The Anthology From the Man Who Brought You Akira

No convention has been a greater boon to animation as a whole than the anthology. Granted, I love anthologies in most mediums. A collection of short stories from a slew of diverse, creative minds can expose audiences to all kinds of stories and genres they wouldn’t normally see or seek out themselves.

In terms of animated anthologies, works like Batman: Gotham Knight, The Animatrix or recent experiments like Love, Death, & Robots are perfect examples. They expand upon established works and introduce their own lore spanning myriad genres and subject matter, all while experimenting with myriad art styles.

The best part is that you can hook the audience with at least one story and they’ll surely be curious enough to see how the others fare. Maybe they don’t love all of them, but even one or two great stories can make the entire collection worth it, especially if the whole package is an hour and forty-five-minute film with three stories.

In 1995, Madhouse and Studio 4°C collaborated to create Memories, a collection of three short films based on short manga stories written by Katsuhiro Otomo, the man who created Akira. Since Otomo seems to always be involved in the animated adaptations of his work, he was the executive producer for Memories and even directed the third and final short himself.

Together with Darker Than Black director Tensai Okamura, Studio 4°C co-founder Koji Morimoto, and legendary director/writer Satoshi Kon, Memories was an ambitious fusion of three very different kinds of stories. If the objective was to make something that would stick in your mind, then they certainly picked a fitting title.

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The Big O is a Big Hit

After writing for the cult classic, Serial Experiments Lain, Chiaki J. Konaka took to scripting The Big O, a 26-episode mecha series for the premier studio of mecha anime, Sunrise. However, given Konaka’s now-revered talent of writing bizarre, psychological dramas, this show was anything but ordinary.

Over the years I have come to know it as a stylistic blend of art deco film noir and sci-fi mecha. It took clear inspiration from Batman: The Animated Series, with the original concept by Keiichi Sato likening the setting to Gotham. After the original 13 episodes, however, the show was canceled, or, more accurately, it was given a shortened season by producers.

And then it aired on Toonami in 2001.

The international reception alone pushed Cartoon Network to co-produce The Big O‘s final 13 episodes. The demands of western producers were limited. Sunrise was still animating it and Konaka was still writing with seemingly as little restraint as possible, so long as he added more action and was more forthcoming with the mystery plot.

This is yet another cult classic I have been meaning to watch for a while, considering it seems to be right up my alley. Whether it be allusions to film, or it’s stylistic similarities to my childhood obsession Batman, this review was bound to happen. And yet, I can’t honestly say I was prepared for what I was in for.

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Gunbuster & Diebuster – Classics Transcending Generations

It’s funny to think that the very first work by Hideaki Anno I ever saw was Top wo Nerae! Gunbuster, or, Aim For the Top! Gunbuster and not Evangelion, what he is better known for. It’s even more surprising that I hadn’t even watched Eva fully until this past summer when it released on Netflix.

Gunbuster was Hideaki Anno’s directorial debut. A high-concept super-robot show that in many ways was the breeding ground for concepts and character dynamics that would later be fleshed out more in Evangelion. It’s looked back on as a classic of the ’80s.

16 years later, Kazuya Tsurumaki, the director famous for FLCL, made a sequel to Gunbuster, titled Top wo Nerae 2! Diebuster, which was different and I mean, very different. However, it was just as good as – if not arguably better than – its predecessor.

Unfortunately, its hard to find a physical copy of either that has both shows, each one six episodes long. For the longest time I wondered when either show would be released in their complete glory. After seeing a photo on twitter of someone’s Blu-ray collection, I realized they already both already had. The same Gainax 20th Anniversary line of which an Evangelion Blu-ray was part of had produced a Gunbuster/Diebuster OVA collection. Upon learning its existence I didn’t hesitate to buy it.

Oftentimes with sequels to classics, there is a lot of skepticism among fans. They can be divided over which is better, and yet, both shows are not only received well on their own but as a pair. They are often seen as equals that complement each other. It’s a rare occurrence indeed. The question becomes: How did two shows from radically different creators manage such a success? Furthermore, is one truly better than the other?

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Ignore the Hate, Ghost in the Shell SAC_2045 is Good

The new Ghost in the Shell is good

This isn’t up for debate. Not because I’m opposed to dissenting opinions but because the festering shitholes known as the comment sections and forum posts about this new series have made such a claim a necessity.

About three years ago, Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 was announced. After 14 years, Stand Alone Complex was getting a direct sequel, something that was welcome after the middle-of-the-road Arise series from 2013. Even better, it would be directed AND WRITTEN by Kenji Kamiyama, the same guy who directed and wrote the original SAC. As a bonus, he would be co-directing alongside Appleseed director Shinji Aramaki.

Production I.G. would be working on it (no surprise there) along with Sola Digital Arts. In a big surprise, the character designs would be handled by Ilya Kuvshinov, someone who is mostly known to me for making beautiful art that people always set as their Soundcloud thumbnails for some reason.

Just last year we got a sense of what this very production team, sans Kuvshinov, was capable of. They released the Netflix original Ultraman, the animated sequel to the legendary Tokusatsu show of the same name. It was a cool show that got praise at the time, for good reason. So you’d think that knowing that these same people were working on the new Ghost in the Shell that people would look at the two and think “ok, this is the kind of animation I can expect.”

Instead, a lot of stupid fucking people acted like they didn’t see it coming when the new Ghost in the Shell was entirely CGI. Now that it’s released, I’d like to believe that people realized they were wrong, but nope. So I’m coming out of my hiatus swinging to get you motherfuckers cultured.

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The End of the Game – A Review of Psycho-Pass 3: First Inspector

I finished watching the conclusion to Psycho-Pass 3, titled “First Inspector,” just before writing this. After eight 45-minute long episodes, the story concludes with a “film” meant to wrap up the season’s plot threads that had felt unfinished. My thoughts were a mixture of “ok, cool” and “what the fuck even was that?.”

I should address a mistake on my part right out of the gate. Back in the final part of my Psycho-Pass retrospective, I claimed that First Inspector would be a recap film. I was incorrect. Info at the time led publications to believe that was the case but, no, they wrapped up the story in a neat little bow, which I appreciate.

However, I don’t think I’ll be referring to this as a film so much as a delayed finale. For some reason, Amazon divided the story into three episodes, despite it being marketed as a film and even given a limited theatrical run in Japan. Though, if I’m honest, judging by the production quality, I can’t imagine being impressed by the visual quality magnified on a theater screen, save for maybe the final episode.

If the snark was any indication, this may not be the most positive review. Far be it from me to spoil the verdict before you’ve even scrolled down or clicked “read more,” but if you weren’t the biggest fan of season three, the ending probably isn’t going to make you change your perspective. Regardless, here are my thoughts on how the film tied up one of the most ambitious sequels to Psycho-Pass yet.

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A Psycho-Pass Retrospective, Part One – Season One

I have no plans to make any sort of big “best of the decade” post, purely because I became an anime fan right around the midsection of this decade and always feel I can become more cultured. However, if you all would permit one instance of passionate and opinionated hyperbole, it would be that Psycho-Pass is one of the best science fiction series of the past decade.

But that word “series” carries a certain connotation. After all, there have been three seasons of Psycho-Pass and about four films, not counting the novel and video game spin-offs as well. Furthermore, after season one, the quality of the series is contentious at best.

Some argue the first season is the peak and then all sequels pale in comparison to varying degrees. It’s a perspective that I can’t necessarily argue with, even if I enjoy most of the content after season two. Regardless, I think that the series’ continued lifespan speaks well of the intentions of the creators at the beginning: To create a new popular brand within the Sci-fi genre.

I want to take a closer look at the series piece by piece – similar to my Bungo Stray Dogs retrospective – and look at the franchise as a whole to see if it was a one-trick pony or not.

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No Longer Hyped – A Review of Human Lost

The 1948 novel Ningen Shikkaku, known in the west as No Longer Human, is considered a masterpiece of literature in Japan. It is considered autobiographical, as the torment of the main character seemed to mirror the demons of author Osamu Dazai. Dazai had completed suicide by the time the final part of this serialized book was released.

After many adaptations across many mediums over the years, Polygon Pictures has produced a new vision of the classic. Re-imagined as a sci-fi dystopian tale, Human Lost by director Funimori Kizaki is a striking film with a lot of ideas. Unfortunately, those ideas are seldom explored to the fullest.

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A Review of Steins;Gate

Do you ever notice time travel stories being criticized or picked apart more than other sci-fi? There have been numerous classics with all kinds of different interpretations and theories. Perhaps because it is a particularly nebulous concept among sci-fi subject matter that it inspires more analysis and thus is more prone to criticism.

But that is the point of science fiction, is it not? To explore out-of-this-world ideas. Still, the task of formulating a satisfying and logically sound time travel story adds considerably more work to the already lofty task posed by the standards of fiction writing.

From a creative standpoint, why risk it? Even the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has continually prided itself on its thorough construction decided to muck things up by introducing time travel in Avengers: Endgame. Plot holes resulting from stories like this could be explained away after the fact just as easily as they could be things the writers never considered.

Is it a fault of the discussion or the writers? Well, it can be a bit of both. When I hear of a time travel story that has been widely praised even years after its release, I get that much more intrigued. Time travel is hard to do and no show does time travel quite like Steins;Gate, which I finally watched just last month.

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I Saw Promare!!! My Thoughts on Trigger’s New Film

I’ve discussed previously my disdain for the praise aimed at Trigger in its early days. The whole “savior of anime” meme got old quick with the industry growing larger than ever, and certainly not solely because of Trigger’s work. Funnily enough, as time has gone on, there are now a lot of people who seem to think Trigger is “stagnating,” but that’s kinda bullshit.

With their catalog having built up over the years, Trigger has only been getting more praiseworthy as time has gone on. Kiznaiver was one of the best looking shows of 2016, Gridman was one of my top five from last year, and I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire time I watched Space Patrol Luluco.

Now, director Hiroyuki Imaishi and screenwriter Kazuto Nakashima have reunited for a new project, this time a feature-length film. As I am in Japan currently, I took this rare opportunity to see the film in theaters. Because I am not fluent and didn’t pick up on everything, this is not a formal review, but I couldn’t resist taking the time to give my thoughts.

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The Best Ghost in the Shell Film (Isn’t the One You Think)

It’s one thing to review anime that no one talks about, and that’s pretty fun. Chances are if I’m struggling to find content discussing an obscure show that looks cool, there are others just as aggrevated. I feel obligated to give these shows some publicity, whether it be good or bad. What’s more interesting are the times when the anime I’m reviewing is a more obscure part of a well-known series.

Recently I had the opportunity to analyze a film for my course on media criticism and decided to write about Ghost in the Shell: Innocence, the sequel to the very influential Ghost in the Shell from 1995. Despite having the same director and an impressive visual onslaught, the film has never gotten the same acclaim. after all these years. This surprises me, because given the choice between which I like better… I might enjoy Innocence more.

This is a reworked, SPOILER-FREE version of an essay I am wrote for my class on media criticism, so treat this like a review of the film. For the UNEDITED ESSAY, click here.

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