2010 News Archive
January 11, 2010
In my search for decent OVAs that I haven't yet seen, I went back to 2004 and the reputable Production IG for Dead Leaves, a title that wants to follow in the footsteps of the studio's 2000 release, the charmingly insane FLCL. Sadly, though, this viciously violent and annoyingly scatological title has little in common with its obvious inspiration...my full review explains the gory details.
But just in case you thought that a bad review was all you'd get this week, you'd be wrong! Be back on Friday when I post my list of the Twenty Best Anime of the 2000s in conjunction with my friends over at THEM Anime. Not only does it give you my take on the best anime of the decade, but I also discuss the best and worst trends in the anime community. You won't want to miss it...so plan to come back soon!
January 15, 2010
So how did you spend the last decade? It's amazing to think of all the changes we've seen, and the anime world has been no different. So join me for a trip down nostalgia lane and into futures possible with my list of the Top 20 Anime of the 2000s, along with my list of Best and Worst Anime Trends that will cheer and haunt us for years to come. And when you're done, make sure to click on over to THEM Anime, my partners in this adventure. They have several Top 20 lists up already and will be adding more throughout the month. So sit down, relax, and enjoy a trip on the Wayback Machine...
January 18, 2010
Over the last several months, I've been slowly working my way through the films in the Space Battleship Yamato saga. Dated by any standard, often cheesy and occasionally just bad, these films were nevertheless part of the history of Japan itself, and particularly of otaku culture. But the most surprising truth is this...they keep getting better. Although the fourth entry in the series, Be Forever Yamato, is no cinematic classic, it's by far the best of the lot so far, and watching it with my six-year-old son was a real treat. The review itself details why you might want to hop on the Yamato for this voyage, even if you haven't caught the earlier films.
January 25, 2010
When a studio responsible for significant motion pictures makes experimental films, take notice...you might just be seeing them work on their latest adventure without telling you. Released in 1997, Noiseman is a frenetic, enjoyable 15-minute short that makes little sense...but at the speed at which it moves, you won't likely care. But what's most intriguing is not the program itself, but how Studio 4°C used everything from the rotoscoping to the color scheme nearly ten years later in Tekkon Kinkreet. Take a look at the review to see if you should try to track down Noiseman, even if you're not a fan of the film that followed.
February 1, 2010
Dating game adaptations can be excruciating. Most of them have weak male leads -- a stand-in for the player -- and stereotypical girls to stalk. Not much promise, right? Air: The Movie shows its roots in its predictable plot, but surprisingly, it's easy to watch. Rather than crowd the show with the entire cast of the game, the movie sticks to its leads and stays focused. That's not to say that this film doesn't play to its own genre conventions; it could have been much better. But if you're a fan of tear-jerkers, this one isn't half bad.
February 8, 2010
Once upon a time, OVAs were quite the rage in Japanese animation. It was a great way to tell a quick story that engaged viewers and left us wanting more. That market has all but dried up, but there are still some short OVAs out there worth seeing. One is Pale Cocoon, made by upcoming filmmaker Yasuhiro Yoshiura in 2006. It's a sci-fi piece whose production history makes it a parallel to Voices Of A Distant Star...and though it's not as good as Matoko Shinkai's amazing debut, it makes Yasuhiro Yoshiura one to watch for the future. (And for sharp-eyed readers, you'll find his 2008/2009 follow-up Time of Eve in the upcoming review queue.)
February 15, 2010
Sometimes, shows just don't get enough love to be noticed. While I've found a number of reviews of Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou since I've watched the 4-OVA series, I'd really not heard anybody talking about it beforehand. There're a couple of reasons for that...it's slow and contemplative, involving robots that aren't robotic and a post-apocalypse that's pretty darn nice. It also has a significant change in styles between the first two episodes (released in 1998) and the second two episodes (released in 2002), along with a couple minor problems. But for fans of slice-of-life shows like Aria, this will be a welcome find worthy of your time.
March 1, 2010
Boy, strep throat is nasty. I'm almost recovered and, if nothing else, no longer contagious. But because I was able to get ahead of things a little bit, I am still able to stay on schedule for one more week -- Final Yamato. The finale of the Space Battleship Yamato series for a great long while, Final Yamato wasn't the perfect ending note, but it wasn't bad either. Of course, this is hardly the place to start if you've never encountered the crew of the Yamato before, but if you have, then the review should tell you why I'm still kinda excited about the recent animated film and the live-action version hitting Japanese theaters soon.
March 8, 2010
About a month ago, I was fortunate enough to be pointed toward Pale Cocoon, a strong OVA from 2006 that marked the debut of director Yasuhiro Yoshiura. His ability to make a great sci-fi short on a limited budget puts him in the ranks of the now-famous Matoko Shinkai. And if his debut was pretty impressive, his follow-up, Time of Eve, is even better. While still in the sci-fi realm, this show is significantly different in tone from Pale Cocoon, tackling some sensitive issues while inserting witty humor and banter. It proves to me that Yoshiura has the goods to be a top-flight director. Read the review to find out why this 6-episode series should be on your "anime to-do list."
March 15, 2010
Several years ago, many of us in the anime world were excited to hear of something new from Katsuhiro Otomo, the writer/director behind the famous Akira (even though his follow-up Steamboy was just OK in comparison). As fate would have it, the seven-part OVA series Freedom would only feature his character and mechanical designs, as well as a bit of bike racing in the first episode. Sadly, Bandai released each episode individually at ridiculous price points, and it nearly killed interest in the States. However, now available in more convenient (and far less expensive) packaging, Freedom turns out to be worthwhile on the whole, even though Otomo fans might be disappointed that the director isn't more involved.
March 22, 2010
Comedy is a short film that shows the creativity of its inventive makers, Studio 4°C. I'd been impressed with their other work I'd seen -- Noiseman and Tekkon Kinkreet -- and figured this would be more of the same. It is. Unfortunately, there's just not enough of it. In my brief review, I point out why you might want to see it...even though it will probably take you longer to read my notes than it will be to actually watch the bloomin' thing.
March 29, 2010
Many years ago now, I stumbled across a copy of the first episode of Everyday Is Sunday and wrote a review of it. It appeared to be a sweet romantic comedy...not all that different from many others on the market, but one with charm and good humor. Fast forward to 2010, and I've seen the whole thing courtesy of the Internet. How does the show stand up years later? If the show had continued in the same vein as the first episode, it would have done better...but it's still not too bad. Read the review to find out if a week full of Sundays is what it's cracked up to be.
April 5, 2010
After celebrating a joyous Easter with my congregation, I wish I had better news on the anime front. Sadly, I can't say that Princess Army Wedding Combat is particularly special, even though I think it has a great title. It's a shoujo work from many years ago, and it starts off promisingly enough, almost as a self-parody. However, it devolves quickly into something much worse. Read my review, though, and you'll get some discussion of how moe has been around for a lot longer than the average person thinks, as well as a brief conversation on gender roles across cultures. Fun stuff, no really, I promise!!!
April 12, 2010
By now, you probably know that I review short programs often in order to keep up my self-imposed weekly deadlines. What does it matter if a thirty minute show stinks if it's only thirty minutes out of my life? Thus, when I review a short OVA that doesn't make me despair for the hope of anime, I'm pleased greatly. When it's a show like Canary, a one-shot made out of an H-game, it surprises me to no end. It's proof that, sometimes, material from mediocre beginnings can become something more if given enough tender loving care. Though it won't surprise you, its humor made me happy for its running time, and that's a good sign.
April 19, 2010
While it wasn't on my upcoming lineup, the opportunity afforded itself to take a look at Astro Boy (2009), the computer-animated reworking of the classic Osamu Tezuka show that essentially launched anime as we know it. Seeing that the original is over fifty years old and has been remade before, how does the feature movie stand up? Not badly, it turns out, though purists will be unsatisfied. There are significant nagging problems that will especially affect younger viewers, but it's also surprisingly entertaining and to the point. Read the review and you'll also find my answer to the question: is it still anime?
April 26, 2010
I love independent films. Yeah, sometimes they're self-indulgent or obtuse, but often there's something to them that normal films are missing. And when it comes to independent anime, I always think of Makoto Shinkai's brilliant debut, Voices Of A Distant Star. But what happens when independent simply means amateur? That's what happened with Magical Chocolate, an independent project that, according to an article on Anime News Network, actually was broadcast in Japan. That's hard to imagine, since this thing makes South Park look like spendy animation. Read the review to find out just why you should be glad the studio system for anime is still in place, despite its faults.
May 3, 2010 - Early Update
Well, folks, I'm in the midst of replacing my computer which is around 11 years old, give or take a year. That means I'm transferring everything to a new-to-me computer on Vista...yes, I know, keep the comments to yourself. At any rate, I'm working to transfer the website over to Aptana, since my ancient version of Adobe GoLive doesn't work past XP. I'll try to have my review up shortly...but if not, you'll know that I'm laboring away to get the next review up soon. Thanks for your patience!
May 3, 2010 - Update #2
It appears that things are up and running, so we might get a review today after all! Origin: Spirits of the Past is a summer blockbuster kind of film...basic plot, lots of explosions, strong animation, you know the drill. Humanity survives a near catastrophe only to create another one...yeah, never heard that before. But for an environmentally-themed movie, it's not heavy-handed, the characters are interesting, and only one or twice was I bothered that it seems that the best way to make peace is to blow a lot of stuff up. But read the review and you'll learn more of why I think this one's definitely worth a rental.
May 24, 2010
While my new computer is working, sometimes I'm just not. Between Mother's Day, Relay For Life, and lots of other stuff, reviews didn't happen. But you didn't come here for my excuses, so let's get right on to one of the longest titled films in recent memory...Eureka 7: Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers. I wish I had something positive to say about it other than it features nice animation and lots of good explosions. But in virtually every way, they took everything good about the TV series out and replaced it with suck. Read the review to find out just how badly they screwed this one up.
May 31, 2010
One of the reasons I enjoy anime is for continuing storylines. I love shows like 24 where you need to watch every episode in order to make sense of the whole. That's the opposite of Mushi-Shi, which amounts to mostly unrelated tales of a wanderer in the mountains of rural Japan of long ago. I purchased the set solely on good word-of-mouth, aware that it might not fit my interests. But you know what? This is one of the best anime TV series available in the US, one that will be re-watchable long after we look back at robots beating the snot out of each other and say, "What were we thinking?" Thoughtful, atmospheric, and occasionally creepy, Mushi-Shi is well worth your time.
June 7, 2010
As the anime version of InuYasha finally came to a close recently, I was reminded of Rumiko Takahashi and her original smash hit, Urusei Yatsura. The tale of Lum, Ataru, and their bizarre interstellar love/hate story has inspired a generation of manga-ka, not to mention an entire genre within the anime kingdom. I returned this week to a movie I watched at a comic book convention way back in 1988 with no translation...the first UY film, Only You. How does it stand up 27 years after its creation? Read the review to find out...
June 14, 2010
It's hard to review any sort of anthology series. Does a weak episode of The Twilight Zone take the whole series down? How do you even rate such a thing? Then what do you do with a two-episode anthology with one strong outing and one that skirts awful? That's the situation with Twilight Q, which features one episode directed by Mamoru Oshii (whose work on Urusei Yatsura: Only You I critiqued last week). Read the review to find out which part to find and which one you might choose to avoid.
June 21, 2010
The world of anime hasn't had enough conversations about ethics. Granted, the live-action world creates plenty of boundary-pushing material that makes most anime look tame. But just because you can do something, does that mean you should? I'm going to explore this for the next few weeks via my reviews and columns. The first title that brings this issue to mind? Golden Boy, a mid-'90s OVA series that is often hysterically funny...and perverted from start to finish. Does having a kind-hearted lead make a difference? My review finds me trying to straddle the fence...whether I succeeded or not is up to you.
June 28, 2010
My dive into the world of anime ethics continues this week with my review of Death Note. This 2006-2007 series is not only incredibly popular, it earns its reputation as a solid thriller. It has a "just one more" quality that makes it easy to watch the whole thing in a couple of sittings. However, the show also brings up serious ethical issues that it in no way seeks to address. Is it immoral for a show to be amoral, especially when the target audience is teenagers? Read the review and find out what I decided.
July 19, 2010
There are times when you wish you didn't have to tear a show down. When an anime has beautiful artwork and a touching soundtrack, when sincere craftsmanship has gone into the product, it hurts to attack it. But after a promising start, Persona -trinity soul- turns into a sinkhole of suck. Wish it weren't the case, but my review tells you why it's one you want to miss.
July 26, 2010
I'm not what you would call an Evangelion fan. While the seminal TV series as a whole worked for me, I found the opening third nearly impossible to get through, and it took even longer to become the craziness everyone seemed to appreciate. The pseudo-Christian imagery didn't do much for me. But it was fine, you know? So when I heard about a four film series coming out and retelling Evangelion, I wasn't stoked. Nevertheless, the first film went into my Netflix queue. How did Evangelion 1.1: You Are (Not) Alone do with the weakest part of the series turn out? Read ever onward...
August 2, 2010
There are times when I'm not sure if a review is really appropriate. There are anime I saw maybe 15-20 years ago that I could review solely on my good memories of them...but that isn't very fair, is it? Because nostalgia always colors the lens. But what happens when you can't remember a show you saw three weeks ago? That's the case with Elf Princess Rane, a comedy that was supposed to be funnier than what it was -- and one that, save for a few scenes, seems to be have been wiped from my memory completely. In this case, I think a review is fair simply because if a show is that mediocre as to be gone from the banks of my brain in that short of time, it says something about its quality. Glad I have a few notes around...
August 9, 2010
I tried to get into Final Fantasy, I really did. But for some reason, computer role-playing games just never have worked for me. That doesn't mean I can't appreciate a bit of good humor about them, which I found in Guru Guru: The Movie. A brief film -- less than 30 minutes -- it gets us right into a world of silly chibi heroes and dastardly dragons. While not inspired, it is quite a fun way to waste half an hour.
August 16, 2010
Maybe it's because it's because I'm nearing my 20-year reunion, but shows about high school life just don't have much appeal to me. When NIS America sent me a copy of Toradora alongside Persona -trinity soul-, I naturally opted into the latter first. Who knew that it would be a pile of stink and Toradora would be the worthwhile show? With a surprising lack of gimmicks, Toradora is enjoyable without being overly sentimental, even if it is vaguely predictible...and the lead gal is annoying as all get-out.
August 23, 2010
As I learned with my somewhat recent tour through the Space Battleship Yamato films, not everything that's older or part of a classic series is wonderful. As I make my way through the Urusei Yatsura movies I've missed, I'm finding it's true in this case as well. The third movie in the series, Remember My Love, is entertaining enough for fans, but it's missing the madcap comedy and has only a handful of the puns and wit that made the series one of the most beloved (and copied) in the anime canon. That doesn't mean it's bad, but it does mean that fans of the typical insanity the franchise is known for may be disappointed.
September 6, 2010
Have you ever watched a show that just seems a little...off? That was the case for me watching the short OVA series Refrain Blue. The plot, though a bit confusing in the first episode, is a sweet love story with a minor supernatural element. So what's up with all the fan service? My review discovers the reason for the strange dichotomy. (For those of you with some knowledge of anime, let's just say that it has to do with a strangely colored tropical fruit. Think about it.)
September 12, 2010
Just a quick note for my truly loyal readers...my normal Monday review will be delayed slightly, as I'm reviewing Monster -- which ends its run on Sci-Fi late on Monday night. I suggest coming back on Wednesday. Hope to see you then!
September 15, 2010
And now, without further ado...Monster.
September 20, 2010
It's always sad to follow up a great show with a lousy one...but that's what happened for me with Villgust. A two-part OVA from 1993, this fantasy show seems to be nothing but a bunch of anime cliches thrown together. Granted, 17 years ago, a few of them weren't perhaps as stale as they've become. But now, they're so annoying that the show is virtually unwatchable for anybody who's seen more than a dozen anime. Read on if you want some details on just why this one is skippable in the extreme.
September 27, 2010
This week, I continue plowing through the Urusei Yatsura films with the fifth one, The Final Chapter. While one more follows it anyway, this is the conclusion to the whole lot; the final movie is but a side story. This film isn't as inventive or fun as Beautiful Dreamer or as interesting as Lum The Forever, the best films of the lot, but it is a solid conclusion to the ten years of lunacy provided by a certain gang of obnoxious aliens.
October 4, 2010
Sometimes sequels aren't bad -- they just come at the wrong time. The sixth and truly final Urusei Yatsura film, Always My Darling, has always gotten a bit of bad press, but in my opinion it's not deserved. It's close to Beautiful Dreamer for being the funniest one of the lot, and I had a good time through most of it. But here's the problem -- the fifth movie is the real ending, whether you like it or not, and this film is ultimately fun filler afterwards.
October 11, 2010
Jungle de Ikou is rot. Fan service is not funny in and of itself, and when it's centered around 10-year-old girls, it's just wrong. Click on the link and you'll get to read my nice tongue-lashing.
October 18, 2010
Wide-eyed shojo heroines were once vaguely popular in the US, but romantic comedies that weren't based around male harem fantasies never gained much ground here. Anime like Marmalade Boy and Child's Toy, both of which originally ran in Ribon (a shojo manga magazine aimed at later elementary and middle school girls), were dropped or went quickly out of print. Baby Love is another Ribon work that ran inbetween those two stellar titles, and an OVA was made out of it in 1997 (though it was never released here). Read on to see how it compares with its anime brethren...or, um, er, sistren, I guess.
October 25, 2010
I don't always post a Halloween-themed review, but this year I've got a doozy for you. Requiem From The Darkness is a deeply disturbing and startlingly spooky title from 2003. It was on the ragged edge of what I enjoy, but fans of gory Eastern horror should really dig it.
November 1, 2010
Fall is definitely here, and with it comes the true end of boating season up here in Michigan. But for those who are interested in a naval adventure, there's Submarine 707 Revolution: The Movie. It's not a great sub show, as my review explains, but it still worked for me due to a couple nice touches and a second hour far better than the first.
November 15, 2010
I have to admit, I am a big Lupin fan. While I've not come close to watching all the TV episodes, I have seen many of the films and read good chunks of the manga. Over the past 40 years, the character has changed a lot. So what if there really was more than one Lupin? That's what the movie Lupin III: Green vs. Red suggests. It's a fabulous premise, and it's among the best-looking adventures in the canon to date. Sadly, it loses its way, but I think it's still worth seeing...and the review will tell you why.
December 6, 2010
This week, I turned my attention to an older film, the second in the hugely popular Touch series. Touch 2: The Farewell Gift continues the story of a young baseball player and his relationship with his brother's girlfriend, and it's a mixed bag. These characters are incredibly likable, and you feel for them. However, the pacing and storyline are unfocused, and while that's part of the intent of the film, it doesn't make for a great viewing experience. Still, in my review I explore why this film and series are still well-remembered by the Japanese, even if most American fans have never "touched" it. (OK, sorry for the pun.)
Meanwhile, I did want to note a brief scheduling change. Some of you may have noticed that Please Save My Earth: The Movie is no longer in my queue to watch. That's because, after doing some digging, I've found the movie removes about an hour from the OVA version and adds only a 10-second scene and an unnecessary framing device. It's too bad, as the OVAs are special, even though the story is incomplete. I'm going to suggest you check out the manga for the full story...and in the meantime, read the review of the original OVAs to find out why they are still worth finding.
December 13, 2010
When I was sent the first box set of Toradora several months ago -- you can read that review here -- I wasn't expecting much. I don't have much love any more for teenage angst and comedic misunderstandings. What I found, however, was an engaging and funny teen melodrama surprisingly free from many of the anime tropes typical to the genre. If I thought the first half was good, though, the second half is excellent. Characters grow, plotlines payoff, and there are honest-to-goodness surprises. Read my review of the show's second half to find out why this might be one to add to your Christmas list.
December 20, 2010
It's weird to still have the '70s in the back of my head. Born in 1974, I still have a ton of memories from that era, and maybe that's why I am somewhat forgiving of anime from the same era. My movie this week, Aim For The Ace!, dates from 1979, and it's a film that condenses a much beloved shoujo sports manga and TV show from the era. It is full of all sorts of shoujo cliches. Thing is, it does them so well, you can see where others today mimic its style. What's more, it's notable for the shoujo tropes it abandons. Read the review to find out this is rightfully considered one of the classics of anime.