Ike Boys is a nice change of pace at Fantastic Fest. The bright colors and light hearted story are a stark contrast to the doom and gloom of some of the other fare. (This does not mean those films are bad, but it is noticeable.) The film is about two friends in Oklahoma who love anime and all things Japan. The rest of their high school classmates are not as enamored with the culture and make fun of Shaun (Quinn Lord) and Vik (Ronak Gandhi). When a Japanese exchange student arrives, the three become imbued with superpowers.
Ike Boys presents its coming of age story in a fun new package. There are the normal elements of being an outsider and living your best life, but there is also a hefty dose of action not normally seen in these types of stories. It adds a neat layer that may be surprising to some. Since the plot has gone this route, it is important for the more fast paced scenes to hold up their end. This is never a problem in Ike Boys. Making things stand out even more is the mix of live action, animation, fast paced battles, and humor.
In order for any tale about finding oneself to work, there has to be strong characters. That is especially important in coming of age stories since it is so easy to rely on stereotypes of the genre. Initially, it seems like Ike Boys is going to fall into that trap. While there is some of that, it is more about character building than following a formula. As the plot progresses, each student develops more of an individual identity.
As lighthearted as Ike Boys can get, it is never afraid to address some deep issues. It does not dwell on them – this is not that type of film – but they do loom in the background. Class, race, and privilege are some of the themes addressed in the movie. These moments help to build the world of the story. It adds realism to a world filled with big battles and superpowers.
If you are going to make a film where anime plays a big part – even if it is live action – there had better be some good animation. Ike Boys is able to meet that requirement immediately. The art is sprinkled throughout the movie and looks good each time. These moments never get stale or seem out of place. They enhance the story and keep the plot moving.
As with any good coming of age story, viewers will be able to relate to Ike Boys. It is a story about feeling left out and finding yourself. Family and friends is important, but is also about being able to work things out on your own. Much like the best of this genre, the film is able to meld the importance of independence and realizing there are people who can help. Plus, along the way, there is plenty of mecha and kaiju.