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 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?
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.
Back in May, I reviewed Given and concluded that it was precisely the kind of fun that I needed in my life. It was also a sign of more normalized, modestly budgeted LGBT anime on the horizon. And if the fancy title card for publishing company Blue Lynx at the beginning of Given‘s movie was any indication, they’re getting bigger and bigger.
I don’t think this will be a very long review primarily because this wasn’t a particularly long movie. I wouldn’t even bother calling it a movie. It was was more of an OVA. The budget didn’t necessarily increase. The CGI during performance scenes wasn’t great but wasn’t terrible either. This was more of what I liked and for a casual viewing on a Saturday night, I wasn’t disappointed.
My heart has belonged to Kyoto Animation for a long time. And their shows have always looked good – that’s not even a faintly nuanced observation. The 2010s was the advent of an in-house style that helped forge their identity without ever feeling like a stagnant or limiting trait of the production house. Be it the character work by Miku Kadowaki, Futoshi Nishiya, or others, the character art is something that hasn’t quite been matched by another studio.
Even before their in-house style became synonymous with their identity, their artwork was rarely a sore spot in the final product. However, how well do we regard the actual “animation” of Kyo Ani’s works?
Pretty well as a matter of fact. Consistently. From Liz and the Blue Bird to Silent Voice, I’ve praised the subtle character movements and facial twitches that create the small reveries of human pathos. Occasionally, these dramas or slice-of-life comedies might even present an action scene. Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid had ridiculously bombastic action and even Clannad had a pretty dope fight scene. However, I get the feeling that when people say that Kyoto Animation has great animation, they actually mean “great artwork.” It’s worth distinguishing between the two.
I don’t think any show from the studio has consistently reminded me of how great their animation talent is more than one particular show. If you would permit the generalization, the average viewer may not stray close to offering a critique of actual animation outside of shows or genres that incentivize consistent motion in their presentation. Hence why most people, regardless of their inclination to media criticism, often praise the animation of the hottest shonen/action series.
Following that line of logic, this week’s review is an action show with plenty to gush over. Beyond the Boundary – Taichi Ishidate’s directorial debut – is one of my favorite works by Kyoto Animation, and what I believe to be their best-looking show. Or rather, it is the most consistently upfront with what the studio is capable of, both in TV and film.