Cencoroll premiered in America at the 2009 New York Anime Festival. Contributing editor moritheil was on hand to review it.
Picture unbaked dough. Give it eyes and teeth. This is Cenco, title character of Cencoroll. Along with his human handler, he wreaks havoc on the countryside and transforms into a variety of cool things. The details of his transformation, his battle against other blob monsters, and the involvement of a certain schoolgirl are all integral to the plot. At its core, though, Cencoroll is a primal, visual appeal to the audience via transformation and violence.
Its plot is a simple laundry list of typical Japanese story conventions. Monsters let loose in an urban area, and are attacked by largely ineffectual Japanese self-defense forces. Our heroes are opposed by beings of loose moral character. Innocents are threatened. A hero goes out of his way to protect a girl despite knowing that it must be a trap. In the end, a combination of cool under pressure and fiery determination win the day, and it is children who manage to avert disaster and restore balance.
The music of Cencoroll is excellent. The character designs are a bit on the bland side, particularly the nondescript uniforms, but given the nature of the effort – one man storyboarded, drew, and animated the entire film over the course of two years – one must be forgiving. Facial expressions are excellent, and incorporate exaggerated elements that are typically reserved for super-deformed states.
It is the editing of Cencoroll that is most questionable, and there that it might benefit from more experienced direction. Scene selection is incredibly unconventional, most likely due to it being an amateur work. Pivotal character decisions are glossed over and barely given time, while unimportant details used for transition shots – such as Yuki eating a gummy bear – are given excessive focus. Large time jumps are made with very little in the way of immediate visual cues. The fact that the enemies and main character all look the same on the first viewing certainly doesn’t help things.
Overall, Cencoroll could best be described as a winning idea burdened by a lack of design sense and questionable editing. It has the potential to be truly great, but in its present form it can only be called “interesting.”