Tag Archives: Anime Review

Anime-Breakdown: In This Corner of the World (2017)

In This Corner of the World is a coming of age drama set in Hiroshima during World War II. Following Suzu Urano, an artistic, kind, supportive young woman who moves to Kure, a small town just outside Hiroshima as she struggles with the daily loss of life’s amenities she still has to maintain the will to live. What separates In This Corner of the World from other movies set within the same time frame like The Glass Rabbit (2005), and Struck By Black Rain (1984) is the depiction is broader in capturing the emotional state of its country, and its people. Unlike the two films I mentioned earlier, In This Corner of the World shows the happier times as well as the hardship of its characters eventually befalls. Detailing the lifestyle Japan once had before it permanently change through the course of world war 2. Providing an almost episodic structure for half of it run time to live through the wonderful times Suzu had early in her life. It’s during this portion of the movie the viewer will see Suzu adapting to new a home over the span of a couple of months, and eventually years. You get to witness the free spirit, and dreamer side of Suzu during her out of the blue marriage proposal.

With the realistic backdrop set during a turbulent time in Japan the film isn’t solely serious. Understanding in order to properly get across what eventually gets lost some fun is meant to be have. Injecting humor into the film before eventually cutting it off during a certain point in the story. Besides using the humor to loosen some tension. Humor is also used to characterize Suzu. Showing the audience how her mindset contrast against reality, and family members at certain points in the story. It’s also through humor that many of the character dynamics shine through displaying the strength this family has. The family interaction with each other feels natural, and certain family members develop makes them much more sympathetic, even a character who gives Suzu a hard time through a good chunk of the story. What this balance also avoids is the pitfall of tonal whiplash. It does so by ensuring the humor isn’t taking the spotlight away from the story, nor drawing too much attention to itself. Making the eventual absent feel subtle as a narrative device instead of a issue in balancing tone.

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Besides being a nice looking movie. There’s plenty of good bonding moments like this throughout

When the second half kicks in, you know the drill if you’re familiar with these type of movies. Instead of putting you in the middle of the chaotic nation during war time, the film takes it time to slowly establish the new normality of this new lifestyle. Empathizing the difficulty in obtaining simple rations, bombing drill being more common, learning about explosives, and everything surrounding the war finding it difficult to remain calm in hectic times. Just like in the first half, the film chooses to wisely not over dramatize this portion of the story. Keeping it subtle touches that help make the second half as great as it becomes. Getting across the essence of struggle, and lost in a way that feels true to life. It is through this second half where it attempts to get viewers in the heart strings; showing hardship, after hardship, after hardship, and its characters struggling to keep it together. Suzu being the focal point of the movie greatly shows the impact living during war times had on Suzu herself, and the strain it puts on her family.

What movies of this nature usually forget is no one wants to be see force a message about the horror of wars, or the fake enthusiasm about a brighter future that awaits beyond harsh times. In This Corner of the World knows it doesn’t have to tell any of this to the viewer. Sure, the film is positive about moving forward without sugarcoating the harsh realities the characters face. Hearing Suzu speak about how she would have preferred to die as a dreamer one point in the movie carries a more impact to itself when Suzu, along with several other characters, are so nicely fleshed out, and grounded in its depiction of its events. Without being created for the sole purpose to deliver a specific message it’s able to tackle many themes leaving a stronger impression.

While they are present, the shortcomings don’t take away from the overall narrative. From a writing perspective, Suzu isn’t shown interacting much with her own family. Suzu does form bonds with her husband family, and that is shown throughout the movie, but when it comes to her own family they don’t get the same luxury. It’s not bothersome at first, but overtime it becomes more noticeable when certain characters are not given enough screen time given the impact of they have. One of this includes an abrupt revelation of the death of a family member from Suzu side who wasn’t on screen for much time. It would be less noticeable if there weren’t a funeral scene, and another scene dedicated to that character. There’s also a few other non-family related characters who appear in the movie without much importance. Thankfully, the movie keeps those type of characters down to a minimum.

Director Sunao Katabuchi (Black Lagoon, Princess Arete) helms the project, and the animation is handled by studio MAPPA (Terror In Resonance, Yuri!!! On Ice). In the hands of Sunao Katabuchi the story is told with minimal usage of music. A wise choice that served this movie well allowing the strength of the visual themselves convey the mood of a scene instead of the music. Katabuchi grounded approach to storytelling is what the movie needed; without resorting to over dramatizing anything the film plays out better. Same with his handling of characters which never feel to out of place within the story.  Another welcome departure is he doesn’t demonize the US during this time not because he doesn’t harbor any ill will, but because he’s more concern in the characters we see rather than the enemy you don’t.

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Despite being a drama, the film offers some unique visuals like these

The artstyle is reminiscences of water color drawing that Suzu is seen drawing many times in the movie. Studio MAPPA is able to capture Suzu’s personal art style, and apply it to the entire film. Perfectly getting across how she sees the world as it unfold. Backgrounds generally are colorful while being pleasant to the eyes. Character designs are surprisingly in the moe category. However, not to a point where the simplistic designs clashes with the tone of the story. If anything, in its own way, it continues the notion of Suzu being able to see beautiful things around her despite how ugly the world can be to her. Aesthetically, it’s one nice movie to look at, especially it’s extensive recreation of Hiroshima, and Kure. In movement, there’s nothing special about it since virtually everything is kept mundane, but given what type of movie it is the animation is fine the way it is.

When it come to voice acting you can’t go wrong with either. The Japanese cast are more expressive in a way when delivering their dialogue while the English dub cast is more subdue in their performances. Both approach work in favor of the movie. If you had to choose, probably go with the subs since you’ll get the Japanese songs translated, but that’s honestly the only factor. I would say the Japanese audio is more historically accurate. However, it’s fictional story based around some true events so the language you watch it in won’t matter. Performance wise, Japan gets that win for Rena Nounen who voices Suzu. Much like actor Koji Yakusho in The Boy, and the Beast, Rena Nounen primarily acts in live action films, and television series. Her experience in those field helped be able to carry the movie with ease. Delivering a powerful performance. Laura Post in the English dub voice Suzu, and he’s not as good. Her lack of experience in the leading role shows a bit in some of her inability to express Suzu emotion. Sometime coming off distill in her portrayal. Aside from that small complaint, Laura Post does a good job still.

In This Corner of the World is a captivating drama being both optimistic through it’s perseverance while never hiding from the harsher side of reality. It’s a coming of age drama whose subtlety in its storytelling leads to a dramatically rich experience. All without the any of the usual tricks films of this sort would rely on. The slow pacing, and uneventful structure of the movie will make it a tough watch for some viewers. Harsh as the world presented may be to the Suzu, and her family, you’ll come out of the movie with a positive experience.

Rating: 9/10

Anime-Breakdown: Satellite Girl and Milk Cow (2014)

Korean animation, much like India animation industry, are things I know almost nothing about. They usually get overshadowed either by Hollywood, Japan, and heck even the French in that area. While South Korea do have their success story like The King of Pigs which is a generally well received movie. Anime fans on the other hand know South Korea for their work on trashy knockoffs like Super Kid, Diatron 5, and Blue Seagull. All three which are infamous for their bad quality, and in the case of Diatron 5 a classic among the so bad it’s good anime. The general public on the other hand is unlikely to clearly name you a Korean animated movie, or TV series they like from the top of their head. Would you believe me that AKOM, a South Korean animation studio actually animated over 200 episodes of The Simpsons, and also worked on Batman: The Animated Series, Animaniacs, Bob’s Burger, and several other series. Shocking I know South Korea animation industry contributes a lot more than what the average person probably think they do. Today’s movie likely won’t cause that huge wave of exposure Korean animation desires to match Hollywood, or Japan, but the strange, and charming movie might get you more interested in checking out their stuff.

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Wizard toilet paper, not the strangest thing you’ll see in the movie

Satellite Girl, and Milk Cow tells the everyday story of KITSAT-1, a satellite, who wants to learn about human emotions, and crash lands on Earth. After crash landing on Earth, she is transforms into a girl, and tries to help Kyung-chun who has been transformed into a milk cow. As unusual as the premise sounds, don’t worry this is only the setup to a strange, but charming love story. Offering a strange cast of leading characters to follow; you have a satellite who falls in love with a musician after hearing one of his songs, you have a musician who turns into a milk because he’s broken hearted, and magical wizard named Merlin who got turned into toilet paper. Once you accept the strange story the character themselves are a lot fun to be around. KITSAT-1 is trying experiencing human emotion for the first time, and Kyung-chun is trying to sort out of his life, and his love life. The film does a good job exploring both of these characters conflicts. Giving both characters a fair amount of screen time tackling their issues together, and on their own to reflect what they’re looking for in life. Providing a full understanding where each is coming from, and taking the time to slowly show how they change.

A consequence of the film’s runtime is parts of the film are rushed, and in some cases lead to some head scratching moments. One of these happens late in the movie where a woman calls the police on Kyung-chun in his Milk Cow form suspecting him of attempting to abduct a child. During the scene, Kyung-chun acts out of character, and instead of sorting out the situation he goes to eat grass letting KITSAT-1 calm the angry citizens. Parts of the story aren’t properly explained like the organization the villain works. A minor complaint about the writing is aspects the world aren’t clearly explained. You’ll be left wondering where in the world did the Incinerator come from, and how widespread is the problem of broken hearted human being turned into animals is. Part of it remedied by keeping the conflict confined, and the villain’s motivation simple. Yes, it’s all about money. However, a lot of it charm seeps through the weaker aspects of its writing. Everything about the film feels sincere in its efforts to have fun while touching on the theme of love in its unique way. Not shying away from taking advantage from the strange world it created, even if the results is all over the place.

As individual characters both KITSAT-1, and Kyung-chun have satisfactory arcs, but in the romance department the bonding moments are rushed at times. One moment it’s all lovey dovey, and the next moment it’s the sorrowful we can’t be together. It still works since the story puts effort into ensuring they have plenty of bonding moments, but if allowed to play out more naturally it would have end up feeling more meaningful than it did.  Lastly, wizard toilet paper Merlin appears in frequently in the movie. For the first act he’s on screen, but after that his appearance is random. Given he has magical abilities some of the film conflicts could have been resolved easier if he was present his is made more noteworthy because of it. Although, Merlin is given some great, over the top dialogue which makes him a pleasant whenever to see on screen.

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Ah, the magic of toilet paper

The studio behind this is Now OR Never Studio, with animator/director Chang Hyung-yun handling of the project initially looking rough. When you do see 2D digital animation for the first time it is rough looking. Seeing a 2D cow running away from a mechanical Incinerator with jenky 3D movements, and obvious 3D background. The animation is consistent in quality. In particular when it comes to framing, and moving the camera in certain shots eliminating any semblance of perspective. The rotation of the camera in points inadvertently makes the 2D part look really bad.

Thankfully, a good chunk of the movie looks just fine. While it pales in comparison to 2D from other countries it works fine here. Generally the movie is colorful, and the backgrounds are decently detail in 2D. Always trying keep what’s on screen in motion. Offering some nice visual gags along the way, as well as some strange sights like Merlin the wizard toilet paper having arms, and legs. It’s strange to witness, but overall charming.

When it comes to voice acting both the Korean, and English tracks are pretty good. Thankfully, the English dub actually dubs the Korean songs in English. So you won’t get taken out of the moment when viewing the movie. I personally prefer the English dub because Kirk Thornton who voices Merlin is the highlight. He delivers such goofy sounding dialogue with plenty of charisma its infectious. I also like Daniel J Edwards (assuming he sang it) of the few songs that get played. However, there’s the consequence of the voice not matching the lip flaps of the characters on several occasions. It’s very distracting, though didn’t ruin the experience for me.

Satellite Girl, and Milk Cow is jenky in its animation, and wonky in its writing at times, but a lot of its charm seep through despite these issues. The production team is clearly trying to create a good film, and it shows through in the final product. It’ll a take a while to get over it shortcomings on all front, and you’re willing to a give it a chance despite that you might just find a good underneath the rough, and strange front to enjoy.

Rating: 7/10

Anime-Breakdown: The Boy and the Beast (2015)

Out of all genres when it comes to storytelling fantasy is easily my least favorite. It’s for the sole reason almost anyone who writes a fantasy story in general lacks the creativity to depart from being a Lord of the Ring copycat, or don’t bother putting their own spin on tired formulas. Among these tired formula is the young child being transported into another world, and growing up after their journey is completed. A simple setup like this allows the writer to come up with anything fantastical they want. In this case, the writer is Mamoru Hosoda who also directed the movie, and it shows his incompetence as a lone storyteller. Quite the bold statement to make, until you realize screenwriter Satoko Okudera who shared screen writing credits on Hosoda previous films from The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006), Summer Wars (2009), and Wolf Children (2012) is absent from screenwriting duty this time. You would think working with someone like Satoko Okudera (an experience screenwriter in TV, and films) during his career that Hosoda would learn how to craft a compelling story with fully realize themes on his own. Apparently not since The Boy, and the Beast comes off embarrassingly amateur on every front.

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You’re not the best, around! Everything’s gonna keep you down!

The Boy, and the Beast tries to be a coming of story following Ren, a pre-teen with a bad attitude who runs away from home after the death of his mother. This eventually leads Ren to discover a portal to Jutengai: The Beast Kingdom where anthropomorphic creatures roam free. Inadvertently, he become entangled in a feud between two powerful warriors vying for Lord of Jutengai. Detailing more about the little snippets of story this film has to offer would be spoiling it. Simultaneously accomplishing the impossible task of meandering, and being rushed in its writing. Meandering in the way it takes longer than necessary to establish, or get across simple plot points. Taking it sweet before introducing any sort of an overarching story thirty minutes into the movie. This late start dampens the experience since the introduction sequence tells you about the world of Jutengai, and the conflict between two powerful warriors vying to be the lord of Jutengai. So minutes when characters are explaining this to Ren it makes the introductory narration pointless.

The biggest issue this introduction brings up is the fact this is one pointless usage of a fantasy world. For starter, it hardly bothers to explain much about Jutsengai being more akin to duplicating the human world in how it function. There’s so little effort to make Jutengai its own distinct entity apart from the human world that if one removed the fantasy setting hardly anything in the story would change. There’s one scene where Ren, and his temperamental master Kumatetsu go traveling to learn what true strength is from eight different gods across the land of Jutengai. I presume it’s eight since eight letter of introduction is given to Kumatetsu, and it’s establish they’re just letter of introduction. Showing the audience only half of the lords in the land. This half explored idea rein true for the entire movie; concepts are half baked, and dropped as a moment instance despite the fact they could provide the much needed substance the movie needs.

The dramatic focus of the story is Ren tackling several inner turmoils that the movie poorly handles. For starter, in the second half of the movie Ren becomes confuse if he’s human, or beast. This simple idea of uncertainty where Ren belongs has the foundation to be a compelling character arc, but instead glosses over it since Hosoda doesn’t know how to show Ren conflicted being a part of two worlds. Another issue is Ren coming to terms with his father, and learning to forgive him for leaving him at a young age. Instead of showing the steps to that character arc it’s resolve in three exchange; the reintroduction, the fight, and the resolution. That’s all! Being it very bothersome because his father absent is one of the main motivation for Ren running away in the first place.

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This is about as imaginative this movie gets with it setting

Bringing me to my biggest problem of Ren writing which is he has no consequences for running away from his problems. Ren doesn’t learn from Kumatetsu to suck it up, smell the roses, and endure the worst temporary aspects of one’s life. No, Ren turns out well for himself. I’m left to presume this since the movie skips over a decade to him being an adult. During that time I’m left to presume that Ren never felt alone as the only human in Jutengai, out of place, or any kind of conflict during this time. It’s now when he’s an adult returning to the real world for the first he has any spontaneous issue living in Jutengai. If you think the movie would wisely show Ren attempting to adapt again into the human world you’re wrong. Anything regarding his education is brushed aside since he has a friend who helps him study, and presumably quickly since the passage of time isn’t properly established. Fixing up his relationship with his estranged father is done in a haphazard manner. Ren sees his father just whenever the story feels like it. Ren is a simply a tool that goes through the various motion without having much to take in, even on a surface level. On top of this, Ren even has a home to return to in the human world so even less conflict to overcome.

We then  come to the characters of Tatara, and Hyakushubo who only purpose in the movie is explaining to the audience the moral of the story, and the significance of scenes. Being very insulting to the audience intelligence since the film tells a very simplistic story. They explain the growth of Ren when in the hospital looking after Kumatetsu, explain what Ren is doing when imitating Kumatetsu movements, and sometimes other characters do the spoon feeding when Tatara, and Haykushubo are absent on screen. Like two important figures commenting both Kumatetsu, and Ren learning from each other, even though the visuals clearly got that across. There’s also the time Kaede explains to Ren that metaphor in the novel Moby Dick, which in turn is actually meant to tell the audience Kumatetsu is an extension of Ren. Something that is obvious to interpret from the simplistic writing. Instead of trusting its viewer to connect the dots it dedicated the creation of two characters to spoon feed you the events you’re seeing on screen.

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The movie lost me before the Whale appeared, but it certainly helped in lowering my interest.

This wouldn’t be needed in the first place if Hosoda actually fleshed out his themes, and characters. For the first half, the story attempts to have Ren, and his master Kumatetsu learn about finding strength, and learning to cooperate with each other to achieve their individual goal. When the time skip occurs the characters haven’t changed much. Being one dimensional prevents meaningful growth, especially when the movie has it characters telling the viewer things they could pick up on easily.

The climax is simply a clusterfuck. Introducing a villain that was poorly foreshadowed leading to a battle of ideology. It’s at this point the poor world building comes into effect. So, when the villain is causing havoc in the human world there suddenly some explosions in Jutengai. The world building is virtually absent that this only in this point in the movie is it even mentioned in throwaway dialogue that chaos in the human world also means chaos in Jutengai. No, I don’t know if the same applies in reverse since this is the first time anything of the sort is brought up. The only other mentioned of this is when Kumatetsu is warned that if a human is consumed by darkness it could affect more than him. A warning so vague it could translate to anything. By the time I saw the sight of a CG whale brought to life by the fact that Ren dropped a book called Moby Dick I knew I was already in too deep, and might as well finish it. Leading to a very cheesy resolution in the climax, and a callback makes it hilarious to consider that Hosoda idea of foreshadowing is just briefly mention something once, and have it be absent for a long time.

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Smooth animation!

Animation is handle by Studio Chizu, and it’s fine. The movement is smooth regardless of how many characters are on screen. Character expressions are very exaggerated same with body movement. Where the animation falls short is the visual design; it’s mundane. Studio Chizu applies as much real world function to Jutengai as possible making it barely look any different than the human world. When it comes to designs the background are very detailed, and vibrant. Unfortunately, the characters in them lack creative design. This is mostly due to the baffling decision to have all of its fantasy creatures where Japanese clothing retroactively homogenizing every beast visually. Hardly deviating from the anthropomorphic animals designs not creating anything unique of their own. The few action sequences are fluid, but not exciting to watch since there’s hardly any dynamic camera angles. The few usage of CG blends in well with 2D animation preventing things from sticking out like a sore thumb.

Voice acting is the only aspect of the movie I consider to be fine. If you ask me, I would say the Japanese audio is better simply for the fact Kumatetsu is voiced by Japanese award winning film actor Koji Yakusho. Providing a welcome change in the reluctant master role in his more relax portrayal. Typically, a voice actor would play temperamental characters by simply shouting, screaming, or yelling their lines into the mic. For example, Josh Swasey who voices Kumatetsu does exactly that for the entire film. Preventing there being any wiggle room for him to get across a softer side of Kumatetsu. Koji Yakusho on the other hand simply plays him like he would any other character. He puts himself into the mind of Kumatetsu, brings out his temperamental side without purely relying on shouting, and lay on some charm through a rough, charismatic voice. Unlike Josh Swasey portrayal of Kumatetsu, Koji Yakusho makes an unlikable character likable. As for the rest of the cast they’re fine in both languages. However, with one actor portraying Kumatetsu properly, and the other one doing it badly. The Japanese audio is the recommended choice if everything I wrote doesn’t dissuade you from watching it. Music is easily forgettable while I’m at it.

The Boy, and the Beast is terrible movie that made me feel every minute of its two hour runtime passed by. Checking multiple time when the movie would be over since it provided nothing of value, even on a surface level the animation isn’t enough to enjoy. It’s a simple story about finding one self, conquering the darkness, and growing up stretched to a at time unbearable length. If you removed 75% of the film content, you would have a stronger movie which is the saddest part of all. So clumsy in its exploration of ideas, and so little to grasp on in everything else ensures this is (currently) Mamoru Hosoda weakest movie. He needs to learn in order for his ideas to work they need to be properly fleshed out, clearly defined by how his characters face these ordeals, and most importantly don’t spoon feed the audience the meaning of your story simplistic story.

Rating: 2/10

Anime-Breakdown: Blue Sonnet (1989) OVA

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

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

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

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

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

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Hm, can’t say I disagree young lady.

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

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

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

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

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


Rating: 6/10

Anime-Breakdown: Patema Inverted (2013)

Patema Inverted follows Patema, a young girl from a civilization that resides in deep underground tunnels. While exploring one day, she gets herself trapped in Aiga, an inverted world, and teams up with a resident to escape and return home. Instantly having the appeal of its unique world set up in the opening minutes, Patema Inverted will make you curious to seek answers. Once the film ends, you’ll end up almost exactly where you started in your understanding of the world. The origins are explained, and some of the aftermath on the creation of opposite gravitational pulls, but other details like the changes that might occurred after the film events, and the new discovery from our main characters are left unanswered. The effect of a device that created a shift on Earth’s gravity is also vague implying it does whatever the story demands it, like shifting the weight of characters when traveling. Without proper world building it’s uncertain how the Orwellian dystopia of Aiga would change at all from the events in the film. Furthermore, it’s distracting with the lack of proper world building will make you wonder what exactly happened to the Earth itself since twice in the movies Patema, and her friend reach the highest point of their respective civilization, and there’s no stars to speak off. Adding onto this issue is the lack of explanation of what happened to the first people that fell into the sky given a specific revelation at the beginning of the third act. That revelation leads to more questions that aren’t answered, and some plot holes while the ending also does the same adding to the list of plot holes. 

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And on your left, you’ll see more pointless buildings.

Aspects of Aiga civilization are very broad, and one dimensional in its portrayal. Being a civilization rule by a over the top evil leader Izamura. From the onset, having a villain who thinks he’s doing good in order to maintain order isn’t bad, but it becomes downgraded when the portrayal is over the top. The villain of the film has little motivation to act the way he does, and the religious like mindset to punish sinners isn’t delved into enough to make up his shortcomings. There’s also the unanswered question of how he obtain so much power despite him clearly not being in the right state of mind for it. Given how dead set Izamura is to keep order the only protection he has to prevent outsiders from entering is a fence. More leap in logic includes Aiga being surrounded by cameras, and later implied in the film to be under constant surveillance makes it baffling how the security in Aiga didn’t catch Patema crossing the boarder sooner. I could also bring up the fact the Aiga has students shown to be given points with the implication of worth, shown strict regulation on how people can act, and no parents to be found. However, the film chooses to gloss over these functions of its society, and simply speculating on them will do the film no favors.

At the center of it all is Patema, and Age both teenagers who bond is rushed in the film. Patema dreams of seeing more to the more, and Age likes looking at the stars. These two characters eventually meet each other only to have what should be the emotional anchor of the story to be left shallow. The most effective scenes the quiet moments where Patema, and Age simply talk about their lives. It’s doesn’t sound exciting, but it works in creating good drama. Unfortunately, the quiet moments are sparse throughout relying mostly on a comedic back, and forth between the two. Yet, because of how rushed their bond is there is little time they spent together before one of them gets captured, and has to be rescue. On top of that, because Patema, and Age got separated so early in the movie it renders their eventual reunion ineffective. There is also some kind romance building, though that’s hard to buy since it was rushed, and accepting both characters fell in love after spending like three days with each other mostly apart with everything else going on might be a little too much to accept.

As separate characters, Patema is the stronger of the two. She gets more development, and has more lively personality compare to Age who is simply nice guy. Patema backgrounds get delved into, and getting to see her absorb the beauty, and harshness of a new world she hasn’t seen. Her enthusiasm, and expressed wonder in seeing this new world for the first time helps in providing the film a sense of adventure. Age on the other hand just accepts whatever happens. This changes later on when he becomes more proactive, but lacks growth, and any sort of pay off for following him. Patema eventually gets a rewarding emotional scene when she discovers the fate of her father like figure, but Age is not given that same luxury. When alone Patema is a character that’s somewhat worthwhile to follow, and sadly Age isn’t lending to the uneven nature in the film.

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I can assure you that I am not evil!

Supporting characters remain simplistic, and stay one dimensional. They don’t serve any greater narrative purpose other than what a certain scene requires them. Either be hesitating to shoot Age, have a side character provide comedy, or helping Age in breaking out Patema from a tower. They are functional since in Patema’s home there is an attempt to depict some kind of everyday life for the people, and some world building. Aiga, I already mentioned glosses over its world building. One side of the world you have some fleshed out characters, and a lead character who experiences a satisfactory growth on her journey. On the other side of it you have a major character, and a world who are glossed over during the film. It’s odd, one half of the movie knows what makes a good story, and the other half is that bad movie. Sadly, it’s the bad portions that eventually become victorious as the weaker aspects of the writing overwhelm the good parts the longer it goes.

When it comes to voice acting I would say neither the Japanese, and English track have a clear winner. The Japanese cast has two better lead actors in Yukiyo Fujii, and Nobuhiko Okamoto with a more heartfelt performance. Especially Nobuhiko Okamoto performance helps mask the shortcoming of Age bad writing through his more emotional delivery. In the English dub both Cassandra Lee Morris, and Michael Sinterniklaas are okay in their role. Only Cassandra Lee Morris of the two is able to make Patema captivating. On the other hand, the English dub has a better supporting cast keeping in line with the film overall tone. In Japanese, some of the supporting voice actors can be prone to overact their parts creating tonal whiplash in a scene that isn’t found in the English dub. Dialogue is underwhelming in both version either being fluff, or clunky in places. Regardless what you choose to go with, neither the Japanese, or English voice track will impress.

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Animated sequences like this are the highlight of the movie.

The animation is handled by Purple Cow Studios Japan (yes, that’s the studio name), and it’s nice looking at times. Character designs are uninspired, but make up for it by having them be very expressive. Background are also simple, but during night sequences the background will be given more details to display its beauty. The underground city where Patema live is brittle with detail as well. Anything outside, or inside during broad light though is unimpressive. There’s a few time where the cinematography would have scenes animated upside down. Making for a few unique looking sequences. In rare usage, the camera will also turn sideways, or upside down to show the perspective of the other character. It’s obvious the animation studio abilities are limited since these type of usage of the camera are in short supply. The music is composed by Michiru Oshima making some wondrous tunes. His music elevate certain sequences giving them a sense wonder where the writing lacks in creating. My favorite pieces of his music are for creating a foreboding mood providing a sense of danger, or mystery that severely lacking.

Patema Inverted is fascinating conceptually while the actual movie ends up being less than it could have been. The world is more fascinating to me than the rushed character bonding it’s more focus on showing. If it wasn’t rushed in developing it central relationship than I would have engaged despite the half baked world building in place. All around interesting, and all around somewhat disappointing. It had high goals that it couldn’t grasp fully.

Rating: 4/10

Anime-Breakdown: Nitaboh (2004)

When it comes to the instrument of the Shamisen my first introduction to it was through the Japanese pop band Monkey Majik. It was with the song titled “Change”, in collaboration with the Yoshida Brothers (brothers performers of the Tsugaru-jamisen style), became a song I instantly liked a lot. A main reason this being Shamisen gave the song a unique sound that stood out to other music I listened too from Japan. However, other than that I simply didn’t care to listen to other pieces of Shamisen music since it’s not the sort of thing I would listen to regularly. Monkey Majik on the other hand I like their stuff a lot. For some who choose to venture into the 2004 anime film Nitaboh will probably be their first introduction to the Shamisen. While the film has plenty to offer on the music side there’s not much else that’ll stick with you once the film ends.

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Insert: “You’re the best, around! No one ever gonna keep you down!”

Nitaboh follows blind musician Nitaro through his life as he discover his passion for the Samisen, and honing his skill. Narratively, the film somewhat avoids the pitfall that musical biopics would go with. The formula usually has the lead character discover a passion for music after a performance of some kind, this performance inspires the young lead to become a musician, rising to fame through small performances, and eventually having a rival to compete against. Thankfully Nitaboh doesn’t have the whole fame getting to musician head, hitting rock bottom, and eventually reigniting their passion for music. However, it doesn’t do anything wholly different from a music biopic either by remaining with the basics. It also has a passive leading character which for a story that doesn’t much in terms of conflict won’t be shown struggling through much either in his life story.

One standout feature about the story is the setting taking place during 19th century Japan at the end of the Edo era, and the story somewhat touches on the change Japan was experiencing at that time. The changes occurring during that time, like the change in the way music is played, are far more interesting than what film actually intends to cover. It brings up how unorthodox people thought the idea of a blind man becoming a musician was to people during this era, western influence on Japanese culture that is simply mention, and partially mentions the changing landscape of Japan. However, it’s only ever on the surface, and since it’s not the main focus I can’t really knock it down for that.

Nitaboh biggest flaw is simply not trying enough to flesh things outside of Nitario, which is ironic given it’s main character Nitaro survived through many hardship as a child into adulthood. Hardships that aren’t shown pulling the classic montage into eventual timeskip to get pass the boring stuff of seeing a young Nitaro struggling to support himself on his own, and right into adulthood where he seems better off with hardly anything resembling a conflict. This timeskip cheapens the journey, and ultimately detract from its portrayal of Nitaro dedication to his crafts. Lending to make Nitaro overcoming the stigma he faced of being a blind Shamisen player fall severely short of resonate. By not establishing much in the way of some kind viewpoint there isn’t much growth to discuss from when Nitario was a child who was enraptured playing the Shamisen to an adult who desires to do more with his love playing the Shamisen. Most you’ll get in terms of depth in this area is the times of changing line.

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The film’s character had a harder time staying awake than I did.

Another issue with the storytelling would simply be it’s modest aim. It doesn’t tell a grand story, nor sensationalize it events through any means making it a down to earth in its depiction. At the same time for something that demands you pay attention to it for 100 minutes there isn’t a whole lot to take in. If the film was half of its current runtime you could have gotten the same story. It wants to express the power of music, and how it touches people hearts, but Nitaro impact on these people lives, or his interaction with the town folks isn’t shown much. People gather to listen to Nitaro play the Shamisen, and that’s about it. Only once does the film has a character speak about how Nitaro dedication to pursue his craft influenced him to do the same. Aside from this one character, hardly anyone else in the film expresses the same gratitude.

The one area Nitaboh is successful in is characterization. No one in the film is complex to any degree, though that’s mostly because how modest it is. Nitaro has a conflict, learns from it, and pushes himself physically, and mentally to resolve it. There isn’t much to him, but his arc is competently written, and doesn’t come across as half baked in his journey. Some aspects of his characters, like the lack of focus of him dealing with his blindness, or quickly getting over the death of a love one hurt Nitaro in the long term. Making him come off as impersonal when it comes to his friends, and bonds, but what is shown successfully is his love for the Shamisen, and his passion for it. While it’s hardly expanded upon, there are several point in the movie Nitaro does point out the unfairness of the world he lives in, and his philosophy on his style.

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Picture here a nice moment, and a relationship that doesn’t evolve much.

Side characters on the other hand hardly add much to the film’s narrative. There’s sorta a romance between Nitaro, and Yuki whom meet each other when they’re children. They show some feeling towards each other, but neither of them over confront the other about these feelings. Another aspect to this sorta being a romance is these characters friendship generally spend little time with each other before spending a long amount of time apart from each other. When they are together, only the first thirty minutes is successful in setting up their friendship, and the rest of the film doesn’t bother to evolve it much. Other than Yuki, the other two supporting character Nitaro interact with simply enjoy his music, and help him out. Only one gets influence by him to do something while the other one is just there to help progress the story. Much like some of the world events it brings up throughout the film, side characters just help push the story forward, and that’s all.

Nitaboh is animated by WAO World studio, and in terms of animation its fine. Character designs are simple, but unique enough to tell apart through the entire film. Movement is okay, and backgrounds are pretty much okay too. The animation doesn’t have much happening visually on screen keeping things simple for the most part. There’s one exception to this rule in during the first act that has Nitaro father riding through a storm on his boat, but other than that the animation isn’t lively. It is cheap at times like having a large crowd listening to Nitaboh play the Shamisen just remain still. The direction of Akio Nishizawa is exactly what the film needed. He over play, or senatalizie any aspect of the story that doesn’t need it. Of course, parts of the third act are debatable for being somewhat silly like Nitaro talking to his dead loved ones through a shaman, or the extreme training regimen he went through. Luckily, the film doesn’t venture into over the top territory with those moments.

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With the power I hardness from Amidarmu, I shall became the Shamisen King!

Sounds though is the one area it excels in. While not much of a listener to traditional Japanese music it gives the film it’s own identity where it can’t stand out in other areas. The noteworthy pieces of music in the film is obviously whenever the Shamisen is in used, and letting the viewer absorb the music. Besides being a cool sounding instrument it has such a commanding presence. Going heavily for an atmospheric approach to its sound design which it soars in flying color. In terms of acting only Satoshi Hino, who plays Nitaro stands out. Easily because he gets the most screen time, but also because he come across as the most understanding of his character. It could have been easy for Satoshi to over act his performance since he’s playing a blind character. Hino approach to the character is not portraying him any different than he would from any other character with eyesight. Bringing out some likable aspect of Nitaro personality that over acting could have overshadowed.

Nitaboh is a modest movie with modest aims, but with modest handling of its material it never tries to make something of itself. What is here isn’t enough to justify a general recommendation to view the movie, especially with some of the more important aspects of Nitaro life aren’t developed much. Simply coming off as a history lesson instead of a engrossing look into a man’s life, and how never he gave up on his passion. If you want a down to earth story that is somewhat difficult to find anime Nitaboh has you cover, but in general it’s a piece of anime that unlike the person its based after, doesn’t have as much going for it.

Rating: 4/10

Anime-Breakdown: The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl (2017)

Coming of age stories are one of the most relatable type of stories. Growing up isn’t a thing that comes easily, and upon reflection youth is something that feels like it had gone by way to quickly. All sorts of media from novels, to movies, and even anime itself love to do these type of stories. Transitioning from adolescence into adulthood is something that can be apply almost universally. However, finding something in these type of stories to stand out is almost as mundane as sport stories themselves; virtually sticking wholeheartedly to realism, and never venturing into any unfamiliar territory, or experimenting in different genres. Bringing you, and me to the film I’m reviewing today titled The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl (Yoru wa Mijikashi Aruke yo Otome in Japanese). A coming of age film excessive on energy, carried by bizarre imagery, filled with wild characters, all coming together into a insane, yet very thoughtful anime film.

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Yes mam, you where this fish!

The Night Is Short, Walk On GIrl follows young woman named “Otome”, and her “Senpai” through an insanely long, bizzare night around Japan. After the first four minutes of the movie briefly setting up a bit of information for its characters, and sharing their plans for the night the movie completely does away with any semblance of normality. Turning into what appears to be a random series of events with some clever ideas getting illustrated along the way. For example, there’s a sequence where Otome, and some pals she met earlier in the night entering a bar, and briefly end up talking about time. The elderly in the bar, and Otome friends mention how time is moving quickly for them, and even show Otome their fast ticking watches. However, when Otome shows the group her watch it goes a lot slower. When brought up, the idea is simply interesting to ponder as it quickly moves on to the next crazy event. The film is filled with small touches like these that through the course of the movie are expanded upon. Going back to the watch passage of time, it’s a detail that rings true to the movie. A majority of the film actually enforces this idea by how long Otome night is, and the crazy amounts of events that occured within the film. There’s also another example of this later on in the film where in the background when Otome visits Rihaku-san it’s shown his clocks moving rapidly forward. Rihaku-san in this sequence, much like Otome, experiences life at such a breakneck while living in the moment, but not having a desire for longing to see someone. Rikahu goes into his sadden state considering his life a failure, and shown in the background clocks slowing down after a discussion with Otome.

The whole film is brimming with seemingly unrelated sequences from a group of students performing Guerrilla Theater, a competition between five men under a large tent eating very spicy food to see who can last the longest to obtain a book of their desire, a drinking battle, the God of the Used Book Market collecting books aiming to set books free, and other craziness ensues. How the film chooses to connect these seemingly random events is through the theme of threading fates. There are a few moments in the film where it plainly lays it out for you; like the God of the Used Book Market explaining how several different books are connected to Otome, and when Otome has a drinking bout against Rihaku she mentions everything happening to her is connected by fate. While virtually the rest of the film doesn’t spell it out for you. When in the moment of experiencing the odd assortments of events it’ll seem unrelated. However, there’s always a small piece that leads into another events either be Otome wanting to see another part of town, or Senpai being pulled into something to win Otome affection. No matter how random it seems, it always lays out how it got from point a to point b successfully thanks to some carefully planned writing. Ensuring self control in its outlandish nature.

The eccentric Otome is front, and center of the story following her night with Senpai endeavors being splice into each other stories. Both are opposites of each other with Otome always being one to move forward, and Senpai taking thing as they could have been. Both of them interacts with a cast of characters that influence growth in them. Otome with her positive outlook on life, and insistent to constantly move forward makes her the life of the party in her scenes. Typically being wild, and crazy as much as she is. Naturally in the course of the movie her encounters with other slowly makes her reevaluate herself, and much like Senpai, discovers a new balance in their life.

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The power of love compels Senpai.

Senpai on the other hand scenes are just as crazy, but as not as fast moving in comparison to Otome. Allowing the audience time to take in the lunacy they had be taken into. Seeing Senpai constantly having to put himself out into the world to have a chance to achieve his goal of capturing the girl of his dream. Going through to great lengths to overcome his many obstacles in his path whether it be an endurance competition of eating spicy food, or running as quickly as he could to take the spot of a lead actor in a play to get a kissing scene with Otome.

Another thing the film covers more subtly is Senpai behavior in obtaining the girl of his desire. At the beginning, he lays out his plan detailing he desired to remove obstacles, and meet Otome by chances so she would notice him more. It’s a strategy that comes across stalkerish initially, but Senpai slowly overcomes it eventually find a more direct answer. Never giving into temptation to fall into creeper territory, even if the desires to read a file detailing about Otome no matter how strong the temptation is within him. His endeavors throughout the movie receives a greater payoff in the final act when it gets into the more nitty gritty thought Senpai conflicting on the best course of action in his endeavor of romance. Thinking about every possibility to approach the situation, and overthinking his affection for Otome wondering if its worth anything.

When it comes to substance there’s plenty to be found in The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl that someone can find some level of deeper meaning in it. There’s a foundation, no matter how small it seems, that eventually comes together into a larger, and broader picture. However, there’s two things that will likely hold the film back from general appeal. One of them being the zany nature of events contrasting against its actual message. It’s a movie about making the transition into adulthood, yet the film has so many bizarrely enjoyable it’s become easier to lose sight of that message. It’s more likely a viewer will remember the bizarre sequence of Senpai competing in a contest of endurance eating hot food against other men than the scene where Otome expresses her life view to live in the moment, and judging things by its own merits. Same thing happens later on in the movie; you’re more likely to remember the odd musical number of romance story involving a singing apple, and a cross dresser than the segment of someone believing love being determined through destiny over life experience. Given its main characters Otome, and Senpai contrast each other, as well as some other characters they meet are contrasting one another. The execution here while deliberate for its own good by design has about as much chances as being taken as pure escapism as much as being something enlightening.

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Look at those lovely visuals.

The second thing that might plague this movie are the loose connection to the bigger picture. Certainly the film has plenty to say, but how much of it can tangibly be linked together is where its get messy. For example, earlier I mentioned the clocks spinning at different speed for Otome, and the people she interacts with. Unless you made a note of that nothing about time is express in the film for over half an hour. Same thing applies with the thread of fate appearing in conversations, and then disappearing at it own leisure. It want to pack so much in its 92 minutes runtime making it very dense in story content. Like the movie mentions several times, everything is connected, but it’s easy to lose to connections with so much going on.

The animation is done by studio Science SARU, and helm by Masaaki Yuasa giving the film a unique style. Characters expressions are expressive, and over the top. Lending itself greatly for effective comedy with exaggerated characters expressions, and fluid movement for 92 minutes. Yuasa let his imagination run wild making sure the film hardly has time to sit still. Nearly every scene is hyperactive in movement, or through various shot compositions makes simple moments memorable. For example, the simple action of someone eating spicy food isn’t made as simple as that. In this film, it’s implements a heat stroke like effects, excessive sweating with huge sweat drops, and disportional puff up lips to get this across. He also empathizes his free range in animation get across other emotions in other manners that aren’t as exaggerated. Another positive about the animation it is ability to allow chaos rein with a surrealism touch, especially in the final act where things are at it crazies. No matter how often it bombards you with visuals the film always make sure there’s always something to see.

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Notice me Otome!

The Japanese voice acting is also phenomenal. It might be lacking in terms of range since nearly every voice actor has be over the top, everyone gives it their all. Either be it through having good comedic timing in the comedic scenes, or offering good singing during the Gorilla Theater scenes. Both Kana Hanazawa who plays Otome, and Gen Hoshino who plays Senpai are the ones taking the lead. Kana Hanazawa perfectly imbues Otome energy into her performance. Bringing to life an infectious, energetic character. She’s also able to deliver some serious dialogue without ever seeming to break her character personality. Gen Hoshino excels in his awkward performance of Senpai. While not as energetic as Hanazawa, he ables to express much more emotional range than Hanazawa. He’s able to be very fridgetity, determined, depressed, and panicky into a likable portrayal. Hoshino pulls of the difficult task of making a character who initially comes off as a stalker as likable. The music is done by Michiru Oshima, and it’s pretty good. Lively during the party sequences, and melancholy during the more slower moments in the final act.

The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl offers a thrilling experience as much as it is enlighten on subjects pertaining to life. Offering a slew of fantastic visuals, memorable bizarre sequences, a wildly fun cast of quirky characters, and an unusual execution of a simple message delivery. Regardless of what you take from The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl you’re ensured to be in for a great time.

Rating: 10/10

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: Golden Batman (Black Star and the Golden Bat (1979) Movie Review

Golden Batman is a Korean animated movie from 1979 based on a 1967 anime series called Golden Bat or Ogon Bat in Japanese. Created by Takeo Nagamatsu in the 1930s, Ogon Bat is a Japanese superhero that predates the likes of Superman, and Batman. Much to my surprise, Ogon Bat is considered to be the world’s first superhero. Borrowing more traits from Superman than the name of the 1979 film would imply having super powers that include superhuman strength, invulnerability, and the ability to fly. In the original Korean-Japanese production of the 1960s anime series (according to what little information could be found on this series), Golden Bat is apparently the last surviving Atlantean who fights crime wearing a golden skull mask. If you see the poster, or promotional art you’ll notice that the golden skull mask is nowhere in sight. Turns out in 1979 Golden Bat design was updated to resemble Batman.

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Seriously though, the golden skull pimp design looks cooler.

Now, the only viewable copy of Golden Batman is a Spanish dub of the film since the film never officially received an international release in the US. Probably because the new character designs rips off Batman. You either have to search to the ends of the world to find an old VHS tape, or search desperately online. If Golden Batman was dubbed in any other language besides English, or Spanish that would be the end of the story. There’s no English subtitles either so unless you know you’re Korean, or Spanish well you’re sadly out of luck. However, that is not the case for me so I’ll discuss the actual film.

Golden Batman (or Black Star vs. Golden Bat according to the announcer in the beginning of the film) story follows a bunch of kids, and their talking pet dog trying to prove their bravery for their dying sick friend. There’s also a subplot revolving around villain Black Star who is kidnapping the world’s top scientists to develop a weapon that can make him take over the world. Pass the opening credit sequence which has cheesy music the first thing the villain, Black Star, is shown doing is watching a news broadcast. This news broadcast basically clarifies a scientist is working on “Rocket TM” which is described to be a robot for an Aerospace Science Central. Black Star after seeing the newscast decides to call the Aerospace Corporation, and announces to them in a phone call that he’s planning to steal the blueprints to “Rocket TM”. With this information you think the Aerospace Science Central would signal Golden Bat, or sing his Korean theme song to make sure Golden Bat appears at the scene in advance to stop Black Star. The Aerospace Science Central does not do that, and instead a army of clone security guards that were in charge of protecting “Rocket TM” fear at the sight of Black Star.


This event make news waves where whoever translated the script into Spanish felt the news broadcast should say (paraphrasing) “We’re living in a time of authentic danger”. Leading me to speculate that regular crime committed by normal people in this world is not considered “authentic danger”. There’s also a pointless cutaway to a child crying where the mom threaten her kid she’ll call Black Star if he doesn’t stop crying. It contributes nothing to the story, but that some hilarious cruel parenting right there. It only takes around six minutes before Golden Bat actually makes first his appearance in the film for some further nonsense. Aside from his ridiculous character design the members of the mafia show their fear by doing some sort of invisible orgy from what I could interpret from the animation. You got one mafioso thrusting the air, and another mafioso thrusting the floor repeatedly. This leads into a badly animated action scene where Golden Bat wins easily. After stripping the mafia down to their underwear, and leaving one of them a red Bat on their chest Golden Bat leaves the scene. So why did Golden Bat go to the hideout of the mafia if it wasn’t to retrieve the blueprints is never explained. Well, Golden Bat is did strip down several mafioso down to their underwear so he had a plan of some sort that wasn’t aimed at kids (the film intended demographic).

This goofy fight while entertaining sadly isn’t followed up on. Instead of following the last surviving Atlean fighting evil on Earth the film shifts focus to a bunch of annoying kids that really like Golden Bat for the majority of the film. Given the film is barely an hour, and ten minutes long the kids remain static characters. Along with the one dimensional kids, neither do Golden Bat, or the villain Black Star have much personality to them than stating the obvious between good, or evil. The movie also has a easy to follow story where you’re just meant to accept everything at face value. There’s a talking Cat, and a talking Dog that wears boxing glove in the film that everyone simply accept in their everyday normal life in this world. In one scene, there’s a kid who disguises himself as Golden Bat to scare off the mafia, yet the disguise changes his height, body structure, and voice simultaneously. I could buy the mafia falling for the disguise, and even Golden Bat flying out of a Lava pit unscrathed, but an entire costume changing a kid body structure is just pushing it.

Among various nonsense of the writing there is Toltry (the main character) father who claims it is normal for his son to break his neighbor windows. I bring this up because the film does this frequently. It shows something to the viewer that is inconsequential to the story, and goes about it business like nothing happen. So for like 40 minutes it does this until eventually the kids discover Black Star cave by accident. The film tries to setup drama by having a sick dying kid in the film, and revealing his tragic backstory through flashback. I laughed at this part in the film so that tells you how much I cared. Not only was the currently sick kid bald for some reason when his mother died, but became good friends with neighborhood kids on a whim. I would have taken the scene seriously if what sounded like bad porno music (the bad voice acting didn’t help either) wasn’t playing in the background during the flashback. Also, in the flashback a kid shed tears, and his tears goes through his glasses. That’s the kind of things you’ll notice when boring kids character are meant to carry an entire film. It’s difficult to care them too when they’re idiots. In one scene, Toltry tells his friend they should leave before they are discover by Black Star henchman. Instead of immediately leaving the evil layer the kids stand in the same place until an announcement finishes saying someone entered the evil headquarters. I know Toltry is the same character is who did animal impression to cheer up his dying friend in an earlier scene, but that was seriously stupid.

The best part of the movie is easily whenever Golden Bat appears on screen because ridiculous things happen on screen. It’s a shame he’s delegated into the background since the climax is the highlight in the movie. During the climax, the film could care less about the tiny details like logic, and rational thinking as Golden Bat beats up everyone in his path. Golden Bat fights against an army of clone henchman, a robot, and eventually the villain with just whatever came up to the animators mind. Golden Bat is so powerful that he even survives falling into a pit of Lava, and flies out of it without a scratch to fight the villain of the film. The final confrontation is entertaining seeing Golden Bat fight a villain who can seemingly shoots laser out of anything he touches. If the movie offered more cheesy superheroes antics over annoying kids than the film would have been more enjoyable, though probably just as badly written. It would make the moment where Golden Bat karate chops off Black Star arm off look less out of place given the intended audience was obviously for kids.

Animation is odd. Unfortunately I was unsuccessful in finding the studio behind this film. Then again I guess it’s for the best since the animators have a clear butt fetish in the film. Characters are slapped in the butt, kick in the butt, patted on the butt, and a couple of shots to show fat kid butt. Putting some detail into them which questions where the animators priority were at. Throughout the film there’s many examples of bad animation like a character face being colored differently from the rest of his body, a kid head going through a bed sheet even he’s a couple feet away from it, and Golden Bat flying off seemingly out of thin air from a window. My favorite pieces of bad animation is the constant jittering from all the characters in the film that never stops. It’s quite an accomplishment when the animation is so bad that still animation wasn’t done properly. However, the non stop jittering of characters make can scenes unintentionally funny when taken out of context. Usually making it seems like characters are doing something sexual like making it appear like a fat kid is giving his dog a rough time.

I saw the film with a Spanish dub, and regardless of what language you actually understand you can obviously tell this is horrible voice acting. Now I can’t list any specific voice actors since the credits are written in Korean, and the Spanish dub didn’t list any Spanish voice actors in the closing credits either. The only voice actor I would give any compliment to is whoever voiced Golden Bat did a good job in his role. His role was rather limited in screen time, but the voice actor felt self-aware of the role he was playing, and chose to ham it up. It felt appropriate with the tone of the film. Golden Bat was also the only voice actor whose performance was remotely enjoyable because he was intentionally campy. Even though Golden Bat was the hero the evil laugh of Golden Bat as he beats up people is hard not to enjoy. Every other voice actors was terrible. The whole cast simply not caring about their performances. The only things that aren’t dubbed in Spanish are the Korean song tracks. Including two moments where the kids sing Golden Bat theme in their original Korean language, and oh man it’s awful! The kids are out of sync, can’t sing those high notes, and also can’t sing.

Golden Batman is an interesting piece of animation history, as well the source material it’s based on, but there’s nothing to see here. Golden Bat takes a back seat in his own movie even though he has top billing in the film title. While unintentionally funny in parts the annoying voice acting, and the amount of time it likes to waste on pointless diversion it’s better to leave this relic of the past unseen.

4/10

Anime-Breakdown: Persona 3 The Movie: #2 Midsummer Knight’s Dream (2014) Movie Review

Persona 3 The Movie: No. 1, Spring of Birth was done by AIC A.S.T.A. studio which despite not being a good film I would have preferred if they continued making the films over A-1 Pictures studio. A-1 Pictures had their chance at the Persona franchise with Persona 4: The Golden Animation. Instead of refining Lerche’s earlier anime adaptation, titled Persona 4: The Animation, on the same game A-1 Picture created what is best described as a cash grab. Now they’re in charge of creating a sequel to an average video game movie adaptation. Like with Persona 4: The Golden Animation, A-1 Picture doesn’t seek out to make improvements, and instead makes sure you know it’s an A-1 Pictures product. What I find funny is during the opening sequence, Makoto says “I don’t know why, but I feel really good” looking up into the sky revealing director Tomohisa Taguchi name. Almost as a way to reassure viewers this sequel in good hands. It might seem unimportant, but this is the same director behind Persona 4: The Golden Animation. Persona fans, let that sink in as I delve into this bad sequel.

Persona 3 The Movie: #2 Midsummer Knight’s Dream continues the story of Makoto Yuki from the first film leading a group of Persona users to eliminate “The Dark Hour”. This movie opens with a shower scene in a motel room. The film is gracious enough not to provide viewers with a recap of the previous film to pad the running time, but not smart enough to provide context as to why two teenagers are in a motel seemingly about to have sex. I know what happened since I played the game, but even with that said I’m watching a movie not playing it. External knowledge should not be required to understand the first scene of a movie. Once Yukari Takeba finishes showering, putting on a towel while Makoto takes off accessories around his neck. Yukari, and Makoto stare at each other in the middle of the room for a bit before Yukari blushed from embarrassment. The opening scene ends when Yukari slaps Makoto in the face then cue in title card. No scene, can better express what it felt like to see the film. It was, in every metaphorical sense, a slap to the face as a fan of the Person 3 video game.

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A-1 Pictures: We care about plot!

Now, I want to emphasize this is an A-1 Picture production because it takes 17 minutes before anything significant like story actually appears in the movie. Yes, it takes that long before anything story wise actually starts moving forward in a film that’s around an hour, and forty minutes long. The most important thing relating to story that happens within those first 17 minutes is introducing the passive villains Strega. Everything else is spend on fan service like a scene at a beach involving Junpei Iori describing the swimwear of the female characters as the camera shows them off. Granted, this also happened in the video game, but at least they (the female characters) received some characterization at that point in the video game. Since the last movie didn’t develop the cast into dynamic characters it’ll make you shake your head as this is most of the female characters’ biggest contribution in the film. Another aspect it failed to do within those 17 minutes was introduced anything meaningful to use later on in the film story. After an opening action scene, the characters are next seen on a boat heading to an island, then proceeds for around 10 minutes on the beach on non-story related activity.

Now pass those first 17 minutes the film finally provides explanations for questions that should have been answered in the first film. So now you’ll finally get an answer for why Gekkoukan High School transform into Tartarus in “The Dark Hour”, why the Shadows were released into the world, how to possibly eliminate “The Dark Hour”, and how many of the powerful Shadows that appear during a full moon need to be defeated. All of this information would have been useful in the first film! This is basically damage control for the insane decision for characters to withhold information for no good reason. Narratively it leaves the viewers with no exposure to Persona 3 wandering in the dark when information needed to understand how the film world function gets addressed in the sequel. Thankfully, the one good decision from the story was explaining the concept of artificial Personas. Explaining what makes them different from regular Personas, and the consequences they hold. It’s not a focal point in the film, but at least some attention is given to it.

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Welcome to the Pointless Room. A place between padding, and filler.

Out all the material that could have been cut from the film it’s beyond comprehension why the one, and only scene in “The Velvet Room” was left in when all that was said in it was enjoy life to the fullest, and beware of Shadows. This added absolutely nothing of value to the story. The inhabitants of “The Velvet Room” don’t appear again the film besides this one scene. The film was also in need of direction, and main goal to accomplish in the story. There’s a moment in the film where Shinji cooks for a dog while wearing pink cooking apparels. Then, the camera turns around to show an expressionless Aegis staring at Shinji. This causes Shinji to sweat with hip hop music (Mass Destruction by Lotus Juice) playing in the background repeating “Baby, baby, baby”. I just described a pointless moment in the film that the creators of the film approved to animate in the film, even though the first 17 minutes does nothing to move the story forward. Choices like these are the reasons why these Persona 3 films fail to tell a story properly.  

While still discussing the first thirty minutes of the film I should get across this sequel ruined one of my favorite scene from the video game. It’s after Yukari sees footage of her father dying (plus a revelation discerning Shadows too), and Makoto goes to the beach at night attempting to make Yukari feel better. I very much like this scene allot in the video game besides being a tender moment gave Yukari more depth as a character. It also ended with a humorous note showing the group strong friendship in hard times. So, when I saw the altered scene play out it was for a different purpose. What should have been a character defining moment for Yukari ends up being the set up to an introductory action scene to show off Aegis capabilities as an Anti-Shadow Suppression Weapon killing a dozen or so shadows. I wouldn’t have mind the action scene if A.) Cell Phones were working even though the first film establishes technology doesn’t work during “The Dark Hour”, B.) The action scene happens after Yukari sees footage of her father dying which dramatically voids Yukari of a meaningful moment, and finally C.) If in the previous film a single character had no trouble fending off a powerful Shadow in his first time of combat in Tartarus what makes you think I’m going to believe two unarmed characters will be in danger from an encounter where they are surrounded by a dozen weak Shadows.

Okay, with the first 1/3 of the film problems already written about there’s the rest of the film. With newly introduce Cyborg Girl Aegis now part of the main cast the film makes sure to tell audience she has an infatuation with protagonist Makoto Yuki. A love triangle would have benefited the story if done right. Makoto pays more attention towards Aegis in the film than Yukari even though they have known each other longer. Yukari is shown being jealous whenever Aegis says her purpose in life is to be next to Makoto Yuki side. If competently written this would be used to develop Yukari instead of just being used for humor. To add insult to injury Aegis proves to be more powerful, and useful in combat than Yukari who has been fighting Shadows for a far longer time. This romance aspect of the story doesn’t go far beyond Aegis stating she wants to be next to Makoto. Our protagonist shows no interest in either of them, but spends more time with Aegis in the film.

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“I can’t believe believe this goes nowhere plot point”. Now with everything you hate without the cholesterol.

Continuing what was the point of the first film if Makoto didn’t learn to be more open with his emotions! It’s like he reset as a character to learn the same thing in the sequel. However, this film ends on a tragic note which would have made sense for Makoto to be emotionless if that tragic event happened earlier, or if the film was longer. It’s headache inducing attempting to figure out why the filmmakers thought this was a good direction to take Makoto character in.

When it comes to characters instead of developing the already large cast this sequel decides to increase its number instead. With the exception of Makoto, all the characters from the previous film are delegated into the background. Including Yukari, and Junpei whom were important in the previous film don’t grow as characters in the sequel. Junpei for instance doesn’t know what he would do after “The Dark Hour” is dealt with, but there’s no exploration on it. Other characters who also pondered this same question in one scene. Beside Makoto Yuki, everyone else’s thoughts on the question feel unimportant. A negative that detracts from the whole group dynamic when its tries to get across SEES is made up of close friends. Any character that was in the sideline in the first film don’t receive better treatment except for Akihiko who receives some characterization. Unlike the first film where the climax allowed him to contribute to the story. In this entry, Akihiko ends up short as his connection with Shinjiro has to be rushed, nor is the idea that they (Shinjiro and Akihiko) are good friends is done convincingly.

A total of seven characters get added to the cast. One of them is Ken Amada who turns out the best developed of the new characters. He has a simple backstory that eventually turns into a sub-plot of revenge. This leads to Ken being more developed as a character since the reasons behind his negative feelings on living are addressed. Koromaru is a dog that can use a Persona who has no backstory to him. Ken says a single line that Koromaru got left behind, but that could mean anything from an owner who forgot his dog to a street dog with no owner. A single line won’t make me care Koromaru, even if he’s a cute dog who can use a Cerberus like Persona. Finally, there is Shinjiro Aragaki who joins SEES fifty minute into the film. Anybody who has played the game (minus maxing out Shinjiro social link in Persona 3 Portable female route) knows Shinjiro fate in the story. His late addition to SEES makes Shinjiro character be rushed, and his impact on the story overall weak. Without much time spend with him, along with other characters, there’s no reason to be invested in their story. He’s also a plot convenience in the film when he goes to the rescue of SEES.

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I pronounce you Mr. and Ms. Sue.

If you complained about Makoto Yuki being overpowered in the first film; this film offers a solution by providing another overpowered character. This time in the form of Aegis who also just as powerful as Makoto. In this film, Aegis is responsible for doing most of the fighting while Makoto is given a handicapped depending on the context. The climatic fight in particular has Makoto pondering his purpose after eliminating “The Dark Hour” for most it. While on the climax, it does a disservice to Junpei, and Yukari characters as they get beaten quickly showing they had not grown stronger since the first film. As a character, Aegis is simply a robot that doesn’t blend well with other human with how she acts. Unfortunately, she doesn’t learn, or wants to seek out what it means to be human in the film. Though, given the archetype of Aegis it’s bound to happen. Her defining trait in this film is being overpowered, and being attached to Makoto Yuki allot.

Lastly for the characters there are the members of Strega. A group that only has one character who has anything to do in the story. His name is Takaya Sakaki who states his intentions, and make the heroes ponder the questions of their purpose without “The Dark Hour”. Takaya is only in this film to kill off a certain character whose death has not much impact because that specific character short screen time. The other members of Strega don’t do much beside exist. Finally, there’s the character of Pharos who also has little to do in the film. Much like the one scene in “The Velvet Room”, Pharos appearance could have been cut out since he basically states the obvious of something bad is about to happen.

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I might hate this movie, but A-1 Pictures usually delivers in animation.

A-1 Pictures is in charge with the production, and thankfully at least that is carried over from previous film. A-1 Pictures doesn’t improve on the animation aspect, but there is not a decrease in quality either from film to film. There’s more variety in the settings. The majority of the movie takes place at night time with the presence of with lots of heavy shadows. Like in the previous film, it’s reliance on lighting to create an eerie atmosphere. When in “The Dark Hour” blacks into dark greens and the blues into reds. This carries in the film insistent on color saturation be it making day scenes intensely bright, or making night scenes really dark. Almost as if it’s unable to trust viewers with the time of day a scene takes place in. Particle effects are amped in the battles from the previous film as members in SEES equals to more Persona on screen using magic attack, or the characters killing shadows. When Aegis is killing a group of Shadows in her first action scene the animation is fluid as she quickly moves around the environment, the framing of shot making it clear to see what’s going on, and the effects to add to the impact of an attack be it heavy flames, or bullet piercing. There is some bad 3D animation during a major action scene that doesn’t blend with 2D animation. Besides this the 3D in the film is not jarringly noticeable through its duration.

Shoji Muguro continues to provide music for the Persona 3 films. This time around the film offers new music to listen that wasn’t in the original Persona 3 games. The hip hop track “Fate Is In Our Hands” by rapper Lotus Juice plays in the opening sequence during a battle scene. Due to the bad audio mixing the sound effect drown out the music being played, but the song itself is rather good. It’s more progressive than the actual film discussing the hardships of life, and the persistence to overcome them. There’s a stanza in the song where Lotus Juice tries to understand his foes, and quickly goes into how his actual worse enemy is himself. Subjects that are brought up in the film, but not expanded upon like in this track. Yumi Kawamura provides her vocal for the film ending theme titled “One Hand, One Heartbeat”. This melancholic, piano ballad track perfectly closes the film on a somber note. Unlike the film writing, Yumi Kawamura provide emotional vocals that can make the viewer feel something in the scene after it’s over. By itself Yumi Kawamura song is a heartfelt piano ballad about losing someone special. In general, the music itself tells a far better, and compelling story than the film writing does on its own.

Voice acting is satisfactory once again. With too many characters, and unequal screen time the majority of the main voice cast from the first film get sideline without being offered single a scene to display their talent. Giving more half of its talent the equivalent of thankless roles. New addition Kazuya Nakai who plays Shinjirou Aragaki gets the most ranged in a rush amount of time. His performance is noteworthy as despite the speed his character changes tone Kazyua Nakai always sound natural. He makes the swift change in his character easier to accept. Megumi Ogata plays Ken Amada has a more steady change in her performance. Going from uncertain scare kid, too optimistic, to gloomy is handle well through her performance. I might not like the character Ken Amada, but she makes the character convincing. Then there’s Maaya Sakamoto who plays Aegis who has plenty of screen time. Unfortunately, her character is a cyborg trying to learn emotion archetype. However, since Aegis hasn’t gotten philosophical of what it means to be human Maaya Sakamoto is monotone for the whole film. It goes with the character in this instance, but it ends up being a forgettable performance. Sakamoto monotone delivery of her lines does provide hint of a complex character making Aegis seem hollow than she might actually be.

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Makoto Yuki: “I could be dynamic, but I’ll prefer to be static”

What really bothers me the most about the performances is voice actor Akira Ishida doesn’t get to expand on his character Makoto Yuki. So he once again has to play the same emotionless, broken leading character from the first film. Ishida is not allowed to be more emotional, more expressive in his portrayal of Makoto Yuki. This film does the biggest disservice to him since by not allowing Akira Ishida to gradually transition his emotionless character to a more expressive one. The film rejects Akira Ishida the opportunity to expand Makoto Yuki beyond what was presented in the first film. It feels like a retread of his performance from the first film. While his retread performance is not bad it doesn’t quite the same effect the second time around.

Persona 3 The Movie: #2 Midsummer Knight’s Dream is a bad film continuing being inaccessible for newcomers, and infuriating for Persona 3 fans for not making the appropriate changes for the material to function as a movie. None of the character are develop to care about, there’s no tension because of two overpowered characters, a large cast most of whom don’t contribute to the story, and is predictably boring for anyone who played Persona 3 as it does nothing to fans off guard. It looks, and sounds like Persona 3, but by the time the credits roll it won’t be the same emotional roller coaster the video game was.

4/10