Posts Tagged ‘Anime’

Evangelion 3.0

Set 14 years after the events of the last Evangelion movie in which Third Impact was accidentally started by Shinji whilst trying to save Rei but was aborted half-way by Kaworu piercing Eva 01 with the Lance of Longinus, we begin with Asuka and Mari teaming up to defeat an Angel before retrieving Shinji who has been frozen in Earth’s orbit for all that time inside the impaled Eva 01. Shinji wakes up in an intensive care ward to find the world he knew before has gone. The people he had grown to like have aged. Tokyo 3 and the Geofront have been totally abandoned and Misato has formed a splinter group called the Wille with some key NERV personnel in their giant ark-like ship The Wunder. Their goal is not only to fight against the Angels but also NERV’s Evangelions as well. Shinji’s father Gendo Ikari is still in charge of NERV with SEELE pulling the strings in the background. He is still trying to complete the Human Instrumentality Project. Shinji is confused as to why Asuka and Misato are so cold towards him and why he has been fitted with a device attached to his neck which will explode should he even contemplate trying to destroy the world again. He finds some of the answers he requires from the mysterious Kaworu who tells him he could fix everything if he were to create Fourth Impact. What will Shinji do? Is the words he hears from his friend Kaworu enough to persuade him to destroy everything once more?

This was the first movie that I watched whilst I was in Tokyo and a movie that I was so excited to see on the big screen. The third in the Rebuild of Evangelion franchise ventures into uncharted territory with this movie and bravely (or foolishly depending on your opinion) changing character dynamics which will certainly split fans’ opinion. The viewer was given a brief showing of the world post-Third Impact in The End of Evengelion and in this movie it is developed even further. The opening battle which sees Mari (in her pink eva) and Asuka pitting their wits against a deadly Angel is fast and exciting and contains some brilliant action sequences which made me a fan of the series in the first place. However, if you think that this excellent start is just a taster for some more wonderful Angel/Eva action you are going to be sorely disappointed. Eva 3.0 is quite a slow movie and is more of a character based drama which focuses quite a lot of the friendship of Shinji and Kaworu though the final action set piece will make up for the lack of excitement that occurs through the middle part of the story. Furthermore director Hideaki Anno it seems is up to his old tricks again with this movie fairly confusing in what it’s trying to say with many fans scratching their heads and not having a clue what’s going on. More questions than answers are given and many things are left unexplained. Maybe this was his way of saying f**k you to the fans once more? He doesn’t want to give us a simple explanation and prefers us to try and work things out on our own. Who knows? The Evangelion TV anime was always tagged as being a little bit difficult to follow with it’s concept and symbolism so there’s nothing new in that respect with the Rebuild movies. Some fans might not agree with what Anno has done with this movie but I liked what I saw.

Evangelion 3.0 screenshot

By leaving Shinji stuck in Eva 01 for 14 years, some of the characters we knew and loved from the TV series have changed. The biggest change of all is with Misato who is no longer the lovable beer swilling woman who cared for Shinji. In this movie she comes across as a bitter battle hardened veteran who is aggressively trying to stop Fourth Impact from occurring by trying to subvert Shinji and Kaworu and making sure that NERV doesn’t get their grubby hands on the pair. Quite a risky move to change a character who was a big fan favourite and I must admit to not really liking what Anno has done with her. Thankfully my favourite character in Asuka even though she is now an adult remains the hot headed person from before and her appearance shows she has not aged externally at all (the explanation given that she’s been exposed too much to LCL). She is still frustrated with Shinji but as for the will they won’t they romantic undertones that previously happened between the two – with time having moved on, that aspect of the two’s relationship has been thrown out of the window. I’m still unsure as to the purpose of the new character in Mari Makinami Illustrious who was introduced in the 2nd Evangelion movie. She doesn’t add anything to the plot at all and in this movie she’s just a person that has some friendly banter with Asuka which begs the question why Anno created her at all. It can’t be to provide some fan-service can it? Perhaps she’ll be getting a fairly substantial role in the final Evangelion movie? Shinji it seems is slightly different from before – no longer a whiny individual, he is simply a bewildered, lost and frustrated person as to what is going on all around him. He’s all alone, his former friends in Misato and Asuka are no longer the people he recognises from the past and when he demands an explanation to what’s going on they don’t tell him so he turns to Kaworu instead. As for the last of the main characters in Rei Ayanami she doesn’t have that big of a role in this movie but remains the quiet softly spoken enigma we’ve all come to love.

I haven’t mentioned anything so far on how the movie looks overall. The mix of traditional and CG animation for the movie is incredible – crisp and sharp and it looks gorgeous on the big screen. The designs for the Angels and mechas on show are great to see. The soundtrack contains some stirring and rousing music that’s been a staple of the series and singer Hikaru Utada returns from her brief hiatus to give us a memorable and melancholic end song which was appropriate for the mood of the movie.

To sum it all up, I think this movie sets things up very nicely for the final Evangelion movie which will probably see a large conflict between Wille and NERV. You can see that this clash is on the cards pitting Eva against Eva.  I enjoyed watching this movie very much. As for the grumblings from the fans after watching this movie perhaps some were just expecting way too much – maybe they wanted more all out action with Anno giving us a nice, clear and concise explanation as to the overall arc of the story. This is Anno after all we’re talking about here and that was never going to happen. The slight changes to the major characters was somewhat surprising and daring because Anno must have known that some fans would not take too kindly to seeing their favourite characters become unfamiliar to them but apart from not liking at all to what they’ve done to Misato, the overall traits of the main characters remain the same.

I look forward very much to seeing the conclusion to the storyline and I hope I won’t have to wait too long for it.

Sadako’s Rating – 4 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Demon City Shinjuku (1988)

An evil demon named Rebi Rah makes a pact with a demon lord that gives him power to defeat a man that’s come to stop him. After overcoming the man (who looks like Wolverine!), the Tokyo suburb of Shinjuku is decimated by a massive earthquake which becomes known as the Devil’s Shake with the area breaking off from the rest of the city and becoming a place only inhabited by demons, monsters and criminals. It’s an area that’s avoided by all sane human beings. Shinjuku is renamed Monster City. The rest of Tokyo is unaffected by the chaos. 10 years later and Rebi Rah plans to open the gate that will allow the demon world to cross over into our world and take it over. Master Rai, a keeper of the mystical art of Nempo chooses a young man Kyoya Izayoi whose father was the one that got killed by Rebi Rah all those years ago to stop him from plunging the world into darkness forever. At first he refuses to help but after meeting a beautiful young woman Sayaka he changes his mind. Sayaka’s father is the President of Japan and he’s slowly dying at the hands of the evil demon. She goes alone at first to Monster City to face Rebi Rah but she runs into trouble. To her rescue comes Kyoya. Kyoya must master the art of Nempo very quickly before he has a chance to kill Rebi Rah but first he must defeat his 3 trusted henchmen and defeating them won’t be easy. Will Kyoya triumph against the forces of evil?

I haven’t reviewed an anime movie in a while so I thought it was high time I did that. This is a short but highly imaginative adult horror anime from the late 80’s by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, the director behind the excellent Ninja Scroll and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. Even though it may be an adult anime, it doesn’t come close to being as graphic as Kawajiri’s other works or even Overfiend in that there’s no frequent sex scenes/nudity and extreme violence. This movie does have it’s gory moments but it’s never ultra graphic in nature. The story is engaging but not original (some say it mirrors Star Wars a little), the pace motors along quickly and the creature designs are top notch – one such example is that of an arachnid/humanoid demon. The demon creatures are terrifying and very cool looking. It’s the characters that provides the main failings of the movie. I wouldn’t say the villain Rebi Rah is a memorable antagonist at all. He doesn’t come across as frightening or threatening. I do like the magic sword he weaves which reminded me of Lion-O’s Sword Of Omens from Thundercats. Kyoya and Sayaka are rather flat characters as well. Kyoya is just your usual young hero who swears, moans constantly and thinks about sex! Sayaka is a stereotypical damsel in distress who is seen as being rather naive. It’s one of the supporting characters in Mephisto who comes across best in the movie. A rather mysterious person, the viewer doesn’t know whether he’s on the side of good or evil. As the movie is short there’s no time for any character development at all. The version I saw was the English dubbed one and the accents given to some of the characters is ridiculous. The character of Chibi who is supposed to be a young Japanese kid is given a stupid Mexican accent and swears like a trooper! Even Sayaka is given an awful British accent. The animation is well done and I especially liked the look for the ruined suburb of Shinjuku. It feels sinister and oppressive – you expect something dangerous lurking around every corner. There’s a great scene in a park where Sayaka and Kyoya confront the souls of the people that died there during the devastating earthquake that happened 10 years previously. It ends rather touchingly with the dead souls able to move on to the afterlife and coming down as drops of rain. I was hoping for a thrilling confrontation at the end between Rebi Rah and Kyoya but it ends all too quickly. What an anti-climax and such a disappointment. It feels a bit rushed like the filmmakers wanted to get this project over and done with and move on to something else.

I wouldn’t call this an essential anime movie to watch. It’s an interesting 78 min feature, has soon good action scenes and it’s never boring but if you want to see director Kawajiri at his best check out the two titles I’ve mentioned above. This could have been a lot better.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Togawa is a man sprung from jail 2 years earlier than expected by a man called Ito. Ito along with a yakuza boss has paid big money to have Togawa released from prison (he was serving a sentence for killing a trucker who had crippled his young sister). Ito wants Togawa to lead a team of 4 men to rob an armoured car which is carrying 120 million yen in money earnings from the Japanese Derby horse race. Togawa has been chosen for his reputation and skills. Even with the big pay off Ito is offering him he hesitates but he soon accepts when he finds out his trusted friend Shirai is a part of the team. The other 2 members is a boxer who was going to be a champion until he took a bung for a fight and a greedy gambler. The plan for the heist looks to be foolproof on paper and it all has to be done in 7 mins. But of course the best laid plans never go according to what they should be………..

This is a hard edged heist movie with all the standard elements in place here from a criminal asked to do one last job, the audacious plan to commit the perfect crime against a difficult target, the heist which goes wrong, the subsequent falling out between the team and the moral at the end that crime doesn’t pay. It’s a taut and thrilling movie thanks to a good plot, fast pace and the leading character played by chipmunk faced Jo Shishido. He plays Togawa with his usual aura of looking cool, some grittiness and machismo. The draw of the movie isn’t about the heist itself but of how it’ll inevitably go wrong. You can sympathise with Togawa in why he’s taking part in the heist. He might want to go straight but he feels responsible for the accident that hospitalised his sister. The money from the heist would go a long way to pay for an operation that could make her walk again. When Togawa explains the plan to his fellow cohorts, the viewer is shown what should happen in real time and it’s obvious that there are unforeseen circumstances that could easily derail the plan. In the duration of 7 short minutes the criminals have to divert the armoured truck down an alternative route, block that route so that other traffic doesn’t follow, shoot the motorcycle police escorts dead, hope the guards inside the truck come out so that they get killed as well as the truck’s glass is bullet proof and then finally load the truck onto a bigger truck before it is disposed of in a quiet location with all the bodies inside. Even when the heist doesn’t go according to plan, Togawa never expects to be betrayed by his employers and two of his team members who become greedy. Togawa is a man who believes in the futile notion of honor among thieves so this betrayal is very unexpected. It then becomes a battle of survival as he and his friend Shirai get involved in a number of gunfight skirmishes and try to escape with the money. It ends in something that could almost be described as a Greek tragedy.

This is an excellent example of a Japanese noir movie with brilliant acting by Jo Shishido and loads of exciting violent action. It’s directed well, the story is interesting and it looks great.

Cruel Gun Story might not be a classic movie in the Japanese noir genre but it has plenty of thrills and spills to keep any viewer entertained. Well worth seeing.

I can’t find a trailer I’m afraid.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Tekkonkinkreet (2006)

Acrobatic street orphans Kuro and Shiro (Black and White) known as The Cats live in an old abandoned Fiat car in Treasure Town, a violent city where various factions are vying for control. The two kids support each other with Kuro acting more as a protector to Shiro. Kuro believes that he owns Treasure Town and must confront the people that he believes are going to ruin it whilst Shiro wants to make enough money so that they can both buy a house by the sea. Things turn dark for the pair when slimeball company boss Mr Snake wants to demolish Treasure Town to create a massive theme park. He intends to stamp out any troublemakers in his way and sends 3 powerful assassins to kill Kuro and Shiro. Shiro is seriously injured by one of the assassins and is taken into care by a kindly gangster. As Kuro is now separated from Shiro, he grows more and more violent with the other gangs in his Treasure Town.

Based on the manga by Taiyo Matsumoto and directed a Westerner – Michael Arias, this is a brilliant anime which looks at 2 characters’ dependence on each other and their fight against an organisation intent on destroying their habitat.  The story blends crime, humour and fantasy to make an absorbing adventure filled with beautifully detailed urban landscapes, exciting action and chase sequences plus a touching tale about friendship. It has bouts of violence alongside moments of tenderness. The animation though it looks different from normal anime movies you may have seen is unique and wonderful to the eye and the shots of Treasure Town which have apparently been modelled after Osaka looks a sight to behold and is so full of details as the camera swoops through alleyways, buildings, nooks and crannies. Not a pixel it seems has been wasted on the canvas. The story touches on the Chinese aspect of ying and yang in that Kuro and Shiro need each other to survive. When the two are separated, their mental stability begins to break down. The symbolism of their dependence on each other is clear when Kuro is struggling to come to his senses and we get images of a Minotaur and a pack of black crows with a white dove leading from the front to signify the balance coming back into Kuro’s mind after dark inner demons of hatred has temporarily taken over his life. The story can also be interpreted as a clash between old and new traditions. The directing by Arias in which he uses rich vibrant colours is fantastic and the action set pieces are excellently crafted.  Quite a few of the characters’ names in the movie have some duality attached to them including the assassins (Dawn and Dusk) sent to kill the two kids.

There is a lot for anime fans to enjoy in this movie. It’s a visual feast with a fantastic and interesting tale of hope and friendship at its core. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

The story is set in 1963 in Yokohama. Kokuriko Manor sits on a hill overlooking the harbour. A 16 year-old girl, Umi, lives in the house. Every morning she raises a signal flag facing the sea. The flag means “safe voyage”. A 17 year-old boy, Shun, always sees this flag from the sea as he rides a tugboat to school. In preparation for the following year’s Tokyo Olympics, people are destroying the old and believing only in the magnificence of the new. In that time, at a high school in Yokohama, a small struggle occurs. The building of the Culture Club, nicknamed Quartier Latin, is old but full of history and memories. Should it be destroyed or preserved? In the middle of this, Umi and Shun meet. Shun appeals to the students who want to protect the building. Umi suggests a big clean up of the building to show its good parts. Gradually the pair are drawn to each other but they are faced with a sudden trial. They may be siblings. Even so, they keep going without running from reality. Then, in the middle of the battle and the aftermath, they come to know how their parents met, loved and lived.

Goro Miyazaki had to endure some harsh criticism in 2006 when he directed his first animated movie Tales From Earthsea. Comparisons between himself and his famous father was bound to happen – after all he had a lot to live up to! I didn’t find anything wrong with Tales From Earthsea as I really liked it. The anticipation has been high on how his follow-up movie would do. I’m glad to say that his 2nd movie From Up On Poppy Hill is a brilliant addition to the Studio Ghibli catalogue and the wonderful nostalgic storyline was written by Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa. This is slightly different from most of Ghibli’s movies as this one is set in the real world just like Only Yesterday and Whispers Of The Heart. There are no monsters and villains as such in this movie at all. The crux of the story deals with a conservation of an important historical building by students of a school and the impact the Korean War has on our two main characters. It also explores the theme of the old, traditional ways taking on the new, modern methods. In the years prior to the Tokyo Olympics, Japan was looking towards the future and trying not to look back. To make the country look good for the world’s visitors coming to Tokyo and the surrounding area, many buildings deemed not worthy of being conserved were torn down and replaced.

The animation as has always been with Studio Ghibli is magnificent once more. It’s crisp, shows fantastic detail and is such a joy to see. It really is such a beautiful movie to behold. The two lead characters (Umi and Shun) are extremely likeable and propel the story forward. Umi is seen to be a level headed, hard working person who hides the pain of losing her father who was a ship’s captain in the Korean War behind her calm mature exterior. Shun, the strong willed boy also has a damaged background much like Umi. Both like each other and there seems to be a romantic relationship developing between the two but it stalls when Shun finds out that Umi may be his sister. I won’t spoil how the issue is resolved but it’s handled very well. The supporting characters of the school students although not as developed as much as Umi and Shun add to the great atmosphere of the movie. As it is such a simple tale, some people might be disappointed by the lack of any exciting set pieces and fantasy elements. It just isn’t that kind of story I’m afraid.

So what’s the final verdict on From Up On Poppy Hill? Although not a classic from Ghibli, it is still a brilliantly charming animated movie with a well written character driven story. This movie should ensure that Goro Miyazaki isn’t criticised so badly this time round as it is a step forward from him. He has certainly grown as a director from his first effort. Recommended and definitely worth watching.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

As the 21st century approaches, a new 20th-century museum (fans of the 20th Century Boys trilogy will recognise a well known statue here) has opened in town, for the adults to relive their childhood. Shinnosuke and his parents have gone there. However, the owners of the museum seem to have other ulterior plans for it. They want the future to stop and return back to the past. Disappointment with how things are now in the present, they have created a 70’s world which they think is far better. Soon after visiting, the adults start to behave strangely, and one morning, they abandon their children for the 20th-century museum. Shinnosuke, along with his friends, must now rescue his parents and stop the world from returning to the 20th century before they get captured.

This is my first exposure to Crayon Shin-Chan which has been causing controversy in Japan over the years especially with parents. The anime has been shown on Japanese TV screens since 1992. Shin-chan is a 5 year old boy who lives with his baby sister, dog and parents and is famous for his use of inappropriate language and behaviour. This is the 9th movie out of 20 that has been released so far. They are usually released each year in cinemas on or around the same day in mid April without fail. The anime series regularly comes up as one of the programmes that Japanese parents complain about the most due to what Shin-chan does like taking his pants down regularly or talking and showing his penis which he calls ‘Mr Elephant’. I watched this movie as readers of Kinema Junpo has voted it to be in their Top 200 Movies list for this year. I’m not too sure whether the anime series is geared more towards kids, adults or both? The first thing you’ll notice if you’ve never seen Crayon Shin-Chan before is how crudely drawn the main characters are. It might take time to get adjusted to it but with a great story who cares about how it looks. Basically the creators behind Shin-chan isn’t trying to make this movie or the anime series look like a work of art. I liked the humour of the movie very much with a lot of visual gags, parodies of old Japanese TV series which I’d never heard about and some toilet humour. I laughed a lot during the movie. There’s also a social commentary message thrown into the plot as well about living for today and not think too much about the good old days of the past.

Shin-chan is quite a character. Many have said he is like the Japanese equivalent of Bart Simpson which is far from the truth. He’s nothing like him. His foul mouth antics and rude behaviour, skirt chasing just like his father and double entendres is what endears him to so many people in Japan. A typical example of the humour you’ll find is when Shin-chan nearly falls off a replica Tokyo Tower in the 20th century museum and blurts out that his testicles shrank back. He is also seen urinating onto a moving car! A little bit crude perhaps but funny nevertheless.

Overall I had a great time watching this movie and I will certainly take a look at more of Shin-chan’s adventures. It’s a lot of fun and it would be silly for people to not see this movie because the animation is not up to their high standards. If you want something like that you can always go and watch the Ghibli movies. For those that want some funny comedy that will put a smile on your face – Shin-chan will certainly do that. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

The movie begins with the revelation that the master thief Lupin The Third is dead and police inspector Zenigata is full of glee that his long time nemesis has gone and met his maker or has he? After revealing that he’s still alive, Lupin embarks along with his constant companions Jigen and Goemon to the pyramids of Egypt where he wants to steal The Philosopher’s Stone from the tomb of one of the pharaohs. As always Zenigata is in hot pursuit and determined to capture him! With the precious stone gained, Lupin is double crossed by the beautiful and devious femme fatale Fujiko who takes the stone to a reclusive billionaire named Mamo. Fujiko’s betrayal causes a rift between Lupin and his friends who want him to cut off his ties to her. Lupin is eventually captured by Mamo and transported to his secret island in the Caribbean where he reveals that he has acquired immortality by cloning himself for the past 10,000 years and has been interfering in the affairs of mankind. His overall aim is to destroy the world by launching nuclear weapons leaving the planet as his own paradise. Can Lupin save the day?

This is the first Lupin The Third movie. It’s an exciting non-stop action packed adventure which is full of great humour. The animation for it’s time whilst inevitably not up to today’s high standards is still quite solid. A little bit rough around the edges perhaps but it adds to the charm of the movie. The story which is crazy and OTT is a lot of fun. Lupin is up against a psychotic midget with a god complex, and it leads to some very strange things which includes a cameo from Adolf Hitler!! Plenty of thrills and spills featuring an excellent car chase which starts out in Paris and into the surrounding countryside as our trio are pursued at first by a machine gun wielding helicopter and then by a huge monster truck. Unlike the friendly camaraderie you’ll find for example in the well known Castle Of Cagliostro movie between Lupin, Jigen and Goemon, this is more true to the original manga in that there’s more tension and arguing between them – the source of the in-fighting being Fujiko who uses her wily feminine ways to great effect to get what she wants from Lupin. Maybe some Lupin fans will not like seeing this arguing although I enjoyed it. This isn’t a movie for younger viewers either as there’s some sexual references and Fujiko is seen nude on more than one occasion. The action sequences are imaginative enough and actually make for some thrilling edge of your seat viewing and the globe trotting adventure takes us from Egypt, Paris, Madrid, an island in the Caribbean and finally to Colombia. The only thing I didn’t like was Lupin’s strange behaviour. He drops everything just to please Fujiko and this is a woman who has betrayed him more than once! You’ll get used to it as it happens in nearly every Lupin movie!! The plot does get a tad surreal and science-fictiony as we near the climax as Mamo clearly isn’t what he seems and is basically a massive brain! This is probably the weakest part of the entire movie.

The Secret Of Mamo is a wild ride that’s constantly entertaining to watch. Gravity-defying chases, beautiful women, and some of the most devious escapes imaginable which were traits of the anime series are all present here. Although Hayao Miyazaki improved everything in Lupin’s next story, this is still a brilliant start to the Lupin movie franchise.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

The story follows a young girl named Asuna Watase who is intrigued about the mythical land of Agartha, talked about by her substitute teacher, Ryugi Morisaki. Morisaki longs to travel to Agartha to find his deceased wife Lisa and bring her back with him to Earth. Asuna has also lost a loved one. Her father died when she was little, compelling her mother to work long hours as a nurse. Lonely and withdrawn, she spends her time after school in her private mountain retreat listening to the crystal radio her father had given her. One day, after hearing beautiful and strange music from her radio, she meets a young boy with supernatural powers named Shun, who saves her from the attack of a ferocious bear-like creature. Returning the next day, Shun tells her that he is from Agartha, a land deep inside the core of the hollow Earth. Surprised by a blessing from Shun in the form of a kiss on the forehead, Asuna leaves suddenly but when she comes back the following day, she learns sadly that Shun, while trying to reach for the stars, has fallen off a ledge and died. When Asuna once again returns to her hiding place, she discovers a boy who looks like Shun but who claims to be his brother Shin. Morisaki poses as a warrior of the group called the Arch Angels, those who want to reach Agartha but are interested only in its wealth and superior knowledge. Morisaki, however, simply wants to find his dead wife Lisa. Using a device known as a “clavis,” he and Asuna enter the underground realms and begin their travel to the Gate of Life and Death.

Ever since watching Voices Of A Distant Star a couple of years ago I’ve really enjoyed Makoto Shinkai’s works so I was so looking forward to having a look at his latest production. Does it carry on with the high standards we’ve seen before? – yes it does. It’s different in that it veers into the fantasy genre. The storyline was compelling and had me engaged from start to finish with it’s theme of life and death and the mysterious rumours of a world within the Earth, a place where ancient knowledge and memories dwell, and ancient divine entities (Aztec Gods) wander the land, who used to give guidance to humankind. Known for his fantastic art and attention to detail, Shinkai again creates some beautiful landscapes. There are dozens of frames in the movie that deserve to be framed and hung on a wall. The colours and lighting is top notch. The viewer will be in awe of the things they see such as the details in the grass and the mountains to the colourful skies, sunsets and the stars.There has been some complaints that Shinkai has made this movie too Ghibli-like for his own good, perhaps as a tribute to Hayao Miyazaki? I did like message of the movie about recovering from sorrow, letting go and moving on with life. The soundtrack by Tenmon is hauntingly ethereal and fits in well with the theme of the movie. There is a problem with the pacing though as it’s extremely start-stop and never finds a consistent middle ground. The characters are engaging and hold our interest. There’s some good character development especially on the movie’s heroine Asuna.

This movie is an entertaining adventure story despite a couple of failings. What makes this work more than anything is the breathtaking beauty on show throughout with the artistry. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

The Secret World Of Arrietty (2010)

A teenage boy called Sho is staying at his grandmother’s house in the outskirts of Tokyo to rest and gather his strength before undergoing a heart operation. Since the time of his great-grandfather, Sho’s family has spoken of the “little people” who live in the house. Though they have not been seen for many years, they are still there, building their home using things they “borrow” that Sho’s family won’t notice are missing. Sho catches a glimpse of one of the little people when he arrives at the house – a young girl called Arrietty who lives under the floorboards of the house with her mother and father. One night during her first expedition to borrow a lump of sugar and a tissue part with her father, Arrietty is discovered by Sho. He doesn’t do anything but lets them leave peacefully. Though her expedition ended in failure, Arrietty is shocked when Sho leaves a lump of sugar outside the house with a note saying “You forgot something”. Fearing it might be a trap, Arrietty leaves the sugar well alone. Later though she takes the sugarlump which has been half taken by ants and dumps it into Sho’s bedroom who is astonished to see this. He saves her life from a marauding crow. Arrietty and Sho become friends though she doesn’t reveal herself to him at first. But things are about to get complicated when Sho’s grandmothers’ maid Haru is aware that the “little people” are back in the house and is determined to find their hiding place. After Sho stupidly switches the kitchen of the borrowers house with one from a dolls house, Haru discovers what’s going on and captures Arrietty’s mother. Can Sho and Arrietty manage to rescue her mother?

I’ve always adored watching Ghibli movies and whilst I’m rather late in watching this movie as it came out in 2010 it was definitely worth the wait. An anime that appeals to everybody across the board from children to adults. Ghibli always make special movies and I’ve yet to see a bad one from them. Hayao Miyazaki didn’t direct this movie though he had a hand in the screenplay. The honour went to long time Ghibli animator Hiromasa Yonebashi and this was his directorial debut. It’s a beautiful movie and the high standards of what we’ve come to expect of Ghibli continues. I would think that most people know about the story of The Borrowers by Mary Norton, there’s been many TV adaptations (one shown as recently as last Christmas) and yet this movie manages to make the story seem fresh and new. The story is wonderfully written and executed. The animation is superb as you’d expect from Ghibli with every little detail drawn beautifully. The plot works well to keep you entertained containing some excitement to keep you on the edge of your seat – kids won’t be bored by watching this movie I guarantee you that.

What makes this movie work more than anything apart from the animation and the excellent soundtrack is the characters themselves. Arrietty has enough spirit and charm to carry the movie on her own, although she doesn’t have to worry about that. Her anxious yet loving mother Homily and her strong but kindhearted father Pod play out far beyond the caricatures that they usually would be. Sho is a quiet, thoughtful young teenager facing a harrowing heart surgery with a subtle grace and preparation- a nice counter to a lot of characters his age. Even the main antagonist, Haru, is definitely not evil; at worst she is only incredibly overeager and maybe a bit crazy. All the characters are incredibly real.

So on the whole Arrietty is a winner all round and another masterpiece from the studio that can do no wrong. I have no hesitation in highly recommending this movie. I can’t wait to see the next Ghibli project From Up On Poppy Hill by Miyazaki’s son Goro.

Sadako’s Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Malice@Doll (2000)

In the future, mankind has wiped itself out. The only things left are sex dolls which served to exist their human masters. They roam the streets every day looking for non existent clients who they once served. Ther world in which they live is crumbling all around them and so are the dolls themselves. One such doll is Malice who is in need of repair. After being attacked by a tentacled creature, she wakes up to find that she is now a human being. Her robot friends are unable to recognize her and many of them are quick to reject her. Malice seeks to transfer the happiness that she’s feeling by giving all the other dolls a kiss so that they may experience the same thing as her. But the other dolls’ transformations doesn’t go quite so well as Malice, some turning into hideous creations. Can Malice really find true happiness in her new form?

This is a very strange surreal CG experimental anime feature. What at the time when it first came out in 2000 probably looked great now looks badly dated and the storyline is confusing. Against other CG movies such as Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within you can see that this one is not so good visually but then again FF did have a substantial bigger budget than this movie. The plot isn’t straightforward at all and I think what transpires in this movie is left to the interpretation of the viewer. I’m just guessing that it’s supposed to be all about what is the meaning and purpose of being alive and also death. I was expecting some kind of a sci-fi aspect to this story but that premise was quickly kicked out and it was more ecchi than anything else……….and even that was quite tame. The dolls themselves look great but they look like they’ve been lifted out of an old computer game. I think the director lost a big opportunity to give us a good interesting story and what we got instead was this poor effort which made me scratch my head. It’s slow and plodding. It lacks any excitement and there’s nothing to hook you in. You get bored quickly watching it. The CG anime doesn’t even look attractive at all and the background doesn’t help as it’s constantly dark and gloomy.

I can’t really recommend this at all as the incoherent storyline makes it pretty hard going.

Sadako’s Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Barefoot Gen 2 (1986)

Three years after the Hiroshima bombing, Gen and his adopted brother, Ryuta are still trying to survive along with Gen’s mother. She’s got a job at a factory but it’s barely enough for them. Food and medicine are hard to come by and very expensive. People are starving. Gen gets into a quarrel with an orphan girl who’s been badly burnt by radiation and the next day she reappears in the window of his school. He finds out that she’s a part of a group of orphan kids that’s squatting in various buildings led by a strong young lad called Masa. The only way they can survive and make money is by being watchouts for the yakuza or shine shoes on the streets. Gen and Ryuta make friends with them. A fierce typhoon hits the city, leaving the orphans’ home flooded and beyond repair. Gen who knows of an abandoned house nearby helps them build a new home. However Gen has more pressing concerns closer to home with his mother who’s steadily becoming more ill with each passing week. He notices that she’s become lighter and during a visit to the doctor his worst fears come true. She’s ill with radiation poisoning and has only 4 months to live. Gen can’t accept this and thinks he can buy a new brand of medicine that’s just come out on the black market called Penicillin but it’s expensive. The orphans along with Gen and Ryuta plan on stealing copper to pay for the medicine from a shipyard but will they get caught?

The 1st Barefoot Gen movie was a powerful anti-war movie that showed the horrifying immediate aftermath of what happened after the bomb was dropped as seen through the eyes of a little boy who had lost most of his family. The 2nd Barefoot Gen movie focuses on the long-term problems that affected the residents of Hiroshima and Gen’s adventures with his orphan friends. Some people can argue that a sequel didn’t need to have been made in the first place and that the director had gotten his point across in the first movie. Japan was still trying to find it’s feet with it’s economy weakened and basic supplies were difficult to get hold of for a lot of people. But the worst problem of all was the lingering shadow of radiation poisoning. It’s symptoms not showing in some people for many years and for the residents in Hiroshima they were basically under a sentence of death just waiting for the first signs to signal that they would be the next to die. This movie doesn’t pack the emotional punch as the first though we do get to see a couple of scenes which shocks us such as when Gen is fishing in a river and unexpectedly discovers the river bed is full of human skulls and also when we see US soldiers digging up a huge mass grave and unceremoniously dumping thousands of skeletons inside it. The tone and atmosphere is so different from the first movie. The intention of the first was to portray hell on earth and to show the viewer what exactly happened in Hiroshima. This movie is more about showing people trying their best to survive under harsh conditions. We get to see their attitudes to those that have been scarred and burnt by the bomb. Gen has also changed from the character we saw before. He’s more mature of sorts though still retaining a part of his playful nature. The new characters introduced are likeable. The animation seems to have improved vastly from the first movie, it looks a lot better, detailed and crisp.

I liked this sequel. Whilst it doesn’t hit the emotions of the first movie it was better than what I expected so I definitely recommend it. It is still heartbreaking at times but thankfully there’s a glimmer of hope at the end.

I can’t find a trailer for this movie.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

In the run up to the Christmas period, Haruhi Suzumiya is planning the SOS Christmas party with Kyon and the rest of the members. However, on December 18th when Kyon wakes up and goes to school, he realises something unexpected has happened and that his friend doesn’t know Haruhi, in fact nobody in his class knows about her. What has happened? Has Kyon landed in a parallel world where Haruhi doesn’t exist? People he knows well in the SOS Brigade doesn’t even exist in his school anymore. Kyon sets about looking for any kind of clues as to what has taken place with his first point of call – the SOS Clubroom which isn’t the gang’s clubroom anymore but the place for the Literature Club which has only Yuki Nagato as it’s member. She’s no longer anything special, just a bookworm. Perhaps a clue in the room and even Nagato herself can help Kyon in unlocking the mystery and finding out what is going on?

I loved the original ‘The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya’ series when it came out but failed to watch the 2nd series as I’d read all sorts of negative criticism about it so I was looking forward to seeing how the movie would turn out. It’s a different beast from the series I remember – definitely not quite as manic or fun and it has a slow and deliberate pace about it. After all, this movie runs for a whopping 2 hours and 42 mins after all. However even with that long running time, the whole plot kept me engrossed and absorbed for the entire running time and I really enjoyed it even if the plot was darker and more serious than I had anticipated. I think not having watched the 2nd series there’s a couple of things by the characters that are mentioned and I had no idea what they were going on about.

I know that watching a rather long movie can test the patience of any viewer but in this movie by expanding the running time it does make sense to have a slow build up to the mystery, doesn’t rush us into any situation and it makes the impact all the better for it. The characters are wonderful as always. It was nice to see a different side to them as normal human beings in the altered world especially the shy Nagato. Kyon is the driving force in this movie and not Haruhi as we follow his despair at the world he knows no longer exists and trying desperately to find anything of note that can restore the previous timeline. In fact Haruhi’s screentime is quite small in the movie as Nagato is promoted and given a far more important role to play. KyoAni gives us their usual high standards in their animation – pretty much identical to the series. Everything looks crisp and great. The original voice actors returned to reprise their roles to deliver a memorable effort. Aya Hirano is fantastic as Haruhi.

If you’ve seen both series then this movie is certainly a must-see. As a fan of the franchise I loved it. Casual anime fans I think should check out the series first before watching it or you will be confused.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Evil town is an underground city that is trapped in the ruins of Tokyo after a massive Earthquake. Evil town is divided in three sections: A, B, and C. Section A is made up of businessman and normal men, Section B is made of Mad Saulus and his gang of psychotic criminals, and Section C is made up of only women. Section A is digging themselves out of the underground hell hole when they discover a giant hulk of a man standing behind a wall of rock. He doesn’t remember his name but calls himself Violence Jack! He tags along with Section A until the women of Section C ask him to join them because they are helpless against the other two sections. He joins up with Section C after he finds out that the men in Section A had raped them. When the leader of Section B finds out that Section C has found a way to the outside world he starts an attack on A & C but Jack is there to stop him!

This is the anime adaptation of the manga by Go Nagai. It’s an unintentionally funny anime with some hardcore gore and hilarious colorful dialogue. It’s hard to even describe anything good about it because it’s so bad but I suppose the only real good thing about Violence Jack is the animation. The movie is dark, bloody, gruesome and even goes into hentai territory for the rape scenes. If you like old-school or extremely violent anime then take a look otherwise don’t bother. This is an anime movie you’re better off not watching.

Sadako’s Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Kite Liberator (2007)

An ordinary schoolgirl Monaka hides a secret identity when at night she transforms into the Angel Of Death and bumps off unsavoury characters in Tokyo. Her father is an astronaut on the International Space Station. He undergoes a hideous change in his DNA to become a creature impervious to bullets thanks to some experimental food and space radiation. When the ISS is destroyed and the crew escape back to Earth on a rescue craft, the creature stows away on the ship. It goes on a killing frenzy. Monaka is ordered to kill the creature, unaware that it’s her father.

A complete change from the original Kite anime which focused more on the hentai aspect rather than the story so if you’re looking for more of the same you’re not going to like this one. The 2nd Kite movie has a well rounded storyline, interesting characters with some fanservice, bloodletting, comedy and cool action scenes. The CG anime is crisp, looks great and the attention to detail is amazing. Unfortunately just as the plot gets interesting it all ends rather quickly which annoyed me. It was a rather stupid and pointless ending. I hope there’s a 3rd installment of Kite so that the storyline can have a resolution.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

The story is set in an alternate universe. Ten years after World War II, the country is in a state of strife. Emergency measures to boost Japan’s economy have created some disturbing social problems. In Tokyo, special units of an elite police force known as the Metro Police are engaged in a bitter struggle with armed anti-government guerrillas. Any act of violence is reciprocated with more violence. Police officer Kazuki Fushe is a member of one such special unit, known among guerrillas as “Cerberus” and particularly feared for their striking power. Fushe’s assignment is to crush the members of a guerrilla group known as “The Sect.” During one of his rounds, Fushe meets a young woman on a kamikaze mission who has already activated the bomb she is wearing. Following her death, he can’t get her image out of his mind and begins to visit her grave, where he meets another woman who looks like her. She is the sister of the dead girl and has her own reasons for getting closer to Fushe.

It’s hard to begin describing this, but I can only recommend it. Taking place in a bleak alternate version of post-WW2 Tokyo, Jin-Roh accomplishes all the things that other anime cinema movies which were hailed as the holy grail of anime didn’t accomplish, or at least never accomplished so well. And Jin-Roh does it with style.

The animation is very impressive, without even really trying. The story, at it’s most basic is a doomed lovers tale. Jin-Roh doesn’t try to shock or disgust (though there are a few very frightening violent scenes in there), but wants to make you cry genuine tears of sorrow, and succeeds in every way.

The movie’s approach is subtle, slow and delicate. The fairy tale of the Little Red Riding Hood, and the image of the wolf are used throughout the movie. Apart from the main doomed lovers theme, there’s also a very impressive story of betrayal and political intrigue in there, which adds a dash of suspense.

In short, Jin-Roh is a wonderful piece of work, full of beauty and intelligence. It’s not quite possible to make clear how strong this movie is on paper, but watching it will leave an unforgettable impression. It’s a stylish tragedy that makes you think as well as makes you cry. Don’t hesitate to seek this out.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »