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.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi)

I consider this to be one of the best animated films of all time. Not only that, but also one of the best films in the last twenty years. I like making bold statements like that from time to time, but I really don't think I'm stepping on too many toes by saying that. This film is as timeless as The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, and even Snow White. What makes this film work is that it doesn't bother trying explain things no matter how fantastical they may seem. Everything is fairly straightforward and simple. 

It's a fish out of water story. Chihiro, a ten year old girl, is being taken by her parents to their new home. She doesn't want to go anywhere else strange, but when her dad takes a wrong turn through a woodsy drive you know that the definition of "strange" is about to be redefined. 

They discover a little tunnel that leads to another world. At first Chihiro's parents believe that they've discovered some sort of defunct amusement park, but Chihiro senses something off about everything. Of course, she's ten so her parents don't listen. 

When her mom and dad smell food in the air, they take off in that direction and leave Chihiro behind to chase after them. 

After stuffing themselves, Chihiro's parents literally turn into pigs and Chihiro is left all alone in a strange world and unable to return to her old world. The only way she can hope to save her parents and return home is to get a job in a bizarre bathhouse and work for the tyrannical Yubaba. 

Yubaba is the kind of lady that robs her workers of their names and memories, too. If the now renamed Sen wants to rescue her parents she must remember her true name and not mess up on the job. Along the way a boy named Haku (who also can turn into a dragon - a nifty trick) helps her along, but he is far from the only one. The strange No-Face also helps her in his bizarre way when he's not trying to eat her coworkers. 

I loved this movie so much that I bought the $70 region free imported blu-ray. While there is no English dub on this version, I didn't really see the need for one. The dub is certainly good, but the original is excellent and the picture has never looked better. Although the disc menu being in Japanese took a second for me to grasp, I quickly adjusted. The case is awesome, though. It's not just some cheap blue plastic, but a protective cover with a magnets inside to make sure it stays shut once you close it. I also got a neat holographic postcard when I ordered it from

For one of the best films I've seen, I think the price was worth it. I know this film by heart and it's hard to believe it is thirteen years old. It's hard to believe I haven't seen it in about five years. This movie is just too good to miss. There's a reason it is frequently mentioned as one of the best movies to ever be animated. 

Just watch it. Experience it. The animation is fantastic and worth watching for alone. Every scene in this movie could be frozen and appreciated for its beauty. Even though you don't know much about the world in which this movie takes place and won't know, you don't really need to know. You just need to watch and enjoy. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Attack On Titan Vol. 10 by Isayama Hajime

I've been reading these at a bit of a snail's pace or at least trying to in order to make them last until a new season is announced, but it isn't easy. Things just keep getting better and better. More and more the need for a re-read in impressed upon me. Not only because of how long I've been taking between issues, but also because I want to see the subtle clues and hints that I probably overlooked before. I'm sure there were a lot of them.

Volume nine introduced another bizarre titan, the Beast Titan. Volume ten is not to be outdone in that respect. Here we have yet another titan introduced to us, but this one is perhaps even more of a mystery. Ymir, a character more heavily featured during the last issue, is revealed to have titan powers. While her form isn't quite as impressive as Eren's or even Annie's, it is nonetheless a titan form and that in and of itself is a fairly shocking revelation. She isn't the Beast Titan, though.

With the Beast Titan leading an assault against Castle Utgard where the 104th is taking refuge, Ymir uses her titan power to save everyone including Krista Lenz. Krista is also another enigma in this volume and there's a lot I could on about with her, but for the most part it is speculation right now. I don't wish to Google and spoil things for myself, either.

Speaking of mysteries, this volume will finally resolve the mystery of who the Colossus and Armored Titans really are. I'm sure some folks might have guessed who they are by now at this point in the series, but if you did then you either re-read this series a few times and took some wild guesses or you can read Hajime's mind. Now that I know who they are I could easily say, "Yeah, I knew the entire time" but that would be horse hockey. I had no clue who they were at all. You probably didn't, either. When they first confronted Eren and began telling him who they were I thought it was some kind of "put yourself in your enemy's shoes" kind of thing. Like they were trying to come up with a strategy by pretending they were the titans and trying to say what their motivations really were. Or it might've been a bad joke or something.

They were serious, though.


Wow. Just wow. I didn't expect Reiner Braun and Bertolt Hoover to be the Armored and Colossus Titans, respectively. After discovering that near the end of this volume I went back read this volume again. I stayed up until about four in the morning reading it again (considering I made it home from work at two that's not as bad as it sounds) just to see if there's anything I overlooked. Now I kind of want to go back a read the series again. 

Amazing volume. Can't wait to continue. And this time I don't think I can wait a few months to finish the next volume. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

The original Planet of the Apes is an all-time classic. The 2001 remake done by Tim Burton is not. Neither were any of the sequel movies made in the time between the original and the remake. 

So why the hell would anyone approach the story of the apes yet again? That's what I asked myself back in 2011 when the powers that be decided to do yet another reboot/remake. That's what I asked myself as I bought the film on blu-ray at Target a couple of days ago, too. I suppose all of the hoopla over Dawn of the Planet of the Apes convinced me to get started on what appears to be a new Apes series. 

I was pleasantly surprised. I haven't seen the newer one so I'm not going to make any comparisons there, but so far this is easily the best film under the franchise name since the original. I mean, it is not really contest at all because all you have to do is just look at the competition, but had there even been a marginally decent sequel to compare this film to than this one would win by a landslide. 

A lot of praise has been given to Andy Serkis and I wasn't quite sure why when I first approached this movie. Then I read up on him and discovered that he was also the guy who played Gollum (I actually knew he played Gollum but I forgot I knew) and King Kong. I also read about just how much work goes into the performance-catching and whatnot. 

I have some newfound respect for the man named Andy Serkis now. He totally made Rise of the Planet of the Apes as engrossing as it was. John Lithgow and James Franco were pretty good too, but Andy Serkis hands down made this movie amazing despite all of the technological stuff that seems to cause more harm than good in Hollywood these days. He should have won some kind of Oscar. I know part of it was computer stuff, but so were his performances in The Lord of the Rings and King Kong. In all cases the end result was pretty damn impressive, but not just because of the computers. Those were his voices and his facial expressions and his movements for the most part. He's just mind-bogglingly good. 

I haven't seen any of his live action roles, but I probably should, though. 

It's just amazing what the guy can do. I have got to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes now. This one is definitely a winner. 

Bleach (Seasons One & Two)

I suppose it was inevitable that I started watching Bleach again. The show first made its debut on English television in 2006 and I've already stated that that was about when I stopped watching anime for whatever reasons. I don't recall where in the show I left off, either. I just stopped watching it one day although I recall trying to watch it again a year and a half later only to feel so lost that I stopped again.

While it is known for its amount of ill-timed filler, Bleach is also a very action-packed and sometimes humorous story about a society of people that guide the souls of the dead to the afterlife. These people are called Shinigami (or Soul Reapers) and if you know your DeathNote then that name should sound familiar.

The Shinigami in this particular anime live in a spiffy place called Seireitei. The poor souls who aren't Shinigami are relegated to the poorer Rukon district.

Neither of these two places exist in the Land of the Living (where we are) because only the dead may journey into the Soul Society. Or... so you might think. There is a special term for those that are not on the side of the Soul Society and that term is "Ryoka." You'll hear it a lot in the second season when the Soul Reapers refer to Ichigo and company.

Kurosaki Ichigo is a fifteen year old kid with strawberry hair and an attitude of one born with such colored hair. He doesn't seem like the type who would be a hero in an epic shounen anime. Of course, you know he will be because he is on the cover of the first manga issue. That's just the way it works.

One day Ichigo encounters a Soul Reaper named Kuchiki Rukia and his life is changed forever. Although I'm sure he didn't plan on absorbing Rukia's powers and becoming a Soul Reaper himself.

It just happened. His family was endangered of being killed by a hollow and Ichigo and Rukia made decisions that would lead to a few complications later on in the first season and well into the second and third seasons. "Oops," doesn't quite cover it. 

Hollows are what you become
if you can't move on after death.
Now before we dig too deeply into the story (because there is certainly a lot that can be discussed due to the sheer amount of material), I kind of want to take a pause real quick and discuss the pacing. 

The first two seasons combine for a total of 41 episodes, only one of them being filler. Those episodes fly by, too. This won't be the norm, though. The Soul Society arc that begins in season two and continues on into season three is definitely fast-paced, but I couldn't help but think that maybe the creators of the anime intended to end things after the Soul Society arc. Cliffhangers be damned. 

It just feels like it is the be-all, end-all even though it really is just the start. Parts of the manga were a bit compressed for the anime in order to make the pace even faster. Unfortunately, this approach only adds to the filler that would have to pad out the series later on. 

It's a catch-22, really. I love the fast pacing of the first two seasons of the anime, but using as much of the source material as possible and slowing things down a little could have been a big benefit. 

Anyway, the hollows that serve as the bad guys in the initial episodes are your typical monsters of the week. Each week brings a different hollow Ichigo must fight to protect the people he cares about from and while this approach could get tiring quickly it doesn't last for too long. Just long enough for everyone to get an idea of what being a Soul Reaper is all about. The doodles Rukia draws to explain all of the complexities of the series helps, too. 

But once the Soul Reapers learn that Rukia has given her powers to a living human and that she is taking asylum in the living world, she becomes wanted by the Soul Society. Her older brother Byakuya (pronounced: "egotistical badass") and this other red-haired dude named Renji come to get her (as well as to kill Ichigo) and take her back to Soul Society so she could be executed for her crimes. 

Now, in case you didn't know, all Soul Reapers wear black and carry the bigass swords called Zanpak-to. These swords actually contain spirits (or something like that) with real names and they can transform when their wielders are in tune enough with the spirit within their sword. It's pretty cool. 

Anyway, Ichigo gets his ass kicked by Byakuya the first time around and this sets things up nicely for the second season. Because, after getting trained up by some dude wearing a funny hat, he and his friends and their newfound spiritual power are going to invade the Soul Society and rescue Rukia from her death sentence.

What could go wrong, right? Oh, just about everything. 

His friends aren't weaklings, though. Voiced by the same Japanese voice behind Naruto and Naruto Shippuden's Sasuke, Ishida Uryu is a crossbow-wielding ultra-serious goofball who starts out as an enemy and challenges Ichigo to a duel in order to decide who is better at eradicating hollows.

In true shounen fashion, Ichigo wins the battle and Uryu's begrudging respect and friendship in the process.

Uryu is nothing like Sir Douchebag Sasuke so it is nice to hear Sugiyama Noriaki voice someone who is actually kind of likeable. Although there are a few tsundere similarities.

He and Ichigo make for a pretty good team.

Uryu is what is known as a Quincy (no relation to the restaurant bearing the same name) and he typically hates Soul Reapers. He blames Soul Reapers for the death of his mentor so it should come as no surprise as to just why he initially saw Ichigo as an enemy. Unfortunately, there are other Soul Reapers out there who really are not good guys in even the loosest sense of the word.

These Shinigami may guide your soul to the other side, but once you're there they sure don't have to like you. You're left with the choice of either rotting away in the Rukon district or working your ass off and becoming a Soul Reaper yourself.

Ichigo is also accompanied by a guy named Chad, a girl named Orihime, a mysterious cat that can transform into a hot chick, and about two other people he just meets along the way. I'll discuss them in future entries, but for right now you get the idea.

Bleach so far is damn good and the second season cranks it up even further with a series of badass fights in the Soul Society.

Season three sounds promising. After that... who knows?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

True Romance

I don't normally say to myself, "Hey, I really feel like watching a Christian Slater film today." He's not one of my favorite actors and he's had about as many flops lately as Nicholas Cage. But Christian Slater has his moments much like Cage. Perhaps Slater's best moment was 1993's True Romance. Since we can all agree that it probably wasn't Broken Arrow

While I wouldn't call his performance spectacular he does manage to not fail spectacularly as I generally expect from him these days. This movie was a ton a good roles, too. Mostly cameos from very accomplished actors like the late Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, and an almost unrecognizable Gary Oldman, but they are memorable. There's also a blink-and-you'll-miss-it role from Samuel L. Jackson. Perhaps the only thing missing from this movie is Michael Caine, but he was probably busy appearing in Dennis Miller's wedding video at the time. The man can't be in absolutely everything, can he? 

Patricia Arquette was also surprising. I can't name too many of her movies without consulting IMDB so I'm not 100% sure of what her true acting prowess is like, but she was really good in this movie. Normally, when characters go the whole "Southern accent" route I kind of gag a little because a lot of them sound condescending. Even if it is a bit unintentional. Patricia's sounded rather genuine, though. It added to her character.

She and Slater made a good on-screen couple. 

However, I think the best on-screen couple was probably Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper. 

This film was written by Quentin Tarantino back before he made it big with Pulp Fiction, but just after he made a splash with Reservoir Dogs. You can tell that he wrote it, too. He didn't direct it, though. Considering the amount of faces that we'd later recognize from Tarantino movies I do find that a bit odd, but the late Tony Scott held up his end of the directing quite well. Although I believe that the two of them disagreed about the direction of the film. For starters, this film was actually told with a linear narrative. Tarantino isn't too big on that kind of thing. 

It's a winner, though. One of my new found favorite films. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Are You Ready For Football?

I admit that I am still a bit burned from last year's debacle with the Crimson Tide and the Denver Broncos. I mean, with the Tide winning three championships in four years and Tom Brady losing to Eli Manning in two Super Bowls, I guess that maybe I've just been having an embarrassment of riches lately. I'm not used to my teams and players winning absolutely nothing. 

It wasn't just that they lost, but how they lost, too. 

The Tide's two losses were agonizing. The loss to the Sooners wasn't as much because I kind of expected it, but the one to the Tigers? I'm still a little bit irked about that. Sure, we got the last word on Manziel and beat LSU, but we didn't seal the deal with the "State Championship." Very irksome, indeed. 

But that Super Bowl... I couldn't talk about it for the longest time. I still can't really talk about it, but I can't pretend it didn't exist, either. Peyton Manning and co. got their asses whipped. It wasn't fun. After being so good for so long just to have it all unravel so ingloriously in the biggest game... and to the Seahawks, of all teams... 

Of course, I figured something terrible would happen since the Broncos foolishly decided to wear orange. I just didn't think it would be that bad. 

I'm glad I don't live in an area where Seattle Seahawks fans exist. It's bad enough I got to deal with Auburn fans on a daily basis. 

I'm sure Peyton Manning and the Broncos will be back in top form, but I just... They got to win the Super Bowl. Period. Whatever it takes. The offense needs to play some smashmouth football and limit the turnovers. Those turnovers last year were the biggest flaw in that offensive machine. And that defense needs to be a defense that can do to other teams what the Seahawks did to them in the Super Bowl. I'm not sure what the odds are of that happening. Even Tony Romo looked good against the Broncos defense. 

Eli Manning also sucked terribly last year and if this preseason is in any way foretelling the same might very well be true this year. 

I don't even know who Alabama's quarterback will be this year. Jacob Coker of Blake Sims? And we have Lane Kiffin in a position of some authority over this, too. I really don't know what to expect. Will one of them be the next McElroy or McCarron? Can we survive LSU and Auburn? Is our offensive line going to be as good as it has been? Will our kicker do that whole "make kicks" thing? Beats me. 

The only thing I can say for sure is the Indianapolis Colts will probably win their division again before losing in the playoffs again to some team I really hate already. 

All of this being said, I am looking forward to football season. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Welcome to Dongmakgol

Imagine a world where Studio Ghibli tried its hand at directing a live-action Korean movie set in 1950 during the Korean War. That is the best way to describe this film. The word "brilliant" would be another. Those two statements basically mean the same thing, anyway. This could very well be the most moving movie I've seen since I watched Grave of the Fireflies. Yes, it's just that damn good.

Funny, too. It's been a bit since I actually watched the movie (I didn't realize that I hadn't blogged about it yet), but I do remember it being ridiculously funny for a war movie. The majority of the comedy comes from the fact that the folks of Dongmakgol don't even realize that the Korean War is even going on at the moment. So when an American Navy pilot crashes from the sky and they rescue him they have no idea why he was even in an airplane to begin with. Much less what an airplane is. They don't know what guns or grenades are, either.

Eventually three North Korean soldiers make their way to the quiet village of Dongmakgol after surviving a deadly gunfight, too. Of course, they don't even know they are going to such a strange village as they make their way through the woods.

Once there they discover that this strange village is not only nursing an injured American soldier back to health, but they are also housing two deserters from the South Korean Army.

I don't want to go any further into the details, but I do feel the need to express that this is a very artful Korean film about overcoming differences without the need for conflict. There is certainly comedy in this film, but that's not everything. At many points you might need some hankies. 

There are no good guys here. In fact, I thought that the gradual bonding that took place between the soldiers stuck in Dongmakgol was great. They didn't bond on "American" terms. In Dongmakgol, a paradise seemingly overlooked by the war, the soldiers really understand who they are fighting against and it isn't necessarily each other. It's a very humanistic (if that's the right word) approach, not one bound by country. 

This film isn't pro-North or pro-American. I would dare say it isn't even pro-South. It just is what it is.

If you aren't used to American soldiers being the bad guys in foreign films then things could get awkward. But, like I said, there are no intentional bad guys here. Shit... just sometimes happens.

And it is painful to watch. I don't normally root against the American soldiers (since that is where my bread is buttered and all of that), but it is tough to take some of these things sitting down. And I love badass John Wayne war movies just as much as anyone. I imagine that a lot of right wing conservative types would not like this film without even giving it a shot. In fact, just about anyone who is overtly-political will be wanting to start a shit-slinging contest. Right wings were just the first ones to come to my mind since I live in Alabama and see far more of their ilk than I'd care to.

There are no politics playing out in this film. It isn't an examination of history. Hell, pretty much all of the soldiers in the film don't know why they are fighting. Neil Smith didn't know why the South Korean soldiers didn't like American soldiers when they were supposed to be allies. The South Korean soldiers didn't even know if the North was invading the South or vice versa. The North Korean soldiers didn't even know why they were invading or why the Americans were getting involved, too.

With no one knowing anything, nothing gets solved... or does it? Dongmakgol seemed to be doing just fine, after all. Of course, once you introduce outsiders to a Utopia then you know that the Utopia won't last for long and shit gets fucked up.

The real question is whether or not this group of misfit enemy soldiers will choose to unite and do something to stand up for this odd village that has taken them in.

If any of you have watched any of the movies I have blogged about on here then you will probably recognize at least two of the Korean actors. Jeong Jae-yeong starred in Confession of Murder as the cop haunted by the one that got away, but in this movie he portrays one of the disenchanted North Korean soldiers taking refuge in Dongmakgol. I think he probably ended up being my favorite character in the whole movie and that surprised me quite a bit. Since he was one of those commies and whatnot. 

Shin Ha-kyun is one of the South Korean soldiers in Dongmakgol that just won't let his resentment toward the North Koreans go despite the fact that they are both stuck in the same place, but you should be able to recognize him as the deaf-mute Ryu from Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. Admittedly, I wasn't sure if it was really him or not since he didn't have green hair and actually talked in this movie. Damn good job. 

The American pilot Neil Smith is portrayed by some guy named Steve Taschler. I have no idea who he is. A search brings up nothing. In fact, all of the other Americans in this movie are nobodies and they act like Asians probably think we act in real life. A lot of Asian cinema is like that, too. If you see an American actor it is generally someone who can't act or deliver dialog convincingly. What's even worse is when we get an Asian guy speaking English in a way that is supposed to sound badass, but actually sounds cheesy and stupid. 

Steve Taschler wasn't too terrible, though. In fact, he did his job well enough. I just still have no idea who he is. 

A last note I should add is that some of the effects in this movie are terrible. Especially at the beginning with the plane crash, but that isn't too off-putting. The rest of the film is worth it and then some. Especially the music. Remember when I referenced Studio Ghibli? Joe Hisaishi composed the music for this film. 

All in all, damn good movie. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

You want an amazing superhero flick? Yeah, you've seen The Avengers and all of the other Marvel movies. Have you seen Guardians of the Galaxy? No? What the HELL are you doing???? Go see it. Like now. I'll wait until you get finished watching.

Back already? Doesn't your life just feel that much more complete now?

Oh, wait a minute... You said you had seen it. Oh. I thought you said you hadn't. Next time use proper sentences. "I had seen it," sounds very awkward as a sentence. 

Anyway, let's move on. 

This review is coming about a week late because I saw it back on Tuesday so it's not like I just got back from it or anything like that. At the time I wasn't sure if it would even be in theaters for much longer. Movies just don't stay around in theaters for long these days. At the time I thought I was probably the last human being on earth to see this movie in theaters. 

So if you still haven't seen it or want to see it again in theaters then do it quickly. It's worth it. 

One thing I loved about the movie was the music. I don't normally single out superhero movies for their music because most of the time the music is just there as background so you can watch Hulk beat the shit out of Loki. Sure, the music in Christopher Nolan's Batman Trilogy was fairly effective, but that's not quite the same thing as the music in Guardians of the Galaxy

The music is from the 70's and even though this is a futuristic superhero flick it actually makes for the perfect marriage. Plus, I love music from the 70's. 

The humor is also a welcome refresher. Sure, Tony Stark made some good quips in the Iron Man movies, but those were only good for a chuckle or two. The movies themselves weren't hilarious. 

Guardians of the Galaxy is legitimately hilarious, through and through. I mean, two of the main characters of this film are a racoon (Bradley Cooper) and a tree (Vin Diesel). 

Our primary hero is the goofy Peter "Star-Lord" Quill, though. In real life his name is Chris Pratt and you might know him best from his role in Parks and Recreation. I didn't even recognize him, though. Of course, I haven't watched for than a few episodes of P&R so I guess it is no surprise I didn't recognize him. He is really the glue that holds this movie together. Equal parts badass and goofball, Star-Lord is probably the most realistic hero I've seen in quite some time. He's like a funnier Tony Stark that can't invent cool shit. 

I cannot recommend this film enough. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Knights of Sidonia (Sidonia no Kishi)

God bless Netflix. Not only do they have a decent selection of Asian (mostly Korean) movies to choose from, but they also have an anime selection. The only knock that I had really against Netflix was that they didn't have a very diverse selection of anime. Of course, you have to remember who I am and just how much anime I watch. I don't want to say that I've seen every anime on Netflix, but the ones I haven't seen yet I'm either not interested in seeing right now or I already own them.

Then enters the Netflix original series Knights of Sidonia. I had certainly heard of the title before because I knew Johnny Yong Bosch played the lead character of the English dub, but it never entered my list of stuff to watch. I mean, I have a huge list and I try not to add anything to it unless it comes highly recommended to me. And typically "highly recommended" means "Hey, Jacob, I watched an anime you haven't seen before." I will not stand for that. That's probably why my list of shit to watch is so huge.

At only twelve episodes, Knights of Sidonia is insanely short. Of course, there is a second season currently in production so there is a future for this awesome series. I really don't like comparing everything to Attack on Titan because that seems to be all the rage these days, but I think Knights of Sidonia could help satisfy that lack of adrenaline rush that the hiatus of Attack on Titan has caused.

For a little bit, at least. It's really, really short. However, Sidonia itself is quite large. Oddly phallic-looking, too. It's a giant rod that shoots little men out of one end... Yeah... 
Things are getting awkward now, aren't they?

Let's carry on...

Knights of Sidonia is a mecha anime that will do the genre proud. The animation certainly sets it apart, too. At first I wasn't too keen on it because it looked kinda video game-ish. I've always been more fond of the hand drawn look over the three dimensional computer-looking stuff.

Knights of Sidonia pulls it off, though. It's animation is consistent and the story is told so well you can't help but feel captivated by it. I mean, it's not the most original anime concept ever and it's not as compelling as Neon Genesis Evangelion, but it is probably a better told story. Does that make sense?

Knights of Sidonia isn't too heavy on the brain from the start, but it also isn't just lightweight fluff. There's some humor, plenty of action, and a bit of a love story or two involved, too. As I watched I got the feeling that we would be building and building to an awesome finale, but then I realized I was at the end of the twelfth episode and I couldn't believe how quickly the episodes had gone by. It's almost like a case of blue balls. 

Everyone seemed fairly realistic and that's not something I can really say about a lot of anime. The situations in the anime even came off as at least plausible. I liked that because the entire time I didn't have to worry much about suspension of disbelief. Often times I'll watch an anime and think, "This is pretty good, but it will never, ever happen!" Knights of Sidonia has a few interesting concepts, though. Genetic mutation leading to humans that can photosynthesise in the future? Hmmm... That's actually pretty neat. Not stuff you'd want to bank on happening in the future, but it sounds sciencey and futuristic. While I'm not sure if there'd be point to it happening (since I think that humans use more energy than sunlight could give them) I do like how the idea is used in the anime.

It gives us a chance to see boobies. Hooray for boobies! Anyway, I can't wait for the second season. Big robots, boobies, tentacled monsters.... Bring it on!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Psalms of Planets: Eureka Seven (Kōkyōshihen Eureka Sebun)

They don't make them like this anymore. In 2005, the famous studio BONES unleashed an anime that would become one of their all-time classics. Eureka Seven. And yep, it's an original production of theirs. It's hard to believe how long it has been since I first watched an episode of Eureka Seven and even harder to believe that I never did finish the series. 

I encountered this series way back when I was fifteen and still very impressionable by anime, but also very wary of it. I was "growing out of it," as you might say. This anime made its American debut in 2006 on Adult Swim and that was right around the time I stopped watching anime. 

So when I decided to give this series another go on blu-ray I wasn't sure just what I would think of it. 

Well, it wasn't exactly nostalgia, but it was a moving experience. I had forgotten how deep Eureka Seven really was. I know a lot of mecha anime try to be deep, but none of them have really come close to that since Neon Genesis Evangelion (except for maybe Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet). And even Neon Genesis Evangelion didn't quite pull that off quite so well at the end once the budget started getting strained. 

I was expecting fun and robots and fights, but what I got was something different. I suppose I've just been watching too many shounen anime lately. 

Eureka Seven certainly started out carefree. Renton Thurston is just a bored kid in a boring town that idolizes the crew of the outlaw Gekkostate and the magazine ray=out. What is Gekkostate? They are a crew that just goes around riding the waves and seeking out ways to pay for their rebellious lifestyle. And ray=out is their official magazine written by their onboard journalist Stoner. 

Of course, Gekkostate don't just exist to ride the trapars in the sky. They are also trying to uncover the secrets of the military and the regime that controls the world. Yeah, that's kinda why they are "outlaws" and not just "dirty hippies."

This all gave me a bit of a 60's vibe and I think that might have been intentional since most of this series is about dealing with prejudices and racial tensions. 

In this anime the primary cause of tensions are the mysterious Coralians and if they mean any harm to humans. Of course, there are parties that wish to cause them harm simply because they are strange and mysterious, but then there is Holland and his crew of the Gekkostate. What the military is trying to do to the Scub Coral (Coralians) is exactly what Gekkostate wants the world to know. Hint: It ain't pretty. 

Renton doesn't know all of this as he impossibly finds himself on board the Gekkostate as a fledgling member of their crew. He thinks they are just out having fun. He doesn't realize that they are in the middle of a war and the machines they pilot aren't just used to destroy other robots, but to destroy the people in those robots, too. 

Not only is this anime about giant robots, but it is a coming of age story, too. It's also a romance. Onboard the Gekkostate, Renton finds himself instantly smitten with the odd Eureka even though Eureka doesn't appear to be a normal girl. For starters, she appears to not only talk to robots but also seems to be the mother of three children who are only slightly younger than Renton himself.

Did I mention Renton was fifteen?

As the series progresses through its 50 episodes the scope of the series expands beyond just the struggles for Gekkostate to make ends meet to the struggles of the entire world as the ruthless Col. Dewey Novak tries to eliminate the Scub Coral once and for all. 

How does Eureka, Renton, and the rest of Gekkostate fit into this? Well, they just happen to be the hope of the entire world.

No pressure there, right?

I think this is one of the greatest anime out there and it is definitely on my re-watch list. I can't believe I didn't finish it the first time. 

I'm not sure if I want to watch the movie or sequel now since I've heard so many bad things, but I think I might have to now. If I don't I might well come down with Desperation Disease. Not a pretty sight. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Rigor Mortis (Jiāng shī)

Hong Kong vampire movies. Until today I had no idea those even existed. Of course, I shouldn't be too surprised by the notion since just about every culture seems to love horror and things that go bump in the night. 

Rigor Mortis is a very strange film. I'm not even sure if I would qualify it as being wholly satisfying, either. It's definitely an arthouse type of movie and a slow-burner. It is a supposed to a tribute to a series of 1980's comedy-horror vampire films called Mr. Vampire, but there certainly isn't any comedy to be found in this particular film. 

A few of the cast members from those movies can be found in this one, but I'm fairly certain they don't play the same characters. But maybe they do. I'm not an expert on this subject and I don't feel like researching too much. Yeah, I know, I'm being a bad blogger. 

Honestly, I went into this film completely blind. I didn't know who anyone involved with the film was aside from the producer Shimizu Takashi. Takashi was the guy that directed the four Ju-on movies as well as their two Americanized counterparts. You can certainly see his fingerprints on this movie, too. 

However, this film is Juno Mak's baby and is a decent film in its own right. 

Of course, it does help to know a bit more about the movies that inspired it and Chinese folklore regarding vampires. Luckily, we have Google to help us with this. If you need to know more about Chinese vampires then here is a link. I wish I would have done a little bit of reading before I went into this film because there were some things that I just didn't get. 

Rigor Mortis is very much a slow-burn and at times a bit too slow and muddled for its own good, but it is quite atmospheric and effectively spooky. 

It doesn't get a lot of good reviews on IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes, but I'm not too surprised by that. After watching it I kind of felt like giving it a bad review, too. 

But this film isn't designed for Western audiences and Chinese vampires and folklore are very unfamiliar to us. I highly doubt that many people outside of Asian film buffs even know what the Hopping Vampire genre really is anymore. I sure didn't. 

I've given it a bit of thought, though. And you know what? Rigor Mortis isn't bad at all. Of course, Rigor Mortis could have been quite a bit better, but if you take it for it is I don't think it would be a waste of time. You might even learn some stuff, too.  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Dragon Ball Z - Broly, The Legendary Super Saiyan: Movie 8 (Uncut, English Dubbed Version)

Last night I watched my first ever anime movie in theaters, Battle of Gods. It was amazing. Perhaps that was because of my inner fanboy being excited at watching my favorite characters return in a feature I hadn't seen at least a dozen times or because the movie was just as good as I think it really was. I think that the "day after" is a great way to judge whether or not your first impressions of a movie are really accurate. No matter how much you might love a movie after you see it, try to think about it the next day and see how you feel about it then. 

I always try to blog about a movie or an anime as soon as I finish watching it because it is freshest in my mind and I don't have to use Google to help fill in the details. That isn't always honest blogging, though. Sometimes a little bit of time and distance are the best things for honest reviews. 

In my review for DBZ Movie 14, I stated that Broly was still my favorite. I even listed it as such in my very half-assed ranking of the Dragon Ball Z movies from way back when. 

Well, last night after I finished my review for Goku's newest adventure, I dusted off my DVD of Movie 8 and decided to see if I really was being a liar or not. I think I was being a liar. Of course, I was deliberately watching the movie to see if I could poke holes through my nostalgia and give a more analytical view. So that certainly has a bit of say into how I viewed the movie. I don't really recommend doing things that way too much or else you'll eventually end up hating everything you once liked, but every now then it doesn't hurt. 

Since I pretty much watch the FUNimation dub of Dragon Ball Z exclusively (although I will probably go down the sub route for Dragon Ball Z Kai), I decided that this review would focus on the music of the dub. I kind of did that before when I reviewed Lord Slug, but I have decided to do that again only this time with a little bit more depth. 

I am very much a 90's kid. I mean, I was born in 1990 and that put me right on the edge of being a 90's kid. I loved Nickelodeon during the 90's, loved the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers up until Turbo, and fell in love with Toonami at just the right time. During my school years and even into some of high school I listened to a lot of Korn, System of a Down, and Slipknot and I thought they were pretty good at the time. I remember when Brett Favre won a Super Bowl and lost one, too. I also remember when Dale Earnhardt Sr. died. 

These are probably the most telling signs that I was a 90's kid. 

So the fact that the dubbed versions of Lord Slug, Cooler's Revenge, and Broly all featured late 90's metal music was alright with me back in 2003 or so. However, I don't think so much anymore. Last night as I was watching Broly I began to feel that the music was a bit out of place. Except for when they used Pantera's song 10's. That was pretty cool. 

Perhaps it is because I have been watching subs more and more often, but I really do have an appreciation for the soundtracks of Japanese anime. Not so much the pop stuff (although that has its place too), but the soundtracks of Cowboy Bebop, Neon Genesis Evangelion, or even the Japanese version of Dragon Ball Z. Those soundtracks have a bit of timelessness because they aren't connected to any specific Western fads. And, yes, nu-metal was a fad. Even Bruce Faulconer's soundtrack (or Mark Menza's for that matter) to the FUNimation dub of the DBZ series has a bit of a dated feel to it by now. 

Not saying that the Japanese soundtrack isn't dated, but it does feel much fresher even though it is actually older than the music FUNimation used for the movies or the series years after the movies and series were even released. 

Broly (if you take can swallow the soundtrack) still holds up pretty well, but compared to the amazing animation in Battle of Gods there really is no contest. Battle of Gods beats that hands down by using the best animation available at this time. Of course, even Wrath of the Dragon from 1995 has superior animation quality when you compare it to 1993's Broly. Battle of Gods beats both of them, though. That isn't a surprise, but it does make you wonder what things would have been like if Dragon Ball Z had been made today instead of back in the late 80's/early 90's. 

I still say that Broly is the truer villain since Beerus isn't really a homicidal maniac. True, Beerus is a God of Destruction and quick to temper like most cats, but Broly was a much more base creature that just enjoyed the taste of blood and he didn't goof around like Beerus. 

However, I think I prefer Vegeta as he was in Battle of Gods to Broly. In Broly, Vegeta was reduced to a wuss and that wasn't really cool. Although it was pretty cool that he was given his biggest role in a movie until Battle of Gods came along. 

Battle of Gods does have a bit more fat to it, but on the other hand it is probably the funniest Dragon Ball Z movie there has ever been. 

So after comparing the two I would have to say that Battle of Gods is indeed the better movie. Does that make it the best Dragon Ball Z movie ever? Well, there are a few more movies I'd like to revisit before I can accurately say something like that. 

Broly is far from being a bad movie, though. It has all the action you could want and even though the defeat of Broly (which we all know isn't really the case) feels a bit rushed this is by far one of the more satisfying entries in Dragon Ball Z movie universe. Its two sequels never did it justice. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Dragon Ball Z - Battle of Gods: Movie 14 (Uncut, English Dubbed Version)

Seventeen years. That's how long it has been since the last Dragon Ball-related movie was released in Japan. Dragon Ball: The Path of Power (a retelling of the original series) hit theaters in Japan in 1996. Even if you count Wrath of the Dragon (the final Dragon Ball Z movie at the time) being dubbed into English and released on DVD in 2005 that's still quite a gap between movies. 

It's 2014 and there's a Dragon Ball Z movie being shown in Mobile, Alabama, of all places and for a very limited time. It's the new Battle of Gods film that rocked the Japanese box office in 2013. 

I've been waiting a long time for this moment and you can bet that as soon as I found out that a Dragon Ball Z movie would be playing in a theater so close to home... Well, of course I pre-ordered my tickets as soon as possible. Despite my intense anticipation for this movie I chose not to watch this movie in subbed form on the internet. I easily could have, but I wanted to wait for the dub. 

While I am pro-sub for many anime these days I think I will always hear Chris Sabat as Vegeta and Sean Schemmel as Goku. No disrespect for any of the other voice actors to lend their talents from the Canadian cast of the Ocean dub to the original Japanese voice actors, but I just had to watch this movie on the biggest screen possible with the voices I will always hear as my childhood heroes. I respect anyone who has voiced the man in the orange and blue fight suit, but Sean Schemmel yelling out "Kamehameha!" Man, it doesn't get much better than that. 

That being said, this movie is not as much of an action film as you might think. Toriyama Akira had an actual hand in this movie and I could see his fingerprints all over this movie. For starters, this movie was really funny. The first half of the movie has action, but the emphasis is placed largely on the comedic bits and that has always been one of mr. Toriyama's strengths. I think the funniest part of the movie was when Vegeta made a fool out of himself in order to prevent Beerus (Birusu) from destroying the Earth. 

I laughed and the entirety of the audience laughed with me, but when we weren't laughing you could hear a pin drop. The movie wasn't even all that loud compared to other movies, but everyone was making an effort to be quiet and that more than made up for it. When we laughed, though... You could barely even hear the movie. I think that has to qualify this film as a success no matter what. 

If you were a fan from the beginning of the series and enjoyed both Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z then you should really get a kick out of this movie. If you're more into the action aspect of the series (Z, in particular) then you may be a tad bit disappointed. 

But the action on the big screen is so good when it does happen and I'm pretty happy that this was my first anime movie to see in theaters. 

Of course, this movie isn't perfect. I really want to say that this movie is awesome and the best Dragon Ball Z movie yet, but I still say that honor goes to Broly: The Legendary Super Saiyan... even though that one isn't really even canon. Battle of Gods is canon, though. It takes place at the end of the series in the ten year gap between manga chapters 517 and 518. That is a definite plus for me. Yeah, it mentions a villain (although I never really saw him as a true villain because all of the previous Dragon Ball Z villains were ruthless and killed without remorse... Beerus is a bit different) that wasn't mentioned at all before in the anime or manga, but since Mr. Toriyama said it is canon then I've got to agree with him. 

This movie does fit, timeline-wise. It even brings back Emperor Pilaf and his cohorts for a long overdue encore and that was a pleasant surprise. I'm not sure if that was meant to serve as an official prelude to the beginning events of Dragon Ball GT or if it was just a fitting tribute to one of the first major villains Goku ever faced, but it was pretty awesome either way. 

I suppose if there is anything that you have to wonder about then it would be the Super Saiyan God form. That is something that is solely mentioned and shown in the movie. It was a fairly awesome transformation, but it certainly raises questions about the sequel series Dragon Ball GT and why that transformation wasn't used at any point during that series. I imagine that would have come in handy against a villain like Omega Shenron. Of course, I don't give two shits about Dragon Ball GT anyway so I don't care that much about it to nitpick. 

I enjoyed this movie so much, though. No, it's not Paprika or any Studio Ghibli film and it probably won't make the list of any all-time great films even as far as anime is concerned, but it's still pretty damn good for those of us who have come this far. 

I am eagerly looking forward to the next film that Mr. Toriyama has promised to come out in Japan in 2015 and I am all the more glad that Toriyama is again involved in the story he had created. I'm sure this film's follow-up will be just as good, if not even better. 

P.S. - I was a bit bummed that Tiffany Vollmer couldn't return as the voice of Bulma, but Monica Rial did a good job. Rial voiced Bulma in Dragon Ball Z Kai so this wasn't her first time doing voicing Bulma, either. I just prefer Tiffany Vollmer. 

Yu-Gi-Oh!, Vol. 3: Capsule Monster Chess by Takahashi Kazuki

The third entry in the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga series continues to reinforce the fact that the anime (the one readily available internationally, anyway) and manga are not very alike. And it just occured to me that this kind of thing is exactly what isn't in vogue today, too. As far as the anime is concerned, anyway. What does that mean?

Well, it used to be that anime would get adapted all the time and if it didn't exactly resemble the manga so much then oh, well, tough titty. This is certainly true for Trigun, Claymore, and the original Fullmetal Alchemist series. Sometimes the outcry of fans causes those projects to be redone, though. At other times, not so much. While I'd love for another Trigun series to be done, the original Trigun anime series is actually one of my favorites and largely eclipses the source material as far as popularity is concerned. It just doesn't resemble the manga. 

Yu-Gi-Oh!'s original anime incarnation actually followed the beginning manga volumes fairly well. So why that version never crossed over internationally is a bit of a mystery. Maybe because there wasn't a mention of the fabled Dark Magician.

Here is something very odd, though. I think I read about it somewhere earlier, but it never really clicked with me until now. The original anime series only covered the first seven volumes of the manga whereas the second anime series picks up at volume eight. So, plot-wise, I suppose you could say that the version that is so well known worldwide is actually a semi-sequel to the more obscure first series, but the characters are given a complete overhaul for the second anime series in order to make it completely independent from the first series. Talk about odd. And, of course, the emphasis placed on card game duels is given an even greater priority in the second anime.

I just hope that someday someone decides to do another anime that actually goes by the manga. Of course, that would mean changing the target audience because the manga is quite a bit more mature. That would also mean downplaying the card game. 

Volume three of the manga starts off with Shadi having placed a professor friend of Yugi's grandfather under a spell to make him into a brainless zombie. Shadi does this because he wants to confront Yami Yugi and he hopes that putting an emotional strain on Yugi will cause him to call forth his stronger-willed alter ego. 

This confrontation takes up five chapters of this volume, but that's a good thing because the duel with Shadi is really good. It'd take a lot to follow it up and the subsequent chapters in this volume choose not to do any real heavy lifting and just go back to telling one-shot (for the most part) duel stories. The only real noteworthy thing to happen after the duel with Shadi ends is that Yugi meets Seto's younger brother Mokuba for a game of capsule monster chess. I don't recall Mokuba being that much of a dick in the anime. 

Not a single card game duel is to be found in this volume.