The Other Side of Animation 95: Wolf Children Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

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While many other filmgoers and I cry and rally behind the idea that more original films should be made, we do accept that franchise/blockbuster films have a purpose. They rake in the cash, along with the sequels, reboots, and remakes. Hopefully, when they have a few big hits on their hands, Hollywood will invest into some more original projects and throw caution to the wind. Of course, there is the risk that no one will see the original film, since the studios do advertise them, but not enough or help get them into as many theaters for the mass public to see. If word of mouth is good enough, then more people will see it, but it’s a struggle, since the original films in question have to be good. So, where am I going with this opening bit? When you do find that one original movie, and it’s just the bee’s knees, it’s a great feeling to have. That is why I chose one of my new favorite movies of this decade, Wolf Children. Directed by Mamoru Hosoda, animated by both Hosoda’s own studio, Studio Chizu with help from Studio Madhouse, Wolf Children was originally released in 2012, but got a stateside release in 2013. If you have seen my Worst to Best Animated Films of 2013, then you know this was my favorite movie of that year. I probably don’t need to remind you why that is, but let’s gush about it anyway.

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The story is about a young college woman named Hana, voiced by Collen Clinkenbeard. As she is going to classes and working a job to pay the bills, she becomes interested in this male student who comes to her classes from time to time. After getting to know him, the two bond, and become romantically involved. Hana even finds out that the guy she likes, who is voiced by David Matranga, is actually a werewolf of sorts. However, that doesn’t stop them from having two kids named Yuki and Ame. Sadly, the husband ends up passing away, leaving Hana with their two kids. What doesn’t help the situation either is that her children are also part wolf, and can shapeshift into wolves. After thinking about it, Hana decides to move to the countryside with her two kids and raise them there. Along the way, they meet likable side characters, and we get to see how the two kids grow up.

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There is a lot to unload with this movie, but I think I will start off by talking about one of my favorite aspects of watching a Mamoru Hosoda film, its themes. From the films I have seen of his, Hosoda likes to have a lot of themes revolving around families. Like in The Boy and the Beast, where it was about a father-son dynamic, being upfront with your kids, and different family living situations, Wolf Children follows themes of a mother and her children, and adds in the topic of how kids will grow up differently. Throughout the movie, the two kids end up being vastly different from one another, and as the film follows their journey, grow up and define themselves by their surroundings. Ame becomes more connected to nature and his more wolf-like side of him, while Yuki wants to be more like her human side. Both children make the film really interesting in how they interact with other humans, nature, and their own mother. I know that sounds odd to say that a movie has great and complex kid characters, but for some reason, Hosoda knows how to write them expertly. Hana is also a great inspirational female character, since it could have been so easy for this film to simply show how overburdened she is with raising the two kids, and play her misery off as comedy. Luckily, the film is smarter than that, and makes her a very capable woman. She does work hard and is a fast learner. She almost succumbs to the stress, but since we are human, she finds the strength to keep pushing.

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The film, while having mystical elements, is a very laid back film that’s more about the day-to-day life of Hana and her children. There are conflicts, and I would definitely not label it as laid back as say Only Yesterday or My Neighbor Totoro, but it doesn’t dissolve into anime action schlock. It’s more about the life between Hana, and her children growing up in the environments surrounding them, and that’s all the film needed to be. Heck, they even find ways to make good jokes around their situation, like when one of the kids gets sick, Hana doesn’t know whether to use a human doctor, or a vet to look at them.

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The animation is beautiful. Hosoda always has a unique look to his designs, where it has its anime design tropes, but everyone moved more realistically. Yes, you can see certain scenes where Hosoda uses CGI crowds and faceless characters to put focus on the leads, but it’s still fantastic animation. The film does a great job making lush countrysides, lovely white snow-covered fields, and damp rainy days. The music by composer Takagi Masakatsu compliments the visuals. I think the best scene in the movie that combines Hosoda’s great animation and Masakatsu’s music is when it becomes winter in the countryside. The scene with them playing in the snow is powerful, and it really hits me seeing the family be happy for this moment in time. No struggle to grow food, or what the kids are going to do for education, or anything else. It’s a moment where they can enjoy each other’s company and love. The voice dub is also great. I think everyone does a good job with their roles, and Micah Solusod and Jad Saxton, the actors for the kids, do a good job making them likable and endearing.

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If I had to complain about something with the film, it’s the fact that there is a sort of forced romance for Yuki. I won’t spoil what happens, but her relationship with the kid could have been fleshed out more. I get why they had this relationship, but there is no time set up for it. However, that is my only real complaint.

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Wolf Children is an emotionally powerful movie that did a better job at being a Disney/Pixar film than either of those two companies back in 2013. It’s easily one of my favorite films from this decade, and one of the few films that I think can stand up to the Ghibli best like Porco Rosso and Spirited Away. For some reason, if you do not have this movie in your collection, Funimation put out a great collector’s edition of the film that has a lot of nice extra stuff, like a small booklet that comes with the film. If I haven’t said it enough, do watch and buy this movie. I want it to be remembered as much as the bigger animated films, and not wallow in cult classic territory. Speaking of cult classics, next time, we will be looking at what could be one of the 90s most beloved underrated cult films with Cats Don’t Dance. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this review, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

 

The Other Side of Animation 93: Porco Rosso Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

For as much as the film and entertainment industry loves to do movies about war-time settings, we rarely get them outside of the World War II area. Sure, we have Vietnam war films like Platoon and Apocalypse Now, but whenever we get a war movie, it’s more or less the second World War. They have started to spread out the settings and plots with some truly fantastic films like Hacksaw Ridge, and the upcoming Dunkirk, but I rarely see a movie that takes place, or is set around a certain period of time in World War I. I feel like as content creators for the entertainment industry, we could start expanding out into different time periods. I think that’s what drew me into today’s review, Porco Rosso. Directed by the ever amazing Hayao Miyazaki, Porco Rosso was originally made and released in 1992, but the US only got it in the mid-2000s with the help of Disney. Yeah, normally I don’t tackle films made or distributed by Disney, but since they don’t technically have the full rights to distribute the film anymore, I’m going to talk about Ghibli films more often. So, is Porco Rosso truly unique? Does it deserve to be one of my all-time favorite films? Well, let’s take a look.

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Porco Rosso follows our main hero, Porco Rosso/Marco Pagot/Rossolini (depending on what version you own or which dub you watch), voiced by Michael Keaton. He’s an ex Italian fighter pilot, who now lives in a post-World War I world, and is a bounty hunter. All he does is sleep the day away, drink wine, and on occasion, fight seaplane pirates. One day though, after seeing his longtime friend Madame Gina, voiced by Susan Egan, Porco gets called to task and ends up getting into a fight with an American pilot named Donald Curtis, voiced by Cary Elwes. After losing the fight with Curtis, Porco goes into hiding, and travels to Italy to get his plane fixed. He gets the help of a craftsman Mr. Piccolo, voiced by David Ogden Stiers, and with the help of his granddaughter Fio Piccolo, voiced by Kimberly Williams-Paisley, get Porco’s plane fixed. Can Porco get back into the air and take down Curtis?

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So, what makes this one of my all-time favorite movies? Well, it has a lot of elements that blend well together. For one, it has the trademark laid-back atmosphere of what you normally see in a Studio Ghibli film. While this is a film about flying planes and getting into fights with them, the fighting takes a back seat to focus more on the characters, and their interaction with the world and time period they live in. While I can understand the confusion of that aspect and maybe wanting one more fight sequence in the air, the film is more about Porco and his life after the World War I. As you can probably tell from the title of the film or from his name, Porco is a walking talking humanoid pig. Apparently, after a rather terrible and sad incident during the war, he was cursed to be a pig. His outlook on life was more lazy and cynical, and he really didn’t mind that. He knew how the world worked, and was disgusted by it. He would rather live alone in an island out-cove with his valuable plane, while drinking and laying around all day, than join a side, and fight for a country with certain beliefs. A lot of people have asked why they made him a pig in the movie, and, well, I think what I just said describes a pig perfectly. Stubborn, prideful, lazy, they would rather just wallow where they rest, instead of doing something else. It was also an inside joke from the studio, since Hayao Miyazaki has been infamous for being a stubborn, grumpy individual. He apparently loved pigs, and has always portrayed himself as one. It’s more about what the pig symbolizes than a simple gimmick. I have seen some reviewers not understand that, and constantly be distracted by that fact, without taking a moment to think about it and understand it. It’s one of the few times where the phrase “you didn’t get it” comes into play, and rightfully deserves use of that phrase.

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The film is also fairly light-hearted in tone. Everyone from Porco to the pirates are not really that imposing or intimidating. I mean, they kind of are, but it’s a more lightweight kind of intimidation. Even the leader of the pirates, voiced by Brad Garrett, is probably one of the best side characters Ghibli have ever come up with. He yells loudly, is also stubborn and prideful, but he isn’t above telling a bunch of little kids he kidnapped to calm down and not jump off the plane. The pirates don’t even hurt them. It does that thing I love where there is no real bad guy. Curtis is bad since he almost killed Porco, but he’s not evil. He’s just a celebrity in a time period where being a celebrity was becoming more of a big deal, and he thinks he should be getting everything a celebrity deserves. He even calls out Porco on some of his stubbornness in the last third of the film. This tone makes a lot of the characters fun to be around, from Mr. Piccolo, his family, and the seaplane pirates, to even smaller characters that Porco runs into, like the weapon crafters. Actually, I think the weapon crafters have one of my favorite scenes from any movie, where one of them asks what the difference between making money off war and bounty hunting is. The line basically goes “If you make money off of war, you’re scum, but if you can’t make money off of bounty hunting, you’re an idiot.” It took a few viewings for me to really hear that line, and find some charm in it. Don’t get me wrong, the tone can be rather mature, and it doesn’t shy away from the fact that a lot of people died in the war, and there is a lot to unpack with Porco as a character, but it’s not shoved in your face. It knows when to show off the more whimsical tones, the anti-war tones, and so on and so forth. It also feels unique, since it’s not really a war film. It takes place during that period in time, but it’s not about battles or killing soldiers. It’s just characters dealing with the changing times between periods of violent and terrifying war.

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Animation-wise, well, it’s Studio Ghibli. What should you expect from none other than some of the best animation around? Great character movements, spot-on physical comedy, fantastic expressions, subtle movements, gorgeous colors, breath-taking scenery, fast and fun flight sequences, and great character designs. This film also has one of my favorite voice casts of all time, with Michael Keaton doing a perfect job as playing stubborn and prideful Porco, Brad Garrett as a great comedic antagonistic foil, Susan Egan as Gina, a beautiful, yet stern singer at her own private island, David Ogden Stiers as the quirky repairman, and Kimberly Williams-Paisley as the optimistic and strong-willed granddaughter Fio. Probably one of my favorite casting choices is Cary Elwes as Donald Curtis. At first, it’s really shocking, since they got a British guy to do a rather over-the-top American voice, but it fits that point in history of how a stereotypical American would sound, and he brings a lot of passion and energy to the role. Even the minor characters voiced by Bill Fagerbakke, Kevin Michael Richard, Frank Welker, Jeff Bennett, Dee Bradley Baker, and many more all do a fantastic job, no matter how small their roles are. Of course, I would be silly to not bring up the beautiful and fun soundtrack by Ghibli composer, Joe Hisaishi. He definitely has more light, bombastic, and whimsical tones, but also beautiful slow-paced songs that fit the quiet tone of certain areas in the film.

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If I had to really nitpick, and I really do mean nitpick, I think I probably would have liked maybe the first time you see Curtis fight with the seaplane pirates not cut off so abruptly. I get why they did it, but I would have liked to have seen one more fun airplane fight.

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Outside of that, I have no real complaints. I love this movie from head to toe. It’s one of my all-time favorite movies, and is easily a film I would highly recommend showing off to anyone new or old to cinema. It’s also one of the best wartime films, and if for some reason you haven’t seen it yet, please do. I could easily talk about different lines and different scenes from this movie all day, and it stands up there with Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky, and Paprika as one of my favorite Japanese animated films. Unfortunately, I must move onto the next movie to review. Luckily, it’s a film I also deeply love, as next time, we will take a look at My Life as a Zucchini. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

The Other Side of Animation 91: Blame! Review

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In my Patema Inverted review, I talked about why universe building is important, and why you don’t really want to be taken out of the film because the world the film takes place in isn’t well defined. Sometimes, you need to take time to explain certain elements, because while the universe building could be seen as padding or exposition, it needs to make sense. However, if your entire film is just world building and set-up for an even bigger story, then you also need to be careful there. On one side of said spectrum, you have Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which talks about the origin/reboots the universe the franchise takes place in. It might be building up to what happens, but you still care about the characters and hate to see what happens. On the bad side of the spectrum, you have the first G.I. Joe live-action film where it’s not really interesting, has a lot of questionable elements, and doesn’t give us what we want until pretty much the end of the film. So, where does the Netflix-exclusive Blame! come into play? Based off the manga series and the online miniseries, Blame! is the first theatrical film adaptation of the property. It was directed by Hiroyuki Seshita, and was produced by Polygon Pictures, a studio well known for its help with CGI/CGI segments of films like Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, the Disney film Valiant, and the upcoming Godzilla: Monster Planet. I didn’t really see a lot of people get excited or talk about this film, and it got me concerned, since when there is no previews or that many articles talking about it, you wonder why that’s the case. Anyway, how is the actual movie? Well, let’s find out.

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Blame! takes place in a world where the entire earth is covered in giant metal skyscrapers, and there is barely any organic life left. It sucks to be a human in this world, since humans are considered pests by the security system that they ironically made, and are killed on the spot by the security system if they are spotted. Now, the human race is about to go extinct and live in these little settlements. As the viewer, you follow the lead of the film, Killy, voiced by Johnny Yong Bosch, a wandering individual who comes across one of the human settlements, and decides to help them out with the help of a decayed robot scientist. Can they survive? What will they find? Can they avoid the security system or maybe an even more dangerous threat?

blame02Right off the bat, Blame! does a couple of elements excellently. First off, let’s talk about the animation. CGI anime has been a touch controversial, due to the fact that 2D animation is more loved with this medium than CGI, since CGI in anime has been poorly used before, and is still poorly used. An obvious example of bad CGI anime would be the recent Berserk series, since it looks like they just replaced 2D characters with CGI puppets, and either don’t have the time or the effort to make sure they move fluidly. It’s aggravating, since you can understand that CGI animation might be cheaper and could get more jobs for people in that insane working conditions nightmare known as the anime industry. At the same time, CGI just doesn’t have the soul that 2D has, and it never, will unless they were willing to go the Disney/Pixar level quality route. Blame!, on the other hand, has for the most part, pretty good anime-style CGI. No one comes off as puppet-like, nothing is too floaty or cheap, and it makes the action scenes and overall film fun to watch. You can really tell with something like the recent Berserk series when the camera swings around or moves quickly to try and trick the viewer into not spotting the shoddy animation. It makes watching the series tough since you know how good action anime can be. You feel every shot, punch, and strike that are being given to the enemy and the lead characters.

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I think the world building is done pretty well. To me, it stands out, with while being very drab and gray, an interesting concept, since you always hear about how we, as a species can stop overpopulation. Granted, the story does fall into the “the humans forgot to do something, and now the thing we created, wants to kill us” trope, but I could look past that since so many sci-fi-focused products give us that story. I liked that these giant robots that build everything are not bothered by humans, I think it’s scary that there can be killer security robots that can disguise themselves as humans to avoid the barrier keeping the humans safe. I liked how bug-like the security robots moved, and so on. Killy is an interesting character, since he is a cyborg, but he’s left open enough to hopefully see more of him fleshed out in a movie or series. You wonder why this cyborg was made when everything else wants to kill the humans that are still surviving. I will also give Blame! credit, because it pulls off one of the best twists I have seen in not just anime, but animated films. Maybe I could have picked up on it more, but I found the twist to be legit shocking.

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However, this film does fail in a lot of areas. For one, this feels like one of those franchise films that are solely made to set up the universe, and then the second film is what you actually get. I say this because the characters outside of Killy, are really boring. I could care less about what happens to this set of humans. You get every single anime/sci-fi trope you can think of. The only two interesting characters are again, Killy, and the scientist that helps them out. By the end of the film, I had a lingering feeling they were expecting this to be super amazing, and either spawn more films, or a TV series. It gets a bit drab to watch, because the characters fight only two types of enemies. They also do that thing where Killy decides to stay behind to kill something horrifying looking so the rest of the human survivors can escape, but don’t show us the actual fight. Like, don’t do that! Don’t cut away from the most interesting character in the entire film. Nothing else besides the world the film introduces to you leaves a huge impression, and that’s a shame, since I could have seen this being one of the great anime action films. I also felt like some of the anime tropes that are in, well, anime are annoying. For example, why does the scientist, when she gets a new body, get heels? And why does the bigger threat in the film (not spoiling it here) have a skirt? I mean, it’s not that it’s attractive when this threat is killing people point blank with the same weapon Killy uses.

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Blame! is definitely one of the better animated films to come out this year, but in terms of animated films in general, I personally thought it was just okay. It’s nothing ground breaking, it has its moments, but I can’t see myself watching this movie again. It doesn’t have the full-on staying power that something like Ghibli and Hosoda would create and show off. I can’t really say rent it, since it’s a Netflix exclusive, but if you aren’t done watching the new season of House of Cards or Orange is the New Black, maybe give it a look. Though, if you haven’t seen The Little Prince, then watch that first.  Well, that was fun, and before we start heading into some really good movies, I want to tackle one more middling film that shouldn’t be getting a theatrical release, but it is. Next time, we will look at the Google Play exclusive, A Stork’s Journey. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Rent it!

The Other Side of Animation 85: Japanese Animation Month 2 Part 3: Lupin the 3rd: Dead or Alive Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Well, it’s been a while since we have seen our favorite anime thief, Lupin the 3rd. As much as I love talking about this franchise, and not shy to say it’s one of my favorite anime franchises, I always want to choose specific films/specials from the series, since I don’t want to do every single film from the series. At the very least, not yet. That’s why to close out Japanese Animation Month 2, I am going to review Lupin the 3rd: Dead or Alive. This 1996 animated film is notable for a few things. For one, the director of the film is the creator of the franchise Monkey Punch, who hasn’t directed a film from the series before. The film is also considered by many of the fans to be one of the absolute best films about the lovable thief. So, is it as good as the fans make it out to be, or is The Castle of Cagliostro still the king of the films?

lupin02Lupin is back at it again, and this time voiced by Sonny Strait. Alongside his buddies Daisuke Jigen, voiced by Christopher Sabat, and Goemon, voiced by Mike McFarland, their goal in the film is to try and find this treasure that’s held on a deserted sunken ship. The downside to this is the fact that the ship has some kind of highly advanced defense system that keeps people from getting close to it. This means that the quirky thief must find a way to get past the defense system which seems to be connected to the country of Zufu. The good news is that finding the solution to the problem shouldn’t be a problem for our daring thief. The bad news is that the solution is being guarded over by the country’s current leader, General Headhunter. Not only that, but Inspector Zenigata, voiced this time by Phillip Willburn, is on Lupin’s case, and helps reinforce Headhunter’s already strong military force. Of course, shenanigans ensue as Fujiko, voiced by Meredith McCoy, also gets thrown into the situation, and the team now has one of their toughest opponents yet. Can they find a way to get the treasure, and avoid the eye of Headhunter and Zenigata? What about the female accomplice that they end up teaming up with? What exactly is the treasure?

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Let’s start with some of the good elements to the film. This is a very action-packed film in the franchise. It not only starts out with a prison break that’s a lot of fun to watch, but Lupin and his friends are kept on their toes during the entire film. I would argue that a lot of the intense action from this film is all from General Headhunter. He’s probably one of the most intimidating and imposing villains Lupin has ever had. He might be a bit one-note, but this guy is ruthless. Usually, Lupin and his gang always have the upper hand, but this time, they really, and I mean really, struggle. Endless goons and men armed with guns keep Lupin and his friends on their feet, and it was rather refreshing to see our heroes face such a challenge. I have mentioned before in my review of Jigen’s Gravestone that you want to watch the lead characters be stopped by a challenge, and overcome it. This hurdle we see our heroes go through makes much of the action intense and fun to watch them bob and weave through the enemy to find their way to the treasure. It gets even tougher when Zenigata is actually competent in this film.

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That’s probably the next thing to talk about, the interpretation of the characters. Most incarnations give Lupin, his friends, and the overall series a fun and light-hearted tone, with some good physical comedy and fast-paced action. This film has a slightly more serious edge, with less of a focus on comedy. I know a lot of people have said that it’s closer to how the manga was and how the original series was intended, but I can understand the more serious tone being a bit off-putting to more casual fans of the franchise. I think it works, since you still have some of the over-the-top sequences you should be familiar with from the franchise, and even with a more serious tone, it still feels like Lupin the 3rd. It’s still Lupin the 3rd, with all the hijinks and likable characters that you have come to know and love.

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In terms of animation, it’s good for what it is, a film based on an anime. Characters move pretty fluidly, and when the highly advanced security system sequences kick in, it looks fantastic. The designs are also worth noting, due to how non-cartoony they look. I mean, in terms of how the characters usually look. Everything feels a bit more “realistic”, but they still have those familiar designs you have come to expect. They just aren’t going to be the exaggerated versions you see like in the most recent anime series. It can be a tad distracting, since one of my favorite aspects of the series was how everyone looked. It made the anime stand out, and they still do here. I think it’s also nice to see two characters in this film, Fujiko and Inspector Zenigata. It’s yet one of the few films I have seen where Fujiko is actually helpful, and isn’t there for just pure fan service. It’s also nice to see Zenigata in a more serious light. Usually he is the buffoon that thinks he can capture Lupin, but never can. This time, he’s not holding back. He actually becomes a major threat to the characters. I enjoyed the voice cast. I think everyone does a solid job at their respective characters, even if I personally prefer the cast in The Castle of Cagliostro or the Geneon dub. Sonny Strait does a good job making a likable Lupin, Kyle Hebert is an intimidating villain, Chris Patton does a good job as Headhunter’s right hand, Phillip Wilburn does a hard-edged Zenigata, and you get the idea.

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If I had to complain about something, it’s with some of the tropes that come with feature films based on anime. The secondary leads are not very interesting, and are there to just get the plot going. It’s not their fault, but it’s a trope that I don’t personally care for. I also don’t care for the more sci-fi elements of the film. I don’t know, for some reason, I just don’t think sci-fi fits with the Lupin the 3rd universe. The security system in the game seems more like something from Patlabor than Lupin the 3rd. The only reason it’s in the film is because the tech used in the defense system used gold as a fuel source.

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While I don’t personally think it’s better than The Castle of Cagliostro, Lupin the 3rd: Dead or Alive is still a fun action movie to watch. Currently, Funimation has a DVD out for it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Discotek Media picks it up in the future, since they are distributing some of the Lupin the 3rd films that Funimation released back in the day. If you love the thief, and want an intense action adventure, then I highly recommend you check this film out. Well, Japanese Animation Month 2 was fun, but next time, it’s time to dip back into the well of DC animation with Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. Thanks for reading, I hope you all enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Go see it!

The Other Side of Animation 84: Japanese Animation Month 2 Part 2: Patema Inverted Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

When watching a film, you should be able to get into the world without spending time away from focusing on the story and characters, and wondering how everything works. It becomes more distracting as time goes on when they introduce elements that don’t’ get a lot of explanations in terms of how it works, and adds to the universe as a whole. This is the fate of GKids’ release of Patema Inverted. This sci-fi Japanese animated film was originally released in 2013, and was brought over to the states by GKids in 2014. The film was written and directed by Yasuhiro Yoshiura, a director who worked on the one-off OVA Pale Cocoon, a designer for Evangelion 2.0, the director, creator, and screenwriter of the web series Time of Eve, and the director of Bureau of Proto Society. It went on to get solid reviews, but is definitely one of the weaker films from GKids’ library in terms of critical reception. So, do I agree that it’s one of the weaker films from the awesome distributor? Well, let’s find out.

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In the far future, mankind decided to try to harness energy from gravity. Of course, by doing so, mankind basically screwed over the earth and caused a rather large mass of the population to die due to the now messed-up gravity. This has led to a certain group of people having to live underground, and some forced to live above ground due to how the gravity is inverted. We follow one of our leads, Patema, voiced by Cassandra Morris, as she dreams of seeing the above world and its inhabitants, despite the multiple warnings she has been given to not do so. After escaping a threat, she ends up flying upwards from her world to the outside world, where the other side of civilization lives. She ends up meeting a young man named Age, voiced by Michael Sinterniklaas, who is a student that lives under the tyrannical rule of a crazed priest named Izamura, voiced by Richard Epcar. Can our two young heroes survive Izamura’s grasp, and find out what exactly happened to the world?

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Sadly, one of the biggest problems of the film is, like I alluded to at the beginning of the review, the world and setting. Besides being yet another story of “man is stupid for screwing over the world”, some elements are never explained. For example, later on in the film, Age and Patema end up both flying upward into the sky. They find a massive metal contraption is in the sky in Age’s side of the world. We never really find out if the metal piece was man-made or not. I did learn what it was, but I don’t think I should consider it a good thing that I had to learn something about the film after going to the internet. I mean, isn’t that the power of filmmaking that you can show the viewer what’s going on and not tell them? There were times when I felt like the film was not telling me enough about the setting, and the huge twist at the end was less “oh golly gee wow, that’s a shocker that I didn’t see coming!” and more like “So, did they appear on the other side of the world? What is going on?” To be honest, I don’t personally think it’s my fault for not catching what the film was throwing. I even looked it up to see if I was the only one who was confused by the setting and the twist. Luckily, I was not the only one looking for answers, and even though I found the answers to be helpful and did help shape the world of the film more, I still felt like it was unsatisfying. Again, the film should have done a better job at its story and setting, so I don’t feel like I’m missing something.

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Sadly, that’s not the only problem this film has. Besides the main two characters the story follows, no one else is really that interesting. It’s a shame, since you would think a film with a rather interesting setting would have more intriguing characters, but it doesn’t. Most of them are traditional anime tropes or are completely pointless to the story. Seriously, from time to time, they would cut to this red-headed girl who doesn’t do anything, and has no real character. It’s distracting, and I don’t know if she was meant to have more time on-screen, but she feels like an idea that was forgotten to be taken out in the editing process. Even the villain, who is usually the most entertaining character in these types of films, is such a bore. Richard Epcar does a fantastic job as usual, but the villain has no layers to him. He isn’t even good enough to be one of those really intimidating, if one-note, villains. He’s one of those stereotypical high priest characters who went crazy with power, and anyone who doesn’t agree with him dies. I mean, how many times have we seen these types of villains in animation? They are almost as boring as the villains from films like Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Disney’s Tarzan.

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In terms of animation, it is good. It moves well, and the idea of how the gravity works can lead to some great visuals and mind-bending moments on whether the side Patema is on or Age’s side is the accurate side of the earth. However, I found the character designs to be fairly bland. They don’t really stand out to me. I guess the only one that stands out is Patema, but everyone else? I think it’s fairly cookie-cutter. I think why it’s bothersome to me is because, once again, the world is interesting, but everyone looks so bland, and made to make animation easier. It doesn’t have a distinct style to it.

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After all that complaining, is there something I like about the movie? Of course, there is. Even if the designs look bland, the world itself is still visually interesting. Maybe a bit generic by sci-fi standards, but the scene and background you see when the “twist” happens is very pretty. I also like the chemistry between Patema and Age. Sure, you probably have seen these two types of characters before in other films, but I found them cute together. Like I said earlier, the idea that the gravity is messed up can and will lead to some mind-bending moments. It also leads to reinventing the whole “villain dies by falling” trope with the gravity situation. I also like how it does bring an interesting twist to the whole “why can’t we get along with each other” kind of story. There was a scene in the film that almost felt out of place, but was really funny. It was when Patema and Age first meet, and Age takes her to a safe shed-like building, leading to a rather funny joke. You don’t see this style of humor in the rest of the film, but it was humorous to see it.

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While I do agree Patema Inverted is probably one of the weaker films to be brought over by GKids, I still enjoyed watching it. It’s like saying Hayao Miyazaki has a “bad” film because even the weaker films from that guy are way better than the best from mediocre directors. Patema Inverted still has some great visuals, a cute set of protagonists, and a setting that is fairly admirable. I would definitely recommend checking this film out. Well, that was fun talking about a hidden gem, but next time, how about we talk about one of the best films based on anime’s favorite thief? That’s right, we shall finally talk about Lupin the III: Dead or Alive. Thanks for reading, I hope you all enjoyed the article, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Go see it!

The Other Side of Animation 83: Japanese Animation Month 2 Part 1: Welcome to the Space Show Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

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While I do like when a film that is set in space treats me like an individual with brain cells, I do miss when having a film set in space could mean fun and creative adventures. It’s not that I don’t like being challenged intellectually, but it seems like that is all we are getting with films like Interstellar, and while I enjoy that movie, I had a lot more fun watching something like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, where it’s all about the creativity, action, and adventure with something as big as space. That is why I was intrigued by Welcome to the Space Show. This 2010 Japanese-animated film was produced by A1 Pictures, the studio behind Fairy Tail and Black Butler. The film was directed by Koji Masunari and returning name from a previous review, Masaaki Yuasa, the man behind Mindgame. It was brought over to the states by GKids back in 2014, and has gone under the radar since then. Since I’m talking about it, this must be some pretty entertaining stuff. Well, you would be right. Let’s dive into this space romp.

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The story revolves around a group of kids who are staying in a school building for a week or so during summer vacation. These kids include Natsuki, voiced by Stephanie Sheh, her cousin Amane, voiced by Michaela Dean, Kiyoshi, voiced by Michael Sinterniklaas, Noriko, voiced by Cassandra Lee, and Koji, voiced by Michael Jacob Wayne. One day as they are searching for a lost rabbit, they come across an actual crop circle, and decide to investigate. Upon the investigation, they find an injured dog. After recovering, the dog turns out to be an alien dog named Pochi, voiced by Marc Diraison. Pochi thanks the kids by taking them through an adventure in space. They get wrapped up in a sinister plan set in motion by an alien named Neppo, voiced by Mike Pollock, who wants to become a God and rule the universe with a special weapon. Can Pochi and the kids save the universe before they get back home?

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So, what do I like about this movie? Well, I might use this term a lot, but it honestly fits this film, it feels like a 80s adventure film aimed at a general family-friendly audience. It might have kids as the lead, but you can tell a lot of the time was put into how fantastical the space world around them is. Since this is by one of the directors of Mindgame, you will be seeing many different aliens of all shapes and sizes. It’s hard to explain unless you actually see some of the screen shots from the film. It reminds me of the anime series, Space Dandy. Everything is so wildly imaginative and creative, from the vehicles used to travel to the planets to out-of-this-world alien designs. It looks like someone took a bunch of children’s drawings, mixed them with some LCD, a dash of Yellow Submarine, a hefty helping of Carnevale, and brought them to life, since there are very few designs that look alike that weren’t the lead or secondary characters. Everything is so colorful and vibrant. Sure, it has its moments to have darker or more sinister sequences, but for about 95% of the time, the colors are lush and diverse. Even with how bonkers the entire universe is that they explore, they do keep it grounded to a degree, and let the story and atmosphere take some time to envelop you into it. It’s nice that a film as crazy and vibrant as Welcome to the Space Show does slow down, since viewers need time to decompress and not feel like they are in constant state of movement. Sometimes that state of mind is great, but it can also be tiring.

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Due to the less-detailed designs, the animation is able to be faster and more fluid than some other films with more detailed animation. It makes many of the expressions on the aliens great, and the action fun. The first chase sequence and the final battle come to mind, where this kind of style and animation works great with battles that feel like every hit has weight behind it. Sure, I know some people could argue that due to the designs and animation, everyone looks a bit sloppy, but it does add personality to the film. At the very least, it’s not Samurai 7 where only the action scenes and the occasional emotional/character moment look great, and everything else can look like utter chicken scratch. While it doesn’t have that fluidity that Ghibli films or Hosoda films have, it’s still a pretty well-animated film. I also enjoyed the voice cast. I felt like, for the most part, everyone that they hired did a good job. It’s fun to see Michael Sinterniklaas and Mike Pollock in the cast, since I don’t’ always think of them in Japanese animation. I almost forgot that Michael Sinterniklaas was in this film, since he sounds so much like Yuri Lowenthal. Mike Pollock was a lot of fun as the villain, because he is pretty much bringing that entertaining energy that he uses for Dr. Eggman/Robotnik from Sonic the Hedgehog into his performance as Welcome to the Space Show’s lead villain.

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With all that said, I do have some complaints. In terms of the overall length of the film, it does tend to drag a bit. It has a touch too much filler going on, and by the third act, I was still enjoying it, but was hoping it would end soon. There are also a few scenes/things that kind of bothered me, and I don’t know if they ever thought about it before keeping these moments in the film. The first moment that bugged me was when the second oldest female lead was heading off to meet up with the others. You see her younger brother on top of a cow, but with no pants. Yeah, no offense or anything, but I do not want to see little kids naked. Another plot point that I find creepy is Pochi’s relationship with the youngest girl. It’s obvious that he has a crush on her, and, yeah, I find that a tad disturbing. I guess it’s trying to be comedic, but it’s once again fairly creepy. I also found the two youngest characters in the film to not have the best voice work.

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Even with the pacing problems and some questionable elements to the overall experience, Welcome to the Space Show is fun. It has good animation, great visuals, fun action, a solid voice cast, and is a fun adventure. It might not be in my top 10 in terms of GKids-released animated films, but it’s one space adventure I will never forgot. Well then, next up on the animation chopping block, let’s go topsy-turvey and review Patema Inverted. Thanks for reading. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 81: Vampire Hunter D Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

I am never going to get tired of what I’m about to say, and I will warn you right now that when I see situations like this, I’m going to bring it up again. A movie based off a property like a book, comic book, or whatever should be a good movie first and foremost. This is an argument I hear all the time when people are defending movies like Ratchet & Clank or old school anime films like Akira, in which I am told that I should read the source material first, or they let me know that I just don’t get it. It’s such a flimsy argument that should never be taken seriously. It also doesn’t work as a counter-argument towards criticism aimed at a movie based off a source material, because there are so many movies that are based off source material that are amazing. Do I need to know about the original books to enjoy How to Train your Dragon, Ernest & Celestine, Mary Poppins, The Rabbi’s Cat, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Dark Knight, and The Prophet? No! I can watch those movies because they were adapted so well into a movie that I could show these films to anyone, and they would be able to enjoy it without having to read the source material. A movie should be able to be well told and fun, and not require a moviegoer to do what is essentially hours of homework to watch a two hour or so movie. It’s backwards logic, and something that hinders my enjoyment of today’s review, Vampire Hunter D. This was a film released back in 1985, directed by Toyoo Ashida (1986’s Fist of the North Star film, Ultimate Teacher, Grenadier, Batman: Gotham Knight’s In Darkness Dwells section), and was brought over to the states in 1992. One of the more interesting facts about this movie is that the character design was done by Yoshitaka Amano, the same illustrator who has worked on the Final Fantasy franchise. Sadly, a good artist can only go so far in the animation scene. If you don’t have anything else, then what’s the point? Let’s get started.

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The plot is essentially Castlevania, but I’ll explain it anyway. An evil vampire has taken the reins in ruling a land that includes a small town. A lone wanderer named D, voiced by John Gremillion, wanders into town, and decides to help the town get out of the evil grasp of the intimidating Count Magnus Lee, voiced by David Wald. Can D stop the evil vampire, and make sure no one is hurt?

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I want to be kind to this film, so let us talk about the good elements that this film brings to the table. First off, the character designs. While some of the side characters have that stale anime look, the rest are diverse and memorable. I really do think having such a unique artist like Yoshitaka Amano does give this film some levity. When the film decides to be atmospheric, it really does give you a small chill, with the calm surroundings, dark colors, and super-natural fiends looming around the night sky. For the original release of the film from Streamline to the Sentai Filmworks release, the two English dubs are both pretty solid. I think the Sentai Filmworks release is a tiny bit better, but I’m sure you won’t really care, since the dub for an anime of this time period (1992 for the USA) could have been so much worse.

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Now that we got the positives out of the way, let’s breakout the Vampire Killer whip, and take down the negatives that this film offers. First off, good luck enjoying this if you didn’t know one thing about the series, because this film doesn’t ease you in at all into the universe. It really doesn’t explain how this world has old world outfits, use of horse and carriage when combustion engines are around, robotic horses, werewolves, dinosaurs, and so on. There is really no reason this couldn’t have been late 1800s-early 1900s. I think the one element that cements this criticism is this weird hand thing D has. I’m sure the face he has on his hand probably has some kind of explanation, but if this was your first time watching the film, you will be confused and horrified by that thing. The film is also inconsistent with its rules at different points in the story. For example, there is a villain in the film that can bend space and time to avoid damage, like say, getting stabbed by a sword. Well, the villain uses this ability once, and never again. It makes it out like the writers wanted an “oh, snap” moment, but then forgot that the individual has this ability and just let him get his arm cut off, and then his head blown off by the big bad vampire. Some scenes are also not explained or executed well. Like later on in the film, the bad guys obtain a special candle that is dangerous towards vampires. Well, the bad guy that can control space and time attempts to use it on D, but realizes that it’s not the candle that he got in the first place, but a fake. It then turns out another crummy individual in the film somehow swapped the real candle with the fake one. They don’t show how or when he did it, so it means you add another unexplained element to the pile of other unexplained plot elements in this movie. Even on top of all this, I found the film to be boring. You would think this would be an entertaining film with D being a vampire slayer, and taking down a horde of monsters to save a town from Dracula, but it’s not. It might be only 80 minutes long, but it can drag in a lot of places. The characters are also not worth writing about. They are all cookie cutter, and D isn’t even that interesting of a lead character. Sure, there is intrigue in terms of who he is, but I don’t really feel invested to watch him succeed, since he can sometimes come off as too weak in terms of being the lead. Once again, it shows how infuriating the animation industry can be when they decide to take an idea that should work, but screw over the execution and make it a boring pile of mud.

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In the end I think Vampire Hunter D suffers from being a bad adaptation with too much of a focus on the fans. While it might be amusing for fans of the franchise, it isn’t an enjoyable sit for the rest of us. I would rather a film be enjoyable to all, than make it for one small group of people. Still, I have seen worse, and Vampire Hunter D might be bad, but it’s not in my top 10 worst animated films bad. I can totally see why people would love the franchise, and think if you are going to check it out, read the manga, and then watch the film. Luckily, we will take a look at the sequel in the near future that definitely does everything better, even if it still falls into a few traps. Well, we have some time before Ghost in the Shell comes out, how about we take a look at Lionsgate’s newest animated offering with Rock Dog? Thanks for reading, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Lackluster