Cinema-Maniac: The Brink (2017)

Jin Zhang, or Max Zhang as he’s sometime is credited shares career similarities with director Jonathan Li. Both of these men before The Brink have worked their way up in the Hong Kong film industry. Jonathan Li starting out behind the camera as a third assistant director on Infernal Affairs 3 (2003), and Max Zhang starting out as a stunt double in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000). Over a decade later of work both managed to garner some level of recognition. Max Zhang is easily more prolific with supporting roles in The Grandmaster (2013), Ip Man 3 (2015), and SPL 2: A Time for Consequences (2015). Garnering Max Zhang a well earned fanbase for not just his incredible athleticism in his fight sequences, but his on screen presence displaying good acting abilities. Surprisingly, The Brink doesn’t just mark Max Zhang first time headlining a major movie as the lead star, and also marks the first time Jonathan Li take the helm as a director after over a decade working mostly as a assistant director. Both have something to prove in this film that is steps away from greatness, but accomplish the feat of proving they can handle bigger roles.

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A snippet of Max Zhang impressive skills in his fight sequences

On the story front The Brink is above average. Telling the classic story of a reckless Hong Kong officer, in this case being Sai Gau (Max Zhang), attempting to put an end on a criminal gold smuggling scheme. Anyone with experience in Hong Kong cinema will know what to expect from the story, minus the goods this time not being drugs. Some of the characters are also what you would expect them to be; best friend Zhi-Di (Wu Yue) so close to retiring getting pulled back into action, the chief coming down Sai Gau neck for operations gone wrong, a low ranked criminal villain in Jiang (Shawn Yue) with big ambitions, the daughter of a criminal reminding Sai Gau of his sense of duty, Jiang boss who plans to give his business to his son seeks to get rid of him, and that basically covers it. There are other minor characters, but they don’t contribute much in the grand scheme of things. It’s lacking in creativity, but when it comes execution writer Li Chun Fai knows how to play around with these familiar characters, and plot point in a successful way.

For starter, the pacing of the film is just right never lingering too much on unnecessary details, and evolving the main storyline in a organic way. Being able to escalate stakes within a reasonable scope. It has a certain number of main characters, and knows their influence with those around them. Hardly going overboard in favors of anyone to show more, or less an even playing field. Another positive in the writing is the whole cat, and mouse writing it takes for it central conflict. Both Sai Gau, and Jiang come face to face several times throughout the  movie. With Jiang just barely being able to get the advantage over Sai Gau in his attempts to arrest him. Further adding to the intrigue is Jiang seeking vengeance on those who betrayed him making proceeding events for him more difficult to come out on top. Seeing the many ways Jiang gets out of his situations is quite fun to witness.

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Prison changed me man. I’m a blonde now. Don’t ask.

Other area of the writing comes with mixed results. Characters are simplistic, and clear cut in their motivations. In its effort to be more than a good cop capturing evil doer it leaves many aspects half baked. The most prominent one being a insignificant plot point on Zhi-Di owing an off screen gang money. This clumsily justifies Zhi-Di motives in the later half of the movie, but with it being the only mention it just goes nowhere. While the writing attempts to make things different shades of grey it ultimately just boils down to good guy versus bad guy. Characters are defined, but they switch motivation, or personality at a moment notice to serve the writers needs since Li Chun Fai couldn’t figure out how its character would get from point a to point b with how they were established. If Li Chun Fai didn’t rewrite established characters consistently he would have been able to create more complex characters in favor of the film.

Where the writing falter plenty is with the character of Ke-Yan (Cecilia So) whose name I don’t believe is actually ever said in the movie itself. The only way I was able to find out her name was looking for it in the closing credits. If that alone doesn’t get across how this character is just put into the movie for no narrative reason than maybe the fact she contributes nothing in the overarching story will. Her scenes amount to nothing, but just providing a little characterization for Sai Gau, and even less for Ke-Yan. Her subplot of being a daughter tied to a criminal Sai Gau accidentally killed isn’t explored. It’s brushed aside quickly, and feels like Ke-Yan is only here to provide a pro-life message that is shoehorned in. If Ke-Yan was going to be in the last shot of the movie than you know, doing something significant storywise with her would have made it more impactful. Lastly, why does Sai Gau go into prison for a couple a months with dark hair, but then when released has blonde hair. Not that it’s of any importance, but it’s a noticeable change that comes out of nowhere.

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Shawn Yue (left) has the look of a trustworthy person.

Max Zhang for the first time in his career carries the mantle of a leading man, and he does quite well for himself. He doesn’t attempt to oversell his character through his acting, but rather tries to keep his portrayal restraint when not fighting. Providing more subtle delivery in some of his sentimental scenes preventing them from being sappy. There are glimmer of range within him that the film sadly doesn’t utilize more frequently. Of course, when it comes to Max Zhang in the fight sequences he’s still just as impressive, and quick as he ever been.

Opposite of Max Zhang is Shawn Yue playing the cold hearted villain. Nailing the portrayal of his character personality, but unable to overcome the occasional stoic delivery of dialogue. Sounding disinterested half the time, and the other half sounding detached like he should. Yue acting won’t impress, but one where he’s meant to mourn over a lost is handle well by Yue without him breaking character. Wu Yue whenever on screen typically takes the spotlight from Zhang. Giving life to a archetype character being capable to generate sympathy for his character in spite of the above average writing. When it comes to his fight sequences he’s just as impressive as Max Zhang. There’s some noteworthy name in the supporting cast like Janice Man, Derek Tsang, Gordon Lam, and Tai Po, but the supporting cast tends to be one note. Eventually being indistinguishable from one another performances.

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My favorite fight in The Brink.

First time director Jonathan Li with the helps of cinematographer Kenny Tse captures a aquatic, moody feel to the film. Showing a more grimy side of Hong Kong through his usage of location. If it’s related to the ocean he’ll use from a crowded indoor fish market, to a fishing trawler in the middle of a storm, gloomy ports, and even going underwater to film a action sequence which in spite of being performed slowly is still entertaining to witness. His directing of action sequences stands out more than his narrative storytelling. Mostly because when it comes to action he allows for long takes, and if needed will get inventive with his shots to make his fight scenes pop out. Being able to avoid the pitfall of showing background actors doing nothing in his fight sequences. With tight editing, and great composition his eye for action sequences raises the film quality whenever onscreen. Heck, he’s able to make an action sequence underwater feel eventful. There might be only a handful of them spread throughout, but they are worth waiting for. His music choices are mixed. Some of it works like during the action sequences to add excitement, but sometime it comes off overblown like towards the end of the movie using choir like music.

Action choreography is handle by Chung Chi Li, and much like his action choreography in Extraordinary Mission (2017), Li goes for a more grounded approach. Having very limited usage of wires, most of which are sprinkle in the climax. Chi Li emphasizes Max Zhang speed in the only one versus many brawl that has Max Zhang fighting in a alley. Alongside Wu Yue who also participate in the one versus many brawl on his own, Max Zhang is able to make it look convincing he’s able to beat up a dozen men rapid swings of his flashlights. However, my personal favorite fight in a parking lot with Max Zhang going one on one with a masked assailant. Creatively using the parked cars environment to have its actors use to avoid hits from the other fighter. Both men are able to keep up with each other performing their moves quickly resulting in some impressive long takes in the fight. Lastly, the climax which involve Max Zhang fighting against Wu Yue, and Shawn Yue on a fishing ship during a storm is the centerpiece action sequence. It’s an exciting climatic fight with plenty happening in the background as it shakes throwing all participants off. The choreography here in particular takes into account the rocking ship putting the advantage of the fight to whoever it wants. It’s quite a sight to witness, and what’s also vastly enjoyable to witness is how epicly presented the final punch between Max Zhang, and Wu Yue is filmed.

The Brink doesn’t break any grounds in any area of filmmaking, but is overall a success thanks to it crew overcoming several weaknesses. In particular, the wonderfully done action sequences elevating above everything else to be the one area it shines the best. Jonathan Li proves he can handle his own in the forefront as a director thanks largely to his strong direction which is felt throughout the movie. Of course, Max Zhang himself continues to prove why his raise to fame isn’t a fluke. Being just capable in his acting as he is in his fight scenes will eventually garner him more leading roles in his career. Regardless of your familiarity with anyone in the film, or Hong Kong action cinema The Brink is a good way to spend your time.

Rating 7/10

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Cinema-Maniac: The Debt Collector (2018)

In 1986, there was a Hong Kong movie called A Better Tomorrow that influenced a entire film industry, and was the first of many collaboration between actor Chow Yun-Fat, and John Woo. While it’s uncertain the collaboration between Scott Adkins, and director Jesse V. Johnson will have any kind of effect on the direct to video action business. They certainly are leaving a mark already. From Savage Dog (2017) an ambition action movie with a historical background that’s solid, to the surprisingly good comic good adaptation of Accident Man (2018), and now a film with direct inspiration from buddy cop movies with The Debt Collector (2018). Adding on to the list of good films under their collaboration.

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Sue: “See this towel? It’s for you after the beating I’ll give you.”

The Debt collector follows classically-trained martial artist French (Scott Adkins), who goes to work as a mob debt collector in order to save his gym. This synopsis sounds like something out of a early 90s action flick, and in some ways pays homage to that. Teaming French up with experience mob debt collector Sue (Louis Mandylor). Starting the relationship in predictable, but well executed fashion of the two not getting along, and over time striking a closer friendship. The banter between French, and Sue keeps the film proceeding events engaging when action isn’t on screen. Making wisecracks at each other expense, talking about the moral lines that should never be crossed in their line of work, sharing a bit about themselves, and some very subtle references to some of the actors previous works for fans to catch. Also, some tongue in cheek lines to the sorts of movies it burrows from.

What simply starts as a series loosely strung together events do lead up to a overarching story. It takes halfway through the movie before it gets there being more incline to be character driven than story driven. Slowly having French, and Sue engage in various scenarios all of which end up going south. Mixing tightly choreographed action sequences, comedy, and the occasional characterization into it many scenarios. Once the overarching story becomes a mainstay it’s also another predictable path. Leading to French to further if what the job requires of him is actually worth it. There’s the part of learning about his target making him reconsider his job. Coming together in a climax with a unexpected outcome for a movie starring Scott Adkins, and even more surprising is the ending. It’s an ending ultimately suits the story for how far both French, and Sue went for their job by having actual consequences movies it is homaging wouldn’t go for. Earning it’s ending by having its characters question what they do, and taking the time to delve into that. However, it does mean anyone expecting the usual triumphant Scott Adkins climax in this movie will be disappointed when not receiving it.

One noticeable misstep in its early goings is completely ignoring the whole save the gym motivation for French as the film progresses. It does kick off the plot in a organic fashion, but a more personal driven motivation would have serve a greater purpose in the long run, especially considering the course it final act takes. Briefly touching on the value French gym has to him will suffice initially since it’s a fun throwback action flick. That is until you reach the final act where it changes course, and the undercooked motivation weakness comes into full effect. Aside from this misstep in the beginning, just about the only other major drawback would be the uneven structure. Half of the movie is packed with action sequences one right after the other, and the other half takes a drastic turn into the dramatic side with some splices of comedy. Taking into account the story’s intention it misdirecting the viewer works in it favor. Well, mostly. Throughout the movie, you see stock footage of cows eventually being taken to get slaughter. It’s on the noise in it’s message delivery, and far from subtle as the closing lines hammer its point home.

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Despite low budgets, Adkins is always reliable on the action side for excitement

Scott Adkins takes the lead as French with his British accent. This role allows Adkins to stretch more of acting chops than his usual role, though isn’t given any heavily dramatic scenes. The most dramatic he’ll get is letting out a sigh of exhaustion. While his dramatic scenes are lacking what isn’t is Adkin capturing the straight man characteristic of his role. Managing to be convincing as someone out of his element. Where he does deliver the most is where it counts (besides the action sequences) is with his co-star Louis Mandylor. Adkins rough straight man attitude compliments nicely against Mandylor sleazy has been demeanor. Mandylor easily outshines Adkins since the material provides him opportunities for his character to be more intimate with those around him There’s also intensity in Mandylor which he captures perfectly in his eyes when he has to get his hands dirty. Their chemistry is the film biggest strength creating something that feels genuine in the actor comradeship with each other. It’s unlikely you’ll care a deal about the characters, but you’ll definitely find the duo entertaining if nothing else.

The supporting cast will largely go unnoticed since all of them get push to the wayside because of the film’s story. Only Jack Lowe is able to leave much of an impression in a small role since his character is begging for his life. Showing an ease to become a character with not a lot to chew on. Biggest surprise is easily Tony Todd. He doesn’t get plenty of screen time, but visibly has fun in his brief appearance. Then there’s Vladimir Kulich in a bigger role who also doesn’t have much screen time, though he’s enjoyable if only for the fact Adkins is once again playing a character who works for Kulich. Other than that, the supporting cast do fine in their small roles that do prevent nearly all of them from being able to shine does also mean the acting in general is better than average in your direct to video action films.

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This movie has a of Scott Adkins driving people

When it comes the action side, fight choreography is handle by Luka LaFontaine (also responsible for the fights in Savage Dog) goes for a more grounded treatment to better fit its movie. Meaning, restraining Adkins from using many of his high flying maneuvers in favors of a more brawler like approach. Thankfully, LaFonatine is more than capable to get creative with his fight choreography. Since Adkins typically fight with men taller, and bigger than him this makes fight scenes eventful as none of them go down easily. LaFonatine is able to corporate some clever counter moves into his grounded choreographed fights without them feeling out of place. Seeing Scott Adkins get fling into a wall when someone blocks his punches, or seeing Adkins get slammed multiple time on a bar table when the person he’s fighting him won’t let his go of his grip is nicely worked in. Adkins receives plenty blows in the film requiring his character to either fight out of a scenario where he’s out number 3 to 1, or use something in his environment to get the upper hand. The action choreography is perhaps the least complex Adkins ever performed, but it’s shot nicely, and edited together nicely to make them entertaining nonetheless. The film does have one gunfight towards the end, and it’s pretty laughable it continues the tradition of people constantly missing at point blank range in Adkins direct to video action films. It’s further highlighted by the fact that Adkin character background, but it’s still an enjoyable gunfight in spite of that leap in logic.

The Debt Collector proves that Jesse V. Johnson, and Scott Adkins compliment each other really well. Jesse V. Johnson molds a story, and character that are engaging while allowing Adkins a departure from his usual roles, and letting the action experts do their thing. Adkins is able to rely more on his acting, and is able to hold his own against Louis Mandylor who takes the spotlight from him. When it comes to the action side Adkins is always reliable on that front, but here it’s nice to see him shine in a different way. Jesse V. Johnson, and Scott Adkins shortcomings in their fields are evident, but their understanding of each other strengths compliment each other in the films they make, and that’s make them an effective team. Producing far better films than you would expect from the direct to video market.

Rating: 7/10

The joy, and pain of watching bad anime

Having recently completed Anime-Gatari, and the characters in that series talking about classic anime got me thinking about the bad anime I’ve watched…while currently watching that bad anime. If you could go on my mal profile (which MAL won’t let you see as of this moment) you would notice a good chunk of the things I’ve watched I awarded negative rating towards. A simple fix to this would be to simply watch more good series, in particular a lot of well regarded classics on my plan to watch list. I could do that, but at the same time I’ll feel like I’m missing out on hundreds of titles if I ignore all the bad anime there is too watch.

When I first started watching anime, much like Asian movies, I thought everything I watched was good. After a while, it became increasingly evident that not all anime is equal to each other. The first one that brought up this thought was Beyond the Boundary (Kyoukai no Kanata in Japanese) from Kyoto animation. Being the first bad airing anime I watched to completion. At first, I thought I was going crazy thinking this series was bad when I either scroll down to the comment section of a streaming site, or go to its page on any anime aggregate site to read dozens upon dozens of positive reviews for it. Eventually, I got over it, and finally settled on it was bad, and I was in the minority with that viewpoint. Something that would be more common as I spend more time watching anime.

Over the years, I watched more good anime, and more bad anime. For me, I try to balance my good anime with the bad ones. This way, I feel like I’ll become less jaded in my viewpoint on anime the more I watch it. A lot of people in the community I talk too whenever sharing their experiences of watching anime have one thing in common; they marathon one good series after another. Doing that for months, or years made them eventually reach a point where they don’t see anything on the level they used too. Also, from the same people, hearing, or reading their thoughts on how they feel anime is getting worse over time, and it makes them lose interest in watching anime is something I don’t experience. For me, I never stopped watching anime once I got into it. I do increase, or decrease the amount of anime I watch depending on how busy my life is, but other than that I never once consider dropping anime completely. Some of the people I’ve talked too have dropped watching anime for a bit because of how bad something was.

Now my sample of people I interact with is rather small so their viewing habits vastly differs from mine. For instance, there’s someone on this Discord server who claims to finish one anime a day, which if I’m being honest is probably not a healthy way to consume media. Me, and this individual who I shall nicknamed Orge sometime clash when it comes to the quality of certain animes. This end up going into a long winded debate where neither of us change their viewpoints on something. The best example is me having a strong dislike for Assassination Classroom season 2, and Orge on the other side having the complete opposite opinion to me. I consider Assassination Classroom season 2 among the worse animes I’ve seen, and trying to get that across to this individual was futile since all my points went over his head. Me on the other hand, I more, or less glimpse into the reasoning why someone can like that series, even if I don’t agree with the reasoning. Now that my longer than expected sorta preface is done, I shall more, or less generalize my thoughts on watching bad anime.

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Artistic recreation of me watching Assassination Classroom season 2

First being what does bad anime offer me that I can’t find in good anime? That’s nearly impossible to justify since even I consider good anime to have some bonkers moments in them. Sure, nothing will ever beat the classic bad line of “He has a hat!” in the edgy Ajin anime by Polygon Pictures, but at the same time my favorite anime of all time follows a young man who kills people by writing their names in a notebook in Death Note. For me, it’s all about the experience itself, and it ultimately ends up offering me. Only in my exploration of viewing bad anime can I truly grasp the full picture of a bad series.

Two days ago for example, I finished an obscure anime OVA by studio Magic Bus called Wounded Man with my brother. Needless to say it was awful. My idea of good writing is typically in favor of execution. I feel the same type of stories can be told countless of time if the execution is good. In Wounded Man, needless to say that wasn’t the case. Something about good anime is experiencing those type series that exceed your expectation, and become a new found favorite. The same applies for my experience of Wounded Man. There are just things about writing a story I feel should be commonplace, but surprisingly I kept getting proven wrong. For example, I think it would be outrageous to have your hero rape a woman, and than have the hero claim it was for her benefit to warn her about the danger of the amazon. You might be thinking no one would ever be dumb enough to do that, and yet that is what happened in the first episode of Wounded Man, and on top of that the women ends up falling in love with her rapist. Much like how good anime has the potential to exceed expectations, and engage you in ways you never expected. Well, bad anime has the same power to reach a new low you never thought it could go, or even thought anyone would go to.

Another reason for me watching bad anime is it comes with the territory. I know beforehand in everything I watch, or read I won’t like everything I check out. So instead of avoiding any possible anime I might dislike I’ll simply give them a chance. Earlier this year I saw a shojo anime called Ultra Maniac from studio Production Reed for the first time. Initially, I saw it because I enjoyed it in a ironic sense, but over time I actually began to enjoy it. The characters were being fleshed out, and it surprisingly did a decent job talking about love, and some of the shenanigan the characters got involved in were entertaining. When I finally finished Ultra Maniac, I was pleasantly surprised it turned out to be a good series. If I purely judged it on the first episode, I would have never continued it since it was quite the hot mess! However, I kept going, and found something I enjoyed.

One anime I didn’t expect to have a dislike for would be Rainbow: Nisha Rokubo no Shichinin by Madhouse studio. On paper, I should have enjoyed a drama series that shows it delinquent leads overcoming numerous hardships through the course of their life, except I didn’t. I didn’t go into Rainbow with the expectation that is was bad, but that how I felt by the end of it. There are numerous reasons why I consider it a bad anime, and explaining them is also difficult. Rainbow is the kind of series where describing its bad writing is difficult because the methods it uses to get a reaction from the audiences do work. I watched it with a group of friends, and I can tell even if I saw it by myself I would have still disliked the anime. I saw a story that tried every cheap trick it could think of to make it viewer feel sympathy for it characters, but one other person saw an engaging story. Unfortunately, I never had a back, and forth discussion on why I consider Rainbow bad with that person.

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Ishihara in Rainbow, completely over the top

That same person who also enjoyed Rainbow a great deal, unlike myself, also recommended me an anime called School Live by studio Lerche. I have no idea why she thought I would enjoy that series, but I’m guessing it’s the fact I have Cardcaptor Sakura in my favorites, and in that Discord server it’s pretty much the one thing everyone knows I like a lot. Instead of shrugging off her recommendation because it has zombies which is something I generally find boring. I went ahead, and watched it. Surprised, I didn’t like it, and I told her that too. However, from that experience it reinforce my notion to check out any recommendation, even if I’m not interested in the genre. The reason is simple, someone recommending me something tells me they want to share that series with me. It’s more preferable than someone telling me to skip something because they think it’s bad. For example, I still online numerous posts telling people to skip the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime from 2003 in favor of Brotherhood. Reason being most of the users considered it a bad series for the original material. If I had followed their advice, I would have missed out on watching one of my favorite anime series of all time.

Before I end up going on forever on this broad topic. The last thing I would probably address is in general it’s also an engaging experience in the opposite way. Much like how not all good anime will always be consistent in quality, there are bad anime that have rare moments where they turn out something of good quality. No other example better stand out to me than the character of Jou Yokosuka from the anime of Rainbow mentioned earlier. His storyline about finding his sister, and desiring to be a singer was tackle really well in the anime. Unlike the general series, Jou Yokosuka suffers the least from over sensationalizing it tragic story, and manage to craft a good character arc in the sea of bad writing.

Offline, I watch anime with my brother from to time. Alongside the good series I show him like Noragami, Fullmetal Alchemist (2003), and Mobile Suit Gundam: 08Th MS Team we also watch the bad ones. He’s very thankful that I introduced him to Green Green (what he consider the worst anime he ever seen), and Wounded Man. However, we also had some fun enjoying the occasional “so bad, it’s good” type of bad anime like Dark Cat, Brain Powerd, and especially Mad Bull 34. From those selection of title, watching anime is like a roller coaster in a unpredictable pattern uncertain if it’ll go up, or go down at any moment. It’s through these titles, and a balance of good, and bad anime that we both have a lot fun watching anime together when we do. It makes the number of discussion we can have increased compare to if we only saw good series, and it would have simply ended up being a non-stop discussion of things we like. Something we both would have eventually gotten bored with.

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Artistic recreation of someone reaction when seeing Cardcaptor Sakura in my favorites on MAL

Bad anime is simply a bad anime plain, and simple to some. To me however, bad anime is also part of what I enjoy about watching it. If I only watched anime to enjoy it than I’m going to miss out on a lot anime because of that. Some of the bad anime I’ve seen by myself. I would also later on recommend some to see together as a group. Dark Cat I recommend a group to watch together, in the moment they might have hated my guts for picking something that awful to watch, but thinking back on it. Turned out watching it was a fun experience. Sure, the experience will varied every time depending on the title, or if you watch it in a group, or by yourself. Sometimes it’s trashy fun like Mad Bull 34, and sometime it just makes you hate watching anime like Wounded Man. Or it could be the third type like a friend who watch Kakegurui, and it made it quit watching anime for a while. He didn’t like it.

For me, bad anime are part of the medium I’ve come to appreciate. They are frustrating, and some in particular anger me to no end, but that’s something I value from what I watch. As opposed to it leaving me with no impression once its over. Whether it ends up making me hate teenagers like Assassination Classroom season 2, or make me want to punch something like My Hero Academia season 1. It all keeps me watching anime in the end. Knowing there’s a counterbalance to something like Cardcaptor Sakura that made me consider being a father with something like School Live that made me hate little girls ensures watching anime is never just a single path. Rather, I feel it keeps the rollercoaster that is watching anime a ride worth taking; whether I end up liking it, or not.

Well that’s about it. I went all over the place with the topic, but that sometime happens when I have a lot to say, and plenty of it just rushing out all once. If you made it to the end, I would give you a digital cookie, but Cookie Monster destroyed my house once I mentioned the word cookie. Blame him for stealing your cookies! I have nothing clever left to say, or a clever exit to end this post. Have a nice one, and keep on watching anime (even the bad ones).

Some Thoughts On: Anime-Gataris (2017)

….Oh man, this one I gotta say was annoying in the amount time the word anime was said. You might be wondering why I chose to watch an anime that literally translates too Anime-Chat in English out of the hundreds of anime I have on my plan to watch list. I asked myself the same question every night for the past six days, but then I remember someone on a Discord server I sometime visit. We’ll just call that individual Rob, who had a passionate hatred for Anime-Gataris. Hearing about it the anime from him for the first time, and his immense hatred for the anime was fascinating. I did a quick image search as a result of that discussion. It looked harmless, and nothing I would see from just a quick image search. However, he compared his passionate dislike for Anime-Gataris to my passionate hatred of My Hero Academia season 1 (man, do I hate that anime so much), and that kept it in the back of my mind. Of course, I gotta point out I this anime June 6, of 2018. Why still put in the date of when I completed something in these blog entries? In case I ever go crazy, I can blame it on one of these animes.

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I would watch an anime about a DJ cat. To bad I ain’t.

Someone strong negative opinion on Anime-Gataris got me interested in seeing it instead of passing up on it. During this time, I was around 5 episodes away from finishing up Little Witch Academia so why not replace something I had a blast watching with something I wasn’t enjoying. Great logic I know, but I gave it a shot, and to be fair, it still sucked. The whole idea of Anime-Gataris is average high school student Minoa Asagaya becoming entrance into the world of anime, and its fanbase. Okay, that is an idea I can go along with fine. The problem immediately start to pop up since if you know about anything about anime, and its community you will still have to go through explanation after explanations about various things pertaining to anime. Be it genres of anime, anime production itself, the appeal of certain animes, and what not. You get the problem, if you’re well verse into the anime community these explanations are boring to sit through. It doesn’t help either Anime-Gataris loves to use the word anime so much in its dialogue to the point I wanted the character to stop talking about anime! For newcomers, it simply paints every aspect of anime in a positive manner in broad strokes coming across more like an advert to join the anime community than something informative.

When the characters aren’t talking about anime, I kid. That’s generally all the series focuses on. It’s in the title, but at the same time probably seeing the characters have an interest in something else would be nice. Mino Asagaya starts out a normal high school student who doesn’t anything about anime, and once she reopen her school’s anime club with her rich otaku friend in episode 1 that’s all Minoa attention diverts too. Much like how it portrays the anime community, and fandom it doesn’t bother to even mention the possible addiction one can have to anime. Minoa begins to ignore her one friend on the track team who isn’t into anime as the series goes on, and there’s no repercussion. The setup is right there to bring up Minoa sudden obsession with consuming anime to be discussed, and gladly ignores it. This anime doesn’t like conflict.

In terms of a story it’s a slice of life with no overarching story until the last two episodes. Almost the entire series is just Minoa learning everything surrounding anime, and trying to not get her club shut down by the student councils. In terms of conflict, that’s about it. The whole over the top evil student councils act gets old quickly. There would be some more conflict between the anime club members, but after episode 2 where there is some bickering. Also, the line “You’ll make anime cry” caused me to pause the episode, and reflect on life choices. Not long enough since I still continued. There was one interesting plotline where Minoa talks to an anime director whose effort received harsh feedback, and how it soured him to anime. This conflict gets resolved unsatisfactory, but at least it displays some kind of negative aspect around anime.

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Unfunny reference number 65

When the “humor” isn’t all about making anime references it got some laughs out of me. There was one unexpected joke that made me laugh in episode 6. It was when Minoa, and her friends go to a shrine, and while holding up the good luck charms a bird poops on one of the charms Minoa is holding. It’s simple, but it got a laugh out of me since it came out of nowhere. Every other time it’s referencing some random anime. Simply referencing something does not equate to a joke, something this Anime-Gataris doesn’t grasp. The biggest drawback is having a mostly eccentric cast of characters so constantly seeing them do over the top things just becomes par for the course. Like one of the member believing one of her male member confess to another male member.

The last two episodes were the most entertaining since that’s when anime becomes one with the real world. Why it happens is convoluted, but at the same time this is a series that has a talking cat that on one pays attention too for most of the season. So anything is fair play in this series world. It actually starts taking shape in episode 9 when people ask for recommendation from the anime club, and the students replicate what they see from anime. You know, like building a working prototypes of working mecha legs, and building a Pyramid for a duel. This would be hilarious if the anime didn’t introduce a talking cat in the first episode. You know, kinda gives away something fishy is going to happen. Minoa talks to this cat who she refers to as Mr. Kitty, and Mr. Kitty is largely unimportant in the grand of schemes until the last two episode when he’s need to revert reality back to how it was.

I would talk about the characters, but you have the super eccentric fan in Kai Musashisakai, Arisu Kamiigusa the rich otaku, Nakano Mitsuteru the popular guy & the school’s prince charming, Erika Aoyama the closeted otaku, Miko Koenji who likes light novel, and Minoa Asagaya the outsider converted into an anime fan. Only half of these character receive any kind of development, and the ones that do don’t have much going for them either, Erika Aoyama is the most interesting since it’s implies she drifted from her former best friend due to how engage in anime. One let go of it while growing up thinking it’s for children, while Erika still enjoys anime, but doesn’t express it openly. Sadly, what could have been a intriguing subplot gets thrown to the way in favor of comedic antics. There’s Kai Musashisakai particular who loves doing over the top movements, roleplay as shounen characters, and believing he has magical powers. When he likes another club member you think the anime would do something with this, except for the fact…yep you guessed it. Nothing much happens with that.

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I made a similar face while watching this anime

The only character in this series I’m conflicted about is Minoa Asagaya. She isn’t any different from the rest either since I don’t care about her, especially when English dub actress Dawn M. Bennett tried to hard to make Minoa sounds cutesy. Minoa cutesy voice became grating to me, in particular when you know what word already is constantly brought up by her. Yet, I still can’t help liking her a bit for superficial reasons despite my annoyance. One of them being I like the silly facial reaction she gave sometimes. It’s one of the few things that actually made me laugh consistently. There’s also the many points she overthinks stuff, but I sorta liked that. Showed she cared a lot about her friends, and wanting to get closer to them through a common thing they liked. It’s the closest this series gets to fully developing a character. Some of her lines like “You’ll make anime cry” made me cringe, but at the same time Dawn M. Bennett delivery of these cringey lines made it memorable. I should hate this character because she’s one dimensional, but I just can’t despite my better judgement. As for her character design, I don’t know. Minoa looks exactly like her sister, but with pink hair. Actually, let’s stop talking about her now before I get into a internal philosophical debate on whether, or not I think she’s cute.

On the technical side from the English voice acting, animation, and music it’s subpar. The animation never gets a chance to shine since you just have characters talking about anime nearly all the time. The only chance it breaks away from the mundane are during the last four episodes where the animation gets a bit more silly. On the other hand, WAO World (the animation studio) are lazy in this department too. The most evident being episode 8 where the studio reuses the terrible looking 3D dancing animation in the ending credit within the episode in its entirety. That’s pretty lazy. Episode 8 also deliberately has some crummy animation, but it makes sense context as to why that is.

As I’ve re-read this I notice this, I notice this scattershot post seriously over the place! More so than usual. I should have expected that since as an idea I like what Anime-Gataris could have been, but I don’t like what it actually is. Flat character, annoying anime references, and just coming across as pandering to its viewer with how much it showers anime with praise after praise. On one hand, I did like seeing Minoa attempting to make friends within the anime community, and getting attached to anime like her friend. It’s just all happened to quickly feeling lackluster overall. The only thing I took away from this series is I got no clue if I like Minoa, or not.

Anime-Gataris had some good intentions to show the appeal of anime, and its community from the perspective of someone not well verse in the medium, but it’s a one sided affair. Much like any other communities, the anime community also has its fair share of drawbacks none of which Anime-Gataris ever brings up. That’s just a simple part of reality, but as an introduction to anime it doesn’t work either. Simply generalizing anime fans as people who live, sleep, and breath anime 24/7. I won’t doubt there’s people like this, but it doesn’t show different type of fans in the community. For anyone whose well verse in anime, and its community will find it many scenes explaining basic things boring to sit through. While newcomers to anime will simply be bored by the lack of any interesting development the story story takes. It’s lighthearted slice of anime that in the end of the day is harmless, but doesn’t know what makes a good series in its genre.

If I were to rate this anime, I guess a 4 out 10.

Cinema-Maniac: Blood Heat (2002)

From my little experience in Japanese cinema away from their Samurai, and Yakuza movies. Japan film industry gives a general impression they have a disinterest in producing action movies. The closest Japan gets to producing their equivalent to action blockbuster is either a live action anime/manga adaptation, or their monster/Kaiju movies. I don’t know the reasoning behind this, but I do know for certain that Blood Heat (aka Muscle Heat US Title) wanted to hang with the best in the action genre, and be influential in its country. Obviously that didn’t happen because it barely left a mark even as a footnote in action cinema history.

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Left kick missed!

Blood Heat is set in the futuristic year of 2009 following court martial ex-Navy Seal Joe Jinno (Kane Kosugi) in his assignment to put an end to the circulation of super steroid drug Blood Heat. When the movie started I was mostly on board with the story. Things were to easy follow, and were developing nicely. It was focus, and contained itself in it simplicity for thirty minutes. After those first thirty minutes the film issues of convoluted plot points, thin characters, and by the number storytelling deteriorate a passable action movie into a chore. Choosing to grasp more than it can actually achieve burying anything it actually does well in terms of writing. This is primarily due to the fact that it sets up  plot points, but doesn’t expand on them. Plot points like Joe protecting a little girl, the underground people calling themselves “sewer rats” starting a revolution, and Joe seeking vengeance remain flat in the overarching story. This wouldn’t be an issue if Joe Jinno desire to take vengeance was fleshed out at all. Joe gets the entirety of one scene showing Joe, and his partner bond before Joe’s partner bites the dust. Before that, the only scene Joe, and his partner share is Joe getting recruited into his current assignment. Just simply stating through dialogue Joe, and his partner have become good friends won’t generate investment like the movie think it will.

The drug itself, Blood Heat, main function is basically acting like a super steroid. Established in a newsreel it is revealed Blood Heat can increase the physical capacity of the user five times over the normal limit, and the user becomes depended on it after a single dose. You might think that user would be able to punch a hole in a person face with that much boost in physical strength, but it doesn’t. Blood Heat, the drug, is mostly used for blood combat in the Muscle Dome (a death combat arena), and its effects are pretty lame when in sight. This also creates a numerous amount of logical gap within the film establish universe; like why doesn’t the film villain provide Blood Heat for all his henchman if it can enhance their physical abilities. Since the film doesn’t clearly get across much negative side effects in using Blood Heat it’s questionable why the villain doesn’t do this. Another issue would be the lack of impact the drug is shown to have in civilians. It’s stated that Blood Heat is spreading rapidly, but hardly shown being consumed when the film’s villain isn’t around.

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So this is how a Japan in over two decades of depression looks like. Kinda nice.

Biggest faults of the writing comes from director Ten Shimoyama inability to hide his budgetary shortcomings. It’s established in the first five minutes that Japan had been in a depression for over two decades, yet decides to show aerial shot of a nice looking Japan. Adding to the disservice he does to the writing is not displaying a more economically broken Japan. in its set designs There’s not much dirt on the actors playing the Sewer Rats gangs, and is too nice looking in the environments to visually get across a economically depressed Japan. Simply making the background a little ugly, or filled a little trash isn’t too much to get the setting correct. There’s also his overblown direction at times to scenes that don’t need it. When actor Kane Kusogi sees his partner getting killed, instead of letting the sight of Kane Kusogi being depressed in the rain do its job. Here comes Ten Shimoyama choosing to insert a cheesy Spanish guitar, and violins instrumental to the sequence. A simple moment of seeing Kane Kusogi down in the rain is made cheesy by the inclusion of music. Creating a unintentional cheesy nature during the film’s most serious moments. Especially the crucifixion of actor Show Aikawa was pretty heavy handed in the many contrived monologues trying to make itself appear deeper than it actually is.  Adding onto the list of issue is Shimoyama pacing. Portions of the movie felt longer than they actually were, while portions that should have been longer feel to short. Resulting in a movie, and story that feels underwhelming on all front. There’s no raising action in narrative to make things feel like they’re escalating, and without engaging characters you’re left with what eventually becomes a chore to watch after the first thirty minutes. 

The biggest surprise in the movie is a good chunk of the dialogue in Blood Heat is spoken in English, Japanese, Cantonese, and a little bit of Korean in the film just for added measure. More surprising is the acting in the movie is pretty solid. Kane Kosugi is the film leading action star. Doing all his own stunt he more than has the physical abilities to carry a movie. Looking proficient in his fight sequences, and being able to perform his fight scenes with ease like many famous onscreen martial artists. His commitment on the action makes it a shame he hasn’t gotten many opportunities to take the leading role. Although, that could be do to his middling acting abilities. He’s able to make awkwardly written English dialogue sound when he delivers it, and his Japanese dialogue he’s able to put a bit anger in his delivery. He simply lacks range in his acting ability always looking angry in nearly all of his scene. Kane Kusogi also lacks charisma explaining his lack of comedy scene, or long takes during dramatic portions past a certain point in the movie.

Most disappointing performance is easily from Show Aikawa who can’t do anything in his role because of his limited time. Best he could provide for his character is simply putting on sunglasses, and looking cool. Caring about him, or his character he’s unable to do anything on that front. Same with Misato Tachibana who who plays Show Aikawa sister isn’t in the film much either. Both of these actors lack of screen time make is made very evident in sequence that meant to be the dramatic height of those two character arcs, but nothing emotion is gained from it. Masaya Kato is enjoyable over the top as the film’s main villain. His line delivery are simply blissful when spouting out ridiculous English dialogue you simply can’t take him seriously. When speaking in their native language the Japanese actors are okay to mediocre, but when speaking English it’s pretty rough at times. Although, some of it is to blame on the awkward, and at times grammatically incorrect English dialogue.

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Not even the glass is spared in this fight sequence.

The fight choreography is handled by Jackie Chan’s stunt team regular Ming-Sing Wong. Creating Hong Kong style action with the look of Japanese cinema. For the first half of the movie, the action sequences are on par with Hong Kong action cinema. Choreography is creative in its limited setting, typically in tight corridors with little room for error. Kane Kusogi fighting a dozen men in a hallway is the obvious highlight with slight usage of wire work. This fight sequence is tight being able to actors in the background waiting for their que to attack. Hiding the background actors expertly as the choreography has Kane tossing henchman like rag dolls to the people in the hallways. When someone attacks Kane, the cinematography keeps anyone in the background out of frame placing the focus on Kane, and the single person he’s fighting in that moment. This is one smooth, and seamless looking action sequence.

Making it a shame the remainder of the action sequences are lame. The cinematography isn’t as tight with Kane fight against Joe Lee is the sleepiest fight in the movie. Having some sparse shots where contact isn’t made when trading blows. Joe, and Kane Kusogi fight in the Muscle Dome suffers from one sided nature. At first Kane Kusogi is pummeling Joe Lee, but than the reverse happens once Blood Heat kicks than Kane Kusogi gets beaten without using any counter maneuvers. This is a boring fight since both actors are clearly capable of doing complex choreography, but the baffling decision to not show Joe Lee, and Kane Kusogi on some kind of even ground makes the long fight sequence dull. Then comes the climax which is also disappointing, and the slowest fight sequence in the movie. All to this point all the previous action sequences had actors performing them at normal speed. In the climax, Kane Kusogi, and actor Masaya Kato fight with sledgehammer, and it’s slow moving. Revealing the setback of having two actors fight with sledgehammer as both simply trade blows, and dodge without doing anything impressive in the matter. Once both actors drop the sledgehammers, both knee cap each other before throwing a single flying kick ending the fight. You don’t get to see the final blow in the fight as it cuts to black! Talk about anti-climatic.

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And one last gif of Kane Kosugi doing something cool. His own stunts.

Blood Heat is the definition of brainless action cinema, and on some level it can be enjoyable on that front. It’s tries it hardest to be a Hollywood level action blockbuster, but without the budget it falls more in line of B-movie with some competent production values, some competent action sequences, and a competent enough lead in Kane Kusogi to carry the film. Bad aspects are obviously the poor writing unable to develop anything engaging, and bad direction that’s unable to visually tell its story, nor pace it properly. If you’re ever in the mood for brainless entertainment that’s somewhat watchable Blood Heat is not a bad choice, but otherwise you ain’t missing much in this little film that couldn’t cut it for the big leagues.

Rating: 4/10

Anime-Breakdown: Blue Sonnet (1989) OVA

The first thing I think about when the word shojo comes up in the description of anything is Cardcaptor Sakura. It’s one of my favorite anime so the association is natural. To be more specific, I usually associate a shojo for stories that place more emphasis on romance than a shonen, or seinen manga from what little shojo manga I’ve read. The vague definition of what is considered shojo versus its origin can muddles what is properly label a shojo, and what is mislabeled that. Although, I ain’t here to discuss that, but I am here to write about a shojo anime OVA from the late 80s that contains heads exploding, spider robots, huge amount of gushing blood, and eventually disposal unit filled with dead fetuses. Yep, these things that can be found in violent shlock can be found in the five episode OVA Blue Sonnet.

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What exactly is Hot Dog Express about? I’m curious.

Storytelling in Blue Sonnet is as straightforwards as they come; good guys live ordinary lives, supernatural intervention occurs on heroes average life, and bad guys attempting to capture heroes. On one corner you have Lan Komatsuzaki, a quiet teenage girl who is thought to be controlled by the rage of the esper Akai Kiba (Crimson Fang), and the cyborg/esper Sonnet tasked to capture her. Both of these leading characters are decently developed in the five episode OVA. Sonnet character arc is the standard human recently turned cyborg rediscovery her humanity. There’s nothing here to spice things up besides the fact that Sonnet is also an esper. I might be someone who constantly harp on a story’s writing on a number of things, but I personally feel execution is more important than the ideas themselves. In Blue Sonnet, the character of Sonnet is handle well having each episode slowly questioning what she’s doing. Her rare interaction with other people also help in getting across these plot points.

Lan Komatsuzaki, as the OVA puts it, is just recently becoming a woman. The OVA partially tackle the matter of Lan growing up, but is mostly focus on her trying to control her powers, and learning about herself. She isn’t as developed as Sonnet since it feels like part of her character arc is incomplete. Only getting some answers to her mysterious background. Other characters in the series get minor development making events in the story slightly more engaging as two dimensional characters. Making the odd sight of seeing a human size cyborg battling spider robots, or a seeing a little kid holding a room filled with adults at gunpoint feel a bit more eventful.

It might be a shojo, but it also offers blood, and gore which it saves up for the final two episodes. Using it’s first three to develop the cast of characters to the best of it ability. Working for the most part to give out details on it cast, including some minor characters who don’t influence the story much. These three episodes also prepare the viewer for the insanity that occurs in the final two episodes which is basically a long rescue mission. These last two episodes is where it combines schlocky entertainment, and shojo convention in a surprisingly good mix. Taking a dark turn in what the villains intend to do with Lan, and eventually getting to a point where she ends up in a disposal unit filled with dead fetuses. It isn’t afraid to contrast the more realistic interaction in earlier episodes with dark moments like these. While nothing else is able to top the dead fetuses bit of grisly writing. What does it a good job at is structuring a buildup in first developing characters in the story earning it’s violent turned in the last two episodes.

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Hm, can’t say I disagree young lady.

Now the negatives of Blue Sonnet writing are easy to recognize. Suffering from talking a lot, and saying very little at the same time. Despite it having good pacing it feels like the writing linger on scenes longer than it should. Taking several minutes to establish information the viewer could easily pick up on. There’s also the character of Bird having a unearned importance in the story. Granted, Lan, and Sonnet developing convoluted romantic feelings for Bird is part of its Shojo DNA it in no way comes up naturally. It just appears, and you’re just meant to accept. Unlike the violent turn it takes, the romance aspect isn’t hinted at, or buildup too. There’s also the out of nowhere inclusion of humor after long stretches of being serious. Then there’s Dr. Merikus who is the villain, and the worst written character in the OVA. His motivation to capture Lan is poorly define resulting in him simply doing evil things for world domination. There’s hints in his dialogue he has a greater desire than simply capturing Lan, but that part of the story is poorly gotten across to the viewer.

The biggest downfall of the OVA is the incomplete state it feel it ends on. Being based on a manga that’s 19 volumes long ending it run in 1987. It’s unlikely that the five episode OVA which was released between 1989, and 1990 covered everything from its source material. This is strongly evident in the ending implying there’s between Bird, and Sonnet bond that was meant to build upon, and never did. Another instance of this is Lan herself suddenly being fond of Bird despite them hardly sharing any scenes together. Only in one episode do they share a scene together which is not romantic in the least. While the OVA is structure well it doesn’t use up all of its screen time wisely resulting in something that could have been than it ended up from a story perspective.zkg2m5

When it comes to the voice acting it was simply adequate. Only Hiromi Tsuru who voices Sonnet got a chance to stand out in her performance. The rest of the cast do fine, but only Hiromi stands out because she’s able to hit her dramatic parts successfully. Everyone else don’t add much to their characters in their performances. Also, it has some wonderful Engrish in the first episode which last briefly. The OVA is director by Takeyuki Kanda (director of the first six episodes of Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08Th MS Team) doesn’t impress in handling of the material. For the most part, the story plays out fine, but his inability to transition between tone is awkward. It explains the lack of balance in humor which is why Kanda hardly uses it because when he does it sticks out against the mostly serious tone.

Character designs look something from the early 80s, in particular Sonnet skin tight suit, and grasshopper inspired helmet is very cheesy looking in practice. The animation is done by Tatsunoko Production, and it’s dated. When moving, the animation lacks detail in the background art, and character movements are limited to being blocky. Visually resulting in a boring looking anime half the time. Only time the animation picks up are during the sequences, and the last two episodes where everything results in bloodshed. The same with the music being okay. No tracks stand out besides the opening song “What Is Love” by the band GO!. The music is easily the most forgettable part of the OVA.

Blue Sonnet is enjoyably schlocky entertainment. It might carry the label of shojo, but offers decently developed characters, a well structure story, and a little bit of blood & gore to satisfy an average viewer looking for something outside of what they expect from a shojo. The sums of it parts is better than the bigger picture itself, although it’s those parts that makes it stand out against shojo.


Rating: 6/10

Cinema-Maniac: China White (1989)

I’ve seen many films, and been disappointed plenty of times even with reasonable expectations. Once you’ve seen the many noteworthy films in the action genre the more obscure titles you’ll have to take a gamble on. Granted, I haven’t written anything about a good portion of those noteworthy action movies, but sometimes the prospect of tackling something not widely discussed intrigues me more over something that is well praised, and regarded. Having a huge respect for action cinema than probably your average blogger/reviewer who writes about action cinema. Movies like China White further hammer in the point why action cinema is frequently criticize for their bad stories, and bad acting.

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In 10 seconds, Russell Wong avoids getting killed three times

China White follow brothers Bobby Chow (Russell Wong) and Danny Chow (Steven Vincent Leigh) want control of Amsterdam’s Chinatown for their drug trade in the midst of an escalating between the Italian, and Chinese mafia. Now, that sounds like a blast of an Hong Kong style action in a U.K. setting you might be thinking. The final product falls significantly short of its somewhat interesting setup due to its inability to focus on a single point. For starter, the character of Bobby Chow, and Danny Chow are developed decently in the story. However, the film isn’t interested in showing these two blood brother bond, and the struggles they must overcome in the violent criminal world they are a part of. Bobby, and Danny spend around half of the movie together, and then the other half both are separated from each other with the viewer only seeing Bobby side of events. When it wants to show some kind of drift between Bobby, and Danny it’s quickly brushed aside. Considering the movie spends a good chunk of the first half developing these two characters it’s misdirection in how it uses them effects the impact it desires to have.

While not required it does have a romantic subplot which yes litters action cinema in drove, even if the film could be stronger without such a thing. In the case of China White it got it partially correct. Bobby first interactions with Anne (Lisa Schrage) aren’t ones filled with romantic intentions. Starting off on the right foot in getting them to start out as friends. However (again), once Anne gets rescue in the film the relationship between Bobby, and Anne quickly takes a more romantic turn, and it’s unconvincing because it’s rushed. After Anne gets rescued there’s no recovery phase for her to get over her near death experience. It’s just brushed over like the development of Anne, and Bobby relationship. It practically goes from Bobby, and Anne having sex to the next important scene they are planning a trip to Paris before something tears them apart.

Another part of its grand story is the initial storyline of Bobby Chow, Danny Chow, and their comrades taking vengeance on the criminal boss who took out their father figure. This part of the story is pretty thin in actual value, but simply having them be themselves makes a thin idea work well. It easily gets across these people respect their father figure, and establishing a good sense of gratitude towards him. It’s unfortunate that after a flashback sequence which yes brings the movie to a halt that it is unable to expand on the idea. This is to blame on the romantic subplot, and also the subplot of the police officers trying to capture our main criminal characters. It’s unable to juggle all of it pieces into a coherent narrative easily  making things get lost in the shuffle. Meaning you have aspects of the story that start out initially working well, but deteriorate in quality as they go on.

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No one in the background looks suspicious at all

Lastly, the biggest downfall of the film’s story is the uneven pacing. The film’s act is paced well setting up the characters, and small bits of an overarching story in good fashion. Sure some of the dialogue is unnatural, though it has little hiccups in actually telling a story. Act one only big drawback is a flashback that’s bring the movie to a halt to provide some backstory. It’s well intended, but since the film is all over the place the flashback unintentionally harms the overall quality in the long run. There’s a lack of raising action due to the fact Bobby, and the gang easily obtain resources to launch their big plan for vengeance which skips plenty of steps. The final act is where the film suffers the most from rush pacing. Whereas the first hour of the film did somewhat well in holding itself together. It’s the remainder forty minutes where it all comes crashing down.

Plot points that were meant to resonate fall flat from glossing over character building rendering significant characters death lackluster. Raising action is absent spending an uneven amount of time between the main conflict, and the conflicts in its subplots which aren’t granted enough time to be properly fleshed out. Leading to resolutions to storylines that will make you feel nothing in the journey. There’s also the ending text crawl saying this movie was based around true events, even though it has cheesy elements ripe in the action genre like going oversea (half the time it’s Thailand) to expands drug trade, main villain having evil henchman doing their every bidding, villains & heroes being able to kill people in public (sometime in broad daylight) without long term repercussion, the protagonist love interest getting pregnant, and the police letting a criminal get away with a murder once against someone they hate to name a few.

I wrote earlier before the film’s does a somewhat decent job developing its leading characters, but its actors are plain wooden. Our lead is Russell Wong, and he is incapable being charming, and showing many range of emotions. His biggest issue is he’s mostly stoic in his facial expression, and there’s hardly a change in his tone of voice when delivery dialogue. When’s he meant to be tough he doesn’t come across as tough. If Wong is meant to be charming his wooden delivery, and stoic expression will make you question how he manage to get a woman with a lack of personality. The only time he’s somewhat convincing is during his action sequences because he has no lines to speak, and even those get ruined by some awkward choices. Also, he sounds really unnatural when speaking English dialogue. Almost robotic in delivery simple sentences. Russell Wong other co-stars fare about the same also sharing Russell Wong lack of range. Steven Vincent Leigh doesn’t come across much of a gangster, but since he’s given as much wide ranging material he fares better. He’s typically has to look upset, or tough in his scene. The only one in the supporting cast was Victor Hon as One Hand, and that was because he was at least trying to do his best in his limited role. The Chinese actors are largely speaking in their native language are fine, but sadly the stars speak English in a unconvincing manner making the bad performances stand out more.

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Even in bad movies, I do appreciate stunt work

Surprisingly, the film has superstar Andy Lau, Alex Man, and a surprise appearance by Fui-On Shing who just keeps popping up in a number of obscure Kong Hong movies I keep checking out. Despite appearing only in the ten minute flashback sequence Andy Lau doesn’t fare much better. He simply looks like he wants to exit the production. Allegedly, Andy Lau, and Alex Man were abducted by force by the triads to be in the film. I say allegedly because apparently a lot of sources claim this is real, but I’m unable to find the blog post by Manfred Wong who confirms this on the internet. As for Fui-On Shing he’s the typical baddie, and that what he so well at playing. He’s a highlight in the movie, along with a lackluster Andy Lau who is still more engaging to see than his other prominent co-stars.

The western cast of the film fare slightly better. Out of the entire cast Billy Drago comes out the best as the film’s villain. He’s one note in his performance, but it’s that one note he’s able to nail by hamming it up. Instead of portraying his character in a realistic manner Billy Drago simply revel in his evil nature. Lisa Schrage does okay with her haphazard material. She isn’t allowed any opportunity to transition from one aspect of her character into another. However, she’s able to pull off her none-serious scenes well. Frank Sheppard plays a cop name Rasta (I’m not kidding), and it’s a stereotype performance. Providing a Jamaican accent while throwing the occasional “I told ya man” whenever on screen. It’s passable at best. Saskia van Rijswijk plays the classic silent henchwoman who doesn’t appear much in the movie, and aside from one fight sequence she doesn’t get any scene to stand out.

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When mixed together, Chinese, and Italian gangsters are very explosive

Ronny Yu direction is one without confidence. He’s unable to make an assure experience being just as lost in juggling the film story just as much as the script. He’s also unable to overcome his actors weaknesses having long takes of his actors giving one bad performance after another. Where he partially does well is during the action sequences. The choreography in them is nothing special, but liven them up a bit. They would be exciting if it wasn’t for two things; Ronny Yu unnecessary use of slow motion, and his inability to show a connection between the camera & action choreography. For example, there’s a small skirmish between two criminals, and one of them pulls the pin of a grenade. The grenade isn’t seen with the only indication of a grenade pin being pulled being a sound effect. That’s not good action design. What’s also not good action design is some of the sloppy timing in the editing. There are a few instances where someone is shot, and takes seconds before the actor is shown reacting to getting shot. Sometime in slow motion!

When it infrequently comes together there’s nothing impressive about the action sequences. Gunfights are strictly of the cover, and shoot variety with little to visually make them interesting. Suffering from the cinematography not establishing the location, and what’s where. Not even the huge amount of sparks when bullets make impact liven things up. The brief instances of a choreograph fight are as good as it get because Ronny Yu tries to show them in a interesting way. Further hurting the movie is the film doesn’t know how to space out scenes evenly. The first half is evenly spaced out, but the second half saves it’s nearly absent until getting closer to the credits. When it gets to the climax, the action sequence is not worth the wait.

China White offers what you expect from a bad action movie from the rush writing in places, and the general bad acting from its cast. Feeling like the filmmakers weren’t yet ready to tackle a story with such big ambitions, and it shows throughout in the final product. Even action junkies won’t find much to enjoy in this mess of a movie.

Rating: 3/10

Cinema-Maniac: The Shape of Water (2017)

The Best Picture Oscar is an award that puts movies on my radar, but don’t go into with high expectations. For me, there’s a general discontent between me, and the Oscars in what is consider great filmmaking. On occasion I can agree with them like the decision to not nominate The Dark Knight (2008) for Best Picture since it was essentially a gritty live action Saturday morning cartoon. Then, there’s everything else that baffles me on the Oscars standards; 2014 had Gravity (2013) nominated for Best Picture despite it’s glaring weak writing, 2016 Mad Max: Fury Road for Best Picture again for glaring weak writing, 2017 Best Picture winner Moonlight which got over hyped despite the fact itself is a quiet film that was well made, and now The Shape of Water joins that rank in 2018. Much like the other best picture winners, and nominees mentioned I don’t think they’re bad movies. They just don’t live up to the pedigree when being associated with the category of Best Picture anything.

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Michael Shannon doesn’t look evil enough here, give him some devil horns.

The Shape of Water is set during the 1960s, centering around a lonely janitor forming a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity. Out of the films in Guillermo del Toro filmography this is the most plain, and least subtle of his films. It’s themes about outsiders being demonize is clear as day, characters being good & bad is nearly impossible to miss with their dialogue, and the whole intention of this being a fairy tale set in a real world is always seen. When it comes to this film’s theme, and writing everything is easy to grasp, but without much depth to it. That’s fine, but not when the contrast is stark between two conflicting halves of a movie. In the same way it’s real world aspects conflicts with the fairy tale like narrative.

For starter, the first half is a slow, absorbing movie chronicling the average lives of an “other” to put it simply, and how they feel lonely in the world. Characterizing the mute heroine Elisa (Sally Hawkins), Soviet spy scientist Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg), and a tormented artist Giles (Richard Jenkins) pretty directly. They all at some point talk about being lonely, misunderstood, and not knowing the companionship of a soulmate. These topics are further accentuated by the discovery of an unknown Amphibian Man who is experimented on. Through Elisa interaction with the Amphibian Man, and the cruel experiments Hoffstetler is forced to witness all set out to understand the unknown creature. All the meanwhile being held captive in a secret laboratory with the racist head honcho Stirland (Michael Shannon) seeking to kill that which he doesn’t understand. When describing the movie like this it’s easier to see why I consider it’s storytelling to be similar to a fairy tale; simple themes, simple story, and simple characters. What holds this first half together wonderfully is how intimate everything feels from the natural dialogue between friends to the individual characters hardships longing to belong somewhere.

Where the illusion of being a fairy tale more or less falls apart is in its real world aspects, and the second half of the story. Mentions of the cold war, racial discrimination, gays not being welcome at a diner, and other details reflecting real world issues are sprinkle throughout. Figuring out what Guillermo del Toro was trying to do by incorporating these elements is uncertain. The commentary of the acceptance, and understanding of people different from us is obvious, but what about the other details surrounding that. It’s uncertain, and the film’s writing doesn’t provide these answers. In the same way it handle it themes, details that mirror the real world aren’t looked into. It’s wasn’t Guillermo del Toro intention to delve into these issues; instead all I could ponder about is maybe the film is also about old fashioned ideals that brewed hatred, and how it’ll brews disdain, and violence of those you discriminate against when choosing to keep yourself in a bubble. I’m not going to spoil this movie specific plot points, but I did see enough in what it told where coming to such a conclusion is possible to interpret.

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The movie is filled with lovely sets like this. Top notch production design all around.

Of course, the second half is likely where it’ll lose viewers. Further losing the illusion of being a fairy tale with 1960s aesthetics, and in its place is gap in logic, and plot conveniences that increases as the film progresses. One such event includes a moment when the Amphibian Man run outs of it hiding place, and goes out in the open with our characters having to search for it. In all this commotion, not a single person spots the Amphibian Man, and even more convenient is the place where the Amphibian Man is found doesn’t have a single person inside it either. Another example of leaps in logic is how simplistic the plan to get the Amphibian Man free from the laboratory is, and further astonishing is that it actually works. Making you also question with such a valuable specimen why is it so lax in security for it. Questions like this only increases in the second half. Another trait lost in the second half is the relationship building between Elisa, and the Amphibian Man. The first half dedicated time to Elisa, and the Amphibian Man making a connection, and finding a way to communicate. In its second half, it rushes through this. Maybe it’s intentional by design since time in the first half moves slower compare to the events that transpire in the second half. I could definitely see it being Elisa, and the Amphibian Man romance making time feel minoot when with a soulmate. Although, as a film, it’s also a missed opportunity to naturally let it grow.

Del Toro eyes for visuals is capture through cinematographer Dan Laustsen, and production designer Paul D. Austerberry creating creating multiple atmospherically rich worlds. From the cold, and harsh interiors of the laboratories to Elisa apartment filled with green for an underwater feel. Submerging the viewers in a clammy wet mood, rain streaming down the windows, and shadows wavering on the walls elegantly set the mood. Capturing the pleasing, and old fashion style of 1960s America with a dark underbelly when Michael Shannon is on screen. Echoing a darker world amidst it’s beauty. When it comes together set to the ever changing moody score from Alexandre Desplat’s from wistful, and sorrow will immortalize certain images in your mind.

Sally Hawkins delivers a nuance performance portraying plenty about her character without saying a word. She’s understated in capturing every ounce emotion providing a sense of wonder, intrigue, and tragedy through movement. Her eyes, and the way she expressive herself is one of the film’s many technical strength. Michael Shannon receives the short end of the stick out of everyone in the cast. He’s has to play a racist, and misogynist villain, and make him unlikable. Shannon mores than hams it up in his scenes ensuring every bit of his mannerism, and expression is as slimy as possible. Only thing less subtle about Shannon performance would be him literally hanging a sign around his neck written with “Obviously evil bad guy” on it. Richard Jenkins is basically a more vocal version of Sally Hawkins, but equally just as tremendous in action. Sorta being the emotional voice that Sally Hawkins cannot have making every scene he’s in believable, and his friendship with Sally Hawkins seems more genuine for it. Octavia Spencer is humorous through her many scenes, and sympathetic when needs to be. Michael Stuhlbarg is much like Michael Shannon in getting a role that doesn’t require much from him, but plays it it well.

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We shall eat your children tonight Creature of the Black Lagoon

Doug Jones plays the Amphibian Man in a costume that is impressive in detail, and allows Doug Jones to do everything he needs to bring the creature to life. Acting like a scared animal, Jones makes the Amphibian Man alluring in its behavior. Meticulously moving unlike a human, and sounding more like a beast through his screams than a man. Creating a creature with a soul that’s easy to be lose sight over the thought it’s a mere man in a costume. It’s quite a joy to see a costume so rich in detail from the wet scales, the fish like fins around its arms, and the several combination of different Amphibian creatures into a human like structure. Plus, it’s possibly the only time you’ll see an Amphibian Man in a musical number which personally was a treat to view since I do have a soft spot for some silly B-movie pictures too.

The Shape of Water doesn’t live up the pedigree of a award winning film, but if one can get over that hurdle there’s plenty to like about the movie on a technical, and writing level. Del Toro eye for visuals is just as strong as ever, and so is his love for old cinema replicating the feel, and look of a classic movie. Being a heartfelt mishmash of his love for old school creature feature like Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) with his love of classic cinema like E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (1982) portraying otherworldly bonds. It’s a film that from Guillermo del Toro that feels as every bit as passionate, and sincere as its leading characters. It’s second half is where most viewers will be tested containing the biggest lap in logic, and rushed relationship which is meant to be the centerpiece of the film. Being best described as a E.T. the Extra Terrestrial for adults it’s dreamy in its imagery, but much like Sally Hawkins character that lives above a theater roaming with fantastical images, the real world eventually creeps in, and ends the fantasy. It’s nowhere near the pedigree of other Best Picture winners like many will allude too, but it’s a movie I wouldn’t mind revisiting to be lost again in its dream.

Rating: 10/10

Cinema-Maniac: A Bittersweet Life (2005)

You normally wouldn’t be able to tell from the movies I regularly write about, but I’m actually a big fan of slow pace, character driven movies. Movies on the level of Blade Runner (1982), and its sequel Blade Runner: 2049 (2017) are movies that I am more than happy to just eat up. A strong character will always stay with me, even if I forget certain details about the story being told. In the case of the Blade Runner franchise, it’s biggest draw to me is that it never forgets the people, and their struggle in its story set among the bigger scope of events in them. The character driven films that stick in my mind, and remain is something I can never predict. It’s just something that happens either during the viewing of something, or overtime a character becomes further to my liking. It’s the latter example that happened with A Bittersweet Life; during my viewing experience I was engrossed with the movie, and it’s beautiful mixture of multiple genres. Once the closing credits started rolling did it dawn on me weeks later how much I enjoyed how its protagonist was handle among other things.

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Insert famous Godfather line “I’ll make an offer he can’t refuse” here

A Bittersweet Life follows high ranking mobster Sun-woo (Byung-Hun Lee) spying on his boss’s girlfriend while he’s away on a business trip. I know the synopsis doesn’t sound particularly interesting, but the less revealed about the specifics of where the movie goes the better the experience will be. This is a deliberately pace film; being film noir for the first hour before changing gear into a revenge, crime action film for the remainder of its run. It has the writing style of a art house movie in terms of progression, character growth, and exploring themes, but streamlined in a more simplistic manner. In its root, it tells a simple story that’s easy to understand. The most complex it gets story wise is how ambiguous, and generalize certain aspects of Sun-woo is, but never to the point where it just seems its vagueness is use to cover up weak writing.

What’s not cut, and dry is the lead character himself Sun-woo. Being character driven, Sun-woo is only taken out off screen when needed too. These Sun-woo-less scenes typically deliver exposition, but on some occasion reveal more about the kind of person Sun-woo is, and what people think about him. Very little shown about Sun-woo past from his perspective with most of what the viewer learning about Sun-woo coming from secondary sources. The few things that Sun-woo indirectly tells the audience about himself are generalize. For instinct, the first lines in the movie tells the viewer a young Sun-woo is crying because he a had a dream that can’t be true. Exactly how this works in the Korean mobsters underworld in its favor is part of its majesty. Much like the whole ordeal of dreams being unable to come true, most of Sun-woo feelings is shown externally hardly expressing himself with words. This especially applies in the first half portraying Sun-woo as a loyal, and obedient mobster to his boss. Using the simplicity of Sun-woo interaction to convey broad ideas.

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Insert “What in the box?” reference from Seven here.

Sun-woo walks a thin line between being a one dimensional character, or a husk of a character to tackle broad themes. Thankfully, what prevents Sun-woo from being a bad character is it somewhat ambiguous nature. Due to its using broad ideas like dreams, beauty, and love for it themes it never dares to confirm anything for the viewer. However, because of how it structure in the first half the viewer is extensively shown Sun-woo reaction towards everything. It through this first half that establishes the dark reality that Sun-woo lives in, pent up frustration he must release, and starting to question the orders he’s given for the first time in life. Seeing what kind of world he lives in, and slowly revealing who Sun-woo truly is. 

This all eventually culminates in the second half of the film following the guidelines of what you would expect from a revenge, crime action film. You’ll get the eventual short bursts of violence, and bloodshed in the finale when Sun-woo finally seeks revenge. Surprisingly, it also shares a dark sense of humor. My personal favorite comedic bit involves Sun-woo meeting up two gun dealers for a deal, and end up with the two gun dealers arguing so much they end up crashing their car. When the ending finally comes nothing about what the story, or what it was all intended to be about becomes any clearer to the viewer. Allowing the viewer to figure out what the specifics from the pieces it scatter around, and best part of all it earned a up to interpretation ending with the groundwork it laid out. One thing that is unquestionable about its story is that it definitely lives up to its title.

Lee Byung-hun is a scene stealer in a reserve, and personal performance. It’s a physically subdue performance spending the first half being quiet. Resulting in many scenes where the camera will simply focus on Lee Byung-hun reaction to things around him. His mannerism is well fitted for his character giving a professional aura around him with some hidden secrets. Providing a sense of a lost soul, and someone with pent up frustration. Masterfully transitioning into the second half where Lee Byung-hun receives more physically demanding scenes. In particular, an action sequence that requires him to make a messy escape from an abandoned building surrounded by people wanting to kill him. Doing his action scenes, Lee Byung-hun makes the impossibility of a lone person taking on a dozen men look convincing. Even in the first half which has two fight scenes, Lee Byung-hun is so good one can be fooled into thinking he’s some kind of martial artist. He’s gives it his all in his performance, and it’s worth the price of admission alone.

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Lee Byung-hun being a badass

Supporting cast gets overshadow by Lee Byung-hun impressive performance, but they also get to shine whenever on screen. Shin Min-ah gives the most vulnerable performance in the cast. Unlike her male co stars, she doesn’t play a character within the criminal world. Allowing her to be more lively compare to her co-stars, and allowing her to build her performance around being ordinary. Kim Yeoung-cheol who plays the crime boss is excellently cold in his portrayal. Coming across as ruthless, and understanding simultaneously. It’s certainly his more control angered scenes that allows him to display his influence over Lee Byung-hun. There’s also Hwang Jung-min who does well playing the arrogant, and ruthless son of a rival family. Holding nothing back in his portrayal.

Lastly, Kim Jee-woon who directed, and wrote the movie did an outstanding job. He treats every tool at his disposal to tell his story equally. Be it his carefully chosen music featuring Spanish-inspired guitar pieces, techno, pseudo classical violin pieces, and jazzy/salsa influenced guitar riffs that perfectly coincide with the ever changing moods. The cinematography that is intimate during it dramatic portions, sweeping during it action sequences to see masterful action choreography very clearly, and simply moody & dreamlike with its lighting to create a noir atmosphere. The editing is seamless, especially during the fantastic action sequences were it all flows naturally. Finally, his best trait in this movie is his restraint to go too much into any genre convention, and his trust on the audience to embrace his deliberate storytelling.

A Bittersweet Life combines elements of film noir, art house cinema, action, black comedy, and gangster film into one beautiful package. Offering enough of each genre it blends together to satisfy both casual viewers, and movie enthusiasts of all kind. It’s the type of movie that is engrossing in several different way, and exceeding expectations in area you wouldn’t expect from it. Pulling of what art house cinema is best at, but with the streamlined execution of a mainstream movie that can appeal to anyone when accomplished this perfectly. 

Rating: 10/10

Some Quick Thoughts On: Yagami Family Affairs (1990) OVA

If you have seen anime long enough you’re bound to find those bizzare titles that make you question everything logical. First one that usually comes to my mind is how that did I get to a point where I watched a anime that tackles incest, terrorism, essentialism, and with penguins involve in a anime series called Mawaru Penguindrum (2011). I don’t know, but it what an interesting experience. That’s the kind thing you gotta expect, especially when you go out of your way to check out obscure anime on a whim. Most of the time, I simply don’t bat an eye at an anime I watch. However, this is one of those certain anime titles that make me question what in the world I’m watching, and it’s a thought that never leaves my mind.

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This isn’t even the strangest thing she does in the OVA.

I’m going to write about one such anime called Yagami Family Affairs. The OVA is based on a manga called Yagami-kun Katei no Jijo which ran from March 1986 to May 1990. I was unable to look up any sales figure to see gauge how popular it was at the time, but apparently it was popular enough to get an 11 episode, live action tv adaptation which I can’t find any information on either. So, without any interesting facts about it to share lets move forward. I should give out a warning that yes, I’m going to partially spoil this OVA, but in the long run the overarching story really doesn’t matter much. If you so desire to watch a incest comedy OVA animated by Production IG (I’m not kidding, they actually did it) completely blind stop reading here. If you don’t care about minor spoilers, I shall continue to ramble on.

Yagami Family Affairs premise is on the ever so classic setup of a teenage boy named Yuji Yagami who loves his mother, and in a incestual kind of way. I would say Japan in particular has some kind of fascination with this type of taboo subject matter, but at the same time Game of Thrones made incest mainstream in the US, there’s also a US book from author V.C. Andrews called Flowers In the Attic which has a incestual plotline selling over 40 millions books world wide, and even my favorite horror movie, the original 1974 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre US movie couldn’t escape having incest on some level in its story. So simply saying Japan has a fascination with it is a bit misleading when I also live in a place that is just as fascinated by it as Japan. However, from what I’ve encounter, incest is typically a sign that whatever piece of media you’re going to consume is likely going to turn out bad since it’s hardly used in quality works.

Moving on, the 3 episode OVA initially makes such a baffling premise for a comedy somewhat watchable for two minutes before derailing itself immediately. The biggest problem is everyone non-chuntantly accepts that Yuji Yagami has a sexual drive for his mother, even his father, and mother seems to be cool with it laughing it off later on in episode 1. I mean, just how am I supposed to make fun of that. There’s a moment in the first episode where several male students talk about how their mothers looks, and how their mothers are unattractive compare to Yuji’s mother. These um, mother fuckers/friends are envious, and rightfully tease Yuji for having a crush on his mother. I mean, how am I supposed to take a scene where a group of teenage boys compare how attractive their mothers are to a particular student. Just, so questionable on so many level. Yuji also ends up sleeping with his mother during episode 1, and no they don’t have sex. Get your mind out of the gutter!

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Hmm, I honestly don’t know how to respond to that.

If you think I’m simply overexaggerating Yuji’s affection for his mother, well in episode 2 Yuji teams up with one of his teacher who also has a crush on his mother. Both call a truce because, you know, Yuji’s father is married to her, and both Yuji, and his teacher decide to resume their competition once they get her divorced. There is just so much wrong to untangle from that last sentence, and even more so from Yuji stupidity since how in the world do you forget your own mother is married to you know, your father! Oh man, Yuji Yagami, you’re really stupid. In episode 3, he teams up with a woman named Mitsuko Nanase (image below), whom I gotta admit I do find pretty hot.

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Yes, it’s an excuse to post picture of an anime character I like in this OVA for shallow reasons.

More importantly though, Yuji teams up Mtsuko to help her capture the heart of his father. While people are deep in thought wondering what the meaning to life is, here I am wondering what in the world compel the creators of this project to come up with these kind situations. Everything that Yuji does in the service of him potentially hooking up with his mother, and no, no amount of light hearted music is going make cheer Yuji on for that.

The anime OVA exaggerates the humor, and the characters reaction in order to get a laugh out of the viewer. I did laugh somewhat at some of the jokes when they weren’t related to Yuji wanting to bang his mother, or around sex. It eventually gets repetitive when the jokes basically center around Yuji wanting to bang his mother, and the crazy lengths he’ll go just pound his own mother. One of the jokes is Yuji mother getting the measurement of her son’s penis in secret. Yep, that a thing that happened here. There’s also the moment where Yuji imagined his mother naked, and also briefly think about how many times he showered with his mother. If these things don’t have you laughing then maybe the moment Yuji confesses to a girl he likes that he’s in love with his mother, and the girl he likes also seems to be cool with it. The scene doesn’t end there either, he brags about kissing his mother everyday to this girl he likes. I’m in awe in the anime ability to just constantly keep me watching because of how questionable everything it does is.

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This moment actually made me laugh.

By this point in this post, if you’re expecting anything resembling normal human behavior from the characters in this OVA just don’t. This is a comedy where Yuji gets hit by a car, and motorcycle at some point, and just brushes them off like he got hit by a spitball. Further adding to the insanity is that it actually has an overarching story with a central message about unrequited love. Granted, the setup is perfect for that because mother/son incest is just plain wrong. However, the overly lighthearted nature, Yuji attempt to want to fuck his mother by any length, and his strong sexual desire towards her makes the whole unrequited love lesson not work at all. It ends with Yuji setting a goal for himself to get over his mother complex, and the viewer doesn’t get to see that in progress. With everything I’ve seen in the OVA I would honestly not like think about what happens afterwards.

Also in episode 2, Yuji comically blows up his classroom with a rocket launcher when they him to make it a threesome with his mother. Seconds later, a character says Yuji can’t take a joke. Yeah, because Yuji who gets constantly teased for having a mother complex would laugh at people telling him to make sex with his mother into a threesome. I should probably do the same kind of teasing with one my friends, and see how he reacts to it. On second thought, probably shouldn’t considering what one of them did, and that will probably be a story for another time. The anime is filled to the brim with odd moments like this that one joke is at least bound to make you laugh.

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Context: Son sees teacher cock blocking him for his mother. Obviously you assault him with a tank.

Only other thing to mention is the studio responsible for making this is none other than Production IG. Yes, the same Production IG responsible for Eden of East, Ghost In the Shell, and Psycho-Pass. The animation is actually decent for the comedy; movements are exaggerated, characters are very expressive, and typically filled energy. It’s weird complementing this OVA when I just spend the last couple of paragraphs questioning it story. I have no clue if the entire studio was blackmailed into making this, or the even crazier idea if the studio thought this project would sell well. Going down in anime history as one of its greatest unanswered mystery.

Would I recommend Yagami Family Affairs? Yes to be honest because it’s such a bizarre comedy with no semblance of logic you have to witness for yourself. It especially makes for a good viewing in a group where you can share the odd experience together. It’s such a questionable piece of animation that I couldn’t help, but finish it. If the premise isn’t something to your liking it’s understandable because incest is also something that makes me want throw up my soul, and enter into another worldly realm. For those who are okay with watching anything, no matter how questionable, I recommend checking this out, and revel in complete lunacy that is Yagami Family Affairs.

If I were to rate this anime I would give a 1 out of 10.