Monday, December 15, 2008

Review | Movie | Honey and Clover Live Action

HONEY AND CLOVER LIVE ACTION : Live action adaption of the
popular anime series. Yuta Takemoto, Shinobu Morita and Takumi Mayama are three college men who live in the same apartment complex within walking distance of the art college they all attend. When their teacher, Shuji Hanamoto,
returns from out of town with his cousin's daughter Hagumi, the tiny college
girl 'Hagu', through her cultivating artwork and exceptional kindness,
begins to change lives of the people around her.

I began watching this shortly after finishing the second season of the anime, I was lucky to find it after it was licensed on CrunchyRoll. It was amusing to see the actors they cast in the roles. Though Hagu isn't short enough to be made fun of like she was in the anime, she was still fun to watch.

This live action remake is definitely one that the Honey and Clover fans should be sure to check out. The film does not cover the second season, however, instead ending at the same place the first season did. As far as Takemoto's self-discovery, I was a little disappointed to discover that during his sleep time at the temple, he did not encounter any eccentric builders itching for a decent meal. One of the highlights of the series for me were the temple restoration workers commending Takemoto's fierce cooking skills and being grateful enough to call him one of their own. Instead, all Takemoto encounters before gloomily riding away is one lone construction worker who barely talks to him and dismisses him as a "pest." He shows up later offering Takemoto a ride in his truck, but that's about all we're able to get out of these cheerful, happy-go-lucky characters that sweetened the load in the anime.

In the end, we do get a couple gut-busting cameo roles from the unusually-named gallery owners Mario and Luigi Fujiwara, who never cease to wear shirts that boast their abdomens and pants that cling to whatever figure they may have had before the pounds packed on. They are as entertaining to watch as their hilarious take on Japanese introductory bowing when they meet visitors of their art show.

I think this movie is absolutely fine for kids to watch as far as content, and if they're able to pick up on the story, I think it's a great watch. The only content that may be concerning is the fact that nude statues are shown several times (as the movie takes place at an art school), and a man flashes his middle finger at a camera, though this is done from a distance and can hardly be made out. I'll definitely be rewatching this movie in the near future. Honey and Clover fans should enjoy this one very much. I'm very impressed.

Overall Rating:
/ 5


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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Review | Anime| Honey and Clover

HONEY AND CLOVER : Yuta Takemoto, Shinobu Morita and Takumi Mayama are three
college men who live in the same apartment complex within walking distance of
the art college they all attend. When their teacher, Shuji Hanamoto, returns
from out of town with his cousin's daughter Hagumi, the tiny college girl
'Hagu', through her cultivating artwork and exceptional kindness, begins to
change lives of the people around her.

I don't have to tell you this series has made a major dent in the anime industry. One of the most well-known romance animes in the anime community, Honey and Clover's simplicity and pace is sure not to disappoint.

Though the story is slowly paced at the beginning and plot is unclear around the same time, once we meet short kid Hagu-chan, things become more and more vivid. Hagu is constantly chased by the directors of art galleries looking to post her art in their festivals and galleries; it eventually gets to the point where Hagu's attempts to meet the constant demand for artwork results on becoming physically and emotionally weak. However, Mr. Hanamoto (Shuu-chan, as she refers to him) is always willing to dedicate his time and is never too busy for Hagu. This begins to bother Hagu, who feels he should spend more time on what makes him happy. Also willing to help Hagu is Takemoto, who has grown a great fondness for Hagu and her work.

While Takemoto is getting plenty of attention from the girl he likes, Mayama is starving. Mayama has fallen in love with his employer, Rika Harada, which could not be a more complicated catch; Not only is Rika many years older, but she has lost her husband in a car accident that severely crippled and scarred her. She is now somewhat detached, refusing to get close to anyone, which puts Mayama in a bigger pinch. His obsession with Rika goes so far, he begins to stalk her. Though his friends try to tell him it's stalking, he refuses to admit it. He has even set his ring tone to "Moon River" because he heard Rika humming it once day to herself. This reels in plenty of teasing from the eccentric Shinobu Morita, who is infamous for rolling into Takemoto's apartment seemingly half-dead, his pocket seams bursting from the wads of money in his pocket, which nobody has any clue where he got.

Also in a love pinch is Ayumi Yamada, who is popular in the ceramics department of the college, especially with the boys, who call her 'Iron Lady' because of her constant thrasing of her male friends, specifically Mayama, who she has fallen head-over-heels for. She is almost always seen crying over Mayama, because she feels s if he is too busy staring at Rika to notice her, and most of the time she's right.

From the middle of the series all into the second season, the characters begin to understand themselves better and reflect on their futures. Some even go on journeys of self-discovery. In the middle of this dreamy slice of life is Hagu-chan, who despite being confused about self-discovery herself, knows that she has good friends in these oddball college students, so she's never alone.

While there is nothing overly inappropriate for children in this show, it would probably not hold a young child's attention because of the complexity and pace of the episodes. If a child does express interest in seeing this anime, there are a few incidents where characters become drunk and characters smoke, there are a few references to a woman being naked (it's a joke made over the telephone and no women are actually seen naked), and two girls cry hysterically in an exaggerated manner when they see a woman's beautiful body parts and they complain theirs aren't as beautiful. A man stalking his love interest is also referenced and the characters in question are later seen in bed together.

Sick of fantasy anime? Honey and Clover is about as close to reality as you can come, the only difference? Unlike actual life, it's actually worth watching. A definite must-watch from us.

Overall Rating:
/ 5


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Monday, December 8, 2008

Review | Movie | Panda Go Panda

PANDA! GO PANDA! : When her grandmother and primary caregiver
goes out of town, 7-year-old Mimiko lives alone in her small town and gets two
unlikely visitors to her little house: A huge panda and his tiny son. Mimiko
befriends the two and they become Mama, Papa and Son, and have adventures big and small, from circuses to picnics.

One of the only animes I've seen with no objectionable material for young children, Panda! Go Panda! is yet another fantastic creation by the renowned Hayao Miyazaki, known best for his stunning storyboards and hit films which bring in awards like moths to a flame. One of his earliest works is "Panda Kopanda", which is definitely one to bring homes to the kids.

The only thing there is to worry about from Panda! Go Panda! is the lovable Papa Panda's pipe which he later coats with his signature use of "nice" and commenting on how "tobacco is nice, too." He is never, however, shown to be under any influence by it. Papa Panda commonly calls things he enjoys or approves of nice. Children will adore this huge panda and his tiny son, and should get a great treat out of his large, toothy grins, reminiscent of the large rabbit-like tree spirit from Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro.

The films is put into two different parts, Panda! Go Panda! Family and Panda! Go Panda! Rainy Day Circus. Rainy Day Circus is the continuation of the first film (not so much a sequel as it is a second half), and in this film we meet a small runaway baby tiger who has fled the circus and is discovered in Baby Panda's bed. The young tiger is immediately befriended with open arms by the family, which because if its inclusion of a gigantic, over-eating panda accidentally scares away two circus staff members who come to Mimiko's house looking for "Tiny the Tiger". This somewhat disappoints Mimiko, who wanted to invite "her first burglars" to join them for dinner.

Mimiko and her animal companions are always smiling, even after heavy rain floods their house and drives them to the second level of Mimiko's house. Papa Panda's only comment on the sheeted rain is the fact that "rain is very good for bamboo." And bamboo is nice!

Panda! Go Panda is a charming and adorable watch that will thrill children, and even adults, looking for a heavy dose of something warm and fuzzy, so don't miss Miyazaki's clever sugar-coated panda family that will leave you shouting "Go Panda!"

Overall Rating:
/ 5


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Friday, November 28, 2008

Review | Anime| The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

THE MELANCHOLY OF HARUHI SUZUMIYA : Kyon begins his first year at a new school, and meets an oddball girl named Haruhi Suzumiya, who is dissatisfied with
anything considered "normal", and wants only to experience the unnatural. This
inspires her to begin a new club called the SOS Brigade, which Kyon is roped
into. Kyon is soon told by the SOS Brigade's new members that Haruhi, unbeknowst to her, can manipulate reality merely by wishing for it.

I was very impressed with the ratings this series got, which were all nines and tens from review sites. I decided to try my luck, and 14 episodes later, I am no closer to understanding the series, and overall extremely disappointed.

Where do I begin? The show had potential, it truly did, but it had more holes than an archaeological dig. We start out with a bored girl who makes a new friend and starts a club dedicated to the paranormal. Then said girl gets three more members, one by force, one by will and one who couldn't care less, and the club is launched. Then, finally, we discover said girl can manipulate reality, but doesn't know it yet. Hey, look, it's about to get interesting.

Maybe so, but the audience never gets any explanations for important details. By the time the series ends, Haruhi still doesn't know about her ability, we don't know how Haruhi's ability came to be or how it ties into everything, we never find out about Mikuru Asahina's "classified" information or her visit from the future. The series' ending was just awful. It was as if another episode was meant to come after it. We don't learn anything new, no revelations are made, absolutely nothing is available for the finale to call itself a finale.

There have been rumors of a second season, and I hope to the gods there is, because I am not impressed in the slightest with how sloppily this anime was put together. It stopped abruptly on enough cliffhangers to put a Rescue Team out of their minds, and I still don't understand how this information was so great that it had to be fit into 14 episodes. Just what exactly were we doing for 14 episodes besides watching Haruhi Suzumiya attack Mikuru Asahina with moe clothing she purchased on the Internet? Did I waste valuable hours of my life to watch that?

This series could have been saved, provided the creators had actually ended the series properly and maybe cut out a couple of Asahina attack sequences to make room for details that are greatly needed. It really is a shame, because I knew for sure we were about to get somewhere, until I finished the series saying merely, "That's it??"

I really don't know where exactly all those high ratings came from because I sure haven't found a source. You definitely won't get any high ratings out of us for this Swiss cheese anime. Let it serve as a cautionary tale to aspiring anime creators: If you don't end your show, if you don't provide details, if you spend too much time on the useless stuff, there is no point at all wasting your time or others' time.

Overall Rating:
/ 5

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Review | Movie | Tenchi Muyo: Daughter of Darkness

suddenly approached by a mysterious girl named Mayuka who claims Tenchi is her father, the entire Masaki house is in a tailspin about who the mother is, and,
more importantly, how a 17-year-old boy can father a 16-year-old girl. As
Mayuka befriends the girls of the household, it is slowly suspected that Mayuka
may be part of something far more sinister.

I actually watched this movie before I began the series. This was many years ago, very way back.

Tenchi Muyo's charm is never shy; the excitement and comedy you get out of Tenchi's awkward moments, most of the time courtesy of space pirate Ryoko, never ceases to keep you alert. That's why, after watching this great movie, I finally began the series where it all began.

The story begins when Tenchi is doing his regular routine chores around his (impressively large) land, when he discovers a mysterious young girl sitting on his property. As soon as she sees him, she begins to refer to him as "daddy" and will not leave his side. Confused as always, Tenchi brings her back home for what could possibly be some answers. Naturally, this does not sit too well with Ryoko and Ayeka, who are head-over-heels in love with Tenchi. The jealousy is so strong you can smell it, and the sour taste remains with them even though Mayuka shows no sign of threatening them. Eventually, she forms her very own dislike for Ryoko, but a very strong friendship with young Sasami.

After running some tests, Washu comes up with the theory that Mayuka may be from the future, because DNA tests have proven that Tenchi is indeed Mayuka's father. She is therefore allowed to stay in the Masaki household.

Enter Yuzuka, a crazy-looking cat girl who is another in a long line of aliens seeking revenge on the Masakis, but just what could she be after? Is she the explanation for Mayuka's recent strange behavior? Ryoko's onto something, but no one wants to listen, figuring it's another one of her jealous rampages.

There is cursing in this movie, and of course the occasional groping of Tenchi by the alien chicks, and some one-sided incest. Parents may want to do some checking up before showing it to a young child, who may otherwise enjoy it for its sci-fi style fighting.

This is a fantastic movie to add to your Tenchi Muyo, and anime, collection. Tenchi Muyo became quite popular with anime fans when it was first released, and was even aired on TV for a brief time (I myself tuned in for some episodes) and this is one you'll want to keep an eye out for next time you're at the DVD store.

Overall Rating:
/ 5

Friday, November 14, 2008

Review | Movie | Pom Poko

POM POKO : The raccoons of Japan lived simple, peaceful
lives in their luscious forests, until one day, to their shock, the humans began
to tear down all the forests to make way for new housing developments. Enraged
and terrified, the raccoons must use their secret shape shifting abilities to
defend their homes from the new intruders, even if it costs lives.

Another Studio Ghibli masterpiece, Pom Poko brings something new to the table: Animals who, instead of fleeing from the deforestation that threatens them, choose to resort to a different method by turning the tables on the humans that shamelessly and thoughtlessly tear away at their homes. Based on the Japanese Tanuki folklore, many of the raccoons featured in Pom Poko have magical shape shifting powers, some a little more rusty than others. These creatures begin to notice their food and shelter becoming scarce after the invasion of their land by the crew of new housing construction, and must call on their elders, the masters of transformation, to teach them how to change their shapes. They hope to use these abilities in many different ways, but all for one sole purpose: to reclaim the land that is being stolen from them.

Though in the film they are introduced as raccoons, the Tanuki folklore is centered around a very different breed, known as the raccoon dog. In either case, the creatures in this movie are far too plump to be easily identified, doubly so with the fact that in the movie, the raccoons do not possess the famous ringed-tail that raccoons are known for. Studio Ghibli's depictions of the Tanuki are nonetheless charming and adorable. Even the mean and stuffy raccoons are hard characters to hate.

Also featured briefly in the film is another creature of folklore known at the Kitsune, a transforming fox, which in the film tries to convince the raccoons to stop their personal war with the humans and instead use their shape shifting abilities to change into humans and begin new lives. This decision is widely argued in the film, partly because of the raccoons' inability to transform into convincing humans.

I think a child would thoroughly enjoy this movie, however, here's where the warnings begin to come in. I had not been familiar with the Tanuki folklore before I watched this movie, so was surprised to discover that until about an hour through the movie, I had not noticed the raccoons' exposed genitalia. I later learn that this exposure is a prominent detail of the Tanuki in folklore, representing good luck financially. Though it may seem overly risque to the unknowing, their exposure is never, in the lore or the film, intended as sexual, and the film does not illustrate them sexually either. Rather, in the film they use what is referred to in the English dub as their "Pouches" to contribute to their shifting, such as parachutes which are seen later in the film.

Other material in the film include the deaths of humans and several raccoons, and though there is occasionally blood, it is never graphic. Additionally, there is a short scene narrated by one of the raccoons talking about how, because of lack of food and sheltering, they must halt breeding. While the raccoon talks about the female raccoons making sure this rule is kept, we see male raccoons charging at female raccoons, some seemingly drunk, and the female raccoons using karate moves to fight back, which implies their attempts to cease reproduction. Some female raccoons also have exaggerated breast size with occasional cleavage.

This movie I predict would otherwise be a delightful watch for children, even if they have to watch for 2 hours waiting for the conclusion. I extend yet another ovation for Studio Ghibli.

Overall Rating:
/ 5

Friday, November 7, 2008

Review | Movie | Whisper Of The Heart

WHISPER OF THE HEART : Shizuku Tsukishima is a junior high
school student who loves to read and write, and through reading her library
books' check-out cards, she discovers all of her books have been checked out by
a boy named Seiji Amasawa. Shizuku becomes curious to what Seiji Amasawa is like, only to find out that he is a rude stranger she found reading her book and
later insults her lyrics. As Shizuku and Seiji begin to learn more about
each other, Seiji's dreams of playing the violin helps inspire Shizuku to unlock
her dream of becoming a writer.

Another Studio Ghibli creation? How can this be? That was all it took to rope me into this film.

Shizuku Tsukishima lives the simple life; she goes to school and hangs out with her friends. This is a life she is only able to escape through her fantasy stories she checks out from the library. After dropping a book at her school, she runs to retrieve it and finds that a boy is sitting on the bench reading the book. The boy gladly gives it back, but also gladly refers to Shizuku's lyrics, which she used to mark her book, as "cornier than the original". This is enough to ruin Shizuku's day.

Computerized check-outs are beginning to come into play, which Shizuku comments that she likes the check-out cards better. Maybe because this way, she has finally cracked a pattern in every book she's ever checked out: They've all been previously read by a mysterious boy named Seiji Amasawa, whom no one at her school seems to know. It couldn't possibly be the jerk that made fun of her song. Could it?

Even though this movie is for anyone who wants an anime film that doesn't boast fantasy, I noticed that the plot of this movie didn't pick up as quickly as it could have. At least a good hour of the movie is focused on Shizuku's general life outside of her search for her mystery man, and while a slice of life is always good, a whole cake is not. There were several points in the movie that did not serve the plot at all, but were given too much focus anyway.

I also found the frequent use of the song, "Take Me Home, Country Roads" slightly odd for a Japanese anime. I would never have imagined John Denver, especially singing about West Virginia, had made such an impact on Tokyo, Japan. Random? Very. Bad choice? Rather.

The simplicity of this movie occasionally topped with fantasy scenes depicting Shizuku's stories make this film a little easier to watch, but not to the point where it should be defined as a fantasy film.

This film will be okay to present to the kids, but it is a 2-hour film and is sometimes very slowly paced. I think the only bit of enchantment a child could get from this film is fat neighborhood cat Moon (Muta) that leads Shizuku across town to a mysterious antique shop where she meets and befriends Mr. Nishi, a kind old man with a heart for antiques. In case it may be important for me to note for some, there is five seconds of a bra towards the middle the movie.

Whisper of the Heart is a good film to add to your Studio Ghibli collection. Probably not so much to your Hayao Miyazaki one.

Overall Rating:
/ 5

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Review | Movie | The Place Promised In Our Early Days

THE PLACE PROMISED IN OUR EARLY DAYS : In postwar Japan, after the divide of
the country, a tower is built that can be seen even from Tokyo. Friends
Hiroki, Takuya and Sayuri make a promise to fly to the tower on a plane that
Hiroki and Takuya built over their summers. When Sayuri becomes ill, the
is abandoned. 3 years later, after another war threatens the
country, Hiroki
discovers that Sayuri has been in a coma since she
disappeared, and believes her
coma has to do with the Tower. He calls upon
Takuya to help him continue to
build the plane, convinced that Sayuri will
wake up if they fly to the Tower.

I had heard about this movie from several sources, so I decided to look into it. My first surprise was that the film would last an hour and a half; making a good animated film in less than 2 hours is a feat rarely accomplished. That would turn out to be the problem with this movie.

I was having a bit of trouble getting through the first half of the movie. My first complaint is that it was poorly paced. Sometimes it was quick and not very detailed, and sometimes it was slow and lagging repeatedly. I felt like they could have done more with the storyline, it was a little hurried and choppy.

When we leave the natural everyday flow of things and begin moving into the laboratories that surround the mysterious Tower, that's when things get technical and it gets very difficult to figure out what's going on. Maybe it's something about me watching this movie at midnight but it often got way too rushed into complicated things, so instead of focusing on the depth or inner plot of the film, we can't focus on the essentials because we're too busy thinking, "Nano WHAT?"

I also still can't seem to understand the connections between the Tower, the parallel worlds and the film's female lead Sayuri. Everything seemed to be linked somehow to Sayuri but I haven't caught on just why or how. My next question is about the worlds themselves; how are they maintained, how does Sayuri link with them, how does co-protagonist Hiroki link with them. This was also not explained clearly, if the impression I was given is even the correct explanation.
The beginning of the film seemed to drag, but the end in my opinion was a bit fast. My next question is about Hiroki's apparent unexplained ability to avoid turmoil completely; despite flying straight into the smack middle of a war in the air, he is hardly hassled by the attack and takes no damage at all. He's out of there in less than a minute. Impressive, but again, not explained at all.

I think the only overall problem with this movie is that they failed to fit the summary of the plot into an hour and a half. It could have probably gone a very long way if it had been made into a series of episodes, which would most likely have helped the conveying of the plot in a timely and understandable manner. This film has got little fearsome material; one mild curse word, a bit of blood and a bra, but a child would not be able to read this movie properly at all anyway. I hardly could.

Overall Rating:
/ 5

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Review | Anime | Mahou Sensei Negima

MAHOU SENSEI NEGIMA! : Precocious 10-year-old Negi
Springfield transfers from Wales to Mahora Academy in Japan as an English
teacher in order to complete his wizard training. His class is made up of middle
school girls who are immediately affectionate towards him due to how "adorable"
he is. He cannot, however, gain respect from Asuna Kagurazaka, who just sees him as an ignorant child. Upon discovering Negi's secret of being a wizard, Asuna
and Negi ultimately team up and combine their abilities to protect their school
and classmates from strange happenings.

I had heard great things about this show from different locations and decided to try it out. I discovered many interesting facts about this series, including the fact that it was created by the same talents that brought us the ever-popular Love Hina. I was also excited to hear they had made the series into a live action (which I can't seem to enjoy as much as the anime.)

In contrast to the typical 'Magical Girl' animes is this eccentric 'Magical Boy' series that illustrates Professor Negi Springfield's past and present and his honest relationships with his students. Though he'll discover through his career at the school that many of his students have crushes on him (some more obvious than others) his dedication to his art and skill filter any feelings he may have had into a desire for merely teacher-student relationships. Negi offers as much comic relief as he does dramatic climaxes when his magic goes awry which lands Asuna smack in the middle of it, only increasing her dislike of him. Asuna does, however, show her pity towards Negi due to his never knowing his father, being an orphan herself. Though their relationship is unclear at the beginning, towards the end they begin to realize their friendship.

Asuna's partnership with him does prove useful at times because of an unexplained immunity to magical barriers and spells that should otherwise be effective towards humans. This is indirectly explained near the end of the series. Using the pactio magic that was obligated by pactio-starved ermine Chamo, Asuma attains magic powers that enables her to fight alongside Negi whenever enemies of the Magical World appear to take students they believe possess special abilities.

Parents may want to know about the elaborate fantasies of the students, with Negi as the subject of their affection. Japanese anime is known for targeting mature children as the love interests of much older characters, which is magnified more so in this series. The girls harbor an almost unhealthy obsession with Negi and/or his love life, even tricking Negi into entering the school at night, unaware that the girls had put on a game to see who could find Negi in the building and kiss him first. The pactios of magic require a kiss from a female in order to complete the pactio; Near the end of the series Negi is kissed by all the students in his class. Even when Negi is outside of his class, we may still worry about Chamo, who himself is under arrested for stealing hundreds of women's underwear.

The energy of this series is always high, and if you enjoyed Love Hina or AzuManga Daioh, you may not want to miss Negima!

Overall Rating:
/ 5


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