Category Archives: Reviews

Boku Dake ga Inai Machi [ERASED] [93/100]

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A show that masterfully created suspenseful drama. Productions were top notch–visuals by A-1 Pictures put this towards the top of my list as some of the best animation including its wonderful cinematography!  Yuki Kajiura scored a dramatic soundtrack and it pays off!  Especially with Kayo’s scenes between her mother and the incredible detail on object framing throughout the kids conversations at school!

We get a realistic perspective on how Satoru grows up through the eyes of a child.  If it weren’t for Satoru’s mother, Sachiko, being such a strong parental figure (supporting Satoru’s decision on not abandoning Kayo) in this series I would not have rated this in the 90’s.  It’s because of her we understand Akemi’s treatment of her own child, Kayo, and that Boku Machi is more than just a chilling murder mystery series.  It is clearly seen by the first half of this anime that the director chose to highlight the friendships (Kayo x Satoru) rather than focusing on Satoru finding out who killed his mom [until towards the end of the anime].  We get a concurring theme of murder mystery that helps him get closer to Kayo–the animation and cinematography were important in getting this across.  We see realistic scenes between the two of them from hand holding to birthday parties and while being in his 10-year old self it’s Satoru’s job to protect Kayo it also rewarding that he is learning new things about himself and why he couldn’t connect with his mom and friends before.  His revival ability gives him the chance at a “do-over” and it’s amazing to watch it pan out.  Offering us well-written inner dialogue scenes from heartfelt moments to comedic scenes.

Director Tomohiko Ito [Sword Art Online] cut out a lot from the manga and still managed to give us an ending that is satisfying.  The manga explains that Satoru can rerun moments of time backwards sometimes of his choosing.  In the anime, his ability is known as revival where it occurs through a situation that leads to tragedy.   In the manga, chapter 3 explores this in detail when Katagiri Airi and he discover a building getting torn down and Satoru has a rerun.  He knows something is off and discovers a child stuck in an elevator shaft.  After saving the child’s life he discovers that Katagiri’s first name is Airi and they call each other on a first name basis after the incident.  In the anime this entire scene is completely removed resulting in a lack of characterization for Airi. And still the anime captured even Airi’s moments nicely.  Using her as Satoru’s push forward in the middle of this story worked–Satoru can lean on his friends for help.  IF it wasn’t for her punch scene with the manager and the entire fire sequence I don’t think Satoru would have leaned on his friends, especially Kenya, as much as he did in the second half of Boku Machi.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 93/100


 

On a side note I thought I’d share some upcoming events my anime club is having. If anyone is interested in helping out with my events please contact me.

Anime Nights’ Facebook Events

Harmony [Theatrical Edition] [76/100]

Animation Production: Studio 4°C ( Beyond OAV, Amazing Nuts! OAV, Baby Blue [from Genius Party Collection], Berserk: The Golden Age Arc Films, Deathtic 4, Detective Story [from the Animatrix Collection], Eikyuu Kazoku, Higan OAVKid’s Story OAV, Mahou ShoujotaiMoondriveShanghai DragonSprigganTekkonkinkreetThundercats 2011Transformers: Animated U.S. VersionUrarochi DiamondTojin Kit [from the Genius Party Collection])

Directors:  

  • Michael Arias ( CGI Supervisor for title and newsreel sequences on American film The Hudsucker Proxy / Motion Control Camera Work on The Abyss and Total Recall / Episode Director on Ani-Kuri episode 13 / Producer on The Animatrix / Associate Producer on Mind Game / Translator for the English Diary and notes sequence on Patema Inverted / Director, Storyboard, CGI Animator and Story Editor on Tekkonkinkreet)
  • Takashi Nakamura ( Character Designer and Animation Director on Akira / Director, Screenplay, Original Story, Character Designer and Animation Director on Catnapped! The Movie / Director, Script, Storyboard, Original Creator on Fantastic Children / Character Designer, Animation Director on Manga Nihon Emaki / Key Animator on Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind / Director, Script, Character Designer on segment “Nightmare” from Robot Carnival / Storyboard on Thundercats 2011 / Original Character Designer on Tears to Tiara)

Sceenplay: Koji Yamamoto ( Fuji TV Producer and help establish Noitamina / Chief Producer on every Noitamina series and film / Producer for programming block NOISE–ultimately becoming Chief Producer for the three works in that time block before Noitamina took over it’s timeslot– Michiko e HatchinAoi HanaRistorante Paradiso)

Original Creators: 

  • Project Itoh ( Original Creator on Genocidal Organ / Original Creator on Empire of Corpses)

Original Character Designer: redjuice ( Ending Illustration on Shingeki no Kyojin episode 19 / Original Character Designer on Genocidal Organ / Original Character Designer, Designer of the Steiner A9 from episodes 21 and 22, Ending card Illustration and Illustration on Guilty Crown‘s Ending Sequence / Conceptual Design on Vividred Operation / Ending Card Illustration on Wooser’s Hand-to-Mouth Life / Ending Card Illustration on Haganai episode 6)

Character Designer: Takahiro Tanaka ( Storyboard, Unit Director, Character Designer, Animation Director on Doorbell film / Assistant Animation Director on Excel Saga Episode 3 / Storyboard and Key Animator on GANTZ episode 23 / CG Modeling Designer on Kantai Collection / Key Animator on Momo e no Tegami [A Letter to Momo] / Key Animator on Kare Kano episode 16 / Key Animator on Mezzo Forte OAV / Key Animator on Paranoia Agent Episode 5 / Opening Animation on The Prince of Tennis TV / Key Animator on Shojo Kakumei Utena‘s Opening Sequence / Character Designer on Thundercats 2011 / Animation Director on Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil)

Music: Yoshihiro Ike ( Music Composer on Armored Trooper Votoms Case;Irvine OAV, Asura film, Blood: The Last VampireCobra: The AnimationDead Leaves OAV, Shisha no Teikoku [Empire of Corpses]Ergo ProxyFlagFreedom OAV, Genocidal OrganKaras OAV, Kuroko’s Basketball Seasons 2 and 3Noblesse: Awakening / Shingeki no Bahamut: GenesisReideenTiger & Bunny series and compilation films)


In future period called “Maelstrom”, nuclear war and disease have plagued and destroyed even the United States. To prevent new horrors, the state was divided into smaller states, with a deeper ethic and solidary society through social pressure and health is controlled by “admedicstration”, facilities where nanotechnology is used for medical purposes, to allow better living. But in Japan, the young Tuan Kirie and her friends Miach Mihie and Cian Reikado give life to an incredible protest against this kind of company and control over their lives, refusing food and medication and get up to suicide but Tuan and Cian fail to protest.

Thirteen years later, Tuan works for the World Health Organization in international medical police forces, still faithful to her ideas: the meeting after years with Cian gives the start to an investigation in which discover the truths and threats behind the “perfect” world.

This was supposed to be the final film in the Project Itoh trilogy.  When Manglobe went under the theatrical release of these films in Japan got shuffled around.  With Shisha no Teikoku being released first then Harmony.  I guess we will have to wait and see how Genocidal Organ is handled and if anything was changed from the initial previews of it.

Shisha was quite a train wreck of a film–containing an overly abundant use of European references and nods to classic literature that was gradually losing my interest in the film after thirty minutes.  While its initial idea of using zombies to channel the grief humans carry and how that speaks about the human soul was engrossing, Harmony chooses a different path.

After Toh Enjoe took over the writing of the original novel and its animated adaptation we get a chance to see a novel that was fully written by Itoh. A fascinating perspective on free will, with Harmony we’ve got an entirely different story, set in a different timeframe, and a completely new cast of characters.  Studio 4C handles production of this film and have been known to be an arthouse animation studio–developing projects from Masaaki Yuasa’s Mind Game and Tekkonkinkreet to one of the coolest cyberpunk OVAs I have ever seen–Eikyuu Kazoku, which translates to Eternal Family in English. Check that out if you like unique animation!  While the animation is visually stunning in the background panning scenes, and subdued monologue parts, the action segments are messy and choppy.

Harmony‘s main lead is Tuan Kirie, an inspector for the World Health Organization. After a nuclear war, (we get to see some of the conflict throughout this film) the WHO has taken charge of running a perfect society via a system called Watch Me, a program that monitors and controls people’s health and happiness to ensure a peaceful co-existence.  PSYCHO-PASS had a similar system where health was monitored and people were divided into categories–humans and latent criminals.

With Harmony the conceptual design place a large emphasis on Watch Me’s impact on the world and the government that controls it–bright cityscapes and rich green gardens are softly blurred with a blend of 2D and 3D art.  Looking spectacularly pleasing to the eye! The background visuals and diminished melancholic music score create an eerie feeling in the film’s first half.  Illustrating that there is no warmth to the humans that live in this world–especially Tuan.  There isn’t a single lively character in this film and for good reason.  The long monologues Tuan has about Watch Me being a system that robs others of their own individuality and freedom couldn’t have been spared as it reminds us that individuality is crucial to the human spirit or human soul.  To be reminded is to rekindle what makes us human and I felt that the series composition focusing on that sparks the journey Tuan takes in finding Miach and discovering her own “self”.  This idea caters to the sluggish pacing of the film exploring a hellacious vision of a utopian society as we see people getting killed in extreme brutal ways.  The film’s most engaging scenes were the quick cuts to Tuan’s high-school days.  Beautifully animated we are gradually introduced to the trio (Tuan, Cian and Miach) delivering the most humanistic emotions ever to appear in the film. Tuan’s high-school friend, Miach represents the inevitable breakdown of the ideal system Watch Me. She’s a charismatic girl that rejected the view that the body and soul belonged to anyone else.  Through a pact the girls decide that suicide would be the only way to cleanse them and give them the freedom that they yearned for. For them (mostly Miach’s point of view) suicide was the only way to attain a spirit full of individuality. Spelling out a lot of the film’s deaths in this as Tuan is discovering mass suicides throughout the city.

Something to note is how she is the only character (aside from WHO Agents) that wear red.  In a city filled with calm colors and a calm demeanor she is the only one warranting fear in a perfect utopian society.  This was to highlight her connection to Miach and the end result is amazing.

Harmony proposes that the ego is unnecessary because in a “perfect” society like this one, ensures that individuality is a hindrance in society’s progress towards a harmonic evolution.  That to attain perfect harmony “I” could not exist.

At the end of it all Harmony made me realize what a frightening concept that would be.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 76/100

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Shisha no Teikoku [Empire of Corpses] [Theatrical Edition] [41/100]

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Animation Production: WIT STUDIO ( Shingeki no KyojinHalHozuki no ReitetsuKabaneri of the Iron FortressMaho Tsukai no Yome: Hoshi Matsu Hito OAV, Owari no SeraphThe Rolling Girls / In-Between Animation on Subete ga F Ni Naru: The Perfect Insider / Production Assistance on PSYCHO-PASS 2‘s Opening Sequence)

Director:  Ryotaro Makihara ( Key Animator on Monster episode 12 / Episode Director, Storyboard and Key Animator on Guilty Crown episodes 4, 11 and 21 / Key Animator on Shingeki no Kyojin episodes 17, 18 and 24 / Key Animator on Summer Wars / Key Animator on Colorful / Storyboard, Director and Production on Hal)

Sceenplay: 

  • Hiroshi Seko ( Script on Shingeki no Kyojin OVA “Iise’s Notebook” / Series Composition on Owari no Seraph and Nagoya Kessen-hen / Script alongside Kazuki Nakashima on Kill la Kill episodes 5 / Script on Garo: Honoo no Kokuin episode 4)
  • Koji Yamamoto ( Chief Producer at Fuji TV [the company that established Noitamina] / Assistant Producer on hentai Countdown / Screenplay on Harmony / Chief Producer on many of Noitamina’s works since Hataraki Man in 2006 / Chief Producer on the three NOISE broadcasting company works Ristorante ParadisoAoi Hana and Michiko e Hatchin)
  • Midori Gotou ( Series Composition on Hozuki no Reitetsu / Script on Yondemasu yo, Azazel-san episodes 2, 5, 6, 9 and 10 / Script on Hozuki no Reitetsu episodes 1, 2, 3, 4 and 13)d

Original Creators: 

  • Project Itoh ( Original Creator on Genocidal Organ / Original Creator on Harmony)
  • Toh Enjoe ( Script on Space Dandy episode 11 / Guest Character Draft Designer and Script on Space Dandy 24)

Original Character Designer: redjuice ( Ending Illustration on Shingeki no Kyojin episode 19 / Original Character Designer on Genocidal Organ / Original Character Designer, Designer of the Steiner A9 from episodes 21 and 22, Ending card Illustration and Illustration on Guilty Crown‘s Ending Sequence / Conceptual Design on Vividred Operation / Ending Card Illustration on Wooser’s Hand-to-Mouth Life / Ending Card Illustration on Haganai episode 6)

Character Designer: Takaaki Chiba ( Chief Animation Director on Shingeki no Kyojin episode 3 / Titan Animation Director on Shingeki no Kyojin OVA episode “Iise’s Notebook” / Animation Director assistant on Le Chevalier D’Eon episode 12 / Animation Director and Key Animator on Le Chevalier D’Eon‘s Opening Sequence / Key Animator on Hyouge Mono episode 1 / Key Animation on Ghost Hound episode 7 / In-Between Check on Noir episodes 15, 18 and 26 / Key Animator on Noir episodes 1, 5, 14, 16, 22 and 26 / Animation Director, Design and Key Animator on Sengoku Basara The Movie)

Music: Yoshihiro Ike ( Music Composer on Armored Trooper Votoms Case;Irvine OAV, Asura film, Blood: The Last VampireCobra: The AnimationDead Leaves OAV, Ergo ProxyFlagFreedom OAV, Genocidal OrganKaras OAV, Kuroko’s Basketball Seasons 2 and 3Noblesse: AwakeningShingeki no Bahamut: GenesisReideenTiger & Bunny series and compilation films)


A Noitamina produced film based on the late Project Itoh writer, who died in 2009 of cancer.  Toh Enjoe, the physicist and writer of Space Dandy‘s incredible Episode 11 and wacky love romance Episode 24 vowed to complete his novel before Itoh’s death.  At first, I was excited to hear his works receiving any sort of adaptation. Shisha no Teikoku has similar ties to WIT STUDIO’s current work Kōtetsujō no Kabaneri and the acclaimed Shingeki no Kyojin. If you are looking for an entertaining film, I highly recommend this as it is set in an alternate timeline of the renaissance period mixed with a somewhat familar narrative around scientific reanimating of corpses.  The corpses in this act similarly in the treatment of the zombie threat in this season’s Kabaneri.  There are many action sequences and you can tell that WIT STUDIO polished this up nicely with a balance of body horror and steampunk.  

The first 25 minutes are fantastic as it slowly introduces John Watson (yes that John Watson of Sherlock) in the lead role in discovering how to bridge the gap between bringing a soul back to a dead body, Herbert West style. [If you don’t know Herbert West: Reanimator, it’s a short story created by H.P. Lovecraft in 1922]  John Watson’s companion, who turns out is a corpse, is the body of his old friend, Friday–a heavy nod to Robinson Crusoe’s companion  Friday. The idea to use Friday at the center of this story is a pointed reference to British literature. Completing a corpse with a soul is obvious and traces back to the history behind the Robinson Crusoe novel.  In Trieste, Italy (1912), Irish Novelist James Joyce gave lectures on how Robinson Crusoe embodies the English mindset:

The true symbol of the British conquest is Robinson Crusoe, cast away on a deserted island, in his pocket a knife and a pipe, becomes an architect, a knife-grinder, an astronomer, a baker, a shipwright, a potter, a saddler, a farmer, a tailor, an umbrella-maker and a clergyman.  He is the true prototype of the British colonist, as Friday (the trusty savage who arrives on an unlucky day) is the symbol of the subject races. The whole Anglo-Saxon spirit is in Crusoe.” ~ James Joyce

It is this quote that translate many Shisha‘s themes.  Britain’s way of life with corpses living in the streets, doing daily chores, and in some sense this film set a firm beginning in establishing a Victorian world that welcomes death instead of fearing it.  This is the strong segment of Shisha‘s story.  According to history around this time, there was an obsession with the dead being able to speak with spirits and even entering death themselves. Many loved ones passed way before their time from wars both close to home and from afar.  This idea to communicate with spirits were common among the British because to converse with the ones they lost would ultimately give them closure.  It’s a shame that this wasn’t further explored during John Watson’s research regarding corpses.  

Once the first 25 minutes pass and the Russian scientist and corpse engineer Nikolai Krasotkin enter the picture I felt this film was starting to get flimsy.  Shoving references that seemed unfitting to be in this turn-of-the-20th-century piece.  Using Paul Bunyan as an instrument of evil? Doesn’t make too much sense to use an American historical figure for this unless it was to depict their evil nature.Onboard the Richmond that’s heading for America, Ulysses S. Grant relays information about the Writing Ball that was found in the Osoto Chemical Facility in Japan as a way to convince John Watson to analyze the First.  The First is the only corpse with a soul and as it turns out is the bride to the One, the villain in this film.  Rather he’s one of them out of a few of the leaders of the countries the main cast travel to.  

Speaking of the cast, most of the characters seem to work together pretty well except for one.  Hadaly.  She’s completely out of context for this dark film–her character design is purely for fanservice reasons.  Perhaps it’s because she’s a robot either way this was a mistake on lead designer Takaaki Chiba’s part.  Given how visually grim (and stunning) this film’s backgrounds  were this choice in her visual appearance makes most of her scenes less serious even when they tried to dress her up in Victorian clothing in the later half of this film.  

I’m not sure if it was Project Itoh that tied in most of these references or Toh Enjoe but it didn’t try to be original in the characterization.  According to history, Charles Babbage was the grandfather of computing but in this film he builds the analytical engine and Victor Frankenstein turns out to be this stereotypical take over the world old man villain. A trope that has been overused since the ’80s.

This film in some ways is a sequel to Marry Shelly’s work Frankenstein set in an alternate world.  Perhaps both Project Itoh and Toh Enjoe didn’t fully understand Frankenstein as a monster.  Watching this, I felt, that the soulless and empty Friday represented the classic monster more than this film’s suggested villain.  We this emphasis with his friendship to John as we see a flashback depicting a promise they made in order to understand one another.  Simiilar Even though we see Burnaby fighting a strikingly similar looking Frankenstein in the engine room–Shisha‘s long and drawn out conclusion was poorly written and poorly executed.  The final arc was written by Toh Enjoe and even without reading the knowing the source material at heart I felt as though the story was losing focus on its characters especially with a lackluster and somewhat confusing ending.  That is, if you don’t see the post-credits scene.  It’s a shame that Project Itoh passed away when he did because I would have loved to have seen what ending he was set on writing. 

I know that overusing references is a tiresome point of this film, the biggest highlight for me, surprisingly enough, was the post-credits scene. I’m a huge Sherlock Holmes fan and I certainly enjoyed his appearance and getting a glimpse of a Sherlockian adventure in this film was quite the treat!  

All in all this film points out WIT STUDIO’s flaw as an animation studio.  They are afraid of taking risks. They know how to make series that sell by sticking with what they know on how to produce.  WIT lacks creativity.  Using dead people as a way to channel an emotional impact on the audience has been oversold in the anime industry. Especially when you take into consideration how this film and Kabaneri are riding on the coattails of Shingeki no Kyojin‘s success.  Whether its Titans, zombies, or vampires– much of it is the same; they rely heavily on one trope–Nightmare Fuel.  A disturbing idea [zombies] that play up on a primal fear (which in this case is humanity losing itself to mindless beings) in order to capitalize on a compelling (and hopefully rewarding) dramatic story.  It’s a collection of themes and tropes that have been recycled within the past 5 years! Let’s see something entirely different WIT!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: [41/100]

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Subete ga F ni Naru [The Perfect Insider] [85/100]

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The [not quite] Perfect Insider

The Perfect Insider takes the classic locked room mystery and gives it an interesting twist, inserting digital technology and gendered elements… elements that don’t quite hold up under scrutiny, which may be a deal breaker for some.

Isaac Asimov in an introduction to his collected mystery short stories wrote that there were essentially two schools of whodunits. The first was of a logical puzzle sort that had to be deduced by the protagonist (and also, natch, the reader), with the locked room mystery being the ultimate example. The main pleasure to be derived in these sorts of stories was the logical coherence of the mystery and the way in which it could be solved as an exercise of the intellect. Asimov, as we might guess, wrote mysteries in this form.

The other sort of mystery, Asimov said, was the sort where the actual mystery was really second to the process of deduction – what might now be termed a police procedural. The main dividend  for the reader of these tales were the myriad amusing insights into human behavior, a sort of cynical morality play. Asimov gave Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe stories as the ultimate example of this school of mystery, adding, perhaps a bit ruefully, that they were really more shaggy dog stories than actual mysteries.

Having read every Philip Marlowe novel more than once, I can say that even now I don’t really remember what the mystery in any one story was exactly, or how it was even resolved. But the mystery was ancillary; an excuse for Marlowe to get involved with a colorful cast of characters, make clever remarks, and have adventures (a contemporary homage to this type of mystery is the Big Lebowski).

We can say. then, that The Perfect Insider represents a classic bait-and-switch: we are promised a cerebral locked-room mystery, and instead end up with an enjoyable character study and a somewhat disjointed adventure yarn. How annoyed the viewer is by the work’s admittedly unscrupulous deception depends on how amused they are in spite of it all.

Personally, I liked it so much that I now want to watch the live action adaptation.

The Perfect Insider opens with a simple confrontation between two young women, one of whom murdered her parents, and the other who had her parents taken from her in a tragic accident. From there begins an insightful, but also at times uneven, exploration of what it exactly means to be in control, and whether that is synonymous with freedom, a central theme that quietly flows beneath the surface of the work.

The next scene is takes up the rest of the first episode, and consists entirely of Moe Nishinosono, the young woman who lost her parents, talking with her professor.

If watching a cartoon about a professor’s office hours is something that intrigues you, then you will probably enjoy The Perfect Insider. For me, the episode was amazing. The professor,  Sohei Saikawa, is the series’ gumshoe stand-in, a haggard, unconventional chain smoker who can move effortlessly from  Zhuang Zhou to bootstrapping operating systems.  Moe Nishinosono falls into the Girl Friday role, but both characters color outside the lines enough that the conventional roles they play are more homage than hack work.

By episode 2 the duo find their way to a remote island, of course, where a storm cuts them off from the mainland, of course, and then a murder happens, of course. Thus, we finally arrive at the mystery, which involves the other young woman introduced in the first episode, the brilliant but deadly Shiki Magata. Again, the series’ charm lies in its spin on traditional elements of the mystery: the femme fatale, who in this instance never even meets the male protagonist; her seductive power for him lies totally in the realm of abstract thought.

A major plot point hinges on a real-life problem in programming, the overflow or wrap-around error, which I thought was a very clever and daring touch, given how unfamiliar and technical an issue it is, from the perspective of a general audience.

Of course, as I later had pointed out to me, while such an error is theoretically possible, it is highly improbable, even given the time period the source material was written in (the anime is based on a novel written in the early-mid 1990s). Essentially, the error involves an overflow on a 16-bit unsigned integer, which is a digitally stored whole number that has to be equal to or greater than zero, with no negative sign. However, by that period in time in Japan even video game systems had at least 32-bit CPUs, implying that the standard integer size on computers used in a state-of-the-art research laboratory would have to be at the very least twice the size of the one given in the story.

A detractor here would say that this is representative of the series’ general shortcomings; it’s only kissing to be clever, don’t think for a second that it’s going to go all the way, or that it even cares. I think this somewhat unfair, at least in this instance. It’s not something a casual viewer would ever catch, and even those people who sense it’s fibbing on a technicality would still be wiling to grant the artistic license and maintain the suspension of disbelief. Biologists and paleontologists are still able to enjoy Jurassic Park, right? Still…

In fact, what we can say is that the work as a mystery really, truly is sloppy. The mystery isn’t solved so much as it unravels in big heap in front of the viewer. By the final episode I was completely lost; not, I suspect, from a failure of intellect on my part, but because the story had so many loose ends you could make a mop out of it. At least, I hope that’s the case – FilmSnark has a much more detailed analysis of everything that didn’t add up (most of it).

And yet, after finishing it, I immediately wanted to watch it again. The main characters are a lot of fun, salient points are made regarding intelligence being used to excuse sociopathic behavior, and the soundtrack is awesome, like imagine if Phil Collins scored the original Lupin III series.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 85/100

Kizumonogatari I: Tekketsu-hen [Theatrical Edition]

Animation Production: SHAFT (Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru, Arakawa Under the BridgeNisekoiMonogatari seriesef: A Tale of MemoriesG-On RidersHidamari SketchKatteni Kaizo OVAKino no Tabi: The Beautiful World filmMaho Sensei Negima! OAVsMahoromaticMagical Suite Prism NanaPuella Magi Madoka MagicaMaria HolicMekakucity ActorsMoonphasePani Poni Dash!RECSayonara Zetsubou-SenseiKono Minikuku mo Utsukushii Sekai)

Director:  Akiyuki Shinbo ( Director on Dance in the Vampire Bund / Director on Arakawa Under the Bridge / Chief Director on Hidamari Sketch / Director on Bakemonogatari / Director on Mekakucity Actors / Chief Director and Series Composition on Monogatari Series Second Season / Chief Director on Nisekoi / Director on Puella Magi Madoka Magica / Storyboard on Saber Marionette J episode 11 / Director on Sasami-san@Ganbaranai / Director and Storyboard on Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko episodes 1 and 3 / Key Animator on Tokyo Babylon OVA / Episode Director and Storyboard on Yu Yu Hakusho episodes 7, 12, 16, 21, 24, 30, 35, 41, 47, 52, 58, 66, 74, 82, 89 and 109)

Chief Director: Tatsuya Oishi (Key Animator on Yu Yu Hakusho episodes 71, 74, 78, 82, 89, 92, 98, 104, 107 and 112 / Key Animator on Ninku episodes 4, 9, 11, 16, 21, 24 and 31)

Script: 

  • Akiyuki Shinbo
  • NisiOisin

Original Creator: NisiOisin ( Original Creator on Death Note: Another NoteBakemonogatariHanamonogatariKatanagatariKizumonogatari Parts 1, 2 and 3Medaka BoxKoyomimonogatariMonogatari Series Second SeasonNekomonogatariNisemonogatariOwarimonogatariShojo FujubunTsukimonogatarixxxHOLiC: Another HOLiC)

Music: Satoru Kousaki ( Music Composer on A-ChannelBakemonogatariCaptain EarthHourou Musuko, Disappearance of Haruhi SuzumiyaLucky StarNisekoiOreimoSTAR DRIVERTantei Opera Milky HolmesWake Up, Girls! / Theme Song Arrangement and Composition on Natsume’s Book of Friends Season 4 Ending Sequence)

Characer Designers:

  • Akio Watanabe ( Character Designer on all of the Monogatari series / Original Character Designer on Grisaia no Rakuen / Animation Director on Saber Marionette J episodes 10 and 18 / Key Animation on Street Fighter Alpha / Character Designer on Kami Nomi zo Shiru Sekai)
  • Hideyuki Morioka ( Key Animation on Agent Aika episode 7 / Character Designer, Chief Animation Director, and Key Animator on Arcade Gamer Fubuki 2nd Stage – Nusumareta PP episode 4 / Key Animation on Sailor Moon S episode 92 / Character Designer and Chief Animation Director on REC / Character Designer and Chief Animation Director on Zan Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei)

When Bakemonogatari had first aired back in 2009 two things immediately stood out to me:  SHAFT’s unique visual style and the very first five minutes of episode 1.  Split into three parts, this is the film series that introduces us to how exactly Koyomi Araragi became a vampire, meets Tsubasa Hanekawa and Meme Oshino.  This film kept pretty much in line with the designs made for the 2011 trailer.  The TV anime Bakemonogatari while held a lot of restraint in terms of animation in the beginning it showcased a few pivotal scenes played out in this film–Araragi’s encounter with the vmapire hunters and discovering Heart-Under-Blade.  There were changes from the original scene cut that they did and overall turned out fantastic on the big screen!  Such as Heart-Under-Blade being in the subway rather than on the streets.

Kizumonogatari was originally slated for 2012 and the novel dates back to 2008.  There’s been numerous delays for its release and it certainly paid off. Love the visual style going for this film, one I wish they could have used for the television series.

The opening sequence was a visual feast.  Director Shinbo was in charge of animating that first scene and I must admit that was one of the prettiest things I’ve seen SHAFT do in a long time.  The crows remind me of Zankyou no Terror‘s ending sequence–penciled and shaded in with a fine attention to detailing the eyes.  The beginning foreshadows to new viewers that Araragi is definitely not human and the fact that even under vampiric circumstances he can quickly succumb to weakness.  The fire animation where Araragi was exploding in flames couldn’t have been better if it weren’t for Araragi’s screaming!  It gave off real tension to the beginning of this film.  Aside from the amazing updated Hanekawa sequence, which was a nice way to bridge this to the original show this film surpasses most of what the Monogatari series represents, a harem series with tons of inner dialogue.  Kizumonogatari Part I is an introduction piece that dives into an artistic whirlwind of mystery and horror.

Throughout Kizumonogatari Part I there is this incredible sense of creativity from Araragi running through the subway station, Oshino diving from the building to the reanimated scene of when Araragi first meets Hanekawa with the skirt flying up, a nod to NisiOisin’s works.  The novel is quite a read and contains more dialogue than this first half in animated form even touches on.  Right at the final scene I believe this first part ends on chapter 6.

Given SHAFT’s visual style of storytelling this works wonderfully in delivering new viewers and fans of the TV series an enjoyable simple experience.  The lack of dialogue between the gorgeous slow-paced key frames extends the idea that everything that’s happening is what we’re seeing from Araragi’s mind every minute and every second.  We see, hear, and can think everything that’s going on inside of him!

One of the huge successes of this first film is its pacing.  We’re going to be seeing more of a larger story later on.  There’s no need for long character development the tension is built up around Araragi discovering Kiss-Shot-Acerola-Orion-Heart-Under-Blade for the first time and what we get to see is a busty blonde woman with arms and legs missing and blood everywhere.  Extremely intense!  I love how realistic Araragi is–he’s taken in by her beauty but deep down he knows she’s a monster.  Seeing Kiss-Shot on the floor begging for his blood (which was had some pretty detailed closeup shots of her) illustrates that she still has some humanity left in her after 500 years.  I also thought it was interesting how the quick cuts of the subway station signals were displayed like morse-code against a white backdrop with sound effects similar to Araragi’s cell-phone as if he’s desperately wanting to call Hanekawa to save him.  Questioning whether or not to help Kiss-Shot makes this whole segment believable!  Araragi even runs away from her at one point out of desperation to save himself!

This entire film was a lot more expressive than anything the TV series ever had–SHAFT with a movie budget this should happen more often!  Using CG for the backgrounds and cars might be a bit off-putting to new viewers of SHAFT’s works because the characters moving around and having still conversations feel abstract especially the fanservice with Hanekawa Tsubasa moving in slow motion.

The charm of the Monogatari series sense of humor derives from its female cast interacting with Araragi.  They all have supernatural circumstances surrounding them and Kiss-Shot being a unique vampire having drained all of Araragi’s blood still wasn’t enough to retain her adult body.  A kid shows up when Araragi wakes up and it’s funny to see his initial reaction.  The homage to Araragi’s point on the top of his head is brief and sometimes shown throughout this film is a nice comedic touch to an overall dark setting.

Meme Oshino’s introduction was cool.  Since this is the first time Araragi is meeting him it makes all his scenes in Bakemonogatari‘s first arc much more interesting in his methods on dealing with Hitagi’s situation.  A mediator between apparitions and humans he saves Araragi from being torn apart by three vampire hunters–Episode, Dramaturgy and Guillotine Cutter.  Really like how brief that was and that this film didn’t heavily rely on fight scenes to attract the viewer.

I’m really glad this will be a three-part series because it doesn’t rush the dialogue between Oshino and Araragi trying to come up with a plan to get Kiss-Shot’s limbs back from those vampire hunters and it ends in the middle of a conversation rather than rushing a heroic trope conclusion.  Since this is slated to be a three-hour film series and this first one having the runtime of only 60 minutes it will be interesting to see more characterization developed later on.

There was a trailer at the end of this film in typical Monogatari fashion–no visuals just talking and the heavy emphasis of French and Japanese characters appearing on screen.  The second film arrives Summer 2016.  Can’t wait!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 86/100

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Kiki’s Delivery Service [Theatrical Edition] [90/100]

Director:  Hayao Miyazaki ( Director on Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle, The Wind Rises, Porco Rosso, Mei and the Kitchen Bus, My Neighbor Totoro, On Your Mark music video, Spirited Away / Original Concept Design on Tales from Earthsea / Character Designer, Screenplay, Original Story, Theme Song Lyrics and Director on Castle in the Sky / Logo Designer on Japan Animator Expo 2015)

Script: 

  • Hayao Miyazaki
  • Nobuyuki Isshiki ( Script Writer on Fushigi na Koala Blinky / Script Writer on Uchusen Sagittarius)

Original Creator: Eiko Kadono ( Original Creator on Three Little Ghosts TV series)

Music: Joe Hisaishi ( Music Composer on ArionCastle in the SkyHowl’s Moving CastleSpirited AwayMy Neighbor TotoroPorco RossoNausicaa Valley of the WindThe Wind RisesRobot Carnival OVA / Insert Song Performance on Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso episode 1)

Characer Designer: Katsuya Kondo ( Character Designer on Aurora / Key Animator on Maison Ikkoku episode 39 / Character Designer and Animation Director on Ocean Waves / Key Animator on The Secret World of Arrietty / Key Animator on When Marnie was There / Character Design on Sanzoku no Musume Ronja TV series)


 

Based on Eiko Kadono’s 1985 novel and originally produced in 1988 this was the first film from Studio Ghibli released under the partnership with The Walt Disney Company. Hayao Miyazaki is one of the most critically acclaimed directors ever to grace the anime industry.  His friend and other co-founder of Studio Ghibli Isao Takahata created the amazing Tales of Princess Kaguya about a girl born from a bamboo thicket and her journey in becoming a desirable young woman giving her suitors tasks that are next to impossible.  While Takahata is very good at writing stories that have a strong sense of realism, Hayao Miyazaki creates coherent stories filled with memorable characters, matched with beautiful artistic skill with every frame hand-drawn, an emotionally driven music score by Joe Hisaishi and wondrous magical concepts.

Kiki’s Delivery Service is about a small witch that runs a delivery service.  You would think this would make for a decent animated short but Miyazaki charms his audience by giving us one of the most beloved characters in a Ghibli film and one of the few female characters in his collection of works that ensures we see all sides of her emotionally.

I’ve seen this film many times on Blu-ray but I got a chance to see this last night at my local Alamo Drafthouse with the Japanese dub and English subtitles.  This whole month they’ve been showing Miyazaki films and it’s a great treat for the old and newer generations to enjoy Japanese animation on a wide-scale media format.

As a witch in training, Kiki, discovers a new town far away from her family life filled with friendships and love.  The storytelling is fantastic!  Containing life-like dialogue between Osono’s motherly protection over Kiki and Tombo’s curiosity over Kiki.  Even if some of the turns in its plot are somewhat forced for example the bike sequence and the ending this is a wonderful example of solid storytelling.  The contrast between Kiki and Osono is fantastic.  She views Kiki’s flying as something out of a fairytale and it’s under Osono that Kiki begins her work as a messenger.  The transitions between the drama and the comedy far surpass a lot of animated feature film works of today due to its riveting animated movements of Kiki flying and facial experssions.  The comedic scenes with Jiji the cat are animated with kids in mind while the adults get to see captivating moments with Osono, the woman that gives Kiki her first delivery errand and the whole sequence between Kiki and Ursula.

I believe one of the most fascinating characters in this film is in fact Ursula.  An artist in her late teens that is seen towards the beginning after Kiki loses the stuffed cat from the birds and a little halfway through the film when Kiki takes a vacation.  Ursula teaches Kiki that the things we are good at should never be rejected.  A common theme in Miyazaki‘s “all-ages” works.  Which brings me to why I think this would have done incredibly well as a full-fledged TV series.  One of the issues with this film is how little development its side-cast has especially Ursula, Tombo and Oku-sama.  Clocking in at around 2-hours this film felt short.  Miyazaki directed some pretty amazing TV anime from the 70’s well into the 80’s from Lupin III Part I to Sherlock Hound and even a few episodes of Masterpiece Theatre’s Akage no Anne ( Anne of Green Gables).  I would have loved to see this adapted into a 1-cour or even 2-cour anime!  They’ve got more than enough material to play around with for it!

Being a Miyazaki film without adult action like Princess Mononoke and Nausicca it embellishes Kiki being accepted into a human society and what she can do to make her mark in life from the perspective of a teenage girl.  How she grows from reliance to independence is why I regard this as one of my favorite anime films.

It’s also very neat to see a cameo of Hayao Miyazaki in animated form!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 90/100

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GANGSTA [77/100]

*First two images are from the Blu-ray release.

If it wasn’t for that ending I would have rated this higher.  Throughout the course of this series animation production was mediocre at best with a tremendous amount of scenes being half-finished or poorly animated.  The voice acting is top notch as we’ve got Junichi Sawabe once again voicing a womanizing character just as he did with Space Dandy last year. Plus the performance by Kenjiro Tsuda was petrifying.  I loved how director Shuko Murase handled his dialogue scenes as well as his inner monologue.

There’s a lot to enjoy from this anime a gritty story about crooked cops, prostitutes, mature character designs and a killer soundtrack by Tsutchie.  I really want to see the band compose a score for a horror series someday.  That’d be unique.

As for the story one of the issues I have is character development.  I wish they could have fleshed out the rest of the cast as our attention is more focused on the Handymen rather than the four mafia groups as a whole.  This brought about a huge problem for the so-called ending.  Side-characters.  They were the primary focus for about three episodes between introducing the Esminets and Paula’s group.  Perhaps that year off for MANGLOBE hurt them in the end after all.  This series’ animation was all over the place, it’s thick and mature, which I typically enjoy but due to the series sudden finale and second rate key animation it isn’t a series that’s lasting in my book.  As far as the Blu-ray releases go however, it’s raising the bar much higher for me, I’m curious how they will look if the company ever gets around to releasing them in single sets or one boxset.

As far as MANGLOBE goes, GANGSTA was their last mark on Japanese animation and it’s a a bit unsettiling.  They were a fantastic studio that made strives in delivering original works.  One of my favorite studios for that matter.  If anything is learned by this show it’s that studios need to give more heart to their work.  Being risky and ambitious can only go so far, sometimes to make cash for your employees you’ve got to put the talent where you are guaranteed it’ll work.  Also make an anime that is going to be a money-maker.  Light novels are always a good place to make anime works from.  As much as I hate to say that but these studios do have to cater to the mass otaku every once in a while.  Look at BONES and One Punch Man for example.  They run on a very tight very low budget with high performance by their animators each episode resulting in high reward.  Someone’s doing something right with that series.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: [77/100]

GANGSTA Episode 12

Episode Director: 

  • Yukihiko Asaki (Episode Director for GANGSTA episode 1, 2, 8 and 12)
  • Yusuke Onoda ( Episode Director for No-Rin episode 2 / Episode Director for Baby Steps episode 7 and 16 / Episode Director for Ixion Saga DT episode 13)

Storyboards: 

  • Yoshimitsu Shashi ( Storyboard Writer and Episode Director for PlanetES episodes 2, 7, 11, 17, 23 and 26 / Storyboard Writer for Samurai Champloo episode 10 / Storyboard Writer and Episode Director for Michiko e Hatchin episodes 11, 16 and 20 / Key Animator for Michiko e Hatchin episodes 14, 16 and 20 / Storyboard Writer for Haikyuu!! episode 10)
  • Hatsumi Koichi (Storyboards and Episode Director for Le Chevalier D’Eon episodes 3, 11 and 22 / Storyboards for Shingeki no Bahamut: GENESIS episode 4)
  • Akira Sato (Key Animator for Michiko e Hatchin episodes 2, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 19, 20, 21 and 22 / Animation Supervisor for Michiko e Hatchin episode 19 and 22)

Script: Shin’ichi Inotsume (Script Writer for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure episodes 11, 18, 19 and 22 / Script Writer for Akatsuki no Yona episodes 1, 2 and 9 / Script Writer for Shokugeki no Soma episodes 6 and 7)


 

This is just one big tease to go buy the manga.  If MANGLOBE had made it past the financial rut that led them into bankcrupcy I bet they would have done another cour of this.  This wasn’t much of a finale and going by the way the creators decided to accelerate these past three episodes it’s not a huge surprise.  There’s a lot of questions left to be answered–Connie is still be held hostage by the Esminets, then there’s Alex left at the Benriya shop, not to mention Worwick’s fall from the window.  It’s tragic that this series may never get completed.  Even the author, Kohske has been ill for months and has her work on hiatus.

The animation was pretty shoddy here.  Tons of big hands looked super-deformed especially where Worwick is lying in the grass during the final scene. The scene with Cristiano family was poorly animated featuring lots of out of focus shots.

Even though this finale isn’t really a finale it doesn’t stop me from enjoying this series.  Character designs are fantastic, direction is solid straight through and the music is superb.

A side-note, the first two DVD/Blu-ray volumes were heavily edited including touchups on just about every scene in the first four episodes.  I hadn’t noticed how many mistakes were made between hand gestures and eye movements these are completely overhauled in these retail releases.  Can’t wait to see which studio will finish handling final production before giving it over to Emotion for retail product designs like English subtitling and extras.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 4/10

 

GANGSTA Episode 11

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Episode Director: Akira Sato & Hideki Katayama [Katayama is Dragonar‘s director / GANGSTA episodes 3 and 5.]

Storyboards: Akira Satou [Blood the Last Vampire executive producer/ Heroman In-Between Animator ]

Script: Noboru Kimura [Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom screenplay writer / Solty Rei script writer]


I might have mentioned this before but I will say it again.  GANGSTA is one big tease.  The animation is thick, facial expressions often times are very inconsistent and yet the overall style remains extremely mature.  A relaxing soundtrack, strong episode direction goes to show how this advertises Koshke’s manga.

We’re introduced to the group behind the Tag killings–Tretiy Esminets. With only one episode left I’m worried we won’t be getting a good chapter to end this season on.  There hasn’t been a lot of action and it’s displeasing to me that this episode leaves Worwick and Nicholas completely out of the story only to shine the spotlight on newly introduced Tags and Normals.  Typically I’m all for minor characters achieving development but this was bad.  Too late in the game.

What’s even worse is that Alex is shown only for a few minutes–with her memories of her childhood flooding back to her without any room for her brother Emilio’s appearance to back it up.  Given what happens in the manga, I feel that the creators could get to their reunion [only by rushing the story a bit] or completely leave it out.  This penultimate episode might not have been the strongest in the series but it does do justice in establishing how the four families are going to get toppled off their reign.  While Doug’s death represents the strength these outsiders have how the pacing is handled with only one more episode left gives an impression that GANGSTA will end on poor note.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 4/10

GANGSTA Episode 10

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Episode Director: Suzuki Kaoru [Episode director of Psycho-Pass episode 5, and season 2’s Episode 3]

Storyboards: Suzuki Kaoru

Script: Inotsume Shin’ichi [Eureka Seven AO episodes 5,6,15,16 and 21, JoJo’s Bizarre AdventureAkatsuki no Yona]


The animation had very detailed character designs this time around and yet MANGLOBE still couldn’t keep it consistent.  The production studio must have gotten a lot of new animators in their offices because of how on/off this show has looked since it premiered.  There’s a few shots of Alex and those kids that were too jagged looking and not rounded off in the characters’ faces like before.  Perhaps I’m being too picky on this show.  On a positive note, it doesn’t completely detract away from the grittiness and maturity that the anime is trying to get across.

After having a two-week break of new material in the GANGSTA anime this show is back!  All the chaos back at Bastard this episode achieves what it does best.  Being smooth.   The soundtrack points this out wonderfully.  For the majority of this episode we learn a lot about the Handymen having zero connection with the four families.  Nice to see that they aren’t the only ones in the same boat too!  What’s explored here is that the families particularly the Monroe family know these two men are extremely dangerous to keep in their pockets.  Worwick is dangerous for his memory–and could quite possibly tear down Ergastulum with it’s secrets hidden between the alleyways. Nicholas’ behavior says everything to them–they can’t have a Tag that doesn’t fully obey orders even when it’s at times where he doesn’t even listen to Worwick, his holder.

It doesn’t stop there–and I think this is where its gets very exciting.  Now that we’ve seen the main casts backstories, this episode rehashes a ton of old wounds and introduces us to some new ones.  Alex still finding her place in the group, trying to get an even better understanding how their relationship with the doctor Theo is.  Nina’s a bright aura that this show has needed since the start–she accepts Theo’s quirks and makes the best out of any situation with a smile.  I’ve said before the directing is top notch and so it makes the characterization extremely smooth and realistic.  Nina’s still a child–her innocence shows up quite a bit in then beginning of this episode!  Fantastic!

If I hadn’t been reading the manga I would have been jaw-droppingly surprised that there’s romance between Constance and Marco.  Very strong dialogue during that sequence by its two seiyuu!  That scene didn’t hit the ground until Theo and Galahad mention it being a curse or a cure.  Hearty moments right after grittiness action is one aspect that makes this anime special.

GANGSTA‘s episode here gave me the impression that the Handymen were creating their own small family with the scenes in Theo’s office and the rooftop.  It wasn’t all smiles though–Worwick discloses to Delico that his twin was there and I like how Worwick’s powerful memorization abilities trace back to when Nicholas and he were a little younger and first met Delico.  Great to see Worwick being of use outside of the fighting back and forth in this episode!  If this series had been 2-cour and they went for split-cour airing, MANGLOBE and series director Koichi Hatsumi could very well had chosen this episode to end the first half.  Nicely done!  Ivan leading the new Twilight hunters with Emilio a part of the group should give a solid dramatic turn for the better in these final two episodes!  Hopefully they don’t do something crazy like an anime original ending because so far this has been a solid adaptation.

It’s also good to see that the Handymen have hidden Miss Cristiano at their place.  Even if these families have to keep the Handymen at a distance far away from their business dealings they can always rely on them to protect their comrades.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 8/10