The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one of the best RPGs I’ve ever played. A rich yet depressive fantasy epic spanning multiple nations plagued by monsters and war. It’s a story about prejudice and choosing between greater and lesser evils. Amidst all of that, it remains a world that players couldn’t help but get lost in.
After the release of the live-action Witcher series on Netflix, the game saw a resurgence in interest from fans new and old. I should know, I was replaying it too. It was a quirky and often epic show that had its highs and lows, but despite it all, I loved it. News of new spinoffs and films were only natural, but was the franchise biting off more than it could chew?
If I had any concerns, they were minor, because Nightmare of the Wolf, the first of these spinoffs, was a film I highly anticipated. It came from Studio Mir, the studio behind Legend of Korra. Everything looked in place for this to be an enjoyable prequel centered around Vesemir, Geralt’s mentor.
And somehow, this film surpassed every expectation I had.
I’ve spoken about my thoughts on LGBT anime in the past. I’ve grappled with my thoughts on how homosexuality is portrayed in Japan and my feelings with shows that I’ve loved in the past that had queer-coded elements or queer-baiting. But in the last year especially, I’ve started to look on the brighter side of things. I’ve started to appreciate what my earliest exposures to queerness in anime gave me, regardless of any flaws.
Representation can only get better with time and with more diversity in the room when stories are being crafted. With studios like Blue Lynx producing higher quality gay cinema, gay representation in anime reaching new heights. And after delaying it for FAR too long, I’m happy to say that Studio Hibari’s The Stranger by the Shore is the best gay romance I’ve seen yet, but for very particular reasons…
Seldom is a movie so addicting that I find myself rewatching it within a day. Even most good films hit the spot just right that I can give it at least a while before a second watch. But some movies, whether they’re short or just incredibly well-paced, get me coming back almost instantly. The kind of film varies, but they have something in common: spectacles that I can’t get out of my head.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway is one such movie. Director Shukou Murase, the man behind Gangsta, Ergo Proxy, and Genocidal Organ – among others – brings this story to life, from novel to film. It’s the first of a planned trilogy from Studio Sunrise, and it might just be the most gorgeous film to look at in 2021.
The more that time passes, the more that I look back fondly on 2018’s SSSS.GRIDMAN. At first, it was strange, but then again, a lot of the shows that I love are strange from the outset. Perhaps my threshold for weird is expanding but more likely, I just need something obtuse to keep me on my toes these days; something to truly surprise me.
Gridman was a show about Yuuta Hibiki, a boy with amnesia, finding himself embroiled in a mission to save his city from kaiju with the help of his friends. The catch was that every time the kaiju was defeated, the world was reset the next day. The buildings were rebuilt and anyone who died suddenly had their histories rewritten so that they died of unrelated causes. Only the main characters remembered anything.
There was a mystery. There was also a tangible sense of realism to the way characters talked, especially the high-school protagonists. In an interview with SakugaBlog, director Akira Amemiya confessed that schools were visited to collect data for the show’s production, yet there wasn’t much conscious thought put into making the dialogue more realistic. That almost makes it more impressive that it came off so natural.
CG robots and monsters were used to create a disparity between the character-driven story and the spectacle, similar to how miniature cities and actors in costumes are used in tokusatsu. The villain was complex and one of the best written I’ve seen in years. The reveals were shocking and the scale of the show ended up much larger than it first seemed. And little did we know all that would only be the beginning of a new universe.
From returning director Akira Amemiya and writer Keiichi Hasegawa comes the sequel to 2018’s SSSS.GRIDMAN, SSSS.DYNAZENON.
The only thing more annoying than stupidly long light novel titles is unnecessarily wordy Fate titles. I bet it’s half the reason this franchise seems so alienating to newcomers. With so many spinoffs, the franchise never seems to have an easily identifiable starting point. Even the ones that are generally agreed to be the essentials are criticized for not being flawless adaptations of the original visual novels.
Nothing has quite been more perplexing in the series’ tenure than Fate/Grand Order, the mobile game which has spawned numerous animated adaptations of varying quality. I reviewed F/GO Babylonia last year, praising it as one of the most visually impressive shows in years, though its story had problems.
As I understand it, F/GO‘s story in the mobile game has been… iffy. Some early arcs are abysmal, the later ones get better, and there are some stories that flat-out retcon established lore of the universe. Needless to say, fans of Garden of Sinners or Tsukihime, which traditionally take place in Fate‘s universe, have been left wanting by the direction of the brand.
When it comes to animation, the producers of these adaptations seem to cherry-pick which arcs to animate, and different studios try their hand at bringing these stories to life. Babylonia, the first huge adaptation, skipped straight to the last “singularity” of Fate/Grand Order‘s first arc. This week’s review is of a film set before that TV series.
Fate/Grand Order THE MOVIE Divine Realm of the Round Table: Camelot – Wandering; Agateram… Over a full line for just the title… I’m not mad I’m just disappointed. BUT! As for the movie itself, I’m the furthest thing from disappointed. I really enjoyed this film, which is baffling because apparently some diehard fans of F/GO really don’t. Why?
I won’t lie. I mean, I wouldn’t be a good critic if I ever did lie, but especially in this instance, I can’t pretend that I wasn’t worried. Season three took some bold leaps to make a story much bigger than just Dracula. For the most part, it paid off. But the finale was mixed. It could feel jarring, and not every story was particularly captivating.
Then came the official trailer for season four, along with the big reveal: this would be the last season. How in god’s name were they going to bring together all of the separate stories together into one 10-episode season? After watching it, it begs questioning why I ever doubted them.
Does the title seem too cynical? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I was absolutely delighted to hear that the new Demon Slayer did well at the box office. But then it kept doing well, and then it broke record after record at the Japanese box office. Now it’s in the US with a wide release by Funimation Films, this time with a big Sony logo emblazoned on the front (clearly the big companies are catching onto how much money anime makes). It also has an official R rating by the MPAA, whereas most limited anime releases stay unrated.
This film has the potential to do pretty damn well in the west and to stay in theaters for a while, at a time where it’s feeling safer to go to theaters, even if at half-capacity. It’s the continuation of a major hit series getting the proper cinematic treatment from Ufotable, a studio more than capable of producing hit films, with localization from a major film studio finally ready to attach its name to these anime releases. This could be huge.
I love reviewing movies, but sometimes I feel like I can’t review the things that mean the most to me. How stupid is that? I’ve been doing this for almost four full years now. My greatest pride and joy has been putting into words why things do and don’t work from my perspective in the hopes that people who aren’t film critics but merely film enjoyers can appreciate things more.
But sometimes when I love something so much, I can overhype it. It happens all the time. Something will come along that isn’t just a great movie. To me, after I’ve watched it, it’s THE great movie. And if I hype it up too much, will people not feel the same way I did? Will they not cry as hard, or smile as brightly when it’s over?
I’ve decided that I can’t undersell how a film made me feel though. After all, I have the words to explain what about this film made me love it. And I can’t get too worked up over whether or not everyone who reads my thoughts will feel the same way I do. This is a review, but more importantly, it is an account of how Violet Evergarden: The Movie made me incredibly happy. And I hope it can make you happy too.
Ever since 1967, Lupin the Third has been a staple of Japan’s animation culture and one of the most storied and recognizable icons in the international market’s perception of anime. Despite having persisted in so many different iterations by so many different teams, it was only in preparation for this very review that I watched a Lupin anime all the way through for the first.
Why? I’m not sure. It’s a certified classic, and it isn’t as though I couldn’t have gotten into Part IV or V, both of which aired within the last few years. Not to mention Sayo Yamamoto’s critically acclaimed series, The Woman Called Fujiko Mine. Yet it was a story set in the same continuity as that last series that truly caught my eye.
Takeshi Koike is insane. I say that lovingly as a man who loves his 2009 film Redline, which was famously in production for seven years. Koike is a frenetic and wildly imaginative director and when he has the freedom to direct and do character designs, his style treads this line of adult maturity and wild cartoonish exaggeration so well it becomes a dimension all its own. So when I asked myself “where the hell has he been lately?” I was pleased to find the answer in the form of Lupin.
From Telecom Animation Film and TMS Entertainment, this is Takeshi Koike’s Lupin the Third, a bold vision of a beloved classic that just so happens to be my first true entry into this series.
Imagine: It’s 2013. You’re Tetsurou Araki, the famed director behind Death Note and Highschool of the Dead. Now, you and WIT Studio, the offspring of Production I.G., have blown the minds of anime fans new and old with an adaptation of Hajime Isayama’s manga, Attack on Titan.
The problem: You adapted too much of what was already written and there’s not nearly enough content to make a second season immediately. People are frothing at the mouth for more and you want to give it to them. That’s when a script by Ichirou Ookouchi and Hiroshi Seko catches your eye.
It’s similar to Attack on Titan, but only on the most surface level. It’s about humans surviving in walled cities against a horde of monsters with a specific weak spot. However, the setting, technology, aesthetic, and philosophy behind the action are a beast of their own. There’s something here. An opportunity to do what Attack on Titan did, with the same people, unconstrained by the wait for source material.
From director Tetsurou Araki and WIT Studio, with music by Hiroyuki Sawano, this is Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, the anime that was meant to surpass Attack on Titan.