fall into a coma which apparently she has been in this whole time! Rin restarts the scene where she was stabbed and somehow uses psychic powers to kill her red dress attacker. Rin then falls back into a strange coma and we finally reach the last few scenes.
As Rin rises from a hospital bed—which could have implied she was in a coma this entire movie—her body is dragged into depths that are filled with weird beings trying to grasp her body. The other Rin apologies to her and somehow switches places with our girl allowing Rin to reawaken proper. Aragne ends with someone waking up—who knows if this is Rin or not—to see an outside world destroyed and filled with giant spirit bugs all around…yes folks, that is the finale to this 85-minute movie.
Let’s get this right out of the way, Aragne: Sign of Vermillion had the potential to be an amazing movie! Animation wise, Aragne nails it with some stellar camera work that makes every creepy scene—which there are some—feel almost real. The characters also have realistic eyes that give each stare and close up a more vivid impact. Aragne’s initial ten minutes are truly nightmarish with hellish colors being used to show the apartment complex and a scene that seems follows an unknown man from the past. Aragne is amazing early on and that is why what follows kills the flow.
Aragne feels like it utilizes too many horror tropes for the sake of keeping the viewer lost like Rin. There are movie elements from stories like Jacob’s ladder, Silent Hill and Resident Evil. These concepts work when they are done individually but Aragne fuses them all as a means of attacking the viewer’s understanding. As you watch Aragne, you’ll constantly feel lost and maybe that was the main idea behind this anime movie. However, this causes the tale to suffer when the credits roll and you’re left wondering what really happened?
Aragne: Sign of Vermillion’s final strength—so we can end this review on a strong note—comes from the powerful OST/sound department. Aragne is at its best when Rin is running from a monster or slowly losing her mind and that is powered by some tunes that just make you feel unsettled. The same can be said of the various sound effects—which are ten times more powerful while wearing headphones—that make footsteps and strange building creaks echo in your eardrums. Aragne, visually and sound-wise, hit the right notes and that’s why we can’t forget to mention these elements.
Aragne: Sign of Vermillion is a very ambitious anime movie that had the drive to be incredible but ultimately falls short. We loved the great animation style that felt truly unique and horrifying as well as the music/sound effects. However, the plot truly felt all over the place and kept us wondering if this was intentional or if just a sign of too many ideas coming together. Aragne: Sign of Vermillion won’t be considered a waste of time but, will it scare audiences? The short answer to that is: no.
As with most horror films, Aragne: Sign of Vermillion might have a different impact on you readers out there. Have any of you checked it out yet and feel differently? Let us know if you do—or don’t—in the comments below! For even more anime reviews be sure to keep stuck to our labyrinth-like hive here at Honey’s Anime!