Archive for June, 2012

Anime Review: Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040

Genre: Cyberpunk

Studio: AIC

Distributor: FUNimation, streams legally on Hulu (you need to log in and create an account and be at least 18)

No. of Episodes: 26

Suggested Age: 17+

My Rating: 9/10

Summary: This is actually a reboot of the OVA series Bubblegum Crisis, but you don’t need to have watched the original version.  The series set in the year 2040, seven years after an earthquake levelled Tokyo.  In this future, humans coexist with androids called Boomers.  But the Boomers are going rogue and its up to the AD Police and a vigilante group called the Knight Sabers to stop them.

Review: In the year 1982, a cult movie called Blade Runner was released.  Not only was it a hit in the United States, but it was also a hit in Japan, inspiring several anime titles, including this one.

The anime certainly has a very 90’s look to it. There is very little CG in it and the Knight Sabers have neat sentai-style outfits called “hardsuits”.  I thought the look was neat, even though it was dated.

The battles are really fun to watch. The hardsuits are fluidly animated and accent the battles.

As someone who hadn’t seen the original OVA, I had no trouble following the what was going on.  I liked how the world was designed and its vision of the future.

I did have a few issues. First, I thought the development was unbalanced. We learn great secrets concerning Priss, Sylia, and Mackie.  But most of the other characters seemed rather flat.  Everything seemed too centered on making Priss seem as cool as possible. Linna, the rookie Knight Saber, went from endearing to annoying. Brian Mason, the villain of the story, is done well, but since we mostly have a “monster of the week” approach, there’s little else to go on for the first half, meaning that all the plot development doesn’t really happen until the second half. When it did, it kinda threw me for a loop.  But I still enjoyed what I saw.

So, is this worth watching? Yes, it was a lot of fun.  It reminded me a lot of great cyberpunk shows I’d seen that came after and see what started it.  If you like hardcore sci-fi, this is worth a look. All in all, I’m glad I checked this out and you should too. Oh, and if you haven’t seen Blade Runner, pick that up too.  It’s truly a great movie.

Music/Score: The music has an 80’s feel to it.  Both the opening and closing were great to listen to, at least in my opinion.

Sub/Dub: Either version works. I really liked Chris Patterson’s performance as Leon.

Violence: (6/10): The Boomers are actually pretty close to human and in order to be defeated, one literally has to rip its heart out.

Language: (2/10)

Sexuality: (0/10)

Nudity: (4/10) We occasionally see into the hardsuits and see that the Knight Sabers are naked.

Religion: (0/10)

Drugs/Tobacco: (0/10)

Related Media: This is a reboot of the Bubblegum Crisis OVA. There was also a spin-off called AD Police, but I don’t know if that’s still available.

Trivia: Each episode’s title has a musical connection. It is either named after a song or an album.

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Anime Review: Hikaru No Go

Genre: Slice of life/Fantasy

Studio/Creator: Pierrot/Yumi Hotta and Takeshi Obata

Distributor: Viz, also streams legally on Hulu.

No of episodes: 75

Suggested Age: any

My Rating: 10/10

Summary: Hikaru is a junior high student. One day he discovers a Go board.  But the board is possessed by Sai, a Go player from Japan’s feudal era.  Sai died without fulfilling his dream–to achieve “the divine move”.  Hikaru quickly learns that he has a potential that he never knew.  Sai teaches Hikaru about the ancient game so that they can both achieve their dreams.

Review: Hikaru No Go illustrates something I really like about anime. They can take a concept that doesn’t seem like a  winner and prove the skeptics wrong.  An anime about a boy learning to play a centuries-old board game? Can it really be that good? Yes, it can.

The animation is consistently great. I said back in my review of Legend of the Millennium Dragon that I am not a big fan of this studio.  True, they did create three of my favorite programs–Yu Yu Hakusho and both versions of Naruto, but even those didn’t always entertain.  Here the style is great.

I also like the arcs that develop during the course of the story.  We see Hikaru start out as a bratty boy who has no interest in the game. He originally relies solely on Sai’s advice, essentially using him to cheat and win.  But as his confidence grows, he begins to rely less on Sai and decides to choose his own path. This means he doesn’t always win. He loses quite a few times throughout the story, and learns from these losses.  He earns the respect of his peers and pros as he moves from being a mere student to become a very young pro. Because of this, I wanted to cheer Hikaru on. I loved this concept from start to finish. I thought it was refreshing to see a show that didn’t rely on battles between good and evil, but instead on the strength of its characters .

Sub/Dub: I was only able to watch the sub.

Music/Score: The music was pretty good. I liked both the first and third openings, and some of the closing themes too.

Violence: (0/10) I saw very little violence. I think there was one fight, but that was it.

Language: (1/1o)

Sexuality: (0/10)

Nudity: (0/10)

Religion: (0/10) Except for the appearance of Sai, there is very little religious material in this show.

Drugs/Tobacco: (1/10) I did see a few characters smoking.

Related Media: This is based on the manga Hikaru No Go, published in America by Viz.

Trivia: According to the opening credits, a Go master was consulted to add authenticity.  Also, the Japanese voice actress who played Hikaru, Tomoko Kawakami, died in 2011 of ovarian cancer. Tomoko is also best known for voicing Utena in Revolutionary Girl Utena.

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Gundam 00

Genre: Sci-fi/Mech

Studio: Sunrise

Distributor: Bandai, streams legally on Crunchy Roll and on Youtube

No. of Episodes: 50 (note: this anime is divided into two separate seasons, each 25 episodes long.

Suggested Age: 13+

My Rating: 9/10

Summary: In the near future, an anti-terrorist group called Celestial Being has been formed to combat terrorism. In the first season, see the team begin its efforts. The second season is set five years after the first. In the second season, Celestial Being has a new enemy: the Innovators. The Innovators wish to use terrorism to bring about a new humanity, one that will submit to them.

Review: This is one of my favorite Gundam cartoons. What I really like about the Gundam franchise is that it’s more than just giant robots. It is, and always has been, a social commentary.  In every series in the franchise, we are always presented this question: Do the ends justify the means? In this case, can you use terrorism to combat terrorism?

Two of the most interesting members of Celestial Being are Setsuna F. Seiei and Lockon Stratos.  Setsuna is  a former child soldier who had it drilled into their head that the war was approved by God and if he defected, he would be disobeying God. This causes him to become an atheist, believing that a just God would not condone killing. I found this justified and I liked that they did not use this as a way to attack religion overall.  In fact, it almost reminds me of how Islamic terrorists have used their religion to justify killing.

Lockon Stratos is just plain cool. I like how he can step into a battle completely unfazed by what is going on arouind him.

Both season’s villains are quite intriguing. The main villain in season one is Sanchez, who uses war as a means to line his pockets. In season 2, we meet the Innovators, who can manipulate brainwaves, causing people to become their pawns.

The animation is top-notch, especially on the battles, which are awesome. All in all, if you like Gundam cartoons, you should check this out.

Sub/Dub: I was only able to watch the dub, but I liked it.

Music/Score: The music for Gundam is always great. I liked the first, second, and fourth openings, and the second and fourth closing.

Violence: (7/10) Lots of robot battles and we do see the causalities of the battles.

Language: (2/10)

Sexuality: (0/10)

Nudity: (1/10) The fourth opening has silhouetted nudity.

Religion: (1/10) As I stated one of the members of Celestial Being is an atheist.

Related Media: This is a spinoff of the Gundam franchise and is independent of the others in the franchise.

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Anime Review: Ghost in the Shell 2.0

Genre: Cyberpunk

Creator/Studio: Masamune Shirow/Production I.G.

Distributor: Manga Video

My Rating: 10/10

Suggested Age: 17+

Running Time: 1 hour, 23 minutes

Summary: In the distant future, Major Motoko Kushanshi is the best cyber-policewoman in Section 9, an organization of police officers who target cyber-terrorists.  Their latest case involves the Puppet Master, who can “ghost-hack”, meaning he can get inside your brain and make you a pawn in whatever scheme he plans.

Review: Before I begin, I want to note something.  This is not the original Ghost  in the Shell movie I am reviewing. This is a completely redone version. The animation is sleeker than the original production and more modernized.  Even the sound has been revamped, courtesy of Skywalker Sound.

Ghost in the Shell is one of my all-time favorite anime movies.  I love how different this world is from our own.  Cybernetics are so commonplace in this world, that it seems completely alien to our own.  Now the age-old question is even more complex–what makes humanity unique?  What sets us apart from the mere animals?  We have souls, but really where do these souls even come from? Do we even know that answer?  If we take a human brain and put it into a cybernetic body, how can we know that person is still human?  These questions are the central theme of the anime.  Even though the story takes on an agnostic approach, it is still a philosophy that I find intriguing.

Motoko is one of my favorite anime heroines.  She’s superhumanly strong and intelligent.  I love to watch the fluidity in her motion–it’s almost as if no motion is wasted.  She meticulously uses both her brains and her brawn to defeat her enemies.

The Puppet Master is a scary villain. He truly lives up to his name.  I liked the fact that his victims had no idea what they were doing.  Even their minds were altered. One victim in particular believes he has a wife and children, but Motoko discovers that the man has been single for years!  That is the extent of the Puppet Master’s abilities: he can completely alter your perception of reality.

The animation is flawless.  I could see the sleekness added by the C.G.  I’ve heard some complaints from those who’ve seen the original Ghost in the Shell that this approach is too bright, but I feel that is not the case.  It enhances the animation and does a great job of drawing you in because it is so unique.

Ghost in the Shell is a milestone in anime history.  It created  a cult following that gains new followers every time.  I feel that this is one of the best anime movies ever, and I highly recommend this movie.

Sub/Dub: I really think this is a movie that must be watched subbed.  Manga Video is notorious for bad dubs, and this is no exception.

Music/Score: The music has a somewhat haunting feel to it.  It’s not as good as the music in the TV series, but I liked it.

Violence: (8/10) There’s a headshot right before the opening credits. SPOILER! Towards the end, Motoko literally pushes her body to the breaking point while fighting a tank.

Language: (2/10) Manga Video is known for profanity-laden dubs, but this is actually not as bad as others I’ve heard.

Sexuality: (0/10)

Nudity: (3/10) Motoko has a passion for wearing skin-tight clothes, and during the opening credits, we see a nude female cyborg.

Religion: (1/10)–Throughout the movie, various characters talk about their “ghosts” which could be interpreted  as a soul.

Related Media: There was a sequel to the movie called Ghost in the Shell II: Innocence. There was also a two season TV series called Ghost in the Shell: Stand-Alone Complex. I’ve also heard of a few Playstation games.

Trivia: The Wachowski Brothers, who also directed the Matrix trilogy, have gone on record as saying that Ghost in the Shell was one of the inspirations for the Matrix trilogy.

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