Re: Anime review thread

Armitage: Duel Matrix
(2002 movie)

A direct sequel to the OVA or the compilation movie depending on how you look at it, it also features some celebrity voice talent, including none other than Jar-Jar Binks.  And no, I'm not kidding.

Just as with the first movie, the plot deals with androids and the people who made them.  In this case the androids look like Armitage and the people who made them all end up being murdered as part of the same type of conspiracy that took place in the OVA.  The difference is, this movie takes place on Earth, where Naomi and Ross, now her husband, have been hiding out with their daughter.  Yeah, that's right, and android somehow had a kid, but then the reproductive capabilities of the new "type III" androids that Naomi is an example of is what caused the conspiracy and systematic killing of those androids in the OVA.  The main difference from the OVA is that Naomi is actually mostly the main character of the movie.

The conspiracy manages to separate Armitage from her husband, who ends up on Mars.  The two of them both work to solve it, which results in plenty of action and drama, especially when to android assassins who look like Armitage are activated and sent after the family.  Armitage then has to deal with her daughter seeing her as the same kind of monster as the assassins for a while, which I guess is technically true except for the whole laughing cruelly and trying to kill them part.

Jar-Jar turns up to lend an unexpected hand after Armitage gets her ass handed to her a couple times, and while initially his motives are somewhat suspect, he ends up being a good guy of sorts and makes it possible for Armitage and her family to defeat the assassins and escape back to Mars.

I'd say the movie is at least as watchable as the original OVA, and I'd give it the same grade of 7/10.


Re: Anime review thread

This next one may not technically be anime, but it was clearly influenced by it.  Personally I see it as American anime. wink

Avatar: The Last Airbender
(61 episode series)

This series was surprisingly good, considering the age group it was aimed at.  While early on it was especially obvious that this show was meant more for children than adults, it still managed to have a complex plot that featured an epic journey and a battle between good and evil that might be compared in some ways to the original Star Wars trilogy.  It even features a reluctant hero, Aang, who has a destiny but doesn't want anything to do with it.

Set in an alternate world, there are a select group of humans capable of exerting a kind of telekinetic control over the 4 ancient Greek elements: earth, air, fire and water.  Most of them only have control over one element depending on which nation they belong to, and each nation in turn is named after the element its people can bend.  The only exception is the Avatar, who can bend each element and is reincarnated as a member of each nation in turn every time he or she dies.  The Avatar's function is to keep the balance and peace between the 4 nations.  As it turns out, Aang, the most recent Avatar and a member of the Air Nomads, was frozen during a storm a century before the series takes place and as a result, the Fire Nation has successfully conquered most of the world.

Despite its rather mature story content (such as genocide), the series initially doesn't deal too much with it, focusing instead on immature humor that is obviously aimed at younger viewers.  I found this rather annoying, to the point that I almost gave up on the series fairly early on, but fortunately the series matured a little to something one might expect to be aimed at the teenaged crowd.

While the entire point of the series is that Aang has to eventually fight the evil Fire Lord who is currently leading the Fire Nation in its war against the rest of the world, most of the series actually deals with him learning how to bend each element (despite having access to the memories of the previous Avatars), as well as agonizing over his past actions and that his destiny may force him to kill despite being very much against it.  He's also physically a child, so while he's more mature than any child his age would be, he still wants to be just a child and have fun, but fate keeps robbing him of this.  He meets a lot of people and makes many friends in his search for teachers to help train him to bend each element, including in the Fire Nation itself.  It was actually quite refreshing to have the "bad guy" nation shown to be as much a victim of its leadership as the nations which have been invaded by its armies, with sympathetic characters among them.  Even the persistent villain who is obsessively trying to hunt Aang down throughout most of the series is shown in a sympathetic light at times.

While I really would have preferred that the series would have been aimed at an older demographic and lose a lot of the immature humor it had, it was still a pretty good series, and I would recommend that you watch it if you have the time.  I'm also looking forward to the live-action movie and hoping that the story hasn't been completely ruined in adaptation to screen as so often happens with tv series being turned into movies.  9/10.


Re: Anime review thread

(16 episode series)

This was a strange but very enjoyable series.  It tells the story of a group of immortals and how their lives intersect during the 1920s and '30s... I think.

Set mostly in Depression era New York, the series tends to shift around between time periods and locations quite frequently.  In fact it was at times hard to follow along, but the complex web of a story was interesting enough to make it worth it.  There were gangsters, silly thieves, and a ship full of French immigrants involved, and most of the story revolves around an incident on an express train called The Flying Pussyfoot of all things.  Yeah, I laughed at the name, too.

The characters themselves were very interesting, and while there wasn't a whole lot in terms of development, there also wasn't really any need for traditional character development.  Even some of the villains turned out to be fun to watch, especially the rather insane one who wore white just so the blood of his victims would show up better.  "Thank you, fuck you, the hero has arrived!" – He was definitely a magnificent bastard, and apparently one of the many immortals in this show.

There was a lot of bloody violence, a mystery, and even a little romance, with some of it being rather twisted.  I really don't know how else to describe this show, other than being awesome in an over-the-top action way.  About the only thing I feel the series could have done without was the framing story, which didn't really do much as far as the story went.  Still, this series is well worth the watch, scoring a 9/10.


Re: Anime review thread

Barefoot Gen
(1983 movie)

This movie was good in a documentary kind of way.  That's basically all it is, narrator and all, detailing the events of the daily lives of one family as they struggled to survive both before and after the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima.  It focuses on one boy in particular, who was based on an actual survivor.  It tends to come off as a bit of a white guilt movie, mostly because it completely omits the politics of the war.  In fact, the war is only brought up at all in the first part of the movie as the cause for food shortages and the hardships that the boy's family faces.  Any other reason could probably be given for that aspect of it and the story would basically be exactly the same right up to the bombing.  Of course, it could also be that the politics are omitted because they didn't much matter to the main protagonist, which was a child, and only wanted to focus on the plight of the civilians who were effected by this war.  As I think about it, the later is probably more likely, with the former viewpoint I had mostly coming from my experience watching so many shows that express and anti-US sentiment.

In a lot of ways, this movie comes off as something for a younger crowd, though it deals with mature topics like the effects of radiation poisoning, mass body cremations, the death of the main character's father and younger brother from being burned alive in the collapsed remnants of their house, and the later death of his infant sister of starvation.

This movie is worth a watch, though it wasn't quite what I was expecting for a movie about Hiroshima.  6/10.


Re: Anime review thread

Battle Angel Alita
(2 episode OVA)

This is a good, but strange and ultimately frustrating anime, frustrating because it's obvious that the story is supposed to continue and in the OVA it simply ends.

Set in a post-apocalyptic future, it seems that both artificial life and cybernetic life are commonplace, even if the slum city that the story is set in.  The "Battle Angel", is actually dug out of a garbage heap, brought back to life and named Alita.  The scientist who does this is actually from the futuristic and very exclusive city which floats above the slum city.  Much like the Star Trek episode, "The Cloud Minders", the labors of the slum city's inhabitants are enjoyed by the inhabitants of the city above, and the slum basically only gets the trash from the city above.

Basically the story is a mystery, about Alita and her origins, as well as the city above.  There's also a mystery in the slum city involving the murder of individuals for their organs.  Alita becomes a bounty hunter in order to solve this mystery, as the slum city has no police force.  Along the way she meets another cyborg and develops feelings for him, though it ends badly.  In the end, she finds out who is actually participating in the murders, but not the real reasons why, and the floating city remains a mystery as well, remaining just a long term goal for her to reach.  And then the OVA just ends.

Having read about this OVA in advance, I knew this would happen, because the OVA only covers about the first two issues of the manga (graphic novel) series it is based on.  I would hope for this OVA to either be finished or remade, keeping as faithful to the source as possible.  It's a pretty good OVA and worth a watch, but be aware that the ending leaves you wanting more, but there is no more, unfortunately.  9/10.


Re: Anime review thread

Black Cat
(24 episode series)

This is one of those series that while somewhat serious, also has quite a bit of comedy mixed in with the drama.  Overall, it is a fairly good mix of both, mainly as a drama with comedy relief.  At times this is taken a bit far, however, mostly having to do with the main character's nickname, the title of this series (wearing a bell around his neck, drinking a lot of milk, etc). 

The storyline is split between two main characters, a "sweeper" named Sven, and a trained assassin named Train.  The series contrasts the two, with Sven being very laid back and down on his luck, and Train being a trained, ruthless, mostly emotionless killing machine.  The series then slowly introduces the secondary characters, including Eve, who is literally an engineered weapon in the form of a pre-teen girl, and Saya, another somewhat more successful sweeper who gets Train to rethink his life through late night visits.  Train and Saya do develop some romantic chemistry, but thanks to a somewhat odd love triangle with another male assassin named Creed, she is murdered.  The resulting antagonism between Train and Creed is both disturbing and interesting, and it kept me watching.

Then there's the storyline with Eve.  Sven saves her from the evil bastards that made her and intended to exploit her as a horrible weapon and teaches her how to be human.  He basically adopts her as a kind of daughter, and after teaming up with Train, she tends to take what Sven taught her and attempts to teach the same lessons to Train.  At times this can me interesting and/or humorous, but as I mentioned before, the connections she makes with Train being a cat tend to take it too far.

The series does kind of mislead, though, as the antagonism between Train and Creed, while taking up most of the series, ends quite a while before the series does.  There's more betrayal to be had, and Train ends up saving the organization he was originally part of, even though they've basically been hunting him down and trying to kill both him and Eve, originally his target they assigned to him.  The series also misleads in its message of not killing others by advocating alternative uses of firearms that quite frankly would probably still result in people getting killed.  But TV shows and movies tend to be like that with firearms, I guess.

I'm still, in some ways, up in the air as to whether I really like this series or not.  It has some good/interesting elements to it, but it also has some rather annoying clichés that would make me hesitate before recommending it to a few of my friends who might be expecting something else.  Still, I think I feel safe giving this series a 7/10.


Re: Anime review thread

Black Magic M-66
(single episode OVA)

Ah, more androids, and they aren't the focus of the story ... more or less.  In any case, the story actually follows a sexy news reporter, Sybel, who reminds me a little of April from the old Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles show I watched as a kid back in the late '80s and early '90s.  She's arrogant, driven, temperamental, and has to constantly fight off the advances of her co-worker, who is something of a leach with aspirations of his own.  Oh, and she's a hot brunette with short hair. 

In what is basically a fish-out-of-water story, Sybel noses her way into something big and ends up being hunted by both the military and the android killing machines created by some crazy scientist type.  Some mishap occurred in transporting the things, and they end up on the loose, somehow programmed to kill their creator's spoiled granddaughter, though only after they've ripped a grizzly bear and a couple of hikers to shreds, just to show us how dangerous and indiscriminate they are.  Sybel, being the just caring enough person that she is, takes it upon herself to break free of military custody, during an attack by the killing machines no less, so she can personally save the scientist's granddaughter.

Thankfully this movie wasn't completely horribly clichéd, so the soldiers weren't all evil, even if they weren't real big on the freedom of the press, and actually catch on to the fact Sybel is trying to save the same person they are, and she basically ends up completely forgiven for nosing in on their big state secret.  The end credits actually show us some mildly amusing snippets from her continued exploits, and let's just say that she doesn't change a bit.

Hmmm...  How to put this?  Well, this movie didn't suck.  The plot was straightforward, there weren't any hugely annoying and obvious political messages to ruin things, and the main character was an interesting if not really what a viewer could really entirely sympathize with.  I'd call her a chaotic neutral anti-hero ... maybe.  Yeah, there were some clichés, and really not all of the movie makes sense, but it was still fun to watch.  7/10.


Re: Anime review thread

(24 episode series)

Set in a future Germany, this series both entertained and annoyed me, mostly because of the anti-US slant that turns up late in the series, and because of how annoying some of the characters could be, not to mention some of the clichés that reared their ugly heads.

In a problem that is entirely unique to Germany, human bodies have started coming back to life as these strange monsters that are really hard to kill, have devastating attacks, and apparently just appeared out of no where.  Then, just as icing on the cake, most of the victims tend to come back to life as these monsters themselves, sort of like really angry and fast zombies that can blend with machinery to become even worse monsters.  Their origin is finally explained, and isn't exactly a huge surprise thanks to the many hints dropped from the beginning of the series.

The story focuses mostly on one team of elite police, the Xenogenesis Assault Team, which actually reminds me a bit of FUNERAL from Argento Soma in the type of team members present.  As it turns out, one of their number, Hermann, has a friend who is infected and becomes one of these monsters, but to an extent he can control it and he retains his humanity.  This mostly has to do with the manner in which he was infected, which leads into what becomes the main plot of the series.  At first, it seems like this Gerd guy is going to become something like a Batman figure in that while he continually fights the good fight against the monsters, only a few people (and later only his friend) stick up for him and most regard him as simply another monster.

Well, fooled me.  As it turns out, that wasn't the case, and it only set things up for the main plotline, which is of mysterious figures from the past of yet another anti-hero character plotting to force their brand of evolution on humanity.  We eventually learn the past of this anti-hero, Joseph, and through that the solution to the big mystery that's been dragged along since the beginning of the series.  Then, like Argento Soma, there's a betrayal from within the team, but the difference is that here the betrayer never redeems themselves and most of the team dies, and the storyline shifts to follow formerly secondary characters accordingly. 

Then towards the end, the US bullies the UN into letting it unleash nuclear armageddon on Germany in order to prevent the spread of the monsters to the rest of the world.  Oh yeah, and the Knights Templar make an appearance and turn out to not be that much better, except for a few people who mostly all die saving the day.

At times this series grew quite tiresome, either from slow pacing or from the anti-US bullshit, but I guess overall I don’t regret watching it.  It is another series that could have gotten to the point more quickly, but it's still okay.  I'd say it's about 5/10.


Re: Anime review thread

Blood: The Last Vampire
(2000 movie)

It's safe to say that while I liked this movie, it was also somewhat lacking in story development.  We're very abruptly introduced to the story, and the pace never really slowed down enough for me to absorb as much of it as I would have liked.  We're introduced to the characters very quickly, though the only really important one is Saya, who her handler David describes as "the last original".  He and another character named Lewis are apparently part of an organization called Red Shield, which is charged with battling these bat-like demon creatures referred to as chiropterans.  We're never informed of the origin of these creatures, who or what exactly Saya is, or how Red Shield is able to cover things up so completely despite so much evidence from the various battles that take place.

Movies like this tend to give us an "ordinary" person to sympathize with, and this is no exception.  In this case, it's a plump American woman who is the school nurse at the high school on Yanato Air Base in Tokyo.  She's actually quite annoying, and a pretty negative stereotype of Americans.  Saya has to repeatedly save her, though at one point she seems to lament not being able to kill her.

Saya herself seems to be a vampire, but she doesn't seem to be affected by any of the stereotypical things associated as weaknesses for vampires, and we never see her drink blood.  The title actually seems to have to do with the method Saya employs to kill the chiropterans, which is the only way to kill them, through a single blow that causes massive blood loss.  Saya herself is somewhat difficult to sympathize with as a character due to her temperamental and abrupt nature, but she definitely kicks plenty of ass.

Overall I'd say that this was an enjoyable movie, though somewhat short.  It asks a lot of questions without really answering any of them, and while I kind of like that to an extent, in this case I think there were way too many unanswered questions.  It's till worth a watch though, earning a solid 7/10.


Re: Anime review thread

Blood: The Last Vampire
(2009 live-action movie)

Based on the animated movie, the live action version adds a lot to it, which in the end I feel improves it a great deal.  A lot of the mystery is lost, which may be why a lot of fans of the original may react so negatively to it, but the story is much more fleshed out to the benefit of the movie, I feel.

Some of the differences are that instead of a school nurse, we instead have Saya rescuing the daughter of Yanato's commander, both from the chiropterans and from rogue elements of Red Shield.  David also doesn't play as big of a role as he did in the original, and Lewis either changed races or was omitted and replaced by another character.  And rather than just a few chiropterans, there's practically an army of them that has infiltrated quite a bit of both Yanato Air Base and Japan in general, and there are also some main antagonists for us to focus on.

More or less, it's the same story of Saya (who's now officially a blood-drinker), working with Red Shield to kill chiropterans, and at one point infiltrating the high school on Yanato Air Base to do so.  From there it leads into a larger story than the anime movie, and while the resolution isn't all that clear, it at least felt like I’d seen an entire movie rather than just half of it.  There are still some absurd parts, the worst offender being the point that Saya fights a massive crowd of chiropterans by herself, rather like a certain scene in Kill Bill that was played for humor.

I'd recommend this movie, but while you could enjoy this movie without seeing the original, I would suggest that you do what the original first, if nothing else to compare them so you can make up your own mind about them and how they compare to one another.  8/10.