MFKZ film review: They Live meets Akira

Angelino and Vinz deal with gangs and superpowers in Manga’s MFKZ

Scattered throughout animation MFKZ (aka Mutafukaz) – a collaboration between French company Ankama Animation and Japanese studio Studio 4°C (Tekkonkinkreet, Mind Game) – are a number of narrative-interrupting title cards that reflect something about the film’s various eccentricities. Some are posed as questions before expository information, such as in the case of ‘Who Are These Mysterious Wrestlers?’ One, in particular, stands out: ‘The Movies Have Never Seen Sh*t Like This!’ Although you can trace the DNA of a few notable influences, They Live and Akira among them, one might find that an accurate summation of MFKZ as a whole.

The Los Angeles-inspired dystopian metropolis of Dark Meat City is the main setting, though this is less a sci-fi LA in the style of Blade Runner and more like a Grand Theft Auto game with added anthropomorphised animals and objects, and, eventually, aliens – GTA even gets an explicit shout out in one of many meta moments.

The film focuses on 22-year-old Angelino, a young man with a pitch black body, who was orphaned as a toddler. He lives with skull-and-flame-headed Vinz, who looks and dresses like Ghost Rider on laundry day. They spend their days struggling to pay rent and trying to avoid skirmishes with local gangs. But after a scooter accident, Angelino experiences strange hallucinations, starting to see select humans as tentacled creatures, and begins demonstrating rage-provoked superpowers. As a mysterious armed force pursues him, he discovers his origins: he is half human and half Macho, a pitch black alien race that wants to take over Earth. Also, there’s a group of luchadores who help save the world – naturally.

If all this sounds delirious, it absolutely is, but that’s part of the film’s charm, at least for most of its running time. The frenzied animation style picks up slack when the last act gets more dour than fun, though that some character designs flirt dangerously close with light sexism and racial caricature is a bugbear.