Category Archives: Anime Films Completed

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

IMG_5606

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

vlcsnap-2016-04-20-20h16m14s939 vlcsnap-2016-04-20-20h17m10s808 vlcsnap-2016-04-20-20h18m08s430 vlcsnap-2016-04-20-20h19m19s771

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]

 IMG_5246

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

unnamed

 

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

IMG_4735

Ghost in the Shell [Theatrical Edition]

vlcsnap-2015-05-25-19h57m08s49 vlcsnap-2015-05-25-19h58m29s223 vlcsnap-2015-05-25-19h58m48s186 vlcsnap-2015-05-25-19h59m40s189

I got a chance to see this at one of my local theaters this past Saturday in Japanese and I figured what better way to tie-in my favorite composers than to talk about a film that includes one of them in it!

Mamoru Oshii.  Anyone that watched anime between the 80’s and 90’s has probably heard his name before.  He’s insanely popular in the world of sci-fi storytelling as his works tend to have a more psychological feel to them.  He wrote what is considered to be the first OVA ever…Dallos.  1983 was a huge year for him because he not only co-wrote Dallos but worked on his first major feature and television series on Rumiko Takahashi’s Urusei Yatsura!  What separates his films from most other anime directors is that he uses a montage set against music which for the most part is Japanese influenced–  taiko, shimasen and min’yo are mostly prevalent]  throughout that typically lasts between 2 and 5 minutes–  in order to capture the atmosphere around the story.  This is also common in the Patlabor film series and in the late 80’s wrote/directed The Red Spectacle.   A fantastic film that I highly recommend to my readers looking for something outside of anime.  As some of you may have read from my previous post about composers–  Kenji Kawai wrote the soundtrack to Ghost in the Shell.  Intelligently written and a very soothing collection of pieces throughout!

Ghost in the Shell is based on Masamune Shirow’s manga and this adaptation really put Mamoru Oshii on the map in popularity among anime fans worldwide.  The backdrop that he used in coming up with a futuristic setting visually was Hong Kong and it’s clearly seen in the city throughout the film!  A wonderful story that mixes sexual identity against a cyberpunk futuristic landscape!  This is probably one of the most well-known animated films of the 90’s and after seeing it on the big screen [japanese language with english subtitles]:  rightfully so!  While this film doesn’t jump into any background on the main cast of Kusanagi, Batou and even the section chief Aramaki.  I believe that is where its strength lies simply because this is meant to be more of an introductory pieces that focuses on one idea:  building up a world around technology.

Visually breathtaking during its time due to Production I.G.’s massive budget for the film my favorite scene in this is where an optical-thermal camouflage Kusanagi fights the dealer as he’s escaping Section 9’s pursuit.  Incredibly detailed animation with the water flying upwards!  I think why I like this movie so much is because its straightforward about an organization catching a bad guy–  the hacker switching bodies, philosophical conversations about the body and soul and the cyberpunk character and background designs are just a nice bonus to this police crime film.  It’s too bad this couldn’t be longer in its runtime the setting is wonderfully built-up and leaves the viewer wanting so much more from its rather under-developed Section 9 cast.

The dialogue between the Puppet Master and Kusanagi reveals a lot of what this film elaborates on–  finally the reward shows up after all the chase leading up to it!  The Puppet Master after being created by Section 6 becomes self-aware and yearns to be a part of humanity.  Ghost in the Shell share similar themes to last season’s Garo about passing on genes and how people view the idea of being alive.  A robot that target’s human hackers only wants to be more human himself is a powerful message that is a nice setup to the eventually television series we would receive in the early 2000’s.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 8/10

11110983_10100622958384025_2607769435481986199_n

On a more personal matter I’ve been working these past few months on acquiring rights to Space Dandy and I’ve received the official go ahead!  I’ve been in contact with a theatre and they are quite enthusiastic about the idea of me hosting a marathon of this series with raffle prizes.  Just waiting to hear about the confirmation on the specific dates I’ve requested.  I’ve been looking over official paperwork and I’ve been allowed to screen over 100 titles including Mushi-shi‘s first and second seasons!  Talk about a series that would look beautiful on the big screen!

Short Peace [Film]

vlcsnap-2014-08-11-00h41m32s89 vlcsnap-2014-08-11-00h41m49s35 vlcsnap-2014-08-11-00h44m34s0 vlcsnap-2014-08-11-00h44m44s176

Short Peace is a fantastic idea!  I finally got the chance to check this out and I am sure glad I did!  If anyone remembers the anthology of short animated films Genius Party and Genius Party Beyond then you will know that this is very similar.  I cannot stress enough how good Baby Blue is from that collection.  Short Peace takes four directors each with their own styles in telling a story.  I’ve been wanting to talk about OVAs [original video animations] and films for quite some time- what better way to kick this off with Short Peace! The animation in the beginning segment that lasts about 4 minutes or so was stunningly beautiful-especially the transformation scene of Mai!  Grand introduction to the idea that when we close our eyes we can open ourselves up to a world beyond our imaginations!

vlcsnap-2014-08-10-23h09m46s0 vlcsnap-2014-08-10-23h10m11s64 vlcsnap-2014-08-10-23h10m22s212 vlcsnap-2014-08-10-23h10m33s0

Short Feature 1: Possessions

Director: Shuhei Morita

The first story is about a traveler looking for shelter from the rain.  Coming across a shrine he encounters a collection of household objects inhabited by spirits.  This was one of the best shorts I’ve seen in a long while!  Same vein of Mushishi and Mononoke given that this deals with the supernatural and life.  As we can see the man is a traveling artisan.  A box of tools and supplements for the umbrellas and kimonos is right out of Ginko’s medicinal box!  The sound effects played a huge role in this as there was not a single piece of music to accompany the story!  Loved the part where the man  was tinkering with the umbrellas adding sounds to give that tatami room such life!  The kimono scenes were straight out of a picture book!  Everything was animated in such detail!  I had a feeling this was going to be good considering how well he did on the Freedom OVA’s.   People living on Mars and suddenly kids finding out everything they had been told was a lie- Earth wasn’t destroyed.  Fantastic sci-fi OVA collection there!  Morita’s work on Possessions is a big reflection on how good the direction is in Tokyo Ghoul this season.  As alright as the manga is the anime has ended up being a solid series so far.  Probably wondering why I haven’t started covering that series.  Hopefully I will get to it soon.

Possessions here had such strong animation, the dialogue was real, the movements were life-like, and the CG was a lot like Knights of Sidonia.  However out of the two there was a lot more emotion captured in this than a single episode of Sidonia!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 9/10

vlcsnap-2014-08-10-23h11m02s62 vlcsnap-2014-08-10-23h11m09s132 vlcsnap-2014-08-10-23h16m16s114 vlcsnap-2014-08-10-23h11m35s169

Short Feature 2: Combustible 

Directed by: Katsuhiro Otomo

I like the story of Possessions better than this one and I think its because of how simple it was.  There was quite a bit going on here and I feel like this would have been better as a longer OVA.  The delivery was strong in this short feature. This guy sure knows how to animate but he really is good at directing.  Most known for creating the Akira manga and directing the feature film- Otomo is also known for his sci-fi punk anime film Steamboy and the live-action film of Mushishi. Any fans of that series if you haven’t checked out the film version it’s very good, not as solid as the anime series but still quite incredible!  Here we’ve got a story of love and honor in ancient Japan. The side-scrolling effect was very unique- it somehow gave the authenticity of how the times were back then and it executed it very well!  It did breakaway from that a few times where close still shots were shown, this took away from the overall classical tale it was trying to tell.  Aside from that it ended up being a good story about a young woman in love with the boy from her childhood and the trouble his family caused him which led to the fire engulfing the city.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 8/10

vlcsnap-2014-08-10-23h16m16s114 vlcsnap-2014-08-10-23h51m23s251 vlcsnap-2014-08-10-23h52m02s38 vlcsnap-2014-08-10-23h52m29s70

Short Feature 3: Gambo

Directed by Hiroaki Ando

We went from a light-hearted mystical tale to a truthful view on feudal Japan to a bear fighting to the death against a red demon.  It was pretty disgusting too.  A woman was captured by the demon and was giving birth to them.  Oh and there was a UFO that somehow crash lands there.  Strange.  Hands down this was really hard to watch.  As gory as the fight scenes were the animation was so fluid!  Ando’s done some pretty crazy works but the only thing that comes close to something like this that he’s done is Norageki!.  It’s too bad we won’t get to see more of the samurai as he was about the only redeeming aspect of this episode.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 4/10

vlcsnap-2014-08-11-00h50m05s119 vlcsnap-2014-08-11-00h50m14s198 vlcsnap-2014-08-11-00h53m18s225 vlcsnap-2014-08-11-00h52m26s226

Short Feature 4: A Farewell to Arms

Directed by Katoki Hajime

Katsuhiro Otomo originally wrote this.  It’s got his animation all over it!  The post-apocalyptic setting, this can be an intriguing place to use.  Here we’ve got men in power suits fighting off automatic tanks.  Not very many anime place its world in a post-apocalyptic one.  Steins;Gate was fantastic at this as it used time travel at its core and placed the empty city around it.  No. 6, The Third, and Trigun are just to name a few.  The animation in this episode ended up being the best short film out of all of Short Peace.  It was also the only one to fully complete a story- one that’s premise solely based on disarming giant tanks.  Sounds simple enough and for a longer time length it paid off here.  The beginning gave us a nice look at how each man was different- reflecting on the good old days of 30 years ago.  If this wasn’t a big indicator for death flags I don’t know what is!  At one point I noticed how they weren’t just trying to disarm the thing but protecting each other as the GUNK wiped them out.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 8/10

I’d have to say I really enjoyed this anthology of short films, aside from the gruesome Gambo.  I will be curious to see if there where be any other short feature-length films like this one and the Genius Party collections sometime in the future.

If you like this you will also enjoy:

– Genius Party/Genius Party Beyond

– ‘Anime Mirai’ Young Animator Training Project

– Onkyo Seimeitai Noiseman