Review: Welcome to the Space Show

Five ordinary middle school children are about to have the summer of their lives, when looking around the school grounds for their lost rabbit, they stumble upon an injured dog. After bringing it in and nursing it back to health, the dog reveals itself as an alien named Pochi. Pochi explains that he is researching the planet Earth, and looking for a substance that is believed to have been extinct for five billion years, and was injured after fighting off against poachers. In exchange for their help, Pochi agrees to take them to the moon, but after an accident, they end up being taken around the vast areas of space. For Natsuki, Amane, Kiyoshi, Koji and Noriko, this is the largest, weirdest and wildest summer trips of their lives. It’s time to enjoy the Space Show. Continue reading

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Old Review: Millennium Actress

Chiyoko Fujiwara was a famous actress that had been in many successful films for over twenty years. Currently in her 70s, an experienced director, and biggest fan, called Genya Tachibara wants to produce a documentary about her, but there is a problem, she hasn’t been living in the public eye for some time. Luckily, Genya and his cameraman are able to track her down, and she agrees to an interview of her documentary. She explains that during the 1930s she fell in love with an artist who was on the run from the Fascist Government, and after he left a key to a suitcase containing his art materials, she began an acting career in the hopes of going around the world so that she may one day see him again. As she explains her past, the environment changes as she and the crew appear to be inside her memories, from World War II, to Segoku Period Battles and even in Space, the crew witness the impressive life of this long living actress.

After working on Perfect Blue, Satoshi Kon planned to do the adaptation of Yasukata Tsustui’s Paprika as his next film, but these plans didn’t get far after Rex Entertainment went bankrupt. He decided that he would use the idea of blurring the lines between reality and imagination for Millennium Actress, using a story originally idealised by Sadayuki Murai, which both wrote the screenplay. Deciding to give the film a historical feel to it, Kon did a lot of studying of Japanese cinema and clothing, and stated that he learned interesting things while working on the film. There has also been the suggestion that Chiyoko is based on real life Japanese actress Setsuko Hara, who had a large acting career between 1936 and 1961, and as of writing, still lives a near private life since her last film. While Satoshi Kon has said in interviews that Chiyoko wasn’t meant to be based on any real life person, he does recognise the similarity as an influence. The film premiered at the Fantasia Festival on July 28th 2001, where it tied with Spirited Away for the Grand Prize Award, and later was entered for consideration at the 2003 Academy Awards, but wasn’t nominated.

The animation is really creative and very interesting to watch. Satoshi Kon was able to use several different art styles and techniques that are reminiscent to styles of Japanese cinema, other scenes do really well in its cinematography, like Kon’s other classic Perfect Blue, and it feels like a live action film. Some scenes are impressively animated, such as the opening sequence with the space station and slightly later with the video recording; it’s amazing that this was all done hand drawn.

The music is surprisingly varied, the main theme is beautifully melodic, and the compositions vary from eerie sci-fi, imperial, melodramatic romance and Chiptune, yes I’m not kidding there are a few scenes which use Chiptune music for its backing track and somehow it works, all because this is the same composer who used Vocaloid for Paprika. Most of the film doesn’t have music, which for this film is quite effective since it focuses on the characters, but when it does it really adds some excitement to the scenes. I think if there was any problem with the soundtrack, it may have been more effective if the music actually suited the scenes the flashbacks take place in more often.

The voice acting in the Japanese version is good to a high standard of Satoshi Kon’s other works. What’s interesting to note is that Chiyoko actually has three actresses; one for each stage in the character’s life, what’s impressive is that there is barely a difference between voices. Yes, they are different as they sound women at different ages, but they actually sound like they came from one person. Genya’s character has two actors, although the second and younger one doesn’t have many lines, although it’s interesting seeing how the older one is more serious while the younger acts more accident prone. Other actors do a good job, and I especially like Masayana Onosaka, portraying Genya’s cameraman as someone who’s entirely confused at the whole scenario. The English Dub on the other hand has some minor issues. While John Vernon adds a near similar performance for Genya that Shôzô Îzuka, most of them under perform when compared to the Japanese dub, though it is very watchable. The only real problem with the dub is the choice for Chiyoko, Regina Reagan. She’s definitely not a bad actress, but her voice only works for the older character, because of this her voice for the younger versions of Chiyoko sound more mature than normal, and it can be off putting.

This is probably one of the most interesting and creative romance stories, at least the best one I’ve seen in a film. This woman goes through so much to see this one man it is really touching, and the idea of her life and struggle being portrayed by films is really unique, especially for its time. The characters around her each have their own story that in a way effect Chiyoko, whether it was jealousy for being younger and doing things that are later regretted. While some characters act worse than others, for people in Japan and in the times that the film is set in, they would be normal, such as Chiyoko’s mother. The only real thing that bothered me in the film was that while three characters who were living the flashbacks reacted the way that I would expect them to react, with Chiyoko acting like she’s re-enacting her life, Genya being engaged and involving since he adores her so much, and the near oblivious cameraman being confused and freaked out, but eventually feeling more comfortable as he stays in the experience, no one seems to point out why these flashbacks are appearing and how they are there, they simply act like it’s a normal occurrence.

If you have an interest for romances, there is absolutely no reason why you should not check this film out. This is a really engaging story and another great film by a legendary animator that is definitely for the film goer and the anime lover.

Millennium Actress is available from Dreamworks and Manga Entertainment. There aren’t any adaptations as far as I know, but it’s created by Satoshi Kon who has done other interesting and creative anime films such as Perfect Blue and Paprika, and unfortunately passed away in August 2010 after finishing the writing and storyboards for his last film called The Dream Machine, which is currently still in production under the direction of Yoshimi Itazu and it expected for a 2011 release.

Old Review: Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland

Little Nemo: Adventures In SlumberlandNemo is a young boy with an interesting imagination. He is prone to having bizarre dreams and nightmares as well as walking around the house in his sleep. Upon checking out a large parade organised by a travelling circus, he and his best friend, a flying squirrel known as Icarus, are eager to see it. However they are disappointed because Nemo’s overworking father and busy mother don’t show as much enthusiasm as he does; only giving the response “Maybe Tomorrow”. Later that night, feeling rejected for not going to the circus that day, he gets caught sleepwalking, and is scolded for trying to take one of his mother’s pies, which he made a promise not to do. Later on, he sees the bizarre entrance of a man known as Professor Genius, who arrived to his bedroom under orders from King Morpheus of Slumberland, to take young Nemo to be the playmate of Princess Camille. While reluctant at first, he accepts and travels on a Dirigible to the Kingdom of Slumberland. After meeting the King himself at the Royal Palace, Nemo is told that he has been appointed the heir to the throne, and is given a special key that can open any door in the kingdom, with the warning that he must never open the door that has a symbol of a dragon similar to the one on the key itself. While having fun with the Princess, Nemo stumbles upon Flip, the kingdoms only criminal who causes chaos for fun, who encourages him to open a large mysterious door with a dragon symbol on it to see what’s inside. This mistake lets loose the evil King of Nightmare land, who takes King Morpheus captive. It is now up to Nemo, Icarus, Professor Genius, Princess Camille, Flip and friends they all meet along the way to rescue King Morpheus and put an end to the horrible nightmare they unleashed.

Admittingly, what got me interested in this film in the first place was its history and development, because so much went on in the 12 years that it went through, from an idea to a feature length animated film, that it surprises me that the production was never cancelled.

In 1905, American cartoonist Winsor McCay created Little Nemo, a weekly comic strip about a young boy’s adventure through the imaginative world of slumberland through his dreams. It was first published in the New York Herald until 1911 when it moved to the New York American, where it carried on until 1914. It is known as the cartoonist’s most famous works, especially since the Little Nemo strips and animations are practically his most archived pieces of work after his death in 1934.

Moving forward to the mid-1970s, Japanese anime producer and fan of Little Nemo, Yutaka Fujioka made it his goal to turn his favourite comic strips into fully animated film that would fully utilize the resources at his studio, owned by Tokyo Film Shinsha. In 1977, he flew to Monterry, California to meet McCay’s descendants to obtain the film rights. He originally approached George Lucas to direct the film, but he later left after having problems with the storyline. Animator Chuck Jones was later approached, but he turned down the offer. In 1982, TMS/Kinetographics was formed in America to produce Nemo as a cross Japanese-American production, which the film was officially announced the same year. On the American side, Gary Kurtz (Star Wars IV) was appointed producer for the American side, who hired Ray Bradbury and Edward Summer to write the screenplay. On the Japanese side, Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki were appointed directors, but they both left due to creative differences between themselves and the studio, Miyazaki himself quoting his involvement as “the worst experience of [his] professional career”, Gary Kurtz later stepped down in 1984.

Andy Gaskill and Yoshifumi Kondo (Whisper of the Heart) were later hired to direct, and were able to complete a three and a half minute long pilot film before leaving in 1985. Osamu Dezaki (Astro Boy) was later brought in to direct, producing a 10 minute pilot before leaving, and then later on Sadao Tsukioka was brought in and made a pilot film which hasn’t been released to the public as of now. Apparently during this period, the American production was confusing, since the animators told Brad Bird (The Incredibles) they were drawing what Ray Bradbury was writing, while Bradbury claimed he was writing what the animators were drawing.

Production finally made strong progress when Bradbury and Summer left, and Fujioka decide to work on a draft written by Chris Columbus (Harry Potter Films) and Moebius (Tron). Even though Summer was rehired to write another script, Richard Outten (Lionheart) was brought on to work on this draft. Award winning Disney composers, the Sherman Brothers, were brought on to compose the soundtrack and writing the songs, and a handful of Disney animators such as Ken Anderson (The Jungle Book) worked on individual scenes. Masami Hata was brought in from Tokyo Film Shinsha to direct on the Japanese side while William Hurtz was brought in to work on the American side. The film’s final animation development began in June 1988 and it was finally completed and released in Japan in 1989 and in America in 1992.

The animation is really good, characters move around smoothly and creatively, and there are quite imaginative scenes. While I have not read a lot of the original comics, seeing how the original strips are animated in this film is really well done, fun to watch and very memorable. I think it is a really great achievement how both the American and Japanese teams worked together, like the dancing sequences, which were recorded and performed in America, were animated in Japan at TMS. The environment of Slumberland is very colourful and vibrant, and Nightmare land looks dark and mystifying, which is a great contrast. While the real world isn’t shown as much, it is well drawn and gives a simplistic idea of the early 20th Century America. It’s really a film you need to see to enjoy all of the things you see.

The music is ok, there’s nothing really special. The orchestral pieces do really suit the scenes and there isn’t really anything to complain about. The songs however are hit and miss, no offense to the Sherman Brothers, but mainly the lyrics are a bit too cheesy, particularly the two main themes sung by Melissa Manchester, but to give them credit, they are quite memorable. The melodies are simple, and I’d be lying to say I wasn’t humming to some of the songs through the film.

Even though this is technically an anime film, meaning I should give comparison between the Japanese and English Dubs, I can only find a few clips of the Japanese version, so I can’t really give any good opinion of it. I can say that some of the voice actors are decent. Takuma Gōno does portray a young innocent tone for Nemo, although he makes him sound like a girl. Tarō Ishida sounds really sinister and dark, which makes him perfect for King Nightmare. Some of the other voices I can hear are quite good, some of them perform much better than the English cast, but since I don’t have much to compare on, and to face the fact that you’ll be lucky to find the full film in Japanese, that’s all I can give.

The English Dub is not good, but fun to listen to. Most of the voices are quite stereotypical, such as Professor Genius being smart and classy, King Morpheus being majestic with a large and mature tone and Nemo being the young boy. Mickey Rooney does an alright job as Flip, being gruff in tone but joyous in personality, kind of like a man from Brooklyn trying to act like a clown, and while Danny Mann’s voice for Icarus does get annoying at times, it is kind of hilarious and cute. On the other hand, some of the minor characters and Laura Mooney who voices Princess Camille are pretty bad actors, who can sound right can’t emote well to the scenes they appear in. King Nightmare sounds really dark and evil at times, but when I imagine a dark and evil overlord that can be comparable to the Devil, I don’t imagine the Tim Curry style voice that Bill Martin puts on.

What is an impressive challenge this film had was its story, since it was based on a weekly comic strip, and those kinds of adaption have varying success. While this film doesn’t have wholes if you really use a lot of initiative and suspension of disbelief, the plot can be messy at parts since not only is it trying to develop a story, but also show faithfulness to the original source material, this means there are scenes which are mainly made to refer to the comic, in particular this one scene where Nemo’s house suddenly gets flooded, leading him to use his bed as a boat, and randomly meets Professor Genuis who is floating on his suitcase, with no explanation of why other than to explain the current situation and because the scene happens in the comic I guess. I’ve read from other critics that one minor complaint is that it uses the stereotypical “good guys are brightly coloured while bad guys are dark” so it loses subtlety, but for a film suitable for kids, and that the main villain is made to be a natural evil entity, not a diabolical being, that should be expected.

I think the best way I can describe Little Nemo is that it tries to be a good Disney film, and while it shows itself as being better than a Disney film, it had potential of being better. It has the colourful and likeable group of characters, creative sequences, the great ability to play with the young audiences emotions, since Nightmare land does look dark and unsettling, and it’s great to watch, but every minute I watch I sense something that either doesn’t look or sound right. I think this is because the English side and the Japanese side had almost different ideas of what it should be like, with the Japanese side wanting a good film everyone can see, with great animation and settings to make it enjoyable for adults and kids, while the American side was focusing mainly on the kids, having characters that kids can enjoy and musical numbers that they can stay interested, like some of the classic Disney films. I’m not entirely certain since I’ve never seen the Japanese version in its entirety but it is clear that in the English version the American producers were probably pushing too hard in to that market that it film loses its edge. I think as a kid’s animated film however, it does really well, so if it was actually that idea that was going through the minds of both TMS and Kinetographics, then I believe they succeeded and that long and painful dedication really paid off.

Little Nemo: Adventures In Slumberland is available from Echo Bridge Home Entertainment. A video game based off the film titled “Nemo: The Dream Master” for the Nintendo Entertainment System was available from Capcom back in 1990, but has long been out of print although easily available in most places that sell retro games. The original comic strips by Winsor McCay have been compiled into multiple hardback collections, many of which were published by Fantagraphics and a couple by Checker Books, although I believe most are out of print and some can be quite pricey.

Old Review: The Castle of Cagliostro

Legendary criminal mastermind Arsène Lupin III has succeeded at a robbery of a casino in Monaco, along with his good friend and excellent marksman, Daisuke Jigen. While celebrating in their getaway car, Lupin is disappointed to find that the bills from the loot are all fakes. He knows from a near death predicament in his past that the largest and most hidden source of fake bills come from a small Principality known as Cagliostro, so he decides that he should try and uncover the hidden mystery of the money by heading there again. Shortly after arrival, they meet a young girl named Clarisse after rescuing her from a group of thugs. She turns out to be the Princess of Cagliostro, and she is being chased by the country’s ruler, Count Cagliostro, who is forcing her to marry him so he can obtain a secret treasure hidden in the main castle. It’s up to this professional criminal to become the hero of this country, along with his friends including Jigen and samurai Goemon Ishikawa XIII, as well as his enemy Inspector Kenichi Zenigata, to solve the mystery of the fake bills and the rescue of one young princess.

In 1971, Tokyo Film Shinsha released Lupin III, an anime TV series based off the popular manga by Monkey Punch (real name Kazuhiko Katō). While most of the early episodes were directed by Masaaki Ōsumi, the series was mainly directed by Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. Although the show originally had poor ratings and after 23 episodes it was cancelled, series became so popular that a second season called “Lupin III Part 2” was made and a feature length animated film, known outside Japan as “The Secret of Mamo” was made. In 1978, after the success the second season and Mamo, Hayao Miyazaki was brought on to direct a second feature length film known as “The Castle of Cagliostro”. This was Hayao Miyazaki’s feature length directorial debut, as well as the project that began the friendship between Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki, which later led to the creation of Studio Ghibli, so this film has significant importance to his career.

The animation is really fun to watch, it has the feel of a 1980s and 1990s anime series. It can get over the top and some of the movements are exaggerated, but not in a bad way as you can tell the animators were having fun turning a cheesy criminal TV series into a feature length ride. The animation can get quite good at times, and the action scenes do keep your attention throughout the experience.  The character design for the most part is faithful to the anime series, but for some reason like in Chie the Brat, two characters in particular, some of the characters look different from all of the other characters. They are well drawn and Count Castliogro’s design really suits his slimy personality, reminiscent of a James Bond villain.

The music is also fun to listen to, especially if are into cheesy secret agent, police squad and criminal heist TV shows and films. It’s very jazzy and 1970s, with the occasional orchestral pieces for the serious drama. It’s the kind of soundtrack that’s hard to critics, although the music can occasionally be repetitive and I personally don’t enjoy the vocal tracks. I think anyone can like this soundtrack, but if you are into the kind of TV shows I mentioned before, you’ll probably love the soundtrack more.

The Japanese cast consists of the main cast from the anime series such the late Yasuo Yamada as Lupin III and Goro Naya, a set of well-known Japanese voice actors who do an alright job and work well with the character traits, Lupin being crafty but fun loving criminal, Jigen being the gruff and sometimes comical side kick and Zenigata being the uptight police officer for example. As far as the other cast members, they are alright, nothing too special. The Count sounds like your average mysterious villain and his servant sounds as slimy as ever. There are two dubs that have been released, but sadly I only own the oldest and easily available version in the UK, which was done by Streamline in 1991. Despite this, I don’t believe the more recent dub that Manga did in 2000, is any better. Granted the Streamline version uses an altered script from the original Japanese version, but I think the voice acting and even the dialogue is better as an English dub of an anime compared to the later version. Some of the voices in the Manga version are a lot more gruff and raspy, which doesn’t sound right.

What I found really interesting about the story is that, when you think about it, a young and adventurous guy trying to protect a young and shy girl, who is actually a member of a Royal Family, from a slimy political man, who is also technically a member of the same Royal Family, who wants her for a piece of jewellery which holds a key to some source of great wealth and power. It makes me think that the plot here bears some striking resemblance to a later epic from Miyazaki, Laputa: Castle of the Sky. Even the princess Clarisse and the Count’s designs and characters also share similarities to later Miyazaki characters. Many fans of the franchise consider this the best Lupin film to date and it’s easy to see why. You don’t need to be a Lupin fan to enjoy this film, I only knew of Lupin when I first saw this. My only real problem is that the romance between Lupin III and Clarisse seems tact on and there are one or two plot holes, mainly involving Jigen and Goemon. Other than those problems, this is a really fun film, and it was a great debut of the great animator Hayao Miyazaki.

The Castle of Cagliostro is available from Manga Entertainment and Optimum Releasing. The previous anime film, “The Secret of Mamo”, directed by Sōji Yoshikawa, is also available from Manga Entertainment. A third film titled “Legend of the Gold Babylon”, directed by Seijun Suzuki and Shigetsugu Yoshida, was available from AnimEigo but apparently it is currently available from Walt Disney, a fourth film titled “Farewell to Nostradamus” directed by Shunya Itō, is available from FUNimation. The first and a later third season of Lupin III are apparently not available officially in western areas, but the second season was available from Geneon. The original and a later manga subtitled “World’s Most Wanted”, both by Monkey Punch, are available from Tokyopop.

Old Review: Dobutsu no Mori (aka Animal Crossing: The Movie)

Dobutsu No Mori

Young and notably self-reliant, Ai is the newest resident of the Animal Village. This is most exciting to her as this is the first time she is living alone. While all is great at first, Ai soon notices that getting used to the new environment isn’t that easy as the local shopkeeper and landlord, Tom Nook, forces her to work as his delivery girl upon first meeting, and it doesn’t help that the nearby residents don’t recognize her instantly as the new girl in the village. Eventually she gets the hang of what goes on in the town and makes a group of friends including an overly happy and slightly immature cat named Bouquet, a strong and ambitious designer named Sally and a mischievous cosplaying male duo that consists of crocodile Albert and a young boy from a neighbouring village named Yu. Along with their adventures and taking part in the village festivities, Ai becomes interesting in the idea of Aliens after finds messages in bottles giving certain tasks for a miracle to happen in during the Winter Festival. What will happen on that day, can only be discovered if she believes in her friends and work on her own goals, living her new life in this humble little village.

While originally released on the Nintendo 64, and had positive international reception when it was ported to the Gamecube on December 2001, the Animal Crossing series became a worldwide success when it was released on the Nintendo DS as Animal Crossing: Wild Worlds, becoming one of the first ten DS games to sell over 1 million copies and becoming one of the five highest selling DS games of all time. With this success, Nintendo wanted a film adaptation, and Jōjin Shimura, who worked on the Master Keaton anime, was selected to direct. Animation OLM was chosen to produce the film, having partnered with Nintendo on many anime adaptations of video games, most especially the Pokemon franchise and most recently, Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva. It was given a theatrical release December 16th 2006, being later released on DVD in July 2007 and on the DS cartridge in August 2009. Interestingly, there must have been quite a few storyboard changes, because some of the scenes in the trailer never appear in the actual film.

The 2D animation in Dobutsu No Mori is quite minimalistic, considering the time this film came out. The action scenes show a lot of effort and characters move more human like their game counterparts, although being an anime made to promote a gaming franchise, actual animation seems slightly choppy, but if you are a regular anime watcher this is expected. The 3D animation is decent and in most cases is very subtle and blends well to the environment of the film, the best animation appears in the third act, which looks spectacular and out of this world, giving a perfect feel to the scene it’s in, but it would spoil the ending to mention it.

One thing I’m happy about is the character designs feel much better than what Nintendo used, particularly for the two human characters, Ai and Yu. They look well rounded and cute, a huge improvement from the blocky polygon designs the games have. Some of the other characters are designed to their main stereotypes, too surprising effect. Bouquet looks sweet adorable, the lady like white wolf Bianca looks mature and feminine, and the grumpy looking but kind hearted Bald Eagle Apollo has a slightly intimidating feel to him, in the light hearted way. I think the art style is really suited to young girls, which from what I know was the main audience for the Nintendo DS game at the time. Most of the colours used are bright, pastel, and naturistic. Even though I think the art style would suit girls more, it isn’t overblown to the point where it would immediately deter any guys from watching it. I believe the only real flaw in the visuals is in the background design, I know it’s a normal practice to us paints and shades in the background and basic fill colouring for the characters, but the majority of the backgrounds look like coloured sketches which make the characters stand out too well.

Since the Composer for this film, Kazumi Totaka, was also one of the composers for Animal Crossing: Wild Worlds on the DS, most of the music is completely faithful to the games, almost to the point of being minor arrangements to the original soundtrack. They normally give the feel of a summer environment, with its use of mellow acoustic guitars, accordions, and bongo drums among others. The winter themed music, while composed in the same style, use instruments which give a good feel of Christmas in particular. There is even a musical number of one of KK Slider’s songs “K K’s Rhythm” that is done in the funny synthesised voice of Tokata. When there are original compositions, which are mainly orchestrated, really suit both the mood and the feel of the scenes, which is strange because they can have a calm feel to them in dramatic and action oriented scenes. They also have the slight issue that they’re more typical than the other compositions so they’re not really worth listening to on their own.

The voice acting is worth listening to, although there is nothing majorly special. Ai has a innocent and eager personality, done well by Yui Horie. Bouquet has a cute and immature voice, like an overly excited 10 year old. Possibly one of my favourites however is the “Rule-Keeper” Mr Resetti, who in the games is a loud, grumpy and obnoxious mole who complains to the player for not saving the game, and Yuichi Kimura matches this really well and is so funny that in the few scenes he’s in, left just a good impression on me than the main characters did. Most of the other characters, particularly Bianca and Apollo, don’t really exaggerate their voices, so they sound more normal which works for serious moments in the film, but for a younger appreciated film like this, along with what other characters are like, they don’t leave the biggest impression.

I first heard of this film when I no hope for video game adaptations, since with the exceptions of the first two Pokemon films and Street Fighter II animated film, most of the ones I saw or heard were mainly disappointed. Even though I knew this was a Japanese animated film, I had my doubts knowing it was based on Animal Crossing, a game that literally had no plot. When I actually saw the film, I was surprised by how effective the story is in relation to the game. I do agree that it is typical in its morals and elements, like how important friendship is, how you need to believe in yourself and what you are doing and that you need to continue what you love or you’ll lose your skills in it, this being used by the metaphor of a “Cherry Pie”, and you know how childish a storyline is when it’s most sad and dramatic moment in the film is when a friend is moving away from the Animal Village. But in this film, it does it well, and in my opinion, way better than the games themselves probably ever will, because it may not be heart wrenching or tearful, but it’s taken seriously enough for the viewers to care. Since this can be classified as a kids film, there is a good amount of comedy throughout the film, and I must admit I had a good chuckle at a good amount of them. Most of the best moments are in the third act, which actually has a surprising amount of effective scenes, whether they were tense or magical, and it is the most memorable moments in the entire film. Sadly this does make the first two acts weaker in comparison but in its entirety, this is a really nice and sweet film to watch.

I’m guessing as soon as you saw what this film is, you think you have to be either a girl or at least have some soft part for the Animal Crossing games in order to watch this. While I’m faced to accept the truth, I think everyone should at least give this film a try when they have a chance, as a video game adaptation or an anime film. Before “Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva” and even “Pokemon 2000” I thought this was the only consistently good video game film, and since it shows how much faith it has in the games and adds so much more it’s no doubt why. As an anime film, it’s calming, peaceful and fun to watch and a really spectacle final act that is really engaging, so even if you think it, it’s a real understatement to say this is just a guilty pleasure for some.

Unfortunately, the Animal Crossing Film is officially unavailable in the west. A manga by Yuki Koyama is also officially unavailable in English. With the exception of the original game on the Nintendo 64, the video games are easily available to buy on the Gamecube, the Nintendo DS (As Animal Crossing: Wild Worlds) and the Nintendo Wii (As Animal Crossing: City Folk), with a 3DS version currently in development, all of them were released by Nintendo. While it has been translated and was available on Youtube subtitled, the first version was removed by Toho on copyright grounds, although better versions are available to watch or download, and there’s even a fan dub directed by batwing321. While Nintendo officially confirmed no plans for an American release of the film, it was announced not too long ago that Spike Industries have been in negotiations on getting the license for an English Dub and a US DVD release so there is still hope.

Old Review: Chie the Brat

Jarinko Chie

Chie is the young, and ruthless daughter of a deadbeat man named Tetsu, who regularly takes money from his own father for gambling and forces young Chie to work in the family bar and kebab restaurant, even in evenings. Since Chie’s parents separated and because of his attitude, Chie feels slightly ashamed to have a man like Tetsu being her father. Tetsu tries his best as being a good parent, even going to a parent’s evening for her, but ends up making Chie feel worse. The one person that she does like to be round out of all people is her mother, Yoshie, and is always happy to be around, but because of how they think Tetsu feels, they meet each other in secret. Along with Tetsu’s problem with the Yakuza, Chie has to deal with problematic classmates and family issues; this is the story of Chie the Brat.

Starting in 1978, and finishing in 1997, Chie the Brat was a manga written by Etsumi Haruki, and it was so successful it won the Shogakukan Manga Award, one of Japan’s most major award ceremonies for Mangas, in 1981. Yasuo Otsuka, who worked as the animation director for Miyazaki’s Castle of Cagliostro, offered Miyazaki to adapt the manga into an animated film, but he refused. Otsuka then offered the idea to Isao Takahata, who was with Nippon Animation at the time, who originally disapproved the idea, but he had a very good understanding Osaka, the city where the story takes place, so he took on the request. The film was released 11th April 1981, and it was met with such high appraisal that the producers Tokyo Film Shinsha decided to create an anime TV series, with Takahata directing.

The animation is actually quite good for early 1980s anime, character movements are smooth and life like. While character designs are and expressions are exaggerated, they are used to comedic effect and work well. There is a good sense of detail in some of the more serious toned scenes, such as the leaves falling in both the background and foreground in one scene where a former Yakuza member is talking to Chie’s mother about his family issues.

The music is alright, really effective in dramatic scenes, but lacking in other areas. The instruments used can really make you sympathies with any character the scene focuses on, yet the uplifting comedic music sounds too typical to be in anyway interesting or even fun to listen too. The large portion of the film doesn’t have music, which when done right allows the film to focus on the characters and dialogues, which this film does do well.

The voice acting is so-so; most of the male casts have either a kind of rasp in their voice, even if it’s a barely noticeable, or a gruff mature tone. Even the cats and the two ten year old male classmates have slightly gruff adult voices. If you don’t like raspy voices then prepare to be bothered because the majority of characters are male. The only two main female characters are quite good; Chie’s mother Yoshie has a sweet and caring tone, perfectly suiting for a motherly person and a great contrast to the rough and wild attitude of Tetsu. Chie has a loud and rough, but kind and likable kind of voice, which is actually an interesting idea of character.

What I find confusing about this film is that at first, it looks like it’ll be a slice-of-life comedy, but both the slice-of-life and the comedy seem to drift later in the film. The film’s main plot focuses around families and supporting each-other, and it is very sweet when you see scenes of Chie and her parents getting along. Then comes this side plot about this cat, Kotetsu, who is seen a lot in the film by the way, who defeats this fighting cat Antonio and I’m not kidding, takes one of his balls. Then later on in the film, Antonio’s son arrives to avenge his father’s death and fights Kotetsu and it becomes a sudden dark turn as the scene progresses, and when the scene ends, the uplifting style comes back and that’s how the film ends, it’s confusing. I cannot say the latter half of the film goes downhill since it still has its charm, but I think you need to understand what is going on before you can appreciate what happens.

I’m not sure exactly who I can recommend this film too. It’s obvious that I would definitely recommend it to diehard fans of Isao Takahata, out of all his pre-Ghibli works; it’s probably one of his best. For general anime viewers, it depends on what you are into. However, if you are new to anime, either you watch Takahata’s other works or just watch the first ten minutes and see what you think.

Chie the Brat is officially not available in English, although it is available in French from Gebeka films. A 64 Episode TV series, also directed by Isao Takahata, is not officially available in English. Another TV anime series directed by Kazuyoshi Yokota is also not available in English. The original serialized manga by Etsumi Haruki, you guessed it, is not available in English.

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.