Showing posts with label Anime. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Anime. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Review: "LAPUTA: CASTLE IN THE SKY" is in the Sky with Diamonds

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 41 of 2023 (No. 1930) by Leroy Douresseaux

Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986)
Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta – original Japanese title
Running time:  125 minutes (2 hours, 5 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Hayao Miyazaki
WRITER:  Hayao Miyazaki
PRODUCER:  Isao Takahata
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Hirokata Takahashi
EDITORS:  Hayao Miyazaki, Yoshihiro Kasahara, and Takeshi Seyama
COMPOSER:  Joe Hisaishi


Starring:  (voices) Mayumi Tanaka, Keiko Yokozawa, Kotoe Hatsui, Minori Terada, Fujio Tokita, Ichiro Nagai, and Hiroshi Ito

Laputa: Castle in the Sky is a 1986 Japanese animated, action-adventure fantasy film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki.  Laputa is also the first film fully produced by the Japanese animation studio, Studio Ghibli.  In North America, the film is known simply as Castle in the Sky, the title by which I will refer to it in this review.  Castle in the Sky follows the adventures of a young boy and girl who must race against time, pirates, and foreign agents in a bid to find a legendary island that floats in the sky.

Castle in the Sky opens on an airship.  Aboard the aircraft is a young girl, Sheeta (Mayumi Tanaka), an orphan girl abducted by the government agent, Colonel Muska (Minori Terada).  The airship is attacked by Captain Dola (Kotoe Hatsui) and her gang, “the Dola Pirates” (all of whom are apparently her sons).  Dola is seeking Sheeta's necklace, which holds a small orb made of pure “etherium” crystal.  Attempting to escape, Sheeta falls from the airship, but is saved by the magic of etherium in the now-glowing crystal, which lowers her slowly to the ground.

On the ground, Sheeta is caught by a young boy, Pazu (Keiko Yokozawa).  Soon, Pazu is on a mission to protect Sheeta from both Dola and Muska.  Pazu and Sheeta's goal is to reach the mythical flying island, “Laputa,” which is connected to both children's past, but in different ways.  The mystery of Laputa is what exactly is it – a paradise, a treasure trove, or something dangerous.

I have previously reviewed the following Miyazaki-directed films:  The Castle of Cagliostro (1979), Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984), My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Princess Mononoke (1997), Spirited Away (2001), Howl's Moving Castle (2004), Ponyo (2008), and The Wind Rises (2013).  As Netflix is shutting down its DVD-by-mail division, I am hoping to get to the Miyazaki films that I have not previously watched.  This is the first time I've watched Castle in the Sky.

For me, the most wonderful thing about Castle in the Sky is that it is steeped in Hayao Miyazaki's affinity for flight, a theme that dominates many of his films.  He fills this film with wonderful flying contraptions, such as the government's flying fortress, “Goliath,” and the Dola pirates' airship, “Tiger Moth.”  Even the robots of Laputa can become wonderful flying machines.  As with many of Miyazaki's films, Castle in the Sky is breathtaking, visually stunning, and mind-blowing, especially when the narrative takes to the air.

One of the film's most dominant themes is the innocence of children, as seen through the eyes of Pazu and Sheeta.  That shows in the two characters' resilience and determination in the face of constant turmoil and ceaseless obstacles.  Their relationship is the counterbalance to the film's darker elements, especially its focus on on humanity's relationship with nature and with technology.  Most of the film displays technology in harmony with nature, taking place in a fantasy version of the nineteenth century.  There is a “retro-future” aesthetic that finds a balance between mankind's technological creations and the natural world at large.  Castle in the Sky would go on to have a strong influence on the then emerging science fiction sub-genre known as “steampunk.”

I believe that if you, dear readers, have never seen a Miyazaki film, the first one you watch will validate the great things you may have heard about him.  When you see your second Miyazaki, you will certainly become a true believer.  Castle in the Sky is the kind of animated film that will make just about any movie fan a true believer in Hayao Miyazaki.  It is one of the greatest adventure films ever made, and one of the greatest animated films of all time.  Castle in the Sky mixes vivid imagination, eye-popping inventiveness, and stunning beauty in a way only the best animated films do.  Every frame of this film belongs on a wall in a museum.  If it were a Disney animated feature, Disney would call Laputa: Castle in the Sky an instant classic.  It certainly is a classic.

10 of 10

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.



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Thursday, August 10, 2023

Review: "NAUSICAA IN THE VALLEY OF THE WIND" Soars to the Animation Heavens

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 36 of 2023 (No. 1925) by Leroy Douresseaux

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
Kaze no Tani no Naushika – original Japanese title
Running time:  117 minutes (1 hour, 57 minutes)
MPAA – PG for violence
DIRECTOR:  Hayao Miyazaki
WRITER:  Hayao Miyazaki (based upon the manga by Hayao Miyazaki)
PRODUCER:  Isao Takahata
CINEMATOGRAPHERS: Yasuhiro Shimizu, Koji Shiragami, Yukitomo Shudo, and Mamoru Sugiura
EDITORS: Naoki Kaneko, Tomoko Kida, and Shoji Saka
COMPOSER:  Joe Hisaishi


Starring:  (voices) Sumi Shimamoto, Goro Naya, Ichiro Nagai, Hisako Kyoda, Yoji Matsuda, Yoshiko Sakakibara, Iemasa Kayumi, Kohei Miyauchi, Joji Yanami, Minoru Yada, Mina Tominaga, Mahito Tsujimura, and Rihoko Yoshida

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is a 1984 Japanese animated, post-apocalyptic, fantasy film from director Hayao Miyazaki.  The film is based on Miyazaki's manga (Japanese comic), also titled Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, which first began publication in 1982.  Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind the movie focuses on a princess who is both warrior and pacifist and her desperate struggles to prevent two warring nations from destroying themselves and her homeland.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind opens one thousand years after the event known as “the Seven Days of Fire.”  It was an apocalyptic war that destroyed civilization and caused an ecological collapse, creating something called “the Sea of Decay.”  This is a poisonous forest of fungal life and plants that swarm with giant mutant insects, the largest and most dangerous being the the trilobite-like and armored “Ohm.”  The poison from the plants can kill humans, and every day, the Sea of Decay spreads, encroaching on what little open land remains.

Nausicaä (Sumi Shimamoto) is a teenage warrior and princess of the Valley of the Wind, a land that has remained, thus far, free of the Sea of Decay.  Riding the wind and sky in a powered glider, Nausicaä explores the jungles of the Sea of Decay and communicates with its creatures.  That is how she is reunited with the explorer and great swordsman, Lord Yupa Miralda (Goro Naya), who has returned to meet with Nausicaä's father, Jihl (Mahito Tsujimura), the King of the Valley of the Wind.

But tragedy strikes.  The Valley of the Wind is soon at the epicenter of two warring nations, the Kingdom of Tolmekia and PejitePrincess Kushana (Yoshiko Sakakibara) has led the Tolmekian Frontier Forces into the Valley.  Thus, Nausicaä must forge a relationship with Prince Asbel of Pejite (Yoji Matsuda), but there is something worse than two warring nations.  Destruction is headed towards the Valley of the Wind, and it will take all of Nausicaä's talents, skills, and tricks to save her home.

I have previously reviewed the following Miyazaki-directed films:  The Castle of Cagliostro (1979), My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Princess Mononoke (1997), Spirited Away (2001), Howl's Moving Castle (2004), Ponyo (2008), and The Wind Rises (2013).  As Netflix is shutting down its DVD-by-mail division, I am hoping to get to the Miyazaki films that I have not previously watched.

Apparently, the work of the legendary French comic book creator, Jean “Moebius” Giraud (1938-2012), influenced Miyazaki in the creation of his manga, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.  The influence of Moebius remains with Miyazaki's film adaptation of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.  I also see the influence of the famed animation director, Ralph Bakshi, especially of his 1977 fantasy film, Wizards.  J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings novels (1954-55) are clearly influences, and Frank Herbert's famed science fiction novel, Dune (1965), is also an influence.  In fact, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind the film would arrive in theaters almost nine months before the first film adaption of Herbert's novel, director David Lynch's 1984 film, Dune.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is a beautifully and practically designed film in the sense that the environments have both a sense of naturalism and realism to them while the insects are fantastical creations that seem more practical than impractical because they are based on real insects.  This makes the world of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind seem like a credible future world or at least genuine post-apocalyptic future.  Yes, Nausicaä's glider is impractical, but the animation gives it such beauty in motion that I believe in it and I believe in the way Nausicaä flies it.

The film's plot and subplots are strongly environmental and ecological and the conflict is a series of familiar tribal tropes.  However, what carries plot and narrative are the inventive and engaging characters.  Every players, regardless of the size of his or her role, is inviting and intriguing.  Yes, Nausicaä is a star born, a heroine out of fairy tale, folklore, and mythology who captures hearts and holds our imaginations captive.  Still, the denizens of the Valley and the feuding and conniving citizens of Tolmekia and Pejite are a delightful bunch, not good and evil, so much as they are selfish, but likable, each in his or her own way.  The legendary Yupa, like Nausicaä, stands as a typical heroic figure, although he stands behind Nausicaä.

A long time ago, I told a fellow Miyazaki fan that Spirited Away was my favorite of the director's films.  He insisted that I see Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.  Now, I'm not so sure which is my favorite.  Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is like no other animated feature film, and I certainly consider it one of the greatest that I have ever seen.

10 of 10

Thursday, August 10, 2023

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.



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Thursday, August 3, 2023

Review: "GRAVEYARD OF THE FIREFLIES" is as Powerful as Any Live-Action Wartime Film

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 35 of 2023 (No. 1924) by Leroy Douresseaux

Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
Hotaru no Haka – original Japanese title
Running time:  89 minutes (1 hour, 29 minutes)
MPAA – not rated
DIRECTOR:  Isao Takahata
WRITER:  Isao Takahata (based on the novel by Akiyuki Nosaka)
PRODUCER:  Toru Hara
EDITOR: Takeshi Seyama
COMPOSER:  Michio Mamiya


Starring:  (voices) Tsutomu Tatsumi, Ayano Shiraishi, Akemi Yamaguchi, and Yoshiko Shinohara

Hotaru no Haka or Grave of the Fireflies is a 1988 Japanese animated World War II drama and historical film directed by Isao Takahata and produced by Studio Ghibli.  The film is based on the 1967 short story, “Grave of the Fireflies,” by Akiyuki Nosaka.  This was the fourth animated film produced by Studio Ghibli and the first one directed by studio co-founder, Isao Takahata.  Grave of the Fireflies focuses on a young boy and his little sister as they struggle to survive in World War II Japan.

Grave of the Fireflies introduces a boy, Seita (Tsutomu Tatsumi), and his little sister, Setsuko (Ayano Shiraishi).  They find themselves on their own as a result of one of the American raids that was part of “the Bombing of Kobe” campaign during World War II.

One day, a group of American Boeing bombers firebombs Kobe.  Though Seita and Setsuko survive the bombing, their mother (Yoshiko Shinohara) is severely injured and later dies.  Seita conceals their mother's death from Setsuko in an attempt to keep her happy.  Seita does not know the status of their father who is an officer in the Imperial Japanese Navy.  The children move in with an aunt (Akemi Yamaguchi), but although Seita tries to accommodate his aunt's demands, she becomes resentful of the children being in her home.

After leaving their aunt's house, Seita and Setsuko move into an abandoned bomb shelter located near a pond.  The place is swarming with fireflies, which delights Setsuko.  For a time, Seita and Setsuko are happy, but like the life of an adult firefly, the children's happiness is short-lived.

Previously, I have only reviewed two Studio Ghilbi films that were not directed by Hayao Miyazaki.  They are Tales from Earthsea (2006), which was directed by Miyazaki's son Gorō Miyazaki, and The Secret World of Arrietty (2010).  As Netflix is shutting down its DVD-by-mail division (in September 2023), I am hoping to get to more Studio Ghibli films that I have not previously watched.

I think Grave of the Fireflies has received much praise because it is not only a powerful war film, but it is also a truly unique war film.  Grave of the Fireflies is not an anti-war film, although it depicts the suffering that wartime can bring, mainly through Seita and Setsuko, but also via background characters.  The film is haunting and achingly sad, but at the same time, life goes on, even in wartime.  Seita and Setsuko make the best of life, a nearly inseparable pair enjoying life the best that they can.  The film portrays how Seita watches over Setsuko so that she can still live the life of a small girl, frockling, having adventures, and using her imagination.  Her smiles and happiness permeate this film even in its darker moments.  One might question the choices that Seita makes, but he did not make them out of concern of his own pride.  He made them so that his little sister could live in dignity.

Grave of the Fireflies proves that animated films can tackle the most achingly human conditions, including the heartbreaking experiences that afflicted many Japanese during World War II.  The animation's glorious colors might suggest a vivid pastoral fantasy, but the story is a depiction of the human pastoral.  Thematically, the film's fireflies can represent many things, from birth and decay to the flight of planes that attack Japan.  However, I usually thought of the spirits of children in flight when I saw a scene of fireflies gently moving upwards.

Grave of the Fireflies is a film that no fan of animated feature films should miss.  It has a timeless quality, and I found it hard to believe that this year (2023) is the thirty-fifth anniversary of the film's original Japanese theatrical release.  The story that it depicts may be from a long-gone time, but like Seita and Setsuko, the spirit of Grave of the Fireflies still stirs.

9 of 10
★★★★+ out of 4 stars

Thursday, August 3, 2023

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.



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Thursday, July 27, 2023

Review: Miyazaki's "THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO" is Something Else Entirely

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 34 of 2023 (No. 1923) by Leroy Douresseaux

Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)
Rupan Sansei: Kariosutoro no Shiro – original Japanese title
Running time:  102 minutes
MPAA – not rated
DIRECTOR:  Hayao Miyazaki
WRITERS:  Hayao Miyazaki and Haruya Yamazaki (based upon the manga by Monkey Punch)
PRODUCER:  Tetsuo Katayama
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Hirokata Takahashi
EDITOR: Masatoshi Tsurubuchi
COMPOSER:  Yuji Ohno


Starring:  (English voices – Manga Entertainment dub) David Hayter, Bridget Hoffman, Kirk Thornton, Kevin Seymour, John Snyder, Dorothy Elias-Fahn, Milton James, Michael Gregory, Barry Stigler, and Joe Romersa; (Japanese voices) Yasuo Yamada, Eiko Masuyama, Kiyoshi Kobayashi, Makio Inoue, Goro Naya, Sumi Shimamoto and Taro Ishida

Rupan Sansei: Kariosutoro no Shiro or Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro is a 1979 Japanese animated action-adventure and comic-fantasy animated from director Hayao Miyazaki.  An English-language dub of the film was first theatrically released in the U.S. in 1991 under the title, The Castle of Cagliostro, the title that I will use for this review.

The Castle of Cagliostro focuses on a master thief, Lupin III.  The film Lupin is based on the manga character, Lupin the Third, created by late manga artist, Kazuhiko Kato (1937-2019), who is best remembered by his pen name, Monkey Punch.  In the film, a dashing thief struggles to free a princess from an evil count who needs her in order to gain a mysterious treasure.

The Castle of Cagliostro opens in Monaco.  There, Master thief Lupin III (David Hayter) and his partner, Jigen (John Snyder), flee the National Casino with huge quantities of stolen money.  As they will soon learn, however, the stolen bills are actually distinctive, high-quality counterfeits known as “Goat bills.”  Lupin decides to seek out the source of this counterfeit money, the country known as the Duchy of Cagliostro.

Shortly after arriving, Lupin and Jigen see a young woman being chased by armed thugs.  It turns out that she is Lady Clarisse de Cagliostro (Bridget Hoffman), and she is running away from her fiancé, the Count de Cagliostro (Kirk Thornton), the regent of the Duchy of Cagliostro.  The Count has arranged a marriage with Lady Clarisse in order to cement his power. The marriage will also help him recover the fabled ancient treasure of Cagliostro, for which he needs both his and Clarisse's ancestral signet rings.

Lupin is determined to save Clarisse from this arranged marriage.  In addition to his partner Jigen, Lupin calls in the highly-skilled martial artist and swordsman, Goemon (Michael Gregory), and the rival professional thief, Fujiko (Dorothy Elias-Fahn).  Meanwhile, Inspector Zenigata of Interpol (Kevin Seymour) sees Lupin's activities in the Duchy of Cagliostro as a perfect opportunity to catch the thief he has been chasing for so long.  Can Lupin rescue Clarisse? Will Count Cagliostro destroy them both?  And just what is the treasure of Cagliostro?

I have previously reviewed the following Miyazaki-directed films:  My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Princess Monoke (1997), Spirited Away (2001), Howl's Moving Castle (2004), Ponyo (2008), and The Wind Rises (2013).  As Netflix is shutting down its DVD-by-mail division, I am hoping to get to the Miyazaki films that I have not previously watched.

I had heard of The Castle of Cagliostro in connection with Miyazaki, but I had put off seeing it.  I wish I'd seen it earlier, as it is a delightful and maniacal comedy.  The film is not without flaws, as it stretches credulity a bit far, even for a Japanese animated film.  Lupin is not just a master thief; he is also apparently a super-human thief with supernaturally good luck.

Still, I treasure The Castle of Cagliostro's loopiness because Miyazaki and his co-writer Haruya Yamazaki are imaginative when it comes to the comic and action-adventure possibilities of the twists and turns this quasi-mystery takes.  As both designer and storyboard artist, in addition to being director, Miyazaki is inventive in the way he stages the action as a series of chases and fights that are as defined by feats of aerial stunts and gymnastics as they are by martial arts and combat skills.

The characters are quite nice, especially gallant Lupin, who is apparently more ruthless in the original manga, and his partner, Jigen, the amiable, but quite skilled tough guy.  However, the star here is Miyazaki in his first feature-length film.  He makes the action unrestrained by gravity, natural law, or architecture.  Thus, the film is a rollicking adventure with a humorous tone that belies the threat of brutal violence and death that frequently pop up in the story.  I really like The Castle of Cagliostro, and I highly recommend it to fans of Hayao Miyazaki and to those searching for the great animated films.  I also plan on buying my own physical copy.

8 of 10
★★★★ out of 4 stars

Thursday, July 27, 2023

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Review: "The Wind Rises" and Lifts Miyazaki's Ode to Artists

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 9 (of 2015) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Wind Rises (2013)
Kaze tachinu – original Japanese title
Running time:  126 minutes (2 hours, 6 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some disturbing images and smoking
DIRECTOR:  Hayao Miyazaki
WRITER:  Hayao Miyazaki (based upon the manga by Hayao Miyazaki); English screenplay adaptation by Mike Jones
PRODUCERS:  Toshio Suzuki and Geoffrey Wexler (English version)
COMPOSER:  Joe Hisaishi
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  (English voices) Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Martin Short, Stanley Tucci, Mandy Patinkin, Mae Whitman, Werner Herzog, Jennifer Grey, William H. Macy, Elijah Wood, and Ronan Farrow; (Japanese voices) Hideaki Anno, Jirô Horikoshi, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Miori Takimoto, Masahiko Nishimura, Mansai Nomura, Jun Kunimura, Mirai Shida, Shinobu Ôtake, Morio Kazama, and Keiko Takeshita

The Wind Rises is a 2013 Japanese animated film (anime) biopic and drama from director Hayao Miyazaki.  The film's original title is Kaze tachinu, and it is adapted from Miyazaki's manga (comics), Kaze tachinu, which was published in Model Graphix magazine from 2009 to 2010.  The manga in turn is loosely based on the novel, The Wind Has Risen (1936-37), by author Tatsuo Hori.

The Wind Rises is a fictionalized account of the life of Jiro Horikoshi (1903–1982).  Hirokoshi was a designer of fighter aircraft for Japan, in particular the Mitsubishi A6M Zero (or simple, the Zero), which was used by the Empire of Japan during World War II.

Walt Disney Studios released the film in English back in February 2014 through its Touchstone Pictures division.  Frank Marshall acted as the English version's executive producer.  The Wind Rises was the final film directed by Miyazaki before his retirement in September 2013.

The Wind Rises opens in Japan in 1916.  Young Jiro Horikoshi longs to become a pilot, but cannot because of his poor eyesight.  Jiro even dreams of meeting famous Italian aircraft designer, Giovanni Battista Caproni (Stanley Tucci), a figure that will often haunt Jiro's dreams over the years.  Seven years later, two important things happen.  Jiro begins studying aeronautical engineering, and he also meets a girl, Nahoko Satomi.

After he graduates, adult Jiro (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) starts working for an aircraft manufacturer (Mitsubishi).  Jiro begins a quest to built a fighter aircraft for Japan that will match the best that any other country has to offer, especially that of Japan's ally, Germany.  Jiro reunites with the adult Nahoko (Emily Blunt) and begins a romance with her.  However, Nahoko's illness and his professional setbacks threaten Jiro's dreams.

The Wind Rises was somewhat controversial in Japan because of Jiro Horikoshi's aircraft inventions and how they were used by imperial Japan during the second World War.  However, The Wind Rises is not a biographical drama in the conventional sense, which is why I call it a “biopic.”  It is a movie with both biographical elements and fictional attachments.  For instance, the Jiro-Nahoko Satomi romance is fictional, and Nahoko is a character from Tatsuo Hori's novel, The Wind Has Risen.

The Wind Rises not only takes a look at the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed Japanese fighter planes during World War II, but it is mainly inspired by his quest to create fighter aircraft for Japan that would match the best aircraft created in Europe and the United States.

The Wind Rises is an impressionistic spectacle.  Miyazaki deliberately deviates from fact in order to examine the artistic process, revealing Jiro Horikoshi as an artist in full bloom.  The “wind” in this film is a metaphor for the imagination that soars.  The wind is also a vehicle by which the artist travels to meet the man who inspired him,  Giovanni Caproni, in the realm of daydream and imagination – first as a pupil and then, as an equal.  In this film, Miyazaki does not make “wind” ethereal; rather, it is beauty that is fragile and even corruptible.

The Wind Rises is a bittersweet goodbye from Miyazaki to his admirers and fans.  This retirement had to happen eventually, but our sadness need no be overwhelming.  The wind still rises, and the beauty of Hayao Miyazaki's art will live on.

8 of 10

Friday, January 2, 2014

2014 Academy Awards, USA:  1 nomination: “Best Animated Feature Film of the Year” (Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki)

2014 Golden Globes, USA:  1 nomination: “Best Foreign Language Film” (Japan)

The text is copyright © 2015 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Review: "Vampire Hunter D" Bizarre and Unique

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 88 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Kyuketsuki Hunter D (1985) – animation and video
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:  Japan; Language: Japanese
DIRECTOR:  Toyoo Ashida
WRITER:  Yashushi Hirano (based upon the novel Kyuuketsuki Hatana ‘D’)
PRODUCERS:  Hiroshi Kato, Mitsuhisa Koeda, and Yuko Nagasaki
COMPOSER:  Tetsuya Komuro

Vampire Hunter D – English adaptation
Running time:  80 minutes (1 hour, 20 minutes)
WRITER:  Tom Wyner


Starring:  (voices) Kaneto Shiozawa, Seizô Katô, Satako Kifuji, Motomu Kiyokawa, Yasuo Muramatsu, Ichirô Nagai, and Michie Tomizawa

(English voices) Michael McGonnohie, Barbara Goodson, Jeff Winklers, Edie Mirmar, Kerrigan Mahan, Steve Kramer, and Steve Bulen

The subject of this movie review is Kyuketsuki Hunter D (Vampire Hunter D), a 1985 Japanese animated straight-to-video film.  This science fiction, fantasy, and vampire film was originally released as an OVA (original video anime).  This movie is based on the 1983 Japanese novel, Vampire Hunter D Volume 1, written by Hideyuki Kikuchi with illustrations by Yoshitaka Amano.

Kyuketsuki Hunter D or Vampire Hunter D was an animated Japanese film or “anime” that had one of the largest cult followings in the U.S. for anime in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.  The film was not a theatrical release in the Japan, nor was it initially in America.  As a home video release, this anime traveled as well or maybe even better than it would have as a theatrical release.

The film takes place in the far-flung era of 12,090 A.D.  Vampires plague earth, and rule over small pockets of civilization in a mockery of ancient feudal land baronies; in fact, humans travel, once again, by horse and buggy.  In a small village, Doris Rumm (voice of Barbara Goodson) hunts vampires and monsters, but she is also the object of affection of a local vampire ruler, Count Magnus Lee, who wants Doris to be his bride.  Doris’ salvation takes the form a mysterious vampire hunter known only as “D,” so she offers herself to the hunter in exchange for his eradicating the local vampires and their boss, the Count.  “D” must fight through a horde of demons, vampires, and assorted supernatural assassins to rescue Doris from wedlock with Count Lee.

The quality of the animation isn’t very good; it’s about the quality of TV anime like the “Dragonball” series that has run for so long on the Cartoon Network.  However, the character designs are very imaginative, especially the design of “D,” which was done by Yoshitaka Amano, one of the best known Japanese fantasy illustrators, animation character designers (“Genesis Climber Mospeada”), and video game conceptual artists (the Final Fantasy series).  Visually, bizarre images fill the film, as well as some bizarre nudity; in fact, the film creates a sense of anticipation as we wait to see what is the next weird thing that is going to fill the screen.

The voice acting is fairly good, but the English dialogue moves the story along quite well.  The music, a sweeping electronic score, is very nice and sets the appropriate mood.  Savvy viewers might catch similarities with New Line Cinema’s Blade film franchise, but Vampire Hunter D is more horror and fantasy, whereas Blade is an action/horror film.  While I have misgivings about the quality of the animation, Vampire Hunter D’s entire package is one of a highly imaginative film that should please fans of vampire horror, fantasy, and anime.  It has a steady rhythm of visual surprises that not only make it unique, but also exceptionally fun to watch when compared to most horror films.

7 of 10

Monday, June 20, 2005

Updated: Friday, February 07, 2014

The text is copyright © 2014 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Review: "Tiger & Bunny: The Beginning" an Excellent Superhero Movie

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 72 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

Tiger & Bunny: The Beginning (2012)
Original title:  Gekijō-ban Tiger & Bunny – The Beginning
Running time:  92 minutes (1 hour, 32 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Yoshitomo Yonetani
WRITER:  Masafumi Nishida
PRODUCERS:  Kazuhiko Tamura and Chintasu Matsui
CINEMATOGRAPHERS:  Yuk Tanaka and Haruhi Goto
EDITOR: Hiroshi Okuda
COMPOSER: Yoshihiro Ike

ANIME/SUPERHERO/ACTION/COMEDY with elements of drama

Starring:  (original Japanese voices) Hiroaki Hirata, Masakazu Morita, Minako Kotobuki, Taiten Kusunoki, Go Inoue, Kenjiro Tsuda, Mariye Ise, Nobuhiko Okamoto, Yuko Kaida, Hiroshi Iwasaki, Rina Hidaka, and Kappei Yamaguchi

(English dub voice cast): Wally Wingert, Yuri Lowenthal, Patrick Seitz, Travis Willingham, Laura Bailey, Kari Wahlgren, John Eric Bentley, Michael Sinterniklaas, Liam O’Brien, Jamieson K. Price, Stephanie Sheh, Steven Blum, Eden Riegel, Dave Wittenberg, Tara Platt, Keith Silverstein, Laura Bailey, Daran Norris, and Beau Billingslea

Tiger & Bunny: The Beginning is a 2012 Japanese animated film (anime).  Its original title is Gekijō-ban Tiger & Bunny – The Beginning, and it is based on Tiger & Bunny, a science fiction and superhero anime television series that was originally broadcast in Japan and ran for 25 episodes in 2011.  The series was produced by Japanese animation studio, Sunrise, known for such anime as Accel World and Cowboy Bebop, among others.  VIZ Media released an English language version of Tiger & Bunny: The Beginning on DVD and Blu-ray in North America on October 1, 2013.

Tiger & Bunny takes place in a world where 45 years earlier, super-powered humans, known as NEXT, started appearing.  Some of them fight crime as superheroes in Stern Bild City (a re-imagined version of New York City).  They promote their corporate sponsors while appearing on the hit reality television show, HERO TV.  Each season, the superheroes compete to be named the “King of Heroes.”  However, not all NEXT use their powers for good.  Tiger & Bunny: The Beginning starts as a recap of the first few episodes of the TV series and then, moves on to a new story.

Tiger & Bunny: The Beginning opens as Kotetsu T. Kaburagi (Wally Wingert), a veteran superhero known as Wild Tiger, begins his day.  Meanwhile, the Justice Bureau approves Barnaby Brooks, Jr. (Yuri Lowenthal) as a new superhero, but this rookie does not want a codename.  Circumstances place Kotetsu in the employment of Apollon Media, and they want him to join Barnaby in forming the first every superhero team.

Kotetsu and Barnaby immediately dislike each other.  Kotetsu even gives Barnaby the nickname “Bunny,” which the rookie hates.  They will have to learn to work together when Stern Bild City faces two grave threats, “Steel Hammer Statue” and a seemingly impossible to catch thief named Robin Baxter.

Tiger & Bunny: The Beginning is the second best animated feature film about superheroes.  I put it behind Pixar’s Oscar-winning film, The Incredibles.  As Tiger & Bunny: The Beginning mixes traditional 2D (or hand-drawn animation) with 3D (or computer animation), I would say that it is by far the best 2D animated superhero film.

The film is a little soft on character drama, and the plot is pretty simply.  The characters are wonderful, although the supporting superheroes are more colorful than the leads.  The English voice-acting gives zest to Blue Rose (Kari Wahlgren) and Dragon Kid (Laura Bailey), and spice to the risqué Fire Emblem (John Eric Bentley).  Kotetsu and Barnaby are a little too straight and narrow, as if the storytellers and filmmakers are reluctant to let them really show their range as characters.

Visually, Tiger & Bunny: The Beginning is a good example of how anime can actually match CGI in live-action when it comes to creating fantastic gadgets, creatures, and environments.  The superheroes wear costumes that are more high-tech gadgets and armor than they are uniforms.  One villain even has a costume that is practically some kind of eccentric motorcycle.  Automobiles and helicopters are fantastic future-machines that mix technology with custom car and fashion design.

Stern Bild City is a wonderland that dots the metropolis of the future with theme park attractions throughout the city.  To me, this city looks like a 3D version of Batman’s Gotham City as created by Batman creator Bob Kane and artists like Dick Sprang and Jerry Robinson.  The city also makes me think of Arcade’s Murderworld as drawn by John Byrne in X-Men #123 (Marvel Comics, February 1979).

Everything comes together to make Tiger & Bunny: The Beginning a unique superhero adventure.  It is not only unlike any superhero fiction in America, but it is also a grand spectacle that embraces the imagination and sense of wonder that should be inherent in film, television, novels, and especially comic books featuring superheroes.  This anime is an action-comedy that both gently pokes fun at and embraces superheroes.  Most of all, Tiger & Bunny: The Beginning leaves you wanting more.

8 of 10

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The text is copyright © 2013 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Review: Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 2 – The Battle for Doldrey

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 69 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 2 – The Battle for Doldrey (2012)
Original title:  Berserk: Ohgon jidai hen 2 - dorudorei koryaku hen
Running time:  92 minutes (1 hour, 32 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Toshiyuki Kubooka
WRITER:  Ichirô Ôkôchi (based on the manga by Kentaro Miura)
PRODUCERS:  Eiichi Kamagata, Mitsuru Ohshima, Akira Shimada, and Eiko Tanaka
COMPOSER:  Shiro Sagisu


Starring:  (voices) Marc Diraison, Kevin T. Collins, Carrie Keranen, Rachael Lillis, Michelle Newman, and Patrick Seitz

Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 2 – The Battle for Doldrey is a 2012 Japanese animated film (anime) from anime director Toshiyuki Kubooka.  It is a direct sequel to the first film, Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 1 – The Egg of the King, which Kubooka also directed.  This film was released in Japan under its original title, Berserk: Ohgon jidai hen 2 - dorudorei koryaku hen, on June 23, 2012.

Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 2 is based on Berserk, a Japanese manga (comic book) series written and illustrated by Kentaro Miura.  Berserk is set in a fantasy world that is modeled on medieval Europe.  The story centers around the two characters, Guts (Marc Diraison), an orphaned mercenary, and Griffith (Kevin T. Collins), the leader of a mercenary group called the Band of the Hawk.  The King of Midland hired the Band of the Hawk to fight against Chuder, the Midlanders’ adversary during the Hundred Years’ War.

As The Battle for Doldrey begins, the Band of the Hawk is engaged in battle with General Adon and his Blue Whale Ultra Heavy Armored Fierce Assault Annihilation Knight Corps of Chuder.  Adon focuses his attention on Hawk officer, Casca (Carrie Keranen), but when Guts rides to her aid, they both end up imperiled.

The King of Midland has long sought to recover the fortress Doldrey, which is located in Midland’s territory, but which has been in the possession of Chuder for over a century.  Now, the King makes a request that one of his noble lords volunteer to lead an assault against Doldrey in a bid to recover the fortress.  Griffith volunteers the Band of the Hawk, but what chance do his 5000 horsemen have against Doldrey’s 30,000 troops?  Meanwhile, the Band of the Hawk’s success has made Guts restless.

The first time I saw the DVD box art for Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 1 – The Egg of the King, I thought that the movie would not amount to much.  However, I was delightfully surprised; in fact, by the end of the movie, I wanted more.  Obviously I had somewhat higher expectations for Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 2 – The Battle for Doldrey, and the movie easily exceeded those expectations.  This is one of the best films I have seen this year, live action or animation.

The Battle for Doldrey is like a smaller scale version of The Lord of the Rings:  The Two Towers.  The Battle for Doldrey offers character drama in the form of romantic relationships, camaraderie among men-at-arms, introspection of past wrongs, and political intrigue.  The battle scenes are even better.  I have not seen the like in animated films; the blood, gore, and dismemberment was enough to both impress me and to give me pause.  There were times when blood and offal rained on the characters.  The nerdy kid in me yelled, “Awesome!”  If the MPAA rated this, it would definitely give The Battle for Doldrey an “R” rating, if not an “NC-17.”  This animated film has a rather intense and explicit sex scene and an extended torture sequence.

The animation is a mixture of computer-animation (3D) and some hand-drawn (2D) animation.  I think the film also makes use of the computer-animation process of cel shading, which makes computer-animation look like hand-drawn animation.  The animation looks its best during the forest scenes and during the battle of Doldrey.  The castle interiors are also impressive, especially the ballroom.  The character animation is good, especially in battle scenes.

As I wrote for the first film, I can say for the second Berserk: The Golden Age Arc.  It is simply an all-around, high-quality, and exceptional film.  As an anime, it occupies its own special place.  Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 2 – The Battle for Doldrey seeks to be more than just another fantasy war movie, and that it is.

9 of 10

Saturday, October 05, 2013

The text is copyright © 2013 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Review: "My Neighbor Totoro" is Pure Magic

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 35 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Tonari no Totoro – original title
Running time: 88 minutes (1 hour, 28 minutes)
PRODUCERS: Toru Hara with Ned Lott (2005 Disney version)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mark Henley (Disney version)
EDITOR: Takeshi Seyama
COMPOSER: Joe Hisaishi


Starring: (voices) Dakota Fanning, Elle Fanning, Tim Daly, Lea Salonga, Frank Welker, Pat Carroll, and Paul Butcher; (original Japanese): Noriko Hidaka, Chika Sakamoto, Shigesato Itoi, Sumi Shimamoto, Hitoshi Takagi, Tanie Kitabayashi, Toshiyuki Amagasa, and Naoki Tatsuta

The subject of this movie review is My Neighbor Totoro, a 1988 Japanese animated fantasy film from writer-director, Hayao Miyazaki, and produced by Studio Ghibli. Originally titled, Tonari no Totoro, the film focuses on two sisters who move to the country where they encounter the forest spirits who live nearby.

My Neighbor Totoro was released in English in the United States beginning in 1990s. After acquiring the rights, Walt Disney Pictures released their English dub of the film in 2005, featuring the voices of Dakota Fanning, Elle Fanning, Tim Daly, and Lea Salonga. The subject of this review is the Disney version of My Neighbor Totoro, which has just been released on Blu-ray for the first time (as of this writing).

My Neighbor Totoro opens in Japan, 1958. Professor Tatsuo Kusakabe (Tim Daly) and his daughters, the elder Satsuki (Dakota Fanning) and four-year-old Mei (Elle Fanning), move into an old house in Matsugo. There, Kusakabe will be closer to his wife and his daughters’ mother, Yasuko (Lea Salonga), who is recovering from a long-term illness.

Not long after moving into their new home, the girls soon encounter small, dark, dust-like spirits called soot gremlins (or soot sprites), moving from light to dark places in the house. That’s just the sisters’ first encounter with the fantastic. One day, Mei spies a small magical creature and follows it to a large camphor tree near the old house, where she enters a world of magic and adventure. That leads to both Satsuki and Mei discovering a wondrous creature they call “Totoro” (Frank Welker).

In 1989, the release of Walt Disney’s animated musical film, Little Mermaid, was (and still is) seen as a renaissance for Disney animated feature films. A year before that, Japanese animation (or “anime”) did not need a renaissance thanks to films like Studio Ghibli’s 1988 release, My Neighbor Totoro.

As with other Miyazaki films, My Neighbor Totoro looks like it was lovingly crafted by the hands of human artists and animators. They drew and painted until they created a beautiful animated film that really has the illusion of life. Like many films from Studio Ghibli, My Neighbor Totoro loves people and nature equally. Thus, the film is about the Kusakabe sisters exploring nature and the magic found within it, rather than being about a conflict with nature and the girls being threatened by the magic they find there.

The Matsuga countryside, as depicted by this film’s artists, is a pastoral ideal, with verdant forests and fields. There is so much fertility and the water is so crystal clear and cool-seeming that you might believe that magic could not help but exist here. In fact, a sense of wonder about nature and their resourceful imaginations are what help the Kusakabe girls discover magic in a strong breeze or in the music they hear at night.

My Neighbor Totoro is blessed with a few truly great characters. Satsuki and Mei are remarkably convincing as little girls. It is said that there is magic in a child’s laughter and heartbreak in a child’s cries. Dakota Fanning as Satsuki and her sister, Elle Fanning, as Mei personify that by giving life-like performances. I believed in the Kusakabe girls because everything about them – their actions, conversations, desires, etc. – ring with authenticity – thanks to the Fanning sisters.

Of course, the film’s signature character is Totoro, one of the finest characters ever to appear in an animated film. He is a force of nature, doing more by communicating through growls, roars, and facial expressions than many actors do even with dialogue composed by the best writers. He’s pure enchantment; you can’t take your eyes off Totoro. After seeing Totoro when he first appears in the film, I felt that I never saw enough of him afterwards. Then, there is Catbus – that crazy mind-bending Catbus. The first time I saw him in this movie, I felt something that I only experience while watching the best of the best movies, something I can’t put into words.

I have previously seen four films by Hayao Miyazaki, including the superb Spirited Away. I think My Neighbor Totoro is the one that has wowed me the most… so far.

10 of 10

Monday, May 20, 2013

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Review: Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 1 – The Egg of the King

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 5 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 1 – The Egg of the King (2012)
Running time: 77 minutes (1 hour, 17 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Toshiyuki Kubooka
WRITER: Ichirô Ôkôchi (based on the manga by Kentaro Miura)
PRODUCERS: Eiichi Kamagata, Mitsuru Ohshima, Akira Shimada, and Eiko Tanaka


Starring: (voices) Marc Diraison, Kevin T. Collins, Carrie Keranen, Doug Erholtz, Jesse Corti, Christopher Kromer, Rachael Lillis, Marc Thompson, and Patrick Seitz

Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 1 – The Egg of the King is a 2012 Japanese animated film (anime) from anime director Toshiyuki Kubooka. Kubooka directed the “Working Through Pain,” segment of the 2008 direct-to-DVD film, Batman: Gotham Knight.

Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 1 is based on Berserk, a Japanese manga (comic book) series written and illustrated by Kentaro Miura. Berserk is set in a fantasy world that is modeled on medieval Europe. The story centers around the two characters, Guts (Marc Diraison), an orphaned mercenary, and Griffith (Kevin T. Collins), the leader of a mercenary group called the Band of the Hawk.

As the story begins, Guts is a mercenary on the loosing side of a battle, but he turns the tide of that battle when he defeats the Goliath-like, Bazuso (Russell Nash). This victory earns Guts a contest of skills with the Band of the Hawk, a band of mercenaries so feared that they are called the “grim reapers of the battlefield. The group’s leader, Griffith, convinces Guts, a loner, to join his band of mercenaries.

Soon, the Band of the Hawk is hired by the King of Midland to fight in the Midlanders’ war against their enemy, Chuder. Guts becomes indispensable to Griffith, but a monstrous fighter named Nosferatu Zodd has something to tell Guts about the strange jewel-like object Griffith wears around his neck. It is called the Egg of the King – the Crimson Behelit. And it has the power to shape Guts’ destiny.

When I first looked at the DVD box art for Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 1 – The Egg of the King, I thought that the movie would not amount to much. I was delightfully surprised; in fact, by the end of the movie, I wanted more. As it is set in a medieval Europe-inspired fantasy world, the viewer would expect violent battle scenes and sword fighting, and the film delivers that. The fights and battles are well designed and staged, and the fight between Guts and Nosferatu Zodd features a 360-degree spin of the camera that recalls the bullet time effects in The Matrix. There is a lot of violence, and some of it shocked even me, who, dear reader, has seen some appalling, outrageous, and disgusting depictions of violence over my lifetime as a film semi-fanatic.

The Egg of the King is simply full of surprises. Another of the surprises is the drama. The movie is almost stiff in the way the film depicts the characters’ motivations and conflicts, as if this were a British film of manners. The character drama, however, is intense, and demands that the viewer engage with various conflicts, motivations, and intrigue. Guts and Griffith are appealing characters, and the palace intrigue and court conspiracies are engrossing. The story grasps with many themes, including those of friendship and the nature of good and evil in humans, and the question of why men are so bloodthirsty often arises.

The animation is very good, often beautiful. It is a mixture of computer-animation (3D), some hand-drawn (2D) animation, and what looks like the computer-animation process of cel shading, which makes computer-animation look like hand-drawn animation. Some of the backgrounds, castles, interiors, landscapes, encampments, and battlefronts have the quality of paintings and fantasy illustration.

Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 1 – The Egg of the King is simply an all-around, high-quality, exceptional film. As an anime, this movie seems to be off in its own corner. It seeks to be more than just another fantasy war movie, and that it is.

8 of 10

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Friday, February 17, 2012

Review: "Tales from Earthsea" is Pretty

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 13 (of 2012) by Leroy Douresseaux

Tales from Earthsea (2006)
Gedo senki – Original Japanese title
(U.S. theatrical release: August 2010)
Running time: 116 minutes (1 hour, 56 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some violent images
DIRECTOR: Goro Miyazaki
WRITERS: Goro Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa; from a concept by Hayao Miyazaki (based upon the Earthsea novels by Ursula K. Le Guin)
PRODUCERS: Toshio Suzuki and Steve Alpert and Javier Ponton
COMPOSER: Tamiya Terashima


Starring: (English dub voices) Timothy Dalton, Matt Levin, Blaire Restaneo, Mariska Hargitay, Willem Dafoe, Cheech Marin, Susanne Blakeslee, Terrence Stone, Liam O’Brien, and Kevin Michael Richardson

Tales from Earthsea is a 2006 Japanese animated fantasy film produced by the Studio Ghibli, best known for the animated films of director Hayao Miyazaki (Ponyo). Tales from Earthsea is directed by Miyazaki’s son, Goro Miyazaki and is based upon the first four books in the Earthsea series by author, Ursula K. Le Guin. This movie is also inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s manga/illustrated story, The Journey of Shuna (1983).

The film is set in the world of Earthsea and focuses on Prince Arren of Enlad (Matt Levin). Enlad, like the rest of Earthsea, is troubled by drought and pestilence. After killing his father, Arren takes his father’s sword and goes on the run. He is later rescued by Sparrowhawk the Archmage (Timothy Dalton). Sparrowhawk and Arren travel to the farm of an old friend of Sparrowhawks’s, a woman named Tenar (Mariska Hargitay). There, Arren is also reunited with Therru (Blaire Restaneo), a young woman he’d recently protected from slave traders.

Therru is hostile to Arren, but he and Sparrowhawk remain on the farm, plowing and planting the fields for Tenar. However, the quartet’s agrarian lifestyle is interrupted by Lord Cob (Willem Dafoe), a sinister wizard who plans to shatter the barrier between life and death so that he can live forever. Cob needs Arren for his plans and wants revenge against Sparrowhawk.

Apparently, there was some hullabaloo and controversy around the production of Tales from Earthsea, including author Ursula K. Le Guin’s mixed feelings about how the film adapted the source material of her original novels. I like this movie, but I can understand how some would be put off by the film’s staid manner. The characters are way too laid back, and the dialogue is delivered at such an easy pace as to suggest that this film lacks conflict. In fact, Goro Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa (co-writer) have put together something that lacks dramatic punch. Tales from Earthsea is the most easy-going battle between good and evil on film that I can remember experiencing. The film’s most energetic element is Cheech Marin’s voice performance as the lackey, Hare, which is not only funny, but also scene-stealing when this movie really needs someone to steal a scene in order to save a scene.

Still, Tales from Earthsea sure is pretty. The film’s color is a symphony of shimmering reds and glowing pinks, and green is used almost entirely to suggest pastoral, verdant splendor. The film’s central theme is the need for balance, especially the balance of life and death. I think that in Tales from Earthsea, color is meant to celebrate not just life, but also living. This is unusual thematic material for an animated feature film, but Tales from Earthsea is characteristic of Studio Ghibli’s manner of doing things in animated films that are different and unique.

7 of 10

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Vampire Knight Volume 1 DVD Offers Few Frills But Anime is Cool

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 70 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux

VAMPIRE KNIGHT Volume 1 (2010)
• Rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens • MSRP: $19.97 US / $28.99 CAN • Available Now
DVD Release Date: July 20, 2010
Studio: VIZ Media
Format: Animated, Color, DVD, NTSC (Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1)
Number of discs: 1
Language: English and Subtitles: English
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Running time: 96 minutes; Rating: Not Rated

Contents: Vampire Knight anime – Episodes 1-4

The recent DVD release, Vampire Knight, Vol. 1, presents four episodes of the Japanese animated series, Vampire Knight. This is a cool take on the vampire similar to such Young Adult literature vampire delights as the Twilight and Vampire Kisses series.

Vampire Knight is a manga (Japanese comics) written by manga artist Matsuri Hino. It was first published in January 2005 in the Japanese comics magazine, LaLa, and the series continues as of this writing. Vampire Knight, which is a shojo manga (comics for teen girls), received an English publication in 2006 via Shojo Beat magazine, and VIZ Media currently releases collected volumes of the series every few months.

Vampire Knight is set at Cross Academy, a private boarding school. Cross Academy has two classes: the Day Class (the human students) and the Night Class (the vampire students). At twilight, the Day Class students return to their dorms and cross paths with the Night Class on its way to school. The Day Class doesn’t know the school’s dark secret that the Night Class students are vampires, but the Day Class girl students are madly in love with the boys of the Night Class

The story focuses on Yuki Cross, the adopted daughter of Headmaster Cross. She partners with Zero Kiryu, a human student who struggles with the vampire’s thirst, and the two are the Guardians of the school, patrolling the hallways and school grounds to protect the Day Class students from the vampires. Yuki and Zero form a kind of love triangle with Kaname Kuran, a pure blood vampire who is basically the unquestioned leader of the Night Class. The series follows various intrigues related to the conflict between human and vampire, and the story also delves into the pasts of the three leads.

Japan’s Studio Deen adapted Vampire Knight into anime (Japanese animation), and the series debuted on Japanese television in the April 2008. The recent DVD release, Vampire Knight, Vol. 1 collects the first four episodes of Season One of the anime: #1 “Night of Vampires,” #2 “Memories of Blood,” #3 “The Fang of Penitence,” and #4 “Trigger of Condemnation.”

These episodes introduce the plot, setting, characters, and mythology of Vampire Knight in such an easy and friendly way. It will not be long into the first episode that the viewer will believe that she is well on her way to knowing and then loving these characters. The series favors the Night Class over the Day Class, which seems to exist to praise and worship the Night Class. The vampires are beautiful, sexy, and sassy; their air of confidence is infectious. The Day Class cast is mostly dull.

The star, of course, is Yuki Cross. In a series like Vampire Knight, what is needed is a character that is probably more nosy than curious and also brave enough to go where others won’t go. That will make viewers want to follow her quest and investigations, and Yuki will have the viewers hanging onto her. The two male interests, Zero Kiryu and the vampire Kaname Kuran, are also quite good. Their aloof, cocky natures are attractive, and if it is possible for an animated character to have a screen presence, they have that.

The quality of the animation is good. It emphasizes style and stylishness over movement and features vivid colors, lush background details, and elegant sets. This look is perfect for the gothic moodiness and romantic melodrama that defines the look of Vampire Knight.

Vampire Knight, Vol. 1 will reveal some secrets, expose Zero’s affliction, and give viewers a shocking look at a kind of vampire that isn’t a sexy, laid back student. While aimed at young women, Vampire Knight is a surprisingly engaging melodrama and will please anyone interested in soap operas – with vampires.


EXTRAS: This is a no frills DVD without any extras, although viewers are offered the option of watching episodes in Japanese with English subtitles or dubbed versions with voice actors providing English dialogue.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Review: "Akira" Will Still Rock Your World

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 123 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Akira (1988) – Animated
(dubbed in English for its U.S. release)
Running time: 124 minutes (2 hours, 4 minutes)
MPAA – R for graphic violence and brief nudity
DIRECTOR: Katsuhiro Otomo
WRITER: Katsuhiro Otomo and Izo Hashimoto (from the manga by Katsuhiro Otomo)
PRODUCERS: Haruyo Kanesaku, Shunzo Kato, Yutaka Maseba, Ryohei Suzuki, and Hiroe Tsukamoto
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Katsuji Misawa (director of photography)
EDITOR: Takeshi Seyama

ANIMATION/SCI-FI/ACTION with elements of a thriller

Starring: (voices) Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, Mai Koyama, Tessho Genda, and Hiroshi Otake. (English dub) Johnny Yong Bosch, Joshua Seth, Wendee Lee, and Sandy Fox

Not only does the anime (a Japanese term for animated films) Akira have a cult following, many people who have seen it hold the film in high regard and as a watershed event not only in the history of anime and full-length animated features, but also in the history of filmmaking in general; it indeed has achieved legendary status.

Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo from his manga (Japanese term for comics) of the same title, Akira is the story of the evils secret military projects and science gone mad can bring upon mankind. Tetsuo, the runty teenager with a chip on his shoulder, was, as a child, a test subject in a covert military scientific project to create psionic beings. Psions are humans with supernatural mental powers like telekinesis (the ability to affect matter with the mind) and telepathy (the ability to communicate with others through thoughts rather than speech). As a teen, Tetsuo’s powers awaken, and he becomes a psionic psychopathic, killing and destroying almost anything in his path. It’s up to his fellow biker Kaneda and a girl named Kei to stop him. They are joined in their mission by another group of psionics, a group who fear that Tetsuo will destroy Neo-Tokyo just as another psionic creature, the legendary Akira, destroyed the original Tokyo.

Although the plot drags, the script has gaping holes, incidents happen with no explanations, and the end gets weird, Akira is nevertheless a groundbreaking and fantastic film. For everything it lacks in story structure, it more than makes up for with the visual hurricane that Otomo puts on the screen. He takes full advantage of the visual possibilities of both comic books and animation to pull off a film that is stuffed with visual feats. Comic books allow artists and cartoonists to draw things that would be nearly impossible for filmmakers to reproduce in film because of budget constraints, lack of technology, or both. If an animated film has the budget, its animators certainly have the skill to replicate the limitless possibilities of comics in the animated moving picture.

Otomo and his staff of animators and filmmakers created 2,212 shots using a total of 160,000 single pictures, about three times the number usual for animated features. What this does is not only create a film that duplicates the realism of live-action films, but actually surpasses what a live action film can do on a reasonable budget. With its scenes of bike chases, street battles, urban destruction in the form of exploding and collapsing structures, large crowd scenes, gun battles, and sci-fi action, Akira acts like a “real” movie. It’s stunning to watch this. They actually drew a movie in which the action and events carry the same weight and have the same impact as live action.

Akira, however, remains true to being an animated film. The filmmakers used 327 different colors and created 50 just for this film, so Akira has the kind of lush landscape of wonderful colors that we expect in animated films. The problems of story structure can be ignored. What is important is the film’s warning – just because we can achieve something scientifically does not mean that we should not consider science’s impact on both individuals and on the larger society. When a film visually achieves so much and has a wonderful message, I can overlook the little things.

8 of 10