Tag Archives: 3D Japanese Animation

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.

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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.

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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