Old Review: Kaiketsu Zorori: The Riddle of the Secret Treasure

Our main hero Zorori, a mischievous fox and a wandering traveller, dreams about achieving his lifetime goals of having a beautiful bride and living in an extravagant castle. Unfortunately he is abruptly woken up by young boy who was being chased by a large ship on land. After rescuing the boy, Zorori finds that the captain of the chasing ship is an old enemy of his known as Tiger, a fierce sea captain who has a powerful interchangeable mechanical arm. After a lucky victory against Tiger, Zorori also finds that the young boy he rescued is actually a young lady named Tail. Tail, who has lived quite a sheltered and independent life since having no mother and an a distant father, has been going on an adventure to try and find the location of an ancient treasure her father was seeking on his travels before he died, with her only clues being a small map of a castle and a pendant given by him. Zorori, being as mischievous as he is, decides to take advantage of this by helping Tail find the treasure so he can get the castle for himself and marry Tail. But since Tiger appears to be after both Zorori and the treasure for himself, and other obstacles that block the way, this search for a great treasure will be challenging for Tail, Zorori, and his two faithful companions Ishishi and Noshishi.

If my synopsis sounds a little confusing to you, don’t worry because there a quite a few things to understand before seeing this film. This is a film based on an anime series which is called “Kaikestsu Zorori” or The Incredible Zorori for an English translation. Based on a popular children’s book series, Kaiketsu Zorori first aired in 2004 and became a national hit with young kids, running for three seasons, spanning almost 150 episodes on Japanese TV. The most simplified plot I can give is that it’s about a travelling fox named Zorori, who travels around the world with his young twin boar companions Ishishi and Noshishi, as he tries to achieve his three life goals, getting a castle, marrying a beautiful woman and becoming world famous as the King of Mischief. Despite naturally failing at these goals one way or another, he helps people with their problems and he does have a kind side himself because of his troubled past. It’s a little more complex in reality, but what I said should give you an idea. It garnered so much popularity among kids that Studio Sunrise made the film, which was released March 11th 2006, not long after the end of the second season.

The animation in the film is really well done. It’s quite an improvement over the show, which is expected considering the production time and budget. Characters move a lot smoothly, any computer generated areas blend really well with the environment and lighting is really effective with the settings. The film also show quite a few effects which aren’t found in the show, such as angled shots, blur effects and art style transitions, which are great to look at and definitely shows that whatever budget this had didn’t go to waste. Some effects however can be quite distracting, one in particular is the “shaky-camera” effect, which other films use to try and give a realistic and tense atmosphere to shots, but here it looks like last minute additions that stick out like a sore thumb.

Part of the soundtrack contains the same insert tracks that are found in the show, which are nice to listen to and fit the scenes they appear in, but for someone who has watched episodes upon episodes of the show, they eventually get bland and generic. At one point they play the first season’s opening theme “Hasuru” (Hustle), which is catchy, upbeat and in my opinion was the series best song. There are a few original tracks which sound really calm and soothing, some quiet scenes, and the overall sound is really well edited, making some of the gags way more effective.

The voice acting in the Japanese version is brilliant, with most of the show’s cast members reprising their roles including Fumihiko Tachiki as Tiger and Motoko Kumai as Noshishi. Unfortunately Ishishi’s actor Rikako Aikawa had a temporary absence from the show at the time of recording, so Ishishi is voiced by her stand-in Masako Nozawa, but the difference in Ishishi’s voice isn’t greatly noticeable. One of the best actors in this is the voice of Zorori, by Koichi Yamadera, the actor has played lead roles in other major animes such as Cowboy Bebop and Ranma ½ and he really takes advantage of his powerful voice and great vocal range in some scenes. There aren’t that many original voices other than Tails and Tiger’s assistants but there isn’t anything bad or annoying about them so they are really listenable.

If you are wondering if there is an English dub, there is. In 2009, Cartoon Network got the rights to air an English Dub of the first season of Kaiketsu Zorori and the film, and both aired in 2010 on Cartoon Network’s Philippines channel. However, from the few clips I could find and the general opinions of many fans, the dub is very bad, and because of that it’s easy to see why Zorori has never officially gone stateside, most of the characters never sound right and some sound nothing like their Japanese counterparts. While the script is almost accurate and the soundtrack is intact, nothing else really saves it and since the only real source of the English version of the film as of writing is a poor quality Youtube video, it’s best to find the Japanese version instead.

As you probably tell from my references and comparisons to the show, this is one of those adaptations that is very accurate to its source material, especially because Studio Sunrise was involved in both show and film. This is in a way good for fans since they don’t need to get use to any major changes normally done by writers. However, the film’s main flaw is that you have to know what’s on in the show in order to understand the film. Unlike other film adaptations where they either retell the story of the game in a way that easy to follow for new viewers, like Dobutsu no Mori, or they tell you everything in the beginning before the story actually begins, like Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva, this film has practically nothing to explain what this show is about, almost like it expects the viewers to have seen the show before seeing this film. If you want to understand the basics like the main characters and the overall story then I would recommend watching some of the episodes of the first season, if you really want to challenge yourself and understand every small reference and cameos then you would need to watch the first two seasons in full, which is 102 episodes in total so have a fun anime marathon.

For those who would understand the show enough to watch it, the story is very nice and it follows the original formula very well, as well as some good humour and character development, especially between Zorori and Tails, and while it’s length is short at just over 60 minutes it doesn’t drag out. There are some goofy moments, a huge cameo which feels randomly placed, and I didn’t like how simple the ending was, and how it feels like the writer’s desperate attempt to divert the characters back to the main plot of the show, but as a fan of the show who is so used to what happens to the characters, it’s hard to complain about it.

If you are interested in watching this and you are either a fan or you know what Zorori is about, go and watch this, it is a fun film that is really worth your time. If you are new to Zorori, its best that you hold out for a moment and watch a few episodes of the show at least to get a good understanding, and you won’t lose out from their either as the show it fun and entertaining itself.

Majimeni Fumajime Kaiketsu Zorori: The Riddle of the Secret Treasure, or simply Kaiketsu Zorori: The Film, is available from Kadokawa, Cartoon Network and the Zorori-Project. I normally wouldn’t promote a fansub group since they aren’t official distributors, but there isn’t an official Western release or official subtitles so this would be the only way for most English viewers to see it. The original anime series, with the first season simply titled Kaiketsu Zorori, with two later seasons titled “Majimeni Fumajime Kaiketsu Zorori” since they were produced by a different team in-house at Studio Sunrise, are also available on the Zorori-Project, with season 3 currently in progress. The original children’s book series, written and drawn by Yukata Hara, haven’t had a western release. A 1993 short film based on the books, but has no relation to the anime series, is available from another fansub group known as Alopex.

Oscar Prediction Game 2012 – The Results

So the winners were announced on Sunday, broadcasting at after midnight here in the UK so now I’ve got a page with the winners and I’m gonna tally my score and compare it with my previous year’s average.

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Oscar Prediction Game 2012

The Nominations have been announced, so this means it’s time for the film critics favourite past time, The Oscar Prediction Game!!

Most years it’s been fairly predictable which titles would win their Oscars but this time there is something different. The main one being Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, a children’s book adaptation by a legendary film maker, and The Artist, a back-to-form Black & White silent movie, both having the most nominations with 11 and 10 nominations each. The rules have also changed, mainly to strictly define that the Best Picture award should be nominated to films which are considered to be the Best Picture, and the Best Animated Feature award is finally being taken seriously.

So the rules are simple, for each award you list the nominees in the order of you probability of it winning, the top being the most likely and the bottom the least. Then when the ceremony announces the winners, you score yourself based on those results. You can score yourself in one of two ways: you can try and aim for the lowest score, meaning 1 point for every nominee you accurately predicted will win, and then it will go higher the lower you put it. Or you can aim for the highest score and the points will be reverse (e.g for an award with 10 nominees, the top would be 10 and the bottom would be one). You add up your score and compare it with the lowest/highest possible score. Any award you missed will automatically get you the lowest/highest score from that award.

Since I’m following from last year, I’m doing it for highest possible score. So now onto my predictions!

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The Anime I’ve Been Watching

I’m constantly feeling bad for not updating this site and not posting reviews as frequently as I use to. University seems to divert my attention towards other things like work, computers, games, programming, going out, having drinks, actually living by my self ect. And since the only animated films I can see that I haven’t reviewed are the very few DVDs that are currently in my flat, the cinema which outside of The Adventures of Tintin (if OMG doesn’t upload it then I’ll put it on this site) has been stale and disinteresting before the Oscar-bait films start showing at the nearby cinema, any that I could borrow and the rare chance that one of my friends stream it, I haven’t had any stuff of great interest to review. So I figured that since my focus is on University, I could probably write something relevant that is somewhat related to University AND is relevant to the stuff on this site. THE ANIME SOCIETY. Since I’m currently studying at Staffordshire University, it’d make sense that I join the local anime society, the Student Otaku Society, where anime fans go to watch three and a half hours of recent anime on a big lecture theatre screen. It’s a fun place to be, since everyone is either friendly, entertaining or completely insane, there’s always a chance to play video games and eat quick meals and listen to music that you cannot understand without learning a completely knew language. I go on alternate weeks because the Wednesday meet ups happen to coincide with a bi-weekly coffee meet up I attend in Birmingham, so usually I’m watching anime there or catching up sometime later in the week. I figured I can talk about the anime I’ve been watching at these meets, but since I’m currently part of the way through on all but one of these, I’m not going to be giving spoilers and I’d don’t want anyone who comments to be giving spoilers either.

Deadman Wonderland

A middle school student, Igarashi Ganta, gets falsely accused for the mass genocide of his classmates after a mysterious man in red slaughters them all and impales him with a stone that grants him the power to manipulate his blood, known as the Branches of Sin. He gets sent to Japan’s only privately owned prison, known as Deadman Wonderland, where the most dangerous criminals are kept and are used for entertainment at the prison’s theme park. Ganta has to get use to his new surroundings and try to survive in order to understand his powers, why he was given them, and to claim back his freedom. When I saw the first few episodes, my initial reactions were either confused or annoyed because most of the characters feel very two dimensional and stuff are barely explained until much later in the series. Protagonists like Ganta and Shiro have an annoying first impression and only get complex more than halfway through the 12 episode saga and to start with the only antagonist is the Assistant Warden of the prison Tamaki, who is a terrible, no surprises, uncreative villain I’ve seen in an anime so far, and while other antagonistic people appear later, he is still the main villain of this whole thing. The thing I love the most about this anime though, the opening. It pretty much summarises the dark, goring, gritty nature of this anime, and one clip (0:40) of it alone pretty much describes the prison to such a symbolic level that I could just show you this one image and tell you “This is Deadman Wonderland!”

Baka and Test

The story follows an active, outgoing but very dimwitted student Akihisa Yoshii, a student of the Fumizuki Academy, where students are ranked by their performance, and their benefits related to their ranks. Battles also happen at the academy using a virtual reality system where students can summon Avatars to do battle. Hating the school’s ranking system, especially since one of his classmates, Mizuki Himeji, was assigned to the lowest class with Yoshii because she failed to complete the entrance exam due to a fever, he plans to form an army to fight a war against the higher ranked classes to claim more privileges. This is probably one of the funniest animes I’ve seen ever, since every time I watch an episode I’m literally laughing my ass off at something in the show, and because the anime is very colourful, vibrant, and uses a range of artistic and animation styles for comedic or dramatic effect, it’s also very visually appealing. The range of characters is large enough to have a good development range but not too large to make it easy to lose track of different characters. Its easy to find a favourite character since they all have a different range of personalities and no matter how exaggerated they are, you can relate to some of them. Best way to describe this show? Think of Azumanga Daioh and Lucky Star after they took an overdose of suger pills. That or FLCL but with video games. You’ll get crazy experience.

Eden of the East

This is the only one I’ve seen in full, but the society is still showing it from start to finish so I’ve got to stay silent while the episodes play. A young Japanese man suddenly gets a case of amnesia in the most awkward and confusing of circumstances. He finds himself standing in front of the Whitehouse in Washington DC, naked holding only a gun and a phone which gives him up to 10 billion yen and a woman who could do almost anything he wants, with the mission to save the world.

This one is strange for me because after seeing it all the way through, I’m not really sure what impression I’m supposed to have. On one side it’s a comedy with a slowly progressing love interest, since the first episode where the main character Akira Takizawa literally walks in naked towards some US policemen and it is just hilarious, then as the story progress it hints at some commentary on politics and conspiracies in a story that doesn’t really centre around the subject. The progression where Akira slowly discovers who he really is and what the game is and why he’s in it is cleverly implemented in each episode so we want to know more, and the romance between him and Saki Moromi is sweet, but the story is very shallow. There isn’t even a defined protagonist, even when the series is finished and follows on into the film King of Eden, I’m not sure what the eventual goal is for these characters. Maybe the next film, Paradise Lost, will make these more clear to make a good conclusion, but that will need to wait. Also, Noel Gallagher performing the main theme (awesome!) but it doesn’t appear in the DVD (boo!).

Steins;Gate

A self proclaimed mad scientist Houoin Kyouma (real name Otabe Rintobou) works in his run down apartment that’s above a TV repair shop which he calls a lab along with his childhood friend Mayuri and Super Hacker Daru, claiming that an Organisation is constantly after his ideas. Normally the things he works on a purely crazy ideas, which he doesn’t show much care about other than making him stay in character, however when he witnesses a murder and a mysterious device, he suddenly finds himself seeing time in a whole new light. Him and Daru tinker with a microwave and from it, build a time machine that can send text messages to the past. He is able to explore time travel further with new Lab members such as Makise Kurisu, a tomboyish scientist who doesn’t take Otabe’s attitude too well. However, it seems that his group aren’t the only one after the ability to control time, as experiments get more and more dangerous and get to reaching fatal levels.

If Baka and Test is the best show for entertainment at the meets, then Steins;Gate is the best show for it’s story. It does start off mainly with humour but as the show goes on it gets more and more complex and dramatic. I think it’s like an extended version of “The Girl that Leapt Through Time”, except much darker, popular Japanese/internet culture and a twist in every episode. No really, almost every episode has a twist, whether you notice it immediately or not, and while they can be seen as really repetitive, I think because of the way they lay them out, it keeps you on your toes as when they occur can be unpredictable sometimes. The only thing I’m worried about now is that I’m gonna be let down at the ending, because this thing gets more interesting the more I watch it.

 

Well I’m enjoying the anime meets, it’d be cool to do some events with the guys there outsite the meets. I know they go to a games store for Magic the Gathering but I don’t play those games. Sorry for the lack of updates (for anyone who cares), I’ll try and get back into the routine sometime soon.

Animated Films and their Sequels

In 1990, Walt Disney Animation produced and released the movie “The Rescuers: Down Under”, a sequel to their 1977 classic simply known as “The Rescuers”. Since it was during the time where Crocodile Dundee made Australia a US craze, the film was mainly set in Australia with reptiles, wallabies, koalas and other Australian animals in an Australian desert setting. While it has a cult following nowadays with many fans claiming it to be much better than the original, back then it had a generally positive view and was able to break profit, although being the least profitable in the Disney Renaissance. It proved the Disney Executives that even the mildly successful hits can have profitable sequels if they brought back the original cast and essentially rewrite the same story and structure with different villains, different settings and some other small elements to create a new story.

This was what probably changed DisneyToon Studios (then known as MovieToon Studios) to change its main direction to direct-to-video sequels, which it will finish doing at the end of 2011 after the change of management to John Lasseter and Ed Catmull.

Now talking about how much I hate animated (if not any) sequels would make me a very redundant film critic because everyone knows what is wrong with sequels. They are usually lazy and unoriginal forms of films and storytelling, they drain out the creativity of the source material, most seem unnecessary and the main purpose behind them is for businesses to take money from us viewers. However, unlike remakes there are several ways of making a good sequel, but for animated movies, it’s rare that film makers actually use these methods, or use them well.

Disney is probably infamous for this, as most of them decide to use a brand new villain, and have new characters replace the ones fans enjoy. All are mainly given negative praise, mainly for their downgraded quality, and their lazy storytelling, however this is mostly by critics and movie goers. From my past memories, unless they really loved the original Disney Classics so much that they couldn’t stand any character changes or plotholes made in their sequels, most people liked at least one or two of the bad Disney sequels, when I was younger, me and my sister enjoyed Lion King II: Simba’s Pride just as much as the original, Lion King 1 1/2 not so much but it proves my point. Sometimes they truely put effort into their direct-to-video sequels line, by bringing back some of the original cast members and making the followup stories as believable as possible, but nowadays people are glad that there won’t be anymore.

Most other major animation companies such as Blue Sky Studios and Dreamworks put much more noticeable effort into their sequels to make them better the original, if not consistant. While in the cases of both Ice Age and Shrek, the quality of the animation, music, acting talent and cinematography has definitely improved in the sequels, the storytelling and atmosphere has not overall. I know that some of the plot elements are well executed in their sequels such as Manny’s life issues in Ice Age and the relationship between Shrek and Fiona in Shrek, most of the problems in these sequels go into my Problems with CGI Films as a whole, but it doesn’t exclude from the fact that they don’t expand on their stories as much as their visuals, or even fully continue on from their past film.

Take for a recent example, Kung Fu Panda 2, the original film was a homage to classic kung fu movies, and outside it’s humour and creative action scenes, it had a main character who progresses overtime to achieve who he always wants to be, it had well developed bad guy and the film’s supporting cast all were likable and had their own personalities, some even having depth to them. However, without spoiling the movie itself, while it’s sequel did have bigger action scenes and more suspense, especially with a bad guy that actually kills people, and it further develops the main protagonist Po to find his true origins, outside its humour, it’s weak and generic.

In honesty, the only Dreamworks film I felt deserved a sequel was Madagascar, because it had a clear open ending. The same goes for Alladin with the Return of Jafar, because the ending of Alladin fits with the story of Return of Jafar. But a Disney sequel is a Disney sequel and the first Madagascar in my opinion wasn’t good enough to warrent the actual sequel or other films any chance of being as good or better.

But what about good sequels? Well it might be debatable but they are rare, especially since their aren’t as many animated sequels as there are film sequels altogether, and people can have a liking to critically or even universally panned sequels if they grew up and enjoyed the original and felt that any changes or irregularities are so miniscule to make a fuss over. Out of the list of sequels, Rescuers Down Under, Patlabor 2 and Pokemon 2000 are a few that are considered as good or better than the original (especially Patlabor 2, the original is really boring in comparison).

The one that should come to anyone’s mind of a good animated sequel is Toy Story, both 2 and 3. However, other than the fact that they are made by Pixar, one of the greatest animation studios in the Western Hemisphere today, I’m not entirely sure why they are good sequels. They barely follow on from they predecessing films and I personally never liked Toy Story 2 as much as people I know, even in comparison to the original Toy Story. It’s probably because they all act as separate films, except with the same characters and almost the same structure, each dealing with different stages of life through toys. Maybe it’s what they should do for their upcoming Monsters Inc and Cars sequels, but let me ask, why is Cars 2 clearly marketed as the comic relief as the main character?

Oh and for anyone wondering why I didn’t mention The Land Before Time, the most infamous example of unnecessary sequels, especially with the fact that it has TWELVE poorly recieved sequels. Well just to go back on growing up with the sequels to liking them…

So I saw Winnie the Pooh at the cinema…

So I saw Winnie the Pooh at the cinema, try saying over the age of twelve and unless you were with a younger relative, prepare for some odd looks. If you want to know why I walked into the local cinema by myself, walked up to the ticket and said “One for Winnie the Pooh please” and went into a screen room surrounded by kids is because I wanted to see the movie. I, like many other people my age, grew up with good old Winnie the Pooh before they got Disney Toon Studios to make a series of movies with no relations to the books, so seeing a trailer for a back to basic, traditionally animated Winnie the Pooh film, I was interested.

So after finding a seat and waiting through the trailers that consisted of a sequel that shouldn’t be made (Kung Fu Panda 2), a spinoff from a series that should be dead (Puss in Boots), a film about a kid that clearly isn’t whimpy (Diary of a Whimpy Kid: Roderick Rules) and a film about a rabbit so stupid and pointless I believe the trailer should’ve counted as the movie itself (Hop), I was about to get ready to see Walt Disney Studio’s latest and finest.

But little did I know that there were not one but two animated shorts. The first one, which I guess is part of a series, is a Disney Junior short involving a group of kids who are apparently pirates as they try and stop Captain Hook from succeeding in his…mildley cruel plans. How bad are these plans? Well in the short I saw, Captain Hook stole a goldfish to put into his fishing tank! Despite how cool it is to see both Captain Hook and Smee in the same designs as the Disney’s Peter Pan movie, the whole short was incredibly stupid. It was so simplified and rediculous that noone in the audience was laughing, not even the kids.

The second one however, was much nicer. It was a story about the Loch Ness Monster, and how its original pond was taken over by a golf obsessed scottsman, so Nessie is told not to get upset and find a new home, however it was Nessie’s tears that created Loch Ness, showing that the moral of the story is that it’s ok to express your true feelings. It’s nicely animated, has some slight humor and it’s easy to sympaphise with Nessise while you watch.

Finally it was on to the actual movie, and it is brilliant! The animation is well crafted, with some really creative moments (I love the chalkboard artstyle and animation in the Backson song!). The musical numbers are just as good and well transitioned as any Disney movie. The cast is really fun to listen to, with Jim Cummings reprising his roles as Pooh and Tigger, comedic actors Tom Kenny and Craig Ferguson as Rabbit and Owl and John Cleese as the narrator among others, all entertaining to listen to and create very likeable characters. The best thing is that the movie is very funny and self-aware of it’s flaws, especially since there’s no fourth wall in the entire movie and small parts of the humour is purely the film making fun of the plotholes through the characters.

I could go into detail in a film review, but all I can say now is no matter what age you are, you need to see this movie! Just make sure you find a way to skip over the Disney Junior crap…

The Adaptations

Have you ever noticed that some of the best or most recognised animated films and series in history are adaptations? Or even, that some of the best film and televised adaptations are from animated films?

I know this looks like a biased statement, since it’s not that hard to look at all the highly rated live-action films such as the Harry Potter series and Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and the latter one in particular is far superior to Bakshi’s animated version, but if you collected all the film adaptations of books, fairy tales, comics, video games and maybe even toylines, and compiled them in a ratio between critically acclaimed animated adaptations and critically acclaimed film adaptations, there would be a good chance that animation would outway the live-action, if I included mangas there would be no contest.

Normally, I wouldn’t give any opinion of films if they are an adaptation. In the end, no matter what the content is, it’s a story first, and the word adaptation means it’s “adapted” to work in other kinds of mediums, even if that means drastically changing the original creators ideas and story to suit a certain audience. Yes, I do get frustrated like other fans when a film adaptation is clearly different from the original story, but most of the time, when I watch a film, I watch a film. However for this case I’m gonna talk about how adaptations would work for the fans and critics who would normally complain about the changes made in stories, since they would probably think I lack any form of thought or previous research when I write reviews.

In light of this point, I would like to give my ideas for why each of the kinds of adaptations either work or not whether it can be for animated and live action films. So let’s dive right in!

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