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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

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Cinema-Maniac: Blue Exorcist The Movie (2013) Movie Review

My previous ventures into a film adaptation based on a anime series were usually first exposures to certain properties. Blue Exorcist is a different story with me actually taking time to see the anime series. Overall I thought the show was decent and anyone wanting to know why I say that there’s a link to a blog on my thoughts on the anime series at the end of this review. However, unlike the anime series Blue Exorcist The Movie is strictly for fans with little characterization, explanation on its world, and clumsy plotting will leave newcomer in the dust.

Blue Exorcist The Movie is about Rin coming across a seemingly innocent child demon with no memories and soon realizes what the boy really is and later understands why he was sealed ages ago. Understanding the simplistic story doesn’t require any level of knowledge on the source material. By removing itself from the anime series it could be view as its own creation following no continuity. However, what isn’t as accessible is basically everything else. It doesn’t bother to tell newcomers needed information about the world. You’ll wonder why some exorcists carry guns while other don’t will seem nonsensical. In the series it’s explained there are several advantages and disadvantages to combat a demon something the film sheds no light on. Another issue are the large cast characters that go wasted. Some characters make pointless appearances in the films that chew up screw time. Aside from the protagonist Rin and the demon child he takes care off characterization is left as is. Fans will have an understanding of the familiar cast of characters, but newcomers on the other hand will be given virtually nothing on why they should care for these characters.

When it comes to story Blue Exorcist has never been an expert on that front. It’s plot formula is given in the form of a children story in the beginning if done right would have been foreshadowing events and nothing else. Unfortunately the story reiterates the children story several times eliminating any mystery and making itself predictable. This is the first time I’ve seen a movie literally spoiling the plot itself. Blue Exorcist problematic writing unfortunately is a trait that is retained too. Much like the series, the film excels in building up to a big fight by slowly escalating the stakes. Like the series, the film has a disappointing resolution to its conflict and lazy writing in pivotal moments. For example, Rin Okumura and others attempt to exorcise a phantom train. Whenever it appears on screen it is proven difficult to defeat. That is until lazy writing pops up with Rin Okumura demonic powers serving as an easy getaway when things get rough. What is done properly are the personality of the characters. They’re down to Earth and easily relatable. The relationship are earnest and so are how they interact with one another. Most of the highlights come from the cast comedic antics often deliver laughs. Comedy relief is far superior to the film dramatic elements, but gets it across it points without any emotional gain for newcomers. Ending in a way that guarantees to adds nothing for either side as the ending made sure it leaves no impact on the series or the film itself.

This is an often gorgeous looking animated film, one with incredibly detailed backgrounds (some of the urban settings are really and scenes at the festival are spectacular looking in the film), as well as well done characters. Colors are very intense at times, running the gamut from bright, vivid primaries to more subdued pastels. Line detail is very sharp and consistent throughout this presentation. Exceeding in taking you into another world. Action sequences come in short supply, but it does offer satisfy. The few action scenes sports plenty of visuals flare whenever the combatant attacks be it with guns, demonic blue flames, and a simple strike display considerable amount of damage to their surroundings. Hiroyuki Sawano score is cinematically excellent. His score sells the somber moments of the drama and the lighthearted tone of the comedy. Perfectly pacing itself with the events of the story and exceeding the film writing in strengthening the tone of scenes where the writing does no justice. Simply hearing UVERworld track “Reversi” brought greater sense of emotional closure than the film ending. Voice acting is all around solid maintaining the same charisma that could be found in the anime as well. These performances aren’t movie level, but work because they stay in line with the anime series representation of the characters.

Blue Exorcist The Movie certainly could have been better if its writing was on the same level as its technical aspects. Animation is smooth and the world design is intricate, voice acting is solid, and the soundtrack is absolutely perfect enveloping you into the mood. It’s story is easily accessible for newcomers, but it’s clearly a film just for fans of the anime series or manga. Unlike the anime, Blue Exorcist isn’t given enough time to fix any of its shortcomings leaving everything introduce as is.

5/10

Cinema-Maniac: GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack (2012) Movie Review

Films that have a run time that is below an hour and half are a risky endeavor. Usually the length of a film isn’t a solid indication of a film quality, but tell its audience how much of their time is either going to be rewarded or wasted on it. GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack falls in the category that is left for individual viewers to determine for themselves. As someone who enjoys seeing films with wacky premises both it strengths and weaknesses arrive from the writing.

GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack is follows Kaori and her friends vacation to celebrate their upcoming graduation, when suddenly an infestation of mysterious walking fish forces them to reevaluate everything they care about in order to stay alive. It’s a premise that demands very little thought and has even less intelligence. For starter it plays against following a single genre rules switching it up as it goes along. Starting as a slasher film, than turning into a siege film, a mad scientist film, and ending with post apocalyptic. As clever as the structuring might be keeping the story interesting with it different paths it corners itself when it comes to telling the story. Characterization is easily the weakest aspect of the film. Characters simply represent a shallow theme hardly building upon it for any meaningful insight. Attempts at genre riffing are made clear without anything clever to say about them simply acknowledging their existence. The lead herself plays against the damsel in distress by being the heroine of the film. This in turn also undermines giving her a compelling journey. The whole got to save my fiancee motivation is easy to get behind, but learning very little about the protagonist just makes her part of the scenery and without knowing much of heroine fiancee it questions if he’s worth fighting against a mutated spider-shark. Explanations on the question presented are intentionally left unanswered. Spending more on getting to the next set piece and less on developing it’s no surprise the explanation given are bizarre. Hinting at possibilities to an answer, but never confirming leaving it a mystery. Some will scratch their head, others will think nothing of it other than it was fun, but the intention to cause fear with the ending fails because of how it told was story.

Animation is passable at best. There’s no complicated sets, movements, or designs that makes it visuals leave much of an impression. Usually empathizing on facial expressions is done well even if the viewer and character feelings are different about the current situation. Leaving a lot to desire it moves smoothly. The 3D animated fish come across with mixed results. They work because they stand out an oddity against the hand drawn backdrop, but at the same time hardly integrated into the film. There are shots where dozens of 3D fish are roaming the streets although the lack of prominent screen time containing very few scene where sea creatures are attacking the city. Voice acting is decent granted the cast had shallow characters to work with. Given the roles the voice talent were given they come across as solid at best putting more emotion in a character that’s one dimensional.

GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack has a specific audience in mind alienating many by concealing its weakness. Having very little in terms of characters and not even bothering to build on its idea the intention is clear leaving little to experience in between. With no worthwhile investment to come from the characters, story, genre riffs, or it deluded execution towards it goal results from a film that leaves you empty handed.

4/10

Cinema-Maniac: Nerawareta Gakuen (2012) Movie Review

Describing the experience of “Nerawareta gakuen” (translated to the irrelevant, but cooler sounding title “Physic School War”) is similar to the same way of a gamer feelings playing Dice video-game Battlefield 4. Allot went into the look, but lacks substance to justify how much went behind a broken product. Bland characters in an overly cliche story, and a sense of awe that something so shallow has so much care put into it.

Nerawareta Gakuen (Physic School War in English) is about Ryouichi Kyougoku, a mysterious time traveling psychic from the future where the world ended in the future and humanity settled on the moon, and transfers into the 8th grade to awaken as much psychics in the present. Effortlessly combining high school romance with time traveling, physic powers, and impending apocalypse into an overly complicated mess. If the story only desired to be a high school romance it would have been a sensible, easy to follow bland story. Spending the first two act developing the romance (to a disappointing climax that avoids resolving conflicts) and a considerable amount of characterization is somewhat defeated. Somewhat since the central characters are all bland anime personalities; Kenji Seki is a dumb teen who has bad luck and oblivious to the fact his childhood friend Natsuki Ryouura loves him, Natsuki Ryouura is the typical girl next door who picks on Kenji to hide her true feelings from him, Kahori Harukawa is created to advance the plot in the form of a love triangle or having her start a conversation relating to their feelings, and finally Ryouichi Kyougoku who’s the popular mysterious teen with an hidden agenda. Four characters all of which aren’t interesting because what the story does with them is highlight their weaknesses. Sure the characters are given depth, but what the writer do with them gives off the wrong impression. Natsuki Ryouura for example clearly likes Kenji, but upon meeting her characters she in a single minutes teases him, punches him, and calls the police. Like everyone in the story Natsuki matures, though the way she acts towards Kenji is the same. That’s just the characters not working on their own imagine the rest of the film.

Being split into a supernatural drama and slice of life romance never does it become good at being one thing it sets out to be. On one hand the romance doesn’t work because of the bland characters and the cliche route it takes. This being the real meat of the film story it’s disappointing what little is done with it amount to no reward. Then comes the supernatural drama aspect which is completely pointless. It’s so far removed from the central story that it’s unneeded fluff. Keeping things vague physic powers play by rules the writers make up in order to spice things up. Leading to plot holes and a muddle set of rules that makes it needlessly difficult to understand what actually happen no matter how basic it appears. Now something I left out, just like film, has something to do with it odd hatred towards cellphones. At first it appears it was going to tackle what it means to be social in a society that relied technology for interaction, but nope it reappears to amount to nothing. It’s just mention just for the sake of it, but it becomes a plot point. What is done with the cell phones plot point amounts to a character saving his childhood friend from a debate about having cell phones in school in his underwear. I’m not kidding that’s exactly what the whole cell phone angle amounts to. It can’t do a proper ending either leaving you scratching your head in confusion in what resulted from the climax. Abandoning plot elements and subplots like there’s no tomorrow Nerawareta Gakuen (Physic School War) never feels as ease to watch even when it barely works.

The production values of the film are best thing about this movie. Ryosuke Nakamura eye for details rivals of that of director Shinkai Makoto. A lot of attention is paid in the meticulous details of the visuals from the cherry blossom petals being blown in the breeze to the gleaming rays of light shining through classroom windows. Another outstanding feature is the use of color hues and tones to accentuate and render scenic clouds and evening skies. Character animation is smooth, lighting effects work nicely with the watercolor-styled backgrounds, and the film manages to build a lifelike environment and atmosphere much like in Shinkai’s films. Furthermore, director Nakamura Ryousuke throws some laid back, carefree spirit and lovable appeal into the mix, which ends up covering a whole lot of the movie’s failures in other areas. Voice actors give life to what little personalities their characters have. They have the right of playful and serious nature making its character progression seem natural. Music is downright forgettable. Having checked out the film soundtrack this is perhaps one of the laziest compilation of music for any animated film. Most of the soft piano ballads so sound similar to one another that they all sound like minor variation of one track. Songs mostly are slow, low key wanting to get across a sentimental feelings of youth. However, the more you listen to it the more you began to pick up it’s more fitting for a commercial than a film production.

Nerawareta Gakuen is pretty to look at and that’s about it. Bland characters fall into the category of being annoying taking part of a story that amounts to a whole of nothing in confusion at its ending. Whatever plot and subplots it build up ends with lackluster resolutions that bring no closure to them. Abandoning and retreating ideas will make it difficult for viewers to maintain focus because it’s all over the place. Once you take away the detail visuals all you’re left with is disappointment having seen a shallow film more concern about it looks than having its own unique personality.

4/10

Cinema-Maniac: The Iron Giant (1999) Movie Review

Animation filmmaking is one area I don’t touch on frequently. The genre does interest me, but very rarely do I personally feel that its even taken advantage to its full potential. What’s often categorize as a family friendly genre can visualize a greater connection to reality that wouldn’t be captured the same way in a live action film. “The Iron Giant” is one of those films that in live action form special effects regardless of quality would have distracted from the true heart and power within its story and characters.

The Iron Giant is about a boy befriending an innocent giant robot that a paranoid government agent wants to destroy. Structurally “The Iron Giant” plays out similar to another classic “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial”; in both a kid encounters a begin from space, befriends the space begin who is stranded on earth, takes it home and hides it from his mother (yet oddly in both film there’s no father present), and the paranoid government come into play. While both films share similar plot threads and aside from sharing the same quality that’s where the comparison between these two films end. Characters are sophisticated and their interactions with one another feels natural. Conversations never allude to anything specifically plot related every moment of humor and drama is a genuine occurrence in these characters everyday life. Both the human characters and our giant robot are treated as equal. Instead of seeing the iron giant as a piece of machinery we see the iron giant as a living being. Identifying with the iron giant as much as we do with the human characters. Giving events a greater sense of emotion, a greater sense of importance, and more involving seeing every outcome.

Political commentary is risking especially in this film when the setting is just days after the Russians launched the Sputnik satellite. The atmosphere is tense and paranoid in this time setting. What the iron giant metaphors is easy to grasp with scenes hinting perhaps this other worldly creation has a different function. Later on sending a message about being a weapon through key development scenes. Unlike the humans we never learn about the iron giant past or purpose. Like a weapon we presume the intention is a path of destruction. If the iron giant was never given any human traits this would have been a cautionary tale about humans thrive for creating weapons eventually killing them. In this film we have a giant robot who is programmed to do a specific function. However, his interactions define his decision and questions what he was program to do. It’s as much the iron giant story to not follow a set path programmed for him as much as it is a our human character story on the escalation of fearing the unknown.

Animation mixes hand-drawn imagery coupled with a computer-generated iron giant. The title character is a 3D composition done digitally, mixed with the 2D action surrounding him. There are some highly imaginative shots of the robot mixing in with the film’s environment with aura of an classic sci-fi feel surrounding him and his design. Detail is evident in the whole: the season subtly changes from fall to winter; the characters are always doing something, even if they aren’t directly in focus; in some parts of the movie the little details actually become crucial to the movie’s strength and validity. Character designs and voice actors who made them come to life verbally were perfect. Eli Marienthal fitted very well with the animated design of the character. Harry Connick Jr. was just as good at being humorous. Kent Mansley, our main antagonist, was very well designed and acted. Christopher McDonald relatively calm voice made the villain memorable. The Iron Giant himself is voiced by Vin Diesel. While Diesel says very little he sounds exactly like a robot, but hints slightly of perhaps adopting a speaking pattern to that of a human.

The Iron Giant is a masterpiece. Transcending beyond an hand drawn two dimensional plain to provide three dimensional characters whose interaction are so natural you don’t feel like you’re watching a piece of vividly drawn fiction.

10/10

Cinema-Maniac: Steins;gate Fuka Ryoiki No Deja Vu (2013)

Going blind into a film adaptation of any series is risking. In my case going into Steins:Gate film adaptation without any exposure to the anime series, visual novels, and (to my surprise) a video game based on the series was not a good decision. Many of the film events, characters relationship, and world are build up from its many different medium that offer more time to build everything as oppose to a film which works on a specific time frame. Regardless of a lack of exposure to the series the film itself stood on its own feet. As a piece of romance, sci-fi’s, drama, and time traveling philosophy that is intricate, layered as its compelling protagonists.

Steins; Gate the Movie: The Burden of Deja Vu is about Kurisu’s internal conflict to save Rintarou Okabe (a time traveler who constantly saved her) is erased from existence. My synopsis of the films plot is about as simple as its ever gets. Once pass the basic first fifteen minutes the film goes heavily into memories linking different worlds with time travel thrown into the mix. At its own pace the film takes it time to explain how memories in different timelines can be retained and how using time travel to create branching path holds consequences. Admittedly half of the film dialogue is reliant on these specifics delicately balancing key focus on its main story. While a complete understanding of how everything works in Stein;Gate universe is difficult what’s more accessible is the core of the story. A sci-fi love story that takes risk in its protagonist tempted to accept defeat to prevent further damaging the timelines fate has already sorted out. Internal conflicts created by the protagonist love interest challenging her philosophy whether or not his existence is important because it’s right versus her true feelings. Conflict is unavoidable in our protagonist. Much like newcomers to this universe we become involved in our protagonist journey uncertain in her decisions to accept the world created for her. Its major draw and best benefactor are the characters. Filled with interesting personalities and strong interactions (with few moments of humor) can make the film’s most complicated moments easy to follow. Never does the film remain simple just like its characters dilemmas creating multiple layers in what otherwise who would been a basic sci-fi love story. Just like its characters, the narrative chooses what it believes is the best possible outcome that when reaching the ending that nicely wraps its story adding more depth and significance to what unfolds on screen.

Animation style while nothing outstanding or visually impressive is all solid in design. There’s no stiff animations to be found when characters move, small usage of CG is not a jarring distraction, and characters blend well with their backgrounds instead of sticking out. Sets are common everyday places like an apartment or laundromat while not exciting are detailed. The same attention given to detailing the characters is noticeable in what they wear and what they interact with. Meshing well with everything instead of overlapping. Asami Imai is the definite standout among the cast. Sure it helps that she voices the main protagonist, but at the same time exert an emotional yet restraint performance in her character. Making her difficult to read and just as captivating as the character she voices. Other voice actors Saori Goto, Kana Hanazawa, Yu Kobayashi, Mamoru Miyano, and many others receive little to medium screen time. Some won’t of the voice talent won’t have an expanded performance, but nonetheless are great in their roles regardless of size. Music on the other hand works is decent with only the ending credit track standing out in the film. Its sounds are ambient setting the tone serving better its narrative more than just exposition from scenes to scenes.

Stein;Gate the Movie: The Burden of Deja Vu is a difficult film to understand, but easy to get behind with strong characters and tight narrative that keeps the focus among its many layers of complex ideas. It’s not a film for everyone not because of its complex nature, but depends on the viewer exposure to the source material. While some events won’t connect to newcomers as it will for fans one thing it does well enough is work as a stand alone film. Containing strong characters, a deep philosophy, solid animation, and tying everything up for a animated film that narratively aims highs and reaches greatness.

10/10

Cinema-Maniac: Koto no ha no niwa (Garden of Words) (2013)

Animation have brought to life realms far from our own grasps, but never far enough they are unrelatable from our very own. Director Makoto Shinkai vision mirrors reality from the architecture of the city to the foliage of a park with no shortage of details. Garden of Words mirrors a live action film in production in all area capturing the real world in detailed animation with the support of strong writing makes it visually arresting as narratively engaging.

Garden of Words is about Takao meeting a mysterious woman, Yukino, without arranging the times, the two start to see each other again and again, but only on rainy days. At it most basic level Garden of Words tells nothing more than a simple story of two lost souls; however, what is gain is a clear understanding of both characters lives and what they strive for. It’s hard to imagine the film going into much territory with a forty-six minute runtime, but succeeds in every area that makes any good narrative have a lasting impact. It doesn’t skipped on character development even interweaving a greater meaning giving depth to the rain as a character as well to the changes in the environments. Characters are more complicated than the story being told. Looking beyond the limitations of society sets on them, motivation to fulfill one’s dream, and overcoming boundaries set to them by society. Beyond that is another interpretation showing the beauty of everyday life to the smallest interaction around us. Nothing is ever lost in its story maintaining focus and complicated characters action are always concentrated towards benefiting the narrative. Under an hour Garden of Words story has the key elements that makes up a good story regardless of it length leaves a big impression.

Makoto Shinkai lush imagery connects a delicately rendered urban landscape, one in which the daily grind of everyday life and the regular changing of the seasons appear breathtakingly beautiful. Vivid colors, lush and deep dark shades, crystalline highlights bring the sceneries to life. Combining hand-drawn animation, rotoscoping, and seamless CGI effects. Shinkai consistently sustains a dreamlike, otherworldly mood throughout with a direction more in line of that of a live action film. For example, when it comes to editing he compresses time, flashes back to multiple points, and creates montages in a way that just isn’t done in the medium very often. The soundtrack top-notch mixing is spacious, with clear dialogue in the central channel and carefully crafted atmospheric sound effects around the edges (especially noticeable during the rain shower sequences). Diasuke Kashiwa’s lovely, contemplative musical score is also well-integrated with the rest of the soundtrack. Voice acting is equally as strong with the rest of production.

Garden of Words is a visual poem that hits all the right narrative notes and personal chords to be taken by its artistic majesty. Visually stunning and with a equaling involving story work in harmony for an animated film that accomplishes the same than most films do with double the run time. Proving no great film is too short or too long, but the perfect length to leave a lasting impression.

10/10