Tag Archives: Anime

Spirited Away

Spirited Away is a movie I watched a long time ago, but it seems I never gave my opinion here, so without further delay…

Spirited Away DVD Cover

The young Chihiro moves to another town with her parents. As her father takes a short-cut, they end up in a decommissioned amusement park – something that isn’t very unusual in Japan. It’s deserted, but yet there are food stands, and the parents gorge themselves despite Chihiro’s wish to go. Things begin to go really weird at this point: The parents turn into huge pigs (literally), and Chihiro is trapped in a weird fantasy land. She ends up in a bath house for gods, and has to work there while trying to save her parents and escape.

To make it short, I totally love this move. It’s well-drawn, in a great style that just screams “mystical fairy tale land”. The characters are nicely-created as well, even though there are some bits in the second half of the movie that betray its Disney funding. The atmosphere is one of sense of wonder, and I kind of wish that we could explore this strange world further.

If you like fantasy movies and/or Japanese anime, you should definitely watch this movie. Even if you are not into Anime, Spirited Away is fairly mainstream… so give it a try anyway. It’s also very appropriate for children – there is some blood, but nothing truly terrifying I think.

Two thumbs up – this is an awesome movie.

Ah! My Goddess

Ah My Goddess is a Japanese animated short series. The plot is very simple; when dialing a wrong number the protagonist basically gets a goddess delivered to his doorstep who offers him to fulfill a wish. Thinking it’s a joke played on him, he replies that he’d like to stay with a girl just like her forever.

The wish is granted and the goddess moves in with him. Subsequently, two of the goddesses’ sisters follow, and five episodes revolve around the question of whether or not the guy and his goddess can stay together when faced with complications like that.

The shows premise isn’t all that bad and there are some funny moments; but the series feels hurried and many of the jokes just aren’t very funny. The drawings aren’t special either (nice design on the goddess and the youngest of her sisters though).

Ah! My Goddess is watchable on a really boring rainy Saturday afternoon but you can safely ignore it without missing out on much.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

Stand Alone Complex is the answer to the call for a sequel to the highly-acclaimed movie Ghost in the Shell. It is released in Japan as a pay-per-view television series.

Stand Alone Complex is set in the same world as the movie, with the same characters, but it is officially an “alternate university”. The events from the movie never took place… so it isn’t really a sequel but more of an, uhm, well, alternative. From the “A Prior Notice” special (which is pretty crummy) we learn that the creators hope to match the movie in terms of quality and of the influence they hope it will have on “Hollywood”.

The series consists of – until episode 15, which is the last one I have seen so far – more or less unrelated incidents and crimes, that the protagonists investigate and solve – from a spider-like tank on a rampage to the suicide of obsolete androids and organ-legging, it’s all there. There are hints of a wider connection in some of the episodes, but so far we’re none the wiser. A word of warning: Some episodes are very brutal, and one episodes is downright disgusting; but it works well as intended – it is not senseless violence, but it builds the world and the characters.

The show is beautifully drawn and has nice plots as well as good action. I also like the little spider Tachikoma robots that serve as fire support and for comic relief. The soundtrack is chosen well, although the lyrics of the end titles song… uhm… do not seem to make too much sense.

If you liked the movie, watch this show… it isn’t quite as evocative as the movie (I remember the wonderful scenes of the rainy city), but it’s solid entertainment and will keep you thrilled and on the edge for a while. Definitely one of the better shows I have seen so far; let’s hope they don’t screw it up in the remaining 11 episodes.

Noir

I’ve completed watching Noir last night – another Japanese Anime. I’ve watched in basically two or three evenings, all 26 episodes – that should tell you something.

What’s Noir about? The show tells the story of two assassins, Mireille and Kirika, who are trying to uncover the past of the later: Kirika has lost her memory. The only clues are a pocket watch, that Mireille recognizes, and a word: NOIR.

From episode to episode, the two girls discover more about what’s going on, until finally they can confront their enemies in the climatic battle.

The show focuses greatly on the “hidden past”, with lots of gun battles thrown in – some rather nicely done. There are some religious/mystical hints to the background story, a stark contrast to the violent profession of the two protagonists. In fact, Noir is a lot about contrast – ancient mysteries vs. the modern world, beautiful scenery vs. bloody gun battles. There is character development – especially in Kirika – and a lot of conflict of interests – especially in Mireille in the later part of the series; I don’t want to give anything away about it though.

I think there are three downsides to Noir. First, once revealed, the whole background secret feels… unpolished, unfinished. Yes, I was watching the Fan-subbed version, so I might have missed some depth of dialog. There are also hints of the occult and supernatural, which should have been expanded or explained away in the end.

Second, I wish that some of the gun battles were more inspired. Some of the action scenes are really cool, but some are, well, boring.

And last but not least, flashbacks are really overused in the series. This is a problem especially during the first few episodes, where a longish flashback is repeated over and over again, with the viewer being at a loss what exactly to make of it. A little better writing here would go a long way to improve the overall series – especially since some viewers might get bored and give up before episode 5.

Still, overall, I would recommend Noir to anybody who likes action anime and doesn’t mind a high rate of kills. I did watch it in about three evenings, episodes 14-26 of which in one night; that should tell you something.

Bubblegum Crisis

For a while now I have been collecting all the episodes of Bubblegum Crisis. It’s a Japanese science fiction anime series, telling of the exploits of the Knight Sabres, a mysterious team of valiant femmes fatales in powered armor engaging berserk robots and protecting the citizens of Tokyo from harm.

A little background is in order, though. There are actually two series – Bubblegum Crisis 2032 and Bubblegum Crisis Mega Tokyo 2040. It looks like that after Bubblegum Crisis went into production, the two companies who produced the show went their seperate ways and/or out of business. Only eight episodes of Bubblegum Crisis had been made. Each were of the longer 45 minutes format.

A few years later, the IP was revived. Bubblegum Crisis Mega Tokyo 2040 was a complete rewrite, keeping the basic premise and some basics of the characters. The show was produced in the more up-to-date 20 minutes per episode format. The result was, of course, that the stories told in each episode were “simpler” than in the 45 minutes episodes. However, BGC2040 moves to a continuing story arc relatively quickly, so it doesn’t really matter.

Where the boomers – the robots so common in the futuristic Japan of the future – were pretty normal – if powerful – androids in BGC 2032, they have a more organic feel in BGC 2040. Overall, the drawings of the newer series are much better than the old one. I guess the times change, and BGC 2032 was probably drawn by hand; today, the shows are produced using computers.

Besides the design of the background and the drawing style, the most striking difference is the character design. In BGC 2032, all the protagonists basically are best buddies; in BGC 2040, we do not get this impression. There is a lot more conflict between the chaacters. I think I actually like the characters of BGC 2032 better. They’re more… professional. Of course the conflict does spice the story up, so, who minds.

Also note that the original show never got around to any sort of coherent story arc. In the 8th episode, things start to become interesting, if maybe a little…. radical all of a sudden. Let’s just say a lot of stuff gets blown up. But how can you judge a show of which only eight episodes were made?

It’s far easier to judge BGC 2040. A warning, I have only watched the first 19 episodes (out of 26) as I write this The action of BGC 2040 is good. I like the story so far. A good amount of comic relief (especially through Nene. Ah, Nene. I really, really like Nene’s voice.) The story is well-paced; I find myself wanting to watch more immediately after I am done with one episode.

If you come across this show – last time I checked the DVDs were totally sold out – and you like the genre, then get this show. Hey, it’s about chicks in powered armor, so how can you go wrong? 🙂

As an aside: I am watching the japanese version with english subtitles. Getting used to it – much better than the english dub.

_Update, March 21st 2003:_ I have seen up to episode 25 now, which only leaves the finale. What can I say, unfortunately BGC 2040 does slide a little into annoying silliness especially in episodes 24 and 25. The show tries to be too dramatic, too big, and it doesn’t work. They set up a big stage and try to live up to it, yet somehow, they’re not believable. I’ll wait for episode 26 before passing a final judgement. Too bad, though, for episodes 23-25. They’re not too fun.

_Update, the next day:_ Watched the finale. Didn’t like it. Final judgment on the series: Watch it for free, don’t spend your money on it. For fans of the genre. Buy Trigun instead, or something.

Armitage III DVD

598I just finnished watching the Armitage III DVD (Perfect Collection, RC2, German Edition), and I am sort-of impressed.

First of all, what’s Armitage III about? Well, basically, the story is a murder mystery. On a Mars colonized by humans, someone is killing illegaly manufactured robots that are indistinguishable from humans. Earth inspector Ross Sylibus and his partner, Naomi Armitage have to uncover why someone would do such a thing, uncovering a little more than they expected in the process.

The DVD includes both the Armitage III movie and the Armitage III series; the former in Japanese, English and German, and the later in Japanese, all with German subtitles (if needed). The quality of the movie and series is good; the English dubbing is alright, while the German one is crappy as was to be expected. The extras on the DVD consist of a bunch of trailers, and a short advertisement for the distributor, very badly rendered.

If you watch Armitage II, I will give you one piece of advice. Skip the movie, and go right to the series. The movie is but an abridged version of the series, with a different ending scene tacked on. If you watch the movie first, you will know the plot with less of the fun. Once you did see the series, feel free to go back and watch the movie.

The fun-factor of Armitage III is alright. It’s a little outrageous here and there, especially in the movie version which explains things less. It reminds me a little of a more fantastic and less serious Ghost in the Shell, and I do not mean this in a bad way.

I can recommend this DVD to anybody who likes anime with cyborgs, everybody else probably should stay away. The DVD isn’t exactly a miracle of features, but if you can borrow it or get a cheap deal, you probably won’t regret it.

A Kite DVD

601Two days ago I watched the japanese anime movie “A Kite”. It’s about two assassins and – without wanting to spoil anything – their dirty jobs. There really isn’t much more than that to the story – no big surprises, no spectacular ideas. The main ingredients to the movie are, to be blunt, violence and sex, and plenty of ’em in graphic detail.

A kite features a few rather graphic scenes of sex, basically nothing wrong with that but it was a little too much in my eyes. I just don’t get off by watching other people copulate, and cartoon characters hold even less appeal. Whatever floats your boat.

Much more interesting are the action sequences, when Oburi and Sawa, the main characters, carry out their assassin missions. There’s a lot of gory detail here and what can best be described as blood by the bucket-full. The scenes are nicely choreographed and quite a ride. Definitely nothing for your average spoon-fed disney teen, but for the more adult audience this is quite a ride. It doesn’t compare to Trigun or the scenes in Episode 1 of Blue Submarine No.6, but it’s okay.

There are also some nice background jokes in the movie, for example in one scene a character is eating “Make Fat” french fries.

Basically, if you can stand cartoon sex and enjoy violent action, then you might want to check this movie out – otherwise, keep your hands off. I watched the German DVD, but I could not stand the German dubbing. The voice actors are terrible – on par with the german version of Futurama – so actually watched the original Japanese version with German subtitles; there was no English dubbing on this edition. The DVD is also pretty much devoid of extras, just a few trailers that are not worth watching. The menues are nicely done, though. One thing of note about the German edition of “A Kite” is that – according to my information – it is the only version released that is uncut.

_Update, July 28th 2003:_ Since I have received quite a number of inquiries on this subject: Unfortunately I do not know where someone might obtain a copy of the German Kite DVD. There are some stores that sell it but most of them are small and won’t ship to foreign destinations. As far as I know, Kite is “out of print” and thus mostly a second hand item. Sorry I can’t be of more help.

Blue Submarine

604I just watched Blue Submarine No.6, another fine Japanese Anime. The story: In the future, an evil scientist has melted the polar caps, killing billions, and is sending his armies of genetically engineered monsters to finish off the rest. Blue Submarine is telling the tale of the survivors’ battle against this seemingly unstoppable foe.

Blue Submarine an impressive blend of 2D animation and 3D computer graphics. I especially loved the action sequences of the battles in the half-submerged cities in the first episodes. Wonderful animation.

The show gets less and less interesting over time. Two really thrilling episodes are followed by one that is, well, so-so. The fourth and final episode is mostly confusing and annoying. The plot is pretty predictable and the end is, well, in one word: boring. Still, until you get there, it’s an enjoyable DVD. If you can live with a “Wow!” trip followed by a “so-what?” ending, then you should watch this movie.

The DVD includes some extras, the only one of note being the “Making of” movie. Interesting, but not the most thrilling of the world, most of what these guys have to tell is stating the obvious. One tip: When you do interviews, do not wear Nike hats like that, and especially not that way, it makes you look rather foolish.

_Note:_ Amazon.com sells this show one episode per DVD, for about US$18 each. Needless to say this is way too expensive. Even $18 for the entire set would still be a bit much – I doubt anybody would want to watch this movie more than once. For collectors.