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Archive for October 17th, 2014

SPEC-Close-Progress

Toma and Sebumi become involved in a frantic mission to find a virus called Simple Plan which has the power to kill SPEC holders. The pair’s boss Nonomura who knows more than what he’s telling is also on the hunt for the virus as he doesn’t want it to get into the wrong hands – namely a shady council of various people from around the world that want to unleash the virus. Watching the events unfold are a pair of people named Jun and Sekai. Not only do they have SPEC abilities but they seem to have ‘godly’ powers as well. Toma’s SPEC starts to go strange with a demon seemingly taking her over as she tries to contact her dead brother Youta. It kills her grandmother in an explosion at her house and badly burns Toma. Who will be the first to get their hands on the deadly virus – the powers of good or that of the evil council?

This is the first of 2 SPEC movies that was released in November 2013 to conclude the storyline that started off in the last movie ‘Heaven’. Those who have read that review know how much I love the drama SPEC. It’s one of my favourite recent Japanese dramas. Whilst I enjoyed this movie I did find it had some problems with it. The main problem I found with this movie is the storyline now gets a bit too complicated for my liking and introduces too many new characters. There’s just too much going on and instead of giving the viewer a nice simple plot to tie up loose ends it’s very easy to get lost in it all. I know I mentioned this last time as well so apologies if I seem to be repeating myself. The foreshadowing of a war between SPEC holders and the evil council that was hinted before is now also starting to take shape.

Although the series focused on Toma and Sebumi’s investigations, this movie is mostly about their boss Nonomura. He has an important role to play. Throughout the series he’s mostly been seen as a comical figure especially in his May to December relationship with the sexy young female police officer Miyabi. The humourous scenes between the pair doesn’t feature at all here. I don’t want to spoil things for all of you but the only thing I’ll say is Nonomura goes out with a bang (literally) by finding the virus and refusing to hand it over to the bad guys. He mails it instead to Toma and Sebumi. The bad guys might think they’ve got the virus but Nonomura has switched it with some viagra pills instead! I actually didn’t expect what happened to Nonomura to take place so I was a bit shocked. There is another twist in Nonomura’s tale but to say anything about that would be just wrong! In another plot revelation, the viewer finally gets to discover why Toma’s family were all wiped out. It’s something to do with Toma’s father refusing to help the evil Professor J (the man responsible for cloning Toma’s brother Ninomae) with his work. In his anger and to get some kind of payback, Professor J kills Toma’s entire family but why was Toma spared? It isn’t explained unfortunately!

spec-close incarnation screenshot

Another interesting part of the plot involves Toma’s SPEC ability going rogue and turning into a demon when she tries to use it. She even tells Sebumi to kill her if she starts to lose control. Toma’s ability to raise the dead has some side effects in that her powers start to degrade after time with the demon wanting her to turn against humanity. It takes all of Toma’s energy from making sure the demon doesn’t have full control of her. She feels that she can’t help her police colleagues as the risk in Toma using her SPEC ability again is the demon taking more and more control. I did find it a little bit convenient that Toma just happens to know a scientist that can miraculously provide an antidote to the Simple Plan virus. In the previous movie ‘Heaven’, there was talk about how the 3rd Fatima Prophecy would bring about an apocalypse to the world. This scenario rears its ugly head once again but it’s difficult to know what will eventually happen in the final SPEC movie. Will there be a war? Will there an apocalypse? Who knows! There’s a lot of information to take in for SPEC fans like myself!

Apart from the regular cast who are all brilliant as always, it was great to see former AKB48 member Yuko Oshima as Jun, one of a ‘godly’ pair of SPEC holders who are on the sidelines at the moment watching developments taking place between the rest of their kind and the evil council. Yuko’s SPEC character has an odd habit of hiccupping constantly when she’s talking. I found it to be a little bit annoying but I got used it to it eventually. I must stress as I’ve done with several movies that spin-off from TV drama series in that you won’t have a clue as to what is going on if you just dive straight in without having watched the drama series first.

Overall, I was left slightly confused as to what direction the final movie is heading after this one. The plot was rather heavy-handed, not really resolving anything but leaving enough teasers to make the viewer want to find out the inevitable outcome. I felt the script writers had over complicated matters instead of keeping things simple. It was still very entertaining and I’m really looking forward to the conclusion in the next movie. I just hope I won’t be disappointed. Recommended for SPEC drama fans.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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the-golden-bat-poster

A teenage boy Akira who is a keen amateur astronomer finds out that planet Icarus has deviated from it’s normal orbit and is heading for a collision course with the Earth by looking through his telescope. Scientists though don’t believe him. One day he is kidnapped by men in black and taken to a secret institute called The Pearl Research where the people there do believe his story. Founded by a foreigner named Dr Pearl, the institute has built a powerful weapon (Super Destruction Beam Cannon) with the power of 1000 H-bombs that can destroy Icarus before it hits the Earth but they have one vital component missing – a special mineral for the lens. This mineral is found on an island in the Pacific. A team from the institute led by Dr Yamatone along with Akira and Dr Pearl’s granddaughter Emily head for the island and discover the lost city of Atlantis in the process. They are suddenly attacked by a gigantic drill shaped ship piloted by an alien named Nazu. He is the one behind the scheme of wanting Icarus to slam into the Earth as he doesn’t want to share the universe with any human beings. He will do anything to stop the Pearl Research team getting their hands on the mineral. But help is at hand for mankind from a hero has been asleep for 10,000 years at Atlantis and is waiting for the right moment to save the Earth and it’s people.

I’m sure the majority out there are aware of Japanese superheroes such as Ultraman, Kamen Rider and the like but I’m certain not a lot know about Golden Bat. Golden Bat was probably Japan’s first superhero and he was created way back in 1930 by writer Ichiro Suzuki and artist Takeo Nagamatsu. There has been several movies to feature him over the years and he even had an anime series in 1967. Don’t make the mistake that because he’s not talked about in the same breath as the other famous Japanese superheroes named above that he might not be so popular because apparently that isn’t the case. So how can I describe this superhero? Facially he looks like The Red Mask from Captain America, he laughs maniacally, he flies, beats up the bad guys with his baton and does a lot of stupid poses……….as superheroes do!!! He’s also got a pet bat which turns into a pendant. Golden Bat gives this to Emily so whenever she’s in trouble she can call him up with this pendant.

golden bat screenshot

This movie which is targeted towards kids is if I’m being honest rather silly and has a ridiculous villain named Nazu. Basically he looks like a rat with 4 eyes (that can shoot lasers), he has a metal claw for one hand and his costume is just some brown velvet curtains. Looks cheap, tacky and rather hilarious. Just for the look alone you can’t really take him seriously enough! He has a band of lackeys following him (a giggling idiot who enjoys torture and is Nazo’s second in command, a female shapeshifter and a werewolf man) plus some faceless goons dressed all in black. Just like the super sentai and tokusatsu shows of today, these faceless goons are the ones that are sacrificed first whenever their master is in trouble. Even though this movie is short at 73 mins, it packs a lot of action with plenty of fights and confrontations. I’m not sure if the director was inspired by those US serials that were broadcasted during the 30’s and 40’s which had a lot of cliffhanger moments but it somehow feels like one of them. The special effects is hit and miss but I was impressed with one scene which shows Nazo’s drill like tower ship bulldozing it’s way from underground to rise up into Tokyo’s skyline making it look rather threatening. Other visual wonders include a flying car (an idea from Gerry Anderson’s early 60’s Super Car series perhaps?) and a flying submarine similar to Atragon. For a kids movie it is surprisingly violent which shows children being choked by the villains and a scene with human hostages being thrown from a tall tower to their deaths. I’m sure this kind of thing wouldn’t have been shown to Western kids at the time!

Viewers will instantly recognize the face of a young Sonny Chiba in this movie. Back in the day before he became a tough bone-breaking action guy in Japanese movies during the 70’s, he starred in several low budget b-movie productions and this was one of them. Those hoping to see the great man kick some ass with his fists will be disappointed though. He hadn’t adopted that persona just yet, that was still to come. His character is relegated to being a bit part player though as it’s the Golden Bat that’s the main man here. I didn’t expect to see a Western actor have a role in this movie but Andrew Hughes performs as the founder of the Pearl Research Institute and has his lines dubbed into Japanese.

OK, so this movie isn’t going to win any awards for anything but I had a great time watching this fun movie with it’s weird crazy plot and a laughing superhero who hurries headlong into attacking his enemies. If you go into watching this movie with the right mind frame you’ll find it hugely entertaining.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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