Category Archives: Anime Review

Anime-Breakdown: Ajin Part 1: Shoudou (2015) Recap Movie Review

Polygon Pictures is the name of the studio behind this film, and the anime series Sidonia no Kishi/Knights of Sidonia. I bring them up because despite only having seen one completed series from Polygon Pictures (at the time of this review being posted) it was enough for me to make them my most hated anime studio. This hatred is derived from Knights of Sidonia, or as I refer to it Sci-Fi: The Anime since it’s biggest piece of sci-fi trite I have ever seen in any form of media. Every single plot point was predictable, it didn’t put a new spin on any established sci-fi formula nor strayed from any common modern anime writing conventions, and it’s also the only piece of science fiction, and animation to ever put me to sleep. So before even starting the film, and Ajin anime series there was already the hurdle of low expectations. The only way Ajin couldn’t meet those low expectation would be if it turned out worse than Knights of Sidonia. Ajin went so below the bar of low expectations I could make a top ten list of the worst Ajin episodes in great detail by how much incompetence there is in each individual episode.

This film is basically a recap splicing together the first six episodes of the anime series Ajin. You might be wondering what’s the purpose of this recap movie if there’s no noticeable alteration between the anime series, and film. Both use the same footage with the same dialogue rendering it rather pointless to seek out the other product depending on what you decide to check out. As negative as I was towards the recap movie, Sword Art Online: Extra Edition, A1 Pictures did the logical in creating new material exclusive to it. Ajin Part 1: Shoudou only major difference with the anime series are scenes not having Izumi Shimomura (Tosaki’s secretary) cheeks turning red when blushing in two episodes of the anime series. I would like to point out this film came out in late November of 2015, and between that time all the way to mid January of 2016 when the anime aired. Someone, or several individuals at Polygon Pictures felt it was important to slightly alter moments of embarrassment by having Izumi cheeks turn red when she’s blushing instead bumping up the framerate to not make the animation look like it is always lagging. Just like the anime series, this recap film purpose is to simply be dead air. The metaphorical coaster of anime so to say.

1452943929937
Sup! I’m Porcupine.

Ajin takes the classic premise of the “Human Parasite” (as I call it) trope where the focus is on a main character who becomes something he/she, or the world hates. If you read, or seen Invasion of the Body Snatchers (my go to association with this premise) you know for a fact this premise under right hands holds infinite possibilities. Especially horror since it could thrive on creating psychological fear of these creatures that easily blend into our world. However, Ajin doesn’t understand the basics of storytelling so when it tried to reach higher than possible never once does it bother to set up the building blocks for a stable story.

First issue for the film is simple; bad world building combine with bad context for exposition. In Ajin, it’s establish the entire world know the existence of Ajins, yet in a later scene in the movie a police officer is surprise there’s an Non Lethal Drug Gun specifically design to capture Ajins. Before you could be bother to ask what sense does it make that this weapon isn’t mandatory for all policemen to have in case of an emergency it throws another bad plot point at you. One being how high school students managed to find a leaked video of a Ajin being experimented on, and there being no mention of it in any news media outlet. The flimsy excuse of a student saying it could be fake cannot be assumed to apply to everyone else in the world which requires higher suspension of disbelief that does not come with the premise. In the anime series, the news media eventually discover this leaked video, but in the film the news media does not. Creating more plot holes that in sequel films Polygon Pictures will have to cover up instead of focusing on telling a story (not a good one at that).

We also have the Elephant in the room to address in that paranoia, hatred, disgust, or any feelings towards the public views on Ajin goes without setup. Aside from the first discover Ajin being a gun for hire in Africa, and if Ajin are turned in you’ll be rewarded there is nothing much to grasp from the Ajins presence in this world. The film even brings up the fact other Ajins were discovered, but mentions nothing if the other Ajins are commonly violent toward humans. If that was the case, than it would make sense for Kei Nagai (our teenage protagonist) not to trust anyone in his surroundings. However, if the story didn’t establish the public mindset on Ajins existence than the idea of them being turned in for a reward could still be a reasonable source of distrust for Kei Nagai. A simple, and not hard to shoe in solution for this issue is someone mentioning an Ajin who got betrayed by his friends for money. If this was done than you could have a less inferior reason for Kei Nagai not to trust his friends in the beginning of the film. It’s even brought up the reward could be just a rumor, but even if the reward is just a rumor than Kei Nagai fearing being betrayed by his friends from a story he heard would make a bit more sense. My solution sucks, but it could hold itself together much better compared to betrayal for rumored reward Kei Nagai just recently discovered imply by the film.

Reason number two this film is bad is because of main character Kei Nagai. I personally refer to him as Sam Blanderton since he has no personality, the writing pretends he’s a smart character, and has the plot armor of immortality. His younger sister describes Kei Nagai as a cold person so Vanilla Ice is also a suitable nickname for the protagonist. Jokes aside, you would also find Kei Nagai in that piles of jokes. Despite being told he’s a smart character, and studying to be a doctor he’s no smarter than the rest of the cast in Ajin that can’t phantom the idea of multiple people wearing hats. Having never gone to medical school I can tell you it is possible to knock someone out unconsciously with your fists. I bring this up since Kei Nagai can summon a Black Ghost which are basically an invisible humanlike manifestation Ajins can use. For some reason, when Kei is being tortured about an hour into the film, Kei seems to have forgotten everything he learned. This is a character who the audience is told wants to be a doctor. In a scene where Kei is being tortured he is also pressured into killing scientists, which you would expect someone who has been studying to be a doctor to do the logical, and knock out whoever is torturing him in order to intimidate anyone who wants to torture him in the future. Not wanting to kill is one thing, but if you have the power to knock someone out unconsciously like Kei Nagai has with his Black Ghost where’s the conflict in the situation. Kei doesn’t have to kill anyone when he’s being tortured, yet he seems content that he could only kill despite the fact he’s been studying to become a doctor. Good to know that knowledge goes to waste.

Kei Nagai acts however the plot demands him to without a consistent personality trait. In the film, Kei meets face to face with an old man who kidnapped his sister, but is okay with it since she wasn’t harm. (Tear out hair in anger). Yet, he is more concern with the idea of this same old man wanting to kill scientists who have been torturing him (Kei) for days none of whom he knows. Showing concern for their very livelihood despite torturing him. Just, huh? What makes this infuriating for me is Kei Nagai brings up the idea to handicapped those scientists while begging for them not to be murdered. So the series (along with this film) is telling me Kei Nagai gives a rat ass his sister got kidnapped who he known for basically his entire life, and shows more concern for saving people who tortured him for several days  to the point he’ll bargain to handicapped them to make sure they live. However, this completely goes against the established trait of Kei Nagai being a cold, but intelligent character which does not go well when you see this same intelligent character wear nothing to hide his face when out in public. This is never an issue since Polygon Pictures is too lazy to have background characters which is why there is hardly ever crowds of people in the film. What this means is that Kei Nagai is not a cold character since he bother saving random strangers who tortured him several days, and is not intelligent since he doesn’t use his medical knowledge in his situations to protect himself. There’s no moment of competency from this character since Kei Nagai either gets lucky by discovering a new ability to save himself when convenient, or needs to be save by another person.

ajin20-200220-20large20preview2002
Glasses guy takes his groping seriously.

Finally, the reason the film is terrible, and the anime series itself is also terrible is pretty much everything else. Characters are one dimensional in the film with the only character using his head is Satou who is presented as the villain. Satou is refer by others as The Man in the Hat (even in the English dub for who knows why) because he wears a hat. Apparently, in Ajin, Satou is the only person in the entire world who wears a hat. This is proven whenever Satou is brought up simply mentioning someone is wearing a hat. Characters will immediately bring up Satou. Details like this makes it impossible to take Ajin seriously. What it tells me is a race of immortal beings is easily accepted in this world, but multiple people wearing hats is an entirely alien to concept those same people. Satou character also suffers the same issue, in this film, of having little character development, but compare to every other character he’s written the best. Satou is the only character who has a goal, and a motivation for what he does to a certain character. As you can assume, one character who’s passable doesn’t excuse an entire cast that’s disposable. Kei Nagai does virtually nothing to advance the plot, Kaito/Porcupine (Kei’s best friend) disappears after the second act without explanation, Eriko Nagai (Kei’s sister) is practically pointless contributing nothing to the narrative, and a slew of other unimportant characters amount to either explaining things characters in the world should already know, or just disappear after a while.

Pacing is a mess rushing through everything. This issue applies to the anime series too, but in movie format it’s boils down to throwing set pieces at the audience face without substance. There’s nothing of value to gain from constantly seeing the main characters in danger if there is no reason to care for them. No tension, no stakes, and no investment in the characters will have you constantly looking at the time wondering how long this train wreck is going to last.

On a technical level Polygon Pictures 3D animation is dated, even by 1990s 3D television standards. It’s embarrassing that the Donkey Kong Country 3D animated series from the late 90s has more expressive facial animation, and a better framerate. Donkey Kong Country can make the simple action of Gorillas walking, and dancing for that matter move smoothly. In Ajin Part 1: Shoudou, in the beginning of the film, Polygon Picture can not make the simple action of walking move smoothly. Through the film (and the anime series) it seems like characters are moving in slow motion. Polygon Pictures is capable of fixing of this, but are too lazy to do anything about it. There are two sequences in the film where two Black Ghosts are fighting against each other using the technique of slowing things down briefly then speeding things up. This simple demonstration of being able to change the speed of motion freely should also apply to the frame rate. It’s done deliberately so Polygon Picture have the technology not make to their anime series, and films look like they’re lagging at all times. Polygon Picture is so lazy the film closing credits is the opening sequence to the anime series with just longer credits. Bravo Polygon Picture.

Ajin Part 1: Shoudou needed to be story boarded, and drafted at least once before ever entering production. If this was done than Polygon Pictures would have realize they have no motivation for people to hate Ajins which would have save them from a number of issues if it was addressed. However, even if Ajin did give a good reason for why Ajins are hated it wouldn’t do away with the idiotic plot filled with shallow characters, and a very lazy production. You could find better looking 3D animation from the late 90s than this film which came out in 2015 which is embarrassing. Whatever way you view Ajin in either film, or tv format it is an embarrassment display of Japanese animation, an embarrassment to 3D animation, and an embarrassment to storytelling.

1/10

Anime-Breakdown: Rakuen Tsuihou: Expelled From Paradise (2014) Movie Review

Gen Urobuchi is a writer I like, but even with that thrown out there he’s very repetitive in his writing. At times, he creates fascinating worlds, and characters, but then make them speak by info dumping, and reiterating the same topics as if viewers missed them the first time. They speak like plot devices instead of like people. So Gen Urobuchi opted to create a world that was formerly filled with humans, and now are just data. Here is story written in that kind of world. A world without consistency, nor intelligent life forms. Just a strings of badly written events.

The opening sequence of the film is confusing. We’re shown a beach, our main character in a swimsuit relaxing, someone hacks the beach, our protagonist throws her drink, and stops this hacking by being naked. Don’t worry, the event turns out to be pointless. I eventually found out by the end of the film that it lead up to nothing. Absolutely nothing. A conflictless story that forces in conflict in its final act just because. No logical reasons behind it besides the fact it wasted more than half of its duration on nothing related to the main story, and might as well try to end things with some action no matter how nonsensical it seems.

Minutes after failing to stop the hack it is established that Deva, this spaceship where 98% of humans resides, has been hacked by this same hacker, Frontier Setter, 184 times. So Deva has push aside the notion of improving their security, but it took them approximately 184 times of being hacked to finally decide to send one of their own agent to Earth to capture the hacker. So we got an advance system/civilization run entirely by super advance computers whom all take the appearances of Gods contradicting the notion this is an advance, smart, intelligence system when it reacts this slow. At this point (seven minutes in), you begin to question if the system got hacked that many times by a single entity how come a large amount of people are still living in Deva?

Not only that, but instead of assigning one of Deva best agents on the assignment Deva assigns 3rd class agent Angela Balzsac. There’s obviously much better agents that can accomplish the task. They (the computers Gods of Deva) established Deva already has an S ranking Deva agent on Earth. It would speed up the process by giving this assignment to Zarik Kajiwara, the S rank agent on Earth, who’s familiar with Earth, and despite being told he has a bad reputation is clearly reliable due to the fact he is an S rank Deva agent. Why Deva uses numbers, and letters to determine an agent ranking is beyond me. Seriously, is the number 1 or 0 much higher in ranking than S rank agents?

Our main characters is named Angela Balzac, which is the most respectable thing about her. She’s a stupid character who for some inexplicable reason knows to hack which would require understanding of simple terms like Script Kiddies, Black Hats, and words like Daemon for simple function. Yet, this same character does not understand people don’t eat sand which is the first thing she does when landing on Earth. These two things don’t belong to the same character. Ballsack (as I am referring to her out of the lack respect I, and writer Gen Urobuchi do not share for her) is introduce in a beach scene in a bikini saying it’s because of work? Wouldn’t it make more sense to be in a place that can overlook CPU, servers, hotspots, you know any area that’ll actively help you better spot when there’s a hacker in the system. I would wouldn’t be questioning this if the film itself provided decent world building. With that absent, there’s no understanding on the status quo of this world at all.

Ballsack goes from one scene to another completely inept in her abilities. Her human partner, Zarik Kajiwara, has to explain to her how using her mecha from Deva would expose her spot to Frontier Setter. Why Ballsack didn’t think of this is inconsistent with the claim she’s a 3rd class rank agent close to being promoted to a high ranking position. If that’s a high position in this world it further question her abilities to do this job, and Deva security too. She needed to be told by S rank agent Zarik Kajiwara to do this instead of her doing it on her own. After being told using this Mecha would reveal her position to this intelligent hacker the next logical step would be for Ballsack to put on some different pieces of clothing to blend into Earth crowd, and not stick out. However, she wears a leotard, garter, elbow-length gloves, and knee boots for the entire film. Everyone else on Earth else wear normal pieces of clothing, but this doesn’t matter in the long run either since this does not catch the attention of Frontier Setter at any point.

I’m meant to believe Frontier Setter singlehandedly hacked into this super advance ship called Deva, which apparently has high security, yet the fact Frontier Setter is unable to detect Ballsack who is looking for him in this city without changing her appearance goes against what’s established. Frontier Setter has other robots he could control, and taking into account he hacked into Deva 184 times this is also inconsistent with said intelligent of the character. As far as characterization goes he received nothing substantial besides questioning if human traits can be found in machines. This often used plot point in sci-fi would have been fine if the film actually explored it.

Another annoying trait of Ballsack character is her bragging how life is better on Deva, and how life on Earth pales in comparison. Ballsack mentions that old rock music wasn’t considered worth keeping by Deva. Meaning Deva intentionally didn’t keep information on simple stuff like sand does not taste good, but kept the information that made Ballsack be naked when stopping a hacker in cyberspace? The same information that does not tell her human body can get tired, and sick. If Deva was a such a great place to live at than it should have preserve as much information as possible not just be selective about it. Say, if somebody on Deva like rock, and Deva didn’t have it that person is out of like. However, on Earth you can find rock music if you like. If not, simply ignore it not discard it like Deva does. As I mentioned earlier, due to poor world building Anglea claims of Deva being better than Earth don’t add much to the film when the bare minimal about the world is not established.

Zarik Kajiwara is the most likable character, but even he has inconsistency in his character. He says himself in the movie he’s  afraid of heights, yet there is a scene where he’s on top of an abandon building stringing his guitar. Unlike tsundere Ballsack, Kajiwara is competent at his job to the point he should have been the protagonist of the film. For starter, he blends into the crowd unlike Ballsack who sticks out. Another thing is he knows the area, can collect information on Frontier Setter location, all while being off Frontier Setter radar. This guy, is basically babysitting this deadweight agent named Ballsack to make sure she doesn’t kill herself. This allows me to sympathize with Kajiwara because not only does he have to do most of Ballsack job for her, but also make sure Ballsack doesn’t end up killing herself. Sadly, there’s not much to his character either besides he likes rock music, and living on Earth. This about as close as the film gets to producing anything resembling good quality.

Our final character is Frontier Setter himself. The film sets him up as this intelligent hacker which does make you wonder why is he attacking Deva. Unfortunately the answer essentially amounts to “you want to go on this road trip bro?” for his motivation. It’s a letdown when this is reveal because the hour building up to this were spent on characters talking about nothing related to the plot. It was either debating where it’s better to live rendered into a pointless argument because of terrible world building, or being all philosophical with subjects on eating till you’re full, liking a specific brand of rock music, and being sick like a human. Frontier Setter is falsely presented as the antagonist in this story, and when there’s no ill attention from it then there should have been something the characters learned from their journey. Ballsack does eventually learn the value of being human, and having a human body just because. There’s not a single good experience she had on her journey before finally finding Frontier Setter. She has her mecha destroyed, and sold for parts, was nearly raped, got sick while on Earth, became very tired, hungry, and talked to Zarik Kajiwara discussing the current affair of their job. Somehow all of this made Ballsack change over a new perception of human living.

It’s explained later on in the film that human consciousness was transferred into data. How exactly that happened, when it happened, and how long it’s been going on for is up to anyone imagination. They (Deva) could have used “Bipolar Magnetic Reversal Theory” to accomplish that as far as anyone is concerned. These simple questions needed to understand the setting are never answered. After the opening credits, Angela Ballsack crashes on Earth, and fights giant Centipede like aliens with a giant robot. These bugs appear in this one, and only scene throughout the film. Are these bugs a common issue on Earth? Is there any other species on Earth that make people fearful to live on Earth? If so, then the idea of 98% of Earth population living in a computer would make sense. Except, there is no world building on Earth either!

While seeing the film I assumed it was created by A1-Pictures because of various ass shots, but nope I was wrong. This film was brought to us by Toei Animation, and Nitroplus who really wanted to outdo them with ass shots. All the budget for the film clearly didn’t go into the animation. Whenever character speak it’s only up, and down motion which looks unnatural. I’m guessing the budget likely went into developing bouncing boob technology for Ballsack character before abandoning the idea when realizing Toei, nor Nitroplus had the technology to make it happen. So they opted for ass shots just incase the audience forgets Ballsack has an ass. When the characters are still the models don’t look bad, but the low-framerate in motion makes everything look disjointed, and delayed. Possibly making you wonder if whatever device you’re watching it on is laggy. The only time the animation looks natural is when the framerate is bumped up in the action scenes. In these action scenes the motion is fast, and whatever moving looks somewhat natural. These moments don’t last long, nor are they very flashy in their presentation. Most of the film best moments of competent animation is in the climax, but given how pointless the climax is it undermines what happening on-screen, and ultimately would have been pointless if the writing wasn’t so awful. The only thing about the animation I wouldn’t complain about are the backgrounds are decent looking since they don’t move. That would be it as far praises go.

Voice acting in both Japanese, and English languages are competent while virtually sharing the same traits. For starter, both Rie Kugimiya in Japanese, and Wendee Lee in the English voiced Angela Balzac are equally annoying. Wendee Lee is higher pitched in her portrayal which makes her more grating when listening to her brag about how better life is on Deva. She doesn’t change her tone regardless what her character is meant to feel in any scene either. Rie Kugimiya doesn’t fare any better in the leading role. Instead of being grating her portrayal ends up being bland. At least Wendee Lee portrayal made me feel something about the character. Sure it is mostly hatred, but it’s certainly better than Rie Kugimiya who leaves no impression when having played other tsunderes. Nothing about Rie Kugimiya performance stands out besides she sounds no different from a bland tsundere character.

Zarik Kajiwara is played by Shinichiro Miki in Japanese, and Steve Blum in the English dub. On both audio tracks these two actors are easily best actors. Steve Blum especially operating on autopilot with his cool, laid back voice. Blum voice goes hand in hand with Zarik Kajiwara personality for an easy cool portrayal. Miki also does the same so not of a much difference in performances. Frontier Setter is voice by Hiroshi Kamiya in Japanese, and Johnny Yong Bosch in the English dub. None of them end up being better than the other voice actor. Johnny Yong Bosch is simply wasted in the role that demand nothing of him. The character has no complex emotions, or personality so it’s more disappointing seeing Johnny Yong Bosch in the role than it is a bad performance. He doesn’t sound robotic at all in the role. Whereas Hiroshi Kamiya does sound robotic in his portrayal. Fitting the role, but nothing demanding about.

The script is different in both languages. I wouldn’t advise seeing the film in any language given how bad it is. Reading the subs draws more issues to its writing while the English dub has some bad audio mixture. In English, some wording are changed to make the story appears less idiotic than it already is, but also end changing the meaning in the film in general. Hearing 98% of humans have “cyber personality” doesn’t seem like a big deal compare in Japanese where it says 98% of humans are “artificial intelligence”. Creating different problems for itself. At best, it’s most tolerable to mute the film, and read subtitles. Not the even soundtrack composed by Narasaki is noticeable in the film. It’s heavy on electronics, techno, and rock, but all equally forgettable.

Rakuen Tsuihou: Expelled From Paradise will leave you with many philosophical questions. The most important one being “What did I just watch?”. Don’t let Gen Urobuchi, and Seiji Mizushima (director of the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime) names trick you into seeing this film. If this is the standard Japan wants to set for every 3D animated film that come out of their country they’re in serious trouble. The general low-framerate in animation, lack of any thought into the writing, and nothing substantial to remember is inexcusable in an era where the likes of Pixar, and Dreamworks Animation have made better 3D animated movies. If the animation isn’t flashy enough to make it entertaining to watch than it should at least contain good writing to keep viewers engaged. When you got neither, this film here stands as an example of that.

2/10

Anime-Breakdown: Natsu e no Tobira (1981) Movie Review

Natsu e no Tobira/The Door Into Summer in English is an animated film from 1981 based on the manga of the same name by Keiko Takemiya. A pioneer of shonen-ni/yaoi manga in the early 1970s whose short story, Sunroom ni te, contains the earliest known male-male kiss in a shojo manga. She’s an accomplished mangaka whose contribution to her field is far more interesting, and engaging than this Madhouse and Toei produced animated hour-long film. It’s a relic of the past that is better left collecting dust.  

Natsu e no Tobira attempts to be a coming of age story tackling the idea of raw love in youth. Unfortunately there isn’t enough material for it to delve into its own chosen subject. Right off the bat the film opens with intrigued starting ​at a future point with two friends in a twenty paces pistol duel with main character Marion in his attempt to stop them. This opening is stylishly presented with field of red roses contrasting against a dark sky along with black and white human characters figure in the pouring rain. This opening scene is a good hook in making the viewer wonder what led up to this moment. Everything after this opening is an immediate failure.  

For starter,​ the biggest issue for this coming of age film is there’s virtually no characterization. Without establishing how the central characters were before experiencing their life changing events it doesn’t feel like they learned anything from their conflicts. A character in the film reveals he has feeling for his male best friend which isn’t hinted at any point in the film. It’s a spontaneous revelation that only brings to mind crucial questions. What made him fall in love with his friend, and how long has he felt this way aren’t answered. Presenting itself more in the way of an over the top soap opera exaggerating every major scene. Similar dramatic scenes are presented in ridiculous way, but are not enjoyable because they’re meant to be taken seriously.

Another issue is Marion is a boring main character. He, like the rest of the film, is simply going through the motions of events without setting up a proper groundwork. Marion point of view on love is of that of a fairy tale, but he’s too shallow to be sucked into the emotions he’s going through. There are only few lines of dialogue that attempt to characterize Marion, and give a bit of backstory, but they’re delivered in a  throwaway manner not allowing time for those plot points to sink in before another event happens that progresses the story. The dialogue in general revolves around love which gets repetitive when characters have no other things to talk about.

There’s a scene where our characters see the dead body of a friend that committed suicide. One of them acts appropriately being sadden at the lost of a friend only then to utter out loud he wants to be hold by the woman (who’s in her 40s) he loves. In the background of the same scene two other characters talk about dueling to get a girl hand in marriage. A friend of these characters killed himself, learn about it recently going to the site, and they are so self-absorbed in their own problems to pay to their dead friend any proper respect. Other characters don’t fare any better. Marion is one-dimensional while everyone else are more in the cookie cutter variety. Nearly all the characters have a conflict revolving around love, aren’t developed to make any said change meaningful, and are treated as plot devices.

Madhouse and Toei Animation who are responsible for putting this anime movie together were faithful to the manga which is a negative. The manga is a single volume, less than 80 pages manga telling the same exact story which would take an average reader less amount of time to read in its entirety than watching this film. There’s not enough material to extent into an hour-long film. Unfortunately the added scenes don’t improve an already short story with rush pacing and shallow writing. It’s bloated with scenes dragging out in order to be extended to an hour length. Instead of expanding on the basic story it inflates itself with material that doesn’t do much in the long run to improve the source material. One of these decision is giving supporting characters more screen time, but that doesn’t amount too much since supporting characters are simply tools to advance to the next scene.

All the characters look feminine, especially the males. Emphasizing beauty of character over anything else. Containing sparkling eyes, smooth skins, and gorgeous similar looking hair cut. None of the character designs standout being exactly what you would expect from a Shojo that doesn’t attempt to standout. The background is generally blurry in line with a wispy like style. With the exception of the flower field where the duel is held backgrounds are dull to look at with minimal detail paid to them.  

The music is composed by Kentaroh Handeda whose score is a mixture of violins, saxophone, piano, and low-key singing of lalala lyrics. If you allowed a giant pile of cheese to produce music for this anime you would get the same result. Not a single memorable track helps the anime in any positive way. There’s a terrible sex scene in the film which is made worse by jazz like music combine with animation that attempt to make it look poetic. The result is one of the worst sex scenes you could see that’s animated. In general the music is forgettable and has the power to put anyone to sleep when listening to it.

Voice acting from the entire cast is weak. Granted the material wasn’t good in the first place, but the voice work doesn’t fare out better with the vocal performances. The gender roles are basically reverse in their performances; the females are reserve, and the males are more emotional. Like with everything else in the film the voice acting leaves allot to be desired. In general being trite, unconvincing in relaying across any proper emotion in their line delivery to make them believable.

Natsu e no Tobira has a lot of problems, but the one thing the anime movie does better over the manga is the pacing so everything in the film flows more naturally. While there isn’t enough substance to justify its own length at least it unfolds in a more proper manner than the manga. However, even with that small praise it clearly went to waste. Madhouse and Toei studio both failed to add anything to something that was already rushed, and shallow from the source material managing to make it worse in animated form.

1/10

Cinema-Maniac: Naruto Movie 3: Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom (2006) Review

When in doubt in what to see I go back to a series I have yet to complete. Naruto is a different case since the film adaptations tend to leave out vital information about the world, the characters, and how it function translating poorly for newcomers. So what’s better way to familiarize myself with the series than playing videos-games based around the series which helped me understand the world of Naruto allot more than I originally did. However, even after doing some homework on the series it didn’t help that this film is inaccessible for the uninitiated, receives another downgrade in production values, and its story will leave you stupor by the end of the whole ordeal.

Naruto Movie 3: Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom follows Naruto Uzumaki, Kakashi Hatake, Sakura Haruno, and Rock Lee mission to escort the prince of the Land of the Moon, Michiru, during his trip back home. Like the previous film, unless you’re familiar with the material the film will make no effort in providing even the basics. The opening of the movie tells the audience who assigned the heroes their mission and its importance through narration that gets dropped early on, but that’s where all the explanations end. How our heroes abilities work and the extent of those abilities aren’t discuss. In context of the anime series and manga it eventually explains these things, except in this film any new superpower ability shown is a plot convenience. Taking away any possible enjoyment from any fight scenes since it comes across the writers are just making things up as they go along. Past the film opening you’re left with a story with no substance. Suffering from having too many underdeveloped characters and one dimensional villains that get sideline. Once again, in the form a film Naruto and his group aren’t engaging characters. Naruto is given the center of attention from the entire team and what screen time Naruto does have paints him negatively. He’s not the likable goofball, but an annoying weakling. In this film Naruto picks on a little kid making him look bad. He has the abilities to turn his shadow into clones, but the little spoiled kid he picks on can’t even fight. Yeah, that’s the sort of hero I want to get behind. Sadly his character doesn’t improve falling victim to receiving a beating in nearly every fight he’s in. It’s hard to overlook how amateur Naruto ability are when the opening of the film said these ninja from a specific clan trained for years.

Among this mess of a story that can’t mesh family drama, growing up, ninja, possible war torn country, and marriage there’s an idea for an engaging story. The characters that receive the most development are Michiru and his son Hikaru who are of rich royal blood. Both of these character arcs play like a coming of age story growing up from their previous ways into maturity. If one were to remove anything ninja related than there’s enough ideas to make at least a decent story. As is the case it’s not close to average. One plot element that gets toss aside is the trouble marriage that Michiru is facing with his wife leaving. Aside from when it’s introduced never again is it brought back. Around the thirty minute mark it felt as if the film would have better fitted being an episode of it rush pacing. Another plot element that is dropped is the whole group dynamic of the team. When it does feature the team dynamic it’s the equivalent of sentimentality saying friendship is magic. The character Rock Lee is only in the film for comic relief which is allot more than I could say for the like of Sakura Haruno who once again gets the short end of the stick. Although, it’s a slight improvement over the previous film actually beating up a villain henchman with her abilities. These two characters don’t have much to do and the team interactions is sparsely spread across. Than the climax overstays its welcome highlighting just how cardboard the characters are and how weak and stupid the villains are. I mean seriously, the villain whole desire is to simply kill a specific person, but simply delays it even receiving that specific person at day time. After a couple of scenes it’s night time and cuts back to the villain and he still hasn’t killed the one person he wanted to kill the entire time. So mixing incompetent heroes facing against even more incompetent villains.

So far the Naruto films have been consistent in downgrading their production values with every preceding film entry, especially the animation department. Once you get past the first three minutes you finally glance at it undetailed art style. There’s no depth of perspective making everything look flat. Backgrounds are blurred to cover up dead space and characters designed are more simplified giving them less expressions. Movements are stiff and whenever there’s a fight a scene the action moves slowly. It’s movement is so bad the film story makes up an excuse for why in a particular scene since it’s worse than usual. Action scenes are a huge disappointment with very little usage of jutsu/superpower abilities in fights. Every one of them is rushed, poorly choreographed, and usually only has one person moving while the defender is static until it’s their turn to attack. None is more harmful than the climax in which it cuts between three fight scenes and they all play out the same. That’s just lazy on the animators part. The only aspect that can’t entirely panned is the voice acting. Both the Japanese and English deliver some good performances from the cast. None of them outstanding due to the poor material, but effort is definitely evident by the cast. A technical area that won’t register is the music. There’s not a single track that will stick with you, but are all place in the appropriate scene.

Naruto Movie 3: Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom regardless on your exposure to the series will make you see the closing credits knowing its over. Characters are cardboard, the story is unengaging dropping plot points or leaving them underdeveloped, and the animation is very poor. Not even the action scenes make the endeavor worth sitting through having received a serious downgrade in its visuals and delay movements regardless of what occuring on screen. While fans of the series might be more forgivable to it lack of development in certain area it’s story and action is the one area where it completely fails to deliver for any sort of viewers.

2/10

Cinema-Maniac: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) Review

The financial status of the American class system is an grey area to discuss. Like all major political subjects I tend not have a firm stance steering away from the lesser of two evils kind of thinking. Sometimes its better to be direct with your points making the message clearer. As is the case with “The Wolf of Wall Street” which makes no effort to downplay the excessive lifestyle and amorality of the characters with no shades of grey to justified themselves for who they are.

The Wolf of Wall Street is based on the true story of Jordan Belfort rise to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government. Cleverly disguised as a black comedy it also sneakily culminates satire. Structurally unmatched it begins with the so call “low point” of Jordan Belfort life before eventually making it big manipulating the stock market. His obsession is far subtle living in a bubble; committing itself to following the special logic on which this world is drawn into a vortex of success and admiring the brilliant strategy Belfort follows. Belfort lives and breathe to make money no matter the legality of his techniques. It’s shown as an easy endeavor rewarding with a fantastic and luxurious lifestyle through Jordan Belfort eyes who lives with no limit to his wealth. Never truly focusing on the consequences that Jordan Belfort scams had on his clients rather focusing on the bigger picture on Belfort personification of American culture legal acceptance and materialism clouding the ideals of the American Dream. Witnessing Belfort strong desires to cling to his excess nature giving a true exposure to how deeply superficial riches has taken over. Not once does it ask nor pops up to Jordan head the question of how much foreclosed houses, starving children, financially corrupt clients, and scams did it take for Belfort to obtain just one object he owns because Belfort has no fun living in the closeness of the real world he was once a part of. Scenes of excess and of criminality are not equally appealing and repulsive – they are almost totally appealing. Hiding nothing with a leading character who has no interest in redeeming himself for his actions. Depicted in a manner that’s true the essence of its character that will serve as a wake up call to reality for some where justice isn’t always served for every wrong.

Martin Scorsese’s forceful, flowing camerawork and electrifying use of music assures the film is never dull. Scorsese plays it bold in this film does not showcase any means of redemption for its lead character. His camera, which by cognitive extension functions less like a camera and more as an external window, reframes, cranes and tracks over Belfort’s equally out-of-it staff and his key executives with so much zest that it appears almost as materialistic as the people it is capturing on negative. Perhaps to counterbalance the mischievously ambivalent attitude towards a fanatically amoral protagonist, Rodrigo Prieto’s matter-of-fact cinematography eschews glossiness and flourishes and is bright without being blinding. The movie doesn’t have a single totemic image that captures the obscene wealth and privilege on display. Rather, the parade of outrageousness continues from the beginning to the end.

Leonardo DiCaprio injects manic intensity and ferociousness to Belfort that at times is simply magnetic, mesmerizing as he thunders like a lion across the screen. As a man whose wild arrogance, immorality and desperate zest for life literally charge him like a battery. In his finest physical performance to date; whether doped to his gourd on Quaaludes, or restraining his body from sexual desire, DiCaprio manipulates his body to silent comedy era levels. Meanwhile his Liotta-like narration has him spitting snake oil with each sentence. Every word is precise, every smile looking to be hiding something. Twice while detailing the intricacies of his schemes, he stops, smiles and distracts us. Jonah Hill’s performance as Donnie Azoff is another great allowing Hill to explore some of his comedic ticks and beats. In Wolf, he relies on his own instincts, and his chemistry with DiCaprio colorful chemistry is so natural that every scene they’re in together bring the best out of the two.

Margot Robbie a ravishing Australian with a Brooklyn accent, delivers a rich and nuanced special performance. Seductive and sexual yet authoritative Robbie is not just the eye candy in Wolf; and it is quite easy for such a sexually based character to be objectified in films, whereas Robbie triggers real emotion of sympathy from the audience towards the end of the movie in various Jordan related scenes. Kyle Chandler, in subtle and resonant acting as the pursuing cop, has a read-between-the-lines philosophical banter with his nemesis. In cinema-noir fashion, they have a well written, battle of wits confrontation on Jordan’s yacht. Rob Reiner as Jordan’s accountant dad, delights us with warmth and humor in some very good scenes. Matthew McConnaughey has a rambunctious, hilarious as Jordan’s cynical, first Wall Street mentor.

The Wolf of Wall Street delivers powerful commentary on American culture in a such a profound and unconventional format. Realism isn’t Scorsese’s goal, what he tries to achieve is to convey how it must feel to live inside this bubble making it feel desirable: a trap Scorsese skillfully plays with and avoids. The more the spiral spins, the more grotesque this world becomes, the more that initial fascination is replaced with unease and ultimately disgust.

10/10