I’ve been watching a lot of anime recently, so I figured I might as well comment on what I’ve seen. But first, many of you know that I have not been a big fan (make that, not a fan at all) of anime in general. Scott and I tried to watch some quite awhile ago (10 years or so? wow). We rented Project Ako and Bubblegum Crisis. I think so anyway. That alone should tell you all need to know about what kind of impression they made. Not good. We came away unimpressed and confused as to what people saw in the genre at all. A few years after that, I got a chance to watch Akira on the SciFi Channel. Whle the graphics were good, for that time anyway, I felt the story was a bit convoluted. I wasn’t sure if something was lost in translation, it was dubbed, or if the movie was just being obscure for the fun of it. Again, I walked away nonplussed. Of course, I had forgotten the big 3 anime series I watched as a kid. Since I had seen them as a kid, I just figured they were just cartoons, like the others, only drawn a bit differently. That’s my story anyway. What? What are those series? You could probably name them. Speed Racer, Star Blazers and Battle of the Planets! I watched those shows every day after school. Well, not on the same day, but you get the idea. It just never occurred to me until muuuuuch later that I was watching anime. I believe that Starblazers was even brought to the US by Sandy Frank, the source of all our pain. But I could be wrong.
But then, a few months ago, I got a chance to watch a movie that made me rethink my attitude towards anime in general. I had heard Kevin rave about Spirited Away after he saw it and so, when I saw it at Blockbuster, I went ahead and rented. My family and I sat down to watch it and wow. It was great. Even my 4 year old liked it. The story, the animation (almost completely cell based, I’m not sure if there was any CGI in it at all), everything was top notch. I can’t recommend this film highly enough. Well, that day I went out and bought it at the behest of my wife as a Father’s Day present. That’s right, I went from not liking anime at all to owning my first title. More was to come. That day I did some research on Hayao Miyazaki, the creative mastermind behind Spirited Away. I then realized that another film Kevin had raved about, Princess Mononoke, was also Miyazaki. I rented that one as well. Wow again. What seems like a typical man vs. nature film, isn’t. What it is, is better than most films you’ll see. Hollywood just doesn’t make them like this. At least not animated movies. We get crap like Titan AE.I’ve since also seen most of the other big Miyazaki films, Castle in the Sky, Kiki’s Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro and Castle Cagliostro. I’d recommend any of them, with the exception of Castle Cagliostro. Its really dated and it just doesn’t seem to work well. It has moments, but not enough to make it up to the standards of the others. The others are excellent films, escpecially for families. My kids have seen Castle in the Sky at least 10 times since we bought it at Target. BTW, Castle in the Sky is the movie Titan AE should have been.
I’ve seen quite a few more since then. Some really good, some just ok. I borrowed Metropolis from my brother. He’s a big anime fan too. To the extent that he has Region 2 DVDs he’s purchased in Japan, Malayasi, etc. that he plays on his region free Sampo DVD player. Scary. Anyway, Metropolis is a Region 1 disc so I could watch it. Its based on the original Metropolis film by Fritz Lang, but with a more modern man vs. machine story. However, what sets it apart, are the visuals. They are stunning. Sort of a future-retro-Art Deco motif. It also uses a blend of cell animation and CGI. Wow, it is an impressive looking film. The story isn’t bad either, although there was just enough bad science in it to start to annoy me. I hate that.
Let’s talk a little Neon Genesis Evangelion. I had heard, and read, that this series, it was originaly on Japanese TV, is a mind bender and is one of the best examples of what anime can do. So, with my new membership to the Walmart NetFlix-like service, I have been ordering the DVDs of this series. Well, so far (3 DVDs in, 11 episodes) it seems to be a guys in mech suits (although mechs which have a very small independent power supply and must get their power from an umbilical cord attached to a power source) show, with some heavy duty spiritual foreshadowing. I’ve talked a bit with Trent about it and, apparently, the last half of the show goes into maximum spiritual mode and starts really kicking a$$. Its deep, man. Its so deep, they had to make a movie to properly end the show. Two movies, since the first one didn’t really explain anything and left people wanting more. There is also going to be a live action version of this made for American audiences. I’m not sure if this is the show for that. There are some, um, delicate situations that come up in the show that I don’t think people will want to see. Things like 14 year old girls and their father figures. But if they pick the right actresses, the “fanservice” should be quite entertaining. In fact, fanservice deserves its own entry. More on it later. I’m not sure if I’m recommending this one or not. I’d say, tentatively yes, based on the reviews of others and the fact that the show hasn’t sucked till now.
I’ve also seen the first 4 episodes of Noir. It fits into the “Chicks with guns” sub-genre, with a healthy dose of Alias-like hidden story. Its more atmospheric and moody than anything else. There isn’t alot of dialogue in the show. In fact, the body count comes close to equalling the word count. Having said that, I’ll probably watch more since I want to see what the @$#%$#^% is going on.
While waiting for Walmart to get their, seemmingly only, copy of Neon Genesis Disc 4 back, I ordered Cowboy Bebop. Stacy said this was a good one, and he was right! For once. Good job Stace. Its about two bounty hunters in the future and their exploits. I can’t say enough about this one. The visuals are great. Its a mix of cell and CGI animation. The stories are intelligent and not cliched. The characters all have flaws and aren’t supermen or women. This is definately not for kids. Cowboy Bebop would probably get a TV-M rating if shown here. In fact, I think the move they released was rated ‘R’, so if shown on TV, the series would probably be on cable. Interesting how it’s on Japanese broadcast TV. I think so anyway, it may have been released straight to video. If so, then never mind, not so interesting. Oh, I highly recommend this. Scott, if you’re reading, see this one. I wouldn’t mind owning these.
Scryed is the last show I’ve seen recently. Its another TV series now on DVD. It has an interesting premise. There exists an island off of Japan called ‘The Lost Grounds’. Some mysterious event happened 22 years ago that separated this island from normal reality and lead to the rise of the Alters. Alters can call on some unnamed power to create Alter beings of themselves. The form of these Alters is all over the map and it isn’t explained how the forms are decided upon. The government of Japan has set up a police force, Hold, to watch over island, and a special ops force, Holy, to watch an control the native Alter population. Which is small since only 2% of people born on the island have the Alter ability. While somewhat promising, the first 5 episodes are basically your average ‘misfit-with-a-heart-of-gold-takes-on-the-establishment’ story. Albeit with better animation. I found it to be quite juvenile, escpecially compared with Cowboy Bebop and the character Shireece is annoying and has a voice like Mike Tyson on helium. Ahhh! I’m not sure if I’m even interested in finding out more. Although the guy who’s Alter is a GIANT handgun was cool…