Monday, May 14, 2007

Gunslinging My Way through Puberty

When gunfire ruptures throughout a building, the last thing a person thinks is that a preadolescent girl is holding the gun. But if you live in the corrupt Italy of Gunslinger Girl, you would be surprised to find that your assassin isn’t even old enough to go to an R-rated movie. But then, what isn’t more impressive than a ten year old asking you if you feel lucky…

Gunslinger Girl is a 13-episode anime made by Madhouse and Bandai, in which 5 girls are brainwashed, implanted with cybernetic augmentations, and trained to be the most elite soldiers that exist in all the world. And these teenage killing squads are not only efficient, but they are loyal enough to be trusted in any circumstance.

Based on an anime series by Yu Aida, we find out about the world of counter-terrorism primarily from following Henrietta, one of the girls, and her handler, Jose. In this world, the Social Welfare Agency, also known as the Agency, collects girls like Henrietta and trains them for counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism. But Henrietta is special: she was left for dead after her family was brutally murdered. This being the case, she has no family to oppose the Agency, nor does she have any other place to go. Therefore, Jose feels compassion for his charge, the newest member of the team, and tries his best to keep her from falling too far to either side of the line, balancing a killer’s instinct with compassion.

Now, I must say, I’m a sucker for any anime involving girl assassins; in fact, I’m a sucker for any tail involving a female who can dish out more destruction that most guys. Maybe that’s why I got into Point of No Return and Le Femme Nakita. But this Anime, much like Noir, has a kind of feminine bonding tale along with all the violence and destruction. Many of these girls are reaching the age when they start to wonder about themselves and the world around them, when they begin to develop a point of view that expressions their femininity, and their handlers, in all cases ex-military black-op kind of guys, don’t quite have what it takes to round out these poor brainwashed girls. Like Point of No Return, the handler just doesn’t cut it, and I was hoping that one of the girls would escape and become a rogue agent.

Alas, that never happened, and I found myself poised as the series ended, wondering to myself what had happened. There was no resolution to the current situation beyond the fact that all the girls were back together after some tough experiences, and the girls had finally gotten as developed as a relationship as they could with their handlers. Be that as it may, it was no way to end the series and I hope that like the ongoing manga, there is more to come from this anime.

I did like Gunslinger Girl, and even the roughest of guys out there can overcome the gag-me-now scenes with the ass-kicking action that never disappoints. If you want a new series to sit down and watch, and you want to see people get shot to hell, I suggest Gunslinger Girl. Watch it, like it, buy it. And if you don’t like it, you can always write an angry comment here on my blog.
Happy Viewing.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Macross me up baby

Who doesn’t like mech combat? I certainly do. I think most males would agree with me that if we had a choice between mushy love story and mech-warrior combat, we’d choose mech warriors hands down. Fortunately, instead of losing the girl when we try to solve the argument over who gets to hold the remote, there are ways to bridge the mushy love story with space explosions and mech combat, with a little bit of post apocalyptical mayhem to match it all. I’m not talking about the new SquareEnix animation, but Super Dimensional Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love?

Many of you have fond memories of mechs, if nothing more than playing with Transformer toys when you were children, and so it is that you find yourself uncontrollably drawn to a mech storyline, even if you haven’t heard of the show before, nor really had the desire to watch it. Such was the case for Macross, and though I have seen the movie, I still don’t have the pull into the TV show that normally beats into my heart after I watch a movie based on the show. But this movie did have its moments of balanced love story and mech combat, which made me feel warm tinglies inside.

The movie opens with a series of mechs leaving the Superspace Fortress Macross to got about a routine recon mission, and soon find themselves thrown into combat against the evil giant Zentradi race. The Zentradi have apparently been at war with mankind for many years, leaving the remnants of the homo sapient race floating adrift giant combat fortresses which can morph into a giant combat mech—though the reasoning for such is only hinted at by the gun the machine utilizes to drop the enemy carrier ships. Fortunately, like most 80’s movies, we don’t have to contemplate too hard before they move the storyline forward and make us forget about the situation, suspending our disbelief for just a few moments.

There are the standard impossible explosions that come hand-in-hand with mech shows, but also all the sound effects you’d expect to find in a mech story. But there is also a sufficient number of love triangles when the main character, Hikaru, meets up with his long time idol Lynn Minmay, who falls in love with him. Later, Minmay gets captured and Hikaru gets stranded on Earth with his superior officer, a female. After a while, they accept that everyone is dead, and they’re probably not going to make it home, so they end up falling in love, which only complicates the situation when the Zentradi release Minmay as part of a peace gesture. That’s when the love story takes a turn for the worst, and the soap opera waterworks really begin. Fortunately for the men who don’t like mushy stories, there are only a few minutes before the movie returns to the combat and then ends altogether.

Made in the 80’s, this movie is does not have the best quality of video to date, but it seemed as though it had the 1980’s style of animation and art. It was a very stylized movie and did keep me wondering what new visual will pop out next. I wanted to watch the next scene to see how it all plays out. This is a good movie with questions about existence and whether or not we are related to the aliens that we’ve met at a party. Naturally, any sci-fi geek would be interested in this movie.

However, I call it mediocre and say that you are going to need to judge the movie for yourself. I liked it, and I hope you like it door.

Good luck and happy watching.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Vampire Hunter D (the Anime)

What if you had survived 10,000 years of mutations, nuclear and chemical wars, religious upheavel, choas, earthquakes, and the destruction of organized civilization? Do you think you'd want to see what was happening in the world around you? Well, in this story, this wonderful story, we find that the world has done some sort of deevolution of civilization and now mankind lives in baronies spread across the globe. But these are fraught with problems that our minds could not even begin to comprehend.

This anime is a well-done suspension of disbelief SCI-FI animation. We are introduced to Doris Lang, who becomes part of a vampire herd. But that's not the end of the story, because this vampire, Count Magnus Lee (named for the eponynmous "Count Magnus" of a short story by M. R. James and Hammer Films' famed vampire actor, Christopher Lee), decides that he wants to make Doris his vampire bride. It turns out, his motivation is simply boredom, which completely enrages his daughter, Larmica (an anagram for Carmilla, as in the vampire villianess of the nineteenth century tale). However, as the story progresses, you discover that Lamika is actually a half-vampire born to Magnus by a woman who was very much like Doris, which puts a twist in the plot, a knife in the back of the daughter, and a whole new disturbing set of ideas related to vampires (and I'm sure a whole new set of vampire fetishisms).

Well, now that we've explained the story of Doris Lang, why is the movie called Vampire Hunter D? Well, D, most likely the shortened version of the word Dampiel*, is a migrating vampire hunter who simply moves from place to place and picks off the worst of the vampire foe. Why? Well, you'll have to watch the second VHD movie to find out.

Anyway, D enters the scene with all the badassness you'd expect from someone who is not only a vampire half-breed, but also the man who is responsible for cleaning out most of these undead foe. Unfortunately for D, Doris attempts to run him off and upon failing, asks him to save her from the wiles of the sinister Magnus Lee. D helps her because of his compassion and not her offer to have sex with him, clearly described later when he refuses to take advantage of her. Also, unfortunately for our hero, Magnus Lee is not your average vampire, for he is suspecting of being 10,000 years old. Wow! I hope that I can still be wooing the virgins in 10k years.

So, D goes after Magnus Lee and finds the vampire's fortress is intensely well fortified, equip with even the Three sisters of Midwich (three medusas with powers of the succubus). This very much like the three vampire women in Bram Stoker's Dracula. But unlike those three, these three become entranced by D's amazing regenerative powers and find that to be their downfall when he kills them all in a show of his vampiric nature.

There are some amazing scenes in this movie, as D, Greco Rohman and Rei Gensei (which means spirit existence for those with language barriers) wrestle over control of the situation. Greco Rohman wants Doris to be his, so he gets himself involved in the situation by stealing a special candle (originally an incense in the book) meant for Gensei in his fight with D and using against Larmica and D. The movie gives us no name for this item, but the comic called it the Time-Bewitching Incense (keep that in mind when you try to understand the significant differences between the two mediums, since they are quite different of a transition...mostly to make it more streamline and action packed).

Rei, on the other hand, seems to stay one step ahead of D in his actions, up until Gensei accidenty kills the laughing bat-mutant thinking it's D. But when D loses his hand because of a retaliatory gesture from Gensei, we find that no matter what the mutant though he was accomplishing, D is not a weak opponent. And thus, when we discover his genealogy, that of being the son of Dracula, the most noble and righteous of Vampires, we are not surprised to find that he follows in his father's footsteps very well.

Last on the list of greatness related to this movie is the interact D has with other characters. D is a very silent person, which gives us whole moments were we must conclude D's thoughts and motivations by scenes of action rather than dialogue. He speaks to others when he means to inform them, a point described very early in the movie when Dan says that Dr. Freng told him that only two types of men are silent: evil men who are too busy plotting, and good men who are too busy listening. The only time we really get glimpses into D's motivations and history is through his talking left hand (nameless).

I really did love this movie for its story. I love the literary aspect of comics, anime and games, and find myself enjoying them based on visuals and storyline. An anime without story but expertly drawn bores me because I feel like I'm watching paintings, and a story expertly written but poorly drawn makes me feel cheated inside. This had aspects of cheating me.

The story is great, but the art isn't as much. Now, this visual discrepancy can be forgiven as Vampire Hunter D is a movie from 1985, and the technology to make well done anime in 1985 was a subpar version of today's technology. That's fairly common sense, and so I forget the lack of epic visual feats in this film and instead enjoyed the amazing ability to hold me watching even when it was too dark to make out certain visual aspects.

Also related to creation date, this movie has moments of the speed racer continuous lines of irrelevant information. Run-on sentences are a problem. And comma splices were killing me. But, you can't blame the script writers who were trying to follow a japanese translation and manage to fill in the blank spots. In the 21st century, we learned to speak slower to fill in gaps, but they were a little under-experienced, so we forgive them.

I do recommend this title to anyone who likes anime and especially to any fans of anything vampire related. And those of you out there you enjoy Castlevania far far too much, this movie is probably right for you. Have fun and happy watching.

*dampiel: The bastard offspring of a vampire and human. Accepted fully in neither world dampiels will have difficulty coexisting with humans.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Anime is Manga is Anime

So, for those of you out there who are completely oblivious to the fact that almost all anime is created off a manga created in Japan. You see, since Japanese people don't have novels, like we do here in the US, they write Manga in return. And thus, their novelizations of mind elations has a tendancy to become ANIME. Unforunately, those who read manga will find one thing very very common between the two: Plot. You see, most anime are just colored action versions of the manga pages. The author pieces together the motions between the images presented and then those are all combined together to make the anime that you see.

And thus it is that anime is manga is anime. It's the vicious cycle that we manga/anime fans must go through. If you are a true Japanofile, then this entry into my "ANIME TO THE EXTREME" blog isn't really all that informative. And, you probably think that I'm being ridiculously retarded, but you'd be surprised how many anime watchers out there just don't understand this concept and think to argue with the manga reader. FACT: more often than not, an anime has a manga. FACT: more often than not, the anime follows the manga word for word. FACT: any discrepancies between the two are usually related to translation problems.

Now, if you are new to this world of anime and manga, then I'm here to guide you through. I write under the assumption that you've never seen this world before, and have no idea what I'm talking about. Unfortunately, because I have been around the block, I will also make comments for the Japanofiles, so just let it go over your head.

But anyway, back to my point. Anime is manga is anime. Those who disagree are wrong. If you think you're not wrong, refer to the previous sentence. I will go so far as to say that some anime productions are first produced in video format BEFORE published book form, but these cases are very very rare. So rare that I dare anyone to find me one such case, and I will buy you a mountain dew. Usually, if the process skips the print production all together, it never ends up in print form. Games are the one exception to this, because games are essentially produced side by side with their stories, so you sometimes find a manga about a game being released after the game. But I'm talking anime film here, so step off.

Right, so that's that. There's more about Anime later, but don't be surprised if I start talking about Manga as well, 'cause they're one and the same in my mind. You can't truly think you understand the story of an anime if you haven't at least glanced at the manga, because the writing can change the entire dynamic of the plot. Happy Reading.