Yesterday morning, I began my day (and month) with another Classic Anime that was so surprisingly good, I had to have more immediately…
“Riding Bean” is like “Lupin The 3rd” meets “Gone In 60 Seconds” with a dash of the “Blues Brothers” thrown in for good measure. Though it’s only about forty-five minutes long, this film is a fully realized feature with attention to detail that rivals all challengers. It’s set in Chicago — Like, actually Chicago (The production team spent significant time researching specific locales and nuances) — the primary characters drive legitimate vehicles (Ford RS200, Shelby Cobra GT500) and the weapons are actual armaments (CZ-75, SIG, P210). Plus, all of the characters, exaggerated though they may be, are charismatic and relatable players used to great effect in a simple, yet exciting picture.
Because “Bean” was so entertaining, I had to seek out what followed… The ‘95 OVA series “Gunsmith Cats”. Only “Rally” (one of the primary characters from Riding Bean) carries over (and she is thoroughly redesigned), but she was my favorite from that first film and takes center stage in this one. If “Riding Bean” was sort of Lupin meets “Driver”, then “Gunsmith Cats” is like “Project A-ko” meets “Cowboy Bebop” without the space travel (and not just because of their strikingly similar intros). [Afterthought: Rally and Mini May are also like Elseworlds Meryl and Milly from “Trigun”]
These films are packed with explosions, car-chases, shoot-outs and commotion, while maintaining a slick sense of humor and style. They may have already developed increasing cult status, but if you dig vintage action, clever characters and solid straight-ahead storytelling, then you oughta’ go find these films. I’m certainly glad I did (… And here, I thought I was about to scrape the bottom of the barrel).
Yesterday morning, I began my day (and month) with another Classic Anime that was so surprisingly good, I had to have more immediately…
Once again, it’s been a little while since I last posted here, in Tumblr land… Rest assured, the Classic Anime Kick hasn’t concluded. It’s merely slowed down dramatically. The last few films I watched are all a bit a different from each other (though Katsuhiro Otomo was involved in two of them) and I get the feeling that I’m about to scrape the bottom of the barrel.
First up was “Outlanders” (essentially a more erotic “Urusei Yatsura”), which was pretty lighthearted and fun, but left a bit to be desired in the end. Like so many other anime adaptations, the team behind Outlanders was forced to shred the source material to its minimum, resulting in a very loose plot and cliffhanger conclusion. There’s plenty of innuendo, however, and unlike Urusei, Outlanders lets it all hang out. Give it a shot, if you need a quick diversion… The whole film is less than an hour long.
Now, I can’t exactly remember which of the next two films I watched first, but I’ll begin with “Robot Carnival”. It’s an anthology picture like “Neo Tokyo”, but with a more obvious artistic theme. What’s particularly unique here is that this collection is also primarily silent as most of the stories are told without dialogue, leaving a few of them to interpretation. Admittedly, this was a challenge… While I’m no stranger to anthologies and do enjoy a good silent film, there was something about this movie that really tried my patience. After spreading the film across two sittings, I must say that it is pretty ambitious and not always for the better, but there are a few stand out shorts, including Otomo’s Intro and Outro as well as a goofy giant mecha battle (“A Tale of Two Robots…”), a brief re-imagining of “Frankenstein” (“Franken’s Gears”), and a stellar tribute to Disney’s “A Night On Bald Mountain” and “The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow” (“Nightmare”). Each of these (by Hiroyuki Kitakubo, Koji Morimoto and Takashi Nakamura respectively) are certainly worth the wait, but be aware that the rest of the film is a test of perseverance.
Finally, “Roujin Z” rounds out this unusual trilogy with another tale of technology written by Otomo. I’m not sure what his dishwasher did to him, but he’s apparently never shaken the trauma… The machines as well as the figurative Machine are out to get us all. As we get older, we will no longer be cared for by cute, compassionate nurses, but instead, cradled by cold calculating computers. That is, until the spirits of our loved ones inhabit these machines and run amok throughout the world. At least, that’s the picture painted here by Otomo and director, Hiroyuki Kitakubo, and Boy, what a beautiful picture it is. Everything I’ve come to expect from Otomo is present here in all of it’s glory, so check it out and share it with family. Anyone can enjoy this one.
High School… Those were/are werid times, right? Yeah… Not as weird as Japan would have you believe. If memory serves, I never mistakenly married an alien and/or traveled to outer space, nor did I ever fight hand to hand with any sort of demon, fairy, robot or otherwise. Luckily(?), all of that occurred in the most recent anime I’ve watched.
In “Urusei Yatsura: Only You”, our despicable protagonist manages to land yet another beautiful alien wife, much to the chagrin of his current beautiful alien wife and her beautiful alien friends, who band together to prevent the most ridiculous wedding ever. Meanwhile, “Battle Royal High School” stakes claim to the title of “Most Absurd Anime Ever” and in sixty minutes, the creative team behind this madness manages to combine nearly every major anime cliche into one extremely preposterous movie. Nonetheless, it’s great for a laugh as well as a gleaming check mark on my list of “Classic” (and slowly becoming Infamous) Anime.
Watched a couple more classic films recently… They are both very, VERY different, but nonetheless terrific in their own individual ways.
The first of these two was “Grappler Baki: The Ultimate Fighter” and the second was “Unico In ‘The Island Of Magic’”. “Grappler Baki” is a manly movie. “Unico” is not. “Baki” clocks in at only forty-five musclebound minutes, while “The Island Of Magic” is twice that. Though each film features a formidable and adorable hero respectively, both of these movies also feature creepy villains who really steal the show. For Baki, it’s a wicked fighter known best by his nasty nickname (They call him the “Cord-Cutter”. Don’t worry… I won’t ruin why), while Unico’s final boss is a magical marionette hellbent on controlling the whole of humanity.
If you don’t already want to watch both of these movies, I’m not sure what to tell you. They’re both exciting and well animated (Especially, “Unico”). Plus, they appeal to two different parts of the (mostly male) human psyche… The first, a macho desire to fulfill one’s true potential and the other, a childhood desire to escape the norm and save the day (in the absolute cutest way). With that said, watch these movies. I really don’t think you’ll regret it.
Note: I haven’t seen the first Unico movie, but after “The Island Of Magic”, I’m sold on his world completely. Trust me, it’s worth your time.
It’s occurred to me over the past week or so, as I’ve explained this film to family or friends, that I have yet to write it up online. Though I first viewed it back at the beginning of my Classic Anime Kick, I seem to have left it out of this blog, for whatever unapparent reason.
Anyway, here’s what I can say about it… “The Curse Of Kazuo Umezu” is a pair of loosely related Japanese Horror stories narrated by a creepy looking “host” of sorts (not unlike the Crypt Keeper) and despite a complete lack of nudity or foul language, they are not for the faint of heart. Seriously, these two tales are terrifying, but I urge you to indulge in them if you are even the slightest bit curious. Beyond that, I’m not exactly sure how to outline said stories without ruining the fun, so instead, I’ll just casually post them here for you to watch at your leisure. In other words, turn out the lights and get to it!
Note: As it was never released outside of Japan, I originally watched this OVA without the luxury of subtitles. The experience was probably more unnerving that way, but for the purposes of posting, I dug around and found a very well researched subtitled version, courtesy of the fine folks at FanSub.TV. I now thoroughly endorse these guys as the world certainly needs more accurate subtitles, whether fan-made or otherwise!
Hmm… How do I begin this post? It’s been a long time… or at least it feels that way, given how much Anime I’ve watched within the past month.
It all began with “The Guyver” a series about a suit of alien armor discovered and later “piloted” by a teenager against another alien race of “Zoanoids” sworn to protect the earth from human parasites (or something like that). It’s all a bit confusing, but the action is fun and the character designs for both the Guyver and Zoanoids are excellent additions to the monster pantheon.
Next came “Berserk”. Oh, boy… Berserk. This show is a strange case, because it’s really not about what you think it’s about. Instead, you spend an awfully long time watching a story unfold in one direction and then, BAM! … All hell breaks loose. In fact, that’s quite literally what happens. It’s crazy. Oh… And like so many other entries on this-here blog, it has no definitive ending, because the Manga wasn’t finished when the project began. [As an aside: If you’re gonna’ watch this one, my recommendation is to begin with Episode 2 and conclude with Episode 1. I think you’ll find the story a bit less depressing that way. Oh… And be sure to watch the Bloopers & Out-Takes as well!]
Beyond Berserk awaited “Beautiful Dreamer”, the second “Urusei Yatsura” film. Having yet to view any of the other films in this series, I can’t make any comparisons, but… It was directed by Mamoru Oshii of “Ghost In The Shell” fame, who certainly doesn’t disappoint here. I’ve praised Urusei Yatsura before, and this movie (loosely based on a series episode) deserves no shortage of praise on its own. If you’re a fan of the show and haven’t seen it, you simply must. However, if you’ve never seen the show, then don’t start here. There are a few too many inside references that wouldn’t land on a novice viewer.
“Paprika” followed with more dream time, but these dreams were much more toxic and violent, though no less “beautiful” to watch. See, this one’s a psycho-thriller, a genre that I wouldn’t normally associate with animation. However, given the subject matter, Anime does the story well and the images on screen take the audience on a very colorful, if a bit convoluted ride. Check it out if you enjoy a bit of thoughtful science fiction, but don’t expect to piece it all together on the first spin.
After all of that, I still wanted more (This kick is quite persistent), so I ventured back from whence I came to the world of Go Nagai. Stopping first in the land of “Violence Jack” for a trio of tales worthy of their titular character, I had a pretty good idea about what I was getting into and this series certainly delivered… Like “Devilman” there are plenty of sickening scenes to make you squirm, but the envelope is pushed just a little bit further as everything is bigger and badder, including Jack himself. There isn’t a villain alive who can compete with this “hero”, but stay far away from these pictures if you can’t stand gore and violence, especially the sexual variety.
Finally, the universe was explained and expanded in the goofiest way imaginable as “CB Chara Go Nagai World” took me on a journey through… Well, just that. Beginning with Devilman in crisis, he and his comrades are set to quest across the mind of their creator. Along the way, they meet a host of familiar characters including Jinmen and Sirene: The Demon Bird (along with other demons), Koji, Sayaka and Mazinger Z (plus Ashura and Dr. Hell), even Violence Jack appears! It’s really quite fun to see them all interact with one another, but little of it will make any sense to an inexperienced viewer. I think you may have to be just a tid bit crazy to appreciate Go Nagai, but if you do, this film is a treat as it plays to you directly.
With that said, there are plenty more films to be seen and I just can seem to slow down, but maybe I’ll post a bit sooner next time to avoid such lengthy entries. Until then…
I think I just watched the most epic feature-length anime of all time…
“The Dagger Of Kamui” is a beautiful picture, which stretches across a ridiculous period of time (both figuratively and literally) as well as multiple continents and features not only ninja, but also pirates (including Captain Kidd), cowboys, indians and an appearance by Mark Twain (seriously). Characters abound as the story unfolds, but with direction helmed by the great Rintarō, the animation is rich and colorful, highlighting an emotional tale that’s engaging from start to finish.
Why this film is lesser known is beyond my comprehension (Even the soundtrack is excellent!), but perhaps, it’s due to the feature having never been dubbed in English. Whatever the reason, it’s truly a shame that more people haven’t seen it. Every ingredient is of the finest caliber and anyone who enjoys fine film making, especially that of animation, really ought to give it a shot.
It occurred to me while writing my last post that I’ve also watched “3x3 Eyes” recently…
Unfortunately, this series was never completed, so it inevitably leaves the viewer hung from the figurative cliff. However, as a quick animation fix, it’s certainly entertaining. Especially, if you enjoy supernatural storytelling featuring demons, monsters and the like. Overall, the characters are endearing amidst plenty of traditional action, but of the seven episodes available, I’d recommend the first four over the “final” three, as they were animated a few years apart and the second story is a bit convoluted (Plus, as I mentioned, without conclusion). If you don’t continue further, you’re really not missing much, but nevertheless, if you like what you see, then there’s at least a bit more for you. Give it a shot, if you’re looking for something a little less commonly referenced.
While the classic anime kick never concluded, it was momentarily placed on hold… I really haven’t watched much of anything since my last post, so I also haven’t watched much anime either. Anywho, I just finished watching “Ghost In The Shell” for the first time.
Like a few other films included in previous entries, this picture has been recommended countless times. It’s another fan-favorite that tops countless lists and not without good reason. Early in the film, it’s readily apparent that many subsequent features would not exist without the new ground paved by “GITS”. Though the movie itself is a bit slow, the content is rich and certainly commands multiple viewings. Otherwise, there’s not much that I can write here that hasn’t already been written on the subject (That is, without composing an essay), so if you haven’t seen it, do so… And if you have, go watch it again.
It never ends! The Classic Anime Kick persists… As I continue to watch “Urusei Yatsura” in my spare time, I’ve also experienced a few other feature-length films between episodes.
First was “Harmagedon”, the always epic story of saving the world from impending doom, described by a buddy of mine as one-half “X-Men”; one-half “Justice League”. I wouldn’t recommend this one to just anyone, however. It’s certainly not for the impatient as the script takes a while to build intensity, then once it does, struggles to maintain momentum. Although, characteristic of both Otomo (Character Design) and Rintarō (Director), the film looks wonderful.
“Project A-Ko” followed next with it’s hilarious intersecting story arcs and undeniably lovable characters. It’s no surprise that this film has reached cult status. There are subtle references to other classics (including “Harmagedon”) sprinkled throughout and the original material is not only approachable, but also instantly engaging and, of course, thoroughly enjoyable.
Finally, “Ninja Scroll” concluded this unusual trifecta by playing to a more feudal sensibility in it’s story of ninjitsu and magic, between unique battles of warring clans. Similar to the work of Otomo and Rintarō, Kawajiri’s work never ceases to amaze artistically, and the fluidity of this picture is no exception. Also of no exception to this, like other Kawajiri films, is the obligatory brutality toward women. I’m not sure who broke his heart, but the experience must’ve been awful, because he’s been immortalizing her in the worst way possible ever since… But don’t let that deter you, it’s a solid movie with an obvious influence on later productions (Perhaps, most noticeably in “Afro Samurai”).
Of the three, I say find “Project A-Ko” and watch that flick immediately. You can wait on the others. They’re not quite as directly appealing (but again, surely worth the watch). Otherwise, I’ve got to wonder, “What’s next for viewing?” Who knows…? Whatever it is, I’m looking forward to it.
Afterthought: I’ve also watched “Golgo 13: Queen Bee”, since my last post. It’s great in all of the same ways that “The Professional: Golgo 13” is great, though much shorter in length. If you’ve seen the first one, check this out for a quick fix. Otherwise, watch it’s predecessor instead.