The original title for this review was going to be “The Right Soul For The Wrong Source.” My thinking was that Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop, a 10-episode live-action series from Tomorrow Studios, had an enticing presentation and soul, but ill-fitting for the material it was adapting.
After all, Cowboy Bebop is a certified classic. I can’t really call it a cult classic because if you know anime, you know Bebop. It carries a cultural footprint and critical acclaim in the anime sphere akin to the likes of Breaking Bad or The Soprano’s.
In 24 episodes, Shinichiro Watanabe created an eclectic character study of some of the most lovable, deep, and iconic bounty hunters in fiction. They might suck at their job, but they’re good when it counts. How could anyone adapt this show and NOT come under fire?
And really, why adapt a series like Bebop when it itself is inspired by the cinema of the western and noir genres, with a healthy balance of martial arts for good measure. It’s the same reason that people are boggled by a game like Uncharted getting a movie adaptation. Why make a movie out of a game that’s literally Indiana Jones.
Regardless, I watched the live-action Bebop, even after early reviews damned it early on. I got spoiled on the Ed reveal that EVERYONE knew was coming (more on that later), and my Twitter feed was angry people pulling out the Voldemort tech and not even saying the show’s name.
But something fascinating happened after watching three episodes the day it was released.
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.
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.
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.
The following is my review of Cases 1 through 3 of The Great Pretender that I wrote for Anime Quarterly back in September. If you like what you read and are interested in reading more by the AQ crew and me, be sure to bookmark AnimeQuarterly.com and make it your next frequent stop for anime news and reviews. Also, help us grow by supporting us on Patreon.
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.
Rarely does a show come along that makes me rethink what I want from a story. Across any number of genres I’m interested in, there is an expectation of how the story will explore “drama. The numerous action shows I watch explore their drama through physical interchange, be it spectacular or grounded in realism.
Even adult dramas with a sparse number of action scenes will present other, more personal forms of violence as well as confrontation through dialog. Slice of life dramas or comedies may have lighter tones, but they may culminate in some dramatic climax where the tone changes.
This week, I’m exploring a show that approaches its story in a far more relaxed manner. It presents its political theater in a captivating way unlike any other show I’ve watched, and made me reassess how I look at what makes a drama “mature.” From director Shingo Natsume and Studio Madhouse, this is ACCA 13 – Territory Inspection Dept.