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