In theory, Blue Exorcist should be boring. By the end of its run, it has shown that the plot does little to differentiate it from other shonen pieces, particularly a solid example of how well done a shonen series under twenty-seven epsiodes can be. It’s nothing revolutionary.
The first episode seems like it could be though. It focusses on the protagonist, Rin, as he starts a part-time job and trouble ensues for various reasons. It seamlessly weaves together set up with primary character development without coming off contrived. However, he later transfers into a school and the story starts to go where I expected before it started.
Still, the weakness of the storytelling material is mostly helped by the characters. The later setup proves to be somewhat of a Fullmetal Alchemist meets Soul Eater kind of deal, showing the dynamic of two brothers while also having the characters enrolled at a school for paranormal fighting (in this case exorcists, duhhhh). It’s a hero’s journey more or less transfixed through the shonen world conventions, but at moments can manage to be worth the time of watching based on execution alone. The voice acting is particularly good, with Rin (Nobuhiko Okamoto) having a gravely, sharp tone that is appropriate for devil spawn. Pair that with the revelation that he is a well-rounded character and then, boom, we have something cool. He is given a reason for fighting that does not come off as obnoxious as he acts, with the voice once again counteracting his sometimes under-thought quick decisions. He’s reckless, but he’s also easy to empathize with.
The manga is ongoing as of this writing, but the anime has ended without a second season formally announced (this is a review of the show and not the film). It’s at a borderline point though, because if there were to be a second season, I don’t know how far than could take these characters, especially if they decide to veer off course of what I heard is a pretty good manga. I’m interested in checking out the comic, and maybe seeing another set of episodes, but it’s a hard sell based on the premise. By the end of the manga, someone out there might try to pull a Brotherhood on Blue Exorcist, but for now it’s a rare series that has essentially been finished but is in recommendation limbo.
I finally saw GOTG and it was way better than I expected. But yeah, I won’t write a bunch on it because everyone’s already seen it. I had the theater all to myself this morning.
And it looks like I’m going to be studying today be cause I’m working not just tomorrow night but Sunday evening as well. Hahahahaha school.
Yikes. Here we go again. Good thing this is only temporary (hopefully)
In unrelated news, it’s fashion week so I will somehow have to keep up with all this to give some sort of relevant wrap-up blog entry.
And RIP Joan.
The criteria for what makes a classic anime, or film for that matter, have never been truly defined. It’s those qualifiers that change from person to person, and through the many articles I’ve read in anime publications over the years (both in print and online), it seems that many hold up Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise as being a movie that should be standing next to the pantheons of the most highly respected anime ever made. In a lot of ways, this could be sufficiently argued, but the story is not as powerfully told as people have been reminiscing.
Granted, this is an eighties title, and nostalgia can have immense control over a viewer (myself included), but despite the fact that Royal Space Force is a solid construction, it doesn’t have too much of lasting impression. It’s a gorgeous world that viewers are able to enter, albeit with the stunning production values of the eighties bubble economy (a term that is no stranger to anyone who has been interested in that “golden age”), but it falls into an art house trap: it’s too understated for its own good.
We get to watch as people live out their lives on this Earth-like, war-torn, rubble studded futuristic setting that is really a great example of establishing a sci-fi future. This is Gainax at its most quiet, at least looking at the overall film. Of course, Gainax does show that it has a random track record, but this movie in particular sure is gorgeously designed.
So the setup is great, but the characters are too distant. It’s not that they are emotionally distant, although they are, but the audience’s understanding is far enough away that it’s really hard to pick up those subtleties, only to realize it wasn’t going anywhere deeply interesting with these characters anyway. I am excluding the one controversial scene, which you can read about at a million other websites, although its placement does contribute to the film’s disjointedness. The hero is so soft spoken that we are not quite sure whether to sympathize with him or not based on his actions over the course of the movie.
The main factor is the script for Royal Space Force hasn’t aged well. What we see in animation is astonishing, but compared to all of the content we have now, it’s a film that would pass over the modern anime fan’s head had this exact same story been released today.
The fact that A Dame to Kill For left me feeling almost ambivalent might be a good thing. It’s a film that I enjoyed very much, due naturally to its hyper-stylized art design and violence. It makes it stand out a little differently from the other adaptations of comic books, as it recreates Frank Miller’s world into a movie we’ve never seen before (at least when that first one came out). And being Frank Miller, there would be no way of adapting his work that would give even a similar effect without that certain style, something that seemed like it would only work in the form of a graphic novel. Audiences were surprised to find a fascinating action title dripping in classic noir fringe. At least the sequel isn’t a complete waste of opportunity.
At the same time it is. I consider the first Sin City as genius, as it is certainly a great movie and one that comes instantly to mind when I think of the best comic-book-to-film transitions. It took so many risks, not just visually, but narratively, as most mainstream feature-length films don’t go for the anthology format, let alone pull it off. It’s one of the most kinetic movies I’ve ever seen.
However, A Dame to Kill For seems stilted from the beginning. We get a straight introduction to Rourke at warp speed, with no build-up or ease. The content certainly isn’t graceful, but the execution has been, if you can recall the genius opening to the original. It’s also noticeably shorter, and feels like it, considering how many characters they cram into here. The people who were carried over from the first are developed by default, but go little further due to lessened screen time.
Still, I’m not sure if it deserved the box office it received, which was a complete and utter disaster. Many are speculating that it was due to the years distancing the two films, because wow, Sin City (the movie) is nine years old (although there is also other talk about failed advertising campaign strategies). Aside from the decrease in quality, A Dame to Kill For has a lot of beautiful visuals that I wish were embraced more openly.
In the title for Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, the most apt word is obvious: bizarre. Of course, maybe this depends on how strange you think it is to be attacked by a swarm of piranhas while flying an airplane.
Being one of the longest running manga series in Japan, it actually comes as a surprise that we have seen so little of Jojo in anime format until now. Nonetheless, here we are twenty-seven years after the debut of that first manga chapter in Shonen Jump and we finally get a television series adaptation. There were some other releases of the early anime for Jojo’s in the US, but those are pretty hard to come by unless you want to spend an exorbitant amount of money (which I have considered).
Phantom Blood has been completed. It’s the origin story, and while noticeably fast paced at the beginning, serves its purpose as a more than satisfying introduction. The animation itself is not a standout, but the use of sound effects literally written on the screen, bursting out from behind the characters when they are getting the shit beat out of them, is fun and campy and weird. It works well. It gives it that extra surge of cool that makes it stand out as the unique title it is: ludicrous, but well-crafted and certainly entertaining. As expected for that pacing, character development in this first arc is probably going to be the most minimal, but like I said, it’s still action-packed, over-the-top, and involving.
Battle Tendency has also been completed. The first season of Jojo’s contains the first two story arcs (or perhaps series) and it’s more ridiculous and established partly because of the extended running time compared to Phantom Blood. Although, it also helps that the main character, Joseph Joestar, is more rambunctious.
In both of these storylines however, even the action plays out in a very complex, if not ultimately strange way. I don’t think that it’s possible to easily breathe in an air pocket from beneath a rock underwater, but I could be wrong. Also watch out, because Joestar could be attaching hidden grenades onto you when you aren’t looking. A lot of grenades.
And thus both of the first sets of Jojo’s narratives are completed, and we are now moving onto Phantom Blood (currently airing). I’ll reserve a full review on that for when it’s over, but so far it’s not disappointing, that’s for sure. If you haven’t started Jojo’s yet: enjoy.
Mamoru Oshii’s original Ghost in the Shell film was an animation landmark and certainly something that should not be missed. It’s a deep, dark urban science fiction masterpiece of importance not just in terms of quality but of establishing anime as something that can sometimes be successfully marketable in America and perhaps around the world. With this of course being the most well-known work under the GITS franchise, we also have the comics, sequel, novels, and Stand Alone Complex ilk. The second season of SAC, Second Gig, is a fairly smooth continuation of the first season in that whether or not you liked that first outing will greatly help in the decision of whether or not this is worth watching.
The thing is, when it comes down to it, Second Gig is pretty much just as expertly executed as the initial season, and in a way this hinders it. With those first twenty-six episodes, we got a sometimes episodic, but involving, police drama about morality. But twenty more episodes starts to get a little dry, where everything starts to blend together as a whole, but in a way that makes it become more forgettable rather than cohesive. There is an episode titled trial which focusses on one story that is contained within twenty minutes, and on its own is entertaining and fun. Unfortunately though, if you were to take this episode out, you would be able to still follow along the overarching journey without any trouble at all. If I didn’t know better, I’d call that…. Filler.
But do not worry, the writing is still really good, and when the animation wants to, it can be great. The technique starts to waver in those middle episodes, but if anything, that is not unexpected for any televised series. I just personally always get at least a little irked when the characters start to look off model, although Second Gig is better at avoiding this than others.
The GITS franchise is something that has supposedly continued to this day not because of success in Japan, but in America. This barely ever happens (although this is the case with the current season of Space Dandy), so I think that it’s good to appreciate that audiences outside of Japan really like some smartly written scripts. Would I watch another season of SAC? Probably not, but I have a feeling I will anyway because I would be lying if I said I was not curious to finish Psycho-Pass. As for Solid State Society, that’s only one film, so yeah, I might as well finish that off. Arise though…. I don’t know. As much as I find it amusing that Motoko decided to cut her hair in vain of Lisbeth Salander (see here), the reviews have not been too stellar, and I don’t know how excited I am to see those films. Regardless, Ghost in the Shell as a whole has been an excellent, if not sometimes dry scifi outing, and I suggest if you are a fan of anime that you should definitely watch the original film as well as the first season of SAC.
If anything, Kanno’s music is some of the best ever (a statement that has been repeated many times before, but I had to remind everyone).
The combination of Peach-pit’s character designs and the creators of Higurashi had me excited. Or perhaps that’s an understatement, because I was dying for a long time to see Okamikakushi. It ended up being a little bit of a disappointment in that it did not quite live up to the level of writing that was in Higurashi, but it’s a serviceable, fun horror show.
There are a lot of similarities to Higurashi in concept, with a rural Japanese town being focused around some sort of “urban Legend”. In Higurashi it was the god who would spirit people away, but in Okamikakushi, it’s a young girl with a scythe. The mystery is why people in the town are being murdered by her, and whether she’s even on the side of good or evil. In this way it produces nice results, because the turning point at about the halfway mark reveals the said scythe-wielding girl’s secret and identity, and flips the scenario upside-down in terms of who the bad guys are. Although the real explanation and plot are very middle-of-the-road, there is definitely entertainment value in putting together the clues to find the truth.
The characters are a mixed bag, where they are either really cool or really, really annoying. Not only is the lead male character, Hiroshi, another boring stand-in, but what’s worse is just how unproductive he is. There will be scenes where he watches people get murdered, and then the show will go on, and the next time we see him he is walking down the street (alone) minding his own business, looking like he doesn’t have a care in the world. Maybe this is just me, but if I lived in this town, and saw the things that he did, I would be terrified out of my mind at all times. Perhaps the reason for this though, is because nothing can be scarier than Isuzu, the absolute worst part of Okamikakushi. She’s a girl who throws herself onto Hiroshi and fills up the runtime with awful fanservice contrivances. I was thinking that I was going to give this show an outright bad review, but luckily the episodes eventually switch the focus to other characters. Kaname seems to be just taking up space at first, but she turns out to be the most interested person in finding out what is actually going on in this place, and what she needs to do to stay alive. Mana is possibly the best character, as I thought she would be defined only by the character trait that she is in a wheelchair. The thing is this doesn’t at all turn her into someone who needs to be protected in these dire circumstances, which is a one-eighty from what I expected from a show with moe character leanings. She’s very independent and no one coddles her. Nemuru is also cool, but going into her story will give away too many spoilers.
I’m truthfully a sucker for cute anime girls that are designed well (if you have been following me for a week you would already have noticed this), and Peach-pit does some of the best work. The sole reason I stuck through DearS was not because of its lame story. Unfortunately though, the thing that is so striking about Peach-pit’s characters is how delicate and flowing they look, with their eyes being some of manga’s most alien-esque (even in works that aren’t DearS). The transition to animation leaves it running a little flat, but the scythe girl sure has an awesome costume.
Although this is important: If you want to see a good horror series, you must watch Higurashi first. After that, it’s even better to go on to Another instead of this show. But after that, if you find yourself craving more, Okamikakushi will be good enough (now isn’t that a great recommendation).