Archive for May, 2012

Anime Review: Tales From Earthsea

Genre: Fantasy

Creator: Ursula K. LeGuin, directed by Goro Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli

Distributor: Buena Vista/Disney

Running Time: 1 hour 55 minutes

Suggested Age: 10+

My Rating: 4/10

Summary: Based on the first four books in the Earthsea series, this movie tells the story of Sparrowhawk, a wizard seeks to undo the unbalance of nature in the land of Earthsea.  He is accompanied by Arren, a young prince who is pursued by a shadow.

Review: Let me start by saying that if you haven’t read the Earthsea series, you are missing out on a wonderful story.  Leguin is a very elegant writer and paints a beautiful story.

Now, what about the movie? I really am conflicted.  The animation is beautiful, in typical Ghibli style, even with his son directing, and not Hayao.  Arren is a likeable hero, and Sparrowhawk reminds me of Qui Con Ginn in The Phantom Menace.

And yet, here is where the movie suffers.  There is so much potential lost here. So many things are touched upon and never fully discussed.  Some seem brought up right out of the blue.  What’s really sad is that if you haven’t read any of the Earthsea books, you will be really have difficulty following this story because so little is explained. In fact, the only reason I was able to follow it at all was because I had read the books. What’s really puzzling is why Goro decided to try to tell all six books’ stories in one movie.  I really felt like this movie was trying to say something, but wasn’t sure what to say or how to say it.  My advice: skip this one, even if you’re a die-hard Ghibli fan. It’s just not worth it.

Music/Score: Joe Hisashi’s score is pretty good, especially the finale piece.

Sub/Dub: The voice work is fine. Timothy Dalton is excellent as Sparrowhawk.

Violence: (4/10) Some pretty bloody moments.

Language: (0/10)

Nudity: (0/10)

Sexuality: (0/10)

Religion: (5/10) Magic is practically the breath of life in Earthsea. In fact, the misuse is what has thrown the land off balance.

Related Media: This is based on the series created by Ursula K. LeGuin.

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Anime Review: Slayers Evolution-R

Genre: Fantasy/Comedy

Studio/Creator: J.C. Staff/Hajime Kanzaka and  Rui Araizumi

Distributor: FUNImation

No. of Episodes: 13

Suggested Age: 13+

My Rating: 8/10

Summary: Right on the heels of Slayers Revolution,  our heroes are searching for the Hellmaster’s Jar, which holds the spirit of the Red Priest Rezzo, the villain of the first season.  Poqota, who was introduced in the last season, beleives that if he releases Rezzo from the Jar, he willl be able to cure his people of a plague.

Review: I want to start by saying that I think Slayers in all its seasons is one the best shonen series I have ever watched.  Now that I have finished the final season, I wanted to take some time to talk about the series as a whole.

What I like best about the show is how different it is from other shonen series.  Firstly, it does not take itself seriously.  It is meant to be a parody, so it is mostly light-hearted.  There are some serious moments, but they are balanced quite well with the comedy. I also like the dynamics of the characters. I’ve noticed that many of them change throughout the seasons.

Lina is an excellent deconstruction of an anime heroine. Most anime heroines are virtuous, but she clearly is not. She has two motivations for being a heroine. First is money, as she tells us in the opening to the first season. “Wherever treasure glitters, I’m there to claim it!” As we learn in season 3 (Slayers Try), her second motivation is the fear of her sister. We never even see her sister at all, but there are enough implications.  At first, these are the only motivations.  But as the series progressed, while she was still a mercenary, she appeared to see that being good had other rewards as well.

Gourry is the only one of the quartet who didn’t change. He started out stupid and by the time the show ended, he was still stupid.  But I loved him for it!

Amelia changed quite a bit. At first, she existed only to poke fun at the “Magical girl” heroines like Sailor Moon.  She’d make silly speeches and literally fall flat on her face. As the series progressed, her magic improved. Sure she still had her funny moments, but she was also a vital player.  In later seasons, she is able to improve her magic and this made her a bigger, more important player.

The member who changed the most was Zelgadis. At first, he actually was the enemy, but a few episodes in, he switches sides.  By season 2, he seems to have put his dark days behind him. In fact, in season three, he and pacifist Amelia proved to be a great pair, and not just because of their dynamics in personality.

Poqota also changed p for most of that season, he proved a hilarious antagonist for Lina, managing to push all her buttons. In this season, he’s put all that behind him, and proves that his size matters not.

Xellos was downright predictably sneaky.  Season two had him popping up at just the right time and though he had ulterior motives, he was still reliable.  But beginning in season 4, he became an Achilles’ heel and his true motives changed all that.

The series came full circle by bringing back Rezzo. When I learned his backstory, I almost pitied him–he only wanted to restore his sight.

Sub/Dub: As I said in my review of season 4, Michael Sinterklaus is now the voice of Xellos, a role originally done by David Moo.  Although his voice has a similar pitch to the Japanese VA, I prefer David Moo’s delivery. The rest of the returning cast was excellent as always.

Music/Score: The opening theme wasn’t nearly as good as the others, but the closing was excellent. For the grand finale, I got to hear my favorite Slayers theme, “Give a Reason for Life.”

Violence: 4/10–the same slapstick as before, with mild fights.

Language: 2/10

Sexuality: 0/10

Nudity: 0/10

Religion: 3/10–Magic is used constantly and Poqota is trying to resurrect Rezzo.

 

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Anime Review: Slayers Revolution

Genre: Fantasy/Comedy

Studio/Creator: JC Staff/ Hajime Kanzaka and  Rui Araizumi.

Distributor: FUNimation

No of Episodes: 13

Suggested Age: 13+

My Rating: 8/10

Summary: Lina’s met a new character, a critter named Poqota, a stuffed animal possessed by a prince.  While he may be lacking in size, he certainly isn’t lacking in power, as he can even perform the Dragon Slave.  To make things worse, she’s now guilty of the crime of simply being Lina Inverse!

Review: This was an okay season.  Poqota was a pretty fun addition to the cast and I loved the humorous clashes between him and Lina. The addition of her being hunted for all the destruction she caused fighting the bad guys got on my nerves real fast though.  I felt that it padded down things too much and could have been avoided. I also didn’t like the fact that they recycled a villain from the first season, rather than keeping the tradition of new villain each season.

Sub/Dub: I need to mention something about the history of Slayers.  Originally, Slayers was licensed to CPM.  When CPM went bankrupt, FUNimation took over the license, just in time for two new seasons to arrive.  This means now there is a new company involved. They re-released the original 3 seasons, and then went to work on the final two.  They were able to reunite most of the original voice actors, so it was great to hear Crispin Freeman, Veronica Taylor, Lisa Ortiz, and everyone else I enjoyed from before. However, there is a new voice actor for Xellos, Michael Sinterniklaas, who some of you may know from his roles in Kappa Mikey (Mikey), Venture Brothers (Dean Venture), and Monster (Jan Suk).  I was unable to watch any of the dubbed episodes featuring Xellos, so I don’t know if his voice is as good as David Moo’s. According to my research, FUNimation had heard that there were some complaints from fans of the sub that David Moo’s voice for Xellos was too obnoxious.  I disagree with that one. I found David Moo’s portrayal excellent and it fit the character, giving him just the right amount of slime.

Music/Score: Great as always. Megumi Hayashibara’s songs are definitely excellent. It’s not as good as the opening for the second season (my favorite so far), but I enjoyed both songs.

Violence: (3/10) Same as before.

Language: (2/10)

Nudity: (0/10)

Sexuality: (3/10)–Poqota uses breast jokes to get Lina upset and throw her off during battles.

Religion: (3/10)–Magic is used constantly.

Related Media: This is based on the light novels by Hajime Kanzaka and  Rui Araizumi. There are five series in all, and a few movies.  This is the fourth series.

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Anime Review: Romeo X Juliet

Genre: Fantasy/Romance

Creator/Studio: William Shakespeare (sorta)/Gonzo

Distributor: FUNimation

No. of Episodes: 24

Suggested Age: 13+

My Rating: 10/10

Summary: This anime retells the story of the classic Shakespeare romantic tragedy Romeo and Juliet. It relocates the story in a fictional world called Neo Verona and completely reimagines the concept. The Capulets are now overthrown nobility and Juliet hides her identity as the Zorro-like Odin, also known as the Red Whirlwind, champion of justice.  But one fateful day, she meets Romeo, heir to the thrown of Montague and enemy to her family.  Will their love truly never be?

Review: I must advise you to forget all you know about the Shakespeare play this is inspired by. It is really best described as “Romeo and Juliet in name only.” The story is still the same, but the locale, the time, the people–everything is original.  Neo Verona is a floating island and there are even flying horses!  We even get to see the Bard himself, reimagined as a hammy playwright eager to sell his next masterpiece.

The animation is really awesome, one of the best anime done by Gonzo.  I’ve often thought of Gonzo as Japan’s most underrated studio.  While not every title I’ve seen I’ve enjoyed, this is certainly one of their best in terms of animation.

It’s also one of the best in terms of characterization too. A fellow reviewer recommended this anime to me when she learned I liked William Shakespeare.  She told me it would blow me away with how well it paid tribute to history’s greatest writer. I have to say I am inclined to agree. It takes everything established in the play and expands it.  We learn a true reason for the feud between the Montagues and Capulets.  Instead of an understated reason, we learn that the Montagues overthrew the Capulets and have oppressed the people of Neo Verona, who the Montagues’s patriarch sees as grapes to be harvested or crushed at his will. Romeo disagrees with this and wants to see them happy instead. Juliet is given a Zorro-like backstory, and I cheered her on every minute, because she reminded me very much of one of my favorite saints, Joan of Arc. Like Joan, she was willing to throw down her very life not only for her family, but for all of the world.  She didn’t care if she died in the process, freedom was all that mattered.  When Romeo and Juliet do fall in love, it isn’t teenage hormone-filled lust, like it seems in the play.  Instead, it is true, honest love. They do all they can to work out their problems.  Romeo is imagined as a character with true depth, unlike the play, where he’s pure cardboard.  All in all, I think Shakespeare himself would be proud of this play.

Sub/Dub: Both versions are done very well, but I like the dub best because it really feels Shakespearean. Shakespeare’s plays were originally written in English anyway, so I feel this should be watched in English.

Music/Score: Here’s a real surprise: the opening itself is actually a Japanese version of the Christian worship song “You Raise Me Up”, popularized by Josh Groban. This version is sung by Japanese songstress Lena Park.  The lyrics aren’t even close to the original song, but I really don’t think that matters.  As much as I enjoy the original song, I feel Lena’s version far surpasses Groban’s.  It feels more heartfelt and her voice is just beautiful, almost angelic.  The first ending theme I didn’t like so much, but I enjoyed the second ending theme very much.

Violence: (6/10) There is quite a lot of bloodshed in this story. One or two characters die, and of course, you should know already how the story ends.  There is also a scene where someone burns himself alive.

Language: (2/10): A few curse words, but then Shakespeare had a few curse words in some of his plays too, if I recall.

Sexuality: (0/10)

Nudity: (0/10)

Religion: (5/10) SPOILER! Late in the story, we learn that the Capulets made a pact with a goddess to ensure their victory in the feud.  The goddess agreed, but there was a catch: Juliet would have to sacrifice herself to the goddess.

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