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Archive for July 4th, 2013

Summer days with Coo dvdIt is the Edo period and two kappas (water sprites) – a father and son are discussing that the swamp they inhabit will soon be turned to farmland. They will have no place to live. The father decides the best thing to do is to try a friendly approach with the humans. Two samurai are seen walking towards the pair. The father confronts the samurai with a peace offering of a fish hoping that it might help make them change their mind. However, it does not end well for the kappa as the samurai draws his sword and slays him with his sword. The son who has been hiding in the long grass is shocked. An earthquake occurs and a fissure opens up and drags the young kappa down to the depths of the Earth burying him alive. Fast forward to the present day and young Kouichi Uehara is on his way home from school. He trips over a rock after trying to retrieve his shoe from a river bank. He digs up the rock and throws it against a wall. The rock cracks open and a dried up kappa is discovered inside. Kouichi takes it home and puts it under a cold running tap. It starts to come back alive and talks to him. Kouchi and his family who are repulsed at first decide to keep the kappa as a sort of pet. Kouchi names the kappa ‘Coo’ as that’s the first noise he makes after being resuscitated. Coo is reluctant at first to stay with the family being that a human murdered his father but he soon accepts the situation and starts to learn about the modern world. Kouichi and Coo go on a trip to find whether any other kappa could be alive in another area but sadly the last kappa seen alive was over a 100 years ago. Then the media catch wind that a kappa is alive and well and living with Kouichi’s family. A large crowd soon turns up on the family’s doorstep which makes their daily lives very difficult indeed.  

First off let me explain to what a kappa is, in case nobody knows. A kappa is an elusive water sprite in Japanese legend thought to be about the same height as a young child but with frog, reptile or even turtle-like features.  They were thought to inhabit rivers and ponds. Kappas could be mischievous in nature or downright malevolent even drowning a child if they got too close to running water. A good way by a parent of scaring a child if they misbehaved was by saying that a kappa would take them away!

Summer Days With Coo

All thoughts of this being a children’s movie are shattered within the first 5 mins when a samurai slices Coo’s father to death with a sword in quite a graphic scene. This was Hara’s intention from the start to show that this movie was never targeted towards young children. Social commentaries on mature themes such as bullying and mass media intrusion are tackled. As well as being a tale of a kappa trying to find his place in the modern world, it’s also a coming of age story with Kouichi gaining independence and having his first pangs of love with his moody female classmate.  There’s even an environmental message that humans should be more considerate of their actions towards nature tucked away in the plot. What I love about this movie is the depiction of the characters – the best example being Kouichi’s young sister.  A brat for most of the movie she may be but it’s such a realistic portrayal of how a young girl at that age would behave. That goes for the rest of the characters in the movie – they are all believable and somebody you would meet in real life. The relationship between Coo and Koichi is wonderful to see and how it develops over the course of the movie. Koichi discovers a true friend in Coo and he in turn realises that not all human beings are brutal. Coo also shares a telepathic link to the family’s dog Ossan which can speak with him. The movie doesn’t have a happy storyline and there are several occasions for a tear or two to be shed by the viewer. It tends to veer towards being too sentimental at times though. The death of the Uehara family dog leading up to the climax by the Japanese media chasing Coo is one such scene.  Several characters are given sad background stories which include even the family dog.  Kouichi and the girl he likes Kikuchi are victims of bullying and it is shown as the cruel harsh subject it is. The ironic thing about it is Kouichi isn’t any better from the boys that bully him as he does the same to Kikuchi because he doesn’t want to lose face in front of his friends and he can’t face up to his growing feelings towards her. Kikuchi comes across as an intelligent, warm and considerate girl and is only bullied due to studying hard most of the time at school and having her head in a book. Again this is very realistic having seen situations like this at school myself. Thankfully even though a lot of the story is sad, dark and heavy, there are one or two funny moments in the movie to give the viewer something to smile about. It’s not all doom and gloom.

This widely acclaimed movie was a break from the norm for animator Keiichi Hara who is best known for the crude drawings of Crayon Shin-Chan. His style is completely different in this movie and it does have Miyazaki’s influence all over it. He’s even gone on record to say so. The quality of the animation is brilliant – a mixture of hand drawn and CGI and some real life locations in Japan have been recreated vividly in the movie. You can see for yourself just how much effort Hara has made and the love he put into the movie especially with a project that was out of his normal comfort zone.

I would say this magical movie is on a par with Studio Ghibli’s very best. It is a long movie though at 130 mins but once the story hooks you in the time will fly by. It’s definitely one of the best anime movies I’ve ever seen and with an engaging storyline. I thoroughly recommend it.

Sadako’s Rating: 5 stars out of 5

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During the Legends War all of the Super Sentai teams from Go-Ranger up to the Goseigers are battling the evil Zangyack Empire. In a final desperate attempt to end the war, the Super Sentai teams unite all of their powers. This strategy works and the Zangyack Empire is forced off the planet Earth in defeat but it comes at a price as it means that all of the Super Sentai teams have lost their powers which are transformed into ranger keys and scattered all over space. In the present time, the space pirates the Gokaigers have been collecting the ranger keys and have amassed a treasure chest full of them. The now powerless Goseigers find out that the Gokaiger have their keys and decide to take them back as they don’t trust that the pirates have planet Earth’s best interest at heart. A furious fight occurs between the two teams. During this time the villainous Black Cross King who was defeated by the first Sentai team Go-Ranger years ago returns to team up with the Zangyak Empire to defeat the Super Sentai teams. The Goseigers and the Gokaigers decide that they must form an alliance to fight this threat.  Will they be able to overcome their differences and be able to beat their powerful enemy?

I haven’t been following any Super Sentai series for a long time as I prefer Kamen Rider so I thought it was high time I take a look at a movie featuring them so what better movie to watch than this one which promised a whopping 199 Super Sentai heroes together. This was a special movie to celebrate the 35th anniversary of all things Super Sentai. The majority of the movie focuses on the Gokaigers (the space pirates) and the Goseigers (the angels). I know from reading on forums that the Goseigers weren’t a favourite amongst fans when their series was airing in Japan (why I’m not too sure?). I am familiar with the Gokaigers having seen them in the Kamen Rider crossover movie and I like them a lot. There’s a bit of an edge to the Gokaigers led by the brash Captain Marvellous as I’ve always felt that they weren’t to be trusted being that they aren’t human and all they seek is treasure just like the pirates in the past. Having never seen the series I don’t know if they come across differently in that at all? The first half of the movie deals with the bad blood between the two Super Sentai teams. You can see the difference between the two teams immediately. The Gokaigers come across as being rather dynamic and have more of an attitude whilst the Goseigers are seen as well…………rather bland. Over time they realise that they have something in common with one another such as Luka (my favourite of the Gokaigers) and Moune of the Goseigers that it’s pointless for them to fight and that they should be friends. For a movie that advertises 199 heroes the classic Super Sentai teams aren’t featured that much – they only appear at the beginning and near the climax. A couple of characters such as Deka Pink turn up in a sub-plot but they don’t really have much impact in the main story and are in fact more involved with trying to help an unemployed man who’s mentally in a bad way.  This sub-plot is eventually sewn into the main story but I didn’t think it was done that well.  The guy along with a crowd of people are seen sending positive thoughts to the teams when they’re in trouble and this boosts them enough to beat Black Cross Colossus. Even though the classic characters screen time is limited it’s good for nostalgia value to see the old actors back in their iconic roles again.

Super Sentai 199 Great Hero Battle screenshot

The action in the movie is very good and it goes from one exciting set-piece to the next.  I had never heard about the Legends War before but apparently a glimpse of this was shown during the first episode of Gokaiger. The viewer is plunged into a big battle straight away and I thought this was a brilliant start to the movie to get the juices flowing .The pace of the movie is so quick that it’s unlikely anybody will get bored watching it. The fight choreography throughout is great.  I loved seeing all the mechas that have appeared throughout the years teaming up to defeat the Black Cross King who has transformed into Black Cross Colossus even though a lot of it is stock footage lifted from various series. Due to a bigger budget for this movie there are tons of special effects and pyrotechnics going off. The filmmakers have pulled out all the stops to create a worthy movie to celebrate an important milestone in the history of the franchise.

The only thing I disliked about this movie was when the 2 teams are confronted by the past Super Sentai teams when the Black Cross King steals their keys and activates them all. I find it a bit incredulous that 10 rangers can take out 189 heroes. It makes the classic teams look very weak being defeated the way they are. My take on the matter is that the Super Sentai suits were taken over by evil energy and didn’t contain any of the owners inside them. That’s the only reason I can think of why they were beaten so easily otherwise it makes a complete mockery out of them. It does look out of place seeing the two teams fighting their sempais.

This isn’t a movie for people that have no knowledge of Super Sentai as there’s too many nods to previous series – this is strictly for long-time fans. I certainly enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun and very entertaining. Recommended for Super Sentai fans.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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