Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor

There are three things that I really hate about most sequels. Now every sequel is undoubtedly guilty of these things to a certain degree, but it really all depends on the execution. When done wrong, these are the three things I really notice:

1) Dramatic changes taking place between the first and second story that largely happen off screen and are not resolved until the end of the second series. This essentially creates a rift between the two stories when the whole point is to create a sequel, is it not? Again, I'm the kind of guy who likes to have a certain "flow" and when that flow is disrupted it gets on my nerves.

2) Dramatic changes in tone and presentation. Oftentimes movies and shows will change the central theme while bringing back some familiar characters and also adding wholly original ones. New settings are typically used and as a reference to what I just mentioned a above, a drastic story change has taken place off screen which somehow leads to the change in location or to half of the familiar characters being gone.

3) The "cheat" ending. You know what I mean. The ending that isn't an end, but is really a cliffhanger meant to lead into a sequel providing the ratings warrant one. But if the ratings are not there than most of the main story lines are tied up in a rush job (and typically not fully explained) and many characters live to fight another day.

Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor is guilty of all three things I just mentioned. Half the characters are gone. The location is different. The manor of storytelling is also different. And the ending is a cheat.

Now... I won't say it is a bad show. It's not. It is actually quite good for the most part, but the ending is rushed. This sequel series is only 12 episodes compared to the first series which clocks in at 26. The story this time around is much more linear and it really is one story instead of a bunch of sub-plots gradually telling a story like the first show was.

I like that difference.

The story opens two years after the ending of the original show with Hei being employed by the CIA to track down a boy named Shion in Russia. Only he winds up with a girl named Suo, Shion's twin sister. Hei is still on the run from the Syndicate in Tokyo and he seems to have misplaced his good friend Yin somewhere along the way. Apparently, she was possessed by something, but the series leaves it vague. I suppose that's why they made the 4 part OVA to bridge the missing time between the first series and the second series, but I have yet to see the OVA series since some moron put it on the last disc after the final episode of the second season. A lot of fans call the 4 part OVA Darker Than Black Gaiden so I suppose I'll have to make a separate review for that after I watch it.

The girl named Suo becomes the new protagonist of the show as Hei more or less loses his abilities as a Contractor during a skirmish and Suo essentially absorbs Hei's abilities to a certain extent.

This creates an interesting dynamic between the two, but I began to get the feeling that too much time was being spent on the girl's story. This was Hei's story, after all, and there was still a lot from the first show that did not get resolved in this show because so much time was spent on an essentially new character. Yin's evolution as a character, which was quite profound in the first series, was brought to a screeching halt because Yin wasn't even in this series until the very end and even then she wasn't technically herself.

This show, more and more as I got into it, felt like a stop-gap between the first series and what should have lead to a real sequel. So, while I did enjoy the show, I have to say that this is a terrible sequel. None of my questions have been answered and now I'm left with even more questions than I had before.

There must be a third season somewhere along the horizon. I don't see anything on the slate for 2013, but there must be one sometime. Hell, even another OVA would be fine. Or movie. Something.

Seriously. The first show is built on the mystery of Hell's Gate, but at no point is Hell's Gate's mystery revealed. The second series comes back to Tokyo towards the end and somehow Hell's Gate is brought up again into the story, but nothing about the Gate is explained... again.

The appearance and disappearance of Heaven's Gate isn't explained, either.

The false stars... nope, not explained either.

If you want answers and you liked the first show then you'll hate this show.

But I suppose I found enough about this show to like it and warrant a few subsequent viewings. Like the Phantasm movies or the second season of Big O... I may have no idea what the hell I watched, but I did find it rather enjoyable.

Now I want a real sequel, damn it.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Darker Than Black

Anime shows not based off of a manga are a bit of a rarity. Not saying that they don't happen because that would negate my previous sentence. They do happen, but the results are often hit and miss. More misses, really. Shows like Neon Genesis Evangelion and Cowboy Bebop are legends in the anime world and they were not based off manga. The same can be said of Mobile Suit Gundam and a few of its sequel shows. But shows like Blue Gender or Big O are not quite as good. Not entirely misses, but not mega hits, either. Big O has a childhood nostalgia for me so that helps me overlook its faults, but there's just no comparison between that show and the likes of Cowboy Bebop

Darker Than Black is a show that felt like an original anime not based on a manga. That's what the show is, but the reason I say it felt that way is because the style of the storytelling is very frustrating at times. It almost seemed very gimmicky and I don't like saying that at all. 

This show consists of 25 episodes and one original video animation (or OVA - It's an episode not shown on television and is essentially created for the purposes of adding to a box set). I'll get to the OVA later, but for now I want to talk about the style of the storytelling. 

The first twenty-two episodes are all two-parters. That means that the show essentially has eleven different subplots that are more or less resolved in only two episodes. Episode two concludes the storyline of episode one. Episode four concludes the storyline of episode three. And so on and so forth until we reach episode 22, the last of the two-parters. These twenty-two episodes should be watched in order because there is an over-arching storyline that gradually builds and is ultimately concluded (more or less) in the final three episodes of the series. But the frustrating thing is the lack on flow. There's a real "start-stop" flow for most of the series and the complexity of the story's plot makes one wonder if the story could possibly have been told in a better and clearer way. With all the sub-plots there are that essentially introduce the story and the characters there are others sub-plots left unexplored to the extent that they should have been. Inevitably, all of the main characters cross paths at some point, but there's often just a stilted exchange that really makes me wish that these stories had been planned out and expanded just a bit more. The two-parter style the show has for most of the series really disallows for much growth beyond the set of sub-plots. And by the time the final three episodes roll around there's almost no room to venture into areas unexplored. The action simply happens and then it ends and so many questions are left unanswered. 

Of course, there's a twelve episode sequel series called Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor, but I haven't seen that yet so I can't say for sure if any of my questions will be answered. I just hope that two-parter crap isn't present. I like two-parters as much as the next guy, but I just watched eleven of them. I've had my fill. 

Now onto the actual story. It's a complicated one. We are more or less introduced to the main character of the series from the get-go and he goes by the name of Hei. He also goes by the name of BK201, Li Shengshun, and the Black Reaper. He is what is known as a Contractor and he has special powers only befitting of a Contractor. But each Contractor has a payment they must make as a result of having these special powers, but it is unclear just what Hei's payment is. 

There is a special force of the Japanese police force that are after Hei and other Contractors in general for reasons that are not entirely made clear at first. Since Contractors are not entirely human and are often more dangerous than most humans, one can assume that fear of the unknown is the main reason the Contractors are so hunted. Of course, many Contractors are cold and ruthless and entirely without honor. They believe in being wholly rational and things like dreams and ideals are pointless. A Contractor would gladly deceive, steal, kill, and sell itself to an enemy in order to maintain self-preservation. It is precisely these traits that the people that chase them fear and is a logical reason they do chase them after all... but the true reason is a bit more malevolent. 

And the Contractors are just what the infamous Syndicate want to utilize as tools. Since the war in South America (dubbed "Heaven's War") where an entire city was leveled off the map, Hei has become just one of those tools. 

But Hei is somehow different from other Contractors. He even seems to be emotional at times. Why does he serve the Syndicate? And how is he connected with the strange wall named "Hell's Gate" that surrounds an infected area of Tokyo where only chaos seems to dwell? 

This is a very intriguing series and I wish it would have lasted a bit longer. Again, I know there is a second season, but I have my doubts about just what will be revealed. 

P.S. - As promised I said that I'd go over the OVA. It is listed as the 26th episode and even is the last episode on the DVD collection but it is not the last episode of the first season! It takes place somewhere in the final third part of the series. It doesn't add much to the series except for one moment where Hei's true identity as the Black Reaper is found out by Misaki Kirihara, the section chief in charge of investigating all things Contractors as well as BK201. The significance of this discovery in terms of the series as a whole is almost nothing because... well, her memory of the moment is completely erased by a bit of inadvertent deux ex machina. But it is a neat moment anyway.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Teahouse of the August Moon - A Review

The Teahouse of the August Moon is a 1956 screwball comedy/satire set in post-WWII Japan that starred Marlon Brando, Glenn Ford, Japanese actress Machiko Kyo, and Eddie Albert. While I watched this film because Brando was in it and because my internet was down at the moment and I had nothing better to do, I have to say that I really enjoyed this movie a lot more than I thought I would. Not having heard of this movie before, nothing good or bad about it, I figured it would be kind of forgettable. But I really liked it. And it wasn't even necessarily because of Brando's odd but exceptional performance. What really drew me to this movie was my love for all things Japanese. 

In this film Brando serves as a kind of host and he is not really the main character even though he is the top billed actor. And of course he would get top billing. This was back when Brando was money although many critics would scorn Brando's role in this film. Perhaps this film was what began turning the tide against him. 

But the movie's true lead is Glenn Ford and he plays an inept army captain whose job it is to introduce democracy to the village of Okinawa with the help of the sly interpreter Sakini (Brando). Glenn Ford's duty is to put the village on the map as a beacon of American ingenuity by building a school (fived-sided like the Pentagon, of course) and forming a Ladies League for Democratic Action, but the people of Okinawa and Sakini have different things in mind. Through various devious methods of making Glenn Ford look silly, Ford essentially gives in to the true desire of the Okinawa people. They don't want a school. Instead they want a Teahouse and Geisha training for the women. 

Brando typically becomes immersed in his characters and gives them certain quirks to really make them come alive. Well, the character of Sakini is no exception. Perhaps his casting was in bad taste in 1956 and I imagine that by today's standards it is as well. Kind of like the equivalent to black face (or yellow face), I suppose. Take a white guy and make him look like foreigner so you don't have to actually hire a foreigner and viola! we have a foreigner. But there are plenty of Japanese people in this movie and the whole film is about Japan so Brando's choice as Sakini could scarcely be called racist. It can only be called odd, which it is, but it also worked. Marlon Brando in make-up and with a very practiced accent really becomes the character of Sakini and I can't imagine the role portrayed by anyone else. Not even Japanese actors. Brando just had a personality that essentially willed this movie along and overcame some of the slower moments. 

The semi-love story between Glenn Ford and Machiko Kyo (who largely only speaks Japanese for most of the movie) is the focal point of this movie and it is certainly not without merit, but Brando binds the movie together (much like he binds the couple together by interpreting for them) and he rescues the movie from what essentially would have been a very sad and depressing ending. 

I should also point that this film does dive into the subject of interracial marriage and for 1956 that must have been pretty controversial. Probably still is in some places today. So if a white guy playing an Asian guy offends you or interracial marriage offends you than you are either have serious problems or you are living in the wrong century. Either way you probably wouldn't like the movie. Otherwise there shouldn't be too much of a problem. 

Is it one of my favorite movies? I don't know. I enjoyed it, but I'm not sure how much I like it just yet. It's no On the Waterfront, but it's still pretty good. Give it a try. I know I certainly laughed a few times and the movie made me smile. 

But I'm going off track. Watch the movie. 

P.S. - Harry Morgan's brief appearance reminded me of M*A*S*H and seeing him become a drunken loon at the end of the movie further convinced me that this had to have been on his audition tape for the show.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Frustrations of the "Slow Build-Up" - My Review of Noir

I am typically not a fan of the slow build-up. Mostly because the payoff rarely ever makes the build-up seem worth it. If I spend twenty episodes of a twenty-six episode series still trying to figure out who the main characters really are or the first two hundred pages of a book trying to figure out when the plot actually starts... well, I typically get frustrated and move on to other things. 

That's not to say that the slow build-up can't work. It works great for the show Gungrave and for the movie From Dusk Till Dawn. I'd say it also works for a lot of gangster movies like Scarface, The Godfather, and Casino. Stephen King also typically puts out books with a slow build-up and they are generally worth it although The Tommyknockers is notorious for being especially slow. 

It really all chalks up to personal taste, I suppose. 

Noir is a story about two assassins. Mireille is an international assassin and makes a fine living out of it. Kirika is an amnesiac with no memory of how she became so skilled at killing people or why people are hunting her. The two characters meet up at the very beginning of the series and eventually go into business together under the code name "Noir." But Noir has a deeper meaning in the criminal underworld and it is one that bounds Kirika and Mireille together with a peculiar and covert group called the Soldats. The Soldats are after Kirika and Mireille for reasons neither of them seem to know, but the truth behind it all is one that apparently goes back centuries. It goes back to the original meaning of Noir. 

Noir is a very slow-moving show. It's almost too slow. That's not to say there isn't action because there's plenty of that. The two main characters pile up enough bodies to give an undertaker three months worth of overtime. However, the action has a very minimalist approach and there is not a lot of blood. Almost none, in fact. The two main characters (Kirika and Mireille) are also very detached from us from the very beginning and only ever so slightly are we introduced to them. It really takes forever to get to know them and by the time we do we like them, but at the beginning they seem to be just there and going through the motions. 

The villains are also incredibly frustrating because it is tough to say who the villains really are because they are essentially different factions of the same group. They call themselves the Soldats, but some want to kill Kirika and Mireille while others seemingly want to help them. Later on the ones who wanted to help them want to kill them and the ones who wanted to kill them now want to help them. It's a very frustrating dynamic that drove me crazy for most of the show. 

That's not to say this show isn't good. I did appreciate how the show wrapped up (with a typical ambiguous ending) and I'd say the show's slow build-up was mostly worth it, but it is a show you have to really stick with if you want to enjoy it. But this show is not great and it is not my favorite. Just good. 

I also want to point out that this show was the first of Bee Train's "Girls With Guns Trilogy." Bee Train is the production company that was involved with Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom and one can kind of see how Noir influenced Phantom but the two shows are very different and Phantom is not even part of the Girls With Guns Trilogy even though there are certainly stylistic similarities. The other two shows in the trilogy are Madlax and El Cazador De La Bruja. Those two shows are more like spiritual successors to Noir than actual sequels and are only similar in terms of certain themes and elements. I've never seen them, but I'm curious to see how they different from Noir and if they are in fact closer in style to the fast-paced Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom.

P.S. - There's a seven minute extra on the DVD collection that features the characters (with the same English voice actors) as sock puppets. That alone is worthy of purchasing this collection. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Mission Statement of the Otaku House for 2013

This is my 140th post on my blog and it is only now that I've never really established a "mission statement." That's just my inner-procrastinator at work again. I do apologize. Rather than pretend the past 139 posts do not exist... I'll just make this my mission statement for 2013.

I also do not have a satisfactory bio posted so I'd also like to correct that. I know there's a small bio on my blogger page, I don't think it can hurt to expand on that. Sure, you could just read the previous 139 blog entries, but I'll make it easy for you. 

My name is Jacob Long and I am an avid fan of... well, many things. I like to talk about football, anime, horror (books and films), and just plain books and films in general. My favorite actors are Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Marlon Brando, Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, and Gregory Peck. I love old movies and I hate stupid movies. Oh, I do watch some bad films every now and then (I actually really enjoy some of them), but none of those films would I deem worthy to enter my "Otaku House's Catalog of Greatness." I'm always on the lookout for killer films regardless of genre or age, but I like dark comedies, bleak dramas, and extreme horror in particular. 

My favorite professional football teams are the Indianapolis Colts, the New York Giants, and whatever team Peyton Manning is currently playing for. So that means I am suffering from intense heartache as of this moment. On the plus side my teams are just a few plane crashes away from making this year's Super Bowl. Go team. 

That's another thing you might have to get used to: my odd sense of humor. I'm not very PC and I can be downright offensive (especially to New England Patriot fans and Auburn Tiger fans... but it's not like anything I say about them isn't true). 

My favorite college football team is the Alabama Crimson Tide and college football is more important to me than the pros. Nick Saban is kind of like college football's version of Bill Belichick, but Saban's players don't call him by the nickname "Darth Hoodie" when he is not in the room.

I blog about anime frequently because I watch it frequently. I support the cause because I enjoy the animation and the storytelling. Maybe a bit nerd-ish, but it passes the time. I could be doing worse, though. I could be watching re-runs of Desperate Housewives

I like to think I have an eclectic taste in tunes. Metal, prog rock, metal, classic rock, metal, horror rock, metal... I have diverse tastes, I know. I worship at the altar of Sabbath, Slayer, Type O Negative, and Zappa. 

I am also a fledgling guitarist who enjoys ripping off the riffs of Tony Iommi. 

As I've said before I do like to write when the mood hits me. Unfortunately, that mood doesn't hit very often.  My friends are undoubtedly very grateful for that because it means that I'm not spamming the shit out of their Facebook pages. Oh, well. 

And now onto my mission statement...

The Otaku House is scarcely on the forefront of anything. It's just a place where I dick around and post about things I like because it seems that no one I know likes half the things I like. People are just too busy watching Pauly Shore movies and listening to Limp Bizkit, I suppose. I like to think that the Otaku House is a nice way to kill some time on the internet. I mean, there's only so much internet porn you can watch at the office, right? 

I don't have many goals set for 2013 that apply for this blog. But I plan to read and watch more movies so I can post about them. I also plan on trying to get my first internet stalker. I mean, no one has a real blog until they have their own stalker. Maybe this year that will happen, but so far no such luck. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Killing Kind by Bryan Smith

Bryan Smith is an author of several horror novels and an urban fantasy set of books titled Kayla Monroe: Haunted World. Even though I've been to my share of online message boards where he seems to be (I'm not a stalker, honest!)... I can honestly say I haven't read a lot of Bryan's work. I only have four of his books in my possession (only read three of them) and I'm really not too sure how many books he has written up to this point. So, no, I haven't really done my homework.

But I have read Bryan Smith's The Killing Kind and you could do a lot worse than to pick it up yourself. If, like me, you are always hesitant to pick up novels by authors you've never read before then allow me to give you a bit of a taste of what you might be in for. If you like Quentin Tarantino films, Natural Born Killers, Richard Laymon, Jack Ketchum, or Edward Lee then Bryan Smith (and The Killing Kind in particular) should be right up your alley.

I honestly don't have a complaint about this book and I'm typically very nit-picky about what I read. It's not for the weak-willed or those who can't stand a bit of blood. It's also not for those types who expect every character to be good to a certain degree, either. It seems like almost everyone in this book is a serious prick at some point. So if you are turned off by unlikable characters then this may not be the book for you. Who the hell am I kidding? This is the book for you. You don't have a choice in the matter. 

Seriously, stop what you are doing right now and get this book. 

Or else...

Monday, January 14, 2013

To Protect is to Never Betray - My Review of Gungrave (Gangureivu)

Tragedy. That is what I think the finest form of entertainment is. Mostly because that is all I ever seem to end up watching. I love horror too, but I think a good drama with a tragic twist is pure genius. If you read about me lamenting/applauding the end of Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom then you'll hear me echo some of those sentiments here but for slightly different reasons.

I first purchased Gungrave without ever having seen the series, but because it was made by the same guy who made Trigun I figured it would be a no-brainer addition to my collection. Well, I was right and I was wrong.

The back of the Blu-ray case says the following: Death doesn't matter to Brandon Heat. Armed with his twin handguns and a coffin full of heavy weapons, he's back from the grave and bent on crippling Millennion, a massive mafia organization with legions of undead mafia enforcers. Driven by vengeance, Heat won't stop until Millennion's leader - and Brandon's former best friend - "Bloody Harry" MacDowel is destroyed. 

That sounded very intriguing to me, but that summary turned out to be the least intriguing part of the show. That's not really a bad thing either so allow me to explain...

Have you ever seen From Dusk Till Dawn? That movie is a lot like this show in that it begins as one story and then takes a sharp turn and heads out into supernatural territory. We know this will happen from the beginning because that's why we're watching the movie. Of course, that could make the beginning of the movie frustrating because there are no vampires for about the first hour of the film. But, because the characters and the situations are so interesting, the vampires aren't necessarily the main attraction anymore. What becomes really interesting is how the transition from hostage story to vampire story is made in From Dusk Till Dawn and that alone becomes what the movie hinges on. I think it's done well, but that's just my opinion.

Everything I just said applies to Gungrave. The first episode starts out near the end of the story with Brandon Heat already having been brought back to life and hellbent on destroying "Bloody Harry" MacDowel. We see these bizarre monsters that Brandon Heat is fighting, this young and angry girl at his side that we do not know, and this old doctor named Tokioka who is helping Brandon also for reasons we do not know. That's because, despite this being the first episode, we are actually nearing the end of the series.

It is only in the second episode Young Dogs that the story begins in true fashion. We are transported back in time to when Brandon Heat is still living and Harry MacDowel is his best friend. There are no monsters here. Only a bunch of street gangs fighting over territory. Harry and Brandon are in one of these street gangs and the whole thing kind of feels like West Side Story without the music. Just a sort of innocence about the whole thing. This is where the meat of the story starts and I'd almost encourage anyone watching the show to skip over the first episode and go straight to the second if I wasn't so OCD. The bulk of this series is dedicated to explaining the past of Brandon Heat and MacDowel and how their friendship inevitably soured. It really is riveting stuff in its own right. There's almost nothing supernatural going on until the end of this trip into the past. The characters of Heat and MacDowel are just so interesting that we sort of forget that Brandon dies and that MacDowel (as he claimed in the very first episode) is the one who killed him.

The series only gets darker and more tragic because it's supposed to. The buildup to the present day events is so well done and the addition of supernatural entities fits well within the confines of the show. It's a welcome twist. Otherwise this show ending with Harry killing Brandon would have been far too depressing and kind of pointless.

Fast forward thirteen years (or to about episode 18... which is essentially a retelling of the first episode with some views from Brandon's perspective) and Brandon is back as a dead man aptly called "Beyond the Grave." He is aided by a doctor who had spent far too much time aiding Millennion by creating monsters called "orgmen" and chooses to repent by essentially reviving Brandon Heat from the dead by using his technology of "necrolization." And Heat becomes his warrior of justice. More or less. I can't tell you who the angry young girl is because that's one of the few things the show must tell, but she does serve a purpose, too.

But the three of them, as evidenced from the first episode of the show, begin a mission to right the wrongs of the past and to remind MacDowel that "to protect is to never betray."

The conclusion of this show is very fitting and beautiful. Sad, but sort of uplifting. And it certainly fits the qualifications of a tragedy. The fights with the monsters are well worth the wait, but there aren't too many of them because that would have just been overkill. The real story is the relationship between Brandon Heat and Harry MacDowel. Don't forget that.

This show is a no-brainer for my collection, but for different reasons than I thought it would be. It's less of a bad-ass tale of revenge and more of a sad collection of memories. It is bad-ass at times, though.

Bring a box of tissues for the ending. You'll need it.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Reflections in a Golden Eye (A Review)

I am a pretty big Marlon Brando fan. He's just such a great actor. But he was certainly in his share of flops and the film Reflections in a Golden from 1967 was originally considered to be one of them. Maybe it was the controversial subject matter or the sort slow place the film moves at. It certainly could have been the rather creepy atmosphere and the ominous presence of Robert Forster as Private Williams. This movie has a southern Gothic vibe to it that sort of reminded me of the Clint Eastwood flick The Beguiled, but that particular movie had a more horror and suspense type of vibe while Reflections in a Golden Eye is more understated in its approach. At the heart of this movie (as in The Beguiled) is sex and the battle with certain sexual urges. 

Marlon Brando plays a quiet major in the US Army and Elizabeth Taylor plays his rambunctious wife. Brando's character is prone to odd behavior and his wife appears to be very bored with him. For this reason she has an affair with a colonel (Brian Keith) who lives next door and Brando, seemingly oblivious to the whole thing, keeps inviting the colonel and the colonel's troubled wife (Julie Harris) into his home. Julie Harris suspects her husband is cheating on her, but no one seems to trust her because of her deteriorating mental health. 

Of course, we have Robert Forster as Private Williams as the voyeur who watches these things go on and  he begins to develop an obsession with Elizabeth Taylor's character after accidently seeing her nude. Forster begins to make nightly visits to the house of the estranged couple and begins sneaking into the wife's room to sniff her nighties while she sleeps, often staring at her until the sun rises before sneaking out of the house. 

It is only when Julie Harris sees a man entering the house of the major does Harris suspect something is amiss. 

Then things get further complicated when Brando catches the disturbed private riding bare-assed on a horse in the woods (something the private apparently does often) and Brando's character develops a bit of an obsession for that man. And the inevitable confrontation comes from this simple formula: What happens when Brando discovers that the man he has a crush on secretly sneaks into his house and watches over his own wife? 

This is pretty heavy subject matter. Ahead of its time type of stuff. I could certainly see shades of Equus with all of the horse imagery involved and I'm certain this movie (and the book it was based on) had to have been an influence. At least a small one. 

Brando is really good in this movie and he plays a repressed homosexual rather well. The accent he has is pretty decent, too. Elizabeth Taylor is perfectly at home in her role too and I wish that the lighting would have been just a little bit better during her nude scene. Unlike Brando's character, seeing a bare-assed dude on horseback isn't exactly my idea of a good time, but a nude Elizabeth Taylor? Good God.

That little bit of nitpicking aside I really enjoyed this movie. It certainly is creepy and the odd black and white with a heavy golden tint that this movie has is pretty effective. 

My Anime Collection

This is a list of anime titles I own. And yes, I really do purchase anime. I'm not big on streaming stuff. I think that's just kind of lazy and it does nothing to actually support the makers of anime. If you know of any good titles not on my list than do let me know. I have one wish list on Amazon entitled "Anime" and there are over one hundred items currently on it. So it's a bit tough to recommend shows to me. But go ahead and give it a shot. 

My wish list contains shows like Madlax, ef, Soul Eater, Air TV, Rumbling Hearts, X, Fafner, Eden of the East, Sekirei, and Black Butler. Of course, there are shows like Naruto, Bleach, and the Gundam shows on the list too, but those are a bit obvious and I highly doubt they are in dire need of immediate advertisement. 

I typically go through 26 episodes in about a three or four days. Sometimes five days. And yes, I actually do work and do other stuff. It took about a year to collect most of these titles. Not too shabby, eh?  

Akira (Blu-ray)
Attack on Titan (Limited Edition Part 1) (Blu-ray/DVD)
Attack on Titan (Limited Edition Part 2) (Blu-ray/DVD)
Basilisk (Blu-ray)
The Big O
The Big O II
Black Lagoon (Blu-ray/DVD)
Black Lagoon: Roberta's Blood Trail (Blu-ray/DVD)
Bleach: Fade to Black (Movie 3)
Blue Gender (Complete Series including Movie)
Casshern Sins (DVD/Blu-Ray)
Claymore (Blu-Ray)
Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2
Colorful: The Motion Picture (Blu-ray)
Cowboy Bebop (Remix & Special Edition Blu-ray)
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie
Darker Than Black
Darker Than Black (Second Season + OVA) (Blu-ray/DVD)
DeathNote (Season 1, 2)
The Devil is a Part-Timer! (Blu-ray/DVD)
Digimon (Season 1)
Dragonball (Seasons 1, 2, 3)
Dragonball Z (Seasons 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
Dragonball Z: Dead Zone (Movie 1)
Dragonball Z: The World's Strongest (Movie 2)
Dragonball Z: Tree of Might (Movie 3)
Dragonball Z: Lord Slug (Movie 4)
Dragonball Z: Cooler's Revenge (Movie 5)
Dragonball Z: The Return of Cooler (Movie 6)
Dragonball Z: Super Android 13! (Movie 7)
Dragonball Z: Broly - The Legendary Super Saiyan (Movie 8)
Dragonball Z: Bojack Unbound (Movie 9)
Dragonball Z: Broly - Second Coming (Movie 10)
Dragonball Z: Bio Broly (Movie 11)
Dragonball Z: Wrath of the Dragon (Movie 13)
Dragonball Z: Battle of Gods (Movie 14)
Elfen Lied + OVA (blu-ray/DVD)
Elfen Lied (DVD)
Ergo Proxy
Escaflowne: The Movie
Eureka Seven (Seasons One & Two) (Blu-ray)
Eureka Seven: Sleep Tight Young Lovers (Blu-ray)
Flowers of Evil (Blu-ray)
From Up On Poppy Hill (Blu-ray)
Fullmetal Alchemist (Seasons One & Two)
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (Complete Collection One & Two) (Blu-ray)
Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos (Blu-ray)
Full Metal Panic! (Blu-ray)
Full Metal Panic? FUMOFFU (Blu-ray)
Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid (Blu-ray)
Gargantia on the Verduous Planet (Blu-ray/DVD)
Ghost in the Shell: Arise (Borders One and Two) (Blu-ray/DVD)
Girls Bravo
Grave of the Fireflies (Blu-ray)
Gungrave (Blu-Ray)
Gunslinger Girl (Blu-Ray)
Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino (Blu-Ray)
Howl's Moving Castle (Blu-ray/DVD)
InuYasha (Season 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
InuYasha: The Final Act (Set 1 & Set 2)
Last Exile
Love Hina
Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (Blu-ray/DVD)
Mobile Fighter G Gundam (Set 1 & 2)
Mobile Suit Gundam 00 (Seasons One & Two)
Mobile Suit Gundam 00: A Wakening of the Trailblazer (Blu-ray)
My Neighbor Totoro (Blu-ray)
Mysterious Girlfriend X (Blu-ray)
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU (blu-ray)
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Outlaw Star
Paprika (Blu-ray)
Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom (DVD/Blu-Ray)
Queen's Blade: Beautiful Warriors (Blu-ray)
Queen's Blade: Rebellion (blu-ray)
Redline (Blu-ray)
Rumbling Hearts
Samurai Champloo
Spirited Away (Blu-ray)
The Tale of Princess Kaguya (Blu-ray)
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 (Blu-ray)
Trigun: Badlands Rumble
Watamote: It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular! (Blu-ray)
When They Cry: Higurashi No Naku Koroni
The Wind Rises (Blu-ray)
The World God Only Knows (Seasons One & Two) (Blu-ray)
The World God Only Knows: Goddesses (Blu-ray)
The World God Only Knows (OVAs) (Blu-ray)
Yu-Sibu: I Couldn't Become a Hero, So I Reluctantly Decided to Get a Job (Blu-ray)
Yu Yu Hakusho (Seasons One, Two, Three, & Four) (Blu-ray)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Endings that Piss Me Off - My Review of Phantom: Requiem of the Phantom

You watch a TV show or read a book and the characters come alive to you. I mean, they live and breathe in your mind's eye. You think about what decisions they are making (as if they are living at this moment) or might make in the next episode or on the next page and you wish you just had five seconds with one of these characters so you could tell them if something bad is going to happen. You just want to reach into the television or the pages of the book and grab the character... but you can't. So you just feel compelled to watch or read along to the final conclusion, knowing you'll probably be pissed off and/or heartbroken. You want to wish for a happy ending, but it would almost be a complete cop-out otherwise.

Stephen King is particularly bad at writing endings that piss me off. Most notoriously, of course, is the not-so-happy ending of The Dark Tower and that one took me a while to accept. I still don't like it, but I accept it happened (figuratively speaking, of course) and move on. The movie version of The Mist, Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door (specifically the book version, but the movie version fits, too), and even Mel Gibson's Braveheart all have a bit of foreboding about them and we know that nothing is going to quite work out for the best. But they are so damn good that you want to chop off the endings and rewrite one where everyone goes on their way alive and with a chance at happiness.

But sometimes dead is just better. I mean, if these movies or books or TV shows changed what made them so unique or memorable... then they wouldn't be so unique or memorable. If Roland had discovered happiness at the top of the Dark Tower and that everyone he had lost was actually alive somewhere else... oh, it would be glorious for it to have happened... but would Roland, who had sacrificed so much and (intentionally or not) wreaked havoc on so many people, have deserved to be given happiness in such a neat and tidy package? Most likely, he didn't even deserve a second chance... but he got one. I guess that's a happy ending if you think about it.

I just got through watching a 26 episode anime entitled Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom and you can guessed that the ending pissed me off and it made me feel pretty sad. I think it took me all of four days to watch this show. My original plan had been to make this show last at least two weeks, but I couldn't stop watching.

The story follows a man named Zwei and a woman named Ein. Their exact ages aren't given but toward the end we discover they are closer to children, young enough to go to high school. Zwei wakes up one day with no memory of himself or how he had ended up in a place so desolate. When he goes to explore his surroundings he finds himself under attack by the character named Ein and must do whatever it takes to defend himself. It is only when the battle is over and Ein and Zwei find themselves at a stalemate that is Zwei told that he has special talents that make him suitable to be an assassin and that Ein will be his teacher.

The character that oversees this madness is named Scythe Master and he works with a group called Inferno. Inferno has deep roots in the mafia and they use Ein, dubbed the Phantom, as their primary enforcer. Through brainwashing she has become an unthinking and unflinching killing machine. She believes herself to be a tool and does only what she is told. Ein tells Zwei that he too must relinquish any hold he might have on his past and become a killer or else she will kill him.

But Zwei refuses to let go of his fleeting past. He does undergo his training and he does kill, but he refuses to believe he is just a tool and promises to save Ein and reclaim both of their hidden pasts. He even promises to make her smile a real smile one day. In order to do that he must break Scythe's hold on Ein and stay one step ahead of the suspecting bosses of Inferno. He must also keep one eye on Ein to make sure that she doesn't end up shooting him as a result of her brainwashing.

The story only further gets complicated by a series of betrayals and red herrings and eventually Ein and Zwei find themselves doing battle again and Ein must choose whether or not to save Scythe Master or stand by as Zwei kills Scythe. And Zwei's promise to Ein is truly put to the test then.

It isn't until the third assassin (aptly named Drei) enters the arena that the complication factor gets even more dire and Zwei finds himself once again haunted by an unfulfilled promise. Ein, Zwei, and Drei all find themselves on a battlefield while other agents of Inferno and the depraved Scythe Master are knocking on the door, wanting to join the conflict.

But this show is more than just a suspense-filled action-fest. It really is character-driven and the relationship between Ein and Zwei (and later on in the series: Zwei and Drei) that pushes this series to mean a bit more than a series of bloody (and awesome) battles. Even the secondary characters who aren't directly in the line of fire feel very much real and sympathetic.

That's why the ending is very tough to take. Once it begins to unfold it sort gets a Scarface type of feeling where you know there's just no way Ein and Zwei can survive all of this. But it's even harder when they do survive the unthinkable and escape. And then when it all seems like it's over... well, I guess it all goes down to whether or not you believe the sins of Ein and Zwei are forgivable and just what exactly your definition of  happiness is. It also comes down to whether or not you believe they earned a right to such happiness.

The ending is up to interpretation to a point (I actually needed to look up a few things to really understand just what went on), but the result is the same and there won't be a sequel to this series. Sadly.

This is a great show and I do recommend it. I'm still kind of shaken by the whole thing and still pissed off, but I guess it was worth it. I should have seen it coming and at the last second I did sort of catch the feeling that it wouldn't end with everyone just staring at a sunset, holding hands... but that still doesn't change the fact that I am pissed. Time will tell exactly where this show ends up in terms of my favorite anime of all-time, but I think it'll crack the top ten.

This show was based off an interactive video game and an OVA (original video animation) and I'd like to see how this show compares with its predecessors. In the meantime, I'm sulking.