Archive for July, 2012

Anime Review: Samurai Seven

Genre: Sci-fi/Steampunk

Studio/Creator: Gonzo/Akira Kurosawa (wrote original movie)

Distributor: FUNimation, also streams on Hulu

Suggested Age: 13+

No. of Episodes: 26

My Rating: 7.5/10

Summary: This is a sci-fi version of Akira Kurosawa’s legendary epic Seven Samurai. In this version, a group of bandits called the Nobuseri are threatening a small farming village. They send their priestess, Kirara, a consort, and her little sister to recruit samurai to defend their village.

Review: Before I go any further, I want to stress that before I watched this series, I had not seen the original movie.  In fact, I didn’t see the movie until I was two episodes away from finishing the anime.  So, don’t expect me to bring up the movie too much.  Going into this, my sole purpose was to see if someone could watch this anime without having watched the original movie.

I first want to talk about what I liked.  After I watched both versions, I saw that the anime expanded on the story quite a bit. We got a good bit of character development on the samurai (even more than the movie did, and that was a long movie!), as well as Kirara.  You even get to see some characterization of the bandits.  I liked this especially after I watched the movie because the movie tells you next to nothing about them.  The show was paced just right, allowing you to see each character’s defining traits and arcs.  My favorite characters were Kambei, Katsuhiro, and of course Kikuchiyo.  Kambei is the leader of the samurai and we can see that he is a compassionate and cunning person. We also see that he has something of a dark past. Katsuhiro is a young man eager to become apprenticed to Kambei but he is initially refused.  What really made me like this character was his persistence in proving himself to Kambei.  Kikuchiyo is a brash cyborg who’s not afraid to put the other warriors in their place and to show them that he is worthy of fighting at their side, even if they doubt his expertise.  He was a funny character and I liked his bravado.

On to the cons. My biggest problem is the animation.  To be honest, I really like Studio Gonzo most of the time.  They can wow you with the CGI shots very easily, and this anime is no exception. That all changed with episode seven.  For a whole eight minutes, the animation went off-model and looked TERRIBLE! To put this into perspective, the average episode of an anime runs at about twenty-four minutes. Eight minutes is about one third of an episode.  That is just unacceptable, especially from the same studio that made Last Exile  and the “Second Renaissance” shorts in The Animatrix. This really cut down how much I could enjoy this series.  However, I will say that the expansion on the movie’s story was a great surprise.  For these reasons, I still recommend this, even with these imperfections.

Sub/Dub: The dub is pretty good. Christopher Sabat, who you may recognize as Vegeta (as well as several others) in Dragonball Z, is enjoyably hammy as Kikuchiyo, while R. Bruce Elliot does a great job of Kambei’s compassion.

Music/Score: The music has a great stirring feel throughout. I kinda liked the opening, but the lyrics for the closing really made that song great.

Violence: 7/10–about what I’d expect for a samurai story.

Language: 3/10

Sexuality: 0/10

Nudity: 0/10

Religion: 1/10–Kirara is described as a water priestess and uses a magical crystal to test the spirit of each samurai. However it’s shown that it’s not as reliable because quite a few times a few of the samurai pass its test.

Trivia: George Lucas has said that Kurosawa’s movies were a big influence on his Star Wars movies.

 

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Anime Review: Bamboo Blade

Genre: Slice-of-life/Sports

Studio/Creator: AIC/Masahiro Totsuka & Agura Igarashi

Distributor: FUNimation, also streams on Hulu

Suggested Age: 13+

My Rating: 8/10

No of Episodes: 26

Summary: A down on his luck kendo instructor makes a bet with a rival that he can create a kendo team from scratch and challenge him.

Review: I got into this one because Jesu Otaku, one of my favorite Internet reviewers, put it into her top 25 best anime list.  That was enough to get me interested.

First off, the animation is actually pretty good.  The movements are fluid, especially during the matches. AIC is really, in my opinion, one of the most underrated anime studios.

The characterization is pretty good. Kireno, the team captain is energetic and I liked her from the start.  She was a fun character and soon became one of my favorites.  I liked the fact that she cared about all her teammates, even the one who seemed like the weak link.

Tamika is probably the easiest character to underestimate. And that’s why I like her. She has unbeatable determination. On top of that, she’s also cute. It was great to see her in action. I couldn’t help but like her. There was also the character of Miyamo. At first, she seems like a brainy person, but then you discover her brains don’t help her much in school. It was a nice twist on a cliche.

So, I like the studio. I like the cast.  And you’re probably thinking “Okay, so, why’d you give it an 8 instead of the full 10 points? What stopped you?” First there was the repeated animation in many episodes. And I also wasn’t fond of the subplot for Tamaki. It turns out she’s a fan of a sentai show called Blade Braver. This wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t actually use it in the story as a plot point, but they did. I felt it detracted from what I was watching the show for.

For the most part, I can recommend this one.  If you’re watching too many action anime and gore-fests, and you need a breather, I’d say watch this.  It isn’t necessarily ground-breaking, but I like it anyway.

Sub/Dub: The dub isn’t bad, but I felt the sub was better.

Music/Score: Both the opening and closing are very catchy. The music during the show itself is also very upbeat.

Violence: 4/10–Not more than you’d expect for a show involving kendo.

Language: 2/10

Sexuality: 0/10

Nudity: 0/10

Religion: 0/10

Related Media: Based on the manga of the same name.

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Anime Review: Paprika

 

Genre: Psychological/Mystery

Studio/Creator: Madhouse/Yatsutaka Tsutsui (wrote novel) and directed by Satoshi Kon

Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

MPAA Rating: R (for sexuality, nudity, and disturbing imagery)

My Rating: 10/10

Running Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Summary: (from Netflix summary) Reality and the dream world are on a collision course after a DC-Mini–an experimental device that can record dreams–is stolen from a psychiatric research facility.  When the thief begins intertwining the patients’ dreams, it’s clear that the DC-Mini has fallen into dangerous hands. Can Dr. Atsuko Chiba and her alter ego, a sprightly avatar named Paprika stop the madness?

Review: I’m a big fan of Satoshi Kon’s movies, and until I saw the movie I’d say his best work was Millennium Actress. Now, it’s Paprika.  

Describing this masterpiece is far from easy.  It’s way too surreal to put into words. However, that is what makes Satoshi Kon’s films so awe-inspiring.

The animation is very beautiful, especially at the point where the dream world begins to blend into the real one. Going into this, I asked around so I could get an idea of what to expect.  But the moment I saw the clown climb out of  the way-too-small car, I knew I was unprepared. And that was just the opening shot! I hadn’t even seen the most repeated moment: the parade. It was liking that annual Macy’s parade–while on hallucinogenics.  It was upon that moment that I just said to myself, “sit back and enjoy it.” The thing is, you’re not looking at just one dream–it’s a collective subconsciousness, something that psychologist Karl Jung proposed. It’s the idea that we all share a collective dreamworld.

The characterization is interesting, particularly concerning Dr. Atsuki Chiba and her avatar, Paprika.  I thought it was very interesting how different the two of them were. Atsuki herself is cold and detached. She keeps to herself because she doesn’t want people to know about Paprika. Paprika is more open and curious, almost like a gleeful child.  Because of this, her clients feel more at ease and allow her into their dreams to help them.

So what’s my final analysis? I thought this was awesome. The visuals were impressive. I loved how the movie was paced and how the dream got bigger and bigger until it seemed all of Tokyo was consumed by it.  This is truly one of the best movies I have ever seen–period. If you want to see where Christopher Nolan got the idea for Inception, watch this.

Sub/Dub: This depends on what you’re looking for. The dub was actually written not as a translation per se, but to capture the spirit of the story. This is why in the dub, Paprika and Chiba are voiced by two different people, whereas in the sub, both are voiced by Megumi Hayashibara. I felt both versions were great. I have to say this is Hayashibara’s best role.

Music/Score: The music is somewhat electronic and at times as chaotic as the film itself. I thought it was a great complement.

Violence: 5/10–Some gunshots and one death scene.

Language: 1/10

Nudity: 2/10–There’s a couple scenes with Chiba and Paprika naked.  The villain is also naked during the climax.

Religion: 1/10–During the parade, “God and Buddha will change religions” is chanted.

Related Media: This is based on the novel by Yatsuki Tsutsui.

Trivia: Both Satoshi Kon and Yatsui Tsutsui make cameos as the voice of a waiter and a bartender in the Radio Club scenes.

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Secret World of Arriety

Genre: Fantasy

Creator/Studio: Mary Norton/Studio Ghibli (Directed by Hiromasa Yonebashi

Running Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

Suggested Age: any

My Rating: 10/10

Summary: A sick boy named Sho is staying at his aunt’s house, when he discovers that tiny human-like creatures called Borrowers live in the walls.

Review: While Miyazaki didn’t direct this film, I still found it enjoyable. The animation is still as excellent as ever. What I thought was great was how they scaled everything down to Arriety’s point of view.  As a result, everything is huge! Bedrooms seem wide and vast.  Insects are as big as Arriety herself.  Arriety uses a hairpin as a sword.

Arriety is a great heroine.  I like her courage and resourcefulness.  I thought it was great how her relationship with Sho changed throughout the course of the story.  She starts out resenting him because she doesn’t want her family to move and start over. But when she discovers how sickly Sho is, her heart softens.  She sees Sho in a different lightand realizes that not only is he not a threat, he actually wants to help.  When this happens, she sees that Sho can be a friend.

I think the best part was the dollhouse in Sho’s bedroom.  It was intricately detailed.  The library had real books were just small enough for them to wear.  And the most interesting part–it even had working appliances just tiny enough for them to operate.

I really can’t find anything I didn’t like.  This has nothing to do with my being a Ghibli fan.  Everyhting about this movie makes it great.  If you like their movies, I highly recommend this movie.  I also feel it would be great for children of all ages. It’s a great tribute to the actual book, even though they relocate the story to Japan rather than England.

All in all, this was an excellent movie, and one of Ghibli’s best.

Sub/Dub: The dub is very well done. Carol Burnett, Bridget Mendler, and Grace Poliete all did great jobs.

Music/Score: Joe Hisashi did a great job, particularly on Arriety’s theme.

Violence: 0/10

Sexuality: 0/10

Language: 0/10

Nudity: 0/10

Religion: 0/10

Related Media: Based on the book by Mary Norton

Trivia: Mary Norton, also wrote that inspired the Disney movie Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

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Manga By Volume: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind V. 1

Well, it’s finally happened, readers!  I’m reviewing manga!  But I’ve decided I’m going to this this differently from most reviewers.  I’m going to review manga one volume at a time. It works better for my memory, and you’ll even see how the manga’s overall story evolves over time.

So, without further ado, here’s my review of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind Vol 1.

Genre: Fantasy

Creator: Hayao Miyazaki

Publisher: Viz

Suggested Age: 13+

My Rating: 10/10

Summary: Set in a post-apocalpytic world, this is the story of Nausicaa , princess of the Valley of the Wind. This manga provided the story for the Ghibli movie of the same name and also expands upon it.

Review: In the first volume, we are introduced to Nausicaa and her people who live peacefully in the Valley of the Wind. Nausicaa has an empathetic bond with giant insects called Ohmu.  We also meet her uncle, Lord Yupa.

However, the Valley is in the midst of chaos. The Talmakian army is in the midst of war with the Pejite army and Nausicaa’s people are caught in the middle.  Yupa tries to stop Naucaa from fighting when they fire upon her and miss, but she has too much rage.  But the Talmekian army has a trump card–they’ve unearthed a monster known as a “god warrior”, who turned the earth to cinders in under a week.

As many of you readers know, I am a huge Miyazaki fan. So, I knew that my first manga review had to be something special.  So why not, see just how different the manga is from the anime.  The artwork is very good. It’s actually similar to the anime version, albeit somewhat rougher. (it’s actually more similar to the storyboard artwork) The first volume is actually quite similar to the movie.  One major difference is that we learn more about what happened in the past. We also actually hear the Ohmu talk (in the anime, they can only communicate through telepathy, and only to Nausicaa)

Violence: 5/10

Nudity: 0/10

Sexuality: 0/10

Religion: (0/10)

Related Media: This inspired the movie of the same name.

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